Friday, July 30, 2010

Pastor in Russian Republic of Dagestan Killed

ISTANBUL (Compass Direct News) – A pastor in the Russian republic of Dagestan known for founding the biggest Protestant church in the region and for successfully reaching out to Muslims has been killed by unidentified gunmen, local authorities have confirmed.

The identity of the shooters remains unclear, but in the weeks leading up to the killing, Dagestan media broadcast calls for people to take measures against Suleimanov because he was too “active” and converted ethnic Muslims.

Suleimanov founded Hosanna Christian Church in Makhachkala in 1994. It started out as a small prayer group, but now with 1,000 members it is the largest Protestant church in the Northern Caucus region. According to a letter Suleimanov wrote to Compass several years ago, 80 percent of the congregation is made up of former Muslims.

The congregation established other branch churches throughout Dagestan and a formal Bible study center at the Makhachkala church. Suleimanov also equipped the church to distribute food and other aid to residents of the poverty-ridden country.

His death follows the shooting of Orthodox priest Daniil Sisoev of St.Thomas church in Moscow last November; a Muslim group claimed responsibility for the slaying.

Suleimanov is survived by his wife, Zina, and five children.
Dagestan is a small Russian republic of about 2.6 million people in the Caucus Mountains on the border with Chechnya. Ethnic Avars, Dargins and Lezgins, who are all traditionally Muslim, make up almost 75 percent of Dagestan’s population. In total, 91 percent of the population is Muslim, with the remaining 9 percent being Christian, mostly Russian Orthodox.

Because of Dagestan’s location, its population is trapped in a long-standing feud between Russia and the Chechen separatists fighting next door. The political realities of the conflict often bleed into Dagestan, resulting in civilian deaths.

The Russian government has from time to time cracked down on the Wahhabis, a sect of Sunni Islam with separatist tendencies. The Muslims in turn persecute Christians, because they see Christianity, and Orthodoxy in particular, as a Russian religion. Many converts to Christianity have to practice their faith in small, discreet home groups.

As an ethnic Avar, Suleimanov was considered by many Muslims to be an apostate and therefore deserving of death. But part of his success in reaching people was the fact that he was native to the region. Missionaries from outside Dagestan have met with mixed success.

In 1998, Herbert Gregg, one of the few U.S. pastors to live in Dagestan, was kidnapped. He was taken to Chechnya, where he was tortured, including having one of his fingers cut off. He was released after eight months of captivity and no longer lives in Russia.

Sergei Ryakhovsky, a Pentecostal minister active in Russia who presided over Suleimanov’s funeral, compared his killing to the 2009 shooting of Orthodox priest Sisoev.

Suspected Islamists Shoot 5 Christians to Death in Pakistan

SUKKUR, Pakistan (Compass Direct News) – A dozen masked men shot five Christians to death as they came out of their church building here on July 15, two months after a banned Islamic extremist group sent church leaders a threatening letter, relatives said.

“As we came out of the church, a group of a dozen armed gunmen came and opened fire at us,” said Shahid John, who survived a bullet in his arm. “Fear struck the area. The police arrived 45 minutes after the incident, and we waited for over 45 minutes for the ambulance to arrive.”

Besides Shahid John, five others were wounded in the attack.

In May church leaders received a letter from Islamic extremist group Sip-e-Sahaba (formerly Sipah-e-Sahaba until it was banned) warning the Christians to leave the area, said Kiran Rohail, wife of the slain Rohail Bhatti.

“It said to vacate the land, Christians are not welcomed here, they are polluting our land,” Kiran Rohail said.

The Sip-e-Sahaba and Sunni Tehrik extremist groups are both linked with an area madrassa (Islamic school) whose students had been threatening the church since 2008, Christian sources said.

“In 2008 a group of Muslim students started making threats for the church to vacate the land, as there are only 55 Christian families living in the area,” said the pastor’s widow, Naila John, who also lost her son Salman John in the attack.

The masked gunmen of July 15 had young physiques like those of students, Christian sources said, and their manner of attack indicated they were trained extremists.

The madrassa students that have threatened the church since 2008 belong to the Sunni Tehrik extremist group, the sources said.

Pastor John and Bhatti had reported the threats of the past two years to police, but officers at the local station did not take them seriously, said Naila John.

When they received the threatening letter in May, Pastor John, his son Salman, Bhatti, Gill, Mall and another member of the church, Arif Gill, went to the police station to register a First Information Report (FIR), according to Shahid John.

“Police just took the application but didn’t register the FIR,” he said. “The station house officer just provided two police constables for security.”

On the evening of July 15, the pastor called a meeting to discuss needed security measures, his widow Naila John said. The meeting ended around 7:30 p.m., when they left the building and were sprayed with gunfire.

“No FIR has been registered due to the pressure from the local Islamic groups,” said Kiran Rohail, referring to Sunni Tehrik, Sip-e-Sahaba and the local mosque. “The police came and took our statements, but they didn’t show up again.”

An independent government source confirmed the shooting deaths of the Christians, adding that local Islamist pressure had prevented media from reporting on it.

The church began in 1988, and Pastor John had been leading it since 2001.

Sukkur, in southwest Pakistan’s Sindh Province, has been the site of previous violence against Christians. Last June or July, area Christians said, students from the local madrassa beat Pastor Adnan John of Multan, severely injuring him, after they saw him walking in front of the mosque wearing a cross and holding a Bible. In another instance, the Muslim students prevented Christian students from holding a Christmas program at a park.

In 2006, some 500 Muslims burned down two churches in Sukkur and a convent school on Feb. 19, reportedly over rumors that a Christian threw a copy of the Quran into a trash can. A crowd wielding gasoline bombs torched St. Mary’s Catholic Church and St. Savior’s Church of Pakistan after media and government sources floated the rumor, but local sources said the violence occurred after a Muslim was arrested for burning pages of the Quran and trying to frame his Christian father-in-law, Saleem Gill, with the deed.

After torching the inside of St. Savior’s, the mob turned on Pastor Ilyas Saeed Masih’s home, then went five minutes away to destroy the 120-year-old St. Mary’s edifice.

[By Compass Direct News|John Little]

Possibili "Tea" (Bess Howard)

Dream (Layana Chalk)

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Today's Quote

The most important person in every community on earth is not the governor, the congressman, the senator or even the President. The most important person in every community is the local, Spirit-filled pastor. As goes the pastor, so goes the community.

COG Elects Council of Eighteen

The Council of Eighteen was elected during the Tuesday afternoon session of the General Council. The body of ministry leaders represents the General Council between Assembly periods meeting with the Executive Committee at least three times a year concerning church business, doctrine and polity.

Elected to serve for the 2010-2012 Assembly period were H. Loran Livingston, senior pastor of the Central Church of God in Charlotte, N.C., R. Lamar Vest, executive director of the American Bible Society, M. Thomas Propes, state overseer of the Church of God in South Carolina, Gary W. Sears, senior pastor of Mount Olive Ministries in Cleveland, Tenn., Mitchell Maloney, senior pastor of the North Cleveland Church of God, Donald M. Walker, state overseer for the north Georgia region of the Church of God, Tony Scott, senior pastor in Sylvania, Ohio, J. David Stephens, state overseer of Tennessee, Jerry F. Chitwood, state overseer of western North Carolina, Mark Walker, senior pastor at Mt. Paran North Church of God in Atlanta, John D. Childers, state overseer of Alabama, Ishmael Prince Charles, pastor in Tortola and overseer of the British Virgin Islands, Gerald McGinnis, senior pastor of Park West Church of God in Knoxville, Tenn., Nick Park, overseer of Ireland, David Muguia, president of SEMISUD in Quito, Ecuador, Daniel Vassell, regional overseer of western Canada, Mike Chapman, senior pastor of City Church of Chattanooga, Tenn., and J. Martin Taylor, state overseer of Florida.

Transformational Church: Book Video

You Would Make a Great TC Student!

What Search Committees Are Looking for in a Pastor

Demonstrated competence and religious authenticity.
Search committees want pastors who have the ability to do the work required and a genuine religious life that brings together both "head and heart."

Good preacher and leader of worship.
Regional leaders and lay leaders differ regarding what constitutes good preaching. Lay leaders generally care less than judicatory officials whether the sermon reflects careful scholarship and organization and are concerned instead that it relates to their own life and engages them personally.

Strong spiritual leader.
Lay leaders want a pastor with a deep commitment to religious beliefs and an ability to inspire spirituality in others. But many judicatory executives regard this as problematic because of the difficulty of determining who will be a good spiritual leader for a particular congregation.

Commitment to parish ministry and ability to maintain boundaries.
Lay members and search committees generally expect their pastor to be primarily devoted to ministry and take minimal time for other pursuits. This criterion, Lummis suggests, is a key place where lay visions of ideal ministry run counter to current thinking among those who counsel clergy about the importance of maintaining boundaries and the need to find time for other interests.

Available, approachable, and warm pastor with good "people skills."
Regional leaders across denominations cited the pastor’s ability to show church members he or she likes and will care for them as an essential quality search committees try to find. This quality, however, can be situationally specific to the culture of a particular church or region.

Consensus builder, lay ministry coach and responsive leader.
Lay leaders want pastors who are responsive to their concerns, pastors who can initiate ideas to revitalize the church, while soliciting opinions of members and engaging them in putting ideas into operation.

Entrepreneurial evangelists, innovators and transformational reflexive leaders.
This area often presents a disconnect between what churches say they want and what they really want. Many say they want a pastor to help grow the church but don’t want to undertake or think about the necessary changes that will be required.

[from Revitalize Your Church

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Leadership Development

What’s the #1 differentiator between companies that excel at succession planning and leadership development and those that simply “go through the motions?"

It’s the ownership and commitment of the senior executive team. They believe in its strategic importance and treat it as a high priority. Without this, the typical reaction from every manager is likely to be “What’s the point? We go through the motions every year filling these forms out and nothing happens.”

It not only becomes a demoralizing administrative time-waster, but when leadership positions need to be filled, we’re frustrated with the lack of qualified candidates. Of course, there’s also the frustration of our high potentials regarding lack of feedback, coaching, development opportunities, and any meaningful interest and involvement from their managers.

The message is clear (pick one):

1. Your development is not important to me; it’s not worth the expense or time.

2. I don’t think you have the capacity to grow and change so why bother.

3. You’re a manager – suck it up- you’re on your own when it comes to development.

This lack of commitment and involvement then cascades down and throughout the organization. While there may be pockets of excellence, these overall message is pretty clear – it’s not important, just a “nice-to-do”.

However, with commitment from the top, even the most incompetent HR department couldn’t possibly screw it up. Without it, all of the best process, systems, forms, and programs will have little impact.

If you believe in the importance of getting our next generation of leaders ready to take the helm, then are you ready to take a hard look at your own level of commitment and do what it takes to really make a difference? Take the following executive self-assessment to find your opportunities to improve (or send it to your favorite senior executive).

Rating scale: 5=always, 4=usually, 3=sometimes, 2= rarely, 1=never

1. When it comes to leadership development, I “practice what I preach." I openly discuss my development needs and actions I’m taking to improve.

According to Marshall Goldsmith: “When the senior leader acts like a little god and tells everyone else to improve, this behavior can be copied at every level of management. Every level then points out how the level below it needs to change. The end result: No one gets much better.”

2. I have regular (at least quarterly) conversations with my direct reports about their development. These discussions can include developmental feedback, coaching, or development planning… anything but “the numbers”.

3. My development discussions include both improvements in the current role as well as preparation for future roles.

4. I spend a significant amount of my time coaching, mentoring, providing feedback, and teaching high potential leaders (other than my direct reports). Note: look at your Outlook calendar over the last quarter to verify your assessment.

5. I spend time on a regular basis (at least yearly) with my leadership team assessing talent. This includes reviewing the performance and potential of our direct report managers as well as the identification of emerging high potential leaders.

6. I recognize and reward, and hold my direct reports accountable for the identification and development of high potential talent in their own organizations.

7. When I have a management opening, I’m willing to consider “unlikely” candidates from outside my organization, for the purpose of providing a cross-functional development opportunity.

8. I’m willing to let go of one of my best performers in order to prepare them for a larger leadership role.

9. I regularly have talent discussions with my peers. We take “shared ownership” for the development of leaders, rather than operate in self-serving silos.

10. When I’m traveling, I make sure to schedule time and meet with high potential talent.

11. I use consistent and valid criteria when I assess the performance and potential of my managers (and they are all aware of this criteria).

12. I take action to identify and remove underperformers that are blocking the development and movement of our high potentials.

13. I’m actively involved in company leadership development programs (sponsorship, guest speaker, panel discussions, etc….

Scoring key:

45-65: Congratulations, you’re a leadership development machine!! You’re developing leadership strength for today and for the future. You rock!

30-45: You’re doing some things well, but it’s not enough. Pick 2-3 items to improve and get to work.

0-30: Wassa matta wit you? Well, at least you care enough to take the assessment. It’s never too late to change, but you need to get started today. Read Great Leadership to learn how to get started and good luck!

[from Great Leadership

Today's Quote

“Church unity comes from corporate humility.” - Leonard Ravenhill

Is It True?

The National Enquirer is reporting that Benny Hinn and Paula White are having an affair.

CGP Assembly Video

CGP 2020 Vision Video

COG GO Raymond Culpepper Casts Vision Today

Monday, July 26, 2010

COG Assembly Airs on DayStar Network

The Wednesday and Thursday evening services of the 73rd General Assembly in Orlando will be broadcast live on the DayStar Television network. Both broadcasts will be televised at 8:00 p.m. Eastern time and 7:00 p.m.

The Wednesday service will feature the ministry of Israel Houghton, a well-known contemporary Christian artist who will lead in music ministry. The message will be delivered by Rev. Franklin Graham, president of Samaritan’s Purse who also leads the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

The Thursday evening service will feature a message by Rev. Tim Hill, first assistant general overseer of the Church of God.

Evening services are free and open to the public.

The Church of God General Assembly officially opens on Tuesday morning July 27 with the official opening of the event by moderator, General Overseer Raymond Culpepper. The Assembly concludes on Friday evening with a message from the general overseer.

For more information, visit Follow the General Assembly on Twitter: @cogga2010.

International Assembly Program

CLICK HERE for a complete color program of the CGP International Assembly.

New SBC Leader Speaks Out

CLICK HERE to hear from Pastor Bryant Wright, the new Southern Baptist Convention President.

His heart for the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention is ...

1. A return to Christ as our first love. When we return to Jesus as our first love in our pulpits and pews, we will begin to see a rekindled love for the gospel reaching all people.

2. A radical change in priorities in order to fulfill the Great Commission. This begins with each individual believer seeking to fulfill our role through the local church and continues with pastors and churches recognizing the immense need of getting more and more Cooperative Program dollars to the unreached people groups of the world and into the under-reached areas of North America.

3. Churches must begin to look at global ministry differently. It is my hope that every church participates in sending its pastor and members on at least one mission trip annually. I also am praying that this fall every church will step out on faith and set its largest goal ever for the Lottie Moon offering.

Reproducing Yourself

I read a news release some time back about an organization that had announced that it would be giving away grants to local churches that motivate young Christians to enter into ordained ministry. Evidently, there is a shortage of new clergypersons to take the places of an aging ministry force.

In my years as a pastor, I have witnessed this shortfall. Fewer seminary students are seeking a career as senior or associate pastor. Many of those who graduate with advanced degrees do not plan to work in the local church. Bottom line: there is a shortage in many fellowships of newly assigned spiritual leadership.

This past week, I was speaking at an event and a young lady introduced herself to me at the conclusion of my talk. She delivered a message to me from her dad, whom I had baptized 25 years ago. Then she said, "My dad is now attending seminary, and he is reading one of your books." I was amazed. All of those years had passed, but God continued to work in that man's life — eventually directing him into ministry.

That event of a few days ago caused me to stop and think of the many in my congregations who had followed the Lord's call full-time. I am sure you can see the faces of those you influenced who are now walking in your footsteps. Can there be a greater thrill than to see the hand of God directing the path of those you shepherd?

I can also think back to the many times, as a teenager or college student, that a man of God would preach a message imploring those present to "surrender" to God's call. They would often quote from Acts 16:9, "Come over to Macedonia and help us." Or from Matthew 4:19, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men."

You know what I think? I think that we would have more of our congregants entering into ministry if, one, we were more positive about the experience; two, we would challenge them; and three, we would recognize the value of God's unique call.

When was the last time you presented a message like that? I found the following outline in my Bible today. It's all yours.
  • God's Purpose.
  • God's Timing.
  • God's Person.
Be blessed and be a blessing.


CGP Selects New Presbyters

The Church of God of Prophecy International Presbytery meeting in Greensboro, NC has produced three new General Presbyters to lead regions of their global efforts. The new Presbyters will be announced in the first general session of the International General Assembly Tuesday morning, July 27, 2010.

Bishop Steve Gilmer Returns to Pastor

North Carolina State Overseer for the Church of God of Prophecy, Bishop Steve Gilmer, has announced that he will return to pastoral ministry. Bishop Gilmer is the son-in-law of former General Overseer Fred Fisher. The following email was released today by Bishop Gilmer:

"I gave the North American Presbyter and General Overseer the following information on Friday, July 23, 2010. They both received it with regret, yet understanding and respect. I received permission to give you: fellow Pastors, State Staff, friends and family this information."

Rockingham (NC local church) Deacons gave scripture, admonition and announced that after two weeks of prayer, fasting and meetings, the Rockingham Committee unanimously agreed that they felt it to be the will of the Lord for Steven Gilmer to become the pastor of Rockingham. "Vonnie and I were installed at Rockingham by the Church Committee and accepted by the church. We are excited about the future."

[July 22, 2010 Letter]

Fellow North Carolina Pastors:

May 17, 2010, the North American Presbyter, Bishop Sam Clements informed me by phone that there would be a leadership change in North Carolina. That was confirmed by letter on June, 2010 and again by email on July 16, 2010. Since the phone call in May, my wife and I have been in constant prayer, fasting and consultation with spiritual mentors and prayer partners. Our time spent in prayer and consultation have been honest before the Lord concerning where the Lord would have us to continue ministering for Him.

On May 17, 2010, Bishop Clements stated that he wanted me to remain with his team of North American Overseers and stated that he wanted to appoint me as State Overseer of Virginia. While we would be honored to serve the beautiful state of Virginia and her wonderful people, we feel it is the Lord's will to decline the appointment as State Overseer of Virginia. We will fulfill our current responsibilities in North Carolina until August 31, 2010.

I was appointed as your State Bishop by Bishop Billy Murray at the International Assembly in 2000. The past ten years as your State Bishop has been fruitful and rewarding. I have given all of myself to this administrative work. Vonnie and I have given you our hearts as we tried to shepherd pastors. We feel that our state is more united than any of the 20 years we have served in North Carolina. We have successfully developed lay leadership and ministerial leadership. Many of the young leaders we have invested in are serving in the local churches and in the pulpits across our state. We have tried to model relational leadership instead of positional leadership. But most of all we have simply loved you with all of our hearts and you have loved us in return.

We regret that major projects, potential leadership development and independent churches desiring to unite with our organization are unfinished. However, our prayer is that our successor will be able to complete the work that has been started and soar to even greater successes. I pray that you receive our new State Bishop and his family with open arms and open hearts. They deserve the best efforts that North Carolina has to offer.

Since May 17, 2010, my wife and I have been earnestly and open heartily seeking God's will for our continued ministries. July 6, 2010 God opened a door to fulfill our heart's desire. After several meetings with the local church committee and suggesting other individuals, the church committee unanimously asked us to accept the pastorate at our Rockingham church. Vonnie and I are honored to return to the Pastoral ministry.

We look forward to challenges that are ahead, as we fulfill a new vision and mission at the local church level. We have the peace of the Lord and desire to continue to work for Him with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

Serving God - Reaching People,
Bishop Steven L. Gilmer

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

A Quiet Place

About eight years ago, I spoke at a pastors conference at Hume Lake (, a Christian camp outside of Fresno, like few others I have visited. It is located in the Sierra Nevada Mountains at about 6,200 feet. There was autumn in the September air. The lake was alive with ducks and fish. The forest was full of bear, deer and other things you can hear, but cannot see. But above all, it was a quiet place. The forest road deadends in this beautiful spot ... and there is quiet. I think everyone — especially you, my colleague — needs a quiet place. Where is yours?

A quiet place? Yes, a spot where you can withdraw from the busyness of your assignment and recoup. A place where you can listen to music, if you wish, or just read or study ... somewhere — a place of your own — where the noises of the world are drowned out by the quiet of the Lord’s presence ... a stopping place.

Where is your quiet place? It need not be a distant destination point. It could be in a park near your home or the city library or a shady corner of your church property or a spot you have chosen on the coast or at a lake — somewhere free of distractions and interruptions where you just walk and talk with the Lord.

The psalmist talked of “still waters.” Jesus called his disciples to the other side of the lake. Peter went fishing.

I have not had many quiet places in my ministry. But this week, as I remembered my visit to a mountain retreat years ago, I was reminded how much I needed one. Where is your quiet place?


Encourage Yourself First

Caterina S. Tudor, Ph.D. Professional Counselor in the State of Colorado, teaches the wellness of encouragement. She believes encouragement de-stresses and creates a positive atmosphere around the encourager. She says it is about “speaking life” to self and others. It starts with you and then cycles around to the next person and the next.

I submit that only when you know how to encourage yourself can you really encourage another.

To encourage yourself, act like a good parent or coach toward yourself. Identify your abilities and strong points. Acknowledge any progress you make. Remind yourself that mistakes are learning opportunities. Know how to nurture and rejuvenate yourself. It’s like a bank—the deposits and withdrawals have to balance each other.You can’t give away what’s not there.

It takes work, but it is worth it.

[from Howtoencourage

Monday, July 12, 2010

Sunday, July 4, 2010