J U LY
RICH WILKERSON / CAROLYN TENNANT / AARON ESCAMILLA
THE POWER OF RIGHT- BRAIN LEADERSHIP M A R K B AT T E R S O N
10 Practical Ways to Protect Church Finances Taking an Unchanging Message to a New Generation Worship as Entertainment?
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Why Gender-Specific Ministry is important: Today more than ever, girls and boys need to understand God’s design for their lives. In a world where gender identity and marriage are being redefined by culture, the church can help bring clarity to what it means to be a godly man and woman.
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1.855.642.2011 • MyHealthyChurch.com
If You Ask Me Leading Through Ambiguity
Get Set Missiology for the 21st Century: A Q&A with Erik Cooper
Like a Leader • Live: 3 Keys to Finding Freedom as a Follower • Think: Taking an Unchanging Message to a New Generation • 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
Playbook • Build: Saying Goodbye: Tips for Graciously Saying Goodbye to Staff • Know: The Philosophical Pulpit: Three Principles to Help You Preach with a Christian Worldview • Invest: Reducing Fraud: 10 Practical Ways to Protect Church Finances
Perspectives • Worship as Entertainment vs. A Multisensory Worship Experience
30 Right-Brain Leadership Mark Batterson on stewarding creativity in honor of Christ.
40 The Prophetic Ministry Today
Carolyn Tennant shares how God desires to still use genuine prophetic voices to speak to His people.
50 Mind the Gap!
Mike McCrary discusses how leaders can shrink the gap and bring the generations closer together.
58 Multiplier — Engaging In Community • • • •
Loving Where You Live Creating a New Community Getting Outside the Walls Building a Social Community
70 Make It Count 8 Concepts for Successful Community Engagement and Evangelism
80 The Final Note How is the Current Economy Impacting Your Church?
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 Online Editor: Ana Pierce New Media Assistant: Ron Kopczick CONTRIBUTORS: Mark Batterson, Aaron Burke, Erik Cooper, Jeremy DeWeerdt, Rollie Dimos, Aaron Escamilla, Chad E. Graham, Joshua Kansiewicz, Mike McCrary, Julie Mullins, Terry Parkman, Ana Pierce, Chris Railey, Rick Ross, Phil Steiger, Carolyn Tennant, Rich Wilkerson, 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 firstname.lastname@example.org. ADVERTISING: Display rates available upon request. Contact email@example.com. By accepting an advertisement, Influence does not endorse any advertiser or product. We reserve the right to reject advertisements not consistent with the magazine’s objectives.
SUBSCRIPTIONS: To subscribe, go to influencemagazine.com or call 1.855.642.2011. Individual one-year subscriptions are $15. Bulk one-year subscriptions are $10 per subscriptions, for a minimum of six or more. For additional subscription rates, contact firstname.lastname@example.org. Please send all other feedback, requests and questions to email@example.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 (ISSN: 2470-6795) 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, Missouri, and at other mailing offices. Printed in the USA. 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 THROUGH AMBIGUITY eadership is painful. My friend, Dr. Sam Chand, articulates this point well in his book Leadership Pain. Basically, if you’re leading, you’re experiencing some level of pain. Leadership pain comes from a variety of sources, but one source I’ve discovered that inflicts a unique level of pain and difficulty results from leading through ambiguity. I push hard for clarity and order, but these can prove elusive in dynamic organizations. As organizations grow, they become more complex, the problems become bigger and the stakes become higher. There exists a never-ending stream of opportunity, but there are ever-expanding people, money and leadership issues to sort through as well. All of this creates degrees of ambiguity for those at every level of the church or organization. Here are three concepts I’ve been learning lately on how to more successfully lead in ambiguity: 1. Guard your heart, not your circumstances. Good leaders make the complex simple, and there’s no simpler truth for a leader than Proverbs 4:23: “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” In a difficult leadership season, it becomes very easy to guard our circumstances and develop a calloused heart. But influence flows from controlling what we can control. No matter what’s going on in our lives, we can always control our hearts.
2. Public clarity comes from private intimacy. Too often as a leader it’s easy to speak before you listen, or listen to the wrong people. Our public communication can subtly change tones, and we can add to the ambiguity rather than navigating through it. Before long, we start leading in our own strength, and that’s a certain recipe for disaster. In times of ambiguity and complexity, we need even deeper spiritual intimacy and more time in the presence of God. 3. Close the gap between the problem and the solution. As previously stated, leaders do not face a shortage of problems. And if you’re like me, you’ve become a master problem identifier. Trouble arises, however, when leaders allow problems to paralyze them and delay actions that bring the solution. Dissonance and ambiguity increase the longer a problem goes unresolved. Leaders have the opportunity to lead well through ambiguity when they seek to quickly close the gap between problem and solution. Seasons of ambiguity do not have to prevent growth and progress. In fact, you may find that your current leadership pain will produce some of the greatest fruit in your ministry. In this issue of Influence, we expose you to some extraordinary and innovative leaders who know how to navigate ambiguity and tension to create engaging and impactful ministry. In our cover story, Mark Batterson discusses how to leverage creativity in your sermons and with your team. In another feature article, Pastor Mike McCrary shares his insight on the generation gap and how to create a multigenerational church. Also, in our Multiplier and Make It Count sections, we consider community engagement and evangelism and examine ways to engage people in our reach with the gospel of Jesus Christ. We trust these articles and the many others in this issue will be a blessing to you. While leadership may at times prove painful, we know it will also be fruitful. We pray this issue of Influence is a resource and encouragement to you in that journey.
Chris Railey is the executive director of Influence magazine and the senior director of leadership and church development ministries for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, U.S.A.
5 Questions with Erik Cooper
MISSIOLOGY FOR THE 21ST CENTURY How Erik Cooper and The Stone Table are taking missional-business and entrepreneurial development to the next level Influence: Tell us about your leadership journey. Erik Cooper: Well, on paper I appear a bit confused. I was a music major in college but ultimately graduated with a business degree in accounting. I spent five years in both public and private firms before transitioning into full-time ministry — eight years as a music pastor in a large suburban church, and four years as a church planter in an urban context. Now in my early 40s, my experience in both ministry and business are intersecting in a beautiful way. It’s interesting to look back and see how a seemingly disjointed journey was actually a God-directed plan. I wouldn’t be able to lead in the context I am today without all of these diverse experiences. What is The Stone Table, and how did its vision come to life? Almost 25 years ago, my former pastor and some savvy entrepreneurs (one that I call dad) recognized an emerging opportunity in the affordable housing business. They launched Community Reinvestment Foundation, a nonprofit aimed at creating and sustaining highquality, low-income housing for people who need it, with half the business profits designated for underwriting global missions projects. These guys were missionalbusiness before it was cool. Until 2015, all our missions investment was handled by one of our founding board members, Tom Paino. The Stone Table is our 21st-century renewal of that original vision, leveraging business to create sustainable revenue for global missions work. I get to stand on the shoulders of some giants. How is The Stone Table partnering with churches for the sake of the gospel? One early example happened this past fall as we joined forces with four Indiana churches to underwrite five Live Dead missional business church planting projects. But beyond fundraising alone, we also plan to serve the Church by becoming a catalyst for connecting,
educating and multiplying missional business and entrepreneurial development. We want to examine our work theology and do more to help break down the sacred-secular divide. What is work theology, and why is it weak in the Christian community? When I was growing up in church, we clearly separated those called into ministry from those destined for secular work. On the surface, I completely understand the dichotomy. There’s something special about the ecclesiastical work of a pastor. But we confuse God’s vocational calling for those in the marketplace. Their ministry is defined as volunteering at their church or simply making the money to give to those doing the truly “sacred” work. That picture is incomplete and unbiblical. Those in nonchurch work need to understand the sacredness of their 8-to-5 calling and how God uses all of us to cultivate His world for His glory and the love of our neighbors. In what ways is 21st-century missiology changing, and how is The Stone Table uniquely positioned to meet these changes? The world is changing rapidly. The middle class is rising, the majority world church is maturing, urbanization and technology are radically transforming how we interact, and the center of Christianity is shifting away from the postmodern West. The way we do missions has to change, too. The Stone Table sees the connection between business and mission as a huge opportunity, and after conversations with Dr. Greg Mundis and Assemblies of God World Misions, it’s clear they are putting a strategic emphasis on it. Even church planters are realizing the cultural and financial impact of leveraging creative business models. The Stone Table wants to be there on the front line, seeing the same gospel proclaimed in new ways in this new day.
3 KEYS TO FINDING FREEDOM AS A FOLLOWER Living with the demands of leading and following can be complicated. Here are three habits to help you thrive in this tension. JOSHUA KANSIEWICZ
am part of a growing subset of pastors. We are those who lead from the middle, serving the church not as lead pastors, but as associates. God has called us to follow as much as to lead. We experience a unique tension, because living with the demands of leading and following simultaneously can be complicated. Three habits help me thrive in this tension. 1. Embrace the lead pastor’s vision whole-heartedly. Lead pastors act, direct and instruct out of a vision, so embracing your leader’s vision is the best way to find freedom as a follower. How do you do this? Read what he or she reads. Keep up with the books, podcasts and blog posts that continually inform your pastor. Share these materials, and you’ll begin to share more ideas. 2. Pour your vision into your areas of influence. If you are leading from the middle, you have specific areas of influence. Dreaming about ways to change ministries over which you have no influence is one
way to guarantee frustration in ministry. If you aren’t responsible for youth ministry, don’t spend time thinking about how you’d do it differently. If you aren’t responsible for preaching on Sunday mornings, don’t waste your time thinking about how to improve it. Pour all your passion and vision into the specific areas where you have influence. 3. Don’t harbor frustration; deal with it. Understanding — yet disagreeing with — the lead pastor’s vision for your specific area of ministry can be frustrating. Find healthy ways to vent your feelings, like journaling or talking to long-distance friends. Practice the prayer of surrender and thanksgiving. Release to God what you can’t control, and celebrate with God all the reasons you love your church. When God calls you to lead from the middle, He also calls you to support and uphold the vision of the lead pastor at your church. By embracing his or her vision, pouring your vision into the areas assigned to you and dealing with frustrations as they come, you will release yourself to experience incredible freedom as a leader who is also a follower. You will multiply your impact, as well as the impact of your local church. Joshua Kansiewicz is the senior associate pastor at East Coast International Church in Lynn, Massachusetts.
TAKING AN UNCHANGING MESSAGE TO A NEW GENERATION Three things we must understand if we are to reach young people for Christ. TERRY PARKMAN
olomon said, “there is nothing new under the sun” (Ecclesiastes 1:9). While universal values exist in every culture, too many church leaders use that statement as a way to dodge intentional investment in the next generation. The late cultural anthropologist Margaret Mead once said, “I anticipate that a time is coming in history where technology changes so fast that culture, for the first time in human history, will be prefigurative, where children will have to figure out for themselves what their values will be.” The generation she predicted is currently filling our kids’ and youth ministries. We must understand three things if we are to reach these young people for Christ. 1. The next generation wants a timeless Word, not a trendy word. Trends come and go, but this generation is looking for something to which they can anchor their hearts.
Making the Word appealing shouldn’t be our objective. Rather, we should seek authentic ways to show students how the Word applies to their lives. 2. The next generation wants access. Hollywood spends millions creating movie trailers, billboards, Web materials, books and toys for movie premieres. Marketers know that one access point isn’t enough; they need to saturate the market. The Church should be just as passionate about exposing students to the gospel. Yet many churches offer only one or two access points to programmed services. We should continually seek creative ways to connect this generation to the timeless truths of Scripture. 3. The next generation wants community. The only thing that speaks louder than cultural pressure is community. In fact, young people will gather in a place of community to escape cultural pressures they find uncomfortable. Bringing the members of this generation into Christian fellowship even before we bring them through the doors of our churches is the key to reaching them. Community inspires loyalty and helps create a sense of belonging. If you invite them into your community, a decision to follow Christ will be more likely to stick. Terry Parkman is the NextGen Pastor at River Valley Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota, where he oversees youth, young adult and the leadership institute.
Visit MyHealthyChurch.com/SpreadtheFire to download a free chapter.
THE MYTH OF THE NON-CHRISTIAN Luke Cawley (IVP Books)
One size doesn’t fit all in outreach to non-Christians. Unfortunately our evangelistic programs and apologetics arguments often act as if they do. Based on long experience in campus ministry, Luke Cawley recognizes the need for “contextual apologetics”: the “art of formulating appropriate and diverse ways of sharing Jesus, based on a thorough understanding of those with whom we are interacting.” In this book, he outlines a contextual apologetic to engage atheists, nominal Christians and the spiritual but not religious with the gospel.
BOOKS WORTH HIGHLIGHTING, FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAM George Paul Wood
READ THIS BEFORE OUR NEXT MEETING Al Pittampalli (Portfolio/Penguin)
“There is a large gap between where our organization is and where it needs to be. It’s not a crevice, but it’s not a canyon, either,” writes Al Pittampalli. “I’m convinced that this gap is our meetings.” If you’re a leader and have come to the conclusion that you have too many meetings generally and too many bad meetings specifically, you might want to read this book before your next meeting. Its “Seven Principles of Modern Meetings” will save you time, frustration and inefficiency. 3
RELIGION AND THE AMERICAN CONSTITUTIONAL EXPERIMENT, 4TH ED.
John Witte Jr. and Joel A. Nichols (Oxford University Press)
“Today, the American experiment in religious freedom inspires as much criticism as praise,” writes John Witte Jr. and Joel A. Nichols. Critics deride it as a “license to discriminate.” Supporters promote it as a necessary protection for individual conscience. Witte and Nichols make a case for religious freedom by outlining its historical development, carefully defining its nature and scope, accurately describing what the law actually says and responding to critics’ arguments. Religious freedom may provoke heated arguments, but this book shines a clear light on it.
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ENTREPRENEURIAL THOUGHT LEADERS http://ecorner.stanford.edu
Entrepreneurial Thought Leaders is a weekly, hour-long podcast produced by Stanford University. Speakers include entrepreneurs, scientists, creatives and business and civic leaders. They focus on entrepreneurship, innovation and best business practices from a secular point of view. Recent episodes include “Contrarian Truths Empowering Innovation,” “Reframing Problems and Getting Honest,” “Great Leadership Can Be Learned” and “Solving Social Ills Through Innovation.” The content of the podcasts is not always directly applicable to church ministry, but it is always thought provoking.
THE CHURCHLEADERS PODCAST http://churchleaders.libsyn.com/podcast
Each week, The ChurchLeaders Podcast offers a half-hour interview of prominent pastors, ministry leaders and church growth scholars. Recent podcasts include David Kinnaman, “Reversing the Church’s Irrelevance Problem”; Christine Caine, “Jesus Came to Shame Our Shame”; Matt Brown, “Are We on the Brink of Revival?”; and Jenni Catron, “The Essential Habits of Extraordinary Leaders.” The topics are directly relevant to the life and ministry of the local church, and the interviewees are trusted evangelical, Pentecostal and charismatic voices. 3
THE EXCHANGE http://blog.lifeway.com/theexchange/the-exchange-podcast/
Ed Stetzer is a well-known and well-respected Christian researcher with interests in missiology and church planting. The Exchange is his weekly, half-hour podcast featuring interviews with Christian artists, pastors, authors and leaders. Stetzer features interviewees across the evangelical spectrum, including Pentecostals, but the podcast skews Baptist. Not surprising since Stetzer works for Lifeway Christian Resources, the Southern Baptist publishing ministry. Still, if you want to keep current on who’s who and what’s happening in the broader evangelical movement, this is a good podcast to start with.
TRANSFORM the Way You Read the
Discover a four-dimensional approach necessary to understanding God’s revelation in time and space. By looking through four critical lenses—spatial, historical, cultural, and spiritual—modern readers can step back into the world of the Bible, as best as they are able, and hear the message its writers intended. Visit MyHealthyChurch.com/HolyLandsStudies to learn more about Windows into the Bible and trips to Israel.
About the author
Marc Turnage is an author and speaker who is passionate about equipping Christians to engage the world of the Bible.
“Marc Turnage is an insightful and inspiring Bible scholar. His understanding of context brings the text of Scripture to light, to life in new ways. This book will stretch your knowledge and stretch your faith.” —Mark Batterson, New York Times bestselling author of The Circle Maker, lead pastor of National Community Church, Washington DC
Apps and tech that add to your life 1
“Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee” (Psalm 119:11, KJV). Psalm 119:11 reminds us the crucial role Scripture memorization plays in our sanctification. We must have the Bible in our minds, not merely in our hands. As we memorize Scripture, it sinks into our hearts, fires our imagination and shapes our behavior. Most Christians know that they ought to memorize Scripture. Many churches have Bible quiz programs for children and youth. But adults need help memorizing Scripture too. VERSES is an iOS app that employs fast-paced memory games to help users memorize Bible verses. You can read the Scripture, listen to it being read, reveal it one section at a time, move out-of-sequence phrases into proper order, fill in the blank and type out the first letter of each word in the verse. You can create collections of specific passages and invite friends to memorize Scripture with you. The app can be downloaded free with the KJV. Other translations — such as NIV and ESV — cost a few dollars. Visit getverses.com for more information.
Many pastors and churches now produce podcast interviews with Christian thought leaders as part of their social media strategy. Podcasts enable them to provide their members with spiritual inspiration and culturally relevant information beyond the Sunday and midweek venues. RINGR is a low-cost app for iOS and Android that produces high-quality sound. The interviewer and interviewee use their smart phones, tablet devices or desktop/laptop to talk to one another. The app records each participant’s audio on their own devices, then uploads the individual tracks to the Cloud, where they are combined and made available for download, editing and publication on a podcast platform such as iTunes or SoundCloud. The basic plan is free and offers an audio track in mono. The premium plan is $18.99 a month and offers studio-quality sound in a variety of stereo formats. Influence magazine records many of its podcasts with RINGR. We bet you can’t tell the difference between them and the ones we record in studio. Visit ringr.com for more information.
PLAYBOOK : BUILD
ne of the hardest things a church leader deals with is seeing people leave the ministry team. Whether the circumstances in which they leave are good or bad, the challenge is real. And after nearly 30 years of ministry, I can tell you that it doesn’t get easier. For the first 15 years, no one left our team at Christ Fellowship. We just kept happily building our staff and working together to build the church. But eventually, people did leave. Some simply weren’t a good fit for the new season we were entering. A few faced personal issues, requiring them to step back. Still others felt God calling them to relocate or step into a new career path. While these issues and situations may not be extraordinary, our response to them must be. Leaders set a tone that positively or negatively affects the remaining team members. And the way we say good-bye can have Kingdom impact on the church’s strength and effectiveness in reaching people. Our highest goal in any departure should be extending honor and love, to the best of our
SAYING GOODBYE While every exit comes with varying degrees of pain and complexity, our objective as leaders should be to honor our people well. JULIE MULLINS
It is my prayer that we never dismiss people from our team without showing them love and offering to help however we can, whenever they need it.
ability. Consider these tips for graciously saying goodbye. Celebrate God’s Calling It’s important to remember that seasons come and go; they don’t last forever. Eventually, members of your team will likely feel that their season at your church is ending and God is calling them elsewhere. And while it may hurt to let them go, it’s important to put those emotions aside and celebrate God’s calling on their lives. I’ll admit, I pray that our people will not be “uncalled” from our team because I love them and believe they make our church stronger. But I also know that the kingdom of God is much bigger than Christ Fellowship and that a healthy church is a sending church. So we try to hug people tightly while they are with us and hold them loosely so God can lead and direct them as He sees fit. Use Discretion in What You Share Unfortunately, there are times when we must dismiss someone from a position for making unhealthy choices or performing poorly. These are among the hardest goodbyes because they come with so much disappointment, making them uncomfortable for everyone involved. In these situations, it’s important to use discernment in deciding who really needs to know the details. Limiting the circle to a need-to-know few gives the dismissed team member the greatest opportunity for healing and restoration.
Offer assurances of love and concern. Remember, the words you speak have the power of life or death (Proverbs 18:21). When a team member departs under difficult circumstances, use loving discretion among peers and the people they led. Leave the Porch Light On Our family has experienced some hard losses, as people we thought would grow old with us in ministry left. But I decided years ago that, regardless of the circumstances, I will give each family a parting gift: a large lantern to symbolize that the back porch light will always be on for them. Several recipients of this gift have found their way back to Christ Fellowship and rejoined the team. I honestly believe that if we hadn’t honored them by extending the option to return, many would struggle with feelings of doubt about approaching us for another opportunity. Thankfully, those lanterns have created some really sweet back porch conversations that have opened the door to even stronger partnerships in ministry the second time around. Even when someone leaves under unhealthy circumstances, we keep the light on for them. Depending on the situation, it may not be possible to rehire the person, but we can offer our prayers and encouragement, along with the services of our care ministries. It is my prayer that we never dismiss people from our team without showing them love and offering to help however we can, whenever they need it. And we always send them off with hopeful expectation for full healing and restoration. While every exit comes with varying degrees of pain and complexity, our objective as leaders should be to honor our people well. May the unity of the church and the love of our Savior guide us. Julie Mullins is cosenior pastor of Christ Fellowship in West Palm Beach, Florida, along with her husband, Todd.
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PLAYBOOK : KNOW
THE PHILOSOPHICAL PULPIT Three principles to help you preach with a Christian worldview CHAD E. GRAHAM AND PHIL STEIGER
oday’s culture promotes myriad worldviews that contradict the truths of Scripture. Tragically, some Christians have responded by embracing relativism, the denial of all things certain. As pastors and leaders in the Church, we should ask: Is relativism permissible for Christians? How can we help disciples develop and maintain a Christian worldview? By putting on the mind of Christ, Christians can begin forming a worldview that is honoring to God. In Colossians 2:8, Paul warns us not to be captives of mere human tradition or the spirit of the age. Pastors should be equipped to tackle philosophies of “hollow and deceptive philosophy” from the pulpit. C. S. Lewis famously said, “Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.” This rings true today, and the pulpit is the perfect place for helping disciples identify the bankrupt philosophies infiltrating our culture. Here are three principles to help your congregation bring clarity to its Christian worldview. 1. Do not be held captive to mere human tradition. Colossians 2:8 warns believers of the dangers of empty, deceptive, humanistic philosophies that can hold people captive. It is important to understand Paul’s argument here, since
PLAYBOOK : KNOW
the discipline of philosophy and the institution of human tradition could be at stake. The key to understanding this passage is the word “captive.” Christians are to give allegiance first to Christ by allowing His teachings and character to dominate all other allegiances. Therefore, to be captive of something that would contradict Christ is to be at odds with Christ. Not all human traditions are bad or unbiblical, of course. Yet Christians must keep even seemingly positive cultural pressures, such as patriotism, in proper scriptural perspective. For Christians, a relationship with Christ supersedes all else. Your preaching can help your congregation see the proper relationship between allegiance to God and allegiance to country. After all, ultimate allegiance to Christ actually makes us better, more loving neighbors and citizens. But when there is a conflict between obeying Scripture and obeying a human leader or philosophy, God’s authority transcends all others. 2. Do not be held captive by the spirit of the age. Every culture is vulnerable to ideas that have power over people — for the simple reason that they are easy to believe, not because they are true. Paul addressed the “elemental spiritual forces of this world” with the Colossians concerning early Gnosticism and Judaism. Both were easy to believe, either because their neighbors believed in them or because their teachings appealed to some felt need. Wise pastors should be able to confront the spiritual forces of the world in every form. Spiritual lies infiltrate communities, workplaces, and schools, and more Christians than we would like to believe subscribe to these wrong ideas. A philosophically careful pastor exposes the falsehood of ideas that are popular but unbiblical, while clearly communicating the sometimes-difficult truths of the gospel. Pastors are often prophets, speaking truth to people who are tempted to believe what is easy. For decades, the Church has wrestled with what we often call the prosperity gospel. It is a struggle for the Church because many of its most vocal proponents are outwardly successful — with big facilities, big ministries and big budgets. The promise of worldly success tempts many Christians into the notion that there must be something true about it. But it is a spirit of the age. The idea that God wants to make every Christian rich appeals to our felt needs. But the truth is that Christ and His disciples lived in simplicity and even poverty. God’s prophets rarely had crowds of followers, and worldly powers hated
them. Yet they were always the heroes of the story. The prosperity gospel fails the biblical test of truth, and the philosophically careful pastor learns to say so. 3. Be held captive by a Christ-honoring philosophy. The test of any philosophy is how it handles the person of Christ. Paul does not jettison philosophy, but he does encourage us to reject ideas that do not honor Christ. And whether they are trained this way, pastors act as philosophers behind the pulpit when they confront falsehood and communicate the truth. Let us learn to do it well. As a young pastor, my sermons were full of jargon. I was excited about what those terms communicated, and I thought others would be as well. With age comes wisdom. I am learning now to communicate big, important ideas in ways that are easier to absorb. Worldview analysis from the pulpit is necessary, but it need not be complicated. One of the keys to Daniel’s faithfulness is his confidence in divine sovereignty. Babylon was a complex and pagan culture, but Daniel remained faithful to an omnipotent God. Likewise, pastors should absorb cultural realities and filter them through biblical truth, so that what comes out in the message is relatable. If you do some work clarifying a Christian philosophy for yourself, it will be easier to identify what is wrong with false philosophies as you communicate God’s truths about Christ to your congregation. Chad E. Graham is the research assistant for the department of Apologetics and Ethics at Denver Seminary. He is also Senior Fellow at The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture. Phil Steiger is the pastor of Living Hope Church (AG) in Colorado Springs, Colorado. He graduated from Denver Seminary with an M.A. in Philosophy of Religion.
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Prepare your kids for camp with a small group thatâ€™s ideal for students hungry to share their faith as well as those who have never really thought about their beliefs.
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Veteran youth worker David Hertweck encourages youth to embark on an exciting journey to meet the Holy Spirit by diving into the Bible.
PLAYBOOK : INVEST
ended the telephone conversation with, “Yes officer, I’ll be right there.” My wife, seeing the shocked look on my face, asked me what happened. I responded, “That was the police; they just arrested [name redacted].” In this particular case, the police had arrested a beloved volunteer who was caught red-handed, stealing from the church. But, while the names and locations are different, this scenario is taking place in churches more often than you might think. Someone we admire and respect — someone who works tirelessly for the church — has betrayed our trust, betrayed their church and, more importantly, betrayed God. Another leader has embezzled money from the church.
REDUCING FRAUD 10 practical ways to reduce fraud in your ministry ROLLIE DIMOS
Why Accountability Matters Financial fraud is a growing problem in the church. Research from the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners suggests that all organizations, including churches, lose five percent of their revenue to fraud and abuse each year. Another study conducted by the Center for the Study of Global Christianity shows that financial fraud in religious organizations outpaces donations for worldwide missions. What can our churches do to reduce this risk? Embrace accountability. The principle of accountability runs throughout the Bible and is a common word within our churches. The Parable of the Talents is an example of how God holds us
accountable for how well we steward the gifts and resources He gives us (Matthew 25:14– 30). We talk about being accountable to one another in our discipleship classes. We create small groups and encourage church members to bear one another’s burdens. Pastors and board members understand that they are accountable to one another and their donors for the business decisions they make. But within our financial processes, the term “accountability” has a nebulous meaning. While we embrace the concept of financial accountability, we find it difficult to implement in practical terms. We believe accountability will require additional cost and more employees — which are not in the current budget. And we believe accountability will cause delays because it means waiting to make a purchase until a board member has time to review and approve the purchase request. However, the Book of Proverbs reminds us, “in the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Proverbs 11:14, KJV). Without accountability, human nature tends to drive us to the dividing line between right and wrong, which can leave us vulnerable. Too many church leaders have succumbed to temptation because they failed to embrace accountability. Fraud Statistics in the Church If a typical church loses five percent of revenue each year to fraud, that’s the equivalent of about three weeks of offerings. Can your church afford to lose three weeks of funds? Unfortunately, churches and nonprofits are not immune to fraud, and the risk of fraud in our churches is alarming. Consider these statistics from a recent study of actual fraud cases by the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners: • Religious and charitable organizations experienced a median fraud loss of $80,000, and other types of nonprofit organizations suffered a median loss of $108,000.
• Smaller organizations, like churches, often suffered larger losses because they had the least amount of controls, making them more vulnerable to fraud. • Fraud schemes lasted a median of 18 months before detection. • In 95 percent of all fraud cases reviewed, the perpetrator was a first-time offender with no prior criminal conviction. Fraud schemes are often difficult to detect and usually involve people you’d least suspect. However, strong internal controls and other accountability measures can help detect fraud sooner. Key Controls to Reduce Fraud Here are 10 practical steps to strengthening controls and reducing the risk of fraud in your ministry. The first four are general principles leadership must adopt. The remaining six are specific controls that cover most of the financial processes within a church. 1. Embrace accountability and transparency. Make them part of your organization’s DNA. 2. Document policies and procedures. Put them in writing to clarify expectations. 3. Minimize exceptions. Everyone should play by the same rules and be held to the same standard. 4. Segregate key duties. No person should have complete control over all financial processes. 5. Cash: Two or more people should count offerings and prepare the deposits. 6. Disbursements: Require a three-way match before paying a bill. Document purchase approval; verify receipt of the product or service; and obtain a valid invoice. 7. Credit cards: Require receipts for all credit card transactions. 8. Wire transfers: Wire transfers and other electronic fund transfers should involve at least two people. 9. Payroll: Segregate the payroll and reconciling functions. 10. Fixed assets: Conduct annual audits of fixed assets. Accountability and transparency in financial operations don’t constrain leaders. Rather, they help protect leaders and the reputations of their organizations. Don’t become a statistic. Implement these internal controls to help defend against the risk of fraud in your church. Rollie Dimos is director of Internal Audit for the General Council of the Assemblies of God, Springfield, Missouri.
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.
Introduction Over the last two decades, the look and sound of many local churches have changed, sometimes radically. For example, almost every church had a pulpit and Communion table in front of the platform, a choir loft in the back and a piano and organ or other musical instruments on the sides. Depending on the season, lilies or a Christmas tree might adorn the platform, but otherwise, it was a static arrangement. House lights stayed on throughout the worship service, and the volume of the music never exceeded the loudness of the congregation’s voices. Today, many churches have a dynamic platform presentation that changes often. The stage is set to match the theme of the week’s message or of the
sermon series. Props change weekly. Lighting is often dynamic, with house lights down or dimmed significantly to illuminate what is happening on stage. The sound mix is studio quality, and the house volume is concert-level loud. In this Perspectives, two ministers offer contrasting, even contradictory, assessments of these changes. The first worries that they represent worship as entertainment. The second proposes that they invite people into multisensory worship. By juxtaposing these two perspectives on a church’s light and sound, we hope you’re able to develop an informed perspective on what your own congregation should do.
Worship as Entertainment? When my family moved to the city where we currently reside, we began looking for a church to attend. There are dozens of churches within easy driving distance of our house, so we had our work cut out for us. I noticed three things that worried me after attending a handful of those churches: First, many turned the house volume so loud that we could barely hear ourselves singing, let anyone else seated near us. Second, those same churches dimmed the house lights during congregational singing but illuminated the stage with a variety of colorful floodlights, flashing strobes and even lasers. Third, almost no one in those churches beyond the first ten or so rows sang. My family had a propensity to run a few minutes late — sorry, pastor! — so we often sat at the back of the sanctuary. On occasion, I would look around at the people near me, and the vast majority of them were staring wordlessly at the stage. They weren’t even clapping along to the beat. Noticing this, I began to formulate what you might call the Inverse Law of Liturgical Sound and Light: The louder and brighter the stage, the darker and quieter the house. Stated differently, the more you focus on the presentation of worship music the less participation in worship singing you will get.
As a Pentecostal, this pattern — which became more noticeable with every church I visited — troubled me. I don’t attend church to see worship, I attend to do it. I try to take to heart what the apostle Paul wrote in Ephesians 5:18b–21: “be filled with the Spirit, addressing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart, giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ.” Of course, I don’t believe that what I’ve come to call “the sound and light show” is a conspiracy of skinnyjean-wearing worship pastors to rob congregations of their voices. To the contrary, I think their intention is to focus the congregation’s attention on God. But the unintended consequence of turning up the volume and turning down the lights is the silence of a large part of the church. When the spotlight is literally focused on the platform, what’s happening in the darkened pews becomes an afterthought, if it is thought of at all. There are places and times when it’s appropriate to turn up the volume and turn down the lights. At a music concert, for example, or a movie theater. When we do so at church, however, I can’t help but think we’re subtly communicating that worship is just another form of entertainment. And that worries me.
ONE ISSUE. TWO PERSPECTIVES.
A Multisensory Worship Experience I grew up in a church where the worship team consisted of a song leader, a pianist and an organist. They never practiced the songs before they played them in the service. The sanctuary was always fully lit with fluorescent lights. I worshipped, but it felt cold and sterile. The church my family attends today is very different. Before we ever step foot in the sanctuary, we can hear the preservice recorded music spilling out of the open doors. There is energy in the halls. Once the worship team starts to play and sing, I can feel the thump of the bass in my chest as spotlights illuminate the stage. I can literally feel my whole body being enveloped in the worship experience. Some people don’t like the lights and sound as much I do. They’re worried these elements are more rock concert than church service, and I understand that. But shouldn’t church be exciting? I think King David would be comfortable in my church’s worship service. When the ark of the LORD was brought to Jerusalem, David celebrated by dancing in the street, so much that his wife was embarrassed. He insisted that his extravagant and wild worship was justified because it was for the Lord (2 Samuel 6:16–21). Isn’t it OK to crank up the music and sing loud to Jesus? The Psalmist says, “Praise the LORD! Praise God
in his sanctuary. … Praise him with the sounding of the trumpet, praise him with the harp and lyre, praise him with the timbrel and dancing, praise him with the strings and pipe, praise him with the clash of cymbals, praise him with resounding cymbals” (Psalm 150:1–5). Church is the one place in our culture where Christians come together to celebrate God. When unbelievers come in, I’d rather they wonder why we’re having such a big party than wonder why we’re being so quiet and solemn. My church family sings at the top of our lungs and jumps to the rhythm of the music because we’re excited that Jesus has set us free to worship Him. If we can’t do that at church, where can we do it? Throughout the worship service, carefully programmed laser lights dart around the sanctuary making the experience as much visual as audible. I love it because it engages multiple senses; after all, worship is about more than just singing. Our God is the Creator. From Him flows all kinds of creativity, so His Church should be the most creative and sensory place on the planet. I believe that we honor God when we use music and lights (and other sensory resources) to worship Him and make His appeal to the world.
THE POWER OF RIGHT-BRAIN LEADERSHIP Stewarding creativity in honor of Christ M A R K B AT T E R S O N
A lack of creativity is actually a lack of effort. It takes effort to design our weekend program or film a trailer or update our Web page, but excellence in the little things honors God.
here are ways of doing ministry that no one has thought of yet. That core conviction is what gets me up early and keeps me up late. It’s the essence of incarnation, the quintessence of innovation. It’s also a stewardship issue. Creativity isn’t optional, not if we’re serious about conforming to the image of Christ. Creativity is the natural, supernatural by-product of a Spirit-filled life. I’ll get practical in a hurry because spirituality is practicality. But first, let me share a brief theology of creativity. God first reveals himself as Creator, and creativity is what He calls us to do six days a week. On the seventh day, we recalibrate. Creativity is one dimension of the image of God, and its epicenter is right-brain imagination. Specific regions of the human brain are responsible for different neurological functions. The visual cortex handles all input from the optic nerve. The posterior hippocampus stores spatial memory. The ventromedial prefrontal cortex is the seat of humor, although its exact function is still under debate. Whether you’re humming a hit from the 80s, solving a Sudoku or interpreting facial expressions, there is a unique part of the brain that is responsible for performing those tasks. The brain comprises two hemispheres: the right brain and left brain. Approximately 200 to 300 million nerve fibers that make up the corpus callosum connect those
two hemispheres. Think of the hemispheres of the brain as parallel processors. They overlap in function, but they also handle distinct tasks. This is a gross simplification of something that is divinely complex, but the left brain is the logical half, while the right brain is the creative half. Now juxtapose brain topography with Matthew 22:37: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Loving God with half your mind doesn’t cut it. Half-minded is no better than half-hearted. God wants to sanctify your right-brain imagination so you can see visions and dream dreams. It will also take your leadership to another level. Out of Imagination Neuroimaging has shown that as we age the center of cognitive gravity tends to shift from the imaginative right brain to the logical left brain. That neurological tendency presents a grave spiritual danger for leaders: At some point, most of us stop living out of imagination and
start living out of memory. Instead of creating the future, we start repeating the past. Instead of living by faith, we start living by logic. Instead of going after our dreams, we do it the way it’s always been done. But it doesn’t have to be that way. And it can’t be if we’re serious about reaching the next generation for Christ. Did you know that there are over 350,000 species of beetles? That’s about 349,999 too many for me! But that fact reveals something significant about our Creator: God loves variety! Your fingerprint is exhibit A. There never has been, and never will be, anyone else like you. But that isn’t a testament to you; it’s a testament to the God who created you. Uniqueness is God’s gift to you. Creativity is your gift back to God. When I first started pastoring, I scoured the Bible looking for the order of service. I wanted a one-size-fits-all formula, but I didn’t find the magic bullet. Why? Because if God had given us a formula, every church would be a carbon copy of every other church. All churches have the same mission: the Great Commission. But, like people, churches have unique histories, unique destinies and unique personalities. We need lots of different kinds of churches because there are lots of different kinds of people. Did you know that immediate family members share 99.5 percent of the same DNA? They are differentiated by one-half of one percent of their DNA, but that small distinction makes us unique. It’s true of people, and it’s true of churches. And it’s the key to creativity. We have three core convictions at National Community Church. I think of them as the double helix in our DNA. Our core beliefs are the same as other churches, but our core convictions are
The greatest message deserves the greatest marketing, [but] it certainly doesn’t mean we dumb down or water down the gospel. our fingerprint — or churchprint. The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. The church belongs in the middle of the marketplace. And God will bless our church in proportion to how we give to missions and care for the poor in our city. Those three convictions drive everything we do at NCC. Let me focus on the first one: the discipline of creativity. Psalm 96:1 says: “Sing to the Lord a new song.” In fact, the Book of Psalms repeatedly talks about singing a new song. I love old songs and hymns. They touch a deep place in my soul. But God doesn’t just want His people to worship out of left-brain memory. When your love for God grows, you need to find new lyrics, new melodies. That’s how you worship God out of imagination. According to one study, we no longer think about the lyrics of a song after singing it 30 times. In other words, we start lip-syncing. That’s why we take songwriting seriously at NCC. We try to write songs for sermon series. By the time we’re done, NCC Worship has produced a new album. We also work hard at branding sermon series, producing short films and creating a free market system of small groups. In The Anointing, author R.T. Kendall wrote these profoundly challenging words: “Sometimes the greatest opposition to what God wants to do next comes from those who were on the cutting edge of what God did last.” I don’t want that to be me. I need the discipline of creativity. Let me share seven of my creativity maxims. 1. Change of pace + change of place = change of perspective. According to an application of the law of requisite variety, if you work out the same muscles with the same exercises in the same sequence every time you go
to the gym, you will eventually hit a point of diminishing return. You’ve got to disrupt the routine, thereby confusing your muscles. The same is true spiritually. Spiritual growth requires spiritual discipline. But once the routine becomes routine, something needs to change. NCC plans two staff retreats every year. In the summer, we take a Pray and Play Retreat where we combine prayer with recreation. That change of pace pays dividends in staff morale the rest of the year. In the fall, we have a Pray and Plan Retreat. That change of scenery fuels creativity. That’s where we begin to dream about the next year by putting together our strategic plan. One of the by-products is a preaching calendar that our creative team brainstorms and prayer-storms. It gives us a head start, which is one key to creativity. It takes time to brand series, shoot trailers and prepare for messages. 2. Strategically manage your time. Ninety percent of my creativity happens in the morning. I know some people are larks while others are night owls, but the setting on your alarm is one of the most important daily decisions you make. I’m a lark by discipline. During writing seasons, I get up extra early so I can get in several hours of writing before I put on my pastoral hat. My productivity in the morning is double what it is in the afternoon. Don’t waste the first hour of the day on email. Those emails will still be there at the end of the day. I steward my creativity by using the morning hours for devotions, sermon prep and writing. As the day goes on, my mind gets too cluttered to think creatively. 3. Take a nap. Jesus did it (Mark 4:38). That’s all the biblical substantiation I need. Productive people throughout history — including Napoleon Bonaparte, Winston Churchill, Thomas Edison and Ronald Reagan — found time for naps. We’re all wired differently, but a 10-minute power nap gives me a second window of creativity. And if I can’t get a nap, I get some caffeine. Of course, my office happens to be above our coffeehouse on Capitol Hill, so I’m never more than a few steps from caffeine. 4. It takes a team. There are two kinds of people: internal processors and intra-personal processors. Let me explain the difference. I’m an internal processor. In other words, I get most of my ideas by myself. I “rabbit trail” in Scripture, or I take a prayer walk. That’s how I get God ideas. But I’ve come to appreciate the synergy
I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history.
of creativity, which can only happen with a team. You need sounding boards — not only to discern between good ideas and bad ideas, but also to turn good ideas into great ideas. Our creative team meets every Tuesday to plan for the weekend. Some weeks it’s not so creative; we simply produce a run sheet. Other weeks, the creative juices flow, and the service takes on a whole new dimension. The team consists of our creative director, teaching team, worship director, pastor of prayer and media pastor. That combination of gifts yields far more creativity than any one of us could produce alone. 5. You can’t schedule creativity. My calendar is divided into meeting days and study days. Meeting days aren’t my most creative times. But those days buy me study days when I can “rabbit trail” in God’s Word and spend time in prayer — and even take extra time to pray through. Those are the days when I daydream. Creativity doesn’t happen on a schedule. It happens in wide-open spaces, which means you need some margin in your schedule. And don’t make apologies for it. The more margins you have, the more creative you’ll be. That will pay dividends in everything else you do! 6. Criticize by creating. People should know the church more for what we’re for than what we’re against. Instead of taking potshots at
culture, we should be creating culture. We need to write better books, start better businesses, draft better legislation and produce better films. Criticism is a cop-out. It’s the easy way out. I subscribe to what Michelangelo said: “Criticize by creating.” A lack of creativity is actually a lack of effort. It takes effort to design our weekend program or film a trailer or update our Web page, but excellence in the little things honors God. 7. Get a life. If your sermons are boring, it’s probably because your life is boring. You need to get a life outside the pulpit, outside the church. The best way to preach more interesting sermons is to live a more interesting life — a Spirit-led life. Start taking some risks. Or at least take a vacation. If you want to heighten creativity, you’ve
got to recreate. It’s called the Sabbath. Or better yet, take a sabbatical. I learned an interesting lesson a number of years ago. When I quote Scripture, I gain credibility with believers. When I quote extra-biblical sources, from Aristotle to Gladwell, I gain credibility with nonbelievers. You can’t bury your head in the sand. You must exegete culture and Scripture. And when you do, you gain credibility via creativity. Of course, Scripture is the final authority! Crafting Creative Communications In John 12:49, Jesus said, “For I did not speak on my own, but the Father who sent me commanded me to say all that I have spoken.” What to say is content. How to say it is creativity. Part 37
of my calling as a writer and as a preacher is to say old things in new ways. I think that’s precisely what Jesus did with the parables. Most of them are no more than 250 words, but hear them once and you’ll remember them forever. Jesus was the master of metaphors. And the key to discovering modern-day metaphors is cross-pollination. I believe that every “ology” is a branch of theology. So when I study neurology, it supplements my theology. The healing of the man born blind is a good example. Jesus didn’t simply restore his sight. The man was born blind, which means there were no synaptic connections between the optic nerve and the visual cortex. This wasn’t astigmatism, as amazing as that would be. It’s a miracle of synaptogenesis. Jesus installs a new synaptic pathway. A little understanding of neurology heightens my appreciation of that miracle. Oliver Wendell Holmes said, “A mind stretched by a new idea never returns to its original shape.” One way to stretch our minds is by reading books and listening to podcasts. I have a steady diet of both because I need new ideas. I beg, borrow and steal as many ideas as I possibly can — giving credit, of course. Before I wrote my first book, I read 3,000 books. Part of what inspired me is that I lacked experience, and I heard that the average author took about two years to write a book. So I figured I was gaining two years of life experience with each book I read. Early on in ministry, I read about 200 books per year. So each year, I gained 400 years of life experience. When people ask how old I am, I often tell them my book age. I’m nearly 7,000 years old. My point? Leaders are readers! For hundreds of years, preachers have stood behind pulpits and preached something called sermons. And I’m no different. But I also know that preaching a message audibly is the least effective form of communication. The brain processes print on a page at 100 bits per second, but it processes pictures at a billion bits per second. That means that a picture isn’t worth a thousand words; it’s worth 10 million. NCC meets in eight theater locations, and we steward those screens. When we started meeting in movie theaters, I had an idea: Why don’t we produce trailers for our series the way movie companies do? It takes about 40 hours to produce a 60-second trailer, but that 60 seconds sets me up. The medieval church used stained glass to tell the gospel story to an illiterate generation. We use moving pictures on a screen to tell the gospel story to a postliterate generation. If you visit theaterchurch.com, you can watch some of our series trailers. The greatest message deserves the greatest marketing. It certainly doesn’t mean we dumb down or water down the gospel.
Nothing is a bigger turn-off than a marketing gimmick. But I have a problem with beer companies producing more compelling ads than the church. Marketers know that the sequence of cognition is critical in a white-noise culture. The brain recognizes shapes first, colors second and content third. Don’t misinterpret me; content is still king. If you don’t rightly divide the Word of God, it doesn’t matter how well you market. But if we want people to get to our content, we must shape it and color it the right way. That’s precisely what Jesus did with the parables. Most of them are agrarian because He lived in an agricultural society. Cultivating a Creative Culture Our first five years, NCC was in survival mode, not creative mode. We weren’t focused on right-brain stewardship. We were just trying to make it from week to week without losing our minds. But if you want to reach people no one is reaching, you have to do things no one is doing. So we started pushing the creative envelope. Over time, we have cultivated a culture of creativity. Here are seven best practices. 1. Everything is an experiment. If the kingdom of God had departments, NCC would work in research and development. We treat everything as an experiment, and that allows us to fail. In fact, we celebrate mistakes. We don’t want people to make the same mistake over and over again. But we encourage new mistakes. If you aren’t making mistakes, you probably aren’t taking enough risks. 2. Share wins. We share wins at the beginning of every staff meeting. That’s how we’ve created a culture of positivity, and that culture of positivity has led to a culture of creativity. You’ve got to celebrate what you want to see more of. The positive energy from those wins helps us overcome the mistakes we’re bound to make. If you want to see more creativity, celebrate it. 3. Maturity doesn’t equal conformity. In
one sense, our differences disappear in Christ. There is no more Jew or Greek, rich or poor, Republican or Democrat. (Well, that’s how we say it since we’re in D.C.) But in another sense, we celebrate our differences. We try to treat everyone as invaluable and irreplaceable. We let leaders get a vision from God and go for it. A command-and-control leader stifles creativity. Give permission — dare people to be different. 4. Know yourself. Before we hire new employees, we give them a battery of personality tests. We want to know the way our staff is wired so we can play to their strengths. So we give them the Myers-Briggs and StrengthsFinder assessments. It not only helps employees know themselves better, but it also fosters synergy among our team. 5. Don’t take yourself too seriously. We take God seriously, but we don’t take ourselves too seriously. When we hire new staff, a sense of humor is at the top of the list. Ministry is too hard not to have a little bit of fun. The healthiest, happiest people on the planet are those who laugh at themselves the most. Those are the kind of people I want to work with. And it’s a key to creativity! 6. Faithfulness is not a matter of holding the fort. Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). Gates are defensive measures. So by definition, we’re called to play offense. In the Parable of the Talents, breaking even is no good. If you don’t take a step forward, you take a step back. One of the reasons I love the multisite model is that we’re always thinking about what’s next. In a culture of creativity, you’re always pushing the envelope. 7. Get a God idea. I’d rather have one God idea than a thousand good ideas. Good ideas are good, but God ideas change the course of history. You don’t get God ideas at conferences. You get them in the presence of God, the Word of God. You’ve got to press in and press on. You’ve got to make sacrifices and take risks. You’ve got to stay humble and stay hungry. And if you do, there is nothing God cannot do in or through you. Half-Formed Imagination C.S. Lewis once referred to himself as the most reluctant convert in all of Christendom. The night before his conversion, he had a long conversation with fellow writer and friend J.R.R. Tolkien. Tolkien tried to convince him of the credibility of Christ, but Lewis was full of objections. Then, at a critical moment in the conversation, Tolkien countered Lewis’s objections with a profound statement: “Your inability to understand stems from a failure of imagination on your part.” A half-formed imagination is the greatest threat to the future of the church. After all, faith is being sure of what we hope for
and certain of what we do not see. And let’s not forget that God is able to do immeasurably more than all we can ask or imagine. In his book The Celtic Way, Ian Bradley notes the celebration of imagination in the Celtic tradition. Their ancient approach to faith is a lifeline for those who have lost their imaginative moorings. Bradley says, “Too many Christians today, brought up on the penny plain prose favored by Rome and even more the Reformers, have half-formed imaginations.” A half-formed imagination results in halfhearted churches. If we are going to have an eternal impact on our culture, we can’t just criticize it or copy it. We have to create it. If we are going to reach our generation with the gospel, we can’t just appeal to logic; we must capture their imagination. C. S. Lewis is a great example of both. Can you think of anyone more left-brain logical than Lewis? His theological writings, from Mere Christianity to The Problem of Pain, are as logical as logic can be. But Lewis combined left-brain logic with right-brain creativity. The Chronicles of Narnia continue to capture the imagination of new generations. Don’t let anyone tell you that you aren’t creative. You are created in the image of God. Creativity is your birthright. You have to claim it. Then you have to fan it into flame. And when you do, the gospel will spread like wildfire.
Mark Batterson is lead pastor of National Community Church in Washington, DC and is author of several books, including The Circle Maker and most recently, The Grave Robber.
T HE P ROPHETIC MINI ST RY TO DAY GOD STILL DESIRES TO USE GENUINE PROPHETIC VOICES TO SPEAK TO HIS PEOPLE
C A R O LY N T E N N A N T
we begin to understand the kingdom of God, we realize it is much larger than our individual or corporate church spheres. Spirit-empowered insight not only points us in the right direction, but it also pulls us away from our smaller views and shows us God’s broader horizon. God’s perspective increases our vista exponentially. Foundational Direction Ephesians 2:19–22 reveals the Lord’s desire to build a holy household on the cornerstone of Christ and on the foundation of apostolic and prophetic ministry (verse 20). When Christians firmly and properly embrace this blueprint, the Church will be strong, and the presence of the Lord will indwell it. The prophets in the Bible performed their roles in many different ways. Isaiah foretold the Messiah and His ministry (Isaiah 53). John the Baptist prepared the way as a prophetic voice calling in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3–5). Those who work in the prophetic today help the Church in similar ways by providing insight and direction. Prophecy can provide stability, firmness, confirmation and strength. When God provides prophetic insight, people must be careful not to scorn or ignore the message. God speaks for specific reasons, preparing His people for coming events, providing direction, giving encouragement and issuing warnings. Whatever the Lord has to say at a given time, we are wise to seek Him and
listen carefully to His Words. Someone I know felt led to drive one Sunday morning, believing the Spirit would show her where to stop and attend church. It became late, and she wondered whether she had missed Godâ€™s direction. Then she saw a church ahead and felt that was the place to stop. As she sat in the service, she sensed she had a word from the Lord, but there was no space in the service for her to share it. At the end, she waited and finally felt a release to go forward and share the word with the pastor. When she introduced herself and told him she believed she had a word from the Lord, he immediately called over the rest of the staff and deacons. As they prayed and she shared the message, the pastorâ€™s eyes welled with tears. He revealed that he had
God speaks for specific reasons, preparing His people for coming events, providing direction, giving encouragement and issuing warnings.
received the same prophetic word that week from two other outside visitors. He realized the Lord was providing clear guidance about the direction the church should take. True prophecy can provide confirmation, both individually and corporately. God wants to give us a straight and clear path we can walk with confidence. A prophetic word doesn’t usually come like a thunderbolt from heaven when we’re walking with the Lord and listening to Him. But God often gently affirms what we’re already hearing from Him as He strengthens us to move forward. Keeping in Step with the Spirit The Bible tells us to “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25). As we wait on God, we can learn to move at the same pace the Spirit is taking. This isn’t always an easy thing to discern. As the Israelites wandered in the desert, God provided a cloud by day and fire by night. When the cloud lifted, they packed up and moved. When it rested, they waited. Sometimes God says, “Now!” We must obey immediately. There are moments when we would prefer to think about it, but we don’t have time. He needs us to act, just as when the Spirit told Philip the evangelist to rise and go south to the desert road. Philip’s obedience allowed his course to intersect with the Ethiopian eunuch’s in a miraculous God encounter (Acts 8:26–40). Other times, God tells us to stop, and we wonder why we can’t get going. Both situations require faith. When God tells us to move, we must trust that we’re ready for what He asks us to do. If we hurry through the holding patterns, we’ll circumvent the preparation process. As a result, we might not be ready when He wants us to get up and follow. We must learn to be at peace in both scenarios. God’s timing is perfect. The prophetic voice often speaks out to encourage people to accept change. Obedient Listening After Samuel anointed Saul as king, he told him to go to Gilgal and await his arrival. Samuel explicitly instructed Saul not to offer the sacrifices (1 Samuel 10:6–8). Yet Saul disobeyed, justifying his actions by saying he “felt compelled” to offer the burnt offerings because the men were scattering (1 Samuel 13:1–12). Saul almost obeyed, but partial obedience is the same as disobedience. God had a perfect timing and a particular way of doing things that Saul didn’t respect. As a result, he didn’t follow God’s clear directions, and he missed out on God’s blessing (1 Samuel 13:13–14). Amos 3:7 states, “Surely the Sovereign Lord does nothing without revealing his plans to his servants the prophets.” The Lord provides guidance, direction and encouraging confirmation.
Identifying the Prophetic Voice A question people often ask is “How do you know that a prophetic voice is from God or not?” Jesus addressed this by saying, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matthew 7:15–16). We recognize true prophets by their fruit. This isn’t the number of friends on Facebook or followers on Twitter. It is the fruit of the Spirit, which are qualities of character a person shows when outside their stage persona. Even authenticity can be faked at a podium, but true fruit will be obvious behind the scenes when the going gets rough. If the person is impatient, unloving, unkind, grumpy, demanding, self-centered and disrespectful, Jesus says they cannot be a true prophet. Though they look like sheep while behind the microphone, they are deceptive. Scripture often describes true prophets as being particularly humble, like Moses for example. They don’t allow getting insight from the Lord to go to their heads. Using a prophetic word to control or gain power is reprehensible. If you meet so-called prophets who are pretentious and act like they have an “in” with God, lording it over others, these are not true prophets. Prophets who are sent from God won’t seek to draw attention to themselves but will point to Jesus. (continued on page 46)
Identifying the Prophetic Voice (continued) Another obvious test of a true prophet is whether what they say agrees with Scripture. God will never go against himself. Just as Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets, so God fulfills and cements His Word. The Lord also fulfills the word of a true prophet. In 1 John 4:1, we are told not to “believe every spirit, but [to] test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” This passage goes on to say that you can recognize the Spirit of God when the person acknowledges Jesus as having come in the flesh. Because of this, true prophets won’t mind when others test them or ask questions regarding what they believe. They are happy when other prophets have additional understanding or perspectives to share about their revelation, and they are humbly receptive to any necessary correction regarding delivery. Furthermore, they are teachable and open, not just to one or two individuals of their personal choosing but to other leaders in the Body. Mature prophetic servants realize they don’t “have it all.” They simply want truth from God, whether He uses them or others. (Adapted from Catch the Wind of the Spirit: How the 5 Ministry Gifts Can Transform Your Church by Carolyn Tennant.)
As we listen attentively, we come to understand how to apply His Word to our situation, and we have the opportunity to respond in obedience. Learning to trust His plan and timing builds our faith and draws us closer to Him. Ears to Hear When prophetic voices speak, we have a choice: Will we heed them or not? Jesus said, “Whoever has ears to hear, let them hear” (Mark 4:9). We can hear something with our ears but not with our hearts. We can listen to a message without accepting it. The Spirit wants us to hear and respond. He wants to see turning points. When Nathan told a story about a cruel and wicked man, King David initially reacted with outrage. Nathan then said, “You are the man!” (2 Samuel 12:7). David recognized God’s truth and confessed his sins. His response to the prophetic message was a turning point. So it is with each of us. God strives with us, yearning for us to be in right standing with Him. True prophecy originates from God, not from people (2 Peter 1:20–21). God yearns for us to learn what He wants to do and to become a part of it. His purpose will stand, and He will accomplish what He intends, with or without us. However, He would rather have us follow Him and participate in His plan as we listen and obey. Standing for Truth Of course, the Church must exercise wisdom and discernment where prophecy is concerned. The Bible warns of false prophets who speak deceptive and self-promoting words (Jeremiah 23:16–18; 2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:1). A genuine prophetic voice draws positive attention to Jesus and speaks only words that align with Scripture. Leaders must have the courage to listen to God and follow His directions, while teaching people to recognize and reject falsehood. Christians must remember that popularity isn’t synonymous with truth. In fact, when true prophets speak for God, they often have unpopular messages. Even as God accomplishes His purposes, attitudes can easily and quickly turn against the prophetic person. God’s ways are contrary to worldly desires. A call to change directions makes people uncomfortable. As a result, they may want to silence the prophetic voice. Speaking the truth often brings persecution. Many have been beaten and killed for sharing God’s message and doing His work. Scripture tells us that the Pharisees were upset with Jesus for healing on the Sabbath (John 5:16); forgiving sins (Luke 5:21–24); and driving out demons (Matthew 12:24). Just
A genuine prophetic voice draws positive attention to Jesus and speaks only words that align with Scripture. Leaders must have the courage to listen to God and follow His directions, while teaching people to recognize and reject falsehood. as people resisted Jesus, they will resist His messengers. But while the cost of speaking up for God can be high, the blessings and rewards far outweigh any sacrifices (Matthew 5:11–12). Following Jesus means marching to a different drummer — listening to His beat and His tune. When I preach and teach, I ask the Lord to help me say exactly what He wants — no more and no less. If He wants me to speak, I shouldn’t hold back. Neither should I add anything to His message. If people get offended, that is their choice. I believe the Holy Spirit always works to say things in a way that people are most likely to hear and assimilate. However, if they don’t, and they get angry, so be it. The prophet’s responsibility is delivering God’s message, regardless of the price. False prophets don’t want to annoy people, so they’ll say whatever makes folks happy. True prophets must be willing to declare whatever God wishes, no matter what it means to their reputation or comfort. They should love others enough to warn and correct when that is what God wants. A popular perspective today is that any prophecy should be edifying — and, indeed, it should. However, many people mistakenly think edifying means “always positive.” Therefore, some believe any prophetic word that is negative in any way is probably incorrect. Of course, this can’t be an appropriate test. We know from Scripture that false prophets often gave positive words because they wanted the favor of the king. It was often the true prophet who endured the king’s anger for delivering a warning of dire consequences to come. Something is edifying when it improves the mind or character. We can improve when we’re reproved. Sometimes a word of correction is the most edifying of all. That correction available from God is a comforting thought. If I’m doing something incorrectly, I would rather know it sooner rather than later, before it becomes a destructive habit. God cares enough to correct us and save us a lot of hassle. Even when He has to discipline us, it is for our good, because the
correction nudges us toward improvement. The prophetic word can be used to share God’s correction to us individually or as a Church. If the plumb line is off even a little, we can build ourselves into the Tower of Pisa. The Lord wants the Church to be square and straight, so He uses this important aspect of His Spirit to do that work. If church leadership and those who oversee this process as prophetic servants want to be popular, they will never correct or will always do it quietly with a smile. However, this is akin to my knowing that a friend has cancer and, furthermore, being able to perform the surgery to remove it, but refusing to acknowledge it or intervene in any way. Sin is like a cancer. It will spread if left unattended. Yes, it may take a knife to cut out the tumor, but if this isn’t done, the sin will grow, and death will result. We dare not skip this highly important ministry in the Church today. Who wants a cancerous Church? We need people who will build up the Church by encouraging, affirming and correcting — speaking the truth in love and caring enough to confront. First Corinthians 14:3 says, “But the one who prophesies speaks to people for their strengthening, encouraging and comfort.” God wants to build a strong, holy, confident and mature Church that can move out with boldness and assurance. May the Lord help us to recognize the leaders He has developed for this ministry of prophecy and to release them to do fulfill His plan.
Adapted from Catch the Wind of the Spirit: How the 5 Ministry Gifts Can Transform Your Church by Carolyn Tennant. Copyright (c) 2016 by Carolyn Tennant. Used by permission of Vital Resources, 1445 N. Boonville Ave. Springfield, MO 65802, USA.
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HOW LEADERS CAN SHRINK THE GAP AND BRING GENERATIONS CLOSER TOGETHER MIKE McCRARY
ondon subways play a recorded announcement when the doors open: “Mind the gap.” This simple phrase provides a gentle warning to passengers exiting not to trip over the space between the subway floor and station platform. There is another gap that also needs minding — the generation gap, which, in the church, is often wide and easy to trip over. Sociologists call this field of study generational theory. William Strauss and Neil Howe’s 1991 work, Generations: The History of America’s Future, 1584 to 2069, catapulted generational theory into broad acceptance. The most recognizable contribution of this work was the generational definitions (i.e., G.I., Silent, Boomers, Generation X and the Millennial Generation). Although these designations prove informative to an extent, Strauss and Howe’s work comes with weaknesses, one of which is its American perspective. Such a narrow perspective cannot adequately address the growing need of multiethnic and multicultural ministry. Neither can it address the fact that ethnic similarities are just as strong, if not stronger, than age similarities. In addition, awareness of the characteristics of an age group is no substitute for a real cross-generational relationship. However, by approaching the gap with a biblical perspective enhanced with understanding of current research, leaders can shrink that gap and bring generations closer together.
I can see why gaps exist, though. Generations tend to view life through completely different lenses. Younger people are generally not impressed with degrees, titles and ecclesiastical structures. They also tend to ask a lot of questions. Sometimes it is easy for older people to perceive a younger person’s questions as rebellious or disrespectful. It takes maturity to listen and, if someone has difficult questions, to resist responding defensively. Some church leaders doubt that a multigenerational, diverse congregation can grow and adapt to a constantly changing culture. When leaders feel frustrated by the generation gap and try to implement change too quickly, self-sabotage can occur, fracturing churches. Not many leaders enjoy navigating the tension of a group stretched between fear of changing too quickly and the frustration of moving too slowly. Nevertheless, most leaders serve in established congregations with this reality. Unless a person plants a new, zero-history, narrowly targeted church, his or her reality resides in serving an age-diverse congregation. A Biblical Foundation Studying the theme of generations in Scripture, it is clear that each generation has a responsibility to the next, as Deuteronomy 6:6–7 notes: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children.” Psalm 145:4 declares, “One generation commends your works to another; they tell of your mighty acts.” The relationships between Elijah and Elisha, Naomi and Ruth and Paul and Timothy also provide examples of deep intergenerational relationships. In 1 Timothy 5:1–3, Paul shares his concern for all generations when he instructs Timothy to care for both younger and older men and women. He explains in Titus 2:3–5 the role of older women in training younger women. Scripture prescribes an intergenerational approach, presenting the multiple generations of the family of God as interdependent and necessary for discipleship. Just as biblical generations differed widely from one another but had the same doctrine and Spirit working within them, the multiple generations in today’s churches can respect one another’s differences and operate as united in the Spirit. In a sense, the older generation has a parental responsibility toward the younger. It is not the role of spiritual parents to force the younger generation into a mold but to motivate them toward all that Christ calls them to become. Components of an Intergenerational Church When I began pastoring and studying the generation gap, I had
The challenge for every church is to make sure that through the years they invite the next generation to step up and really lead. two ideas I thought were true. First, I suspected that music might be the single greatest determinant of a congregation’s generational tension. Second, I believed that if a church were healthy, generational tensions would not exist. As is turns out, both notions were false. Instead, as a result of my research, I discovered three vital components to an intergenerational church: shared purpose, unity of the Spirit and intentional faith practices. 1. Shared purpose. A biblical, shared purpose keeps the mission of God for the church at the forefront of every change. Leaders must connect church changes to the purpose that every generation shares in the work of God. A wise pastor I worked with used to say regularly, “We are always pastoring two churches at one time — the church we are and the one we are becoming.” Our church’s shared mission involves connecting people with God, with one another and with their purpose in life. Leaders must communicate that mission regularly through illustrations and stories. 2. Unity of the Spirit. Generational differences can threaten a church’s unity and, ultimately, its witness. Younger people usually define themselves by self-distinction, by being different from their forebears, whether
in music, vocabulary or dress. This push to define themselves shows up in church life, too. How leaders handle this reality says a great deal about their ability to see a difference between essentials and nonessentials. Scripture encourages believers to do their best to let God’s Spirit unite them: “Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Ephesians 4:3). The church unifies in essentials and nonessentials. No matter how diverse a church is, it will not succeed without having unity in the essentials of faith. Passion for an intergenerational church must arise not so much from generational agreement as from the need for all men and women to reconcile to God through faith in Jesus Christ. The intended outcome of an intergenerational church is not unity for unity’s sake. Rather, it is turning the power and pleasure of God uniquely expressed in a diverse church outward to bless the community, point all people to Christ and fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19–20). Nonessentials require generous grace. What should a person do when he or she disagrees with someone from a different generation? Conflict can arise when people turn preferences into values. Leaders must disagree with people within clear boundaries of biblical reason and mutual respect. A healthy leader stands up for what he or she believes is right without striking back in a malicious way. How a leader manages differences reveal as much about what that person believes as the messages he or she preaches. The balance of biblical boundaries and respect often transforms generationally strained churches into powerhouses for God. 3. Intentional practices. Though unity of the Spirit is a work of God, it does not just happen. Leaders must take intentional steps to turn vision into reality. Intentionality is both an action and attitude. Generational diversity is a defining feature
of an intergenerational church’s community life, ministries and events. That diversity must permeate and inform every corridor of the church. To build an intergenerational church, leaders must empower generationally diverse people — from the pulpit to the nursery and at every stop in between, in vocational and volunteer posts alike. Hallmarks of Intentionality Intentional, intergenerational churches exhibit five hallmarks: partnerships with parents, strategic mentoring, blended services, faith-building stories and serving opportunities. Many churches try one or more of these practices to encourage the generations. However, few intentionally do all of them together. 1. Partnering with parents. Parental influence plays a major role in shaping children’s faith. Intergenerational churches equip parents to function as spiritual leaders in the home. Children without supportive parents need their spiritual family to help. One way churches can partner with parents is by celebrating a child’s spiritual milestones. One retired minister I know buys a new Bible every year to give to a high school graduate. Throughout the year, he reads that Bible and writes notes in it aimed at encouraging the young person in his or her faith. 2. Strategic mentoring. Intergenerational churches provide fertile ground for mentoring, which can happen formally through programs and informally through regular interaction. In addition to age-based or life-stage groups, churches may consider affinity groups, designed around a mutual interest. These groups can become a place for older adults to engage younger people. The challenge for every church is to make sure that through the years they invite the next generation to step up and really lead. 3. Blended services. Some churches are so segmented into age groups and are so tailor-made for individualistic preferences that attending church feels more like an educational system than participation in the family of God. In contrast, blended services engage the family of God in worship because leaders can include youth leaders to serve on the main worship team, they can make sure song selections overlap with student services and they can involve younger and older people in planning services or include some traditional elements like responsive reading in the services. Leaders can encourage both old and young to worship together for the sake of wisdom and vitality for all. Music is an important part of blended worship services and often presents a source of generational tension. Conflicts about music arise because of musical tastes and sound levels. Some congregations solve the problem by having one traditional and one contemporary service, though these terms are ill-defined.
Whatever the structure, services should not foster a vendor-consumer disposition, as this approach might contribute to a self-centeredness that hampers genuine community and outreach. The focus in worship with all generations should be the adoration of God, not mere entertainment or tradition. Members of the congregation need to live with grace toward one another on nonessentials. Older generations have a greater responsibility to defer to the needs of the younger generation rather than vice versa, much like parents to children. 4. Faith-building stories. Faith-building stories include the telling of Bible stories and personal testimonies. Psalm 71:18 declares, “Even when I am old and gray, do not forsake me, my God, till I declare your power to the next generation, your mighty acts to all who are to come.” Declaring the gospel to the next generation is the most important faith practice. Emphasis on saving time during the worship service sometimes prevents the telling of Bible stories or relating of personal testimonies. Faith-building stories give people perspective. By practicing storytelling, leaders, parents and churches declare God’s power to the next generation. 5. Serving opportunities. Intergenerational churches will intentionally plan opportunities that involve children, youth, adults and seniors serving together. Multiple generations serving the Lord together minimize age differences. Although churches should not involve people — especially young people — in service opportunities just for the sake of keeping them busy. A remarkable correlation exists between one’s involvement at church and his or her faith. Involving a cross-section of the church’s people is a hallmark of diverse churches. Giving young people leadership roles in the church and supporting them are vital to developing the next generation of leaders. Managing the Generation Gap The generation gap can leave any leader disappointed and feeling helpless. If not minded well, the gap can exhaust the leader, wearing him or
Members of the congregation need to live with grace toward one another on nonessentials. her down with fatigue and even anger. One way to cope is blaming others, rationalizing away personal responsibility. Another way is to stop caring entirely. When people of different generations stop caring about one another, they are all in serious peril. Either way, it is not what God wants for His Church. Leaders can fill the generation gap with purpose, unity of the Spirit and intentional faith practices. All of this requires a fundamental dependence on the Holy Spirit. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit, as well as a commitment to cooperate with God and trust Him, regardless of the experience. Faith in God will help leaders focus on what they can do to lead and let go of the things they cannot control.
Mike McCrary, D.Min. is the senior associate pastor at Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri.
ENGAGING IN COMMUNITY
Effective leaders recognize the dividends of investing in communities. ommunities come in many shapes and sizes. Think about the number of communities you engage with every day — you likely find company with coworkers, family members, over shared interests and in church small groups, to name a few. We each have an opportunity to intentionally engage with those around us, whether we’re “on the clock” in our leadership positions or not. When Christ called the twelve disciples to join with Him in not only fellowship, but on a mission to spread the gospel, He provided a framework for a new understanding of community. Effective communities have many benefits, both tangible and intangible. Those in Christlike fellowship will bear others’ burdens, serve one another and ultimately point to God as head of our individual lives and the Church — His eternal community.
Ana Pierce is the online editor of Influence magazine.
An important point to note, however, is communities don’t create themselves. Like any thriving, living thing, we must nurture them, carefully applying care and attention. This can be done through many different ways, as you’ll see in this “Multiplier” section. On the next five pages are four leaders who are pioneering communities in their areas. Though each has a unique method, one common thread you’ll notice is they are all advocating for communities that are outside the church itself. In this way, these four leaders are working outside the walls of their churches to engage with the community, living and serving intentionally throughout the week, and ultimately, pointing people to Christ. Jeremy Deweerdt, lead pastor of Rockford First in Rockford, Illinois, shares how he has made use of affiliate ministries to meet the needs of those who are often overlooked or marginalized. Aaron Escamilla, lead pastor of New Community Church in Mesquite, Texas, is using tools he’s been given to multiply the surrounding area with particular attention to the public school system. Rick Ross, lead pastor of Concord First Assembly, Concord, North Carolina, explains how his church is making the most out of a unique location to further their community engagement. Finally, Aaron Burke, lead pastor of Radiant Church in South Tampa, Florida, shares how engaging an online community has contributed to the success of his church plant. Our objective in sharing these stories with you is that you will be encouraged to look around you, recognize the community’s needs — and jump in to engage with it.
LOVING WHERE YOU LIVE Rockford First is loving God, loving people and loving life. A Q&A WITH JEREMY DEWEERDT
Influence: Volunteerism is a passion of yours — tell us about that. Jeremy Deweerdt: I believe the Church is living in its original design when we gather together, worship God, get empowered by the Word and then are sent out into communities to show the love of Jesus. The Message version of Proverbs 11:11 says, “When right-living people bless the city, it flourishes.” That’s why we do what we do — to see our city flourish. At Rockford First, we want to bless the city with the love of Jesus, plain and simple. We believe we should “love where we live” in not just word but deed as well. We’re really just following the example that Jesus modeled for us. Rockford First is unique in having multiple affiliate ministries. How have you been blessed by serving these communities? We are constantly asking God to help us engage the community through creative methods. We’ve discovered our church can have many efforts working simultaneously, which coincide with our focus on the weekend services. In fact, our data shows these strategic efforts eventually led people to the weekend. Metaphorically speaking, we’ve seen that many tributaries eventually
form a mighty river. We see this through our affiliate ministries like Christian Life Schools, Christian Life Retirement Centers, Love Works, Focus One and the like. Throughout the years, we’ve seen hundreds of people discover faith in Jesus Christ and become a part of Rockford First through these programs. What other communities does your church serve? Through our Love Works program, we serve those who find themselves in poor circumstances, those who have been “marginalized” by society. We also love partnering with our public schools to serve kids in need by giving them clothes and resources. Champion’s Club is another program that is making a major impact in our city. An entire community of people exists who have children with special needs, but most haven’t been able to come to church. It wasn’t feasible to bring children with special needs into a typical children’s church environment. Through Champion’s Club, these parents are given an opportunity to attend church knowing their child is being cared for. These incredible kids are being empowered in an environment where they can thrive physically and spiritually. To what would you credit the success of your ministries? Specifically in our efforts to reach our community our success is due to the simple truth that when you proactively reach out to others with love and action, God shows up. You want to see Jesus grow your church? Then love God and love your neighbor. It sounds too simple, but we have seen “loving where we live” become a powerful catalyst in our congregation, as well as our community. At the end of the day, we’ve allowed these three statements to guide our efforts: love God, love people and love life. Jeremy Deweerdt is lead pastor of Rockford First in Rockford, Illinois.
CREATING A NEW COMMUNITY New Community Church is making people and places new. A Q&A WITH AARON ESCAMILLA
Influence: “New Community” is actually the name of your church. How do you ensure that new community continues to be part of your church DNA? Aaron Escamilla: Our church name was chosen based off of community assessments that were done in our city. After talking with city officials, educators, business owners and nonprofits, we discovered the name New Community Church met a felt need in our city. Mesquite is in need of and searching for something new. That’s our mission and why NCC exists — to “Make People and Places New.” People hold on to stories, so we celebrate stories a lot around here. Whether it’s celebrating a past event, highlighting a ministry, sharing a need or honoring a team member — it always comes back to the mission of “making people and places new.” Our goal is that everyone who calls NCC home will know how God is using NCC to accomplish this mission and find ways to live it out in their life every week.
We try to remind the church that being a Jesus follower changes everything; it changes their family, their job and their neighborhood.
What is a significant challenge you have as lead pastor of this fellowship? A significant challenge we have as a church is moving from eventbased outreaches to a continuous community engagement model. We don’t want to produce people who serve at a few events each year and believe they are living out the message of the gospel. Our goal is to be present in our community and schools to see lasting transformation. We are constantly looking for ways for the people of NCC to serve and meet the needs of our community. This happens by partnering with strategic nonprofits on a continual bases. We also offer several large outreach events throughout the year that serve as a springboard for people to serve at local nonprofits. Share how your church fuses with the unchurched community around you. We believe the church isn’t a building or a time during the week. The church is the people that make up NCC. We try to remind the church that being a Jesus follower changes everything; it changes their family, their job and their neighborhood. Each of us should be engaging
unbelievers in spiritual conversations because it’s part of our lives. This is also something we talk to first time guests about. They receive a Next Steps guide that challenges them to have four spiritual conversations over the next four weeks. We are constantly looking for new ways to challenge people to not wait for church leaders to plan something, but to engage with friends and neighbors on their own. We believe the most powerful engagement the unchurched have with NCC is not a flyer or a website, but people sharing what God has done for them. What are some core passions of your church? We’re passionate about creating a clear, simple way for people to move forward in their relationship with Jesus. Another core passion of NCC is our role in the community. We aren’t asking the community to come be part of what we are doing, but rather we are part of what’s going on in our community. This means not recreating outreach ministries, but finding ways to participate and champion what is already happening here in Mesquite. Tell us about your annual Family Fest. FamFest is an event that was started to resource families in our area as they head back to school. This event started in 2010 and has continued to grow rapidly as people are supplied with backpacks, medical screenings and family resources. FamFest went so well the Mesquite School District approached us in 2015 and asked if we would partner with them. We saw this as an opportunity to develop the relationship with our city even further. This was the start of the Mesquite Back to School Fair. Last year was a huge success, and the district has asked us to expand the event to two high schools this year. We have the full support of the Mesquite School District, many local businesses and a large hospital in Dallas. We are seeing God use this event to bring churches together, open new doors for us in our school district and resources our city’s families. Aaron Escamilla is the lead pastor of New Community Church in Mesquite, Texas.
GETTING OUTSIDE THE WALLS Concord First Assembly is making the most of a unique location. A Q&A WITH RICK ROSS
Influence: How does the unique location of your church allow for and encourage community engagement? Rick Ross: We have been divinely placed in the heart of Concord, North Carolina. It is almost impossible to enter the city without noticing the building with the large cross on the top, as our church sits right in the center of two major roads in Cabarrus County. We do not depend on the community finding the building; we take the church to the streets. Five years ago on a Sunday we put heart-shaped magnets on every car in the parking lot that said “I Love My City.” The “I Love My City” project was a great catalyst for us becoming a visible display of our care for the community. Tell us about The Village. About 14 years ago, all of the businesses in The Village mall relocated, leaving The Village a huge “white elephant” at the entrance to our great city. We were in need of more space and were challenged as to how that should best be accomplished. At the same time, The Village was placed under auction. It seemed like the natural solution to our space problem. As with any remodel, the challenges have been many. It has been a process, not a quick build. Today, two-thirds of The Village is used for ministry, and one-third is revenue generating. These businesses have helped tremendously in the contribution of lowering our expenses. The Village houses a dental clinic, insurance agency, bank, restaurants and shops along with the community outreaches we now have space for. Aside from location, what would you say is one of the greatest factors to creating community? Community is built out of a true sense of caring. It begins with leadership. The vision of the leaders for community is evident in almost every conversation. We
have pastors on staff serving on community boards, as community chaplains and in the public school system. Others on staff serve in many other capacities in our community. We try hard not to be invisible outside the four walls of the church, and we provide opportunities for our church family to do the same. When we offer ourselves sacrificially to our neighbors, people notice and recognize we not only say we care, we actually do care. This creates community. What’s your vision for Concord First in the years to come? My vision for Concord First is that God’s will continues to be fulfilled in this great church. The church has such a great legacy of serving our community. I believe it will continue to be “a light set upon a hill,” a beacon that is ever shining to spread God’s love wherever that light shines. We value excellence in everything we do. It honors God and inspires people. We are committed to worshipping God, serving Him and one another and connecting with people inside and outside the church. Rick Ross is lead pastor of Concord First Assembly in Concord, North Carolina.
BUILDING A SOCIAL COMMUNITY How Radiant Church uses online tools to create true community. A Q&A WITH AARON BURKE
Influence: What were your greatest challenges planting a church in South Tampa? Aaron Burke: My wife, Katie, and I moved to Tampa without knowing anyone in the city. We had a dream from God, but no people to serve. Another local pastor told us the area was a “graveyard for church plants.” Every obstacle ended up being an opportunity for God to show up. We walked the community for hours asking God to give us the city. It was the most trying time in our life and marriage, but God was faithful through it all. How did you engage the local community when you didn’t know anyone? We used two major tools to help us meet people: social media and our local chamber of commerce. I joined our local chamber and went to several networking meetings a week. I would always introduce myself at the meetings and try to get to know as many people as I could. I would ask questions about their lives. As soon as they asked me about my life and career, I would talk about my vision to launch a life-giving, dynamic church in our community. Out of 600 members in our local chamber of commerce, we were the only church, and I was the only pastor. This gave me an amazing opportunity each week to share my faith and invite people to the church. The chair of the chamber board, along with many others, came to Radiant Church on our opening Sunday where she met Jesus. He has transformed her life and family. She now serves every week on our dream team. How have you used social media as a tool to reach your area? Radiant Church was started with a mission to meet people where they are, and currently everyone is “online.” We spent a substantial portion of our launch budget reaching the community through social media. Our goal was to create interesting and sharable content
to engage the community and eventually drive them to our website. Once they were on our website, our mission and opportunities to attend were made clear for them to see. I would guess that between one-third and one-half of our entire launch team was recruited through Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. Share a story of a church member coming to Christ through this unique outreach. A local realtor, Chad, was going through a tough season in life when our Facebook ad popped up on his mobile device. He had not attended church for 20 years and decided to give it one more try. He surrendered his life to Jesus that first Sunday and has been involved ever since. He now serves as our head usher, and he just got engaged to a woman at the church. I am officiating his wedding next month. Aaron Burke is the lead pastor of Radiant Church in South Tampa, Florida.
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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 Joy of Signing, Third Edition Reach out to the deaf and hard of hearing in your church and community! Whether used as a practical resource for a sign language ministry or to expand your own knowledge of American Sign Language, The Joy of Signing will provide one of the most comprehensive beginner guides available. This updated third edition provides the essential conceptually based vocabulary needed for both beginners and persons entering interpreter training programs. Over 1,500 signs are clearly illustrated and grouped by chapter into their natural categories. Features sections on the history of sign language and fingerspelling, the art of signing, language patterns of signs, an illustrated guide for fingerspelling and a special section of religious signs. Logion Press ISBN: 9781607313618 $29.99
Bible Doctrines Revised 75th Anniversary Edition Go on a journey into Godâ€™s Word to discover the 16 Fundamental Truths of the Assemblies of God. P.C. Nelson takes you step-by-step through Scripture to carefully explain what Pentecostals believe and why through an easy-to-read overview. Gain a deeper understanding of these beliefs and let them change your life and ministry. This book is also an excellent resource to give to church volunteers, especially those who come from a nonPentecostal background. Logion Press ISBN: 9780882438580 $6.99
Deacon Ministry Help your board members and deacons be successful. Deacon Ministry provides them with suggestions for personal interaction and problem solving, along with real-life stories. This book explores how to fulfill the unique roles and responsibilities of a layleader, exploring topics that range from the biblical basis for ministry to typical areas of service, and even conflict management. Used alone or in a group, this practical resource will help develop effective leaders. Gospel Publishing House ISBN: 9780882438511 $5.95
A SpiritEmpowered Church In A Spirit-Empowered Church, Alton Garrison point you to the heart of dynamic church growth: creating Spirit-empowered disciples who are involved in five activities — connect, grow, serve, go and worship. Find out how to spark change in individuals, families, and communities with the love and power of God’s mighty Spirit. Combining a strong biblical approach with inspirational insights and personal stories, Garrison shares the Acts 2 church model that can renew the spiritual vitality of your congregation. Influence Resources ISBN: 978168154001 $14.99
Lead So Others Can Follow In our world some churches seem increasingly powerless against the rise of cultural secularism and moral relativism. So how can you, as a leader, fight this oncoming tide and revitalize your church? Lead So Others Can Follow by Jim Bradford offers practical tips on creating a Christ-honoring, people-centered ministry. Let this book help you face the challenge to keep spirituality and biblical principles hardwired into your leadership.
Broken Escalators What if everything you know about success is wrong? Approaching Scripture with humor, stats and storytelling, Peter Haas uses surprising candor to explore the myths our culture teaches about happiness and promotion. Diving deeper than others would dare, Haas wrestles with theological issues many leaders would avoid on Sunday, making Broken Escalators a must-read for anyone who feels stuck on the way to the next level. Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670219 $14.99
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670738 $12.99 Spanish: El líder que otros seguirán ISBN: 9781680671360 $12.99
Praying with Confidence
Desperate for Jesus
Talk Now and Later
Over the course of 31 days, author Jeff Leake provides tips and patterns to help you and your congregation develop a new discipline of prayer. Each day features a unique prayer pattern based on well-known prayers throughout the Bible, as well as the six main elements of prayer: worship, agreement, thanksgiving, specific requests, confession, worship. Learn to have confidence, variety and effectiveness in your prayer life.
Every believer faces struggles and hard times, but it’s what you do in the face of those obstacles that will either draw you closer to Jesus or distract you from Him. In a practical and powerful way, Desperate for Jesus combines author John Hannah’s own amazing stories with experiences of people in the Bible who were also desperate for Jesus. The more you crave Jesus, the more He will transform you and those around you.
Winner of Outreach Magazine’s Children’s Outreach 2016 Resource of the Year. In Talk Now and Later, author Brian Dollar presents 10 common topics children deal with — or will soon — and detailed advice on how to approach and discuss the issues with them. Provides conversation starters for: God, Death and Tragedy, Sex, Self-Image, Making Wise Choices, Divorce, Friendships, Money, Bullying and Restoring Broken Relationships.
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670394 1-9: 12.99 10-49: $9.99 50-87: $8.99 88+: $7.79 Spanish: Ora con confianza ISBN: 9781680670899 1-9: 12.99 10-49: $9.99 50-87: $8.99 88+: $7.79
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670486 $14.99 Spanish: Anhelo más de Jesús ISBN: 9781680670837 $14.99
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680670271 1-9: $17.99 10+: $14.39 Spanish: Hable ahora y después ISBN: 9781680670868 1-9: $17.99 10+: $14.39
Selah 21 Day Devotional
Catch the Wind of the Spirit
Left unchecked, life tends to take on a pace of its own and may drive you to fatigue and burnout. Pursue the rest God offers as you journey through the Scriptures with the Selah 21 Day Devotional by Kerry Clarensau. Set aside time to receive these profound truths and experience the rest you need. Great for women’s event giveaways and outreach. To see more Selah resources, visit MyHealthyChurch. com/Selah.
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.
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.
Vital Resources ISBN: 9781680660388 1-9: $14.99 10+: $11.99
Gospel Publishing House ISBN: 9781607314127 1-9: $14.99 10+: $11.99 Spanish: Propaga el Fuego ISBN: 9781607314158 1-9: $14.99 10+: $11.99
Salubris Resources ISBN: 9781680671391 $2.99 Spanish: Selah 21 Dias De Devocional ISBN: 9781680671421 $2.99
Spread the Fire
MAKE IT COUNT Successful Community Engagement and Evangelism: 8 Key Concepts to Help Grow Your Church
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
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 Rich Wilkerson, senior pastor of Trinity Church in Miami, Florida, and founder of Peacemakers, a Christian nonprofit, social services organization. These lessons are easily adaptable for individual 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 team members. Regardless of your church’s size, Make It Count can help you more effectively lead your team and your congregation.
8 Concepts for Successful Community Engagement and Evangelism We live in an ever-changing world, but the mandate from Jesus to share the gospel is just as important for the Church today as it was for the Early Church. As church leaders, we need to be prepared to fulfill this mandate — we are called to rethink the way we do church and excel at it. First Chronicles 12:32 talks about the men of Issachar. They were men who understood the region and the times in which they lived and knew what Israel should do. They functioned as a think tank, brainstorming outside the box to protect and grow God’s people. As wise church leaders, we need to recognize we are living in such times — times of uncertainty and upheaval. We need to understand that the problems we face may actually be potential opportunities for the Church to give back. By giving back to our communities, we show our commitment to the area and foster strong, effective community engagement. Building up a strong foundation for the church through evangelism and community engagement leads to exponential growth. The following Make It Count lessons include eight key concepts needed to develop successful plans for community engagement and evangelism in the changing world in which we live.
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 1 Problem or Potential? Read: Exodus 4:1–2; 2 Kings 4:1–7 Discussing the Text 1. Moses and the widow were unable to see the potential in front of them. Why do you think they weren’t? 2. What other biblical passages contain a problem turned into untapped potential? 3. What action step was required by Moses and the widow before their miracle took place? What does this say about our need to step out in faith and trust God for the result? Identifying the Principle: Problems exist. In fact, many people go through life seeing only problems and this carries over into their professional lives and ministries. We see this clearly in the Scriptures from Exodus and 2 Kings. Moses, in his fear, forgot his God was powerful to use something as insignificant as a staff. Elisha reminded the widow that even a small jar of oil can turn into a great provision from God. The Bible doesn’t hide the fact that problems exist, but it continually shows how each problem offers great potential to a solution. Jesus clearly modeled this, and we need to reframe our thinking and look at the world around us as a place of possibility. We need to find that potential to fulfill our primary purpose of reaching people for Jesus. Maybe you have a goal to reach out to the homeless in your community, but you are struggling to make a difference. Or perhaps you specialize in children’s outreaches, but no one is coming. Maybe you are just starting your church, but you can’t find a way to reach out to the community. This is when you step back and look for the potential. Are there already enough soup kitchens in your neighborhood? Maybe you can start a support group or jobskills workshop instead. That church up the street has an energy-filled children’s program on Sunday mornings. What about offering an after school program or tutoring? Instead of focusing on what isn’t working, take a few minutes to look at the needs you can meet. Jesus continually met the needs of those around Him. This is the ministry He calls us to continue. Applying the Principle: 1. What problems in our community provide the most potential for ministry? 2. Sometimes we need to be reminded of how God has turned previous problems into new ministry opportunities. In what ways has God showed His faithfulness to us in difficult times? 3. How can we reframe our thinking and look at the world around us as a place of possibility rather than a problem that can’t be solved?
LESSON 2 Give and It Shall Be Given Read: Luke 6:38; Ecclesiastes 4:9–12
Discussing the Text 1. Luke 6:38 is often used during offering times. How would our community change if this verse was applied in the context of our church giving back to the community? 2. How does the wisdom Solomon shares in the Ecclesiastes’ passage have significance to us in our place and time? 3. Give an example of a collaborative partnership in the Bible that led to a greater Kingdom impact. Identifying the Principle Luke 6:38 is specific in how our actions toward others reflect on us. How does this work for a church? It starts with being committed to your community. Commitment to the community isn’t always easy. Limited resources, stretched budgets and a lack of volunteers can bring outreaches to a halt. The fact remains, however, that we must engage the community around us if we are to reach them. One way to do this is through partnerships. Consider a joint outreach with other local churches or a partnership with local social service organizations. There are several large nonprofits that specialize in bringing local churches and organizations together to meet community needs. With enough planning and cooperation, you can do the same in your area. One example of how this might work is an outreach ministry with music, games for the kids, free medical screenings, haircuts and free groceries. A local social service agency can coordinate the health screenings, while the local food pantry provides the groceries. The churches gain an opportunity to meet the community and share God’s Word by pooling resources and the talents of their members. Look at your congregation. Do you have a barber or artist who can donate their time and talent? Another church might have bounce houses and games for the kids. By giving freely of what you have, you will get much more in return. When you start out by giving, the community will come back and support your vision. Like the verses in Ecclesiastes say, we are stronger when we work together. Applying the Principle 1. In what ways does our church currently give back to the community? 2. Are there any needs in our community we want to meet but can’t because of a lack of resources? 3. If we don’t have the resources, is there someone else we can partner with to bring those resources to our community? 4 How can our church apply Ecclesiastes 4:9–12 to collaborate with our community?
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 3 Go and Tell Read: Matthew 28:19–20 Discussing the Text 1. According to Matthew 28:19–20, what is the responsibility of the Church? 2. If the disciples had not followed the command to “go and tell,”what do you think would be the state of Christianity today? 3. Are there other models of ministry Jesus employs throughout Scripture that support the “go and tell” model but are less direct in their approach? Explain your answer. Identifying the Principle Jesus commanded His disciples to “go and tell” people about the gospel message. They started in their hometown of Jerusalem, and then they traveled to other villages and cities and brought the gospel of Jesus with them. Without their efforts, the church of Jesus Christ might never have spread around the globe. The Church is still mandated to “go and tell.” This is sometimes different for the local church, but it can be accomplished through active evangelism and community engagement. Note the word active. We are not called to passively wait for someone to walk through the church doors so we can share the love of Jesus with them. We are called to go and make disciples, teaching them to obey Jesus’ commands. We can reach people in many ways. One way is to actively invite them into our church through special programs, concerts and holiday events. Another way is to go to the people, which is usually accomplished through community outreaches and evangelistic events. Community engagement is an opportunity for our church to reach people by meeting their needs. When we step in and help, actively supporting the community rather than depending on it, we prove the community is important to the church. New doors of opportunity for community engagement will then open to us. Think about it, don’t you respond better to people who are willing to give than those who do nothing but ask for something? This is an opportunity. Go and tell them about Jesus while holding out a hand in support. You might be surprised at how you are welcomed and embraced, which will offer a great opportunity to share Jesus’ love. Applying the Principle 1. Is there an organization in our area that started because an individual or church decided to “go and tell”? How are they making a difference? 2. What are we currently doing in our church outreach programs that fit into the “go and tell” model for effective community engagement and evangelism? 3. In what new ways can our church support the community?
LESSON 4 Jerusalem First Read: Acts 1:8
Discussing the Text 1. Acts 1:8 is programmatic for Acts. It predicts the spread of the gospel from Jerusalem to the ends of the earth. Why did Jesus tell His disciples to start in Jerusalem? 2. Acts 1:8 says: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses…” What is the “power” Luke is referring to and what is its significance to evangelism? 3. One of the unique and compelling characteristics of the Early Church was their desire to personally share the gospel. What were the results of the disciples’ early ministry in Jerusalem? Why is this significant? Identifying the Principle One of the challenges to Christianity in the United States is the number of churches that have plateaued or are in decline. For that reason, evangelism is vital to the future of the Church. The point of evangelism is not growth for growth’s sake; it is the desire to take Jesus’ message to the people. We need to look for new methods of outreach to bring in fresh thinking. A heart for world missions is important, but a desire for evangelism at home is vital to the growth of the local church. Jesus instructed His disciples to build a strong foundation in Jerusalem. We, too, must build a strong foundation in our “Jerusalem.” The Holy Spirit came to empower bold, fearless witnesses who can build a storehouse of gifted people, resources and funds. Out of this storehouse, we can impact the world. When Jerusalem, our home base, becomes weak, those resources dry up and we must revisit our plan. One of the unique and compelling characteristics of the Early Church was their desire to personally share the gospel. Members of the Early Church would each go to their respective communities and share the gospel within their subculture. People accepted Jesus as their Savior, and house churches formed. Each person in that group would then share the gospel with their friends and family. This facilitated a rapid growth of the Church in the local community, allowing the Church to send missionaries to other communities. In the same way, if our evangelism arm is strong, it helps keep our missions arm strong. Applying the Principle 1. What evangelistic opportunities does our church currently use to reach the community? 2. How can our church encourage attendees to personally reach out to the local community? 3. What areas of evangelistic opportunity can our church focus on to build up our “Jerusalem”? 4. Many people seem willing to travel to far away, remote places to share the gospel, but seem less inclined to share the gospel with their neighbor. What would explain this paradox?
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 5 Getting in Front of Trouble Read: 1 Chronicles 12:32 Discussing the Text 1. First Chronicles 12:32 draws special attention to the tribe of Issachar as “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” What do you think they understood? 2. Who are others throughout Scripture who also “understood the times” and knew what Israel should do at crucial times in its history? Explain your answer. Identifying the Principle Of the twelve tribes of Israel, the tribe of Levi was the praise tribe. Judah was the king and government tribe. The tribe of Issachar could have been described as a national think tank. They were strategists and saw problems before problems arrived, and they worked to develop solutions for the issues to come. We still need a think tank like the men of the tribe of Issachar in our churches. Some churches accomplish this through the board of deacons, board of elders or the pastoral staff. These are a start, but there needs to be a church think tank meeting at least once a year (or more often) to get and stay in front of trouble. Have you noticed we are often reactionary? We respond to a problem in our community after it happens. We form outreaches and support groups to meet already existing needs. Instead, we need to forecast what is ahead of us — being proactive. This means we can get in front of trouble and lead the way with the answer. When a church starts to support the community, it becomes a resource to the community. Eventually, community leaders will start to include the church in leadership decisions when the area faces a potential crisis. The think tank for the local church must look at the troubles it might face in the future, especially those in the local community. It must anticipate and be proactive instead of waiting and dealing with situations after they have already had a detrimental effect. By doing this, we benefit our entire community. Applying the Principle 1. Who serves the think tank needs in our church? How can forming a think tank benefit both the church and the community? 2. How can members of a think thank stay in touch with the needs of the church and community? 3. Is there a potential situation in our community that our church could prepare to address? 4. How might the Church do a better job of developing Christian men and women who can provide a prophetic voice to our world?
LESSON 6 Streams of Income Read: Genesis 24:35–36; Job 1:1–3; 42:12–13
Discussing the Text 1. When you read the passages in Genesis and Job, notice how prosperous Abraham and Job were. They were CEOs of their vast empires. Whose financial portfolio was the most diversified, Abraham’s or Job’s? Explain your answer. 2. Whose portfolio would you conclude is more desirable or less risky? Abraham’s or Job’s? Why? 3. What important lessons can we learn from Abraham and Job about trusting God with our financial resources? Identifying the Principle Abraham and Job were prosperous men who were blessed in all their ways by the Lord. Job’s faith in God lasted through terrible hardship, and he was rewarded by a return of his wealth after his faith was tested. Abraham and Job depended on the gifts God gave them, but they also used their heads for business to safeguard and increase those blessings. The main stream of income for many churches is tithes and offerings. This has been God’s way of funding the Church from the beginning. Relying on income from tithes and offerings can be problematic in communities where recession and unemployment are major issues. However, as opportunities come to reach more people, there may be other ways to increase the church’s income. Tithes and offerings are often miniscule compared to what the church needs to fund its vision. Church plants and smaller churches often see the pastoral staff working as tentmakers, holding full-time jobs in addition to their pastoral duties. As the income of the church increases, the pastoral staff is gradually brought on full time. Some churches create alternate streams of revenue to help fund and expand their vision. Examples include daycares and schools, cafés that operate before and after services and during special events, selling media and books written by the staff and renting out facilities for concerts and conferences. These initiatives not only help fund the work of the church, they also create an opportunities to interact with the surrounding community. Applying the Principle 1. Multiple streams of income means if one stream dries up, other steady sources continue to come in. Does our church have multiple streams of revenue? If so, what are they? 2. What is the danger of “putting all your eggs in one basket”? 3. Are there initiatives our church can start that function as both an outreach and an income stream? How can these initiatives help the church grow and reach people in the community?
MAKE IT COUNT
LESSON 7 21st Century Tentmaking Read: Acts 18:1–4 Discussing the Text 1. Paul was a tentmaker. How did this strategy help him with his ministry endeavors? 2. What other ministry opportunities did Paul’s tentmaking give him besides making an income? 3. Paul was entitled to support from the churches he planted, and from the people to whom he preached, yet he worked at his calling. What does this say about Paul’s view of the ministry and the local church? What significance does this have for your ministry context? Identifying the Principle Paul was a tentmaker. He self-funded his ministry. Though he taught it was appropriate to pay gospel ministers for their work, he decided not to burden the churches financially with his salary. Many church planters are tentmakers. This provides their salary and helps them build credibility with the community. The fact that pastors and other volunteers work in the community shows they care about the community and want to benefit it any way they can. They have a unique opportunity to share the gospel with those who would not normally enter a church. The ministry team can evangelize even as they work — their very job becomes an outreach. To take it a step further, some churches are blessed with tentmaking members who run businesses that offer services to both the church and the community. These businesses include, but are not limited to, audio/visual, catering, printing and recording. The businesses earn enough from their work for the community to provide free, donated services for the church. There are even successful models of churches with a for-profit subsidiary (governed by a separate management structure) that provide services for both the church and community. What would it look like if a new church plant started with a subsidiary business? The lead team has a salary, and they are doing good business in the community. The community starts to see the church as a group of people who are hard working, accomplished and who want to participate in the community. They want to come to a church like that. Churches should not be afraid to think outside the box when they want to reach out to the community but lack the resources. Applying the Principle: 1. How does our church utilize tentmaking to reach the community? 2. Does our church encourage staff and volunteers to participate in tentmaking opportunities? 3. How can Christians use this approach as an influence in the marketplace?
LESSON 8 Exponential Growth Read: Acts 2:42–47
Discussing the Text 1. How much growth did the Early Church experience? 2. Growth can be uncomfortable sometimes! What kind of problems do you think the Early Church might have dealt with as they were experiencing exponential growth? 3. How does “enjoying favor with all the people” correlate to the growth mentioned in Acts 2:47? Identifying the Principle Is our church primed for growth? Are we training the next generation of leaders, preparing them to become leaders of churches of their own? Young leaders are full of vision and inspire others to get involved in the ministry. They find favor with people because others see Jesus working through them doing works of grace. The Early Church experienced unprecedented growth because they found favor with the community. The Early Church wasn’t working to build an organization or fill a building. Its sole purpose was saving souls by reaching out to others and letting them see the power of God at work. Young, new leaders in the Early Church trained by walking alongside more experienced leaders. The disciples would go to a community, set up a core leadership team of new believers and spend time training them before moving on to the next community. Those new leaders evangelized in their community, sharing with others about the love of Jesus and their need of His forgiveness. Exponential growth occurs because people want to come to Christ. This goes back to building up our Jerusalem, our home foundation. As we see Jerusalem whole and functioning well, it begins to give birth to the kind of dynamic growth seen in the Book of Acts. How we do that today is both similar to and different from the Early Church. Reaching out to people through evangelism and community engagement still brings people to the church. We need to focus on meeting the needs we see in our communities, be proactive instead of reactive and form partnerships that benefit both the church and the surrounding area. No church today should grow for the sake of growing. The purpose of the church is not to build up a financial windfall and stock it away. The point of community engagement and evangelism is leading individuals and families to a growing relationship with Jesus. Applying the Principle 1. Is our church experiencing growth? If not, what steps can we take to change that? 2. How is our church committed to our community? 3. If our church were starting fresh today, what principles would we use to build up our Jerusalem? 4. In addition to growth, what other attributes or signs would indicate our church is healthy? Explain.
THE FINAL NOTE
How is the Current Economy Impacting Your Church?
If it seems like your church hasn’t brought in as much tithe and offering over the past few years, you’ve picked up on an unfortunate trend. According to recent research from LifeWay, 51 percent of Protestant pastors report the economy is negatively impacting their churches. However, the statistics have certainly improved since 2010, when 80 percent of pastors expressed a hardship. As LifeWay’s associate director, Scott McConnell, notes, attendance trends, spiritual growth and good stewardship each play a part in a church’s financial success.
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