What changes can you make to be more effective at making and releasing disciples?
Are we making disciples surrendered to Christ and His Lordship? Though very few concrete statistics on our overall effectiveness currently exist, it’s difficult to argue in the affirmative.
What then can we do to get better at the Great Commission? Based on his considerable experience with starting churches from disciple-making small groups, Real Life Ministries founder Jim Putman has identified five paradigm shifts church leaders can make to become better at accomplishing the mission of the church. We asked him and Dave Ferguson, who also leads the church-planting network NewThing, and Community Christian Church in Chicago, to help unpack each shift and its potential impact.
How to counsel married couples through bedroom problems.
Terry and Tami seemed like the perfect married couple. They were in their 30s, attractive and successful. They’d known Pastor Phil for several years and one day came to him for counseling. As soon as they all were seated behind closed doors, Tami blurted out: “Pastor—Terry and I aren’t having sex!” Pastor Phil’s mind reeled: Not this couple. No way, he thought.
His mind instantly raced back to his Bible-school training. He could not recall any lessons he might have had on “The Sexless Marriage.” In fact, he couldn’t remember ever counseling a couple who didn’t want sex. In the end, all he could say was: “Terry, Tami—you should fast and pray.”
The article you’re reading would have come in handy for Pastor Phil. Couples like Terry and Tami avoid sex for definite reasons. After counseling for almost 20 years, I know. Let’s look at some of these obstacles.
How to leave your denomination ... for all the right reasons.
A few years ago, my wife and I felt God calling us out of our denomination into another network of churches. Being in connected relationships with like-minded pastors and churches was important enough for us to navigate the choppy watters of change.
Some said, “Stay and be salt.” Yet, I sensed no call to take my “salt” there. (I know of a Spirit-filled priest whose calling in life is “to save as many as he can before they kick him out.”) Albeit humorous, note how he is certain of his call. I could not say the same. My “salt” had been trampled on, and others who stayed to be a prophetic voice discovered that they were ignored as well.
It ought to haunt us that no county in the country has grown one percentage point in the last 35 years with regard to the number of Christians. The Lausanne Committee for World Evangelization released a report in 2005 forecasting that by 2050, in the Western world, the number of Christians will drop far below the population increase.
Being in healing ministry, I have witnessed the miraculous regularly and seen thousands touched by God each year.
I remember two times when the Lord spoke something to me out of His Word, and it gave me an insight that brought an increase for healing. The first instance happened about two years ago, and the second about a year ago.
The first came out of 2 Corinthians 4:13, where Paul said, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak” (NIV).
I’d seen this Scripture many times, but when God quickened it to me, all of a sudden it took on life. All of a sudden I made this connection: Faith needs to be spoken. You can say you believe something, but if you don’t have enough faith to declare it, to speak it, there’s something that’s not released.
God created and gave us times of respite for a specific purpose that’s worth taking seriously
Scripture tells us that work is one of the things God created man to do. Effort and productivity are expected in every area of our lives. Parents strain to bring children into the world, and then for the next 20-plus years must midwife their proper acclimation into society. Businesspeople must produce materials and services that serve the public while making a profit. Pastors ... well, they seem to have no end to their job description! Whatever the responsibility, work seems to incessantly demand our attention. Yet, if regular moments of respite are not prioritized, both quality and quantity of life can diminish.
Craig Sawchuk, assistant professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Washington School of Medicine, debunks the idea that more work necessarily means a more productive life. After thousands of hours of research, He concluded that, “If you establish a more balanced lifestyle, enjoying your leisure can in fact improve the quality and quantity of your work.”
Sawchuk rediscovered the value of a balanced work/rest lifestyle. Though his discovery is noteworthy, he certainly is not the first to present it. God invented the idea of a balanced life. Genesis 2:2-3 says, “By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made” (NASB).
Note that one of God’s distinguishing attributes is that He doesn’t need to rest. Still, He thought enough of the concept He created and mandated to exemplify it by taking an entire day off so that man might understand its importance to his own well-being.
God’s emphasis on rest cannot be overstated. He created us as creatures of rhythm. Our workdays generally start and end at predictable times. After a good day’s labor, our circadian rhythms (the 24-hour cycle found in the biochemical, physiological or behavioral processes of living entities) mandate that we regularly get between five to eight hours of sleep. And we are wired to eat at semi-regular intervals.
Most of us accept and enjoy the fact that daily life is constructed so that balance can be maintained. Yet in our busy lifestyles and efforts to accomplish our to-do lists, the rhythmic priority of biblical rest too often gets overlooked.
Instead, our capableness, competency and strength often deceive us, making us believe we can routinely ignore cyclic respites. And while we may experience no immediate consequences, it’s unwise to assume that the absence of immediate discomfort means we have escaped discomfort altogether.
Even though the unfortunate effects of continually violating God’s prescription for rejuvenation and recuperation may not be quickly noticed, those results can (and will) slowly affect us. Unfortunately, most of us don’t realize this until an army of considerable strength—led by stress, heart disease, depression, high blood pressure and the like—wages war against our body, mind and soul.
The success of the assault is determined by how much time we’ll need to recover and rest. The sad thing is that in many instances, we could have avoided this assault. Even more sad is that the rest we should have regularly practiced in prior years would have been much more enjoyable than the forced recuperation required by mental and physical breakdowns.
God knew we would need routine life intermissions. He knew that each period of pause was pregnant with the well-being we would need in later years. Rest is a blessing He intended us to enjoy. We rob ourselves, and those we love, when we don’t take regular intervals to refresh and recharge.
Since most of us have the work-ethic thing down pretty good, let’s figure out how to live the rest of our lives. Live right, live well.
As senior pastor of Grace Covenant Church in Chantilly, Va., Brett Fuller also oversees another church planted from his congregation in downtown Washington, D.C. He currently serves as chaplain of the Washington Redskins, chaplain of the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) and chairman of the Board for Every Nation Churches in America.
I once heard a sermon titled, "The Devil Is in the Details." Recently, I learned that saying is actually derived from an exact opposite quote, "God is in the details."
This more positive statement is attributed most often to Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, a German-born architect. But the quotation didn't originate with him; it goes back more than a thousand years.
I believe it's especially significant that the phrase comes from the architectural community. This group understands that their ability to receive divine assistance with their work is enhanced by the more strategic, focused and committed they are. The level of creativity and craftsmanship invested in their work often makes the finished product breathtaking. Think about the beauty of the Sistine Chapel. It's easy to understand the full meaning of this great architectural proverb.
It's gratifying to know that God wants to be with me in the details of my ministry as well. Sometimes it seems like "the devil" has been in my inbox for years. No matter how many times I rebuke and send him away, the next week he shows up again.
It's not a big church. It's not a new church. It's not a really old church, either. But Agape Assembly of God (AG) in Waterloo, Ind., has become a praying church--with signs and wonders following.
Pastor Tom "Nedd" Neddersen with his wife, Kim, both retirees, have pastored Agape Assembly of God in Waterloo for more than seven years. The Neddersens had spent the previous 10 years as bivocational ministers in California.
Recently, a hospital stay spurred the Neddersen's to lead their small church of about 40 members into spiritual battle through prayer and fasting.
"Back in August, we as a church started praying for the sick and our nation," Neddersen says. "I had just come out of the hospital and decided that I was sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Neddersen contacted a local AG evangelist, Tyron Moore, to come and help him to pray over the church. He also called the church to prayer and fasting starting Sept. 1 to Jan. 1. Since Sept. 1, the power of the Holy Spirit has been more than evident.
Ravaged by apostasy in the church or the pressures of ministry, many pastors have given up and have quietly fallen by the wayside in defeat. But it is possible to stand strong in your personal life and ministry.
Apostasy has silently crept into the church, seeking to strangle and kill pastors as well as those in the pew. Every year, an alarming number of ministers decide to never again go behind the pulpit. Many others have their credentials taken away by their denomination.
I can spot an Old Navy commercial from a mile away. Maybe it’s the bright colors or the almost-recognizable celebrities or perhaps the fact that I used to work at an Old Navy in Minnesota. Whatever it is, their commercials are obvious. Unfortunately, their commercials aren’t always attractive, at least not to me. They are loud in every way possible. Loud announcer. Loud music. Loud colors. Yet these commercials keep coming. Their marketing must be working.
I think pastors and church creatives can learn a few things from Old Navy’s repetition.
Marilyn Hickey’s husband, Wallace, passed away on Friday. Known as Pastor Wally, he was born in 1925 and died peaceably confident of better days ahead after 50-plus years of ministry.
Wallace was the founding pastor of Orchard Road Christian Center (ORCC). On fire with a hunger to evangelize in 1958, he soon accepted the pastoral call which is at the heart of his God-given ministry.
Following an initial assignment as visitation pastor in Amarillo, Texas, Wallace and Hickey, returned to Colorado to pioneer Full Gospel Chapel in Denver. Starting with a core of just 25 people in 1960, the congregation grew to more than 2,000 by the mid-1980s.
A Fast Company article, "Weird Science" (May 2006), spotlighted one of the most innovative chefs in America. Homaro Cantu is part chef, part mad scientist and part inventor. And he is on a mission to change the way people perceive and experience food.
The menu at Moto restaurant in Chicago is constantly changing as the chefs use everything from a Class IV laser to liquid nitrogen to experiment with new ways of making and presenting their meals. Cantu and his rebel chefs are pushing the culinary envelop by combining foods in unprecedented ways. Their doughnut soup, for example, tastes exactly like the inside of a Krispy Kreme doughnut. And if you want, you can actually eat their edible menus.
Note: This is the first of a three-part series about Christian marriages.
An alarming number of Christian marriages end in divorce. What can the church do to reverse this trend?
I had just started my new position as an associate pastor back in 1983. There I was at a barbecue for the adult Christian singles. The majority of those attending were divorced. With each hurting conversation and each prayer of restoration, my burden grew for these singles.
Later that year, I sat in a small support group for divorced men and women, hoping to find how to best minister to them. One of the singles, perhaps sensing my dilemma, blurted out: "The best way you can minister to the divorced is to minister to marriages." It was then that I realized that the greatest ministry I could have to the divorced single was to build strong marriages.
Richard E. Anderson, 91, senior pastor at Faith Tabernacle Church in San Jacinto, Calif., for nearly 50 years, passed away peacefully at his home on Thursday in Hemet, Calif.
He was born to Earl and Dewey Anderson on March 23, 1921, in Hobart, Okla. At 18, he was gloriously saved and called into ministry. Anderson was one of God’s Generals with a 73-year heritage of victory in faith and full gospel ministry.
He was ordained a minister with the Pentecostal Church of God in 1941. Anderson specialized in educating ministers and lay leaders involved in the ministry through School of Bible Theology Seminary and University (SBTSU.org), and was a valiant defender of the gospel of Jesus Christ and Pentecostal distinctives.
Nearly 90 percent of pastors believe they should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit, according to a recent survey by LifeWay Research. The survey also revealed that 44 percent of pastors personally endorsed candidates, but did so outside of their church role.
The survey of 1,000 Protestant pastors found that only 10 percent believe pastors should endorse candidates from the pulpit. Eighty-seven percent believe (71 percent strongly and 16 percent somewhat) pastors should not endorse candidates for public office from the pulpit. Three percent of pastors are not sure.
For comparison, LifeWay Research found in a December 2010 survey that 84 percent of pastors said they should not endorse candidates from the pulpit.
How an overly politicized culture may affect our view of leadership
Would Moses have run for president? And if so, would anyone have voted for him? Instead of “choosing to run,” Moses would more likely have only served if convinced he was truly “chosen to lead” Israel. Even then, it would’ve been difficult. Unlike American politicians, instead of running for office, Moses would have been more likely to run away from it.
The most important consideration of Moses and the Oval Office for church leaders, however, is this: How does the roller-coaster world of U.S. presidential politics affect or infect our pure biblical view of leadership within the church? The fact remains, while our nation is embroiled in the search to elect a political leader to serve the nation, the church is still responsible to call upon godly ones to serve the church.
A God-given plan for avoiding the pitfalls of power, prestige and possessions
Have you ever wondered why God the Father would allow Jesus to be tempted by the devil? In the desert? In a weakened physical state after Jesus had just spent 40 days fasting?
I believe God allowed His Son, our Savior, to endure these kinds of trials to benefit us—the people He came to renew and redeem. He knew our lives would be filled with temptation. By allowing Jesus to experience the same adversity, He gave us the preeminent model for how we can and should respond to the enemy’s lures.
The Three P’s: Power, Prestige, Possessions
Just as Satan attacked and tempted Jesus with what I call the three P’s (power, prestige, possessions), we can count on Him doing the same thing to us—repeatedly.
Power.First, the devil tempted Jesus by appealing to Him to use His power to turn stones into bread (Matt. 4:3). By refusing, Jesus not only showed us how to overcome temptation, He also reassured us that He understands our struggles firsthand (Heb. 4:15). Instead of using His divine power, Jesus enlisted Scripture and rested in His Father’s power.
Don’t miss this: Jesus refused to establish His identity on the basis of what He could do. Essentially, He told Satan, “My identity is based in My Father’s power, not Mine.”
Do you base your identity in what you do? For years, Satan used this “P” on me. I thought my power—or my profession of being an NFL player—defined me, and that people would accept and like me because of what I did. If I lost my career, who would I be? I bought the lie of believing that what I did defined me as a person. The big problem is that NFL stands for “Not for Long.”
When we ground our identity in what we do, we never win. It’s bondage.
Prestige. Second, the devil tempted Jesus with prestige: “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down” (Matt. 4:6). Jesus didn’t find His identity in opportunities to promote Himself, but in being God’s Son. Once again, He went to Scripture to deflect Satan’s appeal to prestige (v. 7).
If you haven’t already been tempted with prestige, you will. We live in an age of self-preoccupation and self-promotion. Our culture values and worships superstars. The popularity explosion of Facebook and YouTube should tell us something: People love to promote themselves. Conversely, Jesus valued humility and called His followers to be servants (John 13:1-17).
Possessions.The third temptation was possessions—probably the No. 1 scheme Satan uses to shipwreck the common man. Satan offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world (Matt. 4:8-9). But Jesus, once again secure and grounded in His identity as God’s Son, refused to find His identity in possessions. He crushed Satan once again, using Scripture (v. 10).
Every advertisement or commercial screams, “Buy me and you’ll be better.” Granted, there’s nothing wrong with having nice things. But when things have you or when you find your identity in what you possess, something has gone terribly wrong.
Strength Training in the Wilderness
Jesus knew His identity was secure and anchored as God’s Son. By refusing to find His identity in power, prestige or possessions, He resisted (I like to think He drop-kicked) the devil. Because we are God’s sons and daughters through our faith in Jesus (John 1:12; 1 John 3:2), we too can resist and defeat Satan’s temptations.
Take time this week to think about and ask yourself these questions:
Is temptation playing out (or about to play out) in my life?
How is Satan using power, prestige and possessions to pull me away from God?
Where do I find my identity?
Each day this week, send yourself a text or email, reminding yourself that power, prestige and possessions do not define you.
Derwin Gray is the founding and lead pastor of Transformation Church, a multiethnic, multigenerational, mission-shaped community in Indian Land, S.C. From 1993 to 1998, he played football for the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts and the Carolina Panthers. Gray is the author of Hero: Unleashing God’s Power in a Man’s Heart and is a highly sought-after communicator. For more information, go to tc521.org.
Have you ever wondered what is happening to churches today? Many have lost their sense of purpose, floundering for identity, in a sea of hundreds of other churches competing for the same people. Approximately 80 percent of “church growth” numbers can be attributed to people transferring from one church to another rather than new converts. As many as 3,000-4,000 churches close their doors every year—unable to stay open due to financial burdens, infrastructural turmoil and apathy.
In this discouraging environment, day in and day out, pastors and church leaders toil for the kingdom of God. Often overworked, underpaid and unappreciated, they deny themselves the luxury of time for rest and spiritual renewal. Is it any wonder that more than 1,500 pastors leave their churches every month due to spiritual burn-out, moral failure or contention within their congregation?
Imagine a new communion of multiethnic churches committed to discipleship and church planting
Some days in your life will forever rest in your memory. I think back to August 2004 in London. I was sitting at a table as a guest of one of my gospel heroes, pastor Matthew Ashimolowo, a church planter, author and major student of church growth worldwide. He had invited me to participate in Europe's largest Christian conference. During those years the BBC, The Times of London and every national media outlet had "discovered" this faithful servant of God; as a result, Pastor Matthew had become something of a celebrity in the cultural landscape there. I'll never forget reading the headline "African missionary to England leads U.K.'s largest church." He and I talked about the fact that at the time, only 5 percent of England's population was committed to both faithful church attendance and a biblical worldview. We marveled at the idea that a nation, which had been mightily used to take the gospel to the ends of the known world during its "heyday," would now not allow the preaching of the gospel and Spirit-led ministry to be aired on regular television. In fact, it was more acceptable for Britain's government to give deference to non-Christian faiths than to Christians. Within a few years of that discussion, my friend would be wrongly persecuted by Britain's version of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service and his church would be forced to sell its primary facilities.
Worship should be the focus and source of our service
My dad, Bill Johnson, has always said to us,
“Everything we do in life and ministry should flow out of our worship to God.”
True worship is a heart surrendered to God, and the overflow of that surrendered heart is a life of praise. I believe anything is possible in a room of worshippers. Healing often takes place in the atmosphere created by worship. His presence is that atmosphere. We don’t worship to get miracles, though. He is the result and in Him is everything. He is the One we seek.
Praising God when you don’t feel like it isn’t fake praise. In fact, that’s when it’s sometimes the most real and honest. Those are the times when we go past our human emotions and make it loud and clear to the spirit realm that we are taking a step of faith and saying, “I believe!” God can’t help but intervene in the life of a passionate worshiper.
Effective administration ensures the best outpouring of the Holy Spirit
Administration’s time has come. These words still echo in my head two years after first hearing them in the form of a prophetic word. That word would cause me to fully embrace and value my gift of administration, as well as encourage others to do the same.
Administration is often misunderstood to be about typing, filing and clerical work. To study administration is to study how to lead and manage change. Administration is leadership. Misunderstanding, devaluing or disowning this gift is a huge mistake, particularly at this moment in history. We live in the days of the greatest change and opportunity this world has ever seen. The corporate world has grasped this and has stewarded increase with great skill, creativity and hard work.
At the same time, the church is hesitant to embrace the very gift that will enable it to carry out the God-given assignment of stewarding increase, change and transformation.