Ministry Life http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life Tue, 03 Mar 2015 23:22:22 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb 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. 

]]>
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?

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.”

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brett Fuller) Ministry Life Wed, 21 Nov 2012 21:00:00 -0500
Protestants Declining With the Rise of the 'Nones' http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19577-protestans-declining-with-the-rise-of-the-nones http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/19577-protestans-declining-with-the-rise-of-the-nones empty-churchThe number of Americans who do not identify with any religion is growing at a rapid pace.

According to a new report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life, about one-fifth of the U.S. public--and a third of adults under age 30--are religiously unaffiliated today. Those are the highest percentages ever in Pew Research Center polling.

In the last five years alone, the unaffiliated have increased from just over 15 percent to just under 20 percent of all U.S. adults. Their ranks now include more than 13 million self-described atheists and agnostics (nearly 6 percent of the U.S. public), as well as nearly 33 million people who say they have no particular religious affiliation (14 percent).

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Charisma Staff) Ministry Life Fri, 12 Oct 2012 19:30:00 -0400
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson ) Children Tue, 13 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
10 Christmas Story Truths Children Should Know http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21454-10-christmas-story-truths-children-should-know http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21454-10-christmas-story-truths-children-should-know The Christmas story is literally crammed full of powerful teachings. Here are 10 takeaways that speak directly to students:

1. The Incarnation is awesome. Luke 2:6-7 says, "So while they were there, the day came for her to give birth. And she gave birth to her firstborn Son, and wrapped Him in strips of cloth, and laid Him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." It seems this generation of teenagers places a high value on authenticity. There is nothing more authentic than the God of the universe taking on human form in order to perfectly save His creation from themselves. Students can know and worship and relate to God because He became one of us.

2. You are never too young or inexperienced to be used by God. Luke 1:26-27 says, "In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. And the virgin's name was Mary." Mary was pretty young. Scholars' opinions range anywhere from 13 or 14 years old to 18 or 19. The point is this: God used Mary in a miraculous way. That's God's M.O. He used Mary when she was a teenager. He can and will (and does) use young people today as vital parts of His plan to redeem humankind.

3. The harder the situation, the greater the faith. Matthew 1:24-25 says, "Then Joseph, being awakened from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him, and remained with his wife, and did not know her until she had given birth to her firstborn Son. And he called His name Jesus." Joseph may be my favorite (human) character of the Christmas Narrative. What incredible faith! Everything in him said to divorce Mary (and do it quietly to protect her life ... what love!). But Joseph showed immense faith in the Lord's plan. Your students can benefit immensely from Joseph's example here.

4. The Bible is an amazing testimony to God's hand working through time and circumstances to achieve His purposes. Luke 2:4-5 says, "And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the town of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child." God promised David that someone from his lineage would always be on the throne. This happened roughly half a millennium before Christ was born! Fulfilled prophecy is an incredible teaching tool to help give your students confidence in God's powerful providence. God is at work, in history and in the lives of your students. And that is really cool.

5. When we respond to God's leading in obedience, we allow God to use us to our fullest intended purpose. Luke 1:38 says, "Mary said, 'I am the servant of the Lord. May it be unto me according to your word.' Then the angel departed from her." When students feel God leading them to do something or to take some sort of action, the right response is obedience. When they obey God, He can actually use them. If students will not obey God's leading, they deprive themselves of being vital tools in His hands. God is on mission, whether or not we choose to join Him is on us.

6. We should approach Jesus with reverence and honor. Luke 1:31-33 says, "Listen, you will conceive in your womb and bear a Son and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest. And the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever. And of His kingdom there will be no end."

Many Christ-followers are guilty of downplaying Jesus' majesty. This is especially true of teenagers (in many cases, this is our fault, not theirs). While Jesus is a personal Savior, He is also King of kings, the Son of the Most High, the Holy Ruler who sits enthroned as Lord over all nations. As we pray, as we sing, as we teach, let's help students remember who it is they are serving. Jesus does not exist to answer to us. It's, in fact, quite the opposite.

7. The gospel is not a secret. Luke 2:17-18 says, "When they had seen Him, they made widely known the word which was told them concerning this Child. 18 And all those who heard it marveled at what the shepherds told them." The shepherds saw the baby and took to shouting in the streets! (Maybe not literally, but you know ... .) The gospel is, by nature, contagious. Your students are called to be people who openly speak of the saving grace of Christ in an individual's life. You should be equipping them to do this.

8. When God does awesome stuff for us, the proper response is praise. Luke 1:46-48 says, "My soul magnifies the Lord, and my spirit rejoices in God my Savior. For He has regarded the low estate of His servant; surely, from now on all generations will call me blessed.'" Mary knew God had touched her life. Her response? Unabashed, heartfelt praise. Plain and simple, when God does good for us, the most perfect response is pure, honest thankfulness and praise, acknowledging His favor over us.

9. God's kingdom has always and will always place tremendous value on the lowly and the lost. Luke 2:8-9, "And in the same area there were shepherds living in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And then an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were very afraid." Who were the first to hear publicly about the Christ child's birth? The Roman ruler? The religious establishment? Nope. Dudes keeping sheep. God loves the outcasts and the low. (Want another? Who was privy to Jesus' first miracle? The servants at the wedding feast.) Students who may struggle with feelings of low self-worth, who look at the world around them and find themselves at the bottom of the pile, need not despair. They are in the right place to have God reach down and use them for powerful purposes. That's His way.

10. Jesus is radically divisive. Matthew 2:3 says, "When Herod the king heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him." Herod heard the news of the birth of a "king" and shook in his boots. So did the religious establishment. We tend to want to put Jesus in a box, to control Him, to make Him nice, safe and passive. This is the guy who dumped tables over in the Temple, who said in Matthew 10:34, "Do not think that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I have not come to bring peace, but a sword."

Jesus knew the gospel would divide this world. It is as true today as it has always been. If your students know a Christ that is passive and safe, and that exists primarily to meet their needs and make them comfortable, you need to help reintroduce them to the real Jesus.

I hope these help you bring the Christmas narrative to life for your students. Merry Christmas to each of you!

Andy Blanks is the co-founder of youthministry360, a ministry committed to equipping youth workers through resources, training, community, and networking. Andy is passionate about God's Word and the transformation it brings in the lives of God's people. Andy is a writer, teacher and a speaker. Check out Andy's youth ministry posts on the ym360 Blog.

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Andy Blanks) Children Tue, 23 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
10 Reasons Kids Can’t Remember the Lesson You Taught Last Week http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21358-10-reasons-kids-can-t-remember-the-lesson-you-taught-last-week http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21358-10-reasons-kids-can-t-remember-the-lesson-you-taught-last-week Did you know that if you did the following things this past weekend the kids have already forgotten 90 percent of what you taught?

1. You didn't let them talk. Kids learn best not by being lectured to, but by talking, asking questions and interacting. If you did all the talking, they've forgotten most of what you said. 

2. You didn't use any pictures. Half of the brain is dedicated to visual function. Sixty-five percent of kids are visual learners. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

3. You tried to teach too many things. You tried to cram too much information in their head. If you tried to teach them five truths instead of one key truth, they probably don't remember any of them. Less is more. 

4. You didn't use repetition. If you only said it one time, they've forgotten it.  If you repeated it 6 or more times, their retention rate went up to 90 percent. Repetition truly is the key to learning.

5. You didn't hit all learning styles. You had kids with lots of different learning styles in the room. If you only tapped into one or two, you missed many of the kids.

6. You didn't honor their attention span. If you talked over 5 minutes without switching to something else, they zoned out. Honor their attention span and you will keep it.

7. You didn't use an object they will see this week. If you didn't use something they will see this week as an example or object lesson, you missed a great opportunity to remind them of what you taught. The one-way street sign they will see many times this week could have been a reminder that Jesus is the one way to heaven.

8. You didn't show them how to apply it to their life and challenge them to live it out. If you didn't teach beyond the facts and show them how to apply it to their life this week, you shortchanged them. Information without application doesn't lead to life change.

9. You didn't engage all their senses. If you only engaged their ears and eyes, you missed other key senses that help move truth into long-term memory. Touch, smell and taste help kids remember.

10. You didn't engage their emotions. Emotion is a glue of learning. If you didn't create experiences that help them feel the tension of the truth, then you missed a golden opportunity.

So, what's the answer? Simply incorporate the things you missed and watch kids remember what you teach them for a lifetime.

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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson) Children Wed, 19 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Children’s Pastors: The Great Void http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21340-children-s-pastors-the-great-void http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21340-children-s-pastors-the-great-void I've been in serving in children's ministry full-time for about 25 years now. At 47, I'm definitely middle-aged. And, I'm starting to turn around and look behind me.

What I see alarms me. There has always been a void of children's pastors. Don't think so? Just go check the open job listings on any church staffing site and you'll see the largest number of empty positions are children's pastors.

But as I look behind me, I see an even greater void of young children's pastors. Don't get me wrong, there are some great young children's ministry leaders emerging. But the number of leaders pales in comparison to the harvest fields that are ripening all around us.

We must raise up young leaders who will reach the next generation for Christ.

We must pray for the Lord to call young men and women into children's ministry. 

Jesus told us to pray for workers for the harvest. Let's ask God to move in the hearts of young people and call them into children's ministry. Jesus wouldn't tell us to ask for something God didn't want to give us.

Christian universities and seminaries must prepare young people for children's ministry. Very few institutions of higher learning that prepare people for ministry have degrees in children's ministry. Some do, but it is minimal and nowhere near the number needed.

Churches must raise up children's ministry leaders. When churches make children's ministry a priority, children's ministry leaders will emerge. Out of our children's ministry staff of over 50, only a small handful were brought to our church from the outside. The vast majority were volunteers that we have poured into and raised up as staff members.

Churches must provide internships in children's ministry. Internships are a great time to solidify those whom God is calling into children's ministry. I know of several churches that do this very well, and I have seen God use it to call dozens of young adults into children's ministry.

Children's pastors must be intentional about investing in the next generation of leaders.

We must gather young leaders around us and mentor them. We must begin handing off leadership to them. They are the future of children's ministry.

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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson ) Children Fri, 07 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
10 Phrases Kids Need to Hear at Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21310-10-phrases-kids-need-to-hear-at-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/children/21310-10-phrases-kids-need-to-hear-at-church "The tongue can bring death or life ..." (Prov. 18:21, NLT).

There is so much power in your words. Your words can change a child's life. Your words can bring confidence and courage to a child who has none. Your words can inspire a child to live a life of greatness.

Here are 10 phrases that kids need to hear at church. Speak these to the kids in your ministry and it will be transformative!

1. "I believe in you!"

2. "God has great plans for you."

3. "I'm so proud of you!"

4. "You are a leader!"

5. "We love you!"

6. "I can't wait to see what God does through you!"

7. "You are an awesome kid!"

8. "You are so valuable to God and to us."

9. "You can do anything God asks you to do!"

10. "I'm so thankful you are part of our church family!"

What are some other phrases kids need to hear at church? 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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson) Children Mon, 03 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
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.

]]>
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

]]>
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.”

]]>
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?”

]]>
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.


]]>
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.

 

]]>
marcus.yoars@charismamedia.com (Marcus Yoars) College Wed, 25 Feb 2009 20:30:59 -0500
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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:

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Mathis) Counseling Wed, 29 Jan 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Joe McKeever: A Minister Should Be Able to Teach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20740-a-minister-should-be-able-to-teach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/counseling/20740-a-minister-should-be-able-to-teach I am a teacher.

When I was a senior in high school, a classmate gave me one of those unforgettable moments that lives in one’s mind forever. Principal Andy Davis had summoned me to his office to help Jerry Crittenden with a math problem. Now, Jerry was a big football player, lovable and kindhearted, and a joy to be around. But in math, the guy was lost. Toward the end of our session, Jerry said, “Joe, you should be a teacher. I can understand it the way you explain it.”

Eighteen months later, following a frustrating freshman year of college that taught me one huge thing—I do not want to major in physics—I realized that God wanted me to be a teacher. He had gifted me with a love for history as well as a delight in learning, and He had surrounded me with some excellent teachers as role models.

At the time, I thought the idea was to become a history teacher in high school and later, after getting the necessary education, in college. Then, as a senior in college, God called me to preach. I think members of my churches over these years would say, however, that Joe never quit teaching. And that’s good.

“Able to teach.” What a strange thing the apostle Paul did. In the middle of calling his preachers to hold down the noise, to quiet the arguments and to still the controversies, he wants them gentle and patient and kind—and able to teach. Pastor search committees would do well to put this skill high on their list of requirements when checking out preachers.

It’s one thing to preach well and something entirely different to teach. We must not confuse the two. In 2 Timothy 1:11, Paul tells us he was appointed by the Lord as “a preacher, an apostle, and a teacher.”

I recall a day in seminary when we spent the entire class period discussing the difference in preaching and teaching. Eventually, we decided that there is no definitive difference. But I think we were wrong, and Paul is making this point. In the passage where he identifies himself as preacher, apostle and teacher, he clearly sees them as separate and distinct assignments.

This is not original with me by any means, but it seems clear that the distinction goes like this:

  • preacher (or herald) is one who proclaims the message of Christ to the masses, to anyone and everyone, in church and in the streets.
  • The apostle is an ambassador for Christ (in the sense of 2 Corinthians 5:20 and beyond). He may be a missionary or a pastor, but God gives him great influence with many pastors and large numbers of churches.
  • The teacher instructs those who have become followers of Jesus. This is a more restricted ministry than preaching.

Paul says God called some to be “pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11). We who lead the Lord’s flocks are shepherds and instructors.

Now, the question remains: What does it mean to be “able to teach”?

1. One who is able to teach knows and loves his subject thoroughly. I do not want to sit in a class where the Bible is taught by someone who does not love the Lord.

2. One able to teach understands the larger scope and the specific details, the big and the small picture. Some sermons and/or lessons are microscopic in nature and some telescopic. One of the best-received lessons I ever taught to college students many years ago was an entire history of the Old Testament in one period. Putting people and events in their proper order and showing the geographical movements of God’s people all at one time was eye-opening for many. Pastors who love to spend a year on one chapter of the Bible, take note.

3. One able to teach knows and cares for his students. He or she is not teaching history, but teaching people. Big difference.

George W. Truett used to say a pastor spends his week in the homes of his people, diagnosing their situations so he can stand in the pulpit on Sunday and prescribe remedies. The pastor who neglects personal ministry so he can spend all his time in his study will quickly find his messages becoming irrelevant.

4. One able to teach speaks the language of his students. This almost goes without saying, but not quite. Even if everyone in the room speaks English, the teacher will be careful not to use unintelligible terms and unfathomable quotations, but to put everything on a reachable level.

5. One able to teach is himself teachable. No one knows it all, so teachers must be constantly learning also. The person who shuts down the learning mechanism, certain that they now know it all, is painful to endure. A major aspect of the childlike trait of which Jesus makes so much (Mark 10:15) is being teachable.

6. One able to teach encourages further growth and development in the students. We stand in awe at Barnabas, “Mr. Encourager.” He took the newly called apostle Saul under his wing and nurtured him in the Lord’s work as they went on the initial missionary journey. As they departed, it was Barnabas and Saul (Acts 13:2, 7). But they’d not been working long when the roles reversed and we read of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 13:13, 43).

7. One able to teach benefits as much from the experience as the students themselves do. I’m indebted to classmate Bill Lowe for teaching me this. We were in our first year of seminary and taking Hebrew under Dr. George Harrison. Now, I was 24, just two years out of college, but Bill was 37 and college was a distant memory for him. After class one day, he said, “Joe, could you help me with this? Hebrew is killing me.”

Since we lived a half-block from each other, getting together several times a week was no problem. And that’s when I made a discovery. In helping Bill to understand a concept, I was helping myself see it more clearly.

The background to that, the reason the lesson meant so much, is that in college, I had lived off-campus and studied in isolation. My four terms of French were a delight in some respects, but nothing like what they would have been had I studied with a classmate. No language can be learned by oneself. (For this and other reasons, over these years I have urged students—my own children and grandchildren among them—to find classmates with whom to study. In helping each other, they will illustrate the truth of Ecclesiastes 4:9-12, the passage that begins “Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor.”).

Preaching is good. Preach the Word, preach the gospel, yes. But once they have responded, then get them into a class where they can learn and grow. Teach the disciples.

This would be a good place for a plug for Sunday School, wouldn’t it?

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

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever) Counseling Thu, 20 Feb 2014 17:00:00 -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?

]]>
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.

]]>
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. 

]]>
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).

]]>
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.

]]>
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:

]]>
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. 

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kris Vallotton) Deliverance Wed, 31 Oct 2012 20:00:00 -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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Richard M. Salazar Jr.) Family Life Thu, 22 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Stressing the Importance of Family Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/20778-stressing-the-importance-of-family-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/20778-stressing-the-importance-of-family-ministry Although the physical act of going to church is a central tenet of the faith, true faith is rooted in the Christian household. For people of faith, family ministry is crucial to maintaining a true understanding of Scripture and a relationship with God.

True faith must be learned—and practiced—in the home.

“These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates” (Deut. 6:6-9, NIV). 

God Is in the Home

The true responsibility of imparting a Christian life and faith to children lies with the parents in the home. The Bible is filled with examples of family ministry. Providing your family with not only the study and practice of Scripture at home, but, more importantly, showing your children firsthand examples of a Christian lifestyle by living biblically on a daily basis is the foundation of the family ministry structure.

Supplemental, Not Separate

Try not to think of your church as being separate from your family ministry. Your church can and should be the springboard—the launchpad—for your ministry at home. It is through your church that you'll meet the people and develop the resources (literature, media, support groups, retreats, etc.) that will become the basis for your home ministry. Not only isn't your church a separate entity apart from your family ministry, but it is your family ministry's home base.

Start at Home

Family is the foundation of the church, not vice versa. If husbands, wives, children and siblings are living in a home whose members don't embrace the faith in their daily lives, no amount of church or Sunday school will break the bonds of a disintegrated family.

Think of your family ministry as addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Without these basic building blocks, the algebra and calculus of church are simply not possible. Good parishes are built on good, Christian families.

Hold Yourself Accountable

There is no singular, agreed-upon definition of a family ministry. Each family is different, and therefore, so will be each home ministry. But one overriding principle is the responsibility and accountability of parents. The blessing of children comes with extraordinary responsibility, and when it comes to imparting the faith to children, the burden must lie squarely not on the school or the church, but on the mother and father.

Resources

Following are some resources that can help you have an active family ministry:

Although Sunday school and spiritual education both hold incredible value, dropping off your children and entrusting their spiritual needs to strangers is simply not enough. Just as your child plays the violin at a recital, the daily repetitive practice is done at home—even if it means the home is a little more noisy because of it. It is easier to trust your child’s spiritual education to “professionals,” but the Bible says that the true professionals are the family. 

Andrew Lisa is a freelance writer living in Los Angeles. He writes about religion and profiles religious programs.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Andrew Lisa) Family Life Tue, 11 Mar 2014 19:00:00 -0400
A Word to the Pastor’s Wife From a Pastor’s Wife http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/20366-a-word-to-the-pastor-s-wife-from-a-pastor-s-wife http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/family-life/20366-a-word-to-the-pastor-s-wife-from-a-pastor-s-wife Ron-and-CherylI love being a pastor’s wife. It truly is who God has called me to be in this season of life. Everyday is not easy, but when I’m serving as God intended for me to serve, I’m never more fulfilled in life.

That’s why I decided to share this advice to pastor’s wives. (I understand my husband has lots of pastors who read his blog. I hope they will share this with their spouse.)

Here is my advice:

Don’t try to be something you are not … and … Don’t be afraid to be yourself.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Cheryl Edmondson) Family Life Wed, 18 Sep 2013 20:00:00 -0400
5 Thoughts About Church Memorials http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21540-5-thoughts-about-church-memorials http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21540-5-thoughts-about-church-memorials Many churches have them. They can be found in varying degrees of emphasis from one church to another.

They are church memorials, areas of a church designated in memory of someone who was a member of the congregation.

I have seen rooms, particularly parlors, named in memory of a person or a family. In older churches there are sometimes stained glass windows used as memorials. Indeed, I have seen smaller memorials like a pulpit, a garden, or a communion table. But entire churches can be named in memory of a family, such as the Smith Memorial Church.

There are two major motives behind memorials, and they are not mutually exclusive. One motive is to remember a person or a family because of their service and ministry in a church. A second major motive is financial. A person or a family gets naming rights to something in a church because of their financial gifts to the congregation.

So, what are the benefits or the problems associated with church memorials? Five thoughts come to mind:

1. They can be a healthy way to honor someone who really made a significant contribution to a church. That contribution could have been in service, dedication and/or money.

2. On some occasions, memorials can be a way a donor gets what he or she wants in a church. So the church builds a chapel in memory of a key person in the church. But the church really does not need the chapel; the leaders just didn't want to say no to the donors who wanted the chapel. In some ways, it can be a form of manipulation.

3. A memorial can be divisive later. I have knowledge of a church that named a parlor after a prominent woman who had recently died. Within a year of the parlor's construction, the woman's family was attempting to control who used or didn't use the room.

4. It can be problematic if negative facts about the late honoree are discovered later. For example, one church was faced with a conundrum when the deceased honoree was discovered later to be a multiple sex offender. The worship center had been named for this person, and there were still family members in the church.

5. All of the closed churches I have studied had memorials. I have to be careful here. Correlation does not equal causation. Still, every deceased church I have studied had some type of memorial. As I would ask probing questions of those who were members of the church, I would learn that the memorial was often symptomatic of a congregation that was focused inwardly.

Many churches have memorials. I am sure there are many different perspectives about them. Such is the reason I would love to hear from you. What has been your experience with church memorials?

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Legacy Tue, 17 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
4 Things Young Leaders Need (and Want) to Know http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21353-4-things-young-leaders-need-and-want-to-know http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21353-4-things-young-leaders-need-and-want-to-know Coaching young leaders is one of the most rewarding things anyone can do.

I recently had lunch with six young college students who are summer interns at 12Stone® Church. I was impressed. They are all sharpies!

Kevin Monahan our Next Gen Pastor, arranged this lunch as an informal time where the interns could ask me any leadership or ministry question they wanted to ask. They needed no prompt for questions; they were ready to go! 

Their questions were thoughtful, insightful and genuine. As I listened to what they asked, and answered the best I could, some patterns began to emerge. There was a pattern of things that seemed to find a similar connection through all of their questions. The pattern was more personal than professional. And the pattern reveals that they are hungry for mentors who care and won't let them down.

As I drove back to the church I thought it might be helpful to capture some of the commonalities that came from their questions. My hope is that these real and practical thoughts will help you better coach and mentor your young leaders.

Before I list these for you, here's one tip from me to you on being a good coach. If you listen well, they will tell you how to coach them well! Yes, you bring your wisdom and experience to the table. But in order to be a good mentor, you need to stay fresh, relevant and "young-minded." They are eager to help you do that if you give them a chance.

Listen carefully to their questions, they are sharing good stuff! The important thing for you as the coach is to sustain a willingness to change and grow yourself. If you do, the young leaders will be much more naturally drawn to you.

Here are 4 things your young leaders need (and want) to know:

1. Slow down. It's understandable that sharp young leaders want to rise up and conquer the world—fast. They live in a culture where everything is fast. So why not? The problem is that development can't be rushed. Experience can't be fast-tracked. My observation is that many young leaders start in smaller churches and get frustrated because there is nowhere to go, rather than take time to develop their skills.

The temptation is to jump to the next-size-larger church. The assumption is that their skills have developed and they grew something, when in many cases they merely moved to a larger environment. This isn't bad or wrong, but it does often short-circuit development, especially if the young leader ends up over his or her head. Now they must perform rather than develop. This performance trap can be devastating. So it is essential for young leaders to get in a place where the veteran leaders will invest in their development and stay long enough so they can grow as a leader.

2. Be yourself. Many of us learned this the hard way, trying to be like someone else for a time (hopefully a short time). It's good to learn from and emulate your mentors, models and heroes. But it's not wise to try to be like them. Young leaders need to be encouraged to be themselves. It's important to coach them in the understanding that people like them best when they are truly themselves. That's part of how genuine connection takes place.

Not everyone will like them, but people will like any of us best when we are ourselves. The path to self-awareness and liking yourself so you can be real is a long road for some, but it's worth the trip. Regardless of the length of the journey, all young leaders need to get there. This is one of the greatest gifts you can give as a coach, to help a young leader figure out and get comfortable with who they are.

3. Dig deep. There is no substitute for discipline. We lift up the notion of working smarter not harder, and that's good. But you can never get out of good, old-fashioned hard work if you want to achieve your fullest potential. Another great gift you can give young leaders is to teach them the value of working hard. Talk with them about the truth that there are no short cuts in a life well lived. Talk about the principle of pay now and play later. There is so much wisdom here you can pass on.

Digging deep isn't just about working hard at your job, but digging deep to learn more about God, self and others. The combination of a deeply reflective life and one that takes action is a powerful life. If you remove either component, that is, reflection without action, or action without reflection, the results are less than desirable. A life of significance, meaning and reward comes only by digging deep.

4. Dream big. Many young leaders are discouraged about the future. From what's happening in local and national government to global issues, many are candid about a sense of frustration and even moments of a sense of hopelessness. Perhaps one of the very greatest gifts you can give as a coach is hope—hope for the future. There are two reasons why I have so much hope in difficult times. First, Christ is our hope for the future, and no one can shut Him down! Church may look different in the future, but it cannot be stopped. Second, the young leaders themselves are our hope. They are the future. Let them know you believe in them. They will figure out a way for the church to thrive if we believe in them now.

It's also important to empower young leaders now. They can't lead in the future if we don't let them practice now. So inspire your young leaders to dream big! Remind them that with God all things are possible, and give them opportunity to lead! Trust them with responsibility along with your guidance.

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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland ) Legacy Mon, 17 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Christian Leaders Shocked, Saddened by Myles Munroe's Death http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21344-christian-leaders-shocked-saddened-by-myles-munroe-death http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21344-christian-leaders-shocked-saddened-by-myles-munroe-death Myles Munroe was killed on Sunday, Nov. 9, when his private jet struck a construction crane and crashed during its approach to the Grand Bahama International Airport.

As Charisma News previously reported, the crash killed nine people on board, including Munroe's wife, Ruth, and his Bahamas Faith Ministries deputy, Richard Pinder, along with another pastor and his family.

Munroe was senior pastor of Bahamas Faith Ministries International Fellowship. He was an internationally renowned best-selling author, lecturer, teacher, life coach, government consultant and leadership mentor. He has traveled around the world training leaders in business, government, education, sports, media and religion. The multi-gifted motivational speaker served as a business consultant to governments, Fortune 500 companies and corporations, addressing critical issues that affect every aspect of human, professional, leadership, social and spiritual development.

Oral Roberts University President Billy Wilson was saddened to hear of Munroe's passing and called him an outstanding alumnus of ORU.

"His work in extending Christ's kingdom in our generation was exemplary and world changing. He was a servant to the university as both a member of the Board of Regents and, most recently, of the Board of Reference," Wilson says. "Over the years, Myles was a much beloved chapel speaker and contributor to our university community. Rev. Munroe also served as co-chair of the Empowered21 Caribbean cabinet and a member of the Empowered21 Global Council. His energy and enthusiasm for imparting Spirit-empowered Christianity to new generations was contagious."

Munroe represented his country as the youngest recipient of the Queen's Birthday Honors of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) Award 1998 bestowed by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth of England, for his spiritual and social contributions to the national development of the Bahamas. He was also honored by the government of the Bahamas with the Silver Jubilee Award (SJA) for providing 25 years of outstanding service to the Bahamas in the category of spiritual, social and religious development.

"Myles Munroe breathed, lived and died expanding the kingdom of God," says Samuel Rodriguez, president of the NHCLC/Conela. "His passion for Christ made him a true ambassador of grace and righteousness. My prayers accompany his family, church and all the people of the Bahamas." 

On a personal note, ORU's Wilson says he was able to be with Munroe numerous times over the years. Whether in a leadership gathering with those in highest authority or in the Bahamas as a caring shepherd in a community of believers, he says Munroe was always the same—upbeat, positive, loving, full of faith and searching for anyway possible to make Jesus known in our generation.

"His loss will be felt around the world as well as in our hearts here at ORU," Wilson says. "Our prayers are now extended to his family and the congregation of Bahamas Faith Ministries International."

Many leaders are tweeting condolences and remembrances of Munroe.

Harry R. Jackson tweeted: Good Morning America. Let us pause and pray for the #MylesMunroe family today.

GOD TV tweeted: We honor the life of #MylesMunroe – a great leader and humble servant whose example will continue to inspire.

Smokie Norful tweeted: Prayer for the world that will miss him. #MylesMunroe

Ron Carpenter tweeted: I am absolutely devastated and heartbroken. #mylesmunroe

The Munroes are survived by Charisa and Chairo. Please continue praying for the family, his church and all those who loved him.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jennifer LeClaire) Legacy Mon, 10 Nov 2014 15:30:00 -0500
Pastor, What Does Your Future Look Like? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21010-pastor-what-does-your-future-look-like http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21010-pastor-what-does-your-future-look-like I was raised in Texas. When I was a young pastor, I had no idea what my future would be. Quite honestly, I still do not.

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

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

A Basic Conviction

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

I have told this to other pastors—and I mean this with all my heart—when you surrender to God's calling to go to a certain place, always live like you are going to be there your entire life.

At the same time, always have your bags packed, ready to follow God's calling for your life. My wife, Jeana, and I still live with this zealous desire to follow God and His calling for our lives. We truly believe we have fulfilled that calling in northwest Arkansas.

How a Pastor Should Navigate Toward His Future

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

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

I am reminded of my friend, Dr. Jeff Crawford, president of our Cross Church School of Ministry and teaching pastor of Cross Church. He is gifted, educated and called. He could be in the academic realm elsewhere or be serving as a pastor of a large church, just like he was a little over one year ago. Yet, God has called Jeff to be here. It seems all of his gifts, training and passion merged in this position with us. Just think what it would be like if Jeff had held on to his position so closely that he would have refused the calling of God to come here.

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

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

3) Be willing to stay as much as you are willing to leave. Pastoral ministry is hard. It is much easier, especially in today's world, to leave after three or four years than it is to stay. People are hard to please.

Many times, we are like football coaches: Not only are we judged by our wins and losses, but we are also judged and scrutinized by the way we win.

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


Dr. Ronnie Floyd, the senior pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, has been a pastor for 36 years.

]]>
webmaster@strang.com (Ronnie Floyd) Legacy Mon, 15 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
Passing the Torch of Truth About Israel http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21331-passing-the-torch-of-truth-about-israel http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/21331-passing-the-torch-of-truth-about-israel A few years ago I spoke at a conference plenary session at a prominent Christian university. The preceding speaker was an Arab Christian peace activist. The next day the two of us hosted a Q&A session on the Israeli/Palestinian conflict.

Although my Arab Christian colleague and I differ on some critical issues, we are friends. What I wasn't ready for was the lack of friendliness behind some of the questions in relation to Israel.

But what was most surprising? The harshest critics were attendees from the student body of this university, which was, ironically, an institution established by one of Israel's staunchest evangelical supporters only a few decades ago.

Among the young adult population in North America, a negative view of Israel is becoming the new normal.

A century ago, respected Christian scholars and prominent church statesmen propelled Zionism. But today, a growing anti-Zionism characterizes a younger Christian cohort, in particular, those referred to as Millennials. (Defined by Pew Research Center as those born between 1981 and 1996).

As recently as a decade ago, most evangelicals regarded Israel as a modern miracle and a marker of God's unfolding plan. But today, growing numbers of young people are expressing serious doubts about these assumptions.  

Why the gap between older and younger generations?

Older generations of evangelicals were alive during the Holocaust and the subsequent establishment of the State of Israel—or at least close enough that the images remain imprinted on their minds. Millennials have only read about these distant events.

Older evangelicals grew up watching the underdog Jewish David defeat the Arab Goliath in 1967 in only six days—a feat of such magnitude that only God Himself could have accomplished it. Millennials view Israel's superior military prowess as a consequence of generous American aid.

Millennials see Israel as a prosperous, high-tech-driven "Startup Nation," while previous generations recall how poor and persecuted Jewish immigrants fled Muslim lands only to barely eke out an existence in their new Jewish homeland.

Inundated with digital news bytes, with no time or patience for reasoned commentary, many Millennials make huge leaps of judgment. They read 140 character tweets about Gazan mothers and children fleeing their homes and view it as Israeli "aggression." They don't realize that Israel has the moral fiber to warn civilians to flee before they strike the militias who infiltrated their homes to shoot rockets that terrorize nearby Israeli civilians.

The people of Israel are facing one of the greatest wars in their history. Attacks include not only the kidnappings of young soldiers and civilians as well as thousands of rockets and suicide bombings against innocent civilians, but now also rapid-fire, hateful tweets and Facebook posts.

It's Urgent

As many of us discern signs that we are approaching the return of the Lord, many will believe lies and fall away from the faith (see 2 Thess. 2:1-12). So, it's critically important to get the truth of God's Word to young people before it's too late.

Unfair attacks against Israel and siding with her sworn enemies is risky business. God promises blessing to those who stand with Israel but a curse for those who curse God's chosen people (see Gen. 12:3).

Now is the time to pass on the torch of God's truth about Israel to our young people. So here are some things I believe we should do:

  • Stay focused on Jesus. As pollster George Barna revealed a number of years ago, younger generations are increasingly distancing themselves from the church, at least as an institution. But Jesus is still cool.  

So it's important to remind Millennials that their warm embrace of Jesus also demands that they embrace those He embraces—in particular, His own Jewish brothers whom he came to serve and to save (see Matt. 25:31-46).

Romans 15:8 tells us that "Jesus Christ has become a servant to the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made to the fathers" (NKJV).

Who are "the circumcision," whom Jesus came to serve? The Jews.

Who are the "fathers?" They were the first Jewish recipients of God's revelation and promises. They are Israel's patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Moses, David and all the great heroes of the faith among all the people of Israel.

And what are "the promises?" There were many. But the promise that is the subject of some of the fiercest debate today is the promise of land. Yet I contend that of all the promises Jesus came "to confirm," the land promise is one of those He clearly endorsed as still valid.

God could have sent His Son to Rome, the capital of the great empire in that day. Instead He sent His Son wrapped in Jewish flesh to be crucified, resurrected and ascended from Jerusalem.

If Jesus viewed His coming as having only spiritual significance and confirmed that the promise of physical land is now passé, He might have used a generic name like the "Territories." Growing numbers of Christians call this land "Palestine," a term that doesn't exist in the Bible. But Jesus confirms that the land is "Judea" (Acts 1:8).

Often forgotten or overlooked by Millennials is the fact that God's promise of a unique land for a unique people was unilateral and unconditional.

God alone entered into this covenant with Abram. Covenants were "cut" in ancient times. So God commanded Abram to cut the flesh of animals and line up the pieces on two sides, forming a corridor. Genesis 15:7-21 reveals that on the momentous occasion of Abram's receiving God's promise of a piece of land, Abram was sound asleep! God walks the length of the corridor all alone. Thus, the promise of land is guaranteed solely on the foundation that the God of Israel is always faithful to His covenants, even if Israel finds itself in spiritual slumber.

  • Get Israel back into biblical theology. Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum became concerned that Israel plays only a tiny role in systematic theology taught in today's Bible colleges. So he wrote a book called, Israelology: The Missing Link in Systematic Theology.

Jesus declared that we must be born again. Yet, the concept of the new birth is alluded to in the New Testament only three times.

Yet, in the New Testament alone, "Israel" appears over seventy times. In the Old Testament, it is found nearly 3,000 times.

Israel is no minor issue.

One of the reasons why so many young people have little knowledge or interest in Israel is the fact that they read the Bible on a limited basis or not at all.

Another reason is because pastors rarely teach about Israel's key role in God's purposes. The apostle Paul told the Ephesian elders that he taught the "whole counsel of God," and we see from Paul's epistles that Israel was a key element of his teaching. Perhaps one of the reasons pastors exclude the subject of Israel is the fear that this subject may be offensive to certain congregants.

How can we challenge, engage and educate the Millennials on Israel? Sermons, books and film series are great—but not enough—in our digital-obsessed world.

Today, information is delivered in miniaturized doses through social media. To engage Millennials, we must become active on their own digital turf as well.

  • Re-emphasize the gospel of grace. Millennials are apparently justice-focused, unlike previous generations. Consequently, Millennials tend to question the legitimacy of Israel based on Israel's imperfect record of justice. And yet, Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East, and her Arab citizens continue to affirm to the pollsters that they would prefer to remain under Israeli sovereignty even if they were given the option of living in a Palestinian state.

Millennials are increasingly adopting "neo-Calvinism." Yet, Calvin championed the concept of God's sovereign choosing of "the elect." Election is based on grace, not on works of righteousness (justice).

To be consistent, then, Millennial evangelicals need to be careful not to point their finger at Israel's sins, as if Jews are deserving of greater condemnation. Paul gives this warning to self-righteous judges in Romans 2:3: "And do you think this, O man, you who judge those practicing such things, and doing the same, that you will escape the judgment of God?" (NKJV).

Then Paul says in the next verse: "... [D]o you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?" (Rom. 2:4)

In this light, the God of grace and goodness may very well be the prime mover of the Jewish people's modern return to the land with God's ultimate purpose: to lead them to repentance.

God's gracious initiative is prophesied in Ezekiel 36:22, 24, 25-26. Here, God brings unbelievers back to their land before they return to Himself:

"Therefore say to the house of Israel, "Thus says the Lord GOD: 'I do not do this for your sake, O house of Israel, but for My holy name's sake, which you have profaned among the nations wherever you went. For I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you ..."

Just as God has used Israel as a powerful illustration of the negative consequences for those who rebel and wander from Him, God is now using Israel as a powerful illustration of the goodness and mercy that will follow His lost sheep until they return to His fold.

Hopeful Signs

In spite of a spiritual drift among many evangelical Millennials in the West, in other places in the world like Asia, Africa and Latin America, revival fires are burning among next generations.

Young believers in these regions have a greater love for the Bible than their Western counterparts. And they are becoming fascinated with the fulfillment of ancient prophecies concerning Israel. Even without Darby's and Scofield's dispensational interpretations, they are recognizing the significant role of the Jewish people in God's eternal purposes. They are seeing that Israel is not just an ancient relic buried under the rubble of history, but a nation with a remarkable present and future.

These newer believers are reading the Bible with a "common-sense" approach. They see how many Old Testament prophecies were fulfilled literally in the life of Jesus. These include the detail of His birth in Bethlehem, His exile to Egypt, His return to Judea, His death and resurrection, to name just a few.

These Millennials follow the simple logic that if literal fulfillment is the pattern for much of Old Testament prophecy, then the prophecies concerning Israel's future will result in literal fulfillment as well.

There are hopeful developments today: Thousands of former Muslims are suddenly seeing visions of Jesus and are joining His ranks. In tandem with this phenomenon is a mysterious new love filling their hearts—for the Jews.

The story of the Jewish people is as a tapestry through which God reveals His nature and His plans. Israel may appear today to be a tangle of threads. But that's only from the backside of the tapestry.

When we eventually get a glimpse of Israel from God's viewpoint, we will see that He is making Israel into something stunningly beautiful, whom He calls, "Israel My glory" (Is. 46:13).

Israel is still a work in progress. So let's not be too quick to critique His creation before He is finished.  


Wayne Hilsden has been the senior pastor of King of Kings Community, Jerusalem, Israel, for 31 years.

]]>
webmaster@strang.com (Wayne Hilsden) Legacy Wed, 12 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
10 Reasons to Be Excited About the Next Wave of Leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/20570-10-reasons-to-be-excited-about-the-next-wave-of-leaders http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/legacy/20570-10-reasons-to-be-excited-about-the-next-wave-of-leaders I love leaders—especially next-generation leaders. Specifically, I love those leaders who are currently in their 20s and 30s.

And I’m incredibly hopeful regarding this next wave of leaders—incredibly excited, hopeful and expectant. Expectant that they are going to take the reins and move things forward like no other generation before them.

Here are a few reasons why I’ve got great confidence in the next generation of leaders:

1. Passion for God. Everyone seems to think we’ve lost a generation of Christ-followers in our country, but after seeing the 60,000 college students gathered at the Passion Conference earlier this year and the 20,000-plus who gather at Urbana every other year and the 20,000 who were just in Kansas City for the IHOP Onething gathering earlier this year and the thousands who gather at Catalyst and Hillsong and Jesus Culture and Worship Central and many other venues—this instills confidence that the next generation of leaders love Jesus and are passionate about serving Him and making Him known for their generation. Read Gabe Lyons’ latest book The Next Christians for further explanation and clarity.

2. Willing to work together. Twenty- and 30-somethings are more willing to collaborate than any other generation before. They trust each other and see collaboration as the starting point, not some grandiose vision of teamwork that is far off in the distance. Collaboration is now the norm.

3. Don’t care who gets the credit. For the next generation, it’s way less about who and way more about what and why. The next wave doesn’t care who gets the credit. It’s way more about what’s right instead of focusing on who’s right.

4. Generosity and sharing are the new currencies of our culture. In business, relationships, networks, platforms, technology, distribution, content delivery and more, open source is the new standard. This new wave of leaders has tools and resources such as Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, Flickr, Instagram and tons more social media tools that make influencing much more readily available.

5. Understand the holistic responsibility of influence. They are willing to connect all of life together—faith, compassion, charity, work, career, church, family, friends. It’s all connected. There is way less compartmentalizing of life among the next generation of leaders.

6. Authenticity wins. Trust is incredibly important. Leaders won’t have followers going forward unless they trust them and see that they are authentic and real. Authenticity is not only important to the next generation, it’s a requirement.

7. Not willing to wait. Young leaders are ambitious and passionate about making a difference now. They are not necessarily willing to wait their turn. They want to influence now. Evidence of this is the explosion of church planters in the last four to five years, along with social innovation and social entrepreneurs.

8. See social justice as the norm. Leaders who care about the poor and lean into causes and see the social gospel as a key ingredient to following Christ are no longer seen as the exception. Young leaders see taking care of the poor and sharing the gospel as both crucial to the advancement of the church and of God’s kingdom. Twenty-somethings, I believe, are and will continue to become more balanced in their pursuit of both. They don’t have to be one or the other.

9. Seeking wisdom and mentors. Overall, I sense that 20- and 30-somethings are highly willing to be mentored and are hungry for wisdom from older leaders around them. Those of us Gen-Xers tend to think we have it all figured out. Millenials and Generation Y are assumed to have it all figured out because they have so many tools and technology at their fingertips. But from what I’ve experienced, they still are seeking wisdom just as much as any other generation before them.

10. Change-the-world mentality. The next wave of leaders has global visions way beyond generations who have existed before. They truly believe they can make a difference, have an impact and build significance, regardless of resources, organizational help, team and overall scale. This kind of vision inspires and also forces leaders to work together (hence No. 2).

How about you? Are you excited or concerned about the next wave of leaders?

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

For the original article, visit bradlomenick.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brad Lomenick) Legacy Thu, 19 Dec 2013 20:00:00 -0500
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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!

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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. 

]]>
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?

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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).

]]>
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.

]]>
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:

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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. 

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Scott Hagan) Multi-Ethnic Ministry Wed, 15 May 2013 20:00:00 -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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Derwin Gray) Multicultural Thu, 12 Dec 2013 17:00:00 -0500
The Body of Christ Requires a Multicultural Society http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/20475-the-body-of-christ-requires-a-multicultural-society http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/multicultural/20475-the-body-of-christ-requires-a-multicultural-society I have had the opportunity to serve the Lord in a number of capacities over the course of my life. I am a Korean-American evangelical Christian pastor that has been empowered significantly by the majority culture of the American evangelical church, and it’s been a blessing throughout my time as a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

While I realize that not every Asian-American has experiences like mine, I think we can all agree that the body of Christ would be better if we were willing to invest in each other. Each of us is a byproduct of the people that have invested in us. As I think about how we can move forward together in a multicultural society, I want to suggest four things to remember as we work together for the kingdom:

1. Christ and His gospel are our primary focus. It’s critical to “keep the main thing the main thing.” Our racial and ethnic identity is a part of who we are, and it is to be celebrated. However, we must not lose sight of God’s mission of making disciples of all ethnic groups—all people. This is what unites us.

2. We are all created in the Imago Dei, yet we are fallen. We are all created in God’s image with the same need to be loved, to believe and to become. But we are also fallen people who are in a desperate need of a Savior. Our culture and ethnic background color our perspectives, but nonetheless, at the core we are part of the same fallen humanity. This means we must treat one another with grace and forgiveness, especially when we see things differently.

3. We must first walk in grace and humility. Whenever race becomes an issue of injustice, there are no winners. Ken Fong, pastor of Evergreen Baptist Church of Los Angeles, described it this way:

“When I was at the Urbana 2000 speakers’ retreat [in 1999], we all got a chance to hear from the new apologist for our upcoming missions conference. I believe his last name was something like Raminchandra—he was the former top nuclear physicist for Sri Lanka, I believe, but was now serving as the head of the IFES movement in that part of the world [InterVarsity outside of North America]. A quietly brilliant and humble man. He told us that our greatest apologetic is the grace and mercy of Jesus Christ. The pursuit of justice, he said, will never result in lasting peace. Why? Because those who have been wronged will pursue their oppressors, calling for justice, and often themselves committing acts of violence and aggression towards them. As a result, their oppressors feel like victims of injustice and cry out for justice. And on and on and on. Only the cross of Christ can break this cycle—even though seeking justice seems righteous and justifiable and worthwhile. For only by bringing our pain to the cross of Jesus and leaving it there for Jesus to handle will any of us ever find real and lasting peace.”

These are pretty profound words. The default mode of any oppression is to rely upon God’s ultimate vindication and justice. Romans 12:19 reminds us, “Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (NIV).

4. We must intentionally seek to invest in others who might be different than us. One of the lessons from my own life is that people from outside my culture, context and heritage invested in me. It was at the intersection of two cultures that we both learned more about the other person—but also, we learned about ourselves. We learned what is appropriate, what is funny, what is offensive. But most of all, we learned to overlook our mistakes, forgive and move beyond.

Interestingly, my current pastoral staff is now a mixture of different backgrounds, ethnicities and races. Most of my staff of 13 pastors, interns and staff are non-Asian. We have a ratio of 60/40 (white/Asian). By learning to live in community together, we learn that while we may be different in our backgrounds, at the core we really are the same.

Continuing the Journey

Reflecting on my experiences of being a recipient of so much grace from the larger and broader white evangelical community, I realize my experience might not be the normative experience for many Asian-Americans. Some may have experienced constant oppression, intentional or unintentional, from the majority culture. My encouragement for all of us is to demonstrate lives of humility, grace and being conformed to the image of Christ, loving and serving one another. Partnership as co-laborers in Christ for the sake of the gospel will ultimately bring about true unity and racial harmony.

When all’s said and done, this is what heaven will look like: “After this I looked and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Rev. 7:9).

I’d love your feedback about this article. Please connect with us at AmbassadorNet.org. Ambassador Network was founded with the vision of becoming a catalyst to support a multiethnic church-planting movement by investing in young leaders. Through Ambassador Network, we are able to also help existing churches with their current ministry needs like church health, church staffing, as well as church consulting. If you would like to further interact with Ambassador Network, you can email me at ray.chang@ambassadornet.org.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ray Chang/For edstetzer.com) Multicultural Fri, 01 Nov 2013 13:00:00 -0400
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd) Prayer Mon, 21 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jared Moore) Prayer Thu, 05 Jun 2014 16:00:00 -0400
The Power of Pastors Praying Together http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/20912-the-power-of-pastors-praying-together http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/prayer/20912-the-power-of-pastors-praying-together There is nothing like seeing pastors praying with other pastors. I just returned from Little Rock, Ark., where I led a prayer gathering for 304 Arkansas pastors, church staff members, and ministry leaders. In light of this, I am reminded again of the value of praying with other pastors.

Prayer between pastors is needed. Every Christian needs someone to pray with from time to time. This experience is valuable, especially if you pray with someone who takes prayer seriously. Pastors have a unique need to pray with other pastors.

We need prayer. We believe in prayer. We need people to pray for us and with us.

Prayer binds pastors with other pastors. No one understands pastors like another pastor. The size of a church is really not a big deal to a pastor who walks before God humbly. Whether we preach to 25, 2,500, or 25,000 people a week, we all face challenges, criticism, and discouragement.

Prayer with another pastor binds us together. I have seen hundreds of pastors praying with other pastors, and I promise you, they form a strong bond between them.

Prayer with another pastor creates vision. When a man of God prays for me, my vision is enlarged. Why? It’s because pastors impart vision through their prayer. They help us to believe again that God can do anything, any time, anywhere.

Personally, I love to pray with and for other pastors. When I have the opportunity, I do my best to pray for their vision. Pastors get discouraged. Nothing moves a pastor out of discouragement more quickly than visionary, believing prayer.

Prayer with another pastor will empower your ministry. The Holy Spirit uses prayer with another pastor to empower our ministry. Rarely do pastors ask other pastors to pray with them. There is something about pastors that we try to make it alone for as long as possible. Yet, this is not God’s desire for any of us.

Be willing to acknowledge your need for other pastors to pray for you. Do not be ashamed, but embrace the power of prayer by asking other pastors to pray for you.

I am a big believer in men of God praying for other men of God. I need it. You need it. We need it. Why? It will empower your ministry like nothing else!

Dr. Ronnie Floyd has been a pastor for over 36 years. Since 1986, Pastor Floyd has served as the Senior Pastor of Cross Church, Northwest Arkansas, which has baptized over 17,000 people during his tenure. Cross Church was one of the first churches in America to go multi-site. Pastor Floyd has authored 20 books including Our Last Great Hope: Awakening the Great Commission.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd) Prayer Fri, 02 May 2014 19:00:00 -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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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
]]>
Mark.Gungor@strang.com (Mark Gungor) Singles Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Social Media Fri, 07 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
8 Trends of Church Members on Social Media http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21279-8-trends-of-church-members-on-social-media http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21279-8-trends-of-church-members-on-social-media On a few occasions, I have addressed the topic of church leaders on social media. I obviously have a fascination with this form of communication. Indeed, I see it as one of the great modern-day vehicles for good or harm.

In this post, I address eight trends related to church members who use social media, specifically in relation to the churches where they are members. As a note of clarification, most of my data comes from Twitter and Facebook. There are, obviously, many other types of social media.

Here, then, are eight of the trends I see:

1. More church members use social media to encourage others in their churches. These words of encouragement are typically directed toward pastors and church staff. The good news is that these tweets and posts seem to be more frequent and pervasive.

2. Church members increasingly use social media to point others to interesting articles related to Christianity and church life. Indeed, I am encouraged to see many such visits to my blog and to other sites that include information on faith and church life.

3. Though in the minority, an increasing number of church members use social media to attack and criticize church leaders. I recently read a scathing attack on a pastor. It was filled with venom and vitriol.

4. More non-Christians are viewing such attacks as normative for Christians. They thus have no desire to associate with Christians or come to our churches. I have heard from many of these non-Christians myself.

5. A number of church members are using social media wisely to share the gospel. I have been greatly encouraged to read many tweets and posts that point readers to articulate and loving presentations of the gospel. May their numbers increase!

6. Church members are using social media with increasing frequency to share prayer requests. On more than one occasion, I have seen a prayer request spread virally. It is very encouraging to see the power of prayer on this modern medium.

7. Some church members use social media as means to share activities and ministries in the church. Indeed, social media has become one of the primary forums to invite others to the church by letting people know what is taking place in the congregations.

8. While the use of social media by church members is overwhelmingly positive, the toxic users of these forums still get an inordinate amount of attention. It's the "car accident syndrome." Traffic slows down to see the havoc created by the accident.

Like most vehicles or instruments, church members can use social media for good or harm. The caution we all should heed is that social media tends to magnify our voices in unprecedented ways.

Let me hear from you about this topic. How do you see church members using social media?

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Social Media Mon, 20 Oct 2014 16:00:00 -0400
25 Things You Most Likely Would Never See God Tweet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21161-25-things-you-most-likely-would-never-see-god-tweet http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/social-media/21161-25-things-you-most-likely-would-never-see-god-tweet Recently I wrote 20 Things God Might Tweet. It was a popular post. All were designed to be easily tweeted with a simple copy and paste.

I thought there might be a companion post. I believe, based on Scripture, that we can trust God not to say some things—especially in these days of grace.

Here are 25 things you'll most likely never see God tweet:

1. "Oh yeah. I forgot about her." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

2. "Well I don't know what to do now." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

3. "I'm so worried." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

4. "I just don't understand him." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

5. "Don't call me again until you turn your life around." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

6. "This one's too big for me." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

7. "That'll make me love you less." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

8. "What did you say your name was?" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay


9. "Forgive me. I made a mistake." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

10. "I just need a vacation." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

11. "I'm so tired of being interrupted." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

12. "This one's beyond me." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

13. "I can't take it anymore!" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

14. "I'm sorry, I can't take your call right now, but if you'll leave your name and number..." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

15. "That little sin won't matter." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

16. "I'm scared." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

17. "I give up!" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay


18. "Since the world is changing so fast, I'm thinking about changing my ways." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

19. "I wish I had thought of that!" #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

20. "I need your help to make it happen." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

21. "I'm so confused." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

22. "I'm all tapped out for this month." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

23. "Don't blame yourself. That one was my fault." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

24. "I didn't know anything about that." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

25. "I'm a little behind the times." #ThingsYoullNeverHearGodSay

Are there any others you would like to add?

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Social Media Mon, 25 Aug 2014 16:00:00 -0400
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.

]]>
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
]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
webmaster@strang.com (Greg Stier) Teens Thu, 06 Sep 2012 13:55:26 -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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Women Wed, 27 Aug 2014 19:00:00 -0400
7 Qualities Women Bring to a Leadership Team http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20817-7-qualities-women-bring-to-a-leadership-team http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20817-7-qualities-women-bring-to-a-leadership-team There has been a long-standing debate about women in leadership in ministry. This is not new, although the way the debate has found its way online makes it feel like it is new. But really, this conversation has gone on for decades and, if you ask me, we have made very little progress.

Both sides use Scripture to defend their positions. Both are fully convinced they are right. Both assume God is on their side.

And very few have ever “won” someone to the opposing side.

To be honest, I’m tired of arguing about it. In fact, I don’t think I want to engage in the debate any longer. What I want to do, instead, is celebrate the gifts women everywhere are already bringing to the table.

None of these qualities are exclusive to women, nor do all women possess these traits. But in my many years working in and around churches and with pastors, I’ve encountered many women who have brought these invaluable traits to the table, and our teams would have been worse off without them. What gifts could you be missing by not engaging the women in your community?

1. Empathy. I’ve worked with women who have the ability to empathize with situations, people and circumstances in a way that seemed foreign to me and to many of my colleagues. In fact, there were times when it seemed these women had a sixth sense for what was happening beneath the surface of a conflict, problem or the tension in a meeting.

Using their skills of empathy, the women I’ve worked with have been able to navigate these delicate circumstances to achieve a more positive outcome for all involved.

2. Multitasking. I don’t mean multitasking in the simplest form of the word. I’m not talking about the ability to walk and talk at the same time. I’m talking about the ability to focus on many different objectives, to see things in a nuanced way and to notice the connections between things that someone else might have missed.

This is so vital to the church environment because, no matter what we’re working on, there are always multiple layers involved. We are not only trying to accomplish a tangible objective (like putting together a Sunday service) but also need to be in tune to more abstract objectives—like listening to spiritual direction and trying to serve a community of people with unique needs and wants.

3. Gentleness. Many of the women I’ve worked with have had the incredible ability to communicate a message in such a way that truth is not sacrificed, but neither was gentleness. Both in public communication and interpersonal communication, I’ve seen hearts softened to a difficult message because of the gift a woman has to communicate in a palatable way.

4. Passion. Just because the women I’ve worked with in ministry have been gentle doesn’t mean they haven’t been passionate. In fact, one of the things I love about working with women in the church is that they’re full of ideas and thoughts and aren’t afraid to share what they are thinking.

The passion they have is like a strong engine that keeps the vehicle moving, even when things get hard.

5. Relational savvy. Pastoral ministry is incredibly relational, and unless we have people on our leadership team who are gifted with cultivating and developing relationships, our church will suffer. Of course, relational savvy isn’t limited to women, but I’ve watched countless women in ministry be able to navigate difficult relational problems in the workplace, and I wouldn’t want to miss out on this quality.

6. Optimism. Women tend to be more optimistic than men. They tend to look at the glass as half-full and seek to see opportunities, even in the worst circumstances. This is not just my opinion. It’s proven to be true. Check out this Forbes article.

7. Integrity. If you click through to the Forbes article, you’ll notice women also tend to display a higher degree of integrity and honor than men. I have to say, in my experience, this is true. Although I’ve worked with all kinds of men and women who have incredible integrity, I’m grateful for the way the women on our teams are open and receptive to the conviction of the Holy Spirit and tend to point us back to Jesus.

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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Justin Lathrop) Women Wed, 02 Apr 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Spirit Breakout: Unexpectedly Encountering God at an Academic Conference http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20788-spirit-break-out-unexpectedly-encountering-god-at-an-academic-conference http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20788-spirit-break-out-unexpectedly-encountering-god-at-an-academic-conference I felt the power of God in that room more heavily than I ever expected to experience Him at an academic conference. When the Holy Spirit invaded our afternoon session earlier this month during the 43rd annual meeting for the Society for Pentecostal Studies in Springfield, Mo., it was a moment I will never forget.

Both men and women were stripped of all titles, letters, positions and prejudices. The men in the room entered into the pain I and other powerful women in ministry had experienced for so long. God’s heavy, weighty presence caused us to become vulnerable together. In this moment, this community of “scholars dedicated to providing a forum of discussion for all academic disciplines as a spiritual service to the kingdom of God” was transformed into a family. I believe that what happened with this community of more than 300 scholars of Pentecostalism from around the world during this conference is a foretaste of what God is going to continue to do within the church.

The night before everything changed, the Spirit was already preparing hearts. Toward the end of worship during the Thursday night session, someone broke out in tongues in the congregation of scholars. Following this, someone else gave an interpretation. I could feel the presence of God powerfully when this happened. I remember hearing people speak in tongues and then waiting for the interpretation when I grew up in John Wimber’s church at the Anaheim Vineyard. However, for the past several years in my church circles, for whatever reason, I have not witnessed this happening much at all. I believe that this outbreak of tongues is a prophetic sign of what we will begin to see more of in our churches.

The next day, our society was forever marked. It all began when Kimberly E. Alexander had to switch sessions to do a plenary address alongside Cheryl Bridges Johns, a powerful scholar at Pentecostal Theological Seminary. That pairing was divine. After Cheryl gave a moving plenary address, Kimberly followed it up with a talk based on the research from her latest book, What Women Want: Pentecostal Women Ministers Speak for Themselves. The Holy Spirit was brooding in the room over this topic of women in the ministry. Rather than closing the session himself, which was the original plan, Kenneth J. Archer, the active SPS vice president at the time, felt led to give space to Cheryl to close with a prayer.

With the conviction of a lifetime of paving the way for women in the academy and in the church, Cheryl was vulnerable in front of an audience of academics. Against all odds, she pioneered the way for many when she was the very first woman to join SPS years ago. She admitted that she was tired of having to continually contend in relation to the issue of women in ministry. Then, with tears in her eyes, she prayed in tongues over the whole group. When that happened, the presence of God fell powerfully in the room. I could feel the weight of His presence upon me.

The sound of one weeping could be heard in the audience. Women who have fought so long to have a voice, who were tired of being put on the sidelines because of their gender, were experiencing a release of that pain. Archer followed Cheryl’s prayer by inviting young women to stand who are called to the academy or to ministry. I responded. Through their tears, I saw the deep pain these women scholars had to endure for so long. Knowing the price they paid for me to have a place broke my heart. When I saw Kimberly pray for my friend Alicia Jackson across the room, I saw this as a passing of the torch.

Then I felt the power of God fall on me in an exceedingly great measure. A Baptist minister and colleague of mine from England, Tim Welch, offered to pray for me. I couldn’t stay standing. Tears streamed down my face. I could feel the burden being released and healing flood that room. Estrelda Alexander, one who has pioneered on behalf of women and the marginalized, came to pray for me as well. The transference that occurred between these legendary women scholars to the newer generation, along with the beautiful space shared between men and women in that room, stripped us all of our armor in the form of titles, letters and Ph.Ds and reminded us what it is like to be family.

As people started to clear out of the room, I could still feel the presence of God powerfully upon me. I couldn’t move, and I didn’t want to leave that atmosphere. This was a holy moment, and I didn’t want His presence to lift. I found myself alone in the hall. In a busy world where we have to fight for pockets of silence, He gave me a chance to linger with Him a little longer. I felt tingling on my whole body. Even as I write this now, I can feel His presence upon me as I did in that moment. He came and I was undone. It was a sacred time.

Upon reflection, I recognize that it was the moment Archer stepped back to share his platform with Cheryl that the Spirit broke out powerfully in the room. He created space for one who was under great conviction and anointing to release the kingdom. In a similar way that A.B. Simpson created space for the early divine healing movement leader and Pentecostal pioneer Carrie Judd Montgomery to soar, Archer did the same for Cheryl. I praise and thank God for Archer’s sensitivity to the Spirit. If he did not yield to the Spirit right then, I believe we may have missed what God wanted to pour out within our community. This divine moment became the tipping point for the whole conference and maybe even for the society as a whole.

This precious moment also moved our community from simply being members of a society to being a family in a greater way. Academics who sometimes don’t quite fit in the world or even in Christian institutions or in the church found comfort, understanding and love amongst other forerunners, pioneers and prophetic voices for the church. The men in that room loved, honored and gave space to the women. They sought understanding and stepped into our pain with us. This act alone brought such healing.

Since I believe that artists, musicians, creatives, entrepreneurs and even academics are prophetic voices for the church, I believe that what happened to us there is also a sign of what’s about to break out at in unprecedented measure within the church. (See my article “Coloring Outside the Lines: Pentecostal Parallels With Expressionism. The Work of the Spirit in Place, Time, and Secular Society?” Journal of Pentecostal Theology 19 (2010), pp. 94–117 for more on this.)

I am proud to be a part of a society that marries both the academy and spirituality and allows freedom and inspiration to not only love the Lord our God will all our hearts but also all our minds. With mixed views, denominations, genders, races and other diversities, the society thrives because it is a family of believers who love God first and foremost. When a bond of love is created within any community, love supersedes disagreements and also provides a safe environment for stimulating conversation to take place. Everything changes when a society, church or community becomes family.

This is my testimony of what happened when the Spirit broke out this year at the Society for Pentecostal Studies conference. I pray it blesses you and inspires you to speak in tongues more, to give space to who the anointing is on regardless of gender or age, and to move beyond structural barriers to become family with those in your circles.

Jennifer A. Miskov, Ph.D., is the history interest group leader for the Society for Pentecostal Studies, founding director of Destiny House and author of several books, including Life on Wings: The Forgotten Life and Theology of Carrie Judd Montgomery, Spirit Flood: Rebirth of Spirit Baptism for the 21st Century, Silver to Gold: A Journey of Young Revolutionaries and others.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jennifer A. Miskov, Ph.D.) Women Wed, 19 Mar 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Greg Surratt: How I Nearly Ruined Mother's Day http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20097-greg-surratt-how-i-nearly-ruined-mother-s-day http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20097-greg-surratt-how-i-nearly-ruined-mother-s-day Man-giving-flowers-smallI’ve got to admit—Mother’s Day is one of the most fear eliciting, stress inducing weekends of the year for me. It’s not so much about my ineptness in selecting a gift or honoring the mother of my house—Debbie—although, I’ve messed that up more than once.

No, the trepidation comes from the annual exercise of trying to prepare and deliver a message that navigates the veritable minefield of emotions that women are feeling on that day. You’ve got women who are: moms; want to be moms but haven’t been able to yet; mothers who’ve lost a child; women who’ve lost a mother recently; moms with wayward children; women who have lost their husbands; women who would LIKE to lose their husband; women who would like to find a husband; career moms; stay at home moms, etc. The list goes on.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Surratt) Women Fri, 10 May 2013 20:00:00 -0400
12 Reasons Some Pastors’ Wives Are Lonely http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20735-12-reasons-some-pastors-wives-feel-lonely http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/20735-12-reasons-some-pastors-wives-feel-lonely My blog, ThomRainer.com, began as a source of information for pastors, staff and other Christian leaders. I have been incredibly blessed to discover a subgroup of my readership that has much to offer: pastors’ wives. Many in this group have also shared a common plight: They are very lonely.

Indeed, the transparency of these pastors’ wives is amazing. Many have shared with each other on my blog about their battles with depression. My desire to offer help to pastors’ wives has increased greatly. My respect for and admiration of them has also grown significantly.

For this article, I assimilated the hundreds of blog comments, Twitter and Facebook messages, and general conversations I’ve had with pastors’ wives. My focus was on the No. 1 challenge they have shared: loneliness.

Here are the 12 most common reasons pastors’ wives have offered to explain their loneliness:

1. Superficial relationships in the church. “No one ever sees me as my own person. I am the pastor’s wife. No one tries to get close to me.”

2. A busy pastor/husband. “My husband is on 24/7 call all the time. I just get leftovers.”

3. Mean church members. “I guess I’ve isolated myself to some extent. I just don’t want to keep hearing those awful things they say about my husband and me.”

4. A conduit for complaints about her husband. “Last week someone told me their family was leaving the church because my husband is a lousy preacher. Do they have any idea how that makes me feel?”

5. Broken confidences. “I’ve given up trying to get close to church members. I thought I had a close friend until I found out she was sharing everything I told her. That killed me emotionally.”

6. Frequent moves. “I’m scared to get close to anybody now. Every time I develop a close relationship, we move again.”

7. Viewed as a second-class person. “One church member introduced me to a guest visiting the church by saying I’m ‘just the pastor’s wife.’”

8. Lack of support groups. “I’ve heard that some wives have support groups that really help. I’ve never been able to find one.”

9. No date nights. “I can’t remember the last time my husband and I had a date night together.”

10. Complaints about children. “I really don’t try to get close to church members anymore. I’m tired of so many of them telling me how perfect our children should be.”

11. Husband does not give the wife priority. “Frankly, the church is like a mistress to my husband. He has abandoned me for someone else.”

12. Financial struggles. “My husband makes so much less money than most of the members. I just can’t afford to do the things they do socially.”

While many pastors’ wives share that there are blessings in their role, many do suffer severe loneliness. I would love to hear from more of these wives. And I would love to hear from others about them. The words I have heard from these women have prompted me to be more intentional about praying for them.

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Women Thu, 20 Feb 2014 14:00:00 -0500
Robert Ricciardelli: The Lord Says ‘Let My Daughters Go!’ http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/19858-robert-ricciardelli-the-lord-says-let-my-daughters-go http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/women/19858-robert-ricciardelli-the-lord-says-let-my-daughters-go Robert-Ricciardelli-Column-AdversityEditor’s Note: This is the second in a series of articles from Robert Ricciardelli about Women’s Liberation in Christ. Click here for Part 1.

Twisted Scriptures, Twisted Doctrine

When we look for sound doctrine, we must look to the full counsel of God, the full Word of God interpreted through Scriptures that transcend circumstance, culture, and generations. Here are just a few examples of what many have been taught, as well as what the Lord actually says about His daughters.

Ephesians 5:21-22
“And further, submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. For wives, this means submit to your husbands as to the Lord.”

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Robert Ricciardelli) Women Mon, 21 Jan 2013 21:00:00 -0500
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Worship Wed, 11 Feb 2015 17:00:00 -0500
Why Every Worship Team Must Balance Creativity and Accessibility http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21522-why-every-worship-team-must-balance-creativity-and-accessibility http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21522-why-every-worship-team-must-balance-creativity-and-accessibility There's a tension in worship that is discussed over and over. It's something we all face.

It's the relationship between creativity and accessibility. Is the goal of Sunday's music to be fresh and new or to be accessible to the gathered church?

It's obviously a tension we must live with, rather than a problem to solve.

Despite the secular music involved, worship leaders and creative arts pastors could possibly have been inspired by the Super Bowl halftime show with Katy Perry. It fueled our imagination for making bigger and better art in our gatherings (plus, who wouldn't want to come riding in on Voltron this Sunday morning?).

But when does creativity become the focus instead of God and His glory? Or when do we know we're not being creative enough?

There are drawbacks to choosing sides:

If we focus all our attention on creativity and making great art:

  • We risk entertaining the church rather than involving them.
  • We risk not relating to the average worshipper, who doesn't come to church for musical reasons.
  • We grow a congregation of consumers over worshippers.

If we focus all our attention on accessibility:

  • We risk making music that doesn't connect with our congregation.
  • We fail to engage people's imagination in the mystery and wonder of God.
  • We fail to engage the artists in our midst, and miss out on beautiful creative expression.

So what's the answer?

Healthy Rhythms

I'm an advocate for a solid plan made up of healthy rhythms.

There should be an ebb and flow of deeper expressions of creativity—creativity that highlights a new facet of God's character—and also simple, less flashy expressions that remind us how simple, yet profound corporate worship is.

Our creative pursuit should help us see the glories of God clearer.

And our disciplined pursuit of less should help us see the glories of God clearer.

Keep the Wonder Alive

We humans are creatures of habit. Routines are wonderful for accomplishing goals but they can also cause us to approach the supernatural with a bored heart.

While it's the Holy Spirit who makes dead hearts come to life, we as leaders have a responsibility to keep the wonder of worship fresh in people's minds.

I'm afraid that the relentless pursuit of better production gives off the vibe that worship is about big, entertaining performances. Everything always needs to be anthemic, huge and grandiose. It becomes a focus rather than a means.

I'm also afraid that the relentless pursuit of "dialing back" is a sad use of the creativity God has graced us with to reveal His glories. We need both continually throughout the year.

Do This, Worship Team

We need you to dial back the production. Oftentimes production serves the focused pursuit of Jesus. Most of the time, it becomes an end in itself in the minds of the church. Dial back with intentionality.

Teach your people about the simplicity of worship. Teach them how to lift their voice and cry out to God in their own words.

Teach them how to sing simple songs in easy keys with basic instrumentation.

"Worship leader, we need you to cry. We need you to be real, to feel, to pour out your heart. We don't just need you to cheerlead and pump us up. Pump us up through your desperate, broken-hearted cry for His presence."

Don't just command people to worship. Command your own soul to bless the Lord and we will be more inclined to follow such real, honest leadership.

Don't just be a musician who plays worship music because it's all there is to do. Be a worshipper who happens to make music for the glory of God and the good of His people.

And yet ...

Also Do This

We need you to go deep with God—go deep in His Word, wrestle with difficult texts, live a daily faith in Jesus. Then make your music as a reflection of what you see.

What have you seen of God and His goodness lately? A great question to ask because it forces us into a today faith, rather than living off the past or someone else's experience.

"When you see something new of God, create sounds no one has heard before. Write songs that stir our affections for greater realities. Bring your creative pursuit into the context of helping us see Jesus clearer."

I worry that we church musicians are playing music for selfish reasons. But we are called to a higher standard in the church. Our music isn't self serving. Our music isn't meant to draw awe and attention to itself.

It's meant to spotlight Jesus—the One name that people need to hear, see, feel, remember more than anything in all the world.

While we pursue a greater creativity we can't leave our congregations behind. We can create the most intricate music for the glory of God, but if our churches can't sing it, we're not doing our job. We need to keep our hands in both tensions.

Pursue deeper creativity ... but make it engaging for people. Involve the church. Create with them in mind.

How do you manage this tension? Please comment in the section below.

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Santistevan) Worship Mon, 09 Feb 2015 14:00:00 -0500
Are We Building Fans or Worshippers? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21491-are-we-building-fans-or-worshippers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21491-are-we-building-fans-or-worshippers After hearing of the dissemination of Mars Hill Church after Mark Driscoll's resignation, my heart sank.

It's sad to see an organization rise and fall on the personality of one leader.

Sure, there were other factors involved. But all of that has been teaching me lessons on how to be a better worship leader.

If I'm a leader of worship, my goal is to lead people away from dependence on me and deeper dependence on the Holy Spirit—teaching them how to lead themselves in worship.

I'm asking these questions:

  • How equipped is my congregation to worship when crisis hits?
  • How equipped is my congregation to worship when they are promoted?
  • How equipped is my congregation to worship when they receive a bad diagnosis?
  • How equipped is my congregation to worship when Monday comes?
  • How equipped is my congregation to worship without songs, engaging atmospheres and powerful performances?

I always long for worship to be more than simply songs and services and experiences. It's so much more about what happens on Monday morning than what happens on stage. It's more about prioritizing God's presence day to day.

Steal the Show

Oftentimes my leadership style makes the congregation of worshippers dependent on me. If worship is a 24/7 activity, wouldn't it make sense that we equip our people to be worshippers as they leave just as much as we encourage them to engage in corporate singing?

Sadly, worship often doesn't happen unless there's the right song, the right band, the right keyboard pad, the proper drum groove and the perfect alignment of melody and harmony.

But here's what I'm discovering: The best worship leaders lead people to connect with God on their own. It's not so much about how many fans a worship leader has or how many people love their ministry. It's ...

  • Are people learning how to worship?
  • Are they pursuing Jesus outside of church?
  • Are they taking steps to raise their voice, declare what's in their heart and sing out of their pain?

When it comes down to it, I don't want to leave people in awe of me. I want to give people the tools they need to lead themselves in worship—to follow the Holy Spirit in their everyday lives. The age of celebrity church leaders needs to die.

We need leaders who are willing to labor and strive to leave people with a greater taste of God's goodness. A greater perspective of His glory. A higher vision of Majesty.

Fans or Worshippers?

You know what's an interesting thought?

"If the only spiritual input people received in my church was my worship leading, how close to Jesus would they be? Or would they simply be my fans and need me to lead them?"

Are we building fan-bases or worshippers? Are we fostering discipleship or entertainment?

It comes down to how you lead.

Being more aware of God's presence than you are of your own performance.

Prioritizing the raised voice of your congregation over the pumping creativity of your band.

Choosing songs people connect with over songs that you sound good singing. Let's labor to develop worshippers—worshippers who love Jesus and know that He is all they need.

Question: How has this post challenged your thinking? What are some practical ways you are developing worshippers who can lead themselves day to day?

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Santistevan) Worship Fri, 23 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
10 Common Worship Distractions http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21487-10-common-worship-distractions http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21487-10-common-worship-distractions A few weeks ago, I posted findings on common worship distractions. Since that time, some readers have questioned me more specifically about our findings regarding the musical component of worship. So, the goal in this post is to respond to that request.

Let me be honest about my qualifications up front, though: I am not a musician or singer; I am a church consultant only reporting what our teams have found in more than 15 years of consulting. It is not my intent to be judgmental or offensive. I have utmost respect for those who lead us in worship. With those caveats in mind, here are 10 distractions we've encountered in the music element of worship.

1. Incomprehensible choir or praise team words. I start with this distraction (a repeat from the previous post) simply because we face this issue so often. The sound system may be poor, the singers may not enunciate well, or the music may drown out the lyric—but in any case, we miss the message while straining to understand the words.

2. Unsmiling faces leading worship. Some solemn hymns may not necessitate smiles, but something is lacking in singing about the joy of the Lord when the singer's facial expression suggests something different. We have seen entire praise teams show little expression as they lead worship.

3. Poor musicians or singers. I hesitate to include this distraction because I realize the level of talent varies by congregation. Nor do I want to suggest that only the most talented musicians or singers should be permitted to lead worship. I'm simply stating what we've experienced: Sometimes the musical component of worship lacks quality.

4. Unprepared singers. Here, level of talent is not the issue; lack of preparation instead appears to be the problem. Sometimes it seems—right or wrong—as if no one practiced this component of the worship service. In fact, we've occasionally heard it stated publicly: "Please pray for me before I sing today because I really didn't have time to get ready for singing."

5. "Preachy" music directors. Some folks leading worship do a great job of succinctly and effectively speaking between songs. Others, though, seem to use interludes to preach a sermon in preparation for the sermon still to come. Too much talking may actually disrupt the worship more than facilitate it.

6. Songs disconnected from the sermon topic. It seems strange, for example, when the sermon series is about family but none of the song selections moves in that direction. On the other hand, worship is often facilitated—and the teachings of that service's content are easier to recall—when the musical selections and the sermon content focus in a single direction.

7. Difficult songs to sing. Again, I am not a singer, but I do know when I'm struggling to sing a particular song. Some of our more gifted consulting team members are singers, and they at times question song selections on the "singability" of the song. What works for the gifted singer doesn't always work for the typical person in the pew.

8. Weak use of media for lyrics. This distraction is a corollary to the previous one. Lyrics on the screen are most often helpful. If, though, the phrase and sentence breaks on the screen don't match the breaks in the singing, the worshipper may still struggle with knowing how to sing the song. Lyrics on the screen do not generally help worship participants learn the melody.

9. Poorly done blended style. Anecdotally, we are seeing more churches move to a blended style of worship rather than offer multiple distinct styles of worship. That approach is not bad, but it becomes problematic when the worship leaders are strong in one style but weak in the other. Often, that difference is noticeable.

10. Introducing new songs without teaching them. Numerous good songwriters are producing strong worship music today. Introducing new songs to a church, however, requires intentionality that often seems lacking. Many of us welcome a worship leader's taking the time to help us actually learn the song as a congregation.

What other distractions regarding worship music have you seen?

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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless) Worship Thu, 22 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
5 Tips For Leading More God-Centered Worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21456-5-tips-for-leading-more-god-centered-worship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/worship/21456-5-tips-for-leading-more-god-centered-worship When we gather to worship, what are we really hungry for? Why are we there? What is the goal? Is it:

  • Songs?
  • Great music?
  • Entertainment?
  • Powerful leadership?
  • Answers to questions?
  • God?

Malcolm du Plessi challenged us perfectly along those lines in this podcast. If you haven't heard it, I'd suggest you start there.

Today, I want to remind us all about the purpose of our gatherings. We need to get back to a worship expression with God at the center and a worship expression that encourages and enables people to participate, engage, and get some skin in the game.

We want to move people from spectators to singers.

We want to move people from seeing themselves as an audience to a team member.

We are the body of Christ, but too often our gatherings reflect the talented, charismatic leaders on stage and an audience of consumers.

I'm not saying everyone in your church needs to join the worship team. Rather, I'm saying you should view your congregation as part of your worship team. If they're not singing, engaging and meeting with God in worship, something needs to change.

Every believer has access. No matter who we are or where we come from, the blood of Jesus has made a way for broken, unworthy people to come. We don't need an "anointed" worship team to worship.

But it's not that leadership isn't important. When we look at the sacred assemblies of Israel in the Old Testament we see leadership. But we also see the entire company of people falling down before God.

As a leader, you're a catalyst for change. You're creating an environment for people to connect with God. You are not the center. You are a worshipper, a participant just like everyone else.

So here are 5 tips for being this kind of leader. Whether you are an uber talented worship leader or a simple leader doing your best for God, we can all apply these tips to lead with greater effectiveness:

1. Understand your role. As worship leaders, we don't "bring people into the presence of God" by our talent, passion and excellence. What you do is important, but it's not paramount. Only the blood of Jesus can bring us in to the presence of complete Holiness. Understanding this helps you not take yourself too seriously.

"For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need" (Heb. 4:15-16).

Every believer has access into the presence of God through Christ. And when you as the leader understand that, and every worshipper understands that, corporate worship starts to look different. We don't need permission from a worship leader. We can come boldly to the throne of grace.

2. Prioritize knowing God. When I say this, I don't mean, "Do you know all there is to know about God?" That would be silly because it's impossible. I mean, "Is your life aimed at knowing Jesus? Is He a priority?" I have a tendency to live off yesterday's revelation—to not be current in my closeness with Christ. But that's the most important facet of a worship leader—having a "today" faith.

Know your God more than you know your songs. Know your God more than you know your music. Make growing closer to Jesus your highest priority. This will cause your leadership to connect with people. It will make your countenance less about yourself and more about God.

3. Be patient. Many of us don't see the Holy Spirit move in our services because we're too rushed. I'm not talking about tight programming. I understand the value in that. But tight programming doesn't have to mean "robotic." We have to be OK with some awkward silence. We have to be OK with a couple minutes of lingering in worship—listening, tuning in, watching for God to move.

Many people in our churches don't engage because we don't teach them how and we don't give them the opportunity to try something new. Create a little space. As the guys from Housefires mentioned, don't rush from song to song. Allow those moments to breathe so you can hear what God is saying. This is massive.

4. Prepare and forget. I've said this before but believe it needs repeating. Music production is for rehearsal. If you're too mindful of it when you're leading worship, you'll be too distracted. There's only so much you can focus on.

The most important thing is being present with your people in the presence of God. Your talent doesn't matter. Your new song doesn't matter. The fact that you're on a click track with a sweet loop doesn't matter. Prepare that stuff in advance, but in the moment of corporate worship, forget about it. This will help you be more present with the people.

5. Be bold. Playing it safe isn't an option for leaders. I mean, what is the definition of a leader? They lead. They create change. They inspire forward momentum in a common direction. In order to lead your church in passionate worship, you have to be bold, take risks and step out. Maybe that's encouraging people before a song. Maybe that's giving a prophetic word. Maybe that's inviting people forward for healing.

Whatever scares you the most is probably what you need to do (with the blessing of your pastors, of course). You can't do what you've always done and expect a different result. Put down your guitar. Kneel before God. Sing a spontaneous song. Read Scripture. Be silent. Whatever it is for you, do that.

Worship leader, it's your turn. How do you keep God at the center and engage your people?

Come share any and all tips, tricks, challenges and encouragements in the comments below.

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

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (David Santistevan) Worship Wed, 31 Dec 2014 20:00:00 -0500
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rob Hoskins/OneHope) Youth Thu, 08 Jan 2015 17:00:00 -0500
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.

]]>
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.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jon Nielson) Youth Mon, 08 Dec 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How to Test Your Ministry’s Structural Integrity http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21371-how-to-test-your-ministry-s-structural-integrity http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21371-how-to-test-your-ministry-s-structural-integrity Building a healthy youth ministry is like stacking a house of cards—when one card is out of place, the whole thing falls apart. It's time to look at your ministry through the eyes of a home inspector.

Is your ministry up to code, or is there something undermining its structural integrity? Is it built to last, or will it collapse the minute you're gone?

A Rickety Ministry

Do you see yourself as your ministry's central component, with volunteers supporting your relationship with the students? Are you the hub, connecting the students with the volunteers and with each other? This flawed youth ministry structure creates a sandwich effect.

The students and the adults are the bread and the youth pastor is the peanut butter holding everything together. This creates a few major structural problems.

1. You become a barrier. First, you're actually separating the volunteers from the students. If you've focused all ministry resources on feeding a single relationship, between the students and you, then every other relationship will end up malnourished. Volunteers won't be able to connect with students on the deepest levels. So what? you think. Why do students need relationships with volunteers when they have me? That leads to the second problem.

2. You are spread too thin. A great youth pastor can only minister and mentor three to five students at a time. When your job is to reach every single student, you're setting yourself up for failure. Your time is limited, so a good number of your students will inevitably get left out.

3. What happens when you're gone? This issue could be the most devastating for your ministry as a whole. Yes, this includes weeks where you're on vacation—if you're the one holding everything together, nights when you're gone will feel unproductive. But a bigger problem looms in the future.

No youth worker stays with a single ministry forever. Be honest with yourself: could your ministry survive without you? It's nice to feel needed, but is that feeling worth the future implosion your ministry will experience the minute you leave?

Let's put that bleak scenario behind us and think about what a healthy ministry structure looks like.

A Stable Ministry

Here's what a stable ministry looks like:

1. You navigate and equip. As the youth pastor, you still play a key role. You set the vision and direction of the ministry. Like a helmsman on a ship, you're the one steering between dangerous reefs toward the safety of a harbor. And when you aren't casting vision, you're supporting and developing adult volunteers. More than likely, you have more experience working with students than they do, so your coaching and training will be invaluable to other adults.

If your ministry is a tree, you're the roots, grounding the ministry and feeding nutrients to the adult volunteers who are reaching out to students. You're still important, but you're no longer irreplaceable. That means that, even when you move on, the ministry will survive because the other major components will still be connected.

2. Adult volunteers build relationships with students. Your adult volunteers should be the ones building deep relationships with students. Help them fill appropriate roles according to their passions and strengths. They may serve the students through a logistic role, by discipling a small group or as a single student's mentor. They are the hands and feet of the ministry, so it's your job to make sure they know what to do and where to go.

3. Students connect with God. The end-goal of your ministry isn't about connecting yourself with students; it's about helping students discover God. The core focus for students should be growing a healthy relationship with their Savior. We want them to discover who he is and how much he loves them.

We want them to discover his unique plan and mission for their lives. You may play a vital role in that, or you may stay behind the scenes. Are you willing to step out of the spotlight so students can build better relationships with their Lord?

Doug Franklin serves youth workers through a ministry called LeaderTreks. He works with a team creating tools and resources enabling youth workers to develop students into leaders. His goal is to influence youth workers to challenge students and prepare them for leadership in the kingdom of God.

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Doug Franklin) Youth Fri, 28 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
A Huge 21st-Century Challenge: How to Engage the Younger Generation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21367-a-huge-21st-century-challenge-how-to-engage-the-younger-generation http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21367-a-huge-21st-century-challenge-how-to-engage-the-younger-generation One of the greatest challenges for the church in the 21st century remains to be how to engage and mobilize millennials and students, who, to some, often appear indifferent to the gospel.

This week, I am focusing on a series of posts that I have written dealing with millennials and students—how to meet them where they are, engage them at their level, and mobilize them for the mission of God. We will first take a look at millennials and what churches can do to capture not only their interest but also their hearts. Then we will look at a two-part post that I have authored concerning students and the mission of God.

Jesus came serving, but He also came saving.

Reaching and Retaining Millennials

In this post, How to Effectively Reach and Retain Millennials, I wanted to direct our attention to my book, Lost and Found: The Younger Unchurched and Churches that Reach Them. In this book, my co-authors and I focused on the generation often called "millennials" today.

The first part of the book dealt with the views of the unchurched. But the last part of the book dealt with churches that were successfully reaching young adults. There were three predominant characteristics that emerged among churches that were successful in reaching this often unreached group:

1. Be contemporary and culturally engaged. The first clear pattern among churches that are reaching young adults is that they tend to be more contemporary. They are engaged with culture and are aware of societal trends, helping young adults think through their context with discerning, biblical eyes.

Yes, it is much more than that, but any scenario that does include these issues is not being honest. Millennials tend to engage in contemporary and culturally engaged churches.

2. Be authentic. The second feature of churches who are effectively reaching millennials is authenticity, a characteristic that many of those millennials felt was not as present in churches of the Baby Boomer era.

3. Care for the hurting. Thirdly, churches that are engaging millennials are often known for caring for the marginalized, the hurting, and the outcasts. These churches are focused on reaching others in need. Student ministry must be more than a four-year holding tank with pizza.

While these trends are essential for reaching millennials, what more can we do to engage students in the gospel mission? This leads me to my next post.

Looking to Jesus

In my post, Connecting Students to God's Mission Part One, I wanted to focus on how students understand mission and put it into practice. To do this, we need to consider what the mission is, how we might point students toward it, how they can begin being involved right now, and how we can prepare them for an entire life on mission. This can be done by examining Jesus' life on mission.

Two passages in Luke may help us from the two big categories of how we are sent by Jesus into the world. Now certainly these are not the only categories, but they can help us better understand all the others.

In Luke 4 we learn that Jesus came to bring freedom for captives, sight to the blind and minister to the hurting. Simply put, Jesus came serving. If we're going to join Jesus on His mission, as John 20:21 tells us, we are going to serve the hurting. In Luke 19:10, Jesus clearly said He came to share the good news. He said, "I have come to seek and save the lost."

Jesus came serving, but He also came saving. So likewise, we have to direct students that life on mission is a life that seeks to serve the hurting and save the lost. But once we focus them on mission, how do we send them? This leads me to my final post.

Sending Students

In my final post in this series, Connecting Students to God's Mission Part Two, I focus on how and when we send students out. Once they understand the mission, how do we mobilize them and send them to serve and save the lost? Again, student ministry must be more than a four-year holding tank with pizza.

Kids may be happy and at church when they're younger, but unless they are shown how Christ is significant and His mission matters, they will leave in high school when they get jobs and cars. They have to be challenged to be more than consumers. Every believer is called to be an agent of ministry. People who have spiritual gifts have begun a Christian life, and part of that Christian life is that they are gifted to serve others.

Here are three thoughts on engaging and sending students:

1. Have an overarching mission strategy for the student ministry in your church. The extent of your goal should be challenging, but not impossible for a church of your size.

2. Encourage each student to own a ministry personally. My 15-year-old daughter leads the kids each week through a small group ministry in our church.

3. Consider the spiritual gifting of each individual student. As we intentionally invest in their lives in a way that helps them grow and discover their gifts, we could discuss their gifting with them and encourage them in finding ways to serve accordingly.

Students and millennials are vital parts of the body of Christ, and as leaders we are called to shepherd this generation and raise them up to engage in the mission of God for His glory, hopefully these thoughts will help you and your church tap the potential of this generation.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit edstetzer.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Youth Tue, 25 Nov 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How to Guarantee Longevity in Youth Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21365-how-to-guarantee-longevity-in-youth-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-life/youth/21365-how-to-guarantee-longevity-in-youth-ministry Everybody likes guarantees, and in youth ministry there are few. But if you are hoping to stay involved in youth ministry in a local church setting for the long haul, I know the secret—the silver bullet—guaranteed:

Refuse to exit!

I've been traveling the local church youth ministry road for over 26 years, and there have been all sorts of times that I could have exited, "off-ramps" for which nobody would have argued if I would have taken them. But I refused to exit. And because I've simply refused to take an off ramp, I'm still on the road.

Some typical youth ministry off-ramps:

  • Graduating college and need a full-time role. Nobody would blame you for that.
  • Getting married and need to make more money. Nobody would blame you for that.
  • About to have first child and need a job with more regular hours.
  • Child No. 2 is on the way and my wife would like to work part-time.
  • Being burned by the church.
  • Feeling tired, on the edge of burnout.
  • Being successful and loved by the church so a "promotion" is offered.
  • Getting older and feeling a little out of touch.
  • Realizing how much money your friends in secular work make.
  • Failing, being fired or in someway becoming disqualified for a season.
  • The opportunity arises to teach, write or speak about YM full-time.

Why do men and women leave local church youth ministry? It's because they take an off ramp. There is nothing wrong with that.

Do you want to stay in youth ministry in a church setting for a long time? I can guarantee you a long youth ministry career in one simple step:

Refuse to exit!

Kurt Johnston leads the student ministries team at Saddleback Church in Southern California. His ministry of choice, however, is junior high, where he spends approximately 83.4 percent of his time.

For the original article, visit simplyyouthministry.com.

]]>
shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kurt Johnston) Youth Tue, 02 Dec 2014 16:50:00 -0500