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Leadership
Here’s a snapshot at how Tim Keller prays… I try to do petition in the morning. I try to do repentance in the evening. So I try to pray in the morning and in the evening. In the evening I look back on what I did wrong and repent. But in the middle of the day I try to catch myself and I look for four kinds of emotions. I always pray in the morning, “Lord make me happy enough in the grace of Jesus to avoid being proud, cold, scared, and hooked.” Now, in the middle of the day I get it out and say, “Have I been proud, scared, cold, or hooked in the last 3-4 hours. And the answer usually is “Yeah.” And then I say, “How do I bring the Gospel to bear on that? How does the grace of God deal with it?” And you try to catch yourself in those feelings. So basically finding problem feelings and inordinate desires, catch them when they’re happening, try to deal with them with the Gospel right there. I call that “Quick Strike” on my idols around noon, if I can remember it. And repentance at night and petition in the morning. So I try to get into God’s presence three times a day. via Reformissionary: Tim Keller on Preaching to Himself. Seems like a good plan to me.  Do YOU have a plan for how you pray, or do you just do it?  
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How is a guy supposed to pray? Joel Hunter offers five prayers that God will always answer (in a recent post at MinistryToday): 1:”Lord, get me out of this temptation!” Believe it or not, when we earnestly pray this prayer, we have to climb over God’s impediments to sin! 2: “Lord, amaze me with a glimpse of the supernatural.” As shallow as this sounds, this isn’t the same as a generation always looking for signs. This prayer is a request to see God’s hand in our lives and appreciate His nearness. He loves to reveal Himself above all rational explanation, but we do not usually ask or look. 3:”Lord, show me better ways to love and serve.” Most guys are bored with their own routines and are frustrated with their own lack of creativity. Why not ask God to break you out of your rut?  A word of caution: If you pray this prayer, you will discover that people are yelling at you for a reason. It is God’s ventriloquism trying to get you to see a new perspective. 4: “Lord, use me for Your purpose in this situation.” The great adequacy of God is that He can use us when we do not know what to say or do or even think! Many times we are reluctant to enter into a potential place of ministry because we think we surely would mess it up. 5: “Lord, glorify Your name.” There are many times when I have no idea what God wants me to pray. I can see the good and bad in each alternative. via Joel Hunter: 5 Prayers God Always Answers. Anything you’d add to the list?
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Casey Tygrett shares three measurement devices for elders and local church leaders regarding spiritual growth and formation that will bring light and life to situations stuck in darkness. Are you regularly engaging with Scripture, both individually and as a leadership team? Leaders committed to wrestling with the narrative of God both alone and in their group have put themselves in a position to be corrected, humbled, and augmented for the sake of others. Being open to the Scriptures is a posture that embraces the mission of God in the world today. Scripture refines the lenses through which the mission and purpose of the church, as well as the mission and purpose of eldership, are seen. Scripture shows God on a mission as he calls sweetly, but firmly, to elders to fall in step and become missionally minded regarding where the flock they’ve been commissioned to lead is headed.  Are you praying specifically, honestly, and regularly? In my current ministry, I am often asked to help teach people to pray. I’ve found the most critical question in developing a prayer habit is whether or not people are willing to bring up the raw, uncensored, and unfiltered contents of their heart to God. Are you, as a leader, honestly expressing both your joys and struggles to the God who constantly leans in to listen (Psalm 10:17)? The most helpful aspect of prayer in my development in leadership over the last five years has been the opportunity to see myself through the objective lens of God’s Spirit; I’ve grown to understand there are things in my soul that, when applied to leadership in ministry, create issues I couldn’t see on my own. The opportunity to pray with and for other leaders is constantly in front of us—are you taking advantage of the times you could offer prayers that encourage and strengthen others on your eldership or leadership team? Are you reproducing leaders through spiritual friendship and mentoring? Leaders aren’t meant to be irreplaceable. If we have stepped into the stream of leadership in God’s kingdom with the expectation that we aren’t expendable, it is a clear and unmistakable sign we’ve skipped question number one in this list! The truth is, engaging in Scripture and prayer—especially reading Acts and praying for our leadership of God’s people—will shine a light on the reproductive nature of the church. The churches we find in Acts had leaders who understood what it meant to give away what they’d learned. Many elders and leaders may say they have read 2 Timothy 2:2—“And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” Great. Here is a follow-up question: are you giving away your leadership and ministry to reliable folks? // Read more here:  A Past Mistake and Three Challenges for Elders Thoughts? Todd
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Leadership
Mars Hill has a tremendous problem. They’ve seen phenominal growth in numbers… in fact they’ve grown 50% in the past year (over 5,000 people). That includes a 12% increase in attendance SINCE LAST WEEK. SINCE LAST WEEK. Church-wide… they are at 82% capacity during 36 weekend services at 14 different locations. Jesus has definitely stepped on the gas. Add to that, 551 small groups (with 60 new groups added this month). Whether you’re a fan of Mark Driscoll and Mars Hill or not… something big is happening there. And the stress and pressure from a pure administrative side must be extremely difficult. How about today, instead of criticism and uttering things that make us sound like jealous idiots, we actually take time to thank God for what he is doing at Mars Hill and other churches across the country. The big churches, the tiny churches. The churches with imperfect leaders and flawed followers. The churches that are growing gangbusters and those that are fighting for existence. For your church; and mine. For yourself as a leader; and the guy down the street also entrusted with God’s children. Let’s pray for those for whom God has ‘stepped on the gas’.  And if we’re on empty, let’s pray that God would fill us and that we’ll be ready when and IF he decides to gun it a little. Just a few thoughts today… You can read more here…
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Trends
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
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