Thursday, July 31, 2008

National Evangelist Mike Willingham to Address COGOP International Assembly

August 12-18, 2008, Nashville, TN, Somet Center

Four Steps to Building a Bridge Between Then and Now

[By Rick Warren]

Your job as a preacher is to build a bridge between the ancient text of the Bible and your contemporary audience. It’s easy to be biblical if you don’t care about being relevant. It’s easy to be relevant if you don’t care about being biblical. But as pastors, we’re called to be both. In this issue we’ll look at four steps to building a bridge between then and now.

[ more]

Synergy

Synergy exists to help Christian organizations, church denominations, and local churches to advance the Kingdom of God by working to fulfill the Great Commission of Matthew 28:18-20.

We are particularly committed to strengthening the local church and pastors by providing relevant advice and concrete action plans for the congregation.

With this commitment, Synergy endeavors to provide personal and practical support to church leaders in the form of conferences, research, church health surveys, local church consulting, and other relevant resources.

We believe that denominations and similar entities exist to serve the local churches/pastors. And we are committed to empowering them to accomplish their mission.

Synergy
Post Office Box 134
Mentone, AL 35984

SynergyMin@aol.com

256-418-0620

Today's Prayer

Dear God,

Thank YOU that for every hurt, every fear, every worry, every need, there is a remedy -- through the power of the Resurrection, the presence of the Holy Spirit, and the care of the Almighty, everything is going to be all right. As long as you are in control of my life, everything is going to be all right.

I cling the Savior's invitation to "come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light" (Matthew 11:28-30).

I praise you Father, for loving me so much that you sent your only begotten son, full of grace and truth, to take my sins upon him that I might be made righteous in your sight. Thank you for the tremendous sacrifice, for your love and mercy, for life eternal, for being all that really matters -- for being my Remedy. I love you.

In the name of Jesus, amen.

Book Announcement - Fifty Way to Leave Left Behind

Fifty Ways to Leave Left Behind
212 pages $13.99 Released: 2007-12-04
Tate Publishing & Enterprises
Available through Ingram or at http://www.amazon.com/

FIFTY WAYS TO LEAVE LEFT BEHIND is an opposing presentation to the views represented by the LEFT BEHIND series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Fifty Ways traces fifty parallels between Exodus and Revelation to demonstrate that Revelation follows the pattern of Exodus from beginning to end. Some of the parallels are as follows:
Both books begin with tribulation
Both books begin with a prophet in exile
Both prophets have a burning bush experience
Both prophets tell of a promised-land
Both lead to great plagues on the wicked
Both feature two prominent witnesses
Both show a woman escaping from a dragon on the wings of an eagle after which she is married to the LORD
The first book begins with twelve tribes and ends with seven lamps in the new tabernacle, the second begins with seven lamps and ends with twelve tribes in the new temple.

Seeing these parallels enables one to see that Revelation follows a consistent story line and makes it untenable to break the book up into different segments for different eras of history or for different nationalities as is necessary for the logic of the LEFT BEHIND series.

There are a couple of reviews posted at Amazon.com and there is a review by Dr. Walter G. Nunn printed in The Alabama Baptist January 17 issue.

Endorsers include Dr. Frank Page (recent president of the SBC),
The late Dr. Robert G. Witty (Founder and first president of Luther Rice Seminary),
And Dr. David Garland (Baylor University)

This book will contain some difficult issues but the writing is simple enough for any layman to read. Hope you find this sufficient to bring the book into your library system.

Sincerely,
Roger Snow

Systematic Spiritual Discipline

Our spiritual formation is assisted by systematic self discipline.

Health is found in balance.

I have thought about many disciplines, but a long list can be overwhelming. So, please allow me to suggest just a few to live by:

SPIRITUAL DISCIPLINES;
- Daily time with God
- Practicing a weekly Sabbath

FAMILY DISCIPLINES;
- Regular date night with your spouse
- Monthly son/daughter lunch or dinner

PERSONAL GROWTH DISCIPLINES;
- Reading one book a month
- A monthly mentoring or coaching relations

What would you add? Click "comments" below.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Church Security Becomes More An Issue

With church security threats moving beyond theft, embezzlement and sexual harassment to violence and shootings, churches are being urged to receive proper training to help protect their flocks.

"Churches are open and accessible for their fellowship, yet those who have a sole intention of doing harm have an easy access into the church. How do Churches prepare and plan for this violent phenomena?" posed Church Security Solutions, LLC.

The latest violence to hit a religious facility took place on Sunday in Knoxville, Tenn., where a gunman opened fire during a children's play, killing two people and wounding seven.

"Criminals know there will be very little resistance, very little preparation, very little security," said Jeff Hawkins, author of An Introduction to Security & Emergency Planning for Faith-Based Organizations, according to The Free Lance-Star, which noted this was the 17th major shooting in the United States at a house of worship since 1998.

The Knoxville shooting follows last winter's tragedy at a Colorado Springs megachurch and a missionary training center in Arvada, Colo. The December shootings left four people dead.

Church Security Solutions and its team of professional leaders have announced they will be touring the country over the next year to provide churches, big and small, training in security. CSS will visit major metropolitan areas with one-day conferences covering cameras and surveillance, threat assessment, legal and liability issues, data security and security team development. The regional conferences will also teach attendees how to control and manage a critical incident should one occur at their church or organization.

"Church leaders today face the unique challenge of providing an open and loving environment in the church without being mistaken for an easy target," says a statement on the CSS Web site.

The 2008-2009 Security Conference Tour launches in Aug. 14 in Portland, Ore., where Pastor Doug Newcomb of Faith Bible Church in Denver, Colo., will share "Lessons Learned" from the day he received the call about the tragic shootings that broke out just miles from his church.

[By Nathan Black - Christian Post Reporter]

What Are People Looking For in a Church?

A number of recent studies have revealed the kinds of churches that tend to attract people. Believe the data or not, here it is.

Based on this research, here are twelve characteristics of the kind of church people are looking for - especially men.

Keep in mind, no single model of church will appeal to everyone. As you read this article you may shake your head and think, “I can’t stand those kinds of churches,” or “My husband visited a church like that and he hated it.”

None of these 12 things matter as much as the authentic presence of God. If the Spirit of God is moving, it won't matter if the pastor is wearing a pink ballerina's tutu. People are drawn to the real Jesus.

But the research is clear: the churches that draw a healty percentage of people, especially men, tend to exhibit the following twelve characteristics:

1. Look for Large

As a congregation grows, its gender gap shrinks. Churches that draw thousands on a weekend are the most likely to approach gender balance. Meanwhile, the statistically average church of fifty to one hundred is the size most likely to experience a shortage of men.

Large churches have many advantages. Probably foremost is quality. Most are led by gifted pastors who are compelling speakers. The music is polished. The facilities and grounds are well-kept and impressive. Men can invite their friends without fear of embarrassment, confident that the service will proceed with professionalism and good taste. Men are less likely to leave a large church thinking, Well, that was cheesy. What a waste of my time.

2. Look for Nondenominational

For decades, nondenominational churches have grown, while name-brand churches have shrunk — both liberal and conservative. No one is sure why this is happening, but there’s little doubt about who’s leading this exodus: men. The National Congregations Study of 1998 found that denominational churches were much more likely than nondenominational ones to report a significant gender gap.

3. Look for Strict Adherence to Scripture

Men have an instinctive BS detector. Men want proof. They’re natural skeptics. They not only want to know what to believe, but why to believe it.

Churches that attract men have a bottom line: the Bible. Multiple studies have shown that churches that hold their members to scriptural standards (particularly in areas of personal morality) tend to grow faster than those that don’t. The National Congregations Study found self-described liberal churches were 14 percent more likely to have a man shortage than conservative ones.

4. Look for a Young, Multiracial Crowd

A study from Hartford Seminary finds a statistical correlation between a younger crowd, the presence of men, and church growth. Meanwhile, an abundance of members over the age of sixty and a surplus of women is associated with decline.

The same study found a strong correlation between a racially diverse crowd and church growth. It’s not enough to preach racial diversity from the pulpit; the people in the seats must represent many tribes, tongues, and nations. Look for a multicultural congregation when trying to attract men.

5. Look for a Congregation That Is Itself Young

Recently founded churches do better drawing males. The National Congregations Study found that churches in existence less than thirty years are measurably more effective at reaching men.
Anecdotal evidence suggests that church plants do quite well with men. Newfound churches are desperate to grow, so boldness, strategic planning and external focus are part of the culture. These needs jibe with men’s interests and gifts.

New forms of church are enjoying some success rounding up guys. One example: Cowboy churches are popping up all over the United States. Worshipers meet in barns, sit on bales of hay, sing country songs, and enjoy a simple sermon targeted at working men and women. Some cowboy churches have lassoed lots of men — running 50 percent male (or better) on a typical Sunday.

6. Look for Energized Men in the Pews

When you walk into a church, look around at the guys. Do they look like they want to be there? Or are they just fulfilling an obligation? If the men seem to have been dragged to church by wives and girlfriends, forget it. Find another church.

Enthusiastic men bring vigor to worship. Plus you get a snowball effect: guys start inviting their friends, who show up to see what the excitement is about. They get engaged and transmit their fervor to the next group of men.

7. Look for a Man in the Pulpit

If you’re looking for a church your man might like, improve your odds by choosing one with a male senior pastor. Churches with a female senior pastor are 20 percent more likely to experience a lack of men in the pews. Why is this so? Men follow men.

Pastors who cut a masculine figure from the pulpit also seem to be more popular with men. Guys are drawn to men who exude a healthy masculinity, but are turned off by softies.

8. Look for a Pastor Who Is Astonishing and Authoritative

At the conclusion of the Sermon on the Mount, eyewitnesses said this of Christ: “The people were astonished at His teaching, for He taught them as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” (Matt. 7:28–29) If you want a pastor who teaches like Jesus, find one who’s both astonishing and authoritative.

An authoritative teacher is one who is resolute and consistent in his beliefs. He tells it like it is, even if someone is offended. Nothing disappoints more than a sermon that does not challenge. Even worse is a message composed of familiar, comforting religious jargon.

9. Look for Informal Dress

For years, getting dressed up has been foundational to the churchgoing experience. Years ago, no one would dream of entering God’s house unless clothed in his Sunday best.

Fortunately, this is changing. Most men don’t like getting dressed up the way that women do, so many growing churches encourage their members to dress informally. Some pastors are even dropping the ministerial robe, collar, coat, and tie in favor of more casual attire.

10. Look for Modern Technology

Churches that reach men (particularly young men) do so with modern technology. They use slides and video during the worship service. They invest in a professional, easy-to-use Web site. Some churches distribute restaurant-style pagers to parents in case they need to be summoned during the sermon.

Of course, some folks dislike technology in church. The new wave in worship, known as vintage worship or emerging worship, drives technology into the background, employing acoustic instruments, candles, and iconography to help worshipers connect with the ancient divine. But even emerging worship uses much more technology than a traditional congregation; it’s just kept under wraps.

The lesson is clear: churches that deploy modern technology will have an easier time engaging men, because men think technology is cool.

11. Look for Fun

Men are the biggest market for humor videos, Comedy TV networks and the late night comedians. And thanks to the popular VeggieTales video series, a generation has grown up with the expectation that church can — and should — contain an element of fun.

A church service needn’t be frivolous, nor should it be focused on entertaining the audience. But a little humor really helps men drop their guard. The Hartford seminary study also found that a reverent worship climate was associated with church decline (and a lack of men). So might we assume that a slightly irreverent climate actually helps men connect with God? This squares with men’s taste for parody and self-deprecating humor. A funny skit, video clip, or a pastor who pokes fun at himself will score big points with men.

12. Look for a Clear, Unique Mission

Men love churches that make the mission clear. They focus on the basics. This is what our church is about. Here is our mission. Here’s how you can become a part of what God is doing in our congregation.

But this is rare. Few churches have a unique mission. Most are focused on dozens of different goals. Believe it or not, fewer than 10 percent of pastors in the US can articulate the vision toward which their congregation is moving.

So men come to church, but no one ever tells them why they are there. Men sit on those cushioned pews and ask themselves man-type questions: What are we trying to accomplish? Is all this activity really achieving anything? How do we know if we’re winning?

But when a church’s vision is clear, men invest themselves wholeheartedly. Why do you think purpose driven churches are doing so well? Men need purpose, and a church that clearly articulates a mission will be a magnet to men.

[By Ophelia Livingston]

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

James Davis to Address COG Leading Pastors

On August 2-3, 2008, James Davis will address the top 1,000 Church of God pastors and leaders worldwide in San Antonio. From the beginning, the Church of God has helped lead the way in the Second Billion movement, including General Overseer Dennis McGuire, General Secretary Paul Walker, World Missions Director Roland Vaughn, and Douglas LeRoy, who serves as Assistant World Missions Director as well as Second Billion Cochair/Unreached Peoples.

Prepare For Attack

It is very possible that churches, ministries, and Christians should get used to security issues and legal harassment such as the lawsuit a homosexual activist recently filed against two Bible publishers.

Bradley LaShawn Fowler of Canton, Michigan, does not like the fact that the Bibles produced by Zondervan and Thomas Nelson Publishers both accurately convey God's prohibition against homosexual behavior. So he is suing in federal court, seeking $10 million from Thomas Nelson and $60 million from Zondervan.

Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality, says Bible-believing Christians had better get ready for more of this type of sniping. "Obviously, this is a frivolous publicity stunt, but this is a portent of things to come," he warns.

"We know that the homosexual activists are now targeting, essentially, born-again Christians and committed Catholics and Mormons who oppose their agenda. They're out to re-write the Bible, to say that the Bible really does not condemn homosexual practice, which it obviously does," says LaBarbera. "Ultimately, we believe they'll be doing more and more of these lawsuits against Christians and Christian companies."

LaBarbera says the suit reminds him of British actor and homosexual activist Sir Ian McKellen, who has admitted to ripping pages that contain scriptures condemning homosexuality out of Gideon Bibles in hotel rooms. "The fact is whether you rip the pages out or not, or whether you sue, or whether you pass a law against it, the Word of God still stands," he emphasizes. "And God's authority on that issue still stands, no matter what man does." The judge in the case has denied Fowler's request for a court-appointed attorney, saying the court had "very genuine concerns" about the legitimacy of the claims in the lawsuit.

[Source: OneNewsNow.com]

Pastor Jerry Sutton Announces His Retirement

Embattled in a bitter 14-month dispute, congregants at Two Rivers Baptist Church in Nashville, Tenn., approved a $314,000 retirement package for pastor Jerry Sutton, who will preach his last sermon this Sunday after leading the church for more than 22 years.

Last summer a group of dissident church members sued Sutton and tried to obtain church financial records, while also asking for his resignation. A local judge ruled that the court had no right to intervene in the church’s affairs, although it did allow the now-ousted plaintiffs access to the records.

Although Two Rivers members responded with overwhelming support for Sutton, he believes it’s best for the church if he leaves. “Our people are weary, leaders are tired, and those who love Two Rivers honestly want it to end,” he said. “I do not believe that will happen as long as I am pastor at Two Rivers.”

We understand and wish him well.

A Tribute to the Pastor's Wife

The life of a pastor's wife is at the same time beautiful, blessed, complicated and confusing. Yet, it is one of the most important and vital positions in the body of Christ.

In so many ways, a clergy wife sets the emotional and spiritual tone for the household, and becomes both the enabler and the encourager for every member of the family. She is a critic at the right time when correction is needed, but she is a listener and an affirmer when her husband and children just want to talk.

She feels lonely at times, and overwhelmed with parishioners at other times. She wishes the congregation understood the nature of her husband's call, but sometimes wonders what it all means herself.

She is a wife and mother first. She desperately desires more time with the family unit, but understands "balance" is a luxury and management is a must.

For most clergy wives, work outside the home is not an option. It is a necessity just to make ends meet. For others, it is a means of escape from the telephone and the "joy-suckers". Some feel called to their lot in life, while others all of a sudden just became a pastor's wife. For some, it is unbridled joy; but for others, they wonder how long they can hang on.

Yet, they are God's gift to His church and to those who lead her. They do not get enough credit, attention or reward. If anyone in the church needs to be prayed for, it is the pastor's wife. They need space. They need consideration. They need understanding. They need lots of love.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Rooms Available for COGOP Assembly Deligates

There are now a number of rooms available for delegates at the Renaissance Hotel in Nashville for the 95th International Assembly.

The Renaissance is the host hotel for the Assembly. You may go direct from the Renaissance through a covered passageway (without going on the street) to the Nashville Convention Center and on to the Sommet Center where the general sessions will be convened.

That rate at the Renaissance is $124.00 per night. Please call 615-255-8400 to make a reservation.

The Renaissance is located at 611 Commerce Street in Nashville, TN 37203.

Rick Warren Invites Obama and McCain to Saddleback Church

What do you think?

Click "comments" below.

Church Security

A city official said that a second victim has died following a shooting at the Tennessee Valley Unitarian Universalist Church Sunday in Knoxville, Tennessee.

The dead have been identified as 61-year-old Linda Kraeger and 60-year-old Greg McKendry.

Witnesses credit McKendry, a church usher, with shielding others during the attack which occurred as kids were performing a play.

Church member Barbara Kemper told The Associated Press that McKendry "stood in the front of the gunman and took the blast to protect the rest of us."

No children were hurt, but seven other people were injured. Five remain hospitalized, all in critical or serious condition.

Police said that the FBI is assisting in the investigation in case it was a hate crime.

One church member said that the gunman was shouting "hateful" words. Police have been collecting video cameras from church members.

The suspect, 58-year-old Jim Adkisson, is charged with first-degree murder.

The alleged gunman's motive is not yet known.

The church is known for promoting progressive social work, such as desegregation and fighting for the rights of women, gays and the homeless.

A church member told the media that the suspect was not connected to the church. He also said that the shooting happened as children were performing parts of the musical "Annie" during a regular service.

None of the children were believed to have been injured.

What does your church do to protect the pastor and congregants? Click "comments" below.

[Check out "Download Documents" in the right column of this Blog. One document is for security training for Ushers and Greeters.]

You are the Shepherd?

The idea of moving from ministry doer to minister equipper, requires a paradigm shift for most of us. Ephesians 4:10-12 describes the role of pastor as that of a teacher. It further defines the pastor's role as the one who equips the saints to do the work of ministry. If the pastor is the only one doing ministry in a local church, the congregation will rarely grow beyond 200, if that.

One of the biggest shifts involves a very popular metaphor that's used in the Bible, a "shepherd." Is the pastor really to be the shepherd of the flock?

While there are certainly leadership and caretaking behaviors in ministry similar to shepherding, we're far more like sheep than we are like shepherds. Our job is not to be the smart human who shepherds the stupid sheep. That attitude can often be heard at church conferences when a non-ordained attendee says, "I'm just a layperson." This sort of class distinction is destructive to team building.

John 10:16 reminds us that there is but one Shepherd. David said, "the Lord is my Shepherd." It is not the pastor or ministry leader. We are, when we're at our best, lead sheep -- just ordinary people who have a sense that God has called us to help lead our peers and equip them for roles of ministry/serving, based around the passions and gifts that the Shepherd has given them. I often say, "I'm just a sheep trying to help other sheep find their way home." We are all human. The pastor does not Call nor Gift others. The pastor simply helps people discover their gifts and callings - to fulfill their passion or divine purpose in life.

Have you ever heard the complaint, "I'm not being fed"? Somehow when I hear that, and after working for years in trans-local ministry I have heard it plenty, I picture a shepherd with a sheep in a headlock forcing grass down their throat. Or, I picture my six-month-old grandchild being spoon fed by his mother. Jesus did say to Peter, "Feed my sheep" (John 21:15-17). But, in Biblical times, the shepherd led the sheep to greener pastures, where the sheep ate for themselves. The way they were "fed" was by leading them to lush pastures so that they could avail themselves of the nourishment they needed. Healthy guidance was provided.

It may be more a case of instructing the sheep what not to eat. When assailed by the wolf of heresy, by the hostile marauder, by new conditions of any kind, by special danger, we caution the sheep. This passage is more about love than about force-feeding the sheep.

The writer of Hebrews (5:11-13) said, "I have a lot more to say about this, but it is hard to get it across to you since you've picked up this bad habit of not listening. By this time you ought to be teachers yourselves, yet here I find you need someone to sit down with you and go over the basics on God again, starting from square one—baby's milk, when you should have been on solid food long ago! Milk is for beginners, inexperienced in God's ways; solid food is for the mature, who have some practice in telling right from wrong." Some people just don't eat, even when the table is spread before them.

This is a difficult concept for many of us in ministry to embrace because it feels like we're stepping down, losing our position and authority, and diminishing our sense of calling. However, when we surrender our rights to act like the Shepherd (which is old school), we begin to foster more of a "We" mind-set and less of the us-them attitude that works against effective team unity and synergy. The old school of driving the sheep will not work in the 21st century.

Do you remember the story of the drunk dragging a 20 foot logging chain up the sidewalk upsetting the pedestrians? A police officer stopped him and asked, "What are you doing dragging that 20 foot chain up the sidewalk?" To which he replied, "Did you ever try to push one?" We lead not push. Leaders serve, they do not drive people. If driving is attempted., it usually drives people away.

What can you do to foster the sheep-like qualities you have and let the other sheep know that you're not the Shepherd, that you're just trying your best to serve the Shepherd? It may be saying as much in a sermon, or Sunday school lesson, or even a board or staff meeting. Being aware of the shepherd-thinking that sneaks into your conversations and preaching is a step in the right direction. How you talk about others with other pastors and staff members is another idea. Subtly, you'll begin to build a flock of sheep that's truly amazing.

What do you think? Click "comments" below.

[Based on an article by Alan Nelson]

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Today's Prayer

For every problem, every anxiety, every problem, every attack, in my life, there is a deliverer -- Jesus Christ!

Thank you, God, for Your sacrifice, Your love, Your way to reach down and pull me up. Please help me to stand sure-footed and steady on the Rock of my salvation and not to slip and fall into the mire of the world.

Please, be in control of my life ... and I know everything will be all right.

In Jesus' name, amen.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Lee University Announces Major Building Project

Lee University has announced the details of its newest construction project, a laboratory and classroom building for science and math. The building site at the corner of Billy Graham Avenue and Ocoee Street has been undergoing foundation work since earlier this month.

Lee president Dr. Paul Conn said the new facility will provide 73,000 square feet of space for academic programs, with a total project cost of $14 million. The building will include two wings with a central "commons" space connecting the two. The larger of the two wings, which will include all science labs for the university, is being built first. After its completion, the current Beach Building, which now houses Lee's Department of Natural Sciences, will be razed to make room for the second wing of new construction. The Beach Building is a 22,000 sq ft structure built in 1966.

The preliminary schedule calls for the first wing to be occupied in time for the fall 2009 semester. "We are thrilled to be finally beginning this wonderful project," Conn said. "It will triple our academic space for science and math, and give us all-new facilities for this important academic area. It will also provide a beautiful new structure on the northwest boundary of our campus, and I believe our neighbors in the downtown community are going to be thrilled with the way the project upgrades and beautifies our Ocoee Street frontage. "

The general contractor for the project is Tri-Con, Inc., with Cope and Associates, a Knoxville-based design firm, serving as architects. The building was designed in consultation with a faculty committee chaired by Dr. Matthew Melton, dean of the College of Arts and Sciences. Cole Strong of the university staff is general liaison to the project.

Thirteen classrooms of various sizes, ten laboratories, and two computer labs will create total "seat-space" for 640 students, plus a 150-seat lecture hall. The central "commons" area will feature a massive student lounge of five thousand square feet, plus reading rooms. The building will provide thirty faculty offices. The labs will serve 200 students in chemistry, organic chemistry, molecular cell biology, microbiology, dissection, general biology, and physical science.

The new science/math building is the "capstone project" of the university's "Press Toward the Mark" capital funds campaign, Conn said. The campaign began in 2005 with a goal of raising $25 million for various campus needs. Conn said the fund-raising for the science building itself was launched in late 2006 at the university's "Celebration 2006" festivities. "We are having a wonderful response to this effort to upgrade our science and math programs," Conn said. "Cleveland and Bradley County leaders in business and industry are supporting it very generously, as well as many out-of-town donors."

As construction begins on the science building, a different major "Press Toward the Mark" project is nearing completion on the other end of campus. A $5 million-dollar classroom-and-office building for the Lee University School of Religion is under construction at the corner of Parker and 8th Streets, and is scheduled for occupancy in the fall semester.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Shortage of Young Ministers

The Fund for Theological Education recently announced that it will be giving away grants to local churches that motivate young Christians to enter into ordained ministry.

This was motivated by a shortage of new ministers to take the places of an aging ministry force.

All denominations and ministries are acknowledging this shortfall. There are fewer seminary students seeking a career as senior or associate pastor. Many of those who graduate with advanced degrees do not plan to work in the local church.

Why this shortage? Has God stopped calling? Is God not aware of the need? How many young ministers have you seen leave the church in recent years? Pastor, how many young ministers are following in your footsteps?

Could it be that there is too much negativity around pastoring today? Has there been a loss of respect for clergy? That has changed considerably over the last 40 years. Parishioners pick on pastors, denominational leadership drives pastors, the media crucifies pastors, and the public has a distrust for pastors. In short, it is open season on pastors.

Could it be that few pastors and churches are emphasizing the Call? When was the last time you heard a plea for young people to be sensitive to the Call of God to full-time ministry?

Could it be that the church does not meet the needs of pastors? How many pastor's children turn bitter against the church due to the way their parents were treated? Pastors give and give until they are empty? Who pours into them?

May God help us to regain a respect for ministry, and treat pastors with love and respect. When the next generation sees this turnaround, maybe they will be more sensitive to God's Call and more willing to answer.

Can you think of more reasons for this shortage? Click "comments" below.

Without A Vision ...

[by Bill Reichart]

Where there is no vision, the people cast off restraint (Proverbs 29:18).

Without vision: family members eat separately in their own rooms; churches argue; companies only have employees.

"Without vision, people will define their own vision and the loudest voice will prevail."

Vision unifies us around a preferred future; a future that can’t be accomplished by yourself.

Great leaders cast a clear, concise and compelling vision.

"If your vision doesn't scare you, then both your vision and your God are too small."

For vision to to motivate it must connect on 3 levels:

1) Mind-to-Mind – Vision is strategic. While your vision may be, as Jim Collins says, "big, hairy and audacious," people have to believe that it is attainable. When you connect, it becomes “OUR PLAN” and people give their resources.

2) Heart to Heart – Vision is passionate. When people see you, they see, feel and taste the vision. It becomes something you were created for and are willing to die for. When youconnect, it becomes “OUR DESIRE” and people give their life.

3) Soul-to-Soul – Vision is personal. It comes from God but it permeates your life. A calling. A confidence that IT will be accomplished. When you connect, it becomes “OUR CALLING” and people take responsibility.

Winston Churchill believed that leadership's foundation was vision. He had five tools he used when he got ready to communicate vision. Here they are:

TOOL ONE: STRONG BEGINNING (CAPTURE THEIR ATTENTION)

TOOL TWO: ONE THEME (STAY FOCUSED)

TOOL THREE: SIMPLE LANGUAGE (EASY TO UNDERSTAND)TOOL

FOUR: WORD PICTURES: (STORIES AND ILLUSTRATIONS)

TOOL FIVE: EMOTIONAL ENDING (A COMPELLING CONCLUSION)

And take this poem by Sir Francis Drake to heart:



Disturb us, Lord, when
We are too well pleased with ourselves,
When our dreams have come true
Because we have dreamed too little,
When we arrived safely
Because we sailed too close to the shore.

Disturb us, Lord, when
With the abundance of things we possess
We have lost our thirst
For the waters of life;
Having fallen in love with life,
We have ceased to dream of eternity
And in our efforts to build a new earth,
We have allowed our vision
Of the new Heaven to dim.

Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly,
To venture on wider seas
Where storms will show your mastery;
Where losing sight of land,
We shall find the stars.
We ask You to push back
The horizons of our hopes;
And to push into the future
In strength, courage, hope, and love.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

10 Ways To Draw Me To Your Church

You want me to come and stay at your church? Then ...

10. Show me Jesus
9. Smile
8. Serve me
7. Help me to get involved and connected
6. Look me in the eye
5. Ask my opinion
4. Be clear and anticipate my questions
3. Remember my name
2. Call me (without asking me for something)
1. Be yourself

All of these together boil down to one simple message: Show That You Care.

[from Ministry Best Practices by Bill Reichart]

Today's Prayer

God, You are so good. Your plans are bigger than I could ever imagine. You always honor Your promises. Your love knows no bounds, and You always look at my heart, not necessarily my appearance (although I know I must abstain from "the appearance of evil"). Because You love me, You will discipline me and Your Holy Spirit will convict my heart and speak to my mind to keep me in line. That's how I know I'm Your child. I know that You can change me and make me more like Jesus, if I will agree and not fight against Your will. I am willing Lord. Mold me and make me into that precious child and Christian light that You would have me be. In Jesus' name, amen.

Overcome Your Weaknesses

Every human being has one or more weaknesses. The idea that ministers are perfect, divine, and without weakness is absurd.

Knowing that, it is essential to protect yourself. Don't open the door for the enemy. Guard yourself against the tricks of the devil, and those who are used by him.

Here are some suggestions to consider:

- No minister of the Gospel should be alone with a female that is not his wife. I’m not sure any Christian man should, really. Sexual temptation is a primary weakness for men. So make provision for it. Hide yourself in the cleft of the rock. Accountability software for internet use-like Covenant Eyes -is another excellent example of the provision principle in action.

- Weekends are high stress for most clergy families. Make provision for this. Don’t make difficult decisions or engage in discussions that invite conflict between Saturday and Monday afternoon. It’s a weak spot, so minimize the liability, spare yourself needless collateral damage to your marriage.

- Teach your staff about how to pass on different types of information, and they can communicating within these parameters. Certain modes of interaction trigger wrong responses, leading to bad decisions. Make provision for this weakness by getting info you need at the right time, in the right format.

- Take some time this week to identify some weak places in your life. Then get together with the people you call partners, and make provision.Hide yourself in the rock.

Today's Quote

"Ministry requires scholastic achievement and professional competence as well as a consecrated, Christian life."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Unchurched People

  1. People don’t care about the church database.
  2. People aren’t motivated by your need. They’re motivated by theirs.
  3. People don’t care about their next step until they know they’re valued where they are now.
  4. People don’t know who you are, no matter how long you’ve been around the church.
  5. People multi-task and can’t remember squat.
  6. People are turned off by lack of preparation.
  7. People relate when you talk about them or people like them.
  8. People feel left out and frustrated when you use insider’s language.
  9. People aren’t impressed with your theological vocabulary and holy dialect.
  10. People love stories, not lectures.

(Read the entire article and the explanations of each point from Kem Meyer at Outreach Magazine)

[Bill Reichart]

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Evangel Looses Editor

Reverend Hal Donaldson announced plans to step down, effective August 29, 2008, as editor-in-chief of "Today's Pentecostal Evangel," the official Assemblies of God publication. He has served in that position since 1995.

Donaldson co-founded Convoy of Hope and currently serves as its president and CEO. He plans to dedicate more time to that organization.

Evangel staff has been requested to remain in place during this time of transition.

An operations committee, appointed by the Executive Leadership Team, will study and make recommendation regarding Assemblies of God publications.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Legal Update for Ministers

Defamation

Defamation is defined as the speaking and publishing of false, distorted and misleading information about another, in a way that harms that person's reputation.

Libel is written or published information.

Slander is oral or verbal defamation.

It is advisable not to use the background stories or experiences of others in illustrations, without obtaining the consent of the person involved.

Be careful not to violate confidences shared in a ministerial setting, especially a counseling setting.

Always verify and double-check information to insure that it is true and factual. Even then, don't say or publish anything that would harm another person's reputation. Legal judgements regarding defamation can be significant.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Open Letter To Pastors - Religious Rights

Dear Pastor,

A large number of key religious leaders in America share a deep concern that as a pastor, you may not be fully aware of the freedoms you have during this election cycle to speak openly from the pulpit about spiritual and moral issues — key issues that have been the church’s province for centuries.

Over the last four decades, these issues have been shaped into political footballs by groups bent on censoring Christian speech, not only in schools and in the public square, but also in the sanctuary. You and your church may have even received threats of lawsuits, IRS investigations and loss of tax exemption if you speak out on certain issues during an election year.

Be encouraged: Please read, Churches and Politics: Your Freedom to Speak Biblical Truth: http://cts.vresp.com/c/?thezealgroup/aab51b3d05/32bd9bea5d/af095d75ef. This important document includes a checklist of what churches and pastors can do safely, under the protection of the law, to speak out on these key issues. If these guidelines are followed and you are threatened or legally harassed, the Alliance Defense Fund (ADF) has trained over 1,100 attorneys to advise and even defend, without charge, your church’s rights of free speech.

This election is of overwhelming importance, not only for the presidency, but for other offices as well. The next president might appoint up to three Supreme Court Justices, to be confirmed by the Senate, who could affect our nation’s destiny for decades. Activist judges with their own agenda can loose a flood of immorality, override the will of the people, criminalize Christian speech and practice, and bring our nation under the judgment of God.

Christians need to be shown how to pray biblically for governments, and to be emboldened to express themselves, not only at the ballot box, but also in our ongoing struggle against immoral legislation. Links below will lead you to valuable sources for sermon preparation and mobilization.

Making disciples remains the church’s first calling. But what does that have to do with politics? Dr. Bill Bright said:


“Citizenship in a free country is a blessing from God ... God wants us to do his will in government ... but we have disobeyed our Lord ... As a result, we are in danger of losing our nation by default, and with it our individual freedoms and possibly our very lives. If that should happen, our opportunity to help fulfill the Great Commission throughout the United States and the world will also be lost. And hundreds of millions will never have the opportunity to receive our Savior.”

We must speak the truth in love. Biblical teaching is not hate speech meant to disparage or condemn; rather, it is meant to warn people that sin has drastic eternal consequences, and the good news is that the gospel offers the solution. That is the church’s commission and always has been.

Here are some specific things we can do:

  • Pray and lead our people in intercessory prayer. Activism without prayer cover is like infantry without air cover.
  • Teach them the biblical principles of how to pray and what to do for our nation.
  • Speak out. Motivate our people to get involved in the political process. There are battles to be won there: not only for traditional marriage, the sanctity of life, and the protection of our children, but also against poverty, disease, injustice, and the suppression of religious rights.
  • Mobilize. Fewer than a quarter of professing Christians vote. How can we awaken the rest? We have the numbers to make a difference if we will!
  • Recruit others. Please forward this liberating information to other pastors Forward this message to a friend, denominational headquarters, and ministry leaders. If you have any concerns about speaking out, please call the Alliance Defense Fund at 1-800-TELLADF today.

As a reminder: To access ADF’s 2008 Churches and Politics Guidelines, click here: http://cts.vresp.com/c/?thezealgroup/aab51b3d05/32bd9bea5d/96488aa33b and read your rights. Or, look at Downloadable Documents in the right column of this Blog and click on "Churches & Politics."

Yours, for the healing of our land,
Jimmy and Carol Owens

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Pastor/Church Planter - Beware

I was thinking the other day about what types of people I would warn a pastor/church planter about. Hang on -- here goes ...

#1 - The “I’m Going To Leave If” Person

Pastors, you are going to have people threaten to leave your church – period. And 999 times out of 1,000 the best thing you can do is let them go.

I remember once in the early years of my ministry, being on the telephone for over an hour, begging a young lady in our church not to leave. Why was she wanting to leave? A group of singles had gotten together and forgot to call her.

You are going to have people who don’t like the music, your wife/husband, you talking about your kids, the way you dress, the kind of car you drive, the version of the Bible you use, your hairstyle, your zodiac sign, your staff, and your belief on the end times.

You can’t please everyone … and, to be honest, that BOTHERS me! But, the reality is, according to Hebrews 13:17, you and I will stand before God one day and be held accountable for how we led the church … and I would much rather a disgruntled person walk out than for God’s presence to go instead!

Don’t ever be held captive by a person who keeps threatening to leave.

#2 - The “Let Me Tell You How Much Money I Have” Person.

Pastors, you've GOT to make a choice early - are you going to be motivated by money OR are you going to resign to the fact that Jesus purchased you, thus making you not for sale? Will you be a prostitute or a prophet?

I remember a guy calling my wife and demanding that we come to his house for dinner. He told her where he worked, where he lived (a NICE neighborhood), the company he owned, the kind of car he drove and also told her he wanted to get more financially involved in the church … all I had to do was come to his house for dinner that night. I already had plans, but I also sensed in my Spirit that something was not right.

I didn't go. I don’t play that game. When people begin to dangle money in front of you … it is ALWAYS attached to an agenda.

I have served some incredibly generous congregations who gave faithfully every single week. Some of the most generous people I have served never asked me for one second of my time. They gave with a pure heart and with pure motives.

When people threaten to stop giving, that is an issue they will have to work out with God. Don’t let a person who has a lot of money keep you from doing what God has called you to do.

When a person begins telling you how much money they have … trust me, they ultimately desire to either buy you or control you. Don’t let it happen. Tell them you are excited they have money, ask them to give generously, challenge them to be faithful in their giving … but don’t EVER begin to let them dangle money in front of you, thus becoming your source of motivation.

3 - The “Feed Me” Person

I have never been able to keep one of these people around … ever!

You know the drill … they always come from another church (they weren't being fed there either) and they want you to know that they are sincerely seeking a church that teaches the Bible (and they will stay as long as you teach THEIR VERSION of the Bible.) They are experienced at this "not being fed" thing. They have used it to get their pastor moved (when the overseer would buy it), and when they can't get the pastor moved, they move.

Even at a new church, if they become displeased with the sermon direction … or dissatisfied with your particular view on a theological issue … or convicted of not doing what they know they should be doing – they will say you are not feeding them and try to get you removed, or they will leave.

Pastor, being honest here … I've NEVER encountered a person who claimed they weren't being fed that also had a dynamic personal walk with Jesus. If that were true then they would show up to the church FULL and not need to latch on to the breast!

It’s not our job to feed – but to lead to places where food can be found (shepherd).

#4 - The “At My Other Church” Person

I'm sorry, but I have ZERO tolerance for this guy/girl.

They come into your church and begin to say, “Well, this is nice, but at my other church we used to (FILL IN THE BLANK.)”

I say, without apology, to these people that we are not “your other church,” and … if you liked your other church so much – GO BACK!

Enough about them …

#5 - The “This Is Too Big” Person

These people amaze me. A church will begin growing, lives will begin to change … literally the Bible begins to come to life … and because a person finally has to face the fact that the church is not about them … they take off, saying that the church is TOO BIG.

Now, that same person will go to a college football game the day before with between 80,000 to 100,000 fans (99% of whom they do not know) and be absolutely PUMPED that the stadium is packed. (Usually a sign that the team is winning!)

BUT … they want to go to “God’s house” the next day and desire for it to be small and “intimate.” Hmm, they want the football crowd to grow and the church crowd to be small … sounds like some very messed-up priorities to me.

Bottom line … the church is SUPPOSED to grow – period! And if it gets “too big” for someone, I would say it’s because their heart is “too small.” Seriously, ask yourself, what spiritual force would motivate someone to get angry when large numbers of people are coming to Christ and being taught to walk in an intimate relationship with Him? Jesus … or Satan? Seriously – it’s NOT rocket science.

Let the “this is too big” person go … and don’t argue with them!

#6 - The “I Want To Know The Pastor If I’m Going To Be Here” Person

Most churches never break the 200 barrier because of the belief that the Pastor must have a personal relationship with every member. At some point, that becomes an impossibility.

Here’s the deal, pastor, you and I are called by God to lead His church. BUT … before that, is an even greater call on our lives to love Jesus, love our wife and love and disciple our children … and there is no way that you can do all of that and also grill hot dogs with everyone in your church!

For too long pastors have been manipulated by church people into a “a pastor ought to know his church people” mentality. A thought that sounds good on the surface … EXCEPT for the fact that it is COMPLETELY un-Biblical! (Acts 6:1-7 is just one example. Exodus 18 is another!)

If a person comes in claiming they need to know you – TRUST ME ON THIS ONE – they have an agenda a mile long!

Yes, we should have relationships with the people we serve … but those should be led by the Holy Spirit and should NEVER take away from the first four priorities that I mentioned earlier. Nothing wrong with the pastor leading a home group who are not currently on staff. Nothing wrong with the pastor going to lunch with lots of people in the church – but never allow yourself to be “guilted’ into doing so.

Pastor, let me warn you – there are church people out there who will allow you to spend all your time with them … and then when your marriage falls apart or your kid turns out to be a hellion or you begin to fall apart spiritually, they will turn on you so fast it isn't funny! I've seen it … so have you – that is why you must prioritize your life … and if you don’t have time for every social in the church … so be it!

#7 - The “This Place Is Too Judgmental” Person

I was reading the other morning in the OT that if a prophet doesn't preach repentance then he isn't a true prophet.

Pastor, any time you begin to call people out in their sin, you will be labeled as an intolerant, judgmental preacher.

BUT …

The only people who get angry when you preach on giving are those who bow before money.
The only people who get angry when you preach on sexual immorality are the sexual immoral.
The only people who get angry when you preach on adultery are those who are committing adultery … or those who really want to.
The only people who get angry when you preach on gossip are the people on the prayer chain … uh … I mean those who are gossiping.

Pastors, speaking about sin isn't easy … but it’s right. We are called to call for confession and repentance … and offer hope for those who are willing to follow Christ.

If someone isn't angry at you, then pray for God to set you on fire and lead you to preach a message that will hit the majority of your church between the eyes … and then HANG ON!

[Based on Perry Noble]

Four Rules of Influence

John Maxwell says that leadership is influence. You can't lead without it. You can drive people without it, but that won't work for long. Leadership by fear or intimidation is doomed for failure.

Chris Widner’s new book, The Art of Influence, gives the proper emphasis regarding the topic of influence. He says in this entertaining short story, that influence is a gift followers give you because you have become the kind of person they want to follow and be influenced by. He provides four rules of influence:
  • Living a Life of Undivided Integrity. Notwithstanding that integrity is in fact being undivided, he writes that while leaders do make mistakes, followers “do expect their leaders to admit and correct their mistakes, mend the cracks in their integrity, if you will. Left unchecked, eventually a lack of integrity erodes the trust that is needed between a leader and a follower.”
  • Always Demonstrate a Positive Attitude. People respond to optimism. Bad things happen. And when they do, you need to ask not “Why did this happen to me?” but “What’s next?” or “What good can come from this?” “You are choosing to believe that something good can come from negative circumstances and that the future will be better than the present.”
  • Consider Other People’s Interests as More Important Than Your Own. “Even more important than being interesting, is being interested.”
  • Don’t Settle For Anything Less Than Excellence. Widner encourages us to grow our influence by improving ourselves around seven areas of excellence: physical appearance, emotional health, intellectual growth, spiritual depth, relationships, financial success, and charitable giving. Excellence is in the details.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A Boycott of Mickey D's

Americans For Truth has called a press conference tomorrow with other family groups from across the country at the world headquarters of McDonald's - to support the national boycott of the fast-food giant and highlight its record of promoting homosexual activism.

The press conference will be held at Wednesday, July 16 at 10:00 AM at the McDonald's restaurant adjacent to McDonald's world headquarters - at the corner of 22nd and Spring Streets in Oak Brook, Illinois. Participating groups joining Americans for Truth include:
  • American Family Association (AFA), which launched the McDonald's boycott
  • Liberty Counsel
  • Illinois Family Institute
  • AFA of Pennsylvania
  • Family Taxpayers Foundation

"AFA has focused its boycott on McDonald's $20,000 grant to a homosexual businessman's association -- calling for the company to return to neutrality in the culture wars," said Peter LaBarbera, president of Americans For Truth about Homosexuality (AFTAH). "We agree, but AFTAH will also be highlighting McDonald's daily promotion of unhealthy homosexual and transsexual lifestyles through corporate policies like funding unmarried 'domestic partner' (DP) benefits."

McDonald's scored an 85 percent rating on the homosexual lobby Human Rights Campaign's corporate scorecard -- indicating its support for DP benefits, policies that reward transsexual behavior, donations to homosexual activist groups, and failure to support pro-family groups (e.g., those defending traditional marriage).

"McDonald's has wisely chosen to alter its menu to promote healthy eating habits. Now it needs to examine its fiscal priorities and stop rewarding unhealthy lifestyles -- starting with an end to corporate subsidies for homosexual and transsexual behavior," LaBarbera said. "Homosexuality is unhealthy, especially for men: 71 percent of male HIV cases in 2005 involved men who have sex with men, according to the CDC. And syphilis and other STD's continue to afflict men practicing homosexuality at rates astronomically disproportionate to the rest of society."

Noting that a McDonald's recently suggested that pro-family critics of the corporation's homosexuality- friendly policies are guilty of "hate," LaBarbera said:

"Christians and religious people - and moral-minded Americans who are irreligious - cannot sit back while Corporate America turns them into second-class citizens by equating their traditional beliefs with 'hate.' Sadly, 'diversity' is becoming a corporate code-word for anti-Christian bigotry - forcing people of faith to imbibe politically correct ideologies that violate their beliefs."

Church Security Legal Boundaries

One of the concerns that many churches have when they look at establishing a Safety or Security Team is what are they legally permitted to do?

Putting aside the well known separation of church and state limitations that exist, we all know that churches are required to follow both state and federal guidelines on many issues such as fire codes, employment regulations, food preparation standards, etc.

When we look at the legal requirements, trying to understand what regulations apply to a church security team can be a very taxing experience. Adding to the situation is the fact that the laws and regulations in two neighboring states can be vastly different. Some states have minimal regulations while others are very extensive.

In some states a church team must be a “Safety Team” not a “Security Team."

Finally, being “paid” verses “volunteer” can also determine what regulation you operate under.

Be sure to do you research well with your state department of Public Safety.

[By Jack Justice]

Monday, July 14, 2008

Ministry-To-Childen.com

If you do ministry with children, if you have a passion for reaching and teaching kids, then you want to check out this website. Tony Kummer, the owner of Ministry-to-Children, is a children’s pastor from Indiana.

I have found Ministry-To-Children.com to continuously offer practical tips, fresh ideas and encouragement for those involved in children's ministry. You will find inspirational stories, how-to articles, curriculum reviews, Sunday school lesson plans, practical advice and straight talk about children’s ministry.

Ministry To Children is updated at least once each week and you can get all new articles by subscribing to Tony's free email newsletter.

Pastor - Stay Sharp

In his book, Practicing Greatness, Reggie McNeal discusses how great leaders need to stay very sharp mentally. Reggie gives us several ways that we can keep our brain chemistry healthy. Some are simple. Others take a little more effort:
  • Adequate sleep (a sleep-hungry brain is subject to fuzzy thinking and poor judgment)
  • Proper Diet (especially a good amount of protein)
  • Moderate your use of alcohol, caffeine, nicotine (don’t use these to medicate your anxiety
  • Adequate exercise (helps physically, but also mentally)
  • Daily doses of positive human contact (leaders who are connected are keeping their brains "wired")
  • Mental recreation (It helps from making your thoughts dull and tired)
  • Muse time (time to ponder, noodle, reflect)

[By Todd Rhoades]

Pastor Arrested With Snakes

The pastor of a Kentucky church that handles snakes in religious rites was among 10 people arrested by wildlife officers in a crackdown on the venomous snake trade.

More than 100 snakes, many of them deadly, were confiscated in the undercover sting after Thursday's arrests, said Col. Bob Milligan, director of law enforcement for Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.

Most were taken from the Middlesboro home of Gregory James Coots, including 42 copperheads, 11 timber rattlesnakes, three cottonmouth water moccasins, a western diamondback rattlesnake, two cobras and a puff adder.

Think he'll loose his license?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

From Adversity to Destiny

"The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position" (James 1:9).

Most of us avoid pain. We keep our medicine cabinets loaded with pain relievers. We couldn't imagine major surgery without an anesthetic. We are so averse to pain that we think God must desire that we will experience pain-free lives. After all, a loving God surely wouldn't want us to suffer pain, would He? Although God takes no pleasure in our pain, we have to acknowledge that He sometimes allows painful circumstances to occur in our lives in order to shape us and make us more like Christ. Sometimes our times of despair turn out to be a much needed light into our soul.

I once came across the following poem written by an anonymous Confederate soldier, a devout young man who fought in the American Civil War. The lines of this poem express the soul of a man who has learned to view his times of adversity from a different perspective:

I asked God for strength, that I might achieve;
I was made weak, that I might learn humbly to obey.
I asked God for health, that I might do greater things;
I was given infirmity, that I might do better things.
I asked for riches, that I might be happy;
I was given poverty, that I might be wise.
I asked for power, that I might have the praise of men;
I was given weakness, that I might feel the need of God.
I asked for all things, that I might enjoy life;
I was given life, that I might enjoy all things.
I got nothing that I asked for but everything I had hoped for.
Almost despite myself, my unspoken prayers were answered.
I am among men, most richly blessed.

Do we trust God to lead us even though we can't see the pathway in front of us? Do we trust Him to be all-knowing, all-loving, and all-powerful? Do we believe He does all things well?

As Paul wrote, "Everything that does not come from faith is sin" (Rom. 14:23). That's why God leads us through the dark places.

Only in the darkness do we learn to walk by faith.

[By Os Hillman]

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Bibles Join New iPhone

Apple's much-anticipated iPhone 3G arrived Friday, one day after Apple’s new program-selling store opened its doors.

The new iPhone, which went on sale in over 20 countries, updates the one launched a year ago by speeding up Internet access and adding a navigation chip.

Its debut Friday was tied to the Thursday morning launch of its online App Store, which is offering more than 500 mobile software applications such as games and reference guides.

"This is the year that the cell phone becomes an Internet-connecting machine," commented Masayoshi Son, president of Softbank Corp., the only carrier selling the iPhone in Japan, according to The Associated Press.

Simon Evans, a 39-year-old chef in Hong Kong, told AP that he was convinced his new iPhone would simplify his life.

"I can use e-mail, the calendar. It will help plan my day," he said.

In addition to the games, social networking apps, and sports programs, a surprising number of Bible software were also made available for the App Store’s launch.

“While other faiths seem left in the dark, Christian software design firms showed up in large numbers to repackage what is pretty much the same thing, the Bible,” commented Mark Wilson, the weekend editor for Gizmodo Australia, an online technology blog.

In his report, Wilson highlighted six different Bible software including Bible Xpress, Bible Verse, BibleScope, Holy Sword, Universalis, and Bibles2GO.

"At the moment, no other religious texts appear to be represented on iTunes,” Wilson commented. “That is, if you don't count the ‘Attaining Zen’ rock garden app.”

Perhaps one of the most talked-about Bible software currently available is the Bible App, powered by YouVersion, a revolutionary online Bible created by the multi-site church LifeChurch.tv.

A key feature of the Bible App is that it allows users to join YouVersion’s diverse online community of people who add “contributions” to any verse of scripture. These “contribs” range from personal notes and thoughts or even YouTube videos, all tied to that one verse.

“We’re thrilled to launch this new application that iPhone and iPod Touch users will be able to download for free,” commented LifeChurch Pastor and Innovation Leader Bobby Gruenewald in his blog Friday.

“iPhone users can now have the Bible via YouVersion.com with you no matter where you are, whether you need help remembering a verse while talking to a friend or you want to make the most of your time stuck in line.”

According to AP, Apple is more than halfway to its goal of selling 10 million iPhones by year-end, having already sold 6 million.

Some say the App Store could be the bigger draw to the iPhone than its other major selling points, namely prices that are $200 lower than the previous iPhone and the ability to run on a faster cellphone network.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs told the New York Times that one-fourth of the programs are free, with many of the commercial ones going for $9.95. One-third of the applications are games.

[By Josh Kimball]

Friday, July 11, 2008

Is your church healthy? Really?

How do you begin your checklist of a healthy Church? How do you measure church health? What are the qualifications?

Some might say to "Glorify God" should be on the top of every church's list.

Among the listing, "a strong leadership" is imperative of a healthy church. To ensure that you have a loving and caring church, strong leadership credentials are essential.

Below is a listing of several well-known leaders in the ministry and their view of a healthy church.

Bill Easum: Marks of church health:
  1. Clear sense of mission
  2. Authentic community
  3. Indigenous worship
  4. Lay mobilization
  5. Organic structure
  6. Kingdom oriented
  7. Experientially focused on Jesus Christ

Leith Anderson - What Healthy Churches Do:

  1. Glorify God
  2. Produce disciples
  3. Exercise spiritual gifts
  4. Relate positively to their environment
  5. Reproduce
  6. Incorporate newcomers
  7. Open to change
  8. Trust God and prayer

George Barna - The Nine Habits of Highly Effective Churches:

  1. They rely upon strategic leadership.
  2. They are organized to facilitate highly effective ministry.
  3. They emphasize developing significant relationships within the congregation.
  4. They invest themselves in genuine worship.
  5. They engage in strategic evangelism.
  6. They get their people involved in systematic theological growth.
  7. They utilize holistic stewardship practices.
  8. They serve the needy people in their community.
  9. They equip families to minister to themselves.

Willow Creek - Characteristics of a Healthy Church:

  1. Active spiritual formation
  2. Authentic community (not public)
  3. Contagious evangelism
  4. Mobilized spiritual gifts
  5. Good stewardship
  6. Strong leadership
  7. Cultural relevance
  8. Effective, generation-focused ministry
  9. Collaboration and partnership

Natural Church Development - Eight Essential Qualities of Healthy Churches:

  1. Empowering leadership
  2. Gift-oriented ministry development
  3. Passionate spirituality
  4. Functional structures
  5. Inspiring worship service
  6. Holistic small groups
  7. Need-oriented evangelism
  8. Loving relationships

C. Peter Wagner - Vital Signs of Healthy Churches:

  1. A positive pastor
  2. A well-mobilized laity
  3. Meeting members' needs
  4. Proper balance of the dynamic relationship between celebration, congregation and cell
  5. A common homogeneous denominator
  6. Effective evangelistic methods
  7. Biblical priorities

Leadership Network - Windows into the 21st Century Church:

  1. Effective leadership
  2. Lay mobilization
  3. Cultural connectedness
  4. Authentic community
  5. Kingdom collaboration

[Composed by Ophelia Livingston]

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Cry Out America

America needs a new spiritual Awakening!

God is calling us to sound the alarm!

In 2001, extremist enemies assaulted our nation with the terrorist attacks of 9-11. These acts of aggression signaled a physical wake up call for our nation as we entered the new millennium. America and many of our allies united together in immediate response. Vigilance increased. Security tightened. Reserves were activated and our nation was moved to action.

Now, seven years later, a new spiritual wake-up call will be issued on 9-11-08. This spiritual alarm will be sounded by Christian believers across America in a nationwide, simultaneous prayer gathering.

Cry Out America calls for us to gather at every county courthouse from 12:00 noon to 1:00 p.m. on this notable day in a united response before the Lord. Together we will cry out for God's mercy at the place of justice and focus prayer on awakening our county for Christ.

The Awakening America Alliance believes that now is the time to unite for America's future. Supernatural intervention is our only hope of turning the spiritual tide in our day. In every great awakening throughout history, extraordinary, united prayer has been critical. We need your help in making September 11th an extraordinary day of prayer.

We would like for you to prayerfully consider becoming involved by coordinating your county's Cry Out America gathering(s). Many of the 3,141 counties in the United States still need coordinators to facilitate and lead this event. If you believe that extraordinary prayer is needed to awaken our nation and you are willing to be used of God in making it happen, then please take a moment to review the county coordinator job description, find your county and apply today.


Printnt and share details about the 9/11 prayer gathering:
Cry Out America!, Legal Size Poster - Color 8.5 x 14 Poster (PDF)
Cry Out America!, Bulletin Flyer - Color 6x9 Flyer (PDF)
July Prayer Guide (PDF)

Download and print this powerful prayer guide to assist you in praying for a Christ Awakening in America. This month’s guide focuses on restoring the highway of holiness.

Order the Awakening America Leadership Summit CD's. Please print the attached CD Order Form and return it to:
Awakening America
PO Box 3986
Cleveland, TN 37311

Articles and Program Resources:

Cry Out America Generic Letterhead (PDF)

Cry Out America Generic Envelope (PDF)

Cry Out America Letterhead (PDF)

Cry Out America Envelope (PDF)

Suggested Introduction for Cry Out America Courthouse Gathering (PDF)

Suggested Patriotic, God and Country Themed Hymns (PDF)

Scripture Readings (PDF)

Readings on Revival (PDF)

Cry Out America Job Description (PDF)

Sample Cry Out America Program Outline (PDF)

International Awakening Ministries Explore the cycles, marks and necessity of revival.
LifeAction Revival MinistriesAudio downloads, magazine publication, and articles on issues related to revival.

Solemn Assembly - A sermon, in PDF format, explaining the Biblical concept of Solemn Assembly by Richard Owen Roberts.

From the Founding Fathers - Quotes from America’s founding fathers on the spiritual heritage of the United States

Lincoln’s National Day of Prayer Proclamation - Abraham Lincoln’s call to a national day of prayer serves as a powerful example of what can happen to our nation when we humble ourselves and seek God’s face.

Cry Out America

Release The Anointing Conference

Ron Phillips Ministries Partner & Friends Weekend is only a few weeks away. This year's theme: Release the Anointing. The dictionary definitions of anoint are pretty simple: 1. To apply oil, ointment, or a similar substance to. 2. To put oil on during a religious ceremony as a sign of sanctification or consecration. 3. To choose by or as if by divine intervention. In the Bible, kings were anointed, sheep were anointed, Jesus is described as the anointed one. New Testament anointing brought healing and deliverance. Today, we say that people have "anointings" for different types of ministry. Who can be anointed? Is an anointing practical or spiritual? Can you transfer an anointing?

At Partner and Friends Weekend, Pastor Phillips will take you through history, the abuses and the biblical uses for anointing. This teaching is fresh, will challenge your faith, and make you hungry and thirsty for a personal outpouring. After you are taught what the Bible mandates in regard to anointing we will, under the direction of the Holy Spirit, release a personal anointing on everyone who attends.

Also, you will be led in worship at every session by anointed worshippers Anthony Evans, Lester & Holly and Abba's Army.

Visit http://www.ronphillips.org/ to register for the conference, to find a list of hotels and to plot driving directions to Abba's House.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Integrity - What Is It, Really?

Richard Dortch was an Assembly of God state overseer when Jim Bakker hired him to come to PTL before the demise. He was brought on board as an executive and member of the Board of Directors of PTL.

In his book, Integrity: How I Lost It, and My Journey Back, he describes how the position, prestige, and authority led him and Jim Bakker to believe they could bend the rules because they were anointed to do the work of PTL.

It's kind of like a God syndrome. Once one believes that God has put them on a pedestal, they then begin to believe that their thoughts are God's thoughts, their words are God's words, and they can do no wrong. If challenged, they react with the presumption that they can do no wrong. Everyone lacks integrity but them. It seems easier to defend actions than to honestly examine them. They are quicker to attack than to admit.

Admissions require courage! When we summon the courage to take ownership of our experiences, to see them just as they are, to feel them, we will recover the blueprints of our lives. We will face our fears and find the transparent beliefs that create them. Becoming more honest with ourselves means introducing more honesty into the collective consciousness of the world, and this lays a foundation upon which an enlightened planetary civilization can be built.

If someone tells you that they have not committed any transgressions, realize you are talking to either a saint or a liar. Human beings make mistakes. They are supposed to. That’s how they learn. Human knowledge is the product of mistakes. It is only when the mistakes are hidden or become intentional (as in a hidden agenda) that they lead to inflexible viewpoints. It is how you handle a transgression that is important, not why you did it.

The wrong way to handle a transgression is to hide it, or to justify it, or to deny it. These are the actions (hiding, justifying and denial) that harden consciousness into an inflexible identity. Hardened consciousness projects a reality that can be viewed only in one way. Listen to these responses. Would you make them?
“I don’t know anything about it.”
“I didn't do it.”
“They made me do it.”

Creating these beliefs is like pouring concrete into your mind.

The solution is to begin to practice self-honesty from this point forward. I will exert my best efforts to become less deceitful, to be more fair in my dealings, more sincere in my speech, more deserving of trust and MORE FORGIVING.

College Accreditation: Frequently Asked Questions

What Is College Accreditation?

Accreditation is a voluntary, independent review of educational programs to determine that the education provided is of uniform and sound quality. Being awarded accreditation ensures that an institution has been evaluated and that it met set standards of quality determined by the accrediting organization granting the accreditation. A college or university's accreditation is maintained by continued adherence to the set criteria.

What Type of Accreditation Should I Look For?

There are several reasons accreditation is important besides ensurance of quality and adherence to academic standards. Accreditation determines a school's eligibility for participation in federal (Title IV) and state financial aid programs. Proper accreditation is also important for the acceptance and transfer of college credit, and is a prerequisite for many graduate programs.

The most recognized and accepted type of accreditation in the United States is regional accreditation. Generally, college credits or degrees received at a regionally accredited institution are accepted by other regionally accredited colleges or universities (non-regionally accredited programs are not as accepted). However, this acceptance is not guaranteed; it remains with each institution to establish its own policies based on the determination that the credits accepted meet educational objectives comparable to their own programs.

What Are the Regional Accreditation Agencies?

There are six geographic regions of the United States with an agency that accredits college and university higher education programs:

The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation of colleges in the middle states region (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico).

The New England Association of Schools & Colleges. Accreditation of colleges in the New England region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont).

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation of colleges in the north central region (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming).

The Northwest Association Of Schools And Colleges. Accreditation of colleges in the north west region (Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.)

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Accreditation of colleges in the southern region (Alabama , Florida , Georgia , Kentucky , Louisiana , Mississippi , North Carolina , South Carolina , Tennessee , Texas , Virginia)

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Accreditation of colleges in the western region.
It is often difficult to find a school's accreditation when visiting their Web site or viewing their catalog or other information. You can find out if the college or university you are interested in is regionally accredited by visiting the regional accrediting board Web site for their area (above) and looking up the institution name.

What Other Types of College Accreditation Are There?

Generally, large well-known universities (i.e., Harvard and Princeton) and statewide colleges are regionally accredited. Smaller, private colleges may be nationally accredited. Programs of study that are regulated by national or state licensing boards may require specialized or professional accreditation (i.e., the National Council for Accredition of Teacher Education and the American Bar Association). The Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) maintain directories of nationally recognized and specialized accrediting agencies. Programs that are nationally accredited may not transfer to a regionally accredited college. One well known accrediting agency is the Distance Education & Training Council (DETC).

The DETC often accredits institutions offering correspondence or other independent study programs. However, programs accredited by the DETC are not as commonly accepted by regionally accredited colleges.

The U.S. Secretary of Education also maintains a database to check institution accreditation and lists approximately 6,900 postsecondary educational institutions and programs, each of which is accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.

How Can I Find Out if a School Won't be Accepted by Employers or is a Diploma Mill?

According to the Better Business Bureau, many fraudulent schools (better known as diploma mills) are profiting on the popularity of distance learning and are attracting students into their “degree programs”, often with the promises of a quick diploma. These types of institutions have been around for a long time, and use aggressive recruiting techniques (through telemarketing and direct mail), following-up on consumer queries through e-mail or their Web site. These schools heavily promote in print and on the Internet, and often have sophisticated looking Web sites. Marketing representatives take advantage of students lack of knowledge about college accreditation, and use the terms“fully accredited” , “nationally accredited”, or “accredited worldwide” to assure the student of the program's legitimacy. The school's "accreditation" is usually by unrecognized or bogus agencies.

The Better Business Bureau offers several signs to look for to recognize a diploma mill:

- The school advertises degrees that can be earned in less time than at a traditional college. There are legitimate ways to earn college credit through prior learning and collegiate level testing, but the credit offered through these schools does not meet recognized standards set by the American Council on Education and National PONSI, (the National Program on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction) the two major college credit recommendation bodies accepted by major colleges and universities. Generally, fully accredited schools will award up to 32 credits through examination and prior learning towards an undergraduate degree, but no reputable schools will award graduate degrees earned mainly through career portfolios.
- The school states that it is accredited, but lists organizations that (although impressive sounding) are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, or attempt to show official status by alleging state licensure or registration.
- You earn your "diploma" by tuition paid on a per-degree basis. Traditional colleges charge tuition by credit hours, or by course or semester. The school may offer admission only by securing your credit information, and does not require documentation of academic records.
- The school provides little or no communication with faculty, or the school’s Web site does not provide information on faculty or names faculty who have graduated from unaccredited schools.
- The college's name is similar to a well known university.
- The school provides addresses that are only post office box numbers or suites.

Your college education is one of the most important investments you'll ever make. If unsure of a school's status, check the Better Business Bureau or state attorney general's office to ensure the college is legitimate and if there have been any complaints.