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The American amily : FSocial Trends and

Ministry Opportunities

Persevering Through Pain Demonstrating God’s Compassion The Prayer Life of the Leader






Pa.sti□r Levi Lus1ko Fresh Uf e Church

Pastor R,a,b, Kett,erlinig River Valley Church




1445 N. Boonville Avenue Springfield, MO 65802-1894

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CONTRIBUTORS Donna L. Barrett, Stephen Blandino, Chris Colvin, Marlane Codair, Ted Cunningham, Kyle Dana, Jodi Detrick, Rob Ketterling, Jonathan Malm, Griffin McGrath, Tami Parsley, Peter Piñón, Joy Qualls, Christina Quick, Chris Railey, Doyle Robinson, Ed Stetzer, Jim Wilkes, George P. Wood

S P E C I A L T H A N K S : Douglas E. Clay, Alton Garrison, Donna L. Barrett, Rick DuBose, Greg Mundis, Malcolm Burleigh

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Value-Added Leadership

10 Get Set L E A D E R S I M PA C T I N G T H E C H U R C H A N D C U LT U R E

Persevering Through Pain A Q&A With Griffin McGrath



• Live: Take Charge of Your Mental Health • Think: How to Handle Criticism • Learn: Four Marks of a Good Talk Plus Selected Book Reviews


p34 24 Playbook S T R AT E G I E S F O R E F F E C T I V E M I N I S T R Y

• Build: Building a Culture of Hospitality • Know: What to Say When You Talk to Yourself • Invest: The 15-Year Turnaround

32 Perspectives O  N E I S S U E , T W O P E R S P E C T I V E S O N M AT T E R S A F F E C T I N G T O D AY ’ S C H U R C H

Inheriting Staff: Keep Them or Let Them Go?



34 THE AMERICAN FAMILY: SOCIAL TRENDS AND MINISTRY OPPORTUNITIES The issues facing families are complex. The good news is that your church can make a practical difference in their lives. TED CUNNINGHAM



How do Christians respond in a Christ-honoring way to a culture awash in division and hostility? ED STETZER


The first step in solving a problem is knowing who is responsible for fixing it. ROB KETTERLING


61 Multipliers


Demonstrating God’s Compassion • Doyle Robinson: Love in Action • Jim Wilkes: Generosity Through Innovation • Marlane Codair: Helping Those Who Are Here • Tami Parsley: Loving People Where They Are

70 Make It Count


The Prayer Life of the Leader


80 The Final Note

How Can They Hear?



Reflections on leadership

Value-Added Leadership CHRIS RAILEY recently spent time with John Maxwell at a pastors’ event we were hosting. While he is one of the greatest leadership experts of the last 30 years, his personhood and warmth match the level of his content and expertise. He spent two days sharing the wisdom and perspective gained over a lifetime working with the world’s most influential leaders, both within and outside the church — but mostly outside. As Maxwell spoke to a room of pastors, he shared an observation I haven’t been able to shake. He said a lack of love and a lack of attractiveness are increasingly becoming the reputation of the Church and of Christians in general. Painful to hear, but it’s hard to disagree. How then can we better reflect Christ, and lead our people to do the same? How can we reclaim the term evangelical from political commentary, build trust with our neighbors and community leaders, and demonstrate love in a way that will attract people to Jesus? Maxwell’s advice was simply to add value to others. Instead of trying to win debates,


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


change policies we don’t agree with, or retreat to those who look and think like us, maybe we as Christian leaders can start with adding value to others’ lives and walking through the doors a more Christlike approach will inevitably open. Maxwell explained that we add value to the lives of others by being salt and light (Matthew 5:13–16). Light makes things brighter, and salt makes things better. When the Church focuses on those two things, it’s amazing how loving and attractive we become to people who are looking for hope, anywhere they can find it. This is the best way to gain influence with those to whom we minister, in the places where God has called us. After all, isn’t influence what leadership is really all about? I walked away from that event with a greater commitment to add value to those in my own home, to my neighbors, to those I work with and for, and to the churches and leaders I have the privilege of serving every year. I want to be a person of influence. I desire to reflect the love of Christ in everything I do. Therefore, I must make adding value to others a top priority in my life. I believe God is calling all of us to do that. The needs are great and the challenges are many, but a life of authentic faith can move mountains of despair and cynicism. In this issue’s cover story, Ted Cunningham writes about the cultural trends — and ministry opportunities — surrounding today’s American families. In “Staying on Mission in the Age of Outrage,” Ed Stetzer explains why Christians must rise above the vitriol and communicate with grace. And in his feature, “You, Them or God?”, Rob Ketterling offers leaders insight on discerning which problems to tackle personally, which ones to delegate to others, and which ones to release to God. I pray this issue of Influence magazine will encourage you, inspire you, and add value to your life and leadership as you live to add value to others. As we all do that, perhaps the narrative will begin to change and we can point more people to Jesus than ever before.



Leaders Impacting the Church and Culture

A Q & A W I T H G R I F F I N M C G R AT H

Persevering Through Pain Griffin McGrath is the youth and young adults director for the Arizona Ministry Network, a role he stepped into at age 23. Despite their youthfulness, McGrath and his wife, Bethany, are well acquainted with suffering, illness and grief. Yet through every dark valley they have walked, God has given them the grace to persevere.

INFLUENCE: What have been the challenges and

opportunities of leading young? MCGRATH: I understood my district superintendent’s appointment as more of an investment in the next generation than his belief in me personally. I was humbled, but it felt too far beyond me for it to have been about me. My wife and I sensed God’s peace and that it was the Holy Spirit’s leading, so we trusted his and the board’s decision. To say all of a sudden that God qualified us would discount all that He had been doing in us in preparation for that appointment. Leading young gave us an advantage to see things with fresh eyes and energy; however, we lacked the context and experience, so we positioned ourselves under great leadership who would mentor and pour into us. People initially asked what our vision was, and we told them honestly, “We don’t have one.” We had nothing to prove, but we made an effort to travel the state, asking questions, and getting a burden in our hearts for the people. We asked God to give us His vision for Arizona, and He made it clear to us that by His Spirit, Arizona would disciple nations.

“God could have warned me about my dad’s death, but He gave me something greater: purpose.”

When you were a teenager, you unexpectedly lost your father, who was involved in district and national youth ministry. In what ways are you carrying on his legacy? My last conversation with my dad was after a youth camp where God spoke to me at an altar. Over the


”It’s in the driest seasons that we find our greatest thirst for God.”

phone, my dad said he loved me and was proud of me. I had just spent Father’s Day with him the weekend before and hugged him goodbye, not knowing it would be for the last time. God could have spoken anything to me at that altar. He could have warned me about my dad’s death, but He gave me something greater: purpose. God doesn’t call people to something; He calls people to Someone (himself ). My dad never intended for his four boys to follow in his footsteps — that would undermine his legacy. I believe he wanted us to seek who he sought and move the ball forward in the same direction. Every person he impacted has the opportunity to live out his legacy, paving new ways for others to follow the same Jesus. You have experienced major health challenges that you’ve chronicled on social media. What has kept you going through all of these physical challenges? During my first year in this role, I came down with an undiagnosed illness that hospitalized me for a week and nearly took my life. Years later, I developed an aggressive autoimmune disorder, causing severe fatigue, nerve pain and depression. Specialists advised me to quit my job because the stress would trigger long-term brain damage. I still battle this today, but I have experienced the sufficiency of God’s grace and daily portion of strength. There are times when I feel like I’m climbing a mountain with no summit. I have a list of questions to ask when I finally get to the top, but those questions become irrelevant when matched to the wonder of the gospel message. Religion says, “Climb this mountain,” but grace says, “I’ll carry you.” It’s in these challenging times that our true Source of strength is revealed, and a life-giving community is vital. When you can’t find your footing, you have to keep your head and trust His heart. God may loosen His grip, but He will never let us go.


Your wife’s seventh pregnancy came miraculously full-term, and today you have a healthy boy. What have you learned about God’s faithfulness? My wife, Bethany, is the strongest person I know, but she never sought to be strong. After six physically and emotionally painful miscarriages, we were wounded and confused. We suffered silently. We knew that God was good, but we couldn’t see it. Bethany chose the path of vulnerability, blogging about our journey. Breaking the silence was not only healing for us, but we found purpose in our pain through a community of people who identified with us. It’s in the driest seasons that we find our greatest thirst for God, and it’s in the desert where He proves His faithfulness. Our son, Myler, is a daily reminder that we have seen the faithfulness of God. Myler’s name means, “The best things are in heaven.” It’s a tribute to our six babies we’ll meet one day. And as if God wasn’t faithful enough, He’s proven to be faithful again as we just welcomed our second-born son. How do you stay motivated in leadership, even in the tough times? My great-aunt, Vivian Piper, was one of the first women to become an ordained minister with the Assemblies of God, living until she was 100 years old. Vivian is remembered saying, “Lean on Jesus, and just when you feel like you can’t lean any more, lean a little harder.” She was mentored by Aimee Semple McPherson in challenging times for women in ministry. I am inspired by trailblazers like Vivian who paved a way for future generations. I am leveraging the influence God has entrusted me to pave new roads for all people to get to Jesus. Leadership the way God intended was never about the leader; it’s about preparing the way for who’s following. Jesus paved the only way to reconcile us to God, and our best response is to give our everything so that people everywhere may know this truth.


Take Charge of Your Mental Health PETER PIÑÓN

If we are to live out the greatest commandment as God intended, healing and growth must be priorities.


n recent years, health insurance companies have incentivized wellness checks. They know the dollar value of early detection and intervention in physical health. As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The same is true for our mental and emotional health. As leaders, we must prioritize preventative care. Jesus said the greatest commandment is this: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength” (Mark 12:30). The emphasis of this passage is not how we love God with each of those parts, but that we love God with every part of us. Jesus is asking us to love Him with our whole self. When any one of these parts becomes wounded or hindered, it limits the whole. Specifically, it


limits our ability to love God and others. If we are to live out the greatest commandment as God intended, healing and growth must be priorities. Jesus said, “In this world you will have trouble” (John 16:33). These troubles can inflict mental and emotional wounds — some big, some small. We can’t live by the adage, “Time heals all wounds.” In many cases, we need time and the intentional care God uses for our healing. There are three basic types of mental and emotional care: psychotherapy, counseling and coaching (see the graphic). Though overlap can exist between psychotherapy and counseling, psychotherapy focuses on healing from and coping with mental disorders. Counseling may also include healing, and can overlap with coaching in its emphasis on growth in personal development areas.





Heal and Grow


Mental Disorders: major depression, PTSD, OCD

Issues: grief, marriage, life adjustments and transitions

Self-development: time management, life balance, skill enhancement

The focus on healing or growth may change, depending on your life circumstances. In times of loss, adjustment or high stress, determining what help you need can be challenging. A counselor can be a good place to start. There may be seasons of working with just a coach, or seasons of working with just a counselor, or both. Regardless of your current season, here are some reasons to consider seeking a counselor or coach: You need a place to be human. There is a common misconception that ministers shouldn’t struggle or should always have the answers. Counseling and coaching give us an opportunity to benefit from another part of the body of Christ. As Paul told the Corinthians, “The head cannot say to the feet, ‘I don’t need you’” (1 Corinthians 12:21). Every part is interdependent on the others. You need a safe, confidential and holistic perspective. Encouraging and neutral input from someone who isn’t a friend, family member, staff member or boss can help you navigate emotionally charged situations. Counselors and coaches are trained to see you holistically, while most other relationships are limited to one or a handful of dimensions. Jesus demonstrated holistic care in the way He spoke to Nicodemus (John 3:1–21), the woman at the well (John 4:1–26), the paralytic (Mark 2:1– 12), and His disciples. He addressed the needs of the whole person, not just one part.

You need to locate help before a crisis hits. You want to know where you will go and whom you will see for help before you need it. Being a leader shouldn’t mean walking alone. In fact, responsible leaders seek wise counsel. Our decisions impact not only us but those we serve. Proverbs 15:22 says, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” You need to grow. Not one of us is perfect. We all have areas in which we can improve and grow. Intentionally focusing on growth and working toward wellness can prevent some of life’s common problems from becoming serious problems. Proverbs 1:5 says, “Let the wise listen and add to their learning, and let the discerning get guidance.” You lead by example. Allowing someone to help you can give others courage to get help too. Your actions will communicate that we don’t have to face life’s struggles alone. To fulfill all the great things God has planned for us, we need other people in our lives who can minister Christ’s love and support. Galatians 6:2 instructs us to “bear one another’s burdens.” I encourage you to take a step toward preventative mental and emotional care. The cost of doing nothing is too great. You, and those you serve, are worth the investment. Join the many leaders who are taking a proactive approach to their mental and emotional health.

There is a common misconception that ministers shouldn’t struggle or should always have the answers.

Peter Piñón is a licensed professional counselor and founder of Entero Counseling Services in Waxahachie, Texas. He is also the director of Counsel Care for the North Texas District of the Assemblies of God.



How to Handle Criticism DONNA L. BARRETT

None of us can escape criticism. But we can become better at handling it.

Donna L. Barrett is the general secretary for the General Council of the Assemblies of God in Springfield, Missouri.


hortly after the church I planted opened in 2003, I received an anonymous phone call. After asking a few questions about the church, the caller said I should be ashamed of myself for being a lead pastor as a woman, then hung up. I’ll admit, that rattled me to my core. Would God have called me to devote my life to something that was inconsistent with Scripture? None of us can escape criticism. But we can become better at handling it. Here are seven things I’ve learned to do: 1. Look at the part that is true, and let it help you. Once you peel away the parts that most sting — the delivery method, the unfounded accusations — there may be something helpful in the criticism. Even criticism delivered in anger, laced with exaggeration or poorly timed may have a pebble of golden truth worth mining. 2. Shake it off. Give the criticism just the weight it deserves, no more. Some of us make a bigger deal of criticism than we should. So the boss wrote you up. Learn from it, make a note, take action so it doesn’t happen again, and move on. If you are imagining yourself getting fired, replaying it, worrying or sharing the story with others, you may be giving the criticism more attention than it deserves. 3. Consider the source. Who is this person to you? What do you know about him or her? Criticism from a stranger or an anonymous note in the offering bag shouldn’t get the same attention as correction from a board member,


boss or long-time friend. If it’s someone who always has your best interest at heart, that person deserves your full attention. 4. Avoid the traps. It’s difficult, especially if criticism comes by surprise or in front of others, but avoid becoming defensive or lashing out with return criticism. Also guard your heart against more subtle responses of withdrawing, retaliating in a passiveaggressive way, gossiping, or wearing a chip on your shoulder. I’ve noticed I’m more likely to respond in a way I’ll later regret when I’m not prayed up or when I’m feeling tired or insecure. Stay self-aware and attuned to God. 5. See criticism as an opportunity. You have a chance to accept responsibility as a leader, respond with grace and appreciation and communicate future adjustments. 6. Remember you’re in good company. Jesus received criticism from friends, religious leaders and even Satan. Jesus said He could do “only what he sees his father doing” (John 5:19). That rubbed some people the wrong way; they thought Jesus should be establishing an earthly kingdom, elevating favorite disciples, and on and on. 7. Accept that it’s a part of leadership. The higher you rise in leadership, the more people you’ll encounter who misunderstand you, and the more criticism you’ll hear. Get a bigger earpiece from God’s mouth to your ear, and seek to please Him more. A few days after that phone exchange, I attended a chamber of commerce luncheon where six local mayors spoke. Four of these leaders were women. In that moment, God reminded me my target audience wasn’t religious people with a complementarian view, but lost people in my city who were totally comfortable with a lead pastor who happened to be a woman.

LEARN LIKE A LEADER Resources for You and Your Team

Four Marks of a Good Talk JOY QUALLS

In conversation, we learn who people are and how they navigate the world.

hurch leaders do plenty of talking — from preaching and teaching to guiding meetings. But as much as we say, there is often little in the way of conversation. And it’s not just us. Increasingly, conversation is becoming rare in our society. People tend to talk at one another on social media rather than engaging in actual dialogue. That’s not how God designed us to function. Some days, it might be nice if we could just close ourselves in our offices or climb Mount Sinai and receive a word from the Lord for someone. God certainly can work that way, but more often, He uses our relationships to speak to and through us. Conversation is more than talk between people. Research suggests effective conversation is balanced communication. It is a mindful, equitable, empathetic process.



Conversation is most effective when we think through what we will say, listen well, and stay open to learning. We should ask God to guide the words we use and acknowledge that He can speak to us through someone else’s words. This approach leads to conversations that are “full of grace” and “seasoned with salt” (Colossians 4:6).


Joy Qualls, Ph.D., is chair of the department of communication studies and an associate professor at Biola University in La Mirada, California.


We learn more from conversation when everyone involved has an opportunity to participate. This is not about equal time; it’s about giving everyone a chance to engage. Some people would rather not be the center of attention, but those who hesitate to join in often have great contributions to make. Good leaders understand this and find ways to draw people into the conversation.


Good conversation requires us to consider the

perspectives of others and imagine the world as they view it. We don’t have to adopt those perspectives, but we should work to understand where people are coming from and why they see things as they do. We can accomplish this by asking clarifying questions and then listening to hear rather than just listening to respond.


Like close relationships, meaningful conversation develops over time. Rarely will we solve anything or learn much in a single interaction. Casual discussions are fine, but we should also follow up and intentionally employ practices that lead to quality conversation. To develop trust and understanding, we should commit to a process of exchanging ideas. As a conversation unfolds over time, we will learn to read the entire physical presence of one another. Eye contact, body posture, pace of speech, breathing, tone and choice of words all engage our senses, but they take on new meaning as relationships develop. This is also what makes conversation hard for many of us. Conversation is vulnerable, revealing our weaknesses, faults and insecurities. In conversation, we learn who people are and how they navigate the world. We learn the level of relationship we might have with another person. And we learn that even in challenging moments, choosing connection is more than just exchanging information. Conversation reveals much about the people involved in the communication. Conversation not only creates connection between people, but it also cultivates a spiritual dimension we can’t replicate through other forms of human communication. Practice conversation as a spiritual discipline, giving God space to speak and minister among you, as well as through you, as you learn and grow together.




Steven D. Smith shows how the culture wars reflect differences between transcendent and immanent accounts of the sacred.

BOOK REVIEWED Steven D. Smith, Pagans and Christians in the City: Culture Wars from the Tiber to the Potomac (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2018).


hristianity was conceived in a Jewish womb but born into a pagan world. For the first four centuries of its existence, Christianity struggled against the polytheism, violence, and sexual immorality of classical culture, eventually displacing paganism as the default faith of the West. That dominance continued through the Middle Ages until the 16th century, when conflicts between Catholics and Protestants divided Christendom and set the stage for the rise of Enlightenment secularism. Since then, secularism has slowly displaced Christianity as the West’s go-to ideology. That’s the standard narrative of Western history, at any rate. Steven D. Smith’s Pagans and Christians in the City offers a thought-provoking counternarrative inspired by T.S. Eliot’s 1939 Cambridge University lecture, “The Idea of a Christian Society.” Speaking six months before the start of World War II, Eliot stated his conviction in binary terms: “I believe that the choice before us is between the formation of a new Christian culture, and the acceptance of a pagan one.” At first glance, Eliot’s conviction and Smith’s counternarrative seem implausible. In a 1954 lecture at Cambridge, C.S. Lewis expressed impatience with “those Jeremiahs … who warn us that we are ‘relapsing into Paganism.’” He laughed at the very idea: “It would be pleasant to see some future Prime Minister trying to kill a large and lively milk-white bull in Westminster Hall. But we shan’t.” Why? Because history does not move backward. “The


post-Christian” — Lewis’ term for modernity — “is cut off from the Christian past and therefore doubly from the Pagan past.” Fair enough. We can all have a good laugh with Lewis. But what if he misidentified an incidental feature of paganism (sacrifice) as an essential feature? What exactly is paganism, after all? Smith describes “the pagan orientation” as “the commitment to the immanent sacred.” This orientation “beatifies and sacralizes the goods of this world.” It teaches that “‘the sacred’ exists … in this world and this life.” By contrast, Smith explains, “the Christian position has never been to deny the goodness of this world, but only to insist that it is not the ultimate good, and that its goodness derives from a more transcendent source.” This description of paganism throws a clarifying light on the term secular, which derives from the Latin term saeculum, meaning “generation” or “age.” According to Smith, “the secular” comes in three forms. In the “pagan secular,” “this world and this life … are viewed as having a sacred quality.” In the “Christian secular,” “this life has value … because it is a (subordinate) piece of the larger domain of eternity.” Finally, there is “the distinctively modern positivistic secular reflected in the naturalistic worldview associated with modern science.” Like the pagan secular, the positivist secular has no concept of transcendence. Unlike the pagan secular, however, it also has no concept of sacredness — that is, of life’s goodness, value, or meaning. When, therefore, public intellectuals speak of Christianity being displaced by secularism in the modern world, they need to define their terms more carefully. The positivistic secular exists, but it is a distinctly minority position. The hardest battles in today’s culture wars are fought between the pagan secular and the Christian secular — that is, between immanent and transcendent accounts of goodness, value and meaning. Smith illustrates these battles in the debates over

BOOKS public religious symbols, human sexuality, the interpretation of the U.S. Constitution, and religious freedom. Smith is Warren Distinguished Professor of Law at the University of San Diego in California, and an acknowledged expert on religious freedom and the relationship between law and religion. What Smith writes about the debate over religious freedom in particular applies just as well to the other three debates. “One side of the debate favors a conception of religious freedom that is consistent with … a city or a political community that respects and is open to transcendence.” The other side works “to maintain a public square whose commitments are confined to the satisfaction of ‘interests’


By Influence Magazine

REVIVING EVANGELISM Barna Group ( “Nearly half of Millennial practicing Christians say it is wrong to evangelize,” states Barna Group in its new report. A similar percentage of non-Christians say they would be “more interested in Christianity if they had more evidence (44%)” or if “the faith had a better reputation (34%).” Thus, “evangelism erosion” among Christians meets “fertile soil” among non-Christians, to use Barna’s terms. “Real opportunities remain for evangelism, but effective faith-sharing today looks different from the past” [emphasis added]. Drawing on original public opinion research and expert insight, Reviving Evangelism outlines the characteristics of effective evangelism in this generation.

THE SOUL OF A TEAM Tony Dungy with Nathan Whitaker (Tyndale Momentum) “What separates the truly great teams from the mediocre ones?” asks former NFL coach Tony Dungy in The Soul of a Team. His answer is “four simple yet highly effective principles — selflessness, ownership, unity,


and to immanently sacred values.” At the end of the day, then, what is at stake in all these debates is the kind of community America has been, will be, or should be. Or any other political community where Christianity and paganism clash, for that matter. As is the case with any book that tackles as large a subject as this one, careful readers will find nits to pick with the author throughout. Whatever those nits may be, however, Pagans and Christians in the City is a real achievement, clarifying the religious nature of the culture wars that have roiled America for the past few decades and showing their deep continuity with the original four-centuries clash between Christians and pagans.

and larger purpose.” To illustrate these principles, Dungy narrates the turnaround of a fictional football team in desperate need of a winning season. The principles themselves are transferable to any endeavor that requires teamwork, however, including ministry. Throughout the book, Dungy’s leadership advice is rooted in his Christian faith. This book is written in the vein of Patrick Lencioni’s “leadership fables.” If you like Lencioni’s books, you’ll like Dungy’s too.

LEADERSHIFT John C. Maxwell (HarperCollins Leadership) “Every advance you make as a leader will require a leadershift that changes the way you think, act, and lead,” writes John C. Maxwell in Leadershift. He goes on to enumerate 11 specific changes, which he illustrates with stories from his own leadership journey. Maxwell also provides practical advice to help readers make necessary shifts in their leadership practices. Though written for a broad audience, Leadershift contains illustrations and applications directly relevant to church leaders. “If you want to be successful as a leader,” Maxwell writes, “you need to learn to become comfortable with uncertainty and make shifts continually.”


Photo: James River Church

Building a Culture of Hospitality J O N AT H A N M A L M

Two big ideas to help people feel welcome at your church.


ve been meaning to get back into church. I came by the other day but saw there were so many cars in the lot. I figured you didn’t have space for me, so I left.” I was surprised to hear this from a former attendee. People come and go — that’s the nature of church attendance — but this one considered coming back. He’d even invited his brother, but he assumed we didn’t really want them there.


If I could have chimed in at that moment in their car, I would have explained that our staff constantly talked about how we could reach more people. We wanted our community to experience the love of God through our services. We strategized outreaches and mailers. Yet when these people actually showed up, we did something, unintentionally, to make them leave. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus said He would build His Church. I’m realizing this is a divine act. The Holy Spirit is at work in hearts long before anyone arrives for services. Every Sunday, people drive by our churches and consider going inside. God is calling them to come and hear the gospel. Our responsibility starts when they show up. We can’t drop the ball. The reason some people don’t return isn’t necessarily a lack of interest. It’s often things

The reason some people don’t return isn’t necessarily a lack of interest. It’s often things we unintentionally did that caused them to feel unwelcome.

we unintentionally did that caused them to feel unwelcome. These are just some of the issues that can become barriers: • Not having enough parking spaces available. • Not having enough empty seats. (If a family of four can’t easily find a place to sit, it makes them feel out of place.) • Overcrowding in the lobby. • Failing to post clear signage. (Do people know where they’re supposed to go?) • Volunteers who seem unprepared or distracted. • Dirty facilities or odd smells. (This can make newcomers feel like we didn’t prepare the space for them.) I could give you a massive list of things not to do, but these issues change over time and in different contexts. Instead, I want to give you two big ideas that will help your church create a culture of hospitality. As your church’s leadership starts doing these things for the staff, the staff can pass it on to volunteers, the volunteers to the congregants, and the regular attenders to the guests. It becomes a culture.

Focus on Feelings

Jonathan Malm is an entrepreneur and writer who helps churches. He is the author of The Come Back Effect (Baker, 2018) and Unwelcome (CFCC, 2014), books that help churches develop a culture of hospitality.


As much as we may wish all decisions arose from logic, we have to acknowledge that most people follow their feelings. Guests will decide whether they feel welcome at your church based on what they feel. If they feel good, they will also feel welcome. If they feel bad, they will feel unwelcome. A culture of hospitality starts with acknowledging bad feelings people have on your church’s property and replacing them with good feelings. It matters not only what you’re doing but how you’re doing it. For instance, parking cars isn’t really about parking cars. It’s understanding people feel stressed and don’t know where to park. So parking lot attendants will be calm and pleasant, not rushing the drivers. They may even smile and wave at people as they walk toward the building. That replaces negative feelings of a stressful drive and confusion

about where to park with the feeling that they are welcome. Greeting people at the doors isn’t really just about greeting people. It’s being the target people can head toward so they can find the entrance. Then it’s a welcoming smile to let people know they belong (as opposed to that exasperated look they may get from busy cashiers at trendy coffee shops). Then, perhaps it’s a quick gesture toward the worship center or noticing they have kids and walking them to the check-in area. When our teams do this for people, whether regulars or newcomers, it becomes part of the atmosphere. It becomes a culture of hospitality.

Think Scene by Scene

If you start imagining your church service like an epic story — one where the guest is the hero — you start seeing different scenes: parking lot, lobby, worship center, restrooms, nursery. These are all scenes guests experience. Like a good book, it’s important to transition between those scenes smoothly. Conflict and decisions happen in those transitions: Do I know where the restrooms are? Will I ask the right person? Will they just point me in a general direction knowing I might get lost? Or, How will I get my two toddlers and baby across the parking lot safely? Will someone at the front door give me something when my hands are already full? When we can visualize our hero going from scene to scene, we can identify potential points of conflict and stress, then do our best to fix those. The beauty of focusing on our guests’ feelings and thinking scene by scene is how we can remove distractions that form barriers around their hearts. When people feel at ease, they can fully engage in the service. We can address the physical space, and the Holy Spirit can address the spiritual space. We just have to get out of our own way, and that starts by creating a culture of hospitality in our churches.



What to Say When You Talk to Yourself JODI DETRICK

Replacing sabotaging self-talk with strengthening self-talk.


m glad I’m not the only one. We humans, it seems, talk to ourselves. Sometimes I do it aloud as I palmsmack my head and mumble, “Why didn’t I think of that?” or, “What in the world was I thinking?” Other times, I keep the self-talk internal. As though I have some loquacious inner ventriloquist, my mouth remains closed, but the one-sided conversation in my head is booming and endless. Apparently even the anointed wordsmith who penned Psalm 42 engaged in self-talk. In verse 5, the writer questions himself: “Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me?”


So, what do you say when you talk to yourself ? The answer to that question matters more than one might think. Sure, some of our self-talk is innocuous: Where did I put my keys? But there are other forms of self-talk that greatly affect our peace and potential. The inner script we heed will sway the way we live, love and lead. It’s important to notice these two potent kinds of self-talk: sabotaging self-talk (the inner critic) and strengthening self-talk (the inner coach).

Sabotaging Self-Talk

The inner critic — the voice that disrupts our peace and frustrates our faith, thereby diminishing our ability to be who God has created

us to be — speaks in two primary dialects: worry and regret. In Genesis 45:5, immediately after revealing his true identity to his estranged brothers, Joseph told them, “And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here.” Like Joseph’s brothers, we often get ourselves into tangled messes of our own doing. Even redeemed people need God’s ongoing work of redemption in many areas of living: relationships, finances, leadership roles, lifework balance, and physical and emotional health. What doesn’t help is distress and anger with ourselves — twin mental scripts of worry and regret that can play on repeat. Worry is present- and future-related fear. Regret is past-related fear and often involves self-loathing. Worry words easily drown out the promises of God in our heads, especially when life gut-punches us with pain and confusion. But putting circumstances in charge of your peace is like putting a thief in charge of your bank account. In no time, worry about things we cannot change will drain our peace reserves. We’ve all done things we regret. But regret should lead to repentance that leads to repair. After repentance, tormenting regret serves no purpose and becomes toxic, corroding our confidence and minimizing God’s work of grace in our lives and our future. Chronic regret misshapes us. Grace reshapes us. Note to self: Face yourself, then grace yourself. A spiritual mentor told me that Satan often tempts us to doubt God’s grace using first-person language. Rather than suggesting, “You’ve blown it. You’re such a mess. God will never use you again,” he whispers, “I’ve blown it. I’m such a mess. God can never use me again.” Spiritual vigilance requires us to do an ID check of the voices we are heeding in our heads.

Strengthening Self-Talk

Sometimes we just have to talk back to selftalk. We need the inner coach, rooted in the

truths of God’s Word, to stand up to the bullying inner critic. We need to say, Hey soul, put your hope in God! We don’t know all the reasons the writer of Psalm 42 was downcast that day, but we have some hints: the taunting of enemies, remembering better days in the past, a sense of distance from God’s presence. When we’re evaluating our sabotaging self-talk and its origin, a good place to begin is, “Why?” I love that the Psalmist didn’t stop with the “why” question. He told himself what to do next: “Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Savior and my God” (verse 5). Hope in God is always your best next step. Notice the Psalmist’s hope was not in circumstances, friends, armies, wealth or position. It was in God! Here’s the thing about sabotaging self-talk: You can’t just tell yourself, I’m not going to think about this anymore. You have to displace the lies — and even those tricky halftruths — of Satan with the whole truths of God, again and again. Psalm 119:160 says, “The very essence of your words is truth” (NLT). Despite what worry and regret whisper to you, what is true? If you are going to be a person who inspires others with truth, you must appropriate those same truths for yourself. Start with these: • God loves me (1 John 3:1). • I am forgiven and free (John 3:36; 1 John 1:9). • God’s eyes are on me (1 Peter 3:12). • God is working in and for me (Philippians 2:13). • Who I am and what I do matters (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). • Evil will not have the last word in my life (Jeremiah 29:11). So, go ahead. Talk to yourself — we all do it. Just make sure the default orator in your head is that inner coach who speaks the language of God’s truth. That is the voice your heart is straining to catch, the one that will sustain you until you hear the Father’s “Well done.”

Worry words easily drown out the promises of God in our heads, especially when life gut-punches us with pain and confusion.

Jodi Detrick, D.Min., is the author of The JesusHearted Woman, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, a certified personal leadership coach, and an in-demand speaker. She is adjunct professor at Northwest University and the Assemblies of God Theological Seminary. She lives in North Bend, Washington.


PLAYBOOK INVEST Tips for growing your nest egg over your remaining working years.

The 15-Year Turnaround KYLE DANA ere you are in your 50s, and you are finally beginning to think about retirement. Your goal is to work another 10 to 15 years, and then you’ll be ready for that next chapter of your life. You’re



dreaming of overseas missions trips, visiting grandkids, writing a book, etc., and then reality sets in … you haven’t saved enough to retire! You prioritized other things ahead of your financial future. There are currently more than 70 million baby boomers in the U.S., many of whom lack financial stability. According to the Stanford Center on Longevity, this generation holds less wealth, is deeper in debt, and will face higher expenses than retirees who are a decade older. Nearly one-third of boomers had nothing saved for retirement in 2014.

So, what can you do besides berate yourself for not saving and investing earlier in your ministry? Here are some tips for growing your nest egg over your remaining working years.

Maximize Your Savings

First and foremost, don’t wait another day! By delaying your savings, the power of compounding interest becomes less powerful. To take advantage of compounding for these final 10 to 15 years, you will need to set aside a larger portion of your income. Make use of tax-deferred savings options such as IRAs and 403(b) plans. These types of savings vehicles not only allow your nest egg to grow faster, but they also have built-in catch-up provisions for those aged 50 and older. For example, in 2019, the IRA catch-up limit is $7,000 and up to $25,000 in a 403(b). The General Council of the Assemblies of God encourages ministers to use the MBA 403(b) plan because of its unique benefits.

Utilize the Church Board

While the burden of saving predominately falls on your shoulders, you can get help. It’s surprising how many churches are not providing a 403(b) retirement benefit for their pastors. Usually, the board members of churches are gainfully employed at jobs with 401(k)s and pensions, and they often don’t think about this type of benefit for their pastors. Don’t be afraid to ask. Just as pastors must prioritize their savings, churches also need to prioritize funding their pastors’ retirement.

Consider the Stock Market

Your portfolio allocation plays a large role in the future value of your savings; however, this is an area where everyone has a unique personality and risk tolerance, both of which require careful consideration. Ten to 15 years is still a long time to make your money work for you. And remember, when you retire, your portfolio growth still needs to outpace inflation for another 20+ years. Take the time to read AG Financial’s three-part series

on investing at

Reset Your Expectations

It’s good to think and dream about your future, but you need to be realistic. Retirement can last many years, and you will have many bills. Lower your expenses today, so that not only will you have more to save and invest, but also to lower your overall cost of living once retired. This may mean moving to a smaller home, driving your current car a few more years, and reprioritizing your financial future ahead of your kids’ education expenses. Remember, the best gift you can give your children is a secure retirement nest egg for you and your spouse. The last thing you want is to burden them for financial assistance in your retirement years while they are trying to support their families.

Delay Retirement

Delaying retirement is rarely a fun option, but many are finding this necessary to help make their retirement years more affordable. Whether you continue in full-time or transition to part-time employment, delaying retirement can save thousands of dollars since it continues to provide you income, which could further delay when you start withdrawing your retirement funds.

Minimize Taxes in Retirement

Ministers have the ability to distribute funds from their MBA 403(b) during retirement as a housing allowance. Taking advantage of options like this means paying less in income taxes and keeping more in your pocket. The tax savings on 20 years’ worth of property taxes, homeowners insurance and home repairs can add up to thousands of dollars. You now realize that you need to take action and that you have options for getting back on track. All of this information can seem overwhelming, so be sure you are asking for help along the way. AG Financial has a dedicated team of specialists to serve you.

Kyle Dana is senior vice president of AG Financial Solutions who oversees the retirement planning division. Contact him at



One Issue, Two Perspectives on Matters Affecting Today’s Church

Inheriting Staff: Keep Them or Let Them Go?


n incoming pastor has to make many difficult decisions. Some of these decisions can be exciting and even refreshing, like making changes to the worship service or the church’s branding. Others can be stressful, such as those involving budgets and boards.

LET THEM GO hemistry is key to any working relationship, especially between a senior pastor and staff members. With good chemistry comes a good chance the whole team will unify. And unity of vision and effort is essential to fulfilling a church’s mission. But chemistry is not automatic. Churches should not assume the new pastor and existing staff will click. Personalities may clash. Philosophies of ministry may differ. Relationships take time to build, but incompatibility usually becomes apparent quickly. That’s why it’s important for an incoming pastor to have the freedom to choose staffing at will. The easiest way to provide that freedom is to ask all staff members to tender their resignations. It sets a clear expectation that the incoming pastor has the right to decide whom to work with going forward. Besides clearing up personality conflicts or ironing out philosophical differences, this also paves the way for the new pastor’s singular vision. For instance, he or she may feel that the church needs a family pastor who oversees all children and student ministries. But perhaps that position does not currently exist. To enact that vision, the pastor needs the freedom to release or reassign existing staff and hire new staff. The new senior pastor may want to bring on ministers he or she knows and would be comfortable assigning responsibilities. And



Tempering the excitement and energy of a new position is among the immediate concerns of the church. The first few steps a new pastor makes are critical. One of the most important of these difficult decisions revolves around staffing.

the church may be in need of a reshuffling that fresh faces can bring. How can a new pastor handle the needed changes without the freedom to release the previous pastor’s staff ? A lack of liberty makes transition that much more difficult. But when every staff person offers to step aside, changes won’t catch anyone by surprise. When a new senior pastor arrives, the church needs a united front. Rather than requesting resignations, the pastor needs the church to make the first move. The hiring committee and church board should be upfront with the staff about expectations. Putting that burden on the new pastor can result in pitting him or her against the staff. The worst outcome is a staff full of disgruntled employees. However, when existing staff members offer their resignations, they are clearly identifying their intention to submit to the new leadership. Rather than harboring hard feelings, they accept the new reality and receive a chance to embrace the new vision. And that’s the end result any leader would want.

When a pastor accepts the call to a church with an existing staff structure, staff members need clarity about their expected employment status. Should they tender their resignations, freeing up the pastor to replace any or all of them? Or does the pastor have an obligation to retain them all? In this installment of Perspectives, we look at both sides of this issue. While there is value in

KEEP THEM taff members are committed to the churches they serve. That’s part of their call. Ministers have a calling not just to a particular role but to a specific place as well. That place is the local church body. Their calling doesn’t change when a new senior pastor arrives. Good leaders can adapt to their environment. When a new senior pastor comes on board, he or she has a vision for the church. But that vision can and often does change over the course of the first few months. And a good staff is able to adapt to the pastor’s agenda and processes. No one should assume the new pastor and existing staff will be incompatible. In fact, their relationship is key to making the transition as smooth as possible. Existing staff members know the church and community well. It wouldn’t make sense to eliminate that great insight and competency. Quite frankly, the continued presence of the staff makes the whole church better


both positions, it’s a decision we should never take lightly. Pastors lead people, not processes. How a pastor handles the question of staff retention within the first days of his or her tenure can set the tone for the entire church. Each church is different, and each pastor has a unique set of priorities. Considering both sides of this debate is helpful.

and strengthens the new pastor’s vision. A senior pastor who retains the staff already has a team of experts in his or her corner. Requesting a staff’s resignation creates more problems than it may solve. The immediate concern would be hiring new staff or rehiring old staff. Also, it lays an unnecessary hardship on the backs of staff members. Whatever happened that resulted in the need for a new senior pastor, it’s not likely that the staff had a say in it. And now the leadership is asking them to leave, find new jobs and possibly even relocate. More troubling is the dismissive attitude toward loyal workers. That can send a negative message. An organization can develop skills, teach competencies and create compatibility over time. But loyalty is a character trait that is hard to come by. A staff member who stands by the new pastor is showing a willingness to submit to leadership and God’s plan for the church. When transitioning to a new senior pastor, the wise choice is to retain all staff. Granted, there may be some team members who will want to go. Maybe that’s inevitable. But those who are committed to staying should remain on board. Not only do they provide a great ministry to the church, but they can also provide a service to the pastor in the transition as they work together toward a new vision.


The American Family: Social Trends and Ministry Opportunities TED CUNNINGHAM


The issues facing families are complex. The good news is that your church can make a practical difference in their lives.


The communities and congregations in which we minister include increasingly diverse family structures. If we hope to reach today’s families with God’s truth, we will need wisdom, insight and grace.


astor, do you have time to meet?” Pastors often hear that question when someone wants to confront us on a leadership decision or something we said in the pulpit. I, for one, can weather those meetings and not lose a lot of sleep. However, when a couple asks to meet because they are contemplating a divorce, it grieves me deeply. I pray for the Lord to give me discernment and wise counsel. I know what’s at stake — not just for that marriage and family, but for the generations that follow. The state of today’s families weighs heavily on me. In 2017, there were 6.9 marriages and 3.2 divorces for every 1,000 U.S. inhabitants, according to the National Center for Health Statistics. And while the divorce rate has declined over the past two decades, so has the marriage rate. In other words, even as couples continue to head to divorce court, many others are choosing to forgo marriage altogether. The family is under attack on both fronts. Between 2007 and 2016, the share of cohabitating adults in the U.S. grew by 29 percent, according to Pew Research Center. Pew reports that about one-third of children aged 17 and younger now live with an unmarried parent. And 4 in 10 babies born today have unwed mothers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Experts acknowledge that this is troubling news for the American family. W. Bradford Wilcox, a sociologist at the Institute for Family Studies, says the “success sequence” — earning a high school degree (or beyond), working fulltime, and marrying before having children, in that order — remains a key predictor of social achievement and well-being. A report from the American Enterprise Institute and the Institute for Family Studies sums it up this way: “While 55 percent of 28- to 34-year-old millennial parents had their first child before marriage, the vast majority of millennials who married before having any children


are now steering clear of poverty and appear to be headed toward realizing the American dream. Additionally, 95 percent of millennials who married first are not poor, compared to 72 percent who had children first.” In her book, How The West Really Lost God, Mary Eberstadt says, “Family is the most viable alternative to the failed welfare state.” God established marriage, then children, and that is our best plan to combat poverty. The issues facing the American family are complex, and the challenges can seem overwhelming. The good news is that churches can make a practical difference in the lives of families. It begins with marriage. The union between a husband and wife is the biblical pattern for forming a family: “That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24). For most 20- and 30-somethings today, there’s a growing gap between leaving and cleaving. They leave home, finish school, get a job, move into their own place, save some money, and establish life as a single adult. After they feel settled in life, they may consider marriage. In the meantime, many see cohabitation as a harmless alternative. In the shifting landscape of American families, our message must remain strong and steady: Marriage, then sex and children. Pastors have the privilege of sharing God’s beautiful design for the family. We lay the foundation, based on God’s Word and empowered by His Spirit. Of course, the modern realities don’t always reflect the divine blueprint. The communities and congregations in which we minister include increasingly diverse family structures. If we hope to reach today’s families with God’s truth, we will need wisdom, insight and grace. “God’s design for the home is perfect,” says author and family therapist Ron Deal. “The homes of God’s people, however, have never been — nor do I suspect ever will be — perfect.”

Illustrations: Christa Schmitz and Sara Schmitz Olson, Chrisara Designs

Social Trends Affecting the Family

The child-centered home gave children massive amounts of privilege and little responsibility. This led us to prolonged

A number of factors are contributing to the state of the American family. Understanding where we are as a nation, and how we got here, informs what we can do to influence the generations to come for Christ. Here are some trends to be aware of as we minister to today’s families. Adolescence has become prolonged. The child-centered home surfaced in the early 1980s as a knee-jerk reaction to the previous generation’s notion that “kids should be seen and not heard.” The boomer generation heard from their parents, “We didn’t have it, so you

don’t need it.” In turn, boomer parents said to their children, “We didn’t get it, so we will make sure you do.” They gave their children cars, college and plenty of attention. Moms and dads centered the home around the children’s academics and athletics. Children grew up overindulged, overprotected and the center of their parents’ world. Not only did this hurt marriages, it did the children no favors in preparing them for life. Kids left home to find that college and the workplace did not revolve around them. The child-centered home gave children massive amounts of privilege and little responsibility. This led



us to prolonged adolescence. The child-centered home accelerated childhood milestones and delayed adulthood milestones. From birth to around 10 years of age, we tell our kids, “Go, go, go!” For the first 10 years, we push them to excel in sports and classes. Then when they become tweens, two engines God placed in them kick in: individualization and separation. They start to become little adults. When parents see this, they begin delaying adulthood milestones. They move from, “Go, go, go!” to, “Whoa, whoa, whoa!” My daughter was 9 years old when she learned to ride a horse. The trail guide told her to pull back on the reigns and say, “Whoa,” when she wanted the horse to slow down. He also told her to spur on the horse with a gentle prodding from her heels while saying, “Go.” My daughter followed these instructions but failed to give one command at a time. For two straight hours, she kicked that horse and said, “Go,” while pulling back on the reigns. The horse was confused and exhausted by the end of our trail ride. We are doing the same thing to young people today. We are saying, “Go!” while pulling back on their reigns. The problem with that is our children have 10 years of training in accelerating milestones. At a time when our children should be transitioning from childhood to adulthood, from privilege to responsibility, we tell them to slow down rather than encouraging them to keep going and embrace adulthood. Many newly formed families struggle for years because young moms and dads nearing their 30s are still functioning as adolescents. The traditional milestones of adulthood include, but are not limited to, leaving home; finishing education or vocational training; finding a job; getting married; and starting a family. Up until the 1980s, people completed these milestones in a short period of time. Over the years, these milestones have drifted further apart and can now take 10 to 20 years to complete. I meet with many couples struggling in marriage and blaming it on money, careers, sex and in-laws. Yet, I am convinced


that one of the leading causes of divorce in our country is prolonged adolescence. Pastors must encourage the young moms, dads, husbands and wives in the congregation to embrace the responsibility required to succeed at home and work. Couples are waiting longer to marry. Delaying marriage gives young people more time to complete the other milestones. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the median age for first marriages in the U.S. is 28 for women and 30 for men. This is up from 21 for women and 23 for men in 1950. In generations past, couples married and grew up together. Not so much anymore. Not only should we be celebrating marriage with weddings, but it’s time we start promoting it as well. I’ve heard many pastors and parents encourage delayed marriage. Some say, “You need to gain your independence first. Learn how to be independent, and enjoy all the things you want to do, before taking on the responsibility of marriage and family.” There is wisdom in waiting until the right season, but I believe “independence” is often a socially acceptable term for selfishness. Rather than encouraging young people to pursue their passions, we should encourage them to passionately pursue God — seeking His will for every area of their lives and honoring Him in all things, whether they marry or remain single. Intergenerational family dynamics are changing. As more Americans seek postgraduate education, many are also waiting until later in life to have children. In 2014, about half of women earning a bachelor’s degree became mothers by age 29, compared to 38 percent of those with a master’s degree and 29 percent of those with a Ph.D. or professional degree, according to Pew Research Center. As the needle continues to move toward older parenthood, it may be difficult for aging grandparents to maintain an active role in the lives of their grandchildren. At the other end of the spectrum, a record 64 million Americans resided in multigenerational family

In generations past, couples married and grew up together. Not so much anymore.

Couples are waiting longer to marry.

households in 2016 — representing 20 percent of the population (compared to 12 percent in 1980), Pew reports. Multiple generations increasingly live under one roof, as more people care for elderly parents and live with adult children (aged 25 and older). Pew notes that growing racial and ethnic diversity also helps explain the trend, as multigenerational living arrangements are more common among Asian and Hispanic populations. More people are remaining single. Pew Research Center reports that about half of U.S. adults today are unmarried, compared to 28 percent in 1960. About one-third of Americans aged 15 and older have never married, up from 23 percent in 1950, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Not all unmarried adults are living alone, however. In fact, 16 percent of young adults aged 25 to 34 resided in the parental home in 2018, U.S. Census Bureau figures reveal. And 8.5 million heterosexual couples were cohabitating. There are more U.S. adults aged 25 and under cohabitating than married. While 58 percent of never-married adults say they would like to marry someday, 14 percent say they have no

desire to do so, according to Pew Research Center. Among those who want to marry, the top reasons they cite for their unmarried status include not yet finding the right person (72 percent); financial instability (68 percent); and a sense of unreadiness to settle down (54 percent). (Respondents could give more than one answer.) Scott Stanley, a psychology professor at the University of Denver, coined the term “sliding versus deciding” to describe changing attitudes toward marriage. He says all relationships form in one of two ways: People decide their way into them, or slide their way into them. Increasingly, couples are sliding into marriage through premarital cohabitation, making the relationship more of a habit than a decision. Stanley says couples who live together before marriage are more likely to remain in unhealthy relationships — and they are more likely to experience marital problems after the nuptials. Decisions are powerful, and a relationship has the best shot at success when you decide your way into it. Sliding avoids decisions with a laissez-faire attitude of, “Let’s just see where things go.” Many avoid traditional relationship formation in an attempt to protect their hearts and relationships. It’s the belief that says, “If we don’t define the relationship, it won’t hurt as much when we break up.” Not true. Sliding leads to hook-ups and cohabitation. This is all part of a broader ideological shift that started in the 1960s with the sexual revolution. Technological and cultural changes, including contraception and legalized abortion, made it easier for people to express their sexuality through relationships with multiple partners, seemingly without consequences. The social acceptance of commitment-free sex degraded marriage, even within faith communities. The longer Christians (and others) wait to get married, the harder it becomes to resist nonmarital sex.


Many people who wed enter the union thinking it may not last long and divorce is always an option.

Divorce continues to threaten family stability. Many people who wed enter the union thinking it may not last long and divorce is always an option. I have a family member who confided in me, “I have just one question to consider before I walk down the aisle: Am I willing to spend the next six to eight years of my life with this woman?” That is the “starter marriage” mindset. The “D” word is on the table from the beginning, and people view it as a viable escape plan if the romance loses its appeal. It’s not uncommon today for married people to call it quits and move on to the next relationship before the divorce is even finalized. You see it on social media. Someone posts a picture with a new boyfriend or girlfriend, and everyone knows that person is still married. It’s a tough blow to the children, family and friends. It’s excruciating to see people hitting the “like” button and leaving comments such as, “You two look great together,” or, “It’s so good to see you finally happy. You deserve it.” Dating while divorcing was not part of my curriculum in seminary. I never saw this coming when I started in pastoral ministry more than 23 years ago. One of the first questions I now ask in marriage counseling is, “Are either of you seeing someone else, or do you have someone in mind you plan on being with if this marriage ends?”


The answer to that question is important so I know what external forces I’m competing with while helping a couple reconcile. It’s worth noting that young people aren’t the only ones struggling in their relationships. Pew Research Center reports that the divorce rate for U.S. adults aged 50 and older more than doubled between 1990 and 2015. Should it come as a surprise that millennials are hesitant to marry when they see their parents and grandparents walking away from their commitments? Marriage is being redefined. When gay marriage became legal nationwide in 2015, it represented a cultural sea change. More than 1 in 10 LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) adults in the U.S. are now married to a same-sex spouse, according to Gallup. And 67 percent of Americans support same-sex marriage, up from 27 percent who supported it in 1996, when Gallup began polling on the question. Our culture wants to redefine marriage, family and sexuality, but we honor God by honoring marriage and celebrating the created differences between male and female. Wanting my son to embrace his biological sex and marry the opposite sex is love, not hate.

What Can Church Leaders Do?

How can you strengthen the families you have an opportunity to influence? Here are six suggestions: First, teach your entire congregation to honor biblical marriage. God’s plan for marriage is a union between a man and a woman for a lifetime. Hebrews 13:4 says, “Marriage should be honored by all, and the marriage bed kept pure.” Whether young or old, single or married, every follower of Christ should esteem marriage as highly valuable. Matt Engel is a research fellow at the Leadership Network, a Christian leadership organization in Dallas. He has worked with hundreds of churches over the past

six years and has found congregations that continually affirm and invest in biblical marriage are thriving in their communities. “Addressing marriage is more than just using it as an illustration on Sunday to prove a point,” Engel says. “Doing a marriage series during back to school to make yourself look relevant but not offering ways to continue to develop that muscle for the people of your church as far as marriage advancement is not productive, nor authentic.”

Blended and single-parent households are families. Their stories have the potential of painting a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive work.

Second, recognize blended and single-parent families often. Regularly acknowledge that they are in the room, and welcome them into your community. Blended and single-parent households are families. They have stories. Their stories have the potential of painting a beautiful picture of God’s redemptive work. Share their stories with the congregation. Teach blended families to prioritize marriage in the home, unite as parents, let the biological parent be the “heavy” in discipline, and expect bumps and delays along the way. Emotionally and relationally speaking, caution single parents to avoid lowering themselves to the level of a sibling or expecting the child to rise to the level of a spouse. Remarried people and single parents sometimes feel forgotten or judged in the church. May this never be true of your church or mine. Extend grace to those who are divorced and remarried. “Ministry to the divorced and/or remarried walks the delicate line of truth and grace and is often theologically challenging and pastorally messy,” Deal says. Nevertheless, he says churches have an opportunity to “offer cups of redemptive waters,” just as Jesus did with the Samaritan woman at the well (John 4:13–14). May we speak with truth and grace and embrace the messy. Third, recognize that parents should be the primary voice to the children in your congregation. When the church family partners with parents, the child wins. When you combine the influence of the home with the influence of the church, it will reinforce the message in the heart of the child. In homes where the child receives no teaching or instruction in the Lord, the church is the primary voice. In that case, you can still send the child home with resources for the parents to reinforce during the week. This leads the parent to become the primary voice. That is the ultimate goal. Fourth, prioritize your own marriage and family. My


As we minister to traditional, single-parent and blended families, may we never forget we are all part of the family of God. wife, Amy, and I often remind our congregation, “We can’t allow a crisis in your marriage and family to create one in ours.” That means we can’t be available 24/7 to every person in our church. Does every person in our church need ministry? Absolutely! That’s a given. However, we do not need to be the ones doing all the ministry. Never feel guilty about your date night or family vacation. Ask someone else to preach the funeral or officiate the wedding. Your longevity in ministry and the health of your family is at stake. Enjoy your marriage, and let your congregation know it. Ecclesiastes 9:9 says, “Enjoy life with your wife, whom you love, all the days of this meaningless life that God has given you under the sun — all your meaningless days. For this is your lot in life and in your toilsome labor under the sun.” Life and ministry can be difficult, challenging and, at times, painful, but you have a spouse to journey with you through it all. God did not give you your spouse to be a source of frustration; He gave you your spouse to be your companion through the frustrations. Fifth, provide premarital classes and marital counseling referrals. I’d even encourage you to prioritize this in the church budget. Marriage intensive programs can be extremely successful at not only keeping couples together but helping them experience high levels of marital satisfaction. Finally, invite everyone to be part of a much bigger family — God’s family. The apostle Paul declares in Ephesians 2:18–19, “For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and strangers, but fellow citizens with God’s people and also members of his household.” As we minister to traditional, single-parent and blended families, may we never forget we are all part of the family of God. We are brothers and sisters in Christ. No matter what our homes were like growing up, what our families have gone through, or what our


households look like now, God wants us to be a part of His family. There are many factors that go into building a successful marriage and healthy home, but as spiritual leaders, we know we can’t ignore the importance of biblical preaching and discipleship. Even social scientists agree that while financial well-being and education increase the odds of married couples staying together, so do faith and church involvement. “Religious attendance is about as important as college in predicting marital stability,” W. Bradford Wilcox says. You don’t need a college degree to have a thriving family, but being connected to your church and regularly attending prepares your children for a thriving faith and family of their own. Encourage every family in your congregation to participate regularly in corporate worship and small groups with other believers. This is vital for a family’s stability. We can’t afford to overlook the importance of the family in shaping the future. Home is where the heart is — the heart of society, the heart of our churches, and the heart of God. Family structures are changing, but our message must not. Love every person and family who walks through your church doors, but don’t allow them to redefine marriage and family for your church. Preach truth boldly. Love and extend grace generously. Encourage and meet the physical needs of hurting families. And may the Lord shine upon you as you champion the families of your congregation and community.

Ted Cunningham is the founding pastor of Woodland Hills Family Church in Branson, Missouri. He has written a number of books, including The Power of Home. He and his wife, Amy, have been married for 22 years and have two children.






elcome to the age of outrage, my friend. Who knew that technology would empower some of our worst attributes instead of our best? Twenty years ago, we didn’t Google things on our smartphones. Now, it’s instinctual. We search the web almost without thinking, accessing literal libraries of information on virtually any topic faster than we can type the keywords. I searched the web dozens of times writing this one piece. With today’s technology we can communicate instantly and continuously, whether we’re facing a life-or-death crisis or just want to satisfy a curiosity. In the 1980s, American Express warned card users, “Don’t leave home without it.” Today, it seems we can’t leave home without our phones. Most days, I would more readily return home to get my phone than my wallet. We can — and must — remain constantly connected with friends, family, co-workers and, well, the world. Yet the devices that allow us to communicate with everyone, anytime, often drive us further apart. Technology has created interpersonal opportunity, but also depersonalized communication and conflict, dividing many of us from our neighbors. The comments sections on YouTube are a greater testament to human depravity than all the reformers’

doctrines combined. Arguments, bullying, conspiracy theories, vitriol and irrational cesspools of misinformation and misdirection abound in our digital communication and marketplace. There is outrage everywhere — sometimes targeting Christians, but unfortunately, often coming from Christians. We live in a world where our beliefs are increasingly odd and even offensive. But, as Christians, we must allow the Holy Spirit to guide our response. You see, Christians are indeed on the receiving end of this outrage machine. However, I also see churchgoers contributing to and participating in much of the online hostility and misinformation. Our digital outrage damages our witness to the world daily. It seems like people who claim to be Christians are often the worst at spreading false or inaccurate information. There is indeed much to be concerned about in our world, and some issues deserve our indignation, even anger. Christ followers should grieve and mourn over suffering and injustice, even as we advocate and strive for change in the world. But when is Christian anger warranted? And when does outrage defame the name of Jesus and undermine our witness? When are we righteously overturning the tables of the money changers, and when are we just wreaking havoc concerning our pet peeves? These questions do not

Arguments, bullying, conspiracy theories, vitriol and irrational cesspools of misinformation and misdirection abound in our digital communication and marketplace.


have easy answers, but they deserve our consideration if we want to be faithful disciples of Christ. Much of our world seems awash in division and hostility. Outrage surrounds us, and we must decide how to navigate these new and often-dangerous waters. We don’t get to pick the time we are born or the issues we face in our day. While conflict is universal to all generations, we live and minister in a unique time. Outrage spreads like a disease across our digital platforms, and Christians are not immune. How do we respond in a way that honors Jesus? We can begin by acknowledging three realities.

Drawn to Outrage

First, people have a natural inclination toward outrage. Christians are no exception; in fact, we often contribute to it. In Christians in the Age of Outrage, I highlight the story of Caleb Kaltenbach, who in 2013 tweeted a picture of a Bible displayed at a Costco store. He found it funny and ironic that the Bible was apparently mistakenly displayed in the store’s fiction section. After the photo received hundreds of retweets, major news sources picked up the story. As I explain in the book: Leading with the headline ‘Costco — The Bible Is Fiction,’ Fox News promoted the idea that Kaltenbach

had uncovered a conspiracy against Christians and the Bible. Kaltenbach was even quoted as characterizing the store’s decision to group the Bible with fiction as “bizarre.” In minutes, The Drudge Report picked up the story and Christians worked themselves into an outrage over the perception of this insult with cries of boycott in the air. Suddenly a labeling error that listed Bibles as fiction had become a covert theological statement on the very nature of Scripture. What likely happens hundreds of times in bookstores every day had become an insidious spark that unleashed Christian outrage against Costco. Kaltenbach was not outraged. He believed, and Costco confirmed, it was a shelving error. But his story — caught up in an outrage cycle — is much more complex. You see, Kaltenbach was raised by a same-sex couple. He became a Christian, changed his views, was eventually disowned, and years later saw his biological father and mother eventually come to Christ. I’ve had Kaltenbach in my home, and found him far from being an outraged Christian. He is generous, caring and kind. His book, Messy Grace: How a Pastor With Gay Parents Learned to Love Others Without Sacrificing Conviction, is filled with wisdom and — you guessed it — grace!


Often, we trade God-focused anger for a self-focused or other-focused outrage.


Nevertheless, Kaltenbach’s conversion and family did not make the news. His Costco tweet did, because people are drawn to outrage. It was primarily Christians who drove that outrage — outrage based on misinformation. But who cares about facts when you can have outrage? We like the fire. It seems someone is always fanning the flames of outrage somewhere. Why? Because offense attracts our interest. It’s human nature. We like to think of ourselves as the offended party in need of forgiveness, or the party able to exact an apology on behalf of someone else.

A Better Way

Second, most outrage is not righteous anger. Many people harbor outrage that they think is righteous anger, because our culture often confuses the two. This is harmful for Christians and the world alike. My wife and daughter recently became stranded in an airport parking garage at 2 in the morning when a car rental staff refused to acknowledge their reservation or offer even a modicum of accommodation. My anxiety rose as I tried, from hundreds of miles away, to get someone to help my family. I wanted to blast my outrage across the web to my quarter of a million Twitter followers. But the Holy Spirit helped me focus on what would be productive rather than instantly gratifying. The car rental agency’s poor customer service was frustrating, rude and inexplicable. Yet I had to admit that it didn’t warrant righteous anger. So, I politely reached out online, and the folks at their Twitter account helped — perhaps in part because I did so rationally. Righteous anger is directing our emotions and our passion of angst toward the things that make God angry. God is completely perfect, holy and separate from sin and brokenness. In short, God is righteous by His very nature and character. Whoever God is, and whatever God does, is right. What goes against the nature and character of God is unrighteous. And anger over those things that violate the nature and character of God is righteous, because it longs for the things God longs for in His righteousness. While remaining perfectly in control, Jesus addressed brokenness, suffering and injustice with boldness, always with a righteous indignation and anger against sin. Being the perfect Son of God, He hates anything that goes against His character and the character of His Father.

This is the same Jesus who cleansed the temple: “He made a whip out of cords, and drove all from the temple courts” (John 2:14). Often, we trade this God-focused anger for a selffocused or other-focused outrage. We may direct it toward a political candidate, a pastor or even an individual we encounter in an online comments space. Angst and aggression toward a person are cheap, quick and sinful knockoffs of righteous anger. Righteous anger is humble and aware of our own propensity toward sin. As we focus on the nature and character of God, it changes the way we see ourselves and others. Consider Jesus’ powerful words in Matthew 7:5: “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” Jesus instructs us to look inward first and see our own gaping and overt deficiencies. As we work on these, we will have a clearer view and personal experience of the righteousness of God. Then we’ll be in a better place to help others in a loving and Christlike manner. One is dependent on the other. Conversely, outrage arises from pride, arrogance and a lack of self-awareness that always cries, “But what about ... ?” There’s nothing wrong with taking the speck out of someone’s eye — and the Bible is clear that we should do it — but only after seeing to ourselves. Outrage silences the voice of nuance and self-reflection with the cries of hate and vehement reaction. Attempting to address the sin in other people’s lives without first addressing our own is hypocrisy. God’s anger is always in the context of His kindness, drawing others toward repentance and faith. Outrage forgets or ignores this grace of Jesus. It seeks to drown out the possibility of mercy or grace, demanding retribution instead. It’s unapologetic, quick and severe. It is a shame Christians often follow this cultural pattern of reacting vengefully instead of mercifully.

Outrage silences the voice of nuance and self-reflection with the cries of hate and vehement reaction.

Building Bridges

Third, outrage divides, but mission engages. “Culture war” is not a term I like to use, because it is hard to war with a people and love them at the same time. But it is demonstrably true that the culture has turned against many Christian values. In other words, in many ways, this came


to us. We did not always create it. There is the redefinition of marriage, the denial of universal truth, and the false accusation that Christianity has made the world worse instead of better. The fact is, Christians are right to reject such ideas. But we can stand up for truth without reacting hatefully toward those with whom we disagree. How we respond when someone triggers us can help or hurt our Christian testimony. Jesus calls us to demonstrate His love and kindness, even when others unjustly accuse or malign us. I’m concerned that in this age of outrage — an age in which a personal response to an offense does not require a personal interaction — our character often reflects the world, not Jesus. Our response matters. You see, we have a better way. Christians have the gospel, the best news ever. And the gospel brings us somber joy — the joy that comes from knowing we have salvation through Christ, and a sense


of somberness because we see the wages of sin and know that many people still reject the only means of redemption. And how can we ever expect or hope an unbelieving world will trust that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life if we treat them with disdain? So, the question is this: How should we respond now? Of course, the answer is multifaceted. Some will, and must, defend religious liberty. Some will work to create a culture that draws others to the beauty of the gospel. Most of us will engage culture on a person-by-person basis rather than waging a culture war. To accomplish the mission to which God is calling us, we need to stop contributing to the outrage and start engaging the outrage of others with the good news of Jesus. If Christians concentrated on loving others instead of expressing outrage at our differences with them, if we showed people mercy instead of condemnation, they

would see Jesus in a different light. I’m convinced this is, indeed, one of the greatest challenges of our day. Now to be fair, our challenges are less threatening than those many faced in previous centuries. Most of us aren’t worried about impalement on stakes. But the stakes we face are still high. We must engage this moment well for the cause of Christ and His kingdom.

Salt and Light

It’s time to let go of outrage and find another way, a better way. Modeling Christ’s love isn’t just for pastors and church leaders. It’s what the Holy Spirit empowers every Christ follower to do. Jesus calls His followers to be the “salt of the earth” and the “light of the world.” In the Sermon on the Mount, He says, “Let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

To accomplish the mission to which God is calling us, we need to stop contributing to the outrage and start engaging the

Most people love darkness rather than light. As Christians, we need a steady diet of Jesus and the gospel to resist the pull toward darkness. Unfortunately, many of our churches lack biblical engagement outside of Sunday morning, and have no plan for discipling members. And many pastors are hesitant to address the inappropriate online interactions of congregants. But Jesus does not shy away from these things. Where He sees a gap, He fills it. Where there is a problem, Jesus lovingly tends to it. He rolls up His sleeves and gets to work in the hard and dark places of our hearts to bring wholeness, healing, redemption and grace. Jesus provides the ultimate example of how to live righteously in a hostile world. As Peter describes it, “When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly” (1 Peter 2:23). While we humbly work on this in our own lives, we can also point other believers toward kindness instead of rage. The same Spirit who raised Jesus from the dead lives in us (Romans 8:11). He will empower us to rise above outrage and respond with temperance. Kaltenbach has received some pushback for promoting a message of respectful dialogue. But he doesn’t worry about the naysayers. After all, changing hearts is God’s job; ours is to share His truth boldly and graciously. Scripture reminds us that those who cause division “do not have the Spirit” (Jude 19). Those who walk in step with the Spirit produce His fruit: “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). Noticeably absent from the apostle Paul’s list is outrage. So let us be filled with the Spirit and walk in step with Him, instead of spewing vitriol through our keyboards and smartphones. Jesus calls us to build bridges, not unnecessarily burn them.

outrage of others Ed Stetzer, Ph.D.,

with the good news

is the Billy Graham chair of church, mission and evangelism at Wheaton (Illinois) College and serves as executive director of the Billy Graham Center for Evangelism.

of Jesus. 51


The first step in solving a problem is knowing who is responsible for fixing it.




uite often, you have to figure out on the fly how to fix a problem. It doesn’t mean you haven’t prepared; it just means something is in the way of your desired outcome, and you need to get past it, over it, or through it before you can accomplish your goal. Trust me when I say that I’m a problem solver, I’m a survivor, and I believe you can learn to be one too! In 1995 when we started River Valley Church in a school, I began looking for a permanent home for our congregation. I eventually found an empty field at a key intersection in Apple Valley, Minnesota, where four communities converge. It was close to town and appeared to be a prime location for the future. I often walked

through the field and prayed, “Lord, someday I’d love for You to let us build a church on this corner.” About four years into the life of our church, I drove to that familiar field early one morning, but this time it wasn’t empty. A surveyor was staking out a foundation, and trucks were unloading bulldozers. I drove up to a man in a bulldozer, leaned out the window, and waved my arms to get his attention. I yelled over the roar of his diesel engine, “Hey, what are you building?” He yelled back, “An office warehouse.” I smiled and said at my highest decibel level, “I’m going to put my church here!” He looked at me like I’d lost my mind, but he didn’t say a word. As I drove away, I noticed a new sign in the lot with a

Occasionally, all of us need a reminder of what we’re responsible for, what others are able to do, and what only God can do. 54

phone number on it. I called and reached the leasing agent of the project. I asked him, “Do you have the warehouse you’re building fully leased?” He replied, “No, not yet.” I signed a letter of credit with everything Becca and I owned to back it up. And we needed to raise more money just to start. Work on the warehouse began and moved along, but soon we discovered a little problem. The contractor left town with $60,000, leaving behind an unfinished space. I now had to raise that money again. I also became the general contractor, and in case you don’t know me very well, I’ll let you in on a secret: I have absolutely zero experience or expertise in construction. I tried to get all the plumbers, electricians and other

contractors to work in tandem, but the more directions I offered, the more confused they all became. I was gumming up the works and slowing things down even more! This was in June, with a huge delay staring me in the face, and the church was supposed to open in August. As days passed, my optimism eroded and even faint hope died as I realized I was a colossal failure as a contractor. Nevertheless, things seemed to fall in place as the day neared for our grand opening. The final inspections were going to be just a formality … until the inspector deadpanned, “Your restrooms didn’t pass. You can’t open until they’re fixed.” “That can’t be,” I said. “We’re opening on Sunday. I’ve sent out 25,000 pieces of mail inviting people to come — this Sunday! We have to open! I have a mailer!” With no hint of compassion or willingness to budge, he told me, “No, you’re not. I can’t come back until next week.” He paused and added, “In fact, I’m going to chain the doors closed because I’m pretty sure you’ll try and still use the restrooms even though they failed inspection.” My mind raced to find a solution. I had it: “What if we put up porta-potties?” He looked at me, thought for a second, and then said, “If you put up four for men and four for women, including two for the handicapped, you can open on Sunday.” That Sunday morning, eight portable toilets lined the front sidewalk of our church like soldiers. Problem solved. Welcome to River Valley Church. Pay no attention to the porta-potties! Our attendance doubled that first day, and we’ve continually grown from there. I had no business trying to be the general contractor. I should have found someone far more qualified than me. But I couldn’t pass the buck that day when the inspector was going to shut us down. I had to own it.

You, Them, and God

Many leaders are confused about who is responsible for a decision or an outcome that will fix the problem they face. My premise is simple. There are three basic categories of responsibility: • Some problems are up to you to fix. • Other problems belong to them — the people God gave you to help in the work of ministry, such as staff members and volunteers. • Finally, there are problems only God can fix. I learned to differentiate these responsibilities through my disastrous experience as a general contractor. On that Thursday as I stood in front of the building inspector, I


faced a problem I couldn’t pass off to anyone else. I couldn’t call a committee to meet and come up with a solution, I had no one to delegate it to, and I couldn’t ignore it. Even praying in that moment wasn’t changing the inspector’s mind. It wasn’t God’s problem; it was mine. It was a “right now” problem, and it was on me. If I hadn’t jumped in to resolve the issue, our church’s reputation could have been destroyed the same day we opened our doors for the first time. However, I’ve also learned that not every problem is mine to fix. If I don’t delegate responsibility and authority to other people, I overload myself, and I prevent them from growing and bringing their gifts to the problem. Neither of those outcomes is productive. And sometimes — no matter how much I pray, plan and prepare, and no matter how well I delegate to competent, faith-filled people — I face dilemmas that are far beyond me and the people around me. God is the only one who can solve those problems. When I didn’t understand these distinctions of responsibility, I carried too much of the burden, and I remained stuck in the mud of thinking I had to do everything all the time. I felt frustrated with myself, with the people around me, and, if I’m honest, with God for not making my life easier when I was working so hard. I became angry at people for not stepping up, even though I hadn’t been clear about what I expected them to do. I was too active and assumed too much responsibility, and I was too passive when I failed to hand responsibility to others. In those times when God was the only resource, I often frantically tried to do what only He could do, and I resented taking the blame when things didn’t work out the way I hoped. It was a mess, but it was the only way I knew to lead a church. From my own experience and from the feedback of other pastors, I believe some of us desperately need to distinguish between these three categories of responsibility. Occasionally, all of us need a reminder of what we’re responsible for, what others are able to do, and what only God can do. We see this pattern clearly in the Bible. Consider the apostle Paul, for example. The leaders in Antioch commissioned Paul for his first missionary journey, and the Jerusalem Council commissioned him for the second one. Barnabas went with Paul to assist him on the first journey, and Silas accompanied Paul on the second. Yet Paul was the undisputed leader; it was on him. In every city where people came to faith, Paul appointed elders to lead


the fledgling churches. When Paul walked out of the city, church responsibility was now on them. But in several instances, the only solution to a problem was the mighty hand of God. For instance, the Lord changed Paul’s itinerary and led him into Europe. At Philippi, Paul met Lydia, who responded to the message of the gospel and became the first convert on the continent. However, God wasn’t finished: Paul then trusted Him to deliver a servant girl who was tormented by evil spirits, although Paul and Silas were arrested and thrown into prison as a result. God then caused an earthquake to shake up the jailer, and the two church leaders were soon released to keep spreading the good news of Jesus’ love and forgiveness. God has called leaders to lead, to delegate, and to trust Him to do what only He can do. When we get this right, amazing things can happen! We work, we serve, we labor, and we strive, but not for our own honor or in our own strength. We trust the Spirit of God to work in us, through us, and for us in everything we do.


Let me give some practical insights about delegating to “them.” Often, when someone complains that something isn’t being done, or isn’t being done well enough, the pastor wonders, Who can I count on to make this happen? The pastor mentally scans the church’s terrain and identifies someone who is already doing far too much, but asks him or her to take on this task too: “I really need you to do this. If you don’t, I don’t know who will.” If the pastor is a married male, he may give responsibility to the person he’s confident won’t say “no”: his wife. If this happens too many times, things won’t be very pleasant at home. Counting on overworked, overcommitted people may get the job done in the short run, but it almost inevitably has negative long-term effects on everyone involved. We need a more thoughtful, consistent approach to involvement. When overworked staff members or volunteers eventually crash and burn, some pastors shake their heads and

complain, “Too bad they weren’t faithful for the long haul. I expected more.” They push those exhausted servants to the side of the road and leave them there like wrecked cars. The pastors then find other eager persons to put in their places, working them until they, too, burn out. (This problem wouldn’t be so prevalent if more pastors avoided overcommitting themselves. Then they could see more clearly what is going on in their churches.) Let me offer a few suggestions for making positive changes in the way you delegate: Apologize. I think it’s entirely appropriate for pastors to apologize to the people who have shouldered too much of the load. The pastor might say, “I’ve learned some things about leadership and delegation, and it’s time we made some changes. I’m so sorry I’ve asked you to do so much for so long. You’ve done a great job, but I don’t think it’s been the best thing for you, and I haven’t given other people the opportunity to serve like they want to. I need your

God has called leaders to lead, to delegate, and to trust Him to do what only He can do. When we get this right, amazing things can happen!


We want people to join God in the grandest enterprise the world has ever known, to build His Church. help in making this transition. Let’s fix this together. Will you help me?” Remain realistic. We have a big vision, and we hope people catch it and follow us in doing great things for God. The problem is that our plans can be so much bigger than our resources, so we put too much of the burden on too few people. Smaller churches need to do a few things really well instead of trying to do a lot of things well without the resources to pull them off. Carefully communicate the plan. When I talked to a large audience at our church about making some changes, I explained the concept and anticipated their emotional response by saying, “You probably feel … .” When I went through the litany of possible reactions, people felt understood — which is very important in helping them own the changes. I had to explain again and again that we wanted to give as many people as possible the opportunity to say “yes” so they could thrive in their roles. But every commitment is short-term. They may be fulfilling a very different role in the future. No one is trapped. No one is expected to die from exhaustion. No one should lose their family because they spend too much time serving at the church. Others should discover the joy of living by finding an appropriate place to serve God and others. A “yes” means they’re making a commitment to touch lives in meaningful ways, playing a part — a small part — in being an integral component of the body of Christ, and caring for people in the church and the community. As members use their gifts to the glory of God, they’ll grow in their effectiveness and love for God. When God prompts them to do something else or something more, that’s fantastic! It’s our job to help them find the sweet spot for this season of their walk with Christ. Address the awkwardness. All change is threatening. Some people thrive on the exhilaration, but most need comfort and encouragement as the process unfolds.


When pastors create easy on-ramps, they need to accentuate the joy of serving, not the obligation — the beauty of the King of the universe involving others in His divine work instead of merely their duty to fill a slot or do what the pastor has asked them to do. We want people to join God in the grandest enterprise the world has ever known, to build His Church, and we want them to come with joy as they anticipate all God will do.

My Hope for You

It’s impossible to overstate how important it has been for me to grasp the differences in my responsibilities, the ones I need to delegate to others, and the ones only God can shoulder. It has lightened my load, made me a far better leader, enlisted many more people in building God’s kingdom, and revealed the awesome power of God more than ever before. As you think about the challenges before you, consider which ones are yours to fix, which ones God has gifted others to take up, and which ones you should release to God in faith. I trust this will give you hope and handles: hope that you can clearly delineate who is responsible for each task in your church, and handles on the decisions you need to make so that you can live with freedom, joy, and God’s awesome power. This article is adapted from Rob Ketterling’s book, Fix It! (River Valley Resources, 2018).

Rob Ketterling is the founder and lead pastor of River Valley Church (AG) in Apple Valley, Minnesota.

MULTIPLIERS Leaders Leveraging Their Gifts for God’s Kingdom

DEMONSTRATING GOD’S COMPASSION hat does compassion mean to you? That is one question I asked each of our multipliers. What I discovered is that compassion is a key to multiplication in many different ways. Even in ministry, it’s easy to let success come before caring. Programs and systems can distract you from simply loving your neighbor as yourself. God is a God of multiplication; He is also a God of compassion. The gospel intricately links the two ideas. Each of this issue’s multipliers has a special story to tell — about ministry and personal life change. They encountered a God of compassion and went on to demonstrate His compassion to others. Their stories may inspire you to show compassion where you are. It’s our belief that such compassion will not hinder but help multiply the Kingdom. Doyle Robinson has been learning to hear and respond to God for many years. That call led him to Denver, where he founded Sox Place, an outreach to street kids. Compassion compels him to look out for those others may overlook. Jim Wilkes had an idea from God: a mobile


app that could change the way people give. But how can technology have an effect on the heart? Wilkes explains how the Hope App has increased giving in churches across America, and opened new pathways to generosity. Marlane Codair saw a problem and knew she had an answer. And although immigration has become a hot-button topic lately, it’s been on her heart for a while now. Compassion Immigration Services is a way for her to reach out to help others through the process of citizenship and into the heart of God. There was a time when Tami Parsley didn’t see herself in ministry. That all changed one day when she considered compassionately helping people where they are. Now she oversees the successful Preschool Academy in Springfield, Missouri. Not only does she get to help kids learn every day, but she also sees God transform the lives of parents. What is the heart of your ministry? It may be a passion to preach the gospel, reach the lost or transform a city. The heart of God is compassion. And that idea goes hand-in-hand with any passion for multiplication He has placed in you.

Chris Colvin is a contributing editor to Influence magazine and specializes in sermon research for pastors and churches. He lives in Springfield, Missouri, with his wife and two children.




Connection is the heart of relationship. And relationship is how Robinson and the others at Sox Place create disciples.

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ompassion is love in action. That’s what Doyle Robinson believes. “You have to do something with your love,” he says. In 2002, Robinson responded to love by founding Sox Place, an outreach for homeless youth in Denver. Though Robinson enjoyed his job as a youth pastor in Springfield, Missouri, he knew there was more for him to do. He sensed God calling him to young people on the margins of society. “It really got started when I was about 17 back in Fayetteville, Arkansas,” Robinson says. “God simply told me that there was someone He wanted me to reach, someone others could not. That someone was a 15year-old girl who was unchurched and pregnant. My youth group and I just loved her into the Kingdom, helping her right where she was.” From that experience, Robinson realized the power of Christ’s love to bring hope into even the most difficult situations. His prayer was a simple but profound one: “I just said, ‘Father, give me the ones no one else wants, the ones no one else can reach.’ I wasn’t being arrogant or boastful, just honest.” Robinson recognized that God was giving him a heart for shining the light of the gospel in dark places. “That desire led me to downtown Denver and the street youth, the homeless, the train riders, the addicts, the hated and overlooked,” Robinson says. Sox Place came from the nickname Robinson received from the unchurched homeless kids he befriended. He often showed up with new socks for them, a welcome gift on the cold streets. Handing out socks was a simple way for Robinson to make connections and grow relationships. “My youngest son, Jordan, and I opened up


an outreach center in May 2002,” Robinson says. “We were very unsure of what we were doing, but certain of our calling to do that crazy thing!” Sox Place has served more than 250,000 street youth and young adults since opening its doors. “In those first few months, we would see about 10 to 20 kids each week,” Robinson says. “Now we see anywhere from 60 to over 100, day in and day out, come to us for a hot meal, clothes, personal hygiene products, even internet access — but most importantly, for connection.” Connection is the heart of relationship. And relationship is how Robinson and the others at Sox Place create disciples. For them, multiplication doesn’t come through strategies, but through compassion. It’s all about putting Christ’s love into action. “You have to physically feel it,” Robinson explains. “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done and the most heartbreaking, but I’m at peace with my calling to love the unloved and embrace them.” When Christ followers put love into action, he says, God shows up. “Don’t just stand there,” Robinson says. “Answer God’s call. If a person will answer God’s call, God will answer their prayer for provision.”


Generosity Through Innovation A Q&A WITH JIM WILKES Jim Wilkes is co-lead pastor and founder of Journey Church (AG) in Fairview Park, Ohio. He is the developer of The Hope App, a microdonation tool designed specifically for churches.

“Some people don’t have faith because they’ve lost hope. Compassion allows us to give hope to people, and that clears the way for faith in their lives.”

INFLUENCE: What is the link between hope

and compassion? WILKES: Compassion is our ability to offer hope to somebody, whatever circumstance they are in. Since faith is the substance of things hoped for, faith comes out of hope. Some people don’t have faith because they’ve lost hope. Compassion allows us to give hope to people, and that clears the way for faith in their lives. And your church was planted on those principles? Absolutely. We started with a Bible study every other week while I was working another job. That Bible study started growing, and we launched as a church with about 160 people. We’ve had consistent, week-by-week growth, and that’s because we offer them hope. You can have all the programs you want, but without the Spirit and presence of God we aren’t going to change anybody. Here in Cleveland, there are 1.9 million people with no church affiliation. These people are really hungry for what is authentic and real. How did you come up with the idea for The Hope App? Three years ago, our church was in a campaign to raise money for church planting and missions. We really wanted to make a big investment. God said He would give us an idea that, if we stewarded, would enable us to give even more than we had hoped for. The Hope App is that idea. Each individual who downloads the app registers their


credit or debit card. Then, whenever that card is used at the grocery store, the mall or anywhere else, the software automatically rounds up that transaction to the nearest dollar, and the change is donated to their church. Each church can decide where those microdonations are directed. You can find more information about The Hope App at Compassion really directs those decisions. Your church or organization may have a cause it is passionate about. When people who are passionate about that cause search for it in The Hope App, their donations are connected with your cause. How does The Hope App help your church multiply? I found out that 55 percent of Journey Church attenders were giving less than $3 a week. I asked them to believe God and give all their spare change to the Kingdom. That’s how the pathway to generosity opened up for them. Giving something — anything — opens the channel for generosity in their heart. What we’re doing is moving them toward tithing, but first we need to awaken generosity in their hearts. They want to give, but they don’t know how to give. By giving them a cause to spark that generosity, and a simple way to give, we can get them moving. It’s easier to guide a moving vehicle than a parked car. What if we could just get them out of park by asking them to give their spare change? Tithing is part of living fully surrendered, and The Hope App helps us do that.


Helping Those Who Are Here A Q&A WITH MARLANE CODAIR Marlane Codair attends Freedom Hill Community Church (AG) in Malden, Massachusetts. She is founder and director of Compassion Immigration Services, a nonprofit ministry that helps guide people through the immigration and naturalization process.

“I believe compassion is the ability to take a person where they’re at, understand their circumstances, no matter who they are, and help them in a loving way toward a goal.”

INFLUENCE: How did Compassion Immigration Services start? CODAIR: I was a paralegal for 18 years. I loved my job leading litigation. I was attending a church with a large percentage of immigrants. And because I worked in law, people started asking me for help. I was looking at launching my own nonprofit to help immigrants through the legal process. But then God spoke to me through a word of prophecy, saying that I was looking outside the walls of the church when I should look within. So I approached my pastor, and he agreed to help get Compassion Immigration Services started in 2009. What types of services do you provide to immigrants? We help people going through the legal process of becoming citizens and permanent residents of the U.S. That includes anything from helping them fill out paperwork to practicing for the citizenship test. Today, the paperwork is more complex than in years past. It’s vital that there are people who are willing to walk them step-by-step through the process. Why did you choose the word “compassion” for your ministry? It was actually my pastor who suggested it, but it was in my heart for some time. Proverbs 31:8–9 is a Scripture on an index card near my computer. It encourages me when the present culture is so negative about immigrants:


“Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves; ensure justice for those being crushed. Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless, and see that they get justice” (NLT). It is what Jesus did: “When he saw the crowds, he had compassion on them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd” (Matthew 9:36). I believe compassion is the ability to take a person where they’re at, understand their circumstances, no matter who they are, and help them in a loving way toward a goal. For us, that’s navigating the system and helping people come out of the shadows and into legal status. But it also includes reuniting families. What can churches do to help immigrants in their communities? It’s important for churches to realize there are immigrants right where they are. They may be here under legal status, or they may be “illegal.” They need help, and they need Jesus. Churches need to be careful not to offer legal assistance without the proper training. But we can offer compassion to immigrants through a food pantry, a clothing drive or other service. Just hosting conversation circles to help them learn English is powerful. Compassion is very simple, even in a ministry that includes very difficult legal maneuvers. Compassion is seeing people where they are and helping them. Compassion opens the door for the gospel every time. For more information, email marlane@


Loving People Where They Are A C O N V E R S AT I O N W I T H TA M I P A R S L E Y

“When you get to know people where they are, hear their stories and learn their histories, you can love them better.”

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reschool Academy, a ministry of James River Charities, is a free twoyear preschool for 3- and 4-yearolds in Springfield, Missouri. Its mission is to strengthen and uplift low-income families by developing a Christ-centered and familyfocused partnership. But the heart of the Preschool Academy is love and compassion. “Compassion, for me, is loving people where they are,” says Tami Parsley, who has served as director since the doors opened in 2016. After six years of teaching special education in the public schools, Parsley left work to homeschool her children. Although she and her husband, Kert, were active volunteers in the church, they had never considered fulltime ministry. Then God used a sermon from Dick Foth to open their hearts to His calling on their lives. “He preached about meeting people where they’re at and loving them,” Parsley says. “Both Kert and I saw something and heard something in that message. We were changed.” The Parsleys began praying about their next step. They thought it would include uprooting the family and moving to Washington, D.C., where Foth was ministering. However, God had other plans. “The hardest part was thinking we would have to leave our home church, James River,” Parsley says. “Pastor John and Debbie Lindell are amazing leaders who have laid that foundation of loving people. We had been attending and serving for so long, we hated to leave them. But we also knew we needed to follow God.” Within six months of sensing God calling them to full-time ministry, the couple accepted an offer to join the staff at James River Church.


Through Preschool Academy, Tami is living out that vision of loving people where they are. There are a limited number of spaces available, and the expectations for participants are high. Although there is no out-ofpocket expense for the parents, the preschool asks for a time investment. Each parent should attend church, whether James River Church or another Bible-believing congregation in the community. The preschool also encourages parents to attend a small group, read with their children daily, and even eat dinner as a family. Parents receive points for completing each of these steps. Along the way, they also get plenty of support and care. “When you get to know people where they are, hear their stories and learn their histories, you can love them better,” Parsley says. That kind of compassion leads to simple acts of kindness, like taking groceries to a single mother. Little acts can create larger moments, too. In one case, a mother received new furniture for her apartment. Touched by the church’s kindness, the mom agreed to attend church. She ultimately accepted Christ and was baptized. Such stories play out again and again. Parsley loves to tell them. More importantly, she loves the people they represent. When churches show compassion to people where they are, it transforms lives, families and communities. Preschool Academy is evidence of that.

aims to inspire, challenge and resource the entire spectrum of leadership, from lead pastor to lead volunteer. Check out our print, digital, and social media resources.

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MAKE IT COUNT An Eight-Week Study for Leadership Teams



Week after week, you invest time and energy into making every Sunday count. But you also have to think about staff meetings, board meetings, and meetings with key volunteers and other church leaders. Juggling so many meetings can seem overwhelming, especially as you think about developing the leaders around you. Effective leaders are continually looking for great leadership content they can use to develop and mentor other leaders. Make It Count is a powerful, little tool to help you accomplish just that. Each Make It Count lesson is easily adaptable for individual or group discussion, allowing for personal application and reflection among your ministry leaders and lead volunteers. The lessons are useful as devotionals in board and staff meetings and in departmental meetings with your lead volunteers. Studying and growing together is

key to building strong and healthy relationships with your team members, and it is a necessary component to building growing, flourishing churches. These lessons can help you make each moment count as you lead and develop the leaders around you. The following eight, easy-to-use lessons on the prayer life of the leader are written by Stephen Blandino, lead pastor of 7 City Church (AG) in Fort Worth, Texas ( He planted 7 City Church in 2012 in a thriving cultural arts district near Blandino downtown Fort Worth. Blandino blogs regularly at and is the author of several books, including Do Good Works, Creating Your Church’s Culture, and GO! Starting a Personal Growth Revolution.


don’t have to convince you that prayer is important. Most Christian leaders would readily admit that prayer is powerful and beneficial, and can bring about great results in our lives, churches and organizations. But too often, our proactive, get-it-done nature as leaders causes us to bulldoze our way into the future. If we’re not careful, our relentless, fast-paced, get-itdone-at-any-cost mindset can push us ahead of God, or out of step with Him. That’s one reason prayer is so important in the life of a leader. It keeps us in tune, in step and in an intimate relationship with God. Prayer is also essential if we want to see God move in the places where He has called us to lead. Christian author Steve Moore once said, “If God has called you to lead a ministry, He has also called you to intercede for that ministry.” Your prayers in private have a direct bearing on your ministry in public. You don’t get to preach, but not pray. God has not called you to innovate, but not intercede. Prayer is the backbone that makes the difference. This issue of Make It Count explores eight aspects of the prayer life of the leader: • The leader’s motive for prayer • The leader’s purpose for prayer • The leader’s bravest prayer • The leader’s plan for prayer • Using prayer to handle the pain of leadership • Using prayer to overcome the temptations of leadership • The multiplication of prayer • Leading with bold prayers As you read, discuss and apply these lessons, not only will your prayer life grow, but your experience with prayer’s power in leadership will expand.



We are pleased to offer the Make It Count Discussion Guide in a downloadable PDF, available through the “Downloads” button on Each lesson in

the PDF Make It Count Discussion Guide is divided into a Leader’s page and Team Member’s page. The Leader’s page corresponds directly to the material in this print issue of the magazine. We encourage you to print multiple copies of the PDF Discussion Guide from for all your ministry leaders and the team members they lead in your church or organization. You will notice that key words and concepts are underlined in each lesson on the Leader’s page. These underlined words and phrases correspond to the blank spaces found on the team member lesson pages. Team members can fill in the blanks as you progress through each lesson’s material. We trust these lessons will help you make each moment count as you lead and develop the leaders around you.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

The Leader’s Motive for Prayer Assess: What difference has prayer made in your life as a leader? Insights and Ideas

leader on Jesus’ team once made a special request after observing Him in prayer: “Lord, teach us to pray” (Luke 11:1). Jesus had a lot to say about prayer. Perhaps His most familiar teaching on this topic is from the Sermon on the Mount, in Matthew 6:5–13. This passage doesn’t begin with a 1-2-3 formula. Instead, Jesus first told His disciples how not to pray. These opening words provide a motive check and an important warning, especially for those in leadership. Jesus said, “And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him” (Matthew 6:5–8). When Jesus said, “close the door,” He was referring to the inner room of a home. It was a private room, unobservable from the street. Some even considered it a private chamber where a person might retire for the night. In other words, prayer is about intimacy, not publicity; it’s about privacy, not pride; it’s relational, not transactional. Jesus’ opening instructions on prayer are clear: The way you pray is as important as the words you pray. The motive behind your prayers is more important than the subject matter of your prayers. In leadership, pride and our personal agendas can easily cloud our motives. When tainted motives find their way into a leader’s prayers, everything the leader is praying for takes the hit. As a result, what the leader currently has is all the reward he or she will ever have. God weighs the heart. If we desire to see God do something extraordinary in the people we serve and the organizations we lead, we must begin with humble and authentic motives — even in our prayers. The motives with which we pray make all the difference.


Reflect and Discuss

1. Why do you think Jesus emphasized the importance of motives so clearly when He talked about prayer? 2. What strikes you about the Pharisees’ motives for praying? 3. When have you found your motive for praying skewed?


Jesus said, “Your Father knows what you need before you ask him.” Don’t taint your prayers with impure motives or praise-seeking pride. That’s how not to pray. Instead, let authenticity and humility be the engines that drive your prayers. That’s the kind of prayer to which our Heavenly Father responds. Ask the Lord to search your heart and reveal to you any impure motives. Then spend a few moments in confession and repentance.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

The Leader’s Purpose for Prayer Team Review: How did the Lord challenge you as you asked Him to search your motives? Assess: What do you believe is the highest purpose for prayer? Insights and Ideas

fter telling His followers how not to pray in Matthew 6, Jesus turned a corner with these transforming words: “This, then, is how you should pray.” I can imagine everyone leaning in to hear what Jesus would say next. Jesus said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us today our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (verses 9–13). For most of us, prayer is about us, but Jesus begins His prayer teaching by shifting the focus to “our Father in heaven.” From this single verse, we discover that the highest purpose of prayer is a relationship rather than a transaction. Four insights drive home this principle: 1. We are adopted by Him. When we call God “our Father,” we recognize our adoption into His family. Many leaders feel driven to perform because they could never satisfy their earthly father’s expectations, but “our Father” gives us the security to lead from a place of acceptance, as His child. 2. We show affection for Him. People often see God as a distant, unknowable God, but when Jesus called God “Father,” it was deeply personal and intimate. The point Jesus made was that prayer is more than a laundry list of needs and wants. Prayer is about cultivating affection for God. As author and pastor Gerald Brooks observed, “I can’t let my prayer list become my prayer life.” 3. We have access to Him. Jesus said to pray, “Our Father in heaven … .” Those opening words tell us that we have access to God. Leaders often gain access to people and places because of the influence they carry, but your influence isn’t what gives you access to God. As a member of His family, you have access to your Father. 4. We exhibit adoration of Him. Verse 9 concludes, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name.” “Hallowed” means “revered as holy.” In other words, via our relationship with our Heavenly Father, we adore Him and revere Him as the holy God that He is. If we’re not careful, our prayer lives can become so consumed with what God does that we’ll forget who God is. Jesus began with adoration of His Father’s name, because prayer, at its core, is relational, not transactional.


Reflect and Discuss

1. Why are leaders so tempted to make prayer nothing more than a transaction? 2. How does focusing on prayer as a relationship help a leader manage stress? 3. What would it look like practically to focus on prayer as a relationship rather than a transaction?


Rather than focusing on your prayer list this week, focus solely on prayer as a way to get to know God. Let relationship take precedence over your requests.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

The Leader’s Bravest Prayer Team Review: How did focusing on your relationship with God, rather than your requests, change your view of prayer? Assess: What’s the bravest thing a leader can pray for? Insights and Ideas

esus said, “Our Father in heaven, hallowed be your name, your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:9–10). We’ve already talked about focusing on God’s name in prayer, but then Jesus moves to a focus on “kingdom” and “will.” Whose kingdom? Whose will? As leaders, these are especially important questions. There is a temptation to build our kingdom, but as author Warren Wiersbe so accurately observed, “We have no right to ask God for anything that will dishonor His name, delay His kingdom, or disturb His will on earth.” A common theme throughout Jesus’ teaching is the kingdom of God. We think of “kingdom” as a territory or a piece of real estate, but that wasn’t what Jesus meant. Kingdom was a reference to the rule and reign of a king. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus said, “But seek first his kingdom … .” Jesus was saying to seek out the rule and reign of God in and over your life. “Your kingdom come” is a prayer of continual surrender and submission to Jesus as King. Then Jesus said, “your will be done.” This statement is an example of parallelism. Hebrews would often use different words or phrases to communicate the same idea twice. So, when Jesus says, “your will be done,” He was saying “Lord, your perfect will be done in my life, where you rule as King.” Finally, Jesus says, “on earth as it is in heaven.” Prayer is how we bring a taste of heaven to earth. This focus on kingdom and will provide two important lessons for leaders: 1. Prayer brings our life and leadership into submission to Christ. In leadership, you will face a constant temptation to use your influence for selfish gain. Pride and self-centered kingdom building must come under Christ’s lordship. This isn’t a once-and-done prayer; it’s a daily submission of our kingdom to His kingdom, and of our will to His will. 2. Prayer aligns our leadership with the redemptive purposes of God. God’s purpose for leadership is redemptive in nature. By submitting to Christ’s continual lordship, we align our God-given leadership with His redemptive purposes. A taste of heaven can then come to earth. Praying, “Your kingdom come, your will be done” is the bravest prayer a leader can offer, because it’s the prayer of submission to a greater Person and a greater purpose. Robert Law once said, “Prayer is a mighty instrument, not for getting man’s will done in heaven, but for getting God’s will done on earth.”


Reflect and Discuss

1. How does Jesus’ prayer, “your kingdom come, your will be done” challenge you? 2. What part of your life, leadership or ministry needs to come into a place of submission to King Jesus? 3. What part of heaven needs to manifest on earth, in your ministry?


Take a few minutes to pray with your team, collectively submitting your plans as leaders to the lordship of Christ. Include this practice in your daily prayer life.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

The Leader’s Plan for Prayer Team Review: What has God been doing in your heart as you’ve submitted your plans to the Lord in prayer each day? Assess: What is your biggest challenge when presenting your needs to God in prayer?

Insights and Ideas

erhaps the most familiar six words in the Lord’s Prayer are, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matthew 6:11). That prayer is symbolic of every need we have. No matter what the needs entail, God invites us to present them to Him. So, what exactly do Jesus’ words here mean? Three lessons emerge from verse 11 that have extraordinary relevance for leaders today: 1. Pray dependently (“Give us”). When we read the word “give” in this verse, our first thought is the thing we want God to give to us — whether that thing is food, money, or an open door to expand our church or organization. But “give” doesn’t just remind us of what we need from God; it reminds us of our need for God. Think about it: The very fact that we have to ask God for something is evidence of our need for Him. When we pray, “Give,” we are praying dependently, acknowledging our dependence on God. The word “us” is a reminder that we can pray for our own needs, as well as the needs of others. There is not a limit to our prayers. 2. Pray regularly (“today”). Leaders are rarely short on ideas. We can work harder and harder, exhausting ourselves on the latest strategies and the best practices. The unintended casualty is the power found in prayer. The word that follows “Give us” is “today.” Today acknowledges that our dependence on God is continual. It’s not a yearly, monthly or even a weekly dependence on God. It’s a daily dependence on God. “Today” also acknowledges our need to be content, not greedy. The emphasis in this passage is today’s need, not the needs of tomorrow or the rest of my life. 3. Pray specifically (“our daily bread”). Bread is a common theme throughout Scripture. When the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness for 40 years, God provided them with daily manna to eat. In the New Testament, Jesus calls himself the “bread of life” (John 6:35). When we pray, we are looking to the Bread of Life to provide our daily bread. Again, our daily bread is symbolic of all our needs. As leaders, there is much to worry about — organizational direction, hiring decisions and funding the vision, just to name a few. But worry only adds to the stress of leadership. Jesus — the greatest leader of all time — instructs us to pray dependently, regularly and specifically. Your leadership demands it. Your followers depend on it. Your mission requires it.


Reflect and Discuss

1. How does Jesus’ challenge to present our needs to God encourage and inspire you? 2. What is your greatest challenge: praying dependently, regularly or specifically? Why? 3. How do you think you should pray differently after discovering a greater understanding of Jesus’ words?


Make a list of things your team can pray for dependently, regularly and specifically. Pray together, and then revisit these items at least once a week as a team.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

Using Prayer to Handle the Pain of Leadership Team Review: How have you found yourself praying dependently, regularly and


Assess: What are the most painful aspects of leadership for you? Insights and Ideas

ne of the most difficult parts of the Lord’s Prayer is this line: “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors” (Matthew 6:12). Those first five words deal with the ugliness of our own sin. As a leader, your sins can have a ripple effect with the people you lead, especially when your attitudes or actions have hurt others. The question is this: Did you own it? Forgiveness requires confession. You must admit you have sinned and need God’s forgiveness. It’s the second part of verse 12 that often stumps us the most: “as we also have forgiven our debtors.” In other words, the grace and forgiveness God extended when you sinned against Him are what you should extend to those who sin against you. Jesus took this so seriously that He said, “For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins” (Matthew 6:14–15). People can hurt us in horrible ways, and it’s easy to justify unforgiveness. But when you refuse to forgive, you let the offender live rent free in your head. Life and leadership are too demanding to give somebody else that much control over your life. When you refuse to forgive, you are the only one who suffers. So, how do you deal with the offenses you experience in leadership? Paul said, “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you” (Ephesians 4:32). The key to granting forgiveness is to remember how much God forgave you. Author and pastor Andy Stanley says, “In the shadow of my hurt, forgiveness feels like a decision to reward my enemy. But in the shadow of the cross, forgiveness is merely a gift from one undeserving soul to another.” It’s possible that the shoe is on the other foot — maybe you’ve hurt somebody you lead. For you, forgiveness is also a choice. While the key to granting forgiveness is to remember how much God forgave you, the key to seeking forgiveness is to put the person before your pride. In leadership, you have to value the relationship more than insisting you’re right. Whether giving or requesting forgiveness, prayer is the starting place for dealing with the pain of leadership.


Reflect and Discuss

1. What is more difficult for you: asking forgiveness or extending forgiveness? Why? 2. How has unforgiveness held you prisoner at some point in your past? 3. What complicates forgiveness in leadership? Have you let those complications become an excuse for why you haven’t sought or extended forgiveness?


Do an inventory of your life by asking yourself two questions: Whom do I need to forgive? From whom do I need to ask forgiveness? It’s up to you what you will do next, but freedom is found on the other side of forgiveness.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

Using Prayer to Overcome the Temptations of Leadership Team Review: How have you experienced forgiveness as you’ve spent time in prayer this past week?

Assess: How has prayer helped you overcome temptation? Insights and Ideas

ome common temptations in leadership are pride, greed, the abuse of power, and the advancement of self-serving agendas ( just to name a few). The trouble with temptation in leadership is that the collateral damage is usually wider when a leader falls to sin. Others get hurt — many others, in some cases. That’s one reason why the next part of the Lord’s Prayer is so important: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one” (Matthew 6:13). Pastor Ed Litton said, “God is not an absentee landlord. He is Lord, and He is on that field with me in my struggle.” That’s good news when we face temptation, and the apostle Paul gave us the secret to overcoming our temptations: “No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it” (1 Corinthians 10:13). Most of us want a quick fix to temptation. We want a one-time solution to the temptations that taunt us so we never have to face them again. Unfortunately, it usually doesn’t work that way, which is why each day in prayer we need to ask God for two things: 1. Show me the way out. Temptation doesn’t come from God. God isn’t the one who tempts; rather, He’s the one who provides a way out of the temptation. Our prayer each day should be, “God, show me the way out.” 2. Give me the strength to take the way out. This should be the second half of our prayer each morning. It’s ultimately our choice, but God empowers us with His Spirit to do the right thing. The key is to act quickly. The longer you linger in the garden of sin, the more likely you are to have a picnic in it. How would your life look different if the two things above became a regular part of your prayer life? What sin and heartache would you avoid? And what pain would the people you lead never suffer because you exited the highway of reckless behavior? One day you would tell a different story because you chose the path of least regret. Prayer makes that possible. Each day, pray, “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.”


Reflect and Discuss

1. What are some of the biggest temptations you’ve seen leaders struggle with? 2. When you pray, how often do you pray specifically about the temptations you face in leadership? 3. How do you think praying for God to show you the way out and take the way out would impact your victory over sin?


This week, begin praying for the two things noted above — for God to show you the way out, and for God to give you the strength to take the way out. At the end of the week, reflect on how this prayer has impacted your life and leadership.




The Prayer Life of the Leader

The Multiplication of Prayer Team Review: What difference have you noticed since asking God to show you the way out and give you the strength to take the way out when you’re tempted?

Assess: Who regularly prays for you? Insights and Ideas

eadership is demanding, no matter what area of life God has called you to lead. Whether it’s church, business, government, education or your family, leadership comes with a price tag. That price tag often shows up in two ways: 1. Leadership vision. Leadership is a calling to move the ball forward in a specific arena. For many, moving the ball forward is a significant endeavor. The vision a leader carries can be so large that it takes many hands to see it fulfilled. Visions are free, but seeing them fulfilled is costly. 2. Leadership pain. Leadership carries with it an enormous amount of pressure. Author and pastor Gerald Brooks observed that at least 10 percent of the people will not be in favor of the leader at any given time. That means, if you lead 100 people, 10 of them probably are not your biggest fans. If you lead 1,000 people, at least 100 of them don’t like your decisions. If you can’t handle 10 people being upset with you, you’ll never be able to handle the pressure of 100 people not supporting you. And if your career is in politics, the 10 percent number is much, much higher. Simply put, leadership hurts. Because of these two realities — leadership vision and leadership pain — one thing is certain: A leader’s prayers are not enough. That doesn’t mean you don’t know how to pray. Nor does it mean your prayers aren’t effective. Rather, it means you carry a vision and a burden that are too large to shoulder on your prayers alone. You need reinforcements. When others support you in prayer — interceding for you, your family and your ministry — you find the strength to face the challenges and the pain. When a team of people stand with you in prayer, you glean the wisdom and discover the resources to see a bold vision unfold into reality. Your prayers make a difference. The prayers of many make a multiplied difference. One of the best things a leader can do is seek out others who will support him or her in prayer. Having a team of faithful, committed people who will cover you in prayer can produce extraordinary impact in the places God has called you to lead. Don’t go it alone. Experience the power of multiplication in your prayer life.


Reflect and Discuss

1. Can you think of a time when others prayed with you for a specific need, and then God showed up in a beautiful and powerful way? 2. What vision or pain are you carrying right now for which you need prayer support? 3. Whom could you ask to join your personal prayer team?


Make a list of three to 10 people you could invite to be your prayer partners. What could you do to engage them in this task, and how can you communicate your needs to them regularly?




The Prayer Life of the Leader

Leading With Bold Prayers Team Review: Whom have you recruited to your personal prayer team? Assess: What’s the boldest prayer you’ve ever prayed? Insights and Ideas

uthor and pastor Mark Batterson says, “Bold prayers honor God and God honors bold prayers.” As leaders, this insight should compel us not only to pray, but to extend the tent stakes of our prayers. Jesus said, “Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours” (Mark 11:24). Jesus didn’t define “whatever.” That tells me there is no limit with God. Too often we play it safe; and because we play it safe, our need for God to come through on our behalf, or on behalf of the church or organization we lead, is minimal at best. How do we play it safe? Here are three ways: 1. We have small dreams. When you dream small, there’s no need for God, because your dreams are always within reach. Small dreams give you nothing big to pray for. 2. We rationalize what is and isn’t possible. Our rationalizations get us in trouble because they define the boundaries of our prayers. If you can rationalize it, you’ve probably edged out God from your plans for the future. Simply put, if God doesn’t answer your prayers, you’ve got it covered on your own. 3. We shift from innovation to protection. Leaders often struggle with the fear of failure. Understandably, nobody wants to fail. But if you give that fear the keys of authority over your life, you’ll quickly shift from innovating the future to protecting the present. In other words, your goal will be to protect what is rather than create what could be. This is not how God intends us to live. Yes, we should use wisdom. Yes, we should plan and prepare. But wisdom and planning are not the enemies of bold prayers. In fact, prayer increases our wisdom and helps us develop better plans. But prayer doesn’t end there. Bold prayers thrust us into a place of greater faith and greater vision. Bold prayers move us out of our comfortable routines and into a place where we have to trust God completely. A.W. Tozer believed that a low view of God leads to a hundred lesser evils. What about you? What is your view of God? How often do you give Him an opportunity to show up in a big way in your life and leadership?


Reflect and Discuss

1. When have you played it safe in your leadership? What was the result (or lack of results)? 2. How have you seen a low view of God produce greater problems (or, as Tozer put it, “a hundred lesser evils”) in your life or the lives of other leaders? 3. What’s the boldest thing you could pray for right now in your ministry or organization?


Consider your answer to the question, “What’s the boldest thing you could pray for right now in your ministry or organization?” When you look at your answer, does it really qualify as a “bold prayer”? If not, ask God to stretch your faith and deposit in you a greater dream.




It would be tragic for Christ’s followers to withhold the life-giving message of the gospel.

Christina Quick is assistant editor of Influence magazine.


early half of young Christians in the U.S. believe evangelism is morally wrong, a new report from Barna Group reveals. While 96 percent of practicing U.S. Christians in the millennial generation agree that “being a witness about Jesus” is part of their faith, 47 percent say it’s wrong to evangelize those of other religions. Barna defines practicing Christians as those who self-identify as Christian, agree strongly that faith is an important part of their lives, and have attended church within the past month. Millennials (those born from 1984 to ’98, by Barna’s definition) aren’t the only churchgoers questioning the morality of evangelism. Among all practicing Christians, 27 percent say it’s wrong to share their beliefs with people of other faiths. “Leaders who want to equip Christians today to share Jesus with nonbelievers face an unusual challenge: to first ‘evangelize’ Christians on the importance — and morality — of evangelism,” the Barna report says. In fact, many outside the faith are eager




All Christians



to hear about Jesus. Nearly a quarter of non-Christians — including 29 percent of people from other religions, 32 percent of atheists and agnostics, and 8 percent of “nones” — say they would like to learn more about Christianity and what it would mean for their lives. Among those who express an interest in exploring Christianity, 41 percent would prefer to get the information from a one-on-one conversation with a Christian. Fewer would seek it from a church service (30 percent) or small group (29 percent). It would be tragic for Christ’s followers to withhold the life-giving message of the gospel. Scripture reminds us silence is not an option: “‘Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.’ But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?” (Romans 10:13–14, NLT).

Profile for Influence Magazine

The American Family  

Mar-Apr 2019

The American Family  

Mar-Apr 2019