The American Church Magazine

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

August 2014


The Question Your Answers to Our Question for August 2014


No Longer Church As Usual The Church Tipping Point

14 16 19

No. 8

By Steve Hewitt


By Tim Kurtz

Reviving the Small Church Part 3 – Drawing Insights from God’s Wellspring of Wisdom?

By Steve Hewitt


Contributing Editors Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz David Murrow

Staying Power Working with Established Churches Part 3 Getting to Know Your Church

From Church Hoppers I Love Tradition!

You and your church NEED to see this film!

Steve Hewitt -

By Michael Henderson

By George Cannon

Cover Story

Copy Editor Gina Hewitt

© 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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August 2014


The Question

Your Answers to Our Question for August 2014 By Steve Hewitt


hat Would You Do? We have all seen the reports of Christians being martyred in Syria and Iraq. I personally saw a picture of six men who were stripped of their cloths and crucified, all because they refused to denounce Christianity and return to being a Muslim. The question for this month is two-fold. Remember, names will be withheld so we want you to be completely honest. First, if all other options of escape were gone and you were to find yourself at gunpoint and you were being told to denounce your Christianity or die, what would you do? Second, what percent do you believe of your congregation that actually attend your church services each month would be willing to be a martyr if there was no other choice but to deny or die? Here are the replies we received. Of course we received too many to print them all, but I appreciate everyone who responded! I believe some were very honest! “This is a question I have asked myself many times. There is only one choice for me. I made that choice in July 1975. I choose Jesus Christ. Would I be scared? You bet! But not for long. I believe at least 50% of those attending my church would do likewise. God bless you!” “I have been thinking a lot about this over the last few weeks, with so much on the news etc. The American Church Magazine®

I would like to think that I would rather die that give up my faith as a Christian, but to be honest I’m not sure I would. When I hear other Christian say they would die for their faith, I do wonder sometimes if they are sure and being honest.” “I have been thinking about this lately. I am afraid to die. I have been wondering if God would be ok with me if I denounced Christianity but secretly still believed. The conversion would be a lie in my heart, but I would go through the motions on the outside. I would like to think I would die instead of convert, but the pain of death scares me. Thank you for asking.

August 2014


“I don’t wanna look brave (like Peter), cause I’m not sure what I’ll do in a such extreme situation, but I think by God’s grace I wouldn’t deny my Savior and Lord. Regarding the church members I believe there are at least 10% very brave, like Peter in Gethsemane garden, but only by words. How many would be willing to be martyrs? Just Lord knows their heart. Not sure about the other 90%, but I’ve recently learned a lesson: never trust people, but test them first. And even if they pass the test, they may fail the real exam.” “Believe me, I have been asking myself this question for a while now. At my present point in my relationship with Christ, I would have no problem giving up my life if told to denounce my faith or die. A tougher question for me would be what to do if faced with “denounce your faith or I will kill all your children before your eyes”. I’d love to say I could easily accept that as well, but I have to say I have my doubts.” “I posed this question in a men’s small group fifteen years ago and was called “sick” for thinking such a thing. I believe that if confronted with the situation I would be given the sufficient grace to face it with the necessary faith, “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” I have pastored two churches of 250 and 45 members and have served in lay ministry in a church of 1400 and my sense is the same, sadly that only about 30% of the membership would choose to die than renounce and save themselves.” “I don’t think that I can answer for others but as for me, my answer would definitely be that I would first consult the Almighty to guide me as to how to respond. I have no fear of death since I am convinced that it is entrance into His presence but I would want to know what His perfect plan is before submitting to a bullet. IF no directive from the Holy Spirit came I would simply ask to have faith to endure what was coming and definitely not deny Him.” “The answer I’d like to give is, I would gladly die for my faith. I’m sure I would. It’s terribly unnerving to actually put yourself in that situation though – and what if I were there and what if I caved in? I would pray for strength to carry through on my conviction, but undeniably it would be difficult. I cannot judge what anyone else would do in that situation, though of course, I would love to believe that 100% of those who attend church here would The American Church Magazine®

have a strong enough faith to choose Jesus over life. But realistically that is probably not correct. Maybe 75%.” “I preached on this last Sunday, and told my folks that I would have no problem dying for my faith in Jesus Christ. Though they looked at me with some questions, I think maybe a few, but not many would. I think it depends on their assurance of salvation in Jesus.” “The pictures of the crisis in the Middle East are horrific. It’s so overwhelming to see all that’s going on in the world. I’d like to think that I would be willing to be martyred for CHRIST, but not having to face that I don’t think any of us can answer that, really. I feel my attachments to this world are so few, that I’m ready to go home to the LORD, and that I would say, “go ahead, shoot, I want to go home to JESUS, my LORD!” But then I see the other horrific pic’s of people being doused in acid, tortured, beaten...I don’t think I could do that! At least, not in my own strength. It would only be by the Grace of GOD. I believe my church family would feel likewise, but, sure isn’t a pleasant thing to think of. My name & church are an open book: Lori Chyko and C3 (Christ Covenant Center) is the Church name. Thank you for all you do, Steve. I love the programs you do with Chris Fabry, and Thank You for offering us insight into this, sometimes confusing, digital world.” “If all other options of escape were gone and I were to find myself at gunpoint and told to denounce my Christianity or die, I would look toward the heavens like Stephen did and declare the wonderful works of God, Jesus, & the Holy Spirit, thanking them for the privilege to be counted worthy as a martyr. I believe that less than 1% of my attending congregation would be willing to be a martyr if there was no other choice but to deny or die.” “By God’s grace and power and only by that, I would have to confess Jesus as Lord and Savior and that there is none other. As for the congregation, and this is just a wild guess since no man truly knows the heart of another, I would like to think that at least half would stand with me.” “While the stories we hear that describe noble and faithful response as to refuse to deny one’s faith and suffer martyrdom, I wonder if that really

August 2014


is the best route. It may be if it is a witness to many others. But I think I would choose to deny (presumably only to a few fervent Muslims) but continue to believe and practice my Christian faith in private, but still secretly worshipping with and associating with other Christians who have taken the same route. Keeping alive the faith within an alien and oppressive culture and then quietly working against that culture seems important to me.”

me. But then, suddenly, I was faced with those unexpected situations and I failed to respond in a Christ-like fashion. On the other hand, when others rejected a brother caught in a homosexual lifestyle after 40 years of marriage, I reached out in love and helped him back to the faith. I never thought I would do that. I once worked for a Muslim and brought significant light and understanding to him and his company. I never thought I would do that. I once made a sudden decision to stand up for a man “It’s easy to say sitting in my living room I would who was a victim of bigotry and helped him walk die for Christ no matter what. But because of huaway from a dangerous situation with his dignity. I man nature, I’m afraid fear of being beat to death or really surprised myself with that situation. So I don’t raped I may become weak and give in. I pray I never really know what I would do - deny or die. Nor do face the situation.” I know what others might do. I hope I would trust Jesus implicitly, while not fearing death nor forsak“It’s almost impossible to say and I hope I’m ing life. I would hope the character and faith I have never in that situation! I would hope with God’s developed over the years would cause me to act help I would be willing to die but that being said I with love and with the integrity of my faith intact. may coward out. Just trying to be honest here.” Could I pass the test? Maybe - probably. But the question can’t be answered without actually facing “I didn’t think I would curse the driver that cut the situation. I hope I never face that situation - or me off in traffic. I didn’t think I would quit when my maybe I do face it every day. “ boss lied to me. I thought I would quickly and easily forgive my brother in the Lord when he betrayed

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August 2014


Cover Story

You and your church NEED to see this film! An interview with Thom Schultz with GROUP Productions By Steve Hewitt


am not normally involved in movie making, but while attending the first “Future of the Church Summit” held by Group Publishing, I learned that Thom Schultz, President of Group Publishing was starting a project for a book and movie, designed to cause Christians to become aware of the decline of the church in America. After attending the second “Future of the Church Summit” I felt led to start this magazine, and begin work on a Pastor Retreat Center (a lot of work to go but I will provide reports on the progress soon). I helped a little with the movie when I could, and LOVE the results. This movie will make you think and ponder, and is perfect for a church to see as a group and then have followup discussions. I have interviewed Thom about the movie and hope you will enjoy the interview and will check out the movie soon! What is this film about? The film depicts, through real stories, the crumbling and the reclaiming of the American church as we know it. We follow the story of a church that saw its attendance decline by 90 percent. This story is a mashup of societal changes, a loss of mission, typical infighting, and a crippling fear of change. Then we also follow another church as it weighs the risks of stepping out of its four walls to take its mission to the community. The American Church Magazine®

Why did you make this film? The American church is undergoing unprecedented change. Nationally, overall attendance and involvement are sinking. Every church type and denomination, with few exceptions, is in decline. We wanted to make a film to help people inside and outside of the church understand the tumultuous changes happening around us. If people can better understand the problem, they are more likely to discover ways to make things better.

August 2014


The American Church Magazine速

August 2014


The film also follows the rise and fall of the Eastman Kodak Company. Why did you include that story? It turns out that the Kodak story is a really interesting allegory for the American church. For over a hundred years, Kodak dominated the photographic equipment and supply industry. But when digital photography began to take off, Kodak missed their window of opportunity, and the company declared bankruptcy in 2012. There are many lessons here for the church. In our film, a former Kodak engineer describes how the company became preoccupied with its status quo and misread the changing environment. When the company started to decline, the leaders feared change, failed to understand their changing customers--particularly younger ones--and missed the huge opportunities right in front of them. This makes for a fascinating parable for the church today. The title of the film, “When God Left the Building,” seems a bit unsettling. Why did you choose that title? After criss-crossing the country with our cameras, and talking with experts and church leaders and congregation members and people in the unchurched majority, we saw a couple of themes emerge. Those led us to this title, which really can be taken a couple of ways. One way to take it is, yes, unsettling. We don’t like to think of God taking a leave of absence. But, as you can see in the film, it’s become all too easy for other priorities to rise over our devotion to God. Maybe we’ve had something to do with squeezing God out. Then, there’s another way to look at the title. The film shows examples of churches that discover that actually being the church is much more than Sunday morning services in a building. They’ve found it’s a really good thing when God leaves the building and touches lives in the community every day of the week. They’re excited to be an active part of what God is doing. How are audiences responding to the film? The stories in this film really draw people in. They’re riveted by the honest, revealing, confounding personalities and the swirling, sometimes unpredictable stories that unfold in front of the cameras. Many people tell us parts of the film make them really uncomfortable. And I agree with them. Some of the stuff we captured makes me uncomfortable too. People who see the film tell us they have so The American Church Magazine®

much to process. Because the film does not supply a one-size-fits-all prescription, people come away with different responses and applications to their own situations, which is exactly what should happen. For example, here’s a message I got today from a pastor who saw the film: “Amazing, heart-wrenching, hopeful story for the church, but better yet, for the world. It’s easy as a pastor to want to ‘save’ the institutionalized church, but for the first time I realized, after experiencing the movie, it’s about the Kingdom of God, not the church.” What about the churches that are not shrinking? What does the film have for them? The major trends we illuminate in the film will have an impact on all churches in America--if not now, then in the years to come. Every church needs to understand what’s happening and prepare now for the future. I spoke with the pastor of a large, growing church after a screening of the film. He said, “Right now our church isn’t experiencing some of these problems. But this forced me to see what’s coming. As the Millennial generation continues to stay away from church, in a few years my church is going to be in a world of hurt if we keep doing things the way we’re doing them now.” What do you hope to accomplish with the film? This film is a catalyst for discussion. It brings crucial issues to the surface, and provides a common experience for leaders and members to then dissect and find the lessons that are most applicable to them. We want to see people reclaim the true essence of the church, the Body of Christ, and boldly jump on where God is leading his church in these rapidly changing times. How can people see the film and involve their congregations? The film is scheduled for screenings around the country. You can find those locations at the film’s website, Most churches bring a team to experience the film together. And, you can schedule a special screening of the film for your church or community. The same website has information on how to license the film for these special screenings. For those showings, we provide a complete discussion guide to help a congregation or leadership team extract the best applications for their own ministries.

August 2014


No Longer Church As Usual

The Church Tipping Point By Tim Kurtz


alcolm Gladwell in his powerful book, THE TIPPING POINT1 writes that there is a moment; when several factors converge that create massive changes – usually quite rapidly. I believe the church is at the precipice of a tipping point. Factors are converging that will shift the focus of ministry as we know it. These factors include heightened communication through electronic media, the growing lack of loyalty to denominational structures, the blending of worship styles, time constraints, and personal independence. These factors are becoming the foundation for a massive change in how ‘church’ is done. In 1999, I taught about four walls that are coming down. They are the walls that have historically divided denomination and revelation, the sacred from the secular, calling from career, and clergy from laity. Even though they are invisible, they have molded how we have ‘done church’ for years. I believe these four walls are beginning to collapse. As they disintegrate, the church will reach a ‘tipping point’ moment that will result in a sudden shift in how the church functions.

and revelation. This first wall has pitted denominations against each other and effectively divided the Body of Christ (Mark 3:35). The root of this division begins when fresh revelation from the Lord comes face-to-face with historical religious traditions and systems. This wall is actually between fresh revelation from heaven and denominational traditions in the earth. It is a battle between those who are attempting to follow what He is saying, and those who camp on what God has said.

The wall between denomination and revelation The first of the four walls being dismantled by the Holy Spirit is the wall between denomination The American Church Magazine®

August 2014

Dr. Bill Hamon, in his book The Eternal Church wrote:


God has continued moving the church forward. There is fresh revelation being poured into the earth. The present truth being established in the earth, centers upon the saints doing the work of ministry (Ephesians 4:12). This will have a profound impact on how we do and view the church. Existing systems and norms will be challenged. The form of the church will change as our understanding of the church changes. We need not advocate house church, per se, as much as we advocate the saints doing the work of ministry. When we emphasize the saints doing the work of ministry, that work will impact how we gather. Gathering in homes is a natural outcome of the saints doing the work of ministry. The auditorium style gatherings are not conducive to an active army of saints. The ‘one-another’ ministry of the saints can only be effectively done in small intimate groups.

It is one of the ironies of Church history that the persecuted participants of the former restorational movement became the primary persecutors of the next restored truth. The Jews persecuted Jesus, Judaism persecuted the Christians, the Catholics were the main persecutors of the Protestants, the historic Protestants churches persecuted the Holiness Movement, the Holiness Movement persecuted the Pentecostals, and the Pentecostals initially resisted and rejected the next restorational truth movement.2 Rejection of a new move comes when the previous truth participants form denominations with set creeds and doctrines. The “wineskin” of denominationalism becomes set in its ways and has no flexibility to new truth. The wineskin bursts open and many people pour out and start a new church group, which will normally end up being another church organization.1 The American Church Magazine®

Sacred and Secular The second wall that is falling has separated the sacred from the secular. This wall has weakened the church’s influence in the world. It has kept us blind to the fact that the earth is the LORD’S, and the fulness thereof; the world, and they that dwell therein (Psalms 24:1) Religion has, inadvertently, caused a separation between ‘church stuff’ and our daily lives. We have allowed this unseen wall to limit the sacred to religious activities and church related things. Anything we do that is religious in nature is our sacred life. However, when I go shopping, to school or work, this becomes my secular life. Many have been fooled into believing that any cross pollinating of the sacred and secular is taboo. The wall between the sacred and secular is not just the difference between right and wrong, or sin or righteousness. It is the invisible wall in our minds that molds our understanding of what we believe belongs to God.

August 2014

For in him we live, and move, and have our being… (Acts 17:28a) I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Galatians 2:20)


They’re “spiritual but not religious.” They’re eager to talk about God, but done sitting through sermons. Want to reach young adults? Start a conversation. They’re looking to participate, not to be an audience. So let them ask hard questions. Grapple with tough stuff. Discover how God is reaching out to them. And Lifetree Café is all about conversation. Relaxing around tables, Lifetree participants hear inspiring stories, tell their own stories…and draw closer to God and each other. On college campuses, at coffee shops, and even in churches, life-changing conversations are underway. When you’re ready to connect, connect with us. We’ll help you provide tested, ready-to-go, hour-long guided conversations that let young adults experience God in a fresh, new way. Call 877-476-8703 or visit to learn more. “ D o i n g l i f e . D o i n g g o o d .”

Lifetree Café is now available in Canada! Copyright © 2013 Group Publishing, Inc.

*Projected 2025 church attendance from George Barna’s Revolution

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August 2014


These two passages express the profound truth that we belong to Jesus Christ AT ALL TIMES. On our jobs, we are His. In the classroom, we are His. In the shopping mall, we are His. At all times we belong to Jesus Christ. I believe, as the emphasis on the work of ministry matures, the wall between the sacred and the secular will collapse. Christianity will cease to be an activity for the religious and become a lifestyle of the believer. A mature body of blood bought believers will begin to infiltrate every sphere of human existence. The world will then recognize that there is an army of people who are turning the world (their secular systems) upside down (Acts 17:6). Calling and career As the wall between the sacred and the secular disintegrates, the third wall that will collapse will be the subtle wall that divides calling and career. This wall has, effectively, separated spiritual callings and secular careers to the point that the marketplace has been overrun by the enemy (Matthew 5:14). Five values guide the New Testament Church. The third of these values is the Holy Spirit and the

‘full expression of the ministry, spiritual, and grace gifts’. In order for the Church to grow and mature, every believer must have an outlet for the expression of gifts given to them by God. Unfortunately, like the wall between the sacred and the secular, many believers see their secular career as totally separate from any divine purpose. What they fail to realize is that a divine calling, expressed through ministry, spiritual, or grace gifts, is an assignment for some aspect of God’s purpose to be fulfilled in the earth – not just the church. We are the light of the world (Matthew 5:14). Our lights are to shine before all, not just our particular church group. God has set us in the Church and the world as it pleases Him (Acts 17:26; 1Corinthians 12:18). Where you are, may be an assignment from the Lord. You may be a factory worker, a retail clerk, a salesperson, or a school teacher. They may be your career; but equally so, they may be an assignment from God. He may have placed you there in order to reach lost souls. In other words, what may be considered a career may, in fact, be a Kingdom assignment from God. The ministry, spiritual, or grace gifts resident in you would be activated by the Holy Spirit to carry out God’s assignment in that place. Remember, the Holy Spirit activates the gifts for the purposes of God in the earth. Clergy and Laity This brings us to the final wall that will collapse – that is, the wall between clergy and laity. For 1,700 hundred years the church has been led by professional clergy. Very few of us have never known any other structure than the ‘preacher in the pulpit’ way of doing church. We have been trained to be spectators who show up week after week to watch the ‘spiritual show’. As people have become bored with this structure, new and more exciting productions have been created. Dance, media, tight musical bands, and drama are being used to keep the masses spiritually entertained. After the first phase of the pro-

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August 2014


gram, the ‘preacher’ brings a message designed to inspire the audience. In this system you can maintain the image of success even though you go home and struggle all week. Spiritual maturity is measured by how many services you attend during the week, or how active you are in the system. In the clergy/laity system, individuals can be ‘promoted’ into church leadership because of personality or giving habits, rather than character and proven spiritual maturity. In the New Testament church, leaders were recognized for their function, rather than their titles. They were to be esteemed for their works sake, not their popularity (1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13). But more importantly, every member of the church contributed time, talent, and treasure to the edifying of the body in love (Ephesians 4:16). The wall between clergy and laity is an artificial divide created sometimes, ignorantly, but often purposefully by church systems. As this wall crumbles; we will, literally, see thousands of believers coming forth in Kingdom authority and power. They will move from being passive to active – from spectator to participator – from those in need to

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those providing solutions. Yes, the church is approaching a tipping point moment. For some it will be painful and cataclysmic. It will catch them off-guard. For others (myself included), we are anticipating and preparing for it. Like many building projects, there must first be a dismantling of things that hinder the new construction. I believe the four walls I have discussed in this article are being demolished to make way for a glorious church that will literally turn the world upside down before Jesus returns. Get ready! Jesus is building His Church His way in the 21st century. Blessings. Website: Twitter: timkurtz712 1 Malcolm Gladwell THE TIPPING POINT: How Little

Things Can Make a Big Difference © 2000,2002 2 W.S “Dr. Bill” Hamon THE ETERNAL CHURCH: A Pro-

phetic Look at the Church—Her History, Restoration, and Destiny © 1981 Published by Destiny Image Publishers, Page 206

August 2014


Reviving the Small Church

Part 3 – Drawing Insights from God’s Wellspring of Wisdom? By Michael Henderson


ith Jesus at the helm and the Bible being the sure authority from which all spiritual understanding must be drawn, we turn our attention to the use of biblical wisdom in discerning our direction. The Bible tells us, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, And the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding,” (Proverbs 9:10 NKJV).

Godly wisdom demands a position high on the list of every leader who seeks God’s vision for the small church. I learned this many years ago. A guiding pastor once told me to never forget to ask God for wisdom every day; and honestly, he couldn’t have given me greater advice. Since that time, not only do I ask once in the morning but I also ask many times a day. Since that time, the years have taught me that any step I take without the guiding hand of God is not a step forward but one in reverse; and the Small Church has enough challenges without adding my missteps to it. Challenges Faced The Small Church faces many challenges and it will take God’s wisdom to overcome them in a way that brings glory to his name. Categorically speaking, I have listed five physical and spiritual challenges. This is not an exhaustive list but touches on the important ones from a leader’s perspective. Physical Challenges: • Lack of Funds • Lack of Workers • Lack of Space The American Church Magazine®

• Lack of Beautifications • Lack of Community Spiritual Challenges: • Lack of Vision • Lack of Outreach • Lack of Strength • Lack of Knowledge • Lack of Hope A business leader would look at the physical challenges and develop a business plan. His vision is built around profitability—His upfront purpose is financial. But he can never reach his goal without a product. So, he will develop a business plan that will revolve around developing, improving, and marketing his product. Churches are not businesses and cannot be forged on business principle alone. There are some similarities but our product is spiritual, not physical, and revolves around the redemption of lost souls— not the selling of a product. However, good business acumen has its advantages. So let’s look at the challenges closer. Meeting Physical Challenges through Spiritual Means

August 2014


Space prohibits the discussion in this installment of every type of physical challenge, nevertheless, we will discuss as many as we can in future articles. First let’s focus on a lack of funds. As a believer we know that God’s desire is for the world to be reached for Christ. We also know that He is, “Jehovah Jireh,” meaning, the Lord will provide. Also known is that He owns the “cattle on a thousand hills,” (see Psalm 50:10). In Lamentations the question is asked, “Who is he who speaks and it comes to pass, When the Lord has not commanded it?” (Lam. 3:37). From this we can deduce that if God’s will revolves around spiritual things then nothing can be spiritually accomplished unless He commands it. If He commands it then he has the funding and provision to accomplish it. Knowing this, let’s proceed by uncovering what God has revealed in Scripture that we know to be His will. Wisdom tells us that God’s desire is to build a community of believers that will carry out His plans. If we receive and proceed in His direction the limitations we face we will find are not limitations at all in God’s eyes; again, if we are doing things in accordance with His will. So, what’s the problem? We have a vision, we have a God who will lead us, and we have a God who will provide for us, right? What then is missing? … People first and foremost need revelation. Revelation Induces Growth There are four simple questions I have seen that either help church growth or stifle it. 1. 2. 3. 4.

Where are we going? Why are we going? Is it worth going? How do we get there?

People will never ask the last question unless they know the answers to the first three. Proverbs 29:18 states, “Where there is no revelation, the people cast off restraint; but happy is he who keeps the law.” The opposite of that passage is, “Where there is no revelation of law, the lawless and unhappy exist.” A leader that is not answering those first three questions will never gain faithful followers, faithful participation, or faithful support. Small church leaders must communicate a revelation of God that is both personal and good for the whole—one that has been clearly received from God. They must then labor to articulate the revelation towards implementation. This takes a lot of prayer and a lot of Bible study. It The American Church Magazine®

takes a leader who knows God in a very personal way and knows that He is not willing that any perish but that all come to repentance, (see 1 Pet. 3:9 When he looks out to the world from the steps of the church building He sees what God sees—He shares God’s vision; but he also sees what the people see in the body and in the building.) People Need Hope In the last installment I mentioned that three of humanities biggest pursuits are life, hope, and peace; not necessarily in that order. Of those three, hope ranks at the top. Hope brings peace, and spurs liveliness—it defeats depression and stops worry in it its tracks. Hope is what keeps the soldier going on the battlefield; it’s what keeps the single mother sacrificing for her child; it’s what keeps the young athlete enduring the race, and it’s what keeps the churchgoer faithful. Hope sprouts company in the same way misery loves it. A hopeful soul is a wellspring of contagious joy. The Psalmists says, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the LORD In the land of the living,” (Psalm 27:13). Oh dear leader, unless you seek God for wisdom, share His vision, and seek to establish a pattern of teaching, leading, and discipling that fosters hope in every soul that God has brought in, you will never get very far in God’s economy. People multiply because they exhibit an attractiveness that others are drawn to. It does not matter that you are small now God has a work to be accomplished and whether it begins with one or fifty does not matter. What matters is that we do His work and His will His way. That takes wisdom—His wisdom. The physical challenges listed above will only met by first taking care of the spiritual challenges. Short term goals for small church leaders must revolve around God first and then His people. If we can give people hope through the living faith we have in Jesus Christ for daily living and for future reward others will follow and they will pour out their hearts and lend their hands to the accomplishment of it. Physical challenges are accessed over time and as ministry growth requires, but they must not be seen as a hindrance to what can be done in the present; and that is to teach, lead, and guide presenting a clear way to the hope all believers should have—abundant life, contentment, and eternal life in heaven.

August 2014


Staying Power

Working with Established Churches Part 3 Getting to Know Your Church By George Cannon


very pastor working with an established church should contemplate this one important question: “How well do I know my church?” When they start pastoring established churches, pastors can make the common mistake of assuming that they will begin with a clean slate. They focus most of their attention on the goal of revitalization, while failing to understand the history and nature of the church they are working with. As a pastor makes a simplistic application of a church health model to a declining congregation, he is often blindsided by unexpected barriers within his established church. This results in a growing level of frustration. Could it possibly be that the cause of frustration when working with established churches is that the level of understanding of the church was not on par with the understanding of the church health model that they seek to attain? Working with established churches requires more than the simplistic application of a model to bring a church to health. The path to health for a church is complex. The difficulty of the issue requires that a pastor have an intimate knowledge of

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his church and its past. The pastor has to give the study of his church as much time to as he does to the study of the community’s culture and various models. Products of the Past Churches, like people, are a product of their past experiences, both positive and negative. Out of these experiences, patterns develop that can produce barriers to any effort to move a declining church to health. It is incumbent for a pastor to understand what has happened to the church in the past so that he understands their present condition. In particular, a pastor needs to recognize

August 2014


the negative experiences or traumatic events the church has endured. When a church experiences traumatic events in its life, the health and growth of the congregation is greatly hindered. Traumatic experiences that churches experience fall in three categories: abuses by pastors, abuse of pastors and general trauma.

Resulting Barriers Traumatic experiences leave scars that are spiritual, emotional and physical. For a church, the scars of traumatic experiences become the barriers to future health and growth. Traumatic experiences produce several unique barriers that are common among declining established churches.

Abuses by Pastors The first category is traumatic experiences that occur based on the negative and positive actions of a pastor’s leadership. Sadly the negative actions and missteps of leadership have a disastrous impact on the church. Abuses by a pastor include but are not limited to:

1. Power Structures - One of the major barriers that can develop in an established church is the formation of power structures. This is especially true in cases that involve the departure of the pastor for whatever reason. For example, in the case of a moral failure or church split, a group within the church can assume ownership based on a “survivor mentality.” They assume the self-appointed responsibility to guard the church from future pain. 2. Dysfunctional Patterns of Behavior - Established churches will form behavior patterns that are a direct result of a traumatic experience. These patterns include: a pattern of pastoral turnover, actions and attitudes toward outsiders, treatment of pastoral leadership and decisions made by a small group within the church. Behavior patterns such as these can become deeply entrenched within a church. 3. Financial Difficulties - A direct result of traumatic experiences is financial difficulties. Churches face a lack of revenue when trauma disheartens the church’s members and adherents. The lack of income leads to other negative outcomes such as the reduction of staff, the disrepair of facilities, the budget being encumbered by indebtedness and the underpayment of the pastor. 4. The Loss of Respect for Pastoral Leadership - Traumatic experiences within the church created an atmosphere where there is a loss of respect for pastoral leadership. The concept of pastor is diminished in the eyes of the established church. The church becomes resistant to the pastor’s message and will not follow his leadership 5. A Spirit of Confusion, Helplessness and Negativity - Trauma can cripple churches by producing an outcome that leaves scars that run deep within the fiber of the church. People begin to have an attitude

• Moral failure • Abandonment by a pastor • Spiritual abuse Abuse of Pastors The actions of a pastor are not the only source of trauma that a church can experience. Churches can hurt themselves by their own actions. Specifically, churches can experience trauma due to the abuse of their pastor. Abuses of a pastor include but are not limited to: • Forced terminations • Underpaying, reducing or withholding the pastor’s pay • Emotional trauma caused by slander and gossip • Threats of physical violence • Mental and emotional trauma toward the pastor’s family General Trauma The final category of traumatic experiences refers to general trauma. This refers to traumatic actions or events that may or may not be attributed to the specific actions of a pastor or the church. However, they can be the result of other traumatic events. General trauma includes but is not limited to the following: • Church splits • A mass exodus from the church for various reasons • Frequent pastoral turnover • Severe church conflict The American Church Magazine®

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toward the church that is tainted by the events of the past. Downward Spiral These barriers, coupled with ignorance on the part of the pastor, create the conditions for a perfect storm of frustration. First, the pastor seeks to move the established church to revitalization quickly and painlessly. The pastor has a tendency to make a simplistic application of the church health model to the church resulting in emerging barriers. As the whole process begins to take a spiritual and emotional toll on the pastor, he faces discouragement and frustration. Demoralized and hurt, the pastor will no longer try to move the church toward health. Things to Consider If we are going to work with established churches, we must recognize the importance of understanding our churches. As we begin the process of knowing our churches, here are some points to consider:

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1. Study the history of the church as much as church health models. 2. Pay attention to what others are saying about your church (community, former members, and other pastors). 3. Realize that understanding your church is a process because information emerges with time. 4. Recognize the barriers that must be overcome before the church can move to health. 5. Understand that working with established churches provides no guarantee for success. As pastors, we have to embrace a mindset that sees the journey to health as a process that includes addressing the issues from the past. Healing will begin to take place in the church when trauma is addressed biblically.

August 2014


From Church Hoppers

I Love Tradition! By Jerry Bentley


love tradition! Every year my family and I get together for the holidays and enjoy catching up and reminiscing. It’s a great time! Every year there are things about our gathering that are consistent and engaging, conversations about how life use to be and where we find ourselves today. There are certain foods that we always eat and every year they are as good as the last. Our stories are the same because there are times from our past that motivate us to press into our future; especially, when those memories are ones where we overcame obstacles or simply times in life where we celebrated because things were good. I could go on and on about how much I enjoy our traditions but there is something key that I think applies to our time together that keeps things exciting. We all change and change is as much of a tradition as the things in our lives that don’t change. Take for example the ultimate statistic of death and how much that changes the plans we have laid out for the future. I am of the age where our family gatherings include conversations about those that we loved and miss and how we would have lived life in their presence differently if they were still around to enjoy life with us. Somehow The American Church Magazine®

we find our way back to the here and now and we realize how quickly time has passed and how relevant constant change is in our lives. It’s a tradition! We live in a consumer culture and if we are not willing to embrace change as a tradition then we get left behind. I see that happening in the Church today. Churches around the country and around the world are standing on mountains of

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tradition that have been coveted for years. They have right motives and intentions but are unwilling to embrace the tradition of change and their congregations are suffering for it. Consumers are bombarded every day with environments that change. Marketing agents understand the buying habits of their customers and create new displays often to attract the customer to their products. Why does the church refuse to embrace this? We are commissioned to go into the world and make disciples of Christ with a life-changing story. We must be sensitive to what that world is attracted to and create environments and conversations that compliment it. I am convinced that we can constantly change our surroundings and how we attract people without diluting the integrity of the good news we possess. With the birth of every child something new about God is introduced to the world. God’s creative hand is reintroduced when life is conceived. Every generation is going to find something that motivates them toward the divine and the ways in which they are attracted to it will forever change as well. So, why does the

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average Christian accept an average approach to worshipping an all-supreme God? I think we fear the tradition of change. My challenge is this, embrace change as a tradition. Make it a common thing to remove the things in life and ministry that produce little or no results. Replace them with new ones. Do this as a team, surround yourself with individuals that will support you as you navigate the effectiveness of these changes and if they lose momentum replace them. Hold on to the ones that are effective and compliment the vision God has given you. Survey the community often and ask them how you can assist in meeting their needs. Allow their answers to be the catalyst for future changes that you can make to have the greatest opportunity for impact. Look around; something changed during the time it has taken to read this article it may be something totally new to you or something that now has new meaning. Exhaust yourself figuring out how to make change a tradition in your local church, and watch God do amazing things. Ecclesiastes 3 talks about the various seasons of life stating that there is a season for every activity under heaven. My family and I surely have experienced many wonderful seasons. Seasons that have been extremely productive and seasons where the yield was sparse and we have great memories of how God was present in every season. He is constant in each season of life but if we do not adopt a tradition of change within those seasons then family life becomes irrelevant. The church is like a family and with every season it needs to be willing to change to meet the needs of those out there that are looking for relevant ways to invest themselves. Stay in constant connection to the changing culture and figure out ways to stay relevant in it. Here’s an idea, how about we, the church, serve as a catalyst for change within our towns and cities and orchestrate the necessary changes to keep our God relevant. Let’s pave the way! Solomon also says in Ecclesiastes that there is nothing new under the sun but if we stop there we miss out on an experience with an incredible God that has yet to completely reveal all of his glory to us. There’s more…change and experience it!

August 2014