Ministry Today | Serving and empowering church leaders

Heaven in the 'Hell Zone'

A Boston pastor sick of violence in his community did the unthinkable... he moved into a crack house.

War” isn't a very popular word these days, but it's a good one to describe Boston pastor Bruce Wall's proactive attack on crime in his neighborhood.

The pastor of Global Ministries Christian Church, a charismatic congregation in Dorchester, Mass., was tired of children in his church being harassed and threatened on a daily basis, drug deals going down within a stone's throw of his church, prostitutes walking the streets and young men pointing guns at one another night after night.

So, after a bloody July 2005, in which five people were shot and one killed, Wall assembled a team from his congregation and took the “good fight” out to the streets. Armed with some of his congregants, one family member and a local politician, the pastor rented an apartment for a week in the heart of the “Hell Zone.”

“There are about 30 churches in this neighborhood,” Wall noted in a recent interview with Ministries Today, “but law-abiding residents complain that the churches are the problem. Attendees come in on Sunday, take up all our parking spaces and leave … only to return for midweek service.”

During the week of “occupation,” Wall and his team went out every night sharing their faith and listening to the complaints of many residents. His occupation generated articles, columns and letters to the editor in Boston's local papers, The Globe and The Herald, as well as a feature in the Los Angeles Times. But Wall hopes his stand will challenge his church and neighborhood to fight back. He notes that a nearby neighborhood does not have the same level of crime because they have an active mosque.

“The gangsters know that if they harass or harm Muslims, they will fight back hard,” Wall explains.

But for Wall, “fighting back” has little to do with violence. Instead, he advocates an aggressively peaceful response to the evils facing the inner city.

“He was righteously angry and fought back,” Wall says, describing Jesus' reaction to the moneychangers in the temple. “He saw something wrong and did something about it.”

But Wall has his share of critics. A local newspaper asked, “You have come in and have stabilized it for a week, but what happens when you leave?”

Wall responds by sharing his vision for a comprehensive one-year plan for the neighborhood, including the purchase of the entire apartment building he was staying in, putting an end to the loitering outside bars and liquor stores, uniting the churches in his area with city cleanup programs and starting a merchants association to bring local businesses together to discuss ways to prevent crime. Wall is hopeful that this one-year plan will be an urban model for other churches and communities.

Wall has a history of urban activism. He is a member of Boston's Interfaith Initiative that brings local clergy and city officials together to address crime issues. (Recently, Boston Mayor Thomas Menino assembled about 50 pastors, rabbis and imams, gave them a list of neighborhood “troublemakers” and said the leaders could do anything they wanted in terms of evangelistic outreach if they would go visit with these kids.)

“If you can touch their hearts, you can touch the whole family. If you can touch the family, you can touch the whole neighborhood,” he explains. “If you can touch the neighborhood, you can heal the city.”
By Brad Cooper

Small Beginnings

One effective ministry is better than 200 false starts.
By Matthew Barnett

I am discovering that the concept of the church becoming more than a place of comfortable fellowship is clearly generating a lot of excitement in pastors and their churches. This passion motivates me, and it points to a trend of churches returning to the inner city.

At the same time, I offer them some advice so that their ministry will be more efficient and effective. It's important that we think long term when strategizing for inner-city transformation. Rather than trying to start multiple ministries at once, it is more effective to find one or two ways of reaching people and do them with excellence.

This same principle will help draw volunteers, who will feel that they are a part of something built for long-term success-and something that is run well. I have found that volunteers want to see results, and they want their time to be valued. Often, in the midst of the excitement of launching new ministries we can be guilty of starting a lot of things but never doing one thing very well.

Maybe it's a food-distribution program, a community cleanup program or an after-school program. Whatever it is, be famous for doing one thing well. When you do that, you create a sense of momentum and a confidence in the people that you are working with.

In the process, other ministries will be born. When we started the Adopt-a-Block program, we just visited people in the neighborhood every week. Next, we cleaned up the neighborhood around the surrounding community we just visited. What happened? The people who went out found all sorts of other needs that, in turn, led to the launching of new ministries. Out of one ministry (Adopt-a-Block), the food-truck ministry, medical outreach, clothing store and many more ministries were birthed.

Bottom line? The goal should not be to say that your church has 200 ministries but to get your people connected to the need. When they see that need, they will respond and create new programs to take care of the needs that they are exposed to.

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


SLOWING DOWN: G.E. Patterson, presiding bishop of the 6-million member Church of God in Christ (COGIC), announced that he is battling prostate cancer and will not run for reelection in 2008. “He was in good cheer, looked well and said he wanted to move forward with the ministry God has presented for him to do,” says Calvin Burns, editor of The Whole Truth, COGIC's official magazine. “We're all praying for our leader and that God will heal him.”

APPOINTED: On September 19, 34-year-old Jason Christy was appointed executive director of The Christian Coalition. Christy has launched several magazines in a 12-year publishing career, including both The Church Report and the business journal Church Executive.

DISBANDING: The Christian rock band Petra has announced that it will disband by year's end. The group, formed in 1972 by Bob Hartman, helped pave the way for the rock genre in the Christian music industry.

RETIRING: Paul D. Nelson, president of the Evangelical Council for Financial Accountability, announced that he will retire in March 2006 after 12 years of service. Nelson, who will turn 65 in August, is the longest-serving of the four chief executives since its inception.

Memory Supplements

The art and science of crafting sermons listeners can't forget.
By Mark Batterson

Recently, I was driving and listening to a CD when I heard something totally deflating if you're a preacher by trade. It made me feel like doing an illegal U-turn and driving home: “Studies indicate that we forget 95 percent of what we hear within three days.”

I remember praying this 70 mph prayer (with my eyes open): “God, I don't want to invest my time and energy saying things that people are just going to forget anyway. Help me say things in unforgettable ways!” Isn't that the holy grail of preaching? To say things in such an anointed way that hearers don't just remember. They can't forget!

I have a simple conviction: The most important truths ought to be communicated in the most unforgettable ways. They may be inspired or convicted or challenged by a message, but they go to bed Sunday night, get up Monday morning and they can't remember a single word you said.

Here's my philosophy of preaching in six words: Say old things in new ways. For instance, I recently preached a series titled “The Physics of Faith.” Each message revolved around a law of physics familiar to anyone who has taken Physics 101. I used Heisenberg's uncertainty principle, Bell's theorem and the second law of thermodynamics to frame spiritual truth.

I believe every “ology” is a branch of theology. The way we add depth perception to our preaching is by cross-pollinating with different disciplines. If all truth is God's truth, then we need to redeem scientific re-search, leadership theory and cultural trends and use them to serve God's purposes.

There is an old real estate adage: location, location, location. In the realm of communication, it's metaphor, metaphor, metaphor. Aristotle said, “The greatest thing by far is to be the master of metaphor.” Jesus set the standard. He used agrarian metaphors to frame truth because He knew that most of His listeners spent most of their day in the fields. He used familiar metaphors to brand truth. We call them parables.

With this in mind, we try to brand every message series with an organizing metaphor. The organizing metaphor for our last series, “On Mission,” was a customized passport that was so authentic it could probably have gotten you through customs!

And for our next series, “Wired,” we'll use wireless technology to talk about increasing spiritual bandwidth. We'll kick off 2006 with a series called “Fuel.” We're in the process now of buying gas station relics for staging at our coffeehouse on Capitol Hill. The key to branding a message series is redeeming metaphors that are on the frontal lobe of cultural consciousness.

Who said you have to preach from behind the pulpit? Jesus did most of His preaching at the beach or on the mountain! We are currently experimenting with “off-site preaching” that is shot “on-location and pre-produced as a short film. Why not? Our church meets in a theater, so our theater screens double as postmodern stained glass. They enable us to communicate truth in moving pictures.

For what it's worth, the brain is able to process print on a page at a rate of about 100 bits per second. A picture is processed at about 1 billion bits per second. That means that a picture isn't worth a thousand words. A picture is literally worth 10 million words!

The key to unforgettable preaching is packaging truth in ways that are biblically sound and culturally relevant. Let me borrow from the parable of the wineskins. Think of biblical exegesis as the wine. Think of cultural relevance as the wineskin. If you have one without the other, you're not going to quench anybody's thirst. You need the substance (biblical exegesis) and the container (cultural relevance). Cultural relevance doesn't mean dumbing down or watering down the truth. It's about incarnating timeless truth in timely ways.

Mark Batterson serves as lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, D.C. Composed largely of Capitol Hill staffers, the church is 80 percent single and 80 percent 20-something. Mark is also the author of ID: The True You (Xulon) and a daily blog.

Happy Holydays

Don't miss seasonal opportunities for youth ministry.
By Jeanne Mayo

Ever tried to play basketball with a frozen turkey? Gift-wrap a live duck? Or con a mall Santa Claus into letting a senior in high school take his place for a while?

Well, I have. It's all been part of the journey in youth ministry as we experienced the holiday season together. I've become more convinced than ever that holidays are pivotal times in the life of a local youth ministry. The reason is pretty obvious. So few families now prioritize meaningful traditions that today's youth culture is emotionally hungry for “family.” And somehow Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Eve all magnify that desire to make some memories together.

Today's youth culture is not impressed by a “youth church” nearly as much as a “youth family.” So, as you approach the holiday season, capitalize on the ready-made opportunities to build closeness among your students and yourself. Let me share a few suggestions to get your mind going:

“Where two or more are gathered, there is food!” Sharing meals together is a great way of creating memories. Every Wednesday evening before Thanksgiving, I invite the 12th-graders in our church over to our home for Thanksgiving dinner. As our tradition has formed, I cook the turkeys, the girls bring the side dishes and the guys bring the pop.

We eat by candlelight, the guys trim the turkey, and my house stays full until two or so in the morning. I used to try to push the students out the door by midnight so I could start cooking for my own family. But the frank honesty of one of the lingering guys changed all of that for me.

“Do you mind if I hang around a little longer?” he asked haltingly. “This time at your house is the closest to a Thanksgiving dinner I'm going to get. My dad will be so drunk tomorrow that we'll all try to scatter and keep our distance.”

So from that night on, I learned the importance of hosting some holiday meals together. Remember, even Jesus threw a dinner party (i.e. The Last Supper) to help mark important events with His guys. So spread out the cooking assignments, and sponsor at least one fun dinner event this season. It's simple, but a kind of magic often happens when you “break bread together.”

Pile in cars, and take a Saturday road trip. Go somewhere together to shop. Look at Christmas lights, ice skate or whatever. On a recent holiday road trip, we took a group picture with Santa. I blew up copies of it, bought cheap frames at a dollar store and handed out fun “gifts from Santa” at the following youth-church meeting. It was a wild hit.

Use the holidays to do some hysterical things in the opening part of your youth service that will never be forgotten. Yes, we had a Christmas gift-wrapping contest with three live ducks on stage. Another time, we all went outside to host the Oxygen annual “Turkey Basketball Tournament,” with frozen turkeys used as basketballs. It was our Thanksgiving Tournament.

Make New Year's Eve a big deal. The enemy always does; so smart youth leaders try to practice “the law of substitution.” Instead of focusing on what not to do on New Year's Eve night, create a fun alternative. Rent out a roller rink, host a video scavenger hunt or sponsor a gala progressive dinner.

At the risk of offending some great folks, spending New Year's Eve in an adult church service singing “What If This Would Be the Year That Jesus Comes” is probably not the most attractive to the average teenager. Break out the horns, hats and confetti, and make the midnight hour unforgettable.

Whether for Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year's, just create some family moments with your youth ministry. The resulting synergy will be well worth the effort. Remember: “The youth church that prays together and plays together … stays together.”

Jeanne Mayo is the president of Youth Source Ministries and director of Oxygen Youth and Youth Adult Outreach. Check out her monthly youth ministry coaching CDs, The Source and Up Close, at

Perfectly Unhealthy

When does a commitment to excellence become obsessive perfectionism?
By Richard Winter

Perfectionism-in simplest terms-is the tendency to set extremely high standards, and the use of the word tendency implies a spectrum in which there are degrees of perfectionism. The important issue becomes how strong the tendency is, how intensely one strives to reach those standards and how one responds to not meeting them.

The size of the discrepancy between what is possible and what is pursued is a critical factor that may make the difference between health and sickness-so also is the intensity with which one attempts to overcome the discrepancy.

If we hold this spectrum (also called “multidimensional” view), then neurotic perfectionism is at one end, non-perfectionism is at the other end and somewhere in between is normal, healthy perfectionism, which is characterized by high standards, high levels of organization and striving for excellence.

Driven to Achieve

Normal, healthy perfectionists are usually full of energy and enthusiasm, have a positive self-image and rarely procrastinate over decisions. They are realistic about their own strengths and weaknesses. They are driven more by a motivation to achieve than by a fear of failure.

Many great works of art, music, literature, theology and science have come from such perfectionists.

Psychologist Linda Silverman sees perfectionism as a two-edged sword with the potential to propel someone either to unparalleled greatness or into the depths of despair. She writes, “It can best be thought of as an energy that needs to be channeled in positive directions rather than as a malady to be cured.”

Terrified of Failure

In contrast, neurotic, unhealthy perfectionists set unrealistically high standards. Their sense of self-worth depends entirely on their performance and production according to the goals they set for themselves. Continuous self-criticism, in the form of concern over mistakes and doubts that one is doing the right thing, is a distinguishing mark of unhealthy perfectionism.

For the unhealthy perfectionist, who notices failures more than successes, one flaw obliterates any satisfaction in their achievement. They doubt whether they have done well enough on even the smallest task and judge not just what they do but how they do it. They are often over-concerned about organization, precision and order. They may be fussy and exacting with an emphasis on neatness. They think in all-or-nothing, black-or-white categories.

Neurotic perfectionists desire to excel at any cost and are often over-controlling in relationships. Healthy perfectionists are motivated by a desire to achieve something good, whereas unhealthy perfectionists are motivated by fear of negative consequences-failure, rejection or punishment.


At the opposite end of the spectrum from neurotic perfectionists are what we may call non-perfectionists, best defined as those who have little or no shame or guilt about failing to reach high standards or be organized. They are relaxed, easygoing and fun to be around, though perhaps sometimes so laid-back that they are perceived as being disorganized, unreliable and even lazy. Non-perfectionists are very accepting, making few demands on themselves or others-a personality type that can obviously have positive and negative aspects.

One Web site advertises posters that are a good match for non-perfectionists. They sarcastically play off the posters hanging in many corporate offices. One with the mock-motivational subject Ineptitude shows a skier about to have a terrible fall, and the caption reads, “If you can't learn to do something well, learn to enjoy doing it poorly.” Another under the heading Mediocrity shows the leaning tower of Pisa, and the caption says, “It takes a lot less time and most people won't notice the difference until it's too late.”

Richard Winter is a psychiatrist and professor of practical theology at Covenant Theological Seminary in St. Louis. He is the author of Perfecting Ourselves to Death (InterVarsity Press), from which this article is taken.

Copy That?

How to keep your church from breaking intellectual property law.
By Susan Fontaine Godwin

A young seminarian, Henry Smith, wrote a simple song of thanksgiving called “Give Thanks” in 1978. the beauty of its simple melody and lyrics captured a universal truth that spread across denominations, age groups, musical styles and cultures. Worship leader Don Moen selected the song as the title cut on Integrity's Hosanna! Music's Give Thanks that quickly rocketed to one of the most popular Hosanna! recordings ever released.

Shortly before he wrote the well-known chorus, Smith developed a degenerative eye disease and began losing his sight. He eventually had to give up his career and stay home with his family as he lost more and more vision. His wife went to work to help support them.

While Henry was losing his sight, Christian Copyright License International (CCLI) launched an innovative blanket license to allow churches to legally use songs in five specific ways in worship services. The concept soon took off, and today more than 170,000 churches worldwide have CCLI licenses. In the last 15 years, they have distributed more than $113.8 million.

“Give Thanks” quickly climbed to the No. 1 song on CCLI charts in the 1990s. Henry Smith shared with me by phone one day in 1991 that the royalty revenue payments he was receiving helped keep food on his family's table, make mortgage payments and purchase a much-needed car. Henry marveled in a humble spirit how the royalties were a miraculous provision for him and his family as he began to learn a new trade.

Henry's story and the blessing of “Give Thanks” inspire me to passionately preach the importance to churches of honoring copyright compliance. It is, of course, vital to adhere to the U.S. copyright laws, but it is equally important to honor the spirit of the law, and support and encourage the creative arts ministry within the church's worship.

“What is a copyright or intellectual property?” people frequently ask. Intellectual property refers to intangible properties that are protected under the copyright, patent and trademark laws. An example of tangible property is the lot on which a house resides, land you can see, touch and feel. Intellectual property assets are intangible assets that cannot be touched, assets such as the exclusive right to reproduce a copy of your first great novel.

The physical book (pages, cover, pictures and so on) is a tangible piece of property. The right to reproduce that book, however, cannot be touched and felt like the physical book because it is an intangible right. Nonetheless, the author of that book has, from the time of the book's creation, the exclusive right to reproduce that book. The author's exclusive right to reproduce can be very valuable and can be assigned to a third party, such as a publisher, if the assignment is in writing.

As you can see, the scope of copyrighted works and the rights of the copyright owner are far-reaching and deeply impact the worship expressions of most church activies.

Only 15 to 20 years ago, church pastors and worship ministers thought little of copyright compliance, since they often only had to buy choral anthems and octavos and enough hymnals to fill the pews of their congregations.

Today, church leaders are concerned with potential copyright infringement if they don't obtain clearances for Webcasting their church services on the Internet, quoting literary works, showing video clips during a sermon, or using visual images in a multimedia presentation. The advancement of creative and innovative worship also creates increased complexity in church copyright issues.

Property Rights

What's covered by copyright laws-and who has the right to use it.

Section 102 of the Copyright Act defines “works of authorship” to include: literary works (e.g. books, periodicals, manuscripts, phonorecords, film, tapes, disks or cards); musical works; dramatic works; pantomimes; choreographic works; pictorial, graphic and sculptural works; motion pictures; audiovisual works; sound recordings and architecture.

Section 106 of the Copyright Act provides that a copyright owner has the exclusive right to do or authorize any of the following: reproduce works, derive works (e.g. translate or revise), distribute copies of works (e.g through sale, rental, lease or lending), perform works and publically display works (e.g. musicals, dramas, choreography, art).

Susan Fontaine Godwin, author and educator, is president of Righteous Oaks Music Inc., specializing in music-publishing administration and Christian copyright administration (

Rent or Own?

Churches are setting up shop in schools, storefronts and athletic clubs ... here's how to know it's time to buy.
By Kristi Watson

We've been conditioned to expect that purchasing property is always better than renting property. What's the old adage? Don't throw money away on rent! But for a growing church, the decision of whether to continue renting or whether to purchase a facility isn't that easy.

What is the motivation behind considering ownership? If the decision to purchase is simply to own or to possess a larger building, it's probably not the right decision. If the current facility is inadequate, there are additional options that can maximize its use, from additional services to off-site storage.

What is the philosophy of the church and what are the needs of the surrounding community? If the church is externally focused on church planting, then purchasing a large facility may not be the answer.


On the other hand, purchasing may make sense if the church vision includes a Christian school in the future, and the current rental property can't accommodate the increased volume of people and activity. Or, if the church is centered on community outreach, then owning a larger campus that can be expanded to offer additional programs and services in the future may be desirable.

There are many incidental expenses that increase with owning a facility that a church must factor into its decision:

  • Does the current facility provide property maintenance services, and can the church afford to pay staff to handle those services for an owned property?
  • Will the church have to finance the majority of the purchase price?
  • How will the church raise the money to do so, and can the ministry afford the fundraising campaign?

    Don't forget: when purchasing a facility, expenses such as appraisals, building maintenance and renovation, and regulatory responsibilities must be factored into the church budget.

    But there are also advantages of owning a facility:

  • financing equal to or less than renting
  • freedom to use the premises as the church deems appropriate
  • potential equity for a future move if growth allows.


    When considering renting facilities for the long term, a church will deal with expenses such as lease terms, obtaining permits to hold church in the rented space and agreements regarding tenant improvements. Tenant improvements often call for substantial investments of cash to “build out” the rented space as per the ministry's needs. This type of investment may never be fully recovered if the church is to move from their rental space.

    When compared to renting, there is a greater risk and financial commitment when a church owns property. When a church rents a facility, the property manager is responsible for the maintenance, and the expenses fall on the shoulders of the landlord, therefore making more monies available for ministry.

    The worst possible scenario will occur if purchasing a church facility increases monthly expenses to the extent that ministry activities are jeopardized. Researching additional expenses that will be incurred with property purchase is critical to the decision process, and due diligence is mandatory.

    If it is the Lord's will for a church to purchase its facility, the right doors will be opened. If not, ministering in a rented facility shouldn't cause anxiety for the church leadership. After all, isn't everything on loan from Him anyway?

    Kristi Watson is public relations manager for Evangelical Christian Credit Union. For more information about how ECCU can assist your organization, call 1-800-634-3228, e-mail, or visit

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