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?