Here are some excellent suggestions for any public speaker. How do I know? These are some things my wife keeps saying to me! I wanted to make sure I don’t lose this in cyber space, so I thought putting a link here will share it with you and preserve it for my future reference.
Yesterday’s remembrance of the 9/11/2001 tragedy was an emotional experience for me. Though not as intense as living through it, it did revive memories of that memorable day. I remembered stopping by my wife’s office that afternoon just to see that she was safe, though I had no reason to think otherwise. I remember the horror I felt at images from New York: airliners flying into the towers, people jumping to certain death because of the fires, people covered in ashes running for their lives, the heroism of police and firemen – and more.
I remembered the blood-lust of the American people seeking vengeance on those responsible – and the almost universal view it was inconceivable we could have inspired such hatred. Read more »
Stan Clanton, a pastor in the Northeast Church of Christ of Eastpointe, MI, pointed me to an opinion piece by Rachel Held Evans in the Belief Blog of CNN. You may read Why Millennials Need the Church here.
In it she speaks of her own experience of “leaving church” as a young adult – as many young adults do for varying reasons that have received much discussion in recent months. Much of this discussion was sparked by David Kinnaman’s book You Lost Me, in which he presents research of interviews with many from the “millennials,” young adults aged c. 18-25. Kinnaman, a member of the Barna Group, draws heavily on the Barna research team’s work in his book.
Ms. Evans does not reference his work, but presents her own experience. In an earlier blog, she had written, “[The millennials are not] leaving the church because we don’t find the cool factor there; we’re leaving the church because we don’t find Jesus there.” In Why Millennials Need the Church she wrote:
He does not speak of “God” in the process, though he does at least twice mention “divinity.” He makes it clear that the entire process is mathematically impossible.
Watch this video and marvel at the creative power of our God.
Note: I received the following from Matt Dabbs in his blog Kingdom Living, who asked Jimmy Hinton for some reflections on Biblical principles of turning around a small church. Jimmy had earlier had some great guest articles on this turn-around, accomplished by applying some things Matt has also written about. Those three articles are here, here, and here. The following is a follow-up that Matt requested from Jimmy. I thought it worth passing on. Enjoy!
by Jimmy Hinton
Many people have told me over the years that it is easier to plant a church than to try and change the direction of an existing church. This is true in many ways, but church planters are faced with a whole different set of challenges. Many of my friends who minister at small churches are frustrated at the lack of meaningful dialogue between them and their elders/deacons. In fact, several of them feel that they are stuck in the proverbial rut and that the elders are lording over them and, in some cases, working against them. Another friend of mine once joked (sort of) that perhaps we should be praying to God for strategic deaths in our congregations so that His church would actually stand a chance of turning around. Some of my friends have seriously debated whether it would be better to walk away from their small congregations and plant a new church. So I ask the question that many ministers and church leaders are asking, “Is your small church doomed?” If the signs point to yes, is it too late to turn it around?
Matt asked if I would write some of my story on how our small church made a turnaround. Some may disagree with me but, by all definitions, a few short years ago our congregation was a dying church. While we are not exactly splitting at the seams yet, we have recently begun to evangelize in meaningful ways and are more unified now than we have been in years. People are genuinely excited for the Lord and new people are coming in just about weekly. We are appointing elders and deacons this October. I serve at the congregation that was my home church growing up, and in my 33 years of life they have not had any elders or deacons. We are not the exception in the Northeast. It is quite common for Churches of Christ to not have elders or deacons in this area.
I have served at Somerset for four years this June and my wife and I are as excited as the day I began. Just as an aside, I do not claim to be an expert minister, a church doctor, or someone who has all the answers. I simply am a servant of God who has been, and continues to be, blessed by Him. There are several commonalities among small churches in decline, and I will offer some biblical principles that I believe, with God’s power, can turn a dying church around. I will add that, just like a dying marriage, a dying church is worth fighting for. Isn’t this what Paul did with the church at Corinth? Church “divorce” should not even be on our radar. The church is the bride of Christ, and she belongs to Him, each and every member. We have no business hijacking her, abusing her, or dividing her up into pieces.
1. It is not your job to change people—Many church leaders carry a burden of responsibility that they were never called to carry. We cannot change people. If a minister accepts a position because he wants to change people, he will burn out very quickly. Rather, he should model, instruct, and encourage Christ-like living in all that he does. Invite others to follow your lead. Be an ambassador for Christ (2 Cor. 5:11-21).
2. Make known your expectations—The quickest way for church leaders to find themselves at an impasse is to hide their expectations with one another and with the congregations they serve. I let my church leaders know what I expect of them and ask them what they expect of me. Every few months I make adjustments (as people grow and are equipped) and keep raising the bar. My congregation knew when I was selected as their minister that gossip, personal attacks, and anonymous complaints (all things that were going on prior to my hiring) will never be tolerated by me. Just recently, we raised the expectations on Sunday worship. If people are assigned to serve on a given Sunday, they will be on time and they will come prepared, just as the minister is expected to come prepared to preach. Our worship has had a complete turnaround just simply by making expectations known.
3. Absolutely no straw-man arguments—This is one that destroys churches, quickly spreads anxiety, and is downright divisive (see Titus 3:10-11). When a minister hears, “People are saying. . .” he usually pictures a mob of angry congregants and expects the worst. This is the intended purpose of straw-man arguments—to create a fictitious mob in order to gain leverage and intimidate. I have a policy that there will be no anonymous complaints. Period. If someone wants to throw a stone, they will write their name on it or it is dropped immediately. I once received a nasty letter in the mail criticizing my sermons. There was no name or return address. I threw it in the trash and never acknowledged it to anyone else. I’ve seen ministers and church members nearly ruined by church leaders over something an anonymous person was upset about. If someone doesn’t have the guts to go to the person who offended them, they have no business hiding behind a straw man and stirring up the Lord’s church.
4. It is the minister’s job to train, re-train and equip leaders—This is one that I have fought God on for a long time. Preachers of small churches have enough on their plates, right? As if preaching isn’t demanding enough, ministers of small churches often find themselves caught in the additional roles of full time shepherd, deacon, secretary, janitor, tech guru, evangelist, song leader, author of bulletin articles, counselor, coordinator of church events, leader of men’s business meetings (the name says it all!), officiant of all funerals and weddings, director of education and outreach, the interim youth minister, and the go-to guy for all other decisions, including whether or not purchasing a new stapler should be approved. Plus the minister must find time for his family—another full time job. The irony is that ministers are taking on all of these responsibilities precisely because they have not adequately trained others to be leaders. Paul was doing more than just evangelizing everywhere he went. He was mentoring, training disciples, and calling others to imitate his pattern. Paul was equipping leaders to equip the saints. This command to equip others has really broken down in the small church. Acts 6:1-7, 2 Thess. 3:6-15, Romans 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12:1-31, and Eph. 4:1-16 have become my modus operandi. Meditate on them and find ways to put them into practice. If a church falls apart after you leave, the signs point to a dependent church where members were not equipped to serve and lead.
5. Make it happen—We joke that this has become my motto when people come to me with fresh ideas for ministry. Harold Shank calls this permissive leadership. Ministers, you should model permissive leadership to your congregations, including your elders and deacons. When a church member comes to leaders with excitement and new ideas for serving others, the best thing they can hear is, “Make it happen.” Most idle people, I am convinced, are currently not serving because either nobody has allowed them to serve or they haven’t been taught how. We leaders must learn to trust, equip, and empower the saints to serve. Children will never learn how to ride a bike if the parents always ride it for them.
6. Create structure or it all falls apart—Churches under 100, especially if there are no appointed elders and deacons, tend to follow the strongest or most domineering personality. Because there are not recognized shepherds and deacons, nobody really knows who the actual leaders are. Typically, small churches easily become androcentric (male-centered) and whoever happens to show up at scheduled men’s business meetings are designated “leaders” and “decision makers.” Small churches need to get more structured and ministers need to start recognizing giftedness among each and every one of the members. If you see someone as a potential shepherd, let him know and start building him up. If you see certain women who have gifts, encourage them to nurture them and serve more often. Encourage and teach your members how to work together so that nobody is sitting on the sidelines. Working together eventually dismantles and deflates domineering people, because the congregation no longer needs a strong personality to do the work for them.
7. Let no one despise you and be transparent—I am mostly talking to ministers here. If people within a congregation (including elders or deacons) are giving you unfair criticism, remind them that they hired you because they trusted you to lead. Do not allow people to despise you. I am hesitant to offer this advice, but if a person is relentlessly harassing you for the way you lead, offer them to take your job for one week. This is not meant to be sarcastic. Most people have no idea how much ministers of small churches actually do or the types of spiritual problems that they are regularly faced with. Really offer for the criticizer to have people come to them with the kinds of things that you deal with on a daily basis and allow them to come up with the best biblical solution. At very least offer for them to shadow you for a day and ask them for input, or perhaps type up a few case studies and then ask them how they would handle the situations. I close with this passage:
“Command and teach these things. Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. Until I come, devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to exhortation, to teaching. Do not neglect the gift you have, which was given you by prophecy when the council of elders laid their hands on you. Practice these things, immerse yourself in them, so that all may see your progress. Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers” (1 Tim. 4:11-16 ESV, emphasis mine).
Lead on, and may God bless and lead your small church to bear fruit!
(See https://committedtotruth.wordpress.com/2013/04/23/why-the-boston-bombers-succeeded/, an analysis by Stratfor, reprinted with permission in my previous post).
Yes, they succeeded.
In spite of the facts that only three deaths occurred, one of the bombers is dead and the other is in custody (and talking), they succeeded.
- They succeeded in grabbing the non-stop attention of the American (and world) media for several days.
- They succeeded in drawing hundreds (thousands?) of law-enforcement officers into the hunt for them.
- They succeeded in causing other cities to heighten security measures.
- They succeeded in making people more fearful for their safety.
- They also likely succeeded in demonstrating that lone-wolf terrorists who are willing to execute “small” attacks can likely pull them off.
- They also demonstrated that it is possible for lone-wolf terrorists to create and place bombs – and quite possibly (with better post explosion planning) escape to safety in a foreign terrorist haven.
In short, they succeeded in all of their aims except one – getting away with it.
What can we learn from this from a Christian perspective?
The prophets are abundantly clear that God can use evil people to carry out His purposes. For example, in speaking of Assyria’s destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel, Isaiah said:
Ah, Assyria, the rod of my anger; the staff in their hands is my fury! (6) Against a godless nation I send him and against the people of my wrath I command him, to take spoil and seize plunder, and to tread them down like the mire of the streets. (7) But he does not so intend, and his heart does not so think; but it is in his heart to destroy, and to cut off nations not a few; (8) for he says: “Are not my commanders all kings? (9) Is not Calno like Carchemish? Is not Hamath like Arpad? Is not Samaria like Damascus?(10) As my hand has reached to the kingdoms of the idols, whose carved images were greater than those of Jerusalem and Samaria, (11) shall I not do to Jerusalem and her idols as I have done to Samaria and her images?”
(12) When the Lord has finished all his work on Mount Zion and on Jerusalem, he will punish the speech of the arrogant heart of the king of Assyria and the boastful look in his eyes. (Isaiah 10:5-12, ESV)
Indeed, you can read of how God punished this arrogant king whom He used to bring Israel into captivity by reading Isaiah, chapters 36 & 37.
Yet, he used evil nations to punish his own people, as Habakkuk (in 1:13) asks, “Why do you idly look at traitors and remain silent when the wicked swallow up the man more righteous than he?” Habakkuk asked this when God told him what he was doing about Judah’s own wickedness, something that God warned Habakkuk that when He told him, he would not believe it (1:5-11).
Over and over, the prophets tell us that God rules in the affairs of men, that He raises up kingdoms and brings them down. When any nation or civilization gets too wicked, God will bring it to its knees.
What makes us think that our nation and civilization are exempt from God’s judgment?
Repeatedly we have been warned – and we turn to God in prayer. But in a few days or weeks we return to what has become our usual way of ignoring Him – or worse.
We push Him out of our lives – and then wonder where He was when disaster strikes!
Get the book The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future by Jonathan Cahn ($9.99 in paperback or $8.50 at Amazon). It links the details of Isaiah 9:10 to the 9/11/2001 wake-up call to our nation. Of course, Isaiah was talking about Israel’s response to a wake-up call to them (see 2 Kings 15:17-22). They responded by declaring they would rebuild better than before (Isaiah 9:10), only to be scrubbed from existence as a nation a generation (or less) later.
Is that what is in store for our nation?
I pray that it is not. But do not think that we are invincible. We are not. God still rules – and sin is still a reproach to any people. It may be that God will use the Jihadists, evil as they are, to bring us to our knees – if we do not first go to our knees in repentance as a nation and make it more than temporary.
Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded is republished with permission of Stratfor.
Why the Boston Bombers Succeeded
By Scott Stewart
Vice President of Analysis
When seeking to place an attack like the April 15 Boston Marathon bombing into context, it is helpful to classify the actors responsible, if possible. Such a classification can help us understand how an attack fits into the analytical narrative of what is happening and what is likely to come. These classifications will consider factors such as ideology, state sponsorship and perhaps most important, the kind of operative involved.
In a case where we are dealing with an apparent jihadist operative, before we can classify him or her we must first have a clear taxonomy of the jihadist movement. At Stratfor, we generally consider the jihadist movement to be divided into three basic elements: the al Qaeda core organization, the regional jihadist franchises, such as al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, and grassroots operatives who are radicalized, inspired and perhaps equipped by the other two tiers but who are not members of either. Read more »