Internet "Vital Foce" for Churches
Not everyone going online is looking for porn. More than 2 million people search the Internet each day for spiritual and religious information, according to a study by the Pew Research Center.
The group's Internet Project found that 21 percent of Internet users--about 20 million people--have gone to the Internet looking for faith-related sites. That's more than the number of people who utilize online banking.
In what is believed to have been the first study of its kind, researchers quizzed more than 1,300 churches and synagogues across the country. They concluded that the Internet had become "a vital force in many faith communities."
The most common use for a congregation's Web site was to encourage visitors to attend services (83 percent). Also popular were posting sermons and other faith-related documents (77 percent), links to denominational and other sites (76 percent) and links to study and devotional materials (60 percent).
Thirteen percent posted community volunteer opportunities. Only 5 percent used their sites for online fund raising, and just 4 percent broadcast their services on the Web.
Historic "Healing Rooms" Reopened as Volunteers "Re-dig Wells" of Pioneering MInistry
By Andy Butcher
A pioneering healing ministry has been resurrected after a hiatus of almost 80 years. Reports of physical and emotional healings are piling up at the Healing Rooms in Spokane, Wash., which have opened at the same address used by famous early 1900s healing evangelist John G. Lake.
The Healing Rooms are manned by prayer volunteers from local churches, under the direction of former real estate developer Cal Pierce, who says God led him to "re-dig the wells" of Lake's ministry. Pierce believes that a new move of healing is due to sweep the country to prepare Christians for a major harvest: "If we are going to be an army marching to battle, it won't be on crutches."
Since the Healing Rooms restarted almost two years ago, more than 5,000 people have visited for prayer. Some have traveled from overseas as word of the ministry has spread. Local doctors have referred patients to the ministry. Volunteers have sent out hundreds of prayer cloths. Healing Room ministries have also been started or are planned in around a dozen other cities.
"The key here is we are not trained up as great counselors, or as a great deliverance ministry, but we are trained up to receive the presence of the Holy Spirit to come and do the work," Pierce says. "And when He comes, every bit of infirmity must go. The key is humility and unity, to receive the presence of the Holy Spirit to come and do what He wants to do."
Shaken by a touch from God at his former church in California in 1996, Pierce felt led to move to Spokane and later gave up his business interests for full-time ministry. He regularly visited Lake's gravesite to pray--"it had to do with the Holy Spirit, and the power that man walked in that I knew was still available for the body of Christ." Then he believed he should reopen the Healing Rooms.
Pierce was amazed to find space on the third floor of the downtown Rookery Building, the same location Lake had ministered at from 1914 to 1920. A former missionary to Africa, Lake's ministry was so successful that at one stage Spokane was reportedly called "the healthiest city in America." He dreamed of a string of similar healing centers across the country, starting one in Portland, Ore., but he died of a stroke in 1935.
Steve Goodenberger of Spokane still weeps when he talks about the impact of the new Healing Rooms on his family. The Presbyterian music minister's teen-age son Keith's schooling had been crippled by years of migraine headaches, with no professionals able to help. They decided to try the Healing Rooms, and after a couple of visits the pain disappeared. "He has been a new creature ever since," his father says. "It has changed our lives."
Before he went to the Healing Rooms, Todd Callaghan of Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, had been told by doctors that his days were numbered by a rare genetic condition. But since receiving prayer, he says that his pain has lessened significantly and that several cancerous tumors have disappeared or shrunk. "It has changed my life completely. I don't know if I would still be here without it."
Currently open four days a week, the Healing Rooms have eight separate rooms where teams of three receive visitors and pray for them. Reports of healings are pinned to the wall. "We will continue with people as long as it takes," Pierce says. "We have had a lot of people healed as they went."
Restoring Your Church's Missing Missions Focus
By Karl Mueller
We all know why the church is here--to represent Christ on earth, to be salt and light in the world around us.
And yet, if we take an honest look at the ministry of the majority of North American churches, we would be hard pressed to say that those roles are always high priorities.
While most American churches have a "missions focus" once or twice a year, the average congregation spends less than 10 percent of its budget on outreach. Meanwhile, the missions department is often the first to be cut in difficult financial times.
In addition, few churches have an evangelism budget, or offer evangelism training to its members.
What can be done to change this? How can being "salt and light" become a high priority in our churches? These six steps can help put us on the right path:
1. Show the way. If a church is to become purposeful in always thinking of others as God's mission field, the church leadership must not only teach about the priority of being salt and light, but model this in their lives. Is the leadership of your church regularly involved in relational evangelism, community outreach or short-term missions?
2. Increase the budget. Loving our neighbor as ourselves should not just be rhetoric--it should be reflected in how we spend our money. So why not create and implement a plan to increase the percentage of the church budget designated to evangelism and missions to 50 percent? While a 10 percent tithe of the church budget to outreach is a good place to start, it should only be the beginning.
3. Train for evangelism. Incorporate relational evangelism training courses such as Discovering My Life Mission (Saddleback Community Church) or Becoming a Contagious Christian (Willowcreek Community Church) into your adult classes and small groups.
4. Introduce world prayer. Broaden your congregation's horizons by participating in events such as the annual 30 Days Muslim Prayer Focus and The International Day of Prayer for the Persecuted Church. They will raise members' global vision and get them involved in prayer.
5. Support other programs. Projects such as Operation Christmas Child (Samaritan's Purse) and Angel Tree (Prison Fellowship) at Christmas are tremendous opportunities for you to get your members involved in evangelism and missions projects. There are others, year-round, at rescue missions or with Habitat for Humanity.
6. Encourage outward thinking. Help all your groups, classes and ministries to always be thinking about how they can be salt and light. Suggest they incorporate an "open chair" into their meetings--symbolizing the unchurched people they know and are praying for.
There are numerous other ways in which to create a "missional" church--one where members see themselves as God's ambassadors, and the world outside their door as their assignment.
Be creative. Pray and ask God to lead you. Then, just do it.
A graduate of the University of Alberta and Fuller Theological Seminary with 20 years leadership experience in missions, Bible colleges and churches, Karl Mueller is currently associate minister of adult programs at Word of Grace Church in Mesa, Ariz.
Business Takes the Strain Out of Portable Church Planting
Pete van der Harst doesn't plant churches--he transplants them. His Portable Church Industries (PCI) helps congregations set up and break down their temporary meeting places each week in less time and with less stress. PCI has made a science--and a $2.4 million-a-year business--out of moving church equipment and items in and out of hired halls in the shortest time possible.
Van der Harst's unique collection of tailored trolleys and storage units caught the attention of Inc. magazine, whom he told most portable churches were "an administrative disaster...People hauling armloads of junk. Shoulders drooping. Everybody whipped. One guy we worked with said it was like moving a three-bedroom house every weekend."
He developed the idea for PCI while helping start a community church that met in a temporary accommodation. Since then he has helped transform around 150 rental churches from "rolling garage sales" into "professional-looking, under-control organizations." His Madison Heights, Mich., firm tailors its units to each client church's specific needs, then teaches the congregation how to use the system to its greatest effect.
PCI helped ease the load at Harbor of Hope Christian Church, which meets in a local middle school auditorium in Lowell, Mass. "It would take us at least twice as long to set up without his system," pastor Toney Salva told the business magazine.
Ministries Today Online: Chat with Frank Peretti
Join us for a live, one-hour chat with best-selling author Frank Peretti on Thursday, March 15th at 9 p.m. EST. We will be talking about his new book, The Wounded Spirit, and participants will have the opportunity to ask questions during the discussion.
Simply log on to www.ministriestoday.com and click on the chat room link to participate in the forum.
Seventy-seven percent of pastors polled by Ellison Research of Phoenix, Ariz., said that they believed the U.S. government should take action against countries where believers are persecuted for their faith.
Traits of Top Churches
Would your church make the grade? University of North Carolina professor Paul Wilkes has compiled a list of the best congregations in the country for a new book. The top churches, selected from an initial list of several hundred, had the following strengths:
A "joyful spirit," where people enjoy being part of the community
A welcoming atmosphere and easy accessibility for everyone
Innovative, thoughtful worship
A commitment to instill values of true Christian community
An awareness of the diversity of membership and openness to adapting to various groups
An emphasis on true spirituality and deep relationship with God
A respect for tradition without making services static
Scripture-based teaching, not "feel-good" religion An aggressive approach to dealing with members' problems
Source: The Denver Post
Relief Group 'Best Run Charity'
Samaritan's Purse, the Christian relief organization, has been named one of the best charities in the country. It was listed as the most efficiently run religious charity by Smart Money magazine.
The investment title analyzed three years of financial records for the largest 100 charities in the country, rating them according to how much of their budget actually went to program activities, how much of each dollar donation they spent on fund raising, and how little incoming money was saved.
Samaritan's Purse--whose 1999 income was almost $110 million--came out top in the religion list, with an 81 percent efficiency rating. Second was Wycliffe Bible Translators, whose nearly $85 million income was matched with a 71.1 percent efficiency rating.
Focus on the Family ($122 million income, 74.1 percent efficiency) was fourth, and Campus Crusade for Christ ($260 million, 73.7 percent efficiency) was fifth. The Salvation Army ranked 12th in the human services category with a $2.7 billion income and a 70.4 percent efficiency rating.
Leaders Under Pressure
One-in-four pastors is seriously unhappy with his work, says Ian Evison, a minister and director of research for the Alban Institute, an ecumenical research group in Bethesda, Md. Job dissatisfaction and depression are the most common problems.
"Many of them are depressed, have gotten into cycles of emotional withdrawal from their work, and that impacts their congregations, their families and their physical health," he says. "You really spend your day talking to people about very significant things. But on the other hand, you have a professional life that intrudes a great deal into your private life."
Source: The (Chicago) Sun-Times
'Take One Service...'
Philip Witkop sometimes gives his patients an unusual prescription--churchgoing. The Litchfield, Ill., doctor has no problem mixing medicine and ministry because as well as being part of a local family practice, he is an ordained Lutheran clergyman.
"My job as a doctor is to remind people of all aspects of health," he says. "If they're not getting interaction, I might suggest [they join a church]. We tend to compartmentalize too many things. To me, everything overlaps more than people give credit to. I don't proselytize. But if I see people looking for meaning in their lives, I have no problem inviting them to join a church."