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Set up for failure, Spiritual Gifts breakdown, September 11 counsel, A curious lawsuit, 25 years of pastoral leadership, Proselytizing ventriloquist, Humor, and much more

Pastors' Recipe for Failure
By Eric Tiansay

Church members have come up with a "recipe for failure" for pastors who are overwhelmed with unreasonable demands. That's the assessment of researchers who found that the average church leader is expected to handle 16 major tasks by his congregation, even though he is not trained or equipped for them all.

"Nobody can handle the wide range of responsibilities that people expect pastors to master," said a recent Barna Research Group (BRG) profile of Protestant pastors.

Research director George Barna noted that pastors may be trained in theology, but they are also expected to be experts on leadership, politics, finance, management, psychology and conflict resolution. Most worked long hours, sacrificed family time, carried debt from seminary training and got below-average compensation for "a difficult job."

Barna added that besides pastoral pressure, many were expected to produce results before they were realistically possible. Although research found that most pastors made their greatest impact in a church between the fifth and 14th years of their pastorate, the average length of pastorates was only five years.

"In our fast turnaround society, where we demand overnight results and consider everyone expendable and everything disposable, we may be shortchanging pastors--and the congregations they oversee--by prematurely terminating their tenure," he commented. BRG surveyed 1,865 senior pastors in 48 states for the profile.
Source: Barna Research Group

Tallying Spiritual Gifts

Researchers have found that a third of all pastors said their congregations were seeker-driven. That may sound like good news for bringing in converts. But the finding in a recent Barna Research Group (BRG) profile of Protestant pastors was "surprising, given the lack of growth in church attendance during the past decade, and in light of the fact that only 8 percent of all pastors claim to have the spiritual gift of evangelism."

BRG director George Barna said the spiritual gifts claimed by senior pastors are also revealing. The most commonly claimed spiritual gift--66 percent--was preaching or teaching. Some gifts were less commonly identified than might be expected--among them leadership (12 percent) and encouragement (6 percent). Meanwhile, other gifts were more frequently cited than researchers had expected, including administration (16 percent) and prophecy (13 percent). The California-based organization interviewed 1,865 senior pastors in 48 states for the study.
Source: Barna Research Group


Pastors Sought September 11 Counsel

Focus on the Family (FOTF) took in more than 1,000 calls from pastors in the two days following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Still, H.B. London, FOTF's vice president of Ministry Outreach and Pastoral Ministries, said many ministers were so busy ministering they have had little time to grieve themselves. The "minister to ministers" believes pastors who fail to cope with the tragedy would only increase the 1,500 pastors who leave the ministry monthly.

A pastor for 30 years before joining FOTF, London believes the disturbing statistic has spiritual roots, noting that the average American preacher spends less than 20 minutes alone daily with the Lord. "I believe that is why so many leave [the pastorate] or get into trouble. They have allowed their ministry to be the focus instead of the one who called them into the ministry."

When a pastor calls the center, London said he always asks if they have been in prayer, Bible study or quiet time with God during the day. "Ninety-one percent say no," he said. "We have surrendered our sense of intimacy for business."
Source: The Baton Rouge Advocate


Ministry Sued for Curious George

The publisher of the Curious George children's books are going ape over actions by a ministry that targets Jews. In September, Houghton Mifflin sued San Francisco-based Jews for Jesus (JFJ) for copyright infringement, claiming it stole the exuberant monkey character, beloved by generations of children and parents, for tracts distributed to pedestrians in New York City, Minneapolis and possibly other cities.

The Are You Curious? pamphlets feature a cartoon monkey reading the Bible, with the message: "You can't find something if you're not willing to search. Even a silly little monkey like George could figure that out!"

JFJ's Susan Perlman said the nonprofit's use of "pop culture parody" is protected by the First Amendment. "We're disappointed Houghton Mifflin doesn't have a sense of humor," she said. "We think perhaps we've been singled out in this lawsuit because our message is a minority message."
Source: The Associated Press


25 Years of Encouraging Pastors

Snowbirds, people seeking warm weather, aren't the only ones who make a winter pilgrimage to Arizona. For the past 25 years, thousands of ministers have congregated to Tommy Barnett's Pastors and Leaders School in Phoenix for inspiration, motivation and new ideas for church growth.

Leaders of various churches and movements have been impacted by the conference of the pastor of 14,000-member First Assembly of God. "I want whatever Tommy Barnett puts out because I am inspired by a man who has built a praying and soul-winning church that continually reaches people," said Ted Haggard, pastor of New Life Church in Colorado Springs, Colo.

Charles Neimann, pastor of Abundant Living Faith Center in El Paso, Texas, credits the conference with boosting his congregation's Sunday attendance from 2,000 to more than 4,000 during the past seven years. "[We] have seen them [Barnett's programs] bear incredible fruit in our city," he said. This year's conference is set for February.
Source: Leo Godzich


Painted Sermon' Preacher Dies

A Georgia backwoods Baptist preacher who used paintings and sculptures to spread the gospel died of congestive heart failure in October. Summerville resident Howard Finster, 84, often used pop culture icons such as the Coca-Cola bottle, Cadillacs and Elvis in his artwork, which he called "sermons in paint" and totaled more than 47,000 pieces.

Lynne Spriggs of Atlanta's High Museum of Art, which holds the world's largest collection of Finster's works, said: "He took the Word of God and did it entirely in his own way, this eccentric, unconventional manner." Finster is perhaps best known for creating the cover for Georgia-based rock band R.E.M.'s 1984 album, Reckoning. A year later, Talking Heads commissioned Finster for the cover of their album Little Creatures.
Source: The Associated Press


Repentance for Racism Opposed

A United Methodist Church (UMC) leader who has championed racial reconciliation for years has been opposed for his call for the denomination to repent for its past racism. Byrd Bonner of San Antonio characterized the issue "the most controversial issue ever" to face the 8.4 million-member denomination during an August lay convention of the African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Zion Church in Akron, Ohio.

"I have had other white United Methodists refuse to attend meetings where repentance for racism was on the agenda," Bonner told representatives of the 1.3 million-member AME Zion. "Others have sent angry letters to ones who have spoken out against vestiges of racism that remain, if not predominate, in our churches."

For four years, Bonner has been part of a commission that has explored merging the UMC with the AME Zion, African Methodist Episcopal Church and Christian Methodist Episcopal Church. The historically black denominations broke away from the larger Methodist body in the last 200 years because of racial discrimination.
Source: United Methodist News Service


The Gospel According To Dummies

Bob Walsh doesn't mind coming across as a dummy when sharing the gospel. Walsh has ministered via ventriloquism worldwide since 1980, initially with the Navy and now through the Crime Prevention Department of the Norfolk Sheriff's Office in Virginia. Walsh, better known as Deputy Bob, annually performs before 10,000 Virginia public and private school students, as well as church groups, with the help of his four wooden dummies.

"Kids act on things they see and hear," said the 51-year-old grandfather who also teaches his audience character-building lessons. "Whether TV, movies or a puppet, there's a lot of pushes and pulls out there. I try to be [a] positive pull." Walsh has helped lead about 100,000 children to the Lord.
Source: Charisma News Service

Christian Bumper Stickers

"Look! Let's stop that car and ask them how we can become Christians."

"Don't worry, they're Christians, and must have a good reason for driving 90."

"Stay clear of those folks. If they get raptured, that car's gonna be all over the road!"

"Oh, look! That Christian woman is getting a chance to share Jesus with a police officer."

"No, that's not trash coming out of their car. It's probably tracts for the road workers."

"Oh boy, we're in trouble now! We just rear-ended one of God's cars."

"Quick, honk the horn, or they won't know that we love Jesus!"


Ministries' Financial Openness Rated

Supporters of ministries now have a way to judge Christian organizations' financial openness. Wall Watchers, an independent Charlotte, N.C.-based ministry, is giving "transparency grades" to several hundred of the country's largest Christian charities.

At its Web site, the financial watchdog gives an A through F rating based on how responsive each group is to requests for financial information. Seventy-four percent of the 400-plus organizations in the database have received an A or B rating, and less than 8 percent earned an F grade.

The largest group in the Wall Watchers file, World Vision, with an annual revenue of $408 million, earned an A rating, while second-placed Campus Crusade for Christ received a B. Trinity Broadcasting Network, the 15th largest ministry in the database, scored a C.
Source: Charisma News Service


T.D. Jakes: America's Best Preacher

Bishop T.D. Jakes is America's best preacher, according to Time magazine. In a September cover story, the leader of the innovative 26,000-member Potter's House church in Dallas was crowned successor to Billy Graham as the unofficial "national evangelist."

"He is a virtuoso, a prodigy," the newsweekly said. "The only thing more exhilarating than the style of [his] sermons is their rigor and compassion. It's Oprah-in-a-pulpit. But for Winfrey's generic spirituality, Jakes substitutes God."

Already a well-known pastor, playwright and record mogul, Jakes told The Dallas Morning News that he was grateful for the honor, but "I don't consider myself to be America's best preacher. I've just tried to put the focus on building a quality ministry."
Source: Time; The Dallas Morning News


Billy Graham's Security Blessing

Billy Graham is in the saving business, but the longtime evangelist's ministry got some savings--albeit financial--for an October crusade in California. The four-day event in Fresno saved organizers almost $80,000 in security expenses because police officials decided enhanced security was necessary in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks and the bombing in Afghanistan.

"I thought the Dr. Graham Crusade could be a target," Fresno Police Chief Jerry Dyer said. "We wanted to make sure that the 40,000 to 50,000 people a day felt safe. This was the largest Christian gathering since the attacks, and Dr. Graham is a friend of the Bush family. This was a unique situation because of the attacks." Graham, 82, broke his right foot before the crusade, but still preached each night of the crusade, which drew 201,000 to Fresno State's Bulldog Stadium.
Source: The Fresno Bee

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