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Guest Columns

New wind in ‘House of Islam’

July 23 2014 by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press

The Arab Spring movement for freedom, which brought so much hope and expectation to the Middle East just three years ago, is stone-cold dead – hijacked by Islamic extremists, brutalized by repressive governments, trampled into the dust by factional power struggles.

That’s the consensus in the Arab world, now torn apart by civil war, insurgencies, chaos, political crackdowns and a widening confrontation between Sunni and Shiite Muslims.
 
The Syrian war has produced unimaginable suffering and millions of refugees. Iraq might be on the verge of breaking into Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish pieces. A well-armed – and murderous – Islamist “caliphate” has emerged, straddling the crumbling borders between Syria and Iraq and threatening both. Egypt has returned to autocracy after rejecting the brief and disastrous rule of the Muslim Brotherhood. Next door, another round of fighting between Palestinians and Israelis is crushing the already-fading hopes for peace.

Tunisia, where the protests for freedom that led to the Arab Spring began in late 2010, is the only Arab country where real political reforms have taken hold. The more than 400 million mostly Muslim people living elsewhere in the region will have to wait until the desire for change once again overcomes the forces arrayed against change. Like sheep without a shepherd, they wonder if a better future will ever come.

Meanwhile, wave after wave of attacks on Christians appear to threaten the very existence of the church in the Middle East. Prospects for expansion of the gospel among Arabs would seem bleak at best.

Or are they?

“Could there be more to this current mess than meets the eye?” asks global mission strategist David Garrison. “Could the Muslim world’s agonizing labor pains be leading to some new expression of life that is yet to be revealed?”

The Arab region is only one of nine “rooms” in the Dar al-Islam – the global “House of Islam” that encompasses 1.6 billion Muslims, Garrison writes in his new book, A Wind in the House of Islam (WIGTake Resources, www.WindintheHouse.org). The IMB strategist’s earlier book, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World, helped revolutionize how evangelicals spread the gospel among unreached peoples.

Islam’s wider “house” includes “rooms” throughout Africa, the Persian world, greater Turkestan (Central Asia), South Asia and Indo-Malaysia. Over a period of three years, Garrison traveled a quarter of a million miles throughout the Islamic world, conducting interviews with more than 1,000 Muslims who have decided to follow Christ as Lord and Savior.

“Today, in more than 70 separate locations in 29 nations, new movements of Muslim-background followers of Christ are taking place,” he reports. “Each of these movements has crossed the threshold of at least 100 new church starts or 1,000 baptized believers, all of whom have come to Christ over the past two decades. In some countries the numbers within these movements have grown to tens of thousands.

“Though the total number of new Christ followers, between 2 million to 7 million, may be a statistically small drop in the vast sea of Islam, they are not insignificant,” Garrison continues. “Not limited to a remote corner of the Muslim world, these new communities of believers are widespread, from West Africa’s Sahel to the teeming islands of Indonesia – and everywhere in between. ... And these religious renegades are paying an incalculable price [in persecution and rejection] for their spiritual migration to Christ.

“Yet they continue to come. What began as a few scattered expressions of dissent is now growing more substantial. Historically unprecedented numbers of Muslim men and women are wading against the current of their societies to follow Jesus Christ. And it is only beginning.”

Why historically unprecedented? Because very few such movements occurred during the first 14 centuries of Muslim-Christian interaction. In his research, Garrison identifies 82 instances throughout history of Muslim movements to Christ (defined as 1,000 or more voluntary Muslim baptisms into the Christian faith over a two-decade span). Of these 82 movements, 69 are occurring today – and began within the past 20 years.

“These 21st-century movements are not isolated to one or two corners of the world,” Garrison says. “They are taking place across the Muslim world, including sub-Saharan Africa, the Persian world, the Arab world, in Turkestan, in South Asia and in Southeast Asia.”

Specific locations include Iran, heart of the Shiite revival; Indonesia, the largest Muslim country in the world; Algeria, where a struggle between Islamists and the military saw more than 100,000 civilians killed in the 1990s; Central Asia, ruled for generations by Soviet communism and, for centuries before that, by rigid forms of Islam; and Bangladesh, born in the blood of a war for independence from Pakistan in 1971, ravaged by poverty and natural disasters. Garrison includes actual testimonies from Muslim-background Christ followers – Islamic sheikhs and imams in the Horn of Africa, jihadi warriors from the Afghan frontier, Sufi mullahs from Bengali villages.

One of them, a 50-year-old Arab Muslim named Sabri*, became a follower of Christ after hearing the gospel from Nasr*, another Muslim-background believer. Raised in a strong Islamic environment, Sabri says he “began to see the truth from a lie, and I wanted to follow the truth.” He led his family to faith and now leads a network of 400 believers in his area, including 25 disciple group leaders.

“We keep the groups really small because it causes a problem when the groups get large,” he explains. They also use caution in their contacts with traditional Arab Christian churches, which often fear self-identified Muslim converts to Christ will bring persecution – or suspect they might be agents of the secret police. Still, Muslim-background believer groups are growing in the area.

“There are a large number of secret believers,” Nasr says. “We need to say to the masses, ‘Come.’”

If Garrison’s findings are accurate, many more will come.

“Something is happening – something historic, something unprecedented,” he writes. “A wind is blowing through the House of Islam.”

*Names changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Erich Bridges is IMB global correspondent.)

7/23/2014 9:40:00 AM by Erich Bridges, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Awaiting the new pastor

July 22 2014 by Diana Davis, Baptist Press

The entire church is waiting expectantly. When your church is in transition – seeking a new pastor or other ministry staff member – there are a few things any member can do:


Help church leaders

  • In any size church, the added workload on ministry staff members, volunteer staff, office assistants and other church leaders is very heavy during transition. Pray for God to give them wisdom and strength.

  • Watch for ways to help and encourage them. Stop by the office and pray with them. If you see a need, do your best to help meet it. Volunteer readily. Consider doing something tangible to thank them. One church sent their associate minister and his wife on a weeklong cruise to express appreciation for extra efforts during transition time.


Encourage the pastor search team

  • Show great support for the search team, but don’t slow their progress by probing for information. They are very aware of the urgency and gravity of their assignment and will provide periodic updates to the entire church.

  • Consider ways you can personally help individual team members when they meet or travel. Babysit. Mow their lawn. Help as a substitute for their regular church responsibility. Provide snacks for their extended meetings or travel.

  • Appreciate their sacrifice. Many search teams meet weekly and spend additional hours doing research. As they work diligently, say thank you.

  • Most importantly, pray faithfully for the team. Tape a note to your computer screen or car visor to remind you to pray. Mail an occasional prayer note to them.


Prepare

  • Be positive. Your personal attitude helps set the pace for a successful transition period. Every word you speak about your church and pastor search team must be positive.

  • Pray for your church’s future leader, even before God calls him. God already knows. Prepare yourself to accept and support him.

  • Remember that Christ is still in complete control of His church. You can trust Him to direct the search and to know what your church needs in this season. Your church bylaws describe the process for selecting a pastor.

  • If the search is for a support ministry staff member, it may be your pastor’s responsibility to find that person. If so, use these same ideas to help him as he carries an extra load.


Get busy about God’s work

  • Personally demonstrate faithfulness. This is not a time to relinquish church responsibilities or slack off in tithing or attendance. Your commitment is to God, not to a pastor.

  • Some churches grow during a transition time! Invite friends. Share your faith often. (Try NAMB’s free phone app, Life Conversations Guide.) Plan the largest, most evangelistic Vacation Bible School ever. Grow your small group. Your future pastor will be impressed.

  • Every member of the body of Christ, working together, is God’s plan for His church. God’s call on your life and your church isn’t on hold. If you’ve become complacent, find a place of service.

  • Be patient. Avoid initiating major changes. Wait for your new pastor’s leadership and guidance.


Spruce it up

  • Take a fresh look at church facilities. Plan some aggressive workdays during this interim period. Update paint and landscape. Make needed repairs. Clean meticulously. Purge every closet and office and room. De-clutter relentlessly. Dispose of outdated decor and furniture. A well-kept, updated building reflects a church’s love for God and will make a good first impression for a potential pastor.

  • Perk up the pastor’s office. Make a plan for intense cleaning and updates to provide a professional, appealing workspace for God’s chosen leader for your church. Provide a generous budget and a professional decorator to consult with the new pastor to update colors, furniture and technical equipment.

Transition can be terrifying. And exhilarating. Isn’t it great to know that God cares about His church even more than you do?

“And He personally gave some to be…pastors…” Ephesians 4:11

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Diana Davis, on the Web at www.dianadavis.org, is an author, columnist and ministry wife in Pensacola Fla. She is the author of Fresh Ideas and Deacon Wives (B&H Publishing); her newest book, Six Simple Steps - Finding Contentment and Joy as a Ministry Wife, releases next spring.)

7/22/2014 10:15:17 AM by Diana Davis, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Disposable individuals

July 21 2014 by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press

Pornographers do it. Politicians do it. Sports franchises and marketing companies do it. These and many others do it – the objectification of individuals.

Objectification occurs when a person's well-being is ignored, even sacrificed, to use him or her for someone's gain or gratification. Individual worth, dignity and personality are irrelevant.

As long as the object – the person – fulfills its purpose, it is useful. However, once the gain or gratification has been realized, the object is disposable.

The most egregious example of objectification is found in pornography. Women and men are presented as nothing more than objects of sexual gratification. They are used by the porn producer for gain or the consumer for gratification and then tossed aside.

Politicians have honed objectification to a science. Individuals are votes. They are a means to the end of getting elected. People are further objectified by being assigned to demographic groups categorized by race, gender, age, philosophical leanings and even sexual behavior. Promises are made based on catering to the special interests of the categories.

However, once elected, too many politicians abandon the welfare of those who elected them to pursue an agenda all their own.

Professional athletes often are reduced to objects that produce profits for owners and amusement for fans. As long as they produce, they are loved. However, let injury or age set in and the average player is pushed out and largely forgotten.

Marketing companies objectify individuals by reducing them to nothing more than consumers. Buying habits are tracked, preferences catalogued and annual income noted in order to help their clients separate the consumer from his or her hard-earned money.

On and on we could go citing examples of individuals, institutions and organizations that succumb to the temptation to objectify individuals for their own gain and/or gratification. Ours, it seems, is an age of objectification.

Jesus' modus operandi was wholly opposite from those who would reduce individuals to objects. He valued the individual.

While it is true that Jesus addressed crowds, the Gospel accounts of His life indicate He consistently gave His time and attention to individuals in affirming both their dignity and individual worth.

Perhaps the most revealing aspect of Jesus' emphasis on the individual came in the form of a parable He told concerning a man with a lost sheep.

Found in Luke's Gospel, Jesus begins the story as follows: “What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he loses one of them, does not leave the ninety-nine in the wilderness, and go after the one which is lost until he finds it?”

From a business standpoint it does not seem very practical to leave 99 sheep alone and vulnerable to go and retrieve only one that has strayed. Wouldn't it be more prudent to stay and protect the bulk of your investment? What's one sheep compared to 99?

Jesus begins His parable by revealing He does not objectify individuals. One person is as precious to the Lord as is a crowd. Jesus recognizes something those who objectify do not; the crowd is made up of individuals who are of great worth.

Jesus' focus on the individual resulted in the crowds clamoring to hear what He had to say. He lived out the adage that people do not really care what you know until they know that you care.

Those who objectify individuals are like the person who says, “I am enthralled by the sight of a lush forest, but I am not too taken with a single tree.”

While pornographers, politicians, professional sports and marketing companies do it, you and I don't have to. Choose to see people as individuals of worth who should to be treated with dignity and not as mere objects to be used as a means to an end.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Kelly Boggs is a weekly columnist for Baptist Press, director of the Louisiana Baptist Convention's office of public affairs, and editor of the Baptist Message (www.baptistmessage.com), newsjournal of the Louisiana Baptist Convention.)

7/21/2014 11:55:48 AM by Kelly Boggs, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Millennials, Part 3: Innovative leadership for the next generation

July 18 2014 by

Horizontal leadership, formally known as complex systems leadership, can energize your church by fostering a culture of generative thinking and innovation.
 
“Generative thinking” is the result of encouraging people to continually and actively consider new and refreshing ideas about how to accomplish the mission of the church or organization.

Fostering such a culture will allow your members (agents) to interact at all levels, learning from one another, offering change possibilities (innovation and adaptation) needed to stay in touch with your constantly changing environment, and assisting the development of emergent new approaches that allow a sustainable future. These actions are functions of what we know as a “complex adaptive system” or CAS – the home of what I call “horizontal leadership.”

Four key characteristics of horizontal leadership have been noted in the previous two articles along with four key core values of millennials. The two lists complement each other well – that is, the four key characteristics of horizontal leadership directly address the four key values of millennials.

But you may ask what “horizontal leadership” is all about. What makes it any different from the typical leadership used by churches for decades?

While there is a large and growing body of theoretical research (complex systems leadership theory) behind the approach, several easy to understand facets of horizontal leadership apply to a church or organization.

The first is organizational learning. Every member (agent) of the church has some knowledge that is critical to the effective, authentic and contextually relevant function of the organization. No one has all knowledge, but all likely have some knowledge. In church, this is why we are a connected “body” of believers – to share the mind of Christ with one another.

Second is interaction. As knowledge is shared among the members, a culture of learning develops. Such learning is critical to addressing issues the church faces in relevant and authentic ways.

Third is innovation and adaptation. As organizational learning is openly and broadly exchanged, innovative ideas and adaptive solutions are arrived at naturally in respect to lesser church issues.

Fourth is emergence. As adaptive solutions are implemented with respect to smaller issues, they shed light on potential changes in organizational policy in a broad sense – changes that can keep a church relevant and sustainable in today’s rapidly changing world.

So, how does horizontal leadership express itself horizontally? This approach works by taking the typical top-down perspective and turning it on its side. Usually, decisions are made by a few at the top who often are well separated – organizationally or by some other factor such as age, marital status, expertise, etc. – from the context of a decision. Horizontal leadership engages those in the decision-making process who are closest to the decision context and gives them opportunities for input and even the ability to create adaptive solutions.

Here’s the “kicker.” In churches, every believer is indwelt by the same Holy Spirit who is intent on communicating the mind of Christ. Each of these believers also is resident in some ministry context in which they have direct experience. Few, if any of them, have all the answers, but all likely have some part of the answer. Together they are capable of finding a godly solution to any ministry issue confronting them. Is this not the biblical mandate of equipping the saints for the work of ministry unto unity and maturity (Ephesians 4:11-13)? Is this not soul competency in its most practical expression?

So what does the leadership in “horizontal leadership” look like? The following is a summary of research by two of the leaders in this field, James Hazy and Mary Uhl-Bien.
 

Administrative leadership

Horizontal leadership involves “top-down” administrative leaders in the course-grain oversight of the church. These are the leaders who decide and communicate the vision, values and ethics of the organization. By doing so, they set the boundaries of the organization and determine the height and breadth of the “canvas” upon which the church leaders will paint. They also have the responsibility to adopt effective emergent lower-level adaptations and form them into church policy.
 

Generative leadership

Horizontal leadership also involves “bottom-up” leaders in the fine-grain functioning of church processes and procedures. This is where organizational learning is applied to the multitudes of daily operations that connect the church with its mission. Here innovative thinking and adaptation lead to relevance and authenticity. Generative leadership is every member, youngest to oldest, interacting with the understanding that they consistently have a strong positive impact upon the direction of the church, bringing about change and enhancing its sustainability for the future.
 

Community-building leadership

Horizontal leadership builds community through the actions of leaders in the middle who enable generative leadership to interface with administrative leadership. In so doing, community-building leaders create an inclusive, diverse, inter-generational team that directly impacts their work and that indirectly impacts the entire church. Such an organizational community is highly attractive to its members, especially those who may typically be pigeonholed in low-level volunteer positions with little perceived impact – in other words, the millennial.

Horizontal leadership can vitally involve everyone in the church at some point in the decision-making process. All hold the ability to achieve, to develop many diverse relationships, to make a positive impact in the world, and to enjoy the trust of superiors. All are extended the chance to apply what they know toward innovative, relevant solutions that can build a sustainable future. All can be part of an authentic community that truly works together to make a better world.

This is a future-oriented present that the next generation of believers would love to join. In this community framework, many of the inter-generational issues we face in our churches today can be settled in a positive, healthy manner, with all being valued in the process.


(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Lindsay is associate pastor of education at Shadowbrook Baptist Church in Suwanee, Ga.)
 

Related Stories:

Millennials: Reversing the departure of a generation
Millennials, Part 2: Engaging & empowering the coming generation
 

7/18/2014 11:40:09 AM by | with 0 comments



Millennials, Part 2: Engaging & empowering the coming generation

July 17 2014 by Mark Lindsay, Baptist Press

A biblically consistent leadership style can address the four key values that millennials hold, presenting the opportunity to engage them in our churches and to empower them to impact the world for Christ.

Corresponding to the four values of millennials – personal achievement, diverse relationships, positive world impact and trust of mentors – are four characteristics of what I have termed “horizontal leadership” that empowers semi-autonomous agents, engages agent-based interaction, encourages adaptation and innovation, and entrusts the change of local rules.

Horizontal leadership is based on research showing social organizations to be complex adaptive systems (CAS). A CAS, such as a church or business, means that there are many interactive people (“agents” in CAS terminology) or parts (“artifacts”) that produce information that, with proper leadership, can result in thinking and ideas toward fostering innovation and adapting to a changing environment. This produces a more relevant present and a more sustainable future. A key work in this area is Complexity and the Nexus of Leadership by James Hazy, Benyamin Liechtenstein and Jeffrey Goldstein.

Such results are catalyzed by the interaction of as many members (agents) as possible in the organization. Such interaction rests upon the confidence that individuals and groups truly understand their work/community and can make a positive difference by turning this understanding into fresh, new ideas to connect with that changing environment in authentic ways.

Looking more specifically at the characteristics of horizontal leadership:
 

Empowers semi-autonomous agents

The key word with this characteristic is “semi.” Horizontal leadership does not negate positional leadership, it redefines it (forthcoming in Part 3 of this series).

Semi-autonomous agents are still under authority of positional leadership but they are allowed, even encouraged, to think about how their work might be done more effectively and with greater efficiency. They are partners in the visioning of the organization, using their knowledge to help position it for the highest possible level of achievement. This characteristic of horizontal leadership lines up closely with the millennial value for high achievement. In a horizontal leadership organization, millennials are empowered to express daily their desire both for them and their organization to maximize impact.
 

Engages agent-based interaction

Interaction is a foundational concept of the way systems work. In a CAS, the greater the interaction, the greater the chances of finding true innovative solutions to difficult issues faced by the organization.

Learning happens through interaction. As workers in the organization interact, their knowledge of the work and the community they need to reach increases and this learning is spread throughout the organization. This leads to a smarter, better informed, more interconnected organization that can accomplish its mission more effectively. In the process, broad interaction brings the members of the organization into significant relationship with many different people across department and work groups. In fact, the more diverse the interaction the better the learning and innovation can become. This characteristic directly addresses the millennial value for diverse relationships and offers them a broad opportunity for meaningful, inclusive interaction.
 

Encourages adaptation and innovation

In an environment that is changing daily, the death of any organization can result from maintaining the status quo. Horizontally-led organizations that build a culture of learning and adapting to this changing environment are better aligned and in a stronger position from which to make a significant impact in the world.

Though the church is not seeking alignment philosophically or behaviorally with the world, it must seek to understand and relate to the thinking and the issues that those in its culture face. The apostle Paul said, “I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22). He didn’t become a secularist, he understood those to whom he communicated and contextualized his approach to speak authentically to them. Such alignment opens the door to a culture-wide, indeed a worldwide impact for the cause of Christ – the third core value of millennial believers, and one that they are deeply passionate about.
 

Entrusts the change of local rules

This characteristic is where the rubber meets the road in horizontal leadership. It is one area that distinguishes CAS leadership from other forms of distributed leadership, which often is simply “distributing” leadership away from the executive offices.

Will positional leaders allow those who work at any level of the organization, and who understand the needs of that level, to change their local rules to allow for adaptation to occur? There is some risk in this, but where there is trust and clearly defined boundaries there is a far greater opportunity to learn from those working closest to the need and to empower them to make changes closest to the need. In the process, horizontal leadership draws workers, or “horizontal leaders,” together in the organization who are diverse culturally and generationally. Millennials can work together with silent generation seniors and all in between, bridging gaps through trusting relationships – addressing the fourth core value of millennials – while building a stronger organization.

Imagine the potential of solving some of the most intractable issues that we face in the church involving the cooperation of a diverse group of Holy Spirit-led believers. It takes the release of the people (agents) in the organization, interacting within a broad diversity, in a culture of adaptation and innovation, holding the trust of executives to make changes as needed. This is a nutshell view of horizontal leadership.

This is also empowerment that can and will engage millennials, together with all the rest, in a horizontal network where everyone’s voice is heard in a joint mission to impact the world for Christ.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Lindsay is associate pastor of education at Shadowbrook Baptist Church in Suwanee, Ga.)
 

Related Stories:

Millennials: reversing the departure of a generation (Part 1)
Millennials, Part 3: Innovate leadership for the next generation
7/17/2014 10:41:41 AM by Mark Lindsay, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Millennials: Reversing the departure of a generation

July 16 2014 by Mark Lindsay, Baptist Press

As a blessed father of two millennial daughters, I have a vital interest in seeing this generation reached, equipped and empowered to impact their church and this world for Jesus Christ.

Millennials, those born between 1980 and 2000, have come of age. Adult millennials are college and graduate students, have families, own businesses and lead churches throughout the U.S. They bring with them a fresh worldview, while older generations scratch their collective heads at the shockwaves brought on by the new kids on the block.

The generation, in the end, likely will be just as great and just as flawed as previous generations. Presently, though, they pose a challenge to local churches that is straining the wits of church leaders. Not on purpose, mind you. They are who they are, the creation of boomer helicopter parents of the 1980s and ‘90s.
 

Millennials & the church

Thom Rainer and his millennial son Jess wrote in their book Millennials that less than one in eight millennials, though deeply spiritual, consider religion important. The Rainers reported in an earlier book, Essential Church, that 70 percent of churchgoing young adults stop attending church regularly for at least one year between the ages of 18 and 22.

The elder Rainer, president of LifeWay Christian Resources, shared with me that though there will be fewer Christians among this generation, they will be more deeply committed to their faith than counterparts from other generations.

Newer research suggests that millennials have a deep love and respect for parental wisdom – a notion millennials dare even to mention in the conference rooms of businesses across this land.

Are churches in danger of missing the mark? I believe so, yet the good news is that it’s not too late to see millennials worshipping together with their parents and grandparents in intergenerational worship. Such an occurrence honors God and opens the door to the inevitable transition in generational leadership ahead of us. This vision represents a longing in the millennial worldview that has not yet coalesced into typical church life. I believe it can.

In pursuit of this vision, I have identified four key values that drive millennials. How a local church relates to its millennial members with respect to these values likely will determine the future of thousands of churches over the next decade.
 

Millennials value personal achievement

Having grown up being told by mom and dad that they are the “best,” millennials believe they have what it takes to accomplish anything in life. They expect high achievement personally and professionally.

In terms of spirituality, millennial Christians take their faith seriously and seek to become the best Christ-followers they can be. They want their lives to align with their faith, knowing that the vast majority of their friends have no spiritual core. But what they sometimes see in church is less than enthused leaders who appear inauthentic but who continue to dominate the church’s decision-making processes.
 

Millennials value diverse relationships

Millennials value diversity. Their parents saw the color barrier broken in their schools, embraced interracial marriage, sat-in and stood-out for world peace and social justice. These values have been transferred to their millennial children with great success. What millennials want with respect to church is a place where all their diverse friends and co-workers can find and worship Jesus with them. But too often what they see is a church committed to worship the way it has “always been done,” regardless of who is neglected in the process. Instead of diversity they see “separate, but equal.”
 

Millennials value a positive world impact

Millennials earnestly desire to put their faith on wheels and take it to the street to impact the world for Christ. They fervently want to live out the “I can do all things in Christ, who strengthens me” they memorized as a child. They are intensely missional in their view of church and want to make the world a better place. But too often they are told to sit quietly until old enough to serve on a committee or lead the WMU; in the meantime they can help with the children’s or youth ministries. What they see is a church that categorizes their ideas as too idealistic and naive. Helping teach children and youth is fine, but is there no more? Will their church’s “parent figures” who have mentored them over the years desert them now in such a time as this?
 

Millennials value the trust of mentors

Finally, millennials grew up with assurances of trust and accolades recognizing their worthiness. They want to act on that trust, demonstrating their worthiness through inter-generational relationships. Too often they see their churches cater to older, more trusted believers who become guardians of the status quo. Having heard the voice of trust and worth as a child from parental mentors, will today’s mentors withhold the trust that can lead to a satisfying, authentic change?
 

Leadership that engages millennials

Millennials value personal achievement, diverse relationships, a positive world impact, and they want to be trusted by those ahead of them. Absent these values, they are willing to walk away – from business organizations and church alike.

The answer is not another church program. Millennials are ideological yet are committed to create a better future. They will only be engaged by a leadership model that reflects the organic nature of church – that which flows naturally within the church context and recognizes all members in the process, including them – rather than the more traditional organizational structure found in many aging churches. Fully engaged and multi-generational is the leadership model of the next generation church.

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Mark Lindsay is associate pastor of education at Shadowbrook Baptist Church in Suwanee, Ga.)
 

Related Stories:

Millennials, Part 2: Engaging & empowering the coming generation
Millennials, Part 3: Innovating leadership for the next generation

7/16/2014 9:47:31 AM by Mark Lindsay, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Annual Church Profile – more than the annual report card

July 15 2014 by Brian Davis, Guest Column

The annual church profile (ACP) is a document which may be unfamiliar to many younger North Carolina Baptists.
 
Sometimes referred to as the “annual report card” of Southern Baptist churches, the ACP is the instrument churches use to report statistical data that is used by associations, state conventions, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), and Lifeway Christian Resources for a variety of purposes.
 
In North Carolina your state convention staff depends on this information. The data mined from the ACP is necessary for our research and our strategic planning. This information is essential for convention staff as we fulfill the convention’s mission of assisting the churches in their divinely appointed mission. North Carolina Baptists are aware that 5.8 million residents of our state, roughly 65 percent of the population, claim no connection with a local church of any kind.
 
Using census data and our research, we are able to identify pockets of concentrated lostness throughout the state.
 
Taking ACP data we are able to identify churches that may be strategic partners in impacting these concentrations of lostness.

The information gleaned from the ACP may be used to help your convention staff identify potential partners for church planting, church strengthening, and a host of other missionary and ministry endeavors.
 
As the population of North Carolina continues to diversify, the ability to know which churches are engaging unreached and unengaged people groups in our state will be critical.
 
The ACP provides a system of information sharing that allows the churches to provide an overview of their missionary and ministry endeavors.
 
Convention staff may be able to follow up for specific details to ensure that there are not unnecessary duplications in effort, and, where needed, additional resources can be invested in underserved areas. With more than 4,300 churches in the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina, it is a great task to keep up with all that God is accomplishing through the churches of the convention.
 
The ACP may help the convention staff identify “bright spots” where effective disciple-making is taking place.
 
As your staff studies the data, we may be able to identify trends of evangelism and discipleship effectiveness from which we can learn. That’s right, from which we can learn.
 
Your staff is committed to learning what is working in the disciple-making efforts of churches across the state.
 
The ACP data provided by the churches may help us.
 
Our goal is not only to learn from the effectiveness of your church, but to celebrate this fact with you, and share this learning with other congregations for the good of the Kingdom.
 
Churches across North Carolina continue to struggle with the burden of the economic recession that began over five years ago.
 
Some North Carolina Baptists have not allowed the impact of the economy to affect their stewardship, however this is not a universal truth.
 
Many churches in our state are reeling from reduced giving and as a result, their missionary and ministry endeavors have been affected.
 
The data provided by ACP data may be an effective tool for convention staff as we seek to assist local church leadership to analyze giving trends and develop strategies for teaching stewardship truths.
 
The ability to have a single place to review the congregation’s missions investment, locally, statewide, nationally, and globally, may be invaluable to church leaders; the ACP provides this type of statistical information quickly and with easy accessibility.
 
While some churches may believe that the ACP is simply the “annual report card” we want you to know that it is much more. The ACP may help your convention staff work to develop strategies to assist churches in moving forward.
 
But the operative term in all of this is “may.” If churches do not provide the statistical data, our task of assisting churches impact lostness is unnecessarily hindered.
 
The reality is that the percentage of North Carolina Baptist churches completing the ACP has been in steady decline for several years. There is not a single explanation for “why” this may be the case, but the overarching reason appears to be churches simply do not understand why completing the reports and sharing the data is important.
 
While statistics can help us celebrate the past, and we all need to celebrate what God has been doing in our midst, this data can help us move forward.
 
Through the identification of trends, the establishment of strategic partnerships, the recognition of bright spots of effectiveness, and reflection upon our shared mission, vision and values, North Carolina Baptists can impact the vast sea of lostness in our state, make disciples and establish a disciple-making culture in our churches and communities.
 
Your convention staff looks forward to serving you as you accomplish each of these and more. Thank you for the time you will invest in completing the ACP this year. Should you have any difficulty with the ACP process we hope that you will contact us.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Davis is associate executive director-treasurer of the Baptist State Convention of North Carolina.)
 

Related story:

Annual Church Profile gives churches, SBC ‘report cards’

7/15/2014 11:26:14 AM by Brian Davis, Guest Column | with 0 comments



Responding to the immigration crisis

July 14 2014 by Ronnie Floyd

As a former Texan, my heart goes to the border of Texas. As a born-again Christian, the gospel of Jesus Christ calls me to compassionate action for those who are suffering right now as a result of the immigration crisis, especially the children.

Due to the gigantic nature of this entire issue, most of us become paralyzed or even intimidated by it. By no means do I imagine myself as an authority on this very complex issue, but as one American and Christian leader, I must respond.

As the medical community would sort through the issues as they treat multiple people in a triage unit, we may need to do the same here. In a triage unit, whatever can be done to result in the most survivors is done.

This is an emergency situation that requires the best of each of us in America.


As Christians, what should we do? I humbly suggest the following:

Love the immigrant

The gospel of Jesus Christ moves me to call on all of us to demonstrate compassionate action toward the immigrant. In this humanitarian crisis on the border of Texas, the children need immediate attention that elevates their health and safety above all. From my point of view, the children must become our number one priority.

These children are someone’s children and someone’s grandchildren. They are people, real people. Their parents, along with other children who are crossing our unprotected borders, are trying to better their lives and futures.

Yes, they should respect the rule of law, but now that they are here, we need to respect the God-given dignity of each of them.

I love all people. We are called upon by the Lord to extend compassionate action toward all people, pointing them to the one true hope for their lives: a personal relationship and fellowship with Jesus Christ. He alone is the greatest hope we can provide them.

Their long-term future in our nation is a political issue. Therefore, our elected leaders must deal with this issue now.


Fix the immigration system

It is more than obvious that our immigration system is not working. Otherwise, we would not be where we are today. Immigration is a political issue and it needs to be addressed by our nation seriously and immediately. This is not in our hands, but in the hands of our elected leaders.

Yes, they have to address serious questions that do not have easy answers. Justice and fairness in relationship to the law has to be considered along with compassion and mercy. Yet, we need them to step up on behalf of our nation and lead toward a solution.

It is past time that the elected leaders in our nation fix the immigration system. I was reminded early this morning while reading the Old Testament book of Amos that our leaders need to follow the principle discovered in Amos 3:3, “Can two walk together without agreeing to meet?”

I pray for our leaders daily. My prayer today has been, “Lord, please move upon these leaders to meet in a room together, resolving that they will not come out until they walk in agreement on this issue.” Simplistic I know, but God can do with people what people cannot do on their own.


Pray diligently

We must pray for our nation at this time and for our leaders to come together and resolve this issue, both short-term and long-term. The lives of people are at stake. The security of our nation is at stake. If you believe in prayer, please pray.

As Christ-followers, we need to follow the words of Jesus as recorded in Matthew 25:35:

For I was hungry and you gave Me something to eat;
I was thirsty and you gave Me something to drink;
I was a stranger and you took Me in;

Then, when they questioned Jesus, since they had never seen Him in that condition, He responded to them, as recorded in Matthew 25:40:

Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers
of Mine, you did for Me.

As followers of Jesus Christ, we must extend compassionate action to all people, pointing them to the hope found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Yours for the Great Commission,
Ronnie W. Floyd

(EDITOR’S NOTE – Ronnie W. Floyd is president of the Southern Baptist Convention and pastor of the multi-campus Cross Church in northwest Arkansas.)

7/14/2014 10:28:39 AM by Ronnie Floyd | with 1 comments



Tips for connecting with families overseas

July 10 2014 by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press

Richard and Sharla Rachel are typical American grandparents who enjoy being a part of their grandchildren's lives. They babysit. They have dinner together. They read books and play games.
 
But one significant difference distinguishes them from many American grandparents: 5,834 miles to be exact. That is the distance – including an ocean – that separates the Rachels from three of their grandchildren.
 
The distance has prompted the Rachels, who live in Carrollton, Texas, to find creative ways to connect virtually with their grandchildren, whose parents serve as Christian workers in the Balkan region of Eastern Europe.
 
"One time, Richard did virtual babysitting," Sharla said. The Rachels' son-in-law was out and their daughter, Rose,* was busy doing other things. She asked Richard, who had called on Skype from Texas, to keep their 6-year-old son occupied for about 30 minutes.
 
"I was on the computer and he and I were talking," Richard recalled. "Every few minutes he would leave the room and I would call out, 'Kevin,* are you still alive?' He would come back and we would talk some more."
 
Not only was Rose comfortable with her dad serving as "simulated babysitter," but Richard's presence, albeit virtual, meant a lot to Kevin, too, Sharla says.
 
"At that moment, Kevin wasn't thinking that granddaddy was across the ocean," Sharla recalled. "Granddaddy was right there. Kevin could see his face."
 
Creative approaches like this allow grandparents to maintain relationships with their children and grandchildren who serve internationally. Parents of missionaries offered seven tips to families separated by international service.
 
1. If possible, parents should visit their children overseas. Seeing where they live can help them to visualize their child's experience. It also fosters a level of comfort you might not have if you don't make the trip.
 
"I would never have traveled overseas," Robert Lovell, whose son, Joe, served in Asia, said. "I had been to Mexico one time for work and hated it, but we wanted to see where (our son and his family were.)" During the 15 years his son lived in Asia, Lovell and his wife Lela visited all three countries where his son lived, sometimes twice.
 
"I'm glad we went," Lovell said. "We saw where and how they lived and worked in a foreign country à and made great memories. I would encourage any parent to go."
 
2. Learn the culture and language of your child's adopted country. "Learning some of the language … will bond you with your grandchildren who are growing up multi-cultural and bilingual," Richard Robbins, whose children serve in Asia, said. And, if you can't make the trip, "studying, reading and searching the Web about the place your kids live will help you visualize their living conditions."
 
Richard Rachel said, "I can just type in their address on Google Earth and it will go right to their apartment. You can see it. It's neat."
 
In some locations, Google Earth even allows you to take a "virtual tour" of the community. You can see the market where your child shops, the school your grandchildren attend and the park where they play.
 
3. Keep in touch. "Before Skype, before email, I would write a letter in long hand every week without fail," Sally Ozment, whose daughter has served in Asia for more than 20 years, said. "Of course, by the time they got it, it was old news, but it was still a connection from me."
 
With today's technology, keeping in touch is easier than ever, parents say. Communication apps like Skype, FaceTime, Facebook and others allow parents and kids to connect instantly to share photos, videos and stories about the day.
 
"Skype is God's gift to missionary parents," says Ozment, 77, who wryly admits, "I'm a slow learner and my mind doesn't work in that technical realm, so I just look for an 8-year-old (to help me.)"
 
4. Make the most of stateside visits. Overnight visits, special one-on-one times and family gatherings characterize the stateside time of many missionary families. These are important times to renew relationships and build special memories. Workers caution, though, that many of the conveniences and choices Americans take for granted are new, exciting and a little intimidating to grandchildren who have grown up in a foreign culture.
 
"My daughter had a hard time choosing a Gatorade flavor," one worker recalled. "I sent her off to the drink aisle to pick what she wanted. She returned a few seconds later, needing help. 'There are too many choices!' she said. When I joined her, I had to agree. Flavors, brands and sizes were too many to count!"
 
5. Become involved with a support group. No one understands the separation better than another missionary parent understands, says Mike Beckler, who, along with his wife Connie started a support group for parents of missionaries in Missouri, their home state.
 
"[Parents of missionaries] are the only ones that really understand a lot of the emotional things you're dealing with," Beckler said. "Friends and family help, but they don't really 'know it' the same way."
 
Even if you don't join a missionary parent fellowship, finding a group of close friends who will talk and pray with you is vital, Beckler explained. The support can be as simple as an email "prayer chain," in which parents share requests about their children and pray for one another. It can be as elaborate as periodic gatherings, like the national missionary parent fellowship, that meets once every two years at locations around the country. The next national gathering is scheduled for April 7-10, 2016, at IMB's International Learning Center near Richmond, Va.
 
6. Let your children see you cry. "When my son first left, I tried my best not to let him see me cry," Betty Isachaar,* whose son serves in East Asia, said. "Then he told me that made it harder for him. I learned that he needed to see the happy and the sad – tears of joy that he was doing God's work and tears of sadness because I would miss him."
 
Parents also suggest being honest with kids who are overseas when illness, death or estrangement strikes the stateside family.
 
For Sharla Rachel, who was diagnosed with breast cancer during her daughter's first term, being honest was paramount, but deciding when and how to share the news was challenging.
 
"I remember how difficult it was to tell my daughter," Rachel said. "I was glad I was able to do it on Skype because I could see her face and she could see mine à Not wanting her to worry, knowing she couldn't come home but needing and wanting to share with her à that's when (I knew we were) depending on God."
 
7. Pray for them and share prayer requests with your church. Most parents agree that prayer – alone and with others – is the single most important thing they can do for their children and grandchildren.
 
"I pray for their safety wherever they go," Helga Culbert, whose son, Mitchell,* serves in Central Asia, said. "To me, their safety is always a concern, so I have to trust God that it will be OK."
 
Keeping the missionaries and their needs before the local church also is important, parents say.
 
"I'm allowed to do a mission focus every Sunday morning," says Ozment, who is director of the Woman's Missionary Union at Sutter Creek Baptist Church in Sutter Creek, Calif. "There is so much going on all the time, and  just needs to be reminded how important  is."

 

Ways to connect

  • To learn how to become more involved in your family's work on the mission field, read "Parents as Partners: Supporting Your Family as They Serve Overseas".

  • For more information about missionary parent support groups, visit imb.org/parentinfo.

  • While you pray forámissionaries and their work, remember missionary kids (MKs) also need prayer. Use these bookmarks to learn how to pray for MKs.

 

Pray

  • Pray for parents of new missionaries who may be struggling with separation. Pray they will develop healthy strategies for keeping in touch with their children and grandchildren. Pray that God will give them peace.

  • Pray for families separated by the missionary calling for many years. Pray that they will continue to find creative ways to remain close in spite of the distance. Thank God for advances in technology that make staying in easier.

  • Pray for healthy, fun experiences when families have opportunities to reunite. Pray for special one-on-one opportunities between grandparents and grandchildren.

 

*Name changed.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Tess Rivers is an IMB writer.)
 

Related Story:

Goodbyes and separations aren't always easy for missionary parents

7/10/2014 12:03:58 PM by Tess Rivers, IMB/Baptist Press | with 0 comments



Reflections from the mother of a missionary

July 9 2014 by Elnora Anderson, Baptist Press

RICHMOND, Va. – During my pregnancies with my daughter and my son, I read in the Bible about Hannah a lot and knew what courage it took for Hannah to leave Samuel at the temple with Eli. I thought about my children.
 
Could I live a life in such a way that I would be willing to trust God with their future decisions?
 
My prayer was that at an early age they would accept Christ as their Savior and whatever path God led them down, they would follow in faith. I have seen that take place in each of my children's lives. Our daughter serves as a missionary and our son serves in the medical field.
 
God has shown His faithfulness to our family many times.
 
Our daughter was diagnosed with Hodgkin's disease at age 16 and went through radiation and chemotherapy treatments. I still remember one night at the hospital she was having a treatment and was very sick. When she was able to rest and sleep, I walked to the window and looked out. There were a few cars in the distance, and since it was a winter night there were no leaves on the trees. Everything looked quiet and dark.
 
A lonely feeling came over me, and I prayed the most difficult prayer I had ever prayed. I asked God for healing, but if that was not how God wanted it, I prayed He would just give me strength to handle it. I asked for peace so I could go on. There was a peace I can't explain but I knew God heard my prayer and I knew I could face the days ahead.
 
As the years passed, there were times of happiness and joy but there also were times of sadness. Through it all I knew God was there.
 
A granddaughter entered our lives and I would travel 25 miles morning and evening to take care of her while her parents worked. One morning when my granddaughter was 3, I was backing out of their driveway. Her sweet little voice from the back seat said, "We're going to sell our house and car and go tell others about Jesus." My heart skipped a beat. I prayed all the way home. That evening my daughter and son-in-law confirmed her announcement.
 
The next few months were filled with all sorts of conflicting emotions. I am thankful for the ladies in my Sunday School class who tried to understand my feelings and would say, "I know it must be hard; I'm praying for you." Thankfully, people who had known me all my life supported me.
 
But there were other groups and places where I would leave feeling like the biggest hypocrite in the world. I don't understand why we have so many commissioning services for our missionaries. I felt completely out of sync at these.
 
There also are people who have their pat “little sayings” they think are appropriate for any occasion. At one commissioning service a person told my husband, “Oh, four years, what's that? It will pass before you know it.”
 
Our son served in the Persian Gulf War and six months was like eternity. Who was this man to tell us that four years would pass before we knew it? Maybe to him it wasn't long, but for us it meant not seeing our granddaughter grow up and being part of all her events.
 
Despite people's good intentions, sometimes it's best not to say anything. At another commissioning service, a lady whom I had never seen and who knew nothing about me, made a comment that upsets me to this day. Her assignment, I guess, was to encourage the missionary parents. Her comment was, "Better there in the will of God than here out of God's will."
 
I knew that, but my daughter and her family were going to a foreign country, and I would not see them for four years. I turned to her and said, "I don't want to hear that now."
 
For several years after that, whenever something went wrong, I had a hard time not blaming it on the feelings I had about my daughter and her family leaving. Thank God for a Christian counselor in our church who helped me realize that this was a normal feeling for a mother.
 
He pointed out that I did not try to stop them, I didn't object to them going and I was proud that they were following God's leading for their lives. This would take time to work through, he said. I was a Christian and I knew God had plans for them.
 
I do not go to missionary parents' meetings; they may be helpful for some, but my husband and I went to two or three and we both came away depressed.
 
While my daughter and her family were serving overseas, God gave us another wonderful granddaughter in the Philippines. We have missed out on her growing up and she has missed out on getting to know us as grandparents.
 
Even so, I am proud of my family, and I am thankful for the opportunities they have experienced. They are stateside now, but that doesn't mean that when they return overseas I won't go through all of these anxieties again.
 
But I know God will be watching over all of us.
 
(EDITOR’S NOTE - Elnora Anderson's daughter and son-in-law, along with two grandchildren, are serving as missionaries overseas.)
 

Related Story:

Goodbyes and separations aren't always easy for missionary parents

7/9/2014 12:13:21 PM by Elnora Anderson, Baptist Press | with 0 comments



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