CHELSEN VICARI DISTORTING THE WORD
PERRY STONE THE WRONG SWORD FOR THE WRONG BATTLE
ROBERT MORRIS THE KEY TO BECOMING AN EMPOWERED LEADER SEPTEMBER// OCTOBER 2014
EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN LEADERS TO GROW
The Urgent Need for Scriptural Engagement and Biblical Literacy The Modern English Version of the Bible is newest weapon in the war on culture Jack Hayford
Getting to the Heart of Worship
THE CROSS, THE SWITCHBLADE, and THE MAN WHO BELIEVED A skinny preacher from rural Pennsylvania armed with only a cross and his faith took on the New York City slum world and its drug lords. DAVID WILKERSON brought to the streets of America’s most crime-infested city a combination of tough love and the Gospel symbolized in his story The Cross and the Switchblade and now told fully within his life’s story.
Available everywhere books are sold.
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c o n t e n t s V o l . 3 2 // N o . 5
S e p t e m b e r // O c t o b e r 2 0 1 4
The MEV is here
The Modern English Version of the Bible arrives this month, bringing with it the first update of the original Bible texts in the King James tradition in more than 32 years. The MEV provides the reverence and the distinctive voice of the King James Version while also targeting those hungering for a user-friendly translation .
16 | DR. STANLEY HORTON (1916-2014)
The Modern English Version of the Bible served as the distinguished educator and theologian’s final big project By Steve Strang
18 | THE URGENT NEED FOR SCRIPTURAL ENAGEMENT AND BIBLICAL LITERACY
The Modern English Version of the Bible is newest weapon in the war on culture By Mike Briggs PLUS: Praise for the MEV
54 54 | THE KEYS TO BECOMING AN EMPOWERED LEADER Jesus delegated authority with confidence because He knew these three things By Robert Morris
DEPARTMENTS MINISTRY OUTREACH 60 | MEDIA 5 ways to become a media-savvy pastor
How the rise of the Christian left has caused Scripture to be taken out of context and furthered the biblical distortion rampant among today’s believers By Chelsen Vicari
62 | WORSHIP Does your church have an OPH problem? 64 | RELATIONSHIPS How you may hurt your congregation’s singles
36 | QUIET TIME REQUIRED
30 | DISTORTING THE WORD
More than anyone else, pastors need to make room in their days for time spent in God’s presence By Rick Warren
42 | USING THE WRONG SWORD FOR THE WRONG BATTLE Ministerial leaders can’t fight right unless they’re in the light— and the light is the Word of God By Perry Stone
48 | REASSESSING GOD’S EXPECTATIONS OF OUR WORSHIP Pastor Jack Hayford explores what is it that makes our praise worshipful to God By Jack Hayford 4
MinistryToday September // October 2014
66 | CHILDREN A tweak that can bring guest families back
MINISTRY LEADERSHIP 68 | PASTORING 5 vacation goals of a
church leader 70 | ADMINISTRATION 7 charismatic characters you should avoid 72 | PERSONAL CHARACTER How to avoid being a wimpy leader
8 | MINISTRY OUTSIDE THE BOX Obtaining an Internet TV channel | Does church marketing still suck? | Mobile: The future of church giving
14 | KINGDOM CULTURE Are social issues taboo for pastors? By Bishop Joseph Mattera 74 | PASTOR’S HEART 3 kinds of critics leaders can ignore By Ed Stetzer
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. © 2014 by Charisma Media. For advertising information call (407) 333-0600. Nothing that appears in Ministry Today be reprinted without permission. PRINTED IN THE USA Cover & TOC: Sean Roberts
We Are Called to
LOVE These resources equip women's groups to live a life of love and community
also available as an eBook and in spanish
W W W. I N F L U E N C E R E S O U R C E S . C O M
available at myhealthychurch.com and WHEREVER CHRISTIAN BOOKS ARE SOLD
E T H I O P I A F A M I N E , 19 8 4
J E S U S H A S A LWAY S sent His followers to help the suffering. For over 60 years, World Vision has served the church—those with the faith and compassion to carry the burdens of others—as it serves the world’s most vulnerable.
IN THE MARGINS
W E B E L I E V E Jesus still calls His people to bring hope and transformation to the worldâ€™s hardest places. Together, we serve Him, leading the way to fullness of life for children and families living in pover ty. Join us 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 pover ty and injustice.
Ministry Outside the Box
IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
How Your Church Can Get an Internet TV Channel By Jason Gaston
The TV industry is ripe for disruption, and it’s holding on for dear life. The traditional content producers (studios) and the cable companies are holding on to that old business model till the last dollar is squeezed out of it. Unfortunately for them, the market is starting to dictate how things will play out. Just as the music industry was made to adapt, the television industry will have the same fate. Whether it’s Twitter lighting up when Scandal is on or a beloved TV series getting a new life on Net flix, we will become more immersed in social media-connected viewing, and we’ll watch what we want to watch, when we want to watch and from any device we want to watch—no more cable bundles and set show times. All this disruption in the T V industry is an incredible opportunity for your church. We have an opportunity like no other to reach people who watch television. An Internet TV channel is within reach of anyone, including your church. But there are a few things you need to consider before launching an Internet TV channel: Content First. Before anything else, the church needs to provide content for the channel. Every week the church generates quite a bit of content ranging from the pastor’s sermon, praise and worship, the church experience and a variety of behind-the-scenes videos that could populate an Internet TV channel. Now don’t limit yourself to just churchy content. While sermons are great and very inspirational, for an opportunity like this the church has to think bigger and create all kinds of content for viewing on this channel. The opportunities for Internet TV are endless, but the successful churches will likely go beyond merely televising their church service. One of the great options we utilize at The Potter’s House in Dallas is to take every video we already supply to our YouTube channel and put it on our Internet TV channel. Count the Cost. The second thing your church needs to consider is price. Previously, it could cost upwards of $50,000 per week to run on a traditional television station like TBN or Church Network. That much cash and you
MinistryToday September // October 2014
didn’t have the tools to fully analyze your viewing audience. But with the Internet TV platforms we have today, a church can get started for as little as $500 upfront and $150 per month. Additionally, the reporting features are so good that any church can see what shows were watched, how often, how long and other key analytics that can help determine future programming and content decisions. Pick a Platform. Finally, the last decision to consider is which plat form to use for your Internet TV channel. Currently, there are two main platforms that churches can utilize: Roku: The first plat form (and best one in my opinion) is Roku with an audience of 10 million viewers and a price range of $49 to $99. This platform is based on the Roku box or the Roku HD streaming stick that you can connect to your HDTV and choose a channel from the numerous ones available in the Roku app store. A quick search for “church” shows how many churches have already rolled out their own channel. Amazon Fire T V: Another plat form is the recently released Amazon Fire TV. This platform is based on the Amazon Fire TV box and has an audience of around 2 million viewers and growing due to the backing of Amazon.com and a price of $99. Like the Roku device, the Amazon Fire TV has an app store, and numerous channels can be downloaded. And that’s just the beginning. More platforms are rolling out in the future, including Apple TV and Microsoft Xbox.
Real World Example: The Potter’s House Now let me get more specific on how we implemented our Internet TV channel. Instead of building the channel ourselves, we chose a cloud-based software to streamline the process. The provider we choose was Streamotor, and I have created multiple channels with this organization. Their setup, delivery and service are very good. Now your church can go into all the world with an Internet TV channel, reaching a new generation without the stigma of a televangelist. © Istockphoto/mstay
Let us rise up and build . . . [Nehemiah 2:18]
Need a builder? Now, there’s an app for that!
Search “church builder” in the app store, or go to churchesbydaniels.com to download. Available in iTunes and Google Play stores.
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Ministry Outside the Box
IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM
Does Church Marketing Still Suck? By Tony Morgan
Does church marketing still suck? That’s an interesting question. I think it has improved over the last 10 years, but there are still opportunities for growth. Churches can take the following three action steps to improve their marketing: 1) Produce Engaging Content Marketing. So much effort is wrapped up in the Sunday services that little, if any, intentionality is given to dripping content out on social media for people to engage and share with their friends. The priority of church marketing shouldn’t be to distribute information; it should be to engage a response. Churches should strategically 10 MinistryToday September // October 2014
think about how their marketing can offer content that fuels discipleship and mentoring relationships. 2) Understand and Focus on the Target Market. Many times marketing strategies are implemented with no knowledge and understanding of the target market. Churches still want to reach “all” people. The problem is that when you try to be all things to all people, you become very ineffective at doing anything. Every church, whether they want to believe it or not, has a target market. Everything a church does or communicates should point to this target audience.
3) Create Outwardly Focused Marketing Strategies. Any organization that doesn’t focus on reaching new people has already started to decline. Marketing should be intentional about reaching people outside the church and outside the faith. When it comes to church marketing and communication, many churches are stuck. That’s why The Unstuck Group recently paused to ask 186 churches about their marketing and communication. We have analyzed the data and produced a free report that will enhance the way you communicate in the five key areas below.
Key areas: Style Guide and Strategy Communications Staffing and Volunteers Weekend Promotions Websites Social Media
Ministry Outside the Box V o l . 3 2 // N o . 5 Publisher/Executive Editor STEVE STRANG firstname.lastname@example.org
Future of Church Giving
Chief Operating Officer JOY F. STRANG
Managing Editor SHAWN A. AKERS email@example.com
By Frasier Clark
Editorial Assistant SEAN ROBERTS
Sitting in a modern, charismatic church the other day, I could feel people around me being inspired to help a youth initiative. People were ready to respond, but then they missed their moment. The call to action urged people to visit a giving station in the foyer or fill
experience took (on average) over three minutes to complete. CONVENIENT. We are seeing a generation of givers who have never written a check before. They’re less likely to carry cash but they always have a mobile phone on them. They expect online and mobile engage-
Advertising Manager ANN MARIE KELLY firstname.lastname@example.org Ad Traffic Coordinator SHEILA PEREZ email@example.com
Art Director RALPH RAMIREZ JR. Director of Production CARA S. SHOWERS Production Coordinator CANDY FISHER
ir. of Audience Development DAVID MANNING D firstname.lastname@example.org
pick up staff box from Customer Service NETTIE PARKS email@example.com last issue and paste in place EDITORIAL AND ADVERTISING OFFICES: 600 Rinehart Road,HERE Lake Mary, FL 32746 Phone (407) 333-0600 • Fax (407) 333-7100
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Website: ministrytodaymag.com ADVISORY BOARD MEMBERS: Brandon Cox, Jimmy Evans, Rob Hoskins, David Ireland, Karen Jensen, Daniel Kolenda, Ron Luce, Robert Morris, Ron Phillips, Jim Raley, Kyle Searcy, Greg Surratt, Barbara J. Yoder POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 51593-1602.
out a paper form or stuff an envelope. In that moment I knew circumstances, distractions and other barriers would stop people from giving who would have gladly made a donation. Giving in the church needs to catch up with the times. We risk losing the next generation of donors if we don’t provide methods and tools that work for them. If someone starts a giving commitment in their 20s, they’re twice as likely to continue that behavior for the rest of their lives than if they start in any subsequent decade. To engage a new generation of givers, it needs to be: FAST. A recent poll of 100 churches (including the 50 fastestgrowing churches in America) showed that the online giving 12 MinistryToday September // October 2014
ment. And they’re a generation that’s quick to pass judgment if something is not as it should be. CONSISTENT. Rolling out a fancy new mobile giving system is great, but if it’s completely different from the online experience and that’s completely different from the on-campus experience, you’re only going to confuse people. The best way to ensure engagement is to create a simple and uniform experience across all giving touch points of your church. THE PUSHPAY SOLUTION Pushpay offers a solution that’s fast, convenient and consistent. It allows your church to accept donations via kiosk, smartphone, text and online, all with the same look and feel and all in blazing fast speed. Lightstock
SUBSCRIPTION INFORMATION: Six issues $24.97; twelve issues $39.97. Canadian subscribers add $5 per year, including GST. Other countries add $10 per year, payable in advance in U.S. currency only. If you have moved, received damaged or duplicate copies/missed issues, experienced billing problems, want to renew or need additional subscription information, call (800) 829-2547, go online to ministrytodaymag.com (to subscribe), e-mail email@example.com, or write Ministry Today, P.O. Box 6102, Harlan, IA 515931602. Foreign subscribers call (515) 237-3640. ADVERTISING POLICY: We make every effort to be sure advertisers operate with the highest principles and credibility. But advertising in Ministry Today does not imply editorial endorsement. MAILING LIST: We make a portion of our mailing list available to reputable firms. If you would prefer that we not include your name, call (800) 829-2547, write to us at 600 Rinehart Rd., Lake Mary, FL 32746 or e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
WHY AVERAGE IS DANGEROUS AND HOW TO MOVE FROM MEDIOCRITY TO MEANING IN YOUR LIFE AND MINISTRY Average. Mediocre. Run-of-the-mill.
Those aren’t terms you would want applied to your life or your work, are they? In fact, I bet they diametrically oppose the fire you had in your heart when you were called into ministry.
BY NELSON SEARCY
Even though you wouldn’t want to admit any association with average thinking or mediocrity, you may have felt their subtle pull. They tiptoe in and whisper to you through your frustration, your uncertainty, and your lack of time.
Before you know it, they have you shifting away from your pursuit of excellence for God’s glory, focusing you instead on doing what it takes to get by from day to day. When you understand the state of the average church and the personal wellbeing of the average pastor, it’s not hard to see why the devil wants you to be average. Attendance at the average church is declining by 9% every year. That’s a dangerous number, just small enough that you don’t notice it at first. By the time you do, you’re already in trouble. That 9% drop in attendance generally equates to a 15% to 20% dip in the budget, which the average church is constantly behind on anyway. Because it’s always under financial strain, the average church isn’t free to say yes to the ministry opportunities God brings its way. There’s a culture of constant need and begging, for both money and volunteers. The average church begins a search for a new pastor every 18 months. Sometimes this is easier than dealing with the underlying problems that keep the church caught in the cycle of mediocrity, but it never solves the problem for long.
THE AVERAGE PASTOR: VS. THE RENEGADE PASTOR: • Leads a church with a 9% yearly decline in attendance • Is always behind on budget • Lacks suﬃcient volunteers • Is unable to say yes to God’s purposes • Is personally frustrated • Is short on time • Lives a reactive life • Has strained relationships with family and friends • Isn’t experiencing fulﬁllment
• Pastors a healthy, growing church • Abandons average • Challenges status-quo thinking • Is obedient to God • Is contrarian for Kingdom purposes • Dedicates time to personal and professional growth • Enjoys authentic relationships with family and friends • Experiences fulﬁllment in life and ministry
Given these realities, do you think God has any desire for you to be average? You carry the awesome responsibility of introducing people to the Savior and discipling them to be more like Him. When it comes to that task, average doesn’t cut it. Average doesn’t lead to life change. Average is where the enemy wants you to live, because it’s the
precursor of ineffectiveness. Average is exactly what God is calling you to abandon. I want to help you have greater effectiveness in your life and ministry. My new book, The Renegade Pastor: Abandoning Average in Your Life and Ministry is a relevant, step-by-step resource that offers profound yet practical insights to help you get back to the business of reflecting God’s glory in every aspect of your life! You’ll have the opportunity to explore issues of personal and professional growth, such as:
See de $1.00! tails b elow
• Planning with purpose • Setting Godly boundaries • Developing strong church systems • Managing your stress level • Dealing with criticism • Being proactive with your time • Becoming a better spouse and parent • Establishing healthy friendships • Personally honoring the Sabbath • And more!
Regal Books, 2013 $19.95 retail This hardcover book is a relevant, step-by-step resource that offers profound yet practical insights to help you manage your stress level, deal with criticism, set Godly goals, plan with purpose and more! www.RenegadePastors.com/Ministry
Join me on a mission to abandon average and reclaim a life of impact and excellence! Are you ready to go Renegade? Nelson Searcy wants to help you take this next step now. To grab his new book for JUST $1.00, with FREE shipping, visit www.RenegadePastors.com/Ministry Nelson is an experienced church planter, coach and church growth strategist, consulting with many of the largest and fastest-growing churches around the world. He’s also the founding pastor of The Journey Church, with locations in New York City, San Francisco and Boca Raton, Florida. He has personally trained more than 50,000 church leaders as founder of Church Leader Insights and the Renegade Pastors Network, which is designed to help pastors abandon average and strive for God’s best in their personal lives and ministry. For more accelerated growth, pastors also participate in Nelson’s Senior Pastor and Advanced Coaching Networks. His continued mission is to help church leaders around the world cooperate with God in creating healthy, thriving churches.
GO FULL RENEGADE!
Limited quantities available – next 199 Senior Pastors! To pick up Nelson Searcy’s new book for just $1.00, visit:
K I N G D O M
C U L T U R E
BY JOSEPH MAT TER A
Are Social Issues Taboo For Pastors? Would Jesus not preach against the sex-slave trade or child abuse today?
p a s to r of a Ne w Yo r k C it y megachurch has, on more than one occasion, publically related his stance on several issues including samesex marriage: This pastor essentially said that Jesus only dealt with the root issues of the heart and not merely the symptoms of sin—thus, Jesus never took a stand on the moral issues of His day; hence we should not ma ke genera l statements rega rding important moral issues of society but rather deal with these controversial issues in personal dialogue. I want to ma ke a few obser vations regarding his statements: From a practical perspective—many pastors with large ministries who rent in liberal cities such as NYC are very careful what they say about same-sex marriage and other moral issues because they can easily be thrown out of spaces they are renting—thus, in their mind, they have to be more cautious than ministries who own their own buildings. However, this caution should never become a doctrinal issue for the church, but merely a method and or strategy for one particular church or pastor (whether they are right or wrong to take this posture). Regarding the issue at hand—do you really think Jesus (if He were here physically ministering today instead of 2,000 years ago) would not take a position on social issues such as slavery (like evangelical Christian William Wilberforce did and eradicated the slave trade in the British Empire in the 19th century, or like Charles Finney who was an avowed abolitionist in the 19th century who ardently preached against slavery during the “Second Great Awakening”)? Do you think Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was wrong to use his pulpit to fight racism and launch the Civil Rights Movement in the 1950s? What about today? Would Jesus not preach against the sexslave trade or the abuse of children today? What about the Holocaust of the 1940s? Was Dietrich Bonhoeffer wrong for speaking out politically against Hitler for exterminating the Jews? Would the early church apostles have fought abortion if they were in ministry today? It is easy to know the answer to this, since the oldest extrabiblical document we have on record is the “Didache,” which is a short treatise giving the early church guidelines for faith and practice. In this document that many scholars date as 14 MinistryToday September // October 2014
early as before 70 A.D. (or as late as the middle of the first century), the church took a stand against abortion and infanticide (yes, the church has historically been publically vocal against abortion for over 2,000 years since the Roman Empire practiced abortion and infanticide). Furthermore, the early church preached against slavery and even released slaves in the presence of the Bishops during worship services during the second and third centuries. Even John the Baptist was put in jail because he preached against all the evil things King Herod was doing (Luke 3:18,19). Hence, John was beheaded for politically incorrect preaching and prophetically calling out his earthly ruler. In the Greco-Roman culture of Jesus’ time, all forms of sexual expression outside the norms of scripture were rampant. However, Jesus’ primary purpose was to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Mt 10:5-6). His main concern was not with the majority culture of Rome but to reveal Himself as Messiah to the Jews, which is why He did not have to deal directly with all issues related to human sexuality (since it was not a big issue for the Jews of His day). However, Paul the apostle did numerous times, since he was called to minister to the Gentiles. In my opinion, if you are silent as a pastor and never take a position, your silence on such a major issue as same-sex marriage could be interpreted by many that you are condoning it. Some may even accuse the (silent) pastor of deceiving same-sex partners who, after climbing the ladder of church affiliation are then told (in a private conversation) that they do not qualify because of their sexuality and or same-sex marriage. (One prominent pastor I know almost had a major lawsuit on his hands a few years ago because he was silent regarding same-sex marriage and two of his (same-sex) leaders announced they were getting married to each other. Because most pastors are silent and erroneously separate the gospel from the kingdom and culture, we have left society to be framed without a biblical template. Whatever area the church does not influence will come back to try and destroy us; there is no neutrality in this world. J o s e p h M a t t e r a is overseeing bishop of Resurrection Church, Christ Covenant Coalition, in Brooklyn, N.Y.
Dr. Stanley Horton served as the senior editorial advisor for the Modern English Version of the Bible.
DR. STANLEY HORTON (1916-2014)
The Modern English Version of the Bible served as the distinguished educator and theologian’s final big project
t Charisma Media, we had intended to g ive senior editorial adviser Stanley Horton one of the first numbered copies of the Modern English Version when the first edition comes off the press in less than two weeks. Unfortunately, that exchange will never take place. A great man and a great educator with roots going back to Azusa Street, Horton passed away at 98 in mid-July. He is gone from our midst, and he will not see the completed Bible. However, he leaves a lasting legacy as his final big—and perhaps biggest—project of a long, productive and respected life comes to fruition for God’s Kingdom. I have known about Horton all my life. Before I was born, he served as a professor at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri, when my parents attended the school. But I met him only
16 MinistryToday September // October 2014
BY STEVE STRANG once when I interviewed him two years ago about his work on the MEV. As we began talking to leaders about this new translation, I heard firsthand how men from Jack Hayford to George Wood conveyed that Horton’s involvement gave the translation credibility because of his reputation as a scholar and a translator. Chaplain Jim Linzey, who worked with Dr. Horton on the MEV, said that Horton helped to define the MEV as a “very modern rendition of the King James Version of the Bible,” and that Horton told him he was extremely pleased with how the MEV turned out. “His guidance helped shape the MEV New Testament as a very accurate translation of the Textus Receptus based on a very modern English vernacular,” Linzey said. The MEV is the first update of the original Bible texts in the King James
tradition in more than 32 years. Horton had no doubt that the MEV will be popular among believers. “The MEV is a clear and concise translation that will appeal to modern Bible readers,” he said in our interview. “It is the most scholarly and modern update of the King James Version. The Modern English Version is second to none. I highly recommend the Modern English Version for the entire English-speaking world and as a translator’s Bible.” With the high demand for an update of the King James Version, the MEV promises not only to serve as a tribute to Horton and the many other scholars who worked on it but also will impact generations to come. S t e v e S t r a n g is the CEO of Charisma Media and publisher of Ministry Today magazine. Jason McMullen
A Fresh Perspective on Church for the Weary and Discouraged
In this book, with great humor, wit, and wisdom, Jim shares his many unique experiences as a pastor. Above all else, it is his passionate love for Jesus that shines through these pages. This book will energize you to recall the power of your first encounter with Jesus and to fall in love with Him all over again. Heidi Baker, Ph.D., Iris Global Ministries ......... This is the most helpful book for pastors that I have read in a long time. I can hardly recommend it enough! It is so well written, so fun, so practical, and so full of sensitivity, love, and joy in the Holy Spirit, that I believe it will help transform churches wherever it is read. Dr. Rolland Baker, Iris Global Ministries ......... I have had the honor of ministering at Pastor Minor’s church and have witnessed for myself his contagious love for the broken. It is so refreshing to partner with a church that is so real and honest and that has such a heart to see the captive set free. I’m so excited for Church Shouldn’t Suck…the Life Out of You—it won’t disappoint! This book will refresh you, encourage you, make you laugh, and turn your heart more toward loving God’s people. Kim Walker-Smith, Jesus Culture Music
Pastor Jim Minor describes how his own street outreach organization disintegrated from a vibrant, God-infused ministry into a conventional, “safe” church that almost sucked all the passion for ministry right out of him… and how he got it back again. Let Jim cast a vision for what ministry can be. Get your copy today!
The Urgent Need for Scriptural Engagement and Biblical Literacy
The Modern English Version of the Bible is the newest weapon in the war on culture BY MICHAEL BRIGGS
18 MinistryToday September // October 2014
emand for an update to the K ing James Version of the Bible has been g row ing for years and is being welcomed by those working to engage society in reading the Bible. Enter the new Modern English Version Bible (MEV), scheduled for release in September from Passio, an imprint of Charisma House. The MEV is the first update of the original Bible texts in the King James tradition in over 32 years. Its amazing to realize it’s been so long, yet in the decades since the last update the English language has changed continuously, evidenced each year with the addition of numerous new words added to the various dictionaries. So why does t he ma rket need another translation? Don’t we have enough to service the needs of every Christian alive today? With the abundance of riches for Bible availability in A merica, we have experienced firsthand the Word of God becoming somewhat of a commodity, if not also a fashion statement. Truth be told, that’s not a healthy perspective to have—considering our call to serve the church is founded on passion for and dedication to the Bible. The Bible is important to us because it is more than just a book. The Living Word of God in all forms represents the one item we are most honored and humbled to offer to those who come looking for one. No other book is more important or life changing. Yet active attempts to marginalize Christianity in our country, and by default the Bible itself, are reaching fever pitch. Cultural battles rage in many arenas and attacks against God and His Word seem to be permeating several areas of society, our schools, courtrooms and even our laws. We seem to be fading into the woodwork of our local communities. Indeed today Americans and especially the millennials (born 1980-2000) are looking for God’s Word to be more than just a bunch of words compiled in a book. They want to actually experience Scripture. We tell them the Bible has the answer to all of life’s problems
and directions to follow God’s perfect plan for their lives. They long to find personal application, understanding and seek to hear the small still voice of God through the pages of their Bible. The desire for a translation that carries the reverence and beauty of the original, yet is easy to read and apply is ever apparent.
The State of the Bible
As a basis for understanding the state of this foundational product for the ministry, illuminating information was shared from an annual study commissioned by the American Bible Society, designed by The Barna Group; The State of the Bible 2014. This study clearly signals cause for pausing to consider how societal and generational changes in trends are impacting the Bible’s place in culture. From the onset the study provides distinct insight into the challenges in America. Amid spiritual decline in a nation that is abandoning biblical absolutes, ambivalence toward Bible reading is alarmingly clear and the need to re- engage Christia ns is imperative. “The typical American actually has 4.7 Bibles yet only 37 percent of Americans use the Bible in a typical month. So we have a huge gap between awareness, penetration, and usage of Scripture,” says David Kinnaman, President of the Barna Group. What is disturbing is that many Americans don’t read their Bible more than a couple times a year. Barna reports while 80 percent of those interviewed will say they believe the Bible to be holy or sacred literature, less than half actually admit to reading it more than a couple times a year. “Can you imagine a Bible-less Christianity?” asks Roy Peterson, president of American Bible Society. When you come to grips with the reality that more and more Christians are spending less and less time actually engaging Scripture with consistency, these observations from ABS and Barna become far more disquieting. The State of the Bible 2014 study reveals that three out of five adults wish they read the Bible more. September // October 2014 MinistryToday 19
“In a society where relationships exist primarily on Facebook and advice is dispensed by those whose own lives seldom reflect anything approximating joy or purpose, the Word of God is all too often viewed as irrelevant and its wisdom outmoded.”— Joel Ceballo, research and Bible engagement consultant Worse, only one in five (19 percent) admit to being regular readers (four or more times per week). While they state their knowledge that doing so will bring them closer to God and allow His Word to influence their worldview, various paradigms and daily life, Bible engagement still suffers. The study also indicates that the majority are not reading their Bible because don’t have the time, don’t comprehend its teachings, fa il to understand biblical history and have difficulty understanding the language as well as locating specific passages or stories. Many have become skeptical 20 MinistryToday September // October 2014
regarding whether the Bible’s teachings really can bring direction and peace into their lives. Clearly people need resources to help them overcome such uncertainty coupled with translations they can read and understand by themselves. There is a chasm between knowing what tools exist and how to use them.
Re-Engaging Bible Reading
America was founded upon God’s Word, yet today many of our church leaders w ill tell us we’re chasing Europe and quickly becoming “post Christian.” Across the nation many see
the Bible as simply historical with spiritual teachings far removed from daily life. In light of that, what difference can yet another Bible translation make? W hy invest in developing another translation of the Bible and more product extension in an already saturated market if studies show fewer people are engaging with God’s Word? When you consider that the State of the Bible 2014 study revealed that the majority of households have a Bible, it’s easy to conclude that regardless of apartment, home, mansion or dorm room there is a Bible likely sitting somewhere on a shelf. The challenge is that Lightstock
the Bible is actually sitting there and not actively read because the consumer isn’t compelled to take the initiative to engage themselves in God’s Word. When the MEV publishing team sought answers to this and other trends in Bible engagement, they turned to Joel Ceballo, a research and Bible engagement consultant who has experience with Bible publishers and agencies, as well as research design with Barna. They asked Joel to further substantiate the need to update the KJV. “In a society where relationships exist primarily on Facebook and advice is dispensed by those whose own lives seldom reflect anything approximating
joy or purpose, the Bible is all too often viewed as irrelevant and its wisdom outmoded. For too many, the riches of a life reflecting the Bible’s wisdom is locked in a book to which they do not have a key.” Ceba l lo went on to cite t hese sobering statistics: Over a quarter of Americans (26 percent) never read the Bible. A lthoug h the Ba rna 2014 study revea ls that a lmost 80 percent of Americans cite the Bible as a holy book or sacred literature, only 46 percent report they read it more than a couple times a year. Comparatively speaking, 12 percent of Americans cite the
PERCENTAGE OF ENGAGED IN BIBLE AND THOSE SKEPTICAL:
PERCENTAGE OF MOST USED BIBLE TRANSLATIONS: King James Version: 34 New International Version:
New King James Version:
English Standard Version:
New Living Translation:
New Revised Standard Version:
All others: 2
Koran and 7 percent cite the Torah as sacred literature. In a four-year period between 2011 and 2014, those engaged in Bible reading have remained stagnant, ranging from a high of 21 percent to a current 19 percent. In a world that is rife with conflict with the very fabric of our society stretched until it’s tenuous to the point of tearing, the fact that over a quarter of adults state they never read the Bible ought to be upsetting to the church and to those of us who supply the church with resources to grow in their faith. Ceballo crystalizes this point by saying, “When we take a moment to consider the majority of Americans are just within a few steps of the words written by their Creator for the express purpose of inspiration, comfort and instruction, proximity is obviously not the issue. There are other reasons why people are not engaging in daily Bible reading.” Ceballo further cites the key frustrations as to why the Bible is not part of their daily life:
Obstacles to Engagement
COMPREHENSION: Difficulty in understanding the Bible’s language and context C O N T E X T: Fa i lu re to k now o r u n d e r s t a n d b i b l i c a l h i s to r y or background EASE: Incapable of locating specific passages or stories RELEVANCE: Inability to connect content to everyday life or challenges Additionally, the State of the Bible 2014 study revealed the weight of skepticism has nearly doubled in only a few years. Imagine that. With the increased exposure to the gospel message via television, cable, satellite broadcasts and the success of recent Biblically based movies impacting everyday culture—incredulity is still growing. The study indicated in 2011 that 10 percent said they were skeptical of the Bible. Yet today, in 2014, that number has almost doubled with 19 percent reporting they were skeptical. The current crisis is clearly spelled out in the pages of the State of the Bible September // October 2014 MinistryToday 21
2014 report. The challenge for ministerial leaders is to increase awareness not only to Bibles themselves, but the relevance of Bible reading for the Christian looking for finding God’s plan for their lives. To do this effectively, ministerial leaders need to understand the critical questions emerging over the Bible’s relevancy in our nation’s fabric. This is especially true among two of the largest demographics, millennials and Hispanics, who are rapidly changing the face of Christianity in America with indelible marks. Amidst the changes in society the challenges, churches have to work diligently to leverage both technology and inquisitiveness to enhance the Bible’s relevancy in this century. “One of the generations that we study
a lot are millennials,” Kinnaman said. “These are individuals who are in their teenage years or young adult years. Millennials are actually more likely than older generations to tell us they’re interested in what the Bible has to say on things like parenting, finances, sex and romance, all sorts of like, cultural issues; how to live well in today’s society. So while millennials are actually more skeptical of scripture, they’re actually more hungry for scriptural insights and ways to live well in today’s sort of complex culture.” American attitudes are being shaped by these future leaders. Today, the Bible is available in nearly 2,300 different languages. Hundreds of millions of downloads on mobile devices provide interactive ways to discover, study
and share God’s Word across the social media spectrum. In light of this, surprisingly many Christians struggle with engaging the Bible and applying its relevancy to their lives. Millennials make up the largest generation with nearly 95 million strong in America, 22 percent greater than the Baby Boomers. Much like their Me-Generation parents, Generation-Y goes through its own journey spiritually and is less likely to say that the Bible is inspired by God. They don’t read the Bible like their parents and grandparents and subsequently are more doubtful as a result. They need a translation that is rooted in the church, but easier for them to read and comprehend clearly so they can apply it to their own lives and situations.
What’s So Unique About the MEV? A side-by-side comparison with today’s most popular translations reveals why the MEV truly is a unique blend of classic beauty and modern language Verse Gen. 4:1
Adam had relations with his wife Eve, and she conceived, gave birth to Cain and said, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived, and bare Cain, and said, I have gotten a man from the Lord.
Adam made love to his wife Eve, and she became pregnant and gave birth to Cain. She said, “With the help of the Lord, I have brought forth a man.”
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, “I have acquired a man from the Lord.”
Now Adam knew Eve his wife, and she conceived and bore Cain, saying, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord.”
That if you confess with your mouth Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
[T]hat if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus and believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead, you will be saved.
[B]ecause, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.
For the word of God is alive, and active, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intents of the heart.
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
For the word of God is living and active, sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart.
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Awareness, interest and confidence in God’s word appear to be rapidly dropping among those who are future shapers of our country. Our society is becoming increasingly defined by an absence of biblical principles and presence. Whether it’s the growth of progressive agendas, dismissing biblical absolutes from our courts and schools or Bible apathy among Christians themselves, engagement in Bible reading is sorely needed. The need has perhaps never been greater; the time is now.
The Modern English Version: Clear, Reverent and Accurate
“The MEV Bible is so relevant right now because A merica’s Christia n churches are facing a crisis, whether we realize it or not,” said Chelsen Vicari,
Verse Rom. 12:9-13
author of Distortion, How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel & Damaging the Faith. “We’ve so long been focused on what’s going on outside of our walls that we haven’t been paying attention to what’s going on within. And within our own sanctuaries, theirs is a group and movement that is repackaging the gospel, that’s distorting Christian teaching. We’ve got to start addressing this problem by equipping millennials, and to do that we can help them with the MEV version of the Bible. Because the MEV version of the Bible is so easy to read and user-friendly, it can really help millennials understand what their faith is all about. And because of that, it will prepare us and equip us to go out, evangelize, and incite revival in a new generation.”
There are a lot of modern translations, some better than others, but this is the first updated version of the King James in decades, and it is very well done. It fills a void and has a place within the church, especially for those hungering for updated language that still provides the reverence and distinctive of the King James Version. There remains a strong loyalty to the old King James Version. What the MEV now brings to readers is a loyalty to the beauty and poetry of the KJV along with the reverence, yet in a language that modern audiences can readily understand. The King James Version is very much anchored in our culture. A lot of people don’t realize that. There are a number of idioms in our language that originate
Let love be without hypocrisy. Hate what is evil. Cleave to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another with brotherly love; prefer one another in honor, 11 do not be lazy in diligence, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord, 12 rejoice in hope, be patient in suffering, persevere in prayer, 13 contribute to the needs of the saints, practice hospitality.
Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. 10 Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; 11 Not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; 12 Rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; 13 Distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality.
Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. 10 Be devoted to one another in love. Honor one another above yourselves. 11 Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. 12 Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. 13 Share with the Lord’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.
Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good. 10 Be kindly affectionate to one another with brotherly love, in honor giving preference to one another; 11 not lagging in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; 12 rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation, continuing steadfastly in prayer; 13 distributing to the needs of the saints, given to hospitality.
Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.
I know both how to face humble circumstances and how to have abundance. Everywhere and in all things I have learned the secret, both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things because of Christ who strengthens me.
I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me.
12 I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. 13 I can do all this through him who gives me strength.
12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound. Everywhere and in all things I have learned both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. 13 I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.
September // October 2014 MinistryToday 23
PRAISE FOR THE MEV
Ministerial leaders and scholars give MEV a thumbs up “The MEV is a clear and concise translation that will appeal to modern Bible readers. It is the most scholarly and modern update of the King James Version. The Committee on Bible Translation of the Modern English Version is comprised of wellqualified scholars representing only the finest seminaries and universities.” The late Stanley M. Horton, Th.D. Senior Editorial Advisor, Modern English Version Distinguished Professor Emeritus, Assemblies of God Theological Seminary “The Modern English version has captured the contemporary language while accurately preserving the rich heritage of the scriptures. It is a valuable resource for all modern ministry leaders. It maintains the beauty and eloquence of the King James Version and precisely communicates the meaning of scripture to the present-day generation.” Kent Ingle, D.Min President, Southeastern University “The Modern English Version is a valuable addition to the tools available to the modern reader that desires a better understanding of God’s Word. While updating the text with more contemporary vocabulary and
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terminology, it retains the beauty and tradition of the King James Version. The translators and editors are to be commended for the balance they have struck between heritage and clarity. I commend its use to all readers.” Robert A. Berg, Ph.D. Professor of New Testament Evangel University Assemblies of God “The Modern English Version is well done and is easy to read and understand. Being faithful to the original message of the Bible, it is accurate and a modern up date in English. I am confident that this translation will become an effective instrument of evangelism and source of study of God’s inspired Word.” French L. Arrington, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of New Testament Greek and Exegesis Pentecostal Theological Seminary
“The MEV fits within the tradition of the original KJV. It will be an encouragement to all but especially to the modern military men and women for whom the translation was initiated.” Eric Mitchell, Ph.D, Assoc. Professor of Old Testament & Archaeology Southwest Baptist Theological Seminary
with the King James translation (e,g. “apple of my eye”). As those things are lost, people aren’t familiar with their origin from the Bible. So the King James Version needed to be updated to keep it accessible to today’s culture. In 1604 in response to the need for an accessible version of the Bible, King James 1 commissioned 47 clergy and scholars to publish what became known as the King James Version. While last updated in 1982, the English language has gone through so many changes the necessity to update the KJV was overwhelmingly apparent resulting in a multi-year process of doing so. In 2014, once again, 47 of the world’s most qualified Bible linguists have responded to the call for a clear, reverent, and accurate translation for their time. The result is the Modern English Version. In recognition of both the breadth and depth of the global English-speaking population, these translators were selected to represent a cross-section of the English-speaking church. As graduates and professors of some of the world’s most prestigious colleges, seminaries and universities, the translation committee is uniquely qualified to produce a translation able to not only satisfy those who have long treasured the King James Version, but to engage the next generation. From inception, this translation was to be applicable and transformational for the entire English-speaking world. Like those who have gone before them, the linguists devoted themselves to ensuring the Modern English Version is an accurate and responsible update of the King James Version. Bound by great Christian unit y and cooperation, this inter-denominational committee adopted the philosophy of formal correspondence. This more literal approach employs a word-for-word translation rather than a thought-for-thought. Also at times, the MEV updates some of the archaic idioms that are found in the King James Version for modern readers so that they’ll have an easier time understanding what these idioms mean. For example: in Mark 2:18-19, the people ask Jesus why His disciples do not
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fast like the Pharisees do. The original Greek used in Jesus’ response was literally, “Can the sons of the wedding hall fast when the bridegroom is with them?” The King James translates this idiom in the English as, “the children of the bride chamber.” Now, the idiom “children of the bride chamber” makes little sense to us today in our modern English speaking. But the MEV translates this: “wedding guests”, which is much more easy to understand for the modern audience N. Blake Hearson, M.A. M.Div. M.PHIL. PH.D, an Ordained Minister, Associate Professor of Old Testament and Hebrew at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminar y, and Editorin-Chief, Old Testament, explains it this way: “This is an update of the King James Version, the basis of our text were the Textus Receptus as well as the BenHaim version of the Hebrew text. We brought all these things together in a way that was very true to the beauty of the King James Version, and yet
brings that forward with clarity and accuracy that will enable a whole new generation to appreciate the beauty of the King James in a language that they can understand. And that’s what makes the MEV such a great translation for today.”
A New Opportunity?
Just as the King James Version has been the standard since the 17th century, the Modern English Version meets the needs for today’s generation and for those to come. But whom will the MEV appeal to? It is a translation that is preeminently practical and useful not just for the theologian, but also for the pastor, lay leader and Christians seeking to draw closer to God so they can know Him better and love Him more. The MEV is user-friendly from the pulpit, the classroom, the kitchen table or anywhere one enjoys personal devotion time. The scholarship is first-rate, and it is rendered in a language that makes it easily applied in the hearts of
anyone seeking to hear God’s voice. The differences between the MEV and the KJV are distinctive. As with many modern English translations those differences have a tendency to appear less so when one skips across a handful of favorite verses in a cursory comparison. It is important to recognize that the changes to the English language over the years are more significant than can be found by skimming highlights. “When I first saw it, (the MEV) and it was being compared to the King James, I said, “This is really similar. What’s the point?” said Dr. Michael Brown, president and professor of practical theology at Fellowship for International Revival and Evangelism School of Ministry. “Then, when I understood the point was to have something with the feel of the King James in modern language, I thought, this is really well done! So then I spot-checked, because Biblical scholarship, that’s my field. “My degrees are in Semitic languages and things, and I’ve worked on a few
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translations over the years as a reader or giving input or things like that. So as I went through it, I said okay, let’s see how they render this. Let’s see how they treat it. They were not just taking the King James and trying to put it in modern language, they were going directly from the Hebrew, the Aramaic, the Greek, in light of the best manuscript evidence that we have in harmony with the King James translation’s philosophy. I thought, they’ve really done a good job on this.” Consistent reading of the Bible leads to the ultimate goal of engagement. Engagement takes readership to a not her le vel, people ma k i ng time to allow the Bible to speak to them as it reveals through the Holy Spirit’s illumination where their lives require alignment with God’s will. As they grow and mature throug h God’s Word, their hunger to learn more brings them back to the local Christia n reta iler to discover the world of what their local store offers.
Consistent reading of the Bible leads to the ultimate goal of engagement. It all begins with the right Bible in their hands. “We are living in arguably the most difficult times spiritually our nation has ever experienced,” said Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference. “Great cultural decadence. Spiritual apathy. Moral relativism. Ecclesiastical lukewarmness. What we need is to re-engage God’s Word. We need the Word of God to once again emerge as the quintessential standard of morality, righteousness and justice. The Modern English Version serves that very purpose.” Enthusiasm for the MEV is contag ious. Major m in istries a nd
denominational heads are already embracing it. Demand for an update to the KJV has been growing for years and is being welcomed by those working to engage society in reading the Bible. Solomon said of ma k ing books, there is no end, and sometimes it feels that way with translations of scripture and various Bible formats. It is important to have a translation that they can not only trust, but also find value in for the direction of their lives and those they love, those they teach, and those they lead. The beauty of the Modern English Version is that it not only preserves the cadence of the King James, it remains true to the message of Holy Scripture, and worthy to pass forward to future generations. M i c h a e l B r i g g s is founder/president of Briggs Creative, a strategy development firm serving Publishers, Ministries and the Christian retail community. Briggs has been actively involved with Christian products for 35 years.
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Clear. Reverent. Accurate. T H E M O S T M O D E R N T R A N S L AT I O N
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CHRISTIAN CULTURE & THE BIBLE
How the rise of the Christian left has caused Scripture to be taken out of context and furthered the biblical distortion rampant among today’s believers
henever somebody mentions Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, what do you imagine? Likely, your thoughts drift to the painting’s infamous stoic expression or its mysterious legacy. What you probably don’t think about is the thick bulletproof glass that sits between the Mona Lisa and art gallery patrons. Vandals have attempted to distort the portrait by throwing acid, rocks and red paint at the portrait for centuries. So the world’s most famous work of art must be protected. Our broken world constantly tries to vandalize famously cherished works, so why would we expect God’s valued work of art to be any different? Like the defensive glass in an art gallery,
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BY CHELSEN VICARI Scripture too must be protected from those who are twisting its contents and damaging its legacy. As you might have heard, there is a “millennial problem” within the church. Religion analysts, pundits and preachers alike are struggling to grasp why young adults raised in Evangelical—Pentecostal, Charismatic, Baptist and Non-Denominational—churches are departing from the Christian faith at rapid rates. Simultaneously, Christians are watching with shock and horror as the state of America’s morality and foundational Judeo-Christian principles follow the trend of descent. As a millennial myself and public policy analyst, I can tell you first-hand that the action needed to fix both problems cannot be found digging
into complex data, hazy statistics or even lobbying our Representatives’ offices in Washington, D.C. For too long, Christian culture warriors have been so focused on vandals’ threats to ou r fa ith from secu la r societ y that we failed to notice the damage being done from w ithin our ow n evangelical community. It is painful to admit, but within many evangelical churches, campus ministries, and even Christian universities, believers let our guard down. And so, the Christian Left crept in quietly championing liberalism and feeding a damaged and distorted version of the gospel to young evangelicals. As I explain in greater detail in my new book Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel
and Damaging the Faith, the Christian Left must dismantle the authority of God’s Word before they can convince young evangelicals that same-sex marriage, abortion, taxpayer-funded abortifacients, feminism, pacifism, Christian discrimination, and the expansion of a federal nanny state are biblically endorsed. To do this, the Christian Left typically starts by excluding mentions of “sin,” “Hell,” and “transformation” from their sermons, lectures or Sunday school lessons. This way, the need to address and turn away from immorality is intentionally avoided. Next, they incite confusion in millennials’ minds regarding the clarity of Scripture. Some among the Christian Left will point to Levitical law outlined Lighstock
in the Old Testament and say that because we do not follow these laws in the Bible, then all Christians may cherry-pick their principles. Therefore, according to the Christian Left, followers of Christ don’t have to adhere to ever ything outlined in the New Testament either. Finally, the Christian Left has dismantled the Word of God so much that they have concocted their own cafeteria-style Christianity; that is, taking parts of the Bible out of context so that it fits their own liberal political activism. Stay with me here. Right about now I know that these deceptive tactics are probably making your head spin. So I’ll give you a clear example. Popular blogger and member of the Christian Left Rachel Held Evans, illustrated
this strategy. While writing her book Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband ‘Master,’ Evans essentially claimed that because it is impossible for women to follow all of the rules pertaining to women recorded in the Bible, then it should follow that Scripture is not an applicable guidebook for Christian women’s daily lives. Thankfully Kathy Keller, the wife of Pastor Tim Keller, pointed out in a book review published by the Gospel Coalition why Evans’ formula was deceptive. “In making the decision to ignore the tectonic shift that occurred when Jesus came,” Keller wrote, “you have led your readers not into a better September // October 2014 MinistryToday 31
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understanding of bib“Our broken world constantly l ic a l i nter pret at ion, tries to vandalize famously but into a worse one. Christians don’t arbicherished works, so why would trarily ignore the Levitiwe expect God’s valued work of cal code—they see it as art to be any different?” wonderfully fulfilled in Jesus.” “Not my chu rch,” you m ig ht be t h in ki ng. “We bel ie ve i n the authority of Scripture.” So says Rachel Held Evans and many other Christia n Left leaders shaping young evangelicals’ faith and worldview. I pray that distorted liberal theology is not permeating within your church. But a warning: Do not look for liberal political slogans or proabortion propaganda pinned to the bulletin board. The equipped with knowledge of traditional Christian Left is much more clever and Christian teaching, history and the deceptive than a simple Republican vs. social science that affirms it, young evanDemocrat debate. gelicals are unable to defend their faith.
“So when popular Christian culture leaders tell young evangelicals that they can appease both the world and Jesus, then, of course this distorted theology captures their attention.” America’s Founding Father James Madison stated, “I believe there are more instances of abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” Likewise, the Christian Left’s abridgement of the authority of Scripture is a gradual and silent destruction of the Word of God. At this point you might be wondering how the Christian Left can successf u lly persuade the millennia l generation to buy into its damaged, distorted version of the gospel. The simple answer is: Young evangelicals simply do not know enough about their faith. Because they are not
Therefore they are likely to fall into one of two camps: either they buy into distorted theology or they remain silent. Early in my college years, I was inclined to buy into this distorted theology. Not because I wanted a more progressive ethos or because I was rebelling against my parents’ “outdated” religion. My reason was that I wanted to “fit in.” Having a big heart for those in need made me and other millennials especially vulnerable. While attending a prominent Christian campus ministry, I was taught that social-justice work within the community should be priority, not traditional Christian teachings. Of course, this was appealing. » Lightstock
I could focus on caring for others, conveniently follow Jesus, and avoid offending anyone because topics like same-sex marriage and abortion were off limits. I’ll admit that as a new, earnest member of this campus ministry, I tried to take countercultural biblical stands. I tried to confront the excessive alcohol abuse among my fellow evangelical peers and against abortion. Rea lizing my Christia n friends, and some among the leadership, were uncomfortable with these conversation topics, I found it easier to stick with social justice as my Christian focal point. Seemingly, it was the compassionate route because at least I kept friends that way. Wrong! Thankfully, my parents and other mentors were committed to speaking all of God’s truths in love to me. I finally recognized how I was snuffing out portions of the gospel in order to maintain popularity among my peers. My experience is not unique. It is the growing trend among millennia ls ra ised w it h i n t he eva ngel ica l community. Beyond being a millennial and analyst at the Institute on Religion and Democracy, one of my most important roles is Sunday school teacher to middle school-aged kids My students are bright, funny and bold. But I often hear them explain how many around them—in and outside of our church—bombard their heads with messages of “don’t judge,” “tolerance,” “coexist,” and “political correctness.” These buzzwords intimidate them. Seasoned conservative Christians have hea rd a ll these empt y words before and remain unfazed. But for young kids who have seeds of confusion planted about Scripture’s clarit y coupled with the fact that they READ THE ENTIRE BOOK
The preceding is an excerpt from Chelsen Vicari’s book, Distortion. Throughout the book, Vicari confronts the move away from authentic Christianity and the principles that have made America great. The book can be purchased at christianbook.com, search Chelsen Vicari.
34 MinistryToday September // October 2014
love t hei r non- Ch r ist ia n f r iends, these words cause fear. So they shy away from mentioning their fa ith in God and His Word that is inherently offensive to a fallen world. So when popular Christian culture leaders tell young evangelicals that they can appease both the world and Jesus, then, of course this distorted theology captures their attention. But the Christian Left’s damage doesn’t end with simply a misguided generation. Their distortions lead back to the “millennial problem” I mentioned earlier. Once young adults buy into the lie that Scripture is not authoritative, then they find themselves drifting towards questioning, doubting and abandoning the faith a ltogether. A fter a l l, why believe in words that hold no ta ng ible or applicable value? There is good news. Like the art galler y’s steps to preser ve and protect the Mona Lisa, Christians too can take precautions to guard God’s Word. Read your Bible and commit it to memory. Next, ask questions about the theological beliefs of your church leadersh ip, sem i na r y i nst r uc tors, and the millennials you know. Their answers may shock you. Then finally pray for wisdom and ask the Holy Spirit to reveal the absolute truths contained in God’s Word. Popular culture, inside and outside of the church, will try to damage and distort Scripture’s value and its authoritative role in Christians’ lives. But as followers of Christ, we can stand up and protect all of its contents with good conscience. Remember that the cou ntercu ltura l messages found in the Bible were not crafted by conservative evangelicals. The Bible is not our words but the div inely inspired work of art produced by the one true living God. Scripture certainly deserves to be protected. C h e l s e n V i c a r i serves as Director of Evangelical Action at the Institute for Religion and Democracy and is the author of Distortion: How the New Christian Left is Twisting the Gospel and Damaging the Faith. Lightstock
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I have seen God in His omnipotence in Africa. Over time my ministry has seen 72 million people respond to the call of salvation. Our God truly is an awesome God. America has thankfully enabled us financially to bring in this harvest of souls in Africa, but now “the bread cast upon the waters shall return to you”. God spoke to me that the time has come for a mighty wave of salvation to sweep the USA – from city to city, from state to state and from coast to coast. And since Jesus Christ is the same in Africa and here, I expect no smaller outcome. AMERICA SHALL BE SAVED. - Reinhard Bonnke -
Quiet Time Required
BY RICK WARREN
More than anyone else, pastors need to make room in their days for time spent in God’s presence
he quiet time has been called many things in the history of the Christian church. It is known as the “morning watch,” “personal devotions,” “appointment with God” or “personal devotional time.” It really doesn’t matter what you call it, as long as you have it regularly. “Have it regularly?” you ask. Yes. “Even if I read the Bible often in preparation for the work of ministry?” Yes. I have assumed that any person who is committed to personal Bible study also has a regular quiet time. Unfortunately, some people do Bible study just for the intellectual stimulation it brings them. That is not enough. A regular quiet time provides a daily time of personal fellowship with God through the Word and prayer. It is a time we deliberately set aside in which to meet with Him. The objective is that we might grow in our personal relationship with God so that we can know Him, love Him and become more like Him. It is about something so much more than mere intellectual stimulation. So, why should quiet time be a priority? Two major reasons given in Scripture are because we need fellowship with God and because it is our privilege. Let’s unpack both:
Reason No. 1: Because We Need Fellowship
The first reason we should have a quiet time is that we need fellowship with God. Because we are Christians, now rightly related to the eternal God of heaven and earth, we must have regular fellowship with Him in which we get to know Him and love Him more intimately. Why is daily fellowship with God so important? Here are five reasons: 1) We were created to have fellowship with God. God created people in His own image for the purpose of fellowship. We are the only creatures in all creation that have the capacity to have fellowship with the Creator. Adam had that fellowship perfectly in the garden of Eden before the Fall (see Gen. 2-3). 2) Jesus Christ died on the cross so that fellowship could be restored. When Adam sinned, his fellowship with Lightstock
God was broken. And all of us sinners who have followed in Adam’s footsteps cannot by nature have fellowship with a pure and holy God. But God considered that relationship important enough to send His Son to this world to die for our sins so that we might again have the privilege of a personal relationship with Him. And God has called us Christians to have fellowship with Him (1 Cor. 1:9; 1 John 1:3-4). 3) The regular quiet time Jesus took during His ministry was a source of His strength. Personal fellowship with
the Father in heaven was the top priority of Jesus’ life (Mark 1:35; Luke 5:16; 22:39-44). He was never too busy for it; in fact, when His ministry was the busiest, that’s when He made certain He kept in daily touch with the Father (John 5:30).
4) Every great man or woman of God throughout history has spent much time alone with God. Anyone who
has ever been used mightily by the Lord was a person of the Word and prayer. Regular quiet time was the one thing they had in common. The common denominator among Moses, David, Daniel, Paul, John Calvin, John Wesley, Charles Finney, Dwight L. Moody, Charles Spurgeon, Billy Graham and all of the other great saints of history is that they all spent much time with God in personal fellowship. Their writings and ministries clearly show this. Martin Luther, the father of the Reformation, once said, “I have so much to do today that I must spend at least three hours in prayer.” The busier he was, the more time he needed with God. If you are too busy to have a quiet time, then you’re too busy!
5) We cannot be healthy, growing Christians without daily fellowship with the Lord. Having a quiet time is not
just a nice suggestion; it is a vital necessity for the child of God. It is absolutely essential for Christian growth and maturity. Have you ever gone without food for a day? If you kept it up, you would get weak and sick. The same is true in your spiritual life, for the Bible is the necessary food for your soul. If you go without reading it very long, you will get spiritually weak and sick. Yet many Christians get by with one “meal” per week in church on Sundays. You would not survive long on one or two physical meals per week, so how can you in your spiritual life? » September // October 2014 MinistryToday 37
Job considered the Word of God more necessary than his daily food (Job 23:12). Jesus, quoting the Old Testament, declared that people need to live by every word coming from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4; see Deut. 8:3). Peter called the Scriptures nourishing milk (1 Pet. 2:2), and the writer to the Hebrews thought of the Word as solid food (Heb. 5:14). From the above observations, you can conclude that if you are not having a regular quiet time: hh You will never be used greatly by God. hh You will remain a weak and sickly Christian all your life. hh You are missing out on the privilege for which you were created. hh You are rejecting what Jesus made possible by dying. hh You will never experience the same power and refreshment Jesus did. “But I don’t have the time!” is an excuse we hear so often. Every person in the world—including pastors—has exactly the same amount of time each week: 168 hours. We know that pastors don’t have time for everything; you must make time for things that really count. It’s not a matter of time but a matter of priorities. The key to making time for quiet time is your commitment to Christ and the kingdom of God. Jesus stated, “Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well” (Matt. 6:33, NIV). Put God first in your life and you will have more time. Don’t let anything rob you of that time of fellowship with the Lord. Preserve it at all costs. If Jesus is first in your life, you ought to give Him the first part of every day. Your quiet time should be the absolute priority of your life.
Reason No. 2: It Is Our Privilege
We should have a quiet time each day because it is a tremendous privilege to have been granted a personal interview and time of fellowship with the Creator of the universe. The qu iet time a llows us fou r great privileges: 1) We give devotion to God. The first privilege of the quiet time is to give, 38 MinistryToday September // October 2014
not to get. David said, “Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name; worship the Lord in the splendor of his holiness” (Ps. 29:2). Another psalmist urged, “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before the Lord our Maker” (Ps. 95:6). In recent years, two wrong emphases have been permeating the American church. The first is the overemphasis on getting: What will I get out of church, out of Sunday school, out of doing what God says? It is the result of our culture’s great
ANYONE WHO HAS EVER BEEN USED MIGHTLY BY THE LORD WAS A PERSON OF THE WORD AND PRAYER. emphasis on entertainment, in which the people being entertained must be satisfied. When carried over into spiritual matters, it becomes self-centered religion and is definitely not biblical. That’s why so much is being said today about following Jesus but little is said about the tremenduos cost of discipleship. As church leaders, we try to offer rewards to entice Christians to come to church when they ought to be coming because they love their Savior. The other error is the overemphasis on working for God and neglecting the worship of God. Satan, the god of this world, has sold us a bill of goods in getting us to substitute work for worship. Most of us are so much on the go, even in doing fine Christian things, that we don’t know the real meaning of worship. Jesus said, “Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only” (Matt. 4:10; see Deut. 6:13). Worship comes before service. We are to give daily devotion to God because God deserves our devotion. When John saw the multitudes of heaven singing praises to God, he heard them say, “You are worthy, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power” (Rev. 4:11; see 5:12). Because
God is our Creator and Redeemer, He deserves to be worshipped and praised. We should go to our quiet times each day out of love for God, not out of a sense of duty: “God, I’ve come to worship You because You deserve to be worshipped and adored!” We are also to give daily devotion to God because He desires devotion from us. Jesus told the woman at the well, “Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks” (John 4:23). God seeks our worship. How long has it been since you took time alone with God just to tell Him that you love Him? 2) We get direction from God. The second privilege of the quiet time is for us to get direction from God for daily living. This was David’s attitude in life: “Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long” (Ps. 25:4-5; see also Ps. 40:8; 73:24; 143:10; Is. 42:16). A quiet time is a great opportunity to receive counsel from the Lord. In this fast-paced age of hurry, we need a time when we can slow down, collect our thoughts, evaluate what is happening around us and get direction from the One who knows the end from the beginning. On a number of occasions, Jesus invited His disciples to “come apart” with Him for a while (e.g., Mark 6:31, KJV), that they might recuperate physically and spiritually. Vance Havner has said, “If you don’t ‘come apart’ periodically, you will literally come apart!” When we get direction from God in our quiet times, He causes us to consider our ways. We take the time to assess our lives. That’s what David did: “Search me, God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting” (Ps. 139:23-24, NIV; see also Prov. 4:26; 14:12). Are you keeping on track for the Lord? Are you growing daily in your spiritual life? Have you allowed some sins to pile up in your life? Take these and similar questions and try to look at your life
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from God’s point of view. This will help you keep God’s perspective on things, because over and over you can get so caught up in the necessary details of life that you lose the overall picture. The quiet time is also a time to commit our day to the Lord. Solomon urged, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov. 3:5-6; see also Ps. 37:5). Ask God to show you His will for the day; commit your schedule to Him, and ask Him to guide you in your upcoming activities. You might even ask Him to help you budget your time so you can get more done (Ps. 90:12). Ask Him to help you sort out the necessary from the unnecessary (1 Cor. 10:23). 3) We gain delight in God. The third privilege of quiet time is to enjoy God and simply to bask in His presence. David told God, “You make known to me the path of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence” (Ps. 16:11). The secret of real joy is knowing God personally (Ps. 34:8; 37:4; 42:1-2; 63:1; 73:25; Phil. 3:10). Many Christians are miserable and lead unhappy lives because they never spend time in God’s presence. Do you really know Christ, or do you merely know about Him? To know Him intimately was the apostle Paul’s number one priority in life (Phil. 3:7-10). To get to know someone intimately and enjoy him personally, you must: hh Spend quality time with him. hh C om mu n ic a t e me a n i n g f u l l y with him. hh O b s e r v e h i m i n a v a r i e t y of situations. These same criteria apply in getting to know and enjoy God too. Remember that it is hard to have a love affair in a crowd; you need to get alone with that one person. This is why the Bible speaks of our relationship with God through Christ as a love relationship. In fact, it is called a marriage: Christ is the Bridegroom, and we in the church are His bride. When I first met Kay, my wife, and God knit our hearts together in love, more than anything else I wanted to spend time alone with her. We spent time with each other, we communicated, and we observed one another in a variety 40 MinistryToday September // October 2014
of situations. That is the way your relationship ought to be with God. Are you anxious to get alone and share intimately with Jesus? If not, you should be. Make your goal for the quiet time not just to learn about Jesus, but actually to meet with Him. Expect to meet Him each morning, for He’s there waiting to meet with you. Sometimes we get so busy working for God or with our own affairs that we forget just to love Him. The best way to get
SATAN, THE GOD OF THIS WORLD, HAS SOLD US A BILL OF GOODS IN GETTING US TO SUBSTITUTE WORK FOR WORSHIP. to know the Lord is to spend time alone with Him, sharing your thoughts with Him in prayer and reading over and over again the love letter He has written you. 4) We grow more like God. The fourth privilege of quiet time is the opportunity to grow in our spiritual lives, becoming more and more like Jesus Christ. When God created the human race, He “created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them” (Gen. 1:27). His purpose for man was that he might become like God “in [His] likeness” (Gen. 1:26). But man chose to become like the devil instead (Gen. 3). So in the act of redemption, God went back to His original purpose. He wanted His people again to be like Him, like Jesus Christ: “For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters” (Rom. 8:29). How do we become like Jesus Christ? First, we are made holy like God through His Word. In His high priestly prayer, Jesus asked the Father to “sanctify [all believers] by the truth; your word is truth” (John 17:17). Our growth in sanctification comes through the time we
spend in the Scriptures, getting to know God intimately. Second, daily growth comes as the Word builds us up: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17). As we are taught in the ways of God, rebuked when we go astray, corrected to go back to the right path and trained in righteous living, we grow in the nurture and admonition of the Lord. Third, we grow as our minds are transformed from thinking the world’s way to thinking God’s thoughts after Him. Paul wrote, “Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will” (Rom. 12:2). Again, this comes only through Scripture, God’s revelation of His perfect will for us. Finally, we become like Jesus as we spend time contemplating Him. Paul wrote, “We all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with everincreasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18). This change is gradual; as we keep on contemplating Jesus Christ in His Word, we grow to be more and more like Him. It is not a five-second glimpse of Jesus that changes us but a constant contemplation of Him over time. The more you are with a person, the more you become like Him. This is why quiet time is an essential part of the minister’s life—and, indeed, every life. R i c k W a rr e n is founding pastor of Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, Calif., one of America’s largest and most influential churches, and 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. He is also founder of Pastors.com, a global Internet community for pastors. This article was excerpted from Rick Warren’s Bible Study Methods: 12 Ways You Unlock God’s Word by Rick Warren Copyright © 2012. Used by permission of Zondervan.
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ENGAGING THE CULTURE
Ministerial leaders can’t fight the enemy effectively unless they’re in the light—and the light is the Word of God.
he believer has a might y weapon in the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God (Eph. 6:17). The Word of God was written on parchments with black ink and quill pens and was later translated to numerous languages, being printed on paper using the printing presses. God’s Word, however, is not just to be read but spoken, and not just spoken but believed and acted upon. The fact that the Word of God is called a “two-edged sword” is not just for creating the image of a Roman soldier’s weapon, but also to emphasize the fact that the Word has two sharp edges. One edge was formed when the Word was revealed by the Holy Spirit to the prophets who wrote the Scripture on the parchments. The other side of the blade is forged when a believer begins to speak out of his or her mouth the words that are written on paper. Just as a sharp two-edged sword must be properly handled by the owner, lest he unintentionally cut himself or harm the innocent, the Word of God must be properly interpreted, clearly spoken, and taught with the same care as a man brandishing a sharp sword in a crowd of people.
Mishandling the Scriptures
You would never ask an untrained
42 MinistryToday September // October 2014
BY PERRY STONE soldier to join a frontline battle, or a student driver to drive in a NASCAR race, or a ministry novice to present a theological discourse at a seminary. Yet men and women continually misquote, misuse and abuse others by mishandling the Scriptures. Here are a few examples:
Using Scripture Out of Context
When scriptures are taken out of their context, meaning out of the historical or contextual setting in which they were written, then a person can become confused and think the Bible is contradicting itself. For example, several years ago I saw a photograph that was taken in the Greenbush Cemetery near Lafayette, Indiana. Near the granite grave maker was the tombstone of a Christian soldier who had died in a war. The marker had the image of the Good Shepherd, Christ, on it and was facing toward the east, which is the direction of a traditional Christian burial, since Matthew 24:27 states that the coming of the Lord is as lightning coming from the east. Near this marker was an older marker with these words inscribed: Martin P. Jenners Was born August 21, 1832, in a log cabin on the Northwest corner of Ferry and Fourth Streets
Died December 22, 1919 My only objection to religion is that it is not true. 1 Corinthians 15:52, Isaiah 26:14 No preaching, no praying, no psalm reading permitted on this lot. Below are the two verses that were embedded in the granite marker that caused Mr. Jenners to believe that religion was not true: hh “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed” (1 Cor. 15:52 KJV). hh “They are dead, they will not live; they are deceased, they shall not rise: therefore thou hast visited and destroyed them, and made all their memory to perish” (Isaiah 26:14 KJV). It appears that this man fell for one of the oldest tricks in the adversary’s playbook—that the Bible is full of contradictions and therefore cannot be trusted. Mr. Jenners read each verse by itself, without ever following one of the first laws of biblical interpretation, which is, “What is the context of what is being spoken, and to whom was it spoken?” The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 15 is where Paul is revealing the mystery
of the resurrection of the dead and how in the “twinkling of an eye” the dead in Christ will be raised. Isaiah 26:14 appears to contradict this promise, as it says they are dead and will not rise. However, in the context of this chapter the prophet was dealing with nations that had risen up against Israel and were no longer in existence—yet Israel still endured. This death had no reference to individual people but to empires and nations in the past that mistreated the Jews and no longer existed. Thus one verse deals with the bodily resurrection of the dead in Christ and the other with nations who ceased to exist and had no chance of being raised again in the future. Satan actually attempted this “baitand-switch” strategy during the temptation of Christ (Matt. 4:5-6) when he suggested that Jesus could throw Himself from the top of the pinnacle of the temple and would never be harmed, because if He were God’s Son, then God would gladly provide angels to swoop down to prevent His premature death. Satan based his suggestion (temptation) on Psalm 91:11-12 (KJV): “For he shall give his angels charge over thee, to keep thee in all they ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash they foot against a stone.” In Matt. 4:6 (KJV) the phrase, “lest at any time” was added to this passage, not by the translators but by Satan himself when quoting the passage—suggesting that if Jesus ever felt like jumping from a high place, the angels would always be there. This was taking the passage out of context, as the verses before this in Psalm 91 deal with God protecting His people from evil; it has nothing to do with willfully falling from a high place or jumping from a mountain to prove some point to a skeptic. Guard against someone taking the Word of God out of the context that was intended.
Using Scripture for Personal Gain One of the great dangers in our generation is unscrupulous ministers who have been successful at using what I call the “prosperity lottery” for personal gain. The message is that if you will read © Istockphoto/Massonstock
September // October 2014 MinistryToday 43
it right, believe it right, speak it right, think it right, and “send me a check with your largest offering,” then your name is entered by the Lord Himself into His special “prosperity lottery,” where God will eventually call your name out for free money, a new house and a new car, and you won’t have to work for it or pay for it. These types of ministers are those whom Peter warned about: “By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words; for a long time their judgment has not been idle, and their destruction does not slumber” (2 Peter 2:3). I have heard some of the most unbiblical claims made and promises and blessings pronounced when ministers have been seeking money to expand their ministry. For your “best gift,” you can be guaranteed to be debt free the rest of your life. Folks, the only way you will never have debt is if you never purchase anything on credit again for the rest of your life, or if you die—then you have no debts to pay on earth.
The Proper Way to Use the Sword of the Spirit
Paul wrote his last letter to Timothy and said: “Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2). We think of the word preach as a minister standing behind a pulpit giving a sermon or message. Among the ancient Greeks this Greek word, kerusso, pictured the herald of the emperor standing before the masses in a city giving an important, even a life-and-death message to the people. The herald was the voice for the emperor and spoke with the same authority of the emperor. The minister is to “rebuke” when needed, meaning to rebuke sin in the lives of the people to bring them to repentance. Paul warned Timothy of two men who were spiritually dangerous in the church: Hymenaeus and Philetus. These
false teachers had taught the resurrection was past and had overthrown the faith of some weak believers in the church (2 Tim. 2:18). Paul said this false teaching corrupted the faith of some and “will eat as doth a canker” (v. 17, KJV). The Greek word for “canker” here is gaggraina, which alluded to an ulcer that gnaws on the physical body. This is where we derive the English word “gangrene”—an infection that eats away at the tissue of the body and, if untreated, eventually can cause death. A severely diseased limb with gangrene must be amputated. Here, Paul is instructing the church to shun (separate from) Hymenaeus and Philetus, as their teaching was corrupting and spreading throughout the church like gangrene! This reveals the proper way to use the sword of the Spirit, in the sense of cutting away false teaching or exposing dangerous heretical doctrine, contrary to the revelation of the Scriptures. The Word of God has a piercing power and divides the soul and spirit, meaning the
TA K E A S TA N D FO R
T RU T H and FA I T H
CHELSEN VICARI serves as the evangelical program director for
the Institute on Religion and Democracy in Washington DC. In Distortion she confronts recent moves in the evangelical church away from authentic Christianity and the principles that have made America great. Arming you with Scripture, historic Christian teaching, and social science, she covers issues such as social justice, homosexuality, feminism, faith, and more!
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thoughts of man from the thoughts of God (Heb. 4:12). Christ, Paul and all of the apostles wielded the Old Testament into a powerful weapon of war to defend the Christ as the Messiah, using the Torah and the Prophets, and building their doctrine on the words of Christ and revelation from God Himself (Gal. 1:12; 2:2). Let me point out it is for the purpose of cutting away false doctrine and not cutting to the ground someone who has a difference of opinion or a different method of ministry than you do. Some of the false teaching spreading like gangrene in the body of Christ is: READ THE ENTIRE BOOK
Adapted from Perry Stone’s book, There’s a Crack in Your Armor. In the book, Stone also highlights seven common factors that wear down your spiritual strength. The book can be purchased at christianbook.com, search Perry Stone.
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hh Hell does not exist. hh All men will end up in heaven no matter what relig ion they a re (universalism). hh G o d a p p r ov e s of s a m e - s e x relations. hh Abortion is only a surgical procedure, as the fetus is not a human until the umbilical cord is cut. hh The Bible ca nnot be trusted, is outdated, a nd not releva nt for the culture. Instead of wasting their airtime rebuking Christian youth groups for being “of the devil” because of the “contemporar y music,” or viewing home Bible studies as “not of God,” ministers should quit wasting time shadowboxing some invisible, imaginary enemy. Ministers should be taking the two-edged sword and forging another reformation—a return to the sound doctrine of the prophets and apostles of the Christian faith. Never use the message of the Cross to crucify
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those you don’t like, or the sword of the Spirit to attack other believers. The body of Christ needs unity, not more division. Instead of using our biblical knowledge to assault other believers who may differ occasionally with us on minor issues, we should minimize the impact of the enemy’s weapons by exploding the knowledge of the truth on the world scene, as the gospel must be preached around the world before the end will come (Matt. 24:14). Your enemy is not a Baptist, Pentecostal or charismatic—your enemy is a destroyer of souls called Satan and his spirit rebels (Eph. 6:12). You can’t fight right unless you’re in the light—and the light is the Word of God. P e r r y S t o n e is the best-selling author of numerous books, including The Code of the Holy Spirit and How to Interpret Dreams and Visions. He directs one of America’s fastest-growing ministries, The Voice of Evangelism.
From a Mess to a Miracle Kim Daniels shows readers how to have a truly transformed life in Christ by recognizing and avoiding Satan’s influences, especially those that come from within our Christian communities.
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R eassessin g Godâ€™s Expectations of Our Worship Pastor Jack Hayford explores what it is that makes our praise worshipful to God BY JACK HAYFORD
hat type of worship honors God?” or, to look at the question another way, “A fter a ll, theolog ica lly speaking, what is it that actually makes worship worshipful to God?” Even though I have practiced, led, studied and preached about worshipping God for over five decades as a Christian leader, I still refuse to suggest I have any expertise on the subject. A lifetime of entering and experiencing His presence has a way of keeping me mindful of how little I know, and how dependent I am on Him for today’s guidance in leadership—not my experience. I open with that context for what follows— my offered answer to the above pair of questions presented to me, with the request: “Set forth the theological basis for our thematic study of worship.” At first a certain reticence tempted me to conform to what I supposed was expected—a treatise on the glory of God, and the propriety of humankind bringing worthy expressions of worship before His Throne. Of course, His grandeur and greatness does recommend our humble and our highest expression of praise as well as our utmost in devotion and adoration, but I felt the need to get to “the heart” of worship. So I have chosen to press an issue—not less theologically correct, to my view, but one that might seem unacceptable for failing to parrot the usual reply when a “theology of worship” is proposed. To my perception, most theological presuppositions about worship focus on the cerebral, not the visceral—on the mind, not the heart. In most western Christian tradition, a virtual scorning of either the subjective experience or the mystical nature of encountering God finds common approval. A usual theology of worship centers on an objective analysis of God’s revealed person, nature and attributes, with the accompanying presupposition that worthy worship is essentially constituted of our reciting this information back to Him. This focus on the mind’s ideas about God, rather than the
heart’s hunger for Him, overlooks the truth that worship is actually a gift from God to us more than one of ours to Him; that He is more interested in helping us so that we are capable of interpreting Him. We have been inclined to conclude “mind” and “spirit” are synonyms, when the Bible shows the “heart” is a more likely candidate to answer to the meaning of “worshipping in spirit.” That in truth is a companion phrase that indicates the active participation of the intellect as well is undeniable, but it is also inescapably second—and dependent upon the heart’s fullest release in worship first. This priority is usually held suspect, if not resisted outright, because our intellectualized value system minimizes the worth of emotions, and our hearts, as the more emotionally motivated center of our human response sources, is deemed less worthy for being governed more by affections than by reason; seen as more vulnerable to deception than the intellect because of the heart’s proemotional bent. But to turn on these terms, from “heart-begotten” (i.e. “spiritual”) worship to an intellectually based approach is to entertain a dual delusion: first, that the mind is less subject to deception than the heart (an unsupportable concept—2 Corinthians 4:4); and second, that the mind is ever the means by which God is “contacted” in worship (which is denied in the Bible—Job 11:7). This is not to denigrate the priceless value of God’s gift of human intellect, nor to deny that human intelligence is contributive to worship. But our quest is for an answer to, “What kind of worship God prefers from us,” and honesty with the limits of any human being’s brainpower forces the issue. In the last analysis, His Word indicates that He is not looking for something brilliant, but something broken: “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit, a broken and a contrite heart—these, O God, You will not despise” (Psalm 51:17). It is not that our minds are unworthy vehicles to receive divine revelation but that they are too limited to respond to the divine
September // October 2014 MinistryToday 49
invitation. The intellect may discover truth about God’s worthiness of worship and may choose to do so. But to fully enter into the dimensions of our Creator-Redeemer’s presence—to open to the intimacy to which He invites us, as well as to that ecstasy with which Eternal Love desires to enthrall the human soul—only the spiritual capacities of the worshipping heart will suffice. The exercises of our enlightened minds may deduce God, but only our ignited hearts can delight Him—and, in turn, experience His desire to delight us. That is His desire, without question. So, I would contend that what is on God’s mind when we worship Him is not how many grandiose thoughts we have about Him, but how passionately our hearts desire Him; and that what He most wants to achieve in the intercourse of our spirits with His is the transmission of love, life and joy. Thus, I tread the risky territory of seeming to minimize “worship” by not focusing first on “God’s holiness and our unworthiness” by proposing that, from God’s viewpoint, worship is a means designed to unlock the human heart that God may answer to human need and ser ve His own heartfelt interest in the well-being of His most beloved creatures. Of course, I also hasten to emphasize that God’s excellent glory and man’s sin and need are not in question or subject to debate here: He is holy, and we are unworthy. But once the redemption provided through Jesus’ Cross has been received by faith, I want to assert: That the worship God most welcomes is neither essentially or primarily intellectual (though it is certainly not unintelligent); and That God’s primary focus in giving us access to worship Him is to provide an exposure and experience intended for our benefit, not His (though it is unquestionable He delights in our coming to Him.) I propose such a “theology of worship” upon the evidence of His pleasure with worship we find offered to Him in settings reported in His Word, as well as in direct statements He has made, revealing that the worship that God welcomes and honors is: 50 MinistryToday September // October 2014
“It is not that our minds are unworthy vehicles to receive divine revelation, but that they are too limited to respond to the divine invitation.”— Pastor Jack Hayford 1) Worship that treasures His presence. irst and foremost, God welcomes F those into His presence who want Him. Their quest may be one of desperation or of delight, of frantic need or of a loving hunger for fellowship, but the motivation is clearly focused—and so is His pleasure with it. 2) Worship that humbles the heart. Perhaps the most memorable encounter between God and man in all the prophets is the occasion of Isaiah’s call (Isaiah 6:1-8). The abject cry of a sinful man, “Woe is me, for I am undone,” was not an achievement of intellectual analysis, but of a self-discovery faced upon entering God’s presence with unabashed passion and with childlike openness. “I saw the Lord…,” he says with neither apology or arrogance, as a breakthrough of grace produces a breakup of pride—a viewpoint even
more deeply affirmed later in the same book (Isaiah 57:15). The starting place for confronting pride is in how we approach worship. Isaiah, who is known to be from the cultural, educated elite of Judah describes a childlike humility and teachability that can only attend an unpretentious entry into God’s presence. His cry, without a vestige of style-consciousness and revealing an unreserved availability to God’s revelation of Himself, is the very thing to which Jesus calls us all: “Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven … Take heed that you do not despise one of these little ones, for I say to you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven” » (Matthew 18:3, 10).
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3) Worship that sacrifices and expects something from God. Hebrews 11:6 puts it clearly: “He that comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who humbly seek Him.” The text is based on the proposition that worship always brings a sacr i fice to God—t hat “ he t hat comes,” whether with praise, an offering, or in the laying down of something being asked by the Holy Spirit’s call, is presenting something of themselves to Him. But simultaneously, we are told that the worshipper is with equal faith to believe something will be given in return by God Himself—something rewarding, enriching, benevolent and good. The tension between these two— bringing a sacrifice and expecting a reward—provides a venue to common argument today. Some feel obligated to “defend God” against human selfishness and would refuse the balance in proposition the text declares. But the truth is, God does freely offer the rewards of His blessing—and delights to do so. 4) Worship that extends God’s love by every means. If indeed God-pleasing wor sh ip a dd re s s e s hu m a n ne e d more than it supplies a divine one (if, indeed, there is such a thing as a need on God’s pa rt), it is to be expected that worship which honors the desires of the Almighty will beget reaching hands. It is, thus, unsurprising that our Savior’s summary definition of the “greatest commandment” issues into “the second, which is like (in importance) unto it.” The vertical mandate, which focuses on our worshipping God (“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength”), issues in the horizontal (“…and your neighbor as yourself”). Basically, the only true divine approval our worship will find is when it results in our hearts being focused on such things as: hh Forgiveness toward others, with peacemaking and reconciling efforts evident in our day-to-day agenda for living; hh Gracious, life-style evangelism characterizing our conduct and communication, so that the glory found 52 MinistryToday September // October 2014
“First and foremost, God welcomes those into His presence who want Him.”
in His presence is manifest in our shedding a warm, attractive “light as a believable, winsome witness.” hh Unselfish, servant-minded availability to assist in human need—seen in a heart of care for victims of neglect and injustice, nourished by a merciful mindset toward those whose cheapened values reveal their blindness. It is this conviction that drives an inclusion of “prayer circles” in nearly every worship at our church. “Ministry time” is the formal name we use for an approximately 10-minute segment of small group interaction and prayer, usually following an extended sea son of sensitive, intimate a nd praiseful worship to God. The habit was formed decades ago at the same time my thinking about worship was being revolutionized. The four to five minutes of that time, du ring which three to si x people share their personal need or concern and then pray for one another, is an estimable key to our effectiveness as a congregation.
Over the years, the bottom line of worship seems to have been and continues to be served as we pursue these values on the basis of the theological viewpoint I have presented. We have never lost sight of Him as First and Foremost, but we have not based our approach on the supposition that we understand anything more than the splendor of His love shown to us in Jesus—and that love-gift ignites our worship. What begins, in treasuring Him, proceeds to humble our hearts, awaken our sacrifice and release our service. What is birthed in the heart finds expression in the hands—hands that rise in humble praise and serve with gentle grace. With such sacrifices, God seems to be well pleased. J a c k H a y f o r d is the founding pastor of the Church on the Way in Van Nuys, California, where he served as senior pastor for more than three decades. He is also founder of The King’s University in Dallas, Texas, and the author of more than 100 books. Lightstock
54 MinistryToday September // October 2014
THE KEYS TO BECOMING
Jesus could serve and delegate authority with confidence because He knew these three things
n more occasions than I can count, I have heard posit ive com ments about my empowering approach to running a church. I’ve had more than a few of our recent hires come to me and say something like, “Robert, this is the most empowering place I’ve ever worked. Thank you for creating an environment where we’re free to use our gifts to the fullest.” I’m always both blessed and humbled by these comments. But I’m mostly just grateful. I appreciate hearing that I’m viewed as a leader who empowers those around me. And that is certainly something I have learned to value over the years. But to be honest, I think in the early years I just stumbled into being an empowering leader because, in my naiveté, it didn’t occur to me to approach things any other way. In other words, allowing others to grow and flourish and shine seemed to come naturally to me. It wasn’t my natural instinct to feel threatened by the gifts or successes of the people working under my leadership. When I’ve been asked about this aspect of my leadership style in the past, I’ve never been able to give a solid, spiritual, biblical explanation as to why I tend to approach things this way. And since I haven’t been able to offer an explanation, it has been difficult for
BY ROBERT MORRIS me to help other leaders to whom this empowering approach doesn’t come as naturally. All that changed recently when, after more than 30 years in ministry and intensive Bible study, I saw something in the Word I’d never noticed before. It was something that reveals both the key to being an empowering leader and the reason I had managed to stumble into it. Not surprisingly, the truth was hiding in plain sight in John’s account of the final hours of the most empowering leader to ever walk the face of the earth. Now, I have read the 13th chapter of John with its description of the Last Supper countless times. I have been there at the table with Peter, James, John, Judas and the rest so many times that I’m always a little surprised not to see my face in da Vinci’s famous painting. I suspect you’re as familiar with that scene as I am. If so, you know that Jesus began that extraordinary evening by washing the disciples’ feet. What I had never noticed until just recently is the Bible’s commentary about what prompted that act of service and humility. Right there in the opening verses of the chapter is an insight into Jesus’ frame of mind and state of heart: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was
going to God, rose from supper and laid aside His garments, took a towel and girded Himself. After that, He poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet, and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded” (John 13:3–5). Why had I never noticed the first part of verse 3 before? Here is the explanation for the stunning fact that the King of Glory, the Incarnate Word who existed before time itself, bowed down before mere men and washed the filth from their feet. Here was the solution to the mind-blowing mystery of how the Creator could serve the creation. Jesus could serve and delegate authority with confidence because He knew three things: 1) Jesus knew where power comes from. Note that John 13:3 says Jesus knew “that the Father had given all things into His hands.” In the typical wealthy household of Jesus’ day, the designated foot washer was the lowest-ranking servant. When you saw the servant whose job it was to wash feet, you could be confident you were looking at the guy who aspired to getting promoted to shoveling out the barn. Only people who are secure in who they are and in what they have are fully free to choose the role of the servant. Only people who know beyond all doubt that they have God’s approval can cast aside the bondage of seeking people’s September // October 2014 MinistryToday 55
approval. Only those who are at peace knowing that it is God who has given them what they have and that no mortal can take it away from them are fully free to give away what they have. This truth reveals the reason a leader will tenaciously cling to authority, influence and position. It’s because in his
by another. So he maintains a whiteknuckle grip on what he has. He dares not allow anyone he leads to fly too high or shine too brightly. This house of fear and insecurity is built upon a false foundation. The key to being an empowering leader is simply knowing where power comes from:
This revelation helped me understand why empowering others has seemed to come a little more naturally for me than for others. It is because I learned early on in my Christian walk to hold what God has given me with an open hand. I learned it first with money. Later I learned it extended to
“The key to being an empowering leader is simply knowing where the power comes from.” heart of hearts he’s not sure that “God has given all things into his hands.” He’s operating from the deception that he obtained his authority through his own hard work, striving and cleverness. And since he thinks he attained it by his own strength, he assumes he must hang onto it the same way. Another leader may operate from a deep root of insecurity. He may secretly believe that someone more gifted, more charismatic, or more educated may come along at any moment and take what is his. He secretly believes that at any moment the affection and esteem of others, the prestige he enjoys, and the influence he wields may be siphoned away 56 MinistryToday September // October 2014
“For exaltation [promotion] comes neither from the east nor from the west nor from the south. But God is the Judge: He puts down one, and exalts another” (Psalm 75:6–7). When some of John the Baptist’s disciples started getting alarmed about Jesus’ growing fame and following, John shut them down quickly, asserting the fact that “a man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven” (John 3:27). John knew where power comes from. He recognized that whatever we have is on loan from God and that whatever we are given is to be held with an open hand before Him.
everything else in my life—including my positon and authority. Don’t get me w rong. There a re countless aspects of the Christian life and spiritual leadership that took God years to get through my thick skull. But this one thing was a miraculous work God did in my heart very early in my Christian walk. And that work was deep, comprehensive and profound. Now that I think about it, it makes sense. Once God has led you to give away numerous cars, a house, and, on more than one occasion, your entire life savings—and in each case you’ve seen God unfailingly restore and bless you abundantly in response—trusting Lightstock
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“It’s the quiet confidence that God has plenty, and that if He asks you to give away what you have, He is faithful and just to restore you.” Him as you give away your ministry comes much easier. This stems from and fosters an abundance mentality. It’s the quiet confidence that God has plenty, and that if He asks you to give away what you have, He is faithful and just to restore you. You know there’s much more where that came from. The opposite is a scarcity mentality. It is the false belief that any resource— money, love, esteem, influence or opportunity—is limited. This paradigm also assumes that power comes from a place other than God—from ourselves, from random chance, from a system, or from denominational headquarters. If in your heart you believe these things, you will not hold what you’ve been given with an open hand. Sadly, many pastors and leaders are operating with a scarcity mind-set. They can’t bring themselves to openly share 58 MinistryToday September // October 2014
authority, credit or rewards, because they aren’t convinced there is plenty to go around. In other words, they don’t know where power comes from. On more than one occasion I’ve been surprised to observe a pastor who will readily and confidently teach the principle of sowing and reaping when it comes to finances—that is, God is faithful to bless you with more when you give with a right heart—and yet that same pastor is too fearful to give power and authority away because he doesn’t trust God to bless him with more. 2) Jesus Knew Where He Came From. Jesus served His followers and gave them authority because He knew “the Father had given all things into His hands.” But as John 13:3 says, that’s not all He knew. Look at that verse again: “Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands, and that He had come from God and was going to God.”
Jesus knew that He had come from God. You’re probably, thinking, “Well, of course Jesus came from God. He was His only begotten Son.” Yes, but you and I come from God too if we have been born again. We were lost and dead in our sins, but in Christ we have been born of God. “Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him who begot also loves Him who is begotten of Him” (1 John 5:1). I know where I came from. Knowing this makes all the difference in the world for me as a leader. Remembering how lost, wretched, clueless and self-destructive I was without Christ—and how forgiven, whole, accepted and empowered I am in Christ—helps me stay in thankful dependence upon Him. And it gives me the confidence to serve others, because only He could redeem a mess like me. As leaders, it’s vital that we know where we came from. It guards our footsteps from stumbling through pride, and it prevents us from presuming that we can do anything under our own power. 3) Jesus Knew Where He Was Going. Jesus stripped to the waist and bowed down before his followers to serve them like a slave becauses He knew He “was going to God.” In other words, He had a clear, compelling vision of His future and the rewards that He would enjoy there. If a clear and compelling vision of future joy was necessary for the Son of God to fulfill His mission as a leader, how much more vital is it for you and me? We have to know where we’re going and that where we’re going is good. Adapted from The Blessed Church: The Simple Secrets to Growing the Church You Love by Robert Morris by permission of WaterBrook Press, a division of Random House, Inc. All right s reserved. No par t of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher. R o b e r t M o rr i s is the founding senior pastor of Gateway Church, a multi-campus church in Dallas-Fort Worth. He is the author of nearly a dozen books, including the best-selling The Blessed Life and The God I Never Knew. © Istockphoto/Jaap2
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OUTREACH: M E D I A BY PHIL COOKE
5 Ways to Become a Media-Savvy Pastor
No matter the size of your congregation, you can use media to further your message
s a media consultant, I have the opportunity to help some of the largest churches and ministries in the country create effective, high-quality media outreaches. In most cases, they are experienced, committed Christian leaders who understand the value and power of media. But I also have the opportunity to spend time with less-experienced pastors and ministry leaders who feel just as called to use media in a meaningful way but have serious questions like: “Will it compromise my message?” “Will it be too expensive?” “Will my preaching or teaching ministry really work on television?’ “Is it an effective use of our money?” Perhaps you’ve wondered about many of these issues before. Or perhaps you’ve listened to Christian radio or watched Christian television late into the night, thinking, “I could do that,” but you have no idea where to start. I feel your pain. But the good news is yes—even if you have only a handful of people in your congregation, you can use media to strengthen and further your message. I’ve taught media classes and workshops around the world, and I’ve seen people in the most remote places produce programs to spread their messages far and wide. Today there’s a young Russian woman producing a local Christian television program in one of the most isolated cities in Siberia. She started with a department-store video camera and a VHS tape deck, yet her program reaches thousands with a message of hope. Before you start, though, you need to know a few critical points: 1) Think quality people before quality equipment. Most churches
and ministries are happy to spend serious money on equipment and then hire untrained volunteers to operate it. But remember: God works through people, 60 MinistryToday September // October 2014
P h i l C o o k e (right) is a filmmaker, media critic and adviser to some of the largest churches, ministries and nonprofit organizations in the world. He’s the founder of the Influence Lab influencelab.com.
not equipment. I would much rather have creative, innovative people working with second-rate equipment than great equipment operated by average people. When you allocate your budget, concentrate on qualified and committed people before you purchase state-of-the-art gear. 2) Consult with someone who understands the media. Your brother-in-law may be a wonderful guy who loves your ministry, but chances are he doesn’t know anything about media. Find someone with real experience in the business who can guide you and give you the best advice. Perhaps there’s someone in your church with experience. If not, call a media ministry you watch and respect or a Christian college with a mass communications department to ask for their recommendations. 3) Learn how to tell a story. It’s no surprise that the most-watched programs on secular television are story-based. Even reality programs are built around stories. It’s critically important to remember that ultimately, as a pastor, you’re telling a story—a simple story about how God chose to become one of us to share His eternal plan with people who didn’t deserve it. That’s it. It’s not just about close-ups, cuts and dissolves, better lighting, or quality sound. It’s about telling a story. 4) Forget Christian lingo. Christian media is so filled with its own lingo that most of the people we’re trying to reach can’t even understand us. But when I read the New Testament, Jesus spoke in a language and style people understood. 5) Know the importance of the package. On our home cable TV system in Los Angeles, we have nearly 500 channels. Our experience and research indicates that most people take an average of two to three seconds to decide which program to watch when flipping through the channels with their remote control. Therefore, it doesn’t matter how powerful your message is—if the rest of the program can’t keep their attention, they’ll never watch long enough to hear it. Be sure to package your message in an innovative and exciting way so people will want to watch and listen.
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MINISTRY LIFE: W O R S H I P BY DON CHAPMAN
Does Your Church Have an OPH Problem?
How do you handle it when an ‘off-pitch housewife’ demands to join your praise team?
t’s a common problem that plagues all worship leaders, from suit-wearing song leaders to skinny-jeaned hipsters: off-pitch housewives (henceforth referred to as OPHs) who demand to sing on your praise team. (By “demand” I mean they march up to you after church and announce they’ll be singing next week. Oh, really?) An Ongoing Problem
with the Lord). If you can’t, find another place of service. One of our worship leader responsibilities is to connect the right person to the right ministry—and this might mean a ministry outside of music. You do this with much prayer and consideration. Unfortunately, in our celebritycrazed culture, if someone has made up their mind they’re the next famous pop singer and you discover they can’t carry a tune in a bucket, you can be in for some major trouble (one OPH tried to get me fired.) Actually, it’s all about pitch. I don’t really care how “good” of a voice you have—what I care about is if you can sing on pitch and blend with others.
I’ve encountered OPHs in every church I’ve ever been in—traditional, blended, contemporary and the most cutting-edge. Maybe that’s one reason why even praise teams (preceded by choirs) are going by the wayside these days—too much drama! It’s so much simpler for a male worship leader to have only one trusted and talented female Two Types of Singers worship leader by his side. Some people are soloists; some I was happily working as a music are choir/praise team singers. Your director in one church until a rich job, in auditions, is to figure out lawyer became an elder, and, of who’s who. Some people can be course, his OPH expected to be Composer/arranger D o n C h a p m a n is the editor of both, and some choir singers can singing on the praise team. I did the weekly WorshipIdeas.com newsletter that goes out grow into soloists. all I could to help her fit into the to more than 50,000 worship leaders every week. I’m not a vocal soloist. To my group but it didn’t work—she simply amazement I always found my way couldn’t sing on pitch or blend with others. And what’s worse, into the elite choirs in college because, in auditions, I’d sightwhen I’d schedule other people for the praise team, they’d read music like a maniac and sing the correct notes. I can blend ask “is [insert name of OPH] singing? Oh, she is? Darn, I just and am your dream choir singer. remembered I’ll be out of town that weekend!” Here’s a great Then I ended up leading worship in a church. At that time rule of thumb for worship leaders: volunteers who can sing there was a really famous worship leader who had a thin, don’t want to sing with volunteers who can’t. nasally voice. As you’d listen to his music you’d think, “how on Naturally this all came to a head and I was dragged before earth did this guy get a record contract?” I figured if he could the (non-musical, businessmen) elders, who were baffled as to lead worship, I could, too. The more I sang, the stronger my why I wasn’t allowing people to “use their gifts.” voice became. However, I’d never sing a solo and always had a good praise team singing behind me. To Sing or Not to Sing
It’s a struggle, isn’t it? As a worship leader you want to be nice and affirming to everyone. But some people who really want to sing with your praise team just sound so ... awful! A soundman once suggested we let our OPHs sing, and he would simply turn off their microphones in the house. No, this just didn’t seem honest. Let’s not play games and demoralize our team in the process. My philosophy is one of common sense. If you can sing, you can sing on the praise team (assuming the person walks 62 MinistryToday September // October 2014
A Simple Solution
One megachurch music director once gave me a wonderful piece of advice that helped his OPH problem. Before auditions, he stated that to be on the praise team one MUST be able to sing parts. This makes sense. He told me this eliminated 90 percent of the OPHs during auditions with no drama. Bottom Line: One of our worship jobs is to help people find their proper place in ministry.
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MINISTRY LIFE: R E L AT I O N S H I P S BY JUSTIN L ATHROP
How You May Hurt Your Congregation’s Singles Are you being fair to the singles in your church?
n each of our churches, we have ministries and activities that cater to a specific group within the congregation. It makes sense to provide these places—a place for infants and toddlers, for fifth-graders, and post-grads. We can all agree those places should be different. We strive to be a great home for people in different stages of life, but I think we’re doing one of these groups a disservice. I’m talking about singles ministries. Some of us have one; some of us don’t. But while many churches are using their singles ministries to equip and minister to that particular group of people—and are doing an excellent job—too often churches with singles ministries miss the mark completely. T h i n k a b out you r c hu rc h for a moment. What resources, g roups, a nd messages do you have for the single members of your congregation? I’ve spent time recently with some single friends of mine, and many of them have expressed dissatisfaction with the way churches treat single people. Here are a few of the most common mistakes we make as churches: 1) We act like there’s something wrong with them. One of the friends I was talking to mentioned a sermon where her pastor invited all the single people up front, and asked the whole congregation to pray for them to find a “mate.” This approach, while well-meaning, falls far short of helpful. It gives the message that there’s something wrong with you if you’re single. Being single is tough, especially when surrounded by
couples and families. The last thing single churchgoers need is their pastor further reinforcing the thought they’re already entertaining: “Is there something wrong with me?” Instead, celebrate people at all stages of their lives. God has a purpose for people no matter their marital status. Our job is to help them live into it. 2) We segregate them. Churches are great at creating spaces for people to belong. But I don’t know how many singles would argue that a group just for them really meets their needs. By creating a group just for singles, it further divides them from their married friends, and gives the message that married and single are two stages of life that just don’t mix well. Instead of creating separate spaces for single people that are more a “set-up” than a community group, let’s create opportunities for connection, regardless of marital status. 3) Trying to force connections. I don’t know if you’ve ever been to this church, but I’ve known communities that might as well start advertising themselves as a Christian dating service. Pastors are insistent on connecting the single members of their congregation, and either put people in awkward positions, or become known as a place to meet your significant other—instead of as a place to get closer to God. Being single is tough enough without receiving more pressure from the pulpit. Let’s create places where people of all relationship statuses can connect, and invite the single members of the congregation to speak into what they would like to see happen in your community. What communities are available to the single members of your congregation? How can you improve?
Instead of creating separate spaces for single people that are more a “set-up” than a community group, let’s create opportunities for connection, regardless of marital status.
Singles at the Crossroads: A Fresh Perspective on Christian Singleness, by Albert Y. Hsu, points the way to a Christian community where all members are valued, Jew and Gentile, male and female, married and single. 64 MinistryToday September // October 2014
J u s t i n L a t h r o p is the founder of Helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search), Oaks School of Leadership, and MinistryCoach.tv, all while staying involved in the local church.
MINISTRY PEOPLE: C H I L D R E N BY DALE HUDSON
A Tweak That Can Bring Guest Families Back What is your strategy for getting first-time guest families to return?
his is one of the most important strategies your a cute haircut one of the kids had, maybe the way the children’s ministr y can focus on. We recently preschooler smiled, maybe the town they just moved implemented a new tweak in our strategy for con- from, etc. necting with first-time guest families, and we are seeing This lets the family know that we took the time to notice great results. them personally. In the note, the I got the idea for the new tweak guest services volunteer also tells from my friend, Carolyn Burge, them k now how much he/she who is the children’s director enjoyed meeting them and hopes at a great church in Canada. If to see them again soon. This gives you haven’t checked out her webthe new family a personal connecsite, kidsministryleadership.com, tion with someone. This is huge. do so. She has lots of great ideas. The guest ser vices volunteer So here’s our strategy. In step then gives the note to us before No. 4, I’ll tell you about the new he/she leaves and we mail it to the tweak we’ve added that’s making family that week. a big difference. I wou ld a lso ment ion t hat 1) We h a v e a g u e s t s e r v ic e s ou r g uest ser v ices volu nteers team that helps new families check are really fired up about doing in. This team is made up of volunthis. It is such a blessing to them teers. Make sure you pick people to be able to write the notes to for this team who are friendly, the new families that they meet. It outgoing, positive and know how has taken their ministry experito make new people feel welcome ence to an entirely different new and comfortable. D a l e H u d s o n has served in children and family level. They can’t wait to see the 2) We have separate check-in areas ministry for over 24 years. He is the director of chil- families come back because they for f irst-time families. We don’t dren’s ministries at Christ Fellowship Church in Palm have made a personal investment want new families having to wait Beach, Florida. He was recently named one of the top in them. in line. We also moved these out 20 influencers in children’s ministry. We prov ide t he p o s tc a rd s from behind a desk and put them fo r t h e v o l u nt e e r s t o w r it e at tables so we can greet people more personally and let the personal note on. There is a space for the note on them know that we care about their children and their the postcard. experience at our church. The postcard also has a coupon they can bring back for 3) After we get the family registered, we personally walk them a free t-shirt on their next visit. to their rooms. This is a biggie. Always walk with them, I n closi ng , I wou ld l i ke to ment ion t wo ot her never point. things. First, a personal handwritten note is a huge deal in 4) Here’s the new tweak we’ve added that I want to tell you today’s culture of digital communication. A personal note about. After we’ve helped the new family get to their rooms, stands out and means so much more than a letter, email or the guest service volunteer who helped them writes a per- text because it shows that you’ve taken the time to let them sonal note to the family. know that you really care. In the note, the guest service volunteer mentions someIn addition to this, the kids of the guest family also thing unique that he/she noticed about the family. Maybe get a handwritten postcard from our leaders in the kids’ areas. For a kid to get a postcard in the mail is a double MINISTRY RESOURCE big deal. 100 Best Ideas to Turbocharge Your Children’s Ministry by Dale Hudson is a Whatever your strategy is, make it personal. Nothing treasure trove of tools and techniques to take your children’s ministry to the can potentially impact a family more than a personal touch next level ... and impact kids’ lives like never before. After reading, you’ll be from someone who took the time to welcom them and prepared to fuel your children’s ministry to do great things for God. who cared for them. 66 MinistryToday September // October 2014
MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: PA S T O R I N G BY RON EDMONDSON
5 Vacation Goals for a Church Leader As a pastor, what are your objectives when taking a vacation?
recently returned from a beach destination wedding. quality time with Cheryl. We date more intensely—ask each Someone has to do those, you know. other more questions. In years past, I got to spend more My wife, Cheryl, and I tacked on a few days of vaca- time with my boys on vacation. (I’m an empty nester now.) tion since we were at the beach. It was refreshing. But vacation helps me reconnect with those that I love As I was finishing my last vacathe most. tion run—vacation runs are the 3) Play. We all need to play— best—a friend texted me. He’s regardless of our age. We fuel all a great leader and we’ve talked the rest of these with this one. As often about leadership issues— I said already, I run more on vacaa nd t he st ress of leadersh ip. tion. That’s my form of play. But, When he learned I was heading when I run, I’m better equipped home from vacation, he asked me for all the other goals. You may a powerful question. I’m not even not be a runner, but you have sure he knew how powerful, but things you enjoy doing that aren’t knowing him, he was probably work. (I tweeted from vacation asking with intentionality. that a friend of mine got a Lego He asked, “Excited to be going set for Father’s Day. Cool playback or dreading it?” ing to come for that dad.) Playing My friend wanted to k now— enhances my mental energies, my and encourage me to think—if my creativit y and my enjoyment of vacation had been successful. He life. Making time to play—with knows the purpose of vacation. whatever you enjoy doing—is a Do you? great goal for vacations. What is the purpose of vaca- R o n E d m o n d s o n is the senior pastor at Immanuel 4) Dream. What’s next for you? tion? Another way I might ask Baptist Church in Lexington, Kentucky. What are you looking forward to this question: What are the goals doing in the future? One of Cherof a vacation? yl’s and my greatest enjoyments on vacation is dreaming Here are my thoughts on 5 goals of vacation for the about where we see ourselves in a year, five years, 10 years church leader: and into retirement. We also dream where we could see 1) Rest. God has actually given us a Biblical command our boys and their families. We dream about careers, to rest—to Sabbath—as if He knows something about what personal interests, places we’d love to travel. Dreaming we need. (Duh!) You may not “rest” like everyone else, but stretches our mind and heart towards each other and enereveryone should rest. This particular friend that texted me gizes us about our future together. A great vacation goal is was also returning from vacation. He does something that to take time to dream. I think shows he understands his need for rest. He leaves 5) Rejuvenate. Vacation should help you re-engage with his work cell phone with his administrative assistant when your work when you return. That’s the understanding he goes on vacation. my friend had about vacation. And, it is a huge goal. This How cool is that? I know because I texted him while will be hard to say to some, and some may disagree, but if he was gone and she texted me back. Intentional. Love you leave vacation dreading going back to work, it may be it. Rest should be a huge goal of taking a vacation. We all you don’t know how to do vacation or you’re in the wrong need it. job. It’s work. I get that. We all have Mondays we dread. 2) Reconnect. Vacation should allow us time to restore The day back doesn’t have to be the most fun day at work relationships to maximum health. With God. With family. ever, but a goal of vacation is to help us recover so that we With ourself. The busyness of life can strain relationships. can gather more energies to do the work we were designed Vacation gives you the opportunity to pause and get back to do. to optimum health with the most important relationships Does that describe your vacation? What goals do you in our life. On vacation, I talk to God more. I spend deeper have when you take one?
68 MinistryToday September // October 2014
MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: A D M I N I S T R AT I O N BY J. LEE GR ADY
7 Charismatic Characters You Should Avoid
Nothing will scare visitors away from your church faster than these super-spiritual flakes
hen the Holy Spirit comes in His fullness, people 4) Freak-Out Frances. It’s a fact: Some people just act plain receive miraculous anointing, remarkable bold- weird when they feel the anointing of the Holy Spirit. Some ness, overflowing joy and irresistible enthusiasm. shake, others vibrate, others shriek or make birthing noises. I Yet because we are all bent toward sin and selfishness, many don’t believe we should allow prayer ministers to carry on like people who experience the Holy this at the altar. The people who are Spirit’s raw power sometimes also entrusted with the job of praying act weird. Their flesh gets in the for others should minister with selfway, and they misuse the gifts of control. You will scare and confuse the Spirit. people if you are flailing your arms, I’ve seen this happen oftentimes jerking your torso or acting as if you during prayer ministry times at a have a nervous tic while you pray for church altar. Because of poor trainthem. This kind of immature behaving and a lack of mature leadership, ior squelches the Holy Spirit. things can get wacky when people 5) Shrill Bill. The gift of prophecy come to the front of the auditorium can be a wonderful blessing—or for ministry. If this flakiness isn’t it can be a total turn-off when the immediately corrected, visitors will person prophesying is out of order. stop coming and your church will Nothing kills a church service like a get a bad reputation. prophet who sounds like he is chanHere a re seven people you neling a banshee. Those who desire should never allow to be in a ministo minister in the gift of prophecy try position in your church: should learn to speak in a normal 1) Bulldozer Bertha. If this woman tone of voice—and they should condecides to pray for you at the altar, J . L e e G r a d y is the former editor of Charisma. vey love and grace even when they put one foot in front of the other, You can follow him on Twitter at @leegrady. He is the are passionate. hold onto a chair and brace your- author of The Holy Spirit Is Not for Sale and other 6) Slick Rick. I believe it is scriptural self. She intends to push you to the books. to anoint people with oil when prayfloor, one way or another. She’s ing for healing (see James 5:14). But been told that it is rude—not to mention dangerous—to push “anoint” does not mean dousing a person with two quarts of people during prayer. But she claims “the Spirit” turns her into scented oil. I’ve seen some prayer ministers get so carried away a samurai warrior when the anointing comes on her. with that the poor people they were praying for left the church 2) Shonda Wanda. I appreciate the gift of speaking in tongues, slimier than a pasta salad. A dab of anointing oil is enough! and there is a time and place for this gift in a church meeting. 7) Groovy Greta. God has gifted certain people with grace in But it is not appropriate for a person to scream in tongues the arts—whether it is singing, songwriting, music or dance. But while they are ministering to someone at the altar. Shonda not all artistic expression belongs in church, and not everyone Wanda is notorious for offending visitors by pummeling them who thinks they are gifted should be given a platform. We’ve with noisy glossolalia. She should be reminded that seek- all been in situations where someone performed an awkward ers who come for prayer should be treated with sensitivity “praise dance” that should have been screened before it ended and respect—and that tongues is best reserved for private up on the church’s live webcast. Don’t allow the holy worship of prayer times. God to be tainted by people who selfishly seek attention. 3) Lascivious Larry. It is totally acceptable for people on a I believe we charismatics are entering a new season in which prayer team to lay hands on those who are seeking healing God is raising the bar and calling us to a higher level of matuor comfort. But in this age of sexual perversion, some people rity. We must put away “childish things” (see 1 Cor. 13:11) and are looking for a cheap thrill, even in church. Prayer ministers embrace not only the Holy Spirit’s gifts but His fruit as well. should be carefully trained on what kind of touch is appro- Let’s reject the flaky, the goofy and the weird and choose an priate during ministry times. We must have a zero-tolerance authentic spirituality that honors God and respects the people policy for those who grope in the name of Jesus. we are called to reach for Christ. 70 MinistryToday September // October 2014
Something Old, Something New
ne of the world’s oldest symbols of love is now the newest wedding tradition: the Unity Cross®
Unity Cross® digs deeper. Borrowing from one of the holiest icons in Western culture, the sculpture is made of two interconnecting crosses. The groom’s bold outer cross strengthens and frames his bride while the bride’s delicately carved inner cross brings fullness and beauty to her husband’s life.
When it comes to symbolizing the bride and groom’s commitment during the ceremony, there aren’t a lot of choices. There’s the unity candles and the sand… but there’s never been an assembled piece of art for your home.
During the ceremony, the groom and bride join their crosses together, and secure them with three carved nails, representing the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Information cards included with the cross allow guests to follow along with the symbolism of the Unity Cross® during the wedding.
UNTIL NOW. A ﬁne jewelry designer by trade, creator Michael Letney realized that – like wedding rings – wedding traditions should stand the test of time. The idea for an interactive, artisan-quality wedding sculpture was born.
“We’ve had just so many brides write to us saying how thankful they were that they could make their ceremony more meaningful and unique.” Letney went on, “I’m glad to be part of that.”
While the candles and sand only demonstrate that a couple is forever mingled together, the And after the ceremony, the carved wood and resin sculpture takes on even more
meaning in the home. With enough presence to anchor a ﬁreplace mantle or curio cabinet display, the Unity Cross® is a beacon of the couple’s love for each other – and their future in Christ. The Unity Cross® comes with a small drawer in its base – a scroll of love verses is already included, and Letney recommends adding mementos like dried ﬂowers from the bouquet, a copy of the best man’s speech or photos. For another personalized touch, add an engraved plate with the couple’s names and wedding date. Letney is humbled by how much couples love the Unity Cross®. “You know, brides ﬁnally have another option for their unity service. It’s just so cool to see them embrace it. They get the symbolism. They get it.” The Unity Cross® makes something new from something old. It offers something unique and something lasting. And for brides, that’s really something special.
from the Unity Cross ® inbox... Dear Unity Cross, Stephen and I have been married for six weeks now (yay!) and I just wanted to say – thank you. Our Unity Cross was one of the highlights of our wedding.
With all the craziness – the flowers and camera flashes and relatives we hadn’t seen in years – the one thing that really stands out in our memory was when we assembled our Unity Cross during the ceremony. Just knowing Stephen and I were bringing Jesus right into the center of the most important day of our lives, showing how our commitment reflects Christ’s eternal love for us – well, it was just wonderful. It really transformed our vows into an act of worship.
our friends and family commented on the most! Now, our Unity Cross sits on Stephen’s grandmother’s dresser in our room. I see it every morning when I wake up, and I remember our covenant to be faithful and forgiving to each other. I know we’ll always cherish it. So again, thank you so much for making our wedding that much more meaningful.
Sincerely, And the best thing was, after the wedding, Gina and Stephen Burke people kept coming up to us and asking about the cross. It was by far the thing
MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: P E R S O N A L
CHARACTER BY BR AD LOMENICK
How to Avoid Being a Wimpy Leader
If you find yourself in this category, what can you do to change your circumstances?
have great respect for professional baseball players; they 2) Allow for failure. The road to success is many times paved are anything but wimpy. To stand in front of home plate through multiple failures. Allow for and even encourage your with a ball heading toward your head at 95 miles per hour team to fail as they attempt to succeed. with nothing but a piece of wood to bat it away takes guts. 3) Make decisions. Don’t let ideas, strategy, communication Life and leadership are a lot like baseball. Even the best bat- and important organizational markers sit idly by on the side ters strike out sometimes. But a true athlete, and courageous without saying yes or no. Leaders are decision makers and must leaders, can never run away from do it constantly. the pitch. 4) Reward innovation. Innovation I may not play baseball, but I do requires taking risks. And bold snow ski, and the analogy is much risks create bold team members. the same. The first time I faced the Rewarding innovation will chalchallenge of a mogul run on a black lenge your team members to grow in diamond slope that was steep and their roles. overwhelming, it was tough for me 5) Pursue the right opportunities. Not to muster the energy to get down every risk is a good one. Be discithe mountain. While gazing over plined. Aggressively pursue a few the steep side from the top of the things that make sense. run, my friend’s advice was, “Point 6) Learn to delegate. This is one of your skis down the hill and keep the most courageous things a leader your nose over your tips. You have to can do. Entrusting others with lean forward and over your ski tips. important tasks requires letting go Even when you are overcome with and relinquishing control. Liberally fright, maintain a posture of nose pass responsibility and authority to over tips, rather than leaning back.” B r a d L o m e n i c k is president and key visionary your team. If you want your team This is not only great advice for of Catalyst—a movement purposed to equip and to be courageous, give them the skiing steep slopes but also good inspire young Christian leaders through events, chance to lead—early and often. advice for leadership. As a leader, resources, consulting and community. Follow him on These elements are not easy to you sit atop the mountain. You have Twitter @bradlomenick, or read his personal blog at nurture in a corporate setting. You no choice but to face the slopes. You bradlomenick.com. and your colleagues will likely resist can lean back, coast and play it safe, it at every turn. Courage mingles snowplowing your way painfully back and forth across the our desire to rush forward with a willingness to accept the posmountain, or you can point you skis down the hill, nose over sibility of being stopped in our tracks. the tips, and dominate the run. Being a courageous leader Yet, if you desire to be a leader who changes the world, you requires you to push beyond the norm, be willing to take risks have no choice but to exhibit courage on a constant basis. and quit being a wimp. The good news is that unlike some leadership traits, courage Courage is not just an individual trait but also an organiza- is not inborn; it’s learned. The natural response is to run from tional one. It’s a natural instinct that all leaders confront fear what frightens us, but life’s greatest leaps occur when we resist of failure and fear of the unknown. But living in that fear is this impulse. destructive for a team and will kill momentum. Most of us can think back to times as a child when we Through working with young leaders around the nation, I stepped out in courage. Whether riding a bike without training have found six essentials that can help build a culture of cour- wheels, jumping into the deep end of the pool, or letting go age in an organization: of the rails to ice-skate without assistance, life teaches us that 1) Set scary standards. Your level of excellence and expectation progress requires courage. We have to be willing to get out to for your product, service or experience should be something the edge, look at what is in the front of us, summon up the fortithat is nearly unattainable. Safe goals are set by safe leaders tude and jump. with safe visions. Give your people a goal that scares them. You The jump may be risky, but the decision to stay where you are will produce leaders who can overcome fear. is even more so. Be brave.
72 MinistryToday September // October 2014
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P A S T O R ’ S
H E A R T
BY: ED STET ZER
3 Kinds of Critics Leaders Can Ignore
Constructive criticism is good, but there are some critics pastors can disregard
art of leadership is handling criticism. I recently wrote a five-part series of blogs on how to give criticism with integrity, including those titled: Critique What One Actually Believes; Critique Fairly and Charitably; Wait Before You Critique; Check Your Motive and Goal; and Admit When You Are Wrong. Now, I am looking at how to receive criticism. The first step is to not take it personally. You can embrace and learn from criticism from both unfriendly and friendly critics. As strange as it may sound, we actually need criticism. We need criticism, lest we think we are always right. We need criticism, lest we believe we are without fault. We need criticism, lest we separate ourselves from those we serve or who serve us with an honest critique. But, we don’t need criticism from everyone. Simply put, you have to consider the source of the criticism. I do not take all criticism equally and neither should you. There are three kinds of unhealthy critics to consider: 1) The constant critic. For example, one critic regularly sends a complaint letter (not an email, but one of those paper things). Over time, the complaint letters lost their value. Why? It was just another letter from the same person about a new issue. Or, there are blogs that are one attack after another. Everyone is a heretic, liar or whatever. The fact is that constant critics just do not need to be responded to like the honest critic who is not “enraged” all the time. 2) The critic with low character. One who criticizes and never seems to be content is easy to ignore. There are critics who lack integrity, plain and simple. They make accusations and engage in exaggeration, and just about everyone knows this is their approach. I am stunned to see just how much some “Christian” bloggers, in particular, will lie, play guilt by association and display a complete lack of character—all while calling out someone for something similar. 3) The opportunistic critic. Unhealthy opportunistic critics are always looking for a new angle or issue, desperate for a new way to attack since the last try failed. Just see them for who they are. If you are a pastor, they will complain you did not visit them, even though they don’t like you when you come. If you are a
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Christian leader, they will go from one issue to another, always convinced they have a “gotcha” moment because that’s what drives them. Don’t Miss the Value Due to Critics Yes, there are angr y and nutt y critics—but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need criticism. Arguing with angry people is like wrestling with a pig—you both get dirty, but only the pig likes it. You don’t have to show up to every fight you are invited to. I used to read all the criticism of me on the Internet. I don’t any more—I recognize the same people and can skip those. No, you are probably not as bad as the people who don’t like you think you are. But, you are probably not as good as you think you are. Yes, there are angry and nutty critics—but that doesn’t mean that you don’t need criticism. I do. Everyone does. We Need Discerning Openness to Critics The problem is that sometimes we consider all critics unreliable, and that’s a major problem leading to spiritual and emotional blindness. You should not discount a critic unless you have significant knowledge showing this person to be contentious or consistently disingenuous. Now, I imagine that some of the critics mentioned above will, well, criticize this post—missing the obvious point that I am talking about how to receive good criticism. Such is life. My suggestion: read the whole series, put it into practice, and people will take you more seriously. You may be right, but you’re doing it wrong. Part of being a leader (or thinker, writer, pastor or just whenever you put things out there) is taking criticism. The disingenuous critics used to bother me—now I’ve learned to filter or ignore them. But, if you discount honest critics—even the ones who don’t like you—you are missing an opportunity for learning. I have had both friendly critics and unfriendly critics teach me lessons. In my next post, we will look at how we can learn from both. E d S t e t z e r is the president of LifeWay Research. StAnselm
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