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BUILDING HOMES FOR THE WAR WOUNDED JANUARY // FEBRUARY 2017
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You’re Committed to Building the Church. We’re Committed to Your Success. Pastors today need a divinity school that provides more than a degree. You need professors who prepare you for how to change lives through the local church. Jesse Eisenhart ‘09, lead pastor of New Jersey’s rapidly growing True North Church, chose Regent University for its renowned academics: “Regent’s faculty sets them apart. They’re personally committed to your future — creating leaders who develop other leaders.” We’re ready to help you build the Church, too.
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SERVING THE CITY
c o n t e n t s V o l . 3 5 // N o . 1
J a n u a r y // F e b r u a r y 2 0 1 7
18 Coming out of the Nation of Islam, A.R. Bernard may be an unlikely choice to lead New York’s largest church, but he is God’s messenger.
26 | THE CITY AT OUR DOORSTEP
Former real estate developer employs divine strategies to start businesses in Spokane, Washington, for the sake of the gospel. By Cal Pierce
32 | SMALL TOWN, BIG IMPACT
42 | POWER IN YOUR POCKET
46 | GROW THE CHURCH, SAVE THE WORLD
From small churches to global ministries, BMCFerrell is transforming the way God’s Word is presented in this media age. By Taylor Berglund
56 | PURPOSEFUL PRODUCTIVITY
Commercial real estate broker Chuck Mitchell instills a sense of service in his employees, aiming to “be Christ” to them. By Ken Walker
62 | HOMES FOR VETS
“Average Joe” custom home builder supports America’s war-wounded veterans through Operation Finally Home. By Christine D. Johnson
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, Modern English Version. Copyright © 2014 by Military Bible Association. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
68 | PREACHING Here’s what to do when you bomb Sunday’s sermon.
Daniah Greenberg teaches believers how to use their cellphones to share the gospel and their Christian testimony effectively. By Taylor Berglund
DEPARTMENTS MINISTRY MATTERS
6 | TECHNOLOGY Discern God’s direction in your chuch tech decisions. 8 | WORSHIP Avoid frustration in mid-level church leadership. 10 | KIDS Consider these four truths for a stronger organization.
12 | IN REAL LIFE Learn how to lead in the face of rebellion. By Dr. Mark Rutland 14 | LEADERSHIP MATTERS Deal with disappointment— even before it comes. By Mark Tedford 16 | TRUE STEWARDSHIP Find out why comparison kills ministry. By Chris Brown 70 | ON PLATFORM The medium still matters in the age of social media. By Dr. Steve Greene
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MinistryToday January // February 2017
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CONTENTS: Getty Images/Istock/martin-dm | COVER: Keith Major
Pastor celebrates the great and mighty things God has done in his 50 years of ministry at the same small-town church. By Tom Shanklin
Ministry Matters: T E C H IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
Learn to Discern God’s Direction in Your Tech Decisions By David Leuschner
MinistryToday January // February 2017
When pondering such major questions, it’s best to find a quiet place, disconnect from all devices and tune in to God. It doesn’t have to be a weeklong process, but the more time you put into it, the better. Daily is best, but life happens. Make every effort to do this at least once a week. Set aside at least one or
two days annually to put more energy and effort into the process. Enter into this time listening with your heart, your ears and your eyes. Sometimes what I see happening around me speaks to me just as much as what I feel. Reading the Bible is a part of listening to God. Remember that everything happens for a reason. Take interruptions, for example. I used to get frustrated by interruptions to my quiet time. Then I realized they could be the exact answer I was seeking. Once I was looking to God for direction about our Christmas production. I was frustrated because things weren’t going as planned. My stress level was building. In the middle of my quiet time, my son burst into the room and announced he wanted to go get a Christmas tree. I was frustrated by the interruption, and I started thinking about all the work involved with a tree, the decorations and, oh yes, the dreaded lights! My son sensed this. He said it was not about the hard work of putting on the decorations but
about being with me, his daddy. He didn’t even care what the tree looked like when we finished. He just wanted to spend time with me. That interruption was exactly the perspective I needed for the Christmas production. God spoke through my little boy and changed my perspective. Next, use your quiet time to establish a vision. This is a high-level, God-given guiding light for now and the coming year. Look for words that allow you to lock onto a mission to accomplish. You should have many missions throughout the year. All of them should facilitate the grand vision the Lord has given you. This doesn’t only apply to your spiritual walk but also to everyday needs, work issues and church challenges. Many times I have run this process and come up with helpful new ideas. Finally, in running this process, there have been times I’ve come up with two missions and didn’t know which was best. But I learned that almost every time, the most trying mission was the one I need to take. When I choose the hard route, I’m tested more and I learn more. This actually makes the next choice easier to discern. God gave us a guide. He allows us to have a personal relationship with this guide, the Holy Spirit. He knows our every step now and in the future. Put the Holy Spirit on your schedule. You won’t regret it.
David Leuschner is associate senior director of technology and technical arts at Gateway Church in Dallas-Fort Worth. He directs more than 500 volunteers and staff to facilitate several hundred events a month for Gateway’s seven venues. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram (both @davidleuschner).
G Made This
The New Year is a time for reflection. What’s working in our tech ministry? What’s not? I started doing church production when I was 11 years old. At that age, I wasn’t sure what I would be when I grew up. As I progressed through different production environments, I found myself changing roles. I started out in audio, moving to audio and lighting, and eventually, I gained video knowledge. Then I utilized all these skills to become a production manager. Depending on the situation, I would morph into the role that was required. At first, everything seemed random, but then I realized I was following a model my parents had taught me. It was clear because it was a part of me. I was listening to the Holy Spirit. Once I realized this, I decided to be intentional about it. I came up with a pattern to follow. I knew when I got older and started to settle into life, the challenges that naturally spurred me to seek guidance would start to dissolve. I would gravitate toward the easy and comfortable. I needed to guard against that for myself and teach my team how to utilize the amazing guidance God gives us. How does this apply to being on a tech team and operating gear? You can apply this to every tech-related decision. Hear what the Holy Spirit is saying in everything you do: how you mix, what tech decisions you make, how to converse with your manager, and what technical standards and protocols you set. Most importantly, listen to the Spirit for ideas and unique approaches to problems. Every year I ask God, “Is this where You want me to be?” Inside this question is a pattern. First, I pause, disconnect and listen.
Ministry Matters W O R S H I P IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
How to Avoid Frustration in Mid-Level Leadership By Joshua Mohline
dream, but many worship leaders’ desires get sidelined if they don’t align with the senior leaders’ vision. This puts the worship leader in a position where hope is deferred. Constantly living in that state can shut down creativity and may lead to bitterness toward the church and its leadership. Of course, quitting the ministry is not an option. So here are some tips to help the worship leader avoid bitterness and keep dreaming: 1) Give the gift of fulfilled vision.We’ve just been through Christmas, when most everyone knows it’s better to give than to receive. Even though getting the ultimate present can feel great for the moment, there’s nothing like seeing loved ones light up with joy when they discover how well they are known and loved. Like giving that kind of Christmas gift, there is great joy in helping someone fulfill their dream. Worship leaders must learn to really listen to the heart of their senior leader and make their leader’s heart the inspiration for new goals. It is one of the most rewarding feelings when the worship leader anticipates a 8
MinistryToday January // February 2017
pastor’s needs before those needs become a reality and sees the pastor’s delight when his vision is furthered. As a bonus, the worship leader gets the satisfaction of completing his own goal, of seeing through a dream that came to his own spirit as a result of pursuing the pastor’s heart. When the worship leader puts the pastor’s vision ahead of his own agenda, it builds trust with the senior leaders of the church. In the long run, this approach will create more opportunity for the worship leader to implement and chase down his own ministry goals. 2) Take a “yes and” approach.Another way the worship leader can avoid bitterness when his ideas get shot down is to develop a “yes and” attitude. For this, we look to the world of improv. In improvisation performance, the first and most important rule is the actor’s response to another’s spontaneous joke must take a “yes and” approach. In an improv class, when an actor presents the idea that his scene partner is on a train, the partner has to roll with it as if he is on a train whether he wants to be or not. After the partner acknowledges being on a train with a “yes,” he can then go in the direction he wants to go by presenting an “and” element to the act such as “and now we are coming to our final destination where we can move on from the train.” The “and” is the improvement or advancement of his counterpart’s idea. In ministry, it’s vital to operate with a “yes and” culture. Whenever a team member or co-worker presents an idea, take the time to indulge the thought. Even if it’s a terrible idea, giving the idea plenty of “and” qualifiers could actually take it somewhere surprising! This doesn’t mean every idea gets executed, but it does mean every idea has a chance to get fully vetted before a final decision is made. Sometimes people just want to be heard to feel valued. They don’t necessarily need to get their way to feel inspired. If they do, that’s a whole other issue.
Now, when the worship leader is in charge of “hearing” ideas, it’s easy to implement the “yes and” culture. But if the leader is the one introducing the ideas to senior leadership and constantly hearing “no,” there are a few things to do to work toward a “yes and” environment. Cultivate this kind of environment by asking someone one on one: “Hey, I have an idea I’d love to explore with you. Would you mind helping me figure it out?” This invites the team member into the process and gives them buy-in with the idea. Another approach is to schedule “Safe-Place Brainstorming Sessions.” This can be a once-a-month team gathering focused on thinking up fun, new ideas for the church. Make sure everyone knows the session is a safe place, which means no idea is a bad idea. 3) Embrace humility. The quickest downfall for any level of leader is when the leader starts thinking he knows it all, that his vision and goals are the only ones worth pursuing. This will sink the leader and completely impede the ministry. Instead, the worship leader should adopt the attitude of a servant, someone who offers ideas with an open hand, without expectation, then he can endure rejection without losing hope. Understand that seasons come and go. Just because this isn’t the season for a certain dream, that doesn’t mean it will never come to fruition. As the worship team grows, it’s important to focus on relationship more than on being “right.” In unity, even what seems impossible can be achieved.
Joshua Mohline is director of WorshipU (worshipu.com), the online school of worship from Bethel Music. With a background as a worship leader in settings from small to large, he has been a part of the Bethel Church worship teams since 2012. He facilitates the worship school as it equips and empowers thousands of worship leaders and teams worldwide. ministrytodaymag.com
Worship leaders often sit in a “middle management” level of leadership within the church. Although viewed as leaders, vision casters and core members of the pastoral staff, worship leaders are usually not on the elder board or in an executive or senior pastor role. But operating somewhere between the two levels can be frustrating. The church often gives these leaders permission to operate in some authority and to
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Ministry Matters: K I D S V o l . 3 5 // N o . 1
4 Truths for a Stronger Staff and Organization
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By Lenny La Guardia as handle administrative tasks. We must always put “people before program.” Ask yourself these practical questions: What are the obvious changes you desire to see happen within the program you lead? Who are the key people influencing both positively and negatively the program you lead?
4) Keep the mission, values and priorities of the ministry at the forefront.This is crucial in
and respect for each other’s ideas. Don’t just focus or push your ideas or be quick to tell your team what you think should happen. Present your ideas with a value to see your staff own them together. Allow for flexibility. 3) Keep things simple.Keeping things simple is not equal to being easy. We should not let things get so complicated that it causes us to spend more time maintaining the organization as opposed to the people the organization was created to serve. You are a leader, and leaders lead people as well 10 MinistryToday January // February 2017
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leading programs and people. Remember these points: Mission always governs our life (why we exist); values always govern our heart (how we communicate); and priorities always govern our time (how we relate). For over 30 years, I’ve had extensive dialogue with children’s and youth leaders from all over the world about the issues of program and staff. Many times I’ve discovered these leaders a little bitter and angry because it appears at times that their pastors and leaders are not supporting them as people or their programs. After consulting with these leaders, I have concluded over 70 percent of the time the problem is not with their pastors or leaders. Most of the time, frustrations are rooted in these children’s leaders not connecting their programs to the direction of the church or organization. As leaders, we should establish our programs based on the corporate mission of our church or organization. Leaders who are unclear on that mission must take the steps necessary to understand it. This is vital because it is from the mission that our values become established and our priorities are set. Establishing the right priorities for our ministry staff and organization is vital because our time is valuable and we are to be good stewards with the time God had given us to lead. Holy Spirit, reveal to us our shortcomings as well as our successes. Help us to lead well those You have trusted to us.
Lenny La Guardia is executive director of the Children’s Equipping Center and vice president of ministries at the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, Missouri. ministrytodaymag.com
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2) Cultivate a culture that allows freedom to fail. A ssist your team with maintaining value
As children’s ministry leaders striving for success, we must not neglect taking at least one hour a month to evaluate our organization, staff, programs and practices. When we take time to evaluate, we give the Holy Spirit permission to show us the direction He wants us to pursue. Let’s face it. It’s easy to fall victim to the status quo or the mundane due to not wanting to “rock the boat.” Also, we get flat-out busy with family, life’s pressures and distractions. Following are some foundational principles to keep in mind when establishing and evaluating the health of your ministry. Let the Holy Spirit speak to you and evaluate these areas. 1) Maintain unity and community. M ake sure you spend time with your key leaders. Remember, unity does not mean everyone must or will agree! All leadership structures must allow room for individuals to spend time with each other to appreciate the diversity God has brought together. Your goal in leading is not to develop a “soloist” mentality but one that is a “symphony.”
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Lana’s story: Heel injury
Member for fourteen years
Go to: mysamaritanstory.org
Lana “We’re going to give up on this concept of insurance and trust God and His people?! Yeah, of course! That’s a no-brainer!” For more than twenty years, Samaritan Ministries’ members have been sharing one another’s medical needs, without using health insurance, through a Biblical model of community among believers. Samaritan members share directly with each other and do not share in abortions and other unbiblical practices. Come see what our members are saying and start your own Samaritan story today at: mysamaritanstory.org Biblical community applied to health care
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R E A L
L I F E
BY DR. MARK RUTLAND
Leading in the Face of Rebellion 3 lessons for pastors waging war with the spirit of idolatry
he “protests,” more nearly riots, that have followed the election of Donald J. Trump were embarrassing, inappropriate and immature. What they were not was surprising. I have learned my lesson. The more immature the losing side in anything, the more irrational their response. Those who feel entitled to win, in any just universe aught to win, will rationalize their riots and feel righteous in the rebellion. I did not, however, learn this in politics or from history. I learned it in church leadership. Sadly, the childishness, played out on some college campuses at Trump’s election, was eerily familiar to me. Years ago, as the pastor of a large church, backed by the board, I made a decision that was unpopular with a minority element within the congregation. The decision had to be made, and I have no regrets, but I underestimated the explosion, which was memorable. Someone once said the educational value of any event is directly proportional to the pain endured. I also underestimated the truth of that quotation. The education value of that painful episode was considerable. I learned plenty. Boy, did I learn. The angry minority immediately set out to inflict all the pain it could. There were midnight telephone calls from someone screaming accusations at me, my wife or whomever of our children answered. Notes were left on my car after church such that I could not allow my children to go to the car ahead of me. Finally the police called me late one night to report that an elderly couple had been arrested breaking into the church. “Elderly?” I asked. “Oh yes, pastor,” the officer assured me. “They are pretty old.” They were, of course, part of the angry contingent and were, in fact, elderly. I managed to convince the police to release the old miscreants without charging them. Though this mercy hardly mollified my angriest opponents, the rebellion subsequently began to wilt. That was not a season of leadership I wish ever to repeat. I am hardly the only pastor to lead through a painful church rebellion. I know one whose church rebels stuffed a cloth into his gas tank, lit it and blew up his car. A member of one young pastor’s board falsely accused him of embezzlement. When the pastor hired a forensic accountant who proved he was innocent,
the board fired the pastor for insubordination because they had not authorized the special audit. Of course, the board member who made the false accusation was not disciplined. I could go on and on, in fact, on and on and on. However, I’m not sure how inspiring such accounts are. Instead, I will share some things I’ve learned about leading in the face of rebellion: 1) Idolatry fuels anger. Behind every angry church rebellion is a controlling idol that can be anything, absolutely anything—a Christian school, a seat on the board or a beloved employee. Music can be an idol. The first murder in the Bible was committed over worship, and little has changed. What I know is this: The actions of the “offended,” the more out of control, duplicitous or even violent they are, the clearer the proof of their idolatry. As Gideon discovered in Judges 6, when you pull down an idol, you unleash anger. 2) Idolatrous rebels feel justified in their actions. This was perhaps my harshest lesson. I kept asking myself how they could feel good about what they were doing. Few church members will claim that blowing up the pastor’s car is a Christian response to an unwelcome decision. Yet once rebels convince themselves of the rightness of their cause, Christian restraint is gone and leadership had better brace itself. 3) The real deal is never whatever they say they are angry about. Every such eruption is about one issue, power. “Who do they think they are?” is the rebel’s refrain, and that bitter song drowns out self-control. When idolatry prevails, the flesh rules, self-control is lost, and angry, old church members feel free to commit breaking and entering. None of this means leadership is always right. Questions should be asked and objections raised. The issue is how one asks, objects and, especially, reacts if the decision goes contrary to one’s wishes. The Spirit of God is always at war with the spirit of idolatry. Those who serve idols work their works in anger and destructive rebellion. Those who serve the Lord walk in the Spirit of Jesus, which is love.
12 MinistryToday January // February 2017
D r . M a r k R u t l a n d is president of both Global Servants and the National Institute of Christian Leadership. A renowned communicator and New York Times best-selling author, he has more than 30 years of experience in organizational leadership, having served as a senior pastor and a university president. ministrytodaymag.com
“Behind every angry church rebellion is a controlling idol that can be anything, absolutely anything—a Christian school, a seat on the board or a beloved employee.”
L E A D E R S H I P
M A T T E R S
BY MARK TEDFORD
Dealing With Disappointment 4 ways to cope when—and even before—tough times hit
he life of a leader has its ups and downs. Any leader who has been active for any length of time has agonized over some disappointment, whether a lost account, failed project or even bankruptcy. Failure in particular can shake our confidence, our call and our trust in God, but proper self-reflection and sound scriptural understanding of work, identity and value can help in overcoming these struggles. These four steps have helped me as a leader to deal with disappointments: 1) Check your theology. Disappointments create a theological problem for some. It seems that in the evangelical mind, the thought lingers that if we pray, work hard and keep out of sin, things will always work out as we planned. This is a dangerous theology that will lead people to struggle during hard times. In fact, we are promised trials and tribulations with no out for good behavior. Those who don’t acknowledge this may associate their disappointments with some hidden sin or even God’s failure to keep His promises. When it comes to our own failure, we do not know the long-term effects of our actions and endeavors. Theologian William Lane Craig illustrates this fact using the movie Sliding Doors, which examines the difference it would make in a person’s life if they missed just one subway train. The film’s protagonist is taken on a dramatically different path of success in one life and failure in another, all hinging on one missed train ride. We don’t know what tomorrow may bring or just how permanent a particular setback will be. Some evangelicals may have difficulty in reconciling the law of sowing and reaping with the disappointments they experience. Although the Bible states that good deeds will be rewarded, God does not guarantee the manner, time frame or ultimate success of our endeavors. C.S. Lewis uses an example of a farmer in his essay “Work and Prayer” to show that our actions do produce rigid and fixed results but only in a limited sphere. If he pulls a weed, it won’t be there anymore, but the ultimate success of his crop depends on the sun and rain, which are out of his control. 2) Take time for self-reflection. Because many things in our lives are out of our control, we should focus on what we can control. For instance, when you experience failure, it is important to take time for self-reflection and see what part you played in it. It could be that you did everything right but still did not
achieve success. Such is life, but if there are areas for improvement, we are responsible to try to find and fix them (Hag. 1:7). The failure may be due to poor business practices. It’s no use praying for success but continuing in strife or doing sloppy work (Prov. 10:4). Some internal strife may be preventing you from doing your best work. Christians who operate their businesses any way they want and then pray that God makes them successful are foolish and ungodly. 3) Do not over-identify with success or failure. Most leaders over-identify with their work and ground their personal value in their success, exacerbating the effects of failure when it comes knocking. In Every Good Endeavor, Pastor Tim Keller shows that work is a nondurable foundation for identity and value. We should first identify who we are in God, a joint heir with Christ created in the image of God and called to do the work of His kingdom. Even in failures and transitions, our call and value remains the same in God’s eyes. I find this to be very difficult because we live in a society that largely ties our identity to our occupations and values us by our success. If we believe our value and identities are dependent on our success, when we fall on hard times, so will our self-worth. 4) Move on from loss. Finally, the best way to deal with disappointment is to put it in the past and push forward with a new goal or challenge. In 2002, I lost three of my top four accounts in a three-week period, largely due to factors out of my control. All I could do was focus on new business. It took me 18 months to work back to the same level of business I had before the loss. At minimum, the process gave me confidence I could get through a bad economic time. All we can do as leaders is our best work. Having done that, we should rest content and leave the results to God.
“Most leaders over-identify with their work and ground their personal value in their success, exacerbating the effects of failure when it comes knocking.”
14 MinistryToday January // February 2017
M a r k T e d f o r d is a partner at Tedford Insurance, a second-generation insurance brokerage, and has business interests in transportation and real estate. After obtaining a Master of Business Administration degree at Tulsa University, he went to Biola University to broaden his studies and received a Master of Christian Apologetics degree. A regular speaker for business organizations, he serves on several boards and is chairman of the Oklahoma Apologetics Alliance. ministrytodaymag.com
EFFECTIVE SPIRITUAL WARFARE AND FIND STRENGTH TO
STAND AGAINST THE ENEMY. This balanced, biblical view of spiritual warfare by Francis Frangipane will arm you with the discernment, wisdom, and insight to win against the unseen spiritual forces all around. 14722
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T R U E
S T E W A R D S H I P
BY CHRIS BROWN
Why Comparison Kills Ministry
3 ways leaders can battle the insecurity that drains and defeats
’ve battled comparison since I was old enough to realize some other kids’ toys were cooler than mine. My heart has come a long way, and I’m pretty content with my life now. But it’s been a journey. As a junior varsity football player, I longed for my 5-foot-2-inch, 120-pound frame to be as tall and muscular as the varsity players. But once I finally made varsity, I immediately wanted to be as big and strong as my college buddies. On college graduation day, I watched many of my classmates accept academic honors. I pitied myself for my lack of awards, thinking I could have earned some too if my parents had footed my tuition bill so I wouldn’t have had to work my way through school. Then I entered ministry, where you’d think God would have immediately convicted me of comparing myself. But it actually grew worse. The stakes got higher, the impact grew bigger, and the sacrifice became greater. As a pastor, I felt insecure plenty of times when I saw other churches’ annual reports announcing thousands of salvations and baptisms, new community groups, expansion and increased giving. I still wasn’t good enough. But I discovered something new happening as I gained more experience as a pastor. Not only did I still feel inadequate, but I also started to deal with the opposite end of the comparison spectrum: I felt a little too proud of what I was accomplishing. As the new campus pastor of a large church, I baptized 72 people from the stage. I learned that number was more than some pastors baptize in their careers. Wow, I told myself, I’m more than just good enough. I’m better than. I know. I still cringe when I think about my attitude back then, but the Holy Spirit was definitely working on me. Whether my sin was pride or jealousy, comparing myself and my ministry got me nowhere. I know I’m not alone. If you’ve ever been there, remembering these three points can get you back on track: 1) Comparisons are based on deception. We know ourselves pretty well—the good, the bad and the ugly. But when we look at others, we only see what they choose to reveal, and that picture is often distorted or incomplete. Don’t be fooled. Victories are often public, but the struggles are private. You’re not the only leader with tough days. 2) Comparisons downplay God’s standards. Here’s the truth: Someone else will always seem to make a bigger impact than you, and
someone else will always seem less effective than you. But “bigger impact” and “less effective” depend on your perspective, not God’s. In 2 Corinthians 10:12, Paul said: “For we dare not count or compare ourselves with those who commend themselves. They who measure themselves by one another and compare themselves with one another are not wise.” God doesn’t call us to hold ourselves to human standards but to His standards alone. So don’t worry if your ministry isn’t “measuring up” to someone else’s work, and don’t gloat if your stats seem better than those of the church across town. Instead, ask God, ”Am I better today than I was yesterday? How is my ministry living up to Your plan? Am I a good steward of all the tools and resources You have blessed us with?” That’s the only way to have a clear benchmark for measurement. 3) Comparisons diminish gratitude. When we stop worrying about what everyone else is doing and focus on Christ’s calling for us, we become more grateful for everything He has already given us. We also become more aware of His role in it all. Here’s the thing: When we’re jealous, we feel like God has blessed someone else more than us. We feel resentful and ungrateful. When we’re prideful, we feel like our success is our own doing, and we lose sight of God’s role. Both attitudes miss an important point: Without Him, we would have nothing. My heart finally changed when I chose to stop comparing. I quickly realized how much God has blessed me. I am favored. I am anointed. And I am humbled. Gratitude began to flow from my heart. The more thankful I am for what He has asked me to do right now, the less I care about what someone else is doing. As a Christ-follower and a leader, you have been chosen. You have your own big impact to make. Compare your obedience to your unique calling and your progress to your yesterday, then watch gratitude overflow and jealousy and pride subside.
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C h r i s B r o w n is a nationally syndicated radio talk show host, pastor and speaker carrying the message of stewardship and intentional living nationwide. Available on radio stations across the country, “Chris Brown’s True Stewardship” provides biblical solutions and sound advice for questions on life and money. Follow him at stewardship.com, on Twitter (@chrisbrownonair) or on Facebook (chrisbrownonair). ministrytodaymag.com
“The more thankful I am for what He has asked me to do right now, the less I care about what someone else is doing.”
Pastors A.R. and Karen Bernard
HELPING PEOPLE FIND THEIR WAYIN THE CITY A.R. Bernard heeds high calling to lead New York’s largest congregation
BY CRESTON MAPES
18 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Daniel Poh Yang Zheng | Ralph Ramirez Jr.
aised by a single mother and searching for his identity in the Nation of Islam, Alfonso Rogelio Bernard is a most unlikely leader for New York City’s largest church. From an early age, Bernard experienced rejection and dysfunction. Bernard’s father told his mother when Alfonso was just a newborn he wanted nothing to do with them. Growing up with his mom working two jobs and battling depression, Bernard had to practically raise himself. As a youth, he was bussed to white schools and thrown into the racial, social, political revolution of the 1960s. Later in life, he saw his friends returning from Vietnam maimed, in body bags or hooked on heroin. So it is by the mercy and grace of God that Bernard, now 63, became senior pastor of the 37,000-member Christian Cultural Center (CCC) in New York’s Brooklyn borough. In 1971, Bernard, who was 18, and his fiancée, Karen, were taking a stroll in Brooklyn when they had an unusual encounter with two women they didn’t know. They should have known then that a tidal wave was coming. “They were strangers to us,” Bernard told Ministry Today. “They looked like black Pentecostal church women the way they dressed and conducted themselves. They engaged my wife in a conversation. They asked her if she loved me, and she said yes. And then they asked her if she was ready for what God had in store for me, and my wife said yes. It was one strange encounter. We never knew who they were and could never find them after that, but Karen took those things to heart.” Oddly enough, that encounter occurred in the midst of a five-year span when Bernard was exploring the Nation of Islam, the black Muslim movement, for “identity, strength, order, a sense of belonging and a surrogate father,” he recalls. “I was involved until 1975, but I never fully ministrytodaymag.com
bought into their ideology. I always believed God, reality and truth were synonymous, and when I found one, the other two would be present, and I didn’t find that in the Nation of Islam.”
Growing Up Fast
Even as a boy, Bernard—affectionately known as “Fonz” to his friends—was curious about origin, purpose, destiny, faith and the meaning of life. He read the Bible as well as books by Alan Watts, Kahlil Gibran, Confucius, Jiddu Krishnamurti and other deep thinkers. “I had to grow up fast because I was taking care of myself a lot,” he says. “I started working jobs when I was 9. On my own as boy in New York, I was exposed to bad things, but, No. 1, I never got caught, and No. 2, I felt there was something more, and I didn’t want to waste my life. I had friends who died of overdoses; it was a big heroin, LSD,
“I discovered that I had this gift to articulate biblical truth in a very practical way, in a very socially applicable way. I just wanted to use the gift. I wasn’t looking to be a pastor.”
Getty Images: -Istock/Lisa-Blue/anilakkus; E+/uschools
hashish, experimental drug period in the ’60s. I was looking for more. I was looking for God, really.” Unfortunately, Bernard’s mother could not provide much guidance because she was licking her own wounds. A track star in Panama City, Panama, Adelina Bernard had won gold, silver and bronze medals in the 1951 Bolivarian Games, as well as a scholarship to study at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama. “But she ended up meeting my father as a young girl, Bernard says. “She was very impressionable. He was twice her age, she lost her virginity, got pregnant with me and kind of turned her life upside down. She couldn’t make use of the scholarship, she could no longer participate in the Olympics, and she really went into a tough time of depression.” To make a new start, mother and child moved to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn in the fall of 1957. “I grew up as a single child for many years, then my mother remarried and my sister was born, but that marriage didn’t work out too well either,” Bernard says. “My mother has had a tough time recovering from that initial rejection from my father. So she worked two jobs, did the best she could, and I sort of raised myself. I was part of the desegregation program. I grew up very socially conscious. By the late 1960s, in high school, I ministrytodaymag.com
January // February 2017 MinistryToday 19
“Whatever you want people to become, you must become it first, so I don’t work hard on my congregation; I work hard on myself.” A.R. Bernard draws a crowd with his gift of practical teaching.
decided to get involved in a movement to bring African American Studies into the high school, which we did successfully. It took a little protesting and rioting, but we were persuasive.” Bernard grew up Catholic but got involved in a youth program at a local Methodist church. “It was about community and an alternative to being on the streets,” he says. “I was exposed to the church and Christianity but not to the person of Christ.”
Anointed in Faith
Bernard started studying martial arts in 1968, met his future wife in high school in 1969 and got married in 1972. The following year, Karen’s aunt, a Methodist
Brooklyn’s Christian Cultural Center is the largest church in New York.
minister, called and told Karen to have Bernard come to her home because God had told her to pray for him and anoint him with oil. “I only went because I had respect for her,” Bernard says. “So I went and she put her hand on my head, which was all new to me, and anointed me with oil and prayed for me. I didn’t understand, didn’t know what it was about, but I was respectful and submitted to her because she was wellrespected in my wife’s family.” Bernard was working as an operations specialist in the consumer lending division for a major bank in the city. In 1974, a Pentecostal woman came to work as his secretary. “She began to share with me the person
of Christ, not the institution of Christ,” he says. “What got me most was her simple childlike faith.” On Jan. 11, 1975, the Bernards attended a meeting his secretary invited them to, a meeting that featured guest speaker Nicky Cruz, who, after a violent upbringing, became Warlord for the notorious Mau Mau gang in Brooklyn in the 1950s. Cruz spoke of his former life but also of his eventual understanding of Christ’s love and salvation. “When Nicky made an altar call, two things came to me—No. 1, these words: ‘I am the God you are looking for,’” Bernard says. “I intuitively knew it was Jesus Christ. Secondly, ‘I and my Word are One.’ So I went up to the altar, and Nicky asked if I wanted to accept Jesus into my life, and I said yes and I was weeping. And so he prayed for me. I felt like somebody put a blowtorch to my chest. And I knew that something deep and profound had happened. When I left the platform and was leaving with my wife, my secretary and her husband came down and asked me, ‘Did you get it? Did you get it?’ I had no idea what I was supposed to get. I couldn’t answer. I only said, ‘Something happened to me.’”
Fast-Tracked for Ministry
Within 10 days, Bernard was attending prayer meetings, knowing he had been born again and filled with the Holy Spirit. 20 MinistryToday January // February 2017
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together,” he says. “I can only change me; I can’t change anyone else. But I can, through the change in me, influence others to become better. I’m a shepherd. I help people find their way. That sums up who I am and what I do.”
A.R. Bernard says he believes in structuring his ministry for “bigger thinking.”
“That began a whole new journey, a very rapid journey toward ministry that I do not recommend,” Bernard says. “It was just the way God dealt with me. I got saved in 1975. By 1976, I was teaching Sunday school. By 1977, I was ordained as a minister. By 1978, I was opening a small storefront church. I believe it was one of those oddities that God engages in that He has to fast-track an individual. I think that ministry is a very high calling, and it requires spiritual maturity, preparation, knowledge, and I respect the ministry greatly, and so it is not ... a pathway that I would recommend as a model.” The more opportunities Bernard had to be in front of people, the more he realized he had a gift for teaching. “I discovered that I had this gift to articulate biblical truth in a very practical way, in a very socially applicable way,” he says. “I just wanted to use the gift. I wasn’t looking to be a pastor or anything like that. I just wanted to continue to learn and grow. My fascination was not with the institution of Christianity and its various expressions but with the person of Christ. And that remains so to this day.” In fact, therein lies the secret to 22 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Bernard’s charisma, allure and ability to connect with the masses. “There’s a wonderful passage in John 17 where Jesus is at the close of His mission and ministry, and He’s now passing the baton to a group of individuals who would take the mission and the message out into the future,” Bernard says. “One of the things that stood out to me and became my motto is when He said in the 19th verse, ‘I sanctify Myself so they, through Me, might also be sanctified.’ I thought that was very powerful because what He was saying was that He worked on Himself in order to influence those (who) followed Him. I took that to heart, that principle that whatever you want people to become, you must become it first, so I don’t work hard on my congregation; I work hard on myself.” Bernard, known by friends as “Al” or “Alfonse,” works diligently to deepen his relationship with God through reading, study and prayer. He also invests in relationships, fitness, finances and intellectual development. “I share that with the congregation, so they watch me grow and they understand that we are all on a journey of growth
From a home Bible study of six people in 1976, Bernard secured a storefront location in Brooklyn’s Williamsburg neighborhood. “Word-of-mouth spread, people started coming, and the ministry continued to grow,” Bernard recalls. “We used my profit-sharing from the bank to pay for the storefront, for the steel tubing chairs that we put in, and in those days, it was linoleum floors. From there, we moved to a loft to a high school auditorium to a Day’s Inn hotel to the Salvation Army auditorium in Manhattan, and finally we got our own building, which was a supermarket on Linden Boulevard. On July 2, 1989, we had our first service in that supermarket. We’d grown to 625 official members and had about 1,000 people attending.” In the next 10 years, the church grew to 11,000 members and five Sunday services. When the developer of a billion-dollar housing development offered 11.5 acres at a bargain price, the church bought 6 and started a building program. “I was an operations specialist, so I’m oriented toward operations,” Bernard says. “How do things work, and are they working efficiently and effectively? So I kept trying to structure the ministry to handle the growth, and I would always structure it too short and we would outgrow it. So finally I began to say, ‘OK, I really need to think big and structure the ministry for bigger thinking.’” CCC now has a second campus on Long Island with plans to develop more satellite locations. In addition, the congregation will engage in a master development plan for its 11.5 acres to accommodate 700 units of affordable housing, commercial and residential space. The church has produced more than 25 pastors who serve globally and has its own Spiritual Life Institute and Center for Biblical Studies. Bernard even founded a preparatory school for young boys. » ministrytodaymag.com
Thinking Too Small
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“My wife and I were heading for divorce. The ministry was growing rapidly. Things were happening wonderfully, but I had my priorities out of whack.”
Increasing in Influence
The Bernards found out 30 years ago that Karen had multiple sclerosis, and today she is challenged with mobility issues and debilitating fatigue. “It’s caused us to grow closer as a husband and wife, as well as a family,” Bernard says. “We spend a good amount of time keeping her laughing and in good spirits, and keeping a sense of normalcy in the home.” The couple has six sons ranging in age from 28 to 44. Sadly, in 2015, another son, Alfonso Jr., died following a severe asthma attack at age 39, a grief the family is still working through. Bernard has also hosted Bible studies for high-profile individuals in entertainment, athletics and government, and many well-known personalities have attended services at CCC, described on its website as “A Fusion of Cathedral, A Touch of Smithsonian and College Campus.” Some of those are Denzel and Pauletta Washington, Alonzo Mourning, Curtis Martin, Kenneth P. Thompson, Bill and Hillary Clinton, Reuven Rivlin, Angela Bassett, Reince Priebus, Kim Cattrall and Robin Roberts. With the recent election of Donald 24 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Trump, Bernard has been asked to serve in an advisory capacity for the president-elect. At press time, he was considering the invitation. “It’s a bigger picture,” he says. “It’s about our country and its future. I’m especially concerned about him keeping his promise with regard to dealing with the inner cities across the country.” As for the future, Bernard’s desire is to write, which he’s done powerfully in his most recent book, Four Things Women Want From a Man. “This book came out of my 44 years of marriage and 38 years of counseling men and women and married couples,” he says. “Statistics agree that 85 percent of relationships fail, 40-50 percent of first-time marriages end in divorce, 60 percent of second-time marriages end in divorce. I wish I could say the statistics were different in the church, but unfortunately, the church is mirroring the world when it comes to relationships.” Even his own marriage was threatened in 1985 when Bernard says the ministry became his mistress. “My wife and I were heading for divorce,” he admits. “The ministry was growing rapidly. Things were happening wonderfully, but I had my
priorities out of whack. There was a degree of immaturity that was present in my ministry and in my home, and it put a lot of strain and pressure on our marriage. I had to repent and accept the responsibility, and that’s when I made that decision to work hard on myself. I talk about the consequences and the lessons learned as a result of those things in the book.” The “four things” women want are maturity, decisiveness, consistency and strength, according to Bernard, who also has a passion to write fiction. When it comes to the women in his own family, Bernard couldn’t have written a happier ending to his mother’s story. In 2005, he had the privilege of leading Adelina Bernard to faith in Christ. The family has come a long way since the day Bernard’s father walked out on his responsibility. Now Adelina sits in CCC’s first service watching her son, commissioned by God to serve in the pulpit and lead this influential congregation. C r e s t o n M a p e s is an Atlanta-based freelance writer and the author of six suspense novels. Learn more about his work at crestonmapes.com. ministrytodaymag.com
The Bernards enjoy a moment together at a church staff banquet.
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THE CITY AT OUR DOORSTEP
How we followed the Spirit’s leading and started kingdom businesses for the sake of the gospel BY CAL PIERCE
ur ministry has established thousands of Healing Rooms worldwide, but as I listened to the Holy Spirit, I realized our own city needed much more than the healing of believers. We needed to impact our home base of Spokane, Washington, in a greater way. Instead of focusing on our ministry, we needed to have ministry that focused on the city. With my background as a real estate developer with a degree in business administration, I have always looked at ministry as kingdom business. In light of that approach, we began to pray for divine strategies on how to develop kingdom businesses at our international headquarters in downtown Spokane. Our goal was to establish kingdom businesses at our facilities that would impact the city and Cal Pierce provide finances to drive the vision of Healing Rooms in every city, in every nation. This would be new territory for us. When I was a developer, I had to have vision. I knew the Word of God said, “My people perish because they have no vision” (Prov. 29:18). To buy land as a developer, I first had to have a vision of what I was going to build on it. Then I had to develop a plan for the vision and believe the plan would be successful. Without the vision, there could be no plan; without the plan, there would not be success. Success requires plans and actions. Without plans and actions, the outcome is poverty—because poverty requires nothing of you. I believe we are entering into a new season for the body of Christ. Everything that can be shaken is being shaken. Things we could count on in the past may not be the things we can count on in the future. The good news is the world is changing, but God is not. In this Hebrews 12 season, we in ministry must pay attention to what is happening on Earth but also what is happening in heaven. In Hebrews 12:26, we are told: “At that time His voice shook the earth, but now He has given us a promise, saying, ‘Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also heaven.’” The purpose of the shaking is to expose what cannot be shaken—the kingdom of God in the body of Christ. We must be kingdom minded in this season. If our ministry is to remain relevant, we must listen to the Holy Spirit for direction as to how our wineskin needs to be transformed so that the new wine will not be lost. If there is anything I continually do in directing the global work of Healing Rooms Ministries, it is to listen to what the Spirit of God is saying. It’s easy to get busy and not listen to the Spirit, but ministry is not maintained by staying busy. Rather, it grows and flourishes when we keep our focus on the vision God gives January // February 2017 MinistryToday 27
us to spread the gospel. We stay relevant by allowing our ministry wineskin to transform and grow, to give a fresh message to a changing world, and we can only do that by staying in tune with the Spirit. In 2012, as I was listening to the Holy Spirit, He began to bring to me the revelation of God’s kingdom government. As sons and daughters of the King, we are to establish and extend His kingdom government on Earth as it is in heaven. In other words, the government of God needs to replace the government of man. When Jesus returns, He is not coming to have a ministry; He is coming to rule and reign. As a result of this revelation, we established several businesses that will impact our city, especially as we reach out to students. Four universities sit just a few blocks north of our location: Washington State, Eastern Washington, Gonzaga and Whitworth. The city formed a University District that puts our ministry right at the center of these schools. Railroad tracks divide the district with the universities in the northern half and the Healing Rooms in the southern half. The city is in the process of building a pedestrian bridge over the tracks to unite the two halves. This will allow easy access to student housing being built in our neighborhood as well as businesses such as ours. The Gateway Bridge lands just a few blocks from us and will put thousands of university students at our doorstep.
School of Transformation
Through our School of Transformation, we educate God’s people on kingdom business and its impact on cities. Transformed people transform cities. We teach the Seven Mountain Mandate for city transformation. How do we bring the kingdom message to the seven cultural mountains—government, arts and entertainment, education, family, media, religion and the economy? To expand the reach of this message, we made the School of Transformation available on DVD so that Healing Rooms directors and pastors could bring it to their cities as well. The School of Transformation helps to renew the mind of God’s people in all areas of life, including the role of God’s people in business. Many of us were raised in churches with the old-wineskin thinking that business and ministry don’t mix, but in our setting, we have found that 28 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Shoppers browse The Loft thrift store, one of several businesses Cal Pierce’s ministry employs to appeal to students.
“Not only does business allow us to share the gospel, but it also drives the gospel.” kingdom business is bringing the city to our door. Not only does business allow us to share the gospel, but it also drives the gospel.
donated and the U.S. Department of Labor pays our employees. I call that a win-win for the kingdom!
We opened Vineyard Café and Coffee with an outdoor seating area that caters to neighboring businesses as well as to students. The café serves as an outreach to our neighbors and university students while bringing business not only to the café but also to The Loft. In the process, students are exposed to our ministry and the gospel message.
At our headquarters, we produce and provide training materials to our Healing Rooms around the world. Locally, we had a small bookstore to supply these materials to people coming for prayer. When we discovered there wasn’t a full-gospel bookstore in all of Spokane County, we decided to establish one to serve our community. We now have a full-size bookstore that provides new and used books, CDs, DVDs and gift items.
Our training center houses our print shop and the School of Transformation, but since we still had unused space, we began to pray about how we could better utilize our facilities. The Lord gave us a vision to establish a business called The Loft, a higher-end thrift store selling quality clothing, furniture, home décor, gift items and household items at affordable prices. This business is both a blessing to the community and to the ministry. The inventory is
Vineyard Café and Coffee
A number of years ago while I was speaking at a Healing Rooms conference in Holland, I suffered a heart attack. This was a wake-up call. The Holy Spirit began to talk to me about health and took me to 1 Corinthians 6:19-20: “What? Do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God, and that you are not your own? You were bought with a price. Therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s.” It is not enough to simply receive healing. God wants His people to walk in ministrytodaymag.com
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The Department of Labor pays the staff of The Loft, so there is minimal cost in running this part of the ministry.
“The kingdom of God is in us, but it is in us to release it into our cities, and kingdom business provides a great way to accomplish this.” health. As I changed my diet and began to use supplements and a daily green drink, I no longer had heart problems, nor did I catch colds. In the Healing Rooms, we were having difficulty getting healing into sickly bodies. That’s when I realized God’s goal is not just healing an illness but a body that is truly healthy, so we started a business to help. Because our national food supply is depleted of nutrition and Americans are becoming less healthy, I knew we needed a God answer for health. This triggered one of the greatest opportunities to develop a kingdom business and help the body of Christ become healthy. When I received the vision for a supplement, I called Cherie Calbom, who is known as “The Juice Lady.” We were introduced to Jordan Rubin, who developed the Garden of Life supplement company. Rubin was already developing processes to extract nutrients from the seeds and sprouts of plants that were in the Garden of Eden. This has birthed Eden’s Best LLC, a kingdom business my wife, Michelle, and I formed with John and Cherie Calbom. It is an amazing story how God put this together. Eden’s Best is a three-stage program using 30 MinistryToday January // February 2017
our supplements to build and strengthen the immune defense system. Our goal is to provide a superfood that restores nutrition back to God’s people. Eden’s Best is intent on capturing the nutrients from the seeds and sprouts of the plants God mandated we eat in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 1:29). This will produce one of the most unique supplements on the market. Our products are labeled Garden’s Best.
When we began to establish kingdom businesses, this gave the Holy Spirit opportunity to provide favor and provision we were not aware of before. For example, we were able to use part-time employees who are paid for through an AARP (American Association of Retired Persons) program (Senior Community Service Employment Program) funded by the Department of Labor. This is a program to give work training and experience to senior citizens 55 and older who want to move back into the workforce. We have found these people to be excellent employees we can help reacclimatize to the working world while giving them Jesus simply by our Spirit-led environment. Whether Christian or not, they love being around God’s people.
As we focus on the city, we have found favor from the Lord. God wants to move us from an inward vision to an outward vision. The kingdom of God is in us, but it is in us to release it into our cities, and kingdom business provides a great way to accomplish this. God desires that we prosper. In 3 John 2, He tells us: “Beloved, I pray that in all respects you prosper and be in good health, just as your soul prospers.” God’s favor in business means prosperity. Through kingdom businesses, we can not only impact our cities for the gospel, but we can also fund ministry work. The Holy Spirit not only reveals the Word of God to us, but He also wants to fulfill the will of God through us. He gives us the Spirit of wisdom so we can make wise choices. Operating in the Spirit of wisdom, believers have the power to not only start kingdom businesses but also to achieve excellence and find success (Deut. 8:18). C a l P i e r c e is the international director of Healing Rooms Ministries. He is an author, conference speaker and founder as well as president and CEO of Eden’s Best LLC, a supplement company. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. ministrytodaymag.com
Shell Lake Full Gospel serves its rural area of Wisconsin and beyond.
Small Town, Big Impact PASTOR STAYS PUT FOR 50 YEARS AND WATCHES GOD DO GREAT AND MIGHTY THINGS
32 MinistryToday January // February 2017
people have accomplished spiritually and financially in 50 years. First of all, the congregation owns a 20,000-plus-square-foot facility that is debt-free, and secondly, it supported missionaries in 37 countries to the tune of $552,000 in the last fiscal year. Not many small, rural congregations have that kind of track record. So what makes Shell Lake FGC different, and what can this church teach other small congregations?
‘Invest in Others’
The story of Pastor Amundson and Shell Lake FGC is not really about nickels and noses. Rather, it’s about how lives are revolutionized when someone cares enough to show mercy, believe in them and encourage them in their lives and ministries. “The greatest key to success in ministry is investing in people,” Amundson says. “We need to get out of ourselves and invest in others and bring them into their greatest productivity. Sowing life, sowing
encouragement, sowing hope, these are the things that make a church very strong and very effective, and will cause it to continue to grow. The principle of God’s Word is whatever you sow, you reap. I’m strongly convinced of that.” The seeds that Pastor Amundson planted in people have produced a tremendous harvest, not only in Wisconsin or even regionally but also around the world. But the genetic blueprint of the church harks back to the seeds of mercy planted in his own life as a young man. Raised by God-fearing parents in the small town of Rice Lake, Wisconsin, just 25 miles southeast of Shell Lake, Amundson attended a small Pentecostal church where his father served as an elder. In those days, Pentecostals in the area were scorned and shunned. A young Amundson chafed at the ridicule that came with being dubbed a “holy roller” in a Lutheran-Catholic town. He came to ministrytodaymag.com
s the pastor of the same church for 50 years—nearly his entire ministerial career— Virgil Amundson has seen God do “great and mighty things.” In fact, his church began to grow numerically and spiritually just about the time he was ready to throw in the towel, but a prophetic promise from God kept him in place. Pastor Amundson stepped down in October from his post as senior pastor but can testify of the value of persevering at a time when many pastors are taken in by a “bright lights, big city” or “bigger is better” mentality. His Shell Lake Full Gospel Church (FGC) of Shell Lake, Wisconsin, is an example of a small church with big impact. Located in a quiet lakefront town of 1,300 in northwest Wisconsin, Shell Lake FGC averages 275-300 in attendance, so it’s amazing to see what its
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Pastor Amundson, left, and his wife, Linda, right, place their ministry in the good hands of Pastor Regan and Dawn Myers, center.
Shell Lake Full Gospel welcomes one and all.
“Longevity is a key to seeing your dreams come true. Many pastors leave their churches before they see the fruit of their ministry.” resent his heritage and began to pursue acceptance, notoriety and the pleasures of this world. One night, when his father found him at a drinking party, he brought him home and called the family’s pastor, C.L. Warner. When Pastor Warner came, he didn’t condemn young Virgil or even say anything about the trouble he had gotten himself into that night. “How are things going, brother Virgil?” Pastor Warner asked. When Virgil tried to talk, all he could do was bawl. The pastor then laid his hand on him, quietly prayed and said, “Everything is going to be all right, Virgil.” Pastor Warner became Virgil’s spiritual father. This father-son relationship became a springboard for all that proceeded in Virgil’s life from that time and a blueprint for his future ministry. Virgil began serving in the church as a youth pastor and adult Bible teacher while growing spiritually under Warner’s tutelage. In 1966, a Pentecostal church in Barronett, Wisconsin, was without a pastor and asked Pastor Warner if his young protégé could fill the pulpit. Three years later, when a church building and parsonage 34 MinistryToday January // February 2017
became available in the neighboring town of Shell Lake, the leaders of the church in Barronett decided to move the ministry there. Services began with about a dozen people, signaling the beginning of Shell Lake Full Gospel Church.
‘This House Shall Be Filled’
The first two years at Shell Lake were difficult for Pastor Amundson and his family. The people of the community showed little interest in the new Pentecostal church. Amundson’s wife, Linda, helped make ends meet by sewing clothes for their three children and polyester suits for her husband. But Linda battled loneliness after leaving her lifetime hometown of Rice Lake, and was unhappy over the dress code imposed by her husband and the church. Along with preaching three times a week, Amundson had a secular job, and in his church, there was little fruit. For a time, the young couple struggled in their marriage, until Pastor Amundson realized he needed to take time not only for his fledgling ministry but also to care for his family. He also began to realize that God’s holiness was more a matter of the heart than outward appearance.
One January night, the young pastor found himself discouraged and praying alone in the church. It was time for the midweek service, but because the temperatures were well below zero, no one had come. “God, if you don’t do something, I’m not going to be here much longer,” he cried out in prayer. As he wept, suddenly he saw a vision of the entire building filled to capacity, including the balcony, and a prophetic utterance passed through his lips: “This house shall be filled, and the lips of the people will be full of praise.” From that time, things began to change for Shell Lake FGC. A city councilman named Roy Slater, who had heard the pastor speak at a Memorial Day service, came to him for help. Slater’s marriage was falling apart, and his wife was bound up with alcoholism. Pastor Amundson ministered to Slater, who became the pastor’s first convert in Shell Lake. The couple began to attend the church along with their five children. Roy Slater later became the first elder of the church. His son, Dan, now serves the congregation as pastor for families and missions. The church began to grow, and the gifts of the Holy Spirit began to flow. People were healed. A praise and worship band developed. And on Easter Sunday of 1975, the vision that Pastor Amundson had seen five years before came to pass. The building was packed, and glorious praise sounded out to God. The congregation soon outgrew the old Lutheran church building it occupied, so in 1978, they purchased land and constructed a new building that ministrytodaymag.com
Pastor Amundson leads his congregation in prayer at its annual missions conference.
36 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Pastor Amundson prays with Matt Bell, pastor of Destiny Church in San Antonio, Texas.
Multiplied thousands around the world are being transformed through the work of more than 60 missionaries who receive prayer, encouragement and financial support through Shell Lake. Missionaries are refreshed and sustained at the conference for their work in 37 nations.
‘The Miracle Is in the House’
The congregation of Shell Lake FGC also emphasizes raising up leaders from within. Rather than looking for skilled leaders from other congregations, the leadership team and church staff are entirely made up of people who have ministrytodaymag.com
seated 250. The building was later expanded to accommodate 350 with a large fellowship hall, offices and classrooms. The $400,000 expansion was completed in 1995—debt-free. The church has gone through many renovations and additions in its 50 years. In 2005, the congregation planted a new church in Turtle Lake, Wisconsin, known as Grace Community Church, and in 2011, Shell Lake FGC started having two Sunday morning services to make way for continued growth. But perhaps the greatest fruit the church has experienced has come through its world missions emphasis. In the early days, Pastor Amundson imparted a vision for world missions into the DNA of the church, and Shell Lake FGC began to support missionaries to the Philippines, China and other nations. Many of those missionaries are still on the field and continue to receive support from Shell Lake. The annual fall missions conference, which began in 1987, has become the high point of the church’s year, bringing unity to the congregation around the common purpose of helping and blessing others.
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38 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Virgil and Linda Amundson have served together many years at Shell Lake Full Gospel.
and master’s degree from a Bible college through correspondence. Last November, Myers, who once stole guns from drug dealers, became the lead pastor of Shell Lake FGC.
‘Dreams Come True’
Amundson self-published a book, Called to Be Faithful: 50 Years of Pastoring a Small Town Church That Has Touched the World, to help other pastors realize the value of staying where God planted them in ministry. Pastors sometimes believe they cannot accomplish great things in a small church but think they must move on to a larger area to fulfill their ministry; Amundson believes this is a lie from the enemy of our souls. “Longevity is a key to seeing your dreams come true,” Amundson says. “Many pastors leave their churches before they see the fruit of their ministry.” To serve long term in the ministry, Amundson says, the pastor also must guard his emotional well-being. Part of that is forgiving others who criticize or betray. Pastor Warner prepared Amundson for such difficulties. “When you’ve been treated like a low-down, cur dog and still desire to preach, then you know you are called,” Warner told him. Another key to maintaining emotional health has been developing
interests outside of the church. “I’ve shared with more than one pastor that they need to get a life,” says Amundson, a hunter, fisherman and golfer. Amundson also makes his family a high priority. “I see recreation with my family as ministry,” he says. “It’s the best way I know to serve them.” Linda Amundson has not only been a great support in the ministry, but their relationship also has been a stabilizing force in the pastor’s life. Pastor Amundson will continue to attend Shell Lake FGC, where he was recently formally recognized as founding pastor. As the Lord opens doors, he hopes to help other churches and ministries fulfill their destiny. “My prayer is that we can still be a blessing to those who are in the trenches who might need a battle-worn soldier to come alongside them for encouragement so they too can remain faithful to the end.” T o m S h a n k l i n is an evangelist and author of You Can Touch the World. He and his wife, Susan, travel the U.S. and overseas proclaiming the gospel, encouraging leaders and helping God’s people fulfill the Great Commission. Learn more at shanklinministries.org. Readers may also contact Pastor Amundson at email@example.com. ministrytodaymag.com
been saved or raised up at the church and who have grown into their ministry under the guidance of Pastor Amundson. “The miracle is in the house,” Amundson says. Those who are raised in the congregation have the DNA of the church, the pastor says, and are able to remain in the flow of ministry that God has established in the church. Regan Myers is one whose life was miraculously transformed by the seeds of compassion at Shell Lake FGC. Myers moved to Shell Lake from Rockford, Illinois, where he had battled addiction. He says a voice told him he needed to leave Rockford, where he had been stealing guns from drug dealers and selling them to support his alcohol habit. When he came to town, Myers stayed with his uncle, who was a member of Shell Lake FGC. Myers received Christ and later married a woman from the church. God had saved his life, but on occasion, he would succumb to temptation. One of those times, he found himself in an Eau Claire, Wisconsin, jail. Pastor Amundson picked him up the next day, and like Pastor Warner, who had treated Amundson with compassion years before, Amundson showed grace to Myers after his failure. Embarrassed by his actions, Myers began to earnestly seek the Lord for deliverance. Each morning he would go down to his basement and pray before going to work. One day, he had what he describes as a “Shekinah glory experience.” He was baptized in the Holy Spirit and received a revelation of Matthew 6:33: “But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” (KJV). Myers then began to serve in the church. He and his wife, Dawn, volunteered to babysit for young couples so they could attend midweek Bible study. Myers volunteered as a janitor and started an early morning prayer meeting for men. Eventually, he joined the church staff, serving as administrator, associate pastor and director of the Compassion Center, a residential program for alcohol and drug rehabilitation. He also earned a bachelor’s
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BY TAYLOR BERGLUND
D USING THE UBIQUITOUS CELLPHONE TO RELATE THE GOSPEL
aniah Greenberg’s model of “cellphone evangelism” may revolutionize the way a generation approaches the gospel. Her three-part approach trains clergy and laymen alike how to be effective witnesses for Christ to a technologically driven millennial generation. In doing so, she’s hoping to bridge the church’s generational gap. Greenberg, founder of the Messianic Jewish Family Bible Society and producer of the Tree of Life Version (TLV) Bible, says she was inspired by the book of Revelation. “Revelation 12:10 says that we overcome the evil one by the blood of the Lamb and the word of our testimony, and it goes on to say we love not our lives unto death,” Greenberg says. “I have come to understand, growing up in a family of Jewish believers in Jesus, that when you add those two things together—your testimony and the message of the gospel—that’s where the power of God changes a life.” She teaches congregations how to do cellphone evangelism in three two-hour sessions, using a combination of Bible teaching, role playing, making and watching videos, and sharing testimonies. Each session emphasizes a different component of evangelism. The first highlights intergenerational connection, the second focuses on the power of the gospel, and the third encourages attendees to have their personal testimonies ready to share.
Cellphone evangelism gives traditional evangelistic techniques a necessary upgrade for a new generation. Greenberg says it’s evangelism for a tech-savvy world—or, alternately, for believers “too young to hand out tracts on a corner.” That’s not an indictment of tracts; many Messianic Jewish believers were brought to Jesus through tracts during the Jesus Movement. But Greenberg says society is changing and rendering tract ministry ineffective. “Back when [my husband and I] were new believers, we were being trained by people who had been trained in the Jesus Movement, so that was their model—to hand out tracts and confront people with the question, ‘Where are you going when you die?’” Greenberg says. “Today that’s not incredibly relevant to people. People don’t think about where they’re going when they die. They’re too concerned about the fact that life is so fast and they don’t have any free time. They don’t have time to talk to you about eternity when they’re walking by you. But I think millennials are very concerned about eternity, and I think they’re very concerned about community. So we have the same message with a different method.” Greenberg contemplated what that new method should be. She believes every person presents an opportunity to share the gospel, but each individual is unique and requires a different approach. Furthermore, most pastors belong to the baby-boomer generation and have a different communication ministrytodaymag.com
January // February 2017 MinistryToday 43
style than millennials do. Greenberg says recognizing that difference—and understanding that neither style is right or wrong—is the first step to real conversation. To test her theory, she invited pastors and Christian millennials to a meeting, paired up each pastor with a millennial and let them talk. Her hypothesis was accurate— and the pastors were blown away. “From that first session, the pastors really recognized that millennials are not disengaged from church,” Greenberg says. “They’re just engaged in other ways, and it’s often through technology.” Today’s generation is different, and the techniques required to reach them are
can talk about those all day long—but that isn’t what wins people to faith. What wins people to faith is recognizing that the same resurrection, the same power of God that raises you from the dead, lives in us, and they can have it. They can walk in a new life and have a new life.” That gospel truth is the key component to any evangelistic effort. Outside of Christ, there can be no life change. Yet Greenberg says that few believers know how to effectively communicate the gospel. She says she’s been to countless churches where attendees were at a loss when asked to articulate the gospel. “I say to them, ‘Can you please turn to
“People talk about all sorts of things from the Bible, but they forget the key to our faith is in declaring the gospel.” different too. Some differences are simple— millennials are digital natives and are more likely to use digital Bibles and devotionals than physical ones. They text verses to one another. They are in constant communication with friends. Other differences, like their lack of eye contact or seemingly short attention spans, may seem jarring to older generations. Pastors need to remember neither generation’s way is right. To that end, they need to know how to read their audience— even when it seems like that audience is speaking a foreign language. Greenberg recommends leaders track what’s trending in popular culture and use that as an entry point for conversation. Not every millennial conversation involves cellphones, but many start there. To ignore that dynamic is to ignore an entire demographic.
But as methodology changes, the core gospel message must remain unchanged. Greenberg believes many churches have gotten away from the essential truths of the gospel—at their own peril. “You [have to] teach people the power of the message is in the power of the gospel,” Greenberg says. “It’s not talking to people about how prosperous you are. It’s not even talking about the mission and all your works for God. Those are great—you 44 MinistryToday January // February 2017
the person to your left or right, and just in one minute or 30 seconds, just tell them what the gospel is,’” she says. “Literally, what is the gospel? Some people immediately turn and start talking, but a lot of people sit there dumbfounded, because they’re like, ‘What do you mean? What’s the gospel?’ The fact is that many people don’t know the gospel anymore. ... People talk about all sorts of things from the Bible, but they forget the key to our faith is in declaring the gospel.” Greenberg says she’s not mocking believers though. The gospel is a powerful truth, and it’s one the devil does not want them to share. “The gospel is one of the most difficult things in the world to memorize,” Greenberg says. “The whole time you’re saying it you’re feeling the fight in your spirit of trying to get it out. ... You have to practice it. Practice it in front of a mirror. ... You’re not just fighting your own memory, but you’re fighting the fact that the accuser doesn’t want you to talk about God. So there’s all this stuff that rises up unless you get used to saying it.” As a result, the most important part of the second session is gospel practice. Greenberg has attendees practice sharing the gospel with each other again and again. Nobody wants to be caught unprepared when the opportunity to share the gospel
presents itself. The best way to be ready is to practice and prepare.
The final training session focuses on personal testimony. One common hurdle believers face is, much like the gospel, they haven’t practiced their testimony. Some can’t remember how they came to Christ or think they don’t have an interesting story. Others ramble with intensely personal stories and dwell on the negative in their past. Greenberg says she corrects both issues. She encourages participants to rehearse and then record a one- to two-minute testimony on their phone. Then, if the opportunity strikes to share the gospel, a Christian can just press “play”—no memorization required. “Testimonies don’t have to be hideous to be relevant,” Greenberg says. “Testimonies are relevant because God is real. Things are relevant because they involve revelation. Things are revolutionary because they change the way you see things. And all it takes to change the way you see God is to have a moment with Him when you and He are communicating, and it doesn’t matter how few or how many people there are in the room. Everybody wants that, in this life and the afterlife.” The key, Greenberg explains, is to focus on “before” and “after” moments. Believers can give the audience a snapshot of their past, sinful life before explaining—through gospel terminology—how Christ transformed them. Almost no one will reject a testimony that ends in positive growth. “When you [share] a testimony and it ends with a happy ending, people don’t really get mad about Jesus,” Greenberg says. “They say, ‘Wow, man, cool. That worked out for you. Awesome.’ They might say, ‘Oh, it’s not for me,’ and that’s OK for now. You rolled out your testimony in front of them. But to never share your testimony? Or to make it six hours long? That’s just extreme. I’m looking for an easier way to do it, where it’s natural. You’d feel totally natural saying, ‘Hey, look, I’ve got a cat video you need to look at.’ Why can’t we do that with testimony videos?” T a y l o r B e r g l u n d is assistant online editor at Charisma Media and co-host of the “Charisma News,” “Charisma Connection” and “C-Pop” podcasts. ministrytodaymag.com
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Grow the Church, Save the World Transforming the way God’s Word is presented in this media age
en Ferrell believes in the power of media to help ministries grow. He’s the CEO of BMCFerrell, a marketing agency with offices in Tulsa and Dallas. Like skilled mechanics working on an engine, the BMCFerrell team examines a church or ministry, finds out what components aren’t working and moves the various elements to their optimal state. The company’s success stories include both global ministries, like those of Joyce Meyer and Brian Houston, and small churches. A Jesus Movement convert, Ferrell has witnessed firsthand how God can use marketing for His glory. BMCFerrell is the result of three men, each following God’s call and uniting to build something bigger 46 MinistryToday January // February 2017
than any of them. The marketing agency they built serves some of the most influential pastors and churches worldwide. Ferrell’s years in the industry have taught him how to create a Christian workplace of excellence—and how many churches sabotage themselves in marketing.
The story of BMCFerrell predates Ferrell, going back to the early days of Oral Roberts’ ministry. Roberts called two men into his office—Willard Mason, a CPA and general manager, and Jim Kerby, a writer. “God has called me to film my tent crusades and put them on television, coast to coast in every city, and it’s your job,” Roberts told them. “Do that.”
“Sir, I don’t even know anything about film,” Mason said. “Well, you pray and God will show you,” Roberts replied. Christian television producers or stations did not exist at the time. Neither did videotape; all media had to be produced on expensive film. But Mason and Kerby worked together for 10 years, establishing Roberts’ groundbreaking television ministry. At one point, Roberts promised to reply to every letter viewers sent him. The ministry received millions of letters, and Roberts—always a man of his word—directed Mason and Kerby to design a system to efficiently respond to all of them. With the help of IBM, the duo invented the modern-day direct-mail ministrytodaymag.com
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BMCFerrell’s Scott Peck, Parker Ferrell and Jeremy Moore, left to right, create a production schedule for a new client’s upcoming program.
direct-mail automation system. Mason and Kerby worked for Roberts for 10 rewarding but exhausting years before starting a company of their own, BMC Advertising. The new company handled political campaigns—Mason and Kerby were burnt out on working with ministries. BMC Advertising became famous almost overnight as a political advertising powerhouse. Their win-loss record was astounding. They worked nonstop for their clients. They achieved great success. Then God stepped in with other plans. “After a few years, both of them— Mr. Kerby and Mr. Mason—were in two different towns in Oklahoma meeting with political clients, and both at the same time felt a strong message: ‘We are supposed to turn this agency over to God,’ ” Ferrell says. “It was independent of each other. They came back and ... shared this information to each one’s surprise, and they said, ‘Well, OK, let’s do this.’ ” Mason and Kerby prayed together: “BMC Advertising now belongs to you, Father. Jesus, it’s Yours. Do what you want to.” The next Monday morning, 48 MinistryToday January // February 2017
their phone wouldn’t stop ringing. Preachers were calling. The agency had never solicited preachers, and preachers had never called the agency in its previous few years of business. But like clockwork, after Mason and Kerby handed the business over to God, He gave them a healthy new list of clients. They began helping upstart ministries across the nation, including those of R.W. Schambach, Jack Van Impe, John Osteen and Kenneth Hagin. Meanwhile, young Ben Ferrell was making worship music for God. Saved at 16, Ferrell took what he knew—rock ‘n’ roll—and tried to give it a Jesus twist. “When I met Jesus, I turned the music in,” Ferrell said. “I would write songs that were popular and put Jesus words to them. We got people saved. It was the Jesus Movement. It was an amazing time. We went to prisons and parks with our guitars and sang about Jesus. Then I heard about ORU.” Ferrell majored in health and physical education at Oral Roberts University (ORU) and played music on the side. He sang in chapel, held concerts and
eventually signed a recording contract. He led a national worship program on CBN, toured the world and saw God do signs and wonders through His Spirit. During this time, he realized what a powerful tool media can be for the kingdom. “My core belief in media is that the anointing of the Holy Spirit can be transmitted through media,” Ferrell says. “As the media world has changed, I absolutely believe that the anointing and the grace of the Holy Spirit can be transmitted through Twitter, through Instagram, through television, obviously through books and all the other media. That’s my core belief, and that’s why I’ve dedicated my life to media ministry.” Eventually Ferrell felt called to hang up his guitar. He married Kelly in 1982, and they had four children. He needed a job that required less travel, so he applied to work at BMC Advertising in 1989, and Mason and Kerby hired him to handle print media. Ferrell became an instrumental part of the team, securing significant new clients like Meyer, Houston and Bayless Conley. After Mason’s death, Ferrell became a partner at BMC. And in 2001, Kerby ministrytodaymag.com
“I absolutely believe that the anointing and the grace of the Holy Spirit can be transmitted through Twitter, through Instagram, through television, obviously through books and all the other media. That’s my core belief, and that’s why I’ve dedicated my life to media ministry.”
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“Relationships are very premium to us, and results are very premium, because we believe that Jesus’ kingdom is constantly expanding, and anything that has to do with Jesus’ kingdom should be productive, fruitful and expanding.” retired, selling his portion of the company to Ferrell. BMC Advertising became BMCFerrell. Ferrell still can’t believe how God brought the journeys of all three men together to create the company. “The Lord just blessed with these wonderful clients, and they grew exponentially,” he says. “It doubled, it tripled, it quadrupled, and the company just took off like a rocket.” Although three men have led the company, several women have been instrumental in its success. Among them is Ferrell’s wife, Kelly, who is chief financial officer and executive producer. The Ferrells’ son, Parker, is also on board as mywhy.tv project coordinator. The project is the agency’s outreach to the millennial generation. 50 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Even as the new leader of BMC Advertising, Ferrell found his own plans came second to God’s. Ferrell learned that lesson the hard way his first day as owner. “I walk in the first day as owner of BMC Advertising—Sept. 11, 2001,” Ferrell says. “So I walk in, all this self-importance, get my team together and started planning. We’re going to do this, that and the other. Then someone taps on my shoulder and says, ‘I think there’s something you need to see on television.’” Since that first day, Ferrell has learned a lot about what it means to run a Christian company. He believes three attributes set apart BMCFerrell from secular marketing agencies, the first being an emphasis on relationships and values. » ministrytodaymag.com
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“I think what really sets us apart is our values, our relationships and our results,” Ferrell says. “We are very, very strong on relationships. We feel like, first of all, our agency is committed to the kingdom of Jesus, so therefore, we have a divine destiny. ... We feel like relationships are very premium to us, and results are very premium, because we believe that Jesus’ kingdom is constantly expanding, and anything that has to do with Jesus’ kingdom should be productive, fruitful and expanding.” The relational emphasis manifests in many of the company’s projects. After the Ferrells’ son went through a prodigal period and then came back to God, Ferrell was inspired to reach other youth with their peers’ testimonies. The site mywhy.tv gathers true stories of God’s saving power, showing millennials they are not alone in their faith journey. The second attribute that sets BMCFerrell apart is love. In John 13:35, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” Ferrell has strived to create a company that will be known by love—and that means always putting the client first. “When a client comes to BMCFerrell, we have a tendency to fall in love with them,” 52 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Ferrell says. “We work with ministries that we believe in, ministries that we have faith that God has anointed them. We just feel like the kingdom of Jesus is all fueled through love. ... When we sit around in meetings, we are constantly saying, ‘What is best for the client? What is best for Pastor [John] Siebeling or Pastor Conley, or what’s best for the ministry?’ We never say, ‘What’s best for BMC?’ or ‘What’s an opportunity for BMC?’ We’re not opportunists; we’re servants of faith. And we always try to put the ministry first, even if it costs us financially. As we do that unto the Lord, God blesses us for that kingdom principle of putting them first.” For example, BMCFerrell considered what was best for Pastor John Siebeling and The Life Church in Memphis, Tennessee, and the church grew from 3,000 to 6,000 members. Ferrell says most of the church’s visitors came as a result of viewing a TV program BMCFerrell designed and placed for Life Church in the Memphis market. As a daily reminder of his clients’ importance, Ferrell hangs their pictures on the wall. He believes faithful service to those clients is the key to his agency’s success— both practically and spiritually. “My No. 1 strategy is to be faithful with the clients and the relationships He’s given ministrytodaymag.com
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us because in His kingdom, if we’re faithful with whom He gives us and what He gives us, He will give us more,” Ferrell says. “In fact, that was one of the things Oral taught Willard [Mason] and Jim [Kerby]: ‘God is our source, and if we’re faithful with those whom He gives us, He will give us more.’” The third attribute is the hardest to put into practice. Since the day Mason and Kerby dedicated the business to God, everything at BMCFerrell is given over to the Lord—whether for glory or hardship. That means giving God credit for all business successes. After all, James 1:17 says, “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights.” But Ferrell challenges his staff to see work as a form of worship, giving glory to God through labor. “We look at our company as an instrument of the kingdom of Jesus, and our work is worship,” Ferrell says. “So at the end of the day, if I’ve had a bad day, I go home, and on my way home, I say, ‘Lord, I gave You my day. I did my best, and I lay it at Your feet as worship.’ ... I teach our team there’s nothing insignificant in God’s kingdom. Whether you’re handling a contract with the smallest radio station in the country or you’re printing business cards or whatever you’re doing, whatever you do is worship unto the Lord, and that makes it glorious.”
One of BMCFerrell’s services is a “media audit.” During an audit, the BMCFerrell staff takes a day with a church or ministry and looks at every way it handles media. BMC finds out what the church is trying to say and if the church is actually saying it. BMC checks branding, messaging, target audiences and every other facet to find out what’s not working. After years of auditing ministries, Ferrell says most issues stem from three problems: missing fundamentals, inconsistent messaging and weak products. Many churches are missing fundamental marketing strategies. Ministries must use traditional methods like print and broadcast advertising but also need to have social media strategies in place. Some omissions had the marketers scratching their heads. “One [church we worked with] has a lot of wonderful names,” Ferrell said. “They’ve worked with people for years. But they’re 54 MinistryToday January // February 2017
doing no direct-mail marketing, which is very fundamental. If you have good, active names, direct mail is a still a very robust way to market your materials and communicate and build relationships.” Regarding inconsistent messaging, Ferrell says church staff often run social media without a consistent strategy. Other times, staff independently create accounts without realizing the church has existing accounts—with followers—on that platform. Ferrell laughed when he recalled one church with 15 Instagram accounts. “In our media audit, we look at who’s in charge of which thing,” he says. “Who’s in charge of the Twitter? Who’s in charge of the Instagram? Who’s in charge of the television? Who’s in charge of video for the services? And we find a lot of times those people don’t even talk to each other.” When a consistent media plan is being executed, team members are communicating, and the left hand knows what the right hand is doing. “A lot of times, it’s almost like catharsis where people realize, ‘Oh my gosh, we’re not even talking as a team.’ ... When we come in and do that, that makes them realize, ‘Hey, we’ve got to work together, and what we’re saying over here needs to be consistent with what we’re saying over here.’ There needs to be a strategy behind it,” Ferrell says. Finally, in some cases, the product just can’t live up to the marketing hype. The church experience was oversold and failed to capture visitors. “The best TV program can only get someone to the church one time,” Ferrell says. “The old-time advertising saying is, ‘Advertising can only get a consumer to use your product once. If it’s not what is expected—if it’s not quality—then all the advertising in the world is not going to help them use your product a second time.’” That’s where the difficult balance lies. Marketing strategy is important, but what turns visitors into members is the quality of the service. Ultimately, any church that combines strong marketing with great ministry is setting itself up for success—and advancing the kingdom. T a y l o r B e r g l u n d is assistant online editor at Charisma Media and co-host of the “Charisma News,” “Charisma Connection” and “C-Pop” podcasts. ministrytodaymag.com
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How a real estate broker instills a sense of service in his employees
BY KEN WALKER
56 MinistryToday January // February 2017
Getty Images: Istock/SeanPavonePhoto
huck Mitchell’s First Capital Property Group has handled multimillion-dollar real estate transactions, leased millions of square feet of commercial space and acted as a court-appointed receiver for Central Florida commercial properties brought low by the Great Recession. Yet none of this success originated with Mitchell’s grand plan. After concluding his six-year enlistment in the U.S. Navy, he just needed a job. He found one after connecting with Patrick Morley, the real estate developer whose best-selling book The Man in the Mirror launched Morley’s full-time ministry. “Can you lease office space?” Morley asked. “Pat, I’m a naval officer,” Mitchell replied. “I can do anything.” “I had no idea what leasing office space was about,” Mitchell recalls. “But he said, ‘Come on in, and we’ll get you interviewed.’” Soon, the former lieutenant had become a leasing agent, which opened the door to a career in commercial real estate. Later, corporate downsizing created the opportunity to organize First Capital along with a partner. In 2006, Mitchell bought out his partner, who was older and at a different stage of life. Today, Mitchell is preparing his exit strategy, even though it won’t play out for at least five more years. The father of three wants to pass on more than contracts and holdings, though. » ministrytodaymag.com
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Chuck Mitchell served as a court-appointed receiver for The Village at Hunter’s Creek in Orlando, Florida, and now his firm leases and manages the center for the new owner.
Mitchell, second from right, and sales and leasing colleagues, from left, Dan Van Nada, Nick Augello and Jean-Paul Beaulieu, were recognized at an “Orlando Business Journal” function.
Granted, Mitchell’s three primary goals include transferring assets, but he also wants to impart wisdom, a prime reason for the leadership development program. This is part of his still-unfolding succession plan. “The other transfer is a transfer of values,” says Mitchell, who serves as an elder and home group leader in his church. “The stewardship that God’s given me for this company, and the responsibility I have for the families of our 22 employees, to a certain extent, this is my congregation. I have to be Christ to them in multiple ways.” 58 MinistryToday January // February 2017
As the sole shareholder in his company, Mitchell has enjoyed the benefits of profitability throughout First Capital’s history— though not just to enrich himself. He has blessed many ministries, sponsored missionaries and given to his church. While it’s good to be able to support worthwhile causes, what really puts a smile on Mitchell’s face is the opportunity to train younger businessmen to take his place. “That’s been one of my goals all along: How can I duplicate myself?” Mitchell says. “To a certain extent, this [plan]
isn’t related to transferring my business assets. It’s about transferring wisdom and values.” One of the beneficiaries of such a mentoring relationship is First Capital’s vice president, Trent Scott. A former intern, Scott joined the company fresh out of college and learned the industry from the ground up. “Other than a couple of classes at school, I didn’t know anything about real estate,” Scott says. “Chuck has been exceptionally open throughout the process, both from the angle of what it means to be the owner of a company [and] the specific points of making a deal and how to negotiate.” During the last decade, Scott has closely observed real estate’s interactions and relationships. He sees that experience as invaluable since this service-oriented business focuses on pleasing others, whether property owners, tenants or co-workers. That’s why it’s been so helpful to observe his boss in meetings, follow his email trails and exchange insights regularly over lunch. Mitchell has always been open to hearing Scott’s thoughts and ideas. “Every time we had a meeting with somebody, he asked, ‘What were your biggest takeaways? How do you think we could have done that pitch differently? What were the good and bad points?’” Scott says. “Being open and intentional about dialogue where there were teachable moments—that continues now,” Scott adds. “We still talk nearly every day about some topic outside of the technical, day-to-day stuff.” A third aspect of Mitchell’s stewardship involves ministering to his associates and their families, including sharing the gospel or reading the Christmas story at the company’s annual family dinner in December. To emphasize that First Capital’s mission is, ultimately, serving the Lord—as Mitchell reminds his employees at the Christmas dinner—the company is presently modifying its mission statement to bring stewardship to the fore. “We take care of things they don’t want to mess with,” the company president says. “We collect the rent, administer the leases, pay the vendors and send them their check. We are stewards of other people’s assets.” » ministrytodaymag.com
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“I serve a purposeful God. He has allowed me to be in this position, not for my purposes but His.”—Chuck Mitchell Meeting Needs
Former CPA Randy Harrod, a managing chair with the C12 Group, a national organization that supports CEOs through peer advisory groups and one-on-one coaching, is among those who have helped Mitchell prepare a succession plan for his company. Succession planning for owners is a process, not an event, Harrod says. Part of what Harrod has watched unfold in the past year is Mitchell identifying the need for determining what happens to his company in the future. “Chuck has grabbed hold of the fact that it’s intentional in how we think about mission, vision and core values,” Harrod says. “He’s formed a ministry committee and assigned it a budget.” The goal of the company’s ministry committee is to get more employees reflecting on questions about the ministry God has called them to and help them discern how they can help meet needs in the community and the company. Mitchell doesn’t want the ministry aspect of his company to fade when he leaves. “Chuck is concerned about his employees,” Harrod says. “It’s not only being passionate about their job. He wants to create an environment where everyone 60 MinistryToday January // February 2017
is working together as a great team and is passionate about what they do.” This attention to detail attracted the attention of attorney Tim Schulte, who first encountered Mitchell when they were on opposite sides of a lawsuit. Later, when he needed a receiver to oversee a client’s bankruptcy, Schulte called Mitchell. The attorney has since used Mitchell several times, including for a manufacturer with multiple business interests that ultimately survived Chapter 11. “In real estate, there are guys who are salesmen and others who are managers,” Schulte says. “A lot of sales guys will tell you they can [manage a property], but in their mind, it means they’re going to make a deal. In receivership, you’re trying to preserve assets until the court decides what to do with them. I have to have some I can trust to manage the property in a cost-effective way.”
Among the numerous deals Mitchell has handled was last year’s purchase of a new headquarters building for Man in the Mirror in suburban Orlando. David Delk, former CEO and current board member of Man in the Mirror,
says the broker has been invaluable through negotiating leases and offering input on other matters, too. Not only is Mitchell humble, but he is also realistic and faithful, Delk says. “He doesn’t necessarily have the sort of grandiose ego or vision of who he is,” Delk says. “Chuck is a steady, faithful, do-the-task-in-front-of-you guy. Having the largest company in Orlando wouldn’t even be on his radar.” Delk, who is joining a church staff in South Carolina, has benefited from their association on a personal level through Mitchell’s insights on family and other issues. “I see him as such a consistent person,” Delk says. “You see that in relationships with folks he cares about as friends and people in his church. He’s about more than dollars in the door. He’s also about being engaged with people, blessing them and seeing them advance in their career.” Mitchell’s humility surfaces in a discussion of how his faith helps him handle industry pressures and responsibilities. He deflects credit to the “smart people and investors” who help him meet those challenges. Mitchell often seeks counsel from associates, but he believes it is most important to ask God for wisdom. “I serve a purposeful God,” Mitchell says. “He has allowed me to be in this position, not for my purposes but His. He loves us and is going to look after the greater good of those who love Him.” With years still ahead of him, it’s too early to write Mitchell’s business epitaph. But he knows how he wants to be remembered since he’s already written his obituary and given it to his wife, Pam. Mitchell chokes up and takes a while to finish his thoughts as he talks about his current goal. “I want to be remembered as a person who loved his kids, loved his grandkids, mentored young couples and men, and served his church,” Mitchell says. “But I also want to be remembered as a man who ran the race and finished strong.” K e n W a l k e r is a freelance writer and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He has written several features on Christian business leaders for Ministry Today. ministrytodaymag.com
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Marine 1st Lt. Erasmo Valles and his family enjoy their new home.
Left: Operation Finally Home provided a home in Fort Worth, Texas, for U.S. Air Force Capt. Jason Vest. Right: Dan Wallrath cares for disabled vet Colton Read who also received a home to meet his familyâ€™s needs.
support for what was to become a significant charitable effort to meet the needs of many war wounded who were returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. In another unexpected twist, Wallrath’s friend decided to recommend Wallrath to become a CNN Hero. Wallrath survived the rigorous application process and was so honored in 2010. The honor “catapulted what we were doing in a national light,” Wallrath says. CNN also did a documentary on Operation Finally Home in 2013. After that, Wallrath successfully built a couple of homes near Fort Hood, Texas, for the ABC show Extreme Makeover: Home Edition. At press time, Wallrath said his organization had 98 homes under construction in 33 states. “We’re picking up new states just about daily,” he says. “Our program is just really spreading.” Wallrath learned that growing an organization for the glory of God happens when you keep saying yes to God.
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“Just saying yes one at a time, it’s grown into what it is today,” he says.
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Many in the building industry are ready to help with supplies and skills. “We have a patriotic bunch, and they love to give back, and so many folks in the construction industry have served in the military,” Wallrath says. “They’re just lined up all over to help us do this.” Wallrath says he finds God’s continued provision for the work “amazing.” “God just keeps the money in front of us all the time,” he says. That’s no small potatoes. “You’re talking about millions and millions and millions of dollars that God has provided,” Wallrath says. But of course, he didn’t know what God would do in the beginning. “This is just what happens sometimes when you tell God yes,” he says. “He qualifies the unqualified, which He definitely did in my case, and He’s turned it into what it is today.”
Operation Finally Home is responding to a great need, as more than 300,000 vets suffer from catastrophic injuries, including mental and emotional wounds. “Twenty-two a day commit suicide,” Wallrath says. “That’s like one every hour. That’s incredible. That’s not acceptable. They feel hopeless and helpless.” Having a home that meets their needs takes the mental and financial pressure off these veterans so they can focus on healing. “As a man, you’re raised to take care of your family, you’re raised to provide, and all of a sudden, physically you cannot do that for your family anymore,” Wallrath says. “And it’s just kind of taking that all away from you. This is such a pressure on these young men.” Veterans Affairs (VA) simply cannot cope with the health needs and demands of the war-injured veterans. “The VA, unfortunately, they were not ready for a 15-year war,” Wallrath says. “So we have these young men with these catastrophic injuries that normally, if this is Vietnam era, most of these young
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men would’ve died. ... Once these young men and women get injured, they’re 100 percent disabled, they can never qualify to buy a new home. I mean, it’s unfortunate that the ones who have given so much for our freedom cannot achieve the American dream of a new home, so God has just touched my heart to try to rectify that, to make that right.” In his new book, Building Hope: What Happens When God Change Our Plans to Accomplish His, he writes: “I’m not a psychologist; I couldn’t help a soldier suffering from Post-Traumatic Stress. I am not a doctor; I could not mend wounds and fit severed limbs for prosthetics. But God made me a builder; and I could build a home strong, useful and proud.”
Showing God’s Love
Operation Finally Home partners with Plano, Texas-based Marketplace Ministries, which has 2,800 chaplains to provide spiritual help to each vet who receives a home. “We just don’t build them a home and say, ‘Hey, see you later.’ ”
Early on, Wallrath could minister to the vets’ spiritual needs himself, but with the scale of the work now, the needs have become too great for one person to handle. “When we started building in all these different states, I felt terrible because I knew that the reason for this was to glorify Him so we could tell others about Christ and help these young families heal, not just emotionally and physically but spiritually,” he says. Marketplace Ministries chaplains have stepped up to meet the need. “These young men, being from the military, are used to a chaplain,” Wallrath says. “If we told them we had a preacher coming to see them, that’d be different.” Wallrath has grown into the job that God tasked him with in serving the war wounded and the widows of the fallen. Comparing his nonprofit ministry to his for-profit work, he says: “The only thing that’s the same is the sticks and bricks. Everything else is different because from the beginning, the way our process works, we reach out to the builders first. That way
we know we can get the home built.” Wallrath has seen miracles abound when it comes to serving these vets. “I’ve never had anything in my business life that ever fell in place seeing one miracle after another happen,” Wallrath says. The market value of one of the homes Wallrath builds through Operation Finally Home today is $265,000-$275,000. “The money we have to raise to build one of these homes runs between $60,000 and $70,000,” he says with hats off to the national sponsors but also with gratitude for all who give. “We try to raise the money within the community because we found the communities want to get involved.” The sad news is there is no shortage of work for Wallrath to do, but led by the Holy Spirit, he bands together with an army of givers, builders and suppliers to minister to “the least of these.” C h r i s t i n e D . J o h n s o n is editor of Ministry Today. Email your Marketplace Ministry article suggestions to her at email@example.com.
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What to Do When You Bomb Sunday’s Sermon Remembering who God is can help pastors recover from a bad week in the pulpit
the mark. For the benefit of pastors who may read this, I want to explore where I went wrong. My message Sunday was a tough one. My goal in this message was to explain how Jesus perfectly fulfills the responsibilities of our high priest before God–how He grants us access to God’s presence, offers Himself as a payment for our sin and prays on our behalf before the Father. I started by mentioning the doctrine of the priesthood of the believer and then plunged into Jesus’ priestly prayer offered in John 17. That’s where I think I missed some marks. I failed to really explain the content of the passage well. I was trying to cover too much ground—to preach a lengthy passage filled with details in a single sermon forced me to skip over a lot of content that not only was good but also probably raised some good, powerful questions in the minds of my listeners. John 17 can easily be broken into multiple parts. Jesus first prays for Himself, then for His 11 remaining disciples and then for all believers who will ever follow Him in the future. The chapter should probably have been used as a three-part message series, or I should have used a different, shorter passage altogether for a single message, perhaps from Hebrews 7 where Jesus’ priesthood is explained a little more succinctly. I think I probably left the congregation with a vague familiarity 68 MinistryToday January // February 2017
with Jesus’ prayer rather than an intimate awareness of its depth. I failed to make relevant applications. I brought out of the first portion of the passage that Jesus was asking God to use the “hour” in which He would be crucified and raised from the dead to bring glory to Himself. I could have turned my attention, then, to your crucial hour of decision. But I failed to make that jump. In the second part, Jesus asks the Father to sanctify His disciples through His truth, His word. He mentions “the world” 19 times in the chapter and asks God to protect us. I spent time in a bit of a rant about the problem with dividing sacred from secular and how we really ought to be sacred in the middle of the secular. It’s an OK point to make, but it’s not what my particular congregation really struggles with. In the third part, Jesus asks the Father to keep all future believers unified in love. Again, I ranted a little about how this isn’t really a call to nondenominationalism or to institutional unity but rather to a spiritual kinship shared by all believers around the world. It would have been a great opportunity to explore the specific ways we can show love for one another within the body of Christ. But again, I failed to make that jump. I failed to drive home a single appeal, a single call to action. I’m a firm believer that a simple presentation of the gospel and an appeal to trust in Jesus ought to follow every message ever preached. But I also think every message demands its own specific call to action. I gave several Sunday—to pray for some lost people, trust that Jesus is praying for you while you hurt and be accepting of people like a family taking in a newly adopted child. All of those are good calls to action, but it’s always most powerful when we take the one big idea of the message and ask people to offer one response to God. I’m not embarrassed, and I’m not beating myself up. My tendency is to think about how I’m going to make course corrections next week. My wife reminded me Sunday afternoon that nobody bats 1,000; we all experience failures and setbacks; and most importantly, God can use even the weakest of messages to work miraculous change in the hearts of people. So what’s next? What do you do when you just didn’t preach your best message? Pray about it, thanking God that He is glorified in our weakness and trusting He can still work miracles. Then move on. Learn from it. Focus on next week. There are many more people to reach with God’s truth. Keep going! B r a n d o n C o x has been a pastor since he was 19 and is planting a Saddleback-sponsored congregation, Grace Hills Church, in northwest Arkansas. He serves as editor of pastors.com, where this article originally appeared, and Rick Warren’s Pastors’ Toolbox. He writes a top-100 blog for church leaders and is author of Rewired. ministrytodaymag.com
reaching, as a pastor, is hard. It’s not hard to get up and say something inspirational. It is hard to get up and rightly divide God’s Word, build a bridge from an ancient culture to our own and then to call people to an appropriate response to God’s revealed truth consistently week after week. On Sunday, I kind of bombed. Most of the congregation probably couldn’t tell it, but I knew driving home I had missed
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BY DR. STEVE GREENE
The Medium Matters Reach is more than a big list of followers
battle is still raging between “old school” and “new school” marketing theory. It seems like I hear the dinosaur label applied to mass media on a daily basis. New-media advocates seem to justify their work by writing epitaphs and delivering public eulogies for big media. I hear claims that radio and television advertising is dead. I read that wise marketers don’t use big media like they did back in the day. Rumor has it that new digital media is replacing big-signal towers. Pardon me for just a moment as I present a fact or two. Television advertising spending projections for 2017 is expected to be up over 4 percent. Ad revenue will be over $18 billion, according to Group M—the world’s largest buyer of TV time. The increase in spending is up over a politically inflated spend rate in 2016. The increase in broadcast spending is primarily attributed to complaints by marketers and clients about a loss of reach. Marketing campaigns aren’t getting their message to enough consumers through digital media. Platform builders need to be mindful of the need for reach. In this day of niche markets and personal messaging through texting campaigns, we cannot forget that our market potential is a function of total reach. If we send a message to 100,000 well-targeted people, we can expect a certain response rate. If we send the same message to 1 million well-targeted people, shouldn’t we expect a 10-times return? I was recently reminded I like cherry pie. I was served a cherry pie that was smaller than the size of my hand. It filled a nice niche in my stomach. But what I really wanted was a giant cherry pie to overfill my stomach. Sometimes, more really is better. The new media is a collection of small digital pies. Each medium seems to launch with a rallying cry about the demise of another medium. Many now-extinct social platforms claimed to be the next Facebook. The newbie was only a new flavor of pie that could only offer a claim of “me too.” Entrepreneurs frequently underestimate the staying power of an installed base. As a professor of marketing, I tried to pound home a message to the matriculating new-media labor pool: A new medium does not replace an old medium. Radio did not replace the daily
newspaper. Television did not replace radio. Cable television did not replace network programming. Instagram did not replace Facebook. Small reach is not a substitute for large reach. A niche market is small by definition. I find hair in my fists when advertisers expect a massmarket response from small-niche social media. Facebook marketing is strictly niche marketing. It’s actually a niche within a niche. Our message on Facebook may not be seen by more than a small percentage of our “friends.” Your “friends” list will always be the property of Facebook. We can rent access to a target Facebook list by funding a campaign. Many small-business marketers have learned that Facebook friends do not reside on a hard drive as an owned list. Please build your in-house list as a core competency of your platform. But also remember it will be a long journey to develop a mass list. It will be equally difficult to maintain a fresh list. As we think about the measurement of reach and setting reasonable goals, we rely on “rating services” (Nielsen) to evaluate size and composition. If a television program earns a 1 rating (on a national scale), then we know that audience size is a little more than 1 million TV households. If the rating point is a “target rating point,” then we will theoretically reach 1 million people. Let’s consider building reach for your platform. We want to attract more people every day to come visit your platform. We turn on attraction magnets and hope to draw in a target audience with a felt need. Isn’t it logical to conclude it will be easier to reach people with a felt need (the target), if we improve our targeted reach? If we speak to a crowd in a professional football stadium, we will reach more people than we would with a single message on social media. Therefore, we will be more likely to find people with a felt need we can address. There is nothing new about the new media. It will always be about the words, not the medium. Your message will build your platform, if enough people hear about it.
70 MinistryToday January // February 2017
D r . S t e v e G r e e n e is publisher and executive vice president of the Media Group at Charisma Media and executive producer of the Charisma Podcast Network. Follow his daily, practical Greenelines blog at ministrytodaymag.com/blogs/greenelines and download his Greenelines leadership podcast at cpnshows.com. ministrytodaymag.com
“If we speak to a crowd in a professional football stadium, we will reach more people than we would with a single message on social media.”
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