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GUEST POST~ How Your Worldview Affect Discipleship

GUEST POST~ How Your Worldview Affect Discipleship

Worldview Discipleship

By Freddy Davis

In years past, in America, Christians could easily get away with a superficial understanding of their faith because it was pretty rare that anyone would challenge their beliefs. That was a time when most people actually went to church, at least on Easter and Christmas, when schools would not schedule sporting events on Wednesday evenings because that was prayer meeting night, when school children prayed The Lord’s Prayer at the beginning of the school day, and when being a member of a church was a good look for one’s business. In those days, it was pretty much assumed that people believed in God, and if someone came out as an Atheist, it was considered socially scandalous.

 

Of course, even in those days, not everyone was a Christian – even those who self-identified that way. A lot of people who did go to church only did it for show, or because that was their tradition. While they might not have had other scheduled events on Wednesdays, they, themselves, never went to prayer meeting. While the children may have repeated The Lord’s Prayer at school, many, if not most, didn’t really pray it sincerely – it was just a tradition repeated by rote. And many of the business people who were active in church really did view it as a means for making a good impression on people, and networking to promote their business. Yeah, those might have seemed like the “good ol days” for the church on a superficial level, but in some ways the church was a mile wide and an inch deep.

 

So how is it different today? Well, it’s different in a very profound way. In modern society, the script has, in many places, been completely flipped. Now, many people consider it scandalous to be associated with a church, church activities are not considered at all when schools schedule sporting, and other, events, it is against the law to have a school sanctioned prayer, and church is not considered to be a reputation enhancer for business. And, on top of that, it is not unusual at all for people to openly challenge the beliefs of Christians.

 

While in the past, a superficial understanding of one’s Christian faith may have been sufficient in order to successfully navigate local society, in many places that is just not the case anymore. In fact, for people who actually do want to live out their Christian faith, it is not even enough to simply know what we believe – even at a deeper level. If we want to be able to stand upright in the radical anti-Christian society that currently exists, we not only need to know what we believe, but why what we believe is the truth. But even that is not enough in many cases. We even need to know why the beliefs of those coming against us is NOT the truth.

 

So how do we do that? We do it by understanding worldview concepts, and by using those concepts to understand our own faith and the faith of those who oppose us.

 

What is Worldview?

So just what is a worldview? The quick formal definition is that a worldview is the assumptions people make about the nature of reality. That is, it is a set of beliefs that define for an individual what they consider to be real vs. what they consider to be fantasy. Now that is an easy definition to quote, but the depth and significance of the definition needs to be pondered a bit for it to truly hit home in our lives.

 

Interestingly, most people’s worldview beliefs are assumed to the degree that they are totally unconscious. After all, if a person considers certain particular beliefs to be fantasy, it is not even worth the time to give deep thought to them at all. People consider their own worldview beliefs to be true – just because they are true.

 

For example, as a Christian, you believe in God. The idea that someone would say they don’t believe in God seems rather senseless – a fantasy. It seems that way because your experience, at the most foundational level, has brought you to the place where you believe. You have met Christ and interact personally with God in your spiritual life. Many Christians reason that, “Yeah, they say they don’t believe in God, but just wait until a serious crisis hits ....”

 

But here’s the kicker, those Atheists have the same sense of assurance that God does not exist that you have that he does. They look at your belief in God as a fantasy. Very few have ever considered why they believe that way. It is just that, to them, the idea of God simply doesn’t make sense.

 

So a worldview is a set of assumptions that people hold, generally at an unconscious level, that helps them organize their thoughts about what is real and what is fantasy.

 

How Do We Recognize a Worldview?

The next question relates to where a person’s worldview comes from. And there are actually three different possibilities.

 

•Circumstances

The first possibility relates to the environment a person was raised in. Every person has been raised by people who, themselves, held some set of worldview beliefs. Those beliefs were simply assumed to be true, and they taught them to their children by word and by deed without even realizing they were doing so. A social environment just is what it is, and those raised in it just pick it up. It’s never questioned because children don’t know enough to question them.

 

•Conversion

The second place a worldview can come from is by conversion. At some point in life, most people will come face-to-face with an opposing worldview. In many cases, the beliefs they were raised in are strong enough that the conflicting worldview beliefs are merely seen as fantasy – nonsensical.

 

But some people encountering those new beliefs are challenged by them – they somehow make sense. When that happens, it shakes them to the core, because if those new beliefs are true, that means their previous understanding of reality is a lie.

 

This is what happens when a person comes face-to-face with the realization that God is a real person that they can know in an objectively real personal relationship, and they invite Christ into their life. It is a conversion experience. It also sometimes happens the other way around. When a person who was raised in a Christian home is taught the Theory of Evolution in school, for instance, and it somehow ends up making makes more sense to them than the belief that God created life, they will convert to Atheism. The shock of the new belief is such that they change their understanding of reality and convert to believing a different narrative.

 

•Choice

The third place a worldview belief can come from is choice. Since most people’s worldview beliefs are completely unconscious, there is not a conscious choice to be made. But if a person comes to a place where they actually study worldview concepts and learn the various possibilities, it is then possible to analyze those possibilities and choose the one that seems to best match up with what they experience as reality. This is probably the least common way people come to their worldview beliefs because so few people actually ever study worldview concepts.

 

What Are the Implications of Thinking in Worldview Terms?

It is important to understand that grasping worldview concepts is not simply an academic exercise. There are very real and practical implications in these concepts that relate to real life. These implications not only affect our understanding, but also the way we think about our own, and other people’s, beliefs, and the way we interact with other people. There are five primary areas where the practical implications of worldview knowledge come into play.

 

1. It Defines the Essential Elements of the Christian Faith

We are all aware that there is a lot of variety within the Christian faith. Sadly, this variety accounts for much of the division we see within the Christian community. The variety, in and of itself, is not necessarily a bad thing, but it becomes a problem when people who hold certain theological views are not willing to accept those who hold differing views.

 

At this point there is a certain distinction that needs to be made. Not all beliefs within the Christian faith are equal. There are certain beliefs that are essential and others that are not essential.

 

The essential ones actually define the outer boundaries of the faith itself. Those who hold to beliefs that are outside of the essentials are actually outside of the Christian faith. Those essential beliefs relate to what the Bible teaches about God, man, and salvation. We get at these beliefs by answering three questions:

1. Who is God?

2. What is man?

3. What is salvation and how do we achieve it?

 

The non-essential beliefs relate to other doctrines such as what one believes about baptism, predestination, eschatology (last things), and the like. Note, it is not that these other doctrines are not important. They actually are. But they are not important to the extent that they affect whether or not one is legitimately a Christian. A person can even have absolutely wrong beliefs about these non-essential things and still be within the family of believers.

 

Having a firm grasp on what the Bible teaches about God, man, and salvation provides Christians with the absolute essential core elements of the faith. This is the starting point for being able to use worldview knowledge in ways that strengthen our Christian faith.

 

2. It Defines the Essential Elements of Other Faith Systems

The essential beliefs that were referred to in the previous section also have an important part to play in our understanding of other, non-Christian, belief systems. In fact, every belief system in existence has some way that it answers the three essential questions about God, man, and salvation. The answer to these three questions based on the beliefs of any given belief system, defines it’s essential core beliefs. Having that information allows us to understand other beliefs, and gives us a tool to analyze them for truth.

 

3. It Defines the Core of the Gospel Message

There is a third value for understanding a worldview paradigm when it comes to expressing our Christian faith out in the world. As it turns out, not only does knowing the biblical answers to the three essential worldview questions help us understand the core essentials of our Christian faith, it also provides us with the information we need to share our faith. In fact, the biblical answers to the three questions comprise the Christian plan of salvation. We are sharing the gospel message when we share with a non-believer how the Bible answers those three questions.

 

4. It Can Be Used as a Means of Bible Study

Another value of understanding the worldview paradigm is that it helps us focus in on the essential elements of biblical faith as we read the Bible. There are a lot of topics that are addressed in the Bible, and it is possible to discern various doctrines from the biblical text as we read it. Proper biblical interpretation would have us search the entire Bible to see what it says on particular topics, and that gives us the whole counsel of Scripture on those topics. More importantly, as we study the Bible, if we read with a view to how particular passages and verses answer the three essential questions, we have a way of studying the Bible that keeps us focused on the essential core of the Bible’s message.

 

5. It Can Be Used in Incursion Apologetics to Break down Non-biblical Beliefs

One other value in understanding the worldview paradigm is that it gives Christians the tools to stand strong against those who try to attack the Christian faith. These days, many people, particularly those who hold a naturalistic worldview, are not content to merely believe something different, they want to destroy Christians to the greatest degree possible. To do that, they use all kinds of arguments and tactics – from questioning the validity of the Bible’s message, to condemning the beliefs and values of Christianity, to asserting that the Bible has been accurately preserved through the centuries, and others.

 

When people become antagonistic like that, it is generally not sufficient to merely answer their taunts. Rather, one must actually question the validity of the attack itself. The use of a worldview paradigm to understand the beliefs and weaknesses of an attacker is extremely valuable in pulling off that kind of response. When we know what other people believe and why what they believe is not true, we are in a position to make them justify their attack before being required to answer them. This approach also puts us in a position to express the truth of the gospel message and share a Christian witness to them.

 

What Does a Church Need to Do to Prepare its People?

In these days, false beliefs are ubiquitous – that is, there are scores of different false beliefs that are prominent in the public square. So how can a church help its people deal with this issue – not only for helping them discern between true and false beliefs, but also help them become able to share an effective Christian witness in this complicated societal soup?

 

The key is to do what the Bible teaches in Ephesians 4:11-13 – to equip the saints for the work of ministry. We should not abandon the ministry that is already being done, but at the same time an increased emphasis must be placed on Christian discipleship efforts. And a special emphasis needs to be placed on biblical worldview training.

 

Make no mistake about it, this is much easier said than done. People get settled into their regular routines in all areas of life – including church life. But unless this new emphasis is intentionally implemented, Christians will continue falling further and further behind. We need to be equipped!

 

 

MarketFaith Ministries exists to equip Christians to become more knowledgeable of and confident in their Christian faith by providing worldview training. We have resources to help individuals as well as the ability to train congregations to stand strong for Christ in our rapidly declining society. Contact us today at 850-383-9756 or info@marketfaith.org and let’s discuss how to bring this cutting edge training to you. Also, be sure and check out the free worldview training resources as well as those available for purchase on the MarketFaith Ministries website at www.marketfaith.org.

 

Reprinted from Worldview Made Practical; a free e-zine produced by MarketFaith Ministries featuring practical teaching and life tools to help Christians become more effective in their faith life. Discover MarketFaith Ministries at www.marketfaith.org. 

***Related article: The Danger of A Homogeneous Blindspot by Phil Miglioratti

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GUEST POST~ Discipleship Principles vs. Methodology

New blog post from Bob Logan

Methods, approaches, and styles change over time. Different strategies work in different seasons. Trends in ministry come and go. Yet I wonder: among all the change, what stays the same? As the culture shifts and changes around us, what proven principles remain firm and reliable? Applying those principles to discipleship methodologies can help your church grow more and better disciples. So, what are discipleship principles?

“The grass withers and the flowers fall, but the word of our God endures forever.” —Isaiah 40:8

6 Principles of Discipleship

When you study the way Christ discipled his followers, a pattern emerges. He applied different methods but the heart and purpose—the principles—behind the method is consistent. These are the principles behind discipleship:

     1.Discipleship is personal. It’s always tailored and customized to the individual and their own unique journey of growth. Their path of discipleship must fit them… otherwise it’s like David in Saul’s armor. 

     2.Discipleship is relational. It’s always done in connection with other people: never alone. One can never disciple oneself. 

     3.Discipleship is intentional. It’s never accidental, but on-purpose. There is a direction and flow of energy in that direction: toward fullness in Christ. 

     4.Discipleship is consistent. It’s constant over time, not one-and-done. “A long obedience in the same direction,” as Eugene Peterson put it. 

     5.Discipleship is Spirit-led. The Holy Spirit must lead the process because we don’t know ahead of time where he wants to take us or what specifically he wants us to do. There is no prefab template to follow; what we need to follow is the in-the-moment leading of the Holy Spirit. 

     6.Discipleship is outcome-focused. Obedience takes precedence over knowledge as we move more and more towards forming the character of Christ and the following the mission of Christ. What matters is what we do with it. 

    Consider: can you find any exceptions? Any instances in which the above items were not an essential component of discipleship?

Methodologies Measured by Principles

Principles never change. Methods can and should change. If you are doing discipleship the way it’s always been done or you are not experiencing growth, it’s time to take a hard look at effectiveness of your discipleship methods. People change. Cultures change. Context changes. If you are serious about living out the Great Commission, you have to ensure your discipleship methods are effectively reaching your community.

Take an honest look at your current discipleship methodologies by holding them up to the timeless principles. Here are some examples of low, average, and high effectiveness in each principle. Where does your discipleship program land?

Discipleship is personal.

•(L) If people are involved in our ministries we assume that they are growing as disciples.

•(A) We have a linear discipleship program. Everyone starts in the same place and follows the same path.

•(H) We meet people where they are at and help them determine and take their next best step toward Jesus.

Discipleship is relational.

•(L) We don’t have intentional, personal discipleship conversations.

•(A) We have some mature Christians who meet one-on-one to disciple others.

•(H) Our congregants have healthy relationships inside and outside of the church. People are growing as disciples while making more disciples.

Discipleship is intentional.

•(L) We seek to address discipleship needs through sermons and curriculum.

•(A) A high percentage of our people attend a small group.

•(H) We equip people to discern and live into their gifts and calling.

Discipleship is consistent.

•(L) Discipleship relationships tend to fall apart without ongoing staff involvement.

•(A) Our church has rhythms for classes and small groups that address discipleship.

•(H) We continually help people engage in their spiritual formation and build redemptive relationships.

Discipleship is Spirit-led.

•(L) We stick to a curriculum based approach to discipleship.

•(A) When the Spirit provides a word that directly speaks to someone we don’t follow up on it.

•(H) We discern the promptings of the Holy Spirit and maintain focus until the vision becomes reality.

Discipleship is outcome-focused.

•(L) Church is a come and see model. We provide solid biblical teaching for those who enter our doors.

•(A) We have a solid mission statement but only a few are actively engaged pursuing that mission.

•(H) We have stated goals and objectives that relate directly to the Great Commandments and Great Commission. We regularly assess our methodologies and adapt them for greater effectiveness.

Principle-based Discipleship Programs

Where did you come out? A good way to check your answers is to measure the overall fruit produced. If you landed on the Low side, your church has likely plateaued or even experiencing slow decline. If you determined you are Average, you likely have a solid core group of people who are close to one another. Growth is slow and mostly church transfers. However, if you are seeing new people come to Christ and people are experiencing lasting transformation, it’s safe to confirm you are indeed on the High end of discipleship programming.

Wherever you land, it’s always good to make sure your methods—and your people—are solidly formed in discipleship principles.

In what ways can you ensure that each of the principles listed above remains present and central in the discipleship process used by your ministry? What methods or trends are you including in your discipleship process are no longer working? How can you better connect them to the discipleship principles?

Resources

The Discipleship Difference– Are you frustrated with your discipleship efforts? Are you noticing an imbalance between personal growth as a disciple and passing it on? The Discipleship Difference lays out an intentional, holistic, and relational approach to discipleship. It is simple in structure and flexible enough to meet each person wherever they are and help them take their next best step in their relationship with God.

Guide for Discipling- Ready for serious growth as a disciple of Christ? This scripture-based guide will challenge you to take the next steps. This nonlinear guide is great for personal study but better done in community with others. Grab a couple of people to walk through this guide together to experience transformation. Available for the LutheranVineyard, and Episcopal church cultures as well.

The post Discipleship Principles vs. Methodology appeared first on Logan Leadership.

 Copyright © 2022 Robert E. Logan, All rights reserved.

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Secularism shared Evanlogically.

Secular:  “The goal is not to be liked, it's to be respected.”— Unknown

Evanlogicals:  Just want to be good and faithful servants.

 

Secular:  “Albert Camus noted that ‘integrity has no need of rules’, an observation lamentably in stark conflict with the leadership of today’s American institutions, be they political, governmental, commercial, educational, community, charitable or spiritual.”— Coe D. Behr, Southern humorist, critic and canophilist

Evanlogically:  We all need rules.  For all have debauched and fall short of the Integrity of God.  Romans 3:23… kinda sorta.

 

Secular:  “Getting over a painful experience is much like crossing monkey bars. You have to let go at some point in order to move forward.”— C.S. Lewis, (1898-1963)

Evanlogically:  Getting over religion and coming to Faith is so painful because the monkey bars are made of bricks, mortar, liturgy, ritual and tradition.

 

 

 

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The Purpose of Christ's Church

 

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There are different kinds of service in the church, but it is the same Lord we are serving. 

A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.

1 Corinthians 12:5, 7 NLT


 

Christ’s church exists to worship Him.

     He is glorified when his children sing his praises wholeheartedly. 

     Humbling ourselves in his Presence—

          we acknowledge that God is our Creator and Master;

          we submit to his guidance and sincerely follow his lead;

          we thank him for rich blessings He showers on us day by day;

          we honor his name in our words, thoughts, and actions.

     We exalt Christ above everything, avoiding false gods of the heart. 

 

Christ’s church is designed to provide fellowship for his family.

     No saint should declare emotional independence from other saints.

     Every member needs help from other members—no one is an island.

     Jesus’ sheep flock together—love for him unifies and cheers our hearts. 

     God blesses his people with a kaleidoscope of gifts to build each other up. 

     We encourage others, showing sincere and loving interest in them.

 

Christ’s church is a school for his students.

     Disciples have different experiences, personalities and abilities;

          but we share one common need—to grow up in faith and grace.  

     Studying God’s’ Word, we try to live by the Book in our everyday lives. 

     Walking in God’s Light, we take one step at a time in life’s journey. 

     Reflecting on God’s Law, we obey his orders and set the pace for others.

     We educate all who enroll in Jesus University—there’s a lot to learn. 

 

Christ’s church is commissioned to share the best news every announced.

     Jesus died for the world’s sins so people wouldn’t have to experience hell.

     He rose again from the grave so people could be free from fear of dying. 

     Sowing Gospel seed in tears, we celebrate the harvest in joyful triumph.   

     We evangelize the world with a sense of urgency—time is ticking away.

 

Christ’s church is called to minister to others in his name.

     Our mission field is the world—compassion for others marks his servants. 

     Heartless service is useless service—love alone makes the difference.

     Shouldering our cross in the shadows of our Master, we serve the world. 

     We love beyond stained-glass windows—Christianity is made for the road.

 
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                                           © Johnny R. Almond

                              Pastor, Hull’s Memorial Baptist Church

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GUEST POST~ Questions Empower You To #Reimagine

 
Happy 2022!
 
Good Questions allow the one asking to find out something they did not know!
 
Great Questions allow the one being asked to discover things about themselves that they were unaware of! 
 
Below are 365 Great Questions for you to ask others and yourself throughout 2022  to discover things you were previously unaware of!  Yes - a question for every day of the year.
 
I recently heard from a friend who shared that she and one of her friends connect for a quick phone call daily to ask each other the question for that day!  Other than discussing the usual topics of weather and family and what's on their schedule for the day, these questions allow both of them to discover new things about themselves and each other that they were previously unaware of!
 
Ministry is really about relationship!  A quote I love by Andrew Sobel says, "Telling creates resistance!  Asking creates relationship!"   Here is a steady supply of questions that will allow you to build relationships with the new acquaintances that God puts in your path and will allow you to deepen relationships with those you are already connected to! 
 
After you have had the opportunity to take a quick look at all 365 - I would love to know the Top 10 Questions you have identified from the whole list!  You can simply type the number of the question in the "Comment Section" below​.
 
Here are some that allow me to reexamine and rethink​:​ 7, 30, 71, 185, 209, 326 and 358.
 
Love in Christ,
Bob Tiede
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Leadership Development Team  /  Cru
bob.tiede@cru.org   /   214-213-2179
LeadingWithQuestions.com   /   339QuestionsJesusAsked.com
Happy 2022!
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365 Thought Provoking Questions to Ask Yourself and Others in 2022CeScgR6kd76Y6CBJ_V8H_frJDnscdqwcjqjvC4mnx1nuEWpVz5NvCudUavLuLjxKU_F7gVes53_dzuXRo65Yxf_uvMNrbL0NByp1hwVY3ZgZI7ypHJ_RAToHxwVOMJGPicjw3dacYUj7FPyB6twKyag97aE3fg=s0-d-e1-ft#<a href=

Guest Post by Marc and Angel Chernoff

 

Happy 2022!


       "Asking the right questions is the answer.”

That’s the tagline at the top of our sister site Thought Questions.  The site thrives on the philosophy that a question that makes you think is worth asking.  So we’ve made a ritual of asking one new thought provoking question every day for our visitors to ponder and answer.

Over the past years we have received countless requests to compile all the questions and place them on a single page that can be easily printed and reviewed.  So here it is.  A whole year’s worth of thought provoking questions to get your mind moving.

  1. When was the last time you tried something new?
  2. Who do you sometimes compare yourself to?
  3. What’s the most sensible thing you’ve ever heard someone say?
  4. What gets you excited about life?
  5. What life lesson did you learn the hard way?
  6. What do you wish you spent more time doing five years ago?
  7. Do you ask enough questions or do you settle for what you know?
  8. Who do you love and what are you doing about it?
  9. What’s a belief that you hold with which many people disagree?
  10. What can you do today that you were not capable of a year ago?
  11. Do you think crying is a sign of weakness or strength?
  12. What would you do differently if you knew nobody would judge you?
  13. Do you celebrate the things you do have?
  14. What is the difference between living and existing?
  15. If not now, then when?
  16. Have you done anything lately worth remembering?
  17. What does your joy look like today?
  18. Is it possible to lie without saying a word?
  19. If you had a friend who spoke to you in the same way that you sometimes speak to yourself, how long would you allow this person to be your friend?
  20. Which activities make you lose track of time?
  21. If you had to teach something, what would you teach?
  22. What would you regret not fully doing, being or having in your life?
  23. Are you holding onto something that you need to let go of?
  24. When you are 80-years-old, what will matter to you the most?
  25. When is it time to stop calculating risk and rewards and just do what you know is right?
  26. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?
  27. Would you break the law to save a loved one?
  28. What makes you smile?
  29. When it’s all said and done, will you have said more than you’ve done?
  30. If you had the opportunity to get a message across to a large group of people, what would your message be?
  31. If the average human lifespan was 40 years, how would you live your life differently?
  32. What do we all have in common besides our genes that makes us human?
  33. If you could choose one book as a mandatory read for all high school students, which book would you choose?
  34. Would you rather have less work or more work you actually enjoy doing?
  35. What is important enough to go to war over?
  36. Which is worse, failing or never trying?
  37. When was the last time you listened to the sound of your own breathing?
  38. What’s something you know you do differently than most people?
  39. What does ‘The American Dream’ mean to you?
  40. Would you rather be a worried genius or a joyful simpleton?
  41. If you could instill one piece of advice in a newborn baby’s mind, what advice would you give?
  42. What is the most desirable trait another person can possess?
  43. What are you most grateful for?
  44. Is stealing to feed a starving child wrong?
  45. What do you want most?
  46. Are you more worried about doing things right, or doing the right things?
  47. What has life taught you recently?
  48. What is the one thing you would most like to change about the world?
  49. Where do you find inspiration?
  50. Can you describe your life in a six word sentence?
  51. If we learn from our mistakes, why are we always so afraid to make a mistake?
  52. What impact do you want to leave on the world?
  53. What is the most defining moment of your life thus far?
  54. In the haste of your daily life, what are you not seeing?
  55. If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?
  56. What lifts your spirits when life gets you down?
  57. Have you ever regretted something you did not say or do?
  58. Has your greatest fear ever come true?
  59. Why do we think of others the most when they’re gone?
  60. What is your most beloved childhood memory?
  61. Is it more important to love or be loved?
  62. If it all came back around to you, would it help you or hurt you?
  63. If you had the chance to go back in time and change one thing would you do it?
  64. If a doctor gave you five years to live, what would you try to accomplish?
  65. What is the difference between falling in love and being in love?
  66. Who do you think stands between you and happiness?
  67. What is the difference between innocence and ignorance?
  68. What is the simplest truth you can express in words?
  69. What gives your life meaning?
  70. Can there be happiness without sadness?  Pleasure without pain?  Peace without war?
  71. What’s the one thing you’d like others to remember about you at the end of your life?
  72. Is there such a thing as perfect?
  73. To what degree have you actually controlled the course your life has taken?
  74. What does it mean to be human?
  75. If you looked into the heart of your enemy, what do you think you would find that is different from what is in your own heart?
  76. What do you love most about yourself?
  77. Where would you most like to go and why?
  78. Is it more important to do what you love or to love what you are doing?
  79. What do you imagine yourself doing ten years from now?
  80. What small act of kindness were you once shown that you will never forget?
  81. What is your happiest childhood memory?  What makes it so special?
  82. Do you own your things or do your things own you?
  83. Would you rather lose all of your old memories or never be able to make new ones?
  84. How do you deal with someone in a position of power who wants you to fail?
  85. What do you have that you cannot live without?
  86. When you close your eyes what do you see?
  87. What sustains you on a daily basis?
  88. What are your top five personal values?
  89. Why must you love someone enough to let them go?
  90. Do you ever celebrate the green lights?
  91. What personal prisons have you built out of fears?
  92. What one thing have you not done that you really want to do?
  93. Why are you, you?
  94. If you haven’t achieved it yet what do you have to lose?
  95. What three words would you use to describe the last three months of your life?
  96. Is it ever right to do the wrong thing?  Is it ever wrong to do the right thing?
  97. How would you describe ‘freedom’ in your own words?
  98. What is the most important thing you could do right now in your personal life?
  99. If you could ask one person, alive or dead, only one question, who would you ask and what would you ask?
  100. If happiness was the national currency, what kind of work would make you rich?
  101. What is your number one goal for the next six months?
  102. Would you ever give up your life to save someone else?
  103. Are you happy with yourself?
  104. What is the meaning of ‘peace’ to you?
  105. What are three moral rules you will never break?
  106. What does it mean to allow another person to truly love you?
  107. Who or what do you think of when you think of love?
  108. If your life was a novel, what would be the title and how would your story end?
  109. What would you not give up for $1,000,000 in cash?
  110. When do you feel most like yourself?
  111. When you help someone do you ever think, “What’s in it for me?”
  112. What is your greatest challenge?
  113. How do you know when it’s time to continue holding on or time to let go?
  114. How do you define success?
  115. If someone could tell you the exact day and time you are going to die, would you want them to tell you?
  116. If I could grant you one wish what would you wish for?
  117. What have you read online recently that inspired you?
  118. Why do religions that advocate unity divide the human race?
  119. If you could live one day of your life over again, what day would you choose?
  120. What can money not buy?
  121. If you left this life tomorrow, how would you be remembered?
  122. Beyond the titles that others have given you, who are you?
  123. If you could live the next 24 hours and then erase it and start over just once, what would you do?
  124. Is it possible to know the truth without challenging it first?
  125. What word best describes the way you’ve spent the last month of your life?
  126. What makes everyone smile?
  127. What do you owe yourself?
  128. What would your ‘priceless’ Mastercard-style commercial be?
  129. Can you think of a time when impossible became possible?
  130. Why do you matter?
  131. How have you changed in the last five years?
  132. What are you sure of in your life?
  133. When you think of ‘home,’ what, specifically, do you think of?
  134. What’s the difference between settling for things and accepting the way things are?
  135. How many of your friends would you trust with your life?
  136. What’s your definition of heaven?
  137. What is your most prized possession?
  138. How would you describe yourself in one sentence?
  139. What stands between you and happiness?
  140. What makes a person beautiful?
  141. Is there ever a time when giving up makes sense?
  142. What makes you proud?
  143. How do you find the strength to do what you know in your heart is right?
  144. Where do you find peace?
  145. When have you worked hard and loved every minute of it?
  146. How short would your life have to be before you would start living differently today?
  147. Is it better to have loved and lost or to have never loved at all?
  148. What would you do if you made a mistake and somebody died?
  149. Who do you trust and why?
  150. If you were forced to eliminate every physical possession from your life with the exception of what could fit into a single backpack, what would you put in it?
  151. When does silence convey more meaning than words?
  152. How do you spend the majority of your free time?
  153. Who do you think of first when you think of ‘success?’
  154. What did you want to be when you grew up?
  155. How will today matter in five years from now?
  156. How have you helped someone else recently?
  157. What is your greatest skill?
  158. Do you see to believe or believe to see?
  159. How are you pursuing your dreams right now?
  160. What’s the next big step you need to take?
  161. If today was the last day of your life, would you want to do what you are about to do today?
  162. If today was the last day of your life, who would you call and what would you tell them?
  163. Who do you dream about?
  164. What do you have trouble seeing clearly in your mind?
  165. What are you looking forward to?
  166. What is the number one thing you want to accomplish before you die?
  167. When is love a weakness?
  168. What has been the most terrifying moment of your life thus far?
  169. Who is the strongest person you know?
  170. If you could take a single photograph of your life, what would it look like?
  171. Is the reward worth the risk?
  172. For you personally, what makes today worth living?
  173. What have you done in the last year that makes you proud?
  174. What did you learn recently that changed the way you live?
  175. What is your fondest memory from the past three years?
  176. What are the primary components of a happy life?
  177. How would the world be different if you were never born?
  178. What is your favorite song and why?
  179. With the resources you have right now, what can you do to bring yourself closer to your goal?
  180. What are your top three priorities?
  181. Why do we idolize sports players?
  182. What is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?
  183. What do you see when you look into the future?
  184. What makes you angry?  Why?
  185. What is the most valuable life lesson you learned from your parents?
  186. What does love feel like?
  187. What are your favorite simple pleasures?
  188. If you could go back in time and tell a younger version of yourself one thing, what would you tell?
  189. What do you do to deliberately impress others?
  190. What will you never do?
  191. Excluding romantic relationships, who do you love?
  192. What is your earliest childhood memory?
  193. What book has had the greatest influence on your life?
  194. What three questions do you wish you knew the answers to?
  195. What is the greatest peer pressure you’ve ever felt?
  196. What’s the biggest lie you once believed was true?
  197. In your lifetime, what have you done that hurt someone else?
  198. What’s the best part of growing older?
  199. What’s been on your mind most lately?
  200. What do you think is worth waiting for?
  201. What chances do you wish you had taken?
  202. Where else would you like to live?  Why?
  203. What motivates you to go to work each day?
  204. What do you wish you had done differently?
  205. What is your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?
  206. When was the last time you lied?  What did you lie about?
  207. What made you smile this week?
  208. What do you do with the majority of your money?
  209. What motivates you to be your best?
  210. When was the last time you lost your temper?  About what?
  211. What will you never give up on?
  212. When you look into the past, what do you miss the most?
  213. How would you describe the past year of your life in one sentence?
  214. What is the most spontaneous thing you’ve ever done?
  215. What makes you uncomfortable?
  216. If you had to move 3000 miles away, what one thing would you miss the most?
  217. What worries you about the future?
  218. What one ‘need’ and one ‘want’ will you strive to achieve in the next twelve months?
  219. What life lessons did you have to experience firsthand before you fully understood them?
  220. Do you like the city or town you live in?  Why or why not?
  221. What’s the best part of being you?
  222. When you look back over the past month, what single moment stands out?
  223. What do you do to relieve stress?
  224. What is your happiest memory?
  225. What is your saddest memory?
  226. What would you like to change?
  227. How many people do you love?
  228. What’s the best decision you’ve ever made?
  229. What’s your favorite true story that you enjoy sharing with others?
  230. Right now, at this moment, what do you want most?
  231. What are you waiting for?  How are you writing your life’s story?
  232. What makes love last?
  233. What good comes from suffering?
  234. What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the last year?
  235. Based on you current daily actions and routines, where would you expect to be in five years?
  236. What was your last major accomplishment?
  237. Through all of life’s twists and turns who has been there for you?
  238. What or who has been distracting you?
  239. What are you looking forward to in the upcoming week?
  240. Who is your mentor and what have you learned from them?
  241. What are you uncertain about?
  242. What do you think about when you lie awake in bed?
  243. What’s something most people don’t know about you?
  244. When you have a random hour of free time, what do you usually do?
  245. What makes you weird?
  246. If you could relive yesterday what would you do differently?
  247. What do you do over and over again that you hate doing?
  248. Would you rather your child be less attractive and extremely intelligent or extremely attractive and less intelligent?
  249. What white lies do you often tell?
  250. What is the biggest change you have made in your life in the last year?
  251. What do you understand today about your life that you did not understand a year ago?
  252. Whose life have you had the greatest impact on?
  253. What did life teach you yesterday?
  254. Who impresses you?
  255. What have you done that you are not proud of?
  256. When should you reveal a secret that you promised you wouldn’t reveal?
  257. How would you spend your ideal day?
  258. What is the one primary quality you look for in a significant other?
  259. What do you admire most about your mother and father?
  260. What is the best advice you have ever received?
  261. If you could live forever, would you want to?  Why?
  262. If you had to be someone else for one day, who would you be and why?
  263. What positive changes have you made in your life recently?
  264. Who makes you feel good about yourself?
  265. What is your biggest regret?
  266. Which one of your responsibilities do you wish you could get rid of?
  267. What’s something you don’t like to do that you are still really good at?
  268. What type of person angers you the most?
  269. What is missing in your life?
  270. What is your most striking physical attribute?
  271. What has fear of failure stopped you from doing?
  272. Who would you like to please the most?
  273. If you could go back in time and change things, what would you change about the week that just passed?
  274. When you meet someone for the very first time what do you want them to think about you?
  275. Who would you like to forgive?
  276. At what point during the last five years have you felt lost and alone?
  277. What is one opportunity you believe you missed out on when you were younger?
  278. What do you want more of in your life?
  279. What do you want less of in your life?
  280. Who depends on you?
  281. Who has had the greatest impact on your life?
  282. Are you happy with where you are in your life?  Why?
  283. In one year from today, how do you think your life will be different?
  284. How have you sabotaged yourself in the past five years?
  285. Other than money, what else have you gained from your current job?
  286. Whom do you secretly envy?  Why?
  287. In twenty years, what do you want to remember?
  288. What are you most excited about in your life right now – today?
  289. What experience from this past year do you appreciate the most?
  290. What is the most enjoyable thing your family has done together in the last three years?
  291. How many hours of television do you watch in a week?  A month?  A year?
  292. What is the biggest obstacle that stands in your way right now?
  293. What do you sometimes pretend you understand that you really don’t?
  294. What do you like most about your job?  What do you dislike most about your job?
  295. What’s something new you recently learned about yourself?
  296. In one sentence, how would you describe your relationship with your mother?
  297. What was the most defining moment in your life during this past year?
  298. What’s the number one change you need to make in your life in the next twelve months?
  299. What makes you feel secure?
  300. What is your favorite sound?
  301. What are the top three qualities you look for in a friend?
  302. What simple gesture have you recently witnessed that renewed your hope in humanity?
  303. What is your favorite smell?
  304. What recent memory makes you smile the most?
  305. In one word, how would you describe your childhood?
  306. What celebrities do you admire?  Why?
  307. What is the number one motivator in your life right now?
  308. What music do you listen to to lift your spirits when you’re feeling down?
  309. If I gave you $1000 and told you that you had to spend it today, what would you buy?
  310. What was the last thing that made you laugh out loud?
  311. What is your biggest pet peeve?
  312. Who was the last person you said “I love you” to?
  313. What is your biggest phobia?
  314. What are some recent compliments you’ve received?
  315. How many friends do you have in real life that you talk to regularly?
  316. How much money per month is enough for you to live comfortably?
  317. When was your first impression of someone totally wrong?
  318. How many hours a week do you spend online?
  319. What do you love to do?
  320. What specific character trait do you want to be known for?
  321. Are you more like your mom or your dad?  In what way?
  322. What is the number one quality that makes someone a good leader?
  323. What bad habits do you want to break?
  324. What is your favorite place on Earth?
  325. What do you love to practice?
  326. What questions do you often ask yourself?
  327. What are you an expert at?
  328. How would an extra $1000 a month change your life?
  329. What things in life should always be free?
  330. What is your favorite time of the year?
  331. What is something you have always wanted since you were a kid?
  332. What is the most recent dream you remember having while sleeping?
  333. What confuses you?
  334. In what way are you your own worst enemy?
  335. When did you not speak up when you should have?
  336. What is your favorite quote?
  337. What is your favorite fictional story?  (novel, movie, fairytale, etc.)
  338. Where or who do you turn to when you need good advice?
  339. What artistic medium do you use to express yourself?
  340. Who or what is the greatest enemy of mankind?
  341. What’s something you wish you had done earlier in life?
  342. What is the closest you have ever come to fearing for your life?
  343. How do you deal with isolation and loneliness?
  344. What do you know well enough to teach to others?
  345. What’s a quick decision you once made that changed your life?
  346. What have you lost interest in recently?
  347. What makes life easier?
  348. What was the last thing you furiously argued about with someone?
  349. What job would you never do no matter how much it paid?
  350. What is the number one solution to healing the world?
  351. What could society do without?
  352. What stresses you out?
  353. Now that it’s behind you, what did you do last week that was memorable?
  354. Where do you spend most of your time while you’re awake?
  355. What makes someone a hero?
  356. When in your life have you been a victim of stereotyping?
  357. When was the last time you felt lucky?
  358. When did you first realize that life is short?
  359. What is the most insensitive thing a person can do?
  360. What can someone do to grab your attention?
  361. What do you usually think about on your drive home from work?
  362. What’s one downside of the modern day world?
  363. What simple fact do you wish more people understood?
  364. If you could do it all over again, would you change anything?
  365. How would you describe your future in three words?

Also, we’d love it if you visited MarcAndAngel.comand shared some of your answers with us.

 

 
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Marc and Angel Chernoff are professional coaches, full-time students of life, admirers of the human spirit, and have been recognized by Forbes as having “one of the most popular personal development blogs.”  Through their blog, book, course and coaching, they’ve spent the past decade writing about and teaching proven strategies for finding lasting happiness, success, love and peace.  Click "HERE" to purchase their newest book: "1000+ Little Things Happy Successful People Do Differently."

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GUEST POST ~

GUEST POST ~ A New Call for Extraordinary Prayer

9973809292?profile=RESIZE_400xBy Dave Butts

With all that has been happening in our nation, it eventually becomes very easy to allow our attention to be diverted back to what we call “normal.” Unfortunately, “normal” often means life without God and without a dependence upon Him in prayer. I believe it is vital for us to hold on to our first response – – the response of prayer.

The Church desperately needs to both issue and respond to a new call for extraordinary prayer. Extraordinary prayer goes beyond the normal expectations of the past. It is prayer that can bring God’s power to bear on a whole new world facing us–a world of uncertainty, fear and war.

The Bible records times of extraordinary prayer like this. One good example occurred in the Book of Esther. The crisis there concerned the lives of every Jew held captive in Babylon. A decree had been issued that would result in genocide for the Jews. Queen Esther was going to risk her life by going to the King on behalf of her people; however, before she went, she called her people to three days of prayer and fasting for her mission. Extraordinary prayer brought about extraordinary deliverance.

The Book of Ezra gives another good example of extraordinary prayer. Ezra was preparing to lead a group of the exiles back from Babylon to Jerusalem. The king had even offered troops for protection on the perilous journey. But Ezra had refused the troops, pointing out that God Himself would protect them. As the people gathered, Ezra began to realize how dangerous the trip would be and that they should not merely presume upon God’s protection. So he called the people to humble themselves and pray and fast over the journey. God heard their prayers and gave them safe passage to their destination.

There are many examples of this in more recent history. The great British preacher, Charles H. Spurgeon, was used by God to bring many into the Kingdom and in the process, a large church was built in London. He challenged his people to extraordinary prayer if they wanted to see God’s hand at work in their church. He wrote, “Dear Friends, we do not know what God may do for us if we do but pray for a blessing of the Holy Spirit… Have we not tried to preach without trying to pray? Is it not likely that the church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? O Dear friends! Let us agonize in prayer, and it shall come to pass that this Music Hall shall witness the sighs and groans of the penitent and the songs of the converted. It shall yet happen that this vast host shall not come and go as now it does, but little the better; but men shall go out of this hall praising God and saying–It was good to be there; it was none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven. This much to stir you up to prayer.”

In the United States, the revivals known as the Great Awakenings came in response to Christians gathering for extraordinary prayer. Often called “Concerts of Prayer,” God used these times of prayer to bring awakening to His people. Robert Bakke in his wonderful book, The Power of Extraordinary Prayer writes, “It (the Concert of Prayer) was born out of convictions that say with certainty that, regardless of how bright or dark the hour we live in, God is about to do something greater than He’s ever done before. Furthermore, it said that God would not move forward with His ever-increasing and ever more marvelous plans until Christians agreed with Him and agreed with each other about what He was going to do. A great and lucid vision of Christ’s earthly reign was before their eyes–with every nation, people, tribe and tongue united as one company before the throne of God, Christ the Son, and the sevenfold Spirit. It was a compelling vision that would not let Christians rest or let go of God until the rule of God held sway in every aspect of life.” (Pg.133)

Read again that last sentence from Bakke: “It was a compelling vision that would not let Christians rest or let go of God until the rule of God held sway in every aspect of life.” Have you ever made a decision to pray like that? Not merely God bless us or even God protect us–but a life-changing commitment to pray until the “rule of God held sway in every aspect of life”? This should not just be a response made only by individual Christians. Has your church made a decision to pray extraordinarily for the working of God’s power? The key to the Concert of Prayer was for Christians to gather together for times of extraordinary prayer–as was the practice of the early Church.

We are living in times that are not “normal.” What has been normal for us in our prayer life and experience of Christianity will not suffice for this hour. God is calling us to extraordinary prayer! How will you respond?

Dave Butts is the chairman of America’s National Prayer Committee and the co-founder and president of Harvest Prayer Ministries. His popular prayer guide, Asleep in the Land of Nod has been used by hundreds of churches to help their congregations pray for revival.

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GUEST POST~ New Prayers for a New Year

GUEST POST ~ New Prayers for a New Year

By Kim Butts, Harvest Prayer Ministries9969384852?profile=RESIZE_400x

Our creative Father loves to develop newness in and around His people. He is at work to transform us from old to new. By the power of His Spirit, we are continually being made new day by day. As you look to this new year, consider studying these passages prayerfully by yourself, with your family, or with your small group. Take some time to consider the goodness of the Lord, and how He has made provision to transform you into the image of His Son, Jesus Christ. Talk about how God has, is, and will continue to make you new. See if you can find new things in every passage that you may never have considered before. Is there a promise? Is there something that gives you courage…or hope? Drink deeply from the well of the Father, who is able to make all things…and all people new.

 

New Birth

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In His great mercy He has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade – kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time” (1 Pet. 1:3-5).

Describe your new birth in Jesus. Why do you think God is so merciful to us?

Pray: Give God praise for the mercy He has shown you through your new birth, and thank Him for the inheritance ybeing kept for you in heaven that will never perish, spoil or fade!

 

New Life

“We were therefore buried with Him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life” (Rom. 6:4).

Why do you think it is necessary for God’s people to be buried with Jesus in baptism in order to experience new life?

Pray: Thank God for the new life you have through Christ as your old life was buried so that you could have a fresh beginning.

 New Things

“And He who sits on the throne said, ‘Behold, I am making all things new.’ And He *said, ‘Write, for these words are faithful and true.’ Then He said to me, ‘It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end. I will give to the one who thirsts from the spring of the water of life without cost. He who overcomes will inherit these things, and I will be his God and he will be My son'” (Rev. 21:5-7).

“I am the LORD; that is My name! I will not give My glory to another or My praise to idols. See, the former things have taken place, and new things I declare; before they spring into being I announce them to you” (Isa. 42:8-9).

“Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland” (Isa. 43:18-19).

How thirsty are you for the water of life? Are you thirsty enough to be overcomers? Are there any idols in your home? What are they? (Keep in mind that they may be “good things.”) What are some things in your past that need to be forgotten? How can you keep from dwelling on them? What are the new things that God is doing in your lives?

Pray: Ask the Father to help you to recognize the idols in your life so that you can turn away from them and put your focus on all of the amazing new things God holds for you in His heart.

 New Songs

“I waited patiently for the LORD; He turned to me and heard my cry. He lifted me out of the slimy pit, out of the mud and mire; He set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD” (Psa. 40:1-3).

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, praise His name; proclaim His salvation day after day. Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous deeds among all peoples” (Psa. 96:1-3).

My friend, Dick Eastman, President of Every Home for Christ, felt the Lord leading him to sing his prayers for several months. At first, he felt self-conscious and a bit silly; however, as he began to be obedient, the Lord began to give him new songs; new ways to express his love to the Lord. Has God ever put a new song in your mouth? Describe the experience. Try to write and/or sing new songs to the Lord as you pay attention to His glory among the nations and His marvelous deeds among all peoples.

Pray: Father, help me to sing the new songs in my heart as an offering to You! May I glorify You among the nations and put all of my trust in You!

 New Names

“For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the LORD will bestow…I have posted watchmen on your walls, O Jerusalem; they will never be silent day or night. You who call on the LORD, give yourselves no rest, and give Him no rest till He establishes Jerusalem and makes her the praise of the earth” (Isa. 62:1-2, 6-7).

What do you think God is saying in this passage about Jerusalem’s new name? Talk about others in the Bible to whom God gave a new name like Abraham and Paul. Could the Lord be calling you to be a watchman on the walls in this new year? Could Watchman be your new name?

Pray: Righteous Father, You give new names to people who seek to honor You with their lives. I want to step into my new name as a Watchman on the wall! Train me to be an intercessor for the sake of Your ingdom!

 New Heaven and a New Earth

“Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth. The former things will not be remembered, nor will they come to mind” (Isa. 65:17).

“But in keeping with His promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).

Here is an Old Testament passage with a promise, and a New Testament reminder of that promise. Talk about what a new heaven and a new earth might be like. What are you most looking forward to in this home of righteousness?

Pray: Grace-filled Lord, You have made ALL things new in my life. How I look forward to the promise of a new heaven and a new earth! Teach me to live a righteous life of expectancy, always longing for my new home!

 New Compassions

“Because of the LORD’S great love we are not consumed, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23).

What could we be consumed by that God’s love and compassion protects us from? What does it mean to you that the Lord’s compassions are new every morning?

Pray: Lord Jesus, thank You for Your faithfulness that is new every morning! Thank You that you let me begin again with a fresh start each day because of Your compassion.

 New Spirit

“Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: I will gather you from the nations and bring you back from the countries where you have been scattered, and I will give you back the land of Israel again.’ They will return to it and remove all its vile images and detestable idols. I will give them an undivided heart and put a new spirit in them; I will remove from them their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh. Then they will follow My decrees and be careful to keep My laws. They will be My people, and I will be their God” (Ezek. 11:17-20).

“But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you” (John 14:26).

According to the passage in Ezekiel, what will happen when God puts a new spirit in the people of Israel? Has God put a new spirit in you? If so, how do you know?  John 14:26 tells us that the Holy Spirit will be our teacher and our Advocate. How have you experienced His presence in your life through His teaching and advocacy for you?

Pray: Holy Spirit, how grateful I am that You have put a new spirit in me that compels me to follow You more completely. I am so glad to have a heart of flesh instead of a heart of stone! Most of all, I am thankful to know that you will always be there to teach me and to advocate for me! Holy Father, thank You for this amazing gift!

 New Wine and New Wineskins

“No one sews a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment, for the patch will pull away from the garment, making the tear worse. Neither do men pour new wine into old wineskins. If they do, the skins will burst, the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins, and both are preserved” (Matt. 9:16-17).

Jesus brings a newness of life that cannot be contained within old habits and lifestyles. Have you prepared a new wineskin to receive the new wine He wants to pour into it? How is your new wineskin different from your old one? Perhaps you are still trying to pour new wine into an old wineskin. What has been the result?

Pray: Lord Jesus, You want to pour newness into my heart continually! Help me to replace all of the old habits and my sinfulness with a new wineskin that will contain all of the amazing life You have for me!

 New Covenant

“In the same way, after supper He took the cup, saying, ‘This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of Me’” (1 Cor. 11:25).

“He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant – not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Cor. 3:6).

“By calling this covenant ‘new,’ He has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Heb. 8:13).

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance – now that He has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Heb. 9:15).

Talk about how the new covenant of Jesus is different from the old covenant of the law. How does the Holy Spirit give life to you? Consider taking communion as an act of remembrance alone or together as a family. Talk about the new covenant and why it is important to be reminded of the sacrifice Christ made for our sins.

Pray: Father, thank You for revealing God’s New Covenant through Jesus. How grateful I am to be free from sin and that I can look forward to the eternal inheritance You have promised!

 New Command

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

How do you carry out this “new” command in practical, everyday ways? Why is it important for “all men” to know that you are Jesus’ disciples? What new things could you do this year to be obedient to this “new command”?

Pray: Lord Jesus, give me strength each day to carry out this amazing command. May I demonstrate Your love in every relationship and situation every day of my life so that I may bring honor and glory to Your name alone!

 New Creation

“Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!” (2 Cor. 5:17).

As a family, talk about how you became new creations because of Christ. What old habits and/or lifestyles changed when Jesus came into your lives?

Pray: Lord Jesus, thank You for making me a new creation! Continue to show me how to be made new day by day as I live out the life of Jesus!

 New Self

“You were taught, with regard to your former way of life, to put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph. 4:22-24).

What was your former way of life? What does it mean to “be made new in the attitude of your minds”? Do you still struggle with “deceitful desires”? If so, how does Jesus help you? If not, how has Jesus helped you?

Pray: Father, create a new mind and attitude within me as I learn how to  step into the newness of desiring only what You want, rather than indulging my own selfish desires.

 New and Living Way

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, His body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water” (Heb. 10:19-22).

How will Jesus’ “new and living way” help you to live differently in this new year? What does this passage teach you about prayer? 

Pray: Father, by the blood of Jesus, You are teaching me day by day to live as He lived. Show me how to step into this new year by drawing near to You with a sincere heart, in full assurance of faith! 

Jesus came to make all things new! Will you and your family choose to honor Him for His sacrifice…this year…and for the rest of your lives? How will this new year be different because of the “new and living way” – the way of Christ Jesus?

–Kim Butts is the co-founder of Harvest Prayer Ministries and the author of The Praying Family.

-Originally posted here>>> here>>>

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#ReimaginePRAYER...with One Word Prayers

#ReimaginePRAYER...with One Word Prayers

When it is difficult or seems "impossible" to pray; to talk conversationally with God - -

  1. Ask the Holy Spirit for one word
  2. ...then say (out loud or silently) that word
  3. ...repeating it several times slowly, thinking of what it means as you recite that single word
  4. ...and repeat it whenever you are troubled or as often as it comes to mind.

The objective is not to give God more information (God knows your circumstances and your needs better than you do)

...but to let God attach truths to the term the Spirit has given you to think about, to ponder.

Receive:

  • a Name (Jesus; Spirit, Living Word), or 
  • a Descriptor of who God is  (Redeemer, Rescuer, Almighty),  or
  • a Descriptor of what God does (Healer, Wonderful Counselor, Compassionate...)  or
  • a Description of what God intends for you to receive and live-out (Forgiveness, Conviction of Sin, Freedom from Condemnation, Maturity in Christ, Filling of the Spirit)

Then

  • Employ the discipline of Quiet Listening.
  • Give yourself time. 
  • Breathe intentionally and slowly.
  • Listen to the thoughts that come to you as a repeat the term/word.
  • Then attach them to the word/name you used to prompt the prayer.
    • Say them.
    • Journal them. 
    • Review a previous "one-word" prayer you have journaled.
    • Repeat throughout the day...Many more times than you feel necessary
    • The repetition is not because God is forgetful; it is a way to plant good seed deep into the spiritual soil of your mind (thoughts) and heart (emotional responses)
This takes a discipline our on-the-go prayers do not develop in our prayer life
  • Make time.
  • Practice quiet listening. 
  • Express trust that God knows all the things you are not saying with a simple one-word prayer​.
  • Declare hope that as you submit your mind/thinking, the Word of the Lord will come to you to reveal truths about yourself and the circumstances you are facing.
"Be still (cease striving) ... and know."
        “Surrender your anxiety! Be silent and stop your striving and you will see that I am God”. Surrender your anxiety. We are called to surrender our anxiety and just be still before the Lord so that we may learn and see who He really is." Psalm 46:10
 
 
Phil Miglioratti
The Reimagine.Network
 
 
 
#reimagine-files,
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Ministries of Francis Frangipane

GUEST POST~ #ReimagineCHURCH... As A Society of Redeemers

Francis Frangipane

There exists a certain degree of hypocrisy among us. What I mean is, without qualms, we condemn the world for not being Christian, yet without remorse we accept we are not Christlike.

I am not saying we shouldn't cry out against evil; sin exists and we must reprove it. However, at some point we must recognize there is more to our destiny than judging sin. God is looking for the perfection of mercy within us. "Mercy triumphs over judgment" (James 2:13), and to follow Christ is to walk the path of mercy toward full redemption.

Recall the words of Paul. He tells us to "have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). He goes on to explain that Christ existed in the form of God, yet He emptied Himself, took the form of a man, and died for our sins. In other words, He saw the need, but instead of condemning man, He died for man. Paul says we are to have this same attitude in us.

I do not want to be a typical American Christian. I am hungry for more. I want to "grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head [of the church], even Christ" (Eph. 4:15). Our call is to attain "the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (v. 13).

Jesus said, "As the Father has sent Me, I also send you" (John 20:21). As Christ was sent into the world to pay the price for sin, so in following Him we become a society of redeemers. When wounded, we forgive; when forced to go one mile, we go two. We bless those who curse us and turn the other cheek to those who strike us. As Christ hung on the cross at Calvary and prayed, "Father, forgive them" (Luke 23:34), so we stand before God, and on behalf of our sinful world, we pray the mercy prayer as well.

I am convinced that the more Christlike the church becomes, the greater will be the backing of Heaven. The more we become a society of redeemers, the more hope we have to see our nation turned back to God.

Adapted from Francis Frangipane's ebook, Spiritual Discernment and the Mind of Christ available in ebook format at www.arrowbookstore.com

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In the Beginning

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Hubble Telescope image - March 15, 2021
 

     US and European officials have announced December 24th, 7:20 A.M. EST for the launch of the James Webb Space Telescope. A $10 billion successor to the Hubble Space Telescope, it is scheduled to lift-off from French Guiana. This observatory is designed to look deeper into the universe than its predecessor, detecting events occurring further back in time--more than 13.5 billion years ago. Scientists also want to use its capabilities to study atmospheres of distant planets in the hope that signs of life might be detected.

     Few have ever experienced total darkness. At the bottom of a cave, or in a basement when the power shuts off perhaps. But there's typically a faint glow coming from somewhere. Even the night sky never seems truly black, because there's usually a star or two twinkling in the distance. 

     So it’s hard to imagine a time when all that existed was darkness, when you could travel in any direction for millions of years and still see absolutely nothing. This is the story scientists tell us of the "dark ages" that gripped the universe before the first stars ignited. They intend to show us how the cosmos ultimately became filled with light. They'll do it using the biggest telescope ever placed beyond the Earth.

     The Webb telescope is on a mission to look deeper into the universe - and therefore further back in time - than even the legendary Hubble Space Telescope, which it succeeds. Equipped with a 21foot mirror and four super-sensitive instruments,
it will stare for days at a very narrow spot in the sky to detect light that’s been travelling through the immensity of space for more than 13.5 billion years.

     Scientists think there should be stars, or galaxies, or black holes maybe beginning at 100 million years after the Big Bang. There may not be many to find at that time, but the telescope can see them if they are there.
     
     Reasoning that since light travels at a finite speed in a vast and expanding cosmos, scientists say that if we keep probing deeper and deeper, we should eventually retrieve the light from the pioneer stars as they group together into the first galaxies.

    This massive telescope must get past 344 hurdles to do what it’s designed to do—deploying a solar panel and radio antenna minutes after launch, opening wings of the primary mirror, unfurling a tennis court-sized shield to keep it cool and protect its vision from the glare of the sun. 

    Webb is complicated.  According to BBC, key hardware includes 140 release mechanisms, 70 hinge assemblies, eight deployment motors, 400 pulleys and 90 cables totaling 1,312ft. 

    Why go to all this trouble?  Why spend 10 years conceiving and another twenty years building a $10 billion machine to detect some faint, red blobs in the sky? Perhaps it is in search of an answer to the most fundamental of questions—Where do we come from?
      
     Here’s the scientists’ explanations. When the universe was formed in the Big Bang, it contained only hydrogen, helium and a little lithium. Nothing else. All the heavier chemical elements in the Periodic Table were forged in stars. Carbon making up living things, nitrogen in Earth's atmosphere, and silicon in rocks were manufactured in nuclear reactions that make stars shine and in mighty explosions ending their existence. We're only here because first stars and their descendants seeded the universe with the material to make stuff.
   
     Here’s the Bible’s explanation—In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. The Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light. Let lights appear in the sky to separate the day from the night. Let these lights in the sky shine down on the earth. God made two great lights--the larger one to govern the day, and the smaller one to govern the night. He also made the stars.  Then God said, "Let us make human beings in our image, to be like us."  By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God's command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.  (Genesis 1:1-3a, 14-18, 26, 27;  Hebrews 11:3 NLT)    

     Several years ago, an anonymous author wrote--"Hundreds of top scientists worked together to build the ultimate computer, a master brain with the intellect to answer all the questions and solve all the mysteries of the world. Finally it was completed and ready for its first question. With trembling hands, one of the scientists fed in the question: 'How did the world start?' Lights flashed, wheels whirred, tumblers clicked. Finally the machine answered: 'See Genesis.'"

9929530463?profile=RESIZE_180x180                                                                                                                                                                                                                            (c) Pastor Johnny R. Almond 

 

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Think about it Evanlogically.


Sharing faith in Christ.  How do we begin?

 

Well, how do we start sharing math with pre-kindergarten children?

 

“OK, boys and girls, open your “Calculus for Everyday Use” text book to page 316.”

 

There was no pre-school back in 1951.  When I started school in “grade 0” in 1953, the teacher asked us how high could we count.  She didn’t even use a book.

 

So, how do we start sharing Christian faith with pre-believer children of God?

 

“Friend, look here in the Bible.  See what it says in John 3:16.”

 

Christianity is straight forward and simple.  YES!  SIMPLE!

 

Heaven is perfect.  Are you perfect?  Can you rectify all your flaws going back to your birth to make yourself perfect? Other theologies state that all one needs to get to Heaven is more good deeds than bad. Is that perfection? How could Heaven be perfect if imperfection is allowed to enter?

 

Put away “The Book” for later use.  Start with counting… and Who can be counted on.

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Sharing Evanlogical War strategy.

It is said that there is an ongoing Spiritual war [herein after War].  Sometimes, as a Christian, it sure feels that way, especially around the end of the calendar year.

In  the mid-fourth century, the organized church set December 25th as the official date Christianity was to celebrate the birth of Christ.  There was gestation math at the time that supported this date.

This was just at the end of the Roman holiday, Saturnalia (also Yuletide or winter solstice celebration).  Saturn was thought of as the god of agriculture – think food and grapes.  And, oh, could those Romans party!  The organized church hoped to gain a foothold for Christianity by celebrating Christ’s Birth during this festival.

The first Christmas ship had sailed.  The War was engaged.

Rather early in the 6th century, Christmas became an official civil (secular) holiday.  This was the first battle the organized church lost.

For a few years early in the 17th century, the church that had rebelled against the organized church banned the celebration of Christmas.  Did that rebelliously organizing church foresee the folly of this War?  They had the zeal to change the battle plan, but didn’t know what to offer.  It would take nearly three more centuries for that option to appear:  Worldwide Communion Day.

After this rebellion against Christmas, both organized churches fell back in line.  The second Christian battle loss.

The pagans and seculars, seizing this opportunity, escalated the War.  Giving and receiving presents had long been a tradition of the pagan’s December practices.  Later in the 19th century, the gift giving Father Christmas was welcomed into Christian homes.  Battle loss number three for Christianity.

Christmas in the 20th century changed greatly from what it was in the 19th. People still put up Christmas trees, a pagan tradition adopted by Christians before the 17th century rebellion.  They filled stockings, and held holiday parties. What was the big difference?  Christmas became commercialized.  This was the fourth consecutive battle on behalf of Christ lost.

Throughout the 20th century, the attrition on the Spiritual side spiraled out of control.  The holiday was celebrated as Xmas.  “They’ve taken Christ out of the picture,” was the church’s nearly inaudible battle cry.  Battle losses mounted to five.

Then, in the 21st century, purveyors of the Holiday Shopping Season, as it is now known, dropped the big one.  Christmas shopping on the Internet.  No one even had to go to the mall anymore.  The fleet of Christmas ships that had been sailing since the 4th century was decimated.  The War now seemed lost.

Yet some of the Christian ships are still afloat.  These remaining ships must be turned to safer waters.  It makes no sense to keep fighting to celebrate the birth of Christ on December 25th. That has been a losing battle for nearly 1800 years.

Let’s start Commemorating (why were we celebrating needing to have God “save our bacon” in the first place) the Birth of Christ on Worldwide communion day; the first Sunday in October.  This may look like a defeat to the non-Christian world.  For the sake of the Saving Grace offered through Christ, however, it would be a strategic retreat.

 

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A Code to Accelerate The Great Commission

 

FREE EBOOK: INCENDIARY

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A CODE TO ACCELERATE THE GREAT COMMISSION

 

Do you love Jesus? Do you embrace his Great Commission as an ideal but struggle in making it practical?

Incendiary fuses the utopian with the pragmatic. Authors André Togo and Stephen Court offer an incendiary code, a collection of principles they look to apply on their local fronts that can help you accelerate the advance of the Great Commission on yours.

The authors form a prophetically unique partnership, spanning continents, cultures, and communication in shared charisma and covenant toward completing the Great Commission.

They’ve synthesized extensive, ecumenical exposure along with profound, primitive Salvationist research and application, distilling it all into thirteen incendiary principles.

If you pass up on plunging into these pages, you forfeit an excuse for not forging forward in Salvation Life. If you read it, you will be equipped to be empowered to spread Jesus’ love through your world. 

 

FREE DOWNLOAD

 

Your partner in multiplication,The Exponential TeamCopyright © 2021 Exponential. All rights reserved. You are receiving this email because you opted in or attended an Exponential event. 

This eBook is part of our FREE library of more than 80 eBooks by national leaders. Click here to download other eBooks.Right now—at this time in history—the church is poised to participate in an awakening. A moment when the Holy Spirit comes and empowers God’s people for more. What begins with holy dissatisfaction—“there must be more”—is fulfilled in a newfound empowerment to action. The same empowered commission promised to the first followers of Jesus is promised to us as well. In 2022, we’ll discover a growing awareness of the Spirit’s work and leadership while also realizing that we will always be more effective if we move with the Holy Spirit. Our goal is to help inspire and shape your paradigm for multiplication of Jesus' mission, connect you to a community of Kingdom activists, and equip you to turn ideas into action. We want to personally invite you to Empowered Orlando 2022—and also encourage you to check out our free online community where you can connect with like-minded Kingdom leaders!

For more information and to register for Exponential Orlando 2022, go to exponential.org/2022. Please let us know if there is more we can help you with today.

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Guest Post ~ Is "Out Of Season" The New Normal?

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 I wanted to make sure you saw the recent podcast with Pastor Bil Cornelius.

He says a few things that were relieving-- and freeing-- to hear.

(A few of those things where you think, "I can't believe someone actually said that." Then, after a moment, you relax and feel, "Oh, I'm SO glad someone ACTUALLY said that...")

 

One of the biggest lessons of this post-pandemic season, according to Bil?

We are learning NOT to worship at the feet of numbers. That’s always been a tendency for church leaders.

“Preach in season and out of season,” Paul tells us (2 Timothy 4:2).

“This is,” Bil says, “an out of season season.”

(Let's just go ahead and admit that together-- so we can move through it together.)

 

Furthermore, Bil adds this: it’s a time in which we need to realize that the “numbers” we have now ARE the actual numbers. In a sense, we’re not at 50% or 70% or whatever-% of our capacity… we’re at a new 100%.

(Yes, someone-- Bil-- said that, too!)

But that’s OK.

You’ve grown “the numbers” before, so you can do it again…

 

Sure, the numbers are important.

They represent real people.

 

But, we need to focus on the things that really matter—

Your marriage.

Your children.

Your health (physical, mental, emotional, spiritual).

If you have these, you’re “winning” in life AND in ministry…

(And aren't those the VERY THINGS we all gave thanks for as we spoke with our closest friends and family just a few days ago?)

That is definitely a LOT to be thankful for…

Your Friend & Coach,

Shawn Lovejoy

 

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Guest Post ~ We Are Not Inerrant

“You must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” Physicist Richard Feynman

In Leo Tolstoy’s novel The Death of Ivan Ilych, the protagonist, Ivan Ilych, is a smart, competent attorney dying from an unknown cause. Tolstoy describes a scene in which Ivan has a sobering realization while gazing at his sleeping daughter, Gerasim.

“Ivan Ilych’s physical sufferings were terrible, but worse than the physical sufferings were his mental sufferings which were his chief torture.

“His mental sufferings were due to the fact that at night, as he looked at Gerasim’s sleepy, good-natured face with its prominent cheek-bones, the question suddenly occurred to him: ‘What if my whole life has been wrong?’

“It occurred to him that what had appeared perfectly impossible before, namely that he had not spent his life as he should have done, might after all be true.”

What a probing and hopefully troubling question.

We are all wrong. Both as individuals and collectively, we are wrong about many things.

As a species (homo sapiens), we are undoubtedly and currently doing things that are terribly wrong. Just look at some of the failings of the recent past.

    • Slavery in the United States was the legal institution of human chattel, primarily of Africans and African-Americans, that existed from our country’s founding in 1776 until the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment in 1865 (only 250 years ago).
    • After 3,000 years of being considered a wise medical procedure, bloodletting has only recently—in the late 19th century—been discredited as a treatment for most ailments. America’s first president, George Washington, allegedly had 80 ounces of blood drained from his body in a last-ditch effort to save his life.

In the near and distant future, and for the rest of human history, humans will look with aghast at things we now consider normal and acceptable. What we accept as best-practices in the 21st century will be considered uninformed, unnecessary, even harmful, and wrong. (I’ll make a prediction: in the near future we will wonder why, in this modern era, health care was not readily available to every person on the planet.)

On a personal level, you and I are wrong about many things. There are specific areas of our lives that are wrong and need to change. 

      • What if you have lived a self-centered life?
      • What if you have neglected your family?
      • What if you have not lived authentically?
      • What if you have pursued the wrong career?
      • What if you are racist?

When was the last time you admitted being wrong and revised your opinion accordingly? Know this: there are areas of your life in which you are wrong. If you think you’re an exception to this statement, your pushback betrays your naiveté, lack of self-awareness, and error.

The good news is, we can change. Thoreau said, “I know of no more encouraging fact than the unquestionable ability of man to elevate his life through conscious endeavor.”

Take an audit of your life; particularly consider areas in which you have a fixed mindset – areas that have been unassailable, uneditable, and beyond reproach. Also investigate areas that are part of your cultural heritage – ideologies that you inherited from your family and society. (Remember, you were not born with any opinions or beliefs; they’re not part of your DNA, you choose to endorse them.) Consider your blind spots; everyone has at least one. (You’ll need help you on this issue because you are…blinded…to your your blind spot.)

If taken seriously, this exploration could be one of the most significant and revealing events of your life.

We often think that if we admit we are wrong, people will think less of us. I think just the opposite; people will admire us. I’ll close with this story from Adam Grant’s book, Think Again (page 73).

“In the early 1990s, the British physicist Andrew Lyne published a major discovery in the world’s most prestigious science journal. He presented the first evidence that a planet could orbit a neutron star – a star that had exploded into a supernova. Several months later, while preparing to give a presentation at an astronomy conference, he noticed that he hadn’t adjusted for the fact that the Earth moves in an elliptical orbit, not a circular one. He was embarrassingly, horribly wrong. The planet he had discovered didn’t exist.

“In front of hundreds of colleagues, Andrew walked onto the ballroom stage and admitted his mistake. When he finished his confession, the room exploded in a standing ovation. One astrophysicist called it “the most honorable thing I’ve ever seen.”

 

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Guest Post ~ Why Most Churches Need Revitalization

 

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Sam Rainer

November 25, 2018

 

A need for revitalization does not necessarily mean an entire church is unhealthy. Even the healthiest of established churches have at least one area requiring work, if not several. Sometimes the entire church needs revitalization. In other cases, a particular area of the church needs revitalization.

In fact, the majority of established churches could use some degree of revitalization. Around 65% of churches are in plateau or decline. This one statistic reveals close to 7 out of 10 churches are in need of revitalization. Granted, a lack of growth does not mean the entire church is failing, but it does indicate something is missing—somewhere the church is deficient.

What happens to cause this problem? The reasons are numerous, and each church’s story is different. However, one key theme is simply the patterns a church develops over time. Established churches have established patterns. These congregations have a consistent (or established) schedule. They keep doing the same established programs year after year. Annual events become embedded into the culture. Such is the nature of an established church. But these patterns can create either a healthy movement or an unhealthy movement in the church.

Healthy established patterns create healthy churches. Unhealthy established patterns create unhealthy churches. Clearly, more churches have unhealthy patterns as compared with healthy patterns. The stats are undeniable. But I’ll dig deeper. There is more beneath the surface. Numerical declines are merely a symptom, not the root problem.

Pastors become comfortable. Status quo pastors have status quo churches. Once a church has accepted a pastor, it’s easy for that pastor to cruise. Change always comes with a level of risk. Shepherding is impossible detached from risk-taking. When pastors stop taking risks, churches become complacent.

Budgets get messy. Churches can go years without a budget strategy, creating a jumbled mess of operating line items and an endless list of designated accounts. I recently saw a church budget with a designated account for a cassette tape ministry. Church budgets are often the most common area in need of revitalization.

Ministries linger without purpose. Established patterns of programs are wonderful, until they stop working. Unfortunately, churches are guilty of hanging on to programs instead of desiring the fruit they produce. When the program itself is more important than the results, a church loses the purpose of ministry.

Facilities become cluttered and dated. Deferred maintenance has killed numerous ministers with good intentions. Neglected facilities become an albatross around the neck of many pastors. Even the best established churches often have closets full of junk—old trophies, dusty puppets, and binders of music from the 1970s. In severe cases, the entire campus has not been touched in decades.

Technology outpaces staff. When a church has established patterns and rhythms, the temptation is to neglect technology. In a lot of churches, a decade can pass before it becomes necessary to adopt new technology. Unfortunately, by then it’s often too late and staff are too far behind.

A church needing revitalization in one of these areas is not necessarily unhealthy. However, most established churches need help with at least one. When multiple areas of the church fall behind, the effects are compounded.

 

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Guest Post: Be ~ Church. Witness.

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Being the Church: Witness

Hard to know what to protest.

Everywhere we look, something clamors for attention—loudly.  Racism.  Gender discrimination.  Police violence.  Misinformation campaigns.  Border patrols.  Climate change.  International politics.  Gun violence. Economic inequities.  Each item on this list represents a genuine, life-altering, probably life-threatening emergency.  And that’s to say nothing of less-visible, or less-approachable, threats to justice: mathematical algorithms, gerrymandering, dark money in politics, and (at least in the United States) Christian nationalism.

Do justice, love mercy, walk humbly before your God—what does that look like nowadays?

There’s no shortage of people expressing themselves.  I see actual protests, or videos of protests, multiple times a day, every day, protesting everything under the sun, and many of these are warranted.  Each protest involves a group of people holding up signs, chanting or shouting.  Some involve considerable shouting.  A few involve property destruction or violence.  Many involve identifying and dehumanizing one or more enemies.  There’s a lot—a lot, a lot—of anger.

I see anger on social media, too, sometimes explosive but more often preemptive.  A friend posts a meme, tersely phrased, all of twelve words to “sum up” an enormously complicated and highly emotional issue.  The meme itself will be plain-spoken and absolutist, with no room for discussion, and it’s often accompanied by commentary from the person who posted it: “If you don’t agree with this, unfriend me right now.”

If we’re truthful, we must confess that almost nothing can be fully expressed in twelve words.  Things are nuanced.  Even something we believe to be a moral absolute most often cannot be expressed in a meme or a protest sign; when we try, we have to oversimplify or use coded language that creates an insider-outsider dynamic.  And when we decline to engage with the other—“if you don’t agree with this, unfriend me right now”—we put an end to any potential for relationship.  Change doesn’t happen in the absence of relationship.

What I see happening on both ends of the political and cultural spectrums is something that feels like idolatry of purity, as if our continued moral righteousness depends absolutely on never mixing with anyone whose viewpoints differ.  Some of us fear being influenced by the other.  Some of us fear appearing to approve of the other.  In either case, it feels neither productive nor loving.

Sometimes I wonder whether our faith communities are feeling called to change hearts or change the rules. Obviously, what governments dictate matters.  But it’s not all that matters, and it’s not what matters most.  I suspect that God would prefer we be transformed by Spirit than forced to behave in certain ways by a legal system.  Both matter—but I want to talk about transformation first.

Transformation, or the changing of hearts, simply doesn’t happen at scale because big groups of people get really loud about it.  Protests, hate speech, and expressions of anger are all extremely unlikely to change hearts.  When I think back to the times when I have been changed, I realize it usually hasn’t been the result of a single dramatic experience; rather, it’s the accumulation of many surprising acts of love.  

When someone I disagree with (or fear) demonstrates love and care for me personally, and when that happens repeatedly over a long period of time, then my point of view might be changed.  It’s about relational contact, and it has to happen more than once.  Quippy slogans, harsh words, and even logical arguments cannot do what sharing a dinner can do.

This is one good argument for faith communities to seek relationships with each other, with faraway faith communities.  In the United States, most people don’t live in places where political views are mixed.  Most people live in places that are either solidly Democrat or solidly Republican.  If we hope to engage meaningfully with fellow human beings about social or political matters of the day, we have to escape the echo chambers.  Can your faith community seek relationship with a faith community that’s physically and culturally different from your own, but still within your same country?  Can you do it seeking genuine, long-term relationship with mutual listening and worship and prayer?  Or can you consider encouraging the individual members of your congregation to seek and maintain such relationships?

All this is not to say that protest and witness are unimportant.  One-on-one relationship can change hearts, but not laws—at least not quickly—and sometimes what’s needed is a change of law.  But again, this doesn’t happen as a result of social media posts. 

Strikingly, in the past year, people (at least in the United States) don’t trust their government or nonprofits (including religious groups) as much as they trust business.  That’s right—business.  The corporate sector has a higher trust rating than any other sector in the United States.  People trust businesses to make moral decisions and enact them effectively.  Moreover, there’s data to indicate that a statement on an ethical issue that comes from a high-level CEO has as much effect on public opinion as a statement coming from a politician or celebrity.

On the one hand, this feels utterly bizarre as we draw the natural conclusion: groups attempting to influence public policy might have a greater effect if they lobby the C-suite instead of government officials.  (And of course, nothing says you can’t do both.)  But on the other hand, if we’re looking at this as members of faith communities, that’s not so strange, historically.  Have faith communities not always had a responsibility to minister to all people, including those in positions of tremendous economic power?  Whether we’re happy about today’s trust and power landscapes or not—and most of us are not—can we acknowledge the dynamics and speak loving truth to those who hold power?

The church has always had a place in the broader questions of society, both in terms of speaking to individual lives and in terms of speaking to laws and societal norms.  Faith communities don’t get to make laws, and that’s crucial, but they do have a responsibility to lovingly, consistently articulate truth as best they can, even (or especially) in times of radical social change.

But the tools of people of faith must differ from the tools of the world.  Though God is very much with us in moments of righteous anger, that anger, if separate from love, generally doesn’t provide openings for someone else to change.  Though God is unlikely to insist we engage with someone whose words or actions harm us, complete and categorical refusal to engage provides relative safety but not potential for transformation.  We cannot forget that God changes hearts, but God most often does so through human interactions.

So what does God ask of us?

How do we witness now?

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Guest Post ~ Our Paralyzing Fear of Openness

The longer I have grown into my vision of missional-ecumenism the more I become aware of the paralyzing fear most of us have to real openness. Be honest, most of us prefer the status quo. This fear thwarts innovation and spontaneity. Most Christians, and maybe even most pastors, discourage exploring new roads into “the mind of Christ Jesus.” Keeping things the way they are is their goal. New roads automatically introduce insecurity. But “love casts out fear.”

The problem is that we have failed to experience the love of Jesus crucified in our inner being. We know all about the cross historically. We even debate theories of atonement vigorously. But too few know “Christ and him as crucified.” St. Paul knew him in his innermost being and lived out his trust in discipleship. 

The ecumenical movement has experienced the ebb and flow of the consequence of our primal fears. In the mid-twentieth century the tides of ecumenism were flowing in, especially after Vatican II. In the late 1960s there was a rising tide of global movements. But these movements failed to move a significant number of pastors and non-pastors alike. Today we have withdrawn on the local front and remain satisfied with our previous gains.

Something fresh is clearly needed. Citywide movements of unity are emerging but the high tides of the mid-century have receded into a flood of insecurity. My experience among Protestants reveals several concerns. We are trying so hard to repair our broken systems (denominations/para-church structures), or to advance our partisan political views, that we play down our unity. Or we seek to protect our churches from secularism and wave false flags rooted in fear. As a result we try harder and harder to “get along” without serious united prayer and the dialogue that we need to face our greatest challenges. 

My experience among Catholics is slightly different. While there are bishops who deeply work for ecumenism, many of whom I have had the privilege of knowing first-person, these are only a few among the 260 bishops in America. Some priests are involved in their area but most are overwhelmed by the work of their parish. Those who do love this work for unity received little training for the work and very few get personally involved. Most parishes have someone designated for this work but few do much more than hold a title. Everything needed on on the institutional side is prepared but few are compelled to spend time in this harvest field. On the local level there is little practical cooperation and scant personal dialogue going on between pastors, churches and laypeople.

The famous Yale theologian George Lindbeck addressed this several decades ago when he wrote: “The official facade can even be dangerous as a psychological device permitting a denomination to consider itself ecumenical, while it continues, undisturbed, in its self-centered and self-satisfied groove.”When I am asked what is the first thing we should do to restore the prayer of Jesus in John 17:21 to our lives and churches I answer, “We need to surrender our security seeking instincts and embrace the ecumenical principle of reciprocity.”

This movement is really a call to deep relationships, the kind of relationships that will always disturb the status quo. Dear Lord, please disturb us! Set us free from our fear of the other which profoundly hinders true unity.

Pax Christi,

JohnMy new book, Tear Down These Walls: Following Jesus Into Deeper Unity (Wipf & Stock, 2021) will be out on August 1. You can pre-order it for 40% off retail price ($23.00). This offer will not be the same after the book is released. You can order as many copies as you'd like at this great price bef. 

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