Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders


Porn's Worst Nightmare

These two pastors have a strategy for shutting down the smut industry: convert its customers one by one.

When Craig Gross and Mike Foster visit pornography trade shows, they usually walk past picketers holding signs protesting the events. But the co-founders of are there for a different reason: to reach porn addicts, smut purveyors and the women who are exploited by this $13 billion-a-year industry.

Once inside, they and their wives set up a 10-foot square booth, where they share Christ, give away free Bibles and Internet screening software they developed (X3Watch-now with 170,000 users), and challenge visitors to take the Seven-Day Porn Challenge-to go a week without viewing erotic material. While they minister, friends at home fast and pray for their spiritual protection-and keep them accountable when they come home.

“Both Craig and I are aware that this is a very volatile issue,” Foster explains. “We don't want to be another statistic on the charts of people who have crashed and burned in their ministry-asking people to do one thing, but not even living it ourselves. That's just par for the course, whether it's porn ministry or pastoring a church.”

Gross and Foster have visited six such trade shows since founding XXX in January of 2002, but the majority of their ministry time is spent speaking at youth and pastor's conferences, raising awareness in churches and building relationships with people in the porn industry.

“Pornographers recognize that we're not a good thing for their industry,” Foster says. “But because we have a relationship with them, and they see the consistency of our message, it's difficult for them to hate us.”

While serving in pastoral ministry before launching, Gross and Foster came to the realization that one way they could make a dent in the porn industry was not to lobby for laws against it, but to get people to stop consuming it.

“Because it has no outward symptoms like alcoholism or drug abuse, we tend to overlook just how many people are involved,” Gross says. “The Internet has taken pornography out of the seedy part of town and made it accessible in our homes.” has gained the respect of ministers from Billy Hybels, pastor of Willow Creek Community Church, to Rob Bell, who leads Mars Hill Bible Church, a large congregation in Grandville, Mich.-not to mention the attention of news outlets from Wired magazine to ABC's Good Morning America.

Their ministry is not without its detractors. features a page full of hate mail-most of it from Christians who find their tactics too extreme. But Gross and Foster are unfazed-and point out that 16 percent of those who visit the site find it while surfing for porn. They say they have adopted their philosophy of ministry from Jesus Himself.

“We're trying to reach people who would never go to church,” Gross explains. “It would take us two weeks at church to do what we can do in five minutes at a porn show.”
By Matthew Green

Permission Granted

Do you have the guts to work yourself out of a job?

What we try to hold on to gets away from us. What you release always stays near. Often, pastors feel that they have to hold on to everything for fear of losing it.

I preached at a church about winning your city for God. A young lady came to me and said: “Pastor, I'm touched at hearing the Dream Center's story. I'm going to start a home for unwed pregnant mothers in my city.”

I told her to share her dream with her pastor, but he wasn't so eager to hear it. “That idea only applies to the inner city, it won't work here,” he said. I'll never forget the look on her face when her dream was shut down.

God wants our churches to be permission-giving churches-churches that don't look for 100 reasons why a new ministry will fail. Instead, they look for 100 ways it can succeed. This pastor had a chance to see his ministry advanced with a passionate idea that radiated from this woman's heart. Instead, her idea was killed in the planning stages.

At the Dream Center, we have more than 200 ministries-rehabilitation homes, homes of refuge for runaway prostitutes, feeding programs reaching 30,000 people a week, even ministries to get transvestites off the streets.

As my ministry grew, I had to grow as a person. I had to allow other people to rise up, and I had to live vicariously through their successes. If the ministry is getting bigger than you, then you know God's involved.

1. The work of God is bigger than you. There are people who are going to be reached outside your influence as a pastor. They will connect to your ministry because of someone else on your team that connected with them.

2. People are loyal to secure leaders. The more you release your team, the more loyalty they will give back to you. At times, we are afraid to empower people because they might get bigger than us. Instead, rejoice in the success of others! The more I give the “green light” to my team to dream, the more love and respect I feel in return.

3. “Yes” is best. Don't be closed to every ministry idea-no matter how hard it sounds. Learn to say “yes.” Give permission to dream, support the dream, and look for ways of making it better. A permission-giving church is a winning church because it empowers everyone to be a minister. The church's greatest day should be Sundays-not because we get to preach to the saints but because we can preach to the ministers.

Matthew Barnett is the author of The Church That Never Sleeps and is senior pastor of The Dream Center ( in Los Angeles.


Resigned. Scott Hagan, pastor of First Assembly of God, in Grand Rapids, Mich., resigned to launch The Blended Church network (, a church-planting initiative aimed at equipping pastors to lead multiethnic churches.

Moved In. Houston's Lakewood Church, pastored by Joel Osteen moved into the 16,000-seat Compaq Center July 16. Lakewood signed a 30-year lease on the Compaq Center in 2001 after the Houston Rockets adopted the Toyota Center as their new home.

Resigned. Clark Whitten pastor of Calvary Assembly of God, in Winter Park, Fla., resigned July 24 after 10 years of ministry at the church. During his tenure, the church erased nearly $11 million in building debt

Trading Spaces. Carpenters Home Church, in Lakeland, Fla., pastored by Karl Strader has been purchased by Without Walls International Church, the Tampa, Fla., congregation pastored by Randy and Paula White

Gone Home. Ronald Winans one of the 10 children of the legendary gospel singers David and Delores (“Mom” and “Pop”) Winans, died June 17 of heart complications at the age of 48. A home-going celebration was held June 24 at Perfecting Church, pastored by Ronald's brother, Marvin.

Wanted: News Tips. Have you caught wind of a noted pastor or church leader who has made news by planting a new church, running for public office, retiring after a long tenure in ministry, making a transition into another area of service or launching/completing a building program? If so, send news tips with the subject line “transitions” to


First Things First

Effective preaching must keep Christ as the centerpiece.

Preaching should never draw attention to the mouthpiece, only to the Word. “For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your Bondservants for Jesus' sake” (2 Cor. 4:5, NKJV).

Interestingly, our cultural mind-set has caused us to understand preaching as what one does from a pulpit in a church to the saved. Early church preaching centered on the cross and the resurrection and was directed toward the lost for the purpose of salvation.

It is true that exhorting, teaching, prophesying, encouraging and comforting can all happen from a pulpit for the saved, but authentic preaching to the lost may be becoming a lost craft in American culture. When surveying preaching on various Christian TV outlets, I have been amazed at how obscure much charismatic “preaching” has become.

Wandering through Old Testament types and analogies, charismatic speakers seek to enlighten shadows (see Heb. 8:5, 10:1) instead of lifting up Christ who draws everyone to Himself. We find ourselves majoring in “jots and tittles” instead of fixing our eyes on Jesus.

In surveying New Testament preaching, we can develop a simple, direct and clear paradigm for our postmodern culture so thirsty for one thing: Jesus Christ, the way, truth and life! When preparing and organizing to preach, the following checklist of themes should guide your “preaching” preparation:

  • Baptism, repentance and the gift of the Holy Spirit.
  • Preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God.
  • Jesus the Christ (Messiah) crucified and raised from the dead.
  • The Word of God in Christ Jesus.

    Our preaching must also equip the saints to preach-at home, in the marketplace, at the sports club, on the little league fields, at dance and music recitals, and so on. Our conversation must be absolutely and completely littered with gospel. Is such conversation offensive? Absolutely! We have become so concerned about not being offensive but being “sensitive” that we have stopped preaching and moved into counseling.

    Reader, beware! I am a clinically trained pastoral counselor. I teach and counsel the comfort of Christ. But I preach Christ crucified and alive!

    Power preaching with signs and wonders abounds in the non-Western world, but seems to be lacking in Western Europe and North America. Those who contend that the most powerful preaching they do is the lives they live are only partially right. Right living witnesses to right preaching but can never replace it! Yes, live what you preach … but preach it!

    The writer of The Reformed Pastor, Richard Baxter, noted, “I preached as never sure to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.” Would that such passionate preaching pointing to Christ overflowed from our church and secular pulpits today!

    I agree with George F. Pentecost, “If the truth were known, many sermons are prepared and preached with more regard for the sermon than the souls of the hearers.” Let's prepare our preaching with such urgency and passion that everyone who listens will know gospel truth: Jesus Christ crucified and raised from the dead.

    Larry Keefauver, D.Min., is executive director of advancement at Beacon University and a senior editorial adviser for Ministries Today. Visit his Web site at www.power

    Checklist for Christ-Centered Preaching

  • Is my sermon reproducible in the words and lives of my listeners so that they can preach it over and over again in their own contexts?
  • Does my message have as its focus Jesus the Christ?
  • Will my homily reflect an application so real that it's more compelling than the news and more applicable than Oprah and Dr. Phil?
  • Is my preparation filled with study of the Word, prayer, empowerment of the Holy Spirit and careful handling of the whole counsel of God, rightly dividing the word of truth?
  • Will the sword of the Spirit coming from my mouth and life so convict the lost that they will repent and turn to Jesus and so convict the saved that they will repent and live holy and righteous lives?
  • Am I so well read in literature and scholarship that I can stand toe to toe with the most educated skeptics and preach a “Mars Hill” message that will lead them to Jesus?
  • Am I so humbled by my sermon that nothing of personal pride will taint the words so that only the meek and mild Servant will be seen and heard through my words?

    Christian Education

    Thermostat Kids

    Teach teens to turn up the temperature in their culture-not merely reflect it.

    Show me your friends and I'll show you your future,” I heard myself repeat to my youth ministry that crisp fall night in September. The focus of the evening was to help them go back to their local high schools and middle schools as “thermostats, not thermometers.”

    After nearly four decades in full-time youth ministry, I realized how pivotal that focus really was. I wanted to help launch the students to make a Christ-honoring difference in their school cultures, rather than just blending in.

    What is the “thermostat versus thermometer” analogy? Every year as our students return back to school, I want them to see themselves as more than cultural “thermometers,” people who simply reflect the moral climate of their surroundings. I want them to be “thermostats,” people who choose to control the moral climate of their surroundings.

    Here are a few specifics that you might want to consider as the teenagers in your youth ministry head back to school:

  • Remind them that friendships are like buttons on an elevator: They either take them up or take them down. Encouraging your students to build a few strong Christian friendships will be priority No. 1 for a Christ-honoring year at school.
  • Have the guts to tell them that sometimes they'll have to display enough character to stand alone. Present these challenges positively (e.g. “You're amazing enough not to cheaply blend in with the crowd.”) as opposed to judgmentally (e.g. “You're a big heathen sinner if you compromise by showing up at those things!)
  • Remember, as their leader, the greatest deterrent to sin will always be vision. Make sure you motivationally cast vision for their role as a “campus missionary” in the year ahead. I remind my students that the public school campus is the last major “mission field” of America.

    At the beginning of the school year, we have a commissioning service, complete with a special challenge, prayer and anointing of students to serve as campus missionaries to specific local campuses. Throughout the year, we continue to spotlight their efforts to make a difference on their campuses.

  • Encourage your students' participation in “See You at the Pole” and other similar outreaches. These national campaigns give them credibility in their outreach efforts.
  • Consider mobilizing your students into campus clubs. Mobilize them to launch a weekly campus club with your help and support. Although the clubs need to be student-led, you can do a great deal behind the scenes to ensure their success. More importantly, a weekly campus club will give your students something to own spiritually themselves.
  • Once every other month, host a youth service that targets a specific school some of your students attend. For example, create simple promo pieces and fliers for your students to pass out (e.g. “OXYGEN Youth and Young Adult Outreach invites you to Central High School Night”). Build your program around some key high points from that school (winning football team, cheerleaders, and so on) and invite a favorite faculty member to share five minutes on a positive character aspect. Then present Christ in a relevant way that ties everything together.

    The list of ideas is limitless. But even more important is making sure your teenagers feel like you understand the challenges at school they face are both exciting and yet far from easy. As their leader, remember that youth was created for heroism, not for pleasure. Your young, potential heroes just need to know that you are cheering them on. The results will be revolutionary.

    Jeanne Mayo is the president of Youth Source Ministries and director of Oxygen Youth and Youth Adult Outreach. Her monthly youth ministry coaching CDs, The Source and Up Close, are heralded by youth leaders cross-denominationally as an invaluable leadership resource. For more information, check out

    Pastoral Care

    Mild or Wild?

    Identify the roots of passivity and aggression-and cultivate assertiveness.

    Assertiveness is the balance between the extremes of passivity and aggression. Even the most effective leaders struggle with tendencies toward these two poles. Here are some insights into understanding how passivity and aggression develop-and how you can move toward emotional health.

    People tend to develop passive personalities for one of two reasons: they have been forced into submission or ignored as children. They do not buck authority, but rather cower in the face of it. That does not mean, however, that they are not seething on the inside or in turmoil emotionally.

    Those who are ignored as children tend to grow up feeling as if their ideas are of little consequence and that their presence is largely unwanted or not valued. Often starved for affection and attention, they don't know how to reach out and request what they want and feel rebuffed if others set emotional boundaries.

    Passive individuals are unable to express their thoughts and feelings adequately, because they simply do not know how to stand up for themselves. Often they share their anger or hostility with a person and then expect that person to vindicate their cause. Passivity can lead to manipulative behaviors that can destroy a relationship.

    Passive people live behind a wall of fear that they are not acceptable or worthy. They may not want to reveal their thoughts and feelings out of fear that others will criticize or ridicule them.

    Aggressive people, on the other hand, have often grown up under an iron-fisted child-rearing approach. They become the very opposite of passive-they become openly and sometimes violently aggressive. They refuse to be bullied further, often reject authority and in turn may become bullies themselves.

    Some aggressive people were children who had a very different upbringing-their parents gave them too little discipline, allowing them to express defiant and rebellious behavior without any boundaries or restraints placed upon them. These aggressive children grow up to become pushy, intimidating, domineering adults.

    Aggressive behavior is often confrontational behavior. Aggressive people may get in your face and point their finger at you, or they may resort to open and sometimes loud belittling and deliberately hurtful comments.

    In the corporate business environment, aggressive personalities are those who enjoy hostile takeovers and win-big situations in which other people must grovel as they lose; they also see all actions in other people as threats to their own survival or promotion. They are especially adept at walking over people to get what they want or where they want to be.

    Don Colbert, M.D., is the author of the best-selling Bible Cure series. This article was adapted from his new book, Stress Less (Siloam). For more information on the book, visit, or call 1-800-599-5750.

    The Art of Assertiveness

    No person is stuck forever with a passive or an aggressive personality. Here are some action points for cultivating assertiveness:

    1. Begin communicating thoughts, feelings, wants and needs more confidently. Even if you don't feel confident on the inside, speak more confidently. The more you do this, the more confident you will feel on the inside.
    2. Respect other people and their rights. Purposefully yield to people on occasion by giving up a lane on the freeway or a parking space in a busy parking lot.
    3. Don't be a doormat. Tell people what you expect and what you like. Communicate with terms of “appreciation” and “suggestion,” rather than through manipulation (the passive personality) or domination (the aggressive personality).
    4. Don't respond apologetically. Passive people have a tendency to say repeatedly, “I know that you don't care what I think,” or “I realize my ideas may not be worth much,” or “I understand that I'm just a housewife and don't know about these things.” Such self-belittling remarks don't win respect-including one's own.
    5. Avoid putting others down. The aggressive person must put special effort into combining positive expressions of praise when communicating constructive criticism.
    6. Learn to say “no.” Saying “no” isn't selfishness or laziness-it's being a good steward of one's resources, whether physically, emotionally or materially.


    Privilege Pitfalls

    Are your confidential counseling sessions putting you in legal jeopardy?

    Recently a counselor working for a Christian ministry was charged with failure to report child abuse. The person she counseled was a minor, and the charge was that the counselor had reason to suspect that the minor had been abused by a parent or legal custodian but that she willfully and unlawfully failed to report such abuse to the authorities.

    The state of Florida dismissed the charges against counselor Jennifer Densmore, ruling that the communications were confidential, that Densmore had the right and legal duty not to reveal the contents of the sessions and that Densmore “is not guilty as a matter of law.” However, the incident raised concerns about the legal risks of providing a counseling ministry.

    The state argued that the clergy communications privilege, also known as the “priest-penitent privilege,” or the “clergy confidentiality privilege,” did not protect Densmore because among other things, she was not an ordained member of the clergy.

    Before you enter into another “confidential” counseling session, consider this: Are your conversations protected by the clergy communications privilege? Are your “confidential” counseling sessions putting you-and those you counsel-in legal jeopardy? While different states have different laws, the same fundamental legal principles apply. Follow these guidelines to protect your counseling sessions:

    1. The counselor must be a clergy member whose role is to provide religious counseling. Such clergy members could be those ordained by the church as pastors, priests or ministers, or non-ordained agents of the clergy. However, non-ordained agents must have been selected by the church to serve as religious leaders to provide such religious counseling. The privilege does not apply to conversations with church staff that have not been charged with such counseling duties and responsibilities.
    2. The counseling session must be of a religious nature. Say a member comes to you and asks for your help. In the process, the member discloses a recent crime and asks you to help relay the information to the proper agency. Would your conversations with the member be privileged? No. The priest-penitent privilege only applies to penitent communication-communication where one seeks absolution, penitence or contrition.

    While, in reality, the secular and religious counseling are easily blurred, it is important to understand that courts will scrutinize and examine the secular versus religious nature of the communication. As such, it is important for you to be mindful of exactly what type of counseling you are providing.
    3. The counselor and counselee maintain a religious relationship. Say an individual enters your church and seeks your help. He is in trouble and is fleeing from the police. This is the first time you have met. You counsel him to seek God for guidance and forgiveness. You also persuade him to call the police. Despite the fact that counsel incorporated religious counseling, your conversations would not be privileged. Despite your role as a pastor who provides such religious counseling, the privilege will still not apply. Courts will scrutinize this ad hoc session as one between a clergy and a stranger, and may decline to apply the priest-penitent privilege.
    4. Both parties intend the counseling session to be confidential. All parties-the clergy counselors and the individual counselees-must intend for the counseling session to be confidential. If either one of the parties divulges the information discussed to any members of the public, the privilege is lost. Courts will not apply the privilege if the parties themselves did not respect the private and confidential nature of the session.
    5. The counseling sessions must be private. Again, the counseling session must be confidential in nature. Individuals not intended to provide or receive the religious counseling cannot be involved in the counseling session. If the counseling sessions are open to uninvolved individuals, the counseling sessions are no longer private. As such, courts will liberally assume that individuals did not intend for the conversations to be confidential or privileged. Thus, if you intend the conversations to be private and privileged, keep them private and privileged.

    If counseling is an important part of your ministry, then you must protect it. It's that simple. Save your church or ministry from unnecessary problems and challenges.

    Visit and click “Online Exclusives” for a free copy of Tom's clergy communications privilege flowchart.
    Thomas Gehring is an attorney for several prominent ministries. His mediation service, Concilium National Mediation Center, based in Los Angeles, utilizes practical, legal and biblical principles to settle disputes. You may contact Tom at


    Share the Care

    With rising health-insurance costs, it's time to consider a biblical alternative.

    Health-insurance premiums are ranging from $600 to $1,200, and many churches are thinking long and hard about the costs for the pastor's health-insurance needs. To add insult to injury, a large percentage of their insurance premium may be directly supporting lifestyles they abhor.

    Several ministries have emerged offering non-insurance approaches to paying medical bills. Their track records indicate that the monthly sharing cost typically runs less than half that of conventional insurance coverage, with most members saving between $2,000-$4,000 or more a year. Since the sharing programs offered by these ministries are not insurance and are voluntary-offering no guarantees-it is important that those contemplating the sharing concept fully understand medical sharing programs.

    Four ingredients have helped make the sharing programs attractive to believers: (1) It is less expensive; (2) Members feel good that their monthly share is supporting fellow Christians who do not live destructive lifestyles; (3) The sharing programs rally prayer and a sense of community around the member in need; and (4) Each member has a say in how they choose to share with one another through an annual ballot.

    Members or subscribers send a specific amount each month responding to a share notice. The share is designated to go to a specific member to assist in paying that assigned member's eligible medical bills.

    For example, if a member has an eligible medical need of $8,000, the ministry's software program would assign however many members it will take to pay that bill. Those members assigned would receive a notice with the member's name and address printed. The assigned member is encouraged to contact the member in need with a card or letter of encouragement, put them on their prayer list, plus send their share that month to aid in paying the bills.

    The monthly share amount is derived by taking the sum total of the eligible monthly medical bills sent by members and dividing by the sharing households. The share rarely fluctuates from month to month because of the large numbers in the sharing pool. For example, one program has a $250 one-time deductible per year for any medical need that exceeds $250.

    Though medical sharing does not have all the “bells and whistles” offered by conventional health insurance, many find the trade-off worthwhile when their healthcare budget decreases by 50 percent or more. For a family that goes to the doctor every time a child has a cough or sniffle, a sharing program may not yield enough significant savings, but for those families or individuals who are reasonably healthy, it may be a godsend.

    John Reinhold is the founder of The Christian Care Ministry's Medi-Share. Medi-Share is a nonprofit Christian program that provides Christians the opportunity to share health expenses. For more information, visit

    Before You Leap

    Seven questions to ask when considering cooperative healthcare.

    1. What is the track record of the ministry? Has the ministry ever experienced months when all the eligible bills were not 100 percent paid?
    2. What is the accountability structure of the ministry? Do they have certified audits, and are they available to you? Do they have an independent board of directors (persons not remunerated by the ministry)? What is the structure for oversight?
    3. Does the ministry have any provision for catastrophic medical bills? What will happen if there is a close series of major catastrophic bills? Does the ministry provide for this contingency through stop-loss insurance, and, if so, is the policy with a highly rated insurance carrier?
    4. If there is a dispute between the member and the ministry regarding eligibility of bills, are there provisions for impartial reviews or arbitration?
    5. What about pre-existing issues?
    Most ministries do not share pre-existing conditions until they are cured and/or go without treatment, medication or symptoms for a period of time.
    6. Who sets the rules? Do members vote on issues that affect their monthly share?
    7. Does the ministry have programs to assist the members to make lifestyle alterations and avoid catastrophic medical events? You may want to position yourself with ministries that are concerned about future medical bills and how to keep them from escalating.

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