FACING A POST-CHRISTIAN CULTURE | 2016 TRENDS | REACHING YOUR COMMUNITY WITH VBS
Facts &Trends WINTER 2016 • FACTSANDTRENDS.NET
TO US Global migration and the gospel
Contents COVER SECTION 14 When the nations come to us Global migration is giving the Church an incredible opportunity to share the good news with the world. By Jenny Yang
19 Bridging cultures How an African-American church is reaching their Hispanic neighbors. By Megan Sweas
22 Interview with Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference Building bridges between Hispanics and Anglos. By Lisa Cannon Green
38 Putting your financial house in order The mishandling of personal finances is one of the greatest pitfalls for pastors today. By Jim Burnett
40 Facing a post-Christian culture Four mentalities for the church: Bomb Shelter, Ultimate Fighter, Chameleon, Kingdom Preview. By Bruce Ashford
IN EVERY ISSUE 3 Inside F&T Loving the nations and our neighbors. By Carol Pipes
4 From My Perspective Reaching the nations among us. By Thom S. Rainer
FEATURES 10 Trends 2016 Examining changes that will affect the church in the next 12 months and beyond. By Matt Erickson
24 VBS without walls Using VBS to reach your community. By Sara Shelton
28 Toward a more perfect union Psychologist and author Dr. Les Parrott explains why pre-marriage counseling can improve a coupleâ€™s chance of staying hitched. Interview by Carol Pipes
30 Desperate choices How your church responds to an unplanned pregnancy could mean the difference between life and death. By Lisa Cannon Green
34 Securing the faithful How churches can best prepare for the worst tragedies. By Aaron Earls
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6 Insights eliefs, issues, and trends impacting the church and B our world.
27 Groups Matter 4 tips for your first small group meeting. By Robert Noland
44 Technology Using technology to help accomplish the Great Commission. By LouAnn Hunt
46 Calibrate Meeting people where they are. By Cindy Landes
47 On Our Radar Relevant and practical resources for you and your church.
51 The Exchange The immigration crisis and the Great Commission. By Ed Stetzer
Facts&Trends Volume 62 • Number 1 • WINTER 2016
FACTS & TRENDS IS DESIGNED TO HELP PASTORS, CHURCH STAFF, AND DENOMINATIONAL LEADERS NAVIGATE THE ISSUES AND TRENDS IMPACTING THE CHURCH BY PROVIDING INFORMATION, INSIGHTS, AND RESOURCES FOR EFFECTIVE MINISTRY. Production Team Editor | Carol Pipes Managing Editor | Matt Erickson Senior Writer | Lisa Cannon Green Online Editor | Aaron Earls Graphic Designer | Katie Shull
LifeWay Leadership President and Publisher | Thom S. Rainer Executive Editor | Ed Stetzer Senior Editor | Marty King
Contributors Morris Abernathy, Jim Burnett, LouAnn Hunt, Cindy Landes, Mike Ledford, Stephen Macchia, Robert Noland, Sara Shelton, Megan Sweas, and Jenny Yang
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Loving the nations and our neighbors
y husband, Keith, and I have had the privilege of leading several international mission trips with students. We love learning about new cultures, even struggling with a new language. We’ve worked with refugees in southern Europe, university students in the U.K., and church planters in Ecuador. These trips have opened our eyes to the needs in our world, as well as the work God is doing through His church to reach the nations. Here in Nashville, we’ve watched the demographics shift in our neighborhood and community. God has awakened us to the opportunities to reach the nations right here at home. We’ve begun a friendship with our Nigerian neighbors. And I’m hoping to learn some gardening tips from our Vietnamese neighbor this spring. Recently, Keith and I were challenged to become intentional in serving those new to our nation. We decided to take part in a program run by a local university. The program pairs international students with American families, seeking to build friendships across cultures. The American family plays host to the student during their first year. We were paired with two students from China. We’ve had a great time sharing meals and introducing them to our city. They are curious about our culture and hungry for community. Simply inviting them to join in our holiday celebrations has allowed us to talk about our faith. In this issue of Facts & Trends, we look at how global migration is giving the Church an unprecedented opportunity to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the world. In our cover story, World Relief’s Jenny Yang breaks down the numbers for us and explains how immigrants can be both a mission field and agents of mission. LifeWay President and CEO Thom S. Rainer describes how a church in Georgia is reaching internationals. And our executive editor Ed Stetzer challenges Christian leaders to remember the missiological implications of global migration. We also interviewed Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, about what Latino immigration means for U.S. churches. Ministry to internationals doesn’t have to be complicated. It can be as simple as tutoring students in their schoolwork, teaching adults to read, or taking someone to the grocery story. Befriending those new to your city and helping them in practical ways can open doors for sharing the gospel. As we settle into 2016, immigration will continue to be a topic discussed by the media and debated during the presidential race. It’s an important, yet complex, issue. As Christians, I pray our discussions are filled with biblical truth and grace. God has commissioned us to reach the nations, and the nations are coming to us. Our calling is to love others like Christ loved us, point them toward the Savior, and help them follow Him.
Carol Pipes, Editor @CarolPipes | Carol.Pipes@lifeway.com Facts & Trends • 3
FROM MY PERSPECTIVE
Reaching the nations among us
he perimeter of First Baptist Duluth’s worship center is lined with the flags of 35 nations. A visitor might assume the flags represent the countries where First Duluth supports international missions. The church is most certainly reaching the nations, but they are reaching them right in their own backyard. These flags symbolize the nationalities represented at the Atlanta-area church. My friend Mark Hearn will celebrate his 6th year as First Duluth’s pastor this March. “Change is a constant for Duluth,” says Mark. An understatement if there ever was one. In 2000, Duluth was 70 percent white. Today the town is 41 percent white. “When we moved to Duluth six years ago, our neighbors were from India, Korea, Zimbabwe, and South Africa—a small snapshot of our surrounding community,” says Mark. “That opened my eyes to the need for our church to become more reflective of our community.” Since 2010, First Duluth has seen the portion of its new members who are non-Anglo grow from 8 percent to 48 percent. “The church’s goal is to reach all nations,” says Mark. “We want to see people of different language groups all worshiping together in the same body.” According to census projections, the U.S. population will be “majority-minority” by 2044. By that measure, Duluth is 30 years ahead of the curve. Mark says the changes they’ve made to reach their diverse community haven’t always been easy, but they have been rewarding. He offers some advice for churches as they respond to America’s changing demographics. 1. Study the community. The church conducted a demographic study to find the most unreached and
unengaged people groups in their community. They identified Southeast Asians and Hispanics— two fast-growing groups that were not being reached with the gospel. 2. F ind persons of peace. Find individuals who represent the culture you are trying to reach. Meet with them on a regular basis, ask questions, and invest in them as you learn about their culture.
“WE WANT TO SEE PEOPLE OF DIFFERENT LANGUAGE GROUPS ALL WORSHIPPING TOGETHER IN THE SAME BODY.” — MARK HEARN
3. F orm cross-cultural, cross-generational small groups. At First Duluth, these are 8-week Bible studies that meet in members’ homes. Each group has at least three people groups represented and a 30-year span from the youngest to the oldest participant. Mark says starting these groups was a major turning point in the life of the church. 4. P rovide interpreters. On Sunday mornings, First Duluth provides live language interpretation in the key language groups of the community—Spanish, Korean, and Chinese. Churchgoers can check out a receiver and headset so they can hear a live interpretation of the sermon in their language. The church also provides the worship guide and sermon notes in Spanish. 5. C elebrate multicultural events. First Duluth has begun to incorporate traditional celebrations such
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as Indian Independence Day and Mexican Pasada into the church calendar. “We cross all cultures with these events. Korean people come to the Pasada, Hispanic people come to Indian Independence Day,” says Mark. “A lovely mosaic begins to form as these different people groups come together.” 6. H ighlight the church’s diversity in worship. While Mark admits worship has been the most difficult transition for their church, they try to incorporate cultural elements into their worship services on an ongoing basis. At Easter, Mark asked individuals representing different people groups in the church to walk on stage and say “Jesus is risen” in their native language. On another Sunday, the worship pastor invited a group of women to perform a traditional Korean fan dance. The mostly English-speaking choir has even sung special anthems in Spanish. 7. R ecruit endlessly. Most ethnic people who come to a predominantly Anglo church still feel like guests even after they’ve become members. They often wait to be asked to join a group or participate in an activity. Seeing different ethnicities in leadership or volunteer roles offers a visual of the church’s diversity and helps guests and members feel more at home. “Change is never easy,” says Mark, “but we are going to see wonderful things happen as we begin to better reflect the diversity of our community.” Thom S. Rainer (@ThomRainer) is President and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources.
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Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
Handling the stress of ministry
Evangelicals more active in their faith
Among evangelical pastors
HOW PASTORS FEEL: · 84 percent say they’re on call 24 hours a day. · 80 percent expect conflict in their church. · 54 percent find the role of pastor frequently overwhelming. · 53 percent are often concerned about their family’s financial security. · 48 percent often feel the demands of ministry are more than they can handle. · 21 percent say their church has unrealistic expectations of them.
Shifts in beliefs
HOW PASTORS COPE:
· 94 percent consistently protect time with their family. · 92 percent make deliberate efforts to prevent conflict. · 90 percent regularly listen for signs of conflict in the church. · 89 percent feel free to say no to unrealistic expectations. · 85 percent have a day of rest at least once a week. · 59 percent have private Bible study and prayer seven or more times a week.
OPINIONS ON LIFE AND MINISTRY:
Source: LifeWay Research 6 • Facts & Trends
ince 2007, evangelical Christians have become more active in their faith and are more likely to feel spiritual peace and well-being, Pew Research finds. They also have a greater desire to preserve traditional religious beliefs but also a growing sense that homosexuality should be accepted by society. Those are among the findings of Pew’s 2014 U.S. Religious Landscape Study. Here’s how some evangelical beliefs have changed—or stayed the same—since 2007.
% of evangelicals who:
Believe in heaven
Believe Scripture is Word of God
Consider religion very important in their lives
Pray daily or more
Feel deep sense of spiritual peace and well-being weekly or more
Read Scripture outside religious services at least weekly
Attend religious service weekly or more
Believe church should preserve traditional beliefs and practices
Look most to religion for guidance on right and wrong
Feel deep sense of wonder about the universe weekly or more
Participate in prayer or Scripture study group at least weekly
Think homosexuality should be accepted by society
Share faith with others at least weekly
Think abortion should be mostly or entirely legal
Speak or pray in tongues weekly or more
PERCENTAGE OF THOSE IDENTIFYING AS PRO-CHOICE BY GENDER
Millennials unsure about Jesus
hile most Americans believe “Jesus was God,” millennials are more likely to view Jesus as merely a religious leader who committed sins like anyone else, the Barna Group reports. Millennials, born between 1984 and 2002, are the only age group in which fewer than half say “Jesus was God.” And while 52 percent of all Americans believe Jesus sinned, that opinion is held by 56 percent of millennials, more than any other generation. Young adults are less likely than others to say they have made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their lives today. Just 46 percent of millennials say they have made that commitment, compared to 62 percent of all Americans. Even millennials who have made a personal commitment to Christ are less likely than others to believe Jesus is the way to heaven. Though 56 percent of that group say they will go to heaven because they confessed their sins and accepted Christ as savior, they are less likely than their elders to hold that belief. Twelve percent think they will go to heaven because they are basically good people, and 4 percent believe they won’t go to heaven at all, despite their personal commitment to Jesus. Source: Barna.org
More Americans call themselves pro-choice
mericans observe National Sanctity of Human Life Sunday on Jan. 17 in a nation where the pro-choice stance is gaining ground. Half of Americans call themselves pro-choice on abortion, Gallup finds, compared to 44 percent who say they are pro-life. The 2015 survey marks the first statistically significant lead for the pro-choice position since 2008. Americans’ support for the pro-choice label has climbed from a low of 41 percent in 2012. However, it remains below levels seen in 1995, when 56 percent of Americans identified as pro-choice and only one-third considered themselves pro-life. In 1984, when President Ronald Reagan proclaimed the first National Sanctity of Human Life Day, Gallup found half of Americans favored a constitutional amendment to ban abortion except to save a mother’s life, and 46 percent were opposed. Source: Gallup.com
Suicide is epidemic but doesn’t lead to hell, Americans say
majority of Americans believe they are seeing an epidemic in the United States of people taking their own lives—but most don’t believe it sends people to hell. In a phone survey of 1,000 Americans, LifeWay Research found 36 percent have had a friend or relative commit suicide, and 56 percent describe suicide as an epidemic in the United States. Fewer than a quarter of Americans (23 percent) say people who take their own lives go to hell. However, Christians (27 percent)—and particularly evangelicals (32 percent)—are more likely than others to believe suicide leads to damnation. About a third of Americans (36 percent) say people who commit suicide are selfish. The number rises for Christians (39 percent) and particularly for evangelicals (44 percent). Source: LifewayResearch.com
Facts & Trends • 7
Beliefs, issues, and trends impacting our world
TOP COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR IMMIGRANTS TO THE US Mexico 12,380,000
TOTAL NUMBER OF IMMIGRANTS IN THE US
Cuba 1,000,000 Puerto Rico 1,500,000
El Salvador 1,160,000
Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2014
Religious affliation claimed by immigrants 74%
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR CHRISTIAN IMMIGRANTS
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR UNAFFILIATED IMMIGRANTS
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR MUSLIM IMMIGRANTS
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR BUDDHIST IMMIGRANTS
Mexico 11,780,000 Philippines 1,820,000 Puerto Rico 1,470,000 Germany 1,010,000 El Salvador 1,000,000
China Mexico Vietnam Japan Canada
Pakistan Iran Bangladesh India Turkey
Vietnam China Japan Thailand Cambodia
1,060,000 570,000 260,000 250,000 230,000
260,000 200,000 130,000 110,000 100,000
550,000 190,000 190,000 190,000 130,000
BY THE NUMBERS: IMMIGRATION
13% 1 in 4 1/3 Immigrants account for 13 percent of the U.S. population.
Adding their children, 1 in 4 people in America is a first- or second-generation immigrant.
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About one-third of U.S. Hispanics and two-thirds of U.S. Asians are foreign-born.
Germany 1,200,000 China 1,440,000 India 1,660,000
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR HINDU IMMIGRANTS
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR OTHER IMMIGRANTS
TOP 5 COUNTRIES OF ORIGIN FOR JEWISH IMMIGRANTS
India 1,100,000 Guyana 80,000 Trinidad & Tobago 50,000 Nepal 30,000 United Kingdom 10,000
India Hong Kong Laos Canada Liberia
Israel 110,000 Russia 50,000 United Kingdom 50,000 Canada 40,000 Ukraine, Germany, Iran (tie) 30,000
260,000 120,000 80,000 50,000 30,000
Source: Pew Forum, 2010 Estimates
47% 27% 26% Almost half of immigrants are naturalized U.S. citizens.
More than one-quarter of U.S. immigrants are unauthorized.
1 in 4 immigrants are legal permanent residents and people on temporary visas, such as students and short-term workers. Source: Pew Forum
Facts & Trends â€˘ 9
Trends 201 6 EXAMINING CHANGES THAT WILL AFFECT THE CHURCH IN THE NEXT 12 MONTHS AND BEYOND
By MATT ERICKSON
he past year was filled with major news events and controversial issues that will continue to impact the church in the months and years ahead. We’ve seen increased racial tension, riots, and violence. The Supreme Court overturned the traditional, biblical understanding of marriage and ruled in favor of same-sex marriage. Continued conflict in the Middle East exacerbated the refugee crisis in the region and created a flow of immigrants into Europe. And when secretly taped videos shed light on Planned Parenthood’s practice of harvesting and allegedly selling fetal tissue from partial-birth abortions, pro-life advocates took to social media calling for defunding the abortion provider. It’s hard to imagine 2016 being quite so eventful, but there will surely be more issues and challenges confronting the church in the coming year. As we flip the calendar to a new year, we asked several Christian leaders what they think churches in the United States are likely to face in 2016.
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Ed Stetzer executive director of LifeWay Research
Mike Cosper pastor of Worship and Arts, Sojourn Community Church, Louisville, Kentucky
Evangelicals in 2016 will regroup as some shakeout continues in the movement. However, the shakeout will actually produce a more robust evangelicalism. Those already on the bubble will trajectory out of evangelicalism; those near the edge will actually clarify and solidify their beliefs; and those in the center will consider it essential to teach their beliefs more clearly. Now that the numbers have increasingly pointed to evangelicals as being relatively steady, the doom-and-gloom prognostications will slow, but people will have a more sober assessment of what the future holds.
I expect we’ll see a continued rise in both connectivity—via expanded digital infrastructure and more easily accessible technology—and spiritual malaise and discontent. These trends are related; the technology, and its associated streams of entertainment and information, has a profound addictive quality. It seduces us into the illusion of community, but as embodied souls, what we crave is the earthy, face-to-face connections of real people, real conversations, and real love. I believe this need will become more readily apparent throughout our culture, and it provides an opportunity for the church to bear witness to what the gospel reveals about friendship, connection, and being fully human.
Mary Jo Sharp assistant professor at Houston Baptist University, faculty member of Summit Ministries
In my experience, Christians are adopting an ideology of our culture that must be recognized and confronted head-on: dividing life between the sacred and secular. As a result, our society will begin to see more emphasis on “keeping your religion out of” politics, schools, business, public debate, and anything in which a person might have to engage in public discourse. The reasoning will come directly from the sacred-secular split: belief in God is strictly opinion-based and should therefore be kept private. As a result, Christians will feel more intimidated than ever before to discuss their view of God. Helping our friends and communities, especially within the church, see the problematic thinking involved with the sacred-secular split is one way to help spread the good news of Jesus Christ. Christians must reject this division of life into different spheres, because, as Nancy Pearcey states in her book Total Truth, it is “the greatest barrier to liberating the power of the gospel across the whole of culture today.”
Facts & Trends • 11
DERWIN Gray lead pastor of Transformation Church, Indian Land, South Carolina
In 2016, ‘seeker,’ attractional, weekend-driven churches will continue to increase in attendance, but will decrease in influence and impact. Those looking for a self-help, prosperity gospel will flock to them, but those looking for a deeper, more meaningful, gospel-centered Christianity will not. Secular people will also find multiethnic churches that practice reconciliation and justice attractive.
Thom S. Rainer
managing editor of The Gospel Project, LifeWay Christian Resources
President and CEO of LifeWay LifeWay Christian Resources
The biggest temptation for evangelicals in 2016 will be to build our sense of identity on grievances and injustices toward traditional Christians—grievances some of which are real and others which are perceived. It’s easy to find our identity and energy in being ‘slighted’ or ‘injured’ because this is the default posture of groups on all sides of the culture wars. Groups thrive when they see themselves as beleaguered victims of injustice. We cannot go this direction and be faithful to Christ. Our solidarity is based not in societal injustice but in Christ’s righteousness. Our identity must be hope-filled, and we must demonstrate a cheerful courage that blesses when cursed, loves when hated, and seeks the good of those who seek our silence.
One of the trends I see for 2016 is the rise of the church security ministry. I see church security becoming a vital ministry of the church. It will include how to respond to a shooting; criminal and social media background checks; security in the children’s area; and safety in the children’s area. This ministry will become more important due to the demands of millennial parents for their children.
12 • Facts & Trends
William VAnderbloemen founder and chief executive officer of The Vanderbloemen Search Group
As people, we tend to become less flexible each day, and churches are no different. In 2016, our churches must become more agile, able to pivot and shift as culture and technology change quickly around us. What’s working today to engage your community might not work tomorrow, and smart pastors are always asking, ‘What’s next?’ As baby boomer pastors face retirement, pastoral succession will become a widely discussed topic as pastors think about the future of their church. Additionally, churches will focus on engaging millennials through missional community and innovative technology to drive church engagement.
Sarah Pulliam Bailey Washington Post religion reporter
With the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage and Caitlyn Jenner’s gender transition, more churches will debate sexuality and gender. Leaders will navigate everything from marriage to gay membership to gay ordination to gendered bathrooms to individual family decisions. The discussions will cut at the core of identity, both for individuals and for institutions.
REV. Samuel Rodriguez president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference
I believe the future of American Christianity lies in the hands of America’s immigrant community. American Christianity will shift across the board, without exception, as a result of America’s shifting demographic landscape. Change will take place in the barrio and in Beverly Hills, in the urban areas of east L.A. and in suburbia. It behooves us to look at immigration via the prism of the church and the Bible—to do away with any sort of political cultural myopia we may suffer from—and say, ‘Yes, these individuals have come to this nation and they’re going to reinvigorate and revitalize my church.’ It’s time to add a little bit of salsa to our churches across America. Our job as Christians is not to be a donkey or elephant, but to advance the Lamb’s agenda. We’re here to advance the gospel of Jesus Christ to all people.
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY INTERVIEWEES
MATT ERICKSON (@_Matt_Erickson) is managing editor of Facts & Trends.
Facts & Trends • 13
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Global migration is giving the Church an incredible opportunity to share the good news with the world By Jenny Yang
inkering with cars in South Korea changed the trajectory of my father’s life. An orphan in a desperately poor country, he faced a bleak future—until he won a national car repair competition, and a judge offered to take him to the land of his childhood dreams. In America, he struggled to learn English and find community. Yet he held a steady job at Ford Motor Company and eventually started his own business. He served in a church that has since grown to be one of the largest Korean churches in the Philadelphia area. His story echoes the experiences of thousands who come to the United States seeking a better life. The challenges of integration are real, but the opportunities are even greater. The migration of people, whether forced or voluntary, should be viewed not as accidental but as part of God’s sovereign plan. Scripture tells us God determines the times and places people live “so they might seek God, and perhaps they might reach out and find Him” (Acts 17:27). As believers we are called to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19); with immigration, the nations show up on our doorstep. The mission field has crossed our borders and settled into our communities as our co-workers and neighbors. For Christians committed to reaching the nations for Christ, this should be exciting news. Immigrants are not only open to hearing the gospel but are themselves transforming the Christian landscape in America.
“The migration of people, whether forced or voluntary, should be viewed not as accidential but as part of God’s sovereign plan.” — Jenny Yang
THE CHANGING AMERICAN LANDSCAPE
The United States is seeing one of the greatest demographic shifts in its history. Since 1970, the foreign-born share of the population has nearly tripled. By 2060, the U.S. Census Bureau predicts, nearly 1 in 5 residents will be foreign-born. In addition to European, Latino, and Asian immigrants, large numbers of people are arriving from “nontraditional” linguistic, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds. Cities like Detroit and Minneapolis boast significant numbers of Iraqis and Somalis, respectively.
Facts & Trends • 15
While immigrants continue to move to traditional “gateway cities” like New York, Los Angeles, and Chicago, many are dispersing to suburban and rural areas of the Southeast and Midwest. In the past 15 years, for example, the foreign-born population of Gwinnett County, Georgia, outside Atlanta, has more than doubled. Similar increases have been seen in such cities as Scranton, Pennsylvania; Indianapolis, Indiana; and Des Moines, Iowa. While some people migrate for educational or vocational opportunities, most migrate due to economic issues or political crises. Many would prefer to stay in their countries of origin, but they can’t find work to support their families or they fear for their lives.
ATTITUDES OF EVANGELICALS TOWARD IMMIGRANTS
Some evangelicals are uneasy about the number of recent immigrants to the United States, LifeWay Research found in February 2015. Nearly half (48 percent) said immigrants drain the country’s economic resources. However, 42 percent see opportunities to introduce recent immigrants to Jesus Christ and 40 percent see opportunities to show them love. 990,553 people were LifeWay Research also found almost 7 in 10 (68 percent) evangelicals believe it’s important for granted legal permanent Congress to pass significant new immigration legisresident status in 2013. lation. More than two-thirds support immigration Nearly half (46.4 percent) law changes that both increase border security and provide a path to citizenship. were new arrivals. More evangelicals say their views on immigration — Department of Homeland are most influenced by the media than by the Bible, Security, 2013 their local church, and national Christian leaders combined, according to the LifeWay study. Two-thirds of evangelicals (68 percent) say their church has never encouraged them to reach out to immigrants. The same percentage said they would value hearing a sermon about how biblical principles and examples can be applied to immigration. The Church’s attitudes and actions toward immigrants have an enormous impact on how immigrants hear the message of the gospel.
BIBLICAL AND MISSIONAL IMPLICATIONS
To view immigrants as part of God’s greater missional purposes, Christians must consider biblical principles and God’s greater purposes in the movement of people. PHOTOS ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
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It’s clear throughout Scripture God cares for the immigrant. In the Old Testament, the stranger is frequently mentioned alongside widows and orphans as people who were particularly vulnerable because they often lacked family members to take care of them or property to become self-sufficient. In Matthew 25, God commands us to extend hospitality (literally, the love of strangers)—with the suggestion they may bless us more than we assist them. Scripture is a story of people in exile and on the move, and many prominent characters in the Bible had a migration experience that was fundamental to their experience of God. Current migration patterns mean the mission field is coming to us. Thousands are arriving from nations such as China, Saudi Arabia, and Iran where missionary access has been difficult or denied. Many represent unreached people groups. In the United States, immigrants experience a freedom they often did not have in their countries of origin, allowing them to find Christ and worship freely. When God moves people, making them accessible to believers, the church has a divine opportunity to reach them with the gospel. Evangelical churches ministering to immigrants are seeing tremendous fruit born of their efforts. For instance, a number of interdenominational churches in Montgomery, Alabama, collaborated to serve the more than 3,000 Mixteco people who live in central Alabama. The Mixteco are a largely unreached people group from Mexico. “Christians in Montgomery are working hard to invest in relationships and build trust while sharing the gospel as the opportunity occurs,” says Lisa Rose, who leads Montgomery’s Mixteco interdenominational task force. “We serve them by providing English as a Second Language (ESL) and health classes, as well as helping them navigate immigration laws. Something as simple as assisting in filling out paperwork can go a long way FactsAndTrends.net
What Churches Can Do • Build cross-cultural relationships Learning from other cultures helps mitigate people’s fears of “the other” and encourages people to see the missional opportunity in building relationships. Become a friend of an immigrant. Listen to his or her story, and see beyond the stereotypes. World Relief has a network of offices in 26 cities across the United States to serve immigrants and resettle refugees. Volunteers are always needed to help refugees transition to their new homes, and often volunteers will find they receive more than they invest into these relationships. • Partner with immigrant churches Providing discipleship training and partnering with immigrant churches will foster a diverse church community. American church leaders can work with missionaries, pastors, and leaders from immigrant communities in existing missional efforts to provide expertise in contextual church planting, discipleship, and leadership development. • Develop an immigrant legal services ministry Immigrants have tangible needs churches can meet through the development of immigrant legal services. The Evangelical Free Church of America, for example, developed Immigrant Hope (ImmigrantHope.org), which provides 40 hours of training for church volunteers to establish legal centers within the church. • Online resources: - EvangelicalImmigrationTable.com/preach - WelcomingtheStranger.com - EthneCity.com - PeopleGroups.info Facts & Trends • 17
BY THE NUMBERS
• An estimated 42.4 million people in the United States are immigrants. • 20 million are naturalized U.S. citizens. • Immigrants account for 13 percent of the total U.S. population of 318 million. Source: U.S. Census Bureau, 2014
to developing relationships.” Willow Creek Community Church, outside of Chicago, serves the growing immigrant population in South Barrington at its Care Center, providing food, ESL classes, and legal services. Its Spanish-speaking ministry, Casa de Luz, has grown from a small ministry to one with several hundred members and its own Spanish-speaking pastor. God’s hand is moving in diaspora communities to come to know Him in a real way, and He has called His body to welcome and bless the nations of the world arriving in our neighborhoods.
CHRISTIANS ON THE MOVE
SUMMIT Great Commandment + Great Commission
THE REFUGEE CRISIS AND THE CHRISTIAN RESPONSE The refugee crisis calls for a reasoned, biblical response. Join other Christian leaders to chart a way forward. WHEATON COLLEGE, WHEATON, ILLINOIS JANUARY 20, 2016, 8 A.M. – 6 P.M.
Although thousands of Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, and people of no particular faith come to the United States, nearly three-quarters of immigrants are self-identified Christians. In my family’s case, my father became an orphan at age 8 in South Korea, but my grandmother had already instilled in him a faith in the Lord, as she herself had come to know Christ through American Christian missionaries in Korea. The fact that a majority of immigrants adhere to Christianity suggests immigrants will be not only a mission field but also agents of mission. Immigrant congregations are growing more quickly than any other segment of American evangelicalism. Many churches are experiencing tremendous growth by intentionally welcoming and integrating immigrants into their faith communities. In doing so, pastors and lay members are personally seeing God’s providential workings in the migration of people. Missiologists around the world recognize God is drawing people to Himself through ministry to, through, and beyond diaspora communities. Diasporas will continue to be an indispensable means by which God accomplishes His redemptive purposes through Jesus Christ. The global migration of people provides an incredible missional and transformational opportunity for the Church to expand God’s kingdom. JENNY YANG (@JennyYangWR) is vice president for Advocacy and Policy at World Relief and co-author of Welcoming the Stranger: Justice, Compassion & Truth in the Immigration Debate.
GC2SUMMIT.COM 18 • Facts & Trends
Bridging cultures How an African-American church is reaching their Hispanic neighbors
By Megan Sweas
t the end of a Black History Month-themed service at St. Stephen Missionary Baptist Church, pastor Anthony Dockery rose to tell his congregation about his recent mission trip to El Salvador. The mission team had served in the hometown of Jose Rivas, one of the pastors at St. Stephen. Beyond “good morning” and “God bless you,” Dockery had to rely on Rivas for translation, he explained to the congregation. The African-American congregation enthusiastically applauded the news that 500 people came to the party hosted by the church in El Salvador. Nationally, denominations and church networks are looking to bridge the gap between white and African-American churches. But in La Puente, California, about 20 miles east of Los Angeles, St. Stephen finds itself working across African-American and Hispanic communities. A 4,000-member church with a 51-year history, St. Stephen has seen La Puente change drastically over the past few decades. Years ago, the neighborhood surrounding
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St. Stephen’s annual block party is a huge draw for the community.
St. Stephen was primarily African-Americans. Latino residents now account for 85 percent of the city’s population, and less than 2 percent of residents are African-American, according to the U.S. Census. Longtime church members have moved further into the Inland Empire east of Los Angeles, Dockery says, yet many remain loyal to St. Stephen and commute back on Sunday mornings. Still, it’s not certain that younger generations will continue the practice, Dockery says. “It’s important for the church to be relevant to its community as well.” Seeking to reach its transitioning neighborhood, St. Stephen hired Rivas to become its Spanish-language minister. Rivas, a native of El Salvador, came to La Puente to establish a new church, and St. Stephen volunteered its space to his congregation. In December 2013, however, the Spanish-language ministry decided to merge with St. Stephen’s existing community rather than start from scratch. “Their way of doing ministry aligned with what we wanted to do with our Spanish church,” Rivas 20 • Facts & Trends
explains. “St. Stephen has a tremendous program in leadership and Christian education.” About 100 people now attend a Spanish-language service, held while the predominantly African-American English speakers are in Sunday school classes. The Spanish speakers have their own adult Sunday school, using the Spanish edition of Bible Studies for Life curriculum. Children and English-speaking young people are incorporated into the English Sunday school. While services remain segregated due to language, other activities, such as the church picnic and basketball league, are for everybody, Rivas says. One of his challenges is making sure the wider community knows the historically African-American church has a Spanish-speaking ministry. The church reaches out to the local community through a food bank and a block party where people can access donated clothing and basic medical services. Since the Spanish ministry began, more Hispanics have started attending the event. “That has been a blessing to the church,” Rivas says. WINTER 2016
PHOTOS PROVIDED BY ST. STEPHEN MISSIONARY BAPTIST CHURCH AND MEGAN SWEAS
St. Stephen’s approach to reaching its community is similar to how Rivas started an outreach in his hometown in El Salvador. He and his sister brought cake on a visit seven years ago and invited neighbors to come to a “birthday party.” Sixty kids showed up. The next year, they repeated the party and spread the invitation further. More than 300 kids showed up. At that point, they started to organize Bible study classes and establish a church. This year, Dockery and two African-American women from St. Stephen accompanied Rivas’ mission team. The congregation at St. Stephen donated 243 backpacks to the town’s children. Whether in El Salvador or their own backyard, missionary work “has united us more in serving God,” Rivas says. “We believe church is to serve the families, obviously starting at home in our Jerusalem, which is here in La Puente. “Whenever you bring races together like this, it’s God’s power,” Dockery said. “Love indeed conquers all.”
DIG DEEPER • LifeWay.com/Spanish • Estudios Bíblicos para la Vida • Quietud: Guía Devocional Diaria • La Familia • Biblia del Pescador
MEGAN SWEAS is a freelance journalist in Los Angeles, California.
Facts & Trends • 21
PHOTO PROVIDED BY SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ
Samuel Rodriguez on building bridges between Hispanics and Anglos
ispanics make up nearly half the foreign-born population in the United States, the U.S. Census Bureau reports. Facts & Trends talked with Samuel Rodriguez, president of the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, about what Latino immigration means for U.S. churches.
WHAT DO YOU SEE HAPPENING TO THE CHURCH TODAY AS A RESULT OF IMMIGRATION? Immigration in the past 20 to 30 years has served as the de facto lifeblood of American evangelicalism. The largest denominations in America will attest that their largest growth extends out of their immigrant community.
HOW WILL THE CHURCH LOOK IN THE FUTURE BECAUSE OF
By Lisa Cannon Green
THE TREND WE’RE SEEING?
By 2050 you will be hard-pressed to find an exclusively white church in America. The number one change will be multiethnic participation and diversity—churches that really reflect the mosaic of God’s kingdom. The second thing you will see is a hybrid synergy. Rather than an exclusively Pentecostal presentation of the gospel here and an exclusively Baptist presentation there, you’re going to see more ‘Bapticostals.’ The majority of Latinos are charismatic, but there is a strong push toward biblical orthodoxy. The third part will be reconciliation of what I call Billy Graham’s message and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s march. You’ll see churches saying, “What about the people around us who are suffering? Why not quench the thirst and feed the
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hungry and welcome the stranger?” And because of that, you’re going to see a healthier church.
HOW DOES A CHURCH REACH OUT TO THIS COMMUNITY?
Make the church leadership aware of the Latino culture. It’s a family culture, so it’s not unique to have mom and dad, grandma, grandpa, aunts, and uncles living in the same house, because they’re very committed to la familia. Music and food are critical ingredients of the culture. Put out carne asada [grilled meat] and have some music and you can attract a community that really loves to celebrate life and family around food and music. Any presentation of the gospel should address the head, the hand, and the heart. The head means a faith that engages them intellectually. WINTER 2016
The hand means a faith that is practical—how is God going to help me deal with the challenges I currently have? And the heart means the spiritual and eternal questions. Latinos are head and hand, and we are very much heart—the emotion, the love, the passion. So speak to the heart, and everything else will follow.
WHAT ARE CHURCHES DOING WRONG WHEN THEY TRY TO REACH IMMIGRANTS?
resources for long-term, intentional outreach. And the third great thing is churches going beyond the politics. They’re embracing the unity found in John 17.
WHAT SHOULD CHURCH LEADERS DO IN RESPONSE TO IMMIGRATION?
One is pray. Every immigrant as well as every person in this nation is created in God’s image. So pray You cannot reach what you do not for the saving grace of Jesus reflect. We say we want Latinos Christ to reach every immigrant in our church, but there’s not one in America. Pray for the Holy person of Latino descent on the Spirit to convict us of any myopia worship team or in the church or prejudice that impedes us from leadership. People want to come recognizing the image of God in and say, “Yeah, that in the immigrant community. person looks like me. Number two is critiIf that person feels cal—make sure there is “ESTABLISH A comfortable here, a measurable comRELATIONSHIP WITH A I can feel comfortmitment, plan, and LATINO PASTOR IN YOUR able here.” strategy for reaching CITY. AND I MEAN BEYOND The second out to the immigrant ‘HELLO, MY NAME IS thing we do community. JOHN—FOLLOW ME wrong is adopting Number three, ON FACEBOOK.’” a paternalistic, establish a relationship —SAMUEL RODRIGUEZ patronizing spirit: with a Latino pastor “We’ll do this activity in your city. And I mean for the Latino community beyond “Hello, my name is once a year.” That does not work, John—follow me on Facebook.” because the Latino community Establish a relationship that can wants a church committed be nurtured. to reflecting the entire community What makes ministering to immiit serves. grants different from ministering to non-immigrants? WHAT ARE CHURCHES The number one barrier is lanDOING RIGHT? guage. Create space for a Spanish They’re getting to know the Latino service under the canopy of your community personally. That coffee collective ministry. date, that caramel macchiato conversation, has the power to shift things. HOW DOES THE Number two is a significant, IMMIGRANT COMMUNITY continual commitment to Latino CHANGE OVER TIME? outreach—not just “Hey, you When you’re a first-generation can rent our facilities Sundays at Latino immigrant, you have one 3 o’clock.” We’re going beyond major objective—self-preservation. that, creating space and providing That’s where the storefront churches FactsAndTrends.net
in our cities arise. It’s about cultural affirmation. I want my local church to be an extension of El Salvador or Mexico or Guatemala—a micro-presentation of the native country. Second generation says I am Latino but I’m American, and I want my Christianity to be both Latino and American. So I want my services to be both in English and Spanish. By the third generation there is integration. We continue to call ourselves Latino, but it’s definitely all English. You may not even speak one word of Spanish. But then there’s a glitch in the matrix. Latter-third and fourthgeneration Latinos are going back to the Catholic church, leaving the evangelical church. Why? They’re looking for liturgy, and they’re looking for the faith of their forefathers in order to reconnect to their Latino Spanish culture.
WHAT WOULD BE THE EVANGELICAL RESPONSE TO THAT?
The evangelical response would be to continuously affirm diversity in our churches. Don’t do away with your Latino ministry, even when your church becomes third-generation. Have a significant outreach toward Latinos perpetually. Find out the needs of the community and address those needs—not with a paternalistic “We’re going to create a little bit of space for you,” but rather, “You are an equal shareholder here. We want you here. Matter of fact, we need you here.” That’s the shift that has to take place. LISA CANNON GREEN (@LisaCCGreen) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.
Facts & Trends • 23
USING VBS TO REACH YOUR COMMUNITY By Sara Shelton
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’ve never been good at inviting people to church. Something about extending that invitation has always been uncomfortable for me.” This sentiment from Atlanta-area churchgoer Lindsey Neal is not uncommon among believers. A lifelong Christian, Neal struggled with finding a way to share that part of her life with others in her community. All of that changed, however, when she became a mom. “The first time I dropped my son off at our church’s Vacation Bible School it hit me,” Neal explains. “People are always looking for positive activities for their children, and VBS is just that. It gives me a less intimidating way to talk to people about church and extend the invitation to their families.” And she’s not the only one. More and more churchgoers are realizing what a powerful tool for invitation and evangelism Vacation Bible School can be. Jerry Wooley, LifeWay’s VBS ministry specialist, says congregations around the country consistently see a tremendous response to Vacation Bible School. “Churches have had a lot of success in bringing new families into their congregations through VBS,” Wooley explains. “The program really opens the door to church in a nontraditional way.” In 2014, churches that used LifeWay VBS material reported more than 2.5 million people enrolled in VBS, with reports of 73,192 new professions of faith. Some 177,721 of the children who attended these VBS events were previously unchurched. However, Wooley also points out that when factoring in adults and older siblings who attend alongside those children, the number rises to an estimated 1 million unchurched individuals reached through VBS.
While Wooley and his team are thrilled with these reports, they are encouraging churches to think outside the box—or, more accurately, outside their walls—when it comes to VBS this year. “There are still millions of kids out there who aren’t going to respond to a traditional on-campus Bible school,” Wooley explains. “If we’re going to reach the unchurched, we have to go where they are.”
PUTTING VBS ON THE MAP
That’s exactly what children’s ministry leaders like Tim Munoz are doing. In his early years as pastor of children’s and preschool ministries at Hilldale Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, Munoz saw great success in reaching families in his own congregation through VBS. But after nearly seven years of putting on a successful on-campus program, he felt the distinct call to move the program into the community. “About three years ago I was at a conference where a man got up to share about his past experience with the church,” Munoz recalls. “He grew up down the street from three or four churches, yet nobody from any of those churches ever came to his family. He was steps away from access to the gospel, but those churches never went outside their walls to bring it to him. And it hit me right then: I’m that church that refuses to go to the child down the street.” Immediately, Munoz set to work revamping Hilldale’s VBS program with his team. “I told them, ‘Guys, we’re not just opening our doors for VBS; we’re taking it into the community, too.’” That year, Hilldale put on five VBS programs, only one of which was held at the church’s campus. Four others met at local schools, in community parks, and in the front
yards of families in low-income housing areas. The following year, the team continued that model, hosting 10 total VBS programs with nine meeting at locations around the community. Last year, Hilldale grew that number to 27. “I have a huge map of our city hanging in my office, and I’ve flagged on it where all our VBS programs have met,” Munoz says. “It gives me a visual representation of not only where we’ve served but also all of the places we still have to go.” Both Munoz and Wooley are passionate about helping other churches adopt a similar model, encouraging them to take VBS into their communities. “VBS provides a huge opportunity for community outreach,” Wooley explains. “Every member of your congregation has a neighbor or a place in their community that needs to be reached, and we want all our churches to embrace the idea that VBS could be the tool that reaches them.” From the first stages of planning to the final follow-up, Wooley and his team want to encourage churches to consider community evangelism and outreach in every step of the process when it comes to VBS this year.
As you plan your VBS, consider your community, too. Think through the makeup of the community and how you can construct a VBS program that is accessible to most everyone around you. “Before you can successfully reach your community, you have to know your community,” Munoz advises. “We spent time getting to know the people and the places in our city where we eventually took VBS. We learned where the needs were and then spent time putting together programs that best served the people Facts & Trends • 25
“If we’re going to reach the unchurched, we have to go where they are.” — Jerry Wooley
right where they were.” Do you already partner with a local school? Talk to the principal about hosting a program there. Is there a busy shopping center in your community? Ask the owner about hosting a VBS-style event in the parking lot for a day.
Developing a community-minded team is essential. It will be increasingly difficult to reach your community if your volunteers don’t have a heart for more than just the children and families in your own church. “I couldn’t do what I do in terms of VBS without my team,” Munoz explains. “Their understanding and obedience to God’s call to reach other people has been vital.” To help train volunteers, look for resources that provide practical help as well as spiritual encouragement. “We provide training materials on everything from recruiting volunteers to giving them the spiritual resources they need to have a conversation with a child or family about Christ,” Wooley says of LifeWay’s VBS. “Our goal is not only to equip your team for VBS but also to excite and inspire them to serve.”
DIG DEEPER •V BS 2016 preview events, designed to give leaders a hands-on opportunity with the new material, are scheduled for January in Ridgecrest, North Carolina; Forth Worth, Texas; and Nashville, Tennessee. For more information and resources to aid in hosting VBS this year, visit VBS.LifeWay.com.
Whether you’re hosting a traditional on-campus VBS this year or taking the program to your community, consider how you can best get the word out. Get permission to send home flyers at your local schools. Use social media to let followers know when the program will take place. Host a VBS preview night in the community to attract interest. “We talk to schools, we hang signs in parks and community centers, we put banners in front yards,” Munoz says. “We want to do whatever we can do to make it easy for people to find out who we are, what we’re doing, and how they can take part.”
LifeWay’s 2016 VBS program, “Submerged: Finding Truth Below the Surface,” gives attendees the opportunity to dive deeper into God’s Word. The material encourages children and families to look beyond the surface, providing biblical examples of how Jesus saw beyond the outside of a person and looked instead to what was deeper, on the inside. According to Wooley, LifeWay provides teaching material for babies all the way up to adults, including Spanish-language curriculum and material for children with special needs.
At the core of any VBS program is the heart to see people come to Christ. Look for material that focuses specifically on opportunities for evangelism, guiding leaders through ways to share the gospel. To make sure your leaders are prepared, LifeWay provides guidance
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on giving a gospel presentation to any age group in each of the leader guides. “Because evangelism is so valuable to us,” says Wooley, “we want to do whatever we can to make sure the week doesn’t end without everyone hearing the gospel and having the chance to respond.”
As your VBS ends, it’s important to remember your ministry to those in attendance has just begun. Following up with those who participated— especially those who are new to church—is a great way to continue to reach your community. “VBS laid the foundation upon which we’ve been able to build an even bigger ministry to our community,” Munoz explains. “And we’ve seen a lot of life change happen in the follow-up ministry we’ve done post-VBS.” Consider how you can continue to minister to your community after VBS. Did you host your VBS at a local school? Maybe plan a school supply drive or a back-to-school bash for them in the fall. Did you bring VBS to a local park or neighborhood? Throw a block party or provide a day of cleanup to continue to serve the people there. Vacation Bible School provides an open door to new areas of your community. As your church prepares for VBS this season, consider how you can go not only to the families in your church but also to those in the schools, parks, and neighborhoods that make up your community. And, as Munoz explains, God will show up when you show up. “All you have to do is get it to the people,” he says, “and then let God do the rest.” SARA SHELTON is a freelance writer in Atlanta, Georgia.
GROUPS MATTER 4 tips for your first small group meeting By robert noland
o you’ve agreed to facilitate a small group? The people are committed, the dates are set, and the study focus of the group has been chosen. Even the snacks are delegated. But then, fear strikes your heart. These people don’t really know one another, do they? It’s going to be awkward, isn’t it? We’ll all be uncomfortable, won’t we? Take a deep breath and consider a few tips to build a firm foundation for your group’s first meeting.
As people arrive, allow some agenda-free chitchat time, standing around the snacks or coffee in the kitchen. It’s interesting how people will linger and talk in a kitchen, but then often clam up as they sit down in the living room. The more your group members casually talk among themselves, the better your first group time will be once you “officially” begin. If people aren’t talking much, or it begins to feel awkward, move on to the seating area and get started. But don’t rush the relaxed banter on this first meeting, because some amazing relationships may be already beginning.
As much as some personalities may not prefer this approach, go around and let people give an introduction and tell something about themselves. As the group leader, take the time to ask any follow-up questions you think might help everyone. For example, Nancy states her name and says, “I work at the X Corporation.” Before you move on, say, “That’s great, Nancy. I’m familiar with that company. What do you do there?” Or, if a couple says they have two children named Baker and Bonnie and they stop there, then
say, “Great. Tell us about your son and daughter. How old are they? What are they like?” Remember, if you want to know something more, it’s likely the other group members do too. While being careful not to be too nosy or personal, delving past the surface in the first meeting can communicate the group is going to care about one another’s lives.
At that first meeting, everyone’s a little uncomfortable. People aren’t yet sure this is for them. Try to calm their fears. After introductions, say something like, “Okay, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been nervous about this. Coming to a new group can be unnerving. I’d like to ask two things of anyone who would like to share. First, what has been your biggest concern prior to coming, and then, what do you hope to gain from this group?” This honest, transparent opening can defuse anxiety and show everyone the goal is to be open and honest. While this strategy isn’t foolproof, most groups will begin to share and
open up to such an invitation. As the group leader, you should always set the pace, so it’s a good plan for you to start by sharing your own concerns and what you hope to see happen.
Keep this first meeting light and upbeat as much as possible. You want to work toward a balance of going deep and getting serious when needed, but also being able to laugh and have fun. Don’t get too heavy, too fast. The first meeting is for introductions and establishing a comfort level. If you see some smiles, relaxed postures, and engaging looks, you’re hitting the target for group comfort. Before your group arrives for the first time, pray over your home and the rooms you’ll be in. For your first gathering, practice these four C’s, and you could be forming relationships that will help people grow stronger in their love for God and make friends for a lifetime. ROBERT NOLAND is a freelance writer in Franklin, Tennessee.
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Toward a more
perfect union By Carol Pipes
PSYCHOLOGIST AND AUTHOR DR. LES PARROTT EXPLAINS WHY PRE-MARRIAGE COUNSELING CAN IMPROVE A COUPLE’S CHANCE OF STAYING HITCHED
irst comes love, then comes marriage, then comes … therapy? Too many couples jump into marriage with little or no preparation. This can lead to big problems and hours of counseling. But Drs. Les and Leslie Parrott, New York Times best-selling authors of Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, say premarital counseling can go a long way toward saving a marriage before it starts. They’ve recently created the Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts (SYMBIS) Assessment to help churches do premarital counseling. We talked with Les about the importance of premarital ministry and how their new tool can help churches improve this important first step in a couple’s life together.
There’s been a lot of talk about millennials delaying marriage. Does this new generation still believe in marriage?
Here’s what we know for sure: a majority of young adults plan to marry eventually, and most expect to be married for life. Did you catch that? Almost all young adults between the ages of 18 and 30 not only aspire to be married, they plan on it. And, perhaps more striking—in the face of a staggering divorce rate that most young adults have witnessed up close and personal—most still believe when they marry, it will be for life.
But are they motivated to prepare for marriage through education or counseling?
More couples want pre-marriage education than ever, and with good reason. It’s associated with higher levels of marital satisfaction, lower levels of destructive conflicts, and higher levels of commitment. A study by the National Fatherhood Initiative found 86 percent of American adults say all couples considering LIGHTSTOCK.COM
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marriage should have pre-marriage education. The same study showed 41 percent of divorced couples say lack of pre-marriage preparation contributed to their divorce. People believe pre-marriage education makes a difference.
But do we know for sure if premarital counseling works? And what does that mean for churches?
Absolutely. Research shows that couples who succeed gain the knowledge they need before they settle into destructive patterns that often lead to divorce. In fact, couples are 31 percent less likely to get divorced if they have some pre-marriage training. Not only that, couples who participate in pre-marriage programs experience a 30 percent increase in marital success and fulfillment over those who don’t participate. I think most Christian leaders realize the benefits of providing pre-marriage education for engaged couples in their churches, but they aren’t always sure how best to do it. There are some great resources available to churches that want to provide in-depth pre-marriage counseling.
Which brings us to your book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts. It’s been used by more than a million couples, and a number of churches use it as a basis for premarital classes.
Yes. And we recently updated and revised the book, along with his-andher workbooks and a DVD. We want to make it as easy as possible for any size church to have a first-class pre-marriage ministry. Over the past two years we’ve conducted listening sessions with more than 200 churches, asking two questions: 1) what do you do for engaged couples; and 2) what can help you do it better? Those listening
sessions led us to develop a new pre-marriage assessment called the SYMBIS Assessment.
What’s the SYMBIS Assessment?
I’ve never been more excited about a project than I am this assessment. It’s truly a game-changer that’s making a positive difference. It ensures the church is giving couples every advantage possible as they prepare for marriage. The assessment generates a robust, relevant, and personal 15page couple’s report that the pastor
from a pastor recently who said, “If Steve Jobs designed a pre-marriage assessment it would look and feel like this.”
So is the SYMBIS Assessment only for one-on-one premarital counseling?
No. Leaders can use it in large classes, small groups, or in counseling sessions. And they determine the number of sessions they want to have. Church leaders can even invite “marriage mentors” from their congregation to become trained as certified SYMBIS facilitators. That alleviates the pastor’s load and empowers laypeople in ministry.
COUPLES ARE 31 PERCENT LESS LIKELY TO GET very passionate about DIVORCED IF THEY HAVE SOME You’re helping the local church do PRE-MARRIAGE TRAINING. pre-marriage ministry well. —JOURNAL OF FAMILY PSYCHOLOGY
or mentor unpacks with the couple. It makes pre-marriage counseling easier and more effective than ever. A number of studies show that certain pre-marriage variables can differentiate couples who will do well and those who will struggle with up to a 94 percent accuracy rate. We’ve built the assessment on a mountain of research and a deep foundation of biblical understanding.
Why is that?
The first sentence in our book, Saving Your Marriage Before It Starts, says: “We never had pre-marriage counseling, but we spent the first year of our marriage in therapy.” And it’s the truth. Our passion comes from the heart. It’s a mission for us and we want to revolutionize the way the church helps couples launch lifelong love. CAROL PIPES (@ CarolPipes) is editor of Facts & Trends.
How does it work? How do church leaders get started?
It begins with a three-hour online certification training for pre-marriage counselors at our website SYMBISassessment.com. Once they complete the course at their own pace, they can begin using the resource immediately. They’ll also have their own dashboard for managing all the couples in their care. It’s easy and intuitive. We received the nicest compliment
DIG DEEPER • Facts & Trends is providing church leaders with a discount code to begin the SYMBIS Assessment training for $25 off the retail price. Use this code FF7F9D6 at SYMBISassessment.com. The code is good through February 2016.
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HOW YOUR CHURCH RESPONDS TO AN UNPLANNED PREGNANCY COULD MEAN THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN LIFE AND DEATH by Lisa Cannon Green
Her trembling fingers barely stop the pregnancy test from tumbling to the floor. No. This can’t be true. I’m not ready. I can’t have a baby. Confronted with the biggest decision she’s ever had to make, she tries to swallow her panic and think through her options. She doesn’t know where to turn for help.
But it probably won’t be the church.
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xperts know women facing crisis pregnancies rarely see the church as a source of support. A new study commissioned by Care Net and conducted by Nashville-based LifeWay Research confirms it: Two-thirds of women who have had an abortion believe church members are more likely to gossip about a woman considering abortion than help her understand the options. Ministry leaders say it’s time for a cultural shift. They believe churches can touch the lives of thousands of women and their unborn babies by welcoming them with grace and support. Pregnancy, they say, is not a sin— regardless of how the pregnancy began. “The perspective needs to change in churches,” says Vince DiCaro, chief outreach officer for Care Net, which supports more than 1,100 pregnancy centers across North America. “Pastors need to make it clear to women: You’re going to get the compassionate care you need to work through this, and we’re going to help you have this baby and support this baby in the long term.” By spring of 2016, Care Net plans to launch Making Life Disciples, a six-session DVD curriculum that will equip churches to offer compassion, hope, help, and discipleship to anyone considering abortion.
Churches already have relationships with nearly half of women who have abortions, LifeWay Research shows. Its survey found 43 percent were attending church once a month or more when they decided to end a pregnancy. Yet only 7 percent discussed their
decision with someone at a local church. The gap between those numbers represents a huge opportunity for the church, says Scott McConnell, LifeWay Research vice president. “Six times more women should be reached with at least a caring conversation about the decision they’re making,” McConnell says. The conversations aren’t happening because women fear being judged, he says. “The typical church is dwelling on truth and has no room for grace.” Robin Mauck sees women’s fears when they come to the Pregnancy Resource Center of Gwinnett in Lawrenceville, Georgia, where she is executive director. “Most people, their first thought with their pregnancy is to head off to Planned Parenthood, and we want to change that,” she says.
ROLE OF THE CHURCH
Churches traditionally have relied on crisis pregnancy centers to counsel women with unplanned pregnancies, McConnell and DiCaro say, but they see several reasons for churches to take the lead. One reason is sheer volume. “The only way we’re going to reach the number of women we need to reach is if churches are having initial conversations as well,” McConnell says. Another is location. While a city may have only one or two pregnancy care centers—usually in the suburbs, because urban sites are expensive—churches exist by the dozens, scattered throughout the community. At Care Net, “we came to this epiphany: Churches are in a position to start pregnancy care ministries in urban areas where there are lots of abortion clinics and very few preg-
“Pastors need to make it clear to women: you’re going to get the compassionate care you need to work through this, and we’re going to help you have this baby and support this baby in the long term.” — Vince DiCaro, Care Net
Facts & Trends • 31
nancy centers,” DiCaro says. Churches can also provide long-term support for mother and child in a way pregnancy centers cannot, McConnell says. “If you say to a woman, ‘We’re going to be there for you if you keep this child,’ that’s really 18 years of investment,” he says. Finally, DiCaro points to the church’s biblical mandate to care for others. “The reality is this is the church’s job,” he says. “Pregnancy centers are parachurch ministries whose job it is to come alongside the church to help the church with its work, not the opposite.”
DIG DEEPER •C are-Net.org Download free resources, including: -1 0 Things Not to Do When a Woman Tells You She Wants an Abortion. - W hy Pro-Life? by award-winning author Randy Alcorn. -F atherhood Aborted, a look at abortion’s emotional impact on men. • EmbraceGrace.com. A nonprofit designed to help churches love and support single women in unplanned pregnancies. • Surrendering the Secret: Healing the Heartbreak of Abortion by Pat Layton. Bible study to help women with abortion in their past.
“Evangelicals need to get more comfortable with talking about it from the pulpit. That’s the only way to change how churches respond.”
DiCaro says change begins with what he calls a “Joshua proclamation” by church leadership: “As for me and my church, there will be no abortions.” “The pastor must adopt it as a priority and officially build it into the — Robin Mauck, Pregnacy ministry of the church,” says Tony Resource Center Evans, senior pastor of Oak Cliff Bible Fellowship in Dallas, Texas, whose church will be a pilot site for Care Net’s program. Next, DiCaro says, a pastor should identify someone in the church to lead a new pregnancy care ministry. Then the church can put programming in place and start working with the local pregnancy center. “Churches should link their internal pregnancy ministries to pregnancy centers so there can be a referral going both ways,” Evans recommends. Good intentions are not enough, McConnell says. “You actually have to prepare. You have to train people to have those conversations.” Openness about a taboo subject is also important, Mauck says. “It’s a topic pastors don’t want to talk about,” she says. “Evangelicals need to get more comfortable with talking about it from the pulpit. That’s the only way to change how churches respond.” Most of all, Mauck says, people need to get personally involved. She has watched volunteers’ hearts soften as they get to know the women who come to the pregnancy care center for help. Changing a culture begins with grace, McConnell says. “You’re loving people through the consequences of decisions,” he says. “You don’t have to go through a seven-step program to be loving. It starts there.” LISA CANNON GREEN (@LisaCCGreen) is senior writer for Facts & Trends.
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Pregnancies in America
BY THE NUMBERS
Among women who have had an abortion:
65% say church members judge 54% single women who are pregnant 65% 49% 54% 65% say churches oversimplify decisions 41% 49% about pregnancy options 54% 65% 30% 41% 49% 54% 65% say pastors’ teachings on forgiveness don’t 30% seem to apply to terminated pregnancies 41% 49% 54% 30% 41% 49% think churches are prepared to help women with 30% decisions about unwanted pregnancies 41% 30% believe churches give accurate information about pregnancy options Source: LifeWay Research FactsAndTrends.net
Out of the 51% of unintended pregnancies,
end in abortion
Out of the 40% of abortions,
of the women obtaining an abortion are Protestant Sources: American Journal of Public Health, Gallup Facts & Trends • 33
SECURING THE FAITHFUL How churches can best prepare for the worst tragedies
34 â€˘ Facts & Trends
IN THE WAKE OF THE CHARLESTON SHOOTING, CHURCHES ARE RE-EVALUATING THE SAFETY OF THEIR SANCTUARIES By AAron Earls
Women pay their respect at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina, after a gunman killed nine people during a Bible study on June 19, 2015.
round a dozen Christians gather, despite the sweltering Southern heat, for a Wednesday night Bible study. Grandmothers and recent college graduates join with local pastors to discuss God’s Word and pray. The scene is not unlike others that have played out countless times in the church’s almost 200-year history, except for one thing—the visitor no one recognizes. After sitting with the group for more than an hour during Scripture discussions and prayer requests, the visitor stands up, pulls a handgun from a fanny pack and opens fire, killing nine people at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina. In light of those murders and other high-profile attacks, many churches are asking questions about their own safety and security policies. For Carl Chinn, these discussions hit close to home. Chinn, who maintains what is considered the most extensive database on violence at houses of worship, twice experienced similar traumatic events. “I had dismissed the subject of emergency readiness through much of my career,” says Chinn. That changed after he was involved in incidents with gunmen at Focus on the Family, where he worked, and New Life Church, Colorado Springs, Colorado, where he was a member. Today, Chinn tracks violence on church properties and offers security consultation for churches. “Most churches
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MIKE LEDFORD
Facts & Trends • 35
spend far more time and money training their choir than they do investing in the safety of their staff and guests,” he says.
Chinn’s research shows an increase of violence on church properties across the country. “The purpose of the research is to increase awareness,” he says. “That’s the increase I’m most interested in.” The shooting at New Life sparked several changes. For starters, the church hired Jeff Kowell, a military veteran, as director of life safety. Before coming on staff, he was a member of the volunteer safety team. Since 2007, Kowell says, “Our team has become larger and better trained. The focus now is on combining safety and ministry together.” According to Chinn’s research, there were seven incidents of mass murder—which the FBI considers four or more killings with no distinctive time between—at faith-based organizations from 2003-2012. With nine deaths, the Charleston shooting became the deadliest attack on a house of worship in decades. But mass killings are not the only type of violence at churches. Chinn tracks all deadly force incidents at faith-based organizations. From 1999 until February 2015, Chinn says there have been 971 such incidents. More than half of those result from the three most frequent attack triggers: robbery (25 percent), domestic violence (17 percent), and other personal conflicts (13 percent). Guns account for the largest share of the weapons involved (57 percent), but knives, cars, and explosives were also relatively common in attacks on churches. Most of the incidents tracked by Chinn occurred outside the Sunday
PHOTO BY MORRIS ABERNATHY
THE REALITY OF CHURCH SECURITY
Judy Stegner, mother of Justin Ray, mourns in front of Wedgwood Baptist in Fort Worth, Texas. Justin was killed when a gunman stormed into the church on September 15, 1999. Seven young persons were killed, and seven others were wounded before the gunman ended his own life.
morning worship service. Only 31 percent happened inside the building and less than 40 percent happened during an event. Most occurred outside on ministry property or at an activity location and took place during off hours. These statistics demonstrate the point Chinn wants to make—churches need to be prepared and trained for numerous dangerous circumstances. But he has heard the critics and doubters—they are numerous. According to a study commissioned by Brotherhood Mutual, which insures 53,000 Protestant congregations, only 19 percent of churches with 500 or more members had a security team in place in 2009. Chinn knows pastors often think the odds are in their favor and more than likely they’ll never have to deal with a serious security threat in their church. “They are absolutely right,” he acknowledges. “Odds are their church will never face a serious threat. But if their congregation does face a serious threat, the odds won’t matter much.”
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More churches are at least thinking about security now. The 2009 survey found more than 80 percent of churches with at least 200 members had considered security issues during church services. Only 13 percent had yet to discuss those concerns.
KEEPING CHURCHGOERS SAFE
For a church wanting to become better prepared, planning is essential, says Jim Welch, director of property and casualty development at GuideStone, an insurance and financial services provider for evangelical churches and organizations. “Securing and protecting your church includes a thorough safety and security assessment, leading to the creation of a practical safety and security plan,” says Welch. But it cannot stop at the planning stage, Kowell says. “Plans are fine, but you need to be able to carry them out.” He advises churches to obtain “buy-in” and then “be patient and persistent in working toward a safer church.” Chinn advises churches to “work with their community first and WINTER 2016
foremost.” He says church leaders should be on a first-name basis with local law enforcement, first responders, and others involved in faith-based organization security. He recommends talking with security professionals at local schools and other organizations. “Don’t be a silo of information,” he says. “Get something going in your community.” Churches ready to form a security and safety team should work with what they have, says Robert Johnson, safety and security director at Christ’s Church of the Valley in Arizona. “Some churches use only active law enforcement,” Johnson says. “Other churches have no law enforcement to draw from.” The team at CCV is comprised of prior military members, active and retired law enforcement, as well as others “with good eyes and ears and a heart for protecting what God has provided.” At CCV and New Life, only the directors are paid staff. Everyone else serves on a volunteer basis, and members of the security ministry are carefully screened. Other churches hire off-duty police officers or a professional security agency. Churches should also consider recruiting members with backgrounds in emergency medicine, risk assessment, and other fields. Regardless of the route a church decides to take, Chinn says the biggest need is “good solid and seasoned training.” He says that while he believes a trained protector with a firearm is beneficial, “too many [churches] are simply arming up and considering themselves ready. This isn’t about guns; it’s about serious readiness.” Most visitors to your church are there because they were invited by a friend or family member and are interested in learning more about God, but occasionally some, like the shooter at Emanuel AME Church, have ulterior motives. Make sure you’re always welcoming to the former, but always prepared for the latter.
How to develop a safety plan
efore determining the steps needed for security at your church, you need to assess your current situation, says church safety and security expert Robert Johnson. “From the assessment, you build your team and write your policies.”
For those looking to develop a plan and security proposals, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides a six-step process to start an emergency plan.
1. F orm a collaborative team. This involves identifying a core planning team, forming a common framework, defining and assigning roles and responsibilities, and determining a regular schedule of meetings. 2. U nderstand the situation. The team should identify and prioritize threats and hazards, while assessing the risks specific to your church. 3. D etermine goals and objectives. At this point, your church should decide what it is you want to accomplish and how you can achieve that. 4. P lan development. The team should identify courses of action. 5. P lan preparation, review, and approval. It’s time to format and write the plan, as well as have it reviewed and approved by church leadership. Then, share it with church members. 6. P lan implementation and maintenance. Stakeholders should be trained and the plan should be exercised. Regular reviews of the plan should reveal areas that need to be maintained and those that need to be revised.
DIG DEEPER •F or more information on church safety and preparedness, visit GuideStone. com/Secure, Brotherhood Mutual’s collection of articles and resources at SafetyCentralOnline.com, CarlChinn.com, and FEMA.gov.
AARON EARLS (@WardrobeDoor) is online editor of FactsAndTrends.net
FactsAndTrends.net Facts & Trends • 37
Putting your financial house in order By Jim Burnett
Go to the ant, you slacker! Observe its ways and become wise. Without leader, administrator, or ruler, it prepares its provisions in summer; it gathers its food during harvest. â€”PROVERBS 6:6-8 38 â€˘ Facts & Trends
ost pastors don’t go into ministry for the money— and it shows. The mishandling of personal finances is one of the greatest pitfalls for pastors today. In training for the ministry, pastors learn how to exegete a passage of Scripture but not how to live on a budget. They master the discipline of sermon preparation but not the discipline of investing for retirement. They excel in biblical linguistics but don’t know the difference between Roth and traditional IRAs. As a result, many ministers lose their leadership influence through poor financial decisions. Their lack of exposure to business principles and money management puts them at a disadvantage not only with their personal finances but also in managing church finances. If that’s your situation, consider taking a basic business class that will teach you some fundamentals. If that’s not possible, enlist the help of a business professional in your church to teach you what you need to know.
LIVE WITHIN YOUR MEANS
Lack of knowledge and poor money management often lead to overspending and sometimes bankruptcy. Frequently, it’s not lack of income that poses the problem for a minister’s household but the lack of discipline in saving portions of the income, which often leads to debilitating debt. The Bible clearly teaches full-time ministers should be compensated— the worker is worthy of his wages (1 Timothy 5:17-18). But you’re responsible for being a good financial steward in ministry and at home. If you don’t already have a family budget, January is the perfect time to have a family business meeting and set a budget for the year. A realistic
budget should be the foundation for all your financial decisions.
Through a Roth IRA you can invest up to $5,500 per year, or up to $6,500 if you are 50 or older. Another BE FAITHFUL IN YOUR GIVING wonderful retirement tool is a tax-deMake sure you’re a person of integriferred annuity. Financial entities like ty when it comes to supporting your GuideStone have wise representatives church through your giving. I’ve who can help you consider your found not all ministerial staff feel the options. need to give generously and support Don’t rely on others to take care their church of you in your financially. What retirement. Use According to the Center for often looks like discernment, disciRetirement Research at Boston a financial probpline, and wisdom College, the average retirement lem is in reality today so you’ll savings for households nearing more of a faith have what you retirement—those with heads of problem. need for the future. household aged 55-64—is about If you haven’t Set up an automatic $110,000. Most households won’t been faithful in withdrawal from have enough retirement income to giving to your your checking maintain their pre-retirement standard church, begin account and take of living, even if they work to age 65. doing so immeout a little each diately. Confess month to invest it to your leadership and challenge in IRAs and annuities. As you reach each one of them to do likewise. those retirement years, you can do so with confidence because you put INVEST FOR YOUR RETIREMENT your financial house in order. Finally, make sure you’re being JIM BURNETT is pastor of Willow Pointe a good steward by investing for Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. retirement. Solomon admonishes in Proverbs 6:6-8 to learn from the ant the wisdom of gathering food in the summer in preparing for the winter months. Ministers need to be as smart as the ant. Yet even pastors who are saving for retirement may not be saving enough, says Joel Rister, director of denominational business services at GuideStone, a benefits provider for evangelical churches and ministries. The average balance in ministers’ retirement savings is less than half the typical balance for workers in the for-profit world, Rister said. DIG DEEPER “We’re behind the curve compared to persons in the secular world who are • Managing God’s Money by Randy Alcorn saving.” • Church & Clergy Tax Guide by Richard Hammer Today there are some wonderful opportunities to put aside money • The Word on Finances by Larry Burkett that will be tax-free when you retire.
Facts & Trends • 39
Four mentalities for the church: Bomb Shelter, Ultimate Fighter, Chameleon, Kingdom Preview
By Bruce Ashford
s churches in America face an increasingly hostile and post-Christian culture, we must clearly define who we are and how we should approach our social and cultural contexts. As I see it, churches tend to choose one of four mindsets: Bomb Shelter, Ultimate Fighter, Chameleon, or Kingdom Preview. Only one of these applies truth in a biblical manner.
THE CHURCH AS BOMB SHELTER
In a post-Christian and sometimes anti-Christian context, many Christians view the church as a bomb shelter. The political and cultural elite as well as the broader population will increasingly castigate Christians’ beliefs about certain theological and moral issues. Under such an ideological assault, churches sometimes have a collective anxiety attack. Their dominant mood tends to be protective, conceiving the church as a bomb shelter protecting itself from aerial assault, or perhaps a monastery where believers can withdraw from the contingencies of contemporary existence, or The bomb even better, a perpetual yoga retreat where Christians shelter mentality can empty their minds of empirical realities. views the church as a Believers with this mentality have good intentions. They want to preserve the church’s purity, recognizwalled city rather than ing the church is under attack, and hold on to what living stones. they have (Revelation 3:11). However, this mentality is misguided, arising from a timid fear of man. It is spurred more by secular wisdom than by biblical faith, by faithless fear than by Christian courage and vitality. The bomb shelter mentality views the church as a walled city rather than living stones, as a safe deposit box rather than a conduit of spiritual power. It externalizes godlessness and treats it as something that can be kept 40 • Facts & Trends
Facts & Trends â€˘ 41
out by manmade walls, rather than understanding godlessness as a disease of the soul that can never be walled out. The bomb shelter mentality tends toward legalism, publishing all manner of bans in order to build a “hedge” around the gospel.
THE CHURCH AS AN ULTIMATE FIGHTER
for the sick. The Christian life is surely a battle, but it’s no less a joy, an adventure, and a trust. In other words, the Christian must indeed fight, but that’s not the only thing he or she does. This battling is done from within the broader context of the entire Christian life.
THE CHURCH AS CHAMELEON
This mindset tends to view the Christians with a chameleon mindset church exclusively and compretend to view their cultural context hensively as fighters. The fighters’ as neutral. They might disagree weapons are beliefs, feelings, and with aspects of it, but overall, they values wielded in the name of think of culture as an ally rather spiritual warfare. Unlike those than a threat. They tend to interact hiding in the bomb shelter, comfortably and uncritically with the The ultimate fighters venture forth into reigning social, cultural, and political fighter church the surrounding culture, trends of the day. Unlike those with the ultimate suggests the entirety of seeking awareness of its movements and creeds in fighter and bomb shelter mentalities, the Christian life is order to assault culture with they incorporate the dominant nothing but war. lethal force. culture easily into their lives and Believers with this mentality churches. These Christians tend to cling to the biblical principle of build churches that are institutional waging war against what is evil. They chameleons. Their churches change rightly recognize Christians must put colors as the cultural context changes on the whole armor of God (Ephecolors. sians 6:11), fight the good fight of Christians with this mindset rightly faith (1 Timothy 6:12), resist the recognize culture is something devil (James 4:7), and demolordained by God, something ish every high-minded that’s not inherently bad. Chameleon thing that rises up They recognize God churches change against the knowledge enables all humans of God (2 Corinthians colors as the cultural everywhere to produce 10:4-5). cultures that exhibit context changes However, this menreal aspects of truth, colors. tality is misguided to the goodness, and beauty. extent it wrongly applies However, this mentality the principles above. The fails to see the ways every fault of the ultimate fighter church is culture and all aspects of a culture are not that it wants to fight but that it warped and distorted because of sin. suggests the entirety of the Christian When Christians adopt the chamelife is nothing but war. Today’s social leon mindset, they deny the Bible and cultural contexts are full of its rightful place as the standard unbelievers, and those unbelievers by which every culture should be are not only enemies of God but judged, and they forfeit the ability also are drowning men in need of to be prophetic voices. Usually, they a lifeboat. The church is not only a end up sacrificing Christian doctrine base for soldiers but also a hospital and morality on the altar of cultural
42 • Facts & Trends
acceptance. In other words, this mindset ends up undermining the Christian faith.
THE CHURCH AS A PREVIEW OF THE KINGDOM
The best mindset for the church is one in which the church is a preview of God’s coming kingdom. In the midst of unbelief and even persecution, we determine to live our lives as seamless tapestries of word and deed. We proclaim Christ and the gospel with our lips (word), and we promote Christ and the gospel with our lives (deed). In so doing, the church’s corporate life previews a future era when we will live together with Christ on the new heavens and earth, when we will flourish in our relationship to God, to each other, and to the rest of creation. One way of describing this view is to say the church is always pointing in five directions. We look upward toward God, showing the world that God alone—rather than idols such as sex, money, and power—is worthy of worship. We look inward to our own corporate church life, seeking to love one another in a way that will compel outsiders to want to be a part of our Christ-centered community. We look backward toward creation, seeking to live the way God designed us to live when He created us. We look forward to the end times when we will live in perfect relationship with God and with one another. And we look outward to the nations, inviting them to embrace Christ by believing the gospel. Under this view, every aspect of life is ripe with potential for witness. If Christ is Lord over everything, then we can do everything in our lives in a way that is shaped by Him. I like the way the great Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper put it when he wrote, “The Son [of God] is not to be
excluded from anything. You cannot point to any natural realm or star or comet or even descend into the depth of the earth, but it is related to Christ, not in some unimportant tangential way, but directly.” Absolutely everything in life matters to God. He cares not only about the goings-on within the Christians four walls of a congregational gathering but also about the should live their lives goings-on in other corners holistically as an of society and culture. We attractive preview must live Christianly not only as the church gathered of the kingdom. on Sunday morning for worship, but also as the church scattered into the world in our work, leisure, and community life. We must take seriously our interactions in the arts (music, literature, cinema, architecture, etc.), the sciences (biology, physics, sociology, etc.), the public square (journalism, politics, economics, etc.), and the academy (schools, universities, seminaries, etc.). In fact, when Christians enter any arena of culture, we should ask several questions: (1) What is God’s creational design for this aspect of culture? (2) How has sin warped and distorted this aspect of culture? (3) How can I, as a Christian, redirect this aspect of culture toward Christ? In asking and answering these questions, Christians learn to live their lives holistically as an attractive preview of the kingdom. In that kingdom, there will be no more pain or tears, no more sin or the consequences of sin. In that kingdom, we will be in right relationship with God, with each other, and with all of creation. There is no greater calling in life than to live as a preview DIG DEEPER of the kingdom. BRUCE ASHFORD (@BruceAshford) is author of Every Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians (Lexham Press) and provost/professor of Theology & Culture at Southeastern Seminary.
•E very Square Inch: An Introduction to Cultural Engagement for Christians by Bruce Riley Ashford
Facts & Trends • 43
Using technology to help accomplish the Great Commission
n the Great Commission, Jesus says the mission of the church is to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19). Similarly, in Matthew 24:14, He says, “This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations.” Notice both verses contain the word “nations.” The gospel is for the nations. But what does that word mean? We tend to think of nations as being synonymous with countries—a group of people living in a particular area with a common government. The biblical meaning is more expansive than that. In the Greek, the word for nation, ethnos, means language, tribe, or tongue. The implication is there can be many nations (or people groups) within a particular country, and we’re called to reach each one of them with the gospel.
By LouAnn Hunt According to Wycliffe Global Alliance, more than 97 percent of the people in the world have at least a portion of the Bible in their first language, while 180 million people still lack access to the Scriptures. So, while there is important translation work yet to be done, to a significant degree the message has already been translated into the languages of the nations. The big challenge before the church, then, is to find ways to make the message more available to the people who need to hear it. A parallel Great Commission passage found in Mark 16:15 provides insight into how the message might be spread: “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” The word, “world,” kosmos in Greek, means something properly ordered. This would include a system—even a
man-made system. What are some man-made systems? How about school systems, legal systems, political systems, and technological systems? Jesus is telling us to take the gospel everywhere, including into every system.
Four revolutionary technological systems are changing our world: mobile systems, social systems, connected systems, and data systems. Today, the world population exceeds 7 billion, and of those, 3.6 billion are unique mobile users. Fifty-one percent of the world has some sort of mobile device, and by 2017 it’s predicted there will be 5 billion smartphones in the world. We are living in exciting times! We have more computing pow-
A young man takes a photograph with his phone in Mazabuka, Zambia. ISTOCKPHOTO.COM
44 • Facts & Trends
Technical tools for your ministry
er in our phones than Apollo 11 had credit cards, infrastructure—everywhen it landed a man on the moon. where. Millions of people around the world What does all of this mean? have more access to a mobile device than to a toilet or running water. Jesus tells us the fields are ready There are people without shoes for harvest (John 4:35), and that’s who have a phone. Why? Because probably never been more true than it connects them to the world. The it is today. We have evangelistic mobile revolution is in full swing. opportunities like never before with Aided by the mobile revolution, at least one book of the Scriptures social networks are accelerating translated in almost 2,900 at an astounding rate, too. It languages and more than half has taken 45 years for the the world connected through MOBILE technology with global Internet to penetrate 42 percent of the world, but access available to growing social media has existed for numbers of people. The only 10 years and has already gospel message can be spread penetrated nearly 30 percent of through these technological the world. There are more systems. What if we could than 2 billion social network create wearable technology users worldwide, and 80 SOCIAL to advance the gospel? What percent of people access if we could harness technolsocial networks through their ogy to reach every person on mobile devices. In China alone, earth, even in the most hostile there are more than 600 million and remote corners of the world? active social media accounts. It seems possible for the Great The world is connecting Commission to be fulfilled through the Internet, mobile CONNECTED in our lifetime—that every devices, and social networks, people group could have so why not through things access to the Word of God in like automobiles, household its own language. appliances, medical devices, smart Whatever is on the horizon, homes, and even wearables? whatever new technology is Get ready for the connected around the corner, we need revolution. Researchers esto be ready to use it for the DATA timate between 50-75 billion advancement of the kingdom devices will be connected of God.Are you ready? through the “Internet of LOUANN HUNT is the Emerging Things” (IoT) by 2020. Technology manager at Faith Comes By Through the interconnectedness of Hearing (FaithComesByHearing.com). Their the world comes the fourth revoBible.is app offers the Scriptures in more than 1,500 languages, and their Digital lution—the data revolution. The Bible Platform is the largest platform accumulation of data is mind-blowof Bible text, audio, and video freely 21 ing—a zettabyte (10 bytes) in the available via API. last two years! Data is being used and stored everywhere: your mobile phone, satellites, the cloud, TVs,
• 2.91 billion people live in unreached people groups with little or no access to the gospel of Jesus Christ • 2,883 languages have some Scripture translation • 1,860 languages still need Bible translations Sources: GlobalFrontierMissions.org; Wycliffe.net/statistics
Facts & Trends • 45
Practical ministry ideas for your church
Meeting people where they are
lashback to the time when I was about six years out of college, married, traveling most weeks for work, having my first child, and living in Chicago away from family. My husband, Charles, and I were overwhelmed. Charles grew up attending a small-town Baptist church but had stopped attending church before I met him in college. With the hope of easing the stress and anxiety that had overcome us, we decided to visit a Baptist church near our home to try to gain some solace. I remember how uncomfortable it was getting out of the car and walking toward the door of a new church. We had no idea where to go, so we just followed the crowd. I recall listening to the pastor, and our small group leader, and growing more and more confused. Not knowing words like: disciple, apostle, resurrection, salvation, communion, and many more, left us feeling out of place. Then there were words like “transparent” that had a different meaning in church than what I was used to. In my work life, being “transparent” had a negative connotation; it meant people could see through someone’s duplicitous intent. In the church world, however, I learned that being “transparent” meant being real and authentic, even vulnerable. Most disturbing to me, though, was talking and singing about blood. This actually conjured up images from the movie trailer for the Stephen King horror film Carrie. It took time for me to understand the beauty of the blood that was sacrificed for us. Fast forward to several years later. My husband and I were co-leading a Bible study group. One week a woman named Kathy decided to join our group. Kathy was somewhat illiterate and held on to many superstitious
By Cindy Landes
beliefs. The Bible and church were all new to her. She had a lot of questions. After Kathy joined the group, there were many weeks when our study would get sidetracked by all the bunny trails she would lead us down. But we knew God had brought her to us for a reason, and Charles and I were patient with her. We tried to answer all her questions, whether they were on topic or not. And we met with her and her family outside our study group to help her build a firm foundation in the faith. During this time, several of our members shifted to other groups because they didn’t see the beauty of her burgeoning seed of faith; they just wanted to get through the lesson. Today, Kathy loves Jesus, consistently studies her Bible, and leads groups of her own. I’d say our investment in her was worth it. We are called to share the good news of the gospel with people who don’t yet know Jesus. But what happens when new people with perhaps little to no understanding of our faith
46 • Facts & Trends
actually visit our churches? Pay close attention the next time you’re in church or small group. How welcoming are the words, atmosphere, and practices to someone who has never (or rarely) been to church or a Bible study? As our culture drifts further away from even a basic understanding of Christianity, we need to do our best to view our churches and groups through the eyes of unbelievers so we can better connect with them and influence them with the gospel. Christ calls us to deny ourselves and serve others. Sometimes it’s challenging and inconvenient, but that’s the cost of love. Consider that Jesus left heaven and came all the way to earth to save us. The cost didn’t hold Him back. So, seek out the unchurched. Don’t leave them stranded. Come alongside them and allow God to use you to help them grow. CINDY LANDES is a marketing strategist, LifeWay.
Practical resources for you and your church
ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
A look inside:
Blessed and Broken By Stephen A. Macchia
’m dearly loved by my heavenly Father and I’m deeply sinful—how can the two go together? I’ve been a leader myself for nearly four decades. I’ve had the privilege of serving others in local church, parachurch, and nonprofit environments. I’ve experienced great success and a few embarrassing failures. I’ve seen incredible highs and a handful of deep lows. I’ve considered myself effective, and I’ve watched myself tire into utter exhaustion. I’ve brought others a lot of joy, and I’ve both dished out and received from others my share of disappointment. In essence, as much as I like to view myself as a good or even a very good leader, I’m more truthfully a blessed and broken leader, one who is daily in need of being restored and renewed, refreshed and redeemed by the Spirit of God who resides in me. Basically, I’ve come to grips with the reality that I am who I am. I’m a new creation in Christ Jesus. I have made many positive contributions as a leader. I’ve served faithfully as a pastor in a large and healthy church. I’ve experienced effectiveness as a leader of a one-hundred-year-old organization that grew significantly in my tenure. I’ve mentored many young and aspiring leaders. I’ve even founded a ministry that’s been richly blessed by God. But I also make mistakes. I blunder. I think horrible thoughts. I’m an internal quagmire more often than I desire and in continual need of God’s grace. I know what it feels like to be a manipulator, and when not kept in check I can drive myself and others crazy with my perfectionistic tendencies. I’ve been deeply hurt by past failures. I’ve been disappointed by the attitudes and actions of others. And I see these same things in many others who are in leadership positions in the body of Christ.
I’ve discovered that when I’m authentic, honest and transparent about all my realities as a leader, I can relax more in the presence of those who previously intimidated me. I can laugh more at my own imperfections. I can live in a deep place of freedom and joy. Most importantly, I can embrace my brokenness, befriend it, and watch and wait in trust for God to birth hope in my heart for the redemptive way forward. In essence, by living in this reality I can experience the fullness of a loving God and the richness of an emancipated consciousness that leads me into genuine freedom and joy. I’m willing to embrace my own blessed and broken reality. I know that my God Almighty sees me as His dearly loved, graced, and gifted child, and He sees me at my worst when I’m a disheartened follower or a disobedient sinner. And He loves me no matter what state I’m in. I can trust his Spirit to redeem the reality of my brokenness, and I can live in the hope of the resurrection, willing to die to myself, live fully for God, and offer myself as a living sacrifice to all who cross my path in life and service. There’s no better way to live and lead. Taken from Broken and Whole by Stephen A. Macchia. Copyright (c) 2015 by Stephen A. Macchia. Used by permission of InterVarsity Press, P.O. Box 1400, Downers Grove, IL 60515, USA. www.ivpress.com
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ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
Books Happiness By Randy Alcorn (Tyndale)
Christians are supposed to be happy. In fact, we’re supposed to radiate joy, peace, and contentment so unmistakable and so attractive that others are naturally drawn to us because they want what we have. And yet, in today’s culture, the vast majority of Christians are perceived as angry, judgmental people who don’t seem to derive much joy from life. In Happiness, noted theologian Randy Alcorn dispels centuries of misconceptions about happiness and shows God not only wants us to be happy, He commands it. This book is a paradigm-shifting wake-up call for every Christian.
Tell Someone: You Can Share the Good News By Greg Laurie (B&H)
Faith is considered by many in our culture to be a personal matter and not something to be shared with others. But if Christianity is true and Jesus really is Lord, our faith must be shared. In Tell Someone, pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie tells stories of his own failure and success in sharing the gospel. He wants to encourage and inspire all believers to share their faith with others and provides biblical principles of evangelism anyone can apply. These principles, taken from the ministry of Jesus and tested over Laurie’s 40 years of ministry, are intended to mobilize every Christian to “tell someone” the good news of Jesus Christ.
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Unburdened: The Christian Leader’s Path to Sexual Integrity By Michael Todd Wilson (IVP)
Male Christian leaders are among Satan’s primary targets for sexual sin and temptation, but many men are still burdened by past and current mistakes. Michael Todd Wilson understands these challenges and provides honest, grace-filled counsel drawn from years of experience helping men pursue greater sexual integrity. He uncovers the everyday tendencies that keep men from overcoming their personal obstacles and provides ideas to live in the light. Unburdened is a great resource for individuals, groups, or one-on-one mentoring relationships.
Imagination Redeemed: Glorifying God with a Neglected Part of Your Mind By Gene Edward Veith Jr. and Matthew P. Ristuccia (Crossway)
Contrary to popular perception, the imagination isn’t just for kids, artists, or science fiction fans. Rather, it’s what bridges our thinking and feeling, allowing us to do everything from planning a weekend getaway to remembering what we ate for breakfast. In Imagination Redeemed, Gene Veith and Matthew Ristuccia uncover the imagination’s importance for Christians, helping us understand who God is and what His Word teaches. Here is a call to embrace this forgotten part of the mind as a gift from God designed to bolster faith, hope, and love in His people. WINTER 2016
Digital Urban Legends of the New Testament: 40 Common Misconceptions By David A. Croteau (B&H)
Urban Legends of the New Testament surveys 40 of the most commonly misinterpreted passages in the New Testament. Professor David Croteau describes the popular, incorrect interpretation and then carefully guides readers to a more accurate understanding of the text’s meaning. QR codes have been inserted at various points throughout the book. By scanning the code with a mobile device, readers can view a video of David Croteau addressing a specific urban legend.
Tranquility: Cultivating a Quiet Soul in a Busy World By David W. Henderson (Baker Books)
We try to cram as much as possible into what little time we have—work, friends, play, rest—but there never seems to be enough time. David Henderson encourages us to move beyond merely trying to open up a bit of margin or to say no once in a while, and to take a purposeful step back from our lives to examine those internal and external dynamics that propel us into busyness and hurry. Sharing honest stories about his own struggles, Henderson helps readers explore the way the Scriptures frame time—understanding our times, making the most of the time, and trusting God with the rest.
Penultimate digital handwriting app (iPad) Penultimate is a natural handwriting and sketching app that syncs with the popular note-taking app Evernote. Brandon Hilgemann at ProPreacher. com writes: “I love using this app for taking notes in meetings. Call me old school, but I find that typing on an iPad can seem obnoxious during meetings. People don’t know if you are sending email, surfing the Web, or actually paying attention. So I use Penultimate along with a good stylus to write meeting notes by hand that are later searchable in Evernote.”
Pocket app (iPad/iPhone, Android) It happens all the time—you see an article you’d like to read but you don’t have time at the moment. However, you don’t want to forget about it. Pocket allows you to easily save articles, videos, Web pages, and more. With Pocket, all of your content goes to one place, so you can view it anytime, on any device. You can share items, archive items, tag items, star items as favorites, and quickly search for something you saved.
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ON OUR RADAR Practical resources for you and your church
Small Group Resources Jesus Continued: Why the Spirit Inside of You Is Better Than Jesus Beside You By J. D. Greear (LifeWay)
Why do so many of us think of Christianity as a lifestyle to which we conform, rather than a God with whom we commune? Jesus promised His disciples it was to their advantage that He go back to heaven because the Holy Spirit could then come to live inside of them. How many of us consider our connection to the Holy Spirit so strong and so real that we would call His presence in us better than Jesus beside us? Readers will see how to have a satisfying, powerful relationship with God through the Holy Spirit.
Crazy Grace for Crazy Times
Truth and Lies: The Unlikely Role of Temptation
By Derwin Gray (LifeWay)
By Tim Chaddock (LifeWay)
When faced with current challenges, believers might wish for the good old days of the New Testament church. In reality, the culture and the church were just as crazy then as they are today— rampant sexual immorality, racial prejudice, social and economic segregation, and arguments and divisions over favorite spiritual leaders. The apostle Paul addressed many of these issues in his first letter to the church of Corinth with the life-changing truth that the heartbeat of the Christian life is grace. This study looks at the kind of grace that leads to compassionate ministry and influential witness.
At the sound of the word “temptation,” people typically jump to the kinds of temptations that show up as various addictions. But there are more subtle forms of temptation in the lies of success, identity, and religion. The tendency is to trivialize or dismiss these, but their presence may be even more controlling—and more constant— than the usual suspects. This study will help group members not only confront temptation in their lives but do the much more demanding work of understanding the meaning of individual temptation.
FOLKS WE’RE FOLLOWING God’s mission is not a peripheral activity we do once we are mature enough, but should be part of every step in our growth as a disciple.
Leaders know how to make others feel valued. @SatterfieldMark, executive pastor, ClearView Church, Franklin, TN
@LoriMMcDaniel, global mission catalyst, IMB
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When anxious, afraid, vengeful, etc., go to theology: “What part of the gospel am I not believing?” @BethanyJenkins, president and founder of The Park Forum, a nonprofit based in New York City that seeks to plant the Word in the hearts of urban professionals daily
The immigration crisis and the Great Commission
othing describes the current global immigration situation better than the word “crisis.” More people are migrating today than at any other time in history. In many cases, this is not migration for new opportunities but is driven by warfare or deep poverty. It would be difficult to exaggerate the severity of this immigration crisis. We’ve all seen the footage of people from North Africa and the Middle East seeking refuge by crossing dangerous waters or hiking by foot into Europe. The number of refugees nations can and will accept is being fiercely debated. The impact on economies and cultures is being discussed. It would be foolish to think unrestricted immigration is always good. National borders exist to protect the integrity of a nation—including its security, culture, and its financial means.
WE CAN DEBATE IMMIGRATION REFORM I don’t know any fair-minded person who thinks it’s wrong or mean-spirited to ask the question: how does a nation maintain its security, culture, financial well being, and its longevity in the face of an immigration wave? The immigration crisis has people on both sides of the issue speaking winsomely and graciously, some calling for less, and some calling for more, immigration. These civil discussions have merit. However, there’s no place for the dehumanization or degradation of immigrants. Irresponsible comments that broadly paint immigrants as terrorists, rapists, and murderers only breed anger at and fear of people who are trying either to escape persecution or to make a better life for their family. If we’re talking specifically about Latino migration to the United States, an immigrant from Mexico or Latin America is more likely to be an
evangelical pastor than a murderer.
BUT WE NEED TO BE ON MISSION In the midst of the much-needed discussion and debate, I want to remind all Christ-followers of a missiological opportunity and a Great Commission mandate. Missiologists understand that one of the greatest opportunities for evangelistic impact is during great waves of migration. We’ve seen an awakening of this fact in the missiological literature of the 1950s, where people began to look at mass movements of people and how their receptivity to the gospel increased.
IMMIGRATION AS AN OPPORTUNITY More recently, a study by Phillip Connor published in his book, Immigrant Faith, shows when people migrate they tend to become less religious rather than staying the same. Over time, however, they will become just as religious as the dominant culture around them. Connor calls this a “disruption in religiosity,” followed by an “adaptation in religiosity.” This means that migration as a disruptive event allows us, the church, to speak into people’s lives at a key time. We can be the hands and feet of Jesus, offering love in His name, showing and sharing the love of Jesus to refugees. But, later on, this can be more difficult. Over time, immigrants become generally more religious in their homeland’s religion if they are living in the southern U.S. (where the culture is more religiously active). If they live in the northern or western U.S. (where the culture is relatively less religious), they generally become even less religious. Either way, religious patterns start to seep in over time, and the opportunity to share the gospel and minister to felt needs starts to lessen. If both of these things are true—migration is a missiological opportunity and
migrants tend to shift in their religiosity when they migrate—we must seize the opportunity before us to care and share.
A GREAT COMMISSION OPPORTUNITY Regardless of whether you’re pro immigration reform, pro border control, or anti-immigration, every follower of Jesus must be passionate about the Great Commission for those who are here and see this as an opportunity to be seized. Thus, let’s vote for those we think will do the best job handling the immigration crisis. But let’s simultaneously ask the question in our churches: how can we minister to those who are here and those who are on the move around the world? LifeWay Research found 79 percent of pastors believe Christians have a responsibility to assist immigrants, even if they are in the country illegally. However, only 47 percent say their church is personally involved at the local level in assisting immigrants. Another LifeWay Research study found evangelicals’ beliefs about immigration are more influenced by the media than the Bible or their church. Few churches talk about immigration or take action. As Christian leaders, we have work to do. Yes, there are real and complicated political issues to be discussed, but at the same time people need to be reached with the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. This is not just an immigration crisis; it is a Great Commandment and a Great Commission opportunity. May we seize it so the name of Jesus would be more widely known and would be on the lips of people on the move across Europe, North America, and around the world. ED STETZER (@EdStetzer) is executive director of LifeWay Research. For more visit EdStetzer.com.
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Published on Dec 16, 2015
Facts & Trends is a free quarterly magazine from LifeWay Christian Resources designed to help leaders navigate the issues and trends impacti...