The Story of Jonathan Stockstill

candicefisher

RICK WARREN

SHOULD OUR

CHURCHES BE COOL?

ED STETZER

WHY ARE MILLENNIALS

AVOIDING CHURCH?

BRANDON COX

HOW TO COUNSEL

THE BROKEN

MARCH // APRIL 2015

EQUIPPING CHRISTIAN LEADERS TO GROW

Dr. Mark Rutland

The Judicious Training

of Next-Gen Ministries

Stop Chasing Idols

Why the Church Isn’t

Pursuing Holiness

The Story of Jonathan Stockstill


Jesus calls us to take on the

greatest needs of our day

JOIN US

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c o n t e n t s

Vol. 3 3 // No. 2

March // April 2015

38

Reaching

Generation Y

18

Pastor Jonathan Stockstill is blessed with a strong spiritual heritage,

but he’s not banking on it. Instead, as one of the youngest pastors of

a megachurch in America, he is carving out a new path and appealing

to his generation: the millennials, otherwise known as Generation Y.

In our Cover Story, learn what Pastor Jonathan is doing to reach them

as he serves Louisiana’s Bethany Church congregation.

FEATURES

18 | THE TALE OF A MILLENNIAL MEGACHURCH PASTOR

The fact that he’s a millennial himself gives Jonathan Stockstill an

advantage in reaching the younger crowd.

By Lindsay Williams

26 | THE JUDICIOUS TRAINING OF NEXT-GEN MINISTERS

The next generation of leaders faces an uphill challenge from

toxic elements inside and growing hostility outside the church.

By Mark Rutland

38 | GREATER EXPECTATIONS

With the decline of the culture, the younger generation longs

for—and needs—stronger leadership in the church

By Ken Walker

50 | STOP CHASING IDOLS

Why is God’s church pursuing everything but the holiness and

purity He has commanded of us?

By Kyle Searcy

56 | REPUTATION OVER RICHES

The public’s perception of a godly leader is one who walks in

humility and integrity.

By Larry Stockstill

DEPARTMENTS

MINISTRY LIFE

66 | YOUTH

4 Steps in Teaching Your

Students to Be a Witness

MINISTRY LEADERSHIP

68 | COUNSELING

Empowering God’s people to

counsel the broken

70 | WORSHIP

Are we in danger of

worshipping worship?

72 | PERSONAL CHARACTER

Should we try to make our

churches cool?

COLUMNS

12 | IN REAL LIFE

Indecision is a death

blow to leadership.

By Mark Rutland

14 | FROM MY VIEWPOINT

How weak leadership sank a

famed Swedish warship

By Shawn A. Akers

74 | PASTOR’S HEART

How to ward off first-time

jitters for new visitors

By Rick Warren

62 | LEARNING TO LEAD DIFFERENTLY AS YOU AGE

How can a leader overcome the challenges that come with age in a

culture that is seeking the newest idea, approach or technique?

By Ed Stetzer

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4 MinistryToday March // April 2015

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Ministry Matters

IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM

4 Ways People Are Fact-Checking Your Preaching

By Karl Vaters

Have you noticed that fewer people

are bringing their Bibles to church,

but are using a smartphone Bible app

instead? That’s not the only thing they’re

reading in church.

As it turns out, up to 38 percent of

churchgoing millennials will do an online

search to verify what their pastor has

said. And many of them are doing it while

we’re preaching. Something tells me

they’re not the only ones doing that.

Just when too many people were ready

to write off the millennials as apathetic

slackers, they prove themselves to be

high-tech Bereans.

Recently, the well-respected Barna

Group published the results of its latest

poll on technology and churchgoing

millennials in a post titled “How Technology

Is Changing Millennial Faith.” Among

other interesting facts was this paragraph:

The one-way communication from pulpit

to pew is not how millennials experience

faith. By nature of digital connectedness,

millennial life is interactive. For many of

them, faith is interactive as well—whether

their churches are ready for it or not. It’s an

ongoing conversation, and it’s all happening

on their computers, tablets and smartphones.

What’s more, many of them bring

their devices with them to church. Now with

the ability to fact check at their fingertips,

millennials aren’t taking the teaching of

faith leaders for granted. In fact, 14 percent

of millennials say they search to verify

something a faith leader has said. A striking

38 percent of practicing Christian millennials

say the same.”

Millennials prefer two-way faith

communication to one-way. This is

good news, especially for small churches,

since size allows small-church pastors to

facilitate conversations.

That’s another subject for another day.

But here’s a question: Are you ready for your

preaching to be fact-checked in real time by

the people sitting in front of you? You’d better

be, because it’s not coming; it’s here.

6 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Here are four ways you can be ready for

this. And it might just make you a better

communicator too:

1) Google (and cite) your sources.

It’s OK to use other people’s research to

help you preach better.

Small-church pastors, many of whom

are bivocational, have an especially hard

time squeezing in the hours for sermon

preparation that they’d like to do. So,

many pastors do a Google search for sermon

ideas or outlines.

The next time you do that, remember

that the people in your church can do it

just as easily as you can—and some of

them will do it as you’re preaching.

Does that mean we can’t use other

people’s work? Of course not. We are

never completely original in anything we

say. But it does mean we should be honest

enough (even if no one is Googling

us) to cite our sources.

People don’t mind that we use other

people’s research source material. They

just want us to be honest about it—and

they’re right.

2) Snopes your stories. I’ve learned

never to trust a story that fits my worldview

too perfectly. After all, if it seems too

good to be true, it usually is. There are so

many stories floating around the Internet

that people wish were true:

hh

An atheist professor declares, “If

there’s a God, he’ll stop this piece of chalk

before it hits the ground.” Then amazingly,

that happens.

hh

Another atheist professor (beware of

atheist-professor stories in general, I guess)

makes an apparently iron-clad argument

that there is no God, only to be schooled

by a student who, it turns out, is ... wait for

it ... a young Albert Einstein.

hh

Scientists discover a lost day in time,

verifying the Joshua 10 narrative.

They’re great stories. There’s just one

problem. They’re not true!

Before you tell a story that you didn’t

see play out in person, do yourself and

your congregation a favor. Take two minutes

to check out the story on a site like

snopes.com or truthorfiction.com.

People in your church will be checking

your story, even as you’re telling it. Save

yourself a lot of embarrassment—and preserve

your credibility—by checking it first.

3) YouVersion your verses. It’s

easy to pull verses out of the air when I

need them. It’s easy, but dangerous. For

example, can you cite the passages for the

following popular verses?

hh

The lion will lay down with the lamb

hh

Time shall be no more

hh

Neither a borrower nor a lender be

hh

God works in mysterious ways

You can’t? Do you know why? Because

none of them are in the Bible! (In case

you’re wondering, No. 1 is a misquote

of Isaiah 11:6; No. 2 is a common belief,

but not a verse; No. 3 is from Hamlet, Act

1, Scene 3; No. 4 is a quote from William

Cowper’s Olney Hymns.)

Now more than ever, people don’t

come to church for mere facts. They have

those at their fingertips—literally. They

come to church for trust and truth.

Trust is built on truth. Truth matters. As

pastors, we need to be very careful not to

betray people’s trust by not telling them

the truth with the facts to back it up.

Karl Vaters is a small church pastor,

author of The Grasshopper Myth and

blogger at NewSmallChurch where he

encourages, connects and equips innovative

small-church leaders.

© Istockphoto/RyanJLane


Ministry Matters

IDEAS, INSIGHTS & INSPIRATION BEYOND THE NORM

7 Reasons Your Students Aren’t Sharing Their Faith

By Greg Stier

These seven obstacles to your teens

sharing their faith can be removed if you

are willing to prayerfully and persistently

make evangelism a youth-group-wide

priority, as well as one in your own life:

1) You’re doing it for them. Think

“outreach” in youth ministry, and we

automatically think “event.” The words go

together like “dodge” and “ball.” The challenge

is that our teenagers themselves

are our biggest outreach “event.” Because

the average teenager has around 400

online and face-to-face friends, they must

be inspired, equipped and unleashed to

engage them in gospel conversations.

Think about that for a moment, the

average teenager has more friends than

the average youth room can hold! But we

have an almost irrepressible appetite for

doing outreach events instead of mobilizing

teenagers to be the outreach event.

To make the switch we must turn from

quarterbacks to coaches. Instead of just,

“Hey kids, bring your friends out and watch

me throw the touchdown throw of salvation

in their lives,” we must equip them

to bring the “J” word up with their own

peers.

2) They don’t understand the

urgency. When’s the last time you talked

about the reality of hell with your teenagers?

Yes, that’s right, hell. Of the 12 times

the word “hell” is mentioned in the New

Testament, 11 are from Jesus Himself.

8 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Perhaps the scariest

story in all of the Bible

is the story of the rich

man and Lazarus. In

Luke 16:19-31, Jesus

paints a picture of

eternity in hell in

terrifying colors.

Was He using scare

tactics? Of course He

was! In the same way a

dad uses scare tactics

on his 4-year-old child

who is chasing a ball

toward a busy street at rush hour. It’s out

of love that Jesus “scares” us with what is at

stake for those who are lost.

3) It’s not a true priority in your

youth ministry. I’ll never forget getting

a personal tour of a multimillion-dollar

nonprofit ministry and asking the guide an

awkward question. On a plaque, the ministry

had listed their values and priorities.

The first was evangelism. I simply

asked the tour guide which of their many

divisions were focused on evangelism

and how it was being fleshed out on a

grass-roots level. She looked at me dumbfounded

(as the other leaders with me

cringed). Evangelism was a plaque priority

but not a real priority in this ministry.

If evangelism is truly a priority, then our

youth leaders will be scheduling time for

evangelism training on their calendars and

in their weekly meetings. Are you carving

out time to have teenagers share stories

(good, bad and ugly) about gospel conversations

they are engaged in? Are you taking

the time to give the gospel just in case

any unreached teens show up that week?

4) They don’t know how to bring it

up. If teenagers don’t know how to bring

up the gospel to their friends, they probably

won’t. If their friend says, “It’s hot in

here,” and they respond, “It’s hot in hell

too,” that’s probably not the best strategy.

Teenagers must be equipped to

naturally engage their friends by asking

questions and listening. The free Dare 2

Share app has a simple strategy we use

called “Ask, Admire, Admit” on the “How 2

Share” segment than can be very effective

in equipping teenagers to bring the good

news up with their peers.

We also have developed high-quality,

beautifully illustrated outreach books

that youth leaders can receive free of

charge on share6campaign.com. Over

260,000 of these books are being used

across the nation to help teenagers

engage in gospel conversations.

5) It’s not being modeled by your

leaders (yes, that includes you). Share

the gospel. Have your leaders do the

same. Set the pace as leaders.

6) They suffer from a lack of gospel

fluency. Could your teenagers pass the

microphone test? If I put a microphone up

to their face as they were leaving youth

group and said, “You have two minutes to

explain the gospel message to me,” could

they do it in a clear and comprehensive

enough way for a lost person to understand

the good news? If not, then your

teenagers are not fluent enough in the

gospel message.

7) There’s not enough intercessory

prayer. Is intercessory prayer for the lost

a “first-of-all” level priority in your youth

ministry? As someone once said, “We

must learn to talk to God about men before

we talk to men about God.”

If every week in youth group you set

aside some time for intercessory prayer

for the salvation of unreached teenagers,

God’s love for the lost will begin to marinate

into the souls of your teenagers.

These obstacles to your teenagers

sharing their faith can be removed if you

are willing to prayerfully and persistently

make evangelism a youth-group-wide

priority, as well as one in your own life.

Greg Stier is the president and founder

of Dare 2 Share Ministries, which mobilizes

teenagers to share their faith.

© Istockphoto/asiseeit


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Ministry Matters

Vol. 33 // No. 2

An Asaph Generation of Worship Leaders

By Dwayne Moore

We recently started a unique and needed

community for worship leaders. We call

it the Asaph Generation. Why the name

“Asaph Generation,” you ask? Simply put, we

want to be part of a generation of worship

leaders who leave a godly legacy in worship

ministry—like Asaph did!

The Asaph Generation is an exclusive

community committed to 1) whole-life

worship of God, 2) musical excellence and

3) investing our lives in others. These three

qualities really define Asaph’s life:

1) Asaph was a worshipper. Read any

of the 12 psalms he was credited for writing

(Psalms 50, 73-83), and you’ll immediately

know that Asaph (pronounced

“aw-sawf’) was a passionate worshipper

who was growing in his relationship with

God. He wasn’t perfect, but he really

wanted to please the Lord.

Passages like the following help us see

how well Asaph “got” worship: “Whoever

sacrifices a thank offering glorifies Me and

makes a way; I will show him the salvation

of God” (Ps. 50:23).

“But it is good for me to draw near

to God; I have taken my refuge in the

Lord God, that I may declare all Your

works” (Ps. 73:28).

2) Asaph was a musician. John Gill’s

Exposition of the Entire Bible describes Asaph

as “a famous singer.” He was, in fact, one

of the most skilled and well-respected

songwriters and worship leaders in the Old

Testament. His songs were celebrated and

recognized right alongside of David’s.

Then Hezekiah the king and the officials

ordered the Levites to praise the Lord with

the words of David and Asaph the seer.

So they praised with gladness and bowed

down to worship” (2 Chr. 29:30).

“So the number of them, with their

brothers, who were trained in singing to

the Lord, all of whom were skillful, was two

hundred and eighty-eight” (1 Chr. 25:7). This

“number” included Asaph.

3) Asaph was a mentor. He invested

his life into others and left a legacy for

others to follow. He passed his knowledge

10 MinistryToday March // April 2015

and skills down to his children and

grandchildren, who in turn taught their

children about ministry through music.

Because of his heart to intentionally train

and mentor, Asaph helped start customs,

which lasted for many generations.

Then David and the officers of the

army also set apart for the service some

of the sons of Asaph, and of Heman, and

of Jeduthun, those who prophesied with

lyres, harps, and cymbals ... From the sons

of Asaph: Zakkur, Joseph, Nethaniah,

and Asarelah, the sons of Asaph under

the guidance of Asaph, who prophesied

according to the decree of the king ... All

these were under the direction of their

father for the music in the house of the

Lord” (1 Chr. 25:1-2a, 6a).

The overseer of the Levites in Jerusalem

was Uzzi the son of Bani, the son of Hashabiah,

the son of Mattaniah, the son of Mika.

Some of the sons of Asaph were the singers

attending to the work of the house of

God” (Neh. 11:22).

“For in the former days of David and

Asaph there were leaders for the singers,

the songs of praise, and thanksgivings to

God” (Neh. 12:46).

If you’re serious about growing as a worshipper,

musician and mentor, then join the

Asaph Generation community and sign our

covenant at asaphgeneration.com. Our community

exists to encourage, advise and hold

each other accountable. We invite you to

come grow with us.

Dwayne Moore is founder of Next Level

Worship. He is also Pastor of Worship and

Creative Arts at Valley View Church in

Louisville, Kentucky.

© Istockphoto/Lokibaho

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I N R E A L L I F E

DR. MARK RUTLAND

Indecision: A Death Blow to Leadership

How a junior high student showed me why decision-making is crucial in ministry

When I was in junior high, a massive

tree stood near the end zone of

the high school football stadium.

It thrust one wide and perfectly horizontal

limb right to the edge of the back fence,

which afforded cheapskates a perch from

which they could actually see fairly well.

Mostly we eschewed this freebie, being more

interested in the girls in the stands than the

contest on the field.

One night a friend and I, on our way to

the paying gate, passed under this stately

oak where Dalton Tomlinson, an older boy,

whom we considered immensely irritating

and more than a little frightening, stood on

the limb above us. Dalton bitterly mocked

our meek submission to the law and our

pathetic willingness to actually surrender a

dollar for a ticket.

“Suckers! I can see better from here

and not pay a dime! Suckers! Two stupid

little suckers!”

At that precise moment, his feet slipped,

one to each side of the limb, and he plunged

downward to straddle it with a scream of agony. He then

toppled sideways and fell to the ground clutching at himself

and howling in pain.

It was a moment in which I sensed, for the first time, that

there is justice in the universe. I remember it to this day and

I suspect that, wherever he is, so does Dalton.

Irrespective of his memories, the redoubtable Dalton

taught me two important leadership lessons that day that

have stood me in good stead ever since:

1) Pay the proper price. It has been proven to me over and

over again that much of the time and energy spent trying

to weasel a deal turns out to be wasted. Just because your

brother-in-law can “get it for you wholesale” does not mean

it’s a good deal.

It’s good business and good stewardship to do some

research and find the best price available. Negotiate the best

deal you can. The last time my wife bought a car, the salesman

told me not to ever bring her back there.

There can be a point, however, where being penny-wise is

also being dollar-poor. Buying seconds, lower-grade products

and cheap generics can backfire in terms of quality. Often—

not always, but often—you really do get what you pay for.

This is not to advocate brand-conscious snobbery. It is to

say that when the handles fall off the knockoff you bought out

12 MinistryToday March // April 2015

“Our culture is

increasingly addicted

to myths, such as the

overnight success.”

of the boot of Vito’s car, you may wish that

you had just paid the price for the real deal.

Adding up the per-hour cost of time

spent and the gasoline used driving all the

way across the city to buy it a few pennies

cheaper may prove discouraging. It may not

be possible to estimate the relational cost of

driving everyone around you crazy by harping

on the savings you got by standing on a tree

limb outside the gate. Sometimes you should

walk up to the correct gate and just pay the

price of admission.

We live in an age that resists the entire

idea that prices must be paid. Our culture is

increasingly addicted to myths, such as the

overnight success.

When I coached, I refused to start players

who skipped practice. This sometimes cost

me both on the scoreboard and with the

parents, but I refused to relent. If you don’t

pay the price at practice, you don’t play

on game day.

2) Make up your mind. Dalton’s greater mistake

was not in trying to cheat the gate but

in straddling the limb. Certainly being overly impetuous can

lead to costly mistakes, but straddling the issue is seldom a

healthy solution. Get all the information you can. Seek wise

counsel and proceed prudently.

Yet having said all that, at some point the decision must

be made. The goal is not to make a perfect decision. It is to

make the best decision possible at the time with information

available and, sooner rather than later, to get on the right side

of the question (with both legs).

In other words, leaders know when to get on with it.

Delaying, trapped “halfway between,” is just fiddling while

Rome burns.

I’ve spent many years in leadership as coach, pastor,

president and businessman,and this is one thing I know. In

athletics, in business and in ministry, I’ve learned that decision-making

is at the very heart of leadership.

Indecision is death to leadership. Decisiveness is a learned

leadership skill; one which Dalton undoubtedly regretted not

having mastered earlier.

D r . M a r k R u t l a n d is president of Global Servants. A

renowned communicator and New York Times best-selling author,

he has over 30 years of experience in organizational leadership,

having served as a senior pastor and a university president.


F R O M M Y V I E W P O I N T

BY SHAWN A. AKERS

How Weak Leadership Sank Vasa

A lack of true direction doomed the lavish 17th-century Swedish warship

Sam Walton, founder of retail giants

Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club, once said,

“Outstanding leaders go out of their way

to boost the self-esteem of their personnel. If

people believe in themselves, it’s amazing what

they can accomplish.”

In the same vein, British Field Marshall

Bernard Law Montgomery, who became

well known during World War I, was quoted

as saying, “My own definition of leadership is

this: the capacity and the will to rally men and

women to a common purpose and the character

which inspires confidence.”

The character which inspires confidence.

This premise certainly can apply to any leader

in any walk of life—kings, presidents, prime

ministers, CEOs of companies, professors,

high school teachers, pastors, ministry leaders

and even parents. Leaders, as we know from

James 3:1, are held to a higher standard: “My

brothers, not many of you should become

teachers, knowing that we shall receive the

greater judgment.”

As the old saying goes, “if you can’t stand

the heat, get out of the kitchen.”

In other words, leadership isn’t for everybody. King Gustavus

Adolphus of Sweden is a prime example.

Dr. Mark Rutland, head of the National Institute of Christian

Leadership, recently told the incredible story of Vasa, a Swedish

warship built between 1626 and 1628 at the Adolphus’ order.

Upon completion, Dr. Rutland explained, Sweden touted the

ship as one of the most powerfully armed vessels in the world.

The ship symbolized Adolphus’ quest for his country—and

himself—to become a major world military power in light of

the nation’s ongoing participation in the Thirty Years’ War

in Central Europe. The ship measured 226 feet in length and

housed 64 guns—the most of any ship known to mankind at

the time—and could house 300 soldiers and 145 sailors when

put to sea.

In his blind ambition for power and prestige, Adolphus figuratively

“mortgaged the farm,” as they say, for Sweden. He set

a specific date for Vasa’s launch in 1628 and determined he

would stick to the schedule. The project certainly proved costly

as the country poured a great deal of resources into the vessel

and hinged its hopes for global prestige on the ship’s success.

Shortly prior to the launch date, the ship’s engineer

informed the king’s subordinates—not the king himself—that

the vessel was built top heavy and it required ballast to be

14 MinistryToday March // April 2015

If you don’t have time

to get it right the

first time, then when

will you have time to

fix it later?

added to the hull. Not wanting to upset the

king—who apparently was a hard, shrewd

man—his subordinates failed to communicate

the message to Adolphus and they

cut corners to ensure that the ship met his

aggressive schedule.

Shortly after Vasa left the harbor in Stockholm—less

than one nautical mile out—the ship

sank, killing many of the crew and the Swedish

dignitaries aboard who were celebrating its

maiden voyage. You can read more about Vasa

in Michael Abrashoff’s book, It’s Your Ship.

The point of the story? Lack of sincere and

honest communication—both horizontally and

vertically—can spell doom for anyone, whether

it be a country, a corporation, a ministry or

even a family. King Adolphus’ lack of character

resulted in a lack of confidence in his subordinates,

and the country fell into financial ruin.

The story of Vasa is an unmitigated

disaster,” Dr. Rutland explained. “If you don’t

have time to get it right the first time, then

when will you have time to fix it later?

“It’s a classic example of bad leadership.

Sure, the king’s people should have told him

that the ship wasn’t ready to sail. However, vertical leadership

needs to create an atmosphere of genuine communication,

one that says, ‘I want to know the truth.’ Obviously

that didn’t happen in this situation because of fear of reprisal

for not obeying the king’s orders. He didn’t create an atmosphere

that he was listening to anyone, so in reality, it was

all on him.”

John C. Maxwell once said, “Leaders must be close enough

to relate to others, but far enough ahead to motivate them.”

King Adolphus doesn’t strike me as having been that type of

leader, but rather a bad example to follow.

Vertical and horizontal communication is only one of the

principles Dr. Rutland teaches in the National Institute for

Christian Leadership (NICL), a one-year program of intense

leadership training he conducts four times a year at three different

venues. It also teaches leaders how to deal with everyday

situations, from the smallest concerns to crucial ministry needs.

You can learn more at thenicl.com.

It could help you to avoid making the same mistakes King

Adolphus made.

S h a w n A . A k e r s is the online managing editor of Ministry

Today magazine.


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COVER STORY

Pastor Jonathan Stockstill and his wife, Angie, greet the

congregation at Bethany’s South Baton Rouge campus.

18 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Lightstock | Sharon Holeman Photography PhotoCredit


The fact that he’s one of the millennial generation gives

34-year-old JONATHAN STOCKSTILL an advantage

in reaching the younger crowd. What are they doing at

Bethany Church to attract them?

BY LINDSAY WILLIAMS

When your father and

your grandfather have

been well-respected

leaders of a church for

more than four decades,

suffice it to say that

Jonathan Stockstill had

large shoes to fill when he became a third-generation

pastor of Baker, Louisiana’s Bethany World Prayer

Center (now Bethany Church) in the fall of 2011.

Add to that the fact that Stockstill was only 30

and had no prior experience preaching, and the

looming task of assuming such a pulpit appeared

downright overwhelming.

However, Stockstill relied on something

stronger than his pastoral genes as the baton was

passed down to him—a clear calling from God.

Although he had little experience speaking from

the pulpit, Bethany’s congregation was accustomed

to seeing the young Stockstill on the platform

each week as he led worship.

A prolific songwriter, Stockstill has studied

music since he was 4 and led worship since the

age of 16. Additionally, he’s written or co-written

over 70 songs and he plays both guitar and piano.

Preaching might not have come naturally, but communicating

certainly did.

“Christ has called me to shepherd this church.

It’s definitely a learning experience,” the worshipleader-turned-senior-pastor

explains. “It’s not like I

had pastored a small church before. I had to learn

in front of a ton of people. I’m learning quickly.”

With a congregation of 7,000 on a regular

Sunday to as many as 11,000 on Easter, Bethany’s

congregation is one of the largest in the United

States, making Stockstill one of the youngest pastors

of a megachurch in America. Despite the size

and scope of Bethany, which includes three locations

in South Louisiana, the transition from father

to son was smooth, considering both Stockstill

and his father took intentional steps the prior year

to ensure he and the congregation were ready.

“I know there’s probably a lot of right ways to

do it, but I really think the way we did it worked

well,” Stockstill says. “I knew going into it that Dad

would totally take his hands off the wheel, and in

some churches, it’s not like that. Whoever the transitioning

pastor is has a hard time letting go, so the

transition turns out being drawn out, and it’s really

hard to figure out who’s leading.

“Ours wasn’t like that at all. It was pretty

straightforward. Dad pretty much unplugged from

everything. But when it happened, it happened,

and it was a lot to take on at first.”

Stockstill’s father, Larry, is a well-known televangelist

and author. His real passion lies in

missions and church planting, having been a missionary

in Africa for two years before taking over

Bethany’s pulpit from his father. Incidentally,

Larry was the same age as Jonathan—30—when

© Istockphoto/tashechka March // April 2015 MinistryToday 19


he took over the family church. Today,

he’s hardly retired, preferring instead to

propel Bethany’s church planting and

missional efforts.

“For him to be able to devote his full

attention to that was very natural,” Jonathan

said of his dad’s new role.

Larry Stockstill had no trepidations

when he handed the reins to his son

three years ago after 28 years as pastor

at Bethany. Bethany’s three overseers—

all with more than 30 years of pastoral

experience themselves—recommended

Jonathan take over for his father.

“Not only has the next generation

received the leadership they deserve,

but the vision of Bethany has multiplied

exponentially,” he said. “Jonathan

has brought our services to

another level, helping enhance connection

groups between members and

sparking service projects that have

helped families to unite between parents

and children.”

Meanwhile, Jonathan Stockstill has

found that he’s been able to transition

into full-time pastorship without fully

forsaking his worship roots. “The cool

thing is I felt like my passion for music

hadn’t died when I took the church,

but I really did feel like the Lord spoke

clearly to me that I was going to move

into the position of pastor,” he said.

“In the last three years, God’s brought

a ton of young worship leaders and

people that I’m able to coach in a way.

We have a huge priority on worship at

the church.

“I really encourage people in our

church to write and record music. It’s

not a rare thing for me to show up at

a rehearsal and help out with arrangements,

so there’s a huge value that I

put on it. It’s just been cool to see how

God can use the position I’m in now to

even make that passion go further.”

Rhythms of Grace

Over the course of his three years thus

far as Bethany’s leader, Stockstill has

faced his fair share of growing pains,

but his challenges have evolved as he’s

grown into his leadership role.

“Three to six months after I’d taken

the church, I would say the greatest challenge

was the rhythm of preaching on a

weekly basis and being the responsible

party for the diet of the church,” he

reveals. “You want to speak something

that matters and that’s relevant to

where [people] are. It’s also what God is

wanting to say. It’s just a huge pressure,

that weekly speaking pressure. You grow

in the grace for it.”

Today, the biggest hurdle facing the

now 34-year-old might surprise you; it’s

the same challenge currently facing most

millennials—finding balance. “Probably

the greatest hurdle for me is not

allowing myself to push too hard but

just get into a comfortable rhythm,” says

the father of two, adding that he’s seen

burn-out happen quickly when a young

minister dives in head-first for years

without stopping to prioritize. Stockstill

intends to be in ministry for the longhaul,

and he knows that in order to maintain

longevity, he has to find a pace that’s

healthy for his church and his family. He

says his dad modeled this for him and his

five siblings. »

“Christ has called me to

shepherd this church.

It’s definitely a learning

experience.”

Senior Pastors Jonathan and Angie Stockstill

20 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Sharon Holeman Photography


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Pastor Jonathan

leads worship

at Bethany’s

South Baton

Rouge campus.

lost [their] spirituality, which that’s the

bottom line of what we’re supposed

to be doing—connecting people with

God,” he says, adding that churches

are doling out therapy sessions and

motivational speeches rather than

speaking hard truth.

“We’re more often connecting with

them from an intellectual, teaching

and self-help standpoint than really

helping them connect vertically to

encounter God. The temptation is to

make truth relative and [allow] each

person to define truth for themselves.

The Bible is not really the authority.

It’s more how you feel, and I think

a danger is people begin to make

up God. They begin to say, ‘This is

who I think God is.’ And they make up

“Dad’s always just been a great leader,”

he says. “In his private life [and] his public

life, he genuinely loves God, genuinely

pursues God, genuinely has a relationship

with my mom that’s tremendous; and

they’ve been married 38 years. I just saw

an example of genuine Christianity lived

out in front of me.”

Like Father, Like Son

It’s easy for people to make comparisons

between Stockstill and his father,

especially considering the two men

favor one another in appearance. While

he’s humbled to carry his father’s legacy,

Stockstill says he’s trying to carve his

own path, find his own style, and his

dad is extremely supportive.

“I try to take complicated things and

make them simple,” he says. “I tell stories

about my life. I really try hard not

to ever emulate somebody [else] but just

be myself.

Cultural Christianity

The church of his grandfather’s day

never dreamed of satellite campuses or

ways to engage congregants on social

media. Meanwhile, Stockstill sees the

progression of technology as a tool

that enables the church to reach people

22 MinistryToday March // April 2015

High-energy, anointed praise draws

students at the Saturate Conference.

like never before.

“I feel like technology has enabled

us to take every limit off and do things

that we were never able to do with

multisite campuses,” he contends. “It’s

just tearing down the walls of possibility.

A lot of the internal culture, the

internal bubble, of the church has been

kind of dismantled, and the church is

growing with the culture.”

He’s careful to note that growing

with the culture doesn’t mean emulating

the culture. In fact, in an attempt

to be culturally relevant to reach the

lost, he sees many churches exchanging

Christ for cool.

“I feel like some people, in an

attempt to be culturally relevant, have

a God who doesn’t even exist.”

Stockstill says there are many issues

being debated where the Bible’s stance

is black and white. Meanwhile, millennials

are often confused about what they

truly believe because Christian leaders

adopt a noncommittal position in order

to not ruffle feathers on either side of

the fence.

“I think the biggest danger to the next

generation of ministry is culture corrosion,

changing perspectives on things

we know God has spoken clearly about

[and] just forgetting the authority of the

Word and backing down on issues we

know are clear,” he said.

Despite the growing trend of evasive

theology, Stockstill is encouraged by the

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denominational lines he sees blurring.

“I do see a greater sense of unity among

churches,” he says. “I see denominational

walls really falling down. I really

believe God’s ultimate desire is for the

church to be united.”

In many ways, Stockstill sees technology

aiding in global unity and in

reaching unchurched people groups.

but when you start thinking about the

Middle East, the Muslim world and the

Far East, there are billions of unreached

people,” he says. “I think a greater

global focus is so important because you

could have five churches on one street

in America and not one church in the

entire nation in another country.”

Through Bethany Church’s own

Pastor Jonathan speaks to youth at

Saturate Conference 2014.

gatherings for in-depth Bible study

and worship.

Although, like most megachurches,

Bethany offers ample opportunity to

participate in meeting needs, Stockstill

emphasizes that evangelism must be at

the core of service.

“We plant churches, and then we do

social justice around those churches,”

he says. “What people need more

than anything is to encounter Christ

somehow. It doesn’t help to dig a well

if nobody ever finds Christ.”

“I think the biggest danger to the next

generation of ministry is culture corrosion,

changing perspectives on things we know God

has spoken clearly about [and] just forgetting

the authority of the Word and backing down

on issues we know are clear.”

Conversely, he is also concerned

about Western culture’s inward focus,

encouraging evangelicals to bravely

remember brothers and sisters on

the other side of the world, who are

often overlooked, even in terms of

foreign missions.

“We need a greater international

focus from the Western church world.

It’s easy for America, Australia, Europe

and even Africa to be self-focused,

24 MinistryToday March // April 2015

church-planting efforts around the globe,

service has become a touchstone. The

church has a unique A-B-C model that

allows members to fuel their spiritual life

on three different levels. “Activate” plugs

members into service opportunities both

locally and globally. “Belong” connects

members to “b-groups” (Bethany’s version

of life groups that meet at homes

throughout the area). Meanwhile, “Cultivate”

engages members in corporate

Where He Leads

With a focus on technology, social

justice, evangelism and church planting,

millennials are flocking to Bethany.

It’s easy for young families to relate to

a pastor who’s only 34, and Stockstill

intentionally ensures his sermons, leadership

and demeanor make him approachable

to everyone.

“God’s entrusted this church to me,”

he says. “He’s entrusted thousands of

believers that are here, and I just pray

that I’m faithful—faithful to teach them

the truth, love them and watch out for

their souls.”

Stockstill has made friends with

other young pastors with whom he

talks and texts often. The younger generation

of American pastors seemed to

have formed their own informal club

for support.

“I think we kind of find each other

and huddle up and encourage each

other,” he says.

Stockstill admits that although he’s

speaking into the lives of people who are

his peers, he hasn’t discovered the secret

to reaching his generation.

Meanwhile, he’s navigating marriage

and parenthood and then preaching

from his own personal experience as a

30-something husband and father with

two little girls.

“Trying to figure out marriage and

how that works with kids [is huge for

me]. I know I have very real struggles that

everybody else does. So I preach to those

struggles and preach to those things that

matter and what the Word of God says

about them. I preach to myself a lot.”

L i n d s a y W i l l i a m s is a freelance writer

for Ministry Today magazine.

Sharon Holeman Photography


MINISTRY TRAINING

The Judicious

Training

of Next-Gen

Ministries

The next generation of Christian leaders faces

an uphill challenge from toxic elements inside

and growing hostility outside the church.

BY DR. MARK RUTLAND

The mayor of Houston, Texas, recently subpoenaed several pastors,

demanding they submit their sermons for review by the city attorney. This

was ostensibly to determine whether their level of political activity might

have endangered their nonprofit status.

This was all part of the deep cultural divide in that city’s on-going struggle

over so-called “gender equality” laws, particularly that section allowing “crossgender

males” to use female restrooms. The mayor’s actions unleashed a firestorm

of protest, not only in Texas, but nation-wide. Thankfully, she finally,

and I might add reluctantly, agreed to withdraw her utterly unconstitutional subpoenas. Thank

God for that, but by the time she did, she had already sent her chilling message and it was

shockingly clear. Not even the sanctity of the pulpit is safe anymore.

That, in fact, was her real purpose. She did not withdraw the subpoenas because she suddenly

had an epiphany. She only gave in because of the hue and cry raised largely in social media

and on certain news outlets such as Fox News.

Christians dare not fool themselves. This brief reprieve in Houston is not some full and

final victory. That mayor and others like her will keep on coming. They will do whatever

they can get away with, whatever they can find activist courts to force on society and they

will keep chipping away at the most treasured tenets of our nation’s constitution and our

Judeo-Christian heritage. »

26 MinistryToday March // April 2015


March // April 2015 MinistryToday 27


At the same time this high-profile

firefight was being waged in Houston, I

was trying to console and advise a pastor

in the Midwest who was being drawn

and quartered by a ruthless church

board. The spiritual forces behind

that internal and unpublicized struggle

were just as ugly, just as cruelly unjust

and darkly manipulative as those in the

Houston mayor’s office.

The war is on and the Visigoths are

not all in the mayor’s office. Some of

the most devastating assaults on Christian

leadership are inside jobs. Alas,

the barbarians inside churches are no

less virulent, and are, in fact, more personally

wounding to leaders than any

damage inflicted by armies of atheists.

There are supernatural forces behind

all attacks and such forces are relentless

and remorseless. This is not to frighten

Christian leaders into the closet of compromised

acquiescence. The old adage

of “go along to get along” is a path

strewn with primroses and ending in

disaster. By the same token, naïveté is

dangerous in a dangerous world. Jesus

admonished believers to be as “wise as

serpents and as harmless as doves.” For

too long, too many ministry leaders have

been far more harmless than wise.

Education and Snake Handling

Today ministry is no longer being

done in the relative innocence of Eisenhower’s

post-war America. Snakes, dangerous

snakes are not only in city hall

but on the bench, in the bank and on the

church board. Snake handling, it turns

out, is not for the hills of Kentucky, but

for sophisticated ministry leadership in the

21 st century. Snakes must be handled by

well-prepared, well-educated leaders who

combine serpentine wisdom and Christian

guilelessness. Twenty-first-century

ministry leadership must include a meaningful

theology of supernatural opposition

Today’s listeners are looking to God’s Word

for how to go on living another week in a

world that terrifies them.

28 MinistryToday March // April 2015

and a practical approach to leading in the

face of it.

In fact, the challenging realities of ministry

leadership in this new millennium

demand that we carefully re-evaluate how

we educate and train next-gen ministers

and how we continue to keep ourselves

sharp. I spent nearly two decades in higher

education and I have spent literally hours

and hours with thoughtful colleagues

discussing the educational process. I

have heard pastors castigate seminaries,

sometimes with justification, in the face

of which I have heard ministry educators

offer unimaginably lame self-defenses.

Blanket denunciations of theological education

are unreasonable and unhelpful.

Equally unhelpful are educational “purists”

who offer hardly more than self-perpetuation

as the defense for their pet courses.

An Educated Clergy

Nothing I say in this piece should be

read as anti-education. St. Paul was among

the most cosmopolitan, multilingual and

well-educated persons in the Roman world.

John Wesley was an Oxford Don. Martin

Luther was a university professor with an

earned doctorate, and C.S. Lewis’ phenomenally

educated mind did not hinder

but rather gave voice to his inspired spirit.

I believe in an educated clergy. I also

believe that education must prepare

leaders who can effectively, joyfully and

triumphantly do the work of the ministry

in the face of what is shaping up to be the

most challenging century since the reign

of Constantine.

I recently took part on a panel of Christian

leaders, ministers, educators and laypersons

that discussed the state of modern

ministry education. While the issues being

debated around the table were important,

the private conversations in the hall were

more illuminating to me.

Several participants were lamenting

the quiet demise of a large nondenominational

church in the Southwest. “What

happened?” someone asked.

“When the founder retired, his successor

flopped,” one man explained. “The

church hemorrhaged until it slowly bled to

death. Finally there was just nothing left.”

“Yes, I understand that, but why? Why

did he flop?”

“He couldn’t preach and he

couldn’t lead.”

In another hallway encounter at the

same meeting, a pastor told me privately

that he was dreading the week to follow

the conference. He said he was heading

home with a heavy heart to sack his youth

pastor. When I asked why, he explained

that the youth the pastor was causing so

much turmoil that firing him had become

unavoidable. I was intrigued and I asked

© Istockphoto/DNY59


some follow-up questions. What kind of

turmoil? What got him hired in the first

place? The weary pastor explained it in the

following way.

“He seemed so cool. He was fun,

attractive and full of youthful high energy.

I just knew he’d be a hit with the kids. And

he was at first. But he has no people skills,

and he is arrogant beyond words. He ran

off all our parent volunteers. First it was

just the parents, then even the kids began

to quit. The whole thing just fell to pieces.

He just doesn’t understand how to work

with people. Don’t they learn any of that

in Bible school?”

Something of an answer may have

come from a retired Bible school

president who told me that the No. 1

complaint he got from alumni who hired

his graduates was that they couldn’t

actually do anything. He said, “I got

sick of hearing the same thing. Your

graduates are great on theory. They just

can’t do the job.” With a sigh he added,

“I came to believe near the end of my

presidency, that our No. 1 failure was

practical ministry preparation. If I had

it to do over again, I would stop about

half of our theory courses and require

more internships.”

Real Life and Practical Theology

When I graduated from seminary, I

labored under the misapprehension that

if I preached well enough and loved my

people selflessly, they would love Jesus

and me and all would go well. Having

earned good grades at a top theological

30 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Dr. Mark Rutland

seminary, with a diploma in hand (ink still

wet), very little experience and absolutely

no practical education, I became a senior

pastor. To be sure, it was a small church,

hence limiting the breadth of damage

I could inflict. Even so, I soon discovered

that an A in graduate level Hebrew

Wisdom Literature afforded me scant

wisdom in the face of the imminently

practical issues of church leadership.

Budget preparation, board relations,

church growth, hiring and firing, volunteer

management—these and a vast host

of their cousins stared me in the face every

single day, demanding answers I did not

have and requiring decisions I was utterly

unprepared to make.

As I went further in ministry, new levels

While it is true

that we live in a

culture with a wildly

diverse array of

communications

options, preaching

is still of utmost

importance,

especially to

those who have to

listen to it.

of responsibility opened. At each new

step I encountered, not fewer, but ever

escalating challenges. I was determined to

learn all I could. I tried to plug into every

power outlet I could find. I simply did not

know where to look. For a course called

Systematic Theology, I read and wrote a

paper on a majestically forgettable book

by Rudolf Bultmann, the subject of which

was the “de-mythologization” of the New

Testament. For years after that I just knew

the splendid moment would come, some

question would be asked to which Rudolf

Bultmann would be the correct answer. If

that ever happened, I was ready.

Alas, it did not. Never once in 46

years of ministry and leadership have I

been asked a single question by anyone

to which the appropriate answer might

even remotely have included a reference

to Rudolf Bultmann.

What I have been asked, over and over

again, were questions about management,

such as budgeting, organizational structure

and debt service. I have been asked

questions such as, “How do we fire the

worship leader and not get sued?” “Why

is our attendance up but giving has not

improved?” And the ever popular, “If

we cancel the night service what will we

say to the 13 senior souls who still love

it?” I have been asked thousands upon

thousands of relationship questions for

which I desperately needed counseling

skills. I have been asked questions such

as, “Are demons real, and do you think

my brother-in-law has one?” Never once

was Rudolf Bultmann the correct answer.

I suppose there are churches that have

split and blown to pieces over the authorship

of Hebrews. Maybe. There may have

been ministries that imploded because

Greek was all Greek to the pastor. Perhaps,

in some galaxy far, far away, but I

doubt it. However, the landscape is definitely

littered with the bones of churches

which got overextended in bad debt, or

waited too long to respond to a changing

market, or missed the tide and ended up

stranded on the beach of irrelevance,

gradually dying a slow death.

Their corpses lie as they do because bad

decisions (or more likely no decisions)

got made in the face of opportunity.

At the two universities of which I

served as president, I was blessed by the

willingness of both faculties to emphasize

practical ministry. Certainly theology,

Bible, church history and the biblical

languages are important and should be

taught. I am not anti-theology. I have personally

taught a course with the ostentatious

title of Pneumatology. Having said

that, the fact remains that those who

intend to lead ministries in the prevailing

environment also need management,

finance, counseling and communication.

They also need them to be taught

by skilled practitioners.

I am not denigrating seminary courses

such as The History of Christianity in the

Middle Ages. It was, by the way, one of

my favorite courses in seminary, taught

by one of the most brilliant and eccentric

lecturers I have ever heard. What I

am saying is that one might make an A in

that very course and in many like it and


not survive the first six months of pastoral

ministry. There is a gap in much seminary

and Bible school education called

“practical ministry.”

When I designed the National Institute

of Christian Leadership, it was

with this very gap in mind. I have been

delighted to see folks from the church

world seated beside political and business

leaders who all found the practical

teaching of the NICL transferable

and applicable. Recently I attended a

meeting of pastors, leaders and educators

including several retired seminary

and university presidents. The unanimous

opinion at the table was that ministerial

education in this century must be

more practical.

Even as I wrote that last sentence I

could hear the objections of some. “The

church is not a business!” I understand

what such voices are saying. At least I

think I do. Yet the reality remains that

churches that are inefficiently administered,

stagnant in growth and poorly

led do not witness well to the present

age. If our God is a God of excellence,

and He is, then His church in the world

must pay its bills on time, manage its

employees and volunteers for quality

and communicate its core message

with excellence.

who could take me to Wesley’s home,

or who knew who Wesley was. Not to

sound smug with “Jolly Old,” one driver

in Boston had never even heard of Jonathan

Edwards.

We should know church history and

learn from it. One thing we should certainly

learn is what made such giants

as Wesley and Edwards the giants they

were. It was above all things their ability

to speak to their own generations and

cultures. They were bold, relevant, contemporary

and anointed. If the church

today is to be a powerful and redemptive

force in this new millennium, her

next generation of ministers must be

prepared, educated and trained in

of emphasis in ministerial education,

I believe it is preaching. Creative dramas,

production values in worship services

and music are all important. Yet it is primarily

preaching through which the Word

is communicated.

Contemporary ministerial education

needs a fresh new emphasis on biblical

content, authenticity of style, clarity of

structure and orderly thought in preaching.

The basics of illustrative material, point

of view, introduction and conclusion are

being ignored to the detriment of some

modern preaching. Somewhere between

the “internal combustion” of unplanned,

unthought-out, un-understandable emotional

pulpit explosions and pedantic,

Lions in the New Millennium

I do not believe that Nero-esque

persecution, concentration camps for

American Christians or some kind of

21 st -century “Lions in the Coliseum”

redux are the real danger ahead.

Having said that, I suppose the mayor

of Houston has made the case that

Christians may be thrown into an arena

of snarling subpoenas.

Despite her actions, the greater, more

foreseeable risk is that of the church

devolving into a mute, irrelevant antique.

This is already true to a tragic extent in

much of Western Europe. Empty liturgical

churches unable to respond meaningfully

to cultural upheaval or even to

sustain the faith of the “faithful,” have

become hardly more than props in a

Monty Python skit. London, which was

the birthplace of the Wesleyan revival,

now has more mosques than Methodist

churches. The last time I was there,

I had a difficult time finding a cabby

32 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Dr. Rutland (c) poses with NICL graduates (l to r)

Victor Bowers, Angela Courte, Thelma Campbell

and Linda Markowitz.

multiple leadership, management and

communication skills—not the least of

which is preaching.

Preaching

While it is true that we live in a culture

with a wildly diverse array of communication

options, preaching is still of utmost

importance, especially to those who have

to listen to it. I travel about as widely as

any minister in the U.S., and the major

complaint or compliment I hear from

laymen everywhere with regards to their

own pastors concerns preaching. If there

is an area that needs a fresh revitalization

mind-numbing boredom there lies a fertile

opening for great preaching. I believe this

is a great need in the American church and

will be a crying need in the future.

I am not alone in my longing to see a

resurgence of great preaching, and I do

not believe it will come without great

teachers of preaching who can convey to

young people a profound respect for the

supernatural power of preaching that is

well-crafted and profound.

I reject George Bernard Shaw’s contention

that they who can do, and they

who cannot, teach. At least, I do not

believe it has to be that way. Teachers

Daniel Prince


of preaching who love preaching do it

well, and those who understand the

bones as well as the breath of preaching

are worth their weight in gold. May

their tribe increase. Those institutions

which celebrate preaching, which hire

homiletics professors who are skilled

and anointed practitioners and where

preaching is consistently modeled in

Dr. Rutland teaches at NICL at the Charisma Media location.

chapel services, will challenge students

to excel at it. It will be precisely such centers

of learning and practice from which

the next generation of great preachers

will undoubtedly come.

Lifelong Learning

The longer I live, which has been quite a

long time, the more I realize the difference

between learning and education. I have a

great deal of formal education and I am

grateful for it. I spent many years of my

life and no small fortune getting it. I have

served as the president of two universities

and lectured at or taught on the adjunct

faculties of others. Some of the finest,

humblest most dedicated men and women

of God I’ve ever met serve sacrificially on

Somewhere between the “internal

combustion” of unplanned,

unthought-out, un-understandable

emotional pulpit explosions and pedantic,

mind-numbing boredom there lies a fertile

opening for great preaching.

34 MinistryToday March // April 2015

faculties around the world. I believe in

education. I utterly denounce as a pathetic

excuse for ignorance the tired old saw that

“book larnin’ will spoil the anointing.”

We live in a highly educated world.

Most pastors in the West will preach

to educated congregations. I submit

that fired-up ignorance alone may be

insufficient to reach modern listeners.

Contemporary congregations expect,

and have a right to expect their preachers

to be both biblically knowledgeable and

generally well-educated.

To reach the modern mind, preachers

in this new era must know how to think

and how to employ a broad functional

vocabulary to express those thoughts.

Educated congregants will expect

their preachers to know the difference

between Moses and Charlemagne. History,

geography, politics, contemporary

culture and the arts are areas of interest

to today’s congregations and they expect

their preachers to be conversant.

People look to their pulpits hoping

for insight, answers and the application

of biblical exposition. Flaunting one’s

facility with biblical languages is tedious,

and the effect of mere showmanship is

boorish and tiresome. Today’s listeners

are looking to God’s Word for how to go

on living another week in a world that terrifies

them. They want to hear the truth

in a way that inspires confidence. They

are not seeking perfect saints who have

spiritually arrived, and they do not expect

Albert Einstein in the pulpit. Far from it.

They want to learn from learners who are

on the journey with them and who have

obviously not stopped along the trail.

Life learners seek out seminars and

opportunities for genuine development.

They are constantly pressing forward.

Regardless of the years of formal education

they may or may not have, they are

determined to keep learning. Anyone

who thinks a graduate degree is the

end of all learning, has learned little or

nothing of value.

With a GED or a Ph.D., life-learners

are constantly stretching upward,

expanding their mind and their vocabulary,

improving their leadership and

seeking ever deeper biblical, theological

thought. Life-learners are not content to

preach from yellowed notes while using

illustrations that barely worked years ago

and now are utterly lifeless. Congregations

are not stupid. They can tell if the

preacher has checked out and they know

bland micro-waved sermons when they

hear them.

Life-learners are also readers. Reading

as a ministerial discipline can and should

be cultivated. Church secretaries must be

convinced that the pastor’s reading time

Daniel Prince


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36 MinistryToday March // April 2015

is precious time not to be disturbed easily.

Churches, having once heard one, will

know that a well-read pastor is a gift of

God to the congregation.

Certainly the current “church world”

literature is important. There are great

ministry books being written every year.

Keeping abreast of current thought is

obviously important as long as it doesn’t

degenerate into a bondage to fads.

Dr. Dennis Kinlaw, the former president

of Asbury College, convinced me to read

at least one major book a year that has

nothing to do with the ministry. Twentyfirst-century

leaders will need to be lifelearners,

and life-learners are life-readers.

Ministry Today

A teacher whom I admired greatly

used to say, “The sermon is the preacher

up-to-date.” The risk for preachers today

is that sophisticated listeners can discern

if the expiration date has passed.

They want fresh bread. They want the

real deal. They want leaders who can

lead, manage and steward the church

affairs wisely. They want to hear today’s

sermon, not last year’s. They want

to hear it from an inspired, prepared

communicator. They want educated,

well-rounded ministers who can calmly

face all this century can hurl at them,

whether lions or mayors or whatever.

The 21 st -century listener is spoiled,

impatient and demanding when it comes

to communication. Shall we then give

up on preaching? God forbid. We must

simply learn to do it better. The business

people in our churches have seen great

leadership and know what it looks like.

Should we be intimidated, shrinking

from leadership? God forbid.

The best administrators, the best

leaders, the best thinkers and the

best communicators should be in the

church. Educating Christian ministers

to serve in the 21 st century, is among the

most challenging and important tasks

facing the church today. It may well be

what decides the future of Christianity

in the West.

D r . M a r k R u t l a n d is president of

Global Servants. A renowned communicator

and New York Times best-selling

author, he has over 30 years of experience

in organizational leadership, having served

as a senior pastor and a university president.

Through Global Servants, Rutland

has founded ministries in Ghana and Thailand.

A native of Texas, he was educated

at the University of Maryland, Candler

School of Theology at Emory University in

Atlanta, and holds a Ph.D. from California

Graduate School of Theology. Rutland has

authored 14 books.

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CHURCH NEEDS

With the decline of the culture, the younger

generation longs for—and needs—stronger

leadership in the church

BY KEN WALKER

At 35, musician Matt Carter is a whisker too

old to be classified a millennial, the generation

whose eldest members reached 18 at

the turn of the century. Still, with most fans

in their 20s and early 30s, the lead guitarist

for the alternative band Emery maintains a

sense of how young adults see the church. It

isn’t too favorable.

“I get a lot of feedback,” says Carter, who two years ago

started a sometimes irreverent-sounding blog (badchristian

.com) that reflects some of this discontent.

“Things like: ‘I know my church is well and good, but

38 MinistryToday March // April 2015

there’s some messed-up stuff in the system. Am I going to stick

around and try to make it better from the inside, or should we

speak out against the failures of the church? What’s the right

way to approach that?’”

Such questions are more relevant than ever after the recent

implosion of Seattle’s Mars Hill Church. The collapse came

about two months after the resignation of Mark Driscoll,

Carter’s pastor for 10 years before the guitarist departed in the

fall of 2013 amid brewing controversy.

Carter sees far-reaching implications from the collapse,

including raising the question of whether megachurches will

be viable in the future. »

PhotoCredit


Lightstock March // April 2015 MinistryToday 39


Regardless of size, he says the fallout

should cause pastors everywhere to

recognize that those who represent the

future of the church largely frown on the

image of the lead pastor/CEO.

No longer interested in such figures,

the musician doesn’t claim membership

in any church, although he often attends

an independent congregation of about

100 people.

“What I really want from a pastor is

to not feel like they have to conform to a

traditional pastoral role,” Carter says of

his expectations. “I want some people

to help me understand the Bible and

engage deeper. There’s a million ways to

do that. I don’t think there’s a prototype

or best way.”

Two millennials who once called

Mars Hill home see other lessons

emerging. They agree that while they

want strong leaders, they expect pastors

who are transparent, good listeners and

realistic about their shortcomings.

Shannon Stephens, a one-time home

group leader who spent five years in

Seattle before heading back east to be

closer to family, thinks too many pastors

embrace the image of omniscience.

Although saying those who matured

during the seeker-sensitive era have

dropped a sales-pitch approach,

Stephens feels too many retain the

attitude that unless they appear infallible,

their answers lack legitimacy.

“But that’s backward logic,” says

Stephens, who works at a bank. “If you

appear to never mess up, it doesn’t give

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you more legitimacy. It gives you less.

The ideal would be a pastor

who can’t only accept himself in the

‘sage’ category. In his counseling or

even from the pulpit, if he’s going to

be instructive, we want to know he’s

tried and triumphed over adversity in

his life.”

Seattle native Sarah Croasdill says

it is encouraging to hear how God

changes flawed pastors during their

journey. That is one reason she finds

her current pastor so appealing; she

and her husband found their new

home after a search that took them to

four churches.

“Our new pastor not only has a passion

for the gospel to reach the ends of

the earth, but he has humility,” Croasdill

says. “He shares his current trials—

big and small—from the pulpit and asks

us to pray for him.”

Her experience left another deep

impression. Were she and her husband

to find themselves in another place

that wanted to expand, they would

“Much has been written lately about those

under 33—millennials—seeking a spiritual

environment that offers more meaningful

relationships, discipleship and a deeper sense

of intimacy with God.”

favor starting another church instead

of another location.

“This is just healthier for leadership

and congregants,” Croasdill says.

A Closer Walk

Much has been written lately about

those under 33—millennials—seeking a

spiritual environment that offers more

meaningful relationships, discipleship

and a deeper sense of intimacy

with God. Yet such yearnings can also

create conflict with older members

who embrace the status quo and are

reluctant to yield the reins.

Therein lies the rub for all pastors,

who must navigate between differing

expectations and the potential conflict

that can arise from leaning too far in

one direction or the other.

Leadership expert Brad Lomenick

says one of the toughest challenges

older leaders face is understanding how

younger ones seek a family environment

where they can quickly assume leadership.

This expectation can easily rankle

elders who waited for years to step into

their positions.

“Part of our responsibility is to give

them that chance,” says Lomenick,

who worked with John C. Maxwell and

then as president of Catalyst before

leaving to devote more time to writing

and speaking. “They’ll make mistakes,

42 MinistryToday March // April 2015


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ut we should give them authority

and influence.”

As they do, pastors must understand

that millennials no longer see a career

spelling a three- to four-decade tenure

in one location. Instead of long-lasting

assignments, they foresee seasons that

will take them through 10 or more projects,

Lomenick says.

He says this reality partially explains the

advent of church-planting movements the

past 15 years, with many new churches

started by young adults unwilling to wait

for their chance to lead.

Not only do pastors need to create an

environment where young leaders can

do something, he says they must accept

the likelihood that after they grasp their

assignment, these protégés may leave for

another opportunity.

“I once heard Andy Stanley say, ‘This

won’t be your only job; I just want it to

be your best job,’ ” Lomenick says. “This

is changing the state of loyalty and what

teamwork looks like.”

As pastors grapple with a new generation

of leaders, they also have to develop

their understanding of young faces in

the audience.

While not everyone “gets it,” the

Lightstock

Barna Group’s David Kinnaman sees an

increasing awareness among pastors of

changing lifestyles; particularly the challenges

of reaching young adults who

are later leaving home, marrying and

having children.

The author of two books about millennials,

the president of the research firm

says the shifting realities of 20-somethings

mirror the past century’s rise of the

“teenager,” a relatively modern concept

that redefined what it meant to be a

maturing person.

Just as the Christian community altered

its ministries to young people in that

phase of life, the same innovative mindset

will be needed to reach today’s generation,

the author says.

Yet Kinnaman sees obstacles ahead,

such as pastors struggling to close the gap

between work and faith, which the Barna

Group labels “vocational discipleship.”

“Most churches still have very little

or no effective efforts to help millennials

understand the deep connections

between calling and their faith,”

Kinnaman says.

“This is an area that could dramatically

benefit the spiritual development of

today’s teenagers and young adults—and it

March // April 2015 MinistryToday 45

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“More and more pastors are offering an

ear-tickling service to bring in a ‘tithing

crowd.’ It seems it’s more about filling

seats instead of saving souls. Sadly enough,

sugar-coating (the Word) will do that.”

“I’ve been using the New Living

Translation at Crossover and I really

enjoy it. We’ve used several modern

translations, but theNLT resonates

with us. It’s understandable, but

scholarly and solid too.”

Tommy “Urban D” Kyllonen

could also significantly impact their sense

of purpose in work and their generosity.”

Still Scriptural

One misgiving pastors (particularly

evangelicals) may have of younger adults

is how their more tolerant, permissive

attitudes can veer in unhealthy directions,

such as openness towards cohabitation

and same-sex marriage. Yet that doesn’t

mean young adults automatically reject

the Bible.

Last fall the Barna Group released a

survey that found only 65 percent of millennials

accept the Bible as the actual or

inspired Word of God. Yet, among practicing

Christian millennials it is an overwhelming

96 percent.

And, despite their generation’s reputation

for relativism, 71 percent of active

believers affirm the concept of absolute

moral truth.

Roxanne Stone, Barna’s vice president

of publishing, acknowledges there are

reasons for the disparaging stereotypes

Lightstock

about young Christians becoming less

orthodox in their beliefs. Yet she says

many grew up in evangelical traditions

that placed a priority on Scripture over

other faith practices.

“This evangelical emphasis on Scripture

has cemented a respect for and continued

belief in Scripture as holy among

Christian millennials—even while they

question many other aspects of their

faith,” Stone says.

Rob Durst’s experience echoes this

trend. An Ohio native who serves as the

media director at a Church of Christ in

the South, he has seen the power of transparency

working at a church camp for

high school students.

Two years ago the camp started a testimony

time, with staff members and

campers sharing a story about a difficult

time in their life.

This helped touch others’ hearts by letting

others know they weren’t the only

people struggling with a particular issue.

Many campers have later approached

March // April 2015 MinistryToday 47

lead pastor, crossover church

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speakers to create a dialogue and offer

advice or encouragement.

Such experience reflects the example

set by his senior pastor. The 30-yearold

bivocational staff member calls his

pastor the most transparent person he

knows, confessing past struggles and

alcohol issues. “The Benefits of Getting

Caught” is the highest downloaded

sermon in church history.

Durst wouldn’t feel comfortable confiding

in someone who appears flawless.

He wouldn’t expect that person to

understand his problems nor be able to

offer practical solutions.

“I do not want to feel like I’m being

judged by someone,” Durst comments.

“No one is perfect; therefore, the pastor

who appears perfect is not. I hesitate to

trust anyone that appears that flawless.”

Generational Differences

As they seek to reach younger adults,

Kinnaman advises pastors to remember

that all too often generational differences

are overblown, which he calls a

sin issue. In other words, divisions over

worship, preaching styles or leadership

structures gloss over deeper differences

of gender, race or class.

“Those are differences that only the

gospel in us can sanctify,” Kinnaman

says. “I always remind pastors that

someone’s preferences have to be met. I

view it as the job of an effective leader to

communicate and clarify what it means

to accommodate others in a church.”

Realize too that older adults have

some of the same disappointments

and longings for more authentic, biblically

oriented leaders espoused by their

younger counterparts.

DeWayne Guyton, a 44-year-old

production director for a small-town

radio station in Alabama, says too many

church platforms have turned into

stages and performance venues, with

leaders’ main concerns being hitting

attendance quotas.

“More and more pastors are offering

an ear-tickling service to bring in a

‘tithing crowd,’” says Guyton, who leads

the media ministry at an interdenominational

church. “It seems it’s more about

filling seats instead of saving souls.

Sadly enough, sugar-coating (the Word)

will do that.”

Missourian Shelley Swenson feels the

same way. The longtime Assembly of

God member feels the casual approach

that has developed in the pulpit too

often reflects a casual approach towards

sin and accountability.

There is now more of a push toward

‘life-affirming’ sermons with fortunecookie

snippets thrown in for good

measure,” says the volunteer lunchroom

worker at a Christian school.

“This causes the attitudes of people

to change and embrace the idea that

because ‘God is love,’ we, as Christians,

are entitled to His blessings with no sacrifice

or commitment on our part. In

the past five years, I have looked around

at different churches but have found it

increasingly difficult to find one that

preaches Scripture and not some sugarcoated

fluff week after week.”

The managing editor of Leadership

Journal says such appraisals show two

truths about reaching people of all ages.

Drew Dyck, whose 2010 book, Generation

X-Christian, addressed the

reasons behind the exodus of young

people from church, says the first is

that dumbing down scriptural truth

won’t work.

“That’s a failure in history with

theological liberalism in mainline

churches,” Dyck said. “Instead of

growing over the years, they’ve seen a

50 percent reduction.”

The other is his view that pastors

need to chronicle the absence of young

adults in their midst, detail reasons for

stepping out of their comfort zone, and

convince members that making changes

and reaching out to the community are

good ideas.

“Tell them they’re missionaries now,”

says the former youth pastor. “Explain

they have to make some uncomfortable

decisions about their preferences

and the way they do church to engage

the next generation. If you explain

that, those changes will be met with

greater receptivity.”

Only time will tell whether church

leaders are up to the task.

K e n W a l k e r is a freelance writer, coauthor

and book editor from Huntington,

West Virginia. He wrote about the digital

church for Ministry Today’s Jan.-Feb. issue.

March // April 2015 MinistryToday 49

“I read the New Living Translation

daily and with joy and gratitude for

thosewho have provided such a

wonderfully straightforward and

credible rendering of Scripture.”

Clive Calver

senior pastor - walnut hill

community church, bethel, ct

former president, world relief

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Living Translation logo are registered

trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.


CHURCH CULTURE

CHASING

IDOLS

Why is God’s church pursuing everything but the holiness and

purity He has commanded of us?

I

will never forget a story Mom told me about her

challenge in raising me. My problem: I would never

be still. I was the busiest, most distracted kid she

ever encountered. But there was one exception:

When she was cooking dinner I would sit with rapt

attention, not moving until the food was ready.

Then I would eat heartily and return to busily

tearing up the house.

I mentally argued with her stories thinking, I’m not that

unfocused. She must be exaggerating. Then I got married

and one day my wife settled it for me. She said, “Kyle, you

don’t have ADD” (Attention Deficit Disorder). My ensuing

smile disappeared when she said, “You have ADD-EFGHI-

JKLMNOP!” Yes, I am still happily married, in case you

were wondering.

God finally helped me settle this issue. When I was called

to preach the gospel, I wanted my first sermon to be meaningful.

I somehow felt it would have ramifications for the

rest of my life and ministry, so I dared not just choose

any subject. I wanted to hear directly from God. I fasted

and prayed many days to hear properly. Finally I heard

clearly my topic from Psalm 46:10—“Be Still and Know That

I Am God.”

For many years, my distracted nature caused me to avoid a

truth we all must embrace—the Christian walk is simple, and it

requires us to focus on one main thing. Christianity at its core

50 MinistryToday March // April 2015

STOP

BY KYLE SEARCY

is not about many of the things we pursue—dare I say even

idolize. Christianity in its purest genetic form is about sincere,

pure devotion to Jesus.

Paul makes this crystal clear by exclaiming, “For I am

jealous for you with godly jealousy; for I espoused you to one

husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ.

But I fear that somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve through

his trickery, so your minds might be led astray from the simplicity

that is in Christ” (2 Cor. 11:2-3).

IN THESE VERSES, PAUL LIKENS:

hh

Salvation to betrothal

hh

Christ to a bridegroom

hh

Our mandate as simple pure devotion to Jesus

hh

Our warfare as Satan trying to distract us from

such devotion

What Paul says is profound, but yet quite simple! When we

embrace this as our mantra, when the only idol in our heart is

Jesus and living for His glory, the end result is an undistracted

heart that uses every ounce of its energy to please Jesus. This

should describe our life’s pursuit.

Christianity is simple and Satan’s main strategy against

us is also simple. Our goal as believers is to live in sincere,

pure, unbridled devotion to Jesus as a pure virgin would

to her new bridegroom. He alone is to be our idol. Satan’s

goal for us is to be distracted by secondary or tertiary tasks


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© Istockphoto/tumpikuja

March // April 2015 MinistryToday 51


Your Will

Be Done

On Earth.

and make them our chief pursuit. After

all, the first and greatest commandment

that fulfils every other commandment

is: “You shall love the Lord your

God with all your heart, and with all

your soul, and with all your mind, and

with all your strength” (Mark 12:30).

When we don’t keep the main thing

the main thing, we can easily, and

oftentimes unknowingly, become distracted

and idolize other things, good

‘Martha, Martha, you are anxious and

troubled about many things. But one

thing is needed. And Mary has chosen

the good part, which shall not be taken

from her.’ ” So many things in ministry

can begin to squeeze into our devotional

life. We don’t really want them

to interfere; we don’t cognitively say,

“Should I be Mary or Martha today?”

We shouldn’t be too hard on

Martha. She was not wrong for

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Christianity at its core is not about many of

the things we pursue—dare I say even idolize.

Christianity in its purest genetic form is

about sincere, pure devotion to Jesus.

as they may be.

Ministry is not for the fainthearted.

It is a serious commitment and calling.

There are so many pressures pastors

and leaders bear. But how many of our

pressures are self-induced because we

are measuring progress by an inaccurate

standard?

The tension we often face in ministry

is evident in Mary and Martha’s life.

Luke 10:38-42 records Jesus entering

into Mary and Martha’s house, and

we see Mary, “who also sat at Jesus’

feet and listening to His teaching.

But Martha was distracted with much

serving, and she came to him and asked,

‘Lord, do You not care that my sister

has left me to serve alone? Then tell

her to help me.’ ” How many of us

have asked the same question when

we have had to perform some ministry

task that a committee or leader should

have done?

“But the Lord answered to her,

52 MinistryToday March // April 2015

serving; someone had to do it. They

both couldn’t sit there and let everyone

starve. But why do we have choose to

be either servers or lovers? Can’t we be

loving servers or serving lovers? Can’t

we serve with intensity while delighting

in God intimately? Can we ever strike a

perfect balance of Mary and Martha in

our lives? Can we stay at His feet while

serving Him? Of course, we can, but

only by grace can we do it.

Doing things for God without a heart

full of love toward Him leads to a heart

that seeks other means of fulfillment.

I believe this is one of the reasons we

chase so many idols. We allow our

hearts to grow dull and unfulfilled. We

then resort to rules and fleshly prohibitions

to form the basis of our obedience.

But these are sub-standard. Our

heart was made to be wholehearted. We

were all made to pursue—when Jesus is

not that pursuit, other things occupy

that space. »

© Istockphoto/Andy445


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I once heard James Dobson say on

his radio show that the average pastor

can do some 200-plus different activities

when God really only expects us

to do a few. I have narrowed these few

down to three for my life: feed (preach

the Word), lead (provide vision and

direction) and intercede (spend a great

quantity of time with God in prayer and

the Word).

1) Feed. Good food isn’t good

enough. Serving leftovers is even worse.

We must seek the heart of God as to

what He wants His children to eat.

The “go-to” sermons must go! They are

a poor substitute for a current word

straight from the heart of God!

2) Lead. Get clarity on what God

expects of us, not what people expect

of us. There is nothing worse than

expending lots of energy on someone

else’s mission thinking it is our own.

God’s yoke is easy and His burden is

light. The pressure we often encounter

may be self-inflicted by not erecting

enough boundaries.

3) Intercede. It should be no surprise

to you by now that I often get distracted

from the main thing. Recently I felt

impressed to go away and spend a week

alone with the Lord in prayer, meditation

and study. I had an incredible time.

I came back so refreshed and refilled. I

didn’t realize how rusty I had gotten by

being so busy. There is no way around

it. If we are to have a healthy spiritual

life, we must prioritize our first love.

At my strongest times in the Lord, I

commit two or three hours a day to

be before Him. I find that adequate to

quench my thirst.

If we narrow our focus, leaving maximum

time and energy for our primary

pursuit, our hearts will stay full—and

he that is full is no longer hungry. We

won’t hunger for or lust after lesser

things, be it sin or some secondary

pursuit that knocks on the door of our

heart, deceptively promising more fulfillment

than our primary pursuit.

I pray for God to constantly give

grace so that you can keep the first

things first. If we ask, it shall be given.

K y l e S e a r c y serves as senior pastor of

Fresh Anointing House of Worship in Montgomery,

Alabama, and Norcross, Georgia.

54 MinistryToday March // April 2015


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CHARACTER

BY KEN WALKER

56 MinistryToday March // April 2015

© Istockphoto/edge69


The public’s perception of a godly leader is one

who walks in humility and integrity

BY LARRY STOCKSTILL

A

burden for the lost manifested in prayer and fasting, coupled with the

preaching of the Scripture, is the foundation of all ministry. Upon those

two tenets rests the corner pillar of success: integrity.

In math, a whole number is called an integer. Nothing is missing, and

it is totally complete. It is not three-fourths complete or any other fractional

part; it is whole. In ministry, to have integrity means to be whole

and sound (notice the common root with the word integer). Ministerial

integrity thus inspires confidence, much as money does in the economic realm. Anything

less than 100 percent integrity in ministry breeds mistrust and creates a suspicion of

being robbed.

There are four areas in any Christian’s life, but especially in the ministry, that must be

sound: finances, commitments, honesty and doctrine. Careful attention to these areas is crucial

and will pay off in a lifetime of influence.

Finances

No issue has been more scrutinized than the church’s managing of its finances. Money is so

potentially dangerous that though ministers cannot be paranoid, they must handle it as they

would explosives. In managing a church’s finances, there are several basic principles to guide

us and certain practical rules to protect us.

1) “Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another” (Rom. 13:8). Debt that is secured (has

property standing for its value) is acceptable but still requires prompt, no-excuses repayment.

Some ministries hold their payments to vendors and creditors for 90 days for cash-management

purposes. At Bethany, we never do that, choosing rather to pay in the month we owe.

That way we protect our reputation and maintain open doors to our vendors and creditors.

2) The cost of buildings and their operation should never exceed 35 percent of a church’s income. Salaries

should run between 20 and 40 percent. Missions giving must never fall below a tithe level of

10 percent and can increase to 25 percent or even more if the church is debt free. Savings

should be 5-10 percent. These percentages do not affect integrity unless the church violates

them and can no longer pay its obligations in the month they are due.

3) Money given must be used for the purpose designated. When a member sacrifices to plant a church,

build a nursery or support a widow, those funds in the exact amount and at the time given must

make their way to that need (regardless of how desperately they may be needed elsewhere).

4) Outside business interests between leadership and membership change the relationship and cannot

exist. When a pastor or church leader enters into a business relationship with a member,

the relationship changes from pastor/sheep to partner/partner. Any shift in the balance of

profit or responsibilities will likely bring a rift between the two.

5) Churches should adequately support their pastors and leaders: “You shall not muzzle the mouth

March // April 2015 MinistryToday 57


TM

of the ox while it treads out the

grain” (1 Cor. 9:9; see also verses

10-14). Ministers are not hirelings but

guardians of the flock and deserve

adequate compensation.

6) Pressure for finances yields the perception

of manipulation and insincerity. It

does take money to operate ministry

and expand it. However, when the

sheep sense that they are a means to

an end, part of an agenda that equates

their worth with their money, a loss of

integrity results.

7) Members deserve to be informed of

expenditures. At Bethany, we issue a

financial statement at the end of each

year. This is not for the purpose of

budget battles, but to assure our members

of our priorities (missions, youth

and children, local outreach) and also

our obligations (principal payments,

utility costs, staff costs).

Commitments

A commitment occurs when

someone perceives that you have

promised something. Granted, some

pushy people may interpret your silence

or your head bobbing up and down

during their proposal as a commitment.

However, a real commitment is not a

misunderstanding, but a genuine obligation

you make in good faith.

The Bible declares that a man of

integrity “swears to avoid evil and does

not change” (Ps. 15:4). When a commitment

comes out of your mouth, you

must have the same integrity with it that

God has to His Word.

Commitments from the pulpit, of

course, are inviolate. Our staff knows

that if I announce something to the

people, it becomes our new direction.

It takes only once for a pastor to alter

his word to bring suspicion of any and

every announcement.

Of course, mistakes may be made, but

if the pastor has set a course, he must

follow through.

Sadly, pastors sometimes cancel

international missionary commitments

because of their distant

and anonymous nature. Promised

crusades, conferences and building

projects disappear because of budget

restraints or because “the Lord has

moved in a different direction.” Additionally,

emotionally charged church

members during missions conventions

sometimes make pledges to support

certain missionaries on a monthly

basis, only to never give even the first

month’s support.

Christians should never need a legal

contract to make them keep their word.

If they fear the Lord and believe integrity

is their highest honor, they’ll willingly

keep their commitments.

Let’s get it together, brothers and

sisters! It’s time for a new standard of

integrity that no worldly institution can

even begin to rival.

Honesty

Integrity means a commitment to

the entire truth. If you leave out pertinent

facts (selective amnesia) in

an effort to persuade, it is a lie. A

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lie is simply any intent to deceive.

Therefore, lies are not only what you

say but also what you allow people to

believe for untruthful purposes. This

is an important word. Intentionally

withholding pertinent truth that leads

people to wrong conclusions does not

show integrity.

Exaggeration is another serious

temptation in the honesty area.

Someone defined honesty as the “accurate

recollection of facts.” One person

ministered in our church years ago and

described a bus he was using to transport

cancer patients. My father calculated

the length the bus would have

to be in order to hold the number of

people the minister said it could hold.

That bus would have needed to be over

125 feet long! When confronted with

this obvious inaccuracy, the minister

responded, “You know, you can’t tell

anything too big for God.”

This pitiful response reminds us that

testimonies of miracles, answered prayer

and apparent supernatural interventions

must be accurate. God does not need any

help defending His greatness.

Doctrine

Scripture often refers to doctrine

as something that needs to be sound.

Second Timothy 4:3 says, “For the

time will come when people will not

endure sound doctrine.” In speaking

of overseers in the church, Titus 1:9

says that they must be able to “exhort

in sound doctrine.”

Flaky doctrine built upon a wisp

of revelation hurts credibility. Snake

handling (based on Mark 16:18),

never-die-ism (based on John 11:26) or

refusal to seek medical attention based

on an isolated verse borders on presumption,

not faith.

Your doctrine needs to be sound.

This means having balance, holding to a

solid thread of scriptural truth that runs

throughout the Bible and not building

on a nuance of Greek or Hebrew inflection

in Strong’s Concordance. Predictions,

time lines and scriptural “facts”

that are mere interpretations shake

people’s faith when the predictions

don’t come true.

As we move into perilous times, more

and more I am becoming a stickler for

sound footing on any and every doctrine.

You will not be penalized in

your effectiveness for the Lord by not

adopting the latest doctrinal fad. You

will be penalized if you catch each doctrinal

“flu bug” that comes around and

then “recover.” Your soundness and

integrity will come into question.

Adapted from Larry Stockstill’s

book The Remnant. In the book,

Stockstill reminds spiritual leaders that

God is issuing a call to maintain integrity

in ministry. The book can be purchased

at christianbook.com; search

Larry Stockstill.

L a r r y S t o c k s t i l l is the former senior

pastor of Bethany World Prayer Center in

Baton Rouge, Louisiana. He now directs the

Surge Project and serves as a teaching pastor

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CHURCH CULTURE

Learning to Lead

Differently as You Age

How can a leader overcome the challenges that come with age in a culture

that is constantly seeking the newest idea, approach or technique?

BY ED STETZER

As we watch the news, we often see leaders

retire. It happens in the sports world, the

political realm, the educational system and

even in the religious community.

The pope retired. Pastors retire from

their church ministry. Leaders of Christian

organizations retire.

We all have an expiration date. The expiration

date, though, is not always determined by our health.

Instead, it’s often determined by our vision. If your vision has

expired, you need to step out of your leadership role.

But it’s not just an age thing. I know people who still

have the vision in their 80s and are still doing some really

amazing things.

62 MinistryToday March // April 2015

Here’s what often happens to leaders: A fear factor sets in.

It’s like they’ve got to finish, even if they don’t finish well. You

know the mentality: “I don’t want to rock the boat, because

this is my retirement. I just sort of need to make it through.”

I’m in my late 40s now, but a few years ago I was sitting

down with Troy Gramling, who was interviewing me. He

asked, “What are you doing to invest in the next generation?”

I responded, “I am the next generation. What do you

mean? I’m just 43 years old.”

We are about the same age, so he (correctly) replied, “No,

we’re not anymore.”

As leaders we age, we have to invest in those of the next

generation. It changes as we age so that when you’re getting

into your 60s and 70s, you need to be spending most of

Lightstock


your time investing in people who are

younger than you—passing it on.

Reaching Out or Hanging On?

When I was in my 20s and 30s, I

led differently than I do now that I’m

in my 40s. When you’re in your 60s

and 70s—and particularly your 80s—

your role has to shift.

The fact is that this is hard for some

to hear. Nevertheless, we sometimes

have to be the ones who say to older

on a pastor, who may not be able

to find another church at the age of

60. It shouldn’t be that way. That’s

not biblical.

And yet, we have to recognize that we

have to lead differently as we age.

Expectations and Effectiveness

So the issue becomes: Can I lead differently?

Can I raise up the next generation

of Joshuas around me? Can I be an

empowering leader? Or am I going to

hh

In your 30s, you’re trying it out.

hh

In your 40s, you’re getting

your groove.

hh

When you’re in your 50s, you’re

leading well.

hh

When you’re in your 60s, you’re

looking to pass it on to others.

hh

When you’re in your 70s, you’re

raising up a legacy.

If you are in your 70s but aren’t raising

up a legacy, and you’re still trying to lead

like you’re in your 30s, you’re doing a disservice

to the younger generation and to

yourself. As I told the bishops, we have to

A successful leader

does not have

to become more

aggressive in his or

her older years. He

or she simply has to

continue to hone their

leadership as they did

in the early years.

leaders: “You know, nobody’s putting

you on a shelf, but you’ve got to lead differently.

You can’t lead the way you led

when you were 35. People aren’t going

to follow you the way they followed you

when they were 35. They’re going to

follow differently.”

I shared this with a group of bishops

and exhorted them that, because of

their polity, they have to be the ones

to speak truth into the lives of their

pastors. They need to know that many,

though certainly not all, older pastors

have not changed how they lead. Some

pastors in their late 60s and 70s are just

hanging on for dear life.

I should add that there’s also a different

side to this issue. The church

culture often wants to push older

leaders aside based purely on age.

This can have a devastating impact

64 MinistryToday March // April 2015

tie myself to the mast, yelling out, “I am

the guy!”?

I’m not trying to say that effective

leadership in your 70s is about exhibiting

the greatest amount of energy in

the room. It also isn’t about being the

loudest voice on an issue. I think you can

speak softly. Just as Paul said to Timothy,

I would appeal to older men as fathers

and younger men as brothers. Older men

should act as fathers and raise up the

next generation.

A successful leader does not have to

become more aggressive in his or her

older years. He or she simply has to continue

to hone their leadership as they did

in the early years.

A well-known paradigm is worth mentioning

here:

hh

When you’re in your 20s,

you’re learning.

graciously and lovingly say, “You need a

new plan.”

The successful leaders at that stage

will be the ones who continue to learn

how to lead and who will adjust their

style to have the greatest effect. Some

will refuse to change due to fear or stubbornness,

and that is unfortunate.

The challenge is—and I see it in my

bishop-less denomination—in many

cases, there is no one to speak truth to

some. However, this is where you (or I) as

a godly friend can and should say, “Lead

your age.”

What have you learned about the leadership

transition that comes with age?

How can a leader overcome the challenges

that come with age in a culture

that is constantly seeking the newest

idea, approach or technique? What can

we learn from Scripture in regards to

leading into the later years?

E d S t e z e r is the executive director of

LifeWay Research.

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MINISTRY LIFE: YOUTH

BY AARON CRUMBEY

4 Steps in Teaching Students to Be a Witness

How are you instructing your youth to share the gospel—and their own faith journey?

Evangelism can be weird for students. I felt like a

salesman trying to share my faith when I was in school.

And not just any salesman, but a salesman who sells

things people don’t know they want or even need.

A perfect example of this is

the people at the kiosk booths at

the mall. They pace up and down

talking to people who aren’t paying

them any attention—trying to sell

them something they didn’t even

come to the mall to get is arduous.

I used to feel that way when I

would have to go out and share

my faith. I would think to myself,

These people don’t want to hear

what I have to say.” It wasn’t until

I got older that I understood that

it would always be about sharing

something with people who don’t

know they need it.

Now, I personally believe God

uses a lot of different ways to

share His message through us. I

will never say one way is better.

Because in some way or another

God uses them all. But in this

post, I want to discuss evangelizing

through relationships.

While I wouldn’t say it’s better,

I will say it’s my favorite when it

comes to teaching students how to

evangelize to their friends. Evangelism

through relationships teaches

students three things:

1) It reinforces the main point of

the gospel, which is God’s longing

to be in relationship with us.

2) It helps students not see the person being evangelized as

a project or a deal that needs closing, but a person God loves.

3) It helps them speak through their own relationship with

God, and from their own story and experiences that can’t

be disputed.

Therefore, here are the four steps I like to walk students

through when it comes to sharing their faith with their friends:

1) Teach them to know the gospel. Have you ever led someone to

a destination you didn’t know the directions to? I’m guessing

your answer is no. Well, it’s the same when it comes to sharing

66 MinistryToday March // April 2015

“I’ve learned that

people are

more interested

in hearing what

God has done

in your life

than just hearing

what He can possibly

do in theirs.”

our faith. You have to know how you got to where you are in

order to show people how to get there.

2) Teach them to know their story. A lot of times students are

paralyzed by fear because they don’t know what to say, so I’ll

have students write their story out

using a template if needed. It will be

about how God has changed their

life. They will use this information

to share the gospel. I’ve learned

that people are more interested in

hearing what God has done in your

life than just hearing what He can

possibly do in theirs. So teach your

youth to know their story.

3) Teach them to get to know their

friends’ stories. A lot of times we

know people and are friends with

them, but we never engage in any

conversations concerning the issues

of life. So it’s important they know

you care about the details of their

life, because you are modeling how

much God cares about them.

Also, you have to earn the right

to speak into their life the same

way people have to earn the right

to speak into yours. We do that

through getting to know who

they are. Learning someone else’s

journey is the quickest way to grow

in relationship with that person.

Get to know their story.

4) Teach them to understand the

gospel and how it intersects with their

story. The gospel becomes more

real once you understand how it

applies to you. For the most part,

we are most comfortable talking about ourselves.

It’s important that we don’t just know the verses and the

right christianized language. We need to understand the

gospel in light of how it relates to our story. And there is a confidence

that comes to the one who understands this point.

A a r o n C r u m b e y oversees Pastoral Care for the high school

ministry at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest, California. He cares

deeply about sharing Christ with students and seeing them reach

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MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: COUNSELING

BY BRANDON COX

Empowering God’s People to Counsel the Broken

How are you motivating your church members to help each other heal life’s hurts?

Some of the spiritually healthiest people I know are getting

counseling. There seems to be some stigma around it, but

getting help with our mental and emotional issues is really a

matter of choosing to grow with the help of others. And the New

Testament reveals a pretty neat idea

in the mind of God: The church can

be a growing body of compassionate

counselors. If you’re a Christian, you

need counseling from other Christians,

and you need to offer counseling

to others too.

I believe there is a huge need for

professional counseling in the culture

in which we live, and there are

times for all of us when the healthiest

thing we can do is pay to see a clinician

trained in the art of coaching

us toward healthier thinking and

relationships. But there is also a vast

army of counselors within the membership

of the church.

Paul challenged Christians to

“let the word of Christ dwell in

you richly in all wisdom, teaching

and admonishing one another”

(Col. 3:16). He challenged us to

admonish and to encourage, to

hold others accountable, to help

apply biblical truth and to make

each other healthier, mutually.

When I was a pastor at Saddleback Church, I was amazed

at the number of people who had gone through extensive

training under Pastor Bob Baker to become lay counselors. One

of those trainees even wound up living in northwest Arkansas

and joined my church. Saddleback’s website describes the

approach this way:

“We produce trained counselors who facilitate a free service

for individuals seeking guidance for a variety of issues including

marital and family relationships, communication and intimacy,

parenting, grief and loss, anger and bitterness, inner personal

struggles, and spiritual discouragement. Our volunteers receive

extensive training, ongoing supervision and continuing education.

The ministry helps fulfill Pastor Rick’s vision for Saddleback

Church: ‘It is the dream of a place where the hurting, the

depressed, the frustrated and the confused can find love, acceptance,

help, hope, forgiveness, guidance and encouragement.’ ”

It’s an incredible approach that meets real needs for

68 MinistryToday March // April 2015

thousands. My wife, Angie, leads our church’s counseling

efforts. She’s a trained clinician (LCSW) with a background in

offering professional therapy. But she also believes strongly in

the power of releasing non-professional lay counselors to walk

alongside the broken.

And I would get even more

ground level in my assessment of

the church’s need to counsel and to

be counseled. We need an informal

atmosphere where people connect

with others in small groups and in

one-on-one (or slightly larger) groups

to talk about life, to heal from brokenness

and to deepen one another’s

walk. God has equipped us for this.

hh

He’s given us His Word, the

Bible, which is His verbally inspired

truth for life, infallible and unable

to fail as it works its way through

our lives.

hh

He’s given us His Spirit, to lead

us in the moment, to feed us lifegiving

words to share with others

on the spot.

B r a n d o n C o x is the lead pastor of Grace Hills

Church, a new church plant in northwest Arkansas. He

also serves as editor and community facilitator for pastors.com

and Rick Warren’s Pastor’s Toolbox, and was

formerly a pastor at Saddleback Church in Lake Forest,

California.

hh

He’s allowed us to walk our

own broken roads while learning

to draw closer to Him so that we

can speak out of our own pain into

the lives of others.

So, you need counseling. Professionally?

During certain seasons of life, yes! But even more, you

need friends. You need a church body, a small group of fellow

believers, who can link arms with you to help you heal.

And you need to be counseling others. This doesn’t mean

offering unsolicited criticism in the name of prophetic insight.

It means that regardless of your level of training, if you know

Jesus and you read His Word regularly, you are equipped to

encourage, to exhort and even to correct in gentle ways those

who are hurting around you.

Church leaders, if you don’t already, it’s time now to

encourage people to counsel and to seek counseling. Yes,

preaching is primary to your responsibility to shepherd the flock,

but a half-hour on Sunday of speaking as one to the masses will

never afford you enough opportunity to dive into the specific

issues and problems that individuals face on a daily basis. You

need to empower and release people to go be the church for

one another.


MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: WORSHIP

BY DAVID SANTISTEVAN

Are We in Danger of Worshipping Worship?

Let’s be moved more by the magnitude of God’s presence than just by great music

The question needs to be asked: Are we in danger of

worshipping worship?

The mood. The atmosphere. The melody. The

crowd. The emotion. Your favorite worship leader or your

favorite speaker. The band. The performance.

The feeling.

Are we being moved by the right

things? Are our hearts aimed in the

proper direction?

The problem with our worship

culture is that we equate worship

with an experience, a moment. We

end up loving worship more than

we love God. We end up talking

about worship more than we talk

about God.

Our culture has made worship

an end in itself, rather than what it

should be—a way of life with Christ

at the center.

But when life is chaotic, what do

you turn to? When crisis hits your life,

what worship songs are you singing?

The Distracted Worshiper

I’m not advocating we create

boring, terrible music or rid our gatherings of emotion. This

isn’t a time to point the finger, listing all the churches, record

labels and artists who are doing it all wrong.

I’m issuing a caution—a warning to guard our hearts from

loving worship more than we love God.

With good intent, many of us are running around focusing

on anything and everything but God Himself. It’s as if Jesus is

enthroned before our eyes, but we’re taking Instagram shots of

the throne itself. We’re more enamored by the gifts and talents

of God’s people than we are by the Creator of all things.

If we took away the music, the songs and the artists, would

we have anything to say to God?

Falling in Love With the Right Thing

If you were alone in a room with Jesus Christ, what would well

up from the depths of your heart? What would you say or feel?

How would you respond?

Can you talk about worship music for hours but have nothing

to say about who God is in your life and what He is doing?

Do you know all there is to know about the latest worship

album but are barren when it comes to knowing Scripture?

70 MinistryToday March // April 2015

D a v i d S a n t i s t e v a n is the worship pastor at

Allison Park Church in Pittsburgh.

I’m not here to guilt you. I want you to know God. I want you

to have a history of seeing God move and seeing His promises

at work in your day to day.

I don’t want you to look back on the glory days of your faith. I

want each day to bring new perspectives,

adventures, divine appointments

and experiences that show the

reality of God to the world.

That’s why the biblical understanding

of worship needs to be kept

paramount in our minds.

Experiencing Art

Being impressed by talented

people and feeling good through

the force of their performance is not

enough. The wise worshipper will

enjoy that, bless that and encourage

that, but will also see through it to

the Giver of all gifts.

The true worshipper learns to sing

through the storm—cry out through

the confusion of life.

The true worshipper knows how

to scour the Scriptures for daily

bread. The true worshipper knows

how to pray and seek the heart of God.

True worshippers aren’t just moved by powerful music. They

are moved by the weight of God’s glory. They are hushed by the

magnitude of His presence.

It’s not that great art is wrong or unnecessary. The worshipper

of God just knows how to use it. It’s never an end in itself but

a gateway to seeing more of the glory and perfection of God.

C.S. Lewis says it better than I ever could: “The books or the

music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray

us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through

them, and what came through them was longing. These things—

the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of

what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself

they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshippers.

For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a

flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard,

news from a country we have never yet visited.”

Question: How do you guard your heart, your team and your

church from loving worship more than loving God? How do you

use your full talent in the local church without swaying the hearts

of God’s people away from Him?


MINISTRY LEADERSHIP: PERSONAL CHARACTER

BY JUSTIN LATHROP

Should We Try to Make Our Churches Cool?

Is it a good thing that churches are trying to be culturally relevant these days?

The concept of church is thousands of years old, yet we’re

still understanding, debating and re-forming what we

believe church should look like.

We all grew up with different experiences of church. Some of

us grew up in small, family-oriented

community churches, while others

of us didn’t grow up in church at

all. For some of us, church was the

kind of thing you had to dress up for,

while others of us only attended on

Christmas and maybe Easter.

For many of us, church is a topic

of great debate, great frustration or

even great pain. Many of us haven’t

connected with the kinds of churches

we’ve experienced, or we don’t agree

with how we’ve seen church done.

And so, in response, some of us have

disconnected completely, deciding

church just isn’t for us. Still others

have decided to do things differently.

A result of this church frustration

is what I am calling “cool churches.”

More than ever, churches are striving

to be culturally relevant, attracting

church-goers with their décor, their

cool music and even their coffee.

Churches are more creative than

ever before, striving to be places

people want to be in, adapting to fit

what they think people want. But is this a good thing?

I see pros and cons on both sides, but I want to hear what you

think. Do we need our churches to be cool?

Benefits

1) Diversity is a good thing. Something we sometimes miss

in thinking about the diversity between churches is that our

churches could, and maybe should, be as diverse as the people

who attend them. A group of artists will hear and respond to the

gospel in a different way than businessmen in Manhattan would.

Although we’re all speaking the language of the gospel, why not

allow room to speak in different dialects?

2) How else could we attract new people? One-size-fits-all churches

can be a major deterrent when the size doesn’t, in fact, fit all. If

we want to attract a different kind of person to our churches,

we need to be different too.

3) It’s important to stay in the conversation. I often hear that

With more than a dozen years of local-church ministry,

J u s t i n L a t h r o p has spent the last several years

starting businesses and ministries that partner with

pastors and churches to advance the kingdom. He is the

founder of helpstaff.me (now Vanderbloemen Search),

Oaks School of Leadership and ministrycoach.tv.

churches are out of touch. Many churches skate around pressing

issues, preferring to do things the way they’ve always been done.

But in order to stay relevant, to continue to have a voice that

people listen to, we have to be willing to adapt and keep up.

Drawbacks

1) We may lose our focus. One legitimate

question we should be asking

ourselves as we’re revamping our

churches to try to be cooler is this:

Are we losing our focus? Where are

we putting our money? Where are

we finding our identity? What takes

most of our time?

Demonstrating our church’s personality

through décor and the service

is a great thing, but it should

never trump our focus on the gospel.

2) We might get lost in what people

want, rather than what Jesus wants. Are

people craving the same things from

their churches they’d look for in an

apartment building or a restaurant?

Is this what’s actually important to

the people looking for a place to

belong? That’s a question with many

answers, but one to think about as

we’re making decisions.

3) We run the risk of sacrificing truth.

Something “cool” churches seem to

value more than more traditional churches is a feeling of acceptance

for everyone. Jesus modeled nothing less.

But one question we should consider as we’re setting the

tone for our churches is this: As we’re striving to create a place

where everyone feels comfortable, are we ignoring the truths

Jesus taught us in the process?

Jesus’ truth isn’t always comfortable. In fact, it rarely is.

As we’re creating a welcoming environment, we need to make

sure we’re not ignoring an uncomfortable yet important truth.

In this sense, welcoming and comfortable aren’t synonymous.

Can we find middle ground? I think so. There are pros to

doing church in a new way, to revisiting what Jesus said church

should be. But there’s also wisdom in focusing on what’s most

important instead of trying to appeal to everyone or make

everyone happy.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Should we be trying

to make our churches cool?

72 MinistryToday March // April 2015 Meshali Mitchell


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March // April 2015 MinistryToday 73


P A S T O R ’ S H E A R T

RICK WARREN

How to Ward Off First-Visit Jitters

Here’s why some potential visitors may be staying away from your services

Before I started Saddleback church 34

years ago, I spent 12 weeks going doorto-door

in our area trying to discover the

answers to that important question. The answers

I got were not at all what I expected or what I

wanted to hear. But over the years, I found these

same four complaints and excuses still being

used by folks who don’t attend any church:

1) “Church services are boring, especially the sermons.

The messages don’t relate to my life. Why should

I go? I don’t understand it and it doesn’t really help me.”

In our area, this has been the No. 1 excuse for

not attending church. It’s amazing how some

pastors are able to take the most exciting book in

the world and bore people to tears with it. Miraculously,

they’re able to turn bread into stones.

The tragedy of being a boring speaker is that it

causes people to think God is boring. So when I

heard this first complaint over and over, I determined

to somehow learn to communicate God’s

Word in a practical, interesting way. I hope I’m

getting better at it, because I do everything I can

to be interesting. A sermon does not have to be

boring to be biblical and it doesn’t have to be dry

to be doctrinal. This is an extremely important

distinction: The unchurched aren’t asking for

watered-down messages, just practical ones. They want to hear

something on Sunday that they can apply to their lives on Monday.

2) “Church members are unfriendly to visitors. It feels like a ‘clique.’ If

I ever went to church, I’d want to feel welcomed without being watched or

embarrassed.” Many unchurched people told me that they felt like

the church was a “members-only” organization. Because they

didn’t know the “inside” terminology, songs or rituals, they felt

foolish and felt the members were watching them in judgment.

The No. 1 emotion unbelievers feel when they visit a worship

service is fear! They are honestly scared to death of what might

happen. And that means they raise their defenses, so communicating

with them becomes very difficult. When I heard this second

excuse from unbelievers, we determined to do whatever it takes to

make visitors feel welcomed and wanted without feeling watched.

There’s a simple word for this: politeness! It’s thinking more

of others than we do of ourselves. Being seeker sensitive is not

compromising what you believe. It is just treating non-believers

the way Jesus would.

3) “The church is more interested in my money than in me. All they care

about is getting my money—and who knows how they spend it?” Due to the

highly visible (and often highly questionable) fundraising tactics of

televangelists and many Christian organizations, the unchurched

74 MinistryToday March // April 2015

“In evangelism, we

need to understand

and anticipate the

objections unbelievers

will have before they

voice them.”

are incredibly sensitive to appeals for money.

Unfortunately, many lost people believe that

pastors are “in it just for the money.”

4) “We worry about the quality of the church’s child

care at church. What will be done with our baby and our

children? We’re not sure we can trust strangers with the

care of our kids.” Our area is filled with young couples,

so it was not surprising when I discovered

this fear. Every church must earn the trust of parents.

At Saddleback, we have adopted a set of

very stringent guidelines for our children’s ministry,

including FBI checks, fingerprinting and

personal interviews of all children’s workers to

ensure safety and quality. We have a very secure

check-in and check-out system. We’d rather go

overboard on safety than be thrown overboard

with a lawsuit. If you want to reach young couples,

you must spend the effort to create a safe

and attractive children’s program.

Jesus told the disciples to be strategic in

their evangelism. “Look, I am sending you

out as sheep in the midst of wolves. Therefore

be wise as serpents and harmless as doves”

(Matt. 10:16). When it comes to reaching

unbelievers, I think this means identifying and

understanding their perceived hang-ups and

real problems that they have with the church—and then doing

whatever it takes to defuse those issues so the message of Christ

can be heard.

In evangelism, we need to understand and anticipate the objections

unbelievers will have before they voice them. It’s learning to

think like an unbeliever. That, by the way, becomes increasingly

more difficult the longer you are a Christian.

What is most interesting to me about these four common

complaints is that none of them are theological issues. I rarely

meet people who say, “I don’t go to church because I don’t

believe in God.”

The truth is many people are very open to learning about God

and spiritual issues, they just don’t feel welcome at church or feel

that it has anything to offer them. That is our problem. We must

take the initiative, like Jesus did, to meet people where they are

and then move them to where they need to be.

R i c k W a r r e n is the founding pastor of Saddleback Church

in Lake Forest, California. He is author of the New York Times

best-seller The Purpose Driven Life. His book, The Purpose Driven

Church, was named one of the 100 Christian books that changed

the 20th century.


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