R.T. Kendall can preach with the best of them, yet it’s his gift of connecting knowledge to Spirit-empowered truth that truly sets him apart
Since we started having guest editors two years ago we’ve covered some important topics: integrity, giving, church growth, evangelism, prayer, leadership, social transformation and, most recently, revival and healing.
We’ve had some high-profile guest editors such as Reinhard Bonnke, Robert Morris, Mike Bickle, Bill Johnson and Dr. Mark Rutland. During these two years, Ministry Today has experienced a resurgence unlike anything in its nearly three-decade history. I’m grateful to these guest editors and for the response from readers like you.
Now we focus on an equally important topic for pastors: preaching. To do so, we asked one of the best preachers of our generation—Dr. R.T. Kendall—to be guest editor.
It’s 6 at night as I arrive home from a long day at work. I flip on the TV to catch the news. The commentator rattles off some of the day’s headlines: “The American economy is in serious trouble! President Obama and the Republicans can’t agree on the solution. With the declining economy, crime is increasing and poverty is on the rise. Internationally: Iran is threatening to destroy Israel ... the violent North Korean dictator has just died, leading to greater global uncertainty ... Egypt has turned violent ... There’s a growing threat of civil war in Iraq, and immorality seems to be at an all-time high.”
My heart wrenches with anxiety as the stories unfold. Get us out of here, Lord, I pray silently. Then suddenly, without warning, a thought stands erect like a brave soldier on the battlefield of my mind:Your kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.
Before I can process that verse, more soldiers begin to take their stand on the war-torn sands of my imagination; “Arise and shine for your light has come. The glory of the Lord has risen upon you. For behold deep darkness covers the earth, deep darkness the people, but the Lord will rise upon you. His glory will be seen on you. Nations will come to your light, and kings to the brightness of your rising!” In a matter of seconds, other soldiers emerge, shouting their commands into the foxholes of my heart, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth; therefore, go and make disciples of all nations!”
Courage slowly seeps into my soul as I am reminded of our mandate and mission. We were never placed on this planet to reflect the culture; we’ve been called to transform it. The kingdom of God is to be cultivated within us so that it infects and affects the kingdoms around us, until the kingdoms of this world become the kingdom of our God.
A culture of honor gives room for people to grow in freedom and power
One of the premier core values and goals of an apostolic environment is creating a safe place that brings out the best in people. Paul asserts that knowing a loving God is the pathway to accessing the unlimited supply of His goodness:
“For this reason I bow my knees to the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, from whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith; that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height—to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge; that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.
“Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen” (Eph. 3:14-21).
God is stirring in the hearts of leaders a vision to see a generation that is passionately ablaze for Jesus and His cause. I am not talking about a mere spark that eventually fizzles, but an all-consuming fire, which continues to burn through one’s entire life.
As leaders, we must build with this goal in mind. We are not called to just bear fruit, but to produce that which remains (John 15). I personally don’t believe I have fulfilled my role effectively as a leader of the younger generation if their passion and commitment to Jesus fades somewhere in their 20s or 30s. We must see a generation whose light burns even brighter with their age. So the question then must be: “How do we as leaders create a culture that releases young people into a life of not only sustained fire but a fire that is ever increasing?”
Three Components of Fire
It is one thing to ignite a flame, or occasionally stoke an ember, but altogether another to sustain a fire that is ever advancing and magnifying. A fire requires three things to continue: fuel, heat and oxygen. As we call a generation to give their lives fully to Jesus—to present themselves as a living sacrifice (fuel) and encounter the passionate love in the gaze of Jesus (heat)—we must also be intentional in creating an atmosphere where oxygen is abundant.
Anyone who is familiar with the elementary school science experiment, where a lit candle is placed inside a jar, knows what happens when oxygen is removed from the equation. The flame extinguishes, and all that remains is smoke. Fire simply cannot survive in a vacuum. It requires oxygen, and the more it draws on fresh air, the more dazzling, pervasive and powerful it becomes.
Being thankful and staying hungry for God leads to spiritual health and passion
Several years ago, I was in an all-day prayer meeting that was sure to leave a mark on my life. While there, I met Mike Servello, a pastor from Utica, N.Y. We had corresponded through email, but we had never met in person.
While the worship team was playing, Mike leaned over to me and said, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” I told him I believed my city, Redding, Calif., was that city. He said he believed Utica was. In print, it may look like a competition. It wasn’t. It was two pastors expressing their faith for the big picture.
A little while later, I was in a different part of the sanctuary. Standing next to me was a friend and prophetic lady named Jean Krisle Blasi. She turned to me saying, “God is looking for a city that would belong entirely to Him. And once He gets that one city, it will cause a domino effect across our nation.” I was stunned. It was word-for-word what Mike had declared maybe 30 minutes earlier. Before I could mention my convictions for my city, she said, “And I believe Redding is that city.”
For decades, maybe centuries, the church has gathered weekly around a sermon. Our reasons are noble: We value the Scriptures and know that our lives are to be anchored in truth. But the study of the Scriptures is meant to launch us into an encounter with the person of Jesus Christ.
In that moment of connection, we obtain life. Without encountering the One to whom Scriptures point, we are a people to be pitied. As Jesus told the Pharisees, “You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
Nearly every leader wants revival in one way or another, and many want healings, deliverances and miracles. But it’s hard to have the same fruit as the early church when we value a book they didn’t have above the Holy Spirit they did have.
The church has always been faced with the choice of evangelizing through the power of God or by human wisdom, often expressed as apologetics.
A famous “defender of the faith,” Benjamin Warfield, against the overwhelming teaching of Scripture, actually claimed, “Christianity makes its appeal to right reason, and stands out among all religions, therefore, as distinctively ‘the Apologetical religion.’ It is solely by reasoning that it has come thus far on its way to its kingship. And it is solely by reasoning that it will put all its enemies under its feet.”
Apologetics in this context means, “a reasoned defense” rather than a “presentation-in-power” of Christian belief. Apologetics assumes that one becomes a Christian more by intellectually grasping “right doctrine” or “good ideas” rather than humbly receiving the revealed presence and power of Jesus.
In early church history, as the power of the Spirit became a threat to the church hierarchy, most of the early “church fathers” became more acceptable as “apologists,” defending the faith against philosophical and religious attacks, even as they (rarely) conceded that Christianity was mainly spread by those who healed and drove out demons. Since these apologists were trained in the same intellectual traditions as their opponents, their crucial problem is that they accept their opponents’ premise that human wisdom is the way to discover God and to accept His gospel. The gospel then became a matter of accepting certain facts about Christianity (the creeds), rather than basing faith on the “experience” of God’s revelation and power—a problem even today in evangelical Christianity.
Robert Stearns is mobilizing churches to stand with Israel as it faces some of the most difficult threats to its existence
Christian Zionism is not a new phenomenon created by the religious right. In fact it predates the Jewish Zionist movement. So says David Brog in his excellent book Standing With Israel.
As a historian, Brog documents how William Hechler, a deeply religious Christian, was one of the first allies in 1896 of Theodor Herzl—a Jew who was the father of the modern Zionist movement.
Fast-forward 120 years. The state of Israel exists against all odds today, while facing some of the most difficult threats to its existence. Israel has few friends in the world more devoted than the evangelical (particularly charismatic) Christian community.
A new generation discovers more reasons to stand with Israel
Christian support for Israel needs a face-lift—a much-needed makeover to meet the charged climate of the 21st century global arena.
Christian Zionism is not new; it has been around for centuries. Sometimes quirky, often romantic and wrong-headed, these eccentric believers lived out a dream to see Zion restored. Their visions seldom corresponded with the social realities of the time. Call them visionaries before their time, the 19th century settlers who relocated to then-Ottoman “Palestine,” were passionate but mostly without significant influence; not to mention few and far between. They were committed pioneers who gave their lives for a biblical promise of the rebirth of a nation long dead.
Today is a different story. The modern state of Israel not only exists (against all odds); it is the focal point of the complex and delicate geopolitical realities of the Middle East—and to some extent, global affairs. From my ongoing work over the past 20 years in the Jewish and Christian communities, which revolves around these pivotal issues, as well as Eagles’ Wings’ efforts to educate the next generation in them, I propose there must be a fundamental shift in the way we approach the Jewish people, Israel and Zionism.
Most evangelicals are familiar with the many biblical reasons for supporting Israel. These important pillars are eternal, foundational and serve as the basis for traditional Christian Zionism. However, I believe a new generation is rising—boldly declaring that support for Israel is not only, for believers, an essential biblical principle, but for humanity, a universal moral imperative.
The center of the world is also the center of our faith
Jerusalem is the crossroads of the world. This unique city is unlike anywhere else on the planet. It’s difficult to describe how distinct and singular its atmosphere is. Although most urban centers are a confluence of varying ethnicities and cultural expressions, the thing that sets Jerusalem apart is the sense that its very location is the reason for the convergence of diversities that populate it. Its composition is not arbitrary or incidental.
Its inhabitants did not happen upon this landmass due to natural migration patterns or random chance. Rather, it seems that each and every person who resides in this land does so by deliberate, intentional choice. No one is there by accident. If you’re living in Israel, it is because you believe something so strongly you’re willing to stake your life on it. Many end up doing just that.
Often thought of as the crossroads of the three monotheistic faiths, the charged religious nature of Jerusalem also positions it at the hub of world politics. Jerusalem is not an easy place to live. There are no comfort zones in Jerusalem—nowhere to hide. The irreconcilable philosophies hurled down through the ages at avalanche-speeds meet in this tiny city, where they butt heads, brush shoulders, pass each other in vigilant silence.
Why the church must identify and combat the last acceptable prejudice
When believers today discuss the Holocaust (or Shoah), it is not uncommon for them to shake their heads in disbelief that such a massive genocide involving 6 million Jews could have happened so recently in Christian Europe. “How did the church not see?” we cry.
We read with horror the historical accounts; we weep at the testimonies of those who survived and grieve for those who didn’t. We stare with unbelief at the grotesque photos of man’s inhumanity to man during the Nazi reign of terror, and vow with Jews all over the world: “Never again!”
Yet, only 67 years after the end of World War II, we find ourselves living in a time eerily similar to the years preceding Hitler’s “Final Solution”—a time when the unthinkable is now very possible. Results of a 2003 poll authorized by the European Commission show that 60 percent of Europeans in 15 EU countries believed Israel to be the greatest threat to world peace, greater than North Korea or Iran.
How Israel advocacy is changing the way a generation relates to their faith
Have you ever noticed that the book of Genesis, our introduction to God, His character, His emotions and His will, devotes just the first two chapters to creation, and chapters 12 through 50 primarily to one theme?
That’s right, two chapters on speaking the universe into existence, and 39 zeroing in on one thing. This one thing is the “big picture.” This one thing is covenant. The big picture of biblical covenant is about God’s decision to use a place and a people (Israel and the Jewish people) to establish His means of revelation and redemption in the earth.
An honest observation of the Christian under-30s would suggest that the next generation longs to be connected to the big picture. They want to exchange the catchphrases and bumper-sticker theology for the reality of genuine relationship with God and with people. They want to be a part of His story.
Why God’s promises to Israel should matter to your congregation
So, you haven’t quite figured out what to do with that “Israel” couple in your church. ...
They’re nice people—sincere and passionate—and your heart tells you they might be on to something, too. However, a demanding schedule limits you from really focusing in on what they’re all about. Not that you would have time to engage in another program on top of leading your congregation.
The building project, the short-term missions trip, the rewrite of the mission statement (not to mention more counseling, weddings and funerals than you know what to do with) are enough to make you run every time they approach you on a Sunday morning about hosting a Passover Seder. Compared to the immediate demands necessary to keep a busy ministry moving forward, the “Israel thing” understandably seems far-off, undeserving of a high spot on the priority list.
Why the church must remember the largely forgotten believers in the Arab world
Did you know there is a people group vital to the fulfillment of God’s promises in Israel, whom you may not ever have heard anything about? This population segment, too often forgotten or even largely unknown, is the Arab Christian community.
Their story seems small in contrast with the vast, intensifying conflict that marks the war-torn Middle East; but particularly as we see a growing number of Christians worldwide who focus support on the Jewish people and state of Israel, it is vital that we also remember our Christian brothers and sisters and that we show them our support in this critical hour.
The Arab peoples and specifically the Palestinians are perhaps one of the most misunderstood people groups in the world today. Sadly, too many well-meaning Westerners, the terms “Arab” and “Palestinian” are synonymous with “terrorist.” For Christians who stand with the nation of Israel, it is important to understand that this is very often not true at all.
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. is on a mission to protect the moral compass of the nation by educating and empowering churches, as well as community and political leaders
It’s the political season in what many are saying is the most important presidential election of our lifetime, so I turned to my good friend, Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., because he not only has motivated Christians to get involved in the political process to bring change, but he’s highly respected.
Our guest editor has appeared on the CBS Evening News, Fox News’ Special Report, The O’Reilly Factor and The Tavis Smiley Show. Bishop Jackson’s articles have been featured in The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times.
And why not? He’s Harvard educated and very articulate—something the mainstream media respects. But at the same time Bishop Jackson is a great spokesman from a Christian perspective—he understands the believer’s mandate to bring God’s kingdom to earth. Bishop Jackson has a successful track record of growing churches and discipling believers. He hasn’t strayed into liberal theology, and his integrity is above reproach.
Any person with common sense can see that America is moving in the wrong direction. The “media elite” and much of the population continually mock the God of the Bible, diminish the value of marriage and family and have no concern for the sanctity of human life.
We’re headed straight into the ditch of out-of-control debt. Blind leaders are leading our blind nation toward a cliff. Thank goodness, some preachers and discerning Christians see what is coming and want to help right our ship of state.
One such individual is Jay W. Richards, an intellectual who has lectured before Congress and on leading universities nationwide. Jay has focused much attention on biblical economic principles—some of the best I’ve seen. Over the past couple of years, I have met with him on many occasions, and our hearts beat as one.
Jay and I began discussing the possibility of working on a significant book project together a number of months ago, and the result is Indivisible, which addresses restoring faith, family and freedom in America.
Connection is the beginning of all true influence—people will follow leaders they trust
From P.I. to preacher is not a common path, but it was mine. After graduating with a criminal justice administration degree at San Diego State University, I set out on a brief but fascinating career as a private investigator.
God had other plans. I had resisted God’s call, but it was time. While working as an investigator, I served in a small church as a student ministry leader. I soon found myself as a full-time master’s in divinity student at Asbury Theological Seminary. My three years there were fantastic. They were literally life changing. I was fired up and ready to serve in ministry, but I still had much to learn about leadership.
John Maxwell invited me to join his staff for one year as an intern at Skyline Wesleyan Church, which was located in a San Diego suburb. Little did I know that we would work together for 20 years, and reach thousands of people for Jesus.
Calling pastors to help change the nation through prayer, preaching and partnership
As a teenager, I remember President Ronald Reagan’s vivid image of America as a “shining city on a hill,” echoing Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount. President Reagan meant that we are a beacon of light and hope for the rest of the world. Today, that beacon is growing dim.
Human life has become disposable. Abortion remains a tragic and open wound on our society. When miscarriages are not counted, fully 22 percent of all pregnancies end in abortion. The rate for African-Americans’ abortion in New York City is an astonishing 60 percent. More pre-born children die daily in America’s abortion centers than the casualty from the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. Since abortion was legalized in 1973, there have been more than 50 million abortions.
Our families are in disarray. More than 40 percent of children do not have married parents. Not surprisingly, only 45 percent of teenagershave spent their childhood with biological parents who were married.
Forget grassroots revival—widespread change is best achieved by a narrow focus
There is a seismic shift taking place today in the marketplace and the church. We need to understand how to respond if we are going to bring systemic transformation. There are ways the church should apply the gospel in response to cultural shifts.
First of all, it is a mistake to believe the culture will shift because of a church revival or a societal awakening. Often, we as believers think the key to societal transformation is to convert masses of people. But the truth is that culture is transformed by a small percentage of the population who make up the cultural elite in a society. Thus the only way to affect cultural change is to convert the elite who formulate culture in every sphere of society.
Second, it is a mistake to think that political victories will bring transformation. For example, abortion was legalized in 1973 yet the fight still rages on. Same-sex marriage has been legalized in several states in the Northeast, but the battle continues. Homosexuality has been normalized by art, media and entertainment, yet a large percentage of Americans still refuse to consider it as normative behavior.
Pastors need to twin prayer for spiritual revival with practical involvement in cultural reformation
Stand up for righteousness. Stand up for justice. Stand up for truth. And lo, I will be with you. Even until the end of the world.”
Those were the words that Martin Luther King Jr. heard as he prayed alone at his kitchen table in 1956. He had arrived in Montgomery, Ala., two years earlier, accepting the pastorate of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church rather than pursuing the academic career he had originally envisioned.
He soon found himself the head of the pastors’ association that led the famous bus boycotts. Increasing incidents of police harassment had caused Dr. King to ponder whether such activism was worth the risk to himself and his family. For 30 days in a row he had received daily death threats, so he paused to pray for guidance.
The Lord answered him clearly. It is hard to imagine what America would be like had King not answered the Lord’s call at that kitchen table. But because he did, our nation has made significant progress in living up to its own founding ideals of liberty and justice for all.
Why pastors simply must speak out on political issues
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr.
Mathew D. Staver
Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr. interviewed Mathew D. Staver, founder and chairman of the Liberty Counsel; and Kevin Theriot, senior counsel for the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF), who discussed why pastors should not stay away from political issues—despite scrutiny from the IRS and groups threatening lawsuits.
Jackson: Mat, you have interacted with many pastors who believe they should “just preach” the gospel and stay away from political issues. What do you say to these church leaders?
Despite long odds and strong opposition, apostolic minister Kimberly Daniels won a city council seat after God led her to run for office
Jacksonville, Fla., is my hometown. With 20-plus miles of beaches and the most beautiful river views in the world, it is a great place to vacation and even a better one to live.
However, my city—like most others—also has its negative side. Jacksonville is nationally known for violent crimes. I grew up in the LaVilla area, where as a child, I loved living in my neighborhood—located a few blocks from the office where I currently work as a city council representative. I received almost 93,000 votes after entering a political race a few weeks before the May 17, 2011 election.
Becoming an elected official seemed unreachable, considering my mother was a single mom of three daughters from three different men and my father owned a bar in LaVilla, which featured “Sissy Shows” (female impersonators).
At times, I still feel like I am going to wake up one day and say, “I dreamed I was an at-large city council representative in Jacksonville.” As I look out my window onto the streets where I used to play, I cannot help but feel humbled. Though it is not a dream, it all started with one.
How the Manhattan Declaration is mobilizing silent-too-long Christians to protect life, marriage and religious freedom
It was Nov. 20, 2009 when more than 20 Christian leaders stood before the microphones at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. Fox News, CNN, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, TheWashington Post and other media outlets were there with cameras and microphones.
There we announced the launch of the Manhattan Declaration. We proclaimed to the church—and put our nation’s political leaders on notice—that we would protect the sanctity of life, uphold the sacredness of marriage as a holy union between one man and one woman and defend religious freedom for all people.
In front of all those cameras and lights, the Christian leaders lovingly, winsomely and firmly took a stand. I will never forget the picture. I stood between Archbishop Donald Wuerl of Washington, D.C., and Cardinal Justin Rigali, archbishop of Philadelphia. I looked over at Jim Daly, president of Focus on the Family, and Ron Sider, president of Evangelicals for Social Action. To my left was Bishop Harry R. Jackson Jr., who mobilized African-American churches in the District of Columbia to oppose gay marriage. And there was Fr. Chad Hatfield, chancellor of St. Vladimir’s Orthodox Seminary.
Pastors must rediscover their historical, nation-shaping role
During the American Revolution, the British dubbed the courageous clergy “The Black Regiment”—a backhanded reference to the black robes they wore. The British blamed the clergy for America’s independence, and rightfully so as modern historians have documented that “there is not a right asserted in the Declaration of Independence, which had not been discussed by the New England clergy before 1763.”
The rights listed in the Declaration of Independence were nothing more than a listing of sermon topics that had been preached from the pulpit in the preceding decades. Early clergy literally believed 2 Tim. 3:16-17—that all Scripture is God-inspired, and that God’s Word is to prepare us for every work.
Their sermons presented a biblical perspective on pressing public issues, including what type of taxes were and were not scriptural, how education should be conducted, the biblical role of the military, the difference between offensive and defensive wars, and the importance of having written constitutions of governance and electing godly leaders. The sermons touched on scores of other biblical topics, which the pulpit is largely silent on today.
Helping build strong marriages begins with recognizing their unique place in God’s creation
When you hold your first-born child, you immediately recognize two things. First, you realize that you are holding a miracle you did not create—but God did. Secondly, you are keenly aware that this miracle needs to be protected by you.
I have been counseling couples for more than 20 years, and I am well aware that just as each child is created by God and needs to be protected, equally so does each marriage. As the shepherd of a flock, be it a church or ministry, you are the protector for the marriages in your congregations and ministries.
Thank you for the many hours that you have invested in birthing marriages, offered premarital counseling and helped to save struggling couples. You have both the scars and joys shepherds accrue in having a family full of marriage from every level of depth.
A blueprint for helping pastors and church leaders overcome sexual sins, and back into effective ministry
Counseling pastors who have fallen due to infidelity, pornography, prostitution or other sexual sins has been a regular occurrence in my office for the last 20 years.
When you do something for more than two decades, you learn quite a bit about those who fall and those who are able to get back into a growing ministry again. I’ve also learned a lot from those who fall but don’t go back to ministry, as well as others who go back in ministry without genuine healing and restoration.
Falling happens in ministry. We can all conjure up names of the famous Christian leaders and pastors who have fallen in the last two decades. My guess is that you can also conjure up names of people in ministry you know personally who have fallen. I was on a plane one day after the national media reported that my pastor had fallen to sexual sin.
Dr. Doug Weiss has helped save thousands from sex addictions in the last 20 years. Today, he is passionate about empowering churches in strengthening and restoring marriages.
Dr. Doug Weiss is all about healing. He has devoted his life to healing the sexually broken. Through his work as a counselor and clinical psychologist as well as his many books, public speaking and numerous media appearances, Dr. Weiss has been able to help rescue thousands from sex addictions and other problems. He claims an 85 percent success rate.
Yet in healing sex addiction, he’s really healing marriages. And in healing marriages, he’s putting lives back together and affecting the very fabric of our society at a time when it seems everything is trying to tear it apart.
So it was natural that I invite Dr. Weiss to be guest editor of this issue of Ministry Today. This year we have dealt with some of the important issues facing the church—such as integrity, prayer, giving, evangelism, church growth and leadership itself. None is more important than marriage. For the leader, unless you have this area of your life together, you are ineffective in all other areas.
Why it’s critical to stop the silent cancer of many marriages from spreading through your ministry
As a Christian leader, you are more than likely dealing with
marriages on a regular basis. You may have seen marriages destroyed by adultery, alcoholism or sexual addiction. Although devastating, the dissolving of this type of marriage, due to the circumstances, makes sense.
But there is another type of marriage that slowly dies and it’s harder to put a finger on the problem. This marriage often looks good on the outside for decades. The husband and wife may have been singing in the choir or served as cell group leaders, deacons and Sunday school teachers for years. They are raising their family, and some of them are doing a variety of marriage-related ministries.
Building a strong marriage and a healthy church should not be at odds. Father-son pastors share their win-win strategies.
Is it possible to pastor a large congregation and have a happy marriage at the same time? Yes, say Larry Stockstill, a teaching pastor at Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, La., and his son, Jonathan Stockstill, senior pastor of the 5,000-strong congregation.
Here the two pastors tell how God has helped them enjoy a strong marriage and fruitful ministry.
After 35 years of marriage, I believe a happy wife is the key to a happy marriage. It’s not in the Bible, but “if Mama ain’t happy, nobody’s happy!” The happiness in my marriage has been structured around seven basic principles.
How honoring your spouse can turn your marriage into the most remarkable and rewarding experience of your life and ministry
Sometime back, I—being a loving, sensitive husband whose whole ministry is based on the concept of honoring others—was talking to my wife, Norma, on the phone. In the course of our conversation I asked, “What do you need from me that I’m not giving you right now?”
She responded, “You don’t know how to honor me.” Naturally, I laughed, assuming she was joking. I thought, “You can’t be serious!” I said, “That’s a good one! But what do you really need?” And she said with all seriousness, “No, I’m not kidding. You don’t know how to honor me.”
Honor Is a Diamond
Obviously, after all these years, we still need to work at this idea of honoring each other. And it is work. In my mind, honor is a diamond. We started out with a rough, raw stone. And over the years, I’ve made several major cuts and polishes, turning it into a beautiful gem. As far as I’m usually concerned, I’m doing a great job and it’s ready to mount and display. Norma, on the other hand—because she knows me better than anyone—realizes that there are still some rough surfaces, and she sees them all every day.
Prepare your church for a 2012 breakthrough with a corporate fast in January
For several years now, many in my church, Free Chapel, have joined me in a 21-day fast to seek and honor God in January for the new year. By starting each year with a corporate fast, we have found that God meets with us in very unique and special ways. His presence grows greater and greater with each day of the fast. Without fail, He always shows up.
Corporately fasting in January is much the same precept as praying in the morning to establish the will of God for the entire day. I believe that, if we will pray and seek God and give Him our best at the first of the year, He will bless our entire year. “But seek ye first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matt. 6:33).
Short Season, Lasting Effect
Fasting is a short season that produces a lasting effect. Out of 365 days in a year, 21 days is not that long to take a break from your routine and experience a fresh encounter with God. We fast corporately as a church at the beginning of every year because that short season sets the course for the rest of the year.
Avoiding three common traps will help your marriage not just survive
In the beginning, Karen and I were lay members of the church I now pastor. I worked in my family’s electronics and appliance business until one day, the pastor of our church asked me to come on staff as a marriage counselor. Karen and I had been leading a large Bible study, and many couples in the church had been coming to us for counseling.
So in August 1982, I joined the staff of Trinity Fellowship Church in Amarillo, Texas. My official role was marriage and pre-marriage counselor. Ten months later, the church’s senior pastor resigned and I was selected to take his place. Within a year, I’d gone from selling appliances to leading a church with 900 members. I wasn’t prepared, to say the least.
Karen and I had a strong marriage before I went on staff, but the burden of ministry had taken its toll on us almost immediately. After I became senior pastor, it intensified. I made a lot of mistakes as a husband and father. I saw the negative effect those mistakes had on Karen and our two children.
Ten keys for building rock-solid relationships that go the distance
Believe it or not, 85 percent of Americans still get married. Why? Because God created us that way. At the core of who we are, we long for safe, loving, committed relationships. You don’t have to look very far in the Bible to realize that He also wants to bless our love and marriage.
What’s troubling today is that the majority of couples eventually break up. Research estimates that between 40 to 50 percent of today’s marriages end in divorce. If you count couples that separate but don’t divorce, the statistic is even higher. The snowball effect? Tragically, one in three children now live in single-parent homes or do not live with their parents at all.
Behind pasted-on smiles and closed doors is a lot of brokenness from love gone bad. As a pastoral counselor and marriage and family therapist, I’ve sat and talked with countless clients, and over and over again I hear the same cry of the heart: “All I ever wanted was for someone to love me.”
Examining the pastor’s role in mentoring business leaders
When Jesus turned over the tables of the money changers and chased out the dove sellers from the temple (see Matt. 21:12), He also launched a discussion among church and business leaders for centuries to follow.
The relationship between church and business ranges from the simple, “Would it be OK to place a brochure for my business in your lobby?” to the more complex, “Would your business donate materials to build a new gym for our youth?”
A slippery slope exists in the relationship between church and business. The primary issue seems to balance on the fulcrum of doing commerce in the church and receiving support from local business for church budgets. As church budgets continue to cope with declining revenue, the tipping point becomes less obvious.
From recruiting to reproducing, here’s how to lead passionate servants into effective ministry
The volunteer is a unique hybrid—almost an employee and not quite a friend. Volunteers don’t get paid, yet they perform services of their own accord that benefit the local church. They are not co-workers with the paid staff, yet a bond of mutual ministry is often formed. Friendships can develop between volunteers in the pursuit of mutual service, but that is not the goal of the volunteer.
If a senior pastor understands whopotential volunteers are, what they want from volunteer service and how they can be developed for effective service, 50 percent to 80 percent of a church’s staff needs could be filled—by volunteers!
Who are potential volunteers?
Anyone who shows up is a potential volunteer. The mom who attends youth group with her teenager to keep an eye on the kid should be greeted, signed in and welcomed. At the end of the service she should be asked to pour soda at the refreshments table.
Leadership, generosity and how a family is redefining generational wealth
David Green is founder and CEO of Hobby Lobby. Born in a pastor’s home, he began working at a local five-and-dime as a teen. After marrying his high school sweetheart, he and his wife, Barbara, began a small picture-frame shop, and in 1972 they opened their first retail store. Today Hobby Lobby has more than 475 stores in 40 states. David and Barbara have three grown children.
In 2007, his family made national headlines when they pledged $70 million to Oral Roberts University, which was $52 million in debt and facing unlawful termination lawsuits from three former professors. In the years since, ORU has experienced a dramatic turnaround in enrollment and financial stability. In the following interview, Dr. Mark Rutland, who was appointed president of ORU in 2009, chats with Green about the roots of his family’s generosity.
How to orchestrate a recovery in the wake of organizational catastrophe
In 2004, Hurricane Charley cut a devastating swath through central Florida and made a direct hit on our house. We had made the decision to ride out the storm, believing the weatherman that the worst of it would go elsewhere. He was wrong.
We watched in horror as a massive oak tree was sucked up like a giant broccoli plant and plunged into our swimming pool, barely missing the house. That blow could have utterly destroyed the house and very probably killed us. The damage was bad enough as it was.
When the howling wind stopped and the terrible night was over, the scene was a war zone. I will never forget the sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach as I forced the front door open and crawled out to survey wreckage greater than I ever imagined.
Is there a way to retire from your pulpit and effectively mentor the incoming pastor? Yes—and two pastors have the model plan.
Is it possible for a church with a large congregation to successfully transition from a pastor of 38 years to a new and younger leader—and experience church growth at the same time? Absolutely, say pastor emeritus Kemp C. Holden and pastor Marty Sloan of Harvest Time church in Fort Smith, Ark.
Ten years ago, during a lengthy stay in the hospital, Holden heard the Lord tell him to position his church for 20 years of growth. As a result, he created a plan to find and train his replacement and prepare his 3,000-member congregation for the change of leadership. Not long afterward, he met Sloan—who was half Kemp’s age—and knew he was to become his successor.
In this article, the pastors each tell how God helped them implement Kemp’s plan, which resulted not just in a successful pastoral transition at Harvest Time, but also in an increase of the church’s conversions, attendance and income.
Dr. Mark Rutland clearly knows how to save struggling organizations. But equally as impressive as his turnaround record is his passion to empower leaders like you for growth.
Anyone can lead when things are going great. Just show up and act like a leader! But when things are going down or there’s crisis, that’s when you find out who are the true leaders.
Dr. Mark Rutland is a true leader. He led a major turnaround in the 1990s at Calvary Assembly in Winter Park, Fla.—the church where Charisma started and where I served on staff for five years. He did it again at Southeastern College (now University) in Lakeland, Fla., where my dad was a professor when I was a teen. Now he’s doing it again at Oral Roberts University (ORU).
Calvary Assembly went through a painful scandal in 1981. And though the church survived, it went from 5,000 attendees to 1,800 within a nine-year period while taking on huge debt to build a 5,500-seat sanctuary. Rutland was able to stave off bankruptcy, heal a hurting congregation and build up attendance to 3,600 before he left.
Saint John of the Cross described his relationship with Jesus as the “living flame of love.” The two men Jesus walked with on the road to Emmaus testified that their hearts burned within them as Jesus opened the Scriptures (see Luke 24:32). How do leaders feed this living flame so that the daily pressures of ministry do not smother the fire that should drive our service in the first place?
In my own life, I experienced renewed love for Jesus as I began to see in the Scripture that God relates to His church as His bride and burns with passion and zeal for her. From Genesis through Revelation, one of the themes of the Scriptures is God’s ravished heart for His people. We discover Him as the one who leaves the Father’s home in heaven to cling to His bride and be united to her as a husband becomes one flesh with his wife.
We find Him in the prophetic pictures of Isaac and Rebekah, of Boaz and Ruth, of Esther and the king. We are strengthened by the king’s declaration of love for the bride in the Song of Solomon. We feel the anguish of the Bridegroom’s heart in the prophetic writings as He grieves the spiritual adultery of His people, and we are continually moved by the constancy of His longing for intimacy and commitment to restoration.
Mike Bickle and IHOP-KC prove prayer is far from a boring chore
Two years ago I spent a week in the prayer room at the International House of Prayer (IHOP-KC), led by Mike Bickle. I’ve known Mike for more than 20 years; I’ve watched his vision for 24/7 prayer unfold. I’ve seen the consistency of his life. I’ve watched how his emphasis on prayer, his understanding of the Tabernacle of David and a type of prayer he calls “Harp and Bowl” has changed the lives of thousands—including mine.
God did some deep things in my life that week in Kansas City, Mo., as I spent hours in God’s presence and studying the Word. He also used Mike to surprise me with a lesson on prayer. One afternoon Mike invited me to sit in on a teaching for his leaders. He talked about the importance of systematic prayer using a written prayer list. With a written list, he said, you’ll pray 10 times more than you will without it. Then he handed out a sheet using an acronym for FELLOWSHIP as a model for intimate prayer. (Go to ministrytodaymag.com/fellowshipprayerlist to download a free copy.)
That week I began using a written prayer list and following Mike’s method of intimate prayer. I also began journaling and spending at least an hour in prayer most days. It’s a discipline I continue today.
Unity between the prayer and missions movements has Jesus’ name written all over it
God is arranging a glorious convergence in the earth between prayer ministry and missionary activity. One of our favorite parts of our story at the International House of Prayer of Kansas City, Mo., is the way He brought us into partnership with Youth With A Mission, one of the world’s largest missions agencies. Committing to pray for the ministry of YWAM is a privilege for us, because what God has joined together—missions and prayer ministry—must not be put asunder, and we get to participate in their union.
God’s love is only seen in fullness when the whole body of Christ functions together, and part of our inheritance at IHOP–KC is in the fruit of other ministries. Some speak of “the prayer movement” and “the missions movement” as though they are distinct—if not in conflict with each other. In identifying particular expressions of God’s work, we sometimes lose sight of their integrity. Each of these two movements has attracted some criticism—missions groups for not praying enough and prayer movements for not reaching out in missions enough.
However, missions is not the ultimate goal; worship is. As John Piper so eloquently writes, “Missions exists because worship doesn’t.” Worship is ultimate because Jesus
Can unified intercession avert national destruction and bring spiritual renewal?
In 1995, in his book The Coming Revival, Bill Bright called 2 million Americans to fast and pray for 40 days because of the dire state of our nation and our great need for revival. He warned: “God does not tolerate sin. The Bible and history make this painfully clear. I believe God has given ancient Israel as an example of what will happen to the United States if we do not experience revival. He will continue to discipline us with all kinds of problems until we repent or until we are destroyed, as was ancient Israel because of her sin of disobedience.”
Sept. 11 came and went. Katrina followed suit. The church’s moral and spiritual decay continues, with entire institutions unclear on the divinity of Christ and the atoning efficacy of the cross but clear on the ordination of homosexuals and the protection of a woman’s right to choose.
A global financial crisis still exists, and along the Pacific Ring of Fire some nations are recovering and others are on edge. Yet, have we connected our hearts to the crisis? Our keen leadership insights and makeshift rebuilding strategies will not suffice in a culture devoid of discernment and prayer.
The apostle Paul exposed Satan’s strongholds to help the New Testament church make sense of the enemy’s outrageous victories. “We do not wrestle against flesh and blood,” he taught, “but against principalities, against powers” (Eph. 6:12).
To partner with Jesus in fulfilling the Great Commission and establishing justice in the earth, the church must renounce fear and fatalism and recover the prevailing faith behind Paul’s frontal attack against the forces of darkness. Souls are bound in the most desperate spiritual and physical captivity. In answer to racism, abortion, sex-trafficking and false ideologies, God is raising up His house of prayer. His church must learn to contend, to wrestle with and throw down its spiritual adversaries.
In 1996, under the urgency of prophetic direction, I was part of a 40-day fast. During this season of intense prayer and divine initiative the Lord gave me my job description. I saw in a dream a Buddhist house of prayer situated on top of and dominating a Christian house of prayer. In a great wrestling match, the Christian house of prayer flipped from its inferior position to dominate the Buddhist house of prayer.
How worship on earth invites the atmosphere of heaven
It doesn’t take a prophet to see that the earth is in a crisis, and it doesn’t take a pessimist to see that much of the church is lukewarm. Yet it is in this environment that the Lord is raising up a worldwide movement of prayer and worship. In an hour of confusion, as chaos grows and darkness deepens, the Lord is awakening the dawn of a new day (see Is. 24:15). We see the dawn breaking upon the horizon with songs of worship in this dark night; it is a global house of worship made up of the entire body of Christ.
But the day is not dawning without conflict. The battle at the end of the age will be a battle for the passion of man, a war between two worship movements. Even now Satan is assaulting the cultures of the earth in an unceasing demonic campaign to raise up a worldwide worship movement (see Rev. 13:4,8,15). He is enticing people to worship themselves, which will lead them to worship him. But Jesus also has a plan in His heart, and His will not fail.
Around the globe young people are catching a glimpse of the beauty and worth of Jesus and how He is worshipped in heaven. As they begin to understand the authority they have in intercession, they are taking their rightful place in the kingdom and will bring a multitude with them to the throne of grace.
Seven characteristics of the end-time prayer and worship movement
What we are witnessing today, with the rapidly growing worldwide prayer and worship movement, is the beginning of the fulfillment of biblical prophecies about the end times. No one knows the day or the hour of Jesus’ return, but we do know that it will be in response to the church—His bride—beckoning Him to come (see Rev. 22:17). While Scripture is filled with the defining characteristics of this end-time worship and prayer movement, I want to focus on seven that I believe are particularly key.
1. It will be God-centered (Rev. 4:8; 5:11-14; Is. 24:14–16). Those nearest God’s throne are most qualified to proclaim the truth about who He is and what He does. God desires that His people would encounter His majesty and love and that in turn they would offer up their praise for who He is. Worship is a witness on earth to the indescribable value of Jesus. Our worship and prayer are best energized when we experience intimacy with God’s heart. The Father relates to us with tender mercy, and Jesus, our Bridegroom God, relates to us with fiery desire (see Is. 54:5; 62:5). In Revelation 22:17, John prophesied that the Spirit and the bride would say, “Come, Lord Jesus!”
2. It will be continual (Rev. 4:8; Is. 62:6-7; Luke 18:7-8). In Revelation John witnesses celestial beings who “do not rest day or night, saying: ‘Holy, holy, holy ...’ ” (see Rev. 4:8). God desires to be worshipped on this earth just as He is in heaven—unceasingly. Isaiah prophesied of an end-time prayer movement that will not rest night and day until God’s purposes are fully established (see Is. 62:6-7), and Jesus spoke of prayer going forth night and day until His justice is fully released (see Luke 18:7-8).
Beyond programs and prayer meetings, the church today must embrace its role as an eternal house of intercession
The house of prayer in a city is not a church, not a prayer ministry and not the building in which they meet. The International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Mo., is only a “gas station”—we take a cup of gasoline and throw it on the prayer fires that burn in the real “house of prayer in Kansas City,” which is the entire body of Christ, made up of more than 1,000 congregations in our area.
The eternal destiny of all God’s people is to function as a house of prayer now and in the age to come. In one short statement, Jesus revealed this to us when He prophetically declared, “My house shall be called a house of prayer” (Matt. 21:13).
Isaiah also spoke this decree when he prophesied to Israel: “My house shall be called a house of prayer for all nations” (see Is. 56:7). When God calls us by a specific name, it indicates our character and how we are to function in the Holy Spirit.
The reality of eternity without Christ compels me to preach the gospel
For the most part, the subject of hell has not been a topic of discussion in churches today. One of the reasons is that, in the past, hell was presented with a fire-and-brimstone, “you’re going to burn” attitude. As a result, it is a message perceived of as unloving and harsh. However, if it is presented as a message of warning, and not of condemnation, it is more readily accepted. A message of warning is a message of love. What loving parent wouldn’t warn his or her child not to play in a busy street? If a person truly understands what eternity might bring, they may be a bit more receptive to the gospel. God’s desire is to get people into heaven, not keep them out!
Another reason the topic is avoided is because of a lack of answers as to the “whys” regarding the extreme severity and eternal duration of hell. To many, God would be unloving to allow such punishment for all eternity.
This lack of teaching—and even ignoring of the subject altogether—is derived from a questioning of the morality of God. Some criticize His justice, stating that if they were God they wouldn’t allow someone to suffer forever, so then God certainly wouldn’t either. A lack of understanding causes silence on the subject. If hell is mentioned, it is downplayed in order to avoid offending anyone. The fear of loss of congregation members is on the minds of many pastors.
How the evangelistic spark of a mass crusade is fanned into a burning flame
As the gospel is preached clearly and concisely each night, hundreds of thousands of precious people respond to the call of salvation and receive Jesus as their Savior. Such is the dimension of this response that the hundreds of participating churches are each flooded with thousands of new converts and wonderful reports pour in from the leaders and members of participating churches.
Often we hear of congregations doubling and tripling in size during the weeks following the Great Gospel Campaigns. We have learned that this leads some churches to even start multiple branches to accommodate the new arrivals. On the CfaN team, we call this Spirit-enabled phenomenon “addition” to the kingdom of God.
But our ministry team feels a second responsibility, and that is to inspire and train others in the communities and nations in which we hold crusades to—as the Apostle Paul instructed Timothy—“do the work of an evangelist” (see 2 Tim. 4:5).