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Leadership, Leadership, Start Here
Do you have what it takes to be a pastor in the 21st century?  Pastor Bob Robert writes: So . . . . what kind of pastor are you?  I was on a phone call with 15 exceptional pastors of large congregations across the U.S. this week.  Each had grown their church, each has been “successful” in the traditional ways of defining that – but each felt uneasy about where the church is and where things are going.  It’s as if there is this “church” cliff – that everyone acknowledges but not for sure what to do.  For the most part it’s addressed by “style” of church and “where & how” the church meets and “what” the church does, etc.,  I do not believe these are the right questions – or at least not the ones to start with.  I don’t think we’re asking the right questions.  If our answers don’t connect with our context – our answers won’t matter. Here are some things that pastors will need to concentrate on to be effective leaders: 1.  A 21st century pastor must be a globalist.  The world is all of our “parish” – and we must understand it.  To try to show up and preach, yet know nothing of global culture, traditions, history, economics, the society we are working in, is “religion abuse” – it’s not about us doing our thing – but being the hands and heart of Jesus to people.  I’ve seen it first hand, we Christians has actually done damage to the spread of the Gospel by how we connect.  BUT NOT JUST IN A “GO GLOBAL” perspective – also to acknowledge and do ministry in light of the fact that the whole world is listening on the internet to you – that global migration, trends, culture is now impacting us.  Our 20 somethings are being called the 1st American global generation. Like modernity, postmodernity, etc., globalization is the syncristic philosophy impacting the church everywhere.  (This was in my book “Glocalization.”) 2.  A 21st century pastor has to be a community developer.  It was Robert Lewis who asked the question years ago, “If the church were absent from the community would it be missed?”  Most of the time it wouldn’t except for the worship service for the people who attend it.  I’ve seen several movies lately and all the churches do adds in the theatre.  Most were all the same, “We care about you” and a selling of the Sunday event.  With the “global” “justice” generation – they want to hear about a church that “cares about the city” as well.  (I wrote about this in my book Realtime Connections.) 3.  A 21t century pastor has to be a discipler.  There are global templates of what this looks like – many of us have stumbled onto the same one.  It involves three things simultaneously:  interactive relationship with God, transparent connections with one another, and glocal impact or people using their jobs to serve.  (This was in Transformation that I wrote about.) 4.  A 21st century pastor has to be a diplomat.  Anyone who works globally will have to interact with gatekeepers regardless of their rank.  Protocol is no longer something just for diplomats – but for businessmen, educators, medical – and yes – the pastorate – especially the pastorate.  How do you relate to others?  How do you communicate?  How do you put your best foot forward? (Bold as Love) 5.  A 21st century pastor has to be an opportunity seizer.  The greatest things that will happen in the 21st century will not be from purpose statements like the 20th century.  Instead, they will come from leaves blowing everywhere from everywhere and the pastor will have to seize what comes in front of them.  There are no rules for how the world is operating – we are in a new era and phase.  We need to go back to the book of ACTS of the HOLY SPIRIT and stay in step with the Spirit. I am living proof of this – I would not have even known how to have planned to be involved in the things I am today – neither did my background prepare me.  (Bold as Love) // Bob also thinks that the 21st century pastor must be a people releaser, a communication specialist, and a bridge builder… Read more now:  WHAT KIND OF PASTOR ARE YOU IN THE 21ST CENTURY.  

Rick Warren’s statement about Hobby Lobby:

Every American who loves freedom should shudder at the precedent the government is trying to establish by denying Hobby Lobby the full protection of the First Amendment. This case is nothing less than a landmark battle for Americas FIRST freedom, the freedom of religion and the freedom from government intervention in matters of conscience. Religious liberty is often called our First Freedom because it is the first phrase of the first sentence of the First Amendment of our Bill of Rights. Freedom to practice your religion is listed before the freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom to assemble, and the right to bear arms. The first American settlers, Pilgrims, came to America for this very reason seeking the freedom to PRACTICE their religion, which they were denied in Europe. This is the freedom that made America unique from all other nations.

Today, the government has tried to reinterpret the First Amendment from freedom to PRACTICE your religion, to a more narrow freedom to worship, which would limit your freedom to the hour a week you are at a house of worship. This is not only a subversion of the Constitution, it is nonsense. Any religion that cannot be lived out at home and work, is nothing but a meaningless ritual.

What do YOU think?

Is this Hobby Lobby situation a real red flag, or is it overblown?

// Read more here…

Todd Subscribe to me on YouTube

The response has been wide and varied in the religious community about the recent shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. Here are some of the responses I was able to find on the internet this morning: Rev. Gary Hall, Dean of the Washington National Cathedral:
The Christian community, indeed, the entire American faith community, can no longer tolerate this persisting and escalating gun violence against our people. Enough is enough,” said Hall, who is the dean of the cathedral… The best way in my thinking to mourn the Sandy Hook shooting is to mobilize the faith community for gun control.”
Mike Huckabee:
When we ask why there is violence in our schools, but we’ve systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools have become a place for carnage because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability?
Max Lucado:
Your world seems a bit darker this Christmas.  But you were born in the dark, right? You came at night. The shepherds were nightshift workers. The Wise Men followed a star. Your first cries were heard in the shadows. To see your face, Mary and Joseph needed a candle flame. It was dark. Dark with Herod’s jealousy. Dark with Roman oppression. Dark with poverty.  Dark with violence. Herod went on a rampage, killing babies. Joseph took you and your mom into Egypt. You were an immigrant before you were a Nazarene. Oh, Lord Jesus, you entered the dark world of your day. Won’t you enter ours? We are weary of bloodshed. We, like the wise men, are looking for a star. We, like the shepherds, are kneeling at a manger. This Christmas, we ask you, heal us, help us, be born anew in us.
Evangelist Ray Comfort hopes people will watch his new internet movie to find the answer:
‘Genius’ points to what every murderer has in common, something the ‘experts’ either don’t recognize or avoid talking about. But it’s there… Something tragic is happening in our country, and most people don’t know what it is. Those who want to understand why these tragedies are occurring–and are likely to continue to occur–should watch the free movie.
John Piper:
…the murders of Newtown are a warning to me — and you. Not a warning to see our schools as defenseless, but to see our souls as depraved. To see our need for a Savior. To humble ourselves in repentance for the God-diminishing bitterness of our hearts. To turn to Christ in desperate need, and to treasure his forgiveness, his transforming, and his friendship.
Brady Boyd (Pastor at New Life Church in Colorado Springs, site of a deadly shooting a few years back):
I am a gun owner and have been all my life, but I realize it is too easy for some disturbed people to buy them in our sporting good stores. If there can be helpful conversations between the mental health community and our legislators resulting in laws that could eliminate this from our society, then count me in for support… Let’s have these difficult conversations, starting in our homes and across the table from our friends, but let’s make sure we are tackling the root of the issue and not just the fruit.
Albert Mohler:
The Christian must affirm the grace of moral restraint, knowing that the real question is not why some isolated persons commit such crimes, but why such massacres are not more common. We must be thankful for the restraint of the law, operating on the human conscience. Such a crime serves to warn us that putting a curve in the law will inevitably produce a curve in the conscience. We must be thankful for the restraining grace of God that limits human evil and, rightly understood, keeps us all from killing each other.
Greg Laurie:
“The experts will opine on why this happened. All I can say is this was pure evil. The heartlessness and wickedness of this man that did the shooting is really unimaginable…I know from personal experience that the pain of losing a child is a fate worse than death for a parent… At times like this we must reflect on the essential message of Christmas which is Immanuel has come. Immanuel means God is with us.”
How has this story affected you and your church? Did you take time out of your services yesterday to deal with this story? Is your church taking any additional steps to monitor security or reach out to the people affected by this tragedy? I’d love to hear your story… Todd  

Mark Brooks from the Charis Group finds that there are some lessons that the church can learn about Black Friday, particularly in the area of generosity and how our people are thinking these days: Lesson #1 – The easier you make it for people to give the more likely they will be to give.  Every Sunday the typical church passes a plate or bucket asking for people to donate.  Yet most never carry a checkbook and have very little cash on their person.  So, IF they give the amount will be only a few dollars rather than a significant gift.  Our portal for collecting the offering is out dated. Lesson #2 – You must offer people multiple options to give.  Retailers know that some like to shop the stores and handle the merchandise while others like to shop online.  A smart retailer never puts all his eggs in one basket.  Yet only 14% of American churches offer online giving.  Clearly in most churches you only have one option to give and that is on Sunday morning when the collection plate is passed.  See above. Lesson #3 – People want convenience.  This past Thanksgiving season retailers began their sales the night of Thanksgiving.  Many also allowed shoppers to connect online early on the morning of Black Friday thus avoiding lines.  Retailers know that people want convenience so their online stores are literally open 24/7.  People at your church will respond if you make giving convenient for them.  An app for instance allows your people to give online wherever they are even if they are at grandma’s house on Sunday.  Make your giving convenient and you will see an increase in giving. Lesson #4 – Retailers work at driving shoppers to their stores and sites.  My local paper on the day before Thanksgiving was huge.  However there was not much news it was all advertisements for Black Friday!  My email box was filled this past week with various offers from Amazon to my favorite running store pumping deals and sales towards me.  Retailers know it is not enough to have the tools for sales unless you drive people to those tools.  Many churches offer online giving but then let it set without ever driving people to that site.  You have to work your giving tool in order for your giving tool to work! The National Retail Federation is predicting that sales this holiday season will rise 4.1% from 2011 sales.  If NRF’s estimate is correct, holiday sales this year would be $586.1 billion.  Most of that money will be on wasted stuff.  How many of your Christmas gifts are you still using from last year?  Can you even remember what you got or what you bought?  Wasted dollars.  Consider that the medium gift to a church in a whole calendar year is only $200. // Read more of Mark’s great thoughts here… What do YOU think?  

I can see pastors all across America, sitting in their basements in their underwear, sorting and trading these: I can hear it now… I’ll trade you a John Calvin for a Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Are you crazy?  No way.  But I’ll trade you a Driscoll, Chandler, Noble, and Furtick for a Tim Keller. OK… sounds like a fair trade. Let the games begin. BTW… you can order them from… They release TOMORROW!  Here’s all the geeky details: Patterned after the all-American baseball card, Theologian Trading Cards provide essential information about the major teachers, leaders, and trouble-makers throughout the history of the Church. At a glance you will have access to information regarding 288 important figures in church history, including when and where they lived, their contribution to the church, and enduring significance. Each figure has been placed on the roster of one of 15 ‘theological’ or ‘historical’ teams; this aids readers in discovering the practical, chronological, and theological connections between figures. Examples include the Orthodoxy Dodgers (heretics); St. James Padres (Church Fathers of the Patristic Era); and the Wittenberg Whistle-blowers (Early Reformers and later Lutheran Church). Theologian Trading Cards are perfect for students taking a church history course who want a memorable study aid to help them retain important information about select individuals in the church, as well as non-students who just want to learn or want to begin a hobby of card collecting.

Stephen Prothero is a religion scholar at Boston University, and has written a book entitled “The American Bible: How Our Words Unite, Divide, and Define a Nation,” . Stephen has taken some flack for some of his recent writings at the blog about Jesus. I’m not saying that I agree totally with Stephen’s conclusions… but I will say that I think many times our Christianity here in the states is more ‘western’ than ‘biblical’ at times.  It’s a natural response to our culture and upbringing. Personally… I like pieces like this that make me think. Take a read, and let me know what YOU think about Stephen’s writing: In my book “American Jesus,” I demonstrated how American views of Jesus, rather than adhering strictly to the unchanging biblical witness, have shifted with the cultural and political winds. Over the course of U.S. history Jesus has been a socialist and a capitalist, a pacifist and a warrior. In other words, he has been used, by both the left and the right. Or, as I put it, “The American Jesus is more a pawn than a king, pushed around in a complex game of cultural (and countercultural) chess, sacrificed here for this cause and there for another.” This problem of mistaking your God for the God  the problem, that is, of idolatry was captured beautifully by Albert Schweitzer, who suggested that scholars on a quest for the “historical Jesus” were looking down into a deep well and seeing not the real Jesus but reflections of themselves. This is what is happening, in my view, to my angry evangelical readers. In this case, however, they are looking down the well and seeing some mashup of Ronald Reagan and Romney. Instead of the biblical Christ, they are seeing the Republican Jesus. There are many ways to support my argument that the preoccupations of the Christian Right today are not the preoccupations of the Bible. One is to point out that abortion is never even mentioned in the Bible. (Yes, Jeremiah 1:5 reads, “Before I formed you in the womb I knew you,” but when did that formation happen? At conception? At quickening? At birth?) Another is to point out that American evangelicals didn’t care about the abortion question until the GOP taught them to care. As Jonathan Dudley observes in a recent Belief Blog post, U.S. Catholic leaders began to take on abortion right after Roe v. Wade legalized it in 1973, but American evangelical leaders continued to teach that life begins at birth until the late 1970s and early 1980s. If the Bible clearly teaches us that our politics should center on the abortion question, why did it take nearly 2,000 years for Bible believers to figure this out? Here is my basic proposition: Bible-believing Christians who want to base their politics on the Bible ought to get the Bible straight, which is to say (a) correct and (b) directly from the page, rather than filtered through the spin of the GOP. To this end, I would like to challenge them to look at an amazing website, part of“The Official King James Bible Online,” which lists each and every word in that translation of the Bible in order of popularity. Not surprisingly, “and” and “the” are the top two.  But how do more meaningful words rank? Abortion, of course, is not on the list. Neither is homosexuality, though there are, I will admit, perhaps a couple dozen references to what we now call male homosexuality (and either one or zero to lesbianism, depending on how you read Romans 1:26). So these issues are not central. But which issues are? Well, faith, grace and salvation, for starters. (They appear 231, 159 and 158 times, respectively.) But if you turn to the political questions that beset us today, what does this quantitative approach to the Bible yield? First and foremost, a preoccupation with “war” (470 times) and “peace” (280). Second, a preoccupation with economics, and especially with the rich (109) and the poor (233). The Bible also seems far more concerned with “prison” and “prisoners” (109) than we are in U.S. politics today. And, I might add, with famine (101). Finally, the Bible mentions Israel a lot (2,509 times)  even more than heaven (644). So that seems to be something that both candidates got right in the third debate. To conclude, I have no problem with evangelical Christians voting for Romney. My complaint arises when they say they are doing so because the Bible commands them to vote for the candidate who is opposed to abortion rights and opposes same-sex marriage. You can read more here. Thoughts? Todd

Read these two paragraphs by Scott Lively: In many elementary and secondary schools across America, October will be designated as LGBT History Month. It is certain to feature prominently in California where promotion of homosexuality to all school children is now mandated by law. And it is likely to be observed in all of the classrooms controlled by the nationwide Gay Lesbian Straight Teachers Network (GLSEN), whose founder, Kevin Jennings, was appointed “safe schools” czar by President Obama. This week WND linked to a news story about a Broward County, Fla., school that will teach “gay” history to kindergartners, but most GLSEN teachers will conduct these indoctrination sessions with no meaningful outside scrutiny. LGBT History Month is not yet universally adopted by public schools. Nevertheless, throughout October tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of innocent school children will be subjected to the most despicable brainwashing ever conducted in American classrooms. They will be taught, through carefully constructed lesson plans, to view homosexuals as a superior class of human beings whose influence on society has been wholly benign, but whose contributions to society have been limited due to irrational prejudice and bigotry. They will learn the importance of protecting homosexuals from societal “homophobia,” perhaps even emanating from their own parents, and that homosexuality is a perfectly normal and healthy (and unchangeable) form of sexual identity. In other words, they will be indoctrinated in provably false and thoroughly biased pro-”gay” propaganda. 1.  I’ve never heard of LGBT History Month, nor of it in ANY school.  Is this a real threat? 2.  What do you think of the tone of this article?  Good, bad? “innocent school children” “despicable brainwashing” “superior class of human beings” “irrational prejudice and bigotry” “societal homophobia” “indoctrinated” “thoroughly biased pro-gay agenda’ Could Lively put any more charged language in one paragraph? Regardless of your view on homosexuality, do pieces like this help or hurt? What do YOU think? Todd

There are three little words that extraordinary leaders know how to say, and I’m not thinking of “I love you” (but those are pretty good). The magic words are “I was wrong.” When leaders say them to their teams in a timely fashion, they build confidence and can move on to a better path. The simple sentence “I was wrong” is the hardest for leaders to utter and the most necessary for them to learn. Alan Greenspan came close to saying it in the heat of the global financial meltdown, but not quite. When the former chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, revered as the guru of global growth, testified before Congress last fall, he said he was “in a state of shocked disbelief” – but not that his actions had been wrong. He conceded that “Yes, I have found a flaw. I don’t know how significant or permanent it is.” When asked directly by California’s Henry Waxman, “Were you wrong?” he hedged by replying, “Partially.” If a leader cannot admit being wrong in a timely fashion, he or she can never correct mistakes, change direction, and restore success. The consequences get worse the longer denial prevails. Hiding bad news from stockholders and creditors while offering rosy forecasts has brought down many a CEO. Samsung’s 20-year chairman stepped down after being indicted on tax evasion charges, but this was not his first mistake. He faced corruption scandals and a bribery charge in the 1990s. Had he said then “I was wrong” and chosen a more ethical course, perhaps he could have preserved his job and his legacy. Some people find it so hard to admit a mistake that they dig themselves into a deeper hole even when given an easy chance to correct themselves. The arrogance of success is well-known. Powerful people start to believe that they are above the rules, that what applies to ordinary people does not apply to them. That’s how officials get into trouble in the first place, using their power to suppress criticism. They never have to say “I was wrong,” because everyone conspires to hide mistakes. via Harvard Business Review. Churches violate this rule frequently when leaders fail to ever admit they are wrong. Pastor, you’re people know that you’re wrong some of the time, just like they are.  And they’ll actually respect you if you admit it sometimes. Thoughts? Is it really that big of a deal for you to admit you’re wrong?  I guess it’s not for me… probably because I’m wrong a lot, and fess up to it as much as I can. Todd

82% of U.S. Evangelical leaders say that their influence on the country is declining, according to a new Religion and Public Life study from the Per Forum. This quote from Rev. S. Douglas Birdsall in the article struck me:
“There was a time when there was a Ten Commandments in every classroom, there were prayers in public places,” he said. “So having gone from that position of considerable influence, even though we might actually have more influence than churches in … other parts of the world, the sense is that it’s slipping from our hands.”
My first thought… when will we stop decrying the lack of the ten commandments and public prayer as the center points of Christians losing influence? The ten commandments on a wall was how we showed our influence? We based our influence on a prayer at a high school graduation? Really? I’ve heard a lot of times from a lot of people how this national has gone to hell in a handbasket since we took prayer out of the schools.  I admit that this pre-dates my schooling years.  But my guess is that much of this country was going to hell in a handbasket when people WERE praying in school, and when the ten commandments were on the classroom wall. Is society bad today?  Absolutely.  Was is pristine in the 50s?  Nope. But there was a whole different set of problems then there there are today.  Some of today’s problems could be worse… but most probably, they’re just different. When I read some of the things that happened in the Old Testament, it makes today’s society look pretty darn Christian. Again from the study:  About half (53 percent ) of U.S. leaders said the state of evangelicalism is worse than it was five years ago, and nearly as many (48 percent) said they expect it to grow worse in the next five years. I’m not quite sure how to read into this.  I guess if our hope to make things better are political solutions to make Christianity more acceptable (like getting prayer back in schools), then we should be depressed about our future. But the scary thing to me is that nearly half of our leaders think it’s going to get worse. The article here does talk about some of the reasons behind the trend; and does do a good job at presenting both sides, including whether or not Christians should try to change culture through politics. It’s a good read. But how about you?  Do you think Christianity’s influence is declining?  If so, why?  And are you optimistic about the future of reaching people for Jesus in the U.S.? Todd