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What’s your congreg Help keep your congregation inspired about your missions program — and engaged in prayer and giving. Each issue of WorldView magazine takes your congregation on a monthly missions journey with stunning photography and inspiring stories.

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Each month a free downloadable video version of WorldView magazine All you need is a computer, an Internet connection, and either one or three flat-screen TVs, depending on which version you want. Both three-screen and one-screen versions of each WorldView feature story are produced so your congregation can view a condensed version in your lobby. Churches who are already utilizing the lobby media show report what an exciting addition it is to their missions communication. Visit for more information and to watch a demonstration.






Can’t-miss titles from AG Authors Stay the Course WILFREDO DE JESÚS

Just like the culture, human beings tend to drift— toward disillusionment or self-sufficiency. We need God’s grace and truth to penetrate deep into our hearts, and we need each other to stay the course that God intends. Stay the Course explores the importance of Christlike compassion as well as an unswerving commitment to the truth. With stories from Pastor Choco’s life and church, blended together with timeless truths, this book is a must-read for those believers who are wondering what to do as the world shifts and changes around them. Widely known as Pastor Choco, Wilfredo De Jesús is senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, the largest Assemblies of God congregation in the nation.



Rich and Robyn Wilkerson share the simple yet revolutionary idea that anyone, anywhere can be a leader as long as they’re willing to serve. Explore traits essential to leading and find out how you can develop and improve them. Throughout the pages of Inside Out, you’ll be amazed to discover how anyone can become an extraordinary leader.

She Believes

Chase the Lion





Author Debbie Lindell shares the beautiful truth of God’s love for women, empowering you to live out your own unique purpose and bring change to your ministry, your life, and the world.

Chase the Lion is more than a catchphrase, it’s a radically different approach to life. Unleash the faith and courage you need to identify, chase, and catch your big dreams.

When you do the simple deed of giving all you are to God, He’ll work miracles and touch others through you in a way that will make you eager to see where His extravagant love takes you next.

Available Oct. 2016



If You Ask Me Leading the Next Generation


Get Set Leading By Example: A Q&A with Wynter Pitts


Like a Leader • Live: Avoiding the Trap of Self-Deception • Think: The Porn Phenomenon • Read: Books Worth Highlighting, for You and Your Team • Listen: Enhancing Your Listening Experience with Podcasts and More • Tech: Logos Bible Software vs. Accordance Bible Software




• Build: Building a Thriving Church Community • Know: Sore Neighborhoods: Overlooked Open Doors for Church Planting in America • Invest: Our Schools Matter: What Can Your Church Do This School Year?

28 Perspectives • Sermon Series Branding vs. Preaching Through Books of the Bible


30 Homelanders: The Next Generation Tim Elmore on how to translate our message to reach a new generation — Generation Z.


40 Fourth Quarter Focus John Davidson on finding your church’s rhythm and making the most of the season.

50 Setup, Punch Line ...Gospel? George Paul Wood on what comedian Michael Jr. taught him about preaching.



58 Multiplier — Stepping Up to Serve • • • •

Commanding the Airways Staying Connected Meeting Off-Campus Put Me in, Coach

70 Make It Count Discipleship Pathway: 8 Lessons to Help Followers of Jesus Finish the Race

80 The Final Note Tying the Knot: Is Marriage an Outdated Institution?




INFLUENCE MAGAZINE 1445 N. Boonville Avenue Springfield, MO 65802-1894 Influence magazine is published by Influence Resources. Publisher: George O. Wood Executive Director, Influence Resources: Chris Railey Executive Editor: George Paul Wood Managing Editor: Rick Knoth Online Editor: Ana Pierce Senior Editor: John Davidson Design Assistant: Steve Lopez Advertising Coordinator: Ron Kopczick

SUBSCRIPTIONS: To subscribe, go to or call 1.855.642.2011. Individual one-year subscriptions are $15. Bulk one-year subscriptions are $10 per subscription, for a minimum of six or more. For additional subscription rates, contact Please send all other feedback, requests and questions to feedback@ All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. All Scripture references used are from the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted.

CONTRIBUTORS: Scott Berkey, Doug Clay, John Davidson, Tim Elmore, Verlon Fosner, Tom Groot, Michael Jr., Charissa Lillard, Trulah Mikaela Maloy, Dan Morrison, Ana Pierce, Wynter Pitts, John Porter, Kara Powell, Christina Quick, Chris Railey, Roxanne Stone, John Van Pay, George Paul Wood

Influence magazine (ISSN: 2470-6795) is published six times a year, in December, February, April, June, August and October by Influence Resources (1445 N. Boonville Avenue, Springfield, MO 65802-1894). Periodicals postage paid at Springfield, Missouri, and at other mailing offices. Printed in the USA.

SPECIAL THANKS: Alton Garrison, James Bradford, Douglas Clay, Gregory Mundis, Zollie Smith, Gary Rhoades, Tim Strathdee

POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Influence magazine:  1445 N. Boonville Avenue  Springfield, MO 65802-1894

EDITORIAL: For info or queries, contact ADVERTISING:  Display rates available upon request. Contact By accepting an advertisement, Influence does not endorse any advertiser or product. We reserve the right to reject advertisements not consistent with the magazine’s objectives.

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LEADING THE NEXT GENERATION hen was the last time you were deeply moved? I mean the last time you had a genuinely profound emotional response that just stuck with you for a few days? For me, it was watching a 12-year-old boy worshipping God at an altar and witnessing him respond to the call of God to one day plant a church. It was a powerful moment I won’t soon forget — maybe because of the work I do with church planters, maybe because it represented hope for the future, maybe because I have a 12-year-old son myself, and my heart’s desire is seeing him have a heart for God. I don’t know, but I have thought about that moment often recently. What I do know is that we desperately need the next generation of leaders to emerge ready to receive the mantel of leadership, and we need to be ready to give it to them. We are soon to experience the greatest leadership crisis the Church in America has ever faced. The average age of ordained ministers in the Assemblies of God is 60, and this current generation will be aging out of the roles they currently possess. Who will take their place? Will the leaders of tomorrow be ready to step up and step into these roles? Will we be ready to get out of the way and let them? To prepare the next generation, we need more than better content, training and mentoring; we need the heart of a father. As Paul said in 1 Corinthians 4:15, “Even if you


had ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers.” The role of a father is to transfer identity, faith and courage to the next generation. The leaders of tomorrow need fully engaged spiritual fathers today. How are we working today to hand off leadership to the next generation? We have two choices, we can say, “I’ve worked hard to get where I am, and its my turn,” or we can leverage our leadership for those coming behind us. I have three sons, and I want desperately for them to accomplish greater things than I ever will. I want that to be my heart for my spiritual sons and daughters, too. I want to be a good father more than I want I want to be a good leader. The future depends on it. Our cover story in this issue of Influence may be one of the most important articles we’ve published to date. Tim Elmore writes about the emerging generation called the Homelanders (Generation Z) and how we can engage them effectively. I believe this article will have a profound impact on your life and ministry. Also, one of the most engaging people you’ll ever meet, comedian Michael Jr., discusses how to reach others through creative communication. Finally, John Davidson discusses how to engage your community by leveraging the natural growth cycles of the church. I pray this issue of Influence will provide you with new insight and a deep desire to influence those around you with the heart of a father.

Chris Railey is the executive director of Influence Resources and the senior director of leadership and church development ministries for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, U.S.A.




4 Questions with Wynter Pitts


This mother to four girls sought a discipleship resource for her children — so she created her own. Influence: You’re a mom to four tween girls, you volunteer at The Oaks Fellowship, and on top of that, you’ve created a magazine. What’s your secret to keeping all your plates spinning? Wynter Pitts: Yes, my girls are 12, 9 and 7 (twins). We have a very full life with school, church, sports and extracurricular activities. It’s funny because all I really have to do is keep my heart focused on Christ. I have found that if I use my energy to seek Him, anything else I do is simply a result of His grace in my life. Whenever I drift from making Him my priority, my life gets chaotic. I have John 15:5 highlighted on an index card in my closet: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” Your daughter, Alena, had a lead role in War Room. What was that experience like for you as a family? How has it opened doors to share the gospel? Alena plays Danielle Jordan, the daughter in the movie War Room. It has been such an awesome experience for my husband and me to watch God work in her life. During the filming process, it was amazing to get a glimpse of her character as an outsider for a change. God made it very clear to me that I am here to steward her and her sisters, but ultimately they are His. The movie has touched so many lives, and the impact has been far greater than anything we could have imagined. We get emails and messages from families, mothers and children creating “war rooms” and taking the power of prayer seriously. It’s amazing that God allowed our family to play a small part in something so big.

Tell us about your magazine, For Girls Like You. What are key principles you focus on when discipling the tween audience? For Girls Like You is a ministry for tween girls and their parents. We have a magazine as well as two devotionals, For Girls Like You and You’re God’s Girl. The magazine is fun and colorful and features crafts, games, devotionals, articles and more from familiar faces as well as everyday girls that are using their talents to live and shine for Christ. My heart is for girls to know they are not alone in their walk with Christ. The devotionals and magazines are both available at products/. One of your key themes throughout the magazine and the devotionals is making God part of everyday life. Share some examples of what that looks like. We zone in on the things girls like and point to Christ from there. For example, we discuss fashion trends and have fun activities and photos, but then we also discuss the history of that trend while focusing on the importance of modesty and honoring God with what we wear. We also interview girls from different parts of the world and learn about their cultures and how they are shining for Christ wherever they are. We have recipes and encourage girls to cook for a friend or to help prepare dinner. These things are just the basics, but so often young people separate these details from their relationship with Christ. I want to help them know that God created them with certain talents and interests, and He is in everything around them.



AVOIDING THE TRAP OF SELFDECEPTION Four ways to keep loneliness from turning into self-deception DOUG CLAY

ometimes ministry can create a sense of isolation that produces feelings of loneliness. Isolation can be the breeding ground for self-deception. And self-deception, when fully grown, is a snare the enemy uses to sabotage the call of God on your life. Some of the common fruits of selfdeception include: • Comparison: Looking at other people’s ministry with envy. • Defensiveness: Reaction and resistance to ideas that are different from yours. • Blame: It’s the “system” or someone else’s fault. • Entitlement: “I deserve better treatment and recognition for what I do.” • Martyrdom: “Nobody cares how hard I work.” At some point, every leader feels a sense of loneliness. But there are four things you can do to keep loneliness from turning into self-deception. 1. Encourage yourself in the Lord. In a moment of great distress, David “encouraged himself in the Lord his God” (1 Samuel 30:6, KJV).



How do you encourage yourself in the Lord? Shift your focus from the difficulty of your problem to the sufficiency of His grace. Take time to acknowledge God’s greatness, and let His presence remind you that He is more than enough for whatever you’re facing. 2. Discover the value of solitude. Theologian Richard Foster once said, “Our adversary majors in three things: noise, hurry and crowds. If he can keep us engaged in ‘muchness’ and ‘manyness,’ he is satisfied.” People don’t always do solitude well. Yet in spiritual solitude, you can find communion with God. In those moments, solitude is intimate and valuable. It reinforces your calling and who you are in Christ. There are times when God simply wants you to be still and trust Him (Psalm 46:10). 3. Find strength in Scripture. There is no better replenishment for a discouraged spirit than the Bible. Meditation on God’s Word precedes transformation. The truths of Scripture bring joy (Psalm 19:8) that sustains believers through even the most trying times (Psalm 119:92). 4. Experience a refilling of the Spirit. God wants the indwelling presence of the Spirit to be a way of life. Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke said, “The baptism in the Spirit was not meant to be a single emotional event recorded in believers’ diaries. The Spirit is their environment, the air which they breathe moment by moment, providing the vitality of the Christian life.” When I tell my grandson to be kind to his sister, I’m not suggesting that he do that once. I’m implying that he should continue being kind. Likewise, when Paul urged all Christians to “be filled with the Spirit” (Ephesians 5:18), he was speaking of a continual, ongoing experience. The Holy Spirit can help deal with self-deception and the discouragement it brings. Energy spent beating yourself down is wasted energy. Energy spent pursuing God is transformational. Doug Clay is general treasurer for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri.

THE PORN PHENOMENON How can the distinction between pornography’s form and function help church leaders craft more effective ministry strategies? ROXANNE STONE

ornography is notoriously difficult to define and often very subjective. It was important then, at the very outset of Barna’s recent study, The Porn Phenomenon, to determine how people define pornography. What counts as sexually explicit material is both highly subjective and highly contested — especially considering recent and rapid shifts both in pornography’s form (the media used to create and deliver it) and its function (people’s reasons for producing and viewing it). And this distinction is critically important for a number of reasons. While nearly everyone agreed in the Barna study that “an image of sexual intercourse” is definitely porn, the issue of function seems to be at the center of most people’s thinking. For instance, if you use that image for personal arousal, it’s porn. Most of us have probably been to an art museum where we saw a fully nude statue or painting. You probably didn’t consider that pornography, and most Americans agree with you. Less than one-quarter of adults over age 25 (24 percent) consider a fully nude image to be objectively pornographic. But if that fully nude image is sexually arousing, it’s a different story. Half of adults over age 25 (53 percent) say that “a fully nude image that is sexually arousing” is definitely pornography, and nearly seven in 10 young adults (68 percent) and eight in 10 teenagers (78 percent) agree. So for most people, the purpose behind viewing an image is critical to determining whether something qualifies as porn. When asked what kind of viewing situation classifies images or words as porn, seven out of


10 say the key element is watching, listening or reading for the purpose of sexual arousal. So why does this matter? Because if you’re like many leaders, your first impulse is to be concerned with content (form) rather than function. But a person’s intentions toward sexually explicit content are a more pressing matter. Certainly, blocking access to content can be helpful as a first step for a person who wants to be free from porn use. But understanding and acknowledging the desires and longings that motivate porn use — and seeking to sanctify those desires — is the more important pastoral task. Sex is a God-created aspect of human life — it’s not a dirty word. As ministers, we must celebrate and promote God’s good intentions for sex as a counter-narrative to the false stories told by pornography. Church leaders must steer their congregations in more hopeful directions, away from the distorted picture of sex touted by porn, to a fuller and more biblical vision for sex. This means actually talking about sex and pornography, and contrasting God’s plans with porn’s lies early and often. When we do this, we both preserve the created goodness of sex, while avoiding a culture of shame that does little but drive sin into hiding, where it festers and grows in isolation from community and accountability. For research methodology, and to order your copy of the full Porn Phenomenon study, visit Roxanne Stone is editor in chief at Barna Group.



A SPIRIT-EMPOWERED LIFE Mike Clarensau (Vital Resources)

The Christian life is a Spirit-empowered one. And yet, many experience a gap between their actual lives and the potential life the New Testament describes. In A Spirit-Empowered Life, Mike Clarensau sets out to describe that potential life in detail and to explain how the gap can be closed. The key thing? “If you’re going to find a life of more — the abundant one Jesus spoke of [John 10:10] and the greater race God offered His prophet [Jeremiah 12:5], you have to really want it.”





STRONG AND WEAK Andy Crouch (IVP Books)

“Two questions haunt every human life and every human community,” writes Andy Crouch. “The first: What are we meant to be? The second: Why are we so far from what we’re meant to be?” (emphasis in original). Strong and Weak offers an answer to that question which focuses on “the paradox of flourishing,” the necessity of pursuing “greater authority and greater vulnerability at the same time” (emphasis in original). To borrow Paul’s phrase, when we are weak, then we are strong (2 Corinthians 12:10). And only then. 3



Patrick M. Lencioni (Jossey-Bass)

In The Five Dysfunctions of a Team, Patrick Lencioni outlined five ways teamwork goes awry. While that book identified the interpersonal dynamics of effective teams, it did not identify the personal qualities of effective team members. Lencioni’s new book, The Ideal Team Player, picks up where Five Dysfunctions left off and outlines three essential “virtues”: An ideal team member is humble, hungry and smart. Though written for secular businesses, this book has plenty of applications to churches and parachurch ministries.


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Craig Groeschel is senior pastor of Life.Church, a multisite congregation with 24 locations in seven states. (Life.Church is best known for its Bible app: YouVersion.) The purpose of Groeschel’s podcast is “to help you make the most of your potential as you work to become the leader God created you to be.” Episodes run from 20 to 30 minutes in length and are updated monthly. Past topics include “The Six Types of Leaders,” “Creating a Value-Driven Culture” and “Institutionalizing Urgency.”




The Global Leadership Summit is a premier annual conference for Christian leaders. Hosted by Bill Hybels of Willow Creek Community Church, GLS speakers include well-known leaders and leadership experts from a variety of sectors: the Church, politics, business, education and philanthropy. Past speakers include Jim Collins, Wilfredo De Jesús, Carly Fiorina, and Patrick Lencioni. The GLSNext app provides videos of speakers like these addressing a variety of leadership topics, such as self-leadership and team development. New videos are added weekly. 3


Founded in 1984 as a conference to discuss convergences between technology (T), entertainment (E) and design (D), TED has since become an influential nonprofit whose motto is “Ideas worth spreading.” TEDTalks is the organization’s almost daily podcast, featuring presentations from its conferences. Christian listeners will not always agree with presenters’ typically secular point of view. Nonetheless, the presentations are usually interesting, well-informed and culturally influential. Recent talks include “3 reasons we can win the fight against poverty,” “The beauty of being a misfit” and “This is your brain on communication.”



Life and ministry can be hectic. The use of Bible software can help pastors, missionaries and other ministry leaders redeem the time as they study God’s Word and prepare to share it with others. Logos and Accordance lead the way by making Bible study easier. The minimum recommendation for ministry leaders is the Logos Bronze Package or the Accordance Essential Collection. Both provide users with an assortment of resources that consolidate multiple Bible translations, dictionaries, concordances, maps, images and hundreds of other resources into one piece of software, streamlining and easing the process of preparing for sermons and small group discussions. Both pieces of software provide users with a variety of tools they can use for both personal study and teaching preparation. As with all software packages, both Accordance and Logos have their unique strengths and weaknesses that impact use. When comparing the products, most people initially notice the price. The Logos Bronze Package, as well as the Bronze packages customized for a variety of Christian traditions, costs $630. The Accordance Essential Collection costs $500. After installing the software, users will recognize that while both applications make research and preparation quicker than going through physical books, Accordance provides search results at a faster rate than Logos. The inclusion of customizable Bible reading plans and personalized prayer lists make Logos a great tool for personal devotions. In addition to having more resources that users can purchase to add to their package, ministers who keep a library of their sermons may also add them to their Logos library, which they can search as part of their collection. For leaders who prefer to work with biblical texts in the original languages, both Logos and Accordance provide Greek and Hebrew resources for the packages mentioned. 16

While Logos offers additional original language tools for purchase, Accordance provides more broadly used original language resources, such as the famous Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament developed by Louw and Nida and the abridged version of the Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon, in the Essential Collection. Though you may be tempted not to consider purchasing software because of the price, the price you pay for the software will likely be at least 10 percent less than the amount you pay for the print materials. Plus, the materials will be available on your computers and mobile devices. Users can access their Logos libraries using the software on their Mac or PC; they may also use the free app created for iOS or Android devices. While Accordance is also available on both Macs and PCs, users may use the free app only for iOS devices. The accessibility of these applications make Bible study and message preparation possible from virtually anywhere. Dan Morrison is the director of the Cordas C. Burnett Center for Biblical Preaching at the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary in Springfield, Missouri.

Creating Lasting


Planned giving can make it happen. A variety of charitable options can allow for significant gifts for your church and ministry while providing income and potential tax benefits for those in your congregation. We have planned giving solutions that can meet a variety of needs such as: • Generating more retirement income • How to transition out of appreciated assets • Estate planning and distribution • Honoring a family member with a legacy gift Contact us today for more information and learn how we can provide options to those who have a heart for the future support of your church’s ministry. 877.616.5202




icking off fall activities is an exciting time for church leaders. Everyone can feel the palpable energy of a new ministry year as kids and adults jump into new programming and new people begin to make your church a part of their lives. Harnessing all the enthusiasm, excitement and energy of the new ministry year can be a daunting undertaking for even the very best ministry teams. As leaders, we ask ourselves: How can I help people get connected in meaningful ways that will last? How can I ensure deep community happens? Obviously there are no guarantees that everyone will connect at a deeper level. However, since church leaders are called to make disciples, we must try to inspire true and lasting relationships within our churches. So the real challenge is, how do we create relational opportunities for those who are new to (or standing on the sidelines of ) our ministries? For your church to increase its impact in the lives of the people of God, it’s essential that you strategize and execute a game plan designed to help people move past the activities and events made for newcomers and toward relational investment and becoming a strong and stable member of your church community.


BUILDING A THRIVING CHURCH COMMUNITY How do we create relational opportunities for those who are new to our ministries? CHARISSA LILLARD


Be Strategic

Before you can create a more effective experience for visitors and prospective members, you need to understand what engagement, membership and community mean to your ministry on a strategic level, and then communicate it and adopt systems to measure success. Get a clear picture of what a connected member of your church looks like, and track people’s progress toward it. How does a truly connected member serve, give and lead? Define your goals so you know what data you want to collect,

manage and measure. Formalizing this information will help you understand how to prioritize and focus on the things that really matter. This objective data will help you identify trends and to know whether you’re really building a thriving ministry. Align your systems and processes to track what you’re learning about and from your people. Don’t rely on solely your leaders’ brains (or your own) to remember and catalogue everything you’re learning from your members. Use technology to collect, share and analyze the data you’re gathering. Chances are good you already know your finances down to the penny, but if you’re like most churches, you might be less precise on serving and engagement numbers. Investing in a decentralized system for leaders to access this information will empower them to make better decisions, faster. Document your expectations for how members participate in your church. Talk through and write down your expectations around things like worship, giving, serving, small group participation and more. Your ideal level of participation needs to be clear to you before you can make it clear to your members. Showing up on Sunday mornings isn’t enough for people to connect and grow in a thriving community — after all, the ultimate goal isn’t just attendance; it’s discipleship. Make it easy for new and prospective members to access information. Meet your people where they are. Invest in a landing page or printed materials with all your visitor and new member information so people can access it easily. Even if you share the information verbally, you can’t expect people to remember everything about your ministries. Use your Web presence whenever possible to give members a resource to go back to and help visitors gain a deeper understanding of your church’s path to discipleship.

source of new ideas and ways to change things up. You may hear some surprising things, but taking the time to ask and listen will definitely be worth it. We’ve all heard the expression: “You can’t see the forest for the trees.” But never is that more true than when we are in the middle of the weekly grind of doing ministry. Get your pastoral leadership involved in new members’ classes and activities. A personal presence from your leaders early on shows your visitors and prospective members that they really do matter to you. In fact, engagement with the visionaries and leaders in your ministry is often exactly what people need to understand “how they fit” and how God may be aligning their individual gifts with your ministry. “Show and tell” people what membership looks like at your church. It’s fairly common to have a membership class and get-to-know-you events. But have you thought about offering an online pre-membership class or utilizing videos to give interested visitors a feel for what it’s like to be a connected member of your church? This presentation can build excitement and even encourage them to take the next step. Give new members a step-by-step process for connection. Provide your people with a roadmap they can follow after committing to membership. Break down the membership expectations you outlined before into steps a new member can follow at their own pace. Laying out a flexible path to connection respects people’s time and prevents them from getting stuck along the way. This could even be as simple as providing alternate options for people to go through your membership materials if they miss a week. Helping your new members integrate into your community leads to discipleship growth, changed lives and a thriving church. And I can’t think of a better way to start your fall season than with that as your goal!

Execute Effectively

When you know what connection and membership mean to your church and have your systems and processes in place, you’re ready to reach out and make people feel understood and valued. Make sure you’re listening to new members. Take advantage of the fresh perspective your visitors and new members have — they’re a terrific

Charissa Lillard works in public relations and brand awareness at Church Community Builder ( and has a professional background in church communications and volunteer leadership. Church Community Builder is dedicated to discipleship growth and equipping church leaders for modern-day ministry through software and coaching.


See what’s happening in the Assemblies of God AS ONE WITH


This tour is for pastors, leaders, church planters, and ministry leadership students. EXPLORING BIBLICAL LEADERSHIP MARC TURNAGE




“ One generation shall command your works to another, and shall declare your mighty acts. ” Psalm 145:4

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APRIL 19-21, 2017 First Assembly of God Fort Wayne, IN

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SORE NEIGHBORHOODS Overlooked open doors for church planting in America VERLON FOSNER

INTRODUCTION Church planting today needs a more honest discussion about “place.” A review of the past 100 years reveals that a disproportionate number of churches spring up in middle- and upperclass neighborhoods. It might be time to reevaluate where we are locating our church plants. An Eye for Sore Places It appears that many church leaders believe America is composed primarily of middle- and upper-class people, and they plan their churches for that population. However, the lower class — the third of the population that earns below a middleclass income — has always existed. Statistically, one out of every three neighborhoods in every town across the country is populated by the lower third. It’s disingenuous to pretend the poor are not among us. Two out of five American families today reportedly rely on food banks to feed themselves, according to The O’Reilly Factor Fox News broadcast (April 2013). Where do these people



live? Many are in the sore neighborhoods of our towns — places where poverty, crime and the raw soreness of daily struggling to survive are a way of life. While this population seldom appears in suburban boutiques and golf course neighborhoods, they are still a part of our communities. And many are not attending our Sunday gatherings, which can make them invisible to church leaders. Urban cities in the U.S. have more sore neighborhoods than anywhere else. The shrinking church-to-population ratio in large cities is disturbing. I site in my Dinner Church Handbook: Church Planters Edition that most urban places in the U.S. have a quarter of the Assemblies of God churches of other locations in their respective districts. While that might sound underwhelming, what this meant for my home city of Seattle is that we would have needed to plant 25 AG churches to equal the ratios in all the rest of the Northwest Ministry Network. Many church planters today and in years past have sacrificed to go to hard places. Yet, it appears America’s church planters are now overlooking our cities with surprising regularity. Missiologist Ed Stetzer wryly observes in his book Planting New Churches in a Postmodern Age that it appears God has a special burden for places with hundreds of new homes compared to the inner city with thousands of apartments. This mindset must change. Urban cities stand in need of the greatest full-court press AG church planters can muster. A Different Way of Church If we are going to engage sore neighborhoods, we need to consider doing church for them in a way that fits their sociology. Worship based on a church planter’s favorite components will only make sense to people who are just like that leader. But if a plant team feels called into a sore social circle, it will need to design church in a way that resonates with that populous. Traditional proclamation gatherings do not always match the sociological realities of struggling communities. Besides feeling embarrassed gathering with the well-dressed people who fill most of our churches, the poor may also find it difficult to sit through a Sunday morning, sing a number of songs and listen to a 45-minute sermon while worrying about what their children will eat that night and how to make rent the next day. Our 85-year-old church in Seattle had to learn to do church differently for the sake of our city. This meant we had to relearn what Seattle had become. So we resorted to lawn-chair missiology, which means we sat up lawn chairs on many sidewalks and watched the movements of people. From those observations, we concluded the following:


• Sunday morning is a bad time for church; no one is awake at that time. • Dinnertime is a great time for church; people are getting off the buses, and the sidewalks are full. • Large social circles of sore people are everywhere. All these observations converged with our remembrance of the ancient agape feasts that were prevalent during the apostolic era. And a new way of doing church emerged. Now we have an agape dinner church almost every night of the week in a different sore neighborhood in Seattle. We have never been so influential in our city as we are now. However, this is only one of numerous stories unfolding across our land. Many church planters, feeling called to a particular under-reached social circle, are putting aside the proclamation event assumption and designing a church that fits the sociology of the lost rather than the found. Some great open doors exist for church planting in America, but many aren’t located where most church planters are looking. I predict that sore neighborhoods and churches designed for the lost will forge an interesting future for the Church in upcoming decades. The AG has been planting churches in middle- and upper-class locations for decades. Perhaps it is time to consider planting churches in the sore neighborhoods — so they can go to heaven, too. Verlon Fosner and his wife, Melodee, have led a multisite Assemblies of God dinner church in Seattle, Washington, since 1999 ( In 2014, they founded FindYourFooting (FindYourFooting. net), a church-planting network for frustrated leaders.


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n the United States alone, there are more than 24 million students between seventh and twelfth grades. Housing those students are more than 68,000 schools. That’s 68,000 individual mission fields and 68,000 opportunities to serve. Students and teachers returning to the classrooms include unreached people from across the community. Churches can make a difference in their lives by investing in their schools. It doesn’t have to be complicated. The Assemblies of God’s national Youth Ministries initiative, Our Schools Matter, helps church’s build bridges to the community through serving local schools. The following seven principles will equip and empower churches to do just that. 1. Begin a conversation. Every good relationship starts with a conversation. Initiating an open-ended dialogue with administrators is a good first step toward serving your schools. Take the time to discover what needs your schools actually have, rather than assuming you know them all. 2. Cultivate a servant attitude. Don’t come into a relationship with preconceived notions and plans. Be willing to fill gaps and serve the needs you encounter. Consider investing in “serve” shirts to wear during events. These shirts not only display a sense unity and togetherness in serving, but they can


OUR SCHOOLS MATTER Seven principles to equip and empower churches to reach the community through the local schools TOM GROOT



An authentic, sustained and caring relationship demonstrates the compassionate heart of Jesus to the school and community. also spread the Christian message of compassion and servanthood beyond the activity. 3. Remain patient and transparent. Give the process time. The initial conversation may extend beyond one meeting. Be open and honest. If the school needs something the church can’t provide on its own, say so. Avoid an overpromise and under-deliver situation, and consider partnering with other churches to accomplish big goals. 4. Serve without expectation. Giving with an ulterior motive can be a significant turnoff for an administrator. 5. Build trust. Be sensitive to administrators’ concerns over proselytizing, or attempting to convert someone from one religion, belief or opinion to another. Schools have a responsibility to protect students and avoid litigation. Be careful not to burn bridges with the community — for you and other churches — by pushing for conversions while serving. 6. Empower your congregation. Delegate school projects to lay leaders who are passionate about the next generation. Empowering ordinary churchgoers who have a heart for schools can produce extraordinary results.


7. Be consistent and be present. Don’t stop at one event. The act of caring for your schools should extend beyond a single gesture. Actively participate in the local school culture. Be present at athletic games and other public extracurricular events. Consider volunteering at school functions throughout the year, or even offering your facilities for student activities and clubs — whatever it takes. Being consistent and present builds trust and reveals that your church wants to invest beyond a volunteering photo op. An authentic, sustained and caring relationship demonstrates the compassionate heart of Jesus to the school and community. Serving the school is an ideal way for the church to build a bridge to the community. Anything you can do to show God’s love — however large or small — is worth doing. By investing in your community, you can be a living demonstration of Christ’s grace to people who do not yet know Him. Jesus met the lost where they were and alleviated their physical needs as much as their spiritual ones. A school outreach is one more opportunity for the local church to do the same. What can you and your church do this school year? Tom Groot is the director of Student Discipleship for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri.

Our Schools Matter Leader Kit One of the best ways to share the Our Schools Matter initiative to your congregation is to download the leader’s kit and participate in Our Schools Matter Sunday on September 25th. The free kit provides sermon outlines for adult and youth services, videos, social media postables and more. You can download the kit at ourschoolsmatter.

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Introduction While the weekly sermon is only a piece of a church’s overall discipleship strategy, it’s an important and prominent piece that publicly conveys the church’s discipleship values. That means the question of how to best communicate the timeless Word of God is always timely and important. We live in an era of increasing biblical illiteracy, so the pastor’s role as the primary communicator of God’s Word has never been more necessary and critical. The point of tension is how to communicate the Word in a way that is understandable and accessible to believers and unbelievers. At the same time, in a culture where everything is professionally branded and people have been trained to respond to nicely packaged and easy-to-use products,

the church can use a similar approach to appeal to an audience that is increasingly inoculated against the church’s traditional approaches to communication. In this Perspectives, we are addressing whether it’s more effective to preach in a series branded according to a particular topic or issue or to preach verse by verse through books of the Bible. To be clear, the issue here is not simply a question of expository versus topical preaching. It’s an issue of whether or not to brand or theme your sermon series. There are advantages and disadvantages to both approaches. Communicators should consciously and strategically decide how they will address the concerns from these two perspectives in order to faithfully execute Paul’s command to Timothy to “Preach the word” (2 Timothy 4:2).

Sermon Series Branding One of the most effective tools for reaching people outside your church and discipling people inside your church is sermon series branding. Sermon series branding is creating themes for each sermon series along with brand assets to engage your audience in a dynamic way. Sermon series branding utilizes culture, leverages the gifts and abilities of the team and provides a creative way to communicate God’s Word. Church leaders should utilize sermon series branding because it makes sermons… Relatable. Branding sermon series is an engaging way to make sermons relatable to your audience. It puts the cookies on the lower shelf for those new to church, without compromising the message itself. Good series branding will utilize titles, taglines or elements of things people are already familiar with, and it allows easy entry and greater receptivity to the message itself. Eight to ten series a year, each four to six weeks long, is recommended. Gather your team in the fall and begin praying and seeking God about what He would say to the church during the next year. Then find engaging and relevant ways to brand those series. Practical. Series branding naturally lends itself to practical application, because you keep the message connected to an overall central theme that runs


throughout the series. Series topics and branding are often relevant to life and allow people to grab onto practical handles of the truth being communicated. You can also use exegetical messages in topical sermon series. For example, create a series on marriage, but preach through the Song of Solomon. In addition, it is very helpful to create Bible reading plans people can use throughout the week that allow them to engage with the message and solidify the practical application they’ve received. Invitable. This really isn’t a word, but you get the drift. Branding sermon series in a creative and engaging way increases the likelihood people will invite their friends and family to come to church. When sermon series are relatable, practical and engaging, there will be a buzz about each week of the series, and people will want to invite others to experience what they are experiencing. Create invitation cards with the series brand on it, wear T-shirts and wristbands and do mailers and giveaways that leave a lasting impression of the series, and therefore the truth they’ve learned in that series. Our goal is to reach individuals far from God and make disciples of all people. Let’s use every tool in our belt to create dynamic ways to help people find and follow Jesus!


Preaching Through Books of the Bible Now more than ever, churches should offer systematic discipleship created, in part, from systematic Bible teaching. If preaching is like feeding people with God’s Word, preaching in series can be like eating all meat for four weeks, followed by four weeks of vegetables and then four weeks of fruit. On the other hand, preaching through books of the Bible gives you opportunity to have a balanced diet every Sunday over a long period of time. A consistently healthy consumption of spiritual food will produce healthy disciples. Preaching through books of the Bible allows listeners to dig into a certain portion of Scripture. By the time you’re finished with a book, they’ll know how that book fits into the overarching story of God’s Word, the particular messages the author wanted to convey and the author’s unique perspective. As a result, listeners gain a certain mastery over portions of Scripture that will help them, in turn, learn even more of God’s Word. The accumulation of this knowledge is what we call biblical literacy. Preachers are creatures of habit, tending to return time and again to a handful of pet subjects or Scriptures. Preaching through a book of the Bible will help you avoid that trap and allow you to cover the full range of biblical topics. Rather than restricting you to one book, preaching this way allows you to pull in supporting Scriptures from

the whole Bible, demonstrating the consistency of the whole counsel of God. The average churchgoer now attends church just 1.7 times per month, meaning they’ll only get half of any four-week series you preach anyway. But if you preach through books of the Bible, it’s likely to create an immersive experience over many months, and people can jump in anywhere, never feeling they’ve missed a large part of the series. The amount of time and energy spent branding and promoting a series is enormous. It sometimes feels as though every series has to be bigger, better and more entertaining than the last. In many churches, every series has its own logo, screen backgrounds, handouts, videos, etc. Some pastors and teams simply don’t have the creative expertise to brand series in that way. When preaching through books of the Bible, that energy can go into other areas such as creatively illustrating a message or promoting other discipleship opportunities offered by the church. The beauty of preaching through books of the Bible for the preacher or teacher is that he or she doesn’t have to spend much time thinking about what to preach. Instead, time can be invested strategizing how the preaching will be creatively communicated and effectively applied for maximum life transformation.







How should we attempt to connect with a new population some describe as digital natives, binge watchers, sexually ambiguous and polyspiritual?


met 15-year-old Carson recently. He’s a typical teen who provides a picture of what’s coming in the future. I’m not so sure we’re ready for it.

Carson is a case study of a new generation, born since the turn of the century. He entered his freshman year of high school a bit nervous, but he soon developed a scrappy, independent style. He plans to “hack” his way through adolescence. He games for three to five hours a day, and Googles for even more. He is truly a “screen-ager,” but he claims he doesn’t get much screen time compared to his friends, who rack up 100 hours per week and rarely sleep. Almost weekly, Carson binge watches a TV season on Netflix. When I asked what he imagined doing for a career, he told me he wants to earn money by continuing his hobbies. After high school, he plans to pursue an online education so he can stay close to home, maybe even at home. He says he has a girlfriend, but they haven’t met in person. They met online. They text, Instagram and Snapchat a lot, but they attend different schools. In fact, he met most of his friends on screens, playing games or interacting on social media. Carson has encountered few of them face-to-face. Several are global friendships. When I asked why, he said he feels safer in a relationship that he can start or stop on a screen. He can walk away at any moment. Part of Carson’s uncertainty is his own identity. He’s still figuring out what gender he prefers, both for himself and his companions. He figures he has options. While Carson’s life is drastically different from mine at 15 years old, he’s found a way to make life work so far. Here are some telling statements he made that


reveal what he thinks about regularly: • “I have a sister who went to college, and now has tons of debt and no job. I don’t want to get into the situation she did. I think people lied to her about her career.” • “My personal life is OK, but the world is screwed up. Every time I watch the news, it gets into my head. I try to block it out, but it stresses me out.” • “My dad is gone; my mom is always on Facebook, from the time I get home from school until I go to bed. She has no idea what I am doing at midnight.” I wish you could meet Carson, too, because he represents a new type of person you’ll need to understand if you plan to reach kids outside your church family — or, perhaps, even better understand the kids you may already be serving. What makes this task especially challenging is that many denominational churches and pastors are aging — measurably. The average age of a Southern Baptist pastor is 50. The average age of a United Methodist minister is 53. The average age of an Assemblies of God lead pastor is 55. The average Presbyterian elder is 62. This means big-time adjustment if we’re serious about reaching this new generation outside our walls. Are you ready?




Who Are These Kids? The numbers are just coming in from studies of younger members of Generation Z (the generation following Generation Y). Some call this generation Homelanders, since its beginning roughly coincides with the founding of the Department of Homeland Security. They are part of a population that grew up post-911, with terrorism as part of the landscape. A sour economy is all they remember. In this generation, racial unrest is prevalent again, and uncertainty defines our culture. Many compare Homelanders to the Silent Generation, the group born between the Great Depression and the post-World War II Baby Boomers. War and a tough economy will likely shape them into adults marked by pragmatism and caution. Homelanders Up Close A new digital awareness marked the Millennials. But according to a report from marketing research firm Sparks and Honey, today’s young teens are more concerned about coping with reality than about virtual reality. Consider the following: • Their movies are Hunger Games and Divergent, stories of youth navigating dystopian societies. • They multitask on five screens rather than one or two. Fearful of missing out, they try to consume it all. • They have strong internal filters. Teen attention spans have gone from 12 seconds in the year 2000 to six seconds today. You’d better be engaging. • They plan to get educated and start working earlier, but these “school hackers” will not necessarily attend liberal arts colleges. They can be full of angst, living in a broken world from which they never unplug, receiving 1,000 messages a day. So, let’s take a moment to listen to their heart. At Growing Leaders, we hosted several focus groups of middle school and high

school students from the Homelander Generation. The following conclusions — supported by statements from these students — provide a glimpse into what makes them tick: 1. They worry a lot about the future and the future of the world. • “It’s hard, but I try to keep myself thinking about the positive as much as possible.” — sixth-grade male • “Our generation cares about the world — not just for ourselves, but for generations to come. We don’t know what could happen in the future if we don’t. We want to make sure future generations have everything they need to survive.” — ninth-grade male • “I’m glad we have ISIS, because, without them, we would be living our lives as a lie, thinking that everything else is OK when really nothing is OK.” — sixthgrade female 2. They love the Internet, but they don’t trust it. • “I like social media that disappears because people can stalk your pictures. It’s really creepy. My brother had someone hack his Instagram account.” — sixth-grade female • “Being careful about what you say on social media is being drilled into us all



the time. We think about that a lot.” — eighth-grade male • “I don’t let people follow me online unless I know them. I get more requests from people I don’t know than from people that I do know, so I keep my account private.” — ninthgrade female • “Having your parents ask you for your password is one of the scariest things ever. My parents have no idea what’s going on in my life, so when they go through my phone and see things they didn’t know about, I can’t handle it.” — sixth-grade female 3. They believe parents are oblivious to the issues they face. • “I’m scared that one day my mom will figure out how I hid all of my social media accounts on her iPad.” — sixth-grade female • “My mom is busy all the time, messaging her friends on Facebook, and my dad’s on his phone every day catching up on the news.” — tenth-grade male • “I got Snapchat so I could post things that my parents wouldn’t be able to see. Plus, I want to keep my Snapchat streak going.” — seventh-grade male • “My parents are mostly clueless to the stuff that’s going on in my life. When they take my phone away, I just get online through my iPad. — ninth-grade female 4. They are dependent on technology, building their social identities through social media. • “When I get grounded, and my phone is taken away, I always give my username and password to my friends so they can log in and keep up with everything that’s going on.” — ninthgrade male • “For five years, I’ve slept with my phone at night. I hate to admit it, but now I shower with my phone every day. — tenth-grade female • “My friends and I use code names on social media to talk about our crushes in a public space. I don’t think I could live without my phone.” — ninth-grade female • “If my friends post something online and it doesn’t get enough likes, they take it down fast. It’s our social report card.” — tenth-grade male and female How did we end up living in a world that produces kids like this? When you think about their realities, it’s not hard to see these quotes as the new normal. The 107,000 deaths by terrorism since the year 2000 have taught these kids to fear the world around them. The global recession has taught them to mistrust the economy and job market. Racial unrest has taught them to be weary of authorities. Social media’s prevalence has taught


them they can experience relationships without the danger of getting hurt. Pluralism has taught them that the world is open to interpretation. What kind of kid would you have been if you’d grown up in this world? Contrasting Millennials and Homelanders It’s a mistake to assume Homelanders are simply extensions of Generation Y, or the Millennials. These younger counterparts have grown up with new realities that uniquely marked them. While Generation Y grew up with computers, Homelanders grew up with touchscreens. Their phones have always been “smart.” To them, Bill Clinton is a president from history, and Madonna is an icon from a bygone entertainment era. Cultural acceptance of transgenderism is a growing reality. We live in a new day. Based on research from Growing Leaders and Sparks & Honey, there are striking contrasts between Generation Y and Generation Z: • While Generation Y grew up with a strong economy and self-esteem, Generation Z has seen little beyond the recession, terrorism, racial violence, volatility and complexities that mark today’s political world. • While Generation Y subscribed to everything social, Generation Z doesn’t want to be tracked, opting for Snapchat or Whispr for sending messages that evaporate. • While Generation Y watched YouTube, Hulu and Netflix, Generation Z wants to cocreate, livestream, FaceTime and help create activities as they participate. • While Generation Y loves sports and adventure, Generation Z sees sports as an extracurricular activity rather than a way to play or unwind. Increasingly, games are inside — and digital. Consequently, teen

obesity has tripled since 1970. • While Generation Y initiated text messaging as a norm, Generation Z prefers communicating through images, memes, icons and symbols. • While Generation Y worried about its social presence and “likes” on social media, Generation Z is more concerned with the economy and world ecology. Think about all the ways this generation is changing. One of best examples is in the way today’s young students use language, naturally using a number of terms that would have rarely or never been used just two decades ago — terms like instant access, on demand and emoji show just how different our world has become for this generation. More than anything, these shifts reflect the younger generation’s expectations about the world. This generation expects immediacy, where previous generations would have expected to wait. They expect diversity, where previous generations would have expected homogeny. And they expect constant connection, where previous generations would have enjoyed privacy and solitude. As Homelanders age, we will watch the world around us change. Based on reports by the Monthly Labor Review, The Futurist and World Population Prospects, 2012 U.N. edition, I expect a changing landscape as we move from today’s reality to tomorrow’s. As you can see from the chart below, Homelanders will become adults with a different mindset than their older siblings, aunts and uncles. This new day requires a new style of leadership from our own. Millennials or Gen Y (1983–2000)

Homelanders, or Gen Z (2001–2018)

1. Use technology for entertainment

1. Will use technology to learn

2. Compete with 80 million for jobs

2. Will compete with 172 million for jobs

3. Had two to four siblings

3. Will likely have zero to two siblings

4. Share the planet with 11 billion

4. Will share the planet with 7.5 billion

5. Largest population is peers

5. Largest population will be older

6. Growing problem with obesity

6. Severe problem with obesity

7. Communicates with text

7. Communicates with images

8. Shares things

8. Creates things

9. Multitasks with two screens

9. Multitasks with five screens

10. Confident and self-absorbed

10. Cautious and self-directed

11. Focuses on today

11. Focuses on the future

12. Optimists

12. Realists

Realities That Shaped Homelanders as Kids 1. Terrorism: Their memories are post9/11, and terrorism has always been a current issue. 2. Recession: Their memories surround a sour economy and unemployment. 3. Racial unrest: Riots and demonstrations are common. 4. Global competition: In a global economy, Homelanders compete with internationals of all ages for jobs. 5. Social media: Information is ubiquitous. This is the first generation that doesn’t need adults to get it. 6. Complexity and uncertainty: Clutter, noise and activity displace simplicity. 7. Social and ideological pluralism: Relationships and beliefs are mixed and blended.



Terms That Summarize Homelanders Instant access: They have a Google reflex and can find answers now, with no wait. New normal: They grew up with terrorism, recession and other common hardships. On demand: They expect entertainment when they want it and can’t stand boredom. Multicultural: They’re a mix of ethnic races, reflecting a 50 percent increase in this identity since 2000. Immediate feedback: They insist on responses from social media, games or friends.

Constant contact: They are connected all the time, with little margin for solitude. Blended family: They are used to new definitions of family, marriage and sexuality. Anything goes: They grew up at a time when all traditional morals are in question.


Changes We Must Make So, how do we communicate with this emerging generation? How should we attempt to connect with a new population some describe as digital natives, binge watchers, sexually ambiguous and polyspiritual? The only way forward, I believe, is for something to change. Let me suggest we must adapt our messaging. We don’t need to change what our message is, but how we deliver it. To connect with Generation Z, we should keep it short. Homelanders have strong filters and short attention spans. We should also keep it interactive. Is your instruction visual, interactive and applicable in multiple ways? More than 65 percent of the population consists of visual learners, but few leaders are engaging the visual parts of the brain when they teach. We also need to give them ownership. Homelanders are used to commenting, liking, uploading and upvoting. They feel personally connected to much of the content they find on the Internet because they have a hand in creating it, making it more popular or sharing it with their friends. If you aren’t finding a way for the young leaders under you to engage with, comment on or share your content, you may be one step behind. The Latin root word for educate is ducere, which means “to lead or push out.” We’ve previously seen learning as something we do to students, not something they do for themselves. The key is that learning is not something done to you; it is something you choose to do. We should not put students in a passive mode as we teach. We must inspire learning. We must help pull ambition out of them, not push information into them. We also have to change our minds about how to lead these kids. Part of the greatness of the gospel is that it offers a cause. Most kids want to do something important and challenging. The mission of the gospel provides Homelanders with the kind of cause they want, but we aren’t translating the message in a way they can understand. To connect them with our message, we must be willing to adapt. 1. Establish a connection rather than control. Too often our ambition as a parent, pastor or teacher is to seize control. We want to govern every action and direct each step kids take. Studies show that parents who overprogram their child’s schedule often breed kids who rebel as teens. Why? The child never truly got to be a child. Control is a myth. None of us are actually in control. Instead, good leaders work to connect with the next generation. Once we connect, we build a bridge of relationship that can bear the weight of truth. We earn our right to influence them. 2. Provide interpretation instead of just information. Again, this is the first generation of kids that doesn’t need adults to get information. It’s coming at them 24 hours a day. What they need from us is interpretation. Their knowledge has no context.

Talking is the quickest way to transmit an idea, but it’s not always the best way to transform a life. Just like science class, kids need a lecture and a lab to learn.

Adults must help them make sense of all they know, helping them interpret experiences, relationships, work and faith via a wise, balanced lens. Discuss together what’s behind movie plots, books and technology. Teach them how to think. 3. Help them do it; don’t do it for them. Adults have tried to build kids’ self-esteem for 30 years now. We wrongly assumed, however, that it would come from simply telling them they’re special and awesome. According to the American Psychological Association, healthy self-esteem doesn’t come merely from affirmation, but from achievement. In our attempt to protect, we’ve actually created a different kind of “at-risk” child: middle class and affluent kids who are depressed because they didn’t really do anything to achieve what they have. Sure, it’s quicker to do it yourself — but it’s better to transfer a skill. 4. Seek to expose rather than impose. When adults become scared their kids are falling behind, we tend to impose a rule or a behavior on them. While mandatory conduct is part of life, it carries negative baggage with it. When students feel forced to do something, they often don’t take ownership of it; it’s your idea, not theirs. Give them an opportunity they can’t pass up so they can participate willingly rather than feeling forced. 5. Describe; don’t just prescribe. Many kids today have had everything structured for them, from practices and playground time to lessons and phone games. Even Lego sets now have diagrams of what to build and how to do it. We’re removing the need for kids to use their imagination and creativity. Instead of prescribing what they should do next, try describing an outcome or goal. Let them figure out how to reach it with their own ingenuity. 6. Be real rather than cool. Many adults try to connect with kids by emulating them. In reality, grown adults can rarely pull this off without looking silly. We want to be relevant, but students don’t look to us to be

cool. They need us to be authentic. Learn to laugh at yourself. Be self-aware. Genuinely listen. Speak in a conversational tone that’s believable. Far worse than being uncool is being unreal. 7. Include a lab with the lecture. When young people do wrong, it’s tempting to lecture them and move on. Talking is the quickest way to transmit an idea, but it’s not always the best way to transform a life. Just like science class, kids need a lecture and a lab to learn. We must create environments and experiences from which we can process truths. There are life lessons to be found everywhere, from trips and meals with influential people to service projects. The lab is where head knowledge becomes true understanding.

Tim Elmore is president of Growing Leaders, a nonprofit that partners with schools, athletics and ministries to equip ministers to reach the emerging generation. For resources, information or blogs go to This article is an excerpt from Elmore’s upcoming book, Marching Off the Map.







people return from summer vacations and settle back in to the comfort of familiar routines, a time of transition begins for local congregations. The changing of the seasons — and the accompanying changes in activities — is a part of life’s rhythm. Ecclesiastes 3:1 declares, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” The business world recognizes the principle of times and seasons. Corporations produce action plans, data sheets and reports for each quarter of the fiscal year. The fiscal fourth quarter is a crucial period during which business leaders reflect on progress, plan for what’s ahead and push for a strong finish. Similarly, the fourth quarter of the calendar year — the busy stretch comprising October, November and December — can be a vital and strategic time for church activity. “If you don’t know your rhythms, you waste time and energy, and the staff ends up burned out,” says Matt Nelson, lead pastor of City Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. This time of year presents special challenges and opportunities in your




congregation and community. By recognizing the natural rhythms of your church calendar, you can maximize every season — especially during this last quarter. But unless you understand those rhythms and prayerfully anticipate how best to respond to them, you may miss the chance to leverage the fourth quarter for maximum impact. Fourth Quarter Ministry Fall ministry means different things in different settings. When Mike Santiago planted Focus Church in Apex, N.C., in September 2012, it quickly became apparent that life in the Raleigh suburb revolves around football. Rather than competing with the popular fall activity, Santiago sought ways to use it to advance the gospel. Each year, the church celebrates its founding with a series of birthday events that happen to coincide with the start of the football season. Small group meetings follow in October and November. “Our fall activities run parallel with the football season,” Santiago says. “We start a new series, and we add some sort of element that will draw people back.” Santiago says it’s an ideal time to emphasize fellowship and outreach. He encourages attendees to plan football tailgate events and invite their friends and neighbors to join them. Every Sunday morning throughout the football season, a video announcement emphasizes the relational focus with the catchphrase, “No Tailgater Left Behind.” “We’re encouraging all of our people to never tailgate alone,” Santiago says. “We really promote people enjoying Sunday afternoons together and attending at least one of the games together.” Santiago says understanding the community’s seasonal rhythm is key to reaching people with the message of Christ. “We’re blessed to have a really

By recognizing the natural rhythms of your church’s yearly calendar, you can maximize every season — especially during this last quarter. laser-focused philosophy that is heavily geared toward the Sunday morning worship service — to the point that we haven’t come up against a ton of competition simply because we’ve never started anything during another prime time hour,” Santiago says. “If we did a Saturday night service, for instance, there would be college football during that season.” Instead, Focus Church emphasizes a core group of ministries it calls the Focus Five: small groups, children’s ministries, serving, outreach and missions. “Almost every single one of those things falls into the context of a Sunday morning, except for outreach groups,” Santiago says. “Groups are happening in October, but they are not happening on specific nights where there might be a little bit more competition.” Konan Stevens, lead pastor of C3 Church in the Columbus, Ohio, suburb of Pickerington, also looks for ways to leverage local interests for fall outreach. “Our community does a big festival every year in the fall, and we like to be a part of that,” Stevens says. “I think sometimes churches want to do everything on their own with their name instead of asking, ‘How can we serve in a way that helps our community?’ How can C3 Church rally around the things that are already happening in our community and be a big presence?” For The Oaks Fellowship in the Dallas suburb of Red Oak, Texas, the arrival of fall means a renewed emphasis on relationships, particularly through small groups. “It is always in the fall, around August and the first of September, that we will start promoting people becoming small group leaders or small group hosts, trying to get them to catch that vision so that we will



There is no one-size-fitsall approach for successful ministry in the fourth quarter — or any other time of year. 44

multiply,” says Scott Wilson, senior pastor of The Oaks Fellowship. “It seems to be the best time for us to get people interested. The focus is making sure whatever we have in that fall series is going to be something that people can get excited about bringing their friends to. This is really a catch-all for new people coming to the church.” The start of school affects many congregations, as students return to college towns and families juggle children’s activities. For Focus Church, which meets in a local high school, the back-to-school transition is particularly significant. “We have to establish new relationships with the new teachers in the school,”

Santiago says. “In the summer, the rooms are all cleared out. We’re able to set up with no problem for the kids’ ministry side. Then, when a new teacher moves into her classroom in the fall, we have the first few awkward weeks where we’re moving her stuff that she just moved in. That is always a major consideration.” Though the lack of a permanent facility limits the types of fall activities the congregation can host, Focus Church finds creative ways to interact with the community.

“Because we are portable, we don’t really get to do the standard fall festival, or harvest event,” Santiago says. “What we do is leverage the church to go out into the community and be a part of the activities that take place. We equip our church on October 31 with invite cards about our church that they can hand out to people who might be coming by their house for trick-or-treating.” Similarly, the size and scope of winter holiday celebrations often vary depending on the circumstances of individual churches and communities. Some congregations plan extravagant Thanksgiving and Christmas services, while others host scaled-down celebrations for the small number of people who stay close to home for the holidays. “We kind of do both,” Santiago says. “We have a big Christmas at the Creek service, where we bring in a train in the lobby, and a full-fledged production-style choir — the whole deal. It generally happens the weekend before Christmas, like the 18th or so. But we scale back the weekend of Thanksgiving, Black Friday, because most people are either traveling back home after Thanksgiving, or are still out of town. The Sunday after Black Friday we do an acoustic set. We actually promote it as Leftover Sunday, and it’s very family oriented. We kind of scale it back on purpose.” November and December rhythms can be as varied as holiday traditions. What resonates in one setting may not work in another. And sometimes, unique outreach opportunities show up on the most unlikely days. “We found that one of our largest attendance Sundays is the first week in November, when the clock falls back an hour,” Stevens says. “It’s the second largest attended Sunday outside of Easter. Our church’s birthday is also in November, so we have two big Sundays. It’s usually when we relaunch our small groups, so we’ll do a big small groups campaign, trying to plug people back in. It’s a good season for us.”

Fourth Quarter Finances Whether you’re launching a giving campaign, closing out a project, collecting funds for holiday benevolence or simply creating a budget for the new year, understanding your church’s fall rhythms is an essential part of managing financial matters during the fourth quarter. “People are the most generous between Thanksgiving and Christmas,” Santiago says. According to the 2015 “Charitable Giving Report” from Blackbaud, it is common for faith-based organizations to receive over 17 percent of their annual donations in December alone. Each fall Santiago challenges his congregation to contribute toward a single, tangible goal, such as a building campaign. To emphasize giving during the final few weeks of the year, he personally leads the offering time. “It’s not that I don’t talk about money, but we have someone else come in and take up the offering until Thanksgiving,” Santiago says. “The weekend after Thanksgiving all the way through the end of the year, I take all of the talking-about-money time that I’ve saved up all year long, and I use it.” While money can be an uncomfortable topic, Wilson says it’s important for church leaders to articulate financial goals and keep the congregation updated on progress. As the year comes to a close, talking about how faithful giving has made a difference in the life of the church and community can build people’s faith and generate excitement. “Most of the time, I try to provide testimonies and giving reports of what God is doing through giving,” Wilson says. “Celebrating where people’s money is going shows that it is not coming to but going through the church to see people’s lives changed and transformed.” Each Christmas, C3 Church takes up a special offering to help meet needs in the community. Stevens says caring for neighbors is a fitting way to mark the Christmas season and close out the year, and even visitors enjoy contributing.


“We give the whole thing away,” Stevens says. “We say, ‘We are going to take this offering, and 100 percent of it will be given away to needy people in our community.’ It’s been a huge win.” Fourth Quarter Staff and Volunteers Even the best plans need people to carry them out. That’s why no fourth quarter strategy can afford to overlook the human component: staff members and volunteers. City Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma, typically sees an attendance surge in the fall, which often means recruiting extra help. “Last year in September, we moved to three services,” says Matt Nelson, lead pastor. “We had to find 70 more volunteers to pull it off.” Nelson says he is also careful to communicate with his staff to ensure that everyone is on the same page and working together as a team. “By now, most of our staff understand our rhythm,” Nelson says. “August and September are full on, and then we start pulling back. October is a transition month. November and December is when we plan our staff getaways. I think over 7 years we’ve done a pretty good job of finding our rhythm.” Many leaders use fourth quarter down time for retreats (which may be anything from planning sessions to team-building experiences). Others schedule retreats for later, when the hectic fall season has passed. In either case, Nelson says time away is essential. “A lot of guys that I know, church planters, especially, are always going — everything is 100 miles an hour. You can’t sustain that.” Santiago says he plans reprieves, including a holiday break between Christmas and New Year’s Day, for volunteers as well as staff. “I think that’s one of the keys,” Santiago says. “I only ask people to serve from September through Christmas. Then I let them know we’re having a Sunday off. That really helps because there is an end zone. There is a finish line for that season. You’re going to be able to spend time with your family. I’m asking you to give it all you’ve got for these weeks when people come to [our church] the most.”

insight into seasonal rhythms you can maximize for Kingdom building. The Holy Spirit, not numbers, should ultimately guide your plans. But maintaining records will reveal opportunities and challenges, which can bring new urgency and energy to your prayer times and planning sessions. “I think it almost takes a couple of years to get the feel of your community, and then to get the feel of your own leadership style and how you work,” Stevens says. “I’ll be honest: I came in with an idea of what we were going to do, and then I got in here and realized it’s slightly different than I thought it was going to be.” Nelson adds, “Our rhythms are a little bit different than the typical church. We’re in an urban setting. We reach a lot of young families, young adults, so it’s just a little bit different. So we made some adjustments. I think you’ve got to be open to that.” Even for experienced leaders, a new season can bring a few unexpected twists. It’s comforting to know that God is going before you, working in every detail for His glory and your congregation’s good. He will make “everything beautiful in its time.” (Ecclesiastes 3:11).

John Davidson, Ph.D. is director of Discovery and Development at the Assemblies of God National

Finding Your Rhythm There is no one-size-fits-all approach for successful ministry in the fourth quarter — or any other time of year. Each strategy should be as unique as the congregation and community involved. Getting to know the people you’re trying to reach, disciple and lead is the first obvious step. Attend the local sporting events. Participate in the city parade or festival. Ask people how they celebrate the holidays. Come alongside those who are making a difference in the church and community. Tracking statistics — such as attendance, conversions, baptisms (both water and Spirit) and giving — may provide 46

Leadership and Resource Center in Springfield, Missouri.

Christina Quick is a freelance writer in Springfield, Missouri. She attends James River Church.

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reachers find inspiration for their sermons at funny times and in funny places. For me, it was an insomniac night as I lay in bed scrolling through my Facebook feed. Then, I came across a video by Christian comedian Michael Jr. (Talk about funny inspiration!). In the video, Michael Jr. started a conversation with a man in the audience. He asked the man what he did for a living. “Musical director,” the man replied. “Can you give me a couple bars of ‘Amazing Grace’?” Michael Jr. asked. The man obliged by singing the first verse in a beautiful baritone voice. “Now I want you to give me the version as if your uncle just got out of jail [and] you got shot in the back as a kid,” Michael Jr. said. The man replied by singing the same words so soulfully that the audience was on its feet by the time he sang the last note. It was that good. But then Michael Jr. turned serious. “The first time I asked him to sing, he knew what he was doing,” he said. The second time I asked him to sing, he knew why he was doing it.” And then Michael Jr. summed up the moral of the story: “When you know your why, your what has more impact, because you’re walking in or toward your purpose.” In just a few seconds, this Christian comedian had turned a “ha ha” exchange into an “aha” moment. What is my what and why? I asked myself. But then I wondered, as an occasional preacher and sermon team


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member, Why don’t more preachers preach like this? Good thing I’m the executive editor of a Christian leadership magazine! So I called Michael Jr. to pick his brain about what a comedian might teachers pastors about preaching. Here’s what I learned. Setup and Punch Line We start with the structure of a joke. Every joke, Michael Jr. explains, has two elements: setup and punch line. He cites the famous poultry joke: “Why did the chicken cross the road?” That’s the setup. “To get to the other side.” That’s the punch line. But it’s not just jokes. “[E]very time you laugh, there’s a setup and there’s a punch line” Michael Jr. says. For example, “If you see a guy walking down a street and he trips and falls, you laugh. The setup is anyone should be able to walk down a street. The punch line is that this guy couldn’t do it.” A joke works by establishing an expectation (setup) but delivering a radical alteration (punch line). That’s how I felt about Michael Jr.’s what-and-why video. I expected comedy, but I was given a life-altering insight. Interestingly, many stories in the Bible have the structure of a joke. Michael Jr. points to the healing of the lame man in Acts 3. Setup: “Now a man who was lame from birth was being carried to the temple gate called Beautiful, where he was put every day to beg from those going into the temple courts. When he saw Peter and John about to enter, he asked them for money” (verses 2–3). Anyone reading this story for the first time expects that the apostles will give the man money. Punch line: “Peter said, ‘Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.’ Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong” (verses 6–7). Neither the man nor the crowd saw the punch line coming, but they laughed. He was “walking and jumping, and praising God” (verse 8). They were “filled with wonder and amazement” (verse 10). I start to wonder whether the gospel itself has the structure of a joke. Setup: “As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). Punch line: “But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were


dead in transgressions” (verse 4). No wonder the angels described the gospel of Christ as “good news that will cause great joy for all the people” (Luke 2:10)! We expect death (setup), but God gives us life through Jesus Christ (punch line). Reflecting on the healing of the lame man in Acts 3, Michael Jr. expands on the setuppunch-line structure with four other words: expectation (setup), alteration (punch line), revelation and transformation. A joke ends with the punch line, but the gospel goes further. It results in a new way of thinking (revelation) and a new way of being (transformation). How might joke structure help pastors when they’re preparing their sermons? “A lot of people, when they’re writing their sermons or figuring out what they want to do, they’ll start with a topic and just kind of maneuver their way through a topic until suddenly it ends.” What they should do, Michael Jr. says, is “start with the punch line and then write the setup so you can get to the punch line.” It’s not just sermon preparation that benefits from understanding joke structure. The entire worship service should be an alteration of the congregation’s expectations. “[E]veryone in the room, everyone walking in has an expectation,” he explains. Often, those expectations are not good. “This pastor, he wants my money; he’s going to steal it; he’s going to run off.” But he goes on to say, “When you create an alteration to their expectations”— the music is good, the people are friendly, the pastor is likeable — “you’re in a better position as well.” Human effort only gets you so far, though. Of expectation, alteration, revelation and transformation, Michael Jr. thinks we only do the first three. “The only one who can create the final one, which is transformation, is God, through Jesus,” he explains. “But we can be great stewards at those first three so


Effective leadership is about equipping others. It begins by investing in people, providing useful tools, and empowering them to lead. If your church management software isn’t helping you equip and empower people, perhaps it is time for a new tool.





A joke works by establishing an expectation (setup) but delivering a radical alteration (punch line). we can tee up the transformation that God is going to create as a result of it.” Setbacks As Setups From joke structure, we turn to the source of Michael Jr.’s jokes themselves. As I talk to him, Michael Jr. is transparent about his childhood battle with dyslexia. “I used to struggle with my reading — I mean, really, really struggle. I couldn’t sound things out phonetically. Even now I don’t sound things out phonetically.” He reads just fine now, but it’s because he developed a highly unique method of looking at words. “[A]s a child, the way I would do it is I would look at the font size of the word, I would look at the color, the positioning, what’s in front of it, what’s behind it and how people are responding to it. I came up with seven different ways, and I didn’t really do it on purpose. It was really out of survival.” This unique way of reading words shaped the way Michael Jr. looks at everything. “I still have this ability to look not just at words but people and situations and clothing. I look at everything from seven different ways immediately, and it’s the primary place from where I pull my comedy.” Okay, that’s an interesting biographical detail about him, but what does it have to do with preachers? I wonder. Michael Jr. delivers the punch line: “So, that very thing that looked like a handicap, it’s actually turned into a strength of mine.” A lightbulb goes off in my head. “You know, pastors — like most people — don’t want to expose the shameful parts of their lives, the weak parts of their lives,”

I say. “A lot of pastors cultivate an image of strength and confidence, and they’re always spiritually on and they’re always happy.” I tell him, however, that I get the greatest personal response from people when I talk about my experiences of clinical depression and chronic illness. “It creates an in for people where I’m not Mr. Perfect or whatever, and they can relate.” Michael Jr. agrees. “What we have to understand is our setbacks are part of our setup so we can deliver what we’re supposed to deliver.” He points out that some people think, I got really bad setbacks, though. “Here’s the thing,” he counters, “just like a slingshot, the further your setback, the further you’ll be able to reach.” That’s a good image: the harder the pull of the sling, the farther the distance of the shot. “But if you’re not aware or if you don’t want to talk about it, if you want to hide the setbacks, nothing changes. You’re still set back. You’re just not reaching anybody.” What I hear Michael Jr. saying is this: who preachers are is an important part of what we say. Sometimes I can deliver a message more effectively to some audiences because of who I am. Sometimes you can. Rather than running from our weaknesses, we embrace them because they are part of God’s providential plan for us. Even the apostle Paul said, “For when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Corinthians 12:10). Giving Laughs I raise one final topic with Michael Jr. In addition to speaking to churches and doing corporate gigs, he has appeared on some big stages: The Tonight Show, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Oprah. He’s funny — not just Christian funny but funny funny. How does he keep success from going to his head? “I was performing at a club in Los Angeles,” Michael Jr. begins, “and right before I got on stage, I said a prayer, and I had a change of mindset about comedy.” By way of explanation, he says that every comedian he’s ever



“I look at everything from seven different ways immediately, and it’s the primary place from where I pull my comedy.” met wants to “get laughs” from people. This night, he goes on, “God simply said to me, ‘Instead of going out there to get laughs from people, I want you to go out there and give them an opportunity to laugh.’” According to Michael Jr., “that right there just changed everything.” Later that night, he says, “I saw a homeless guy, and I’ve never seen a homeless guy outside this club before — ever. … So when I noticed this homeless guy, it inspired me to ask the question: What about them? How can I give laughter to people like that?” After this experience, Michael Jr. stepped way out of his comfort zone and began doing comedy in, well, not very funny places: prisons, homeless shelters, children’s hospitals. “A lot of my comedian friends will say to me, ‘Dude, how are you going to go to a homeless shelter? What if they don’t laugh?’ ” It’s a good question, I think. “And I go right back to the fact that I’m not there to get laughs,” he replies. “I’m there to give them an opportunity to laugh.” Getting, obviously, is about the ego needs of me, myself and I. Giving, on the other hand, is about prioritizing the needs of others. And that’s where Michael Jr. takes this story as he applies it to pastors. “If you have a message, and you really feel like God wants you to deliver that message, get yourself out of the way and deliver the message,” he says. “If you need to talk about money, don’t concern yourself with how they respond to the gift you’re bringing them, talk about money. If you need to talk about sex, and it’s an awkward conversation with them, take that gift to them and don’t worry about their response. I think at the end you’ll be pleasantly surprised at the true ministry that takes place as a result of your obedience.” A Pastor Walks Up to the Pulpit… As I close this article, let me circle back to Michael Jr.’s what-and-why video that inspired me to interview him about


preaching in the first place. “When you know your why, your what has more impact, because you’re walking in or toward your purpose.” As ministers of the gospel, we have the awesome privilege and serious responsibility of proclaiming the gospel week in, week out. It’s the best news anyone will ever hear, inspiring more joy and holy laughter than the funniest joke Michael Jr. or any other comedian could ever tell. How are we doing with that awesome privilege and serious responsibility? • Are our sermons altering people’s expectations, leading to revelation and transformation? • Are we using our setbacks as God’s providential setups for effective ministry? • Are we preaching out of selfish ambition (getting) or out of a desire to serve God and others (giving)? This coming Sunday, here’s your setup: “A pastor walks up to the pulpit…” What’s your punch line?

George P. Wood is executive editor of Influence magazine

Ana Pierce is online editor of Influence magazine.




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STEPPING UP TO SERVE How four leaders are stepping up and serving the next generation.


s the hot, summer sun begins to set earlier and leaves are changing colors, a large community is focused on a singular event: back to school. While principals and teachers are often recognized for their impact on students’ lives, we must acknowledge the unique role the Church plays in influencing the development of our youth. Personally, I grew up in a loving, Christian family and had great teachers in school, and yet some of the people who were most instrumental in my younger years were those from our church. They were laypeople and Sunday School teachers who had taken the time to really get to know me and pray for me. By the hour, I spent much more time in a classroom than I did with these spiritual mentors, but to me, there’s no question who made a more


formative impact on my life. I’ll always look back on those years and remember the unique role each individual played in my life, from encouraging my interest in reading to reminding me to be a Christlike example to my peers. If you’ve raised children of your own or worked with youth in any capacity, you’ve likely heard the phrase, “It takes a village to raise a child.” We must not neglect our responsibility here. If we’re part of the village, we should be investing in its children and youth. Beginning on page 59, you’ll see four leaders who are each in their own capacity pouring into the next generation. Trulah Mikaela Maloy has taken the opportunity to influence her peers by starting a Christian club in her public high school, boldly spreading the name of Jesus. Kara Powell, executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute, shares some of her research on the next generation to encourage the Church. Scott Berkey is the youth pastor at Victory Worship Center in Tucson, Arizona, and he has been able to develop a relationship with the local school to further his fellowship’s outreach. Finally, John Porter is a layperson who has spent 32 years volunteering as a Teen Bible Quiz coach. His story should encourage you that one doesn’t have to be appointed into this particular type of leadership; one must simply step up to serve. Through these stories, we hope you are encouraged that the next generation is looking for leadership, and you have the potential to make an enduring difference.

Ana Pierce is the online editor of Influence magazine.

COMMANDING THE AIRWAVES Trulah Mikaela Maloy stepped out in faith to begin Rebel Radio, an artsbased outreach in her high school A Q&A WITH TRULAH MIKAELA MALOY

Influence: Through the years, you’ve been very involved in Fine Arts. What have you discovered about yourself and God through this experience? Trulah Mikaela Maloy: I participated in Fine Arts from sixth through eleventh grade, and it has helped develop me in many ways. From meeting people with like interests and helping me grow in my gifts to understanding more about why we have these gifts and how we can use them for God, Fine Arts has benefitted me greatly in my life and ministry. At nationals my sixth grade year, the call God has on my life to use my talents to further His kingdom was revealed to me through Robert Madu’s message. Since then, I have been doing all I can to fulfill it. Tell us a little about Rebel Radio. How did you begin this group, and what are your goals for it? Rebel Radio is an event put on once a quarter at my public high school by a club of Christians using the arts to communicate the gospel. The outreach happens before school and includes three performances and a guest speaker. About a year and a half ago, we had a month-long series at my youth group called Rebel Radio. The series was about speaking truth to our generation and “commanding the airwaves,” pointing back to God. It was during this series that I felt the call to start a club. I had no clue what to expect for our first event this past November, but we saw 140 students show up to the auditorium and eight people respond to the salvation call. God completely blew me away with His faithfulness. My goal has been that God would

use this club to minister to my school, and I hope that after I graduate, Rebel Radio will continue and see even more students in attendance and responses to salvation. How have you overcome challenges associated with sharing your faith in school? After feeling the call to start Rebel Radio, I kept telling myself, Oh, I’ll do it later. I knew it was going to take planning and a whole lot of faith, and I simply put it off. The summer after my junior year, I started putting together a team. I spoke with some fellow Christians in my school, and we started meeting the beginning of my senior year. I knew I didn’t want this to be a typical Christian club. God laid it on my heart to create an outreach using the arts to portray the gospel. God provided the team to do just that. How would you encourage other young leaders who feel challenged to expand their influence? Pray about whatever God has laid on your heart, and He will equip you with the people, confidence and other tools needed to do it. Be willing to do what He says, even though you cannot see the outcome. Have faith. It takes a whole lot of faith to step out, and it takes complete surrender and saying, “Lord, here I am; use me, and have Your way. Trulah Mikaela Maloy is a recent graduate of Concord High School in Concord, N.C. A singer-songwriter, she recently released her debut EP, Home, and plans to attend Visible Music College in Memphis, Tennessee this fall.



STAYING CONNECTED Kara Powell’s research on youth provides insight into the next generation’s needs. A Q&A WITH KARA POWELL


Influence: You’ve spent the past decade researching what helps young people develop a faith that “sticks.” What are a couple of the most important findings from that research that leaders need to know? Kara Powell: A handful of studies done in the last decade indicate that 40 to 50 percent of youth group graduates, including those from Assemblies of God congregations, drift from God and the church after high school. As a mom and a leader, I’m not satisfied with that, and I bet you aren’t either. So Fuller Youth Institute studied over 500 youth group graduates to try to figure out how churches and families could build long-term faith, or what we call “Sticky Faith.” One of our core Sticky Faith findings relates to the very nature of faith itself. Far too many young people view faith like a jacket — a jacket of external behaviors. Similar to what Dallas Willard called the “gospel of sin management,” youth group graduates end up believing that faith is a checklist of “do’s” and “don’ts” that doesn’t really change them internally. The good news is that Scripture offers a more robust gospel — one that is centered in God’s grace. As we experience God’s grace, we obey not to make God love us more or like us more, but because we are so full of gratitude.

We are inviting churches of all sizes to figure out how to help young people be embraced by, and feel part of, not just the youth ministry but also the entire congregation.

A second core finding is the power of intergenerational relationships. Of 13 different youth group variables, we examined, the one most correlated with Sticky Faith was intergenerational relationships and worship. So we are inviting churches of all sizes to figure out how to help young people be embraced by, and feel part of, not just the youth ministry but also the entire congregation. The response to Sticky Faith led your team to launch a whole new study of young people, this time focusing on the churches that engage them well. Tell us what prompted that study and what you actually researched. While Sticky Faith focused on individual young people, we realized that real change requires whole church systems to shift. So we spent the past 4 years studying churches that young people love — not just high school students, but also emerging adults up to age 29. This study involved over 250 congregations of all sizes and ethnicities from across the country, including AG churches. Key to the success of these churches that are growing young is their commitment to prioritize

young people. More than just rhetoric that young people are “our future,” these churches recognize that young people play a vital, load-bearing role in the present also. And as these congregations focus on young people, the entire church is filled with new energy and vitality. All generations benefit. We keep hearing that young people are leaving the church and Christianity in droves. Is it true? If so, what can be done about it? Yes and no. The reality is that no major church tradition in the U.S. is growing domestically — except for the Assemblies of God — and all traditions are aging. But the great news is that there are “bright spots,” churches that are reversing this trend. By studying these churches growing young, we identified six commitments of churches that really seem to make a difference with young people. Any church can become more effective with young people by implementing these commitments. That sounds like great news. Can you share one of those commitments with us? All too often we believe the myth that a church that reaches young people has a certain “hip factor.” The good news is that’s not what our research indicates. Instead, we found that “warm is the new cool.” The relational tone of churches is so important that we labeled one of our six core commitments as “warm community.” Churches of all sizes that foster warmth end up being magnets for young people. What’s one practical step a leader can take this week to help grow their church young? Talk to a young person! Set up a meeting over coffee to listen to their hopes, dreams and concerns about their life in general, as well as your church specifically. The more we spend time with young people, not only will we get a front row seat to the way Jesus is transforming them, but we are also transformed in the process. Kara Powell is executive director of the Fuller Youth Institute (FYI) and author of the upcoming title, Growing Young: Six Essential Strategies to Help Young People Discover and Love Your Church. You can find more information on



MEETING OFF-CAMPUS How Scott Berkey and staff at Victory Worship Center are engaging in their local school system. A Q&A WITH SCOTT BERKEY

Influence: Tell us a little about your outreach to the local elementary school. Scott Berkey: We are closely connected with our local elementary school, Laguna Elementary. A few years back, our congregation adopted Laguna. We had over 1,000 volunteers donate their time, and our church family contributed over $100,000 to the renovation and updating of the campus. This has opened incredible doors for us. We now have an intern on Laguna’s campus daily who serves in the classroom as a teacher’s aid, and our children’s ministry staff volunteer in various classrooms on a weekly basis. This past winter, we provided a soccer league for the school. We saw over 100 kids (25 percent of the school) come out to soccer practice on Tuesdays and Thursdays. What opportunities have you had to disciple students you might not otherwise encounter? Several of the students attending Laguna are now active participants in our weekend services. We even have a few kids participating in Junior Bible Quiz. We have had opportunities to pray with teachers about things going on in their personal lives. The teacher who I volunteer with each week refers to me as Pastor Scott when she is talking to the students about me. Share a story of someone who has been particularly affected by this ministry. Many kids have been impacted by our presence on the campus. For Christmas this year, we were able to purchase sweatshirts, socks and bags for all the kids of Laguna. It was fun because when we delivered them, students and teachers were excited and others were in tears as they realized that Victory Worship Center really


did care about them. About two weeks later, the district superintendent stopped by our church offices after he had visited Laguna. With tears streaming down his face, he thanked us and told us how encouraging it was for him and the staff at Laguna to know that we as a church cared for the boys and girls of our community enough to make sure they had warm clothes to wear during the winter months. What other outreach opportunities have you used to reach the community? At Victory we want to be known in our city as a church that cares about families. This year, rather than doing a traditional Easter egg hunt at our church, we took our egg hunt to a local mall. We had thousands of people literally circling the entire mall in a line. It gave us opportunity to serve families who may never step foot on our campus. It also gave us the chance to connect with the management staff of the mall. It was a ton of fun. The best part was the property manager of the mall brought her family to church the next weekend. Scott Berkey serves as children’s pastor at Victory Worship Center in Tucson, Arizona.

PUT ME IN, COACH! John Porter’s 32 years of volunteering as a Teen Bible Quiz coach is paying big dividends. A Q&A WITH JOHN PORTER

Influence: Since 2003, you’ve been a vice president with IBM. It would be easy for someone like you to be “too busy” to volunteer in your local church. Share a little about what you do at James River Church and why you do it. John Porter: My wife, Beverly, and I lead the Teen Bible Quiz ministry at James River Church. Years ago, right after graduating from Evangel University, Beverly and I attended a service at Stone Church in Palos Heights, Illinois. We were a young married couple, and the pastor called out the need for someone to lead TBQ. I had only quizzed two years in high school, but it had such an impact on my life. Beverly and I had no idea what we were getting into, but it was clear what God wanted us to do, so we volunteered. That was in 1984, and we’ve been a part of this ministry ever since. When God calls you to do something, do it! He has a great plan for each of us. When we submit to His will, everything works out according to His purpose. What have you learned through your commitment to volunteerism at James River and at other churches where you’ve served? Beverly and I are blessed beyond measure by being a part of this ministry at James River and elsewhere, probably more than any student who participated in Bible Quiz. We have learned through the years that God blesses those who bless others — that’s not the reason we serve, but it is part of God’s plan. There is real joy when a student comes back from college and explains how the discipline of memorizing Scripture has set him or her on a firm foundation for life. Share a story of a teen you’ve discipled through Teen Bible Quiz. How is he reinvesting his life in others? I was at a Bible Quiz tournament in Elkhart, Indiana, years ago. One of my former quizzers, Rich Fenton, came

up to me at the tournament and said, “Do you realize there are three generations of coaches at this tournament?” He explained that Daryl Swanson, Rich and me were all at the tournament coaching different teams. Rich was in Atlanta, Georgia, as a part-time youth pastor and a Bible Quiz coach. What Daryl Swanson (from Stone Church) started with me back in the 70s is still going strong today. That’s the difference one person can make. Daryl planted the seed in me and I in turn in Rich — that’s disciplemaking at its best. Share one nugget of wisdom with others who may be considering volunteering with youth? The Scripture is clear; we should give back and spread the gospel message. No one is exempt from sharing His Word and discipling others. Volunteering in ministry, whether it’s greeting at church, mentoring a student, coaching a Bible Quiz team or leading a life group, is God plan for each of us. What some people don’t realize about volunteerism is it’s not what you are sacrificing by being involved; it’s what you get back when you commit your time and resources to others. When you do, you will be blessed beyond belief. Serving is what it’s all about! John Porter is vice president of IBM Global Technology Services, South Africa.



hearts of girls


Welcome to the My Healthy Church store section. We curate an exclusive collection of Spirit-empowered resources, simplifying the search for your next book, album or curriculum. Check out what’s inside and see the difference My Healthy Church can make. 

Adult Teacher Volume 4, 20162017 — Book and CD-ROM Kit

La enseñanza desafiante (Teaching for Decision)

Get a year’s worth of curriculum in one book! Adult Teacher, Vol. 4 features 52 adult lessons that emphasize Spirit-filled living. Each lesson provides commentary on that week’s Scriptures along with real-life applications. Includes a companion CDROM with PDF and Word files to let you customize lessons and adjust print size. The book and the CD are available individually and make great tools for group or solo study.

Everything a teacher does can influence students to make a decision for Christ. In Teaching for Decision, Richard Dresselhaus explores Sunday School teachers’ place at the center of the church’s evangelism and discipleship efforts, showing the importance of teaching with students’ in mind. This study is vital to every pastor, teacher, and volunteer who want to bring people to Christ and teach them to serve Him.

Paul Thangiah examines the background of each of Jacob’s sons, the significance of each name and personal situation, and what the Bible says about his descendants. Then, he shows how each of the Twelve Tribes saw the fulfillment of prophetic blessings. Discover how God’s promises to His people extend beyond Israel to include all who believe in Christ—and how you can still enjoy these prophetic blessings today.

Gospel Publishing House Spanish: La enseñanza desafiante ISBN: 9781607314349 $12.99

Chosen Books ISBN: 9780800798079 $14.99

Gospel Publishing House Adult Teacher Volume 4, 2016-2017 — Book and CD-ROM Kit Item #021525 $29.49 Adult Teacher Volume 4, 2016-2017 Item #021526 $21.99 Adult Teacher Volume 4, 2016-2017 CD-ROM Item #281612; $10.49

English: Teaching for Decision Coming Soon

Receiving the 12 Blessings of Israel

The Spirit Himself This timeless book provides solid, biblical truth about all facets of the Holy Spirit—from miracles, healing, prophecy, and faith, to tongues and discerning of tongues. In addition to keeping a copy on your shelf for sermon reference, it’s ideal for Sunday School teachers and small group leaders. The Spirit Himself makes referencing a lesson subject or Scripture text easy with its complete subject and text index. Gospel Publishing House ISBN: 9780882435909 $7.99

Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon Basic Season Starter Kit Launch a vibrant discipleship ministry with this Teen Bible Quiz starter kit. Get students on a path to develop a hunger for the Word of God as they memorize Scripture and test their recall skills in tournaments. Winners advance to regionals and ultimately, the highest-ranking teams advance to national competition for a chance to win scholarships and other quizzing awards. Includes 5 Scripture Portion booklets and Basic 5 CDROM. For more information, visit

Junior Bible Quiz Starter Kit Mix equal parts learning and fun and what do you get? Junior Bible Quiz! This starter pack has everything you’ll need to launch a JBQ ministry in your church, including Bible Fact-Pak Question Cards, JBQ Study Guide, Games and Activities Book, JBQ Manual and information cards. You’ll be amazed at the way JBQ can engage the kids in your church in the Bible through fun and challenging quizzing, either on a team or individually. For more information, visit Gospel Publishing House Item #020282 $49.99

Gospel Publishing House Item #080560 $99.00





Inside Out

When God’s extravagant love registers in your heart, mind and ministry, it inspires you to unleash extravagant devotion toward Him. In return, God will lavish His extravagant love back on you. Author Bryan Jarrett shares how this “cycle of extravagance” transformed his own experience of God and how it can breathe new life into people in your church—and beyond. Great for both small groups and individual use.

Rich and Robyn Wilkerson share the simple yet revolutionary idea that anyone, anywhere can be a leader as long as they’re willing to serve. Explore the 15 traits essential to leading and find out how you can develop and improve them. There’s no set profile or pedigree for a leader and throughout the pages of Inside Out, you’ll be amazed to discover how any leader can become an extraordinary one.

Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680671780 $14.99 Spanish: Influence Resources Extravagante ISBN: 9781937830649 $14.99

Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670363 $14.99

Speed the Light Day The concept is simple: we give so others can speed the light of the gospel to a world in darkness. Resources like these can help encourage the students in your church to accept the great responsibility to raise funds for missions either on Speed the Light Day, Sunday, October 16, or on any day your church emphasizes STL. To see more Speed The Light resources, visit

Never Alone Statue

I Love Sunday School

The Human Right Journey

A symbol of Jesus’ presence, the Never Alone Statue is the perfect reminder for wives, parents and other family of deployed military. Featuring a beautiful and rustic bronze finish, this figurine also includes a keepsake card for a personal note to the person or families receiving the gift, and a gift box for wrapping.

With the “I Love Sunday School” resources, your entire church has the chance to show just how much Sunday School means to them. Resources from this line make great gifts or prizes for your Sunday School classes, or deck out your entire Sunday School staff and volunteers to show enthusiasm for Sunday morning discipleship.

Packed with gospelsharing concepts that are accessible to everyone, The Human Right Journey is perfect for both students hungry to share their faith as well as those who’ve never thought about what they believe. Helping students share their faith won’t be easy, but it will be life changing. Are you ready for the journey? Leader guide and DVD featuring 4, 1-hour sessions included.

Gospel Publishing House Item #086654 $39.99 On Sale $9.97

For more information on these products and to see more I Love Sunday School resources, visit ILoveSundaySchool


Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680671568 $27.99



MAKE IT COUNT Discipleship Pathway: 8 Lessons to Help Followers of Jesus Finish the Race

Every Influence magazine will contain an eightweek study designed for leadership teams. Our hope is that by wrestling with the material together, you will grow closer as a unit as you strive to lead more like Christ.




Week after week, you invest time and energy into making every Sunday count. But you also have to think about staff meetings and board meetings, as well as meetings with key volunteers and other church leaders. Juggling so many meetings can seem overwhelming, especially as you think about how to develop the leaders around you. That’s where the Make It Count section of Influence can help you. We asked leaders from around the country to share their meeting insights and provide great leadership development content you can use with your ministry leaders and key volunteers. This way you can make every meeting count. This issue contains eight easy-to-use lessons by John Van Pay, founding pastor of Gateway Fellowship Church in San Antonio, Texas, ( and founder of Finishers, a church planting network ( These lessons are easily adaptable for individuals or group discussion, allowing for personal application and reflection among ministry leaders. Studying and growing together is key to building strong and healthy relationships with your team members. Regardless of your church’s size, Make It Count can help you more effectively lead your team and your congregation.

Discipleship Pathway: 8 Lessons to Help Followers of Jesus Finish the Race

Our spiritual journey is a race with a finish line. It is a marathon, not a sprint. There is no way you could finish a long-distance endurance race without the right preparation, nutrition and training. You must commit to the journey, count the cost and refuse to quit. Jesus has commissioned you to help your friends finish the race. The command to “go and make disciples” is not just for you, but for every follower of Jesus in your church. The course to which God calls you involves helping friends help others grow in their relationship with Christ. Every minister says discipleship is important, but many are not satisfied with the results. Discipleship is messy, but it is the heartbeat of Jesus, and it should be the heartbeat of His church. What if every person in your church followed Jesus’ model of making disciples? Imagine the benefits of the majority of your church family taking spiritual responsibility for the lives of others. Imagine many members of the Body sharing pastoral care, rather than leaving the responsibility solely to the pastor or pastoral team. It is vital that leaders major on the majors and minor on the minors. When we major on the minors that Jesus wasn’t concerned about, we begin to lose focus, time, energy and resources for what’s most important: making disciples. A healthy discipleship culture will result in a thriving, growing church family with no limits. So what will it take to reach the finish line? The first two lessons are for helping your leadership team discover the theology and good practices of discipleship. The last six lessons address the actual discipleship pathway. These are not sequential, but each represents an important step toward the finish line.



LESSON 1 The Model What Is the Best Way for Discipleship to Happen? Read: Matthew 17:1–5 Discussing the Text 1. What was the audible statement from God on the mountain? 2. If Jesus is divine in nature and in His teachings, is He divine in methods? 3. What are the commands and methods of Jesus regarding discipleship? Identifying the Principle When Jesus told His disciples to go and make disciples, they obeyed, following the method Jesus modeled for them. The word “discipleship” is replaced in the New Testament beyond the Gospels and Acts as the Jewish concept moved into the Greco-Roman culture. However, Paul applied the transcultural methods of Jesus. It is concerning today that a western approach of content-driven, fill-in-the-blank learning is influencing the Church. Discipleship happens best in the context of relationship. For three years, Jesus poured His life into His disciples, building close, personal relationships with them. In his book, The Master Plan of Evangelism, author Robert Coleman says: “Having called His men, Jesus made a practice of being with them. This was the essence of His training program — just letting His disciples follow Him.” Imagine you are so consumed with the person of Jesus that you are obsessed with transferring the dependence of your friends from you and the church to Jesus himself. When it’s all about Jesus, your perspective on your devotional life changes. Your philosophy of ministry is more simple, relational and reproducible. Altering your current methods to the methods of Jesus is the first step in your discipleship pathway. Applying the Principle 1. How do the methods of Jesus compare and contrast with the methods of our church? 2. What ministries, programs or events that you major on contribute to the complexity instead of the simplicity of Jesus’ methods of discipleship? 3. What needs to change for your methods to look more like Christ’s?



LESSON 2 Mission, Vision and Strategy


How Will You Fulfill the Mission of Making Disciples? Read: Matthew 28:16–20; Hebrews 12:1–3 Discussing the Text 1. According to the Great Commission, what is the Church’s mission, and what are the necessary elements for fulfilling it? 2. How does “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” apply to spiritual growth? 3. How does “baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” apply to relationships? 4. How does “go and make disciples” apply to interaction with others? 5. What vision does the writer of Hebrews use as a metaphor for the spiritual journey? Identifying the Principle The mandate to “go and make disciples” is the same mission for every Christ follower and church. Expressing this mission in seven words or less — for instance, “helping friends become devoted followers of Jesus” — makes it easy to remember. Running across the finish line is a goal every runner envisions while training and competing. The vision is a mental picture that gives color to the mission. Jesus’ strategy involves small groups, serving, repentance, water baptism, prayer, Holy Spirit baptism, Communion, generosity, training, missions and sending out disciple makers, ministers, missionaries and church planters. These how to’s for fulfilling the mission and vision will help new believers run from wherever they are to the finish line of Christian maturity. Without a mission, vision and strategy, people will lose heart, become confused and create their own agendas. New believers simply need running shoes, training and a clear vision of how amazing the finish line is. Applying the Principle 1. What is the easiest way to express and remember the mission, vision and strategy of our church in terms so simple you can write them down on a napkin? 2. Are the mission, vision and strategy aligned with all ministries in the church, including kids through senior adults? 3. What needs to happen so leadership and our church family will be passionate and laser-focused to fulfill the mission?



LESSON 3 Be Invited What Is the First Invitation to Following Jesus? Read: Matthew 4:18–22; John 1:35–42 Discussing the Text 1. How did Jesus invite people to start a spiritual journey? 2. What did Jesus imply with His words, “Follow me” and “Come … and you will see”? Identifying the Principle When a few fishermen inquired about Jesus, they invited others to come and see. The invitation for most in your community is to a weekend worship service. Many will also check out your church website, Facebook page or online service. You have one shot at making a first impression that conveys Jesus’ character and message. The facility serves the mission and people. It’s important for it to communicate the hospitable, excellent and loving nature of Jesus. Jesus said people will know you are His followers by your love for one another and your unity. People will discover how much you care about them. The love and laughter in the lobby and singing with passionate, energetic voices will go a long way toward preparing someone for a heartfelt, Spirit-inspired, Christ-centered message. You get what you celebrate. Before starting Gateway Fellowship Church, I had the opportunity to ask Pastor Rick Warren for his greatest advice for a church planter. He said, “Celebrate what’s most important: the first salvation, the first water baptism, the first volunteer, the first baby dedication and even the first diaper!” Celebrating people and how God is at work during the week creates a life-giving culture that reinforces your mission, vision and strategy. Applying the Principle 1. What is one change that will improve our website and online service? 2. What three improvements will make guests feel more at home when they arrive at our facility? 3. What is one thing we can celebrate that reinforces what is most important to our mission, vision and strategy? 4. What is one way to improve our worship and teaching so they are more engaging, passionate, Christ-centered and relevant?



LESSON 4 Belong to a Small Group


How Are Authentic Relationships Being Formed? Read: Acts 2:41–47 Discussing the Text 1. What were the two places the Early Church gathered for worship and encouragement? 2. On what things did the Early Church major? 3. What was the attitude of Jesus’ followers? Identifying the Principle Jesus belonged to a small group. It is difficult to argue His method for spiritual growth outside the context of relationship. It was more than a worship service or class. Imagine the fellowship Jesus had with His disciples as they shared meals, traveled and served together in ministry. It’s a mistake to view small group discipleship as just another ministry. Leadership must model this discipleship method and not allow other programs and events to choke it out. A small group is where authentic relationships are born and spiritual growth happens. Inward focus occurs with relationships. Love and laughter plow hearts around the dinner table and campfires. Common unselfishness and constant forgiveness are essential ingredients. Vulnerable, life-altering sharing and confession happen when trust becomes the glue. Small group leaders model pastoral care by meeting needs through hospital visitation, moving, milestone celebrations, one-on-one discipleship and funerals. Of course, relationship alone isn’t enough. Without Christ-centered outreach, a small group can become a secluded “holy huddle.” Similarly, an upward focus without Christian fellowship can lead to imbalance. Spiritual growth happens when friends study the Bible and pray together, following Jesus and bringing others along for the journey. Outward focus occurs with responsibility. Praying for the lost, the poor, orphans, widows and new neighbors will lead to a healthy multiplication of small groups through evangelism and discipleship. This becomes the expression of service to those in need outside the four walls of the church. But an outward focus without Jesus is just another social justice cause. All three focal points are necessary for healthy growth. Applying the Principle 1. How can we create a greater sense of community through relationships or small groups in our church? 2. What are the metrics for evaluating the spiritual health of inward, upward and outward expressions?



LESSON 5 Believe and Be Baptized What Is the Outward Model and Command of Jesus for Inward Salvation? Read: Acts 8:26–40 Discussing the Text 1. If Jesus never sinned, why did He get baptized in water? 2. What happened as a result of new believers being baptized? 3. When did the Ethiopian eunuch get baptized after salvation? Identifying the Principle Jesus commanded His followers to make disciples for Him and baptize them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit (Matthew 28:19). Proclaiming the gospel and inviting people to repent and surrender their lives to Jesus should be a focal point in worship services and small groups. Nothing energizes people to continue their spiritual journey like the life change only Jesus can provide. It is the “why” to the mission, vision and strategy. Salvation is the starting line of the race. Water baptism should be one of the most celebrated events in the life of the church. It is essential to help new believers understand that water baptism is like the wedding ring of Christianity and the next step in their spiritual journey. Water baptism is an opportunity to illustrate life change through live testimony or video stories accompanying baptism. Empowering small group leaders and parents, the primary spiritual influencers on their children, to baptize reinforces a relational and spiritual bond. It is important for new believers to see their salvation and water baptism near the beginning of the race. As well, it is important for small group leaders to continue to take spiritual responsibility and help their friends toward the finish line. Applying the Principle 1. How do you invite people to follow Jesus? 2. When friends surrender their lives to Jesus, what follow-up steps direct them toward water baptism and discipleship? 3. How can we make water baptism a more meaningful part of our church’s life and provide new believers an opportunity to share their testimonies with friends and family members?



LESSON 6 Become a Volunteer


How Do Christians Become Unselfish? Read: John 13:1–17 Discussing the Text 1. Why was it important for Jesus to wash His disciples’ feet? 2. What other examples from Jesus’ life demonstrate His servant-hearted character? Identifying the Principle Mark 10:45 says Jesus didn’t come “to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many.” The nature of Jesus’ followers should reflect the nature of Jesus. It starts with leadership. Leaders who don’t model selfless behavior can’t promote a selfless culture. What God does in you, He does through you. When a follower of Jesus fails to serve both God and others, it hinders spiritual growth. Thousands of seats are in a sports arena, representing thousands of people in desperate need of exercise compared to the few on the field in desperate need of rest. It must not be like that in the body of Christ. A church is most healthy when everyone serves and gives. Consider these four essentials to a healthy volunteer culture: 1. Have a healthy infrastructure and leadership. 2. Teach on servanthood from the Bible. This keeps the focus on Jesus and fuels the “why.” 3. Make relational and corporate requests for volunteers. 4. Celebrate and affirm. Thank You notes, public honor and gathering all volunteers together once a year to encourage and cast vision will go a long way toward promoting longevity. Applying the Principle 1. What percentage of the adults in our church family consistently volunteer? 2. How can we improve the church’s infrastructure so it will support more volunteers? 3. What is one way we can celebrate faithful volunteers?



LESSON 7 Be Trained How Will You Help Your Friends Train to Help Others Finish the Race? Read: Ephesians 4:1–16 Discussing the Text 1. What did Jesus give the Church? 2. According to this passage, what is the primary ministry description of ministers? 3. What are the benefits of equipping others? Identifying the Principle Marathons require endurance training. You can’t just toe the line and expect to finish without considering the cost. Taking spiritual responsibility for others works the same way. It takes more time to prepare properly, but it is worth it. Jesus spent three years training His disciples before empowering and releasing them with the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul trained daily at Ephesus in the lecture hall of Tyrannus because he knew the Kingdom impact training others could make. Ministers who fail to recognize the importance of training others risk stunting church growth. Churches that fail to grasp this will burn out their ministers. God is calling you to train others for discipleship and ministry — not just anybody, but those who are F.A.T. (faithful, available and teachable). Spirit-filled followers of Jesus who are generous, living with integrity, faithfully serving and engaging with a small group are ready for training. These basic elements come first because training must be caught before it is taught. Training involves a good understanding of fundamentals, discipleship, theology, leadership and ministry. Apprenticeship and blocks of time are required for faithful, long-term and fruitful ministry. Applying the Principle 1. How were you effectively trained for ministry? 2. What is the training system in your church for equipping believers for ministry? 3. How can you communicate to your church family the importance of all believers receiving discipleship training and making disciples?



LESSON 8 Be Sent


How Do You Release Leaders for Ministry? Read: Matthew 28:18–20; Luke 10:1–12; 19:10; John 20:18; 2 Timothy 2:2 Discussing the Text 1. What was Jesus’ mission? 2. What was Jesus’ reason for sending out His followers? 3. How many spiritual generations are represented in 2 Timothy 2:2, and how can this serve as a model for today’s Church? Identifying the Principle: The race to which Christ calls followers is not solitary; it ultimately involves discipleship. It doesn’t stop until all nations have heard the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus. The empowerment of the Holy Spirit leads to an outward focus, spurred on by a love for Jesus and a desire to see life change in others. When a church embraces and refuses to give up on a Christlike model of discipleship, the long-term fruit will be a culture of multiplication in small groups and new churches. The lost in your community will have an opportunity to know who Jesus is. Jesus is coming back, and we must work while it is day. The Church is the body of Christ. We must create opportunities for Jesus to send out more small group leaders, ministers, missionaries and church planting teams. Imagine the possibilities if every person in your church made disciples — and every church planted churches. Applying the Principle 1. What would it take to cultivate a disciple-making and church multiplication culture where you lead? 2. How can you celebrate the sending out of trained ministers and leaders?



Tying the Knot: Is Marriage an Outdated Institution? 80

As more couples tend to cohabit and marry later in life, some might fear that marriage is becoming a thing of the past. That’s simply not true. According to Relationships in America, only 10 percent of Americans believe marriage is an outdated institution. While it is true that marriage rates are in decline, divorce rates are also falling, which could mean young Americans are taking marriage more seriously. The vast majority of Americans do not approve of marital affairs — only eight percent say it’s okay. Statistics like these should encourage leaders. While the cultural landscape has changed, there is still great hope for the institution of marriage.

Do you really know what your church’s tithe and offering supports?

As the largest budget expense on average, your church mortgage interest has a bigger impact than you may know. Many lenders financially support causes that conflict with Christian values. Does your church’s choice of lending partner align with your core values?

Know where your money goes. To learn more visit

Influence Issue 07  

Aug/Sept 2016

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