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Truth be told.  We’ve all been there. Conflict in church settings in inevitable. When should we stay and fight, and when should we leave? That’s a tough question. Joe McKeever makes an impassioned plea about the reputation of the Body of Chris when these conflicts happen. He asks the question (and I think it’s a good one):  Why can’t we just walk away and let ourselves be wronged? In some cases… it really is probably the best answer. Joe writes: Why not let yourself be wronged?  Why not just “take your lumps” and walk away? Do it… for God’s sake. His honor is at stake here. That should matter to you more than your rights. for sanity’s sake.Think of the sheer stupidity of what you are doing. for the sake of your witness. These court cases are an ugly blot on your community. for goodness sake. “All you are doing is providing fuel for more wrong, more injustice, and more hurt to the people of your own spiritual family.” Only the strongest can walk away from a fight he could win but for which the cost would be too high. 1) Consider the collateral damage to a fight. In brawls on television, furniture gets broken, windows busted, and onlookers injured. In “real life,” churches get destroyed, outsiders get disgusted, young believers get neglected, missions get sidetracked, and the honor of Jesus Christ takes a major hit. The weak among us–the carnal and the cowardly posing as the courageous and the conquerors–will insist these things will resolve themselves, that all that matters is setting someone straight. Back away from such a one. He is your biggest enemy and needs to be quarantined. 2) Consider what Jesus would do. They said, “Lord, speak to my brother. Tell him to divide the inheritance with me.” The trial lawyer in us wants to take that case. “All right, what are the facts? What would be fair? Why is that brother being so heavy-handed and selfish? What does justice require?” Jesus walked away from it. “Sir, who made me your judge? You be careful of greed. Life is not about how much you can possess.” (Luke 12:13-15) This does not compute, does it? For those of us willing to take up every case, who insist on righting every wrong and punishing every wrong-doer, we are not satisfied with the Lord’s answer. Jesus loses no sleep over not satisfying our sense of fair play. He had, as the saying goes, bigger fish to fry. Something He kept calling “my hour” and “the Father’s will.” He was trying to change men’s hearts in order to change their lives in order to transform their destiny. The temptation to take every detour that opened up, even those offering attractive soul-satisfying vistas and feel-good revenge settlements, must be resisted. 3) Consider who we are in Christ. Again and again, the Apostle Paul asks the Corinthians, “Do you not know?” that we will judge the world and the angels? (vv.2,3) that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom? (v.9-10) your bodies are members of Christ? (v.14) your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit? (v. 19) The ramifications of these principles are mind-boggling. Because of who we are in Christ, we can walk away from lesser things, wrong things, and even good things. It’s all because we choose the best things. When you take your brother to court to get your rights, you are defeated before you start. (6:7) So, why not rather be wronged? // Read more here:  Church Conflict: Why Not Rather be Wronged?  OUCH. So… what do YOU think? I’d love to hear your comments below.  Come on… you’ve made it this far… what do YOU think about when you should stay and fight, and when you should walk away, even if you feel like you were wronged? Leave your comment below… Thanks! Todd

Former megachurch pastor Rob Bell, founder of Mars Hill Bible Church in Grandville, Mich., recently shared how his 2011 book, Love Wins, led to a fallout with the congregation and forced him on a “search for a more forgiving faith.” Bell told The New Yorker that the book caused attendance at Mars Hill to plummet by 3,000 people.  According to the New Yorker: “The book put pressure on the people around Bell, who found themselves having to defend statements they might never have heard, let alone approved,” The New Yorker writes. “Congregants reported that friends and family members were asking why they were allowing themselves to be led by a false teacher,” the magazine continues. Wife of the megachurch pastor, Kristen Bell, remembers staying home from service for some weeks because she could not stand the criticism her husband was receiving for his book. “There was a cost,” Bell told The New Yorker. “And part of the cost was, we couldn’t keep doing what we were doing at Mars Hill,” she added. // Read more here:  Rob Bell Tells How ‘Love Wins’ Led to Mars Hill Departure.

Wake up call this morning, presented by Sheldon ClowdusSo, you want to grow your church pastor? Put down the latest church growth book.  Cancel your trip to that church growth conference.  Stop trying to emulate the megachurch down the road or across the state. Open your bible and reacquaint yourself with the powerful gospel of Jesus Christ.  Know it inside and out.  Preach it boldly and plainly. It worked for Paul.

Led by a pastor (John Smith), a worship minister (Ben Duncan), and a Christian college admissions counselor (Ben Smith), Reclamation Brewing company is doing their best to make people like Jesus and Paul, good respectable Christians again in the eyes of the evangelical elite. In fact… here’s their “THEOLOGY OF BEER”
The founders of Reclamation Brewing Company all happen to be followers of Jesus Christ and also happen to be brewers of quality beers. This may seem to be a contradiction in some people’s minds. But in reality, it’s not. We believe that beer is among the many good gifts with which God has blessed mankind. You don’t have to believe that to enjoy a good beer, but we would love to tell you why we do if you so desire. Basically, we’re persuaded that although the Bible condemns the abuse of alcohol, it doesn’t condemn its proper use. In fact, we think it often commends it and appeals to an abundance of alcohol as evidence of God’s favor! Jesus’ first public miracle was turning water into fine wine. We believe this is just one of many Scriptural evidences that there is no incompatibility between being a Christian and enjoying a good beer. We believe that the Bible and history (from David in the Psalms to Jesus at the wedding in Cana to Martin Luther to the Baptist Pastor and distiller, Elijah Craig) confirm that there isn’t any contradiction between enjoying a tasty brew and being a follower of Christ. Once again, we don’t think you need to believe this to appreciate good beer, but we’d be happy to continue the conversation over a pint!
What do YOU think? // read more here… Todd

Franklin Graham thinks it may be.  Here’s what he told Charisma News: In just a few days, we in the United States have the privilege of electing the people who will serve in office for the next several years. Since we believe this is one of the most important elections in our lifetime, my father and I have taken a strong stand in the past few months to encourage voters to support candidates on the national, state, and local levels who embrace biblical values. My father watches the news every day, and he is deeply concerned about the enormous moral issues facing our country. That’s why your vote on Nov. 6 is so critical. This is a crucial hour for our nation. Above all, this is a time for deep, intercessory prayer on behalf of our great country, which is in grave danger unless we repent of our sins and turn back to the God of our fathers. The Bible says, “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way” (1 Tim. 2:1–2). When America’s leaders actively promote and legislate immorality, restrict the religious freedoms that our country was founded on, and are openly hostile to men and women of faith, then I believe we are ripe for God’s judgment. So pray and then vote on Nov. 6, asking God for His mercy and grace upon our land. There’s still time to turn from our wicked ways so that He might spare us from His wrath against sin… This could be America’s last call to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, who is coming again one day very soon to save His own and to judge those who don’t know and worship Him. You can read more here. // Could this not have been written in 2008, 2004, or 1964? Is America MORE ripe for judgment in 2012 than during the civil rights turmoil, or when our country condoned slavery, or during the ‘free sex’ sixties? Will people really vote for their candidate because of threats of impending judgment, or is this a rallying cry for a very conservative evangelical base that, up until now, has somewhat listened to Franklin? What do YOU think? Todd

This is an interesting article at the LA Times. When the rapture happens, Daystar and Trinity Broadcasting are ready to air it live… direct from the Mount of Olives. Also at stake… an Israeli audience; and US Christian  viewers who want more coverage from the Holy Land. From the article: Texas-based Daystar Television Network already beams a 24-hour-a-day live webcam from its terrace. Not to be outdone, Costa Mesa-based Trinity Broadcasting Network last month bought the building next door. The dueling studios are part of an aggressive push by U.S. evangelical broadcasters seeking to gain a stronger foothold in the holy city. Their presence not only offers boasting rights with American viewers and contributors, but also — and more controversially — a platform for spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ to Jews in Israel. In addition to its new multistory building, TBN is negotiating with Israel’s Yes satellite television provider to secure a full-time home for its evangelical Shalom TV channel. Daystar already airs its English-language programming in Israel with dedicated channels on both Yes and cable provider HOT Telecommunications Systems, claiming to be the first Christian evangelical broadcaster to transmit a gospel message to Israeli television sets 24 hours a day. “The main thing we want to do is help sponsor what we call Messianic Jews, or Jews that have received Jesus Christ as their Messiah,” said TBN co-founder Paul Crouch, who recently wrapped up a tour of Israel with 1,800 TBN supporters, most of them from America. “We want to do some Hebrew language programs to reach out to Jews and entice them to read the word of God and become what we call a completed Jew.” Such proselytizing angers Orthodox Jewish groups who say it threatens the character of a nation that was created as a home for Jewish refugees of the Holocaust. Christian proselytizing is legal in Israel, though the government has at times restricted and discouraged the practice; members of the Jewish faith do not seek to convert those of other faiths. Read more here…

The 2013 Exponential conference is underway. This year, Exponential expects more than 5,000 church planting leaders to come together in Orlando, April 22-25. The conference will focus on the theme DiscipleShift—five shifts we can make to become better at making and releasing disciples. All 15 of the Main Session speakers will explore in-depth what it means to be a disciple and how we can continue to grow and get better at engaging people with the mission of Jesus. Each of the sessions will focus on one of these five shifts. Recently, Exponential released an article tackling each shift in-depth. Based on the insights of Exponential President Dave Ferguson, who also leads NewThing and Community Christian Church and Real Life Ministries  Founder Jim Putman–who in his upcoming new book DiscipleShift, has identified these shifts–the Exponential gathering will again be packed with an abundance of “aha” learnings for planters. Check out the shortened version below. (To read the full thing, go here). Shift 1: From Reaching to Making The first of these five paradigm shifts moves churches from defining ourselves by what we do to what we actually accomplish, Putman says. “We need to shift our focus from reaching people with the Gospel in an effort to convert them, to making disciples.” The end goal is not that a person “accepts Christ” or prays a prayer or comes to church but rather that he grows spiritually, becoming more like Christ. Making this shift requires us to agree on the definition of what a mature disciple is who Ferguson says is “apprenticing in the ways of Jesus.” “As humans we know what a mature person ends up looking like and doing. What does a mature disciple look like then?” Putman asks, adding that often church leaders don’t define if for their people, which in turn gives each person carte blanch to come up with his or her own definition. “This is a real problem if we are going to be a team that works together to complete the mission of Christ. We need to ask the question together as a body. If that definition doesn’t end up looking like one who is following Jesus, being changed by Jesus, and is committed to the mission of Jesus, then we have a definition with holes in it.” Shift 2: From Teaching to Modeling This second shift involves an inward look at how transparency and genuine discipleship is produced and modeled from the top down. This shift calls for leaders to change their focus from preaching/teaching (informing) to modeling and coaching (equipping). Too many church leaders today equate discipleship with imparting knowledge. This shift to coaching emphasizes the ministry of “equipping” (based on Eph. 4:11-13). Instead of primarily viewing themselves as a CEO, or even a teacher, senior pastors view themselves as a player-coach who equips (or coaches) others for ministry to ultimately grow the Kingdom. Putman points out that Jesus discipled people in relationship, not in preaching to thousands of people. ‘I used to be a teacher and coach,” he says. “Teachers know that the larger the classroom, the more you’re forced to lecture and the less learning. Why is it that every good teacher would hate what every pastor thinks they want?” Ferguson agrees, adding that the job of leadership is not to just get up on Sunday and talk about following Jesus. “I have to be apprenticed in the ways of Jesus and bring people alongside me and apprentice them in the same way. That’s how you get people who are on mission.” Shift 3: From Attending to Participating This third shift challenges leaders to shift their mindset from discipleship as a program in their church that people attend to discipleship as the center and purpose of everything the church is and does, Putman explains, adding that leaders must let people know that discipleship is dependent on participating in the endless process of following Christ. Ferguson simplifies things: “We start to transition our thinking from discipleship as a class or program we attend on the weekend or one night a week, to something every believer actively participates in Monday through Sunday.” Shift 4: From Connecting to Transforming This shift is a call for churches to move their paradigms from activity-based to relationship-based. Beyond just classes and sermons, discipleship must be based on friendship and time together. To cultivate the kind of disciples Jesus did, we have to shift our paradigm from activity and surface connections to deep, accountable relationships. Putman also refers to this shift as the “alignment” piece: Everything in a church must be shifted to divert the focus from activity and align it with relationships (for discipleship). A church’s primary mission is always discipleship, cultivated in a relationship-driven environment. The end goal of this shift, he says, is to create relational spaces, like Jesus did, where people help each other to trust and follow Him. Ferguson adds, “It’s not enough to be in a holy huddle. I’ve had long conversations about the fact that it’s not enough to get people into a small group. A small group community was designed to also implement and live out the mission of Jesus.” Shift 5: From Attracting to Deploying The final shift helps churches define, articulate and implement a new scorecard for success that celebrates and places more emphasis on the release of an army of ministers and priests into a lost and hurting world than on how many people we attract. Putman offers a list of telling questions for church leaders: What is success to me? What is success to our leaders? How did they learn that definition? What are we celebrating? What do people in our churches aspire to? “If we’re honest, we know we’re celebrating many of the wrong things,” he says. “Or we’re celebrating just some of the right things so our people are aspiring to, especially our young leaders, a church with thousands of people. I’m all for numbers of converts, but those aren’t the right numbers alone. We should be counting and asking the question, how many disciples have I made who can make disciples without me? “I love how Rob Wegner [pastor of life mission for Granger Community Church] talks about mission for Granger,” Ferguson says. “They want to be seen as an airport. Nobody goes to an airport to hang out there; you come to an airport because you’re going someplace. That’s how our churches should be, too. We’re not just attracting people to hold you here. We’re sending you somewhere because God’s on the move and He’s sending you somewhere.” Missional people + Multiplying churches = Missional movement The collective impact of each of these paradigm shifts leads to developing people who are on mission, a key factor in the church as movement, say both leaders. Ferguson explains why discipleship is integral to a reproducing movement of disciples by offering a simple equation: Missional people + Multiplying churches = Missional movement. How church leaders get every person engaged with and excited about living out Jesus’ mission is at the crux of the discipleship conversation that Exponential is championing and helping to shape. “Biblically, discipleship is a non-negotiable part of Christ’s mission,” Putman asserts. “In Christ’s teaching, as well as throughout the epistles, we are consistently instructed to proclaim, baptize and teach—all toward the end of making lifelong, die-hard disciples of Jesus Christ who obey His commands. This type of discipleship needs to become the filter for everything we do in church. This year, Exponential is April 22-25. If you’re thinking about or planning to attend the conference, the deadline is coming up to get the best rate possible–$99 registrant/$49 spouse. After Sept. 7, the rate goes up. So you might want to register in the next week or so. To register, go here.

This from Religion Clause:
The ACLU of Utah announced Tuesday that it had filed a federal lawsuit on behalf of the Main Street Church of Brigham City challenging the constitutionality of Brigham City, Utah’s so-called Free Speech Zone Ordinance that requires a permit for the Church to hand out literature on the sidewalks of the city.  The complaint (full text) in Main Street Church of Brigham City v. Brigham City, Utah, (D UT, filed 9/11/2012), alleges that the Church wants to hand out literature on differences between its beliefs and those of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  It wants to leaflet and engage in discussions with those receiving their literature during the month-long Open House for the LDS Temple in Brigham City.  It applied for a permit to carry out its activities on the public sidewalks adjacent to the streets on all four sides of the LDS Temple, but the city denied permission to leaflet on the two sidewalks with the heaviest pedestrian traffic. The suit alleges that the ordinance unconstitutionally restricts plaintiff’s freedom of expression and assembly as well as its free exercise of religion.
So… Main Street Church doesn’t believe the same way the mormons do.  That’s cool.  Neither do I. Main Street says that public sidewalks are public and, legally, you can’t keep us off the public sidewalk.  So far, so good. Because of that, Main Street Church would like to hand out anti-mormon literature in front of the mormon church as mormons are entering. Hold it. Can you do that?  Probably legally, you can.  Thus the lawsuit. Should you do that?  And is there a way to do that without actually being a jerk?  That I’m not sure.  Actually, I think it’s doubtful. Let’s turn the tables.  What if the Mormons stood outside the sidewalk of Main Street Church and handed out the Book of Mormon, saying how Main Street Church was all wrong. Houston, we have a problem. Can we not think of a better way to do outreach to Mormons than this? Your thoughts? Todd