Outreach http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach Tue, 27 Sep 2016 03:13:47 -0400 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb Why You Should Stop Searching for 'Authentic' Church Community http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23164-why-you-should-stop-searching-for-authentic-church-community http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23164-why-you-should-stop-searching-for-authentic-church-community

A few weeks ago, my oldest son, William, preached a sermon at Bethel's Wednesday night service on the importance of church community.

He opened with this quote from German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer (1906–1945):

"Christian brotherhood is not an ideal which we must realize; it is rather a reality created by God in Christ in which we may participate" [from Life Together (1939)].

The main idea behind Bonhoeffer's quote is that Christian community is not about warm feelings—it's about active engagement. I often hear people say they don't feel like their church is creating authentic community.

The truth is: It doesn't really matter.

Because our job is not to create authentic community. Our job is to participate in it. If you see the creation of authentic Christian community as the church's responsibility, you'll constantly be disappointed in your pastor or your church or even yourself. But if we see Christian community as an eternal spiritual reality—created and sustained by God in Christ—then we will be freed to love and serve and forgive even when we don't feel like it.

So how do we participate in Christian community?

The answer may be disappointingly obvious. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do I regularly attend weekly worship gatherings—or do other weekend activities take priority?
  • Do I faithfully tithe to my local church—or do I hold back in giving because I have an issue with the new building program?
  • Do I actively participate in weekly small group discipleship—or do I complain that my church feels too big?
  • Do I willingly serve at my church—or do I come only to get fed?
  • Do I thank God for my local church family—or do I fantasize about finding a better, more "authentic" church community?

Like our natural families, spiritual family is real whether we feel it or not—and whether we like everyone or not. We don't have to create it. God already did that.

All we have to do is engage.{eoa}

Steve Murrell serves as the president of Every Nation Churches and Ministries, a ministry that does church planting and campus ministry in over 70 nations.

For the original article, visit stevemurrell.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Steve Murrell ) Community Fri, 16 Sep 2016 21:00:00 -0400
5 Concepts That Can Keep a Church From Growing http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/23163-5-concepts-that-can-keep-a-church-from-growing http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/23163-5-concepts-that-can-keep-a-church-from-growing

I've spent some time studying church growth — and church decline. I am frequently asked, especially by pastors in declining churches, what keeps a church from growing — what causes a church to decline.

I have shared similar thoughts before, but in my observation, talking to dozens of pastors who struggle to get their church growing again, there are some common issues among them, from which I think we can all learn.

Here are five concepts that can keep a church from growing:

1. Entitlement – When the body begins to think, "this is my church," it will soon start operating outside the complete power and utter dependency of the rightful owner. It will then lose the Spirit's power.

2. Lack of energy – A lack of energy stagnates a church. This is not referring to worship. You can worship to your taste, but energy is a part of any movement of God. The church is the body of Christ. Don't forget, our God is not dead — He's alive! A church is revived and re-energized when it renews its vision. As a church grows closer to Christ, and introduces others to Christ, it creates more energy for the body.

I know this in my personal life, also. If I ever lose energy for ministry I have to get back to what God called me to do. I have to hang out with lost people, with people who are hurting, with people who need to better understand the grace of God. It energizes me.

3. Lack of excitement – If you can't get excited about the gospel, you're not looking at Christ close enough. Anyone who can raise from the dead, forgive sins, and reconcile us to God — wow, talk about exciting! When the people who regularly attend the church aren't excited anymore, visitors aren't likely to be either. When a body becomes comfortable, it often becomes complacent and it loses the excitement it once had. It is then no longer attractive to outsiders.

4. Lack of engagement – The body needs all its members. When a few people do all the work, burnout is soon to follow. The church shouldn't depend on paid staff to do all the work, nor should ministry be limited to those with a volunteer title of some sort. If people always have to wait for assignments to be made before people are freed to do the work of the church, over time, the harvest is plenty, but the workers are few. In other words, getting more workers in the harvest means casting good visions — helping people know what the mission of the church is — and then releasing people to do the work of the church. Jesus did this and called it discipleship. And, told us to make disciples.

5. Lack of efficiency РWhen programs are so structured even God couldn't introduce change, decline is imminent. Growing churches are always thinking about how they can improve. The clich̬ is true: The message never changes, but the hearers do. Finding new ways to reach a changing culture with a gospel that never changes is part of a growing church's responsibility.

Obviously there are many other reasons. These are just a few I've observed. Whenever I work with a church in decline, I first look for one of these areas as a solution.

Feel free to share your own experiences. {eoa}

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 ) Church Growth Thu, 15 Sep 2016 21:00:00 -0400
5 Excuses That Could Be Blocking Salvations in Your Church http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/23152-5-excuses-that-could-be-blocking-salvations-in-your-church http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/evangelism/23152-5-excuses-that-could-be-blocking-salvations-in-your-church

For a long time I've wondered if there is a relationship between the number of salvations a church experiences and the number of times it offers salvation invitations. We'll never know for sure, but I'm conducting an experiment this year.

My friend, Ron Forseth, the long-time force behind sermoncentral.com, recently challenged me to offer an invitation every Sunday for an entire year.

For the past 25 years, my habit has been to present a salvation invitation about once a month in our church services, but I've often wondered, "If we offered salvation more often, would more people come to Jesus?"

So, I'm taking The Weekly Gospel Challenge.

Results So Far

I started my experiment on the July 3 weekend. One lady raised her hand in the Saturday night service. So cool! The next week we hosted a high-profile guest for what we call a Wow WeekendLots of visitors were present, and 32 raised their hands for salvation. The next weekend (July 17), 12 hands went up. Last weekend (July 24), five more indicated they had prayed to receive Christ with me.

There's no way to know for sure how many of these decisions will bear out as "seed that fell on good soil" (Matt. 13:8), but some God-honoring intention motivated each one of those people to raise their hands.

Without Ron's challenge, I probably would have given invitations two out of those four weekends. God is sovereign, so He certainly could have saved all those people without my invitation. Yet I believe that my faithfulness to proclaim the gospel made a difference, so I'm going to continue this every-Sunday habit for the next 52 weeks and see what happens.

Would you like to take the challenge with me?

The Weekly Gospel Challenge

I'm teaming up with Greg Laurie, Derwin Gray, Dean Hawk and others to present the gospel every Sunday for 52 consecutive weeks in the hopes of seeing more salvations in our churches. We're calling it The Weekly Gospel Challenge.

Jesus Honored, Heaven Enlarged

Jesus is honored every time His story is told. Imagine if 10,000 pastors presented gospel invitations 52 weeks in a row. That would be 520,000 tellings of Jesus' story in one year. That would be a lot of honor! And if two people received Christ at each of those invitations, over a million souls would enter into relationship with the Savior. Wow!

Five Reasons I Haven't Given an Invitation Every Sunday

There are several reasons not to share the gospel every Sunday. One is time. Another is relevance. A third is a desire not to scare "investigators" away. A fourth is a lack of lost people in the audience. And a fifth, your believers may get impatient with you spending so much time on an invitation each week.

All of these have kept me from sharing the gospel. But in the back of my mind, I think I have a counter to each of them. Let me explain these five:

1. Not enough time in the service. Every preacher wants to be sensitive to the time constraints of the audience. And in churches with multiple services, you have to finish on time in order to exit one group and get the next group in the auditorium. So sometimes I think, "I don't have time to share the gospel today."

Yesterday, though, my entire invitation was this, "If you've never opened your life to Jesus Christ before, and want to today, pray these words after me." The entire invitation and prayer took less than a minute, and FIVE people responded to it. (I had a team ready to follow-up with each one, so no one left with a shallow understanding.)

2. The topic of the day doesn't relate to the gospel. I've used this logic many times, but really? The transforming power of Jesus is relevant to every need, every topic and every person, everyday! I find that if I try, I can always turn my subject to Jesus and His love and invitation to life.

3. An invitation every week could turn "investigators" off.  I've thought this. But I don't really believe it. Sure, a long, drawn-out, and perhaps heavy-handed invitation could turn anyone (including believers) off. But an invitation to the good news of Jesus doesn't have to be heavy, and it shouldn't involve arm-twisting.

The gospel is good news. Who doesn't want to hear good news every time they come to church?

4. Why present an invitation if there are no lost people in the room? This is a good point. But what if there are no lost people in the room because your members think they have no reason to invite their lost friends?

What if presenting the gospel four or five weeks in a row causes a mind shift in your members, so they begin thinking, If I invite my friend to come this weekend, he will hear the gospel, and his eternity might be changed?

It's possible that sharing the gospel will breed more lost people being invited to church.

5. Believers will get impatient if I take time in every service for something they've already heard. This has not been my experience. Every sincere believer I know is cheering with me every time I present the gospel. They're praying that someone will respond, and they're waiting to clap and cheer when I invite them to celebrate the new life that's been born in the service.

In my 24 years at New Song, I have never had a Christian say, "You should share the gospel less."

What If It Works?

I am praying that my increased emphasis on salvation in our services will result in an increased harvest for heaven.

When you think about it, hesitations evaporate, and taking The Weekly Gospel Challenge is all upside.

Will you join us?{eoa}

Hal Seed is the founding and lead pastor of New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California. Hal mentors pastors to lead healthy, growing churches. He offers resources to help church leaders at pastormentor.com.

For the original article, visit pastormentor.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Hal Seed ) Evangelism Mon, 12 Sep 2016 18:00:00 -0400
This Ministry Could Bolster Your Church's Impact on the Lost http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/23149-this-ministry-could-bolster-your-church-s-impact-on-the-lost http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/23149-this-ministry-could-bolster-your-church-s-impact-on-the-lost

Most Protestant pastors go to jail, at least for a visit, and want to help prisoners and their families.

But their churches often lack the training or finances to run an effective prison ministry.

Those are among the findings of a new phone survey of 1,000 Protestant senior pastors from LifeWay Research.

Researchers found widespread support among pastors for the idea of prison ministry. Eighty-three percent of pastors have visited a correctional facility. And almost all believe churches should help families of those incarcerated (97 percent) and provide care for those getting out of jail (95 percent).

However, many pastors have little contact with those who have been incarcerated. Half of pastors say no one from their congregation has been jailed in the past three years. A third have seen one or two people from their church go to jail. One in 6 (17 percent) says three or more attendees have been jailed in that time.

About a third of pastors (31 percent) say no former inmates attend their church. Another third (36 percent) have one or two former inmates in their congregation. A third (33 percent) have three or more former inmates in their church.

Overall, few pastors have contact with many inmates or former inmates as a normal part of their ministry, said Scott McConnell, vice president of LifeWay Research. So prison ministry isn't a priority.

"When half the pastors haven't had someone from their church sent to jail, then prison ministry isn't on their ministry radar," McConnell said.

The report comes at a time when incarceration rates in the United States remain at record levels. More than 2.2 million Americans are held in state and federal prisons or local jails, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research. That's more than in any other nation in the world.

More than a third (36 percent) of inmates in state and federal prisons are African-American, according to the Department of Justice.

Those statistics have led to concerns about the high number of inmates and charges of racial disparity.

LifeWay Research found pastors are split on those two questions.

Half of pastors say the racial disparity among inmates is unjust. Four in 10 (39 percent) disagree. One in 10 (11 percent) is not sure.

Just under half (46 percent) say the rapid growth of the inmate population is unjust. A similar number (44 percent) disagree. Ten percent are not sure.

African-American pastors (78 percent) are most likely to say the rapid growth in the overall number of inmates is unjust. Most Methodist (67 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed pastors (72 percent) agree. Fewer Baptist (31 percent), Pentecostal (34 percent), Christian/Church of Christ (39 percent) and Lutheran (45 percent) pastors hold that view.

African-American pastors (88 percent) are also most likely to see racial disparities among inmates as unjust. Most Methodist (73 percent) and Presbyterian/Reformed (75 percent) pastors agree. Fewer Baptist (34 percent), Pentecostal (43 percent), Church of Christ/Christian (40 percent) and Lutheran (56 percent) pastors agree.

Faithful Volunteers are Key

Karen Swanson, director of the Institute for Prison Ministries at Wheaton College, said pastors often don't know how to start ministering to inmates.

Other ministries, like distributing school supplies to kids or volunteering at a food pantry, are relatively easy to start.

Ministering to inmates and their families is more difficult, she said, requiring special training and often a long-term commitment from volunteers.

About two-thirds of pastors cite a lack of training (62 percent) or volunteers (65 percent) as barriers to their church helping inmates and their families. Forty percent say they do not know where to start. Three in 10 (29 percent) say their church has too many other ministries. One in 5 (21 percent) doesn't see a need for such ministry.

Money is an issue as well. Half of pastors (48 percent) say a lack of finances is a barrier to ministry. A recent report from the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability found donations to prison ministries declined 6 percent from 2011 to 2014.

When churches do have a prison ministry, it is often run on an informal basis.

Sixty-one percent of pastors say individual church members minister to families of inmates. Forty-five percent say church members minister in correctional facilities. Fifty-eight percent say church members help those leaving correctional facilities.

Swanson hopes more pastors will consider getting their churches involved in prison ministry. They may be surprised to find the ministry hits close to home.

"The mission field is in your backyard," she said. "Almost every county has a jail. And almost all prisoners are going to return home."

McConnell said churches will face an uphill challenge to grow their prison ministries.

"These are messy, long-term ministries," he says. "You really have to demonstrate biblical faithfulness to be involved with them. It's a lot easier to pick a ministry where there are quick rewards, but you would miss out on the opportunity to impact families and communities." {eoa}

For the original article, visit lifeway.com/pastors.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Bob Smietana/For Lifeway.com ) Ministry Outreach Fri, 09 Sep 2016 21:00:00 -0400
Visitors Will Flee From a Church Like This http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23146-visitors-will-flee-from-a-church-like-this http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23146-visitors-will-flee-from-a-church-like-this

I stood before the congregation holding two letters in my hands. "Both came to my office this week. I thought you'd like to hear what they say."

"The first letter is from a member who moved several hundred miles away last year. She is missing this church. She wrote, 'The churches here are not friendly like our church back home. No one speaks to visitors. I miss our loving, friendly congregation."

I said, "Do we have a friendly church?" Heads nodded all over the building.

"Well, then, listen to this."

"Dear pastor. We visited your church last Sunday and not a single person spoke to us. You have a most unfriendly congregation. We will not be back."

The people sat there in shock. This was far from what they had believed about themselves.

I said, "I give you my word that both letters came to the church office this week. One said how friendly we are and the other saying much the opposite."

"What are we to believe? I'll give you my answer to that."

"The visitors are the authority on the friendliness of this congregation. Newcomers will learn in a heartbeat whether we are loving and welcoming. The fact seems to be that, yes, we are friendly—to one another. Not to newcomers, first-timers, outsiders."

"And that is pretty devastating."

I knew whose fault it was: Mine. I was the pastor and I had dropped the ball.

It all comes down to leadership.

Most longstanding church problems come down to leadership. If a problem is imbedded and out of control, almost always it's because leadership at the top has failed to deal with it properly.

When I ask people how churches received them as visitors and guests, two complaints are voiced again and again: "No one spoke to us" and "The people seem cliquish."

They seem to like one another, but do not welcome intruders into their little family.

Unfriendliness and cliquishness are two sides of the same coin.

The root problem is the sinful heart of humans.

In the world of physics there are laws of deterioration. Clocks wind down. Bodies wear out. Resources get used up. The universe grows old.

And the sinful heart retracts within its shell and cuts itself off from more and more of its peers.

Put another way, left to themselves, people pull into themselves and become private. And unless provisions are made to counter this downward trend, people tend to pull into their cliques, small groups composed of people like themselves.

As a result of the sinful, selfish heart, people drift away from loving other people and retreat into solitude. Then, even though man is naturally gregarious and craves fellowship, left to himself, he will gravitate to a small band of buddies and then freeze out all outsiders who wish to break into the cluster.

These are the result of sin.

I see it all the time. A church sits there, on that road a few miles out of town, populated primarily by three or four interrelated families. The thought never occurs to them that someone might find them unfriendly. Why, don't they have great suppers and fellowships? Don't they mill around for a full five-minutes during the worship time greeting each other? But then it happens.

The new school year starts and several new families move to the area. The youth group finds itself with a half-dozen new kids. New families enter the worship center and end up sitting where Aunt Polly and Uncle Thomas have hibernated for years. The men wear—gasp!—neckties! And—this is important—the new people are friendly enough. They really seem to want to break into the inner life of this church. But the members erect barriers.

The members—all of whom have known one another for ages—are suspicious and superficial. They say the right words, but when church is over, no one hangs around to get to know the newcomers. They are gone. Over Sunday lunch, they discuss the new families and reinforce one another's hesitations about welcoming them.

Eventually, most of the new people move on to the larger church in town where they are given a better welcome.

You can't blame them. No one wants to go where they are not welcome.

The members of that church would be shocked if they knew they had sinned against the Lord by not welcoming those families.

Sin means a lot of things: rebellion against God, neglect of the things of God, disobedience to the will of God and installing oneself as his/her own deity. "My will be done" says the sinful heart.

When our Lord said, "By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35), He was establishing that the law of the sinful heart would no longer be calling the shots around here. The redeemed of the Lord will come out of their shells and love one another.

They will belong to each other.

Coming out of a shell is work. Ask any butterfly.

Let the pastors show themselves as friendly. Let them leave their inner sanctum (aka, "pastor's study") a good quarter-hour before every worship service and mill around inside the building greeting people, welcoming newcomers and introducing them to others.

In time, the people will do what their leaders do.

That is a law never proven wrong. {eoa}

After five years as director of missions for the 100 Southern Baptist churches of metro New Orleans, Joe McKeever retired on June 1, 2009. These days, he has an office at the First Baptist Church of Kenner, where he's working on three books, and he's trying to accept every speaking/preaching invitation that comes his way.

For the original article, visit joemckeever.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Joe McKeever ) Community Thu, 08 Sep 2016 18:00:00 -0400
7 Keys to Keeping Your Church Informed http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/communication/23138-7-keys-to-keeping-your-church-informed http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/communication/23138-7-keys-to-keeping-your-church-informed

I'm currently in the middle of a series on church communications strategy. That may not sound like the most exciting topic, but it's one that is grossly neglected in thousands of churches across the U.S. and Canada.

I previously wrote on the six keys to engaging your audience. So once you have them engaged, you need to keep them informed. These seven keys will help:

1. Information isn't just facts. Presenting information alone doesn't get the job done. When people are inundated with data without context or a purpose, they ignore it. The information you decide to share needs a reason and a purpose.

2. Consistency is key. Knowing when to expect information and how it will be presented helps in awareness and retention. Many churches have a template for their worship guides or bulletins. That's because people want to look in the same spot each week to find similar information. If the information changes locations on the page every week, it makes it harder to find and fewer people will retain the information. Templates are a communicator's best friends.

3. Timing matters. When you decide to communicate information to your church or potential guests, having enough lead time is important. If you have an upcoming event and you would like to encourage members to invite friends, they need time to identify potential invitees. A week isn't really enough time. A month might not be either. Inform your audience well enough in advance to act when you are encouraging them to do so.

4. Calendars are helpful. Not only do calendars allow you to give enough lead time, they also help you to plan how often to communicate with your audience and in which ways to communicate. A variety of channels and messages help people retain and remember information. Use a calendar to eliminate message clutter and information overlap.

5. Don't major on the minors. It's best to have a system to determine the importance of your messaging and decide what gets the most attention. A Christmas Eve service should be communicated much more than a room change for the decorating committee meeting. Knowing what is of most importance will keep you from cluttering your communications. 

6. Tailor your wording to the audience. I mentioned this in the engaging post as well. You need to use the right words for the audience. Acronyms often make little to no sense to church guests. Your message should always be geared to its desired audience.

7. Use all the tools at your disposal. Don't limit the methods in which you communicate. Your options are nearly limitless. Newsletters, bulletins, social media, texting, phone trees, mailings, and the church website only scratch the surface of the communications options churches have today. Use as many methods as possible to communicate as much information as possible.

When it comes to informing church members and guests, keep these seven keys in mind. What would you add to this list? What is your church's greatest struggle in keeping members informed? {eoa}

Jonathan Howe serves as director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay Christian Resources, the host and producer of Rainer on Leadership and SBC This Week. Jonathan writes weekly at ThomRainer.com on topics ranging from social media to websites and church communications. Connect with Jonathan on Twitter at@Jonathan_Howe.

For the original article, visit thomrainer.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jonathan Howe/LifeWay ) Communication Tue, 06 Sep 2016 21:00:00 -0400
Why Church Should Make You a Little Bit Uncomfortable http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23131-why-church-should-make-you-a-little-bit-uncomfortable http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/community/23131-why-church-should-make-you-a-little-bit-uncomfortable

When you love your local church, it's fun to gather with the people of God. We look forward to hanging out with people we love each weekend.

I'm arguing in this post, however, that church should be at least a little bit uncomfortable for all of us. Here's why: 

1. You will be worshiping the one and only, true and living God. If you understand that truth properly, worship should drive you to your face in awe and wonder. There's nothing comfortable about that position.

2. The Word of God penetrates to the depth of our being (Heb. 4:12). Assuming the Word is preached at your church, you should not be fully at ease when you hear it. None of us measures up to perfection in the light of the Word.

3. All of us have sin to deal with. It's impossible not to see our sin when we encounter the presence of God. Uncomfortable conviction should be a part of hearing the Word sung and preached.

4. Lost people should be there. That means that people who talk differently, think differently, and even sometimes look different than believers should be present. Some believers don't know what to do with that kind of person.

5. You'll have to deal with that person who "gets under your skin." The church is a family, and every family has somebody that's a bit hard to take. That tension you feel, though, means you need to deal with your feelings as the Lord challenges you. 

6. The command of the Great Commission is still in effect. None of us can avoid Jesus' mandate that we make disciples of our neighbors and the nations (Matt. 28:18-20). Because there's always somebody else to be reached, our conviction and burden should grow under the teaching of the Word.

7. If you're a leader, you'll answer for the way you care for the souls of the church (Heb. 13:17). That responsibility should create enough discomfort to lead you to pray when you awaken in the morning and when you lie down at night. 

Here's the bottom line: Worship ought to overwhelm you, stretch you, convict you, burden you, challenge you, move you and transform you—even lead to your salvation if you're not already a believer. If you attend worship this weekend and leave just like you came, something's amiss. You might be way too comfortable. {eoa}

Chuck Lawless is Dean and Vice-President of Graduate Studies and Ministry Centers at Southeastern Seminary in Wake Forest, North Carolina, where he also serves as Professor of Evangelism and Missions. In addition, he is Global Theological Education Consultant for the International Mission Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

For the original article, visit chucklawless.com.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Chuck Lawless ) Community Thu, 01 Sep 2016 18:00:00 -0400
Develop Strong Future Leaders by Using This Dynamic Discipleship Model http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/discipleship/23129-develop-strong-future-leaders-by-using-this-dynamic-discipleship-model http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/discipleship/23129-develop-strong-future-leaders-by-using-this-dynamic-discipleship-model

Even though Jesus walked the Earth 2,000 years ago, His leadership model has proven to be timeless and is easily adaptable to your context. The Jesus model of leadership is personal and cannot be manufactured as a program, but it can help you multiply aspiring leaders when you apply it. 

What Is the Jesus Model of Leadership?

Jesus preached to the masses and some groups were recorded to be 5,000 men, not including their families with them (Matt. 14:21). The Modern English Version of the Scripture describes how Jesus had 70 leaders that He was able to send out ahead of Him who returned with testimonies of miracles that took place (Luke 10:1-22).

Within the group of 70 leaders, Jesus had 12 close to Him that He designated as "apostles" (Mark 3:13-15). Within the 12 apostles there were three who He personally trained and who were with Him on the Mount of Transfiguration and in the Garden of Gethsemane (Matt. 17:1-13, 26:36-46). From those three came the one who was so close to Jesus he heard His heartbeat and was entrusted with writing the book of Revelation, which completed the canon of Scripture (John 13:25).

The military practices a similar principle of leadership as they have experienced leaders training new recruits through boot camp and at every level of their military occupational specialty. Every rank has required training and education with performance records identifying where each service member is in the training process and which also specifies where they need to grow in order to lead and advance in order to train others in their sphere of influence. Jesus did this when He identified and warned Peter of what the devil intended and gave Peter a direct charge for his leadership. Jesus said, "I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have repented, strengthen your brothers" (Luke 22:32).

After Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles applied this concept to their lives because Jesus modeled it for them. As a leader of a company or ministry, you must be intentional to train the trainers, which is part of what Jesus did during His ministry and was applied by the apostle Paul (2 Tim. 2:2).

John the Beloved, the disciple closest to Jesus, mentored Polycarp, who was one of three chief Apostolic Fathers who helped keep the gospel truth due to his connection to John. His writings still influence Christianity today. This is a testament to the timeless leadership model Jesus set in place and are great principles you can adopt and apply in your business or ministry context.

So what can we take away from this?

  • Jesus was intentional. He hand-picked 12 to be His close disciples who were to carry on His ministry (Mark 3:13-14).
  • Jesus was interested in them and wanted to invest His time with them, elaborating on the principles He taught them (Mark 4:10).
  • Jesus was interactive. He asked them questions so that they could find the answers themselves (Matt. 16:13-20).
  • Jesus was intimate in that He took these aspiring leaders everywhere He went and was personal with them (Luke 9:10-11).

Do you have a group or several groups of people that you are training to be leaders, outside of the formal weekly or monthly meetings? Are you implementing Jesus' strategy and constantly training leaders in order to release them into their God-given destiny and callings?

When you do this, it is one of the most exciting elements you can be part of as you continue the Jesus model of leadership.

Jared Laskey is starting Destiny Open Bible Church in Virginia Beach, VA and is a Master of Divinity student at Regent University. He lives to see Jesus awaken this generation to the power of His Holy Spirit. You can follow him on twitter @jaredalaskey, or contact him through his website, firebornministries.com. He also co-authored Veronica's Hero found on Amazon.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Jared Laskey ) Discipleship Wed, 31 Aug 2016 21:00:00 -0400
4 Steps for Your Church to Achieve Dynamic Retention http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/23122-4-steps-for-your-church-to-achieve-dynamic-retention http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/church-growth/23122-4-steps-for-your-church-to-achieve-dynamic-retention

We are on to something.

At first glance you may find yourself thinking, this isn't anything new—been there and done that. But you would be wrong. I have found that there are major gaps in the retention and assimilation processes in churches of any size, and I will bet, after you read this, you will see the gaps in yours and have a roadmap to explosive growth.

The back door out of most churches is just like the song ... deep and wide and many can be found there. We try to plug that hole with Small Groups and that works to a certain extent, but not everyone is on that wagon, core value or not.

It is still a personal choice, and to a newcomer, a risky proposition. And then there is the approach at the other end, welcoming and making the first-time visit experience a very memorable experience complete with preferred parking, a host, and even a special tour and reserved seating. And we have had success with this and left a wonderful first impression. The problem is, if it works, there is a second week that is very different than the first week, and they are now just like everyone else trying to find their place.

You can achieve authentic and lasting connection that results in dynamic retention in four easy steps.

1. You must have a place and a process of official connection. Bottom line, if you do not have some kind of assimilation process that helps people find legitimate connection, then you are without excuse. It doesn't matter what you call it, how many weeks it lasts, or when it is offered—you have to have that place of connection. The days of the total organic connection path sounded good on paper, and maybe even in a staff meeting. But people crave structure and specifics and an actual place to go to take that next step.

We have created a four-week Next Steps process at our campuses that do basically four things:

  • Tell you our history and what we believe
  • Tell you our DNA...what makes us unique and our focus areas
  • Tell us YOUR DNA...your gifts and talents and where you might be the best fit connect you to your place of service
  • Schedule you and train you

Yours may be very different, but I will tell you this: We have found that if people go through these four weeks (one hour each) they stay. They just do, and all the relationship connections take place in their places of serving and the small group we connected them to in the same process.

2. Hold ministry leaders accountable. There is nothing worse than a person to go through four sessions, think they are connected to a ministry, and then the leaders never contact them and never activate their service ... and actually pastor them. It should be a part of your weekly meetings to talk about how the different names are experiencing their place of service. Celebrate that and make it a priority.

Many of you probably have some version of Steps 1 and 2 above and are thinking about checking out right about now, but you would miss the best part—Divine Connections. 

3. Reach back, reach out and follow through. This is where I think we will start looking at ideas you may not have thought of, and this is what has made all the difference in the world for us. We found that we were doing a good job with first impressions and even our initial outreach to visitors and the people who had made decisions at our altars. 

But in looking at the overall picture over time, there was a gap, a crack people were falling through—a crack that led right out the back door of our church.

We found that even if people responded to our initial personalized contact, we really didn't track them much beyond that point. They were in our e-blasts and marketing stream, but no personal contact or follow up.

Solution

Call Center Team. We started a good old-fashioned Call Center Team that meets Monday or Tuesday every week to make personal phone calls and e-mails and to pray with people and the results have been profound.

Remember, we found that if we could get folks to attend and finish our Next Steps process, they were connected in a very real and authentic way and accountability and connectedness became a part of their DNA. So it was a no-brainer to make the focus of our outreach and follow-up to get people to our Next Steps program.

Visitors

After the initial contact and church post card, we would wait about one week and call just to see if they had been back and if there were any questions they needed answering.

Goal: Get them to return

Then we would call back one month later, month after month to check on them and pray with them until we could get them signed up for Next Steps.

Goal: Signed up for Next Steps

Altar Decision Cards

This was the biggest shocker. We found that while we had hundreds of decisions for Christ or rededications, these numbers did not translate to baptisms and Next Steps. We would baptize 60 but over 200 had made decisions in that time period. Worst still was that after the initial contact, we never really pursued these folks much in a personalized way after that. This became a major function of the Call Center Team.

Goal: Get them signed up for Next Steps

Reaching Back

When we began to look at the thousands of people who had been here at one time over the last 10-15 years but were no longer here, and especially those who had made decisions here over that same time period but were no longer here, the number was staggering. Where did they go? Why did they leave? What were they doing now? Were they without a church home? Would they want to be reconnected? Would they be open to receiving information from us? Did we have their correct contact information? Did they have kids now that would love our kids and youth programs? Were they still walking with Jesus?

We decided to actually reach back to those thousands of people and ask these questions. If they moved out of the area or had a new church home now, we simply wish them the best and leave them alone and pray for them. But we are finding that many are unchurched today and many appreciate that we are reaching out and some of the results have had the timing of God on their lives. It may take months but we plan to reach back to all of them that we cannot verify are here any longer. 

This will take some work, but it is so worth it to seek after lost sheep or sheep without a shepherd, possibly thinking no one cares. We care and we want them to know that.

Goal: Survey monkey that asks all of the questions above and gathers new information. Seeking to invite back the unchurched.

4. Connection Teams—Connection Is the Banner. We united all of our teams who have contact with people on a Sunday under one banner called "Connection." Greeters, ushers, info desk, parking and altar workers were re-focused, moving from greeting and helping to the idea of Divine Connection, the idea being that there are no accidents, and each person the Lord brings across their path is a divine appointment orchestrated by God. We changed the language from greeting to connecting and letting people know they were in the right place and that we had been expecting them, and that they picked the perfect day to visit.

We challenged our greeters to connect with people on the way in and to reconnect by being back in the lobbies as the service ends, to purposely reconnect with those they connected with earlier. We also challenge them to remember three new names each week.

Goal: A sense that they are in the right place and that God has something to say to them about their lives, and that we truly do care.

Altar Team: We challenge the altar team to be sanctuary greeters, looking for those in pre-service that are sitting alone or who do not appear to be connecting with others and to intentionally connect and remember names. Then pray for those folks during the service.

Goal: Sanctuary Connectors

This isn't rocket science I assure you but it is powerful and explosive. Our Call Center Teams are passionate about their night and the calls they will make. We can make contact with over 150 people with just 5-7 people that will give us just one hour between 5:00pm and 8:30pm. We attempt to call three times with a goal of an actual conversation, and we are having hundreds of conversations with people who have questions and always thank us for praying with them.

The secret to growth, I am convinced, is retaining the ones God sends to us. Period. And it is within your reach. {eoa}

Dr. Rich Rogers is the editorial director of Jentezen Franklin's Connection and Discipleship Free Chapel OC in Irvine, California and the author of Next Level Living and Next Level Parenting.

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shawn.akers@charismamed.com (Rich Rogers ) Church Growth Wed, 31 Aug 2016 18:00:00 -0400
The Balance God Expects From Your Church or Ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/discipleship/23128-the-balance-god-expects-from-your-church-or-ministry http://ministrytodaymag.com/outreach/discipleship/23128-the-balance-god-expects-from-your-church-or-ministry

Janet Yellen, chair of the Federal Reserve, surprised many by saying "I believe the case for an increase in the federal funds rate has strengthened ..."

No one knows if the Fed will actually raise interest rates, but certainly the odds of it occurring have increased. The stock markets fell as a result. Other than the statement by Dr. Yellen, economic reports were fairly balanced between negative and positive for the week.

GDP and corporate profits reports were negative. Real GDP growth for the second quarter was estimated at an annual rate of 1.1 percent. Although the report was in line with expectations, it confirmed a dismal rate of growth for the economy (especially when first quarter growth was an annualized 0.8 percent). Second quarter corporate profits fell at an annual rate of 2.1 percent. Stock market prices should reflect profits; but stock prices have been higher than is justified by profits for some time. Some speculate that the Fed has created a price bubble with its easy money policy. Time will tell.

Durable goods and new home sales reports were positive. July durable goods orders showed a monthly 4.4 percent increase. This compares to a pre-report estimate of 3.7 percent (Bloomberg Econoday) and a June decrease of -4.2 percent. July new home sales increased more than 70,000 units from the June report and the pre-report forecast.

Economic policy-makers face an array of choices in a complex, uncertain and volatile environment. Unemployment, inflation, economic growth and stability can often be conflicting objectives. Political goals may compete with economic goals. Monetary (Federal Reserve) policies may be at variance with fiscal (governmental) policies. Urban versus rural, domestic versus international and short-term versus long-term objectives will sometimes collide. In an attempt to cope with competing goals, economic policy makers usually attempt to take actions which balance competing interests.

As ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ, we are called to make disciples of all nations. Specifically, we are called to equip the saints to serve and to build up the body of Christ. We are expected to do this until there is:

  • Unity in the faith
  • Unity in the knowledge of Jesus
  • People have matured to the fullness of Christ

To the extent we are successful, our charges will be immune from deception. Their doctrine will be stable and secure regardless of the attempted influence of others.

"He gave some to be apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers, for the equipping of the saints, for the work of service, and for the building up of the body of Christ, until we all come into the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, into a complete man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so we may no longer be children, tossed here and there by waves and carried about with every wind of doctrine by the trickery of men, by craftiness with deceitful scheming" (Eph. 4:11-14, MEV).

Our far-reaching mission necessitates that we teach the full gospel using the Word of God as our basis and the Spirit for guidance and empowerment. Today's culture has fragmented the body into too many churches which emphasize a particular doctrinal concept to the exclusion of others. Some supposedly Christian churches have even abandoned the Word. People are left without the sure knowledge of the complete gospel and are open to deception. Our churches need balanced teaching.

For example, we need to:

  • Present Jesus as Savior and Lord
  • Teach about heaven, but also mention hell
  • Discuss trials, suffering and persecution and well as peace and joy
  • Emphasize the blessings of obedience and consequences of sin (even for a believer)
  • Address the mores of society when they conflict with the gospel, even if they are popular
  • Preach confession and repentance in addition to forgiveness
  • Teach about the abundant life, as well as patience and long-suffering.

Let us move from a gospel of popular topics to the complete gospel for which Jesus died. Our messages need to be complete and balanced. It is called the Good News for a reason. {eoa}

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 ) Discipleship Wed, 31 Aug 2016 12:00:00 -0400