Vision Sat, 13 Feb 2016 14:27:46 -0500 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Kingdom Economics: God's Perfect Timing

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) released the January employment situation report. Unemployment dropped from 5.0 percent in December to 4.9 percent in January. The month-to-month change in private employment fell to 158,000 from 251,000 in December. Similarly, the month-to-month change in total non-farm employment fell to 151,000 workers (a drop of 111,000 jobs). The report was viewed as disappointing by most.

The report looked even weaker when details are examined. The food services and drinking places, and the retail trade sectors added 72 percent of the 151,000 new jobs. Unfortunately, both sectors are dominated by minimum wage or near minimum wage jobs. Waitressing and bartending may help pay the bills but are not indicative of a strong labor market.

Total employment is not a leading economic indicator of recession. In fact, month-to-month changes in employment are still positive at the beginning of most recessions. We usually do not see employment changes turn negative until we are already in recession, and job losses will sometimes be at their largest shortly after the recession has ended.  Some have argued that the weaker, but still positive, jobs report is an indication that the recession may have already began.

Economic prediction is not an exact science. Timing is everything. Many of the analysts that have been the most bullish have been optimistic for years. History will prove them correct some of the time. Many of the analysts that have been most bearish have, likewise, been pessimistic for years. History will also prove them correct some of the time. In economics, we scan the environment, evaluate risks and opportunities, and make decisions based on probabilities. 

In the kingdom, timing is also critical. How many ministers have fallen because they were promoted too quickly? They, or someone, confused their spiritual gifts with spiritual maturity.

Character usually takes time to develop. Alternatively, how many people have not achieved the fullness of their ministry because they were waiting for the perfect timing to step out in faith by looking at natural circumstances? Fortunately, the Lord has a history of giving His children the perfect timing. And He is the same, yesterday, today and forever.

When the Lord tells us to go, it inherently involves His perfect timing. One of the more famous examples is when the pillar of cloud by day and the pillar of fire by night led the Israelites for 40 years in the desert. When the cloud lifted above the tabernacle, the Israelites would move and follow until it settled again on the tabernacle. They would not move without the pillar moving. By following His glory, the Israelites were assured of His divine timing and direction (Ex. 40: 36-38).

As we hear and follow the voice of the Lord, we will experience His perfect timing. He will fight our battles for us. We are assured of victory. David was told to wait until he heard the sound of marching in the treetops and the Lord would fight his battles. David obeyed. He experienced victory over the Philistine army.

"'When you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the trees, pay attention, because at that point the Lord is going before you to defeat the army of the Philistines.' So David did just as the Lord commanded, and he defeated the Philistines from Geba as far as Gezer" (2 Sam. 5:24-25, MEV).

As the temple of the Holy Spirit, we have been empowered to know His perfect timing and direction. Paul was prevented by the Holy Spirit from preaching the Word in Asia, from going to Bithynia, and was led to go to Macedonia (Acts 16:6-10). We have the same Holy Spirit. {eoa}

Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

]]> (James R. Russell) Vision Wed, 10 Feb 2016 13:00:00 -0500
With Church Health in Mind, This Is the Key

Church health is the result of balance.

Balance occurs when a church has a strategy and a structure to fulfill the five New Testament purposes for the church: worship, evangelism, fellowship, discipleship, and ministry.

If you don't have a strategy and a structure that intentionally balances the purposes, the church tends to overemphasize the purpose you as a pastor feel most passionate about.

We tend to go to seed on one truth at a time. You attend one seminar and hear that the key to growth is small groups. At another, it's volunteer recruitment, or dynamic worship, or creative outreach, or strong preaching.

The fact is, they're all important.

When a church emphasizes any one purpose to the neglect of others, that produces imbalance — it's unhealthy. And being unhealthy stunts a lot of churches.

To keep things balanced, four things must happen. You've got to:

  • move people into membership
  • build them up to maturity
  • train them for ministry
  • send them out on their mission.

You need a clear discipleship process to be able to gauge whether you're doing these things effectively or not. Just as our vital signs tell us whether our physical bodies are in good health or not, the health of a church is quantifiable. For example, I can measure how many more people are involved in ministry this month than last month.

How you accomplish those four objectives doesn't matter. As long as you are bringing people to Christ, into the fellowship of his family, building them up to maturity, training them for ministry, and sending them out in mission, I like the way you are doing ministry.

Health does not mean perfection. When a church focuses on evangelism, it brings in a lot of unhealthy people. My kids are healthy, but they're not perfect. There will never be a perfect church this side of heaven because every church is filled with pagans, carnal Christians, and immature believers—along with the mature ones.

I've read books that emphasize, "You've got to reinforce the purity of the church." But Jesus said, "Let the tares and the wheat grow together, and one day I'll sort them out" (paraphrase of Matthew 13:29-30).

We're not in the sorting business. We're in the harvesting business. We do get a lot of unhealthy people at church because society is getting sicker. But Jesus demonstrated that ministering to hurting people was more important than maintaining purity. When you fish with a big net, you catch all kinds of fish.

That's why one of the biggest programs in our church is Celebrate Recovery. We have thousands of people involved in recovery with all kinds of addictions.

One of the most important decisions we made was to not have a counseling center. If we put a full-time therapist on our staff, that person's schedule would fill up instantly, and 99 percent of the calls would still go unmet. We couldn't keep up even if we had five full-time therapists. Instead, we've trained lay-people to do biblical counseling and compiled a standard list of approved therapists we can refer to if need be.

In conclusion, a far better focal point than church growth is church health. Size is not the issue. You can be big and healthy or big and flabby. You can be small and healthy or small and wimpy. Big isn't better. Small isn't better. Healthy is better. So I encourage you to focus on helping your church become balanced and healthy.

If churches are healthy, growth is a natural occurrence. I don't have to command my kids to grow. If I provide them with a healthy environment, growth is automatic. In the same way, if you provide your church with a healthy, balanced environment, growth will occur naturally.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Rick Warren ) Vision Thu, 04 Feb 2016 19:00:00 -0500
Kingdom Economics: The King's Endowment

Price volatility increased last week. The European and Japanese stock markets closed sharply higher on reports of monetary easing by central banks.

U.S. stock prices followed in sympathy and closed the week stronger. New jobless claims are inching up toward 300,000 per week. Further central bank easing may cause more problems than solutions. Economic fundamentals have not changed.

As of last week, most global markets are still down sharply. Year to date losses include: the Dow Jones Industrial Average, -7.64 percent; the S&P 500, -6.70 percent; Nikkei, -9.66 percent; Germany, -9.10 percent; Shanghai, -17.05 percent; and March 2016 Oil, -15.62 percent. Expect volatility to continue to be high. Follow trends, instead of daily price movements, to keep abreast of the economy. Recently, the trends are down.

Endowments are an important source of financing for nonprofit organizations. Often, endowments are given with the stipulation that only the earnings can be spent with the original capital left intact to continue to grow. Income from these endowments are used to feed the poor and disadvantaged and help provide health care, employment training, education and a helping hand to those who would not normally have access. Endowment earnings will also send missionaries throughout the world. 

Endowment fund investments are usually very conservative. But there are still no guarantees. Harvard University's endowment lost nearly 30 percent of its value during late 2008 and early 2009. Very low interest rates have also reduced endowment earnings and limited investment alternatives. Nasdaq's Endowment Index, a measure of general endowment earnings, fell more than 3 percent in 2015 and, at this writing, is down more than 5 percent in 2016. 

As Christians, we have been given an endowment that was fully paid for at the cross. We have been called for a purpose. We have been assigned fruit to produce. No economic downturn, social injustice or political turmoil can keep us from accomplishing all that the Lord has called us to do. Our responsibility is to stay connected to the Source and observe all that He has told us to do.

"Remain in Me, as I also remain in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it remains in the vine, neither can you, unless you remain in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who remains in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit. For without Me you can do nothing" (John 15:4-5, MEV).

"If you remain in Me, and My words remain in you, you will ask whatever you desire, and it shall be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples" (John 15:7-8, MEV).

We need to be empowered. The disciples were told not to leave Jerusalem until they were endowed with power from on high. Before Pentecost, the disciples were not very effective. After Pentecost, they were filled with power to minister through radical obedience and the gifts of the Spirit (Acts 2).

When Peter and John prayed for boldness, healings, signs and wonders, they were refilled with the Holy Spirit, felt an earthquake and later shook the world (Acts 4).

As citizens of the kingdom, the Lord wants to use us to do more than we can think or imagine. It is not conditional on the economy or any other environmental factor. It is dependent on our willingness to follow and obey the Lord and the Holy Spirit. We have to be willing to use the endowment He has prepared for us and for which He so dearly paid.

"Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us" (Ephesians 3:20, MEV). {eoa}

Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

]]> (James R. Russell ) Vision Wed, 27 Jan 2016 13:00:00 -0500
4 Ways for Ministry Leaders to See as Jesus Sees

It's no secret that surrendering to the call of pastor, Bible teacher, or ministry leader in today's social and political climate is one that takes great faith and passion. Yet, this courageous call often comes at a high price.

According to the New York Times (2010), "Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could."

Is this bleak outlook on vocation, relationships, and life in general due to work overload, stress, and unreasonable expectations? Or is it simply a result of ministry leaders failing to see as Jesus sees?

Through His Lens of Bravery

We all struggle with fear, especially when God calls us to something requiring risk and sacrifice. For ministry leaders, fears include:

  • What if my ministry is insignificant?
  • What if I mess up?
  • What if people leave my church?
  • What if people stop donating to my ministry?
  • What if I can't make people happy?
  • What if people know my deepest struggles?
  • What if they reject me?
  • What if I fail?

Do your fears stem from comparing yourself to other leaders?

When we live on mission with Jesus, we must never look around at what everyone else is doing. We don't have the luxury of worrying about what other people think or say or do. Like Peter when he took his first step off the boat, we must put on our blinders and forge ahead, thinking of one person, and only one person: Jesus.

Jesus doesn't see us as scared—he sees us as brave. God already called us into ministry and we obeyed. We stepped out of the boat. Now we must put on our blinders and continue walking toward Jesus while seeing ourselves as He sees: through His lens of bravery.

"Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid or terrified because of them, for the Lord your God goes with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you" (Deuteronomy 31:6, NIV).

Through His Lens of Belonging

We see ministry leaders buzzing around the church, sipping coffee with members, and eating lunch with donors. We naturally assume they feel connected.

In reality, ministry leaders often feel isolated. Christina Ferrero, Kids Minister at Harris Creek Baptist Church in Waco, Texas describes her experience, which is common to many leaders. "The thing that is hardest for me is the perception that, as a church leader, I have lots of deep relationships because much of my job is with people. In fact very few people initiate with me to truly be my friend."  

Sometimes the opposite occurs and ministry leaders create emotional distance from their flock. Yet, this is not what God desires.

Avoid the temptation to withdraw. Connect with your community. Link arms with your sisters. Live life with your tribe. Run miles with your people. This is your life—do not spend it hiding in your cave.

"You are a chosen people ..." (1 Peter 2:9)

Through His Lens of Talent

Leaders are great at inspiring others to, as Theodore Roosevelt once said, "Dare Mighty Things." Yet sometimes leaders contentedly sit back, cheer from the sidelines, and watch everyone else use their talents for the kingdom.

Are you being asked to create a new program? Reach out to the marginalized? Cultivate new donors? Partner with a church overseas?

Are you hesitant because you feel unqualified? Inadequate? Ill-equipped?

Think about it: When was the last time you tried something that required more of Jesus—more prayer, more trust, more faith, more uncertainty—and less of you—less planning, less control, less direction, less ego? Have you lived out your faith in a way that actually required risk and trust?

We often worry that we don't have what it takes to succeed. We check out Facebook and Twitter and realize that everyone around us has more followers and friends than we do. We feel incompetent, unqualified, and incapable. So instead of playing the game, we bury our talents in the backyard and call it a day.

There is just one problem with this mentality: this is not what God has called us to do.

If God has called you, God has equipped you. He wants you to stop seeing yourself through your lens of inadequacy and start seeing yourself through Jesus' lens of talent.

Through His Lens of Redemption

Many ministry leaders feel pressured to wear a mask, hiding their true, flawed selves for fear their flock will turn away. Personal histories filled with divorce, addiction, depression, and more cause leaders to hide behind a veil of shame.

Fortunately for us, Jesus is not in the business of shame; He is in the business of redemption.

Scott Kedersha, writer, blogger, and Director of Singles at Watermark Community Church in Dallas, Texas says, "One of the scariest moments of my life came when I confessed to my small group of men about my pornography addiction. After my confession, I expected to be kicked out of the group and church and publicly shamed. Instead, the response of these men to my confession and repentance proved to be the best example of Proverbs 28:13 I have ever experienced. Since then I have been able to help encourage and challenge men and women to also bring their sin into the light. I have seen that authenticity in addressing my struggles has become one of the most effective ways to connect with broken men and women in the body of Christ.

If you could see as Jesus sees, through His lens of redemption, how might this affect your life? Would you stop sneaking out to draw water in the heat of the day like the woman at the well and instead dive in deep with the people in your community?

If ministry leaders could see themselves as Jesus sees, they would see His redemption is available not only for their flock but also for them. They are no longer condemned; they are forgiven and renewed. A new day has dawn.

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!" (2 Corinthians 5:17).

Elizabeth Oates inspires, and equips a new generation of women seeking a deeper relationship with Christ. Her writing includes a Bible study for teens, Dealing with Divorce: Finding Direction When Your Parents Split Up. Since 2008 she has written a monthly faith column for Waco Today Magazine. She is featured in the DivorceCare DVD curriculum along with Dave Ramsey, Anne Graham Lotz, and others. She earned a B.A. from Baylor University and received her M.A. in Christian Education with a focus in Marriage and Family Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. Her most recent book is If You Could See as Jesus Sees. For more information visit

]]> (Elizabeth Oates ) Vision Wed, 20 Jan 2016 19:00:00 -0500
Kingdom Economics: The King's Perspective

At this writing, West Texas Intermediate Crude Oil (New York Mercantile Exchange) is trading at $29.11 per barrel. Oil traded at more than $65 per barrel within the last year, $93 within the last two years and $106 within the last five years.

Demand for oil is especially soft with the global economic slowdown; especially in China. Supplies are already burdensome, and Iran should be adding to world supplies by 500,000 barrels per day shortly.

Is the drop in oil prices a good thing or bad thing? From the perspective of consumers, lower gasoline prices are a bonus. But oil producers are feeling the pinch. Oil rigs are being idled. Oil workers are being laid off. Producers of oilfield equipment are losing money and shuttering operations. Energy company stock prices have been falling sharply.  Airlines and trucking companies have seen their current fuel prices plummet and are able to lock in lower fuel costs for the future. Oil sector loans have become suspect. The answer to the original question depends on one's perspective.

But from the perspective of an economist, concerns about a deflationary price spiral are increasing. Low energy prices, industrial commodity prices, U.S. rail shipments, global ocean shipping rates and a depressed manufacturing sector add downward pressure to prices.

With a deflationary price spiral, consumers postpone purchases in anticipation of lower prices, which cause prices to be lower, which increases expectations of lower prices, which provides further incentive to delay purchases. Profits fall. Laborers are no longer needed. Incomes fall. Purchases and demand are curtailed further. Recovery from downward price spirals can be slow as Japan can attest.

In the kingdom of God, His perspective prevails. As representatives of the King, we are called to be lights in a world of darkness. Distractions abound. Potential stressors are abundant. Different perspectives will be plentiful. But we are here on a mission, as children of the Most High. We should have the perspective of our King.

"You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden. Neither do men light a candle and put it under a basket, but on a candlestick. And it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 5:14-16).

In times of turmoil, our minds will attempt to focus on the task which is deemed to be most urgent. Our minds are not preprogrammed to focus on the most important task. We need to be transformed by the renewing of our minds to focus on the most important task. This would be the King's perspective.

"Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is the good and acceptable and perfect will of God" (Rom. 12:2).

Similarly, as ministers, we hear many perspectives every day. All are valuable. Some are more valuable than others. But it is critical that we determine the King's perspective and follow His guidance.

We are privileged to be members of the kingdom and sons and daughters of the King. Our King is always faithful. He is all-powerful. He knows the beginning from the end. His thoughts and ways are far above ours. His perspective is always right.

"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways My ways, says the Lord. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts" (Is. 55:8-9).{eoa}

Dr. James R. Russell is professor of economics and chair of the Undergraduate College of Business at Oral Roberts University in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

]]> (James R. Russell) Vision Wed, 20 Jan 2016 13:00:00 -0500
How to Exceed Your Potential in Christ

Suppose you knew a struggling businessman. You've watched this person struggle to get his footing for years, but he's faced one failure after another and seems ready to give up.

But then someone approaches your friend and says, "Great news. We now have the scientific means to put on you the combined fullness—the full ability and nature—of Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Interested?"

What would your friend say? "Absolutely!"

Once he had the abilities of these men, your friend would start thinking of ways of investing he'd never thought of before. He would become very successful and exceed anything he had ever achieved. He'd become a leader in his field, and everyone connected to his work would benefit from his success. It would be astounding to behold.

This is a nice hypothetical, isn't it? It's too bad we don't actually have a way to take on the nature of the leading men and women in our fields. Maybe you're even reading this story and thinking right now, "I wish that were possible because I could use it!"

But hold that thought.

Assuming the Nature of Jesus

In his first epistle, the apostle John makes a stunning statement: "As (Jesus) is, so are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). That's a huge declaration. Essentially, John is saying that while we don't have a way to take on the nature of Warren Buffett, Steve Jobs or Bill Gates, we do have access to the nature of someone greater than any of these men. How? Through God's grace.

If that statement surprises you, you're not alone. There are a lot of misconceptions about grace in the church today. Most of us don't really understand what grace is or what it does in our lives.

Here's a case in point. In 2009, a survey was conducted with thousands of Christians across America. They were asked, "Give three or more definitions or descriptions of the grace of God." Of the thousands surveyed, only 2 percent stated that grace is God's empowerment. Yet this is exactly how God has defined and described His grace!

He says: "My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness" (2 Cor. 12:9).

The word weakness means "inability." So God is saying, "My grace is My empowerment, and it is optimized in situations beyond your ability." This applies in our homes, our churches, our workplaces and every other area of our lives. How amazing is that!

This isn't an isolated idea in Scripture either. The apostle Peter defines God's grace the same way. He writes, "Grace ... be multiplied to you ... . His divine power (grace) has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness" (2 Pet. 1:2-3). Once again, grace is referred to as God's "divine power," and Peter says every resource or ability we need is available through that empowering grace.

This leads me to something the Lord revealed to me during a recent prayer time. He asked me, "Son, how did I introduce grace in My book, the New Testament?"

As an author who has written over a dozen books, that question carried significant meaning to me. Whenever I'm bringing up a new term in a book, I give the primary definition when I introduce it. So when a new term is introduced in the book of an experienced author, I assume it carries the primary definition.

But my response to the Lord's question was, "I don't know." I went to my concordance to find out how God introduced grace in His book. Here is what I discovered: "We have all received from His fullness grace upon grace" (John 1:16).

The apostle John is stating here that the grace of God gives us the fullness—the full ability and nature—of Jesus Christ. Did you hear that? Not Bill Gates. Not Steve Jobs. Not Albert Einstein or Johann Sebastian Bach or any other great man or woman in history. The fullness of Jesus Christ Himself!

This is why John can boldly declare, "As He is, so are we in this world." It turns out our hypothetical situation isn't so far-fetched after all. In fact, it understates the reality of what God has given us.

Leading on the Job

The grace of God is overwhelming. It's a gift of salvation, forgiveness and the empowerment to live rightly before God. Not only that, but it also enables us to be fruitful and reign in life. Paul says: "For if by one man's trespass death reigned through him, then how much more will those who receive abundance of grace and the gift of righteousness reign in life through the One, Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:17).

The implications of this statement are astounding. By God's grace, we can rule in life. We're empowered to overcome any obstacle, and we're ordained to make a significant mark in our spheres of influence.

How does this look in practice? We are to break out of the status quo, to surpass the norm. We are called to influence—to be the head and not the tail, above and not beneath (Deut. 28:13). Not only are we to rise above the adverse circumstances of life, but we're also to outshine those who don't have a covenant with God. We are to be leaders in the midst of an unenlightened world. The head sets the direction, course and trends, whereas the tail follows. We should be leaders in all aspects of our society, not followers.

Allow me to spell it out clearly. If your profession is in the medical field, by God's grace, you have the ability to discover new and innovative ways of treating sickness and disease. Your potential is immeasurable and unlimited. Your fellow workers should marvel at your discoveries, and your work should inspire them. Your innovation and wisdom will cause them to scratch their heads and say, "Where is this person getting their ideas from?" Not only can you shine in your sphere of influence, but you will multiply your effectiveness in your field. Others will aspire to follow in your steps and seek to know the source of your ability.

If you're a web designer, your creations should be fresh and innovative, so much so that others emulate your work. You and other believers in your field should set the prevailing trends that society follows. You will be sought out for your work and known for your innovation. You'll be so ahead of the curve that others in your field scratch their heads and say to one another, "Where do they get this creativity from?" You will multiply your effectiveness by imparting your knowledge into others, growing your industry and giving into God's kingdom.

If you're a school teacher, by the empowerment of grace, you can develop fresh, creative and innovative ways of communicating knowledge, understanding and wisdom to your students. You can think of approaches none of the other educators in your school system have considered. Your fellow educators will say, "Where is he or she getting these ideas?"

If you're a businessperson, you can come up with inventive products and sales techniques that outclass what's been done before. You'll engage keen marketing strategies that are ahead of the curve. You will deftly perceive what's profitable and what's not. You'll know when to buy and when to sell, when to get in and when to get out. Other businesspeople will scratch their heads trying to figure out why you're so successful. And you'll multiply by developing young entrepreneurs and generously giving to build the kingdom.

The same principle applies if you're a musician, researcher, athlete, scientist, policeman, flight attendant or stay-at-home mom—or if you're in the media, the military or any other arena of life.

Each of us is called to different sectors of society. Wherever we're located, we should flourish. Our businesses should thrive even when others struggle. Our communities should be safe, delightful and prosperous. Our places of employment should boom. Our music should be fresh and original, emulated by secular musicians. The same should be true of our graphics, videos and architectural designs. Our creativity should inspire and be sought after on every level.

Our performances, whether in athletics, entertainment, the arts, media or any other field, should stand out. When the righteous govern, our cities, states and nations should flourish. Our schools should excel when we teach and lead. When believers are involved, there should be an abundance of creativity, innovation, productivity, tranquility, sensitivity and integrity. All because of grace!

Depending on His Grace

Now, before you go away thinking this is nice in theory, let me assure you that it is the reality of what God can do in each of our lives when we yield to Him. I've personally witnessed this transformative power of grace.      

One of my worst subjects in high school was English and creative writing. I struggled anytime I was assigned a three-page paper. It would take many hours for me to finish a paper—and not before going through half a notebook pad. I'd rip up and throw away page after page of awful writing. I scored a mere 370 out of 800 points on the English portion of the SAT.

When God told me in 1991 that He wanted me to write a book, I thought He had me mixed up with someone else. How could I write a chapter, let alone a book? What I didn't originally factor in was the immeasurable, unlimited and surpassing greatness of the grace of God in me.

Within 10 months of receiving my "write a book" directive from God, two women from different states approached me two weeks apart and said, "John, God wants you to write. In fact, if you don't, He'll give the messages to someone else." So I wrote a contract with God and acknowledged my complete dependence upon His grace.

Since that day, I've written 19 books. Millions of copies have been distributed worldwide in over 90 languages. Why the change? Because before, I wrote in my strength. Now I've learned to believe for and depend on God's grace.

What about you? What has God entrusted you with? Do you see the evidence of His grace in your work, or have you been attempting to labor in your own strength? Has God given you a gift, a goal or a dream that seems impossible to achieve? The truth is, whether you're succeeding or you're struggling, God wants to take your efforts to the next level by His grace.

I encourage you to let the words of Ephesians 3:20 stir your faith: "Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly beyond all that we ask or imagine, according to the power that works in us."

Are you ready to engage with His remarkable power? Make this your prayer:

Father, today I ask You to work mightily in my life. I know grace is the power that enables me to live above and beyond anything I could imagine or request. As I steward the influence and skills You have entrusted to me, help me shine as a light for Your glory. Help me set a precedent in my field and point many to You. Thank You for empowering me with the fullness of Jesus Christ! In Jesus' name, amen.  

John Bevere and his wife, Lisa, are the founders of Messenger International. This article is based on content from Good or God?: Why Good Without God Isn't Enough by John Bevere. For more information on the book or to dig deeper into this topic, visit

Good or God? John Bevere Dared to Ask

Ministry Today publisher Dr. Steve Greene recently spoke with Pastor John Bevere on several episodes on the Charisma Podcast Network. In this article, we share selections of that content, reflecting on the message of Good or God?, Bevere's new book.

Greene: You asked an important question in the first chapter of Good or God?, "What is good?"

Bevere: People think we are born with the inherent knowledge of what's good and evil. To take it one step further, today in our society—and this has even crept into the church—we assume that if something is good, it's got to be of God. Well, if good is so obvious, why does Hebrews 5 tell us we have to have discernment to recognize the difference between good and evil? If you look at Solomon at the dawn of his reign, God appears to him and says, "Ask me anything you want." He says, "God, give your servant an understanding heart that I might discern the difference between good and evil." Isn't it interesting that Solomon cries out for that?

If you look at the rich young ruler, he comes running up to Jesus and he says, "Good teacher, what do I do to inherit eternal life?" Before Jesus even answered this very important question, he looks at him and says, "Why do you call me good? Nobody is good but God alone." Is Jesus saying that He's not good? Absolutely not! He's perfectly good, but what Jesus is saying to this man is, "You have a standard for good, and God has a standard for good, and the two aren't the same."

Good is all about reference point. You can have two different families moving into identical homes. They're three-bedroom, two-bath houses; they're $150,000 houses. To one family, it's a bad move, but to the other family, it's a good move. To the family who thinks it's a bad move, they've just moved out of a $2 million estate. To the family for whom it's a good move, they've just moved out of a one-bedroom apartment. So what Jesus is saying to this rich young ruler is, "You are not going to reduce God's reference point of what is good down to your level."

God really got this across to me when I was getting ready to speak to 5,000 leaders in Sweden, I'd written 10 books by this point, and I was really having a great time of prayer with God, and I had judged a certain situation to be good, and the Holy Spirit said, "No, it's not good." He gave me Scripture to show me that it wasn't good. I remember getting in an argument with Him, and I finally slammed my foot down, and I said, "But God, all the good that's come out of this situation." The Holy Spirit said this to me: "Son, it wasn't the evil side of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil Eve was attracted to." He said it was the good side. And when He said that, I literally flew to my Bible in Genesis 3. I read, "and she saw the tree was good," and the word "good" leapt up off the page. It was pleasant, it was desirable to make her wise, so all of a sudden, I realized there is a good that will actually lead us away from God's presence. There is a good that will lead us away from God's best for our lives. I realized what would really deceive, if possible, even the elect in the days that we're living in because Jesus said that. It used to bug me, bug me, bug me that Jesus said, "If possible, even the elect would be deceived." I'd say, "God, those are Christians." I realized that what is going to deceive Christians isn't satanic rock concerts, it isn't drug-infested parties. It is evil masked with good.

Greene: A Christian is deceived by evil masked with good. Now that's heavy and it's scary.

Bevere: It is scary, and it's a healthy scary. Jesus talks about deception so much in the days just before His return. Paul said some are going to depart from the faith, talking about deception, and he's talking about Christians there. Peter talks about deception. Jude talks about deception, so there's only one problem with deception and that's this—it's deceiving. The person who's deceived believes with all their heart they're right when, in reality, they're wrong.

Good Leaders Are True Influencers

Greene: What moves a good leader?

Bevere: A good leader is someone who knows how to get in the presence of God, knows His heart and then influences the people under him—and not just influence but also to build a team. A team of leaders can do so much more than one leader himself. A successful leader today is a leader who builds excellent teams.

David, to me, is an example of a great leader. Here is a guy living in the wilderness. He spends time with God, and so much does he love God that he literally transcends what a man is supposed to do back then. Back then, you know, you were either a prophet or you were a king—or a leader, I should say. And yet David has so much of the heart of God in him because he spends so much time (with Him). So what happens is all these people come out to the wilderness and they are the most disgruntled people. They are people who are in debt. They are people who are offended. These are the guys who are the scum of Israel, and they come out and spend time in the wilderness. These guys end up becoming some of the most renowned men of the nation of Israel and the most renowned men of all the nations around during David's reign. Why is that? Because they got in the presence of a true influencer, and they built a team out of these guys. We still talk about them today. So David is spending time with God in His presence, and he is really getting the heart of God so that when he gets around these disgruntled men, they don't influence him. He influences them and makes them into great leaders. To me, that is true leadership. It is not when we influence people.

Aaron influenced people. He built a calf, and if you think about it, that is all they saw in Egypt for 80 years. He was invited to the top of the mountain to get into the presence of God, but he didn't do it. Moses ended up there. ... Aaron goes back to the congregation. He goes back to where the people were because Aaron found more comfort in the presence of people than in the comfort or in the presence of God. So Aaron is an influencer. He is a leader, and he builds this calf and calls it Jehovah. ... If you look at the difference between his leadership and David's, you see a great, great contrast. One knew how to get into the presence of God to affect his team, and the other one affected his team but wasn't in the presence of God.

Discovering the Key to True Discernment

Greene: How did you address discernment in your Good or God? book? Help us understand how to develop greater discernment as Christian leaders.

Bevere: The key to discernment is found in one phrase, "the fear of the Lord." If you look at Malachi 3 and 4, it depicts three groups of people. It depicts the wicked, the person who doesn't know God. It depicts the righteous who are complaining and then it depicts the righteous who fear God. And God says a book of remembrance will be written about those who fear God. See, the ones who were complaining, the righteous who were complaining say: "It's not fair. We obey God. We see the wicked prospering, but we're not prospering. This isn't fair." They're constantly complaining. Complaining just says to God, "I don't like what You're doing in my life, and if I were You, I would do it differently." It is an absolute slap in God's face.

The righteous who fear God, they're going through all this turmoil, but they keep talking about the ways of God and the principles of God and the Word of God, and God says, "I'm going to write their names down in a book, and I'm going to write down what they're saying in a book." He said, "Then when the fire comes, you're going to be able to discern once again the difference between what's truly righteous and what's not righteous. "So when I say that the key to true discernment is the fear of the Lord, it scares people, and let me tell you why it scares them. It's because anytime you mention the word "fear," people go, "Oh no, no, no. God's not given us a spirit of fear. He's given us a spirit of power, love and of a sound mind." Those people are confusing the spirit of fear with the fear of the Lord. There is a difference. If you look at when Moses delivered Israel out of Egypt and the presence of God comes down, the people run away from God, and Moses looks at them in Exodus 20:20 and says, "Hey, do not fear because God's come to test you to see if His fear is in you so that you may not sin." Moses isn't contradicting himself because he says do not fear because God's come to see if fear is in you. ... The person who fears God is the person who embraces God's heart. What's important to God becomes important to him. What's not so important to God is not so important to him. The person who fears God loves what God loves and hates what He hates.

Fueled by Grace for Leadership

Greene: In your new book, you have a chapter titled "The Fuel." How does that fuel relate to leadership?

Bevere: In that chapter, I deal with a very controversial subject in the body of Christ, and that is grace. I know there are a lot of people who say, "Hey, there's teaching on hyper grace and extreme grace" and, to be honest with you, I am a teacher of extreme grace. I'm a teacher of hyper grace because I want all the grace that I can get. I think my attention was really arrested when the Holy Spirit amplified to me that James says He gives more grace, and I thought, "More grace?" I thought I got all the grace I ever needed when I got saved, and then I saw Peter said, "Grace be multiplied to you," and I started digging and I realized that we haven't painted the whole picture of what the grace of God does in our life. ... Grace gives us the empowerment to do what we otherwise couldn't do in our own abilities. It gives me the ability to live godly because the Bible tells me I'm to live just like Jesus. This is the way I define grace: It's God's empowerment that gives us the ability to go beyond our natural ability. That is the fuel we need for leadership.

Greene: Let's say I have an underperformer on my team. They're "good people," I love them and believe they were sent by God, but they're not getting the job done. Does grace apply in this situation?

Bevere: You have to get the right people in the right position. When they're in the right position, God has given them the grace to do that. They just need to learn to depend on it. So if I have a person and I've ministered to them about the grace of God and trusting God for His ability in a position, and it just doesn't seem to be working, a question I always ask the Holy Spirit is, "OK, do I have this person in the wrong position?" ... I had a team member that was in a department, and he was not doing well. I kept encouraging him. I kept ministering to him. I kept saying, "Now listen, just pray and believe God for His grace to do this." He couldn't do it. Well, one day I'm in prayer and I'm thinking, "Oh, I should put this person over in this department." I moved him over there, and that person started excelling. So I believe that God has put a sweet spot in all of us and that sweet spot is where that grace is.

]]> (John Bevere) Vision Mon, 18 Jan 2016 22:00:00 -0500
Look for These 5 Disruptive Church Trends to Rule in 2016

There's little doubt culture is changing rapidly.

The question is, are you ready as a church leader?

As I shared in my new book, Lasting Impact (you can download the first chapter for free here), if the change inside the church isn't equal to or greater than the change outside our walls, irrelevance is inevitable.

While that thought can be somewhat depressing, think of the flip side.

History belongs to the innovators. It belongs to the leaders who dared to dream, to try things no one else was trying, to experiment, to push the boundaries of what everyone else believed was possible.

As Henry Ford famously said, "If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses."

Or as Steve Jobs put it, "A lot of the time people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

If you are prepared to tackle change with a fully engaged heart, you can help not only your church but maybe even the church better accomplish the mission before us.

So what's changing before our eyes? I see these five things becoming major players as 2016 unfolds.

1. Church online will become an advance, not just a supplement to or replacement for church. You can make the argument that online options that churches offer—everything from message podcasts to social media to full online streaming of Sunday services— have too often played the role of a supplement to or replacement of church for many Christians.

For a growing number of Christians, online church has become like TV preachers were to some Christians in the 1970s and 1980s who decided Sunday morning viewing at home was better than participation in a local church. Too tired or disengaged to go on Sunday? Just watch online.

Watch for church online to become far less of a supplement or replacement and far more of an advance into the lives of people who don't attend church at all.

Churches will get innovative and more intentional about reaching out into their communities using digital options as a point of first contact with unchurched people.

Think about it: Everybody who wasn't in your church last Sunday is probably on Facebook. And everybody who wasn't in your church last Sunday is probably online.

So go connect with them.

More than ever in 2016, online church will begin to open a door into the lives of people who will never walk through yours.

2. Preachers will preach less often. I've noticed that preachers are both getting better at communicating and speaking less often.

It wasn't that long ago that some preachers were writing 100 to 150 messages a year between Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesday nights.

Many Sunday evening and Wednesday night services have disappeared in the last decade.

But a growing number of preachers are realizing that preparing 52 excellent Sunday messages is increasingly difficult. Personally, I've cut back from writing 70 messages a year a decade ago to about 35 a year today.

The result? I'm a much better communicator.

What's creating all this change?

Simple. It's the wide availability of digital options. (See point No. 1 above.)

A decade ago, people who attended your church only really ever listened to you. Now they can hear anyone for free. And they do.

As a result, the local pastor is often being listened to alongside today's best communicators, and local pastors are opting for quality over quantity.

At some point, quantity and quality compete. And in today's digital landscape, innovative leaders are opting for quality.

3. Experience will trump content. Technology has made world-class content both portable and affordable.

Anyone can listen to the best communicators and best bands in the world for free or next to free on any device they own.

And they do.

The attractional churches of the '90s and 2000s built their congregations by offering excellent preaching and amazing music.

The challenge, of course, is that technology has disrupted that model.

What used to be both exclusive and something you had to experience personally is now portable and affordable thanks to your phone.

I'll blog on this trend again soon, but the short answer is that ultimately, experience will have to trump content.

Why? Because more people are asking this question: If I can watch and listen on my phone, why would I come? 

If you don't have a good answer to that question as a church leader, you lose. Churches that cultivate a great experience will win.

What makes for a great experience?

  • Community
  • Serving one another in love
  • A sense of mission and movement into a city or region
  • Amazing kids experiences
  • Actual caring, prayer and human interaction

Church leaders will have to sift through what can only happen in person and what can happen online.

Those who do will continue to grow. Those who don't, won't.

It's not that you shouldn't have an online presence. You should have a great one.

But you should also offer something in person you can never get online. This year, the most innovative leaders will get better at figuring out what those differences are.

4. Passion will beat polish. For many years, growing churches focused on doing church better. 

Better music, better preaching, better buildings, better design, better everything drove much of the growth of the last few decades.

But as every leader knows, eventually better gets you diminishing returns.

One more moving light is probably not going to bring another 1,000 people to Jesus in the same way the first moving light did. (OK, moving lights never brought people to Jesus. But church was often so stale and bad in the '80s and '90s that moving lights were a hallmark of churches that innovated and as a result collectively baptized millions.)

The effective churches I've visited and seen recently by no means had the best lights, stage or production. Some had almost no stage and no lights, while others had a pretty decent package, but not nearly the level you see at some churches.

What did they all have in common? Passion.

When it comes to reaching the next generation, passion beats polish.

It's not that polish is bad, but I think it's increasingly trumped by a raw authenticity that exudes from leaders who will do whatever it takes to reach people with the gospel.

In the churches I've seen doing a superb job with young adults, smaller facilities and stage sets were more than compensated for by preachers, worship leaders and team members who exuded passion for the mission.

Passion beats polish.

If you want to read about the other four characteristics I see in churches doing a great job reaching 18- to 35-year-olds, you can read that here.

5. Only the most engaged and the curious will attend. There is a shifting attendance pattern happening in every church, including growing churches and megachurches: Even people who attend church are attending less often.

I outlined 10 reasons why that's happening here, but I want to drill down on one in particular that I believe we'll see more of in 2016 than ever before.

In the past, if you were Christian, you went to church on a Sunday. It was almost automatic.

But it led to many disengaged Christians filling up seats on Sundays. They attended, but they didn't serve, didn't give and didn't invite anyone to come with them. They simply attended.

That group is increasingly disappearing, opting for online options (see point 1 above) or has dropped out all together as our culture becomes more and more post-Christian. This trend will only accelerate in 2016.

As a result, your weekend gatherings will increasingly be attended primarily by two groups: the engaged and the curious.

The engaged are people who are on mission with you. They give. They serve. They actually have unchurched friends they're bringing to church. They live out their faith far more than they sit in a back row and "absorb."

They'll be joined on the weekends by the curious. The curious are people who haven't made a decision to follow Jesus but they're open. They're exploring. They're asking questions. They're probably there because a friend invited them or because they found you online and wanted more.

When I look to the future, I see those two groups forming the core of the people who will continue to fuel attendance at your weekly gatherings.

So what does this mean for church leaders?

It means you need to stop valuing attendance more than you value engagement.

Ironically, if you value attendance over engagement, you will see declining attendance.

And if you want to raise attendance, raise engagement.

What Do You See?

Those are five big trends I see emerging in 2016.

I call them disruptive because they will ensure that things never stay the same. And for leaders, that should be exciting. It gives us the chance to innovate and actually advance our mission.

By seeing the trends clearly, you can respond to them.

After all, leaders who see the future can seize the future.

What disruptive trends do you see emerging in 2016?

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

For the original article, visit

]]> (Carey Nieuwhof) Vision Thu, 14 Jan 2016 13:00:00 -0500
Be Leery of These 10 Dangerous Church Paradigms

I've been in church all my life. Along the way, I've seen and observed a lot. Almost all the insight I have into church has come by experience.

I have observed, for example, paradigms can often shape a church's culture. A paradigm, in simple terms, is a mindset—a way of thinking. In this case, a collective mindset of the church, often programmed into the church's culture.

If the church is unhealthy, part of the reason could be because it has some wrong paradigms. In this case, it will almost always need a paradigm shift in order to be a healthier church again.

Recently, I've been thinking of some of the paradigms that impact a church. I'll look at some of the negative in this post, and in another post some of the positive paradigms of the church.

Please understand. I love and believe in the local church. I believe in the ability to impact a community, to provide hope and, of course, in the promise Jesus made about His church. My goal of this post and this blog is to strengthen the local church. Sometimes we do this by exposing the parts that need to improve.

Here are 10 dangerous church paradigms:

1. This is more my church than yours. Granted, no one would ever say this one, but a sense of ownership can set in the longer someone has been at a church. They have invested in the church personally and feel, often rightly so, a need to protect and care for it. The negative of this mindset, however, is when people don't easily welcome new people. They "own" their seats. You better not sit there—no matter how much the church needs to grow. They control programs, committees and traditions. Obviously, the church is not your church or my church. God has not released the deed.

2.  We've never done it this way before. And if this is the "go-to" paradigm—they probably never will. People with this mindset resist all change, even the most positive or needed change. Small change is big change to these people.

3. The pastor needs to do it. Whatever "it" is—the pastor, or some paid staff, must be involved at some level. This paradigm keeps a church very small (and doesn't seem biblical to me).

4. That's for the big churches. Don't sell yourself short. Some of the greatest people in ministry come from small churches. Maybe your only role, for example, is to raise up the next generation of Kingdom-minded leaders. This would be a great purpose for a church.

5. That's for the small churches. I've seen a few big churches with an attitude. Bad attitudes. This mindset can keep a church from reaching those hurting most because their only focus is on growing. A strong, narrowly defined and driven vision is powerful. It builds churches. But a church with this paradigm never welcomes any interruptions in their plans. Jesus is our best example of this. He kept the vision before Him, but was never afraid to stop for the interruption yelling in the streets.

6. My comfort level for change is _____. This paradigm says, "We will change until it impacts our individual personal desires." Does it sound self-centered? It is.

7. My people would never support _____. Well, pastor, maybe if they weren't "your people," they'd be more willing to be "God's people." He has ways you can't even imagine of leading His people to do His will.

8. I can't! Not with that attitude. The old saying, "If you think you can't, you're halfway there." But one quick question: Where is your faith?

9. This is the best we can do. Are you sure? Is that your opinion or God's? Sounds like a dangerous paradigm to me.

10. We have plateaued as a church. Really? You may have quit growing, but plateaued? The word means "leveled out." This indicates to me you're stable. In my experience, you're either going forward—or going backward. Standing still is usually not an option—and definitely not stability.

Those are just some of the dangerous church paradigms I've observed. You've seen far more, I'm sure.

Do you know of any other dangerous church paradigms?

Ron Edmondson is a pastor and church leader passionate about planting churches, helping established churches thrive and assisting pastors and those in ministry to think through leadership, strategy and life. Ron has over 20 years of business experience, mostly as a self-employed business owner, and he's been helping churches grow vocationally for over 10 years.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Ron Edmondson ) Vision Wed, 13 Jan 2016 19:00:00 -0500
10 Essentials Needed to Fulfill Your Kingdom Assignment

As a person who has been preaching and attempting to implement strategies, I have come up with the following essentials necessary for effectiveness in kingdom ministry:

1. High-level intercession. In Daniel 10-12 and Ephesians 6, we find that there are high-level demonic entities called principalities that rule whole nations or empires. These are the highest-ranking demons under Satan that control the political, economic and social systems of the world through ideology and worldview.

Consequently, I found that when I started preaching the kingdom with a goal of shifting culture toward biblical standards that I walked into the highest level of warfare! This is why God led me to spend much time in deep travail and illicit the prayers of high-level intercessors. If we do not combine kingdom implementation with commensurate effective prayer, we will be defeated! When you preach the kingdom of God you are dealing with demonic systems not just individual demons and sinners! Without a proper prayer plan in place, our goals of kingdom implementation will be doomed to fail.

2. Spouse on the same page. Before you make a public shift from preaching merely an individualistic gospel of salvation to the gospel of the kingdom, make sure your spouse understands the spiritual and social implications it will have on your life! If your spouse is not on the same page with you theologically or teleologically (objective and goals), then the enemy can use this as a wedge that can divide your marriage!

3. Humility in the marketplace. When leaders start making headway implementing successful strategies for the kingdom in their communities, key marketplace leaders in politics and business will latch onto you. You will start moving in circles outside the religious walls of the church and will be in proximity to power, influence and celebrity like never before. Never forget your original vision and what got you there to begin with! Always walk in humility. I have seen countless Christian leaders fall into pride when they started hobnobbing with the rich, influential and famous, resulting in them being transformed by the world instead of vice versa.

4. Strong connection to local church leadership. The local church is the only entity on earth that the devil cannot destroy (Matt. 16:16-19). Leaders and ministers who bypass the local church run the risk of not having long-term fruit! In some cases, high-level marketplace leaders will be connected more with individual apostolic-type pastors who will mentor them, even if they live too far to attend the local church the pastor oversees. In any case, if you want biblical results, then connect your work to a biblical model of discipleship that involves the family of families called the church. Of course, if at all possible, high-level marketplace leaders should attend an apostolic-type church, which is a local church that equips and releases the saints for the work of the ministry by effectively engaging culture and influencing their region holistically.

5. Have a strong covenantal team for support. I have found that I need to have community with those who understand and partner with me in my kingdom calling. I have been blessed to have several close friends I work with, pray with, travel with and play with! Without this mutually beneficial support group, I would have a difficult time persevering in the kingdom marathon I am called to run in.

6. Avoid mission drift. It is inevitable that, the more successful you become in your kingdom assignment, the more opportunities will come both in the church and marketplace! Many people will want you on their boards, will pull upon you to aid them, and the demands on your time will increase. One of the most important things a leader has to do in order to remain successful is to avoid drifting from their original mission.

For example, I put every invitation and opportunity I get through the grid of my God-given assignment. If it doesn't align, I don't even consider it! If it seems to connect to my mission, I pray and try to get a witness in my spirit before I make a commitment to minister somewhere.

Furthermore, with every new level a person obtains, there will be adjustments they will have to make to ensure they are still on point with their mission. Having a team of folks that help you discern the will of God is also invaluable.

7. Be motivated by the message, not money. The more the demand upon you increases, the more opportunity will come to get involved in church ministry or business deals. God will allow both divine and demonic opportunities to come your way to reveal to you the motivations of your heart! If you are motivated primarily by money, then you will only go after whatever pays the most instead of what will be the most fruitful for the kingdom! This will lead to a watering down of your purpose, resulting in the dissipating of your effectiveness and divine authority.

8. Center the message and ministry on Jesus, not societal transformation. The Word of God teaches us that all things were made by Jesus and for Jesus (Col. 1:16). In all things we do, Jesus alone should have the supremacy (Col. 1:19). I have seen numerous leaders and ministries focus so much on societal influence and transformation they wound up in humanism (humanitarianism without Christ). If we seek first His kingdom and focus on Jesus being the center of our lives and ministries then He will lead us to do things that will enable us to bless both God and humanity.

This does not mean that we have to do every good work overtly in the name of Jesus, but we have to look for every opportunity to let His love be known to our neighbors. Otherwise, the focus is more on quality of life transformation than on Jesus! In my opinion, this violates Colossians 1:16, 19.

9. Balance your life with individual renewal. When we start preaching and implementing the kingdom message in our spheres of influence, we will see more needs and opportunities than ever before, which can result in work overload. There is no end to societal and individual needs.

One of the most important lessons I have learned is that it is essential I consistently do things that build me up spiritually, emotionally and physically. I need to do things that not only strengthen me spiritually (prayer, Bible reading, church), but I need to do things that give me life emotionally (sports, music, art, cultivating a social life and so on). Furthermore, I need to regularly exercise and be strategic in what I eat so I can remain physically functional. Missing it in any of these three areas can mean a premature death either in ministry, family or even our lives.

10. Balance work and play. I have learned not to take myself too seriously. I have learned that I have to work hard but mix play in as well. I need to invest in mutually beneficial friendships that give me and my wife a healthy social life that will strengthen us (emotionally) and inevitably lengthen our lives and ministries.

I have also found that the leaders I have the most fun with are the ones God is bonding me with the most for kingdom ventures. Jesus called His disciples His friends (John 15). He loved the Pharisees but liked His close associates! Jesus loved everyone, but I am convinced He did not like everyone! (Look at how He spoke to the Pharisees in Matthew 23 and compare it to how He spoke to His disciples in John 15.) Consequently, I believe God is going to lead us to work the closest with those we are compatible with emotionally and socially.

In the kingdom, relationship precedes ministry. If you reverse that, your key ministry partnerships may not endure the test of time.

Joseph Mattera has been in full-time church ministry since 1980 and is currently the presiding bishop of Christ Covenant Coalition and overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church in New York. He is also serving as the United States ambassador for the International Coalition of Apostles and as one of the founding presiding bishops of the International Communion of Evangelical Churches.

For the original article, visit

]]> (Joseph Mattera ) Vision Tue, 12 Jan 2016 19:00:00 -0500
How to Lead People to Be Driven by God's Purpose

Every member of your congregation is driven by something, and you need to discover what those forces are in order to better disciple those under your care. Ultimately, you want to lead each member to be driven by God's agenda—to live a purpose-driven life.

Most dictionaries define the verb drive as "to guide, to control, or to direct." In your congregation, there are some driven by a problem, a pressure or a deadline, and others driven by a painful memory, a haunting fear, or an unconscious belief.

There are hundreds of circumstances, values and emotions that drive people's lives, and understanding what's driving them is a key to reaching them.

Here are five common "drives":

1. Some people are driven by guilt. They spend their entire lives running from regrets or hiding their shame. Guilt-driven people are manipulated by memories. They allow their past to control their future, believing their past mistakes to be bigger than God. They often unconsciously punish themselves by sabotaging their own success. When Cain sinned, his guilt disconnected him from God's presence, and God said, "You will be a fugitive and a wanderer on the earth" (Gen. 4:12). That describes most people today—wandering through life without a purpose.

2. Some people are driven by resentment. They hold on to their hurts and never get over them. Instead of releasing their pain through forgiveness, they rehearse it over and over in their minds. Some resentment-driven people "clam up" and internalize their anger while others "blow up" and explode. Both responses are unhealthy and unhelpful. Resentment always hurts you more than it does the person you resent. While your offender has probably forgotten the offense and gone on with life, you continue to stew in your pain, perpetuating the past. 

3. Some people are driven by fear. These fears may be the result of a traumatic experience, unrealistic expectations, growing up in a high-control home, or even genetic predisposition. Regardless of the cause, fear-driven people often miss great opportunities because they're afraid to venture out. Instead, they play it safe, avoiding risks and trying to maintain the status quo.

4. Some people are driven by materialism. Their desire to acquire becomes the whole goal of their lives. This drive to always want more is based on the misconceptions that having more will make me "more happy," more important and more secure—but all three ideas are untrue. Possessions only provide temporary happiness. If things do not change, we eventually become bored with them and then want a newer, bigger, better version.

5. Some people are driven by the need for approval. They allow the expectations of parents, spouses, children, teachers or friends to control their lives. Many adults are still trying to earn the approval of unpleasable parents. Others are driven by peer pressure, always worried by what others might think. Unfortunately, those who follow the crowd usually get lost in it. I don't know all the keys to success, but one key to failure is to try to please everyone. Being controlled by the opinions of others is a guaranteed way to miss God's purposes for your life. Jesus said, "No one can serve two masters" (Matt. 6:24).

There are other forces that can drive people's lives but all lead to the same dead end: unused potential, unnecessary stress and an unfulfilled life.

Understanding these forces will help you look beyond the actions that frustrate you to see the real need in these people's lives. Many of the problems they face—and you will face as a church leader—are caused by people driven by the wrong things. We need to lovingly look past the problems, and call each church member to reach the fullness for which God has shaped them.

As a pastor, one of the greatest gifts you can offer is showing people how to live lives guided, controlled and directed by God. Nothing matters more than knowing God's purposes for your life, and nothing can compensate for not knowing them—not success, wealth, fame or pleasure.

Without a purpose, life is motion without meaning, activity without direction and events without reason. In the Bible, many different people expressed this hopelessness.

Isaiah complained, "I have labored in vain; I have spent my strength for nothing and vanity" (Is. 49:4).

Job said, "I loathe my life; I would not live forever; let me alone, for my days are emptiness" (Job 7:16).

The greatest tragedy is not death but life without purpose.

Rick Warren is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California, one of America's largest and most influential churches. Rick is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century. He is also founder of, a global Internet community for pastors.

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]]> (Rick Warren ) Vision Mon, 11 Jan 2016 13:00:00 -0500