Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Ever Been Falsely Accused?

Time and circumstances have a way of vindicating a person who has been falsely accused, but it does not erase the scars left behind or the impression in the minds of many.

If you haven’t been falsely accused, you probably will. Remember this:
  • In time, the truth usually surfaces.
  • In your heart, you know what’s right.
  • We most often are stronger after the dust has settled.
  • Neither revenge nor retaliation is ever the solution – nor is self-defense. All of that is God’s business.
  • Forgiveness is a must. If you don’t, it will eat at you like a cancer.
“Do not take revenge, my friend, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19).

[by H.B. London]

Why Most Church Consultations Don’t Make a Long Term Difference

We have been doing church consultations for years and we’ve had the opportunity to study why some churches thrive after a consultant has done their job, and why other churches fail. Conversations with other church consultants reveal a lot of the same data. Here’s the bottom line: for most churches, a consultation may net a little bit of growth, but the long term effects of most church consultations is … nil. Of course, this post rests on the presumption that the recommendations offer a reasonable expectation that, when implemented, will result in a church’s growth in multiple areas (spiritual practices, numerical growth, participation, community reputation, etc.). If not, all bets are off.

In any case, there are a number of reasons why churches fail to respond well to consultations, but the majority of them fail for one of the following reasons:

1. The Minority “Wins.”

Here’s a news flash. Most churches are “stuck” and unable to make it to the next level because of less than five people. These few folks will do almost anything to “get their own way,” including bullying, threatening, tossing their weight around, manipulation, undermining, faction building, and so on. And because churches are, in general, made up of many very “nice” people, they rarely confront these bullies, terrorists, controllers, and bluffers … and so they are left to have their way and to do their damage.

When a consultation results in a number of serious recommendations that push the status quo, and a good consultant always pushes the status quo (why else would you call a consultant if the church didn’t need some changes?), those five or fewer people step up, raise objections, and the rest of the church members cave in. In some cases, the recommendations will even make it to a vote, but the objectors make so much noise that few are willing to go toe to toe and a “minority” becomes a “majority” in order to keep the peace.

2. The Pastor is Fired, Quits, or is Moved

I’m no longer surprised when I hear that a pastor has been fired (or quits or moves) within a short time following a consultation. In many cases, perhaps even most, the pastor has been instrumental in convincing their congregation of the need to call outside help to point them to a bright future. In addition, the pastor is often responsible for identifying consultation candidates. With all that, is it any wonder that the pastor is often “blamed” for the whole consultation thing.
The fact is, consultations are almost always stress-inducing for the congregation. For one, there may be surveys and inventories for staff, leaders, congregation members, and even visitors are asked to complete. Plus, there is generally a lot of other data to compile. Add to that the rumors, fears, and speculations that quietly circulate through the congregation, such as “I’ll bet we’ll have to tear out the pipe organ and replace it with a rock-n-roll stage” or “I already know they’re going to disband our women’s quilting groups,” and the discomfort level rises. With the rise of congregational stress, the tensions between leadership and congregation increase geometrically. By the time the consultant arrives, some are excited, some are relieved, and some have worked themselves up into a near-frenzy. And it’s too often this last bunch who refuse to participate or come to any of the information sessions – except, perhaps, the one where the recommendations are rolled out. And that’s when the fireworks start.

So, it should probably come as no surprise that a lot of pastors find the end of their rope following the consultation. Those who quit, generally do so because the stress and the conflict is just too much to take. Those who are fired or are moved discover that they didn’t have the support they thought they did.

Without the leadership of the pastor, the consultation report generally ends up in a file cabinet, tucked in between Last Hope and Status Quo.

3. Supportive Church Leadership Abandons Ship

The third most common reason church consultations don’t make a long term difference is that in too many cases, the most ardent supporters of the consultation process decide that it’s just too much for them and they leave the church. Often these supporters have been waiting patiently for the pastor or top leaders to guide the congregation from decline to growth, from yesterday into tomorrow. In one church, I met with a number of their young “hopeful” families who shared they’d been hanging in with the church for over a decade because they were able to keep their hope for a brighter tomorrow alive by supporting each other. But they confided that if the congregation didn’t embark on the recommendations, they were going to leave … together. They had simply waited too long.

What we see, in many of these churches, is that there are two groups of supportive church leaders who leave … but they leave at different times. The first batch who leave are those whose intellect outweighs their emotions. These folks quickly size up the situation and realize that, once again, the congregation isn’t going to support the changes necessary to be missional, indigenous, etc. These are the first to go. It’s simply a logical decision. The second group to leave are those who have emotional investments in the congregation. These tend to be the more “tolerant” and “forgiving” folks who keep hope alive that the opposition will “come around” and see what’s needed. These leaders may hang in to the bitter end, though many will begin to drift away if the conflict and tensions continue over an extended time.

In any event, these supportive church leaders leave for one main reason: hopelessness. Sometimes they lose hope when the opposition starts making a lot of noise, and they just can’t take it any more. Sometimes they lose hope because it’s clear that key recommendations simply aren’t going to be implemented. In any event, there’s little more painful for the faithful than trying to worship and support congregational ministry in a hopeless abyss. Ultimately, when the pain of staying outweighs the pain of going, the good get going.

4. There is No Conflict Resolution Process

This one needs little explanation. The fact is, most of the above reasons for failed consultation processes could have been avoided if the congregation had adequately implemented a conflict resolution process. Without a way to deal with those who would derail the process, there is little likelihood that there will be any lasting results. How could there be, since there is no way to work around or with the opposition?

5. The Consultation Process is a Come and Go Experience

As debilitating as all the above issues can be, the reality is that most consultations don’t make a long term difference because there’s no long term relationship with the consultant.

Let’s put this into a leadership perspective. If the congregation’s leader (pastor) is a level nine or ten leader, then a consultant can come in, share their observations, make recommendations, and leave. When s/he does, the leader has the skills, talent, and charisma to lead the implementation process without much difficulty. Indeed, it appears that the majority of successful consultations have been implemented by the hands of exceptional leadership. However, if the leader doesn’t have the skills, talent, or charisma as a top leader, the implementation phase is in serious jeopardy when the consultant leaves the playing field. It’s not that these leaders are somehow sub-par – it’s that their primary skills lie in other areas. These leaders are often excellent pastors, disciplers, preachers, etc. But when it comes to leading major changes through the minefield of Discordia, they may find themselves struggling.

The Solution: Getting Long Term Results From Your Consultation

There is a solution that we've found is changing the ways we do many of our consultation work. Congregations committed to church transformation and growth must stop looking for a magic, one -weekend “fix” and engage a consultant who brings both expertise and relational longevity as a coach.

A successful consultation begins with building a trusting relationship with the consultant-coach. We've found it helpful if the consultant-coach spends significant time before the onsite consultation in congregational leadership training that not only sets the stage for what’s to come, but builds a foundation. For instance, getting the conflict resolution pieces in place before the “real” work begins and helping the key leaders (board, session, etc.) deepen their spiritual practices all contribute to long-term success.

Once a level of trust has been built, the consultation process proceeds with significantly less stress and tension. In fact, I’ve found that when I make my recommendation’s presentation, the leadership and most members of the congregation are totally unsurprised at any of them – they expected them all along, since we’d been talking about hospitality and leadership shifts and so on long before the on site work.

The implementation process includes continuing congregational training sessions, plus leadership coaching to help keep things on track. Indeed, I connect with those I work with as their consultant-coach one way or another almost every week during the implementation phase. All in all, it’s not uncommon to work with a consultation client over three or more years as they move through training, consultation, and implementation. By working with congregations over this extended period, we’re finding fewer “surprises,” less conflict, and slower, but steady, progress towards implementation and congregational growth.

[by Bill T-B Published in Leadership Development, Revitalizing Existing Churches]

Friday, August 20, 2010

Clergy, Mileage Logs and The IRS

It is important for church leaders to recognize that the tax code imposes strict limitations on the use of the standard mileage rate.

A taxpayer kept a log of his travel. Each day, he noted the beginning and ending mileage but did not note each place he stopped or the business purpose of the stop. For three years he claimed deductions for 67,910 miles, 62,456 miles, and 58,616 miles for the business use of his cars. The IRS audited his returns for these years, and denied a deduction for any of these miles on the ground that they were not adequately substantiated. The taxpayer appealed to the Tax Court. Royster v. Commissioner, TC Memo. 2010-16 (2010)

The court noted that a deduction is not allowed for the business use of a car unless the taxpayer substantiates:
  1. The amount of such expense,
  2. the time and place of the travel, and
  3. the business purpose.
In the absence of adequate records, a taxpayer "may alternatively establish an element by his own statement, whether written or oral, containing specific information in detail as to such element" and by "other corroborative evidence sufficient to establish such element." However, the tax code specifically precludes the deduction of automobile expenses on the basis of an approximation or a taxpayer's uncorroborated testimony.

Why it matters to churches

The standard mileage rate is a convenient way for taxpayers to compute a tax deduction for the business use of their car. Employers, including churches, can use the mileage rate to compute the amount of a reimbursement to be paid to employees for the business use of their cars. In either case, it is essential for the taxpayer to be able to prove the following:

The miles for each business use of the car;
  • Total miles driven during the year;
  • Date of each trip;
  • Business destination;
  • Business purpose.
A failure to maintain a logbook or other documents that substantiate these items may result in the denial of a tax deduction, or in the treatment of an employer reimbursement as nonaccountable (and therefore reportable as taxable income).

[from Ophelia's Risk Management Blog

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Appeals Court Extends Hold on Calif. Gay Marriages

A federal appeals court put an indefinite hold on California same-sex marriages Monday, overruling the order of a lower court judge who paved the way for such unions to commence starting Wednesday.

The week before, Walker had ruled that people of the same sex have the right to marry and that the decision of the majority to define marriage as the union between a man and a woman – as Prop. 8 had done – violates that right.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Thunder by the Canyon

[Click on image to enlarge.] For more information, CLICK HERE.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AOG Sets Goal of 100m by 2020

The Assemblies of God may not be on the frontlines, broadcasting their positions on political issues, but that's a calculative move, according to the head of the denomination.

"We've never wanted our political position to become a barrier to first and fundamentally reaching people with the saving news of Jesus Christ. So we've been careful not to elevate our political message above the salvific message," said General Superintendent Dr. George O. Wood.

Wood was responding to a question Tuesday during a live Q&A session that was broadcast live on the Web. The e-mailed question pointed out that other denominations seem to often step forward sooner, sharing their positions on political issues, well before the Assemblies of God.

While the Pentecostal church body does issue statements on such issues as abortion and immigration, Wood encouraged caution especially when their mission is to reach unchurched people.

If a visitor walked into a church where there were sign-up tables for political causes, the visitor may first see the church's political stance and never sit down to hear the Gospel message, Wood pointed out.

"The political cause turns them away from an opportunity to first reach their heart and soul and their eternal destiny," he explained. "We are concerned first with the eternal destiny of people because we believe there is salvation in no one other than in Jesus Christ.

"We don't want to put up any roadblocks that hinder us getting that message [out] that Jesus Christ came to save you from your sins and to give you eternal life."

Moreover, once a person becomes a follower of Jesus, as the new believer studies the Bible, that will inform their political and personal opinions, he noted.

The Assemblies of God is one of the largest Pentecostal denominations in the country with over 1.7 million members and 2.9 million adherents. In contrast to what mainline Protestant denominations have been facing for decades, the Pentecostal body has continued to see gains in adherents.

During Tuesday's "Ask the Superintendent" webcast, Wood addressed a number of hot topics, including homosexuality, speaking in tongues and the prosperity gospel.

The act of homosexuality represents an offense against God and morality, he said, and that "permanently disqualifies a person from holding ministerial credentials."

The church body "may have some latitude if a person has come out of homosexuality and has had an enduring or continuing record of morality in their life," Wood added, but districts – or regional governing bodies – are free to look at that on a case by case basis.

Regarding the Assemblies of God's doctrine on "speaking with other tongues," Wood reaffirmed the act as the initial physical evidence of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

Just as "the initial physical evidence of being baptized in water is that you are wet, the initial physical evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit is speaking in other tongues," Wood underscored.

"This is in the DNA of the Pentecostal movement. It's in our DNA," he said. "One of the aspects of returning to first love and remembering first love is that we go back to the purity of the experience of the Holy Spirit that our forefathers had."

The superintendent encouraged pastors and churches to preach on such spiritual gifts in order to see an increase in spirit baptisms.

"Where something is not preached, where it's not emphasized, where it's not taught, it doesn't happen," he said.

He further made clear that the "focus on the Holy Spirit is so that we might enhance the personality and the power and presence of Jesus Christ in our lives and in our churches."

Responding to a question on the prosperity gospel, or the teaching that believers have a right to the blessings of health and wealth and that they can obtain these blessings through positive confessions of faith, Wood strongly rejected it.

"There are so many gimmicks in the body of Christ," he said, "so many charlatans that are out there in the Christian media that are basically saying 'send me $100 and watch God bless you."

"This is just nonsense," he asserted.

"If the money that has been wasted by Christians on these people who live the lifestyle of kings and queens and do little to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ had been spent instead on mission and on Christian higher education and upon this generation, we would be a lot further down the road than we are and these people are going to answer to God."

Wood elaborated on Scripture passages that mention blessings.

"We have to take the truth of Scripture – the Lord loves a cheerful giver; what you sew, you reap some 30 fold, some 60 fold, etc. But that also has to be measured against the motive for giving. The motive for giving is not give in order to get. The motive for giving is to bless God, bless His work and bless other people," he explained.

As he envisioned the future of the Pentecostal body, Wood said the focus should be on evangelism, discipleship, compassion and worship. Worldwide, the Assemblies of God counts over 64 million adherents and it hopes to reach 100 million by the year 2020. If the body reaches its goal, it would be among the three largest recognized Christian communities in the world, Wood said.

But, "it's not a matter of competition," he noted. "We just need to reach unreached people."

[By Audrey Barrick|Christian Post Reporter]

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Benny Hinn Admits "Friendship" With Paula White But Tells TV Audience It's Over

Evangelist Benny Hinn recently admitted at a crusade in Oakland, California, to having a “friendship” with fellow minister Paula White while he’s still married after a tabloid pictured them holding hands in Rome on July 13. But the well-known healing minister says the relationship is over.

“A friendship did develop,” Hinn said of White in Oakland on July 30. “Hear this: No immorality whatsoever. These people out there are making it sound like we had an affair. That’s a lie.”

Hinn invited his daughters Natasha and Eleasha on stage in Oakland and asked the crowd to pray for him, his estranged wife, Suzanne, and their four children. He said he and his wife had problems in their marriage for years and “could no longer exist in the same house.”

Hinn’s wife, Suzanne, filed for divorce in February after the couple had been separated for years, but it has not been finalized.

Hinn aired segments from the Oakland crusade and made additional personal comments on his This Is Your Day program on TBN Aug. 5, the day after his 31st wedding anniversary. A ministry executive said the program will air on other networks this week, including on Daystar Friday.

Hinn told the crowd in Oakland that the Vatican made him a Patron of the Arts and invited him to visit Rome. He said patrons are asked to find donors to help maintain the Vatican’s art collections, and he wanted White to become a donor.

“I let her come with me to Rome so she can donate money,” Hinn said. “That was stupid on my part. And for that I do ask forgiveness.”

The National Enquirer published photos in its Aug. 2 issue of Hinn walking hand-in-hand with White in Rome. The article, which released July 23, claimed the two spent three nights in a five-star hotel Hinn booked under a false name.

Hinn said in Oakland that he and White found “common ground” after she appeared on This Is Your Day in late May. White and her ex-husband, Randy, went through a public divorce in 2007. She now leads the Tampa, Flaorida, church they founded, Without Walls International Church, and has her own national television show called Paula Today.

He said he and White were never alone in Rome, but claims he ended his friendship with her after the tabloid report was published. “I said, ‘Paula, we can’t even be friends right now.’”

Hinn admitted that he contributed to the demise of his marriage by putting ministry over his family. “I was so busy in the ministry, I was so caught up with the ministry, I forgot about my family,” Hinn said. “That’s probably what broke the whole thing up.”

He said he often preached that ministry comes first, acknowledging that he knew that teaching hurt his children. “You know what? It’s wrong,” he said of the teaching. “I’m here to admit I was wrong because the call of God first should touch the family. If you have no family, you can’t go on anyways.”

Hinn admitted he and his wife had “challenges” but said he didn’t expect her to end the marriage.

“We had troubles for a long time, and I would ask her often, ‘Would you ever divorce me?’” Hinn said. “She said, ‘Never because I fear God too much.’ She said, ‘My covenant is with God, not you.’ And I guess she could no longer handle it. One day she did it to my shock.”

Hinn said it’s painful to talk about his marital problems, noting that he and his wife were separated long before the divorce filing.

“We’ve had to be very quiet to protect the ministry, the work of the Lord,” he said. “But sadly when you are a public person, everything you do becomes public.”

“I don’t care how strong you are,” Hinn added. “I don’t care if the anointing of God is mighty on you. Nobody wants to be alone. I don’t care who you are. I am a human being just like you.”

Hinn said he is “still focused on the Lord’s work,” adding, “I’m going to go on serving Jesus with all my being, and whatever the future holds, that’s His business.”

[by Adrienne S. Gaines - Charisma News Online]

Taking a Break From the Lord’s Work

The findings have surfaced with ominous regularity over the last few years, and with little notice: Members of the clergy now suffer from obesity, hypertension and depression at rates higher than most Americans. In the last decade, their use of antidepressants has risen, while their life expectancy has fallen. Many would change jobs if they could.

But while research continues, a growing number of health care experts and religious leaders have settled on one simple remedy that has long been a touchy subject with many clerics: taking more time off.

“We had a pastor in our study group who hadn’t taken a vacation in 18 years,” said Rae Jean Proeschold-Bell, an assistant professor of health research at Duke University who directs one of the studies. “These people tend to be driven by a sense of a duty to God to answer every call for help from anybody, and they are virtually called upon all the time, 24/7.”

As cellphones and social media expose the clergy to new dimensions of stress, and as health care costs soar, some of the country’s largest religious denominations have begun wellness campaigns that preach the virtues of getting away. It has been described by some health experts as a sort of slow-food movement for the clerical soul.

In the United Methodist Church in recent months, some church administrators have been contacting ministers known to skip vacation to make sure they have scheduled their time, Ms. Proeschold-Bell said.

The church, the nation’s largest mainline Protestant denomination, led the way with a 2006 directive that strongly urged ministers to take all the vacation they were entitled to — a practice then almost unheard of in some busy congregations.

“Time away can bring renewal,” the directive said, “and help prevent burnout.”

The Episcopal, Baptist and Lutheran churches have all undertaken health initiatives that place special emphasis on the need for pastors to take vacations and observe “Sabbath days,” their weekday time off in place of Sundays.

The Lilly Endowment, a philanthropic foundation based in Indiana, has awarded grants of up to $45,000 each to hundreds of Christian congregations in the past few years, under a project called the National Clergy Renewal Program, for the purpose of giving pastors extended sabbaticals.

And while recent research has focused largely on mainline Protestant churches, some Jewish leaders have begun to encourage rabbis to take sabbaticals.

“We now recommend three or four months every three or four years,” said Rabbi Joel Meyers, a past executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the international association of Conservative rabbis. “There is a deep concern about stress. Rabbis today are expected to be the C.E.O. of the congregation and the spiritual guide, and never be out of town if somebody dies. And reply instantly to every e-mail.”

Some nondenominational evangelical Christian ministers have embraced a similar approach, outlined in two best-selling books by the Rev. Peter Scazzero, pastor of the New Life Fellowship Church in Elmhurst, Queens.

Mr. Scazzero, 54, is the unofficial leader of a growing counterculture among independent pastors who reject the constant-growth ethic that has contributed to the explosion of so-called mega-churches.

In the books, “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and “The Emotionally Healthy Church,” he advocates more vacation time for members of the clergy, Sabbath-keeping, and a “rhythm of stopping,” or daily praying, that he learned from the silent order of Trappist monks.

Mr. Scazzero said that depression and alienation from his wife and four children prompted him a half-dozen years ago to try living more consciously and less compulsively.

“It’s hard to lead a contemplative life on Queens Boulevard,” Mr. Scazzero said. “But the insight I gained from the Trappists is that being too ‘busy’ is an impediment to one’s relationship with God.”

Clergy health studies say that many clerics have “boundary issues” – defined as being too easily overtaken by the urgency of other people’s needs.

Dr. Gwen Wagstrom Halaas, a family physician who is married to a Lutheran minister and who wrote a 2004 book raising the alarm about clergy health (“The Right Road: Life Choices for Clergy”), described the problem as a misperception about serving God.

“They think that taking care of themselves is selfish, and that serving God means never saying no,” she said.

Larger social trends, like the aging and shrinking of congregations, the dwindling availability of volunteers in the era of two-income households, and the likelihood that a male pastor’s wife has a career of her own, also spur some ministers to push themselves past their limits, she said.

The High Mountain Church of the Nazarene in North Haledon, N.J., started with 25 members 10 years ago and grew to 115 before its pastor, the Rev. Steven Creange, noticed strains in his marriage and decided to slow down.

Mr. Creange said he and his wife feel lavishly rested – and much happier – since they began observing Sabbath days on Fridays and making occasional weekend getaways.

“I just don’t go to every graduation and every communion anymore,” he said. “And people accept it.”

In May, the Clergy Health Initiative, a seven-year study that Duke University began in 2007, published the first results of a continuing survey of 1,726 Methodist ministers in North Carolina. Compared with neighbors in their census tracts, the ministers reported significantly higher rates of arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure and asthma. Obesity was 10 percent more prevalent in the clergy group.

The results echoed recent internal surveys by the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, which found that 69 percent of its ministers reported being overweight, 64 percent having high blood pressure and 13 percent taking antidepressants.

A 2005 survey of clergy by the Board of Pensions of the Presbyterian Church also took special note of a quadrupling in the number of people leaving the profession during the first five years of ministry, compared with the 1970s.

Roman Catholic and Muslim clerics said the symptoms sounded familiar.

“We have all of these problems, but imams are reluctant to express it because it will seem like a sign of weakness,” said Imam Shamsi Ali, director of the Jamaica Muslim Center in Queens. “Also, mosques do not pay much and many of them work two jobs.”

Catholic canon law requires priests – “unless there is a grave reason to the contrary” – to take a spiritual retreat each year, and four weeks of vacation.

That vacation regulation has led Msgr. Gus Bennett of Brooklyn to take a camping trip on horseback in the Wyoming wilderness with friends every year for 30 years.

Monsignor Bennett, 87, a canon lawyer, now semi-retired, who spent most of his working years setting up and managing the pension plan for priests and lay employees of the Diocese of Brooklyn, says he has always felt his religious side to be most alive during those nights in Wyoming, “sleeping on the ground, under the whole of creation.”

He does not know how it affected his health. “I just know it made it easier to come back and jump into the books,” he said.

[By PAUL VITELLO - The New York Times]

Saturday, August 7, 2010

America The Beautiful

America the beautiful,
or so you used to be.
Land of the Pilgrims' pride;
I'm glad they'll never see.

Babies piled in dumpsters,
Abortion on demand,
Oh, sweet land of liberty;
your house is on the sand.

Our children wander aimlessly,
poisoned by cocaine
choosing to indulge their lusts,
when God has said abstain

From sea to shining sea,
our Nation turns away
From the teaching of God's love
and a need to always pray

We've kept God in our temples,
how callous we have grown.
When earth is but His footstool,
and Heaven is His throne.

We've voted in a government
that's rotting at the core,
Appointing Godless Judges;
who throw reason out the door,

Too soft to place a killer
in a well deserved tomb,
But brave enough to kill a baby
before he leaves the womb.

You think that God's not angry,
that our land's a moral slum?
How much longer will He wait
before His judgment comes?

How are we to face our God,
from Whom we cannot hide?
What then is left for us to do,
but stem this evil tide?

If we who are His children,
will humbly turn and pray;
Seek His holy face
and mend our evil way:

Then God will hear from Heaven;
and forgive us of our sins,
He'll heal our sickly land
and those who live within.

But, America the Beautiful,
If you don't - then you will see,
A sad but Holy God
withdraw His hand from Thee.

~~Judge Roy Moore~~

Pastors saddened, resolved in wake of Prop. 8 decision

Christians are both grieved and outraged by a federal judge's decision Wednesday to overturn California's Proposition 8 – the measure that passed in November 2008 with a 52.1 percent vote and defined marriage as between a man and a woman.

John Milhouse, pastor of Calvary Chapel Moreno Valley, is saddened by the direction the United States is heading.

“I’m just very grieved by the whole process, and I'm just very saddened,” he laments. “I think more people are very frustrated that judges are determining what laws should be accepted by the people." But the pastor points out that "God performed the first wedding, [and] our country has been founded on principles laid out in scripture.”

On Wednesday, U.S. District Chief Judge Vaughn R. Walker overturned Proposition 8, calling the measure "unconstitutional" by claiming in a 136-page ruling that the state of California "has no interest in differentiating between same-sex and opposite-sex unions" -- an opinion supporters of the proposition disagree with.

Walker, who is an openly homosexual judge, overturned Prop. 8 on the grounds that supporters of traditional marriage have no real defense or evidence against same-sex "marriage." He argued the legislation "fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite-sex couples are superior to same-sex couples."

Bill Welsh, pastor of Refuge Calvary Chapel in Huntington Beach, is neither "surprised" nor "thrilled" about the judge's ruling.

"We are certainly not going to stop speaking what we know is the truth," he assures. "We are going to continue to fight and inform our people at Refuge to speak in the situation and pray."

Welsh references a young girl, delivered from lesbianism, who shared her testimony at the church's monthly communion service the same day Proposition 8 was overturned. Although the testimony had been planned ahead of time, the Refuge pastor believes it was perfect timing in light of the ruling.

"We just want everyone to know that God is a God of love who calls everyone to repentance," Welsh shares.

Churches across California united last year in support of Proposition 8. Pastors educated their congregations, church members rallied in streets in support of the bill, and many were encouraged to vote according to their values.

"I don't think the battle will ever be lost," Milhouse contends. "I believe our response should be ... to pray, and whatever we do, do it in love because we aren't anti-people, and we aren't anti-gay -- but we don't agree with their lifestyle."

In 2000, state judges overturned Proposition 22 -- the California Defense of Marriage Act that passed with 61 percent vote, but this ruling is the first in the country to overturn a ban against same-sex marriage on federal grounds. Previous rulings authorized the unions in light of the state constitution. The issue will most likely make its way to the U.S. Supreme Court.

[by Becky Yeh - OneNewsNow California correspondent]

American missionaries gunned down for "preaching Christianity"

KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban terrorists have declared they shot and killed a team of missionaries, including six Americans, because they were 'preaching Christianity.'

Ten members of a medical team, including six Americans, were shot and killed by the Islamic terrorists as they were returning from providing eye treatment and other health care in remote villages of northern Afghanistan, a spokesman for the team said Saturday.

Dirk Frans, director of the International Assistance Mission, said one German, one Briton and two Afghans also were a part of the team that made the two-week trip to Nuristan province. They drove to the province, left their vehicles and hiked for hours over mountainous terrain to reach the Parun valley in the province's northwest.

Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press in Pakistan that they killed the foreigners because they were "spying for the Americans" and "preaching Christianity."

Frans said the International Assistance Mission is registered as a nonprofit Christian organization but it does not proselytize.

“This tragedy negatively impacts our ability to continue serving the Afghan people as IAM has been doing since 1966," according to a statement released by the charity. "We hope it will not stop our work that benefits over a quarter of a million Afghans each year."

The team, made up of doctors, nurses and logistics personnel, was attacked as it was returning to Kabul following a two-week mission in Nuristan, Frans said. They had decided to travel through Badakhshan province to return to the capital because they thought that would be the safest route, Frans said.

Among the dead was team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York who has been working in Afghanistan for more than 30 years, Frans said.

Little was expelled by the Taliban government in August 2001 after the arrest of eight Christian aid workers – two Americans and six Germans – for allegedly trying to convert Afghans to Christianity. He returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban government was toppled in November 2001 by U.S.-backed forces.

Frans said he lost contact with Little on Wednesday. On Friday, a third Afghan member of the team, who survived the attack, called to report the killings. A fourth Afghan member of the team was not killed because he took a different route home because he had family in Jalalabad, Frans said.

According to Frans, two members of team worked for International Assistance Mission, two were former IAM workers and four others were affiliated with other organizations, which he did not disclose.

He said five of the Americans were men and one was a woman. The Briton and German also were women.

General Agha Noor Kemtuz, police chief in Badakhshan province, said the victims, who had been shot, were found Friday next to three bullet-riddled four-wheel drive vehicles in Kuran Wa Munjan district.

He said villagers had warned the team that the area was dangerous, but the foreigners said they were doctors and weren’t afraid. He said local police said about 10 gunmen robbed them and killed them one by one.

He said the two Afghans were interpreters were from Bamiyan and Panjshir provinces. A third Afghan man, who had been traveling with the group, survived.

“He told me he was shouting and reciting the holy Quran and saying ‘I am Muslim. Don’t kill me,’” Kemtuz said.

[by Kathy Gannon - Associated Press Writer]

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Importance of Prayer - Pastor

“Brethren, pray for us” (1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1).

Paul makes this request seven times in his epistles. He knew that the success of the minister depended largely on the prayers of God’s people.

Some congregations seem to be pervaded largely by a heavenly atmosphere. You feel its hallowed influence the moment you enter the house. It matters not how rich may be the tones of a bell; if it be struck in vacuo or under water, you get no sound, or only a heavy thud; strike it in the air and how mellow its notes ring out.

So with preaching in or out of the atmosphere of devotion. A praying people make a strong pulpit. A Paul may plant and an Apollos may water, but it is God who gives the increase, and He gives it only in answer to prayer.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Church of God of Prophecy plans on-campus training school

The Church of God of Prophecy, which closed its biblical studies and liberal arts college Tomlinson College in 1993, announced a 2014 start date for another on-campus training school.

The announcement came during the church’s 96th International Assembly Wednesday in Greensboro, N.C.

Using the theme “Pursuing His Spirit,” the church leaders opened the Assembly. During his opening remarks, General Overseer Randall E. Howard introducing a 2020 Vision initiative. The initiative is a return to “essential tenents” centered on mission, prayer and stratetic plan.

“We stand on the shoulders of those before us,” the church’s website quoted Howard as saying. “What we do or project today is only another chapter.”

The details for the on-site school are still being finalized, due to variables such as the current lease on the former Tomlinson College property by another school and an evaluation of all church properties currently being conducted by ARKS, a Christian construction and real estate consulting group.

“(We are) fully aware that in order to make this church college a reality, there must be a well thought-out strategic plan, business plan, and solid support,” said Tim Harper, chairman of the Tomlinson Center board. “Tomlinson Center has an Assembly mandate and the vision of inspirational leadership; now we must make it happen.”

In its presentation during the Wednesday morning session and on a video, members of the board highlighted the years of potential leaders that have graduated from high school since the school’s closing and stressed the importance of the church training its current and future leaders.

“The Board readily admits that the re-opening of a Church college is a challenging undertaking. It is one that we cannot do independently of the greater church,” Cardin stated. “However, this board does not believe that this church can go another 20 years without this vital ingredient in our overall leadership development focus.”

The Tomlinson Center currently offers online training through a partnership with Lee University and a Certificate of Ministerial Studies (CIMS) through state, regional and national training events.

In the midst of a week frequently focused on its future and conducting business, the Church of God of Prophecy also took time to honor its forerunners on Wednesday afternoon of its 96th International Assembly.

The Church’s recently-deceased ministers were memorialized in a program directed by Jan Couch, Stewardship Ministries director, featuring a video montage and musical tributes by Roberta Matthews and Dave Brown.

Following the program, the Church’s leadership from Europe, the Commonwealth of Independent States (C.I.S.) and the Middle East conducted the Bishop Ordination service with the assistance of state and regional overseers.

The Assembly concluded today with a worship service, the Parade of Nations and announcement of appointments.