Monday, August 30, 2010

I can only offer Jesus to u

Arthur Fretheim, an Evangelical Covenant pastor who during his career planted six new churches in Minnesota, New Mexico, and Illinois ( the last one when he was 65 years old), said to fellow pastors,

“One thing you learn quickly in church planting is this: All you’ve really got to offer people is Jesus. You don’t have a great choir in the beginning days; you don’t have a youth group; you usually don’t even have a nice building. The only ‘draw’ you’ve got is the Savior. And guess what - that’s enough!”

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Satan’s 2000 A.D. Project

Somewhere in 2000 A.D. some Satanists gathered for a meeting. They finished their meeting and went away but they forgot a document. A believer found that document. Let me read to you what is on that document; so that you will know what is going on.

They titled the Document Satan’s 2000 A.D. Project.


1. Don’t permit them to read their Bible. Interest them in reading anything but the bible. Let them read amusing stories and magazines from our library. Let them read books that are not useful to their spiritual lives. Let us ask ourselves whether they are succeeding or not. Many will buy their newspapers and read it from page to page. Some will even underline the sentences of a newspaper and read the obituaries. But the Bible, no.

2. Push them into becoming lazy about prayers because if you allow them to pray, the spirit of their God will discover our plans and they will overcome us.

3. Let them hate fasting because if they fast they will be strong.

4. Don’t allow them to love one another. Remove sincere love from their midst.

5. Let them hate holiness messages with perfect hatred.

6. Let them criticize one another.

7. Give them freedom in cleverness and lying.

8. Let them know about the return of Jesus Christ, but let them think that there is still time so that they will not be prepared.

9. They must not witness or preach the gospel. Tell those of them who have Television to stay in front of it for hours and hours

10. Ask them to remain poor by forbidding them to tithe and for making them ignorant on removing the wealth of our people.

And Lucifer signed the paper.

Close your eyes and pray like this “Agenda of Satan, you will not prosper in my life in the name of Jesus.”

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pastors must plan for retirement

Pastors and Retirement
by John C. LaRue, Jr.
posted 3/01/1998

Pastors must plan for retirement just like other American workers. But besides social security, what types of retirement plans are pastors actually contributing to? And at what age do most pastors think they'll have enough money saved to retire? Research conducted for Your Church reveals the following information about pastors and retirement.

Social Security: No Longer a Given

According to our research, the typical pastor is 47 years old and about 19 years away from collecting full social security. That benefit may be in jeopardy, however, due to life expectancy increases and a huge group of baby boomers who will start collecting social security in 2012. If the fund comes up short, future benefits may be reduced, the retirement age may go higher, and social security taxes may be raised.

Unlike the average American worker, pastors can opt out of social security. Though our study did not measure how many pastors have chosen this option, we do know that 39 percent of pastors' churches pay the employer part of social security self-employment tax, averaging $3,198 for senior pastors, and $2,109 for solo pastors.

How Much to Save

Social security isn't enough for most pastors to retire on. They should also contribute to a retirement plan. Financial planners recommend saving four to eight times the household's peak annual earnings in order to retire at the same standard of living. Pastors should save the following money for retirement (for planning purposes, these figures should be adjusted for inflation):

Annual Salary Amount to Save

Married, with non-working spouse
$39,180 $155,000 - 310,000

Married, spouse works part-time
$46,320 $185,000 - 370,000

Married, spouse works full-time
$61,690 $250,000 - 500,000

Pensions, IRAs, and Other Plans

About 89 percent of the pastors surveyed are involved with a retirement program. Churches help 7 of 10 (71%) pastors with this by contributing to a pastors' pension plan. Typically, senior pastors receive $4,286 a year, and solo pastors get $3,486 a year.

Sixty-one percent of pastors have a denominational pension. The median value of such programs is $30,000. Graph 3 shows how the value of denominational pensions varies by the base salary and age of pastors.

Such figures show that pastors must rely on more than a denominational pension to maintain their standard of living during retirement. Our survey shows that 59 percent of pastors are contributing to a retirement plan other than a denominational pension. Twenty-one percent contribute to an IRA, 21 percent to a 403(b) plan, and 18 percent to other retirement plans.

In addition, 34 percent of pastors' spouses have a retirement plan.

When to Retire

When asked when they believed they would be financially ready to retire, 46 percent of the pastors who responded said at age 65. About 18 percent thought they'd be able to retire before age 65. About 36 percent said they didn't think they'd be able to retire until after age 65. Seven percent thought they'd have to wait until after age 70.

The Study

In 1996, Your Church mailed 1,200 surveys and 594 were returned, for a response rate of 52 percent. With those samples, results are considered accurate to within plus or minus 4 percent.

John C. LaRue, Jr., is vice president of research and development for Christianity Today International, in Carol Stream, Illinois. He may be reached by e-mail Past Special Reports can be found on the Web at:
Copyright © 1998 by the author or Christianity Today International/Your Church magazine. For reprint information call 630-260-6200 or e-mail

Mar/Apr 1998, Vol.44, No. 2, Page 80

Help your pastor prepare for and transition into retirement

Preparing for Pastor's Retirement

Whether your pastor is 30 or 60 years old, now is the time to begin preparing for your pastor's retirement. It is difficult to intentionally plan for the departure of someone you know and love. But we all know that growing older is part of life. And at some point, your pastor will no longer be able to do the work of pastoral ministry on a full-time basis. So even for members of the clergy, retirement is inevitable.

The most loving and responsible thing you can do is prepare for your pastor's retirement.

Issues With Pastor's Retirement

While everyone faces questions about retirement, pastors have some unique issues that need to be addressed. As you work with your pastor to create a retirement package, consider the following.

When your pastor retires, he will probably have to relocate. In most cases it is not good for either the pastor or the church for the retiring pastor to remain in the area. When a new minister replaces the retiring pastor people in the congregation will have a difficult time transitioning to the new leadership if the previous pastor is still in the area. They will feel conflicted emotionally and think they are betraying the former pastor if they adapt to changes proposed by the new pastor.

Additionally, many pastors occupy the church's parsonage until their retirement. While some people will object to "kicking out" your retiring pastor, he obviously has to move before you can hire a new shepherd. A pastor's retirement package needs to make provision for this inevitability. He may need a severance amount so that he can purchase a new home somewhere else. Or, a church can help him make a downpayment on a house in Florida (or wherever) ten years before he retires.

His health insurance may not go with him. In order to get the least expensive insurance coverage, you may be tempted to purchase health insurance that only covers your pastor while he or she lives in your area. But it's important that you think long-term. Will he be able to take his insurance with him when he retires? If not, he may be forced to remain in the area. His dreams of retiring to the country or moving back to his childhood home may go unfulfilled if he can't find adequate and affordable insurance.

Your pastor's retirement may be complicated by social security. In the United States, a pastor can opt out of social security tax deductions from his salary. As you prepare your pastor's retirement package, make sure you understand the consequences of his decision. If he opts out of social security, your church should still invest the 7 1/2 percent of his income that you would have sent to the IRS. Start some type of pastor's retirement account so that he will have some money when it's time to retire.

Your pastor may not be ready for full retirement. Most pastor's don't want to retire to a little community in Florida and play shuffle board for the rest of their lives. They want to be involved in ministry. But it's possible that their clergy retirement funds won't be sufficient to support anything else. Perhaps you could consider supporting your retiring pastor like a missionary so that he or she can do short-term missions trips, serve as an ambassador for a mission organization, or become a chaplain.

He may be tempted to delay starting a retirement account. Pastors don't get paid a lot - most pastors any way. Generally speaking, though, no matter how small his salary it is essential that he start saving now for retirement.

These are among the most significant issues surrounding your pastor's retirement. The best way to address these issues is to have open and frank conversations with your pastor. But please know two things as you talk with your pastor about retirement.

You may feel hurt or offended when your pastor talks about a life without your church. This is normal. It's kind of like hearing your parents talk about all the fun they'll have after you and your siblings are grown up. This is a good thing - it shows you love and respect your pastor. Don't, however, allow your feelings to cloud your judgement when considering issues of your pastor's retirement.

As hard as it is for you to think about your pastor's retirement, it's even more difficult for him. He or she may even try to avoid talking about retirement. But for his own sake, you need to pursue these conversations.

A Word to Pastors

Pastor, please allow me a moment to speak directly to you about pastor's retirement. I can't imagine the conflicting feelings you must be experiencing as you consider the end of your pastoral ministry. When you transitioned from one church to another earlier in your ministry you had something to draw you forward... something to lead you away from your current location. But as you prepare for retirement, you may not have someplace to be, so to speak. You may not have a deadline to start at a new ministry... nothing forcing you to pack your boxes and move on.

But you know what you need to do for your church. Your congregation is experiencing grief not unlike that of a grieving widow. And prolonging your departure forces your church to extend their grief - like a woman watching the slow decline of her husband's health. She knows that death is coming, but she doesn't know when. You've walked many people through this grieving process. You know how difficult it is for the surviving spouse. Don't do that to the congregation you love - the people you served for years.

I've seen far too many pastors linger beyond their time. They end up damaging the very relationships they spent years building. Don't do that to yourself. Don't do that to the church you love. As hard as it is, when it's time to go, pack your boxes and go.

Pastor's Retirement Conclusion

For some pastors retirement is too far off to think about. For others the thought of leaving ministry is too painful to consider. But eventually, one way or another, your pastor will leave your church. For many, that means retirement. Help your pastor prepare for and transition into retirement. And the best way to do that is to start now by dedicating part of his salary to pastor's retirement.

Prayer Camp 2

Prayer Camp

Thursday, August 19, 2010

contemporary understandings and developments

Course Requirements (Revised)
August 1, 2010

Recommended Readings:

Bob Davies and Lori Rentzel, Coming Out of Homosexuality, Inter-
Varsity Press, 1993.

VanGoethem, Jeff. Living Together, Kregel Publications, Michigan,

Williams, Brian Keith. Ministering Graciously to the Gay and Lesbian
Community, Destiny Image Publishers, 2005.

Halverson, Dean. The Compact Guide to World Religions, Bethany
House Publishers, Minnesota, 1996. (Relevant topics only)

Fraser, Robert. Marketplace Christianity, New Grid Publishing, 2004

Stevens, R. Paul. The Other Six Days, William Eerdmans,. 1999.

Required Readings:

Lutzur, Erwin W. The Truth About Same Sex Marriage, Moody
Publishers, Chicago, 2004.

Stevens, R. Paul. Doing God’s Business, William Eerdmans, 2006.

Tong, Daniel. Chinese Traditions and Beliefs, Genesis, Singapore. 2003

Jack Balswick and Judith Balswick, The Family, Baker Academic, 2008.

(Book report: minimum 900 words for each book. First three books due on first day of class session. Last book (Balswick) due with Final Reflection Paper, see Post-Course assignment).

Pre-course Assignment:

Write a research paper on any area of personal interest to you that directly relates to one of the following subjects: Living Separate Lives and Divorce, or Homosexuality and Same Sex Marriages, or Building Strong Christian Families.

Your research paper must be at least 4,500 words, including footnotes and a bibliography (At least ten books). (Double line spacing; Arial font size 12). Due on the first day of class session.

Post-Course Assignment:

A Reflection Paper in two equal parts:

Part A: Review all course work done and write a synthesis of your learning – your insights, new ideas and thoughts, questions, and the way you have resolved issues personally, things you had to “unlearn”. This is therefore a REFLECTION PAPER of everything you have learned and unlearned in the 5 days in class.

Part B: Explore in depth any single aspect of the issues covered over the five days i.e. Issues on Marriage and Sexuality, Issues on Interfaith Dialogue, Issues on Evangelism in the Marketplace. Among other things, your research should also cover such aspects on the subject as contemporary understandings and developments, theological positions you take, one or two case studies, and how your findings and thoughts may be applied in practical ways in your area of work.

Please note that the subject matter of this Reflection Paper must be different to that of the subject matter of your pre-course research paper.

The Reflection Paper must be at least 15,000 words long. Clarity of writing, comprehensiveness of overview and quality (depth) of insight about issues, will mark excellent work. Include footnotes, references, and quotes, and bibliography. (Single line spacing; Arial font size 12). This Reflection Paper carries 45% of your final total grade. Date due to be announced.

How do we deal with cohabitating couples?

“Facing Challenges In Pastoral Issues”

Doctor of Ministry Degree
Singapore Bible College

8 hours per day, for five days.
15 – 19 November, 2010

Facilitator: Dr Tony Chi, BTh, MA, PhD

Course Outline


In the ministry and enjoying it! Or are you not? Needless to say that there are many issues Pastors face at home, in the church, and in society. Pastoral ministry issues may be for some, the most critical. These can impact their church’s life as well as take a heavy toll on the Pastor’s ministry in particular. There are some pastoral issues that never seem to go away, and there are some answers that never seem to be adequate. The next five days will give you the opportunity to reflect, pray about, and interact with your peers on some of these Pastoral issues (again).

Issues on Marriage and Sexuality: (2 days)

How do we deal with cohabitating couples? How do we define and understand “cohabitation”? What is the Biblical viewpoint and how should the church respond to people in such situations? There are other complications - what if the couple has a child or children? Is there a place for these children in schools, the church’s children’s ministry etc? Will you baptise such a child? Naming ceremonies and affirming children who are born out of wedlock.

Divorced members. An exercise on an accelerated research on the Biblical injunctions regarding divorce. Are there exceptions or extenuating circumstances which must be brought into consideration? There is an urgency to involve the whole church in forming an adequate and Biblical view on whether divorcees can re-marry, take positions in church leadership, or even teach Sunday School. Where does “singlehood” fit in all this, and how does a church leader respond to a “converted divorcee” who now believes he/she is now called into fulltime church ministry?

Homosexuality. Here we will explore the contemporary and Biblical view on homosexuality. Should self-declared homosexuals be welcomed in church? What are other churches in other countries doing to minister to people who currently and openly practice homosexuality. We will also need to look into new civil laws and regulatory issues covering such matters as same sex marriages, welfare aid for such families, and same sex church memberships.

Family Wellness. What are churches doing to cater to the needs of parents, their children, teens and youth ministries, as well as those who may have older parents who may speak local dialects, other than English? What innovative programs have been developed for “families” to minister together as a unit in local church ministries?

The challenges that a double income family face, and how they balance time and energy between work and home. What advice should we give to those who depend on maids and parents, or child-minding schools to take care of children in their formative years of life? What about the problems families face due to a breakdown in communication with their teenage children? How do parents cope with the lifestyle of today’s teenagers? Identifying the numerous opportunities for couples today to enrich their marital lives through Christian conferences and church organized programs.

Issues on Interfaith Dialogue (or Diversion): (1 and ½ days)

Some experts on Interfaith issues have insisted that dialogue and planned conferences are the way to better harmony between differing faiths. Others are now looking at new and more practical methods of people from differing faiths to come together at social and religious gatherings to better relate to each other as neighbours.
Consider the following issues – and help us know what you are doing about it as a local church Pastor, and/or what your local church is doing about it.

Your neighbours or your church members’ neighbours are Buddhists or Muslims, or Hindus.

The impact of inter-religious tolerance in a multi-religious society. What do you understand by “public space” and “private space”?

What are some of the positive ways that churches today are doing to connect with people of other faiths (like in their own setting e.g. housing estate)?

What advice will you give to your church members regarding active and personal involvement/participation in Taoist or Chinese religious funeral rites and ceremonies? Can Christians eat food offered to idols? What about the practice of yoga, tai chi, acupuncture, and the frequent use of alternative medicine and Chinese traditional medicine?

Apart from the Bible, where are your spiritual resources that will enhance your Christian stance on the above issues?

Developing resource materials on appropriate ways in which Christians can approach people of other faiths - without threat, yet without compromise.

Evangelism in the Marketplace: (1 and ½ days)

Would the following statement sound “prophetic” to you if we say: “the days of doing church in church only have come to an end”? What is “marketplace” evangelism or ministry? What is the church’s current understanding of going out to the places of work and impacting lives for Christ there? How many Christian lay people do you know who are actively making their places of work a “mission field” on a daily basis?

This session will explore the implications as well as the opportunities of the role of the Christian Church today in contemporary society. What really is the church? Where are our active church members and what are they doing – the other six days of the week? Should “church” be done only on Sundays? Is “church ministry’ the prerogative of only fulltime clergy and paid Christian church workers?

Have you heard of the “Multichannel Church” or of a church ministry today called “”? These ministries are high powered, high tech, and widely appealing to the computer generation of pre-believers. How much of such use do you think is applicable to your own church setting? Some churches today have a “virtual audience” through cyberspace and attractive websites. Comment on some Pastors today who have very successful local church ministries by being active social networkers, using blogs, twitters, and Facebook as means of connecting with people.

If time permits, we may also deal with the question: “How large should I grow my church?” How big is “big”? Should a large, growing church engage in commercial business in order to fund Christian ministries and church programs?

repulsed by business leaders with harsh and autocratic spirits

What Millennials Want in Leaders
Wed, Aug. 04, 2010 Posted: 12:03 PM EDT

The Millennial generation is the generation that has grabbed my heart. I know that my preference is largely related to having and loving three Millennial sons and their friends. But I know that my favoritism also stems from the attitude of hope that this generation brings.

As I have shared in other writings, my son, Jess Rainer, and I just concluded writing a book about this generation with the basic title, The Millennials. The book will be released in January 2011. Our work was based on a massive research project led by LifeWay Research, where that team asked 1,200 older Millennials dozens of questions in multiple categories. The responses were fascinating.

Who Are the Millennials?

As a reminder, the Millennials are America’s largest generation, over 78 million in number. They are slightly larger in number than the well-documented Baby Boomer generation.

The Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000, though our research included only the older portion of this generation, those born between 1980 and 1991. The study included demographic sampling that well represents the generation in total.

The Leadership Factor

Though we asked relatively few questions about leadership in our study, the intensity of their responses provided clear indication that this subject was one of great interest to many in this generation. At the conclusion of our study, we found four major leadership foci among the Millennials. We dubbed them simply “What Millennials Want in Leaders.”

1. Mentoring. This generation has great respect for those older than they are. Most of them have good relationships with their parents. They have learned from older people all their lives, and they don’t want to stop now. They want to be led and taught in their places of work, in their churches, and in their families. They particularly want to learn from couples who have had long and successful marriages. Many Millennials see such examples as heroes to emulate.

2. Gentle spirit. This category is easier to describe by what Millennials do not want in leaders. Divisive, loud, and acrimonious persons turn them off. They loathe politicians and political pundits who scream at each other. They are leaving churches to some extent because they see many Christian leaders as negative and prone to divisiveness. They are repulsed by business leaders with harsh and autocratic spirits.

3. Transparency and authenticity. I wish Jess and I had counted the number of times that Millennials used the word “real” to describe leaders they want to follow. As one Millennial told us, her generation “can smell phony and pretentiousness a mile away.” They don’t want phony; they want authentic. They don’t want pretentious; they want transparent.

4. Integrity. The Millennials are weary of politicians who don’t keep promises. They are tired of Christian leaders who fail basic moral standards. They are fed up with business leaders who are more concerned about personal gain than serving others. They want leaders with integrity.

Looking for a Few Good Leaders

The Millennial generation has much to offer. As a whole, they desire to serve others. Most of them are very family oriented. And they really want to listen and learn from others. Indeed they are looking for a few good leaders to follow. When they find them, they will follow with commitment and enthusiasm.

Our study of this generation was one of the most encouraging research projects in which I have been involved. I found great hope in the Millennials. I see great promise in many of them. And I found among them a hunger to learn from leaders they respect.

May we who have come before them be that type of leader.

The largest generation in America is watching us closely.

Dr. Thom Rainer is president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention.
Thom S. Rainer
Christian Post Guest Columnist

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Authentic Christian faith is contagious

Retired U.S. Marine Corps Commandant Charles Krulak tells of the time when he as a nonbeliever first came in contact with a contagious believer. In a speech, General Krulak said,

“Thirty-five years ago I was a young second lieutenant just graduated from the Naval Academy. I went down to Quantico, Virginia, home of the basic school where officers learn about honor, courage, and commitment.

I shared a room with another officer named John Listerman. John was a wonderful human. He exuded goodness. John was a Christian. That meant nothing to me other than Gee, what a nice guy. I guess this Christian stuff must be pretty good.

Upon graduating from basic school, John and I went to Camp Pendleton, California, where we joined the same battalion preparing to go to Vietnam. And I saw another side of John Listerman: He was a tremendous leader--aggressive and technically proficient. was a Marine’s Marine.

On a December morning in 1965 John and I went to war. John Listerman’s war lasted one day. We were on patrol moving down a trail through the jungle. We came around a corner in that trail, and we ran into an ambush.

John took the first round, a 50-caliber round right in his kneecap. As his kneecap burst, the crack was so loud it sounded like a mortar exploding. It threw him up in the air. As he was dropping, the second round hit him right below the heart and exited out his side.

“I was wounded also but nowhere near as badly. I saw John about 30 meters away on his back, his leg blown off. I crawled up to him, and I wanted to say, "Are you okay? Can I do anything?" but before I could do that, his head turned to me and he said, "How are you doing, Chucker? Are you okay?"

I said, "Yes, John. I’m okay."

He said, "Are my men safe?"

I said, "John, your people are okay."

At that point he turned his head and looked to the sky and repeated over and over, "Thank you, Lord. Thank you, Lord. Thank you for caring for my people. Thank you for caring for me."

I was dumbfounded.

John Listerman and Charles Krulak were evacuated.

General Krulak later became a Christian.

[Citation: Linda M. Gehrs, Oak Park, Illinois; source; General Charles Krulak, from a message given at the Wheaton, Illinois, Leadership Prayer Breakfast (October 2000)]

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The world has never been impacted in a positive way by people that were greedy

10 Characteristics of Growing Churches
By Perry Noble|Christian Post Guest Columnist

#1 – They have leaders that lead!

“For God so loved the world that He did not send a committee!” Not sure where I heard that…but its true!

#2 – A desperation for God’s power!

Prayer isn’t a good luck charm that is attached at the beginning or at the end of something…people are legitimately desperate for the power of God. They pray Habakkuk 3:2 prayers every day and…

#3 – They believe that greater things are in store.

They don’t just pray big prayers…but they have a sense of anticipation that is contagious! They don’t read Acts 2 and think “those were the good ‘ole days” but rather they think, “that’s where God STARTED this thing…we should be WAY ahead of this!!!”

#4 – They are full of ordinary people.

God always uses ordinary people to accomplish extraordinary things. Jesus didn’t choose one scribe or Pharisee when He launched the church…and Acts 4:13 talks about how He used ordinary people to absolutely turn the world upside down. The staff LOVE the church…so much so that they would actually attend there even if they were not on staff!

#5 – They leverage technology.

They don’t view technology as of the devil but rather as a tool given by God to reach as many people as possible for Jesus. (Btw…isn’t it funny that some churches are against the use of technology yet all of them rode to their church in a car and their church building has air conditioner?)

#6 – The church is full of passion.

People in the church actually LOVE the church and do not attend because they feel like they have to! (The only reason people get angry with the fact that you love your church is probably because they have no idea what it is like to actually love their church!)

#7 – They take ownership of the great commission.

They REFUSE to be “keepers of the aquarium” and instead embrace the COMMAND of Jesus to reach the world for HIM! (BTW NewSpring Church…it has been SO encouraging to see so many of you come to our evangelism seminar this week! We have one more live one tonight at our Anderson campus – you can sign up here – and, if you cannot join us live for some reason this event will be available online just like our Sunday services…so you can join us tonight at from 7-9, can’t wait!)

#8 – There is a willingness to change and adapt, even when it means they have to go against the very “innovative” ideas that they themselves once established!

Anyone can change the traditions of the past…but true innovation occurs when we’re willing to change the ideas that we once thought were innovative and ground breaking!

#9 – Generosity is embraced.

The world has never been impacted in a positive way by people that were greedy.

#10 – The people in the church are OWNERS, not merely “members.”

Members have rights, owners have responsibilities. The people in these churches understand that it is not the pastors job to minister to the people but rather the bodies job to minister to the body! And as a result people serve Jesus by serving others instead of sitting on their “blessed assurance” and expecting to be waited on hand and foot.

Perry Noble is the founding and senior pastor of NewSpring Church in Anderson, Columbia, Florence and Greenville, S.C.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Not the time to stay mad at God

Do Not Hold Any Grudges Against the Lord

by Michael Bradley

Due to the very trying times we are now living in with most of the world economies still basically in bad recessions, I thought I would do this article for some of you who may really be battling with the Lord on some of the real heavy adversity that may have just struck you and/or your family.

In our article titled, “Trials and Tribulations – The Testing of Your Faith,” we give you all of the main reasons and all of the main verses from the Bible as to why every single one of us will have to face and battle a certain amount of adversity in this life – with absolutely no exceptions to this cold, hard fact and reality.

If by chance you have come across this article before that one, you might want to read that article after you read this one, as this will really help in giving you a proper understanding as to why even God Himself has to allow a certain amount of trials and tribulations to occur in our lives.

In this article, I just want to concentrate on one major point that will occur to many of us when we are faced with some of these heavier trials. And that point is there will come a time when you will have to decide if you are still going to continue to stay the course with God and continue to walk with Him on the divine path that He has set up for your life – or if you are going to continue to stay mad at God and from there, let a major grudge form out against you and Him as a result of the severe adversity that has just struck you.

As we all know, some Christians when faced with a heavier type of trial, will initially get very mad at God. They will ask Him – “How could you possibly do this to me? Where was my protection? I have been loving You and serving You all of these years, and then all of a sudden you let a heavy torpedo like this come ripping through my life? How could You possibly allow something this evil and this bad to come against me like this? You could have easily stopped it but you didn’t. Why?”
As we have said before, it is very easy to have high levels of faith and trust in the Lord when everything is going good and great, but let a heavier type of storm cloud come ripping through someone’s life and then all of a sudden their high levels of faith and trust in the Lord can take a major nosedive.

For many, their initial reaction will be one of major anger and possibly rage. You know God has the power and the ability to stop any kind of bad and evil thing from coming against you, but now all of a sudden you are stuck with having to deal with the reality as to why God would allow something like this to come against you in the first place, especially if you are walking in a good, full surrender with Him and you are walking in His perfect plan and destiny for your life.

How do you keep from getting mad at God when:

You have just lost your job, your house and your entire life’s savings
Your 6 year old child has just been abducted and killed by a sexual predator
Your spouse has just been killed by a drunk driver
Your mother has been left totally paralyzed from a bad car accident
You have just lost your marriage due to the infidelity of your partner who you had been married to for 30 years

I could go on and on with some of the heavier type of adversity that could strike anyone of us at anytime due to the Adamic curse that is still in full operation on this earth. As we all know, it is only by the grace, mercy and protection of God that more of us do not get these types of heavier trials coming into our lives.
But the cold, hard reality is this:

A certain amount of people, both Christians as well as unbelievers, are going to get some of this heavier type of adversity coming into their lives. As Christians, we then have to get a real grip on this when one of these do come our way, and make a conscious decision one way or the other as to whether or not we are going to let this trial affect our personal relationship with the Lord and with what He is doing with our lives in the perfect plan and destiny that He still has set up for us.

Some Christians will not get mad at God. They will take it all in stride. They will not lose their faith or their personal relationship with God, and they will just keep on moving forward with God in full control of their lives.

However, there will be other Christians who will not have this type of response to the severe tragedy that has just struck them. They will start wrestling with God. They will get mad and furious at Him for allowing this kind of tragedy to come into their lives in the first place.

For many who will have this second kind of response, I actually think God will have no problems with that kind of response at the onset due to the initial trauma of the event. For many, it will be an initial, knee-jerk reaction. Our emotions will get the better of us for a time and in those emotions will be major anger at God for allowing this tragedy to come into our lives in the first place.

However, what you will find is that you will not be able to stay mad at God forever. You will find that you will be wallowing in too much negative energy and this negative energy will start to affect both your thinking and your physical health.

You will find sooner or later after all of the wrestling you have done with God that you will come to a point where you will have to make up your mind one way or the other. Do I continue to stay mad at God and from there, let a real, live grudge form out between Him and me and then walk away from Him? Or do I let it go, continue to fully trust God with my life, and get back in the saddle again and keep moving forward in the divine destiny that God has already set up for my life?

Sooner or later you will have to make that very fateful decision, as you will not be able to stay on the fence post forever with the Lord.

At the time I am writing up this article, I am 56 years of age. Over the years, I have watched how different Christians have handled the heavier types of adversity that have come into their lives.

On the one side, you had the Christians who quickly got over the trauma of the event and they chose to stay close to the Lord and not get mad at Him and pull away from Him. They chose to believe that God was going to take care of this trial for them and turn it around and make something good come out of it, even though they had no idea as to how God was going to do that for them.

Then you had others who got so mad at God, they could not get over it. They knew God had the power and the ability to stop the trial from coming in on them in the first place, and they thus could not accept the fact that He actually allowed it to hit them. As a result, not only did they choose to get mad at God, but they chose to continue to stay mad at Him.

From there, I watched how “grudges” would form out against God. And once that deep grudge would form out against God, these people would then start to pull completely away from Him.

They would stop going to church. They would no longer pray or talk to God. If you tried to talk to them about God, they wanted no part of the conversation. Then over a period of years, I saw how God would chase after these people trying to get them to come back to Him. Jesus has already told us in His Word that a good shepherd will always go after a single sheep that has strayed.

But no matter how hard and how heavy God would chase after these people, they still kept turning Him down again and again, as they could never get over that bad and intense grudge they were holding against Him. That is why I have decided to put the word “grudge” in the title of this article, as this grudge ended up forming out a severe block and shield between these people and God.

And then over the years as a result of pulling away from God and ignoring His strivings to try and get them back, many of them lost their good marriages, their good paying jobs, and from there, their mental state just continued to get worse.
They became very unhappy and were depressed all of the time. And not only were they still mad and furious at God, but they became mad and bitter at the rest of the world as well, including with some of their own close friends and family members. Many of them ended up on anti-depressants because they lost all of their joy and zest for living since they pulled away and disconnected from the one Person who could give them that joy and zest for living – the Lord Himself.

I learned that these grudges, if not dealt with and pulled out within a reasonable period of time, could form out an actual stronghold. And once that stronghold formed out in that person’s mind and thinking, that was when they lost all desire to want to draw close to the Lord again.

To those of you who have been hit with a real severe torpedo shot, especially with the times we are now living in, let me give you 13 very important verses so you can see how important it is that you never let these kinds of grudges form out between you and God and from there, start to cause you to want to pull away from Him.

Again, if you are having some intense wrestling matches with the Lord over a severe tragedy that may have just struck you, that is alright. I believe God will have no problems with that kind of initial reaction at the onset.

But sooner or later, you will find yourself getting tired of staying in that kind of intense, wrestling match with the Lord. It will start to drain you and from there, it can then start to affect both your mental and physical health. You can only stay in these kinds of intense, wrestling matches for a certain period of time with the Lord before they start to wear you out both mentally and physically.

After that, you will come to realize that you will have to get off of the fence post and make a decision one way or the other. Are you going to get back in the saddle again and stay the course with the Lord, letting Him still have full control of your life and allowing Him to continue to lead you on the divine destiny that He still has set up for your life?

Or are you going to let your anger and wrath get the better of you, and from there, let a nasty grudge form out between you and the Lord, thereby preventing you from wanting to stay close to Him and continue on in your walk with Him? Sooner or later, you will have to make that decision.

To help you with this, here are 13 very good verses that are all going to tell you something very specific. I will first list out these verses, and then I will point out to you what they are trying to tell us, as God has set up a little pattern in each one of these verses. Here they are:

“Draw near to God and He will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

For thus says the Lord God to the House of Israel: “Seek Me and live … Seek the Lord and live …” (Amos 5:4,6)

“Seek the Lord and His strength; seek His face evermore!” (1 Chronicles 16:11)

“And you will seek Me and find Me, when you search for Me with all your heart.” (Jeremiah 29:13)

“… and you will find Him if you seek Him with all your heart and with all your soul.” (Deuteronomy 4:29)

“Blessed are the undefiled in the way, who walk in the law of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep His testimonies, who seek Him with the whole heart!” (Psalm 119:1)

“For it is time to seek the Lord, till He comes and rains righteousness on you.” (Hosea 10:12)

“With my soul I have desired You in the night, yes, by my spirit within me I will seek You early …” (Isaiah 26:9)

“Then they entered into a covenant to seek the Lord God of their fathers with all their heart and with all their soul …” (2 Chronicles 15:12)

“If you seek Him, He will be found by you; but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever.” (1 Chronicles 28:9)

“O God, you are my God; early I will seek You; my soul thirsts for You; my flesh longs for You in a dry and thirsty land where there is no water.” (Psalm 63:1)

“As the deer pants for the water brooks, so pants my soul for You, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God.” (Psalm 42:1)

“… and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Hebrews 11:6)
Here is the little pattern that God has set up in each one of these verses. If you will notice in each one of them, God wants you to be the one who will seek after Him. He wants us to be the ones who will initiate making direct contact with Him. In each one of these verses, it says we are to be the ones to seek after God. And if we do, then He will let us find Him.

God can obviously initiate the action with us anytime that He will want to do so. But with the way He is wording these specific verses, you can tell that He is letting all of us know that He wants us to initiate making direct contact with Him.

The reason I am listing these verses in this article is to show you the reverse can also occur off of these verses. Notice in verse #10 that it says if you forsake God, that He will cast you off forever.

If you decide to get mad at God and start holding a grudge against Him, then you are going to pull away from Him. And if you start to pull away from the Lord, then you will not be making any attempt to make any kind of direct contact with Him like the above verses are telling us to do. And if you stop trying to make direct contact with God, then you could be in danger of God pulling back on you, as these verses are telling us that God wants us to be the ones to make the attempt to make direct contact with Him.

Again, I believe God will chase after you for awhile, but where you could get yourself in trouble is off of the verse where the Holy Spirit will not strive after a man forever. If you keep ignoring God and all of His strivings to try and get you back, then He could decide to quit chasing after you. And if He does, then you will be left to wallow in your own self-pity, misery, depression and unhappiness. And that is not a place you want to be in, either with yourself or in your own personal relationship with the Lord.

Life is way too short to get worked into that kind of a bad, negative, mental state. Sooner or later, you will be leaving this life and entering into the most glorious place imaginable. And when you do, all of the trauma, pain and hurt of the tragedy you have been going through will all fall off of you like a heavy sack of potatoes. It will all be gone the second you enter into heaven. And then heaven will be for all of eternity – this life down here is just for the blink of an eye compared to the eternal time frame that is operating up in heaven.

If you are one of the ones who are on this fence post with the Lord as a result of some kind of severe tragedy hitting you full force, the best advice I can give you is to make a conscious, free-will decision that you will not pull away from the Lord, that you will continue to stay on the path that He has set up for your life, and that you will not give up.

Even if your wounded and hurt emotions will not be lining up with this kind of a statement with the Lord – just override those hurt and wounded emotions for now and just give God a good, conscious, free-will decision with your mind that you will continue to stay the course with Him. That is all He will be looking for at this point.

From there, over a period of time, the Holy Spirit will then move into your damaged and wounded emotions and He will then start to heal them up so you do not let any type of bitterness and anger start to get the better of you. You can do this very early on in a severe tragedy if you just give God the green light that you will stay the course with Him and that you will not pull away from Him no matter what happens from this point on.

Make this decision based upon your head knowledge of God and the Bible. Do not make this decision based upon your wounded and hurt emotions. The people who end up pulling away from God are doing this because of their damaged and wounded emotions. They are not relying upon their good head knowledge of God and the Bible.

That is why the Bible tells us that God’s people will perish and go into captivity without having knowledge. Again, here are these two vitally important verses on this issue:

“My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge.” (Hosea 4:6)

“Therefore My people have gone into captivity, because they have no knowledge …” (Isaiah 5:13)

When people pull away from God as a result of letting a grudge form out against Him, they are in actuality going into captivity just like this second verse is telling us. That is why you can never, ever lose your faith, your belief and your trust in the Lord – no matter what life, hell or the devil may try and throw your way.

This is why it is extremely important that all Christians get built up in the Word of God, so they will have all of this head knowledge to fall back on when any type of severe adversity does strike them in this life.


Now, more than ever, we all need God in our lives. This is not the time to stay mad at God and continue to hold any type of grudges against Him.

And not only do we need God in our lives, but we need Him controlling it and running it, as most of the economies across the world still have not really rebounded and no one still knows for sure if and when they will. People are losing their houses, their jobs, and all of their life savings – and now, more than ever, we need God’s help to get through these very trying times.

For those of you who are tuned into the prophetic with the Lord, you can smell this a mile away that there are forces working behind the scenes trying to arrange a one world government. The Bible tells us that a real, live antichrist will eventually be coming to rule this entire world. And if he will be coming to rule this entire world, then a world stage and platform is going to be built for him so he will be able to do this.

Again, to those of you who are tuned into the prophetic with the Lord, you can “see” and “smell” this occurring behind the scenes, not only with our own government at this time, but with some of the other governments across the world as well, especially with some of the governments in Europe.

Again, this is why it is not the time to get mad at God and pull away from Him. If we are living in the end times as prophesied out of the Bible, then we are all going to have to stay very close to the Lord and be guided by His Holy Spirit so He can help us navigate and get through some of these rougher waters until the rapture occurs and we are finally taken off of this earth.

Remember – life is way too short to continue to stay mad at God, and from there, let an actual grudge form out between you and Him. No matter what has been thrown your way by way of a bad trial, just know that there are reasons for everything and if God will not give you those reasons down here, you will more than likely be told what they were once you get up into heaven.

Until then, do not let any type of adversity, especially any type of severe adversity, cause you to pull away from the Lord and totally disconnect with Him.
Look what happened to both Paul and Job. Both went through very severe adversity and both ended up staying true, loyal and faithful to the Lord. Neither one of them pulled away from the Lord. Job had to have one of the worst trials of all time and he refused to let it pull him away from the Lord. We have to do the exact same thing if we ever have any of these heavier trials come our way in this life.

I will leave you with one last verse that really says it all when dealing with the storm clouds of this life. Here it is:

“Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? As it is written: “For Your sake we are killed all day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.” Yet in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death nor life, nor angels nor principalities nor powers, nor things present nor things to come, nor height nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:35)

This is the type of verse you have to ground on and believe in if you are ever forced to have to deal with a heavier type of storm cloud in this life. We can never, ever let anything separate us from our Lord and Savior. Just remember the extreme, barbaric death Jesus went through to get us back to Himself and His Father. If Jesus was willing to die for us, then we should be willing to die for Him if circumstances should ever arise where that may have to occur.

Again, we ask that you go to our other article titled, “Trials and Tribulations – The Testing of Your Faith,” if you would like to see why God has to allow a certain amount of trials and tribulations to come everyone’s way in this life from time to time. In this article we give you all of the main Bible verses on this topic, along with all of the main reasons as to why every single person will have to face and engage with a certain amount of storm clouds in this life.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

What God do you pray to?

Does it matter what religion we belong to?
Sunday August 15, 2010

LAST Tuesday, the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission voted 9 to 0 in favour of allowing the demolition of a building near the World Trade Centre site to make way for a 13-storey Islamic cultural centre and mosque.

Plans for the construction of the proposed mosque drew strong criticism from American politicians such as Sarah Palin who last month Tweeted to say: “Peace-seeking Muslims, pls understand, Ground Zero mosque is UNNECESSARY provocation; it stabs hearts. Pls reject it in interest of healing.”

She Tweeted again later saying to New Yorkers: “Peaceful New Yorkers, pls refute the Ground Zero mosque plan if you believe catastrophic pain caused @ Twin Towers site is too raw, too real.”

Palin was not the only one opposed to the building of the mosque.

The National Republican Trust paid for a provocative advertisement called “Kill the Ground Zero Mosque” which replayed scenes from Sept 11 with a background voice saying “On Sept 11, they declared war against us. They want to build a 13-storey mosque at Ground Zero. This ground is sacred. That mosque is a monument to their victory. The mosque at Ground Zero must not stand.”

Despite such opposition, the path is now finally open for the project to proceed.

New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, in a stirring speech given following the Landmarks Preservation Commission vote, stated that the government had no right whatsoever to deny Muslims the right to build a mosque.

“Let us not forget that Muslims were among those murdered on 9/11 and that our Muslim neighbours grieved with us as New Yorkers and as Americans. We would betray our values – and play into our enemies’ hands – if we were to treat Muslims differently than anyone else. In fact, to cave to popular sentiment would be to hand a victory to the terrorists – and we should not stand for that,” Bloomberg said.

“On Sept 11, 2001, thousands of first responders heroically rushed to the scene and saved tens of thousands of lives. More than 400 of those first responders did not make it out alive. In rushing into those burning buildings, not one of them asked ‘What God do you pray to?’ ‘What beliefs do you hold?” the mayor said, before finishing by noting that political controversies may come and go but there is no neighbourhood in New York that is off limits to God’s love and mercy.

It is difficult to be a Muslim in many Western countries. Religious bigots are quick to play up on fears and remind everyone of not only Sept 11 but also the dangers of creeping Islamisa tion. — Sin Chew Daily/ANN

I am a human being just like you

Benny Hinn Says Neglecting Family Led to Divorce
Wed, Aug. 11, 2010 Posted: 01:58 PM EDT

Television evangelist Benny Hinn has admitted that his marriage probably broke down because he did not spend enough time with the family.

On the August 5 edition of his show "This is your Day,” Hinn said he was oftentimes "caught up with the ministry," so much so that he forgot about his family.

"I've made mistakes because I wasn't the perfect husband and the perfect dad because I was always gone traveling the world," he said. "That's probably what broke the whole thing up."

Hinn told his viewers "not to neglect your family," saying that the call of God should first touch the family.

"If you have no family, you can't go on anyways," he said.

Hinn's wife, Suzanne, filed divorce papers in California earlier this year, citing "irreconcilable differences." The couple had been married since 1979 and have four children together.

On his recent show, watched by millions around the world, Hinn said it was often painful to talk about their separation.

"We've had to be very quiet to protect the ministry, the work of the Lord," he said. "But sadly when you are a public person, everything you do becomes public."

Hinn continued: "I don't care if the anointing of God is on you. Nobody wants to be alone. I don't care who you are. I am a human being just like you."

The press recently linked Hinn to fellow televangelist Paula White, suggesting they were romantically involved.

Hinn rejected the claims and denied any wrongdoing, stating that the article published by the National Enquirer on July 23 was a "pure lie.”

Following the story, Hinn and White announced their decision to “have no further social relationship” until his divorce is finalized and “only if we feel direction from the Lord to do so.”

Brian Hutt
Christian Today Reporter

Severe economic downturn

$8M Revenue Drop Forces Crystal Cathedral to Make Deep Cuts
Sat, Jan. 30, 2010 Posted: 11:56 PM EDT

Southern California’s famed Crystal Cathedral is making “cuts to the heart of our ministry” following a 27 percent drop in revenue – from $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009 – and with a drop in this year’s revenue anticipated.

In an announcement Friday, the Garden Grove, Calif.-based megachurch announced that its San Juan Capistrano location would shut down its operations following a decision by Crystal Cathedral Ministries’ International Board of Trustees.

That same day, the church said it was canceling its annual “Glory of Easter” pageant, the renowned live stage production that the church has presented every year for nearly three decades.

The church’s founder, the Rev. Robert H. Schuller, said it was "with great sadness that the Board of Directors of the Crystal Cathedral Ministries announces that after long prayer and deliberation, the Ministry through the 2010 Glory of Easter production will not be held due to severe economic downturn.”

"We ask that the entire church be united in prayer as we, the Crystal Cathedral congregation, share the triumphant message of Easter with those who regularly come to the campus and to our worship services,” added Schuller.

"In my 2009 Christmas Eve message, I shared the sentence, ‘A Set Back is a Set Up for a Comeback’ so we anticipate a positive turnaround in our country as we look forward to the 2010 Glory of Christmas and 2011 Glory of Easter. We dedicate ourselves to making that happen.”

In addition to the setbacks announced Friday, Crystal Cathedral is also reportedly laying off 50 workers and may pull its once-popular "Hour of Power" television show in up to eight markets.

Though some speculate that the drop in revenue is connected to the family feud that ensued following Schuller’s retirement a few years ago, Crystal Cathedral spokesman John Charles told the Los Angeles Times that the dispute had no effect.

“It is the economy,” he said. “We have a lot of older, retired people."

In 2008, the Rev. Robert A. Schuller, who succeeded his father the year before, stepped down as senior pastor over the “lack of shared vision and the jeopardy in which this [was] placing this entire ministry.”

“[I]t has become necessary for Robert and me to part ways in the Hour of Power television ministry to each pursue our own unique God-ordained visions,” the older Schuller reported in a statement on Oct. 28, 2008.

Since then, the megachurch founder has tapped his daughter, 58-year-old Sheila Schuller Coleman, to co-lead Crystal Cathedral with him, serving as the church’s “directing leader.”

In a prepared statement this past week, Coleman encouraged the congregation to “hang in there and be smart about surviving the downturn in the economy,” saying that “this storm will pass and we will be OK and we can begin to grow again as a ministry.”

Founded over 50 years ago, Crystal Cathedral is internationally known for its "Hour of Power" broadcast, once said to be the most-watched Christian program worldwide.

The church, which is affiliated with the Reformed Church in America, is also known for the architecture of its main sanctuary building, which was constructed using over 10,000 rectangular panes of glass.

The church claims to have over 10,000 members and holds three services in its 2,900-capacity sanctuary every Sunday.

Joshua A. Goldberg
Christian Post Reporter

The church is still weathering the storm

Family of Crystal Cathedral Founder to Take 50 Percent Pay Cut
Tue, Aug. 10, 2010 Posted: 11:56 PM EDT

The founder of Southern California's Crystal Cathedral will take a voluntary 50 percent pay cut for the next two months as will his wife, his children, and his children’s spouses, according to a memo that was recently sent out to employees of the megachurch.

In the Aug. 5 e-mail, church staff were informed of the decision and told the move was made to meet the demands of the vendors to whom the church owes more than $2 million.

Employees will also face a pay cut of between 5 and 10 percent, depending on their salaries, according to the Orange Country Register, which first reported about the cuts.

None, however, were let go this time around – news that senior pastor Sheila Schuller Coleman said they were thankful for.

“[A]nd we are thankful that our financial situation is looking up and we can begin to take positive steps toward repaying our debts," added Coleman, who officially succeeded her father, Robert H. Schuller, last month.

Once a powerhouse in America and to many parts of the world, Crystal Cathedral has been struggling to survive the downturn in the economy.

Earlier this year, the Reformed church closed down all operations at its San Juan Capistrano location and put its 20-acre Retreat Center up for sale.

Crystal Cathedral also reported a 27 percent drop in revenue – from $30 million in 2008 to $22 million in 2009 – and anticipates another drop in this year’s revenue.

To make matters worse, the Garden Grove megachurch also faced at least three lawsuits for the more than $2 million in debts it owed vendors for services rendered for the its 2009 "Glory of Christmas" production.

Fortunately, however, the creditors have agreed to work things out with the church and even extended the grace period from July to Oct. 9.

The church was also able to sell its Rancho Capistrano Retreat & Renewal Center to Hobby Lobby Stores, Inc., of Oklahoma City, which in turn leased the property to another megachurch, Rick Warren’s Saddleback Church.

“[I]t’s an incredible answer to prayer,” Coleman announced back in May.

While the church is still weathering the storm, Coleman has encouraged the congregation and assured them that “this storm will pass and we will be OK and we can begin to grow again as a ministry.”

Her father, meanwhile, said he anticipates a positive turnaround in America and said the church staff is dedicated to turning things around and bringing back its annual stage productions – the Glory of Christmas and the Glory of Easter.

This year, Crystal Cathedral canceled its Glory of Easter production for the first time in 27 years.

For more than a year now, Crystal Cathedral has been trying to dig its way out of a $55 million debt.

In that time, at least 100 employees have been laid off.

Joshua A. Goldberg
Christian Post Reporter

Friday, August 13, 2010

A staggering 70 percent of those describing themselves as Christian were female

Official Survey Reports 23 Million Christians in China
Thu, Aug. 12, 2010 Posted: 05:53 PM EDT

HONG KONG – Christians in China now number just over 23 million, according to the results of the Communist country’s first official faith survey.

Although that figure amounts to only 1.8 percent of the total population, it represents 73 percent of China’s religious population.

The figures were contained in the newly published Blue Book on China Religions, compiled by the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, an academic unit under the control of the Chinese government, according to China Daily.

The academy looked at the responses of over 60,000 questionnaires carried out in more than 300 counties across China.

Among the Christians interviewed, 69 percent of them said that they had converted to Christianity because they or their family members had fallen ill. A staggering 70 percent of those describing themselves as Christian were female and 67 percent of all Christians surveyed said they had been baptized.

The academy attributed the growth to societal reform over the last three decades, with 73 percent of Chinese Christians having joined the church after 1993, and only 18 percent having joined the church between 1982 and 1992.

“These statistics clearly indicate that the 30-year period of reform and opening up has been a period of rapid development for both Chinese society and the Chinese church,” Fu Xianwei, who heads the body that ensures churches follow state interests, was quoted as saying by China Daily.

Researchers noted a change in church demographics, with more young people, intellectuals and professionals joining the church in recent years.

To cope with the increase in number, there has been a corresponding increase in the number of churches in China, which now number more than 55,000.

Researchers noted that although the church had grown, Christian communities are still marginalized in society.

The Chinese Academy of Social Sciences said on its website that Christianity mainly attracts people with low social status, including the poor, the women and older people.

It said that while half of Christians had completed their primary education, only 2.6 percent of them attained a college degree or higher.

There are different estimates on the total number of Christians in China when attendance at unregistered churches is taken into account, with figures ranging from 40 million to 130 million.

The Blue Book also touched on figures for Catholicism, Buddhism, Islam and Taoism. The number of Catholics in China, according to the book, is 5.7 million.

Aenon Shalom
Compass Direct News

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Man of faith who fearlessly preached the gospel

Pastor of Largest Church in Northern Caucus Killed

Friday, Jul. 30, 2010 Posted: 12:19:17AM HKT

ISTANBUL (Compass Direct News) – A pastor in the Russian republic of Dagestan known for founding the biggest Protestant church in the region and for successfully reaching out to Muslims has been killed by unidentified gunmen, local authorities have confirmed.

Artur Suleimanov, 49, pastor of Hosanna Christian Church in Makhachkala, the capital of Dagestan, was shot on the evening of July 15 while leaving his church building.

The identity of the shooters remains unclear, but in the weeks leading up to the killing, Dagestan media broadcast calls for people to take measures against Suleimanov because he was too “active” and converted ethnic Muslims.

Suleimanov founded Hosanna Christian Church in Makhachkala in 1994. It started out as a small prayer group, but now with 1,000 members it is the largest Protestant church in the Northern Caucus region. According to a letter Suleimanov wrote to Compass several years ago, 80 percent of the congregation is made up of former Muslims.

The congregation established other branch churches throughout Dagestan and a formal Bible study center at the Makhachkala church. Suleimanov also equipped the church to distribute food and other aid to residents of the poverty-ridden country.

His death follows the shooting of Orthodox priest Daniil Sisoev of St.Thomas church in Moscow last November; a Muslim group claimed responsibility for the slaying.

Suleimanov is survived by his wife, Zina, and five children.

Dagestan is a small Russian republic of about 2.6 million people in the Caucus Mountains on the border with Chechnya. Ethnic Avars, Dargins and Lezgins, who are all traditionally Muslim, make up almost 75 percent of Dagestan’s population. In total, 91 percent of the population is Muslim, with the remaining 9 percent being Christian, mostly Russian Orthodox.

Because of Dagestan’s location, its population is trapped in a long-standing feud between Russia and the Chechen separatists fighting next door. The political realities of the conflict often bleed into Dagestan, resulting in civilian deaths.

The Russian government has from time to time cracked down on the Wahhabis, a sect of Sunni Islam with separatist tendencies. The Muslims in turn persecute Christians, because they see Christianity, and Orthodoxy in particular, as a Russian religion. Many converts to Christianity have to practice their faith in small, discreet home groups.

As an ethnic Avar, Suleimanov was considered by many Muslims to be an apostate and therefore deserving of death. But part of his success in reaching people was the fact that he was native to the region. Missionaries from outside Dagestan have met with mixed success.

In 1998, Herbert Gregg, one of the few U.S. pastors to live in Dagestan, was kidnapped. He was taken to Chechnya, where he was tortured, including having one of his fingers cut off. He was released after eight months of captivity and no longer lives in Russia.

Sergei Ryakhovsky, a Pentecostal minister active in Russia who presided over Suleimanov’s funeral, compared his killing to the 2009 shooting of Orthodox priest Sisoev.

On Nov. 19, 2009, a masked gunman entered St. Thomas church in Moscow and shot Sisoev four times. Sisoev, who was also known for his work among Muslims, died while being transported to a hospital. Before the shooting, he received numerous death threats from Islamic activists. After the shooting, a Muslim group linked to the Caucuses claimed responsibility for the killing.

A month later in Makhachkala, Russian law enforcement officers shot and killed Beksultan Kerybekov. According to police, Kerybekov pulled out a pistol and threw a grenade at a police substation when traffic officers stopped him to check his identification. Police later said the pistol found on his body forensically matched the weapon used in the Sisoev slaying.

“It seems that [Suleimanov’s killing] is in the same row with the murder of the Orthodox priest,” Ryakhovsky said to Interfaks-religion news agency. “But you cannot scare Christians with murders; for Christians to die for Christ is an honor.”

One of the publications calling for action against Suleimanov drew links between the missionary activities of Suleimanov and Sisoev among Muslims.

The Moscow-based Slavic Centre for Law and Justice and the Institute of Law and Religion issued a statement about Suleimanov shortly after the shooting. Saying he was a charming man and one of the most well-known Christian ministers in Russia, they called him a “true missionary with fervent heart and sincere faith.”

“He was a man of faith who fearlessly preached the gospel, sharing the faith in Christ with people even in difficult circumstances,” the statement read. “Since the beginning of his mission, Pastor Artur Suleimanov prayed for the salvation of Dagestan nations, despite all the difficulties and threatening that the community and preachers faced.”

Even the rich and educated are embracing Christianity

China Church Growth 'Unique' and 'Explosive', Says Expert

Friday, Aug. 6, 2010 Posted: 2:09:45AM HKT

The Church in China is experiencing tremendous growth like never before, says an official with the World Council of Churches (WCC).

Mathews George Chunakara, WCC's Director of International Affairs and Public Witness, says there had been a "unique and explosive growth" of Christianity among the Chinese people.

"I have been visiting China for the last 15 years. I am astounded to see the tremendous growth there. Their worship places are now overflowing," Chunakara told New Delhi-based Christian Today in a recent interview.

"It is not just the poor you see in churches,” he added. ”Even the rich and educated are embracing Christianity. Beijing and Shanghai are the proof.”

In the early 1970s, there were an estimated three million Christians in China. Now, the number may be as high as 130 million.

And while the government has been known for keeping a tight grip on the activities in churches, Chunakara said the situation has "much improved" and that the government is now starting to "favor" religious people.

"The Chinese government will not raid unless provoked,” reported Chunakara. “Now being the fastest growing economy, they know the importance of a harmonious society. To promote such a society, they are giving religion a special role."

One example Chunakara pointed to was the Communist Government’s amendment of the Chinese Constitution two years ago to accommodate the role of religion.

"You could not expect such a thing to happen 15 years ago," Chunakara said.

Still, the government is continuing to keep a close eye on the activities of official churches and there has been sporadic persecution against Christians belonging to unofficial house churches.

But Chunakara praised God for the growth of the Church in China and in other Asian countries.

“Not only China, in many Asian countries the Church is expanding,” Chunakara noted. “More people are coming to God. In addition, the participation of young people is absolutely remarkable in comparison with those in West.

“There is genuine spiritual eagerness among the grassroot level people,” he said.

Chunakara said he believes God is using the foolish to shame the wise.

"While Christianity is dying in the West, God is bringing a spiritual awakening in third world countries like India and China," he stated.

Before taking on his current role at the WCC, Chunakara served as Asia secretary at the ecumenical church body.

Dibin Samuel
Christian Today Reporter

Wisdom is really an approach to life, a way of looking at the world

The Character of Wisdom
An Introduction to Old Testament
Wisdom Literature

Dennis Bratcher

Wisdom Literature is a term applied to the Old Testament canonical books of Job, Proverbs, and Ecclesiastes, and sometimes to the Song of Songs (Song of Solomon). It also includes the Apocryphal books of Sirach (The Wisdom of Jesus ben Sira or Ecclesiasticus) and the Wisdom of Solomon. These books all share characteristics and points of view that are somewhat different than other biblical books, and those differences should be kept in mind when reading and studying them. Wisdom perspectives are also evident in other places in Scripture, such as the Psalms (see Wisdom Psalms and Types of Psalms), the teachings of Jesus, and the Epistle of James.

Wisdom is really an approach to life, a way of looking at the world and, for Israelites, a way of living out in very deliberate, rational ways their commitment to God. While Wisdom's roots go back to the early days of Israelite history, it began to flower in the latter part of the Old Testament period, and flourished in the Intertestamental period and the era of the New Testament (400 BC to AD 100).

The wisdom perspectives did not replace the other two major strands of though in Ancient Israel, that of prophets and priests. It was simply a different focus that was complementary with the other perspectives. While it is easy for us to assume in reading the historical accounts of Samuel of Kings, or the prophetic writings of Amos or Jeremiah, that Israel lived in constant crisis. Yet, if we stop and think about the time span of the major upheavals in Israel's history, there were many periods of several generations at a time where there was no crisis. During those times there was not great prophetic voice booming "thus says the Lord." There was just the daily routine of life that preoccupied most of the ordinary people of the land with the mundane questions of how to get along in life.

They were simple questions of living: how to discipline an unruly child, how to teach children what they need to know to survive as an adult, the dangers to the community of gossip and slander, the need for hard work and providing the necessities of life, why wicked people seem to prosper, the arrogance of sudden wealth. These are all life questions that most of us face today in the course of living. To realize that ancient Israelites faced these same questions, and grappled with them rationally from the perspective of experience and community wisdom, may say more to us today as modern Christians than we are used to hearing. Perhaps listening carefully to the Wisdom traditions as Scripture may help us bring an "earthy" balance to our tendency to be preoccupied with the metaphysical and the supernatural as a way to live life daily.

Here are some very brief characteristics of Old Testament Wisdom perspectives.

Wisdom is concerned with everyday life, how to live well.

1. Wisdom is concerned with the issues facing humanity in general, the typical and recurring aspects of life that face human beings on a daily basis. Much of the rest of Scripture is concerned with those unique events in history in which God reveals himself.

2. Little interest in history, politics, God who acts, miracles, sin, forgiveness guilt; these things are not discounted, only that the concern is focused on daily living on what might be called the mundane aspects of life, such as raising children, providing economic security, finding the appropriate wife, etc.

3. The world view is not mythical or cyclical, but it is concerned with stability and order, the status quo, especially in the social arena; the goal is to live in harmonious relationship with God, others, and the world.

4. The perspectives of wisdom are not unique to Israelites, although in Israelite wisdom commitment to God is simply assumed (cf. Prov. 1:7).

5. The focus is on interpersonal relationships, as well as reflective questions about the meaning of life and how to live it.

Wisdom does not appeal to revealed truth.

1. It does not address the human condition from the divine perspective, but rather from the perspective of human needs and concerns, and in terms of what human beings can and should do to address those concerns.

2. Wisdom attempts to give expression to the way things are; it is descriptive and not prescriptive, describing and defining the world and the existing social order as a means to live within both in productive ways.

3. Wisdom thinking grapples with understanding the world, especially the physical and social environment in which they must live; as such, it is both reflective, rational, and concerned with knowledge.

4. It is concerned with learning enough to be able to choose the proper course of action for well being in life, often expressed metaphorically as the "two ways" or the "two paths" (cf. Psa. 1).

Wisdom's claim to authority lies in tradition and observation

1. There is no "thus says the Lord" grounding of authority in wisdom thinking; rather the truth of life is already there in God's creation awaiting discovery.

2. Tradition represents the wisdom of experience, both in individuals and in the collective experiences of the community; preference is usually given to age and established and proven ways of doing things.

3. Wisdom is grounded in social structures, such as the family, the "schools" of the wise elders, or the king and the royal court.

4. Wisdom perspectives do not demand radical change, for example in dealing with social problems.

Israelite Wisdom is rooted in reverence and commitment to God

1. The basic world view of Israelite wisdom is that God is Creator, both of his people and the physical world; everything else in wisdom arises from this conviction.

2. As Creator, God has imbedded truth in all of creation; another way to say this is that all of creation reflects the wisdom, nature, and character of its creator, and therefore all of creation is a way to learn about God and his purposes for the world; creation is truly a "cosmos."

3. Wisdom takes seriously the confession in Genesis that the created world is good; there is no hint of an evil physical world that would emerge later in Greek thinking.

4. Human responsibility to God involves finding the truth of God in the world as reflected in how the world operates according to the harmony of its creator, and then living within that harmony of God's order.

5. Being wise is to search for and maintain the order of God in the world in order to live well as God has created humanity to live; a "fool" is one who does not recognize God as creator and therefore does not seek to live according to the harmony of God's creation.

6. The "way of wisdom" is an ethical system in which humanity is responsible for searching, finding, and doing the things necessary to secure their well being in God's world.

-Dennis Bratcher, Copyright © 2010, Dennis Bratcher, All Rights Reserved

Monday, August 9, 2010

We have to decide what level of commitment we expect from the people we're leading

Preaching for Total Commitment
What does it take to convince people to become fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ?

Bill Hybels
Monday, December 29, 2008

Recently a man commented on the "tough topics" I'd taught on over the years—hell, money, sex, relational confrontation, self-discipline. He asked, "Of all the topics you've preached on, which has been the hardest to get across?"

I didn't even have to think about it. "Becoming totally devoted to Christ." My greatest teaching challenge is to convey what Paul was driving at in Acts 20:24 and elsewhere: "I no longer count my life as dear unto myself; I have abandoned my personal aspirations and ambitions; I have offered myself as a living sacrifice to Christ." When I teach that to secularly minded people, they think I'm from Mars. The thought of living according to someone else's agenda is ludicrous.

To many people, living for Christ is a kind of fanaticism the world could do without. Who, they wonder, would be foolish enough voluntarily to suffer loss, refrain from pleasure, or impinge on the comfort level of his life? They think total devotion to Christ means squandering the only life they have.

A man from my church provides a perfect example. His biggest problem, as I perceive it, is his successful company. Clients whose business he's not even seeking are lining up for his services. Just responding to them is tyrannizing his life. Several months ago I asked him why his heart didn't seem to be as warm toward things of God as it had been.

"Business has been dominating my life," he admitted, but added in defense, "but I'm not seeking it. I'm just trying to handle what's coming in. I mean, what do you expect me to do?"

I suggested he could say, "Enough is enough." He looked at me as if I were insane. What businessman in his right mind would say no to a client whose order would produce a bigger profit? You don't do that in this world. More is always better; it's the American way. The desire for more had a greater pull on this man than his desire to follow Christ, use his spiritual gifts, serve his wife, or be father to his kids.

If it's so hard to persuade people to commit themselves unreservedly to Christ, why bother? Why not settle for church attendance, or membership, or at least periodic service?

As ministers, we all have to come to terms with the quality of fruit we're producing. We have to decide what level of commitment we expect from the people we're leading.

Church history has taught us that a leader can do more through a handful of totally devoted believers than through a church full of halfhearted ones. So we're left with a tension: How can we teach in such a way that we produce fully devoted followers of Jesus Christ, when we know that most people don't want to hear about radical discipleship?

Let me suggest five principles that guide me when I preach for 100 percent commitment.

Describe total commitment
The first step is to develop a clear understanding of total commitment. A teacher constantly has to define and redefine: What does it really mean to be completely devoted to Christ? If it doesn't mean simply showing up for services, putting in a check, and going home, then what does it mean?

Several Bible passages define total commitment for me and shape my preaching on the subject:

Paul's words in 1 Corinthians 15:31: "I die daily." I've never met a fully devoted follower of Christ who didn't have to die daily to a host of things that would like to have a grip on him—personal ambition, worldly pleasures, people's applause, greed. This culture ferociously maintains that "you can have it all," but that slogan is foreign to the mind and teaching of Christ. It's difficult for me to stand in an affluent, suburban congregation and tell people what they need to die to, walk away from, or give up, but I have to do it.

Jesus' command in Luke 10:27 to "love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind." This means we need to obey God's Word and order our lives in such a way that we can live in the constant awareness of his presence.

John's question, "How can you say you love God yet hate your brother?" (1 John 4:20-20). We live in an age in which hate is routine, and too often that attitude spills over into the church. Yet Scripture makes it clear that total devotion to Jesus Christ includes being at peace with our brothers. True Christians, particularly leaders, need to take Matthew 5:23-24 (the need to be reconciled with our brother before coming to God) more seriously. We need to make relational integrity a priority and actively seek reconciliation whenever a problem arises. That should be a prerequisite to ministry.

Jesus' constant teaching on the use of time, talents, and treasures. After a person spends thirty years devoting all of his or her time and talents to the marketplace, it's hard to start devoting it suddenly to the Lord. It's hard to hear verses like "Seek first the kingdom of God," or "Always abound in the work of the Lord," or "Set your mind on things above," or "What does it profit you to gain the whole world and lose your soul?"

It takes time to develop personal spiritual disciplines—Bible study, journaling, praying, fasting, reflecting. It takes time to be in a small group of brothers or sisters who will provide challenge and accountability. It takes time to advance the kingdom in practical service. But those commitments of time are a good measure of our devotion to Christ.

A medical professional from our church has decided to work a four-day week so he can devote the other three days to his lay-leadership role and his relationship with his family. The work time he has given up costs him substantial income every week. But he has decided to die to that so he can live to what Christ has called him to do apart from his vocation. Already he had been using his skills to serve needy people; but now, in addition, he's able to use his gifts of administration and leadership within the church in significant ways. He's putting his time, talents, and treasures at God's disposal.

Model it
The second step in preaching on total commitment is tougher: to live it ourselves. It's clear, I think, that we can't lead a congregation into total commitment unless we're attempting to model it.

Every pastor has been on the wrong side of the total-commitment fence at one time or another. It's like asking an athlete, "Have you always been in superb condition?"

Inevitably, the answer is, "Not always."

When you ask, "How'd you feel when you weren't?" they say, "Sluggish. Under par. Less than professional."

Recently I read about a top leader who was asked, "What is your main objective in leading your organization?"

He said, "To intercept entropy." That fascinated me, because that's what I try to do in my own life. I look at myself and say, Where is there slippage? Where am I getting out of condition? Where am I becoming sluggish? Before I pay attention to the spiritual condition of others, I examine myself.

One of my great frustrations is not being able to manage my life so that I'm always fully committed. But if I'm willing to hear the truth about myself, the Spirit will point out areas of carelessness and inconsistency. Then I can repent and intercept the entropy at a fairly early stage.

In addition to trying to model total commitment, we need other congregational leaders who are fully devoted followers, who can uphold the standard. Last night I looked around the table at our elders' meeting and thought, Every elder in this church is committed to Jesus Christ and would take a bullet for him right now. That means when I preach about total commitment, they're the first ones to cheer me on: "Don't ever settle for less. We're with you 100 percent." It would be pretty hard for me to bring a strong call for deeper discipleship if the elders and other key leaders weren't in agreement.

What's exciting is that the more fully devoted the pastor and lay leaders become, the more fully devoted the congregation becomes. The growth in the congregation then inspires the leaders to deeper commitment, and that prompts a continual cycle of growth. Total discipleship becomes contagious and exhilarating.

There's one man in our church whose only day off is Wednesday; he comes in that morning and cleans our water fountains. Another man comes in on his day off and services our vacuum cleaners. Other volunteers weed and cultivate various flower beds on the church property. I recently saw a young mom tending one of the beds. Her baby sat in a stroller, while she listened to a cassette tape and dug around the flowers. When I see discipleship manifested in service like that, I become motivated to be a more devoted servant myself.

Preach from every angle
The third step is to preach on total commitment from as many creative angles as possible. Here's what I mean:

Select series that lead naturally to a call for commitment. In a sense, every sermon I preach defines some aspect of commitment, whether it's about marriage, character development, caring for our bodies, or whatever. Still, I believe the call to devotion is best presented overtly, and some series don't lend themselves to that as naturally as others.

For example, I preached a series that dealt with honesty in relationships. It was a helpful series, but it didn't provide a good opportunity for calling people to a deeper commitment to Jesus Christ. To do that would have been somewhat manipulative, a bait-and-switch for people who came expecting something else. With some topics, if I want to have integrity, I need to stick with the subject matter and wait for another time to talk about discipleship.

But other topics naturally lead to a call for 100 percent commitment. Last year I preached a series called "Alternatives to Christianity," in which I discussed the New Age Movement, Mormonism, Jehovah's Witnesses, Hinduism, Islam, and Buddhism, and contrasted them with Christianity. Following an honest comparison of these belief systems, I ended the series by saying,

After you've heard all this, wouldn't you agree that the Christian message is absolutely compelling? When you line it up against the other belief systems, doesn't it prove to be a more excellent way? If this series has convinced you that Christianity is compelling in its truths, in the person of Jesus Christ, and in what it produces in individual lives, if, in fact, it's the clear winner, then embrace it with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength. Don't hold back.

That series naturally lent itself to a call for commitment, and I didn't shrink from presenting it. As I plan my preaching, I monitor the series I'm selecting as to whether they lead without manipulation to a message on all-out Christian commitment.

Present committed service as a joyous response to what God has done for us, not as a means to earn salvation. We ministers have to make sure our people realize that discipleship is a way to say thank you to God, not a way to gain merit.

At times I've stopped myself during a call to commitment and said, "If you're outside the family of God, please understand that discipleship is a response to God's amazing grace. It's not an attempt to improve your status before God. Paul says you can 'give your body to be burned,' but you can't save yourself through discipleship. Commitment is a means to express gratitude, not to win entrance into heaven."

Illustrate the alternatives to wholehearted commitment. When I'm trying to challenge the secularly minded person to be a devoted follower of Jesus Christ, I find it effective to play out the opposite scenario.

For example, in a series called "Rare and Remarkable Virtues," the closing message was on contentment. I began by saying:

All he ever really wanted in life was more. He wanted more money, so he parlayed inherited wealth into a billion-dollar pile of assets. He wanted more fame, so he broke into the Hollywood scene and soon became a filmmaker and star. He wanted more sensual pleasures, so he paid handsome sums to indulge his every sexual urge. He wanted more thrills, so he designed, built, and piloted the fastest aircraft in the world. He wanted more power, so he secretly dealt political favors so skillfully that two U.S. presidents became his pawns. All he ever wanted was more. He was absolutely convinced that more would bring him true satisfaction. Unfortunately, history shows otherwise.

Then I went on to describe how this man concluded his life—emaciated; colorless; sunken chest; fingernails in grotesque, inches-long corkscrews; rotting, black teeth; tumors; innumerable needle marks from his drug addiction. "Howard Hughes died," I said, "believing the myth of more. He died a billionaire junkie, insane by all reasonable standards."

By depicting the path of the self-centered life, we can show its emptiness and ultimate futility. We can say, "Friends, it's madness. Can you see that? Maybe these men traveled further down the road to deception than you have, but play it out. Think about where you're headed. Sooner or later you'll get so tired of drinking cups of sand, you'll say, 'I'm ready for some living water.' You can do that 15 years from now, after you've gone through two or three more marriages and left a trail of broken children. Or, you can learn from the madness of others, and bow right now and trust Christ."

I go on to ask, "Has your most recent acquisition quenched the thirst in your soul? Has your most recent thrill, your promotion, your marriage, your new child, your published book, left you totally satisfied inside?" People need to admit that what they thought would satisfy them, when once attained, usually doesn't do the job.

For the currently satisfied, offer your help for a later date. Sometimes people say, "Hey, I'm happy with who I am. I'm not hungry or thirsty for anything. I have no major problems, and I'm doing okay." To people who are that self-deceived, there's nothing I can say. It does no good to try to convince them of their need. But publicly or privately I can offer my assistance for the day they finally realize they need Christ.

For several years I was chaplain for the Chicago Bears and taught a weekly Bible study at Halas Hall, where they practiced. One player used to walk by the door, shake his head and wink at me, and then move on. One day I said to him, "You're on top of the world right now. You've got all the money and fame you could ask for. So you go by and wink, and think I and the rest of the guys in there are fools." He just smiled.

I said, "I'm not trying to be a prophet of doom, but sometime the roof is going to cave in on your life. All of a sudden you're going to realize you don't have it all. When that happens, call me."

Three weeks later, he called. "My only brother just had his first child. It was born deformed. My brother's devastated, and so am I. I don't know what to do or say. Can I talk to you?"

With the currently satisfied, our best strategy is to advertise our availability for the day they realize their need. Patiently let the Spirit work

Bill Hybels speaking on patience is like Imelda Marcos speaking on frugality. But I've had to learn to be patient, to preach on discipleship and allow the Spirit to bring it to pass.

Becoming wholly devoted is a process. Colossians 1 says people need to become complete in Christ, but 1 Corinthians 3 reminds me that they start out as spiritual babes. My responsibility is not to push the growth but to monitor the diet. Does the menu I'm offering provide the nutrition that will lead them to maturity? Is the diet too meaty, so that it chokes them? Or is the diet junk food that tickles the taste buds but fails to sustain health?

All believers ultimately should abandon themselves to full commitment to Christ. However, all believers cannot do that at the same pace. Some people in our body are, by temperament, timid and methodical. If they take tennis lessons, they go forty-five minutes a week, and in eight years they'll play a good game. When it comes to full commitment to Christ, they follow the same pace. They're not fighting God or being rebellious; their slow progression toward commitment is in keeping with the overall speed of their lives. With them, I have to slow down and move accordingly.

Other people are just the opposite. Not long ago, a man wrote to me: "I own two businesses. I became a Christian at one of your services two weeks ago. I have already found two men to run my businesses. I am ready to devote the rest of my life to serving at Willow Creek Community Church. Call me."

We called him immediately—to make sure he wasn't moving too fast. His speed made us nervous, but some people are like that by nature. He probably knew his wife a week before he proposed!

Because of these differences in personality, I never say, "Decide by next Sunday." Ultimatums and specific time frames may not be consistent with individual temperaments. Instead, I say, "You've heard truth from Scripture today. Please don't be hearers only, but doers. As for me and my house, we've decided to do this (whatever I'm preaching). You, too, have decisions to make. May the Holy Spirit have freedom in you as you make the right ones." Be ready to live with opposition

I must point out a painful fact of pastoral life. Preaching sold-out Christianity draws the disapproval of snipers who will try anything to persuade us to lower the standard.

Halfhearted believers respond to messages on total commitment the way rebellious sinners respond to messages on repentance. Suppose you stood before one hundred thousand kids at a rock concert and said, "You're on the wrong road. Please reconsider the direction of your life. Fall to your knees, repent of your rebellion against God, and receive Christ as your Savior." You can bet you'd see hostility.

I've found similar resistance when I've challenged halfhearted, cosmetic Christians to be dedicated completely to Christ. Whenever you expose someone's addiction to gratification, you can expect a defensive reaction.

Pastors feel it. We preach a tough message on discipleship, and the reaction tells us it's "thirty-two degrees and falling." The next week we preach on rebuilding self-esteem, and suddenly it's "eighty-five degrees and sunshiny." What are we inclined to preach about the third week?

How do people couch their resistance? "You're being too harsh. You're being unrealistic. We're not ready for that yet. What about 'God loves you as you are'?" If I didn't have support from my elders, I couldn't keep it up, because sometimes the resistance gets too strong.

Not long ago we surveyed our committed core people. One question we asked was, "Are you using your spiritual gift in this body for God's glory on a weekly basis?" About 53 percent said they were. Scripturally, that's not good enough. So, in a message I cited that statistic and said, "I thank God for those of you who are using your spiritual gifts. And I pray for those of you who have been so deeply wounded in the past that you need a time of healing before you can begin to serve. But to the rest of you, I have to ask a tough question: What's going on? If you've been redeemed and welcomed into the family of God, you should be lying awake nights thinking of ways to show God your gratitude. One way you can do that is by identifying and using your spiritual gift. If you're not doing that, something is wrong!"

I have to confess I even used the word parasites for people "who eat and run, who enjoy the benefits of the body of Christ, but don't contribute to its well-being."

One of the elders stopped me afterward and said, "Great word. It had to be said." I needed that kind of support, because the next day the missiles started arriving in the mail: "Just because I choose not to serve in this body does not make me a parasite."

"You had no right to pressure us that way."

"You're an egomaniac who thinks you can tell everybody else how to live."

I answered every letter and offered to talk further. I did, however, affirm my understanding of 1 Corinthians 12: If you claim to be a part of the body, then you need to function as a part of the body.

The point is, when we feel we have to confront the congregation, that's when we need to be surrounded by elders who can say, "That's the right message, given in the right spirit. Don't let the missiles get to you."

Because of that, I alert the elders when I'm thinking of preaching a particularly challenging message. Sometimes they say, "Bill, that sounds more like your personal pet peeve than our collective concern. Be careful." Then I usually drop the issue or wait until I have a better perspective on it.

Other times, they confirm my desire to preach the message, and I can step into the pulpit with confidence. Why I keep preaching this message

What helped me overcome my hesitation to preach the genuine, all-or-nothing gospel of Christ? The realization that living a genuine, all-or-nothing life for God is the only path to satisfaction.

Every day I journal, write out my prayers, and resubmit myself to God. I say with the hymn writer, "Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to thee." Or, "You are the Potter; I am the clay. Hold over my being absolute sway." Then, with the help of the Holy Spirit, I try to follow those commitments during the day.

I have never regretted my attempts to be yielded to God. In fact, my times of greatest yieldedness have been my times of greatest joy. They've prompted me to ask with the psalmist, "What can I render to the Lord for all of his benefits to me?"

On the other hand, I have paid dearly for the times I have not been yielded, when I've been self-willed, carnal, rebellious, or timid. Remembering that helps me when I reach the point in the message when I call people to full commitment to Christ. It's easy to feel tentative when I realize I may be asking a man to give up a six-figure income, or a woman to forsake a relationship she depends on, or a teenager to be rejected by his peer group. The Evil One clouds my mind and makes me think I shouldn't lay such heavy challenges on people.

Then I remember: It's in total commitment that we find the blessedness, peace, thrill, and adventure we were meant to enjoy. It's in the pursuit of radical discipleship that we experience the constant companionship and smile of God. Remembering that makes me want to shout from the mountaintops, "The best thing you can do is drop to your knees right now and say, 'Lord, here I am, wholly available. I pour myself out for you.' "

I've never met anyone who regretted his or her decision to become a devoted Christian. I could fill a stadium, though, with people who shipwrecked their lives because they refused to respond to God's call. People write me saying, "If only I could roll back the clock; if only I hadn't been obstinate in my relationship with God; if only I'd listened."

Radical commitment to Jesus Christ is a tough challenge, but it leads to life in all its fullness. Since we know that's true, we need to ask ourselves only one question: Will we shrink back from calling people to do what will serve them best and give God the most glory, or will we be faithful servants who speak the powerful, life-changing truth?

Bill Hybels is pastor of Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois. This article was first published in Leadership in 1989.

Copyright © 2008 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.
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