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Be Filled With the

Spirit Ephesians 5:18

Resources to engage your church this Pentecost season. CATCH THE WIND Catch the Wind of the Spirit shares the 5 ministry gifts that are the key to transforming your ministry today. As each believer follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, these gifts will move your church into the fullness of God’s calling.


FOR THE WHOLE CHURCH

BELIEVE SMALL GROUP KITS Connect with others who also needed to see God move in an amazing way.

A SPIRIT-EMPOWERED CHURCH Explore the Acts 2 church model that can renew the spiritual vitality of your congregation.

A SPIRIT-EMPOWERED LIFE SMALL GROUP KITS Pursue the Holy Spirit’s transforming power and a deeper relationship with Him.

FOR KIDS AND YOUTH

FAITH CASE: EXTRAORDINARY A•C•T•S Explore the book of Acts with this detectivethemed children’s church curriculum.

LIVING IN THE SPIRIT, KIDS Help children discover the Holy Spirit’s power through 8 dynamic sessions.

THE WORD AND THE SPIRIT David Hertweck compels youth on an exciting journey into the Bible.

FOR PERSONAL GROWTH

SPREAD THE FIRE This book invites you, the leader, to a new level of teaching and modeling Spirit-filled living.

1.855.642.2011

LIVING IN THE SPIRIT A refreshing look at the challenges and opportunities for Spirit-filled individuals.

Some items available in Spanish.

PENTECOST Deepen your understanding of the foundation of Pentecostal beliefs.

MyHealthyChurch.com/ HolySpirit


CONTENTS

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If You Ask Me Leading Change

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Get Set Integrating Faith and Entrepreneurship A Q&A with Svetlana Papazov

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Like a Leader • Live: How to Salvage Broken Relationships • Think: Surviving Theological Angst • 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

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Playbook • Build: Guess Who’s Coming Over: Five Ways To Get Your Church Ready for Company • Know: Principled Pragmatism in Christian Leadership • Invest: Growing a Culture of Giving That Works

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28 Leading People to the Spirit’s Life James Bradford discusses three pastoral doorways for leading people toward the Holy Spirit.

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38 Grace Without Borders By following the basic tenets of Christianity, author Sarah Simmons says churches can become a haven of respite for all families with special needs.

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48 Becoming an Engaging Church Rice Broocks examines the primary ingredients for developing a culture of evangelism in your church.

58 Multiplier — Rural America Matters

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• • • •

Planning for Growth A Passion for Planting A Rural Commitment Compassion in Action

70 Make It Count Picturing the Future: 8 Factors in Effective Vision-Casting

80 The Final Note What Qualifies as Religious Extremism?

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MAGAZINE

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 New Media Assistant: Ron Kopczick CONTRIBUTORS: James Bradford, Rice Broocks, Alicia Britt Chole, Denny Curran, Steve Donaldson, Steve Gladden, Scott Hagan, Justin Lathrop, Jeff Leake, Brad Leeper, Rick Lorimer, Harvey Mitchell, Jr., Svetlana Papazov, Chris Railey, Sarah Simmons, George Paul Wood SPECIAL THANKS:  Alton Garrison, James Bradford, Douglas Clay, Gregory Mundis, Zollie Smith, Gary Rhoades, Tim Strathdee EDITORIAL:  For info or queries, contact editor@influencemagazine.com. ADVERTISING:  Display rates available upon request. Contact advertising@influencemagazine.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

LEADING CHANGE

love the Church. I’m blessed that my current role allows me to travel and see many different churches in many different places. I’ve met some amazing leaders, most you’ve never heard about, who are living out the gospel and leading incredible churches. These leaders share a common trait — they are change agents who know how to bring about change for maximum reach and impact. This is an important quality for leaders given the tendency of many toward self-preservation and the status-quo. It’s not hard to find examples of stagnate, outdated, ineffective churches and leaders. I’ve seen this first hand, and I’m sure you have too. Change is hard, and like the saying goes, people won’t change until the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same. This is precisely where leadership is needed most. I love Bill Hybels’ definition of leadership: “The job of a leader is simply to take people from here to there, and to do that you have to convince them they can’t stay where they are; they have to change.” Great leaders are change agents, and great churches are led by people who aren’t afraid to change and who can lead others on the journey. So how can you effectively lead change? Here are a few thoughts. 1. Show people the pain of staying the same. To do what we’ve always done may provide a level of comfort, but it will cause us to miss the place and promise God has for our future.

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Highlight the consequences of staying the same. Once people realize they can’t stay where they are, they will be ready to hear where they need to go. 2. Let people know their place in the story. People resist change primarily due to their inability to see their place in the new reality, and our inability to show them. Our job as leaders is to paint a picture of a preferred future in a way people can find their fit and follow. 3. Watch your speed. A key mistake leaders make in leading change is getting too far ahead of the people they lead. Change can happen too slowly, but it can also take place too quickly. Timing is everything. 4. Keep following. Make sure the people you lead also see you following the authority God put in your life with humility and grace, while also following God in full submission to His will. In doing so, you create a culture where change is a normal and expected part of following God together. In this issue of Influence, we introduce you to several leaders who are change agents in their own right. I trust as you read their stories and hear their insights you’ll be better equipped to lead the change in front of you. I pray this issue will bless you and inspire change! CORRECTION: We apologize that an incorrect photo of Elise Wood appeared in February-March 2016 print issue of Influence (pg. 62). See the online magazine for the correct photo.

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.

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GET SET

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4 Questions with Svetlana Papazov

INTEGRATING FAITH AND ENTREPRENEURSHIP How Real Life Church is bridging the gap between the sacred and secular vetlana Papazov was born to a Christian family in communist Bulgaria and later immigrated to the United States. Her upbringing, diverse education and work experience have intensified her passion to see cultures transform for Christ. Svetlana, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, and her husband, Michael, were stirred by God to plant a church in the greater Richmond, Virginia, area — an innovative marketplace church that integrates faith and entrepreneurship. Real Life Church (reallifechurchrva. org) launched January 17, 2016.

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Influence: Why did you and your husband immigrate to America? Svetlana Papazov: I grew up in a Christian family, as a pastor’s kid, in communist Bulgaria, preaching since the age of 14 and witnessing how faith in God, creativity and diversity were ostracized. Maybe when a person is denied much, she ventures much. But I strongly desired to enter a free society where I can practice my faith in God without fear of persecution. So my husband and I, with our 9-month-old baby, escaped the iron curtain as political refugees and settled in America. I had one desire on my heart, and that was to enter ministry. You recently launched a marketplace church to train believers to minister outside the church’s walls. What is your strategy for bringing Christ into the marketplace? My desire is to teach believers to represent Christ at work, at home and at play. Our potential in serving God in the workplace is not determined by how sacred or well-suited the work environment becomes to our faith, but rather how well our faith in God becomes integrated in what we do at work. When Christians engage the marketplace through their vocations, they introduce biblical principles and righteous living in their local cultures and point their neighbors to hope-filled communities in Christ. Real Life is a marketplace church that serves as a bridge

for the sacred and secular divide. We integrate faith, community, entrepreneurial leadership, education and small business in one location in order to affect transformational community development. How is Real Life changing the community’s perception of faith and the Church? I’m convinced that we need to engage people long before they hear a sermon from our pulpit. At Real Life, our daily lives are lived outwardly in the city — in commitment to godliness, stewardship and creativity. We make sure the church is actively and thoughtfully contributing to the development of our city. We believe that our intentional marketplace engagement gives Real Life credibility in the public square and earns us the right to influence our community’s culture and perception of faith and the church. What does ministry that unites work and life look like up close? Real Life utilizes its facilities seven days a week by sharing its physical space with Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence. Through the Entrepreneurial Center, we help people discover God’s purposes for them so they can be equipped and released back into the public square to both cultivate and create cultural goods. We also prosper our neighborhoods by increasing economic growth, creative thinking and human dignity for all citizens. Real Life equips people to fulfill the call to create and cultivate culture in every area of the social grid. We develop next-generation global leaders by engaging our members in action learning. Members of Real Life achieve fundamental business skills and gain an entrepreneurial mindset that equips them to make a global difference in all spheres of society.

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LIVE

HOW TO SALVAGE BROKEN RELATIONSHIPS Three things to remember when pursuing a life of forgiveness and restoration SCOTT HAGAN

hen it comes to relationships, there’s a clear difference between good leaders and great leaders. Good leaders know how to build relationships. Great leaders know how to restore them as well. Not every relationship soars with uninhibited freedom; most experience turbulence. When immature leaders experience a relational setback, they tend to cut their losses and move on. But seasoned leaders says, “Not so fast.” Great leaders think twice before severing a valued relationship. They recognize that losing such bonds also means losing a piece of themselves. For those pursuing a life of forgiveness and restoration, here are three things to remember about the nature of the conflict. 1. The enemy wants to turn something temporary into something permanent. Naomi, Ruth’s mother-in-law, faced a series of losses that would have reduced any normal person to a pile of dust and despair. After losing her husband and two adult sons, she concluded that God was against her. Naomi could have spent the rest of her life in deficit and sorrow. If not for the intervention

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of Ruth, negative labels would have kept Naomi bound. Satan knows exactly how to leverage bitterness and alter your legacy — if you allow him to do so. 2. The measure of your maturity is not your inability to offend, but your inability to be offended. We live in a diseased world of disrespect and offense. It seems as if no one has the resiliency to overlook a wrongdoing. Everything is personal. It’s impossible to live in freedom when you’re easily slighted. Jesus predicted that some people would hate us (Matthew 10:22). But Jesus also engineered His church to withstand mockery, rejection, beatings, false imprisonment and martyrdom. 3. You have to cleanse the wound before you close the wound. The good Samaritan poured both oil and wine into the wounds (trauma) of the Jewish man he found beaten along the roadside. This kind of cross-racial compassion was unheard of in Jesus’ day. The oil soothed, but the wine must have felt like a thousand bee stings. Why did the good Samaritan choose to confront death with pain? The wine was necessary to kill the bacteria. The same holds true for emotional trauma. God pours both truth and love in our wounded hearts. Along with the oil of God’s love that comforts, we feel the stinging sensation of God’s truth killing Satan’s bacteria in our hearts. Love closes the wound. Forgiveness cleanses the wound. Scott Hagan is lead pastor of Real Life Church (Assemblies of God) in Sacramento, California.


SURVIVING THEOLOGICAL ANGST Three practices to guide you through the troubling waters of theological uncertainty ALICIA BRITT CHOLE

preparing my sermon for Sunday. But honestly, I’m not sure what I believe today.” “I’ve been in ministry for years, but I find myself wondering if Jesus really is who I thought He was.” It happens. We study, think, teach and occasionally pause as some –ism or –ology misses a beat in our souls. Suddenly the familiar feels irregular. And the irregular can feel downright disconcerting. For me, theological angst is when I sincerely wonder if a belief is worthy of belief. Since Jesus interrupted my atheistic existence, He has walked with me through theological angst of both mild and monstrous proportions. Without question, the process has drawn us closer. If you are squinting right now trying to figure out what on earth I am talking about, it is okay. Click on something else and go in peace. If, however, the angst feels familiar, below are three practices that guide me through the troubling waters of theological uncertainty. I fast denial. Reality is a friend of intimacy with God. Denial is not. Spiritually, denial is a numbing form of self-protection that hinders real communion with our real God. If John the Baptist — a “more than a prophet,” great (Matthew 11:9, 11) leader — could express theological uncertainty about the very nature of

“I’m

Jesus (Matthew 11:3: “Are you the one who is to come, or should we expect someone else?”), our angst is in really good company. I ask the Holy Spirit to mentor my mind. More than the ability to think, mental strength is the ability to choose what to think and when to think. When the Holy Spirit sometimes counsels me: “Let this question rest. For the moment, no farther.” Then I have a choice to make. Will I self-navigate? Or will I submit to the Spirit’s leadership? When Jesus said, “follow me” (Matthew 4:19; 16:24), He meant with our minds as well as our feet. He leads. We follow. And His Spirit mentors us all along the way. I view questions as sacred invitations. My atheist father mentored me in processing cognitive angst. With dancing eyes, Dad daily asked, “What’s the daughter thinking about? Are there any questions in that brain of yours? You’re a good thinker, daughter!” Growing up, questions were an invitation to spend time with my Dad. He passed in 2001, but my Heavenly Father has carried on the tradition: We weaken — not strengthen — our faith when we silence sincere questions. Faith in Christ is not an airy substance that rests on unquestioning souls. Biblical faith is muscular, thickened more through trials than ease. 40 Days of Decrease (Nashville: W Publishing Group, 2016), 22. Personally, honest angst has forged stronger love with God. (What a relief.) Alicia Britt Chole is a speaker, leadership mentor and author. Her newest book, 40 Days of Decrease, guides readers in thinning their heart-clutter to thicken their communion with God. Connect with Alicia @aliciachole or www.aliciachole.com

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CATCH THE WIND OF THE SPIRIT Carolyn Tennant (Vital Resources)

In this book, Carolyn Tennant demonstrates how the five ministry gifts of Ephesians 4:11 can renew and revitalize the local church. Rather than focusing on church offices, however, she shows how the ministry gifts describe “currents” — or perhaps “functions” — that are present in renewed churches: evangelism, discipleship, pastoral care, prophetic service and apostolic sending. “With the five currents in operation,” she writes, “all aspects of a revitalized church will surge and the church will be on the move.”

BOOKS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING, FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM George Paul Wood

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RECLAIMING CONVERSATION Sherry Turkle (Penguin Press)

Every technology has benefits … and costs. Smartphones, social media and computer software have made communication easier. As Sherry Turkle points out in this book, however, they also have made conversation harder. And that’s not a good thing. “Face-to-face conversation is the most human — and humanizing thing we do.” Turkle is not antitechnology. She does want us to be honest about how it often misshapes our interactions with others, however. Though written from a secular perspective, the book carries many implications for Christian ministry.

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PASSING THE LEADERSHIP BATON Tom Mullins (Thomas Nelson)

When transitioning between pastors and their successors, many churches drop the baton. Whatever the reason for this, Tom Mullins thinks churches can do a better job. In this book, he outlines several action steps: lead through transition, keep the right perspective, prepare for the win, select and prepare your successor, position yourself — and others — for success, lead through crisis-driven transitions and create a legacy. “Transition is not only the greatest test of your leadership,” Mullins writes; “it is your legacy. Transition well.”

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CHRIST REDEEMER http://influencemusic.com/music/

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Christ Redeemer is the new five-song EP from Influence Music featuring songs from the worship ministries of leading Assemblies of God churches. Tracks include “Love Changes Everything” (Red Rocks Church), “Christ Redeemer” (Rochester Christian Church), “Victory Song” (The Oaks Fellowship), “Acclamation” (New Life Church) and “There Is a King” (Journey Community Church). The album is available for download at iTunes, Google Play, Amazon, and other digital service providers. Lyrics and chord charts can be downloaded free at InfluenceMusic.com. 2

HBR IDEACAST https://soundcloud.com/hbrideacast

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IdeaCast is a podcast featuring conversations with “leading thinkers in business and management from Harvard Business Review.” Recent episodes include “The Art of the [Job] Interview,” “Closing the Strategy-Execution Gap,” “How to Give Constructive Feedback” and “Being Happier at Work.” IdeaCast episodes come from a secular management viewpoint. They often have practical application to ministry contexts, too. Just be ready to contextualize secular, for-profit advice to a faith-based, nonprofit environment. Episodes drop weekly and run approximately 15–20 minutes. 3

SEVEN MINUTE SEMINARY http://seedbed.com/category/seven-minute-seminary/

Seven Minute Seminary is the podcast of Asbury Theological Seminary. It features professors, pastors and writers addressing theological and practical topics from a Wesleyan, Holiness, Arminian and (occasionally) Pentecostal point of view. Recent episodes include “9 Myths Christians Believe about Pain, Suffering and Evil,” “Deeds Not Creeds? 3 Reasons Why Christian Creeds Matter,” and “What Does Work Have to Do with Worship?” Episodes drop weekly and run 7 minutes, give or take a few.

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PROTECTING THE GRE TER GOOD AG Financial Insurance Solutions, in partnership with Church Mutual Insurance Company, offers Assemblies of God churches access to the industry’s most robust network of strategic connections. Together, we offer the specialized insight and service you need to succeed in your mission — and you can’t get them anywhere else. When it comes to protecting your people, your property and the flow of your ministry, you’ll find we’re more than an insurer. We’re a partner who helps you serve the greater good. Make a strategic connection today. Call (888) 616-5248 or visit www.agfinancial.org/insurance.

© 2016 Church Mutual Insurance Company


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Apps and tech that add to your life 1

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THEGODTEST

WHYISTHISHAPPENING.ORG

Research shows that in North America, only 3 percent of churches grow through evangelism. Surveys suggest that a staggering number of young people will discard their faith once they leave high school for college. Though the evidence for God is overwhelming, most Christians don’t know it and can’t communicate the evidence to others. TheGodTest, developed by Dr. Rice Brooks, is being used around the world as a groundbreaking tool that is equipping believers to be more equipped and secure in their faith. TheGodTest is a simple, revolutionary tool that gives believers a practical strategy for evangelism and the confidence to defend their faith. TheGodTest, meant to be used in one-on-one or small group discussions, promotes conversation with atheists, agnostics, believers and everyone in-between. It helps facilitate dialog on the critical issues of faith, skepticism and the meaning of life — leading ultimately to a presentation of the gospel. Download the free app at www.thegodtest.org.

“Why is this happening to me?” is a question many of us will ask in our lifetime. All of us will experience the heartache of life-altering events. Jesus said in John 16:33, “In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” The creators behind whyisthishappening.org have also faced challenges similar to ours. Members of Grand Rapids First (AG) believe their content can be helpful to members of your church or others in some unique way. Whyisthishappening.org tackles the hard questions that come to people’s mind when in a crisis. The video-based content centers around real people with real stories and their encounters with a real God. The resources throughout the site are designed to provide practical helps for those wondering, “What do I do now?” Whyisthishappening.org is a safe place for people to discover hope and purpose for their lives. Visit whyisthishappening.org.

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PLAYBOOK : BUILD

don’t know how it is at your house, but when we are having company, we do a lot to get ready. The less they know us, the more we tend to get ready. How are you getting your church ready for company? How you answer this question says a lot about how much you care. Here are some tips to help you evaluate your church’s preparedness for the company you might receive this weekend. Take a look at these tips, and ask yourself where you rate in each area, on a scale from 1 to 10. 1. Give them a reason to come. When people come to church, what they’re truly looking for is community. Community is a place where people can get acquainted, build connections and experience life together. How does your church help people form these bonds? There are many ways to create a sense of community, including through small groups or Sunday School. Regardless of what your church does, you need to rate yourself not only in how people find community, but what happens in the community. True community helps people become spiritually healthy. Rate your church on how easily people can find a healthy spiritual community. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 8 — 9 — 10

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GUESS WHO’S COMING OVER? Five ways to get your church ready for company STEVE GLADEN

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2. Get out of your bubble! The only way your church will know and feel passion for assimilating people is for you to model what you want. If the people God sends to your church really matter, you will instill in your


people the desire to do the basics as new people come to your church. What should these basics include? It starts with being friendly. Before you go to your friends after church, go to someone you don’t know and say hello. If you notice someone new in the parking lot, walk up and welcome them. Sit in a different place in church each week to force yourself to see and greet new people. Go up to people who are like you — as well as some who are not like you — and get to know them. Chances are, you will find things in common. In even the simplest gestures, you can show that new people in the church matter. Rate your efforts to reach out to new people. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 8 — 9 — 10 3. Make sure they will want to come back. Scripture only records a couple of times when Jesus weeps. One is in John 11:35, when Lazarus dies. The other is in Luke 19:41 as Jesus approaches Jerusalem and considers the spiritual state of the people there. Jesus cares deeply for people — and we should too. The fact that He is passionate about people, especially lost people, should motivate us to do what it takes to connect people to Him. What could be blocking you from making sure this is happening? Do you take time to be sure each new person finds a place of connection? Are you training someone in your church to see that these people receive follow-up attention? If you knew a particular person might donate $100,000 to your church, would your follow-up be different? My guess is that person wouldn’t fall through the cracks. Rate your church on how well, and with what level of care, your church follows up on new people. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 8 — 9 — 10 4. Give clear next steps. At every event, a person’s next steps toward participating in the life of the church should be apparent. People are looking for guidance. Unfortunately, churches often leave guests guessing about their next steps. We should provide illumination for people rather than fogging their journeys. If you don’t know the plan, visitors and new members certainly won’t have a clue. Make the path clear so they can easily take those next steps. Spell it out in your printed material, on the Web and

in your vebal communication from the pulpit. If you think your directions are clear, have an unsaved friend read them, and ask whether they agree. Church communication often contains jargon that only church people understand. Rate your church on how easy it is for newcomers to follow a clear pathway toward getting connected. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 8 — 9 — 10 5. Recognize that they are your future. New churchgoers know other people who could become new churchgoers. It’s not rocket science, but it’s amazing how often we miss this common fact. We want our church to grow, but we don’t invest in the people who know other people who need Christ. The longer most people are in church, the fewer unbelievers they encounter. This truth raises three important points. First, as believers, we need to make a conscious effort to meet unbelievers. Second, don’t overprogram the church; if people are in church all the time they won’t have the time to meet unbelievers. Third, each new person in church has a network they can influence for Christ. If we want to reach our area for Jesus, let’s network with the people God sends us. When we see one visitor, we should see 51 (one plus the 50 they know). That should provide motivation — and a glimpse into your church’s future! Rate your church on how well you see the future in each visitor. 1 — 2 — 3 — 4 — 5 — 6 — 7 — 8 — 9 — 10 Now that you have rated your church on engaging people, review your scores. Consider getting to work on improving a low score. Or focus on a point you feel the Lord wants you to improve, even if it isn’t the lowest scoring. Whatever the case, the driving force should be a desire to improve your efforts to reach people for Christ. We are on this Earth to help people find Jesus and prepare them for eternity. Shouldn’t their experience in the church be the best experience they have on this Earth? Steve Gladen serves as pastor of small groups at Saddleback Church. He oversees the strategic launch and development of more than 7,000 adult small groups on multiple campuses. He is the author of Small Groups With Purpose, which to date has been translated into eight languages.

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PLAYBOOK : KNOW

PRINCIPLED PRAGMATISM IN CHRISTIAN LEADERSHIP To be effective in their ministries, Christian leaders must be both principled and pragmatic. G EO R G E PAU L WO O D

eadership worthy of the name “Christian” is based on the principles of right doctrine (orthodoxy), right affection (orthopathy) and right practice or behavior (orthopraxy). No matter how large the church or how well funded its ministry, if its leadership has departed from these three “orthos,” it is not effective. After all, a central goal of Christian leadership is to produce followers of Jesus Christ whose heads, hearts and hands think, beat and move in sync with His. If a ministry is not doing that, it is not doing what Christ called it into being to do. That is the very definition of ineffectiveness. By the same token, however, the three “orthos” by themselves do not guarantee that the leadership of the local church or ministry will be effective. It is quite possible for Christian leaders to be right about doctrine, affection and practice and still be incompetent when it comes to performing ministry tasks such as evangelism, discipleship, church planting, church revitalization and the like. Based on 25 years of ministry in the Assemblies of God in different kinds of churches (e.g., church plant, established church, megachurch, turnaround church), I believe that my fellow ministers agree on the importance of principled leadership. The sharpest (and occasionally most acrimonious) debates among ministers I have witnessed personally centered on questions of pragmatism — of what works best.

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PLAYBOOK : KNOW

Successful church plants tend to have defined processes for evangelism, discipleship and church membership. Ed Stetzer, Micah Fries and Daniel Im recently published “The State of Church Planting in the U.S.” They surveyed 1,200 church planters from 17 evangelical denominations to determine “the current state of church planting” in the United States. (Canadian and Australian reports are forthcoming.) They grouped their findings around five topics: attendance, discipleship, evangelism, financial self-sufficiency and multiplication, which refers to church plants themselves planting churches. As I read the report, I saw five themes appearing again and again. First, external focus: Successful church plants — whether defined in terms of attendance, discipleship, evangelism, finances or multiplication ��� have a missional orientation to those who have not yet heard or responded to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Emil Brunner once wrote, “The Church exists by mission, just as a fire exists by burning.” And yet, we all know of completely “ortho” churches that are internally focused. Effective Christian leadership keeps the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) at the forefront of the local church’s attention. Second, public presence: The Lord once said, “In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). His words assume that His followers are visible in the public square … that they can be seen. Too often, however, churches are invisible to their communities. Successful church plants tend to maintain a public presence by means of their physical location, publicity and digital presence (website, social media, podcast, etc.). Third, intentional strategies: Successful church plants tend to have defined processes for evangelism, discipleship and church membership. In other words, when an attender asks them, “What’s the next step I should take spiritually?” they tend to have a well-defined, easily articulated answer. We see an example of an intentional strategy in Scripture itself. If unbelievers came to faith through the ministry of the

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Jerusalem Church, they would have known exactly what was expected of them: “They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer” (Acts 2:42). Fourth, leadership development: One of the intentional strategies successful church plants tend to have is a commitment to leadership development, both for pastors and lay leaders. Every Christian is a spiritually gifted person, of course (1 Corinthians 12:7–11). Christian leaders have the more specific task of equipping “[Christ’s] people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:12). To do this well, however, Christian leaders — whether pastoral or lay — themselves need to be adequately resourced and trained. Successful church plants tend to do just that. Fifth, multiplication mentality: As already noted, successful church plants have an external focus on converting unbelievers. It turns out that they also have an external focus for planting other churches. Successful church plants tend to plant churches, in other words. They are characterized by what I call the “flow-through mentality”: What blessings they have received flow through them to others. They are generous in seeding money, people and personnel to new church plants, mindful of what Jesus said: “It is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35) Though these five themes characterize the principled pragmatism of successful church plants, I cannot help but think that they are relevant for church revitalizations too. Effective Christian leaders — whether planters or revitalizers — will build their ministries on the foundations of orthodoxy, orthopathy and orthopraxy … but they will also be characterized by external focus, public presence, intentional strategies, leadership development and a multiplication mentality. George Paul Wood is executive editor of Influence magazine.


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hese are the driving forces of Latin America ChildCare, the faith-based school system that has touched the lives of more than a million children in some of the poorest neighborhoods of Latin America and the Caribbean. The stories of lives changed forever point out how spiritual and physical poverty can be overcome by the love of Christ and the compassion of God’s people. In these pages, you’ll find some of those stories ... and you’ll experience how the Lord is transforming the next generation in some of the neediest nations of the world, and how these children are rising above difficult circumstances to become good citizens, parents, and leaders in their own right.

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The Story of Latin America ChildCare


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GROWING A CULTURE OF GIVING THAT WORKS How to break common church giving patterns that yield the same dismal results BRAD LEEPER

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uzzled. Perplexed. The coach tried responding to the questions that came after losing what was a very winnable game. Everything on paper said the team should have won. They had the players, the game plan and the home field advantage. Yet in spite of the setup for an easy victory, the game was a painful loss. Many church leaders have these same feelings when looking at their church giving patterns. They have the biblical truth, the staff and the local church as the home field advantage. Yet giving rarely reflects what it should be. As we coach churches in giving, the data we see consistently shows a default pattern. In spite of great leadership intentions in giving, the patterns predictably show that less than 8 percent of households give 10 percent or more of their household gross income. Most of a church’s income typically comes from no more than 30 percent of its households. New givers are rare. Those with greater giving capacity tend to give more outside the church. How, then, do we move from great intentions to a flourishing giving culture? How do we break the common church giving patterns that yield the same dismal results? Best results come when church leaders make two simple but challenging decisions. 1. Intentionally craft a normalized conversation concerning faith, finances and your church. Church leaders rarely disciple people in giving principles. We tend to have committees that oversee expenses, but no team that energizes the income side. As a result, churches keep yielding the same results. Being intentional does not mean preaching a sermon or series on giving. It means

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Being intentional does not mean preaching a sermon or series on giving. It means creatively and wisely normalizing the biblical conversation. creatively and wisely normalizing the biblical conversation. It means consistently doing the following: • Informing the congregation about why giving is vital to their spiritual growth. • Inspiring the congregation with the church mission and the Kingdom impact. • Modeling generous giving. • Providing encouragement and tools to help people get started giving. Leaders must be ready to demonstrate that their personal giving aligns with the church. Pastors and deacons can keep one another accountable in their personal giving. Leaders cannot ask people to do things they themselves are not doing. The pace of leadership really does set the team’s pace. Leaders can then declare and model for the congregation that they are giving consistently. Never give a financial number, but do provide a snapshot of the process.

One deacon simply said: We give 12 percent of our gross income to this church because of our love for our mission and because of what God is doing in our lives. We give another 3 percent to missions because of the need to reach the world. 2. Work toward a robust giving culture. When leadership celebrates generosity, it helps normalize vigorous giving. Consider these suggestions: • Creatively highlight the offering moment each week. • Acknowledge in writing first-time givers. • Regularly provide communication informing givers of the ministry impact of their offerings. • Leverage social media to highlight the ministry impact of giving. One church leveraging these best practices has seen a 40 percent increase in their per attendee giving. The takeaway? People are eager to learn how to give. To assist with creating a thriving culture of generosity, Generis offers a free downloadable resource, Accelerating Generosity: How to Grow a Culture of Generosity in Your Church or Ministry, available at generis.com/influence. One year from now, you, as the coach of your team, can declare that you have won the game. You broke free from typical church-giving malaise. You scored big in two vital areas: Your people have grown in their faith, and you have invested significantly in eternity and what matters to the heart of God.

Brad Leeper serves as president and principal at Generis, an organization that seeks to cultivate generosity in the Church.

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IT’S TIME TO INFLUENCE W E BELIE VE THAT TRUE, GODLY LEADERSHI P DOESN’T COM E FROM A T IT LE OR P OSITION. IT STA RTS WI TH THE HEART OF A SERVANT AND GR OWS INTO A LIFE OF IMM EASURABLE I M PAC T. THAT I S WHY WE CREATED I NFLUENC E.

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Three pastoral doorways for leading people toward the Holy Spirit J A M E S T. B R A D F O R D

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If our gatherings are devoid of God’s presence, and if we are happy simply with the mechanics of ministry as they are, without Him, we have robbed people of what they really need.

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ast Sunday in church, we sang: “Holy Spirit, You are welcome here Come flood this place and fill the atmosphere. “Your glory, God, is what our hearts long for To be overcome by Your presence, Lord.”1 Being the spiritual leader that he is, our pastor, Jeff Peterson, did not miss the moment, or change the subject. He stepped to the front and encouraged us as a congregation to open our hearts to the Spirit’s presence, just to linger and receive. As he prayed, we prayed. The familiar, yet inexplicable, presence of the Spirit touched us. This, as the song lyrics remind us, is what our hearts long for. Some of my earliest childhood memories involve waking up during altar calls at church, weeping. My parents actually talked to the pastor about it at one point. Wisely, he reassured them that nothing was wrong. Rather, everything was right. I was responding to the wooing, tugging presence of the Holy Spirit as only a young preschooler could — with tears. Even today, tears come to my eyes when I feel the Holy Spirit beginning to move. And over the years, I have always loved hearing people who are new to church say, “Pastor, whenever I come to a service, I cry.” Although they may not understand at first, they are experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit. God’s presence is what we need. His Spirit melts us down and fills us up. We were made 1

for His presence. In 1 Corinthians 6:19, Paul asked the Corinthians, “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God?” God’s personal presence in us and with us has always been God’s passion. In the newly created Garden of Eden, God personally walked where Adam and Eve lived (Genesis 3:8). In the newly built temple in Jerusalem, God’s glory filled the house and eclipsed even priestly activity (2 Chronicles 7:1–2). In the midst of the newly formed Church on the Day of Pentecost, God’s Spirit came with power and evidence (Acts 2:4). And in the new heaven and new earth, “God himself will be with them” (Revelation 21:3). If our gatherings are devoid of God’s presence, and if we are happy simply with the mechanics of ministry as they are, without Him, we have robbed people of what they really need. It would be better to lock the doors and not waste our time. If those we lead never encounter a holy fire in their hearts that is greater than the false fires of human hype and

©2014 KAJE, LLC. under exclusive license to Sparrow Records.

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religious manipulation, how will they ever stay faithful to Jesus, keeping their affections on fire for Him, in the kind of world in which we live? In our pursuit of ministry relevance, might we actually be depriving people of some of the same encounters with the Holy Spirit that shaped and propelled our own lives? I have come to understand ministry as a marriage between excellence and anointing. Excellence represents the best we can do, but anointing reminds us that our best, at its best, is not enough. Jesus said, “apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What worries me most about that statement is the period at the end. It’s not, “apart from me you can do nothing — until you get the right facilities or finish your education or find the right worship leader.” It is an unqualified assertion that casts us upon the Lord and reframes our whole perception of ministry. My friend Kevin Kringel pastors an Assemblies of God church in northern Illinois. Under his leadership, the church has grown from 18 people to well over a thousand. There is a decidedly contemporary feel to the church, but Kringel has determined along the way not to minimize the person and work of the Holy Spirit, or to underplay our need for His presence. In his recent book, Relevant Acts, Kringel writes, “Whatever your style, your environments can look and sound like you, but you must be strategic as you expose your people to more of God Himself. Why? Your people may not otherwise learn how to foster divine fellowship with God on their own. What they learn in church relating to meeting with and listening to the Spirit of God will end up in their personal lives.” So where do we start? Let me focus on three pastoral doorways for leading people toward the Holy Spirit. Mentor When You Preach At the 2015 General Council in Orlando, Fla., Jack Hayford said, “A passion for the Holy Spirit is more than holding a doctrine, but the discipling of people into the life of the Spirit … a discipleship dimension that most pastors are deficient in. How to live life in the Spirit needs to be covered Sunday mornings.” It may seem out of step with common practice to address “walking in the Spirit” topics on Sunday

Three Biblical Experiences Over my years of pastoral ministry, I’ve found that the best antidote to the toxic tendencies of ministry leadership is to live within the life-giving constraints of three biblical experiences: 1. Being broken before God Jesus warned us, “Apart from me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). What worries me most about that statement is the period at the end. He does not say, “Apart from me you can do nothing . . . unless you find the right worship leader or until you finish your degree.” It’s a humbling and unqualified assertion: “Apart from me you can do nothing.” This realization is where brokenness takes us. 2. Abiding with Christ in His Word and prayer After establishing that nothing of eternal significance can be accomplished without Him (John 15:5), Jesus then paints a word picture inviting us to himself: “If you remain [or abide] in me and my words remain [or abide] in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” (John 15:7). Experiences of brokenness come to us in seasons, but to “remain,” to “abide,” to stay connected to Jesus’ life is a vitality-charged relationship that transcends seasons and shapes the spiritual center of our lives. And it’s a two-way street. His words abide in us, and we abide in Him. This is an invitation to engage the Scriptures and embrace a life of prayer. 3. Living in the fellowship of the Holy Spirit Because it’s easy to reduce our spiritual lives to a set of dos, don’ts and disciplines, we often miss the heart of what it is to be a Christian: having a personal, intimate relationship with Jesus. I often tell people, “Before trying to spend an hour a day with God, try spending twenty-four hours a day with God.” This is a lifestyle of “fellowship with the Holy Spirit” all day long, walking with Him, talking to Him, listening to Him and living in His conscious presence (2 Cor. 13:14). Adapted with permission from James T. Bradford, Lead So Others Can Follow: 12 Practices and Principles for Ministry (Springfield, MO: Salubris Resources, 2015).

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If we are mentoring when we preach, then we are also always preaching toward moments of faith response and encounters with the Spirit’s power. mornings, but in many ways, life in the Spirit is what all of Scripture ultimately points us to. Hayford went on to say, “You can’t expect people to be open to the Spirit’s fullness with little understanding of, or introduction to, the person of the Spirit.” Indeed, we do people no favors when we edit Scripture and hide the Holy Spirit from them. The mentoring question is this: If somebody listened to me preach for five years, what would they look like spiritually? This kind of intentional approach requires breaking down what living life in the Spirit is all about into its component parts and then aiming message applications specifically toward those ends — knowing God, Spirit baptism, walking in faith, hearing God’s voice, intercession, spiritual authority, transformed character, life-giving relationships, personal evangelism, spiritual gifts, the priesthood of all believers and I could go on. I personally had to start looking at sermons as opportunities to equip and mentor, not just exhort and motivate. Unfortunately, in my early preaching life, most of my sermon applications boiled down to little more than “pray and be more committed.” People felt pushed, but not equipped. Or I would catch myself thinking, I’ll just let God apply the point. But vagueness on my part gave place to vagueness on everyone else’s part as well. I found that to mentor when I preached, I needed to allocate a lot more of my preparation time toward simplifying my messages down to a focused point and then praying through specific equipping types of applications. I also realized that I often preached right to the end of the service and left no time for congregational or individual response. God’s Spirit and His Word always work together. The Word is the sword the Spirit uses (Ephesians 6:17). To leave no time for the Spirit to work His Word into people’s hearts short-circuits the whole empowering process. I needed to aim for anointed impact rather than needless length. So after my message outline was essentially developed, I would go back and try to cut out 25 percent of it. Amazingly, I usually suceeded. It is surprisingly easy to ramble when we haven’t yet focused what we are trying to say, or to try to say too much. I would sometimes also reverse the Sunday order of service — preaching first and having singing and worship as an extended response. Those tended to be especially powerful services because we were giving God’s Spirit time.

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7 Core Commitments of a Spiritual Leader Several years ago, as I pondered the “watch your life” implications of 1 Timothy 4:16, I decided to write down seven phrases, two words each, that would capture the core commitments I needed to make in my own life on a daily basis. I later added to each phrase a diagnostic question to help keep my feet to the fire. Each person can develop his or her own core commitments and self-test questions, but here are mine. 1. Know God: If ministry activities were taken away from me, would I still have a growing, intimate relationship with Jesus? 2. Pursue Integrity: Are there areas of ongoing secrecy in my life that I’m intentionally hiding from those closest to me? 3. Be Yourself: Am I living under the self-imposed pressure of always having to prove something to somebody? 4. Own Responsibility: Do I acknowledge my mistakes, or do I project blame and use the pulpit to vent unresolved anger? 5. Embrace Change: Is my attitude faith-filled and future-focused, or am I overly nostalgic of the past and fearful of taking risks in the future? 6. Love Learning: Am I coasting intellectually, or am I applying myself to the disciplines of personal study and reflection? 7. Live Joyfully: Do I love what I’m doing, or have I taken the pressures of ministry onto myself ? No matter what they are, the core personal commitments we make define the things that will shape who we become and how we lead. Let’s take care of our own hearts before we try to fix the hearts of others. Who we are will take us further than what we do. Adapted with permission from James T. Bradford, Lead So Others Can Follow (Springfield, MO: Salubris Resources, 2015).

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Teach People to Feed Themselves Although my father always felt called to the business world, he was one of the most active local church volunteers I have ever known. He refused to criticize pastors, but instead served on their boards, led home Bible studies, taught new believers’ classes, directed choirs, superintended Sunday School programs and led outreaches — whatever it took to minister to people and help the church grow. One day, he went to his pastor and expressed how much he enjoyed his sermons. Then he asked, “Would you teach me how you study the Bible?” Whether out of insecurity, or perhaps a sense of loss as to what to say, the pastor’s only response was, “No, just keep listening to my sermons.” A few years later, I became an engineering student at a secular university. One day, I showed my father what our campus ministry leaders had taught us about feeding ourselves spiritually. I took an 8-1/2 by 11 sheet of paper, turned it sideways and drew two lines, top to bottom, creating three equal columns. At the top of the first column, I wrote, “What does it say?” At the top of the second column, “What does it mean?” And at the top of the third column, “How does it apply to me?” That was all Dad needed. A spiritual revolution erupted in his life. He would get up early every morning to study the Word and seek God through the lens of those three inductive Bible study questions. Years later, I heard him give a talk in which he described publicly the spiritual adventure that was still ongoing in his life, all starting with that sheet of paper turned sideways. Over many years of pastoring, I have noticed that something fundamentally shifts in people’s experience of the Spirit when they go from only being fed by others to feeding themselves spiritually as well. If God’s Spirit is the flame, His Word is the fuel. Giving people the encouragement and tools to engage Scripture and listen to the Holy Spirit for themselves is one of our highest pastoral callings as spiritual leaders. After all, intimacy with Christ and walking in the Spirit’s life are the heart of Christianity — not being busier than we used to be, or putting more events into our schedules, or even having more Christian friends. We can be busy with Christian activities and still be devoid of the Spirit’s life. Our pastoral goal has to be more than getting people involved. People need to connect daily to the Spirit’s life, and they can learn how to do that if we help them. Create Encounter Moments Preach with mentoring application, and give people tools to walk daily in the “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” (2 Corinthians 13:14). However, do not replace the need for specific power encounters with the Holy Spirit. When the Holy Spirit comes upon us, He does what we could never do. As Pentecostals, we believe this, and it has shaped us. The new believers in Samaria experienced this when Peter and John came down from Jerusalem and laid hands on them. According to Acts 8:17, they “received the Holy Spirit.” More than once, Paul


referenced the moment when believers laid hands on Timothy and a spiritual impartation took place that affected the rest of his ministry (1 Timothy 4:14; 2 Timothy 1:6). With fairly tightly scripted Sunday morning services, the only time most people are in a corporate worship setting these days, the opportunities for people to experience the laying on of hands for prayer — or experience baptism in the Holy Spirit, healing ministry and the gifts of the Holy Spirit — are diminishing. The people we serve desperately need encounters with the power of the Holy Spirit if they are to be free and filled. In fact, I personally ask people to lay hands on me and pray for me from time to time out of my own need for this. Yet the majority of people in our churches may never have that opportunity unless we intentionally create contexts and moments for that to happen. If we are mentoring when we preach, then we are also always preaching toward moments of faith response and encounters with the Spirit’s power. Even with multiple services, let’s not give in to having time for everything but altar response, prayer ministry and waiting on God in one form or another. The Holy Spirit wants us to leave room for Him and to give Him time to work. This is why I periodically switched the order of service, preaching first. I also almost always invited people forward for personal prayer while the musical worship was taking place. Beyond Sunday mornings, leaders can create opportunities for people to encounter the Holy Spirit, even where there are no regular Sunday night or midweek services. Consider these possibilities: • Invite evangelists and ministers gifted in leading others into experiencing the Holy Spirit to minister in special services in addition to Sunday morning, even if not everyone attends. These can be Holy Spirit conferences, revival meetings, camp meetings or spiritual renewal events — the label is not as important as the content. • Encourage ministry teams and small groups to take time to pray for one another every time they meet. Teach people to listen for and discern God’s voice, to overcome their natural hesitancy to pray conversationally out loud around others and to step out in gifts of the Holy Spirit as the Lord prompts them. Always affirm that all believers are ministers — and that the Spirit living in them wants to flow through them. • Conduct special midweek or Sunday night classes on the Holy Spirit, and provide time for people to ask questions and receive prayer. Teach people how to yield to the Spirit’s fullness, and help them understand why speaking in tongues is important in their lives well beyond the moment of Spirit baptism. • Have Friday night through Saturday afternoon retreats for

leading people through the issues of repentance, forgiveness, deliverance and Spirit baptism. Over the years, I have worked with the multiweek Alpha Course for prebelievers and new believers, which included a Holy Spirit weekend in which people received prayer for Spirit baptism. (It requires only minimal adjustment of the curriculum to bring it fully in line with our Statement of Faith on the baptism in the Holy Spirit.) • Encourage a week of prayer and fasting every few months. Ask people to fast a meal a day that week, or a full day (or more). Follow this with a Sunday night healing service structured around a short time of worship and a 10-minute message on receiving from the Lord, devoting the rest of the time to worship and prayer ministry. • Amazing things can happen when we make way for the Spirit to work in people’s lives. Often, our fear is, What if nothing happens? As a pastor, I finally had to decide that’s God’s problem, not mine. The pressure was not on me. And when I appear before Him someday, He will probably not look at me and say, “You believed Me for too much,” or, “You prayed for too many people.” Quite the opposite! Let us be unapologetic about the Holy Spirit. May we make ourselves available for Him to flow through us, and may we also equip others to live life in the Spirit.

James T. Bradford is general secretary of the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri.

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Grace Without Borders BY FOLLOWING THE BASIC TENETS OF CHRISTIANITY, CHURCHES CAN BECOME A HAVEN OF RESPITE FOR ALL FAMILIES WITH SPECIAL NEEDS SARAH SIMMONS

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y son was kicked out of our church’s nursery when he was 9 months old. “He just won’t let us put him down!” the worker told me as she handed me my baby bundle over the half door of his classroom. “We have to be able to take care of the other babies, you understand.” I nodded and walked out of the nursery with a heavy heart. My son got kicked out of nursery, I thought over and over as I walked away from the children’s area. Who kicks a baby out of the nursery? What I didn’t know then is that my son has autism. His name is Zechariah, which means “God remembers.” He is a sensory seeker, meaning that his sensory system doesn’t give him enough information about the world around him, so he is always looking for more sensory input. The hard, jarring sensation you get when you jump out of a swing or off the stairs; he loves that feeling. It helps him feel grounded. When he was a baby, he had no way to get extra sensory input on his own, so he relied on the sense of someone holding him. To feel right in the world, he needed to be held. Overworked nursery volunteers didn’t know. I didn’t even know at the time. I just knew that I had to hold Zechariah close to my heart for him to be happy. Statistically Speaking According to the 2010 census, nearly one in five Americans — about 56.7

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Opening up a church to families with special needs is not as challenging as some think. million people — has some sort of disability. Of that number, more than half report a severe disability. My son’s diagnosis of autism spectrum disorder, or ASD, affects approximately one in every 68 children in the U.S., according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC also reports that one in 323 children has cerebral palsy (CP), a condition that affects a person’s ability to move and maintain balance and posture. One in every 700 children has Down syndrome, a genetic condition in which a person is born with an extra chromosome. Two million Americans are unable to see. Seven million Americans have problems with hearing. These are just a few of the disabilities people live with. Fragile X, juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, ADHD and mental issues are also part of the fabric of humanity. Of these Americans with disabilities, only about half attend a church service at least once a month, according to the National Organization on Disability. And the more severe the reported disability, the less likely the individual and his or her family are to make it to church. Issues such as lack of transportation or lack of access to facilities are hindrances to meeting this community’s spiritual needs.


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Starting a Special Needs Ministry in Your Church 1. Assess your church’s physical structure. How accessible are your facilities to those in wheelchairs? Determine whether your kids’ area is safe for older children with developmental delays who may need to stay in an area for younger kids. 2. Present the need to your congregation. Ask for volunteers willing to commit on a regular basis. Successful special needs programs use the same staff each week. Familiar faces will bring people back each week. 3. Contact your local school system and ask to talk with the people who work with special needs kids. The local school systems are already set up to accommodate special needs kids, and their teachers can be a wealth of information. You can also ask if teachers or paraprofessionals are interested in helping you train your volunteers. 4. Consider what to do for older individuals. Kids get a lot of attention, but as those kids age, odds are they will still need special accommodations if they and their families continue to be part of your church. A special Sunday School class that occurs during the main service, staffed with extra volunteers for attendees, might be a good solution. 5. Try setting up a quarterly parents’ night or afternoon program where families can drop off their kids at church for a few hours and have some respite time while the volunteer crew from Sunday morning looks after their kids. (Consistency is key for the kids to be comfortable and feel safe.) 6. Statistically, there are families in your church dealing with special needs. Contact them and find out if your church is meeting their needs. Try bringing the families together so they can support one another. Special needs families may not realize other members of your congregation are dealing with some of the same issues. Allow them to use the church facilities to get together.

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Challenges Attending Church When families with special needs want to attend church, a multitude of factors come into play. For my family, we had to find a church that would have someone dedicated to Zechariah. He has to have one-on-one supervision because he is not able to make safe choices. He needs to be in a children’s area even though his age would dictate a more advanced structure. His developmental age is more important than his physical age when figuring out how to minister to him. Some families don’t ever attend services together if they can’t find a church home that can meet their whole family’s needs. The mom stays home with the child with the special need one Sunday while the rest of the family goes to church, and the father stays home the next Sunday — a fragmented way to worship. Other families don’t want to expose their special needs members to possible derision or misunderstanding because of the way their children communicate or the odd, random sounds they make. Or they don’t want to face well-meaning church members who tell the family, “If only you could pray the right way, your child would be healed!” (This is something I’ve heard more than once regarding Zechariah’s diagnosis.) It’s About Access: Connor’s Story Connor Harrup, 19, was born prematurely. He has CP, the result of a lack of sufficient blood flow through a deformed umbilical cord. When Connor was born, doctors told his parents, Scott and Jodie Harrup, that he wouldn’t live for more than a few years. “We were essentially told to enjoy him for the time we had him,” Jodie says. “He was never expected to swallow, so he had a tube in his nose for liquid meals. He pulled the tube out the first week at home, and has been chewing and swallowing and chugging down liquid ever since.” Connor is completely wheelchair bound, but he continues to exceed the medical community’s expectations. “Connor was expected to be virtually vegetative,” Scott says. “But he understands a wide array of words and emotions, particularly in regard to prayer and worship. He probably has a spoken vocabulary of a couple dozen words.” The Harrups, along with their other two children (Lindsey, 23, and Austin, 15) have attended three different churches of various sizes over the last few years. When Connor was born, the family attended a church of about 160 people. Scott says the integrated wheelchair ramp in the church foyer was a blessing. “People were always accommodating of Connor and fully integrated him into the life of the church,” he says. The second church they attended had a room


Sometimes congregants and ministers pray for the physical needs they see before them, not for the soul that may have issues completely unrelated to physical needs. dedicated to kids with special needs. That ministry was a drawing point for the family. “Being able to relax in the service, unworried about his care, was a time of respite for us each week,” Jodie says. The church the Harrups currently attend offers a row in the sanctuary with a wheelchair cutout. But even beyond physical access, Scott says a church’s attitude is key to helping families like his feel comfortable. “We want a welcoming environment where Connor can worship with others,” he says. Respite for the Whole Family The word respite — meaning a short period of rest or relief — is a beautiful word for families with special needs. And when the respite is combined with a chance to worship together with a spiritual family, it adds a layer of healing and hope to what has probably been a challenging week. Rockford First Church in Rockford, Illinois, (led by pastors Jeremy and Jen DeWeerdt) has a Champions Club ministry for families with special needs. Each week, between 30 and 40 children and teens with special needs attend. Approximately 45 volunteers work with these young “champions” and their families.

“We have nurses, therapists and doctors (volunteering),” says Chris Merz, director of operations for Champions Club. “But we also have a truck driver, students, teachers, stayat-home moms or just people with a huge heart for kids.” The ministry is in its third year. When the DeWeerdts became the parents of a child with Down syndrome, they felt a burden for families in situations similar to theirs. Research led them to a Champions Club ministry at Joel Osteen’s Lakewood Church in Houston, Texas. Even though implementing Champions Club required extensive renovation of a portion of the Rockford First facility, the congregation immediately got behind the idea and committed $100,000 to the project. The renovation involved creating four rooms for the champions to rotate through during service time. The first, a physical therapy room, accommodates high-energy activities. After physical therapy, the champions go through the sensory room. This starts the calming process and allows them to use all their senses to get involved. The third room is the most important room, Merz says. This room is the spiritual therapy room. “No matter what their diagnosis is, regardless of what we think they’re going to understand, it’s still important to us that they hear that God loves them and has a plan for them,” Merz says. This is the part of Sunday mornings where the team gets to invest spiritually in the kids, helping them learn with whatever learning style works for them. The fourth room is an educational room, which serves as an extension of the sensory room. “One of my favorite moments is when we work on the memory verses with the champions,” says Hannah Sunde, an intern working with the group. “The first few weeks, it’s kind of tough helping them understand. But we use sign language and pictures or whatever works for the kids. By the end of the month, they have it memorized, and they can sign it and apply it to their lives, and that’s super cool. We have amazing teachers!” Champions Club is not just for kids with special needs. “We partner with families,” Merz says. “Even if it’s just for 90 minutes a week, we will do everything in our power to have families in church together. We don’t ever want anyone to feel pushed away.” John’s Story John Horner, 24, has CP and ADHD. He walks with impairment. John’s mom, Julie Horner, says the family searched for a church home where they could find safety for John and rest for themselves. “(We needed) a place where we could be with adults and take a

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break,” Julie says. “I would not have selected a church where we would have been expected to take a turn in kids’ ministry or be with our kids.” Julie also wanted a church home for her daughter, Rachel. “Siblings of kids with disabilities struggle, too,” Julie says. “We wanted a place she could be connected to.” And they needed a church where their son could feel acceptance. “We didn’t want church to feel like school, so we valued fitting in more than achievement,” Horner says. “For example, in Royal Rangers, we didn’t emphasize John having to master all the milestones, as school wasn’t easy. We wanted him to see church as a place where he felt Jesus’ love and acceptance, not a place where he had to measure up.” One of the challenges of being in a church family is that sometimes congregants and ministers pray for the physical needs they see before them, not for the soul that may have issues completely unrelated to physical needs. “When people prayed for healing, it was the least effective (way to minister),” John says. “It made me hate my self-image and my position in life and ultimately resent those in the church that wanted it to happen because they thought my happiness was tied to being more like them. But it was simultaneously the most effective thing because I came to the realization that God gives everyone things to deal with, and that my position was more of a blessing than a disadvantage. Thus, this caused more spiritual progress because I was fine with the way God made me.” Because of the awkward exchanges, John ultimately decided to leave the church his parents were attending. “On the good side, it helped him see others who need to be honored as people, not as projects,” Julie says. “One of his closest friends is another young man from our church who has a brain injury.” People, Not Projects Opening up a church to families with special needs is not as challenging as some think. “Most churches already have facilities for kids,” Merz says. “If a church just adds one volunteer dedicated to special needs kids to the room, that makes it happen.” Rockford First Church regularly gives tours to other churches and pastors looking to open their hearts and doors to families with special needs. “We hear stories all the time about families feeling unwelcome at church because of their little ones who may be too loud or attract attention or other kids don’t feel safe around them,” Merz says. “But the biggest thing is inclusion. And it is so good for our church, for our people to be around special needs kids.”

Rockford First even integrates the champions into the church’s first impression team, pairing teen champions with greeting team members at the church’s main doors for service. “We see attendees go out of their way to go to a door with champions to greet them,” Merz says. “The champions are part of our family, and this is something we’re proud of. Our church has a huge heart for this. We have so many people who just love these kids.” Zechariah’s Story My son Zechariah is now 9-yearsold. It’s been 8 years since he was kicked out of the nursery. Today, he has limited verbal skills and some behavioral issues. Our family attends James River Church in Ozark, Missouri. James River Church has a dedicated room for children with special needs called Jordan’s Room. The room is for kids ages 4 to 12 and is staffed with volunteers who have a heart for children with special needs. Zechariah has been in Jordan’s Room for two years now and thoroughly enjoys it. He sees the same faces each week and has a chance to learn about the love of Christ in a way that he can comprehend. He asks to go see the “kids at church.” Before we used Jordan’s Room, we were blessed to have a family come alongside us and act as Zechariah’s special hosts while he was in the children’s ministry. This has allowed my husband and me to attend Sunday and midweek services together, knowing that Zechariah was being supervised with love, care and respect. This family had a heart for my family and made it possible for us to have a spiritual respite once a week.

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FEATURE Opening Doors Merz encourages churches not to put off reaching out to families with special needs. “You don’t need a list of items or rooms or facilities that are available to make this happen,” he says. “You need a heart for it and volunteers who have a heart for it. Once it’s available, people will hear about it and want it. We’ve added about one-third to our attendees in the past six months, and that’s because we provide a program that is trusted, and our families love it. When those families find something that they love, they will spread the word.” Merz says welcoming special needs children and their families can be as simple as adding a dedicated volunteer to the alreadyexisting kids’ ministries. He says local schools may even be willing to provide teaching tips. “People are scared to take the jump to make this happen because they feel it’s a lot to swallow,” Merz says. “But for a small church that only has a few kids to accommodate, local public schools are a great resource. They employee teachers and paraprofessionals who work with kids with special every day.” He says churches can also follow the example of some NFL teams that offer attendees with autism a kit that gives them special tools to enjoy their experience. Families can check in and receive a kit that includes noise-cancelling headphones, earplugs, fidget toys and a detailed schedule that lets them know what to expect and when. For people with autism, unexpected sounds can be a fearful experience, an assault on their senses that they don’t know how to process. This can lead to meltdowns and often limits where a family will go or how long they will stay. The organization I’m A-OK partners with businesses to help them become autism-friendly. In Matthew 11:28, Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.” Rest and respite are often what families with special needs are looking for. By following the basic tenets of Christianity, churches can become a haven of respite for all families with special needs. Sarah Simmons lives in Springfield, Missouri, with her husband and their two children. She is a preschool teacher. She and her family attend James River Church in Ozark, Missouri. 

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Helpful Resources Special Touch Ministries (specialtouch. org) is a nonprofit Christian organization, interdenominational in scope, committed to evangelizing and providing support services to people with intellectual or physical disabilities, their families and their caregivers. Special Touch Ministries offer churches a way to evaluate how friendly their facilities and ministries are to families with special needs through a disability-friendly church certification program. Assemblies of God U.S. missionary and Special Touch Ministries founder Charlie Chivers wrote a book on the subject, Compel Them To Come In: Reaching People with Disabilities through the Local Church. Ability Tree Ministries (abilitytree.org) offer a kit that includes resources for churches looking to make their ministries and facilities open to families with special needs. The American Association of People with Disabilities (aapd.com) offer a downloadable PDF, That All May Worship: An Interfaith Welcome to People with Disabilities, which offers many suggestions on how to make church services and facilities disability friendly.


CATCH the WIND of the SPIRIT Explore the FIVE MINISTRY GIFTS THAT ARE THE KEY to transforming your ministry today. As each believer follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, these gifts will move your church into the fullness of God’s calling.

Read with an ear to the Spirit and respond with faith that you can be part of Christ’s church revived in our day. –James Bradford, general secretary The General Council of the Assemblies of God

Carolyn Tennant, PhD, is a professor, pastor, and author who maintains an active speaking schedule across the United States and around the world.

Visit MyHealthyChurch.com/CatchtheWindoftheSpirit to download a free chapter.

MyHealthyChurch.com • 1.855.642.2011

MyHealthyChurch.com/ NewReleases


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BECOMING AN ENGAGING CHURCH CONSIDER THESE PRIMARY INGREDIENTS FOR DEVELOPING A CULTURE OF EVANGELISM IN YOUR CHURCH

RICE BROOCKS

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ow can the Church develop a culture of evangelism? Answering this question was the motive behind my books, God’s Not Dead and Man, Myth, Messiah, which helped inspire the movies God’s Not Dead and the recently released God’s Not Dead 2. In fact, the latest movie references a current Assemblies of God initiative, The Human Right. It underscores the basic need all humans have for God and our responsibility to give them an opportunity to hear about Jesus Christ. Without a doubt, God’s people must be prepared to give the reason for the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15). I don’t need to restate the grim statistics of young people leaving the faith once they attend college or the fact that a small fraction of churches grow through evangelism. Most Christian leaders are in agreement that reaching nonbelievers should be our top priority. The good news is that it isn’t hard to do. God designed the Church to grow through the compelling truth of the gospel message and through the lives of those who present it. This type of church is evident in Scripture, as well as in history. An engaging church is one that equips its people to present the gospel in word and deed to the unbelieving world. Stated even more simply: An engaging church trains believers to reach nonbelievers. I want to present some of the things that can help transform any congregation of any size into an engaging church. To help you remember these key ingredients, I will use the word GREAT (Gospel, Reasons, Evangelists, Approach, Tools) as an acronym. The angel Gabriel used the word "great" to describe John the Baptist when he said John would turn the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous (Luke 1:15–17). An engaging church is great in the sense that it does the same thing.

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An engaging church is one that equips its people to present the gospel in word and deed to the unbelieving world. Most leaders say evangelism is their passion — and that this is why they went into the ministry to begin with. Yet without an intentional process, evangelism becomes something only a few actively pursue. With a vision in place, evangelism can become as regular as a music or youth ministry. Think about it. No one is shocked when they attend a church meeting and the music team leads in worship. With an evangelism team in every congregation, outreach can be just as consistent. I assume you already have a heart for people and spend time praying for the lost. After all, if you didn’t care about others, you probably wouldn’t be reading an article about evangelism. So how can you begin putting your compassion into action? Consider these primary ingredients for developing an engaging church. Gospel Tragically, most Christians can’t give a clear explanation of the gospel. While they can probably

describe some parts of the message, their understanding isn’t clear enough to explain and defend Bible truth to others. Giving people a simple definition of the gospel that they can learn and memorize will dramatically increase the likelihood that they will share the message. Here is a working definition: The gospel is the good news that God became man in Jesus Christ. He lived the life we should have lived and died the death we should have died — in our place. Three days later, He rose from the dead, proving He is the Son of God and offering the gift of salvation and forgiveness of sins to everyone who repents and believes in Him. God became man in Christ. In Jesus, we have the Creator of the universe in human form. Christianity isn’t about us reaching God, but God first reaching us. Christ is indeed “God with us” (Matthew 1:23). He lived the life we should have lived. Christ perfectly obeyed God’s commands. This is what God ultimately expects of us. Jesus died the death we should have died.

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Through His death on a cross, He took our punishment for breaking God’s law. His resurrection from the dead validated His identity as the Son of God. The gospel offers salvation and forgiveness to everyone who repents and believes in Jesus Christ. This simply means we turn from a sinful life of going our own way and put our trust in the resurrected Jesus Christ. Reasons Many Christians do not feel confident enough to defend their faith. They are hesitant to share the gospel, fearing people will confront them with questions they cannot answer. Churches can easily overcome this hurdle by offering basic training in apologetics. This simply means giving the evidence for God’s existence and the truth of Christianity. It’s important to address several key areas. First, many falsely believe that science is in conflict with faith. In contrast, science provides some of the best evidence for God as our Creator. Astronomers recognize that the universe had a beginning. Christians may differ on when the universe began, but we all agree that God created everything out of nothing. Sir Fred Hoyle, an atheist, presumably coined the phrase “big bang” as a derogatory term. He warned that the notion of a starting point for the universe allowed a “divine foot in the door.” Indeed, many scientists recognize that the laws of physics and countless details of our planet point to a design, which further points to the God of the Bible. Ultimately, believers need to understand the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ. There are many facts that even skeptical historians admit are beyond dispute. (Though skeptics in places such as Internet comment boards shout denials of these claims, their arguments are baseless. Their assertions are the equivalent of an intellectual drive-by shooting.) Among the undeniable historical facts are that Jesus was executed by Pontius Pilate; His tomb

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was found empty by a group of His women followers; the disciples of Jesus believed they saw Him alive; and the message of His resurrection was proclaimed very early, literally weeks later. The best explanation of these facts is that Jesus rose from the dead. There is also compelling evidence that the Gospels are reliable accounts of these events. All of these topics, as well as others, are detailed in my two books and portrayed in the movies. Evangelists Identifying and training evangelists are among the most important components of any local church’s evangelism efforts. People often think of evangelists as ministers who conduct revival meetings. But according to Ephesians 4:11–12, evangelists also help equip believers to share and defend the gospel. A good definition of an evangelist, then, is someone who shares the gospel with unbelievers, while equipping believers to do the same. Often, these people are already fruitful in evangelism. They have a desire to share the gospel and, if trained, would be even more effective. In many congregations, the leaders in evangelism are busy with many other duties in the church. When you give them direction, training and focus, they can train others and multiply their efforts. It is thrilling to see an evangelistic team emerge. And just as a worship team facilitates worship, evangelists can facilitate evangelism. In the same way the majority of Christians enter into worship, they can also begin evangelizing. After all, God calls all believers to share their faith and make disciples. Approach In this process of evangelism, there is the inevitable moment when you learn


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Whatever approach we use to proclaim the gospel, we must maintain a gentle, respectful and gracious tone. to approach someone with the gospel. This is what many people dread because of the potential awkwardness usually associated with personal evangelism. The word, approach, as a noun is defined as, “a way of dealing with something; an act of speaking to someone for the first time about something, typically a proposal or request.” As a verb, it means: “come near or nearer to [someone or something] in distance; speak to [someone] for the first time about something, typically with a proposal or request.” This word, approach, is an excellent description of the mindset in evangelism that we need. The big question is: How can we approach others with the gospel? Unfortunately, church people sometimes use abrupt and rude methods to approach others with the gospel. Most of us cringe at such spectacles. While we should be prepared to give the reason for the hope that is in us, 1 Peter 3:15 also tells us to do this with gentleness and respect. Whatever approach we use to proclaim the gospel, we must maintain a gentle, respectful and gracious tone. Let me introduce a second acronym: SALT. It stands for start a conversation; ask questions; listen; tell the story. This simple formula has helped thousands of people adopt the right approach to engaging others. It involves asking questions and listening first before telling the story of the gospel. Tools Another major challenge for Christians is that they do not know how to start a conversation about faith. And, even if they happen to start one, the conversation can move in countless directions without ever leading to the gospel. As such, churches need to aid Christians in guiding these encounters with effective tools. I developed a tool to help with the SALT approach. TheGodTest (thegodtest.org) is an app that people in 137 countries have downloaded. It includes two sets of 10 questions. One set is for people who believe in God, and the other is for people who are atheists or agnostics (those who are not sure whether God exists). The first question asks whether they believe in God, and their answer determines the next nine questions. The questions help believers gain a deeper understanding of the nature and character of God, as well as the hope of salvation in Christ. The questions for atheists and agnostics probe their beliefs on the origin of the universe, life and morality. The last question asks whether they would like to hear the Christian perspective on the questions. This tool has been so effective at guiding meaningful conversations that many

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atheists have thanked the Christians for talking to them about God so respectfully. I also had the privilege of assisting the Assemblies of God in developing a similar tool, The Human Right Survey. It follows the same approach, but the questions focus on the topic of human rights, while pointing to God as the author of justice and Christ’s death as the payment for injustice. I strongly encourage you to train your churches to use these tools. Becoming an engaging church is not difficult, and it certainly is not beyond your reach. I pray that these principles will help you in your efforts to empower others to reach the lost. Never have people been more open to a clear message of truth and hope. Like an MRI, the gospel shows the real crisis plaguing the human race and offers the only true remedy and healing for the human soul. God’s truth addresses and answers the great questions of our times.

Rice Broocks is the author of Man, Myth, Messiah and God’s Not Dead. Both books are featured in the movies God’s Not Dead 1 and 2. He is the senior minister of Bethel World Outreach Church in Nashville, Tenn., and the cofounder of Every Nation Ministries. He holds a doctorate in missiology from Fuller Theological Seminary. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jody, and their five children.


From the creators of God’s Not Dead comes the exciting sequel, God’s Not Dead 2. When a student asks a question about Jesus in a public school classroom, the teacher’s response lands her in big trouble—almost before she even finishes giving her answer. God’s Not Dead 2 will surely have audiences sharing their faith. Who will you share it with? In Theaters

April 1, 2016 Visit GodsNotDeadTheMovie.com to purchase group tickets.

1.855.642.2011

Visit MyHealthyChurch.com/GodsNotDead2 to find out about God’s Not Dead 2 resources.


MULTIPLIER

RURAL AMERICA MATTERS An emerging army of Christian leaders is breathing new life into rural America. he fields and plains of rural America were forged out of the character of rugged individuals who were drawn to the lure of the frontier. Today, 72 percent of the United States is classified as “rural.” Yet, only 15 percent (46 million) of the U.S. population calls rural America home, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. It wasn’t until the 2010 census that rural America officially lost population for the first time. For years, rural communities were considered the heartland of America — the moral bedrock of our culture. Unfortunately, for many rural communities, those days are long gone.  Current data indicates the U.S. rural poverty rate is an estimated 18.1 percent, compared to the national poverty rate of 15.5 percent. Not only is the population in rural communities declining, but the physical and spiritual needs are also rising to levels surpassing those found in many urban and suburban communities. With many rural churches and communities quietly dying off without so much as a fight, the destructive sway of these problems is of even greater concern. Ministry to the rural areas of America goes largely unreported and unnoticed. Yet, an emerging army of Christian leaders is helping to reverse this downward trend and is breathing new life into rural America. With hope and a fresh vision, these leaders are promoting the revitalization and evangelization of rural communities and churches. They are responding to the burgeoning and diverse needs of

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these communities through compassionate action — sharing the love of Christ in word and deed. On the following pages are four individuals who are part of this growing, compassionate army of leaders helping to revitalize and evangelize the rural communities of America. Harvey Mitchell, Jr., lead pastor of Orland First Assembly of God in Orland, Calif., shares the biggest hurdles he’s had to overcome to grow his rural church one family at a time. Denny Curran, lead pastor of River of Life Church in Cold Spring, Minn., is leading the way in rural church planting. Rick Lorimer, lead pastor of Christ’s Place in Lincoln, Neb., is helping rural churches and pastors experience growth and transformation through a three-tier ministry network. Steve Donaldson, founder and senior director of Rural Compassion, is giving rural pastors the tools necessary to create lasting change in their churches and communities. Our objective in sharing these profiles with you is three-fold:  1. To give hope to rural ministry leaders who feel unnoticed and underappreciated. 2. To challenge those who are not yet participating in rural ministry. 3. To encourage rural pastors and partners to keep up the good fight.

Justin Lathrop is the vice president for strategic partnerships for Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida. He is the author of The Likeable Christian (Salubris Resources, 2015).


PLANNING FOR GROWTH How Harvey Mitchell, Jr. is growing his rural church one family at a time. A Q&A WITH HARVEY MITCHELL, JR.

Influence: What myths or stereotypes influence people’s perceptions of rural communities? Harvey Mitchell, Jr.: Some assume that rural people are not open to new ideas or that rural churches have no vision. I have found that people who live in rural communities think outside of traditional societal conventions. They are more open to new things, as long as they are not just rebranded things from the city. What drew you to pastoring in a rural community? There wasn’t a specific draw to rural ministry, but it was the opportunity I saw in the rural community. NoCal Nevada District Superintendent James Braddy encouraged me to look at a few open district churches. The first one was Orland First Assembly in Orland, Calif. In the 70s, a district pastor had a vision to move the church outside the city limits into the country because the church had some undeveloped land. I felt that regardless of whether the church grew under my leadership, I could guide its future direction by helping to develop the land and remodel the facilities. How does being bivocational affect your ministry? When I became the pastor, I was immediately informed the church couldn’t pay me anything. I understood and was

okay with that. So, I went to work for a large agricultural insurance agency, which allowed me to attend many fundraising and relational networking dinners. I’ve had meetings with the mayor and city manager. I doubt these things would have happened if I were just one of the pastors in town. A lot of the people who ended up becoming new members in our church were individuals I first met as their insurance agent. Recently I was appointed to the city economic development commission. What were your biggest hurdles and how did you overcome them? In the first 6 months of ministry, the district came at my request to restructure and to ask a few people to step down from the advisory team. As I said previously, I was told the church was poor and couldn’t afford to pay me a salary. The district later discovered the church had about $30,000 in the bank and was bringing in over $1,800 a month above expenses. After the advisory team left, several families came back and said I was the only pastor that had ever stood up to them. The church has doubled in attendance every year since. Organizational structure was a second big hurdle. I believe you plan for where you are going, not for where you currently are. Every four to six months we have to reorganize and reposition people as we grow. When I came in December 2012, the church was averaging 12 to 18 people. We are currently averaging 130 to 150, with 35 kids in our children’s ministry. We are now restructuring for a church of 250 to 300. I am blessed to be in a church where people want to see God do amazing things. Harvey Mitchell, Jr. is the lead pastor of Orland First Assembly of God in Orland, California.

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MULTIPLIER

A RURAL COMMITMENT How Rick Lorimer and Christ’s Place Church are making a difference in rural America A Q&A WITH RICK LORIMER

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Influence: Why are you involved with rural ministry when your church is in a larger city? Rick Lorimer: The simple answer is rural communities matter. Many people in our church and city have a rural background, so it’s a natural, heartfelt focus for us. It’s not a stretch for us to say, rural matters. Our location, background and passion for people coming to Christ positions us to be a difference maker in rural ministry. We want all rural churches in Nebraska to experience growth and transformation. How did your passion to partner with rural America begin? My burden grew exponentially while I was the district youth director of Nebraska. During that time, I worked with some really incredible ministers, our rural pastors. I was blown away by their work ethic and passion for their communities. After serving the district, I was blessed with the opportunity to serve at the Assemblies of God national office in Springfield, Mo. It was there that I became more aware of our rural church’s condition and the leadership vacuum that exists in many of our rural towns. I knew, if given the opportunity to pastor, I would do what I could to be a friend and lend my support as a peer. Most of our rural churches don’t need a big church to rescue them. However, they do appreciate our respect, friendship and support in their vision and mission.


How is your church involved in rural church multiplication? We are still trying to figure that out. We have put together a development strategy for rural church multiplication that involves three tiers of respective expectations and relational guidelines. Internally, we call the first tier our Friends Network. There is no fee to be involved, and it gives rural churches access to all our ministry resources for weekend ministry and church operations. Within this informal network, we have formal leadership cohorts and coaching taking place. Our second tier relates to affiliate campuses. At this tier, the level of support is greatly increased because affiliate churches willingly come under the authority and leadership of Christ’s Place Church. The Assemblies of God calls these campuses Parent Affiliated Churches (PAC). Our affiliates enjoy all the benefits of being a part of a larger church. We are presently adopting our second church, and it happens to be in a rural setting. Our third tier of commitment to rural communities is Fresh Starts. In the next five years, we plan to plant at least two new churches in rural areas that presently do not have an Assemblies of God church. Why should a rural church become a parent affiliated church? Let me first say that being a parent affiliated church is not for every rural church. It should be the exception, not the rule. It takes a unique church that loves the vision and mission of a parent church to surrender its independence. This kind of bold move is exactly what some churches need. Many pastors are reluctant to go into rural areas because of the potential isolation it presents. If you are a PAC, your isolation is minimized. Each week campus pastors can drive to or video conference our staff meetings, sermon planning and campus-hub team discussions. They are included in all district activities and participate in Christ’s Place pastors’ retreats. In addition, our central services take on the crucial nonpastoral responsibilities of the campus church. This frees campus pastors to focus on communicating, equipping and replicating disciples in their communities. Being a PAC is not for every church. If it seems right with the Holy Spirit, the church seeking affiliation, the district and us, we begin the process of affiliation.

What is working and grabbing traction in your network? We endeavor to live by the motto “friendship before ministry” in everything we do. This is fleshed out in each of the following network initiatives. Open Resourcing. We make all our ministry resources available — videos, graphics, worship songs and message transcripts to those who are interested in networking with us. Many rural pastors are bivocational and have neither the time nor money to spend on professional-grade resources. Coaching. We believe in leadership replication and ask each of our pastors to be multipliers. They are encouraged to develop relationships with pastors in rural Nebraska and practice one-on-one mentoring/coaching. Cohorts. We have three leadership cohorts presently taking place (executive leadership, creative arts and worship, and youth ministry). Technology has blown open the door of possibilities for cohorts and coaching. Leadership Intensives. I’m really excited about the leadership intensives we are launching in fall 2016. Twice a year we ask our campus pastors and their spouses to travel to our campus for a three-day intensive. They are responsible for their travel expenses, and we cover housing and meals. There seems to be a rural/city divide in how church is to be done. How is Christ’s Place Church helping to overcome it? It is unfortunate and unnecessary that a divide exists between pastors in rural and metro America. While there are cultural differences and unique challenges to both settings, there is much they have in common. One setting is not better than the other; mutual respect is crucial. I know rural pastors who are reaching a far greater percentage of their community than we are. But because of the emphasis placed on size, they receive little to no attention. We have a lot to learn from each other. At Christ’s Place Church, we are overcoming the divide by building mutual friendships and working together to reach our communities. I find it interesting that Jesus chose to spend most of His ministry in Galilee, which was much more rural than Jerusalem. We can have a worldwide impact regardless of the size of our community. We just need to lead well. Rick Lorimer is lead pastor of Christ’s Place Church in Lincoln, Nebraska.

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MULTIPLIER

A PASSION FOR PLANTING How River of Life Church and senior pastor Denny Curran are leading the way in rural church planting A Q&A WITH DENNY CURRAN

Influence: When did you know River of Life would be a church planting church? Denny Curran: River of Life began as a church plant, so planting churches has always been in our DNA. In reality, it’s about reaching people, and we believe the local church is the most effective means of sharing the gospel. A conversation with a couple from a community just west of us spurred River of Life from the vision of planting into action. This couple wanted to plant a church in their community. I explained their community had a church years ago but when trouble arose, the congregation quit and moved to other churches. It is difficult to plant a church when people are not committed. I relayed this message to a group of 35 influential people in their town. When I talked about total commitment and sticking with the church through every season, everyone agreed. Something inside me said, “Now you can start a church.” This is when I felt God saying He wanted us to plant. We only had 60 people at the time. What are your church planting goals? All of our church plants are in rural communities. Our goal in planting in rural communities reflects that reality. Before we plant, we make sure there is no other healthy, Spirit-filled church in the town. Next we find a lead pastor, worship leader and children’s director as part of the launch team. We want the church plant to resemble the DNA of the mother church, which is to reach young, unchurched families. This is the generation and culture we are called to reach. We instill this in the launch team. Lastly, I like the lead pastor to raise $60,000 before the launch and to attend Boot Camp for church planters.

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What is the biggest obstacle to rural church planting? It is difficult to attract people to rural church planting. With the success of many urban churches, it’s hard to convince young ministers to accept the less glamorous challenges of rural areas. How did you get your church to catch the vision to be a church planting church? We regularly pray for our church plants before the opening launch. This includes special prayer meetings for a month prior to the launch date. We also make the opening launch a total church effort, which helps our congregation catch the vision. Key people from the mother church help with the grand opening. We encourage church members from the area to make the new church their regular Sunday morning place of worship. We also send a live feed of the opening service back to the mother church so everyone is a part of the expansion. A few months after the launch, we share personal testimonies of changed lives due to the church plant. Denny Curran is lead pastor of River of Life Church, Cold Spring, Minnesota.


COMPASSION IN ACTION Steve Donaldson’s Rural Compassion is giving pastors the tools necessary for lasting change. A Q&A WITH STEVE DONALDSON

Influence: How did Rural Compassion form? Steve Donaldson: Growing up in a big city, I always thought God would call me to minister in an urban center. But then God opened up an opportunity for my wife and me to plant a church and develop a ministry to the poor where the Sierra Mountains meet the Cascades. As we shared life and made new friends, we realized the incredible opportunities were partnered with overwhelming challenges. Though we were greatly underresourced, we developed significant connections to community leaders through involvement in the school system and volunteering in community activities. That experience was the beginning of Rural Compassion. Years later, in 2004, Rural Compassion was officially created with the mission of equipping rural churches to reach their communities. The vast majority of ministry resources are targeted for urban and suburban communities. We determined to give rural pastors the tools necessary for lasting change. What unique challenges do rural pastors face? Rural pastors face many unique challenges: isolation, limited resources, family-controlled churches and an inflexibility to connect with the current culture. Robert Lewis in The Church of Irresistible Influence succinctly sums up the plight of many rural churches: “If the 1950s comes around again, our church will be ready” (pg. 25). The majority of rural pastors are bivocational or live at or below the poverty line. Community services found in most cities — assistance for the poor, elderly and disabled — are severely limited in rural areas. Rural Compassion works alongside rural pastors to meet these needs, as well as offer collaborative opportunities to learn best practices from other pastors.

How does Rural Compassion partner with communities and churches? Rural Compassion hosts training weekends and supplies churches with resources to better reach the community. We coach and mentor pastors. We challenge them to spend one-third of their church work hours serving in the community. Pastor Steve McBrien, lead pastor of the Assembly of God church in Oswego, Kansas, took on this challenge. Today the church in Oswego is the main influencer in its community through serving. The church serves schools, feeds sports teams, appreciates teachers, provides reading buddies and provides needed supplies for facility improvement projects. The church honors law enforcement and fire fighters. It is involved with community leadership to plan and implement community events. And the Oswego church has grown as a result. As the rural church gets involved in the community, it becomes an influencer, and the church becomes a vibrant congregation, helping create a community where families and children can flourish. There is a fresh spirit stirring through rural American communities. Steve Donaldson is the founder and senior director of Rural Compassion in Springfield, Missouri.

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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. 


The Human Right Journey Small Group Kit

Good Kids, Big Events & Matching T-Shirts

Are you ready for the journey? If you’re looking for quick and easy evangelism methods for your youth and young adults, keep looking. The Human Right Journey isn’t for the faint of heart. It’s for those who are ready to get messy—the kind of messy that only happens when students start pursuing Jesus to the fullest extent of their ability. Packed with gospel-sharing concepts that are accessible to everyone, The Human Right Journey Small Group Kit is ideal for students hungry to share their faith as well as those who have never really thought about what they believe.

Invite leaders into a gamechanging conversation about youth ministry. Good Kids, Big Events & Matching T-Shirts helps create and sustain the kind of ministry that’s fueled by an effective, contagious relationship with God and others. Writer and youth worker David Hertweck makes great discoveries with fellow youth leaders while moving through three pivotal points: 1) Are youth becoming fluent in the gospel? 2) Are youth Spirit-dependent? and 3) Do youth have a biblical community? When youth leaders choose to refocus on these values, you are heeding Jesus’ command to make disciples.

Salubris Resources ISBN: 028006 $27.99

My Healthy Church ISBN: 9781624232541 $14.99 Spanish: Buenos chicos, grandes eventos y camisetas que hacen juego ISBN: 9781681540108 $14.99

The Big Ten This quick-access resource is a must-have for youth ministry! Scotty Gibbons draws on 20 years of youth ministry experience to cut out the fluff and presents as an invaluable guide to anyone working with youth. Get the absolute best, most important thoughts on the top 10 youth ministry essentials. Filled with brief, practical nuggets of helpful information and insight, The Big Ten will help answer your questions and address your problems. Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670745 $12.99 Spanish: Los diez grandes ISBN: 9781680670516 $12.99


WINDOWS INTO THE BIBLE

CULTURAL & HISTORICAL INSIGHTS FROM THE BIBLE FOR MODERN READERS

MARC TURNAGE F O R E W O R D BY G R E G S U R R AT T C O F O U N D E R & P R E S I D E N T O F T H E A S S O C I AT I O N O F R E L AT E D C H U R C H E S A N D B E S T S E L L I N G AU T H O R O F I RRR E VVR E N D

Front-Row Leadership Whether you’re a CEO, a volunteer, or a homemaker, leadership is your responsibility. Front-Row Leadership by Rob Ketterling will show you how to move up to the front and help lead the change you want to see take place. Learn to engage the leadership process and contribute with your God-given strengths. That’s what Front-Row Leadership is all about: you becoming the person of influence you were born to be.

Limitless When the focus of the Christian life is on performance, we live by comparison, fear, and pride. When we focus on God’s grace, His amazing love destroys our fears. In Limitless, Ben Dailey reminds us that despite the cataclysmic disruption caused by sin, God has never given up on us. We don’t need to earn His love. Simply receive it, bask in it, and let it change you and your ministry from the inside out. Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680671124 $14.99

Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680671032 $12.99

myhealthychurch.com

/myhealthychurch

Windows into the Bible What if you could enter into the world of the Bible? Imagine how much better you could apply its teachings to your life and ministry if you gained a clearer understanding of what it all means. With Marc Turnage’s new book, Windows into the Bible, you can do just that! Explore the Bible through four facets, or windows — spatial, historical, cultural, and spiritual — and get ready to reenter your own world with a greater knowledge of what the Bible means for your and your congregation’s lives today. Logion Press ISBN: 9781607314189 $23.99

@myhealthychurch

/myhealthychurch


Catch the Wind of the Spirit Never before has the cry for renewal and revitalization in the church been so desperate. In Catch the Wind of the Spirit, Carolyn Tennant shares the five ministry gifts that are the key to transforming your ministry today. As each believer follows the leading of the Holy Spirit, these gifts will move your church into the fullness of God’s calling. Vital Resources ISBN: 9781680660388 $14.99

Spread the Fire In Spread the Fire, Scott Wilson and John Bates invite you to a new level of training, teaching and modeling Spirit-filled living. It’s likely that you already address vital topics like forgiveness, integrity and reaching the lost, but teaching about the baptism in the Holy Spirit must also be woven into daily church life. With Spread the Fire, you will become equipped to reclaim a Spirit-empowered church. Gospel Publishing House ISBN: 9781607314127 $14.99

God’s Not Dead 2 Church Kit Equip your church and community to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do you say I am?” Designed to be used as a 4-week series based on the movie God’s Not Dead 2, this campaign uses Scripture and video clips from the film to challenge people to discover what they truly believe in, and give them a firm foundation to defend their faith even in the midst of opposition. Outreach Publishing ISBN: 9781942027263 $79.99


Momentum Leadership Development Units: Education Church ministries volunteers are the lifeblood of the local church. When trained and equipped they can take the ministry to an even higher level. The Momentum Leadership Development series was created to help workers and volunteers advance to that higher level of preparation. Get started today with the educationfocused training units: Children with Special Needs or Disabilities, The Dynamics of Mentoring, and Understanding Learning Styles. Available in English and Spanish.

Christ Redeemer

Who Am I?

“Christ Redeemer,” a mid-tempo modern hymn written by worship leader Nate Marialke essentially tells the story of Jesus, from the prophecy in Genesis to the Book of Revelation, where all the nations gather to worship — all in one song. The gravity of His story, of what Christ has done for us, and His victory over death cannot be overstated or overcelebrated. Available in digital format only.

Who Am I? is a video series designed for use in your children’s ministry to teach kids that they are special and called by God to do amazing things in their life. At the end of this series, children will be able to go forward knowing that God loves them and is with them every step of the way. You can’t change your past, but you can change your future. Planetshakers ISBN: 261111 $99.00

Influence Music $1.29

Gospel Publishing House ISBN: 024103 $10.49 Spanish: Momentum unidades para el desarrollo del liderazgo: educación ISBN: 9781607313397 $10.49

myhealthychurch.com

/myhealthychurch

@myhealthychurch

/myhealthychurch


MAKE IT COUNT Picturing the Future: 8 Factors in Effective Vision-Casting

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

JEFF LEAKE

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 this Make It Count section of Influence can help you. We asked leaders from around the country to share their meeting insights and provide great leadership development content you can use with your ministry leaders and key volunteers. This way, you can make every meeting count. This issue contains eight easy-to-use lessons by Jeff Leake, lead pastor of Allison Park Church in Allison Park, Pa., and president of Reach Northeast, a church planting network. Jeff is the author of several books including Praying With Confidence (Salubris Resources, 2015), a practical guide to your prayer time. These lessons are easily adaptable for individuals or group discussion, allowing for personal application and reflection among ministry leaders and volunteers. Studying and growing together is key to building strong and healthy relationships with your team members. Regardless of your church’s size, Make It Count can help you more effectively lead your team and your congregation.

Picturing the Future/8 Factors in Effective Vision-Casting What would it take for you to be able to compete in a major endurance race? Obviously, it would take a tremendous amount of time and training. Most of us would need a coach to guide us through the journey. I’ll never forget the first thing my coach did to prepare me. Before he asked me to diet or run, he gave me vision. “Close your eyes and picture yourself crossing the finish line,” he said. “When you cross, trust me, it will be one of the most exhilarating moments of your life.” Through months of preparation, my coach kept bringing me back to that picture. It kept me pushing ahead. A multitude of ministries and initiatives compete for your attention. Without a clear vision, your ministry will wander and not accomplish its goals. Vision-casting is one of the most important things you can do for your team, your church and your personal life. Vision is a picture of a preferred future that motivates us to do things we would never do. Within an organization, vision unites hearts and minds around a common dream for what could be. This preferred futuristic picture defines us, clarifies priorities and forges within us to be part of something larger than ourselves. What’s involved in casting a clear and compelling vision for your life, ministry or the organization you lead? Lets consider the following eight factors.

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LESSON 1 Definition: What Is Vision? Read: Acts 2:17–18 Discussing the Text 1. How does the Holy Spirit work to inspire these kinds of futuristic thoughts? 2. What’s the difference between a dream and a vision? Are they the same? What are the distinctions? 3. What does it say to you about the Holy Spirit speaking to us through these kinds of pictures? Identifying the Principle Why do people say a picture is worth a thousand words? An image conveys so much in an instant: color, dimension, size and scope. It triggers memories and invites emotions. When God speaks to us in the Bible, He does so through stories. We see Him in action through the fabric — and the pain and decisions — of the people who encounter Him. Even the teaching ministry of Jesus was more than just a list of ideas or concepts. Jesus told stories. He painted pictures through parables. Too often, people tell us to produce a vision statement without considering the full picture of what we want the future to look like. There is nothing wrong with a clear, well-written sentence that conveys where we want to go. But vision is more than just words. Vision is a scene from the future that we attempt to describe to people in advance. Take a moment and use your imagination. What do you feel when you picture the following? • Crossing the finish line after a marathon race. • Standing at the altar on your wedding day. • Holding a newborn child or grandchild yet to be born. • Walking into your new house for the first time. • Watching a prodigal son, daughter or friend answer an altar call to get right with God. Applying the Principle 1. How has a picture of a preferred future motivated you in some area of life? 2. What are the components of an effective picture of a preferred future? 3. How is vision more like a movie and less like a sentence? 4. Describe the picture you see of your preferred future — for your life, your family, your ministry or any area where you lead.

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Notes


LESSON 2 Download: How Does God Inspire Vision? Read: 1 Kings 19:9–18

Notes

Discussing the Text 1. Why are moments of discouragement so conducive to us hearing a fresh word from God? 2. What do we learn from Elijah’s experience about the way God most often speaks? 3. What were the three things God told Elijah to do? How would these three things create a preferred future for the people of Israel? Identifying the Principle So where do we begin when we are trying to get a vision from God? Vision actually starts in an unlikely place: the feelings that seemingly insurmountable or long-lasting problems create. The moments that breed discouragement can also inspire vision. In leading people, this is an important insight. It is possible to talk about the solution too soon. You start to lay out a dream for a better world, when the people you are leading are comfortable in the world they are in right now. So before you discuss the solution, you have to describe the problem. John Kotter, who wrote the bestselling book Leading Change, says: “Establishing a sense of urgency helps leaders of change to fight against complacency. Complacency is often seen in people who are satisfied with the status quo. Urgency is the opposite of complacency. Urgency helps people see the need for the change to take place.” So we start by painting a picture of the problem. Then, after everyone in the room feels the need for change, we start to describe to them what the future could be like. This becomes the beginning of effective vision. Applying the Principle 1. What are some problem areas in your life or ministry? What are some problems in the community or region where you live? 2 What describes the emotion surrounding these problem situations right now? Is it one of urgency or one of complacency? 3 What is God saying to you about what He wants to do in these areas? 4. If God had His way and did what only He could do, how would things look differently in these areas of life where things look difficult today?

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LESSON 3 Discernment: Where Does Vision Begin? Read: John 5:19–20 Discussing the Text 1. This passage said that Jesus never did anything unless the Father did it. What is striking to you about that strategy for ministry? 2. How is Jesus’ approach to doing ministry different from what is typical? 3. Whenever Jesus acted, He was often responding to need and pain. He saw the Father’s activity every time He looked at someone who had a need or someone who was in pain. How is this still an indicator for us in tracing God’s activity today? Identifying the Principle Everything starts with an ability to hear from God. Church leadership is different from any other type of leadership because we are not leading something for ourselves or even from ourselves. Spiritual leadership is a matter of stewardship. Our assignment is to lead God’s people in the direction of God’s choosing. Jesus is the Head of the Church. We simply represent Him to the people we lead. So we have to start with asking Him what He wants to do in His church. I like to summarize one of the concepts in Henry Blackaby’s book, Experiencing God, this way, “Our job is to find out where God is at work and to join Him in it.” So where is God working? What is God trying to do? Every situation in ministry has a unique set of circumstances, challenges and opportunities. God is a strategic Being who is leveraging every opportunity to accomplish His purpose. Therefore, it is not enough just to have a good plan. It is critical that you have His plan. Applying the Principle 1. What is the difference between designing a vision and discerning a vision? 2. Describe a time in your life when God spoke to you about something. How did you know it was God and not just your own ideas? 3. Where do you sense God is working in and around your life and ministry currently? 4. What’s the difference between asking God to work for us, and identifying where God is working and choosing to join Him in it?

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LESSON 4 Designed: What Is the Season of Your Vision? Read: Galatians 6:9

Notes

Discussing the Text 1. Every farmer plants his seed with a vision of a harvest! Why is it important for the farmer to understand the process and timing of how long it takes to move from planting to harvest? 2. In the context of this verse, what does the phrase “at the proper time” mean to you? 3. Why is it important for leaders who have a vision for a spiritual harvest to understand the process and timing of how long it takes for a vision to become a reality? Identifying the Principle Effective vision-casting should inspire action. But it is not enough to cast a general vision. It’s important to tie the ultimate vision to the need for immediate and appropriate action. For instance, a farmer who wants to mobilize his field hands must understand the moment. The vision is for a harvest. But if it is spring, the application of the vision is for everyone to focus on planting seed and preparing the ground for growth. If it is summer, the application of the vision is on cultivation so that the crops receive the sun, water and nutrients to grow. If it is fall, the application of the vision is on the activities of harvest. Every leader needs a God-inspired picture of the future, but they also need to know the application of the vision for the season they are in at the moment. Ecclesiastes 3:1–4 describes it so well: “There is a time for everything … a time to plant and a time to uproot, a time to kill [a program that is not working] and a time to heal [a church that needs restoration] … a time to mourn and a time to dance.” Applying the Principle 1. What season of ministry are you in right now? Is it a season of healing and restoration? Is it a season of growth and expansion? A season of planting? 2. What season of life are you in right now? 3. How do these factors affect the vision that you see moving forward? 4. The application of the vision often starts by identifying some small “wins” that are the next steps toward a bigger future fulfillment. What are some small, obvious wins you can see in your life and ministry?

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LESSON 5 Declaration: What Happens When Vision Goes Public? Read: Habakkuk 2:2–3 Discussing the Text 1. How does writing something down help move an idea from the vague to the clear and specific? 2. Habakkuk was a prophet, and his role was to declare a picture of the future to the people of Israel. How did God use these words to motivate action? 3. How does the Holy Spirit work to anoint and use a clearly articulated vision? Identifying the Principle Casting vision involves effective communication. It’s not enough to see the vision for yourself. If you are leading others, you have to be able to articulate what you see in a way that motivates others to see it as well. When they hear you describe this picture of a preferred future, it should inform their minds and affect their hearts. Leading with vision starts by communicating that vision in a way that ignites passion in both you and those who hear you. There are four components that contribute to the effectiveness of casting vision. 1. It needs to be simple. If it is too complicated, it will never inspire. 2. It needs to be inspired. Hearing from God is the most important way to make your message compelling. 3. It needs to be personal. The one casting the vision needs to feel the vision. What you see must inspire you before you can inspire others. 4. It needs to be specific, applicable and even measurable. This helps everyone recognize and celebrate change. Applying the Principle 1. Owning a God-size vision can be intimidating! What are the risks of casting a big vision? 2. What happens if you keep the vision to yourself ? 3. God often gives us a promise before He gives us a plan. He wants our faith to be in His Word and not in our work. What biblical promise has God given you for your life and ministry? 4. How does sharing a Spirit-inspired promise connect people to the ability of God to fulfill the vision?

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LESSON 6 Decision: What Will Make Us Own the Vision? Read: Joshua 24:15–18

Notes

Discussing the Text 1. Joshua led the way by declaring not only the vision, but also his personal commitment to pursuing it. Why was this so important? 2. Joshua’s challenge was a bit open-ended! Choosing to serve the Lord was the overarching challenge that involved a lot of individual, detailed decisions. How did the simplicity and directness make this a more compelling rallying cry? 3. Describe the passion in Joshua’s words as he laid out this challenge. Identifying the Principle The key in casting vision is not in the details of the action plan. Rather, it’s in inspiring as many people as possible to actively engage with the next step toward making the vision a reality. As people hear words of faith and imagine the picture of the future, they have a decision to make. Will I actively engage in pursuing this picture of the future? Will I pray for this, work for this, sacrifice for this and give toward this? This is often where we can short-circuit the process. There is a tendency to focus too quickly on what we are going to do and neglect why we are going to do it. Vision is all about why. Mission is all about what. Strategy is all about how. Many in the room will quickly want to know what they are supposed to do and how and when it is going to happen. But if you focus too early on the details of what and how, your message will lose its motivational power. Applying the Principle 1. Vision is a picture of a preferred future. Strategy is a plan for getting there. Which of these is easiest for you to talk about? 2. How can a discussion of tactical details diminish the momentum and motivation of the vision? 3. What is the appropriate place for discussing the details? Who should be in the room? How should that proceed? 4. What is the appropriate place for discussing only vision — and leaving the strategy until later?

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LESSON 7 Delineation: How Do We Trace the Progress? Read: Joshua 4:1–7 Discussing the Text 1. After 40 years in the wilderness, what do you think the people felt as they saw their leaders stacking memorial stones in the Jordan River? 2. Why was it important for them to stop and commemorate this moment? 3. How did this memorial reinforce not only God’s faithfulness in the past, but also the vision God was leading them toward in the future? Identifying the Principle Casting a vision for the future is a lot like taking people on a journey. You tell them where you are going and why. You describe how the place you are going is better than the current place. Then you invite them to get into the vehicle with you so you can all travel there together. Of course, as with any long car trip, someone will ask early in the journey, “Are we there yet? How much farther until we arrive? When will we know we are making progress?” You must break down vision into little pieces. We usually call these goals. Maybe it’s even clearer to call them wins. What small step could you take in the direction you want to go, gaining a win in the process? If you are trying to get in shape, it might be a win to exercise several days in a row. If you are trying to grow your church, a win might mean planning a big day with a 10 percent increase in attendance. Small wins stacked together go a long way toward creating winning momentum that helps reach a much larger vision. Applying the Principle 1. Describe your idea of a win in one of the main areas of your life right now? 2. What would a win look like in the ministry you lead or oversee? 3. How does it feel when your team is winning? 4. How does it feel when your team is losing or simply maintaining? 5. When you have a win, what do you do to stop and celebrate?

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LESSON 8 Destination: What Do We Do When We Get There? Read: Nehemiah 2:11–18; 8:8–12

Notes

Discussing the Text 1. The Nehemiah 2 passage describes two moments of vision. The first describes the vision of the problem and the dream of a solution (the rebuilding of the walls). The second describes the vision of completion (the walls went up in just 53 days). Which moment is more motivating to you? Why? 2. In Nehemiah 8, the people began mourning when they took their eyes off the amazing work God had just accomplished through them. Instead of celebrating, they started looking at the next set of challenges and growing discouraged. Nehemiah reminded them to stay in the moment and celebrate the last win before fighting the next battle. Why is this so important in maintaining momentum? 3. How is joy (celebration) a strength and the lack of it a weakness? Identifying the Principle There is nothing quite like taking a journey of vision together with a group of people. Many people never have the experience of being part of a winning team. But winning is so much better when you do it together. Before you start the next journey toward another vision, it is critical that you celebrate the win you have just experienced together. And when you celebrate the win, you need to share the credit. Honor those who made sacrifices. Identity individual heroes who uniquely contributed to the success. Describe why this journey was so important and how the decision to pursue this vision has changed the world, both now and for eternity. Throw parties, and savor the moment. And most of all, give God the glory. Take the time to recognize and appreciate His faithfulness to fulfill everything He promises. Applying the Principle 1. When a vision becomes reality, we sometimes fail to celebrate. Why are we so quick to move on to what’s next? 2. Why do we need the opportunity to enjoy the moment of vision fulfillment? 3. Have we scheduled any moments of celebration for ourselves and our ministry team? 4. If the joy of the Lord is our strength, what are we doing today to choose joy in the midst of our journey?

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THE FINAL NOTE

WHAT QUALIFIES AS RELIGIOUS EXTREMISM? Source: Barna Group, August 2015

EVANGELICALS

ATTEMPT TO CONVERT TO THEIR FAITH

ALL US ADULTS

SKEPTICS* 10% 60% 83%

BELIEVE THAT SEXUAL RELATIONSHIPS BETWEEN PEOPLE OF THE SAME SEX ARE WRONG

5% 52% 75%

PRAY OUT LOUD IN PUBLIC FOR A STRANGER

11% 52% 63%

PROTEST GOVERNMENT POLICIES THAT CONFLICT WITH THEIR RELIGION

15% 51% 60%

WAIT UNTIL MARRIAGE TO HAVE SEX

5% 24% 34%

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*athiests, agnostics, unaffiliated, or “no faith”


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Influence Issue 05