The American Church Magazine - September 2014

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

September 2014

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Editorial Where Are Our Young Christian Leaders and Pastors?

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Article Reforming a Repulsive Reputation

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No. 9

By Steve Hewitt

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By Thom Schultz

Reviving the Small Church Part 4 – Opening Up a Platform to Serve

Why Is The Church in America in Decline? By Steve Hewitt

Editor-in-Chief

Steve Hewitt - steve@ccmag.com

By Michael Henderson

Contributing Editors

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Staying Power Working with Established Churches Part 4 Working Backward to Go Forward

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From Church Hoppers The Era of Political Correctness

By George Cannon

Cover Story

Thom Schultz Tim Kurtz David Murrow

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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Editorial

Where Are Our Young Christian Leaders and Pastors? This month, I asked our readership about the age of pastors. I asked pastors to respond with their age, and I asked other readers to respond and let me know the age of their pastors. The results were remarkable. While there were two that were in the 30’s, I heard from hundreds in their 50’s. Several dozen, in their 70’s responded and the oldest to report in was 83 and still an active pastor! The average age as reported by this survey with The American Church Magazine was 58. Interestingly enough, I received an email from Dick Webber, with RDS Advantage ChMS, who shared with me that the average age of Methodist Conference of Oklahoma pastors (580 churches) was…58! What does this tell us? It says several things. With all of the predictions of the decline of the church that are going around, one is that in about eight years, half of all of our churches will close their doors. If the average age of pastors across the nation is 58, the prediction is probably correct if for no other reason other than there won’t be any pastors to serve the number of churches we have now! How many of these pastors, average age of 58, will still be willing, or able, to pastor a church when they are 64? Where are the young pastors to take our place? I am 59, and made my commitment to serve as a pastor while still in High School. I am sure I made that commitment as part of the Jesus Movement that was sweeping the nation. I know that my friend Thom Schultz, president of Group Publishing is also around my age, and was also a result of the Jesus Movement. I don’t think it is a coincidence that so many pastors are in their late 50’s and that is our average. I think many were either directly touched by the Jesus Movement, or were a result of a great youth program (which actually swept churches as a result of the Jesus Movement). At the last Future of the Church Summit, several young college age people shared that while they were Christians, they didn’t attend church. They gave their

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reasons, and we have all heard why younger people are dissatisfied with today’s church. However, my question for them was “why don’t you have your own Jesus Movement?” I mean, after all, I didn’t really like church either, but my Christian life was impacted by the Jesus Movement, and my few worshipping experiences at the “House of Agape” in Kansas City impacted me greatly. There might be 300 young people, sitting on the floor, singing and worshiping, for several hours during one of those worship meetings. Calvary Chapel came out of the Jesus Movement, as well as many other men and women in ministry today like me. With all of the books, articles, blogs and suggestions on how to attract the Millennials, or how to reach Generation Z, I would suggest that we make every effort, but at the same time, those of us pastors who average 58 in age, remember to minister to those of our peers. When we felt we were not being reached by the church of our day, we started a movement. We took to the streets, worshiped in dusty store fronts and warehouses. I think it is time for Millennials and Gen Z’ers to start their own movement, inspire their own music, and call out their own leaders. Many claim to know Jesus, but are first in line to complain about today’s churches. Start your own movement. Follow God’s leadership into your own ministries. Get together with your friends, stop complaining, and start developing a burden for your generation, and respond to God’s call to a new movement! Together We Serve Him,

Steve Hewitt steve@ccmag.com

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Cover Story

Why Is The Church in America in Decline?

Part 1 - The searching for a “sign”! A new series by Steve Hewitt

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won’t bore you as a reader with all of the stats that have been republished over and over again, showing the obvious, that attendance at Christian churches on Sunday has continued to decline for the last 30+ years. Of course, many can point to an exciting church down the road that is growing! Of course we now have “mega” churches that boast attendance in the thousands. But the fact remains, that when you tally up the numbers, every year attendance in churches drops, and has done so for decades. I have written on this subject before, as have hundreds of others. There is plenty of blame that has been thrown around, and many articles and videos purporting this solution or that solution. And, in fact, these suggestions should be strongly considered. The church hasn’t kept up with the times. I am not just talking about moving to a contemporary style of worship, but I mean that the church hasn’t kept up with the way society communicates, and what society is telling us it needs, such as two-way communication, the opportunity to ask questions, and the desire for open and honest communication within a church. However, I am going to go out on a limb and point out many other reasons church isn’t so The American Church Magazine®

popular with the population of America. I know I am not going to make anyone happy with the following observations, but IF we are going to turn things around, we have to be honest about the real problems. This series will identify four or five of the reasons we find ourselves with this problem today! Here is the first. The Searching for a Sign: Eschatology Gone Crazy! In the 70’s we saw a strong resurgence in interest in Eschatology. Or, in laymen terms, we saw a strong resurgence in the interest of the second coming of Christ, the “last days”. I remember the best-selling book, “The Late Great Planet Earth”, by Hal Lindsey that came out in 1970. Of course it

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wasn’t the first book on the subject, but the book came out on the heels of the Six Day War in Israel and it tried to take newsworthy events of the day and apply them to scripture as “signs” that the second coming was to happen very soon. While I would like to keep my personal beliefs out of this article, I think I probably need to go on record here as stating that I believe in a rapture and second coming of Christ to retrieve his church. I don’t want to get into a doctrinal debate on this issue, I have my views, and I respect the views of others who differ. But, while I am in agreement that there is a second coming of Christ, and that it may be soon, what started in the 70’s quickly became a craze! The interest in the second coming of Christ blew up! Books came out daily on the subject, and some preachers/ teachers began to specialize on this subject alone, almost completely ignoring the rest of the message of the Gospel. Ministries were started with the sole purpose of producing literature, movies, TV shows, books, and more, each trying to take the events in the daily news and apply it to a new “sign” that Jesus’ return could happen at any moment. I think their intent was good. They believed that their ministry would create urgency and cause

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the masses to come to Christ. After all, if the Lord was to return soon and you weren’t a Christian, it might have the same effect as if you were telling the masses they all might die soon! However, it was a scare tactic that backfired. Hollywood grabbed the theme (since they love a good scary movie plot) and created dozens of non-biblical movies based upon the antichrist and his mark of the beast. I believe this HAS had an impact on non-church Americans. They have heard the song of the day “I wish we’d all been ready”, many were invited to churches to view movies on the second coming, and have been made aware of the fictional book series by Tim LaHaye titled “Left Behind”. There is a fine line here that I think many in the church crossed, and we are paying for it now. It is one thing to preach or teach our belief that Jesus is going to return. It is completely something else when we seek to grab items in the news and claim it is a “sign” of his soon return. As a result, we have discredited ourselves to the nation! I could give hundreds of examples of “signs” that Christ’s return was close that turned out to be wrong. I remember just a few years ago a person in my life stated that “while no one knows the day or time” it was obvi-

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ous that Jesus would return before the end of the year! His reasoning was based on a news report that the Hubble Telescope would discover the end of the universe before the end of the year. And, according to scripture in Jeremiah 31, God will continue to love and support Israel right up until the day the heavens above can be measured. Therefore, since God is always going to love Israel, and the Hubble telescope was soon going to be able to measure the “heavens”, the Lord had to come back before man accomplished this task. Of course, before the end of the year, scientists simply discovered there were more galaxies beyond where they thought the end of the universe was going to be, and they are still measuring! Many Americans have turned on their televisions, listened to the radio or were encouraged by a Christian friend to read a book that used signs to impress, or scare, people into the belief that the Lord’s return was going to be very soon. Many have seen this as an acceptable error IF it would scare someone into believing their life on this earth would soon be over, and if it drove them to Christ. However, you can only cry wolf so many times before you begin to lose credibility, and I believe that is what has happened for many. As the “signs” pass by and are discredited, so is the rest of our Gospel message and people have fallen away. Christians decry technology accomplishments as “signs” that Christ is coming soon. I remember when we first used barcodes to speed up the shipping and purchasing of items. Many preachers declared this was the end of everything since barcodes would be used to be tattooed on our hands and foreheads. When RFID chips came out, many preachers declared that this was also a sign the second coming would happen before the end of the week, since the antichrist would be inserting such chips in us all. Yet, many theologians believe the “mark of the beast” might be symbolic, just as the John “saw” the seal of God upon the foreheads of the elect as well. The mark on the hand and forehead might mean that you agree to follow the future antichrist in both thought (head) and actions (hand). Back in the days of the Y2K scare (more on that later in this series), I sat on a panel discussion on America’s most popular Christian radio show. I was the only one that didn’t think Y2K would cause major problems. I still remember when the host sat back, pondered for a few seconds and then asked The American Church Magazine®

the panel, “Do any of you see Y2K as a sign the Lord’s return might be soon?” One on the panel immediately stated, “Oh yes! Remember, it implies in Matthew 24:20 that the Lord’s return will be in winter since the tribulation will start the day after Jesus’ return. And, Y2K is going to start on January 1, 2000, the dead of winter!” I had to remind the panel that our earth tilts, and that while it might be the dead of winter for us in America, our South American, Australian, and South African Christian brothers would be in the middle of the summer. Obviously, this scripture was not meant to be a “sign” since there would never be ANY day when all Christians would be in winter on the planet earth. Luckily for the host and the person who made the comment, we were recording, and his comment and my reply was cut from the broadcast. I don’t believe anyone will ever know the total number of people who have left the church because they have become disillusioned with the message built upon creating “signs” to prove the soon coming of Christ. I know of one woman however who no longer attends church that was influenced on this very issue. Back in the 70’s as she graduated from High School, her dream was to go to beauty school and be a hair dresser. She hoped to own her own shop one day. However, she was heavily influenced by people at church who saw signs everywhere that Christ would be coming soon. After all, they stated, things will probably get pretty bad just before He returns, and then, if we DO go through part of the tribulation where “a bag of gold will buy a loaf of bread” as the popular song stated, how many people would be paying to get their hair dyed or their finger nails painted! She was dissuaded from her dream and instead became a factory worker. She later married and had children and got on with her life. But now she is in her 60’s, she will share her bitterness about never following her dream because of those that pressured her due to “signs”. She would have had her own shop, a host of loyal customers, and she would have had her dream. She doesn’t attend church today. I wonder how many others have become disillusioned by the church because of the “second coming” movement? Watch for more on this series in next month’s issue of The American Church Magazine http://www. theamericanchurchmag.com/.

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Article

Reforming a Repulsive Reputation By Thom Schultz

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e have a reputation problem. Increasingly, the public tags Christians with some very unsavory attributes. We describe these characteristics in our new book that releases this week, Why Nobody Wants to Be Around Christians Anymore. In short, people view Christians as judgmental, disinterested in others’ thoughts, hypocritical, and disconnected from God. Are these fair assessments? How should we feel about this reputation? One might expect this news to serve as a wake-up call, an opportunity to do some self-examination and soul-searching. But that isn’t always the response. We recently leaked some of these findings in social media. The responses, from some self-identified Christians, have not been altogether contrite. For example: • “I believe that people who have that feeling of ‘I feel judged,’ are actually experiThe American Church Magazine®

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encing conviction.” “People feel judged because they know they have sinned.” “They don’t want to repent, just be accepted.” “It’s an excuse. Like any other.” “Unless you’re going to hell, you always feel judged when you’re not doing what you are supposed to do.” “They don’t want to be convicted of their sin, repent and change their lives.” “People don’t want to go to church be-

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cause they don’t want to be told what to do or that their lifestyle choices are sin.” • “The Bible says to hate sin, but love the sinner. The things you say people are caught up on are mentioned as abominations in the eyes of God.” These responses concern and sadden me, for a couple of reasons. First, assuming–judging– someone’s heart who says, “I feel judged,” just compounds the judgment. And it only confirms the public’s perception that Christians are indeed judgmental and hypocritical loudmouths. Secondly, this knee-jerk tendency to condemn the public shifts all the blame and leaves the self-described Christians feeling entirely unaccountable, completely released from any need to improve. This high-octane self-righteousness does nothing to solve the problem. It only exacerbates it. And, frankly, I’m puzzled by the zeal and sheer delight some show in their hasty condemnation of their neighbors. Of course it’s true that everyone–believer

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and not-yet-believer alike–is guilty of sin and in need of repentance. But reading people’s hearts is God’s responsibility. Conviction is the work of the Holy Spirit. The public finds it repulsive when mere humans attempt to be God. In the book we describe a Barna Group study that found 51 percent of self-identified Christians in the U.S. have the same judgmental and hypocritical attitudes and actions portrayed by the Pharisees in the New Testament. Only 1 out of 7 live out the attitudes and actions associated with Jesus. As followers of Christ, we’re called to love. And we’re challenged, by Jesus, to be known not for our eagerness to condemn, but for our love. That’s a reputation that’s magnetic, that draws people into the light of Christ. In the next post, I’ll share how willing followers of Jesus can begin to earn a better reputation through some simple “acts of love.”

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Reviving the Small Church

Part 4 – Opening Up a Platform to Serve By Michael Henderson

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n the first three articles of the series an emphasis was placed respectively upon the following: • Realizing the position Christ holds in the church • Staying true to the Scripture • Drawing our guidance from His well spring of wisdom To move a step further toward Reviving the Small Church we need to begin analyzing the direction God has for the local church and the skill/ talents of the members He has placed there. One of my daily prayers is, “Lord, please raise leaders up for the work of ministry to unite with our church.” May we always remember that He knows the complete mission for each local assembly so we should never cease in asking Him to form the leadership. He does this work by adding skillful Christians that have zeal to serve Him to the local fellowship. A leader’s job is to recognize these acquisitions. Nehemiah, of the Old Testament, is a great place to emulate some beginning steps. Nehemiah’s Example During the 5th Century B.C. Nehemiah was a cupbearer to King Artaxerxes of Persia whom God raised up to be a very skilled leader. Chapter 1 of his book tells us that after hearing of the spiritual The American Church Magazine®

and physical state of Jerusalem and its populations following the Babylonian exile he became severely distraught. He then cried out to God in heartfelt prayer and fasting making a petition for the Lord to have mercy upon His chosen and restore the ruinous state of Jerusalem and its people. His words were, “O Lord, I pray, please let Your ear be attentive to the prayer of Your servant, and to the prayer of Your servants who desire to fear Your name; and let Your servant prosper this day, I pray, and grant him mercy in the sight of this man,” (Nehemiah 1:11a NKJV italics mine) In this prayer we see a pattern we can follow concerning our local fellowships: 1. He seeks the Lord for help because he knew there was not a thing he himself could do 2. He knew for the work to succeed it had to be God initiated, God sustained, and God driven 3. He points the Lord to recognize a group of other faithful’s that he knew also had a fervent desire to serve the Him, so mentions them in his prayer 4. He asks for God’s favor and mercy; something He could do because he and the others feared the Lord In chapter 2 God answers his prayer and soon he finds himself in Jerusalem. During the quiet of

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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 Discover.LifetreeCafe.com to learn more. “ D o i n g l i f e . D o i n g g o o d .”

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Discover.LifetreeCafe.com Copyright © 2013 Group Publishing, Inc.

*Projected 2025 church attendance from George Barna’s Revolution

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the night he grabs a few faithful and they meticulously survey the ruinous state of the city being careful to consider what he has inherited in this rebuilding task. Afterwards, and with confidence that God is in the work, he gathers the Jews, priests, nobles, and officials and discusses his findings and how God had led him there to lead a rebuilding project. What follows is key: Once the leaders understood that it was God’s work they immediately said, “Let us rise up and build,” (see Neh. 2:18). Isn’t that great! Nehemiah did not have to go at it alone. But the enemies of the work, who had never stopped watching, immediately tried to snuff out this moment of joy. Quickly they express their opposition. This is the price to pay for faithfulness and it will always occur when we set our hearts to do God’s work. Nehemiah’s response is classic, “The Lord God will prosper us,” (2:20). He knew whose work the job was and He trusted God to get it done. But now what? Chapter 3 is a repetitious litany of “ant-like” volunteers busy doing things they are talented to do! We find them building gates, walls, hanging doors, and making all sorts of repairs. These people were inspired to get involved because they knew the work was the Lord’s and that He had chosen them to be a part of it. In Summary Nehemiah had explained that His calling and mission was God ordained. He had gathered the people together because they were to be part of the work. He then described what the mission would entail; which was to rebuild the walls that were in ruins. Once they received that it was God’s work they began to do the work. Nehemiah then stood by as a leader—he oversaw all the work. Next Steps Leaders need to clearly articulate to the church members the purpose of the work of the church. They need to personalize it by stressing how God cared enough to start the work back at its beginning. Bring them on board by sharing the original vision of the church and how they are the ones the Lord relies on to carry it to fruition. If we can clearly articulate these things we can instill within their hearts their importance before God— inspiring them as having been favored by God to take part in the ongoing work. The American Church Magazine®

Analyzing skills Understanding our need to get out of the way, in the sense of not manipulating circumstance toward our own desires, will allow us to step back and see through untainted lenses the talent God has placed within the fellowship. I am not talking about a “Spiritual Gift” discovery test. I am talking about actual skills that are apparent and can be used for evangelistic growth. What is it that excites the people in the community? What are some of the things people like to do? Are there local events that are well attended? Are there special things that differentiate the community from others around it? If there are, then likely there are people in your assembly that hold them dear as well. Can the skills they may possess contribute to more community involvement and awareness? There may be other studious skills to recognize as well. Normally when the church catches the vision they will willingly share their talents. Listen to them with interest. For instance, you may have a person that is an accountant by day but their heart is in music. You may have banker whose heart melts at the sight of ungodly oppression. You may have a retired seamstress whose free time is used digging into the word of God. In each of these examples the believer’s real inner desire does not match their daily job skill. Are there ministries they may be able to lead? On the other hand, there may also be some whose daily skills are valuable to the church and they willingly offer them as a service. What am I saying? Use them. Give them a platform to expand their skillset for the glory of God. Over the past two years the Lord has added to our fellowship singers, musicians, and those who love to minister to the elderly. How have we viewed this? We put them to work. And the results are phenomenal. The Scripture says we are to never muzzle an ox while it treads out the grain, (see 1 Tim. 5:18). The point is, when it comes to God’s work He is the one who provides the laborers for the harvest. Never let your preconceptions on how a church should be built overrule the obvious. By listening to God you will see abundantly that He will make the work prosper. God Bless

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Staying Power

Working with Established Churches Part 4 Working Backward to Go Forward By George Cannon

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hen working with an established church, nothing is more devastating to a pastor than feeling the overwhelming sense of helplessness. These feelings of helplessness emerge from frustrating circumstances. First, there has been a concerted effort by the pastor to apply a church health model to the church. While he may find shortterm success, barriers emerge that stifle any potential growth. As the pastor faces the reality of these barriers and his inability to deal with them, his frustration level is intensifies. As the spiritual and emotional toll mounts on the pastor, he is ready to give up his efforts for revitalization. This can lead to a desire to move on to another church, where the cycle of frustrating events reemerges. The barriers to health within an established church are real; but, many pastors are unable to address to them. While the church health models can be helpful, they have a tendency to minimize or overlook the barrier issues within established churches. So what can the pastor of an established church do to help the congregation move ahead? Could the answer be to not proceed forward, but rather to move the church backward The American Church Magazine速

in order to address the barriers that are hindering church growth? Working Backward Working with established churches is hard work because there are no guarantees that the congregation will reverse its decline. Yet, many pastors are called to minister in established churches. This reality necessitates another minis-

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2. Restoration of the pastoral office Over time, established churches can develop a diminished view of the pastoral office. This can be the result of the actions of past pastors. A major mistake that a new pastor can make is assuming that his role will not be tainted by the actions of the church’s past shepherds. This pastor must make a concerted effort to re-establish pastoral credibility with the congregation. This can be done as the pastor patiently and deliberately ministers to the needs of the congregation while faithfully preaching God’s word.

try approach. Before a church health model can be applied, certain issues within the church must first be addressed. Consider the following eight issues that may require the pastor’s attention. 1. Corporate forgiveness When working with an established church, corporate forgiveness is the first issue that needs to be considered. Within all churches, there is usually some sin that has perpetuated itself in the congregational life through the actions of a pastor, a governing board, or the congregation. Sin not dealt with Biblically will continue to manifest itself within the church, and create barriers to church health. This is why corporate forgiveness is an important part of church growth in established churches. Pastors tend to look for significant change after a single event stressing the need for forgiveness. It is important to recognize that corporate forgiveness must be seen as more than a singular event. If the congregation is going to move toward health, corporate forgiveness must become part of the overall environment of an established church. The American Church Magazine®

3. A shift in power structures Over time, established churches can develop power structures that hinder its movement toward health. This is especially true for churches who have experienced a pastor’s moral failure or pastoral abandonment. Typically, in the aftermath of a traumatic event, a group of members concerned for the church fills the leadership vacuum in order to “save their church.” They become self-appointed “gate-keepers” whose sole responsibility is to protect their church from more harm. Their efforts to protect often create barriers to health. It is important to recognize that time is needed for the pastor to patiently reinforce the Biblical patterns of governance within the church. 4. Conflict resolution As with the issue of corporate forgiveness, conflict resolution is very important for a congregation to move forward to health. Conflict resolution should be integrated into the established church’s environment. It can be manifested in three ways within the church. First, the church can resolve the issue of conflict as a part of corporate forgiveness. Next, the pastor can encourage the resolution of conflict on a personal level. Finally, the pastor can help the conflicting parties with their communication skills. Once they learned to listen to the other party, some conflict can be avoided. 5. Settlement of fiscal issues within the church Fiscal issues within the congregation are another factor that can hinder a church from moving toward health. The fiscal condition of the church may require that the pastor guide the church to address its debt and maintain their facilities.

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6. Breaking of dysfunctional behavior patterns Established churches usually develop dysfunctional patterns of behavior over time. These behavioral patterns are often a major problem for a pastor as he seeks to move the church toward health. Over time, the pastor should guide the church to develop new healthy patterns of behavior within congregational life. 7. Spiritual renewal and revival Another key factor to moving an established church towards health is spiritual renewal and revival. Typically, it is called a “turning point.� This occurs within the church as it renews its focus on the worship of the Lord, service, and a passion for saving the lost. 8. Long pastoral tenure Finally, the necessity for a long pastoral tenure is the foundational factor that must be addressed in an established church. Working with an established church requires time and this is especially true when there are barriers to overcome. A long pastoral tenure communicates to

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the church that a pastor views the congregation as important. He is willing to work together so they can move the church toward health. Moving Forward toward Health It must be recognized that the process of working backward is time consuming and frustrating, but the reward of seeing the church advance toward health can make the effort rewarding. There is still hope for the established church in North America. Today, ministry to established churches requires a patient approach that differs from most marketed church health models. George Cannon has served as the pastor of the Curwensville Christian Church in rural Pennsylvania since 2001. george@curwensvillechristian.org Twitter @GRCannonJr

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From Church Hoppers

The Era of Political Correctness By Jerry (Doc) Bentley

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oday ministers have to be aware of what they communicate to their congregation due to the hypersensitivity of the American society. Our media outlets have taken a position that the minority has a stronger voice. When reports come out people think the content is based on a broad view but in reality it is a few. Political correctness has a foundation called discrimination that is real and it has and will always be in our society due to the uniqueness of people.

The question is how much has the American church position contributed to the rights of others. Maybe the church needs to look into its history and see if we have been contributors to the movement of discrimination. Church leaders today spend a lot of time on moral issues that are realities in general in our culture. We have established a hierarchy of significance similar to the following; 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Homosexuality Child Molestation Spousal Abuse Adultery Divorce Living Together

If you have been or are doing any of the items listed above, then traditionally you are NOT welcome in the church culture until you clean up your act. The American Church MagazineÂŽ

One could be excommunicated, and even ostracized from the congregation for participating in these and various other lifestyle choices. So have we been a catalyst of discrimination way before television, radio, and media outlets existed in America? Consider these discriminating attitudes not often seen in ourselves: 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Condescending Spirit Judgment Greed Pride Lack of Faith Un-forgiveness

These attitudes are much easier to mask. And, if you are doing any of these six behaviors, you participate in church and sit at the front and actually shout an amen at the things that you’re not doing. Do

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you see the problem here? So again, have we been a catalyst of discrimination before television, radio, and media outlets existed in America? With this mind how can the church influence change in American culture with everyone’s receptors tuned in to these very sensitive issues? To overcome political correctness we must look internally as we present the gospel, understand equality, and embrace critiques. First, all voices from the platform, specifically you pastor, must make a self-analysis. All of us have pet peeves that are delivered to the congregation week after week. But we must address the internal motivation of what we present. Many leaders spend time trying to straighten out the congregation, make them feel good, or even try to show their expertise over different beliefs of others who are not even in the building. No matter how vocal we are against or for something, there is always another side to the essential belief. The solution is an internal evaluation. It is right to stand for or against an issue, but be open to what we may learn from God and others? There are no wrong messages from the Bible only wrong presentations of the message. Criticism of sin can bring power, but as presenters we can be guilty of other things that are similar in nature. For example, we can blast our congregation about drinking alcohol and never address our hundred pounds of being overweight. (Matthew 7:1-2) Second, all voices from the platform must understand that equality is not what people want, it is identity. The big push today is equality for everyone. Defined: equality is a state of being equal, which is an idealism that society seeks; but the truth is there has and always will be discrimination. Equality is being used to create a “false sense of identity” in every aspect especially in social media. Why is it that we have to put a nametag on everything: a gay football player, a single mom, a Native American, etc. Let’s get a little closer to the church: a spirit filled Christian, an ordained minister, a giving member etc. to classify a person. Social media outlets give everyone a voice in search of identity. It makes us somebody, we have “a page,” “a say,” or “an opinion.” We are taught to market and brand ourselves as adventurous, creative, or expressive, even to the point of lying about whom we are. The solution is promoting our identity in Christ. We are all different and unique in Christ so let that become what we embrace as a The American Church Magazine®

society and honor Christ by being identified in him. The power of identity has nothing to do with what we do, but who we are in Him. Our media outlets say everyone is someone; so, let us just add “in Christ” as the foundation of a true valued identity. (Psalm 139:14) Finally, the platform person must understand that to critique is not to criticize. To critique is valuable it sharpens us to become better at what we are doing. Presented in a timely and respectful manner it challenges us to grow and mature in our own faith. Critiquing two perspectives while balancing them with scripture will bring forth a purer truth. The synoptic gospels were written from three perspectives where God knew there was more than one viewpoint of the life and death of Christ. Critique awakens us to the reality of excellence both personally and corporately. We hate being critiqued because we define it as criticism from someone evaluating our efforts. If not careful we find ourselves so hypersensitive that we fear growth and reject challenges. Growth and challenges are the unknown that often make us uneasy. Uneasiness creates hypersensitivity to anything that questions what we do. In the end we even question (critique) our own behavior at times to assure ourselves. The solution is to accept critiques from key leaders in your church. Create a group(s) of leaders to evaluate your sermons, vision, and process in the church. The critique will sharpen you and help the congregation to understand that our best is what God commands. By being open to others critique it will drive you to accept God’s critique to be the best you can be. In an era of political correctness, the spokes persons, we must take a clear assessment of self prior to our presentation. Prejudices come when we refuse to make a self-evaluation and use language that divides instead of language that unites. We are going to say the wrong thing and people are going to hear it wrong. We may not like political correctness and choose to draw the line of right and wrong, no problem, but in reality we speak to a congregation that believes that all news is the truth therefore hypersensitivity is there. Leaders, our pure intent is to help our congregations to be the best they can be for God and we can only be responsible for what we say. Therefore build everything on this golden rule: the greatest presenters are those who look inside to see others.

September 2014

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