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Welcoming Guests and First Impressions

The sermon starts in the parking lot, and the impression you make for your guests on Sunday morning during the first 10 minutes will be indelible.

Technology and The Church

Leveraging technology for ministry can be an incredible blessing. But it can also be fraught with problems and pitfalls. Learn how to use technology well.

Vision and Leadership

Our God longs for leaders to request of Him to do that which they cannot. Faith filled vision, leadership and risk are key ingredients for ministry.

Preaching and Communication

You know and understand how challenging it is to communicate. It is hard to get and capture people's attention. Learn how to communicate effectively.

Creativity and Innovation

Being creative means asking the right questions and making new associations. Discover new and creative ideas for your ministry.

Leave Your Lights On This Halloween


reposted from Provocative Church:

I have made it a tradition to republish this post about Halloween from  Tim Challies 

I think that it is important to re-read this post as a reminder to us all as tonight as our communities celebrate Halloween.
I am guessing my neighborhood is all-too-typical in that people typically arrive home from work and immediately drive their cars into the garage. More often than not they do not emerge again until the next morning when they leave for work once more. We are private, reclusive people who delight in our privacy. We rarely see our neighbors and rarely communicate with them. . . . In the six years we have been living in this area, we have never once had a neighbor come to the door to ask for anything. . . .

Yet on Halloween these barriers all come down. I have the opportunity to greet every person in the neighbourhood. I have the opportunity to introduce myself to the family who moved in just down the row a few weeks ago and to greet some other people I have not seen for weeks or months. At the same time, those people's children will come knocking on my door. We have two possible responses. We can turn the lights out and sit inside, seeking to shelter ourselves from the pagan influence of the little Harry Potters, Batmans and ballerinas, or we can greet them, gush over them, and make them feel welcome. We can prove ourselves to be the family who genuinely cares about our neighbours, or we can be the family who shows that we want to interact with them only on our terms. Most of our neighbors know of our faith and of our supposed concern for them. This is a chance to prove our love for them.

The same contributor to the email list concluded his defense of participating in Halloween with these words: "One night does not a neighbor make (and one night does not a pagan make), but Halloween is the one night of the year where the good neighborliness that flows from being in Christ is communicated and reinforced. We are citizens of another Kingdom where The Light is always on."

The truth is that I have several convictions regarding Halloween. I despise the pagan aspects of it. I am convicted that my children should not dress as little devils or ghosts or monsters. But I am also convicted that there could be no worse witness to the neighbours than having a dark house, especially in a neighbourhood like ours which is small and where every person and every home is highly-visible. We know that, if we choose not to participate, the neighbors will notice and will smile knowingly, supposing that we feel too good to participate.

. . . Our door will be open and the light will be on. And we trust that the Light will shine brightly.

My encouragement to you today is to think and pray about this issue. I do not see Halloween as a great evangelistic occasion. I do not foresee it as a time when the people coming to your door are likely to be saved. But I do think it is a time that you can prove to your neighbors that you care about them, that you care about their children, and that you are glad to be in this world and this culture, even if you are not of this world or this culture. Halloween may serve as a bridge to the hearts of those who live around you who so desperately need a Savior.
(ht: Provocative Church)

What Is The Temperature Of America's Theological Health?

Theological Health

from Ligonier Ministry:

The infographic below reflects the results of a survey that has helped to point out common gaps in theological knowledge and awareness. Hopefully this information will help Christians - that we might be more effective in the proclamation, teaching, and defense of the essential truths of the Christian faith.

View the infographic, listen to Dr. R.C. Sproul discuss these findings on Renewing Your Mind, or download the official white paper and survey with key findings.

(to view bigger image click HERE)
Theology Infographic

Why Finding The “Some” Will Satisfy

guest post by Jaclyn Rowe

Just this morning, I was on the phone with a woman almost 700 miles away. As with so many conversations I have with those in ministry, she reluctantly expressed the struggle she and her husband have to not only reach, but also keep people coming to their church and Bible studies.

I can easily relate. As a Bible teacher and lay worker at my home church, it often feels daunting to try and retain people. We are so thrilled when new people come and so discouraged when they don’t come back or when we see people leave. Even though our brains tell us to “trust the Lord, fear not, give thanks and pray” and our mouths may even say the right things, our hearts are still hurt.

In the account of King Hezekiah told in 2 Chronicles 30, the newly crowned king desires to host the Passover feast in Jerusalem. It had been decades since the people had celebrated this important holiday and Hezekiah was seeking to restore the laws of Moses and the decrees of King David in order to get his wicked nation back on track.

First, he reached far. Hezekiah was the king of Judah, the southern kingdom of Israel. At this time in history, God’s people were divided and both the northern and southern kingdoms were a hot mess! The people were violently wicked; they worshiped Baal idols and took no thought for the God of the Bible. Hezekiah had EVERY reason to be discouraged and he had an overwhelming task to do in Judah. It slays me that we see him reach beyond his borders to Israel. Hezekiah was not responsible for the northern kingdom. Yet, he sent invitations for the Passover by messengers, not only throughout his southern kingdom of Judah, but also to the northern kingdom of Israel. His heart was for everyone to have the opportunity to know God.

Second, he ignored the negative. 2 Chronicles 30:10 tells us that as Hezekiah’s messengers went out throughout the land, they were laughed at and mocked.

Can you relate? For example, you just know God has given you this great new outreach idea. No one thinks it will work. Or maybe you start with an excited and enthusiastic bunch for a bible study and then, three weeks in, you have to send fourteen text reminders just to make sure you have enough people coming to justify the meeting. You wonder if it’s even worth the time and effort anymore.

The very next verse is what inspires me. Verse 11 says, “Nevertheless, however, SOME…” Some came. In reality, the “some” snowballed and ended up being a huge sum. Thousands were restored in their relationship with God as they returned to Jerusalem and, ultimately, to the God of their fathers. The entire nation would experience blessing and revival because of the “some” that did come.

What if the messengers had turned around and went home early? What if they had reported back to Hezekiah, “King, everyone is laughing at us and they think we’re crazy. Sorry, but it’s just not worth the humiliation.”

Imagine if Hezekiah would have given up. 

So ask yourself; who does come? Who has God sent for you to disciple, mentor and encourage? Rather than focusing on those who don’t or won’t attend your church or Bible study, praise God for the some who are there. Embrace His timing and trust him to expand your territory as He sees fit. Until then, reach far, ignore the negative and be encouraged.

Jaclyn Rowe is an author and speaker who teaches a weekly Bible class for women ages 18-30 in addition to teaching preschool children through AWANA. A former television talk show host and top ranked speaker for Monster.com, Jaclyn is a sought-after speaker for Bible teaching, as well as personality and etiquette training. Her latest book is a bible study entitled King Hezekiah: Examining a Life of Bold Faith. Visit www.jaclynrowe.com for more information.

Top Ministry Tweets Of The Week

Ministry Twitter
Here are the most popular tweets from the past couple of weeks. Don't forget you can get more helpful, engaging, inspiring and fun content by joining Ministry Best Practices' social media communities.

Twitter - @BestMinistry
Facebook - MinistryBestPractices









Seeing Isn't Always Believing

Walking Water
Recently I re-read this very familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark:
Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well. - Mark 6:45-56 ESV
As you read this account, one thing jumps out at me from the text, vs. 51-52. After the disciples had witnessed the feeding of the 5,000 (found earlier in the chapter) and Jesus walking on the lake in the middle of the storm - they still couldn't understand, who Jesus is. Their hearts were hardened. Isn't that amazing? Jesus did these incredible and miraculous acts, and yet their hearts were still hardened.

I like the way my ESV Study Bible notes address this point:
When Jesus calmed the storm earlier, the disciples had struggled with faith vs. fear (4:40); now, they struggled with faith vs. fear plus hard-heartedness. Mark explains that multiplying the loaves should have demonstrated Jesus' true identity to them (cf. 8:18–21), but neither that miracle nor the appearance of Jesus on the water could open their hearts to the reality of his divine nature.
Witnessing these wonderful miracles and demonstration of Jesus' power, wasn't enough to open their hearts. Seeing isn't always believing. It truly takes a work of the Spirit to open up our hearts to him. He must open our hearts and give us the eyes to truly see Him.

One of my roles in ministry is sending medical teams around the world to bring needed medical care to the underserved along with the gospel of Jesus Christ. During our trips, our team does great works of mercy for those in need. We can love on them with all of our hearts. We can share with them the love of Jesus. Yet none of what we do will be effectual unless the Spirit of God goes before us and is allowed to work in and through us.

Therefore, it is imperative that we rely and trust totally on the power of God to bring life transformation into people's lives.

(artwork, St-Pierre-le-Jeune, Strasbourg. Detail from 14th cent. mural on west interior wall. It's a gothicised version of Giotto's 'Navicella' c1305-1313, Rome. Another example of the account in Matthew 14.23-33)

The Poverty Of Jesus

Jesus Poor
Jesus, the Blessed One, is poor. The poverty of Jesus is much more than an economic or social poverty. Jesus is poor because he freely chose powerlessness over power, vulnerability over defensiveness, dependency over self-sufficiency. As the great “Song of Christ” so beautifully expresses: “He … did not count equality with God something to be grasped. But he emptied himself, … becoming as human beings are” (Philippians 2:6-7). This is the poverty of spirit that Jesus chose to live. 
Jesus calls us who are blessed as he is to live our lives with that same poverty.
- Henri Nouwen - Bread for the Journey: A Daybook of Wisdom and Faith

How To Follow-Up On Failure In Order To Bounce Back

excerpted from 99U:

Creative professionals who practice rapid iteration believe in the mantra of “fail fast, fail often.” And while quickly bouncing back from mistakes is essential to accelerated progress, not adequately reflecting upon failure can prevent complete recovery. Sometimes, deeper reflection is needed.

Founder and CEO of “failure consultancy” Fail Forward, Ashley Good, recommends performing what she calls a “deep-tissue post-mortem” to thoroughly recover from failure:
Our tendency in times of failure is to try to figure out what caused it, fix it as soon as possible and move on. That undermines the depth of learning that’s possible.
Good suggests asking the following questions to get started:
Try to figure out why the failure happened. What assumptions were made? What experiences led to it? That really deepens what you can learn from the experience. Also, listen to other perspectives on what happened. I often bring together different stakeholders in the failure to talk about it. If you bring five people together, you’ll get five different stories about what went wrong.
Don’t just sweep the failures under the rug and move on. Take some time to sufficiently prepare yourself for when you will, inevitably, fail again.

8 Books For Pastors Who Want To Last

Finishing Strong
guest post by David Sanford

Every pastor who still wants to be in the ministry five years from now needs to carefully read eight books. All eight have been game-changers for me.

1. Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box by Arbinger Institute (Berrett-Koehler). This international mainstream best-seller applies what turns out to be the Golden Rule and a few other biblical principles to daily life including marriage, family, work, and ministry. Foundational truth of this book: We all have blindspots. By definition, we can’t identify, let alone address, our blind spots on our own. Instead, we need to invite a few respected, trusted individuals to speak into our lives with love and truth about each blind spot, weakness, and failing.

2. Leadership Above the Line by Sarah Sumner (Tyndale). On the back cover I’m quoted saying: “If you lead leaders, push other books aside—and make this the next one you read. Leadership Above the Line is 60 percent story, 100 percent breakthrough insights on leadership formation. Dr. Sarah Sumner’s character-based model is clear, her story is compelling, and her application tools are transformational. Highly recommended!”

3. The Ascent of a Leader: How Ordinary Relationships Develop Extraordinary Character and Influence by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and Ken McElrath. This best-seller redefined what it means to climb to the top of the ladder. The authors forcefully argue against the traditional leadership ladder and, in its place, present a compelling, biblical, and counterintuitive character-based ladder developed in the context of relationships of respect and trust.

4. TrueFaced: Trust God and Others with Who You Really Are by Bill Thrall, Bruce McNicol and John Lynch. Building on their best-selling breakthrough work, the authors emphasize the pivotal role of trust. Without trust, they argue, we effectively shut out God and others from speaking into our lives—speaking into our character development and the destiny God has planned specifically for you and for me.

5. Free to Disagree: Moving Beyond the Arguments Over Christian Liberty by John Wecks (Kregel). I sometimes jokingly say this book should be titled, Free to Disagree Agreeably. I recommend reading this book together with…

6. One Lord, One Faith by Rex Koivisto. Koivisto’s book differentiates between what the author calls “the core of orthodoxy” over against secondary and tertiary points of doctrine and practice.

Finally, every pastor in the ministry for the long-haul needs to read these two books:

7. Leaders Open Doors by Bill Treasurer (Open Book). I’m from a long line of atheists in Seattle. When I fully dedicated my life to Jesus Christ at age 13, I was disowned. To this day I thank God for my first Christian Education pastor, my first youth pastor, and my first senior pastor. Each opened doors for me and completely changed the trajectory of my life. The senior pastor served God winsomely to his dying day. The other two are still in pastoral ministry, and for good reason. They still know how to open doors for others.

8. The Peacemaker: A Biblical Guide to Resolving Conflict by Ken Sande (Baker). When Ken Sande speaks, I listen. He’s an attorney, a pastor by heart, and a Bible teacher extraordinaire. In this landmark volume, he presents four basic biblical principles for resolving conflict: Glorify God (1 Cor. 10:31). Get the log out of your own eye (Matt. 7:5). Go and show your brother his fault (Matt. 18:15). Go and be reconciled (Matt. 5:24). Bottom line: Ken Sande says that conflict consistently presents us with the opportunity to demonstrate the presence and power of God at work in our lives.

David Sanford serves on the leadership team at Corban University in Salem, Oregon. Among his many publishing credits, David is executive editor of Holy Bible: Mosaic, general editor of Handbook on Thriving as an Adoptive Family, co-author of How to Read Your Bible, and author of If God Disappears: 9 Faith Wreckers and What to Do About Them.


Why We Are At Risk Of Ignoring The Real Source Of Poverty

Poverty Gospel Poor

excerpt from David French:

For many, many years I spent time “in the trenches” reaching out to at-risk youth. At first I was the stereotypical naive idealist. ”All they need is love and a chance,” I thought. Working in mentoring programs, I spent untold hours playing catch, going to little league games, going to parks, and just hanging out with at-risk kids as part of a variety of programs. Seeing ragged clothes, I’d buy new clothes. Hearing that a mother couldn’t pay the light bill, I’d kick in and help. I spent night after night sleeping in homeless shelters, cooking dinners in the evening, pancake breakfasts in the morning, and fixing snack lunches for hard days on the streets.

I can’t remember when I first realized that I was accomplishing nothing of substance. A few car break-ins taught me that some guys saw me as an easy mark. A few pot purchases with the “gas bill money” taught me that others saw me as an ATM. Admonitions to “stay in school” had little appeal compared to drug-fueled orgies for kids as young as fifteen years old. I tried. God knows I tried. But it was all for naught.

Only one thing really worked. The Cross. There are kids today that Nancy and I worked with who are doing well, who are happily married, and who are pillars of their community. What made the difference for them? The Cross. It wasn’t about my words. It wasn’t about my effort. (After all, I tried just as hard or harder with other kids — who are now in prison or “baby-daddies” or both.) The kids who made it heard the Gospel, repented of sin, and were transformed through the renewing work of the Holy Spirit.

It’s trendy now for churches to put less emphasis on the Gospel and more emphasis on service. I’ve even heard Christians almost brag that their outreach efforts don’t include any proselytizing at all. This is tragic. Billions of dollars of “service” won’t change hearts and lives. We know that now. In fact, those very billions may very well numb the human heart to the gravity of its sin.

So, yes, let’s do “more,” but let’s make sure that “more” is aimed at the real source of American poverty — our depravity. (Tweet This)

You can read the whole post here.

I couldn't agree more with David's comments.

I travel around the world with my nonprofit organization. During my travels I go to many developing-world countries in which I encounter a lot of poverty...material poverty. Yet if I just think of poverty merely as a material issue, then I miss the point of true poverty. Poverty is more than not having material possessions (food, shelter, clothes etc..) - it is a relational poverty. Our relationship with others, our world, ourself, and God are fractured and broken. So no matter if I have stuff or don't have stuff, we all are in a condition of poverty.

This is an important understanding to have. Because when I realize that I am poor then the way I approach and relate to others is impacted. We begin to understand that there is a shared humanity and condition of poverty that we experience and share with others - no matter their socio-economic condition, their culture, their language or background. I am a beggar showing another beggar where to find bread - and that bread is the Bread of LIFE!

Therefore when my organization (a Christian medical organization called CMDAtravels the world to help others who are in medical need, we don't just treat people's physical and felt needs - although that is very important and crucial. But, in addition, we also address that person's real need - reconciliation to their creator through the love and sacrifice of Jesus.

For our doctors, and medical professionals, this reflects the philosophy of whole person care. Treating, caring and addressing the needs of the whole person - physical, emotional and spiritual.

We reflect and follow the model of Jesus and his ministry, "...and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal." Luke 9:2 (Tweet This)


Why Has My Congregation Stopped Singing?

stopped singing

guest post by Jennifer Shaw:

As a full-time Christian speaker and musician, I visit many churches of various sizes and denominations each year. I often seem to have the same conversation with frustrated pastors and worship leaders, and even with members of the congregation. It starts with a question like, “Why aren't our people singing in worship anymore?”

I've observed several trends in contemporary worship services that are contributing factors. Here are the top five reasons I give worship pastors about why their congregations may have stopped singing:

1.  Your worship team isn't worshiping. That may seem basic, but you can't lead people in worship if you aren't worshiping yourself. Many times I see teams who are under-trained and overly concerned about making sure they know their notes and words, or they are performing and hoping everyone will notice how great they are. We need to have the right motivation for being up front, and that is to serve others with humility and lead them into a place of worship.

2.  They cannot hit those notes. Most singers are taught to find the best key for them, and many leaders are trying to do radio songs in the radio key. The vast majority of people in a congregation can't hit those notes, so they end up switching octaves constantly which is frustrating and causes people to stop participating. The most comfortable range for most Americans is between middle C and the A above (major sixth). This may not be the best range for you as a worship leader, but we make sacrifices because our goal is to lead others in worship, not just to stay where we're most comfortable or in the key that makes our own voice sound the best.

3.  They feel disconnected or extraneous. Having spent years in the theater, I totally appreciate how much lighting can set an emotional mood, and as a musician, I know that excellent sound is very important. However, church is different from a performance. If lighting or sound is taken to the extreme, it can make your congregation feel as though they are watching a show. Lighting and sound should feel inviting and inclusive, bringing people into this corporate thing we do called worship.

4.  They don't know that song. It may sound silly, but so many churches do brand-new songs with no introduction whatsoever. I've been to many churches where the worship pastor got excited about new music and every piece on the entire worship service was new! This is just discouraging for your congregation because they have no idea what's going on. When I was the music director at our church, our band had over 300 songs in rotation at any given time and introduced new songs often - but you should introduce it first, either by playing it one week as an opening or offertory, or by teaching them the chorus so they can at least join you for part of it.

5.  You broke the mood. Transitions between songs are so important. Try to move on seamlessly, and if you need to change keys and/or tempo between songs which happens often, find a musical segue or give a Scripture or a short prayer thanking God for what you just sang about or are about to sing while your band transitions. Making the worship flow through the entire set allows people to enter worship and stay there.

May we all seek wisdom and vision from God so that we can worship with excellence and lead our people to sing again.

Jennifer Shaw is a Telly Award-winning singer/songwriter, speaker, author, and five-time Billboard Top 40 recording artist. She holds a Masters Degree from the Manhattan School of Music, was a former professor of music at Cedarville University, and served as the music director at her church for over twelve years. She has been privileged to lead worship in congregations on four continents now, and loves bringing people into God's presence. Please visit www.jennifershaw.com.

The Compass & The Clock – Using Your Time Wisely

Compass Clock

guest post by Dr. Nathan Baxter

If you want to be successful and truly experience your full potential in life, you must master your use of time.

Don’t tune me out! This isn’t the same old time management lecture.The starting place for improving your life always begins with the compass, not the clock.

Your compass is your internal navigating system that tells which direction you are going. If your compass is off, or if you’re not paying attention to it, the results can be painful. Leadership is hard, but it’s much harder when you are not sure if you’re headed in the right direction!

So, let’s ask the question: Do you really know where you are going in life and why you want to go there?

A normal life will have seasons of extreme clarity as well as times when life feels a little fuzzy. Sometimes, we can wonder if the work we’re doing is really worth it.

Which season of life are YOU in right now?

2014 is winding down. Will you invest 30 minutes today, thinking about where you want to go next year, and how you are going to get there?  Take a sheet of paper and write down these four questions:

  • WHERE do I want the ministry to be on December 31st, 2014? (Be clear and realistic)
  • WHERE do I want the ministry to be on December 31st, 2015?
  • WHY do I want to get there? (Your personal motivations)
  • HOW will I get there? (Personal milestones and outside help)
I’m looking you in the eye, and asking…   Will you invest some time and start this list right now? (Before you move on to the next email or blog)

As a leader, if you don’t know the answer to these questions, how can others follow? If you don’t lead yourself well, how will you lead others well?

Time keeps on ticking whether you manage it or not.  The real secret is to learn how to do a better job of managing yourself so that you focus your mind and your energies on what matters most.
Reconnect with your compass. Only then can you start using the clock wisely to move toward your God-given potential.


Dr. Nathan Baxter, founder of Lead Self Lead Others, has been leading teams and helping people move their stories forward for over twenty years. Nathan earned his Masters of Divinity Degree with Biblical Languages from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary and a Doctor of Ministry and Leadership Degree from Dallas Theological Seminary. Before starting his Executive Coaching career, he served for 28 years in full time ministry, filling the roles of Youth Pastor, Senior Pastor, and Executive Pastor. www.LeadSelfLeadOthers.com

How To Unleash Your Creative Sparks To Find Fresh Ideas

Creativity




This PBS video below echoes some of the themes we have covered before here at Ministry Best Practices, 

5 Ways To Spark Creativity

Where Are You The Most Creative?

29 Ways To Stay Creative

3 Simple Rules To Help Sustain Creativity

4 Phrases That Will Kill Great Ideas Forever

Ways Your Mother Lied To You About Creativity

As we've said before, creativity isn't about merely finding or discovering something never thought of before, rather it is about making new and fresh associations with what we already know. Watch the video below and be inspired! 

from the video producers:

Creativity has always been essential for our cultural growth, but there are still many misconceptions about this elusive process. 

Not the left-brain/right-brain binary that we've come to believe, being creative is considerably more complex, and requires a nuanced understanding of ourself and others. Being a powerful creative person involves letting go of preconceived notions of what an artist is, and discovering and inventing new processes that yield great ideas. Most importantly, creators must push forward, whether the light bulb illuminates or not.

Verses And Quotes To Inspire You To Be Grateful

Be Grateful



We have a lot to be thankful and grateful for. Yet in the midst of difficulties and problems, we may not find our heart naturally gravitating toward thankfulness. Yet being in a state of thankfulness puts our heart in a place where we are able to recognize and trust God in the middle of our difficulties.

Here are several quotes exhorting us on why gratitude should be the centerpiece of the Christian life.

When it comes to life the critical thing is whether you take things for granted or take them with gratitude. - G.K. Chesterton (Tweet This)

God wants to see prayers that are filled with genuine praise and thanksgiving for what He has done in the past. He wants our hearts to be filled with awe and gratitude for His blessings. He wants us to set up memorials in our hearts testifying to the provisions He has given us. - Michael Youssef

Yes, give thanks for "all things" for, as it has been well said "Our disappointments are but His appointments." - A.W. Pink (Tweet This)

Here are 20 Bible verses reminding us and exhorting us on being thankful and grateful:

1. 1 Thessalonians 5:18 - Give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

2. Psalm 107:1 - Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever! (Tweet This)

3. Ephesians 5:20 - Giving thanks always and for everything to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,

4. Colossians 3:15-17 - And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God. And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

5. James 1:17 - Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.

6. Philippians 4:6 - Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God.

7. 2 Corinthians 9:15 - Thanks be to God for his inexpressible gift! (Tweet This)

8. Psalm 106:1 - Praise the Lord! Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!

9. Psalm 105:1 - Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples!

10. Colossians 3:15 - And let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body. And be thankful.

11. Colossians 4:2  - Continue steadfastly in prayer, being watchful in it with thanksgiving.

12. Psalm 118:1-18 - Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever! Let Israel say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let the house of Aaron say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Let those who fear the Lord say, “His steadfast love endures forever.” Out of my distress I called on the Lord; the Lord answered me and set me free. …

13. Psalm 20:4 - May he grant you your heart’s desire and fulfill all your plans! (Tweet This)

14. Psalm 30:12 - That my glory may sing your praise and not be silent. O Lord my God, I will give thanks to you forever!

15. Colossians 3:17 - And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

16. Romans 1:21 - For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.

17. Psalm 100:4 - Enter his gates with thanksgiving, and his courts with praise! Give thanks to him; bless his name!

18. Isaiah 12:4-5 - And you will say in that day: “Give thanks to the Lord, call upon his name, make known his deeds among the peoples, proclaim that his name is exalted. “Sing praises to the Lord, for he has done gloriously; let this be made known in all the earth.

19. 1 Chronicles 29:13 - And now we thank you, our God, and praise your glorious name. (Tweet This)

20. Philemon 1:4 - I thank my God always when I remember you in my prayers. (Tweet This)

And here is another reminder on just how blessed many of us are - reminding us always to be thankful.

Thankful Infographic

The American Church Is Facing A Herculean Challenge

Bible





The Herculean challenge for the church is unchurched America. They pray, own Bibles and are 'spiritual' but nearly half still see no value in attending church. 

excerpted from Christian Today:

New research by the Barna group paints an interesting picture of those who are aware of the church and even think positively of the Christian faith, but who, for whatever reason, feel that actively being a part of church is not for them.

'Churchless' is the title of Barna's latest research into understanding today's unchurched and how to connect with them.

The research reveals that the number of churchless Americans has risen sharply since the early 1990s, when only around two out of 10 adults were churchless.

That figure rose to three in 10 in the early 2000s and today now stands at nearly half the adult population (49 per cent).

Those who do not currently have never attended church make up 10 per cent of the population but a far higher figure is the de-churched - those who were once active in church but are no longer - who make up exactly a third of American adults.

Eight per cent of the population are "minimally churched" - they attend church "infrequently and unpredictably".

"Not too many years ago, church attendance and basic Bible literacy were the cultural norm. Being a Christian didn't feel like swimming against the cultural current. But now?" said Barna.
"Churchless confirms that the world has, indeed, altered in significant ways during the last few decades. It's not just your imagination."
In total, there are around 156 million adults and children in the US who are churchles, with more than half of those born between 1984 and 2002 being unchurched, compared to just a third of those born before 1946.

And Barna warns that much of what is reported as "church growth" is actually little more than "transfer growth", where people just change from one church to another, and not from non-Christian to Christ-follower.
"If churches hope to grow by discipling new believers, we must improve our ability to attract those who are intentionally avoiding a connection with the church," said Barna.
The younger the person is, the more likely it is they have never been to church and are 'post-Christian' - lack any Christian identity, belief and practice.

But the door hasn't been completely shut, with two in three unchurched Americans describing themselves as spiritual, and six in ten churchless adults saying they prayed in the last week.
"The truth is, most of them are already looking for a connection with God," Barna said.
Three-quarters of unchurched Americans say they own a Bible and two-thirds said they tried to grow spiritually in the past month by talking about faith with friends and family, or by watching religious TV programming.

The research reveals the scale of the challenge facing the church, as 99 per cent of the unchurched said they were aware of Christianity and over two-thirds (69 per cent) said they had a favorable view of the faith. And yet nearly half also said they see no value in personally attending church.

The Most Important Question To Ask During Conflict

Conflict With Friends
"When you write a very angry letter to a friend who has hurt you deeply, don’t send it! Let the letter sit on your table for a few days and read it over a number of times. Then ask yourself: “Will this letter bring life to me and my friend? Will it bring healing, will it bring a blessing?” You don’t have to ignore the fact that you are deeply hurt. You don’t have to hide from your friend that you feel offended. But you can respond in a way that makes healing and forgiveness possible and opens the door for new life. Rewrite the letter if you think it does not bring life, and send it with a prayer for your friend.”
 – Henri Nouwen

Great advice from Henri Nouwen. Friends are a tremendous gift from God and yet real friends will at times offend and wound us (and let us not forget that we will wound them too). So although it is important to bring truth as you confront and address that friend, it is also equally important to bring grace too.

Email and texting has made it too easy to send out, at light speed, angry and thoughtless words. Take time. Sit prayerfully on your words and don't forget to ask the question, Will what I am about to say bring life to me and my friend?

8 Social Media Trends Church Leaders Can't Ignore


Below are 8 social media trends moving within the church. These trends show how church members are using social media to proclaim Christ, grow in their faith and even deal with church conflicts.

from Thom Rainer:

  1. More church members use social media to encourage others in their churches. These words of encouragement are typically directed toward pastors and church staff. The good news is that these tweets and posts seem to be more frequent and pervasive.
  2. Church members increasingly use social media to point others to interesting articles related to Christianity and church life. Indeed, I am encouraged to see many such visits to my blog and to other sites that include information on faith and church life.
  3. Though in the minority, an increasing number of church members use social media to attack and criticize church leaders. I recently read a scathing attack on a pastor. It was filled with venom and vitriol.
  4. More non-Christians are viewing such attacks as normative for Christians. They thus have no desire to associate with Christians or come to our churches. I have heard from many of these non-Christians myself.
  5. A number of church members are using social media wisely to share the gospel. I have been greatly encouraged to read many tweets and posts that point readers to articulate and loving presentations of the gospel. May their numbers increase!
  6. Church members are using social media with increasing frequency to share prayer requests. On more than one occasion, I have seen a prayer request spread virally. It is very encouraging to see the power of prayer on this modern medium.
  7. Some church members use social media as means to share activities and ministries in the church. Indeed, social media has become one of the primary forums to invite others to the church by letting people know what is taking place in the congregations.
  8. While the use of social media by church members is overwhelmingly positive, the toxic users of these forums still get an inordinate amount of attention. It’s the “car accident syndrome.” Traffic slows down to see the havoc created by the accident.
Your thoughts? Are you seeing similar trends and usage within your church and among your members?

Following Jesus Is Not For Wimps

Wimp
When I travel down to central Florida to visit family, I find myself in the heart and epicenter of the retired world. During one visit while browsing in a local shop I saw a funny and clever t-shirt that said, "Getting Old Ain't For Wimps".  And while that sentiment may be true, I think that it is even more certain to say that "following Jesus" ain't for wimps either.

You don't have to be a Christian too long to know that being a follower of Jesus isn't easy.
It's messy
It challenges us
It provokes us
It is not always simple
It calls for surrender
It demands that we die - to ourself

G.K. Chesterton wrote this very insightful thought:

“Christianity has not so much been tried and found wanting, as it has been found difficult and left untried.” (Tweet This)

So how do we follow Jesus when it is so hard, difficult and challenging? Contrary to popular practice, the answer to following Jesus isn't found in trying harder, gritting your teeth and striving. 

Rather following Jesus is simply about relationship and rest.  It is about leaning into Him and resting in Him with complete surrender and trust. It is about knowing the truth and efficacy of the gospel when it says that in Jesus we are found completely righteous, accepted and loved.

We are to rest and trust in that reality and truth. This is why I appreciate Jesus' invitation in Matthew 11:28-30:
“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

Internet Facts That Will Astound You

Internet Facts
from Host Advice
Despite thinking most of the World we live in embrace the Internet with many people using it on a daily basis on their mobile phone, tablet, laptop or desktop computer. You will be surprised that out of the 7 billion people who inhabit the Earth just 2.4 billion actually use the Internet. What’s even more jaw-dropping is that 1.7 billion of the Internet’s users come from Asia, which shows that they have positively adopted this technology.  
So what do we use the Internet for? Well it’s no second guessing that social media tends to be up there at the top and every 60 seconds 72 hours of YouTube video is being uploaded, which really shows you the extent of the YouTube platform as it continue to grows. Especially if you look at the stat showing over half of the traffic on the Internet is that of media streaming and file sharing. It shows us that people have a lot to share and a lot to see, from family photos to family videos it’s a great way to share previous memories with relatives that live in other countries.
Internet Facts 2014