Be happy you live in America.

According to MentalFloss.com, you get to enjoy freedoms that now everyone in the world can.  Here are some of the more obscure bans around the world:

1.  In France, ketchup is banned from schools.  (I wonder what they put on their “French” fries?)

2. It is illegal in Iran to have a mullet.  (They are a ‘decadent’ western men’s hairstyle… and I can’t say that I disagree).

3. Bangladesh has a total ban on plastic bags.

4. In Singapore, you need to have a prescription to chew gum (and yes… even the prescription gum is sugarless)

5.  Danish parents have to chose from a list of 7000 approved baby names when naming their newborn.  Anything that is not on the list must seek state church approval.

Read a few more here.

GO USA.

Todd

Being skeptical of the skeptics

Brilliant words from Seth Godin that most church leaders need to remember:

Here’s the thing about proving skeptics wrong: They don’t care. They won’t learn. They will stay skeptics. The ones who said the airplane would never fly ignored the success of the Wright Bros. and went on to become skeptical of something else. And when they got onto an airplane, they didn’t apologize to the engineers on their way in.

I used to have a list, and I kept it in my head, the list of people who rejected, who were skeptical, who stood in the way. What I discovered was that this wasn’t the point of the work, and my goal wasn’t actually to prove these folks wrong, it was only to do the work that was worth doing. So long ago I stopped keeping track. It’s not about the skeptics. It’s about the people who care about, support and enable.

Instead of working so hard to prove the skeptics wrong, it makes a lot more sense to delight the true believers. They deserve it, after all, and they’re the ones that are going to spread the word for you.

Do you need to stop focusing on the skeptics in your church.

Stop trying to prove your point.

They won’t care (or acknowledge it when it turns out you’re right).

Instead, enjoy the work you’ve been called to do… the work that’s ‘worth doing’.

Read more here.

Todd

Flashback 1979: Promo for Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth

The promo, of course, starring Orson Welles

So… was the earth in great trouble in 1979?

And are we in worse trouble now?

Or did Hal Lindsey just laugh all the way to the bank on that one?

Todd

Nine marks of an abusive church

Taken from Ronald M. Enroth’s book:  Churches that Abuse

(1) Control-oriented style of leadership

Pat Zukeran explains: “The leader in an abusive church is dogmatic, self- confident, arrogant, and the spiritual focal point in the lives of his followers. The leader assumes he is more spiritually in tune with God than anyone else…. To members of this type of church or group, questioning the leader is the equivalent of questioning God. Although the leader may not come out and state this fact, this attitude is clearly seen by the treatment of those who dare to question or challenge the leader…. In the hierarchy of such a church, the leader is, or tends to be, accountable to no one. Even if there is an elder board, it is usually made up of men who are loyal to, and will never disagree with, the leader. This style of leadership is not one endorsed in the Bible (emphasis mine).”

(2) Spiritual elitism

Abusive churches see themselves as special. In his book, Enroth explains that abusive churches have an “elitist orientation that is so pervasive in authoritarian-church movements. It alone has the Truth, and to question its teachings and practices is to invite rebuke.”
(3) Manipulation of members
“Spiritually abusive groups routinely use guilt, fear, and intimidation as effective means for controlling their members. In my opinion, the leaders consciously foster an unhealthy form of dependency, spiritually and interpersonally, by focusing on themes of submission, loyalty, and obedience to those in authority,” explains Dr. Enroth on page 103 of Churches That Abuse.
(4) Perceived persecution

To explain this identifying mark, Zukeran writes: “Because abusive churches see themselves as elite, they expect persecution in the world and even feed on it. Criticism and exposure by the media are seen as proof that they are the true church being persecuted by Satan. However, the persecution received by abusive churches is different from the persecution received by Jesus and the Apostles.
Jesus and the Apostles were persecuted for preaching the truth. Abusive churches bring on much of their negative press because of their own actions. Yet, any criticism received, no matter what the source–whether Christian or secular–is always viewed as an attack from Satan, even if the criticisms are based on the Bible.”
(5) Lifestyle rigidity
Zukeran explains this mark as “a rigid, legalistic lifestyle of their members. This rigidity is a natural result of the leadership style. Abusive churches require unwavering devotion to the church from their followers. Allegiance to the church has priority over allegiance to God, family, or anything else. There are also guidelines for dress, dating, finances, and so on. Such details are held to be of major importance in these churches.
(6) Suppression of dissent

Abusive churches discourage questions and will not allow any input from members. The “anointed” leaders are in charge, PERIOD!

Enroth explains in his book that: “Unwavering obedience to religious leadership and unquestioning loyalty to the group would be less easily achieved if analysis and feedback were available to members from the outside. It is not without reason that leaders of abusive groups react so strongly and so defensively to any media criticism of their organizations.” (p. 162)

(7) Harsh discipline of members

Virtually all authoritarian groups that I have studied impose discipline, in one form or another, on members. A common theme that I encountered during interviews with ex-members of these groups was that the discipline was often carried out in public — and involved ridicule and humiliation,” writes Dr. Enroth (p. 152).

(8) Denunciation of other churches

According to Zukeran’s article on Enroth’s book, “abusive churches usually denounce all other Christian churches. They see themselves as spiritually elite. They feel that they alone have the truth and all other churches are corrupt…. There is a sense of pride in abusive churches because members feel they have a special relationship with God and His movement in the world. In his book Churches That Abuse, Dr. Ron Enroth quotes a former member of one such group who states, “Although we didn’t come right out and say it, in our innermost hearts we really felt that there was no place in the world like our assembly. We thought the rest of Christianity was out to lunch….A church which believes itself to be elite and does not associate with other Christian churches is not motivated by the spirit of God but by divisive pride.”

(9) Painful exit process
Finally, Zukeran explains that abusive churches have “a painful and difficult exit process. Members in many such churches are afraid to leave because of intimidation, pressure, and threats of divine judgment. Sometimes members who exit are harassed and pursued by church leaders. The majority of the time, former members are publicly ridiculed and humiliated before the church, and members are told not to associate in any way with any former members. This practice is called shunning.

Many who leave abusive churches because of the intimidation and brainwashing, actually feel they have left God Himself. None of their former associates will fellowship with them, and they feel isolated, abused, and fearful of the world.”

Read more here at thewartburgwath.com

Do you agree with this list?  Have you ever been a part of an ABUSIVE church?  Which of these 9 marks was evident to you and caused you to leave?

Todd

Americans don’t like the word ‘religious’ anymore

We’re no longer “religious.” We’re “holy.” We’re “faithful.” We’re “spiritual.” We talk about what “the gospel compels us to do” or “gospel living.” Or “sabbatical living” and “God-oriented behavior.”  That’s according to a new story in the Washington Post today:

On one side of the spectrum are people such as prominent liberal scholar Diana Butler Bass, author of last year’s “Christianity After Religion,” who says the word “religion” is laden withnegative, hurtful and political baggage. The 20 percent of Americans who now call themselves unaffiliated with any religious group see religion as much too focused on rules.

On the other side are people such as super-popular shock pastor and writer Mark Driscoll, an evangelical conservative whose sermons have such titles as “Why I hate religion.” He preaches that the institutional church has wrongly let people feel good about themselves for their actions (such as going to worship services) instead of what they believe (which should be the Bible’s literal truth, in his view).

A member of Driscoll’s church produced one of early 2012’s most shared videos, “Why I love Jesus but hate religion,” which has been watched more than 25 million times. Set to cool music, it opens with a young man asking, “What if I told you Jesus came to abolish religion?” Later, it characterizes most churchgoers as hypocrites and religion as a Band-Aid and “like spraying perfume on a casket.”

Last month, the president of the country’s largest “ex-gay” ministry blamed “religion” for the failure of his organization, Exodus International, which had claimed that its programs could make gay Christians straight.

“I believe the major failure of Exodus is that it promised to be completely different from the religious system that caused so many of us so much pain and yet became a religious institution of rules and regulations focused on behavior, sin management and short on grace,” Alan Chambers said in announcing Exodus’s end.

Jon Acuff, a popular evangelical motivational speaker, wrote in his blog a couple of years ago about a quest for new language, and he remarked on what he does if someone he doesn’t know describes him as “into religion.”

“Like any good Christian, I immediately said what we’re supposed to: ‘Whoa, whoa, whoa, I’m not into religion, I’m into Jesus. I’m a Christian,’” Acuff wrote in the popular blog Stuff Christians Like.

Hundreds of Christians responded on his blog with words they use when asked their religious preference on Facebook. “Jesus is in charge of Everything.” “Jesus is my saving grace.” One person cited John 3:16, which says God gave his “one and only son.”

What’s going on? Is this about semantics or something more important?

Click here to find out and read more.  :)

QUESTION:  How does the word ‘religious’ strike you these days?

Why leadership really isn’t all that sexy…

Tom Lin says:

“Our culture today places a premium on avoiding suffering. Celebrities and our culture says ‘we want to do some good, but it’s not going to cause me a lot of suffering and it’s certainly won’t cost me my life. The American church isn’t helping much either as we make Christian leadership into a sexy thing, something cool, easy and shallow. We don’t want to engage with suffering ourselves and we certainly don’t teach our youth to engage in suffering…But when we look at scripture, God invites leaders to suffer. When Jesus calls leaders in the Gospels do you notice He always seems to ask leaders to die to the things they care most about.”

Thoughts?  You agree?

Read more and watch Tom on video here…

Todd

19 year old Senior Pastor in Alabama

He’s just 19, the Courtney Meadows has been preaching since he was six.

And now he’s the senior pastor at First Missionary Baptist Church in White Hall, AL.

Take a look at the story here.

So… is this a good thing or a bad thing?

Is 19 TOO young for this type of position?  Why or why not?

Thoughts?

Todd

Is God anti-gay?

It’s the hot topic of the moment. Christians, the church and the Bible seem to be out of step with modern attitudes towards homosexuality. And there is growing hostility towards those who hold a different view. So is God homophobic? And what do we say, and how do we relate to to both Christians and non Christians who experience same-sex attraction.

Thoughts?

Todd

Most popular books of the Bible

According to YouVersion (which just recently pasted the 100,000,000 user mark!), here are some interesting statistics about the Bible…

youversion-app

Christian salesmanship, hucksters, and being duped into buying

OK… time for a little Todd-vent.

In the past two days, I’ve received a few separate emails from people selling stuff to pastors and church leaders.

And it about makes me want to hurl. Literally.

For a couple reasons.

#1 – Their claims to church leaders are, at least to me, unbelievable.

#2 – The approach comes across, at least to me, as product-driven, money-grabbing hype.

I don’t want to be ‘that guy’.

Fact is… my friend Matt and I have been telling you about our new Ministry Briefing for the past few months.  And, of course, I’d like every church leader in the world (including you) to purchase a copy each month.

But what I don’t want to be is someone that is seen in the Christian community as a salesman or a huckster, constantly trying at all costs to make that money transaction happen between your pocket and mine.

But that got me wondering.

What WOULD it look like if I decided to take that approach?

Based on the emails I’ve receive from others this week, I think it would probably look something like this (written to my co-author Matt Steen, who STILL hasn’t purchased a copy of Ministry Briefing to my knowledge)…

Matt,

Frankly, I’m a little frustrated with you.

I’ve emailed you a few times in the past week telling you about Ministry Briefing, and yet I’ve never heard back from you, and you’ve never ordered. Are you ok? Should I call 911?

Regardless, I have a new problem that I need your help with this morning. As Hurricane Chantel speeds it’s way toward the Miami Coast, it will make a direct passover of the island of the Bahamas.

I received a frantic call from our IT network administrator, Rico, telling me that the hurricane would most probably be a direct hit at our main Ministry Briefing data center. The problem is, we have 50,000 copies of the latest version of Ministry Briefing stored in that data center.

“What should we do?” Rico asked.

“We have only one option,” I replied. We have to sell each and every copy before the hurricane hits the data center.”

That’s why I’m emailing you today, Matt.

As a church leader, you NEED to read Ministry Briefing. In fact, I’m not sure how you’re leading without it.

I know a pastor from Connecticut that lost his church because he wasn’t reading Ministry Briefing. And he never saw it coming.

Another friend has an elder’s meeting tonight. He called me at 4:30 this morning and begged me (yes, literally begged me) to rush him his copy of Ministry Briefing TODAY, or else he would most definitely be fired.

Don’t let this happen to you.

The hurricane is set to hit the data center at 5:02 pm EDT today. We need to get all 50,000 copies off the server by then.

UPDATE: Just got a call from Rico. We only have 42,000 copies left, so you must hurry.

If you order in the next 30 minutes, I’ll throw in this special bonus: a full loaf of sliced bread.

That’s right… you’ll be able to enjoy two of the most innovative inventions in the past two-hundred years if you order today: sliced bread AND Ministry Briefing.

Use the code SERVERDUPE to get this special offer.

And if I don’t hear from you, I’ll contact one of your elders to come over to your house to make sure you’re ok. (Because no sane person would not respond to this tremendous offer).

I’m on a plane (with my wife) to the Bahamas right now to make sure each and every copy is off our server before the hurricane (now a tropical storm) hits. Please pray for our safety.

My best to you.

Todd Rhoades
Ministry Briefing

Honestly… that’s how outlandish a couple of the ‘pitches’ I’ve received came off to me.

Like I said, I never want to take that approach.

Evidently it works… at least from the follow-up emails that I receive from these folks.  Their product is flying off the shelves.

Maybe I’m just jealous.

But I don’t think so.

Truth is… I just don’t believe all the hype.

So… back to Ministry Briefing.  No hype here.  Just a simple link for you to check it out a couple of sentences earlier in this paragraph.

Matt and I have put together a resource that we hope will help (eventually) thousands of church leaders each month… and we’d love to have you join us for the ride.  But we won’t guilt or hype to get you on the bus.

Sorry.

Todd

 

 

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