Testimonies from Mexico

By Ruth Martinez-Ost

A pastoral couple had serious marriage problems and were on the verge of separation As we were finishing up one day, Vic said to the husband, “just treat and love your wife, like Christ loved the Church”. All the lights went on, from that moment forward everything changed in their marriage, family and church. Recently they invited us to speak to 25 couples at a Marriage Seminar they held in their church.

One on one is one of the most valuable opportunities of multiplication.

We would like to share another testimony regarding a now pastoral couple, who were former business people. As we opened the Saturday classes he was the first student to sign up, yet he seemed like the most unlikely candidate. Saturday after Saturday was spent pouring the Word into his life along with 5 other students. 18 months later they started a home group with 3 people and in three months grew to 30 people in an area of Monterrey where there are NO evangelical churches. There is only one dance hall in the whole area which they are now renting for a church. The growth has been because the noise is spreading that “miracles” are the norm.

Vic had triple surgery in his right eye and was told the best he could expect was just to see only objects. One day he was reading his Bible on the cellphone and I just said to him, “what don’t you cover up your good eye and see if you can read with the right eye?” Amazingly he was able to read!

A month ago we had the Encuentro Hermano Mayor (this is a yearly event called “the older brother and the purpose is to invite former students to meet and connect with the present students) On this occasion former students came that had not been here for 37 years. They shared an awesome testimony – He had very serious medical issues – weighed only 77 pounds, couldn’t see, couldn’t speak – leg was totally swollen almost to the point of amputation and had been in the hospital for weeks. In addition, his wife had breast cancer. After being told there was no hope; he said, “God I have preached that you are a miracle working God, we are trusting you as our ONLY hope”. Both are perfectly healed.

Faith, Hope and Love Center Victoria – As we were praying for the first time in the gang-infested swamp a purse was stolen from the car. The beginnings were a small tin-roof building and a tent. – I recall one evening everyone was clapping – slapping the mosquitos! We prayed and asked God for a miracle, “not one more bite until after the service” you could hear the silence, not one more mosquito bite til after the service! Since the land was a swamp we had to bring in 1500 truckloads of “landfill”. The place is now a finished building that seats 1400 people and there are starting the third Sunday service. Every week precious souls are coming to Jesus.

Vic and I have completed 50 years at the Bible School this year. During our February event we had a wonderful transition. Our youngest son David and his wife Cintia are now the Directors of the Bible School. Please pray for them as they also are Pastors at the 1rst theater we purchased in Monterrey.

Our oldest daughter Rebeca has been the Bible School Coordinator for 16 years. We ask you to pray for her as this is a bittersweet experience as there is “grief and relief”. She is teaching in a Christian school in southern Mexico.

To learn more about Victor and Ruth Martinez, visit www.mrcpartners.org. Ruth is on Facebook as Ruth Martinez-Ost.

The Israel Story – Why Did God Choose the Jews?

By Randy Alonso

There is a growing number of Christians who are awakening to the importance of Israel. It is a fulfillment of scripture and the growing, active work of the Holy Spirit today worldwide. Concerning the Jewish people, scripture is very clear.

Deuteronomy 7:6-8 states “For you are a holy people to the Lord Your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than other people, for you were least of all peoples; but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep His oath which He swore to your fathers…”

This text frames for us a very simple answer to the question, “Why did God choose the Jews?” There are two powerful reasons; because God promised to Abraham that He would do so, and God always keeps His promises.

God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3) is the Magna Carta of Israel’s future. There is no subject today more talked about or controversial in the eyes of the world. It not only affects religion, it is a hugely geo-political issue as well.

The reason there is a growing number of Christians supporting Israel is because they are more aware than ever of its importance. However, while awareness and support has grown, there is also a great need for Christians to develop their theology concerning Israel. When they do, it will help them understand the great unrest that is in the world today, beginning in the Middle East.

As small as it is, Israel is not only the geopolitical center of the world but also the spiritual capital of the world. And, except for the USA, it is the most mentioned country in the world in daily news. Israel is the only democratic country in a sea of Arab nations that deny its very existence as a sovereign state. It is surrounded by countries that hate it and will not acknowledge it’s right to exist. This is what I want to help more followers of our Rabbi Yeshua, our Savior and Lord, to understand more clearly.

God’s covenant with Israel is an Unconditional Covenant. As you read it beginning in Genesis 12, you will notice God saying, “I will, I will, I will.” Everywhere else in the Bible, you see God say, “If you will, I will.” Yet in Genesis 12, people are not the condition: God is. He makes it clear, “It’s about Me. My plan for mankind. No annulment. No changing my mind. I will.”

It is also a Personal Covenant. He says, “I will bless you,” referring to Abraham. Not only was God going to bless His people, He was going to bless Abraham. And that is what He did in a big way with a large family, wealth, possessions, herds and a trained army (Genesis 14:14). Abraham lived to be 175 years old. God also told him he would make his name great, and He did. Not only was he well known among the people of his day, he’s well known by the people of our day – four thousand years later. Abraham’s name is respected, trusted and loved worldwide among Jews, Christians, and Muslims. God kept His promise.

It is a National Covenant. In Genesis 12:2, God says, “I will make you a great nation.” When you travel to Israel you actually realize how small it is. It is hard to comprehend how God would make it such a great nation. It is easy for us to comprehend the USA as a great nation, but tiny Israel? I live in Florida. You can fit five Israel’s within the border of our state.

The ultimate greatness of Israel is yet to come, when God sets up His kingdom and establishes it from Jerusalem. In the meantime, Israel is a world leader in technology, innovation, and medicine.

Rabbi Amnon Rubenstein writes, “Israel is minute in size, not much bigger than a sliver of Mediterranean coast line. It has withstood continuing Arab onslaughts, wars, boycotts, and terrorism. It has turned itself from a poor rural country to a post-industrial powerhouse. It has reduced social, educational, and health gaps among Arabs and Jews. Its achievements are unprecedented. Israeli Arabs have a higher life expectancy than almost all of the European whites. It has maintained freedom of the press in time of war. It stands as a singular Democratic post World War II island in a sea of Arab and Muslim poverty and backwardness.”

I have witnessed it first hand. It is my privilege to travel to the Land regularly and work with one of the great Christian ministries serving the Jewish people. I encourage you to check out bridgesforpeace.com.

Israel is surrounded by thirty-seven enemy nations. Those countries occupy a landmass of five million square miles. Israel has a landmass of nine thousand square miles. Israel is a prosperous nation today in the midst of tremendous opposition. There is a lot of news in the United States concerning immigration and refugees. President Trump’s recent temporary ban on seven known terrorist friendly nations saw violence erupt in our country, in protest. Many people would be shocked to know that Israeli citizens are banned from traveling to or entering sixteen different Arab nations. You won’t see that covered in the nightly news. Fact is, the Jewish people are a light in the dark world of the Middle East.

Yet most critical today, it is a Territorial Covenant. Genesis 12:1; So the LORD had said to Abram: “Get out of your country, from your family and from your father’s house, to a land that I will show you.”

He traveled from his home in Haran to Canaan. And on the same day, in Genesis 15:18, the Lord made a covenant with Abram saying, “To your descendants I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the River Euphrates.” The boundaries that God gave to the Jews have never been fully realized. If so, it would include modern day Israel, Lebanon, the West Bank, substantial portions of Syria, Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Israel has never come close to that.

Some would say, ‘God certainly missed this. He must have been speaking figuratively or in hyperbole.’ But one day, rest assured, Israel will occupy all that God said they would. Because they do not currently occupy it doesn’t mean they don’t own it. Secularists say God was only making some kind of spiritual analogy. I think Abraham would look at the secularists cross-eyed and say, ‘’What are you talking about?’

God said it. It’s a real piece of real land. It belongs to Israel because God gave it to Abraham. No matter what anyone says, no matter how much they argue over it, the land of Israel belongs to Israel. The Word of God is clear, there’s no disputing it. It is the land of Canaan and will belong to Abraham’s descendants forever.

It is the most important piece of real estate on earth. It is the geographic center of Divine dealings for the ages among the nations. It is ground zero for the end times. It is the only land on earth not up for negotiation with anyone, at anytime, for any reason. It is the only nation ever formed by God. And, it is the only nation to have its history written in advance through the Word of God.

My encouragement to followers of Jesus is be sure that the foundation of your faith is clear according to this covenant. When God gave the land of Israel, He was clear in what it meant and how it would play out in His Divine plan. Why is this so important?

Because today there is constant pressure on Israel to give up its land by dividing it further, believing somehow this will bring peace. Here is a great truth; you can never disobey God and end up with peace. You have to really want to believe something else to not believe what God has already said. Here’s a sample of scriptures concerning God’s mind in this matter.

Jeremiah 32:37,41 “Behold, I will gather them out of the countries where I have driven them in My anger, and in My fury, and in great wrath; I will bring them back to this place, and will cause them to dwell safely. Yes, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will assuredly plant them in this land, with all My heart and with all my soul.”

Ezekiel 11:17 Therefore say, “Thus says the Lord God: ‘I will gather you from the peoples, assemble you from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you the land of Israel.”‘

Ezekiel 20:42 “Then you shall know that I am the Lord, when I bring you into the land of Israel, into the country for which I raised My hand in an oath to give to your fathers.”

You have to work hard at making stuff up, spiritualizing the land and even the people to rebel against what the Lord has said. If anyone tries to divide or parcel out God’s land, they are doing it in the face of a mountain of revealed Biblical evidence spoken by God who inspired it and wrote it.

How much does God care about this?

Deuteronomy 11:12, A land for which the Lord your God cares; the eyes of the Lord your God are always on it, from the beginning of the year to the very end of the year.

Zechariah 2:8, For thus says the Lord of hosts: “He sent Me after glory, to the nations which plunder you; for he who touches you touches the apple of His eye.”

I first traveled to Israel in 2001. I have been privileged to go there regularly ever since. In January of this year, while touring with and teaching fifty Pastors and Ministry leaders, I took a day at the end of our tour to go into the West Bank to witness for myself what is at stake. It’s surreal to see places like ancient Shiloh, where the Ark of the Covenant resided after the initial conquest of the Promised Land by Joshua. Even stranger is it to drive through Ramallah and see the headquarters of Hamas. I visited a Muslim village of three thousand people where two hundred Hamas terrorists live. Why? A house church is being built for a young convert and his family. The gospel lives and brings eternal hope!

Intertwined in this difficult area of real estate are Jewish and Palestinian communities. You can feel the tension. It has been an honor for me to get to know the people who live in the land, including Jews and Arabs. I have found that people are generally friendly and want peace. However, the spiritual tension is obvious.

The truth is, no nation around Israel likes Israel. And it is not because they are not likeable. Why? Never forget, God’s eyes are always on her. The Jews are a chosen people. That is a very special privilege and at the same time a very heavy burden. This tiny group of people was commissioned by God to bring moral, civil, and spiritual law to all of mankind. They are purveyors of the heart and mind of God to all of humanity for all of human history. Human sin nature rebels against this.

The significance of the Jews being in the land today is in order for the future prophecies of Israel to come to pass. The Jews have to be at home in the land of Israel. They are making Aliyah in record numbers. Aliyah is the act of going up, in reference to Jerusalem. It is the return of the Jewish people out of the diaspora, to their homeland.

This all began in the modern age on May 14th, 1948. Israel was restored as a nation. It is the most significant sign leading to the return of Jesus. The Jewish people live on high alert. Every 18-year old man and woman serves in the Israel Defense Force. Everyone is trained and everyone serves as a reserve into their forties. They know how to guard their land. I’ve been to military installations, including a Counter Terrorism Training Center. It’s humbling and impressive.

It is a Territorial Covenant and every time (which is often) people try to divide up the land I think to myself, “No, don’t do that. God has already spoken on this. Be wise. Agree with God.”

If this subject is fairly new to you, I would encourage you to dig deeper. What can you do today? Be an advocate for the Nation of Israel and the Jewish people. Lead your church family to support Israel with your prayers, dollars, and participation. And most of all, make friends with Jewish people in your community.

We live in incredible times. God in His sovereign plan brought you and I into the world for such a time as this. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “And this gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to the nations, and then the end will come.” Sobering to think that we may very well be the generation that puts the finishing touch on the canvas of the church age. May you be encouraged today to be faithful in your calling.

Recommended reading;

Our Father Abraham: Jewish Roots of the Christian Faith by Marvin Wilson

Israel and the Church: God’s Road Map, by Rebecca Brimmer and Bridges for Peace Leaders

The Destiny of Israel and the Church by Derek Prince

Sinai Speaks by Dr. Jim Solberg

The Jerusalem Dispatch a bi-monthly publication of Bridges for Peace

Scripture references are NKJV.

Randy Alonso is a certified coach, trainer, and speaker at the John Maxwell Team. He Randy was a senior pastor for over 30 years, and is now the Teaching Pastor at Central Life Church in Melbourne, Florida. He is a Senior Leader for Bridges for Peace and is an advocate of the land of Israel and the Jewish people. He also serves as President of the International Ministerial Fellowship serving over 1300 Christian leaders worldwide. Randy holds a DDiv degree from Masters International University of Divinity.

You can contact Randy Alonso at Ralonso@bfpusa.org

 

Overcoming Fear

There will be times in everyone’s life when they will be invaded by the spirit of fear! There are all kinds of circumstances & situations that may pop up in our lives unexpectedly that will cause you to doubt and fear. It’s so important to understand the influence fear can have and how it works against us and the promises of God for our lives. It can keep you from being all God has created you to be!

Fear is the opposite of Faith….and the devil works very hard to cause us to fear because it brings with it torment! (I John 4:18) It’s important that we remember, II Timothy 1:7  For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind. (NKJV)

Fear is designed to cripple your ability in the Lord and cause you to live a life full of torment & misery. It’s like a huge yoke placed upon your life, trying to prevent you from believing what God is Able to do in your life!

Fear begins as a thought and develops into an emotion that if you are not careful will cause you to make wrong decisions and rule your life or simply paralyze you from moving at all. How we think and ponder on our challenges in life has a lot to do with the results for our lives. (Prov. 23:7) The truth of the matter is most of our fear is birth out of a mind that has been formed by this world and it causes us to have a thought process that limits God. This is why God lets us know our transformation to who he created and called us to be will not fully manifest until we begin to renew our mind. (Romans 12:1-2)

We are expected as Christians to walk by faith and not by sight. (II Corth 5:7). We are to trust God in spite of what we see, hear or know. Our Faith must stand in the power and the ability of our Lord and on His Word!

When we become born again through a relationship with Jesus Christ, we actually become “recreated in Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:10 AMP) So, whatever Jesus is, we are too. He is strong, and in Him, we are strong. He is courageous, in Him, we are courageous. He is a conqueror, so we can be too. He has peace and joy, so we have peace and joy. He’s capable and bold. In Christ, we can do whatever we need to do with His boldness. (quote by Joyce Meyers)

We must learn to fight the good fight of Faith and you’ll see…. you will have Victory over fear every time!

 

Pastor Kim Lyons

Kim Lyons Ministries

www.kimlyonsministries.com

Kim Y. Lyons is the Co-Pastor and Founder of “In Faith Ministries International” in Lima, Ohio and the Founder of KLM. She is a native of Dayton, Ohio and was licensed & ordained a minister of the gospel by Bishop Ted Willis of Second Baptist Church in Piqua, Ohio.

Some words to describe the Ministry of Kim Lyons would be, impacting, dynamic, radical, life- transforming and Real! She is affectionately known as “Mama Kim” because of her “keepin it real” approach in ministry and life.

The influence of her ministry has broken through racial, denominational, and economical barriers which have allowed her the privilege of impacting many people.  Her dynamic style and “Keepin it Real” approach to preaching and teaching Gods word has allowed her numerous opportunities to preach at conferences, workshops, and churches abroad.

She has been a frequent guest on WTLW TV 44 “Grace for Today” show as well as WTGN Radio “Prayer Time” and has served as a Chaplain for Marketplace Ministries a ministry designed to minister to people in the work place. She has recently birth out a monthly Prayer Impact – Prayer line that has been aggressive through social media and is making an Impact in the Kingdom of God!

Her passion is to assist people in reaching their full potential and discover their authentic purpose and destiny. She is the wife of the Michael Lyons the Senior Pastor of In Faith Ministries International and the proud parent of 4 children and 2 grandchildren. 

Is This My Job Or Is This My Calling?

By Jen Tringale

The word calling is a word we generally set apart to describe those selected for a specific task or purpose. When I was growing up in church; this word ‘calling’ was generally reserved to describe a person that was called to be a pastor, teacher or maybe a missionary. It wasn’t ever actually said to me but the assumption was that those that were “called” were sort of the ‘rock-star’ ministers given the task to really do something for God and the rest of us were merely here to attend church, maybe volunteer and cheer them on.

However, this word ‘calling’ speaks to the fact that there is divine purpose attached to what a person does and it is important to know that it does not always require a pulpit. Many times we hear someone say that they have “found their calling.” While a lot is being said in recent years about the topic of purpose or calling, we ought to make sure we rightly define exactly who it is that is called and for what purpose.

In Ephesians 4:1 Paul the apostle writes and very strongly admonishes ALL believers to “walk worthy of the vocation wherewith you are called”…”

The word ‘calling’ here simply means, “A divine invitation to service or a summons to employment.”

This vocational calling that Paul is speaking about is backing up what God originally instituted with Adam in Genesis Chapter 2, “…to be fruitful, multiply and to have dominion…,” and then again when He gave us the great commission in Matt 28 and in Mark 16. In each case God is reiterating His plan that every believer has been issued a call, an invitation to a kingdom assignment. We are to impact our culture to bring together His family and to establish His kingdom in the earth. It is because of this call – this purpose – that you and I are here.

It is vitally important that we understand that you and I did not just come from our parents, we merely came through our parents. In Jeremiah

1:5 God says, “Before you were even in your mother’s womb I knew you.”

At some point God our creator had the idea of you and because He does everything with purpose attached to it, He also attached to you a calling, a purpose, and a divine invitation to employment!

This divine calling will utilize the gifts, talents and abilities that God has given each of us to in some way be an answer to a problem and to bring a solution to societies’ needs. This changes how we approach what we do vocationally. For the believer, there is no such thing as mere secular employment but a better description would be that you have a vocational calling.

In fact, Jesus made this plain when He first announced His purpose and strategy for how we were to carry on when He was gone when He told Peter, “…And upon this rock, I will build my church,”(Matthew 16:18).

Jesus used the Greek word “ecclesia” here when He spoke of His church. Without going into lengthy historical detail, let me give you a snapshot of what Jesus was referencing.

The “ecclesia” was a roman legislative group made up of people very skilled in their various vocations. The Romans would send out the ecclesia into their newly defeated territories. This skilled group was made up of law-makers, judges, educators, artisans, musicians, builders, architects, as well as others. Their job was to take positions of influence throughout the cities of these newly conquered territories. As they began to function in their vocations, they were assimilating the people into Roman ways of living. Slowly, thru their influence, they would begin to transform the people’s thinking and their way of life into all things Roman! They began to teach in the schools using Roman methods. The musicians shifted the sound, lawmakers introduced Roman policies, and on and on it went.

All of this was a strategic way to get the people to forget their old identity and in a matter of time the ecclesia would have transformed the culture to look, sound and function just like Rome. Isn’t it interesting that this is the concept that Jesus referenced when He spoke of building His church? He was not speaking of us meeting in a building; rather He spoke of us building the kingdom in the culture we are in! To be salt and light, to be a city set on a hill, which speaks of having positions of influence.

For years we have tried to change the culture merely through the church alone, but it takes more than the 5-fold ministry gifts. Their function is actually to equip the saints; which is why it is vitally important that we as believers are planted in the local church where this equipping can take place. But that equipping is to help all believers, men and women of God to function in their calling. That those who are educators, care-takers, law-makers, musicians and many others would take their place of influence thru the ability and the anointing that comes with the calling!

Let me sum this up with 3 basic principles every believer needs to know about their calling.

  1. God always has a plan and He has a plan for you. Don’t settle for anything less.
  2. Who God calls He equips. You’ve got the raw materials of what it takes.
  3. Never judge what you do as insignificant. Allow the Holy Spirit to ignite the destiny seed of God in you and lead you into the calling He designed you for.

I call you blessed,

Jen Tringale

 

New Book: “Your Defining Moment” can be Pre-Ordered at www.jentringale.com

For booking information please call 1-877-286-2995

Jen Tringale Ministries

PO Box 161205

Fort Worth Texas 76161

 

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3 Crucial Things We Must Protect As Leaders

By Lysa Terkeurst

Whether your dream is to get a degree, publish a book, be a singer, hold a leadership position, open your own business, or any of the hundreds of other dreams people have, there are three things worth protecting at all costs.

The world will beg us to trade them in for a quicker taste of success.

But if we do, every bit of the success that follows will feel horribly shallow and hauntingly meaningless.

What are these 3 crucial things?

  1. Identity

Know who you are and Whose you are. This is the number one lesson my husband and I have taught our kids. Every Biblical, moral, and crucial life lesson we’ve ever taught them can be wrapped up in one simple statement: “Remember who you are.”

A few years ago, our youngest child Brooke was making a cake. The cake was supposed to cook for 50 minutes but at the 30-minute mark, the cake looked done.

It smelled done. She wanted it to be done.

So, despite knowing the proper directions, she removed the cake from the oven. A few short minutes later, she watched with great sadness as the cake caved in. The cake couldn’t withstand the weight of an undone center.

And neither can we.

We must know who we are before tasting success in our dreams. Otherwise, our dreams will threaten to become our identities. As success ebbs and flows, it crushes those whose identities aren’t grounded in the assurance of God’s love for them.

  1. Integrity

Know what you stand for and determine to stand for more than just yourself. Success in your dream won’t be enough. There has got to be a higher purpose to it all. I like to say as you reach higher, you must remember to also stoop lower. God has a purpose in our dreams and it isn’t to make us happy, rich, or famous. It’s to enable us to make a bigger difference in the lives of people.

That’s true whether we’re seeking to write a book, hold an office, or become a great parent. I often challenge myself to say this statement about any blessing I receive: “This is happening so that I might bless whom?”

  1. Intent

Know why you’re following your dream. If my intent is to get something I feel I’m missing in my life, I’ll forever be disappointed. If my intent is to give something back in this life, no matter where I am in the process, this can be true.

Always trying to get something positions me to be selfish, self-centered, and self-absorbed. But if my intent is always looking to give something, I can be free to live that part of my dream today.

Today, I may not be able to have— but I can certainly decide to give.

Which of these three things speaks to you the most? How can you work on checking and protecting your identity, integrity, and intent in your leadership position?

Are Your Children The Real Problem in Your Blended Family?

In 98% of our discussions with couples in blended families, the subject eventually turns to problems the parents are having with one or more children in the new family. Children are often seen as “the problem”, or one of the major problems – poor grades, depressed, uncooperative, sad, disrespectful, unmotivated, hanging out with bad influences, drugs, isolating themselves, to name a few.

There are always two sides to a story, and we offer you a view from the children’s perspective. We read a story about a firefighter who was fighting a forest fire. As he walked through the charred forest, he saw a bird with its wings spread out at the base of a tree. It caught his eye because it moved. As he looked closer, he found that the bird was obviously dead because its body was charred, but beneath the bird was a baby bird that had survived. The mother bird had sacrificed itself so that her baby could live. Other animals display “unto death” protection of their young. There is not a more aggressive animal than a female grizzly bear protecting her cubs. A herd of elephants will circle the young in the herd when a threatening situation occurs.

Children from Broken Homes

Children in blended families do not live that same experience. They are innocent victims of either losing a parent to death, or wounded by at least one of their parents who decided to divorce. Home life evolves to one or two single-parent homes.

Children of divorce are often hurt by hurting, selfish, or angry parents. They pack bags and travel for visitation, often hear a parent speak negatively of their other biological parent, and at times are used by a parent as a communication tool to avoid having to speak to the former spouse. Rejection or even abandonment by one of their parents is often an undeserved reality.

Children in Blended Families

With this in mind, it is not surprising to us when children respond negatively to a parent remarrying. We have heard from many couples that their children were fine, but their attitudes changed dramatically after the wedding. We have seen children have an emotional meltdown during the wedding and reception.

The day a parent fulfills their dream to remarry and build a new life is the same day the children’s dream of mom and dad reconciling dies.

Usually the new blended family occurs before some or all of the children have found healing for the hurts from the previous broken home. One or both biological parents may have moved through the healing process – or think they have – and are ready to remarry and build a new life. However, children may still be dealing with pain from the previous divorce or death of a parent.

Parents typically think that if they are healed, their children are healed, that children are resilient, and they bounce back. The truth is that children don’t bounce; they splat just like adults do. The remarriage places the children in a new family that they did not ask for, with a new parent figure, a new home, possibly new (step) siblings, new schools, losing old friends and having to make new ones.

In the blended family, children usually experience a multitude of emotions. A few are:

  • Wanting their biological family restored, or at least wanting the single-parent home again,
  • Hearing strife between biological parents,
  • Feeling rejection by the parent who left,
  • Competition between them and the new people in the home for their biological parent’s time and attention,
  • Identity shifts in the new family (no longer the oldest or youngest),
  • Fear of another home life failing (the last one did, right?),
  • Resistance to the involvement or discipline by a stepparent who does not yet love them,
  • Favoritism which is more prominent in blended family homes (until hearts of acceptance are established),
  • Unforgiveness toward their biological parent(s), and not knowing how to forgive,
  • Swings of anger, frustration, sadness, resentment, numbness, jealousy, hate, and so on.

 

We have identified 19 different reasons why children resist connecting to their blended family (there are probably others). We doubt if a child will experience all 19, but it is highly likely that a child will have more than one reason.

You Are Responsible

“Sons are a heritage from the LORD, children a reward from him.” Psalm 127:3

Children in blended families are also a reward from Him. They are not extra baggage, someone else’s problem, or along for the ride. God hates divorce, but He deeply loves people who have divorced. He forgives people of their sins that destroyed a relationship, His wonderful grace gives people a 2nd chance to build a 1st class marriage and family. In remarriage, that 2nd chance comes with children not born to us. Stepparents are to love, care for, provide for, encourage, defend, teach, edify, and guide.

Parents and stepparents need to be sensitive to all the children – to what they are feeling, and to what adults put them through. We are not advocating that parents have to live their entire life for their children. We are advocating that God expects parents to love, nurture, and protect the children at all times, not just when it is convenient.

We need to help our children find their healing from past hurts. Many need their biological parents to forgive each other. They need help learning to:

  • Forgive those who hurt them
  • Manage their anger
  • Trust people again
  • Sense that there is abundant life ahead
  • Quit looking at their past, and look forward to the new thing God wants to bring them into.

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:18-19

Your life may never be the same after experiencing divorce or death of a spouse and parent, but your life can be better! The book of Job in the Holy Bible is an incredible story of a man who lost everything. But because he loved and served God, God restored to him twice as much as he previously had. His life was never the same; he probably had scars on his body from the sores and on his heart from the loss of loved ones. But his life got even better! Scars are not bad – scars appear after healing has taken place.

God is always trying to do something new in our lives and in our children’s lives. The blended family can be a great place for your children. It can be a positive, Godly influence to you and your children. It is the biological parent and stepparent responsibility to create that positive atmosphere. Show your children the positive things about God and your family.

Commit your life to God! Then commit your life to every member in your new family! Purpose in your heart to see all your family healed from the past, serving God, and moving into the new things that God has for your future.

Parents and stepparents, work together to bring healing and wholeness into your family.

  • Make God the center of your heart and home through intimacy with Jesus Christ,
  • Build a loving, life-long marriage; become one in mind and heart with your spouse. Your children need a healthy role model of what a successful marriage looks like, so they can duplicate it.
  • Pray together as a family, and for each other,
  • Involve yourself in your new children’s lives.
  • Communicate with your biological AND new children — let them know that they are a vital part of your family.
  • Encourage your children to express themselves. Do not react to what they say, but help them work through any negative feelings that come up. (The law of emotion is, what you suppress will eventually come back up – usually in unhealthy ways.)
  • Allow your biological AND new children to grieve. Don’t tell them to, “get over it.”
  • Apologies bring healing. Apologize to each child, as the Holy Spirit leads you.
  • Help children develop new, positive, achievable dreams. Learn your children’s dreams and desires, and help them attain their goals.
  • Show respect to your biological AND new children – especially to those who are being disrespectful. Giving consistent respect will bring respect to you.
  • Read some divorce recovery, grief recovery, and blended family material, and share what you learn with your children.

God is in you, and He is on your side! He makes us overcomers in every trial; He delivers us from them all! We only lose when we quit.

“I will lead the blind by ways they have not known, along unfamiliar paths I will guide them; I will turn the darkness into light before them and make the rough places smooth. These are the things I will do; I will not forsake them.” Isaiah 42:16

I lift up my eyes to the mountains—where does my help come from? My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth. Psalm 121:1-2

 

Blending a Family Ministry

~ Changing the way you view your blended family ~

www.blendingafamily.com

 

 

Loving the Platform

I have been leading worship now for over 8 years and what a privilege it is to do so. I get the opportunity to help people see, feel, and experience Jesus with my life. I have done this in many ways, but to be able to do this with music has been such a blessing. At this point in my life I have led thousands of worship services all over the United States. I’ve been in many different churches, denominations, and age groups. I have come to realize that many people’s opinion on what a worship leader is and isn’t varies drastically from person to person, generation to generation, church to church, and especially pastor to pastor. I believe God has given me a clear picture of what a worship leader is. I am just going to share briefly on the importance of a leader falling in love with the body of Christ. You may say: “What does this have to do with worship?” EVERYTHING! This simple revelation changed me as a worship leader and how I approach all ministry. It’s not just for worship leaders… it’s for everyone.

Falling in love with body of Christ is the same as falling in love with Jesus himself. Love the Lord your God with all you heart, soul, mind, strength and love your neighbor as yourself. (Luke 10:27 paraphrased) In other words, Love Jesus with everything you’ve got, and love others as much as you love yourself. (SIDENOTE: if you have a hard time giving love to your neighbor, it could be the root issue is that you haven’t learned to love yourself like you should. You can only give love away when you learn to love what the Lord created in you. We can all only love to the extent that we love ourselves.)

A couple years ago the Lord dropped a syllogism in my spirit that changed everything about how I led worship, did ministry, and lived life. A syllogism is a form of deductive reasoning used in the study of logic. I hadn’t even thought of syllogisms since taking logic in High School so I was surprised when the Lord chose to speak to me this way. This was the syllogism: “I am the Church, I don’t love the Church; therefore, I do not love myself.” When I heard this from the Lord I began to weep. I realized that the issues I had with the Body of Christ were issues that I had with loving myself. The more I fell in love with Him the more I began to love what he created in me. The more my love grew for myself and the way I was created, I began to be able to see the beauty in what Jesus created in other people. Every word from the mouth of God is eternal and will not return void. When he calls something good… He means it.

After I started receiving my healing in this process, I realized that I could not separate loving Him from loving His others in His body. Compassion for His body overcame me and still does to this day. Compassion and love started to become my genuine motive for being on a platform week in and week out. I wanted people to hear, taste, and see the Lord in all that I sang or said. My responsibility as a Levite and worship leader is to not just usher in His presence but to give people Jesus. To release a song that is more than words, but full of life, love, and compassion. I get the opportunity to help create a space for Jesus to reside in that moment, at that place, at that time. I also came to realize that this was impossible to do consistently without really learning to love people like Jesus does. The more my compassion grows for people, the more I long to give them Jesus. I can’t wait to worship every week because I long for everyone to meet Him! Loving the way Jesus loves changes everything about worship. When you love someone, you don’t leave them behind. I now desire for everyone come with me into his presence to meet Him because if they can just get a glimpse, it could change everything. So this has become my motivation in worship now: For people to see and hear Him above all else and all that He is… is Love.

The Lord doesn’t want us to worship stages. Stages come and go. Stages are for lights and actors. Platforms are something completely different to me from stages. A platform is a raised place so that everyone, even the people in the back, to see what and who is up there. To me, platforms are a raised place for people to see and hear JESUS better! I long for people to see Jesus in me! To hear Jesus in my songs! To see and hear Jesus in my worship teams! People need Jesus in our worship. People need Jesus in our churches. I love and appreciate the platform because I want everyone to see Jesus. Even that person in the back, who is the furthest away, and feels like they can’t get close to Jesus, I want them to see Him!

I see Jesus doing this Matthew 5:1-2: “Now when Jesus saw the crowds, he went up on a mountainside and sat down. His disciples came to him, and he began to teach them.” A little history around what I see in these two short verses. At this time in Jesus’ ministry He was being followed by multitudes of people. We call this the “Sermon on the Mount” because, obliviously, it’s on a mountain. Let’s look at the literal definition of Mountain: “A landmass that projects conspicuously above its surroundings and is higher than a hill.” Jesus wanted his love, his compassion, and His Father to be conspicuous! He wasn’t trying to get away from the crowds in my opinion. He brought his trusted few close and up the mountain with him so that everyone who was there had the opportunity to hear and see him. He raised himself up not out of haughtiness but out of humility and compassion. Jesus raised himself up to a higher place not because he needed it, but because He loves His people! He raised himself up because he was overwhelmed with compassion for the people. This HAS to be our motivation for the platform. Here are 2 literal definitions of a platform: 1.) a raised level surface on which people or things can stand. 2.) a declaration of the principles on which a group of persons stands. Do you see the similarities there? Do you see why the Lord uses platforms? The platform exists to make Jesus conspicuous. The platform exists to make Jesus famous. The foundations of our platforms have to be built on love, compassion, humility, and grace. This is what we have to stand on when we are on any platform. This is not just for worship leaders. It’s for everyone! No matter what you do in ministry.

I long for more platforms now! Not out of the desire to further my career. Not because I want people to hear me but because this man Jesus has humbled me with His overwhelming compassion towards me. I have to give that away. People deserve that from me. They deserve my best every week! Every service! Whether it’s 5 or 5,000 people. Everyone needs to see, hear, and experience Jesus. That is why I am worship leader. That is why I love the platform. That is why I can bring something fresh every week. It’s because I’m learning to love like He does and his compassion is overtaking my will. His love is better than what I may feel like from week to week. (I can’t even write this without tearing up because I feel His love, compassion, and pleasure as I write it.)

This perspective makes a difference. Trust me. I have taught my worship teams this and I have seen the fruit. We DO NOT have bad worship services. They don’t exist. It’s not because we’re the best musicians or singers… It’s because our motivations have changed. Every service, every week, he does something brand new because of His everlasting compassion and mercy that is new every morning. If you’re a worship leader, musician, speaker, or anyone who has been given a position in front of people… DO THIS. It will change everything. Your fruit will exponentially multiply and so will your influence.

 

When God is Your Job

One of the things we have to guard against as spiritual leaders is letting our relationship with God become a job that we have to do, rather than a relationship that we want to nurture. For everyone in ministry — from lead pastors to lay leaders — the lines between “job” and “relationship” can quickly become blurry. It’s easy to just keep doing what is expected of you without realizing that you are becoming cold in heart.

Honestly, this has happened to me many times throughout my 25 years of church leadership. There have been some Sundays (and Saturdays and Wednesdays) that I find myself participating on the outside — nodding along to the message and  raising my hands in worship — but on the inside, I am as disconnected as I can be. I am going through the motions, but my heart isn’t in it. I find myself distracted and restless, and maybe even a little discouraged. But I plow on, because, well, serving God is my job! When that thought enters my head, I know it’s time to do some soul searching.

Personally, I know I am getting close to the “God is my job” mindset, when:

  • I find myself mindlessly going through the motions during service, but my mind is in a different place (making my to do list, planning my calendar, reading twitter on the front row when I’m supposed to be following along in YouVersion).
  • I lose my interest in meeting new people.
  • I want to come as late as I can and leave as early as I can after service.
  • I start seeing actual ministry as an interruption to the tasks I need to get done.
  • I enjoy video announcements more than worship.
  • I listen to the sermon for other people rather than for myself.
  • I get picky about the song list.
  • I focus more on how the service is being done than on the presence of God.

Serving God should never become a job to us. As spiritual leaders, we must to fight every day to keep the fire of God alive in our hearts. When I find myself slipping into a “God is my job” attitude, this is what I do to get back on track:

  • Do a health check:
    • Am I being consistent in my spiritual disciplines? (Prayer, bible study, giving, and periodic fasting)
    • Am I guarding the gateways to my soul? (My eyes and ears — what I watch and listen to has an impact on your attitude)
    • Am I practicing thankfulness? (Our default as humans is to be ungrateful and negative. We have to be intentional about cultivating thankfulness and positivity in our minds.)
  • Hit the reset button on my identity: Remember this, before you are a pastor, pastor’s wife, church staff, or lay leader, you are first and foremost a child of God. He has entrusted you with responsibility and a calling, but at the end of the day, He still calls you “son” or “daughter.” there is no pretense with God. He sees through all of it, so get real with Him.
  • Hit the reset button on my church experience: Even though you may have a service role at church, you still need to be able to experience God’s presence. Whatever opportunity you have to pray, worship, or participate in the service, make it count. Don’t merely go through the motions.

 

You can learn more about Kerri Weems by visiting these links:

www.celebration.org
www.kerriweems.com
www.shineinc.org
www.facebook.com/kerri.weems
www.twitter.com/KerriWeems

 

I Took the Road Less Traveled

I Took The Road Less Traveled

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference”

 

Robert Frost’s famous poem ends with these words, but for me, it is a reminder of how I started my journey along a ‘road less travelled’ – The road signposted, ‘Missionary’.

 

When I was young, though I didn’t understand it, there were road signs pointing me toward this road less travelled. I loved reading about the American pioneers imagined what it would be like to be a pioneer in an untamed land. I would even create my own adventure by trying to get lost in the miles of endless woods behind my home, only to find to my disappointment, that no matter how hard I tried I would eventually find a road that I recognized and no longer be lost.

 

But it wasn’t until after I graduated from Bible School that I found the road to adventure.  My wife and I were newly married and knew we had a call on our lives.  We were helping a small church in Michigan as volunteers and giving every hour we could to the ministry.  Being volunteers at the church, Julie worked and I would draw houses to make ends meet.

 

However, my frustration was building at the realization that what I was doing was the most natural and temporary of types of work.  This frustration built until one summer morning when the sun splashed across my drawing board and I looked at the graphite I had painstakingly applied to the large sheet of paper and thought, “not one single ounce of what I am doing at this moment touches eternity.” I was drawing another ‘dream house’ on what amounted to nothing more than paper – made from trees, so that someone could cut down even more trees and arrange them into a building that might not even be here in a hundred years.

 

As I sat at that drawing board, I longed to impact the eternity of souls.  I wanted my life to make a difference, and an eternal difference. I wanted to tell the untold, and reach the unreached. To go to those areas of the world that others didn’t want to go to.

 

Twenty years later I can truly say I’ve traveled the road less traveled, but what a road it has been!  My goodness, this road should be marked with those highway signs that say, ‘Scenic Views Ahead’!  For the road signposted, ‘Missionary’, has truly been a beautiful road to travel upon!

 

According to the US Center for World Missions, there are more than 100,000 people that write off to missionary organizations every year sensing some kind of call to travel upon this missionary road. However, less than 1% of these ever find the road, and of those who do, in just 5 years 80% have taken a detour.  Being a missionary is, in the words of Frost, a road ‘less traveled by’.

 

It is estimated that out of the 1 Billion evangelical Christians who live on this ball of green and blue, there are only 400,000 missionaries.  That’s just .04% of the Church – talk about a road less traveled!  This means that even if we doubled the number of missionaries, it would still be less than 1% of the Church.

 

And the crazy thing is, though so few travel this road, it is the most rewarding of roads to travel upon.  I’m forty and have spent nearly half my life on this road and I can truly say that I cannot think of any more rewarding way to invest my life.

 

Not only have I seen the incredible power and demonstration of God, I can say my desire to make an eternal difference is being fulfilled!  I’ve seen more than 1000 Muslims born-again while leading our church in inner-city England! There are fifteen women in current our student body here in Africa who no longer suffer the stigma of not having children. Some were standing for children for as much as 8 years, but after just a few months hearing the Word of God in class, all are now pregnant!  I love the view from this road!

 

We’ve also enjoyed seeing those whom we’ve ministered to go on to do great things.  For example, we have a young lady who graduated from our Bible school in Manchester, who is now reaching into North Korea and having amazing results. A current team member was recently holding meetings in a village her in Nigeria and in addition to several who were healed a paralyzed woman was completely healed.  Having just returned to do some more meetings in that same village the team member reported that this same woman was dancing and running and jumping more than anyone else in the church!  I could go on an on rehearsing the beauty of the eternal scenery that traveling this road less traveled has brought to our lives.  I do love the view from here!

 

For me, living for the cause of telling the untold and reaching the unreached is like the Forest Gump of journeys!  Once you start, you just can’t stop!  It’s almost an addiction of some kind, only without the negative side affects.  It ‘feels’ just way too good to stop!

 

The journey has its twists and turns and it’s not always an easy road to travel, but when I look back on how God has given me fun little ‘rest stops’ along this road less travelled, I think it’s almost too good to tell others about.  As a missionary, I’m supposed to be depressed, starving, and above all – not enjoying life.   That must be a different road, because that’s not been where this road called, ‘Missionary’, has taken me.  Actually, I’ve thought it could be that there is an unspoken conspiracy among missionaries to paint the worse possible picture of what it means to be a missionary so that they can keep all the fun to themselves!  It is an incredible journey, this road less traveled!

 

There have been some great ‘rest stops’, like the time our family found ourselves in the south of France, just as the world famous Monaco Grand Prix was finishing.  We took a small detour off the highway to arrive just as they were loading the still warm cars into their trucks. There I was standing in the course with all the race markings and banners still in place. So I thought, ‘Why not?’… I drove that little three cylinder Fiat rental car as fast it would go around the circuit. I’ve been behind the wheel of an Alpha Romero 166 winding through the mountain roads of northern Italy, and experienced the adrenalin filled joy of belting down the German Autobahn in a brand new Mercedes that the rental agent reluctantly upgraded me too (it was the only car left on the lot)! If you’re going to travel the road less traveled, why not enjoy the ride!  These are the kind of joys I would have never known if I hadn’t decided to give my life to the ‘road less travelled’.

 

I’ve eaten well on this journey too.  From crêpes under the Eifel Tower in Paris, to incredible pasta in a side-street café in Florence, Italy to a ‘proper’ breakfast at the House of Lords with ambassadors and ministers of state. Speaking of Lords and Ladies, my wife and I have had the privilege of dining with a Baroness, or two over the years… and where did we dine, none other than Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s former residence. In Egypt, I’ve had stuffed pigeon and cow brain ‘McNuggets’ (think chicken McNuggets only with Cow Brains instead of chicken), and you don’t want to know some of what I’ve eaten in Burma or Thailand.  All of these culinary experiences add color to life and it’s all because I chose to travel on the road less travelled.

 

When I started this journey, I never thought I would experience such things, and though my focus has always been souls, God has finds clever ways to rewarded me with a great view as we travel this road called, ‘Missionary.

 

I’ve climbed the three highest peaks in the UK and about to climb the highest in Africa.  I’ve had great seats at a ‘free’ center-court match at Wimbledon after finishing a hectic ministry schedule in London.  Another time, Julie and I were blessed with ring-side seats to one of the biggest boxing matches in British History.  Everyone who was anyone was there, and they were all sat behind us and paid big money for the privilege!   However, because one of the boxers, was a Christian from the USA and wanted an American Pastor to help in his preparation for the match, we got free ring-side seats! I have been followed by secret police in a Muslim country, and travelled 3 days in Burma to a meeting where more than 5000 believers received the Baptism of the Spirit.  And, I’ve met the most amazing of people along the way.  Why, oh why, isn’t this a busier road!

 

Now here’s the thing, I do not believe that everyone should be a missionary.  But, even if we only doubled the number of missionaries it would make a big difference to the cause of Christ.  And that would still mean there’s more than 99% of the church to help finance, care for and encourage that 1% as they go!

 

Ralph Winters, who only recently went on to Glory, is a man who has done more for modern missions than almost any other I know.  He made a powerful statement,  “What is needed today is not just a few who are willing to go themselves, but those who will be facilitators of others by the thousands.  This is our heartbeat.  We want others to know what a beautiful road this is, and to help them find it, and then care for and support them on their journey.

 

Club1040.com exists for just such a purpose, helping others travel this same and beautiful road. My hope is that through the efforts of Club1040, the road will become a road – much more traveled!

 

The Club1040 vision is to see closure to what Jesus started, to see a finished work of the Great Commission.  Jesus defined the finish line in Matthew 24:14, when he said that this Gospel of the Kingdom must be preached throughout all the world as a witness to EVERY nation, AND THEN the end will come.

 

According to joshuaproject.net, one of the best mission resources available, there are still more than 40% of the world’s 7 Billion people who are considered unreached.  Therefore, if we are going to bring closure to the great commission, we will have to make significant changes.  We can’t keep doing the same things and expect different results.

 

My hope is that this short article has sown a seed of change in you.  Maybe I’ve helped you to think differently about the missionary call.  I trust you will begin to see the missionary journey for the beautiful journey that it is and either personally start down this road, or help others as they travel the ‘road less traveled’.

 

We’ve created a short film called, ‘New Breed’.  It’s just fifty minutes and follows our family as we moved from the UK to Africa.  If you would like a free copy, please email admin@club1040.com If you are a pastor, maybe you could show it to your congregation, or use it in your small-group ministry.

 

If you, like I myself, long for your life to make an eternal impact, contact me personally at matt@club1040.com and maybe we can help you find your ‘road less travelled’.

 

If you can’t personally travel on the road less travelled, but would like to help us continue on our journey, you can visit www.club1040.com for details on how you can enable us to go in your place.

 

 

 

Leading When the Results Aren’t What You’d Like

Oscar Wilde, the noted Irish playwright, once said: “The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.” Have you ever felt that way? You preached what you believed to be a great message, but the response wasn’t what you expected? You put together a great program, but people just didn’t get behind it?

If you are like most leaders, you tend to judge yourself very hard, and you are inclined to take it quite personally when things don’t go well. For example, if someone leaves your church, you assume it’s a failure on your part. If someone doesn’t receive the help you offer, certainly you are to blame. If your church is not overflowing with people, it’s obviously your fault These types of self-imposed expectations and assumptions can create enormous frustrations in the life of a pastor, especially when the results we all desire are contingent not just on our efforts, but also on the response of those to whom we minister.

Did Jesus ever deal with fickle people? You bet He did! Was He able to super-impose the results He desired contrary to their own will? No! Jesus addressed this issue when He said: “How shall I describe this generation? These people are like a group of children playing a game in the public square. They complain to their friends, ‘We played wedding songs, and you weren’t happy, so we played funeral songs, but you weren’t sad.’ For John the Baptist didn’t drink wine and he often fasted, and you say, ‘He’s demon possessed.’ And I, the Son of Man, feast and drink, and you say, ‘He’s a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of the worst sort of sinners!’ (Matthew 11:16-19, NLT).

Jesus pointed out that some people hadn’t responded positively to Him or to John the Baptist, even though they took very different approaches. In essence, Jesus was saying the same thing that Oscar Wilde did – “The play was a great success, but the audience was a disaster.”

One reason that pastors get frustrated is because in America, success is very often evaluated by the three B’s – bodies, buildings, and bucks. Keep in mind, though, that in heaven, success is evaluated by obedience. We have the responsibility to lead with diligence, to serve with commitment, and to minister with excellence whether people respond the way we want them to or not. Certainly we rejoice when we get the results we desire, but we must be faithful even when outcomes don’t measure up to our expectations, or are slower in coming than we’d like.

I appreciate what one pastor shared about his frustrations. “During one service I was complaining to the Lord about the lack of attendance: ‘Lord, attendance is just not what I’d like it to be.’ This was the Lord’s response: ‘My son, attendance is not what I’d like it to be in heaven.’ That was the last time I complained to the Lord about lack of attendance.”

I’m not writing this to discourage you from setting goals or striving for growth, but I do want to make sure that you’re enjoying your journey, not just striving for a destination! Make sure you stop and smell the roses on your journey through life. Keep in mind that the weight of the world is not supposed to be on your shoulders; you can’t accomplish anything without God’s grace (1 Corinthians 15:10) or without the cooperation and mutual faith of others (Romans 1:11-12)!

This article used by permission from Tony Cooke Ministries – www.tonycooke.org

Ten Principles for Launching a Major Growth Thrust

Ten Principles for Launching a Major Growth Thrust

By Gary Rohrmayer

As we read through the book of Acts we need to always remember it is a book of history.  It gives us a glimpse of how God worked through ordinary men and women to fulfill His purposes and carry out His ongoing mission of redemption.  We should look at the book of Acts as a place to glean principles and insights for church planting and church life.  It is not a book to look for blueprints or models but rather a book to discover transferable principles which will be shaped by your cultural context.

Here are a few transferable principles that we can glean from the launching of the church in Acts 1-2:

1. Our motives must be great commission driven.  Acts 1:4-8

If our only motive is to get butts in the seats at whatever cost we are heading for a world of hurt and disappointment.  If all we are doing is to try to increase our revenue stream and meet our church’s financial needs, we are just going to be frustrated.  If all our efforts are trying to get the “already convinced” into our church, the wheels will fall over very quickly.  We must be great commission focused. Our hearts must be broken and burdened for those who are far from God. The only way some churches are going to grow in the consumeristic Christian culture that is being developed is through effective evangelism.  My experience is that unchurched people don’t need all the bells and whistles of the mega church…Christians do!  Those far from God want relationships and meaningful connections.

2. Spiritual dependence is vital.  Acts 1:12-14

The disciples gathered constantly for prayer.  They reflected on their deep dependence on God, clinging to God not knowing what was next, simply waiting in humble dependence was the posture of the disciples. How will your congregation reflect their prayerful dependence on God?  I remember hand labeling 12,000 mailers with our team and praying for each person that God would open their hearts and touch them.  Prayer walking your community before and during your growth thrust has a powerful effect. Having your people generate a list of people they would like to see come to Christ during this outreach and then having a special prayer meeting where each name is lifted up before the throne of God is very effective.

3. Select and build into leaders in preparation for outreach.  Acts 1:15-26

Preparing for a growth thrust is a great way to expand and develop your leadership team and volunteer based.  Giving people short term specific assignments is a great way to training and identify leaders.  In some cases you can double your leadership team and volunteer base with inviting people to fill needs for the short term commitment.  The key aspect is to that the more people you have involved in the planning and preparation the more committed they will be in inviting and reaching out their friends and family. We need to see these growth thrust a leadership development opportunities.

4. Pick a good day and time of year for launching the growth thrust.  Act 2:1

In Acts 2 we see that God launched the Church on the day of Pentecost. This was no accident! There are theological, historical and sociological implications to this date. Pentecost, which means “50” was the final celebration of the Feast of First Fruits which happened 50 days earlier. At this Feast, God’s people were to give a free-will offering (Deuteronomy 16:9-10) celebrating God’s provision. Theological and historical significance was that the Feast of First Fruits started on the Resurrection Sunday and ended on the Day of Pentecost. So we see that the church was born out of the first fruits of Christ’s sacrifice. The sociological significance was that Pentecost or the Feast of Weeks was one of three annual pilgrim feasts (Deuteronomy 16:16) where God’s people from all over the world came to celebrate. This is why we see such an array of people and languages in Acts 2:5-11. Pentecost was no accident. It was strategic and that is one reason why three thousand were added to the Church that day. So when is the best time to do growth thrust?  Our experience in the midwest has been:

Fall: Late September-early October

Lenten Season: February-March

Easter: Late March-early April

The best time for launching a growth thrust is the fall because you have nine months before you face the summer slump. The second best time for launching a church is February, this is a season when unchurched people come back to church. The third is on Easter Sunday.

5. Launch out in the Spirit’s power.  Acts 2:1-4

Remember only God can draw people into a relationship with him. It can be tempting to trust your planning but you must teach your people to act in faith and depend fully on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit is the life giving power. Prayer and fasting will be critical for you and your church to express its dependence on God. “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God.”  Psalm 20:7

My hope is that every church would experience a season of dramatic growth like the church in Acts 2 did, but the reality is that most are unwilling to pay the price for that type of growth and impact. A major growth campaign in your church will cost you something.  It will cost you your comfort, it will cost you time, it will cost you money, it will cost you your sleep and it will even cost you some relationships because everyone is not going to embrace this journey with you.

6. Create interest throughout your webs of relationships and throughout the community. Acts 2:5-13

Three thousand people were added to the church in a single day but the big question is how many people were impacted by the miracle of the disciples speaking in different languages?  God in a miraculous way created a buzz throughout the community through this miracle both relationally and attractionally.  There was so much buzz that it caused a reaction in people.  The crowd asked three questions and made one accusation:

“Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans?”

“Then how is it that each of us hears them in his own native language?”

“What does this mean?”

Some, however, made fun of them and said, “They have had to much wine.”

Here is a big principle that most churches don’t understand.  If you are going to have a major growth thrust you must, in a big way, gain the attention of your community in such a way that it causes people to react. They will react out of curiousness, out of sincerity or even out of anger or jest.

When was the last time your church caused a community reaction that led to redemptive activity?  Many churches are great at creating buzz in the Christian community but what about the community of the unchurched or dechurched?  Its like the church that only promotes their events through Christian media.  Who are they trying to reach? Learning how to grab the attention of your community at large is central to launching a major growth thrust.

7. Have bold relevant preaching of God’s word.  Acts 2:14-36

I remember a well-known pastor say that 85% of the people stay in a church because they made some type of connection with the person bringing the message that day.  We can have all the latest technology, the greatest music, the warmest people, the best children’s ministry but if people don’t connect with the message and the messenger they will move on.  Many a pastor has spent hours on preparing the service and outreach strategy but only minutes on preparing their message. This is to their detriment and is dishonoring to God.

Two things we learn for Peter’s sermon 1) He responded to the questions and reaction of the crowd. The bulk of the sermons preached in the book of Acts are responses to people’s questions. If we are going to do a effective job of touching the hearts of people outside the church we must address the questions they are asking. We must understand their “heart language.”  We must understand what moves them.  Do you know the primary heart language of your community?  2) He boldly proclaimed the word of God in providing an answer to their questions. Paul writes to Timothy, “Preach the word.” (II Timothy 4:2 NIV)  The foundation of any church is to be based on strong biblical preaching, not motivational speaking; an undying commitment of bringing the unshakable Word of God to a world that is falling apart at its core must be the underlying conviction for every pastor.

8.  Ask for a commitment to Christ.  Acts 2:37-41

The key to getting commitment is clarity! Peter’s conclusion to his message was crystal clear, “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.”  (vs 36) His call to action was specific and realistic, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”  (vs 38) His appeal was filled with passion and urgency, “With many other words he warned them; and he pleaded with them, ‘Save yourselves from this corrupt generation.'”  (vs 40)

Remember that this major growth thrust, at its core, is evangelistic in nature.  Our preaching must be evangelistically focused.  David Murray describes evangelistic preaching as plain, simple and clear. He writes, “Evangelistic preaching will be plain. If we love sinners and we are anxious for them to be saved, we will be clear and plain in our structure, content, and choice of words. If we can use a smaller word, we use it. If we can shorten our sentences, we do so. If we can find an illustration, we tell it. Everything is aimed at simplicity and clarity, so that, as it was said of Martin Luther, it may be said of us, ‘It’s impossible to misunderstand him.'”

At some point during this major growth thrust we must passionately lift up the person and work of Jesus Christ.  We must challenge our audience with the implications of His claims as Lord and Savior.  We must make it clear on how one becomes a true follower of Jesus.

9.  Call them into the community of faith.  Acts 2:42-47

When Peter called the crowd in the temple area to “Repent and be baptized…” he was not just calling them from something (sin, corrupt generation) but also to something (to Jesus, a new community of faith and to a new mission).

Peter’s words give us a beautiful picture of the “church.”  The Greek word for church is ekklesia which in its base form means “to call out.”  Isn’t this what Peter was doing?  Calling them out to repent, changing their minds on who Jesus was and what He had done for them.   He called them out to be baptized, to be dipped under water before the crowd, as a symbol of personal identification with Jesus and His followers.   He called them out to be marked by forgiveness and to receive the promised Holy Spirit.  He called them out from a corrupt generation that offered nothing but hopelessness.  In response to his calling out they gathered together in complete devotion, filled with awe and wonder, sold out to the God that saved them and to each other.  They had a clear sense of mission which was seen in their ability to add people to their numbers daily.

As pastors and church planters we have this same wonderful privilege as Peter.   As we launch a major growth thrust in our communities we have an opportunity to call people out to something greater than themselves. The Church. The Body of Christ. The Bride of Christ. God’s agent of change and hope for our world today.

How do you do that practically?  What are the pathways of discipleship and involvement in your church?  Would a new Christian know what the next step for them was in the life of the church?  Would a returning believer know where to go to re-energize their relationship with Christ?  Would a growing believer new in town know how to get connected with the leadership and onto a path of service?

Clear pathways of discipleship are critical for having a successful growth thrust. George Barna in his book, “Growing True Disciples” writes, “Offering programs is not the issue. We discovered that surprisingly few churches have a well-conceived model of discipleship that they implement. The result is that churches feel they have fulfilled their obligation if they provide a broad menu of courses, events, and other experiences, but such a well-intentioned but disjointed approach leaves people confused and imbalanced.”

Thom Rainer and Eric Geiger in their book, “Simple Church” articulate that in order for a church to have good pathways of discipleship and involvement there needs to be four elements: movement, alignment, focus and clarity.  As you consider what you are calling people to, the following questions will guide you in simplifying the process.

Movement: How would you describe the “ministry or discipleship flow” that exists in your church right now?

Alignment: What type of alignment exists between your ministries to achieve your vision?

Focus: How do these ministry opportunities help achieve our missional outcome?

Clarity: Do those who attend our public worship service understand our process and the next steps they need to take?

10.  Mobilize missionaries to serve the world not just members to serve in the church.  Acts 2:47

The new term of assimilation is mobilization.  In the book of Acts we see that Peter not only called the crowd into the life of the church but also called them to be engaged in the mission of Jesus.  This is how ”…the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”

In 2007 I wrote on the differences of church-centric and mission-centric philosophies of ministries. For years the church has practiced a church-centric philosophy of ministry where the goal was to create healthy members for the betterment of the church.  But in recent years there has been a paradigm shift where churches are embracing the need to be mission-centric, in that the goal for the church is to create missionaries for the betterment of society and cultural transformation.

Churches are in the sending business. One of the questions we must ask in evaluating a church’s health is, ‘How many people are being mobilized for the Great Commission?’” Reggie McNeal reinforces this paradigm shift in his book, The Present Future when he writes, “The first Reformation was about freeing the church.  The new Reformation is about freeing God’s people from the church (the institution).  The original Reformation decentralized the church.  The new Reformation decentralizes ministry.”  The only way we can decentralize ministry is by seeing each member as a missionary to be sent by the church into their personal mission field.

The big principle I take away from Acts 1-2 is this, “Missionally focused leadership will not only lead the church towards missional evangelism but will also engage the church in missional edification; both are key to seeing the church continually engage in God’s redemptive purposes.”

Contact Information

 

www.yourjourney.org

Planting Life-Giving Churches in Post-Christian Europe

Amsterdam… If you hear the name of that city most Christians around the world will have negative associations. To name but a few: prostitution, drugs and homosexuality. I am not sure if Amsterdam is any worse than any other city in the world, but immorality is definitely more visible in this city than in many other places.

The story of Thousand Hills

Amsterdam is only 30 minutes away from where our church is. Back in 2006 we launched an international, English-speaking church in the city of Hilversum, the media capital of the Netherlands. Today, it is called Thousand Hills International Church, and our Sunday attendance is close to 300. It is our goal to reach expats, immigrants, people working in the media business and Dutch nationals who feel drawn to a different style of church than the average church in the Netherlands. We’re contemporary, Spirit-filled, life-giving and our messages are really relevant for every day life.

We had an amazing opening Sunday in the spring of 2006. There was a lot of excitement about this new church coming to town. After the service my co-pastor and I had lunch with David Koerts, John Maxwell’s Equip coordinator in Holland, and Billy Hornsby, the president of the Association of Related Churches. This was the first time I met Billy and when we shared the story of how we started our church, he said that the approach we followed was very similar to the approach that the ARC has successfully employed in the US.

When we started with Thousand Hills, we always had in mind to start more churches than just one, so Billy’s story sparked our interest. What if we were to start a church planting network in Holland that would plant more life-giving churches in strategic cities such as Amsterdam, Utrecht, The Hague and Rotterdam?

The start of Europe Advance

Now let’s fast forward to 2009. A few of my friends in the US, including Jerry and Melanie Stone, told me about a man by the name of Desmond Frey. They told me that Desmond had been planting a church in Zürich, Switzerland, and that he had been involved in Equip Europe-wide. Because Jerry and Melanie were aware of my passion to start a European church planting network, they also told me that Desmond had a similar vision.

So we decided to meet in Koblenz in June 2009. At that meeting not only Desmond was present, but also Larry Blakeslee, a missionary in Germany, and Steve Hickey, Senior Pastor of Church at the Gate in Sioux Falls (SD). Steve had also been involved with ARC, assessing church planting candidates. Steve felt a stirring in his heart to reach Europe through church planting, so he promised to support our vision from the US.

As a result of that meeting, we decided to go ahead with starting the Europe Advance church planting network. Europe Advance would become a European expression of the Association of Related Churches. The first step we would take is organize a couple of Church Planters Roundtables. This would allow us to connect with candidate church planters and pastors who would support the vision.

The first Church Planting Roundtables

Our first two CPRs were held in January 2010 in Hilversum and Zürich. Rob Ketterling, Senior Pastor of River Valley Church in Apple Valley (MN) and Lead Team member of ARC, was our trainer for these two CPRs. Our third CPR was held in Sweden, near Gothenburg, in Thomas Jonsson’s church with another Lead Team member of ARC, Matt Fry, who is also the Lead Pastor of C3 Church in Clayton (NC).

We did our fourth CPR in Braunschweig, Germany, with Greg Surratt, Senior Pastor of Seacoast Church in Charleston (SC). Greg was the man who had the initial vision to start ARC and who teamed up with Billy Hornsby to make it happen. Greg has been a personal friend and mentor since March 2009 when Mark Batterson introduced me to him.

Vision to reach Europe

Greg, Matt and Rob all have really caught the vision to reach Europe. During the past year, Desmond, Thomas Jonsson and I have been talking to some influential pastors in Europe to get them involved with the Europe Advance vision. With only between 2-5% born-again followers of Christ, the vision to reach Europe through church planting needs to be backed by many pastors, business people and churches within Europe and outside Europe.

It is sad to see that many churches in Europe have a big vision to reach Third World countries, but no vision at all to reach their own city and their own continent. This has to change! The churches of the ARC pastors we have been working with and churches like Hillsong are great models how God can use the local church to really bring hope to a lost continent. I always encourage pastors and church planters here to learn as much from them as possible and especially the culturally transferrable principles.

What will Europe Advance do?

So what will Europe Advance do? 1) We’ll cast vision for the need to plant life-giving churches in Europe, both in Europe itself and outside of Europe. 2) We’re creating a worldwide network with resources for church planters and pastors of churches with a heart to reach the lost. 3) We’ll recruit, assess, train and mentor church planters. 4) We’ll help fund church planting projects through the revolving fund we are setting up.

A few weeks ago we’ve started our first church planting project in Freiburg, a city in the south-west of Germany (www.watermarkfreiburg.de). They have been doing really well so far and during every service in the first weeks there has been at least one person each service who became a Christian. This is the first fruit of the vision we have had over the past few years and we know many new churches will follow that will impact their cities.

How can you help?

Now how can you help? There are many ways in which you can. Europe really needs your support! A first thing you can get involved in is in the church planting work itself. Maybe God is calling you to be a church planting missionary to Europe. Maybe God is calling your church to send out a whole church planting team for a couple of months or years. Maybe God is even calling your church to start a campus in Europe. We are here to assist you and connect you with people on the ground.

A second thing you can do is offer practical help. If you’re a pastor of a life-giving church, why don’t you consider mentoring a few European church planters over Skype or offer internships to our potential planters so they’re being exposed to what it means to be part of a life-giving church that really impacts the community?

A third thing that we need help with is the financial side of it all. Remember I said that many European churches don’t have vision to reach Europe. So imagine how difficult it may get for church planters to raise the money they need to start their churches. It is as expensive to start churches in Europe as it is in America and usually the start is much slower and less spectacular. But there are so many people open to the Gospel! So why not help us build up our revolving fund or consider supporting one or a couple of church planting projects?

A church planter with Europe Advance needs to raise at least $15,000 and we’ll match every amount between $15,000 and $30,000. At the moment we have $30,000 tied up in the church plant in Freiburg and we have $60,000 earmarked for church planting in Holland with one particular Spirit-filled denomination. If we are to do more church plants in other parts of Europe soon, we’ll need to grow the revolving fund. This is the best investment your church can make in Europe, because your money will be used not just for one church plant, but for several when the first church plant repays it and starts to support the growth of the fund with 2% of their income.

The final – and most important – thing that you could get involved in is prayer, not for the harvest (it is there already!!!), but for laborers. The hardest thing in starting a church planting movement is finding the right laborers, not the money or anything else. We need church planters with a vision, passion and determination to do what it takes to start that life-giving church.

Will you help us change the spiritual destiny of Europe? Together we can make that difference!

The Importance of Reaching Children

The Christian church is based on a foundation of Jesus Christ through God’s Word, the very Christian principles and values that come with righteousness.  That foundation is what all growth in the church can be based upon. With Christianity under the scrutiny of compromise, now more than ever our foundation is being tested, some replaced, others shaken and even cracked. We believe this is most apparent in our children, more than any other demographic, and that by properly training and molding them with uncompromised Christian principles we can secure the foundation of Christianity and fight the temptation to dilute and compromise it.

Believing is something that comes natural to you when you are young. Think about it – if you said to a three year old, “There’s an elephant in the backyard!” what would happen? For us adults, we would immediately begin to evaluate the statement, doubt it, and dismiss as impossible. A child will run to the window, look around excitedly and exclaim “Where?” Children accept what authority tells them unless they are taught not to through adult influences not holding to their word, bad examples in society and in media, or seemingly unimportant negative human interactions which can all impact the life long paradigm that a child will have.

Children are pliable clay that can be molded into God’s given purpose or manipulated into what the world would convince the youth that they should be. Which will we as the church body allow or influence? Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” Will we deny the little ones Jesus calls because we think the needs of adults are more important, though it’s really because they are more obvious, or will we humble ourselves and reach out to the kids God has entrusted to us and help guide and direct them into the truths of God and the joy of being His?

As a church body, we have a game plan that God has laid out for us concerning children. It starts with the God-side: God knows each person before they are here on this earth, then He places them in the safest place on earth – the womb, where each child grows and develops into what they need to be to live here. Then they emerge into their natural and supernatural families whose number one purpose is to lead this child who just left the Lord in heaven approximately nine months ago back to Him, Who created him/her. We must re-connect them with the Creator that they just left, and lead them into the purpose that God has predestined for them to accomplish. The church’s responsibility in raising children is this: to train up adults to parent according to the principles outlined for us in His Word and to supplement the teaching in the home with relevant, purpose-driven services for children.

Now, automatically, I would be thinking, “supplement? – that’s right! It’s not our responsibility to raise up the child in the way they should go, it’s the parent’s job to do that!” But, think about your church? Is every family in that environment accurately raising their children to focus on others, be respectful, and regularly teach their children about who God is, what He thinks about them, and their authority as children of God? If so, please, send us what you have done, because we have never seen it. Sure, there are always a few “all-star” families out there that raise wonderful kids with real relationships with God. If all families were that way, there would not be as much of a need for children’s ministry today. But we all know this is not the case. Therefore, we need to provide a fun, safe place for the kids of our church and community to hear the truth of the Word of God which creates an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to draw them, teach them and train them up in the right ways to think, speak, live and grow. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Children come to us with the ability to be built up in their beliefs, to be guided and directed with a sort of ease that is only apparent in children. We believe this is all part of God’s plan. Children are the smooth liquid concrete that can take on the shape it needs to before hardening. We have a limited time in a person’s life to help form their very foundation. Once adults’ beliefs form, and that has been proven to most commonly happen before the age of 13, a sort of chiseling must take place before new can begin, but not with kids! How many times do you have to hear about something before it really starts to affect your thinking? Think about the habits in your life: whether good or bad, to change these developed thought patterns takes some serious work. Not so for kids. With some teaching and demonstration of  its value to them, kids grasp it, hold onto it, and will begin to implement it into their lives with little doubt and without the internal struggle we as adults may have.

It all comes down to this: When we were called by God to children’s ministry, my wife’s initial reaction was, “puppets, costumes and hand motions during worship… yea, that’s real ministry alright.” But, as we stepped out in faith, the importance and crucial urgency of the Christian church to take children’s ministry seriously and with earnest pursuit became more and more apparent. Not only were these kids able to receive applicable truths about Christian principles and Christian living, they took it very seriously and shared it with others. Every lesson, whether Old or New Testament, we draw a real life application in consideration to Christ in them. They get it! They live it! They preach it! Their very life thoughts are beginning to be ruled around it. What an honor to be able to be entrusted by God with such a special gift – the responsibility to train up Christian kids who have an accurate understanding of His Word, and are applying it weekly to their lives.

So then, evaluate for yourself: Is it worth it? Is growing the church worth the cost of reaching these kids with the foundational principles the church is based on as they grow? We leave it up to you but will never cease pursuing the hearts of every believer to conceive the notion concerning the importance of young pliable hearts and the role that they play in the future of true Christianity. Let’s do it together.

Lessons From a Church Planter

It was a warm and sunny Tuesday afternoon in Richmond, Virginia. The autumn leaves were turning, and the wind was blowing them off the trees as I drove to my house. But the beauty outside didn’t match the tension in my heart.

At that time my wife, Penny, and I had been praying for three months about a dream in our hearts: planting and pastoring a church. We knew the dream was from God, but it was difficult to fit ourselves into it. We’d often heard the statement, “If the dream is too big for you, it must be from God.” That sounds great when you’re seated in a church service. But when you’re facing an audacious, super-sized dream, it’s a whole lot different. Even though both of us were pregnant with this growing seed, we had no idea how to start.

The first step, we surmised, was to figure out where—and this was the cause for my tension that autumn day: I felt I knew where we were supposed to go, and I hadn’t talked to my bride about it yet. As I pulled into my driveway, I wondered if she’d be as shocked as I’d been. Would she shoot down the location, or would she like the idea? Would she be willing to pick up our three kids and leave behind the comfortable city we’d called home for 33 years?

I called Penny outside, and we stood together in the driveway. I told her I’d been praying that day and felt I knew where we were supposed to launch the church. But she blew me away when she said the same thing: She’d also been praying and felt she knew where we were supposed to begin our journey.

This made the moment even more tense. What if they were two different places? There was no use delaying the moment. “I’ll count to three and we’ll say it at the same time,” I suggested. Penny agreed, her face showing the same anticipation I felt. “1… 2… 3… CHARLOTTE! WHAT?!” We’d both said the same thing!

“…Get out of your country, from your family and from your fathers house, to a land that I will show you” (Genesis 12:1).

Nearly 9 years later, the dream has become a reality. We planted Freedom House Church in Charlotte, North Carolina in 2002, and in that time it’s grown from 4 people to over 1500 in attendance. I want to share two lessons we’ve learned in this nearly decade-long span of ministry.

Lesson 1: You’ll never know your faith until you’ve been in a good fight.

Don’t kid yourself: If you’re a church planter, if you want to plant a church one day, or if you want to be involved in ministry in anyway, you will have to fight! You’ll have to push for what you believe in, because faith only grows when it is tested. And testing will come throughout the journey. Speaking of journeys, I once heard someone say “the journey is the destination.” Every time you think the finish line is in sight, it moves. The journey is where your faith in what God has told you will sustain you.

We’ve had multiple tests of faith so far in our journey, and they keep coming. Do I really believe we can accomplish what God said? Do I really believe the dream is possible when the situation is impossible? Do I really believe we’re going in the right direction when everyone is telling me I’m wrong? This is the fight, and this is when you find out the depth of your faith. The great thing about God tests is you never fail; you just get a retake! Here’s the key:

My faith is not in what but in who!

The whats are subject to change, so I don’t hang my hat on them. Instead I trust in the who… God! He is the Promise-giver. In the midst of this dream, He has a handle on things I don’t know even exist. Proverbs 3:5-6 has always been a foundational scripture for me: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding. In all your ways acknowledge him and He will direct your paths.”

Lesson 2: Ministry grows according to your pain threshold.

This is not a popular idea, but it’s a valid one. Church conferences often feature a mega-church pastor who shares about all God’s doing through the church. He tells all the great ideas, influence and growth they’re experiencing; then everyone cheers, the lights flash, and the video plays. And these things are great. But what that pastor doesn’t typically share is the pain he’s experienced to see the church reach that level.

There is pain in ministry. Someone who said he’d be there forever leaves. A staff member tries to start an internal revolt. A family leaves and tries to take other families with them. People talk about you and stab you in the back… in the name of Jesus! It’s not all bad, and the good outweighs the bad. But daggone it (remember, I’m from North Carolina), it hurts sometimes!

How I process pain determines how far the ministry will grow. We all have a lid of pain, a pain threshold. We have to allow God to raise that lid. It helps to surround yourself with the right people, leaders who have been through similar pain. And for me, having my best friend (my wife) to hold my hand has allowed us to experience continued growth in ministry. I don’t hold on to the pain, but I do allow it grow me.

“Count it all joy when you fall into various trials…” (James 1:2). It’s not the most popular verse, but it’s both sobering and encouraging.

Whatever dream you may be facing, let me encourage you: You can do it! You will make it through! God did put that dream in your heart, so dream big dreams! Take audacious faith steps! You do have enough faith to make it happen! Don’t quit! God will never leave you nor forsake you! He’s right there! Amen.

Troy Maxwell is a passionate minister that shares relevant, uncompromised Bible teaching with energy and conviction. Troy enjoys drawing out and developing the leadership qualities in others and seeing them live to their fullest potential. Troy is married to Penny Maxwell and together they pastor Freedom House Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Visit their website for additional resources and online messages.
www.freedomhousechurch.org

Church Growth – Are You Scoring Points?

If you’ve ever played sports you know the goal, right? Score points! I played varsity basketball in high school and competitive tennis every summer; there was no confusion on my goal. Shoot baskets. Serve aces. Score points. If I wanted to win, I had to focus on scoring points.

In sports, it’s obvious: Score touchdowns. Shoot goals. Make baskets. Hit a home run. Cross the finish line. Make birdie. There is no confusion on the goal in athletics — score! If you don’t score — you don’t win. Fans don’t go to games to see the pretty uniforms, to inspect the quality of the golf clubs or to sit in bleachers. They go to cheer their team to victory. The score tells them how their team is doing.

Unfortunately, in the church world there is a bit of confusion on this subject. As a church, how do you keep score? How do you know if know if you are “winning”? How do you define “success”? When should the pastors, staff, volunteers and congregation celebrate — jump up and down, wave flags, whistle and rejoice? When they are winning — of course! This needs as crystal clear for a church as it is for any sports team.

How to Keep Score Thus, the problem! In church life, everyone doesn’t always agree on how to keep score; on what a point looks like or on how to measure a win. People use different scoreboards for church. Some rack up points when they get to spend personal time with the pastor; others see winning as attending services, wearing the right clothes or memorizing verses.

Still, others feel victory is measured by the Fica tree count, hours prayed, number of favorite songs sung. Some people give extra points for deep Bible studies, singles groups, a “mighty move”, a men’s fellowship or a mother-daughter tea. Still others keep score by mission trips taken, number of crosses in church or size of conferences hosted — you name it. Here’s the kicker … all these things are wonderful, it’s just that they’re not the primary way we score points and win.

This is huge! If we don’t agree on how to keep score and win; then we’re set up for disillusionment, disappointment, frustration and worse yet: faking it! Pretending to win, when we’re actually losing! Ever wonder why so many believers these days seem to be self-absorbed, disinterested, unmotivated, offended, apathetic and even contrary to the life of their church? Perhaps they don’t know how to score points to really win?

That’s why it’s so important for us to align our scoring system with His.

The big question is: How does Jesus keep score?

Jesus told us how to measure wins in Matthew 28:19-20:

Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you … (NKJV)

He celebrated a victory in Luke 15:6:

Celebrate with me! I’ve found my lost sheep! (The Message)

We score when we reach the lost and make disciples — and this is worth celebrating! When lost, irreligious, unbelieving, seekers come to church and hear the Word, get saved and tell others — we score points. When the preacher-preaches, the worshippers-worship, the drummer-drums, the ushers-usher, the servers-serve and Joe Unbeliever gets touched by the real Jesus — that is a serious victory! The crowd should go wild!

Connecting With the Culture I have to tell you — it’s happening in our church and we are raising the roof with great joy! It wasn’t always that way. My husband and I have pioneered Kalamazoo Valley Family Church fifteen years ago. We pedaled as fast as we knew how for the first eight years and we saw some good fruit, but to be honest; we got tired of low scoring games. Our church had become so “same old-same old” — even we were bored with it!

Although we thought our church was pretty “contemporary”, one day we got honest and admitted we were not connecting with the culture we were supposed to “seek and save.” I didn’t invite my unsaved friends to church for years because I knew that everything about our church was so irrelevant to them. They absolutely wouldn’t “get it” — the lingo, the dress, the songs, the decor. We were about a decade behind. I knew they would be under-whelmed, bored and immediately disconnected. We had a great church for believers; but my unbelieving friends were in a different orbit.

Over the past several years, we’ve been more intentional about scoring than ever — reaching the lost and making disciples. We’ve had to change our paradigm … not our message. We’ve have to be more culturally relevant without compromising the Word of faith. Yes, we’ve changed a lot — our methods, our dress, our verbiage, our decor, and our music — but not the message. It’s working!

However, I have to tell you everyone on the “team” was not thrilled with the changes. We lost over 100 people within a 6 month period. Our score was moving backwards! So, what did we do? We kept at it and within another 6 months period and we gained over 700 people as a result. Net score: 600.

Our most recent scoreboard showed us we’re still scoring, but there’s a lot of work yet to do to win our county! A recent survey gave us something to celebrate and motivation to score more points! Prior to attending our church, 33% were un-churched and lost; another 32% were churched, but backslidden. Since they’ve started attending our church, 22% have gotten born-again; 13% have been healed; 41% have been filled with the Spirit; 26% say they’ve gotten “on fire” for the Lord; and 50% tell us they are prospering in the financial and relational areas of their life. We see points on the scoreboard. However, our work here is not done.

Winning Where We Are Where I live, in Kalamazoo County, Michigan — population: 225,000 — there are 175,000 un-churched people. Over 2000 people attend our church each weekend, which means we only have to reach 173,000 more people to win! To some, 2000 sounds impressive, to us it’s a drop in the bucket compared to the number of people who are still lost in our county. That means we need to keep scoring points. How about you???Perhaps you wonder, “What about the believers? Don’t they need to be fed?” Don’t get me wrong, we love teaching believers the Word, seeing them mature and get a grip on the basics. It’s thrilling. However, there is one caveat. If we are not intentional about turning believers into reproductive disciples who can score points; we end up creating Christian consumers, holy spectators and pew warmers who complain about loud music, crowded parking lots and young people with tattoos and lip rings.

The scoreboard doesn’t lie. Sometimes our websites can lie; our brochures can lie and we can even lie to ourselves. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to fake it. I don’t want to pretend our church is scoring points and winning games when we’re just playing. It’s a big question: Are we scoring points?

We keep score by winning the lost and making disciples! When you win, we plan to raise the roof and lead the parade with our banners. May all your wishes come true! (Psalm 20:5 The Message)