Thursday, October 20, 2011
Visiting ministers can be a great blessing to any church. But if you don’t do your homework, you could be inviting disaster.
A friend of mine recently told me that the leaders of a ministry invited a prominent American preacher to speak at a conference. During discussions about the engagement, the preacher’s handlers explained two of the terms of his visit: (1) he was always to be addressed as “apostle” by anyone who spoke to him; and (2) he was to be ushered out of the auditorium and into a green room immediately after he delivered his sermon, to guarantee that he would not have to fraternize with the audience. He needed his privacy.
If I had been on the other end of the telephone conversation that day, I would have offered this reply: “Please tell Apostle Arrogance that since he is so concerned about being bothered by the little people, never mind. Just don’t come. We don’t need the disease he is spreading in the body of Christ. God bless you.” Click.
“I have heard horror stories of ministers who required their hosts to provide shopping money, certain types of exotic bottled water, limousines and manicurists. A childish rock star might be expected to ask for these luxuries, but such behavior is reprehensible for a minister of the gospel. Don’t cater to their appetites.”
That may sound harsh, but I don’t think there’s any other way to prevent the spread of this plague. The “celebrity syndrome” is still alive in 2011, in spite of the recession, and the only way we are going to stop big-headed charlatans from corrupting churches is to boycott them. We need to hand them a pink slip. I recommend these safeguards:
1. Investigate before you invite. There are many wonderful traveling ministers who carry genuine anointings and can bring great blessing to churches and ministry events. They have been called by God as evangelists, prophets, teachers and apostolic leaders—and those who walk in the anointing of the Holy Spirit will produce fruit wherever they go.
But there are also imposters on the preaching circuit. Some of them once carried the anointing and lost it; others actually entered the ministry as fakes and learned to prey on naïve congregations. Don’t give anyone a platform who has a questionable record. Always find out who they are accountable to. If they have no relationships, no oversight or no reference board, you are taking a great risk by having them in your church.
2. Slam the door on egotism. The celebrity syndrome is easy to detect. Does the visiting preacher have a servant’s spirit? Or does he come across as cocky and unapproachable? Any man or woman engaged in ministry should have the attitude of Jesus, who was willing to ride a donkey into Jerusalem and wash the feet of His disciples. If you allow a prideful, unbroken preacher in your pulpit, you are giving a spirit of Lucifer the opportunity to infect your congregation.
3. Don’t feed the spirit of entitlement. Every traveling minister appreciates a gracious host. You show honor when you provide him or her with a nice hotel room, meals and transportation during their stay. But you should be alarmed if a preacher demands celebrity treatment.
I have heard horror stories of ministers who required their hosts to provide shopping money, certain types of exotic bottled water, limousines and manicurists. One preacher who recently ministered in Australia demanded a certain type of steak that had to be flown across the Pacific Ocean from the United States! A childish rock star might be expected to ask for these luxuries, but such behavior is reprehensible for a minister of the gospel. Don’t cater to their appetites.
4. Don’t tolerate financial rape. I know of an American minister who traveled to a church in Canada and insisted that the pastor rent a civic auditorium that seated more than a thousand people. The pastor couldn’t afford the hall, but the evangelist said she wouldn’t come unless a large venue was provided. In the end, the evangelist canceled the trip because not enough people registered for the conference—and the pastor was left holding the bag. His church went bankrupt.
A true minister of the gospel would never push a church to go into debt just to satisfy his or her egotistical need for a big crowd. Jesus was just as comfortable preaching to a few disciples as he was to a multitude, and He didn’t base success on numbers. If you fall into the numbers trap you will be sorry.
Also, a shepherd who cares about his or her flock will never allow a visiting preacher to manipulate a congregation financially. Visiting speakers who spend 30 to 45 minutes begging for money, or making outlandish claims of “supernatural returns” for investing in their work, are sheisters who need to leave the ministry and find a job on a home shopping network.
5. Beware of strange fire. A minister imparts his life, not just the words of his sermons. That is why it is so important for preachers of the gospel to walk in humility, sexual purity and financial integrity. If a minister has allowed compromise in any of those areas, his anointing will be hindered and he may pollute your pulpit and leave a toxic environment in your church.
I talked to one pastor in California who had invited a speaker to his annual conference. But before the speaker arrived, the pastor learned that this man often used drug imagery in his sermons and even compared the Holy Spirit to marijuana. When he asked the speaker to refrain from such references, the man arrogantly refused. Thankfully the pastor did the right thing: He politely but firmly canceled the man’s visit.
It is possible for us to “just say no” to the charlatans, shysters, con men and rock star evangelists who have never submitted their lives to the discipline of the Spirit. Please heed the warnings, inspect the fruit and be willing to disinvite.
J. Lee Grady is contributing editor of Charisma. You can follow him on Twitter at leegrady. His latest book is 10 Lies Men Believe (Charisma House).
Thursday, October 13, 2011
We now live in a culture that reads, responds, and reacts in 140 characters or less. I'm not trying to make the point that as pastors we should or should not be on Twitter, or that teens use Twitter at all. The point is that we now share information with family, friends, and fake friends faster than we have ever done before. This information mostly is shared via text message.
According to Sprint and other reports, mobile phones are used for talking less than 50% of the time. So if people aren't talking on the phone, what are they doing? They're sharing, liking, tweeting, texting, searching, and updating. They are doing this all the time.
Why in the world then don't we try to leverage this power that people already know how to do to spread the gospel? Why are we so opposed to asking people to spread the message of hope, love, forgiveness, and salvation in the means that they are already doing? Furthermore, why are we not giving them ideas and content that would fit in 140 characters or less so that it would be the easiest to share?
This is not an article that is saying that I think we should keep our heads buried in our phone. This isn't an article saying we shouldn't have time where we're still and reflective on what God is doing. This isn't an article that thinks if we all used iPhones that our world would be a better place.
This is an article about content and what we want people to live with and do. Let's just take a possible subject for example. Let's say you taught principles behind effective prayer. Each principle comes from the Lord's Prayer found in Matthew 6. This would be a great topic and one that needs to be taught, but what would you have people share from this? The principles that you are teaching, are you stating them in a way that phrased in a way to be shared?
The takeaway and application, are they communicated in a way that your audience would be compelled to send to someone else? Why not? Why are we not even taking this into consideration?
Here's what I believe:
Breaking down ideas that are complicated to principles that are easy to understand is much harder than keeping things complicated.
Understanding a topic is one thing, telling people to do something with what they understand is much harder.
People only do hard things when they are a priority and processed over time.
So the next time you teach, preach, lead a small group, or share the gospel in any form, make it "textable." Ask yourself when preparing the message or lesson, what in here is "textable" and what do I want them to share?
By the way, if you were going to share this article or principle, you might say, "I'm being challenged to teach in "textable" ways. If you want to know what that means just ask."
By Graham Cooke
We do not get a vision by ourselves and ask God to breathe on it. We worship, pray, meditate and listen to His heart. A vision that is rational, logical and based on what we can reasonably accomplish given our numbers and resource... will ultimately not upgrade anyone involved in the enterprise.
The Father has a vision for us personally and corporately. What does He see? Dreams, visions, scripture and prophecy are the seedbed for a vision that comes from another dimension. We cannot open ourselves up to Christ without becoming supernatural in our lifestyle and processes. A man made vision breeds struggle. It takes away our energy in the Spirit. It strips us of astonishment, awe and wonder.
Supernatural resources cannot come to a man made vision. God must own the vision and we must steward it in wisdom and obedience. Revelation always produces a sense of responsibility. When the Lord owns the vision He will commit resources to it from Heaven. When we are struggling financially we must question our alignments. Whatever God orders, He always pays for in real terms. Lack of resourcing is a sign that we are not aligned with His purpose.
Some people blame the enemy for their lack. That is a poverty spirit speaking. When we blame the enemy for something we are confessing that he has a power over us that we cannot fight. Some people blame circumstances, such as the recession for their lack. That is a poverty mindset. Poverty is not economic; it is learning to live with meager possibilities. Is God broke? Is He working to a tight budget? Is the Kingdom of God reliant on the word system? Who has abundance and fullness? If the Father is the true possessor of abundance and the wealth of the wicked... then we must determine the reason(s) why we are under resourced.
What is out of alignment? Where do we need to conform to the image of Christ? If we received the original vision from God Himself, are we walking in it? Are we stewarding it in the manner He requires? Or, are we, who began in the Spirit, now trying to work things out ourselves? Paul's big picture perspective was that he must remain obedient to the Heavenly vision (Acts 26:19).
Stewarding the vision means that we rely on our Principal supporter for resources. He is our true fulfillment in all things. We should never allow people or circumstances to dictate who we are or what we can do.
Vision that embraces the Father's heart and will is always resourced. In His favor we are empowered to have a conviction that He Himself is our renewable life source. Vision releases faith, which is the confidence that we are walking and working in partnership with Him. Vision produces power and supplies the necessary courage to live by His Empowering Presence.
God's vision energizes. Each day we come under the weight of His joy and passion for us. His yoke is easy and His burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30). If our vision is not properly aligned we come under the weight of responsibility to make things happen.
His vision provides insight. He allows us to see what He is seeing, both in us and for us. We learn His perspective and to see the resources at our disposal. I am always reminded that the vision given to me is God's and therefore I can continue to look at my life through His eyes.
About the Author
Graham Cooke has a passion to bring God's people into deeper levels of relationship and intimacy with the Lord. His life and ministry are underpinned by his delightful, intimate and unreserved two-way friendship with God. He inspires others to pursue God with abandonâ€¦letting go of old mindsets and opening up a radically new understanding of who God really is. He brings insight, hope and vision for the future of individuals, churches, cities and nations through prophetic ministry and powerful teaching. Originally from Manchester, England, he now lives in California and is part of the leadership team at The Mission in Vacaville. He is the founder of Brilliant Book House and My Emerging Light.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
The Church Planting Alliance of South Africa published a handbook in 2000 intended to encourage, equip, and guide church planters, pastors, intercessors, and denominational leaders toward the strategic challenge of saturation church planting in South Africa and beyond. The handbook included statistics, strategies, and stories of church planting activities. One of the articles that captured my attention focused on Rapid Church Growth in China.
From April 1993 to April 1996, growth among house churches [in one part of China] increased from three churches with less than 100 members to over one hundred churches with over 16,000 members (by the end of 1998 they had grown to over 55,000)...Primarily second, third, and fourth generation churches [were] planted entirely by local believers intentionally targeting the least evangelized areas and groups...All growth was from adult conversion growth rather than transfer or biological growth. Average reproduction time was six months.
As you read through these reasons for growth, consider what ramifications they present for your ministry in your context.
Reasons for Growth
1. Society in XYZ was undergoing rapid change during the period under examination. The late 1980s were pivotal in XYZ's history. After thousands of years as a cultural and economic backwater, it was coming into its own within the national political make-up. The rapid societal change created a hunger for spiritual change as well. Traditional religious and spiritual movements as well as Christianity experienced surges in growth following these changes.
2. Government opposition and persecution resulted in a church that is relatively free of casual believers. Since a Christian commitment potentially has negative repercussions, people who do make such a commitment tend to be more serious about their faith.
3. The churches displayed a remarkable degree of boldness despite the threat of persecution. This was displayed in their bold witness as well as in their loud and fervent singing in their worship services. They also demonstrated great trust in one another and in new believers. Such trust is in stark contrast to the extreme distrust that was engendered by the Cultural Revolution when the people learned to distrust everyone. This trust is attractive and surprising to unbelievers.
4. The believers demonstrated great love toward one another even when they are not relatives. This extended to the point of helping one another with financial needs. Such love is in sharp relief to the selfish and materialistic bent of the culture. This contrast served to draw attention to the Christian community.
5. New believers were baptized soon after their conversion, even in totally pioneer areas. This served to cement their new commitment and communicated their full responsibility and participation in the church from the very beginning.
6. When works were started in a new area, local believers were placed in leadership positions from the start. This helped to ensure that the new church was locally relevant and served to minimize dependence on outsiders. It also meant there were no problems with leader distribution since local leaders were always raised up from within local churches. There was never a question of leaders not wanting to return home after leaving for advanced training since training was done on the job.
7. Whenever a new church was started, multiple leaders were always established. This prepared new leaders to lead church plants. This helped protect the church against a leadership vacuum if a leader was imprisoned. It also trained members for outreach.
8. Unpaid lay leadership was used in the churches. This helped prevent any artificial bifurcation between "clergy" and "laity." This supported the practice of every adult member being part of the evangelistic outreach of the church and undergoing continuing training for ministry and being accountable for practicing what he or she had learned. Another advantage of this type of leadership is that since leaders do not require advanced theological degrees, the preparation of leaders does not form a bottleneck in the church planting process. They also require minimal financial support if any, enabling new churches to be started with little or no money.
9. Growth and fruitfulness was expected from new believers. This growth was in terms of knowing the Lord's commands and obeying them. Such growth results in fruitful Christian lives.
10. Spiritual reproduction was expected. This reproduction was in terms of leading others to Christ, teaching others what one had learned, and planting new churches. Since this was seen as the normal outgrowth of Christian experience, then any exception was quickly noticed and steps were taken to make the situation right. The gospel carries a responsibility to share words of life with those who have not heard. This responsibility is most clearly seen in areas where the gospel has not penetrated.
11. Security concerns resulted in the inability of individual churches to grow beyond a certain point (which varies by location), necessitating church multiplication, rather than merely increasing the size of a single congregation. This in turn resulted in a larger, more diverse, and more geographically available interface with the non-Christian community. It also helped to preserve the higher level of intimacy and accountability that typify smaller groups.
12. Another factor that was enforced by the hostile environment is the fact that the vast majority of churches did not have the option of using a dedicated church building. They instead used homes or shops in most cases. This means there was no facility expense to tie up the resources of the congregation and consume their energy and attention. It also assisted believers in maintaining an outward focus in ministry rather than an inward focus.
13. Quite often, the new churches wrote their own original hymnody, which expressed their personal faith and Christian experience. This music became a strong encouragement and influence toward solidarity and a rallying point in difficult circumstances.
14. In teaching and training as well as in evangelistic methods, reproducibility was emphasized. The teaching was kept simple in both format and content. Application with accountability was a constant emphasis. This helped increase the likelihood of continuous reproduction.
15. Believers at every level were held responsible to apply or put into practice what they had learned. They were also expected to teach others who were newer in the faith what they had learned. This resulted in mature and stable believers even when they had not been in the faith for a long period of time.
16. Vision and responsibility for the completion of the Great Commission was taught at every level in the churches. It was also "caught" since every trainer and leader was consumed with that task, and mentoring and on-the-job training are the heart of the training methodology. This vision ensured the common direction and purpose of every new congregation.
17. Accountability was practiced at every level. Even the "senior" leaders of each congregation were accountable to the leaders of other congregations. This created a sense of solidarity and camaraderie, which is essential in an environment that is hostile, and in which Christians are such a tiny minority.
18. There was a conscious awareness among church planters and trainers that their identity, methods, patterns, and attitudes would be emulated by the new believers and congregations. They were the models or patterns on which new work would be based. This resulted in great intentionality in these key areas.
19. When work had to be done in Mandarin, every possible effort was made to ensure that it would be passed on in XYZese at the first generation. The XYZese churches then imitated this pattern in planting cross-cultural congregations.
20. Ethnic Chinese people exclusively were used as trainers and church planters, helping to avoid impressions of Christianity as a Western religion. This resulted in churches which were very "at home" in the culture.
21. Low education levels were catered to in terms of indirect and informal teaching styles and forms. Scriptures, hymns, training materials, evangelistic materials, and Bible teaching were all distributed on cassette. Video materials were used where appropriate. Training was based on personal interaction (modeling, mentoring, and on-the-job training) rather than written materials.
22. There was a tremendous amount of specific prayer focused on the XYZese people and their evangelization. This was done by groups of people on several continents who were committed to pray regularly for the XYZese using specific and timely prayer requests provided by newsletters, phone, and e-mail. God moved because His people asked.
23. It was God's time for the XYZese. He had clearly been preparing them and preparing His people for the task. He was working for His glory in such a way that no one else could possibly take credit for it. It was clearly a sovereign work of grace.
In reflecting on these 23 Reasons for Rapid Church Growth, my colleague Bob Rasmussen makes the following observations:
The factors seem to fall into two general categories: those that we can affect and those we cannot.
In the first category are things like every believer expected to share the gospel, early baptism, leadership from the beginning, etc.
In the second category are factors that are beyond our ability to affect but are left to God and society at large. In this category would be persecution, lack of wherewithal to have church buildings, etc.
It is interesting to me that the obstacles for replicating factors within our control are of our own making. Our traditions. This would suggest that in seeking rapid church multiplication, one key area leaders should re-examine is traditions that inhibit.
New wine demands new wineskins.
What insights does reading these 23 Reasons spark in you?
What traditions do you need to re-examine?
How can you remove inhibitors to rapid multiplication?
Dave is a MISSIONALIST! He is focused on equipping and empowering pastors and church planters to embrace missional practices, and partnering together with leaders to strategically multiply churches to reach our nation and the nations among us. His wife, Deanne, and he were led by God to plant Lake Hills Church in Castaic, CA in 1990 and he pastored there for 16 years before joining OC International's U.S. Team.
More from Dave DeVries or visit Dave at www.missionalchallenge.com/
Wednesday, October 5, 2011
As one of the facilitators of Communication in Haggai Institute Malaysia, I have often emphasized upon the importance of 'self-talk'. This exercise is extremely crucial if we want to have a clear picture of what we want to do, where we want to go and how we are to achieve that. Here are some tips and hints written by my friend, Denis Waitley, that I found to be very helpful to anyone on the journey of becoming the person whom God wants you to be. Remember: Nothing happens outside you until it happens inside you. God bless!
Pastor Albert Kang
We're all talking to ourselves every moment of our lives, except during certain portions of our sleeping cycle. We're seldom even aware that we're doing it. We all have a running commentary in our heads on events and our reactions to them. Here are some tips to remember:
• Be aware of the silent conversations you have with yourself. Are you a nurturing coach or a critic? Do you reinforce your own success or negate it? Are you comfortable saying to yourself, "That's more like it." "Now we're in the groove." "Things are working out well." "I'll do it better next time."
• When you fail, view it as a temporary inconvenience, a learning experience, an isolated event, and a stepping stone instead of a stumbling block.
• When you have even a small success, reinforce that success by rewarding yourself and feeling pride, rather than feeling lucky or guilty for the attention.
• When you receive a compliment for any reason, simply respond: "Thank you." And accept value graciously whenever it is offered.
• Always greet the people you meet with a smile. When introducing yourself in any new association, take the initiative to volunteer your own name first, clearly; and always extend your hand first, looking the person in the eyes when you speak.
• In your telephone communications at work or at home, answer the telephone pleasantly, immediately giving your name to the caller. And when you call, give your name before you ask for the party you want and before you state your business. Leading with your name underscores that a person of value is making the call.
• Don't brag. People who trumpet their exploits and shout for service are actually calling for help. The showoffs, braggarts and blowhards are desperate for attention.
• Don't tell your problems to people, unless they're directly involved with the solutions. And don't make excuses. Always talk affirmatively about the progress you are trying to make.
Apply these tips and keep the running commentary in your head on a positive note!
"Just read the script. Everything within you...is going to scream to want to ad lib. But just read the script." -Pastor Dan Mickelson
Many salvation testimonies continue to come in about people being led to the Lord by Christians who have witnessed to them with this script. All it takes is a willing heart to reach out to a hungry soul.
You can made it into a bookmark, with your church contact info on the bottom, so that it's easy for your Church members to carry and distribute. Here is the text:
Has anyone ever told you that God loves you and that He has a wonderful plan for your life?
I have an important question to ask you. If you were to die this very second, do you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that you would go to Heaven?
(If yes, great. Ask how they know and if it's because they're a "good person" or anything other than Jesus, proceed with this script. Also proceed with script if their answer is "No.")
Let me quickly share with you what the Bible says. It reads, "For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" and "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord." The Bible also reads, "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved."
You are a "whosoever," right? Of course you are! All of us are.
So, I'm going to say a quick prayer for you. Lord bless (FILL IN PERSON'S NAME) and his/her family with long and healthy lives. Jesus, make Yourself real to him/her and do a quick work in his/her heart. If (FILL IN NAME) has not received Jesus Christ as his/her Lord and Savior, I pray he/she will do so now.
(FILL IN NAME) If you would like to receive the gift that God has for you today, repeat this after me, both out loud and in your heart:
Dear Lord Jesus, come into my heart. Forgive me of my sins. Wash me and cleanse me. Set me free. Jesus, thank You that You died for me. I believe that You are risen from the dead and that You're coming back again for me. Thank You for saving me and forgiving me. Fill me with Your Holy Spirit. Make me a new creation in Christ Jesus. I trust You as my Lord and Savior. Give me a passion for the lost, a hunger for the things of God, and a holy boldness to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I'm saved. I'm born again. I'm forgiven and I'm on my way to Heaven because I have Jesus in my heart.
As a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, I tell you today that all of your sins are forgiven. Always remember to run to God and not from God because He loves you and has a great plan for your life.
[Invite them to your church and get follow up info: name, address & phone no.]
Note: If the person does not understand what sins are, use the Ten Commandments to explain to him. The purpose is to use the Law to convict and the Grace of God to save. The Holy Spirit is the One who provides the conviction of sins... not you. Repentance is the result of this conviction. The person cannot change or be transformed until he or she encounters Christ personally. Never expect the person to change first because salvation and transforming power are provided by Christ.