Archive for: June, 2014

The Tongue Rule Challenge

Jun 30 2014 Published by under Evangelism, Life

By Dan Rockwell

dan3Of all the people in the world, Christians should use words more skillfully than anyone.

“Do not use harmful words, but only helpful words, the kind that build up and provide what is needed, so that what you say will do good to those who hear you.” Ephesians 4:29 (GNB)

Sadly, we have a reputation for speaking against things rather than for. Frankly, we are often known for negativity.

Positive speech, in some Christian circles, seems like a sin. We go so far as to suggest that railing against something indicates strength and holiness. In reality, tearing down is unbiblical, misguided, and weak.

Yes, there are exceptions. Jesus hammered the religious elite. If you’re inclined to fight, attack denominational leaders who choose law over grace. Call them pretty coffins full of dried up bones.

But, the tongue rule may be a better option.

The tongue rule:

“Only open your mouth to make something better.”

Other than that, be quiet.

Even if you’re pointing out a problem, only point it out so you can explore how to make it better.

Sounds simple enough. But, James, the brother of Jesus said, “But no one has ever been able to tame the tongue. It is evil and uncontrollable, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8 (GNB)

Developing a graceful tongue:

If you enjoy challenges, adopt the tongue rule challenge.

  1. It’s a journey.
  2. Receive and enjoy God’s favor.
  3. Treat others the way God treats you.
  4. Find some friends who are on the “tongue taming” journey with you.
  5. Start again after you screw up. Grace is beginning again, again.
  6. Talk less. But, realize silence isn’t the goal, building up is.
  7. Only speak to make things better.

Dan Rockwell is the author of the Leadership Freak blog, recognized as the most socially shared leadership blog of 2012, in addition to authoring the Grace Freak blog. Currently, Dan coaches leaders, consults with organizations, and delivers corporate and community presentations. You can follow his blogs at www.leadershipfreak.wordpress.com and www.gracefreakdan.wordpress.com.

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Reaching a Rural Community

Jun 23 2014 Published by under Church, Evangelism, Ministry

By Kent Anderson

kentA rural church must find practical ways to reach and serve their community. A change from an inward to an outward focus is only part of the solution. If a church wants to influence their community, the most effective way to do so is the Jesus way- to serve and then share their way into the life of the community. Mark 10:45 says, “The Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve”, and this should be our model.

The following are 10 practical outreach ideas that rural churches can implement to reach their communities:

1. Assess the needs of your community. Pastors can uncover needs in their community that others are not addressing. Websites such as epodunk.com, census.gov, and dataplace.org will help you assess your community. Ask members of your community what they feel are the most pressing needs. Ask the question, “In your opinion, what is the best thing our church could do for this town?”

2. Meet with community stakeholders. A rural pastor must be intentional in developing solid relationships with community leaders. Stakeholders can include the mayor, school principal, high school coach, and others. Community leaders know firsthand the issues their community is facing.

3. Become a friend to your community’s school system. The question every rural church must ask is, “How can we wrap our arms around our local school?” In a rural setting, the school is the hub of the community. Some churches bring cinnamon rolls to the teachers’ lounge and deliver coffee and donuts to bus drivers. They provide reading buddies to students, conduct after-school programs, honor teachers and staff, provide supplies for classrooms, and assist with projects around the school.

4. Become active in community events. How can the church plug into the community calendar? What events are taking place throughout the year that your church could join? What sporting events and holiday celebrations can the church be involved in? What does the community offer in the way of meals on wheels, senior center activities, etc., in which your church can partner? Offer an event for your community such as a Kidsfest in the park, mega sports camp, hunting clinic, horse-riding clinic, etc. Connect with your firefighters and policemen and women and host a hero day for them and their families.

5. Develop a community group adoption program. What groups, places, or organizations could your church adopt? This program could include adopting teachers, social workers, firefighters, sports teams, classrooms, the senior center, or the local park. One church in Kansas adopted the town’s main street and the youth washed all the windows of the downtown businesses. A rural church in Iowa painted the benches on Main Street.

6. Become a specialty provider. Many rural churches do not have the capacity to run a food pantry, clothing closet, or thrift store. Become the church that has a specialty item — diapers, baby formula, underwear and socks or hygiene products. One church in Montana offers firewood during the winter for people in their community. Another church in West Virginia designated a Sunday School room for teachers and offered them supplies for their classroom.

7. Offer a need-based program. Offer a program based on the findings of your assessment. Programs like Celebrate Recovery, Marriage Encounter, Financial Peace, Angel Food ministry, single moms ministry, and MOPS can be a way to reach out to people in need in your community.

8. Create a helping hands ministry. Organize a Sunday School class or small group focused solely on outreach. The class or small group can pray, plan, and implement ministry opportunities within the community. One church asks each individual department to conduct one service project each year. This way, the church has outreach focused ministry going on in its community every month.

9. Prepare your church for emergency response. Partner with organizations such as Community Emergency Response Team (CERT), Red Cross, emergency personnel, etc. Train church members to be first responders when disaster hits.

10. Conduct a one-day outreach. Plan a day of outreach that might include distributing school supplies, clothing, shoes, coats, etc. to the people within the community. A rural church in Illinois conducted a one-day outreach called Sharefest and had over 600 people attend. The town’s population is 2,000.in

The impact of a powerful rural Pentecostal church in a community will greatly enhance community life and pave the way for strong connections between the church and the community. As General Superintendent George O. Wood has stated, “We must have substantial evidence of being baptized in the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, our prayer should be, “Let my heart break with the things that break God’s heart – and then let me do something about it.”

 

Kent Anderson serves as the Church Care Network Coordinator for Convoy of Hope – Rural Compassion Ministries. To learn more about Rural Compassion, please visit www.ruralcompassion.org.

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The Growth of the Church

Jun 16 2014 Published by under Church, Ministry

By Dr. Dick Brogden

dick-brogdenCurrently there is an inordinate emphasis on size and speed when it comes to the development of the church. Church history soberly shows that orthodoxy tends not to spread as swiftly as heresy and that bad teaching outpaces good. It is the slow, steady repeated truth of God that builds the enduring church. The largest church at the end of the first century was found in Rome, thought by most scholars to be around two hundred members. The churches in Ephesus, Corinth, Philippi, Colosse, and Thessalonica (among others) were most probably between fifteen and fifty. The record of Acts takes place over about fifty years.

Biblical precedent indicates that it takes about a generation to get a few churches to what we now consider modest size. One myth is that the church has to grow quickly; another that a strong church is a big church. The best churches tend to grow slowly and steadily, and the normal first century church comprised less than fifty people.

Disciples, too, are forged over time. If a church is but a collection of disciples, then it makes sense that strong churches require time to become solid. Another common myth today in missions is that all new disciples need is the Bible and the Holy Spirit. As appealing as this sounds, it has never been true in history, and if we are honest, it has not been true for any of us experientially. Consider how many books, sermons, mentors, friends, and external inputs help shape and form our spirituality over time. None of us grew to where we are without multiple sources of input over disparate seasons, all the input submitted to the authority of the Holy Spirit and the Word.

Biblically there always remains the need for an outside catalyst to help correct our biases and heresies. A group of people studying the Scriptures can just as easily end up pooling ignorance as illumining one another. Acts 15 is a classic example of ongoing external input necessary for the formation of strong disciples and churches. The negative example of external input (requiring circumcision) does not negate the massive, ongoing positive external input.

Paul and Barnabas report the wonderful turning of the Gentiles to Jesus. They also report the negative external pressure. James and the counsel respond by correcting the error and reinforcing what is necessary. In Acts 15:20, James delineates what they should not do–former religious forms and rituals. Paul reminds the council that coming to Jesus demands conversion (v. 3) and James cites Peter that the Gentiles must come out of false religion (v. 14). In Acts 15:32, Judas and Silas “exhort and strengthen the brethren with many words.” In verse 35, Paul and Barnabas teach and preach to the Gentiles and in verse 36, Paul and Barnabas commit to revisit their converts to ensure they are walking correctly.

Disciples and churches are forged over time. Let us continue to believe that God will do great things and bring millions into His church. Let us continue to understand that it is slow, steady, life-on-life work to make disciples and build churches.

 

Dr. Dick Brogden currently serves as an Assemblies of God World Missionary and is the Strategy Leader for Live Dead Arab World.  To find out more about the Live Dead Arab World project, visit http://arabworld.live-dead.org. 

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The Freedom of Unconditional Love

Jun 09 2014 Published by under Evangelism, Ministry, Missions

By Carla Ellis

DSC_9157It was a hot and sweaty day in the desert of Rajasthan, India when my Indian friends and I arrived at the village. From the outside it looks like any other village, but behind the walls lives a group of people desperate for true unconditional love.

 

The Rajnats are known as “The King’s Dancers”. During the dynasty period they danced for the royal families, but when the dynamics of India changed, so did the future of the Rajnat people. Societal norms forced the Rajnat women into bar room dancing and prostitution. They are born into the most devastating business in the world, which often begins at the age of 12.

 

We had been ministering alongside our Indian friends in one of the Rajnat villages for months, but this day turned out to be the most challenging. After arriving at the village we began asking the ladies if they would like to make jewelry with us. They said, “No, we must work,” reminding us once again of the horrific life that chained them.

 

Then I spotted a ray of hope in the distance. A young lady named Rakia came and greeted us with her beautiful smile. Every week I had been praying that God would somehow give me an opportunity to minister to Rakia. Not only was Rakia born in the brothel, she was also born deaf and mute. By pointing to the necklace and tools I asked Rakia if she wanted to make one. She quickly nodded her head to say yes. “Finally God! Thank you,” I whispered. Rakia took us over to a wooden bench sitting outside her small concrete home. Just as we began to start, her mother called her away from us.

 

A strange man took her by the hand and led her into a room only inches from where we were sitting. In seconds her demeanor changed from happiness to hopelessness. She was being led once again into the depths of despair, realizing she was moments away from despicable shame and abuse.

 

We were devastated! I wanted to scream. I wanted to pull her out and save her! But there was absolutely nothing I could do. I felt so shallow and helpless. I was so confused about why God allowed this and extremely angry that Rakia’s mom allowed this! How could a mother do this to her precious daughter? Everything in me wanted to let her know what an awful person she was!

 

Then she asked me a very challenging question, “Can you help me?” I hesitated. “Help you? I don’t think so! You just gave your daughter to that man,” I thought to myself. She showed me her hands. They were very dry, cracked, and infected due to the harsh conditions endured in the desert. I must admit I did not feel very sympathetic or loving. I did not want to help her; I wanted to help her daughter.

 

Then the Lord spoke to me, “I did not send you here today for Rakia only. I also sent you here for Rakia’s mom. She needs your unconditional love, too. A love that shows no record of wrongs, a love that forgives, even when a person has hurt you or someone you love.”

 

Suddenly, Rakia’s mom looked completely different in my eyes. I began to see her as Jesus does, beautiful and desperately helpless without Him. Forced to watch her own daughter be raped by strangers day after day, she was also shackled by the generations of sin that have stolen happiness and hope from her family.

 

Then something occurred to me. I remembered I had the exact medicine that Rakia’s mom needed in the car. I had forgotten to leave it at one of our schools earlier in the day. Realizing it was not a mistake, but divine intervention, I ran to the car and got the medicine. Putting the medicine into Rakia’s mom’s cracked hands, scarred by the hardships of life, I prayed that she would find freedom in God’s amazing grace and that I would find freedom to share his unconditional love.

 

Although your journey may not lead you to the deserts of India, there are people in your path every day who need a touch of God’s love. Some are easy to love, others not so easy. My prayer is that God would give all of us divine encounters with those who need it most desperately.

 

Carla Ellis and her husband, Rev. Joel Ellis, are Assemblies of God World Missionaries and currently serve as part of the Global Operations team at Global University, with Joel as Vice President of Global Operations. She can be reached at cellis@globaluniversity.edu.

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