Ministry Outreach http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach Fri, 04 Sep 2015 14:46:14 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb The 10 Most Influential Churches of the Last Century http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/21503-the-10-most-influential-churches-of-the-last-century http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/21503-the-10-most-influential-churches-of-the-last-century At some level, all Christians want their churches to be influential in carrying out the work of God. One pathway to increased influence is a road we often overlook—the one behind us.

Looking back can be good. It can give us wisdom and perspective. It can also help us look forward to what God is doing next in your churches and ours.

The Ten Most Influential Churches of the Past Century: How They Impact You Today, by Elmer L. Towns, is a helpful book that looks back at 10 historic spiritual shifts of the last century and identifies a church closest to the center of each one. You may not have heard of these pioneering churches and their leaders, but we suspect you have been influenced by them far more than you realize. And we strongly suspect that after reading each of their stories, you'll be glad you did—and you'll have a better perspective on your own church and how God is at work in and around it.

It is hard to imagine anyone more qualified to identify and describe these trends and the personalities behind them than Towns, our friend, mentor, co-author and fellow researcher. Starting in the 1960s, he became the nation's leading figure in creating "top 10" lists and narratives about influential churches. Both of us have a shelf full of his books and magazine articles that we've underlined and dog-eared, gaining important insights about where we've come from and therefore where we're headed.

His motive in this book is to help expand your impact. As he was formulating the idea for this book, emailing us with his thoughts, it was very clear that he believes the most influential churches in the last 100 years can motivate every church to become a church of greater influence. Even his title, The Ten Most Influential Churches of the Past Century, is designed to capture people's attention and help them become more influential.

At some level, all Christians want their churches to be influential in carrying out the work of God.

Overview of the Top 10

The first chapter is about the Pentecostal/Charismatic movement. Even if you don't identify with that approach to Christianity, you need to know that roughly 1 in 4 people globally who claim to follow Jesus Christ identify with it.

That explosive growth has occurred in just over 100 years. The Pentecostal movement began with a few churches (usually on the other side of the tracks) that appealed to a marginal population. Mainstream Christianity labeled them such terms as fanatical or excessive. Some called them weird or heretical—or much worse.

It all went viral when a 1906 revival broke out in an Azusa Street mission church located among the poor in Los Angeles, California. Visitors came from all over the world to be touched by the Holy Spirit, and then went back launching Pentecostal/Charismatic denominations/movements that in turn touched the world. Today, some of the largest congregations in the world are Pentecostal driven (see Warren's list at leadnet.org/world).

A second greatest phenomenon in the last 100 years has been the explosive growth of house churches in Communist China. When the bamboo curtain slammed down in 1958, many Westerners thought the light of Christianity would be extinguished and all the missionary work for hundreds of years would be lost.

However, we've learned in recent decades that one of the greatest church movements in the world has been the underground church in China, multiplying exponentially without foreign mission supervision, Western missionaries, seminaries, denominational structure or even buildings. They have none of the physical assets we find in American Christianity, yet the world marvels at what God has done.

A third trend in the Christian church has been the growing interactions of people, leading to multicultural and multiethnic churches around the world. After World War II, the restrictive borders in most nations came down, and the church entered the era of the Interstate and the Internet (i.e., the Interstate stands for an explosion in transportation, while the Internet stands for explosion of communications).

People from various cultures that make up the many nations of the world have traveled extensively, and most of the churches have thrown their doors open to win any and all to Jesus Christ. While America has struggled to overcome its background of slavery and segregation, many churches have led the way in modeling worship that welcomes every tribe, nation, people and language (Rev. 5:9) so that what the children sing in Sunday school is true: "Red and yellow, black and white, they are precious in His sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world."

Looking back can be good. It can give us wisdom and perspective.

A fourth phenomenon is the largest church in history, the Central Full Gospel Church in Seoul, South Korea. In 2007, the church reached 760,000 members when its pastor, David Yonggi Cho, retired and turned the reins over to a second-generation pastor, Yong-hoon Lee. This church was not built on massive evangelism in large meetings; or through radio, television, or the media; or even through evangelism experienced in the church services of its home on Yoido Island. Rather, 35,000 small groups located in living rooms, laundry rooms, restaurants and apartment building exercise rooms have produced unparalleled growth and influence around the world. Yonggi Cho has said, "Just as the physical body grows by the division of its biological cells, so the spiritual body of Jesus Christ grows by the division of its spiritual cells."

The fifth chapter describes the exponential growth of the Southern Baptist Convention, which grew from a small denomination located primarily in the southeast United States in 1900 to become the largest Protestant denomination in America. While many contributing personalities and policies are responsible for the growth of Southern Baptist, the most illustrative example is the First Baptist Church in Dallas, Texas, where Dr. W.A. Criswell motivated and organized lay workers of a large wealthy downtown church to build the biggest church in America through Sunday school visitation. They expanded their Sunday school classes, and as a result the church grew.

A sixth trend among churches is reflective of the ever-expanding educational growth in the United States as well as throughout the world. A history of preaching reveals that most sermons were devotional, motivational and/or topical three-point messages followed by a poem. But C.I. Scofield might have been the man who changed the focus of sermons.

When Scofield edited the footnotes of the Scofield Reference Bible, it became one of the biggest sellers in America and across the English-speaking world, selling more than 2 million copies in 30 years. The Scofield Reference Bible became one of the most influential books of evangelical Christianity in the last 100 years. It gave international fame to Scofield as a Bible teacher who visited the great Bible conferences of the late 1800s and early 1900s to teach the Word of God. He then brought an educational methodology to his pulpit in Dallas, Texas. His Bible expositional teaching became a standard at Dallas Theological Seminary, and it influenced a large section of the evangelical world to use the Sunday morning sermon not as a motivational pulpit, but to teach the Word of God.

A seventh church to influence evangelicalism was not designed for Christians but for the unchurched. Bill Hybels designed a church service where those who did not have a church background would be comfortable and have the gospel presented to them with contemporary music, drama, and messages all found within a contemporary environment. This church coined the phrase "seeker services," where an unsaved person could seek God in the integrity of his or her pursuit. Many thousands of pastors visited the Willow Creek pastors' conferences and went home to duplicate the influence of the church.

Every church leader should read the stories of these 10 churches and compare their own experiences to these trends.

An eighth trend traces the growth and worldwide influence of what some call praise-worship music. Church historian Kenneth Scott Latourette said that whenever there was a true revival among God's people, inevitably there was also a new hymnody—the revived church praised the Lord with music expressing its own genre. In each revival, believers sang to God with the music they sang in their normal lives. No one can doubt the explosive influence of praise-worship music across the churches of the world, and no church better reflects that movement than a church in Sydney, Australia, that changed its name to Hillsong—since its music label was so widely known. Darlene Zschech, who was a worship leader for the church, brought tears to the eyes of many as they sang, "My Jesus ... my Savior ... shout to the Lord."

A ninth trend is the church embracing advertisement, marketing and media to carry out its strategy of evangelism and communicate its message to the masses. Beginning in approximately 1900, many churches embraced a radio ministry. Continuing into the 1950s, many other churches embraced television ministry. Perhaps none was more effective than Jerry Falwell and the Old Time Gospel Hour. During the late 1970s, his church service was televised into every MIA (media impact area) across America. But Falwell did more than preaching; he also used his mailing ministry to rally his viewing audience to the church's causes, and he created teaching programs (the Liberty Home Bible Institute, with more than 100,000 graduates). Eventually, the church's ministry was expanded through what would later become Liberty University Online, where more than 90,000 students enroll in accredited courses, learning through their computer from a uniquely Christian university.

A 10th trend is noted for its transforming influence on church culture as much as its influence on new methods and new programs. After World War II, the parents who were responsible for winning World War II gave birth to the generation known as the Baby Boomers. These children were influenced by television, wealth and changing expectations of cultures. The churches struggled to incorporate the growing numbers of Baby Boomers into their traditional church culture. The young didn't think like their parents, did not dress like their parents, did not sing like them, did not eat like them, nor did they dream like them. Some Baby Boomers were initially focused on "California Dreaming," and they were representative of the multiple thousands of young people who rebelled against what they called the recessive middle class and became hippies in California.

It was there that the 10th church in this study, Calvary Chapel, and its pastor, Chuck Smith, presented the historic message of Jesus Christ in a new package. Many youth were converted and were called "Jesus People." Smith let them sing their new music and dress their comfortable way, and a new counterculture church began to spread across America. No more suits and ties; rather, young people dressed leisurely. A new culture took over from the old traditional church culture. It impacted many.

Types of Influence

Looking through these 10 historical windows that Elmer Towns has opened for us, we note the various ways that the influence of each church was effective. We broke the categories into four realms: (1) inward for spiritual growth, (2) upward to God, (3) relational to other believers and (4) outward to the non-Christian.

First, we see the inward influence of Azusa Street Revival, where believers experienced the Holy Spirit in renewal and revival. Then, the Scofield Church taught members the Word of God, and biblical knowledge became foundational to their lives and service.

Second, we see the upward influences of Hillsong Church and praise worship music that focused on praising God and glorifying Him.

A third area was relational to each another. The most obvious was Ebenezer Baptist Church and Martin Luther King Jr.'s emphasis on racial reconciliation and integration so that all ethnic groups would be one in Christ. Another is the powerful koinonia of the Chinese underground church, where they clung to one another when there was no outward reinforcement of their faith. Then there is the intimacy of the cell groups in Yonggi Cho's Full Gospel Church, which preached spiritual strength. Finally, we observe that Calvary Chapel refashioned its music, dress, programming, and outward expressions of faith so the young people worshiped differently from what they perceived as dead Christianity.

A final area is outward influence of evangelism. Obviously, First Baptist Church of Dallas was Great Commission-oriented in its evangelistic Sunday school-class outreach. So was Thomas Road Baptist Church in its media and advertising outreach to communicate the gospel to every available person, with every available method, at every available time.

Types of Methods

From these 10 churches and corresponding movements, we note the various methods used by each church that made it influential. A church method is the application of biblical principles to the culture where a church is located. Some churches became influential just by "being," while others employed distinct methods that they copied and followed.

The Azusa Street Revival clearly sought the filling of the Holy Spirit and His coming on individuals. The Chinese underground church gathered in house churches, just as the early church did in the book of Acts. Yonggi Cho also applied biblical patterns of small groups when he divided his church into cells to do the work of ministry. Then Hillsong influenced the evangelical world by worshipping God through praise music.

Martin Luther King Jr. used nonviolent civil disobedience as a method to bring racial harmony, and W.A. Criswell used Sunday school visitation to influence his church. Scofield applied a teaching pulpit, and Bill Hybels used a seeker-sensitive methodology. Jerry Falwell used saturation evangelism, and Calvary Chapel used a tool that later was described as contemporary and casual church.

Types of Leadership

Finally, we can't help but observe the role of leadership in the 10 chapters. Two of the trends seemed to grow indigenously from inside the church. The first was the Chinese house church movement, where no one individual leader seemed to be the dominant force behind the influential trend. The second was the Calvary Chapel movement, where the Baby Boomers that founded the movement basically remapped how people would do church.

A church method is the application of biblical principles to the culture where a church is located.

The other eight churches were led by people who conceived of a new idea of serving God and began to implement it in their churches. These leaders were revolutionary ... cataclysmic ... change agents. Their leadership was measured by the obstacles they had to overcome—so much so that their names became symbolic of the influence they spawned.

These were often leaders who prevailed against insurmountable odds, with limited resources, in difficult circumstances, all to glorify God, and might we add, to the influence of other churches. They were leaders who believed God wanted them to do what they did and then influenced others to do the same.

Ask God for Boldness and Courage

Every church leader should read the stories of these 10 churches and compare their own experiences to these trends. This certainly doesn't mean that every church has to become like one of the churches in these pages, but pastors and leaders can learn this: they can gain discernment in what to change (culture) and what not to change (the gospel). Also, as those reading this book will see how one church can influence the world, they might pray to do the same.

What's going to happen a hundred years from now? What 10 churches will be the most influential for the years ad 2000-2100? We have no idea. But if Jesus does not come in the next 100 years, we do have an idea that great churches will be led by great innovators who take a great idea, and with great courage, implement the method that God has placed on their hearts.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Ministry Outreach Thu, 29 Jan 2015 20:00:00 -0500
Small Group Involvement Can Change Lives http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/21127-small-group-involvement-can-change-lives http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/21127-small-group-involvement-can-change-lives At NewSpring Church, we believe that you can't do life alone.

Honestly, I would say that the single most important thing for me in regards to me staying connected in my walk with Christ has been having godly friends in my life that could laugh and cry with me when I needed them the most. 

I hope that one day every person at NewSpring Church is connected with other people and doing life with them. One of the best ways to get connected to other people at our church is through NewSpring Groups.

We have groups launching all across the state in the month of September. I cannot tell you how awesome it is to be able to meet with people, have a bite to eat and have a time of what I call "spiritual refreshing" during the week! 

I have heard countless stories from people about how being involved in a group has changed their life. This is one of the ways a big church can feel small. Groups are not something we do—it's who we are. I've always said that a church is not effective when the pastor ministers to the people but rather when the body ministers to the body.

Being in a group allows you to do life with people on a consistent basis. Groups are people who can come alongside you when times get tough and to celebrate with you when times are happy.

And for all of the singles out there, groups are a great way to meet other single people (Always trying to help). There are several people that I know of that met each other in a group who are now married with kids ... just saying.

Our NewSpring Groups team has made it as easy as possible to get plugged into a group according to their location and age/stage in life. Check out our website to see how we are doing it, or contact the Groups team directly with questions. 

Pastors, if you don't have a small groups ministry in your church, please look into the possibility. It can change the lives of the members of your congregation.

We purchased the study we are doing at NewSpring this September at LifeWay Christian Bookstores, so if you are interested in doing this group study, you can pick it up at your local LifeWay store or order it online here.

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in South Carolina. The church averages 25,000 people during weekend services at multiple campuses throughout the state. Perry is a gifted communicator and teacher, convicted about speaking the truth as plainly as possible. God has given him a vision and a passion for helping people meet Jesus, and each week he shares God's Word and its practical application in our daily lives.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Perry Noble ) Ministry Outreach Wed, 13 Aug 2014 13:00:00 -0400
How Some Churches Grow Outside the Box http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/21015-growing-outside-the-box http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/21015-growing-outside-the-box Since the advent of Christianity some 2,000 years ago, a local church body usually has grown beyond its physical capacity in one of two ways: building or relocating to a larger site, or sending forth leaders to plant a new church elsewhere, often taking with them families who felt similarly called to this new location. In recent years, however, some churches have embraced relatively new methods to expand beyond the boundaries of their current facilities.

Though not without their own challenges and not necessarily the best fit for every church looking at options for managing its growth, these three methods have been used by a myriad of churches across the nation and may be worth a look.

Method No. 1: Multisite

Many churches have embraced a multisite approach to growth. Central Florida's Northland, A Church Distributed; Urbana, Illinois' The Vineyard and Surprise, Arizona's Parkway Christian Church are only a few of the large churches that have expanded their breadth by opening multiple locations serving area communities. Some megachurches, like California's Saddleback Church, have expanded globally, with its multiple sites in Southern California supplemented by satellite campuses in Argentina, Germany, China and the Philippines. Though not exclusively used by megachurches, the staffing, upkeep and ministry offerings of multiple sites at once is a difficult, expensive and time-consuming enterprise that often lends itself to large, financially robust churches.

The multisite approach differs from church planting in that planted churches are usually autonomous bodies with their own dedicated pastors, while satellite campuses share the same name, mission and vision—as well as many of the same pastors and programs—as a multi-site church's main campus. Satellite campuses can help facilitate not only numerical expansion of congregants, but also geographic expansion. Large metropolitan areas tend to be prime markets for the multisite approach, as reducing traffic hassles and traveling distance can open up new groups who might be interested in attending your church.

Multisite is not without its detractions, however. One difficulty can come in reduced feelings of community stemming from a physical displacement from the rest of the church body. Though satellite campuses usually have their own pastoral staff, the main pastors often primarily focus on the main campus. The lead pastor usually delivers his sermon live to the main campus, while satellite campuses have to settle for a live video stream on a projector. The church's biggest events are usually concentrated on the main campus, and though similar smaller events may be held in tandem at the satellite campuses, this can make some congregants feel their campus is inferior.

Further, in a single church, splintered across several campuses miles apart, pastors and staff must work hard to ensure that all congregants feel included in the church body. Large churches can already struggle with the relational aspect, as face time with lead pastors can be far more difficult to come by in a congregation of several thousand. The small-group ministries that many churches use to ensure members feel loved as people—instead of just another number lost in a sea of faces—can also prove key to making those attending satellite campuses feel included and valued.

Method No. 2: Mergers

A church merger is just what it sounds like: two or more churches becoming one. There are several different scenarios that fall under the merger umbrella, and all of them need to be navigated with care.

Reasons for mergers can include a church that has outgrown its facilities, shifts in leadership positions or needs, or simply the belief that a set of believers can do more for the kingdom together than as separate entities. Though mergers are usually initiated with an eye toward greater things to come, some members of the participating churches may feel uncomfortable with the shift as the part of their church's identity is changed in one fell swoop. These feelings can be understandable, and must be navigated with prayer, compassion and understanding as you move the church toward the vision God has given you.

Merging two distinct church bodies into one new body can come with hazards of its own. Each church has unique doctrines, leadership, staff, traditions, ministries, assets and members whose needs should be taken into account. Launching into a merger without careful evaluation of how each element will change during and after the transition could cause the whole process to melt down mid-stream. If you find that the two churches cannot come to agreement on certain points, it may be best to walk away from the merger lest it cause damage and division to your congregations.

Method No. 3: Buy-outs

Perhaps the most controversial of these methods is when a struggling church is "bought out" by a financially healthy one. It is similar to a merger, except that, instead of a brand new merged church resulting, the church being bought out ceases to be, its membership and assets being absorbed into the "stronger" church. Unlike with mergers, there is an obvious "power" difference between the two entities, and the church being bought can feel slighted even if the buy-out is handled with care.

In a buy-out, one church is usually financially unable to continue its ministry as it is. Much like a corporate acquisition, the weaker church's assets, including the building, are incorporated into the healthy church's coffers, as are its liabilities. The leadership is often largely or completely replaced, though the "parent" church may choose to keep a few leaders on staff if they are a good fit for the church's needs. Oftentimes the bought-out church can become a satellite campus for the larger church's multisite goals, or it could even be used as the main campus for a younger, growing church that has expanded beyond its current facilities.

Despite the usually attendant leadership changes for the purchased church, many members may want to stay; it's the closest thing they have to a home church at that point, after all. This influx of new members can be a good thing for the bigger church and for the body of believers as a whole, but bear in mind the doctrinal differences and emotional ties to the previous church that may become barriers to full assimilation. Some, or even most, of the previous church's membership may want to leave, particularly if their doctrines don't line up with those of the larger church, and that's OK. Make sure that, no matter what side of the buy-out you're on, you treat both your members and those of the other church with respect, integrity and, above all else, love.

If you are considering any of these methods for your church, make sure to do so prayerfully, reflecting on what is best for the congregation's present and future needs, as well as the vision God has given you. There are myriad variations on each of these three methods that may crop up depending on your situation. Do sufficient research to ensure you make the right decision with the right people at the right place in the right time. Make sure that, no matter what path you take to grow your church, you never lose sight of the reason you were called to ministry in the first place.  


Jeremy Burns is a best-selling novelist and an assistant editor for Charisma Media.

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webmaster@strang.com (Jeremy Burns) Ministry Outreach Tue, 08 Jul 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Tracking With Jesus Mission http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/19546-tracking-with-jesus-mission http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/19546-tracking-with-jesus-mission MinOut-MetricsHow to calculate your church’s true missional impact

A friend of mine who pastors a church of 120 people in a town of 1,000 recently told me about a strange encounter he had with a megachurch pastor in another area about what constitutes a megachurch. The megachurch pastor led a church of 10,000 in a town of 600,000 and told my friend that if your church was reaching at least 1 percent of the population of your town, then you were leading a megachurch.

His assertion made my friend wonder if this was really true or was it just faulty logic. He asked this pastor how he would classify a church that was reaching 12 percent of the town’s population. The pastor was stunned.

“Who is doing that?” he asked.

“Our church is consistently running 120 people in a small town of 1,000!” my friend responded. To which the megachurch pastor quickly replied, “Yes, but that’s a different model .”

Beyond Raw Numbers

In some ways, the megachurch pastor was right. Few people would argue that pastoring 120 people is different from pastoring 12,000 people. And we’d all say that leading a church in a fast-growing suburb is significantly different from leading one in a rural community or complex downtown urban setting. So in some ways comparing the two ministry contexts is apples and oranges. They are different.

But in other ways the megachurch pastor was dead wrong. From the perspective of the people reached and actual community impact, reaching 12 percent of a small town offers a much greater result then reaching 1 percent of a larger city, regardless of the raw numbers’ magnitude. 

This “percentage of impact” number might be a strategic and effective tool to help us equalize our understanding of the missional impact of a church and get away from what I think is a shortsighted idea that the only factor that really matters is how many people gather in one place at one time.

Kingdom Measurements

The “percentage of impact” number is simply the number of people attending the church compared to the number of people in the local community. When you consider this formula, a church of 120 is a significant force in a small community of 1,000. I won’t argue with the idea that a church of 12,000 is certainly impressive. But it’s much less of a force in a community of 600,000. To be equal in percentage of impact to the church of 120 in a town of 1,000, the megachurch would need to be a church of 72,000 attendees.

Right or wrong, the perception in the American church world is that, when everything is said and done, the more people you have listening to you each Sunday/weekend, the greater leader you are. This idea that quantity is always better is an American idea, not a kingdom idea. America is a great nation, but American values don’t always synch up well with kingdom values. 

Kingdom is about impact, and in the kingdom, your percentage of impact number means more than how many you have in the room at the weekly worship gathering.

Other kingdom measurements that apply regardless of the size of the gathering are metrics such as: 

  • Ratio of baptism to attendees.
  • Ratio of leaders being developed to attendees.
  • Ratio of weekly conversations with lost people per member, etc.

These metrics actually tell you something about how well your church is tracking with the mission of Jesus to seek and save the lost.

When you set out to plant a new church or you’re leading an existing one, make sure you measure the things that matter. If you focus on actions and activities that increase your missional impact, you won’t have to worry about how many people show up to hear you speak. The crowd will increase as you stay focused on the mission of Jesus.


Steve Pike serves as national director for the Church Multiplication Network, which collaborates with church multipliers to effectively equip, strategically fund and innovatively network new faith communities in America. Follow him on Twitter @StevenPike.  

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webmaster@strang.com (Steve Pike) Ministry Outreach Tue, 28 Aug 2012 19:28:34 -0400
Random Harvest http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/19530-random-harvest http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/19530-random-harvest d-MinOut-Sowing
Don't overlook the power of 'mini' ministry moments to reach people

For the longest time the 93-year-old neighbor I help out has been after me to watch one of her favorite classic movies, Random Harvest.
If I had to choose a phrase to describe the kingdom of God, it might be that title.

So much of what we spend our time doing in full-time ministry is planning. And pre-planning. And, of course, post-event planning, in which we determine what we'll do differently next time based on areas that could be maximized to yield more favorable results.

We're right to be diligent and work to prove ourselves good stewards of the fields God has entrusted us with—please don't think I'm saying otherwise. But sometimes I wonder if in our overwrought efforts to reach others we lose God's heart for them.

Jesus said, "The kingdom of God is like a man who casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know" (Mark 4:26-27, NASB).

Jesus' Example of Divine Encounters
We think of Jesus as one who ministered to the multitudes, who drew crowds of thousands simply by showing up to speak on a hillside or healing the hundreds clamoring for His touch. And Jesus certainly did both in the context of the masses.

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webmaster@strang.com (Sarah Wolf) Ministry Outreach Mon, 29 Oct 2012 13:17:00 -0400
9 Strategic Principles For Revitalizing Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22136-9-strategic-principles-for-revitalizing-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22136-9-strategic-principles-for-revitalizing-your-church Revitalizing a church is an ongoing process and experience, beginning with the pastor and continuing with the church. Without pastor revitalization, there will be no church revitalization. Both pastor and church are in need of continual revitalization.

We never arrive. Church revitalization is about the church becoming stronger and healthier. It is about penetrating your community and beyond with the gospel of Jesus Christ.

The Crisis is Real

The vast majority of the 51,094 churches and congregations that comprise our Southern Baptist Convention are in need of revitalization. In 2013, LifeWay Research released a graphic that illustrated that no less than seventy-four percent of our churches are either plateaued or declining.

In many ways, all of our churches are in need of ongoing revitalization. In today's world of endless change, it is inescapable. We have to experience seasons that involve brutal honesty, leading us to recreate our churches and restore the hope that God can use our churches to reach our community.

Here are 9 strategic principles for revitalizing your church:

1. CATCH the power of the gospel of Jesus ChristCatching the power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ is our ONLY hope for revitalizing ourselves, our church, and influencing our community. We can never forget that we were once lost and hopeless until we trusted in the reality that Christ died for our sins, was buried, and raised on the third day to give us forgiveness, power, and hope.

2. CLARIFY your mission. Our mission must be biblical and communicated in a way that is clear, concise, and compelling. For many years, our Cross Church Family has operated by this clear missional vision: Reaching Northwest Arkansas, America, and the world for Jesus Christ. We realize this vision when we are engaged in reaching, baptizing and discipling people of all nations. 

3. CONSIDER carefully what your people are saying. I often counsel pastors moving into new churches to create listening sessions with their people. Formulate four to six questions to ask the groups when you meet. Tell the people, "This is your meeting. I am here to listen to you. As I listen to you and ultimately listen to God, God will use all to speak to me in how I need to lead the church."

There are seasons in each church when this simple principle needs to be followed strategically.

4. COMPREHEND the context of your community. Communities and cities change continually. Demographic studies need to become an ongoing experience of any pastor and church leader. Never assume you know who is in your community. Demographic shifts may alert you to some challenging demographic realities.

I must see my community as it is, not as it used to be or I choose to imagine it to be. This calls every pastor to act as an ongoing missiologist. If we do not know our community, how can we reach them? We cannot reach those we do not know are in our community. From knowing this, we must begin to function as missional strategists in and for our church.

5. CALL upon the people to go with you. After all your prayer and study, there will be a time when the pastor must call upon the people to go with him on this revitalization journey. At this moment, call upon the people to rise up together to reach your community like never before. Going hand-in-hand together is imperative.

6: COMMIT to hear God's voice and do whatever He says. The pastor and the people need to experience a powerful spiritual moment of absolute surrender to the lordship of Jesus Christ. A strong commitment needs to be made to hear God's voice through Scripture as led by the Spirit, and do whatever He says to do. This is why prayer needs to become a priority in the entire revitalization journey.

7. CAST your vision continually and effectively. Whatever vision God has given you for your church, find at least a hundred ways to communicate it. This casting of the vision goes on and on. Preach it, teach it, talk it, pray for it, and equip others to see it come into reality. Cast the vision clearly, creatively, and continually everywhere you go.

8. CREATE momentum with wins. Nothing creates momentum like winning. Revitalization begins with a few small wins that lead to bigger wins. Start where you are, identify some easier wins, accomplish them, celebrate them, and go forward from there to more dynamic and impacting influence on your community.

9. CHALLENGE your church passionately and continually. We must challenge our church passionately and continually. Passionless preachers and church leaders result in passionless churches. Distracted pastors and church leaders result in distracted churches. We must be highly engaged as leaders, overflowing with genuine passion, so we can stand up and challenge our people passionately and continually.

Closing Prayer

"Lord, we pray that You will revitalize pastors and churches so that we will become more effective evangelistically and in making disciples of all the nations. We know it is Your will and stand upon Your Word in Acts 16:5, believing it can be done."

Acts 16:5, "So the churches were strengthened in the faith, and increased in number daily."

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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ronnie Floyd ) Church Growth Tue, 01 Sep 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Healthy Church Growth: Measuring What Matters http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22121-healthy-church-growth-measuring-what-matters http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22121-healthy-church-growth-measuring-what-matters Earlier this week I was in Kuala Lumpur speaking to Asian megachurch pastors at the 2015 Asia Leaders Summit. While I respect most megachurch pastors I know, I would much rather spend three days with regular church pastors. Three days with megachurch leaders who recite huge numbers reminded me that some numbers matter more than others.

Every time I am asked to teach discipleship, at some point I have to talk about numbers. I always do so with some reluctance, but not because it is necessarily wrong to count and track numbers. My reluctance is due to people's common tendency of attributing all kinds of virtue, worth and wisdom to individuals and churches based on how many people show up at their meetings. By those same calculations, there is a tendency to diminish the efforts of other leaders and churches because their attendance numbers don't have as many digits.

This is simply not fair. Growing a church to 100 in Tokyo or Teheran takes more work and is a greater accomplishment than growing a church to 1000 in Singapore or Manila. Some cities are ripe for harvest. Some are not. We cannot judge the quality of a church or a pastor's ministry simply by how many people attend the weekend worship service, because raw numbers do not account for soil conditions.

Judging pastors and churches by attendance numbers completely misses the main point of ministry. Weekend worship attendance numbers without context are totally unreliable indicators of church health.

Jesus did not call us to gather crowds. He called us to make disciples. In Matthew 16, Jesus said He would build His church. A few chapters later in Matthew 28, He told His followers to make disciples. His job is to build His church. Our job is to make disciples. When we make disciples, He takes those disciples and builds them into a church that the gates of hell cannot overcome.

Last week I received the Victory-Manila 2015 second quarter report. As you might expect, the report contained numbers, graphs and charts. My eyes quickly sought the two numbers that matter more than all other numbers, the two numbers that give context to all the other numbers.

Those numbers were 3,039 and 7,166.

The first number is the number of new believers who were baptized in Manila in the first two quarters of 2015. (Plus, we baptized another 5,248 in the provinces for a total of 8,287 nationwide.) The second number is the number of active Victory discipleship groups that meet weekly in Metro Manila.

Why do these numbers matter more than all others, including the attendance number and the offering amount?

The first number matters because lost people matter to God.

The Parable of the 99 and the One (Luke 15) presents a radically different way of looking at numbers. Many pastors today focus all their attention on the 99. We feed the sheep in our flock, we serve the sheep in our flock and we occasionally pursue sheep from other flocks. We celebrate the 99 and ignore the lost one. No matter how great we are at caring for the flock, Jesus calls us to pursue the lost.

The second number (Victory discipleship groups) matters because lost people matter to us.

The more Victory discipleship group leaders we equip and empower, the more opportunities we will have to engage the lost in every area of culture and community. Since lost people matter to God, they should matter to us.

A few years ago, I started helping a small Every Nation church in the Nashville area. When I received the first year-end report, my eyes immediately went to the two numbers that matter most: 12 and 27. Twelve new believers baptized and 27 discipleship group leaders equipped and empowered in the first year.

Like in Manila, those two numbers mattered more than total attendance and offering amount. Those numbers were worth celebrating because evangelism and discipleship matter to God and to us.

What numbers do you celebrate?

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

For the original article, visit stevemurrell.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Murrell ) Church Growth Mon, 24 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
These 18 Numbers Indicate the Health of Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22093-these-18-numbers-will-indicate-the-health-of-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22093-these-18-numbers-will-indicate-the-health-of-your-church Whether you've thought it or not, your church has an evaluation system.

Every service is evaluated by every attendee. They talk about it afterward in the lobby. They share their impressions between friends.

If it's really good, others hear about it. If it's really bad, even more "others" hear about it. We can't help ourselves; we are made in the image of a God who has evaluated everything He's ever made.

In Genesis 1, we find God giving Himself a grade every day. In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said: "Even so, every good tree bears good fruit. But a corrupt tree bears evil fruit. A good tree cannot bear evil fruit, nor can a corrupt tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore, by their fruit you will know them" (Matt. 7:17-20).

We're not supposed to judge the people around us, but we are supposed to evaluate the fruit we are producing.

During Jesus' talk with His disciples in the Upper Room, Jesus said, "I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that bears no fruit, He takes away. And every branch that bears fruit, He prunes, that it may bear more fruit" (John 15:1-2).

A good farmer inspects his vines for fruit. Then he takes action to enable them to bear more fruit.

Two Ways to Measure

There are two ways to measure the health of an organization. One is by quality; the other, by quantity. Quality measures tend to be subjective. They rely on taste, perception, anecdote and intuition. Quantity measures tend to be more objective. They rely on numbers. Numbers need to be interpreted, but they tell a story, and that story is usually very accurate. Healthy churches measure both ways.

Healthy churches evaluate by both quality and quantity.

Let's look at quantitative data this week. Next week I'll give you great questions to ask when doing qualitative evaluations.

The Importance of Numbers

When I go to my doctor, he measures things in numbers: my weight, blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, triglycerides, etc. These numbers tell him a lot about me. I can argue with the numbers, but they don't lie. If my blood pressure is too high, that's a sign of bad health. Likewise, we now know enough about what a healthy church looks like to be able to tell a lot about a church from its numbers.

Here are 18 indicators you may want to pay attention to:

1. Your number of first-time guests. To maintain your current size, you'll need three first-time guests each week for every 100 regular attendees. To grow, you'll need to average five first-time guests per week. What's your number?

2. Your percentage of return guests. The average church sees 6 to 10 percent of their first-time guests return for a second visit, 25 percent of their second-time guests return for a third visit, and 35 percent of their third-time guests become regular attendees. What are your numbers?

3. Percentage of guests who stick. Average churches see 6-10 percent of their first timers become regular attendees. Outstanding churches see as many as 30 percent become regulars. What's your number?

Note: these three numbers are indicators of the health of your Assimilation System. I've written about how to improve your assimilation system in Ebook #1: Keeping Your Guests Coming Back.

4. Number of first-time decisions for Christ. Only the Holy Spirit knows for sure whether a person who indicates a first-time decision for Christ represents fruit that will remain. But charting this statistic is your most important measure of fruitfulness. Jesus said to go and make disciples, and a disciple starts with a decision to follow. How many adults, teens and children made that decision in your church last year? How many did your church help led to Christ outside your church (on missions trips and evangelistic ventures) last year? Compare this year's number to prior year's numbers and you'll be able to see if you are becoming a more fruitful church.

5. Number of baptisms. Baptism is a step of obedience as well as a public declaration of faith. A healthy ratio for your church is to baptize about one for every three who make a public profession.

If you'd like help improving your Outreach System, I've written about it in Ebook #2: Attracting More Newcomers.

6. Number of churches planted. Healthy things reproduce, and they reproduce after their own kind. Dogs reproduce dogs, people reproduce people and churches reproduce churches. Healthy churches intentionally participate in church planting. Sometimes they send out a group to plant. Other times they assist and partner with another church that's sending out a group to plant. Healthy families usually give birth every two or three years. So do healthy churches. Aggressively healthy churches try to plant or support the planting of a new church every year. How many churches have you planted or partnered in planting in the last 10 years?

7. Total giving. This is a measure of the maturity and generosity of your church, and the key indicator of how much ministry you will be able to do.

8. Total number of givers.
It's useful to compare this number to your total attendance. Tracking your ratio of givers to attenders year by year will objectify your church's financial maturity.

9. Total number of tithers. Your city and county websites will tell you the average per household income for your area. Or, you can use the baseline poverty level income if you like. The important thing is to make a baseline guess at what a tithe looks like for a member of your church. Is it $6,000 per year? $4,000 per year? $2,500 per year? Once you set that number (and it can be somewhat arbitrary), then you can measure your number of and percentage of tithing units and monitor them year by year. If the number or percentage is increasing, your church is maturing in generosity. If you percentage of tithers is decreasing, your either attracting a growing number of newcomers, or diminishing in generosity.

10. Weekly per-capita giving. Your per-capita giving will vary season-to season. At New Song, we see a decrease during the fall, when many newcomers begin checking us out. As these people commit to the fellowship and begin to grow, our per-capita giving rises. You may see an increase at Christmas, as salesmen receive their year-end bonuses. We see an increase during tax season, as our believers tithe on their tax returns.

11. Budget breakdown. Generally, healthy churches spent a little over 50 percent of their budget on staffing, 10 percent on missions and church planting, 10 percent on local outreach, and 30 percent on operations and facilities. This varies, of course, with the age of the church and whether it's got a mortgage or not. Your church's budget will reflect its values, but it's helpful to compare your budget breakdown to other healthy churches.

If you'd like help with increasing the generosity of your church, I've written about it in Ebook #3: Developing Generous Givers.

12. Percentage of new believers being discipled. I believe the most important 20 minutes in a person's life are the first 20 minutes after they express faith in Christ. Just as the health of every newborn depends on attention from nurses and parents, the health of every baby believer depends on the attention of spiritual parents and disciplers. An important number to monitor is: "How many of our new believers are being followed up?"

13. Number of people taking spiritual steps. New Song's system for spiritual growth is called, "Next Steps." Habits such as a daily quiet time and weekly worship attendance help people grow in Christ. Relationships such as a mentor or disciple, and fellow Small Group members are critical for growth. We believe that "The more steps you take, the more progress you make."

If you'd like help with this kind of process, I've written about it in Ebook 4: Growing Spiritual People.

14. Number of volunteers. Part of God's will is that every believer serves according to this or her spiritual gifts (1 Pet. 4:10). There's a rule of thumb in church growth circles that says churches with 57 percent or more of their attendees actively volunteering in the church usually means that the church is growing.

15. Number of leaders. In 1906, an Italian economist named Vilfredo Pareto observed the 80 percent of the land in Italy was owned by 20 percent of the people. He went on to discover that this 80/20 principle was almost universal. It's a good principle to know. 80 percent of just about everything in your church is done by 20 percent of the people. So one key to growing your church is to increase those in that 20 percent range. A church of 100 will have about 20 leaders. A church of 1,000 will have about 200 leaders. In order to grow, you're going to need to increase the number of these 20 percenters. For help with this system, go to Ebook 5: Placing and Keeping Great Volunteers.

16. Weekly worship attendance. Evaluating your weekly worship services is mostly a subjective (qualitative) evaluation. I'll give you some suggestions for that in my next post. But, monitoring your weekly attendance tells you a lot about how often your members are coming, how many guests are joining and how many regulars are exiting.

Because attendance varies by season, it's prudent to compare this week's attendance to this week of last year's attendance. We find it helpful to chart New Song's attendance using a seven-week moving average. We graph it on a year-by-year basis to compare peaks and valleys. What does your graph look like?

For help with improving your worship services, I've written Ebook #6: Putting on and Pulling off Meaningful Worship Services.

17. Number of small groups. A rule of thumb is that you need one small group in your church for every 10 weekend attendees. What is your ratio of groups to attendees?

18. Percentage of adults in small groups. Healthy churches have at least 40-50 percent of their adult attendance in some form of Small Group. Great churches have upwards of 80 percent of their adults in Small Groups. If your church has adult Sunday School classes with fewer than 25 members, or your classes break into Small Groups during Sunday School, those count as well.

For help with this you might want to read Ebook #7:Becoming the Most Caring Church in Your City.

The Work Is Worth It

At New Song, it took us years to create the systems that enable us to collect, monitor and evaluate all of these bits of objective data. If you can't get to them all this year, start with the ones that seem most important to you. A good tool to help you track all of these is churchmetrics. You can download a free copy of their software at churchmetrics.com.

This post is an excerpt from Hal's latest ebook: Ebook #8: Evaluating Your Church to Make It Better. You can access it and other practical tools at pastormentor.com.

Hal's mentoring cohort starts this month and will run through May 2016.  Learn how you can participate in the Monthly PastorMentor mentoring cohort.

For the original article, visit pastormentor.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Hal Seed) Church Growth Tue, 18 Aug 2015 19:00:00 -0400
Once-Dwindling Congregation Becomes One of Fastest-Growing in U.S. http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22042-once-dwindling-congregation-becomes-one-of-fastest-growing-in-u-s http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/22042-once-dwindling-congregation-becomes-one-of-fastest-growing-in-u-s When Jeremy DeWeerdt put his name before the congregation to become head pastor of Rockford First Church, friends thought he had taken leave of his senses.

Although he knew the Illinois church faced not only a dwindling attendance but looming bankruptcy as well, DeWeerdt says he felt a sense of loyalty and investment to his home church. He believed the Lord had called him to lead the church out of its difficult season.  

In 2007, DeWeerdt became lead pastor after receiving a 92 percent favorable congregational vote. At age 37, he became the church's sixth pastor in its 77-year history.   

DeWeerdt says he interpreted the strong affirmative vote as a mandate for change. Six weeks later, he made the painful decision to lay off personnel in high-level leadership positions to cut $850,000 from the church budget.

This was the first of three major downsizings that took place in the first three years he led the church. AG Financial Solutions helped guide the church through some rough financial waters, and by 2012 Outreach Magazine ranked Rockford First as the seventh fastest-growing church in the U.S.

In 2013, the church made the list again after gaining 465 attendees for a total average attendance of around 4,000—up from 900 when DeWeerdt became lead pastor.  

DeWeerdt came to the church in 1990. He interned under youth pastor Jeanne Mayo, during which time the Wednesday night youth ministry grew from 35 to more than 850 students.  

In 1993 DeWeerdt officially came on staff. He says in the course of 14 years he saw thousands of young lives changed by strong, biblically centered sermons. DeWeerdt brought this same focus on outreach to his role as lead pastor by creating a mindset among the congregation that the church should be a safe and exciting environment that welcomes everybody.  

"We exist as a church to gather in the name of Jesus and invite those who don't know Him to come join us," he says. "It really means making some very difficult decisions to change the inside environment to make it welcoming to those (who) are on the outside."  

DeWeerdt encourages congregants to be unified on the essential of reaching the lost and to allow liberty on what he considers non-essentials, such as service times, music and attire, with everything governed by love.  

Among those who embrace this mindset are longtime members Glenn and Karen Stockwell.  

"The bottom line is salvation," Glenn says. "As long as I can see that happening and growing, then everything else is peripheral."  

The Stockwells started attending the church in 1977 when it was called First Assembly of God. They have experienced four head pastors, including DeWeerdt, whom they've known since he was a child.  

Though it's a more casual atmosphere than what she is accustomed to and the contemporary music isn't her preference, Karen says she knows the goal is not to just make changes for the sake of change, but to reach the lost.

"The gospel is being preached and people are being reached," she says. "We know it's not all about us."  

The Stockwells say DeWeerdt built upon an already solid foundation that began in 1934 when the church started in downtown Rockford. The church moved to its current location in 1971.  

Future plans include a campus that will be planted in the first quarter of 2015 inside of a local state prison.  

"The hardships don't cast any sort of a shadow upon the overwhelming blessing and favor that God has put upon this journey," DeWeerdt says. "It's worth the tough decisions to transition a church."

For the original article, visit penews.org.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Shannon M. Nass/penews.org) Church Growth Wed, 29 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 Key Reasons Your Church Attendance May Be Declining http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/21988-7-key-reasons-your-church-attendance-may-be-declining http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/21988-7-key-reasons-your-church-attendance-may-be-declining My 5-year-old grandson asked me how old I was. When I told him I would turn 60 in a few weeks, he responded: "I didn't realize people got that old."

Indeed, in 60 years, like any of us who have lived a few years, I have seen change, lots of change. And I am seeing change in local congregations faster than any time in my lifetime. One of the most disheartening changes I am seeing is the declining attendance in a majority of churches. I am asked repeatedly to diagnose and help with these challenges.

Though addressing the issue of declining attendance cannot be covered in a brief blog post, I hope it will be helpful to share some high-level perspectives. See if any of these seven reasons apply to your church:

1. "Cultural Christians" no longer see the need to attend church. "Cultural Christian" is really an oxymoron. I refer here to those men and women who once attended church for social, political, or business reasons. Most of them no longer feel it is necessary to be in church to be a regarded citizen in the community.

2. Church members are attending less frequently. I have noted in other articles how I see this development as potentially the greatest contributor to attendance decline. Three decades ago, a very active church member attended three times a week. Today we call those who attend three times a month an active church member.

3. Expectations are lower for church members. One of the reasons church members attend less frequently is that very little is expected of them in many churches. If we expect little of our members, that is exactly what we will get.

4. Insufficient emphasis on groups. This reality may be one of the most neglected areas of church life. Groups of all kinds—home groups, small groups, Sunday school classes, life groups, and others—are key to assimilation and greater commitment. The importance of groups must begin with the pastor and all other key leaders in the church.

5. Inward focus. In too many churches, the emphasis is on "me, myself, and I." Some members are more concerned about the temperature in the worship center than the eternal destinations of their neighbors. The "me-focused" church is on its way to decline.

6. No clearly defined process of discipleship. Eric Geiger and I reported on this issue in our book, Simple Church. Growing churches are much more likely to have a clearly grasped and implemented process of discipleship than declining churches.

7. No strategic plans for multi-venues or multi-campuses. As I noted in a previous post, the trend of multi-venue and multi-campus churches may be the most significant in church practices in the past three decades. Even smaller churches are now planning for more than one site or venue. Those churches not making such plans are more likely to be declining.

Decline in church attendance cannot be defined in seven simple statements. But these reasons are at least broad explanations of what is taking place in many of our congregations. I would love to get feedback from you on these issues.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Church Growth Mon, 06 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
10 Terrible Reasons to Be Done With Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/21973-10-terrible-reasons-to-be-done-with-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/church-growth/21973-10-terrible-reasons-to-be-done-with-church The "Dones." It's a term sociologists and researchers use to describe those who are done with church.

The Dones were once part of a church, but have become disillusioned for a variety of reasons and have decided to be spiritual without the help of a local congregation. And the Dones are growing in number.

I'm a pastor, and I've seen the church from every angle. I've been a church kid, a kid whose family left the church, and a young adult who found my way back to the church. I've been the [astor of smaller, more traditional churches, on staff at a megachurch, and a planter of a new church unlike any other I've ever been part of. And there have been, in my 20 years of ministry, quite a few Sunday nights when I've felt the desire to be Done again.

But I'm here. And I'm committed. And I'll share why. But first, I want to address some of the most common reasons you might think you're Done with the church:

1. "The Church Is So Judgmental." Guilty. The church in America has had a history of perpetuating an us-versus-them mentality toward people who don't seem to fit in. We've been legalistic. We've focused on external appearances when God cares about the heart. We've rejected people over some sins and not others. And we've given the impression that God is displeased with people who can't keep their lives in near-perfect order.

And, we've been terribly wrong. The church needs to own this. We need to change this. And to turn the ship around and become a grace-based, love-filled, purpose-driven body once again, we need you.

You see, the church is often judgmental not because it's made up of Christians, but because it's made up of humans, and humans are all judgmental. We all tend to assess the people around us to see how we measure up, and if we can somehow outrank others, we feel better and safer. This isn't just a church thing. It's a work thing. It's a class thing. It's a race thing. And it's pretty much always wrong.

2. "The Church Is Full of Hypocrites. "Guilty again. You see one person at church and another in the cubicle and they both go by the same name. We hear preachers and politicians proclaim moral virtues while secretly living very differently. We are actors. But again, we are ALL actors. It's human nature to wear a mask to avoid the pain of scrutiny and judgment by others. So nobody walks into church cussing the way they did during the game Friday night. After all, we have an image to uphold.

Granted, the church ought to be the once place where this pattern is broken, but can we acknowledge that if we understand human nature correctly, this is really a terrible reason to be done with the church. After all, if you spot this problem, you obviously have a desire to be authentic and transparent yourself, so we NEED you to help make the church different.

3. "The Church Is Too Institutional. "This is often the case, especially in America. Rather than being a loosely organized organic community of friends, we're a business and a bureaucracy. We erect enormous denominational structures with boards, committees, parliamentary procedures, and elected officers. Within the church, we have budgets and buildings and sometimes resemble the corporate world a little too much.

Here's the flipside, though. Just as it's possible to be too institutional, it's dangerous to be too anti-institutional. Some level of institutionalism is necessary to maintain financial records ethically, organize people to accomplish the mission, and provide at least a simple structure through which people can be equipped to grow spiritually and serve others.

Somewhere, there is a happy medium, and you might just be the person to help us discover it.

4. "The Church Is Too Political." Sadly, this is true, in multiple directions. On the one hand, we have the "religious right" or "moral majority" who completely confuse what it means for the church to be light and salt in the middle of a secular culture. We wrongly promote a kind of theocracy that seeks to "put God back into America" and legislate from our selected set of Scriptures. And on the other hand, there is a rather leftist, "progressive" branch of the church that seems to fight for an opposite set of values often with similar tactics.

I'm as done with this as you are. I'm convinced that Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Libertarians, and those who wish to rebel against Palpatine's new Empire to restore the Old Republic and the Jedi should all feel welcome on Sunday. But here's the good news—there's a whole generation of church leaders who are tired of trying to bully the "other side" (whichever side that might be) into submission. We're interested in meaningful conversations in search of truth. And if you are too, come back to the church. We need your voice.

5. "The Church Complicates My Life." As a kid, my family attended Sunday morning, Sunday night, Wednesday night, and Sunday School. There were programs, events, activities, and business and committee meetings. And we were part of a church with less than two hundred people. Somewhere along the way, we thought the cool thing to do would be to come with as many "ministries" as possible for as many people as possible and stay as busy as possible.

But does all the busyness produce actual, spiritual growth? Not often. It just wears us out, keeps us busy "at church" instead of living on mission, and prevents us from developing meaningful relationships outside the life of the church in the real mission field. And we can attend ten Bible studies per week and not practice anything we're learning.

Thankfully, God is raising up a generation of church leaders who are driven by God's eternal purposes for the church rather than by programs, events, buildings, and schedules. It's entirely possible to streamline the church's structure in a much more simple way to stimulate real growth and real relationship-building. But we need your help.

6. "The Church is Too Dogmatic." Maybe. But I don't think being dogmatic is the problem here. Once we discover that something is absolutely true, we should indeed hold onto it, right? I think the problem is often the way we present truth – like a bulleted list of precepts to be blindly affirmed. If we know Jesus is the only way to eternal life, we must be dogmatic about it. But we also must allow people the room, the space, and the time, to explore our message and come to a place of belief on their own time.

In other words, I don't think the problem is that we preach the Bible. I think it's that we preach the Bible in a way that leaves no room for conversation about the Bible. But again, there is a generation of church leaders aspiring to set the table for real discussion. So come on back and grab a chair.

7. "The Church Just Wants My Money." Sometimes, the church has approached the subject of money in terrible ways. People have definitely been spiritually abused and taken advantage of for the benefit of some church leaders who live lavishly off of a gullible flock. But again, this doesn't represent the church as a whole. In fact, most church leaders today are calling upon the few who commit abuses in this area to repent.

What makes it hard for leaders is that generosity is part of discipleship, and giving is part of a commitment to Jesus and to the local church. Jesus talked a lot about money, and the Bible has a lot of teaching on the subject. So if you're done with church because of the subject of money, you have to evaluate whether your problem is with the church or with Jesus.

The matter of greatest importance is the motivation behind our giving. Financial contributions should be the responsibility of those who are called, saved, and committed. The face of the matter is, when we give, we reflect God's nature, our faith grows, and the world is ultimately impacted as a result.

8. "The Church Doesn't Care About Issues that Matter." And what are the issues that matter? I would say that this question is a little bit relative to our current historical and cultural moment. What matters to you may not have been a significant issue a generation ago, or at least not as prevalent. I personally believe the church is doing amazing things in arenas like human trafficking, poverty, education, the environment, and civil rights.

Every church will have a different personality and its members will have a unique set of overlapping burdens such that one church might take on several signature issues, but not every issue. And since I assume I'm talking to people who generally agree about the truth of the gospel but disagree about the usefulness of the church, we must understand that the eternal destinies of the souls of people is the single most crucial issue of all.

Don't leave the church over this. Bring the issue to the table and take personal responsibility for it.

9. "The Church Seems Irrelevant to My Life." The church has often been slow to adapt to its environment, culturally speaking. Our music, our terminology, and our means' of communicating the gospel have been too slow to keep up. Walking into many churches is like walking out of the modern world through a time portal to the 1950's. And out of fear, many churches refuse to give up extra-biblical traditions. But the last few decades have presented a significant course correction in this area.

From the Jesus Movement of the 1960s to the admittedly awkward rise of contemporary Christian music, many segments of the church have endured the necessary and painful transition needed to bring an always-relevant biblical message back to the attention of the surrounding culture. We have a long way to go and many preferences yet to lay on the altar, but the church has come a long way.

I think it would be difficult to find mid-sized town or large city in America where there is not a strong, biblical, culturally-relevant, gospel-oriented church to join.

10. "The Church Let Me Down." It let me down too. When I was 12, the church I grew up in had a split over personality issues masked as doctrinal ones. My family quit. When I was a young, inexperienced Pastor, I found myself in the middle of a couple of feuds that ultimately killed two churches. I was determined to never be a Pastor again, but God had other plans. The church lets people down. Often.

Now let me share my pastoral heart with you. My deepest pain as a leader is knowing that we won't be able to meet everyone's needs, connect everyone in a group, discover everyone's gifts, solve everyone's problems, or bring healing to every sickness. I know, Sunday after Sunday, that while we will do our very best, our best is never enough and some will always be let down.

So here's my question. What if nobody bailed? What if everyone decided to stay and work out their issues and be part of the solution? I think it would be a game changer.

If you think you're done with church for any of these reasons, let me challenge you to think differently. Instead of saying, "I'm done with the church, because ... " why not say, "I'm done with my part in the problems I see, but I'm going to be part of the solution."

Here's the biggest reason you CAN'T leave the church. Jesus died for her. The church, as imperfect as she is, is the love of Jesus' life. The church is God's choice institution for sharing the gospel, making disciples, counseling the broken, healing the sick, feeding the poor, and making a difference in its surrounding community. God wired you for community. You need his people and you need to be humble enough to see the church as "us" and not "them."

As Bill Hybels famously said, "The local church is God's Plan A, and there is no Plan B."

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 .

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon Cox) Church Growth Mon, 29 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
10 Hints For Memorizing the Word of God http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/22086-10-hints-for-memorizing-the-word-of-god http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/22086-10-hints-for-memorizing-the-word-of-god A few months ago, I posted on Tom Rainer's site a series of reasons to memorize the Word. As leaders in God's church, we should model scripture memorization for believers.

More than that, we need to hide God's Word in our heart so we don't sin against Him (Psa 119:9-11). If you don't already memorize the Scriptures, here are some simple steps to get started.

1. Decide that scripture memorization matters. It does, not only because we need to know His Word intimately, but also because the day may come when we no longer have free access to the Word. If your ministry were ever limited to the Bible verses you have already stored in your mind, how strong would your ministry be?

2. Tell somebody about your commitment. Tell your spouse. Let your children know. Inform your pastor or staff. If others who matter to you know what you're doing, you will fight harder to reach your goal. By the way, your school-age children make great accountability partners for scripture memorization. They'll always ask about your verses, and they'll learn them at the same time.

3. Take advantage of apps and other Internet-based resources for memorization. Do a search for "apps for Scripture memorization," and you'll find dozens of possibilities. Watch the comments after this post to see particular apps our readers recommend.

4. Memorize verses from your quiet time study. Some folks choose texts to memorize apart from their personal Bible study; that works, but I'm not convinced it's the best approach. As you do your Bible study, watch for verses to memorize. You'll be more inclined to remember the texts if the Lord directed you to them during your time with Him. In fact, I write the verse on one side of an index card (see #8 below), and I then write on the other side the devotional date and overall reading from which the text came.

5. Always have a verse in your pocket, on your phone, etc. Think about how much free time you have throughout the day to memorize a verse or two. Waiting at a traffic light. Standing in a line. Walking between meetings. Sitting at a lunch table. Taking a break in the bathroom (seriously...). Use your time productively by focusing on the Word.

6. Start by memorizing one verse at a time every other week. That approach means you'll memorize 26 verses over the next year. Remember, let the verse be one the Lord brought to light for you in your own study.

7. Use the "off weeks" for review. On week 2, review the text from week 1. On week 4, review the texts from weeks 1 and 3. Review is critical, so plan those times.

8. Simply read the verse dozens of times each day. My process is to write on an index card (a) the scripture reference, (2) the text, and (3) the scripture reference again. That way, I read the reference twice for every time I recite the verse. Read the verses over and over and over again throughout the day, and you can almost learn them without trying.

9. Practice strategically. Once you have generally learned the verse, ask others throughout the week to check your memorization. Ask a co-worker, a neighbor, a family member, your boss or someone in the grocery line. Here's what happens when you follow this technique: you proclaim the Word of God to others in the midst of practicing memorization. The Word will not return empty (Isa. 55:11), so only God knows what He might do when you strategically proclaim it to others.

10. Just start. Memorize something. Today. Perhaps even right now.

What memorization strategies have worked for you? What apps do you recommend?

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.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless ) Communication Fri, 14 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
7 Steps Churches Are Taking to Replace the Stand-and-Greet Time http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/22076-7-steps-churches-are-taking-to-replace-the-stand-and-greet-time http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/22076-7-steps-churches-are-taking-to-replace-the-stand-and-greet-time I would have never expected the response to a topic that seemed so innocuous. On this blog many people were very vocal that they really didn't like the stand-and-greet time during the worship services.

To be fair, there were some defenders of this practice. I was able to segment the hundreds of responses into three groups.

  • Guests: Overwhelmingly, guests do not like stand-and-greet. Very few indicated they did.
  • Church members who are strong extroverts. This group tended to be the vocal supporters of stand-and-greet. They really like speaking to both strangers and acquaintances.
  • The rest of the church members. The majority of the church members did not like the practice. It is the time of the worship service they dread.

Almost all of the guests do not like the stand-and-greet time, and the majority of the church members agree with them. As a consequence, many churches have dispensed with this practice.

But church leaders are finding other ways to keep their congregations friendly during the worship services. In this follow-up post, I share some of the new practices I have discovered.

1. Conclude the services on time. The most natural time of fellowship takes place at the conclusion of each service. But, if the service goes long, many attendees are in a hurry to get their children from the preschool area, or to make previously scheduled appointments.

2. Use the most outgoing members in critical places. One church has a highly extroverted senior adult lady as the receptionist to the preschool areas. Her sole, but critical role, is to greet parents and children, and to provide them a clear guide of where to go and what to do.

3. Ask your most extroverted members to sit by guests and converse with them. Most of those who defended the stand-and-greet time where these extroverted members. Use them in other ways. And if the persons they find happen not to be guests, it's not the end of the world. It's OK for members to talk to one another.

4. Ask your most extroverted members to mingle intentionally before and after the service. There is certainly a pattern developing here. The extroverted members want to act extroverted. Give them permission to do so. A few churches are even offering training for these extroverts.

5. Have clear signage that lets guests know where to go. One church had the following signage at key entry points: "Guests: Follow the signs to our coffee gathering or to take your children to our safe and secure area."

6. Encourage people to speak to each other at the end of the service. If the service ends on time, encourage people to chat on the way out. Those who desire this interaction will do so. The rest will have permission not to do so.

7. Have people wear shirts or badges that clearly indicate they are available to help others. I recently attended an event where people who could provide help wore brightly colored shirts and well-marked badges. A church of which I'm aware does the same. The badge says in clear and bold letters: "I Would Love to Help You."

Ultimately, friendliness is more of an attitude and atmosphere than a planned action. Leaders should provide such examples and continuously remind members to be hospitable and friendly at all times.

The meet-and-greet time is going away in many churches. These are some of the practices that are taking its place. Let me hear from you on this issue.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Communication Tue, 11 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Here's Some Advice From Great Campus Pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21962-here-s-some-advice-from-great-campus-pastors http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21962-here-s-some-advice-from-great-campus-pastors Trey Hildebrant is our newest campus pastor at 12Stone® Church. We prayed over Trey and his wife Sara at the Snellville, Georgia, campus as he officially stepped up to lead on June 7.

Several of our campus pastors and I met with Trey for breakfast at J. Christopher's for great food and great conversation. Our purpose was to have each of the campus pastors share their best leadership and ministry practices as a campus pastor with Trey.

It was so good we were all taking notes. Here is a summary of our notes:

1. Lead with spiritual intensity.

  • It's important to live out your personal spiritual intensity Monday through Saturday. You can't fix on Sunday what you haven't lived all week!
  • Pray with people on Sunday morning. Take the time right then!
  • If you don't preach, learn to take your 30-minute message ideas (that the Lord gives you) to a 3-minute message that you give to staff, volunteers etc...in the moment. Communicate God's power in ways other than the "sermon".

2. Plan your ideal week or you won't have an ideal week. It doesn't always happen according to your plan, but without the plan, it will never happen.

3. Lead with courage. Moral authority comes from a close walk with God.

4. Take pics of the people who attend your campus, learn their names and pray for them. Have a volunteer photographer take shots as well. The photographer can simply say: "Pastor wants to pray for you by name." 

 5. Celebrate the wins of your staff. Be your staff's best champion.

 6. If you are type A and driven, be careful not to focus more on tasks than people.

7. Deal with your own stuff before you get on stage ... (Self-confidence, pride, fear, insecurity, self-awareness, etc.; it's about the people not you.)

8. You are the leader of momentum. It's important to communicate "This place is the BEST place to be." You have to believe it for it to find its way into people's hearts. 

9. How do you shepherd your spouse so they feel completely part of the ministry and connected to you at a heart level within both marriage and ministry?

  • Never assign your spouse a ministry; let your spouse pick their own ministry.
  • Encourage your spouse not to over-commit.
  • Protect margin for family time and be intentional about it. Do everything possible to make your family number one all week so that when the crazy days hit they understand.
  • Take time as a couple, even just once a month for 30 minutes for big picture planning, so your spouse knows what's coming!

10. Be the creator, carrier and champion of FUN at the campus. The CP sets the temperature for fun at the campus.

11. Remember that your key leaders need to be pastored too. Ask them questions about their marriage, walk with God and personal life.

12. Keep your comments live and real as a CP on the stage. It's not all about a script. Be personal. In 20-30 seconds, you can add heart through a personal comment.

13. Be passionate about all that is new. New leaders, new visitors, new volunteers, etc ... Look for God moments in the lobby between, before and after services!! God is present, what is He doing?

14. Love your people.

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

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland) Communication Wed, 24 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Useful Practices for Text-Messaging Church Members http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21951-5-useful-practices-for-text-messaging-church-members http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21951-5-useful-practices-for-text-messaging-church-members Churches that are able to embrace technology and use it to their advantage have an easier time not just with retaining membership but also in building it. Cellphones, and particularly SMS text messaging, is one such technological advance that churches around the world are starting to see as a useful tool in a number of different applications.

In 2013, it was estimated that 91 percent of adults had a cell phone, a number which has likely increased in the past two years. As a result, churches have found a number of ways to stay connected with their parishioners using the cellphone and SMS text messaging to their advantage:

1. Church event reminders: There are dozens of events taking place in churches all year long. Instead of relying on bulletins and reminders during services to keep members updated, churches are using mass notification systems to send out text messages, reminding them of upcoming important dates like fundraising events and meetings. This helps significantly in increasing the number of people who show up for your various functions.

2. Calls for prayer: Instead of using the old-fashioned phone chain, churches are now sending an instant text message to their members when there is an urgent call for prayer. Take the recent tragedy that took place in Nepal. Pastors all over the country were able to instantly bring their parishioners together using text message alerts to send forth a powerful group prayer.

3. Emergency notifications: SMS broadcasting is perfect for updating parishioners during emergency situations. Even if electricity or landline service is down, you can still let people know where to go for help. There are even services available where those you contact can respond back if they are in need of special assistance. Churches in areas that are vulnerable to hurricanes, earthquakes and tornadoes find this a particularly useful tool to have.

4. Cancellations: With an SMS broadcasting service such as DialMyCalls, contact lists can be arranged in any way the church sees fit. This allows them to alert only certain groups, such as the parents of youth group members if a meeting is being canceled or moved to another location. Again, sending an SMS text message to everyone at one time is much more effective than having to call each person one by one or rely on a phone chain.

5. Receiving feedback: Even a pastor needs to know how they are doing with their job. Text messaging can be used to send out brief surveys that can ask for opinions about any element of the church, its activities and functions. This is an invaluable service for creating a sense of community and involvement with all members of a congregation.

Churches that have learned how to use the power of technology in their day-to-day activities have seen great results. You will be hard pressed to find a congregant who does not have a cellphone on their person, checking regularly for new text messages. Using that to your advantage will help increase your church attendance and stay better connected with your members.  


Tim Smith is the social media guru and support manager for DialMyCalls. This article originally appeared online at churchtechtoday.com.

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webmaster@strang.com (Tim Smith) Communication Tue, 21 Jul 2015 20:40:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Goals in Conflict http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21889-kingdom-economics-goals-in-conflict http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21889-kingdom-economics-goals-in-conflict The Greek government has announced that it will miss an International Monetary Fund (IMF) payment on June 5 unless they receive more aid. The $300 million euro payment is only about 20 percent of the total payments due in June alone.

Without agreement of creditors and the Greek government, the situation is dire. Since creditors include the IMF, the European Central Bank, some European countries and others, negotiations are complex. Last month, Greece avoided default by draining its reserve account with the IMF to pay the IMF. 

Creditors want Greece to implement more austerity in the form of increased taxes and reduced federal expenditures. The populist Greek government was elected on the promise that it will not accept more austerity.

Current unemployment levels in Greece are comparable or worse than the U.S. unemployment rate during the great recession of the 1930s. The Greek government argues that Greeks have suffered enough. Creditors argue the Greeks are living above their means. Both sides, thus far, are adamant. 

Recent polls have shown that Greeks want to stay in the European Community, want to keep the euro as their currency, and do not want their government to accept more austerity from creditors. Their goals are in conflict. Greece will not be able to keep the euro without getting their economic house in order. Even if last minute negotiations buy them more time, they will eventually either have to get their economy to be more sustainable or leave the euro.

Conflicting goals create frustration, waste resources, and can hinder or prevent the purposes that God has for our lives and ministries. God has a purpose for each of us and for each of our ministries. Our goals and actions should be directed toward that purpose. He will bless us in all that He has called us to do. Our goals should not conflict with the Word or with what the Spirit is telling us, and should be consistent with each other.

For example, we may have the goal:

1. To have a congregation that knows the Word of God and is empowered by it. But, if we also have the goal of not offending with our sermons and classes, the goals conflict. Significant portions of the Word would not be covered as they might offend.

2. To have praise and worship that is God honoring and known for ushering in His Presence. But if we also have the goal to have worship last no more than 20 minutes and include five songs, the goals may conflict.  True worship occurs at the direction of the Spirit in spirit and truth.

3. To have a congregation that desires and seeks holiness. But, if we also have the goal to be culturally relevant and friendly, the goals conflict. True followers of Christ will confront the areas of culture that do not align with the Word.

4. To have a congregation that is operating in the gifts and fruit of the Spirit. But if we also have goals of strict order, protocols, and testing, the goals may be in conflict. The Bible instructs that everything be done in order. However, the Bible also says that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. Balance is essential. 

Do we have goals in our ministries or personal lives that conflict with the Word, the guidance of the Spirit, or with each other? What are they? How are we going to correct them?

"I press toward the goal to the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 3:14, MEV).

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James R. Russell ) Communication Wed, 03 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
6 Ways Millennials Educate Their Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21950-6-ways-millennials-educate-their-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/communication/21950-6-ways-millennials-educate-their-church Over the past few decades, the seeker-sensitive movement—and before that the church growth movement—taught us much about contextualization in the church.

The strengths of these movements included a relentless evangelistic focus and a willingness to question status quo methodology and some extra biblical traditions. On the other hand, their weaknesses were exposed as well. There was a tendency by some to downplay the importance of biblical truths and theological education. The practical sometimes overshadowed the theological.

In recent years, however, I have noticed a remarkable—and welcomed—return by younger leaders to the fundamentals of the faith, basic theological education and the deepening of doctrinal roots.

Recently I studied these trends and identified six ways millennial leaders are increasing the importance and effectiveness of theological education in the local church:

1. Emphasizing the big story of the Bible. Millennial leaders understand the need for Christians to be grounded in the grand narrative of Scripture, and the resources they use range from chronological Bible reading plans to theologically robust kids' Bibles. The overwhelming success of The Gospel Project, a curriculum that uses the story line of Scripture to teach essential doctrines, shows that church leaders today see the need for theological education and are acting accordingly.

2. Utilizing a catechism-like resource with their kids. In the previous point, I mentioned theologically rich children's Bibles, but it doesn't just stop there. Millennial parents are using other resources and even smartphone apps to teach theological concepts and lessons to their children at home. While they aren't typically formal catechisms, they emphasize building a foundation of correct answers to biblical questions. The Big Picture question-and-answer section in The Gospel Project for Kids curriculum is just one example of a resource for this practice.

3Working through systematic theology in study groups. I know of several churches that have weekly study groups that cover basic systematic theology. This is not just doughnuts and devotions. These groups intensely study Scripture and theology and in many cases have seen an increase in theological education and evangelistic fervor.

4. Returning to theological hymnody and songs. We've had Keith Getty on our podcast to discuss hymnody and trends in the worship services, but again, it doesn't stop there. Many millennial parents are using time in the car with their children to reinforce biblical truth through song. Several musicians have responded to this trend with albums full of songs with lyrics made entirely of Scripture.

5. Reading recommended books from church websites. Many churches no longer have an official library, but are still recommending books. Many church websites now include a "Recommended Reading" section that features a mix of devotional classics, theological books and the resources.

6. Holding church membership classes. The two main things you should communicate in church membership classes are information and expectations. And both of those must be firmly built on a biblical foundation of good theology.  


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

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webmaster@strang.com ( Thom S. Rainer) Communication Thu, 09 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
9 Reasons Why We Must Connect Our Churches With Cities http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/22148-9-reasons-why-we-must-connect-our-churches-with-cities http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/22148-9-reasons-why-we-must-connect-our-churches-with-cities Even if you have no interest in urban settings and ministries, I plead with you to continue to read this post. We are called to get the gospel to all peoples of the world (Matt. 28:18-20), and we will not do that if we shy away from the world's cities.

Please read on, and pray about how your church might tackle a city—then encourage others to read this post as well.

1. The smallest church can reach out to a city. To be honest, it's simple: Find a ministry in a city, and partner with them. Whether your church is itself urban or rural, with 10 members or 10,000, you can do something in the city. The needs are so great, opportunities are there for everybody.

2. People are in the cities. This reason is basic, but not insignificant. The world has been more urban than rural for at least seven years now. The 10 most populated cities in the U.S. have 25 million people in the actual city boundaries, with 95 million people in the 10 largest metropolitan areas. The church needs to be where people are.

3. Evangelicals aren't always in our cities. Though this picture is rightly changing, evangelicals have not been strong in cities. We have emphasized evangelism but have been cautious about engaging some of the most obvious mission fields in the world. Gospel-witness voids still remain.

4. The nations are in the cities. Years ago, I was privileged to minister in a Vietnamese village in Moscow, Russia. I've been with Hispanics in South Asia and Europeans in Southeast Asia. If the Lord would allow me, I would live in the middle of New York City—an urban setting where more than 800 languages are spoken. If we want to reach the world's people groups, the city is the place to go.

5. World influencers are in the city. Think about the potential of influencing the world if we reach leaders in New York, Los Angeles, London, Tokyo or Mumbai. The worlds of the arts, literature, politics, sports, media, etc. are there—what would happen if the gospel influences them?

6. The needy are in the city. Poverty in the city offers significant opportunity for the church to minister. The combined stresses of poverty and urban life often threaten families, foster division and invite crime. The church has the answer to all these issues—if the church is there.

7. Job opportunities are often there. That's not to say that everyone will find a job, but the sheer size of cities often provides employment opportunities. Here's the reason this point matters: Believers can move to cities to be a light in the darkness, trusting that finding a job will not be an impossibility.

8. Reaching the city requires partnerships. No single church can reach millions of people, even with multisite approaches. City-reaching requires us to push beyond our differences to work together. That unity is what Jesus prayed for in John 17, and it wouldn't hurt us to work together for the Great Commission task.

9. The job is too big for us. Who can reach 22 million-plus in greater New York or the 37 million-plus in Tokyo? Who would even know where to start? God does, and He requires us to seek Him and His wisdom. If the city drives us to our knees, that's a good place to be.

What other reasons would you add?

Be sure to check out Dr. Lawless' daily blog posts at chucklawless.com. Chuck Lawless currently serves as professor of evangelism and missions and dean of graduate studies at Southeastern Seminary. You can connect with Dr. Lawless on both Twitter and Facebook.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless ) Community Thu, 03 Sep 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Top 5 Reasons Small Group Leaders Quit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/22073-top-five-reasons-small-group-leaders-quit http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/22073-top-five-reasons-small-group-leaders-quit There are a number of reasons that small group leaders quit. While some quit for good reasons, most quit for reasons that are completely avoidable.

Here are what I believe are the top five reasons:

  1. They aren't being developed and discipled by a coach. This is probably the most common reason small group leaders quit. If someone (a coach or mentor) isn't investing in them, it is unreasonable to think that the average leader will continue for long. While there will always be exceptional leaders who are essentially self-motivated, they are by definition the exceptions to the rule. Intentional investment in your leaders will overcome this very common reason for quitting.
  2. No one in their group is sharing the load. Some small group leaders don't know any better and have never been coached to share the load with the members of their group. Others come naturally by misplaced pride that "since they do everything better than everyone else"... they can't really let go of anything. Both patterns ultimately lead to burnout; both patterns lead to pent up frustrations that they have to do everything for the group to thrive or survive. In order for the leader and the group to survive, the leader must learn to share the load.
  3. They are discouraged by member's lack of participation. There are two main reasons for lack of member participation. First, not every leader comes equipped with a natural ability to facilitate. Those who don't must learn the art of facilitating a discussion/conversation. Poorly facilitated groups usually die on their own, long before the leader quits. Attendance dwindles when everyone isn't engaged in the group meeting. Teaching leaders the how to facilitate a great discussion ought to be part of your leader development plan. Second, smaller groups allow and encourage more participation. As a group grows, it becomes increasingly difficult for less dominating personalities to participate. Learning to sub-group is an essential leader skill.
  4. Their group dwindles in size and they can't (or won't) fish for new members. Some small group leaders are only interested in "leading" a gathered group. When members move away or otherwise opt out of the group, this kind of leader's only recourse is to inform the small group pastor that they need some more members. And since feeding additional members to existing groups is almost never a successful strategy for growth, training your leaders to fish for their own new members is not optional. It is an essential skill for small group leaders.
  5. The leader is unable to manage an issue within the group. Many groups come with a difficult personality or two. Carl George coined the term EGR (extra grace required) for the group member that requires extra attention. When the leader is unprepared for the challenge of skillfully leading through issues with problem personalities, sometimes it is just easier to quit than lovingly confront. This is primarily a coaching issue. When new leaders are given a coach from the beginning, challenging personalities can usually be spotted quickly and an appropriate strategy developed.

Mark Howell is the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, committed to helping churches launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. He's also the pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church. Having served as small group pastor at Woodlands Church and Lake Avenue Church, Mark is a seasoned veteran with experience in both the contemporary and the traditional church. In addition, he served as a consultant with Lifetogether and as a host for the Purpose Driven Campaign Coaching programs. You can read Mark's blog at markhowelllive.com or follow him on Twitter.

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taylor.berglund@charismamedia.com (Mark Howell) Community Mon, 10 Aug 2015 12:00:00 -0400
A Rewarding Yield: Ministry Harvests At-Risk Youth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21947-reaching-at-risk-youth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21947-reaching-at-risk-youth One key line sums up Frank Sinatra's famous song "New York, New York."

"If I can make it there, I'll make it anywhere." And nothing could be truer when it comes to youth ministry in the Big Apple.

Every weekday students from 189 nations gather to be educated in the New York City public high school system. They commute in from all five boroughs to spend more than seven hours in the proverbial melting pot of Manhattan.

They walk the streets and ride the subways. They gather in groups looking for belonging and entertainment just to pass the time before and after school.

You hear them, see them and feel their lost souls. Most are hurting and dejected, like "sheep without a shepherd," from shattered homes and unattended lives. The words of Thoreau are apt for most of them who "lead lives of quiet desperation."

Yet, seeing with the eyes of Jesus, it doesn't take a Christ follower long to recognize the huge potential among this desperate crowd. These kids want to hear the gospel!

Connecting With Unbelievers

Soon after our church, Every Nation NYC, launched in response to the events of 9/11, the pandemic needs of young people seemed to hit us from every side.

But what could we do to help? As Christian parents of kids their age, we seemed so far removed from their worlds and ill-equipped to meet their needs. In addition, very few of these youth had the ability to find their way to get back into Manhattan for any of our Sunday services. We continued to care and pray for these kids, their souls and their destinies.

Several from our congregation offered to give up their afternoons to meet, listen to and share the gospel with students. This was the humble beginning of what the students would later call "414," after the address of the humble basement-level building we own on West 51st Street. Formerly a Shakespearian theater in the Midtown/Hell's Kitchen area of town, 414 has provided a backdrop to our ever-evolving outreach to young people in the area.

Interestingly, 4/14 is also the number identifying the ages of one of the most significant demographics in the world, according to strategist Luis Bush.

Bush is the same man who coined the well-known term "10/40 Window," which is the least evangelized part of the globe. Bush is also the architect behind the "4/14" window, which is not a geographic reference, but demographic. Bush and others believe those children and youth in the 4-to-14-age bracket are the most open to the gospel and eager to respond and share Christ with others.

Although our youth focus is more of a "13-18 window," the results have been amazing as students from unbelieving backgrounds, homes and regions of NYC are connecting with us and becoming disciples of Jesus.

When we find them or they come to us, the majority come from nominal Christian homes or are agnostics, atheists, Buddhists or Muslims. Very few know the Lord. However, by grace, as they graduate from high school and leave us, many have become ambassadors for Christ who enter colleges and universities, ready and willing to make a difference for Him!

From the moment we opened our doors at 414, the stories began pouring in from our youth leaders and their team of volunteers. The following excerpts from our youth leaders capture some of the highlights:

"The first year was spent hanging on the streets, building relationships with the kids who attended schools near our building. Some were skipping school, so I would go early to get more time with them.

"I was frequently breaking up fights between students, or between students and security guards. I'll never forget the one security guard who, after arguing with a kid, decided to let his German Shepherd fight the young man.

"The issues they face should not be real, but they are. Frequent stories of rape, prostitution, physical abuse, helplessness and the pain of loneliness compelled us to show up week after week.

"We started opening our doors Fridays at building 414. When kids started showing up every day, we increased our hours and opened up Tuesday through Friday.

"When the youth arrived at 414, the first thing they experienced was genuine hope. Volunteer leaders and peers already impacted and changed displayed this hope, a hope the kids had never seen or experienced. Although they questioned whether it's real, they kept coming back, wanting more.

"Our 'more' consisted of games, free food and a consistently safe place without judgment. Discussion groups focused on who God is in an honest, relatable way. The Word of God would enter the discussion, and life transformations followed.

"For many, the highlights were Thursdays, when we'd do lessons in manhood for the guys and tea parties for the girls. In those moments, we demonstrated what godly living looks like and taught them in practical ways how to live.

"Our team is taught to be very relational and to engage the kids where they are. This is one of the main ways that lives are transformed.

"Each one needs someone to believe in them, and we have used varying strategies of engagement. One boy named Jon barely spoke a word to anyone, so we started giving him guitar lessons and having him perform in the talent show. In time he gave his life to Jesus, became a leader and now talks incessantly!

"We focus simultaneously on cultivating volunteer leaders, often new believers themselves. Several had given up alcohol and drugs after just a few weeks because of their newfound motivation to live by example for the kids they have grown to love.

"In short, we listen to their anguish, become their friends and "family," then brought them into the family of God."

Reaching the Broken

Four values capture our ongoing strategy in reaching these youth:

Creativity. While 414 remains our primary launch pad, we have also rented clubs when noise levels got too high for neighbors and utilized theaters in sketchy parts of Manhattan just to extend the reach. In each environment, the youth team has created programs to help break the ice and connect with the students. Additionally, special outreaches like Teen Mania's Acquire the Fire, Campus Harvest student conferences and Young Life Camps have proven fruitful and life changing for students.

Community. Our motto has been, "Let them belong before they believe," a vision supported by an inviting atmosphere that makes a lasting impact. We don't criticize or judge the wild views or ideas of these kids. We just let them feel our love and support. One young girl went on and on about how much she loved just sitting on one of our worn-out leather couches. We want our place to be a safe place since many of their homes are not.

Kids inviting kids. We let those impacted most be the primary voices for inviting others. One late afternoon after school, a young man newly saved by Jesus started shouting, "Sex Party" just to get more of his friends and kids to come inside. While we obviously didn't suggest or advocate his method, it was evident that he was effective in gathering others. Once inside, the kids realized it wasn't what they thought, but they were loved, fed and heard a message of hope. Several even came back.

Persistence. Ninety percent or more of those we minister to are from broken families, so most students don't want to go home after school because of the chaos and lack of attention there. At 414, they are consistently loved with a chance to see what wholeness looks like in our staff, student leaders and a growing number of their peers. Progress is often slow, but we keep going.

Reaching biblically illiterate, broken young people is not easy nor for the faint of heart. But one glance with the eyes of Jesus, and we feel great compassion and ache for those so often victims in their homes, schools and streets. And to these we go, not hopeless and helpless, but empowered and led by the leader of the greatest youth movement the world has ever known: Jesus the Nazarene.

Two scriptures summarize the call and passion of our youth ministry in the wild, Nehemiah 4:14 and Matthew 28:19-20. The Nehemiah passage is for our youth. Since they come from challenging backgrounds, they often feel "outnumbered by the enemy." Their daily battlegrounds are their own homes, schools, culture, religions, neighborhoods and the like, and often cause them to give up and lose hope.

"I stood up and said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, 'Stop being terrified because of them! Remember instead that the Lord is great and awesome. So fight for each other—and for your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses' " (Neh. 4:14).

In addition, our staff, team and volunteer leaders lean on these unparalleled words from our ultimate leader:

"Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

We go. He does the rest.  


Ron Lewis is the founding pastor and senior minister at King's Park International Church in the Raleigh-Durham area of North Carolina. He also serves as senior minister at Every Nation Church in New York City. For more information or ways to get involved in youth ministry in New York, email ron@everynationnyc.org.

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webmaster@strang.com (Ron Lewis) Community Fri, 10 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
6 Simple Things a First-Time Church Guest Likes http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21929-6-simple-things-a-first-time-church-guest-likes http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21929-6-simple-things-a-first-time-church-guest-likes I have written rather extensively on first-time church guests at this blog. Even more importantly, I have received hundreds of responses from church leaders, church members, and church guests about this issue.

I took the opportunity to look specifically at the comments from first-time guests. After completing this exercise, I was surprised to find that the preferences of these guests can be categorized into six simple groups.

Keep in mind, you are hearing only from the self-identified first-time guests. Each category has one or more direct comments I received. Here are their six simple requests:

1. Be genuinely friendly. "I can tell when someone has a genuine smile and a genuine concern for me." "I don't like the stand-and-greet time because it seems like many of the members are forced to be friendly." "I love churches where people are smiling."

2. Don't put me on the spot. "Don't ask me to raise my hand." "Don't stand up and greet each other while I'm asked to sit down." "Please don't ask me to introduce myself before the entire church."

3. Provide clear directions. "Make certain your websites have the church address and the times of worship services on the home page." "Have clear signage in the parking lot when I enter." "Please have clear signage once I enter the building."

4. Please be empathetic. "I am a single mom with four young children. Please understand it's a struggle to get to church." "I am an introvert who is scared to death when I visit a church. Please don't invade my personal space too much." "I can't afford the clothes many people can. Please don't look down on me."

5. Show joy in your lives. "I came to church expecting people to have obvious joy in their lives." "Your ushers look like grumpy old men and women." "There was something intangible about the third church I visited. I never went to another church after that."

6. "Don't be rude." "Don't tell me I'm in your seat. If you do, I will be happy to get up and never return." "Don't make me walk over you to get to a seat." "Why did they tell me I didn't look like I belonged here?"

I wonder what it would be like if all of our first-time guests found our churches joyous, courteous, informative, and friendly. Think about how God might bless them and us. It's really not that difficult. These first-time guests are only asking for basic courtesies and considerations.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Community Fri, 19 Jun 2015 18:00:00 -0400
4 Reasons Pastors Must Break Through Community Silence http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21909-4-reasons-pastors-must-break-through-community-silence http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21909-4-reasons-pastors-must-break-through-community-silence I recently preached the introductory sermon of a new series about hearing from God. I started the message by being purposefully, awkwardly silent for about 12 seconds. It was painful!

My purpose was to illustrate the findings of a research project reported on by Time about what happens when we encounter awkward silence. In short, all it takes is about four seconds of awkward silence to "elicit our most primal fears, activating anxiety-provoking feelings of incompatibility and exclusion."

Why are we so uncomfortable with silence? I believe it has something to do with the beginning of the history of silence. We can grasp the concept that God is social and that God made mankind to be social, placing Adam and Eve into a garden meant to be a setting for continual conversation. And one fateful day in that garden, the conversation died.

The tempter came to Eve and dangled before her the possibility of possessing godlike power, and she, being deceived, ate the fruit and gave some to her husband, who also ate. The next scene is tragic. The Bible describes it this way:

"Then they heard the sound of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. The Lord God called to the man and said to him, 'Where are you?'" (Gen. 3:8-9).

God is described in this passage as "walking in the garden." The invisible God who is never confined to space or time wasn't literally walking around like a man. This is simply the Holy Spirit's way of communicating to us that God was present with Adam and Eve in the garden, seeking them and desiring conversation with them. But none was to be found because Adam and Eve were hiding in the shame they felt over their sin.

So Adam and Eve hid themselves in silence, withdrawing from the disapproving glare of a holy God. And in their self-protection, they brought pain to the heart of their Creator, who so prizes the companionship of His creatures. For God, the death of the conversation was tragic.

Because of the entrance of sin, our ability to relate to one another and carry on healthy conversations has been broken, and we see the shattered remains of broken relationships all around us. Divorce is familiar to half the homes in America. The orphanages of the world overflow. Nations battle other nations.

This mass division results from the brokenness of humanity. Families are falling apart, and the body of Christ continues to fragment because we can't get close enough and honest enough with others to fully know them and be fully known by them. Our lack of conversation has resulted in fear, which leads to hatred, which leads to racism, prejudice and inequality in the world.

Individuals feel the weight of social isolation too. Suicide in 2007 was the 10th leading cause of death in the U.S., accounting for 34,598 deaths. The issues behind this statistic are complex, but one of the glaringly obvious factors is the isolation and loneliness we feel in a society that is supposedly more connected than ever before. The effects of sin are undeniably destructive, and the death of our ability to build healthy relationships began the day Adam and Eve, in the midst of paradise itself, rejected the healthy relationship that existed between themselves and their Creator.

Embedded in the story of Adam and Eve's separation is the seed of our own story. All of human history has given evidence of the brokenness of our relational ability and the resulting hunger in our hearts for restored intimacy. The world has a need for redemption and for restoration. And the very moment that need arose, as the relationship between mankind and God was fractured, God went to work executing His perfectly prewritten plan of redemption and reconciliation.

 

Silence Ruins So Much

The world is lost, and its only hope is the gospel. Therefore what it needs is the missionary voice of the church going to every people group on the planet with the story of Jesus. The silence that resulted from sin's curse is one of the church's chief enemies. Satan has little to do with keeping the world blinded to the gospel if we aren't sharing it. In fact, silence itself can be a sin of omission. While God is calling us to express our praise and our worship for all to hear and to speak the name of Jesus in every corner of the earth, our silence is direct disobedience to His command.

But the problem of silence is more complex than simply not sharing the gospel enough.

 

Silence Preserves Injustice

There are places in the world where families and children suffer daily from hunger, malnutrition, persecution and slavery. Their lack of resources presents a further problem: a lack of access to any kind of media or communication outlet. Until others speak out on their behalf, silence is their ever-harassing and persistent enemy, and it is therefore the enemy of the gospel.

 

Silence Kills Relationships

Almost never does a married couple seek counseling at the moment one spouse is initially injured by the words or actions of the other. Instead, we bottle things up, build resentment, and blow up or melt down in a destructive downward spiral. But honesty and intimacy are far more difficult than silence, so we remain content not to speak of our hurts. When marriages and families are falling apart, you can bet silence has something to do with it.

This same brokenness resulting from silence affects every other kind of relationship. Parents and children become estranged from one another. Neighbors stop greeting one another. Tribes and nations go to battle because of the unspoken tension that silence creates.

And when we aren't talking about the emotional and relational problems that exist in human relationships, we certainly aren't sharing the gospel with one another. The gospel is a conversation that is often awkward in and of itself. In this way, the gospel is hindered.

 

Silence Solidifies Shame

Two kinds of sin feed off silence. The first is the sin we commit. If we keep silent, failing to confess our sins to God—the One who is faithful and just to forgive us and to cleanse us—then we get trapped in an unending sin cycle.

Then there are the sins others commit against us. Abuse, neglect, gossip, slander and violence do great damage to us emotionally and spiritually—and while these sins are not ours to own, we carry shame over them nonetheless.

For instance, I once saw a piece of artwork drawn by a small child. It was dark and scary. He had chosen primarily black and red as he outlined the members of his family. My wife, Angie, who works with children in foster homes as a therapist, asked me if I had noticed the "X" drawn on the child's mouth. I had not. She explained it's something therapists spot because it's typical of children who have been told repeatedly not to tell anyone what has been done to them.

Shame keeps us silent, and the progress of the gospel is stopped. When we remain trapped in the shame of our own brokenness, we retreat from the comforting voice of the gospel, and we are left powerless to give or receive its message. As I mentioned previously, silence has its dark side.

 

It's Time to Speak Up

Silence has a tendency to ruin things—not everything, mind you. We often need to cultivate silence in our lives in intentional ways for the health of our minds, bodies and spirits, especially in this day and age, when so much clamors for our attention.

But we were made by our Creator to connect with others, and intimacy is a deep and abiding need of every human heart. We need to know and be known.

And so, it is time to speak. It is time to connect. It is time for us to emerge from our cocoons to engage the rest of the world in a silence-shattering conversation about eternal things. Silence fosters oppression, but you can speak up for those without a voice. Silence traps people in shame, but your voice can communicate grace to those trapped in sin.

Silence endangers and threatens to destroy delicate relationships, but you can say the words needed for healing. It's time to speak.

Not only is it time to speak, it's time to get loud. Jesus said it this way: "What I tell you now in the darkness, shout abroad when daybreak comes. What I whisper in your ear, shout from the housetops for all to hear!" (Matt. 10:27).

Let's break the silence!

Brandon Cox is Lead Pastor of Grace Hills Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He also serves as Editor and Community Facilitator for Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastor's Toolbox and was formerly a Pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. In his spare time, he offers consultation to church leaders about communication, branding, and social media. He and his wife, Angie, live with their two awesome kids in Bentonville, Arkansas.

For the original article, visit churchleaders.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon Cox) Community Thu, 11 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Change Your Beliefs and Change Your Behavior http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21907-kingdom-economics-change-your-beliefs-and-change-your-behavior http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/community/21907-kingdom-economics-change-your-beliefs-and-change-your-behavior There appears to be something ingrained in all of us to cause stress or discomfort if our behavior conflicts with our beliefs.

Psychologists call the phenomenon "cognitive dissonance" and happens among believers and nonbelievers alike. Cognitive dissonance has implications for the business world and for the kingdom.

According to psychologists, we have developed a number of defense mechanisms to reduce this stress from the conflict between our beliefs and actions. We can and often will: 

  • Change our belief or behavior.
  • Get new information to rationalize the conflict.
  • Add additional beliefs or behaviors to justify the discomfort.
  • Ignore the offending belief or behavior.

The business world regularly uses the concept of cognitive dissonance to increase profits. A car salesman will regularly contact recent buyers to minimize any dissonance. They may tell them that they sold the car at too low of a price or congratulate them on their bargaining skills.

Marketers often attempt to either change beliefs or tie current beliefs to their product. Managers attempt to change business culture so dissonance will help create the desired organizational behaviors. Economists may use cognitive dissonance to help predict acceptance of varied economic policies.

The relationship between belief and behavior is God ordained and Biblical. "Cognitive Dissonance" may have been recognized by psychologists, but it describes the process God uses to bring us closer to Him. The Holy Spirit creates the dissonance and points us to Jesus as the only solution. The defense mechanisms recognized by psychologists also give warning signs and imply strategies to keep us moving closer to God. 

When a Christian sins, the Holy Spirit brings conviction. The proper response is to change our behavior. We should humble ourselves, confess our sin to God, repent, and seek forgiveness. The Lord will forgive and restore us. Unfortunately, other responses are too often seen. For example, when a Christian sins they:

  • may learn that many Christians engage in the same behavior and use that knowledge to justify their behavior.
  • may back away from Christian fellowship and its lifestyle.
  • may change their beliefs to correspond with their sinful lifestyle.
  • may believe that their sin is unforgivable and disqualifies them from future service in the Kingdom.
  • may engage in other good works to make up for their failings.
  • may feel that they cannot change.
  • may believe that since we are saved by grace behavior doesn't matter.
  • may reject Christ and totally renounce their beliefs.

Unrepentant sin creates conviction by the Holy Spirit. But many of our sheep will have soothed the pain of that conviction with unbiblical beliefs, withdrawal, depression, hopelessness, or even additional wholesome works. As ministers, we need to ensure that our sheep:

  • have beliefs based on ultimate truth. We need to teach the un-compromised Word of God emphasizing the expectation for holiness and the promises for forgiveness when we repent.
  • feel loved by us and our churches. We need to make sure our churches are known for their love and go the extra mile to minister to every person.
  • have a support system of fellowship, counseling, prayer and teaching.
  • have ministers that model Christ, teach the Word, and are led and empowered by the Holy Spirit.
  • have a daily personal relationship with the King of Kings.

"For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks, it will be opened" (Matt. 7:8).

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James R. Russell ) Community Wed, 10 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Everything You Need to Know about Small Group Models http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/22049-everything-you-need-to-know-about-small-group-models http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/22049-everything-you-need-to-know-about-small-group-models There are many things you need to know about small group models, systems and strategies. Too many to include in a single article!

Here are three very important things to know (and links to other key posts on this topic):

First, every small group model, system or strategy comes with a unique set of advantages and disadvantages. I like to say, "there are no problem-free small group models, systems or strategies." That said, be prepared to acknowledge that there is an upside and a downside to every model.

If you like the semester model, don't overlook the challenge of confirming which leaders will commit for the next semester and what they will study ... early enough to assemble your catalog of available groups. If you like the cell group model, don't turn a blind eye to the reality that groups don't always birth new groups fast enough to absorb the number of unconnected people in your congregation. If you like the campaign-driven strategy, be prepared for messy.

Second, the model you choose should be predetermined by what you hope to accomplish. Before you choose a model, you should have already identified the business you are in, the customer you will be serving and what you will call success. I know that may seem like a strange way to say something about ministry, but it is the best way to point out a very important truth about a very important topic.

For example, if you're in the business of giving group members an in-depth Bible study experience, you will be wise to choose certain models. If the customer you want to serve will be unchurched neighbors, friends, co-workers and family members ... it will predetermine certain models and not others. And if you dream of more people in groups than you average at your weekend services, you must choose the right model, system or strategy.

Third, you should choose your model carefully and only change it after careful consideration.  A lot rides on decisions you make. Changing models every time you read a new book or attend a conference will shake the confidence of your group leaders and coaches. Changing models frequently can be quite toxic.

Aren't there reasons to change models or implement a new strategy? Absolutely. A careful analysis of your small group ministry and its results may drive you to rethink the model you've chosen. After all, "your ministry is perfectly designed to produce the results you are currently experiencing." If you want different results, you'll need a different design.

Finally, there is a lot to know about small group models, systems and strategies! They are not all the same and they don't all accomplish the same thing. They each have unique advantages and disadvantages. Some make it easy to find leaders. Some make it easier to connect beyond the usual suspects. Some more reliably make disciples. You can learn much more in the additional posts below.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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taylor.berglund@charismamedia.com (Mark Howell) Discipleship Thu, 30 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
6 Reasons Our Discipleship Strategies Miss the Mark http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/22002-reasons-our-discipleship-strategies-miss-the-mark-6 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/22002-reasons-our-discipleship-strategies-miss-the-mark-6 If your church is like mine, your mission or vision or purpose probably includes some aspect of the Great Commission. Many of us have even gone a step further and proclaimed that we are in the business of making disciples and we'll know we are succeeding when we make some amount of more and better disciples.

So ... if we're all trying to hit the same target, why are so many of our discipleship strategies missing the mark?

Any theories? I have a few and before you think I believe I have it all together, I'm actually guilty of a few of these myself!

Here are 6 reasons our discipleship strategies miss the mark:

1. We don't actually have a strategy. We really have more of a theology of wishful thinking. We spend time planning everything from our weekend services and special events to staff retreats and the updated vacation policy, but we don't get around to developing a discipleship strategy. In the place of a strategy we are hopeful. I love this line from Winston Churchill. "However beautiful the strategy, you should occasionally look at the results."  If you don't like your results, change the strategy.  See also, 5 Signs You May Have a Bad Disciple-Making Strategy.

2. We don't have a viable strategy. We don't acknowledge the connection between results and design. We are testing the definition of insane and often do the same things over and over again, expecting a different result. We've never stopped to ask, "What would have to be true for that approach to work?" See also, 5 Signs Your Ministry Design is Inadequate and Great Question: What Would Have to Be True?

3. We have an outdated strategy. We do have a strategy but it's designed for an entirely different era. Although virtually everything is different (pace of life, attention spans, biblical literacy, etc.), we are using a strategy that was tailor made for inhabitants of the 20th Century (or earlier). Ed Stetzer has pointed this out saying, "If the 1950s came back, many churches are ready." See also, 3 Steps to Take When the Flux Capacitor Fails.

4. We don't actually know what we will call success. We can't describe what a disciple will look like or how we'll know when we've produced one. I am amazed at the simplicity of Dallas Willard's words: "A mature disciple is one who effortlessly does what Jesus would do if Jesus were him." See also, How to Make Disciples in Small Groups and 6 Essential Questions about Making Disciples and Small Group Ministry

5. We position discipleship as an extra credit endeavor. Bill Hull points out in his excellent book, The Complete Book of Discipleship: On Being and Making Followers of Christ: "We evangelicals accept and even encourage a two-level Christian experience in which only serious Christians pursue and practice discipleship while grace and forgiveness is enough for everyone else."

6. We believe discipleship is a curriculum to be completed. We think discipleship happens in rows and is largely learning information and skills, while discipleship is "fundamentally about the choice to follow Jesus." We think discipleship happens in 12 weeks or 36 weeks or 2 years, when as Bill Hull points out, "Discipleship isn't for beginners alone; it's for all believers for every day of their life."

Mark Howell is the founder of SmallGroupResources.net, committed to helping churches launch, build, and sustain healthy small group ministries. He's also the pastor of Discipleship Communities at Canyon Ridge Christian Church.  Having served as small group pastor at Woodlands Church and Lake Avenue Church, Mark is a seasoned veteran with experience in both the contemporary and the traditional church. In addition, he served as a consultant with Lifetogether and as a host for the Purpose Driven Campaign Coaching programs. You can read Mark's blog at markhowelllive.com or follow him on Twitter.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Mark Howell ) Discipleship Mon, 13 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
9 Ways Not to Fix a Discipleship Problem in Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21986-9-ways-not-to-fix-a-discipleship-problem-in-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21986-9-ways-not-to-fix-a-discipleship-problem-in-your-church Church revitalization is a big deal today—as it should be. One reason we talk about this topic, though, is the church's failure to produce disciples.

When the church fails to disciple, the result is baby believers who never grow (even though they may be placed in leadership positions). Stagnation results, and revitalization is in order.

That being said, here are some ways not to fix this discipleship problem:

1. Get angry with church leaders for not being disciples. It's easy to do. Get frustrated at church folks and wonder how they ever achieved the position they now hold. Your frustration is likely valid, but here's the issue: you may have inherited the problem. Somebody else gave these leaders their positions without questioning their discipleship. So, they've come to this place honestly – and deserve our guidance, not our frustration.

2. Focus only on content transfer. If discipleship is only about completing workbooks and classes, church members can do that on their own. Knowledge, while critical, does not itself make a disciple. Discipleship requires content + application + accountability. It requires life-on-life fellowship that must be intentional.

3. Neglect evangelism in the process. This is one of my concerns for the young generation of leaders who have recognized this discipleship problem: they are so committed to fixing this omission that they risk neglecting evangelism. If you don't evangelize until you have the church in order, you'll never evangelize.

4. Assume small group attendance + worship attendance = discipleship. Apart from Christian community under the teaching and preaching of the Word, of course, full discipleship does not occur. All of us know people, though, who are faithful to both activities but not really following Jesus. We need more intentionality – accountability through small groups and mentoring – to make disciples.

5. Plant a church in order to avoid the problem. I fear too many young leaders move into church planting simply to avoid the issues of the established church. They assume they can put a discipleship strategy in their DNA and never face an undiscipled congregation. It's never that easy, though. Even church plants struggle with maintaining a strong discipleship strategy.

6. Avoid mentoring because it's too complicated and slow. Mentoring is work. It can get messy because you're dealing with human beings. On the other hand, we can name biblical examples of those who took this approach. Moses and Joshua. Jethro and Moses. Naomi and Ruth. Elijah and Elisha. Jesus and His disciples. Paul and Timothy. Even the seemingly best discipleship programs are lacking if mentoring is not a part.

7. Expect everyone else to be a disciplemaker. If you want your church to be a disciplemaking church, you cannot stand on the sideline and cheer for others to do it. Your church's discipleship approach can be stronger today if you choose to invest yourself in 2-3 other believers.

8. Focus on the growth of others only. Leaders who themselves stopped growing don't worry much about discipleship. Those who don't regularly pray and read the Word seldom challenge others to do so. Those who no longer fight sin don't stand in the battle beside others. If an honest assessment shows you're not growing in Christ, your attempts to help others won't last long.

9. Don't train parents to be disciplemakers. The primary disciplers in the home ought to be parents. Our churches are to come alongside, support, and train them, but parents must take the lead. When we don't challenge them or train them to do so, our disciplemaking strategy will be lacking.

Obviously, these "bad" fixes help reveal some positive approaches to dealing with the discipleship problem. Build a strategy of mentoring, small groups, and corporate worship. Include structured accountability. Teach content, but do life-on-life. Never stop evangelizing in the process.

And, leaders, keep growing while you invest yourself in somebody today.

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

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless ) Discipleship Thu, 02 Jul 2015 18:00:00 -0400
5 Essential Elements of a Transformational Small Group Environment http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21923-5-essential-elements-o-a-transformational-small-group-environment http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21923-5-essential-elements-o-a-transformational-small-group-environment Transformational discipleship involves moving from the row of chairs in your church or church pew where you are simply in proximity to one another, to sitting in circles, to then being in community with one another.

When Eric Geiger and I were writing Transformational Groups, we did a study of 2,300 churches sponsored by 15 denominations. Less than half of those churches said they had any plan in place for discipling people, and only 60 percent had anyone responsible for any level of spiritual formation among children, students, and adults.

The vast majority of the churches, though, were not satisfied with the state of discipleship or spiritual formation. We know there is a great level of dissatisfaction in many churches about where they are on the issue of discipleship, but what is the solution?

We also did a discipleship study called the Transformational Discipleship Assessment that studied over 3,000 Protestant churchgoers and asked them about spiritual formation.

One of the five items that was the most predictive for spiritual maturity was participation in a small class or group of adults such as a small group, Bible study, or adult Bible fellowship.

Growing in spiritual maturity involves life-on-life discipleship.

There are five elements of a transformational small group environment: mission orientation, word-driven mentality, multiplication mindset, stranger welcoming, and kingdom focused.

1. Mission orientation. First, every small group should be mission oriented and focused on becoming part of and following God in his mission for the world. When someone becomes a believer he takes on the responsibility of being globally minded and this mindset contributes to his spiritual growth and maturity.

2. Word-driven mentality. Second, small groups need to be firmly rooted in the Scriptures, which are a source of life and growth. An element of sharing is welcoming and being encouraged in time together, but too much sharing can make the group seem like a support group. The needs people share in the group need to always be hedged-in and examined through the lens of Scripture.

3. Multiplication mindset. A third aspect of transformational discipleship groups is a multiplication mindset. The whole purpose of a group is to eventually reproduce into another group that is making and growing disciples of Christ. This element of small groups helps them stay open to change and inviting to new people.

In order for this element to function properly and most effectively, church leaders need to relinquish ministry and leadership into the hands of believers in their church and not cling tightly to power. While groups can multiply while under the leadership of an elite few in the church, the possibilities of growth is minuscule compared to what occurs when the laity are leading their small groups.

4. Stranger welcoming. A fourth element of small groups is that they are welcoming of strangers. Small groups must always be aware of new people in the church and new people in their groups.

Intentionality involves creating a welcoming and relational environment for new people. Without this the group becomes inward-focused and loses sight of the mission to make more disciples.

5. Kingdom-focused. A fifth and final component of transformational groups is a kingdom-focused mindset. Groups need to stay focused on what God wants to accomplish in their time together, not how they can be the most exciting small group in the church.

Groups cannot exist for the sole purpose of emotional support for its members, but must find their place in God's greater plan of advancing his kingdom.

Transformational discipleship can happen when small groups are focused on God's mission, His kingdom, and His word. And when they are welcoming to strangers and intent on multiplying. All of this begins when people get off the pew and move into circles in order to be in community with one another and provoke one another to love and good deeds. This is essential.

Once a church passes 100 in attendance, the church is no longer a small community but a large group. Small groups that produce transformational discipleship are essential not only to the spiritual growth and maturity of church members but also to the advancement of the gospel.

Eric and I explain all of this and more in Transformational Groups. Check it out for more on this subject.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer) Discipleship Thu, 18 Jun 2015 21:00:00 -0400
3 Steps to Become an Expert Disciple of Jesus http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21848-3-steps-to-become-an-expert-disciple-of-jesus http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21848-3-steps-to-become-an-expert-disciple-of-jesus Jesus was specific about what it takes to be a good disciple. This isn't a guessing game.

If we want to mature in our walk with Christ, we should pay close attention.

"Then Jesus said to His disciples, 'If anyone will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me'" (Matt. 16:24).

According to God's Word, here are three steps to become an expert disciple:

1. We must deny ourselves. Jesus is not saying here that we should not own anything. Or want nice things. He is asking us to align our desires with His desires, even when they conflict with our desires. He is asking us to prioritize our life—with God and others in mind. (The first and greatest command—and the second is like it.) In denying ourselves, we are to look to Jesus and not unto our own abilities and trust Him when we can't find our way without Him. That apart from Him, we can do nothing.

Deny our fears. Deny our inabilities. Deny our sinful temptations by the power of the gospel. Deny me—for Him—knowing I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.

2. We must take up our cross daily. I don't have a cross, at least not literally. But Jesus is encouraging us to carry forth His cross. His agenda. His mission. We are to be the salt of the earth. We are to spread the Good News. We are to be Christ's ambassadors to the world, as others see Jesus in us. The message and wonder of the cross—the gospel—is to be evident in us. We should love the unlovable. Forgive the ones who don't deserve forgiveness. Extend grace. Attempt to bring reconciliation through Christ. His cross.

3. We must follow Him. That may seem like the easiest, but it is perhaps the most difficult. It would be easier to write a bunch of rules of what a good little Christian should look like. But we'd only mess that up into some sort of legalism. Michael Yaconelli once wrote, "Jesus said, 'Follow Me,' not 'Follow my rules.'"

I remember when I was younger playing "follow the leader." The guy in front made all the moves. The object was to follow the leader exactly. It was usually easier in looks than in practice. Jesus is our leader and every day we need to mimic the Savior. It won't always be easy. Culture will work against us. Some in the church will still want to write more rules. But Jesus-following will always be best. It's part of being a disciple. In fact, it is being a disciple.

Which of these three steps do you most need to apply to your life today?

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson) Discipleship Mon, 18 May 2015 12:00:00 -0400
7 Questions About the Value of Modern Discipleship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21730-7-questions-about-the-value-of-modern-discipleship http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/discipleship/21730-7-questions-about-the-value-of-modern-discipleship I received the following seven questions from someone who is writing a paper for a class about whether discipleship "has value in today's context."

Here are my quick answers to his important questions:

Q. What is a disciple?
A: A disciple is someone who follows Jesus, "fishes" for people and does this in fellowship with other disciples, while carrying a cross. Discipleship is not complicated. Difficult, yes. Complicated, no. It is so simple that a carpenter described it to uneducated fishermen 2,000 years ago in one sentence. (See Matthew 4:19 for that sentence.)

Q: Do you have to be saved to be a disciple?
A: Yes. But since evangelism is the starting point of making disciples, the discipleship journey starts long before one is saved.

Q: Are all Christians disciples? If not, what are the differences?
A: All should be, but unfortunately not all are following Jesus, fishing for people or fellowshipping with others. And not all are carrying a cross and living a life of self-denial.

Q: Does church membership make one a disciple?
A: No. Most churches spend a lot of time, energy and money developing a membership process, but no time developing a discipleship process. Therefore they are successful at making members, but failing miserably at making disciples.

Q: What does a disciple's life look like?
A: Following Jesus (devotion). Fishing for people (evangelism). Fellowshipping with other believers (community). Carrying a cross (self-denial).

Q: Is being a disciple important in today's culture or to one's life?
A: If the Bible is important, then discipleship is important. Of course, if the Bible is no longer valid, then discipleship is an outdated concept and a waste of time—so we might as well do whatever it takes to attract a big crowd and call it a church.

Q: Who is responsible for making disciples?
A: Every person who is a follower of Jesus—no matter how old, no matter how long they have been saved, no matter where they work. Every believer should be a disciple and every believer should make disciples—EVERY believer.

Those are my quick, off-the-cuff answers. If I had time to edit, I might change some of these answers, but I'm out of time.

Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you making disciples?

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

For the original article, visit stevemurrell.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Murrell ) Discipleship Tue, 21 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
8 Reasons People Are Leaving Denominational Churches for Non-Denominational Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/diversity/21740-8-reasons-people-are-leaving-denominational-churches-for-non-denominational-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/diversity/21740-8-reasons-people-are-leaving-denominational-churches-for-non-denominational-churches While working on an unrelated research project, I recently came across some data published by the Hartford Institute of Religion Research. Though the information was five years old, it still seemed highly relevant today.

In essence, the data showed that non-denominational churches are now the second-largest Protestant group in America. Only the Southern Baptist Convention is larger.

Here are some of the fascinating nuggets from that study:

  • There are more than 12 million people who affiliate with non-denominational churches.
  • The research found at least 35,000 non-denominational churches in America.
  • Non-denominational churches are in 88 percent of the counties in the United States.
  • Non-denominational churches are one of the top five largest religious groups in 48 of the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

In light of the growth of these churches, I conducted an informal Twitter poll and asked why people are moving to non-denominational congregations from churches affiliated with denominations. Here are the top eight responses in order. There is obvious overlap in some of the responses.

  1. Denominational churches have a negative reputation. Some respondents used the phrase "negative brand" to communicate this reason.
  2. Denominations are known more for what they are against than what they are for.
  3. There is too much infighting and politics in denominations.
  4. The denominational churches are too liberal. From what I can tell from these respondents, they are current and former members of mainline churches.
  5. There is a general waning of institutional loyalty in institutions such as denominations.
  6. Denominations have inefficient systems and organizations. They are too bureaucratic.
  7. Some of the respondents could see no perceived benefit to belonging to denominations.
  8. Denominations are not good stewards of their financial resources.

I plan on doing a second poll in the near future to see how respondents view denominations positively. In the meantime, let me hear from you.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer) Diversity Fri, 24 Apr 2015 18:00:00 -0400
Discipleship or Evangelism: Which Is More Important? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/22010-discipleship-or-evangelism-which-is-more-important http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/22010-discipleship-or-evangelism-which-is-more-important Which is more important: discipleship or evangelism? It's not a trick question, but it is a difficult one in practice. Every church leader has a unique wiring that creates a personal bias toward either discipleship or evangelism.

And each church, therefore, quickly reveals an emphasis toward one or the other. This is also true for departments and teams.

Matthew 28:19-20 makes the general mission of the church clear, "make disciples", but that inherently includes evangelism. Without people coming to faith, there is no one to train in their faith. We can quickly argue biblically that this is a both and not an either/or issue. But if you want to answer this question honestly, you must consider the patterns, habits and results of the ministry practices in your church. We all need to do this.

Simply ask the question in the context of your church. How many are coming to faith in comparison to how many are being nurtured in their faith? This is the great caution: be careful not to justify discipleship because of the absence of evangelism. Our devotion to spiritual formation is most healthy when it is the response to people finding faith in Jesus.

One thing we have learned for certain is that there is a natural gravitational pull in every church toward discipleship. With minimal intentionality, discipleship (spiritual formation) will occur. Evangelism, however, will not consistently happen without great discipline, effort and intentionality.

So what can we extract from these considerations?

1. It is necessary to make evangelism a priority. Evangelism needs to be the priority, not because it's more important, but because if it isn't, it quickly becomes weak and can slide to a nominal position and practice in any church. Evangelism, unlike discipleship is not the natural pattern of the church. It is, however, the cutting edge that helps you take new territory.

Keep it simple. Sixteen classes in how to share your faith can overcomplicate the matter. Cast vision for your congregation to make friends and invite them to church. That's it. Let it happen in a natural lifestyle way. Of course there is no "wrong" way to approach evangelism, but some are more effective than others within your community and culture. The bottom line is to make evangelism a priority, from local compassion to inviting friends. Keep it the focus.

2. It is necessary to strive for quality and life change in discipleship. While we acknowledge that in nearly all churches spiritual formation is happening, it's not true that it's always of high quality and effective.

Here are a few questions to get you started:

  • Are your small groups working? Do you have stories of life change?
  • How about new Christians? What do you have in place? Are you happy with the process?
  • Are baptisms a regular part of your congregational life?
  • Is serving (volunteering for ministry) vibrant and widespread?
  • Is prayer vital, core and prevalent in your church?
  • Is worship robust and alive?
  • Are people growing or just repeating the process over and over again?

Discipleship or evangelism is an age-old question. Hopefully you and I can give some fresh, new answers.

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

For the original article, visit danreiland.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dan Reiland) Evangelism Thu, 16 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
BILL BRIGHT: The Great Commission http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/22060-bill-bright-the-great-commission http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/22060-bill-bright-the-great-commission This command known as the Great Commission motivated the apostles to turn the first-century world upside down and changed the course of history. And it applies to us as well as to them.

It is not wishful thinking to suggest that our 20-century world can be changed in the same sense that the first century-world was turned upside down. When individuals are chanted in sufficient number, homes and communities will be changed. Cities, states and nations of the world will feel the impact of the transformed lives of the men and women who have been introduced to Jesus Christ.

When John Wesley and his colleagues were raised up of God to preach the Good News of christ in England, they were confronted with a skeptical clergy and an immoral and spiritually decadent people. Yet within the lifetime of Wesley and many of his co-workers, England was so transformed by the power of God that many historians recorded the dramatic changes. William Green referred to England as one great sanctuary—a land of worship. Out of the great spiritual awakening in which hundreds of thousands of lives were transformed by the living Christ, England experienced a new spiritual birth.

I believe our nation can experi­ence today the same transforming grace of God that England experi­enced in Wesley's time, if Christians take the command of our Lord seri­ously.

But we must stop "playing church" while our world is aflame. We are like men who are straighten­ing pictures on the walls of a burning house. We are dealing with peripheral issues while it is the hearts of men that need to be changed. The problems of evil that are threatening to engulf humanity can be solved only in Jesus Christ, and He has commanded His disci­ples to go and tell His message everywhere.

There are three good reasons why we must go.

First, Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, has commanded us to go.

Second, men are lost without Christ. Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man comes unto the Father but by me."

That sounds narrow, doesn't it? But it is what Jesus said. Men are spiritually lost and helpless without Christ. The Bible says of Jesus, ... "there is no other name under heaven given to men whereby we must be saved" (Acts 4:12).

The third reason why we should go is that the Holy Spirit has created a great hunger for Christ in the hearts of multitudes. Millions of people are waiting to receive Christ. Many Christians hesitate to believe this. But the Word of God and my experience have proved it to be true.

Some years ago I had the remarkable opportunity to substitute for the vice president of the United States at a speaking engagement which he was unable to fill because of an international emergency. I was invited to speak to a large student convention, attended by the top leaders of 133 colleges and universities. I spoke on the subject "Qualities of Leadership," using Jesus, the greatest leader the world has ever known, as my example.

When I finished, there was a standing ovation—not you may be sure, for the speaker, but for the One about whom I spoke. Scores of these students stood in line for almost an hour to express their appreciation, and many of them indicated their interest in knowing Christ personally. Several received Christ as their Savior as a result. Yes, men are hungry for God.

Yet, if you are typical of the majority of Christians today, you probably have never introduced anyone to Christ. You would like to do so, however, and you know in your heart that this is what God has called you to do. What is the problem?

It is largely twofold. First, the average Christian does not know how to live a victorious, vital Spirit-controlled life; and second, the average Christian does not know how to effectively communicate his faith in Christ to others.

I would like to share with you a scriptural formula that can change your life. I can assure you that, if you follow this formula, you will experience an abundant life and will be fruitful for God in a way that you have never before known.

First, be sure that you are committed to Christ and filled with the Holy Spirit. Millions of people who are active in the church are not sure that they are Christians. There are also thousands of guilt-ridden, carnal Christians who have become so frustrated and off-course that God can­not use them. In each case, there is a lack of faith or trust in God. Basically, the average Christian does not believe that God will do what He promises to do.

Second, pray in faith that God will guide you in developing your personal strategy. Ask God for an effective strategy to reach your immediate area of influence for Christ. You do not have to design your own strategy—you are simply discovering the plan that God has already designed!

Jesus was a perfect example. While on earth He discussed every major decision and turning point in His life with His heavenly Father. And remember, as you pray, expect God to provide both the strategy and the wisdom to implement it. Expectant faith pleases God.

Third, outline the plan God reveals in answer to your prayers. Make lists of specific people and groups in your life and develop a strategy to reach each one. Begin with your family. Remember that in your home—more than in any other place—your life will be your testimony. Trust God continually to fill you with His Spirit, so that your actions will bear witness to what Jesus has done in your life.

Plan how you can reach the people with whom you work. Seek out those you know are Christians, and ask them to join with you in evangelizing your office. In your church, make yourself available to your pastor.

Fourth, learn everything you can about how to accomplish your personal strategy. Take advantage of the training and materials available to learn the techniques of winning men to Christ, building them in the faith and sending them to the world with the Good News of God's love and forgiveness.

May I encourage you to write out your own personal strategy today. List people with whom God has impressed on your mind and heart to share Christ. This is spiritual addition. For spiritual multiplication, list people you would like to train how to experience and share the abundant life in Christ with others.

Finally—and this is an absolute must—give your attention to aggressive evangelism! Take the initiative in helping to fulfill the Great Commission where you live. Claim your relatives, friends, neighbors and business associates for Christ in prayer. Then, present His claims to them. Tell them of God's love and forgiveness, available through Jesus Christ. Give them opportunity to receive Him. Share your faith as a way of life—talk about Christ with everyone you meet.

Do you believe that if you follow this scriptural formula you will consistently have the privilege of introducing others to Christ through your witness? I can assure you that following it will enable you and every Christian to be fruitful for God as a way of life. This life on earth offers no other adventure that can compare to that of sharing Christ with others and building disciples for Christ and disciplers of men.

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taylor.berglund@charismamedia.com (Bill Bright) Evangelism Mon, 03 Aug 2015 18:00:00 -0400
In Light of the End of the World, Here’s What to Preach This Sunday http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/21750-in-light-of-the-end-of-the-world-here-s-what-to-preach-this-sunday http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/21750-in-light-of-the-end-of-the-world-here-s-what-to-preach-this-sunday "It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine ..."

That's a line from the chorus of a hit song by the band R.E.M. And I think, surprisingly, there's a great deal of truth in it.

I was pulled aside after a Sunday morning service not long ago by an attendee who wanted to know when I was going to be warning the congregation about the impending crash of the world economy that Illuminati would be orchestrating in order to decrease the human population by up to 90 percent. After several minutes of hearing of the danger of vaccines, conspiracies with communist nations and the malicious intent of the heads of states, I finally held up a hand and said, "Even if this were all true, I'd be completely comfortable preaching exactly what I just preached."

I believe, at the time, I was in a series called Roots based on the book of Colossians. We were covering such subjects as how to spot real love, how to grow deeper in Christ and how to live a spiritually fruitful life.

This isn't the first time I've been confronted about my lack of urgency about end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it issues. There are also these pesky blood moons to worry about. And someone is always trying to kill us with vaccines, or aspartame, or a zombie virus, or purple dinosaurs on TV, the numerical value of whose names add up to 666 and therefore must be the antichrist in disguise ... I've heard it all ...

I'm a skeptical believer. I've come to have a sturdy faith in Jesus because I believe the central truths of Christianity stand up under tests of logic, reason, science, history, archaeology and textual criticism. I embrace the Bible as inerrant, as crazy as that may sound to some.

But I'm still skeptical. I don't mind wrestling with big questions and have found it to embolden my faith over time. I'm especially skeptical of teachings and arguments that serve as a distraction from the main thing—the gospel.

Let's say, hypothetically, that the blood moons point to the end of the world as we know it. The Illuminati is planning to trim the human race back a bit and assume complete control over our lives economically and militarily. What I'd want to preach about this coming Sunday is ... the good news that Jesus Christ died to save sinners and rose again.

And if that wild theory is hogwash and poppycock (the direction I'm inclined to lean in), then what I'd want to preach this coming Sunday is ... the good news that Jesus Christ died to save sinners and rose again.

The Apostle Paul once warned a young pastor named Timothy to rebuke some leaders in the ancient church of Ephesus for getting people off track in endless debates about myths, legends and Old Testament genealogies. As Paul put it, "nor pay attention to fables and endless genealogies, which cause debates rather than godly edifying, which is in faith" (1 Tim. 1:4).

And then Paul continued by saying, "Now the goal of this command is love from a pure heart, and from a good conscience, and from sincere faith" (v. 5).

I love that statement. Paul is essentially charging Timothy to avoid motivating people to seek God on the basis of fear, rational or otherwise, and instead to seek him on the basis of love and a desire for purity and real faith.

I don't want people to be afraid of the end of the world. After all, what do we Christians have to worry about in the eternal scheme of things? Though the world fall apart around us and our bodies be destroyed, we live on! We win! We enjoy victory!

I'm not attempting to minimize the seriousness of persecution, which is obviously a real and present danger in our world. I'm simply saying that there are some essentials to be preached weekly regardless of the direction the world around us is headed.

If the world were ending tomorrow, I'd want to preach this Sunday the good news that Jesus Christ died to save sinners and rose again, and that we can live a life of faith in him that matters for eternity. And if the world hangs around a few more millennia, I'd want to preach the same exact message. It's (possibly, at any moment) the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

You can build a congregation in size and collect large offerings by creating anxiety, fear, and anger toward the outside world, but I don't think you'd be on task. In fact, you might just wind up starting a cult, which never ends well.

Instead, lead people to life in Jesus. Lead people to the cross for redemption. Lead people to discover the life worth living no matter what the world looks like around us. Lead people to follow Jesus, emulate his character, and implement the ways and practices conveyed in Scripture.

  • Confront sin and apathy.
  • Point people to redemption in the cross of Christ.
  • Equip believers to live a life of faith.
  • Empower servant leaders.
  • Strengthen families.
  • Reinforce the biblical faith.
  • And hail the triumphant return of King Jesus.

In other words, this Sunday ... Preach. The. GOOD. NEWS.

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon A .Cox) Evangelism Tue, 28 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
Kenneth Copeland: 'They'll Never Be the Same' http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/22067-kenneth-copeland-they-ll-never-be-the-same http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/22067-kenneth-copeland-they-ll-never-be-the-same Editorial note from Steve Strang: Kenneth Copeland's ministry began a few years before Charisma and by the time I wrote a cover story on his ministry in 1979 he was considered a successful up-and-coming ministry. His teaching on faith influenced me; I share that in the article.

In 1981, I was privileged to travel with him on his first international meeting to the Philippines. Although he received a prophecy that 50,000 would be saved, a total of only 34,000 people attended the eight-night crusade. Writing that was difficult because I couldn't ignore the obvious discrepancy; but, I also had great respect for Copeland's ministry. It's interesting to reread the article below after all these years, considering how it was prophesied that Copeland would be changed through the Manila trip. I believe he was.

In spite of what some might think was a critical report, Copeland and I have remained friends through the years and my respect for him has grown as I've seen the stability of his ministry and its great impact on the body of Christ.  

The article below originally appeared in the June 1981 issue of Charisma magazine. Begin reading here:

Kenneth Copeland wrote his supporters early this year that he was "expecting to win in excess of 50,000 people to Jesus" during his eight-day crusade in Manila in February.

It was to be the first major overseas crusade for Copeland's tremendously successful, though sometimes controversial, faith-teaching ministry.

In the past decade, Copeland has become one of America's foremost Bible teachers because of his special gift of helping people understand who they are in Christ, and how to exercise the faith God has given them as believers.

Each year, tens of thousands attend his twice-monthly Victory Crusades in major cities across America. The faithful pour millions of dollars into his ministry, supporting his daily 15-minute radio program, his weekly hour-long television program, buying his books, records and tapes by the thousands and reading his monthly publication, The Believers' Voice of Victory.

Copeland teaches that Christ redeemed man from the curse of the law which means, among other things, that all believers can live in divine health and can enjoy prosperity.

Copeland believes what he teaches. He is vigorous and looks younger than his 43 years. And he enjoys a comfortable lifestyle which includes flying to his meetings in America in his private jet (which is more economical and saves more time, he points out, than flying his large crusade team on commercial airlines).

But critics call his teachings "Cadillac prosperity." It's something that will work only in America because it is a prosperous nation. But what about the rest of the world? It won't work in third-world nations, they say.

I was invited to cover the eight-day crusade in Manila as a journalist. Copeland's staff members were excited about the meetings scheduled for the imposing Araneta Coliseum, site of Muhammad Ali's 1975 "Thrilla in Manila" boxing match, as well as one of the places where Pope John Paul II would celebrate mass during his historic visit to the Philippines only a few days after Copeland's visit.

They told me Copeland's meetings would be the greatest meetings ever in the Orient, the beginning of the greatest revival in the Philippines. So I went, my curiosity aroused, hoping for a good story.

I had written once about Copeland in Charisma (June, 1979). I have read his books, listened to his tapes and been influenced by his ministry. I wondered how he would be received in a non-American environment.

What I saw was an interesting blending—and clashing—of two cultures. But I saw that the Word of God works in Manila as well as Miami, as well in Luzon as in Los Angeles.

Copeland's ministry (after a slow start) was well received by the Filipinos who eagerly grasped—some for the first time—the faith message that they have authority as believers.

Many testified they'd never be the same. Copeland's message gave them something to hold on to after he left. In faith, I am sure, the Philippine Islands will never be the same because of the seeds of faith that were planted.

While the Filipinos changed and grew because of the faith message, I watched—close-up—a change in Copeland and his ministry team. They were deeply moved by what they experienced in Manila. And as Copeland's director of publications George Pearsons told me, Copeland's ministry will never be the same either.

Interestingly, this is what Oral Roberts prophesied several months before the Manila crusade. He was at a Kenneth Hagin camp meeting in Tulsa where Copeland had been ministering on "change."

Roberts then rose and prophesied over Copeland: "The word 'change' that you used tonight over and over 'you're going to be changed. You're going to be changed. You won't be the same,' you were speaking to yourself."

"You didn't choose to go to Manila," Roberts continued. "Forces came together and called you. The Spirit called you through these people and you said, 'Me, go to Manila?' Yes. The Spirit is speaking to you but we must envelope you with the very anointing and power of God or you won't come back. Something is going to happen over there. I'm burning up with it ... ."

Then Roberts asked Kenneth Hagin and T. L. Osborne to pray over Copeland, which they did, finally sensing a "break­ing" of the thing Roberts said he felt in his spirit needed to be broken.

Copeland responded, "I commit, in the name of Jesus, that I will not withdraw from any man, beast, nor devil. And I re-declare we will win a minimum of 50,000 souls to Jesus in eight days. The nation of Manila (sic) will come to the Lord and be broken to its knees in repentance ... ."

Copeland had been feeling the Lord wanted him to minister overseas, but he didn't know how. He sought out Lester Sumrall of South Bend, Indiana, who has had great success overseas as well as in America. Copeland and his wife, Gloria, went to South Bend and after ministering in Sumrall's church asked to be anointed for overseas ministry.

Sumrall anointed him, then prophesied over him. Copeland meanwhile went down "under the power."

A few months later when Sumrall was in Manila, he rented the Araneta Coli­seum and arranged for the Copeland meetings to be sponsored by Bethel Tem­ple, a great church in downtown Manila. Bethel Temple founded by Sumrall back in the early 1950s, is pastored now by Lester's nephew David Sumrall. Later, Lester Sumrall organized a tour of 225 Christians—including me—who accompanied Copeland to the meetings.

Meanwhile, Copeland raised $140,000 from his USA supporters and got his thousands of people to promise to pray for the meetings. In a letter to his donors Copeland repeated the prophecy he made at the camp meeting that the eight-day crusade would result in more than 50,000 people finding Christ.

He sent Associate Billy Rash to Manila two months ahead of time. Rash sent back reports of a woman who had been blind for years receiving her sight in a meeting they held in Manila. He told Copeland to expect even greater things.

By the afternoon before the crusade began, Copeland told me his faith was even stronger. There would be 50,000 saved not in eight days, but in the first two nights alone.

The Copelands went to Manila a day early, because their friend Dr. James E. Johnny Johnson, former Un­der-Secretary of the Navy in the Nixon administration, had arranged an audience with Ferdinand Marcos, president of the Philippines (Johnson had been sta­tioned at one time at Subic Bay outside Manila, and was personal friends with President Marcos).

They talked with Marcos for 45 min­utes about various things—especially the new Reagan administration which had been in office just a few days. Then John­son asked the President if Copeland could pray for him.

Copeland told President Marcos, "I believe the greatest thing we can do for you is to pray that God will sustain you in your high office and enable you to admin­ister it as God's gift."

Interestingly, Copeland didn't share in the meetings about his visit with Marcos. It was too personal, Copeland said.

The 225 English-speaking people on the tour paid $1,500 each to be a part of the crusade. The group did some sight­seeing, stopping overnight in Tokyo on the way over, and in Honolulu on the way back. But mainly they came to Manila to help Copeland minister.

Most of the people were Americans. The rest were from Canada, New Zealand, Scotland and Australia.

Many in the group were ministers and wives, who took opportunities to preach in various parts of the Philippines. Oth­ers went into the slums of Manila to hand out thousands of small fliers in English by Kenneth Copeland on topics like "Prayer That Brings Results."

One group of ministers—Ed Dufresne, Happy Caldwell, Wylie Tomlinson, Sam Carr, Jerry Wright, Bill Grein and Jerry Curtis—went to various parts of Manila including a place called Tondo, trans­lated meaning "where the garbage is laid."

The tour members who visited the poverty-stricken areas or who ministered to the Filipinos said they were deeply moved by the experience. Many said they'd never be the same. Most said they wanted to come back.

But others on the tour spent their days shopping, taking bus tours to points of interest in Manila or attending two daily teaching sessions at Manila Bethel Tem­ple held in conjunction with the Cope­land Victory Crusade. Gloria Copeland taught each morning on healing; Lester Sumrall taught each afternoon on faith.

When asked to hand out tracts or min­ister in Manila's slums, some in the tour group declined, saying they preferred to get "the teachings," an attitude that irri­tated the ones who had been touched by the need for ministry in Manila.

Every morning at breakfast, I'd pick up the latest stories about what the tour members were doing. My favorite was from an attractive middle-aged American lady who spent several days sunning at a Filipino resort for the very rich several hours north of Manila on the China Sea. She had some connections with the fam­ily of the first president of the Philip­pines. This family was her host at the resort.

She met there a handsome young de­scendent of the former president, whom she felt should be a future president of the Philippines. She asked if she could anoint him with oil. She told me later she felt like Samuel sent by God to anoint Saul for kingship.

Copeland asked to meet with the tour group in the Manila Hilton where we stayed the afternoon before the meetings began.

"We didn't put together this tour for sightseeing," Copeland told them. "This is a team to witness and pray and to bring the power of God to bear on what will come about." Then, he and Gloria, along with Lester Sumrall, laid hands on each of us to impart—as Copeland put it—"the same anointing to heal the sick and perform miracles that he had." As he touched us, several people went down "under the power."

Then, Sumrall interpreted a message in tongues: "These meetings are of Me, saith the Lord. I will bless them. You shall bless the Filipino people and cause faith to raise up."

A woman from Jacksonville, Florida, stood and said, "We love you Kenneth and Gloria. We're standing with you; you won't be ashamed of us. We believe we're standing on the brink of destiny."

A few hours later, some may have won­dered if she was right.

The 225 tour members were ushered that evening to the front center section of the mammoth 370,000 square-foot coliseum designed to seat 24,000. Many had expected the place to be packed. After all, more than 400,000 leaflets had been dis­tributed. There had been announce­ments on Manila television stations.

And, a large ad that morning in the leading Manila newspaper advertised the meetings with a headline that read: "Je­sus is Lord of the Philippines. Kenneth Copeland Victory Crusade. Feb. 1-8, 7:00 p.m. Araneta Coliseum, Quezon City, Philippines. Preaching. Music. Miracles. The public is invited. All seats free ... ."

But the place wasn't full that night. There were only 4,183 by actual count at the gates by the coliseum superintend­ent.

Copeland told me later he was stunned at the poor turnout.

After all, previous meetings had drawn tens of thousands dating back to the early 1950s. For example, in 1955, Oral Roberts held meetings in which 40,000 people re­portedly attended every night for six weeks. Local radio stations carried daily reports and then President Magsaysay reportedly told Roberts the only answer for the Philippines was Christ.

Three years earlier, in 1952, Lester Sumrall had held his first great meeting in Rizal Stadium sponsored by Youth for Christ. Hundreds were saved that year.

Out of these huge meetings many Full Gospel churches like Sumrall's Bethel Temple were started.

Later, men like Rex Humbard, Ernest Angsley and Jimmy Swaggart drew tens of thousands when they went to Manila. Ironically Swaggart supporters were handing out fliers promoting Swaggart meetings to be held six weeks later as people left Copeland's services.

But Copeland's initial service was any­thing but a success. The arena was 84 percent empty. His prophecy of seeing 50,000 won to Christ in two days was ob­viously wrong. What now?

If Copeland was disappointed, it didn't show. He sang several upbeat songs with his band backing him up, and told the Filipinos the meetings were "a love gift from your brothers and sisters in the United States" (which brought applause).

He thanked the Filipino people for "re­leasing your faith, along with the body of Christ in the United States concerning the release of the hostages" in Iran, only two weeks before.

Then he prayed for the nation and gov­ernment of the Philippines, interceding for President Marcos, his wife and high government officials. Copeland preached that night a powerful message on "Jesus the Jubilee," from Luke 4.

"Jesus was telling the sick people they did not have to be sick any longer. He was telling the blind they did not have to be blind anymore," Copeland said. "To the brokenhearted He was saying, 'You don't have to be brokenhearted.' To the cap­tives He was saying, 'I've come to set you free.' The Jubilee has come and His name is Jesus!"

After preaching for 45 minutes, Cope­land seemed unsure how to end the serv­ice. Seriously ill people already had been brought to the front of the coliseum to be prayed for.

Then, like Kathryn Kuhlman used to do at her miracle services, Copeland be­gan calling out illnesses and healings: A ruptured right eardrum is healed; a bad throat is better; someone's back is healed; lungs are being healed. So are nerves.

Copeland asked those who had been healed to come forward.

No one responded.

Copeland then asked the people to be­gin praising God.

He finally asked the tour members to spread out in the crowd and pray for people.

The tour members were eager. They spread among the Filipinos and began praying in groups of two or three. A few began casting out demons and shouting at illnesses.

One 6-foot, 200-pound American preacher pounded with one hand on the back of a 5-foot Filipino man, while waving the other hand wildly over his head.

Minutes passed as these mini-healing services took place throughout the coli­seum. Copeland seemed awkward. Fi­nally, he said "no one get nervous. We're just going to follow God."

Just then, someone rolled an ema­ciated-looking 30-year-old Filipino man to the edge of the platform. Copeland leaned over the edge of the platform, laid his hand on the head of the man and shouted, "In Jesus' name, be healed!"

The man slowly pushed himself to the edge of the high-back wooden wheel­chair, braced himself with both arms and laboriously raised himself. He took four or five halting steps forward and caught himself on the edge of the platform.

The crowd went wild. People began praising the Lord, yelling and clapping.

But it was obvious the man was expe­riencing excruciating pain. Before the man collapsed, Copeland rebuked pain, and let him return to his wheelchair.

When Copeland asked Gloria and Sumrall to form three healing lines in front of the platform it looked as if half the crowd came forward for healing.

After everyone was prayed for, Cope­land led those who wanted to be saved in a sinner's prayer, prayed for marriages to be restored, and prayed for the unem­ployed to find jobs. Everyone applauded. (Unemployment is a problem in the Phil­ippines where the average daily wage is the equivalent to $4 a day.)

Then, to the strains of "How Great Thou Art," the meeting abruptly ended. Copeland hurried to a waiting car.

Meanwhile, I had worked my way through the crowd to the man in the wheelchair. His name was Romeo R. Pakingan and he had been operated on three times for malignant tumors. He told me through an interpreter the doctors hadn't given him long to live, but he believed he had been healed.

Later in the week I saw him in the meetings again still in his wheelchair. There was no obvious indication of healing.

I had watched the faces of the people as Copeland prayed for Mr. Pakingan, ex­tending their hands toward him to show their faith. They strained to join their faith with Copeland's, wanting so much to see a miracle happen, wanting so much to see the man be healed.

If the people were disappointed, they weren't half as much as Copeland.

Copeland told me en route back to America that he was discouraged after that first meeting. He had been advised by many not to offend cultural sensitivi­ties and felt he could not be himself.

He said his ministry differs from other American evangelists who rented the Araneta. Yet a platform, complete with cen­ter ramp, had been built so the miracle cases could be paraded before the admir­ing crowd as some evangelists like to do.

That isn't his style. So Copeland se­questered himself in his hotel room and sought God on what to do. The next night the long ramp was gone.

"I really admire him for sticking with it after such a dismal start," said David Sumrall, pastor of Bethel Temple who drove Copeland back to the hotel after that first service.

"He didn't say anything negative about how he felt," Sumrall said. "But I saw his face. I could see how low he was. A lesser man would have given up and gone home right then. He saw he had to change. He did the things he felt he had to do. It took a big man to do that."

If there weren't enough problems al­ready, David Sumrall began getting neg­ative comments about the tour members' behavior in the meeting. Apparently they were not sensitive to the Filipino culture.

Some Filipinos resented that the for­eigners were ushered to positions of honor front and center in the coliseum, while the Filipinos had to sit in the grand­stands behind them. Others said the tour members were too rough when they prayed for people the night before. A few had pushed over the smaller Filipinos in their zeal to lay hands on them or to see them "go down under the power."

David Sumrall asked to talk to the tour members the next day. "These are a gentle people who love to love and love to be loved," he said. "Speak gently to them and with the love of God. Reach out. Peo­ple respond to love. It is still the same in any language. Just smiling under the anointing will cause burdens to break. Mingle with the people. Get in the middle of them."

His talk seemed to work. The tour members quit sitting together. They be­came more aware they were guests in an­other country. They developed a rapport with the Filipinos. By the final night, hundreds of Filipinos crowded the bus stop outside the coliseum to wave goodbye to their new friends as they were taken back to the hotel.

Filipinos are generally pro-American. President Marcos is one of the United States' greatest allies in the Orient.

They wear American-style casual clothes. They listen to American music and watch American television reruns. When I was there, the big rage was disco dancing—something John Travolta made popular over here a few years ago.

English is a major second language taught to all Filipino students in second­ary school. Almost all commerce, and all street signs or products in stores are in English.

However, this proud nation has nine major languages and 90 dialects al­though the government is trying to make Tagalog the national language. The sen­sitive evangelist understands and does not try to force American culture, cus­toms or language on the people.

But Copeland's meetings were held en­tirely in English, except for songs he sang in Tagalog. I couldn't understand why the meetings were not translated—especially when Lester Sumrall told me this was the first evangelistic crusade con­ducted in Manila without an interpreter. Maybe it was because each meeting was televised for possible rebroadcast in the United States.

Even though most of the people who came to the meetings could understand English, Sumrall told me at least 10 per­cent of the people could understand nothing that was said. Another large per­centage couldn't speak English well enough to understand much of what was said.

When I tried to interview Filipinos, I had difficulty communicating unless I was with an interpreter who spoke Tagalog.

(Interestingly, en route back to the United States, Copeland told me of an un­confirmed report he received from Billy Rash, his associate. Rash said a woman told him that her elderly mother who spoke no English understood none of the service until Copeland began to preach, then she understood everything per­fectly. "That's just like the Day of Pente­cost," Copeland said.

Copeland told me that story sitting in Narita Airport outside Tokyo waiting for a connecting flight. Dressed casually in white slacks and a blue knit shirt, Cope­land admitted he felt weary after the eight-day crusade—like air let out of a balloon.

Seated in a Japan Airlines waiting area, Copeland and Gloria shared their feelings about the crusade.

"I found out I had to believe God for things I didn't know I'd have to believe God for," Copeland said, lightly tapping the plastic arm of his chair for emphasis.

"I had to just lock myself up in prayer and find out what God wanted me to do. And, I had to fight discouragement over the size of the crowds. But then I saw that God was bringing together a nucleus of 2,000 or so who were there every night. I saw that they were taking the Word and that it will last, and that they will take it all over the islands.

"Finally, I got with the program and flowed with what the Spirit of God was doing," Copeland said.

The breakthrough Copeland was refer­ring to seemed to come the night he sang, "He Is Lord," in Tagalog. Then, another night he sang in English "God Bless the Philippines" (to the tune of 'God Bless America," with a few word changes). Simple gestures, both of them. But they had the same emotional impact that John Kennedy's did when he stood at the wall separating East and West Germany and said "Eich Bin Ein Berliner" (I am a Ber­liner) in the early 1960s.

Copeland was saying, in essence, "I am a Filipino."

As the days passed Copeland discov­ered that in spite of language barriers and cultural barriers he could minister the Word as much as he does in the United States.

"We thought it would be different than ministering at home," he said. "But the Lord had us do here what we do at home, and that is just teach the Word. It was exciting to see the way the people received it."

Copeland told me he thought the most important thing he did in the Philippines was to plant an "indestructible seed."

"The people were ready for the Word," he said. "We gave them a heavier Word than I expected. I believe it was the seed to a great revival in the Philippines that will eventually break out like it did in In­donesia a few years ago."

Copeland seemed to understand that something else had happened.

"The testimonies of the people were so wonderful," he said. "Almost every­one referred to something they'd been taught."

Copeland was referring to Saturday night when Gloria stood in front of the platform and interviewed people who said they were healed. It was an exciting time. The people were eager to hear of mira­cles. They cheered and praised God for each person, even for the ones whose healing was not made clear, but who seemed to only want to express their de­votion to the Lord.

When the testimonies began, I paid particularly close attention. I'd been watching for the miracles that all of us wanted to see. I had interviewed people on stretchers; people with seriously im­paired vision; people in wheelchairs. From what the people told me, no "miracles" had taken place (although many said they were somewhat improved, or that they believed in faith they were healed.)

As a Christian I believe healings must be accepted by faith. But as a journalist, I wanted healings I could document for this report.

Of the 25 people whom Gloria inter­viewed that night, three Americans said they had been healed of head colds or pressure in the head. Another American was healed of an inflamed knee. And three people—two Filipinos and one Ameri­can— were healed, they said, of emo­tional or nervous disorders.

There were several testimonies of healings of the eyes. One 89-year-old blind woman testified in Tagolog how she could see light for the first time in years. The crowd applauded time after time, al­though we foreigners didn't know what she said until it was translated into Eng­lish. It made us know what it felt like to not understand the language being spoken.

Another testimony was from a young Filipino girl whom I had inter­viewed two nights before, after she en­thusiastically claimed a miracle healing for congenital cataracts when Copeland touched her in the healing line. She told Gloria how much improved her vision was.

Three others said they broke or lost their glasses after claiming healing for nearsightedness or astigmatism. None said specifically they were healed, but each said they had no headaches, and they implied their eyes were healed.

Some of the healing testimonies were more specific—like the lady with only one kidney who had no kidney pain for the first time in years. Or the man who said he was healed of heart disease and ulcers.

Several people said Copeland had given a word of knowledge that they would be healed. One lady said she was healed of arthritis, and swung her arm over her head to prove it. Another was partially paralyzed when Copeland called out her healing. She said she stood to claim that healing.

As the people recited accounts of their healings I noticed comments about how the Lord had given them faith to claim their healings.

One lady said that the Lord "taught me healing comes from the moment you be­lieve."

But a young Filipino man who worked for the telephone company may have summed it up best: "I've been serving the Lord many years, but this is the only time I've really learned to have faith and to use it to reverse the power of Satan."

Later in Narita Airport, Gloria said those testimonies were the most important. "We feel like if we go into a place and leave the Word of God, then the people can stand on the Word themselves after we're gone."

One other thing seemed to emerge from the meeting. The times in which the Spirit of God moved in the strongest way was when the people ministered to each other.

Several times Copeland had the people lay hands on the person next to them and pray for salvation, healing or victory over the devil. Once he had the entire crowd pray four times for each of the people in front, in back and on each side of them.

Copeland and Gloria were both im­pressed with the openness of the Filipi­nos and how uninhibited they were in worship. Part of this is the influence, Copeland believes, of the Roman Catho­lic church (80 percent of all Filipinos are Catholic).

"The Catholic background is excel­lent," Copeland said. "They are taught to expect miracles and they are very obedi­ent. If you show them something out of the Bible, they don't question it; they move on it. That gives the Spirit of God all kinds of lateral ways to move."

Copeland referred to the strong Cath­olic influence in Manila on Thursday night when he spontaneously prayed for God to bless the upcoming visit of Pope John Paul II about which all of Manila was talking.

His prayer was a beautiful intercession for the Lord to move through John Paul II—whom Copeland called a "man of God."

Why had he prayed for the Pope, I asked Copeland at Narita Airport.

"Obviously because God wants the Pope prayed for," Copeland answered. "There's so much criticism of the Pope. I wanted to show that you won't get anywhere crit­icizing. Besides, the Lord was teaching those people that they had the authority and had a right to pray for the Pope and that they were not subordinate to him.

"Many consider themselves so far in­ferior to the Pope or even a priest that they would never consider praying for him. It's almost as if they were to pray for God. I wanted them to see that their prayers for the Pope had meaning."

Then Gloria added, "Many of the peo­ple told us that now that they see who they are in Christ, they'll never be the same."

"That's just what Oral Roberts pro­phesied," Kenneth Copeland said.

It would be easy to end the article here. I have reported what happened, and I've left it up to the reader to draw his own conclusions.

But there is more that needs to be written. Therefore, here is my evaluation of what happened in Manila:

First, I believe Kenneth Copeland is a man of God. I believe he is doing what he believes God wants him to do. I respect that.

I also believe that despite the tremen­dous success of his ministry that God is forcing him to change.

Thus, the Manila meeting may have indeed been a watershed—not only for the Filipinos as was prophesied, (for they have been bombarded across the years by many American evangelists), but for Kenneth Copeland and his team.

Copeland prophesied there would be 50,000 souls saved during the campaign (later revising that to 50,000 the first two nights). But the coliseum superintend­ent told me the total count for the com­bined meetings was only 34,453.

Copeland explained after the trip that his "faith is still out for those people." He believes that the 50,000 have been or will be saved when you combine the ministry that went on among the various groups involved—the tour members, the mem­bers of Bethel Temple, the teams that went into various parts of Manila witness­ing and passing out tracts.

I can accept that because I understand operating in faith.

Yet that is not what was said ahead of time. It's easy to come back and say that seeds were planted. But they said they were going to reap the harvest—not plant seeds.

Because I believe Kenneth Copeland is a man of deep integrity, I know he will not try to alter facts to fit his theology. Instead, I believe what Oral Roberts pro­phesied will come to pass—Copeland will change.

I believe the Manila experience will deepen him, will give him new and greater insight into God's purpose for the universe.

I do not believe he will do as so many others have done—bend or discount the truth so he will come out smelling good. I believe the truth will do to him what it does eventually, to all men of God—make him free.

Those are my conclusions from Ma­nila. Time will prove, as it does with all prophecy, whether I am right or not.

In the meantime, keep your eye on Kenneth Copeland. God's not finished with him yet.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Strang) Evangelism Wed, 05 Aug 2015 20:00:00 -0400
How Can Your Words Release the Spirit of Revival? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/21972-how-can-your-words-release-the-spirit-of-revival http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/21972-how-can-your-words-release-the-spirit-of-revival This word is for parents and pastors, for youth leaders and young adults alike. No one is off limits, as we all have a responsibility to see revival continue from generation to generation!

After all, it has always been God's sovereign design that His kingdom should increase until the Last Day.

"Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end ... " (Isaiah 9:7, MEV).

The question: How do we participate in the increase of God's kingdom on Earth?

The answer: Identify the Biblical KEY that will release faith to future generations.

The Key to Releasing Faith for Future Generations 

As the Holy Spirit continues to increase His activity, we must be intentional about thinking multigenerationally. In other words, every healing, miracle, breakthrough and reversed impossible situation that we witness today needs to become a story that we share and a testimony we transfer. I am convinced that tomorrow's outpouring is wrapped up in today's answered prayer. The key is stewardship of the stories and testimonies of God's supernatural power.

Are we going to be like the good and faithful servant who invests the talents ... and watches the kingdom increase (Matt. 25:19-23), or are we the wicked and lazy servant (Matt. 25:24-30) who digs a hole, selfishly buries our blessing—in other words, makes it all about us, our comfort, and our happy life—and shuts our mouth... when in fact, the very words that our mouths can release possess the supernatural power to ignite faith for future generations?

Your Mouth: The Womb of Revival

Your mouth is actually the womb of revival, as your words release testimonies that ignite faith ... in both the present and for the future.

"One generation shall praise Your works to another and shall declare Your mighty acts" (Ps. 145:4).

Teaching the Word of God is important, but we are not living in a famine of teaching; we are in a famine of testimony. You've got world-class Bible teachers on Christian and secular TV stations. You've got bookstores overflowing with the latest bestselling Christian books. You've got music, digital downloads, millions of hours of teaching available on the internet at your disposable, live streaming, and the list goes on.

And yet the Bible was never meant simply to be taught, for people can be taught right into dead orthodoxy. People can be taught into stagnancy. People can be educated out of encounter. People can be theologized into theory. People can actually replace the presence of God with the principles of His Word. Are the principles necessary? Absolutely. However, the principles were also meant to be married to the presence.

This is what the Apostle Paul was saying to the Corinthians: "For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life" (2 Cor. 3:6). Bible + Holy Spirit = God's Divine Design. I repeat, our problem is not lack of teaching—even for youth and young adults. Entire programs, Bible studies, ministries, and course have been created with them in mind.

My question is : Are they encountering the One they are learning about?

If anyone knew something about sharing testimony multigenerationally it was King David. One could argue that Solomon's reign and rule represent the fruit of David's Psalms, since his writings unveil his heart after God and posture before the Lord.

Could it be that David, in spite of his flaws and hang-ups, created such a culture of praise—where the works of God were discussed, celebrated and proclaimed—that Solomon's very development as a child, young man, and ultimately, his adult life were shaped by stories of God's supernatural power?

Result: Solomon ushered the people of God into a glorious golden age of reformation and transformation.

Speak Up ... and Create Your Lasting Legacy!

Could it be that tomorrow's reformation and transformation are hidden in the answered prayers of today? The key is learning how to steward YOUR breakthrough so THEY can experience the God revealed through your breakthrough.

We all want meaning and purpose, right? We all desire to leave behind a lasting legacy. I understand there are multiple dimensions to this, but one of the most important is our personal histories with God. Our stories and testimonies can outlive us.

Think of those leaders in the last hundred plus years whose lives of supernatural power still cause generations today to hunger for the move of God: John G. Lake, Maria Woodworth-Etter, Smith Wigglesworth, Kathryn Kuhlman, Oral Roberts, and John Wimber, to name a handful. Their stories live on, even though they are now watching down from heaven's great cloud of witnesses, calling us forward! 

Could it be that you sharing your stories of God's miraculous healing power or deliverance from addiction, or supernatural marriage restoration could shape how the next generation sees and interacts with God? Your stories shape the expectation level of the next generation.

If they never hear about the supernatural, they will not expect it.

If they never hear about the healing and delivering power of God, they won't press in for it.

If they never hear about the gifts of the Spirit in operation, they will not earnestly desire them.

Your Stories Will Mess People Up (In all the Right Ways)

So, what's my advice? Speak up, share your stories, and create the greatest legacy imaginable! By being good stewards of what your eyes have seen God do, you get to participate in the increase of His kingdom. Think about it:

  • Your stories cause others to have supernatural faith!
  • Your stories introduce new possibilities into hopeless situations.
  • Your stories create disruption in the hearts of those who have been told "that's impossible!"
  • Your stories can cause people to keep pressing through adversity and opposition.
  • Your stories, planted in the right soil, can yield multigenerational harvests beyond your ability to comprehend.

Why? Because your stories get into people. They invade their hearts. They mess up their minds. Stories make the Bible three dimensional. I am not talking about information that is beyond Scripture; I am talking about 21st-century stories that illustrate what is clearly present throughout the Word of God. Scripture always remains the standard for our experience and I never want to settle for anything less.

I'm no idealist; I recognize that where I presently am is not in full alignment with the biblical standard or the model of Jesus. There's no shame or guilt in this; only a divine sense of adventure and a relentless hunger to walk in every grace that Jesus' blood purchased and the Spirit's power made available.

For those of who you participated in the great revival movements of the 1990s—share the stories of how God's power broke in at Brownsville and flooded the altars with repentant sinners.

Share about the times in Toronto where people were so deeply touched by the joy of the Lord that depression, suicide, and fear were broken within seconds of experiencing God's manifest presence.

Talk about those meetings where the glory of God's tangible presence was so thick that healings started to sovereignly break out across the venue.

Once again, it's all about what YOU do with what GOD has DONE! Are we going to settle for a drive-thru breakthrough, or are we going to receive every miracle, every healing, every deliverance, every encounter with God, and every answered prayer for what it is—a story that will reveal the reality, faithfulness, power and mighty acts of the Living God to future generations.

Larry Sparks is co-author of the new book, The Fire That Never Sleeps with Dr. Michael Brown and John Kilpatrick. He is a conference speaker, revivalist and vice president of publishing for Destiny Image. Larry travels and speaks, presenting a seminar on Igniting a Revival Lifestyle. In these sessions, he helps believers unlock dynamic keys from revival history that equip the church today to walk in the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit as promised in Scripture and demonstrated throughout history. Larry holds a Master of Divinity in Church History from Regent University. Connect with Larry on Facebook.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Larry Sparks) Evangelism Thu, 02 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Aspiring to the Great Commission Is Not Enough http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/21748-aspiring-to-the-great-commission-is-not-enough http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/evangelism/21748-aspiring-to-the-great-commission-is-not-enough Many church leaders are recognizing a heartbreaking reality. We have received the good news of the gospel but we're not actually communicating that good news. Paul writes to the church in Corinth that we are compelled by love in particular because we know if Jesus died for all, then those who live should no longer live for themselves but for the One who died for them and was raised.

Research shows that Protestant churchgoers in the United States and Canada as a whole are not telling this good news message. According to Paul, part of our new life is that we have been commissioned by God to reconcile the world to Himself through Christ. So we've been reconciled to become agents of reconciliation. Unfortunately, most Christians have become cul-de-sacs on the Great Commission highway.

In the Transformational Discipleship study, we asked 3,000 Protestant churchgoers how many times they had personally shared with another person how to become a Christian. Sixty-one percent said that they had never shared their faith. Zero times. Forty-eight percent said they hadn't invited anyone to church during that period of time.

Evangelism has become an afterthought for many believers.

Evangelism has become an afterthought for many believers. They invite their friends to church at a better rate. But inviting friends to church is not evangelism. It could be a step in evangelism, but evangelism involves a bloody cross and an empty tomb. It involves us telling people about the good news of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

The reality is when we look at the facts is that most people aren't doing that. They know the gospel, but they aren't sharing it.

Why Are People Not Sharing Their Faith?

When you find that people aren't doing what they should be doing, there are bound to be reasons, and/or excuses. In the case of evangelism, there are even objections to the way others are doing it. "Well, I don't like the way some people evangelize. It's too reductionistic, or too canned." So they make all these objections on the means and yet they don't have any alternative ways for sharing the gospel.

When someone complained about the way he did evangelism, D.L. Moody supposedly responded, "I like the way I do evangelism better than the way you don't do evangelism."

We have to find a way to get the gospel out. There are plenty of organizations that have put out great and accessible tools. People can always find faults with these means.

We can always find a reason to not engage the lost, but at the end of the day, excuses don't win souls. But in all of those things what we find is people have to find courage, obedience, willingness, to take the step and to use those means. Use the tools or don't. But share the gospel.

On the other side people say, "Culture is too resistant. People don't want to hear the gospel." Yet the reality is the opposite. Our studies show that younger adults are more willing to have spiritual conversations than older adults. They're turned off by the church, but not by spiritual conversations.

So rather than making our primary focus inviting younger adults to church, let's first seek to tell them about Jesus and the good news of the Gospel that Jesus died on the cross for our sin and in our place. When they grasp that, they'll get the church part. They'll understand they can't love Jesus and despise His wife. They'll get that. But let's first bring them Jesus.

I think we're talking ourselves out of evangelizing a whole generation thinking they're not open when they are open, receptive and even responsive to the gospel.

From Nominal to None

So when we look at all of these things I think we are at a key moment, because what's happening is nominal Christianity is fading away. These are people who have moved away from associating with a Christian group, and now are just nothing. They're the "nones"—those who mark "none of the above" on religious identification surveys.

There are many people who used to say, "Well I'm Christian because my mother was Methodist. I'm Christian because my parents or my grandparents were Lutheran." They're now just saying they're nothing. So we're getting clearer about what being a Christian truly is. That's a good thing.

I'm not happy about the decline of percentage of people identified as Christians, but the fact that 75 percent or so of Americans identify as Christians really makes evangelism confusing. With Christianity, there's a new life. There's a born again experience that we speak of when we talk about evangelism and evangelicals. And so we don't think that 75 percent of people are Christians.

Truthfully, statistics show about 25 percent of people, maybe 30 percent, might have some sort of identifiable faith commitment that measures up to Scripture. So what's happening is the squishy middle is collapsing. Nominal Christians are becoming nones, and in the midst of that we have the opportunity to share the good news of Christ.

The Gift of Evangelism

Another reason we've talked ourselves out of evangelism is we tell ourselves that we don't have the gift of evangelism. People even say, "You know, I don't have the gift of evangelism."

Let me just say this, there's no gift of evangelism in the Bible. So don't worry about it. You don't have it—nobody has it. There is the evangelist who equips God's people for works of ministry according to Ephesians 4.

All of us have been reconciled to become agents of reconciliation.

But all of us have the responsibility to share the gospel. All of us have been reconciled to become agents of reconciliation.

I remember sitting in a home of a family who had been regularly attending our church for a while. They were uncertain about where they were with the Lord. They attended my small group. I had shared the gospel with them on multiple occasions. I later had the privilege of praying with them to trust and follow Christ. They were then baptized.

That's what I want my church and your church and my ministry and your ministry to be defined by. Not this agenda or that agenda, but people hearing the good news of the gospel, being changed by its power, and calling out upon Christ who died for their sins on the cross and in their place.

What do leaders need to do to increase the evangelistic efforts of their flock? What do you think gets in the way of people who have a responsibility to share their faith?

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Evangelism Tue, 28 Apr 2015 12:00:00 -0400
The Excellence God Deserves at Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/facilities/20055-the-excellence-he-deserves http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/facilities/20055-the-excellence-he-deserves D-Min-Outreach Facilities

Excellence in all things and all things to the glory of God.

At Prestonwood Baptist Church, you’ll hear this phrase often. Everyone on our ministry team and staff take it to heart because it isn’t just what we do; it’s who we are. We serve a mighty God who deserves all of us and the best of us.

His very name is described as excellent in Scripture: “O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth” (Ps. 8:1). And in Isaiah 12:5, the prophet calls salvation “excellent”: “Sing to the Lord, for He has done excellent things.”

So from janitorial to ministerial, we strive for excellence. In ministry, just as in life, there must be a commitment—to rise above the mediocre, to ascend above the average, to soar like eagles. We can flock and honk like geese through life, or we can soar like the royal eagle in the heavens.

Creating a Compelling Guest Experience

To us, excellence in all things is about paying attention to detail. The little things mean a great deal. From the moment visitors arrive at your church building until they leave, do they experience excellence? Is there a winsome feel to your church and worship services? I don’t want anything about the worship experience to take away from the mission of the church, which is to proclaim the gospel.

When we started our North Campus, we met in a high school. Our church members took great pride in the “set up and tear down” that helped transform a school into a warm and engaging service each Sunday. We did little things such as placing signage throughout the school welcoming people to Prestonwood and inviting them to make this church their home. It wasn’t opulent, but it was excellent.

We’ve learned that excellence starts long before someone gets to one of our worship services, beginning with the church website. No doubt, this is a media-savvy world, and it’s our responsibility to engage the culture and communicate effectively. Is your website reader-friendly? Do you keep people engaged through Facebook, Twitter or other social media?

From your website to your parking lot, excellence should be a value for you, your staff and your church. 

Try this exercise with your team: Ask them to spend the week visiting the church website and looking around church grounds. Then get together and discuss these questions: Was it easy to find service times and direction on the website? Does your church parking lot have potholes? Are the trees and bushes overgrown and unkempt? Is the carpet frayed and stained? Are the walls dingy? Do paintings hang crookedly? When someone walks through the doors, what do they see first? What do they smell?

The Worship Experience

Beyond the website and building, evaluate your worship experience. Train volunteers to greet every guest and help direct them. As people enter the sanctuary or worship area, make Bibles and pens readily available for anyone who may not have a Bible. The worship guide or bulletin should be well written and error-free. During the service, make the lyrics for worship songs easy to read on the screens, and provide notes on the screens that complement the message so that first-time guests can easily follow the teaching.

Our mission at Prestonwood is “to glorify God by introducing Jesus Christ as Lord to as many people as possible and to develop them in Christian living using the most effective means to impact the world, making a positive difference in this generation.”

The most effective means for us includes everything available that will help support and strengthen our church as we share the love of Christ and proclaim the message of salvation to a lost and hurting world. As His church, we should proclaim Him with the excellence He so richly deserves.


Jack Graham is pastor of the 32,000-member Prestonwood Baptist Church, with campuses in Plano, Dallas and Prosper, Texas. He also is the voice of PowerPoint Ministries, the church’s international radio and TV ministry known worldwide. Follow him on Twitter @jackngraham.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com ( Jack Graham) Facilities Wed, 08 May 2013 20:00:00 -0400
Multisite Children’s Ministry: Launching a First Campus http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/facilities/20634-multisite-children-s-ministry-launching-a-first-campus http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/facilities/20634-multisite-children-s-ministry-launching-a-first-campus MinOutBox MultisiteYour initial steps into the world of the multisite church can be intimidating—not because you’re unwilling to take them but because you don’t know where to begin. The concept of launching your first multisite location is not difficult; it is simply replicating what you currently do at another location. However, the process itself can be incredibly complex—particularly for children’s ministry.

There are a lot of moving parts within an established kids’ ministry. There are things you do, events you host, processes established and policies understood that weren’t planned or developed overnight. They took time to set in motion.

In fact, when you take inventory of all the things you must replicate in order to launch a multisite location, the list can be overwhelming. I believe there are three major steps a children’s ministry leader must take to ensure a successful multisite launch: 1) Determine your strategy, 2) Build your volunteer launch team and 3) Prioritize your programming.

If your church leadership is moving toward the multisite model, these steps can help you successfully navigate the unfamiliar waters of multisite ministry.

I’ve met a lot of different kidmin leaders who lead within a multisite model. And the reasons or philosophies that led them to multisite ministry are as varied as the churches themselves. But I’ve learned that the ways you find solutions for meeting the needs of your campuses are determined by the reason you launched the campus in the first place.

Whatever the reason, it’s important to ask some clarifying questions to help you determine a sustainable approach to multisite ministry:

What are your non-negotiables?

Do you want a child to experience the same programming no matter which location he attends? If yes, then a clear non-negotiable is curriculum. Curriculum is determined by you or your designee, and the campus leadership does not have the freedom to change it.

How interdependent and intradependent do you want the locations to be?

All locations will bear the same church name. But is it the goal for each location to have the option of becoming independent in the future? If yes, then your staff structure and supporting systems should reflect this outcome.

How will you structure for intradependence?

At LifeChurch.tv, I led a campus kidmin team. Each month I reported projected attendance numbers to a central team who took that information and determined and prepped the materials I needed to implement ministry to kids from preschool through fifth grade. This method required a separate team of people to crank out materials for all the campuses each month. As a ministry leader, my time was more available to meet the [shepherding] needs of the kids, families and volunteers at my campus.

Another option is to pull a percentage of time from each Kidmin leader at each campus to contribute toward the global efforts that benefit all campuses. This is currently the mode at my church in Tennessee. Each Kidmin staff member has a global responsibility. This allows us to leverage a portion of the time and talent of each team member that will work to the benefit the entire team.

Though these questions are not the only ones to consider, they are very important to address. As you plan for your first multisite campus launch, I highly recommend exploring them with your leadership to help you form a sustainable plan.? —Gina McClain

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webmaster@strang.com (Gina McClain) Facilities Tue, 07 Jan 2014 14:17:42 -0500
7 Internal Barriers to Church Growth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/22149-7-internal-barriers-to-church-growth http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/22149-7-internal-barriers-to-church-growth There is rarely a simple explanation for the decline of a church. It is often a complex mix of cultural, theological, attitudinal and internal issues. In this article, I address the latter issue.

Internal barriers refer to those obstacles that are inherent in the organization and the facilities of the church. They are also called structural barriers. Stated simply, these barriers are self-imposed or self-inflicted.

Some of these barriers are long-standing and difficult to remove. Others, such as a redesigned website, can be accomplished with little pain. Let's look at the six most common internal barriers in churches.

1. Facility barriers. We have addressed these barriers several times on this site and on the "Rainer on Leadership" podcast. The two most common are poor signage and inadequate parking. The former is often more easily addressed than the latter. Other common facility barriers include dirty and cluttered facilities, inadequate worship space, inadequate children's space, and poor sound and lighting in the worship space.

2. Governance barriers. These barriers include restrictive bylaws and policies, a model of church government that is not working as intended and frequent acrimonious business meetings. I am familiar with a church that had a policy where the executive pastor was on every committee, but the pastor was not. The particular problem was the personnel committee, where the executive pastor abused his authority and prevented the pastor from leading staff or having an influence on any personnel matters. That situation did not end well.

3. Staffing barriers. Churches often staff the way they've always done it. But times change and needs change. Staffing alignment and job descriptions of the 1990s may be inadequate today. Sometimes the job descriptions can be fine, but the wrong people are in those positions. Jim Collins, in his classic book Good to Great, uses the metaphor of getting the right people on the bus, and getting the right people in the right seat on the bus. If a church leader is not in a position that matches his or her gifts, abilities and passions, the church has a structural growth barrier.

4. Cultural barriers. These barriers refer largely to attitudes and practices of the leadership and membership as perceived by guests. They could include a general unfriendly spirit in the church, acrimonious business meetings, perceived lengthy services and worship times that are not convenient for guests.

5. Church calendar. Many churches are notorious for being activity-driven. One activity is stacked upon another. The church is so busy doing good things that it neglects the best things. Typically, the most often neglected ministries in busy churches are evangelism and ministry beyond the walls of the church. Most busy churches are not Great Commission churches.

6. Worship times. Why does your church have the specific worship times it offers? For many churches, it is the way we've always done it. Many church leaders have not asked what the most conducive times to reach the community are. Frankly, the traditional 11:00 a.m. worship time as a single offering makes little sense today. I will admit, however, it's still a good time for the farmers who need to milk the cows and feed the animals before they come to church.

7. Website barriers. One of the simplest internal or structural changes a church can make to reach more people is to update the website. The website is the front door for guests. It is their first stop before visiting the church. It makes no sense to have a lousy website when it is so effective when done well. And churches should follow the cardinal rule of websites: The church's physical location and times of service should be clear and evident on the home page.

Some of the reasons a church may not be growing could be self-inflicted barriers. These are seven of the most common. What do you think of them? Let me hear from you.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom Rainer ) Growth Thu, 03 Sep 2015 21:00:00 -0400
6 Warnings for Leaders of Growing Churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/22014-6-warnings-for-leaders-of-growing-churches http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/22014-6-warnings-for-leaders-of-growing-churches The metaphor has been called the "Berry Bucket Theory," but I prefer the "Tipping Scales Theory."

Imagine a scale like the scales of justice (pictured above). On one side of the scale are tokens that represent members who were at the church before the present pastor arrived (PPMs, pre-pastor members). On the other side of the scale are tokens that represent members who came to the church after the current pastor arrived (APMs, after-pastor members).

When the pastor first comes to the church, the scale is completely tilted toward one side because everyone in the church is a PPM. Over time, however, the PPM side can only become lighter. You can't add to the members who came before the pastor arrived. But the APM side usually grows.

When the APM side of the scale starts getting close in weight to the PPM side, problems can develop. The church is changing to the point where the newer members will soon be in the majority. The scales are tipping, and that reality engenders fear in some members.

With that metaphor in mind, let's look at some possible troubles for church leaders. I call them warnings for leaders of growing churches.

1. Growth brings change that can engender fear and discomfort. A pastor was getting a lot of resistance from the former chairperson of the search committee that called him. The church was growing and change was inevitably taking place. When he kindly reminded the search committee chairperson that she said she wanted to see the church grow, she responded, "Well, I didn't know these new people would cause so many problems." The "problems" she noted were actually just simple changes.

2. Power groups are threatened. Church members in informal power groups can sense the reality of the tipping scales. It threatens their power base, and they often don't respond well.

3. Staff resistance can take place. As a church grows and changes, it often requires church staff to change and learn new skills. Some church staff may resist any attempt to change their roles or improve their skills. An executive pastor led a coup against the pastor as the church grew. He later commented, after the church declined precipitously, that he was more comfortable with a smaller church.

4. The per capita giving may decrease. It is not unusual for new members not to give as generously as the existing members. Some may be new Christians who have not yet learned principles of biblical stewardship. Some may be from younger families with lower incomes than the existing members. Members can become agitated because "these new members aren't paying their way."

5. Space can become limited. A growing church in the Midwest no longer had space for Sunday morning Bible study groups. A church staff member approached a senior adult class about moving to a smaller room. They had nine attendees in a room that could accommodate 50 people. The church staff member was quickly asked to leave the room with a reminder from the class that "we pay the bills in this church."

6. People outside the church may become jealous. Members and leaders of other churches may speak disparagingly about a growing church in the community. They may even question the motives, doctrine and ethics of the leaders of the growing church.

If we are obedient to the Great Commission, we will see more men and women become followers of Christ, and our churches are likely to increase in numbers. But in the midst of such blessings, your church may get opposition from both the inside and the outside. Such is the nature of the tipping scales. May these six warnings be used to provide greater awareness, to seek more intensive prayer, and to persevere in obedience when it may seem easier to coast.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Thom S. Rainer ) Growth Tue, 21 Jul 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Kingdom Economics: Auto-Correct http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21961-kingdom-economics-auto-correct http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21961-kingdom-economics-auto-correct When allowed to function freely, a market economy will correct economic imbalances.

For example, suppose a drought reduces the supply of carrots. The price of carrots increase. Consumers purchase fewer carrots and increase their consumption of other vegetables. The higher price encourages farmers to plant more carrots and importers to search for carrots from around the world.

As consumers purchase less and farmers (domestically and internationally) produce more, the price of carrots will fall to normal levels. The economy has automatically corrected itself.

But suppose price is not allowed to function freely. For example, assume the government passes a law which keeps the price of carrots from increasing; supposedly to help the poor. Consumers will not reduce their purchases. Farmers will not plant more carrots.  Imports of carrots will not increase. The reduced supply of carrots will manifest as a physical shortage. With possibly good intentions, the government has made the situation worst. It abandoned the protections of a free market.

When we were saved, we experienced the goodness, mercy and grace of the Lord. When we were filled with the Holy Spirit we felt His empowerment, companionship, guidance and fellowship. We felt our minds being renewed and our faith grow as we studied, contemplated and applied His Word. We have felt His presence and wanted more. We have seen Him answer prayers and began to pray with more boldness. We came to know Him and wanted to know and serve Him more.

But over time, we can become complacent, lukewarm, or even backslidden. The cares of this world, the pursuit of riches, offense, pride, unrepented sin and a host of other reasons can divert us from the narrow upward path.

We need principles and habits that are designed to automatically alert ourselves and/or others of danger signs to move us back on an upward tract. We need:

  • Fellowship with other believers-relationships that are close enough to lift each other up.
  • Accountability. Accountability partners can catch danger signs before they erupt into major problems and can promote a growing relationship with the Lord.
  • To study, think about, and apply the Word daily. The Word will often bring us to repentance, build our faith, and encourage us to come up higher. It will reveal the heart of God and His ways.
  • Communicate daily with prayer. In addition to thanksgiving and adoration, our petitions should be specific. We should remember that prayer is two-way and listen to His guidance. We will often be led to correct our thoughts, words or behavior.
  • Listen to and obey the Holy Spirit. He will give us checks in our spirit, conviction, and guidance. Importantly, He will empower us with the ability to overcome.

We also been given the freedom to choose. We can choose to stay on the upward path that leads to unimaginable blessings, joy, and peace. Or we may choose the lower path and suffer the consequences.  

"Examine yourselves, seeing whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not know that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified" (2 Cor. 13:5).

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the communion of the Holy Spirit be with you all. Amen" (2 Cor. 13:14).

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (James Russell ) Growth Wed, 24 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
3 Ways to Know if God Wants You to Plant a Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21818-3-ways-to-know-if-god-wants-you-to-plant-a-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21818-3-ways-to-know-if-god-wants-you-to-plant-a-church "How do I know the Lord wants me to go here?" is a common question I get from young church planters trying to decide about a planting a church. The answer to that question is of utmost importance.

A Church Planter is Called to a People and a Place

People have different opinions on this, but I'm going to give you mine.

I don't think a church planter should go plant a church until you're called to a specific place and people. This is a little tricky because I actually don't think people are generically called to church planting.

I think they're called to plant a church among a certain people or a place. You can't build your entire view of something on your personal experience, but I will share my calling as an illustration.

My Journey

Even though I got turned down by my denominational missions agency to be a church planter (I was, after all, 20 and had no training), God still spoke to our hearts. I was up in Buffalo, New York, and Donna was at home. I returned and told her when I was at Prospect Avenue and Seventh Street in Buffalo I discerned that the Lord wanted me to plant a church there.

Donna said she was praying and that God told her the same thing. We knew at that point we were supposed to go. It was significant, but that's only happened to me once. I've planted six churches and the level of clarity was not as evident. But there was always a sense of call.

1. Confirmation through compassion. Confirmation came to me in every place when I knew that I could do nothing else except plant the church among the people of a certain place. I could not do anything else or do it anywhere else.

I lived in my current neighborhood for four years before setting out to plant a church. I was reaching some neighbors and inviting them to church, while serving as an interim pastor at various churches. But then God put a burden in my heart that I needed to plant a church for these people and for their friends.

All of the places I planted had one thing in common. I had a spiritual burden that involved a specific people—from the urban poor in Buffalo to my neighbors in Sumner County, Tennessee, decades later.

Church planting and missionary work is a unique role that requires a unique and clearly discerned calling.

2. Fall in love with a specific group of people. Church planting and missionary work is a unique role that requires a unique and clearly discerned calling. The Apostle Paul consistently spoke of the burden he had for different people in different places.

A church planter must fall in love with the place and fall in love with the people. When I fell in love with my wife, I wanted to know everything about her and spend as much time as I could with her. I did things with her that I would not normally do. I learned new things about her interests. I did this fervently because I was in love with her.

The same thing is true about a people and a place where you are going to plant a church. You must fall in love with its interests. You need to learn more about the place than anybody else does because you're falling in love with the place and you're falling in love with the people.

3. Pray and fast for discernment. Pray and fast until God makes your calling clear to you. Wrestle with the Lord until it is irrefutable. I don't want a general calling to plant a church. I want a clear burden for a specific people. I cannot plant a church until my heart breaks for the people where God has called me to plant a church. Don't start a church without this calling.

At the end of the day, I want a type of Macedonian call. Paul had one when he saw a man from Macedonia calling to him, "Come over and help us" (Acts 16:9).

I'm not saying you need a vision in a dream—and I've never had one like that. However, I've never planted a church, and I wouldn't plant a church, unless I had a clear vision for a place and a people that I knew in my heart God was calling me to "come over and help" a certain people in a certain place.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ed Stetzer ) Growth Mon, 04 May 2015 21:00:00 -0400
5 Words of Encouragement to the Church Planter or Young Leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21737-5-words-of-encouragement-to-the-church-planter-or-young-leader http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21737-5-words-of-encouragement-to-the-church-planter-or-young-leader Recently I was able to share some encouragement with church planters in Chicago. Having been a planter twice, I understand the unique challenges facing planters. They are constantly struggling with leadership issues, finances and simply knowing what to do next.

I get it. Most of what I know now came from experience and the wisdom of others. Many of the suggestions I shared are suitable for young leaders in any field.

Here are 5 words of encouragement:

1. The more specific you are the more we can help. Established churches have systems. Processes. Committees. Structure. Too much you might say and that's why you're planting. But we have budgets that have likely been approved long in advance. The more detailed you can be with what you need the easier it is to meet the need. Otherwise, it seems overwhelming. And, don't be afraid to talk about money. Everyone knows you need it. Just don't be surprised if help is more readily available in other ways.

2. Surround yourself with some encouragers. Make sure you have people who speak regularly into your life. People outside the work you're doing. Some days they'll keep you going.

3. Seek your affirmation among the people God sent you to minister to. Great advice someone gave me. You'll many times feel under-appreciated. You may not feel you're doing any good. You'll second-guess yourself and your calling. Get back into helping the hurting people—the work, whatever it is—God called you to. Be recharged.

4. Everything great starts with a humble beginning. Either in your personal humility or the humble beginnings of your work; take your pick. We all want the grand and instant success. That's seldom the reality. Those who launch big often had enormous stories of previously being humbled. "Do not despise these small beginnings, for the LORD rejoices to see the work begin" (Zech. 4:10).

5. Protect your soul—and your marriage. You have to discipline to decompress. Paraphrase of Jesus: "Come to me all who are stretched, burnt-out, weary and heavy-burdened—I will give you refreshment for your soul. Live this truth daily. Put it as a regular practice of your life.

God bless you, planter, leader and friend.

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

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Edmondson ) Growth Thu, 23 Apr 2015 21:00:00 -0400
An Extreme Sport: Raising Money for a Church Plant http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21606-an-extreme-sport-raising-money-for-a-church-plant http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/growth/21606-an-extreme-sport-raising-money-for-a-church-plant Where do you find enough money to start a church during a global recession? Starting a church in good economic times is daunting enough, but starting one now borders on insanity.

Insanity or not, church planting has never been a sport for the faint-hearted. In fact, I have always called it the extreme sport of ministry.

But raising money for a church plant may be THE most extreme part of this extreme sport because it takes vision—plain and simple—and a clear way to communicate that vision. Josh Husmann, lead pastor of a new church plant called Mercy Road in Indianapolis, raised more money in one day than the average church planter does in a year. How? He clearly communicated his vision at the recent Next Nuts & Bolts Church Planting conference in Ocala, Florida. And left with a $20,000 check.

All conference attendees had the opportunity to enter their Church Master Plans and compete through a series of interviews with church planting experts. In difficult financial times, Josh brought the key elements that unlock finances for a successful church plant.

This equation determines a church plant's funding capacity:

(Vision + Leadership) x Networking = $ Capacity

Unless you are independently wealthy, starting a church will take more money than you currently have at your disposal. If you cannot raise money, you cannot start a self-sufficient, sustainable church. The average church plant raises $100,000 in the first four years from outside support. Only 60 percent of those are self-sufficient by year four.[i] If a church is not self-sufficient by year five, it tends to represent a patient on life support rather than a vibrant life. You may love God with all your heart and know His Word better than Billy Graham, but if you cannot raise money you will not have a church in a few years.

Vision fuels finances. Without vision, you will always be driving on financial fumes. Eventually the fumes will evaporate, and the dream will die. One of the biggest lessons to learn in raising finances is that people give to vision, not to need. If you cannot cast a vision that captures the hearts of people, you will never have enough money to fund the church plant. Casting compelling vision is part of a fundamental skill set to raising money.

Several months into our church plant, we hit a financial wall. We needed $18,000 to continue moving forward as a church. Asking our small church plant of 125 to give a one-time offering to meet our $18,000 need was a God-sized request because they had been giving less than $1,000 per week at this point. This was a vision test for me. Could I cast a vision compelling enough to move the hearts and wallets of this small band of believers? Was this worth their investment?

After the service everyone was waiting around to see if we made our goal. I still remember walking in the back room to ask the offering counters, "Did we make it?" I still see one man's face in my mind.

As he turned around, tears were streaming down his face. "Yes, we made it." Relief engulfed me. "How much was the total?"

He looked at me and said the words that are forever etched in my heart—"They gave $50,000!" Vision fuels finances.

Vision must be clearly articulated in a Church Master Plan. The arduous work of painfully writing out a master plan is part of your vision. The vision becomes clearer with each draft of your master plan. When it is complete, it's time to enlist financial support.

Leadership accelerates finances. Financial supporters have to "buy you" before they fund you. Most supporters invest in the planter over the plan. Successful church planters should be entrepreneurial leaders who have a track record of leading people. A pastor can lead an existing church, but it takes an entrepreneurial leader to start a church from scratch.

In a study on the "Top Issues Church Planters Face", leadership was cited as the No. 1 issue. The report was a result of listening to over 40 national leaders who have over 600 years of cumulative experience working with hundreds of planters. According to the study, "Leadership development is viewed by most planters as a non-negotiable obstacle to becoming financially viable and growing the church."

Your leadership ability will accelerate or stagnate your church plant. If no one is following you, you are just taking a walk. A planter must develop their leadership while building partnerships to move forward.

There are three levels of partnerships:

1. Prayer partners

2. Financial partners

3. Launch Team

Some will be your prayer team, which is critical for the success of the church. Some will be your financial team, who will make the dream a reality. Some will be called by God to join you in the new church. Some may be all three, and all are critical for a successful launch.

When God calls an individual to start a church, be encouraged that He is simultaneously speaking to others about funding the church. The Church Planter's job is to find those people and churches. This is the time to cash in all the relational chips in your life. God has prepared you for this season and this calling. Contact every person you know who likes you: friends, family, ministry connections, college roommates and launch team.

Utilize Facebook, Twitter, email, snail mail and any other means to contact everyone you know or have known about the new church plant. Leave no rock unturned. Do not say "no" for them. You have no idea who God is speaking to about partnering with you.

Networking exponentially increases your funding capacity. It's not what you know, and it's not who you know; but it's who knows you that counts. If you have not learned the power of networking, stop what you are doing and read Jeffrey Gitomer's book, The Little Black Book of Connections, and Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi. Your networking ability could catapult or cripple a new church start.

Many church planters have limited network relationships. An under-networked planter needs to get involved with church planting organizations, training opportunities, coaching networks, denominational training, and church planting conferences. Meet people and ask questions. Be a learner, not just another church planter looking for a handout. Everybody wants money, but few want wisdom. Seek wisdom, and money will follow.

There are two levels of financial support: individual and organizations, including denominations. Individuals will give because they love you; churches, denominations and larger organizations will give because they trust your leadership and plan. Focus the majority of your fundraising time on organizations over individuals. Individuals tend to give dollars while organizations give thousands of dollars.

Learn to broaden the net of fundraising. After every appointment, ask the question, "Do you know anyone else who may be interested in this church plant or has a heart for this city?" Every person is the potential door to a group of partners in this calling God has put on your life.

The best method developed in recent years is a "Partner Meeting." Steve Stroope, Pastor of Lake Pointe Church in Rockwall, Texas, first introduced me to this concept in 2002, when we partnered to launch Journey Church in New York City. We have since partnered with several other church plants together.

A Partner Meeting is an onsite vision tour for financial partners and potential financial partners. This is a time to put your vision on steroids and show how God is going to use you to build a church in this particular city.

Build your partnership team on the mall concept. Malls secure their anchor stores before they begin construction, and then fill in with smaller stores. Work diligently to secure the right "Anchor Partners" for your new church. Partners bring prospective partners. Potential financial partners want to know who else is committed to this plant financially.

For example, when I know that Lake Pointe Church is financially committed to a church plant, I am more confident of the plant's ability to succeed. Ask your financial partners who else they think might be interested.

Set a date and invite all financial partners and potential partners to a meeting in your city. For a successful Partner Meeting, you must plan it carefully and include times to socialize, like lunch or dinner, a vision tour of your area with possible locations you have researched, and a business meeting to discuss your master plan and financial requirements to launch your church. The church planter leads the Vision Tour and Master Plan presentation, and asks the "Anchor Partner" to lead the budget meeting. An Anchor Partner is already financially committed and can invite others to commit financially with them. If a partner does not commit at the meeting, then follow up one week after the meeting to ask for the commitment.

Raising financial support will be one of your greatest challenges, as you ask potential partners to give to the vision that God has called you to lead. As you ask, remember that you are speaking for hundreds that don't yet know Christ in your city. Eternity rides on your audacity to boldly ask people to financially join you.

Ron Sylvia is the founding and lead pastor of Church at The Springs in Ocala, Florida, and Director of NEXT Churches. He is the author of Launching a Purpose Driven Church conference curriculum and authored his story and methods in the book, Starting New Churches on Purpose.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Ron Sylvia) Growth Thu, 05 Mar 2015 19:00:00 -0500
Repentant Leaders Deserve Forgiveness Too http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/21956-repentant-leaders-deserve-forgiveness-too http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/21956-repentant-leaders-deserve-forgiveness-too As I look back at my experience at Mars Hill, one of my largest areas of personal sanctification and theological growth occurred in the area of repentance and forgiveness, especially in my role as a high-level church leader.

I am writing this post to help other leaders like me. I pray that someone—even just one person—can be spared the consequences of his/her own mistakes by paying careful attention to mine beforehand. I also pray that my public confession of sin and admission of mistakes will further enhance opportunity for reconciliation and restoration among those with whom I have experienced conflict.

Early on in my time at Mars Hill, I unfortunately operated in a sinful way that was consistent with the existing church culture that had grown and been cultivated since the early years of the church. Instead of being an agent of change for good, I simply reinforced negative sinful behavior (I am responsible for my own actions, and do not blame my actions on the culture).

I am so thankful for the kindness of God that has led me to repentance, the grace of Jesus that forgave my sin, and the love of brothers who exhorted me during those necessary times of growth. Somewhere between 2012 and 2013, with the help of Pastor Dave Bruskas and others, change began to take root in my heart. These lessons continue to bear fruit in my life as the Holy Spirit grows me to become more like Jesus. I do look back on 2011 and 2012 with a lot of regret, but I'm also very thankful for the Holy Spirit and his ability to grow us all to be more like Jesus.

What About Repentance?

When the great reformer Martin Luther penned his 95 Theses, the first dogmatic statement about biblical Christianity that he chose to publically proclaim was that the whole life of the Christian should be one of continual repentance. There is no greater privilege that the redeemed, saved, adopted child of God has than to repent. Faith and repentance are the first acts that we do as a believer in Jesus Christ. Jesus gives us the faith to believe and makes us alive. Then our new hearts recognize our sinfulness and our need for him and we repent. We have a "change of mind" about our sin which is what the Greek word for "repentance" (metanoia) means.

Many verses focus on repentance (Acts 3:19Acts 11:18Matt 4:17Luke 3:8-9Matthew 3:1-2Isaiah 30:15).  Timothy even writes of its importance to the church leader:

"The servant of the Lord must not quarrel, but must be gentle toward all people, able to teach, patient, in gentleness instructing those in opposition. Perhaps God will grant them repentance to know the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will" (2 Tim. 2:24-26).

Paul clearly states that God grants repentance that leads to a knowledge of the truth, which then helps us escape from Satan's traps. (Side note: if we refuse to repent, we are willing joining the devil to do his will—not God's!) Additionally, Acts 11:18 also states that repentance is, first and foremost, granted by God. An unregenerate heart will not and cannot turn from sin.

Without being granted a new heart by the Holy Spirit, a person remains dead in sin and does not pursue the things of God. If a person has been led to repentance by the beautiful kindness of God (Romans 2:4), it is a sign that his or her heart of stone has been transformed into a heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26). He or she is no longer an enemy of God, but one who has been made alive in Christ and is now friend, child, and heir of God with Christ.

God saves us as we are by his grace. He expects nothing of us to contribute to our salvation. However, Scripture is clear that he does not allow us to stay as we are! We are to be transformed into the likeness of his Son more and more (2 Cor. 3:18Romans 12:2).

We need to be seeking holiness, righteousness, and purity. We need to be constantly on guard against the enemy's schemes and putting our sinful flesh to death. As the great Puritan John Owen said, we need to be killing sin or it will be killing us. We will certainly stumble and fall and that is when we must repent. In fact, I believe that repentance is the "how" to killing our sin.

The Apostle James says, "But each man is tempted when he is drawn away by his own lust and enticed. Then, when lust has conceived, it brings forth sin; and when sin is finished, it brings forth death. Do not err, my beloved brothers" (James 1:14-16, emphasis mine). Our sin wreaks havoc on our lives when it grows because it goes unchecked, unevaluated, and unrepented. Do not be deceived about that.

Our sin leads to our death. But Jesus died for our sin.

Therefore, through the power of the Holy Spirit, we can believe in him, have faith in him, and put sin to death for his glory and our good.

I have learned that repentance is confession of sin with your mind and mouth (Psalm 51:4). This confession is then followed by contrition of your emotions and expression (Psalm 51:1-3), which then leads to changes in your will and your acts (Psalm 51:12-1315). Confession to contrition to change. I challenge you to revisit Psalm 51 afresh in your time with the Lord today. Sometimes the most familiar Scriptures can unfortunately become the most overlooked.

What About Forgiveness?

Scripture has no lack of verses on forgiveness. In fact it is so important that Jesus chose for it to be one of the very last documented things he himself did on this earth as he hung dying on the cross (Luke 23:34). Not to mention, the gospels record numerous occasions of him commanding his disciples in regards to forgiveness. When they asked him to teach them to pray, he included asking for forgiveness from the Lord and giving it to others (Matt. 6:12). And this is only the gospels. The writings of the Apostles are full of exhortations regarding forgiveness.

Preach the Gospel to Yourself

First and foremost, when I'm wrestling through forgiving someone, I ask the Lord to remind me of the truth of one of my favorite verses, Romans 5:8: "But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." Paul is telling us that we did nothing to deserve Christ's love, grace, forgiveness, and righteousness. Nothing. You and I were still sinners and God saved us by his grace through the blood of his only Son, Jesus. That is always our starting point.

I must always first look at the grace that I have received from Jesus and extend that same grace to Christians and non-Christians who sin against me. The nature of truly received grace is that it can't be withheld. So when someone sins against me, I choose to forgive them, even if they do not "realize" their sin, or even repent of their known sin. I choose to forgive them because Jesus forgave me before I knew or repented of my sin.

You may know my testimony. While in a hunting blind in Africa, I got down on my knees and asked Jesus to save me, forgive me, and cleanse me of my sin. Within a very short period of time, being filled with the Holy Spirit, I began to realize the sin that I had committed against Jesus, my wife, my kids, and others. And this sin was not even in my mind when I asked Jesus to forgive me, but it was sin in my life nonetheless.

To me, Romans 5:8 was very real in those early days of my walk with Jesus (as it still is today, of course). Jesus forgave me and cleansed me of all my sin—past, present, and future—even while I was still sinning.

Freely Received, Freely Given

With this renewed and right perspective of the freely given grace of God, we can now discuss forgiveness of others. I am always challenged by Jesus' well-known words to one of Peter's most candid questions. "'Lord, how often shall I forgive my brother who sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus said to him, 'I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven'" (Matt. 18:21-22).

This is a wonderful example of the grace of God. Jesus commands multiplication of Peter's already generous suggestion of "seven times" to make a point that we should forgive, and forgive, and then forgive again. I would also like to point out that Jesus does not specify to Peter that he should wait and judge another brother on the fruit of his repentance before offering forgiveness.

There is no qualifier to the number of times Jesus tells Peter to forgive someone and, again, he commands forgiveness without the caveat of first witnessing the fruit of an offender's repentance. This point is critical to remember in the midst of offense, hurt, and pain. We want to see change and repentance before we remove our hands from their neck (Matt. 18:28). Remember the cross and ask the Holy Spirit to empower you to loosen your grip. The powerful truth of the doctrine of forgiveness is there's more freedom in letting go, than holding on.

Keep Preaching the Gospel to Yourself

Our God is a good God and a just God. If we are in Christ, he does not hold the sins that we have committed against us, because Jesus paid for these sins on the cross. God made him to be sin who knew no sin so that in him we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21).

His perfection was credited to my account. The punishment has been paid in full. It is finished. This would be double jeopardy if a Christian's sins were punished twice. This truth gives us full freedom to repent freely to God and others, knowing that it does nothing to affect my standing with him. In the same way, it gives us freedom to forgive knowing that Jesus died for their sins too. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, therefore and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery (Gal. 5:1).

"If it is possible, as much as it depends on you, live peaceably with all men" Rom. 12:18.

Stay tuned for the next post in this series for practical lessons on repentance and forgiveness.

Sutton Turner is the executive pastor at Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington. For the original article, visit investyourgifts.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Sutton Turner ) Healing Tue, 23 Jun 2015 12:00:00 -0400
Where is the Miracle Healing in the US? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/21005-where-is-the-miracle-healing-in-the-u-s http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/21005-where-is-the-miracle-healing-in-the-u-s With all the traveling I do these days with Impact Nations, I get asked a lot of questions about a lot of issues. However, there is one question that I am asked more often—by far—than any other. In fact, in the past two weeks, I have been asked it in England, New Jersey and Canada: "Why don't we see the same kind of healing here (in England, the U.S., Canada) as you do in Africa and India?"

I usually respond to this in several ways. First of all, I do see God heal in the same way in the West as in the developing world. I have watched in North America, Europe and Australia as deaf ears were opened, cataracts dissolved, cancer instantly disappeared (verified by doctors), and paralysis and pain have gone.

In my living room, the Lord healed a woman who had been totally blind in one eye for 20 years. He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India.

Although I have seen the Lord open the ears of nine deaf people—one after another—in North America, in fairness, I would say that although the quality of healing that I see is the same everywhere, the quantity seems higher in the developing world. However, I need to clarify this statement.

It is not that I see more people not being healed when prayed for; it seems to me there are fewer people looking to be healed in the West. (To clarify once again, I am not saying the people on the streets of our cities do not want to be healed; it is just that they are not being asked and therefore do not think of healing as an option in their lives.)

This leads to what may be the biggest single issue: expectation. Jesus always looked for faith in people. This is why He sometimes asked, "Do you want to get well?" or "What do you want?" Jesus expected people to be healed, and they expected the same thing.

When I am asked "the question," I usually answer with a question of my own: "Do you expect people to be healed?" One of the ways we can discover how we really feel about this question is to examine how often we step out and ask others if we may pray for their healing.

After all, more people are healed if we pray for them than if we don't. In many cases, we simply don't have a real expectation that God will move, so we stay in the safe zone of keeping quiet when presented with the opportunity to pray for healing.

One of the reasons I take people from the Western world to the developing world to do the gospel is to change their expectations. Again and again I watch as they discover a whole new level of truth about the power and compassion of Jesus and of who they really are because they live in Christ.

How can anyone experience being used by the Lord to heal the sick day after day on a Journey of Compassion and then go home unchanged? Back home, as these men and women continue to pray and expect, God continues to heal.

He is the same God in Canada as Kenya, in the U.S. as Uganda, in England as India. And so is His kingdom, where it seems that what you expect is what you will receive. 


Steve Stewart is the founder of Impact Nations, a Christian organization that brings hope and restoration to the poor and vulnerable in the developing world through both supernatural and practical expressions of the kingdom of God.

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webmaster@strang.com (Steve Stewart) Healing Wed, 17 Sep 2014 16:00:00 -0400
KATHRYN KUHLMAN: Faith Is More Than Belief http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/22059-kathryn-kuhlman-faith-is-more-than-belief http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/22059-kathryn-kuhlman-faith-is-more-than-belief Our emotions and desires are often mistaken for faith and it is so easy to blame God when there are no results from something that has been purely of the mind and not of the heart.

One of the most difficult things in the world is to realize that faith can be received only as it is imparted to the heart of God Himself.

It cannot be manufactured. No matter how much we nurture and cultivate that spirit the world interprets as faith, it will never grow into the type of faith that was introduced by Jesus.

When we come to our salvation, it is still a matter of faith and, again, He gives us His faith to believe. "Yet to all who received Him, He gave the power to become sons of God, to those who believed in His name" (John 1:12).

The same Holy Spirit who convicts the sinner of his sin and sees to it that he is given enough conviction to convince him of his sin, will provide faith enough to convince him of his salvation.

But no man in himself possesses that faith. It is given him by the same One who gives the faith for our physical healing: the Author and Finisher of our faith—Christ Jesus!

With Him there is no struggle!

How often in a miracle service I have seen conscientious people struggling, straining, demanding that God give them the healing for their body, and yet there was no answer.

We can believe in healing! We can believe in our Lord and His power to heal. But only Jesus can work the work that will lift us to the mountain peaks of victory. We have made faith a product of a finite mind when all of the other gifts of the Spirit we have attributed to God.

To many people, however, faith is still their own ability to believe a truth, and is merely based on their struggles and their ability to drive away doubt and unbelief through a process of continued affirmations.

There is belief in faith, but faith is more than belief.

Faith is a gift. Jesus is our faith, and the Giver of every good and perfect gift is from the Author and Finisher of our faith.

Active faith is unquestioning belief, trust and reliance upon God with all confidence. Faith can become as real as any of our senses.

When we receive His faith we also receive understanding. Everything that God has for His children He puts within the reach of faith, then He turns around and gives them the faith to appropriate the gift.

Then Jesus spoke. With Him there is no struggle and the waves of doubt and anxiety and worry all fade away and a glorious and marvelous calm and peace enter into the heart and mind of the one who has received that which only He can give.

The only noise will be that of praise and adoration from the lips of the one who has just been healed by the Great Physician.

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taylor.berglund@charismamedia.com (Kathryn Kuhlman) Healing Mon, 03 Aug 2015 21:00:00 -0400
A 9/11 Perspective From the South Tower http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/20360-a-9-11-perspective-from-the-south-tower http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/20360-a-9-11-perspective-from-the-south-tower Paul Fox headshot-smallIn 1999, the company I worked for was acquired by the world’s largest insurance broker, which was based in Manhattan. I was appointed the chief information officer of one of the subsidiaries and began a 10-year period of commuting from Seattle to my office on the 50th floor in the south tower in the World Trade Center.

I was one of more than 1,700 employees from four subsidiaries that were housed in the north and south towers. We lost 376 staff and contractors the morning of 9/11. Many were my friends and colleagues.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Paul Fox) Healing Wed, 11 Sep 2013 16:00:00 -0400
A Greater Calling: Mercy for the Hurting http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/20454-a-greater-calling http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/20454-a-greater-calling I frequently travel to churches and Christian organizations to share the vision of the need to minister to hurting girls and unwed mothers. Most of the people who hear me speak become enthusiastic about responding to God’s call. Sometimes they commit to supporting Mercy Ministries with their prayers. Sometimes they help Mercy Ministries financially. Sometimes they catch the vision and begin to implement it in their area. Whatever God leads them to do, I am thankful most Christians who listen respond.

Most, but not all.

“I just don’t think the church is responsible for those girls. By having that home available, you are condoning premarital sex. We are simply to preach the gospel.”

I try to reply to such criticisms in a pleasant way. “Don’t you think that the message might mean more if it is backed with actions? And isn’t the message for those who are hurting, not for those who are well?”

Unfortunately I rarely receive a pleasant response: “I still don’t believe the church can possibly care for all those disturbed girls, juvenile delinquents, and unwed mothers—they are the ones responsible for their situations. Besides, we pay taxes for the government to take care of them. Those girls need highly skilled, well-educated professionals. A bunch of Christians with good intentions can’t possibly do much good.”

No matter what I tell them about my own experience, some people have already made up their minds. They simply won’t listen to the voice of reason—or to the voice of God.

There are also many Christians who are aware of the mistreatment and abuse some girls suffer and who want very much to address the problem, but they are not sure what the solution is.

The solution is simple. It is the church. The people of God have the duty and privilege to bring restoration to broken lives.

Loving the Seemingly Unlovable

I think about Tammy and the first time I saw her. The smell almost knocked me over. As Tammy came closer, I saw the filthiness of her clothes. Her hair was matted and looked as though there were bugs in it. I thought, I do not want this girl to sit in my car. In that same moment, conviction gripped me. If this girl sensed my repulsion, we could lose her.

The police had phoned me at the home only minutes before to tell me Tammy’s circumstances.

“I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” the officer said with empathy in his voice. “If you can’t help her, I don’t know where she will end up.”

I receive phone calls like this often. A parent, friend, neighbor, or counselor will call to tell me of a troubled girl he would like me to meet. So getting in my car and going out to bring this girl to Mercy Ministries was not unusual. I had made a commitment to the Lord when this ministry began that where He leads, I’ll follow.

As I drove into the desolate area of the inner city, I recalled the details the officer had given: “We found her at this drug dealer’s house we have been surveilling,” he told me. “We advised her to get out now or she would probably end up in jail. Then we told her about you and Mercy Ministries, and she agreed to get help.”

But now as I stood face-to-face with this seemingly hopeless transient, I saw how much unconditional love I lacked.

I hugged her quickly and tried not to gag from her smell. As we walked to the car, she turned toward me and softly spoke. “Ma’am, I don’t think it is a good idea for me to get in your car,” she said, obviously embarrassed.

“Don’t worry about it, honey. You won’t hurt anything,” I tried to reassure her.

With pleading eyes she added, “Do you at least have something I can sit on?”

“Only this,” I said, and pulled an old jacket out of the trunk.

I crawled into the driver’s seat, and before we were a mile up the road, I felt myself becoming physically ill from the odor. But I couldn’t show my disgust or this girl would think I was rejecting her. As if sensing my dilemma, she said, “I’m sorry I smell so bad. I can even smell myself.”

“We’ll get you cleaned up as soon as we get you home,” I promised her.

Before we got there, I suggested we cut off the air and roll down the windows. Thankfully she agreed.

Uneasiness swept over me. What if the girls don’t receive her? What if they say something inappropriate and Tammy is destroyed? As I pulled in the driveway and got out of the car, the girls were waiting at the door. I had told them I was going to pick someone up, but I feared they would not be prepared for this. Thankfully the Holy Spirit had breathed upon their spirits. I love to watch Him work.

As Tammy took her first steps into Mercy Ministries, she was embraced by examples of unconditional love. For a moment she stood at the doorway, taking in the new surroundings. One by one the girls introduced themselves, and their compassion was evident.

Tammy again apologized for her odor. “I really am sorry I smell this way,” she whispered as she lowered her head.

Sensing her uneasiness, the girls took her hand and led her down the hall.

As the voices trailed off and the girls disappeared into the bathroom, I could hear them offering everything from towels and clothes to shampoo. The conviction I had felt earlier swept over me again. I was supposed to be doing that. After all, wasn’t I the one who stood before congregations night after night telling of the unconditional love we offer here?

But I had not even wanted this girl in my car. That day, as I saw the love of God manifested in its purest form, I realized that the message preached at Mercy Ministries was working. Today it had preached to me.

As I lay in bed that night, the events of the day kept replaying in my head. The girls had not hesitated to touch Tammy’s filthiness, and God has not hesitated to touch ours. I realized the lesson the body of Christ (especially I) could learn from seeing what I had seen that day. If we, the church, could learn to love the seemingly unlovable, our witness would be limitless.

The Mission of the Church

Tammy’s story and others like hers are firm reminders to me that it is not enough for us preach a message, pass out tracts or visit door-to-door to evangelize a neighborhood, though those activities may be the specific calling of some individual Christians. The church is commissioned to do works far surpassing these.

The church is called to do the work of Jesus. During Jesus’ earthly ministry He did more than preach a message; He reached out to a hurting and sinful people. In one of His first sermons, Jesus said He was sent not only to preach the gospel to the poor but also to heal the brokenhearted and to set at liberty those who are oppressed (Luke 4:18).

And that is exactly what He did.

Jesus fed the hungry (John 6:1-12) and gave drink to the thirsty (John 2:1-10). He exalted the lowly (Matt. 11:25). He consoled the mourning (Luke 24:36). He forgave the criminal (Luke 23:43). He released the captive (Mark 5:1-20). He comforted the imprisoned (Luke 4:18). He restored the fallen (John 21:15-19). He fellowshiped with the outsider (Luke 15:2). He suffered for the sake of His people (Rom. 4:25). He died for us (Rom. 5:8).

Not only does the Bible reveal that Jesus ministered to the needs of the people around Him, but it also points out a special group to whom Christ especially ministered.

As Jesus was touring the countryside with His 12 disciples, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of heaven, several women went along (Luke 8:1-3). Until they met Jesus, these women had suffered from physical diseases and demonic possession. As a result of His work in their lives, they were not only restored but also privileged to proclaim the reality of Jesus Christ. One of them, Mary Magdalene, was honored by being the first to see and announce that Christ had risen (John 20:11-18).

Scripture makes it clear that Jesus was actively involved in ministering to people in need through works of compassion. It also demonstrates that the hurt in the broken lives of women was close to His heart.

But that was only the beginning.

Jesus told the disciples, “He who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also” (John 14:12). He commanded the church to follow the example of His ministry by not merely sharing a message of mercy but also demonstrating mercy through their deeds.

And that is what they did.

In the New Testament members of the church performed the same deeds as Christ. They fed the hungry and gave drink to the thirsty (Acts 11:27-30). They exalted the lowly (1 Cor. 1:26–31). They consoled the mourning (Acts 20:9-12). They forgave the criminal (Acts 9:26-30). They released the captive (Acts 16:16-18). They comforted the imprisoned (Acts 16:25). They restored the fallen (2 Cor. 2:5-9). They fellowshiped with the outsider (Acts 11:1-18). They suffered for the sake of God’s people (Col. 1:24).

The apostles reorganized the very structure of the early church by adding new offices to sustain widows (Acts 6:1-7). They understood that “pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world” (James 1:27). Because of their experience in godly living, the church gave the women a special teaching ministry (1 Tim. 5:9-10; Titus 2:3-5).

It is clear in Scripture that from its inception the church was actively involved in ministering to a hurting world. It is also plain that the broken lives of women were of special concern to these servants of Christ.

We who follow Jesus Christ and are part of His church are charged with continuing to carry out Christ’s Great Commission in the midst of our present crisis. We must not only share the gospel with our words; we must also address with our actions the hurts and needs that confront us daily. We, not the government, are commanded to support the unwed mothers. We, not the government, are commanded to release the young women in bondage to drug addiction, promiscuity, and other sins. We, not the government, are commanded to bring young women into the embrace of eternal life. We, not the government, are commanded to bring restoration to broken lives. We, not the government, are commanded to be the hands, the feet, and the mouthpiece of Jesus Christ to the world today.

The Heart of the Great Commission

As the people of God and the followers of Jesus Christ, the church is called to bring the message of salvation to those enslaved by sin. This mission means more than merely sharing a message, as important as that is. According to Scripture, the disciples were given broader instructions: “And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, ‘All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age’” (Matt. 28:18-20).

Clearly, the heart of the Great Commission is not just evangelism; it is also discipleship. Though salvation from sin is an essential element of the gospel, it also includes “‘teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you’” (Matt. 28:20). The Lord has charged His church not only with the task of planting seeds but also with the duty and privilege of being used by Him to make sure that what is planted grows to maturity and bears much fruit (1 Cor. 3:6-9.) Just as Christians are called to apply the gospel to their lives, so they are called to teach others to do likewise. We have the responsibility to lay a foundation on which godly lives can be built.

It is up to us. There is no one else.


Nancy Alcorn spent the first eight years of her career working at a correctional facility for juvenile delinquent girls and later investigating child abuse cases. Out of this experience came a driving passion to help broken girls that led Alcorn in 1983 to found Mercy Ministries, a free-of-charge, Christian residential program for girls ages 13 to 28. Her book Echoes of Mercy, from which this article was adapted, chronicles her journey of transforming lives, as does her latest release, Mission of Mercy (Charisma House). To learn more about Mercy Ministries, visit MercyMinistries.com.

 

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webmaster@strang.com (Nancy Alcorn) Healing Fri, 15 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
A Cry for Help http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/20598-a-cry-for-help http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/healing/20598-a-cry-for-help We live on the cusp of what potentially could be the greatest revival ever known in the history of mankind. However, statistics indicate that attendance and finances are at a modern-day low in the church.

Humanity is crying out for authenticity in ministry. The problem is that many ministers seeking guidance simply do not trust Christians. They find themselves in the midst of a unique paradox.

They serve a very real God whose Son suffered the supreme sacrifice to redeem mankind. The price has been paid, and God has raised up imperfect men to bring in His harvest. Nevertheless, many believe that salvation and one’s calling both depend on one’s performance and not on the cross.

Within the ministerial ranks resides tremendous frustration. Statistics from the Barna Group reveal that 1,500 ministers leave the ministry each month, never to return. These are individuals whom God has called. He knew their inadequacies when He called them.

A Barna Group study found that 38 percent of those in the ministry have committed adultery, and 77 percent admit to having a failing marriage. According to Dr. Ted Roberts’ Pure Desire Ministries, as many as 74 percent are addicted to Internet pornography. Most leave the ministry because of moral failure or deep frustration.

Why have so many simply thrown in the towel? What is going wrong?

People fashion an image that no human is able to imitate. They can’t live up to the common perception that a servant of Christ must be a spiritual superman.

They may say, “My colleagues all appear to live above the fray. It must be me.” The lack of candidness keeps them from the very things they need—authenticity and deliverance.

As the adversary lies in wait, disillusionment signals him to prepare his trap of isolation. God’s man now gives in to the deception and becomes a master at covering his sin—or so he thinks.

He has seen how others have been treated when their faults were exposed. Rather than facing the public disgrace and allowing God to do an emancipating work when personal sin is unearthed, many today protect themselves via the avenue of “lawyering up.” Though this flawed methodology may save a career, it also ensures that this individual will suffer in his personal sin indefinitely.

The first step in attaining true liberty is to find a safe place to simply “confess.” Many who have attempted to do so in the past have met an ill fate. They have confided in someone whom they felt they could trust. All too often, the individual to whom they have disclosed their deepest sin has responded with exposure and wrath.

This means of dispensing judgment for sinful conduct gained its media precedent with both the Jimmy Swaggart and the Jim Bakker scandals. Rather than choosing to be redemptive, society chose to inflict shame and degradation. Along with the media, the enemy used those incidents to attempt to drive the nail into the church’s coffin.

God’s intention is that the church is perceived as a place for flawed humanity to run to and find His mercy. Instead, the world perceives the church as a hate group.

How can this potentially fatal error be corrected? Can a minister get back on track when he has done the unthinkable?

Helping Pastors Heal

This is where the ministry of Heal Your Servant (HYS) comes in. Part of the ministry’s purpose is to provide the first step on the path of liberation for anyone who desires it.

Heal Your Servant offers four confidential call-in sessions per week. God’s servants can anonymously contact us and be absolutely honest regarding their sin. It offers them a pathway for complete deliverance.

Every step is completely confidential. When a pastor does call in, he is offered a grace-filled plan of restoration that includes his spouse and congregation.

The staff of HYS has heard stories of individuals who struggle with pornography, lust, adultery, same-sex attraction, divorce and an array of other issues. It has received calls from bishops, pastors, evangelists, worship leaders, missionaries, youth pastors, children’s leaders and even a church custodian.

In the last year, HYS has been bombarded with a litany of phone calls, emails and letters from more than 1,700 ministers in 722 cities in 69 nations. More than 1,300 have come from the United States. Most are broken, angry with themselves, and humiliated and don’t know where to turn.

Heal Your Servant has become a shelter from the storm of judgment, says therapist and author Dr. Fred Antonelli.

“Life can be challenging and even downright emotionally devastating at times,” Antonelli says. “Heal Your Servant is a compassionate, agape-centered ministry geared to the weak, beat-up, wounded and painfully burdened people [who] are shuffling along on feet of clay. HYS is a safe place to land.”

Stephen Arterburn, author of the best-seller, “Every Man’s Battle,” agrees.

“Heal Your Servant is an amazing ministry of hope in the storm and help in the struggle,” he said. “If you are struggling in ministry and need to talk to someone who can understand, call today.”

Below is a sample of some of the testimonies HYS has received:

Pastor Mike says: “I have pastored for 15 years. I had never before been unfaithful to my wife. The pressures of ministry had placed a great division between my wife and me. We were both so busy with God's work that we neglected each other.

“I met a woman online. This relationship had developed slowly, and we had made the decision to meet in the Caribbean for the sole purpose of consummating our adulterous affair. I told my wife I was going on a ministry trip.

“I called in to Heal Your Servant several times, and I just talked. I didn’t call them back for two weeks. When I finally called again I was asked what was going on.

“My response was, ‘Well, I did go to the Caribbean, but instead of taking the other woman, I took my wife. I told her everything.

“She then admitted to me she had been in an emotional relationship with another man. We asked for each other’s forgiveness, forgave each other and then had an amazing honeymoon in the Caribbean. Thank you so much for saving my marriage and ministry.’”

Another individual called the ministry because he had been in a three-year affair with a woman in the church. He was tired of hiding it and simply wanted it out in the open. He had developed a love for the woman and contemplated leaving his wife, his children and the church in order to live out his life with the other woman.

He was confused. He admitted that his heart was in missions, and he had felt pressured into pastoring.

His wife had suspected the affair and was an emotional wreck. After a time of counseling, prayer and deliverance, she forgave him, and they decided to press on. He eventually forgave himself and once again felt worthy of his family.

The elders of the church worked very closely with HYS through the entire ordeal. When he completed the process, the elders met with the congregation and invited him back as pastor. He humbly declined the offer and eventually accepted a position as the head of a missions organization.

These are only two of the many stories of marriages being mended and ministries being restored through HYS.

Returning Leaders to Their Callings

Another purpose of the ministry is to seek out the 1,500 leaders who leave the ministry every month and bring them back to the place God has called them to be. If there is to be a great harvest, every laborer is needed.

The staff at HYS encourages people to let them know who these ministers are and where to find them. Pastor Kris shared his testimony:

“I don’t know how you found me. I pastored a wonderful church for 10 years. It was Camelot, but then the devil hit hard and strong and took out my marriage. And when I reached out for help, everyone—I mean everyone—turned their back on me and kicked me to the side of the road and left me for dead. It was the most devastating experience a human being could go through.

“My wife left me and took our four children. I resigned from my pastoring because I was too devastated to lead my congregation, even though I loved them with all my heart. When I went to minister-friends I thought I could trust and poured my heart out to them, they all walked away because they didn’t want to be associated with someone who was having a ‘failure experience’ because it might tint their ‘success’ appearance.

“I went into a spiral of depression and total shock to the point of attempt[ing] suicide twice, and there was no one there. It was and is amazing to me that as ministers, we are on the front lines of battle. Yet when the enemy is able to hit us and wound us, our ‘fellow soldiers,’ instead of reaching out to help us in our wounded condition, turn instead and aim their weapons at us and seemingly ‘finish the job.’ I was amazed that the devil wounded me, but it was my brothers in Christ [who] finished me off.

“It is interesting that there is an organization that is reaching out to our wounded veterans coming home from war named ‘Wounded Warriors,’ yet we don’t do anything for our wounded warriors [in the church]. They [the veterans] tell the stories of how they were hit with a roadside bomb and it blew their legs or arms off. I have sat with tears down my face saying to myself, ‘I know what that is like, only my wounds were unseen, but just as painful and life changing.’ God bless your ministry.”

Why does HYS seek out these wounded pastors? The ministry has chosen to be obedient in recognizing and honoring a precious calling.

“Heal Your Servant exists to encourage the fallen leader,” says best-selling author Max Lucado. “They step in when others have stepped back.”

God Uses Imperfect People

“The gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29). We all understand that the specificity of this text refers to Israel. It also refers to the nature and character of God.

He is not frivolous regarding whom He calls. He places a holy calling on unholy individuals. The cross and His grace are the only things that brand us as His own.

He knows the human frailties of those called into ministry. He knows their imperfections. He also knows that greed, lust and envy will pervade their very beings.

My dear friend Ruth Graham (daughter of Billy Graham) brings home the truth that God has a history of calling and using flawed individuals to do His work:

“What would the biblical history be without Abraham? King David? Peter?

“What if God had disqualified them for service because of their failures? It would be a sad, thin narrative indeed. God in His mercy and grace included rascals in the biblical story to encourage us because we are all fallen and flawed. And in His grace He fits us for service.

“God loves to redeem the broken. He creates order out of chaos—He began that in Genesis and still does. He doesn’t stop at ruins; that’s where He begins. That is why Heal Your Servant is a ministry whose time has come. The church must be a model of the nature of God!”

It is true; many of the great leaders of the church through the ages have been associated with some sort of scandal. This does not disqualify them. In many cases, God uses their encounter along with His mercy and grace to refine them.

Called to Restoration

If we truly are “the body” of Christ and parts of our body are wounded, it’s imperative that we rush to protect and heal those parts that are sickly. It is our responsibility to get them healed.

Galatians 6:1-3 gives us a very clear perspective on how to distinguish those who are truly God’s servants in such a time: “Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness, considering yourself lest you also be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. For if anyone thinks himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceives himself.”

This Scripture very clearly indicates how God’s man will instinctively respond. The most spiritual among us will be those who run to restore.

Jesus dealt with this same issue when confronting the woman caught in adultery. He exchanged our concept of “accountability to” for that of His concept of “accountability for.” He took personal responsibility for the woman. And after driving away the accusers, He spoke words of forgiveness and healing.

“Falling in a moral pit or getting stuck in a slew of despondency is just one of the realities of living in a fallen world,” says Randy Frazee, senior minister of Oak Hills Church in San Antonio, Texas.

“Here’s good news—you don’t have to stay there. Heal Your Servant offers a safe, grace-filled, confidential way to experience freedom again.”

Those who have truly tasted the mercy and grace of God are always the first to run to the aid of a fallen comrade. For those who have a tendency to judge and condemn another man’s sin, I have one simple question: “If your most fatal flaw were made public, would you still be allowed in ministry?”

It’s something to think about.  


David Vigil is CEO and founder of Heal Your Servant. His life focus is to serve those who have been called of God and see to it that they are free to be exactly what they have been designed to be.

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webmaster@strang.com (David Vigil) Healing Thu, 09 Jan 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Church Health: How Do People Learn? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/19859-church-health-how-do-people-learn http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/19859-church-health-how-do-people-learn Kim Martinez 2Editor’s Note: This is the third and final in a series of articles by Assemblies of God Pastor Kim Martinez on church health. Part 1 Part 2

Jeffrey squishes his car into a parking spot, grabs his bible and heads for the church.

He is on his Sunday-best behavior. He dropped his wife and kids off at the door before parking on the back 40 and slogging through the slush to get into the sanctuary. As he enters the church, his brain starts to switch off. He has walked into the presentation zone. Jeffrey wants to engage in church, and he works hard at it, but every Sunday, he fights a simple problem—his mind tries to turn off when he enters the building. He hasn’t figured out the cause, but perhaps with a bit of thought, we can change the environment so that he finds himself energized and focused instead.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Kim Martinez) Innovation Tue, 22 Jan 2013 21:00:00 -0500
The Biker Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18294-the-biker-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18294-the-biker-church Revving up the gospel ... on Harleys

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fake+Paul_Wahl@charismamedia.com (Paul Wahl) Innovation Fri, 13 Feb 2009 14:14:44 -0500
The Cowboy Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18188-the-cowboy-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18188-the-cowboy-church Jesus CowboyBarrel racin', bull ridin', boots 'n' hats ... in Jesus' name (with a twang).

Gary Morgan is an iconic cowboy. Tall and lean, clad in jeans, a Western shirt and boots, his look embodies the Code of the West—justice, fairness, honesty. Morgan leads the 1,500-member Cowboy Church of Ellis County in Waxahachie, Texas, the largest such congregation in the world.

Nearly everything about the church has a cowboy connection. "We have something going on pretty near every night," Morgan says with a typical Texas twang. Other churches might build a gymnasium to draw young parishioners; not Cowboy Church. They built a riding arena instead that's open and available for riding after Sunday services. Barrel racing is held Tuesday evening, and team roping practice on Wednesday evening.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Paul Wahl) Innovation Fri, 16 Nov 2012 17:00:00 -0500
Church Unplugged http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18398-church-unplugged http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18398-church-unplugged If your church were stripped down to its core, what would be left?

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fake+Brad_Abare@charismamedia.com (Brad Abare) Innovation Mon, 20 Apr 2009 14:53:10 -0400
The Karate Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18120-the-karate-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/18120-the-karate-church Everybody was Kung-Fu fightin’ (sort of) in these two kickin’ congregations
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fake+Paul_Wahl@charismamedia.com (Paul Wahl) Innovation Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400
The Surfer Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/17453-the-surfer-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/innovation/17453-the-surfer-church Bibles and the beach fit perfectly together for this coastal congregation.
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fake+Paul_Wahl@charismamedia.com (Paul Wahl) Innovation Tue, 01 Jul 2008 00:00:00 -0400
Rethink Your Church's Outreach Strategy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/22050-rethink-your-church-s-outreach-strategy http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/22050-rethink-your-church-s-outreach-strategy I see a lot of church advertising these days. Many churches are utilizing billboards, print ads and social media for the purpose of outreach. I love the concept of utilizing creative spaces to advance the kingdom. However, there is something unsettling about public ads that advertise with slogans such as:

  • "In-depth preaching"
  • "Contemporary and traditional services"
  • "Bible studies for the whole family"

Don't get me wrong. I love all of those things. Preaching, corporate worship and Bible study are all high on my list. And no, I don't think the church should hide what we are doing.

However, it strikes me as odd when a church's outreach efforts advertise elements that only believers would be interested in. That doesn't mean unbelievers don't need it—it just means they don't know they need it—yet.

As I see it, this kind of advertising implies one of three things about the church:

  • The church assumes we live in culture familiar with Christianity. Churches must realize that we no longer have the luxury of living in a culture that is familiar and friendly to the church. Reaching unbelievers requires us to think like a missionary overseas attempting to reach a people group with no concept of church life. Certainly we would laugh if such a missionary posted a billboard in such a land that proclaimed "In-depth preaching," "Contemporary and traditional services" and "Bible studies for the whole family." American churches must begin to look at their communities in the same way.
  • The church wants to reach church people only. Of course there is nothing wrong with someone coming from another church to join your congregation. We expect no less when believers move to a new town. However, that does not mean it should be the sole focus of the church's outreach. To the contrary, the church's outreach should focus on nonbelievers!
  • The church has not thought through its outreach strategy. Churches often emulate other churches, our peers, without fully understanding the "why." The reasoning may go like this: "If the church across town purchased billboard advertising, we should too." For the first church, the purpose of the billboard may be a part of a great commission strategy to reach unbelievers. But for the second church, the purpose shifts to following a trend. The next thing you know, a committee has been formed, and the list of items to mention on the billboard grows into a laundry list of church programs, service times, facility pictures and contact information. Why? Because when there is no "why," anything (and everything) sounds like a good idea.

We all agree that our desire is to see unbelievers trust Christ, grow as disciples and become faithfully involved in a local church. In the present culture, how then should we approach outreach? Here are a few thoughts:

  • Relationships are key. The gospel is meant to be shared through relationships. Otherwise, evangelism would be as simple as posting Scripture on bulletin boards across the world. Now, more than ever, the greatest tool to reach nonbelievers is through genuine, authentic, relationships.
  • Love speaks loudly. We must follow Christ's example to love unbelievers. This doesn't mean we overlook sin or diminish the weight of God's judgment. In fact, true love will be greatly concerned by the sin and the coming judgment faced by those without Christ. The gospel makes no sense without the message of God's judgment. However, the message of God's judgment without the gospel is not good news. Love shares the entire message.
  • The church must meet people on their turf. Surely Christ exemplified this in His incarnation—leaving Heaven to walk the earth. Any outreach strategy must include dispersing from congregation to community.
  • Meet people where they are. In the same way that the church must be willing to enter unbelievers' geographic turf, we must also be willing to enter their cultural turf. If your church advertising implies "only those who look, act and dress like us are welcome," that's not gospel outreach—it's legalist recruiting. However, when used to communicate a willingness to meet people in the midst of their brokenness, despair, chaos and need, advertising can help a church open doors into people's lives.

But be ready—when the door opens, it might not be "nice, neat and clean." Ministry is messy. Don't even advertise if you aren't willing to walk through the door, roll up your sleeves and love on sinners. Because if that is the case, you've got bigger problems than determining what message will go on your billboard.

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 churchleaders.com.

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taylor.berglund@charismamedia.com (Scott Atteberry/Churchleaders.com) Marketing Thu, 30 Jul 2015 21:00:00 -0400
4 Keys to Creating an Irresistible Church in 2014 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/20617-4-keys-to-creating-an-irresistible-church-in-2014 http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/20617-4-keys-to-creating-an-irresistible-church-in-2014 Let me preface what I’m about to write by saying that basic and foundational things like prayer, discipleship and evangelism (having an externally-focused church as I’ve stated before) are all a given. Each church should take the Great Commission seriously and have an emphasis on the “Go” and on the “make disciples.”

I start everything with prayer, and so please know that what I’m about to discuss is with the above stated things as must-haves and what I consider foundational to a healthy church.

With that being said, let me share with you the “big four” that I look for when I visit a church, secret shop a church, or consult with a church. As the Scriptures encourage us—we should “compel them” to come in.

The big four that I look for when I do a secret shopper are first impressions, children’s ministry, security and worship. Yes, worship is last and I have listed them in the order that I weigh them.

As many studies have shown us, people make up their mind whether or not they will return, long before the worship service and especially the sermon. Most visitors will know in the first 10 minutes if they will return to your church.

First Impressions

Let’s start with what I consider to be the most crucial of all ministries at a church. Whether you call it first impressions, hospitality or guest relations—it matters and is paramount to breaking down walls and making guests feel welcome at your church.

“You’ve got 10 minutes. Somewhere between the parking lot and the children’s center, the ten minutes pass. They should know they matter to us before they hear how much they matter to God.”—Mark Waltz, Granger

Something I tell all the churches I work with is: “You must be strategic and intentional about breaking down any barriers of intimidation. You must be strategic and intentional about creating warm, welcoming environments.”

Now, I could spend an entire series on just first impressions. This is everything from your online presence (social media like Twitter, Facebook—as well as your website). For example, when I do a secret shopper visit, I create 10-15 pages in my report on just online presence before I ever leave to attend their physical campus.

Once one comes to your physical campus, the real fun begins. First impressions then include the parking lot, greeters, ushers, and people who greet you at your church’s Welcome or Information Booth. First impressions also include things like smell (your church may stink), signage (your church may be intimidating and confusing for new people), and how your facility is kept up and maintained. All these things play subtle parts in a guest’s first impression of your church and their subconscious.

Children’s Ministry

Maybe I’m biased because I have three young kids, but I believe in having a strong and attractive children’s ministry. A lot of churches target parents in their mid-20s to mid-40s and the best way to compel them is to offer a children’s ministry so dynamic that kids drag their parents to church.

Let me suggest that you make children’s ministry a priority. I’ve seen churches that spent millions on their worship center and have dumpy children’s facilities. I’d never return with my family to churches like that. Show me and your community that kids are important and that you care about partnering with parents to be a help in their spiritual growth. We all know the statistics on the likelihood of people accepting Christ after age 18. Student ministries (children’s through youth) are vital to fulfilling the Great Commission.

Security

This is probably the most overlooked part of most churches I visit. Most church leaders have never sat down and intentionally and strategically thought through how and why they do security. I wish this wasn’t important and that you didn’t have to have some kind of security presence, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. If there had only been one church shooting, that would be enough. I’m sad to say that several churches have experienced the tragedy of shootings—not to mention molestation and kidnapping.

Bottom-line: If I’m worried about my kids’ safety, I’m not going to enjoy the worship service and I will miss what God wants to do in my heart through the experience of corporate worship.

Security includes everything from people’s cars in the parking lot, to the safety of infants in the nursery, to children’s facilities, check-in and check-out procedures, mentally ill people acting out in the middle of a service, and protecting the senior pastor. Every great church with a well-known senior pastor that I’ve worked with had a bodyguard standing next to the pastor for his protection. This is not for show or something for rock stars—this is something real and needed to protect that man of God from people that mean to do him harm. When you stand for truth and speak against sin, you become a target for many that live in darkness. If you haven’t done so already, think through every aspect of security in your organization. I just returned from a church in California that had security people covering every single entrance and exit to their children’s ministry. It was a beautiful thing to see and made me feel safe as a parent.

Attractional Worship

I know there’s a lot of discussion and debate about whether a church should be attractional or missional. I’ve talked extensively about it all over the country. I’m a both/ and person and like for a church to seek to be both, but when it comes to the corporate worship service—I look for an attractional model. Again: COMPEL them to come in. Blow your people and your community away with excellence and an environment that allows the Holy Spirit of God to move.

I never got over Sally Morgenthaler’s book, Worship Evangelism. I think lost people can be moved by genuine and authentic worship. I also know God moves through the preaching of His Word. Please know I’m not talking to just large churches. I work with several small churches. They do things with excellence and, for a small church, blow me away.

Regardless of what size church you have, you should think through worship flow, song selection, authenticity, communication/ preaching and every aspect of what you want people to experience each week when you gather. Are sound, video and lights important? I think so, but you don’t have to have the best of the best to see God move. One of the most special and memorable services we did at Bent Tree when I was there was have a stripped down music set with no technology.

Whether you’re in a school, movie theater, gym, or worship center—you can seek to create an environment where people encounter the Living God.

Please know these are not biblical laws or scriptural requirements. These are just four keys that I look for when I visit a church, and I’ve found over the years that the churches that do these four things well will see God bless their church in amazing ways. Think through each as a team and prayerfully consider how you can do each to the best of your ability.

Note: The preceding is an excerpt from Greg Atkinson’s latest book, Church Leadership Essentials, available on Amazon through Rainer Publishing.

Greg Atkinson is an author, speaker, consultant and the editor of Christian Media Magazine. Greg has started businesses including the worship resource website WorshipHouse Media, a social media marketing company, and his own consulting firm.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Atkinson) Marketing Wed, 01 Jan 2014 17:00:00 -0500
Why We Shouldn't Let Social Media Distract Us http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/20471-the-social-media-vortex http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/20471-the-social-media-vortex Ever look at the clock and realize you’ve spent the last two hours surfing the Internet, reading Twitter posts or commenting on Facebook?

In this social media-obsessed age, typical water-cooler banter and pointless meetings are no longer the greatest time wasters at work. A recent uSamp study found that nearly 60 percent of workplace distractions involve social networks, text messaging, instant messaging or email. In fact, navigating between multiple tabs and windows to keep an eye on a variety of applications is a huge distraction in itself.

In the end, nearly half the employees surveyed in the study said they worked only 15 minutes or less without getting interrupted or distracted. More than half said they wasted at least one hour every day due to distraction. We live in a disruptive, tech-obsessed world.

That’s the data. But data rarely motivates or inspires us to make the types of behavior modifications and lifestyle changes we need to eliminate the distraction of social media. We have to choose to be in control of how much time we spend—and how we spend it—on social media.

I know people who have punted and just said no to using social media. While that is a solution, it’s not a very relevant one for those of us who do want to be effective in connecting with people near and far.

A better one is making a conscious choice about how you use your time moment by moment. Here are my top actions for avoiding social media and personal technology distractions:

  • Turn off alerts and notifications.
  • Check e-mail only three times a day.
  • Use a second monitor (to decrease window-switching time).
  • Schedule regular blocks of time to turn off my smartphone.

In a video titled Slow Tech, Google Ventures general partner Joe Kraus made these comments about our constant culture of distraction and the crisis of being disconnected and losing ourselves: “We all face distractions on a daily basis. Distractions not only lower our productivity; they also increase our stress. You probably already know what distracts you the most—phone calls, emails, instant messages, Internet browsing, interrupting co-workers and so on. Strategies like scheduling email checks, turning off your phone and leaving the office for a quieter environment may eliminate distractions so that you get more done.”

In an article he wrote on avoiding social media distractions, PC World contributor David Daw suggests turning off the push notifications on your smartphone for social media updates from sites such as Facebook and Twitter. “Setting up a way to tune out mobile email notifications is well worthwhile,” he says.

To keep from getting sucked into a vortex of endless surfing the web, San Francisco-based writer and publisher Genevieve DeGuzman offers three tips:

1. Close news and social media sites. Another helpful tip is to create an aggregated feed of all your favorite news sites. This helps you avoid wasting time wandering the Internet for headlines and updates.

2. Close your Internet browser when you’re working. The precious seconds it takes to load the browser when you feel tempted to go online may be just the moment you need to become conscious of the time you’re wasting. If you must be logged in on a continual basis, try restricting yourself to three or four browser tabs for work-related sites. Close everything else.

3. Try online quarantine. For extreme measures, install Freedom, Anti-Social, or RescueTime, which put a temporary barrier on your access to certain websites on the net. Add all your social media sites to the blacklist.

More than at any other time in history, technology—specifically social media—affords us the opportunity to connect faster and in unprecedented ways. We can meet and talk to people we otherwise would never have met. But with that opportunity comes the responsibility to steward these resources in productive and healthy ways.

DJ Chuang hosts the Social Media Church podcast, a place for conversations with church leaders about social media. He’s the editor of two books, Asian American Youth Ministry and Conversations: Asian American Evangelical Theologies in Formation. He has been blogging at his personal website (djchuang.com) since 1999, curating many links to resources pertaining to churches, technology and multiethnic or Asian-American ministry.

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webmaster@strang.com (DJ Chuang) Marketing Mon, 11 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Did You Miss This in the News? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/19650-did-you-miss-this-in-the-news http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/19650-did-you-miss-this-in-the-news Charismanews app android-photo

Check 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 app Charisma News by clicking here.

IHOPU Student Confesses to Murdering a Former Intern
Christians May Be Forced to Contribute to Sex-Change Surgeries in San Francisco
Mob Violence Erupts After Boy Urinates on Quran
Goodbye Christian America ... Hello, True Christianity
Batman Actor Christian Bale Takes a Stand Against Forced Abortions

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Shawn A. Akers) Marketing Tue, 13 Nov 2012 17:54:00 -0500
Target Marketing: Finding Your Focus http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/17756-target-marketing-finding-your-focus http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/17756-target-marketing-finding-your-focus bincolulars-man-searchingPaul spoke about being “all things to all men” (see 1 Cor. 9:22). His missionary journeys proved his ability to understand different people groups and adapt his message to meet them where they lived.

On the other hand, Paul considered himself called to be an "apostle to the Gentiles” (see Rom. 11:13). Sounds slightly targeted doesn’t it? How do we reconcile these two pursuits: to reach all and yet focus on only a segment?

Paul understood his strengths and his calling. Every church has strengths at reaching a “type” of people in its community. Though that might strike some as unjust, its truth defines both our strengths and the areas we need to grow.

Whether you are a church that is known for young families, old money, the upper class, the working class or the struggling class—whether you are known for deep followers, surface seekers, empty nesters or down-and-outers—there are tendencies as to whom you draw.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Richard Reising) Marketing Mon, 11 Feb 2013 14:00:00 -0500
Target Marketing: Defining the Target http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/18118-target-marketing-defining-the-target http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/marketing/18118-target-marketing-defining-the-target God wants to reach all, and He’s equipped you to reach certain ones.
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fake+Richard_Reising@charismamedia.com (Richard Reising) Marketing Sat, 01 Nov 2008 00:00:00 -0400
6 Traits of Effective Missions Programs Guaranteed to Impact the Future http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/21094-6-traits-of-effective-missions-programs-guaranteed-to-impact-the-future http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/21094-6-traits-of-effective-missions-programs-guaranteed-to-impact-the-future Ever wonder what missions might look like 10 years from now? Will we be supporting digital missionaries that holographically appear to unreached people groups using technology that interprets their spoken words into a remote people group's previously untranslated language?

I never would have imagined at OneHope that we would be creating digital missions tools that put God's Word in the hands of kids around the world through apps like the Bible App for Kids. Or that we would create a platform where users can type a text to send money to support a church or organization. Or that we would be developing gamificiation strategies for children's ministry using cutting-edge programs.

I don't know exactly what the future is going to look like, but I do know what every church ought to be doing today to poise their missions momentum to be successful in the future.

Intentionally maximize the role teens play in the life of the local church. Many church-going American teens are falling into the category of ""Moralistic Therapeutic Deists" when it comes to the depth of their faith. Unless we instill a sense of destiny into our spiritually homeless youth, giving them avenues to exercise and increase their involvement in the mission of the church, there won't be a next generation of believers passionate about or equipped to carry out the Great Commission.

Instill a strong missiology that reflects your ecclesiology. While most American churches believe they are God's institution for reaching the world, they have separated this ecclesiology from their missiology. This belief must be expressed as a core value in your missiology so that the mission, vision and core values of your church are reflected and connected to your missions strategy.

Be proactive instead of reactive. Are you intentionally partnering with the highest caliber of people and "best in class" to carry out your missions programs, or are you merely continuing to draw from your existing pool? Saying "yes" to every opportunity that comes along is not going to allow you the freedom for blue-sky sessions in the future, where you dream around your purpose and begin establishing relationships to build the dream team so you can collaborate with the best of the best and cultivate fruitful ministry.

Cultivate the spiritual gift of giving. Do we recognize and appreciate those who have been given the spiritual gift of giving? Ministries who intend to be successful five, 10 or 25 years from now need to understand how to properly serve those who have been gifted with the ability to make money and generously give it in support of God's Kingdom. Rather than shying away from them, you need to be nurturing major donor programs with the same intensity that you put toward pastoring people and stewarding resources.

Implement means to measure your outcomes. In the past, most programs were built to attract attendees to events and count the bodies in the room but failed to seek out and measure true life change. We have seen how implementing an outcome-based ministry model—where we start with the end in mind, design programs to that end, then measure for effectiveness—has revolutionized the fruitfulness of our ministry.

Teach missiology. Any discipleship vehicle—from small groups to seminars, weekly classes and teaching—should be used to do more than evoke people to respond out of emotion. They should be leveraged to integrate missions discipleship theology throughout the entire calendar year. Teaching a theology of mission informs the mind. When you help people understand the "why", they will then be inspired to become the "who" that is excited to be a part of the "how."

I feel like this list could go on and on, but if you are a new church, if you have inherited an old program, or are proactively assessing your programs because you want to be a game changer, going through this list will provide a pretty accurate gauge of whether or not you are set up for missions success, no matter what the future looks like!

For the original article, visit robhoskins.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rob Hoskins ) Missions Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:58:28 -0400
How to Prepare Your College Students for Missions Trips http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/20871-how-to-prepare-your-college-students-for-missions-trips http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/20871-how-to-prepare-your-college-students-for-missions-trips College ministry in the summer can be an interesting beast to tame. Some of our ministries aren’t really affected by the summer months; others blow up with all their college students coming back home, while others go dormant because students go back home.

But one thing is common across the country when it comes to college ministry and summer: mission trips. So, what I thought I’d do here is issue a caution, a suggestion and then a focus point for you as you prepare your teams.

Caution. Mission trips can be wonderful things for everyone involved. Our churches can be impacted, those that go on the trip can certainly be changed, and those we serve can really be helped. But it’s important to make sure we are not teaching the wrong thing.

The mission field is not somewhere other than where we live! We all live on the mission field; it is called Planet Earth. So, a quick word of advice as you prepare your teams: Make sure they are beginning to view themselves as missionaries where they live now. The trip can be a part of that process, but we must be intentional with making sure our mindsets are correctly aligned with God on this. God is doing things all over the world and, like every other missionary on the planet, God uses us where we live. If we don’t think God wants to use us where we currently live, we need to move.

Suggestion. Mission trips are packed with service opportunities, which is a wonderful aspect of these times. However, we often miss a fantastic opportunity with college-age people on our mission trips: exposure. Many people, especially in America, have huge misconceptions of what it means to be a missionary. We think missionaries are all people working out in the bush somewhere with people who have bones in their noses.

Well, college students need to experience otherwise. They should meet someone with a 4-year degree volunteering in a nursery, holding, changing and feeding babies. They should meet someone who is a computer whiz running the IT for a school. They should spend time with someone who is teaching orphans the construction trade or mechanics. It would be wonderful if they met a person with a 4-year art or music degree teaching children in an orphanage.

This type of exposure is critical for college students. By being exposed in these ways, they can literally see how their field of interest could potentially be used for the benefit of someone else rather than just for themselves. This is so critical that I would even suggest doing trips with the sole purpose of exposing students in this way.

Focus point. A critical aspect of college ministry is helping students move from only having relational connections in the student ministry world to having relational connections in the adult world. By doing so, they are exposed to older adults whom they can learn from, glean wisdom from and look up to.

That being said, invite an older adult or three to go on the trip with you. Handpick a few that you think would be great for college-age people to be exposed to. Don’t invite them to be chaperones. Invite them to join the trip as your friend, and have them be a part of the team just like everyone else. This way they can actually build relationships with no barriers.

These types of relational connecting points have to be taken advantage of when working with college students. And time away for a week or two on a trip like this is pretty much the prime time for lifelong relationships to start.

Thanks for loving college students!

Chuck Bomar planted and is lead pastor of Colossae Church in Portland, Oregon, and is founder of both CollegeLeader (www.CollegeLeader.org) and iampeople (www.iampeople.org). He is the author of six books, with the most recent being the highly anticipated work titled Better Off Without Jesus.

For the original article, visit blog.simplyyouthministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Bomar) Missions Mon, 05 May 2014 13:00:00 -0400
Should Every Church Be a Recovery Ministry? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/20744-should-every-church-be-a-recovery-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/20744-should-every-church-be-a-recovery-ministry Some churches don’t want a recovery ministry—a ministry that specializes in helping people deal with their addictions and pain—because of the messes they’d have to get involved in. That’s tragic.

Most churches in this category are less than a generation from their graves because they’ve forsaken the ministry of Jesus.

Other churches get that reaching broken, messy people matters, and they’ve launched recovery ministries to reach out to people with hurts, habits and hang-ups. But often the recovery ministry is the part of the church we’re happy to have on the side while hoping the broken, messy people don’t find their way on stage or into the mainstream of our leadership. Recovery ministry is seen as a good cause and an evangelistic tool, but perhaps little more.

There is a third category of churches rising up. These churches understand that we are all broken by sin, that we all make messes and that recovery is something we all desperately need.

These churches may or may not have an organized program for recovery, but they’ve determined to be a recovery ministry from Sunday morning to small groups to staff and leadership development to volunteer placement. Everything is seen as an ongoing process of helping broken people find healing and redemption.

The Grace Hills Church staff has spent the past five weeks studying through an excellent little book that surveys various churches around the country that take recovery issues seriously. One of my favorite quotes thus far is this:

“There is a stirring in churches of all theological stripes to wed a red-hot passion for personal evangelism and discipleship with a compassionate love for the poor, marginalized, and addicted. The world is standing on tippy-toe to see this kind of church!” —Pastor Jorge Acevedo, Grace United Methodist Church, Cape Coral, Fla.

You may have heard it said before that the church isn’t merely a retirement home for the frozen chosen but an emergency room for dying sinners. It’s important for members of every local church to realize that every single last one of us has been a sinner, broken and devastated by sin’s effects and bound for hell forever. The grace of God that has saved us from such a fate should be motivation enough to fuel our compassion for people trapped in their problems.

I’m convinced that when churches embrace the mission of rescuing the broken, we won’t have a growth problem anymore. We’ll have a space problem.

I’m broken. And I’m shamelessly trusting Jesus as my healer. And thankfully, I’ve found a church that is a recovery ministry—a family that will faithfully love me through my own hurts, habits and hang-ups and give me space to minister to others who are wrestling with the same.

I’m praying, like Pastor Acevedo, “God, send us the people nobody wants or sees.”

Brandon Cox has been a pastor for 15 years and is currently planting a church in northwest Arkansas, a Saddleback-sponsored church. He also serves as editor of Pastors.com and Rick Warren's Pastors' Toolbox, and authors a top 100 blog for church leaders. He's also the author of Rewired: Using Technology to Share God's Love.

For the original article, visit pastors.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brandon Cox) Missions Fri, 21 Feb 2014 20:00:00 -0500
Aliyah: Order in the Chaos http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/21330-aliyah-order-in-the-chaos http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/21330-aliyah-order-in-the-chaos A recent report by the Jewish Agency revealed that a greater number of Jewish people have been "dying to get out of their home countries—or, in some cases, getting out so they don't die." The report also stated that the 28 percent increase in Aliyah to Israel has been more a factor of being pushed than pulled.

The two countries that combined for a third of those immigrating to Israel were France and the Ukraine.

At first glance, these two countries seem worlds apart. The Russian invasion and ongoing war makes it quite easy to understand the increased desire for poor Jewish people to leave the Ukraine, but what about France? Jewish people have enjoyed a high level of influence and affluence there for many years. Isn't anti-Semitism supposed to be politically incorrect?

But there is an easy solution. Many simply veil their anti-Semitism with a more acceptable approach. It appears that being anti-Israel is all the rage. Israel's Operation Protective Edge in July ignited a firestorm of protests and violence in France and in nation after nation.

The violence initiated from Gaza and Israel's response helped unite the global Israel-hating cause. The Anti-Defamation League recently published many of the disturbing proclamations, events and headlines from around the world, and it seems no country is exempt. These are all manifestations of thinly veiled anti-Semitism.

Australia

In August, six teenagers boarded a bus transporting a group of Jewish students ages 5 to 12 years old and threatened "to cut their throats." The teenagers also shouted "Heil Hitler," "Kill the Jews," "Palestine must kill you Jews" and "Free Palestine."

Canada

In July, a swastika, accompanied by an obscene word, were spray-painted on a bus shelter in a Jewish neighborhood of a Toronto suburb.

France

In July, following an anti-Israel demonstration, a protester threw two Molotov cocktails at the security kiosk of the Jewish Community Center. Additionally, a kosher store was attacked with Molotov cocktails during an illegal anti-Israel demonstration, and several other stores were damaged in the violence.

Germany

Molotov cocktails were thrown at a synagogue. An 18-year-old was arrested; he was identified as a Palestinian.

Morocco

The Rabbi of a Jewish community was attacked by an assailant and suffered a broken nose and ribs.

The Netherlands

Two people wearing keffiyehs beat a woman who displayed an Israeli flag on her balcony.

United Kingdom

"Free Gaza" was spray-painted on a synagogue. And the list goes on ...

Consider what Russian Jewry must be making of the recent statements made by the Deputy of State Duma Elena Mazulina from the United Russia Party. She declared that the modern Russian Federation is not eager to see the representatives of Jewish people on its territory.

Violence, protests, anti-Semitism, hate rhetoric and terror threats together have camouflaged the divine order in all of this chaos. God has promised to regather His people from the four corners of the earth. Therefore, upon closer examination, one can see how all of this is working together to fulfill that divine purpose.

Anti-Semitism is not simply an attack on Jewish people. It is a direct affront to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is in essence a mocking of His faithfulness and ability to fulfill His promises.

Therefore we can take heart that the turmoil in and around the world is further evidence of God's faithfulness. It is through this chaos that He is stirring the hearts of His people to return to Israel once more.  


Rev. Gary T. Cristofaro serves as director of development for Ezra International. He pastored First Assembly of God in Melbourne, Florida for 14 years.

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webmaster@strang.com (Rev. Gary Cristofaro) Missions Mon, 24 Nov 2014 20:00:00 -0500
What Does It Mean to Optimize Ministry? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/20483-what-does-it-mean-to-optimize-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/20483-what-does-it-mean-to-optimize-ministry An established executive in branding and marketing in the retail world, Sam Smith realized the need for compassionate yet professional business acumen within ministry leadership and coined the term “Optimizing Ministry.”

Smith used that focus to achieve record results in fundraising and volunteer support as the CEO at Mercy Ships. He was then approached by Medical Ministry International (MMI) and is now able to make an even larger impact on the poor as CEO of that global organization.

MMI has staff and programs in more than 23 countries that utilize health centers, residency training and project teams to serve the poor using Jesus as their guide. Sam is the author of the book When Love Heals and blogs at sam-smith.net. Recently, filmmaker and media consultant Phil Cooke interviewed Sam about his insights on leadership and international ministry.

Phil Cooke: You’re a nonprofit leader with a long background in business. Has that been a help or hindrance?

Sam Smith: It’s definitely been a big help, and I believe it is the reason I have been called into ministry. There are a lot of really good nonprofits operating out there that have good, if not great, intentions. Unfortunately, many of them were started by a charismatic person who, through sheer will and determination, [was] able to achieve good results, but lack[s] the business acumen to optimize all the gifts they have been provided. I am not a doctor, but I have the ability to provide the processes, accountability and execution to ensure that those with medical skills can do what they have been gifted to do.  

Cooke: What can a business mindset bring to ministry?

Smith: You can have passion for what you do, but you also have to optimize every single gift that God has provided. Many people in ministry get caught up in the passion to serve but are willing to sacrifice accountability and process because they don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings. The sad part is that the opposite is actually what is needed. If you don’t have the courage to tell people they aren’t helping the ministry but actually holding it back, you aren’t helping either one. One of the hardest aspects of my job is to tell people that it's time for them to go volunteer somewhere else. The amazing thing is that over time, nearly every one of them will come back and thank me for telling them what others did not have the courage to do.  

Cooke: Most of your ministry experience has been with medical relief. What is it about that kind of work that attracts you?

Smith: I am a branding and marketing guy and have zero medical skills. What I do have is the experience and ability to run multibillion-dollar organizations and ensure that those with the ability to make miracles happen have a solid foundation to work. You may be surprised to know that half of the roles at Medical Ministry International are non-medical. We have teachers, farmers, plumbers, carpenters, engineers and more that join forces with our medical teams to do amazing things. I know that if our team works really hard today, somewhere around the world our team is giving someone the chance to live. It just doesn’t get better than that for me!

Cooke: MMI has experienced significant growth in a short time under your leadership. What new ideas and leadership techniques have you brought to the table?

Smith: Medical Ministry International started out as primarily a relief organization, but we have refocused the ministry to more of a development mindset. This means that every one of our health centers, project teams or training programs are developed for the long-term benefit of the communities we serve. We have staff on the ground working 365 days a year to provide assessment of need, execution of services, and follow-up and analysis of the work we have done.  

Another interesting aspect is that we charge the poor for our services. Now, don’t get me wrong. We charge very little but have found that if you charge something, the people believe it’s worthwhile and will follow the doctor and staff directions to get well. So many organizations give away services only to find equipment and donated items being underused or sold on the black market. If you have an investment in your care, you own it, and no welfare mentality is created. It works well, but if someone doesn’t have any money, we take care of them anyway.

Cooke: How do you connect the gospel message with medical relief work?

Smith: The main focus of our ministry is not to evangelize directly but to serve people the way Jesus directed. We don’t care what your political or religious background is, but God always finds a way for someone on our team to be asked, "Why do you come all this way to serve us?"  

A wonderful story that sums this up is there was a group of Muslim villages in Africa that were having a difficult time surviving due to lack of access to the outside world. We started an agricultural co-op that involved the chiefs in all 30 villages to come and work alongside us to farm their land. We taught them how to increase their yields, and over time we were able to provide enough food to feed every person in all 30 villages. They even have produce left over to serve as an income source. The best part of the story is that we were asked why we came to help them, and we shared what motivated us to serve. Soon we were asked to start a Bible study, and now over 300 people attend twice a week to learn about the Jesus who serves as our guide.

Cooke: Are you seeing an impact where MMI has been? Can you give us an example?

Smith: I have thousands of stories, but one is related to our dental work in Bolivia. We are working with the Bolivian Ministry of Health to address the lack of dental care in a community just outside of Santa Cruz. Where once we had a 3-extraction-to-1-restoration ratio on dental patients, we have seen a total reversal, and smiles are being saved. This is a huge deal! The presence of sugar cane, cola, etc., in the diet causes major tooth decay, and we are seeing our dental focus in Bolivia totally reversing the trend. We want to prevent disease as much as address the current illness.

Another example is in Leticia, Colombia. We operate Clinica Leticia, which is on the border of Brazil, Colombia and Peru across the Amazon River. This is a full-scale hospital that serves 47 emergency cases a day, births over 70 children, and provides more than 70 percent of the total health care available to this region of over 300,000 people. We also have the only CT scan within 1,000 miles. Talk about being an island of hope in a sea of despair!

Cooke: You just produced a 30-minute TV special on the work of MMI that will be broadcast on Christian networks around the world. Why do you feel Christian leaders should be using media in today’s culture?

Smith: There is nothing worse than to be doing God’s work and no one know anything about it. If you think about it, there is plenty of negativity on television today, and the world needs to be aware of the good that is happening. They also need to be aware of the need.

I am a firm believer that God has given each of us special gifts, intelligence and resources to use as we determine. If we just sit in our own comfort zone and don’t engage, or at least support those that do, are we not utilizing God’s gifts in an optimal manner? It is our duty to get the message out to all to hear, and TV, Internet and video are powerful tools to make this happen. It’s easy to understand why we do what we do when you see a child’s life changed before your eyes!

Cooke: You’ve written a book about your experience so far with MMI. Tell me about it.

Smith: When Love Heals is a book that tells the stories of the work of MMI. It has provided an opportunity to take the reader on a journey through the eyes of our volunteers and patients. The book is a love story of how God has engaged those with talents and gifts to dramatically change the lives of others through love. We are very excited about the book and are already being asked to expand the concept in the future.  

Cooke: What’s next for Sam Smith?

Smith: We are driven at MMI to continually seek to get better every single day. The lines continue to be filled with thousands of people seeking help, and there are still many places where we don’t have the resources to help them all. We expect to triple the number of people that we currently serve in the near future, but it will take money and people to make that happen, and it’s our job to work to make this a reality.

In many ways, MMI is becoming similar to the “Good Housekeeping” seal for the work of nonprofits, especially in the medical world. We are currently in negotiations with multiple medical facilities in many countries to bring our expertise, oversight and accountability standards to their operations. You can rest assured that if they are flying our flag, they will be operating in a very sound and accountable manner.

Feel free to follow my blog, Facebook page Facebook page or website to get regular updates on our progress. This is God’s work, and we are honored to serve.

Phil Cooke is a filmmaker, media critic and adviser to some of the largest churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations in the world. He's the founder of the Influence Lab.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Phil Cooke) Missions Wed, 30 Oct 2013 16:00:00 -0400
Pastors, Avoid These 5 Traps http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/19921-a-five-point-checkup http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/missions/19921-a-five-point-checkup Richard-Stearns-World-Vision

As I have had the opportunity to speak to groups of pastors over these past few years, I have identified five different traps I believe churches often fall into—traps that prevent our churches from realizing their full potential to change the world for Christ.

Most churches will find they have slid into one or two of these traps to one degree or another. Some will have avoided them all. Either way, just being aware of a trap helps keep one from falling prey to it in the first place. 

Below are the five traps to consider. Do one or more characterize you or your church?

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rich Stearns) Missions Thu, 28 Mar 2013 20:00:00 -0400
A Passion for Prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/prayer/19159-a-passion-for-prayer http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/prayer/19159-a-passion-for-prayer If we don’t pray, how will we really know what God has for us?D-MinOut-Prayer

 


Passionate spiritual zeal is one of the most important, evident qualities of having an authentic relationship with God. It is key to our witness. It is vital to moving His church forward. Passionate Christianity should be the norm for every believer—not the exception. Our spiritual passion should be something we fight to protect.

It has been through times of drawing closer to God through prayer and fasting that I have received some of the most precise, specific direction for my own life, my family and our church. Without fail, each time I fast I look back in amazement at what God has done in my heart and what He has revealed to me, and I wonder, What if I had not fasted? I would have missed out on what God had for me and our church.

The first 10 years of my ministry at Celebration Church felt like life with Jesus in the fast lane. I ran so hard and so fast. My relationship with God was great, but the church grew so rapidly I had to sprint to keep up. I suppose it’s OK to be in the fast lane, but it is so important to ensure we are making regular stops along the way to get alone with God. If not, the other voices, business and pressures of ministry crowd out the voice of God.

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webmaster@strang.com (Stovall Weems) Prayer Mon, 20 Jun 2011 13:08:53 -0400
God's Army Takes the Marriage Battle to the Front http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/resourcing/20194-in-the-battle-together http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/resourcing/20194-in-the-battle-together D-MinOutResourcingIntheBattle

As president of the ministry my dad, Jimmy Evans, founded, I’ve been serving him for almost a decade. This year, we’re celebrating the 20th anniversary of MarriageToday, so I’ve been along for a good portion of the ride. From day one, MarriageToday has always focused on equipping the local church to succeed in the area of marriage. My dad, who has been a pastor for 30 years, frequently says, “The local church is the hope of the world.”

We sincerely believe that. We see our broadcast ministry as the “Air Force” in the battle to save marriage and the local church as the “Army,” with its massive supply of ground troops. We absolutely know that we can’t win this war without strategizing with each other.

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webmaster@strang.com (Brent Evans) Resourcing Tue, 02 Jul 2013 13:00:00 -0400
Why ‘a Cup of Water’ Can Mean So Much http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/21352-why-a-cup-of-water-can-mean-so-much http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/21352-why-a-cup-of-water-can-mean-so-much I'm the only person I know who picks up stray pennies. I add them to my coil cup, which will eventually be given to missions.

Every little bit counts.

The gospel song goes: "If just a cup of water I place within your hand ... Then just a cup of water is all that I command. ... "

What could be smaller than a cup of water? What gift could be less costly when given or more appreciated when received? What more insignificant act could the heavenly Father possibly take note of and enter into His records for judgment? And yet, there it is, from the mouth of the Savior Himself.

This means possibilities for everyone. This means excuses for no one.

We pastors hear it all the time. "My gift is so small, it could not possibly matter. It could not make that much of a difference." "My little pittance would be an insult to God."

Wrong; very wrong. No gift is too small for the Father to take note of it.

The widow's gift of two pennies—the account is told in Mark 12:41-44 and Luke 21:1-4—should forever testify to the Lord's recognition of the smallest gift from the least of these. Surrounded by wealthy donors with bags of coins, this woman gave more than anyone else that day, said Jesus.

Clearly, God does not count the way we do.

He does not look at the numbers of our checks or currency to tote up what we are contributing. He has other ways of "counting the offering." God sees the heart, considers the intent and places great weight on both what the gift meant to the donor and the difference it made to the recipient.

A cup of cold water could mean life or death in some situations. In other less dire situations, it means refreshment for the journey and encouragement along the way. It all counts.

"Will never lose his reward."

No mention is given of the nature or size of that reward, only of its certainty. Our Lord promised something of a similar nature in another place.

"When you host a banquet, invite those who are poor, maimed, lame or blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous" (Luke 14:13-14).

You will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.

Our Lord does not hesitate to promise amazing things. And He's not even running for office.

He wants to encourage faithfulness and generosity, grace and mercy, in His children.

Let us write it on our hearts in huge letters so that we will never forget it again: God sees what we do.

God cares what we give.

God values the slightest gift.

No one is without excuse.

All have eternal possibilities.

I keep remembering a story from a preacher from the distant past. The pastor called a businessman in his church to ask if he would like to contribute to the support of a young ministerial student who was headed to Bible college.

"I will be glad to, pastor. How much do you need?"

The pastor expressed surprise at his quick response. So, the man explained:

"Some years back, your predecessor called me with a similar request and I turned him down. That young man went on to become a powerful preacher of the gospel. Every time I think of him, I remember how I could have had a part in his life and shared in the reward for his ministry. And I determined if the Lord ever gave me another opportunity, I would grab it."

My single addition to the story is that the opportunities are all around us and not just awaiting a phone call from a pastor. Every Bible college and Christian seminary on the planet has students who are struggling financially who would rejoice at the gift of a few dollars. Some have to drop out because they cannot afford to take two or three years or more for their theological education when their families have pressing needs.

A few dollars in an envelope sent to that school with a note saying,  "For some ministerial student in need" will honor Christ and bless the Lord's servants. Then, some day in the future, you will get to see just how well the Lord keeps His promises.

"God is not so unjust as to forget your work and the love that you have shown toward His name in having ministered to the saints, and in still ministering" (Heb. 6:10).

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

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Service Fri, 14 Nov 2014 14:00:00 -0500
5 Keys to Keeping Volunteers Long Term http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20962-5-keys-to-keeping-volunteers-long-term http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20962-5-keys-to-keeping-volunteers-long-term Enticing volunteers to stick around for the long haul can be a challenging proposition. What's the secret? Here are 5 suggestions that might help:

1.  Sweet Spot. Make sure you place volunteers in their "sweet spot."  In other words, place them in roles they are gifted in and passionate about.

When you ask most new volunteers where they want to serve, they will say, "Wherever you need me." But don't place them "where you need them."  Place them where they are gifted and passionate. And a month later, go back and ask them if they are in their sweet spot. If they're not, let them try another area.

People who are in their sweet spot will stay long term.  People who are not in their sweet spot will eventually catch the "burnout" germ.

2.  Relationships. Relationships are the glue that keep people serving in your ministry.  Create an atmosphere of family. People who do life together will continue doing ministry together long term.

3.  Time off.  Give your volunteers breaks. Create windows of margin that will allow them to be gone. If you don't allow them to take a vacation occasionally from serving, they will retire early from serving in your ministry.

4.  Increased responsibility. Many times volunteers will get bored in their role after a number of years. Challenge them to go to the next level in serving. Give them a fresh challenge or more responsibility. If you don't, they'll go looking somewhere else for it. 

5.  Appreciation. Take time to regularly show your appreciation. Honor them. Thank them. Tell them. Your thank yous may be the difference between a person serving for 10 years instead of 1 year.

What are some other tips for keeping your volunteers long-term? Share your thoughts and ideas with us in the comment section below.

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

For the original article, visit relevantchildrensministry.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Dale Hudson) Service Wed, 04 Jun 2014 19:00:00 -0400
How to Recruit a Steady Group of Positive Volunteers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20668-how-to-recruit-a-steady-group-of-positive-volunteers http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20668-how-to-recruit-a-steady-group-of-positive-volunteers Recruiting volunteers for your church or religious group is a time-consuming process, especially if only one person has taken on the responsibility to do so. Recruiting and maintaining a good group of volunteers can make things much easier when you hold community events, church services, fundraisers, and other occasions that require the help of others.

Here are some tips that can help you recruit and hold on to volunteers for the long-term:

Start By Advertising
Most people won’t know you’re actively looking for volunteers unless you make it known. Advertising your need for volunteers can be as simple as a reminder during normal church services, a request in your church newsletter, or an advertisement on a bulletin board that’s viewable when people walk in or out of the building. If you’re actively recruiting for new volunteers, make sure you take advantage of all three right off the bat.

If your church has a website, post an advertisement that you’re looking for volunteers on the home page. Place it in a noticeable spot so it’s one of the first things your visitors see when they visit your website. If your local community has a website with a free classifieds section, try posting an advertisement. The same goes if you have a sign at your location that’s visible from the street. Make it well known that you’re actively looking for and recruiting volunteers.

Ask People for Their Help
Advertising that you’re actively recruiting volunteers is a great place to start, but you may find that people just aren’t responding. In addition to advertising as much as possible, get out there and ask people in your community or congregation if they’d be willing to volunteer on either a short- or long-term basis. Don’t push for an answer on the spot - give them a chance to think about it by scheduling a follow-up conversation after a few days.

It may be a good idea to get to know people before asking for a commitment. You’d be surprised at how willing people are to volunteer once you get to know them on a more personal level.

Don’t Recruit By Yourself
After you have a few volunteers committed to helping the cause, ask for their help with the recruitment efforts. If all the recruitment efforts fall back on to you or one other person, it’s most likely not enough. Take a few minutes to train your current volunteers on how to effectively recruit others. Ask them to reach out to their personal network, like family and close friends who may share some of the same common interests.

You’ll find it’s much easier to maintain a group of volunteers if you share the same morals, values, and goals.

Don’t Limit Yourself to Word of Mouth
Take advantage of technology to reach out to people and ask for their help. If you have a community newsletter or email, send a quick message to your list of subscribers asking for their help in volunteering or passing on the message to those who can.

Social networks are a great way to spread the message, as well. If your group has a Facebook page or Twitter profile, advertise your recruitment efforts on these social networks to get the word out.

When you hold local events or community service, try to recruit others to join you during the event itself. Don’t be afraid to use prayer as a way to recruit others and bring your current volunteers closer together.

Start your recruitment efforts by advertising during service; on your website; and via local bulletins, newsletters, and emails. Reach out to people individually and ask for their help once you get to know them. Bring your faith into the events you hold—prayer is a powerful tool for yourself and those around you. Recruiting people that share the same values as you can help maintain them in the long-term.

Brian Flax holds a master’s degree in education technology and a bachelor’s in entertainment business.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Brian Flax) Service Tue, 28 Jan 2014 17:00:00 -0500
How to Create a Culture of Serving http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20458-create-a-culture-of-serving http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20458-create-a-culture-of-serving One of the ways I use social media is to keep an eye on other pastors and churches and see what they’re up to. Through the years, I’ve noticed that several churches highlight a Volunteer of the Week (VOW). I first saw Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., do this. After keeping my eye on this initiative for quite some time, I was inspired to start it at my own church.

I believe in this idea so much that I actually own it at my church. Eventually I’ll pass it on to another leader, but for now I’m putting all my effort and energy into getting it started. We’ve been doing this for about a month now. Here’s a sample of what we post in my weekly blog and email to the church (and also include in our handout):

Volunteer of the Week

“This week’s VOW is Darin Cooley. Darin serves in a number of ways at Forest Park Carthage, including working on our First Impressions and parking lot teams, preparing Communion, unlocking the church doors each Sunday morning, collecting the offering after the second service and leading a LifeGroup. Darin is a true servant, and we are blessed and encouraged by his cheerful spirit and servant’s heart. If you’d like to serve on our First Impressions team, please contact Pastor Matt.”

There you go—short, sweet and to the point! We always end each writeup with a call to action (e.g., “If you’re interested in our First Impressions team, please contact Pastor Matt.”)

Why did we start this feature at our church? We saw no negatives and all positives. It highlights great servants in our church and allows us to brag on them. It gives them a shot in the arm and fires them up to keep serving. And it reinforces our culture of serving.

After people in our church see these types of notices multiple times, I’m confident the idea will be part of what God uses to bring new volunteers to our teams. Here’s how we made it happen:

  • I asked all our staff and team leaders to send me a list of 10 volunteers they’d like to see highlighted and recognized and why.
  • We asked a volunteer photographer in our church to go around on Sunday morning and take pictures of all the people on the list I compiled.
  • We looked through the pictures and list and considered how these volunteers serve and then laid out our future VOWs. (Note: We try to rotate between male and female volunteers as well as among different ministries, such as Kid City, students, worship, tech, First Impressions, cafe and so on).

In addition to featuring volunteers, here are a few other ideas for making sure volunteers are recognized and appreciated:

  • Send a personal thank-you note from the pastor.
  • Set aside preferred parking for the VOW.
  • Film a video highlighting a volunteer.
  • Assign a strong volunteer to represent the church for a community event.
  • Develop "Volunteer Sunday," and use it to acknowledge all volunteers.
  • Post a thank-you note in a volunteer’s work area before he arrives for his shift.
  • Create a photo wall in a hallway recognizing volunteer years of service.
  • Plan an annual volunteer appreciation dinner.
  • Take advantage of National Volunteer Appreciation Week (usually the second or third week in April). 

Try these easy ideas in your church as soon as next week. We’re seeing positive takeaways as people feel appreciated and more people start to ask, “How can I serve in my church?”

Greg Atkinson has been in ministry for two decades and has been writing, speaking and training thousands of church leaders since 2000. He now serves as the campus pastor at Forest Park Carthage, a multisite church in Southwest Missouri.

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webmaster@strang.com (Greg Atkinson) Service Wed, 13 Nov 2013 14:00:00 -0500
8 Suggestions for Improving Your Church’s Grief Care http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20352-8-suggestions-for-improving-your-church-s-grief-care http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20352-8-suggestions-for-improving-your-church-s-grief-care Grief-church-careLoss is hard. Although everyone handles grief differently, I’m convinced that nobody handles it easily.

One of the ways that Christ comforts His children is through His body—the church. Romans 12:15 reminds us to “weep with those who weep” (ESV). After all, that’s what Jesus did. When His friend Lazarus died, He wept with Mary and Martha over their loss (John 11:35).

So when Jesus gives us, His ambassadors on earth, an opportunity to represent Him through comforting those experiencing loss; we must not take it lightly. That’s why I think it is vital that every church think through their own “care plan” now.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Scott Attebery) Service Mon, 09 Sep 2013 20:00:00 -0400
How Great Is Your Faithfulness? http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20075-how-great-is-your-faithfulness http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/service/20075-how-great-is-your-faithfulness Greg-Mauro-PreachingWhile we live in a world that celebrates jumping from one relationship to the next, faithfulness has taken a backseat to self-interest. And sad to say, the church world appears to be not far behind, as Christians hop from one church, one ministry and one message to the next.

All of that is motivated by the bottom line—what’s in it for me and what’s best for me?

Like honor, faithfulness is big in God’s eyes yet certainly not valued highly in the day and age we live in.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Greg Mauro) Service Mon, 29 Apr 2013 13:00:00 -0400
12 Hot Spots For Holy Ghost Revivals http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/world/19668-12-hot-spots-for-holy-ghost-revivals http://ministrytodaymag.com/ministry-outreach/world/19668-12-hot-spots-for-holy-ghost-revivals praying-woman-headscarfThe Holy Spirit is working in places you might never expect. The move of God happening in these 12 locations is notable, and these hot spots are great places for evangelists and missionaries to set their sights.

China.  Nothing in the history of missions rivals the success story that is China. Mao Zedong tried to wipe out Christian faith in the 1970s when there were only 2.7 million believers. Today, the most conservative estimate is that China had 75 million believers in 2010. A few years ago the greatest growth was among rural “house churches.” Today Christianity is also growing in China’s major cities, and charismatic renewal has infiltrated state-sponsored churches.

India. Despite language barriers, tribal divisions and violent attacks by Hindus, indigenous church-planting movements have flourished all over India in the last 40 years. Fifteen years ago in Andhra Pradesh, a woman who heard a gospel radio broadcast, asked if someone could plant a church in her remote village. Within the first year after a pastor came, the church had 75 converts. After a church building was constructed in 1994, this church planted 125 churches with a combined membership of more than 5,000. This type of growth is occurring throughout India today.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (J. Lee Grady) World Mon, 26 Nov 2012 17:00:00 -0500