The American Church Magazine - June 2014

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Dedicated to helping the church in America find their purpose, define their mission and reach their community. Vol. 3

June 2014

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No. 6

Editorial Thanks for your response!!! By Steve Hewitt

The Question Your Answers to Our Question for June 2014 By Steve Hewitt

No Longer Church As Usual The ABC’s of No Longer Church As Usual

By Tim Kurtz

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Cover Story

Working with Established Churches Part 1 - Understanding the Frustration By George Cannon

Article

New Life for the Church That Died

Editor-in-Chief

Steve Hewitt - steve@ccmag.com

By Thom Schultz

Contributing Editors

Reviving the Small Church Part 1 – Where is Jesus Positioned in your Church?

Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz David Murrow

Copy Editor Gina Hewitt

By Michael Henderson

Article How We Can Renew Male Participation in Evangelical Churches throughout America - Part 1 By Jeffrey Ludwig

© Copyright 2014 by The American Church Magazine. All Rights Reserved Written materials submitted to The American Church Magazine become the property of The American Church Magazine upon receipt and may not necessarily be returned. The American Church Magazine reserves the right to make any changes to materials submitted for publication that are deemed necessary for editorial purposes. The content of this publication may not be copied in any way, shape or form without the express permission of The American Church Magazine. Views expressed in the articles and reviews printed within are not necessarily the views of the editor, publisher, or employees of Catholic Technology Magazine.

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By Peter Hamm

The American Church Magazine®

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Editorial

Thanks for your response!!! First, I want to thank many of you that responded for our call for writers. As you will see in this issue, we have several new contributors providing some exciting new content. The cover story this month was submitted by one of our readers, George Cannon! George has been published by other publications, and we are delighted to have him start a column with us. George did his doctoral thesis on “A Descriptive Study on the Additional Factors Needed to Move a Troubled Church to Health”! And, his column (the cover story this month was his first offering) will be called “Staying Power”. We welcome George and all of our new writers! If you submitted an article or offered to write and I haven’t replied yet, I am still working through the list. We have a lot of talent in our readership and I look forward to more exciting content! The American Church Magazine®

Also, thank you for the great response to this month’s question about pastor’s discouragement. Watch for an email from me after the 4th of July with a new question! I hope many of you will continue to provide answers. The combination of responses provides a very enlightening look into the church in America today!

Together We Serve Him,

Steve Hewitt steve@cdpublishers.com

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The Question

Your Answers to Our Question for June 2014

I want to thank each and every one that took the time to answer my question and drop me an email. There is simply no way to publish them all in this issue, so I am going to pick some that were represented by many others. In all cases, I have decided to keep the names and churches private. I have learned some things, and I hope everyone else who reads these responses will as well.

By Steve Hewitt

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hat would it take, what change would have to take place, for you to serve the Lord with gladness where you are now? First, let’s hear from a few that feel discouraged and express their reasons. “I love serving the Lord, the people are a problem.” “Pastoral ministry, I believe, lends itself to discouragement. By just about any metric we wish to use, it is obvious to the pastor that we as the American church are waning in numbers and losing ground in influencing our society. Is this failure? It certainly feels that way. For the smaller church pastor, the discouragement is even more acute. A generation or so ago, he was “successful” if he was a man of God and faithfully proclaimed the Word. Now the church expects him to be a “leader” (which is most often defined in business-world terms); he expects as much from himself; and he is told at every seminar he attends that this is the way it ought to be. Yet most churches aren’t experiencing the type of growth they ought to experience if they were “well-led.” Failure? It certainly feels that way. At the end of the day, this prevailing disThe American Church Magazine®

couragement in ministry -- I believe -- is a spiritual battle many of us are losing.” “I think Pastors would be less discouraged if church members spent less time and energy arguing about trivial matters, like the color of the new carpet, and focused more on important ones, like feeding the hungry.” “I believe that I would be more encouraged as a Pastor if my flock was more willing to welcome change. I believe that our churches are dying because we are not willing to admit that the world around us has changed radically, and that we need to do things differently.” “Several times over the last 40 years, I have thought about becoming a shoe salesman at Dil-

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lard’s Department Store. My greatest frustration in ministry is with those who claim Christ as their savior and yet live as if nothing has changed in their lives. They would simply rather sit in a pew than be in ministry within the church and outside the church. The rally cry: “That’s what we pay staff to do!” My current place of ministry is very active in ministry to the community as well as within the church. They could use a little more evangelistic zeal!” “Though few pastors will admit it, I suspect many are unhappy in ministry because they have been treated like failures for so long that they have actually begun to accept the label. All too often, those of us in older, established (and smaller) churches are treated as losers by peers, parishioners, parachurch “experts” and denominational leaders alike. We are constantly bombarded with the “success stories” of entrepreneurs (usually young, good-looking and charismatic) who took storefronts and turned them into megachurches... or even better multi-campus megachurches. While there’s nothing inherently wrong with that kind of church, the unsaved and unchurched aren’t all located in upscale suburbs populated by highly educated, upwardly-mobile “yuppies” with higher than average incomes. I feel a strong sense of call to my situation, but often feel discounted and dismissed as either lazy, incompetent or ‘over-thehill’ because my church is not one of the largest or fastest growing.” “There are a variety of reasons why pastors get discouraged. Some of it has to do with the loneliness of leadership. Some of it has to do with unclear, unrealistic and unmet expectations (from the pastor, from the church, from staff). Some of it probably comes from poorly matched skill sets, where the pastor doesn’t match the church’s needs, where the pastor has the wrong skill set for ministry in general, or where the pastor has not been given skills for dealing with unhealthy conflict in the church. That last item is probably the most damaging. Pastors are essentially good hearted people who want to teach the Word and love people. But there are people in every congregation who are Church Antagonists. These people are church-killers and pastor-killers, but neither the church nor the pastor have been trained in how to confront this kind of unhealthy conflict. More than The American Church Magazine®

ten years ago I was blessed in surviving this kind of unhealthy conflict and am committed to seeing the signs of it much earlier — and dealing with them constructively and proactively. Having said all of that, I love the church and still think that I have the best job in town.” Second, let’s look at a few suggested solutions! “I just wrapped up 41 years of pastoring. I experienced terrible discouragement my first decade or so, then I discovered a pattern of living that changed everything. I began devoting 6 to 9 am to my well-being. I read the Word anywhere from 2 to 10 chapters, then went jogging and meditating. Following my shower I ate a healthy breakfast and journaled from the mornings Scripture reading. Then went to my prayer place to fellowship with Jesus for an hour. It was like a daily Sabbath. After that start, very little seemed to overwhelm me like it did before.” “I have been discouraged in the past where I wanted to quit. I’d have done anything that would have supported my family, but it never worked out. As I look back, I realize that I didn’t have the peer support I needed. I had no one to talk to about my depression. At the same time, I was looking at the circumstances instead of to God. I have come a long way from then and I’m not affected by the circumstances like I was then. Sound spiritual? It is!” “Simply put, the answer is Unrealistic Expectations... Until we as pastors realize that God is completely in control, not only of the Universe, but also each and every day, we will continue to be frustrated and helpless. But once we realize at the end of the day, that we’ve done what we’re supposed to do- we’ve taught, we’ve preached, we’ve studied, we’ve visited, we’ve been faithful and we’ve repented of our many shortcomings, then God considers the day a Success. Not in nickels and noses- we can’t change cold hearts, but in being Faithful in what He’s given us.” “I believe that, in order for a believer or a pastor or missionary to be able to serve the Lord with gladness, he or she has 1) to have fresh encounter with God, 2) have the right perspective on what it means to obey God as a disciple of Jesus, 3) to have a constant feasting and fellowship with God through daily meditation in the word of God.”

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“I think the question is fundamentally flawed. It seems to suggest that happiness or joy in ministry is circumstantial. In other words, “If this happens, I’ll be happy.” My guess is that, should we all be given our wishes in these matters, we would still find a great many challenges to happiness, and precisely because we are expecting to come from circumstances and not taking responsibility for it ourselves. My answer to your question is that my joy in ministry is not impacted by any particular circumstance. I’m responsible for that joy, and I experience in direct relationship to my ability to clearly define self, faith, strengths, values, and principles. As I understand these and live them out I experience meaning, purpose and joy in my calling.”

one exception lasted but a single year.) Almost all of “my” churches grew in membership, attendance, and financial support during my term with them. I trust that I approached the precious persons assigned to my care with equal measures of both unconditional love and light-hearted humor. And I relied on the Lord to fill the gaps where I could not. Would I do it all again? In a heartbeat!”

“In my opinion, there are quite a few ministers who have not been, nor ever were called to a parish ministry, and they don’t know it. There are also many churches who don’t want a pastor. They want an administrator or a coach or a social director and a scheduler. Some churches just want a good salesman or an entertaining speaker. They (church members, but also pastors themselves) think the church is nothing more than a business, and while it must run on good business principles because those principles are based on human needs and proclivities, that’s not the aim or purpose. Every pastor must go into his ministry with the idea that “this is MY ministry” because (s)he has to commit himself “for better, for worse, in sickness and in health, for richer or poorer till God decides otherwise.” After all, the church is the Bride of Christ. At the same time (s)he has to understand that “this is not MY ministry... it belongs entirely to GOD” because I have ABSOLUTELY no chance of success under my own power and wisdom. That second half is what will make or break a pastor.”

“I would say I serve the Lord with gladness. I have pastored for 23 years or so and have not always served with gladness. Here is why I am able to serve with gladness today. First is a constant habit of reading all of the scriptures and seeing the joy of those who served the Lord through many trials, especially Paul as he is in prison writing to the church in Philippi. Second, I find joy and amazement that God would choose me to do this job, helping people with eternal matters. Third, I make an effort to be a joyful, encouraging, worshipful and thankful follower of Jesus and as a pastor. Fourth, I meet most weeks with 2-3 other pastors in town and pray together. Do I get discouraged, yes, but I choose not to stay there. And key is keeping my focus on Jesus Christ, “who for the joy set before Him endured the cross”, not the church I serve.”

And, finally, I also heard from many that expressed they were not discouraged! “I’m one of the 20% who were not discouraged, but filled with joy throughout a career in the ministry of our Lord. As a young adult I was a well-educated and well-paid electrical engineer. After being called by God and trained as a minister, I began serving at roughly 1/4 of my former engineering salary. After 36 1/2 years as a pastor, appointed to a total of eight churches, I recently retired. Seven of my eight assignments were clearly positive experiences for both myself and the people I served. (The The American Church Magazine®

“I serve with great gladness though 50 years of backbiting, power plays, grizzling, bigotry... because God loves us and wants everyone who will listen to become part of His forever family. Some early helps, Its God I serve and not the people – my reward is not from those I serve”

“I learned two things which have greatly helped my attitude in ministry. First, I learned that enthusiasm is a choice. We think enthusiasm is the result of people patting us on the back or agreeing with our vision, etc. But enthusiasm is a choice that I can make. I chose to be enthused about the things of God. I chose to be enthused about the church (the people) I am serving. The second thing I learned was that I needed to turn my perceived rights over to God. Frustration comes from unfulfilled expectations. Unfulfilled expectations are generally tied to perceived rights that I think I have. I have learned to turn those over to God and let Him defend them. It has changed my perspective from complaining to one of thankfulness.”

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Cover Story

Working with Established Churches Part 1 - Understanding the Frustration By George Cannon

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he statistics have become so familiar that we’ve grown numb to them. Surveys reflect that 70% of pastors are constantly fighting depression and 50% of pastors will leave the ministry after the first five years. Only 23% of pastors report being happy and content. Sadly, the state of pastoral ministry in North America can be described with one word: frustration.

So real is the dilemma facing the church that the focus and emphasis in most movements has shifted to church planting. This is due in part to the fact that there does not seem to be any plausible direction for moving established churches to health. While numerous books and articles appear to address the issue of revitalization in established churches, the frustration level remains high among pastors. There is a legitimate need for new churches, yet the fact remains that most seminary graduates and pastors will not make it through the assessment processes to plant new churches. They will assume the pastorates of established declining churches. Because they are ill-equipped to serve these congregations, the result is frustrated pastors. Why are so many pastors who are workThe American Church Magazine®

ing with established churches frustrated with their ministries? Is it possible that the answer may lie in the nature of their frustration? Merriam- Webster defines frustration as “a feeling of anger or annoyance caused by being unable to do something.”1 Is their frustration a result of the difficult nature of ministry in general? The New Testament stresses that serving Christ in ministry will be difficult and that we must not be surprised by this. So, if ministry is difficult in general, is their frustration a result of something else? Could it possibly be the result of the pastor not accomplishing certain personal goals in ministry? Beneath the surface of our frustration, there may lie some contributing factors that feed our anger and annoyance as our ministry goals fall short.

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*Projected 2025 church attendance from George Barna’s Revolution

The American Church Magazine®

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Internal and External Pressures There is nothing wrong with having ministry goals for the churches that we pastor. The problem emerges when we allow internal and external pressures drive us to accomplish these goals. These pressures shift the focus of reaching our ministry goals from serving Christ to serving our own personal needs. In order to understand how our focus can shift, consider the following internal and external pressures that a typical pastor faces. 1. Personal History: The drive for success in ministry can be driven by the personal history of the pastor. This may include perceived failures in past ministry opportunities or family of origin issues. The pastor feels the pressure to prove himself to a group of real or imagined individuals. So when success does not occur, frustration results. 2. Personal Ambition: The drive for success can be driven by the personal ambition of the pastor. The pastor may have certain vocational markers in pastoral ministry that he wants to meet in order to achieve personal success. When those goals are not being met at a certain church, frustration erupts. 3. Denominational Culture: The drive for success may be driven by a desire to be recognized by denominational authorities. Denominations exist in a culture where success in ministry is recognized and rewarded. Feelings of inferiority are very real among small church pastors in denominational meetings. 4. A Cultural Standard for Pastoral Success: The drive to succeed may be driven by the current standards of success in the North American church culture. The size of the congregation and the number of outside speaking opportunities are seen as markers for success. Frustration develops when The American Church Magazine®

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your ministry at an established church fails to meet these markers. Marital/Family Pressure: The pastor can feel pressure from his own family. Simple things like being able to provide youth and children’s programming for your kids put pressure on the pastor. Wanting a better standard of living of your family adds to the pressure as well. Church Expectations: Unrealistic expectations from the church can add to the pressure to succeed. There may be a group who pines away for the good old days when the church’s attendance was higher. Those expectations will put pressure on any pastor to prove himself. Financial Pressure: Money can be a major pressure point for succeeding in ministry. The pastor may have personal debts or the church maybe encumbered by a large mortgage. An increase in attendance usually equates to more financial giving. So, the drive for success in ministry is especially intense if there is financial pressure. Social Media: Social media contributes to the stressors that a pastor faces to succeed. Catching up with old seminary friends can be great, but the constant bombardment of posts reflecting their ministry successes creates an atmosphere for frustration. While most people present themselves in a positive light, nobody shares how frustrating their board meetings are or how their latest outreach attempt failed. Church of Origin: A final area of pressure has to do with the pastor’s church of origin. This is especially true for small church pastors who come from large churches. These pastors expect to experience a level of success that was similar to their church of origin. Frustrations surface when their small churches do not meet the standard set by their churches of origin.

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Simplistic Approaches to Ministry In addition to the pressures to succeed, the frustration we as pastors experience may emerge from our pursuit of simplistic approaches for church growth/health. In our drive to succeed, we continue to look for the holy grail of church revitalization. So, we attend the pastoral conferences and buy the latest church health books. We hunt for the strategy that will be the key to success for which we strive. We are looking for an easy three step process to health. We have taken philosophical models of church health and view them as methods to be applied to our church context. When the church does not respond or we encounter an unexpected barrier to achieving our ministry goals, we blame the church in our frustration. We lash out at our church’s perceived ignorance, when in reality we thought too simplistically concerning the nature of our church’s health. Get a Grip Because working with established churches is hard work, frustrations will naturally arise. But we need to keep things in proper perspective. Because there is no promise of success, we need to question our motives for success. What pressures to succeed are we facing? Are we too simplistic in our ministry approaches to our churches? Are we expecting results too quickly? These are questions that each pastor must wrestle with. The fact remains that ministry will be difficult. But if we understand the source of our frustration, we can begin to deal with it. http://www.merriam-webster. com/dictionary/frustration 1

The American Church Magazine®

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No Longer Church As Usual

The ABC’s of No Longer Church As Usual By Tim Kurtz

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ver the past month, I have been blessed to speak to individuals around the country who are seeking more organic and simple forms of worship. They usually ask me a lot of ‘how to’ type questions. By no means do I consider myself a house church expert, but I am an emerging practitioner who can speak from nearly eight years of experience transitioning my local church – a work that is still in process.

About three years ago, I wrote a companion booklet to my book, NO LONGER CHURCH AS USUAL. The purpose was to give some practical advice for those beginning to worship in house church settings. In this booklet, I shared the ABC’s of becoming a New Testament Gathering. I want to share this with you this month. A – Apply yourself to knowing the facts. Any value or practice that is taught regarding the Lord’s church must be securely established in scripture. Don’t just take somebody’s word for it – search the scriptures. B – Believe God for direction. Trust God to direct you in this process. One of my favorite passages of scripture is Ezra 8:21. During a time of fasting and prayer, they sought the Lord for ‘a right way for them’. God will show you the way that is right for you. C – Commit to complete the process. Becoming a church that gathers from house to house will have challenges. There will be people and situations that may discourage you. Therefore, before The American Church Magazine®

you start – commit to complete the journey (1Corinthians 9:24; Philippians 3:14). D – Disciple one another. ‘Go and make disciples of all nations’ is the marching orders for the Lord’s Church. As you begin this journey, start by discipling one another, but plan to reach the community and region you live in (Matthew 28:19). E – Elders will guide, guard, and protect. God has set in His Church individuals to feed and oversee His heritage (1Peter 1:1-3). Their role helps to insure the safety of the flock of God. F – Fast and pray throughout the process. You must remain sensitive to the Lord at all times – especially as you pursue a change in how you gather to worship (Isaiah 58:6-9; 1Thessalonians 5:17). G – Gather weekly and encourage one another. Be intentional about gathering with fellow believers to edify, exhort, and comfort one another (Acts 2:42; Hebrews 10:25). You will find your strength – not in numbers – but in relationships. H – Holy Spirit and His gifts must be valued. We have a comforter who will point us to Jesus

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and lead us into all truth. He works in and through obedient men and women to accomplish the purposes of God in the earth (John 16:7-14; 1Corinthians 12:7-11). I – Intercede for each other. It is so encouraging to connect with other believers who are pursuing organic and simple worship. Pray for your brothers and sisters that they succeed and that the Kingdom of God is expanded in the earth through them (1Timothy 2:1). J – ‘Jesus is Lord’, this must be your most important value. I teach five values that are critical to the New Testament Church. The first value is submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Everything must revolve around the person of Jesus Christ. If you neglect this value, you don’t have any basis for gathering (Philippians 2:10-11). K – Know those who labor among you. We value the priesthood of every believer. We must honor our brothers and sisters and their contribution to the Body of Christ. The bible teaches us to esteem those who serve as leaders and esteem them highly for the work they do among us. Additionally we must esteem our brothers and sisters more than ourselves (Romans 12:10; Philippians 2:3; 1Thessalonians 5:17). L – Love one another. There are more than fifty ‘one another’ scriptural references in the New Testament. Many of them admonish us to ‘love one another’. One of my favorites reminds us that we can only be identified as Jesus’ disciples, if we love one another (John 13:35). M – Ministry gifts are vital to your gathering. Everyone has something to offer. The various gifts of the Holy Spirit, the practical gifts of hospitality, giving, helps, and the like all serve to meet specific needs and mature the Body of Christ (1Corinthians 12:12-14; Ephesians 4:16). N – No one shall lack among you. Our love towards our brothers and sisters should go beyond words. It must be demonstrated. We should be willing to give so that everyone among us has everything they need to accomplish the purpose of God in their lives. This is not utopian fantasy or a suggestion for a social experiment. This is how a vibrant community of Kingdom people should live. (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32-34). O – Overcome all obstacles in the power of the Lord. Transitioning into an organic and simple church format can be challenging. It requires a new mindset. It means that former practices and The American Church Magazine®

methodologies will change. It evokes many questions – your own and from onlookers. There will be days of discouragement and doubt. However, in the eight years we have been pursuing this, God has never failed to show us His way. He strengthens us through His Word, and He provides encouragement from many around the country. Don’t allow roadblocks to stop you. Don’t allow theological and religious giants to intimidate you. Move forward. You are an overcomer (Proverbs 34:19; 2Corinthians 1:10; 2Timothy 3:10-11; 4:17) P – Pray without ceasing (1Thessalonians 5:17). This cannot be over emphasized. Continue instant in prayer (Romans 12:12). Pray always in the spirit (Ephesians 6:18). If you are pursuing organic, simple or house church gatherings, prayer will be your lifeline to the purposes of God. However you gather to worship, prayer must never be neglected. It can’t be said enough – pray (Luke 18:1). Q – Quit looking back. You cannot go forward with your eyes on the past. Remember Lot’s wife (Luke 17:32). She lost her life looking back to Sodom (Genesis 19:26). The Israelites looked back and erroneously felt it was better to die in bondage, than it was to pursue the promise of God for a better land (Numbers 20:3-5). As long as your focus is on ‘what used to be’, you will limit your ability to enter into greater things. Go forward. Don’t look back. R – Resist the devil at all times. God placed man in fully furnished garden and instructed them to be fruitful, to multiply, replenish and subdue the earth. The fact that subduing was included in this command implies the potential of resistance and conflict. As long as they obeyed God, they would walk in the authority necessary to subdue any opposition to the purposes of God. Resisting follows submission to God (James 4:7). When you submit to God, you effectively eliminate any place for the devil to operate (Ephesians 4:27). S – Submit to one another. We must first be fully submitted to God. Additionally, the Word of God teaches us also to be submitted to one another in the fear of God (Ephesians 5:21). Submitting to another believer says that you value their purpose, and what they add to your life. T – Training is a never ending process. Believers should commit themselves growing in maturity. They should be continuously learning the things of God. We grow in spirit by training ourselves to

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obey the Word of God (Hebrews 5:14). Every believer should submit themselves to instructors who can impart the truths, values, and principles in the Word of God (Exodus 18:20). U – Use every resource the Lord provides. The Lord provides us His Word (2Timothy 3:16). We have instructors and ministry gifts (Ephesians 4:11). We have the power of prayer and above all we have the Holy Spirit. Failure has not been calibrated into your destiny. V – Vigorously pursue biblical results. The promises of God are sure (Romans 4:21). I use the term biblical results because many of the issues you face have already been dealt with by others (Ecclesiastes 1:9). The same Living God, who came to the aid of those before you, will be there for you, too. W – Win the lost to Jesus Christ. This is why we exist. The Kingdom of God is expanded when we are intentional about making disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19). We must live our personal and corporate lives in such a manner that those who do not know Jesus Christ will come asking, “What must I do to be saved” (Acts 2:37; 16:30). X – eXpect to be victorious. Okay, I couldn’t find an exact word that begins with an X, but I can use this to encourage you. Begin each day with the expectation that God will guide you and that you will succeed in His purposes. Live every moment knowing that every circumstance, obstacle, challenge, and even successful situations are working together for your eternal victory (Romans 8:28). Y – You are vital to the success of God’s purposes. We are each a lively stone that help to make up a strong spiritual house (1Peter 2:5). You and I are part of the global Body of Christ, yet we are unique individual members (1Corinthians 12:27). We are built upon an apostolic and prophetic foundation with Jesus Christ being the Chief Cornerstone. We are framed together as a holy temple, and built together for a holy habitation The American Church Magazine®

(Ephesians 2:20-22). My point is that all of us are vital to what God is doing in the earth. What you do is as important to the success of the Kingdom as anyone else who is called of God. Z – Zion (the church) will be reached. Just as David began in the fields around Bethlehem, hid in the caves of Adullam, strategically conquered Hebron, and successfully arrived in Zion. We will see the glorious church of our Lord before He returns (Ephesians 5:25-27). I am encouraged. It is exciting to live in anticipation of what God is doing and will do in the earth. Jesus is still building His Church – His Way in the 21st Century. He is building it with believers like you who are committed to His purposes and Kingdom in the earth. Be Blessed! Twitter: @timkurtz712 Website: www.ntcdonline.org

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Article

New Life for the Church That Died By Thom Schultz

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ver the past 100 years this little church in rural Virginia has diminished and closed its doors several times. But now the church is hopping. And the banjos are only part of the story.

For years pastor Edwin Lacy admired the vacant old building from afar. And then he had the opportunity to imagine a wild new future. He dreamed of a new kind of church that would reach the unchurched–with a distinctly Appalachian flair. Lacy chose the name Wild Goose Christian Community. He said the wild goose, in Celtic traditions, is a symbol for the Holy Spirit. “A wild goose will also sneak up behind you and bite you in the seat of your britches — an apt metaphor for how the Holy Spirit often works in our lives,” he said. To help make the old building a welcoming place for the locals, he removed the pulpit furniture and installed a fireplace, and replaced the pews with a circle of rocking chairs. It’s a decidedly relational atmosphere. It fits the worship style that features banjos and fiddles. Lacy himself helps lead the lively singing with his clawhammer banjo. Edwin on the banjo The setting works well for Lacy’s conversational messages. He recently told an NPR reporter, “I’ve tried to get away from the performance and audiThe American Church Magazine®

ence relationship that I had seen in so many traditional church worship services. And so we have discussions. We read some scripture and everybody participates. I learned early on that just ’cause I had a seminary education did not mean that I knew as much about scripture or theology as a lot of the people sitting in the pews.” None of this takes place on Sunday morning. That’s because Lacy and the congregation see no need to compete with the area Sunday-morning churches. Instead they meet on Tuesday evenings. Beginning at 6:30 p.m. the faithful arrive and and share a potluck supper before the worship time, which is called Wild Goose Uprising. When Lacy started he hoped for 15 regular participants. Now, one year later, 30 to 40 people gather weekly for a meal and the Uprising. Keep in mind this church is located somewhere in the middle of the Blue Ridge Mountains. There is no town–just a post office that’s open two hours a day. Some Wild Goose people drive over an hour to attend. Every week the rocking chairs get occupied

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with a diverse bunch of men and women, from teenagers to 90-year-olds. Lacy said, “Forty rockers is about the limit.” A couple of times they’ve squeezed in more, but that meant they needed to form a second row around the circle. “The group dynamics completely changed when we had to have a second row.” So now he’s thinking about eventually adding a second night to the Uprising weekly schedule. Lacy, a second-career pastor, hopes this Wild Goose will inspire others to experiment and break the trends of church decline. “I hope it helps other small churches think differently before they lock their doors,” he said. What to learn from the Goose This church exhibits some examples of the “4 Acts of Love” that we describe in our book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore. For instance: 1. Radical Hospitality. Replacing the pews with comfortable, movable seating encourages a relational environment. And beginning the evening with a shared meal extends hospitality in a sensory way. And meeting on Tuesday is friend-

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lier than Sunday. 2. Fearless Conversation. The messages here aren’t lecture-based. The pastor shares his thoughts and encourages meaningful conversation within the service. 3. Genuine Humility. Pastor Lacy acknowledges that others in the room may know more than he does. “There’s leadership, but we’re all in this together,” he said. And the idea of a small church is fine with him. This church isn’t looking to be the biggest Sunday morning show. 4. Divine Anticipation. The people of the Wild Goose invite and expect the Holy Spirit to act in unexpected ways. “God is in this place,” the pastor says. This church brings a whole new meaning to the wild goose chase.

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Reviving the Small Church

Part 1 – Where is Jesus Positioned in your Church? By Michael Henderson

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hen Jesus called the brothers Simon and Andrew he said, “Follow Me and I will make you become fishers of men” (Mark 1:17b). His method was not an elaborate scheme of a plan that would take them through a series of steps on how to make people desire to want what they have passed over for years and decades, it was simply laced with the words, Follow Me, and I will make…” There was not an elaborate debt laden building complete with the latest in design, style, and technological advancements, awaiting them to combine their mental faculties to forge a plan of commission. No, because in Jesus’ mind building His church was a simple two-step process that didn’t even involve a building; it was simply this: Follow Him and let Him be the church builder.

In all my years of ministry there has been one driving force that has helped me to endure the daily onslaught of ups and downs—gains and losses; that being, let Jesus build the church. To use the words of a very wise man who was well aware of his calling, John the Baptist was sure of one thing, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30). When I first became a follower of Christ there was one thing that had to happen before Jesus could transform my life, He had to take first place. I had to let go of my life and let it fall off the craggy cliff of self and into the waters of His graciousness. I had to let Him have all of me. I had to let Him hold me. I had to rely upon Him to catch me and put me on His predetermined solid footing. You see, He knew where I needed to The American Church Magazine®

stand in order to start moving forward in life—My life had to become His life (see Gal. 2:20). Consider the following: Why did Jesus perform miracles? Why did He feed the hungry crowds? Why did He take moments to privately sit with His followers; His sole intent being to teach them concerning the glories and mysteries of heaven? He did these things because there was a pressing and deep inner desire to love them with all He was and with all He had to offer. He wanted to watch them grow where they were planted. When He saw the crowds He fed them because He had compassion on them. When He taught the crowds He did so to set them on a path of discovery—one that would lead toward His blessing. When He performed miracles He did so be-

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cause in this world there is sometimes no other way to move forward at the time then to bend the laws of nature. All of this glorifies the Father. The bottom line to all Jesus did was just that –Jesus doing—Jesus making—Jesus changing things. When has this ever changed? When did He move over? And why do we spend so much of ourselves and our time doing things as if we were “Jesus” doing them? In today’s world there are churches of many sizes, shapes, localities, ethnicities, and social flavors. There are very elaborate rich and ornate buildings to simple non-descript frames with a steeple and a sign. There are large memberships and very small. There are those that look like God is doing a great work and those that look like Ichabod is placed over the entryway. My first pastorate, an ultra-small church in Kansas, had six attendees on my first Sunday all sitting on the first pew with five empty ones behind and six more stacked clumsily along the back wall covered in dust. Wow, what in the world was God thinking? The church was in a rural setting on the edge of a town with a population of sevenhundred. It had been in mission status for most of its lifetime of around forty years and had never really pushed beyond that barrier. But I had three things going for me; my heart had been shaped to know only Jesus can build His church, that He had sent me there, and that He loved all people. What then was I supposed to do? Simple, I needed to pray, listen, and wait. I needed to give the church to Him and ask for His direction with this small struggling congregation. Three years later, 40% of the town either attended or were ministered to by that church. In the “Great Commission” of Matthew Jesus knew His disciples would have to take all He had taught them and go into a world of hungry wolves with spiritual opposition on every side. How could they do it? How could they survive? The only way was to keep their eyes fixed on Him always remembering that no matter what obstacles they faced building the church was His responsibility and that He would never really depart from them. He said this in just a few words,”…, all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt. 28:18-20) In this commission is the reminder that He has all the authority in heaven and in earth, that our commission The American Church Magazine®

is to make disciples but only by teaching them His words not ours. That baptism would be a sign to the world that this body of believers were united under the banner of Christ and that He would never leave us as orphans. How often do we as church leaders forget that our salvation was His work? That when He called the twelve it was His work again in coming to them, inviting them, and making them fishers of men? How about His actions of compassion and urgent need? He was so in tune with the Father and so full of His love that He could not help but do all that the Father urged Him to do. The Father induced Him to move forward in everything He did and He chose to listen to Him rather than follow selfish fleshly desires (see Heb. 4:15). When we desire to enter into the work of building and growing a church we must never forget the words of the Lord in reply to a group of inquiring minds who asked Jesus, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus said point blank, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him who He sent” (John 6:28b, 29). Church leaders have been given a great responsibility. They have been entrusted with new church plants, healthy existing congregations, and many that are dead and dying—ready to slide into the abyss of non-existence. How can the new begin to sprout, the healthy stay that way, and the old be renewed? That is literally the billion dollar question. In reality there is nothing we can do. No amount of money we can muster will fix what is not working. But there is an answer. It’s found only in Christ. Pastor Michael Henderson -I currently serve as Pastor of the First Baptist Church of Springfield, IL. I have pastored several small congregations in 3 states. In 1996 I was awarded the “Smaller Church Pastor of the Year” by the Baptist Sunday School board (SBC) in Nashville, TN. I have a 4 year Vocational degree, and 3 years of Theological studies at Ozark Christian College and Southwest Baptist University. I am executive secretary of Business Men In Christ of Springfield and I have authored the book, “Those Who Are Wise Will Shine, Understanding God’s Work in Your Redemption,” edited and co-authored the e-book, “25 reasons To Believe,” and have an upcoming book entitled, “The Sifted Generation. The Coming Last Days Persecution of the Church” expected to be released later this year. I have a personal blog located at www.truthinspires.com. I am married to Brenna and have two beautiful children by her, Mika, 11 and Brenna Grace, 10.

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Article

How We Can Renew Male Participation in Evangelical Churches throughout America Part 1 By Jeffrey Ludwig

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his article is written to suggest that viable models for change are available to promote manliness and more participation by men in our churches. Men need to be reached. In order to “reach” men, to inspire men, it is necessary to look to models in Scripture and in history that motivated men to build a lifestyle with Almighty God at the center.

We see in Numbers, the men of Israel over the age of 20 were called upon to protect the Ark of the Tabernacle. This Ark was not merely a symbol of Almighty God, but was literally Godin-their-midst. The Shekinah glory of God was intensely present in the Ark in the Holy of Holies, and even in the utensils used by the priests in attending to the ceremonies surrounding the Ark. Two of Aaron’s sons had not followed directions for the organization and use of the Ark, and fire literally came down and struck them dead…in front of Aaron. The Bible says that AarThe American Church Magazine®

on remained silent. Just as men see themselves as protectors of their families, they must see themselves more and more as protectors of the holiness of our saving God. It is part of cherishing Jesus Christ, part of cherishing the Creator, part of worshipping the one and only true and living God that we grow in manly protectiveness of the faith we hold dear. Additionally, we need to learn from the heroic experience of the Puritans how to live as defenders of the faith and guardians of the peace of Christ to which we are heirs. Only in

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this way will men be inspired by the churches in which they find themselves. David Murrow in a remarkably perceptive article in American Church Magazine, April 2014, tells us that the church has changed its focus from the salvation of individual sinful souls to an emphasis on relationship with Jesus. This change, according to Mr. Murrow, has feminized the church. He really does not suggest an alternative, but is more descriptive than prescriptive. This change exists. That’s why it is difficult to build male interest and motivation in churches. Let us look at Numbers and then at the Puritans more closely. In the first chapter of Numbers, God commands that a census be taken of the men in Israel over age 20. This census is not for purposes of taxation, but to get an accurate enumeration of the number of warriors who were in the population of the Israelites. The census came up with a number slightly higher than 600,000, which by modern standards as well as ancient standards, is a formidable number of fighters. The twelve tribes of Israel, based upon this census, were there located around the Ark of the Tabernacle at fixed locations west, north, south, and east. These warriors would be defenders of the Ark. Reading the first four chapters of Numbers, it is impossible to see the role of men as anything except that of warriors in defense of God and their belief system (they had already been given the Ten Commandments at Mt. Sinai). Fast forward to the time of the Puritans when they came to the New World to establish a “peaceable kingdom”. But what is the peace they sought to establish? Peace is a gift from Jesus Christ to those who have received him as their Lord and Savior. For those of us who have confessed with our mouths that Christ is Lord and believe in our hearts that he rose from the dead, we can (and should!) receive His peace (which passes all understanding). They came to the New World to fight, through personal sacrifice, to be peacemakers in a world of argument and conflict. They were totally positive in their vision. They did not intend to be caught in a daily round where they have to keep suppressing the opposition or, on the other hand, to succumb to an aggressive enemy. Their peace was real, but they were not pacifists like the Quakers. Instead, they envisioned The American Church Magazine®

a citadel of “peacefulness” where they could worship the Lord their God in spirit and truth away from the religious and political tensions of England and continental Europe. Their understanding of “peace” went much deeper than the Quaker pacifism because the Quakers did not see a connection between peace and loving fellowship because they did not believe in the Trinity. Lacking the Trinity, the eternal model of loving fellowship allied with the peace of Christ was not implanted fully in their hearts. Further, George Fox and his followers believed their daily Christian practice was guided by the Inner Light, whereas the Puritans understood that while the light of Christ shone in their lives, the Comforter who guided them on their life paths was none other than the Holy Spirit. They came to build, not to kill or be killed. They understood that peace had many dimensions. It involves peaceful vocations. That means agricultural pursuits, fishing, home manufactures, trade, and of course religious vocations like pastor and teacher. It means living on amicable terms with one’s neighbors, both Christian neighbors and non-Christians. Scripture tells us to live at peace with all people (even the unsaved) as much as possible. Thus we see that John Winthrop and Massasoit, chief of the Wampanoags, secured and maintained a 50 year peace treaty between the white settlers and the natives. During that time, the Pilgrims/ Puritans helped the Wampanoags against other tribes that had historically been hostile towards them. Thus, the Puritans sometimes fought, but their fighting was a form of sacrifice for their native friends. Later the Puritans would fight in King Philip’s War against the natives. This does not mean that they were warlike or hostile towards their neighbors, but they had to defend themselves and their families from harm, death, and/or extinction. These were species of “just wars” which were held to be valid from the earliest days of Christianity. Peace means the proper maintenance of a civic order based upon Godly principles. The Puritans thus created the Code of Liberties, an early constitution written in 1648 which was administered and upheld by magistrates who were elected by the church members of the community. Yes, the church members were all white males, but in the 17th century context,

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there was nothing unusual about that. The Code of Liberties was not forced upon the natives as “rules for living” for them. No. They were able to continue living under the direction of their tribal councils according to their own cultural requirements. The Holy Bible provided principles for civil and criminal law management, but the Holy Scriptures themselves were not the textbook, so to speak, for that law. Thus, the true meaning of “separation of church and state” was put into effect. Magistrates were not telling pastors how to pastor; and pastors and elders were not telling magistrates how to govern or apply the law. Yet, both held their positions under committed belief in Christian principles for godly living. It was not perfect, but despite the hardships and fearful conditions of life, the colonial population grew and prospered. Peace reigned. Although it was not a perfect peace, there was incredible harmony, prosperity, mutual aid, strength, learning, and piety. Lastly, there was the peace of living out a faith-witness in word and deed to the saving grace of Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. The name of Jesus Christ was lifted up day after day, week after week. The Christians lived a daily life of what today many would call “God consciousness” or “Christ consciousness.” Everything was done for the glory of God, especially after 1646 when the Westminster Shorter Catechism was adopted by Parliament answering the question, “What is the purpose of life?” with the statement, “The purpose of life is to glorify God and enjoy Him forever.” They witnessed to the natives, and they encouraged each other by sacrificial mutual support and words reflective of their love for Scripture. They strove to have their holy or good deeds match their words, although as imperfect, sinful human beings, it goes without saying that they sometimes fell short. There are few communities of Christians today that can say they even come close to the consistent daily and prayerful witness of the Puritans of the 17th century. If the evangelical church today is to recapture the excitement of men and resist further feminization of the church, it will do well to look for historical models. This article suggests that the model of the ancient Israelites found in Numbers, Chapters 1-4 and the example of the Puritans in the 17th century are great models The American Church Magazine®

for refocusing and rebuilding male participation in our churches. (Part II of this article will discuss and explain practical applications of these models for the structuring of our churches for fuller participation of men.) Jeffrey Ludwig served as under-shepherd (Pastor) of Bible Christian Church for almost a decade and is now a member of a local church belonging to the Evangelical Free Church of America. He has preached in the Philippines and in churches throughout New York City including services at the World Trade Center before it was destroyed. He is also a Harvard master teacher who has taught in various colleges and secondary schools, and has authored various articles on education and politics. Last year, he published Memoir of a Jewish American Christian, Vol. 1.

June 2014

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Scrap Heap

Do I Need a New Life Verse? By Peter Hamm

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f you’ve been a Christian for any length of time (especially if you are part of the evangelical camp), you have probably heard about the idea of a “life verse”. This is a particular verse or passage of Scripture that a Christian uses as a guiding principle of their life. It seems odd to some, but maybe not a bad idea. The two I encounter the most, it seems, are these ones. “For I know what I have planned for you,’ says the Lord. ‘I have plans to prosper you, not to harm you. I have plans to give you a future filled with hope.” (Jeremiah 29:11 – NET) That’s a wonderful promise that may or may not actually apply to me today. “I am able to do all things through the one who strengthens me.” (Philippians 4:13 – NET) A cursory glance at surrounding verses shows that the meaning of that verse is closer (in context) to “I can put up with anything that comes my way because of the one who strengthens me” than “I can accomplish amazing things (get that job, make that grade, run that marathon, lose that weight, etc.) because of the one who strengthens me.” (Eric Bargerhuff, in his excellent book “The Most Misused Verses in the Bible” does an even better job of explaining this about several verses in the The American Church Magazine®

Bible including those two. It’s a quick read and a great place for further reading on this subject.) I’m not sure that it matters if Christians interpret these scriptures the way they do, and I’m also not sure that those instances of what is called “misinterpretation” by some aren’t actually valid understandings of something that is actually meant by those verses. (So, go ahead, use Phil. 4:13 to encourage yourself to lose that 10 pounds. I am pretty sure God doesn’t mind.) For me, that isn’t the point. For me, it’s more an issue of motive. Years ago, I was encouraged (in a sermon) that a life verse was something I really ought to have, so I started searching and listening to other folks talk about their life verses. While I did that, I noticed something then that I notice more keenly now. Everybody’s life verse seemed more about

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“what God does for me”, and less about “what I do for God”. Verses like Psalms 37:4 and Romans 8:28 or 8:31 or even John 3:16 all point to wonderful promises of God, and are good faith-builders, but as a Life verse, I’ve decided they are found wanting. Why? Not because the promises of God aren’t to be celebrated. They are! We should do that whenever we worship, and we should find a way to privately celebrate God’s goodness every chance we can. No, the reason I think they are inadequate is that I am convinced that the approach God would love us to take when we define and direct our lives, and the approach taken by so many historical and current saints of the church is not “Look what you’ve done for me” but rather “What can I do for you?” Someone dear to me, as a matter of fact, decided that her “life verse” is Micah 6:8. Go ahead, look it up, I’ll wait… The idea that the defining principle of our life, when chosen by us from Scripture, should be something that bolsters our pledge and promise to

The American Church Magazine®

follow the one who made all things shouldn’t be so odd, should it. It should probably be normal. So go ahead. Pick a new life verse. I did. And for those who are interested, it’s John 4:34. Go ahead, look it up, I’ll wait… http://www.amazon.com/Most-Misused-VersesBible-Misunderstood/dp/0764209361 Some of his findings were a real surprise to me as I read. Others, like the Philippians passage mentioned above, merely confirmed what I already knew or suspected. 2 By the way, this was in pre-internet days, so “searching” meant a lot of Bible reading, not a few moments of googling. 1

Peter Hamm is a worship leader living and working in the Cincinnati, OH suburbs. When he’s not working or sitting around asking questions like this one, he’s at home with his wonderful wife, and his fantastic son.

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