Friday, February 29, 2008

Today's Quote

“Unless the pastors wake up to avert judgment, there will be judgment on America. If we don’t respond we are going to lose this nation.”—Larry Stockstill

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Pastor Brady Boyd Speaks Out On Church Security

New Life Church Pastor Brady Boyd speaks out on church security preparedness. One place where leaders made a conscious choice not to wait until their kids die was New Life Church in Colorado Springs, CO. The story of concealed handgun license-holder and New Life Church member Jeanne Assam's brave actions to stop a murderous rampage killer when he stormed onto the church campus on that December Sunday morning won't soon be forgotten.

>>> Read more

What Kind of Team Members Does a Pastor Need?

As a pastor/leader, what kind of people do you surround yourself with? What kind of leadership team is needed to accomplish the Great Commission in a community of faith?

After years of working with successful teams, and teams that failed, let me offer the following suggestions:

  1. An Awesome Team Member ALWAYS Tells The Truth. You might consider invoking the following rule; nothing but the raw, honest, painful truth about ANYTHING that is being discussed in a leadership team meeting. As a leader YOU must make sure to do all that you can to create this type of environment. You MUST invite conflict. It does create tension … but this is how the best decisions are made. If the leader shares an idea and it is not good, he needs to know. If a team member is not truthful, he/she should be removed form the team. Life is too short to waste time and effort by being surrounded with people who avoid the truth.
  2. An Awesome Team Member ALWAYS Respects Everyone Else On The Team.
    Respect is absolutely necessary. I am convinced that the only reason that I am where I am in life is because of the favor and blessing of God, NEITHER of which I deserve. So, the leader deserves no more respect than any other member of the team. The leader must respect the team, the team must respect the leader, and the team must respect one another. If you have members on your team that you cannot respect for some reason, they should be removed from the team. You must love and listen to every team member. When they speak, you must listen. God has used them to fire you up, inspire you, teach you and humble you. If there is disrespect among the team members, the team will always drift toward dysfunction.
  3. An Awesome Staff Member Is Always Loyal. Loyalty is the highest on my list. The team must have one another's back. Now let me be very clear … the team should never conceal any type of sin and disguise it as “being loyal.” That, to me, is overriding a Biblical mandate with a desire for comfort. But, when someone else comes to a team member and tries to talk smack about someone else on the team, it should never be tolerated! That should not be put up with - ever. –we don’t put up with that–EVER. Trust is ESSENTIAL for a team to achieve its maximum potential. You can’t sit around a table with people who you believe are going to go out of the room and bash you to their friends and co-workers. Any team member guilty of being disloyal to the leader or any other member of the team must be removed immediately. Behind closed doors anyone should be free to say anything to anyone … but when the team walks out of that room, they must do so with one vision …and do not allow people to take your eyes off of it.
  4. An Awesome Team Member Never Seeks To Do The Minimum. If you have someone on your team who is constantly trying to get out of work (or who wants a divine marching band to play for him/her every time they seemingly go above and beyond) – WATCH OUT! Every team member must have a divine Call and a passion for that calling. When a project comes along, and gets assigned to someone on the team, it cannot be half-way done. God expects and deserves no less than our very best. Good team members make things happen. They are part of the solution, not part of the problem. Take time to make sure that God’s work is done with EXCELLENCE. Jesus Christ did not change the world with half-hearted, lazy, self seeking people whose biggest desire was to play solitaire on their computer! He turned the world upside down with men and women who were willing to go wherever and do whatever He asked of them … and He’s still seeking the same type of people today.

Engage 21 Conference Tomorrow & Friday

The Engage 21 Conference starts tomorrow at North Cleveland Church of God in Cleveland, Tennessee.

There will be a COG Theological Seminary alumni breakfast on February 29 at 7:30 a.m. at the Seminary.

3 Ways to Cultivate a Culture of Risk

[From Ministry Best Practices by Bill Reichart]

Most churches say that they risk. Most pastors believe that they are risk takers. But too often risk just becomes a buzz word. Also, most often our commitment to risk will only tolerate success - not failure. If when we risk, roll the dice and it comes up craps - we blame, we recoil and we won't risk again. If, as a leader, that becomes your response and reaction, your staff and ministry leaders will pick up on the message, "Don't RISK!" loud and clear. The staff and leaders may hear from you in the pulpit or within the staff meetings that you desire "risk," but the ata-boys really only come when you play it safe and produce mediocre success. You are sending mixed messages. Cultivating a culture of risk isn't easy and it won't come naturally, so you will need to be intentional.

How to cultivate a culture a risk:
  1. As a Leader -You need to Lead by Risking Boldly! If you really want your church to risk boldly, there is no shortcut than you leading out front. I can't say it any better than Bil Cornelius said at the recent Evolve conference for church planters. Therefore, if you want to hear about risking as a leader, I recommend listing to Bil Cornelius' talk given at this past Evolve Conference. You can find it HERE.
  2. Empower your leaders. If you are micro-managing your leaders, then you are not willing to risk. Cast the vision, define the outcomes and then release and empower your leaders. How do you empower them? One way is to make sure that they know your budgets. Budgets should give them freedom. They shouldn't have to be apologetic when they spend money - that is what the money is there for. (It is wise to have accountability though - for purchases over $1000 our leaders must have their supervisor's approval). But for most stuff - make sure they have permission to spend it in order to accomplish their objectives.
  3. Evaluate! Evaluate! Evaluate! You should always take the time evaluate. With risk there is going to be failure. Not everything you attempt is going to be a home run. That is why evaluation is important. You can LEARN from failure for the next time you risk. Do you remember your school experience growing up? I certainly do. In elementary school I spent my time split between two places - my 3rd. grade classroom and the principle's office. The classroom was the place where I learned. The principle's office is where I got disciplined. Failure should be like a classroom and not a principle's office. Failure should become a classroom to learn within and not the principle's office to be punished. Allow yourself to learn from your failures.

“Far better it is to dare mighty things, to win glorious triumphs, even though checkered by failure, than to take rank with those poor souls who neither enjoy much nor suffer much, because they live in the gray twilight that knows neither victory nor defeat.” - Theodore Roosevelt

Death Announcement - Carol Howell

Carol Howell passed away this morning following a long illness.

Carol was the wife of television producer Dan Howell of World Impact (Voice of Salvation), and Chattanooga local television.

http://www.vosministries.org/home.cfm

The National Pastor Conference Opened Yesterday

Nearly 2,000 pastors and ministry workers convened in San Diego Tuesday for the opening day of the National Pastors Convention (NPC). The four-day event is designed to be a Christ-centered vacation spot for pastors and ministry leaders each year to re-energize them physically and spiritually while offering opportunities for leaders to grow.

"This year marks the 8th annual National Pastor Convention and we're excited to welcome returning attendees from previous years as well as new people experiencing the NPC for the first time," says Joe Sherman, vice president of pastor and church engagement for Zondervan, in a statement. "These next few days are designed to meet the unique needs of those in ministry through nourishment, engagement, and connection."

NPC is presented by Christian publisher Zondervan in partnership with InterVarsity Press. During the convention, attendees can participate in critical concern courses, an educational track on Hispanic ministry, and over 60 seminars featuring more than 50 speakers on a variety of relevant topics. Seminar speakers include Chuck Colson, Krista Tippett and John Ortberg. Musical and comedic entertainment, including The House of Blues Gospel Choir, Ken Medema, and Sylvia St. James, will also be featured.

“This may have saved my life,” testified an attendee last year identified as Darrin H. from Pennsylvania. “I reflected, wept, was convicted, refreshed, encouraged, broken, filled, appreciated, entertained, and motivated to pursue Jesus in a new way.”

Pastors are encouraged to unwind during the convention for a week without a “hectic ministry schedule.” “No meetings. No late-night phone calls. No sermon preparation,” the NPC 2008 brochure enticed. “A week where you can nourish your soul, engage your mind, and connect in meaningful conversation,” it offered. “Or, if you prefer, you can just kick back in the warmth of the sun, relax by the pool, and appreciate the wonders of God’s creation in sunny San Diego.”

The National Pastors Convention will conclude Friday.

[http://www.zondervan.com/cultures/en-us/npc]

Are you the pastor of a GROWING church?

David Foster writes, "Every pastor, just like every businessman, wants to be successful. For both pastors and businessmen the same criteria are applied for success – are you growing? Now if you take the attendance from this past Sunday, depending on whether it was a good day or a bad day, you might feel really good about the growth of your church. And attendance is important, no matter what anyone says. We all count. We know who’s there. And when we avoid counting, it’s because we know there were fewer people there today than there were this time last year. We just simply know these things. But the question is, how do you know if you’re the pastor of a growing church? What criteria do you use? Here are four that I think are grounded in the principles of Scripture..."

David then shares four areas of growth he thinks are great measures, rather than just looking at attendance figures:
  1. Are you growing together in love? (Not just the words.)
  2. Are you growing up in Christ?
  3. Are you growing out through ministry?
  4. Are you growing more through conversion?

David goes into more detail on each of these points at his blog. Go over and read… it’s good!

So, how do YOU measure growth in your church? Are you the pastor of a GROWING church?

What We Know About Religion In America Today

As reported in USA Today, there is an interesting new study out about religion in America. According to the article here are the main findings:
  • Faith is fluid: 44% say they're no longer tied to the religious or secular upbringing of their childhood. They've changed religions or denominations, adopted a faith for the first time or abandoned any affiliation altogether.
  • "Nothing" matters: 12.1% say their religious identity is "nothing in particular," outranking every denomination and tradition except Catholics (23.9%) and all groups of Baptists (17.2%).
  • Protestants are fading: 51.3% call themselves Protestant, but roughly one-third of this group were "unable or unwilling" to describe their denomination.
  • Immigrants sustain Catholic numbers: 46% of foreign-born U.S. adults are Catholics, compared with only 21% of native-born adults. Latinos are now 45% of all U.S. Catholics ages 18-29.

I'm Taking a Sabbatical

Pastors rarely serve a church that understands the need for sabbatical. Congregations tend to have very high, sometimes unreasonable, expectations. They expect a pastor to give and give of himself without the opportunity to recharge.

Conferences and conventions are not a vacation - they are hard work. They are necessary to stay abreast of what God is doing in the Kingdom, but they are not time off. They can be inspiring and motivating, but no physical or emotional restoration takes place. Even events called "retreat" are rarely an actual retreat. Most "retreats" have jam packed schedules, sessions, interaction, and professional development.

After 23 years of pastoring and 30 years of ministry, here is what I have learned:
  • All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.
  • I think, dream, and lead on another level when I take occasional breaks.
  • You need tension to grow. You also need release. Resting a muscle that you've exercised is as important as exercising. The tension is partially destructive. The rest brings repair.
  • I used to live a life largely devoid of reflection. That changed 2 years ago thankfully. I’m wiser and slightly more balanced. Elected rest beats forced rest.
  • A change of place and a change of pace equals a fresh perspective.
So, Yvonne and I are off to a destination unknown for the month of March. We will be reading, writing, reflecting, meditating, journaling, and praying alone with God without a schedule. I call it "seclusion with God." We will be listening for His voice, His will, and His direction. When we return April 1, we hope to be refreshed, recharged, rejuvenated, and clear with a vision for the future.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Today's Quote

"The happiest people I know are the ones who have learned how to hold everything loosely and have given the worrisome, stress-filled, fearful details of their lives into God's keeping." ~ Charles R. Swindoll

Building Loyality

The erosion of employer-employee loyalty in the workplace has been the subject of much debate and consternation. Economic downturns make employers appear ruthless when they layoff their workers. Employee infidelity seems to be the norm as workers search incessantly for more lucrative or more fulfilling work. Gone are the days of forty year careers followed by hefty pensions. Frequent job transitions are the new reality. In observing this shift, many have referred to the death of workplace loyalty, claiming that workers are all free agents now.

An organizational culture bereft of loyalty is doomed. With too little loyalty, motivation plummets and cynicism threatens to divide workers from the organizations in which they serve.

In a climate of disloyalty, backstabbing, second-guessing, and finger-pointing infect relationships and destroy productivity.

What can a leader do to earn the loyalty or his or her people?

Read the full article...

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Church Scene in America is Changing Fast

The U.S. religious marketplace is extremely volatile, with nearly half of American adults leaving the faith tradition of their upbringing to either switch allegiances or abandon religious affiliation altogether, a new survey finds. The study released Monday by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life is unusual for it sheer scope, relying on interviews with more than 35,000 adults to document a diverse and dynamic U.S. religious population.

While much of the study confirms earlier findings — mainline Protestant churches are in decline, non-denominational churches are gaining and the ranks of the unaffiliated are growing — it also provides a deeper look behind those trends, and of smaller religious groups.

"The American religious economy is like a marketplace — very dynamic, very competitive," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum. "Everyone is losing, everyone is gaining. There are net winners and losers, but no one can stand still. Those groups that are losing significant numbers have to recoup them to stay vibrant."

The U.S. Religious Landscape Survey estimates the United States is 78 percent Christian and about to lose its status as a majority Protestant nation, at 51 percent and slipping.

More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.

One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.

"In the past, certain religions had a real holding power, where people from one generation to the next would stay," said Penn State University sociologist Roger Finke, who consulted in the survey planning. "Right now, there is a dropping confidence in organized religion, especially in the traditional religious forms."

Lugo said the 44 percent figure is "a very conservative estimate," and more research is planned to determine the causes.

"It does seem in keeping with the high tolerance among Americans for change," Lugo said. "People move a lot, people change jobs a lot. It's a very fluid society."

The religious demographic benefiting the most from this religious churn is those who claim no religious affiliation. People moving into that category outnumber those moving out of it by a three-to-one margin.

The majority of the unaffiliated — 12 percent of the overall population — describe their religion as "nothing in particular," and about half of those say faith is at least somewhat important to them. Atheists or agnostics account for 4 percent of the total population.

The Roman Catholic Church has lost more members than any faith tradition because of affiliation swapping, the survey found. While nearly one in three Americans were raised Catholic, fewer than one in four say they're Catholic today. That means roughly 10 percent of all Americans are ex-Catholics.

The share of the population that identifies as Catholic, however, has remained fairly stable in recent decades thanks to an influx of immigrant Catholics, mostly from Latin America. Nearly half of all Catholics under 30 are Hispanic, the survey found.

On the Protestant side, changes in affiliation are swelling the ranks of nondenominational churches, while Baptist and Methodist traditions are showing net losses.

Many Americans have vague denominational ties at best. People who call themselves "just a Protestant," in fact, account for nearly 10 percent of all Protestants.

Although evangelical churches strive to win new Christian believers from the "unchurched," the survey found most converts to evangelical churches were raised Protestant.

Hindus claimed the highest retention of childhood members, at 84 percent. The group with the worst retention is one of the fastest growing — Jehovah's Witnesses. Only 37 percent of those raised in the sect known for door-to-door proselytizing said they remain members.

Among other findings involving smaller religious groups, more than half of American Buddhists surveyed were white, and most Buddhists were converts.

More people in the survey pool identified themselves as Buddhist than Muslim, although both populations were small — less than 1 percent of the total population. By contrast, Jews accounted for 1.7 percent of the overall population.

The self-identified Buddhists — 0.7 percent of those surveyed — illustrate a core challenge to estimating religious affiliation: What does affiliation mean?

It's unclear whether people who called themselves Buddhists did so because they practice yoga or meditation, for instance, or claim affiliation with a Buddhist institution.

The report does not project membership figures for religious groups, in part because the survey is not as authoritative as a census and didn't count children, Lugo said. The U.S. Census does not ask questions on religion.

[Copyright 2008 Associated Press. All rights reserved.]

International Assembly 2008


Today's Quote

"If there is a mist in the pulpit, there will be a fog in the pews?"

The Power of Purpose

Time Management

Do you have trouble getting done things done? Are you chronically late for appointments? Do you find yourself constantly procrastinating? If so, your problem could be a bottom-heavy schedule. According to blogger Scott H. Young, people who get things done tend to have a "top-heavy" schedule. Procrastinators, people who always run late, and people who can't finish all their tasks in a given time period usually operate on a "bottom-heavy" schedule. What is a top-heavy schedule? Young provides these definitions:

“Being top-heavy means the bulk of the work is at the start. A top-heavy joke has a long build-up for a short punch line. A top-heavy schedule emphasizes the start, leaving more space at the end. When it comes to productivity, there are a few things you can make more top-heavy:
  • Volume of Work. Put most of your work earlier in your schedule. This could mean working all morning while having little to do in the evenings.
  • Importance of Work. Put your most important tasks first. Do the tasks that have a long-term impact before taking on the minor problems.
  • Difficulty of Work. Put the hardest tasks first, when you have the most energy. I love writing articles, but it takes a great deal of energy and thought before writing each post. Putting my writing work earlier lets me write when I’m the most energetic.

A bottom-heavy schedule would be the opposite. It would place the most work, the most important work, and the most difficult work at the end of your schedule. This is a recipe for procrastination as you burn yourself out on the tasks that don’t matter.”

All of us want to be the most effective in our ministry work. Rearranging our tasks into a top-heavy schedule may be just the trick!

You can find other great tips at Young’s blog.

Church Plant

[By Kathy Todd]

C hrist Jesus (center of focus)
H oly Spirit led and filled
U nity (many in faith with one purpose and goal: The Great Commission)
R eal Faith with action
C onquer Satans schemes and confusion
H eart Connection with God, Jesus and Holy Spirit (the 3 figures of the Godhead)

P revail with superior strength and power
L ove with lasting influence to further God's Kingdom: The Great Command
A nointing of Almighty God
N ew Beginning functioning in God's will
T rue Worship with heart, body , mind, soul and spirit

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Church Planting Strategy

  1. Is Christ-centered in its emphasis on seeing Him made incarnate in every cluster of 500 to 1,000 people in the world;
  2. Is built on the comprehensive plan of God who is not willing that any should perish;
  3. Focuses on the systematic occupation of the land;
  4. Takes advantage of the practical and emotional values of a whole-country approach;
  5. Releases the incredible power of information;
  6. Delivers a prophetic message to the Church;
  7. Harnesses the vast energies inherent in working towards a measurable, time-bound goal;
  8. Emphasizes the "best method under heaven;"
  9. Helps the body of Christ function effectively as a body;
  10. Releases the great potential of denominations;
  11. Encourages parachurch organizations to function truly "alongside" the Church;
  12. Provides a frame of reference for national and worldwide strategy for the discipling of the nations.

Church Planting For a Greater Harvest

In his book, "Church planting for a greater harvest", Peter Wagner makes this observation, "Without exception, the growing denominations have been those that stress church planting." Many denominations talk about church growth and has intentions to plant churches, but that is as far as it goes. They have neither a plan nor strategy and are often too proud to ask for help.

In South Africa, noticeable events have taken place, which I believe will impact this nation greatly. Dr. Isak Burger, Moderator of the Apostolic Faith Mission, is busy mobilizing his denomination to formulate a growth plan through church planting and they are by no means a declining denomination! A recent case study on this denomination is included in this publication.

The Baptist Union also has a definite vision. The Cell Church Movement in South Africa, led by Pastor Harold Weitsz, is now writing church planting into their materials and has asked DAWN Africa to help them in this regard. But these are growing groups. What about those in decline? You can do what the Church of England in the UK did. They embarked on a DAWN project and after a 20-year decline they are now showing tremendous growth.

Church Planting Model

[Click on image to enlarge it.]

Do you have a church planting vision?

Show me a denomination in decline and I will show you a denomination without a church planting vision. Show me a country where the Christian population is stagnant or in decline and I will show you the denominations within it, with no church planting vision. It stands to reason. Yet, there are now numerous countries that show major evangelical growth since the denominations and church groups settled on a specific national church planting goal. Examples of these are the Philippines, China, Brazil (in fact most of Latin America) Ghana and Zimbabwe. In every continent of the world there are church planting movements breaking through the barriers of evil resistance, bringing the glory of the Lord, the incarnate presence of Christ into their communities.

Do you smell like fish?

Jesus came to Earth to gather a planet full of fish. He knew fish. He loved fish. His passion was fish. Hang with fish and you will pick up their odor. When was the last time you heard someone compliment another with a ‘You smell of fish’ remark…

He was not a technique person. His only plan was
  • find fish
  • hang with fish
  • love fish
  • accept fish
  • heal fish… (you get the idea…)

The Advantages of Church Planting

Few people realize that planting new churches has always been more effective than adding on, or building new facilities for an existing church. Consider these points, drawn from Dawn Ministries:
  • New churches grow faster than old ones.
  • Church planting can give new life and vitality to your church.
  • More types of churches are needed.
  • Church planting develops new leadership.
  • Church planting is the best method of evangelism in a nation.
  • New churches can stimulate existing churches.
  • Church planting will bring a new awareness and compassion for the lost.
  • Church planting often re-emphasizes the principle of sowing and reaping.
  • Church planting will bring a world vision to your church.

Is Church Planting The Key?

Simply put, it’s a proven and much better strategy to start new churches than to expect established ones to be able to penetrate their their communities anymore than they already have.

How much have existing churches grown in the last 30 years? Sure, there have been some surges of growth in different churches, but the net result has not increased.

That’s why church planting is so important. Local church leaders must be actively praying and looking for families and individuals in nearby towns who are open to starting a new work, most often in their living room.

Whatever you may have thought about the church in America before, I hope you at least pause long enough to pray for it. The Bride of Christ must make herself ready for her Groom. It is far past time for us all to be content and happy with status quo. We must vigorously pursue the glory of Christ by proclaiming his love to our neighborhoods and the nations.

Perhaps you would be willing to begin praying about starting a new work? If so, I’d love to hear from you.

Church Planting Observations

  • Church planters often resort to “business models” and demographic studies to determine where to plant their church.
  • After such studies are made, inevitably a growing suburb of a large urban area is selected.
  • Few churches in the rural South have ever intentionally started another church. (There have been many unintentional church starts; we call them splits.)
  • Even churches reknown for their focus on planting other churches tend to use an event model, even though the church of origin most likely did not start that way. You hear of “Launch Sundays” and the like, but there is no space shuttle, only a church-in-a-box, complete with musicians and in some cases, fully-supported, multiple staffs.
  • Our current church culture encourages new churches to be “up and running” as soon as possible, and as a result, seems to discourage a bivocational model for church planters.
  • There is an unhealthy preoccupation with numbers, buildings, and programs.

The Need For Church Planting in North America

  1. There are 195,000,000 non-churched people in America, making America one of the top four unchurched nations in the world.
  2. In spite of the rise of megachurches, no county in America that we know of has a greater church population than it did 10 years ago.
  3. During the last 10 years, combined communicant church membership of all Protestant denominations declined by 9.5% while the national population increased during the same time by 11.4%.
  4. Each year 3500-4000 churches close their doors forever, while only as many as 1500 new churches are planted.
  5. There are now nearly 60% fewer churches per 10,000 persons in American than there were in 1920. (1920 - 27 churches for every 10K Americans, 1950 - 17 churches for every 10K Americans, 1996 - 11 churches for every 10K Americans).
  6. Today, of approximately 350,000 churches in America, four out of five are either plateaued or declining.
  7. One American denomination recently found that 80% of its new converts came in churches that were less than two years old.
  8. “The single most effective evangelistic methodology under heaven is planting new churches.” - Peter Wagner

Church-Planting Movements Need Four Things to be Successful

  1. A Common Ideology - Our mission is the "Great Commission." This movement was built on that mission. Have we remained a movement, or have we become institutionalized? Do we still have a vision for reproductive? Has every pastor been challenged to be about the biblical (2 Timothy 2:2) vision of reproducing? Have we truly focused on reproducing: Leaders (it takes leaders to reproduce small groups), Artists (it takes artists to reproduce large gatherings), small groups, congregations (celebration services), campuses, and churches? Do we provide equipping and accountability to reproduce? While the church must be about helping people find their way back to God and developing Christ-followers who celebrate, connect, and contribute, what will draw us together and move us forward is our vision for reproducing.
  2. Apostolic Leadership - I had a seminary professor very hip on this idea. I claim no expertise on defining or identifying contemporary apostolic leadership, but I do know what Scripture teaches. Ephesians 4:11-12 says, “It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up . . .” Apostolic leadership is at the heart of new movements of God. Movements require the kind of leadership that is willing to pick up and start all over again ... again and again, the kind of leadership that values the edge over the center, the new over the established. It’s the kind of leadership that inspires people to do what only God can do through them. I know it is not easy, believe me. Not all old established churches are willing to make the transition. But, we are praying and seeking God for those kind of leaders.
  3. A Reproducing Network - In order to accomplish this New Testament mandate, the church structure may have to become more of a network. In other words, strong churches helping weak churches, large churches reproducing themselves by starting a new mission in the next town and mothering that new mission or those new missions for the long term - a cluster of churches led by the mother church. These clusters would be led by lead pastors from churches that have a history of reproducing as well as a vision for continuing to reproduce. These networks might follow basic principles of small group multiplication. Each Apostolic Network Leader would identify an apprentice who he equips and eventually releases to launch a new network. These networks also provide peer coaching, the opportunity and accountability for reproducing congregations, campuses, and new churches.
  4. Regular Gatherings - Leaders must gather more often. It may not be an expensive gathering, but leaders must reconnect. These gatherings must be a great opportunity to be reminded of why we’re in this together, what God is up to, and how we can continue to catalyze this movement of reproducing churches. These gatherings must provide the relational glue that holds us together and gives everyone a glimpse of what God is doing and how each of us is contributing to something much more that we ever imagined possible.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Is God's Forgiveness Unconditional?

[By Tim]

Some time ago I promised an article on the subject of conditional versus unconditional forgiveness. I’ve had many false starts and have been largely unsatisfied with anything I’ve written on the subject. So I decided to simplify and to provide only an outline of my thoughts on the subject. I am, perhaps, a little less than perfectly confident in my beliefs on this subject which is why I do not wish to be too dogmatic. Instead, take this article this as my understanding of why forgiveness is to be conditional, not unconditional. I’ll just trace the progression of my position as I’ve looked to Scripture to seek to understand forgiveness. Much of my recent thought has been influenced by Chris Braun and his forthcoming volume Unpacking Forgiveness.

My first thoughts about this subject came at the time of the Columbine shootings. Shortly after those two boys terrorized the school and took their own lives doing so, I remember seeing a photograph of students standing outside the school holding signs that side “We forgive you.” I remember being surprised and incensed. Why would anyone wish to forgive people who caused such pain and destruction, who expressed no remorse and who sought no forgiveness. It seemed to me that it made a mockery of forgiveness to extend it to those who did not want it. The same thing happened when at the recent Virginia Tech shootings—people forgave the killer, but only after his death and without him expressing any regret or remorse. What is it that bothered me about this?

Let me build my case for conditional forgiveness step-by-step.

Forgive as God Forgives

According to the Bible, our forgiveness of one another is to follow God’s model of forgiveness. We see this in several New Testament passages.
  • Matthew 6:12b “…forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.”
  • Ephesians 4:32 “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.”
  • Colossians 3:13 “…bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.”

In each case you’ll notice the little word as. We are to forgive as God forgives or in the same manner as He forgives. Thus we must first understand how God forgives if we are to rightly forgives. That would be a long and deep study, though no doubt a good one. For our purposes, though, we’ll narrow in on just one area.

God’s forgiveness, according to Chris Brauns, is “a commitment by the one true God to pardon graciously those who repent and believe so that they are reconciled to him, although this commitment does not eliminate all consequences.” That seems to me to be a good working definition and one that encompasses what the Bible teaches on the subject. Key words are “commitment,” “pardon,” “graciously,” “repent,” “believe,” and reconciled.” I cannot touch on all of those today, so I will leave you to read Brauns’ book when it becomes available. It will be a blessing to you.

God’s Forgiveness Is Conditional

It is beyond any reasonable dispute that God’s forgiveness is conditional. God is not a universalist who chooses to forgive all men for their offense against Him. Nor does He offer forgiveness without expectation or condition. Rather, God forgives only those who turn to Him in repentance and who put their trust in Him. We affirm that God’s offer of forgiveness is universal, in that He extends it to all of humanity. But the reality of forgiveness is only for those who accept the conditions of faith and repentance. Proof for this assertion can be found throughout Scripture, but perhaps no more clearly than in 1 John.

1 John 1:8-9 “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

Forgiveness and the cleansing it brings is conditional on a confession of our sin (which is an inevitable act of those who have placed their faith in Him).

So we’ve seen that we are to model God’s forgiveness and have seen that God’s forgiveness is conditional. Would God hold us to a higher standard?

God Does not Hold Us to a Higher Standard

Nowhere in the Bible do I find that God holds us to a higher standard of forgiveness than He does. If God’s forgiveness is conditional, and if we are to model Him, our forgiveness will also be conditional. Of course we will also freely offer forgiveness and we will pursue and long for the ability to extend forgiveness. We will seek reconciliation. But we will not forgive those who are not repentant. This makes sense when we understand that, in its fullest sense, forgiveness requires repentance.

According to Brauns, human forgiveness is “a commitment by the offended to pardon graciously the repentant from moral liability and to be reconciled to that person, although not all consequences are necessarily eliminated.” Forgiveness is a commitment to restore broken or disrupted relationship. It is a letting go of the anger or hurt that has been caused and is a commitment to restoration. It is a commitment to no longer hold an offense and its moral liability against a person. This can only happen when one person repents and the other extends forgiveness. The ultimate aim of forgiveness is to restore relationship, but a relationship can only be restored when both parties are willing. There cannot be communion when one party is willing and the other is not. To state that there has been full forgiveness in such a case is to make a mockery of the biblical concept of forgiveness.

So there is my case. To summarize it simply: We are to model God’s forgiveness; God forgives conditionally; there we are to forgive conditionally.

Consequences May Remain

None of this is to say that forgiveness automatically revokes consequences. There may be times when forgiveness allow us to overlook certain consequences, such as when a wife whose husband has been unfaithful chooses to forgive, reconcile and remain with him even while she could justly divorce him (though, in such a case, there will certainly be other consequences, such as a lack of trust). But there are many other occasions when forgiveness will still require consequences. A man may be forgiven by a person he abused, but this does not mean he should escape the jail time that is a just consequence of his actions. We may forgive and still demand that a person face the consequences of his sin.

There will be times when reconciliation is extremely difficult and perhaps near impossible. A woman who was savagely raped may extend forgiveness to a repentant attacker, but it is unlikely that complete reconciliation will be possible. Such a crime is so horrific and it cuts so deep that these people may never be able to enjoy the kind of Christian fellowship they might otherwise enjoy. These cases, though rare and tragic, are a sad consequence of living in a sinful world. In heaven even these two will enjoy unbroken communion and full reconciliation may have to wait until that time. This is both a consequence of the offense and of life in a sinful world.

Conclusion

This may be entirely unsatisfying to you. I know questions will remain and I will attempt to address some of those as they arise. Already I anticipate one or two. Regardless, follow my argument and I think you will see it does hold merit and that it can be reasonably defended from the Bible. If you disagree with me, it may be helpful to follow the argument and to show the point where you feel it derailed.

Have at it!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Can a Pastor have close friends?

How do pastors make and keep good friends? There are a couple of different camps out there ... one says that close friends are vital to ministry; the other says that pastors and ministry leaders need to keep their distance and avoid making friends.

Here are some of the reasons it is challenging for pastors to maintain intimate friendships:
  • Some pastors move often from church to church making it hard to develop lasting close friendships.
  • Most lay-people will say that they understand you are a “real person,” but many really don’t believe that. As much as they think they look at you as normal people, they still generally have higher expectations for you.
  • Because people generally have higher expectations of pastors, it is easy for pastors to blow their expectations.
  • Most church members talk differently to pastors.
  • When a friend who is a church member leaves the church, it is very hard for pastors not to take it personally. This can cause a pastor to fear future intimacy with church members.
  • In my experience, losing friendships can be as hard (or much harder) on the spouses than the ministers.
  • People like to talk about ministers. Because people are watching so closely, we often crave privacy. Without knowing it, we can “wall people out.”
  • Church members can be mean.

Any of these ring true with you?

Top 10 Leadership Mistakes

  1. Hiring Too Fast. Firing Too Slow. Every minute I delay in firing, I take away opportunity for God to work in that person’s life.
  2. Putting Projects before the People. Embrace the tension and find the balance between leadership and shepherding.
  3. Trying to Fix the Problem Rather than the Process. Ninety percent of the time it isn’t a people-problem. It is a process-problem.
  4. Delegating Tasks Instead of Responsibility. It is hard to delegate, because many times I (wrongly) think I’m the only one who can do it right.
  5. Assuming it is Always Black and White. Following rules is a lot easier than trying to deal with relationships.
  6. Not Following my Gut. When we stop listening to God, he stops talking to us (consider the 13-year gap when God stopped talking to Abraham).
  7. Dwelling on the Worst-Case Scenario. Worry might not be your issue, but everyone has an issue that can derail them.
  8. Waiting Until There’s a Problem to Provide Feedback. I have to discipline myself to encourage my team.
  9. Staying Busy. It is a lie, but I tend to think if I’m staying busy, I’m adding value to my organization.
  10. Spending Too Much Time on the Details Rather than the Dreams.

[You can read more, including some other great quoteables from Tony over at Tim’s LeadingSmart.com. And, you can get daily wisdom from Tony each and every day at TonyMorganLIVE.com!]

So… How many of Tony’s mistakes have you also been guilty of? And what can you learn from Tony’s mistakes?

Detoxifying The Church

[By Ryan Hale]

I'll admit it right now; the meanest people I've ever met in my life are Christians. And those people will manipulate everything and everyone to get some power in the church because it gives them an avenue of legitimacy to just run over people. Stories are legion of deacons who are almost the Anti-Christ in charcter and action. I remember one lady in particular . . . never mind.

All of those things wound people. It is real. It hurts. And it is killing churches because they are losing numbers every day.

The answer is that the church needs to seriously evaluate itself. It means taking a long, hard look at what it is, why it is, how it got there, and where it wants to go. It means detoxifying itself -- a very painful process. It means talking to the community, former members, people who dislike the church and even people who simply "heard rumors" and then face up to its image and history. For many churches, it will mean public apologies and private weeping over past sins.

[You can read his entire blog at http://www.thatbaptistaintright.blogspot.com/.]

Clergy, Tax, and Social Security

Prior to 1968 a member of the clergy had to elect to be covered by social security.

If you are duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church, you are covered by social security and Medicare under the self employment tax provisions for the services you perform in your capacity as a minister unless you have requested and received a tax exemption from self employment tax. This is true whether you are an employee of your church or a self employed person under the common law rules.

Unless an ordained member of the clergy objects to social security benefits based upon conscientious or religious grounds he/she is subject to self employment tax. To object you must file Form 4361. The form must be filed before the due date of your tax return for the second taxable year in which you earned $400 or more from work as a member of the clergy. The social security self employment tax exemption is irrevocable.

What is duly ordained, commissioned, or licensed minister of a church? The term duly ordained minister of religion means a person: {who has been ordained in accordance with the ceremonial ritual or discipline of a church, religious sect, or organization established on the basis of a community or faith and belief, doctrines and practices of a religious character}, {who preaches and teaches the doctrines of such church, sect or organization}, {who administers the rites and ceremonies thereof in public worship}, {who, as his/her regular and customary vocation, preaches and teaches the principles of religion}, and {who administers the ordinances or sacerdotal duties of public worship as embodied in the creed or principles of such church, sect or organization}.

Although as a licensed ordained, commissioned or licensed minister you are considered a self employed individual for social security purposes, you may be considered an employee for other tax purposes or putting it bluntly you are considered an employee by the IRS.

Self employment tax does not apply to any post-retirement benefits or the rental value of any parsonage or parsonage allowance.

Under these tax rules, you are considered an employee or a self employed person depending on all the facts and circumstances. Generally, you are an employee if your employer has the legal right to control both what you do and how you do it, even if you have considerable discretion and freedom of action.

If you are not considered an employee in performing your ministerial services, you will figure taxable net earnings on Form 1040, Schedule C. Figure your self employment tax on Form 1040, Schedule SE. If you earn or receive taxable income during the tax year that is not subject to tax withholding, or if you do not have enough income tax withheld, you may have to pay estimated tax.

The law requires all churches to apply for an Employer’s Identification Number (EIN) even if they do not have employees. Much like an individual’s social security number, your EIN (federal identification number) is used as an identifier on all federal tax returns and on all correspondence with the IRS. A State tax number should not be confused with a Federal Employer’s Identification Number (FEIN). Possession of an EIN is NOT evidence of tax-exempt status. You can apply for your EIN (Form SS-4) immediately from the comfort of your computer.

Background Checks

Screening youth and children’s workers is a hit-or-miss practice in today’s churches. One out of every four pastors (23%) admitted their congregation has little or no protective screening processes for the people working with young people. That equates to more than 70,000 Protestant congregations that do not give sufficient attention to protecting young people.

Slightly more than half of all pastors gave their church high marks for doing "thorough background or reference checks of the people working with children and youth" (57% said this description was a "very accurate" of their church). However, another one-fifth of pastors (20%) described their efforts as merely "somewhat" thorough.

Larger churches are generally more vigilant than smaller ministries. For instance, churches with more than 250 adult attenders were the most likely to evaluate workers very carefully (78%), while congregations of less than 100 adults were the least likely to engage in such practices (49%). About three-fifths of mid-sized churches (attendance of 100 to 250, 62%) said their church is well described by such practices.

Many other subgroup differences emerged when it came to doing a thorough job of evaluating children’s and youth workers. Congregations in the West (75%) were more likely than those in the Northeast (60%), South (56%), or Midwest (50%) to report strong levels of such screening. Churches comprised primarily of white attenders (54%) were less likely to report security screening than were congregations with primarily non-white individuals (69%). Churches led by a pastor who had graduated from a seminary were slightly more likely than congregations whose pastor lacked a seminary degree to pursue security measures (60% versus 51%).

In terms of age and experience, churches pastored by Baby Boomers (ages 43 to 61) more frequently took part in security checks (60%) than did Protestant ministries led by pastors from the Baby Bust generation (52% among pastors 42 or under) or those older than Boomers (55% among those 62 or older). Similarly, those in full-time ministry for fewer than 10 years were less likely to claim thorough worker-screening (50%) than were ministry veterans of 10 years or more (61%).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Men's Ministry

Men's Ministry Network (MMN) helps pastors and men’s ministry leaders – men like you – to Call, Connect, and Coach Christian men to live the transformed life of Authentic Manhood – the manhood of Jesus Christ. Knowing how challenging this can be and having many years of experience, we can reduce your effort and improve your success with building men by offering:
  • 1:1 Coaching for you and your men’s leaders with access to knowledge, insights and resources that will enhance your ministry to men
  • Yearly Workshops on topics vital to the success of your men’s ministry
  • Networking with other men’s ministry leaders, both locally and nationally, for sharing ideas, resources and efforts
  • Annual Iron Sharpens Iron Men’s Conference – a world-class resource for you and your men, offering the Best-of-the Best in men’s speakers, equipping seminars and exhibits
  • Men’s Fraternity – an encouraging, proven process and resource that shows men how to live lives of authentic manhood
  • Retreat & Conference Speakers
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You can learn more about MMN by clicking here to download and print their brochure, or by visiting their website at http://click.icptrack.com/icp/relay.php?r=8912761&msgid=121087&act=U79I&c=161815&admin=0&destination=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.mensministry.org%2F.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

A Culture-Shift Is Needed In The American Church

[I highly recommend this book. In fact, I fear that the organized church in America is in trouble unless these New Testament principles are reinforced.]

A week after its release, the book entitled ChurchShift by the founding pastor of one of Europe’s largest churches broke Amazon.com’s top 10 Bestsellers list.

The new book by Sunday Adelaja, founding pastor of Ukraine’s 30,000-member God’s Embassy Church, hit No. 6 this week at its best on Amazon.com’s Bestsellers list after debuting on Feb. 8. ChurchShift was also ranked No. 1 on Amazon’s Christianity Bestsellers list before falling to No. 4 on Saturday.

Marketing of the book has been unique in that it ties its mission to change U.S. churches with performing well on Amazon.com’s Bestsellers list. The ChurchShift Web site urges Christian leaders to buy the book on Feb. 8-23 through Amazon.com so that Adelaja could receive the “press coverage he needs as a catalyst to accomplish the ChurchShift mission in the United States.”

The book’s mission is to spark a revolution in American culture – which Adelaja believes is in decay – by reforming 10,000 U.S. churches so that they will in turn reform American society. The ChurchShift author is seeking to prepare churches for what he believes will be a massive “shift” in focus and practice.

“As goes the Church, so goes America, and as goes America, so goes the world,” Adelaja stated. “We want 10,000 churches in the U.S. and 100,000 churches worldwide to SHIFT! This will be revolutionary!”

Some of the features in the book include how to:
  • avoid church splits and division;
  • change every Christian’s view of “My Ministry;”
  • inspire Christians to believe in supernatural outcomes;
  • equip church members to impact the seven spheres of society;
  • teach kingdom values for societal transformation; activate the potential of the local church;
  • change a nation by emerging from four walls of a church building; and
  • provide the keys to achieve national transformation.
Dr. James O. Davis, president of ChurchShift, believes the message from Ukraine will be welcomed in the United States.

“Most Christian leaders know that the greatest church growth in the world is taking place outside the US. Most recognize we need to recover our own culture, but do not know how,” Davis said. “ChurchShift provides a path of success for our times.”

The vision preached by Adelaja and practiced in his home church of Embassy of God is for every Christian believer to become a minister of the Gospel wherever they go. The vision is for church members to accept responsibility to bring the lifestyle of the Kingdom of God and its principles onto the earth in their daily lives.

“I believe in releasing people to bring the Kingdom of God into society,” Adelaja states. “This is my conclusion after many years of pastoring, two million conversions to Christianity, 600 church plants and more than 30,000 members in our home church.”

Davis noted that Embassy of God members bring their understanding of God’s Kingdom in social areas of influence. At least 600 congregants ran for public office in the last elections and one member is now the mayor of Kiev, a city of 4 million. Another member is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Ukraine and one young lady is representing God in entertainment as the reigning Miss Ukraine.

“If American Christians can get involved in their communities like Adelaja’s church members did in Ukraine, I believe we can see a major cultural revolution in our generation,” Davis said.

To introduce Adelaja’s new way to do church in America, “ChurchShift Breakfast” meetings for pastors and leaders will be held to study and discuss the Kingdom principles taught in the book. They have developed a strategy to organize 1,000 breakfasts and Adelaja is urging churches to arrange their own breakfasts and represent the Ukraine pastor and the ministry.

Adelaja grew up a poor orphan in Nigeria and was raised in a Christian home by his grandmother. He did not own a pair of shoes until he was 12 years old and had to earn a living from the age of six. Through the prayers of his Christian grandmother, Adelaja gave his life to Christ at 19 years old. He traveled to the Soviet Union to study journalism on a scholarship and later founded Embassy of God Church after the Soviet Union was dismantled.

The Embassy of God Church is the largest church in all of Europe with some 100,000 total members, including those from all its satellite locations. Although African, Pastor Adelaja’s church is 99 percent white Europeans. The church has planted more than 600 churches in more than 45 countries, including 20 churches in the United States.

http://www.churchshift.org/

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Prayer For Kenya

[From Bishop R. E. Howard, General Overseer of the Church of God of Prophecy]

Everyone involved would have hoped that the disruptions in Kenya would have ended by now. So after days without hearing any word, we have received a clear report from our overseer in Kenya, Bishop Cyril Odendo. I would like to ask all members and friends of the COGOP to pray intensely for the restoration of order and peace in Kenya. Here is some of the report received today.

Bishop Odendo writes:

I will address the issues under the following headings.

A) DEGENERATION OF PEACE - The fighting, deaths and eviction of people, which previously affected Rift Valley, Nyanza, Western Kenya, Nairobi and the Coastal Provinces has not only continued unabated but has also engulfed the Central provinces where organized but outlawed Mungiki gangs are killing non-residents mercilessly. The death toll which stood at 600 people has according to the government, which is keen on saving its face, gone up to 1000 people.

Nearly one million people are camping in areas purported to be safe like, the police stations, yet these have become the targets of killer gangs and the police are also known to be taking sides in the situation.

B) CHURCHES CLOSED OR DESTROYED - Nearly all our churches have closed in Trans Mara ,Timboroa , Naivasha, Kisii and parts of Nairobi, Nakuru and Migori. Many of our members have been forcefully evicted from their houses, property destroyed or stolen and some of our members are confirmed dead.

Whereas it is nearly impossible to travel by road in Kenya, some organizations are making arrangements for transport and security to evacuate their people from these hostile areas. In as much as Red Cross is overwhelmed by the growing number of needy people, there is a lot of hostility in the camps and many threats on their lives.

[Bishop Odendo goes on to report about Health Hazards due to the lack of civil services and government controls; Forced Evictions putting some members, believers, and innocents out from homes; Starvation in parts of the nation; Evacuation of Members who are in the most desperate areas; and sadly Funeral Arrangement Costs. Clearly the situation is no better and the collapse of government has created greater problems that are spreading over the nation. Please respond to this call for prayer for restoration of peace in the nation of Kenya.

All who wish to donate for emergency relief may give offerings specifically for the Kenya Crisis. Local churches may send their offerings through Harvest Partners and Individual donors may address their offerings to Helping Hands.

Send your donations to:
Church of God of Prophecy
Global Outreach Ministries
"Kenya Crisis"
PO Box 2910
Cleveland, TN 37312
(423) 559-5100
retha@cogop.org

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Christian Media


  • New! Incredible Teen Purity Video Clip

Attention: Youth Pastor's, Teen Director's and Preaching Pastor's.

New! for Teens and Adult Services, "Purity Matters", High Impact Video Clip (1:35) Perfect for Teens, Messages, and Discussion Starters.

Click Here to Preview and or to purchase.

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  • CMA to give away Clips/Images

Once a Month CMA will be giving away, at no cost, high quality clips/images. Why? because we want to Bless your Media Ministry for our Lord. Would you like to be included?

Email your contact info to info@ChristianMedia.org

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  • Need Custom Resources? Click a Link Below

Professional A/V Install,

Movie Reviews,

Home Videos,

New Neighbor Contacts,

More Images,

Church Websites

Monday, February 11, 2008

Prominent Pastor Goes To Prison

(Birmingham, AL) Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Greene denied Rev. Gregory Clarke's effort to remain free on bond while he appeals his income tax fraud conviction.

Chief U.S. Magistrate Judge Paul Greene denied the prominent pastor's effort to remain free on bond while he appeals his income tax fraud conviction.

Clarke, 53, was sentenced to serve 21 months in prison following his July 2007 trial on charges he filed false income tax returns for 2000, 2001 and 2002 tax years.

His attorneys had raised several issues on his behalf, including the racial makeup of the jury pool and whether there was evidence that Clarke used "sophisticated means" in committing the fraud. The judge conducted a Jan. 16 hearing in Birmingham's federal court and requested more information from defense lawyers and prosecutors before denying Clarke's request.

A Word From God

I received a prophetic word this morning from a true man of God:
"There are many who need their eyes opened and their hearts softened. We are facing a battle with the spirit of rebellion and disobedience. We deal with the influences of manipulation, intimidation and control. The spirit of selfishness and self-seeking has gripped the spirits of many; we must have the help of the Holy Spirit if we are to survive these attacks."

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Church Solutions Conference & Expo

The Church Solutions Conference & Expo is pleased to announce three noted Christian figures, Chip Heath, co-author "Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die;" Gabe Lyons, co-author of "unChristian;" and Tony Morgan, chief Strategic Officer at NewSpring Church; as the keynote speakers at the upcoming nationwide conference and trade show for church pastors, executives and administrators. The Church Solutions Conference & Expo takes place Feb. 12-14, 2008, at the Phoenix Convention Center.

"I'm looking forward to heading to Phoenix to participate in the Church Solutions Conference hosted by Church Solutions magazine," said Morgan, "Some of my favorite people ... will be speaking."

Produced by Church Solutions magazine, a Virgo Publishing LLC publication, conference highlights include more than 30 progressive education sessions that will focus on practical topics and issues facing today's churches. Presented in a unique peer-to-peer format, seminars include topics such as staff management, financing, small groups, volunteer programs, building projects, multi-site campuses, online initiatives, multi-use space, insurance, green, security, trends, marketing, facility management, pastor burnout and more.

Education is co-located with an exhibit hall featuring some of the finest products and services the church market has to offer. Education and exhibit hours do not overlap, allowing attendees to put their education to practice with full access to vendors that cater to the church market.
The conference also offers excellent networking opportunities for church leaders and their spouses, from planned events to impromptu gatherings. Phoenix's idyllic spring atmosphere plays host to a golf tournament, shopping and art gallery excursion, and day trip to Sedona.
"The Church Solutions Conference & Expo brings together the best speakers, vendors and networking in the church market under one roof," said Katherine Kennedy, publisher of Church Solutions magazine. "We look forward to welcoming attendees and their spouses to Phoenix and providing them with realistic solutions that they can implement in their congregations through exceptional education and spirited interaction with their peers."

For more information, visit www.churchsolutionsconference.com.
----------------------------

About Church Solutions:

Church Solutions magazine is the premier resource for today's forward-thinking church leaders. Every month, Church Solutions provides in-depth content on pertinent issues facing today's modern ministries, such as finance, education, construction, the Web, staff management and more. The publication has a companion Web site, www.churchsolutionsmag.com, a weekly e- newsletter, an annual FactBook; and hosts Webinars and publishes eBooks on a periodic basis.
It also hosts the Church Solutions Conference & Expo, one of the most cutting-edge national events serving the Church community. Held Feb. 12-14, 2008, downtown at the Phoenix Convention Center, this annual gathering unites pastors, church business administrators and executives, and related professionals in a nationwide exchange of information and experience.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

(Source: Christian Newswire)

Woman Mugged Leaving Church

A woman walking to her car from St. Mary's-on-the-Highlands Episcopal Church in Birmingham, Alabama this afternoon fought back when a man attempted to snatch her purse, according to a South Precinct officer.

The Rev. Rusty McCown said the woman, a longtime member of the church, suffered minor scrapes to her hands after falling down during the struggle.

"She's a tough lady," McCown said.

Police say the man left in a blue Ford Mustang with a Mississippi license plate. A woman was in the car with the suspect, police said.

National New Church Exponential Conference


It's going to be a huge gathering of church planters and church leaders ... and it's all coming up April 21-24 in Orlando. The National New Church Exponential Conference will be held at First Baptist Church, and I hope I'll see you there! This year they have a great line-up of speakers (like Rick Warren, Tim Keller, Andy Stanley, Alan Hirsh, and Ed Stetzer. There are also seven main tracks including pre-launch, post-launch, reproducing churches, multi-ethnic, missional, church planting spouses, and nuts and bolts. And, you'll have the opportunity to network with over 2,000 church planters and church leaders all in one place. But here's the deal... The early-bird rate ends this Friday. Here are some more details, and a brand new free podcast featuring Greg Hawkins from Willow Creek.

First off, here are some options for listening to the latest podcast featuring Greg Hawkins:

1. Go to the Exponential Conference Podcast Page here...

2. Subscribe to the RSS feed for the all the Exponential Conference podcasts here...

3. Go to the Itunes link for the podcasts...

4. Download the podcast directly from here...

The conference early-bird rate is just $129, but that GREAT price ends this Friday (February 15).

Be sure to register this week here!

Day of Purity


The Fifth Annual Day of Purity will be observed on Valentine’s Day, February 14, 2008. The Day of Purity is a day when youth make a public demonstration of their commitment to remain sexually pure, in mind and actions. Thousands of students across the United States and around the world will be celebrating St. Valentine’s Day by wearing white T-shirts to school that day to publicly show their commitment to not having sex outside of marriage.

As the so-called mainstream media continues to inundate our nation’s young people with messages and images glorifying sexual immorality, a new movement encouraging teens and adolescents to remain sexually pure is gathering steam. It’s called the Day of Purity, and it takes place each year on February 14. This grass-roots effort is supported by Christian groups nationwide and organized by Liberty Counsel, a conservative religious rights group based in Orlando, Florida.

Mathew Staver of Liberty Counsel believes it is high time to encourage young people to remain sexually pure and to resist the popular media messages that tell young people that sex is virtually expected behavior for them. He initiated the day to allow young people who choose to remain chaste to have a national organization that will encourage their efforts. In addition, he wanted to illustrate the dark options that await those who launch into sexual experimentation.

He points to recent studies showing that more than three million U.S. teens are infected each year with sexually transmitted diseases, and this country has the highest teen pregnancy rate among developed countries.

In addition, 20 percent of the annual 1.3 million abortions in the U.S. are performed on teens. Staver says that, given the devastating consequences of choosing sex outside a monogamous marital relationship, everyone should wholeheartedly support youth who are willing to make the commitment to sexual purity.

This day offers youth the opportunity to make that commitment. When you stand up for sexual purity you send a message to parents, churches, communities, legislators, and the media that it’s time for a positive change in our culture. Now is the time for our youth to let their voices be heard. They can be a part of the “counter culture” saying, “It’s time for change. We can make a difference.” Each year, more and more students and organizations around the world have joined in the effort to spread the potentially lifesaving message of sexual purity. This year, more than 600 organizations and people from nine foreign countries have expressed support for the day.

The Day of Purity is a great opportunity for parents and their children to talk together and pray together about tough issues. As youth gather in groups to pray and seek God’s help and strength to keep their Pledge of Purity, they can also gather at home with their families and by praying together gain the support they need to keep their lives pure. The message we need to send to our youth is not to be discouraged. There are hundreds of thousands of youth who have already made the commitment to remain sexually pure. When you all stand together, you can make a
difference. You can restore our culture, one person at a time.

Though we live in a culture hostile to traditional values which has produced shocking statistics on the state of our youth, the question is what are you going to do about it? As youth, are you going to stand up and be heard for what you know is right?

As parents, are you going to get involved and fight for curriculum that reinforces traditional values? As pastors, are you going to teach from the pulpit the importance of maintaining sexual purity? The Day of Purity is your chance to do something, to get involved, to restore our culture.

There are hundreds of organizations throughout America dedicated to helping students maintain sexual purity. The Day of Purity complements those efforts. It is important to stress that the Day of Purity is not just for public school students. It is for private school students and home schooled students. It’s for parents, single adults and youth leaders. It’s for America. No matter how much we try to protect kids from the message of sexual promiscuity, it reaches them. It’s in our churches, at our playgrounds, and on our televisions. We need to fill the airwaves with our message of sexual purity.

Youth are encouraged to go to their local, state and federal leaders encouraging them to pass a proclamation or resolution supporting the Day of Purity.

Day of Purity participants can obtain a planning manual, wristbands, Tshirt, informative flyers, bumper stickers and a copy of the Pledge Card at http://www.dayofpurity.org/.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

National Day of Prayer

The National Day of Prayer on May 1 is another opportunity for your church to come together in prayer. This site provides information about how to plan or find an event near you.

http://www.ndptf.org/home/index.cfm

Preparing For Sunday

As pastors, we are very fallible people and yet we are to speak for God. In this article, John Ortberg explains how preparation is a way of life, not just something we do to get “amped up” for the weekend.

How all-too-human preachers can prepare their souls to preach -

Tools To Help People Grow Spiritually

[By Rick Warren]

If you want the people in your church to grow, you’ve got to be intentional. Many people think that the Purpose Driven paradigm is all about church growth. It’s really about spiritual growth. It’s not about building hearers of the Word; it’s about building doers of the Word. In this issue, we’ll look at three tools that Saddleback uses to help people grow. [more]

Evangelism Quote of the Day

“God be thanked when the Law so works as to take off the sinner from all confidence in himself! To make the leper confess that he is incurable is going a great way toward compelling him to go to that divine Savior, who alone is able to heal him. This is the whole end of the Law toward men whom God will save.” - Charles Spurgeon