Dedicated to helping the church in America find their purpose, define their mission and reach their community. Vol. 3
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Editorial Are you really saving money? By Steve Hewitt
The Question Your Answers to Our Question for July 2014 By Steve Hewitt
No Longer Church As Usual Then and Now – Which is Better?
By Tim Kurtz Article
Turning Pew Sitters Into the Ministry A Team
Never Let the Facts Stand in the Way of a Good Story By Peter Hamm
By Thom Schultz
Steve Hewitt - email@example.com
Reviving the Small Church Part 2 – Where is the Bible Positioned in your Church?
Contributing Editors Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz David Murrow
By Michael Henderson
Article How We Can Renew Male Participation in Evangelical Churches throughout America - Part 2 By Jeffrey Ludwig
Staying Power Working with Established Churches Part 2
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Church Health Material: A Help or a Hindrance? By George Cannon
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Are you really saving money? Did you ever hear about the new company that produced a product that they were selling for $1, but after they launched, it was discovered that it was costing $2 to make the item? At their board meeting the CEO said, “Don’t worry about it, we will make it up in sales!” Of course this type of thinking is stupid. But in a way, I wonder if many churches aren’t also making a very big mistake in their business thinking. Communication is constantly changing. Back in the late 1980s, Church Management Software companies provided a great service, helping you sort your mailing list according to zip codes and standards required by the Post Office, in order to take advantage of the non-profit mailing rate. Letters coming from a church had a label and a postage meter stamp, and the church saved money. However, times have changed. There is SO much junk mail that comes with a label, windowed envelope, and a meter stamp printed on the envelope, that information from a person’s church in that form doesn’t have much of a chance of getting inside the house and actually being read! The other day I received a piece of mail. It was the size of a Birthday or Christmas card. The envelope was yellow. My address and the return address looked like it was hand written and it had a real stamp. Even though I didn’t recognize the name of the return address, when I walked by the trash to throw in all of the junk mail, this yellow envelope made it into the house. When I opened it up, it was a letter from a company wanting to The American Church Magazine®
encourage me to refinance my home with them. Sure, it went in the trash after I opened it, BUT the important point here I am trying to make is I opened it! And, I can tell you what it was about. And, IF I was interested in refinancing my home, they probably would have earned my business. We live in the personal communication age. Sending out mail in a business format is a sure way to waste your money. Sure, it is cheaper to send out 500 letters using a postage meter and printed labels, but if no one reads it, have you really saved any money? If you either use a clever font and print directly on the envelope, OR use volunteers to hand address your envelopes, and if you use a real stamp, your open rate goes way up! I don’t have exact stats to help you compare, but I know it is true (and I am sure you do as well). So, churches may need to stop saving money and start sending out communications in an effective way!
Together We Serve Him,
Steve Hewitt firstname.lastname@example.org
Your Answers to Our Question for July 2014 By Steve Hewitt
hould pastors curb their message and watch a clock, or should congregations be willing to sit and listen as long as preachers feel they should continue to preach? How long do you preach and why? Thank you all for your great responses. As I expected, there were great comments, good advice, and for some, strong opinions! Hope you enjoy the responses, I certainly did, and learn a little each time we do this about our readership and what is going on within the churches in America! “I’m the associate pastor so my preaching is rather sporadic--filling in for the senior pastor when he’s away. I typically aim for around 25 minutes for the sermon length. 30 minutes would be a long sermon for me.” “I think 30 is about right. 20 is a little light and 40 is too long for your average American these days, especially when trying to reach new people from your surrounding community. To those advocating for longer, good luck with reaching your average American these days. They won’t say anything, they’ll just vote with their feet.” “I think the Sermon on the Mount might have taken about 30 minutes (at least to read aloud). But since I’m not Jesus, add 10 minutes. Forty minutes is what I average on a Sunday morning. But a lot of it is being able to “read” (by the Holy Spirit) the audience and no when to slow down and clarify, and when to quit.” “I used to preach for about an hour thinking that The American Church Magazine®
it will make my message understood. The truth is that only the Holy Spirit can touch the minds and hearts of people. Preaching for too long makes people loose focus and interest to listen, we are not supposed to preach just because we have to, but to convey a specific message which people need to understand. I preach for about 30 minutes and allow the Holy Spirit to take control.” “I don’t believe pastors should be watching the clock. Also I don’t think there is a correct time limit for one’s preaching. Do all books have to be 100 pages? Do I have to stop talking to someone because all conversations have to be 10 minutes long? If I limit prayer to 15 minutes do I tell God times up so you have to stop talking to me nor do I have time to share other praises and request with you? Why do we think there is a correct time to the length of a sermon? I know all the studies about people stop listening after 20 minutes, but cannot the Holy Spirit defy studies? After 40 years of preaching I know there were times when I should have ended a sermon but didn’t because self got in the way but that can be as true for my 20 minute sermon as well as my 40 minute sermon. Never should the sermon be based on a time I set but let God speak though the message and when He is done go sit down.” “Along the way I asked one pastor I was preach-
ing for ‘How long should I preach’, and he told me, ‘until they quit listening.’” “It’s not the length but the content. I had a preacher who would drone on repeating the same content for ever and another who would say what he had to say and quit, leaving us with a “is that all”. Both preached for the same click time. Preachers should be mindful of the timing, people today are much more scheduled in their daily lives. Preparation of the message is key. But if the content is challenging then folks will tolerate a longer message.” “Your comment about striking oil is insightful even as it is humorous. As oil represents the Holy Spirit, if someone is speaking without a sense of the presence of the Holy Spirit, then they are blessing the mind and should limit their sermons to the timeframe the mind can endure. But if they are speaking under the anointing and unction of the Holy Spirit and the words are blessing and feeding the congregation’s spirits, there should be a great willingness to continue to listen actively and attentively to those living words. What is required is brutal honesty on the part of the pastor to discern where the sermon springs from. If it is born in the mind, it will bless the mind. If born in the spirit, it will bless the spirit (and usually also the mind).” “The three point sermon is dead. Have one good point, illustrate it well, and be done with it in no more than 12 minutes (preferably less). Any more and people’s eyes start glassing over. I’ve heard some wonderful preachers go on for 30 minutes or more. When they’re done and I ask people what they thought, it’s rarely more than one point and sometimes they get lost in all the words and don’t even get that. We preachers need to eat a large piece of humble pie and remember that it’s God’s word not ours that matter most. Just my (not so humble) opinion.” “I keep my sermons to 15 minutes (varies between 10-20 minutes but usually right around 15). The congregation I serve is a traditional church that uses a hymnal and liturgy. We try to keep the whole time of worship to one hour, sometimes an hour and 10 minutes. Schedule is important to our members and I want to honor their time. I also feel that a well crafted sermon need not take more than 15 minutes (most TED Talks are around 15 minutes) to proclaim God’s Word. The whole counsel of God doesn’t need to be preached each week, and Bible classes also can help in the teaching of God’s Word. And I believe The American Church Magazine®
that, while we don’t know the true length of Jesus regular “sermons” the ones recorded in the Bible are short and to the point. Learning about God is a life long process and we should never make people feel that one “sermon” is enough! :)” “I usually preach about 25 minutes. This seems to be the length of time that it takes me to adequately give background, commentary, and application. And it also seems to match my congregations attention span; they comment about shortness around 20 minutes, and they begin to disconnect around 30 minutes.” “In my first pastorate, one of the deacons said to me one weekday, “Do you want me to tell you what to preach about Sunday?” I said, “Sure.” He replied, “Preach about twenty minutes,” and then he laughed real hard at his own joke. Through the years, I’ve tried to make my sermons about 20-25 minutes, but it would certainly be stretching the truth for me to say that I’ve always achieved that goal. And it depends on the congregation, too. There have been times when people have come to me after the service and said that they wish I had kept going, that it seemed the time just flew by. But there have been other times when I knew in my heart that even
twenty minutes was way too long. I have learned to read their faces and body language, and sometimes just shorten the message as I go, condensing it on the fly, and getting right to the meat. So I’ve wondered why I didn’t do that to begin with! I believe it has made my preaching sharper and more to the point.” “Ten minutes- for two reasons. 1. I’m a concise kind of guy. 2. Church is worship, listening to me should be helpful for that goal not a goal in itself!” “I have been preaching for 48 years. For a number of years being on live Radio- I held my sermons to 38 minutes. Now I usually go 40-45 minutes. I find that those who go longer, ramble and lose the congregation have: • Not been prayerfully prepared • Have too many points and too many verses to those points. • Go off on rabbit trails How do I overcome the above? • Be thoroughly prayerfully prepared. • Keep to the Subject- Preach expository or in Topical series. • Don’t go off on rabbits trails • Have my Sermon as I have done for years- completely typed out in front of me. Doing this I have preached to myself before preaching to the congregation. Understand it is in front of me- I do not read it- But it keeps me on target. Typing my sermons out word for word - enables me to have a typed record that I can use if need be in other sermons.”
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Never Let the Facts Stand in the Way of a Good Story By Peter Hamm
t happened again... Somebody posted another one of those tearjerking stories about some miraculous event involving heroism, faith, animals, and even patriotism. And of course, the first thing I did was check an online site for checking hoaxes. And yes, I was “that guy” who posted on his wall that the story was entirely fictional. And yet he still hasn’t unfriended me, go figure. I have friends on every end and in every corner of the ideological spectrum whom I follow on Facebook, so it’s not unusual during my daily excursions into cyberspace for me to encounter a story about how terrible (insert evil politician name here) is … and then a diatribe about how marvelous this person is and how downright evil and sinister his or her opponents are. It doesn’t matter where you fall on the social/ religious/economic/political spectrum. You can find something that will offend or delight if you just keep scrolling (or maybe both if you look really hard). But lately, I’ve noticed something The American Church Magazine®
about those of us in the Christian camp, especially those who count themselves as evangelicals. It’s a hard truth, and I’m sorry to bring it to you today. We are making the faith look stupid out there. Of all the different types of people I interact with, from atheists and agnostics to those who don’t care all the way to Christians, Christians are most likely to post something that has already been debunked, is outright inflammatory, or is just plain “made up.” Our tribe is more likely to play fast and loose with the facts than others I encounter. I am not saying that Christians (partic-
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ularly politically right and far-right believers) have a monopoly on this, but I will say that Christians I interact with are turning it into an art form. It’s not new. I remember some of the sensationalist propaganda that existed when I was younger, back before the Internet. I would love to see a video with all the predictions that were made by certain Christian TV personalities in the 70s and 80s, for instance. Or perhaps somebody has a stash of copies of “The Late Great Planet Earth” for anybody who wants one. I remember getting really tired of learning that (insert famous actor/actress/musician name here) has become a Christian so now at last we have another famous person in our tribe. (Most of those stories were made up.) I wonder if we even care if our facts check out. Do we value sensationalism and good feelings so much that we just don’t even bother to make sure we know what we’re talking about? Do we perhaps hold, without knowing it, a relativistic view of truth, and the same kind of relativism that these same folks crusade against if you get in a debate with them about a theological topic that they feel strongly about? Or maybe they’re just lazy. I’m afraid it might go deeper than this, and it terrifies me. I think that when we sensationalize, invent truth, circumvent reality, and just plain make stuff up, we are holding those invented truths more highly than the real truth. I’m afraid that we don’t mind if it’s a lie, because it’s a nice story about an adorable doggie that rescued a bunch of people from certain death and the story is more important than whether we are willing to invest the 15 seconds it would take to verify (or not). We like the sensational better than the reality. We like the enormous picture of Jesus in the clouds better than the much smaller reality of Jesus in our hearts and lives. We feel a need to make up the facts, because we can’t believe with the facts we’ve been given. Well, we don’t actually believe anything at all. I know a lot of people see the “sensationalism” of the story of Jesus in the Gospels and just can’t hang onto faith in him unless we see something miraculous or amazing around us in everyday life, as we imagine that they did in those “good old days.” We forget that along some stretches of the biblical narrative, centuries go by The American Church Magazine®
in which God doesn’t speak at all. We forget that when the crowds tried to make Jesus a huge deal, he ran away from them and went to a quiet place and prayed. We forget, or don’t even bother to learn, that the kind of life change that actually happens in this world is in the hearts of quiet faithful people who love God and follow Christ in unassuming ways, whether that’s Dorcas in the early church serving or the guy in your church who never engages in these debates, because he’s busy volunteering to build a home for Habitat for Humanity, or organizing a soup kitchen, or training someone who’s homeless so they can get a decent job. (Yes, I know those people. They are real… but they are quiet…) Pastors, I’m talking to you, too. Just yesterday, for instance, I was reading a really good book and I encountered a quote from a famous saint of the church. It’s common knowledge that this saint never made that statement. I almost threw the (otherwise excellent) book across the room. I’ve heard enough sermon illustrations that were just the same as these ridiculous stories my friends on Facebook post without even checking. I’ve heard enough prophecies of doom and gloom based on headlines that never came true. I’ve heard enough stories of “healings” that were outright fabrications. Please don’t make the faith that our fathers lived and died, and for which our forebears painstakingly and prayerfully composed creeds and confessions to celebrate, into an excuse to elicit a tear of response or a thrill of excitement based on “whatever it takes to tell the story.” The true gospel message is subversive, exciting and has room for everybody. It doesn’t need to be dressed up. God doesn’t need our help to look sensational. He is sensational to anybody who will take the time to look and who is given the gift of the eyes of faith to see. I don’t need a fake story (we used to call those “lies”) about a dog that rescues people to believe it. I believe it because I believe Jesus, the quiet, ever-present Jesus who lives in my heart.
No Longer Church As Usual
Then and Now – Which is Better? By Tim Kurtz
hen I entered the ministry, the timing was interesting to say the least. It was 1987, when one of the most publicized series of scandals in the church flooded the news. In my opinion, 1987 was also a turning point in America’s view of the church as a whole. Christian leadership was becoming more suspect in the eyes of many people. I was a new upstart kid who just wanted to preach the Gospel, but found myself being labeled as ‘one of them’. This taught me a valuable lesson. It gave me a glimpse of how the world sees the church. It did not matter if you were Methodist, Baptist, Lutheran, or Pentecostal; implicit in the comments of many news commentators was that the scandalous actions of a few, was the norm for the church. Let me be clear. A public scandal is only such because it is not the norm. It is only newsworthy because it does not fit the mold of the majority of churches. For every publicized moral failure, there are thousands of church leaders walking in the upmost integrity. These are the leaders most feared by the world. For every financial scandal, there are hundreds of churches who handle their business affairs openly and honestly. These are the churches the world wants to keep hidden. For every publicized display of a church system bowing at the feet of the world’s gods, there are so many more that are upholding a righteous standard. These are the churches the world wants to demean, belittle, The American Church Magazine®
and shame. My point is that the publicized moral failures, financial scandals, and religious confusion are satanic ploys that have given the ‘rulers of darkness of this age’ the license to point a critical finger at the church as a whole. They use these isolated events in an attempt to lump all churches in the same boat. Have you noted the rising attacks on the American Church? I am not talking about jokes by comedians or the ridiculing, often prevalent in television sitcoms and movies. I speak of the clear attacks on everything once considered holy. The church does not have the respect it once held in the community. Christ centered values are openly attacked. Those
who espouse tolerance are extremely intolerant of Christianity. I even read where one person stated that Christianity would soon be considered a terrorist group. Many of you who have followed my writings know that I am a proponent of the house church. Occasionally, I am asked if I believe house churches will be necessary in America to avoid the level of persecution experienced by Christians in other countries (i.e. China and Muslim dominated countries). In times of great persecution, believers may gather quietly in homes or other secret places to hide their worship; but hiding is not the goal. The goal is to make disciples and expand the Kingdom of God in the earth. In China, the underground house churches grew – they did not just hide. Even in the early church, when persecution arose, they scattered, but continued to expand and grow. They grew, not because they gathered from house to house, but because they understood who they were in Christ. They had a greater vision for the purpose of the church. To them the church was not a meeting, but a gathering of believers committed to the message of the King. When I teach NO LONGER CHURCH AS USUAL, it is more than a methodology. It is a mindset. It is an intentional gathering of believers who have their heart, mind, and soul committed to the purposes of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is a choice to do everything in your power to please the Lord. It is a willingness to lay down everything (life included), to be in the will of the Father. To such believers, HOW you gather is less important than WHY you gather. The church should be more concerned with making disciples than gaining members. The church should be focused on Kingdom expansion more than church size. The church should be focused on divine purpose more than religious comfort. These things won’t happen just because we gather in a living room. They flourish when believers turn their eyes on Jesus alone. One of the comments I hear often is that those of us who espouse simple, organic house gatherings are more focused on the event of gathering in a house. Honestly, when I read some of the blogs and books, I can see where it would be easy to come to that conclusion. Much of the conversion in house church groups on Facebook and other social media forums center around the so-called ‘evils’ of gathering in church buildings – which is a conversation that, I personally feel, totally misses the point. The American Church Magazine®
When I speak of gathering from house to house, I mean it literally; but I also want it understood that the house church gathering is not an end in itself. Gathering in a living room has no purpose if it does not result in expanding the Kingdom of God. I would equally add that gathering in the most ornate Cathedral or well-equipped Worship Center is futile outside of the Kingdom Mandate (Genesis 1:28; Matthew 28:19). I am not battling the church system as we have known it for 1,700 years. Yet, at the same time, I am becoming more and more convinced that our current most common method of ‘doing church’ is not God’s best. The message is the same, but the methodology has weakened our impact. The modern day church has become so elaborate in the name of progress and organization, that at times you may question what is more important – the Gospel message or the survival of the organization? The first century Church, even with all its flaws, had a better delivery system for the Gospel. Not all of those who read my articles agree. One person wrote the following in an email to me: Is it bad if we are different than the early church? We can easily recognize that the early church did not do it all perfectly either and some things seemingly were not meant to be copied e.g. pooling all our money as a church. It seems to me that the church learned various things as they went along and maybe, just maybe, it would not be progress to return to some of their early practices. It might indeed be better to research the reasons why they made those changes so that we do not end up re-inventing the wheel, so to speak. This writer’s sentiment expresses a common belief I hear that restoring the structure of the first century church is not progress. If you look at just the structure, or the method of gathering, it would not be progress. If you see the structure and method as a divine tool to expand the Kingdom of God, then I believe you will agree that what the Christians did in the first century was superior to our church systems today. Allow me to suggest three reasons I advocate first century values and structure. 1. IT EMPOWERS BELIEVERS TO PURSUE THEIR PURPOSE In the first century church, every believer had the potential to be equipped for the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). If you or I were living in the
first century, the idea of ‘going to church’ would have been a foreign concept. Instead, we would understand that we, not a dedicated building, were the church. We would live life among other believers and impact the world we lived in (Acts 17:6). This leads to my next point. 2. CHRIST-CENTERED ACTIVITY WAS A LIFESTYLE RATHER THAN AN EVENT I often challenge people to re-read the book of Acts to see the first century church in action. In the early church, you will find that people were healed – but there were no healing services. You will see people encouraged and instructed through personal prophecies – but there were no prophetic services. You will read of those who were delivered from demonic oppression – but there were no deliverance services. These supernatural acts took place as the need arose. They were not scheduled events. Our modern day auditorium-style worship causes most believers to look to certain individuals to do the healing, prophesying, or miracle working. It has given rise to ‘spectator’ Christianity rather than ‘participatory’ Christianity.
that could support domestic and foreign missions. People are trained to usher, work in the nursery, and operate sound/ video equipment rather than being equipped to make disciples (which is the true work of ministry). Too much of what we do today is counterproductive to the Gospel. Let’s be honest. In the first century church there were scandals and flaws. Like today, the early church was persecuted (Acts 11:19-26). But they grew and flourished. They demonstrated a power from the Holy Spirit that shook the foundations of their world. Is this happening today? To some, ancient biblical structure may seem out dated and non-progressive. But I believe it holds the key to unleashing an army of believers that will demonstrate the authority of the King of kings in the earth (Matthew 24:14; Romans 10:18). Yes, Jesus is still building His Church – His Way in the 21st century. I believe we are in the greatest hour for the church. Get ready. We have the opportunity to demonstrate the manifold wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:10). Blessings! Twitter: @timkurtz712 Website: www.ntcdonline.org
3. FINANCIAL, MATERIAL, AND HUMAN RESOURCES ARE TARGETED TO MEET THE NEEDS OF THE PEOPLE RATHER THAN THE SURVIVAL OF THE ORGANIZATION The first century church did not have elaborate buildings to pay for or paid staff to support. Some contend that this level of organization is necessary. It is, only because we have made it necessary. Nearly everything in the contemporary church is tied to big business. From the smallest storefront church, to the most elaborate worship center, money is primarily raised to support an operational structure unheard of by first century believers. As a result, the needs among the people go unmet. Paying the church mortgage takes precedence over helping a family with food. Paying for utilities and building upkeep drains money The American Church Magazine®
Turning Pew Sitters Into the Ministry A Team By Thom Schultz
’m not interested in being on somebody’s B team,” my friend said. He was talking about churches that distinguish ministry work and responsibility based on whether a person receives a salary from the church. Those on the A team (pastors and ministry staff) call all the shots, closely control all the work of the church, and lead all initiatives. The B team is expected to pay the salary of those on the A team, follow orders, and be quiet. My friend is a highly capable, extremely successful guy in the real world. He has lots of ministry ideas and the leadership talents to make big things happen. But he’s been told to conform to the status quo of the A team. Now he’s become frustrated enough that he’s given up completely on the organized church. Though rarely referred to as such, the A and B team distinction is widely evident. It is one of the significant factors causing the decline of the American church today. Unfortunately, the majority now perceives that ministry–and being a disciple–is something that paid professionals do. The role of the people is to attend a presentation once a week, watch the rehearsed show, pay the performers, go home and resume life as usual. This A/B distinction is not only disempowering the disciples, it’s discouraging our most capable, highest capacity people. They’ve somehow conThe American Church Magazine®
strued that they’re just members, second-rate Christians because they lack a theological degree, and cannot truly lead without being on the church payroll. What’s more, members and attendees sometimes gather the impression that the clergy have attained higher favor with God. A MESSAGE OF HIERARCHY How are the people getting this sense of hierarchy? It often comes across in subtle and unintended ways. Some examples: • The church’s website illustrates its ministry with dominant pictures of the pastor. • The church attributes its success (Sunday attendance) to the work of the professionals on stage. • The staff describes ministry fruit in terms
of the number of members who have gone on to pursue full-time ministry (paid).
2. Devote time for people to share their God stories, which often can be more powerful and authentic than typical sermon illustrations. 3. Let capable people run with significant ministries–without bridling them with the urge to control. 4. Act more like a coach than a guru. Equip people to flourish on the real ministry field–where they live every day. 5. Spend ample time out on the ministry field–helping and cheerleading (not lording over) the people on the field. 6. Celebrate the wins on the field. Dedicate time every week to highlight how God is working through your people in remarkable ways. 7. Remind people–every week–that they are the ministers, the disciples, carrying out real ministry in ways for which they are uniquely qualified.
This concept of ministry and discipleship is not what Jesus advocated. I do think he wants all of us to be engaged in full-time ministry–right where we are, all the time, in our vocations, at school, on the bus, at home, and even at church. But his end game was not to convert everyone into paid A-team church employees. Paid staff play a crucial role. They set the tone for ministry. And most would love to see more and more of their people move from being mere pew sitters to become full partners in ministry. THE PRIESTHOOD OF ALL BELIEVERS So, how might we promote everybody onto the ministry A team? Some ideas: 1. Listen to people. Suppress the temptation to do all the talking. Respectful listening telegraphs that others have something important to contribute.
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The church is the Body of Christ. Every part is important. We’re all in this together.
Reviving the Small Church
Part 2 – Where is the Bible Positioned in your Church? By Michael Henderson
n part one of this series I spoke on making sure we have settled on the issue that Jesus must take first place in all things from our personal life to our public life and that most certainly involves His church. Colossians 1:18 states: And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. –Colossians 1:18 (NKJV) That word preeminence simply means “first place.” Our mindset as believers must be so in tune to this that it is second nature to seek Christ in all things. Supposing this is where our church sits; what’s next? Where do we go from here? We Need to Provide a Sure and Living Message Obviously, with Christ at the helm of our lives we must also trust that the Bible is His revealed word to us and must be held in the highest of regards. It is from those pages the message we preach must come. Think about this for just a moment: If the Bible is God’s written word given to us to specially reveal the mind, heart, and will of God Himself and provides full instruction for Christian living, the fellowship of the saints, worship, and daily life; and if God thought it important to give it to us in the format it has been delivered—containing ALL that is necessary for reaching the lost for Christ, should we not make it our aim to be faithful to God and deliver The American Church Magazine®
it just as it is written? If the historical and miraculous accounts written in its pages were as a result of believing God’s word, shouldn’t we wholeheartedly do the same? God has not changed, only we have changed. One of the bigger issues in smaller churches that are stagnant or dead and dying is the leadership has not experienced Christ on the level they need to know Him. In future articles we will delve into the many factors that play into this, but suffice it for now to say that God is the authority on what people need to hear. His word is the written revelation containing the prescription for the human maladies. Consider that if we do not know him in an intimate, powerful, and life-changing way then the congregation will not experience Him either. If we do not believe God’s word the people will not either. People need to see Jesus in the leadership. They need to know that the historical accounts of what the people of the Bible experienced by way
of victory, provision, hope, and abundant living, established an enduring faith that is in fact sure. They need to know their leaders believe it is sure as well. They need to know that the leadership of their church would literally die for the faith if they were called to do so. But this passion is missing today in far too many pulpits. Instead church-goers are getting served a mandate to serve others from duty alone or a repetitious ritual that does nothing enduringly transformational to exalt the living God in their lives. Commenting on the philosophy of United Church of Christ Pastor, Jim Burklo, Wendy Wipple quotes him as saying, “It really isn’t important whether or not you take the Bible literally, or whether or not you believe all the creeds word-for-word. If they don’t make sense to you, don’t worry about them. Don’t let dogma and doctrine get in the way of practicing Love, who is God.”
(Acts 7:8-10). Others saw it because he believed and experienced what was written about God. It is that type of effulgent glory that should be present in our character as well. We need a real heartfelt passion for God’s life-changing word because we have experienced it. This will move mountains and attract the desire to serve God wholeheartedly in all who see and hear His words. People in every congregation I have been privileged to Pastor have grown by leaps and bounds in their faith because they were taught the truths of Scripture in a real and passionate manner. Miracle after miracle was experienced because the people began to live what they were taught; and because they began to get excited themselves, they were more apt to share their faith—because they were on fire, others gathered to inquire. There is no room for a dull, dry, and dead message in God’s house.
Church Growth Happens when People trust God’s Word For the Christian, God’s word contains all we And there’s more: Burklo opines that it real- need to know about life, hope, and peace; three of ly isn’t what you believe that matters, but what humanities biggest pursuits. Life thrives on Hope in you do; “Instead of caring whether the story of Christ because He is the bright glimmer of a shinJesus’ resurrection was a fact or a myth,” Burklo ing star in the midst of the darkest night. It is the says, “let’s concern ourselves with things that one sure thing all Christians seek. It tells us there is matter. Let’s care about our neighbors witha better place waiting on the celestial road ahead. out jobs or health insurance. Let’s be activist Also, for the believer, life thrives on Peace because citizens. Let’s gather in churches, soup kitchens, it is the experience of overwhelming joy and foswork-places, living rooms, and cafes to support ters endurance. These attributes come to believers each other in doing things that matter”. And because the one delivering the message has experilet’s let go of old doctrines that don’t.* enced them himself. So then, let us have the same mind of the Father. We must realize that what He It is just that type of teaching that is killing deemed to be most important to know and underchurches across the American landscape. It is a stand so must we. Churches thrive where the Father message of social activism and duty to man. It may rests His favor. The Father rests His favor where men make one feel good from a secular humanist point and women allow the fire of His word to consume of view but it does nothing for the soul and Christ is their lives. not in it. We do not “do good” because we do not believe, we “do good” because we believe and are If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, induced by the Spirit of God. you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. (John 15:7) The Example of Stephen Just prior to Stephen delivering one of the most The next installment will center on godly Wispowerful messages contained in Scripture (Acts 7) dom and its place in the Church he stood before the council (συνεδρίῳ - Sanhedrin), * http://www.raptureforums.com/WendyWippel/ And all who sat in the council, looking steadfastly at thebiblebuffet.cfm, accessed 07/01/2014 him, saw his face as the face of an angel (Acts 6:15). Why? –Because he was full of grace (faith exhibited by God’s favor), power, and the wisdom of God The American Church Magazine®
How We Can Renew Male Participation in Evangelical Churches throughout America Part 2 By Jeffrey Ludwig
n Part I of this two part article, the models for the use of men in Numbers and that of the Puritan communities in New England were put forward as templates for creating a church body in which men regained a dynamic sense of their importance and purpose in building and re-building the church in America. This article provides an attempt to “translate” the historical models into a practicum that makes sense in the context of today’s church institutions. If we rightly read our examples, we may see three elements at work in our models in Part I: (1) there is an intense and abiding sense of community of men within the churches; (2) there is a sense of connection with the civic obligations of the members since said obligations were under Godgiven rules; and (3) there was in Numbers both a symbolic and a truly militant sense of defending the true and living God from any and all opposition, even from within (as, for example, God’s destruction of two of Aaron’s son who did not keep to the rules). The American Church Magazine®
Defense of God: Church Discipline: This last aspect presented above was driven home to this writer recently when reading 1 Corinthians, chapter 5. Here, Paul sharply repudiates the congregation at Corinth for not removing from their number a man who was having sexual relations with his stepmother. Paul says his membership must be rescinded so that he may experience the pain of dis-fellowship, thereby repent, and thus, hopefully, restored to fellowship. Of course, if there were no repentance, said member would remain dis-fellowshipped. This would not
be what we now call legalism because in the same epistle Paul warns against nit-picking about the eating or not eating of meat offered in sacrifices at (non-Christian) temples. Thus there needs to be a definite but nuanced distinction between moral clarity in church discipline and mere tyranny and nit-picking by the pastor and the elders. Men like discipline, but hate tyranny. Service to the Church: A sense of community among the men can be built in the following ways. First and foremost, men must do things together over and above mere common entertainments like breakfast or bowling. As with the Puritans, service to the church, to each other, and to the community are crucial ingredients to bonding, and bonding is the precursor to life and death loyalty to one’s eternal Lord and Savior. Service to the church can include cleaning, painting, drywall installations, installing flooring, waxing and/or washing of floors, repairing of walls, ceilings, doors, equipment, etc. It could include saving money together in an account for some specific charitable purpose, to buy a new pulpit for the sanctuary, to upgrade the sound system, or provide some other unique gift to the church property over and above the normal budgeted items. These activities should all be accompanied by a time of prayer and scripture exhortation both before and after the time allocated for the activity (at least 15-20 minutes). The elders should pray for the men and/or the men should pray for themselves and for each other. The name of God should be glorified throughout the prayers, not only petitioning Almighty God through His blessed and Holy Son, Jesus, but with great thanksgiving for such a wonderful Savior, Lord, and Mighty Prince of Peace, and Wonderful Counsellor. The men who, because of age or disability, cannot fully participate in these activities can help provide moral support, and if possible, bring over tools as needed, wipe up a bit, encourage, and be a supportive audience, so to speak, for the endeavors of the others. They can bring some snacks in which all can partake as well as napkins, paper plates, plastic spoons, forks, and knives, and other paraphernalia necessary to assist the flock of workingmen. Service to the Community: Under this service rubric, men of the church must organize themselves to engage with various The American Church Magazine®
community service projects. These include but are not limited to volunteering with local hospital and hospice chaplaincies to visit and attend to the needs of the sick patients; ministering to the homeless and poor in food and soup lines; visiting prisoners in jails; handing out tracts and praying for people on an as needed basis at “Prayer Stations”; raising money for project such as James Robison’s Feed the Poor where wells are dug for people all over the world who do not have clean water; protesting massage parlors and XXX facilities, especially in urban areas where the sex slave trade is reinforced by these activities; volunteering with the Special Olympics; volunteering with walkathons such as those sponsored against Breast Cancer or for Multiple Sclerosis; attending rallies to support Israel; to attend vigils for those who have been victims of some heinous crimes or hit and run accidents; to show solidarity with the local community in which the church is located on issues where the local residents have been betrayed in some way by the government or face a crisis beyond the norm (Almighty God’s intervention should be clear to Christians, and to bring a sense of eternal hope to the helplessness the community feels because of the limits of merely human responses and helps is apparent in certain crises). Civic Obligations Under God-Given Rules: The issue of “separation of church and state” has become a source of confusion to churches as well as to the non-believing public. In fact, separation of church and state helps churches in many ways. Churches are exempt from taxation by an extensive body of laws, and they are protected from unscrupulous manipulation of their buildings and finances by legal controls that prevent individuals from gaining control of church moneys or property and exploiting same for personal advantage. Churches also may speak out on pressing social, political, and economic issues, but, since the administration of Pres. Lyndon B. Johnson, churches are not allowed to support political candidates who are running for office without, potentially, losing their tax exempt status. Although certain disadvantages accrue because of this law, seen from another perspective, freedom of speech by the churches has achieved another layer of protection insofar as the civil domain must enforce protection of churches’ positions with respect to political and social policy. Thus, while many unchurched people
would like churches “just to stick to that religious stuff,” in actuality, as noted in Part I of this two part article (1) there is considerable historical precedent for church involvement in civic policy going back to the 17th and 18th centuries and moving forward into our own time, and (2) this involvement is protected under law. Thus, while “separation of church and state” is a bogus distinction at bottom, the validity of church engagement with public policy is still affirmed, and, in fact, is still legitimate, albeit it is not as welcome by the body politic as it should be. Within the above legal context, we may then proceed to the controversial area of civic obligation under God-given rules. You see, for the Puritans, and it is their timeless heritage to the body politic of the USA, civil administration cannot be considered separate from the rules of God as outlined and detailed in Holy Scripture. Thus, while the Church is under the protection of the State, the State is in an important sense under the protection of Almighty God as revealed through the Scriptures He has given to us. So institutionally there is a type of “separation” which is necessary in order for the State’s powers to uphold the integrity of the Church, but in terms of the State’s accountability to Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ (“the government of the world will rest on His shoulders,” Isaiah 9:6), there is no separation. Thus, a church that would enlist male cohesion and purposefulness will be outspoken on certain moral and social issues. The liberal churches where good manners is considered an effective substitute for good morals must be rejected as unmanly and wimpish. They are antithetical to the bold preaching of Christ and his apostles and especially to the bold witnesses and martyrs of the Protestant Reformation. Attempts to impose false practices upon the church were considered immoral by the Reformation leaders as well as false interpretations about the limits (or lack of limits) of governmental authority over the dissident religionists were repudiated by the Puritans and the Huguenots as well as the Dutch Reformed churches and the Lutherans. Attempts to silence the churches and the voices of the rational defenders of Scripture and to portray those voices as fanatical or “beyond the pale” must be rejected out of hand. They are inconsistent with Protestant history and the history of the church in America, particularly the thread of church life emanating from the The American Church Magazine®
Puritan experience. Churches that intend to develop male solidarity and participation must invite male input into communicating a moral agenda for propagation by the church. Study groups of men should be put in place in these churches. These study groups will research various moral issues and draft positions of the local church on those issues. The men will wrangle among themselves to have a statement on five to ten issues that can actively be presented to the public. The preachers will preach on those themes as they choose. The men of the church will invite speakers to appear at the church to make presentations on the topics they have chosen as having the most import for that church. The church will send men to conferences which address the issues chosen, and provide strategies for advancing their positions by the local church, whether it involves lobby days where local legislators are visited, rallies, pamphlet distribution, house meetings, etc. Eagle Forum is a tremendous source for grass roots organizing on a host of conservative, Bible-based positions. This type of issues-based activity by churches is protected by law, and the fear of the church
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moving into these areas should not be based on possible legal repercussions. There may be blowback from opposition within the local community, but that will strengthen male resolve. Defining one’s church community within a hostile context is the hallmark of Puritan “faith.” It is the hallmark of the churches during the Apostolic period, and then, later, during the Reformation period. Earnest Christian men must stand their ground in a new way. It is not only by establishing a church, but by establishing the church-in-community that the real challenges emerge. Today’s church is not operating in a vacuum of support as were the Puritans or the original Reformation groups (although there were nobles supporting the Huguenots, Princes supporting the Lutherans, and high-born educated Englishmen and ministers supporting the Puritans). Today we have the Alliance Defense Fund, American Center for Law and Justice, Family Research Council, Eagle Forum, the Horowitz Freedom Center, the Rutherford Institute, and other lesser known organizations. Christian Male Bonding: Traditional Social and Spiritual Modalities: The above four categories are to develop Christian male character as well as renew a sense of purpose among the men of the local church. Churches today tend to be in three categories regarding men: First, we find the nice guy church where the ideal of Christian character is to be Mr. Nice Guy, pleasant and non-offensive, a go-along to get along type of man who puts social harmony as his top priority. This type of church will be pleasant, and one will find little to fault in it. Yet, men, searching deep within – those who are introspective and committed to an ever deeper walk with the Lord – will ultimately be dissatisfied. They will sense a lack of fulfillment, and what passes as friendliness will eventually appear as it truly is, namely, spiritual laziness towards a Holy God. Second, are those churches where service to the community is weighted heavily. Various categories loosely labeled as “social justice” are front and center. Here, there is sometimes a slippage into a “works” doctrine of the Christian life as opposed to a doctrine of “grace” being front and center, although there is usually some kind of lip service to grace. This is a distinct train of thought that flows not out of Puritanism but out of the The American Church Magazine®
social gospel movement that was led at the end of the 19th century by Walter Rauschenbusch. Although sometimes some of the doctrinal errors made by Rev. Rauschenbusch are not imported by the local church, the image of the Good Samaritan dominates as the leading Christian image to the exclusion of many other important strands of theology and faith. Third, there are many super naturalist churches whereby all problems are treated as insufficient faith in Jesus. Your mother-in-law is interfering with your household, “Give it to Jesus.” You have terminal cancer “Give it to Jesus.” Your wife has cheated on you even though she is your childhood sweetheart and you have four children together. “Give it to Jesus.” While it is true in a sense that all our problems and heartaches are under God’s loving redeeming hands, and that He knows our hurts and the outcome of our troubles and longings, it can be destructive to reject our natural hurts out of hand, and the “Give it to Jesus” response may not only be unhelpful, but may easily be received as a supernatural brush-off. Fourth, we find the mega-church where men are to be inspired by being involved with a highly effective, dynamic institution where the very momentum of the church’s growth creates a sense of unity and heightened commitment. These churches, by design, are meeting the “needs” of the members. In short, the unity they engender is the exact opposite of that encouraged by Christ who tells his followers to “deny themselves, pick up their Cross daily, and follow me.” These churches, even if their helping of others like the social gospel churches, confuse helpfulness with denying of oneself. Helpfulness is giving generously of one’s time and money for the sake of one’s “neighbor,” but denying oneself is giving sacrificially for the sake of Almighty God through His Son Jesus Christ under the leading of the Holy Spirit. The difference between helping others in order to meet needs (your own and those of the helped one), while often commendable, is different from denying oneself. A comparable difference is the baptism of John (the Baptizer) and that of Jesus’ followers. John’s followers had a baptism of repentance. Jesus’ followers baptized in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. The difference was so significant that it may have been the reason why John the Baptizer said he was unworthy to unlatch
the Messiah’s sandals. In summary: mega-church = unity of men based on meeting of needs within and without the church; true unity = denying oneself daily in order to glorify Christ Jesus. Despite these differences with the above four church “types,” the male unity herein proposed must be undergirded with “traditional” forms of church life whatever the type of church purpose or organization one has. These elements are listed as follows: 1. Regular church worship service attendance. 2. Bible study: Regular Bible study groups must meet divided by sex, so the men groups will become more cohesive under the Word of God. 3. Prayer Groups: Regular groups of men need to meet to pray together for the needs of the church, the community, the city/town, the state, the nation and the world. 4. Participation in the Church Ordinances: Men should be enlisted to be handing out the juice and the communion wafers. 5. Participation in collecting of tithes and offerings: Men should be collecting the tithes and offerings each week. 6. Doctrine: Reformed doctrine should be upheld in churches and regularly taught in classes to the men, the women, and men and women together, both in regular services and in separate meetings for that purpose. Reformed doctrine was the original doctrine of the Apostolic Period and was the doctrine of the Protestant Reformation and the Puritans. We are able to be “born again Christians” today because of the Reformation founders, and reformed doctrine is what they believed and promulgated. 7. Regular participation in business meetings. 8. Giving of tithes and offerings. Conclusion: Parts I and II of this article have provided models of male participation and Christian excellence based on Numbers and on the Puritan experience in America. The basic principles underlying these examples were extrapolated to provide the reader with the basis for applying those models to modern church life (Part II). Discipline within The American Church Magazine®
the church, now sorely lacking in most churches, plus community-building via engagement with the socio-political issues of our era, connect us with the Puritan struggle against oppressive institutional and social practices in 16th and 17th century England and Scotland. Such “activism” will also connect us with Protestant struggles that took place on the European continent at the same time which cannot as easily access because of the historical and linguistic barriers. However, it should be noted that quite large Huguenot communities settled in New York and South Carolina when forced to emigrate, and in no small measure have contributed to the church life of Protestant America. Combine the above with aggressive programs of community service and evangelistic outreach, all built on a foundation of traditional church practice and reform doctrine, and we have a formula for revival and for civilization-change. Like the Puritans and the Israelites, we need to sense God’s presence in a way that goes far beyond the commonplace, far beyond the joys and uplifting realities of family retreats, great worshipful picnics, and fulfilling friendships and fellowships. The restored Christian order in America and the West requires a going of the extra mile beyond the normal conception. Men must lead, and the Lord God Almighty through His Son Jesus Christ, has already chosen them to do so. *About the Author: 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.
Working with Established Churches Part 2 Church Health Material: A Help or a Hindrance? By George Cannon
he mention of church health material to pastors typically draws one of two reactions. The first reaction is one of hope and anticipation. This is the response of the pastor who is convinced that the model he has studied is the solution to reverse his church’s decline. It is also the response of the seminary graduate who has studied the models in school and is waiting to see them applied in the church. This response is rooted in a conviction that change must take place in order for church to see kingdom potential.
A pastor may also respond with disappointment and anger if he has tried to apply church health principles to his established church. His efforts resulted in frustration as one obstacle after another presented itself. It is not unusual to hear such a pastor make statements like as “Church health, we tried that once and it didn’t work for us.” The American Church Magazine®
Considering the two different reactions from pastors, a major question emerges concerning church health material. Is there a problem with the church health material or is there something within each established church that is hindering the revitalization process? It is the author’s contention that church health material is not necessarily the
problem. Rather each established church, with its unique character and history, has inherent barriers to health. The Nature of Church Health Material In order to see that the church health material is not necessarily the problem, the pastor needs to identify the nature of the material itself. First, we have to recognize that church health material is a product of scientific research. The material presents the conclusions of an author who has sought to express why some churches are growing and others are not. It is the product of observation as principles are deduced and presented in a user friendly format for pastors to understand. Rather than program methods to be applied to the church, church health material presents philosophical models to be studied. Consider this warning in Rick Warren’s classic book on church health, The Purpose Driven Church: To understand many of the methods in this book, you need to understand the context in which they were developed. Otherwise you might be tempted to copy things we did without considering the context. Please do not do this! Instead, look beneath the methods to see the transferable principles on which they are based. The pastor should also view the issue of church health as being complex. A simple survey of most church health literature would suggest that many do not agree concerning what the basic characteristics of a healthy church are. The only exceptions to this observation concern the importance of worship and leadership in a healthy church. Each church is unique and a product of its own experiences. No two churches are alike. Therefore there are no simple steps to health. Next, church health material presents itself in a positive light. It tends to not express the long term nature of the health process. Also, it does not list the mistakes that were made and the difficulties that were encountered during the process to health. The pastor will not find a discussion concerning the price that had to The American Church Magazine®
be paid in order for health to take place. Finally, it must be recognized that church health material tends reflect the philosophical/theological bent of the author. The material is also written from the cultural context of the material’s church of reference. Often, these churches of reference tend to be middle class suburban churches. It must be noted the very few of these churches of reference were ever declining established churches. Common Mistakes in Using Church Health Material So, if the problem is not necessarily with the church health material itself, where does it lie? The difficulty with church health material emerges from the pastor’s simplistic application of the material to his established church. Consider these common mistakes that are often made. 1. Pastors study the models of church health more than their own churches. The most common mistake that most pastors make is not spending as much time observing their churches as they did analyzing the church health models themselves. New pastors are especially prone to this as they launch into change without an adequate knowledge of their churches. Gaining a proper understanding of a church can takes anywhere from months to years. 2. Pastors share their intentions for health too quickly. Another mistake that pastors make is revealing their intentions prematurely. Within the first six months, they are buying their board a copy of a church health model to study, despite the fact their board may have individuals who are not prepared for the concept of change in their church. 3. Pastors view that material as methods to be applied. Church health extends beyond simply changing the style of music and dress in a worship service. A pastor can make those changes while still having an unhealthy church. It is better to understand the philosophy of change
and look for methods that will work in the cultural context of the church. There are no easy solutions. Pastors approach church health as they would fad diet books. Yes, there are short term successes, but in the end they revert back to the state of unhealthiness. 4. Pastors operate from a wrong frame of reference. The final mistake that pastors tend to make has to do with the church that they have envisioned. Sadly, the church that they have pictured is not their church in a healthy state, but rather the church of reference in the church health material. Instead of guiding their churches to become all that they were meant to be, they are seeking to reproduce a church whose model they have fallen in love with. This is a recipe for disaster. Things to Consider If we are going to work with established churches, we need to recognize that church health material can be a needed asset. When
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using church health material, here are some points to consider: 1. Study more than one church health model to grasp what health is for the congregation. 2. Start looking at revitalization as a longterm process or journey for the congregation. There will be ups and downs. 3. Study the church. What is the history of the church? What traumatic experiences has it endured in the past? What caused the decline? How have other pastors sought to address it? The key to using church health material is recognizing the context of the churches we pastor. We need to put as much effort into knowing our churches as we have with the health models that we love. There is much to learn from church health books. But, if we do not know our churches, all of it is meaningless.