Wednesday, April 30, 2008

National Day of Prayer

Synergy Ministries

Where do we go from here?

In Church Identity and Change (Eerdmans, 2005) Roozen and Nieman offer a study of the major denominations in North America. They conclude that all are struggling to transmit a positive, significant doctrinal identity to their constituents - in other words none of them are doing a good job of discipleship that is theologically grounded in the scriptures.

Add to this David Olson’s groundbreaking The American Church in Crisis (Zondervan 2008). In using a data base of over 200,000 churches, he concludes that overall weekly attendance is not, as previously taught, 43% but closer to 17%!

New church development is far behind population growth and new churches are short-lived for lack of properly trained and persevering leadership. (1)

The time is now for us to strive to renew and expand the church in our day. We must be devoted to transmitting a strong Pentecostal Christian identity which is radically missional.

We must give priority to leadership development and church planting which will make us evermore centered on practical ministry. The church will rise or fall on the work of local churches, which will be led by pastors. Thus, the key person in the future of the church at large is the Pastor.

I predict that strong local churches will become stronger, and weak local churches will become weaker. (2)

(1) Dr. Steven Land, President, Church of God Theological Seminary, The Seminary Story, Spring 2008.
(2) Don G. Brock

Monday, April 28, 2008

Top 5 Volunteer No-No's

[From Ministry Best Practices by Bill Reichart]

Volunteers are the life blood of any church or ministry. Without those who generously give of their time, talents and energy - nothing would be able to be accomplished by the church (humanly speaking of course). Here are some volunteer no-no's and pitfalls to avoid when working and communicating with volunteers.

1. Never ask a volunteer to help “YOU.”

Ask them to help the church, or help in a classroom. Don’t make it a personal favor to you. Personal favors won't stand up over the test of time.

The focus shouldn't be about YOU.

2. Never thank a volunteer for helping “YOU.”

Remind them of your overall vision and purpose when saying Thank You.

For example, "Thank you for helping us reach all these kids this morning. You’ve been a great help to all of us!” vs. “Thanks for helping me out. I don’t know what I would have done without you!”

And ... the church name should be prominently displayed on any thank you correspondence. Make it about the Church or organization, not me!

3. Don’t ask the same volunteer to do the same thing over and over.

Don’t abuse the willingness of one person to ALWAYS help when needed. Mix it up! Don't go to the same "well" all the time.

You want to avoid not giving others in the church the opportunity and privilege to serve.

4. Never show any displeasure with church leadership to Volunteers.

Teach the Power of Buy-In! Representing our leader’s choices as our very own. This shows our volunteers that we are a strong team, and are working together for a common goal.

Even if it is someone else’s fault, make it our fault (this is where the power of the Gospel comes in - we can own fault when we know that we are SECURE in Christ). If everyone would do this, then rumors and displeasure with leadership would be stopped early and often!

5. Never ask "How did it go today?"

“How did it go today, or this morning?” is an unhelpful question. The question is too vague, and you are certain to get merely a one word answer, "fine".

Ask questions that are directed toward the specific outcomes you and your volunteers are working toward. When you do this, it will give you and your volunteers a real and concrete sense of how they are doing, and it will provoke with them a real discussion of issues or concerns that perhaps need to be addressed.

[ht: littlepastor]

Rick Warren - Exponential Green Room Interview

Are You Burned Out?

According to a London Daily Mail poll, more than half of those reading this right now are completely burned out on the job. How can you tell if you're burned out? If you have lost that satisfied feeling at work and don't even revel in your own job accomplishments, there might be a problem. Are your coworkers asking if everything is okay with you? Have they noticed you acting depressed or even moody on the job? Have you been snapping at everyone?

Here's a telltale sign of work burnout: the minute you return from a vacation, the joy, happiness, and relaxation you felt are instantly gone, and you can't even manage to come back from lunch on time.

Another sign: procrastination is your new middle name.

Dr. Alan Shelton, author of Transforming Burnout, studies worker burnout. He notes that you shouldn't feel alone if you're feeling this particular burn. Some three-quarters of all workers are hit with this feeling from time to time. According to Dr. Shelton, vacations, days off, new hours and outside interests don't always help. Professional counselors can help, especially if you're a workaholic who is stressed out by a desire for everything to be perfect all of the time.

The important thing is to find balance between work and other pursuits. Then work isn't the only focus. Dr. Shelton also suggests the following:
  • Get a physical to rule out more serious health problems.
  • Take care of the spiritual side of life. It will give you focus. Meditation and prayer can help with burnout because they take the focus off work. Make relaxation a priority in your life.
  • Remind yourself that each morning is a new day to be appreciated. On the way to work find two or three things that make you happy, even if it's just a beautiful forest preserve on the side of the road or watching your kids.
  • Exercise helps beat job burnout.
  • Sleep helps beat job burnout.

[Research by John Tesh]

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Church Planting Keeps Christianity Alive

[By Audrey Barrick - Christian Post Reporter]

Church planting is hard, many pastors would say. But it's where much of the church growth is happening in America at a time when most churches are dying.

"Two-thirds of all churches in America are plateaued and declining," said Pastor Rick Warren after speaking Thursday to thousands of church planters at the Exponential Conference in Orlando, "and if it weren't for the growth that's taking place in church plants and megachurches, Christianity would be declining."

Warren, founding pastor of Saddleback Community Church in Lake Forest, Calif., says the growth in church plants and megachurches has helped keep the Christian population in the United States from dropping.

His comments come as the latest statistics from the Southern Baptist Convention, of which his church is a part of, show baptisms have dropped for the third straight year in 2007 and total membership dipped. Some say membership has plateaued and is on a trend toward decline unless change happens within the 16-million member denomination. Southern Baptists are now being seen as one among many major Protestant groups that are declining.

News of the denomination's decline was released during the April 21-24 Exponential Conference where over 2,700 church planters and leaders attended to analyze the DNA of successful reproducing churches. The annual conference has been touted as the "mother of all church planting conferences"

Today, church planting has reached an all-time high with approximately 4,000 new churches planted every year in the United States, according to the "State of Church Planting USA" study. Church plants are also starting out with larger crowds with hundreds joining the first worship service, and the survival and success rate of church plants is at 68 percent.

One of the biggest trends in church planting today is the multiple venue church, or the multi-site church. The idea is that one church meets in multiple locations which are fed video satellite preaching from the main church campus.

Dave Ferguson, pastor of Community Christian Church, is expanding outreach and already transitioning from a multi-site church to a "poly-site" church – reproducing different kinds of campuses to reach different kinds of people – where the mission becomes the priority rather than just reproducing the same church, he said.

While some believe the large church trend will soon die out, Warren says the next generation of churches is going to be even bigger.

"They're going to be far larger than the boomer generation of churches because they're not limited to one campus anymore," he said in an interview featured on the Exponential Conference Web site.

Warren's Saddleback has planted over 40 independent "daughter churches" in Southern California and it recently launched a multi-site initiative with a goal of 10 campuses by the year 2010. According to Saddleback's multi-site church blog, its new campuses in Corona and Irvine drew 490 and nearly 2,000 attendants, respectively, to the first service.

"Reproduction is the mark of health," Warren commented.

Meanwhile, Alan Hirsch, co-founder of Shapevine and the founding director of Forge Mission Training Network which focuses on developing missional leaders in western contexts, believes church plants in America need to adopt a more missionary stance.

"I think here in America, I think church planting is still very bonded to church growth methodology and ideas," Australian-born Hirsch said in an interview featured on MondayMorningInsight, a Web site for pastors and church leaders.

"It (America) hasn't really thought through ... the nature of the church as a mission agency. We simply have to adopt a missionary stance in relationship to our culture," he continued. "We've got to break the monopoly that church growth thinking has over our mindset. Because unless we do that we'll never become a truly missionary agency."

The Exponential Conference featured other well-known speakers, including Tim Keller, founding and lead pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian; Ed Stetzer, former church planter and director of Lifeway Research; and Andy Stanley, senior pastor of North Point Community Church.

Church Shooting

[By Malcomb Daniels -- The Birmingham News]

An Hispanic man of about 45 years of age was shot and killed today during an argument in the parking lot of a St. Clair County Alabama church.

The man, whose identity is unknown, was shot multiple times in the parking lot of church on Pinedale Road in Ashville, Alabama according to St. Clair County Coroner Dennis Russell. He was pronounced dead at 4:20 p.m.

The man was shot during an argument with someone who lived in the area, Russell said. The dispute started after the homicide victim ran off the road and hit some mailboxes, Russell said.
Church was not in service at the time.

United Methodists Continue In Decline

United Methodists, at their General Conference in Fort Worth, Texas, are being urged to reverse the denomination's decades-long decline in membership.

Lyn Powell, a church lay leader from Georgia, told delegates the United Methodist Church has been bleeding membership for years. "The United Methodist Church in the U.S. lost 55,000 members last year, 70,000 the year before that, [and] 60,000 the year before that. In fact, we have lost membership every year since the 1970s," Powell contends.

Meanwhile, transgender Methodists at the conference held a news conference seeking broader acceptance. Among them was Drew Phoenix, who pastors St. John's United Methodist Church in Baltimore. Phoenix was a woman named Ann Gordon before she had a sex-change operation.

Some analysts believe the reason for the declining membership is the abandonment of scriptural teaching on sin within the United Methodist Church.

Mart Green Attempts To Balance ORU Budget

Layoffs and other budget cuts are possible for debt-ridden Oral Roberts University, as the tiny evangelical school looks to regroup from several financial scandals and keep enrollment from sliding further, the school's trustees chairman said.

"We can't spend more than we bring in," said Mart Green, an Oklahoma City businessman who recently donated $70 million to the school. "Let's find out where we're fat, where we're thin and make this place strong, and not just going hand to mouth year after year."

Green's comments on Friday came days after a tense faculty meeting where administrators braced professors for the possibility of job cuts as a way to make budget ends meet. Professors were also implored to persuade students thinking about transferring to return to the school in the fall.

"The message in the faculty meeting was, 'Hey, we're not on easy street just because we've got $70 million,'" said ORU interim president Ralph Fagin.

In an interview with The Associated Press, neither Green nor Fagin offered specifics on how many positions or programs might get the ax, but said the school is exploring all options as it reviews each department, a process that could take several years.

Already struggling to keep enrollment numbers up, ORU was rocked by a financial scandal last fall that led to the resignation of Richard Roberts, who had been school president since 1993. He left amid accusations of misspending school funds to bankroll a lavish lifestyle at a time when the school was more than $50 million in debt. He has denied wrongdoing. In the past eight years, the school has lost 500 students, and projected enrollment for the fall 2008 semester could be 150 students fewer than the 3,166 who attended last fall, Fagin said.

Even with Green's donation, the school is $25 million in debt and has deferred maintenance costs between $50 million and $60 million. Green, founder of Mardel, a Christian bookstore and office supply chain, declined to comment on the status of several lawsuits the school still faces in the wake of the scandal from former professors, students and a former accountant.

The two professors, Tim and Paulita Brooker, whose Oct. 2 lawsuit claims they were forced out after alleging financial and ethical wrongdoing on the part of Richard Roberts and his family, have asked the school for $2.5 million to settle. Attorneys for the professors and the school declined to comment this week on any potential negotiations, citing a judge's gag order. "We're doing the best we can to go through the legal process," Green said. "Let the legal process take its course."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Rick Warren Video Interview

CLICK HERE to watch an awesome new video interview with Pastor Rick Warren on the subject of discipleship, church planting, and other pastor secrets.

How Long Is Your Church Service?

The results are in! The average church service/experience time is 78.74 minutes. With an average range from range from 65 minutes (NV/PA) to 150 minutes (AK/Brazil/FL).

The shortest service/experience time was 55 minutes in MO with a three-way tie for the longest in AK, FL, and Brazil at 150 minutes.

Click on the graphic to see how each state’s average compares!

Protection Program Helps Keep Children Safe In Church

A Christian media ministry with a passion to keep children safe from sexual abuse released a new resource that will help churches and ministries properly screen, train and oversee the people who work with children.

Since the 1980s, when a surge of child sexual abuse cases in churches surfaced, allegations of abuse by clergy have decreased, yet allegations of abuse by church lay leaders and volunteers have risen sharply. Last year, more than 300 incidents were reported within church or ministry organizations, and in half of these cases the perpetrator was a volunteer or paid staff member. The reason? Many child sex offenders seek out welcoming environments where there is easy access to minors.

According to Richard Hammar, church law expert and the legal counsel for the national headquarters of the Assemblies of God, "Many churches and faith-based youth organizations still fail to implement proper screening processes for their workers and adequate training of staff and volunteers before placing them in service with minors."

Christianity Today International developed an all-new, DVD-based training kit: "Reducing the Risk: Keeping Your Ministry Safe from Child Sexual Abuse." This is the third edition of the "Reducing the Risk" series, which started 15 years ago. Its release coincides with National Child Abuse Prevention Month.

The latest version of "Reducing the Risk" features DVD training for churches, complete with real-life stories from a victim and a convicted sex offender; a roundtable discussion with leading national experts; "what would you do" scenarios; and teaching from Richard Hammar.

The kit also offers a leader's guide, trainee workbooks, screening forms, and records files. Together, these tools enable churches to immediately implement a program that effectively trains ministry leaders and build the systems and procedures needed to make churches safe havens for children.

For more information about "Reducing the Risk" and keeping children safe from sexual predators, see

[Christian Newswire]

Thousands Commit To Church Planting

This was the closing moment at Exponential 08. It was awesome as thousands of leaders came forward committing to start new churches/sites or committing the new church they are starting to God.

In this pic Rick Warren (seated on the stage) is praying for all these new church planters and reproducing church leaders asking God's blessing on their efforts. What you see here has the potential to be a catalyst for a movement of reproducing churches!

"Vision" by Andy Stanley

[Here are Vince Antonucci's notes on another of the sessions at the Exponential Conference. Andy Stanley is brilliant and makes everything seem so ridiculously simple...]

Vision = Mental picture of what could be, fueled by passion of what should be. Vision begins as a burden, What’s clear in here must become clear out there – or people won’t know how to follow us.

5 Things To Do:

1. State it simply
- Memorable is portable
- We suffer from the curse of knowledge
- People don’t ask stupid questions, they’re just letting us know how poorly we’ve communicated the vision.
- Northpointe’s Vision: “Create a church that unchurched people love to attend.”

2. Cast it convincingly
- Define the problem (If people don’t feel weight of problem they won’t be excited about the vision).
- Offer the solution (Your vision is the solution to a problem.)
- Explain why and why now (Why now in this community?)

3. Repeat it regularly
- Discover the rhythm of your church
- Build vision casting into the rhythm

4. Celebrate constantly
- Problem with vision – no pictures going somewhere that only exists in my head.
- So when we get “pictures” – hold them up – celebrate the win.
- Stories do more to clarify vision than anything else.
- Don’t miss opportunities to showcase examples

5. Embrace it personally (and publicly)
- Share with staff and church when you invite someone, what happened this week in your small group, etc.
- Don’t miss opportunities to showcase examples.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Only 15% of Pastors Consider Missionary Outreach A Top Priority

Leaders of the Church of God Theological Seminary and World Missions teamed up this week to celebrate the annual Seminary Missions Week, turning the spotlight on the missions calling of the church.

"Our work is cut out for us," said Bill George, coordinator of education for World Missions. "A recent national survey of pastors indicated that only 15 percent of them considered missionary outreach to be one of the top priorities of the church. We believe the Bible gives it much higher precedence."

The weeklong observance, planned by Dr. Grant McClung of the seminary faculty and a committee from the school and the missions office, included a panel discussion in the Tuesday chapel service, a luncheon on Wednesday, and a preaching event in chapel Thursday. Displays depicting missions ministries remained up near the chapel throughout the week.

Roland Vaughan, general director of World Missions, spoke in the Thursday chapel on the subject, "Finishing the Great Commission." He told students and faculty that it now seems possible within the coming few years to ensure that the message of the gospel will have reached all people throughout the world. This would not have been doable until now, but advances in technology and people movement have made it possible, he said.

The Tuesday panel explored the dimensions of the church's mission and included a focus on local church outreach and foreign missions activity. Panelists were Carl Caffrey, pastor of evangelism and discipleship at Westmore Church of God; Kirk Walters, pastor of missions and discipleship at Mount Paran North church in Marietta, Georgia; Brenda Hughes of the Bradley Initiative for Church and Community; and Dan Howell of the Center for Spiritual Renewal.

A special missions project was the collection of books for a Bible institute in Mongolia. Two June graduates, Bayarjargal Gombosuren and his wife, Mendbayar Nansandorj, will return to their home country and set up the new training school.

Dr. Steven Land, president, hosted a luncheon of seminary and missions leaders and students from other countries who are studying at the school. "Our partnership with World Missions helps us keep a focus on the importance of having a world vision," he told the participants.

[Source: Church of God World Missions]

Thursday, April 24, 2008

How Do You Build A Reproducing Church

1. Never stop growing personally.
- all leaders are learners.
- the vision of the church will never exceed the vision of the pastor.
- you can delegate a lot of things. But, you cannot delegate faith in Jesus.
- Most of us have polaroid vision. The longer you look at it, the more clear it gets.
- God’s will is not a giant map, its a scroll. As you read a little, God unfurls a little more of His view for you.
- How do you build significant growth for 28 years? Solid, steady discipleship.
- God builds a mushroom in 6 hours. He builds a solid oak tree over decades.
- its easy to get a crowd. A crowd is not a church.
- Integrity, humility, and generosity are the antidote to the traps of leadership.

2. You’ve got to pay attention to your family.
- Don’t be like Solomon who while tending other vineyards, left his own unattended.
- Take a day off. Take a sabbath. In fact, don’t call it a day off, call it a sabbath.
- Don’t read email. Don’t answer the phone.
- Don’t pay attention to the critics or to the compliments. Focus on what Jesus says about you.

3. Develop a Kingdom mindset.
- God’s agenda is bigger than your denomination, your network, your agenda.
- The competition is not other churches. Its other recreation, stuff, and things.
- What is God’s agenda? It is the Kingdom of God.
- “The Kingdom of God is like….”
- Where is the Kingdom of God? Summarized is wherever Jesus Christ is (in heaven, on earth, in your heart).
- The Kingdom of God is eternal, inevitible
- Everytime the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus changed the subject and began to talk about evangelism.

4. Focus on building people, not the church.
- In the first year of the church, the pastor is the glue. But your job is to wean people off of you.
- On the last Sunday of the first year, I stood up to preach and fainted. I had my midlife crisis when I was 26. Depressed and afraid.
- You have to have a system of incremental movement taking people to maturity.
- Why do people sit around in churches for decades and never mature? Because simply preaching doesn’t get it done.


The methods of the church must change with every generation.
For too long, the church has had no hands and feet … just a big mouth.

[From Rick Warren during a session at Exponential Conference - National New Church Conference]

IPHC Warns of False Prophets

[By Ethan Cole - Christian Post Reporter]

The International Pentecostal Holiness Church (IPHC), a 108-year-old traditional Pentecostal denomination with about 4.2 million members in 95 countries, states its commitment to the Word and the leadership of the Holy Spirit in its 21-page “Apostolic Biblical Statement and Practical Guidelines.”

“God is moving in these days with an emphasis on the apostolic anointing and the prophetic,” said Presiding Bishop James D. Leggett, in a statement. “The Apostolic Position Paper recognizes and provides for the exercising of apostolic leadership. Yet it gives a word of caution about false prophets. The balanced approach is good for the church today.”

The document covers three levels of the apostolic: Jesus Christ, the foremost apostle; the twelve apostles, the foundational apostles; and functional apostles, who functioned both in the scriptures and in the church today.

The role of apostles is to “plant the gospel in every culture worldwide” and to do it on the “base built by Jesus Christ, the foremost Apostle, and His foundational apostles,” the document stated.
“We recognize the ministry of functional apostles and bishops in church history as having a close resemblance,” the paper read. “We also recognize that false apostles appeared in the apostolic church as well as in the church history, and that we must remain alert to the continuing danger of these emissaries of Satan.”

Pentecostalism is one of the fastest growing segments of global Christianity with at least 500 million adherents worldwide. But along with its successful growth has come problems of false teachers who vow miraculous healing, promises of pending fortune in exchange for church donations that are used for their own personal wealth.

Many mainline Christian leaders in Africa have denounced false prophets who claim to be anointed Pentecostal preachers.

In the section titled, “Recognizing True and False Apostles,” the document states that there are false apostles, or people who are not appointed by God but rather “carnal men [who] usurped the role for their own glory.”

To distinguish true and false apostles, the document gave a list of characteristics of a true apostle that includes: ministers with total faithfulness to the writings and teachings of the foundational apostles; accept personal responsibility for the Lord’s Great Commission, even at great cost to themselves; continue to serve even when no one confers on them a title or recognizes their role; and are free from the love of money.

“The Apostolic Position Paper presents a sound Biblical foundation for both the historical and present day Apostolic Ministry,” said Rev. Ed Wood, Chairman of the Apostolic Commission. “The paper is the result of the International Pentecostal Holiness seeking to be Biblically based in its position regarding the current apostolic movement.”

In 2005, the denomination's General Executive Board, at the request of the General Conference delegates, commissioned seven denominational scholars and theologians to conduct a biblical/historical study of the role of apostle in the church today. The board also invited a representative from each of the denomination's 28 regional offices to participate.

The document was presented to the General Board of Administration, the highest governing body between General Conference sessions, and approved by the board on Oct. 30, 2007, with minor changes.

The document also includes practical guidelines for apostolic ministries and other current theological issues in the IPHC.

IPHC is a charter member of the National Association of Evangelicals, the Pentecostal World Conference, and was instrumental in creating the Pentecostal & Charismatic Churches of North America.

Southern Baptists Are Now In Decline

For now, Southern Baptists are a denomination in decline. Experts believe it is a local church issue.

Baptisms are at their lowest levels since 1970 with seven of the last eight years showing annual declines. Even though some might hope the decline in membership numbers is due to lack of reporting, the inescapable conclusion is that baptisms by individual churches is falling off. (LifeWay Research will provide more analysis next month.)

Some might say it’s "only one year," and they would be technically right. But, briefly dwell on the top of the above graph. Reality is, they have peaked.

[Click on image to enlarge it.]

Researchers believe three issues are involved:

First, that they have to deal with the continued loss of SBC leaders. They have witnessed a serious (and increasing) depopulation of young leaders at the convention. Also, ethnic leadership remains absent after decades of ethnic change in America. Vacant seats still exist at the SBC table for the ethnic and generational diversity that matches the America they are attempting to reach. The departure by the future leaders of the convention has led to fewer church plants, missionaries, and energetic pastors to lead their faltering churches. They must retain these leaders not because they need them for their churches. They need them to reach the lost whom their churches have yet to touch.

A second issue is the infighting which defines so much of the SBC—its meetings, its churches, and its blogs. It is public knowledge that they do not always settle their differences amicably. The national caricature once again colors many local scenes where First, Second, and even Third Baptist Churches exist in one town because of past infighting. Satan has used their incessant bickering over non-essentials to promote his last great mission on earth—to keep lost people lost.

People simply do not want to hear what they have to say when they can't speak kindly to one another. If the focus of every SBC meeting is a new controversy to be debated, new parameters to be narrowed, and new issues to be fought, the trend toward decline will only accelerate.

The third, and most important, issue is the loss of focus on the Gospel. They must recover a gospel centrality and cooperate in proclaiming that gospel locally and globally. David Dockery and Timothy George pointed the way with their helpful booklet, Building Bridges. They called for a unity around the Gospel, and the time grows increasingly urgent.

The Conservative Resurgence failed to produce a Great Commission Resurgence. It restored the denomination’s value of Scripture but application is often absent, at least in the area of evangelism.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We Need Strong Local Churches Healthy Enough To Plant Churches

[From MMI Weblog by Todd Rhoades]

Ed Stetzer was first up at the Exponential Conference. Ed talked about some of the new research they have done at Lifeway on Church Planting churches. It was a very informational session. I jotted down just a few notes about the session that you might find interesting...

- If you are a church planter who is not interested in planting churches, they you are a dead end on the great commission pipeline.

- When your church is planted, your church is ready to plant.

- Church planting is the greatest thing your church can do for evangelism.

- Training is more important that finances when planting churches.

- Do your church’s official documents mention church planting? Is church planting in your church’s DNA?

- Does your church regularly send people out to help start and/or support new churches?

We have plenty of church planters … what we need now are tons more churches who are willing to help these planters plant churches.

Monday, April 21, 2008


Evangelist Don Brock
Wednesday - Thursday - Friday
April 23-25, 2008
7:00 PM Nightly
Mentone Church of God of Prophecy
Highway 117 Across From The Post Office
Mentone, Alabama

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Stress Awareness Month

The Health Resource Network, a non-profit health education organization, has designated April as Stress Awareness Month for the 16th consecutive year. Health care professionals, health promotion experts and caregivers across the country will join forces to raise public awareness about the cause and cures for our modern stress epidemic.

For this reason Community Chaplains of America, which provides care for individuals during difficult and stressful situations, have offered 10 simple suggestions on how to provide care and essentially reduce stress, according to

  • Provide a listening ear. Often, those who are going through stressful times simply need someone to talk to. Make an extra phone call or meet a friend for coffee and offer the opportunity for them to talk.
  • Send an encouraging note. Words are powerful. In the age of emails and text messages, handwritten notes show that you took time and effort to show you care.
  • Say "thank you." Offer your gratitude for people. Thank a coworker for his or her hard work or a waiter for serving you dinner. Everyone wants to feel appreciated.
  • Laugh with someone. A good hearty laugh can relax you both and mentally lighten your load. Tell a joke or rent a funny movie with a friend.
  • Perform a random act of kindness. Surprise someone with the unexpected. It can be as simple as paying for a friend's coffee or offering to watch the kids so a mom or dad can have that extra time to relax.
  • Help someone organize. When the places and things around us are in order, we feel a little more put together. Take time to help a friend clean out a closet or scrub the bathtub.
  • Take a walk. Exercise releases endorphins and makes us feel better all around. Walk around the mall with a coworker on your lunch break or meet a friend at a park after work and enjoy the fresh air.
  • Share a smile. This contagious act can easily brighten someone's day. Smile to a passing stranger; it may make a big difference in his or her day.
  • Get away. Get away from the everyday circumstances that may be causing stress. Plan a weekend getaway or a day trip with a friend.
  • Pray. Say a quick prayer for your friend and put his or her stress in the hands of the Ultimate Provider and Healer.

[Focus on the Family]

Interesting Links

Financial calculators - Check out the Crown Ministry website for great (and free) financial calculators. On the site you’ll find a debt calculator, a budget calculator, several credit card calculators, and more.

Every Man Ministries - Looking for tools for your men’s ministry? Check out Every Man Ministries. It’s the website of Saddleback’s men’s pastor, Kenny Luck.

All About God - This evangelistic website was started by Saddleback members. It’s currently one of the top 25 most visited Christian sites on the net. It seeks to reach out to spiritual skeptics through compelling websites on a variety of topics.

Online to-do lists - Access your to-do lists from any computer or web-enabled phone. Through this program, you can create numerous to-do lists and even add to them through text message or email. And it’s free.

Leading worship in a small group setting - This article from Rick Muchow on will help you get a feel for how to incorporate worship into your small groups. It might be a nice article link to send around to your small group leaders.

One Prayer

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Don't Want To Hear It!

[From Pastor Steven Furtick by sf]

It happened again the other day! The conversation was going so well. I was actually kind of surprised when the person I was talking to (who I was meeting for the first time) just had to go there. Now, there was no way this guy could have known that the pastor he was about to slander was a pretty good friend of mine.

So I think it threw him for a loop when I stopped him mid-sentence and served notice: “I really don’t want to continue this conversation. The pastor you’re speaking against is a great man of God. You don’t even know him, I know him and care for him a whole lot. So I think it would be beneficial to both of us for you to stop maligning his character right now. I don’t want to hear it.”

Maybe part of the reason I’m so protective of other pastors and prominent men of God is that I’ve experienced the frustration of hearing things about yourself that aren’t true. It’s freaky when everybody’s a self proclaimed expert on you. And the less they actually know you, the louder they talk about you.

There have been several times in my ministry that I heard something negative about a well known minister of the Gospel, and took it at face value. Then, months or years later, I’d have the opportunity to actually meet and get to know that person a little bit. And a funny thing happened. When I was able to know them as people and not just personalities, I realized that most of the gossip that is perpetrated as truth is absolutely baseless and unfounded.

So, if I ever have the privilege of getting to meet you and have a conversation with you, let’s just establish one ground rule: If you have something critical and detrimental to share about a fellow minister of the Gospel, I simply don’t want to hear it. We’ve got better things to talk about! Like how God is using your life, the opportunities He’s providing for you to make a bigger impact, or the things He’s teaching you in your personal life.

Hardships of a Pastor's Wife

[From : swerve by Craig Groeschel]

1. Critical people.
2. Church problems—burdened for the hurting people or tough ministry decisions.
3. Being alone a lot on the weekends.


1. Fulfilling—It’s an honor to serve a husband/pastor and the ministry God has entrusted us with.
2. Opportunities—I’m in a position to lead and influence others for the glory of God.
3. The love and support of many.

[Where do you agree? What would you add?]

How Do You Know If Your Vision Is From God?

[From Perry Noble dot com by Perry]

If you feel confident that you can accomplish what is in front of you with no problem at all … then you didn’t hear from God.

If no one is angry at you … then you didn’t hear from God.

If you don’t have to ask anyone to sacrifice to make the vision come true … then you didn’t hear from God.

If religious people are not steaming at you, blogging about you and/or leaving your church … then you didn’t hear from God.

If you have the money in the bank to do what God has asked you church to do … then you didn’t hear from God.

If every step is perfectly designed and nothing happens to totally throw you off along the way … then you didn’t hear from God.

If someone doesn’t try to talk you out of what you are about to attempt … then you didn’t hear from God.

If you don’t stay up at night thinking about the vision … then you didn’t hear from God.

If your vision is in contradiction to God’s Word … then you didn’t hear from God. (And no, you didn’t get a “special revelation” that gave you permission to trump His Word!)

If you know all of the answers … then you didn’t hear from God.

Top Secrets Revealed for Ministry Growth

Affiliated Media Group, the largest Christian advertising agency of its kind in the world, recently launched their highly anticipated monthly newsletter, ImMEDIAte Access, inclusive of the latest industry trends, up-to-date agency news and tips, and exclusive information to help ministries and non-profits achieve their outreach goals. The launch of the ImMEDIAte Access Newsletter marks the first time in Affiliated Media Group's nearly 20-year history that they have publicly disclosed proprietary information proven to take ministry outreach to the next level.

Affiliated Media Group owners, Jim Shaffer and Van Dalton felt an urgency to produce a significant, highly effective newsletter to help ministries advance God's Kingdom. "During these troubled times in our world," says Jim Shaffer, "it is important for us to help ministries maximize every opportunity to reach out to people with a message of hope."

"We consider it a privilege to serve those who impact the world," adds Van Dalton, "whether it is a pastor, an evangelist, a charity, or humanitarian organization seeking to make a difference in the world."

On a bi-monthly basis, ImMEDIAte Access subscribers can expect to receive up to date, relevant information geared toward advancing and growing ministries. Affiliated Media Group's team of experts and highly skilled contributing writers have a wealth of knowledge and experience that they will draw from, providing readers with a definitive guide they can utilize to grow their ministry and reach masses.

Affiliated Media Group has been a trailblazer in media buying and placement, strategic marketing, public relations, production, web/graphic design, and ministry consulting since its inception in 1989. What sets Affiliated Media Group apart from other agencies is its ability to be a one-stop shop for its clients, having consolidated all aspects of ministry outreach consulting under one roof. That diversity of offerings is what makes ImMEDIAte Access the most effective newsletter of its kind created thus far.

For more information about the ImMEDIAte Access Newsletter, or to receive your copy, log on to to sign up. You may also contact Leah Gipson via the information provided.

COGOP Implements "Proxy" System for International Assembly Business

This is how it will work:

All Representatives that carry a local church proxy, properly certified, meeting the deadlines, etc., will be registered on Monday of the Assembly by an Independent agency ... a company hired to manage the proxy process. They are not affiliated with COGOP and have no stake in the outcome, as they are merely professionals hired to manage the logistics and assure the integrity of the process.

The proxy-carrying representative will be issued a voting card that is bar coded. Lose it? Lose the vote.

There will be x number of seats on the floor of the Sommet Center during the business sessions designated for those carrying the proxies, and ONLY them.

When the time comes for expressing the proxy on an issue, there will be about 15 strategically placed electronic stations at which the proxy holders will be able to usethe bar-coded credential to register "yes/no" "for/against" or whatever the two options might be ... "A/B."

The independent agency will tally the results (pretty much immediately) and report them to the person presiding.

Church Training Assistance

Could you use a qualified instructor to come to your location and teach on one of the following subjects?

Team Building, Servant Leadership, The Biblical Office of Deacon, Conflict Resolution, Church Administration, Church Technology, Good Communications, Spiritual Gifts and Callings, Every Member Participating, History of Christianity, Spiritual Discipline, and many more.

Could you use a qualified consultant to come to your location to consult about ...

Church Structure, Assessing Your Location, Understanding Other Cultures, Leadership Assessment, Church Review (for growth), and many more.

Contact Synergy Church Consulting at We are here to work with you. We understand what you are facing, and we care.


A Study of Small Churches

LifeWay Research recently completed a study of small churches. It has not been released yet, but Brad Waggoner recently shared some early analysis from the study. He shared at Impact 2008 the biggest challenges reported by small churches:

1. Time. According to Waggoner, 32 percent of the respondents said they were bivocational pastors and didn't have enough hours in the day to do what they were called to do.

"I read comment after comment which said pastors were under pressure to juggle responsibilities," Waggoner said. "The fact is they have 24 hours a day, seven days a week. They worked at their job somewhere and also dealt with the church. They were tired, drained of energy. They try to fulfill their calling and get the job done. There's no easy way to get it all done.

"All pastors fight that battle. Every leader is tired. But, at the end of the day, they trust the Lord to do the best they can with [the] energy they have and just trust Him."

2. Resistance. Small-church pastors said their congregation doesn't want to change, which leads to stagnation. Pastors have to deal with individuals who want to usurp authority from the pastor, forgetting that it's God who controls His church.

"We have to patiently hold the standard high and teach the Word of God," Waggoner said. "It takes a while for the church to grow biblically ... and takes expositional teaching for the church to get healthy. We can't lower the standards of church. Preaching precedes change. We have to raise the bar of expectations."

3. Lack of commitment from members. Many pastors said they deal with apathy and indifference. Waggoner said it doesn't matter what the size of the church is, but small churches feel it more.

"There are no quick fixes," Waggoner said. "It can't be about the man in the pulpit. We hear so much fluff and stuff. We try to sneak up on people with discipleship. You have to start out with discipleship. We've underestimated the power of a godly man or godly woman."

4. Too few workers. If the church's philosophy is that the pastor is a hired gun, the professional, it will wear the pastor out, Waggoner said. He also said most churches do not have a strategy to equip the laity for ministry.

"You have to teach what the Bible says about the pastor's role," Waggoner said. "I think every church should have a class on teaching spiritual gifts so people ... can take the next step on finding a place in the church ministry. You have to look people in the eye. There needs to be a strategy for involvement which fits the size of your church."

5. Age of the congregation. As the church gets older, young people do not feel attracted to the church. Waggoner said there's no easy answer, but pastors have to serve whomever God brings into their midst.

"Talk to the young people," Waggoner said. "There may be things that can be done to reverse it."

6. Lack of money. Waggoner said he had no easy answers for pastors who say they don't have resources. He did say pastors have to do a better job of teaching about the importance of tithing.

"Too often we preach [on money only] when we go into a building campaign or there's a budget shortfall," Waggoner said. "I think we should teach God's standards on biblical discipleship along the way. It should be part of disciple-making. You honor the Lord with your wealth."

7. Worldliness of the church. Waggoner said he saw in the survey something he called "cultural seepage."

"We allow the world's standards to come into the church," he said. "Sometimes we have propagated that through our arrogance. We're dictatorial, self absorbed. Often preaching becomes a performance. Preaching is not an end but a means. Have we allowed the world to permeate how we think?

"I'm grateful for the Conservative Resurgence," he said of the SBC's theological direction since 1979. "But we have been deceived to think that being conservative is being godly. We have to make sure we are walking in a way that honors God."

8. Age of the pastor. Several said they were getting too old in the survey.

9. Too few people. In the survey, pastors said they couldn't get things done because not enough help was available.

10. Demographics. The community around the church is changing but the church isn't growing.

[Source: BP]

Does this sound like your church? (Click "comments" below.)

What Will Happen to the Pentecostal Movement?

Every great movement in the history of Christianity became institutionalized after about 100 years.

The Pentecostal Movcement is about 100 years old.

Where will the movement go from here?

A movement operates on the currency of relationship and trust.

An institution operates on the currency of real estate and fear.


A Study On Tithing

[From MMI Weblog by Todd Rhoades]

Only 5% of adults tithe, according to a new study by The Barna Group. Those most generous were evangelicals (24% of which tithe); conservatives (12%); people who have prayed or read their Bible in the last week (12%); Pentecostals (11%); and Republicans (10%). The least generous, according to Barna: those under 25, atheists and agnostics, single adults, liberals, and downscale adults. All of those groups gave 1% or less...

The percentage of adults who tithe has stayed constant since the turn of the decade, falling in the 5% to 7% range. The Barna tracking reported that the proportion of adults who tithed was 7% in 2006 and 2005; 5% in 2004 and 2003; 6% in 2002; and 5% in 2001.

In 2007, 84% of all adults donated some money to churches or non-profit organizations. That figure has also remained consistent in recent years.

The median amount of money donated during 2007 was $400; the mean amount was $1308. Those averages are higher than was revealed earlier in this decade, but represent a decline from the previous year. (The mean sum of donations per person in 2006 was $1348.)

The Barna study pointed out that one-third of all adults (34%) gave away $1000 or more during 2007. Nearly one-fifth (18%) had donated $100 or less.

Evangelicals Christians distinguished themselves in their generosity. More than four out of five (83%) gave at least $1000 to churches and non-profit entities during 2007, far surpassing the levels reached by any other population segment studied.

Almost two-thirds of the public (64%) donated some money to a church, synagogue or other place of worship. The median amount donated to those religious centers was $101; the mean amount was $883. Those figures were up slightly from the previous year.

In all, one-quarter of the people who gave any money to religious centers (25%) donated at least $1000. A whopping 96% of evangelicals gave money to a church in 2007; 81% of them donated at least $1000.

Christians tend to be the most generous group of donors. An examination of the three dominant subgroups within the Christian community showed that evangelicals, the 7% of the population who are most committed to the Christian faith, donated a mean of $4260 to all non-profit entities in 2007. Non-evangelical born again Christians, who represent another 37% of the public, donated a mean of $1581. The other 42% of the Christian population, who are aligned with a Christian church but are not born again, donated a mean of $865. Overall, the three segments of the Christian community averaged donations of $1426.

The Christian giving was divided between Protestants (mean of $1705) and Catholics ($984).
In contrast, Americans associated with non-Christian faiths gave away a mean of $905 during 2007. Atheists and agnostics provided

You can read more here...

A New Direction for Leadership Development

A decision has been made at the International Offices of the Church of God of Prophecy to close the Family Ministries Department and to restructure Leadership Development Ministries under a new ministry director. Current Director Larry Duncan stated, "We have submitted to these decisions out of reverence to Christ, as the New Testament teaches us to do. We recognize and respect the right of a leader to have his or her own team in place, and so we willingly step aside to allow that to take place."

The exact timeline for the closing of Family Ministries is yet to be determined. The changes in Leadership Development are scheduled to go into effect following the Assembly.

These changes are not the result of any scandal nor difficulties at the International Offices. In both conversation and written communication the General Overseer has said that "This decision is certainly no indication of any kind of misconduct, but rather it is based on a feeling that new leadership is needed to take us in a different direction ... At this point in the journey it is my sense that it is time to build further on all [that has previously been] done, by reviewing and realigning the Leadership Development Ministry here at the International Office."

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Institute of Children's Ministry

In just 34 days children's ministers from throughout North America will come together to experience TRANSFORMATION! Here are some highlights of this year's Institute.

TONY SUTHERLAND - Tony Sutherland, Children's Worship Pastor at Free Chapel under Pastor Jentezen Franklin --> is a featured guest at this year's Institute. The KidPak worship band as well as the Lil' Pazaz children's dance team from Free Chapel will be ministering with Tony on Friday night. You won't want to miss Tony's inspirational message from God's heart to you and the awesome worship of the KidPak worship band and the Lil' Pazaz children's dance ministry team.

DICK GRUBER - Dick Gruber, a creator of Children's Ministry University --> online and co-host of the Children's Ministry Talk pod cast is also a featured guest. Dick will be sharing his expertise in the areas of evangelism, children's worship, creative ministry, and leadership.

EXHIBITION EXPLOSION! - This year we are inviting a variety of children's ministry publishers and resource providers to participate in an exposition of the latest in curriculum, ministries, and resources. There'll be demonstrations, give-a-ways, and blue-light specials and you can be sure to leave with an armful of great children's ministry resources.

MEET THE TRANSFORMERS! - Ministry spotlights and an on-site tour of local children's ministries will introduce you to children's ministers who are leading their ministries to TRANSFORMATION. Learn from them about the frustrations and joys of pursuing transformation in ministry. Take away creative ideas and words of wisdom that can be used to bring transformation to your ministry.

CHANGED TO REFLECT HIS GLORY - As all ICM alumni know, ICM is about Him. Each morning you will experience transformation as Kay Horner teaches transformational truth from God's Word and invites you to respond in prayer and worship.

Attend this year's Institute of Children's Ministry, May 21-24, at the Peerless Road Church of God of Prophecy in Cleveland, Tennessee. Experience transformation, reflect His glory.

For more information, click here.

Dr. Kim Alexander Elected SPS President

At the 2008 annual meeting the Society for Pentecostal Studies, Dr. Kimberly Alexander, a professor at the Church of God Theological Seminary in Cleveland, Tennessee, was elected Second Vice President of the prestigious organization.

The election starts a succession of leadership beginning at next year's meeting where Dr. Alexander will become first vice president and program chair for the 2010 meeting. At the 2010 meeting she will become president and deliver the President's address at the 2011 meeting. From now until 2012 she will serve on the Executive Committee and have various responsibilities depending on her office. She has been serving as the Interest Group Leader for the History Interest Group.

Dr. Alexander currently serves as Assistant Professor of Historical Theology at the Church of God Theological Seminary.

Dr. Terry Cross, dean of the School of Religion at the Church of God's Lee University, just completed his year as president of SPS and delivered the president's address at the meeting held last month in Nashville.

Swazi Selects Best Gospel Artists

[By Mphikeleli Msibi]

Results of the best three gospel artists voting programme will be known as Members of the public have been given a chance to vote for their favourite contestants. The artists that will emerge with the most votes will be among the top three finalists. Voting is done through landline and SMS.

Mthembeni Simelane, one of the organisers of the event, stated that members of the public were responding well.

The ultimate prize will be a free recording deal, which is part of a package consisting of studio time, video shooting and distribution of the album.

Dum'sile Mkhonta has a good shot at the prize. She is 30 and married to well-known keyboard wizard Miles Mkhonta. She is a member of the Church of God of Prophecy. She grew up in Ngwane park.

Blind Pastor/Coach Has Great Vision

[By Joe Cannon, Cleveland, TN Daily Banner]

An old Iranian proverbs says, “A blind person who sees is better than a seeing person who is blind.”

Such is the case of Jonathan Dukes, who despite having just 10 percent sight in the one eye he can see out of, sees better than many of us who have full vision.

One can call Dukes many things — a loving father and husband, an associate pastor, an author, a sports announcer, a softball pitcher — but to call him handicapped would show you don’t know him.

“I’m sure it freaks some people out to drive by and see me changing the letters on the church sign while I’m holding my white cane,” Dukes laughs. “Of course I guess no more so than seeing me be led to the pitching rubber on the softball field.”

The associate pastor of Keith Street Ministries Church of God of Prophecy, Dukes’ duties range from occasionally preaching to administrating the Practical Ministries Department to changing the messages on the church sign, just to mention a few.

“As Practical Ministries Director he connects members of our church with people who have practical needs so that those needs can be met,” Keith Street senior pastor John A. Stone explained.

“He’s also a very talented singer and often sings specials during services or for funerals,” Pastor Stone added. “He’s a tremendous help to me. He is loved by this congregation and a highly valued and respected minister of the Gospel.”

Dukes’ influence goes far beyond the four walls of his church. He is also a member of the Lee University baseball program, serving as the public address announcer for Flames’ home games.

“Jonathan is more than just a member of our support staff, he’s a personal friend” Lee head coach Mark Brew commented. “When we play out of town, he listens to the games on the radio or webcast and I’ll get an e-mail of congratulations or support from him after each game.”

“It’s not a job for him. He’s in it for the kids. He has a great, positive outlook on everything,” Coach Brew continued. “Each year before the season starts we have lunch with all the coaching staff and Jonathan and go over the team and the upcoming season. He’s an inspiration to me, my staff and the players. He’s great to have in our program.”

Letting young people know that obstacles in life can become opportunities, Dukes says one of the highest honors he’s ever received occurred when the Flames were awarded their NAIA Region XIII championship rings. The team presented him with one, as well.

“It’s a thrill for me to work with the Lee program, Mark (Brew) and all the coaches,” Dukes remarked. “When they gave me that ring it really let me know I am more than just a P.A. announcer — a part of the team. It made me feel I belong there.”

Dukes got the job with the Flames when his wife, Mary, an Instructor of Telecommunication at Lee, heard they were looking for someone to announce the games. “I told them my husband would be very interested in the job,” she related. “He loves sports and he jumped at the chance to be a part of the program.”

Dukes took over the Flame microphone in February of 2001 and until she became pregnant 2 1/2 years ago and could no longer climb the stairs to the press box, Mary was by his side running the scoreboard and playing the music between innings.

One of the highlights of his sports career came when Lee Sports Information Director George Starr asked him to do color commentary on a radio broadcast of a game between the Flames and Cumberland University.

“I loved doing the game with George and because of that people still think I do the radio,” Dukes commented.

“Working that game with Jonathan was one of the highlights of my broadcast career,” Starr commented. “Despite his vision problems, he still found a way to follow the action and came up with some of the most amazing descriptions and statistics I’ve ever heard.”

“He is one of the most amazing people I’ve ever known,” Starr continued. “He is always upbeat and willing to contribute in any way to help the program.”

Dukes’ sports enthusiasm is not limited to the broadcast booth. Last summer he returned to the playing field for the first time since 1998, pitching slow-pitch softball for Keith Street’s men’s church league team.

Wearing a special helmet with a face mask, Dukes is led to the rubber and can see the ball when it is rolled back to him between pitches.

“I first started playing softball when we lived in Mississippi and Mary coached a co-ed team,” Dukes related. “In co-ed they use two different size balls for the men and women and the umpire would change them out. I’d occasionally hear an ump holler ‘sorry’ as he would forget to roll the ball and throw it at me instead.” Like many athletes, Dukes suffered a couple of injuries. Once he was hit in the head by a line drive before he started wearing a helmet, but the most serious problem came when he did see the ball. “It was a little roller back at me and when I saw the ball I went to field it and my leg twisted,” he explained. Dukes broke his leg in two places and actually disconnected his foot from his leg. “They had to go in an put five screws in to reattach his foot to his ankle,” Mary explained.

“I actually had a sports injury,” Dukes proudly declares.

A self-described “sports junkie,” Dukes proclaims, “I love all kinds of sports. l even watch hockey, World Cup soccer, whatever I can.” “In 1980, while I was attending Georgia Southern, my brother-in-law got me a job as a student worker in the Sports Information Department and I couldn’t believe that someone would pay me to go to ball games. I loved it,” the Waycross, Ga. native declared.

He was later the editor of a Georgia Southern booster club newsletter before working for a year as a sports writer for the Statesboro, Ga., Herald. He moved to Cleveland the first time in 1987 to be an editorial assistant for the White Wing Publishing House.

After meeting Mary in 1989 and marrying her in 1991, the couple moved away for a few years before returning in 1999 when she was hired at Lee.

Suffering from choroideremia, a rare form of retinitis pigmentosa that affects night and periferal vision, Dukes’ sight has slowly degenerated since childhood. It is an X-linked genetic disorder that only affects men. “I was first diagnosed when I was 12 and the doctor told my parents, in front of me, to teach me Braille, because I would be totally blind by the time I was 32,” he related. “I’m 46 now and can still read and see a computer screen.”

“He can’t see anything out of his left eye and his right eye vision is like if you take your hand and make a circle and hold it up to your eye,” Mary explained. “His sight has stabilized over the last several years.”

One of the most wonderful sights he sees these days is his daughter, Sara-Allison. After 14 years of marriage the couple was blessed with their only child 21 months ago and they couldn’t be happier. “I’m a kept man and a stay at home dad now. That’s my No. 1 job,” the proud Papa declares.

In the humorous book Blind Sighted he authored in the late 1990s, Dukes summed up his outlook on life by stating, “My campaign is to present that eyesight is not necessary for vision. Physical disease cannot touch the spirit. Hope is killed only by despair.”

[Copyright © 2008 Cleveland Daily Banner, a division of Cleveland Newspapers, Inc.]

Monday, April 14, 2008

What Do The Scriptures Call For a Pastor To Be?

1 Timothy 3:1-7

1. Dictates a pastor’s “Relation to God” and “Relation to Self.”
2. The character of the man is of utmost importance.
3. Feels a powerful call of God to a particular people in a particular geography.

Kenneth Copeland Ministries Responds to Grassley Investigation

Eagle Mountain International Church/Kenneth Copeland Ministries was one of only two ministries that filed a timely response to Senator Grassley's initial request for information by the December 6, 2007 deadline. The Church's response reflected a sincere and good faith effort by the Church to provide answers to as many of the Senator's questions as possible without compromising the protections afforded to the Church by the United States Constitution and the Internal Revenue Code.

The Church provided responses to 17 of the 42 questions Senator Grassley posed. Where the Church provided a partial answer or response, or did not answer a question asked by Senator Grassley, the Church determined that the question raised constitutional and/or statutorily based privacy and confidentiality concerns.

In most cases, Senator Grassley's questions asked for information that other churches are not required to disclose publicly. The information sought by Senator Grassley is also the type of information that would be treated as confidential information, not subject to disclosure, if obtained by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS") from any other church.

In a letter the Church sent to Senator Grassley and Senator Baucus on March 31, 2008, the Church reiterated its position that it believes that the most timely and efficient manner for the Senators to obtain the requested information - without compromising the Church's, its members', partners', and friends' constitutional and statutorily based rights - is to request the information from the IRS. Such a request would be subject to longstanding church-audit procedures and confidentiality protections under the Internal Revenue Code.

Specifically, the IRS could obtain the information Senator Grassley is seeking from the Church through a "church tax inquiry" under section 7611 of the Internal Revenue Code. The Church Audit Procedures Act, the legislation that put section 7611 in the Internal Revenue Code, was introduced in 1983 by Senator Grassley himself, in recognition of the potential for government investigations into churches to infringe upon "the civil liberties of churches."

At the conclusion of a properly conducted church tax inquiry by the IRS Senator Grassley could request the IRS to send him the information obtained through the church tax inquiry.

Eagle Mountain International Church's CEO, John Copeland, stated that, "The Church would be willing to fully cooperate with the IRS to ensure that the requested information is provided in a timely and efficient manner. Our Church has always operated with financial integrity, submitted to and conducted independent ministry audits, and abided by all laws and tax statutes."

A request from Senator Grassley to the IRS would be covered by section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, which protects information obtained from all taxpayers. Although Senator Grassley would not be able to use information obtained through such a request to subject the Church or its members to scrutiny by the public, he would be able to fully use the information to determine whether the Church is complying with federal tax laws. On the other hand, the protections afforded to the Church under section 6103 of the Internal Revenue Code, do not apply to information that the Church provides directly to Senator Grassley and the Senate Finance Committee.

The Church has serious concerns that, without the protections from public disclosure that section 6103 affords, the information obtained by Senator Grassley could potentially be used in a manner that could harm or embarrass the Church, its preachers, members, partners, and friends. The six ministries under investigation all share a common theology that is centuries old. The "Word of Faith" message preached by these churches is based on the religious belief that God wants His children to be spiritually, physically, and financially blessed. Prosperity in all areas of one's life is an outward sign of the fulfillment of God's promises contained in the Bible.

Noted historian and Dean Emeritus of the School of Divinity at Regent University, Dr. Vinson Synan, believes the fact that Senator Grassley is only targeting those Pentecostal churches who preach the "Word of Faith" message and not any other churches, raises significant concerns. "It appears the inquiry is aimed at publicly questioning the religious beliefs of the targeted churches, their ministers, and their members while ignoring televangelists of other denominations. This violates the fundamental tenet of the First Amendment that the government should not single out any religion because of its beliefs. It also raises the question of religious bias against the Pentecostals and Charismatics who now number almost 70,000,000 Americans according to a recent Pew Survey."

In a statement issued yesterday to Church members, CEO John Copeland stated, "We look forward to further dialogue with Senator Grassley and Senator Baucus about these important matters."

(Source: Christian Newswire)

The Greatest Obsticles to Church Growth

  1. Lack of vision. When the leader has no vision it is impossible to call people to radical sacrifice for a worthy goal. No one offers talent, time, energy, and support without good reason. The vision is the reason, and where there is no vision people won’t align their resources and collaborate. Confusion is a barrier to growth; clarity brings focus and ministry intensity, and that yields a great reward.
  2. Weak leadership. When leaders think they can’t do the right thing because someone might become angry, they betray the mission. Our churches are surrounded by people living without Christ, and without hope. The pastor who won’t lead a congregation through a process to introduce a new song or a new teaching method (to reach new people) because some lady in the third row complains, “That’s not how we do things here,” has mistaken kindness for weakness. The kind thing to do is to offer Christ to the masses. The weak thing to do is to defer to a few critics and, in so doing, condemn their neighbors to an eternity without Christ.
  3. Confused leadership. For too long pastors have believed they are appointed to a local church with the assignment to pray, pay, and get out of the way. The insidious belief that local churches lack the power and responsibility for transforming their surrounding communities makes congregations impotent. Some pastors are appointed “in charge” and when they degrade their responsibility to mere “fundraiser for the denomination,” the butterfly effect sends ripples across the entire church.

Do You Keep Church Hoppers?

[From MMI Weblog by Todd Rhoades]

Pastor Brian Jones recently wrote on his blog: "I call church hoppers “connoisseurs of fine churches” because they’re continually on a quest to find the church that is spiritual enough for them, will endlessly engorge themselves on the “services” of the churches they attend, and always have a critical word to say afterwards whenever “church” doesn’t meet their standards. Here are seven things we try to do to keep church hoppers from wearing out their welcome..."

#1 Ask church hoppers to commit to tithing and serving in your 101-201-301 classes That usually takes care of it right there. Because church hoppers are consumers by nature, anything that strikes them as sacrificial will surely turn them off. As a ministry friend of mine used to tell me, “At the first sign of trouble, raise the bar.”

#2 Tell your people to stop inviting their Christian friends to church This past Sunday I may have been one of the few pastors out there that stood up and said, “Please DO NOT invite your Christians friends to our Easter services. We want other churches in the area to know we have their back. Also, we want to grow this church through conversion growth, not transfer growth. Let’s pack this place out with people who are keeping God up at night because they are living far from him.” I strategically do that 3-4 times a year.

#3 Preach short sermons Howard Hendricks used to say, “Keep them longing, not loathing.” I buy into that philosophy. I try to speak anywhere between 21 and 26 minutes max. That drives church hoppers nuts because they want to “be fed.” I’m not interested in “feeding people” unless they are in the early stages of their spiritual journey. Church hoppers as well as Christians further along their spiritual journey need to be feeding themselves. Anything I provide on Sunday morning should be in addition to their own self-directed spiritual nourishment. One point, one scripture, 21-26 minutes, that’s enough.

#4 Don’t sing 9,345 worship songs - Church hoppers, 9 times out of 10, came from a church background where they were taught they needed 5-6 worship songs to really connect with God. That needs to be re-taught. Where did we get the idea that worship = singing anyway? That’s part of it, but only a small part of it. Every part of the service is worship. Every part of my life is worship. Limiting your worship songs except for occasions when you are led by God to expand the repertoire forces people to recognize this or leave.

(Brian lists three more, but you’ll have to read those over at his blog...)

QUESTION: How do YOU keep church hoppers from staying? Or, do you try to keep everyone, no matter what?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Steve Brock

Gary Player - A Gentleman

I guess professional golfer Gary Player made his 51st and final appearance at the Masters this week. It was an emotional moment as I watch him bend over and kiss the green as he exited for his final time.
His streak is older than Fred Couples. It predates the term "Amen Corner." It's been around longer than Barbie, hula hoops and audio cassettes.
To what does he owe such longevity? For a guy who boasts he can still do one-handed push-ups at age 72, it's no secret.
He says, "I've exercised diligently, profusely, for 64 years. And that's not easy; very few people go through their lives exercising for 64 years. So it's helped me to have longevity. Growing up and coming along in my career a lot of people ridiculed and thought I was a nut lifting weights and exercising and dieting the way I do. Now I'm sure there are many of them that wish they had done it."
Yvonne and I met Gary Player several years ago and found him to be a true gentleman. He often tells me, "This is the only game you can play all of your life." Or, "Believe it or not, I can still shoot my age. How many sport can you do that in?" If I didn't misunderstand him, he said his waist size has not changed in the past 30 years. Wow!

A Gift for Senior Pastors

[From Pastor Steven Furtick by sf]

Recently I recorded a discussion about protecting your pastor with 12 men in our church who mean a great deal to me. If you are a senior pastor and you’d like to have this resource on CD, we’ll send it to you for free. No strings attached. We’re not trying to get you on a mailing list. I just thought this would be a blessing to you.

Email us your mailing address, and we’ll send it out as soon as possible.

Send it by Tuesday, April 15. That date should make it easy to remember. After that, I’ll have to close the offer to make sure it’s not a looming headache administratively for our staff.

(I know several of you may prefer a link for download, but for this one, we’ll only be mailing out CDs. Thanks for understanding. Oh, and senior pastors only this time around, please.)

Click here to email us.

Thanks for reading the blog. We value you.

Leadership Development for Aspiring Leaders

Want to contribute? Want to make a difference? Want a good reputation? Want to be heard?

Practice the following:

1. Be Trustworthy: Trust is the first discipline and the foundation for a relationship between advisor and leader or boss.

2. Become a Verbal Visionary: The leader's greatest skill is verbal skill, and the leader’s advisor must also have powerful verbal skills.

3. Develop a Management Perspective: To be a management advisor is to be able to talk more about the boss’s goals and objectives than about whatever your staff function happens to be.

4. Think Strategically: One of the great realities of management is that the leader’s job is always about tomorrow, and almost never about yesterday.

5. Be a Window to Tomorrow: Understand and use the power of patterns. A sophisticated advisor is one who can forecast tomorrow with some level of accuracy.

6. Advise Constructively: Giving advice starts where the boss is and where he or she has to go (where the advisor is or has been).

7. Show the Boss How to Use Advice: If you want to see your recommendations come alive, teach the boss how to accept and use advice.