The eternal impact of radically serving the community around you
I can remember being 20 years old, coming to Los Angeles with the goal of having a 24/7 church that would serve the local community’s needs. I knew it wouldn’t be easy. But I had no idea of the challenges ahead.
Coming from such a large church—Phoenix First Assembly of God, led by my father, Tommy Barnett—it was a bit of an adjustment to have just a few people show up to some of our earliest servicesv. Feeling defeated after an especially difficult night, I walked through the neighborhood, listening for the voice of God.
That night, I saw people caught up in drug addiction, homelessness, prostitution. Just walking around, I could sense the turmoil and oppression. In that moment, God told me these broken people were my congregation, that my ministry was and would not be confined to a church building. Instead, this ministry would reach beyond walls and throughout the neighborhood.
That night—and finding that calling—was a life-defining moment for me.
It was the middle of a Sunday service. The music was done, and I got up to pray.
Suddenly, from my right a woman rushed at the pulpit, ran up the stairs, screamed something, threw a book at me and started back down the aisle. I paused for a moment in mid-prayer, taking in the situation.
Almost every church faces it from time to time. How do you handle those individuals that aren’t quite right?
Would you join me and Bishop Harry Jackson on a conference call on Tuesday, August 21, at 9 p.m. EST/8 p.m. CST. Dial (530) 881-1000, code 760660#. I estimate the call will take 30 minutes. Bishop Jackson can explain it better than I can. However, he explains a lot in his letter below.
I’m writing this because I believe you are as concerned as I am about the way our nation is going. One of the most serious threats to our religious liberties and also an indication of the state of the moral decline of our culture is the fact that President Obama has come out in favor of same-sex marriage. I believe that if he is reelected he will take it as a mandate to push legislation to approve same-sex marriage.
I’ve come alongside Bishop Harry Jackson, who has a strategy that he believes will swing enough votes in seven key states to keep from electing Obama. He would reach out to black and Hispanic ministers who had previously supported Obama with the idea that the president has finally gone too far and that supporting same-sex marriage is too serious to support him again.
Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?
Preaching. Countless people have done it and are doing it. And as we all know, there isn't just one way of doing it. When it comes to the work of proclamation, we have various strategies and styles—some healthier than others.
Three Common Approaches to Preaching
What I find most often among preachers is something close to one of the three following approaches. While each approach has value, they are not enough in and of themselves.
The inspired approach. We probably know this better as the "I had a word from the Lord" approach. In its best form, this approach reflects a preacher who has been impressed by the Holy Spirit concerning a particular truth in Scripture. It is, in a sense, first-person: "The Lord led me, and I want to tell you how He is leading." In some ways, it reminds us of 1 Peter 4:11: "If anyone speaks, it should be as one who speaks God's words."
The danger here is that if we aren't binding ourselves to the Word of God, it isn't difficult to get off the path of truth and allow our hearts—which the Bible calls deceitful—to guide our preaching more than we allow Scripture to guide us.