Friday, December 28, 2012

Pastor Andy Stanley and Church Mourn Loss of Staff in Car Crash

Pastor Andy Stanley and the thousands who attend North Point Community Church are mourning the loss of one of their staff members who died in a car accident Tuesday night.

The Alpharetta, Ga., megachurch made the announcement Wednesday, tweeting, "Our hearts are broken."

Celeste and Ryan McCormick, both 27, were involved in a collision with another vehicle in Alabama. Celeste, who was a passenger in a 2003 Honda, died after a 2003 Chevrolet struck them. Ryan sustained injuries but survived.

The driver of the Chevrolet, Brandon Ray Sellers, 20, was also injured.

Alabama State Troopers are investigating the crash.

The McCormicks are both part of the staff at North Point Community Church, one of the largest churches in the country. They served at the megachurch's Gwinnett campus, one of five campuses.

Gwinnett Church is located in Duluth, Ga., approximately 15 miles to the east of the main North Point campus.

In a brief message posted online for the congregation on Wednesday, Gwinnett Church stated, "It is with deep sorrow that I must let you know that Celeste died in the accident. Ryan is currently recovering at a hospital in Montgomery and his prognosis is good.

"Both Ryan and Celeste have done so much for Gwinnett Church. Ryan is on our Service Programming team and Celeste was a part of our UpStreet staff. We are heartbroken and we will miss her greatly. Please pray for Ryan, their parents, and our team."

UpStreet is a Sunday gathering for elementary-aged kids (K - 5th grade).

Members of the church and public have expressed their support with messages of prayer.

"What a heart-wrenching blow to all of us who loved her and fealt (sic) her love. Celeste will be greatly missed. It is comforting to know, that she is safe and whole in our heavenly Father's arms," wrote Bruce & Michelle Saarela on the church's website.

Scott & Stephanie Goodspeed commented, "I served on staff with Ryan at Dogwood Church and my wife and I enjoyed the privilege of doing their pre-marriage counseling. What an amazing love for Christ and thus each other and a testament to their great parents, pastors and disciplers in their lives.

"Like you, our hearts are full of shock, sorrow and hope as we pray for Ryan, their families and your church family."

North Point Community Church did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

[By Lillian Kwon , Christian Post Reporter]

Christian Pastor Saeed Abedini Imprisoned in Iran

A 32-year-old Iranian who is a U.S. citizen and a Christian convert has been imprisoned without notice of any formal charges while visiting his family in Iran, according to his wife and attorneys in the U.S., who are now hoping that a media campaign will help set him free.

The Rev. Saeed Abedini, who lives in the U.S. with his wife and two young children, was making one of his frequent visits to see his parents and the rest of his family in Iran, his country of origin and where he spent many years as a Christian leader and community organizer developing Iran’s underground home church communities for Christian converts.

On this last trip, the Iranian government pulled him off a bus and said he must face a penalty for his previous work as a Christian leader in Iran.

He is currently awaiting trial at Iran’s notoriously brutal Evin Prison, where he has been incarcerated since late September.

“When he became a Christian, he became a criminal in his own country. His passion was to reach the people of Iran,” Naghmeh, his wife, said in an exclusive interview with Fox News.

“He comes from a very close-knit family, and he loved evangelizing and passing out Bibles on the streets of Tehran. This was his passion,” she said.

In July, Abedini left his wife and kids to go to Iran to visit family and continue a humanitarian effort he began years ago to build an orphanage.

After a short visit to a nearby country, Abedini was traveling back into Iran to catch his flight back to the U.S. when members of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard stopped his bus near the Turkey-Iran border and pulled Abedini from the bus, confiscating his passports and subjecting him to intense interrogation, according to his wife.

After weeks under house arrest and many calls to Iran’s passport control office about the status of his confiscated passport, Abedini was told that his case has been referred to the Revolutionary Guard, the Iranian government’s elite military force.

On Sept. 26, five men kicked open the door of Abedini’s parents’ residence in Tehran where they collected all communications devices and arrested him while placing the rest of his family members, who are also Christians converts from Islam, under house arrest.

The family remains under house arrest, according to Naghmeh.

Two days before the home raid, Naghmeh reports getting a call to her cellphone in the U.S., from someone she thinks was an Iranian government agent threatening that she would “never see him again.”

Abedini is the father of a house church movement in Iran, a community of underground places of worship for former Muslims who convert to Christianity and are not allowed to formally pray in recognized churches.

Over the course of his involvement, his home church movement had about 100 churches in 30 Iranian cities with more than 2,000 members.

“It was just growing so fast. They see the underground churches as a threat and they see Christianity as a tool from the West to undermine them,” Naghmeh said. “They think if the country becomes more Christian, they are no longer under Islamic authority. That’s why it’s a threat.”

But “Christianity saved his life,” Naghmeh says of her husband, who converted at the age of 20, after becoming severely depressed from undergoing suicide bomber training by a radical Muslim group.

Abedini was recruited in high school and taken to the mosque to be trained, she says. The more he sought to be a devout Muslim and the deeper he went into training, the more depressed he became.

Under Shariah, or Islamic law, a Muslim who converts to Christianity is on a par with someone waging war against Islam. Death sentences for such individuals are prescribed by fatwas, or legal decrees, and reinforced by Iran’s Constitution, which allows judges to rely on fatwas for determining charges and sentencing on crimes not addressed in the Iranian penal code.

All religious minorities in Iran, including Bahais, Zoroastrians, Jews and Christians, have faced various forms of persecution and political and social marginalization throughout the regime’s 30-year reign. But the government saves its harshest retribution for those who have abandoned Islam.

During the many rounds of interrogations, Abedini has informally been told he will be charged for threatening the national security of Iran and espionage, due to his involvement with Christian house churches and foreign Christian satellite TV ministries.

The Iranian government offered bail in the amount of 500 million toman, or roughly $410,000. Abedini’s family has prepared the bail documents many times already but have not been successful in having it accepted or approved, they say.

Just this week they prepared yet again the bail documents but were told they were not going to be accepted. When they inquired, they were told, “Boro Gomsho!” or get lost.

“It’s hardest on the kids,” Naghmeh said. “Saeed was a stay-at-home dad. My daughter said she is forgetting Daddy’s voice and she asked me, ‘Do you think he has a beard now?’ I didn’t even think of that. She keeps playing the home videos over and over. It’s the hardest at night because he had a night routine with them when he would read them books and tuck them in. They miss that the most.”

Abedini and his wife had met in Iran in 2002, while she was there working for Iranian relatives, and were married shortly thereafter. Together, they worked as Christian leaders in the underground house churches. After facing persecution for these activities, in 2005, they moved to the U.S. together.

His first trip back to Iran was in 2009 with his wife and two children to visit his family when he came under government scrutiny. As the family attempted to catch their flight back to the U.S., Abedini was detained and told he would have to stay in the country for further questioning. His wife and children were put on a plane bound for the U.S., separated from their husband and father.

After the arrest and rounds of intense interrogation, in which the interrogators threatened Abedini with death for his conversion to Christianity, they agreed to release him, according to his attorneys, but only after he signed a written agreement in which the government would not charge him for his Christian activities, and he would be allowed to enter and exit the country so long as he ceased all official house church activities.

According to his attorneys, he had honored this agreement. “He thought if he honored his part, they would honor theirs. He was transparent about his humanitarian work there,” said Tiffany Barrans, International Legal Director at the American Center for Law and Justice based in Washington D.C, the organization representing Abedini’s U.S.-based family.

This was ninth trip since 2009 to visit family and to continue his humanitarian work on developing a non-sectarian orphanage in the city of Rasht on a family-owned land plot.

“You have a situation of arbitrary detention here. Iran is violating its own constitution and its international obligations. As citizens of the world, we need to wake up to these violations. Iran needs to be exposed for its violation of these laws,” said Barrans, who has been working very closely with Naghmeh to push for her husband’s release.

The American Center for Law and Justice is providing legal support to Naghmeh by working through the US government, members of Congress, various governments around the world, and with leaders in the United Nations to help release Pastor Saeed.

The ACLJ previously played an integral role in reaching various government representatives in the case of imprisoned minister Youcef Nadarkhani, who was freed from an Iranian prison after nearly three years following a tremendous international outcry demanding his release.

Despite the fact that Abedini was arrested Sept. 26, the family elected to work through different private means to get him released. In that time, however, he was denied access to an attorney and was badly been beaten by prison guards. According to his wife, Abedini is also being severely beaten by his cell mates who self-identify as members of Al Qaeda. The family is greatly concerned for his health and well being.

The U.S. has not had formal diplomatic ties with the Iranian government since 1980 and relies on alternative efforts in such instances.

Fox News reached out to the State Department for comment on Abedini’s case but has not received a call back yet.

“We were hopeful that the Iranian government would have released him by now and that private efforts would have been more successful. Also, as Saeed has family in Iran, we had to be mindful of the fact that any public action taken could put his family at risk,” said Barrans.

“They see that the house church culture is alive and thriving. They believe that making an example out of their former leader will deter others from practicing and converting to Christianity.”

Several house church members, friends and distant relatives of Abedini have had to flee the country in recent months after being summoned by the government to collect evidence against him.

As a convert away from Islam, worshippers are not permitted to attend services at official churches. Underground house churches became a popular way to get around this restriction.

“They have denied converts the opportunity to worship in an official place of worship. Then they tell them they can’t practice their faith underground, and doing so is a crime against Iran’s national security interests. How is this not a violation of religious freedom?” Barrans said.


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Merry Christmas

Don & Yvonne Brock
From our home to yours.

Leadership Development in 2013

As the year winds down, it’s a good time to reflect on what you've accomplished and learned as a leader and what you’d like to focus on for the coming year.  Creating an Individual Development Plan (IDP) is a great way to capture those actions and increases your chances of keeping your commitments to yourself.

Senior leaders often hire executive coaches to help them create their development plan.  A good coach has the ability to ask just the right question at the right time in order to create insight and inspiration to change. However, a good executive coach doesn't come cheap.  For those of you on limited budgets and working for frugal or cash-strapped organizations, have no fear, you've come to the right place.

When you are ready, take out a piece of paper and a pen, or a tablet for you techies, and answer each one of the following questions.  Managers, once you've created your own plan, use the questions to coach your team to create their plans.

Purpose and commitment:

  1. Why are you interested in developing your leadership skills?
  2. How is becoming a better leader going to help you achieve the results you are trying to achieve?
  3. What’s motivating you?  Are you challenged in your current role?  Do you have aspirations for a new role?  If it’s just to be a better leader in your current role, why is this important to you and what do you hope to achieve?
  4. How inspired and committed are you to changing?

Identifying the “what”:

  1. What does great leadership look like to you?
  2. Who is a role model leader for you and why?  What do they do?
  3. What leadership competencies (skills, knowledge, attributes) are important to your organization, for your current role, and/or for the role you aspire to?  Why?
  4. How do you stack up against these competencies?  If you don’t know or are not sure, how can you get feedback?
  5. What are your greatest strengths as a leader and why?
  6. What are your greatest opportunities for improvement as a leader, and why?
  7. What are the three areas (strengths or opportunities) you are committed to work on that if improved, will have the biggest impact on your desired results?  Why?

Identify the “how”:

  1. Is your current role the best opportunity to develop these three areas?  If not, are you ready to consider a new role?  If so, what would it be?  Why?
  2. What will you do, and who should you talk to further explore this possible change?
  3. What are some challenging assignments or projects, both on the job and outside of work that would give you an opportunity to learn and apply these new competencies?
  4. Who’s really good at any one (or all) of those things?  How can you approach them to ask for their advice?
  5. Who can you meet with on a regular basis to get further advice and/or support?  Your manager, a mentor, a coach?
  6. How can you find a good course, a book, articles, websites, blogs, podcasts, and other learning resources related to your learning goals?

Implementation and follow-up:

  1. What’s your action plan?  Who’s going to do what, and by when?
  2. What resources and support do you need to achieve your goals?
  3. How will you share your plan with your manager?  What support do you need from your manager?
  4. In order to hold yourself accountable and gain additional support, who else will you share your plan with and how?
  5. How will you ensure you do what you say you were going to do?
  6. What roadblocks do you expect or need to plan for?  What are some ways to overcome them?
  7. On a scale of 1-10, how committed are you to your plan?  If anything less than a 10, why?  What would you need to change to make it a 10?
  8. What will you do to ensure those new learnings become a regular part of who you are and how you think and behave and a leader? 

Side note: It was an interesting challenge to limit myself to only asking questions, and to use as many open-ended questions as possible. I have to admit, I’m more of a “teller” than an “asker”.  Try it sometime, as a way to explain something you think you know a lot about to someone.  It will challenge your ability as a coach.

[from Great Leadership by Dan McCarthy]

Monday, December 17, 2012

Why Does God Allow It?

While being interviewed live on a radio station this morning I was asked, “Why does God allow tragedies like the school shooting to happen?”  I have given the question more thought since.

The problem of evil and suffering is the question of why God allows it.  Pain and suffering in themselves are not evil.  God can actually use them to help us grow.  Even death, from one perspective, is simply the beginning of a joyful eternity.  It is those of us who remain who usually suffer the most.

Even then, some of our concern over the problem of evil comes from imagining our own suffering and death rather than from our own suffering per se.  We imagine ourselves in the shoes of those who may have suffered only for a moment.  Sometimes our sense of the magnitude of the issue comes from fear as much as from actual suffering.

But if God loves us and is able to stop evil and suffering, then why doesn't he?  Here again, we do not know the extent to which he does.  God may be intervening all the time, constantly, without us knowing it.  We are mostly aware of the times when he doesn't.  It is quite possible that they stand out to us in great disproportion to the number of times he does step in and change the course of history.

Why doesn't he step in every time?  We must ultimately trust that he has some larger reason not to step in.  We must believe that he doesn't step in because there is some greater good either for us or for humanity as a whole.

For example, one old explanation for the bigger picture has to do with moral freedom.  It is not a perfect answer, but it suggests that a world in which we can choose the good (and thus can choose evil) is a better world than one in which we are simply God's robots playing out a script he has written for us.  But if some individuals will choose the good, then some will choose the evil, and suffering will result.

This answer to the problem of evil is the "free will" explanation.  In its classical form, it says that God gave Satan and Adam a choice between good and evil, and they made the wrong choice.  In Adam's case, the result was a world where people have a tendency to do wrong and where the created realm is enslaved to corruption and decay (cf. Rom. 8:19-21).  St. Augustine in the 400s saw the evil and suffering in the world as a direct consequence of Adam's sin in Genesis 3.

As someone from the Wesleyan tradition, I believe that God still empowers us to make choices for good in this world.  We can of course go with the human default of selfishness, usually with a resulting detriment to ourselves and others around us.  But I believe God makes it possible also for us, both individually and collectively, to do good in the world as well, if we will.

A supplemental answer to that of free will is the "Irenaeus" answer, proposed some two hundred years before Augustine.  Irenaeus suggested that suffering can make us stronger.  Without hardship, our wills would not face the kinds of choices that enable us to grow and become morally great.  We can understand natural laws as a mirror of the principle of freedom, where God allows the laws of nature to play themselves out without regularly intervening. Sometimes, those laws play out in a way that results in our suffering, and we face the choice to grow or become bitter.

But ultimately, it comes down to faith in the mystery of God's goodness.  By faith we believe that God is good.  I do not believe that God orchestrates evil or that he directly causes all suffering.  For reasons that are usually beyond our full understanding, he certainly allows it.  Sometimes he intervenes.  Sometimes he doesn't.

Ultimately, we must believe that there is a big picture that we often do not see.  We as Christians believe that, if God allows evil or suffering, he must do so because it is either beneficial for us in some way or that it benefits the big picture.  We do not see the big picture.  We cannot know how the alternative would play out.

We believe by faith that God is good and that the sovereign king of the universe will do right (Gen. 18:25).  Sometimes we can guess at why God might allow something, but we cannot be certain in this life.  We must have faith in the mystery of his goodness, that he is working everything for good in his ultimate game plan.

[from Quadrilateral Thoughts by Ken Schenck]

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Housing Allowance

The housing allowance is the single most IMPORTANT TAX BENEFIT available to ministers.  Do you understand the limits and FOLLOW ALL THE RULES to ensure the housing allowance is calculated correctly?  Do you know what RECORDS MUST BE KEPT to substantiate the cost of everything excluded from income as housing expenses?  Are you certain the allowance is PROPERLY DESIGNATED AND APPROVED by the “governing board” of the church?  If you have questions about the minister’s housing allowance provided in Section 107 of the Internal Revenue Code, do your research and enact legal policies new.

If we can assist you or consult with you, contact Synergy Ministries.  We are always looking out for you.

Senate Report on Religious Organizations Accountability

First Commission Report to be Issued December 4

The first report of the Commission on Accountability and Policy for Religious Organizations is scheduled for release to Senator Charles Grassley, member of the Senate Finance Committee, on December 4, 2012.

The initial report, culminating from the work of 80 nationally-recognized professionals, will cover all of the issues under consideration (housing allowance, love offerings, compensation of nonprofit leaders, church reporting to the IRS, and more!) except the political activity issue. This topic will be covered in a separate Commission report in 2013.

ECFA members will receive a complimentary hard copy of the report, and it will be available in an electronic version on ECFA's website.

2013 Standard Mileage Rates

2013 Standard Mileage Rates Up 1 Cent per Mile for Business, Medical and Moving

The Internal Revenue Service today issued the 2013 optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating an automobile for business, charitable, medical or moving purposes.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Death Announcement - Molene Clark

Please pray for Martha Herston and her family.  Martha's mother, Molene Vaden Clark, 87, died Saturday, November 24, 2012 at Helen Keller Hospital.  She was born in Itawamba County, MS. to Carl Turner and Clara Mae Pounders Vaden.  She was a member of Mt. Olive Methodist Church and was a special education teacher at Red Bay School for 14 years.

Services will be at 11 a.m. Tuesday, November 27, at Mt. Olive Methodist Church with Rev. Jonathan Herston and Rev. Ricky Smith officiating.  Burial will be in Mt. Olive Cemetery, Tremont, MS. Deaton Funeral Home, Red Bay, Al. will be in charge of arrangements.

Survivors are three children-Charles Clark (Mitzi) and Joyce Russell (Truman) all of Red Bay and Martha Herston of Fort Payne, AL; seven grandchildren-Susan Parker, Linda Cason, Rev. Jonathan Herston, Mary Herston, Alan Russell, Christopher Russell and Carol Davis; six great grandchildren-Alyssa Parker, Cari, Samuel and Zoe Herston, Brodie Cason and Alex Parker; her sister-Helen DeReu of Twin Lakes, MI; a sister-in-law-Gertie Grissom of Florence.

She was preceded in death by her husband-Gaston Clark; her parents and a son-in-law-Rev. Jerry Herston.

Visitation will be 6-9 p.m. Monday, November 26, at Deaton Funeral Home, Red Bay, Al. and she will lie-in-state at the church from 9 a.m.-11 a.m. on Tuesday.

Molene and her family are supporters of Synergy Ministries.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Practicing Gratitude

When Thanksgiving arrives, just as the number of turkeys, stuffing mixes and cranberries seem to grow exponentially, so do the conversations about gratitude.  We get to feast together on wonderful food, surrounded by friends and family, and say thanks for life, health, and one another.

This year, feast on gratitude.

Monday, November 12, 2012


Follow Don Brock on Twitter @DGBrock.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Pray For Israel

Israeli forces returned fire into Syria today with some warning shots, according to the Jerusalem Post.  "The IDF fired a warning shot at the Syrian military on Sunday, after a Syrian shell landed in the Golan Heights for the second time in recent days."

Israel has not fired at Syria since the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

"In the midst of Syrian infighting, a mortar shell fired by the Syrian army struck near an outpost at Tel Hazeka," IDF spokesman Brig.-Gen. Yoav Mordechai said.  The shell failed to cause injuries or damages.

"In light of the policy instituted by IDF Chief of Staff, Lt.-Gen. Benny Gantz, a warning round was fired back into Syria.  We don't believe it caused injuries or damages," Mordechai added.

America's ambassador to Israel, Dan Shapiro, issued a statement in support of Israel's actions on his Facebook page.

"Our thoughts are with the residents of southern Israel, who continue to be bombarded with missile attacks from terrorist organizations in Gaza.  The United States supports Israel's right to defend itself and its citizens from these attacks," writes Shapiro.

There appears to be no further statement from the State Department at this moment.

[from Weekly Standard Blog by Daniel Halper]

What Search Committees Are Looking for in a Pastor

A few years ago, Pulpit & Pew Research on Pastoral Leadership shared a fascinating report: "What do Lay People Want in Pastors?"

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 by Mark O. Wilson]

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Schuller vs. Crystal Cathedral

Schuller and his wife, Arvella, seek more than $5 million.  Meanwhile, the outcome of the trial will have an impact on creditors who have been waiting to be paid since the Crystal Cathedral Ministries filed for bankruptcy in 2010.

"We're just hoping that it's soon over, so we can just move on," said John Charles, chief executive officer of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries.  "It's been painful for both sides."

Carol Schuller Milner, a Schuller daughter who along with her husband, Tim, also has claims in the trial scheduled in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, said: "This is really grieving us.  We don't pursue conflict.  We believe in reconciliation."

The elder Schullers filed a number of claims for breach of contract and copyright infringements.  The largest claim seeks damages for the rejection of an agreement between them and the ministry written prior to Rev. Schuller leaving his post as senior pastor in 2005.

In that agreement, the church agreed to provide for Robert H. and Arvella Schuller until their deaths.  It included payments of $119,000 per year in housing allowance, $20,065 for insurance annually and $198,000 per year to Schuller's corporation, Robert Harold, Inc.  Both Schullers are in their 80s.

Starting in late 2008, as the ministry faced an economic downturn and a decline in donations, the Schullers were paid less.  When the ministry filed for bankruptcy, all payments stopped.  And in the reorganization plan, the agreement with the Schullers was rejected.

Payments also stopped to Carol and Tim Milner.  She was employed for $10,000 monthly to do work related to her father's intellectual property.  He worked as an independent contractor on various services, including fundraising and arranging the reverend's speaking engagements.  Their claims total approximately $189,000, according to court documents.

The elder Schullers have been criticized for using their power and influence over the years to give themselves and their children generous salaries, housing allowances and other benefits, even after the church began to struggle financially.

Carol Milner disputes the idea that her parents and siblings are wealthy or took advantage of the church.

"People have said the big, bad Schullers took all this money, but in reality we were running a $60 million organization.  And we gave it our all," she said.

"My parents did not become wealthy as the result of the church," Milner said.

[from the Orange County Register]

Five Difficult Challenges Pastors Face

  1. Responding graciously to someone right before you preach.  The pastor has put hours into the sermon.  He has prayed for God's power for that moment.  He is focused on God's Word and its proclamation.  All of his energy is devoted to the upcoming moment.  Then someone rushes up and drops a bombshell on him on the way to the pulpit, or hands him a piece of paper and says, "Pastor, you need to announce about the garage sale we're having this week."
  2. Knowing what do with a staff member who is not making a vital contribution to the church.  Many churches will not let leaders make the tough decision of letting a staff member go, even if he is not really productive and obviously an ill fit for the ministry and the church.  Such a move is considered "un-Christian" and will not be tolerated, even if it would ultimately be best for that staff member.  Many pastors have lost their own jobs when they made such a move.  So we often move those persons to innocuous, low-accountability positions, even though we know it is poor stewardship.
  3. Loving a person in the church when that person is your critic.  We want to be Christ-like and love people unconditionally.  I admit that I often saw those people through their critical words instead of seeing them through the eyes of Christ.
  4. Preparing more than one quality sermon a week.  When I was a pastor I had to prepare a Sunday morning sermon, a Sunday evening sermon, and a Wednesday evening Bible message.  Frankly, it took all I had to prepare one good message.  I know many churches no longer have the Sunday evening preaching service, but tens of thousands of pastors still prepare more than one message a week.
  5. Doing the funeral of a person who was not a Christian.  We can always hope the person had a deathbed conversion of which we are not aware.  And we can always preach messages of comfort to the family and friends.  But it is extremely difficult to talk about the deceased if he or she was lost.

[from Rick Warren's Podcast for Pastors and Church Leaders. by Thom S. Rainer]

Today's Quote

"It is important for your volunteers to understand that their service – no matter how big or small – is an integral part of a much bigger picture."

[By - Nelson Searcy, (Connect: How to Double Your Number of Volunteers (p. 76))]


A wise old minister once said Love is. . .
Slow to suspect - quick to trust
Slow to condemn - quick to encourage
Slow to offend - quick to defend
Slow to expose - quick to shield
Slow to reprimand - quick to forbear
Slow to belittle - quick to appreciate
Slow to demand - quick to give
Slow to provoke - quick to reconcile
Slow to hinder - quick to help
Slow to resent - quick to forgive.
[ from Revitalize Your Church by Mark Wilson]

Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools

Given all the roiling debates about how America's children should be taught, it may come as a surprise to learn that students spend less than 15% of their time in school.  While there's no doubt that school is important, a clutch of recent studies reminds us that parents are even more so.  A study published earlier this month by researchers at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California-Irvine, for example, finds that parental involvement — checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home — has a more powerful influence on students' academic performance than anything about the school the students attend.

[From Time Magazine]

Leadership Development

What does the "expert" leader look like?  Moreover, how would we know we are in the presence of an expert leader?  The National Research Council (NRC) (2000) suggests the following as attributes of experts. Which do you think apply to leadership?

  • Experts notice features and meaningful patterns of information that are not noticed by novices (NRC)
  • Experts have acquired a great deal of content knowledge that is organized in ways that reflect a deep understanding of their subject matter (NRC)
  • Experts' knowledge cannot be reduced to sets of isolated facts or propositions but, instead, reflects contexts of applicability: that is the knowledge is "conditioned" on a set of circumstances (NRC)
  • Experts are able to flexibly retrieve important aspects of their knowledge with little attentional effort (NRC)
  • Though experts know their disciplines thoroughly, this does not guarantee that they are able to teach others (NRC)
  • Experts have varying levels of flexibility in their approach to new situations (NRC)

So does any of this sound like an expert leader?  Which of the bullets apply?  Which may not?  More important, what are additional attributes of an individual who is displaying expertise in the ream of leadership?  Lord & Hall (2005) would suggest that there are six specific skill domains when it comes to leadership:

  1. task
  2. emotional
  3. social
  4. identity level
  5. meta-monitoring
  6. value orientation
So this is interesting ... do you think that the leader needs to show expertise in each of the six domains outlined by Lord & Hall?  Seems like a tall order, but perhaps that's is truly being asked of a man or woman who has chosen to take on a formal or informal leadership role.  What do you think?  It’s an amazing conversation.

[Developing the "Expert" Leader from Center For Leader Development by Scott J. Allen]

Monday, October 29, 2012

Suggested Actions During and After Hurricane Sandy

During and immediately after the storm:
  1. Check on your neighbors and vulnerable members of the community and your congregation.
  2. Find out and distribute information about where to get help immediately and in the short term including phone numbers of the local municipality and the Red Cross.
  3. Provide hospitality for first-responders and people immediately affected by the storm.  If possible, open your church building as a place to wash up, use the telephone or internet, get a hot meal especially for those who have lost electricity, rest from the elements, and more.
  4. Offer prayer for people who are suffering and open your sanctuary for prayer and meditation.

Prayer for Hurricane Sandy Victims

"God of renewing love, sustain those who are suffering in this storm.  Walk with all whose lives are being impacted now and in the aftermath as they seek to rebuild following the disaster.  Bring hope in the midst of despair.  Grant patience and endurance to those who bring aid and assistance.  Assure all of your presence in this time.  In the name of your Son, Jesus Christ. Amen."

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Thank You!

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Power of a Compelling Vision

Little Jimmy’s mother came into his room one night to tuck him into bed, and found him staring out the window, into the evening sky.

“What are you doing, honey?” she asked.

“I’m looking at the moon.”

“Well, Jimmy, it’s time to stop staring at the moon and go to bed.”

“Mommy, one day I am going to walk on the moon.”

“Sure Jimmy, now go to bed.”

32 years later Jimmy (James Irwin) actually did it!  He reached the moon on Apollo 15.  Not only did he step on the moon’s surface – one of the very few humans to accomplish this feat – but he also drove the first Lunar Rover.

First, Jimmy dreamed it – then, Jimmy did it!  There is tremendous power in a compelling vision.
An unknown philosopher said, “Do not follow where the path may lead; go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”

So, how do we find a compelling vision?
  • Look Up. Pray and listen. All faith-inspiring dreams come from above.
  • Look Down. What have your failures and painful experiences taught you? Failure isn’t final if you learn something from it. The greatest growth occurs in the darkest valleys.
  • Look Inside Yourself. Explore your unique gifts, passions and abilities. Do you love your work? If not, what kind of work would you love? What activities give you energy (green light) vs. activities that drain you (red light).
  • Look Around. What is your current reality? What needs to be changed? What first steps should you take? What are your friends telling you? How would you advise someone else in your situation?
  • Look Back. Where have you been successful in the past? What has given you the greatest reward and fulfillment? Has there ever been a moment when you thought, “I was born for this”? What have you learned from your experiences?
  • Look Ahead. Where do you want to go? Will the path you’re currently on take you there? What do you hope to accomplish in life? What do you want to have written in your obituary? What action must you take now to achieve your goal later?
“Whatever you do, or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, and power and magic in it.” – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

[from Revitalize Your Church 

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Pastor Creflo Dollar Responds to Charges

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — Megachurch pastor Creflo Dollar staunchly denied Sunday that he punched and choked his 15-year-old daughter in an argument, telling his congregation the allegations made in a police report are nothing but "exaggeration and sensationalism."

"I will say this emphatically: I should have never been arrested," Dollar said in his first public appearance two days after police charged him with misdemeanor counts of simple battery and cruelty to children.

The pastor got an enthusiastic ovation from the packed church as he took the pulpit Sunday at the World Changers Church International in metro Atlanta. He addressed the criminal charges head-on for several minutes before moving on to his sermon.

"I want you all to hear personally from me that all is well in the Dollar household," Dollar said.

The 50-year-old Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta, with 30,000 members in the Atlanta area and a ministry of satellite churches across the U.S.

He was arrested after his 15-year-old daughter called 911 at about 1 a.m. Friday and told a Fayette County sheriff's deputy that she and her father argued when he said she couldn't go to a party. A police report says the girl told a deputy her father charged at her, put his hands around her throat, began to punch her and started hitting her with his shoe. The deputy noted a scratch on her neck.

The report said the deputy also interviewed Dollar's 19-year-old daughter, who said her father grabbed her sister's shoulders and slapped her in the face and choked her for about five seconds. She said her sister tried to break free, but did not fight back. When her father threw the 15-year-old on the floor, the older girl ran to get her mother. Dollar's wife, Taffi, told the deputy she did not see the fight.

Dollar launched into a lengthy denial of the allegations from the pulpit Sunday.

"The truth is that a family conversation with our youngest daughter got emotional," he said. "And emotions got involved and things escalated from there."

He said the mark on his daughter's neck had been there for about 10 years and was caused by a skin condition, eczema.

"The truth is she was not choked, she was not punched. There were not any scratches on her neck," Dollar said. "But the only thing on her neck was a prior skin abrasion from eczema. Anything else is exaggeration and sensationalism."

Dollar's 15-year-old daughter is the one who called authorities and told them her father punched and choked her. Her 19-year-old sister corroborated the story. But Dollar didn't publicly display any anger toward his children.

"I will never put any fault on my children, as Jesus would never put any fault on me," he said.

Dollar's wife, Taffi, is a co-pastor at the church. She addressed the congregation before her husband but did not touch on the allegations.

Dollar's congregation appeared supportive Sunday, giving him sustained applause as he took the stage. As he spoke, people in the sanctuary yelled encouragement: "We love you!" and "We've got your back!" As he talked about the difficulty dealing with teenage children in a "culture of disrespect," many in the crowd nodded in agreement.

Members of the church seemed to close ranks around Dollar even before he addressed them from the pulpit Sunday. Dozens of people approached by The Associated Press as they arrived for the service declined to comment, and the few who did expressed support. After the service, many were still reluctant to comment, but those who did said they were satisfied with their pastor's comments.

"When I first heard what he was accused of, I didn't believe it. I knew there had to be more to the story," said Phyllissa Wolley, 23, a daycare worker who has attended the church for about five years. "I felt like he addressed the accusations today, and I believe what he said. To hear from him personally, I really appreciated that. I was glad to hear his side of the story."

Others said the media blew the accusations out of proportion without having all the facts and they felt vindicated after hearing Dollar speak.

"I think you're looking at a bunch of sensationalism," said George Blake of Ellenwood, adding that he thought the media rushed to tell the story without knowing the full story. The 49-year-old said he never questioned his pastor of eight years.

"It's not up to me to be satisfied with what he had to say," Blake said. "This is a man of God spreading the word of God."

Dollar, who has five children, is a native of College Park and says he received a vision for the church in 1986. He held the first service in front of eight people in an elementary school cafeteria. His ministry grew quickly and the church moved into its present location, an 8,500-seat sanctuary, on Dec. 24, 1995.

Dollar said in a 2007 interview with The Associated Press that he renounced his church salary, and his income only comes from personal investments, including a real estate residential property business and horse breeding company called Dollar Ranch. He's also published more than 30 books, focusing mostly on family and life issues, including debt management.

He said he also sometimes got up to $100,000 for a single appearance on his packed schedule of speaking engagements.

Along with Bishop Eddie Long, Dollar is one of the most prominent African-American preachers based around Atlanta who have built successful ministries on the prosperity gospel, which teaches that God wants to bless the faithful with earthly riches. Ministers in this tradition often hold up their own wealth as evidence that the teaching works.

[By KATE BRUMBACK 06/10/12 05:11 PM ET AP]

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Synergy Counseling Center

A ministry of Synergy Ministries.

117 1sr Street W
Fort Payne, AL 35967

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Synergy Ministries

Synergy Ministries

Synergy Ministries

Synergy Ministries: Partner with us. Help us help others with free counseling and tornado relief. Synergy Ministries provides goods and services in the name of our

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Today's Quote

Just because your dream is delayed doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Pastor T. D. Jakes

Today, Pastor T. D. Jakes spoke a powerful word at the funeral of singer Whitney Houston.

Pastor Thomas Dexter "T. D." Jakes Sr. (born June 9, 1957) is the chief pastor of The Potter's House, a non-denominational Pentecostal megachurch, with 30,000 members, located in Dallas, Texas.  His church services and evangelistic sermons are broadcast on The Potter's Touch, which airs on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, Black Entertainment Television, the Daystar Television Network, The Word Network and The Miracle Channel in Canada.

Other aspects of Pastor Jakes' ministry include an annual revival called "MegaFest" (which draws more than 100,000 people during that period of time), an annual women's conference called "Woman Thou Art Loosed", and gospel music recordings.

Pastor Marvin Winans

Today, Pastor Marvin Winans preached the eulogy at Whitney Houston's funeral at New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.

Pastor Winans founded The Perfecting Church in Detroit, Michigan in the early 1990s, and released an album with the church's choir in 1992 entitled Introducing Perfected Praise.  A second album, Friends, appeared in 2001.  His 2007 release, Alone but Not Alone, was nominated for a Grammy award for Best Contemporary R&B Gospel Album.

Pastor Winans is a Pentecostal preacher.  Bishop Marvin Lawrence Winans (born March 5, 1958) is also known for his recurring role in the hit show Tyler Perry's House of Payne.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Leadership Principles

Four universal moral principles (figure below), honored by people of all cultures and creeds, are the foundation for organizational success and the health of the global economy.  Demonstrating integrity generates trust.  Practicing forgiveness for well-intentioned mistakes is necessary for innovation to flourish.  Compassion – caring for others as human beings vs. just a means to an end – has a direct impact on the retention of talent.  And finally, demonstrating responsibility by admitting mistakes, and showing that you “care for the commons” – or care about “leaving the world a better place” – inspires and energizes people.  “Caring for the commons” is more often known as “corporate social responsibility.”

[by Fred Kiel, Ph.D. & Doug Lennick:]

Monday, January 16, 2012

Top 10 Mobile Apps for Church Leaders

  1. The Bible - When you can carry 800,000 words in your pocket, with lightning fast access to any book and verse (Do kids today even know what “sword drills” are anymore?), a church leader would be remiss to not have one of the hundreds of Bible apps installed on their phone. YouVersion, Olive Tree, The Voice, Logos, and the ESV Study Bible are all popular. will even read the Bible to you!
  2. Evernote - Evernote is a notepad on steroids who only drinks creatine shakes while striding down the beach in his muscle shirt, kicking sand in nerds’ faces. I would extol its benefits, but I still have sand in my eye. Michael Hyatt has a whole series of informative posts about Evernote. If you don’t have a central repository for all of the information you accrue as a church leader, this app could be just what you need. The fact that it seamlessly syncs your notes across platforms (mobile, desktop, web) is only the first of many wonders when it comes to this app.
  3. Twitter and Facebook - If you haven’t jumped on the social media bandwagon yet, there’s always room for more. Whether you send out quotes from what you’re reading, updates from your blog, or pictures from your daily life, Twitter and Facebook, for better or for worse, are arguably the top two modes of communication for our current age. Whether you prefer Twitter’s in-house apps or third-party apps like Tweetdeck or Hootsuite, these apps can help you stay connected to your team, your tribe, your church, and your friends. Need help with being consistent on Twitter, or only have certain times of the day to tweet? Try Buffer, an indispensable twitter-scheduling web app.
  4. E-book Reader - You may be a Kindle guy. You may be a Nook girl. Regardless, e-readers are a necessity for church leaders. With instant access to millions of books both past and present, e-readers allow you to get inspired so you can inspire others. And, since many of the classics of Christianity are public domain, hundreds of them are free for the taking.
  5. Leadia - Leadia is a new app, just released in September 2011 by Leadership Network, that provides invaluable leadership development resources. With four “experiences” currently available on the app at $5.99 apiece, from church leaders like Mac Lake, Stacy Spencer, Will Mancini, and Scott Wilson, the price of admission to hear from these leaders, through text, audio, and video, is quite low for its return on investment. As the app adds more “experiences,” it’s sure to be an integral resource for church leaders. The Catalyst Leader app is another useful church leader mobile application that offers articles, videos, and podcasts from a number of well-known church leaders.
  6. Fighter Verses - Do you have trouble memorizing scripture? Fighter Verses is an app that provides a variety of ways for you to memorize Bible verses, like leaving multiple blanks in the verse, offering a multiple choice quiz for different words in a verse, and allowing you to set the verse as your lock screen.
  7. Clips - If you like to incorporate visual illustrations from popular movies, Clips can be your virtual sermon illustration assistant. This app is a database of teachable moments from hundreds of movies. While the app doesn’t provide actual video, it does provide a description of the movie moment, the start and end times for the clip, a topical search, and discussion questions.
  8. GoodReader - Pastors, small group leaders, and other church leaders who want to deliver their message via an iPhone of iPad may want to check out GoodReader, a robust PDF reader that allows for annotations. JR Vassar wrote a post detailing how he uses GoodReader, including screenshots of the app as he used it for a sermon on Hosea. Some church leaders use Apple’s Pages app that enables you to work in Word or Pages on your laptop, then upload to iPad via iTunes.
  9. Siri / Dragon Dictation - With the release of the iPhone 4s and the hubbub over Siri, voice dictation is taking center-stage as the next evolution of how we interact with our mobile devices. (As my pastor recently warned us, “This is how the robots start the takeover.”) If you can’t get Siri-ous, Dragon Dictation has been around for quite some time, and they offer both a free mobile app as well as a robust desktop app for purchase. If you’re a pastor on the move, talking your thoughts into an app that can transcribe them for you may be just the help you need.
  10. Angry Birds - No top ten list of mobile apps would be complete without the inclusion of Angry Birds. Just don’t make the mistake of playing Angry Birds when your iPhone is plugged into the church’s sound system. The unmistakable squawk-squee-squawk of a launched bird and the resultant sneering snort of a defiant pig might cause a distraction. If this happens to you, be sure to yell into the horrified silence . . . “I got all three stars!”
What are your favorite apps as a church leader? Which ones did we miss?

[by Blake Atwood]

Monday, January 9, 2012

10 Reasons Why 2012 Will Be Your Best Ministry Year Ever

#1 – You are going to spend more time on your face before God than on facebook, blogs and twitter…and in doing so are going to hear God’s voice and do what He says!

#2 – You are going to be less critical of other people who don’t think just like you and actually see what you can learn from them.

#3 – You are going to stop listening to people who want to do nothing but attack you and tear you down but actually care nothing about you, your family or your church.

#4 – You are going to start listening to people who love Jesus, love your church and love you…and when they push back on you in love you are not going to label them as “disloyal” but rather open yourself to the possibility that Jesus may be using them to speak to you.

#5 – You are going to start loving your people rather than demanding that they love you.

#6 – You are going to take bigger steps of faith than you have ever take before…understanding that when you begin to celebrate the past more than you anticipate the future, it’s OVER!

#7 – You are going to quit looking for handouts and drop the entitlement mindset and actually pay the price both personally and as a church to grow in your understanding of leadership.

#8 – You are going to quit trying to pray away what God has directly told you to deal with.

#9 – You are going to stop complaining about all of the staff and resources that you do not have and START being grateful to God for what He has given you…and then doing your best to honor Him!

#10 – You are going to stop comparing yourself to others and actually find your identity in the fact that Jesus saved you, called you, equipped you and is using you rather than how many people showed up to your church this past Sunday!

(by Perry Noble)

God's Not Through With You!

I am not sure who I am writing this to…but I feel led to let someone know…


For weeks, months, maybe even years you have bought into the lie that “it’s over” when it comes to you doing something great for God; after all, you did (fill in the blank)…and because of that there is no way He could ever use you.

Let me be very clear and to the point:  If God were done with you then He would have killed you…but the very fact that you have air in your lungs right now means that HE IS NOT THROUGH WITH YOU!

“But Perry, I screwed up,” you say!

Of course you did!  We all do…which is NOT an excuse to go out and screw up your life, but rather a reminder that in the Bible the ONLY people God used were people who had screwed up.

David committed adultery AND murder (talk about a guy you don’t want to invite over for dinner!  Seriously, David would not have been allowed to serve and most likely attend a lot of churches!)  HOWEVER, David repented of his sin (see Psalm 51) and today we know him as “a man after God’s own heart!”

Moses killed a man…and God used him to lead the Israelites out of Egypt to the border of the Promised Land.

Paul was a murderer…and God used him to write most of the New Testament.

Peter denied Christ and chose to walk away from Him…and God used him to preach on the Day of Pentecost where 3,000 people accepted Christ in one day!

I could go on and on, but you get the point…your past does not disqualify you from an amazing future if you are in Christ!!!

God’s not through with you…and…as I so often say, if you don’t let your past die then it will not let you live and one of the consequences of that is you will allow the enemy to talk you out of the amazing things God has planned for you.

When we repent of sin (which is the most powerful thing we can do in our walk with Christ) we become unstoppable.  And so, if you screwed up…and if you have repented of sin…then STOP believing the lie that there’s no way God could use you!  Take a look at

I Corinthians 6:9-11!!!

God’s not through with you!  GET UP…GET ON YOUR FEET…and do whatever He tells you to do!

(by Perry Noble)