Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The Need for Church Planting in North America

Some things become painfully obvious when seen in the light of solid information. For years the Church in the United States has been in a constant state of decline with no end in sight. Our neighbors to the north, Canada, have seen an increase in church starts beginning in 1997. While Church planting is flourishing in other countries, here in the States we continue to see a massive drop in church starts. Hundreds of thousands of churches are half full each Sunday with little prospect of dynamic new growth.

Well known researchers are speaking of at least 80% of the church being stagnant or declining in growth. Few church leaders will entertain the notion of a fresh move of God in our land. It is no wonder that a high percentage of pastors in a recent poll indicated they would get out of the ministry if they could.

The United States may be the one place where it will take a miracle of God to see a saturation church planting effort. Imagine trying to get the Church of America to join in what would appear to be yet another campaign to evangelize the nation. Hasn't every local church at some point thrown its energies and resources into a cooperative effort that in the long run produced little or no new growth for their congregation? Many attempts to cast vision to pastors and church leaders across the land has been met with a cold reception.

American Christians tend to believe we are the most churched country in the world. The reality, however, is that the United States is the fourth largest unchurched population in the world. It also appears that much of what we have identified as Church in the United States has very little chance of multiplying and filling the nation with the glory of God. While there are perhaps 3,000 mega churches that are filling their pews, many of those attending are little more than spectators. Most neighborhood churches see gatherings between 40 and 80 people. And most of those churches haven’t baptized a new member in years.

Something in the structure of Church that has worked so well for our parents has lost its glimmer in this post-modern world. We are no longer reproducing disciples who walk in the love of the Lord and set their world on fire. It just isn't authentic or real anymore to this “emerging” generation. It is viewed by many as a system of do’s and don’ts, as legalistic and controlling.

While it is reaching some, its ability to transform culture and reach two hundred million people is seriously in question. It seems to me that the culture in North America had changed dramatically over the past century, but the Church has not caught up. In fact, the church now looks and acts in large measure, just like the culture. Our measure of success and our system of validation and affirmation matches the business models of our day. True life in Christ and the joy of community in Christ have faded on many fronts. The tremendous move of God around the world is being thwarted in the U.S. by what has become “Standard American Churchianity." My persistent prayer is, “Lord, how can we impact the millions of people who have either left the Church or won’t go to it?”

I long for a “church” that is new, refreshing, able to multiply by becoming “all things to all men” in order to reach the masses that want a relationship with Jesus but need a new door to enter through. A Church that is not so much about structure as it is about a way of life.

Jesus summed up all that was written when He encouraged us to fall in love with His Father and let that love flow through our families and spheres of influence. The problem in the American church is centered on the decline in true intimacy with the Father and in the understanding of nurturing communities where life and love are shared and freely expressed among the beloved. Our hearts are broken and only the love of the Father can heal them.

I believe with all my heart that God will raise up a people in America who will move up to another level of growth and impact. They will hear the voice of God and make an impact in their spheres. They will rebel against the status quo and model biblical community, earnestly seeking the mind of the Lord for His people. The idea of living every day with Jesus and each other will become their common thread. Their belief in a 24/7 relationship with God and people will lead them to see structure as a secondary issue. “Church” IS the people (not property) and happens in the midst of the people. They will emphasize the idea of relational community. They will invest in a discipleship process much in the style of Jesus’ model of discipleship. They will live relationally with each other and they will grow!

Larry Kreider in his book, House Church Networks states, “House churches, and churches of any kind, should never be exclusive entities cut off from the rest of the body of Christ. The healthy house church will focus on loving the Lord, loving each other, reaching the lost and loving the rest of the body of Christ anywhere and everywhere. Healthy believers will want to relate closely to the rest of the body of Christ because they want to be 'one with the Father and each other.'" Rather than living in isolation they see themselves as another extension of all that God is doing in the world. Furthermore, they see the opportunity to partner with more traditional models of “church” to saturate a city or state with the presence of Christ.

I see a new wind blowing across the land. God is raising up a new generation that will bring a whole new vitality, empowerment and expansion to the Church in North America. Though referred to by such terms as organic church, New Testament church, house church, redemptive community, oikos, lighthouse or other terms, an umbrella name that could be used is “simple church.” A simple definition of "simple church" could be - “Simple church is a small group of people seeking intimate relationship with God and each other through hearing from God and living the Kingdom lifestyle.”

For years, the Body of Christ in Western Culture has assumed that Church is a major event requiring great expertise to lead. Have we missed the essential truth that God fully intended Adam and Eve to be the foundational model for the Church? Church was meant to begin, and to be lived out, in the family. The simplest and most primary expression of the Church is the family. The essential building blocks for the Body of Christ are healthy spiritual parents giving birth to healthy spiritual sons and daughters who give birth to healthy spiritual families. Healthy families will naturally reproduce and multiply.

Most people think of the church as a place and event at a certain time. Since "simple church" is about people, where they meet is secondary. The important idea does not revolve around a building or a meeting place but a lifestyle. When they do gather they could be in cells, house churches, neighborhood churches, mega churches and so on. Simple church is at the core of life in Christ, no matter the structure used for the gathering of the saints together. Simple church is about being the “church” not going to “church."

A new emphasis to plant churches is exploding all around the country. It is yet to be seen what form these new churches will take. Though they may take many forms, shapes and sizes, at a heart level, church may become a way to experience Kingdom life lived out in relational intimacy with God and with fellow believers. In its purest form, church is Mom and Dad living the life of Christ in the home. It can be experienced in one family, a neighborhood gathering, the cell of a larger congregation, an affinity group or other small gathering. It is characterized by outreach to the unsaved, by reproducing every time the group reaches about 15, by participation by all in the gathering, and by the absence of need for ordained professional clergy or separate buildings. Imagine what a mega church would look like with all their families living out a relational lifestyle? You would see hundreds of families incarnating the love and presence of Christ in their neighborhoods daily. The Kingdom alive and incarnating the presence of Christ in the midst of the people in a community would be a tremendous example of the love of Christ touching every part of life.

The new essentials of Church will affect real life! It's going to be a source of life for you, for your family, for your neighbors and for your whole neighborhood! Church could happen 24/7, all week long! If you set out to start a church, it is common to put the church in front of family. But, if you start out to be God's people as a family, and bless each other, (and you can do that), then other people will just naturally be drawn in, and it won't take a toll on your family.

God has been moving through His Body around the world for at least the last 15-20 years in a new and pervasive way (house churches expanding throughout new communities). It may just be the season for the Church in the United States to join this work of the Holy Spirit around the world and enjoy the life of the Kingdom in this country.

It is my sincere belief that we are on the verge of a significant movement of God in North America that will spawn healthy, multiplying “extended families” all across our nation.

Obama nominee wants one world order.

Judges should interpret the Constitution according to other nations' legal "norms." Sharia law could apply to disputes in U.S. courts. The United States constitutes an "axis of disobedience" along with North Korea and Saddam-era Iraq.

Those are the views of the man on track to become one of the US government's top lawyers: Harold Koh.

A New York lawyer, Steven Stein, says that, in addressing the Yale Club of Greenwich in 2007, Koh claimed that "in an appropriate case, he didn't see any reason why sharia law would not be applied to govern a case in the United States."

Read The Full Article

Saddleback Church Trains 2,400 New Members; Baptizes 800

Saddleback Church in southern California trained nearly 2,400 new church members on Saturday. It was the largest membership class in the megachurch’s 30-year history.

Of those who participated in the church’s introductory membership session, Class 101, about 800 were baptized afterwards. Founding pastor Rick Warren personally taught the program and then, with the help of other Saddleback pastors, spent more than three and a half hours baptizing the hundreds of new members.

Attendees were walked through three areas in their faith life: God’s plan and purpose for everything; the history, faith and future vision of the church; and the importance of membership.

During the session, Warren recognized that the class was taking place in the midst of economic hardships, but he said the church was created for these difficult times.

“When bad things happen in life, don’t ask why, ask how, and then discover what God wants to teach you,” Warren said, according to A. Larry Ross Communications, Saddleback’s public relations company. “The way God is going to teach you the good qualities in life is to put you in the exact opposite situation. How will God teach you joy? By putting you in the middle of sorrow. How will God teach you love? By putting you around difficult people. How will God teach you peace? By putting you in the middle of chaos. God never wastes a hurt. He can bring good out of anything.”

Warren emphasized the importance of the five purposes for the church as well as individuals – knowing, relating, sharing, growing and serving. These purposes were discussed in depth in Warren’s best-selling book, The Purpose Driven Life.

“The Bible says the church is the support and foundation of the truth,” Warren said. “We in California know the importance of support and foundation, because we have earthquakes. If you don’t have a good support and a good foundation when an earthquake comes around, your house will collapse.

“The same is true of every area of life. If you don’t have the correct foundation and support for finance, relationships and your marriage, it will all collapse. God never meant for you to go through life alone; you need relationship, you need a spiritual family.”

Everyone needs to find a church home and be connected and fulfill the five purposes, the well-known pastor said.

“A Christian without a church home is an orphan,” he said. “We aren’t in competition with any church. We want every church to grow.”

Those who have completed Class 101 will be encouraged to take three additional training classes: Class 201 that focuses on growing in Christ, Class 301 that helps individuals discover their purpose, and Class 401 that centers on discovering mission in life.

Recently, these classes were updated and revised to incorporate Warren’s PEACE Plan, an initiative to mobilize Christians around the world to Promote reconciliation, Equip servant leaders, Assist the poor, Care for the sick and Educate the next generation.

Warren will teach these advance courses in May, June and July, respectively.

Over three decades, more than 35,000 people have participated in Saddleback Church’s Class 101. The Orange County-based church is one of the five largest churches in America and draws an average weekly attendance of 22,000.

[By Jennifer Riley, The Christian Post]

Monday, March 30, 2009

The IPPA Meets

INTERNATIONAL PENTECOSTAL PRESS ASSOCIATION EXECUTIVE BOARD MEETING, Eugene, OR – The IPPA held their semi-annual meeting this past week in Eugene Oregon.

This board includes:
  • Chairman Ken Horn, editor of “Today’s Pentecostal Evangel" of the AG
  • James Cossey, editor in chief of "The Church of God Evangel"
  • Shirley Spencer, Executive Editor of “Experience,” the official magazine of the Int’l Pentecostal Holiness Church
  • Virginia Chatham, Managing Editor of "The White Wing Messenger"

PCCNA Adopts New Vision Statement

The Executive Committee of the Pentecostal/Charismatic Churches of North America met last week in Eugene, Oregon in regular session.

Members of the PCCNA include the Church of God in Christ, Assemblies of God, Church of God, Int’l Pentecostal Holiness Church, the Int’l Church of the Foursquare Gospel and the Church of God of Prophecy, among others.

The PCCNA made news in a number of the leading newspapers with “The Memphis Miracle” where Black Pentecostal organizations joined with traditional white organizations for a historic demonstration of unity. It was the first such showing of unity since the Azusa Street Revival when it was said, “The Holy Ghost washed away the color-line.”

The Executive Committee hammered out a strategic vision which was passed by the larger board, centered around the acronym “POWER.” Pentecostal Celebration (Reclaiming Pentecost in our churches), Organizational Development, Widening the Witness through various forms of media, Emerging Leaders and Reconciliation and Justice are the key directions the PCCNA plans to go.

This meeting was in conjunction with the Society for Pentecostal Studies, an association of Pentecostal educators. The SPS honored Stanley Horton, an extremely humble, but thoroughly a great servant of God, theologian, and author for the Assemblies of God.

The Executive Committee of the PCCNA was elected to include:
  • Chairperson - Jeff Farmer, President, Open Bible Churches
  • Co-Chair - Jerry Macklin, 2nd Assistant President Bishop, Church of God in Christ
  • Secretary - Clyde Hughes, General Overseer, Int’l Pent. Church of Christ
  • Treasurer - Randy Howard, General Overseer, Church of God of Prophecy
  • Members-at-Large: Ron Carpenter, Int’l Pentecostal Holiness Church; Raymond Culpepper, General Overseer, Church of God; Arthur Gray, Int’l Church of the Foursquare Gospel; David Wells, Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada; Elijah Williams, United Holy Church; and George Wood, Assemblies of God.

Earl Paulk Dies

Former Atlanta megachurch pastor Earl Paulk Jr., who helped popularize "kingdom now" theology but was plagued for decades by sexual scandal, died early Sunday morning after a lengthy battle with cancer. He was 81.

Paulk, founder of what is now known as the Cathedral at Chapel Hill, was taken to the hospital on Jan. 1 with an intestinal blockage and was never released, his brother, Don Paulk, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on Sunday. He had previously undergone surgery for prostate cancer.

Through his books and television ministry, Paulk helped popularize "kingdom now" theology, which teaches that the church, as a manifestation of God's kingdom, should take dominion over every sector of society. But through the years numerous women alleged that Paulk coerced them to have sex with him, saying he told them certain "kingdom relationships" were not limited to traditional moral boundaries.Although he repeatedly denied the allegations, DNA testing proved in 2007 that Paulk lied about past infidelity and was the father of his nephew, D.E. Paulk, who now leads the 1,000-member congregation.

"For whatever good he may have done, my uncle had a serious problem with sexual addiction, and never owned it, and never really took any responsibility for it," Paulk's nephew, Bishop Jim Swilley, pastor of Church in the Now in Conyers, Ga., said in a blog posting Sunday. "He died in disgrace, and, unfortunately, will for the most part only be remembered for the scandals."

CONTINUE READING ARTICLE

[I visited the church founded by Earl Paulk on several occasions. He also visited the seminary I attended for speaking engagements. He was the former pastor of Mount Paran Church of God in Atlanta. Earl Paulk's father was a life-long pastor and minister in the Church of God. Bishop Paulk held his father in high esteem and kept keep-sakes from his father's ministry in and around his office. What a shame that a man with such potential could never overcome such a weakness as his alleged indiscretions. My prayers are with the family.]

Giving Honor

Honor is a lost art in our culture.

Have you ever noticed that we seldom honor people until their funeral? And then we may not do enough, especially for pastors or retired pastors. Intuitively, ALL of us know it’s the right thing to do. Clearly, when someone exits this life we should make sure we honor their time here on earth. We should make sure we communicate gratitude for their service ... regardless of their issues (we all have issues!). Perhaps we could do more at funerals to bring honor.

But why do we wait until someone is dead to honor them?

The dead can’t hear us. They can’t receive honor. The truth is that funerals are more for the living than the dead. Why? Its makes us feel better. I understand that it’s part of the grieving process, but why wait? Why procrastinate?

Life is too short not to honor NOW!

Years ago I found out about Zig Ziglar's wall of fame in his home where he displays pictures of the people who have influenced his life the most. I added a similar thing to this Blog in the right column.

Why can't we show more honor to those who have served so faithfully among us? Is it wrong to place a portrait in an appropriate place, to install a plaque in the wall of a building, or name a building after someone?

While they can still receive it, you have a great opportunity today to SPEAK UP and honor the living.

WHO do you need to honor NOW?

[from BuddyCremeans.com by buddy]

Today's Quote

"When we come to the edge of the light we know, and are about to step off into the darkness of the unknown, of this we can be sure: either God will provide something solid to stand on or we will be taught to fly." - Unknown

Are you in Breakthrough mode, or Burnout mode?

Breakthrough or Burnout? Here are the 12 signs:

  1. When in breakthrough mode you can’t wait to start the day. In burnout you can’t wait for the day to end.
  2. In breakthrough mode you are ministering out of the overflow of Christ’s life in you. In burnout you are ministering purely out of your natural giftings and spiritual anointing without a fresh infilling from the Holy Spirit.
  3. In breakthrough mode you have passion to serve. In burnout you have passion for pleasure and relaxation.
  4. In breakthrough mode you are living within set boundaries that enable self-renewal. In burnout you constantly feel like you are living outside of the measure of God’s grace for service.
  5. In breakthrough mode your mind is constantly being renewed with fresh ideas, creativity, and vision to conquer. In burnout your mind and emotions are worn out and you are in maintenance mode.
  6. In breakthrough mode you are walking in the fruit of the Spirit; in burnout the fruit of the flesh.
  7. In breakthrough mode you have time for soul care. In burnout you only have time for serving others.
  8. In breakthrough mode you envision great expansion of ministry. In burnout you dream of retirement and contemplate leaving the ministry.
  9. In breakthrough mode you proactively spend time with key relationships. In burnout your time is spent reacting to relational problems.
  10. In breakthrough mode you are in faith; in burnout you are living in fear.
  11. In breakthrough mode you are refreshed in spite of your stress. In burnout mode you are depressed because of the stress.
  12. In breakthrough mode you sense clarity of vision and purpose. In burnout you experience confusion regarding your purpose.

Click here to read the complete article.

[from Agile Ministry by James Higginbotham]

Ignore Your Critics

If you find 100 comments on a blog post or 100 reviews of a new book or 100 tweets about you ... and two of them are negative, while 98 are positive ... which ones are you going to read first?

If you're a human being and you're telling the truth, the answer is pretty obvious: you want to know which misguided losers had nasty things to say and you want to know what they said. In fact, if we're being totally truthful, it's likely you're going to take what the critics had to say to heart.

That's a shame. The critics are never going to be happy with you, that's why they're critics. You might bore them by doing what they say ... but that won't turn them into fans, it will merely encourage them to go criticize someone else.

It doesn't matter what Groucho or Elvis or Britney or any other one-name performer does or did ... the critics won't be placated. Changing your act to make them happy is a fool's game.

Here's a surprising thought, though. You should ignore your fans as well.

Your fans don't want you to change, your fans want you to maintain the essence of what you bring them but add a laundry list of features. You fans want lower prices and more contributions, bigger portions and more frequent deliveries.

So, who should you listen to?

Your sneezers.

You should listen to the people who tell the most people about you. Listen to the people who thrive on sharing your good works with others. If you delight these people, you grow.

What say you? Click "comments" below.

[by Seth Godin, ]

Terrorist Groups Operating in Churches

Latest news reports are that five terrorist cell groups have been operating in many of our churches. They have been identified as: Bin Sleepin, Bin Arguin, Bin Fightin, Bin Complainin, and Bin Missin. Their leader, Osama Bin Lucifer, trained these groups to destroy the Body of Christ.

The plan is to come into the church disguised as Christians and to work within the church to discourage, disrupt, and destroy. However, there have also been reports of a sixth group.

A tiny cell known by the name Bin Prayin is actually the only effective counter terrorism force in the church. This group appears to be very weak. Unlike other terrorist cells, the Bin Prayin team does not blend in with whoever and whatever comes along. Bin Prayin does whatever is needed to uplift and encourage the Body of Christ.

We have noticed that the Bin Prayin cell group has different characteristics than the others. They have Bin Watchin, Bin Waitin, Bin Fastin, and Bin Longin for their Master, Jesus Christ to return.

Which cell group do you belong to?

Church Planting in Post-Christendom

David Fitch asks, “how are we to go on church planting when the cultural conditions of Christendom can no longer be assumed? How do we in the words of Darrell Guder “call out communities to witness to the Kingdom of God” when there are less and less cultural conditions left that make such a ‘call’ intelligible (such as even the cultural conditions which made possible the apostle Paul preaching the gospel amidst the synagogues of Hellenistic diaspora)?

“For example, what are the cultural assumptions that undergird the Neo-Reformed urban church plants as modeled by Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan and the Acts 29 group out of Mars Hill in Seattle?

We assume the Holy Spirit is at work in these churches and invigorating any work of God in Christ’s church. Yet God enters culture in Christ in order to become visible, he does not usurp or overwhelm culture, He enters culture (the principle of Incarnation). Cultural assumptions are important therefore.”

Read more..

[from culture, leadership, mission]

Church Planter Questions

I was doing a little research on Acts 29 and church planting. Here are 20 good questions if someone is thinking about planting:

1. Am I a Christian?
2. Am I passionately in love with Jesus?
3. Do I believe His word and does it affect my life deeply?
4. Am I Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed, Spirit-led and Spirit-controlled?
5. Am I qualified as an Elder?
6. Do I love the local church as the expression of a gospel community?
7. Am I a missionary to the city?
8. Do I have a clear vision for this new work?
9. Am I willing to pour myself out in obedience to the vision?
10. Am I healthy? Physically, emotionally, financially, relationally?
11. Am I the kind of leader many people will follow?
12. Can I preach effectively?
13. Can I guard the doctrinal door with Biblical clarity?
14. Can I architect a new work with entrepreneurial skill?
15. Am I called to plant a church at this time and in this place?
16. Have my church leaders commended me for this calling?
17. Am I a hard worker? Am I persevering?
18. Am I adaptable to new people, places and concepts?
19. Can I raise the funds needed for my family’s needs?
20. Am I humble enough to learn from others?

[Read the whole article by Scott Thomas here where he explains each question in more detail.]

Friday, March 27, 2009

Today's Quote

"Why are Christians the ones who like to hover around the Tree of Knowledge, baiting the serpent and battling each other, rather than being the people who like to play in the garden?" John Baker-Batsel

How To Forgive

Forgiveness is a skill. As with any skill, it requires practice to learn. Use these techniques to master forgiving…

> Change the channel. First, take responsibility for how you feel. Even though you are hurt, try to appreciate the good in your life. Rather than rehashing your grievances, focus on gratitude, love and appreciation of beauty.

Imagine that what you see in your mind is being viewed on a TV screen. Perhaps you are stuck on the Grievance Channel. Reprogram your remote control to…

- Gratitude Channel. As you wake up in the morning, give thanks for your breath and the gift of your life.
- Love Channel. Look for people who are in love, and smile at their happiness. Call up a few close friends, and tell them you care about them.
- Beauty Channel. Find a favorite spot in nature. In times of stress, remember what that spot looks and feels like.

> Calm down. Learn to maintain your sense of peace in any situation, no matter how upsetting. A 45-second technique called Positive Emotion Refocusing Technique can calm you whenever you feel angry, hurt, depressed or bitter about an unresolved grievance or a relationship problem…

1. Bring your attention fully to your stomach as you slowly inhale and exhale for two deep breaths. As you inhale, allow the air to gently push your belly out. As you exhale, consciously relax your belly so that it feels soft.
2. On the third deep inhalation, bring to your mind’s eye an image of someone you love or a beautiful nature scene that fills you with awe or wonder.
3. Focus on the image and the resulting warm feelings, and notice that your belly is still slowly moving in and out.
4. When you feel relaxed, see if the part of you that is calm can allow you to see the situation differently.

Forgiving someone who has wronged you could end up being the greatest gift you can give to yourself. Give yourself the chance to try these steps, and enjoy the freedom you'll receive.

[from John Tesh]

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Is The U.S. Open to Global Currency?

Last night, President Barack Obama expressed confidence in the dollar and declared: "I don't believe that there's a need for a global currency."

Normally, that would settle the issue. But in the past 24 hours two of Obama's top economic advisers have signaled an openness to such a new global currency -- in one form or another. What's going on?

Politico's Ben Smith reports that Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner said this morning that he was open to a new global currency to replace the dollar, as proposed by a Chinese central banker. Geithner, according to Smith, said that the proposal -- which he has not yet read -- is less transformative that headlines have suggested. "We’re actually quite open to that suggestion – you should see it as rather evolutionary rather building on the current architecture rather than moving us to global monetary union," Geithner said.

Later, the moderator, per Smith "apparently sensing a gaffe," asked Geithner to clarify his remarks. Geithner walked back his earlier comments and said he does not see the dollar being sidelined by a new currency.

But Geithner wasn't the only top Obama adviser who refused to rule out a transition to a global currency. White House economic adviser Austan Goolsbee said much the same thing yesterday afternoon in an interview with CNN's Wolf Blitzer. Although he characterized such a change as "unlikely," Goolsbee twice declined to rule out such a global currency despite being pressed by Blitzer. "I haven't seen the details of the proposal," Goolsbee said. The entire exchange follows:

BLITZER: The Chinese suggesting today, this dollar, U.S. dollar, should be replaced as international currency, because they are beginning to have concerns that you are printing, the U.S. government is simply printing too many of these dollars and will lose its value as an international currency.

What's your reaction?

GOOLSBEE: It strikes me as probably unlikely.

Different people have in the past argued for world currencies or new -- new currencies before. I believe the U.S. at this point is the safest place to invest in the world. And it's likely to remain that the dollar is a critical currency in the years ahead.

BLITZER: So, you -- you don't like some new international currency that some Chinese are proposing?

GOOLSBEE: Well, look...

BLITZER: I assume that's right, right?

GOOLSBEE: I haven't seen the details of what they are proposing.

I mean, the dollar is the dollar. If people don't want to buy it, they don't buy it. But I think you have seen sort of a flight to the dollar in -- in times of trouble.

[from CNN]

GreenRidge Civitans Honor Clergy

The GreenRidge Tennessee Civitan Club honored area clergy. Civitan clubs around the world honor clergy for their service to others. A special dinner was held at Highland Chapel in Ridgetop with Rev. Michael Davenport from the Nashville Rescue Mission as the guest speaker.

Guests included Brother John Blackwell and Lois, Dave Macy from Ridgetop First Baptist, Brother Craig Geesaman and Lisa from Metro Baptist, Brother Richard Lovvorn and Jonnie from Church of God of Prophecy, Greenbrier Chapel, Brother Jack Evans and Dianne from Ebenezer Baptist Church, Brother David Coulter and Wanda from Fellowship Baptist Church, Rev. Jeff Fryer and Naomi and Dr. Jeff Keyes representing Highland Chapel Union Church.

Club President Paulette White said the Clergy Appreciation Week began as a commemoration of the death of four military chaplains during World War II who were aboard the troopship USS Dorchester that was torpedoed in the North Atlantic. The chaplains helped to quiet the soldiers, finally giving their lives when they gave their live jackets to other soldiers.

[from The Tennessean]

Church Planting Conference

The Church of God National Church Planting Office (NCPO) is partnering with the America Ablaze church planting initiative to produce the first conference based on the mother/daughter church planting model.

The two entities have planned the conference for May 18-21, 2009 in Madisonville, Ky., in conjunction with a scheduled national church planting lab.

“Jesus charged His disciples with the Great Commission just before he ascended into Heaven,” stated Timothy M. Hill, assistant general overseer for the Church of God. “Matthew 28:19 says to, ‘Go and make disciples for all nations.’ The disciples obeyed His command by going from town to town leading people to faith in Christ and planting churches. Acts was the first church planting book ever written.”

Speakers for the Mothering/Daughtering Lab will include Paul Becker , author of The Dynamic Daughter Church Planting Handbook and director of Dynamic Church Planting International (DCPI); Dr. Owen Weston, director of the Church Planting Revitalization (CPR) Institute; and Dr. Ed Stetzer, director of Church Planting for the Southern Baptist denomination.

A special track for certification training will take place on May 17 from 5:00 – 9:00 p.m. open to state evangelism and home missions directors, administrative leaders and pastors. All participants will receive a complimentary copy of the newest book from DCPI on Mother/Daughtering churches. In addition every pastor who registers will receive a 232-page manual from DCPI that covers every aspect of the mother/daughter church planting concept.

Costs for the Lab is $99.00 per person and an additional $50.00 for those attending the May 17 special track training. Space is limited and registration is available by calling 270-825-3513 or on line at http://www.cogplanting.com/. Additional information can alos be obtained by calling the America Ablaze office at (423) 478-7079.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Obama Reduces Charitable Deductions

For the 5% of Americans whose household income exceeds $250,000 a year, those families can currently save $350 in taxes for every $1,000 donated to charity.

Under the new Obama plan, that amount would drop to $280 per $1,000 donation.

“By doing this, you raise the cost of giving” said Roberton Williams, a senior fellow at The Tax Policy Center, a liberal Washington think tank.

By Williams’ calculations, the change will result in a 10% drop in charitable giving by wealthy Americans, who typically contribute about 20% of all charitable dollars. In real dollars, Williams projects a decline of about $6 billion in charitable donations because of the change.

Emanuel Humes Sr. Obituary

Emanuel I. Humes Sr., a former businessman, church leader and columnist, died Wednesday in Los Angeles. He was 81.

Mr. Humes was born in Miami but spent his youth in New York City, where he was a Golden Gloves champion and leader of a street gang until he joined the Church of God of Prophecy in 1948. He met his wife, the former Lillie Melvin, at the church. They were married in 1951 and moved to Buffalo, NY.

After serving in the Army during the Korean War, Mr. Humes returned to Buffalo and began work as a labor foreman at Bethlehem Steel. He left the plant in 1969.

In 1963, he and his wife opened a beauty salon, Humes’ Styles in Beauty, which they operated for 30 years. Mr. Humes also established Humes Construction and Sullivan-Humes Painting on Jefferson Avenue. The company was hired to perform the masonry work on the City Mission, among other commercial construction projects throughout the area.

In 1972, Black Enterprise magazine recognized Humes Construction as one the top 100 minority businesses. Mr. Humes also operated a bookstore and wrote a history column for the Buffalo Challenger called “Tell Us More, Dad.”

He was active in local Democratic politics and was a life member of both the NAACP and the Urban League.

Known to many as Rev. Humes, he served as an assistant pastor, then pastor at Bethel Tabernacle and was a leader in the Church of God of Prophecy, establishing churches in Buffalo, Rochester and Olean.

He retired and moved to Los Angeles in 1996.

In addition to his wife of 58 years, Mr. Humes is survived by four daughters, Theresa Jordan, Belinda Mullen, Dyan Nispel and Denisha; three sons, Emanuel Jr., Lemuel and James; two brothers, Louis Starr and Robert; and a sister, Gloria Woods.

[from The Buffalo News]

Monday, March 23, 2009

Charles B. Holt Arrangements

Charles B. Holt, father of Bishop Paul Holt, went to be with the Lord Sunday evening about 8:00 PM. Bishop Paul Holt is the International Director of Heritage Ministries for the Church of God of Prophecy.

The family will be receiving friends on Tuesday from 6:00 to 8:00 PM CST at the Pine Grove Church of God of Prophecy in Crossville, Alabama.

He will lie in state on Wednesday from 12:00 to 1:00 PM CST. The funeral will be at 1:00 PM Wednesday at the Pine Grove COGOP with Bishop E.C. McKinley, State Overseer of Tennessee officiating. Burial will follow in the Crossville City Cemetery.

Hood Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Recent Pastor Survey

On Friday, Biblical Seminary hosted the first "Pastoring though Church Challenges” conference for pastors. Pastors gathered to hear plenaries and breakouts regarding specific church challenges and opportunities/challenges to their spiritual and emotional lives.

At the end, an anonymous survey was taken. Here’s what we learned from the pastors present:

1. Over half of the respondents are facing high levels of chronic stress.
2. Most report they are “managing with struggles” (opposed to managing either “poorly” or “satisfactorily”, or “well”).
3. When asked to write in the top 2 sources of their stress, they gave answers that fit in several categories. The categories receiving the most “hits” were personal issues (e.g., depression, anxiety, sinful habits, no passion) and marital distress. Financial stress and church conflict got the next highest level of “hits.
4. 43% did not have regular contact with someone who really knew them and their personal issues.
5. Interestingly, respondents were rather wary of joining face-to-face or web-supported support groups of peers. Most rated their interest (theoretical) as maybe to unlikely. Web supported groups (video/discussion) received the least interest.

How would you respond? (Click Comments below.)

Church Planting in America

There’s a theory behind church planting. It rejects the idea of trying to fill up existing churches before building new ones. Old churches are often “closed clubs” that don’t attract new residents or young people or “the lost,” says the Rev. Johnny Kurcina, an assistant pastor of The Falls Church.

Besides, population increase far exceeds church growth in America. This is especially true in cities. As an Episcopal Church rector, Mr. Yates began thinking about planting churches 20 years ago. But the bishop of Virginia “wouldn’t allow us to discuss it,” he says, fearing that new Episcopal churches would lure people from older ones. In 2001, he was allowed to plant a church, but only a county away in a distant exurb.

Mr. Yates was strongly influenced by the Rev. Tim Keller of Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan. Mr. Keller has led in creating new churches — Redeemer has planted more than 100 churches in New York and other cities around the world. Innovative new churches, he has written, are “the research and development department” for Christianity, attract “venturesome people” as fresh leaders, and have the spillover effect of challenging existing churches to revitalize their ministry.

Leaving the Episcopal denomination (while remaining in the Anglican Communion) has given Mr. Yates the freedom to plant churches in urban areas amid many Episcopal churches. (One is next door to Christ the King.) His goal is to plant 20 churches in northern Virginia before retiring. Christ the King was the third, and a fourth was recently planted in Arlington. Mr. Kurcina, 33, who is my son-in-law, is preparing to plant a fifth in Fairfax County.

For a growing number of young preachers like Christ the King’s Mr. Glade, planting and then leading a new church is an ideal option. As orthodox Anglicans, they didn’t feel welcome in the Episcopal church. And they felt a strong calling to lead their own parish. Mr. Glade grew up as an Episcopalian in Jacksonville, Fla. After graduation from Florida State, he came to The Falls Church as an intern and spent four years as a youth leader before attending Trinity Seminary outside Pittsburgh. He returned to The Falls Church eager to lead a theologically conservative Anglican congregation. “In order to do that, you had to go out and do it yourself,” he told me.

[from the Wall Street Journal]

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Bishop Paul Holt's Father Passes

Bishop Paul Holt, International Director of Heritage Ministries for the Church of God of Prophecy, lost his father in death this evening about 8:00 PM.

Charles Holt had been ill for some time and was hospitalized in the Cumberland County Medical Center in Crossville, Tennessee.

We will post the arrangements as soon as we know them.

STDs a growing trend among America's youth

A government report reveals a strong need for more attention to abstinence education.

Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America has seen the report on sexually transmitted diseases which comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "It's just very appalling because the sexually transmitted diseases syphilis and Chlamydia now are continuing to rise," she notes. "And Chlamydia is at an all-time high, an historical high, with over a million new cases a year, which is an increase over last year of some seven percent." Since many of the new reports involve young people, Crouse says the figures suggest comprehensive sex education -- which she believes encourages young people to be intimate -- is not working. "We have said to a whole generation, almost two generations now, of young people, 'Just be careful and use a condom,' and that's the only advice we are giving them," she adds, "and I think that's so unfair and it's so misleading for our young people because we're downplaying the consequences of casual sex." The only way to prevent STDs and pregnancy, says Crouse, is abstinence.

[from One News Now]

Church Member Burns His Own Church

DIXON MILLS, Ala.-- Authorities have arrested and charged 50-year-old Ronnie Lee Watkins with arson in a blaze that heavily damaged a rural Marengo County church.

State Fire Marshal Ed Paulk says the March 15 fire was discovered in the Angel Temple Church on Magnolia Church Road in Dixon Mills.

In a statement, Paulk says Watkins of Magnolia is a member of the church.

He was charged Friday with second-degree arson and held in the Marengo County Jail. It was not immediately known if he had an attorney.

[from the Associated Press]

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Today's Quote

"If your gospel isn't touching others, it hasn't touched you." -- Curry R. Blake

Biblical Counseling is Like Preaching

Some have had difficulty in equating the two. But let’s take a look at the situation. There are similarities and differences. Here are a few of each.

1. Both preacher and counselor seek to bring a message from God to those who listen.
2. Both use the very same Source from which to gather that message — the Bible.
3. Both confront those to whom they minister with truth that is intended to change their lives.
4. Both give examples of what the Bible is talking about to show
a. What they are talking about.
b. How truth can be applied in life.
c. Ways in which it may be implemented.
5. Both are interested in bringing about change through the Spirit using His Word, and not through psychological means.
6. Both are committed to one end in all they do — the glory of God.
7. Both use the Scriptures to direct, rebuke, urge, persuade, inform and convince their listeners.
8. Both speak differently when addressing believers and unbelievers.
9. Both are interested in one end for those to whom the minister — that their lives may please God.
10. Both avoid using gimmicks to bring about the desired results.

How do they differ?

1. One speaks in a louder volume than the other (ordinarily).
2. One addresses a wide variety of people at the same time, whereas the other addresses a specific person or persons at one time.
3. One speaks, but does not receive, verbal feedback as the other does.
4. One does not discuss matters, while the other must do so.
5. One is more general in what he says that the other who can be more specific and personal.
6. One is concerned with the same basic issues over a period of time, while the other takes up a variety of topics during the period.
7. One involves written assignments while the other usually does not.
8. One speaks as a part of a worship service, while the other deals only with the problems presented in a less formal setting.
9. One acts more as a herald while the other as a coach.
10. One may seek immediate interaction among those present while the other expects eventual change of that sort.

These items are only a few of the similarities and the differences between the two. But you can see from them that they are very much alike in goals and methods, and that the differences are due largely to the distinct settings in which the communication of God’s truth takes place. Clearly, the two supplement, support and complement each other, each supplying a dimension that the other cannot. The two, in tandem, approximate each other and each is deficient apart from the other.

[from Institute for Nouthetic Studies by Jay Adams]

Church of God of Prophecy and Church of God in Christ

State Overseer E. C. McKinley has announced that Bishop Felton Smith, Prelate of the Church of God in Christ in Eastern Tennessee, will be ministering at the Tennessee State Convention of the Church of God of Prophecy.

The 2009 Tennessee State Convention will take place at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Convention Center in Murfreesboro, Tennessee July 10-12, 2009. The public is invited to attend.

Bishop Felton M. Smith, Jr., a native of Chattanooga, Tennessee, is often referred to as one of God's anointed and accomplished 21st century evangelists. He is a teacher, prophet, apostle and pastor. Bishop is recognized throughout the body of Christ for his charismatic personality and profound insight of the gospel message.

Accepting Christ at the age of seven, and preaching by the age of eight, Bishop Smith's service in ministry has been a lifelong endeavor. As pastor of Tabernacle of Faith Deliverance Church Of God In Christ, Nashville, Tennessee, an acquisition of $2 million dollars have been realized under the leadership of Bishop Smith. A 700 seat sanctuary was completed in 2005, and a 6100 square feet multipurpose Educational and special events center which was acquired in 2003, will be completed in 2007.

Bishop Smith's educational background includes an Associate Degree in Electrical Engineering, Monterey Peninsula College, Monterey, California; Pastoral studies, Tennessee Temple University, Chattanooga, TN; Religion and Philosophy with a minor emphasis on Psychology, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; (2) two earned Under-graduate Degrees in Biblical Studies, American Bible Institute, Kansas City, Missouri; Masters Degree in Orthodoxy in Ministry and Counseling Psychology, Oxford Graduate School; an earned Doctorate of Ministry, International Bible College and Seminary, Orlando, Florida; and Doctorate of Philosophy from the Oxford Graduate School.

Half of American Idol's Top Ten are Worship Leaders or Have Church Ties

According to www.MTV.com: "more than half of this year's crop of finalists — including Danny Gokey, Michael Sarver, Kris Allen, Scott MacIntyre, Matt Giraud and Lil Rounds — either have a strong affiliation with the church or are worship leaders in their communities.

"I think that Christians probably watch the show all the time but maybe don't admit it. But this gives them someone to root for in this cast who is not just talented but also follows their faith, and people want to get behind contestants who align with their views," said Joanne Brokaw, who writes the Gospel Soundcheck" column for the spirituality Web site www.BeliefNet.com. "Christian music has always had this cheesy label attached to it, and this shows that a Christian singer can have artistic integrity and they are people who can really sing."

You can read more here at MTV.com...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Pastor Robin Beets Arrested on Sex Charges

A trusted Pulaski, Tennessee Reverend is facing some disturbing charges.

42-year old Robin Beets is the pastor of the Welcome Valley Baptist Church in Giles County.

Beets is charged with rape and kidnapping. He was arrested earlier this week, now police say they found additional evidence against him. Folks who know the Reverend are stunned.

Beets was released Wednesday from the Giles County jail on $152,000 bond.

[from WAAY - WAAY News and Home]

Pastor Clarke Remains In Jail

A federal appeals court upheld the conviction of Birmingham, Alabama, pastor Gregory Clarke.

In 2007, a federal jury convicted the Rev. Clarke, pastor of the 6,000-member New Hope Baptist Church in Birmingham, on charges he filed false income tax returns for 2000, 2001 and 2002.

Prosecutors said Clarke underreported $100,000 in earned income and concocted schemes to deceive the government about the money. Clarke maintained at trial that he received gifts and love offerings.

Clarke's attorneys argued on appeal that there was not enough evidence to support a guilty verdict and that the jury was not a fair cross section of the community. He is serving his 21-month prison term at an Atlanta federal prison. Judges at the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there were no errors at the district court level and that the conviction and sentence should stand.

Read the three-judge panel's opinion.

[from The Birmingham News - al.com by jmacdonald@bhamnews.com]

Setting the Environment for Success

Hopefully, every minister of the Gospel wants to be successful in their work for the Lord. Pastors have a heart for church growth, and hopefully Bishops and trans-local church leaders want to create an environment for growth in the Church and the Kingdom.

None of us do this alone. Our business is people. And we need staff, paid or volunteer, to come along side us and be a part of the team.

I believe the following suggestions are applicable to churches, ministries, denominations, and businesses.

What can a leader do to create an environment for success? Here are 10 ideas, in order of importance:

1. Create motivating work. THE most important thing any leader can do to create a motivating environment is to make sure the work every member of the team is doing is strategic. That is, the work is important to success. When you feel like what you are doing is making a difference, it’s energizing. On the other hand, there’s no worse feeling than knowing your work just doesn’t matter. Every leader has some degree of discretion in being able to eliminate or minimize the amount of “muda” (non-value-added work) that flows into a team.

Any job can be strategic. I’m sure you’ve heard the story of the two bricklayers; one of them saw his job as stacking bricks. The other saw his mission as building a magnificent cathedral. Same job – different worldview.

Making sure work is strategic is the best form of job security a leader can give a team. It’s every leader’s job to scrutinize every team member’s work like a CEO looking for jobs to cut. If the work is important, it’s less likely to be eliminated.

2. Recruit "A" players and move "C" players. A players (high performers) tend to be self-motivated to begin with. When you create a team of A players, they feed off of each other. The standards are raised, the energy level increases, teamwork improves, and there’s a low tolerance for anything less than excellence. On the other hand, one or more C players (poor performers or bad attitudes) can infect a team like a cancer, breed resentment, and drag everyone down.

God loves everyone and so do we. There is a place in the church for everyone. However, it is not God's divine purpose for everyone to be in leadership. Nothing is worse than people trying to do something they are not gifted or called to do. And, nothing is more successful than a team with each team member functioning in the role for which they were divinely called and gifted.

3. Don’t micromanage – get out of the way. "A" players don’t need to have a leader breathing down their necks – in fact, it drives them crazy. Show your people that you are interested in what they are doing, but you trust them to make their own decisions and do things differently than you might do them.

4. Promote your team’s work. As a leader, it’s your job to be your team’s PR agent. Make sure their good work gets noticed, recognized, and appreciated. Don’t worry about over promoting your team’s good work – most people love to get good news. Just make sure the bragging is about them – not about you.

5. Loosen up the rules and bureaucracy. As long as your team is focusing on what’s really important (see #1, strategic work), and performing at a high level (see #2, "A" players), cut them some slack. Don’t hassle them with minutia, give them flexibility in work hours, and protect them from useless programs (stupid mandates passed down from people whose job it was to push muda on everyone else).

6. Don’t be a jerk. Sounds simple, but as leaders, we’re all human. No one sees themselves as a jerk, and no one wants to be a jerk. But, there are many. The key is to be open to feedback. Ask a few trusted team members to let you know if you’ve done or said something insensitive or clueless.

I’m fortunate to have a few people who will (tactfully) tell it like it is to me – and while it stings, and I feel like a fool, I completely appreciate it. It gives me a chance to make amends.

7. Get personal. Get to know your people, learn about their families, their career goals, and truly care about them. I know a leader who when one of his team went above and beyond the call of duty, and put in extra hours, he would send a hand written note to the person’s spouse along with a gift certificate for a night out. He recognized the effect this extra work was having on his home life, and wanted to let the spouse know what a great job he was doing and how much he appreciated her support. While that may not be appropriate for everyone, it’s an example of showing your people you care about their personal lives, not just public ministry. Don’t let your team get carried away and miss out on important family events – let them know that family always comes first.

8. Set a good example. Be motivated, enthused, energized, and passionate about your own work and the work of the team.

9. Encourage camaraderie during work hours. Bring in a pizza now and then, go out to lunch, and celebrate milestones. Notice I said during work hours. While it’s OK if the team wants to go out together after a day at the church, or get together on their own time, I don’t believe a leader should intrude on people’s own time in the name of teambuilding.

10. Pay people for what they are worth. Yes, compensation is important, but I’ve listed it last. While pay is not a motivator, it can be a de-motivator if people feel they are underpaid. Do everything you can as a leader to fight for well deserved merit increases, promotions, and bonuses. Of all the entities in the world, Christians and Churches should pay best because they genuinely care about people.

[from Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Children's Ministry Conference Draws Over 3,000 for Time to "Conspire"

Children’s ministry leaders representing 1,000 churches of varying styles, sizes, and locations are gathering this week with one common goal – to see every child that God sends their way launched into a lifetime devotion to Jesus Christ.

Starting Wednesday, more than 3,000 children’s ministry workers will be participating in the “Conspire” conference, hosted by the Willow Creek Association.

Amid the Mar. 18-20 event will be five main sessions led by speakers – including Veggie Tales creator Phil Vischer – on topics ranging from how culture influences children to how to bring out the strengths of children. Also included are 60 breakout sessions on a variety of practical topics such as event planning, effective budgeting, and rewiring ministry for digital learners.

“Those of us on the Conspire team believe very strongly in the power of community and relating with those who serve in ministry,” the conference organizers say. “Ministry is just too hard to do alone – without encouragement and empowerment none of us would survive.”

This year’s conference comes just a week after a study released by The Barna Group revealed that less than one percent of the youngest adult generation in America, those between ages 18 and 23, has a biblical worldview.

Furthermore, a study last month by LifeWay Research found that the majority of parents (60 percent) heavily rely on their own experiences growing up for parenting guidance but only one-fifth say they receive a lot of guidance from sacred text such as the Bible or Koran.

“We believe that when the church and home are working together in partnership, a child will be spiritually formed for a lifetime,” organizers of “Conspire” say.

For this year’s conference, organizers are trying to get people who are not able to attend to get connected to the conversations through social networking sites such as Facebook, Twitter, CM Connect, and You Tube.

There is also a blog for the conference on the event’s website, willowcreek.com/conspireconference, which will update parents and children’s ministry workers wanting to join.

The conference’s name, “Conspire,” is the combination of the words “connect” and “inspire.”
“Through our resources, events and communities we are encouraging connections between ministry leaders, churches and families, and children to the love of Christ,” conference organizers explain. “We are inspiring new ideas and many models with one vision–seeing children choose Christ for a lifetime.”

Since 2003, the Willow Creek Association has been hosting its annual children’s ministry conference in South Barrington, Ill. The association was founded in 1992 by megachurch pastor Bill Hybels, who currently serves as chairman of the board and senior pastor of Willow Creek Community Church.

[from The Christian Post by Eric Young]

Church Planting Quiz

God Grown has come up with a quiz to help one determine whether or not your heart is in the right place for going out and starting a new church.

Click here to take the QUIZ.

Church Planting Thoughts

Launching large is a key … there is a corrolation between launching large and reaching as many people as possible … for God’s dream for your church is bigger than your dream.

Launching quickly is a key, too. Start quickly, in 2-4 months beginning monthly services, then a few more months going to weekly services. Lost people are the same everywhere; they’re not going to come to your church until you start services.

A third key is launching from the outside in. Opposite from the Purpose-Driven concentric circles, you have no core when you start a new church. In fact, new churches shouldn’t have a core for about a year. Focus only on the community and the crowd … try to get people to come to your church/service. If you build a core, they become resistant to reaching more lost people and will become inwardly focused. You and your worship leader with everybody else lost is lots better than a bunch of disgruntled Christians from the church down the street.

There are a number of significant ideas to understand and implement, including the following:
- Your calling is the most important factor to your plant’s success.
- Resist the temptation to do everything first … do the weekend service/childcare and evangelism, no more.

Calling. There are no higher highs and no lower lows than in church planting. Most churches fail because they’re led by a non-called leader. In fact, the calling of God is the only thing that will keep you there at times. God ALWAYS calls both you and your spouse to church planting … but not necessarily at the same time. And you will most likely be called to reach people like yourself … 93% of planters do, since only 7% have a cross-cultural gift.

The 22 Immutable Laws of Marketing as one of the 5 most important books church planters should read. This book, by Al Reiss and Jack Trout, will help you live out your calling and reach all ages. Music is the number one key. “The call” is a call to prepare to lead, to teach, to depend on God!

Focus on the “nuts and bolts” side of church planting. One of the focus elements needed is raising funds for church planting. The only people who don’t like you talking about money are people that come to you from other churches. God’s work done God’s way will never lack God’s provision. God wants you to succeed!

Funding. Start by knowing how much you’ll need to start your work. Plan on salaries that are comparable to the people you’re trying to reach. Get the only kind of equipment you need … not top of the line stuff … this is, in fact, one of the biggest mistakes planters make today. No monies are left to do evangelism or add staff! Lease equipment if you can, instead of buying it. Don’t just assume you know what’s happening in the city; find out by talking to business people in the community where you’ll serve. Plan for being self-sufficient as a new church in 2-4 years and be able to show potential donors how you’re going to do that.

The largest base of donors come from local churches across the country. A very few come from personal relationships. Most give $2,000-$3,000 a month for one to three years. Most came after you launch because churches like to fund success. And know that fund raising must continue through the years. Finally, don’t ever forget, you (planter) are the chief fundraiser for the new church; no one else can replace you with donors. So, over four years, you will need up to half a million dollars for your church plant. These skills used in raising this money will be used over and over again in the growth and development of your church.

Why do some churches succeed and others don’t? Leadership, planning and the spiritual blessing of God. There are probably lots of others. IN FACT, the most important factor is A HEALTHY LAUNCH … 80% of the time this is the key to success, just as a healthy birth is key to a child’s growth and development.

Planning Your First Service. Picking the right date for launch is the most important decision you’ll make after you nail down your call from God. Easter … when school starts back … these are good times, but not the best. The best time is February. This gives you a chance for a second launch at Easter, before the drop off in summer. Then you have a major push in the fall and you’re off to a great start. And don’t launch at any other time of the week than Sunday morning. Then back up 3-6 months to start your monthly services that will lead up to your launch. And by the way, your launch team commits to help you launch the church weekly, but it goes away after you’ve started weekly services.

Meeting Location. The location where you meet should match the people you’re trying to reach. Ideally, it will be a place like a hotel ballroom where you can move from one place to another. Movie theaters are also good, as are comedy clubs. Public school auditoriums are another option or community theaters, but they are pricey. But regardless, don’t sign a long-term lease.

Launch Day. Start a teaching series this day based on a felt-need important to your target group. Have your launch team inviting their friends to join you for this first weekly service. And don’t ever use a guest musician or band on this day! People need to see what’s going to be a part of the regular church life from this time forward. Finally, be sure to collect information from everyone who attends and followup on them right away.

Three Great Temptations You Must Overcome. First, you will be tempted to change the launch date. NEVER change it … NEVER. Second, don’t delegate too much control and authority to the launch team. You must lead, so take responsibility and make it happen. Third, you may be tempted to merge with another (dying) congregation that offers you resources but brings with it lots and lots of baggage. DON’T DO IT!

Staffing. The most important staff hire you’ll ever make is your worship leader … if done right, this hire will create incredible synergy. Hire from within when possible but make sure they’re called. Also, hire parttime before fulltime. And if you hire your wife as a staffer with you, find a counselor RIGHT NOW. Don’t wait till it damages your marriage to deal with it.

[from Church Multiplication]

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Why the Church Needs to Develop Community

THE BIBLE constantly reminds believers that God has a soft spot for the poor and vulnerable, and those that help the disadvantaged and dispossessed will experience God’s favour and blessing. James also stated that those who followed religion which was true and pure were to "look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world."

There’s no doubt that over the years Britain’s black churches have provide a welcome respite for the disadvantaged in our community. When churches were first started by the West Indians who came to Britain during the 1950s and 60s, they provided black people with somewhere they could get practical support, encouragement and spiritual inspiration, as they came to terms with life in the UK.

Whilst the first generation of church leaders may not have had access to the finance and education that their modern day counterparts enjoy, they did the best they could to provide care and help for their congregations.

In order to surpass the achievements of that first generation of ministers, churches now need to start putting structures in place to establish full-time ministries, and employ professional staff who can meet the growing and demanding needs of their members. One complaint I hear often is that UK churches do not serve as the centre of the community, as is the case in the US.

American churches not only provide a platform for ministers to preach, they also provide numerous community services such as food banks, soup kitchens, counselling, housing projects and education establishments.

Some of the increased sums of money that now pass through several of Britain’s black majority churches should be used to set up initiatives that combat some of the key issues facing our community. The Church of God of Prophecy (COGOP) is a good example of what churches can achieve when they utilize the financial and human resources at their disposal to serve the community.

Over the years COGOP has established a housing association, based in the West Midlands, which provides homes for the elderly and single parents, three family centres that offer therapy and counselling services, and helped facilitate the establishment of the National Black Boys Can Association. The Association is helping to improve the educational achievement of black boys across the UK, and assist them in getting places at some of Britain’s leading universities.

READ MORE...

[from The Voice by Marcia Dixon]

Monday, March 16, 2009

Eight Steps to Getting Out of Debt

There’s no doubt personal debt has played a key role in the current financial crisis. Debt levels have been climbing for several decades. And pastor, more than likely, they’re climbing in your church.

You’ve got people in your church who are hurting – badly. A recent survey of Southern Baptist pastors by Lifeway Research showed that only one in four thought their parishioners were struggling with debt – well below the true national average. The average American is spending $1.25 for every $1 they make. My guess is that pastors from other denominations have the same false impressions of their congregation as well. Most of us have been clueless about the mounting personal debt among our church members.

Debt isn’t just impacting our church’s pews though. It’s impacting the pulpits as well. Many ministries are sunk because pastors are so burdened by debt they leave the ministry for more profitable work.

Debt is a problem we can’t ignore any longer. But how do we get out from under it? We’ve got to commit to these steps and help our congregations do the same.

1. Commit to becoming debt free now.
2. Start paying God and yourself first.
3. List all you own, owe, and earn.
4. Have a sale.
5. Set up a repayment plan to get out of debt.
6. Add no new debt.
7. Share the plan with your creditors.
8. Stick to it.

Learn how. READ MORE...

[from The Christian Post by Rick Warren]

The Message of Giving

Christian History has an interesting little article exploring the recent history of the offering in church services. The article covers government-supported churches (that's right, here in the U.S. of A. until 1833) and explains how the weekly passing of the collection plate during worship services didn't become common practice until 1900.

It's a little bewildering that a staple of the modern church service is such a recent addition. But it's also freeing, considering how that staple so often trips people up and prompts finger-wagging over churches only wanting your money.

Money and the church have always caused problems -- think lightning strikes, indulgences and selling pews, but maybe there's a way we could rethink this practice, still fund the church and do our giving. Without turning people off.

How do you go about doing your offering? And what message is it sending? Could you communicate more effectively by making giving less visible (online giving, pledge drives, etc.)?

Or should giving be an active and visible part of our worship, and if so, how do we deal with the naysayers?

Churches have varied on this from the book of Acts and up through the centuries. There's no right answer. But maybe it's time to reconsider how your church conducts its fund raising and whether or not your conventions are communicating your convictions.

[from Church Marketing Sucks by Kevin D. Hendricks]

ORU Project Takes a Look at Growth of Charismatics

Tulsa, long a global hub of Pentecostalism, is hosting an international study to look at what has become the fastest-growing arm of the Christian faith. Some 640 million adherents worldwide, across many denominations, practice Pentecostal/charismatic Christianity, with its emphasis on miracles, healing and speaking in tongues.

The Commission on Holy Spirit Empowerment in the 21st Century is sponsored by Oral Roberts University. It will culminate with a gathering of leaders and scholars from around the world April 8-10, 2010, in Tulsa.

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Grace Alone

"Paul did not labor that he might receive grace, but he received grace in order that he might labor." (Augustine, De gestis Pelagii xiv, 36).

No distinction could be more important to our salvation.

Augustine knew what many over the years have not known — salvation is not of works; it produces good works.

He speaks of grace. Grace is something unmerited. It is an enabling power. Romans 8: 8 says that those who are “in the flesh [unsaved persons] CANNOT please God” (emphasis mine).” Yet people are always trying to do so by their own ability. The fact is that they are not able to do so: “Not of works, lest anyone should boast.”

That’s why they need the grace of God, regenerating and giving them the ability to believe the Gospel. Prior to that grace which brings spiritual life, one is dead spiritually; he cannot believe.
Roman Catholics have always believed that there is an element of ability left in man to which God may appeal. The Bible teaches otherwise. To be dead, isn’t to still have a little life left!

So, we are grateful to God, who provides for every aspect of salvation—from beginning to end. That provision is called grace.

Grace is an interesting concept — difficult for proud man to fathom. Men want to contribute something-if not everything — to their regeneration and justification.

There were some Puritans who believed by works, you could “prepare” yourself for regeneration, and they set people on long periods of becoming sensible to their sins, so that the Gospel could be given to them when ready. Not so. In Scripture, people are saved on the spot at having heard to GOOD News for the first time. Consider the Ethiopian Eunuch; Lydia who had to have her heart opened to believe, or the Philippian jailer.

Alleine’s Alarm to the Unconverted is a handbook of Preparationism and ought to be avoided at all costs. It talks about all sorts of works, but in the chapter called “Directions to the Unconverted,” he never once says, “Repent and believe the Gospel.”

People are saved by grace through faith — which leads to works as a result of conversion.

[from Institute for Nouthetic Studies Blog by Jay Adams]

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Who Made You Right?

How about a word of caution from the apostle Paul that probably applies across the board to people in all sorts of churches — yes, even where the Bible is supreme.

Here is what he wrote under the moving of the Holy Spirit:
"Every charge must be substantiated by the mouth of two or three witnesses" (2 Corinthians 13:13).

Now, if that word were heeded in the church, there would be far greater peace.

There is nothing esoteric, confusing or difficult about this verse. There is no context to define it — except for the fact that the Corinthians were always at each other's throats about something or other.

It means what it says: don’t bring a charge against anyone without being able to substantiate it. The 2 or 3 witness clause refers back to the Old Testament rule for witnesses (Dt. 17:6; 19:15).

There are too many today, even those in authority, who seem to think it is legitimate (if they think about it at all) to talk negatively about others with impunity. Not so. It matters not your position nor title, it is a serious matter before the Lord. If there is something to be said about others, especially pastors, or about a member of the congregation, then do so formally (as this verse directs) or keep quiet! (I almost wrote “shut up”). File formal charges, or leave it alone. And, if formal charges are filed, the charges must be absolutely proven, or the accuser should be charged no matter their position or title.

The world is watching closely while the church mistreats one another. No wonder they want to have no part of it. Church members are talking about one another, or about the pastor, accusations are made, loose talk goes on, and slander is framed as prayer requests. Even denominational leadership can fall into the judgemental trap of imposing discipline based on talk or hearsay. How many times has a pastor been moved or not used at all based on rumors?

Perhaps a good rule would be to impose the same discipline on the accuser as would have been imposed on the accused if the accusation cannot be proven by two or three witnesses. Even a bishop is not right just because he is a bishop. If errors are made, they must be made on the side of grace.

Uncharitable talk is rife in the church — I mean genuine believers. Indeed, whenever you hear it, you ought not to become a trash can to receive it. Squelch it by reciting this verse!

BeBe Winans Arrested For Assault of Ex-Wife

Gospel music star BeBe Winans has been accused of assaulting his ex-wife and was held briefly at a county jail in Nashville on Friday before posting $1000 bond.

According to official documents, Winans, 46, and his ex-wife Debra Winans got into a "verbal altercation" on Feb. 13 over "custody issues dealing with their children." The two were married for 16 years before divorcing in 2003 and have a 13-year-old daughter and a 10-year-old son.

During the “verbal altercation” at Debra Winans’ Nashville home, BeBe Winans reportedly “became irate.”

“The defendant then pushed the victim to the ground,” court papers stated.

Though late in coming, Debra Winans said her decision to speak out was made with the hope that it would help other abuse victims who suffer through abuse rather than reaching out for help.

"Until you realize something's not changing, you pray all day long,” she told a local NBC affiliate.
“The power of God is real, but one thing He's not going to do is go against someone's will. We make choices," she added.

On Friday, an official statement released by BeBe Winans acknowledged that there was “a child custody right dispute” that arose out of his “desire to spend time with our children as court ordered.”

However, Winans said the allegations were “nothing less than heart wrenching” and “inconsistent with my character and the foundation upon which I was raised.”

He also said he would make no other comments for the time being having decided “to say nothing negative about my children’s mother.”

“I am prayerful that the matter is straightened out very soon for the sake of our children,” Winans stated.

A Grammy Award-winning gospel and R&B singer, Benjamin “BeBe” Winans is a member of the noted Winans family, which includes “Mom and Pop Winans,” brothers David, Ronald, Carvin, Marvin, Michael and Daniel, sisters Angie and Debbie Winans, and arguably the most popular, CeCe Winans.

A spokesman for BeBe Winans told NBC affiliate WSMV-TV that the singer is in Atlanta working as a judge on a BET program.

[from The Christian Post]