Monday, March 2, 2015

Communicating With the Next Generation

Learning to communicate with the next generation is a challenge for those of us who are over 40. Is it better to tweet than to email? Is it better to use a text than a tweet? Is a podcast better than a blog? Does an effective power point communicate better than a video? When we have a face to face meeting, do we meet at Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts? Regardless of how we communicate, we must be conscious of avoiding the “I versus you” syndrome in our communication.


I recall participating in a discussion group at a church where we were studying a passage of Scripture that had some strong words that are sometimes difficult to apply to our lives. The leader of the group shared stories of his own journey of faith, which were very moving. However, as the discussion wore on, I noticed that most of his comments began with statements like, “I did this and you need to do it too,” “I stopped this behavior, and you need to stop this behavior too,” and “You need to change the way you think, feel, and act and become like me because I have overcome these problems.” The leader, perhaps unintentionally, seemed to imply that he had all the answers and had everything about this particular issue ļ¬gured out. After a while, his moving stories started to sound more like arrogance than empathy.

It also became clear that the leader assumed the people in the discussion group could not live right until they changed their behavior to be more like his. While his story was powerful, several of us in the group thought of half a dozen other ways people might apply that Scripture to life and produce positive change. Not everyone would take the exact same journey that this well meaning fellow had taken. By the end of the evening, we found it difficult to get past the constant “I versus you” statements.
When communicating with young people, it is important to share the stories of our own spiritual journey, but we must avoid the I versus you style of sharing. That type of sharing sounds arrogant and condescending to the next generation. We must learn to use "we and us" statements instead of "I and you" statements.
Using we and us statements helps everyone feel as if the person communicating is part of the group instead of above the group. This does not mean that we can not talk about difficult issues; it just means that we should not create an “I versus you” environment in the process. Because young people will perceive this type of environment as being judgmental, they are unlikely to want to engage in a second dose of hearing how great Christians think we are. Retraining ourselves to use we and us statements instead of I and you statements can be quite a challenge.
The following might be an example of a less-effective statement:
“If you continue in your addiction, you will never have a happy life. I trusted Christ, and it helped me overcome my addiction. I have been happier ever since. If you trust Christ, He will help you overcome your addiction, and you will be happier too.”
Though every word of the preceding statement may be technically accurate, it sets the speaker up as "better" than the "hearer" and to many people that is arrogant, and therefore, a less effective style of communication.
An example of a more-effective statement might be the following:
“Many of us have struggled with various addictions in our lives. We know what it is like to overcome such addictions, and we know what it is like to give in to those addictions. But as we have learned to turn from our sin and trust in Christ, we have found new strength to overcome our addictions. Let us encourage one another in our struggles and use the power of our faith in Christ to help one another overcome the addictions all of us battle.”
That type of statement expresses the need to turn away from negative behavior but does not put the speaker above the group. To the contrary, it puts the speaker and the listener on common ground. The next generation responds much better to this type of inclusive statement than to one with an I versus you perspective.
Whether we are posting a message on Facebook, sending a tweet, text or email, making a podcast, posting a Vine or Snapchat or writing a blog, we must retrain ourselves to use we and us statements instead of I and you statements. Though it may be a challenge for those of us over 40, it is a challenge worth engaging in if we hope to communicate well with the next generation.







Adapted from Dr. Dorsett’s book, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church, published by CrossBooks, a division of Lifeway Christian Resources.

Friday, February 27, 2015

How I Came to Have a Genuine Relationship with God

Recently my friend Jay Moore, from the Fellowship of the Cross in Tulsa, Oklahoma, challenged me to post a video of my testimony on the Internet. Jay is encouraging ordinary Christians around the nation to do this as a way of helping others understand who Christ is. My testimony is posted in the video below. I pray it is a blessing to someone. For more info about how to have a strong relationship with Christ, go to PeaceWithGod.net


video

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Attitudes about Church - Guest Post by Logan Loveday

I recall a conversation with a friend that was sparked by a blog article I shared. The article discussed how many churches today try relate to millennials and young adults by giving them what they want; not what they need. The author emphasized the need for churches to be authentic and biblical rather than trendy or “current” just to get a crowd. While the article did address the need to reach people, the author argued that churches should not compromise on the need for spiritual maturity.

In my conversation with this friend, I could tell that he agreed with the premise of the article, but focused on all the hypocrisy that he had experienced. He agreed that churches should teach truth and transformation rather than create an atmosphere of moralistic therapeutic deism. My friend obviously spoke from past experiences. In the past my friend experienced a church culture that taught dogmatic principles and ritual lifestyles. When churches began to go in the opposite direction of this “church culture” some embraced being different by means of compromise. Some churches would often surrender theology and biblical truth in order to reach the culture. My friend argued that neither of these approaches are correct and middle ground needs to be found. He believed that something needed to be done, however, his attitude about those incorrect churches was very negative.

Because of the hypocrisy on both sides of the church spectrum, this friend gave up on church altogether and became cynical. He felt that because he had been done wrong he needed to be critical of the Church as a whole. Just because he experienced several bad churches or “church cultures” he assumed no one was “doing it right.” The pain and hurt of incorrect beliefs and methods soon turned to anger and bitterness.

While I agreed with my friend’s thought process, I have a totally different attitude towards church.  See, I grew up with this friend and I experienced some of the same hypocritical teachings and lifestyles, but I have come to a completely different conclusion. My friend’s outlook toward church derives from his poor experiences which result in bitterness and cynicism. Because of the way he was treated or the incorrect manner in which things were done or said, he distanced himself from church. I admit, there were times, when I was younger, in which I struggled with church but by the grace of God I was brought to different conclusion.

Yes, some churches do and say the wrong things. I have had this conversation with many young adults. Many say they were hurt or turned off from church because of their bad experiences. While many teenagers and young adults have cynical attitudes towards those churches for believing, saying or doing the “wrong things,” I was taught to take a different approach towards church. I believe that instead of bashing the Church as a whole or criticizing those “hypocrites,” it is my responsibility as a follower of Christ to be a part of the change.

Many people love to criticize others when mistakes are made or when bad beliefs or methods are expressed. Few people make the choice to help repair or correct the situation. Just like in the comparison of my friend and I, the right attitude must be taken if we want to see positive changes. Bitterness and anger towards someone or something typically results in only more problems. If someone believes that something or someone is wrong, they should help be a part of the change. First, this involves having the right attitude about the situation. If we constantly criticize people or groups when they are wrong, they will probably never want to change. Second, it may require un-teaching an incorrect behavior or belief. Many times people do things wrong because of poor examples or because they simply do not know the truth. Third, changing a situation like this always requires the teaching of correct truth and methodology.

If we believe the goal of the Church is to make disciples, then we need to teach others in word and deed. We cannot fix problems in the Church simply by pulling away and criticizing those who do it wrong. If our attitudes are focused on being more like Christ, then we must help others see the truth and be a part of positive and constructive change. Whenever we are wronged by the Church we can leave and become critical or we can stay and be a part of healthy growth. Remember, all believers are a part of the body of Christ. When one body part does something wrong another body part should not cut itself off assuming that is the solution to the problem. If disagreements arise have the right attitude and help be a part of healthy church growth. 
               



Rev. Loveday is the pastor of Faith Christian Fellowship, which meets on the University of Hartford campus in West Hartford, CT. He also has a blog called All for Christ, where the above post previously appeared. This post is re-posted by permission.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Six Handles to Help Us Distinguish God's Voice - Guest Post by Gary Knighton

Here are some practical handles that I think can help you distinguish the voice of God apart from the voice of self, society, the enemy, and false prophets. This can serve as a frontline checklist to help you recognize the voice of God.


1. The Scriptures  - The voice of God will never contradict what God has already spoken through scripture.

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. -  
 2 Timothy 3:16

2. God’s Peace – When being led by the Spirit of God we receive God’s peace in our decision making.

Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.
Romans 8:5-6

3. Will Jesus be glorified? – When the voice of God is leading you the directives He gives you will glorify and exalt Jesus.

He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.
John 16: 14

4. Will others believers be edified – The voice of God will not only give you directions that will edify you but the instructions He gives will lead to the mutual edification of the saints.

Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification.
Romans 14:19

5. Seek wise and spirit filled counsel – It always important to talk over what you believe or think the Spirit may be saying to you with people more seasoned in the faith.

Where there is no guidance, a people falls, but in an abundance of counselors there is safety.
Proverbs 11:14 ESV

6. Instinctual by way of a continued relationship – The voice of God will become more familiar as your relationship with Jesus grows closer and closer.

 But they will never follow a stranger; in fact, they will run away from him because they do not recognize a stranger’s voice.”
John 10: 5


Helpful Prayer: Each morning pray and ask God to fill you with today’s oil and ask God to quiet and still the voice of enemy, the voice of self, the voice of society and the voice of false prophets around you. Finally, ask God to amplify His voice above the cares of this life and noise of this world.


*(Reading and studying the Bible, praying, journaling and other spiritual disciplines are also vital to strengthening your relationship with God.)

This post was originally posted at Penned Faith and can be found at:
http://garyknighton.blogspot.com/2014/12/six-handles-to-help-you-distinguish.html
It was reposted with the permission of the author.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Using Biblegateway.com for Study - Part 1 - Guest Post by Brendan Ian Kennedy

Many of us have heard of biblegateway.com, an online Bible resource that allows a user to choose from a large variety of English translations quickly and easily. In my experience of using it as a professional biblical scholar I have found a tremendous amount of functionality on it that most casual users have never even thought to look for. Many of these functions could be of great value to bivocational pastors who lack the time and money for serious study with powerful, usually expensive electronic tools. Biblegateway.com offers many of the same benefits as electronic study tools, and it is free!

Biblegateway.com is a free website maintained by HarperCollins Christian Publishing. It
allows users to use quickly what amount to web-based study, accessibility, and personal devotional functions. The study capabilities are most useful for preparation of sermons and lessons. The accessibility functions make the Bible more effective in outreach to those for whom reading is a challenge, and for non-English speakers. The devotional functions enable pastors and others to learn more and better ways of using the Bible for personal spiritual growth. In this post, we will survey some of the very basic study features of the site that will be useful for anyone who wants to study their Bible in more depth, including pastors and Bible study teachers. Subsequent posts will cover more advanced features that will be especially useful for sermon preparation and academic research.

First of all, biblegateway.com offers some very powerful study tools for busy pastors that are free, and can maximize one’s investment of time, if they are used properly. One such tool is the search box. There is a drop-down menu of Bible versions on the top right-hand side of the homepage which may be used to select the version you wish to read. Next to it on the left-hand side is a search box which can be used to look up passages by their chapter and verse reference, but it also may be used as a concordance for whatever version you are using. Simply enter a word or phrase in the box, click “search,” and a list of verses including your search terms will appear.

This concordance function is powerful enough to be useful, but it is not quite exhaustive. A search on “love” using the New International Version turned up 686 occurrences, which included words in which “love” was merely the first component, such as “lovely.” This is not as powerful or precise as my electronic study tool, which found 814 occurrences of “love” in the NIV as either a complete word, or with prefixes or suffixes attached. The program I purchased is better than biblegateway.com for this purpose, but a serious student of the Bible with limited funds should consider whether the investment is worth it when something almost as good is available for free. I have the program because I use it for academic research, not sermon or lesson preparation.

A second basic study feature of biblegateway.com is the parallel button. After you have selected a passage using the search box, a series of brown icons will appear just above and to the right of the text. The fourth one from the left looks like an open book. Click that, and it will divide the viewing area for the text into two columns, with your original version on the left, and a new version that you can choose on the right. You can use the drop-down menu above it to change the version as you desire. You can add up to four columns with parallels on the same screen, for a total of five versions.

You may be asking, “What is the point of reading two translations side-by-side? Isn’t my (ESV/KJV/NIV/whatever my favorite is) good enough?” That is a fair question. It would take another blog post (or several) to answer it completely. In brief, reading translations in parallel helps the reader identify spots where the different teams of scholars who create translations disagree. If you know where the disagreements are, you can begin to think about why they might disagree, and make an informed judgment on which translation is more accurate. Keep in mind that no translation is perfect. God did not breathe out the NASB; he breathed out words in Greek, Hebrew, and Aramaic which are faithfully but imperfectly rendered by the NASB into English. The same could be said for every other legitimate translation of the Scriptures.

The search box with its concordance capability and the parallel button are two basic features of biblegateway.com that are free, easy to use, and can yield great rewards for Bible students at all levels. In the next post we will discuss some more advanced features for even deeper study of the Scriptures. May God bless you as you continue to discover the riches of His Word!

Brendan Ian Kennedy
Ph. D. (cand.), Biblical Studies
Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary

Monday, February 23, 2015

How Propaganda Destroys Our Reasoning Abilities

Joseph Goebbels was one of Adolph Hitler’s closest advisers. He was in charge of the German propaganda program and was known for making powerful speeches even though much of what he said was either completely false or extremely distorted versions of the truth. He famously said “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it.” Some versions of the quote add the phrase “… eventually you will even start believing it yourself.” Though the Nazi regime is long gone, the style of propaganda they promoted is ongoing.

I witnessed this the other day in a fiery discussion on Facebook. A young adult friend posted a meme that supported a conservative viewpoint of a hot cultural topic. Within minutes he was crucified by many of his "open minded tolerant" peers who hold to the opposing viewpoint. As they spewed their hate filled venom at him, they posted one talking point after another that are commonly used by those on the extreme left to push that agenda. But those talking points had no basis in facts. Some of those talking points were completely erroneous, others were simply opinions, but because they have been repeated over and over again, many now consider them facts.

As I read that conversation, I wondered if those posting propaganda points as fact realized how hateful and judgmental they were being to a young man who merely posted a meme. He was trying to make a point in a respectful way; they attacked him without showing respect at all, calling him all sorts of negative things. They were proving that they were the very thing they were accusing him of being. The young man was unwavering though, and refused to knuckle under to their thug like tactics.

Another thing I wondered as I read that comment thread was if they had taken time to consider how false their talking points were if one took the time to think them out fully and look at actual facts. At one point one young lady quipped, "A person cannot help who they love, it is just how he or she was born and we should be accepting and let them act on the feelings of love." She was merely parroting a common talking point used by those who support the liberal viewpoint on the issue. I could not help but wonder if she realized how messed up her logic was on the issue. Take a step back from the rhetoric and think about her response. That kind of thinking would easily lead to justification for far more things than that young lady was considering. She is smart enough to know that, if she had been able to separate the propaganda from the truth. But she has heard that talking point so many times from so many different voices, that it sounded right to her even though it is based on a false premise that a few in our society would accept if fully implemented.


Our culture is struggling to know the difference between truth and falsehood. Like Goebbels so infamously pointed out decades ago, when a piece of propaganda has been repeated so often that everyone accepts it without thinking it through, even those who made up the lie often start believing it.

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Terry Dorsett has been a church planter and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. Find all of his books at:

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Handling Problems Between Sponsoring Churches and Church Plants

In my previous post I shared several tips on how to have healthy relationships between sponsoring churches and new mission churches. In this post I want to discuss what happens when problems arise between the two churches. Things are never as cut and dry as we think they will be so problems between sponsoring churches and their missions is not a matter of "if" but "when." There are always unforeseen issues that pop up or circumstances outside of anyone's control. That is a part of life and definitely part of church planting.

One common conflict is over styles of worship. The mother church may use a more traditional style and the church plant may use something more contemporary, or vice versa. If the two churches come from different cultural backgrounds, that can also exaggerate the difference in worship styles. For example, one situation I am aware of involves a fairly educated, mostly Anglo, congregation sponsoring a church made up mostly of immigrants from Africa. The culture of the people group these Africans come from includes loud music and enthusiastic singing. Regardless of denominational affiliation or theological bent, in their African culture there is a lot of shouting in their worship services and jumping up and down. Imagine how the mostly Anglo, well-educated congregation first reacted to the loud shouting going on in their fellowship hall! The sponsoring church had to accept that worship would look different in their mission than they were used to. And the mission tried as best as they could to keep their exuberance within limits out of respect for the culture of the sponsoring church. In time they grew to deeply appreciate each other's unique worship style, but it was not without some discomfort on both sides, especially in the early months of their relationship. Good communication and mutual respect is the key to overcoming disagreements over worship style.

Another issue that sometimes comes up in church planting is how the two groups handle funds. It is not unusual for the sponsoring church to handle all the money in the beginning of the relationship. But that can become a control issue if the sponsoring church is not willing to let go as the new church becomes more developed. The mother church must be willing to release control as time goes by. Also, if the sponsoring church is providing significant financial support for the new congregation and goes through a time of financial struggle, that will have an adverse reaction on the mission church. For that reason, the new mission should have several other partner churches to help so they are not totally dependent on the mother church for funding. These other partner churches may not be able to help as much as the sponsor, but they can be vital in filling in the gaps. The keys to resolving issues over money are to release control and not to be overly dependent.

When the mission church is sharing a building with the mother church, which is often the case if the new mission is reaching out to a particular language or ethnic group, a whole other set of problems can develop. Who will use the sanctuary when? Can the mission church use the fellowship hall for meals? What about Sunday School rooms? And can both groups use the same crayons, or other supplies, in the Sunday School area or do they need to each have their own set? These may sound like small issues, but over time, they can become a real problem. One way to overcome these issues is to think of the building as being “God’s building” instead of the building of either congregation. That way the mission of evangelism is more prominent in the feelings of each congregation instead of “ownership.”

A less common issue, but definitely one worth discussing, is differences in ecclesiology. If one of the congregations believes in a strong Senior Pastor model and the other believes in a multiple leadership approach (such as elder or deacons), that can also cause challenges. The two groups would have to study the scriptures together and pray together to overcome this. In the end, they may have to agree to disagree, but that is okay so long as each side respects the views of the other.


Church planting is an exciting adventure, but it is not without its pitfalls. Good communication, mutual respect, eliminating an attitude of control, not becoming overly dependent and studying the scriptures together can help sponsor churches overcome issues with their daughter churches.

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Terry Dorsett has been a church planter and author in New England for more than 20 years. He is a happy husband, a proud father and adoring grandfather. He is a cancer survivor and believes that God works powerfully through times of suffering. Find all of his books at: