RICK WARREN SHOULD OUR CHURCHES BE COOL?
WHY ARE MILLENNIALS AVOIDING CHURCH?
HOW TO COUNSEL THE BROKEN MARCH // APRIL 2015
EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN LEADERS TO GROW
Dr. Mark Rutland
The Judicious Training of Next-Gen Ministries
Stop Chasing Idols
Why the Church Isn’t Pursuing Holiness
The Story of Jonathan Stockstill
Jesus calls us to take on the greatest needs of our day
IN THE MARGINS worldvision.org/church World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of Godâ€™s unconditional love for all people.
c o n t e n t s V o l . 3 3 // N o . 2
M a r c h // A p r i l 2 0 1 5
Reaching Generation Y
Pastor Jonathan Stockstill is blessed with a strong spiritual heritage, but he’s not banking on it. Instead, as one of the youngest pastors of a megachurch in America, he is carving out a new path and appealing to his generation: the millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y. In our Cover Story, learn what Pastor Jonathan is doing to reach them as he serves Louisiana’s Bethany Church congregation.
18 | THE TALE OF A MILLENNIAL MEGACHURCH PASTOR
The fact that he’s a millennial himself gives Jonathan Stockstill an advantage in reaching the younger crowd. By Lindsay Williams
26 | THE JUDICIOUS TRAINING OF NEXT-GEN MINISTERS The next generation of leaders faces an uphill challenge from toxic elements inside and growing hostility outside the church. By Mark Rutland
38 | GREATER EXPECTATIONS
With the decline of the culture, the younger generation longs for—and needs—stronger leadership in the church By Ken Walker
50 | STOP CHASING IDOLS
Why is God’s church pursuing everything but the holiness and purity He has commanded of us? By Kyle Searcy
56 | REPUTATION OVER RICHES
The public’s perception of a godly leader is one who walks in humility and integrity. By Larry Stockstill
DEPARTMENTS COLUMNS MINISTRY LIFE
66 | YOUTH 4 Steps in Teaching Your Students to Be a Witness
68 | COUNSELING Empowering God’s people to counsel the broken 70 | WORSHIP Are we in danger of worshipping worship? 72 | PERSONAL CHARACTER Should we try to make our churches cool?
12 | IN REAL LIFE Indecision is a death blow to leadership. By Mark Rutland 14 | FROM MY VIEWPOINT How weak leadership sank a famed Swedish warship By Shawn A. Akers 74 | PASTOR’S HEART How to ward off first-time jitters for new visitors By Rick Warren
62 | LEARNING TO LEAD DIFFERENTLY AS YOU AGE
How can a leader overcome the challenges that come with age in a culture that is seeking the newest idea, approach or technique? By Ed Stetzer
MinistryToday March // April 2015
Ministry Today (ISSN #0891-5725) is published bi-monthly by Charisma Media, 600 Rinehart Road, Lake Mary, FL 32746. Periodicals postage paid at Lake Mary, FL 32746 and at additional entry offices. Canada Post International Publications Mail Product (Canadian Distributing) Sales Agreement Number 40037127. Subscription rate is $24.97 for six issues and $39.97 for twelve issues. Canadian subscribers add $5 per year for postage, other countries add $10 per year for postage, payable in advance in U.S. currency only. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602. Send undeliverable Canadian mail to: 1415 Janette Avenue, Windsor, ON N8X1Z1. © 2015 by Charisma Media. For advertising information call (407) 333-0600. Nothing that appears in Ministry Today be reprinted without permission. PRINTED IN THE USA Sharon Holeman Photography | Lightstock
“In the past I’ve probably picked up the Bible and started reading it over 100 times just to give up after a couple chapters. This time is different—with the
Life Application Study Bible, I can understand it.”
Making timeless truth a personal truth.
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IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
4 Ways People Are Fact-Checking Your Preaching By Karl Vaters Have you noticed that fewer people are bringing their Bibles to church, but are using a smartphone Bible app instead? That’s not the only thing they’re reading in church. As it turns out, up to 38 percent of churchgoing millennials will do an online search to verify what their pastor has said. And many of them are doing it while we’re preaching. Something tells me they’re not the only ones doing that. Just when too many people were ready to write off the millennials as apathetic slackers, they prove themselves to be high-tech Bereans. Recently, the well-respected Barna Group published the results of its latest poll on technology and churchgoing millennials in a post titled “How Technology Is Changing Millennial Faith.” Among other interesting facts was this paragraph: “The one-way communication from pulpit to pew is not how millennials experience faith. By nature of digital connectedness, millennial life is interactive. For many of them, faith is interactive as well—whether their churches are ready for it or not. It’s an ongoing conversation, and it’s all happening on their computers, tablets and smartphones. What’s more, many of them bring their devices with them to church. Now with the ability to fact check at their fingertips, millennials aren’t taking the teaching of faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14 percent of millennials say they search to verify something a faith leader has said. A striking 38 percent of practicing Christian millennials say the same.”
Millennials prefer two-way faith communication to one-way. T his is good news, especially for small churches, since size allows small-church pastors to facilitate conversations. That’s another subject for another day. But here’s a question: Are you ready for your preaching to be fact-checked in real time by the people sitting in front of you? You’d better be, because it’s not coming; it’s here. 6
MinistryToday March // April 2015
Here are four ways you can be ready for this. And it might just make you a better communicator too:
1) Google (and cite) your sources. It’s OK to use other people’s research to help you preach better. Small-church pastors, many of whom are bivocational, have an especially hard time squeezing in the hours for sermon preparation that they’d like to do. So, many pastors do a Google search for sermon ideas or outlines. The next time you do that, remember that the people in your church can do it just as easily as you can—and some of them will do it as you’re preaching. Does that mean we can’t use other people’s work? Of course not. We are never completely original in anything we say. But it does mean we should be honest enough (even if no one is Googling us) to cite our sources. People don’t mind that we use other people’s research source material. They just want us to be honest about it—and they’re right. 2) Snopes your stories. I’ve learned never to trust a story that fits my worldview too perfectly. After all, if it seems too good to be true, it usually is. There are so many stories floating around the Internet that people wish were true: hh An atheist professor declares, “If there’s a God, he’ll stop this piece of chalk before it hits the ground.” Then amazingly, that happens. hh Another atheist professor (beware of
atheist-professor stories in general, I guess) makes an apparently iron-clad argument that there is no God, only to be schooled by a student who, it turns out, is ... wait for it ... a young Albert Einstein. hh Scientists discover a lost day in time, verifying the Joshua 10 narrative. They’re great stories. There’s just one problem. They’re not true! Before you tell a story that you didn’t see play out in person, do yourself and your congregation a favor. Take two minutes to check out the story on a site like snopes.com or truthorfiction.com. People in your church will be checking your story, even as you’re telling it. Save yourself a lot of embarrassment—and preserve your credibility—by checking it first. 3) YouVersion your verses. It’s easy to pull verses out of the air when I need them. It’s easy, but dangerous. For example, can you cite the passages for the following popular verses? hh The lion will lay down with the lamb hh Time shall be no more hh Neither a borrower nor a lender be hh God works in mysterious ways You can’t? Do you know why? Because none of them are in the Bible! (In case you’re wondering, No. 1 is a misquote of Isaiah 11:6; No. 2 is a common belief, but not a verse; No. 3 is from Hamlet, Act 1, Scene 3; No. 4 is a quote from William Cowper’s Olney Hymns.) Now more than ever, people don’t come to church for mere facts. They have those at their fingertips—literally. They come to church for trust and truth. Trust is built on truth. Truth matters. As pastors, we need to be very careful not to betray people’s trust by not telling them the truth with the facts to back it up.
Karl Vaters is a small church pastor, author of The Grasshopper Myth and blogger at NewSmallChurch where he encourages, connects and equips innovative small-church leaders.
IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
7 Reasons Your Students Aren’t Sharing Their Faith By Greg Stier
These seven obstacles to your teens sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group-wide priority, as well as one in your own life: 1) You’re doing it for them. Think “outreach” in youth ministry, and we automatically think “event.” The words go together like “dodge” and “ball.” The challenge is that our teenagers themselves are our biggest outreach “event.” Because the average teenager has around 400 online and face-to-face friends, they must be inspired, equipped and unleashed to engage them in gospel conversations. Think about that for a moment, the average teenager has more friends than the average youth room can hold! But we have an almost irrepressible appetite for doing outreach events instead of mobilizing teenagers to be the outreach event. To make the switch we must turn from quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just, “Hey kids, bring your friends out and watch me throw the touchdown throw of salvation in their lives,” we must equip them to bring the “J” word up with their own peers.
2) They don’t understand the urgency. When’s the last time you talked about the reality of hell with your teenagers? Yes, that’s right, hell. Of the 12 times the word “hell” is mentioned in the New Testament, 11 are from Jesus Himself. 8
MinistryToday March // April 2015
questions and listening. The free Dare 2 Share app has a simple strategy we use called “Ask, Admire, Admit” on the “How 2 Share” segment than can be very effective in equipping teenagers to bring the good news up with their peers. We also have developed high-quality, beautifully illustrated outreach books that youth leaders can receive free of charge on share6campaign.com. Over 260,000 of these books are being used across the nation to help teenagers engage in gospel conversations.
Perhaps the scariest story in all of the Bible is the story of the rich man and Lazarus. In Luke 16:19-31, Jesus paints a picture of eternity in hell in terrifying colors. Was He using scare tactics? Of course He was! In the same way a dad uses scare tactics on his 4-year-old child who is chasing a ball toward a busy street at rush hour. It’s out of love that Jesus “scares” us with what is at stake for those who are lost.
the gospel. Have your leaders do the same. Set the pace as leaders.
3) It’s not a true priority in your youth ministry. I’ll never forget getting
6) They suffer from a lack of gospel fluency. Could your teenagers pass the
a personal tour of a multimillion-dollar nonprofit ministry and asking the guide an awkward question. On a plaque, the ministry had listed their values and priorities. The first was evangelism. I simply asked the tour guide which of their many divisions were focused on evangelism and how it was being fleshed out on a grass-roots level. She looked at me dumbfounded (as the other leaders with me cringed). Evangelism was a plaque priority but not a real priority in this ministry. If evangelism is truly a priority, then our youth leaders will be scheduling time for evangelism training on their calendars and in their weekly meetings. Are you carving out time to have teenagers share stories (good, bad and ugly) about gospel conversations they are engaged in? Are you taking the time to give the gospel just in case any unreached teens show up that week?
microphone test? If I put a microphone up to their face as they were leaving youth group and said, “You have two minutes to explain the gospel message to me,” could they do it in a clear and comprehensive enough way for a lost person to understand the good news? If not, then your teenagers are not fluent enough in the gospel message.
4) They don’t know how to bring it up. If teenagers don’t know how to bring up the gospel to their friends, they probably won’t. If their friend says, “It’s hot in here,” and they respond, “It’s hot in hell too,” that’s probably not the best strategy. Teenagers must be equipped to naturally engage their friends by asking
5) It’s not being modeled by your leaders (yes, that includes you). Share
7) There’s not enough intercessory prayer. Is intercessory prayer for the lost a “first-of-all” level priority in your youth ministry? As someone once said, “We must learn to talk to God about men before we talk to men about God.” If every week in youth group you set aside some time for intercessory prayer for the salvation of unreached teenagers, God’s love for the lost will begin to marinate into the souls of your teenagers. These obstacles to your teenagers sharing their faith can be removed if you are willing to prayerfully and persistently make evangelism a youth-group-wide priority, as well as one in your own life.
Greg Stier is the president and founder of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which mobilizes teenagers to share their faith.
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Ministry Matters V o l . 3 3 // N o . 2
An Asaph Generation of Worship Leaders
10 MinistryToday March // April 2015
Chief Financial Officer JOY F. STRANG
Exec. VP of Media Group DR. STEVE GREENE firstname.lastname@example.org
By Dwayne Moore We recently started a unique and needed community for worship leaders. We call it the Asaph Generation. Why the name “Asaph Generation,” you ask? Simply put, we want to be part of a generation of worship leaders who leave a godly legacy in worship ministry—like Asaph did! The Asaph Generation is an exclusive community committed to 1) whole-life worship of God, 2) musical excellence and 3) investing our lives in others. These three qualities really define Asaph’s life: 1) Asaph was a worshipper. Read any of the 12 psalms he was credited for writing (Psalms 50, 73-83), and you’ll immediately know that Asaph (pronounced “aw-sawf’) was a passionate worshipper who was growing in his relationship with God. He wasn’t perfect, but he really wanted to please the Lord. Passages like the following help us see how well Asaph “got” worship: “Whoever sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and makes a way; I will show him the salvation of God” (Ps. 50:23). “But it is good for me to draw near to God; I have taken my refuge in the Lord God, that I may declare all Your works” (Ps. 73:28). 2) Asaph was a musician. John Gill’s Exposition of the Entire Bible describes Asaph as “a famous singer.” He was, in fact, one of the most skilled and well-respected songwriters and worship leaders in the Old Testament. His songs were celebrated and recognized right alongside of David’s. “Then Hezekiah the king and the officials ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with the words of David and Asaph the seer. So they praised with gladness and bowed down to worship” (2 Chr. 29:30). “So the number of them, with their brothers, who were trained in singing to the Lord, all of whom were skillful, was two hundred and eighty-eight” (1 Chr. 25:7). This “number” included Asaph. 3) Asaph was a mentor. He invested his life into others and left a legacy for others to follow. He passed his knowledge
Founding Editor and Publisher STEVE STRANG
and skills down to his children and grandchildren, who in turn taught their children about ministry through music. Because of his heart to intentionally train and mentor, Asaph helped start customs, which lasted for many generations. “Then David and the officers of the army also set apart for the service some of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and of Jeduthun, those who prophesied with lyres, harps, and cymbals ... From the sons of Asaph: Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah, and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under the guidance of Asaph, who prophesied according to the decree of the king ... All these were under the direction of their father for the music in the house of the Lord” (1 Chr. 25:1-2a, 6a). “The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah, the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika. Some of the sons of Asaph were the singers attending to the work of the house of God” (Neh. 11:22). “For in the former days of David and Asaph there were leaders for the singers, the songs of praise, and thanksgivings to God” (Neh. 12:46). If you’re serious about growing as a worshipper, musician and mentor, then join the Asaph Generation community and sign our covenant at asaphgeneration.com. Our community exists to encourage, advise and hold each other accountable. We invite you to come grow with us.
Dwayne Moore is founder of Next Level Worship. He is also Pastor of Worship and Creative Arts at Valley View Church in Louisville, Kentucky.
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Get Two FREE Preaching Resources from Nelson Searcy ($63.90 value)! Hi, I’m Nelson Searcy, Lead Pastor of The Journey Church. As a multi-site pastor preaching over 40 times a year, I know the weekly grind of preaching week in and week out. I’d like to give you two of the most popular resources I developed (the hard way!) that have allowed me to increase my impact – and the impact of the 2,100+ pastors I’ve coached – each time I step into the pulpit.
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www.ChurchLeaderInsights.com/Ministry Get both resources ($63.90 value) now for FREE! ONLY FIRST 100 SENIOR PASTORS Nelson Searcy is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist. As founder of Church Leader Insights, he’s personally coached over 2,100 senior pastors and trained more than 50,000 church leaders. Nelson is also the Founding and Lead Pastor of The Journey Church, with locations across New York City and in San Francisco and Boca Raton, FL. He’s the author of over 80 church growth resources and 14 books.
R E A L
L I F E
DR. MARK RUTLAND
Indecision: A Death Blow to Leadership How a junior high student showed me why decision-making is crucial in ministry
hen I was in junior high, a massive tree stood near the end zone of the high school football stadium. It thrust one wide and perfectly horizontal limb right to the edge of the back fence, which afforded cheapskates a perch from which they could actually see fairly well. Mostly we eschewed this freebie, being more interested in the girls in the stands than the contest on the field. One night a friend and I, on our way to the paying gate, passed under this stately oak where Dalton Tomlinson, an older boy, whom we considered immensely irritating and more than a little frightening, stood on the limb above us. Dalton bitterly mocked our meek submission to the law and our pathetic willingness to actually surrender a dollar for a ticket. “Suckers! I can see better from here and not pay a dime! Suckers! Two stupid little suckers!” At that precise moment, his feet slipped, one to each side of the limb, and he plunged downward to straddle it with a scream of agony. He then toppled sideways and fell to the ground clutching at himself and howling in pain. It was a moment in which I sensed, for the first time, that there is justice in the universe. I remember it to this day and I suspect that, wherever he is, so does Dalton. Irrespective of his memories, the redoubtable Dalton taught me two important leadership lessons that day that have stood me in good stead ever since: 1) Pay the proper price. It has been proven to me over and over again that much of the time and energy spent trying to weasel a deal turns out to be wasted. Just because your brother-in-law can “get it for you wholesale” does not mean it’s a good deal. It’s good business and good stewardship to do some research and find the best price available. Negotiate the best deal you can. The last time my wife bought a car, the salesman told me not to ever bring her back there. There can be a point, however, where being penny-wise is also being dollar-poor. Buying seconds, lower-grade products and cheap generics can backfire in terms of quality. Often— not always, but often—you really do get what you pay for. This is not to advocate brand-conscious snobbery. It is to say that when the handles fall off the knockoff you bought out
of the boot of Vito’s car, you may wish that you had just paid the price for the real deal. Adding up the per-hour cost of time spent and the gasoline used driving all the way across the city to buy it a few pennies cheaper may prove discouraging. It may not be possible to estimate the relational cost of driving everyone around you crazy by harping on the savings you got by standing on a tree limb outside the gate. Sometimes you should walk up to the correct gate and just pay the price of admission. We live in an age that resists the entire idea that prices must be paid. Our culture is increasingly addicted to myths, such as the overnight success. When I coached, I refused to start players who skipped practice. This sometimes cost me both on the scoreboard and with the parents, but I refused to relent. If you don’t pay the price at practice, you don’t play on game day. 2) Make up your mind. Dalton’s greater mistake was not in trying to cheat the gate but in straddling the limb. Certainly being overly impetuous can lead to costly mistakes, but straddling the issue is seldom a healthy solution. Get all the information you can. Seek wise counsel and proceed prudently. Yet having said all that, at some point the decision must be made. The goal is not to make a perfect decision. It is to make the best decision possible at the time with information available and, sooner rather than later, to get on the right side of the question (with both legs). In other words, leaders know when to get on with it. Delaying, trapped “halfway between,” is just fiddling while Rome burns. I’ve spent many years in leadership as coach, pastor, president and businessman,and this is one thing I know. In athletics, in business and in ministry, I’ve learned that decision-making is at the very heart of leadership. Indecision is death to leadership. Decisiveness is a learned leadership skill; one which Dalton undoubtedly regretted not having mastered earlier.
“Our culture is increasingly addicted to myths, such as the overnight success.”
12 MinistryToday March // April 2015
D r . M a r k R u t l a n d is president of Global Servants. A renowned communicator and New York Times best-selling author, he has over 30 years of experience in organizational leadership, having served as a senior pastor and a university president.
F R O M
V I E W P O I N T
BY SHAWN A. AKERS
How Weak Leadership Sank Vasa
A lack of true direction doomed the lavish 17th-century Swedish warship
am Walton, founder of retail giants Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, once said, “Outstanding leaders go out of their way to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what they can accomplish.” In the same vein, British Field Marshall Bernard Law Montgomery, who became well known during World War I, was quoted as saying, “My own definition of leadership is this: the capacity and the will to rally men and women to a common purpose and the character which inspires confidence.” The character which inspires confidence. This premise certainly can apply to any leader in any walk of life—kings, presidents, prime ministers, CEOs of companies, professors, high school teachers, pastors, ministry leaders and even parents. Leaders, as we know from James 3:1, are held to a higher standard: “My brothers, not many of you should become teachers, knowing that we shall receive the greater judgment.” As the old saying goes, “if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.” In other words, leadership isn’t for everybody. King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden is a prime example. Dr. Mark Rutland, head of the National Institute of Christian Leadership, recently told the incredible story of Vasa, a Swedish warship built between 1626 and 1628 at the Adolphus’ order. Upon completion, Dr. Rutland explained, Sweden touted the ship as one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world. The ship symbolized Adolphus’ quest for his country—and himself—to become a major world military power in light of the nation’s ongoing participation in the Thirty Years’ War in Central Europe. The ship measured 226 feet in length and housed 64 guns—the most of any ship known to mankind at the time—and could house 300 soldiers and 145 sailors when put to sea. In his blind ambition for power and prestige, Adolphus figuratively “mortgaged the farm,” as they say, for Sweden. He set a specific date for Vasa’s launch in 1628 and determined he would stick to the schedule. The project certainly proved costly as the country poured a great deal of resources into the vessel and hinged its hopes for global prestige on the ship’s success. Shortly prior to the launch date, the ship’s engineer informed the king’s subordinates—not the king himself—that the vessel was built top heavy and it required ballast to be
added to the hull. Not wanting to upset the king—who apparently was a hard, shrewd man—his subordinates failed to communicate the message to Adolphus and they cut corners to ensure that the ship met his aggressive schedule. Shortly after Vasa left the harbor in Stockholm—less than one nautical mile out—the ship sank, killing many of the crew and the Swedish dignitaries aboard who were celebrating its maiden voyage. You can read more about Vasa in Michael Abrashoff’s book, It’s Your Ship. The point of the story? Lack of sincere and honest communication—both horizontally and vertically—can spell doom for anyone, whether it be a country, a corporation, a ministry or even a family. King Adolphus’ lack of character resulted in a lack of confidence in his subordinates, and the country fell into financial ruin. “The story of Vasa is an unmitigated disaster,” Dr. Rutland explained. “If you don’t have time to get it right the first time, then when will you have time to fix it later? “It’s a classic example of bad leadership. Sure, the king’s people should have told him that the ship wasn’t ready to sail. However, vertical leadership needs to create an atmosphere of genuine communication, one that says, ‘I want to know the truth.’ Obviously that didn’t happen in this situation because of fear of reprisal for not obeying the king’s orders. He didn’t create an atmosphere that he was listening to anyone, so in reality, it was all on him.” John C. Maxwell once said, “Leaders must be close enough to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.” King Adolphus doesn’t strike me as having been that type of leader, but rather a bad example to follow. Vertical and horizontal communication is only one of the principles Dr. Rutland teaches in the National Institute for Christian Leadership (NICL), a one-year program of intense leadership training he conducts four times a year at three different venues. It also teaches leaders how to deal with everyday situations, from the smallest concerns to crucial ministry needs. You can learn more at thenicl.com. It could help you to avoid making the same mistakes King Adolphus made.
If you don’t have time to get it right the first time, then when will you have time to fix it later?
14 MinistryToday March // April 2015
S h a w n A . A k e r s is the online managing editor of Ministry Today magazine.
What if Jesus Meant
THAT WE SHOULD LOVE OUR
Actual Neighbors ?
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Pastor Jonathan Stockstill and his wife, Angie, greet the congregation at Bethanyâ€™s South Baton Rouge campus.
18 MinistryToday March // April 2015
Lightstock | Sharon Holeman Photography PhotoCredit
The fact that he’s one of the millennial generation gives 34-year-old JONATHAN STOCKSTILL an advantage in reaching the younger crowd. What are they doing at Bethany Church to attract them? BY LINDSAY WILLIAMS
hen your father and your grandfather have been well-respected leaders of a church for more than four decades, suffice it to say that Jonathan Stockstill had large shoes to fill when he became a third-generation pastor of Baker, Louisiana’s Bethany World Prayer Center (now Bethany Church) in the fall of 2011. Add to that the fact that Stockstill was only 30 and had no prior experience preaching, and the looming task of assuming such a pulpit appeared downright overwhelming. However, Stockstill relied on something stronger than his pastoral genes as the baton was passed down to him—a clear calling from God. Although he had little experience speaking from the pulpit, Bethany’s congregation was accustomed to seeing the young Stockstill on the platform each week as he led worship. A prolific songwriter, Stockstill has studied music since he was 4 and led worship since the age of 16. Additionally, he’s written or co-written over 70 songs and he plays both guitar and piano. Preaching might not have come naturally, but communicating certainly did. “Christ has called me to shepherd this church. It’s definitely a learning experience,” the worshipleader-turned-senior-pastor explains. “It’s not like I © Istockphoto/tashechka
had pastored a small church before. I had to learn in front of a ton of people. I’m learning quickly.” With a congregation of 7,000 on a regular Sunday to as many as 11,000 on Easter, Bethany’s congregation is one of the largest in the United States, making Stockstill one of the youngest pastors of a megachurch in America. Despite the size and scope of Bethany, which includes three locations in South Louisiana, the transition from father to son was smooth, considering both Stockstill and his father took intentional steps the prior year to ensure he and the congregation were ready. “I know there’s probably a lot of right ways to do it, but I really think the way we did it worked well,” Stockstill says. “I knew going into it that Dad would totally take his hands off the wheel, and in some churches, it’s not like that. Whoever the transitioning pastor is has a hard time letting go, so the transition turns out being drawn out, and it’s really hard to figure out who’s leading. “Ours wasn’t like that at all. It was pretty straightforward. Dad pretty much unplugged from everything. But when it happened, it happened, and it was a lot to take on at first.” Stockstill’s father, Larry, is a well-known televangelist and author. His real passion lies in missions and church planting, having been a missionary in Africa for two years before taking over Bethany’s pulpit from his father. Incidentally, Larry was the same age as Jonathan—30—when March // April 2015 MinistryToday 19
he took over the family church. Today, he’s hardly retired, preferring instead to propel Bethany’s church planting and missional efforts. “For him to be able to devote his full attention to that was very natural,” Jonathan said of his dad’s new role. Larry Stockstill had no trepidations when he handed the reins to his son three years ago after 28 years as pastor at Bethany. Bethany’s three overseers— all with more than 30 years of pastoral experience themselves—recommended Jonathan take over for his father. “Not only has the next generation received the leadership they deserve, but the vision of Bethany has multiplied exponentially,” he said. “Jonathan has brought our services to another level, helping enhance connection groups between members and sparking service projects that have helped families to unite between parents and children.” Meanwhile, Jonathan Stockstill has found that he’s been able to transition into full-time pastorship without fully forsaking his worship roots. “The cool thing is I felt like my passion for music hadn’t died when I took the church, but I really did feel like the Lord spoke clearly to me that I was going to move into the position of pastor,” he said.
“In the last three years, God’s brought a ton of young worship leaders and people that I’m able to coach in a way. We have a huge priority on worship at the church. “I really encourage people in our church to write and record music. It’s not a rare thing for me to show up at a rehearsal and help out with arrangements, so there’s a huge value that I put on it. It’s just been cool to see how God can use the position I’m in now to even make that passion go further.”
Rhythms of Grace
Over the course of his three years thus far as Bethany’s leader, Stockstill has faced his fair share of growing pains, but his challenges have evolved as he’s grown into his leadership role. “Three to six months after I’d taken the church, I would say the greatest challenge was the rhythm of preaching on a weekly basis and being the responsible
party for the diet of the church,” he reveals. “You want to speak something that matters and that’s relevant to where [people] are. It’s also what God is wanting to say. It’s just a huge pressure, that weekly speaking pressure. You grow in the grace for it.” Today, the biggest hurdle facing the now 34-year-old might surprise you; it’s the same challenge currently facing most millennials—finding balance. “Probably the greatest hurdle for me is not allowing myself to push too hard but just get into a comfortable rhythm,” says the father of two, adding that he’s seen burn-out happen quickly when a young minister dives in head-first for years without stopping to prioritize. Stockstill intends to be in ministry for the longhaul, and he knows that in order to maintain longevity, he has to find a pace that’s healthy for his church and his family. He says his dad modeled this for him and his five siblings. »
“Christ has called me to shepherd this church. It’s definitely a learning experience.”
Senior Pastors Jonathan and Angie Stockstill 20 MinistryToday March // April 2015
Sharon Holeman Photography
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Pastor Jonathan leads worship at Bethany’s South Baton Rouge campus.
lost [their] spirituality, which that’s the bottom line of what we’re supposed to be doing—connecting people with God,” he says, adding that churches are doling out therapy sessions and motivational speeches rather than speaking hard truth. “We’re more often connecting with them from an intellectual, teaching and self-help standpoint than really helping them connect vertically to encounter God. The temptation is to make truth relative and [allow] each person to define truth for themselves. The Bible is not really the authority. It’s more how you feel, and I think a danger is people begin to make up God. They begin to say, ‘This is who I think God is.’ And they make up
“Dad’s always just been a great leader,” he says. “In his private life [and] his public life, he genuinely loves God, genuinely pursues God, genuinely has a relationship with my mom that’s tremendous; and they’ve been married 38 years. I just saw an example of genuine Christianity lived out in front of me.”
Like Father, Like Son
It’s easy for people to make comparisons between Stockstill and his father, especially considering the two men favor one another in appearance. While he’s humbled to carry his father’s legacy, Stockstill says he’s trying to carve his own path, find his own style, and his dad is extremely supportive. “I try to take complicated things and make them simple,” he says. “I tell stories about my life. I really try hard not to ever emulate somebody [else] but just be myself.
The church of his grandfather’s day never dreamed of satellite campuses or ways to engage congregants on social media. Meanwhile, Stockstill sees the progression of technology as a tool that enables the church to reach people 22 MinistryToday March // April 2015
High-energy, anointed praise draws students at the Saturate Conference.
like never before. “I feel like technology has enabled us to take every limit off and do things that we were never able to do with multisite campuses,” he contends. “It’s just tearing down the walls of possibility. A lot of the internal culture, the internal bubble, of the church has been kind of dismantled, and the church is growing with the culture.” He’s careful to note that growing with the culture doesn’t mean emulating the culture. In fact, in an attempt to be culturally relevant to reach the lost, he sees many churches exchanging Christ for cool. “I feel like some people, in an attempt to be culturally relevant, have
a God who doesn’t even exist.” Stockstill says there are many issues being debated where the Bible’s stance is black and white. Meanwhile, millennials are often confused about what they truly believe because Christian leaders adopt a noncommittal position in order to not ruffle feathers on either side of the fence. “I think the biggest danger to the next generation of ministry is culture corrosion, changing perspectives on things we know God has spoken clearly about [and] just forgetting the authority of the Word and backing down on issues we know are clear,” he said. Despite the growing trend of evasive theology, Stockstill is encouraged by the Sharon Holeman Photography
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denominational lines he sees blurring. “I do see a greater sense of unity among churches,” he says. “I see denominational walls really falling down. I really believe God’s ultimate desire is for the church to be united.” In many ways, Stockstill sees technology aiding in global unity and in reaching unchurched people groups.
but when you start thinking about the Middle East, the Muslim world and the Far East, there are billions of unreached people,” he says. “I think a greater global focus is so important because you could have five churches on one street in America and not one church in the entire nation in another country.” Through Bethany Church’s own Pastor Jonathan speaks to youth at Saturate Conference 2014.
gatherings for in-depth Bible study and worship. Although, like most megachurches, Bethany offers ample opportunity to participate in meeting needs, Stockstill emphasizes that evangelism must be at the core of service. “We plant churches, and then we do social justice around those churches,” he says. “What people need more than anything is to encounter Christ somehow. It doesn’t help to dig a well if nobody ever finds Christ.”
Where He Leads
“I think the biggest danger to the next generation of ministry is culture corrosion, changing perspectives on things we know God has spoken clearly about [and] just forgetting the authority of the Word and backing down on issues we know are clear.” Conversely, he is also concerned about Western culture’s inward focus, encouraging evangelicals to bravely remember brothers and sisters on the other side of the world, who are often overlooked, even in terms of foreign missions. “We need a greater international focus from the Western church world. It’s easy for America, Australia, Europe and even Africa to be self-focused, 24 MinistryToday March // April 2015
church-planting efforts around the globe, service has become a touchstone. The church has a unique A-B-C model that allows members to fuel their spiritual life on three different levels. “Activate” plugs members into service opportunities both locally and globally. “Belong” connects members to “b-groups” (Bethany’s version of life groups that meet at homes throughout the area). Meanwhile, “Cultivate” engages members in corporate
With a focus on technology, social justice, evangelism and church planting, millennials are flocking to Bethany. It’s easy for young families to relate to a pastor who’s only 34, and Stockstill intentionally ensures his sermons, leadership and demeanor make him approachable to everyone. “God’s entrusted this church to me,” he says. “He’s entrusted thousands of believers that are here, and I just pray that I’m faithful—faithful to teach them the truth, love them and watch out for their souls.” Stockstill has made friends with other young pastors with whom he talks and texts often. The younger generation of American pastors seemed to have formed their own informal club for support. “I think we kind of find each other and huddle up and encourage each other,” he says. Stockstill admits that although he’s speaking into the lives of people who are his peers, he hasn’t discovered the secret to reaching his generation. Meanwhile, he’s navigating marriage and parenthood and then preaching from his own personal experience as a 30-something husband and father with two little girls. “Trying to figure out marriage and how that works with kids [is huge for me]. I know I have very real struggles that everybody else does. So I preach to those struggles and preach to those things that matter and what the Word of God says about them. I preach to myself a lot.” L i n d s a y W i ll i a m s is a freelance writer for Ministry Today magazine. Sharon Holeman Photography
The Judicious Training of Next-Gen Ministries The next generation of Christian leaders faces an uphill challenge from toxic elements inside and growing hostility outside the church. BY DR. MARK RUTLAND
he mayor of Houston, Texas, recently subpoenaed several pastors, demanding they submit their sermons for review by the city attorney. This was ostensibly to determine whether their level of political activity might have endangered their nonprofit status. This was all part of the deep cultural divide in that city’s on-going struggle over so-called “gender equality” laws, particularly that section allowing “crossgender males” to use female restrooms. The mayor’s actions unleashed a firestorm of protest, not only in Texas, but nation-wide. Thankfully, she finally, and I might add reluctantly, agreed to withdraw her utterly unconstitutional subpoenas. Thank God for that, but by the time she did, she had already sent her chilling message and it was shockingly clear. Not even the sanctity of the pulpit is safe anymore. That, in fact, was her real purpose. She did not withdraw the subpoenas because she suddenly had an epiphany. She only gave in because of the hue and cry raised largely in social media and on certain news outlets such as Fox News. Christians dare not fool themselves. This brief reprieve in Houston is not some full and final victory. That mayor and others like her will keep on coming. They will do whatever they can get away with, whatever they can find activist courts to force on society and they will keep chipping away at the most treasured tenets of our nation’s constitution and our Judeo-Christian heritage. »
26 MinistryToday March // April 2015
March // April 2015 MinistryToday â€‚ 27
At the same time this high-profile firefight was being waged in Houston, I was trying to console and advise a pastor in the Midwest who was being drawn and quartered by a ruthless church board. The spiritual forces behind that internal and unpublicized struggle were just as ugly, just as cruelly unjust and darkly manipulative as those in the Houston mayor’s office. The war is on and the Visigoths are not all in the mayor’s office. Some of the most devastating assaults on Christian leadership are inside jobs. Alas, the barbarians inside churches are no less virulent, and are, in fact, more personally wounding to leaders than any damage inflicted by armies of atheists. There are supernatural forces behind
serpents and as harmless as doves.” For too long, too many ministry leaders have been far more harmless than wise.
Education and Snake Handling
Today ministry is no longer being done in the relative innocence of Eisenhower’s post-war America. Snakes, dangerous snakes are not only in city hall but on the bench, in the bank and on the church board. Snake handling, it turns out, is not for the hills of Kentucky, but for sophisticated ministry leadership in the 21st century. Snakes must be handled by well-prepared, well-educated leaders who combine serpentine wisdom and Christian guilelessness. Twenty-first-century ministry leadership must include a meaningful theology of supernatural opposition
Today’s listeners are looking to God’s Word for how to go on living another week in a world that terrifies them. all attacks and such forces are relentless and remorseless. This is not to frighten Christian leaders into the closet of compromised acquiescence. The old adage of “go along to get along” is a path strewn with primroses and ending in disaster. By the same token, naïveté is dangerous in a dangerous world. Jesus admonished believers to be as “wise as 28 MinistryToday March // April 2015
and a practical approach to leading in the face of it. In fact, the challenging realities of ministry leadership in this new millennium demand that we carefully re-evaluate how we educate and train next-gen ministers and how we continue to keep ourselves sharp. I spent nearly two decades in higher education and I have spent literally hours
and hours with thoughtful colleagues discussing the educational process. I have heard pastors castigate seminaries, sometimes with justification, in the face of which I have heard ministry educators offer unimaginably lame self-defenses. Blanket denunciations of theological education are unreasonable and unhelpful. Equally unhelpful are educational “purists” who offer hardly more than self-perpetuation as the defense for their pet courses.
An Educated Clergy
Nothing I say in this piece should be read as anti-education. St. Paul was among the most cosmopolitan, multilingual and well-educated persons in the Roman world. John Wesley was an Oxford Don. Martin Luther was a university professor with an earned doctorate, and C.S. Lewis’ phenomenally educated mind did not hinder but rather gave voice to his inspired spirit. I believe in an educated clergy. I also believe that education must prepare leaders who can effectively, joyfully and triumphantly do the work of the ministry in the face of what is shaping up to be the most challenging century since the reign of Constantine. I recently took part on a panel of Christian leaders, ministers, educators and laypersons that discussed the state of modern ministry education. While the issues being debated around the table were important, the private conversations in the hall were more illuminating to me. Several participants were lamenting the quiet demise of a large nondenominational church in the Southwest. “What happened?” someone asked. “When the founder retired, his successor flopped,” one man explained. “The church hemorrhaged until it slowly bled to death. Finally there was just nothing left.” “Yes, I understand that, but why? Why did he flop?” “He couldn’t preach and he couldn’t lead.” In another hallway encounter at the same meeting, a pastor told me privately that he was dreading the week to follow the conference. He said he was heading home with a heavy heart to sack his youth pastor. When I asked why, he explained that the youth the pastor was causing so much turmoil that firing him had become unavoidable. I was intrigued and I asked © Istockphoto/DNY59
some follow-up questions. What kind of turmoil? What got him hired in the first place? The weary pastor explained it in the following way. “He seemed so cool. He was fun, attractive and full of youthful high energy. I just knew he’d be a hit with the kids. And he was at first. But he has no people skills, and he is arrogant beyond words. He ran off all our parent volunteers. First it was just the parents, then even the kids began to quit. The whole thing just fell to pieces. He just doesn’t understand how to work with people. Don’t they learn any of that in Bible school?” Something of an answer may have come from a retired Bible school president who told me that the No. 1
Dr. Mark Rutland
complaint he got from alumni who hired his graduates was that they couldn’t actually do anything. He said, “I got sick of hearing the same thing. Your graduates are great on theory. They just can’t do the job.” With a sigh he added, “I came to believe near the end of my presidency, that our No. 1 failure was practical ministry preparation. If I had it to do over again, I would stop about half of our theory courses and require more internships.”
Real Life and Practical Theology
When I graduated from seminary, I labored under the misapprehension that if I preached well enough and loved my people selflessly, they would love Jesus and me and all would go well. Having earned good grades at a top theological 30 MinistryToday March // April 2015
seminary, with a diploma in hand (ink still wet), very little experience and absolutely no practical education, I became a senior pastor. To be sure, it was a small church, hence limiting the breadth of damage I could inflict. Even so, I soon discovered that an A in graduate level Hebrew Wisdom Literature afforded me scant wisdom in the face of the imminently practical issues of church leadership. Budget preparation, board relations, church growth, hiring and firing, volunteer management—these and a vast host of their cousins stared me in the face every single day, demanding answers I did not have and requiring decisions I was utterly unprepared to make. As I went further in ministry, new levels
While it is true that we live in a culture with a wildly diverse array of communications options, preaching is still of utmost importance, especially to those who have to listen to it. of responsibility opened. At each new step I encountered, not fewer, but ever escalating challenges. I was determined to learn all I could. I tried to plug into every power outlet I could find. I simply did not know where to look. For a course called Systematic Theology, I read and wrote a paper on a majestically forgettable book by Rudolf Bultmann, the subject of which was the “de-mythologization” of the New Testament. For years after that I just knew the splendid moment would come, some question would be asked to which Rudolf Bultmann would be the correct answer. If that ever happened, I was ready. Alas, it did not. Never once in 46 years of ministry and leadership have I been asked a single question by anyone to which the appropriate answer might even remotely have included a reference
to Rudolf Bultmann. What I have been asked, over and over again, were questions about management, such as budgeting, organizational structure and debt service. I have been asked questions such as, “How do we fire the worship leader and not get sued?” “Why is our attendance up but giving has not improved?” And the ever popular, “If we cancel the night service what will we say to the 13 senior souls who still love it?” I have been asked thousands upon thousands of relationship questions for which I desperately needed counseling skills. I have been asked questions such as, “Are demons real, and do you think my brother-in-law has one?” Never once was Rudolf Bultmann the correct answer. I suppose there are churches that have split and blown to pieces over the authorship of Hebrews. Maybe. There may have been ministries that imploded because Greek was all Greek to the pastor. Perhaps, in some galaxy far, far away, but I doubt it. However, the landscape is definitely littered with the bones of churches which got overextended in bad debt, or waited too long to respond to a changing market, or missed the tide and ended up stranded on the beach of irrelevance, gradually dying a slow death. Their corpses lie as they do because bad decisions (or more likely no decisions) got made in the face of opportunity. At the two universities of which I served as president, I was blessed by the willingness of both faculties to emphasize practical ministry. Certainly theology, Bible, church history and the biblical languages are important and should be taught. I am not anti-theology. I have personally taught a course with the ostentatious title of Pneumatology. Having said that, the fact remains that those who intend to lead ministries in the prevailing environment also need management, finance, counseling and communication. They also need them to be taught by skilled practitioners. I am not denigrating seminary courses such as The History of Christianity in the Middle Ages. It was, by the way, one of my favorite courses in seminary, taught by one of the most brilliant and eccentric lecturers I have ever heard. What I am saying is that one might make an A in that very course and in many like it and
not survive the first six months of pastoral ministry. There is a gap in much seminary and Bible school education called “practical ministry.” When I designed the National Institute of Christian Leadership, it was with this very gap in mind. I have been delighted to see folks from the church world seated beside political and business leaders who all found the practical teaching of the NICL transferable and applicable. Recently I attended a meeting of pastors, leaders and educators including several retired seminary and university presidents. The unanimous opinion at the table was that ministerial education in this century must be more practical. Even as I wrote that last sentence I could hear the objections of some. “The church is not a business!” I understand what such voices are saying. At least I think I do. Yet the reality remains that churches that are inefficiently administered, stagnant in growth and poorly led do not witness well to the present age. If our God is a God of excellence, and He is, then His church in the world must pay its bills on time, manage its employees and volunteers for quality and communicate its core message with excellence.
who could take me to Wesley’s home, or who knew who Wesley was. Not to sound smug with “Jolly Old,” one driver in Boston had never even heard of Jonathan Edwards. We should know church history and learn from it. One thing we should certainly learn is what made such giants as Wesley and Edwards the giants they were. It was above all things their ability to speak to their own generations and cultures. They were bold, relevant, contemporary and anointed. If the church today is to be a powerful and redemptive force in this new millennium, her next generation of ministers must be prepared, educated and trained in
of emphasis in ministerial education, I believe it is preaching. Creative dramas, production values in worship services and music are all important. Yet it is primarily preaching through which the Word is communicated. Contemporary ministerial education needs a fresh new emphasis on biblical content, authenticity of style, clarity of structure and orderly thought in preaching. The basics of illustrative material, point of view, introduction and conclusion are being ignored to the detriment of some modern preaching. Somewhere between the “internal combustion” of unplanned, unthought-out, un-understandable emotional pulpit explosions and pedantic,
Lions in the New Millennium
I do not believe that Nero-esque persecution, concentration camps for American Christians or some kind of 21 st-century “Lions in the Coliseum” redux are the real danger ahead. Having said that, I suppose the mayor of Houston has made the case that Christians may be thrown into an arena of snarling subpoenas. Despite her actions, the greater, more foreseeable risk is that of the church devolving into a mute, irrelevant antique. This is already true to a tragic extent in much of Western Europe. Empty liturgical churches unable to respond meaningfully to cultural upheaval or even to sustain the faith of the “faithful,” have become hardly more than props in a Monty Python skit. London, which was the birthplace of the Wesleyan revival, now has more mosques than Methodist churches. The last time I was there, I had a difficult time finding a cabby 32 MinistryToday March // April 2015
Dr. Rutland (c) poses with NICL graduates (l to r) Victor Bowers, Angela Courte, Thelma Campbell and Linda Markowitz.
multiple leadership, management and communication skills—not the least of which is preaching.
While it is true that we live in a culture with a wildly diverse array of communication options, preaching is still of utmost importance, especially to those who have to listen to it. I travel about as widely as any minister in the U.S., and the major complaint or compliment I hear from laymen everywhere with regards to their own pastors concerns preaching. If there is an area that needs a fresh revitalization
mind-numbing boredom there lies a fertile opening for great preaching. I believe this is a great need in the American church and will be a crying need in the future. I am not alone in my longing to see a resurgence of great preaching, and I do not believe it will come without great teachers of preaching who can convey to young people a profound respect for the supernatural power of preaching that is well-crafted and profound. I reject George Bernard Shaw’s contention that they who can do, and they who cannot, teach. At least, I do not believe it has to be that way. Teachers Daniel Prince
of preaching who love preaching do it well, and those who understand the bones as well as the breath of preaching are worth their weight in gold. May their tribe increase. Those institutions which celebrate preaching, which hire homiletics professors who are skilled and anointed practitioners and where preaching is consistently modeled in
between learning and education. I have a great deal of formal education and I am grateful for it. I spent many years of my life and no small fortune getting it. I have served as the president of two universities and lectured at or taught on the adjunct faculties of others. Some of the finest, humblest most dedicated men and women of God I’ve ever met serve sacrificially on
Dr. Rutland teaches at NICL at the Charisma Media location.
Somewhere between the “internal combustion” of unplanned, unthought-out, un-understandable emotional pulpit explosions and pedantic, mind-numbing boredom there lies a fertile opening for great preaching. chapel services, will challenge students to excel at it. It will be precisely such centers of learning and practice from which the next generation of great preachers will undoubtedly come.
The longer I live, which has been quite a long time, the more I realize the difference 34 MinistryToday March // April 2015
faculties around the world. I believe in education. I utterly denounce as a pathetic excuse for ignorance the tired old saw that “book larnin’ will spoil the anointing.” We live in a highly educated world. Most pastors in the West will preach to educated congregations. I submit that fired-up ignorance alone may be insufficient to reach modern listeners.
Contemporary congregations expect, and have a right to expect their preachers to be both biblically knowledgeable and generally well-educated. To reach the modern mind, preachers in this new era must know how to think and how to employ a broad functional vocabulary to express those thoughts. Educated congregants will expect their preachers to know the difference between Moses and Charlemagne. History, geography, politics, contemporary culture and the arts are areas of interest to today’s congregations and they expect their preachers to be conversant. People look to their pulpits hoping for insight, answers and the application of biblical exposition. Flaunting one’s facility with biblical languages is tedious, and the effect of mere showmanship is boorish and tiresome. Today’s listeners are looking to God’s Word for how to go on living another week in a world that terrifies them. They want to hear the truth in a way that inspires confidence. They are not seeking perfect saints who have spiritually arrived, and they do not expect Albert Einstein in the pulpit. Far from it. They want to learn from learners who are on the journey with them and who have obviously not stopped along the trail. Life learners seek out seminars and opportunities for genuine development. They are constantly pressing forward. Regardless of the years of formal education they may or may not have, they are determined to keep learning. Anyone who thinks a graduate degree is the end of all learning, has learned little or nothing of value. With a GED or a Ph.D., life-learners are constantly stretching upward, expanding their mind and their vocabulary, improving their leadership and seeking ever deeper biblical, theological thought. Life-learners are not content to preach from yellowed notes while using illustrations that barely worked years ago and now are utterly lifeless. Congregations are not stupid. They can tell if the preacher has checked out and they know bland micro-waved sermons when they hear them. Life-learners are also readers. Reading as a ministerial discipline can and should be cultivated. Church secretaries must be convinced that the pastor’s reading time Daniel Prince
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is precious time not to be disturbed easily. Churches, having once heard one, will know that a well-read pastor is a gift of God to the congregation. Certainly the current “church world” literature is important. There are great ministry books being written every year. Keeping abreast of current thought is obviously important as long as it doesn’t degenerate into a bondage to fads. Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, the former president of Asbury College, convinced me to read at least one major book a year that has nothing to do with the ministry. Twentyfirst-century leaders will need to be lifelearners, and life-learners are life-readers.
A teacher whom I admired greatly used to say, “The sermon is the preacher up-to-date.” The risk for preachers today is that sophisticated listeners can discern if the expiration date has passed. They want fresh bread. They want the real deal. They want leaders who can lead, manage and steward the church affairs wisely. They want to hear today’s sermon, not last year’s. They want to hear it from an inspired, prepared communicator. They want educated, well-rounded ministers who can calmly face all this century can hurl at them, whether lions or mayors or whatever.
The 21st-century listener is spoiled, impatient and demanding when it comes to communication. Shall we then give up on preaching? God forbid. We must simply learn to do it better. The business people in our churches have seen great leadership and know what it looks like. Should we be intimidated, shrinking from leadership? God forbid. The best administrators, the best leaders, the best thinkers and the best communicators should be in the church. Educating Christian ministers to serve in the 21st century, is among the most challenging and important tasks facing the church today. It may well be what decides the future of Christianity in the West. D r . M a r k R u t l a n d is president of Global Servants. A renowned communicator and New York Times best-selling author, he has over 30 years of experience in organizational leadership, having served as a senior pastor and a university president. Through Global Servants, Rutland has founded ministries in Ghana and Thailand. A native of Texas, he was educated at the University of Maryland, Candler School of Theology at Emory University in Atlanta, and holds a Ph.D. from California Graduate School of Theology. Rutland has authored 14 books. Lightstock
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With the decline of the culture, the younger generation longs for—and needs—stronger leadership in the church BY KEN WALKER
t 35, musician Matt Carter is a whisker too old to be classified a millennial, the generation whose eldest members reached 18 at the turn of the century. Still, with most fans in their 20s and early 30s, the lead guitarist for the alternative band Emery maintains a sense of how young adults see the church. It isn’t too favorable. “I get a lot of feedback,” says Carter, who two years ago started a sometimes irreverent-sounding blog (badchristian .com) that reflects some of this discontent. “Things like: ‘I know my church is well and good, but
38 MinistryToday March // April 2015
there’s some messed-up stuff in the system. Am I going to stick around and try to make it better from the inside, or should we speak out against the failures of the church? What’s the right way to approach that?’” Such questions are more relevant than ever after the recent implosion of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. The collapse came about two months after the resignation of Mark Driscoll, Carter’s pastor for 10 years before the guitarist departed in the fall of 2013 amid brewing controversy. Carter sees far-reaching implications from the collapse, including raising the question of whether megachurches will be viable in the future. » PhotoCredit
March // April 2015 MinistryToday â€‚ 39
Seattle before heading back east to be closer to family, thinks too many pastors embrace the image of omniscience. Although saying those who matured during the seeker-sensitive era have dropped a sales-pitch approach,
Stephens feels too many retain the attitude that unless they appear infallible, their answers lack legitimacy. “But that’s backward logic,” says Stephens, who works at a bank. “If you appear to never mess up, it doesn’t give
Regardless of size, he says the fallout should cause pastors everywhere to recognize that those who represent the future of the church largely frown on the image of the lead pastor/CEO. No longer interested in such figures, the musician doesn’t claim membership in any church, although he often attends an independent congregation of about 100 people. “What I really want from a pastor is to not feel like they have to conform to a traditional pastoral role,” Carter says of his expectations. “I want some people to help me understand the Bible and engage deeper. There’s a million ways to do that. I don’t think there’s a prototype or best way.” Two millennials who once called Mars Hill home see other lessons emerging. They agree that while they want strong leaders, they expect pastors who are transparent, good listeners and realistic about their shortcomings. Shannon Stephens, a one-time home group leader who spent five years in
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you more legitimacy. It gives you less. “The ideal would be a pastor who can’t only accept himself in the ‘sage’ category. In his counseling or even from the pulpit, if he’s going to be instructive, we want to know he’s tried and triumphed over adversity in his life.” Seattle native Sarah Croasdill says it is encouraging to hear how God changes flawed pastors during their journey. That is one reason she finds her current pastor so appealing; she and her husband found their new home after a search that took them to four churches. “Our new pastor not only has a passion for the gospel to reach the ends of the earth, but he has humility,” Croasdill says. “He shares his current trials— big and small—from the pulpit and asks us to pray for him.” Her experience left another deep impression. Were she and her husband to find themselves in another place that wanted to expand, they would
42 MinistryToday March // April 2015
“Much has been written lately about those under 33—millennials—seeking a spiritual environment that offers more meaningful relationships, discipleship and a deeper sense of intimacy with God.” favor starting another church instead of another location. “This is just healthier for leadership and congregants,” Croasdill says.
A Closer Walk
Much has been written lately about those under 33—millennials—seeking a spiritual environment that offers more meaningful relationships, discipleship and a deeper sense of intimacy with God. Yet such yearnings can also create conflict with older members who embrace the status quo and are reluctant to yield the reins. Therein lies the rub for all pastors, who must navigate between differing
expectations and the potential conflict that can arise from leaning too far in one direction or the other. Leadership expert Brad Lomenick says one of the toughest challenges older leaders face is understanding how younger ones seek a family environment where they can quickly assume leadership. This expectation can easily rankle elders who waited for years to step into their positions. “Part of our responsibility is to give them that chance,” says Lomenick, who worked with John C. Maxwell and then as president of Catalyst before leaving to devote more time to writing and speaking. “They’ll make mistakes,
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“The New Living Translation communicates the good news of God’s promises and will leave a lasting impact on whoever reads it.” but we should give them authority and influence.” As they do, pastors must understand that millennials no longer see a career spelling a three- to four-decade tenure in one location. Instead of long-lasting assignments, they foresee seasons that will take them through 10 or more projects, Lomenick says. He says this reality partially explains the advent of church-planting movements the past 15 years, with many new churches started by young adults unwilling to wait for their chance to lead. Not only do pastors need to create an environment where young leaders can do something, he says they must accept the likelihood that after they grasp their assignment, these protégés may leave for another opportunity. “I once heard Andy Stanley say, ‘This won’t be your only job; I just want it to be your best job,’ ” Lomenick says. “This is changing the state of loyalty and what teamwork looks like.” As pastors grapple with a new generation of leaders, they also have to develop their understanding of young faces in the audience. While not everyone “gets it,” the Lightstock
Barna Group’s David Kinnaman sees an increasing awareness among pastors of changing lifestyles; particularly the challenges of reaching young adults who are later leaving home, marrying and having children. The author of two books about millennials, the president of the research firm says the shifting realities of 20-somethings mirror the past century’s rise of the “teenager,” a relatively modern concept that redefined what it meant to be a maturing person. Just as the Christian community altered its ministries to young people in that phase of life, the same innovative mindset will be needed to reach today’s generation, the author says. Yet Kinnaman sees obstacles ahead, such as pastors struggling to close the gap between work and faith, which the Barna Group labels “vocational discipleship.” “Most churches still have very little or no effective efforts to help millennials understand the deep connections between calling and their faith,” Kinnaman says. “This is an area that could dramatically benefit the spiritual development of today’s teenagers and young adults—and it March // April 2015 MinistryToday 45
pastor / evangelist harvest christian fellowship
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“More and more pastors are offering an ear-tickling service to bring in a ‘tithing crowd.’ It seems it’s more about filling seats instead of saving souls. Sadly enough, sugar-coating (the Word) will do that.” could also significantly impact their sense of purpose in work and their generosity.”
One misgiving pastors (particularly evangelicals) may have of younger adults is how their more tolerant, permissive attitudes can veer in unhealthy directions, such as openness towards cohabitation and same-sex marriage. Yet that doesn’t mean young adults automatically reject the Bible. Last fall the Barna Group released a survey that found only 65 percent of millennials accept the Bible as the actual or inspired Word of God. Yet, among practicing Christian millennials it is an overwhelming 96 percent. And, despite their generation’s reputation for relativism, 71 percent of active believers affirm the concept of absolute moral truth. Roxanne Stone, Barna’s vice president of publishing, acknowledges there are reasons for the disparaging stereotypes Lightstock
about young Christians becoming less orthodox in their beliefs. Yet she says many grew up in evangelical traditions that placed a priority on Scripture over other faith practices. “This evangelical emphasis on Scripture has cemented a respect for and continued belief in Scripture as holy among Christian millennials—even while they question many other aspects of their faith,” Stone says. Rob Durst’s experience echoes this trend. An Ohio native who serves as the media director at a Church of Christ in the South, he has seen the power of transparency working at a church camp for high school students. Two years ago the camp started a testimony time, with staff members and campers sharing a story about a difficult time in their life. This helped touch others’ hearts by letting others know they weren’t the only people struggling with a particular issue. Many campers have later approached March // April 2015 MinistryToday 47
“I’ve been using the New Living Translation at Crossover and I really enjoy it. We’ve used several modern translations, but theNLT resonates with us. It’s understandable, but scholarly and solid too.”
Tommy“Urban D” Kyllonen lead pastor, crossover church
FREE D OW NLOA D Help your church see how the entire story of the Bible fits together with a free 8-Week FLYOVER ROUTE e-book and church resources, including 54 daily Scripture readings, eight weekly discussion guides, infographic poster art, and more – at:
TheNLTPreaches.com New Living Translation, NLT, and the New Living Translation logo are registered trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
speakers to create a dialogue and offer advice or encouragement. Such experience reflects the example set by his senior pastor. The 30-yearold bivocational staff member calls his pastor the most transparent person he knows, confessing past struggles and alcohol issues. “The Benefits of Getting Caught” is the highest downloaded sermon in church history. Durst wouldn’t feel comfortable confiding in someone who appears flawless. He wouldn’t expect that person to understand his problems nor be able to offer practical solutions. “I do not want to feel like I’m being judged by someone,” Durst comments. “No one is perfect; therefore, the pastor who appears perfect is not. I hesitate to trust anyone that appears that flawless.”
As they seek to reach younger adults, Kinnaman advises pastors to remember that all too often generational differences are overblown, which he calls a sin issue. In other words, divisions over worship, preaching styles or leadership structures gloss over deeper differences of gender, race or class. “Those are differences that only the gospel in us can sanctify,” Kinnaman says. “I always remind pastors that someone’s preferences have to be met. I view it as the job of an effective leader to communicate and clarify what it means to accommodate others in a church.” Realize too that older adults have some of the same disappointments and longings for more authentic, biblically oriented leaders espoused by their younger counterparts. DeWayne Guyton, a 44-year-old production director for a small-town radio station in Alabama, says too many church platforms have turned into stages and performance venues, with leaders’ main concerns being hitting attendance quotas. “More and more pastors are offering an ear-tickling service to bring in a ‘tithing crowd,’” says Guyton, who leads the media ministry at an interdenominational church. “It seems it’s more about filling seats instead of saving souls. Sadly enough, sugar-coating (the Word) will do that.”
Missourian Shelley Swenson feels the same way. The longtime Assembly of God member feels the casual approach that has developed in the pulpit too often reflects a casual approach towards sin and accountability. “There is now more of a push toward ‘life-affirming’ sermons with fortunecookie snippets thrown in for good measure,” says the volunteer lunchroom worker at a Christian school. “This causes the attitudes of people to change and embrace the idea that because ‘God is love,’ we, as Christians, are entitled to His blessings with no sacrifice or commitment on our part. In the past five years, I have looked around at different churches but have found it increasingly difficult to find one that preaches Scripture and not some sugarcoated fluff week after week.” The managing editor of Leadership Journal says such appraisals show two truths about reaching people of all ages. Drew Dyck, whose 2010 book, Generation X-Christian, addressed the reasons behind the exodus of young people from church, says the first is that dumbing down scriptural truth won’t work. “That’s a failure in history with theological liberalism in mainline churches,” Dyck said. “Instead of growing over the years, they’ve seen a 50 percent reduction.” The other is his view that pastors need to chronicle the absence of young adults in their midst, detail reasons for stepping out of their comfort zone, and convince members that making changes and reaching out to the community are good ideas. “Tell them they’re missionaries now,” says the former youth pastor. “Explain they have to make some uncomfortable decisions about their preferences and the way they do church to engage the next generation. If you explain that, those changes will be met with greater receptivity.” Only time will tell whether church leaders are up to the task. K e n W a l k e r is a freelance writer, coauthor and book editor from Huntington, West Virginia. He wrote about the digital church for Ministry Today’s Jan.-Feb. issue. March // April 2015 MinistryToday 49
“I read the New Living Translation daily and with joy and gratitude for thosewho have provided such a wonderfully straightforward and credible rendering of Scripture.”
community church, bethel, ct former president, world relief
FREE D OW NLOA D Help your church see how the entire story of the Bible fits together with a free 8-Week FLYOVER ROUTE e-book and church resources, including 54 daily Scripture readings, eight weekly discussion guides, infographic poster art, and more – at:
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Why is God’s church pursuing everything but the holiness and purity He has commanded of us?
BY KYLE SEARCY
will never forget a story Mom told me about her challenge in raising me. My problem: I would never be still. I was the busiest, most distracted kid she ever encountered. But there was one exception: When she was cooking dinner I would sit with rapt attention, not moving until the food was ready. Then I would eat heartily and return to busily tearing up the house. I mentally argued with her stories thinking, I’m not that unfocused. She must be exaggerating. Then I got married and one day my wife settled it for me. She said, “Kyle, you don’t have ADD” (Attention Deficit Disorder). My ensuing smile disappeared when she said, “You have ADD-EFGHIJKLMNOP!” Yes, I am still happily married, in case you were wondering. God finally helped me settle this issue. When I was called to preach the gospel, I wanted my first sermon to be meaningful. I somehow felt it would have ramifications for the rest of my life and ministry, so I dared not just choose any subject. I wanted to hear directly from God. I fasted and prayed many days to hear properly. Finally I heard clearly my topic from Psalm 46:10—“Be Still and Know That I Am God.” For many years, my distracted nature caused me to avoid a truth we all must embrace—the Christian walk is simple, and it requires us to focus on one main thing. Christianity at its core
50 MinistryToday March // April 2015
is not about many of the things we pursue—dare I say even idolize. Christianity in its purest genetic form is about sincere, pure devotion to Jesus. Paul makes this crystal clear by exclaiming, “For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy; for I espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. But I fear that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve through his trickery, so your minds might be led astray from the simplicity that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2-3).
IN THESE VERSES, PAUL LIKENS:
hh Salvation to betrothal hh Christ to a bridegroom hh Our mandate as simple pure devotion to Jesus hh Our warfare as Satan trying to distract us from such devotion What Paul says is profound, but yet quite simple! When we embrace this as our mantra, when the only idol in our heart is Jesus and living for His glory, the end result is an undistracted heart that uses every ounce of its energy to please Jesus. This should describe our life’s pursuit. Christianity is simple and Satan’s main strategy against us is also simple. Our goal as believers is to live in sincere, pure, unbridled devotion to Jesus as a pure virgin would to her new bridegroom. He alone is to be our idol. Satan’s goal for us is to be distracted by secondary or tertiary tasks
MONEY POWER SEX FAME CONTROL ENTERTAINMENT SOCIAL MEDIA POSSESSIONS SPORTS PLEASURES
March // April 2015 MinistryToday 51
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and make them our chief pursuit. After all, the first and greatest commandment that fulfils every other commandment is: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). When we don’t keep the main thing the main thing, we can easily, and oftentimes unknowingly, become distracted and idolize other things, good
‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things. But one thing is needed. And Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken from her.’ ” So many things in ministry can begin to squeeze into our devotional life. We don’t really want them to interfere; we don’t cognitively say, “Should I be Mary or Martha today?” We shouldn’t be too hard on Martha. She was not wrong for
Christianity at its core is not about many of the things we pursue—dare I say even idolize. Christianity in its purest genetic form is about sincere, pure devotion to Jesus. as they may be. Ministry is not for the fainthearted. It is a serious commitment and calling. There are so many pressures pastors and leaders bear. But how many of our pressures are self-induced because we are measuring progress by an inaccurate standard? The tension we often face in ministry is evident in Mary and Martha’s life. Luke 10:38-42 records Jesus entering into Mary and Martha’s house, and we see Mary, “who also sat at Jesus’ feet and listening to His teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she came to him and asked, ‘Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Then tell her to help me.’ ” How many of us have asked the same question when we have had to perform some ministry task that a committee or leader should have done? “But the Lord answered to her, 52 MinistryToday March // April 2015
serving; someone had to do it. They both couldn’t sit there and let everyone starve. But why do we have choose to be either servers or lovers? Can’t we be loving servers or serving lovers? Can’t we serve with intensity while delighting in God intimately? Can we ever strike a perfect balance of Mary and Martha in our lives? Can we stay at His feet while serving Him? Of course, we can, but only by grace can we do it. Doing things for God without a heart full of love toward Him leads to a heart that seeks other means of fulfillment. I believe this is one of the reasons we chase so many idols. We allow our hearts to grow dull and unfulfilled. We then resort to rules and fleshly prohibitions to form the basis of our obedience. But these are sub-standard. Our heart was made to be wholehearted. We were all made to pursue—when Jesus is not that pursuit, other things occupy » that space. © Istockphoto/Andy445
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I once heard James Dobson say on his radio show that the average pastor can do some 200-plus different activities when God really only expects us to do a few. I have narrowed these few down to three for my life: feed (preach the Word), lead (provide vision and direction) and intercede (spend a great quantity of time with God in prayer and the Word). 1) Feed. Good food isn’t good enough. Serving leftovers is even worse. We must seek the heart of God as to what He wants His children to eat. The “go-to” sermons must go! They are a poor substitute for a current word straight from the heart of God! 2) Lead. Get clarity on what God expects of us, not what people expect of us. There is nothing worse than expending lots of energy on someone else’s mission thinking it is our own. God’s yoke is easy and His burden is light. The pressure we often encounter may be self-inflicted by not erecting enough boundaries. 3) Intercede. It should be no surprise to you by now that I often get distracted from the main thing. Recently I felt impressed to go away and spend a week alone with the Lord in prayer, meditation and study. I had an incredible time. I came back so refreshed and refilled. I didn’t realize how rusty I had gotten by being so busy. There is no way around it. If we are to have a healthy spiritual life, we must prioritize our first love. At my strongest times in the Lord, I commit two or three hours a day to be before Him. I find that adequate to quench my thirst. If we narrow our focus, leaving maximum time and energy for our primary pursuit, our hearts will stay full—and he that is full is no longer hungry. We won’t hunger for or lust after lesser things, be it sin or some secondary pursuit that knocks on the door of our heart, deceptively promising more fulfillment than our primary pursuit. I pray for God to constantly give grace so that you can keep the first things first. If we ask, it shall be given. K y l e S e a r c y serves as senior pastor of Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery, Alabama, and Norcross, Georgia.
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56 MinistryToday March // April 2015
The public’s perception of a godly leader is one who walks in humility and integrity BY LARRY STOCKSTILL
burden for the lost manifested in prayer and fasting, coupled with the preaching of the Scripture, is the foundation of all ministry. Upon those two tenets rests the corner pillar of success: integrity. In math, a whole number is called an integer. Nothing is missing, and it is totally complete. It is not three-fourths complete or any other fractional part; it is whole. In ministry, to have integrity means to be whole and sound (notice the common root with the word integer). Ministerial integrity thus inspires confidence, much as money does in the economic realm. Anything less than 100 percent integrity in ministry breeds mistrust and creates a suspicion of being robbed. There are four areas in any Christian’s life, but especially in the ministry, that must be sound: finances, commitments, honesty and doctrine. Careful attention to these areas is crucial and will pay off in a lifetime of influence.
No issue has been more scrutinized than the church’s managing of its finances. Money is so potentially dangerous that though ministers cannot be paranoid, they must handle it as they would explosives. In managing a church’s finances, there are several basic principles to guide us and certain practical rules to protect us. 1) “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). Debt that is secured (has property standing for its value) is acceptable but still requires prompt, no-excuses repayment. Some ministries hold their payments to vendors and creditors for 90 days for cash-management purposes. At Bethany, we never do that, choosing rather to pay in the month we owe. That way we protect our reputation and maintain open doors to our vendors and creditors. 2) The cost of buildings and their operation should never exceed 35 percent of a church’s income. Salaries should run between 20 and 40 percent. Missions giving must never fall below a tithe level of 10 percent and can increase to 25 percent or even more if the church is debt free. Savings should be 5-10 percent. These percentages do not affect integrity unless the church violates them and can no longer pay its obligations in the month they are due. 3) Money given must be used for the purpose designated. When a member sacrifices to plant a church, build a nursery or support a widow, those funds in the exact amount and at the time given must make their way to that need (regardless of how desperately they may be needed elsewhere). 4) Outside business interests between leadership and membership change the relationship and cannot exist. When a pastor or church leader enters into a business relationship with a member, the relationship changes from pastor/sheep to partner/partner. Any shift in the balance of profit or responsibilities will likely bring a rift between the two. 5) Churches should adequately support their pastors and leaders: “You shall not muzzle the mouth March // April 2015 MinistryToday 57
of the ox while it treads out the grain” (1 Cor. 9:9; see also verses 10-14). Ministers are not hirelings but guardians of the flock and deserve adequate compensation. 6) Pressure for finances yields the perception of manipulation and insincerity. It does take money to operate ministry and expand it. However, when the sheep sense that they are a means to an end, part of an agenda that equates their worth with their money, a loss of integrity results. 7) Members deserve to be informed of expenditures. At Bethany, we issue a financial statement at the end of each year. This is not for the purpose of budget battles, but to assure our members of our priorities (missions, youth and children, local outreach) and also our obligations (principal payments, utility costs, staff costs).
A commitment occurs when someone perceives that you have
promised something. Granted, some pushy people may interpret your silence or your head bobbing up and down during their proposal as a commitment. However, a real commitment is not a misunderstanding, but a genuine obligation you make in good faith. The Bible declares that a man of integrity “swears to avoid evil and does not change” (Ps. 15:4). When a commitment comes out of your mouth, you must have the same integrity with it that God has to His Word. Commitments from the pulpit, of course, are inviolate. Our staff knows that if I announce something to the people, it becomes our new direction. It takes only once for a pastor to alter his word to bring suspicion of any and every announcement. Of course, mistakes may be made, but if the pastor has set a course, he must follow through. Sadly, pastors sometimes cancel international missionary commitments because of their distant
and anonymous nature. Promised crusades, conferences and building projects disappear because of budget restraints or because “the Lord has moved in a different direction.” Additionally, emotionally charged church members during missions conventions sometimes make pledges to support certain missionaries on a monthly basis, only to never give even the first month’s support. Christians should never need a legal contract to make them keep their word. If they fear the Lord and believe integrity is their highest honor, they’ll willingly keep their commitments. Let’s get it together, brothers and sisters! It’s time for a new standard of integrity that no worldly institution can even begin to rival.
Integrity means a commitment to the entire truth. If you leave out pertinent facts (selective amnesia) in an effort to persuade, it is a lie. A
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lie is simply any intent to deceive. Therefore, lies are not only what you say but also what you allow people to believe for untruthful purposes. This is an important word. Intentionally withholding pertinent truth that leads people to wrong conclusions does not show integrity. Exaggeration is another serious temptation in the honesty area. Someone defined honesty as the “accurate recollection of facts.” One person ministered in our church years ago and described a bus he was using to transport cancer patients. My father calculated the length the bus would have to be in order to hold the number of people the minister said it could hold. That bus would have needed to be over 125 feet long! When confronted with this obvious inaccuracy, the minister responded, “You know, you can’t tell anything too big for God.” This pitiful response reminds us that testimonies of miracles, answered prayer and apparent supernatural interventions
must be accurate. God does not need any help defending His greatness.
Scripture often refers to doctrine as something that needs to be sound. Second Timothy 4:3 says, “For the time will come when people will not endure sound doctrine.” In speaking of overseers in the church, Titus 1:9 says that they must be able to “exhort in sound doctrine.” Flaky doctrine built upon a wisp of revelation hurts credibility. Snake handling (based on Mark 16:18), never-die-ism (based on John 11:26) or refusal to seek medical attention based on an isolated verse borders on presumption, not faith. Your doctrine needs to be sound. This means having balance, holding to a solid thread of scriptural truth that runs throughout the Bible and not building on a nuance of Greek or Hebrew inflection in Strong’s Concordance. Predictions, time lines and scriptural “facts”
that are mere interpretations shake people’s faith when the predictions don’t come true. As we move into perilous times, more and more I am becoming a stickler for sound footing on any and every doctrine. You will not be penalized in your effectiveness for the Lord by not adopting the latest doctrinal fad. You will be penalized if you catch each doctrinal “flu bug” that comes around and then “recover.” Your soundness and integrity will come into question. Adapted from Larry Stockstill’s book The Remnant. In the book, Stockstill reminds spiritual leaders that God is issuing a call to maintain integrity in ministry. The book can be purchased at christianbook.com; search Larry Stockstill. L a r r y S t o c k s t i ll is the former senior pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He now directs the Surge Project and serves as a teaching pastor at Bethany.
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Learning to Lead Differently as You Age How can a leader overcome the challenges that come with age in a culture that is constantly seeking the newest idea, approach or technique? BY ED STETZER
s we watch the news, we often see leaders retire. It happens in the sports world, the political realm, the educational system and even in the religious community. The pope retired. Pastors retire from their church ministry. Leaders of Christian organizations retire. We all have an expiration date. The expiration date, though, is not always determined by our health. Instead, it’s often determined by our vision. If your vision has expired, you need to step out of your leadership role. But it’s not just an age thing. I know people who still have the vision in their 80s and are still doing some really amazing things.
62 MinistryToday March // April 2015
Here’s what often happens to leaders: A fear factor sets in. It’s like they’ve got to finish, even if they don’t finish well. You know the mentality: “I don’t want to rock the boat, because this is my retirement. I just sort of need to make it through.” I’m in my late 40s now, but a few years ago I was sitting down with Troy Gramling, who was interviewing me. He asked, “What are you doing to invest in the next generation?” I responded, “I am the next generation. What do you mean? I’m just 43 years old.” We are about the same age, so he (correctly) replied, “No, we’re not anymore.” As leaders we age, we have to invest in those of the next generation. It changes as we age so that when you’re getting into your 60s and 70s, you need to be spending most of Lightstock
your time investing in people who are younger than you—passing it on.
Reaching Out or Hanging On?
When I was in my 20s and 30s, I led differently than I do now that I’m in my 40s. When you’re in your 60s and 70s—and particularly your 80s— your role has to shift. The fact is that this is hard for some to hear. Nevertheless, we sometimes have to be the ones who say to older
on a pastor, who may not be able to find another church at the age of 60. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s not biblical. And yet, we have to recognize that we have to lead differently as we age.
Expectations and Effectiveness
So the issue becomes: Can I lead differently? Can I raise up the next generation of Joshuas around me? Can I be an empowering leader? Or am I going to
hh In your 30s, you’re trying it out. hh I n you r 4 0 s , you’re get t i ng your groove. hh When you’re in your 50s, you’re leading well. hh When you’re in your 60s, you’re looking to pass it on to others. hh When you’re in your 70s, you’re raising up a legacy. If you are in your 70s but aren’t raising up a legacy, and you’re still trying to lead like you’re in your 30s, you’re doing a disservice to the younger generation and to yourself. As I told the bishops, we have to
A successful leader does not have to become more aggressive in his or her older years. He or she simply has to continue to hone their leadership as they did in the early years.
leaders: “You know, nobody’s putting you on a shelf, but you’ve got to lead differently. You can’t lead the way you led when you were 35. People aren’t going to follow you the way they followed you when they were 35. They’re going to follow differently.” I shared this with a group of bishops and exhorted them that, because of their polity, they have to be the ones to speak truth into the lives of their pastors. They need to know that many, though certainly not all, older pastors have not changed how they lead. Some pastors in their late 60s and 70s are just hanging on for dear life. I should add that there’s also a different side to this issue. The church culture often wants to push older leaders aside based purely on age. This can have a devastating impact 64 MinistryToday March // April 2015
tie myself to the mast, yelling out, “I am the guy!”? I’m not trying to say that effective leadership in your 70s is about exhibiting the greatest amount of energy in the room. It also isn’t about being the loudest voice on an issue. I think you can speak softly. Just as Paul said to Timothy, I would appeal to older men as fathers and younger men as brothers. Older men should act as fathers and raise up the next generation. A successful leader does not have to become more aggressive in his or her older years. He or she simply has to continue to hone their leadership as they did in the early years. A well-known paradigm is worth mentioning here: hh W h e n y o u’r e i n y o u r 2 0 s , you’re learning.
graciously and lovingly say, “You need a new plan.” The successful leaders at that stage will be the ones who continue to learn how to lead and who will adjust their style to have the greatest effect. Some will refuse to change due to fear or stubbornness, and that is unfortunate. The challenge is—and I see it in my bishop-less denomination—in many cases, there is no one to speak truth to some. However, this is where you (or I) as a godly friend can and should say, “Lead your age.” What have you learned about the leadership transition that comes with age? How can a leader overcome the challenges that come with age in a culture that is constantly seeking the newest idea, approach or technique? What can we learn from Scripture in regards to leading into the later years? E d S t e z e r is the executive director of LifeWay Research. © Istockphoto/shironosov
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MINISTRY LIFE: Y O U T H BY AARON CRUMBEY
4 Steps in Teaching Students to Be a Witness
How are you instructing your youth to share the gospel—and their own faith journey?
vangelism can be weird for students. I felt like a salesman trying to share my faith when I was in school. And not just any salesman, but a salesman who sells things people don’t know they want or even need. A perfect example of this is the people at the kiosk booths at the mall. They pace up and down talking to people who aren’t paying them any attention—trying to sell them something they didn’t even come to the mall to get is arduous. I used to feel that way when I would have to go out and share my faith. I would think to myself, “These people don’t want to hear what I have to say.” It wasn’t until I got older that I understood that it would always be about sharing something with people who don’t know they need it. Now, I personally believe God uses a lot of different ways to share His message through us. I will never say one way is better. Because in some way or another God uses them all. But in this post, I want to discuss evangelizing through relationships. While I wouldn’t say it’s better, I will say it’s my favorite when it comes to teaching students how to evangelize to their friends. Evangelism through relationships teaches students three things: 1) It reinforces the main point of the gospel, which is God’s longing to be in relationship with us. 2) It helps students not see the person being evangelized as a project or a deal that needs closing, but a person God loves. 3) It helps them speak through their own relationship with God, and from their own story and experiences that can’t be disputed. Therefore, here are the four steps I like to walk students through when it comes to sharing their faith with their friends: 1) Teach them to know the gospel. Have you ever led someone to a destination you didn’t know the directions to? I’m guessing your answer is no. Well, it’s the same when it comes to sharing
our faith. You have to know how you got to where you are in order to show people how to get there. 2) Teach them to know their story. A lot of times students are paralyzed by fear because they don’t know what to say, so I’ll have students write their story out using a template if needed. It will be about how God has changed their life. They will use this information to share the gospel. I’ve learned that people are more interested in hearing what God has done in your life than just hearing what He can possibly do in theirs. So teach your youth to know their story. 3) Teach them to get to know their friends’ stories. A lot of times we know people and are friends with them, but we never engage in any conversations concerning the issues of life. So it’s important they know you care about the details of their life, because you are modeling how much God cares about them. Also, you have to earn the right to speak into their life the same way people have to earn the right to speak into yours. We do that through getting to know who they are. Learning someone else’s journey is the quickest way to grow in relationship with that person. Get to know their story. 4) Teach them to understand the gospel and how it intersects with their story. The gospel becomes more real once you understand how it applies to you. For the most part, we are most comfortable talking about ourselves. It’s important that we don’t just know the verses and the right christianized language. We need to understand the gospel in light of how it relates to our story. And there is a confidence that comes to the one who understands this point.
“I’ve learned that people are more interested in hearing what God has done in your life than just hearing what He can possibly do in theirs.”
66 MinistryToday March // April 2015
A a r o n C r u m b e y oversees Pastoral Care for the high school ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He cares deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach their full potential in Christ.
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MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: C O U N S E L I N G BY BRANDON COX
Empowering God’s People to Counsel the Broken How are you motivating your church members to help each other heal life’s hurts?
ome of the spiritually healthiest people I know are getting thousands. My wife, Angie, leads our church’s counseling counseling. There seems to be some stigma around it, but efforts. She’s a trained clinician (LCSW) with a background in getting help with our mental and emotional issues is really a offering professional therapy. But she also believes strongly in matter of choosing to grow with the help of others. And the New the power of releasing non-professional lay counselors to walk Testament reveals a pretty neat idea alongside the broken. in the mind of God: The church can And I would get even more be a growing body of compassionate ground level in my assessment of counselors. If you’re a Christian, you the church’s need to counsel and to need counseling from other Chrisbe counseled. We need an informal tians, and you need to offer counatmosphere where people connect seling to others too. with others in small groups and in I believe there is a huge need for one-on-one (or slightly larger) groups professional counseling in the culto talk about life, to heal from broture in which we live, and there are kenness and to deepen one another’s times for all of us when the healthiest walk. God has equipped us for this. thing we can do is pay to see a clinihh He’s given us His Word, the cian trained in the art of coaching Bible, which is His verbally inspired us toward healthier thinking and truth for life, infallible and unable relationships. But there is also a vast to fail as it works its way through army of counselors within the memour lives. bership of the church. hh He’s given us His Spirit, to lead Paul challenged Christians to us in the moment, to feed us life“let the word of Christ dwell in giving words to share with others you richly in all wisdom, teaching B r a n d o n C o x is the lead pastor of Grace Hills on the spot. and admonishing one another” Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He hh He’s allowed us to walk our (Col. 3:16). He challenged us to also serves as editor and community facilitator for pas- own broken roads while learning admonish and to encourage, to tors.com and Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox, and was to draw closer to Him so that we hold others accountable, to help formerly a pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, can speak out of our own pain into apply biblical truth and to make California. the lives of others. each other healthier, mutually. So, you need counseling. ProfesWhen I was a pastor at Saddleback Church, I was amazed sionally? During certain seasons of life, yes! But even more, you at the number of people who had gone through extensive need friends. You need a church body, a small group of fellow training under Pastor Bob Baker to become lay counselors. One believers, who can link arms with you to help you heal. of those trainees even wound up living in northwest Arkansas And you need to be counseling others. This doesn’t mean and joined my church. Saddleback’s website describes the offering unsolicited criticism in the name of prophetic insight. approach this way: It means that regardless of your level of training, if you know “We produce trained counselors who facilitate a free service Jesus and you read His Word regularly, you are equipped to for individuals seeking guidance for a variety of issues including encourage, to exhort and even to correct in gentle ways those marital and family relationships, communication and intimacy, who are hurting around you. parenting, grief and loss, anger and bitterness, inner personal Church leaders, if you don’t already, it’s time now to struggles, and spiritual discouragement. Our volunteers receive encourage people to counsel and to seek counseling. Yes, extensive training, ongoing supervision and continuing educa- preaching is primary to your responsibility to shepherd the flock, tion. The ministry helps fulfill Pastor Rick’s vision for Saddle- but a half-hour on Sunday of speaking as one to the masses will back Church: ‘It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the never afford you enough opportunity to dive into the specific depressed, the frustrated and the confused can find love, accep- issues and problems that individuals face on a daily basis. You tance, help, hope, forgiveness, guidance and encouragement.’ ” need to empower and release people to go be the church for It’s an incredible approach that meets real needs for one another.
68 MinistryToday March // April 2015
MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: W O R S H I P BY DAVID SANTISTEVAN
Are We in Danger of Worshipping Worship?
Let’s be moved more by the magnitude of God’s presence than just by great music
he question needs to be asked: Are we in danger of worshipping worship? The mood. The atmosphere. The melody. The crowd. The emotion. Your favorite worship leader or your favorite speaker. The band. The performance. The feeling. Are we being moved by the right things? Are our hearts aimed in the proper direction? The problem with our worship culture is that we equate worship with an experience, a moment. We end up loving worship more than we love God. We end up talking about worship more than we talk about God. Our culture has made worship an end in itself, rather than what it should be—a way of life with Christ at the center. But when life is chaotic, what do you turn to? When crisis hits your life, what worship songs are you singing?
I’m not here to guilt you. I want you to know God. I want you to have a history of seeing God move and seeing His promises at work in your day to day. I don’t want you to look back on the glory days of your faith. I want each day to bring new perspectives, adventures, divine appointments and experiences that show the reality of God to the world. That’s why the biblical understanding of worship needs to be kept paramount in our minds. Experiencing Art
Being impressed by talented people and feeling good through the force of their performance is not enough. The wise worshipper will enjoy that, bless that and encourage that, but will also see through it to the Giver of all gifts. The true worshipper learns to sing through the storm—cry out through the confusion of life. The true worshipper knows how D a v i d S a n t i s t e v a n is the worship pastor at The Distracted Worshiper to scour the Scriptures for daily Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh. I’m not advocating we create bread. The true worshipper knows boring, terrible music or rid our gatherings of emotion. This how to pray and seek the heart of God. isn’t a time to point the finger, listing all the churches, record True worshippers aren’t just moved by powerful music. They labels and artists who are doing it all wrong. are moved by the weight of God’s glory. They are hushed by the I’m issuing a caution—a warning to guard our hearts from magnitude of His presence. loving worship more than we love God. It’s not that great art is wrong or unnecessary. The worshipper With good intent, many of us are running around focusing of God just knows how to use it. It’s never an end in itself but on anything and everything but God Himself. It’s as if Jesus is a gateway to seeing more of the glory and perfection of God. enthroned before our eyes, but we’re taking Instagram shots of C.S. Lewis says it better than I ever could: “The books or the the throne itself. We’re more enamored by the gifts and talents music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through of God’s people than we are by the Creator of all things. If we took away the music, the songs and the artists, would them, and what came through them was longing. These things— the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of we have anything to say to God? what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipFalling in Love With the Right Thing If you were alone in a room with Jesus Christ, what would well pers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a up from the depths of your heart? What would you say or feel? flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, How would you respond? news from a country we have never yet visited.” Can you talk about worship music for hours but have nothing Question: How do you guard your heart, your team and your to say about who God is in your life and what He is doing? church from loving worship more than loving God? How do you Do you know all there is to know about the latest worship use your full talent in the local church without swaying the hearts album but are barren when it comes to knowing Scripture? of God’s people away from Him? 70 MinistryToday March // April 2015
MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: P E R S O N A L
CHARACTER BY JUSTIN LATHROP
Should We Try to Make Our Churches Cool? Is it a good thing that churches are trying to be culturally relevant these days?
he concept of church is thousands of years old, yet we’re churches are out of touch. Many churches skate around pressing still understanding, debating and re-forming what we issues, preferring to do things the way they’ve always been done. believe church should look like. But in order to stay relevant, to continue to have a voice that We all grew up with different experiences of church. Some of people listen to, we have to be willing to adapt and keep up. us grew up in small, family-oriented community churches, while others Drawbacks of us didn’t grow up in church at 1) We may lose our focus. One legitiall. For some of us, church was the mate question we should be asking kind of thing you had to dress up for, ourselves as we’re revamping our while others of us only attended on churches to try to be cooler is this: Christmas and maybe Easter. Are we losing our focus? Where are For many of us, church is a topic we putting our money? Where are of great debate, great frustration or we finding our identity? What takes even great pain. Many of us haven’t most of our time? connected with the kinds of churches Demonstrating our church’s perwe’ve experienced, or we don’t agree sonality through décor and the serwith how we’ve seen church done. vice is a great thing, but it should And so, in response, some of us have never trump our focus on the gospel. disconnected completely, deciding 2) We might get lost in what people church just isn’t for us. Still others want, rather than what Jesus wants. Are have decided to do things differently. people craving the same things from A result of this church frustration their churches they’d look for in an is what I am calling “cool churches.” apartment building or a restaurant? More than ever, churches are striving With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry, Is this what’s actually important to to be culturally relevant, attracting J u s t i n L a t h r o p has spent the last several years the people looking for a place to church-goers with their décor, their starting businesses and ministries that partner with belong? That’s a question with many cool music and even their coffee. pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the answers, but one to think about as Churches are more creative than founder of helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), we’re making decisions. 3) We run the risk of sacrificing truth. ever before, striving to be places Oaks School of Leadership and ministrycoach.tv. Something “cool” churches seem to people want to be in, adapting to fit value more than more traditional churches is a feeling of accepwhat they think people want. But is this a good thing? tance for everyone. Jesus modeled nothing less. I see pros and cons on both sides, but I want to hear what you But one question we should consider as we’re setting the think. Do we need our churches to be cool? tone for our churches is this: As we’re striving to create a place Benefits where everyone feels comfortable, are we ignoring the truths 1) Diversity is a good thing. Something we sometimes miss Jesus taught us in the process? in thinking about the diversity between churches is that our Jesus’ truth isn’t always comfortable. In fact, it rarely is. churches could, and maybe should, be as diverse as the people As we’re creating a welcoming environment, we need to make who attend them. A group of artists will hear and respond to the sure we’re not ignoring an uncomfortable yet important truth. gospel in a different way than businessmen in Manhattan would. In this sense, welcoming and comfortable aren’t synonymous. Although we’re all speaking the language of the gospel, why not Can we find middle ground? I think so. There are pros to allow room to speak in different dialects? doing church in a new way, to revisiting what Jesus said church 2) How else could we attract new people? One-size-fits-all churches should be. But there’s also wisdom in focusing on what’s most can be a major deterrent when the size doesn’t, in fact, fit all. If important instead of trying to appeal to everyone or make we want to attract a different kind of person to our churches, everyone happy. we need to be different too. What are your thoughts on the subject? Should we be trying 3) It’s important to stay in the conversation. I often hear that to make our churches cool? 72 MinistryToday March // April 2015
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P A S T O R ’ S
H E A R T
How to Ward Off First-Visit Jitters
Here’s why some potential visitors may be staying away from your services
efore I started Saddleback church 34 years ago, I spent 12 weeks going doorto-door in our area trying to discover the answers to that important question. The answers I got were not at all what I expected or what I wanted to hear. But over the years, I found these same four complaints and excuses still being used by folks who don’t attend any church: 1) “Church services are boring, especially the sermons. The messages don’t relate to my life. Why should I go? I don’t understand it and it doesn’t really help me.” In our area, this has been the No. 1 excuse for not attending church. It’s amazing how some pastors are able to take the most exciting book in the world and bore people to tears with it. Miraculously, they’re able to turn bread into stones. The tragedy of being a boring speaker is that it causes people to think God is boring. So when I heard this first complaint over and over, I determined to somehow learn to communicate God’s Word in a practical, interesting way. I hope I’m getting better at it, because I do everything I can to be interesting. A sermon does not have to be boring to be biblical and it doesn’t have to be dry to be doctrinal. This is an extremely important distinction: The unchurched aren’t asking for watered-down messages, just practical ones. They want to hear something on Sunday that they can apply to their lives on Monday. 2) “Church members are unfriendly to visitors. It feels like a ‘clique.’ If I ever went to church, I’d want to feel welcomed without being watched or embarrassed.” Many unchurched people told me that they felt like the church was a “members-only” organization. Because they didn’t know the “inside” terminology, songs or rituals, they felt foolish and felt the members were watching them in judgment. The No. 1 emotion unbelievers feel when they visit a worship service is fear! They are honestly scared to death of what might happen. And that means they raise their defenses, so communicating with them becomes very difficult. When I heard this second excuse from unbelievers, we determined to do whatever it takes to make visitors feel welcomed and wanted without feeling watched. There’s a simple word for this: politeness! It’s thinking more of others than we do of ourselves. Being seeker sensitive is not compromising what you believe. It is just treating non-believers the way Jesus would. 3) “The church is more interested in my money than in me. All they care about is getting my money—and who knows how they spend it?” Due to the highly visible (and often highly questionable) fundraising tactics of televangelists and many Christian organizations, the unchurched
are incredibly sensitive to appeals for money. Unfortunately, many lost people believe that pastors are “in it just for the money.” 4) “We worry about the quality of the church’s child care at church. What will be done with our baby and our children? We’re not sure we can trust strangers with the care of our kids.” Our area is filled with young couples, so it was not surprising when I discovered this fear. Every church must earn the trust of parents. At Saddleback, we have adopted a set of very stringent guidelines for our children’s ministry, including FBI checks, fingerprinting and personal interviews of all children’s workers to ensure safety and quality. We have a very secure check-in and check-out system. We’d rather go overboard on safety than be thrown overboard with a lawsuit. If you want to reach young couples, you must spend the effort to create a safe and attractive children’s program. Jesus told the disciples to be strategic in their evangelism. “Look, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Matt. 10:16). When it comes to reaching unbelievers, I think this means identifying and understanding their perceived hang-ups and real problems that they have with the church—and then doing whatever it takes to defuse those issues so the message of Christ can be heard. In evangelism, we need to understand and anticipate the objections unbelievers will have before they voice them. It’s learning to think like an unbeliever. That, by the way, becomes increasingly more difficult the longer you are a Christian. What is most interesting to me about these four common complaints is that none of them are theological issues. I rarely meet people who say, “I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in God.” The truth is many people are very open to learning about God and spiritual issues, they just don’t feel welcome at church or feel that it has anything to offer them. That is our problem. We must take the initiative, like Jesus did, to meet people where they are and then move them to where they need to be.
“In evangelism, we need to understand and anticipate the objections unbelievers will have before they voice them.”
74 MinistryToday March // April 2015
R i c k W a rr e n is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He is author of the New York Times best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed the 20th century.
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