Ministry Life http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life Sun, 24 May 2015 11:30:32 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb How Do You Get Your Soul Running? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/21675-how-do-you-get-your-soul-running http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/21675-how-do-you-get-your-soul-running Does your to-do list feel long and heavy this week? How long has it been since you took your foot off the gas?

Join the club.

John Ortberg's book Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You crossed my path last week and I decided to download it and take a quick look at it—and I fell into a story that slowed me down and filled me up.

Spoiler alert: our soul needs "keeping." It needs our attention. It supersedes our mind and our body and our will. It is the part of us that goes into eternity.

John takes us on a walk with Dallas Willard through the pages of the book, and quotes Dallas:

"The most important thing about you," Dallas would often say, "is not the thing that you achieve; it is the person you become."

And quoting Willard again, as he paints the primacy of the soul as the center of our lives:

"What is running your life at any given moment is your soul. Not external circumstances, not your thoughts, not your intentions, not even your feelings, but your soul. The soul is that aspect of your whole being that correlates, integrates, and enlivens everything going on in the various dimensions of the self. The soul is the life center of human beings."

We worry about saving others' souls, but we skim over references to our own soul in the Bible:

Jesus tells us in Mark 18:20: " Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength."

The Psalmist asked: "Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?" (Psalm 42:4)

Our souls get kicked around. Beaten down. Bruised. Neglected. We carry on, but we're half full on the inside. Nobody knows, except maybe our spouse. We don't want to admit that something isn't right inside us. Or we don't have anyone safe to tell. Or we are so focused on the achievement thing (or the demands in front of us) that we don't notice and don't care.

You start to realize it when all you want to do is watch TV with a bag of potato chips. You recognize that your inner life isn't what it should be.

You don't have to wallow there, though. You can get your soul running like a "stream that flows life where nothing is more important than God." For starters, think about these three things:

1.  The soul needs a keeper. "You must arrange your days so that you are experiencing deep contentment, joy, and confidence in your everyday life with God."

2.  The soul needs rest. "We're generally quite good at doing something, but we're really bad at doing nothing. The space where we find rest and healing for our souls is solitude."

3.  The soul needs satisfaction. "You were made for soul-satisfaction, but you will only ever find it in God. The soul craves to be secure. The soul craves to be loved. The soul craves to be significant, and we find these only in God in a form that can satisfy us."

You've heard pieces of this before in scattered sermons, in classic books on spiritual disciplines, and in the Bible itself, but you have come across it today to remember that you are the keeper of your soul and it is the most important part of you.

Guest post by Lori Seed. Contains an affiliate link to Soul Keeping: Caring for the Most Important Part of You.

Hal Seed is the founding and Lead Pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. New Song is launching a new campus every year and has seen over 17,000 people come to Christ. Hal mentors pastors to grow bigger, better churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at www.pastormentor.com. If you enjoyed this post, sign up here to receive updates from Hal delivered right to your inbox.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Hal Seed) Ministry Life Tue, 07 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
A Daughter's Tribute to T.L. Osborn http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19926-a-daughter-s-tribute-to-t-l-osborn http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19926-a-daughter-s-tribute-to-t-l-osborn LaDonna-TL-OsbornMy much-loved father, Dr. T.L. Osborn, the man known around the world as "The Father of the Gospel" entered his eternal rest on Thursday, Feb. 14. He was in no pain and had no sickness. The Lord simply took away his breath.

My father was wrapped in love, his family surrounding him as he stepped through the veil into eternity. He is now in the presence of Jesus, whom he had served faithfully for 77 years. We can only imagine the sweet reunion between him and his beloved Daisy, three of his children, a granddaughter and a celebrating host of believers who are among the redeemed because of my father's ministry during more than 65 years to every corner of the earth. He was in his 90th year, having passed his 89th birthday on Dec. 23. 

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ladonna Osborn) Ministry Life Mon, 18 Feb 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Strong Stewardship Eliminates Excess, Motivates Generosity http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19918-how-much-is-enough http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19918-how-much-is-enough D-MinLife-StewardshipIt was a frank conversation about money with other leaders at our church. We tackled what most of middle-class America considers a taboo subject and faced some hard truths. As a result, I was awakened to my habits and how they influenced the financial situation of our closest friends.

For example, in our community of friends, eating out had become our cultural gathering point—church and then lunch. It had become our Sunday ritual. We love to eat together. Unfortunately, this ritual was causing friends to increase their personal indebtedness to credit card companies.

How did we get to this point in our habits?

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webmaster@strang.com ( Jeff Shinabarger) Ministry Life Fri, 22 Mar 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Joey Bonifacio: Behold God’s Colorful Majesty http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19893-joey-bonifacio-behold-god-s-colorful-majesty http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19893-joey-bonifacio-behold-god-s-colorful-majesty Rainbow -photo-JoeyWhenever I officiate at weddings I make sure I come early. With traffic unpredictable in Manila, it’s just not worth the stress of being stuck not knowing if you will be late. That’s why I came one hour early for a recent wedding ceremony.

The banquet hall was empty except for one table where a few early guests sat. At the table, our friends Junjun and Mae Perez were excitedly recounting a recent sighting of brightly colored rainbow. Junjun posted the picture shown here in Facebook. As Christians, we believe that a rainbow is a sign of promise from God, a promise that He will never harm us or destroy us as it was in the days of Noah.

As Mae and Junjun spoke, I was reminded of the number of times these colorful appearances have been a source of encouragement for me. One in particular stood out.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joey Bonifacio) Ministry Life Fri, 08 Feb 2013 21:00:00 -0500
Our Banana Tree Christmas http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19810-our-banana-tree-christmas http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19810-our-banana-tree-christmas f-Sherrill"Christmas is the time when nothing ought to change.”

Our newly married daughter, Liz, put into words what all of us were feeling. We had come from our home in New York state to spend the holidays with her and her husband, Alan, in their new apartment in Tucson, Ariz. Outside, on Christmas Eve, cactus-wrens hopped about the mesquite bushes beneath a glorious desert sky, while indoors the four of us gulped iced tea and thought of pine woods and falling snowflakes.

“Home in Leicester,” Alan recalled of his Massachusetts upbringing, “we’d generally go skating about now.”

“And tonight there’d be the midnight service at St. Mark’s!” Liz said. “Remember, Mom and Dad, how you can see your breath, walking in from the parking lot?”

We did remember. We wanted every time-hallowed tradition just as it always had been. No changes. Not at Christmas.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (John & Elizabeth Sherrill) Ministry Life Tue, 25 Dec 2012 21:00:00 -0500
God Desire for Us: Live Right, Live Well http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19660-god-desire-for-us-live-right-live-well http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19660-god-desire-for-us-live-right-live-well d-LifeScan-PastorCareGod created and gave us times of respite for a specific purpose that’s worth taking seriously

Scripture tells us that work is one of the things God created man to do. Effort and productivity are expected in every area of our lives. Parents strain to bring children into the world, and then for the next 20-plus years must midwife their proper acclimation into society. Businesspeople must produce materials and services that serve the public while making a profit. Pastors ... well, they seem to have no end to their job description! Whatever the responsibility, work seems to incessantly demand our attention. Yet, if regular moments of respite are not prioritized, both quality and quantity of life can diminish.

Craig Sawchuk, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, debunks the idea that more work necessarily means a more productive life. After thousands of hours of research, He concluded that, “If you establish a more balanced lifestyle, enjoying your leisure can in fact improve the quality and quantity of your work.”

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brett Fuller) Ministry Life Wed, 21 Nov 2012 21:00:00 -0500
20 Tips From a Church That is Exploding With Growth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21634-20-tips-from-a-church-that-is-exploding-with-growth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21634-20-tips-from-a-church-that-is-exploding-with-growth 1. Keep it simple, laser focused and strategic. Highland Kids (and church) is very strategic in what they do. They say no to a lot of good things, so they can say yes to a few great things. They go into each ministry year with a set number of events, conferences, etc.  

2. Provide clear growth steps for people. They have four growth steps. Each of these steps has a class attached to it. You can see them in the picture below.

3. Make serving a big part of your church culture. Class 401 centers around serving. The class begins with teaching about serving and then people choose which ministry they want to serve in and go to that area for training right then. Through this intentionality and clear step, they are able to move people into serving with a very high success rate.

I believe one of the biggest factors in their growth has been their commitment to help people find their place of service.  The weekend I was there over 2,100 people served in children's ministry.  As leaders, success is not measured by doing ministry but by equipping people to do the work of the ministry.

4. Invest not only in kids who are guests, but in their parents as well. Like many churches, they give a gift to every child who is a first-time guest. But they take it a step farther and also give each parent a gift. The gift is the book "Praying Circles Around Your Children" by Mark Batterson.

5. Pray for kids. They have prayer cards that kids can write down their prayer requests on. These cards are collected each week and prayed over. One of their goals is for every child to hear a leader pray for them each weekend.

6. Create stickers the kids can wear to remind their parents about upcoming special days or events.

7. Have a drop-off area close to the building for families with kids. Families can pull up and one of the parents can get out with the kids. 

8. Encourage people to do an act of kindness and then leave a church invite with the person. People are encouraged to do things like pay for someone's meal and leave the card for them. They constantly have stories of people who have come to the church because of this.

9. Remind your volunteers what an honor and privilege it is to serve God. In each area of service, you will find this sign. What a great reminder for volunteers to see each week.

10. Be learning from two people who do your job at another church. Each staff person does this. 

11. Have middle-schoolers serve as buddies for first-time guests. They stay with the child during the service and make sure they are comfortable and connecting.

12. If you're a portable campus, use supply carts to hold your check-in computers. This is a simple, but very proficient way to house portable check-in systems. 

13. If you're a portable campus, attach curtain tracks in the ceiling for your room curtains. This saves you from having to take them up and down every weekend.

14. Provide cabinets for volunteers to lock their valuables in while they are serving.

15. Place preschoolers' take home papers, activity sheets, etc. in a lunch sack. This makes it easier for parents to carry it, which means it has a better chance of making it home.

16. Have a laminated supply list sheet in each room. Ask volunteers to write down any supplies that need to be replenished. This makes it easier to know what each room needs each week.

17. Have some games (Uno, Bible trivia, etc.) in each small group container that the leaders can play with the kids during pick-up, extra time, etc.

18. Empower volunteers to lead other volunteers. They have volunteers who are caring for and leading other volunteers. I met several people who volunteer 20-30 hours a week and lead major parts of the ministry. Raising up leaders of leaders is how they are able to care for and lead so many volunteers.

19. Going multi-site gives you the opportunity to reach many more kids and families. If they only had one campus, they would not be able to reach as many people.  They will continue to grow and reach more people because they are continuing to add more campuses.

20. A thriving children's ministry is a key to building a thriving church. Take a look at Church of the Highlands and other churches across the country that are exploding with growth and you will see they have dynamic children's ministries. No matter how far a parent is away from God, their child is an inroad into their heart. When you take a child by the hand, you take a parent by the heart. Reach a child and you will reach their parents. God blesses churches that make children's ministry a priority.

If you're ever in the Birmingham area, check out this amazing church! You will be encouraged and your vision will be expanded.

Dale Hudson has been in Children's Ministry for over 25 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. Christ Fellowship has 9 campuses and ministers to over 22,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a Children's Ministry staff team of over 50 and a volunteer team of over 2,600.

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson ) Children Wed, 18 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
10 Fears of Kids’ Ministry Leaders and How to Overcome Them http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21607-10-fears-of-kids-ministry-leaders-and-how-to-overcome-them http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21607-10-fears-of-kids-ministry-leaders-and-how-to-overcome-them We all have fears as leaders. Some we have conquered and others we still battle. Some come from outside sources and others rise internally.

As I interact with children's ministry leaders, here are the top 10 fears that I hear echoed.

These are not ranked by greatest to least. The order varies from person to person.

1. Lack of volunteers. Ever found your heart beating fast on a Sunday morning because you've had three volunteers bail on you and you didn't know how you were going to pull off the ministry? Ever had VBS staring you down and you were short 6 teachers? Ever been told the church is adding another service or an additional campus and you felt a wave of anxiety because you're already stretched thin on volunteers?

Conquer This Fear
Be encouraged. Everyone has or is struggling with this. You'll always need more volunteers ... especially if you are growing and reaching people. There are strategies you can implement that will help you build a dynamic volunteer team. In this post, I share 10 simple secrets to building a volunteer team. 

In Matthew 9:38, Jesus told us to pray for laborers for the harvest.  He would not have told us to pray for something He didn't want to give us. When you feel this fear creeping up on you, pray this prayer against it. 

2. A child being abused or abducted. No matter how many precautions and safety measures you have in place, it's in the back of your mind. When you hear about it happening at another church, you shudder when you think that it could happen in your ministry as well. What if a child was abused while here at church? What if a predator who hasn't been caught up to this point, started serving in our ministry? What if someone slipped by our check out point and abducted a child? 

Conquer This Fear
It's our job to do everything possible to prevent a child from being abused or abducted. Having solid walls of protection such as background checks, a no one ever alone with a child policy, a check-in plan and other safety measures are all ways to lessen the chance of a child being abused. Here are more ways to make your ministry a safe and secure place.

3. Criticism. Ever opened an email and it ruined your day? Ever got a voice mail from a parent and dreaded calling them back? Ever been hesitant to ask for feedback because of what you know you'll hear? Ever not made a change because you didn't want to go through the backlash you'd get?

Conquer This Fear
Shift your thinking. When a parent or volunteer brings criticism or complaints, see it as a gift. Listen to it and learn something from it. Some of the best lessons you will learn are when you are thrown under the bus. Here's some more tips on how to overcome this fear.

4. Lack of growth. Ever stared at your attendance sheet and realized the number of kids attending your ministry is either flat or going the wrong way? Ever stared into a half-empty classroom and wondered if there is anything you can do to more effectively reach kids and families?

Conquer This Fear
Remember, this is something you can't control. God simply expects us to do our part by removing any barriers that are hindering growth. Here is a list of barriers. When we remove these and other barriers, God does His part and grows His church.

5. Not being liked. Are you a people pleaser? Are you afraid someone won't like you? Do you lose sleep when you know someone is upset with you?

Conquer This Fear
The need to be liked is normally rooted in a need for affirmation. We want the approval of others. To conquer this fear, we must tie our identity to what God thinks about us, instead of what man thinks about us. If you struggle with this fear, here is some help.

6. Conflict. Do you run from hard conversations? Do you let stuff slide because you don't want to deal with it? Do your palms get sweaty when a parent asks to meet with you over an issue?

Conquer This Fear
This is one of the bigger fears for leaders. The good news ... navigating conflict is a skill that can be learned. Conflict is never easy, but if you enter it knowing what you are and are not going to say, it significantly lessons the fear. Here's some help with navigating explosive conflict.

7. Volunteers leaving. If it wasn't stressful enough to enlist a volunteer team, you have to keep them as well. You get wind that one of your key volunteers is talking about stepping down and it sends chills down your spine.

Conquer This Fear
Build relationships with your volunteers. This is the glue that will keep them serving with you. That being said, realize that no matter what you do, you will have some volunteers bolt on you. Don't sweat it, God will send someone to replace them. 

8. Not making an impact. We all want to know that our lives have made an impact. Deep down inside we sometimes wonder if we are laboring in vain. Will we be able to look back in the end and see that we clearly made a difference? And if we do, will the impact be miniscule compared to what we had hoped and prayed for?

Conquer This Fear 
Two simple verses will help you conquer this fear. Memorize and quote them when this fear approaches you.

"It is the same with my word.  I send it out, and it always produces fruit.  It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it" (Isaiah 55:11).

"So, my dear brothers and sisters, be strong and immovable. Always work enthusiastically for the Lord, for you know that nothing you do for the Lord is ever useless." (I Corinthians 15:58).

9. Lack of funding. Have you ever been afraid to ask for something for the ministry because you're sure the answer will be "no?"  Ever catch wind that the church offerings are down and wondered what that meant for children's ministry funding?

Conquer This Fear
Remember you must be the children's ministry champion in your church. You must evaluate, pray and determine what the needs are. It's your job to ask. After that, it's out of your hands. Don't sweat it. God will provide what you need. And remember, our perception of what we "need" may not match up with what God knows we need at the time.

10. Kids not really understanding a decision they've made to follow Christ. Ever walked away from a baptism struggling with whether or not the child was really ready to be baptized? Ever felt the weight of the responsibility of sharing the gospel clearly with children?

Conquer This Fear
It's our job to share the gospel with clarity. Involve parents in the process and offer them guidance as they journey though this decision with their child. Have a class kids go through before they are baptized.

Do due diligence to ask kids questions about their decision. If you feel they are not ready, then work through this with the child's parents.

Be reminded that we can't save anyone. That job has already been taken. We get the privilege to introduce kids to the One who does the saving.

The floor is yours. What are some other fears you have faced? How did you deal with them? How have you dealt with some of the fears mentioned above? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below.

Dale Hudson has been in Children's Ministry for over 25 years. He is the Director of Children's Ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. Christ Fellowship has 9 campuses and ministers to over 22,000 people on weekends. Dale leads a Children's Ministry staff team of over 50 and a volunteer team of over 2,600.

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson ) Children Thu, 05 Mar 2015 22:00:00 -0500
5 Reasons Children’s Ministry Matters So Much http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21602-5-reasons-children-s-ministry-matters-so-much http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21602-5-reasons-children-s-ministry-matters-so-much For so many families in today's world, life revolves around the kids. If you have kids, your calendar is probably full of events related to them. And it's certainly not a bad thing that you love your kids and make them important. If you're a parent, think through these questions:

  • What are the next 5 things on your personal to-do list?
  • Do you change your schedule/plans last minute when your children have something come up?
  • Do you plan your days, food, events and outings around your kids?
  • Do you remember the last time you went to one of those "nice" restaurants?
  • Whom do you spend the most time thinking about? Praying over? Encouraging?

Parents will likely attend church where their kids want to go and, hopefully, where their kids get loved and discipled. As a children's minister, I want your kids to be loved. I want the best for their future. I want the gospel to invade the next generation of leaders. I want churches to reach kids, draw them in, and to equip parents to disciple their children well! I want them to love the time they spend at church so they are excited about showing up and learning about Jesus. So if you want to reach families, engage kids!

Though there are a TON more I could list, here are five reasons why children's ministry at your church matters so much:

1. Kids need a solid spiritual foundation. As humans, we go through stages of life that require different methods of learning. Kids are in a beautiful stage in which they are open to hearing and receptive to truth. They desire to learn because they are in a stage of seeking knowledge. They are curious.

Scripture tells us to build up their foundation, and children's ministry allows us to teach God's truth early in life. We desperately need mature Christians, but before we mature, we need spiritual milk (1 Pet. 2:2). In children's ministry, we seek to build a basic foundation that will produce fruit when it is tested (James 1:3).

2. Kids are the next generation of leaders. Today they seem wild and irresponsible but they will be the next generation of church leaders, community leaders and world changers. And if we pray and seek God's face, they can be even more effective in leadership than our current generation. This is exciting stuff!

How do you stop gossip among believers? Love kids well. How do you get Christian men to love their sisters in Christ? Love kids well. How do you impact the divorce rate among Christian couples? Love kids well. Love them well today and impact a whole generation of adults tomorrow.

3. Kids are learning to form relationships now. Life happens in relationships. Not only is church a great place for your kids to build godly friendships with other kids that can last a lifetime, it's also an opportunity for kids to connect with adults and leaders. This happens through mentoring or disciple-making relationships, often through children's small group leaders who hang out with them every Sunday.

We all need Christ-centered relationships, and the church is best positioned to make these relationships happen in intentional ways.

4. Parents need to be equipped for family discipleship. In children's ministry, I love to teach the gospel, to share God's love, and to see life change. But even more, I desire to see families excited about discipling their kids. We can't stop teaching after a child receives Christ. That special moment is just the beginning of a whole new life.

Afterward, we get to disciple them and deepen their beautiful relationship with Christ. We have the privilege of watching that relationship grow and flourish.

No one is better equipped for the work of discipling children than parents. One of our biggest jobs in children's ministry is to equip parents with the tools and resources to disciple their kids beyond Sundays.

5. Kids need to experience the unconditional love of God through us. As church leaders, we want to share God's love with people. It's our goal every single week! It's simple, it's genuine, and it's radial and life-changing. Encourage your children's ministry volunteers and love them well. They are the life blood of ministry. And as you love those leaders, encourage them to pass that love along to the kids you serve every chance they get. Let's love kids well!

Meredith Chapuis is a graduate of Ouachita Baptist University and now serves as Children's Ministry Director at Grace Hills Church, a new purpose-driven church plant in Northwest Arkansas. She recently co-founded BE:Kids, a ministry that equips parents and families for discipleship at home with free devotionals and other resources, including the BE:Box, available on a monthly subscription basis and filled with everything a family needs for amazingly fun at-home discipleship.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Meredith Chapuis) Children Wed, 04 Mar 2015 19:00:00 -0500
Why You Shouldn’t Have a Vision for Your Children’s Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21518-why-you-shouldn-t-have-a-vision-for-your-children-s-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21518-why-you-shouldn-t-have-a-vision-for-your-children-s-ministry If you serve as a children's ministry leader in a local church, you are not called to build your "own kingdom" inside the church. You are called to help the lead pastor build the entire church. 

This also means it's not your job to create your own "vision" for the children's ministry. When a church has ministries going their own direction, the result is misalignment. But when the entire ministry is headed in the same direction, speaking the same language and pursuing one vision ... the result is unity. And where there is unity, the Spirit of God brings His blessings.

As a children's minister, here are some questions you should ask yourself:

1. What if I don't know what my pastor's vision for the church is? Sit down and have a conversation with him. Find out what his vision is. Then ask how he sees that vision translating into children's ministry.

2. Should I create my own vision statement for our children's ministry? I would encourage you to align your children's ministry vision statement as close as possible with the church's overall vision statement.

Here's an example. Our church's vision statement is: We are called to impact our world with love and message of Jesus Christ ... everyone ... everyday ... everywhere. For the children's ministry, we translated this into: We are called to impact kids and families with the love and message of Jesus Christ ... everyone ... everyday ... everywhere.

3. What if I can't align with the pastor's vision for children's ministry? When we operate under the authority of the vision of those who lead us, we will be blessed. If you find yourself in a place where you cannot wholeheartedly align with the pastor's vision, then it is best to leave quietly and find another church where you can. It is vital that you be aligned with the vision for the entire church.

Good children's ministry leaders build the children's ministry. Great children's ministry leaders help build the entire church.

Dale Hudson has been in children's ministry for over 25 years. He is the director of children's ministry at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida.

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson) Children Thu, 05 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Top 10 TED Talks for Children’s Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21471-top-10-ted-talks-for-children-s-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21471-top-10-ted-talks-for-children-s-ministry TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conferences were started in 1984.

They feature some of the brightest, most innovative people on the planet. They address a wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture, often through storytelling. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways they can.

The talks given at TED can be found at ted.com. There is also an app you can download for your smartphone that will give you access to the talks.

I'm a big fan and watch TED talks often. Many of the talks have helped me grow as a children's ministry leader. New talks are added on a regular basis.

Below are 10 TED talks that I recommend to children's ministry leaders. Check them out. You'll be glad you did.

1. How Great Leaders Inspire Action by Simon Sinek (This will change the way you invite people to join your volunteer team).

2. How Schools Kill Creativity by Ken Robinson (Nurture rather than undermine creativity in kids).

3. Virtual Choir by Eric Whitacre (A great example of rallying people behind a vision).

4. The Tribes We Lead by Seth Godin (How ordinary people can lead and make big change).

5. Every Kid Needs a Champion by Rita Pierson (Believing in kids and connecting with them in a real, personal level).

6. Teach Teachers How to Create Magic by Christopher Emdin (How to make a classroom come alive).

7. Hey Science Teachers—Make It Fun by Tyler DeWitt (Make your lessons come alive with stories and demonstrations).

8. 3 Rules to Spark Learning by Ramsey Musallam (3 rules to spark imagination and get kids excited about learning).

9. Gaming to Re-Engage Boys in Learning by Ali Carr-Chellman (Let boys be boys and use video games to teach and entertain them).

10. What Adults Can Learn From Kids by Adora Svitak (Kids' big dreams deserve high expectations starting with grownups' willingness to learn from children as much as to teach).

What other TED talks have helped you? Share them with us in the comment section below.

Dale Hudson has served in children's and family ministry for over 24 years. He is director of children's ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. He was recently named one of the top 20 influencers in children's ministry. He is the co-author of four ministry books, including Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children's Ministry.

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson ) Children Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
7 Reasons Your Students Aren’t Sharing Their Faith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21571-7-reasons-your-students-aren-t-sharing-their-faith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21571-7-reasons-your-students-aren-t-sharing-their-faith These seven obstacles to your teens sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group-wide priority, as well as one in your own life:

1. You're doing it for them.  Think "outreach" in youth ministry, and we automatically think "event." The words go together like "dodge" and "ball." The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach "event." Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends, they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in gospel conversations.

Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing teenagers to be the outreach event.

To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just, "Hey kids, bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives," we must equip them to bring the "J" word up with their own peers.

2. They don't understand the urgency. When's the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes, that's right, hell. Of the 12 times the word "hell" is mentioned in the New Testament, 11 are from Jesus Himself. Perhaps the scariest story in all of the Bible is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus paints a picture of eternity in hell in terrifying colors.

Was He using scare tactics? Of course He was! In the same way a dad uses scare tactics on his 4-year-old child who is chasing a ball toward a busy street at rush hour. It's out of love that Jesus "scares" us with what is at stake for those who are lost.

3. It's not a true priority in your youth ministry. I'll never forget getting a personal tour of a multimillion-dollar nonprofit ministry and asking the guide an awkward question. On a plaque, the ministry had listed their values and priorities.

The first was evangelism. I simply asked the tour guide which of their many divisions were focused on evangelism and how it was being fleshed out on a grass-roots level. She looked at me dumbfounded (as the other leaders with me cringed). Evangelism was a plaque priority but not a real priority in this ministry.

If evangelism is truly a priority, then our youth leaders will be scheduling time for evangelism training on their calendars and in their weekly meetings. Are you carving out time to have teenagers share stories (good, bad and ugly) about gospel conversations they are engaged in? Are you taking the time to give the gospel just in case any unreached teens show up that week?

4. They don't know how to bring it up. If teenagers don't know how to bring up the gospel to their friends, they probably won't. If their friend says, "It's hot in here," and they respond, "It's hot in hell too," that's probably not the best strategy.

Teenagers must be equipped to naturally engage their friends by asking questions and listening. The free Dare 2 Share app has a simple strategy we use called "Ask, Admire, Admit" on the "How 2 Share" segment than can be very effective in equipping teenagers to bring the good news up with their peers.

We also have developed high-quality, beautifully illustrated outreach books that youth leaders can receive free of charge on share6campaign.com. Over 260,000 of these books are being used across the nation to help teenagers engage in gospel conversations.

5. It's not being modeled by your leaders (yes, that includes you). Share the gospel. Have your leaders do the same. Set the pace as leaders.

6. They suffer from a lack of gospel fluency. Could your teenagers pass the microphone test? If I put a microphone up to their face as they were leaving youth group and said, "You have two minutes to explain the gospel message to me," could they do it in a clear and comprehensive enough way for a lost person to understand the good news? If not, then your teenagers are not fluent enough in the gospel message.

7. There's not enough intercessory prayer. Is intercessory prayer for the lost a "first-of-all" level priority in your youth ministry? As someone once said, "We must learn to talk to God about men before we talk to men about God."

If every week in youth group you set aside some time for intercessory prayer for the salvation of unreached teenagers, God's love for the lost will begin to marinate into the souls of your teenagers.

These obstacles to your teenagers sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group-wide priority, as well as one in your own life.  
     


Greg Stier is the president and founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which mobilizes teenagers to share their faith.

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webmaster@strang.com (Greg Stier) Children Wed, 25 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
The Real Reasons Young Adults Drop Out of Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/21455-the-real-reasons-young-adults-drop-out-of-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/21455-the-real-reasons-young-adults-drop-out-of-church Despite all the fear-driven presentations you've heard, not every young person is walking out of the church the moment they finish high school and never coming back.

Here's what you need to know. The young adults who do drop out of church often lack a firsthand faith—a faith of their own—and a relationship with Christ that matters deeply in their own personal life apart from their parents' pressure.

I've heard some pretty remarkable statistics about church dropouts—I'm sure you have too. Such as: 94 percent (some say 86 percent) of evangelical youth drop out of church after high school, never to return. The problem? Those stats are urban legends. They've not been validated, and research has never come to that conclusion.

Let's explore the actual statistics regarding young adult dropouts, and why they drop out:

The Truth: Some Young Adults Do Drop Out

The reality is there are dropout challenges, but it's not 94 percent or even 86 percent of evangelicals. Real research shows that faith is rather resilient from one generation to the next—but that does not sell the books, I know.

A few years ago, LifeWay Research examined the issue, looking at some of the things that help young adults stick, stay and have a robust faith. We wanted to know what it takes for a student to continue his or her faith through high school, college, the career years and beyond. (It's discussed in Essential Faith by Sam and Thom Rainer.)

We looked at the faith of students who attended a Protestant church (mainline or evangelical) twice a month or more for at least one year in high school. Here's what we found: About 70 percent of young adults ages 18 to 22 stopped attending church regularly for at least one year. Is that a 70 percent dropout rate? With all the nuances and with all the caveats, we'd say so. That's a dropout rate, a much too high dropout rate.

Other research and studies among evangelical youth, however, indicate that number is almost certainly much lower (see the study mentioned earlier). And it should be noted that we found almost two-thirds of those who left in our Protestant study were back in church by the end of the study.

Why Do Young Adults Drop Out?

We also asked young adults why they dropped out of church. Of those who dropped out, about 97 percent stated it was because of life changes or situations. That's a pretty substantial number. Among their more specific reasons:

  • They simply wanted a break from church (27 percent).
  • They had moved to college (25 percent).
  • Their work made it impossible or difficult to attend (23 percent).

About 58 percent of young adults indicated they dropped out because of their church or pastor. When we probed further, they said:

  • Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical (26 percent).
  • They didn't feel connected to the people at their church (20 percent).
  • Church members were unfriendly and unwelcoming (15 percent).

Fifty-two percent indicated some sort of religious, ethical or political beliefs as the reason they dropped out. In other words, about 52 percent changed their Christian views. Maybe they didn't believe what the church taught, or they didn't believe what they perceived others in the church to believe.

Firsthand faith leads to life change and life-long commitment. More specifically, 18 percent disagreed with the church's stance on political or social issues, 17 percent said they were only going to church to please others anyway, and 16 percent said they no longer wanted to identify with church or organized religion.

What Can We Do?

The reason that many church-attending young adults stopped going to church upon graduating from high school? Their faith just wasn't personally meaningful to them. They did not have a firsthand faith. The church had not become a valued and valuable expression in their life—one that impacts how they live and how they relate and how they grow.

Church was perhaps something their parents wanted them do. They may have grown up in church, and perhaps they faced pressure from parents and even peers to be involved in church. But it wasn't a firsthand faith.

We cannot posture our student ministries to think like and act like a four-year holding tank with pizza. Instead, we need to prepare young adults for the spiritual challenges that will come and the faith questions they will face. Firsthand faith leads to life change and life-long commitment.

This post was inspired by a conversation about Firsthand Faith, a book by Ryan and Josh Shook.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research and LifeWay's Missiologist in Residence. For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) College Wed, 31 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Did You Miss This in the News? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/19759-did-you-miss-this-in-the-news http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/19759-did-you-miss-this-in-the-news Charismanews-phone-app-android-photoCheck out some links below to recent stories from Charisma News that you'll find interesting and informative. You can also sign up to receive stories on your smart phone by signing up for the free Charisma News app by clicking here.

Educators Hopeful Over Future of Christian Colleges
Would US Fiscal Cliff Lower Charitable Contributions?
'God Day' Calls on Remnant to Spark Orlando, Fla., Revival
Why Revival Is Exploding Among Muslims
Los Angeles Revival Spreads to Azusa Street

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Charisma Staff) College Tue, 11 Dec 2012 16:33:00 -0500
The Biggest ‘Ministry Impact’ the Secular Media Never Heard Of http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/19672-the-biggest-ministry-impact-the-secular-media-never-heard-of http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/19672-the-biggest-ministry-impact-the-secular-media-never-heard-of Charisma-Steve-Strang-and-Berin-ReportThere are a few marquee ministries the mainstream media covers—if only critically. Yet there are some major ministries doing significant things around the world.

Of course it is well known to my Charisma readers, but outside Christian circles few have heard of the International School of Ministry (ISOM) headed by Berin Gilfillan, shown here with me at NRB in Nashville last winter. Dr. Berin Gilfillan is the CEO & founder of ISOM. Formerly the television producer for Reinhard Bonnke, Gilifillan was trained at Regent University and Fuller Theological Seminary. His ministry is based in Redlands, CA.

It is well known to our readers because about three times every year, ISOM places an ad on the back page of Charisma or Ministry Today. When I learned of their exponential worldwide growth, from a few hundred training schools in 2000 to more than 15,000 training sites today in 142 nations, I wanted to find out more. Berin told me each year he adds about 1,000 new ISOM schools “and we have found no better place to expose our vision than these two Charisma Media publications.”

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Strang) College Tue, 27 Nov 2012 19:00:00 -0500
Pastor, Author Addresses Students on Overcoming Sin http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/19615-pastor-author-addresses-students-on-overcoming-sin http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/19615-pastor-author-addresses-students-on-overcoming-sin Dave-Stone-Liberty-UniversityPastor Dave Stone spoke on how to win the struggle with sin during Liberty University Convocation on Monday. Stone is the senior pastor of Southeast Christian Church in Louisville, Ky., one of North America’s largest churches with 21,000 in attendance weekly. He is also the author of seven books, including his Faithful Families series.

Stone asked students, “Will you decide today that you will no longer be held hostage by the guilt of sins that God has already forgiven, forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead?”

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Liberty University News) College Fri, 26 Oct 2012 13:00:00 -0400
Louie Giglio on Effective Collegiate Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/18309-music http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/18309-music Listen as Ministry Today editor Marcus Yoars talks with Louie Giglio, a pioneer of modern-day collegiate ministry who understands the struggles most local churches have with establishing a thriving ministry to college students. The Passion founder and director is also well aware of how students often feel like misfits in the church community.

Listen to the three-part interview below as Giglio gives tips for effectively reaching young adults-as well as discusses why he's starting his own church in the midst of launching a worldwide initiative.

Part 1: Listen to Louie Giglio's ministry tips for pastors.

Part 2: Learn how Giglio is keeping Christ the focus in a "me-focused" culture.

Part 3: Find out how he's reaching the world (and Atlanta) through his Passion events.


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marcus.yoars@charismamedia.com (Marcus Yoars) College Fri, 20 Feb 2009 22:04:48 -0500
Louie Giglio Part 1 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/18318-louie-giglio-part1 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/college/18318-louie-giglio-part1 Listen to part 1 of our Ministry Today interview with Louie Giglio and get ministry tips for pastors.



Part 1: {mp3}giglio/LouieGiglioPart1{/mp3}

Part 2: Learn how to keep Christ the focus in a me-focused culture

Part 3: How the youth leader is reaching the world, Atlanta through the Passion events.

 

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marcus.yoars@charismamedia.com (Marcus Yoars) College Wed, 25 Feb 2009 20:30:59 -0500
25 Random Pieces of Advice for Leaders From 20 to 49 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/21707-25-random-pieces-of-advice-for-leaders-from-20-to-49 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/21707-25-random-pieces-of-advice-for-leaders-from-20-to-49 I may or may not have a big birthday this week. OK ... I may.

Believe it or not, turning 50 has not been as traumatic as I thought it might be. Actually, it's been remarkably satisfying and gratitude-inducing. I have so much for which I'm thankful.

If you're a younger reader (which most of you are), I have some great news. At 50, I have as much or more energy than I did a decade or two ago, a much better sense of who God created me to be, and I'm surrounded by people I don't deserve. And I'm honestly more excited by the next 20 years than I've ever been about the future.

So what's the best part of turning 50? You see things you just couldn't see at 20, 30 or 40. OK, maybe you can see them. I couldn't—at least not as clearly.

In light of that, what follows are life and leadership tips I picked up in my 20s, 30s and 40s that I'm so thankful I did.

How you live your life up to age 50 likely matters more than you think.

How You Live Your 20s, 30s or 40s Matters

I was recently talking to a friend who had turned 50 a couple of years ahead of me. He surprised me by saying that your 50s and are largely predetermined by how well you lived your 30s and 40s.

Live your 30s and 40s well, and your 50s turn out great.

Live them poorly, and all the problems and issues you never resolved when you were younger sabotage your later years, even beyond your 50s.

When he said that, I gulped. Literally.

I'd seen that reality so many times in my life but never connected the dots.

So in an attempt to help you live your 20s, 30s and 40s well, here are 25 random pieces of advice I hope can help.

1. Deal with your issues early. You have issues. Everyone does.

As tempting as it is to believe otherwise, it's not your wife, husband, kids or job who are causing all the pain in your life. You are the common denominator in everything that's happened to you. So deal with you.

Go see a trained Christian counselor. Hire a coach. Read some books. Do what it takes to deal with your junk.

2. Invest in coaches and counselors who make you better. On that note, most people who need counseling say they can't afford it. It's like couples that can't afford a date night but then spend thousands of dollars on divorce later because their relationship fell apart.

If you need counseling to deal with issues, it's an investment. Ditto with coaches who can bring out the best in you. It's not just an investment in you. It's an investment in everyone you impact.

3. Get off the fence. Indecision plagues too many people. Make the best decision you can with the information you have, then humbly pursue it with everything you've got.

4. Study and practice faithfulness. Faithfulness is rare. Not just in marriage, but also in life. Culture teaches us to dispose of anything or anyone we don't like. So, do the opposite.

Learn how to be consistent, loyal and steadfast, holding to what you know is right even when you feel like doing the opposite

5. Live like God loves you and everything you read in the Bible is true. Most people wish someone loved them unconditionally. Someone does. So live like it.

And while you're at it, live like everything you read in the Bible is true. Doubt your doubts. You won't regret it.

6. Be generous when you have no money. Don't fall for the lie that you will be generous one day when you have money. If you're not generous now, you won't be generous then.

Practice generosity with every dollar you receive and everything you have. Then if you ever have money or possessions, they won't own you.

You will have released their grip from your life long ago. And you will look behind you and already see you've been able to make more of a difference than you imagined.

7. Choose a few awesome friends and stick with them. Friendships can be confusing in your 20s, 30s and 40s. Friendship circles change when you leave school, get married and even change jobs.

In the midst of all that change, find a few friends and stick with them for life. Most people can only handle five really close relationships in their life. Choose those five well and build into those relationships deeply.

8. Cultivate a circle of people around you who make you better. In the last 20 years, I've spent a lot of time trying to intentionally pursue friendships and relationships with people who are smarter, more skilled and simply 'better' than me.

One of the best ways to become a better person and leader is to spend time with people who are better than you.

9. Get comfortable being around people who are smarter than you. Deal with your insecurities. Get comfortable being around people who are smarter than you.

It will make you better, but it's also the key to creating an exceptional team.

If you always have to be the smartest person in the room, you'll eventually end up in a pretty vacuous room.

10. Relentlessly pursue self-awareness. Self-aware people make the best leaders and, frankly, are the easiest people to hang out with in life. Chances are your favorite people are people who are deeply self-aware.

But self-awareness doesn't come naturally. I'm naturally blind to the impact I have on other people around me. So are you. If you want more on this issue, here are four things self-aware leaders know that others don't.

11. Make peace with your weaknesses. You'll never be great at everything. The sooner you get used to that, the better off you'll be. Eventually you'll stop trying to cover up and stop feeling so bad about yourself. That's progress.

12. Pour increasing amounts of energy into your strengths. Once you realize you're only great at a few things, you're free to become even greater at them. Pour your time, energy and resources into what you do very best. That's the difference between being good at something and the being best in the world.

13. Get comfortable with solitude. Solitude is a thoughtful leader's best friend. It also is a key to self-awareness. If you really want to grow as a person and as a leader, and grow in your relationship with God, get comfortable with solitude. I wrote more about solitude and how to practice it here.

14. Wrestle down your pride. Pride is ugly. It gets you into trouble again and again.

The only person to whom your pride looks appealing is you. Think about it ... you don't like pride in anyone but yourself.

So pray it out. Beat it out. Do what you need to do to wrestle it down.

15. Fight cynicism. The more you know, the harder it gets to stay hopeful (the Scripture points this out by the way). Cynics never change the world; they just tell you why the world doesn't change.

Don't be one. Check the cynicism that's growing inside you.

16. Kill selfish ambition. Ambition isn't bad. In fact, it can change the world.

Selfish ambition is bad. It can destroy the world. So be ambitious, but be ambitious for the sake of a cause that's far bigger than you are.

17. Don't give into stupid temptations that will come your way. You will be tempted to do stupid things. Don't. Don't have an affair, take short cuts or cheat to get ahead.

It's so not worth it.

18. Find the high road and live on it. The high road is the hard road. But it's the best road. People will try to pull you off the high road again and again. Don't. Take it. Every time.

19. Don't wrestle with a pig. Conversely, the low road has virtually no reward.

Years ago someone dropped this gem on me.

Don't wrestle with a pig. You both get dirty and the pig liked it. So, so true.

20. Work twice as hard on your character as you do on your competency. Competency is not the main key to success. Character is. Your competency will take you only as far as your character can sustain you.

21. Persevere through the dry seasons. Your time with God will go flat. Sometimes you'll think what you believe is a farce. Even marriage, family and friends go through seasons where everything seems boring.

Hang in there. Your emotions eventually catch up with your obedience. So be obedient.

21. Discover what refuels you and do more of it. Some things give you energy in life, some things drain you. Figure out what refuels you. Then do more of it.

Your choice, over the long run, is self-care or self-medication. Choose self-care.

22. Book appointments with yourself. Your calendar will naturally fill up with urgent things other people believe are important. And you will watch a decade or more pass by without doing anything really significant.

Book appointments with yourself to do what really matters, whether that's taking a day off, being with your family, writing an important talk or taking time to think.

Then when someone asks you if you're busy, you can truthfully say, "I'd love to help, but I have a commitment."

23. Trust again. Your heart will get mangled and you'll be tempted to stop trusting people altogether.

Don't. Trust again. Hope again. Believe again. You'll be so glad you did.

24. Be bold. Be bolder than you think you should be. Too many dreams die of timidity.

25. Don't let fear win. Yep ... you're afraid. Go for it anyway. Fear gets the best of far too many leaders. Don't let it get the best of you.

What About You?

There's a lot more I could have written about, but 25 random pieces of advice is enough for now.

You've probably got some great advice too. I'd love to hear it. That's what the comments are for. Scroll down and leave one.

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

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carey Nieuwhof) Counseling Tue, 14 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
7 Pieces of Advice For Those Just Starting in Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/21296-7-pieces-of-advice-for-those-just-starting-in-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/21296-7-pieces-of-advice-for-those-just-starting-in-ministry A friend who works with student ministers on the various college campuses around New Orleans has invited me to address his team in their weekly gathering. Asked if he had a  topic in mind for me, he said, "Give us three things you would tell those just starting out in ministry."

Three things? How about a hundred? Here are a few that come to mind, in no particular order:

1. Make sure of your calling. The ministry can be tough, and you will often be lonely and experience great frustration. Things are not going as you had planned. The people you trusted have proven themselves untrustworthy. Those over you in the work have been unable to fulfill their promises. You're seeing little results from your labors. You are exhausted and see no way to clear off the schedule for a well-earned rest.

Unless God calls you into this work, you will not last.

If anyone knew the joys and frustrations of the Lord's work, it was the Apostle Paul. He said, "Therefore, since we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we do not lose heart [and quit]" (2 Cor. 4:1). These two things give us passion for the Lord's work, and without them, we will soon become casualties:  the Lord saved us (mercy) and He called us (ministry).

Jack Hunter is the director of missions for the New Orleans Baptist Association. He came to this work after a full career as a New Orleans attorney. A few years back, he took early retirement from his firm to attend Beeson Divinity School in Birmingham. Then, in 2009, when Duane McDaniel succeeded me as DOM for the association, he asked Jack to take charge of our inner city ministries, a work already dear to Jack's heart. However, two years into his work here, Duane died of a massive stroke. The administrative committee asked Jack to take charge of the office on an interim basis.

That's when Jack came to see me. He said, "I have no idea how to be a director of missions. Talk to me about this job."

Some months later, the administrative committee felt the Lord's leadership to give the job to Jack on a permanent basis. By then God had also called Jack. The change in him was remarkable.  One day, perhaps a year into Jack's ministry, he and I met so I could pick his brain on the local ministries. The DOMs of Oklahoma had asked me to address them on the future of the association, and I knew NOBA was doing some interesting things under Jack's leadership. In interviewing this newly minted spiritual leader, I was amazed at his passion.

During that hour, I couldn't get a word in edgewise. Jack was a man possessed, on fire for the Lord, excited about all God is doing.

It's what the call of God does to a person.

2. Get all the training you can get. Do not shortcut the process. In most cases, you will not be able to put your ministry on hold in order to go to school but will be training while you continue to serve. None of us can retreat to a mountaintop (or a cloistered retreat) to get an education. In the Lord's work, we learn as we go.

The other evening, I had dinner with a pastor who is working on his doctor of ministry degree in seminary. At the age of 57 he admitted some regrets at not having done this earlier, but he'll get no sympathy from me. He's doing what we all should be doing: learning, growing and gaining new strength. Age has nothing to do with it. The process is lifelong.

Years ago I heard a fellow say, "I went to school with (President) Jack Kennedy. I was ahead of him and felt that I had more going for me than he did. But one of the differences in us is that he kept growing and I quit."

My dad, oldest of what would become a family of 12 children, dropped out of school in the seventh grade to go to work. The year was 1924, and he earned 50 cents a day from carrying water to workers at a planer mill. Two years later he entered the coal mines and worked alongside his father and uncles, doing, as he said, a man's work for a man's pay.

But to his dying day (at the age of nearly 96), my dad kept learning and growing. He subscribed to the daily newspaper and a number of magazines all his life. He read constantly. At his death, at least 6 magazines including TIME and Fortune were coming to the house.

Be a student all your life. Never quit learning.

3. Learn Acts 16:25 and never leave its example far from your mind. In the midst of your troubles, stay faithful.  Memorize Habakkuk 3:17-19 and repeat it often to yourself. Do not let your faithful service and work and praise be dependent on circumstances. Always rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4).

If you are able to praise God only when everything is going perfectly, you will find yourself worshiping fewer and fewer times with less and less enthusiasm.

After being beaten and arrested for nothing more than trying to bless people, Paul and Silas found themselves locked into stocks and sealed into the interior of the Philippian jail. Their bloody backs were untreated; they must have been miserable. "But about midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns of praise to God, and the prisoners were listening to them" (Acts 16:25, NASB).

That's how it's done. And, according to the rest of the chapter, God did some amazing things through these servants who, given a choice, refused to gripe and complain but rejoiced and trusted the Lord.

No matter to what field of ministry the Lord sends you, from time to time you will suffer and be mistreated.  Count on it. But when you do, just remember there is no place for a "why me, Lord?". You are to pray and sing hymns of praise to God.

When we rejoice in difficult circumstances, many wonderful things happen: God is glorified, Jesus is honored, and the Holy Spirit moves in to use your testimony. The devil is infuriated and your critics are silenced. The church is blessed and people enduring their own trials are inspired by your example. You yourself are blessed and strengthened.

4. Always make sure the Lord Jesus Christ Himself is your passion. Keep before you the story of the woman who sat at the feet of Jesus worshiping and anointing Him and weeping, then letting down her hair and wiping His feet. "She loves much because she has been forgiven much," the Lord said. (Variations of the story are found in several places, but nowhere more lovely than in Luke 7:36-50).

That's you and me. We are the forgiven sinners, always loving Jesus and praising Him for His great mercy. The more you know of your own unworthiness, the more you will appreciate what God did for you in Jesus. Likewise, the person with little appreciation of their own sins will have only the smallest of gratitude to Jesus for atoning for them.

It's not enough to be in the ministry because you love college students or enjoy teaching or are challenged by leadership tasks. None of those will sustain you. Only a passion for Christ Jesus will suffice.

When Pastor Jim became unemployed, he sat in my office pouring out his frustration. At one point, he burst out, "I have to preach! Preaching is my passion!"

I said, "Jim, there is the problem. The Lord Jesus wants to be your passion, not preaching." Give him credit. He took it like a man. "Wow. Thank you. That hurts, but it's what I needed to hear."

"Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you" (James 4:8, KVJ).

Luke 10:20 reminds us that the numbers will be there sometimes and absent at other times, but our joy has to be fixed on something permanent and unchangeable. "Rejoice that your names are written in heaven" (NIV).

5. Have a network. You're going to need mentors, advisors, prayer supporters, encouragers and friends. When you find a problem you cannot solve, a temptation you cannot overcome, a doctrine that does not work for you, a discouragement that threatens to swamp you, rally the troops. Woe to the one who tries to do this alone.

Ecclesiastes 4 (NASB) says, "Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor," and so forth. It's a great text, verses 9-12.  We respond, "Two are better than one? Sure. But four, we hasten to add, are better than two.

As you go through life, be on the alert for special friends to whom you are attracted in the Lord's work and who seem to appreciate you. Do not lose them, no matter where you end up serving.  These days, with instant communication, there is no reason to be out of touch with anyone. You're going to need them.

6. Put balance in your life. Read outside your field of ministry. Take care of your body by walking or jogging or riding a bike. Travel. Camp out in national parks. See the world. Pick the brains of important people you encounter along the way. Start a blog. Laugh a lot. Be silly. Learn to pray. Pray for your pastor. Go to ball games.

Luke 2:52 (NKJV) says our Lord "increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." That works out to intellectual growth, physical growth, spiritual growth and social.

Learn a foreign language. If you are single, find out when your seminary is staging another archaeological dig in the Holy Land and sign up for it. Build your Facebook friends into the thousands. Learn to appreciate operas (start with those by Puccini). Read the comics in your newspaper.

7. Love the Lord's church. Today, an itinerant preacher said God had written Ichabod ("the glory has departed," a reference to 1 Sam. 4:21) upon the church today, indicating that the Lord was through with the church.

This fellow must be smarter than God. My Bible clearly says, "Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her" (Eph. 5:25, NASB) and "the gates of hell shall not prevail against [the church]" (Matt. 16:18, KJV).

A never-failing principle I discovered as an 11-year-old believer—the night Jesus came into my heart—is this: The closer we get to Jesus, the more we will love His people; the farther we drift from Him, the more critical we become of them.

Use that as a barometer in your personal life.

These will suffice as the first seven of my "100 pointers to those starting out in ministry."  (What are the other 93? I have no idea. Smiley-face here.)

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 ) Counseling Tue, 28 Oct 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Why Everyone Needs a Mentor and How to Find One http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/21208-why-everyone-needs-a-mentor-and-how-to-find-one http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/21208-why-everyone-needs-a-mentor-and-how-to-find-one A few years ago, I wrote a study called Mentor: How Along the Way Discipleship Can Change Your Life. That study was directed to college students, because I believe every young person needs a mentor.

Now, at age 53, I'm convinced EVERY person needs a mentor. Here's why:

It's biblical. We can name them. Moses and Joshua. Jethro and Moses. Naomi and Ruth. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and His disciples. Paul and Timothy. Paul himself told us that elders must teach the next generation (Titus 2).

We're created to be in relationship with others. When God declared it was not good for Adam to be alone (Gen. 2:18), He was not indicating that every person must be married. Instead, He was showing us that none of us is created to be a loner. He expects us to walk together with others.

None of us knows everything. I don't know anyone who would say he knows all things, but I do know people who live that way—distanced from others, standing alone, and completely unteachable. We are not so smart that we have nothing to learn from one another.

All of us have blind spots. By definition, a "blind spot" is something we don't see.  So, if you say you don't have blind spots, you just admitted that you do. We need someone else to help us see ourselves fully.

Experience is a great teacher. We know that truth because we've been there. We know better now because of mistakes we made in the past. In a good mentoring relationship, we learn from someone else's experiences as well.

Life will sting sometime. It happens to all of us. The proverbial floor drops out beneath us. Our plans get redirected or shattered. Life hurts—and we need someone to help us carry the burden when it does.

People are God's gift to us. Dr. Bill Lane, the mentor of Christian musician Michael Card, put it this way: "When God gives a gift, He wraps it in a person." We miss this gift when no one walks beside us to guide and encourage us.

So, how do we find this mentor? Here are some steps to take.

Forget about how old, well trained or smart you are. You will need somebody to pour into your life until you die.

Pray for a mentor. God alone creates "divine intersections" when one life crisscrosses another in such a way that both lives are strengthened. Ask Him to show you those intersections in your life.

Look around. Watch for believers whose lives you trust. Look for those whose walk with God you want to emulate. Pray about asking one of those persons to mentor you.

Realize that most people have never been a mentor. Any person you ask is likely to not understand what mentoring involves. Your very request may catch him/her off guard. Don't be surprised—and don't let this truth stop you. Start a conversation.

Ask . . . and keep asking until you find a mentor. The issue is really quite simple: If you want a mentor, you'll likely need to ask somebody. Take a risk, and do it. Tell somebody you've watched his life, and you want to learn from him. If he says "no," ask somebody else. Don't stop looking and asking until you find somebody. It's the devil that wants you to give up.

Be grateful for whatever a mentor might offer. You may want to meet with a mentor once a week, but he has time only once per month. Your preference may be for your mentor to focus on theological training, but he feels unqualified to concentrate there. Even if your mentor cannot give you all you want, be thankful for what you get. One hour with the right mentor is worth weeks of waiting to meet.

Invest in somebody else yourself. Even while you seek a mentor, you have something you can teach somebody else. You might find that God will direct you to a mentor after you begin giving yourself away.

Here's an idea: If you are seeking a mentor, send this post to someone who might invest in you—and then ask. Tell us how we might pray for you, as you trust the Lord for His divine intersections.

Chuck Lawless 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) Counseling Tue, 16 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
What Moses Teaches Us About Mentoring http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20862-what-moses-teaches-us-about-mentoring http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20862-what-moses-teaches-us-about-mentoring Are you involved in a mutually beneficial mentoring/student relationship? What is holding you back?

You don’t have to be perfect to be a mentor—just willing. The man who struck a rock when God had said, “Speak to it,” got disqualified from entering the Promised Land … but not from mentoring Joshua.

I can think of a number of unwise decisions I’ve made in leadership that might give me pause about ever qualifying as a mentor. I overspent on a building program once that almost sank a church. Another time, I landed in the hospital with chest pains that turned out to be stress from too many long days and not taking a day off.

Despite these and other flaws in my leadership, God put a desire in my heart to look for mentoring opportunities. Some of that desire was perhaps repayment for the people who have invested in my life.

Just last Saturday at an event, I ran into my friend Mike. We immediately had a connection. It started with a season of mentoring four decades ago. I can’t take credit for the godly husband, loving father and successful entrepreneur Mike has become, but I can rejoice with him.

My definition of mentoring is this: simply sharing your life with someone who is willing to walk with you according to some mutually agreed-upon terms. What do I mean by “terms”? Something as informal as “We will meet for a couple of hours each month (or quarter) and will stay in contact as needed.”

A Biblical Example

The Moses/Joshua model is enlightening in a number of ways that get to the heart of mentoring. Let’s take a look:

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Rhoden) Counseling Tue, 22 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Where Does a Struggling Leader Go for Help? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20767-where-does-a-struggling-leader-go-for-help http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20767-where-does-a-struggling-leader-go-for-help This is written to the struggling leader. I frequently hear from you. Email appears to be a safe place to reach out to someone—and for that I'm thankful. Some of my pastor friends are lonely or about to collapse. There are some business leaders crashing.

Recently, someone emailed me for help, and I told them email alone was not enough. As much as I appreciated the opportunity, this pastor needed more. Which prompted a great question: Where does the Christian leader go for help?

It's hard, isn't it? It's difficult to be transparent. You have an image—a reputation—you want to protect. You're not sure others will follow you as closely if they know you struggle too. And the reality is that some will follow you even more—but some do have an unrealistic expectation for you to be above the normal struggles of life. It's tough to know who to trust or who will use the information against you. So, that puts it back in your court.

You know you need help. Where do you go?

Here are seven suggestions:

1. God. He's the obvious answer, isn't He? But seriously, have you taken the issue you're dealing with to God specifically? Maybe you've prayed general prayers, but have you been specific with God about your needs? It's not that He doesn't know—but He longs to hear from His children. Sometimes we don't have because we don't ask. Spend some extended, non-sermon-writing time in God's Word and talking to your Father.

2. Counselor. There is nothing wrong with a pastor or any leader (or anyone) seeing a professional counselor. In fact, there is everything right about it if you have need. They are professional. Confidentiality is always the objection I hear, but in my experience these are professionals. It is the extremely rare exception—just as it is hopefully for pastors—that confidence would ever be broken. The value of the help outweighs the few stories you may have heard or the fears you may have.

3. Coach. There are paid professionals who aren't counselors necessarily, but their job is to help you think through life—where you're at and where you're going. As for the counselor and the coach, there are often associations, denominations and nonprofits that will help pay for these services. A dream of mine is to develop a collective resource site with this information. But it's worth the time to look for good help. And if you know some great resources for this, share them in the comments for others.

4. Couch. This word seemed to fit, since the last two started with a C. You may need rest. Forced, if necessary. Sometimes that makes all the difference. It might be an afternoon nap or an extended sabbatical, but it can be a life-saving discipline to stop everything and physically and mentally recover.

For best results, the next three usually require preparation before the crash is imminent, but they are wonderful resources for every leader. I often find, however, that leaders have these in their lives—God often does the preparing for us—but we've failed to reach out for help.

5. Mentor. I have consistently surrounded myself with people wiser than me about an issue. It could be in ministry, finances or family, but I want a human resource of wisdom when I need one. And when I get to know those who seem like they've figured something out with which I'm struggling, I find they once struggled just like me—which is why they make a good mentor.

6. Friends. "A friend loves at all times and a brother is born for adversity." The original "phone a friend" option was God-ordained. Use it.

7. Family. I offer this one with caution. There are times when family is the best place to turn and times when they aren't. I'm not suggesting hiding from family, but sometimes families are too emotionally attached to be objective. But with that caution, I'd rather see a leader run to family than crash and burn alone.

Struggling leader, be vulnerable. You can recover better and faster if you raise the flag of distress than it you keep the mask covering the suffering.

Ron Edmondson is a church planter and pastor with a heart for strategy, leadership and marketing, especially geared toward developing churches and growing and improving the kingdom of God.

For the original article, visit ronedmondson.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Counseling Mon, 05 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Make Room for Young Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20671-make-room-for-young-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20671-make-room-for-young-leaders What some aging Christians need from the younger generation is an invitation to lean into the local church—not to retreat or retire.

But others from the older generation need a different challenge—a summons to lay aside suspicion of everyone young enough to be their child, a charge to dispose of a derogatory view of the real-life specimen of the next generation. And, in particular, some older leaders need to hear a plea not to get off the bus but to aggressively make room for young leaders at the front.

Do Not Despise the Young

It was a two-part charge the aging apostle gave to his younger-generation protégé in 1 Timothy 4:12: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (ESV). One part goes to the millennials (born 1980–2000), along with Gen X (1965–1979): By exhibiting model Christian posture in word and deed, give the older generation no good cause for despising your youth.

But the second part is for the baby boomers (born 1946–1964) and those before them, who overhear the directive like the Ephesian church reading Paul’s letter over Timothy’s shoulder: By exuding a model Christian disposition toward brothers and sisters in Christ, give the younger generation the benefit of the doubt. Don’t expect the worst of fellow believers, regardless of their age. Let the gospel go to work on your subtle age-prejudice.

Create Space for New Leadership

Larry Osborne is one pastor and author pioneering the way forward on the massive leadership transition that is just underway between the baby boomers and their millennial progeny. Whether in business, government or the church, many are already feeling the tension, as what was America’s largest generation now awkwardly gives way to its more numerous offspring.

Osborne makes the observation that on the high school and college campus, it seems “the freshmen always get smaller.” As we age, each year’s crop of incoming students seems less impressive than the class before. If that’s true of just four years on campus, what about the long arc of adult life?

In the church, says Osborne, “The seniors never graduate (at least not until they’ve become literal seniors and start dying off). They hog the leadership table, shutting out the next generation. It’s one of the main reasons that most churches stop growing and lose their evangelistic touch (and cultural relevance) around the 20-year mark.”

Let Young Eagles Fly

The Christian vision for leadership is not a tenure model, in which whoever’s been around longest occupies the seats of privilege and prominence as long as they want. Rather, it’s about laboring proactively and assertively to raise up younger leaders to fill our slots and do our jobs better than we did—which gets at the Great Commission essence of making disciples (Matt. 28:19) and applies it to church leadership.

But such a vision of leadership is costly. There’s a price to pay, says Osborne:

“Leadership is a zero-sum game. One person’s emerging influence is always another person’s waning influence. That’s why making room for the young eagles is a hard sell, especially to those who already have a seat at the table.”

Such a deferential and self-humbling dream for raising up new leaders may seem far-fetched in government and business, but shouldn’t it have its best chance in the church, where we follow One who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45)? Do we not believe that true greatness is in service, not in lording it over and exercising authority (Mark 10:42)? We aim “in humility [to] count others more significant” and “look not only to [our] own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3, 4).

But are we not, then, compromising wisdom in church leadership by replacing some qualified members of the older generation with those from the younger?

Let the Young Speak

A generation ago, on Sunday morning, Aug. 29, 1982—with the first of the millennials still in diapers—36-year-old baby boomer John Piper took up Job 32:7–11 and preached on the young man Elihu. The sermon title was “Let the Young Speak.” That night, the church would be ordaining 27-year-old Tom Steller, and Piper wanted to prepare his congregation of gray heads for laying hands on such a spring chicken. The key verses were Job 32:8–9: “It is the spirit in man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand. It is not the old who are wise, nor the aged who understand what is right.”

Said Piper, “The lesson Elihu teaches us here is that it is not age that brings wisdom but the Spirit of God. There is no necessary correlation between gray hair and good theology. There is no necessary connection between a wizened face and a wise heart. ...

"Of course, there is, then, no necessary connection between youth and wisdom, either. What Elihu has done is remove age as the dominant consideration in deciding who is wise and understanding. He teaches us that there may be folly in the old and folly in the young; wisdom in the young and wisdom in the old. When we search for a source of wisdom, we do not end our search with the question, 'How old is he?' We end it with the question, 'Who has the Spirit of wisdom and understanding?'”

Make Room at the Table

So alongside the plea to the older generation to not abandon the younger for “retirement” is also this request: Don’t frown on us young adults and think we’re fools because we’re young. In Christ, and by His Spirit, be on the lookout for the best, and let us have a chance to show you that not all of us are as bad as you might expect.

And for the advance of the gospel and the good of the church tomorrow and today, don’t keep us locked out of leadership. Take the extra initiative to make room at the table for multiple younger voices, and please put in the energy to really hear us out. Before long, the younger generation will be driving the ship. Better to begin handing over the wheel sooner than later and make the transition a tribute to the age-defying wisdom of God.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor at desiringGod.org and an elder at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minn. He has edited several books, including Thinking Loving Doing, Finish the Mission, and Acting the Miracle, and is co-author of How to Stay Christian in Seminary. Click here for more from David Mathis, or visit David at www.desiringgod.org/blog/authors/david-mathis.

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Mathis) Counseling Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Happily Ever After 101 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/couples/19284-happily-ever-after-101 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/couples/19284-happily-ever-after-101 Four ways to prepare couples for marriages that will last a lifetimed-MinLife-Couples-

 

Having been a college/20-something pastor for the last decade, I have lived in the land of dating, engagement and wedding officiating. My weekends are regularly filled with beautiful flowers, “Here Comes the Bride” and mediocre reception musicians. Officiating weddings is fun, and a lot of energy is poured into making this a special and memorable day. But there is so much more that must be considered. Have we spent more energy pulling off a wedding and less on preparing to make a marriage last a lifetime?

I have been asked “How do I know if she is the one?” more times than I can count, taught about dating and marriage multiple times, and spent endless hours in premarital counseling. Thinking about this sacred subject has been a necessity for me. Here are a few things I have come to realize in trying to prepare young adults for marriage.

Paint a realistic picture. Marriage is a beautiful thing, designed by God. There is fulfillment and joy for two people that “submit themselves to one another out of reverence for Christ” (Eph. 5:21). But having a great marriage takes a lot of work. When we get caught up in the enchanting imagery of Ephesians 5, we have to remember that it is an invitation to the death of self. It is easy to be a servant when people praise us for it, but the test is will we still serve when people treat us like servants?

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webmaster@strang.com (Aaron Stern) Couples Wed, 26 Oct 2011 12:51:44 -0400
5 Signs of Idolatry in the Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/21430-5-signs-of-idolatry-in-the-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/21430-5-signs-of-idolatry-in-the-church The greatest sin in the Bible by far is the sin of idolatry. Idolatry is when we violate the first of the Ten Commandments (Ex. 20), which is "You shall have no other gods before me."

It is when we put something or someone first in our lives before the living and true God. Idolatry is the root cause of all other sins, which is why the first two commandments deal with this.

While the church today is focusing on various sins related to human sexuality and lifestyle choices, many in the church who might not fit into these two categories might be deluded into believing they are OK, even though they might be breaking the greatest commandment.

The following are signs of idolatry in the church. These are based on my perspective of serving as a lead pastor for 30 years as well as extensive extra-local apostolic ministry to churches.

1. The idol of celebrity preachers. There are believers who run all over the country attending conferences of well-known preachers. Often, when they meet them in person, they fawn all over them and almost faint. Some well-known ministers cannot even go out in public without constantly being stopped by admirers so they can take "selfies" with them. (Since I know and have worked with many of them, I have seen this firsthand.)

Although I am a proponent of having a culture of honor and respect for those leaders who labor among us (Heb. 13:7-17), some people have stepped over the edge into idolatry. They follow everything they say without question and irrespective of scandal, and do not search the Scriptures themselves to see if what is preached aligns with God's Word.

When Cornelius met the Apostle Peter and bowed down before him, Peter rightly told him to get up, that he was only a man like himself (Acts 10). There is nothing wrong with emulating or following a leader, but there is something wrong with idolizing a Christian leader.

There is such a pervasive "celebrity preacher" culture in the body of Christ today that some megachurches and enterprises have literally closed down when their celebrity preacher stepped down. If churches and ministries would build according to the New Testament pattern, in which the whole body exists to minister and to edify one another in love, then we would not depend merely upon one leader for the congregation to function (Eph. 4:16; 1 Cor. 12). 

2. The idol of worship/entertainment. There are many believers who flock to churches that have skilled singers and music primarily to be entertained. Consequently, many believers don't realize they are putting self-gratification and entertainment before true worship.

Years ago, many churches would not even have musical instruments and people would flock to churches anyway, even though the congregation only used hymnals and sang a cappella for worship. Now, it is very common for pastors to budget large amounts of money to pay for professional singers and musicians in order to fill their church services with people.

In my opinion, even though we are called to worship with excellence and skill, we have gone too far in the church and have mingled as a core value the entertainment culture of the world. At the end of the day, whether we have worship performed by professionals, use merely a recording, or sing a cappella, congregations should worship and adore Him just the same, in spirit and truth, which is the only kind of worship God seeks (John 4:23-24).

Those who leave their local churches to attend other churches with better "worship" in my opinion are often guilty of idolatry since they cannot worship God from their hearts without being entertained by professionals.

3. The idol of personal prosperity. There are believers whose main motive is to use their faith to leverage influence with God for personal gain. Although God delights in blessing all of his children (3 John 2), Jesus told us to seek first His kingdom and righteousness for our material needs to be added to us (Matt. 6:33).

Many attempt to use the benevolent character of God to live a myopic life in which Christianity orbits around the universe of self. God has given us power to get wealth so we can spread his covenant to the whole earth, not merely so we can live a life of ease. Using our faith to put our own needs first is a form of idolatry, in my opinion.

4. The idol of objectifying God. Although this point is similar to the previous point, I feel there is enough of a distinction to make them separate. Through the years I have seen many in the church preach and promote an "I," "me," "my" culture. For example, much of the preaching deals with self-actualization, fulfillment and therapy rather than sound biblical theology calling believers to live a life of service. Pastors have often fed into the cultural idolatry of the people in order to attract people into the church, something that displeases God (read Ezek.l 44:10-12).

I have observed there are too few "cross-carrying" disciples attending churches, but many use God when they need Him. For example, many come to church to "feel" the presence of God, but are not committed to knowing and loving the "person" of God. Many come to church merely to feel good instead of being equipped to do good works (Eph. 2:10).

Many come to "get a word" instead of coming to "give a word" of edification to someone else (Is. 50:4; Eph. 4:29). Many come to listen to rhetorical messages that excite the emotions with no intention of walking out the word. Many come to shout amen, psychologically being deceived into believing that, because they shouted, they have already obeyed. Consequently, there are many believers who live no differently than their unbelieving neighbors, which is why megachurches are not always "megacultural" influencers, and why church growth doesn't always result in personal and societal transformation.

Although many have attended church for decades, they have never matured and are still drinking pabulum, having never digested the meat of the word (1 Cor. 3:1-3).

5. The idol of ethnicity. There are many believers who have allowed their ethnicity and culture to trump the word of God. Jesus said culture is even stronger than the word of God in some people's lives (Mark 7:7-8). Consequently, people read the Scriptures through their Caucasian-Western, Afrocentric lens, Hispanic or Asian lenses.

One of the most important things to do in regards to receiving the Word of God for personal transformation is to attempt to take ourselves out of our own cultural context and read the Bible through the eyes of the author's original intent, which is something only the Holy Spirit can accomplish. There is no such thing as a Western European Caucasian Bible or an Afrocentric Bible, etc.

We need to stop reading the Scriptures merely through our ethnic lenses because, in actuality, the Bible was written with a Hebraic mindset, and it is foolish to think we can fully understand it with our contemporary ethnic mindsets. Consequently, believers often act and react no different from non-believers in regards to things that happen in contemporary society. For example: White, black and brown believers have generally reacted far different from one another when it comes to interpreting immigration reform and the tragedies of the recent Michael Brown and Eric Garner deaths.

Truly, I believe that the gospel is so powerful that it is possible for diverse Christians to come together with one voice and prophetically interpret, speak, and bring solutions to these painful and controversial issues.

God is not colorblind since He made humans black, brown, yellow, red and white in his own image. Hence, he designed us to have distinctions in culture regarding food, dress, language and other things based upon ethnic nuances. However, these distinctions are not where believers should derive their primary identity or anchor their biblical ethics. For in Christ there is neither male nor female, black, white or brown, for we are all one in Christ (Gal. 3:28).

When our ethnic thinking trumps our biblical thinking, we are guilty either of ignorance or ethnic idolatry. Unless or until the body of Christ gets over its idolatry according to ethnicity, we will never become the generation that can disciple the nations (which refers to ethnic people groups as shown in Matthew 28:19).

Since there is no neutrality, either the church will disciple the nations or the nations will disciple the church.

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) Deliverance Fri, 26 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Are You Helping to Realize Dreams? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/20453-what-is-your-dream http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/20453-what-is-your-dream "What is your dream?" It’s the one question they never expect.

You can see their eyes widen when we ask them. They suddenly look up as if to say, “Did I hear you right?” Most of the time, when a homeless family arrives on our Los Angeles campus, they’ve lost just about everything. They have their car, whatever they’ve been able to cram into it, and nothing much else except the clothes on their backs.

Someone on our staff takes them into a room and sits down with them. They’re expecting all the usual questions they’d get from most social workers. But we don’t do that kind of intake here. We have a different first question, and it almost always takes people by surprise.

“What is your dream?”

The question stuns them. Then often their eyes narrow a little with a flash of suspicion: Is this a joke? What is my dream? Are you kidding me? Coming here isn’t about dreaming! It’s about surviving. It’s about staying alive and keeping body and soul together.

I didn’t show up on the front porch of a place like this because I’m chasing my dream. I’ve ended up here because I don’t have anywhere else to go. I want to keep my family together. I don’t want to live with abuse or threats. And I don’t have the energy any longer to fight the alcoholism, the drug abuse and the prostitution that are all around me. And you ask me, “What is your dream?”

But “What is your dream?” is no idle question. It pertains to life and death. Think about Proverbs 29:18: “Where there is no revelation [or vision], the people cast off restraint” (NKJV). In other words, without a dream, people don’t exercise self-control. When men and women have nothing to live for, they “cast off restraint.”

So right up front we ask the people who come to us, “What is your dream? What do you want to see happen in your life? What do you want to achieve? Where do you want to go?”

“Well,” they may say, “we’re just trying to survive.”

And we answer, “But what if we took survival off the table? While you’re here, you won’t have to worry about that. This is a safe, clean place, and we will give you the food and shelter you need. So let’s start thinking about your potential.”

The fact is, when you’ve been disappointed again and again, you become afraid to dream. How could you bear another disappointment? But in the power of Christ, you can begin to dream again.

Even in marriages, there comes a point at which people lose hope. A husband and wife may be committed to staying together for the rest of their lives, but as they imagine the years ahead, it looks to them more like running an endurance test or slogging along on an endless marathon.

Asking people “What is your dream?” is almost like lifting them to a whole different plane. We’ve found that most people really do have something in their hearts they would love to do or pursue, but they have suppressed that dream for so long that it doesn’t seem like a possibility at all.

Maybe the dream is getting free from addiction. Maybe it’s finishing high school or going to college. Maybe it’s being trained for a certain occupation or specific career. The desire is still there, but it’s buried so deep beneath their setbacks, pain and loss that they’ve forgotten they ever had any aspirations.

Once we hear their dream, we tell them, “We’re going to help you get to your dream”—and they can hardly believe their ears. Maybe they expected to have to prove themselves first or completely clean up their lives before we would start talking to them about their future.

Belonging and Believing

This “What is your dream?” interaction is based on a concept that the Lord has impressed on us through the years as we’ve worked with people in crisis. We call it “belong and believe.”

Think about it. In the Gospels, Jesus said to a number of men, “Come and follow Me.” At that point, they were in no way ready to be disciples of Christ. They were just regular guys. But Jesus called each one of them, inviting them to walk with Him and to serve Him. He allowed people to belong first, to see what He was doing, find themselves drawn to Him—and then believe.

For some of them, coming to faith in Jesus took a long time. Two disciples didn’t believe until after the resurrection, when Jesus directly confronted them and said, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken!” (Luke 24:25, NIV). He didn’t justify their lack of belief or make excuses for their behavior while they were learning, but He allowed them to belong to believe. They didn’t have to clean up their lives first.

Manuel Ramos was 17 when he came into our teen discipleship program (a major program at the Dream Center in which teens who have been kicked out of their homes and kicked out of school are raised in a Christian environment). Manny’s father was an alcoholic, and as a young boy, Manny became heavily involved in alcohol and drug abuse. He has been hospitalized more times than he can remember, he once accidentally burned down his home, and he drifted from trailer park to trailer park staying with friends until he ended up on the mean streets. He was probably as lost and broken and lonely as a young man can be.

When Manny finally came to us—thanks to the help of a concerned family friend—dreams were the last thing on his mind. All too real was the horrific nightmare from which he’d just emerged.

“I had no idea I even had a dream,” he says. “I shouldn’t even be alive! At one point in my life, I was so messed up I thought it was all over. I couldn’t remember what I had done that week because I had never been sober. I was homeless, no one cared about me, and I didn’t care about myself. I didn’t take care of my body or try to stay clean. I just didn’t care.”

And Manny had become an alcoholic by age 13. “Addiction doesn’t really say it,” he recalls. “It was more like affliction. Something awful. I was so lost—but nobody cared. If I had been dying, no one would have heard my screams.

“So dreams? I never had time to think about dreams. I’m only 17 years old, but I’ve gone through stuff in my life that no man should ever go through. I’ve felt pain that’s so painful you want to throw up, but I had to go on.

“So I quit sobbing and wiped my eyes. I hid the pain in the corner of my heart where no light shines. That’s where it stayed, and I forgot it was even there.”

Once in our program, though, Manny learned that he had to re-encounter all of that hidden pain before he could catch a vision for a new life. Jesus helped him do exactly that. Soon after Manny met Jesus, the Lord walked him over to that corner of his heart where he had buried all his sorrow—the still-raw, jumbled up, jagged-edged, poison-tipped blades of pain that had torn into his young soul again and again.

The Bully in the Room

That hiding place in Manny’s heart reminds me of an article I read about storing nuclear waste out in the deserts of eastern Washington state. In a process known as vitrification, radioactive liquids and sludge are turned into large glass logs that are stored in vast vaults somewhere deep under the soil—where they will presumably remain for the next 1,000 years or so. But Jesus doesn’t allow hidden vaults of crystalized pain and deep-rooted anguish. He wants to throw those vaults open. He wants to take that pain on Himself.

“Jesus showed me my despair,” Manny remembers. “I found out right then that I had a Father and that He was a Father who actually cared about me. Without Him, I would have no dreams at all. I guess I had been just too proud to let God take care of me.”

Sometime in the midst of Manny’s discipleship program, somebody taught him Jesus’ words in Matthew 6:33-34: “But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.”

As Manny began to seek God first and release all his stored-up pain, he found something he hadn’t even been looking for. Manny found his dreams.

Pain is like the bully in the room that chases a person’s hopes out the door and sends dreams into hiding. That’s why people in crisis who come through our doors are so surprised to have us ask them, “What is your dream?” Their dreams have been overshadowed by their disappointments and sorrows for so long that they may have forgotten they ever had any.

But the Lord doesn’t forget anything. As we ask God to reveal His dream for our lives, He may first have to roll up His sleeves and help us work through some interwoven layers of heartbreak that have hidden His desire and purpose for us.

Jesus did exactly that for Manny, even after all that young man had been through. I encourage you to believe that Jesus can do the same for you and the people God has placed in your care—both in your church and in your community. See what happens when you ask the people in your path, “What is your dream?”

Matthew Barnett is the senior pastor of one of the fastest-growing churches in the United States, Angelus Temple in Los Angeles. He is also the founder of the Dream Center, a ministry that demonstrates the love of Christ by rescuing people out of poverty, homelessness, addictions and human trafficking. Excerpted from God’s Dream for You with permission from Thomas Nelson for use in the Nov/Dec 2013 issue of Ministry Today. 

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webmaster@strang.com (Matthew Barnett) Deliverance Tue, 19 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Break Free of Satan's False Accusations http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/19813-break-free-of-satan-s-false-accusations http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/19813-break-free-of-satan-s-false-accusations Satan-false-accusations-smallThere has been much that has occurred in this season that could cause our hearts to faint, and fear seems to be on the horizon each day of our lives. However, we must continue to persevere in faith, knowing that God is in complete control at all times. Though lawlessness appears to prevail at times, we are given grace to persist and develop our faith in God. Our Lord is the God of Light and He will light our pathway which continually leads to life. Let us recall a few Scriptures that give us hope in this season.

James 1:16-18 reminds us that the Father of heavenly lights gives only good and perfect gifts and that He is the God of truth:

"Don't be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows. He chose to give us birth through the word of truth, that we might be a kind of firstfruits of all He created" (NIV, with emphasis).

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Sandie Freed) Deliverance Thu, 27 Dec 2012 21:00:00 -0500
Symptoms of Demonic Operation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/20034-symptoms-of-demonic-operation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/20034-symptoms-of-demonic-operation couchwithdemonsThe subject of mental illness is very controversial in Christian circles. Inside the extreme schools of thought, we find balance and a scriptural viewpoint.

First, let me say clearly: All mental illness is not the result of demonic attack. Further, good psychological care from Christian professionals is vital and in order when an individual is struggling.

Also, professionally administered medication may be necessary when chemical imbalances occur. But when normal medicine and therapy do not result in a cure, then it is possible that these symptoms could point to demonic operation.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Phillips) Deliverance Thu, 18 Apr 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Your Pastor Is Under ATTACK! What Will You Do? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/19769-your-pastor-is-under-attack-what-will-you-do http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/19769-your-pastor-is-under-attack-what-will-you-do AMFJ-Insert-An-Urgent iStockphoto ImagineGolfHell has unleashed a coordinated assault against spiritual leaders. Are you willing to provide extra prayer covering to protect them?

I wasn't feeling especially spiritual--I was just trying to decide which carpet color I liked best. But God had other plans for me that afternoon.

Jerry, a stout 60-year-old flooring salesman, had come into my office to show me some carpet for our church. We had never met, so we chatted briefly about his business.

After a quick orientation on material and pricing options, I dove into the bulky sample books he had plunked down on my desk. I think I was considering the virtues of a soft geometric pattern when I looked up and was caught completely by surprise:

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Cannistraci) Deliverance Mon, 17 Dec 2012 17:00:00 -0500
Wars of the Spirit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/19623-wars-of-the-spirit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/deliverance/19623-wars-of-the-spirit D-MinLife-DeliveranceOne night, exhausted from a hard week of work, I got in the bathtub to relax my tired body while my wife, Kathy, lay sick in her eighth month of pregnancy. An hour later, I started to get out of the tub. But as I stood up, an intense thought hit me: I am going to die!

The thought caused panic to rush through my whole being like stampeding cattle. My entire body trembled as my heart pounded out of my chest. Strength drained from my limbs as I fell back into the water, shouting desperately for Kathy to help me. She rushed into the bathroom where I lay helpless. I managed to mumble something about having a heart attack. She strained to help me out of the bathtub, and then she ran into the kitchen to call our family doctor.

He relayed a few questions to me and concluded that I was having a panic attack, not a heart attack. Little did I know that this was the beginning of a journey through a living hell.

That first panic attack initiated a constant state of fear in me. All throughout the day, high levels of anxiety overwhelmed my soul like waves crashing on the seashore in a violent storm. 

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kris Vallotton) Deliverance Wed, 31 Oct 2012 20:00:00 -0400
Pastors, Here Are 3 Ways To Win Over Your Prodigal Children http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21680-pastors-here-are-3-ways-to-win-over-your-prodigal-children http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21680-pastors-here-are-3-ways-to-win-over-your-prodigal-children A "Not Now!" sign is on my door all this week, a sign that everyone in the Every Nation office is ignoring. Try as I may, I obviously don't intimidate anyone around here.

I am in writing mode, working against a speeding deadline, trying to finish a book that does not have a title yet. Two possible titles: "The Heart of Parenting" or "My First, Second, and Third Attempts at Parenting."

I am taking a break from chapter seven to post this blog. Chapter seven is titled "Pilgrim's Progress: God's Heart for Your Prodigal." (The other chapter titles are at the bottom of this blog. As you can see, they are all borrowed from classic books.)

After applying the principles of the Parable of the Prodigal Son to parenting, the chapter I'm working on finishes with three tips called How to Win Your Prodigal.

Here are those three tips:

1. Be a parent, not a pastor. In the course of their lives, my sons have had many pastors. But they have only had one mother and one father. We can outsource the pastoring, but not the parenting. If I don't fulfill the role of pastor to my sons, there are plenty of other pastors ready and willing to step into that void. But if Deborah and I don't fulfill the role of parents, no one else can.

2. More praying, less preaching. I am not sure, but my guess is that the father of the prodigal in the parable did a lot more praying for his son than preaching to his son. In the end, after much pain and shame, it turned out better than ok for the famous prodigal family. If you have tried preaching to your prodigal, and he is still far away, I suggest muting the sermons and replacing them with prayer.

3. Look for progress, not perfection. As soon as the prodigal turned toward home, when he was still far off, his father ran to him. He was far from home and far from perfect, but he was finally pointed in the right direction. As soon as your prodigal makes a turn and takes a step in the right direction, rather than criticizing how far away he still is, why not try running to him and throwing a party?

Please pray for me as I attempt to finish this book in the next few weeks. I am just over halfway finished. As you pray for this book, I am praying that prodigals will turn toward home and toward God.

Here's the book. Bold chapters are finished, and getting shredded by my copy editors. Non-bold are scattered noted in my iPad and stories in my head that are trying to find form.

FORWARD by William Murrell, Jr.: The Three Musketeers: What My Parents Did Right

PART 1: HISTORY

Chapter 1: Gone with the Wind: Seize the Moment Before the Moment is Gone

Chapter 2: The Old Man and the Boy: Lessons from My Father

PART 2: HEART

Chapter 3: The Godfather: God's Heart for His Children

Chapter 4: The Heart of Darkness: Every Child's Heart

Chapter 5: War and Peace: Every Parent's Heart

Chapter 6: Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: Seven Deadly Heart Issues

Chapter 7: Pilgrim's Progress: God's Heart for Your Prodigal

PART 3: HOME

Chapter 8: Where Wild Things Are: Discipleship Starts at Home

Chapter 9: Great Expectations: Leadership Development Starts at Home

Chapter 10: A Tale of Two Cities: At Home in Manila and Nashville

Chapter 11: All's Well that Ends Well: What I Would Do Differently at Home

Steve and Deborah Murrell went to the Philippines in 1984 for a one-month summer mission trip that never ended. They are the founding pastors of Victory Manila, one church that meets in 14 locations in metro Manila and has planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and 20 other nations. Currently, Victory has more than 6,000 discipleship groups that meet in coffee shops, offices, dormitories and homes in metro Manila. Steve is co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a family of churches focused on church planting, campus ministry and world missions.

For the original article, visit stevemurrell.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Murrell ) Family Life Fri, 03 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Here Is Perhaps the Greatest Failing of Godly Pastor-Husbands http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21661-here-is-perhaps-the-greatest-failing-of-godly-pastor-husbands http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21661-here-is-perhaps-the-greatest-failing-of-godly-pastor-husbands Many a preacher who loves the Lord, enjoys his ministry and seems to be doing well wishes he had married differently. His wife does not appreciate him sufficiently.

Give me a break.

Here is what this looks like ...

Pastor Chuck is sold out to the Lord and completely committed to the ministry to which he was called. The church he serves is doing well. Everything is fine, except for one small thing ...

His wife irritates him sometimes.

Marjorie is a Christian; don't misunderstand. She supports her man in his work for the Lord, and she teaches a Bible class herself. It's just that ... well, Marge finds fault with Chuck sometimes. She tells him the sermon last Sunday could have benefited from more prayer and study, that the striped tie does not go with that shirt and that he's getting a little heavy around the middle.

Pastor Chuck knows that Marge prays for him, but she embarrasses him when she is too brutally honest with people. Like the other day when Deacon Everhardt came over to check on the fuse box at the pastorium and she unloaded on him, saying the wiring in the house was 30 years old and dangerous and the committee should hire an electrician to go over it. The last time Everhardt visited about a plumbing problem, Marge told him the toilet wasn't flushing well and if they loved the Lord the way they say they do to send over a professional plumber to give the whole system a going over.

That sort of thing.

The pastor knows she's right. It's just that there are gentler ways and more convenient times to say these things.

There have been a few occasions when Chuck has apologized to members for the bluntness of his wife's comments to them.

If he were honest, Chuck would admit that sometimes he wonders what it would be like to be married to someone who was totally on his team.

He sees Pastor Tom, from the Assembly across town, making his rounds in hospitals and nursing homes, always accompanied by his pretty, young wife. Marge never goes with Chuck on his rounds. Of course, she has the three children to look after and she sometimes sells specialty cakes she bakes at home. Even so, Chuck is dissatisfied.

He wishes he'd not been in such a hurry to get married after college. What was the rush? It's not, he tells himself, that Marjorie isn't a good person. But he could have chosen a wife more suitable to him.

This kind of thinking shows up in their relationship.

Chuck never compliments Marge on those beautiful brown eyes that drew him in the first time they met. They're still beautiful and she works hard to look attractive, but being a godly man and a pastor, Chuck thinks he would be hypocritical complimenting his wife when he is unhappy with her.

So he says nothing.

He forgets to pass along the compliment he heard last week on her Bible teaching, and he made a joke about the raves from the men's supper concerning the chocolate layer cake she had served them.

Chuck feels guilty for the negativity he feels toward Marge. Guilt and resentment—what a combination.

At home, Chuck makes himself pray with Marge. He wishes he enjoyed their times together talking to the Lord. But her honesty shows up in her prayers too, as she talks directly to the Lord about their marriage and asks God to show them what to do. Pastor Chuck prays about it in private, but he's uncomfortable doing so with his wife. It's a man thing, he says.

Chuck is the problem with his marriage.

There is nothing major wrong with Marjorie. She is the same woman he fell in love with 20 years ago, only a little more so. Like everyone else, Marge needs to grow spiritually. And it wouldn't hurt if her man provided a more loving and nurturing atmosphere for that to occur.

Marge is the woman God chose for Chuck, and He did that knowing full well that He had called this man into the pastoral ministry. So, there's that to deal with. God did this.

The last thing on the planet Chuck needs is a wife who worships the ground he walks on. He has the woman God thought he needed. The fact that he doesn't appreciate her is not only his problem, but hers too. His dissatisfaction with her undermines everything they do together. It's like a steady leak in their emotional tank.

Chuck needs a wife who knows him for what he is and loves him that way. He needs a wife who will tell him the truth whether it irritates him or leaves him frustrated.

Chuck needs Marge.

The problem is he does not appreciate what God has done in his life. And that is undermining God's work in Chuck's life.

Chuck and Marjorie are "heirs together of the grace of life" (1 Peter 3:7). They share the blessings of God. And when they are close emotionally, mentally and every other way, the amazing thing is they are closer to God. But when one pulls away from the other, by some strange transaction, they are also pulling away from God.

Chuck has been instructed in Scripture to love his wife "as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her" (Eph. 5:25). And, not content to say that, the great apostle added, "So husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies" (v. 28). He uses verbs like "nourishing" and "cherishing" (v. 29).

Question for the preacher-husbands in the audience: How did Jesus "love the church" when He died on the cross when the church did not actually exist yet? (Most people say the church was birthed at Pentecost.)

Answer: He gave Himself on the cross for the church that was yet to be.

So, let no husband excuse himself from nourishing and cherishing his bride because she doesn't deserve it or "she is not all she should be." Those are alibis and they do not stand up before Scripture. Had the Lord Jesus wanted, He could have excused Himself from the cross for the same reasons but multiplied by 10,000.

Just love her. Thank God for the wife God gave you, no matter how many rough edges she may have or the numerous ways you would like to improve her. God obviously thought you needed what she brings to your relationship and it is high time you recognized that and gave Him the glory due to His Name.

After all, when we reject what God has done, we reject Him.

Men, when you pray for yourself—or wives, when you pray for your husbands—consider that there is a lot of Pastor Chuck in almost every one of us men. So, ask the Lord to help him properly appreciate what God has done in sending him his life mate.

The Lord knows full well what He is doing. Trust Him.

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 ) Family Life Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
3 Decisions a Pastor Can Make to Help His Family http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21535-3-decisions-a-pastor-can-make-to-help-his-family http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21535-3-decisions-a-pastor-can-make-to-help-his-family My wife, Jeana, grew up in the home of a pastor, and we have always worked hard together to ensure our family is our No. 1 priority following our personal commitment to Jesus Christ.

To God's glory, my wife did not ever resent the church as the wife of a pastor, and as our children grew, they did not ever resent the church. In fact, our church was our life!

The four of us loved the church and we still love the church! Our boys' spouses love the church, and they are now raising children who love the church!

How did we escape the testimony I often hear of pastor's families resenting the church? By God's grace and prayer. I also believe we made several decisions that moved us along toward a positive experience. I will note three of these decisions:

1. We were always positive about the church. On multiple occasions, we shared with our children how blessed we were to be able to know some of the greatest people in the world, which were people connected to the church. While we did not ignore the challenges along the way, we did not ever resort to negativity in front of our children. Nor did we permit it to come out of their mouths.

Pastors, never speak negatively about the church in front of your children. In fact, rarely even speak negatively in front of your wife. It never proves to be beneficial to anyone.

An additional thought: Remind your wife and children of the benefits you receive because of serving as a pastor. There are many. You get to know leaders of the community. You get to be a part of significant events and experiences. You also may be afforded some rare blessings and invitations that would never come to anyone other than a pastor. This is a blessing, and we need not ever forget it.

2. We spent time together as a family. There was a moment when I decided I would never sacrifice my family on the altar of ministry success. This pivotal decision led to a commitment to take each Friday off to be with my wife and children. All of these years, I have been faithful to this, rarely violating it. What began in 1985 is still practiced today.

Focused time with Jeana and the children while they were growing up in our home resulted in accelerating our family life greatly. Therefore, for 30 years, Jeana and I have spent Fridays together.

Yes, life sometimes gets in the way. And I have to admit this is being challenged now more than ever before. Two of the last three Fridays, Jeana and I were not able to spend together due to various responsibilities. But because it is a commitment we have made, this is rarely violated. At times, I have turned down significant opportunities that would take me away on Fridays, and have been glad to do so for our family.

You see pastor, you must realize now: Marriage and parenting have no dress rehearsals! You get one shot; therefore, make it count!

Additionally, we vacationed together as a family when our boys were young, and still do today. We allocate at least one week each summer to this experience none of us would ever consider missing. I was with the boys at the events they valued in life. By the way, nothing was ever sacrificed at the church to make sure this happened.

3. We prayed together as a family. Our boys never left for school without us praying over them. Yes, all those years. When challenges occurred in life, we would also hit our knees as a family and give our burdens to the Lord in prayer.

For years, I would pray and fast one day a week for my children, their future and their success. When I still enter a day or a season of fasting, my children and wife always make my list of concerns along with my daughters-in-law and our six grandchildren.

I also pray daily for my wife, children, their spouses and my grandchildren. For example, I pray the following daily for my grandchildren, Peyton, Parker, Jack, Reese, Beckham and Nora:

"Provide them godly Christian friends and help them achieve in school successfully. May they love Jesus and His church. Grow them in their faith in years to come. May they be used to change the world for Jesus Christ. May they know we love them and we are there for them in every way. May the boys date and marry only godly girls who love Jesus and His Church. May the girls date and marry only boys who love Jesus and His Church, and will be men who are spiritual leaders."

I take my role seriously as an intercessor for my family. This is why for decades I have prayed for Jeana, my boys, their spouses and our grandchildren, placing the armor of God upon them spiritually as recorded in Ephesians 6:10-20.

Therefore, my pastor friend ... lead your family spiritually. You can do it. It is done one decision at a time. Lead on!

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. In June 2014, he 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) Family Life Mon, 16 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
7 Suggestions to Have the Best Christmas Ever http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21428-7-suggestions-to-have-the-best-christmas-ever http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21428-7-suggestions-to-have-the-best-christmas-ever It's Christmas time again. Seems to come every year about this time. The most wonderful time of the year.

There'll be parties for hosting
Marshmallows for toasting
And caroling out in the snow.
There'll be scary ghost stories
And tales of the glories
Of Christmases long, long ago.
It's the most wonderful time of the year ...

(That could almost be a song. Wait a minute—I think it is.)

But if you're like many of us, Christmas will be over before you took time to enjoy it. You might even get past Christmas and realize how fast it passed, and so you set some New Year's resolutions to slow down and—maybe—enjoy Christmas more next year.

What if you could do that this year? Why not? Sounds like a good goal to me. Enjoy the celebration of Christmas. The birth of our Savior. Relish the time with family. Savor every moment.

Here are seven suggestions to make this the best Christmas ever:

1. Set a limit on expenditures. Something happens when Christmas becomes more about the value of the gifts than the value of the season. More, more, more only produces energy in a direction that can never really be sustained (see Eccl. 5:10). Start with a budget. Be realistic. Stop comparing. One problem for many of us is that we are trying to compete with everyone else. Obviously, if you have more money you can spend more money (and less—less).

But make it your goal to invest more in people this year than in things you can buy. And don't feel obligated or pressured to buy gifts you can't afford for people. It will only be a temporary satisfaction and produce a lot of guilt in the new year when you see those credit card bills start arriving in the mail. (And usually the guilt starts as soon as the cashier hands you the receipt or you push the purchase button online.)

2. Set boundaries in relationships. This is especially true for younger couples and families, but really for most of us. You can feel pressured by extended family and friends to be a dozen different places. Remember, you aren't responsible for pleasing everyone—in fact—you can't. It's impossible. (Some have a harder time with that than others.) Don't let everyone else determine your Christmas schedule.

You may have to have some difficult but direct conversations with relatives or friends. Again, be realistic. You can't be everywhere. There are some places you can't (or shouldn't) avoid, but, as much as possible, control your schedule rather than having it controlled by others.

3. Plan and prioritize your time. This is similar, but also includes how we spend our own time at Christmas. There are usually more demands for our time than time for our demands. Just as you did in creating a money budget, create a time budget. Set aside some time for you to celebrate Christmas as an immediate family—or in a way where you best celebrate. Then build around that time. It's OK to say no. (Do you need to read that sentence again?)

If you don't, you'll run out of time before you feel you ever really celebrated. It's hard, but again, you're trying to actually celebrate Christmas—the birth of baby Jesus. That's hard to do when you have lost all control of your time.

4. Lower your expectations. I mean the ones that you have on others and on yourself. Sometimes we set very unrealistic expectations on what others will buy or how they will respond to what we buy. We look for the "perfect" gift—to give or receive—and our enjoyment of Christmas is based on that search—rather than the real joy of the season. We also set unrealistic expectations on relationships.

We watch too many Hallmark Christmas movies where everything works out in the end to the perfect holiday celebration, and when it doesn't happen at our house quite like that we get disappointed. Remember, we aren't characters in a movie. We are characters in real life. Real life is almost never perfect. Learn to enjoy your celebration with all the quirkiness that makes your family unique from every other family. (Because every family is quirky in some way—in real life.)

5. Practice health disciplines. Sometimes in the name of "celebrating," we overdo it only to have guilt about it later. Don't overeat or overindulge. You will occasionally—it's part of the season—but be reasonable. Keep exercising. Sample rather than eat full portions. You'll feel better and have less regrets after the holidays have ended.

6. Serve others. Find and establish a Christmas tradition of service. Whether it's serving at a food kitchen, ringing the bell for the Salvation Army or just picking up trash along the side of the road, you'll better appreciate Christmas when you serve. The real meaning of Christmas is based around serving others. The baby born at Christmas came to be a servant. The best way to celebrate His birth is to give back, expecting nothing in return. You'll be the bigger recipient when you do.

7. Remember the reason for the season. Yes, I saved the best and most important for last. On purpose. It's also the one we push to last if we aren't careful, and the ultimate purpose of this post, so I wanted it to be the last impression on your mind. Jesus—the reason for the season. It's simple—even cliche, but it's true and it's powerful—if you do it genuinely. In the midst of the madness, rediscover the miracle of Christmas. A Savior—who is Christ the Lord—has been born to you.

Establish a tradition that helps you best identify with the true meaning of Christmas. You could take time to explore a character of the Christmas story you've not considered previously. Research elements of the setting and culture. Read the major passages in Matthew and Luke repeatedly through the season. Listen to only Christmas music. Attend special Christmas services. Whatever works for you. Be intentional to practice celebrating the real joy of Christmas.

Not all of these will apply to everyone, but my guess is if there are a couple here you need to work on—to better celebrate Christmas—you already knew it. As we begin the rush of the Christmas season, pause right now, take a few deep breaths and let's make this the best Christmas ever.

It's the most wonderful time of the year.

Ron Edmondson is the senior pastor of Immanuel Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Family Life Wed, 24 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
The One-Word Secret to Balancing Family and Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21106-the-one-word-secret-to-balancing-family-and-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/21106-the-one-word-secret-to-balancing-family-and-ministry My dad and I recently went on our annual "Mahi massacre" fishing trip. For many years we have set sail excited about quality father/son time, the thrill of the sport, and some really good eats.

But, it's also a chance for us to get out on the open waters, breathe deeply and think, talk, process, and pray through life, ministry, and leadership issues with a handful of other key influencers—an "iron sharpening iron" experience.

We anticipated some heavy questions and deep conversations, but the question of the day surprised us!

Every guy on the boat had given up time with their families and space from their ministries to be there with us. And once the see breezes, frothy waves and blinding sun took effect, the deep, burning question buoyed to the surface. They all wanted to know:

"How do you do it? How do you serve God and have a family too?"

Between my dad and me, we book a lot of airline miles and spend countless hours on the road. So these guys who are constantly asked to travel and teach, speak, write, mentor, disciple and encourage desperately wanted to know how to remain faithful to their calling and do family well.

I had one word for them: intentionality.

In today's society, children have a hard time grasping what their parents do. It used to be that in our agrarian society, outputs were obvious, "we farm and our family grows corn." Post-Industrial revolution, kids weren't involved, but understood that "my mom sews dresses" or "my dad's factory makes hammers."

But today, many of us labor in fields that produce no tangible outputs that our children can readily identify with. This poses a challenge to our kids to firmly grasp their place in the world and their purpose in life. We must be intentional about explaining our work and setting the context to instill in our children a clear understanding of their spiritual heritage.

Growing up as a missionary kid, I traveled with my parents, saw and participated in their ministry firsthand. I understood my spiritual history and heritage, which shed light on my spiritual destiny and global mission.

Long before Kim and I had kids, we talked about what it would look like to pursue my global mission while intentionally raising our children and being a family. From the get-go, we knew I would travel and she would stay home, but that when I left, my love did not go out the door with me.

My greatest supporter, she and I worked together to be intentional in how we communicated our family's spiritual heritage and instill a strong sense of destiny in our girls. Kim was always positive about the part she and the girls faithfully played to help fulfill our family's calling as I traveled the globe. She worked hard in our home to instill God's unchanging truth into our girls' hearts and minds.

When they were old enough, our girls began to travel with me, getting to explore their spiritual heritage in light of their calling and destiny.

This is part of what I shared with the guys who were wrestling as hard with this life question as they did with the massive fish they reeled into the boat. What being intentional looked like for me will look totally different for each of them—their intention toward their family will be as unique as their personalities and situations. So my specific encouragement to them to "be intentional" is actually quite nebulous.

The key to intentionality is taking the time to step back, figure out what being intentional in your life and family looks like, and then do it. Rigorously.

At the end of a day, no matter how hard, as a leader, husband, father and friend I've never regretted showing too much love.

Rob Hoskins is the president of OneHope,an international ministry that shares scripture with children and youth in more than 125 countries. For the original article, visit robhoskins.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rob Hoskins/OneHope) Family Life Mon, 04 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Pastors’ Kids: The Shattered Glass House http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/20948-pastors-kids-the-shattered-glass-house http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/20948-pastors-kids-the-shattered-glass-house Did you know, according to recent research, that 45 percent of pastors' kids will end up in counseling for the rest of their lives? Did you know that 40 percent of pastors' kids do not attend church because of what the church has done to their family and that 80 percent of pastors believe ministry has negatively affected their children?

With statistics like these and being a PK—pastor's kid—myself, it's not surprising why so many sons and daughters of pastors, ministers and missionaries here at home and around the globe are struggling and, in some cases, outright abandoning their relationship with the Lord. We don't have to look further than in recent months, where the world has been exposed to the family struggles of Creflo Dollar, T.D. Jakes, Benny Hinn and others whose children continually live with the pressures of living in a glass house.

With the recent death of pastor Rick Warren's son, never has there been a time when leaders need to recognize the spiritual assault that their families face every day. Leaders of ministries like yours, large and small, struggle to keep their homes together while their children wake up every morning to the face of an evil enemy waiting to wreak havoc on them—targeted attacks that are designed to ruin them as well as to distract mom and dad from being effective ministers of the gospel.

I strongly believe our adversary is rapidly stepping up his game to take out what could be the final generation of spiritual leaders—our very own sons and daughters. Pastor Warren believed wholeheartedly and with unwavering faith that God would one day heal his son, Matthew. Was it God's plan for the Warren family to experience this tragedy? Absolutely not! The Warrens believed that God's plan would be to use Matthew to tell of his own struggles and victories. I too believe this was God's plan.

But sometimes the struggles that pastors and ministry leaders experience at home can make you question God's ultimate plan, just like it did for Pastor Warren.

The following are four simple, practical safeguards that pastors, ministers and missionaries can implement daily to keep that wall of protection around their homes:


1. Spend time with your kids. I recently watched an interview where Billy Graham was asked if he were to do it all over again, what would he do differently? Without hesitation, he replied, "I would have spent less time doing ministry so that I could spend more time with my family." Dr. R.T. Kendall, who recently pastored one of the most prestigious churches in the world, Westminster Chapel in London, recently said that it is only by the grace of God that his children still love him, considering how much he neglected them to pursue his ambitions. If he could turn back time, he said, he would have denied the offer to pastor such a historic church in order to spend more time with his family.

It's time for our spiritual leaders of today to get a clue! Most pastors understand that family comes before ministry, yet there are always excuses for why they do the opposite. Before God established the church, He established the family. This is so important that I feel compelled to say it again: Before God established the church, He established the family. Pastors must learn the art of time management disciplines, where family time has just as much time blocked out as ministry responsibilities.


2. Honestly listen to your kids. During my research for my upcoming book, I found that most sons and daughters of pastors, ministers and missionaries believe that their parents are not paying attention to them. Mom and dad are so focused on their call to the ministry that they forget that they are also called to their families first. Your family is your first priority above all other things. Take time to listen to your children with the same heart of compassion as you do with those you don't know. Your children can sense if you're listening just to brush them off or if you're genuinely listening to offer solutions that make a difference in their lives.

3. Compliment them just because. This is a biggie! Pastors are great at publicly and privately complimenting staff, volunteers and those who serve well in ministry. But at home, they forget they have a family that has equally sacrificed for the ministry—and, in many cases, much more. Yet mom and dad take advantage of the fact that they have children who have given their best but receive no accolades or recognition.

The result is, at some point they look elsewhere for emotional satisfaction that many times leads them away from their faith. Learn to take time to compliment your children and encourage them by letting them know how much you appreciate their involvement.


4. Love your kids unconditionally. The greatest mistake pastors can make is to keep reminding their children of their sins. Pastor, the best way to chase your children away from their faith is to keep throwing their failures back in their face. Pastors have a tendency to show more grace toward strangers than they do their own children. The same unconditional love you show toward others is the same unconditional love you must show to your children. They will always struggle with personal issues, but so will you. And the same grace and unconditional love you expect God to show toward you is the same grace and unconditional love you should show to your children.

I recently heard a pastor comment on the homes of pastors that are broken and shattered behind the scenes. He asked, "If that guy's house is a joke, why would we give him God's house? If that guy can't keep his family together, then why in the world would we pay him full-time to tell us how we should raise our children?"

These are hard but honest questions that need to be asked. People are looking for leaders who understand what it means to lead a family into God's best. A pastor once told me that he has no responsibility to help his children once they turn 18 years of age. My response to him was to show me where the expiration date is in the Bible. As pastors, we have a responsibility to train up and lead our children until the day we die, plain and simple.

My encouragement for all pastors, ministers and missionaries is to take an honest assessment of your homes and ask God to help you in areas you know you can do better in. Yes, it takes honesty. Pastor, minister, missionary—God is ready to help you make the changes necessary in order to lead your family into God's abundant favor and blessings.

Richard M. Salazar Jr. is an author, public speaker and humanitarian. He is also the founder of Rich Communications, which is the home for his writing projects and two radio shows, Real Life with Richard and Leah and Cross Connection, which have been heard in the greater Southern California areas. Richard holds two degrees in marriage and family counseling and in organizational leadership and is currently working on his doctorate in strategic leadership. Richard is also a member of the American Association of Christian Counselors and is a certified specialist in sales and public relations with Achieve Global. He can be reached at care4pastors@aol.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Richard M. Salazar Jr.) Family Life Thu, 22 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Never Forget How God Shaped You for Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21726-never-forget-how-god-shaped-you-for-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21726-never-forget-how-god-shaped-you-for-ministry If you've ever doubted your calling to ministry, consider this: God has been molding and shaping you for ministry since before you were born!

"You brought my inner parts into being; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will praise you, for You made me with fear and wonder; marvelous are Your works, and You know me completely. My frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret, and intricately put together in the lowest parts of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed, yet in Your book all my days were written, before any of them came into being" (Ps. 139:13-16).

This passage indicates that:

  1. God shaped you for a purpose,
  2. You are unique, and
  3. You are wonderfully complex.

You are a composite of many different factors, summarized in the acrostic, S.H.A.P.E.:

Spiritual gifts

Heart

Abilities

Personality

Experience

Spiritual gifts

The Bible teaches that God gives every believer certain spiritual gifts to be used in ministry (1 Cor. 12, Rom. 8, Eph. 4). However, I believe spiritual gifts are only one part of the picture. In my opinion, spiritual gifts are often overemphasized to the neglect of other equally important factors. Natural abilities that you were born with also came from God. So do your experiences and inborn personality traits. Your Creator planned these factors as well.

I also believe most churches get the process backwards. They say, "Discover your spiritual gifts and then you'll know what ministry you're supposed to have." I believe the exact opposite of this: Start experimenting with different ministries and then you'll discover your gifts! Until you actually get involved in serving, you're not going to know what you're good at.

Heart

The Bible uses the term "heart" to represent the center of your motivation, desires, interests and inclinations. Your heart determines why you say the things you do (Matt. 12:34), why you feel the way you do (Ps. 34:7), and why you act the way you do (Prov. 4:23).

Physiologically, each of us has a unique heartbeat. Each person has a slightly different pattern. Likewise, God has given each of us a unique emotional "heartbeat" that races when we encounter activities, subjects or circumstances that interest us.

Another word for heart is passion. There are certain subjects that you feel passionate about and others that you couldn't care less about.

God had a purpose in giving you your inborn interests. Your emotional heartbeat reveals a very important key to understanding his intentions for your life. Don't ignore your natural interests. People rarely excel at tasks they don't enjoy doing. High achievers enjoy what they do.

Abilities

These are the natural talents that you were born with. Some people have a natural ability with words. They came out of the womb talking! Others are naturally good with numbers. They think mathematically and they can't understand why you don't understand calculus.

Exodus 31:3 gives an example of how God gives people "skill, ability, and knowledge in all kinds of crafts" in order to accomplish His purposes. In this case, it was artistic ability to be used in building the Tabernacle. It's interesting to me that musical talent is not listed as a "spiritual gift," but it certainly is a natural ability that God uses in worship.

One of the most common excuses people give for not getting involved in ministry is, "I just don't have any abilities to offer." Nothing could be further from the truth. Many national studies have proven that the average person possesses from 500 to 700 skills.

The real problem is two-fold:

First, people need some process of skill identification.

Second, they need a process to help them match their abilities with the right ministry.

There are people in your church with all kinds of abilities that are not being put to use: recruiting, researching, writing, landscaping, interviewing, promoting, decorating, planning, entertaining, repairing, drawing and even feeding.

"There are differences of administrations, but the same Lord" (1 Cor. 12:5).

Personality

It's obvious that God has not used a cookie cutter to create people. He made introverts and extroverts. He made people who love routine and those who love variety. Some people work best when given an individual assignment while others work better with a team.

There is no "right" or "wrong" temperament for ministry. We need all kinds of personalities to balance the church and give it flavor. The world would be a very boring place if we were all plain vanilla. Fortunately, ministry comes in more than 31 flavors.

Your personality will affect how and where you use your spiritual gifts and abilities. For instance, two people may have the same gift of evangelism, but if one is introverted and the other is extroverted, that gift will be expressed in different ways.

When you minister in a manner that is consistent with the personality God gave you, you experience fulfillment, satisfaction and fruitfulness. It feels good when you do exactly what God made you to do.

Experiences

God never wastes an experience. Romans 8:28 reminds us, "We know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose."

At Saddleback, we help people consider five areas of experience that will influence the kind of ministry they are best shaped for:

  • Educational experiences: What were your favorite subjects in school?
  • Vocational experiences: What jobs have you enjoyed and achieved results while doing?
  • Spiritual experiences: What have been the meaningful or decisive times with God in your life?
  • Ministry experiences: How have you served God in the past?
  • Painful experiences: What are the problems, hurts and trials that you've learned from?

God sovereignly determined your shape for his purpose, so you shouldn't resent it or reject it. "Rather, O man, who are you to answer back to God? Shall the thing formed say to him who formed it, 'Why have you made me like this?' Does the potter not have power over the clay to make from the same lump one vessel for honor and another for dishonor?" (Rom. 9:20‑21).

Instead of trying to reshape ourselves to be like someone else, we should celebrate the shape God has given to each of us.

Wise stewardship of your life begins by understanding your shape. You will be the most effective and fulfilled in ministry when you use your spiritual gifts and abilities in the area of your heart's desire and in a way that best expresses your personality and experiences.

What God made you to be determines what God intends for you to do.

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 ) Legacy Mon, 20 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Gardner C. Taylor, Dean of Black Preachers, Dies at 96 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21691-gardner-c-taylor-dean-of-black-preachers-dies-at-96 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21691-gardner-c-taylor-dean-of-black-preachers-dies-at-96 The Rev. Gardner C. Taylor, widely considered the dean of the nation's black preachers and "the poet laureate of American Protestantism," died Sunday (April 5) after a ministerial career that spanned more than six decades. He was 96.

The Rev. Carroll Baltimore, past president of the Progressive National Baptist Convention, confirmed that Taylor died on Easter Sunday.

"Dr. Taylor was a theological giant who will be greatly missed," he said of the minister who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2000.

PNBC President Rev. James C. Perkins said Taylor "transformed America and the world for the better. How appropriate it is that God called Dr. Taylor home on Resurrection Sunday. In both life and death Dr. Taylor gave a clarion call to the transformative power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ."

Concord Baptist Church of Christ, the imposing, block-long, brick church Taylor pastored for 42 years, became a beacon of hope and vitality for many African-Americans in Brooklyn, New York, and a model for the nation. When the church was destroyed by fire in 1952, Taylor defied naysayers by not only rebuilding the edifice, but also doubling its size.

Concord, one of New York City's largest churches, operated its own elementary school, nursing home, credit union and million-dollar endowment used to invest in the community. But for more than four decades, it was Taylor who made Concord's pulpit "the most prestigious in black Christendom," proclaimed author and scholar Michael Eric Dyson.

Dyson described Taylor's preaching style as a blend of technical aspects, brilliant metaphors and an "uncanny sense of rhythmic timing put to dramatic but not crassly theatrical effect."

The tall, charismatic pastor was renowned for the memorable sermons he spun from tales, anecdotes and Scriptures, but rarely captured in manuscripts. Taylor, a preacher's preacher, kept his thoughts in his head before ushering them forth, and kept a black pocket Bible handy when he wanted to refer to the sermon's Scripture reading for the day.

"When you talk about Gardner Taylor, it's more than just the words," said the Rev. Bernard Richardson, dean of Howard University's Rankin Memorial Chapel.

Richardson, who first heard Taylor preach when he was a student at Yale Divinity School in 1984, said, "It's his presence and I mean, everything about him preaches ... his mannerisms, his sincerity, his love of God, love of Scripture. ... When he mounts the pulpit, one immediately feels they're in the presence of someone who is truly gifted."

This gifted clergyman appreciated the accolades and honors he received during his ministerial career, but relished humility. "I'm appreciative that people take notice of me," he once said, "but when I go to worship, I'm not looking for that."

There is a divinity school series, the Gardner C. Taylor Lectures in Black Preaching at Duke Divinity School, and a street in Brooklyn named for Taylor.

Taylor also will be remembered for a thorny page in black Baptist history struck by his allegiance to civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr., during a tense time in the National Baptist Convention, USA. In 1960, Taylor, King and other black ministers split from the denomination after a fierce debate over King's civil rights agenda, which many black clerics of the day thought was too politically liberal. As a result, Taylor and other King supporters seceded from the convention and formed the Progressive National Baptist Convention, of which Taylor was once president.

Those were troublesome days for Taylor, who said he lost friends as a result of the split, but his fervent preaching and ministry never waned.

When he was asked during an interview about what makes a great preacher, Taylor responded, "In the Book of Ruth, Naomi says, 'I went out full, and I've come back empty."'

For Taylor, "That was the story of life. It's also the story of preaching; we must keep ourselves full so we can empty ourselves in the pulpit."

In 2011, Taylor described what principles contribute to someone being a great preacher.

"I think the secret of preaching is a deep religious conviction, a knowledge of the Bible and the attempt to express it as well as one might,'' he said. "I think that is the difference between the ordinary and the extraordinary.''

Copyright 2015 Religion News Service. All rights reserved.

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jessilyn.justice@gmail.com (B. Denise Hawkins and Adelle M. Banks/RNS) Legacy Tue, 07 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Just Did It: Thoughts on Robert Schuller http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21688-just-did-it-thoughts-on-robert-schuller http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21688-just-did-it-thoughts-on-robert-schuller "Goals are not absolutely necessary to motivate us. They are essential to really keep us alive." —Robert Schuller

Robert H. Schuller was a force. When he died recently at 88 years of age, I felt as though I had lost a friend. Although I never shook his hand, his influence in my life was profound.

His leadership journey really took a huge step forward in 1955 when he began a church in a drive-in movie theater in Garden Grove, California. His congregation eventually grew into a megachurch which later built the Crystal Cathedral, the world's largest glass building at that time.

In 1970, Schuller launched his television program, The Hour of Power. At its height, he was seen in 187 countries of the world with a weekly audience of over 20 million people. You could hardly watch television on a Sunday without seeing him in his blue doctoral robes preaching words of encouragement and challenge.

Schuller's life message was often described as a "Theology of Self-Esteem" and he was not without his critics. By his own admission he was enormously influenced by Norman Vincent Peale whose wildly successful book The Power of Positive Thinking had made a huge impact on his life. Many of the themes from Peale's book wove their way into Schuller's messages.

I return, though, to the impact he had on my life. I was raised on a dairy farm outside Lebanon, Pennsylvania. The early direction of my life was to follow in the footsteps of my father. When I was in Cornwall High School I joined the FFA (Future Farmers of America) because that is what I was going to do.

But when at 15 years of age my father died, my values in life turned upside down and I began to sense a divine calling into the ministry. And though I went to college to prepare for the ministry, I suffered from enormous insecurity. In fact, I think I may have had what professionals today call a social phobia. Doing anything in public was painful but public speaking was literally torturous. Yet I still felt this calling for public ministry.

Right about that time my grandmother introduced me to the writings of Norman Vincent Peale and also Robert H. Schuller. It was Schuller's book Move Ahead with Possibility Thinking (1967) which literally helped transform my life. Through that book and others like it my entire approach to leadership was revolutionized. Even today I feel a measure of insecurity with public speaking and I still have a tendency to over-prepare but I don't know what would have ever happened to me had it not been for that wonderful man in his flowing blue robe who wrote a book for which I will always be grateful.

Many people criticized Schuller over the years and that sometimes happens to preachers who preach motivational messages. I can understand that, but I always try to eat the chicken and spit out the bones. Like Zig Ziglar said, "People often tell me that motivation doesn't last, and I tell them that bathing doesn't either. That's why I recommend it daily."

Here are a few of my favorite Schuller quotes: "Spectacular achievement is always preceded by spectacular preparation. The only place where your dream becomes impossible is in your thinking. Tough times never last but tough people do. Always look at what you have left; never look at what you have lost."

Words like those and these keep on inspiring me: "If you listen to your fears, you will die never knowing what a great person you might have been. Turn your scars into stars. Problems are not stop signs; they are guidelines. Press on. Obstacles are seldom the same size tomorrow as they are today."

Perspectives like these help us transform the familiar ad "Just do it" into "Just did it."

Think about it.

Don Meyer, Ph.D. is the president of the University of Valley Forge in Phoenixville, Pennsylvania.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Don Meyer) Legacy Mon, 06 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Robert Schuller Not Expected to Live Through The Week, Reports Say http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21682-robert-schuller-not-expected-to-live-through-the-week-reports-say http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21682-robert-schuller-not-expected-to-live-through-the-week-reports-say Robert Schuller, founder of Crystal Cathedral and former host of Hour of Power, isn't expected to make it through the week, according to a report by the OC Register.

Family members told the site his condition has deteriorated since his cancer treatment in 2013. 

"He was talking normally a couple of months ago," daughter-in-law Donna Schuller told the Register. "But since the procedure, he was whispering. And later, he could barely mouth words."

Donna also said Schuller gave his son, her husband, a document detailing his funeral arrangements. 

"He gave it to my husband 10 years ago," she told the Register. "Perfectionist that he is, I'm sure he has planned out and specified every little detail." 

The televangelist is known for his show Hour of Power, which is now hosted by his grandson.

The ministry, founded by Schuller's grandfather, began as Garden Grove Community Church at the Orange Drive-in Theatre in 1955, soon adding a 300-seat chapel four miles away. It later expanded to the larger campus. As the ministry grew, in 1970 the Hour of Power television program launched and aired in all 50 states by 1975. The program eventually became the most-watched religious program in the world, reaching 17 million viewers. The Crystal Cathedral was completed in 1980, Charisma News previously reported.

Please pray for the family during this difficult time.

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jessilyn.justice@gmail.com (Jessilyn Justice) Legacy Thu, 02 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Saddleback Church Commemorates 35 Years of Ministry and Growth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21645-saddleback-church-commemorates-35-years-of-ministry-and-growth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21645-saddleback-church-commemorates-35-years-of-ministry-and-growth Saddleback Church, founded by Pastor Rick and Kay Warren, will celebrate 35 years of ministry influence and impact during a special community-wide service on Saturday, March 21 at Angel Stadium in Anaheim, California

"Together we are going to remember how God has led us in the past and imagine how God will guide us in the future as we respond to His leading for our next season of ministry," Rick Warren said. "We thank God for 35 years of blessing our church. The Bible says over and over again, we are to remember. The reason we remember the past is not to dwell on it, but to build our faith for the future."

The Warrens founded Saddleback Church with seven people in their apartment in 1980. On Easter of that same year, 205 individuals gathered for the first public worship service.

Today, the church is one of the largest in America, with 10 campuses across Southern California as well as growing congregations in Berlin, Germany; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Hong Kong, China; and South Manila, Philippines. The church averages 27,000 attendees at its weekly services, with individuals meeting in more than 7,500 small groups throughout the week.

Led by Pastor Warren, author of the best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life, and Kay Warren, Saddleback Church has become a global influencer through initiatives such as The PEACE Plan, Celebrate Recovery, The Daniel Plan, Global HIV and Orphan Care and Mental Health. The church has been equally impactful across Southern California through community outreaches for all walks of life, including The Food Pantry, Military Outreach, Medical Clinic, Legal Aid, Homework Club and English as a Second Language classes, among others.

"There are so many individuals not only around the world but also in our backyards who are hurting and need a message of hope," Kay Warren said. "At Saddleback, we not only want to help those in need in our communities, but we also want to teach those who are served to then serve others in the name of Christ."

The 35th anniversary Angel Stadium service will take place Saturday from 4:30 to 6:30 PM PDT, during which Pastor Warren will share a message titled "The Church that Dared," reflecting on the history of Saddleback and challenging members to make an even bigger impact for God in the next five years.

No tickets are needed to attend and seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. For more information, visit saddleback.com/events/35th-anniversary.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kristin Cole) Legacy Fri, 20 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Crystal Cathedral's and 'Hour of Power's' Robert Schuller Passes Away http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21684-crystal-cathedral-s-and-hour-of-power-s-robert-schuller-passes-away http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21684-crystal-cathedral-s-and-hour-of-power-s-robert-schuller-passes-away Robert Schuller, 88, has died, according to the Associated Press

The Crystal Cathedral founder and Hour of Power host was in critical condition yesterday, and his daughter-in-law said he'd already made funeral arrangements. 

"He gave it to my husband 10 years ago," Donna Schuller told the OC Register. "Perfectionist that he is, I'm sure he has planned out and specified every little detail." 

Schuller was diagnosed with cancer in 2013, and has been ailing since then. 

Schuller is perhaps best known for founding the Crystal Cathedral, which produced the Hour of Power TV show.  

The ministry, founded by Schuller's grandfather, began as Garden Grove Community Church at the Orange Drive-in Theatre in 1955, soon adding a 300-seat chapel four miles away. It later expanded to the larger campus. As the ministry grew, in 1970 the Hour of Power television program launched and aired in all 50 states by 1975. The program eventually became the most-watched religious program in the world, reaching 17 million viewers. The Crystal Cathedral was completed in 1980.

Please lift the Schuller family up in your prayers.

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jessilyn.justice@gmail.com (Jessilyn Justice) Legacy Thu, 02 Apr 2015 15:21:05 -0400
10 Books Pastors Simply Must Read http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/21215-10-books-pastors-simply-must-read http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/21215-10-books-pastors-simply-must-read It seems that everyone on the Internet is now required to either dump a bucket of ice water on their head, criticize Victoria Osteen, post narcissistic selfies, or make a top-10 books list. Since I have no interest in the first three, I am choosing door number four.

I'm not sure about the rules of a top-10 books list, so I am making up my own parameters. These are not my favorite 10 books. They are not the best 10 books. My list is simply the top 10 books that I think had the greatest influence on my life.

Here they are, in no particular order:

1. No Wonder They Call Him Savior by Max Lucado. I have lost count of how many times I have read this one. It taught me that complicated difficult-to-understand theological concepts can be communicated with a clarity and simplicity that even a child can comprehend.

2. C.T. Studd by Norman Grubb. First missionary bio I read as a new believer. The C.T. Studd story planted seeds of sacrifice and service deep in my soul as a teenager. Not sure I would have stayed in Manila had I not read this foundational book about absolute surrender to the Lordship of Christ and cross-cultural mission.

3. Knowing God by J.I. Packer. Helped me know God, and made me want to know Him better. Another book I read over and over and over. Today it is held together by duct tape.

4. The Pursuit of God by A.W. Tozer. Ignited a lifelong desire to pursue and please God wholeheartedly. Reignites that desire every time I read a page.

5. The Holiness of God by R.C. Sproul. Opened my eyes the first time I read it. Opened my heart the second time. Pierced my heart the third time. Healed my heart the fourth. Every time I read this book, I go deeper with God.

6. A History of Christianity: Volume I: Beginnings to 1500 by Kenneth Scott Latourette. Everything Latourette wrote about history is worth reading, but his early church history is the best. His experience as a missionary to China and later as a professor of Ecclesiastical History at Yale gave him a unique perspective on the expansion of the church. The combination of missional passion and scholastic detail make these 700 pages feel that they read like an adventure novel.

7. Focus by Al Ries. I read a lot of leadership and business books. None has impacted the way I work or shaped the way I think more than this one. I think I need to read it again soon.

8. The Making of a Leader by Frank Damazio. More than any book that is not part of the Bible, this book has influenced how I think about leadership, how I lead, and how I equip and empower leaders.

9. Shepherding Your Child's Heart by Tedd Tripp. Whatever my sons have become as men, Deborah and I owe a debt of gratitude to this book. Best parenting book, period.

10. The Old Man and the Boy by Robert Ruark. My dad's all-time favorite book. I finally read it when I had my first son, and I understood  Dad's parenting philosophy as never before. "This book captures the endearing relationship between a man and his grandson as they fish and hunt the lakes and woods of North Carolina. All the while the Old Man acts as teacher and guide, passing on his wisdom and life experiences to the boy, who listens in rapt fascination." (Amazon description.)

Steve and Deborah Murrell went to the Philippines in 1984 for a one-month summer mission trip that never ended. They are the founding pastors of Victory Manila, one church that meets in 14 locations in metro Manila and has planted churches in 60 Philippine cities and 20 other nations. Currently, Victory has more than 6,000 discipleship groups that meet in coffee shops, offices, dormitories and homes in metro Manila. Steve is co-founder and president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a family of churches focused on church planting, campus ministry and world missions.

For the original article, visit Stevemurrell.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Murrell ) Marketplace Fri, 19 Sep 2014 13:00:00 -0400
MEV: ‘It’s Staggeringly Good’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/21191-mev-it-s-staggeringly-good http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/21191-mev-it-s-staggeringly-good This is the Word I know and love, rendered both more poetic and clearer.

I have to admit to a little cynicism about the MEV being yet another new translation and whether or not it was just going to be about revenue. But publisher Passio and the translators clearly have worked hard on this, and they are clearly worth their wage. I don't begrudge them their hard-won revenue.

Far beyond all that, though, is this Work. Much like Harry Connick Jr. said about his favorite kinds of Steinways, I enjoy a book that's unafraid to "fight me" a little.

The MEV translation, in the short time I have spent with it, reached out and slapped me around. Romans, in particular, was unlike I'd ever read it. Paul is infamous among followers of Christ for his tangled rhetoric at times, and I've heard it said by more than one Christian that they understood Paul's intent not because of his writing but rather in spite of it and with heavy empowerment by the Holy Spirit. I'm telling you, if you're looking for a new way to understand what Paul meant, you need to read the Modern English Version. It's staggeringly good.

This is a translation wherein words are on full display for their deep meanings, without apology, and the translators haven't shied away from the rich ones. I had mistakenly assumed their use of the word "Modern" was going to mean we would be burdened with yet another NIV: tepid stale milquetoast. The MEV is nothing like it. It's punchy. It will wake you up and make you pay attention, especially in those certain favorite passages where you think you know what's coming.

And it's not just the translators' word choices that set the MEV apart. It's how those words come together at the sentence, even at the paragraph level. All in all, the effect is provocative because it makes one stop and consider everything anew.

I highly recommend to you this translation, this approach to the Word of God. And I look forward very much indeed to spending more time with it, more time in it, soaking in the richness, the goodness, the meaning. This is, as pastor Trevor says, "good grazing."

Chris White is an award-winning author and editor and  co-author of the Airel Saga with Aaron Patterson. Chris also writes historical literary fiction under the pen name Austen John, and has also penned some short stories as C.P. White.

For the original article, visit Cpwhitemedia.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chris White) Marketplace Wed, 03 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Why Don’t Churches Make Equipping Their Members a Priority? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20723-why-don-t-churches-make-equipping-their-members-a-priority http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20723-why-don-t-churches-make-equipping-their-members-a-priority This month, a new study came out from Barna Research on trends in faith, work and calling. There were some surprising facts that came from the study that every church leader should take to heart.

The study said, “Among Christians, there is a question: ‘What does God want me to do with my life?’ According to Barna Group's study, only 40 percent of practicing Christians say they have a clear sense of God's calling on their lives.”

Additionally, their research shows “nearly two-thirds of churched adults say it has been at least three years or more since they heard church teachings on work and career, and yet, the workplace is where most Americans spend a the biggest share of their waking hours. However, connecting faith and work is of significant importance to the Christian community.” 

A 2012 Barna Group study found that 84 percent of Christian 18- to 29-year-olds admit that they have no idea how the Bible applies to their field or professional interests. That is a startling statistic and should be a wake-up call for our shepherds called to equip the church for works of service.

Shepherds are admonished by the apostle Paul to equip the church in the workplace: “And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry” (Eph. 4:11-12, NKJV). Pastors are not called to do the work; those of us in the marketplace are called to do the work. They should be equipping us for this work.                                    

There is no institution like the local church on earth that brings together weekly those who can most affect society the most, and yet church leaders rarely preach, teach or affirm the call these people have in their own workplaces, where the people that most need to be affected live. This failure has caused many of those in the workplace to feel like second-class spiritual citizens.

When I shared these truths with a local pastor in my area through my book The 9-to-5 Window: How Faith Transforms the Workplace, he became convicted that he had not been equipping his people for their ministry. Instead, he was asking them to support his ministry in the local church. He began equipping his people and saw an immediate change in the spiritual climate of his church.

“I was shocked at the response,” he said. “I had people coming up to me, thanking me for affirming their work-life call. Some said that they felt affirmed for the first time in their life. It has changed everything!”

Jesus Operated in the Workplace

Jesus never brought a person into the synagogue to get healed. He never brought a person to the synagogue to get saved. His focus was on the place where the people lived life—their workplaces. He rubbed shoulders with the tax collectors, the prostitutes, the down and outs.

  • Of 132 public appearances in New Testament, 122 were in the marketplace.
  • Of 52 parables Jesus told, 45 had a workplace context.
  • Of 40 miracles in the book of Acts, 39 were in the marketplace.

When a person came to faith, Paul exhorted them, "Stay where you were when God called your name” (1 Cor. 7:20, MSG). He did not encourage them to leave their vocation to be preachers. He wanted them to be like him—an apostle masquerading as a tentmaker!

We Are Called to Be Killer Sheep

When Jesus came to earth, He not only came to redeem man from his sin. He also came to destroy the works of darkness: “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8, NKJV). He has delegated that authority to those of us who are followers of Christ, especially workplace leaders, where the major warfare takes place.

The local church should be a Holy Spirit “killer sheep” training camp established to train men and women to destroy the works of Satan and establish the kingdom of God in our society.

Jesus tells us to be wise in how we operate: “Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16).

In the last days, God is going to use men and women in the workplace to bring a revival in the nation. Pastors need to be equipping their “killer sheep” for the spiritual battle. This passage out of Joel speaks of God’s mighty men transforming their weapons of work to weapons of love used for the end-time battle for the souls of men:

“Proclaim this among the nations:
'Prepare for war!
Wake up the mighty men,
Let all the men of war draw near,
Let them come up.
Beat your plowshares into swords
And your pruning hooks into spears;
Let the weak say, ‘I am strong.’
Assemble and come, all you nations,
And gather together all around.
Cause Your mighty ones to go down there, O Lord.”
—Joel 3:9-11

Equipping the Church in the Workplace

If you are a pastor or church leader, you can start equipping your people in some very practical ways. Here are a few:

1. Preach sermons about workplace leaders and those who made an impact through their work-life calling.

2. Allow a 2-3 minute workplace testimony via video every week in your service.

3. Subscribe your members to TGIF, a free devotional that helps believers integrate their faith life into their work life.

4. Host a workshop at your church, like our Change Agent weekend workshop that teaches a theology of work, or start small group study, such as the Change Agent video course.

5. Visit your members at their place of work to learn more about the life they experience. Develop sermons around what you learn.

Os Hillman is the author of the 9-to-5 Window and Faith at Work: What Every Pastor and Church Leader Should Know. Learn more at marketplaceleaders.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Os Hillman) Marketplace Wed, 19 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500
7 Contemporary Extremes in the Teaching of the Kingdom of God http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20692-7-contemporary-extremes-in-the-teaching-of-the-kingdom-of-god http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20692-7-contemporary-extremes-in-the-teaching-of-the-kingdom-of-god Almost everywhere I go, believers are attempting to apply the kingdom message to influence the cultural mountains, which are described as the major areas we need to influence in order to transform society: politics, economics, education, family, religion, arts/entertainment and science.

Consequently, with every move of God there are always extremes and/or misunderstandings. Of course, I write this in the context of my own local-church-centered lens, in which I advocate for the supremacy of Christ manifest through the centrality of the local church in each city. (Ephesians 1:22-23 calls the church the “fullness of him who fills everything in every way” [NIV].)

The following are some of the extremes used today in the teaching of the kingdom of God:

1. The marketplace believer is a king while the church leader is merely a priest. There have been many marketplace believers who have separated the priestly ministry of Christ from His kingly ministry into two halves: The kings are the marketplace leaders, and the priests are the full-time church leaders (for example, pastors). One of the outcomes of this teaching is to elevate the marketplace leader over the local church pastor since a king has more authority on the earth than a priest. This teaching also causes the focus of each role to be dualistic; the priest should focus on spiritual things and the king on earthly things.

I totally disagree with this bifurcation, since all believers are called priests in 1 Peter 2:9; all are called to be kings and priests according to Revelation 1:6 (or a kingdom of priests); and all are called to reign as kings in the Amplified Version of Romans 5:17. Furthermore, all marketplace leaders should be spiritual and led by the Spirit, and all full-time church leaders should exercise authority on the earth as kings in order to manifest His kingdom on earth.

2. The true church is in the religion mountain. I already dealt with this in a previous article, "Four Different Views Regarding the Church and Cultural Mountains." However, in my opinion, the body of Christ is the temple of the mountain of the Lord that is above every other cultural mountain (Is. 2:2; Mic. 4:1) and as the representative of the kingdom of God is called to transform every other cultural mountain as part of the cultural mandate (Gen. 1:28; Matt. 28:19).

Many teach that the church is just one of the seven cultural mountains (part of the religion mountain), which then puts all believers in the same category as the Mormons, Buddhists and Muslims!

3. The believer only focuses on the marketplace and jettisons the church. Some leaders have been so turned off by the nuclear church religious straitjacket that they have gone to the other extreme and committed themselves to improving the quality of life of their communities. As “kings,” they believe the whole earth is their parish, and their businesses become the center and sole focus that eventually disconnects them from their local churches.

I have found that many marketplace people who do not have a strong connection to a local church lose their center of gravity and experience huge family problems. Businesspeople need a local-church-based overseer to make sure they stay on track in every area of their lives.

4. The pastor/church only focuses on the community and jettisons the Great Commission. In the late 1800s, church leaders like Walter Rauschenbusch focused so much on the marketplace aspect of the kingdom of God that their message devolved into a humanistic social gospel of works.

The clear focus of the New Testament is on inner transformation that eventually leads to systemic transformation. The Old Testament is the primary blueprint for the moral and civic laws needed to disciple a nation, which goes alongside the New Testament teaching that a person needs to be born again in the heart in order to see the kingdom (John 3:1-8). The Gospels and epistles clearly teach that only transformed believers can transform culture. God has to work in us before He can work through us for His good pleasure (Phil. 2:12-13).

Hence, it is a huge mistake whenever we go to an extreme and focus only on systemic political and economic transformation to the exclusion of winning souls, making disciples and true inward spirituality. If we neglect the latter for the sake of the former, our message will eventually devolve into liberal humanistic dribble bereft of the power and presence of God.

5. The marketplace leader considers their business their local church. I have heard that several marketplace leaders in the past stopped attending their local churches because, as “kings,” their businesses were their local churches, which also justified their practice of tithing into their own businesses.

There are some extreme situations (for example, China and Iran) in which it is illegal to plant a local church and in which the greatest way to spread the gospel is for a businessperson to have Bible studies and services in the context of their business so they won’t get closed down. However, these marketplace leaders have a special grace to have a dual function because of their extraordinary situation; they also have a fully functional church in which they win souls, make disciples and send believers to start other similar businesses and/or house churches.

In the USA, there is presently no reason for a businessperson to call Bible studies in their office a church since most times it is not fully functional and doesn’t reflect a family of families from the cradle to the grave like the typical local church should mimic (1 Tim. 5:1-8).

6. The progress of the gospel is only gauged by political progress. The biggest mistake of the Christian Right since the 1980s has been to focus only on politics and elections. Hence, while we won many elections, we lost the broader culture. Politics and public policy initiatives are only one of the several cultural mountains the church needs to influence. Even though I believe the Bible teaches that we should endeavor to see institutional conversion and not just individual conversion, mere changes in the law are not enough if we don’t win over the hearts and minds of people. Revival and spiritual awakening without systemic change will only have temporary effects.

Conversely, reformation without spiritual awakening makes us no different than the Muslims who believe the sign of national conversion to Islam is when a people group adopts Shariah law. The gospel drills down much deeper than politics and systemic change; the ax is laid at the root of the trees, and only the gospel can deal with both original sin and bring corporate transformation, per Isaiah 61:1-4, where the individuals who hear the message are the same ones who eventually rebuild the ancient ruins and restore whole cities.

7. Ecclesial titles are given to marketplace leaders. Although I am a great proponent of the fivefold ministry function (Eph. 4:11) in the marketplace (for example, Daniel the prophet was a politician not a priest), I do not think it wise to bestow upon a marketplace leader a title used in the New Testament for church leaders. This is different than laying hands upon them and commissioning them as apostles of government or prophets of economics, which is an adjective describing a function.

Not only is there no New Testament instance of a marketplace leader being given that title in the church, but it is also silly to think that a governor of a state or mayor of a city (and other high-level marketplace leaders) need an ecclesial title to be more effective in the marketplace. Those titles would, in fact, hinder them in the context of a culture where it is more wise to think biblically but speak secularly. (It is also a hindrance to use those titles in most churches!)

I know that most, if not all, of the original 12 apostles were all marketplace leaders, but they were not given the title of apostle until they left their businesses and functioned in the church realm. Peter said it was not right for them to focus on anything else but prayer and the ministry of the word (Acts 6:2-4).

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) Marketplace Fri, 07 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500
3 Dangers Large Churches Face http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20198-3-dangers-large-churches-face http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20198-3-dangers-large-churches-face Mega-churchesI love to eat! When I was in high school, I would go for a day or two without eating and never even notice. We had plenty of food; I was just busy with other things. Now I barely go for an hour or two without being tempted by something with enough calories to add pounds just by looking at it.

I appreciate a nice restaurant with quality food and great service. I love Atlanta, but it did take some getting used to “all things fried” and sweet tea so sweet it can take the enamel off your teeth. So each time Patti and I find a really great restaurant, we are thrilled.

Large and small restaurants share a similar purpose. They want to serve good food, provide good service and make a profit. But they are different in nature. Small, one-of-a-kind restaurants have different concerns than the larger “mega” restaurants, chains and franchises do.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland) Marketplace Wed, 26 Jun 2013 20:00:00 -0400
How to Get Your Blog Unstuck http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20033-tony-morgan-how-to-get-your-blog-unstuck http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/marketplace/20033-tony-morgan-how-to-get-your-blog-unstuck On-the-internetDuring my coaching networks and ministry health assessments, I frequently spend time checking out church websites. While evaluating the sites, I’ve noticed many pastors and ministry leaders are writing blogs.

Honestly, some of the blogs seem stuck.

I’ve noticed many people start out strong, with a desire to inform, inspire and interact with their church and the people they're trying to reach. But the blog eventually becomes outdated, boring and non-applicable to people’s lives.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Tony Morgan/Tony Morgan Live) Marketplace Thu, 18 Apr 2013 16:00:00 -0400
If You're Not a Good Husband, Can You Be a Good Pastor? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20849-if-you-re-not-a-good-husband-can-you-be-a-good-pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20849-if-you-re-not-a-good-husband-can-you-be-a-good-pastor That statement is a sobering one for me. It’s one that all pastors and church leaders need to hear.

There’s a real temptation in ministry (at least for me), to spend my time ministering to those outside my home to the detriment of ministering to those inside my home. If we allow our congregations’ needs to dictate our schedules, neglecting our responsibilities at home can be sinfully justified.

Remember, in order to be qualified to pastor God's people, a pastor “must manage his own household well, with all dignity keeping his children submissive, for if someone does not know how to manage his own household, how will he care for God’s church?" (1 Tim. 3:4-5, ESV).

Also remember that pastors who preach the gospel should not undermine the gospel by refusing to love their wives as Christ loves the church:

“Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. 'Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband” (Eph. 5:25-33).

The more we understand the gospel, the more we should be willing to die for the well-being of our bride. Marriage for every Christian man is a call to die for the salvation and sanctification of our wives.

These truths are important to mention because there is a real danger for pastors to think that they can separate the integrity of their ministry from the integrity of their home. Consider John Wesley, one of the greatest Christian preachers who ever lived, as an example. Nathan Busenitz, at the Cripplegate Blog, recently wrote an article titled “John Wesley’s Failed Marriage.” In this passage from Stephen Tomkins’ biography on Wesley, he quotes a couple biographies about Wesley, and some statements about Wesley’s marriage are startling:

  • When Wesley left for a ministry tour in Ireland in 1758, Molly reported that her husband’s parting words to her were: “I hope I shall see your wicked face no more” (p. 155).
  • “Reunited in England, they clashed violently—Wesley refusing to change his writing habits [of sending affectionate letters to other women] and Molly accusing him of adultery and calling down on him, in her own words, ‘all the curses from Genesis to Revelation’” (p. 155).
  • “Almost the sole surviving record of this marriage from Molly’s side dates from December 1760, when she said Wesley left a meeting early with one Betty Disine and was seen still with her the following morning. She told him ‘in a loving manner to desist from running after strange women for your character is at stake’” (p. 159).
  • “In 1771, Molly announced that she was leaving John again. On 23 January, the Journal reports, ‘For what I cause I know not to this day, [my wife] set out for Newcastel, purposing “never to return.” I did not leave her: I did not send her away: I will not call her back.” (p. 174).

You can find the full article here. It’s worthy of your time and attention.

How could the father of Methodism have such a glaring blind spot? I don’t know. But don’t assume that you and I are immune from such blind spots.

May we constantly examine the integrity of both our public and private ministries. May we constantly repent and believe in Christ’s finished work alone to save and sanctify us. May we never be satisfied with our own holiness as we depend solely on the holiness of Christ to justify us.

How will you respond? Will you remember the covenant you made before God and afresh and anew commit yourself to your bride, coming and dying for her physical and spiritual well-being?

You too may have a wife that has an occasional “wicked face” (to use Wesley’s words), but never pretend that her wicked face somehow changes your responsibility to God and her. Just as Christ died to cleanse His wicked bride, you do the same. Point her to Christ through your own self-sacrificial death. May Christ be the source of your love for your bride. Come and die, friend … come and die.

What are your thoughts?

Jared Moore is pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. You can read his blog at jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com.

For the original article, visit jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jared Moore) Married Wed, 16 Apr 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Against the Odds, This Incredible Love Story Has Persevered For 75 Years http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/21539-against-the-odds-this-incredible-love-story-has-persevered-for-75-years http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/21539-against-the-odds-this-incredible-love-story-has-persevered-for-75-years Note: Saturday is Valentine's Day, an occasion to celebrate the wonderful gift of God's blessing of love and marriage. As told by their son, Mark, the following is the story Don and Rosemary Rutland and a marriage that began under great duress. However, it is one that has endured and thrived for over three quarters of a century—a marriage truly blessed by God.

In February 1940, America was still reeling from the lingering effects of the Great Depression. The long economic nightmare was not yet ended by the advent of yet another nightmare, World War II.

Such a dark historical intersection seems an inauspicious moment for two very young teenagers to launch a marriage. When Don Rutland and Rosemary Hance from Commerce, Texas, eloped across the Red River into Oklahoma, hardly anyone gave the marriage much of a chance.

Despite the odds, three quarters of a century and two wars later, in February 2015, that young couple celebrated their 75th Anniversary. At 92, Don Rutland is a combat veteran of two wars. He served as a lieutenant in The 11th Airborne (Paratroops) in the Philippines in World War II and as a Captain in Armored Cavalry (Tanks) in the Korean War. His wife, Rosemary, now 90, is as much a veteran as he.

RutlandsMy siblings and I are forever grateful that Capt. Rutland survived those two wars and that the marriage survived and thrived for 75 years. We saw their faithfulness, steadfast commitment to each other and their service to America. We witnessed their unflagging perseverance in the face of hardship. They modeled an indefatigable work ethic and that rugged brand of patriotism so characteristic of their generation.

That is why their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren gathered from Georgia, Virginia, Maryland, Kansas and Florida to celebrate the life and times of our heroes. My dad never thought of himself as a hero, though he was one. My mother never played the suffering saint. If she ever privately indulged any inclination to self-pity, she never let us see it.

Congratulations, Capt. and Mrs. Don Rutland on 75 years of marriage and an adventure well-lived. May there be many more!

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Mark Rutland) Married Fri, 13 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Should Engaged Couples or Newlyweds Take One Year Off From Church Ministry? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20711-should-engaged-couples-or-newlyweds-take-one-year-off-from-church-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20711-should-engaged-couples-or-newlyweds-take-one-year-off-from-church-ministry There has been a teaching that has gone around certain church circles intermittently for the last several decades that states, “Newly married couples should step away from church-related ministry for at least one year.”

I remember hearing about this when I was newly saved in 1978, and it was going around in some segments of our youth group. Although I thought it an interesting concept, I thought it did not match up with the full weight of Scripture, and I paid it no mind. Eventually myself and my wife, Joyce, used our wedding money to finance a six-week trip to the Soviet Union to evangelize during the Moscow Olympics in the summer of 1980, two months after we were married.

God moved in powerful signs and wonders with many atheists and Communists hearing the gospel—evidently, God must not have taken that teaching very seriously either, especially in how He surely led me and Joyce in the first few months of our marital sojourn!

The teaching we are speaking of in this article seems to have originated from the interpretation of a Scripture in Deuteronomy 24:5, which, when taken in the context of previous passages in Deuternomy 20:1-8 shows it primarily relates to choosing undistracted soldiers for war.

Deuteronomy 24:5 reads, “When a man is newly married, he shall not go out with the army or be liable for any other public duty. He shall be free at home one year to be happy with his wife whom he has taken” (ESV).

Deuteronomy 20:3-8 reads, “And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel: Today you are on the verge of battle with your enemies. Do not let your heart faint, do not be afraid, and do not tremble or be terrified because of them; for the Lord your God is He who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.’ Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying: ‘What man is there who has built a new house and has not dedicated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man dedicate it. 6 Also what man is there who has planted a vineyard and has not eaten of it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man eat of it. And what man is there who is betrothed to a woman and has not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the battle and another man marry her.’ The officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘What man is there who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, lest the heart of his brethren faint[a] like his heart.’"

The principle of biblical interpretation—especially for obscure passages—is for Scripture to interpret Scripture. Hence, in order to fully unpack and understand Deuteronomy 24:5, we have to take it in context with Deuteronomy 20:3-8 because it came first and both passages deal with the same subject: engaged and/or newly married men who are told not to go to war. Deuteronomy 24:5 also adds that said men should not be liable for public service.

When we think of the days in which they lived (no cars, paved highways, no airplanes, without cellphones, email, Skype, FaceTime, Facebook, Twitter—no way to come and go and communicate regularly and quickly), "public service" most likely was another way of saying "serving as a soldier," and even if it was not, it probably entailed being away from home and disconnected from one's spouse for long periods of time to serve the nation at large. This is quite different from ministering today in a local church, in which said couples are able to live together and in many cases serve together in the ministry.

The following are seven reasons why I do not agree with newlyweds taking one year off of ministry:

1. If we are going to use the above passages for engaged or newly married couples to push away from ministry for a year, then, in context, they also should not minister if they open up a new business, buy a new house, plant a new garden or are dealing with anxiety or fear over anything in their life. If that is the case, then there will hardly be any people ministering in the body of Christ!

2. The proper context of the above passage has to do with going into a real physical battle—thus, the reason for this commandment from Moses to betrothed couples and/or newlyweds was because there was a chance the husband would be killed in battle. Obviously, somebody should not start a new business or get married and then immediately go to a war and be killed.

3. Of course, some will attempt to spiritualize this portion of Scripture and say that they should not be involved in ministry because it is “spiritual warfare.” My answer to them is that you are going to have spiritual warfare throughout your life—in school, on your job, dealing with your mother-in-law—so if you step away from church-related ministry because of spiritual warfare, you might as well step away from every aspect of your life—including marriage and having children, because that is one of the primary places you will experience spiritual warfare.

4. There will always be things we have to focus on in our life. There are always seasons when we will emphasize one thing more than another. Of course, when someone first gets married, they may have to step away from some ministry for a brief period of time—but anything close to approaching one year, in my opinion, is ridiculous unless, of course, you are in a marital crisis and not in a position emotionally or spiritually to minister to anyone. For that matter, it can be applied to any point of your marriage—not just when you first get married. On the other hand, I have seen God move through couples in spite of their marital challenges, and the ministry can actually help them have a common focus and/or connection to one another that is God-focused and keeps them connected to others in the body of Christ who will hold them accountable and keep them in good company.

5. Once we are in the habit of stepping away from ministry because of an engagement or new marriage, then we will also want to step away when we have our first child, then our second child, or when we get a new job that is stressful, or when we have an argument with our spouse. The Bible is clear—you shall have no other gods before Him. This means we should always put His kingdom first, no matter what personal things we have to take care of. Jesus said in Mark 4:18-19, in the parable of the sower, that some fall away from Christ because of desires for other things or because of persecution, tribulation and the cares and pleasures of this life.

Someone might say, “Well, I am serving the Lord by loving my wife.” That is true; marriage is in the kingdom as much as church is. But what is church ministry? It has to do with serving your neighbor—using your gifts and abilities in conjunction with your fellow members of Christ to fulfill the corporate destiny God has for a region or a faith community. It binds diverse families together by giving them a common cause in alignment with their same Lord. Where does it say in Scripture that once we get married, we throw all this out the window and we no longer have to function together with the church to serve our neighbor? Where does it say that we are to cease using God-given abilities and gifts to impact people for Christ or to stop winning souls for God for one year after we get married and or when we get engaged?

6. Truly, if Deuteronomy 24:5 was relevant in the church age, something this important would have been alluded to or unpacked some more in New Testament passages regarding proper marital relations. We find nothing of the sort in Ephesians 5, Colossians 3 or 1 Peter 3.

7. Finally, in my experience, I have seen many highly committed people focus totally on their engagement, their wedding day plans and eventually their marriage—and for the duration of the engagement, they virtually drop out of ministry. I have rarely seen any of these folks recover their zeal and passion for God. You cannot turn passion for the kingdom on and off like a water faucet! It is a gift of God and something to be cherished. Representing Christ in His service to His body is something to be highly esteemed. In Galatians 6:10, it instructs us to do good to all men—especially to those who are of the household of faith. First Corinthians 12 admonishes us to function as a body, in which we in the local church depend upon one another. When we just focus on our marriage, we are essentially cutting off our life-giving anointing, which is meant for the service of others, and turning it inward. This is contrary to Acts 1:8, which teaches us that the power of the Holy Spirit is to be His witnesses—hence, the power of God is not primarily for self-edification.

Consequently, when we stop ministering outside our small circles, we are in danger of becoming a swamp instead of a life-giving stream. Romans 12:4-8 commands us to use our gifts to serve one another in the context of His body. There is no Scripture on marriage and family that temporarily suspends that command in the New Testament.

Finally, in my opinion, those that push away from all ministry for a year after they are engaged or married are in danger of committing idolatry and worshipping their marriage union more than the Lord who brought them together to promote and extend His kingdom. In the long term, self-focused marriages and families usually generate lukewarm or backslidden children who are narcissistic and fail to perpetuate a generational blessing.

May God help all emerging young couples find a balance in marriage and ministry and together love God with all their heart, mind and soul.

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) Married Mon, 17 Feb 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Should a Wife Keep Her Husband’s Sexual Sin a Secret? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20524-should-a-wife-keep-her-husband-s-sexual-sin-a-secret http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20524-should-a-wife-keep-her-husband-s-sexual-sin-a-secret Consider this predicament: Your boss, the company CEO, has given you a high-level project. After a few months on the job, you discover that your new responsibilities involve falsifying records.

Not only that, but it appears your boss has been trying to cover up questionable accounting practices. When you confront the CEO, he makes it clear that your career will be over if you share his secret. He makes a strong argument that you have much more to lose than gain by going public. Then he demands your silence, asserting his authority as your supervisor to ensure you will comply.

Out of respect for his position of authority, do you keep his secret? Even if means you are putting yourself at risk, now that you are knowledgeable of a crime but choosing not to report it?

Now read this scenario: Mary’s husband, Jim, hasn’t been himself for months—moody, short-tempered, abrupt. One night, Mary wakes up and Jim is not there. When she walks downstairs, the reflection of the computer screen in the dining room mirror tells the story. 

Jim says he is sorry and it won’t happen again. But the computer history tells a different story—he is binging on porn, and it’s only getting worse. When Mary suggests counseling, Jim refuses. Asserting his position as leader of the home, Jim also forbids her from telling anyone. Ever. Period.

Out of respect for his position of authority, should Mary keep his secret? Even if it means postponing her own healing and subjecting her family to the devastating effects of her husband’s escalating sexual sin?

Why is it that the corporate whistle-blower is applauded for standing up for what is right but the wife who wants to sound the alarm is often silenced by the very community that should be offering her the most support? Unfortunately, the not-so-subtle message being communicated by some in the church to these hurting women is "Honor your husband by keeping silent, even at the expense of your own healing."

Who is communicating this destructive message? It’s the elder who tells a wife she is overreacting. It’s the Sunday School teacher who whispers maybe she should first try heating things up in the bedroom. It's the pastor who suggests the wife spend some more time praying for her husband to come around before meeting with a counselor. It’s anyone who even thinks, That is just how God wired men.

I’m not advocating a wife take to Facebook to share her pain or make a phone call to activate the prayer chain. There is no healing to be found there. But she should be free to get the help she needs in the light of this devastating revelation, and it’s time the church came alongside her with their full support.

Yes, she should be cautious who she shares with, and certainly it would be considerate of her to share her intentions with her husband to get outside help. But if a husband attempts to use his authority as the spiritual head of the household to discourage his wife from getting help, then someone needs to call that out for what it is: spiritual manipulation, misuse of authority and unloving, self-centered sin.

There is nothing that strikes at our own core more deeply than our spouse’s sexual sin. Marriage, by its very nature—the becoming of one flesh—means the husband’s struggle is now the wife’s struggle. So if a wife wants to talk to someone about his struggle (which is now her struggle), she should be encouraged to do so, regardless of her husband’s discomfort.

A husband might wonder why his wife would even want to share her painful story with anyone anyway. It is something most husbands have tried so hard to hide. They don’t like to acknowledge its ugly existence, much less have conversations about it. Here is what husbands need to realize:

  • Wives don’t like talking about it; we need to talk about it. When we get the thoughts out of our heads and express them and hear feedback, it helps us grieve. It is like a valve releasing some of the pressure that has built up.
  • Talking about it helps us feel less isolated and alone.
  • Talking about it helps us organize our thoughts and emotions that feel out of control. Any sense of control is calming in the midst of this storm.

I believe there are thousands of wives sitting in our church pews each Sunday, suffering alone in silence. What can churches do to release wives from being their husbands’ secret-keepers?

  • Become a congregation where people are real, where suffering in this world is understood to be inevitable and where the body is involved in helping broken people heal. This example will give courage to couples that are afraid to share their brokenness.
  • Give wives a safe and confidential place to share.
  • Hold husbands accountable to their positions as spiritual leaders Sunday through Saturday—do this from the pulpit, on the golf course, one on one and in small groups.
  • Don’t support a theology of secret-keeping.

Think about it this: Who do we partner with when we help hide sin? In 2 Thessalonians 2:7, the Bible says the secret power of lawlessness is already at work and will remain at work until the man of lawlessness is completely removed. Church, we partner with our very enemy when we encourage sin to remain hidden. To do so under the cloak of “respect for spiritual authority” is a joke. And the enemy is laughing while our marriages are dying.

Leaders of the church, free these wives. Encourage them to get the help they need. If that means exposing their husbands’ secret sin against their husbands’ will, then so be it. It is the most loving and respectful thing they can do on behalf of their marriage.

Marsha Fisher and her husband, Jeff, are the creators of Inside Out Ministries and Porn to Purity. They are using their marriage recovery story as a platform to shed light on the growing problem of pornography addiction within the church and the gospel-centered resources available for those who want to find freedom.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Marsha Fisher) Married Wed, 27 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
3 Ideas of How to Support Your Spouse in Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20460-critical-care http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20460-critical-care I can still remember the day my husband, Tom, returned from a church-planting conference and said those 10 words that changed our family forever: “I think God is calling us to plant a church.”

In the weeks that followed, both Tom and I agreed to earnestly pray about the possibility. After much prayer and counsel, we sold our home, packed our bags and took off for Centerville, Ohio, to plant a church.

That was 36 years ago, and we have had the journey of a lifetime. I’ve watched God use my gifts and passions to shape and mold me into the person I am today. God put a deep love for spouses in me, and I started a ministry called Bloom that offers support and encouragement to lead planters’ spouses. The heart of a church is directly affected by the heart of the leader’s spouse.

Recognizing the potential impact of your spouse, how can you, as the leader of your church and family, encourage and support them?

1. Acknowledge that God called both of you to a particular ministry. It won’t work if the spouse isn’t behind the ministry 100 percent. Take the time to allow your spouse to go through the process to hear what God is asking of your family. Our family believes God calls the family.

2. Help your spouse find their passion. The church has certainly changed since the days when all spouses were expected to play the piano, but there is still unspoken pressure on a spouse today. How many times is the spouse expected to be an extrovert, have perfect kids, a perfect house, a perfect marriage or lead a ministry they have no training for or desire to do?

I believe God calls the spouse to a church to serve, but helping them find their passion and ministry is critical. Begin by asking yourself, “Where is my spouse gifted, passionate and equipped to lead?” Pray with your spouse about where God might be calling them to serve. Helping your spouse find their role is critical!

3. Elevate your spouse. The greatest gift you can give your family and church is a strong marriage. No one should doubt how you feel about your spouse. Although we had times when there were crazy schedules and tons of work hours, I never felt Tom was “missing in action” when it came to our family. We would schedule times to get away (two weeks) so that we could be fully engaged with each other and our kids.

Another aspect of elevating your spouse is to understand what they might be dealing with. Reading a book such as Anne Milam’s Bloom Where You Are Planted gives you a glimpse of some of the emotions your spouse and family may be experiencing. Attending a conference session together or having your spouse help with a Sunday morning message is a great way to say, “I value and acknowledge what my spouse brings to this church.”

I have always appreciated Tom’s desire for me to be a partner in our journey and his making a point of publicly and privately acknowledging his support. Below are a few comments from other spouses on how they have been supported that may give you ideas for ways to affirm and encourage yours:

Meg Nuno (Los Angeles): “My husband released me to finish my schooling in the midst of church planting. His belief in me that I could handle both church planting and getting my bachelor’s degree gave me the emotional strength I needed. He also gave me a mini-'platform' ministry, putting me in charge of doing announcements, which helped me to stay involved and give people an opportunity to know who I was—without being in a super-consuming ministry mold.”

Sarah Burnett (Baltimore, Md.): “He is always pointing people in our church to me for my leadership advice, even though I have no official title and am technically a stay-at-home mom. But because he values me and my opinion, others do too. It keeps me involved and engaged.”

Debbie Jones has served with the Stadia team, a church-planting organization, for six years and is the director of spouse and family support. With 30 years of ministry experience, she has conducted numerous workshops and seminars throughout the United States. She founded a ministry for Stadia called Bloom to provide care and support to the spouses of church planters. 

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webmaster@strang.com (Debbie Jones) Married Fri, 08 Nov 2013 17:00:00 -0500
Marriage Battle: The Frontline of Offense http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20192-the-frontline-of-offense http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/married/20192-the-frontline-of-offense D-MinLifeMarriageMinistry

Have you ever stopped to think and seriously consider that the local church—your church—is the frontline of offense in the battle for marriage and ultimately the family?

It’s a daunting thought. God instituted marriage as one of the foundational principals of mankind, and since the moment of its inception, this sacred bond has been under attack. How is a pastor, whose time and capacity are already spread paper thin, supposed to wage a war for these covenant relationships and maintain a revolution of this magnitude and importancewhen the world is working to make them ever more dispensable?

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webmaster@strang.com (Jimmy Witcher) Married Fri, 05 Jul 2013 13:00:00 -0400
15 Concepts to Make Sure No Man in Your Church Gets Left Behind http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/21578-15-concepts-to-make-sure-no-man-in-your-church-gets-left-behind http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/21578-15-concepts-to-make-sure-no-man-in-your-church-gets-left-behind There is no question that churches have been badly burned by the notorious start-stop, roller coaster nature of most men's ministry. However, I want to introduce you to the No Man Left Behind Model—a simple yet robust model you can adopt to build an intentional, sustainable men's discipleship ministry to all of your men.

You can sketch it on a paper napkin at breakfast with one of your leaders. The vision is to help men grow as disciples and disciple-makers. On the left, you have men who need Christ. A conveyor belt moves "every man" along toward discipleship and spiritual maturity at his own pace. The create-capture-sustain cycle is the engine that powers the conveyor belt. Multiple repetitions of the create-capture-sustain cycle keep the conveyor belt moving.

The conveyor belt is built on three foundations. And the model works best when the church in general has a disciple-making culture.

No Man Left Behind is not something you "add" to your already busy schedule. It's not an additional "program." It's not a "curriculum." Rather, it's a process. An "intentional" process. You overlay it on top of your existing ministry. It will give you and your leaders a common language to organize what you are already doing to maximize your disciple-making impact. And it will reveal new areas of opportunity to disciple your men—all of them.

The No Man Left Behind Model can help you more effectively:

  • Attract new men to your church.
  • Help men who need Christ come to faith.
  • Help lukewarm cultural Christians renew their faith.
  • Give new believers and Cultural Christians an "on-ramp" to grow spiritually.
  • Assimilate men into your existing growth and service ministries.
  • Surface new servant leaders and disciple-makers for your church.

And you will be able to do this without adding a lot of new programming and work for yourself. Does this sound too good to be true? Let's dig in so you can see for yourself. Here are 15 main concepts of the No Man Left Behind Model:

1. An "all-inclusive"mindset: Successful churches have a vision to disciple all their men, not just those willing to join "men's only" activities. So if you have 100 men in your church, that's the size of your ministry to men.

2. "Ministry to men" versus "men's ministry": In fact, we suggest you even stop using the term "men's ministry" altogether—it can help you shed the baggage of the old way that reaches only "some" of your men.

3. Five types of men: A "one-size-fits-all" approach may have worked 50 years ago, but those days are long gone. In the field we find five types of men at various stages on their journeys. These five "sizes" of men fit along what we call "the wide-deep continuum." There are Men Who Need Christ, Cultural Christians, Biblical Christians, Servant Leaders and, among each of those four groups, Hurting Men.

4. Clarify your vision: In one way or another, the essence of your vision is "to disciple every man in the church."

5. A public slogan: You will also want a "public" vision statement—a "slogan"—that resonates with your men. Something like, "Every man a disciple and disciple-maker—starting at home" or "No man left behind."

6. An all-inclusive name: In addition to a "private" vision for the leadership team, and a slogan for your "public" vision statement, you will also want to come up with an "all-inclusive name"—one that unmistakably applies to all your men. Don't ever make men feel like they have to be part of your "men-only" ministry to be part of the "Men of Grace." Instead, describe any and every involvement men have with your church as something that the "Iron Men" (or whatever name you choose) are doing.

7. A common language: Since the term "disciple" can mean different things to different people, you will want to create a common language. Plan to preach a series on discipleship—something like, "What Is a Disciple, and How Do You Become One?" Focus on the biblical command to make disciples, texts that describe discipleship, and examples of discipleship that are already taking place in your church.

8. Create value: You can create momentum by offering men something they want—"something of value." That may be inviting them to have breakfast, attend church, play softball, or be your guest at a special men's event.

9. Capture momentum: It's so disappointing to expend all that energy to turn men out, then see them drift away when the event is over. Instead, offer what we call a "believable next right step" for the men who attend the "Success That Matters" dinner (or other event)—a step to help "capture" the momentum. For example, meeting one hour a week for six weeks to further discuss, say, "Success That Matters."

10. Sustain change: This is the silver bullet—the way you can use the model to populate the new and existing growth and service ministries of your church. At the end of the six week groups offer men opportunities to assimilate into the "existing" growth and service ministries of the church. You can also offer something "new."

11. Repeat the create-capture-sustain cycle: The create-capture-sustain cycle is the engine that moves men along the conveyor belt. Regularly repeat the cycle with something that targets other types of men. That's how you keep it going.

12. The portal priority: Discipleship is the "portal" priority through which all the other priorities of your church can be achieved.

13. Your man code: You have an unwritten "man code" that defines what it means to be a man in your church. From the décor, to the announcements, to how men are involved in the worship service, you can create an atmosphere that says: "Men matter here. Men can make a difference. God is doing something in and through the men of this church."

14. Three strands of leadership: Successful discipleship ministries for men need strong support from the senior pastor, a committed leader, and an effective leadership team—three strands of leadership.

15. A one-year plan: Develop a one-year plan to complete one cycle (or two) of create-capture-sustain, and then re-evaluate.

Watch a 10- or 30-minute presentation of the model, download the figure above, learn about the No Man Left Behind book and how to get more training here.

Patrick Morley is the founder of Man in the Mirror Ministries. For the original article, visit patrickmorley.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Patrick Morley/Man in the Mirror) Men Tue, 24 Feb 2015 13:00:00 -0500
9 Things Men Seek at Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/21185-9-things-men-seek-at-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/21185-9-things-men-seek-at-church I am often asked, "Why are the men leaving the church today?" Sometimes it comes out as, "What can we do to keep the men of this church?" or "How can our church reach more men?"

There is no easy answer, but in this article I would like to provide some basic principles that will help you develop a male-friendly church. The overriding principle is simply this:

The environment you develop is more important than the events or programs you put on. A man is looking for an environment that is consistent with who he is as a man and a place where he feels comfortable belonging and becoming the man God wants him to be.

1. Relevance. Most men in our society today do not see the value of going to church because it is not speaking their language, and it is not addressing the issues they face. For example, a recent survey showed that 92 percent of church-going men have never heard a sermon on the subject of work. The unspoken message is: What you do for 60 to 70 hours a week does not relate to what you do on Sunday mornings. The most important issues for men are their work, family, marriage, sexuality and finances—and rarely are these addressed from the pulpit today? Some of the key questions men are asking are:

  • What is true masculinity?
  • What is success?
  • How do I deal with guilt feelings?
  • What is male sexuality?
  • Is purity possible today?
  • What does a healthy marriage look like?
  • How can I raise my children to be successful?
  • How can I be a man of integrity in the workplace?
  • How can I be a leader in the home, church, workplace and world?
  • What is my purpose in life?

2. To be involved in a cause greater than themselves. Men want to be involved in something driven by a compelling vision. Men want to know what hill the church is climbing, where we are going, what we are about. The church has the greatest and most far-reaching mission on Earth, and we should not be bashful about challenging the men of our congregation with it.

3. A shot at greatness. I have never met a man who wanted to be a failure or a loser. Men want to win. They want to be heroes. They want to come in first. Unfortunately, it seems the church today wants nice men, not great men.

4. To be challenged. Men tend to view the world around them as something to be overcome or conquered. It's high time we told them they do not have to check their competitive drive at the door of the church. If they are seeking risk, adventure, change, competition and expansion—tell them how to find it within the mission of Jesus.

5. Action. Men today are looking for something to do; they do not like sitting around and theorizing about the 27 views of the second coming of Christ! Men measure themselves by productivity and gain a portion of self-image based on what they do. Their desire for adventure is often expressed in the desire to be on the solution side of things. Many churches today are in maintenance mode, rather than being missional.

6. Men are looking for leaders, and they want to be leaders. This principle is simple: Men do not follow programs, they follow men. They want to follow a bold, courageous, visionary leader. Establish an environment where strong leadership is attractive. Not only are men looking for a leader to follow, they want to become leaders themselves. They want to lead in their family, workplace, church, community and world. One of the things you can do is equip them to lead.

7. Fun. If men walk into a church and see a bunch of serious, stoic-looking people, shouldn't they wonder if Christianity really is a killjoy? The world is a serious place; men are looking to laugh and have fun to balance that reality. They love a good joke, funny story or movie. I encourage you to develop a ministry environment in which men have fun together.

8. Brothers. Most men have many acquaintances, but very few men have a good friend. According to statistics, the average man over 35 years old does not have one close friend. Men need teaching on how to develop and strengthen friendships and an environment where they can find genuine male friends.

9. Healing. Many are using socially unacceptable means to deal with their pain—making their work or their hobbies their life, misusing sex, drugs or alcohol. Unless these wounds and hurts are dealt with in a healthy way, they will never become the man that God wants them to be. They will never be able to have healthy relationships or move on from childish behavior.

I hope some of these insights from my own ministry to men will serve you well as you seek to minister more effectively to the men of your church and community.

Steve Sonderman is the associate pastor for men's ministry at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wis., and the author of How to Build a Life-Changing Men's Ministry.

For the original article, visit men.ag.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Sonderman) Men Mon, 01 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
The Surprising Key To Successful Men’s Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/20991-the-surprising-key-to-successful-men-s-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/20991-the-surprising-key-to-successful-men-s-ministry Over the years, reaching men with the gospel has been an important but challenging effort. From the early days when Edwin Louis Cole launched the Christian Men's Network, to Coach Bill McCartney's Promise Keepers, hundreds of thousands of men have been transformed, and yet momentum has been difficult at best.

But now, a local pastor with a national media ministry is turning "men's ministry" on its head. G. Allen Jackson, pastor of World Outreach Church in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, has taken his experience leading one of the largest churches in America and re-thought exactly what it means to reach men in the 21st century. That strategy is culminating in the "Mighty Men Conference" featuring G. Allen Jackson and Angus Buchan in Nashville on November 23. I had the opportunity to discuss the subject recently with Pastor Jackson, and here's what happened:

Phil Cooke:  What we call "Men's Ministry" is alive and well, but it's not in the headlines much anymore. In the 1980's and 90's it exploded and culminated with Promise Keepers, which was one of the biggest movements of its time. What going on today?

Allen Jackson: Promise Keepers seemed to be a "God initiative." I know many worked hard to see Coach's vision become a reality, but the outcome exceeded imaginations. I believe it served a purpose for a season, calling men to an awareness of their roles as men of faith. Ultimately the church must be awakened to this message because events alone will not sustain the momentum.

PC: Have you always placed a priority on reaching men through World Outreach Church?

AJ: We have always recognized the significance of men engaging with faith. As our congregation has grown, the expressions of that idea have changed consistently. For too long men imagined their primary role in church to be a decision maker/committee member. The activity of ministry was often not imagined to be of sufficient significance to attract the focus of capable men. We recognized men needed to be invited towards a meaningful, challenging interaction with God and His people. Faith demands results. Men will respond to this awareness.

PC: What do you see happening in the culture today that gives you an urgency to reach men with the gospel?

AJ: We live in a cyclone of confusion—confusion regarding ethics, life objectives, morality, faith, our place in the world; many things. Godly men make a difference. Godly men choose to develop character, not just be a character. Godly men provide leadership for younger generations. Duty, honor, responsibility and sacrifice are concepts required for healthy homes, churches and cultures. Permanent adolescence is not fulfilling; it is avoidance. We are created as image bearers of Almighty God, to make a difference for His Kingdom in our world.

PC:  You appear to have captured a wide range of men - not just a certain segment or interest group.   What's the key to connecting with such a wide variety of men?

AJ: Effective ministry to men, in my opinion, is rooted in a constant awareness of the impact of ministry on men as an integral part of the life of the congregation and therefore the Kingdom assignment of the community. We built nursery spaces that would appeal to men as well as children because we asked men to serve with the children. We want to integrate men and all they represent into the life of church. We do occasional events with a focus for men, but these are an expression of ministry that is occurring routinely.

PC: How did you meet Angus Buchan, and why do you teach so well together?

AJ: I met Angus in Jerusalem. We had both been invited to speak at a Feast of Tabernacles Celebration. I was so impressed with his dynamic love for Jesus that I wanted to meet him. I think we made a connection because of a shared commitment to the Kingdom. Angus is anointed as an evangelist. People respond, in a truly remarkable way, when he shares a Jesus story. I am able to provide a context and rational for what we are working towards. God seems to have placed us together for this season. It is His initiative.

PC: Angus has massive men's outreaches in South Africa.  Why does his message connect so well with men?

AJ: Men recognize the genuine faith in Angus. We have seen so many pretenders. Angus is not polished; you do not feel as if he is manipulating you. Angus speaks with a sincerity and confident faith that enables men and women to imagine they could have a meaningful relationship with Jesus. He does not present theological principles for consideration. He invites people to live their faith today. For many the invitation is a great blessing.

PC: If you could say one thing to encourage more pastors to be intentional about reaching men in their community, what would it be?

AJ: Ministering to men is a skill set; it is not mysterious. Do not isolate ministry to men to an occasional weekend or event when there is a male oriented topic. Become conscious that every ministry experience needs to add value and opportunity for the men you are leading.

PC: What's next for Allen Jackson and World Outreach Church?

AJ: I believe we have an opportunity to see an awakening within the American church. I am a pastor; my heart is for the people who are searching for hope. Becoming a Christ follower does not diminish your life experience; it will dramatically improve the quality of your life. We are busy looking for opportunities to tell the Jesus story and to develop tools that will enable others to live free.

Phil Cooke, Ph.D. is the founder of The Influence Lab (influencelab.com).

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Men Mon, 16 Jun 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Why Are Men Leaving the Church? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/20422-why-are-men-leaving-the-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/20422-why-are-men-leaving-the-church I am often asked, “Why are the men leaving the church today?” Sometimes it comes out as “What can we do to keep the men of this church?” or “How can our church reach more men?” There is no easy answer, but in this article I would like to provide some basic principles that will help you develop a male-friendly church.

The overriding principle is simply this: The environment you develop is more important than the events or programs you put on. A man is looking for an environment that is consistent with who he is as a man and is a place where he feels comfortable belonging and becoming the man God wants him to be.

1. Men are looking for relevance. Most men in our society today do not see the value of going to church because it is not speaking their language and it is not addressing the issues they face. For example, a recent survey showed that 92 percent of churchgoing men have never heard a sermon on the subject of work. The unspoken message is "What you do for 60 to 70 hours a week does not relate to what you do on Sunday mornings." The most important issues for men are their work, family, marriage, sexuality and finances—and rarely are these addressed from the pulpit today. Some of the key questions men are asking are:

  • What is true masculinity?
  • What is success?
  • How do I deal with guilt feelings?
  • What is male sexuality?
  • Is purity possible today?
  • What does a healthy marriage look like?
  • How can I raise my children to be successful?
  • How can I be a man of integrity in the workplace?
  • How can I be a leader in the home, church, workplace and world?
  • What is my purpose in life? 

2. Men want to be involved in a cause greater than themselves. Men want to be involved in something driven by a compelling vision. Men want to know what hill the church is climbing, where we are going and what we are about. The church has the greatest and most far-reaching mission on earth, and we should not be bashful about challenging the men of our congregation with it.

3. Men want a shot at greatness. I have never met a man who wanted to be a failure or a loser. Men want to win. They want to be heroes. They want to come in first. Unfortunately, it seems the church today wants nice men, not great men.

4. Men want to be challenged. Men tend to view the world around them as something to be overcome or conquered. It’s high time we told them they do not have to check their competitive drive at the door of the church. If they are seeking risk, adventure, change, competition and expansion—tell them how to find it within the mission of Jesus.

5. Men are looking for action. Men today are looking for something to do; they do not like sitting around and theorizing about the 27 views of the second coming of Christ. Men measure themselves by productivity and gain a portion of self-image based on what they do. Their desire for adventure is often expressed in the desire to be on the solution side of things. Many churches today are in maintenance mode rather than being missional.

6. Men are looking for leaders and want to be leaders. This principle is simple: Men do not follow programs; they follow men. They want to follow a bold, courageous, visionary leader. Establish an environment where strong leadership is attractive. Not only are men looking for a leader to follow, but they also want to become leaders themselves. They want to lead in their family, workplace, church, community and world. One of the things you can do is equip them to lead.

7. Men are looking to have fun. If men walk into a church and see a bunch of serious, stoic-looking people, shouldn’t they wonder if Christianity really is a killjoy? The world is a serious place; men are looking to laugh and have fun to balance that reality. They love a good joke, funny story or movie. I encourage you to develop a ministry environment in which men have fun together.

8. Men are looking for brothers. Most men have many acquaintances, but very few men have a good friend. According to statistics, the average man over 35 years old does not have one close friend. Men need teaching on how to develop and strengthen friendships, and they need an environment where they can find genuine male friends.

9. Men are looking for healing. Many are using socially unacceptable means to deal with the pain—making their work or their hobbies their life or misusing sex, drugs or alcohol. Unless these wounds and hurts are dealt with in a healthy way, they will never become the men God wants them to be. They will never be able to have healthy relationships or move on from childish behavior.

I hope some of these insights from my own ministry to men will serve you well as you seek to minister more effectively to the men of your church and community.

Steve Sonderman is the associate pastor for men’s ministry at Elmbrook Church in Brookfield, Wisc., and the author of How to Build a Life-Changing Men’s Ministry.

For the original article, visit men.ag.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Sonderman/For AG Men) Men Wed, 16 Oct 2013 13:00:00 -0400
The 6 W’s of Men’s Discipleship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/20415-the-6-w-s-of-men-s-discipleship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/20415-the-6-w-s-of-men-s-discipleship After decades of building my weekly rhythms around small group discipleship in Manila, the past few years splitting time between Nashville, Manila, and Delta airlines have been quite frustrating regarding small group discipleship. With a fresh resolve, I’m starting again.

I’ve met with a small group of men at Starbucks for discipleship. This was my first meeting with this group.

Here are the six essential W’s to discipling men:

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Murrell) Men Fri, 11 Oct 2013 20:00:00 -0400
James Robison: The Solution to a Fatherless Generation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/19892-james-robison-the-solution-to-a-fatherless-generation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/men/19892-james-robison-the-solution-to-a-fatherless-generation Column-RobisonStatistics show that 34 percent of American children live apart from their fathers, and half of all children will be fatherless at some point during childhood.

I grew up without a father figure, but at a young age God took me under His wing. By His power, I escaped many negative effects of fatherlessness but still bore some scars. I never heard, “That’s good, son. Nice catch. Nice throw. Nice anything.”

God created us in His image to be His children. In the garden, Adam and Eve enjoyed intimate fellowship with their Father and lived under His care. Then the deceiver enticed them. The children bought the lie and forfeited the relationship. They were suddenly afraid of their Father and foolishly tried to cover their shame with mere fig leaves. This was the first futile attempt on the part of fallen man to deal with the sinful, adverse effect of being deceived by the father of lies.

God the Father immediately put a plan in motion to restore mankind to intimate fellowship with Himself. He set out to establish a family of faith through whom He could bless the nations of the world. These chosen children of God would reveal the heavenly Father to fallen humanity.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Robison) Men Fri, 08 Feb 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Where Is the Great Disconnect? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21562-where-is-the-great-disconnect http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21562-where-is-the-great-disconnect Many pastors, ministers, family counselors and most families have seen the devastating impact of financial stress and poverty. Christians and churches are not exempt.

Families are torn apart. Churches are not built. Missionaries are not sent. Dreams are unfulfilled. Growth of the kingdom is hindered. Yet according to His own words, Jesus came that we may have an abundant life.

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

Where is the disconnect between the promises of God and what is too often observed in our churches and among Christians? Is the problem a lack of knowledge, stewardship, mentoring, faith or sin? Maybe the problem persists because of all or a combination of these and other factors. Is there hope? Can the situation be reversed? What should we be doing to ensure the promises of kingdom finances flow to Christians in our flock and to our churches?

Fortunately, there is hope. I have had conversations with born-again, Spirit filled, Christian millionaires and billionaires. I have read the testimonies of scores of others. All, without exception, testify of the goodness of God and of His faithfulness to His promises. I have been in megachurches throughout the world that were built by successful Christian business people and other faithful congregants. Many of these megachurches were built in challenging economic and political environments. Examples exist. These examples must be replicated.

Churches should take the following steps to appropriate the promises of kingdom finances to our congregations:

1. Teach the uncompromising word of God regarding kingdom finances. Emphasize the promises of God, repentance, faith, stewardship, giving, and the guidance and power of the Holy Spirit.

2. Begin a course on Christian personal financial management. Encourage all to attend. Require those receiving church financial assistance to attend.

3. Develop a mentoring program. Establish personal mentors for individuals wanting to take control of their finances. Establish business mentors for those wishing to start or expand their businesses.

4. Develop a network of businesses that can help provide funding for special projects and employment opportunities to members.

5. Set the example in managing church finances. Keep members informed of church finances and priorities.

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

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Russell) Money Thu, 19 Feb 2015 19:00:00 -0500
7 Trends in the Offertory in Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21520-7-trends-in-the-offertory-in-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21520-7-trends-in-the-offertory-in-churches For most Protestant churches, the offertory is the time of worship where church members make financial gifts to God through the church. It may be combined with special music or announcements, but the central theme is giving to God.

I am seeing seven major trends develop related to this aspect of worship services. The changes have been subtle but noticeable.

1. More churches are moving the offertory to near the middle of the service, shortly before the preaching of the Word. This development is a change back to a practice that was most common before 1990. This approach has either an implicit or explicit theological belief that the offertory is a central facet of worship, and should be placed prominently in the service.

2. The second most common practice is to have the offertory at the end of the service. The typical rationale for this practice is more related to the flow of the service. The offertory is still deemed important, but the service has a more continuous flow if it is placed at the end.

3. Churches that provide the opportunity for online giving see an uptick in overall gifts. Obviously this type of offertory does not take place in a worship service, but it is deemed very important by leaders whose churches offer this option. I am not aware of any churches where online giving has replaced the worship offertory; it is simply another way to give.

4. Churches that mail offering envelopes to members also see an uptick in overall gifts. I have heard numerous stories from church leaders of the importance of this church practice. One church leader told me his church eliminated the practice, and offerings declined almost 20 percent. The church reinstated the mailing of offering envelopes pretty quickly.

5. Only a relatively few churches have offering boxes for member donations. Most of these churches do not have an offertory time in the service; members are asked to give as they leave the service.

6. More churches have some type of testimony or statement about stewardship to accompany the offering. Typically, this statement is about how the funds are used. Members are able to see through videos or testimonies the missional impact of their gifts (See the blog post with Pastor Mike Glenn's example).

7. Relatively few churches receive gifts in their small groups or Sunday school classes. This practice was more common prior to 1990, especially in Sunday school-based churches.

From my perspective, the most effective churches in stewardship make certain that items 3, 4, and 6 are common practices to accompany the church's offertory.

Let me hear from you about these seven trends, and let me hear what your church does as well.

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) Money Fri, 06 Feb 2015 20:00:00 -0500
How Do You Handle Year-End Giving in Your Church? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21394-how-do-you-handle-year-end-giving-in-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21394-how-do-you-handle-year-end-giving-in-your-church What is the role of the pastor in year-end giving in your church? Do you have any responsibility in regards to biblical stewardship in the life of your people?

I believe we do have a responsibility for biblical stewardship in our church.

The No. 1 Question in December 

In the month of December, we are in the final month of giving for the year. Every nonprofit ministry in the country will make appeals to the members of your church to support their ministry financially. While these may be good and some are worthy of consideration, the church should receive the No. 1 priority in the lives of our people.

The key question we need to ask repeatedly is: As you review and understand clearly ALL of your sources of income in 2014, have you honored God by giving at least the first tenth to your local church? If you have not, then ensure you do so before Dec. 31 so that you can know you have walked in complete obedience to God in 2014 in relationship to biblical stewardship.

Your Two Major Roles as Pastor in Year-End Giving

I want to suggest that you have two major roles in relationship to biblical stewardship in year-end giving:

1. Lead your people. Lead your people by example in biblical stewardship and lead with the authority of God's Word. The only people that want you to be bashful about biblical stewardship in the church are the people that do not practice biblical stewardship personally. Take the initiative weekly in worship by asking people the key question above.

2. Challenge your people. Challenge your people to obedience to God in their stewardship. I don't believe you would back away from challenging them to personal holiness, evangelism, discipleship or the Great Commission. Therefore, you should not shy away from boldly challenging them to walk in complete obedience to God in their stewardship of all their resources.

How You Can Lead and Challenge Your People

Consider these suggestions as you lead and challenge your people to biblical stewardship:

1. Write each member a letter and extend the challenge to answer this key question: As you review and understand clearly all of your sources of income in 2014, have you honored God by giving at least the first one-tenth to your local church? Thank them for what they have given, and challenge them to finish with complete faithfulness to God. Share a testimony or two of what God is doing through the life of the church because God's people have been faithful to give.

2. Weekly, as you extend the offering, ask them to answer the key question above. Again, thank them for what they have given already. Share testimonies of what God is doing in the church because of their giving.

3. Challenge your people to give above the first tenth in a special offering to the church or join you in giving to support international missions. In our Southern Baptist churches, we have a special annual offering we call the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. Lottie Moon was a missionary in China over 100 years ago.

Last year, our 46,000-plus Southern Baptist churches gave $154 million to international missions through this offering. This past week, I began challenging our people. I will do so boldly and gladly, as Jeana and I have already given to it sacrificially. Any church can give to this offering, so I want to encourage your church to join us or join your own global missions offering in your denomination.

Finally, pastor, step up in December by leading and challenging your church to complete 2014 in obedience to God in regard to personal biblical stewardship.

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 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 ) Money Tue, 09 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
14 Questions Church Leaders Should Ask About Church Finances http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21308-14-questions-church-leaders-should-ask-about-church-finances http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21308-14-questions-church-leaders-should-ask-about-church-finances A consistent theme of concern I have seen in many churches is in the area of church finances. Many church leaders operate out of a mode of scarcity instead of abundance.

While I realize that churches cannot and should not spend foolishly, too many church leaders just don't recognize that God has provided more than they think.

Often the issue is not lack of funds, but unwise choices of church expenditures. There are many reasons for this reality and I plan to address them in a future post.

A Checklist

For now, I offer a checklist of questions. As you answer these questions, I hope you will be motivated to think how your church might look at its expenditures and budgets in a different light.

1. If you were to start your church's budget from scratch, how differently would it look than your present budget?

2. Do you have programs and ministries that, if they were discontinued, would have little negative impact on the church or the community?

3. How much of the church's expenditures reflect "the way we've always done it"?

4. Are there clear lines of accountability for spending at every level?

5. How much of the church's funds are used to impact the community?

6. Is the church spending its personnel dollars in the most effective ways?

7. Who are the true decision makers on how church funds are spent?

8. Do some of the expenditures reflect preferential treatment toward some of the members?

9. Is debt hindering your church from doing effective ministry?

10. What are the potential unintended consequences of making significant changes in the budget and expenditures?

11. Do you know clearly how church funds given to support missions are being used?

12. Does your church spend too much or too little on physical facilities?

13. Does the church have adequate funds for training and development of staff and laity?

14. Does the church's budget reflect faith, futility or foolishness?

An Attitude of Abundance

If we really trust that God will provide for our churches in all areas, including finances, we may realize that we do not have a money problem; we may have a stewardship problem. These fourteen questions can be a starting point to help you move toward a realistic and faith-based approach to church finances.

Let me know what you would change or add in the list above. Of course, I am always happy to hear from you in whatever direction you take this topic.

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) Money Mon, 03 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Pastor, How’s Your Personal Stewardship? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21282-pastor-how-s-your-personal-stewardship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21282-pastor-how-s-your-personal-stewardship Have you ever had to confront a pastor or a member of your ministry staff team about not exercising their personal stewardship of giving? I have, and it is one of the most difficult conversations you will ever have with one of your so-called spiritual leaders.

Perhaps you assumed they would give since they are called of God. Or, maybe they even testified to you they were very committed to personal biblical stewardship. Then you were informed later by a financial leader in your church that biblical stewardship was not being practiced by this spiritual leader. This was very disheartening as a leader, and you were placed in a situation to confront them. That awkward conversation usually means things will never be the same again.

Today, I want to give you some tips to consider in your church relating to your pastors and ministry staff leaders and giving:

1. Clearly establish your expectations. When you interview any pastor or ministry staff leader, always clearly establish your expectations. For example, we make it very clear: "We expect you to honor God with at least the first tenth of your entire salary and income by giving it to the Lord through our church. Do you do this now and will you do so when you join our team?"

Usually, you can clearly tell their practice. If they practice personal financial stewardship, they typically joyfully articulate their personal commitment to fulfilling biblical stewardship. If they question you or choose to debate or justify past practices, even though they promise a fresh commitment to stewardship when they join your team, you have a choice to make. What should you do?

Personally, I choose to walk away from any potential pastor or ministry staff team leader who does not practice personal financial stewardship. If they cannot trust God in this area of their life, he or she is not worthy of your trust with a ministry responsibility in your church. This is completely unacceptable by any pastor or ministry team leader. Therefore, you must communicate clearly that you will not allow any pastor or ministry team leader on your staff who walks in disobedience to God in this area of life and ministry.

2. Clearly communicate that you will monitor the personal stewardship of your staff team or any pastoral leader. I do realize this may sound very strong to some of you, even resulting in some disagreeing with this practice; however, we must hold our pastors and ministry staff leaders accountable in their biblical stewardship. If someone is not giving to God biblically, they have no business in leading any ministry and must certainly forfeit their role as a minister.

Personally, I do not want any pastor or ministry staff team leader on my team who is dishonoring God. We cannot afford to trust anyone who is not trusting God. This is personal deception and completely unacceptable.

Usually once or twice a year, our financial leaders check on all giving practices of our pastors and ministry staff team leaders. If they are not fulfilling this practice, we confront them immediately, expecting immediate repentance and restoration. If they refuse or say they cannot, then soon this staff relationship will cease with our fellowship. We are gracious, but also firm and clear.

3. Expect any pastor or ministry team leader to lead your church in financial commitment and giving. When a pastor or ministry team leader is walking with Christ passionately and growing in their faith, they will want to lead the way in the church, including their commitment to financial support. Of course, this is in relationship to their income, not in comparison with someone who makes more than them or less than them.

When we go into any financial program beyond Ministry Budget giving, we expect our pastors and ministry team leaders to lead the way in over and above giving. We cannot expect our laypeople to go to levels of giving that we as ministers are not willing to go to ourselves.

Each year when we adopt a new ministry budget in our church, Jeana and I evaluate our financial giving and move it upward. All these years in ministry, we have done this and after all this time, our financial support to our ministry is way beyond what would be the expectation of any of our team members. Personally, we would have it no other way.

Lead the Way

Therefore, pastor and ministry staff leader, lead the way in your church. No one, and I mean no one, should be more passionate about personal biblical stewardship than you. God always blesses His pastors and ministry team leaders when they practice biblical stewardship. By the way, you cannot out give God.

As you shovel it out to Him, He shovels it back to you. Always remember these words: His shovel is always bigger than yours.

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) Money Tue, 21 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
9 Trends in Pastoral and Church Staff Compensation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21268-9-trends-in-pastoral-and-church-staff-compensation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/money/21268-9-trends-in-pastoral-and-church-staff-compensation Some of the current trends in pastor and church staff compensation are surprising to me, while others are about what I expected.

I relied on several current compensation studies to assemble these nine trends. I depended most on The 2014-2015 Compensation Handbook for Church Staff by Richard R. Hammar for multiple denominational and non-denominational churches.

For my denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention, I found the compensation study by GuideStone and LifeWay to be very helpful. There were also six other sources I used to add a few more data points to these trends.

For this article, I will discuss full-time compensated pastors and church staff only. I do have data for part-time compensated staff as well; I will address those church workers in a later post.

Here, then, are nine major trends I saw in the data:

1. Church income is the biggest factor in the level of compensation at all positions. There is no surprise here. The greater the income of the church, the greater the likelihood that the pastor or church staff receive higher compensation.

2. The second biggest factor in compensation is worship attendance. Of course, these first two factors are related. The greater the attendance, the higher the likelihood of higher church income.

3. Longevity at a particular church is also a factor in compensation at all positions. Though this factor is not as significant as the first two, it is still a noticeable trend.

4. Women earn less than men at all church positions. The discrepancy is big. Women make only 80 percent as much as men in the same role in similar churches.

5. The positions of executive pastor or administrative pastor are now clearly the second highest-paid position. While senior pastors are still the highest paid, the executive pastor or administrative pastor is a close second in many churches.

6. Education is still a factor in compensation for all church positions. While education is not nearly the most significant factor, it still plays a role. Those without a college degree make less than those with a college degree. And those with masters and doctoral degrees have even higher compensation.

7. The setting of the church impacts compensation of all church positions. The highest compensated are in suburbs of a large city followed closely by churches in large cities. Trailing those two, usually significantly, are positions in churches in small towns and rural areas.

8. Geographical region was more indicative for the compensation of senior pastors than other church staff. Senior pastors in New England, the Southeast, and the Southwest were the most highly compensated. I was surprised to see the data for New England senior pastors at the top of the list.

9. Denominational affiliation impacted all church positions. The level of compensation was clearly higher for some denominations compared to others. Going from highest to lowest, here is the relative level of compensation by denomination: Presbyterian, Methodist, Lutheran, Baptist, independent/non-denominational, and Assemblies of God. Of course this list is not nearly exhaustive.

 

What questions might you want me to pursue regarding compensation? What can you add to this discussion?

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) Money Tue, 14 Oct 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Stories of Transformation: Water of Life Church Serves its People http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/21400-stories-of-transformation-water-of-life-church-serves-its-people http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/21400-stories-of-transformation-water-of-life-church-serves-its-people Water of Life Church was a growing congregation in New York City drawing predominately young Latino families in the Bronx. But while the members felt numerous improvements had been made since Carlos Franco became the bivocational pastor 11 years ago, they were emerging from a legalistic background and wanted to evaluate their current situation.

Due to their familiarity with LifeWay's small group curriculum, Pastor Franco and the church board chose to use the Transformational Church Assessment Tool (TCAT) to give them a more accurate and analytical view of their congregation's health.

But they faced a serious of obstacles in having their 90 or so church members complete the survey—many individuals did not speak English and several were unfamiliar with computers.

"Thank God the surveys were in Spanish," says Franco. "That was a great help and is one of the reasons I like LifeWay as a bilingual pastor."

Water of Life developed teams that could open up more ministry opportunities.

As it turned out the solution to the computer illiteracy was an example of the church growing in an area TCAT revealed as an area of weakness. Franco says Water of Life came across needing to develop more of the relational aspects and providing avenues for members to serve. They did both of those things in the way they helped those uncomfortable around computers.

"We trained our young people, the ones who are very computer literate, and set up two Friday nights for the others to come to church," he says. "On the ten computers we have at our church, the young people sat down with some senior citizens and others and helped them go through it."

While some did go through it at home on their own, he says, the majority completed the TCAT questionnaire at church because it was the only place they would have access to a computer.

Once the results came back, Franco and the church leadership were able to evaluate how things were progressing. One area in particular stood out as a positive—the worship experience.

"Prior to TCAT, we had diversified and changed our worship format and the people seem to appreciate that," Franco says. Previously, services stretched for four hours with the sermon being only a small part of that. After cutting the time in half, the results showed the pastor that "people were feeling comfortable in our church."

As they learned more about providing people with a sense of ownership in the church and giving them additional ways to serve. Franco says Water of Life developed teams that could open up more ministry opportunities.

Water of Life is seeking to become an integral part of their Bronx community for years to come.

In seeing that the church could do better with being relational, Franco says the leadership instituted a rule that none of them could stand around after the service speaking only to their friends and family. They had to be available to talk to guests and visitors. "We needed to say people we care about them," he says.

For Franco, the format of TCAT was particularly helpful. "I kind of had an idea where our weak areas where, but what I like best about the survey and the results was it gave specifics," he says. "Take evangelism for example. Even though we had a score for evangelism overall, we saw some areas within that category that we still need to work on."

The growth that has occurred with the help of TCAT is only the beginning according to Franco. Seeing the need to build relationships and connect with their community better challenged the church to meet the practical and tangible needs of those around them. "People have spiritual needs, but they also have physical needs," he says. "So we are looking for ways to supply those basic needs."

With their new trajectory and TCAT information, Water of Life is seeking to become an integral part of their Bronx community for years to come.

More information about the TCAT can be found online at tcat.lifeway.com.

Coming Friday: Lakeview Church in Hickory, North Carolina.

Aaron Earls is the online editor at Lifeway Christian Resources. For the original article, visit edstetzer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Aaron Earls ) Multi-Ethnic Ministry Thu, 11 Dec 2014 16:15:00 -0500
4 Things to Remember When Investing in Young Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/20461-life-on-life-leadership http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/20461-life-on-life-leadership Growing up as a Korean immigrant in the Korean church, I always struggled with my sense of identity. I came to the United States when I was 6. Back in the ’70s, the Asian-American community was relatively small.

One of the challenges of growing up in an ethnic environment was understanding and seeing the ways Christ transcends culture. Often my culture was what defined me: I was a Korean or an Asian.

One of my biggest challenges was that I wanted to learn. I wanted to become a better pastor, a better leader. But because of my cultural context, there were a number of limitations, including a lack of mentoring or discipling. So I left the Korean church and joined an evangelical church, where I served as an intern.

There my eyes were opened. I saw ministry of the same gospel being applied in different ways, and it extended my opportunity to live out my faith.

A few years and church positions later, I knew I wanted to help young men like myself. I realized there are many potential leaders who are not being ministered to or developed for leadership because they have no point of relationship or connection.

It’s difficult for a young, second-generation Korean-American or Hispanic to go into some of the mainstream ministries. So we started a training ground for five seminary students at the church where I served as outreach pastor. Now I work with young leaders all the time, coaching and investing in them.

Here are a few things I’ve learned about leadership development:

1. Leadership development starts with a person, not a program. The No. 1 principle of any leadership development is assessment. You have to understand a person’s calling, his background, who he is. And that’s the uniqueness of the person.

It’s like evaluating a football player.You can draft him as a quarterback and make him fit the system, or you can look at him and ask, “OK, how can we help this player succeed?”

2. Nobody is where he should be or where he will be. We are all in development. And part of our job as leaders is to help younger leaders get moving toward where God wants to take them. So one of the things I say to young leaders is, “Look, my job as a pastor is to help you get where God wants you to be. I am the transitional person. I want to lead you and encourage you along that path.” In one sense, that’s what discipleship is.

3. A support system is non-negotiable. One of the things I’ve found with young leaders is that more than finance tools or a monetary investment in their church, they need and want people investment, or life investment. Young leaders have told me they would rather have somebody invest in their lives for the long haul than receive a paycheck or donation.

4. It’s about life investment. My relationship with the leaders we train is an ongoing, coaching, lifelong relationship. It’s about the person, the individual. It’s about the disciple. We need the models and the learning—that’s all good—but the information is not what’s going to make leaders succeed. It comes down to how we invest in them. Leadership development is about life. It’s a long-term commitment, a marathon instead of a sprint.

What I never had as a young leader in the Korean church was a life coach who would stick with me all the way through. So I live life with the philosophy that I want to do for someone else what was never done for me. If we’re going to impact the nation, we have to impact young leaders.

Ray Chang is the founding president of the Orange County, Calif.-based Ambassador Network, an organization that is working to launch a movement of multiplying multiethnic and missional churches, both locally and globally. Chang also planted and leads Ambassador Church in Brea, Calif. 

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webmaster@strang.com (Ray Chang) Multi-Ethnic Ministry Thu, 07 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Inside Iran: An Interview With an Iranian Pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/20393-inside-iran-an-interview-with-an-iranian-pastor http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/20393-inside-iran-an-interview-with-an-iranian-pastor Iranian-Christians-smallIran is all over the news. President Obama and President Hasan Rouhani talked just over a week ago—the first time the presidents of the two nations have spoken since 1979. This is being hailed as good news, and I tend to think that starting conversations is a good first step.

Yet even in that conversation, religious liberty became an issue. I am thankful President Obama brought up pastor Saeed Abedini to the Iranian president.

Iran is a complex place when it comes to the gospel, religious liberty and sharing Christ. Recently, I had a conversation while in Central Asia with some workers in that nation. It was a powerful and moving conversation, shared here with their permission.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer) Multi-Ethnic Ministry Wed, 02 Oct 2013 16:00:00 -0400
How to Create a Multiethnic Vision for Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/20053-today-s-invisible-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multi-ethnic-ministry/20053-today-s-invisible-church D-Min-Life Mulit-Ethnic

In 1990 my wife, Karen, and I began an endeavor that would forever change our lives. What began as a church plant became a radical reordering of our personal priorities and approach to ministry. We became painfully aware during our early days as church-planting pastors that we were far off course from God’s heart toward people of different ethnicity than us.

We slowly realized our ignorance of the daily issues that affected people of color. We also became aware that our day-to-day lives were void of any genuine friendships with non-whites. We, of course, “loved everybody.” The problem was you couldn’t tell it by our lifestyle or relationships.

I began to ask, “Why don’t our churches look like heaven?” Out of that question rose a powerful new quest in our lives.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Scott Hagan) Multi-Ethnic Ministry Wed, 15 May 2013 20:00:00 -0400
21 Culturally Diverse Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21758-f-21-culturally-diverse-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21758-f-21-culturally-diverse-churches Ministry Today launched in 2014 a special way to honor churches and ministries for their significant work. In last year's May-June issue, we highlighted and honored 21 churches and ministries for the ways in which they were influencing the 21st-century church. For 2015, however, we are taking a different approach to "Ministry Today 21," honoring congregations that are "culturally diverse on purpose."

Bayside of South Sacramento
Christian Family Church, Tampa
Concord Church, Dallas
Cornerstone Church of San Diego
Covenant Church of Pittsburgh
Disciple Central Community Church
Fellowship Memphis
First Baptist, Orlando
Guts Church, Tulsa
Hope Community Church, Detroit
International Church of Las Vegas
King's Park International Church
Lake Mary Church
Metro Community Church
Mosaic Arkansas
Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas
People's Church, Oklahoma City
Queens Alliance Church
Real Life Church, Sacramento
Trinity Church, Miami
U-City Family Church, St. Louis

Bayside of South Sacramento    BOSSONLINE.ORG

BOSS Aims to Be a 'Meaningful Bridge' in a Diverse City

Bayside of South Sacramento (BOSS) is one of the fastest-growing cross-cultural, cross-class churches in America.

BOSS' vision is "to be a healthy, radically inclusive church community that exists to make and multiply Christ followers in the Sacramento region and across the world." To fulfill that vision, the church aims to bring "hope and compassion to the community by following our mission statement: Bayside of South Sacramento is a diverse church committed to life change by reaching the lost, teaching believers and releasing leaders to serve."

"Our leadership, staff and congregation are involved in cultural diversity by being intentional in anything we do, making sure cultural diversity is represented," says Pamela Douglas, community care liaison for BOSS.

Via PROJECT 89, a mission focused on reaching those who don't attend church, the church is showing its members want to reach the whole community, which is also diverse with a significant minority population of Asians and African-Americans.

"We reach people with the love and grace of God in Jesus," says Pamela Douglas, Community Care Liaison for BOSS. "Every person and every ministry plays a role in fulfilling our mission to reach the 89 percent of people in the Sacramento region who don't attend church. We want to embrace and develop relationships with people, meet their immediate needs, and build a creative and meaningful bridge to engage them in a worshipful environment and spiritual experience at BOSS."

In a concerted effort to maintain the ministry of its beloved late pastor, Bishop Sherwood C. Carthen, BOSS focuses intently on ministry beyond the walls of the church through partnerships to bring hope and compassion to the community, including Loaves and Fishes, Mary House, Safe Haven, Prison Ministries/Youth Detention, Sacramento Steps Forward, St. John's Shelter, Cops and Clergy, Mack Road Partnership and Season of Service. As BOSS searches for a permanent pastor, transitional pastor Stanley Long works to provide pastoral care, leadership and stability to the BOSS family.  —Kathleen Samuelson

Christian Family Church, Tampa    CFCTAMPA.ORG

Practicing the 'Age-Old Heart of God'

Christian Family Church co-pastors Rob and Jennifer Mallan want to see the city of Tampa transformed. They founded Christian Family Church (CFC) five years ago with fewer than 20 friends. Today, the church has outgrown three locations and sees about 600 attend Sunday services. The congregation is almost equal parts Caucasian, African-American and Hispanic, with other races and ethnicities also in the mix.

"If the pastor is not culturally diverse, the church is not going to be," says Pastor Rob Mallan, whose family includes two African-American adopted sons and their biological children.

CFC stresses the "family" part of its name, keeping members connected to each other continuously through Facebook, email and pastoral recorded phone-call reminders of events and services. The church offers charismatic services that blend contemporary worship music with Spanish and black gospel flavor, with sets combining Hillsong and Israel Houghton music, and songs in English and Spanish. While the lead pastors are Caucasian, the staff and leadership reflect the diverse makeup of the members.

"We honor culture and celebrate cultural diversity too," Mallan says. "On Dr. Martin Luther King Day, we celebrate. We honor Hispanic celebrations. We want to honor the cultures inside our church and reflect that in our leadership."

The church offers headsets with Spanish translation and sign language.

CFC builds up its members with programs on Christian Growth Seminars in English and Spanish, marriage and parenting classes and a Bible college through its affiliation with Christian Family Church International in Johannesburg, South Africa. The church has expanded to Ouanaminthe, Haiti, where services are being held and a building is in the works.

"God created diversity," Jennifer Mallan says. "Why would we in the 21st century think any of that has changed? We're just practicing the age-old heart of God. When you just love people no matter what color wrapping paper they were wrapped in or culture they were born into or heritage God chose for them, when you just love them and see their destiny, that's what God attracts to the body."

Regarding the church, "it's a battle we all have to contend with for unity in the body," Rob says. "My wife and I always say prejudice is a sin issue, not a color issue."  —Natalie Gillespie

Concord Church, Dallas    CONCORDDALLAS.ORG

Dallas Church Aims to Be Proactive in Building Bridges

Concord Church Senior Pastor Bryan Carter is excited about what's happening with pastors in Dallas. Through the international Movement Day, he and Dr. Jeff Warren were asked to bring other pastors together to collaborate on ways to help their community. Warren is white; Carter is black. The two realized they were only connecting with pastors of their own race, so they decided to sit their two groups down together.

"Then Ferguson happened, and we realized we all needed to have some conversations about how to preach about it, how we viewed it differently and what our responses should be if something like that happened in our city," Carter says.

Carter said his vision for his 5,500 congregants is to be proactive in building bridges and becoming more diverse. His staff includes black, white and Hispanic members, and he is partnered with Warren's primarily white Park Cities Baptist Church to "switch" pulpits and choirs at least one Sunday a year.

"We are even looking at trying to develop some curriculum or small group curriculum around racial reconciliation that could be used in churches all over Dallas," Carter said. "I'm pretty active in my city, and what I keep discovering is that people who need us could care less what color the church is. They just want the church to respond."

Carter said the church works well together in big crises, but it's harder to build continuing relationships.

"We're a small group now of 15 to 20 pastors, but our hope is to enlarge it even more," Carter said. "I don't think you ever get to the point where you think, 'We've done this. It's accomplished.' It's an ongoing work."  —Natalie Gillespie

Cornerstone Church of San Diego    TURNINGTHEHEARTS.COM

Challenging the Church to Build a Kingdom Culture

Though Cornerstone Church of San Diego has been shaped by Hispanic leaders, Pastor Sergio De La Mora and other church leaders are intentional about making sure that it is not viewed as a Hispanic church or even a multicultural church but as a congregation shaped by and grounded in "kingdom culture."

"We adhere to the culture of God's kingdom, and we're determined not to allow decisions [that could be mired in cultural perspectives] to separate us," says Leticia Ventura, chief innovation officer.

For example, in Hispanic culture, Ventura observes that many churches follow their culture's emphasis on the importance of a small, close-knit family and, therefore, prefer that the church remain small too.

"Instead, we encourage the people to go out to the highways and byways and bring people in, as Christ taught in Luke 14:23," she says.

Ventura has seen the congregation get behind various initiatives across the church's five campuses that would otherwise be foreign to their culture.

"People understand that something impacts them simply because they are a part of the kingdom, not because they necessarily personally are a part of that program," she says.

When De La Mora and his wife, Georgina, founded Cornerstone in 1998, they focused on turning the hearts of people back to God and their families, building strong families and helping people see their God-given potential. Guiding people to see that they are part of a spiritual family in the kingdom of God—which matters just as much as the one they were born into—is a message that shapes the church's mission.

Getting beyond polite conversation happens in family life groups. Here, the focus is on doing life together as God's family. De La Mora emphasizes that, as it says in Ephesians 3, it is the "manifold wisdom of God that puts us together."

Yet, Ventura admits, "It's a delicate dance." The church seeks to honor the cultures represented within its body, but also to raise up leaders relationally who grasp not only the beauty of the culture they were born into, but that which they've been born into a second time through Christ.  —Deonne Lindsey

Covenant Church of Pittsburgh    CCOP.ORG

Cultural Discussions Cultivate Greater Understanding

During a season of exponential growth in the late 1980s, Covenant Church of Pittsburgh realized that the congregation led by Bishop Joseph Garlington needed to do more to create better understanding among the members of its diverse body.

"We knew that we had to develop better relationships," says Pastor Robert Menges.

Thus began a tradition that has continued ever since. Leadership of the Western Pennsylvania church gathered a core group of 100-150 people from the congregation representing a variety of cultures to spend a half-day discussing differences in backgrounds and cultures and sharing perspectives over a meal.

"We found there were a lot of things people had an expectation of that were not necessarily realistic or true," Menges says. "For example, it seemed like people were thought to be unwelcoming or unfriendly if they didn't say 'Hi' every time you saw them or if they didn't greet you immediately."

In reality, however, such simple things had more to do with personality than culture.

Other differences, Menges notes, were small but were just as enlightening.
"We would eat together and realize that we eat different kinds of foods in some ways, but many of the same kinds of foods," Menges says. "A lot of the cooking that people tended to associate with African-American culture was really more southern than anything. People started to see that even among people from the same culture, there were differences and that a lot of what we grew up preferring simply had to do with what was common in our families."

These core group meetings have done much to eliminate assumptions and erroneous perspectives and guide the church toward understanding each other's differences with a new perspective.

"For us," Menges says, "it's been an amazing way to engage people and take relationships to a whole different level."  —Deonne Lindsey

Disciple Central Community Church    DC3ONLINE.ORG

DC3 Grows While Using 'Tools to Diversify'

Pastor Marcus King started "DC3," Disciple Central Community Church in 2008 and has watched God grow the church to around 3,200 attendees at three services. Located in the predominantly African-American town of DeSoto in southern Dallas County, the church's ethnic makeup is roughly 90 percent African-American with the remaining 10 percent being Hispanic and Caucasian.

"We have a growing Hispanic and Caucasian population in the area and in our church," says Pastor Marcus King. "One of our missions is to express Christ through culture, so we have a lot of partnerships with multicultural organizations."

DC3 has created J.A.I.L. Community (Justice Agencies Incarcerated Legal) to offer legal aid and visits to those who are incarcerated. It participates in Great Days of Service, a week in which churches get together to beautify the city of DeSoto. The church offers a job fair, employment-readiness training, a clothes closet and a food pantry. It hosts workout classes, Bible studies and counseling services, and participates in events like the Walk to End Lupus. The church has even partnered with the local police to offer help on domestic dispute calls.

"It's crazy to not try to go out and meet your community," says King. "When you are intentional about the Great Commission, different cultures will certainly gravitate toward the church."

The church plans to hire a bilingual staff member to help reach the area's Hispanic population. Many Hispanics visit the church during its free immunization program, and DC3 would like to add a Spanish worship service in the future.

"We have the tools to diversify and now we're doing it," King says. "We really want to be intentional about whom we reach. When I started the church back in 2008, God gave me a vision that it would be a multicultural church."  —Ann Byle


Fellowship Memphis    FELLOWSHIPMEMPHIS.ORG

Memphis Church Aims to Raise the 'Racial IQ' of Its Community

Dr. John Bryson had a dream to see more racial equality in the body of Christ. So he and about 30 family members and friends moved from Texas and other parts of the country to Memphis, Tennessee, to plant a church that would "raise the racial IQ" of its congregation and community.

Fellowship Memphis opened its doors in 2003 and now draws about 1,700 to its weekly services in downtown, East Memphis and Germantown. Bryson and about 60 percent of his congregation are white, 30-35 percent are African-American, and 5-10 percent are Asian and other ethnicities.

"We wanted to see the church make great strides—intergenerational, socio-economic, and with racial and cultural diversity," Bryson says. "We felt like if God can do that here in Memphis, a few miles from where Dr. King was assassinated, if we can rally around the gospel and be part of a movement to rechurch the South, then we can ultimately help press this issue into the whole country."

Fellowship Memphis makes race a focal point of its mission, reading books together on race and holding workshops, conferences and small group conversations around black-white issues, and ensuring its staff and elders represent the diversity in Memphis.

"It's a factor in every decision we make," Bryson says. "We believe everything changes when you are talking in proximity and in relationship. We recently had about 250 members, half Caucasian and half African-American, sit down for a discussion. I had an African-American mom share about raising African-American boys and how she has to teach them how to deal with the police. When that mom is part of your family, part of your church, someone you have relationship with, that changes things."

Bryson says Fellowship Memphis encourages members to become a part of each other's daily lives.

"Slowly, there has been some incredible progress," he says.

Since the church is known for being on the "offensive" on racial issues, Bryson said it has been able to hold forums on issues such as the Trayvon Martin and Michael Brown cases. He says even with racial flare-ups around the country, his church has been able to continue the conversation about race in a way that is growing relationships.

"The frustration, at times, is when people hold onto their race and culture tighter than the body of Christ," Bryson says. "Dr. King said 60 years ago that 11:00 on Sunday morning was the most segregated hour in America. We thought we could help change that. God created every combination of people, so I like to say if people don't like a diverse church, they're gonna hate heaven."   —Natalie Gillespie  

First Baptist, Orlando    FIRSTORLANDO.COM

Saying Yes to 'a Church for Everybody'

First Baptist Church of Orlando never set out to be a culturally diverse church, though roughly 45 percent of attendees at the 19,000-member church is part of an ethnic minority group.

"The mission was not to integrate," says Senior Pastor David Uth. "The mission was not to create a diverse church. The mission was to reach this city. It just happens that [the] city was diverse."

Indeed, in the last 15 years, the Central Florida city has seen a growing number of residents from Haiti, Brazil and Puerto Rico. As a result, First Baptist now translates its English services into Spanish and Portuguese, has small groups for specific languages, including Russian and Mandarin, and hosts worship services in Creole and Portuguese, with tentative plans for Spanish and Arabic services.

But church leaders say they didn't necessarily pursue those ministry opportunities. In some cases, an individual offered to translate worship services into a particular language. In other cases, members asked for a language-specific small group. In every case, the church had a ready response.

"Our answer to everything is yes," says Danny de Armas, senior associate pastor. "We didn't create a model that says everything has to fit this way as much as we created a climate that says we want this to be a church for everybody."

De Armas, who is of Cuban descent, notes that sometimes hearing the gospel in one's "heart language" can make the message clearer. But church leaders are eager to build unity in the midst of their diversity, which is why language-specific events are never held at the same time as the church's main worship services.

"We want to connect with [people] in [their] heart language, but we don't want to segregate," de Armas says.

For First Baptist, building unity amid diversity also means being intentional about including the language ministries in every part of the church. The language ministry staff is part of the larger church staff, and they manage budgets, just like the church's other ministries do. Members of the language ministries serve as deacons and leaders in the church.

In the English worship services, choruses are sometimes sung in Spanish or Portuguese. Uth believes there is a beauty in seeing people from diverse cultures come together in worship because the church begins to look more like heaven. But he doesn't chide churches that are not densely diverse. Not every church exists in a community with as much diversity as Orlando, but he believes every church should reflect its community.

Although First Baptist is large, de Armas says a church's size doesn't have to determine its commitment to diversity. He says he's seen smaller churches that are doing even more to reach their diverse communities and larger churches that are doing very little.

Uth says pastors must first desire to become culturally diverse. Then they must lead by example and teach their way through change, emphasizing what the Bible says about diversity, such as the fact that God doesn't have favorites.

"Change for change is not good," Uth says. "Change because it reflects the Scripture, that's good."

While First Baptist is aggressive in its efforts to meet the needs of its changing community, de Armas says the church still has a lot to learn. He knows there are times when ethnic minorities visit the church and don't have the experience church leadership would like them to have.

"Our desire's there, and our congregation's desire is there to be the church that we feel God's called us to be," de Armas says. "But we still know that we have a lot of room to grow, a lot of ways that we can keep being welcoming to everybody, because all people matter to God, not just English-speaking American Christians."   —Adrienne Gaines 

Guts Church, Tulsa    GUTSCHURCH.COM

Reaching People That No One Else Can

Guts Church started its mission in 1992 outside of the box, and  continues to take that same approach to reach all kinds of people for Christ. Pioneered by Bill and Sandy Scheer in Tulsa, Oklahoma, they "believed God for diversity because at that time, the church at large was not diverse."

Guts continues to celebrate diversity today in a number of ways.

"We don't see diversity just as ethnicity, but any way people could be seen as divided: rich or poor, young or old," Bill Scheer says. "Our motto early in the church was to be relatable, authentic and genuine."

"We reach people no one else can," he adds. "That is how we look at it. So we want to be good at reaching the unchurched. We want to affirm the unloved, those who would usually be uncomfortable in church. When the church started, we initially attracted the biker community and those that would be considered 'alternative.' "

Every June, Guts Church hosts a Motorcycle Rally that reaches two communities: the local biker community and a community of orphans on the island of La Gonave, Haiti. The proceeds are used to feed children and drill water wells in Haiti.

Pastor Bill has given his life to the local church, a place that has sometimes been difficult for people.

"People who didn't like the idea of church weren't people who hadn't experienced it, but people who had a bad experience with it."

So he continually encourages his staff to truly understand the congregation.

"We have to find people's pace, tempo and rhythm. I'm constantly preaching to our staff and leaders that we have to be ahead of the game, we need to be out front—with honor, value, dignity."

Those three words inform the way Bill pastors. Honor. Value. Dignity. He takes his message to men, challenging them to display those characteristics, asking them difficult, pointed questions.

These three words also color the way he views racism. Although racial tension does exist, he has made a choice not to feed the issue.

"We make it a non-issue. If we make it an issue, it then becomes an issue," he says. "Within our range of motion, it boils down to the simplicity of honor. If we honor people, they're going to line up to the door to get in."

And as they file in, they'll see a variety of people on the worship team.

"We are intentional in having a diverse worship team. People have to be able to connect with who is on stage."

"I want to offer the solution," he says. "The answer to racism is always Jesus."

But he cautions that Satan often wants to stir up strife and battles.

"The enemy is going to pick a fight with us. The war's already been won. We're not going back to France to fight the Germans because the war is over. That's what a lot of this is. The tension we see today is frustration."

He stressed that a right relationship with God helps people deal with their frustration because He provides the kind of hope that won't disappoint.

Pastor Bill believes great growth comes from helping youth.

"You want to get into the heart of a family you help their kids," he says.

They have developed an unconventional way to reach the kids in their community every October. It's called "Nightmare," and it reaches thousands in their community with message of Jesus. "Nightmare" is a re-enactment of the top killers of teenagers, and it also portrays the price Christ paid on their behalf.

Guts Church also reaches families through a weekly grocery giveaway, a monthly men's lunch and a weekly Hispanic church service.

"I believe that everything should flow from the church—it's covenant," he says. "We communicate that God loves you where you are, but He doesn't want you to stay that way."

With an emphasis on growth (with steady, consistent growth for 23 years), there is also a foundation of grace.

"It is hard for me to look at someone who is in sin and judge them because of what God saved me from," says Scheer. "The grace of God and His mercies have been so powerful in my life."

Guts Church has become a safe place for those who felt marginalized.

"Those that felt they were dirty or an outcast have found a place to connect."  —Mary DeMuth


Hope Community Church, Detroit    HOPEDETROIT.ORG

Crossing the 'Berlin Wall' of Race With Love

Kevin Butcher has a rich heritage of connecting across the so-called "racial divide" in America, but the Hope Community Church pastor didn't know that part of his family history until his seminary days.

Taking a course on Pentecostal history, Butcher kept seeing his grandfather's name, David Wesley Myland, come up in all of his textbooks. Myland—principal Bible teacher and mentor of J. Roswell Flower, who was prominent in early leadership of the Assemblies of God—married a gifted young woman named Lela who played piano for Aimee Semple McPherson at the historic Angelus Temple in Los Angeles.

"My Caucasian grandfather pastored an almost completely African-American church in Detroit in the 1930s, over 20 years before the end of Jim Crow [racial segregation laws]," says Butcher. "After his death, my grandmother carried on his legacy, so as a child, I was exposed to very diverse, storefront-type Pentecostal churches at least co-led by my grandmother, revival services and healing services where all different kinds of human beings worshipped together."

Butcher, who is writing Love Will Bring You Home, a NavPress book on how the love of God restores us, believes that the passion of his grandparents for a diverse church was birthed somewhere deep in his spirit. His congregation, Hope Community Church (HCC), is located in "a very tough, largely impoverished, crime-ridden, drug-infested area of Detroit's east side, a neighborhood that happens to be 95 percent African-American," says Butcher, who also pointed out that the church building sits about six blocks south of a gateway into an increasingly affluent and increasingly Caucasian group of suburban neighborhoods called the Grosse Pointes.

"But Alter Road, the dividing road between the city of Detroit and these suburbs, sometimes seems like the old Berlin Wall, separating human beings both racially and economically," he says. "We feel that our call, in Jesus' name, is to be ambassadors, a reconciling community, demonstrating to everyone in our communities on both sides of "the wall" that there really is a way for us to heal, come together and live in deep and true shalom with one another. In fact, we feel that if we do not live out the gospel in that way, we are literally spitting on the cross of our Jesus."

Hope Community Church is on mission "to reconcile all people to God and one another in Jesus Christ." With a church body consisting of about 55 percent Caucasian, 40 percent African-American and 5 percent Latino/Asian-American/other, HCC's worship attendance averages 220-275, while those who call the church "home" runs at about 400-450. The church's ministry staff also features significant variety in race and ethnicity, from African-American to Albanian to Native American and more.

"Multiethnic churches aren't supposed to be a cute option, but the very essence of what the body of Christ is as a healing community," says Butcher.

More than church programming and outreach strategies, the love of Christ is the driving force that is foundational to Butcher's ministry. Without that love, and the healing of wounds that comes with it, a congregation can get "stuck" in repeat mode.

"The body gets 'stuck' in unpacking ethnic and racial wounds—which absolutely need to be unpacked—but which cannot be unpacked without the foundation of the love of Jesus Christ bonding us together for the journey. Without that love, we get frustrated, feel misunderstood, unheard and disrespected—and bolt. With that love that bonds us together in a common identity—brothers and sisters in Jesus ('Christ is all and in all,' Col. 3:11)—we have the foundation we need to unpack 'the mess' and heal—for years and years, if that is what it takes."

Butcher believes the church is truly the church when the body has an "intentional, loving space created for all people," he says. "Not just, 'Hey, they can come and be with us if they want,' but rather, 'We must work in Jesus' name at creating space, so all will know they are equally loved and have a home here in our midst. In fact, we will not settle for anything less.' "   —Christine D. Johnson

International Church of Las Vegas    ICLV.COM

Celebrating a Multicultural Model That Works

The International Church of Las Vegas has developed a winning formula: Honor God and One Another.

Although Las Vegas is famous for a number of reasons, many do not know that it is home to the highest concentration of megachurches in America. Recently, MSNBC took a look at some of this city's burgeoning congregations (msnbc.com/msnbc/megachurches-the-shadow-sin-citys -strip), and among the most notable was the International Church of Las Vegas (ICLV).

This unique assembly is certainly newsworthy for its size and location, but it is also known for its intentional approach to diversity. ICLV celebrates the blending of the many cultures and nationalities that make up its congregation, and the evidence of this is everywhere. At Summerlin, their main campus (one of four), the flags of more than 30 nations are suspended from the ceiling, representing the native countries of members of the church.

It wasn't this way when Pastors Paul and Denise Goulet arrived with their family in 2002. Then the congregation was mostly white. "I started preaching about not having prejudice, and saying that the church would be a multicultural, multilingual and multigenerational church," says Pastor Paul Goulet. "We would purposefully target people of different colors, backgrounds and experiences. We really made this a huge issue, and when it happened, we started celebrating."

Worship services and even small groups are provided in several languages, including French, Spanish and Greek. Sunday services are translated, and headphones and special listening equipment are provided. Those who livestream church services on the Internet have the option of choosing an English, French or Spanish language broadcast.

Each week, Goulet offers a simple greeting to Spanish- and French-speaking congregants in their own languages. On occasion, the church has welcomed guest speakers who will use someone to translate the message.

Creative Director Douglas Haines told Ministry Today that ICLV takes the mandate to "Go into all the world" literally. "A lot of the world is at our doorstep," he says. "We have an incredibly diverse community in the Las Vegas area, and we make specific efforts to be all things to all men."

One way this is done is by establishing congregations in different parts of the city. Along with the Summerlin location, Prayer Mountain and South Gate campuses are situated in mostly middle-class and upper middle-class residential communities. The church's Dream Center location targets the specific needs commonly associated with the inner city.

Nearly 10,000 members come together to worship at either one of the ICLV campuses, or by way of its online portal. Like the congregation, the church staff and the pastoral team reflect a wide range of nationalities and cultures—African-Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Greeks, Hawaiians, French Canadians and Ethiopians.

The church's worship music (traditional gospel songs and modern choruses) reflects the congregation's different cultural and ethnic styles and influences. As for ICLV's Web presence, Haines acknowledges that every component is "intentionally diverse to reflect the type of congregation we have—old, young and different ethnicities."

Pastor Goulet says it's the preaching of the Good News of Jesus that draws people. However, cultivating a cohesive spiritual family requires an added element.

"Honor is something that ICLV values above all else," he explains, "[honor] for God first, and then for each other, no matter who you are or what you look like."

He imagines heaven with people of different colors, languages and backgrounds, and he labors to make this a reality at ICLV. In the same way, he sees a different future emerging for his city than the one many are promoting.

"The whole world comes to Las Vegas," he says. "I believe that pretty soon, the reason they come here will be for the presence of God."   —Brenda Davis

King's Park International Church    KINGSPARK.ORG

College-Area Church Seeks to Tear Down Walls of Separation

Launched on the University of North Carolina (UNC) campus as a congregation of mostly white college students, today King's Park International Church reaches into the heart of inner-city Durham.

"We choose to embrace the city 'poor' and do what we can to tear down that wall of separation by underscoring the need to be together, work together and go to church together," says Senior Pastor Ron Lewis, who started the UNC ministry.

"Often the issue is not skin color, but the socio-economic barrier. Many in urban neighborhoods feel the alienation, which we try to tear down with our on-site presence and ministries."

Kings started crossing the cultural gap between the college campus and Durham's housing projects by establishing an inner-city learning center in the early 1980s. That eventually swelled its numbers, led to countless conversions, and prompted the building of a 2,200-seat sanctuary in the area.

Today the 1,250 people who attend each week are an ethnic stew of approximately 80 ethnicities. They largely divide into 40 percent white, 40 percent African-American, and 20 percent Asian or Hispanic.

"From the beginning we were called to build on the 'fault line' of ethnic tension and division," says Lewis, whose church has planted 65 others in 17 nations.

"All our campus ministries and church plants are similarly diverse. Although it's not always easy, building diverse congregations is certainly rewarding and we'd have it no other way."

In addition to the learning center, Lewis says the church sought to cross racial barriers by sponsoring listening sessions where Caucasian ministers could hear from people of color and minority groups.

Despite the passage of time, they learned that many in the African-American community still carried pain from the Civil Rights era. While many of the younger people lived in a new world, their parents and grandparents did not; Lewis says many hearts and minds changed as a result of these sessions.

After listening to residents' concerns, the church developed a multiethnic leadership team to help maintain a unity of vision and purpose. This reality is reflected from the platform during its worship services, with both singers and pastors coming from various backgrounds.

This multicultural shift included broadening worship styles. At King's, music specials can range from classical piano to urban Christian hip hop to Full Gospel. The unusual repertoire has featured African-American gospel singers performing in Italian and Chinese singers rapping.

The latter come from the Chinese Mandarin-speaking congregation that meets at the same time on Sunday morning, an hour before a Spanish-speaking service meets in another location.

This commitment to diversity extends to neighboring campuses—the church supports full-time pastors at Duke University and historically-black North Carolina Central University.

King's also purchased a facility to serve as a home base for the famed African Children's Choir during their national tours of the United States.

Its Life Center offers after-school activities for students in kindergarten through 12th grade. The center also has a teen club to develop leaders and prevent juvenile crime. A parental enrichment program there includes a variety of educational seminars.

Each year the Durham church holds a special service connected to Martin Luther King Day or Black History Month. This year's late-February observance honored recently deceased gospel singer Andrae Crouch. Its annual Celebrate the Nations Sunday encourages all nationalities to participate by wearing native attire, with prayer offered for the nations in their native tongues.

Lewis calls the spirit of reconciliation the centerpiece of the church, stretching back to the 1990s and the book Beyond Roots: In Search of Blacks in the Bible by William Dwight McKissic Sr.

The pastor says moving beyond traditional boundaries should characterize the church, reflecting the way Jesus violated Jewish sensibilities by reaching out to the Samaritan woman at the well. Like Him, Lewis believes the church should stop avoiding uncomfortable issues.

"We need to deal with our prejudices, our pride, our festering wounds and the homogeneity we've made our comfort zones," Lewis says. "A reconciled people understand that it's going to take change in us before we can change the world."

In North Carolina and beyond, King's Park International Church is striving to do just that.   —Ken Walker  


Lake Mary Church     LAKEMARYCHURCH.COM

Pastor Refocuses From Ethnic Ministry to Evangelizing All

Pastor Shaddy Soliman made it his mission to reach Central Florida's Arabic community for Christ, but after eight years, he felt God was redirecting him to all of the lost, not just to one people group.

"I was focusing on reaching the Arabs, but then I found out for every one in a thousand who speaks Arabic whom I'm trying to reach, I pass by 999 who all need Jesus just as much," Soliman says. "So we made it our business that we will welcome everyone and not just to say so, but literally that we welcome everyone and we do life together."

The cultural diversity that comprises Lake Mary Church (LMC) begins in the Soliman home.

"The diversity starts with me and Amy," says Soliman. "I'm from Egypt, my wife is from the [American] South. ... We believe the body of Christ should reflect the community, so whatever the community looks like, that's how the church service should be."

Although Pastor Soliman was careful to affirm other ministries if they take a different approach, he feels strongly that Lake Mary Church is to be a church for all peoples.

"We have a dying world around us, and this is not the time to spend our energy and effort in ministry to build a culture or to exalt an ethnic group," says Soliman. "This is a time to really win people for Jesus and truly make disciples. Our mission statement is to honor God and make disciples, and this is what we do."

The congregation wanted to intentionally break the pattern of Hispanics going to a Hispanic church, Arabs attending an Arabic church and so on—everyone worshipping with their own type—believing that that's not what the body of Christ is supposed to be.

Based in Lake Mary in the Orlando metro area, LMC finds itself in an ethnically diverse state, and the church is affiliated with Every Nation Churches, a worldwide movement of churches and campus ministries.

"Cultural diversity is our DNA with Every Nation, so we were determined to establish and achieve that in Lake Mary," Soliman says, observing that the city of Lake Mary is "very segregated in many different ways," which makes the task all the more difficult.

The church launched Easter Sunday five years ago in Lake Mary High School, and it still has a strong youth focus with the church's full-time youth director, Tom Breckwoldt, serving students at five area high school campuses.

Many of those who were in on LMC's launch were second-generation Arabs who had merged into American culture, but as of early 2013, 18 countries were represented in LMC, which now has three services, one with Spanish translation.

Diversity is valued among church leadership as well.

"Our leadership team is so diverse it's not even funny," Soliman says. "We have Hispanic, blacks, Arabs, Asians."

The congregation also does not offer different-language small groups.

"Discipleship is pretty much small-group driven, so if you separate ethnic groups, then you're not multiethnic," says Soliman. "You just brought them all under one umbrella. A true multiethnic is everybody putting their differences behind and uniting around something greater than them. ... We're all united around something greater than our background, that is to make disciples. Because we're all eager to make disciples, that causes us to seek whoever we can reach."

As for congregations that have foreign-language services within their church, Soliman believes they haven't truly united.

"None of these people left their ethnic background just turned away from that and went after one vision, everybody working together," he says. "That's what makes a huge difference. That's what you see in LMC, a bunch of people from all walks of life and literally from every background you could imagine all working together on the same team, worshipping together in the same service.

"America's a melting pot, so if some work together in the workplace and we could live in the same neighborhood, all from different backgrounds, why can't we worship Jesus together?"   —Christine D. Johnson

Metro Community Church    EMETRO.ORG

Metro Taps Into Creativity of New Jersey Congregation's Diverse Demographic

Metro Community Church in Englewood, New Jersey embraces the cultural diversity that is its hallmark. About 70 percent of attendees are Asian (primarily Korean Americans and Chinese), 15 percent are African-American, 10 percent Latino and five percent Caucasian. Metro's staff reflects that makeup as well.

Tending to this diverse church population and the surrounding community is best played out at Metro via its deep and varied arts programs. Staff and volunteers, led by Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots TV star Angela Robinson who has attended Metro for years, are dedicated to bringing the arts into the worship service, digital aspects of the church (graphics, print media) and into the community.

"Art is important because the church has surrendered the arts to the world," says Lead Pastor Peter Ahn. "God created the arts, and God has called us to call the arts back to Him. The arts are a powerful language in portraying the gospel."

Metro offers events like Open Studio, at which people can create their own art—painting, mosaic, fabric arts and more, which can then be sold to raise money for charitable organizations the church supports. A summer arts program reaches at-risk kids in the neighborhood.

"The kids love it because it's an opportunity for them to engage in the arts," Ahn says. "We have singing, dancing, painting among many other things."

Church services and special programs highlight Black, Asian, Spanish and Caribbean History Months. Classes provide opportunities to learn jewelry making, quilting, pottery and painting.

"A lot of people in our church had a creative side growing up, but their parents wanted them to learn skills that would get them a job," says Ahn. "We like to encourage people to embrace their creative side."

Metro Community Church is intentional about tapping into the creativity of its diverse population both inside and outside the church.

"The arts are a major vehicle in how we reach the community," Ahn says.   —Ann Byle

Mosaic Church of Central Arkansas    MOSAICCHURCH.NET

Being a 'Credible Witness of God's Love for All'

Founding Pastor of Mosaic Church (Little Rock, Arkansas) Mark DeYmaz has built a multiethnic, economically diverse church with men and women from more than 30 nations. Together, they seek to fulfill the Great Commission "through the intentional support and mobilization of believers involved in cross-cultural evangelism and multi-ethnic church planting."

"It's not so much that cultural diversity is a core value of the church," says DeYmaz. "Rather, we value reconciling diverse men and women to God through faith in Jesus Christ and, likewise, reconciling our local church to the principles and practices of New Testament churches, such as existed at Antioch, Ephesus and Rome, in which diverse men and women walked, worked and worshipped God together as one, in order that we might present a credible witness of God's love for all people in an increasingly diverse and cynical society."

DeYmaz has written two Leadership Network books on the multi-ethnic church: Building a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church (Jossey-Bass) and Leading a Healthy Multi-ethnic Church: Mixing Diversity Into Your Local Church (Zondervan). His newest title on the subject is an iBook-format curriculum he created for church members.

"New members are immediately placed in an eight-week small group centered on our curriculum, The Multi-ethnic Christian Life Primer," DeYmaz continues. "We not only cast the vision consistently, we take intentional steps and make purposeful decisions regarding leadership placement, development, staffing and congregational life, to do more than dream, but turn vision to reality."

The multi-ethnic primer helps members understand "the biblical mandate for the multi-ethnic church" and gain "practical insight for doing life together with diverse others beyond the distinctions of this world that so often and otherwise divide."

That sense of purpose, combined with the curriculum, helps church members, staff and leadership put their vision into practice: "To be a healthy multi-ethnic and economically diverse church in order to present a credible witness of God's love for all people throughout Central Arkansas and beyond."

The vision statement comes to life through a variety of services for the local community. Using the Real Community Transformation (RCT) Model for their community outreach, Mosaic helps more than 18,500 people receive three to four days' worth of food each month that costs the church less than $1,000 a month and also provides free immigration legal services to 300 people. Among other projects, the church has renovated trailers for Habitat for Humanity to house women rescued from a life of drugs and prostitution—and has helped lower crime by 10 percent in a 1-square-mile radius of the church.  —Kathleen Samuelson


Park Cities Baptist Church, Dallas    PCBC.ORG

Movement Day Joins White and Black Churches

When Dr. Jeff Warren became senior pastor of Park Cities Baptist Church in Dallas a few years ago, the fact that his 11,000-member congregation was almost all wealthy and white didn't really faze him.

"In some ways, Dallas is like a tale of two cities, with the affluent white northern side and the southern side of the city that is very much black," Warren said. "The reality is that our paths never really cross."

Then Warren became involved in the Dallas chapter of Movement Day, an international effort to form leadership teams in the world's largest cities to foster collaborative partnerships and change those cities. Pastor Bryan Carter of Concord Church also joined the Dallas Movement Day team and soon became Warren's close friend.

"Bryan is black and pastors a primarily black megachurch on the opposite end of Dallas," Warren said. "A mutual friend told me I needed to meet Bryan. He said Bryan was a mirror image of me in black form."

Racial reconciliation wasn't a hot button at Park Cities before Warren met Carter. In fact, it wasn't even on the radar. But the pastors' friendship began to change that.

"Bryan and I always say the gospel moves at the speed of relationship," Warren said. "We decided to team up to introduce our congregations to each other by guest speaking in each other's pulpits, bringing our worship teams to each other's churches and speaking together about racial reconciliation on Movement Day panels."  

The result? The church has a growing awareness, understanding and love for all the skin colors God created and the challenges and life experiences that come with different races, ethnicities and cultures.

"All people look at life through the lens of their race," Warren says. "But our identity is not found in our race. Our identity is found in Christ. The gospel is greater than our color. Until the watching world sees the church come together so the entire body of Christ is unified, they will not believe us."    —Natalie Gillespie

People's Church, Oklahoma City    PEOPLESCHURCH.TV

Church Entry Points Help Make All Visitors Feel Included

Sit in a worship service at any one of the three campuses of People's Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and you'll notice that like a photo taken at the water's edge, the people on the stage are a mirror image of those in the seats.

"Each campus is diverse," says Josh Brown, executive pastor. "But whatever the community looks like [in that location], that's what we reflect."

That approach is one People's Church also plans to use when it opens a location in Indianapolis, Indiana, this fall. It's a top-down approach, from leadership to teaching pastors to greeters.

While managing rotations and ratios within the volunteer schedules can be challenging to ensure that the faces that greet people on Sunday are diverse, Brown says it's something that the church is intentional about, as it is with considerations like song selection. Each of those choices is part of a big picture that provides an entry point for any visitor to feel included in the family of faith.

"Our philosophy is to focus on what we have in common, rather than on what race or background we each may come from," Brown says. "We focus on foundational truths—the majors—concepts such as there being one way to heaven and the fact that Jesus Christ is Lord.

For that reason, he says, events like baptisms are a major focus because they point toward a common culture.

These events also provide natural opportunities to encourage people to bring their families and focus on the next generation. As a family of believers, People's Church believes that looking forward to the next generation is perhaps the best way to reflect the forward momentum and unity within God's people.   —Deonne Lindsey

Queens Alliance Church    QCAC.ORG

Getting on the Same Multicultural Church Bus

Tennis fans know Flushing as the home of the famed U.S. Open. David Smith knows this part of the New York City borough of Queens as home to Queens Christian Alliance Church (QCAC).

"The identity and calling of QCAC is being multiethnic, multicongregational, multilanguage and multicultural," Smith says. "We have three congregations–English, Spanish, Mandarin."

Smith, who describes himself as a "white American pastor" is in the minority at his Christian & Missionary Alliance church. Typically, the church sees predominantly American-born Chinese and Filipinos in its English-language service; representation from various South American countries in its Spanish service; and young adults and college students from China and Taiwan in its Mandarin service.

QCAC is "one church with one budget under one senior pastor and one governing board," Smith says, noting he has one overriding goal: "to build unity in community with everybody on the bus moving forward in the same direction together."

QCAC also started what Smith calls a "church-wide, worship-based, God-encountering prayer gathering." Those who do not understand English can use translation equipment.

"Though we speak different languages," Smith says, "we share the common language of prayer!"   —Christine D. Johnson


Real Life Church, Sacramento    ENJOYREALLIFE.COM

Leading a Church That 'Looks Like Heaven'

Real Life Church marks its ninth anniversary this year, but for Lead Pastor Scott Hagan, the multicultural, multisite church is the continuation of a story that stretches back to 1990. That's when Hagan planted a different church just south of Sacramento, California. Located in an area once noted for Ku Klux Klan activity, Harvest Church today has a congregation of 2,000-plus and is 70 percent African-American.

"That's where the term 'The church that looks like heaven' began," says Hagan, who recently attended Harvest's 25th-anniversary service. "I travel all over the nation, and you'd be hard-pressed to find something as supernatural as what's happened at Harvest Church and Real Church."

The Assembly of God church planter led Harvest for 11 years before relocating across the country to serve an already-established church in Grand Rapids, Michigan. There he transformed a largely white megachurch into a multiethnic congregation.

However, after five years the desire to plant a church led him to return to California. Along with his wife, Karen, and a core group of families, Hagan launched a new church plant in January 2006 at a Sacramento elementary school.

Today Real Life has grown to six sites, most in California but with the newest opening in March just north of Columbus, Ohio. Five of the sites are within 100 miles of the church's main campus in the northwest area of Sacramento.

About three-fourths of Real Life's total of 2,000 members attend its main Arena campus. Of all members, 40 percent come from non-Anglo backgrounds—primarily African-American, Hispanic or Filipino.

Half of Real Life's 20 full- and part-time staff members at its main campus are non-white, a blend reflected on its other campuses as well. Most are located in economically distressed areas, which Hagan attributes to following Psalm 68:6, which talks about God setting the solitary in families.

Like the Good Samaritan, he says churches need to be located where society's most abandoned souls live.

"We have located in tougher neighborhoods, not gated communities with high-earning incomes," Hagan says. "Our Artisan campus (about 6 miles south of Arena) is in 'the hood.' "

While some multisite churches use a closed-circuit hookup to broadcast the same Sunday message, Real Life is more of a network. Hagan covers a weekly theme and direction with his staff, but campus pastors preach their own sermons.

In addition to a weekly Skype conference, the lead pastor visits each site throughout the year for teaching and training. The churches also have six network-wide meetings or conferences annually.

Hagan says drawing and teaching a multicultural congregation starts with love, since people can easily detect it when their presence is tolerated rather than celebrated.

"Jesus loved without suspicion," Hagan says. "People can feel when you're hesitant toward them. I put it this way—it's about removing the distractions from the relationship."

Real Life teaches that legalism and racism are the two Goliaths that war against God's kingdom. In almost every story of restoration in the Bible, one or both of those elements caused the damage, he says.

Though Hagan has a sermon series called "The Cross of Many Colors" that he delivers periodically, he may go for several years without mentioning race from the pulpit.

"I preach a strong biblical theology of unity," Hagan says. "I try to guide people, not control them. But beyond the fundamentals, there is a genuine love for people where we're all learning and are appreciative of one another."

Real Life's diverse makeup can be seen the moment someone walks in the front door, but it extends beyond the worship platform. The week riots erupted last summer in racially divided Ferguson, Missouri, the church held a baptismal party by the Sacramento River that became a practical demonstration of diversity.

Since Hagan helps lead a city-wide worship experience the weekend of Martin Luther King's birthday, Real Life holds its annual "Night to Unite" the last weekend of January.

In addition to these elements, Hagan is optimistic about what he sees as an "exponential" growth in the numbers of Christians drawn to the message of diversity.

"There's such a hunger to understand the principles it's built on," the pastor says. "There's a tremendous receptivity in young leaders' hearts. I'm so energized. This can be the church's finest hour at demonstrating what politics cannot."   —Ken Walker   

Trinity Church, Miami    TRINITYCHURCH.TV

From Marginalized to Recognized

When Pastors Rich and Robyn Wilkerson arrived at Trinity Church in Miami, Florida, with their four boys, they experienced culture shock. Moving from Tacoma, Washington, to serve a primarily black church membership of 500 who daily battled poverty, the Wilkersons quickly went through their savings.

 "My mindset and mission was to this group," says Senior Pastor Rich Wilkerson. "They were my purpose, but it was down and dirty initially."

 "My wife saw a proposal to bid for day-camp government contracts in the newspaper," Wilkerson says.

She landed the $175,000 contract. This enabled their first summer day camp that served 500 kids.

 "That was 15 years ago," Wilkerson says. "We've received $27 million in government funding since then. We do food distribution and parent training."

In 2006, the church started helping children visit their incarcerated parents, which is now funded by the state.

Because of this kind of community outreach, Peacemakers Family Center (part of Trinity Church) was recognized in December 2014 by Florida Governor Rick Scott with the Champion of Service Award.

Currently 10,000-12,000 call Trinity Church their home. The congregation is composed of 80 percent black, 15 percent Hispanic and "5 percent anything else," Wilkerson says.

The congregation reaches young adults, too, at its Tuesday Night Rendezvous attended by 1,200. Wilkerson's son Rich Jr. serves as pastor of that group.

"These are all young professionals, studying to be doctors and lawyers. Eighty-five to 90 percent were raised in poverty, but now have stepped out of it. Nearly two-thirds of these young adults once attended our day camps. They turned into brilliant young adults [and] are now rocking their world," the pastor says.

Wilkerson calls Pastor Tommy Barnett his "big brother in the Lord," citing two key things Barnett said.

The first bit of advice Barnett offered was if you'll take the people that nobody wants, God will give the people that everybody wants. Trinity Church ministered to the marginalized, but ended up connecting with high-profile people too.

Wilkerson offers this example: "My son married Kanye West and Kim Kardashian. Most Christians reviled that, but we're after lost people."

Barnett's second word was if you work the disenfranchised with all your heart, your kids will not be lost to the devil or the world.

"The kids cannot deny their parents' faith because they see you down in the mud and the blood," Wilkerson says. "There's no money there. All there is is love."  —Mary DeMuth

U-City Family Church, St. Louis    UCITYFAMILYCHURCH.COM

Church Practices Listening in Racially Charged St. Louis

Six miles from the epicenter of America's racial tension (Ferguson, Missouri), U-City Family Church quietly and purposefully loves its community.

The church holds services in the historic Tivoli Theatre on Delmar Boulevard in University City in downtown St. Louis. The street represents the "Delmar Divide" that forms a stiff boundary between the white population to the south and predominantly black community to the north.

But U-City beautifully represents its demographic, 48 percent black, 48 percent white and 4 percent other. Pastor Brent Roam describes his approach: "We don't have any particular program or curriculum that discusses diversity (though it regularly comes up in sermons). Diversity is simply one of our core values."

In Ferguson's aftermath, Roam felt the weight of his pastoral responsibility.

"In a multiracial church like ours, it was a challenge to address those  events," he says.

So he had purposeful conversations in small groups, seeking to understand people's perspectives.

"It's our duty to seek to understand the other person," Roam says. "If we don't agree, at least we can respect and honor the view of others."

With such a diverse congregation, he shifted them back to identity.

"Their primary identity has to be in Christ," he says.

A U-City member had an idea post-Ferguson. Since the school children had been out of school two weeks, why not welcome them when they went back to school? So 25-30 church volunteers went to every school bus stop on the first day back to classes, handing out muffins and juice boxes.   —Mary DeMuth

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ministry Today ) Multicultural Fri, 08 May 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Is Sunday Morning Segregation Still OK With Worshipers? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21481-is-sunday-morning-segregation-still-ok-with-worshipers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21481-is-sunday-morning-segregation-still-ok-with-worshipers Sunday morning remains one of the most segregated hours in American life, with more than 8 in 10 congregations made up of one predominant racial group. 

And most worshipers like it that way.

Two-thirds of American churchgoers (67 percent) say their church has done enough to become racially diverse.

And less than half think their church should become more diverse.

Those are among the findings of a study of church segregation by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. Researchers surveyed 994 churchgoers—who attend worship at least at holidays or more often—about race and the church. They also surveyed 1,000 Americans as well as 1,000 Protestant senior pastors.

Churchgoers, researchers found, are lukewarm about diversity. More than half (53 percent) disagree with the statement, "My church needs to become more ethnically diverse." Four in 10 agree.

Researchers also found churchgoers who oppose more diversity do so with gusto. A third (33 percent) strongly disagree that their church needs to be more diverse. More than 4 in 10 (42 percent) felt strongly their church was doing enough.  

Evangelicals (71 percent) are most likely to say their church is diverse enough, while Whites (37 percent) are least likely to say their church should become more diverse.

African Americans (51 percent) and Hispanic Americans (47 percent) were more likely to say their church needs to be more diverse.

"Surprisingly, most churchgoers are content with the ethnic status quo in their churches," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. "In a world where our culture is increasingly diverse, and many pastors are talking about diversity, it appears most people are happy where they are—and with whom they are."

"Yet, it's hard for Christians to say they are united in Christ when they are congregating separately," Stetzer said.

Most Segregated Hour

Not long after giving his famed "I Have A Dream" speech during the March on Washington in 1963, Martin Luther King Jr., was invited to lecture on race at Western Michigan University.

In a question-and-answer session after the lecture, King said Christians in the United States fail to live out the tenets of their faith.

"We must face the fact that in America," he said, "the church is still the most segregated major institution in America. At 11:00 on Sunday morning when we stand and sing and Christ has no east or west, we stand at the most segregated hour in this nation. This is tragic."

A previous study of Protestant pastors by LifeWay Research found more than 8 in 10 (86 percent) have congregations with one predominant racial group. The National Congregations Study found a similar lack of diversity in houses of worship.

As part of the study on segregation, LifeWay Research also surveyed 1,000 Americans about race. They found only about a third (34 percent) of Americans have regularly attended a house of worship where they were a minority.

Among those who had attended a church as a minority, 1 in 5 said their ethnicity hindered their involvement. Of those who have not been a minority in church, nearly a quarter (22 percent) say being a minority in a congregation would make them feel uncomfortable.

Still, many Americans believe churches should be more diverse. Half (50 percent) agree with the statement, "Churches in America are too segregated." Four in 10 (44 percent) disagree.

"It's fair to say churchgoers in communities with little ethnic diversity perhaps cannot relate to a multi-ethnic expectation," Stetzer said. "But in urban settings, other ethnic groups are not far away."

Pastors Do Value Diversity

In a survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors, LifeWay Research found many have some diversity in their professional and social circles.

Most (84 percent) say they have spoken with a friend from a different ethnic group within the last week. Two-thirds (63 percent) say they've met with ministers from another ethnic group in the past month.

Still, for many pastors, the issue of racial reconciliation seldom comes up in sermons. Four in 10 (43 percent) say they speak on the issue once a year or less. Twenty-nine percent of pastors rarely or never do.

About a third (35 percent) speak several times a year. In addition, 1 in 5 speak about race at least once a month.

"The Bible talks a lot about men and women from every tongue, tribe, and nation being in heaven, so it might be good to get accustomed to that heavenly expression here and now," said Stetzer.

Previous LifeWay Research studies have found nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of Protestant senior pastors say their church is personally involved in racial reconciliation. Almost all (90 percent) say racial reconciliation is mandated by the gospel.

Researchers also found most Americans (82 percent) believe diversity is good for the country. Three-quarters of Americans (74 percent) say the country has made progress on race relations. But 8 in 10 (81 percent) say there is still a long way to go.

Bob Smietana is senior writer for Facts & Trends magazine. Used with permission.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Smietana/For LifeWay Research) Multicultural Fri, 16 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
4 Ways Immigration Impacts the Mission of the Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21342-4-ways-immigration-impacts-the-mission-of-the-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21342-4-ways-immigration-impacts-the-mission-of-the-church Immigration is changing how churches think about missions and outreach in North America, and rightly so.

People are slowly waking up to the new cultural landscape that surrounds them—a landscape that offers new opportunities for sharing the gospel, but also new challenges to consider.

While there isn't space in this blog post to propose and unpack all the issues, I think it's valuable to examine four ways immigration is impacting the church and its call to share the gospel with all peoples.

At its simplest, migration is the movement of peoples. Immigration is the movement of people into a place (the opposite is emigration). In this case, I am referring (at times) to migration in general, but in the U.S. and Canadian context, we are primarily dealing with immigration.

1. First, immigration puts faces on lost people of different races and contexts. In the early 1900s, the population of the United States was largely made up of people of Western and Northern European descent.

Christians would hear of the "masses" in Asia, for example, who were lost without Christ. They would then form stereotypes—really caricatures—about what non-Christian people overseas were like.

Churches in North America sought to bring the gospel to those Asians living apart from Christ. But without many Asian neighbors, Christians perceived of a lost world through the lens of ignorance.

Now, "the masses" are not over there, but they are here. And they are often kind and gracious people—not the caricatures of a century earlier.

For example, I have a Syrian Muslim neighbor just a few houses down from me. My kids play with their kids. We've walked the neighborhood together.

Not long ago, my daughter asked, using her words, how we know that "we're right" and "Islam is wrong." (It was the kind of question a girl should ask her father). I talked about the gospel of grace and about religions of works-righteousness.

One hundred, 50, or even 25 years ago, she could only have imagined "hordes of lost people" who need the gospel—people she would never see or know.

Now she knows Syrian Muslims by name because they live in our neighborhood. Rather than seeing "them" as far away, she wants to know why our kind neighbors need the gospel, something she probably would not ask were she born a century ago.

Immigration helps us to know people as people, not as stereotypes or caricatures.

However, that also impacts our evangelistic task.

2. Second, immigration impacts evangelistic willingness. Immigration puts a face on those we are called to reach, which makes evangelism more complicated.

As it turns out, many non-Christians—particularly devout people of other religions—are pretty nice once you get to know them! They are not "people over there living in darkness," but they are our neighbors living in our community. They are people—and not projects.

In short, migration changes the way we view the humanity of people. That's good, when we are moving beyond caricatures.

It also makes evangelism more complicated.

Sometimes we fail to see that people—immigrants included—still need Jesus.

Immigration becomes an evangelistic opportunity when it gives us a love for immigrants as human beings (without caricature) and teaches us to have compassion for them (including their spiritual condition), as we would for anyone in need of the gospel.

Yet, and here is the complicated part, it may also talk some out of evangelizing to those who we perhaps think are not in as much need as we thought. In other words, immigration can and does impact evangelistic willingness.

We also have to be willing to think through the questions my daughter was really asking: "How do we know the gospel is true for everyone?" and "Does everyone really need Jesus?"

3. Third, migration impacts religious participation. Migration has always had an impact on openness. In particular, immigration has also impacted religious patterns in the United States and Canada. There are many facets of this reality and too many to examine here.

For example, immigration has kept Catholicism in America afloat. If it weren't for an influx of new parishioners from other countries, particularly Latin America, Roman Catholics would have experienced substantial decline like mainline Protestant denominations have.

But instead, the overall number of Roman Catholics has stayed relatively steady, because of the increasing presence of so many Latino Catholics.

On the Protestant/evangelical side of things, immigration from Asia has made an impact in, for example, evangelicals in universities. If you were to visit the student ministries at some of the major universities of the Northeast (or many other places), you'd find a surprising number of Asian-American Christians there.

And it is not just migration—migration is a mostly first-generation phenomena. However, migration leads to diversity. And, to quote our own Bob Smietana: "Almost everyday, it seems, there's a new story about how 'Millennials are leaving the church.' But there's a problem with these trend pieces: They aren't true. American Christianity still has plenty of Millennials—they're just not necessarily in white churches.

Indeed.

4. Fourth and finally, migration opens opportunities for the gospel. Yes, multicultural expression has been a boost to many churches; however, migration itself may make people more open to considering the gospel.

Philip Connor, a research associate at the Pew Research Center's Religion & Public Life Project, is an expert on immigration and religion in the United States, Canada and Europe. (Check out his book here).

He's studied the religious patterns of immigrants into Canada and found that when people migrate into a Western society—for example, Buddhists from Southeast Asia—they either become much more devout or much less devout.

Few immigrants maintain the same level of religious commitment upon migration.

As he saw reported, immigrants go in one of two directions. Some of them rediscover their spiritual heritage and build mosques or temples in their new communities. Others come here and are open to change.

From the perspective of evangelicals passionate about sharing the gospel, they are open to the Christian faith because they find that the religious underpinnings they thought were secure are unable to answer the questions they have now that they live in a new cultural context. This brings openness to the gospel.

For the gospel's sake, let's consider both the challenges and opportunities that lie before us. In the coming years and decades, we are going to see the percentage of non-Anglo as well as non-Christian neighbors increase.

What's Next?

We've passed multicultural milestones recently. For example, the majority of school children in the United States are now non-Anglo. This is just the beginning, and it is a challenge and an opportunity.

My hope is that evangelicals will still have a heart for the nations and will engage in global missions. However, my prayer is that we will also have a passion to share the gospel with the nations living next door.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstetzer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Multicultural Tue, 11 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
LifeWay Research: Racial Diversity at Church More a Dream Than a Reality http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/20712-lifeway-research-racial-diversity-at-church-more-a-dream-than-a-reality http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/20712-lifeway-research-racial-diversity-at-church-more-a-dream-than-a-reality Having a racially diverse church remains more dream than reality for most Protestant pastors. More than 8 in 10 (85 percent) say every church should strive for racial diversity, according to a survey from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

But few have diverse flocks.

Most (86 percent) say their congregation is predominately one racial or ethnic group.

It’s a reality that once led the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. to call Sunday mornings the most segregated time of the week.

Today diverse churches remain rare, says Ed Stetzer, president of LifeWay Research, partly because of human nature.

“Everybody wants diversity,” Stetzer says. “But many don’t want to be around people who are different.”

The research study also found 91 percent say “churches should reflect the racial diversity in their community,” and 79 percent believe their congregations look very similar to the people in their neighborhood.

But Mark DeYmaz, pastor of Mosiac Church, a multiethnic church in Little Rock, Ark., is skeptical.

DeYmaz, who also helped found the Mosaix network of multiethnic churches, says pastors aren’t always aware of how diverse their communities have become.

“Pastors would do well to look into the diversity of nearby public schools and gauge this against the diversity of their church to really understand their context,” he says. “They might, too, spend one hour sitting at the front of the nearby Wal-Mart or other local grocery to see if, in fact, their church reflects the community.”

Data from the U.S. Census Bureau shows America is becoming increasingly diverse.

About 17 percent of Americans identify as Hispanic. African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population, followed by Asian Americans (5 percent), and 1 percent Native American or Native Alaskan. Another 2.4 percent identify with more than one racial group.

Non-Hispanic whites make up 63 percent of the population. That number drops to about 49 percent for children under 5 years old, according to a recent report from the Associated Press.

DeYmaz sees the widespread support for the idea of diversity in the LifeWay Research poll as a good sign.

“We have gained tremendous ground over the past 10 years or so,” he says.

Ten years ago, he says, the first meeting of the Mosaix network drew about 30 people. A similar meeting in November 2013 drew more than 1,000.

He says pastors are more aware of the need for diversity in churches. In the past, DeYmaz and other leaders in multiethnic churches spent much of their time trying to convince other pastors about the need for diversity. Now they spend more time talking with pastors about strategies for creating diverse churches.

“Increasingly, their question is not ‘Why should I?’ but ‘How can I?’” he says.

Derwin Gray, pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethic congregation in Indian Land, S.C., says if pastors want a diverse congregation, they need to change their sermons.

He worries pastors support diversity for pragmatic rather than theological reasons.

Gray says the early Christian churches were racially diverse, but that idea was lost as churches divided along racial and ethnic lines.

He wants pastors to go back to the Bible to discover why churches should be diverse.

“We shouldn’t long for racial diversity—we should long for the proclamation of Jesus, which creates ethnic diversity,” he says. “The apostle Paul didn’t start one church for Jews and one church for Gentiles in the New Testament. The gospel brought people together.”

More focus on racial diversity in church could find a welcome audience.

A second LifeWay Research survey—this time an online panel of 1,036 Americans—found that three quarters (78 percent) say “every church should strive for racial diversity.”

More than half (51 percent) say they would be most comfortable visiting a church where multiple ethnicities are well represented. Three quarters (73 percent) also said churches should reflect the diversity of their communities.

There are some signs the number of diverse churches in the United States is growing.

The 2010 Faith Communities Today survey, which included 11,000 congregations of different faiths, found that about 12.5 percent of Protestant churches were multiethnic. That means in those churches, no one ethnic group makes up more 80 percent of the congregation.

DeYmaz says moving diversity from a dream to a reality will take hard work.

“Wishful thinking in this regard will not bring increasing diversity to local churches for the sake of the gospel,” he says.

Research Methodology

The telephone survey of Protestant pastors was conducted Sept. 4–19, 2013. The calling list was randomly drawn from a stratified list of Protestant churches. Each interview was conducted with the senior pastor, minister or priest of the church called. Responses were weighted to reflect the geographic distribution and denominational groups of Protestant churches. The completed sample is 1,007 phone interviews and provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error does not exceed +3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

The online survey of adult Americans was conducted Sept. 6, 2013. A sample of an online panel representing the adult population of the U.S. was invited to participate. Responses were weighted by region, age, ethnicity, gender and income to more accurately reflect the population. The completed sample is 1,036 online surveys. The sample provides 95 percent confidence that the sampling error from this panel does not exceed +3.1 percent. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups.

Download the research (pdf).

Bob Smietana is senior writer for LifeWay Christian Resources’ Facts & Trends magazine.

For the original article, visit lifewayresearch.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Smietana/LifeWay Research) Multicultural Mon, 17 Feb 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Israel: From Apathy to Admiration http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21317-israel-from-apathy-to-admiration http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/21317-israel-from-apathy-to-admiration Sad to say, but a little more than two years ago my interest in the State of Israel could be described as apathetic at best.

Because I believe the Bible is the uncompromised Word of God—and I have ever since I got saved more than 25 years ago—I have recognized the Jews as God's chosen people as in 2 Samuel 7:24: "You established Your people Israel as your own people forever, and You, Lord, became their God" (MEV). There are many other Scriptures to confirm this, including Exodus 19:5, Deuteronomy 7:6-8, 1 Kings 10:9 and Psalms 105:8-15.

It was only when I came to work for Charisma Media, however, that my eyes—and my heart—were truly opened to how special Israel really is. I began to oversee the production of our Standing With Israel section on Charismamag.com. It has expanded my horizons beyond my comprehension.

Prior to coming here, I had never, in my 46 years, been acquainted with an Orthodox Jew much less befriended one. That has changed, and I now count Jonathan Feldstein, who lives in Effrat, as one of my closest friends despite the physical distance between us and the vast differences in our backgrounds and beliefs.

Jonathan and I pray for and encourage each other constantly. Lord knows he and his family have needed it this past summer during the Gazan conflict with Hamas.

This summer, I attended a service at the Jewish Center in Maitland, Florida, to pray for the Israeli teens who were kidnapped by Hamas. Tragically, the youth were killed shortly thereafter, but, gratefully, it allowed me to connect with the local Jewish community. They are wonderful people.

Charisma also has afforded me the opportunity to learn about and appreciate the many wonderful Messianic Jewish ministries that make an impact on Israel every day and to forge relationships with the pertinent people involved. That includes many of the 12 ministries that we honored in our special November/December issue of Ministry Today.

Earlier this year on their trip to Orlando, I had the privilege of meeting Wayne Hilsden and his wife, Ann, of King of Kings Community Jerusalem. The Hilsdens have been spreading the gospel of Christ in Israel for over 31 years. It began as a Bible study/fellowship in a living room and is now a thriving ministry committed to proclaiming the Good News of Yeshua, expressing the heart of the Messiah toward hurting people through deeds of compassion and apostolic ministry.

Many other Jewish and Messianic ministry leaders have graced us with their presence in our offices, including Barry and Batya Segal of Vision for Israel; Mel Hoelzle, Gary Cristofaro and Craig Shrum of Ezra International; and Rabbi Shmuel Bowman of Operation Lifeshield. Each of these ministries is unique in its impact on Israel, and you can read about them in full in the Nov.-Dec. issue of Ministry Today.

 Also in that issue are stories from Hilsden about passing down the vision of Israel to the next generation; a piece from Dr. Michael Brown on why we as believers should care about Israel today; and a piece from Jonathan Bernis of Jewish Voice Ministries International as to how we can reach out to the Jews in love and friendship.

We at Charisma Media believe it is crucial for believers to stand with Israel, especially in the perilous times in which we live. As you know, the early church was composed almost entirely of Jews, and for three years, the gospel went through Jerusalem and Judea before it went out to the Gentiles.

For those who aren't already, I would encourage you, as ministerial leaders, to educate your congregations on Israel's crucial role in the End Times. Preach a sermon—or a series of sermons—on it. Create a small-group Bible study on the subject. "Surely the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah ... I will put  My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Heb. 8:8-10, MEV).


Shawn A. Akers is the managing editor of Ministry Today magazine and the editor of Standing With Israel on charismamag.com.

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webmaster@strang.com (Shawn Akers) Multicultural Wed, 26 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
8 Reasons the Apostle Paul Would Want Churches to be Multiethnic http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/20554-8-reasons-why-the-apostle-paul-would-want-churches-to-be-multi-ethnic http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/20554-8-reasons-why-the-apostle-paul-would-want-churches-to-be-multi-ethnic The apostle Paul did not go into a Greco-Roman city and plant a church for the Jews and then a church for Gentiles (non-Jews), because that would have been out of step with the gospel he loved, lived and proclaimed (Gal. 2:11-21).

Paul relentlessly believed the power of the gospel could create a new kind of humanity that was an altogether new ethnic group called the church. The church would be a community where racism, classism and sexism would be defeated by gospel love (Gal. 3:24-28).

The apostle Paul was so committed to the glory of God through the local church that eventually He was imprisoned and killed for planting Jewish and Gentile (multiethnic) churches throughout the Greco-Roman world.

“And he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’ Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, 'Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live'” (Acts 22:21-22, ESV).

The following are eight reasons why Paul would want local churches to be multiethnic whenever possible:

Soteriological (Doctrine of Salvation)

  • “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility” (Eph. 2:14-16).
  • According to Ephesians 2, in Christ, Jewish and Gentile (African, Asian, Arab, Greek, etc.) congregations in Ephesus were “one new man” (v. 15), reconciled to God and each other. This new humanity was birthed through the cross (v. 16). In addition, they were members of God’s household (v. 19), God’s temple (v. 21) and God’s dwelling place (v. 22).

Christological and Missiological

  • "For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you, how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly. When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit. This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:1-6).
  • The apostle Paul was on mission to reach Jews and Gentiles and incorporate them into one local body because the gospel demanded it.

Gospel

  • “Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power. To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,  and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things” (Eph. 3:7-9).
  • Apparently, the apostle Paul believed the gospel of God’s grace not only caused people to love Jesus, but to also love each other in such away they formed “one new man,” in spite of the first-century Greco-Roman culture that said they should hate each other.

Theological and Eccesiological (Doctrine of the Church)

  • “So that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord, in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him” (Eph. 3:10-12).
  • As the ethnically multicolored congregations in Ephesus read Paul’s letter, they learned the church is composed of a variety of colored people (manifold). And this unifying display alerted the rulers and authorities that is the angelic and demonic world that Jesus had indeed won.
  • Peter T. O'Brien, in his commentary on the letter to the Ephesians, says, “In our present context, however, this variegated wisdom has particular reference to God’s richly diverse ways of working which led to a multiracial, multicultural community being united as fellow-members in the body of Christ.” 

Sacrificial

  • “So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory” (Eph. 3:13).
  • The apostle Paul suffered greatly to see God’s new society, comprised of multiethnic, socio-economically diverse people formed on Planet Earth.
  • “From now on let no one cause me trouble, for I bear on my body the marks of Jesus.” (Gal. 6:17).
  • I personally have suffered greatly, planting and leading a multiethnic church. It’s hard work. But it’s gospel.

Eschatological (Ultimate Destiny of the Church)

"And they sang a new song, saying,

“'Worthy are you to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God
from every tribe and language and people and nation,
and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God,
and they shall reign on the earth.'

"Then I looked, and I heard around the throne and the living creatures and the elders the voice of many angels, numbering myriads of myriads and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice,

“'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain,
to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might
and honor and glory and blessing'” (Rev. 5:9-12).

The eternal church will be multiethnic. There will be no white church, black church, Latino church or Asian church. There will only be Jesus’ multiethnic church. If this is the future, let’s pray for it today.

Derwin L. Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community that loves God completely (Upward), themselves correctly (Inward) and their neighbors compassionately (Outward) in Indian Land, S.C., just south of Charlotte, N.C. Transformation Church was recently recognized as one of the fastest-growing churches in America for 2010 by Outreach Magazine.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Derwin Gray) Multicultural Thu, 12 Dec 2013 17:00:00 -0500
A Father Carries on Through Tragedy and Pain http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/parenting/20987-a-father-carries-on-through-tragedy-and-pain http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/parenting/20987-a-father-carries-on-through-tragedy-and-pain On May 8, 2014, the impossible happened. Jeannie's and my eldest child—our precious Rebecca— was taken from us in a tragic accident at the age of 32.

It was an unseasonably warm spring day, with temperatures in the 80s. Rebecca was out for a run along Lake Michigan, and we believe she was trying to cool off from her exertion. She slipped from a rock wall and fell into the lake. Unable to climb back up onto the rocks, she was overcome by the frigid water. Hypothermia set in, and she drowned.

When we heard the news, it crashed over us, consuming us with an indescribable pain that was both sickening and familiar. Just 9 years ago, we experienced the loss our youngest son, Alex, at the age of 17.

Surely, it can't be true? In just a moment, another child was gone.

Rebecca was a two-time London champion for running 800 meters, a scholarship to Loyola University for MBA, track runner and record breaker for Loyola, grade-A student. But for all of her achievements, the thing we miss the most, of course, is her person—her just being with us.

Humble, gentle, passionate, genuinely caring, filled with love and unseen acts of kindness, always reaching out to build people up, to bless them, to take care of them, she was beautiful both inside and out.

Oh how we miss Rebecca, especially me on this Father's Day. And yet, as Jeannie said, 'we must now 'labor' to ensure her amazing legacy is passed on to encourage and inspire others to live a selfless life in service to the King of Kings.  

Why, God, why?

Gerard_and_Rebecca_A_Legacy_of_Love-1.jpg

When we go through pain like this—unbelievable pain—it's okay, as David said, to ask the question, "Why?" Rebecca was so excited by this new season ahead, she was having huge impact for the Kingdom of God, and the doors were opening to launch the Alpha Youth Film Series across America. There was so much to look forward to. But as David indicated in the Psalms, it comes back to a trust we have in the Creator of the Universe.

In the week after Rebecca's death, we were in agony—an agony that only increases as reality sets in. But one of the verses that came to Jeannie's mind in these early days helps to give us hope:

"For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways," declares the Lord.  "As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts" (Isaiah 55:8-9).

All we can do is be authentic, and when the grief comes, we weep. But, through the pain and the grief, we have great hope for the future. It's a hope that brings great joy because, in trusting in Jesus Christ, we know this is not the end!

Through the pain and the tears, I keep whispering to Jeannie, "Look ahead." We are going to be together again.

Jesus came from the comfort of heaven to this broken earth and lived amongst us, enduring terrible suffering. He came to show us what God is like, to show us love, to deal with the great barrier between us and God. And He himself took the punishment that we all deserve. Throughout His life, through His death, through His resurrection, He's given us great hope.

That's why we can look up. We are going to be together again.

I have a great memory of Rebecca coming downstairs each morning and saying, 'It's a new day.' Rebecca lived with a deep love for Jesus and a passion to share it with others. For her, each day was a new day.

As I think about my role as executive director at Alpha USA, as a father and a friend, I am increasingly aware that I desperately need the grace and comfort of our God to restore my soul. Jeannie, Ben and I have already journeyed through the valley of Baca (weeping) with the passing of Alex and now Rebecca.

Grief brings a multitude of emotions—moments of quiet and peace can suddenly be swamped by the searing pain of loss triggered, maybe, by a passing thought. Nothing is the same anymore. In the low moments, I find that God's promises, quickened by the Holy Spirit, are a great comfort to my weary soul.

Yes, I hold on to these truths:

  • God is good all the timeeven though we may not understand what He is doing.
  • He is in ultimate control.
  • He is working out His external purposes through us (and all his people).

Seeing things in the context of eternity makes a huge difference.

Through our sadness, we are clinging to Rebecca's words— it's a new day. In this, I pray for God to strengthen us by the power of the Holy Spirit in our inner being, so that we hold onto Jesus Christ by faith (Eph 3:14-17). We know that our adversary is ever knocking on the door with anger and bitterness, but we believe that God's love and light is powerful enough to victoriously crush any attacks that may come.

One day (hopefully very soon!), we will see Rebecca, Alex and all our loved ones in Christ again, and we will understand and give glory to God for His good, pleasing and perfect plan. For now, although we don't understand why, we chose to trust Him and want to do all we can to ensure God is glorified, using Rebecca's amazing legacy to encourage young and old people alike to follow her incredible example of living a selfless life for Jesus Christ, the extension of His Kingdom, and the saving of many young people.

We know that today is a new day, and because of that, we can trust God to nudge us a step forward.

Find me on Twitter @Gerard_Long and see how God is taking me and my family through this difficult time.

Gerard Long is the executive director of Alpha USA.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Gerard Long) Parenting Fri, 13 Jun 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Train Up a Child—Without Fear http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/parenting/19507-train-up-a-child-without-fear http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/parenting/19507-train-up-a-child-without-fear Parenting should be about a heart-to-heart connection—not controlD-MinLife-Parenting

 

Our children are professional mistake makers. They are all on a learning journey. When we are afraid of their mistakes or their sins, our anxiety controls our responses to them and the spirit of fear becomes the “master teacher” in our home.

Even though 2 Timothy 1:7 clearly tells us that we have not been given a spirit of fear from God, we often partner with that spirit to train our children toward the goal of obedience and compliance.

For many, like it was for me, intimidation is our only real parenting tool. We have various levels of intimidation. We try to convey to our kids that we are in control of their lives from the time they are tiny. Once again, the problem with that lesson is that heaven is not trying to control your life. God doesn’t want to control you.

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webmaster@strang.com (Danny Silk) Parenting Mon, 30 Apr 2012 09:52:05 -0400
What is the Real Meaning of Blessing and Prosperity? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/personal-finance/19812-what-is-the-real-meaning-of-blessing-and-prosperity http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/personal-finance/19812-what-is-the-real-meaning-of-blessing-and-prosperity johneckhardt1The subject of blessing and prosperity has become very controversial among those in the church. We want to be blessed and live the abundant life Christ died to give us, yet we don’t want to approach God as if He is a lottery or a slot machine—if you put in the right amount of prayer, praise, worship, faith and good works, out comes your blessing. But for some, that is all they see God as, and they get beside themselves when He doesn’t come through the way they wanted Him to.

Blessing and prosperity are more than money. According to Strong’s Complete Concordance of the Bible, one Hebrew word for prosperity is shalom. We often associate the word shalom with peace, but the peace that Christ went to war for on the cross is a complete, whole kind of peace. Also according to Strong’s, shalom is “completeness, soundness, welfare and peace.” It represents completeness in number and safety and soundness in your physical body. Shalom also covers relationships with God and with people.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (John Eckhardt) Personal Finance Thu, 27 Dec 2012 17:00:00 -0500
Building for the Future http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/personal-finance/19041-building-for-the-future http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/personal-finance/19041-building-for-the-future d-MinLife-PersonalFinanceWhy personal finance must be set upon a strong foundation 

The more the economy continues to bump along, without much evidence of rebounding, the more anxious people become about the future. We don’t like uncertainty, especially financial uncertainty. Have you noticed how many people are ready for economic change? Nearly all of us! And regardless of how we’ve weathered this recessionary storm, we all have a need for a solid financial foundation.

Poor employment numbers, diminished value on investments, lost equity in real estate—these and more have pushed many of us out of our comfort zone during the last several years. This has instilled some with an urgency to find new ways of doing things and has led to some good changes. Many, though, are still looking for direction, hope and a positive outlook about the future.

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webmaster@strang.com (Erik Van Alstine and Chris Dunayski) Personal Finance Wed, 26 Jan 2011 19:15:05 -0500
12 Keys to a More Powerful Prayer Life http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21423-12-keys-to-a-more-powerful-prayer-life http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21423-12-keys-to-a-more-powerful-prayer-life Years ago, an old saint shared with me 12 prayer principles from the life of Jesus Christ. It made such a difference in my personal prayer life. There are only 17 references to Jesus praying, and most of them are in the book of Luke.

1.  The principle of illumination. Luke 3:21-22 says, "Now when all the people were baptized, and when Jesus also had been baptized and was praying, the heavens were opened, and the Holy Spirit descended in a bodily form like a dove on Him, and a voice came from heaven which said, 'You are My beloved Son. In You I am well pleased.'" The setting here was Jesus' baptism and this is the first recorded example of Jesus' praying and we see in the book of Luke three results of His praying:

  • Heaven opened up.
  • The Holy Spirit came down.
  • The Father spoke.

These are three results when we make contact with God in our prayers. Symbolically, heaven opens up and we receive God's blessing. The Holy Spirit fills our lives afresh. And the Father speaks to us. If you'd like to know the Spirit's power in your life, if you'd like God to speak to you, you must practice the prayer life of Jesus.

2.  The principle of isolation. Luke 5:16 says, "Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed" (NIV). "Often" means it was His habit. He did it in places where He was all by Himself. I believe this is absolutely essential. We need to spend time alone with God everyday. Jesus returned again and again to a lonely place. Find that place where you can get alone with God, where you can be isolated and pray aloud and let God speak to you.

3.  The principle of concentration. Luke 6:12 says, "In these days He went out to the mountain to pray and continued all night in prayer to God" (MEV). Notice it says, "He spent the night." Some of the greatest lessons of my prayer life have been nights that I have spent in prayer. My decision to marry my wife was made in a prayer meeting all night with one other person. Sometimes when I pray it takes just a few minutes for me to get my thoughts collected. Sometimes it takes a long time for me to even get in the mood. I've found that it's important to spend extended blocks of time with God so that you can concentrate on what He wants you to do and His will for your life.

4.  The principle of insulation. The Bible says, "As He was alone praying, His disciples were with Him" (Luke 9:18). Notice that the disciples were with Him but He still found time for personal prayer. This is an important principle because there's not always time to get alone by yourself. There are times when you can't be isolated. I think of this as kind of an incubator verse. Babies can be in the middle of a busy hospital but they can be incubated in a situation that protects them from the hustle and bustle around them. Sometimes I find as a pastor I just can't get alone, but I can have an attitude of isolation or insulation and I can be silent even in the middle of a traffic jam. My prayer can overcome the interruptions when I put myself in an attitude of insulation.

5.  The principle of transformation. We find this in Luke 9:28-29. "About eight days after these sayings, He took Peter and John and James and went up onto a mountain to pray. As He prayed, the appearance of His countenance was altered, and His clothing was white and glistening." Prayer changes you. Do you think it's possible to spend so much time with God that when you come away your face shows it?

2 Corinthians 3:18 says, "But we all, seeing the glory of the Lord with unveiled faces, as in a mirror, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory by the Spirit of the Lord." As we look on Him we are transformed from one degree to another. The word in that passage is the word  katoptrizo. It's the only time that word is used in the entire Bible. It means, "to seriously look at, to contemplate, to meditate, to gaze on like somebody gazing in a mirror." As we gaze on the word, as we reflect on the word, like a mirror reflects, we become more and more like Christ. And we're transformed.

6.  The principle of exemplification. Luke 11:1 says, "He was praying in a certain place, and when He ceased, one of His disciples said to Him, 'Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.'" Notice it does not say, "Teach us how to pray," which is often misquoted. It says "Teach us to pray." I would suggest that this is a dangerous prayer to pray. We should not pray this request unless we really mean it, because God will often use trials and hardships and difficulties to teach us to pray.

7.  The principle of preservation. In Luke 22:31-32 Jesus says, "Then the Lord said, 'Simon, Simon, listen! Satan has demanded to have you to sift you as wheat. But I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have repented, strengthen your brothers.'" This is a prayer of protection. We don't just believe in prayer, we believe in God. Jesus not only saves you but He prays for you. Robert Murray McCheyne once said, "If I could hear Christ praying for me in the next room, I would not fear a million enemies." God is praying for us right now. Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father making intercession for us.

8.  The principle of preparation. In Luke 22:42 Jesus prays "Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me. Nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." Notice the change in this prayer. First, He said, take it away from Me. Then He said, "Lord, leave it." He prayed earnestly. Why? Because He knew He would be facing in the next few hours the greatest trial of His life and He didn't want to approach it prayerlessly.

9.  The principle of revelation. This is the prayer that Jesus prayed on the cross. One of the seven last words of Christ was, "Father, forgive them for they do not know what they're doing." We can really learn a lot about Christ's character here because He's in agony. He's in pain, yet He's praying for other people. When you watch what other people say and do and pray when their back is up against the wall, it reveals what's really inside of them. Prayer, like nothing else, is revelation of a person. It shows what's inside the heart.

10.  The principle of satisfaction. In Luke 23:46, "And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, 'Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit.' Having said this, He gave up the spirit." Jesus satisfied God the Father because He did what He was supposed to do. But more than just that, Jesus was also satisfied Himself with what He had done. Because of thatthat He had satisfied the Father and He was satisfied with HimselfHe can satisfy every need that you will ever have. He said, "I've finished it all. It's all complete."

11.  The principle of gratification. Jesus expressed His gratitude for what God had done in His life. It says that when He was at the table with the twelve, He broke bread, He gave thanks and He broke it and began to give it to them. He gave thanks. This is probably the one sin that is the root of so many other sinsingratitude. I believe our prayers should be filled with thanksgiving. In Philippians it says, "Make your requests with thanksgiving." When we ask, we should also be grateful at the same time.

12.  The principle of benediction. Luke 24:50 says, "When He had led them out to the vicinity of Bethany, He lifted up His hands and He blessed them." It's interesting to me that the very last thing Jesus did was hold His hands out, and He blessed them. He holds His hands out so they would see the scars that are in His palms. It is no wonder that when He went to bless them and held out His scarred hands that they went from there immediately and left to spend 10 days in prayer.

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) Prayer Tue, 23 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Pastor, Is Your Prayer Life Setting an Example? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21159-pastor-is-your-prayer-life-setting-an-example http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21159-pastor-is-your-prayer-life-setting-an-example One of the most powerful experiences of my life occurred when someone challenged me to prioritize prayer in my life. When I embraced prayer in my college years, not only did it change my life, it also became formative for everything in my life.

Prayer Is Built Upon the Word of God

Prayer is built on the Word of God. This prevents us from getting out of balance or off into theological error. Sometimes people think those who practice prayer are intellectual midgets or theologically inferior. Great prayer warriors base their praying on God's Word, the surest truth in this world.

The most highly intelligent and theologically astute should be the greatest prayer warriors on the face of the Earth. They should realize the Bible is God's Word and authority on all things, praying with deep belief in God and His power.

Prayer Is Faith

Prayer is a declaration of my faith in God. I go to Him in prayer because of who He is and what He can do. I believe God is able to do anything with anyone, anywhere. Pastor, God can do this with you where you are right now.

Because praying is faith in God, we should lead our churches to have a deep belief in the power of prayer. At times, the announcements in church get more time and priority than prayer. This is not the way it should be. Our people should know that whatever they face in life, the church will be there to pray through their challenges and problems. Why? Praying is faith!

Prayer with Others

Nothing is more powerful than when we pray with other people. Each pastor and Christian leader should model this in every way. In my role as the current president of the Southern Baptist Convention, I am calling for pastors, laypeople and churches to join many others in praying for the next Great Awakening in America and for the world to be reached for Christ.

Will you join this prayer movement? No great movement of God ever occurs that is not first preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people. We need a mighty spiritual movement in our nation, beginning with us personally and in our churches collectively.

This is a fabulous opportunity to pray with others for the next Great Awakening and to reach the world for Christ. Please join us and invite others to do the same for God's glory.

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 more than 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) Prayer Fri, 22 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
‘How I Received a Breakthrough Anointing in Prayer’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21135-how-i-received-a-breakthrough-anointing-in-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21135-how-i-received-a-breakthrough-anointing-in-prayer When I came to Christ in January of 1978, I was the kind of person that could read the Bible for many hours, but I had a hard [difficult] time praying for more than a couple of minutes.

All that changed in June of 1978 when I received the baptism of the Holy Spirit and began to speak in tongues. Within a few months I was able to pray for a long time without getting bored.

Occasionally, while I was praying for something, my heart started getting weighed down with the burden of the thing I was praying for. It was so heavy with the sense of why I was praying that I had a difficult time having a conversation with someone. I could barely do anything else but pray because my mind and heart was so preoccupied with this intense weight or burden. When this "spirit of prayer" came on me, the kind when my whole being was engulfed in prayer, I would try to alter my schedule and steal away from all regular work and the company of others. I would get alone and pray until the burden of the thing I was praying for would lift off of me and my heart would be filled with the peace and assurance of God.

Through the years this spirit of prayer would only come upon me occasionally. Then it would come upon me for days at a time—then weeks—most of the time I couldn't even use my known language (English) and after some years, the intensity of the burden even transcended "speaking in tongues" with most of my time spent groaning in the presence of God, knowing that I was standing in the gap for something.

(Before I go on, I want the reader to realize something important. You can pray anytime you want but you can't make [cause] "the spirit of prayer" to come upon you. You can't just decide that you want to go into "travail." It comes upon you only when God wills it to happen, usually when you begin to intercede for something and you strike a "nerve" in the spirit. God enlarges your heart and you begin to pray supernaturally with an intensity that can only come from God).

It got to the point in the late 1980s that I realized about 95 percent of the time when I began to pray I would tap into God's heart for the thing I was praying for and then I would go into travail with varying degrees of time spent praying fervently according to the need.

I remember a time in the early 1990s when I went to a conference hosted by an apostolic network. A pastor I had only met a few times before was driving me there.


We had a five-hour drive ahead of us and he asked me to pray traveling mercies for us before we started out. I not only prayed for traveling mercies, but an incredible burden for the conference and the network came upon me and I went into intense travail for the entire five-hour trip. (I couldn't help but wonder what this pastor thought of me when I not only prayed in tongues but began moaning and groaning because of the intense weight of the purposes of God on my soul. I figured God knew what He was doing when He put it upon me and I threw "caution to the wind" and then, you know what? The spirit of travail came upon him as well.)

When I arrived at the conference the burden of God for the week-long conference was so great that I prayed about twelve hours a day mostly with groanings too deep for words (Romans 8:26,27). My heart was so heavy that I couldn't go to a single session or workshop. I had to force myself to go to the evening plenary sessions. I literally felt what God felt about the ministers, the conference and what God wanted to do for eternal fruit (at one point the travail of my soul was so great that I had to get people to take turns watching in prayer with me to help me bear the burden).

God showed me, after two days of intense prayer and travail, that the Wednesday and Thursday evening plenary sessions would be the most powerful the network had ever seen, catapulting ministers into the purposes of God way into the rest of the decade. Sure enough, the Wednesday night meeting was so powerful as it ended at midnight. The Thursday night meeting ended almost at 1:00a.m. Friday morning, there was a powerful demonstration of praise, worship, prophecy and consecration to the mission field. All of these hours agonizing in prayer were worth it when I saw the marvelous way the Lord poured out His spirit and visited those ministers.

I have been living with this kind of prayer lifestyle for years, not knowing it could ever accelerate. But, then came January 2, 1997.

As I said earlier, this spirit of prayer first came on me occasionally, then more frequently. (Most of the time it came after I initiated prayer and intercession.)  But on January 2, 1997, the spirit of prayer came upon me so mightily that it didn't even wait for me to begin to pray. I didn't even know why it accelerated on that particular date.

I must confess, many times to prevent the spirit of travail from coming on me, (so I could lead a somewhat normal life), I would purposely not even pray, consequently not giving it a chance to come upon me. That particular day I woke up with it upon me. This went on day after day, week after week, month after month. In the back of my mind I was thinking, I will pray it through and it will leave me. I found that I had now entered into a lifestyle of travail, with a spirit of prayer upon me anywhere from three to eight hours every day. (This lasted almost exactly three years until the beginning of January 2000).

I had to alter my busy schedule to accommodate all the time I needed in prayer so I could function and fulfill the destiny of God. Altering my schedule had been no easy task in light of the fact I have a family that includes five children, a growing church, and an apostolic ministry to my city and various parts of the nation and the world.

Instead of waiting for it to leave me, I have embraced it and now I wouldn't want to live any other way. (The past two years since around 2012, this spirit of prayer usually comes upon me in the middle of the night so that every morning I wake up with an intense burden of prayer upon me that I push through until the weight on my soul is lifted. It frequently comes upon me again by late afternoon and then before I go to bed.)

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.  For the original article, a chapter from Mattera's latest book Travail to Prevail: A Key to Experiencing the Heart of God, visit josephmattera.org. Click here to purchase the book.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Prayer Fri, 15 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
How Sunday Morning Prayer Can Spark Revival in Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21075-how-to-hold-a-sunday-morning-prayer-meeting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21075-how-to-hold-a-sunday-morning-prayer-meeting On Sunday morning, October 13, 2013, I led our entire Cross Church Family in a prayer meeting. I believed it was time to issue a call to the Cross Church Family for spiritual revival in the church and spiritual awakening in America.

Our Purpose

Why dedicate an entire Sunday morning service to a prayer meeting? I felt God leading me to alert our Cross Church family of the need for spiritual revival and awakening in America. I lead them through a spiritual process that was both personal and sequential, and then sent our church out with a burden for revival and a hope for the future. Revival is the manifestation of the presence of God in our lives. Revival begins with me. Revival begins with you.

A Personal Conviction

I have a personal conviction about why we pray for revival and awakening. Personally, I believe we need to pray for personal revival, revival in the church and awakening in the nation, so that we can see the Great Commission of Jesus Christ escalated and accelerated to completion in our generation. I am compelled to call the church to revival and the country to be awakened spiritually, so that we can see the completion of the Great Commission in our generation.

Word-Based, Spirit-Led and Worshipful

We focused solely on praying, and everything we did was based upon the Word of God. I took the Word of God, read it, taught it briefly and then led our people to respond to God through prayer. Throughout the worship experience of teaching and prayer, we expressed various moments through songs of worship.

Built Upon Biblical Principles

I taught through five specific principles, spending four to six minutes on each.

  • A Vision for Revival in the Church and Awakening in the Nation
  • The Exceeding Sinfulness of our Sin
  • Cleansing and Renewal
  • Fully Surrendering to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and Experiencing the Fullness of the Holy Spirit
  • Advancing the Gospel Everywhere

After each principle was taught from God's Word, we moved to prayer. We prayed silently, we prayed together, we prayed on our knees, we prayed standing and we prayed at the altar. My desire was to lead by the Spirit's direction—built upon the Word of God, responding to God through prayer, and expressed through worship.

Wonderful Experience

Without a doubt, the entire service was a wonderful experience. Lay people and pastors want to pray. Those who do not know how to pray want to learn to pray effectively. As spiritual leaders, we need to create a pathway for them. It was a highly memorable day for many, and life changing for some.

Just imagine what would happen in America if every church spent an entire Sunday morning worship service focused on prayer for revival in the church and awakening in America? Just imagine what would happen if each of those services led toward praying about advancing the gospel of Jesus Christ regionally, nationally and internationally, calling upon the church to rise up and complete the Great Commission in our generation?

I am convinced that every great movement of God is preceded by the extraordinary prayer of God's people. Now is the time we rise up as the church of Jesus Christ and elevate prayer in our churches. If we are not careful, we will reduce prayer in local church worship services to routine and less important than announcements.

Jonathan Edwards, the man God used as the catalyst for the First Great Awakening said:

"So it is God's will that the prayers of His saints shall be great and the principal means of carrying on the designs of Christ's Kingdom in the world. When God has something to accomplish for His church, it is with His will that there should precede it the extraordinary prayer of His people."

Oh friend, just imagine, if every church in America turned just one entire worship service into a prayer service, calling upon the God of Heaven to bring revival into our lives personally, in His church, and awakening in our nation, so that we can see the Great Commission escalated and accelerated to completion in our generation.

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) Prayer Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
WATCH: Walking, Talking Miracle Proves Power of Prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21725-watch-walking-talking-miracle-proves-power-of-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/21725-watch-walking-talking-miracle-proves-power-of-prayer Steve Harvey knows how to get people talking. Whether it's in Family Feud or his own show, he's diving into personal lives, asking his guests questions to get to the grit. 

And that's how the famed TV host tapped into the power of prayer. 

Watch the video to see this powerful story. 

 

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jessilyn.justice@gmail.com (Jessilyn Justice) Prayer Mon, 20 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
The Danger in Emphasizing the Sinner’s Prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/20965-the-danger-in-emphasizing-the-sinner-s-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/20965-the-danger-in-emphasizing-the-sinner-s-prayer Here is an example of The Sinner's Prayer:

"Dear God, I know I'm a sinner. I know my sin deserves to be punished. I believe Christ died for me and rose from you grave. I trust Jesus alone as my Savior. Thank you for the forgiveness and everlasting life I now have. In Jesus' name, amen."

I can remember early in my ministry looking for The Sinner's Prayer in Scripture, and when I couldn't find it, I was shocked. I can also remember being terrified early in my ministry that I would say "The Sinner's Prayer" wrong when I attempted to point sinners to Christ; for, if I recited it wrong, regardless if my hearers prayed the prayer or not, they would still be lost!

This mentality is wicked, for it adds to the gospel of Christ. By believing that sinners cannot be saved without "The Sinner's Prayer," we communicate that "The Sinner's Prayer" is essential for salvation, even though the Bible knows no such reality. In his dissertation on the subject, Paul Chitwood—executive director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention—warns us of emphasizing The Sinner's Prayer:

"This ethical consideration for evangelism applies to usage of The Sinner's Prayer in much the same manner as the first. When a prayer is the supreme goal of a witnessing encounter and based upon that prayer we determine our success or failure in leading lost souls to conversion, we run the risk of allowing that prayer to become a stumbling block.

"On the one hand, we may, as [Jim] Elliff charges, bring people to 'believe in the efficacy of a prayer and not the efficacy of Christ's work.' When we do so, the prayer becomes a stumbling block to that person's salvation, the chief stumbling block indeed. On the other hand, we may communicate to people who have not prayed the prayer that they are lost and without praying the prayer they cannot be saved. I refer back to the incident recounted by George Martin in which a pastor had a young boy repeat the prayer again to be certain he had done it correctly so the church family could, in good conscience, acknowledge the boy's salvation.

"We also recall Leonard's comments, 'At the slightest doubt, simply pray the prayer again and settle it. Lots of people repudiated earlier events—childhood professions dimmed by age, aisle-walking without understanding, praying the prayer without meaning it or praying the wrong prayer.' It may very well be that we have indeed 'enthroned' The Sinner's Prayer to the point that it has become a stumbling block instead of a stepping-stone as a method in evangelism (pg. 122-123).

When pastors, evangelists, church leaders, etc. make The Sinner's Prayer necessary for salvation, they add to the gospel, and thus make it twice as hard for someone to truly trust in Christ. (It is no different than making baptism necessary for salvation, but at least baptism is in Scripture.)

In other words, in trying to simplify the gospel, we've actually added to the gospel, possibly eliminating the gospel in the process. For, if our hearer(s) trust in the prayer instead of in Christ, they are doomed for Hell while possessing assurance (false) of their salvation. I fear there will be millions of sinners in Hell who prayed The Sinner's Prayer, millions in hell who were declared saved by church leaders—yet, not by Christ—because they prayed The Sinner's Prayer. But there will be none in hell who repented of their sin and placed their faith in Christ.

Christ will raise up those who repent and trust in Him on the last day, but He has not promised to raise up everyone who prays "The Sinner's Prayer" (John 6:35-40). Instead of emphasizing "The Sinner's Prayer," let us emphasize repentance of sin and faith in Jesus Christ, who died for our sins and rose from the dead to declare us righteous and bring us into right relationship with God (Rom. 4:24-25).

May we emphasize what actually saves: God's grace alone through faith alone in Christ alone.

May we use prayer as a possible expression of this repentance and faith, telling our hearers that God saves through repentance and faith in Christ, instead of saying that God saves through The Sinner's Prayer.

May we trust God to assure His people of their salvation instead of declaring righteous those who say The Sinner's Prayer.

Jared Moore is pastor of New Salem Baptist Church in Hustonville, Ky. He is the author of 10 Sacred Cows in Christianity That Need to Be Tipped. You can read his blog at jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com.

For the original article, visit jaredmoore.exaltchrist.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jared Moore) Prayer Thu, 05 Jun 2014 16:00:00 -0400
5 Goals of Vacation for a Church Leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/recreation/21046-5-goals-of-vacation-for-a-church-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/recreation/21046-5-goals-of-vacation-for-a-church-leader I recently returned from a beach destination wedding. Someone has to do those, you know.

Cheryl and I tacked on a few days of vacation since we were at the beach. It was refreshing.

As I was finishing my last vacation run—vacation runs are the best—a friend texted me. He's a great leader and we've talked often about leadership issues—and the stress of leadership. When he learned I was heading home from vacation, he asked me a powerful question. I'm not even sure he knew how powerful, but knowing him, he was probably asking with intentionality.

He asked, "Excited to be going back or dreading it?"

My friend wanted to know—and encourage me to think—if my vacation had been successful. He knows the purpose of vacation.

Do you?

What is the purpose of vacation? Another way I might ask this question: What are the goals of a vacation?

Here are my thoughts on 5 goals of vacation for the church leader:

1. Rest. God has actually given us a Biblical command to rest—to Sabbath—as if He knows something about what we need. (Duh!) You may not "rest" like everyone else, but everyone should rest. This particular friend that texted me was also returning from vacation. He does something that I think shows he understands his need for rest. He leaves his work cell phone with his administrative assistant when he goes on vacation.

How cool is that? I know because I texted him while he was gone and she texted me back. Intentional. Love it. Rest should be a huge goal of taking a vacation. We all need it.

2. Reconnect. Vacation should allow us time to restore relationships to maximum health. With God. With family. With ourself. The busyness of life can strain relationships. Vacation gives you the opportunity to pause and get back to optimum health with the most important relationships in our life. On vacation, I talk to God more. I spend deeper quality time with Cheryl. We date more intensely—ask each other more questions. In years past, I got to spend more time with my boys on vacation. (I'm an empty nester now.) But, vacation helps me reconnect to those I love the most.

3. Play. We all need to play—regardless of our age. We fuel all the rest of these with this one. As I said already, I run more on vacation. That's my form of play. But, when I run, I'm better equipped for all the other goals. You may not be a runner, but you have things you enjoy doing that aren't work. (I tweeted from vacation that a friend of mine got a Lego set for Father's Day. Cool playing to come for that dad!) Playing enhances my mental energies, my creativity, and my enjoyment of life. Making time to play—with whatever you enjoy doing—is a great goal for vacations.

4. Dream. What's next for you? What are you looking forward to doing in the future? One of Cheryl and my greatest enjoyments on vacation is dreaming about where we see ourselves in a year, 5 years, 10 years, into retirement. We also dream where we could see our boys and their families. We dream about careers, personal interests, places we'd love to travel. Dreaming stretches our mind and heart towards each other and energizes us about our future together. A great vacation goal is to take time to dream.

5. Rejuvenate. Vacation should help you reengage with your work when you return. That's the understanding my friend had about vacation. And, it is a huge goal. This will be hard to say to some, and some may disagree, but if you leave vacation dreading going back to work, it maybe you don't know how to do vacation or you're in the wrong job. It's work. I get that. We all have Mondays we dread. The day back doesn't have to be the most fun day at work ever, but a goal of vacation is to help us recover so we can gather more energies to do the work we were designed to do.

Does that describe your vacation? What goals do you have for vacation?

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) Recreation Fri, 04 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
10 Questions First-Time Church Guests Might Ask http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21593-10-questions-first-time-church-guests-might-ask http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21593-10-questions-first-time-church-guests-might-ask Every church I know of holds weekend worship services. Most of them hold at least 52 a year. Nearly all of them will have visitors show up, even if by accident.

What we don't often realize is the incredible anxiety most of them are feeling as they walk through our doors.

Their minds are racing with questions.

The answer to those questions will most likely determine whether or not they ever come back.

For some, it may even determine where they spend eternity!

Here's my unofficial list of a first time guest's questions:

1. Is the roof going to cave in on me? Or sometimes stated, "Am I going to get struck by lightning?" Many of our guests are feeling the incredible contrast between their current lifestyle and what they know God wants from them. Because of this, they think that God and them are on the outs and that He's probably ticked off at them.

2. Is anyone going to acknowledge me? This is human nature. Whether we are visiting a church or a restaurant or a store. When we enter walk into an organization we believe to be customer-driven, we expect someone to speak to us. In fact, we get weirded out if NO ONE even tries to acknowledge our presence.

3. Are my kids going to be safe? For many of them, their most frequent exposure to churches and children has been news stories of pedophiles violating kids. They've taught their kids all their life to be wary of strangers and now they're not only completely surrounded by them, but you're asking them to "trust" you.

4. Is the message going to be boring or confusing? Most of the unchurched do have some church background. For the vast majority their only exposure to preaching was a negative one. They think of the Bible as totally irrelevant to normal people and preaching as either a remedy for insomnia or some ranting lunatic who thinks volume is a motivational tool.

5. Am I going to be dressed right? Have you ever gone to an event either overdressed or under-dressed? Nothing can be more embarrassing and uncomfortable. Since church attendance is not a routine in their life, it only stands to reason that they probably do not know what the dress code is and they're looking around to see if they stand out.

6. Will I know where to go? Do you remember your first day of middle/high school or college? You're given a class schedule but almost never a map. That's the time when you figure out that clear signage can be a lifesaver! After a few weeks, you never even glance at those signs again, but the first timer views them as life or death!

7. Of whom can I ask a question? Even the clearest signage doesn't answer all your questions. There are some things you just need to get from someone in the know. A first time guest is too scared to just start randomly interrogating people. They need to be able to easily identify someone who seem to be a designated question answerer.

8. Are they going to do anything weird? Going to church for most visitors is like visiting a foreign country. The culture is so different that I don't know what's going to happen and I'm terrified I'll be put in an uncomfortable situation. They know Christians are different, they're just hoping they're not psycho!

9. Am I going to have to sing or clap? How many environments does the average American go to that they're asked to sing out loud and clap along with? Exactly!  It's funny that we like to measure worship by crowd participation, but then we neglect to measure our evangelistic effectiveness by the lack of crowd participation. Just saying.

10. Is there any hope? Finally, and most importantly, they are secretly wondering if there is hope for them. They're praying that second chances are real. They're hoping that God really can fix broken hearts and homes.

Every church leader should be wrestling with how they are answering those questions. At Oak Ridge, our passion is to design weekend services where the unchurched find real answers.

What questions would you add to my list?

Brian Moss is the senior pastor of Oak Ridge Baptist Church in Salisbury, Maryland. He blogs at Next Level Leadership.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brian Moss) Relationships Mon, 02 Mar 2015 13:00:00 -0500
3 Ways to Encourage Peace Between Generations in Denominations http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21521-3-ways-to-encourage-peace-between-generations-in-denominations http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21521-3-ways-to-encourage-peace-between-generations-in-denominations It takes work to have a harmonious family. That's true of your biological family and your church family.

It's also true of your denominational family.

The fact is, each member within a family has a tendency to find their own style and way in life. But as each individual develops their own unique identity, they should not develop a spirit of pride over the others in the family.

That's a key to peace and unity in denominations.

Denominations should recognize that their uniqueness is part of a healthy diversity that can serve the family well. There should be a complementary understanding of uniqueness. Each generation can idolize its own ways to the point of conflict. (We call this "the teenage years" at home.)

But maturity and unity takes effort and understanding ... and it can and does come to denominations that will pursue it.

The Challenge

Often in denominations, those with experience who are trying to encourage stability are seen as out of touch. Sometimes they are out of touch, but by my experience is that they often just have a different view.

Those who are pushing the envelope to make an immediate impact are seen as aggressive. But often the two groups are just talking (or shouting) past each other.

Maintaining Unity

So, unity takes work in the church. However, I am thinking right now about the way churches interact at the district, regional, or national denominational level. This could be a group of several to dozens of churches in a given area that share doctrine, but have unique approaches to ministry.

There are traditional-styled churches, contemporary, incarnational, non-traditional, or whatever else. Each feels like it is obeying God and serving their communities on mission, but they are doing it differently.

It's often the same doctrine but a different church culture.

So how do you maintain peace in this area? How do we keep the enemy from using generational differences to disrupt unity?

My view is simple: Peace is not a one-sided endeavor. It takes a deal of commitment from both sides to truly have unity.

Paul wrote, "Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace" (Eph. 4:3). I'd like to suggest three things that can help keep the peace:

1. Refrain from arrogant attitudes. This means that young pastors have no business sending out mailers saying, "This ain't your grandma's church. Are you tired of boring, dead (Pentecostal/Baptist/Methodist/etc.) churches? Ours is smoking."

You cannot run down those that came before you and expect to have peace with them. Chances are, Grandma paid for your church building, prayed for you to know Christ, sponsored your youth camps and mission trips, and told you your sermons were good when they really weren't.

You cannot run down those who came before you and expect to have peace with them.

There are traditional churches in your network who are reaching the lost you aren't. You don't get any extra points in heaven for being the hippest church in your denomination.

But there also has to be a sense among the traditional churches that they have a confidence in their kids and their grandkids—that they may be doing things differently, but they're doing those things for Jesus.

For those in traditional churches, you should brag on the younger generations who are doing different things for Jesus. Celebrate them. I know they aren't as wise and perfect in ministry as you were when you were a young person, but cut 'em some slack.

Your traditional church functioned pretty well in its context. That's how you survived long enough to see other churches planted ... like the one on the other side of town that is going to reach the people you aren't.

If we are honest about it, our predecessors weren't always excited about how we did new things. But they invested in us and trusted God was doing something new.

When both sides refrain from insensitive and off-putting statements, peace has a better chance to grow.

In my own denomination, I've heard it from both sides. I'm not a young leader now, but I've been a long-term defender of them. Sometimes they say dumb and thoughtless things, not realizing that there are other people who just may have thought through some things before they came along.

Yet, I've spent most of my time helping older leaders love, value and appreciate the next generation.

I want both to "make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit."

2. Respect God's varied ministry callings. I was in an elevator once with two pastors, Darrin Patrick and Adrian Rogers (For those of you who don't know those names, they are well-known pastors from very different worlds). The denomination is not a battlefield for issues of style.

Darrin was young and cool and on his way to growing an impacting church called The Journey in St. Louis. Dr. Rogers was ... well he was Dr. Rogers. I didn't call him Adrian. So, I said, "Dr. Rogers, could I introduce you to Darrin Patrick?"

Darrin was like a kid in a candy store, meeting one of the most famous preachers in America.

He didn't feel the need to say, "Our church is contemporary and yours is traditional, so mine is good and yours is bad." He didn't point out their differences and try to convince the veteran that he needed to "get with it." He valued his elder for who he was and what God had helped him accomplish.

But respect went both ways. Dr. Rogers didn't say, "Young man, put on a tie." He treated Darrin (who was wearing jeans with holes in them) like he would treat a friend and a colleague.

See, they both are in very different places serving the same Lord. And, both seemed to be genuinely thankful for one another (and I was thankful for both).

If you are going to have such divisions in your local church, that's your business. But the denomination is not a battlefield for issues of style. Do not divide the family at that level over such things—and wise leaders in wise denominations know such things.

It is a beautiful thing when you have a mutual respect for God's ministry calling across the generations. It is a sign of wisdom than when a young leader recognizes and appreciates God's work that came before. Nothing reflects wisdom more than for an elder leader to affirm God's work that is yet to come.

3. Reinforce a culture of peace. Peace is not achieved with silence.

If you want a culture of peace between generations, it will need to be communicated clearly and often. Unstated goals are just wishes.

Creating a culture of unity and peace is about understanding what encourages and discourages peace, and then empowering those in high risk areas to make the right choices for the health and success of the movement.

Peace is not achieved with silence.

Sometimes this is achieved with positive reinforcement after a good interaction. Other times, it takes a proactive approach before something bad happens.

Here is an example from personal experience in my own denomination. Several years ago, a wonderful pastor friend organized our national pastors conference. He instructed each of the speakers, "No drive-bys on your fellow pastors in our denomination."

That struck me, so I told him how much I appreciated that, but then I said, "I just look forward to the day when you don't have to tell them."

You might find it interesting that the organizers of our conferences don't have to give that same talk today.

Depending on your situation, that kind of proactive approach may still be needed. You shouldn't have to tell a pastor or church leader to present themselves and their position in a way that engenders a peace-building conversation, but sometimes you do.

And in many denominations is essential. I've been in Lutheran, Pentecostal, Anglican, Baptist and other settings in the last year and this still remains a major issue—so let's be proactive to address it.

Until you have established a culture of peace, communicate it whenever, wherever and however it is necessary.

Substance Over Style

In the end, it is important to remember that substance is more valuable than style. We can and should be aggressive when it comes to issues of substance. There are things you cannot be and still be considered within the boundaries of your theological tribe—it isn't a free-for-all.

If you are going to be in a family, value what the family values. If you are going to be in a family, value what the family values.

But we should be generous when it comes to style. There is more space for variations. When it comes to flexible issues that will change according to context, intentionally work in and toward peace.

Denominations and networks must have common beliefs with diverse applications across ethnicity, languages and cultures. That's a given. What is harder for some is to see that diversity across generations.

Do you think peace across generations prevails in your own denomination? If so, why? Are there other things that can be done to encourage peace between generations in a denomination?

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 ) Relationships Fri, 06 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
7 Suggestions for Pastors and Their Spouses to Find True Friends http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21519-7-suggestions-for-pastors-and-their-spouses-to-find-true-friends http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21519-7-suggestions-for-pastors-and-their-spouses-to-find-true-friends People talk. People gossip. People love to share what they hear.

That's true about what they hear from a pastor too.

If the pastor talks about his personal life, shares a concern—heaven forbid shares a sin or weakness—people talk.

I've personally been burned several times by trusting the wrong people with information. It's wonderful to think that a pastor can be totally transparent with everyone, but honestly, especially in some churches, complete transparency will cause you to lose your ministry.

Every pastor knows this well. So, most pastors don't talk.

And the sadder fact is that because of this dynamic, many pastors have very few true friends.

Frankly, it's made many in the ministry among the most lonely of people I have ever known. I was in the business community for many years and I didn't know business leaders as "closed" to people getting to know them as some pastors seem to be. I wish it weren't true, but it is.

Of course, Jesus is a friend who sticks closer than a brother. And that's true. But we would never tell our congregation they don't need human friends. Most of our churches are built around a reality that everyone needs community.

Hopefully our spouse is our best friend. That should be our goal. But the truth is pastors need more.

We need other—same-sex—friends who can walk with us through life. I need men in my life who understand the unique struggles and temptations of being a man. Pastors need community too, just as we would encourage our church to live life together with others.

I'm happy to report that I have some of those type friends in my life. I have some friends with whom I can share the hard stuff and they still love me. I have some friends with whom I can be myself. I'm thankful for friends that build into me as much as I build into them.

Every pastor needs them.

And, here's the other side—so does the pastor's spouse. They need friends just as much, but have the equal concerns and struggles to find them. Over the years, my wife has realized the hard way that some people were only her friend because of her position as my wife. They wanted information and access—more than they wanted friendship.

And, some who are not in ministry will read this post and think I'm over-reacting. They'll say everyone deals with this at some level. They may be right. (Not about the over-reacting, but about the fact that everyone deals with it.) But, I know having been on both sides—in ministry and out of ministry—this issue is more real to me now than previously.

So, the hope of this post is to encourage those who don't have any true friends and give you a few suggestions for finding some.

Here are 7 suggestions for a pastor or pastor's spouse to find true friends:

1. Be willing to go outside the church. There may not be someone you can truly trust, who is willing to keep confidences, and willing to always be in your corner, inside the church. Much of this may depend on the size or even the structure of your church. I have a few of these friends in our church, and did in our last church, but both were fairly large. I found this harder when I was in a smaller church with a handful of strong families within the church. Some of my truest and best friends, however, then and now, are outside the church. This is also healthy because it means if we are called to leave the church we still have a close group of friends. My best friends have been friends through several church transitions.

2. Consider bonding with another pastor. I guarantee you—not too far from you is a pastor just as lonely or in need of a friend as you are feeling. (And even if you're not feeling it—you need it.) One of the great benefits of the online world—though it can equally be used for harm—is that you can make connections with other pastors. I have found that if I follow the Tweets, blog posts, Facebook updates or check out the church website of another pastor, that I can find out a lot about our similarities. I'm not talking about stalking. I'm talking about being intentional to build a relationship. Then I take a chance and reach out to another pastor.

I actually have a few vital relationships that have begun this way. In fact, it has been valuable enough to Cheryl and me that we've been willing to invest in traveling to visit with friends who live in other cities that I first met through social media. Chances are good, however, for most pastors they won't have to travel that far. Prior to moving where I am now, I had friends an hour away from me. That was a good half-day investment every couple months to stay in touch. I'm beginning to develop this where I am now.

3. Build the relationship slowly. I've seen too many times where a person wants an intimate, accountable, life-giving relationship that begins instantly. I'm sure that happens occasionally, but I don't think it's the normal way. Take some time to invest in the friendship. My guess is you're looking for a longer-term relationship, so be willing to build it over a long-term. And, I usually have multiple meetings with several different guys before I find one where we connect enough to move to a deeper friendship. Again, it's worth the investment of time.

4. Find common ground. Do you enjoy fishing, dining, travel, golf, or NASCAR? Who are some people, whether pastors or laypeople who have similar interests to you? Take an afternoon to play a round of golf with them. Ask them to lunch. Hang out with them. I have one of my closest friends that I met this way. We simply started having lunch together. We've since traveled together as couples, but it started with a lunch invitation to a guy I saw who seemed to enjoy the subject of leadership as much as I did.

5. Look for someone healthy. This is critical. You won't find someone perfect, but you need someone who is not looking for you to always be the minister. Those people do exist. There are people with healthy home lives and healthy personal lives who are striving to grow personally, professionally and spiritually just like you are striving. Most of the time as pastors our attention is focused more on the one who need our attention because of a crisis or immediate need in their life. And that's what we do. But who are some people around you who don't need much from you right now? You'll need this healthy relationship to nourish you when you don't feel as healthy.

6. Be intentional. You don't often find a friend unless you go looking for one. First you have to recognize the value in true friends, make it a matter of prayer and a goal for your life, but then you must begin to look for one. I've found I'm more likely to hit a target I am specifically aiming to hit. There is such a value in true friendship—even for pastors—that it is worth the investment.

7. Take a risk. You'll eventually have to make yourself vulnerable and risk being hurt—perhaps again—to find true friends. I realize that is scary, especially if you've been hurt before, but finding true friendships is worth the risk. Be careful building these type friendships, but don't allow fear to keep you from having them. Pastor, you know what I'm advocating is true. So take another risk.

Pastor, be honest. Do you have someone in your life you could call when you're at your lowest point in ministry? Do you have someone investing in you on a regular basis? Are you lonely? If you were drowning or facing burnout, have you allowed other people—besides your spouse—into your closest, most protected world so they can recognize where you are currently and speak into the dark places of your life?

More importantly, is it worth the risk and investment to have true friends?

For those who have these types of relationships, what tips do you have for other pastors?

Let me close with a personal note to the lonely pastor. I understand your pain. I've been there. I'm praying for you as I write this post. Don't struggle alone too long without reaching out to someone.

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 ) Relationships Fri, 06 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
15 Ways to Take Care of Guest Speakers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21505-15-ways-to-take-care-of-guest-speakers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21505-15-ways-to-take-care-of-guest-speakers I am privileged to speak in dozens of churches each year. Most churches take good care of me, but some churches go the extra mile.

When that happens, it's fun to tell others about a congregation that is thoughtful and thorough in their approach toward guest speakers. As your church considers guest speakers, here is a sample list of steps these churches have taken:

1. Following up with correspondence to clarify expectations. Most of the invitations I receive come via email. It always helps when a follow up includes details about the assigned topic (if there is one), travel, lodging, speaking time limitations and media possibilities.

2. Asking about honorarium and expenses up front. I do not have a set honorarium expectation. I do assume, however, that a church that invites me to speak will cover my expenses. Not having that conversation ahead of time—preferably at the church's initiative—puts the speaker in an awkward position of wondering.

3. Contacting me directlyoften via a phone call from a leaderto contextualize the assignment. I like to approach my opportunities missiologically—that is, I want my approach to meet the specific context of the church. That's easier to do when someone gives me details about recent sermon topics, current needs and future plans prior to my preparation.

4. Providing a specific point person. The process is always easier when I or my assistant communicates with only one person. The level of confusion is almost always directly proportionate to the number of people involved in the planning conversations.

5. Offering a choice of lodging. One church gave me these options: a hotel, a church member's home with a "hotel-style" guest room, or the home of a church member interested in missions. My preference is almost always a hotel room, but I am grateful when the church discusses options with me prior to making lodging decisions.

6. Inviting my spouse to come. The church that makes that offer affirms my wife's partnership in my ministry and makes it easier for me to accept the invitation. One organization with whom I've worked—an organization with budget challenges—offers to cover my wife's expenses in lieu of providing a speaking honorarium. I take that offer so my wife may be with me.

7. Sending prayer cards prior to my arrival. It means something special when I receive prayer notes prior to my time with the church. A card that says, "Dr. Lawless, we're praying that God will do mighty things," is incredibly encouraging.

8. Providing a specific host while I'm at the church. Too often, I arrive at the church wondering who will meet me there. The day is much easier if a host greets me, takes me to the proper place, and guides me throughout the event.

9. Verifying data before introducing me. Internet data and bio information are not always accurate. For missionaries serving in dangerous areas, providing a full written or recorded introduction may be risky. In other cases, pronunciation of names is difficult. Confirming the information first will help avoid embarrassing situations later.

10. Giving a personalized gift basket. Many churches provide a gift basket with water, snacks and a local souvenir. The churches I remember most are those who provide a basket with my favorite beverages and snacks. To know they sought that information ahead of time is humbling and affirming.

11. Sending flowers to my spouse. When I'm away from home for several days, imagine my wife's surprise when the church sends flowers to thank her for her support. We do not have children at home, but I am aware of churches that provide small gifts for children as well.

12. Guaranteeing speaking time. If a speaker is invited to speak for 45 minutes, the best churches make sure that time is available. To invite a speaker but then reduce his/her time is disrespectful.

13. Guarding "down time" in the schedule. Most speakers want to be accessible as needed, but we usually need breaks (especially those of us who are introverts). Giving us time to rejuvenate without feeling guilty for having "alone time" will make us better speakers.

14. If providing an honorarium and expenses, giving separate checks for tax purposes. Record keeping is never fun, but it's much easier if the church clearly differentiates the payments.

15. Offering a follow-up report. After we prepare, pray and present, seldom do we hear how the Lord may have used our efforts beyond the event itself. A simple email report sometime later can provide much needed encouragement and inspiration.

What other ways would you recommend to take good care of guest speakers?

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 ) Relationships Fri, 30 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
7 Reasons Churches Are Too Busy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21504-7-reasons-churches-are-too-busy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21504-7-reasons-churches-are-too-busy If local churches were humans, most of them would experience burnout. Many congregations are too busy to be effective. Many have a hodgepodge of seemingly unrelated activities.

As a consequence, there is no clear plan or process of discipleship in these churches. Members are often confused about what they should do and how active they should be in the disparate ministries and programs. And some members pull back their involvement altogether in a sense of frustration and often guilt.

So how did churches get so busy? How did their calendars fill up so quickly that it left no breathing room for members and staff? There seems to be seven major contributing factors.

1. Many church leaders fail to ask the "why" questions when starting a new ministry. Why are we starting this ministry? Why should we continue it long-term? Why are we asking people to be involved? When a church has no clear and compelling purpose for a new ministry, it becomes just another activity.

2. Churches often have no process or plans to eliminate ministries. Thus ministries continue even if they are no longer effective or needed. They become analogous to the clutter we often have in our homes.

3. Some ministries are started just to please people. Sometimes church leaders take the path of least resistance and allow new ministries to be added just because one or a few church members wanted them. The ministry may not be the best for the church, but church leaders are often reticent to say no.

4. Some ministries have become sacred cows. Their impact on the church is negligible. Very few people are involved. But any mention of eliminating them is met with stiff resistance.

5. Ministries in many churches operate in a silo. So the student ministry has its own plans. Adult small group ministry has its own calendar without regard for the church as a whole. And the missions ministry makes extensive plans, but does not ask how they tie in with the rest of the church. So the couple who has teenage children wants to be involved in all three areas, but the calendars and activities conflict with one another.

6. Some church leaders have a philosophy of always saying "yes" because they desire to see all people unleashed to do ministry. Such a philosophy is admirable in its motives. But it can devolve into confusion and chaos as countless disconnected ministries are added to the church's activities.

7. Most churches have no process to evaluate ministries each year. When ministries continue with no evaluation to their effectiveness, they are likely to be on the church calendar well past the rapture. One of the roles of church leaders is to evaluate ministries every year. There should be some criteria to determine if their continued existence is good stewardship.

I recently met with a pastor whose church is emblematic of the hyper-busy congregation. Morning worship attendance is steady at 350, but Sunday evening worship had declined in a decade from 160 to 40. The pastor suggested the church consider eliminating the Sunday evening service, an act that required a majority vote in a business meeting. Over 300 members came to the business meeting and voted by over 80 percent to continue the activity. Of course, hardly any of those members ever came to Sunday evening service before or after the vote.

Our churches are just too busy. Is your church one of these busy congregations? Share your thoughts below.

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 ) Relationships Fri, 30 Jan 2015 14:00:00 -0500
5 Reasons Not to Speak With Pastors Before They Preach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21494-5-reasons-not-to-speak-with-the-pastor-before-they-preach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/relationships/21494-5-reasons-not-to-speak-with-the-pastor-before-they-preach For most pastors, preaching is one of the most important facets of their ministries. It is that time when they get to expound on God's Word. Much of their training has focused on preaching, and they often spend 15 to 20 hours preparing each sermon.

Pastors, with few exceptions, love their church members. They desire to serve their congregants well. They desire to be gracious and friendly to those who approach them. That is why most of them would be highly reticent to say what I am about to say.

Many times pastors get very distracted and even discouraged when someone speaks to them right before they preach. Let me elaborate in my usual fashion by making six observations.

1. The time right before pastors preach is a time of prayerful focus for them. They have put hours into the message. They have prayed that God will use their message. That is the frame of mind where you will find most pastors right before they preach.

2. Consider holding back any criticisms of your pastor right before the sermon. Can you imagine how you would feel if someone said something very critical of you right before you spoke? It happens to pastors all the time. If you feel like you must criticize your pastor, please consider doing so at another time.

3. Consider holding back your request of your pastor to make an announcement. Pastors are intensely focused on what they are about to preach. It can be a difficult distraction for them to remember your announcement even if you write it out for them. Indeed, any last minute announcement request is likely not a good idea.

4. Consider asking someone other than your pastor to handle a problem right before the sermon. One of my most memorable (but not pleasant) moments as a pastor was a lady running up to me as I was approaching the pulpit to preach. She had one thing to say to me: "You need to do something. The toilet is overflowing in the ladies restroom."

5. If possible, consider introducing people to your pastor after the sermon. I understand that such a practice is not always possible. Sometimes pastors have to move from one service to the next, and they are not able to speak to people after the service. Again, hold off the distraction of introducing people unless there is no other opportunity.

If you must speak to the pastor at that time, consider giving a word of encouragement or prayer support. I still remember to this day Frances Mason speaking to me right before I preached when I was a pastor in Birmingham. She would typically say something like, "Pastor, I prayed for a special anointing for you this morning." I could feel my spirits being lifted immediately after she spoke to me.

Please understand my perspective. I am writing as a former pastor and not on behalf of anyone who has asked me to write on this topic. Most of our pastors are godly and gracious, and would never ignore someone who approached them. I am simply requesting that you consider the timing and content of such conversations.

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) Relationships Tue, 27 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
6 Reasons Gray-Haired Churches Are Unhealthy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/seniors/20931-6-reasons-gray-haired-churches-are-unhealthy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/seniors/20931-6-reasons-gray-haired-churches-are-unhealthy Let me preface this post by saying I love the wisdom, faithfulness and depth that older Christ-followers bring to a church. At 47, I have some gray hair myself. 

That being said, if your church is primarily made up of people with gray hair, it is not a healthy situation. Here’s why.

1. Healthy families are made up of all generations. Grandparents, parents, teenagers, kids and grandkids. It’s the same with healthy churches.

2. A predominately gray-haired church is not reaching the next generation. We are called to reach the next generation with the gospel.

3. A gray-haired church has more than likely lost touch with the culture. Most gray-haired churches were once relevant and were reaching young families. But as the culture changed, they keep doing things the same way they did them to reach young families—in the 1970s and 1980s. 

The result—the young families they reached back then have aged into senior adults, but they have reached very few, if any, young families in today's culture.


4. Many gray-haired churches are living on past blessings. If you talk more about what God used to do in your church than about what He is doing now, things are unhealthy. 

5. A church that only has a few, if any, kids is not healthy. A healthy church will be made up of at least 15-20 percent kids. That means if you have 100 people attending your church, at least 15-20 of them should be kids. 

6. Many gray-haired churches have older pastors. 
This is not a blanket statement. There are churches with older pastors who are reaching young families. But in many cases where the church is not reaching the next generation, the pastor is in his 60s. Normally, a pastor will draw adults who are either 10 years younger or older than he is. Young pastors reach young families. 

I want to challenge you to take a look at your church. How much gray hair do you see?  Hopefully lots. But hopefully you also see just as many people who are younger. 

How do you attract young families to your church? In Magnetic Family Ministry, I share some principles that will help you reach young families. You can check it out at this link.

So what do you think? Is a gray-haired congregation unhealthy? If so, what can it do to reach the next generation? Share your thoughts with us below.

Dale Hudson has served in children and family ministry for over 24 years. He is the director of children’s ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm Beach, Florida. He was recently named one of the top 20 influencers in children’s ministry. He is the coauthor of four ministry books, including Turbocharged: 100 Simple Secrets to Successful Children’s Ministry.

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson) Seniors Thu, 15 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Seeing Singles: A Challenge for the Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/21502-seeing-singles-a-challenge-for-the-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/21502-seeing-singles-a-challenge-for-the-church A stunning fact you may not know: According to U.S. Census data, more than one-fourth of all adults have never been married (27 percent). Another 6 percent are widowed and 12 percent divorced or separated.

Most churches minister well to those 56 percent of adults who are married. But do we also acknowledge the great value and importance of that "invisible" enormous multitude of unmarried adults?

I interviewed several unmarried Christian friends, and discovered 10 tips for loving and ministering to single adults who are members or guests at church:

  • See each single adult as a valued individual, ready to meet God and serve Him, with or without a boyfriend or girlfriend, fiancé, spouse or three kids in tow.
  • Train greeters at church. Comments such as "Are you here alone?" or "Is it just you?" may indicate that he or she is incomplete.
  • Acknowledge single adults as full-fledged members, not just as sideline people. Plug them into leadership and ministry roles to fit their spiritual gifts. Encourage them to serve on important church committees, projects and men or women's ministry teams.
  • Involve singles in small groups. Many singles enjoy a small group with similar marital status and life stage. Most singles I interviewed, however, are involved in a small group of both married and unmarried. Offer choices.
  • Encourage them to make the most of their singleness. Recognize the extra gifts they may bring to the church, such as more freedom to serve and travel, and sometimes more financial freedom, etc.
  • Unless he or she personally requests it, don't set them up with your cousin or recommend online dating services. Avoid communicating, "It's God's will that you find a mate." That's not necessarily true. In 1 Corinthians 7, Paul taught that singleness is a gift. Most singles aren't coming to church to find a mate. They're here to worship, to serve and to support.
  • Intentionally encourage single adults to participate in church events and ministries—Vacation Bible School, church dinners. Include them in your church traditions. For example, invite singles to light an advent candle.
  • A church may provide some quality, uniquely single events, targeted to specific life circumstances. Examples: a single parents Bible study, singles mission trip, young singles retreat, single adult outreach event, mature singles' Christmas project.
  • Connect with single adults personally as a friend. Encourage them. Invite them to dinner or dessert. True fellowship often happens across the dinner table.
  • Be constantly aware of single adults all around you at work, in the grocery line, at the ball game, in your neighborhood. Invite them to your church.

As an individual member and as a church, how are you doing at reaching and including adults who are unmarried? See them. Pray for them. Love them wholeheartedly. God does.

Diana Davis (www.keeponshining.com) is an author, speaker and wife of the North American Mission Board's vice president for the South region, Steve Davis.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Diana Davis) Singles Thu, 29 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
How to Form the Perfect Singles Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/21232-how-to-form-the-perfect-singles-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/21232-how-to-form-the-perfect-singles-ministry "I don't belong here." That was the first thought that entered my mind when I walked into the room labeled, "singles."

I had recently relocated and was interested in building relationships in my new church home. On that particular Sunday morning, I was greeted in the church entrance and asked what kind of class I would like to attend. After a short discussion, the greeter led me to a small classroom upstairs.

To be honest, I felt like I had been dropped off in the "lost and found" box for Christians. Other than being single, "What else could I possibly have in common with these people?" I thought.

You see, the term, "single" has multiple meanings. It can refer to a 26-year old graduate student who has never been married, a 43-year old divorcee and mother of three, or a 74-year old widower, or a million different other combinations!

I sat down and waited for the lesson to begin. My mind was filled with curiosity as I scanned the room. "I wonder what his story is?" "What brought her to this class?"

The lesson was great. But what was even better was the discussion. It was during that time that I learned a valuable lesson: No matter how we all ended up single, we all had similar needs that only Christ can fulfill.

Over the course of several months, the unthinkable happened: I fell in love with my singles class! There is just something about sharing common struggles and needs that brings people together.

In the midst of that time, my perspective of what a singles ministry should look like has changed. It's not about age categories and marital status classifications. It's about a common need for grace—God's grace.

Perhaps no other group of people in the church are as "in touch" with their need for Christ as singles. Why? Because God created marriage to teach us about Christ's love for us (Ephesians 5:25). When someone is missing a marriage relationship, it touches a nerve that heightens the awareness of our need for Christ.

For that reason, if I were starting a singles ministry from scratch (or revising an existing one), I don't think I would worry so much about making the meetings "cool" or "trendy."

It wouldn't bother me if multiple age groups wanted to attend. And I wouldn't cringe at the thought of mixing divorcee's, widowers, and never-marrieds.

Instead, I think I would focus on something more vital that every single person desires: an atmosphere of grace. That's the kind of place where everyone belongs!

Scott Attebery is executive director of DiscipleGuide Church Resources, a department of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. You can read his blog at ScottAttebery.com.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Scott Attebery) Singles Fri, 26 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Are Singles as Qualified for Ministry as Married People? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/21199-are-singles-as-qualified-for-ministry-as-married-people http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/21199-are-singles-as-qualified-for-ministry-as-married-people The overwhelming majority of church leadership in the United States is married.

Married people are the overwhelming majority of voices with the power to influence church decisions—and marriage is celebrated above almost anything else in a Christian's life. But just like racial and gender inequalities within our governing bodies are cause for concern, the fact that our church leadership is weighted so heavily toward married people is cause for concern as well.

The perspectives of single people and married people, while they can be similar, are at times vastly different. Single people face different challenges than married people do, and their perspective and needs are largely ignored.

Not only that, but we often communicate (even if unconsciously), that there's something wrong with you if you're not married.

We talk about marriage as the end point—the reward awaiting a spiritually healthy and mature Christian.

We reinforce that message by hiring married people almost exclusively to hold the most important roles in our church communities.

According to a New York Times article, single pastors in conservative churches are outnumbered by married pastors 1:19. Even in more liberal churches, only one out of every six pastors is single.

We're missing out on an experienced, talented and passionate group when we don't hire single people. And I think it's about time that changed.

Here are four assets single people offer to our ministries that married people can't:

1. Time. In Scripture, Paul says it's better to be unmarried than it is to be married.

He's not knocking marriage, he's just pointing out that if you're single, you have the ability to pursue the Lord and His work without distraction.

By only hiring married people, we're hiring a team of people who are naturally divided in their focus. By hiring single people for our ministry staff, we're benefiting from their undivided focus, passion and time.

2. An understanding of singleness. Married people like to believe they know everything there is to know about the struggle of being single. But just like we need female pastors to minister to women, and the same to men, we shouldn't expect married people to be able to understand, relate and minister to single people as well as a single person would.

There are unique challenges and hardships that come with singleness, just as there are in marriage. It's important that we provide resources and support for people going through those challenges, just as we would for any other members of our congregation.

3. A different perspective. No governing body would be able to accurately represent the needs and desires of its constituents without having a diverse group of voices making the decisions.

The same is true in a church.

If every person making the decisions has the same life experience, particularly in the arena of marriage, it's going to be impossible to accurately speak and serve the needs of people who aren't. People who aren't married bring a needed perspective that's different from the voices represented today.

4. A reliance on Jesus. Married people have a built-in support system single people don't have. When something happens, husbands and wives rely on each other for love, support and help. When you're single, you don't have that same luxury, which is a different kind of luxury in itself.

I don't know if you've ever experienced this, but when I am totally relying on the Lord, I get to see Him do far better, more miraculous things than I do when I'm going at it on my own. While married people reflect the relationship between Jesus and his church, single people rely on it—a reliance that leads to closeness with God that our whole congregation would benefit from.

Our churches suffer greatly when groups in the congregation aren't represented. Our single members of the congregation are not only being under-represented, they're being marginalized. But even more than that, we're missing out on the contribution of some of our most talented, passionate and creative members.

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) Singles Tue, 09 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Waiting for 'the One' http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/18097-waiting-for-the-one http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/singles/18097-waiting-for-the-one What to say to those still searching for a soul mate
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Mark.Gungor@strang.com (Mark Gungor) Singles Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400
What to Do Before Your Church Starts Using Social Media http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21668-what-to-do-before-your-church-starts-using-social-media http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21668-what-to-do-before-your-church-starts-using-social-media Should churches utilize social media for the mission of carrying the gospel to the ends of the earth? Yes!

But after a decade or so of helping churches and leaders utilize blogging and social networking for ministry, I've come to a solid conclusion that every church leader needs to hear:

"We don't need to get our church involved in social media until our church's leaders are invested in it."

Usually, when a church reaches out for help about getting started, this involves launching or redesigning the church's website, creating a church Facebook page, and possibly creating an Instagram and/or Twitter account. But repeatedly, these efforts are wasted because of a misunderstanding about the nature of social media.

Here's the simple explanation. Social media is media (information, truth, a message of some kind) that is social (spread person-to-person or person-to-people through relationships). But we who grew up in the age of television, radio, print, and even the early days of the Internet wish it were as simple as it was a couple of decades ago when any institution or organization could mass distribute its message and count on a decent response from the general public.

Here are the harsh realities, or the beautiful opportunities if we can see them as such, that are now facing us:

  • People don't trust institutions, including churches, to be honest about their own message.
  • People don't listen to institutional language but instead demand an authentically human voice.
  • People don't choose things based on advertising but rather based on the opinions of friends.

So having a church website, or church Facebook page or church anything is terribly ineffective if it isn't personal, human and relational.

I believe that for most churches, especially smaller to medium-sized churches, it's actually more important for the Pastor and staff to be present on social media than for the church to show up there institutionally. Marriott is just a hotel, but reading Bob Marriott's blog makes it a knowable, relatable business. Zappos revolutionized the fashion-retail business by directly responding to customers on Twitter. And Ed Stetzer is one of evangelicalism's most listened to voices because he's decided that blogging and tweeting prolifically is worth the time.

So now, my first and primary question to any church leader asking for help getting into social media is this: Are you personally and professionally using social media?

Using the excuse that you don't have time doesn't cut it anymore. If you have time for evangelism, you have time for social media. If you have time to meet new people, research current trends, and build relationships, you have time for social media. So the time is right now.

If you're a church leader and you're not using social media to advance the church's purposes, you're simply delaying the obsolescence of your ministry impact. You can coast a while longer and relate only to fellow hold-outs, or you can decide that now is the time to engage the current culture, where it is, in the online world. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Sign up on Twitter, create a decent bio and use a current photo for your profile, then follow people that make sense—fellow church leaders, community leaders, and people on the fringes of your church's extended family.
  • Use Facebook regularly. Post something inspirational daily, open a window into your life with some photos, and encourage other people with comments, likes, and personal messages.
  • Blog. Use WordPress, Tumblr, or Medium to turn your sermon notes into devotional messages that live past lunch on Sunday. And dare to share it with other people.
  • Sign up for free, helpful material from Lifeword, whose goal is to help every believer become a media missionary. Or read a book about using social media for ministry.

When church leaders such as pastors, staff members, and volunteer team leaders get excited about communicating the gospel and cultivating a healthy church community using modern tools, the church will follow. And at the end of the day, the people who sit in our pews on Sunday are far more instrumental to the spread of the gospel than the institution's public face. It's been that way since Jesus commissioned the apostles to take the good news to the whole world.

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon A .Cox) Social Media Mon, 06 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
3 Ways Social Media Benefits Church Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21612-3-ways-social-media-benefits-church-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21612-3-ways-social-media-benefits-church-leaders Every time a new form of media emerges, there are early adopters and rejecters.

I wouldn't throw my whole lot in with either camp. Some things are certainly fads, and it doesn't make sense to invest much effort in them. Other things are solid, and we can resist them to our own insignificance.

Wisdom is knowing which is which.

God, Satan or Tool?

Social media is here to stay. At once it represents technology at its finest, and humanity at its worst. But the same was said of television, and cinema, and probably the printing press.

So we can treat it as our god, which some people do, and their entire day revolves around consuming and interacting with every bit of information the 24-hour feed will deliver to them. We can treat it as Satan, which others do and rail against the evils that come through MySpace (not realizing that maybe the devil left there too).

Or we can choose a smart approach somewhere between the extremes.

As is probably evident, I am a big believer in the advantages of social media. I know there are negative issues that come along with it. But let's be honest. If you look around your kitchen or workshop you will probably find 10 or more awesome tools that can leave bad results.

Social media is a tool. A tool in the wrong hands is dangerous. A tool in good hands is extremely useful. Churches and leaders that remain absent from social media are not able to use this tool to expand the kingdom.

Here are three ways social media can be a blessing for leadership in the church.

Social media helps you ...

1. Empower your people. Engage in the parallel life that many people have online. They're already there. Their friends are already there. If we encourage people to interact with our church via social media, they are more likely to use it as a missional tool with their friends.

You would encourage a soccer coach in your church to develop a mission mindset through that skill set and venue. You would empower a Christian businesswoman to use her marketplace platform to build the kingdom.

So why not encourage the majority of those in your church, who are already in touch with nearly half of their community online, to actively engage in reaching people with what they have in their hand anyway? They are already engaged. They just need to be encouraged toward a mission focus.

A pastor, Sunday school teacher, women's director, youth pastor, any leader who does not encourage their people to engage in mission on social media is missing a great opportunity to reach a huge segment of the culture.

2. Express your humanity. One of the issues in the church for years has been a sort of distance and subsequent disconnect between the pew and the pulpit. It is difficult, if not impossible, for a pastor to know and be known by the majority of the people in his church. This is especially true as the church grows. I'm not saying this is good or bad. It just is.

Along the way, there can be a dehumanization of the leader. If a person only sees the pastor for an hour on Sunday, it can subconsciously give the impression that he is only a point of information.

Obviously I spend a lot of time on social media. But I have a very specific reason for that. The primary way I influence people is not by speaking at a conference—it is through social media. Regardless of the size audience I may have at a national conference, the ongoing Twitter connection is much broader.

While I spark conversations about statistics, church, culture, strategy, etc. on Twitter, most of my social media followers know I have daughters, because I talk about them. If I take them and their friends to a Taylor Swift concert, I tweet about it, in all its pain!

When one of my daughters was quite sick, I tweeted about it. I express my adoration for my wife online. Social media helps me go from just being a speaker/author to being a man who loves his family as he goes through a regular life.

Social media helps me go from just being a speaker/author to being a man who loves his family.

It is important for the people you are leading to see you as more than a leader on a stage. Social media can help shorten the distance between the pulpit and the pew.

3. Expand your influence. There are plenty of significant leaders who are not on Twitter or Facebook ... yet. But I think more and more people who want to have a lasting impact are joining social media.

Joining social media doesn't mean you have to play Candy Crush on Facebook. You can control how much you engage. You can interact on Twitter from your cell phone and not even worry about getting bogged down in email activity.

One of the great things social media does is enables quality leaders to broaden their influence and impact. I can be at a conference and hear someone new, and if I like what they are saying or doing, I can tweet them out to my friends on social media.

Most people don't know what C.S. Lewis wrote because they have actually read his work. They can quote Lewis, or Bonhoeffer, or Elizabeth Elliot because someone else read what they wrote and then shared it with others.

If these people hadn't engaged in the prevalent media of their day (print), their profound influence would be quite limited.

We know about Jesus because faithful men wrote down what He said. Now we can embrace those comforting and challenging words in our own lives. Your ministry can have greater returns if you extend it through social media.

What would you add to the list of ways social media is helpful for leaders? What is the main benefit for you to be on social media?

Ed Stezer is the executive director of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstezer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Social Media Fri, 06 Mar 2015 22:00:00 -0500
30 Tips for Churches When Using Social Media http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21495-30-tips-for-churches-when-using-social-media http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21495-30-tips-for-churches-when-using-social-media God invented social media, so church, you ought to use it! Nonprofits who hope to change the world? You too! I've written plenty about the theory and philosophy behind using social media.

In fact, I wrote a whole book about using social media to spread the gospel and I wrote it to lay a foundation.

Today, I'm shooting from the hip and offering some practical, do-able tips for using social media on the ground. These are based on my observations of what I've seen work, what I've seen done poorly, and what I believe is on the horizon.

1. Keep the gospel central. Never before in history has the opportunity been so wide open to take it further and faster to the ends of the earth—at least the 3 billion who use the Internet.

2. Define the why. Don't just engage because it's cool. Engage because it matters. For eternity.

3. Define the who. Who are your audiences (and you will have more than one)?

4. Determine your strategy. Don't try to do everything, but definitely don't do nothing (I know...).

5. Value communications and creativity. It's not a little thing on the side. Everything you do is communications.

6. Start. Sign up for Twitter and stop making fun of it.

7. Download my slightly dated (2011) e-book Twitter for Ministry for free.

8. Follow people you want to learn from.

9. Follow people you want to connect with.

10. Tweet links and pithy quotes, not angry rants.

11. Respond. Mention others. Engage in conversations.

12. Don't follow the non-people you can't learn from or connect with—it's a spammy world out there.

13. Have a good website.

14. Make your good website more findable.

15. Start blogging. Don't worry about getting it all right, just start writing Use WordPress or Tumblr.

16. Improve your blogging. After you've started, start improving it.

17. Read. A lot. Use Feedly to subscribe to good blogs by others. And make notes.

18. When something works, do more of it. When something falls flat, do less of that.

19. Be way more personal and slightly less professional, without doing anything stupid that would jeopardize your brand.

20. Use Facebook events. It's extremely powerful because friends invite other friends.

21. Use Facebook ads, and learn to target well. You can target by age, relationship status, location, interests and connections.

22. Stop inviting me to play games about solving crimes, building farms, and crushing candy.

23. Make videos. Too self-conscious? Get over yourself and do it anyway. Social video is the future.

24. Use Instagram. Teens use Facebook, but they really use Instagram. It's also the future.

25. Think mobile. Never design a website or produce content that can't be easily viewed and shared from someone's palm.

26. Like, Favorite, Re-pin, Re-blog, and pass along good stuff from others to others. Generosity is core!

27. Use #hashtags but don't over-do it. And have a hashtag for your organization, like #ghills.

28. Empower the people—give your members and constituents things they'll gladly share, like pretty graphics.

29. Use Facebook groups for small groups, volunteer teams, interest-based groups, etc. Groups are powerful.

30. Do good. Change the world.

Come on—add something below. What's your best short tip? What's working for you? What did you do that blew up and blew your mind with its results?

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon A. Cox) Social Media Tue, 27 Jan 2015 13:00:00 -0500
Why the Internet Is a Godsend for Pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21411-why-the-internet-is-a-godsend-for-pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21411-why-the-internet-is-a-godsend-for-pastors Once I read the story, I never forgot it.

Some preacher in Texas was waxing eloquent and told of the author of the 1960-ish book "I'm OK, You're OK," who became sour on life and committed suicide. It underscored some point he was making and he drove it home.

He got the story, he told a court of law, from an evangelist whom he had heard at some camp meeting or something. The evangelist, who was sued by the author, sheepishly admitted that he had gotten his facts wrong.

Preachers used to be notorious for telling tall tales, passing along unsubstantiated rumors that they picked up from one another and related as gospel truth in sermons without checking their accuracy.

It was hard to check in those days. No Internet, no Google, no Wikipedia and no Snopes.

Many a time I called the reference section at the public library and told them the story I was trying to run down. A few hours later, someone would return the call with whatever information they had managed to dig up.

Those days are behind us.

Today, you "save" whatever notes you are typing and go to your search engine and type in the subject you are researching. Bingo. There it is. You read it and return to your page, or even "copy" it and "paste" the information on your page.

All of that took about 30 seconds. Or less.

Never again need a preacher or teacher pass along scurrilous stories, unsubstantiated rumors, tall tales and innuendo. (Case in point: I typed in "scurilous." It didn't look right, so I Googled it and without clicking on anything, the correct spelling (scurrilous) appeared. It was that easy.)

Pastors who do not use the Internet are limiting themselves to 1950s' methods needlessly.

Jim Lancaster did not ask if I wanted a computer in my office. This associate pastor on our staff, sometime in the late 1990s, simply installed one. When I walked in, the process was about complete. I said, "What are you doing?" He said simply, "You're going to be needing this."

Was he ever right.

If there is a pastor near and dear to you who is not making use of this great help, perhaps you should do something similar. (I was so green, he had to show me the power button that turned the computer on. There is no on/off switch. Jim had to tell me that in the address ".com" the period is called a dot. As in "dot com." I told you I was green.)

But do not relegate the pastor to the computer. He is going to run into a hundred questions and will need to know that you (or some 12-year-old) is always on call to tell him, "what to do when that thing pops up on the screen" or "how to get those ads off the page."

Teach him once how to "save" his notes and how to store them in a folder, and he will be forever in your debt. Show him how to "cut and paste," and you have cut an hour from his sermon preparation time.

It's not about modern technology, nor is it about being "cool." It's about doing better work more efficiently and availing himself of all the wonderful resources now at his fingertips, and what minister doesn't want to do that?

So, no preacher with a laptop need ever pass along an unsubstantiated rumor, right? We could wish.

Actually, the Internet allows for just that, for anyone to send a lie into cyberspace and deliver it onto the doorsteps of a hundred million people by nightfall. It happens all the time.

Well-meaning but lazy people find something on Facebook or an email that tugs at their hearts (or stirs their dander) and they jump on the bandwagon. The Internet enables them to hit a few keys and presto, that thing they read is now being passed along to an infinite number of readers. Most will ignore it, some will delete it, but an uncounted number will be influenced by it in some way.

Your influence has just been multiplied by infinity.

To be truthful, that's what scares away many good people. They seem to feel the Internet is a scary beast with powers to do awful things. "All things are lawful for me," in the words of the apostle, "But I will not be brought under the powers of any." (That reference from 1 Corinthians 6:12 I knew but could not locate. So, I "saved" this article, typed in part of the verse to the search blank and instantly I Corinthians 6:12 came up. I returned to this article and resumed typing. All of it took less time than it has taken for me to describe the process).

The Internet is a-moral. It's like the radio or television, a tool for good or ill, depending on the user.

In the next year or two after getting the computer in my office (a massive bulky thing), I began writing a one-page article each week that we called "A Matter of Fax." We would "fax" it to subscribers. Then, we discovered that email was cheaper, whereas to fax that page long-distance cost high telephone rates. So, we transitioned to email and continued building our list of subscribers. Eventually, we had over 3,000.

All these articles were posted on our "blog," which is short for web log. They're still there, incidentally. Go to joemckeever.com and scroll down. Eventually, you'll come to "Archives." Scroll down to the beginning, sometime in 2004, I think. There they are, waiting forever, for the Judgment, perhaps. (I wonder if my great-grandchildren will still be able to find all of this simply by clicking on some kind of screen, and bet they will).

When Facebook came along and I got into that—I cannot tell you precisely when—we began posting a link to the blog and that increased the readership. The next step was to discontinue emailing the articles. The comments we were getting in response indicated a declining readership.

What we did then, and have continued doing, is to type the article (like this one) on the blog, and then provide the link to it with a descriptive sentence or two on Facebook. And with the wonders of the Internet, people who like it can hit a few keys and forward that article to hundreds of their friends.

It's only amazing is what it is.

How much does this cost? My website ("blog") costs just over $100 annually, and once in a while I have to shell out a few dollars to keep my domain, which means www.joemckeever.com.

Sometime early in the 2000s, my son Marty, webmaster for this site, informed me that he had reserved joemckeever.com for me. "You're going to be needing it," he said.  At the time, I hardly knew what that meant. (Later, I discovered quite a few people with my name, one of them a comic book artist, another a rock musician, and also a Catholic priest or two in Ireland. They all wish they'd bought this domain.)

Then, in the spring of 2004, I transitioned from pastoring to becoming the leader of the Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans (the official title is Director of Missions). Since the New Orleans association's website was defunct and the computer guy was trying to get it up and running in his spare time, I began using the www.joemckeever.com website. That was a godsend.

In late August 2005, when Hurricane Katrina roared through our part of the world and flooded this city, causing apocalyptic devastation, we were evacuated for a month. Over a thousand were killed and hundreds of thousands lost everything. On Sept. 1, 2005, from the family farm in north Alabama, I began journaling on this blog. Editors would read it and reprinted my entries in their publications.

Everything we wrote over the next few years relating to Katrina and the rebuilding of this city and the restructuring of our churches is still there on this website, waiting to be read. In the Archives, scroll down to September 2005, and stop at Sept. 1.

It's amazing, this computer thing. A wonder of wonders. I do not pretend to understand how it works. Every innovation my son Marty has introduced—including typing this article into the system and posting it, linking it to Facebook, etc.—he has had to show me slowly and laboriously until I got the hang of it. But once I got it, the results were astounding.

There are times when something I posted at 6:30 in the morning will be picked up by some preachers' journal and, by noon, they have forwarded it to 75,000 of their closest friends. I'll go into my computer and find emails from servants of the Lord all over the world.

I'll be 75 years old next March (2015). I am well aware that this preacher boy is one blessed fellow, to have lived long enough to see this and partake of it.  (I wonder what devices will be commonplace for the Lord's servants a half-century from now, innovations that will make this laptop and Facebook seem as out-dated as buggy-whips and rotary-dial phones).

Now, may the Lord help us all to be faithful with this wonderful tool, to be careful of what we say, and seek to use this communication device to bless people and honor the Lord who enabled it all in the first place.

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 ) Social Media Wed, 17 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Why Your Church Should Consider Live Internet Streaming http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21402-why-your-church-should-consider-live-internet-streaming http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21402-why-your-church-should-consider-live-internet-streaming "Do you have an internet campus?" Leadership Network polled more than 500 multisite churches in late 2013 (entire report as free download here), with the following findings:

1 percent—We DID have an Internet campus, but no longer offer it.

10 percent—We PLAN to launch one soon.

28 percent—We DO currently have an Internet campus (or similar).

62 percent—We do NOT have an Internet campus, beyond access to sermons online, and no plans to launch one.

Any church that runs cameras in worship, whether for image magnification or broadcast to other campuses, has the potential to do an Internet campus. For many, the process is an ongoing education:

  • "We love our Internet campus," says Steve Stroope, pastor of Lake Pointe Church, Rockwall, Texas, which draws roughly 11,000 to its physical campuses and another 3,000 to its online campus. "I didn't get it when we started, but the plusses have been unbelievable." The church has learned to use the service not only as outreach, but also to bring families together. "It helps our members stay connected when they can't attend and new people get a free sample without as much risk." One woman, whose grown children attend Lake Pointe, is a regular online viewer. "It's so great to go to church with my kids," she reports.
  • "We've adjusted our approach several times," says Bryan Collier, pastor of The Orchard, a United Methodist congregation in Tupelo, Mississippi. "It's working well now more as an on-ramp than a destination. Our people will invite unchurched friends to a coffee shop and play the service for them. It's created great conversations and a greater willingness to actually come to church."
  • "We are continually surprised by the reach of our internet campus," says Pierre DuPlessis, pastor of The Father's House, a large multisite church in Rochester, New York. Leaders there calculate that almost as many tune in online as attend in person.

As churches are experimenting with the idea of online campuses, below is an in-depth look at yet another church—what they did and what they learned:

Reaching at Home and Way Beyond

A live broadcast of worship services to more than 30 countries, chat and prayer rooms, faith commitments and virtual small groups—these are all part of the expanding Internet-based experience, aptly named the Online Campus, from The Cove Church, based just north of Charlotte, North Carolina.

"Our biggest growth factor is people telling their friends and family, whether on social media or sending a text or email with a link," says Rebekah Carney, Online Campus Director at The Cove.

One woman attending from another state heard about the online campus from her adult daughter, who attends the Statesville campus. Since this woman started attending the online campus, her two younger children living at home have committed their lives to Christ. Rebekah has never met the daughter in person, but she has become good friends with the mom, who now serves from miles away on Rebekah's Online Campus Chat team.

Another Cove attendee who travels extensively was attending church online while in China—and soon had a crowd joining him. "Somebody wandered by and was curious and stopped and watched with him," Rebekah says.  "Then another stopped, then another. Before he knew it, 15 people were watching The Cove's service with him from 9,000 miles away."

The Cove and Senior Pastor Mike Madding's desire for global reach sparked the online campus idea when Executive Pastor Rick Carney was discussing with the church's technical director, Steve Smale, how to take the church's ministry outside the walls of its regional multisite campuses. Church leaders attribute much of the global growth of its online campus—people have attended from more than 30 nations—to The Cove's focus on missions.

"When someone new from a different country joins our online church, we can usually trace it back to a mission trip our church took," Rebekah says, "or someone knows somebody in that country or someone moved there. All the growth has been word-of-mouth at this point."

On a typical Sunday, The Cove has about 500 logins to its online campus. Judging by trends in the chat room and from talking to people who attend, more than one person is usually watching at an online location. Rebekah estimates 800 to 1,500 people are joining the online service each week.

The Cove measures its online progress by taking attendance numbers from Google Analytics and also tracking the bandwidth being used during a broadcast. This way leaders know how many people are watching and where they're from, with some of the biggest spiritual "wins" recorded in chat room conversations and commitments to Christ.

"Those conversations are a huge win for us," Rebekah says. "People will say, 'I really needed this today. My sister sent me this link out of the blue and I watched, and the message was perfect.' We get stories like that all the time."

The church added an instant feedback button to its online campus page this year where attendees can indicate they have prayed to receive Christ. Before that feature was added, participants had to find a communication card online, fill it out and let leaders know they had made a commitment to Christ.

Only 10 made that indication in 2013, but already this year 191 people have clicked the button to let leaders know about their faith commitment. If new Christians share their identity, leaders follow up with an email and a package sent to their physical address that includes information on "Next Steps" to get started in their new journey with Christ.

"That's obviously one of the biggest reasons we do this," Rebekah says.

Leadership Team Also Spread Far and Wide

Rebekah is on paid staff at The Cove, and she leads an all-volunteer team of three divisions. She has put together a Production Team that handles all the video and web production work for the live broadcast. The Host Team takes care of the chat room and online conversations. Currently, they offer only a public chat room, but plan to add private chat room and prayer room soon. The Media Marketing Team helps to manage and create content for social media and landing pages to draw people into the online campus.

These teams—some of whom gather in a room during the service, while others work remotely, even in other states—range in age from 15 to 60 years old.

"It's very cool to have people of all ages working together," Rebekah says. "So many of them are doing this for their family and friends, and they are so passionate about it.

"One of my team members has friends all over the country, and she is so passionate about reaching them. She gets so excited when someone she's invited signs in."

Community: Both In-Person and Online

Rebekah says leaders hope that online campus participants will find one of The Cove's regional campuses and become an in-person attender. "If people want to stay online and watch, that's OK," she says. "But if they're local, we want to see them find one of our regional campuses and get in community with some people."

For those who aren't willing or able to connect in person, The Cove is utilizing Google Hangouts to test "virtual small groups" with some of its team members. Judging by the early success, virtual small groups will likely become a part of the online campus experience—with an eye on something much bigger.

The Cove launched online Life Groups, or small groups, and made them public in September. "We have more interest than we can currently accommodate and in my group there are people from North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee and California. The community that is developing across time zones is just amazing," says Rebekah.

"What we would really love to see happen is that when we see 20 people all watching in a nearby city, maybe Memphis, we plan a mixer with those people and start a neighborhood campus there," Rebekah says. "We want to see people joining in community, so we would love to see people in neighborhood campuses, community campuses, even large regional gatherings developing out of our online campus."

Warren Bird, Ph.D., serves as Director of Research and Intellectual Capital Development at Leadership Network. An ordained minister with background as both a pastor and seminary professor, he is an award-winning author or co-author of 27 books for ministry leaders including Next: Pastoral Succession that Works with William Vanderbloemen. Other recent titles are Better Together: Making Church Mergers Work with Jim Tomberlin, and Wisdom from Lyle E. Schaller. Some of Warren's recent online reports include "Leadership Network/Generis Multisite Church Scorecard," "The Heartbeat of Rising Influence Churches" and "Pastors Who Are Shaping the Future." He is widely recognized as one of the nation's leading researchers of megachurches, multisite churches, large church compensation and high-visibility pastoral succession.

For the original article, visit leadnet.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Warren Bird ) Social Media Thu, 18 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Why You Should Use the Internet to Impact, Not Implode http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21338-why-you-should-use-the-internet-to-impact-not-implode http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21338-why-you-should-use-the-internet-to-impact-not-implode For hundreds of years as missionaries took the gospel to the ends of the earth, depending on the culture they encountered, the Christian community allowed them enormous latitude as to how they chose to present the message.

For instance, when a missionary worked in a culture steeped in polygamy, he didn't start by teaching what the Bible said about "one husband and one wife." He knew the key to changing embedded cultural behavior wasn't immediate confrontation; it was the sometimes long process of winning trust, developing relationships and earning the right to be heard.

From Sati (widow burning) in some Asian cultures to slavery and tribal warfare in Africa, missionaries understood that it may take years before they were trusted enough to speak against values and customs that had been part of a society for generations. Legendary Baptist missionary Lottie Moon is credited with helping to end the practice of foot-binding in China. Changing this commonly accepted but crippling practice was a massive shift for influential Chinese leaders at the time. But it was only Lottie's deep and long immersion into that society which earned her enough authority to speak into these kinds of practices.

Today we give the same type of latitude to missionaries confronting Muslim cultures in which many who come to Christ desire to remain culturally Muslim.  In Buddhist areas, the challenge may be household gods, and in animist groups it's syncretism. To preach against these practices from day one is to invite expulsion and sometimes physical harm. That's why being strategic about when, where and how to broach these delicate subjects is critical for impacting these regions with the gospel.

Today, "missions" isn't just about a remote village in a Third World country. While those outreaches are still critical, the emerging mission fields of the 21st century are the largest urban areas of the world—including the United States. From New York, Stockholm, Berlin, Cape Town and beyond, a new generation of pastors and leaders are planting churches in the most unchurched cities of the world. They face challenges traditional missionaries of the past faced and more, including an unbelieving and indifferent community, often-hostile media and aggressive government regulation that can limit new church buildings and locations.

But beyond these immediate obstacles, these pioneers are facing a challenge previous generations of missionaries and leaders never faced. These urban missionaries are being challenged in the media by other Christians.

Past generations of Christian missionaries changed the world, in part because we gave them the latitude necessary on when, where and how they chose to present the gospel. In those days, news travelled slowly, and in many cases missionaries were able to spend years working with local groups relatively unhindered.

But in the digital era, every decision, interview and statement our new leaders make is tweeted, posted, updated and blogged about. Suddenly, Christian sites post opinion pieces from armchair theologians, and everyone feels the need to weigh in with little or no understanding of context or background. In the Internet age, Christians who've never even been to Mumbai feel perfectly comfortable calling a Christian leader working in that culture to task on a wide range of issues.

And when it comes to volatile issues like same sex marriage, it gets downright ugly. We've gone from respecting a leader's decision on when, where and how to share the gospel to the people he or she's called to reach to forcing leaders to sign a virtual loyalty oath. If they don't all make public announcements that meet our approval, they're labeled as compromisers, sell-outs or heretics. We're effectively forcing these 21st century missionaries to be rejected by the very cultures they are desperately trying to reach. To turn away people before they even have a chance to share the life-changing message of the gospel.

Theology matters. What we believe about God determines the God we believe in. But when it comes to engaging the fastest changing and most disrupted culture in the history of the world, I suggest that we give a little grace to our pioneers on the front lines. They see the challenges first hand, which in most cases determines how best to connect.

Teachers in urban areas use different methods from those in rural areas to inspire students. Military generals use different strategies for engaging enemy forces in different regions of the world. So why can't we do the same with the men and women on the front lines of the gospel?

I'm all for vigorous discussion and even debate. But next time we hear a sound byte, an off-hand conversation or a media interview from a leader we may disagree with, let's not be quite so quick to criticize on social media, blogs or the op-ed pages of Christian websites or publications. Let's consider the local situation, the context and the lifelong track record of the person in question.

Perhaps most important, let's remember there is much we don't know about going on behind the scenes. In other words, let's use the power of the Internet to impact, not implode.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media strategist and the author of One Big Thing: Discovering What You Were Born to Do. For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Social Media Fri, 07 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Why Mental Illness Remains a Taboo Topic for Many Pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/special-needs/21229-why-mental-illness-remains-a-taboo-topic-for-many-pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/special-needs/21229-why-mental-illness-remains-a-taboo-topic-for-many-pastors One in four Americans suffers from some kind of mental illness in any given year, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Many look to their church for spiritual guidance in times of distress. But they're unlikely to find much help on Sunday mornings.

Most Protestant senior pastors (66 percent) seldom speak to their congregation about mental illness.

That includes almost half (49 percent) who rarely (39 percent) or never (10 percent), speak about mental illness. About 1in 6 pastors (16 percent) speak about mental illness once a year. And about quarter of pastors (22 percent) are reluctant to help those who suffer from acute mental illness because it takes too much time.

Those are among the findings of a recent study of faith and mental illness by Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, co-sponsored by Focus on the Family, was designed to help churches better assist those affected by mental illness.

Researchers looked at three groups for the study.

They surveyed 1,000 Protestant senior pastors about how their churches approach mental illness. Researchers then surveyed 355 Protestant Americans diagnosed with an acute mental illness—moderate to severe depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. Among them were 200 churchgoers.

A third survey polled 207 Protestant family members of people with acute mental illness.

Researchers also conducted in-depth interview with 15 experts on spirituality and mental illness.

The study found pastors and churches want to help those who experience mental illness. But those good intentions don't always lead to action.

"Our research found people who suffer from mental illness often turn to pastors for help," said Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. "But pastors need more guidance and preparation for dealing with mental-health crises. They often don't have a plan to help individuals or families affected by mental illness and miss opportunities to be the church."

A summary of findings includes a number of what researchers call "key disconnects" including:

  • Only a quarter of churches (27 percent) have a plan to assist families affected by mental illness, according to pastors. And only 21 percent of family members are aware of a plan in their church.
  • Few churches (14 percent) have a counselor skilled in mental illness on staff, or train leaders how to recognize mental illness (13 percent), according to pastors.
  • Two-thirds of pastors (68 percent) say their church maintains a list of local mental-health resources for church members. But few families (28 percent) are aware those resources exist.
  • Family members (65 percent) and those with mental illness (59 percent) want their church to talk openly about mental illness, so the topic will not seem taboo. But 66 percent of pastors speak to their church once a year or less on the subject.

That silence can leave people feeling ashamed about mental illness, said Jared Pingleton, director of counseling services at Focus on the Family. Those with mental illness can feel left out, as if the church doesn't care. Or worse, they can feel mental illness is a sign of spiritual failure.

"We can talk about diabetes and Aunt Mable's lumbago in church—those are seen as medical conditions," he said. "But mental illness—that's somehow seen as a lack of faith."

Most pastors say they know people who have been diagnosed with mental illness. Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) have counseled people who were later diagnosed.

And pastors themselves aren't immune from mental illness. Almost a quarter of pastors (23 percent) say they've experienced some kind of mental illness, while 12 percent say they received a diagnosis for a mental-health condition.

But those pastors are often reluctant to share their struggles, said Chuck Hannaford, a clinical psychologist and president of HeartLife Professional Soul-Care in Germantown, Tennessee. He was one of the experts interviewed for the project.

Hannaford counsels pastors in his practice and said many—if they have a mental illness such as depression or anxiety—won't share that information with the congregation. He doesn't think pastors should share all the details of their diagnosis. But he said they could acknowledge they struggle with mental illness.

"You know, it's a shame that we can't be more open about it," he told researchers. "But what I'm talking about is just an openness from the pulpit that people struggle with these issues, and it's not an easy answer."

Those with mental illness also can be hesitant to share their diagnosis at church. Michael Lyles, an Atlanta-based psychiatrist, says more than half his patients come from an evangelical Christian background.

"The vast majority of them have not told anybody in their church what they were going through, including their pastors, including small-group leaders, everybody," Lyle said.

Stetzer said what appears to be missing in most church responses is "an open forum for discussion and intervention that could help remove the stigma associated with mental illness."

"Churches talk openly about cancer, diabetes, heart attacks and other health conditions; they should do the same for mental illness in order to reduce the sense of stigma," Stetzer said.

Researchers asked those with mental illnesses about their experience in church:

  • A few—10 percent—say they've changed churches because of how a particular church responded to their mental illness. Another 13 percent ether stopped attending church (8 percent) or could not find a church (5 percent). More than a third, 37 percent, answered "don't know" when asked how their church's reaction to their illness affected them.
  • Among regular churchgoers with mental illness, about half (52 percent) say they have stayed at the same church. Fifteen percent changed churches, while 8 percent stopped going to church, and 26 percent said "don't know."
  • Over half, 53 percent, say their church has been supportive. About 13 percent say their church was not supportive. A third (33 percent) answered "don't know" when asked if their church was supportive.

LifeWay Research also asked open-ended questions about how mental illness has affected people's faith. Those without support from the church said they had struggled.

  • "My faith has gone to pot, and I have so little trust in others," one respondent told researchers.
  • "I have no help from anyone," said another respondent.

But others found support when they told their church about their mental illness.

  • "Several people at my church (including my pastor) have confided that they too suffer from mental illness," said one respondent.
  • "Reminding me that God will get me through and to take my meds," said another.

Mental illness, like other chronic conditions, can feel overwhelming at times, said Pingleton. Patients can feel as if their diagnosis defines their life. But that's not how the Bible sees those with such conditions, he said.

He pointed out that many biblical figures suffered from emotional struggles. And some, were they alive today, would likely be diagnosed with mental illness.

"The Bible is filled with people who struggled with suicide, or were majorly depressed or bipolar," he said. "David was totally bipolar. Elijah probably was as well. They are not remembered for those things. They are remembered for their faith."

LifeWay Research's study was featured in a two-day radio broadcast from Focus on the Family on Sept. 18 and 19. The study, along with a guide for pastors on how to assist those with mental illness and other downloadable resources, are posted at thrivingpastor.com/mentalhealth.

LifeWay Research also looked at how churches view the use of medication to treat mental illness, about mental and spiritual formation, among other topics. Those findings will be released later this fall.

Methodology

LifeWay Research conducted 1,000 telephone surveys of Protestant pastors May 7-31, 2014. Responses were weighted to reflect the size and geographic distribution of Protestant churches. The sample provides 95% confidence that the sampling error does not exceed plus-or-minus 3.1%. Margins of error are higher in sub-groups. In addition, LifeWay Research conducted 355 online surveys July 4-24, 2014 among Protestant adults who suffer from moderate depression, severe depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The completed sample includes 200 who have attended worship services at a Christian church once a month or more as an adult. LifeWay Research also conducted 207 online surveys July 4-20, 2014 among Protestant adults who attend services at a Christian church on religious holidays or more often and have immediate family members in their household suffering from moderate depression, severe depression, bipolar disorder or schizophrenia.

For the original article, visit lifewayresearch.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Smietana/For LifeWay Research) Special Needs Thu, 25 Sep 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Meeting a Need, Fulfilling a Mandate http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/special-needs/18098-meeting-a-need-fulfilling-a-mandate http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/special-needs/18098-meeting-a-need-fulfilling-a-mandate How your church can minister to those with special needs
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Troy.Anderson@strang.com (Troy Anderson) Special Needs Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400
How Churches Can Respond to Teens and Their Smartphones http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/20787-how-churches-can-respond-to-teens-and-their-smartphones http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/20787-how-churches-can-respond-to-teens-and-their-smartphones JJ Shackelford loves his iPhone 5. He uses it to check sports stats, stay in contact with his parents, play video games and connect with his friends. He keeps it with him and checks it multiple times throughout the day. JJ is 11 years old.

“I need a phone,” he says. “All my friends have one.”

According to a recent study conducted by the Pew Research Center, JJ is probably right. The study, “Teens and Technology,” found that 78 percent of 12- to 17-year-olds have a cellphone, and 37 percent have a smartphone. In addition, 95 percent of teens access the Internet via a phone, and 1 in 4 is a “cell-mostly” Internet user.

And not only do young people use the Internet, according to Common Sense Media, but they spend an average of 3.5 hours a day on social media alone.

What used to be teenagers spending hours tying up the family phone with one friend now has become teenagers spending hours talking and texting with a whole tribe of friends. In fact, a study by TextPlus found that half of the teens surveyed said they couldn’t live without their mobile devices for a week, while 36 percent said they weren’t able to go 10 minutes without checking their phones.

Clearly, many teens are victims of technology overload.

This is hardly news to parents and church leaders. In fact, studies show technology overload applies as much to adults as to teens. Phonearena.com reports the average smartphone owner looks at his device 150 times daily.

Because social media and expanding technology represent the new normal, how churches respond to teenagers’ increased use may determine the extent to which the next generation will be evangelized and discipled.

One of the best ways for a church to connect with tech-savvy youth, according to Nicole Unice, is to be a place that continues to evolve. Unice, a ministry associate who has written extensively on technology and the church, says congregational leaders can appear out of touch by ignoring the reality of teens’ involvement with technology.

“If your church isn’t involved in social media or doesn’t keep a current website, you’re sending a message about what you think of technology, whether you want to or not,” Unice says. “That message says, ‘We’re not evolving along with the culture.’ Teens pick up on that, and then the church struggles with relevancy issues.”

Many Christian leaders realize the church can redeem technology and use it for a spiritual purpose. They believe technology is not intended to replace relationships but rather to enhance them.

Assemblies of God National Youth Director Heath Adamson, who has worked with teenagers for almost two decades, is one such advocate.

“People need to understand we’re dealing with a cultural issue, not a spiritual one,” Adamson says. “We can use technology to create community, to add value to the life of a person, and to make disciples throughout the rhythm of life. It’s a great way to connect with teens and disciple them.”

One of the ways the AG is doing that is through the 7:14 prayer app, available in the iTunes App Store and at 714movement.org. This app includes a daily devotional, verses every teenager should memorize by the time they graduate high school, and weekly video updates that mentor and coach young people in prayer.

The app also encourages students to create their own prayer lists and post those on their social media. The app has a database of every school in the country, so students can adopt their schools and build prayer lists around them as well.

Churches also can encourage Bible and devotional reading on phones, as well as a number of other options to connect with teens through technology. But it’s important to remember, Unice says, that issues of technology aren’t resolved simply by adding more technology.

“I know some churches that try to connect with teens by having a bunch of Xboxes, but that’s the wrong way to approach it,” Unice says. “Instead, we have to fight technology by creating experiences that are more compelling. We can’t compete against the entertainment a student already has access to. We have to fight that with something real, and the something real we can offer is personal, face-to-face relationships.”

Still, many adults get frustrated because when they try to have conversations with their teens the young people are multitasking on their phones.

Haydn Shaw, generational expert and author of Sticking Points: How to Get 4 Generations Working Together in the 12 Places They Come Apart, disagrees. He says it is normal for teens to be connected through multiple channels of communication. He believes adults misunderstand by thinking that teens don’t want to engage relationally.

“Teens are very relational; they run in tribes,” Shaw says. “And they use the technology for small talk and updates when they’re not together.”

Shaw thinks this pattern provides a solid opportunity for churchgoing adults.

“The great thing about this generation is that if we evangelize and disciple two people, we can influence a whole tribe,” Shaw says.

Even with online engagement, Shaw insists teens still desire mentoring and face-to-face connections.

Statistics back up Shaw’s assertion. Common Sense Media reports that 49 percent of teens prefer face-to-face time to screen time.

One of the ways Unice has used technology with teens is to be intentional about building direct relationships as well; if she connects online with a student, she also meets in person with the student. Even though students desire that in-person relationship with adults, many are uncomfortable because they lose the anonymity and safety in not being face-to-face, she says.

Unice believes the church needs to engage teens by integrating their online lives with their real lives.

“That helps discipleship efforts, because if I see something online—say a person is feeling down—I can address that face-to-face, instead of going through small talk and pretending everything’s fine,” Unice says.

Eleven-year-old JJ Shackelford says the best interactions he has are when his divorced parents or youth leaders take the time to connect with him on an individual basis.

“But it’s still cool when I can text people and let them know what I’m doing,” he says.

Adamson adds that adults have a responsibility to ensure they aren’t too busy to connect with young people.

“It’s important to remember adults struggle with this stuff as much as teens do,” Adamson says.

While technology overload undoubtedly is here to stay, the best way to fight it may still be the old-fashioned way: Adults who take the time to understand the younger generation and how they interact differently can then mentor them through personal relationships—both online and face to face.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ginger Kolbaba/Pentecostal Evangel) Teens Tue, 18 Mar 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Ministering to Gay Teenagers: Not a Black-and-White Matter http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/20769-ministering-to-gay-teenagers-not-a-black-and-white-matter http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/20769-ministering-to-gay-teenagers-not-a-black-and-white-matter There is a new book out that I can’t wait to read. I’ll get to that in a minute.

I have written no less than a half-dozen posts about the LGBTQ conversation. There is a world of complexities when dealing with this issue—and they are not all black and white. One of the worst things we can do to another person is make their struggle a universal black-and-white issue.

There is a black-and-white issue here that we should recognize, but it’s one that, unfortunately, few people articulate. The issue that we should be concerned about in our churches is not one of homosexuality, but one of porneia.

This is the Greek word translated in most cases as “sexual immorality.” It speaks of any sexual promiscuity outside God’s design for marriage. Homosexual behaviors can fall into this category, but the truth is that heterosexual behaviors are addressed at a much greater length in Scripture than any homosexual behaviors are. That’s black and white.

To point out one porneia behavior over another may be done out of ignorance by some, but sadly, in many cases, it seems to be little more than bigotry. On the other hand, discipling people who are gay is not for the bigot, but for the follower of Jesus.

For those of us who want to lovingly guide people toward the ways of Jesus in any issue, we understand discipleship as being much more than walking people through a curriculum once a week. It’s every bit of the word messy. It’s anything but black and white. Everyone is different. Their fears, concerns and questions are unique ... and befriending gay people is no exception.

I recently read an article that expressed some of the growing complexities we are seeing in our context. It was written by a gay man who just found out his partner was a trans woman (a man in transition to become a woman). He was concerned about what this made him … heterosexual now? It was complex, but it was honest. It was an article that explained the emotional complexities this man was going through and the questions he was honestly wrestling with.

Now, this may be an extreme case for some of us, but make no mistake about it—every gay person is riding a number of emotional roller coasters that are unique to that individual, and especially those in the church. If we want to lovingly relate to people, whatever their struggle, we need to pay the price of time with them. That’s when we become certain that this is not black and white.

There is a new resource out through Simply Youth Ministry that I am looking forward to reading. It’s called Ministering to Gay Teenagers: Practical Help for Youth Workers and Families. I would recommend checking out the video from the author (Shawn Harrison), reading the description, and purchasing the book. I don’t personally know the author, but I am looking forward reading his book.

Chuck Bomar planted and is lead pastor of Colossae Church in Portland, Ore., and is founder of both CollegeLeader (www.CollegeLeader.org) and iampeople (www.iampeople.org). He is author of six books, with the most recent being the highly anticipated work titled Better Off Without Jesus.

For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Bomar) Teens Thu, 06 Mar 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Student Volunteers Make Awesome Workers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/19969-student-volunteers-make-awesome-workers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/19969-student-volunteers-make-awesome-workers Gina-McClainWe’ve got some incredible student volunteers in our ministry. Students as young as sixth grade, all the way up to seniors in high school, are critical members of our kids' ministry team. We wouldn’t be as strong without them.

And when I have an audience with my student volunteers, there are three things I want them to remember:

1. Be present. I mean, really be present with the kids. Get eye level with them, smile and let them know that you want to hear all that they have to say. Play with them, ask about their dog and tell them about yours. There is a big difference between you and me. I remind these kids of their mom. You are like the big brother/sister who actually plays with them. This is your chance to be someone’s hero. So have some fun.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Gina McClain) Teens Fri, 15 Mar 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Too Much Talk and Not Enough Action http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/19557-too-much-talk-and-not-enough-action http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/teens/19557-too-much-talk-and-not-enough-action d-MinLife-TeensAre you helping teens move beyond content into active obedience?

Blah. Blah. Blah.

Youth ministry has morphed into a never-ending conversation. Let’s face it. Those of us in youth ministry run from one meeting to the next planning, sharing, envisioning, describing—talking. If we got paid by the word, we would all be rich.

And now we have all sorts of seminars, workshops and conferences where we pay to hear others talk.

Too much talk and not enough action. I don’t think the early church was immune to this problem. First John 3:18 says, “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth” (NIV).

Door to Door

Jesus was all about action. He was always on the go serving, teaching, healing, feeding, touching and sharing. If we build our youth ministries in His image, then they’ll be active—not passive—focused on obedience and not just content.

I’ll never forget being a junior high intern 17 years ago. As the new guy on the block, I thought I’d try something different. My talk was on evangelism (no surprise!), and I finished it about 30 minutes early (big surprise!).

The handful of confused teenagers all kind of looked at each other and their watches with the “What now?” look. I seized the opportunity and said, “Now we are going to go do it!”

“Do what?” one seventh-grader asked.

“We’re going out into this neighborhood to serve people and share the gospel,” I explained.

“We can’t do that?” one teen said in fear.

“Why not?” I asked.

“This is Sunday school.”

“Well, you take field trips in school, right? Think of this as a field trip.”

So off we went door-to-door—raking leaves, cleaning up, initiating conversations, taking prayer requests, sharing Jesus. At first, the teens were terrified. But then it caught on.

By the time we headed back, a buzz had ignited among those young souls. Their Christianity was no longer a theory or a classroom situation. They had an opportunity to live it out in very tangible ways right in their church’s own backyard.

After that, Sunday school was never the same. There was always a sense that, with Jesus, anything could happen at anytime.

Walking the Walk

That’s the way church should happen every time. Look at the early church and how they did church. It wasn’t just about the meeting, so much as the mission that followed. Why do we compress all of our outreach efforts into a quarterly meeting or an annual missions trip? Maybe because we prefer a strategy that depends on words and not actions.

Now don’t get me wrong. Words are very important. Without words, our actions would be misguided and misled. But words without actions are like fire without heat—useless. Life-changing youth ministry has fire and heat, words and actions. Effective youth ministers talk the talk and walk the walk.

So why not have an application at the end of every talk you do? Your teens will soon catch on that “faith without works is dead” and that God wants us to be “doers of the Word and not hearers only.”

That’s one reason why we challenge students to call or text their unreached friends and get started immediately. We want students to experience the joy of doing what they have learned.

All talk and no action tends to turn Jack into a dull Christian.


Greg Stier is founder and president of Dare 2 Share, a ministry dedicated to mobilizing teenagers to reach their world with the good news of Jesus Christ. He is the author of multiple books and numerous resources, including Dare 2 Share: A Field Guide for Sharing Your Faith and Ministry Mutiny: A Youth Leader Fable.

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webmaster@strang.com (Greg Stier) Teens Thu, 06 Sep 2012 13:55:26 -0400
This Is the Most Contagious and Dreaded Disease in Women's Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21866-this-is-the-most-contagious-and-dreaded-disease-in-women-s-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21866-this-is-the-most-contagious-and-dreaded-disease-in-women-s-ministry One of the most contagious and dreaded diseases that is spreading in epidemic proportions throughout women's ministry is the plague known as "comparison."

"You're ministry is bigger than mine."

"Their decorations must have cost thousands of dollars!"

"She was on the cover of Charisma magazine! She must have a great PR team!"

"Only older women come to my gatherings ... her meetings are filled with millennials."

"Why doesn't my ministry grow like hers does?"

"She is speaking at Women of Faith and Joyce Meyer Conferences. I am only speaking at churches of 200!"

"Her books are best-sellers. I can't even get a publishing contract."

The germs of comparison will always rob you of the joy of daily ministry moments and also cause amnesia concerning the victories that you have experienced, both small and large.

Comparison is like a bothersome rash ... once it is scratched, it will spread and often become an out of control infection of the body.

You are you and that is enough ... that is more than enough!

Your gifts and talents belong to no one else but you. God has equipped you with His heart, His mind and His creativity to minister to those under your watch.

When I am tempted to compare myself to others with larger ministries and then feel the seeds of jealousy begin to grow in my heart, I default to five healthy actions.

First of all, I lay down everything that I am at the feet of Jesus. I remind myself that "my" ministry is not mine at all but that it belongs to Jesus, the Author and the Finisher of my faith.

Secondly, I count my blessings. I remember all of the marvelous things that are happening in the ministry that I have been given. I make a list of the women who have been personally touched this year and I applaud the goodness and the faithfulness of God.

I thank God for the doors that He has, indeed, opened for me and celebrate all that He has done. 

Thirdly, I remind myself that ministry is not a race nor is it an Olympic event. We are all victors when we have given ourselves to the call of the gospel because He causes us to walk in triumph! Ministry is not a competition; our God is big enough to open doors for everyone. His power is not limited to two or three megastars but is spread throughout the body as He accomplishes His great work at this moment in history.

The fourth thing that I often do is that I ask myself, "What I can learn from those who are doing a great work for Christ?" Are there strategies that they are utilizing that would be a blessing to me? The wisdom of learning from one another and carefully evaluating strategic components of another's ministry should never be ignored.

And finally, I pray. I ask God for His will and for His ways in my life. I open myself up for His correction and His direction.

"Praying at the same time for us as well that God will open up to us a door for the Word so that we may speak forth the mystery of Christ" (Col. 4:3).

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carol McLeod ) Women Fri, 22 May 2015 18:00:00 -0400
The Most Powerful Thing Women's Ministry Can Provide http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21851-the-most-powerful-thing-women-s-ministry-can-provide http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21851-the-most-powerful-thing-women-s-ministry-can-provide I've thought long and hard about it. 

I have spent hours on my knees asking the Father, "God, what is it that women need most? Give me focus and purpose in the lives of these women with whom I have been entrusted. Show me what I can deposit in their empty, hurting hearts."

And then the answer came quietly but certainly—hope. 

It is an uncomplicated, but extraordinary 4-letter word—hope.

Hope has the power to renew vision ... to strengthen a weary soul ... and to restore a broken heart.

I hear it again, "Give them hope."

Hope provides a tenacity of purpose ... an excitement for tomorrow ... and a view of God that is incomparable.

Hope.

Your calling as a woman in ministry, is to instill hope into the hardest of hearts and into the weakened souls that God has placed under your leadership.

"Therefore, having such a hope, we use great boldness in speech" (2 Cor. 3:12).

Women are hungry for hope. Women are thirsty for hope. Women are desperate for hope.

When life beats a woman up, tosses her to and fro and then violently robs her of her dreams, all a ravaged woman really wants to do is to be able to breathe again and to hope again.

"And our hope for you is firmly grounded, knowing that as you are sharers of our sufferings, so also are you sharers of our comfort" (2 Cor. 1:7).

Hope is believing that the goodness of God will intervene in your circumstances. Hope is knowing that God will always be Victor. Hope is the anticipation that God's lovingkindness and grace will determine the outcome of your life. Hope is the firm assurance that we, His beloved daughters, are more than conquerors through Him Who loves us. Hope is the sweet commitment that nothing ... absolutely nothing ... is able to separate us from the love of God.

And hope is discovered in an overwhelming peace, knowing that joy can surely be found in His presence.

"He on Whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us" (2 Cor. 1:10b).

Hope.

Barren women need hope. Rejected women need hope. Disappointed women need hope. Stressed-out women need hope. Grieving women need hope.

And you are just the person to give it to them!

Women's ministry can sometimes be heavy on emotions and light on substance. Don't embrace that type of erratic and despondent ministry.

I have determined that under my watch, every woman will be pointed toward hope. 

I believe that it is vital to steer women away from an emotional avalanche of despair and a flood of negativity. The power in ministry is found when women are gently but firmly led toward the God of all hope.

When a woman is truly in pain ... we pray without ceasing and give generous hope. Hope is more healing than verbal vomiting and constant complaining will ever be.

Hope is all I have to offer. The healing, protective, life-giving hope of Christ is at the heart and center of all true ministry. Nothing else will do.

"Now may the God of hope fill you all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 15:13).

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carol McLeod) Women Fri, 15 May 2015 12:00:00 -0400
'Some of My Best Men Are Women' http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21720-some-of-my-best-men-are-women http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21720-some-of-my-best-men-are-women General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, is known to have said, "Some of my best men are women!"

Isn't that an interesting quote spoken by one of the most powerful Christian leaders of the 19th century?

"Some of my best men are women!" Just let those profound words soak into your heart for a minute and then let me stretch you just a bit farther ...

I wonder if these words are not also in the heart and mind of God at this moment in history? I wonder if when the Father looks down from His bird's eye view of all that is happening on the earth today, if He turns to His Son seated on His right side and with a twinkle in His eye echoes the words of William Booth, "Some of my best men are women"! And, I wonder if the Holy Spirit, Who is most certainly eavesdropping on the conversation, raises His fist in the air in complete agreement with the Father. I wonder.

God is looking for a few good men and a few good women to make a difference in His Kingdom at every juncture in history. Perhaps the Father Who created all of us in His heart of love is not so concerned with the gender on our birth certificate as He is with the condition of our hearts.       

"I will pour out My Spirit on all mankind;

And your sons and daughters will prophesy ...

... Even on the male and female servants

I will pour out My Spirit in those days." ( Joel 2:28 & 29)

Now, more, than ever, women need to understand their important role and their significance to the call and intent of God. God has a Holy Spirit that is meant to endue humanity, male and female, with power from on high. Men and women receive the same power in the same measure.

The power that both men and women receive from the same Holy Spirit gives to them the power to be courageous witnesses and to fulfill the God-given mandate that is particular to each generation.

What is it that God is calling you to do with the power of His Holy Spirit? The days of cowering in fear, hiding behind insignificance and wallowing in lack of opportunities are over. God is blowing doors wide open for women as never before. It is time for women to march forward in grand anticipation of all that God can do through one woman submitted to the call of God and filled with His Holy Spirit.

His Spirit, the Holy Spirit of Pentecost, has been poured out upon your life! What will you do with it? Don't waste these days of power and of open doors! When Peter received the Holy Spirit, thousands of people were saved ... when John received the Holy Spirit, lame men walked ... when Paul received the Holy Spirit, prison walls fell down.

What will you do with the Holy Spirit that has been poured out on your life? I believe that God is looking at your life this very day, with a twinkle in His eye, and is reminding you that some of His very best men, indeed, are women!

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carol McLeod) Women Fri, 17 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Women in Ministry: Powerful Voices http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21681-women-in-ministry-powerful-voices http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21681-women-in-ministry-powerful-voices When our children were little, Craig, the father of all of these little ones, and I, the mother of this brood of future leaders, could speak the exact same words with the exact same heart intent and I, the desperate mother, would be ignored while he, the wise father, would be listened to and immediately obeyed.

Craig's voice just held more authority and timbre than mine did. I tended to raise my voice a decibel or two in order to capture the obedient attention of my children and it just never worked. When raising my voice failed to achieve the desired results, then I would resort to talking incessantly with added hand motions.

Can you picture it? A blonde, frustrated woman yelling at the top of her lungs and she doesn't know when to stop?! No wonder those five brilliant children had a hard time listening to me. Truthfully ... I wouldn't have listened to me either!

As I observed the authority and respect that their father had garnered in our children's lives, I learned to lower my volume, to speak with simple authority and to minimize the number of words that came out of my mouth.

And you know what? I have found that motherhood prepared me for ministry. This simple lesson learned with spit-up on my shoulders, dishes in the sink and Matchbox cars all over the living room floor, prepared me for the woman I am today and for the role that I play in ministry.

Your voice, as a woman in ministry, is a voice that needs to be heard and is able to bring peace to many vicious storms. Your voice is able to inject hope into discouragement, bravery into battle and joy into sadness. Your voice is able to speak wisdom into confusion. Your voice.

God has given women a powerful voice and oftentimes we are not heard because of our tendency to talk too loudly, to rattle on without purpose and to speak from frustration rather than from God-given authority.

If you are frustrated due to the lack of respect and the minimal response that is given to your well-meaning words, perhaps it is time for you to re-evaluate how you express yourself in meetings, in ministry relationships and with staff members. Louder does not create greater authority and more words do not bestow more power.

I have found that the right to be heard is often earned by speaking in measured tones rather than in massive tones. I have discovered that respect follows the choice not to say every single thing that I think, feel and believe. I have disciplined myself to become an engaged listener and have also recognized the virtue that the impact of carefully selected words earns.

To truly lead, we must ensure that our words are not birthed out of frustration or out of self-promotion. A powerful leader, whether male or female, understands the difference that a few, well-chosen words can make when spoken in wisdom and in love.

"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver." – Proverbs 25:11

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carol McLeod) Women Fri, 03 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Ladies, Are You Following in the Footsteps of Your Biblical Predecessors? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21670-ladies-are-you-following-in-the-footsteps-of-your-biblical-predecessors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21670-ladies-are-you-following-in-the-footsteps-of-your-biblical-predecessors Some would declare that the phrase "women in ministry" is an oxymoron or unscriptural. Others might opine that the words women and ministry are mutually exclusive.

I am a gentle woman in ministry who believes that male and female have been created equally in the image of God. I am a woman who believes strongly in the call that each one of us—both men and women—has to serve the Body of Christ, the Kingdom of God and those under our watch.

A woman's voice in the marketplace, in the church and in the home offers a perspective and a tone that is valuable and unique. We are not fragile clones of our male counterparts, but we have been outstandingly fashioned by the God of the universe for a role in the story of humanity that is utterly feminine, powerfully impactful and undoubtedly irreplaceable.

God used women for specific purposes and assignments in the Word of God and His methods have not changed because He is a God that never changes.

God fashioned Eve as the mother of all the living in spite of the troubling fact that Eve had doubted God and then gave in to sin.

God chose Sarah to give birth to a baby boy although her cheeks were wrinkled, and her body was about as ripe as a dried up prune.

God chose Esther, a victim of sexual trafficking, to save a nation. He chose the obscure Deborah to judge a nation, and He magnificently used the answered prayers of a desperate housewife named Hannah to change the course of one nation's history.

God appointed Rahab, a prostitute, to help the people of God win a great victory, and He chose to use a young, grieving widow named Ruth to believe quietly for God's intervention when all natural hope was gone.

God chose Elizabeth, a righteous, older woman, to raise a strong-willed boy who would prepare the way of the Lord.

God chose Mary, a teenage virgin, to give birth to the Savior of the world.

God chose Mary Magdalene to demonstrate that a woman who had been trapped in the demonic darkness of sin could lavishly love the Savior and minister to Him when others chose to judge and ridicule.

Have you seen yourself in this list yet? Do you feel that God just might be calling you out of your insecurities, past your place of pain and into a new season of ministry?

My encouragement for women who are floundering with purpose is this:

"Awake, awake, clothe yourself in your strength, O Zion; clothe yourself in your beautiful garments ... Shake yourself from the dust, rise up, O captive Jerusalem; loose yourself from the chains around your neck, O captive daughter of Zion" (Is. 52:1-2l, NASB).

Awake! Clothe yourself! Shake yourself! Loose yourself!

Awake to new purpose and to God's plans for your one-of-a-kind life! Clothe yourself with joy and with the power of the Holy Spirit! Shake off the dust of your past!

Loose yourself to freely give encouragement and power to those in your generation!

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Carol McLeod) Women Fri, 27 Mar 2015 18:10:00 -0400
Why You Should Empower Emerging Women Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21176-why-you-should-empower-emerging-women-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/21176-why-you-should-empower-emerging-women-leaders Too often, we can miss the gifts of others. That's human nature, I guess.

The fact is, God has gifted all His people, and the work of Christ is benefited when we acknowledge and engage different people and their different gifts. I thought it was worth a moment to share something I am doing and, perhaps, in doing so, to encourage you to do something similar.

I've tweeted a couple of times about the group I gathered at LifeWay. It's a group of LifeWay employees—all of whom (except me) are women—who are meeting together over the next year to be better connected, more informed, and better leaders.

We started the gatherings with a look at Tim Keller's Center Church.

We are focusing on three areas: theology, leadership and connecting. We will follow up with books and discussion that address these issues.

The obvious question is why? What does a man seek to encourage a group of women leaders?

Well, I think I was influenced to do so by Andy Crouch and his article on power, in which he said:

"Power is not given to benefit those who hold it. It is given for the flourishing of individuals, peoples, and the cosmos itself ... Power is not the opposite of servanthood. Rather, servanthood, ensuring the flourishing of others, is the very purpose of power."

I recognize that there is a certain amount of "power" in my professional role, and perhaps in opportunities to influence as well. Power, Crouch asserts, is neither good or bad—power is neutral. However, I was reminded and challenged by Andy's article that we should use the power we do have to empower others.

When you work in a large evangelical organization and/or you work with pastors, you will notice that women leaders have unique challenges—just ask them, and they will tell you. Yet, like you, I have encountered many women with great leadership gifts, and I'd like to raise up more.

Women and men are different, and they lead differently.

To be honest, the idea came from a conversation with Lizette Beard and Carol Pipes. Lizette is a project manager at LifeWay Research, now finishing up her Ph.D. in missiology. Carol is the editor of Facts and Trends, our flagship magazine. They both are on my team, and both have a concern that we should raise up more women leaders.

So, we are. Here are some principles that we are operating under:

1. Theology matters. When you work in an evangelical context, you need a solid understanding of theology, particularly as new ideas emerge. As such, we are looking at mission, gospel-centered ministry, theological integrity, and much more.

2. Leadership matters. It is a pretty common understanding now that, in some ways, women and men lead differently. Obviously, I'm not a woman, so Selma Wilson, the president of B&H Publishing (and the only woman to lead a top-ten Christian publishing house) will be coming in to speak into some of those issues. I have tremendous respect for Selma and love to see her use her considerable gifts to teach others.

3. Networking matters. As Lean In and other books explain, it's important to find ways to connect. The participants aren't just there to learn from me or from Selma. They are there to learn from each other and to give professional support. As much as I want to encourage them, I want them to practice regular encouragement of others. I hope that this will give all of us that opportunity.

4. Empowering others matters. It's easy when you are in a position of leadership to only think about your own goals and to assume others are only there to help you achieve them. That's a mistake. Leading also involves helping people to develop their own gifts, and if you do your job well, they will grow to flourish on their own. Because even the best leaders are sinful and can get easily distracted by their own interests, so this kind of investment has to be deliberate.

I think that when we have power, we should empower.

In addition to our larger group setting, I'm also hosting lunch meetings with the participants in smaller groups to follow up on questions or other conversations.

Long story short: I think that when we have "power" (as Andy helped me to define it more clearly), we should empower others. That's why I have the Thursday is for Thinkers series on the blog.

You may not have noticed, which is great, but through that series I seek to highlight a woman or person of color. In fact, tomorrow, we've got Selma Wilson, who leads B&H Publishing, who will share some of the benefits of being a woman executive.

My suggestion for my readers is simple: Don't forget the emerging female leaders around you—find them, encourage them, use your privilege and influence to raise them up. Don't miss out on the gifts that half of the body of Christ offers.

Amy Whitfield, formerly on our team here at LifeWay, and now the awesome communications director at Southeastern, contributed to this post, though I wrote this description of her! :-) Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstetzer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Women Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
Is Worship the Ultimate Act of Human Existence? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21844-is-worship-the-ultimate-act-of-human-existence http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21844-is-worship-the-ultimate-act-of-human-existence Worship is one of those fascinating topics that can both unite and divide the church. I've heard it said that "worship matters most"—seemingly a bit of a strong statement, but the question is: Is it true?

Worship: Because We Were Created for Such

John Piper, in his well-known book Let the Nations Be Glad, wrote this about worship:

"Missions is not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exist because worship does not. Worship is ultimate, not missions because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.

Piper would suggest that worship is the ultimate act of the human experience, that all of humanity was designed for worship. Obviously, the entrance of sin into the world today has somewhat clouded that picture.

Yet, the Fall did not eliminate the need or desire for worship. It only warped it. The reality is that instead of worshipping God, we began to worship ourselves and other things.

Regardless of where you go in the world—even in places where there are no believers—you will find worshippers. Worship is something that all people do all the time, everywhere, at all places.

Sometimes the objects of worship are material, in the forms of idols. Other times the objects of worship are ideas and ideals. But worship is universal.

Even in a fallen world, fallen people seek to give adoration, affection and attention to something.

"Missions exist because worship does not," Piper says.

The mission comes in when we as redeemed, reconciled and restored people live lives and have conversations that point people back to their Creator.

We were created for worship and all people need to worship—the key is the direction of our worship.

Worship is a Transformative Experience

In a sense, the gospel is an effort to point people from the worship of self toward the worship of God. Jesus, after all, talks about the difference between false worship and true worship.

Something special happens when a believer worships "in spirit and in truth." When a person is made new in Christ, he or she begins to understand the transformative effect of true worship.

LifeWay Research conducted a study about the impact of worship and the influence it has on our walk with Christ and our ability to grow as a follower of Christ. LifeWay Research's Transformational Church Research Project showed that of all churches that were seeing regular, consistent transformation in the lives of people who made up those churches, more than 75 percent either strongly or moderately agreed that they see evidence of God changing lives as a direct result of their worship services or their worship experiences.

That is a significant number. And it's because worship is a significant part of personal spiritual transformation, as well as a significant part of growing a healthy church. The impact of our mission will be no greater than the honesty of our worship.

So, not only is worship historically understood as the ultimate act of the human experience, but research supports the idea that worship matters.

Most importantly, though, Scripture indicates to us that worship is an ultimate experience. First Chronicles 16:25 tells us that "The Lord is great and is greatly to be praised. And He is to be feared above all other gods."

Scripture teaches, and research affirms, that worship is most significant in the life of the believer and in the life of the church.

Worship is a central and transformative practice in the life of the believer.

Worship Is an Emotional Experience, but Not All About Me

Worship is important, but also can be controversial. Over the past few decades, disagreements over the purpose and the style of worship have often led to disunity and sometimes to severed relationships within the church. It's known as the "worship wars."

These differences over the style and purpose of worship illustrate to us the fact that worship is not a purely intellectual exercise. Worship is a deeply rooted emotional experience that is central to the core of who we are as people.

And because of that, when there are disagreements over contrasting styles over worship, it becomes more than an academic argument. It becomes an emotional investment that often bleeds over into conversations with one another—even heated discussions.

Yet, believers are called to engage in worship, not argue about it. It's a mark of maturity that we do so, and often we do so in churches that worship in ways that are, perhaps, different than our preferences.

May we worship because of Jesus. Not because of us.

Yet, worshipping in ways that are not about us makes sense, doesn't it? That's at least a part of what it means to offer up worship as "service." In other words, it's not about us, but about Jesus.

One of my favorite parody videos is the honest admission that, "It's all about me." It's just too true that many believers, driven by their preference, make the emotional worship experience all about that. But, that misses the point.

Redirecting Affection

Worship is an emotional experience, not always in a sentimental way, but in a way that redirects our heart's affections from ourselves or other objects of worship, and focuses the heart on Jesus. And, that makes it not all about us, our preferences, or how we desire.

May we worship because of Jesus. Not because of us.

Worship matters. Yet, at its heart, worship is not about us. My hope is that we might actually worship that way, putting aside our preferences, focusing on Jesus, and making it all about him.

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 ) Worship Thu, 14 May 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Ed Stetzer: Worship Leaders Are Not Rock Stars http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21677-ed-stetzer-worship-leaders-are-not-rock-stars http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21677-ed-stetzer-worship-leaders-are-not-rock-stars I am a child of the contemporary church movement, having come to Christ in a church that would be considered contemporary at that time.

The contemporary church movement is what I've known in most of my life in ministry. I've planted six churches that were contemporary.

Yet, I never would have guessed, though, that worship music would have its own genre in the Christian music industry.

Christians and worship leaders have to guard against several temptations in our church worship. Let's briefly address the shifts in worship patterns among churches and warn of a potential danger inherent with all worship leaders.

Worship leaders carry a huge responsibility because they direct evangelical liturgy.

Worship Leaders Must Be On Guard

Worship music has become mainstream. Worship songs fill Christian radio stations. These are songs we sing in church, rather than simply songs we passively listen. As such, this has really elevated the worship leader's role in the church.

Years ago, the worship leader was a minor part of the ministry. Today, the worship leader has as much facetime with the congregation as the preaching pastor, and is often as influential in attracting and maintaining members. (I don't like to use those words, but statistically, they are accurate.)

Worship leaders often record CDs, and the music in church can, if we are not careful, turn into a concert.

I don't say that as an old man shaking my fist, but as a loving observer of worship and worship leadership. As I said in a 3-part series, from a letter to my worship leaders, I am deeply concerned that we don't perform music, but that we lead worship.

So, worship leaders are not rock stars, and worship is not a rock concert.

Worship leaders carry a huge responsibility because they direct our gathered worship—not just make the music!

The Purpose Of Worship Leaders

Our church in the Nashville area sings a few songs, we have a quick welcome in the middle, people shake hands, and then we have the sermon. In that way, our church looks a lot like the Bible church that I preached at in Johannesburg, South Africa, and the Assembly of God church I preached at in Missouri.

Actually, an evangelical liturgy of sorts has spread across the Western world. To quote one parody video, "You can't stop it. It's coming to a town near you."

As the video explains, people now expect the worship music to be similar to what they hear on the radio in both style and quality. Put another way, they come on Sunday wanting to hear Chris Tomlin. However, in some ways, this can be dangerous for the people and the worship leader.

I'm thankful that worship leaders are actively speaking up and warning each other to be careful of the expectation to perform. I'm thankful for our Grace Church worship leaders who, I think, model leadership without self-centeredness.

The natural tendency for a young worship leader is to seek to meet the concert-like demands and give the people a great show. Yet, the real role of a worship leader is to lead them to an encounter with a great savior.

Worship leaders are not rock stars. Nor are they the center of attention. Their role is to inspire others to make Jesus the center of attention and the only One who is worthy of our praise and adoration. No matter what style of music we choose, that is always the aim and intent.

Stephen Miller and I discuss this very issue on The Exchange and that conversation partly inspired this post. You can also read his article and book on the topic. Also, I wrote a similar article about pastors as rock stars.

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 ) Worship Thu, 02 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
The Best Worship-Leading Venue on the Planet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21635-the-best-worship-leading-venue-on-the-planet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21635-the-best-worship-leading-venue-on-the-planet Recently, I experienced a beautiful moment of worship—the kind every worship leader longs for.

No, it wasn't that the sound was pristine, in ear mixes where perfect, or the band was tight. It wasn't even that the songs were particularly great. It didn't even involve a massive crowd.

It all started with screaming children.

Both kids were having a hard time falling asleep. So naturally, I decided we were going to sing. Tyler greeted the idea with an enthusiastic "Yeahhh!" So that's what we did.

We sang "Cornerstone," "Jesus Loves Me," "Christ Be All Around Me," "Jesus Loves the Little Children," "Christ Has Come," and more. Tyler was singing with me word for word. Eliana's worship involved some loud shouting, hand raising, and shaking of the hips—probably the cutest thing I've ever seen.

Before you think of me more highly than you ought, that's not how every night goes.

But there was something powerful about just being present with my kids and singing about Jesus. I wasn't preoccupied with my phone. I wasn't thinking about this blog post. My mind wasn't somewhere else. I was there, with them, worshiping Jesus together.

That moment—simple, messy, beautiful—was the best venue for leading worship. Nobody saw it happen, it was far from glamorous, no one was impressed, but it was perfect.

It reminds me of a tweet I read from Kathryn Scott this past week:

"The world has millions of worship leaders or artists, but your family gets 'one' of you! Be brave to say 'no.'

Such a beautiful reminder of what matters most, right?

The Atmosphere Of Your Home

You would think that a worship leader's home would be the best atmosphere on the planet. I mean, think about it. Worship 24/7. Beautiful songs always being written and sung. An atmosphere of God's presence that permeates every room. No time for bickering or fighting because everyone is too busy singing worship songs and lifting holy hands, right?

I wish it were so.

Most of the time when I come home from work (leading worship), I want to retreat. I've spent an entire weekend leading—leading my band, leading the congregation, talking to people, being "on." When I come home the last thing I want to do is lead something.

But my home is where my leadership really counts. And it's where my full presence is needed the most.

My wife doesn't care how well I sing ... as long as I'm present in the home—loving, listening, leading.

My kids don't give a rip about what I achieve, how talented I am, or what anyone thinks about me. I can see it in their eyes—I would be their hero if I sang songs with a chromatic scale and strummed a guitar with my elbow.

But so often we choose the crowd over the home. The crowds compliment you. Your worship team follows you. Your Twitter followers retweet you.

Your wife wants you to change the fifth diarrhea diaper of the day. Your kids want more milk and crackers and chocolate and popcorn and bananas and don't want to take a nap. And, they run into your room at 4.am.

This can cause someone in public ministry to drift towards the crowds and neglect their home. But that's where your ministry loses its credibility.

The Problem With the Crowd is Me

There is no relational depth in the crowd. They don't know you for real. They don't have history with you for real. Of course, it's not their fault. It's mine. It's my own craving for approval. It's my insecurity. It's my searching for meaning in places it was never meant to be found.

Sure, your leadership is needed on stage, but it is twice as important at home. Many of us put loads of time into strategizing with our worship team – how to disciple people, how to recruit, how to develop new leaders, and what activities to do.

As a matter of fact, it's what my book Beyond Sunday is all about.

But most of the time we have zero plans for how we'll lead our family in worship. Public success that isn't supported by private leadership at home isn't success ... it's neglect.

How can I spend time crafting keyboard tones, guitar swells, events, and song lists for corporate worship but not think twice about the worship culture of my home?

My suggestion? What I'm challenged to do? Be immersed in the home. Find joy in being present with the people you love—the people who need you—rather than looking for a pat on the back.

Sure, I would love to lead worship at Wembley arena, Madison Square Garden, or at Hillsong Conference. But those opportunities don't equal success. When our life is through we can know we've made a difference leading worship where it matters most—the best venue on earth.

I'd love to hear from you on this. How do you balance the call to reach others with the call to lead your family? How do you balance changing the world with reaching your home?

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 Tue, 17 Mar 2015 21:00:00 -0400
10 Traits of Spiritually Mature Worship Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21618-10-traits-of-spiritually-mature-worship-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21618-10-traits-of-spiritually-mature-worship-leaders Since worship is such an integral part of the church, it is important that worship leaders be spiritually mature in order to be effective.

The following are traits these worship leaders should possess:  

1. They are true worshippers in private. True worship leaders are effective because their public worship is an overflow of their deep private worship. They are able to help bring the congregation into deep worship because it is already something they walk in

2. They don't always need the spotlight. Mature worship leaders allow other singers and musicians to be highlighted. They do not need to be the center of attention all the time. They celebrate other people's anointing and abilities on their team.

3. They pursue excellence with their team. Mature worship leaders understand that it takes much practice to exhibit a spirit of excellence. They understand that you just cannot show up without preparation to usher in the presence of God.

4. They are filled with the Scriptures not just the Spirit. God desires worshippers to worship Him in spirit and in truth (John 4:23-24). Hence, it is important that worship leaders be filled with the Scriptures so that their worship is based upon truth and not just subjective experience. When we speak to ourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs we will engender the filling of the spirit in others (Eph. 5:19).

5. They are able to teach others the art of godly worship. Effective worship leaders develop other worship leaders and other worship teams. They understand their greatest call is to make disciples and to freely share what Jesus has given them.

6. They build their life upon godly character not on their talent. Mature worship leaders never build their life upon their gifts and talents. They understand that their ability to sing or play an instrument will only go as far as their godly character will take them.

7. They are not hirelings but serve as unto the Lord based on His will. Many folks in the worship industry (not most by any means) serve in a church for financial payment. Mature worship leaders serve one local church (unless they have a traveling ministry) and, although some may receive a salary—they do it based on God's leading not on financial reward.

8. They are sensitive to the move of the Spirit in the service. Effective worship leaders understand the ebb and flow of the moves of God in the service. They do not just perform. They even wait upon the Lord in silence if need be to give God space to operate and speak to the people.

9. They are not egomaniacs but submit to spiritual authority. Mature worship leaders understand that they are submitted to the leadership of their church. In many churches the senior pastor is known as the worship leader even if he or she never sings. This is to point to the fact that they have the final say in regards to the flow of the service—not the worship leader

10. They point their team to the vision of the church. Effective worship leaders do not draw disciples after themselves. They always point their team to the vision of the house and to the Lordship of Christ.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York, and author of numerous books, including Ruling in the Gates: Preparing the Church to Transform Cities. Follow him on Facebook or visit him online at josephmattera.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Worship Tue, 10 Mar 2015 18:00:00 -0400
How You Can Bring New Life Into Your Worship Services http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21530-how-you-can-bring-new-life-into-your-worship-services http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21530-how-you-can-bring-new-life-into-your-worship-services Why are some church services alive and life-changing and others dull and uninspiring? I think there are two kinds of "mystery" when it comes to your weekend worship experiences.

One is the mystery of the gospel, meaning the majesty and wonder of what ultimately cannot be explained beyond faith in a loving God and His resurrected Son, whose presence and power has settled upon your service. Or the kind of mystery that leaves you puzzled and wondering after all your planning and hard work why the service seemed flat and missed the mark.

There is no formulaic answer, but I believe there are some patterns and guidelines that will help you bring new life into your worship services. The result isn't automatic church growth, but a confidence that God is at work. The following questions and insights will help you determine the guidelines that are helpful to you:

Is your heart clear? Confession is good for the soul. We are saved by grace and it's not about works, but asking God to grant favor to a worship service when we know there is something not right that doesn't make sense.

If there is known sin, confess and change. God forgives. Or for example, if there is a relationship that is not right, Jesus says (Matt. 5) that we are to make it right before we worship. As another example, Romans 12:18, lets us know that as far as it depends on us, we are to be at peace with our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The point is not perfection; God makes plenty of room for our humanity. The idea is to have cleared everything possible that might prevent or block the presence and power of God in your own life and the life of the church.

Where is God leading? As you pray, where do you sense God wants to take you and the church in the next few weeks and months? What do you sense God wants to accomplish among His people? Pastors often tell me they just don't know what to "preach" about next. That's not so uncommon really, and can be very frustrating if not unnerving.

I think knowing what to talk on next starts with the idea of transformation instead of information. The truth of God's Word is vital, but a somewhat random "pick a Scripture and give a talk" method does not always invite God's agenda into the mix. Stay close in tune to where God wants to take your congregation in a journey toward spiritual maturity.

What do you want? Every leader has a different approach to ministry philosophy and worship style. God sets the agenda and grants the power for your worship service, but you set the culture. It's important to know and be comfortable with your choice of environment, so you don't second guess yourself, thinking that you may be doing something wrong strategically.

When you are not comfortable or confident about your worship environment, it's difficult to be freed up to really hear from God and invite divine mystery into the mix. You may like more formal, even liturgical or you may prefer more casual. You may prefer interactive or polished and precise. Maybe you have embraced a multi-site model with live broadcast that has its own set of requirements.

The point is to be clear on your ministry strategy and the vibe you want so it becomes second nature rather than an unclear and competing complication. This allows you to pay more attention to what God wants to accomplish in the moments of your worship service.

How do you walk in the divine partnership? I love the quote: "pray like it depends on God and work like it depends on you." That sums it up well but doesn't make it easy. What is your part and what is God's part? Preparation is important but how much is enough? How do you know if you are leading or in the way? These are tough questions that deserve honest answers.

At 12Stone® Church we pray every Saturday morning for God's favor on the services. It's not a big program. A small band (maybe 25) of committed prayer warriors meet to ask God for His power and presence in very specific ways.

We walk through the auditorium laying hands on the seats asking God to symbolically touch the lives of the people. We pray over the worship team and the pastor. We pray with faith understanding that even though there has been much hard work and preparation, without God there is no life change that lasts. We are not asking God to bless our plan, but help us follow His plan. On many occasions we've changed our plans because of the prayer time.

There is a partnership all week of God's part and our part. It's important to find the balance between planning and following the Spirit's leading.

How do you encourage your congregation to anticipate and recognize the presence of God? The congregation responds to the leader. It's not "all about the leader," but his or her faith sets the tone. Your expectation for God to lend His power makes a difference. Simply put, if you believe, you help your congregation believe. (I know that is oversimplified, but you can insert your own theology.)

This also has very practical elements. How you celebrate baptism is a good example. Baptism is a great opportunity to celebrate the work of God. Baptism is a beautiful representation of the mystery of God. Those moments are powerful. When the people anticipate salvation, and then see it in a response of some kind they are engaging the very presence of God. That in itself is transformational. When people are in the presence of God and His work, they don't remain the same.

How do you rest in God's sovereignty? Attempting to "force" God's hand is futile at best. You may be in charge but God is in control. That is sometimes difficult to accept when you feel responsible for the outcomes of your church. This is not a position of futility; God does respond to prayer. It's not a "giving up"; it's a "resting in." It is trusting that God is with you. As leaders we simultaneously work hard and walk with God. Lead with all your heart and let God add what is needed.

There are some things we won't understand until heaven, but until then, make room for the mystery.

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.

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland) Worship Thu, 12 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Are You Honoring or Inhibiting Those Who Have Come to Worship? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21529-are-you-honoring-or-inhibiting-those-who-have-come-to-worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21529-are-you-honoring-or-inhibiting-those-who-have-come-to-worship The first rule of worship leadership should probably be stated as "try not to get in their way." When people come to worship, if you cannot help them, at the very least try not to interfere with what they are doing.

The sons of Eli the High Priest were nothing but trouble. Hophni and Phinehas—who doesn't love those names—"were wicked men; they had no regard for the Lord or for the priests' share of the sacrifices from the people" (1 Sam. 2:12-13).

God literally calls them SOBs. "Sons of Belial" is the Hebrew expression translated as "wicked men" or "corrupt." Scripture has not a single positive statement about these miscreants.

These men stand as warnings to every kingdom worker to tread softly and serve honorably. We are stewards and not owners; servants and not lords. We should encourage worship and not place obstacles and burdens upon the worshippers.

We are to help people worship and not divert it into our own purposes. The people can worship God without you, O thou shepherd of the Lord's flock.

If we cannot help them do it better, we should back off and remove ourselves from the picture.

Every pastor, every minister of any kind, every support staff, every church custodian and every denominational worker should be familiar with these first few chapters of 1 Samuel and heed their caution about worship leaders.

1. They treated those who came to worship with contempt. "(Hophni and Phinehas) were sleeping with the women who served at the entrance to the tent of meeting" (1 Sam. 2:22). See Exodus 38:8 for a reference to this ministry of the women.

And you thought the concept of lustful ministers was a recent phenomenon.

Through the centuries, stories of ministers preying upon helpless children, vulnerable counselees and trusting helpers have become commonplace, to our everlasting shame.

2. They treated the people's offerings as their own. "The priest's custom with the people was that when any man offered a sacrifice, the priest's servant (i.e., those who worked for Hophni and Phinehas) came while the flesh was cooking with a three-pronged fork in his hand. And he struck it into the pan, or kettle, or cauldron, or pot, and all that the fork brought up the priest took for himself. This they did in Shiloh to all the children of Israel who came there" (1 Sam. 2:13-14).

Deuteronomy 18:3-5 spells out which portions of the offerings belonged to the priests. Hophni and Phinehas sent servants to take more than what was allotted, and to do so early in the process. While Leviticus 7:31 commanded that the fat be burned on the altar, they wanted their meat raw. Anyone who grills steaks understands that a little fat flavors a steak.

God was not big on barbecuing. He was looking for obedience.

The Lord did not take kindly to their treating His commands so lightly. Their offense was "very severe" (2:17)

3. They treated the ark of the covenant as a magic totem. In 1 Samuel 4, Hophni and Phinehas carried the ark of the covenant into battle against the Philistines. They were counting on the enemies to panic once they saw the Israelites had "their god" leading the way. But it didn't work out as they had intended.

God had said that He dwelt above the ark, in between the cherubim. So, for the carnal-minded Hophni and Phinehas, who were nothing if not carnal, that was good enough. To carry the box into battle obligated God to come along and guaranteed a victory over His enemies.

People are always saying God is obligated to do this or that because "we have His word on it." Maybe we do, but we also have Psalm 115:3: "But our God is in the heavens; He does whatever He pleases."

God has plans He has not told us about, and is as unpredictable as the wind (see our Lord's statement on that in John 3:8).

Instead of intimidating them, the presence of the Ark actually motivated the Philistines to greater effort. "Boys, we may be in trouble. They have their god with them today. If you ever fought before, you'd better fight now."

"So the Philistines fought and Israel was beaten. ... and the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phinehas, died" (1 Sam. 4:10-11).

Too late, the priests learned the Lord's presence was no magic guarantee against defeat; that possessing the ark did not automatically mean He was present, and that His blessings could not be manipulated as they wished. John MacArthur says, " ... they confused the symbol of the His presence with His actual presence. In this way, their understanding of God resembled that of the Philistines."

Simply stated, God wanted the Israelites defeated.

Nice little benign history lesson, right? Nothing there for our sophisticated generation of church leaders, right?

Bad wrong. There is a world of instruction here.

1. We must honor those who come to worship. We who lead churches must not abuse them, manipulate them or see them as serving our purposes. They are not "the attendance." They are not "my crowd" or "our bunch."

These are the people of the Lord. They are "His people, and the sheep of His pasture" (Ps. 100:3).

Leaders who abuse and misuse God's children will give account to Him personally some day, and it will not be a pretty thing. Furthermore, those of us who believe that "since I am saved by the blood and 'there is no condemnation,' I will not have to account for what I have done before the Lord" are in for a rude awakening.

Remember you heard it here.

2. We must honor the offerings people bring to the Lord. Every gift is His and not ours.

Among the disciples, it was Judas who loved the offerings more than he should (John 12:6) and who treated the contributions of others as his own.

There must always be financial accountability for those who would lead the Lord's flock. Pastors and staffers who live lavishly upon the offerings of the Lord's people should be held accountable and expected to live humbly and faithfully. Churches should insist that, just because one pastors a congregation of wealthy contributors, it does not entitle that minister to a large income and a mansion in which to dwell.

A great segment of ministers has not gotten that memo.

Every church needs a system of checks and balances, and every congregation on the planet should have an opportunity for any member of the flock to stand in a meeting and ask how a thing was decided, who made the decision to buy this or build that. The more distance a church puts between its ministers and the flock, the more abuse it is subjecting itself to.

"Moreover it is required in stewards that a man be found faithful" (1 Cor. 4:2). "So if you have not been faithful in the unrighteous wealth, who will commit to your trust the true riches?" (Luke 16:11).

3. In all things, we must honor our Lord Jesus Christ. We must not leave the impression that God is merely a symbol or a good luck charm or that His words are a magic formula. Numerous times through the centuries, the Lord's people discovered the hard way that "God's name on us" did not guarantee them the right to sin, to rebel against Him, to flout His laws or go their own way.  God allowed the Assyrians to completely annihilate Israel (what we call the "northern kingdom") in 722 B.C. The scattered population would never return and the nation was never rebuilt. God allowed the Babylonians to defeat Judah and destroy Jerusalem in 586 B.C.

In each case, God's priests were lulling His people into a false sense of security, telling them, "God is with us, so we're untouchable."

If anything, the Lord's people are held to a much higher standard than the world. Behavior that would be overlooked in the world is forbidden to the Lord's saints.

All we who work in churches and denominations should see ours as a holy calling with a great responsibility and a stiff accountability.

Let us honor the Lord's people. Let us respect their worship. Let us fear God.

The writer of Ecclesiastes shared our concern.

"Guard your steps when you enter the house of God, and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools, for they do not know that they are doing evil. Do not be quick to speak with your mouth, nor let your heart be hasty to utter a word before God. For God is in heaven, and you are on the earth; therefore may your words be few" (Eccl. 5:1-2).

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 ) Worship Wed, 11 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
6 Ways Millennials Are Educating Their Church Theologically http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21735-6-ways-millennials-are-educating-their-church-theologically http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21735-6-ways-millennials-are-educating-their-church-theologically Over the past few decades, the seeker-sensitive movement—and before that the church growth movement—taught us much about the importance of contextualization in the church.

The strengths of these movements included a relentless evangelistic focus and a willingness to question status quo methodology and some extra-biblical traditions. On the other hand, their weaknesses were exposed as well. There was a tendency by some to downplay the importance of biblical truths and theological education. The practical sometimes overshadowed the theological.

In recent years, however, I have noticed a remarkable—and welcomed—return by younger leaders to the fundamentals of the faith, basic theological education, and the deepening of doctrinal roots.

Recently I sat down and studied these trends and identified six ways millennial leaders in the church are increasing the importance and effectiveness of theological education in the local church:

1. Emphasizing the big story of the Bible. Millennial leaders understand the need for Christians to be grounded in the grand narrative of Scripture, and the resources they use range from chronological Bible reading plans to theologically robust kids' Bibles. The overwhelming success of The Gospel Project (video below), a curriculum that uses the storyline of Scripture to teach essential doctrines, shows that church leaders today see the need for theological education and are acting accordingly.

2. Utilizing a catechism-like resource with their kids. In the previous point I mentioned theologically rich children's Bibles, but it doesn't just stop there. Millennial parents are using other resources and even smartphone apps to teach theological concepts and lessons to their children at home. While they aren't typically formal catechisms, they emphasize building a foundation of correct answers to Biblical questions. The Big Picture question and answer section in The Gospel Project for Kids curriculum is just one example of a resource for this practice.

3. Study groups working through systematic theology. I know of several churches that have weekly study groups who cover basic systematic theology. This is not just donuts and devotions. These groups intensely study Scripture and theology and in many cases have seen an increase in theological education and evangelistic fervor.

4. A return to theological hymnody and songs. We've had Keith Getty on the podcast to discuss hymnody and trends in the worship services, but again, it doesn't stop there. Many Millennial parents are using time in the car with their children to reinforce biblical truth through song. Several musicians have responded to this trend with albums full of songs with lyrics made entirely of Scripture.

5. Recommended reading on church websites. Many churches no longer have an official library on their campus, but church leaders are still recommending books. Many church websites now include a "recommended reading" section that features a mix of devotional classics, theological books, and the resources that have been most helpful to the pastor and staff.

6. Church membership classes. This should not be a surprise to regular readers of this blog. As I've stated several times on the blog and in the podcast, the two main things you should communicate in church membership classes are information and expectations. And both of those must be firmly built on a biblical foundation of good theology.

There are surely other ways that churches are educating members with theological truths. I'd love to hear from you about ways in which you are doing this at your church. Please share them in the comment section below.

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 ) Youth Thu, 23 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
11 Signs Your Church Youth Group Is Really Bad For Your Teenager http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21624-11-signs-your-church-youth-group-is-really-bad-for-your-teenager http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21624-11-signs-your-church-youth-group-is-really-bad-for-your-teenager I write this in the context of having been a pastor for more then three decades as well as ministering in hundreds of local congregations. I have seen the good, the bad and the ugly regarding youth groups.

I learned a long time ago that just because your local church has a youth group, it is not always in the best interest of parents to encourage their children to attend it. Also, in the case of functional Christian families, the parents have the primary responsibility of training their children—not the church youth group. (In cases where kids come in without Christian families behind them, then the church has to attempt to disciple them without parental aid, which is extremely difficult). That being said, whether your child comes from a strong Christian family or not, a youth group can be a blessing or curse.

The following are the signs a youth group is bad for your child to attend:

1. The youth pastor has no biblical depth and a shallow walk. I have seen the disastrous effects when the youth pastor merely "shares" the word but has no unction or depth in the word. The result is shallow instruction which does not provoke the young attendees to hunger and grow in the knowledge of God (2 Peter 3:18). Furthermore, if the youth pastor is not grounded in the faith, you cannot trust them. In one instance I heard of, a youth pastor was caught kissing a young girl during a youth retreat. It is a mistake for a person to be appointed as the youth pastor merely because they have charisma and a good personality.

2. There are no guidelines or accountability regarding dating. There needs to be consistent monitoring and teaching on dating and proper male /female relationships. This is because the hormone levels of teens are at their peak during this time in their life and they can easily fall into sexual sin. When the biblical view of dating and courtship is not taught, sexual sin will abound because this is usually the end result of dating.

3. There are no standards based on biblical ethics and holiness. A youth group needs to have consistent preaching on holiness, repentance and standards of ethics. Without this there is a vacuum and the youth will adapt the ethics of the surrounding culture. I have heard of many churches closing down their youth groups because they became a haven for sex and drugs. This is what will happen without consistent powerful preaching on holiness. Grace without truth is a recipe for disaster.

4. The goal is a crowd without biblical discipleship. Many youth groups merely exist to fill up their sanctuary. Hence, the result is they develop a culture of entertainment. Every youth group should have a goal to draw young people in so they can disciple and ground them deeply in the faith. Crowds without quality is building a youth group on wood, hay and stubble (1 Corinthians 3:12).

5. The youth staff has no instruction or integration from the eldership and or lead pastor. Unfortunately I have seen many instances in which the youth leaders had very little interaction from the lead pastor and elders. In some cases the youth leaders did not want any accountability. The result is an isolated youth leader who builds a group according to his own vision and standards, which may contradict the standards of the congregation. If the youth leaders are not integrated into the general vision and life of the congregation that is a sign there is no real accountability. Also, the elders and mature church leaders should also be part of the youth preaching team to ensure there is proper balance in all these areas.

6. There is a huge generation gap with no honor towards older people and parents. Youth cannot minister to youth without the advice and interaction of mature adults. Best-case scenario is to assign certain parents and elders in the church to consistently monitor the youth group and interact and advise the youth leaders. Also, the youth leaders should encourage the young people to honor their parents and interact with them and not buy into the cultural lie of the "generation gap." (Of course young people who come out of dysfunctional and or abusive families need to be dealt with differently according to their situation.) In some instances, a group group can actually foster a culture of generational distance that can hurt parent/child relationships. This is very bad for your child!

7. There are no leaders or mature saints being developed. When a youth group exists for years and only few of the young people graduate to serve in the adult congregation (when they get older) then there may be a problem. Pointing young people towards Christian service and responsible adulthood is part of the calling of youth groups. Of course, parents are the main ones called to disciple and train their children—youth groups only have kids for a few hours per week.

8. Many or most of the young people have no walk with God. When you observe that few if any of the young people in the youth group attend Sunday services and serve God then there is a huge problem.

9. The youth are not encouraged to excel in school. Many young people in at risk communities come out of a culture of dropping out of school. A youth group has the incredible opportunity to break those destructive patterns by encouraging youth to excel in school. Youth groups need to aid young people in being successful in life, not just church life.

10. The youth group has a sordid history. In many cases, there is a history of drugs, sex and alcohol abuse within the ranks of the youth group. In some cases it is done outside the context of the church services and cannot be helped but often it can be part of the sub culture of the actual youth group. In some cases, the youth leader needs to be dismissed because they either tolerate this and or are oblivious and are unqualified to lead streetwise kids. Young people indulging in this kind of behavior in the context of the youth group need to be confronted and dismissed from the group is they do not repent.

11. The youth leaders tolerate bullying. Often young people will come into a youth group who are socially awkward, are bodily weak, and or look or act different from the rest of the youth. The youth pastor has a responsibility to keep an eye out for the well being of that young person to ensure there is no peer bullying. Furthermore, the youth pastor needs to ensure that there is a culture of love and acceptance for all young people who attend in the context of the previous guidelines.

Joseph Mattera is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church and Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, New York, and author of numerous books, including Ruling in the Gates: Preparing the Church to Transform Cities. Follow him on Facebook or visit him online at josephmattera.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bishop Joseph Mattera) Youth Mon, 16 Mar 2015 12:00:00 -0400
This Generation and the Church: Millennials Respond http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21468-this-generation-and-the-church-millennials-respond http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21468-this-generation-and-the-church-millennials-respond Google "Millennials" and more than 9 million results immediately appear. They're a hot topic, being scrutinized from every angle.

Why? It's because the hope of the world hangs on their shoulders. But do you really understand this immensely portended generation?

"There's lots of chatter about what millennials like and don't like, why they are and aren't coming to church. But too often, much of this talk comes only from analysts who have data but little context, numbers but no names," says Glenn Packiam about the movie "Scissors + Glue: Messy Conversations That Shape Our Faith."

Unfortunately, there are a lot of disheartening statistics out there typifying the spiritual climate of the generation who reached young adulthood around the year 2000.

In the article "Have 8 Million Millennials Really Given Up on Christianity?" sociologist Brad Wright takes a closer look at the data and debunks the Millennial Hyperbole, "While the hyperbole might be a great way to sell books and get people to listen to sermons, I don't see it born out in the data."

Since a large percentage of our OneHope staff is made up of Millennials, I decided to survey them to put some names and faces with the data and perceptions. I invited them to respond to perceptions of the religiosity—or lack thereof—of their generation. And they had GREAT responses! We've got a sharp group here that is way brighter than I was at their age!

Millennials and the Church

According to recent Barna studies, between high school and turning 30, 43 percent of once-active Millennials will drop out of regular church attendance. "That amounts to 8 million 20-somethings who have, for various reasons, given up on church or Christianity."

A little over 1 in 3, about 38 percent, say they attend religious services weekly.

Millennials today are significantly less attached to organized religion than their elders were in their youth. In 2012, almost one-third of young adults ages 18 to 29 were unaffiliated with a religious institution, while in the 1970s only 13 percent of young adult Baby Boomers were unaffiliated. Young men are also much more likely to be unaffiliated than young women.

Calvin College Professor of Philosophy, James K.A. Smith gives a good contrarian balance when he writes, "Reflecting about the claims that millennial Christians are leaving the church because of her views on politics, evolution and the rest of the standard litany of grievances: And what exactly are we supposed to do with these claims? I think the upshot is pretty clear. Indeed, am I the only one who feels like they're a sort of bargaining chip—a kind of emotional blackmail meant to get the church to relax its commitments in order to make the church more acceptable? Could we entertain the possibility that Millennials might be wrong?"

We took the dilemma to our Millennial-aged staff, giving them a chance to share what they believe about the church:

"To be the church means to do that which you believe the church/church building is supposed to do, for example: Being the church means taking care of orphans and widows, being the church is meeting the needs (financial, emotional and physical) of those around you. Being the church is being Jesus with skin on—speaking Truth, showing favor to those who don't deserve it, having a heart full of compassion that moves you to act on another's behalf and helping others grow in maturity." —Tylena Martin Adudu

"The church is simply people who are committed to following Jesus. It's those who love Jesus and want to do life with Him—those who love God and love others. We often see the church as a building, but that's incorrect. The church is simply broken people, covered by grace, trying their best to follow a perfect, loving God." —Chelsea Hite

"I would explain it more as a family or a community. I believe the 20-somethings of today are interested in being part of something so I explain how my community of faith makes me feel welcome, received and loved. Those are things that are important to this generation." —Julia Wilson

"The church is a body of believers dedicated to serving their Lord, Jesus Christ, by advancing His Kingdom for His glory in every nation through the proclamation of His gospel and the enactment of His justice for a lost and broken world." —Jesse Daniel Stone

"The church is, keeping our eyes and ears open to the people around us, and trying to show them unconditional love in whatever way we can, wherever we may be." —Drew Blount

Rob Hoskins is the president of OneHope, an international ministry that shares Scripture with children and youth in more than 125 countries. For the original article, visit robhoskins.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rob Hoskins/OneHope) Youth Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Youth Pastor Equips Students for Revival http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21554-youth-pastor-equips-students-for-revival http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21554-youth-pastor-equips-students-for-revival Real. Bold. Raw.

Youth pastor Tom Breckwoldt isn't so much about growing his teen gatherings as he is about presenting the gospel to young people.

"It's not about come and see; it's about go and tell," Breckwoldt says, and that's his whole philosophy in evangelizing teens, choosing to equip them to disciple their peers rather than handling the ministry alone.

His youth group—SWAG (Student Warriors Awakening Generation), part of Lake Mary Church in Lake Mary, Florida, which was started as an Every Nation church plant at a local high school—is igniting revival among campuses in Central Florida. Every Nation establishes churches and campus ministries worldwide.

"If you look at a herd of rhinoceroses, they're called a crash," he jokes, "and if you look at why they're called a crash, they can run 30 miles per hour and they can only see 30 feet in front of them. So I look at us like we're kind of like a herd of rhinos. ... We just go, and God just goes nuts through it!"

In nearly two years of activity, Breckwoldt has seen his students experience radical conversions and spread the love of Jesus to their families, adding their parents as disciples rather than the other way around. The radical conversions are similar to Breckwoldt's own story.

Saved only three years, Breckwoldt left a lucrative career in the fitness industry after a prophetic word to go into full-time ministry.

Lake Mary Church Pastor Shaddy Soliman, who led Breckwoldt to God and discipled him in the Word, encouraged Breckwoldt's evangelistic gifts by sending him out into campus ministry. Breckwoldt eventually took over the church's youth group.

When Breckwoldt took over, he said God told him how his story would change the face of the church by the way of the students. 

"He said, 'Tom, the way I'm using you to transform these kids, I'm going to use these kids to transform these parents.'"

There was a point when the parents of 80 percent of the students in the youth group didn't go to church, Breckwoldt says. "Through the student, God is using the heart to change the dynamic of the family, which is really unheard of."

In one year of operation, Breckwoldt went from ministering on one campus to five and ministering to more than 200 students weekly. He's seen more than 200 salvations in a local detention center and oversees 30-50 student one-on-one discipleships.

He's driven by a vision that came out of a fast earlier this year. In the vision, God showed Breckwoldt the book of Nehemiah and of walls being torn down and rebuilt.

"God just said, 'Tom, My walls have been torn down on the campuses, and I'm calling you to go back and rebuild them.' ... Everywhere I saw Jerusalem in the story, I saw campuses, and Nehemiah was just bold ... and God sent His army with him."

Now God's army is going with Breckwoldt's students. These are students who weren't just on the fence about Jesus—many were avowed atheists or even convicts in a detention center. But Breckwoldt and his students were unafraid of sharing the raw reality of the gospel, not by "Christianese" language typical in evangelism. As a result, the Holy Spirit caught fire in their lives.

"I just want to watch students go and spread it everywhere," Breckwoldt says. "Just wait a couple years from now. There's a revival breaking out on these campuses, and we're going to see it."

The ones often leading the charge are often the newer Christians, those who are totally open to going out and doing what God has called them to do.

Breckwoldt's model is to follow the Spirit and disciple.

All of the church's SWAG small groups are led by students, he says, because it's not about being perfect; it's about being willing.

"The Spirit of God, the way [He] moves through this ministry, it blows my mind," Breckwoldt says, "for Him to take such ordinary people."

Jessilyn Justice is an assistant news editor for Charisma Media.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jessilyn Justice) Youth Wed, 01 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
4 Steps in Teaching Students to Share Their Faith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21412-4-steps-in-teaching-students-to-share-their-faith http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21412-4-steps-in-teaching-students-to-share-their-faith Evangelism can be weird for students. I felt like a salesman trying to share my faith when I was in school. And not just any salesman, but a salesman who sells things people don't know they want or even need.

A perfect example of this is the person at the kiosk booths at the mall. They pace up and down talking to people who aren't paying them any attention. Trying to sell them something they didn't even come to the mall to get is arduous.

I used to feel that way when I would have to go out and share my faith. I would think to myself, "These people don't want to hear what I have to say." It wasn't until I got older that I understood that it would always be about sharing something with people who don't know they need it.

Now, I personally believe God uses a lot of different ways to share His message through us. I will never say one way is better. Because in some way or another God uses them all. But in this post, I want to discuss evangelizing through relationship.

While I wouldn't say it's better, I will say it's my favorite when it comes to teaching students how to evangelize to their friends. Evangelism through relationships teaches students three things:

1. It reinforces the main point of the gospel, which is God's longing to be in relationship with us.

2. It helps students not see the person being evangelized as a project or a deal needing closing, but a person God loves.

3. It helps them speak through their own relationship with God, and from their own story and experiences that can't be disputed.

Therefore, here are the four steps I like to walk students through when it comes to sharing there faith with their friends:

1. Teach them to know the gospel. Have you ever lead someone to a destination you didn't know the directions to? I'm guessing your answer is NO. Well, it's the same when it comes to sharing our faith. You have to know how you got to where you are in order to show people how to get there.

2. Teach them to know their story. A lot of times students are paralyzed by fear because they don't know what to say. So I'll have students write their story out using a template if needed. And it will be about how God has changed their life. They will use this information to share the gospel. I've learned that people are more interested in hearing what God has done in your life, than just hearing what He can possibly do in theirs. So teach them to know their story.

3. Teach them to get to know their friends' stories. A lot of times we know people and are friends with them, but we never engage in any conversations concerning the issues of life. So it's important they know you care about the details of their life, because you are modeling how much God cares about them. Also, you have to earn the right to speak into their life, the same way people have to earn the right to speak into yours. We do that through getting to know who they are. Learning someone else's journey is the quickest way to grow in relationship with that person. Get to know their story.

4. Teach them to understand the gospel and how it intersects with their story. The gospel becomes more real once you understand how it applies to you. For the most part, we are most comfortable talking about ourselves. It's important that we don't just know the verses and the right christianized language. We need to understand the gospel in light of how it relates to our story. And there is a confidence that comes to the one who understands this point.

I hope this helps.

Aaron Crumbey oversees Pastoral Care for the high-school ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.

For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Aaron Crumbey) Youth Wed, 17 Dec 2014 14:00:00 -0500
3 Common Traits of Youth Who Don’t Leave the Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21391-3-common-traits-of-youth-who-don-t-leave-the-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21391-3-common-traits-of-youth-who-don-t-leave-the-church "What do we do about our kids?" The group of parents sat together in my office, wiping their eyes. I'm a high-school pastor, but for once, they weren't talking about 16-year-olds drinking and partying.

Each had a story to tell about a "good Christian" child, raised in their home and in our church, who had walked away from the faith during the college years. These children had come through our church's youth program, gone on short-term mission trips and served in several different ministries during their teenage years. Now they didn't want anything to do with it anymore.

And, somehow, these mothers' ideas for our church to send college students "care packages" during their freshman year to help them feel connected to the church didn't strike me as a solution with quite enough depth.

The daunting statistics about churchgoing youth keep rolling in. Panic ensues. What are we doing wrong in our churches and in our youth ministries?

It's hard to sort through the various reports and find the real story. There is no one easy solution for bringing all of those "lost" kids back into the church, other than continuing to pray for them and speaking the gospel into their lives. However, we can all look at the 20-somethings in our churches who are engaged and involved in ministry. What is it that sets apart the kids who stay in the church? Here are just a few observations I have made about such kids, with a few applications for those of us serving in youth ministry.

1. They are converted. The Apostle Paul, interestingly enough, doesn't use phrases like "nominal Christian" or "pretty good kid." The Bible doesn't seem to mess around with platitudes like: "Yeah, it's a shame he did that, but he's got a good heart." When we listen to the witness of Scripture, particularly on the topic of conversion, we find that there is very little wiggle room. Listen to these words: "Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come" (2 Cor. 5:17). We youth pastors need to get back to understanding salvation as what it really is: a miracle that comes from the glorious power of God through the working of the Holy Spirit.

We need to stop talking about "good kids." We need to stop being pleased with attendance at youth group and fun retreats. We need to start getting on our knees and praying that the Holy Spirit will do miraculous saving work in the hearts of our students as the Word of God speaks to them. In short, we need to get back to a focus on conversion. How many of us are preaching to "unconverted evangelicals"? Youth pastors, we need to preach, teach and talk—all the while praying fervently for the miraculous work of regeneration to occur in the hearts and souls of our students by the power of the Holy Spirit! When that happens—when the "old goes" and the "new comes"—it will not be iffy. We will not be dealing with a group of "nominal Christians." We will be ready to teach, disciple and equip a generation of future church leaders—"new creations"—who are hungry to know and speak God's Word. It is converted students who go on to love Jesus and serve the church.

2. They have been equipped, not entertained. Recently, we had "man day" with some of the guys in our youth group. We began with an hour of basketball at the local park, moved to an intense game of 16" ("Chicago Style") softball, and finished the afternoon by gorging ourselves on meaty pizzas and 2-liters of soda. I am not against fun (or gross, depending on your opinion of the afternoon I just described) things in youth ministry. But youth pastors especially need to keep repeating the words of Ephesians 4:11-12 to themselves: "[Christ] gave ... the teachers to equip the saints for the work of the ministry, for building up the body of Christ." Christ gives us—teachers—to the church, not for entertainment, encouragement, examples or even friendship primarily. He gives us to the church to "equip" the saints to do gospel ministry in order that the church of Christ may be built up.

If I have not equipped the students in my ministry to share the gospel, disciple a younger believer and lead a Bible study, then I have not fulfilled my calling to them, no matter how good my sermons have been. We pray for conversion; that is all we can do, for it is entirely a gracious gift of God. But after conversion, it is our Christ-given duty to help fan into flame a faith that serves, leads, teaches and grows. If our students leave high school without Bible-reading habits, Bible-study skills, and strong examples of discipleship and prayer, we have lost them. We have entertained, not equipped, them ... and it may indeed be time to panic!

Forget your youth programs for a second. Are we sending out from our ministries the kind of students who will show up to college in a different state, join a church and begin doing the work of gospel ministry there without ever being asked? Are we equipping them to that end, or are we merely giving them a good time while they're with us? We don't need youth-group junkies; we need to be growing churchmen and churchwomen who are equipped to teach, lead and serve.

Put your youth ministry strategies aside as you look at that 16-year-old young man and ask: "How can I spend four years with this kid, helping him become the best church deacon and sixth-grade Sunday school class teacher he can be, 10 years down the road?"

3. Their parents preached the gospel to them. As a youth pastor, I can't do all this. All this equipping that I'm talking about is utterly beyond my limited capabilities. It is impossible for me to bring conversion, of course, but it is also impossible for me to have an equipping ministry that sends out vibrant churchmen and churchwomen if my ministry is not being reinforced tenfold in the students' homes. The common thread that binds together almost every ministry-minded 20-something that I know is abundantly clear: a home where the gospel was not peripheral but absolutely central. The 20-somethings who are serving, leading and driving the ministries at our church were kids whose parents made them go to church.

They are kids whose parents punished them and held them accountable when they were rebellious. They are kids whose parents read the Bible around the dinner table every night. And they are kids whose parents were tough but who ultimately operated from a framework of grace that held up the cross of Jesus as the basis for peace with God and forgiveness toward one another.

This is not a formula. Kids from wonderful, gospel-centered homes leave the church; people from messed-up family backgrounds find eternal life in Jesus and have beautiful marriages and families. But it's also not a crapshoot. In general, children who are led in their faith during their growing-up years by parents who love Jesus vibrantly, serve their church actively and saturate their home with the gospel completely, grow up to love Jesus and the church.

The words of Proverbs 22:6 do not constitute a formula that is true 100 percent of the time, but they do provide us with a principle that comes from the gracious plan of God, the God who delights to see his gracious Word passed from generation to generation: "Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it."

Youth pastors, pray with all your might for true conversion; that is God's work. Equip the saints for the work of the ministry; that is your work. Parents, preach the gospel and live the gospel for your children. Our work depends on you.

Jon Nielson is the college pastor at College Church in Wheaton, Illinois. He blogs at Something More Sure. For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jon Nielson) Youth Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500