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:

Monday, February 16, 2015

Building Good Relationships Between Church Plants and Sponsoring Churches

In my role as a church planting missionary, I encourage existing churches to sponsor new churches in nearby communities. The goal is to produce healthy communities of faith in areas underserved by vibrant churches. For this to work out well there must be a meaningful relationship between the sponsoring church and the daughter church. A great way to view this relationship is to use the analogy of parents raising children. Parents provide for and protect their young while teaching them to make good choices and develop into responsible adults. There are always some disagreements along the way, perhaps even strong ones, but when done correctly, it is a beautiful experience for all involved. The same is true in regards to relationships existing churches and daughter churches.

One of the most essential keys to healthy relationships between sponsor churches and their missions is good communication. The pastors of the two groups should meet often for prayer, encouragement, and planning. In many cases this will be weekly, or bi-weekly, especially at first. As time passes, it might shift to monthly, but rarely will a great relationship be maintained with less than that. Though it is possible to do this via phone or Skype when schedules get busy, face to face meetings are always preferred.

In addition to good communication between the leaders, the rest of the congregation must understanding the vision and purpose of the new congregation. This can be done in a variety of ways but often includes the pastor of the new church making presentations to the existing church about the plans, timetables and focus of the new work. It may also include the mission pastor preaching several times in the mother church before starting services in the new church. The goal is for the existing church to be fully committed to the new work.

There are times when the new church will share a facility with an existing church. This is particularly likely when there is a language or cultural group in the same town as the sponsoring church, but for which the sponsoring church is not equipped to reach. For example, if the existing church is Spanish speaking but is concerned about the lack of churches that offer services in Creole, they may start a Haitian congregation and allow it to use their building so that two completely different congregations are utilizing the same facility. When a building is shared, communication becomes even more important. Scheduling of rooms, sharing of the cost of utilities, sharing of volunteers for cleaning the building or having workdays to maintain the building all require good communication between the two congregations. Each group will have to accept some level of inconvenience in order for the other group to be effective, but good communication will allow both bodies to accomplish their mission.

Even when a building is not shared, there will almost certainly be some sharing of finances. Often the sponsoring church provides a significant portion of the new church's income, especially in the first few months. They may even handle the money, keep the books and sign the checks, all depending on the situation and what kind of leaders God brings to the new church. Good communication is needed to work out the logistics of this, but it can be an amazing picture of the body of Christ when diverse people pool their resources for kingdom expansion.

Many church planters say that the most important part of their relationship with their sponsoring church is the friendships forged between the leaders and the members of each congregation. Those friendships often endure long after the new church has become self-sustaining and the formal sponsorship has ended.


Sponsoring a new church is a lot work, but many pastors can attest that it is also a faith growing and vision stretching time in the life of the sponsoring church. If you are interested in sponsoring a church, contact the leadership in your denomination. If your denomination is not involved in church planting, or your church is not connected to a denomination, you can still be involved in church planting by becoming a partner church with someone else’s church plant. Many sponsoring churches are not able to handle everything for their daughter church. That creates room for other churches to help in smaller, but significant ways. As churches work together, new communities of faith are planted and lost people come to faith in Christ. It sounds very much like the New Testament!


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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:

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Sharing Our Testimony With Others

John 1:35-41
35 Again the next day, John was standing with two of his disciples. 36 When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look! The Lamb of God!” 37 The two disciples heard him say this and followed Jesus. 38 When Jesus turned and noticed them following Him, He asked them, “What are you looking for?” They said to Him, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are You staying?” 39 Come and you’ll see, He replied. So they went and saw where He was staying, and they stayed with Him that day. It was about 10 in the morning. 40 Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, was one of the two who heard John and followed Him.41 He first found his own brother Simon and told him, We have found the Messiah! (which means Anointed One), 42 and he brought Simon to Jesus. When Jesus saw him, He said, You are Simon, son of John. You will be called Cephas, which means Rock.

Context:
          John the Baptist was a preacher. John constantly explained who Jesus was to those around him and many of them became followers of Jesus. One of the men, Andrew, immediately began to share his faith with others. Andrew was not a preacher, he was just a guy who had been changed by his faith in Christ and wanted others to experience that blessing too.
          The first person Andrew shared his faith with was his own brother, Simon. Andrew told Simon he had found the Messiah and then brought Simon to Jesus. When Jesus saw Simon He gave him a new name. In that culture a person’s name meant everything. Changing one’s name was rare and normally only happened when a person’s life was so changed that they were no longer the same person they were before. That happened to Peter and he became a powerful preacher and one of the key leaders of the early church.
          Many of us came to faith because a preacher told us about Jesus. We came to understand who Jesus is and committed our lives to following Him. Like Andrew, we have an obligation to share our faith with others, even if we are not preachers. We should start by sharing with those closest to us, including family and close friends. We should want every one of our family and friends to come to faith in Christ. Imagine if one or two of them become powerful leaders in God’s church like Peter did!
          But how do we share our faith with our friends? One way is to share our testimony with them. Our testimony is simply our story of how we came to faith in Christ and what Christ has done in our life.

A testimony has four key parts:
1.     What our lives were like before we became Christians. We do not have to include every detail, because we do not want to glorify sin, but we need to set the stage of our life before Christ.
2.      What caused us to first begin to turn to God. This is not the actual moment when we became Christians, but what caused us to realize our relationship with God was not what it should be.
3.     What were the circumstances of how we received Christ into our lives. This is where we talk about the moment everything clicked in our minds and we personally made a commitment to Christ.
4.     How did our lives have changed as a result. If Christ has really come into our lives, then our lives will be changed in some way. We must share those changes with others.

When we share our testimony, it is often helpful to give a sample prayer our friends could use to accept Jesus if they want to and then invite them to pray and receive Christ. Make sure they understand it is the grace of God that saves themes them, not the specific words of a prayer, so they should not get overly concerned about finding some specific prayer to pray.

What kind of response might we expect from our friends when we give them the opportunity to accept Jesus?
  •       Some will receive Jesus
  •       Some will want to think about it
  •       Some will want to ask questions
  •       Some will reject it


How they respond is between them and God. But it is our job to tell them about Jesus. Are we willing to do it?

----------------------------------------------------------

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:

Monday, February 9, 2015

Overcoming the Holy Huddle – Regaining an Outward Focus

Most churches in America are small, with less than 200 in worship. For generations small churches have effectively cared for the spiritual needs of our families and our communities. Small churches helped focus on what was really important and our communities were stronger because of them. In the past 25 years our culture has changed and suddenly small churches are no longer having the impact they once had. As communities have changed, many small churches have responded by withdrawing from the community and “hiding” in the church building. Though being part of a “holy huddle” might make us feel safer, the community desperately needs the life changing power of the Gospel. When we withdraw from the community because we do not know how to deal with change, it hurts both the church and the community.

In the past, many communities had certain common characteristics. Everyone knew everyone and there were lots of connections through school, church, and community organizations. Many people were related by blood or marriage to a significant portion of the local population. Racial groups often stayed together in certain neighborhoods because it made them feel more comfortable.  Community members knew the unofficial rules of how to get things done, which had a lot to do with who one knew more than paperwork and policies. People were more respectful of religion in general, though not everyone went to church on a regular basis. People spent most of their time with those who had similar  educational levels and economic realities.

But most communities have changed. Though the old stereotypes can still be found, they are not as prominent as they once were. With the advent of technology, people are constantly exposed to other ways of thinking and no longer just accept that what “used to be” is the way things “should be.”

How Does This Impact Small Churches?
      The influx of new ideas is rapidly transforming the mindset in most communities into a more postmodern way of thinking. Postmodernism is the idea that individuals have both the intelligence and the right to decide for themselves what truth is without any objective standards. Because churches typically base truth on the Bible, it often puts churches in conflict with how postmodern people think.
      Postmoderns decide what truth is based on individual experiences and relationships. They do not recognize absolute truth. However, many postmodern people are actually interested in learning about spirituality, they just want to do it on their own terms. To learn more about how to reach postmodern people, consider reading, Mission Possible: Reaching the Next Generation through the Small Church.
      Though we should not give up our biblical values to reach postmoderns, we may have to change some of our man-made traditions in order to break out of our holy huddle. Many churches will struggle with giving up their man-made traditions, but for the sake of the Kingdom, we must. The challenge will be in praying through what is a man-made tradition that we can let go of and what is a biblical mandate which we must retain no matter what.

Five suggestions for How Small Churches Break Out of the Holy Huddle and Impact Changing Communities:
1.     Embrace technology
2.     Embrace bivocationalism and lay ministry
3.     Embrace racial diversity
4.     Use church buildings for more than worship
5.     Get outside the walls of the church into the community

Embrace technology
      Postmodern people are more “virtual” than ever before. That means they often socialize via technology more than in person. Churches must discover how to use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text messaging, blogs, websites and other technological innovations. People no longer look in the “yellow pages.” Many people are less open to a home visit and prefer to connect through technology.
      Embrace technology in public worship services without losing the sacred aspect of church. Merging technology with ancient liturgy appeals to postmoderns, because they like to “experience” different things. This is particularly effective when we explain the meaning behind the rituals. Therefore, invest in a projector and screen and use them when we quote the Lord’s Prayer or sing traditional hymns.

Embrace bivocationalism and lay ministry
      Funding for small churches is going to be diminished in the future for a variety of reasons. Therefore, we must accept the reality of bivocational ministry and lay ministry. Most churches will not be able to afford multiple-staff members. Lay ministers are going to have to fill roles we used to pay people to fill.
      Churches that do not have high levels of commitment might not even be able to afford to pay their pastor a livable wage, therefore he may have to work another job in addition to the church. We may not like using lay ministers or having bivocational pastors, but it is a growing reality in many small churches.
      The great challenge of bivocational ministry is burn out. The key to helping bivocational ministers avoid burn out is to help them learn the art of delegation. Pastors must train lay people to accept the duties that the pastor delegates to them. Consider the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church.

Embrace racial diversity
      Some churches may resist reaching out to people of other races, but this is essential, especially if we want to reach a younger audience. Do not misunderstand, there are places where “ethnic” churches are essential because of language barriers. But the “second generation” will not have those barriers. Postmodern people see no racial barriers and neither should the church.

Use church buildings for more than worship
      Many church buildings only get used one or two days a week. This is not good stewardship of the facility. Many unchurched people see church buildings as the perfect  place for weddings, funerals, family reunions, 50th anniversary receptions, Boy Scout troops, AA meetings, etc., even though those people may not be religious. When churches let the community use their buildings for such things, the public begins to think of it as “their” church. Postmodern people want to “belong” before they “believe.” This does not mean they want to join the church organizationally, it means they want to feel a part of the group relationally. Providing a building and appropriate ceremonies for postmodern people to participate in is very important to helping them feel like they belong. Once they feel like they belong, they are more likely to come to worship.

Get outside the walls of the church into the community
      Practice the faith outside the building that is preached inside through involvement in community organizations and activities that demonstrate compassion to the hungry, homeless and hurting. This is what postmodern people think Christians are supposed to do, yet what so few churches are doing.
      Recover personal evangelism through sharing our own difficulties in life and how our faith gives us hope instead of just giving a religious sales pitch. (Consider My Hope videos from the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.)
      Work hard to let the community know anyone is welcome to attend any church services or activities regardless of religious affiliation or lack thereof.

Our communities are changing rapidly and churches are going to have to adapt to those changes. Those adaptations include:
      Embracing technology
      Embracing bivocationalism and lay ministry
      Embracing racial diversity
      Using church buildings for more than worship
      Getting outside the walls of the church into the community

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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:

Friday, February 6, 2015

Author Interview with Linda Bonney Olin

As my regular readers know, from time to time I interview Christian authors on my blog who I believe have something unique to say to our culture. I met Linda Bonney Olin through an online writer's group I am part of. She has a unique approach to helping people understand what God is trying to say to them. I recently interviewed her and you will find that interview below.

Terry: Linda, in between raising two kids, working outside the home, and helping your husband run a farm, somehow you have found time to serve as a lay speaker in the United Methodist Church and write in a wide variety of genres. What drives you to write and speak?

Linda: I began simply to fill a need. I became certified as a lay speaker in 1997 in order to conduct
worship services when the pastor of my small rural church was away and also to present innovative programs for a bit of variety. I occasionally wrote skits and scripted conversations for my son and his puppet pal. While leading adult Sunday school classes and special programs for my congregation and other local churches, I developed Bible studies, longer dramas, and a little music.

A turning point came in 2007. I prayed my heart’s desire to write something that would have eternal impact, like the wonderful hymns of Charles Wesley and Fanny Crosby. I didn’t ask for fame or fortune, or even publication, but only for the Lord to speak through my writing to someone who needed to hear his message. He agreed, providing I would write according to the Holy Spirit’s daily leading and put his direction ahead of human counsel and my own bright ideas. Who wouldn’t jump at a partnership like that? I retired from my management job and trusted God to meet our financial needs, which was no small leap of faith with the uncertainties of farm income.

Admittedly, I haven’t always been 100% faithful to my end of the bargain, but the Lord graciously prods me back on track when I forget that bit about human counsel and bright ideas. Meanwhile, he has fulfilled his promises many times over, helping me produce hymns, devotions, inspirational poems, Bible studies, blog posts, and a little fiction for publication. A nonfiction how-to book about personal puppet ministry is completed too, waiting for the Holy Spirit to point me to the right publisher. He always guides me to the information I need to carry out his assignments. And I’ve had the pleasure of using that knowledge to help other authors with their book projects too.

Terry: One of the books you wrote is entitled Giving It Up for Lent. It comes as both a workbook and a leader’s guide. I was moved when I read it. Tell us about this particular book.

Linda: That project originated with a weekly supper and study series put on during Lent by several local churches. The idea was to refresh the old tradition of giving something up for Lent, by challenging participants to make significant sacrifices of time, talent, or treasure that would bring glory to God and benefit to others, instead of token “selfish sacrifices” like giving up candy to lose weight. As my church’s representative on the program committee, I wrote and presented the introductory discussion of sacrifices described in the Bible and added the dramatic comedy The Sacrifice Support Group to lighten up the topic a bit.

The play depicts a mixed bag of church characters. In Act One (which ended the first weekly session of the series), they are challenged by their pastor to make those God-serving Lenten sacrifices. Knowing how tough it will be to stick to their sacrificial plans, they form a mutual support group. In Act Two (presented in the final session) they meet to discuss their sacrifice experiences; they all resolve to make their sacrifices an ongoing part of their lives. The play is very simple to put on. In fact, at the original Lenten program I drafted "actors" and handed out scripts during supper; we performed it as Readers Theatre with no rehearsal at all.

The series went over so well that it begged to be shared. I published the drama script of The Sacrifice Support Group as a standalone book and later published Giving It Up for Lent as the full study package.

Terry: Who do you hope will benefit the most from this book and why?

Linda: The obvious answer is church groups who want a fun, potentially life-changing study. More than that, though, the study encourages Christians to adopt spiritual disciplines that glorify God, which is the biggest thing, and do good for our families and communities. The lasting benefit can be enormous, depending on the choices readers make.

Terry: Can you share with us 2-3 key things you hope people will gain from the materials you write?
 
Linda: First, I hope and believe that God will use my work to touch people in ways that have eternal significance. In accordance with my covenant, I leave it up to God what form that significance will take and who will be the target. He might bring a reader to salvation through his revelation of Jesus Christ in my work. He might simply deliver much-needed comfort or a kick in the pants, or anything in between. Some people use my writing in ways I never expected. Non-singers, for instance, meditate on the lyrics and Bible verses in my first book, Songs for the Lord, in their personal devotions, even without the music. Isn’t that cool?

Second, sometimes my dramas touch upon matters that are disputed between Christians of different faith traditions. I hope readers will approach those—and all my work, really—with an attitude of goodwill so they can receive the deeper faith and understanding the Lord has in store for them. For example, not every church observes the season of Lent the way I'm accustomed to. But every Christian can benefit from considering the discipline of sacrifice, whether during the weeks leading up to Christ’s sacrifice on the cross or any other time. So Giving It Up for Lent has value for everyone, and I hope the folks who don’t recognize Lent won’t bypass the book for that reason.

Third, I pray that those who sing my hymns and perform my dramas will be blessed as richly as I have been by the intimate presence of my Holy GhostWriter through "my" words.

Terry: If you could offer one piece of advice to other aspiring Christian writers, what would it be?

Linda: Only one? Ha! I have a whole list!
  1. Follow the Lord’s plan for your writing, just as you do for any other aspect of your life. He knows your unique voice and the audience who needs to hear it.
  2. As the Bible often says, “Fear not!” Do not be intimidated by what other people say “real” writers do, like writing a minimum number of hours every day. And don’t worry that your crummy first efforts will displease God. Do you think he’d prefer you to waste his gifts and ignore his invitation to bless readers on his behalf? Of course not. So pray, sit your behind in the chair, and let the words flow onto paper or keyboard.
  3. Then study the craft of writing, so you can give the Lord and the world a quality product. Unless God’s plan for you included a quill pen that miraculously moves across the paper by itself, be willing to revise and refine your writing and have it edited and proofread.
  4. Join a local writers group where you can read your work to knowledgeable readers. Resolve to cheerfully endure the pain of unfavorable comments (we all get them and they can hurt). Listen to the reader’s point of view, instead of trying to talk her around to your way of thinking. Later, after the adrenaline drains off, consider how her input might make your work stronger. Besides giving me honest critiques and valuable suggestions, my local writers group is a posse of kindred spirits who encourage me when things aren’t going well and rejoice with me in times of victory.
  5. Attend a Christian writers conference. I’ve attended Montrose Christian Writers Conference almost every year since 2007, the last time as a faculty member. The knowledge, the peer support group, and the industry contacts I’ve acquired there are priceless.
  6. If you are itching to write a 300-page tome, fine; but consider cutting your teeth on smaller bites. There are lots of opportunities for short pieces in the Christian market, especially if you are willing to contribute your work for ministry instead of money. Writing short devotions, poems, and hymn texts in between spells of work on a book has helped me develop writing skill, given me the satisfaction of some completed projects, and built my publishing credits in magazines, devotionals, and anthologies.
  7. When rejection letters roll in (I could start an impressive origami collection with mine), do not fall prey to discouragement. Revise the piece, have it edited and proofread if you previously neglected that step, find another publisher whose profile your work fits, make sure you are following the publisher’s writers guidelines, and resubmit. Pray and persevere.
Books and blogs offer a ton more of useful advice for Christian writers.

Terry: Where can people find your books and learn more about you and your work?

Linda: Everyone is invited to my Faith Songs web site at LindaBonneyOlin.com. Besides the book pages, check out all my resources for ministry, music, writing, and more. In the Audio section, you can hear the melodies of the songs in Transformed: 5 Resurrection Dramas and Songs for the Lord.
Or you can go directly to my Author Page onAmazon

And I’m active on Facebook—the only Linda Bonney Olin there. Stop in and say hi.

Terry, thanks very much for inviting me to your blog. I’ve enjoyed your books, and I’m impressed with the frank but respectful conversations you have here.


Terry: Linda, it was great to have you with us on the blog today. I also want my regular readers to know that Linda loves to interact with others about her ideas and writings. So if something she said in this interview sparks an idea, feel free to post it in a comment below and she will do her best to interact with you.