Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Personal Invitations to Attend Church Still Work!

A recent study by the North American Mission Board (NAMB) and LifeWay Research found that 67 percent of Americans say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. A personal invitation from a friend or neighbor would effectively reach 63 percent.

Nearly two-thirds (63 percent) are willing to receive information about a local congregation or faith community from a family member, and 56 percent are willing to receive such information from a friend or neighbor.

"The primary lesson North American believers should learn from this research is that many of your unchurched friends are ready for an invitation to conversation," said Ed Stetzer, director of LifeWay Research. "Unbelievers next door still need a simple, personal invitation to talk, to be in community and to church. Clearly, relationships are important and work together with marketing."

The survey, commissioned by the Southern Baptist Convention’s North American Mission Board and conducted by LifeWay Research, may be the largest survey ever conducted on Americans’ receptivity to different methods of church invitations. LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources, surveyed more than 15,000 adults in December 2008 using a random, demographically balanced, stratified sample of Americans. NAMB commissioned the research as one of the steps to prepare for "God’s Plan for Sharing," its national evangelism initiative that will launch nationwide in 2010.

The best way to reach people is through friends, family, and neighbors:

The majority of personal invitations are well received. This is another example of statistics screaming for us to be bold in sharing our faith and inviting others to church. This level of receptivity should encourage churches everywhere – our unchurched neighbors are not as set against attending church as we might think. They are just waiting for an invitation, and we are failing them. So swallow your pride, put away your fear, suck it up and invite someone!

(For the full article click here.)

Ten Questions to ask when you attend a conference by Don Whitney

Ten Questions to Ask to Benefit
from a Conference or Special Event

I've had the privilege of attending countless conferences and other special events. Some were primarily inspirational, others were mainly instructive, and many were for the purpose of conducting business, hearing reports, and connecting with people. They usually last from half-a-day to several days in length. Afterward, however—regardless of how much I enjoyed myself or how profitable the experience seemed at the time—I often reflect upon the resources I've devoted to attendance and wonder if I have benefited from the conference/event as much as I could have. Having invested hours or days of my life in this way, I want to know that it's been time well spent. To better ensure good stewardship of the opportunity, I have developed these ten questions.

  1. What's the single most important truth I have learned at this conference/event?

  2. What's the most important thing in my life that will be different or I will attempt to change as a result of attending this conference/event?

  3. What's the next step I should take to incorporate this change into my life?

  4. What's the single most important resource I should acquire at or after this conference/event?

  5. When will I begin to read/listen to/utilize this resource?

  6. Who is one person at this conference/event with whom I should discuss this conference/event?

  7. Who is one person after this conference/event with whom I should discuss something from this conference/event?

  8. Who is the one person at this conference/event I most need to encourage?

  9. Who is someone who has helped to organize or serve at this conference/event who deserves a word of gratitude and would be encouraged to know of the impact of this conference/event in my life?

  10. What's one thing I should pray about for myself and for others as a result of this conference/event?

Copyright © 2009 Donald S. Whitney.

Copyright Disclaimer: All the information contained on the Center for Biblical Spirituality website is copyrighted by Donald S. Whitney. Permission granted to copy this material in its complete text only for not-for-profit use (sharing with a friend, church, school, Bible study, etc.) and including all copyright information. No portion of this website may be sold, distributed, published, edited, altered, changed, broadcast, or commercially exploited without the prior written permission from Donald S. Whitney.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Mark Driscoll responding to Deepak Chopra about Satan

The following video is an excerpt of Nightline's debate from last week about whether Satan exists. Much of this content didn't make the cut for the TV show, which is too bad because Mark Driscoll really does a good job in responding to Deepak Chopra unfounded and illogical claims of what he thinks we believe about Satan. All the segments from this debate are available on YouTube as well as the Nightline web site. The full taping was something like 2 hours, and they cut that to 24 minutes of TV time, so you know a lot got left out.

Clutter-Free Christianity by Dr. Robert Jeffress

Clutter-Free Christianity: What God Really Desires for You, by Dr. Robert Jeffress, addresses the question “When did the Christian life become so complicated?” by showing readers how to partner with God in the process of spiritual transformation by following Christ’s example in forgiveness, obedience, trust, contentment, service and prayer. As worn-out Christians work to reduce the clutter by focusing on the principles of faith, readers will find their spiritual to-do lists shrinking and their love for God increasing. Through solid biblical teaching and practical insights, Dr. Jeffress points readers toward a revitalized faith centered on becoming more like Jesus in action, attitude and affection and helps readers clear away the clutter and reveal the heart of God.


When did the Christian life become so complicated?

Your greatest desire is to please God, but with each passing week, your spiritual to-do list grows longer. As you strive to fulfill a never-ending inventory of requirements for being a godly parent, spouse, voter, employee, and more, you feel increasingly disconnected from the God you’re trying to serve.

It’s time to cut through the clutter and get to the heart of what it means to please God. In this liberating look at the core principles of faith, Dr. Robert Jeffress reveals the truth about what God really wants from you–and what He wants to do for you.

Through solid biblical teaching and practical insights, Dr. Jeffress points you toward a revitalized faith centered on becoming more like Jesus in action, attitude, and affection. You’ll learn how to partner with God in the process of spiritual transformation as you choose to follow Christ in forgiveness, obedience, trust, contentment, service, and prayer.

Through a renewed focus on experiencing the kingdom of God right now, you’ll find your to-do list shrinking and your spiritual life deepening. It all comes with embracing Clutter-Free Christianity.

Includes a Bible study guide for personal growth and group discussion.

Colorado Judge Rules Against Breakaway Church

On Tuesday of this week, El Paso County district judge, Larry E. Schwartz, ruled that the property and assets of Grace Church & St. Stephen's in downtown Colorado Springs were held in trust for the mission and ministry of the Episcopal Church (TEC) and the Denver-based Diocese of Colorado, and ordered the breakaway group to vacate the $17 million property. The Judge has given the church, now known as St. George's Anglican Church, until 5:00 p.m., April 3 to evacuate the premises.

The congregation had continued to meet in the historic Gothic building after a majority vote in March of 2007 severed ties with the Episcopal Church and led to an affiliation with the Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA). Lawsuits which were filed by both sides claiming ownership of the property and assets, led to a month-long trial that was resolved just this week. Rev. Donald Armstrong, who has been Rector at the church for over 21 years, has until May 8 to move out of the parsonage.

According to a statement released by St. George's Anglican Church on Tuesday, "As to the future of our congregation, it's the people and not the building that is at the heart of our life in Christ," Armstrong said. "This decision is one major step out of the ambiguity in which we have lived these past two years and will allow us to more readily refocus on gospel work and service. At the very least, this is an occasion for renewal and recommitment to the essential things of gospel work. Our Plan B is well-developed, exciting and will be announced shortly."

The congregation of about 500 that remained loyal to the Episcopal Church, and had been meeting at First Christian Church in Colorado Springs, will be able to hold services in the building on Palm Sunday, April 5. The new location for services for the Anglican congregation will be announced in the next few days. According to the Colorado Springs Gazette, the breakaway church has about 1,200 members.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Sermon - Revelation 5:1-14 - Worthy is Christ

Today's sermon is posted at WasecaChurch.org (direct link).

Here's a teaser:

One of my favorite pastors is Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, WA makes a statement about human nature that I believe to be true. He says that worship is at the very core of our being. In life all of us are worshipers. By nature we look for something to give our life away to. We generally determine what that thing will be based off of our assessment of value. For some people that is family. For others it hunting. For some it is the newest gadget. Some people worship their work, and others things like alcohol or gambling or drugs. But we all worship something. Whatever you deem most valuable, you will give yourself to in worship. God created us to worship. It is hard wired into every one of us.

I once knew a guy who years ago dropped out of college and quit his job so he could follow the band “The Grateful Dead” as they toured across the country. He sold everything he owned that summer so he could buy a van to live in. (tell more it time allows) And without question, he worshiped that band, he would’ve told you so himself.

Unfortunately we often don’t contemplate what we are worshiping and whether it is worthy. For many people it’s as easy as reading through a handful of their bank statements and glancing at their calendar to find out what they worship.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Mark Driscoll on Nightline debating Deepak Chopra (among others)

I'm stealing the following from Justin Taylor because I was going to post exactly what he has already posted.  Tune in or watch it online!  I watched a 2 minute clip earlier today and it looks very interesting.

Mark Driscoll will be on Nightline tonight, debating the existence of Satan.

But you can already watch the whole show online.

Amy Letinsky was at the event live, took notes, and provided some thoughts.

Mars Hill Pastor Jamie Munson writes 8 Things to Know About Nightline’s Satan Debate.

Church Attendance Unchanged During Recession

While many have speculated that the recent economic downturn would cause a return to God and church, a new study released this week by Gallup shows that church attendance and the importance of religion in our daily lives has not changed over the past year. After conducting over 425,000 interviews since January of 2008, Gallup's research shows that:

  • Sixty-five percent of the population say that religion is important in their daily lives (64% in February 2008).
  • Forty-two percent say they attend church, synagogue or mosque weekly or almost weekly (41% in February 2008).

The study also shows that the percentage of Democrats, Republicans and independents who say they attend church, synagogue or mosque weekly or almost weekly has also remained constant over the past year.

  • Republicans — 55 percent (55% in March 2008).
  • Democrats — 34 percent (34% in March 2008).
  • Independents — 37 percent (37% in March 2008).

Click here to view the complete report.

(HT: FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

The Gospel - God loves you

For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. - 1 Corinthians 1:18 (ESV)

The Good News

What is the Good News?

Well, let's start with what the Good News isn't. It isn't that you can attend church, that you can fit in with a new social group or that you can pride yourself about how good of a person you've become.

The Good News is that God loves you.

Now you might be saying to yourself, "Yeah, sure I knew that. God is love and I'm a pretty good person, sure, good news, great."

But, that's not just it.

The Good News is that God loves you.

Now tell me, what have you done for the Creator of the universe lately? He gave you your life, yet what do you do with it? Do you pursue your career? Do you entertain yourself with media? Do you spend your time eating and drinking and making yourself merry?

But we all know such moderately innocent pursuits do not stop there.

Do you lie? Do you lust? Do you obsess over your money? Do you tolerate the Lord's name to be used as a cuss word? Do you envy what people around you have? Do you yearn for any of your passions above Him?

Do you honor Him with your life?

Take a look at it from His perspective. God is perfect; He created you to be with Him, but how have you received Him? (With indifference) How often have you even thought of your Creator, the all powerful being who loves you? Once a week? Once a month? But we do more than that. We oppose Him. We are daily, hourly committing imperfect acts which we morally smear against God's face. He loves us and we throw Him on the wayside of our lives collectively spitting in the face of the One who created us.

And what must a perfect Creator do to the creation which constantly dishonors Him? He must separate Himself from it. Just as a judge can't harbor a criminal, so too, God can not tolerate rebellion. It must be punished. But...

Here is where we get to that Good News. At the same time that we were collectively spitting in the face of the Creator who loves His spiteful creatures, we have a God who set about to save anyone who would come to Him. This is the greatness of the Good News: "But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us." - Romans 5:8 (ESV)

That is the sweet news of the Gospel: God loves you.

He did not let the relationship of Creator and creature remain broken. Instead He sent His Son Jesus Christ to die for your rebellion and for your sins. He paid the penalty, He paved the way.

So let me urge you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to the God which you have lived your life against. God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might be reconciled.

Repent of your rebellion.

Put your faith in Jesus.

Live your life for the God who loves you.

That is the Good News.

For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that He might BRING US TO GOD.... - 1 Peter 3:18 (ESV)

(Written by Bryan and Caleb at 10:31 Sermon Jams)

Seminaries Impacted by Economic Downturn

According to an article appearing in USA Today last week, the struggling economy is having a serious impact on the nation's seminaries and Bible colleges. Among the 175 "free-standing" institutions in the Association of Theological Schools, 39 percent were "financially stressed," with less than a year's worth of spendable assets. That's up from 26 percent a year earlier.

Several factors have been suggested to explain the current crisis:

  • Enrollments at ATS schools have dropped four percent since 2006.
  • The Association for Biblical Higher Education says enrollments are also down at 60 percent of Bible colleges.
  • Most Bible colleges or seminaries are not supported by large endowments.

"This crisis has precipitated thinking the unthinkable — mergers, selling property, transforming the school, moving the school — all these things are on the horizon," says Anthony Ruger, of Auburn Theological Seminary's Center for the Study of Theological Education.

In response, many schools are cutting programs, salaries, employee benefits and/or staffing levels, and more and more schools are offering Web-based options, including some that allow students to do all coursework online.

According to USA Today, these four schools have closed or will close in the near future:

  • Salt Lake, Utah, Theological Seminary: Closing at the end of the current academic year because of declining donations.
  • Vennard College, University Park, Iowa: Closed after an announcement in November citing low enrollments, rising costs and a mounting operational deficit.
  • Pillsbury Bible College, Owatonna, Minn.: Closed in December; its campus is for sale for $6.9 million.
  • Far North Bible College: This Assemblies of God school in Anchorage, Alaska, closed in December.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Mainline Protestant Clergy Identify as Liberal

Results released from a new survey conducted by Public Religion Research show that a majority of clergy from mainline Protestant denominations are much more likely to identify as liberal than conservative. The Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey is reported as the largest survey of mainline clergy in seven years and the broadest ever in scope.

The research group surveyed senior clergy from the United Methodist Church, Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, American Baptist Churches USA, Presbyterian Church USA, Episcopal Church, United Church of Christ, and Christian Church (Disciples of Christ). Almost half (48%) of all surveyed clergy from these seven largest mainline denominations say they are liberal while 34 percent identify themselves as conservative. Also, 56 percent of mainline clergy identify with or lean toward the Democratic Party, compared to 34 percent of those who affiliate with the Republican Party, results show.

With the exception of United Methodist and American Baptist clergy, a majority of clergy in every denomination identify as liberal. Clergy from United Church of Christ (74%) and the Episcopal Church (66%) are most likely to say they are liberal.

Two-thirds of mainline clergy disagree that "the Bible is the inerrant word of God, both in matters of faith and in historic, geographical, and other secular matters." Only 29 percent of mainline clergy agree with the statement. A majority of clergy in every denomination, except the American Baptist Churches USA, do not believe in the inerrancy of the Bible, with clergy from the Episcopal Church least likely to believe so.

With regard to prioritizing political and social issues, mainline clergy are most likely to say social welfare issues are the most important issues facing the country that the church should address. Only 10 percent say cultural issues, such as abortion and same-sex marriage, are the most important national issues.

Other findings include:

* Fifty-one percent of all mainline clergy support the legality of abortion in all or most cases.
* Sixty-five percent support either same-sex marriage or civil unions.
* Fifty-four percent do not support the teaching of creationism alongside evolution in public school biology classes.
* Forty-three percent disagree that evolution is the best explanation for the origins of life on earth.
* Seventy-eight percent agree that the federal government should do more to solve social problems.

The Mainline Protestant Clergy Voices Survey builds upon earlier studies of mainline clergy in 1989 and 2001. The final data was based on 2,658 respondents. [ChristianPost.com]

Sermon - Titus 2:11-13 - Amazing Grace

http://wasecachurch.org New sermon is posted - Titus 2:11-13 - Amazing Grace

Here's a Taste:

Then verse 12 and 13 come along saying, God’s grace “teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, 13 while we wait for the blessed hope - the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ”

How amazing is that? Not only does God’s grace save us, but if we embrace it, it will empower us to say no to the bad things of this world? That is the freeing power of grace. Through grace we can be set free from the things that haunt our past. Addiction, abuse, neglect, anger, pain, suffering, lying, cheating, stealing, whatever it is, in the grace of Jesus Christ WE CAN BE SET FREE! How many of you believe that? Well you all should! Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty I’m free at last – right? Jesus died to set each and every one of us free. And we have to lean into that grace, and onto that grace to sustain us.

Click here to read the full sermon!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Christians with a Biblical Worldview

In 1995, The Barna Group began asking Americans about their beliefs relating to God, the Bible, Jesus, Heaven and Satan in order to determine the percentage of Americans in general and the percentage of "born again Christians" who have a biblical worldview. For the purposes of the survey, The Barna Group defined a "biblical worldview" as believing that:

  • Absolute moral truth exists.
  • The Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches.
  • Satan is considered to be a real being or force, not merely symbolic.
  • A person cannot earn their way into Heaven by trying to be good or do good works.
  • Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth.
  • God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today.

In the research, anyone who held all of those beliefs was said to have a biblical worldview. The same questions were again asked of a random sampling of Americans in 2000, 2005 and 2008. Barna discovered that the percentage of the general population that has a biblical worldview has remained almost unchanged over the past 13 years. In 1995, 7 percent of the population was found to have a biblical worldview. That number went up to 10 percent in 2000, 11 percent in 2005 and then down to 9 percent in 2008.

Among born again Christians, the results were only slightly more encouraging, with 18 percent having a biblical worldview in 1995, 22 percent in 2000, 21 percent in 2005 and 19 percent in 2008. The survey also found that:

  • Thirty-four percent of all adults believe that moral truth is absolute. Only 46 percent of born again Christians believe in absolute moral truth.
  • Fifty percent of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. Seventy-nine percent of born again Christians believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches.
  • Twenty-seven percent of all adults, and 40 percent of born again Christians, are convinced that Satan is a real being.
  • Forty-seven percent of all born again Christians strongly believe that it is impossible for someone to earn their way into heaven through good behavior.
  • Only sixty-two percent of born again Christians believe that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth.

For further details about the survey visit www.barna.org.

Friday, March 20, 2009

What I Want vs. What God Wants - Steven Furtick

When I want what God wants for the reasons God wants it I’m unbeatable and unstoppable. - Steven Furtick

Pastor's Wife Extends Forgiveness

(via FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Cindy Winters extended forgiveness towards the gunman, Terry Sedlacek, who opened fire in a Maryville, Ill., church, killing her pastor-husband, Fred Winters. She says, "I do not have any hatred, or even hard feelings, towards him. We have been praying for him. One of the first things that my daughter said to me after this happened was, 'You know, I hope that he comes to learn to love Jesus through all of this.' We are not angry at all, and we really firmly believe that he can find hope and forgiveness and peace through this, by coming to know Jesus. And we hope that that happens for him." [CBSNews.com]

Most popular posts since January 1, 2009

Below are the top 15 most frequently visited posts since January 1, 2009. They are organized with the most frequently visited listed first and the number in parenthesis (123) is the number of people who have landed on this blog at that post (usually via a Google search). You can see there is an amazing amount of traffic that lands here because of Mark and Grace Driscoll.

1. (731) Grace Driscoll on the role of women from the book of Ruth
2. (674) Mark and Grace Driscoll take their kids to Australia
3. (574) Mark Driscoll punches John Piper
4. (549) A great article on the effects of porn
5. (476) How to prepare a sermon
6. (386) Pastor James MacDonald announces he has cancer
7. (345) Inauguration Prayer by Rick Warren - Transcript and Video
8. (320) Desperation Band - Counting on God lyrics
9. (269) Pastor Rick Warren Inauguration Prayer Transcript
10. (255) ESV Study Bible - I want one
11. (173) Death by Ministry - burnout
12. (163) Joel Osteen and Anthony Robbins - Twins?
13. (151) Most Liberal and Conservative Cities
14. (128) Sermon - Acts 9:1-9 - Saul's Conversion to Paul
15. (tie 119) Breville Ikon Hemisphere LCD Blender
15. (119) Randy Frazee and Gene Appel are leaving Willow Creek Community Church

Just outside the top 15 are a bunch of posts related to Eagle Brook Church. Over the years, Mark Driscoll and Eagle Brook Church have consistently been the most common reason people land on my blog from a search engine.

Whatever the reason you have landed here though, thanks for stopping in!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Samaritan's Purse Helps New Orleans Rebuild

Samaritan's Purse — an evangelical organization led by Franklin Graham — has purchased property from the state of Louisiana to rebuild homes in the hurricane damaged communities of New Orleans. The homes will be donated to needy families.

The state has begun transferring the properties it bought in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, with the first of thousands waiting to be redeveloped going to Samaritan's Purse. The ministry plans to rebuild five homes initially, and up to 50 eventually, in the Gentilly neighborhood, using donations and volunteer labor, project manager Richard Brown said. They took ownership of the first four last week and plan to close on the fifth this week.

The Times-Picayune of New Orleans reported that, after a ceremonial property closing outside Franklin Avenue Baptist Church in New Orleans on Sunday, city councilwoman Cynthia Hedge-Morrell and officials with the New Orleans Redevelopment Authority and Louisiana Land Trust joined members of the church and Samaritan's Purse as they sang "Victory Is Mine."

Samaritan's Purse plans to provide the new or rebuilt houses mortgage-free, though families would still have to pay for such things as taxes and meet income and other eligibility requirements. Brown said that about 80 applications have already been turned in. [ChristianPost.com via FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing]

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Andy Stanley - Drive-In Conference Session #5 notes

“Casting a Compelling Vision”
Vision casting will always include an element of waking people out of their
apathy. Vision casters rarely bring new information to the table. What they
bring is an impassioned concern about an existing problem. They bring
fresh eyes. –Visioneering

To make your vision stick:
1. State it simply.
-needs to be a sentence long
*Memorable is portable.
-shrink your vision statement down to make it memorable and portable
-you can always expand on it when explaining it to people
NPC – We’re creating a church where unchurched people like to attend
-incomplete is OK
-One Campaign – Make poverty history

2. Cast it convincingly.
-what you do in front of other people
-Nehemiah 2:17-18
*Define the problem.
-your vision is addressing an existing problem
-point to the problem, and make people feel like they need to solve this problem
-What is the problem your vision is designed to solve?
-what would go undone if your organization ceased to exist?
-before we offer solutions, we have to offer people the weight of the problem to be solved
-unchurched people’s problem is disconnection with God, not the church (initially)
*Offer a solution.
-your vision is the solution to a problem
-every successful organization is viewed by its customers as a solution to a problem
*Explain why and why now!
-what is compelling you to act on what you see (the problem)
Position and present your vision as the solution to a problem that must be addressed immediately.

3. Repeat it regularly.

-vision leaks
-new people, people were gone, people forget and are busy with other things
-repeat it every chance we get, you can’t do it enough
-January – people coming back to church, great time to cast vision in first two weeks
-September –when people return to church
-Once a year with a big campaign to recruit volunteers for the next Fall (usually mid-Spring)
-invite them to join you

4. Celebrate it systematically.

-building celebration into the rhythm of the organization
-celebrate doing something that supports the vision
-Baptism – time of celebration with people’s videos
-have times of storytelling – what happened this week/month/day that made you see the

5. Embrace it personally.

-your willingness to embody the vision will have a direct impact on your credibility as a leader
-if they believe you are committed whole-heartedly they will follow you
-when something extraordinary happens you share it
-what can I do, and what can we do as a family do to show we live the vision?

How do I know if it is working? – listen to prayer requests and complaints
-what we pray for is what we are burdened for
-Complaints – people tend to complain about the things closest to them
-some complaints need to be taken seriously, other complaints tell us we need to cast the vision again compellingly

1. Vision has no autopilot.
2. Vision requires constant care and attention.
-vision leaks very easily

FIELD WORK - Session 5
“Casting a Compelling Vision”
“Vision casting will always include an element of waking people out of
their apathy. Vision casters rarely bring new information to the table. What
they bring is an impassioned concern about an existing problem. They
bring fresh eyes.” –Visioneering

1. What is your current vision statement?

2. Andy said, “Before we offer a solution, we have to help people
understand the weight of the problem we are attempting to
solve.” In the formation of your vision statement, these three
questions need to be answered first.
*What is the problem you are trying to solve?
*What is the solution to your problem?
*Why is now the time to solve the problem, and why are
you the one to solve it?

3. Reconstruct your current vision statement to be “memorable.”

4. When are the best times in the rhythm of your organization or cycle
of your church ministry for you to cast vision?

5. Andy said a great filter for determining whether your vision is sticking
is the type of complaints and prayer requests you are getting. Is
your vision sticking based on this filter?

6. How do you celebrate success in your organization?

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

America Is Becoming Less Christian, Less Religious

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

The results of a study, which began in 1990, reveal that the percentage of people in America with no religion is growing, while the percentage of people who call themselves Christian is shrinking. In 1990, 8.2 percent of Americans claimed no religion. In 2008, that number had grown to 15 percent. The category of "no religion" includes atheists, agnostics and those who claim no religious identity. Other findings of the survey were:

* Sixty-nine percent of the population believes in a personal God.
* In 1990, Oregon led the nation in "no religion" (18%), but in 2008 the leader, with 34 percent, was Vermont.
* Fifteen and Eight tenths percent of the population identifies themselves as Baptist, down from 19.3 percent in 1990.
* The percentage of people who call themselves in some way "Christian" has dropped more than 11 percent since 1990. This coincides with an 11 percent increase in those who have no religion or have chosen a non-Christian religion.
* Islam and Eastern religions have had slight growth in the percentage of the population (each under 1%) since 1990.
* The percentage of the population that is part of mainline Protestant denominations has dropped from 18.7 percent in 1990 to 12.9 percent in 2008.

"More than ever before, people are just making up their own stories of who they are. They say, 'I'm everything. I'm nothing. I believe in myself,'" says Barry Kosmin, survey co-author. Kosmin also concluded from the 1990 data that many saw God as a "personal hobby," and that the U.S.A. is "a greenhouse for spiritual sprouts." Today, he says, "religion has become more like a fashion statement, not a deep personal commitment for many."

But the survey also revealed some encouraging trends. The percentage of Americans who identify with non-mainline Protestant denominations has grown slightly over the past 18 years from 2.6 percent to 3.1 percent. Also, Pentecostal and Charismatic denominations, that represented 3.2 percent of the population in 1990, now make up 3.5 percent of the population.

The American Religious Identification Survey was based on 113,000 interviews in 1990, 50,000 in 2001 and 54,000 in 2008. [USAToday.com]

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sermon – Matthew 10:34-39 – Committed to Jesus

My sermon from today is posted at WasecaChurch.org.

Here's a taste:

Let me close today with some final thoughts from verse 39 – “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” This is really everything I have been talking about in a nutshell. In this closing verse we are again reminded by Christ that he doesn’t want part, and he doesn’t even want just the best part. He wants it all. Whatever you have. Your business. Your family. Your friendships. Your fears. Your struggles. Your anger and hatred. When you give it all to him, when you let him be in charge of your whole life, when you lose yourself, then, and only then will you find yourself fully in Christ. He gave it all for you, and that is what we reflect on during this Lenten season, and he asks, will you do the same for me?

Best and worst cities for new jobs this Spring

Forbes.com put the following together.

Best Cities for New Jobs This Spring

Courtesy of Washington State Tourism

1.Yakima, Wash.
Net employment outlook: +21%

Yakima is known for its abundance of apple varieties, and last year's harvest boosted employment. Packing and juice companies that revolve around the apple orchards helped carry that employment through the winter, something that wouldn't happen in a more ordinary year. Yakima also grows hops for beer and ships them around the world.

2. Kennewick, Wash.
Net employment outlook: +19%

Once home to the nation's most Ph.D.'s per capita, Kennewick has an impressive number of engineers and scientists. Pacific Northwest National Lab employs many of them to convert agricultural materials into plastics and biofuels and perform research involving fuel cells. The region's farmland also provides jobs, with workers growing potatoes, corn, asparagus and wheat.

3. Anchorage, Alaska
Net employment outlook: +18%

A high-growth area in Anchorage this year is health care, which has added nearly 2,700 jobs since 2003 and employs close to 15,000 people. Retail is also booming, and although it may seem strange to those in the rest of the country, Anchorage just added its first Target and is soon to get its first Walgreens and Kohl's.

4. Amarillo, Texas
Net employment outlook: +15%

Pantex is one of Amarillo's largest employers, with more than 3,000 workers refurbishing nuclear warheads--the only place in the world where it's done. Beyond that, medical services and food processing are big. The Harrington Medical Center employs 8,000 to 10,000 people, and Blue Cross and Nationwide Insurance are also a presence. California-based Hilmar Cheese recently opened a plant in Amarillo.

5. Sioux Falls, S.D.
Net employment outlook: +14%

Despite recent economic news, financial services are flourishing in Sioux Falls. Citigroup built its headquarters there, and Wells Fargo, HSBC and Premier Bankcard employ close to 3,000 people. In addition to the banks, Avera Health and Sanford employ more than 10,000 people.

Click here for the full list of Best Cities for New Jobs This Spring.

Worst Cities For New Jobs This Spring

© iStockphoto

1. Cape Coral--Ft. Myers, Fla.
Net employment outlook: -16%

The entire state of Florida has taken a hit from the crumbling of its construction and real estate industries. Florida and Arizona were among the first states struck by the housing slump, and they have yet to recover. The state's hospitality industry has also been hit hard since fewer people are taking vacations.

2. San Juan, Puerto Rico
Net employment outlook: -16%

Manufacturing has taken a beating here. Not too long ago Puerto Rico was considered an emerging market for manufacturing since the cost of doing business was inexpensive. Large companies built plants because it was cheaper than in the States. Now Vietnam and the Dominican Republic are cheaper, and manufactures are sending their business there.

3. Port St. Lucie, Fla.
Net employment outlook: -14%

Like so many areas in Florida, Port St. Lucie was hit by the one-two punch of drops in both the hospitality industry and construction.

4. Miami--Fort Lauderdale--Pompano Beach, Fla.
Net employment outlook: -14%

In addition to leisure, hospitality and construction, professional and financial services in this stretch of southeastern Florida have also suffered.

5. Santa Barbara--Santa Maria--Goleta, Calif.
Net employment outlook: -11%

There has been a significant decline in construction in this part of the country. What's more, there has been a reduction in financial activities, which in these parts means mortgage brokers. While many homeowners elsewhere have been refinancing their mortgages to get lower interest rates, homeowners here haven't, probably because so many owe more than their homes are worth and are in foreclosure. Another weak area is durable-goods manufacturing, which was a core industry here and has taken a hit too.

Click here for the full list of Worst Cities for New Jobs This Spring.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Survey Says: Women Are Spiritually Stronger

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

Women are more religious than men on a variety of measures, says new data from the U.S. Religious Landscape Survey, conducted by the Pew Research Center's Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Results from the survey showed that 86 percent of women are affiliated with a religion, compared to 79 percent of men. When the answer to the question, "Do you believe in God or a universal spirit?" was affirmative, survey participants were then asked: "Are you absolutely certain, fairly certain, not too certain, or not at all certain?" Women were absolutely certain of God or a universal spirit (at 77%) and men were 65 percent certain of the same.

Those who believe in God were subsequently asked: "Which comes closest to your view of God? — God is a person with whom people can have a relationship or God is an impersonal Force?" Response showed that 58 percent of the women have belief in a personal God compared to 45 percent of the men.

Further data revealed that 66 percent of women compared to 49 percent of men pray at least daily; 63 percent of women compared to 49 percent of men say religion is very important in their lives; and 44 percent of the women attend worship services at least weekly compared to 34 percent of the men.

Sermon – 1 Peter 2:24 – Why the Cross?

My sermon for today is posted at First Congregational Church of Waseca, MN aka WasecaChurch.org website. If you overslept from Daylight Savings Time change, you missed my cool slides that went with this sermon.

1 Peter 2:21-25 “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. “He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth."

When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.”

Saturday, March 07, 2009

Parents Lean on Self-Reliance

The latest study by LifeWay Research has found that, although most parents say they are trying to improve their parenting skills, few look to the Bible or church for guidance. Furthermore, few say they are familiar with biblical teaching on parenting.

A majority of parents (60%) heavily rely on their own experiences growing up for parenting guidance, but only one-fifth say they receive a lot of guidance from a sacred text, such as the Bible or Koran, the study said. Even fewer parents (15%) look to church as a source of guidance for parenting.

"Parents claim they are trying hard to be better parents, but they are not welcoming outside guidance or advice," said Scott McConnell, associate director of LifeWay Research, the research arm of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention. "The only source of advice that a majority of parents use a lot is their own experience. It's as if parents are collectively reverting to a popular toddler saying 'I will do it myself!'" said McConnell.

Results of the study also found that few (14%) say they are familiar with biblical teaching on parenting. Among Christian parents, those with evangelical beliefs are more familiar than non-evangelical Protestant parents on the Bible's parenting advice, 52 to 27 percent. Only 7 percent of Catholic parents are very familiar with what the Holy Book says about parenting.

Prayer is a more common family activity than religious study, with 53 percent of parents indicating they pray together at least once monthly compared to 31 percent saying they hold religious devotionals or studies together at least monthly.

Overall, 92 percent of parents say they need encouragement, but not many receive it from the Bible or church. Approximately 38 percent of parents who attend religious worship services weekly say they do not receive any encouragement from reading the Bible and 24 percent report not being encouraged from church. Among Christian parents, Catholics (85%) are more likely than Protestants (43%) to not find encouragement in the Bible and are also more likely than Protestants to say that church is not a source of encouragement. [ChristianPost.com]

Friday, March 06, 2009

Technology and the Generation Gap

(from FotF's Pastor's Weekly Briefing)

"Technology is fast becoming the latest driving force behind what is often called the 'generation gap,'" reports The Barna Group in its latest update. "Technology is shaping different experiences and expectations among generations."

While all generations benefit from the advances in technology, Barna found that "each successive generation is adopting and using technology at a significantly greater pace than their predecessors." The reliance on digital tools is exponentially greater among those under age 25. Another characteristic of the younger generations is what Barna calls "gadget lust" — 22 percent say they consider owning the latest technology to be a very high priority in life, compared to 9 percent of those over the age of 25.

Some of the conclusions the researchers made include:

  • Every age segment is becoming dependent on the Internet.
  • The nation's youngest adults (called Mosaics) are light-years ahead in their personal integration of these technologies.
  • All Americans are increasingly dependent on new digital technologies to acquire entertainment, products, content, information and stimulation.
  • Churches have to work hard to keep pace with the way people access and use content, while also instructing churchgoers on the potency of electronic tools and techniques. Only a minority of churchgoing Mosaics and Busters are accessing their congregation's podcasts and Web sites.
  • Many of the same age-old questions about human development and human flourishing are taking on a new dimension. How does technology help or hinder communication and relationships between generations? How does it impact social skills, reading skills, writing skills, etc.? How will it affect tomorrow's workforce? [Barna]

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Use RSS to subscribe to blogs and more!

If you are a regular reader of this blog, I just want to point you to my RSS feed - http://feeds2.feedburner.com/BecauseISaidSo

For those of you who aren’t subscribers yet, I’m about ready to save you a lot of time. How? Let me introduce you to Google Reader. I use it to track updates on close to 50 different websites each day. I get to choose what sites I subscribe to, and Google Reader lets me know whenever any of those sites has new content. No more surfing from site to site. All the content comes automatically to me. This is a huge time saver. If there is nothing new at a site, I don't need to check it, and RSS saves me from doing that. This saves me a ton of time and headache. It allows me to be a better steward of my time.

Ever wondered what this orange icon with the white radio wave-like symbol was all about? That’s an indication that the site you are visiting has an RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feed available. If you have signed up to use Google Reader, you can just click on that button anywhere on the Web and you’ll have the opportunity to subscribe to the content. It’s simple…really simple.

Now, are you ready to give it a test-drive? Let me give you two easy steps to get started.

1. Register for a Google Reader account.

2. Come back to my site and click the

That’s it. Now you know why they call it “really simple syndication.” Here’s the best part, you can also subscribe to other websites using your same Google Reader account.

I've tried other RSS Readers, and have found Google Reader to be my favorite by far. If you would like to preview it, Google has created a tour just for you - http://www.google.com/help/reader/tour.html

The following video give some good info on Google Reader and how to get started. There are certainly other RSS readers, so don't feel as if you must use Google Reader.

Relevance Church Conference - Eagle Brook Church

Relevance Church Conference
Eagle Brook Church, Lino Lakes, MN
Thursday, May 21
8:30 am-4:45 pm

$65/person (includes lunch, plus great group rates for more than four people)
Featuring Special Guest, Pastor Bill Hybels!
**New website and registration opens March 20. Check eaglebrookchurch.com for emerging details!

Fellow Midwest Church Leaders,

It's hard to believe we're only a couple of short months away from our fifth annual Relevance Church Conference here at Eagle Brook Church. As a senior pastor, I know how important it is to invest my time and resources wisely. So, we've designed our one-day Relevance Conference with you and your team in mind. It's regional. It's a great value. It's practical. And, this year, it's the place to get up close and personal with a leadership mentor to many of us-Pastor Bill Hybels from Willow Creek Community Church! You can even submit your own questions for him here, and he may choose yours to answer at the conference.

This May, the Relevance Conference will be all about...well, relevance. We've been tossing around a phrase here lately that sums it up: "If it's green it's growing, if it's ripe it's rotting." While what is considered to be "relevant" has a pretty short shelf life these days, we'll help you to define for your church, What is relevant? Why is relevance important? How can we achieve it in a variety of ways?

We hope you'll join us for some fresh insights on how to stay rooted to God's truth and produce fresh ministry that truly connects.

Don't miss this friends, it will be worth every second.

See you there,

Bob Merritt
Senior Pastor
Eagle Brook Church

Listen to what Pastor Bob Merritt has to say about Relevance '09!

Eagle Brook Church | Office: 7015 20th Ave., Centerville, MN 55038
(651) 429-9227 | www.eaglebrookchurch.com

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Andy Stanley on Spiritual Growth

Below are the notes from this morning's Drive-In Conference session led by Andy Stanley of North Point Community Church in Alpharetta, GA (suburb of Atlanta). Most of the notes were provided by the conference, some of the notes are my own. This was a great session, with a bunch of great reminders. I don't know that Andy covered a lot of new territory, but he definately challenged me to spend more time thinking on a lot of these things. Plus, Andy Stanley could read the phone book out loud and I'd probably listen, he's that good.

Drive-In Conference – Session 4
“Programming for Spiritual Growth”

1. Your discipleship model is perfectly designed to produce the results you are getting.
2. Developing a relevant discipleship model begins with embracing an accurate understanding of spiritual maturity.

I. A spiritually mature person is one who lives as if God is who He says He is and will do all He has promised to do.
A. A spiritually mature person is one who has big faith. Matt 8/Mark 7/Luke 6
B. Spiritual development is faith development.
Question: What fuels the development of faith? What are the ingredients that when stirred together, result in greater confidence in the person and promises of God?

Practical Teaching
Providential Relationships
Private Disciplines
Personal Ministry
Pivotal Circumstances

II. Five things God uses to grow our faith.

A. Practical Teaching
-people talk about the first time they experienced practical teaching
1. Faith Factor: When my obedience intersects with God’s faithfulness, my faith grows.
-the first time you tried to do something the Bible said to do, and you saw God bless it, you
said wow, God is working and it added to your faith.
2. This is why…
• We create sermon series around felt needs.
• We end every message with a specific application, and at times, homework.
• We have identified a handful of key principles for each
age group that we come back to over and over.
-what do children need to know and do, middle schoolers, high school, married couples etc.
3. Questions:
• Do people know what to do with what you have taught?
-we don’t want people to just know things, need to act
• Is your content helpful or just true?

B. Providential Relationships
1. Faith Factor: When we see God’s faithfulness in someone else’s life, it is easier to trust Him with ours.
2. We have all seen what happens to people’s faith when they get disconnected from the community of faith.
-this causes their faith to shrink
-you can’t force or manufacture a providential relationship
3. This is why…
• We keep children and students with the same small group
leader for several years.
-Not a big deal for real young kids, but really important starting in middle school
• Our adult small groups are closed and stay together for up
to two years.
• We don’t assign adults to a small group.
4. Questions
• Does your ministry strategy make it easy for people to connect relationally?
-sitting in a row listening to a message does not connect people relationally
• Does your programming conflict with the development of relationships?
• Where does community happen?

C. Private Disciplines
1. Faith Factor: When God speaks to us through His word or answers a specific prayer, or blesses our generosity, our faith is strengthened.
2. This is why…
•We give children an application card each week.
-what they can do on their own to develop a personal devotional life
•Students do a study every year that emphasizes the importance of personal devotions.
•We pass out memory verse cards that coincide with our sermon series.
•Our Starting Point material teaches participants how to read the Bible.
-teach people on how to read the Bible for themselves
3. Questions
•Where do you teach people how to read the Bible?
•When are children and students taught the value of spiritual disciplines?
•How is this value reinforced in your system?
-is the development of spiritual disciplines built into the rhythm of your church?

D. Personal Ministry
1. Faith Factor: Serving others forces us to be consciously dependent on God, and thus our faith is strengthened.
2. This is why…
•We encourage participation on a Strategic Service Team.
-This isn’t just about serving other people, but includes God working in your heart too
•We provide dozens of short-term missions opportunities.
•We give students an opportunity to volunteer on Sunday mornings through Student Impact.
•We opt not to host adult small groups on campus on Sunday mornings.
•We allow unbelievers to serve.
-not in all ministries, but having places for them to plug in where they can experience life
change in the midst of Christians
3. Questions
•Is it easy for members, non-members, and non-believers to serve in your organization?
•What could you do to make it easier and more rewarding?
•Do your teaching environments compete with your service environments?

E. Pivotal Circumstances
1. Faith Factor: Pivotal circumstances test, and therefore strengthen, our confidence in God.
-can I trust God in this difficult time? In this transition? Etc.
2. Jesus sent his disciples into difficult circumstances to develop their faith.
-Lazarus’ death taught the disciples about faith in God.
3. This is why…
•We show baptism videos in the worship service.
•We provide mentoring for engaged couples.
•Our community groups are closed and stay together for up to two years.
•We keep children and students with the same small group leader for several years.
4. Questions
•Where do you celebrate stories of faith?
-overcoming obstacles, where God is working
•Are your people connected relationally in such a way as to insure that someone will be there for them when life becomes less predictable?
•Where do people go who need someone to help them navigate a crisis?

How does your church fit your community?

Ben Arment shares a great set of questions many churches should be asking of themselves.

  1. What kind of people want to come to our church?
  2. What ministries are thriving with very little effort?
  3. What kind of people serve the most?
  4. Who is most invested in our church right now?
  5. What kind of people do our hearts beat for?
  6. Who is NOT coming to our church? Why?
  7. What kind of people have come to Christ at our church?
  8. Who are we uniquely positioned to reach?
  9. Who is not being reached by other churches in our area?
  10. Who are the "connectors" in our church? Who can they reach?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Andy Stanley on his Philosophy of Preaching

Ed Stetzer is running a series of posts that I believe will be must read content for any pastor wanting to increase their competency in preparing sermons.  Below is just a snippet from Ed's post today, go to his website to check it all out!

Andy's Philosophy of Preaching

Question: What is your philosophy of communication/preaching?

Andy: Preaching on Sunday mornings is such a simple thing and by complicating it, I think we all do ourselves and the audience a disservice. It is very simple. Here is the model: Make people feel like they need an answer to a question. Then take them to God's Word to answer the question. And tell them why it is important to do what we just talked about. And then you close by saying, "Wouldn't it be great if everybody did that?" And that's it. It is a journey. You take people from somewhere to somewhere.

And that's why preaching by points is a terrible model. Because points are not a journey. Points are points. But communication is: Here we all are. We all have a common need or desire. We all have something in common, and I am going to stay here until I make you feel the need to have it resolved. And then I am going to open God's Word and resolve it. And I am going to take that and tell you what you need to do specifically. And then I am going to take a minute and talk about what the world would be like, how much better off we would all be, if we would all do what the Scriptures say. It is really that simple.

U2 - No Line On the Horizon - New Album $3.99 today!

Over the years I have grown in my liking of U2's music.  I listened to them starting in High School (The Joshua Tree and Rattle and Hum), and then a bit more in college (Achtung Baby and Zooropa), but it was only a select few albums.  Zooropa kinda turned me off of their music when it went a direction that I didn't enjoy as much.  Then about 2 years ago I started listening to them again (or perhaps a bit more) and have since added a few more albums to my collection - War, How to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb, and U218 Singles. Today I added U2's newest album at a great price and so can you!

So here you go. This is U2’s newest album, No Line On the Horizon, and you get to listen to it free thanks to lala.com.

If you would like to purchase the album, I bought it on Amazon where it’s only $3.99 today.