“New” … Works! (Charles Arn)

Here’s a growth axiom you can take to the bank.  Whether you are pastoring a (large, medium, or small) church…leading a youth group…overseeing a music ministry…or involved with any other aspect of a church in which you believe God desires growth, it is just about guaranteed.  Here it is: New Units = New Growth  It’s a proven principle.  New Sunday school classes attract new people.  New small groups involve new people.  New worship services connect with new people.  New churches reach new people. Why It Works  The most common application of this principle is in starting new groups.  Here is why the strategy of starting new groups is so predictably successful: •  New groups respond to human need.  In long-established groups, members just like to be together.  Relationships have become the primary value.  And that’s good.  But, often such groups lose their outward-focus and no longer contribute to the growth

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Starting the “We-Want-to-Become-a-Multicultural-Church” Conversation, by Kwasi Kena

The question, “How can we get more people to come to our church?” The self-description, “We’re a friendly church”. The next step, call in a church consultant. As a former director of evangelism, I participated in the above series of events on countless occasions. In many cases, the church, a mono-cultural one, sought to reach a more ethnically diverse population.  To get things started, I asked one question, “What do you mean when you say church?” Many people do not realize the vastly different expectations people have for the church. In many ethnic populations, church has historically been the place that advocates with or for them. For example, the Black Church has been the institution from which other benevolent societies were launched: credit unions, insurance companies, burial societies, etc. Prophetic preaching commonly connected the need for social reform and protest against civil injustices with biblical examples of redemption. Woven throughout

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The Value of a Good Story by Colleen Derr

There is nothing quite like a 16-hour car ride to bring people closer together. My husband and I served as house parents for our daughter’s and her six best friends’ senior spring break this past week. The week concluded with a 16-hour car ride home. After a week of constant togetherness you would think these girls would have run out of things to talk about but apparently not. In order to pass the time, they shared stories – personal stories of their own family vacations over the years. The stories were humorous, and we all enjoyed some good laughs together. The stories were also a wonderful distraction during the hours of stopped or nearly stopped traffic. The stories did something more though than offer laughter and a distraction: • The stories provided a context, offering a glimpse into how their families function, what they value, and where they came from.

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Christians at the Movies

This seems to be an unusually thick season of movies of interest for Christians–both positive and negative–at the box office. Son of God has been out for some time now, and there is God s not dead. Noah came out this past week and Heaven is for real is coming. Of these movies, I’ve only seen Noah, although I read the book Heaven is for real. Popular Christian reactions to these sorts of movies seem fairly predictable. We’ve known for some time that Heaven is for real and God is not dead would be popular with a certain Christian demographic. And we knew that many would not like Noah because it deviates in some ways from the biblical narrative. Today I thought I would brainstorm some warnings in this season. 1. Avoid “three wise men” syndrome There is a tendency to assume that we just see the Bible as it is. The more isolated we are in a specific faith

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To Be or Not To Be…A Pastor (Dr. Luchetti)

The call from God to pastoral ministry came on the cusp of my conversion. Wild horses couldn’t keep me from partnering with Christ in doing for others what he had done for me. I said “yes” to the call and (almost) never regretted that decision. Admittedly, some of my ministry motives and expectations were warped and led to disillusionment. The most valuable lessons I’ve learned in ministry have come the hard way. Those lessons come in handy when I’m coaching aspiring pastors who are wrestling with the call. Before exploring reasons to become a pastor, we discuss reasons not to become a pastor. Don’t become a pastor if… -You want your ego stroked. Ministry is perfectly designed for the crucifixion of the ego and if your ego doesn’t get crucified, your ministry will. No matter how eloquently you preach, there will always be sermon snoozers (people who nap during your

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Worship Intersections (Safiyah Fosua)

I invite you to think about worship as a place of intersections.  At the center of the intersection is God, whose majesty and splendor bend us Godward in awe and adoration. Personal worship for some is an attempt to find that intersection, that place where God might be met.  Congregational worship might be likened to a three-way intersection between God, you, and other people.  Just as it is possible to drive the wrong way on a one-way street, it is also possible for us to miss God (and each other) in worship if our worship is not directed Godward. Some scholars remind us that the word worship is a derivative, in some languages, of the word worth.  God is worth-y for reasons too numerous to list in this short article.  Suffice it to say that worship is grounded in the worthiness of God as revealed to us through the personhood

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How long is Lent? A Meditation

What’s the difference between a New Year’s Resolution and a Lenten Fast? As Lent began last week I have been thinking about this question. It seems to me like “What are you giving up for Lent” is often just another round of self-improvement resolutions, starting two months later and failing just as quickly. Is there any difference beyond the religious overtones? What’s the difference between a resolution and a fast? I think a clue lies in the length of Lent: How long is Lent? Go ahead. Answer out loud. If you answered 40, that’s a good start. But it’s the wrong answer. How long is Lent? Go ahead. Answer out loud. It’s not a trick question. Just say a number. Lent is 46 days long. Some of you either already knew the answer, or you thought about it and figured it out. But the number of days between Ash Wednesday

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The Power of Peers (Wayne Schmidt)

Many of us may quote Proverbs 15:22 – “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisors they succeed.”  We know it is a mark of wisdom to seek counsel, yet we may still find to be intimidating to do so! Last week some of our peers came to town to provide “outside eyes” on how effectively Wesley Seminary at IWU is implementing its stated purpose.  While the structure of the visit is somewhat unique to educational entities, I couldn’t help but think how amazing (though challenging) this experience would be in the local church. Those peers formed an “Accreditation Site Visit Team” for the Association of Theological Schools (ATS), another step in the process of adding an additional layer of accreditation to our Seminary.  Their positive recommendation to the Board of Commissioners (who makes the final decision in June) may be part of the reason I feel so

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What sources should I trust?

We live in the information age. The glut of potential sources of information is overwhelming, even if amazingly beautiful. Gone are the days when you have to find a library to read a book. Also gone are the days when you can successfully insulate your children or congregation from ideas you consider to be dangerous. With the internet close at hand, we are forced to become more discerning in how we filter information. Who do we trust? To whom are we going to listen? From person in the congregation to minister, which source is right? So many of them seem so convincing, so confident that everyone else is wrong. Many even demonize those with differing positions on the issues. We are all working out how to deal with this situation, but here are some beginning thoughts on the issue: 1. Faith seeking understanding There is no reason to start from

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Do You Treat Your Church Newcomers Like Cancer Patients? … I Hope So! (Charles Arn)

Date: October 18, 2013  (Friday) Time: 02:35 p.m. Place: California Urology Medical Clinic, Pomona California  “Dr. Arn…your biopsy came back positive.  I’m afraid you have prostate cancer.” I thought he must have been talking to someone else in the room.  But we were alone…and the doctor was looking straight at me. “Are you sure?” was all I could think of to say. “Well, you are certainly welcome to get another opinion. But these biopsies are seldom wrong.” “So, now what?” I asked, which led to a 20-minute conversation about what this newly discovered disease was…how far advanced it might be…and what were the options. To make a long story short, three months after the biopsy report I had an IV in my arm and was being wheeled down the hallway at the City of Hope Medical Center to what would be a 3-hour surgery. (Robotic-assisted laparoscopic radical prostatectomy to be exact.)

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