CHURCHES BE COOL?
WHY ARE MILLENNIALS
HOW TO COUNSEL
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
The Story of Jonathan Stockstill
Jesus calls us to take on the
greatest needs of our day
IN THE MARGINS
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of
poverty and injustice. Motivated by our faith in Jesus Christ, we serve alongside the poor and oppressed as a demonstration of God’s unconditional love for all people.
c o n t e n t s
Vol. 3 3 // No. 2
March // April 2015
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.
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
66 | YOUTH
4 Steps in Teaching Your
Students to Be a Witness
68 | COUNSELING
Empowering God’s people to
counsel the broken
70 | WORSHIP
Are we in danger of
72 | PERSONAL CHARACTER
Should we try to make our
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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“In the past I’ve probably picked up the Bible and
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a couple chapters. This time is different—with the
Life Application Study Bible, I can understand it.”
Making timeless truth a personal truth.
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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
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
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
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
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:
An atheist professor declares, “If
there’s a God, he’ll stop this piece of chalk
before it hits the ground.” Then amazingly,
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.
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?
The lion will lay down with the lamb
Time shall be no more
Neither a borrower nor a lender be
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
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
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
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
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.
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They are not only educators,
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Apply for fellowship and scholarship
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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
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Get Two FREE Preaching
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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
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
to myths, such as the
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
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
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
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
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
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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
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
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
“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
“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
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
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
“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
Senior Pastors Jonathan and Angie Stockstill
20 MinistryToday March // April 2015
Sharon Holeman Photography
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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
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
“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
Sharon Holeman Photography
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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
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
“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
“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
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
“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
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
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
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
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
some follow-up questions. What kind of
turmoil? What got him hired in the first
place? The weary pastor explained it in the
“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
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
is still of utmost
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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
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
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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.
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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LET’S DO MORE. TOGETHER.
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. »
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
“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
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
“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
“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
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,
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
“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
While not everyone “gets it,” the
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
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
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,”
“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
“The New Living Translation
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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.”
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
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
And, despite their generation’s reputation
for relativism, 71 percent of active
believers affirm the concept of absolute
Roxanne Stone, Barna’s vice president
of publishing, acknowledges there are
reasons for the disparaging stereotypes
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
Help your church see how the
entire story of the Bible fits
together with a free 8-Week
FLYOVER ROUTE e-book and
church resources, including
54 daily Scripture readings,
eight weekly discussion guides,
infographic poster art, and more – at:
New Living Translation, NLT, and the New
Living Translation logo are registered
trademarks of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc.
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.”
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
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
“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
“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
“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
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
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wonderfully straightforward and
credible rendering of Scripture.”
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community church, bethel, ct
former president, world relief
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Why is God’s church pursuing everything but the holiness and
purity He has commanded of us?
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
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
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:
Salvation to betrothal
Christ to a bridegroom
Our mandate as simple pure devotion to Jesus
Our warfare as Satan trying to distract us from
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
March // April 2015 MinistryToday 51
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
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
“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. »
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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
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
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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BY KEN WALKER
56 MinistryToday March // April 2015
The public’s perception of a godly leader is one
who walks in humility and integrity
BY LARRY STOCKSTILL
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
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.
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
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
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
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).
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
Of course, mistakes may be made, but
if the pastor has set a course, he must
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
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.
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
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.
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,
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
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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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
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
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
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
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
In your 30s, you’re trying it out.
In your 40s, you’re getting
When you’re in your 50s, you’re
When you’re in your 60s, you’re
looking to pass it on to others.
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
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
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
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
When you’re in your 20s,
graciously and lovingly say, “You need a
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
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?
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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
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
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
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
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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.
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
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,
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
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
The mood. The atmosphere. The melody. The
crowd. The emotion. Your favorite worship leader or your
favorite speaker. The band. The performance.
Are we being moved by the right
things? Are our hearts aimed in the
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
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.
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?
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.
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
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
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
will have before they
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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