BRYAN JARRETT | THE PREACHER GIRLS | RYAN LEAK
Earl Creps on
How Labels Hurt the Church (and what we can do about it)
The Emotionally Healthy Leader 9 Roadblocks to Productivity in Your Organization
ISSUE _ 03 / DECEMBER _ JANUARY 2015
Debunking the Debunkers at Christmas
If You Ask Me Challenges and Opportunities for the New Year
Get Set The Church’s Role in Relationships A Q&A with Ryan Leak
Like a Leader • Live: Steps to unlocking the potential in others through peer mentoring • Think: Three relationships that keep first-time guests attending your church • Read: Books worth highlighting, for you and your team • Listen: Enhancing your listening experience with podcasts and more • Tech: Apps and tech that add to your life
20 Playbook • Build: Building a team that stays together • Know: Debunking the debunkers at Christmas • Invest: Cash and how it can propel you forward in two powerful ways
30 Unsigned Before You Go: Parting Ways in Ministry
32 Is There Room for Someone Like Me? Earl Creps discusses how to prepare your ministry to reach post-Christian outsiders
40 The Emotionally Healthy Leader
Peter Scazzero on how transforming your inner life will deeply transform your church, team and the world.
48 9 Roadblocks to Productivity in Your Organization Samuel Chand identifies nine roadblocks to productivity in your organization, and strategies to overcome them.
56 Multiplier — The Teaching Church • Jumpstarting for Impact • Strength in Numbers • Empowering Women Through Community • A Big Heart for Small Towns
70 Make It Count 8 Characteristics of Authentic Community
80 The Final Note Are Religious People Happier?
THE SHAPE OF LEADERSHIP
INFLUENCE MAGAZINE 1445 N. Boonville Avenue Springfield, MO 65802-1894 Influence magazine is published by Influence Resources. Editor-in-Chief: George O. Wood Executive Director: Chris Railey Executive Editor: George Paul Wood Managing Editor: Rick Knoth Director of Strategic Relations: Justin Lathrop New Media Assistant: Ron Kopczick CONTRIBUTORS: Korista Lewis-Beaty, Scott Bruegman, Kathy Cannon, Samuel R. Chand, Earl Creps, Robert C. Crosby, Kyle Dana, Dan Hunter, Bryan Jarrett, Justin Lathrop, Ryan Leak, Jennifer McAfee, Leila Ojala, Tim Parsons, Chris Railey, Rachel Ross, Peter Scazzero, Chris Sonksen, Wilfredo De Jesús, George Paul Wood SPECIAL THANKS: Alton Garrison, James Bradford, Douglas Clay, Gregory Mundis, Zollie Smith, Steve Blount, Gary Rhoades, Tim Strathdee EDITORIAL: For info or queries, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. ADVERTISING: Display rates available upon request. Contact email@example.com. 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.
SUBSCRIPTIONS: To subscribe, go to influencemagazine.com or call 1.855.642.2011. Individual one-year subscriptions are $15. Bulk one-year subscriptions are $10 per subscriptions, for a minimum of six or more. For additional subscription rates, contact subscribe@ influencemagazine.com. Please send all other feedback, requests and questions to feedback@influencemagazine. com. All rights reserved. Copyrighted material reprinted with permission. All Scripture references used are from the New International Version (NIV), unless otherwise noted. Influence magazine (Issue #03 December 2015/January 2016) is published six times a year, in December, February, April, June, August and October for $15 per year by Influence Resources (1445 N. Boonville Avenue, Springfield, MO 65802-1894). Periodicals postage paid at Springfield, MO. POSTMASTER: Send address changes to Influence magazine: 1445 N. Boonville Avenue Springfield, MO 65802-1894 Website: influencemagazine.com Twitter: @theinfluencemag Facebook: facebook.com/theinfluencemag Instagram: @theinfluencemag
IF YOU ASK ME
CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES FOR THE NEW YEAR
love the New Year. The calendar turns, and I inevitably feel a renewed sense of optimism, excitement for new opportunity and readiness for a clean slate and a fresh start. This is a great time to evaluate progress and set new goals. No doubt people will flood their local fitness centers, hoping to get in shape. Families will return to church, eager to make positive spiritual changes. And leaders will create new strategies, believing this will be the year their organization goes to the next level. The question is, who will make it to February with their goals still intact? In this issue of Influence, you will find articles to help you evaluate your effectiveness in several key ministry areas and plan for future growth as a team, church and leader. To help you capitalize on a new season of growth in your church, the “Think Like a Leader” article by Tim Parsons (page 13) will show you how to keep first-time guests attending your church. The “Playbook: Build” article by Scott Bruegman (page 20) provides tips on creating staff culture and growing a well-functioning team. For your personal growth as a leader, Peter Scazzero, author of The Emotionally Healthy Leader (Zondervan, 2015), observes in his feature article (page 40) that
when leaders devote themselves to reaching the world for Christ while ignoring their own emotional and spiritual health, their leadership is shortsighted at best. He provides suggestions for leading from an emotionally healthy place. Author and leadership coach Samuel R. Chand identifies nine roadblocks to organizational productivity and strategies for overcoming them (page 48). In our cover story “Is There Room for Someone Like Me?” (page 32), Earl Creps discusses spiritual leadership in a culture that is resistant to faith. He highlights some of the barriers in a person’s path toward faith in Jesus and how leaders can remove them through a credible, loving and substantive approach to ministry. In the “Make It Count” section (page 70), intended for team study, Robert C. Crosby provides eight ready-to-use leadership lessons on the characteristics of authentic community. You’ll find these and other great articles in this issue of Influence magazine. I trust this issue will be a valuable resource to you as you prepare to overcome the challenges and seize the new opportunities this year will bring. I’m believing with you for growth in every area of your life and ministry — and wishing you a happy New Year from your friends at Influence.
Chris Railey is the executive director of Influence and the senior director of leadership and church development ministries for the Assemblies of God, U.S.A.
4 Questions with Ryan Leak
THE CHURCH’S ROLE IN RELATIONSHIPS
One minister’s wisdom on singleness, relationships and marriage yan Leak, a graduate of North Central University in Minneapolis, is the young adult director at Covenant Church in Dallas, Texas. He speaks at schools and churches nationwide about healthy dating relationships and marriage preparation. In what would become a viral video sensation with more than one million views, Ryan documented the day he fulfilled his girlfriend’s dream to become engaged and married on the same day. The surprise wedding is detailed in Ryan and Amanda’s book, The One: An Amazing Love Story Starts With You (WaterBrook Press, 2015).
Influence: What is the Church’s role in promoting healthy marriages? Ryan Leak: It comes down to a value system — what do we value as a church? How a church directs its resources speaks more about what it values as an organization than anything else. There is a church here in Dallas that has six fulltime marriage pastors. This church believes the toughest thing people will go through in the Dallas metroplex area is marriage, so they are committed to making sure marriages win. I believe this is the reason it’s one of the fastest growing churches in Dallas. They attribute their growth to their marriage class onWednesday night. Pastors should sit down with their ministry teams to discuss to what degree they are valuing marriage in their church and community. A church builds healthy marriages by being committed to making marriages win. How can the Church paint a more positive picture of singleness? This is a very generic statement, but in the Church it seems we trust the married person more than the
single person, because it’s assumed the single person is more likely to commit sexual sin. Somehow we need to change this mindset. We can change the picture by celebrating the single people in our churches who are doing amazing things for God. Celebrate the single people in your children’s ministry who are serving and using their time to glorify God. We also need to do a better job of celebrating singles in our communities. What can Christian leaders do to counter unbiblical messages on love and marriage? Single adults and young adults tend to take their cues on love and marriage from pop culture because the Church isn’t talking much about it. Churches talk more about marriage than dating, so singles look to magazines, blogs and Instagram. I’ve looked at some of the nation’s most prominent churches, and it’s been two or three years since they did a relationship series. And when they do, there is pressure to talk more about marriage than dating. The Church needs to be talking more about relationships because there are now more single adults in America than married people. It’s an interesting statistic. Should the Church encourage couples to marry, celebrate singleness or strike a balance between the two? Are we pointing people to God’s purpose for their life, or are we pointing people to their dreams for their life? Let’s just say for a moment that you never get married. How do you want to spend the rest of your life? If we answer that question honestly, we will start living with a grander sense of purpose. We need to help singles become consumed with God’s purpose because they will not find their life until they lose it.
THE POWER OF PEER MENTORING Steps to unlocking the potential in others DAN HUNTER
hether I’m dining at a restaurant, strolling through a mall or stuck in traffic, I love watching people. There’s a lot to learn from watching. Peer mentoring is all about leading and living in a way that says, “Watch me.” Most people think of their own good, not the good of others. But peer mentoring seeks to benefit other people. It’s an intentional mentoring relationship with someone who is new to an experience you have lived. It might be someone a few steps behind you in leadership or someone brand new to something in which you have longevity. My mentors have been, and continue to be, among the most beneficial blessings in my life and ministry. And having the privilege of mentoring others is just as beneficial in every way. Find someone who is watching your life, and become a mentor. You probably have more to share than you realize. Consider what you’ve learned over the years in each of these areas. 1. Excitement. What dreams and passions have motivated you? 2. Expectations. How has growing
in God shaped your outlook and desires? 3. Experiences. What have you walked through and seen? 4. Education. What have you learned, and how did you learn it? 5. Establishments. What have you created or changed? 6. Emotions. What have you felt throughout the journey? 7. Effects. What has happened to your family, church and community? Whether you mentor through video chats, scheduled calls, personal meetings or some other mode of communication, allow your mentee to see you up close — your mistakes, successes, failures, lessons, insecurities, challenges and journey. They will grow. You will grow. And the Kingdom will grow. Proverbs 27:17 says, “As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.” Whom can you sharpen through your life and leadership?
Dan Hunter is the lead pastor of Living Church, a growing church plant in the Dallas/Fort Worth area.
3 RELATIONSHIPS THAT KEEP FIRST-TIME GUESTS ATTENDING YOUR CHURCH TIM PARSONS
hen my wife, Consuela, and I started attending our church, we were just an anonymous interracial couple with an infant. We had tried other churches, but we couldn’t seem to find a good fit. This church was our last attempt before we settled. Then something significant happened. We connected, in a meaningful way, with three kinds of people. I believe these connections are essential to retaining people who are searching for a church home. 1. Another churchgoer. This person may fit into the same demographic as the first-time guest. Perhaps they sit in the same row, attend the same service or are in the same life stage. Such connections help the first-time guest find acceptance and friendship. My wife and I connected with another interracial couple parenting a baby. Six years later, we are still close friends. That friendship has helped us form other bonds in the church. 2. A non-pastoral leader. This could be a life group leader or another person who can answer questions about the church and serve as a guide. We connected with the head usher. As we came back week after week, he remembered us and talked with us. He introduced us to others, including his adult children, who are close to our age. He also helped us connect our son with the children’s ministry. 3. A pastor. People go to church for spiritual
direction. Connecting with a pastor increases the likelihood they will find answers to their questions, take steps forward in their faith and fully assimilate into the church family. On the day we visited the church, the senior pastor held a meet-and-greet after the service. He asked questions to get to know me better, prayed for me and finally invited me to meet him for lunch so we could talk further. A couple of months later, he personally invited me to join a leadership class he taught. Intentional efforts to connect new people with folks in your church who fit these three categories will exponentially increase the likelihood they’ll stick around. Of course, all three types of connections may not happen on the first visit. But the sooner they happen, the more likely visitors will be to fall in love with your church and continue attending. Tim Parsons is the executive pastor at First Assembly Community Ministries in Lafayette, Indiana. Tim is a gifted teacher, speaker and consultant. You can check out his leadership blog at timparsons.me.
ON YOUR LIST Devotionals that will encourage the people you care about to pursue a deeper relationship with Christ.
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FIRE BIBLE FOR KIDS DEVOTIONAL Connect children to the Holy Spirit all year long with 366 kid-friendly devotionals.
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THE KEY TO EVERYTHING Matt Keller (Thomas Nelson)
Teachability is the key to success. “Without teachability,” Matt Keller writes, “you and I will never reach our full potential or leave a mark on the world as we all desire to do.” The Key to Everything is a short, easy read. Don’t let those characteristics fool you, however. Keller’s outline of the roadblocks to, characteristics of and practices for developing teachability is spot-on. The book is applicable to pastors, ministry leaders and Christian laypeople working in secular environments.
BOOKS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING, FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM George Paul Wood
CENTER CHURCH Timothy Keller (Zondervan)
American culture is increasingly post-Christian. The urgent question Christian leaders must ask is how to minister the gospel in this new cultural environment. Timothy Keller outlines an answer to that question in Center Church, focusing on three words: gospel (theology), city (contextualization), and movement (ministry practices). The book is not a quick read, but if you’re willing to put in the time and effort, reading it will change the way you think about gospel ministry today.
YOUR CALL TO WORK AND MISSION Steve Lim, editor (AGTS)
“God calls us to work and mission,” writes Steve Lim. Christians cannot, therefore, segregate the “spiritual” part of their lives (mission) from the “secular” part. They carry their faith with them wherever they go, whatever they do. Your Call to Work and Mission is part of a new series from Assemblies of God Theological Seminary about “whole-life discipleship” (see discipleshipdynamics.com). The series will examine five dimensions of discipleship: spiritual formation, personal wholeness, healthy relationships, vocational clarity and economics and work.
BRING LIFE-GIVING CONTENT TO YOUR CHURCH WITH VITAL. Vital brings believers a Christ-centered perspective on news, faith and culture. Through print and digital media, Vital seeks to unite, edify and inspire the Church.
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Every Monday, Influence magazine publishes a 15- to 30-minute podcast on topics relevant to Christian leaders, whether they’re lead pastors or lead volunteers. Hosted by Justin Lathrop and George Paul Wood, the podcast features interviews with ministry practitioners and thought leaders such as Rich Wilkerson, Kent Ingle, Jodi Detrick, and Mark Hausfeld. Lathrop focuses on best ministry practices, while Wood focuses on theology and culture. Topics range from church planting and organizational management to religious freedom and Islam in America.
COFFEE WITH CHRIS http://www.christinecaine.com/content/podcasts
Coffee with Chris is a short podcast with Christine Caine of Equip and Empower Ministries in Australia. Caine is a wellknown Pentecostal pastor, speaker and author, as well as founder of the anti-trafficking movement A21. This weekly podcast is short (5–20 minutes), consists of both Caine’s audio blogs and interviews with global Christian leaders and focuses on practical ministry issues. Topics include collaboration, change, teamwork and leadership development, among many others.
TODAY’S CONVERSATION http://nae.net/todays-conversation-podcast/
Today’s Conversation is a monthly, 30-minute podcast by the National Association of Evangelicals. Its purpose is to “inspire and inform your evangelical voice on critical issues facing our churches, our nation and the world.” Hosted by NAE president Leith Anderson, interviews include Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam on “The Growing Class Gap Among American Young People” and MIT physicist Ian Hutchinson on “Being a Christian and a Scientist.”
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Apps and tech that add to your life 1
The next best thing to being there is experiencing something through live video, through someone elseâ€™s eyes. Churches and individuals can now embrace the latest in video streaming on their smart devices using Periscope. The Periscope app allows you to explore the world in real time, broadcast video from anywhere, browse live or recent broadcasts and follow user notifications. Live streaming of worship services is now commonplace in many churches. Periscope is the app of choice of smart device users wishing to live stream their churchâ€™s events. Churches are also using Periscope to actively engage church members and prospects in a variety of ways, such as: church announcements, daily devotions, behind the scenes access, mission trip updates, sermon preview/review and intercessory prayer. For more information, visit periscope.tv
A primary function of the church, according to Ephesians 4:11-13, is to train its members for works of service. However, many churches do not have a training strategy for lack of time, know-how or resource. With Ministry Grid, the job of training church volunteers â€” teachers, youth leaders, board members, ushers and other leaders is now made easier. Ministry Grid is a customizable platform that makes training church leaders simplier and more effective than ever before. Ministry Grid has more than 3,000 training videos by leading ministry experts from every ministry area, from the parking lot to the pulpit, that are accessible anytime, anywhere. Ministry Grid provides a range of plans at reasonable prices, ideal for individual leaders who want to learn something new or church-wide plans for congregations of any size. For more information, visit ministrygrid.com .
PLAYBOOK : BUILD
DREAM HERE! And other ways to keep a team together SCOTT BRUEGMAN
you walk up the stairwell into an old dinner-theater-turnedchurch, you begin to hear it. There’s activity in the air. Laughter, music and warm conversations greet you as you enter the Red Rocks Church central offices. Time and again, I’ve watched visitors respond to the inviting atmosphere as they enter the common room. Their faces reflect the same feeling I get when I walk in. There’s a strong sense that people really want to be here. Culture is a vital part of any thriving organization — a fact that church leaders must genuinely acknowledge. The truth is, a healthy staff culture can be the driving force for continual growth in a church and the single most important asset in the organization. Who we are and who we want to be have everything to do with who is on the team. But how do we find a team and keep it in place? In the 10 years Red Rocks Church has been around, we have seen Christ build His church right before our very eyes. Subsequently, our employee roster has grown as the church has grown.
A strong team is foundational to the forward movement of the church. 20
Along the way, I don’t believe anyone on our leadership team has ever said, “Let’s build a team that will always stay together.” Yet that’s basically what has happened. Don’t misunderstand; there have been times when a team member had to transition out for various reasons. However, for the most part, self-ejection or forced attrition is a rarity at Red Rocks Church. For longevity to become a reality, we must establish, above all else, the commitment to develop a strong team culture. This takes consistent thought, prayer and patience. We are serious about hiring the right people. We know that each team member will enhance or potentially disrupt the direction of the team. Thus, many careful conversations go into every hiring decision we make. Among other variables, we commonly discuss the five C’s when assessing a potential staff member. 1. Character. The character of the employee must be intact. 2. Competency. There has to be strong competency for the job. 3. Calling. A clear and recognized calling must be evident. 4. Culture. A cultural fit among the other teammates has to be noticeable. 5. Custodian attitude. As odd as this may sound, each team member must have the heart of a custodian. We believe in this principle so much that we will hire the right person even if there is no specific job available at the time. Red Rocks Church is committed to having the best people on board, so we build in margin to make this happen, knowing that if we have the best people on our team, the right opportunities for them will arise. A strong team is foundational to the forward movement of the church. Taking great care of people once they join the team directly contributes to the overall health of the organization. With this in mind, we pay our employees a proper living wage while providing top-notch health and retirement benefits. We promote good physical health by providing a gym membership our staff can utilize. Realizing that ministry can be overwhelmingly stressful on team members and their families, we choose to provide mandated staff counseling for couples and individuals alike with our certified staff counselor. Our team
A healthy staff culture can be the driving force for continual growth in a church and the single most important asset in the organization. knows they have someone with whom they can talk and walk through difficult seasons, at no charge. To help strengthen marriages, we pay for employee date nights once a month. What may be the best perk of all is the extra time off our lead pastor usually dishes out the week after our big Christmas and Easter events. We strive to cultivate an I-want-to-work-there atmosphere — a goal we view as healthy, not shallow. Rarely a week goes by that one or more people does not approach me to ask about joining the staff. People want to work here, which is both humbling and amazing. This is one of the best indicators of momentum in a healthy organization — people within the church wanting to bring their talents and experiences to the table. Hearing and believing the short phrase “Dream Here” is personally my favorite benefit at Red Rocks Church. If nothing else promotes team longevity, this does. We wholeheartedly believe that every employee should not only realize his or her ministry calling and dreams, but also live them out in and through the church. In other words, there is no reason for people to leave until God moves them. It may not happen next month or next year, but at the right time there will be opportunities to move laterally or vertically, perhaps leading or even launching a ministry that God births. Gone are the days when a young minister had to bounce from church to church and position to position to gain the necessary experience to accomplish ministry goals. Longevity is making a comeback! It may not be possible to build a strong leadership team and keep it together forever, but it certainly pays to try. Scott Bruegman is staff pastor and a founder of Red Rocks Church, a multisite church in and around the Denver Metro area.
2016 PRAYER FOCUS
GREATER THINGS January 3-9
Adult Kit available in Spanish
Choose from a 7-day focus or a 5-week all-church emphasis featuring the Believe small group kits for adults, women, and youth. FREE resources are now available in English and Spanish at WeekOfPrayer.ag.org
PLAYBOOK : KNOW
DEBUNKING THE DEBUNKERS AT CHRISTMAS
How can church leaders debunk the debunkers in order to more effectively share the gospel this Christmas with church members and visitors? G EO R G E PAU L WO O D
ast year, just in time for Christmas, Newsweek published a cover story titled, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin.” The article — a screed — was part of a trend in which major news media purport to debunk Christian doctrine. Church leaders need to know how to debunk the debunkers in order to more effectively share the gospel this Christmas with church members and visitors alike. Here are five truths to keep in mind: First, tradition is not Scripture. Sometimes the debunkers have a point. Many of our mental pictures of Christ’s birth are drawn from tradition, rather than the Bible. For example, the date of Christ’s birth, whether He was born in a stable or a cave, the number of the Magi and whether domestic animals witnessed His birth are all matters of tradition. Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts of the Nativity contain these elements (except the animals around the manger), but they don’t put them in the same place at the same time. The typical crèche scene, in other words, is traditional, not biblical. This kind of debunking needn’t worry us, because the gospel isn’t debunked when traditions about the Nativity are. We should be open to changing our tradition-saturated mental pictures when the biblical facts warrant us doing so. Second, translations are tricky. The Gospels were written in Greek; we read them in English. Debunkers make hay out of allegedly mistaken translations. Sometimes they’re right. For example, in Luke 2:7 (ESV), Jesus was laid in a manger because “there was no place for them in the inn.” The Greek word Luke uses is kataluma, which the ESV translates as “guest room” in the two other instances where it occurs in the New Testament (Mark 14:14; Luke 22:11). The Greek word for “inn” is pandoxeion, which Luke uses in the Parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10:34). Given that Luke knew the difference between the “guest room” of a house and
PLAYBOOK : KNOW
an “inn,” it’s likely that the ESV’s translation of “inn” in Luke 2:7 is mistaken. Other times, debunkers are wrong. Both Matthew and Luke describe Mary as a “virgin,” which is parthenos in Greek (Matthew 1:19; Luke 1:27). Matthew writes that Mary’s virgin conception of Jesus fulfilled biblical prophecy (Isaiah 7:14). The Septuagint uses parthenos in Isaiah 7:14 to translate the Hebrew word almah. Debunkers think this is a gotcha moment because almah means “young woman,” not “virgin,” which is bethulah in Hebrew. They argue that the New Testament believed Mary was a virgin based on a mistaken Greek translation of a Greek term. There are two problems with this gotcha moment, however. First, in Hebrew, almah and bethulah can be used interchangeably (e.g., Genesis 24:14, 16). This makes sense because in traditional societies young women were expected to be virgins when they married. Second, the Jewish translators who wrote the Septuagint before the birth of Christ chose parthenos to translate Isaiah 7:14, indicating that at least some of them thought almah meant “virgin.” The key thing to remember here is that our English Bibles are translations of Hebrew and Greek originals. Our translations must capture the sense of what those words meant to their original hearers and readers. Third, naturalism is not the default option. Some debunkers criticize miraculous elements within the Nativity stories as too incredible for sophisticated modern people to believe. Postmenopausal women (Elizabeth) and virgins (Mary) don’t give birth. Stars don’t guide Magi to Bethlehem. Angels don’t sing to shepherds in the fields. Notice that debunkers typically assume a naturalistic worldview rather than make an argument for it. Christian leaders shouldn’t be cowed by this assumption. There are good reasons to think naturalism is false, as C. S. Lewis pointed out in his book, Miracles. Indeed, as Pentecostals, we believe we have empirical evidence — through healings and other spiritual gifts — that supernaturalism is true. The key thing is never to let the debunkers’ worldview assumptions go unchallenged. Fourth, a different perspective is not a contradiction. Debunkers use differences between the Gospels’ accounts of the same event to suggest that those accounts contradict each other. In logical terms, however, this suggestion is a non sequitur: the conclusion (contradiction) doesn’t follow from the premises (differences). With a little patience most of the differences can be harmonized coherently. Notice that Matthew writes his account of the Nativity from Joseph’s point of view and Luke from Mary’s. Matthew’s genealogy (1:1–17) focuses on Jesus as “son of David” and thus rightful heir to Israel’s throne. Luke’s genealogy (3:23–38) focuses on Jesus as “the son of Adam, the son of God,” and thus fulfillment of the divine promise to bless all humanity. The differences between Matthew’s and Luke’s accounts are based on the perspective of the evangelists’ historical sources and the theological purposes for which they were writing. They don’t rise to the level of a contradiction.
Fifth, not all problems have easy solutions. Luke 2:1–3 says that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem to register for an imperial census. Luke says, “This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.” Here’s the problem: Quirinius was governor from 6–12 A.D., and he administered the census in 6 A.D. This was a decade after Herod the Great’s death in 4 B.C., and Matthew is clear that Jesus was born while Herod was alive (Matthew 2:1, 22). A promising solution points out that the Greek of Luke 2:2 can read, “This census took place before Quirinius was governor of Syria.” This solves the timing problem mentioned above, only to raise another one: we don’t have literary evidence of such a census in the time period of Jesus’ birth (approximately 6–4 B.C.). Absence of evidence doesn’t constitute evidence of absence, however. Outside the New Testament itself and the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, we don’t have a lot of information about this period. It’s entirely possible that Luke knew something we don’t because he had access to information we don’t. In other words, we have to trust him. Mentioning faith at the close of this article may seem like a cop-out. It’s not. Debunkers can be debunked with logic and evidence. But if the Nativity tells us anything, it tells us that we, like Joseph, Mary, the Magi and the shepherds must have faith as well as reason. Together, they lead us to Christ. George Paul Wood is executive editor of Influence.
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PLAYBOOK : INVEST
HARNESSING THE POWER OF CASH Cash can propel you forward in two powerful ways KYLE DANA
or those who earn their living from preaching the gospel, it is important to learn to manage church and personal finances wisely. Nothing tests the mettle of pastoral leadership more than this area of responsibility. Understanding the power of cash is an important stewardship principle all leaders must begin to grasp. In the current low interest rate environment, people tend to neglect building up their cash savings because the money doesn’t earn much interest. Leaders can underestimate the power of cash and its ability to bring about financial freedom. No matter what current interest rates are, cash can propel you forward in two powerful ways.
1. Eradicate Stress The primary purpose of cash is accessibility when you need it. This access, or liquidity, is your financial stress eradicator. For example, assume you have nothing saved. Your car breaks down, and it’s going to cost $500 to fix it. How do you feel? But consider that you have $1,000 in the bank and get the $500 bill. How do you feel? It may still be a headache, but you’ve got the remedy — cash — to take care of it. If you discipline yourself to save, you can be free from financial stress. The hard part is staying focused long enough to save an adequate amount of cash. It also helps to look at your cash in terms of how many months of expenses it covers. Ask yourself: How long can I keep paying my current expenses if I were to lose my income? We recommend that you maintain enough cash to cover at least six months of household expenses. If you have young children, increase that amount to cover 12 months of expenses. Sound impossible? You can do it.
PLAYBOOK : INVEST
Your cash could become a generosity fund that allows you to support your church and other charitable organizations, above and beyond tithing. 2. Unlock Opportunities If you’ve worked hard, you may have managed to save more than your minimum recommended liquid funds. Instead of enough money to cover 12 months of expenses, you now can cover 18 months or more. What should you do with the extra cash? You could leave it alone. After all, a little extra cushion can be a good thing. Or you could start an opportunity fund. An opportunity fund shifts the power of cash from reactive to proactive, unlocking opportunities you may never have considered. Consider these possibilities. Investing for retirement. By putting your extra cash into long-term investments within retirement accounts, such as 403(b)s, 401(k)s, and IRAs, you may earn more and enjoy potential tax benefits, which will compound over time and create a cozy nest egg for your future. Consider carefully the various risks of your underlying investments in your retirement accounts. Qualifying for better lending rates. Cash increases your borrowing leverage. If you’re buying a $200,000 house and you have $100,000 saved up, the bank may consider you a better borrowing candidate, assuming you have a good credit score and relatively low debt load. Becoming your own bank. My favorite example of this is lending your children money for college. This way you can control the terms for their benefit. It’s a marvelous way to teach your student how borrowing works. And of course, you can forgive the debt after a certain point if you wish. Giving strategically. Your cash could become a generosity fund that allows you to support your church and other charitable organizations, above and beyond tithing, through planned gifts, such as an endowment or donor advised fund. What you do with your opportunity fund is up to you, and that’s a powerful thing.
Kyle Dana is senior vice president of retirement and investment solutions, AG Financial Solutions, Springfield, Missouri.
4 SMART WAYS TO MANAGE CASH
Follow these tips to put your cash to work for you. 1. Replenish what you use. Live by the rule that whenever you tap into your cash, you have to build it back up. 2. If you’re married, set your cash goals together. Defined goals will help you stay on the same page when temptation to spend hits. 3. Don’t mix long-term with short-term savings. You need to do both, but make sure you can easily access your short-term savings. As this emergency fund grows, resist the urge to invest it before you’ve reached your minimum. It’s common for people to get antsy because cash earns very little interest at this time. But putting your emergency savings into a long-term investment, such as a retirement account, is a mistake. You may not be able to access those funds without penalties and possible taxes until a certain age. 4. Put cash where it maximizes liquidity. Sometimes liquidity is more important than earnings. Keep six months of expenses in a checking, savings or money market account. Also consider opening one or more termed investments. You can ladder these for accessibility while enjoying a higher interest rate. Most people underestimate cash, but harnessing it ultimately comes down to a choice: Will you save, or will you spend? The power to choose is entirely yours.
1. For creative ideas to build cash when money is tight, download the free ebook 52 Ways to Save, available at agfinancial.org/52ways. 2. Learn about planned giving at agfinancial. org/planned-giving. 3. You can ladder AG Loan Fund Investment Certificates for accessibility while enjoying a higher interest rate. Not only do these offer a competitive rate of return, but they also help build churches. Check out the rates at agfinancial.org/ rates.
Introduction “[S]peak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” These words from Ephesians 4:25 are some of the first instructions after Paul calls believers to put on their “new self ” in Christ. It reminds us of the universal need for human connection and understanding — to know and to be known. When we work together, we need to empathize with one another. To do this, we need transparency. But in a ministry context, this is
fraught with difficulties. That’s why we have this section: to allow you to say the things you need to say, in a safe context. Our hope is the anonymity here will encourage more transparency face-to-face and allow you to express your true feelings. In this issue, a staff pastor and senior pastor discuss staff transitions, the seasons of change that often come to those in ministry.
Before You Go: Parting Ways In Ministry As my senior pastor, there are some things I want you to know about me as your staff pastor. My desire in all things has always been to please God with my life and ministry. This means I will be sensitive to the Holy Spirit’s leading and faithful to the ministry call God has placed on my life. As you know, ministers often have seasons in their lives when the Holy Spirit begins redirecting their paths of ministry. He may lead some of us to another church staff position, a senior pastorate, a church– planting initative, a foreign or U.S. mission field or somewhere else. During these seasons of change, staff pastors sometimes feel isolated and alone as they process what the Spirit of God is saying to them and how or where He might be leading. Staff pastors have very few people they can speak to about a possible ministry transition without fear of retribution, loss of their current ministry position or being misunderstood as disloyal by others on the staff or in the church. As my senior pastor, I need you to know that I’m sensing a restlessness in my spirit, and I’m wonder if it’s because God is leading me to a new place of ministry and service. Here is what I need from you as I process this stirring in my heart. I need you to be approachable and to be my friend, mentor and guide during this time, not my adversary. I need you to hear me out and not become defensive or threatened when I come and share the new direction taking place in my heart.
TO: SENIOR PASTOR
Ministry transitions take time to process, and I need you to walk with me step by step, on both a ministerial and personal level. Please resist the urge to immediately release me from my ministry position. This hurts me and my family deeply and leads us to struggle all the more with the new direction God is leading. You have personally walked with the Lord through many seasons of change. You understand better than anyone else what it is like when God touches your spirit and begins gently moving you in a new direction of life and service. I can think of no one better than you to walk with me through this season of change. Please know that I am committed to you, to the ministry staff, to the members of this church and to God’s call on my life, whether it is to my current ministry position or to something entirely new. Pastor, please lead the way for me to discern and find God’s calling and purpose, wherever that may be. Please champion my calling and future ministry opportunities as an extension of your life and ministry. The time, love, support, ministry gifts, encouragement and opportunities you have invested in me, as your staff pastor, will carry on throughout my life and ministry. I hope you will walk with me through these fearful, unknown waters so that I can fulfill God’s will — in my life, and in the Kingdom we both love and serve. FROM: STAFF PASTOR
ONE ISSUE. TWO PERSPECTIVES.
Before You Go: Parting Ways In Ministry I am writing this letter as an expression of my heart as your senior pastor, hoping this transition brings honor to Jesus, health to His church, excitement for your family and hope for our relationship moving forward. Any time there is a staff transition, it takes me into a time of deep reflection with the Lord and as a leader. As you leave, it is my hope that you have clearly discerned this to be the will of the Lord. There have been times I had to make the decision to transition a team member. I lean heavily on the direction of the Holy Spirit during these times. There was once a time when an unresolvable conflict with my senior pastor led me to leave the team, possibly too soon. But as you are leaving the team, I am asking the Lord to reveal His plan to me as clearly as He has to you. I plan to stand with you and champion your call as you enter this season of change. I understand your concern of possible retribution or loss of your current ministry position for bringing this to my attention. Please know you are a valuable team member, and your position here is secure until God reveals His future plan and will for your life. In light of this, I’d like to share a few logistical thoughts with you. During your transition, there may be a noticeable gap on our team. This gap may cause strain on the organizational structure of the church. Others will have to fill in for you and pick up your areas of responsibility until a suitable person can be found to replace you. Hopefully, you are able to plan
TO: STAFF PASTOR
ahead and prepare others to step up in your absence. Also, the congregation will have questions about your transition. I want to trust you to protect the integrity of the ministry here and to speak in a way that honors the Lord, the staff and me. I wish I had known about your transition sooner. It is always best to know these things well in advance so the staff, the church and I can better prepare. When staff transitions happen suddenly, people feel shocked, hurt and are often left with lingering questions or suspicions. We must avoid that. The staff and church will be saddened by your absence. You have invested in them, pastored them, cared for their families and led them in their devotion to Jesus. Let’s commit to praying and caring for them in a way that encourages a healthy transition for them as well. As you leave, I hope I was available enough, giving enough, supportive enough and a good pastor to you. Sometimes we get so busy caring for God’s people, we overlook one another. If I didn’t do enough, I am sorry. Finally, please know I am thankful for the season we shared in ministry. God has called me as the lead shepherd of this flock, and He has gifted me along the way with people like you to care for them. I am humbled to obey God in this calling with great leaders and pastors like you. FROM: SENIOR PASTOR
Is There Room for Someone Like Me? Preparing your ministry to reach post-Christian outsiders EARL CREPS
ordered coffee while my friend John found us a table in Berkeley’s crowded downtown Peet’s store. When I returned, a man I did not know had pulled up a chair. Dressed in a black leather coat and beret, “Alex” looked every inch the 1960s Berkeley radical. An elderly man in his 70s, he had not lost the fire of those days. As we sipped the strong coffee, John shared that my wife, Janet, and I were ministers who had just moved to the city. Alex pounced: “Who are you with, and why are you here?” A bit shaken, I explained that we represent the Assemblies of God and that we came to start a church. The savage rebuke others had warned me to expect never came. Instead, Alex shared his own dream for the city. His genera-
tion believed Berkeley was the “city on a hill” that would transform the human race. “So what happened?” we asked. Alex’s face changed. “There was this darkness in people,” he said. “And we could not overcome it.” His radical dream had died. Learning we were Christians, he confessed, “I’ve been evangelized by just about everyone you can name.” When we asked why he never believed, his answer stung: “Too many sinners, and not enough saints.” He had never known Christians who made Jesus look more credible than the alternatives. Alex taught me two things. First, he is not the sort of person my training prepared me to reach. He is neither ignorant of the faith nor especially hostile, but instead considers Jesus just one of many options. Second, Alex was more interested in his questions than in our presentations. He wanted answers first,
before tuning in to listen to us. These two observations sound like huge obstacles, but what if they are also opportunities? We have three choices with people like Alex: ignore them because they are too strange and reaching them is too hard, attack them and alienate them permanently or listen to their questions and respond in love and integrity. This last option is consistent with the mission of Jesus who came not “to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:17). Alignment with Jesus’ mission begins with understanding our starting point: the margins. The Church on the Margins The likelihood of an American adult engaging with a local congregation is ebbing. In 1970, weekly church attendance stood at 38 percent, according to the American National Election Studies. By 2008, only 23 percent reported weekly attendance, and there is good reason to believe even these reports were inflated. An increasing number of people describe their religious affiliation as “none,” with far fewer young adults claiming an affiliation than their elders. My city of Berkeley, for example, has more church facilities per capita than almost any other city in the nation, but the level of actual church involvement is among the lowest. The leadership of our church plant thinks of our setting as America-plus-20. If nothing changes, Berkeley is today what the rest of the nation will be in 20 years. In other words, as Berkeley goes, so goes the nation. While there are still lots of churches — including many healthy, fruitful congregations — over the long term, the market does not lie. While the need for what we offer has never been greater, the demand for it seems to be softening. As Microsoft founder Bill Gates put it in a 1996 interview with TIME magazine: “Just in terms of allocation of time resources, religion is not very efficient. There’s a lot more I could be doing on a Sunday morning.” Alex would agree. So how can we remove the obstacles from his path toward faith in Jesus? Listening and Responding Christians spend a lot of energy applying labels to those outside the faith. We call them things like postmodern, secular progressive, nones, etc. People often tell me, for example, that the city where I serve is a modern-day Nineveh, the heart of darkness and the capital of an evil empire. These characterizations reveal how easy it is to let our labels drown out the voice of a loving God who is not willing that any should perish. What if we suspended labeling and actually listened to what people far from God are asking? What are their questions? A 2015 CRN
International survey of advertising managers asked them about the biggest challenge in creating content. The two top answers were (1) understanding what resonates with our customers and (2) our own company’s culture. What would happen if we listened to people far from God and adjusted our ministry culture — not to acquiesce, but to accommodate them? This kind of commitment might make them real people to us, people we could connect with and reach. The very first event connecting the body of Christ with a non-Christian group in a public space could illustrate what it means to listen. The scene is
How Much Does Fitting In Matter? A 2014 survey asked 15,000 young adults which companies they would most like to work for. The winners were mostly newer, well-known tech companies: Google (40.3 percent), Apple (23.1 percent), Facebook (14.9 percent), Microsoft (12.2 percent), Amazon (11.4 percent), etc. Older, more traditional firms, like Verizon, Proctor & Gamble, Lockheed and Bank of America, all scored below 2 percent. These college students and recent graduates seem to be expressing a clear preference for a certain quality of employment, more than just having a job. The detailed results of the survey found that the top trait they seek in a prospective employer is “people and culture fit” (about 77 percent), followed by “career potential” and “work-life balance.” Some traditionally prized qualities, such as “compensation,” lagged far behind. These employment preferences reveal a strong desire among young adults to fit in to the organizations in which they participate. Unless they feel a part of things, they will move on or never affiliate in the first place.
How Much Does Spiritual Experience Matter?
first-century Jerusalem on the Day of Pentecost. When God pours out the Holy Spirit baptism on the first Christians and they begin speaking in tongues, the commotion attracts a large crowd of religious pilgrims from around the Roman Empire gathered in the city for the Jewish holidays. Acts 2:6 says they are bewildered by hearing the Spirit-baptized believers praising God in languages they could not possibly have known. “Utterly amazed, they asked: Aren’t all these who are speaking Galileans?’ “ (Acts 2:7). These simple words suggest the first question we need to hear the culture asking us: Is there room for someone like me among people like you? Being from Galilee carried with it a certain stigma. People thought of the region as a cultural backwater compared to more metropolitan Jerusalem. Poverty, isolation
A 2012 Barna survey asked Americans who had attended a Christian church sometime in the past about the state of their religious experience during the services. While 66 percent reported having “a real and personal connection” with God at least once while attending, only 35 percent of adults said they connect with God at least monthly. Among those who attend every week, 44 percent said they experience God’s presence during each service, with 18 percent doing so monthly. About a quarter of respondents (26 percent) said church attendance had changed or affected their lives “greatly.” Tragically, 46 percent of attendees reported that their lives were completely unchanged. Sixtyone percent could not recall a significant new spiritual insight gained during their last church visit. These responses were fairly consistent, regardless of church size. Clearly, we have a deficit of spiritual experience in many ministries today. Pentecostals are positioned well to meet this huge felt need in credible, life-changing ways.
and political unrest were the calling cards of the area. No wonder this crowd, composed of people with the means to undertake the arduous trip to Jerusalem, is shocked that simple people from the margins of Jewish society would have a command of multiple languages (Acts 2:8). The pilgrims can tell the Galileans are different. While they are not seeking acceptance by the Galileans, the cultural gap between the two groups parallels the distance between church insiders and Alex. Those who notice Christians thinking and living differently want to know whether fitting in with us is even worth considering. Like the crowd in Jerusalem that day, they are diverse and multicultural, and they have little or no affinity with our faith. They are definitely not Galileans. Listening. The first issue for this new audience is not whether our message is true, but whether it produces people who will accept them, regardless of their starting point. Our church plant in Berkeley meets in an artsy movie theater in the middle of downtown. Among the thousands who walk and drive by on a Sunday morning are scientists, venture capitalists, hipsters, the homeless, secretaries, professors and criminals. Many are immigrants, but almost all are from somewhere else. They represent every race and language on earth. They come to Berkeley for what the city has to offer: 400 restaurants, America’s top-ranked public university and the chance to start a business. It is like Jerusalem, with people gathered from all over the world hoping to have a special experience in this special place. The Jewish faith shared by an otherwise diverse crowd on the Day of Pentecost parallels the near-religious skepticism so common in our city. As UC Berkley Chi Alpha pastor Marc Madrigal puts it, “The danger here isn’t being persecuted to death; it’s being ignored to death.” Why? The spiritual pilgrims of our region generally feel the Church is not accepting, so they strike first by not accepting us. At one of our very early preview services held in a small hotel conference room, a pilgrim visitor said, “You’re not what I expected. All of my friends hate evangelicals. But the truth is, none of them know any. You’re not the Fox News people.” Her comment was not so much about disdain for a network as it was a confession of her own prejudice. This young woman stereotyped Christians as unthinking, intolerant and just plain mean. Her first question was not, “Is the good news credible?” Rather, it was, “Are you credible?” She wants to know not just whether the group will accept her, but whether she can accept us. Responding. Maintaining faithfulness to our doctrines and practices is crucial to answering this question. After intolerance, the second biggest offense among pilgrims is evasion. Our LGBT friends
have made it clear they respect us because they know our Assemblies of God position on their sexuality and on same-sex marriage. Clever wording to avoid directness suggests an offputting lack of integrity. So our ability to attract and welcome others is actually degraded when we back away from biblical positions — just as it is when we turn those positions into weapons for beating them down. The truth spoken in love is still compelling.
How Much Could Church Planting Matter? The growth of the “pilgrim” population is in part due to the shortage of life-giving congregations. Every one of America’s 30,000 communities needs at least one thriving Assemblies of God church. Planting new faith communities is one of the most effective ways to evangelize emerging populations. The American population is growing eight times faster than new churches of all kinds are opening. Church Multiplication Network (CMN), the AG’s church planting agency, has helped start more than 2,200 new congregations since 2008. The Small Business Administration reports that half of new businesses fail within 5 years, but well-supported church plants survive about 85 percent of the time, with those in the CMN system achieving a 95 percent success rate. Plants receiving CMN Matching Funds have made over a million personal contacts and witnessed 25,585 decisions for Christ, 5,730 water baptisms and 3,170 Spirit baptisms. More churches in more communities means more pilgrims reached, fulfilling their “human right” to a credible presentation of the gospel. Church planting is the single most effective thing we can do in our new context.
What if we suspended labeling and actually listened to what people far from God are asking?
Is there room for someone like me among people like you? Yes. Can we welcome anyone while still holding biblical standards on lifestyles and leadership? Yes. Jesus is the only agent of personal transformation. Our ministries are just one vehicle He can use. Jesus said, “apart from me, we can do nothing,” (John 15:5). People of all kinds who are attracted to truth spoken in love and surrounded by a faithful, caring community will be open to the transforming work of the Spirit of Christ. When the pilgrims seem to resist, sometimes it’s their way of asking us another question. Some who heard Peter mocked outright, saying, “They have had too much wine” (Acts 2:13). Even those who did not mock were “[a]mazed and perplexed, they asked one another, ‘What does this mean?’ ” (Acts 2:12). This statement surfaces the second question those outside the faith are asking: Is there room for someone like me among practices like yours? While calmly exploring alternative expressions of spirituality, many pilgrims have anxiety about the charismatic Christian experience. For example, The New York Times defines Pentecostals as, “Evangelicals whose faith centers on an emotional, even ecstatic, belief: that the Holy Spirit can bless the faithful with gifts like
speaking in tongues or the power to heal. All Pentecostals share an electric style of worship.” After reading this, pilgrims considering a visit to one of our churches might conclude that this experience would be simply too far out of their comfort zone. However, a well-led ministry can not only make outsiders feel at home, but create an environment where they are drawn to the experience of the Spirit. How could we earn the right to prove this to outsiders? Listening. From their perspective, then, it’s quite reasonable to ask, “What does this mean?” For example, I have greeted many newcomers to our services in Berkeley — often people who are educated (two-thirds of our adults have at least a bachelor’s degree) and quite accomplished in life. But when visiting a church, the self-confidence typical of our population turns into a special kind of anxiety I can see on their faces. People who take on every kind of challenge the rest of the week are afraid of what might happen to them during one hour on Sunday morning. These anxieties are groundless, but present nonetheless. Responding. So how do we flow in an authentic experience of Jesus’ power without communicating to pilgrims that they must sacrifice their intellect to join with us? While there is enough genuine weirdness out there to keep this stereotype alive, our starting point should not be defensiveness — backing away from the real-time expressions of the Holy Spirit so central to our spirituality. When the Galileans find their native language too small to express the greatness of God, it overflows its banks into glossolalia as the Spirit gives utterance. The pilgrims (“both Jews and converts to Judaism”) report that, “we hear them declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues !” (Acts 2:11). This new experience of the Word of God breaking over them in power does not drive the pilgrims away, but it is the reason they gather. The crowd wanted to know, “What does this mean?” So Peter, standing with the Eleven, “raised his voice and addressed the crowd” (Acts 2:14). First, Peter explains they are not hearing the ravings of a drunken mob. Then he explains: “this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel” (Acts 2:16). People will be open to our spirituality if we help them understand with biblical teaching and practical wisdom, rather than assuming everyone gets it and anyone who doesn’t is an enemy. The best way to welcome newcomers into the presence of the Holy Spirit, then, is through an unswerving focus on Bible-based Pentecostal substance rather than on our personal preferences in Pentecostal style. Our Fellowship now involves about one percent of the world’s population. Some of these brothers and sisters have very long services; others take less than an hour. Some prefer loud, demonstrative worship, while others feel brief, urban folk music is best.
In one service, people moved on by the Spirit actually appear to be sleeping. In another, they run the aisles. Which one is truly Pentecostal? The answer is all of them — as long as we are trusting real-time encounters with the Spirit to produce biblical fruit: prophetic preaching, healing of the sick, deliverance of the afflicted, salvation of the lost, mobilization and edification of the saints and the full operation of the baptism and gifts of the Spirit. In this prophetically charged atmosphere, anything becomes possible. A hotel manager who rented us the first public space in which our church met asked us a good question: “What is your church about?” Since that day, others have asked this many, many times. How should we answer? “Our music is energetic, and we sing for a long time!” “We have excellent espresso served in the lobby before every service!” “Our band wears untucked plaid shirts.” “Our pastor really brings the fire!” All of those may be true, and all the choices they represent matter, but none of them are the point, and none matter much to pilgrims. What does matter is whether this ministry is a place where they can find hope and help. There simply is no argument against the sick recovering. There is no argument against the discouraged hearing an uplifting prophetic word. There is no argument against releasing the boundup. An insistence on substance first recognizes that our style choices do count, but only because they can make us more open and relatable to the culture. Whether the service lasts three hours or 45 minutes is not a divine inev-
itability; it is someone’s decision. In truth, healing can take place whether we serve espresso in the lobby or not. Peter simply tells the story of Joel’s prophecy to the pilgrims, culminating with the narrative of Jesus coming to save us from sin and death. He speaks to the crowd in language they can all understand, but he sticks to the biblical facts. “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.” (Acts 2:36). Can I truly meet with Jesus without embracing the bizarre? Yes. Becoming part of our community is not about being odd. It’s about believing that Jesus still changes lives, and then letting the chips fall where they may. People will sometimes misunderstand, but the answer to that is more substance, more changed lives. Simply put, Pentecostal substance is Jesus, “the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). Even in our very post-everything city, we offer public prayer opportunities in every Sunday service, frequently emphasizing healing. The style of these altar times is quite low-key, but people respond because we present something real without raising our voices (which is important in our setting). In a different context, this opportunity would likely work better another way. But if we make style the focus because it is easier to manage and control, substance will slip into the background and we could squander opportunities to help pilgrims — as well as the faithful. We can do better. What Shall We Do? Everything we believe about our culture is true — somewhere. The changes rushing at us are so profound the world can seem like a Rubik’s cube, with every twist producing a new and unpredictable combination of patterns. The sense that our context is more of a seascape than a landscape can be unnerving to Christian leaders, who may wonder whether ministry from the margins is even possible. Focusing on the main idea can keep us from over-reacting, lashing out or caving in. Nothing has changed in God’s kingdom. Jesus is still Lord and Christ. He is still Head of the Church. His Spirit, poured out according to the Prophet Joel, is still the promise “for you and your children and all who are far off — for all whom the Lord our God will call” (Acts 2:39). At the conclusion of Peter’s sermon, the pilgrim crowd, cut to the heart, asked, “Brothers, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Peter told them to repent, believe in Jesus, participate in water baptism and receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. Three thousand responded, and the apostolic church formed that day became the platform from which the good news went out to the world. Nothing has changed. The first century Roman world was a vastly
more difficult missionary context than our own. God was not limited then. God is not limited now. Even Bill Gates now admits his family has begun attending a church! Dealing with a mainly-pilgrim audience in Berkeley, we have noticed a trend among those we have water baptized. Their testimonies are unconventional. Our typical baptized person had an influential one-on-one relationship with a believing friend and attended our Sunday services and experienced the sovereign work of the Spirit over a fairly long timeline. The exact combination of each influence is impossible to know, and there are no heroes in the process. But what we have learned is this: Our job is simply to take the barriers out of the way. Holding biblical standards while loving people answers the question of our credibility. Prioritizing substance over style answers the question of what our experience means. When those barriers come down, pilgrims can come home.
Earl Creps, Ph.D. is a U.S. missionary, author and pastor of 360church, a new Assemblies of God congregation in Berkeley, California. He has traveled widely to study congregations connecting with contemporary culture and has pastored three churches (one Boomer, one Builder, and one GenX). Earl’s books, Off-Road Disciplines (2006), and Reverse Mentoring (2008) are both publications of Jossey-Bass/Leadership Network.
THE EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY LEADER HOW TRANSFORMING YOUR INNER LIFE WILL DEEPLY TRANSFORM YOUR CHURCH, TEAM AND THE WORLD PETER SCAZZERO
hat first comes to mind when you think of an emotionally unhealthy leader? Or perhaps a better question might be: Who first comes to mind? Is it a boss, fellow staff member or coworker? Perhaps it’s you. How would you describe this person? Consider a few examples of unhealthy leadership personalities you may recognize. • Sara is an overwhelmed youth leader who needs help, but she always finds a reason to avoid enlisting a team of adult volunteers who could come alongside her and expand the ministry. It’s not because she lacks leadership gifts but because she is defensive and easily offended when others disagree with her. • Jake is the volunteer director of the small group ministry at his church. While most people love him, Jake is conflict averse. He secretly hopes issues will somehow resolve themselves without involving him. They don’t. • John values excellence. That is good. The problem is that this crosses into perfectionism that makes no allowances for mistakes. • Susan is zealous for God’s truth and right doctrine. Unfortunately, her zeal prevents her from loving those who disagree with her. • Mark wants the church to reach its potential and reach the community for Christ. However, he is so preoccupied that he is not listening to others and has created an unsustainable pace for those serving with him. The list of examples could go on and on, but I think you get the point. When we devote ourselves to reaching the world for Christ while ignoring our own emotional and spiritual health, our leadership is shortsighted at best. At worst,
we are negligent, needlessly hurting others and undermining God’s desire to expand His kingdom through us. Defining the Emotionally Unhealthy Leader The emotionally unhealthy leader is someone who operates in a continuous state of emotional and spiritual deficit, lacking emotional maturity and a “being with God” sufficient to sustain a “doing for God.” When we talk about emotionally unhealthy Christian leaders, we are referring to the emotional and spiritual deficits that impact every aspect of their lives. Leaders suffering from emotional deficits often exhibit a pervasive lack of awareness. Those with spiritual deficits may engage in too much activity. They are too busy to receive from God. In their more honest moments, they admit that their cup with God is empty or, at best, half full — hardly overflowing with the divine joy and love they proclaim to others. The spiritual formation gaps in emotionally unhealthy leaders impact virtually every area of their lives and leadership. The damage is especially evident in four characteristics. 1. They have low self-awareness. Emotionally unhealthy leaders tend to be unaware of what is going on inside them. They ignore emotion-related messages their body may send — fatigue, stressinduced illness, weight gain, ulcers, headaches or depression. They avoid reflecting on their fear, sadness or anger and fail to consider how God might be trying to communicate with them through these difficult emotions. Moreover, they struggle to articulate the reasons for their emotional triggers (i.e., overreactions in the present rooted in difficult experiences from the past) and they remain unaware of how issues
from their family of origin impact who they are today. This lack of emotional awareness also extends to their personal and professional relationships. In fact, they are often blind to the emotional impact they have on others, especially in their leadership role. 2. They prioritize ministry over marriage or singleness. Whether married or single, most emotionally unhealthy leaders would nevertheless affirm the importance of a healthy intimacy in relationships and lifestyle, but few, if any, have a vision for their marriage or singleness as the greatest gift they offer to the church and the world. Instead, they view their marriage or singleness as an essential and stable foundation for something more important — building an effective ministry, which is their first priority. As a result, they invest the best of their time and energy in becoming better equipped as a leader, while investing little in cultivating a great marriage or single life that reveals Jesus’ love to the world. 3. They do more activity for God than their relationship with God can sustain. Emotionally unhealthy leaders are chronically overextended. Although they routinely have too much to do in too little time, they persist in saying a kneejerk “yes” to new opportunities before prayerfully and carefully discerning God’s will. The notion of a sloweddown spirituality — or slowed-down leadership — in which their doing for Jesus flows out of their being with Jesus, is a foreign concept. If they think of it at all, they view time spent in solitude and silence as a luxury or something best suited for a different kind of leader, not something essential for effective leadership. The first priority is leading the organization, team or ministry as a means of impacting the world for Christ. If you were to ask them to list their top three priorities for how they spend their time as leaders, cultivating a deep, transformative relationship with Jesus probably wouldn’t make the list. As a result, fragmentation and depletion characterize their lives and leadership. 4. They lack a work-Sabbath rhythm. Emotionally unhealthy leaders do not practice a Sabbath — a weekly, 24-hour period in which they cease working to rest, delight in God’s gifts and enjoy life with Him. They might view Sabbath observance as irrelevant, optional or even a burdensome legalism that belongs to an ancient past. Or they might make no distinction between the biblical practice of Sabbath and a day off, using Sabbath time for the unpaid work of life, such as paying bills, grocery shopping and running errands. If they practice Sabbath at all, they do so inconsistently, believing they first need to finish all their work or work hard enough to earn the right to rest. Did you recognize yourself in any of the descriptions? Perhaps you’re thinking, Yes, these characteristics resonate with me. Or maybe you’re still somewhat skeptical, thinking, That’s just the nature of leadership — I know people who are unhealthy in the ways you just described, but they are still effective leaders. While it’s true that none of the characteristics seem especially
When we devote ourselves to reaching the world for Christ while ignoring our own emotional and spiritual health, our leadership is shortsighted at best.
dramatic, these leaders, and the ministries they serve, eventually pay a heavy price for such chronically unhealthy behaviors. The Inner Life of an Emotionally Healthy Leader The journey to becoming an emotionally healthy leader can be summarized in 10 words: What you do matters; who you are matters much more. Leading a church, an organization or a ministry that transforms the world requires more than the latest leadership strategies and techniques. Lasting change in churches and organizations requires men and women committed to leading from a deep and transformed inner life. We lead more out of who we are than out of what we do, strategic or otherwise. When we fail to recognize that who we are on the inside informs every aspect of our leadership, we hurt those we lead and ourselves. While many issues are important to developing and transforming the inner life of a leader, four stand out to me as foundational — both in my own life and in two decades of mentoring other leaders. To lead from a deep and transformed inner life, these actions are key. 1. Face your “shadow.” 2. Lead out of your marriage/singleness. 3. Slow down for loving union with God. 4. Practice Sabbath delight. Building a ministry, a church or a nonprofit is a lot like building a skyscraper. First, you dig down for the foundation, and then you build up. The foundation in this case is your inner life. The care with which you lay this foundation determines the quality and durability of the building — or the team or organization you lead. The island of Manhattan consists almost entirely of bare granite, a very hard and strong type of rock. To carry the weight of a 75- or 100-story skyscraper, builders use foundation anchors called “piles.” They hammer these concrete or steel columns into the ground until they penetrate solid rock. For especially tall buildings, crews may drive piles 25 stories below ground. This helps distribute the heavy weight of the skyscraper through each of the piles. Together, they support the structure’s enormous weight. If workers drill and drive in the foundation piles poorly, cracks eventually appear in the structure. Entire buildings may lean. The only solution is tearing down or lifting the building to completely reset the piles — a costly and time-consuming process. In 1996, God used brokenness in my life to teach me that
How Healthy Is Your Leadership? Being an emotionally unhealthy leader is not an all-or-nothing condition. It operates on a continuum that ranges from mild to severe and may change from one season of life and ministry to the next. Use the list of statements that follow to get an idea of where you are right now. Next to each statement, write down the number that best describes your response. Use the following scale: 5 = Always true of me 4 = Frequently true of me 3 = Occasionally true of me 2 = Rarely true of me 1 = Never true of me 1. I take sufficient time to experience and process difficult emotions, such as anger, fear and sadness. 2. I am able to identify how issues from my family of origin impact my relationships and leadership — both
negatively and positively. 3. The way I spend my time and energy reflects the value that my first priority is cultivating a spiritually healthy marriage (if married) or maintaining a spiritually healthy single life (if single) — rather than my leadership position. 4. My leadership role reason isn’t my only reason for praying and studying Scripture. I regularly read Scripture and talk with God to enjoy communion with Him. 5. I practice Sabbath — a weekly 24-hour period in which I stop my work to rest and delight in God’s many gifts — as an essential spiritual discipline. 6. I measure the success of planning and decision making primarily in terms of discerning and doing God’s will (rather than exclusively
by attendance growth or expanded impact in the world). 7. I consistently devote a portion of my supervision time to help those who report to me develop their inner life with God. 8. I do not avoid difficult conversations with team members about their performance or behavior. 9. I have articulated and established healthy boundaries in relationships that have overlapping roles (for example, with friends and family who are also employees or key volunteers). 10. Instead of avoiding endings and losses (e.g., letting go of initiatives, volunteers or programs when they aren’t working well), I embrace them and see them as a fundamental part of the way God works.
Scoring Here are some observations to help you better understand the condition of your leadership right now. If you scored mostly ones and twos, your leadership is more unhealthy than healthy. Your emotional health is immature, underdeveloped and somewhat childish. But you are far from alone. This was where I found myself after 17 years as a Christ follower, with a seminary degree and eight years of pastoral experience. And most pastors I mentor are in a very similar place. Growing up into spiritual and emotional adulthood takes years — even decades — not days, weeks or months. So take a deep breath, relax and ask God to help you mature in Him. If you scored mostly twos and threes, you have begun the journey, but you are likely functioning emotionally at the level of an adolescent. Your Christian life may be primarily about doing, not being, and you are feeling the effects of that
on your soul. You have yet to apply personal values — such as slowing down to be with Jesus or prioritizing your marriage or personal growth — to the way you lead your team. Consider how God may be inviting you to a more robust inner life and deeper spiritual practices so you can take your team and ministry to another level. If you scored mostly fours and fives, your leadership is more healthy than unhealthy, and you are likely functioning emotionally at the level of an adult. You have a healthy sense of your strengths, limits and weaknesses as a leader. You are able to assert your beliefs and values without being adversarial. You protect and prioritize your relationships with your family and friends. You have a good sense of your identity as a leader, and you understand how to relate to those around you. You are well on your way to integrating your doing for God with a solid base of being with Him.
emotional health and spiritual maturity are inseparable. At that point, I began to hammer some new piles into my spiritual foundation. But I soon discovered that unless I allowed God to drill these structural supports deeply into the granite of my soul, the above-surface levels of my life and leadership remained vulnerable. What I needed was a deep foundation (inner life) that could effectively support my leadership (outer life). My leadership style didn’t emerge in a vacuum. I learned about things like planning and decision-making or culture and team building by watching and serving with other leaders. As a result, I learned to conduct certain leadership tasks in a “standard” way. However, without the solid foundation of a deep inner life, even the best leadership practices were only marginally effective for me. I also discovered that it is possible to build a church, an organization or a team by relying only on human gifts, talents and experience. We can serve Christ in our own energy and wisdom. We can expand a ministry or a business without thinking much of Jesus or relying on Him in the process. We can boldly preach truths we don’t live. We can lead without living in a loving union with Jesus. You know you’re not experiencing the loving union Jesus wants you to have with Him when too many of the following traits overshadow your life. • You can’t shake the pressure you feel from having too much to do in too little time. • You are always rushing. • You routinely fire off quick opinions and judgments. • You are fearful about the future.
• You are overly concerned with what others think. • You are defensive and easily offended. • You are constantly preoccupied and distracted. • You consistently ignore the stress, anxiety and tightness of your body. • You feel unenthusiastic or threatened by the success of others. • You regularly spend more time talking than listening. In my early years as a Christian, I noticed God using prominent Christian leaders whose relationships with Jesus were either nonexistent or seriously underdeveloped. It was a sad discovery that left me confused and disoriented. Yet, after decades in ministry, I am no longer so confused. Why? Because I have experienced to some degree what it’s like to be one of those leaders. I have prepared and preached sermons without thinking about or spending time with Jesus. I know the experience of doing good things that help a lot of people while being too busy to commune with Jesus. I now realize that there is nothing more important, more loving and more strategic for reaching the world for Christ than tending to our inner life with Him. After all, we cannot truly grow our ministries and churches larger and faster than the depth our foundation can sustain. Take the Long View Educational psychologist Benjamin Bloom and a team of thinkers developed a brilliant taxonomy that describes how people learn in different domains. Adapted and revised many times over the last 60 years, it remains a standard in many educational systems around the world. Bloom distinguishes five levels of knowing, or “getting,” a value. For example, a person values caring for the poor, or they don’t value caring for the poor. It takes a long time — and many small, incremental steps — to gain a new value. In fact, it requires moving through five distinct levels. Let me illustrate this with my own journey of coming to value slowing down my life to spend more time with Jesus. 1. Awareness. “Slowing down is an interesting idea.” I first thought about this in a serious way in 1994 as I experienced pain in both my personal life and in my leadership. 2. Ponder. “Help me understand more about slowing down.” When I started the emotionally healthy journey in 1996, I read books, listened to messages on slowing down and preached about it in sermons. 3. Value. “I really believe it is important for everybody to slow down.” I dabbled in a few new behaviors, such as Sabbath, solitude and oneday retreats with God, but my actions and behaviors didn’t fundamentally change for many years. 4. Prioritize. “I am shifting my entire life around as I slow down to be with Jesus.” When I took my second sabbatical in 2003, I reprioritized my time, energy and schedule to integrate this new value for a four-month period. It helped me kick-start a new way of leading and living out this value. It was life changing.
FINDING EMOTIONAL HEALTH The Emotionally Healthy Leader (Zondervan, 2015) examines specific ways our roots in Jesus should inform the critical areas of leadership. It focuses on four foundational tasks in the lives of every leader: 1. Planning and decision making 2. Culture and team building 3. Power and wise boundaries 4. Endings and new beginnings The topics the book addresses require ongoing discussions and personal and team applications for your particular context. To help you engage and apply the material, a team discussion guide is available as a free download at emotionallyhealthy.org.
5. Own. “All my decisions and actions arise from this new value.” Moving from prioritizing to owning took another six to eight years. I had a lot of work to do to integrate this value with the demands and challenges of pastoring New Life. While I still fail at times, slowing down to be with Jesus now informs all that I do. My entire body feels it when I, or others around me, violate this value. You’ll notice that the chart above highlights the large gap between levels three and four — value and prioritize. Why? Because that is the point that requires a radical, often difficult, shift. Many leaders love the ideas and principles of emotionally healthy spirituality. However, moving from valuing to prioritizing is a formidable challenge. I understand why. So let me encourage you. The changes you seek won’t happen overnight, but they will happen. Entrust your life to God’s care, and ask Him to lead you into the next step in your process. Thousands of leaders around the world are on the journey with you and have already experienced powerful transformation in both their personal lives and their leadership. Paul told the church at Corinth, “Follow my example, as I follow the example of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). People are watching your life to see how you live out your faith. The healthiest leaders are the best followers — those who bring their words, time, energy and priorities into alignment with Jesus’
example. When you make Christ the center of your focus, unhealthy patterns will begin to fall away, and others will “see your good deeds and glorify your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). By staying with it, taking one step at a time, neither you nor those you lead will ever be the same.
Peter Scazzero is the founder of New Life Fellowship Church in Queens, N.Y., and best-selling author of Emotionally Healthy Spirituality and The Emotionally Healthy Church. Follow him on Facebook or on Twitter @petescazzero.
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9 Roadblocks to Productivity in Your Organization LEADERS WHO ACCOMPLISH GREAT THINGS IN AND THROUGH THE PEOPLE ON THEIR TEAMS UNDERSTAND THESE NINE ROADBLOCKS TO PRODUCTIVITY. SAMUEL R. CHAND
a consultant to ministry and business leaders around the world, I’ve noticed that some struggles are universal — in every field and at every level. Over the years, I’ve identified nine common roadblocks to productivity. Many leaders live with these impediments so long they become part of the organization’s culture. But with courage, wisdom and tenacity, you can overcome these difficulties.
Measuring the Wrong Things We’re used to measuring things, from blood pressure and body weight to bank account balances and game scores. The things we measure demand our attention. Our task as leaders is to identify the pursuits that need measurable goals. In most ministries, leaders measure the ABCs: attendance, buildings and cash. But we also need to measure the number of first-time guests who come to our services, the proportion of guests to regular attenders, the conversion rate of guests who become attendees and the conversion rate of attendees who become members of small groups and volunteers in ministry activities.
Leaders who overlook the above measurable categories are often frustrated and confused when they don’t see retention, involvement and spiritual growth. In the same way, businesses need to look beneath the bottom line and measure the intangible elements that lead to — or hold up — excellence, productivity and results. People in the Organization Don’t Feel Responsible to Fulfill the Vision When I talk to people below the top management level in any business, non-profit or church, I often realize they don’t get up in the morning thinking about how their role is essential in fulfilling the vision and mission of the organization. They have tunnel vision, focusing on their narrow roles and responsibilities. Perhaps they didn’t listen when the CEO or pastor explained how their roles are essential and contribute to the overall mission, or perhaps the leader hasn’t explained the connection at all. When our people don’t make this vital and game-changing connection, they aren’t as creative, enthusiastic, desperate in prayer or tenacious in their roles. Unresolved Conflict In any significant relationship, disagreements are inevitable. In fact, the ability to argue agreeably is a sign of emotional health and organizational strength. The problem occurs when disagreements turn into personal attacks — or people interpret them that way — and hurt feelings
A vision without a plan is just a hope, and a plan without a deadline is only a wish. remain buried and unresolved. Resentment soon festers, resulting in passive-aggressive behavior, innuendo, gossip and side-taking factions. Resentment poisons a team. In a meeting, people may give assent to a plan, but they do their best to sabotage it if it came from someone who hurt them. One of the most important tasks of a leader is wading in to bring long-simmering conflict to the surface and resolve it. But sadly, many don’t have the courage to take this step. They excuse their passivity by claiming to be “peacemakers,” insisting that addressing it will only make things worse. When they finally address conflict, tensions almost certainly increase, but only temporarily. Left alone, however, simmering resentment becomes a cancer on the team and spreads throughout the entire organization. Before long, the leader has to deal with multiplied, ugly results of the conflict, but if she or he fails to address the root cause, the problems persist and escalate toward erosion. Too Much Mercy Certainly, we need to extend grace to people who are having a bad day, or even a bad week, but it’s irresponsible to let someone cause perpetual problems through irresponsible behavior, passivity or divisiveness. When people fail in a responsibility or cause conflict, leaders need to step in to speak the truth and offer a path forward. If the person is humble enough to receive instruction, everybody wins. But if the person blames others, offers an array of excuses or minimizes the problem, the leader has a responsibility to the rest of the people in the organization to take action. All leaders have to wear two hats. Pastors wear the hats of a shepherd and a CEO; business leaders wear the hats of a coach and a production manager. In both arenas, I’ve seen leaders extend too much mercy to people who were incompetent or divisive. These leaders had excuses
and reasons, but they were making a choice to wear only one of their hats. Some people avoid saying and doing the hard things because they don’t like conflict and can’t stand disapproval, but dodging reality creates far bigger problems. Failure to Leverage Peer Pressure In outstanding teams, from SEAL Teams to ministry teams, every member feels responsible for success. Everyone is presumably essential to accomplishing the mission, so no one may give less than his or her best. We often talk about peer pressure in adolescents as a negative influence, but peer pressure can be an incredibly positive and powerful factor that stimulates productivity. When businesses and churches have this kind of esprit de corps, everyone is dedicated and creative, everyone has each other’s backs, and everyone pushes others to do their best. For a nonproductive slacker, there’s nowhere to hide. Team members don’t wait for the leader to notice and step in. Those who work side-by-side address the issue, often before it becomes a major problem. Great teams have systems and mechanisms to ensure positive peer pressure. Regular reports encourage transparency, honesty, communication, feedback and clear steps to resolve any difficulty. These systems continually clarify the mission and individuals’ expectations so there is no question about acceptable — and exceptional — performance of every member of the team. Lack of Personal Improvement Plans Certainly, corporate goals and incremental benchmarks are essential for success, but many leaders fail to require personal improvement plans for each member of the team. Seasoned employees need an annual review to assess progress toward corporate and personal goals. New employees may need these assessments more frequently, perhaps quarterly, for the first year. In these reviews, the manager provides an honest assessment of the person’s progress based on the last agreed-upon goals and benchmarks, but it’s important for the manager to invite the team member to identify self-assigned goals. Personal investment encourages maximum buy-in from the team member. At each
review, the manager can assess the person’s accomplishment of corporate goals, and the team member can report progress toward personal goals. The selfassigned goals need to be very specific and measurable. For instance, a goal might be: “Respond to each email within 24 hours,” “Send an agenda for our staff meeting, with assignments, to my team by noon the day before we meet” or, “Send reports by 3 in the afternoon on the day they’re due.” When self-assigned goals are included in the review,
the manager and the employee both give an evaluation of performance and progress. For this reason, the conversation is more specific and more encouraging than the traditional method of top-down reviews. Lack of Resources As I talk to team members to find out what’s really going on in a business or church, I often uncover frustration. They have an assigned responsibility, but they don’t have adequate resources to fulfill it.
When people fail in a responsibility or cause conflict, leaders need to step in to speak the truth and offer a path forward. The problem might be tangible or intangible. Sometimes the person doesn’t have adequate financial resources, personnel, space or time to accomplish the task. But people often tell me they don’t have information they need to plan appropriately, they lack training, and they do not have access to outside consultants who can help them plan and execute the task. Sometimes the leader feels too busy and stressed to delegate a job and take the time to help the person identify and secure resources. The leader’s real goal is getting it off his or her plate as quickly as possible. Good leadership, though, requires more than instant delegation. Excellence, trust and productivity won’t happen without taking the next step of helping the team member secure adequate resources to get the job done right. Deadlines Are Too Flexible A vision without a plan is just a hope, and a plan without a dead-
line is only a wish. Many leaders are too flexible when team members push back on deadlines. Of course, unforeseen circumstances might cause a problem, and unexpected delays are sometimes unavoidable. Missing deadlines for good reasons usually doesn’t harm the environment of a team, but delays stemming from poor planning and irresponsible behavior poison the team’s culture. When a leader caves in and allows a team member to miss a deadline, it sends a loud and clear message to the whole team: “What I say doesn’t really matter!” When team members realize this is the reality, irresponsible ones take plenty of liberties, and the responsible ones lose respect for the leader. Ultimately, productivity plummets for everybody. In every meeting and for every assignment, the leader must clarify assignments and deadlines. The agenda for each meeting, personally or for the team, should include a report of progress for each outstanding assignment, with a clear reinforcement of the deadline. This isn’t heavy-handed, rigid or unkind. Instead, it shows that the leader values the contribution of all the people on the team and holds them accountable. Lack of Support from Leaders We hold the title of leaders for a reason. We’re to be involved in shaping the attitudes and stimulating the performance of the people on our teams. As I travel and meet with team members, I often hear them say, “I love my job, and I’m very committed to the work we’re doing, but I don’t feel appreciated. Maybe I shouldn’t need that, or even want that, but it would be a lot more motivating if I felt valued.” We should be our team’s biggest cheerleader. Yes, we’re responsible for the bottom line of productivity, but our commitment to meet organizational benchmarks is no excuse for failing to support the people
Some people avoid saying and doing the hard things because they don’t like conflict and can’t stand disapproval, but dodging reality creates far bigger problems. businesses. Their people long for clarity and attention — they want their leaders to actually be leaders! But as I’ve met with men and women around the world, I’ve had the privilege to see some exhibit a beautiful blend of wisdom, love and courage. These leaders refused to be blind any longer. When they saw a roadblock, they moved heaven and earth to overcome it. These are the leaders who inspire all those around them — and they inspire me, too. And these are the leaders who accomplish great things in and through the people on their teams.
on our teams. We’re coaches and shepherds, as well as goal-driven managers. We provide support in many different ways: thanking people for excellence or a good attitude, noticing when someone has done a good job and pointing it out to others, celebrating progress toward a specific goal, providing clarity with patience, exhibiting rigorous optimism when things aren’t going well, helping people get up and take the next step when they fall and creating an inspiring culture for the entire organization. These nine roadblocks aren’t unique to the church or to America, and they aren’t limited to top leaders. I’ve seen them from the top to the bottom of every kind of organization and in every corner of the globe. Sadly, I’ve seen many leaders bury their heads in the sand and refuse even to look at the glaring impediments in their churches and
Samuel R. Chand is a leadership consultant and author of 13 books, including Cracking Your Church’s Culture Code and Leadership Pain. For more information, visit samchand.com.
THE TEACHING CHURCH How “teaching” congregations and some amazing women are mentoring the next generation of leaders
first heard of the concept of “teaching hospitals” from Scott Wilson, senior pastor at The Oaks Fellowship in Red Oak, Texas. It’s a simple idea with incredible implications for the Church. While some hospitals exist only as medical facilities, others train and educate doctors and nurses, in addition to providing medical care. Not all hospitals — or churches — are training centers, but it is good to know which ones are. That conversation led to a very unique partnership between The Oaks Fellowship and Southwestern Assemblies of God University in
Justin Lathrop is strategic relations director for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, U.S.A., and the author of The Likeable Christian (Salubris Resources, 2015).
Waxahachie, Texas. This training program has helped equip hundreds of ministers over the past decade. This multiplier section highlights some incredible “teaching churches” and women that are committed to evangelizing and discipling their communities and mentoring the next generation of ministers. These churches are in urban, suburban and rural settings. Should your congregation become a teaching church? Consider these guidelines. 1. You can’t go the second mile before you go the first. Too many churches want to train others before they train the home team. Becoming a strong teaching church takes reproducible systems. If you haven’t created these in your local context, you should probably focus there first. 2. Train on your “hedgehog.” Jim Collins popularized this concept in his book Good to Great. According to Collins, an organization should devote all its energy and resources to pursuing the one thing it does best. 3. It takes a congregation to take you there. You don’t want to take on a project for raising up the next generation of ministers without the bulk of your church behind you. It will take considerable resources, and you will need people to give above and beyond to meet the need. Be sure to take your congregation and leadership on the journey to discover what God is calling you to do.
JUMPSTARTING FOR IMPACT How New Life Church is mentoring pastors and leaders in an urban context A Q&A WITH WILFREDO DE JESÚS
Influence: With all the hats you wear as senior pastor of one of the largest churches in the country, why did you want to start a conference for church leaders? Wilfredo De Jesús: A decade of experience taught me how to create and develop ministry. The more traveling I was able to do, the greater exposure I had to churches around the country that were dying because of a lack of vision. We took what God had revealed to us and adapted it to the urban context. We’re now preparing for our fifth Jumpstart Conference in 2016. What is unique about the Jumpstart experience? So many of the conferences available for pastors and leaders around the country are not addressing the ministry challenges that are unique to the urban context. Jumpstart speaks from a different perspective than many other megachurch environments. Engaging the powers in one’s community is vital to the success of ministry in the urban context. We have a workshop, “Engaging the Powers,” that teaches participants to build relationship with other entities in their neighborhoods. These include city council members, schools and community leaders. Another aspect of the conference that is
special is the ministry immersion experience. Participants get to go out into the streets of Chicago and serve with ministries. They get a first-hand look at what our church offers people in need each week. The worship experience at Jumpstart offers a level of diversity that is unmatched. There is an opportunity in the general sessions to worship in different languages as pastors and leaders from Peru, Dominican Republic and Africa come together. Finally, the fact that Jumpstart takes place in our church brings people to the inner city of Chicago. The richness the city offers is part of the dynamic of the conference. How has your congregation responded to your vision for mentoring church leaders? The more I travel, the more pastors approach me about becoming their mentor. Similarly, New Life Covenant has become a mentorship church. Our members understand the importance of sharing what God has done through our church with others around the country and beyond. Our congregants take ownership of Jumpstart and see its value. Just like our weekly outreach ministries, Jumpstart has become a part of the fabric of what is New Life. We take ownership of the responsibility God has placed in our hands — to share the successes and teach what we have learned. Wilfredo de Jesús is senior pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois and author of In the Gap (Influence Resources).
STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
How Chris Sonksen is coaching and training pastors nationwide A Q&A WITH CHRIS SONKSEN
Influence: How did you go from leading a single-campus church to establishing a multisite church network? Chris Sonksen: As the multisite model became more common, our team began to explore the possibilities. We knew God had called us to the concept. We weren’t into carrying something out just because it was the popular thing to do. During that time, I heard an analogy that spoke to my heart, and
I still recite it today. What is better for feeding the world — one big restaurant or a lot of smaller restaurants? What will get the food to the people quicker? The heart of our church, ever since we launched 17 years ago, has always been reaching those who are far from God. This approach simply gave us the ability to get the food to the people quicker. What is the unique multisite model of South Hills? Each campus offers live teaching by the campus pastor, not a video venue. This approach isn’t completely unique, but it is less common. It allows us the opportunity to raise up leaders, and through the uniqueness of each campus pastor, to be more relevant and in touch with the culture of each community we are reaching. What’s the idea behind your church’s new initiative for training pastors? South Hills Church has always had a heart for those leading the local church. Over the years, this passion has led us to coach and train pastors nationwide. Our newest initiative, churchboom.org, is a website designed to resource pastors and help them become more effective in their communities. Video training, ready resources, relationship platforms, Q & A’s, webinars and live chats with church leaders make this a site that is specifically designed by pastors, for pastors. The heart of ChurchBOOM is to be more than just a resource, but also a partnership with pastors who want to see their ministries reach their fullest potential. Chris Sonksen is lead pastor of South Hills Church in Corona, California and founder of ChurchBOOM, a website devoted to helping pastors reach their full ministry potential.
THE PREACHER GIRLS Empowering women leaders through community A Q&A WITH THE PREACHER GIRLS
he Preacher Girls are five senior pastors: Rachel Ross, Leila Ojala, Korista Lewis-Beaty, Jennifer McAfee and Kathy Cannon, who blog about Christian life and ministry leadership. They have a special heart for women leaders and are dedicated to encouraging, equipping and connecting them into cohorts and relationships similar to their own.
Influence: How did the Preacher Girls get started? The Preacher Girls: It began at an under-40 retreat in Colorado. The last morning of the retreat, the five of us sat on the floor eating terrible pastries and swapping stories and dreams. We left that place encouraged and surrounded by sisters who desired to learn, grow and further the Kingdom. We followed up via a Facebook thread. After several months, we all realized we could learn from one another. Our discussions went from
discipleship to marriage, to assimilating newcomers at our churches, to physical health. It dawned on us that we had found something really special, and that it would be worth some investment. As we shared about the blessing of our group in small gatherings and online conversations or on our personal social media pages, private messages and emails began to come from around the country. We’d hit a nerve. Other women felt the isolation, like we had, and they wanted in on the experience of finding a unique sisterhood. What is the ultimate goal of this movement? It is our desire to share some of our conversations and lessons we’ve taught one another and to simply share stories and things we have learned in our personal journeys with God and in ministry leadership. As women in senior leadership, we also have a special heart for other women on that journey. We have a corner of our site dedicated to them. It has been a life changer for each of us, and we cannot imagine ministry or life without it. It is our desire to see women connect on the Facebook page and at gatherings. We want to be a resource to leaders, men and women, with practical and spiritual challenges and tools. We want to be a visible example to others who may be wrestling with the call of women for pastoral leadership. Several of us struggled to imagine pastoral leadership because we never saw it done, or we were too scared to venture into the possibilities. We want to be an encouraging force that calls women to a reckoning with their destiny. Do you feel the Church is making progress in this area? Yes and no. It seems that pockets in our Fellowship specifically are open and willing to place women on their boards or hire female staff pastors — and some are considering or hiring female lead pastors. We expected the Church to be progressing quicker, but lasting progress can take time. We are thankful to be in covenant with a Fellowship that boldly proclaims that God does, and will, call women to pastoral leadership. What’s something you would tell male pastors who don’t have a theological issue with female pastors but haven’t hired one? We would challenge them to dig deep and uncover why this is. Is it because of fear? Is it because of subconscious
assumptions? Is it because there is a lack of relationship with qualified candidates? Is it because of the Billy Graham Rule? There are many plausible reasons why, but until that truth is uncovered, progress and change will not occur. There are capable, qualified women everywhere! It may seem intimidating to have to tackle discipleship and leadership development across genders, but it is beyond worth it to empower more people in their calling. What advice do you have for women who feel called to ministry but are discouraged with the opportunities? Surround yourself with people who will encourage you to pursue the Spirit’s leading with absolute courage and obedience. This team of prayer warriors will make all the difference in the world when you feel isolated, doubtful and weary. Find the open doors and walk through them. You may have to volunteer. You may have to be bivocational. Whatever you have to do to be in ministry, do it. Don’t let discouragement paralyze you. It may not be easy, but start with what you have, and if you are faithful and do it with joy, God will give you more. Develop thick skin that comes by practicing the art of radical grace. People will pierce you to the heart. People will wound you. People will say things that discourage you to the core. See these as opportunities to live radical love and grace that reaches beyond human capacity. It is a supernatural activity that requires intentionality and constant practice. Give more grace and love than you could ever hope to receive in your lifetime. Is there a way to get more connected and resourced in this area? Check out our website, www.thepreachergirls.com. It not only has regular blogs, but we are also starting to post some helpful resources for district officials and pastors. Talk to other women in your area about how you can support one another, and consider starting your own cohort of a few other female lead pastors around the country. If you are a woman who is pastoring or if you feel called to pastor, come join our Facebook page: The Preacher Girls Community. The Preacher Girls Community is a great place to start, and hopefully we can help you find what you need. We are in this together, and we believe in you!
A BIG HEART FOR SMALL TOWNS How Bryan Jarrett and Northplace Church are reaching the mission fields of rural America A Q & A W I T H B R YA N J A R R E T T
Influence: Why are you and your congregation so interested in equipping rural church leaders? Bryan Jarrett: I come from a rural community. I could not wait to get out. As I got older and matured, I started missing what I couldn’t wait to leave. My heart began to realize that I am what I am because of that little town and those people, the small churches that I preached in early on and all those towns that shaped who I am today. There was this feeling of indebtedness to go back. Obviously, that value has embedded itself in our congregation, but it is authentic in the sense that our community used to be a very rural community. Demographically, we are a metropolitan community, or a part of a metroplex, but mentally, many of our people are rural in their context. They have that same heart for home that I have. Many of them moved here to find jobs, but they come from small towns. They sang their first solo
in a small church, and they know what those pastors go through. They are very much a part of supporting this initiative to raise up rural leaders and rural churches. What is the Northplace Water Tower Network? It’s a relational journey that seeks to dignify the pastor, the people and the place of the rural mission field. We take a cohort every year with a different group, and we resource the pastor. Hailey and I recently purchased a ranch, Lonesome Dove Ranch. One part of that ranch will provide ongoing training through the Water Tower Network, so we can increase the number of pastors that we serve. For more information, readers can email info@NorthPlaceChurch.com. Can you tell us more about your effort to plant churches in rural America? Northplace Church is partnering with leaders that come through Water Tower and other leaders we build relationships with in order to plant churches in a rural context. Our goal is to plant 50 rural churches. We’re in the process of our first church plant right now in south Texas, with a launch date set for January 31, 2016. We’re looking for people who are willing to give their lives to a mission field that happens to be in a rural American context, just like somebody would give their life to the mission field of Africa or India. It’s not a ministry stop in the road. It’s not a resume opportunity. It is a ministry. It’s a mission field. We want to partner with rural pastors and plant churches. Bryan Jarrett is lead pastor of Northplace Church in Sachse, Texas, and founder of the Water Tower Network.
COVERING LEADERSHIP FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH
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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.
A Spirit-Empowered Church It’s not a mystery why some churches grow, some remain stagnant, and others decline. The biblical principles for spiritual multiplication are evident in the pages of the Scriptures . . . if we’ll only notice them. In A Spirit-Empowered Church, Alton Garrison points us to the heart of dynamic church growth: creating Spirit-empowered disciples who are involved in five activities—connect, grow, serve, go, and worship—to change individuals, families, and communities with the love and power of God’s mighty Spirit. Combining a strong biblical approach with inspirational insights and personal stories, Garrison shares the Acts 2 church model that can renew the spiritual vitality of your congregation. The church of Acts 2 turned the first-century world upside down for Jesus. God wants to use your church to do the same today. Influence Resources ISBN: 9781681540016 $14.99 Spanish: Una iglesia en el poder del espíritu ISBN: 9781681540245 $14.99
A SpiritEmpowered Life Small Group Kits — Adult
A SpiritEmpowered Life Small Group Kits - Youth
Each adult SpiritEmpowered Life Small Group Kit focuses on one of the five keys of the Acts 2 church model (Connect, Grow, Serve, Go and Worship) and leads participants to a deeper understanding of how Holy Spirit empowerment makes an extraordinary difference. The DVD offers engaging teaching segments and testimonies featuring personal stories. The coordinating study guide provides easy-to-follow Bible studies and daily devotions. Four lessons per kit.
Following the same themes as the adult version, the youth SpiritEmpowered Life Small Group Kit offers five studies focusing on the five keys of the Acts 2 model (Connect, Grow, Go,Serve and Worship). It features a separate Leader’s Guide with ice breakers and worship suggestions and a coordinating student booklet, as well as social media integration. Each kit contains four lessons. Coming in 2016.
Salubris Resources English $27.99 Spanish $27.99
Salubris Resources $27.99
Remind the women in your church to embrace the rest God offers with products for the 2016 Women’s Theme: Selah—finding rest for your soul, featuring Matthew 11:28-30. Items include: Selah 21-Day Devotional, bulletin covers, ceramic mugs, posters, bookmarks, t-shirts, journals, and more. These and other Selah resources also available for group and individual study. Visit women.ag.org for more information and ideas for planning a Women’s theme event. Visit www.MyHealthy Church.com/Selah for the full line of Selah resources available in English and Spanish.
Rhythms of Grace
Lead So Others Can Follow
Kerri Weems had let the rhythm of her life get out of control, and it quickly impacted her spiritual life. Since then, God has been teaching her to walk in time with Him — to be led rather than driven. In Rhythms of
Some churches seem increasingly powerless against the rise of cultural secularism and moral relativism. So how can you, as a leader, fight this oncoming tide and revitalize your church? Author Jim Bradford offers a unique, hand-picked set of principles and practices gleaned in his thirty years of pastoral ministry, such as: How to develop a sustainable philosophy of leadership. Practical tips on creating a Christ-honoring, people-centered ministry. Sections on spirituality, strategies and stamina and how to apply principles in your life and ministry. Let this book help you face the challenge to keep spirituality and biblical principles hardwired into your leadership.
Grace, Weems opens up her life and shares her journey with the reader. Getting to God’s best for us is all about learning the rhythms of grace and pacing ourselves for the long run. Featured with Selah resources, the 2016 women’s ministry theme. Zondervan ISBN: 9780310330745 $14.99 Spanish: Ritmos de gracia ISBN: 9781680670929 $14.99
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670738 $12.99 Spanish: El líder que otros seguirán ISBN: 9781680671360 $12.99
The Human Right Journey Small Group Kit The Human Right Journey Small Group Kit is perfect for both students hungry to share their faith as well as those who have never really thought about what they believe. This kit includes everything you need to move students further on their journey toward Jesus and sharing Him with others. The DVD features candid student examples and inspiring teaching led by Heath Adamson and Rice Broocks; challenging, easy-to-lead lessons with hands-on assignments in the Leader Guide; and step-by-step actions for sharing your faith. Helping students follow the Holy Spirit’s lead to share their faith won’t be quick and it won’t be easy, but what it will be, with The Human Right Survey, is life-changing. Are you ready for the journey?
Confessions of a Church Kid Growing up as a church kid is tough, and being a Christian in this world is not for the faint of heart. In a spiritual tugof-war, there is a battle between living for God and finding acceptance. Is it possible to live a set-apart life and have a seat at the cool kids’ table? In a humorous and let’s-justbe-honest approach, Elyse Murphy goes on record about struggling through her teen and young adult years just trying to find her place. In Confessions of a Church Kid, Murphy reminds us that Jesus still loves us, awkward mishaps and all. Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670240
MEGA Sports Camp Epic Moments Kit The MEGA Sports Camp kit, four-time winner of Outreach magazine’s Children’s Outreach Resource of the Year, is an easy, effective way to reach kids. Churches report up to 90% visitors and over 20% of attendees ask Jesus into their hearts. Every athlete experiences epic moments they’ll never forget — their first score, a big victory or defeat, a time their team counted on them for the win. In MEGA Sports Camp Epic Moments, athletes will learn a relationship with Jesus can be marked with epic moments too. Sports drills combine with Bible stories based on the life of Peter. Cheerleading, basketball and soccer playbooks included in the kit. Available January 2016.
$12.99 Influence Resources 28006 $27.99
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670103 $139.99
The Power of Home 90-Day Devotional You and your family can take charge of your spiritual development! Based on the book The Power of Home, authors Ted and Amy Cunningham have created this 90-day devotional to help build strength and stability in your home. Your family will grow closer to each other and Jesus as you discuss important topics, including marriage, money, communication, anger, forgiveness and heaven. For a healthy family now and in the future, get this devotional and see how each member of your household can participate in the spiritual growth of your home. Salubris Resources ISBN:9781680670547 $14.99
Girls Ministries Curriculum
Friends Small Group Journals
How’s your church discipling girls? Researchers say girls learn well when led by role models, and many leaders are ecstatic about the new revision of Girls Ministries Sponsor Guides on CD-Rom. The curriculum retains all existing theme materials and cultural updates while furnishing 144 lessons in 24 units for Friends; 60 lessons in 15 units for Daisies; and 144 lessons in 36 units for Rainbows. Each CDRom provides English and Spanish. Other age levels are on their way.
Looking for relevant small group curriculum that will feed the heart and mind of your middle school girls? With Girls Ministries Friends curriculum you can offer girls a safe place to share their struggles, fears and hopes, equipping them with God’s truth to face their world head-on. Each student booklet contains four topics that offer six discussion-based sessions. It’s up to you how often your group meets — weekly, monthly or anytime in between. Available in English and Spanish. Visit MyHealthyChurch.com/ Friends for more topics.
Gospel Publishing House Rainbows (Preschool) ISBN 9781607319863 $27.99
Gospel Publishing House Building Your Character English 02-1439 Spanish 02-1458 $4.99 each
Daisies (Kindergarten) ISBN 9781607319856 $19.99 Friends (Middle School) ISBN 9781607319849 $27.99
MAKE IT COUNT Characteristics of Authentic Community 8 growth experiences
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.
MAKE IT COUNT
ROBERT C. CROSBY
Introduction 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 comes in. 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 Make It Count section contains eight easy-to-use sessions, or lessons, by Dr. Robert C. Crosby, co-founder of Teaming Life (teaminglife.com), professor of practical theology at Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida, and author of several books including The One Jesus Loves (Thomas Nelson, 2014). You can follow him on Twitter @rccrosby. These lessons are easily adaptable for individual or group discussion. The flexible format encourages group discussion, personal application and reflection among ministry leaders. Studying and growing together is key to building strong and healthy relationships with team members. Regardless of your church’s size, Make It Count can help develop leaders and bring you and your congregation closer to Jesus.
8 Characteristics of Authentic Community While the Bible is Christianity’s text, community is most certainly its context. The Bible provides what we need to know as Christians, but authentic community offers a place for us to grow together as the Church. Yet, with all the talk today about the need for community and our commitment to being “intentional” about it, do we really grasp what it is and what it takes to create it? The New Testament uses the word fellowship (koinonia in the original Greek) to describe the closeness, or community, in the Early Church. This koinonia was the bonding agent that held together the believers and their lives. The word means “association, community, communion, joint participation, a relational connection and intimacy.” In these eight team discussions, we consider a bit more closely the characteristics of authentic biblical community. If our idea of community is limited to a one-minute “turn-around-and-greet-your-neighbor” moment, sandwiched in between worship and preaching on a Sunday morning, we are missing something. Biblical community is more — much more. Like other areas of Christianity, it is something we should nurture, grow and develop. The gospel doesn’t just call us to Christ; it also calls us into the body of Christ.
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 1 Growth Experience No. 1 — Authentic Community Is Our Common Unity “Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common” (Acts 4:32, ESV). Read: Acts 4:32–37 Make It Clear — Understanding The Insight One of the most thriving seasons in Early Church history was when Peter and John were preaching boldly and yet also coming under much criticism from the religious leaders of the day. The “headlines” from Acts 4:31 say it all: “when they had prayed, the place in which they were gathered together was shaken and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and continued to speak the word of God with boldness” (ESV). These dynamic events occurred right after Peter and John were released from jail. Interestingly, while they had recently so boldly gone out into the city to share their faith, once they were released from prison they quickly went back into their community of faith. It appears that the breadth of their boldness was directly related to the depth of their closeness to each other.
Community Principle No. 1 Authentic community is our common unity as Christ followers. Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. In what ways is the Church today facing persecution? 2. If I ever face the kind of persecution Peter and John endured, am I connected enough to my church community to endure it? Question to ask your team: 1. Do you think the breadth of our boldness as Christians is related to the depth of our closeness as a community of faith? Explain. Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Rating Myself on … Sharing the Things of My Life in Common with Others.
“I AM MISSING OUT” Make It Count — Living the Insight At the heart of biblical community, or koinonia, is an idea that emerges from the root word koinos, which means “common” or “ordinary.” While our community as believers is connected to the extraordinary life of Jesus and following Him as Lord, it also consists of the quite common aspects of life. The same disciples who gloriously prayed together also shared meals —
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probably hundreds of them. A Question to Grow on How will I share something more of my life and gifts with someone today?
LESSON 2 Growth Experience No. 2 — Improving Your Interest Rate “… not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another — and all the more as you see the Day approaching” (Hebrews 10:25). Read: Hebrews 10:24–25 Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight How does community get started? Where does it begin? Actually, the start can be summed up in a word: interest. Dale Carnegie said it this way: “You will gain more friends in two months by getting interested in other people than you will in two years of trying to get them interested in you.” The apostle Paul said it another way: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves” (Philippians 2:3–4). The best way to be an interesting person is to be a more interested person.
Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. Do I focus more on what people will think about me or what I can learn about them? 2. Do I put as much effort into being interested in others as I have trying to get them interested in me? If so, how? Questions to ask your team: 1. Does our level of interest help determine our level of community life? Explain. 2. What is one of the best questions someone has ever asked you? 3. What can we do to increase our “interest rate” on this team — and in this church? Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Community Principle No. 2 Authentic community requires constant cultivation. Rating Myself on … Showing Genuine Interest in Others.
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Make It Count — Living the Insight Great questions are fueled by genuine interest. Reflect on Paul’s words in Philippians 2:3–4. Refreshing your interest in the lives, thoughts, ideas and opinions of the people around you requires a bit of wonder on your part. Here are some questions to ask yourself about those around you: • What kind of day are they having?
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• What are their greatest joys and challenges? • What ideas and dreams do they hold? • What are their fears and concerns? • What question do they most need me to ask? A Question to Grow on What is something you can do today to improve your community “interest rate”?
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 3 Growth Experience No. 3 — A Grace Place “God’s grace was so powerfully at work in them all” (Acts 4:33). Read: Acts 4:23–37 Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight Authentic community is “a grace place.” In Acts 4, following their encounter with persecution and their stay in jail, it appears that Peter and John made a beeline back to their own communities — back to their koinonia. Facing great struggles, they gathered with the faithful to experience great grace. In other words, when you really become a part of community, it is akin to the Hebrew children finally entering the Promised Land. Though imperfect, it is a place where you find the freedom to be who you are in Christ and to allow and support others in doing the same thing.
Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. Do people consider me a gracious leader? If so, in what ways? 2. What am I doing regularly to contribute to the church and our teams being grace places? Questions to ask your team: 1. Do people who attend and visit this church think of it as “a grace place”? Why or why not? 2. What contributes to this viewpoint? 3. What could we do to enrich the grace people experience regularly among us? Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Community Principle No. 3 Authentic community is a grace place. Rating Myself On … Finding and Giving Grace in My Relationships.
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Make It Count — Living the Insight Whether in a home, a small group or a one-on-one meeting at a café, conveying a spirit of grace creates an atmosphere of openness and honesty. This nurtures a meaningful and much-needed intimacy in sharing life together as part of a spiritual family. Dinah Craik, the beloved 19th century English novelist and poet, understood this kind of intimacy and true community when she wrote: “Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person; having neither
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to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but to pour them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, knowing that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and then, with a breath of kindness, blow the rest away” (from Dinah Craik, A Life for a Life). A Question to Grow on What will it take from you today to turn your team into a grace place?
LESSON 4 Growth Experience No. 4 — A Convincing Community “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:35). Read: John 13:31–38 Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight What is the best way to witness for Christ to your city, town or neighborhood? According to Jesus, one of them simply involves truly loving one another. John 13 records a moment when Jesus informs His disciples that “I will be with you only a little longer” and “where I am going, you cannot come” (verse 33). These must have been shocking and hard-to-comprehend words. However, Jesus not only told of His departure, but He also reminded His followers of someone precious they had with them every day: one another. They shared a community of faith, and the love within that group would be a witness to the world around them.
Community Principle No. 4 Authentic community is one of our best witnesses to the world. Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. What have I done in the past 24 hours to help convey the love I have for the body of Christ? 2. Is my “love” more felt and intentional or demonstrative and actionable? How so? Questions to ask your team: 1. When it comes to loving one another clearly and consistently, are we convincing to our parishioners and our local community? 2. How could we better demonstrate and display to the community our love for one another? Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Rating Myself On … Loving and Living as a Convincing Community.
“I AM MISSING OUT” Make It Count — Living the Insight In his first epistle, John further defines the love of God and how it works in our lives (1 John 4:7–21). In fact, John says several practical things about the love we share in community: • Love comes from God (verse 7). • The people who are “born of God” and know God are those who really love (verse 7). • Because God “so loved us” and “first loved us”
“I AM MAKING IT COUNT” (verses 11,19), we should love one another. • If you don’t love your brother or sister, whom you have seen, you cannot love God, whom you have not seen (verse 20). A Question to Grow On If the members of our team were arrested for being “deeply loving,” would the available evidence be enough to convict us?
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 5 Growth Experience No. 5 — Answering Jesus’ Prayer “My prayer is … that all of them may be one, Father…” (John 17:20–21). Read: John 17:20–23 Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight God loves circles. Have you noticed? Zoom out or way in on His creation and you will find circles everywhere. Consider the Earth, a blood cell, the pupils of the human eye, oranges and the sun and stars. Creation is full of circles. There was one “circle,” however, that Jesus focused on in particular — the Church. He was so focused on this circle that He made it a matter of prayer in John 17. Jesus spoke of the circle of community in which His people would share. He not only asked the Father to make His followers one, but He asked that their relationships with one another — and with God — become a reflection of Christ’s relationship with the Father.
Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. Do I focus more on myself or my community? 2. What impact might this have on the teams I lead and the church I serve? 3. Do I need to change anything? Questions to ask your team: 1. Jesus has answered so many of our prayers — what might we do to answer the one He prayed in John 17? 2. What can we glean or learn from the relational model of the Trinity? 3. How is the unity of the Trinity an inspiration and incentive for our team? Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Community Principle No. 5 Authentic community reflects the Trinity. Rating Myself On … Helping Answer the Prayer of Jesus.
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Make It Count — Living the Insight The Trinity is the Bible’s foremost metaphor or model for authentic community — and for teams. According to the late Stanley J. Grentz, “The doctrine of the Trinity is not ultimately a teaching about ‘God’ but a teaching about God’s life with us and our life with each other.” Our opportunity in the Church is emulating and
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reflecting this divine community on our teams and within our small groups. A Question to Grow on What can I do today to help answer the prayer of Jesus in John 17?
LESSON 6 Growth Experience No. 6 — The Enemies of Community “Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, ‘Very truly I tell you, one of you is going to betray me’ ” (John 13:21). Read: John 13:18–34 Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight The Gospels record five instances in which Jesus referred to someone as “friend.” One of them is astounding for a number of reasons: He used the word to address, of all people, Judas. “Now the betrayer had arranged a signal with them: ‘The one I kiss is the man; arrest him.’ Going at once to Jesus, Judas said, ‘Greetings, Rabbi!’ and kissed him. Jesus replied, ‘Do what you came for, friend.’ ” (Matthew 26:48–50). Was it irony or loyalty that drew the name “friend” from Jesus’ lips? I think it was the latter.
Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. At what times in my life did I feel betrayed or cheated in some way? 2. How well did I deal with those situations? 3. What does that tell me about myself? Questions to ask your team: 1. What are some of the “enemies” of community? 2. How can we avoid them or deal more effectively with them? 3. What are some ways to fortify the community and the solidarity we share as a team and a church? Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Community Principle No. 6 Authentic community helps us endure conflicts, hurts and persecution. Rating Myself On … Engaging My Community to Help Me Overcome My Challenges.
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Make It Count — Living the Insight In the John 13 narrative, Jesus clearly did not allow Judas’ unfaithfulness to alter His character. According to 2 Timothy 2:13, “if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself.” While Judas was busy breaking faith with Jesus and His community, the disciples, Jesus stayed true to His own. We must avoid these three enemies of community: 1. Competitiveness. When we focus on competing with one another, it becomes impossible to commune with
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one another. 2. Selfishness. The more we look after our own interests, the more we tend to overlook one another’s. 3. Unforgiveness. The bonds of unity we work to develop will fall apart when we leave disagreements and divisions unresolved. A Question to Grow on What can I do today to strengthen my faith community and to resist the enemies of community?
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 7 Growth Experience No. 7 — A Sneak Preview “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever” (1 Thessalonians 4:17). Read: 1 Thessalonians 4:9–17 Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight Authentic community is somewhat of a “sneak preview.” Watching a 30-second preview of a film provokes an interest in watching the entire production. In a similar manner, our experience of community as the Church should be a preview of the life we will share in heaven. Before writing to the Thessalonian believers, Paul earlier departed from Thessalonica rather abruptly after a short stay (Acts 17:5–10). New converts from paganism remained with minimal support in the midst of great persecution. Paul wrote them for two reasons: (1) to encourage their love for one another and development of community and (2) to remind them of their future together in heaven.
Community Principle No. 7 Authentic community is a preview of the kingdom of heaven. Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. What community of faith or church have I been a part of over the years that gave me the best hope for what heaven would be like one day? 2. What made that place or experience so special? Questions to ask your team: 1. What is the best (or worst) movie you have ever seen? 2. Did the preview do it justice? 3. In what way is church or this team a “preview” of heaven? 4. Is that a stretch or a reality? Explain. Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Having My Hope for Tomorrow Renewed Through My Church Experience Today.
“I AM MISSING OUT”
Make It Count — Living the Insight While much of heaven is a mystery, Paul wanted the Thessalonian church to understand some things about it: • Christians should not grieve like unbelievers, as if we had no hope (verse 13). • The resurrection of Jesus is an assurance of our future resurrection (verses 14–15). • Our great hope is a community experience — we will
“I AM MAKING IT COUNT”
be together with them in the air (verse 17). • We should look forward to our future together in heaven and encourage one another with this promise (verse 18). A Question to Grow on What will I do to bring a little “preview” of heaven to someone today?
LESSON 8 Growth Experience No. 8 — The Place to Be “For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore” (Psalm 133:3).
Community Principle No. 8 God promises to bestow His blessing over authentic community.
Read: Psalm 133:1–3
Make It Yours — Unpacking the Insight Questions to ask yourself: 1. What efforts are you making to live in unity with your family? 2. How about with your congregation or team? 3. What would it take for you to improve?
Make It Clear — Understanding the Insight How would you like to be in a place where God bestows His blessing over you? That place is authentic community. Here is the promise: “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity! It is like precious oil poured on the head, running down on the beard, running down on Aaron’s beard, down on the collar of his robe. It is as if the dew of Hermon were falling on Mount Zion. For there the Lord bestows his blessing, even life forevermore.” The Hebrew word translated “bestows” in verse 3 is tsava, meaning “to command, charge or order.” What a great place to be!
Questions to ask your team: 1. Do we regularly practice the Psalm 133 principle of living “together in unity”? If so, in what ways? 2. What does unity look like? What does disunity look like? 3. What can we do to strengthen our unity? Reflect on your progress in this spiritual growth area. On a scale from 1 to 10, rate yourself — with 1 representing spiritual immaturity and 10 representing rock-solid maturity. For an added challenge, ask a friend to rate your development.
Rating Myself On … Dwelling Together in Unity with My Faith Community.
“I AM MISSING OUT”
Make It Count — Living the Insight To understand this passage, you have to sort of “go with the flow.” The Psalmist describes two liquids: oil and dew. The oil on the head of the priest is a picture of lavished oil. Similarly, the “dew of Hermon” reminds us of a rain-drenched land that flows far beyond its boundaries to nourish the surrounding areas. These images paint a beautiful picture of unity among
“I AM MAKING IT COUNT”
the people of God. It flows far, refreshing as it goes. We lavish God’s love upon the heads, minds and hearts of those we love. And it nourishes, helps and heals far beyond its own boundaries. A Question to Grow on How can I better dwell together in unity with God’s people today?
THE FINAL NOTE
ARE RELIGIOUS PEOPLE HAPPIER?
Greater levels of church attendance predict higher life satisfaction according to the Relationships in America survey conducted by the Austin Institute for the Study of Family and Culture. The study found that people who attend religious services on a weekly basis are nearly twice as happy (45 percent) than people who never attend church (28 percent).
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Introducing the 2016 AG World Missions Theme
ore than 4 billion have yet to receive the saving message of Jesus.
Our Lordâ€™s commands and the magnitude of the unfinished task require that we go ANY PLACE and pay ANY PRICE . . . so all can hear!
Theme materials available January 2016
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