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Renewing Your Church: The (Sometimes) Slow and Detailed Process of Revitalization

Turning a country-club-style church into a church on a mission.

Today I am glad to welcome William Sikes, Pastor at Loch Arbor Baptist Church (SBC) located in North East Louisiana.

In 2014, I accepted a call to pastor at my current church after serving two years as interim and five years as youth pastor. I followed the previous pastor, who had served 24 years at the church and had great highs and great lows.

During the previous pastor’s tenure, attendance had risen to nearly 200. The budget had topped $200,000, but it was never adjusted correctly for the giving that took place and at the time of the previous pastor’s departure.

While the budget stayed the same, we were barely breaking $100,000 in giving. The church was dying, members were leaving, there was no outreach, there were no young people, and there was no consistency in anything positive.

The church was focused on a country club lifestyle while everything crumbled around them. They were still holding onto the programs that had worked in the past, but were now only continuing because that was what they knew to do. Change needed to happen and I knew it was going to be difficult.

Evaluating the church as the pastor was painful as I was ministering at the church for a number of years before being named pastor. I pulled out annual church profiles from the previous 20 years and started making graphs and reports. I had to consider what events led to the current situation in the church.

This was helpful in many ways. I was able to see how well the church had done in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Then, I found events that started the decline.

A big business in the area closed and moved employees to other states. This led people away and the budget took a hit. Although not all the people who worked in this company left because ...

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One-on-One with CJ Davison on Sharing the Gospel in America and Intentional Relationships

"Make every expression of ministry relationally driven and every relationship ministry focused."

Ed: How long have you been involved in Lausanne International and what is your current role?

CJ: I first got involved with Lausanne at the end of 2015, helping with prayer on the planning team for the Young Leaders Gathering in Jakarta in 2016. I am now involved with the Young Leaders Generation, helping the Educate Initiative, which connects Lausanne’s young leaders with higher education scholarships.

Ed: Tell me about your current roll and what you do.

CJ: I work with a ministry full-time called Leadership International. We equip Christ-like leaders with training and resources in order to fulfill the Great Commission. We target least-reached leaders in order to grow church-equipping movements in strategic locations. My role is to resource our international partners with capital, coaching, and curriculum. To keep me sane, I travel to Africa and Asia to teach and encourage our team.

Ed: Tell me about the gospel and the church in North America, where you live.

CJ: In the United States, it seems the gospel is no longer seen as good news. Our culture prefers not to talk about sin. Therefore, “repent and believe” is not a message that is received well here.

The church in America is a lot like Laodicea in Revelation 3. I think that apathy, comfort, and ignorance are our biggest challenges. The solution is to heed the message to Laodicea: “Buy from me gold refined in the fire, so you can become rich; and white clothes to wear, so you can cover your shameful nakedness; and salve to put on your eyes, so you can see.”

In other words, we need to open our eyes to see the bigger picture, seeking purity and true riches in the life to come.

Ed: What is your impression of how the church is doing when it comes to sharing ...

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[Cfamily]China Bans Zion, Beijing’s Biggest House Church
« Reply #1010 on: September 14, 2018, 01:00:14 AM »
China Bans Zion, Beijing’s Biggest House Church

Shut down after Sunday services, influential congregation had refused orders to install government surveillance cameras.

Beijing authorities threatened to close Zion Church last month after the 1,500-member congregation, one of the Chinese capital’s largest house churches, refused to install surveillance cameras in its sanctuary.

After services on Sunday, officials delivered on their threat to the unofficial Protestant congregation, which meets in a renovated hall in northern Beijing. Zion is now banned and its materials confiscated, reports Reuters.

“On Sunday, the Beijing Chaoyang district civil affairs bureau said that by organizing events without registering, the church was breaking rules forbidding mass gatherings and were now ‘legally banned’ and its ‘illegal promotional material’ had been confiscated,” reported the news agency, citing images of the notice and confirmation by churchgoers.

“I fear that there is no way for us to resolve this issue with the authorities,” Zion’s pastor, Jin “Ezra” Mingri, told Reuters.

ChinaAid reports that Zion, the biggest house church in Beijing, “has decided it will not be swayed by the ban and instead hold services outdoors.” The strategy echoes how another noteworthy Beijing house church, Shouwang, responded to similar problems in 2011.

“Churches will continue to develop. Blocking the sites will only intensify conflicts,” Jin told the Associated Press. (Agence France-Presse also reports on the closure.)

Zion had received a letter from city authorities in April, asking the church to install 24 closed-circuit video cameras in the building for “security reasons,” Reuters previously reported. “The church decided this was not appropriate,” Jin told the agency. “… Our services are ...

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[Cfamily]David Foster Wallace Broke My Heart
« Reply #1011 on: September 15, 2018, 01:00:12 AM »
David Foster Wallace Broke My Heart

Ten years after his suicide, I marvel at his genius but mourn the crushing burdens he carried.

I miss David Foster Wallace.

That may seem a strange thing to say since I never met him. When he died—ten years ago to the day, by suicide—I had barely heard of him.

But at different times, and in different ways, he started showing up in my life. And, slowly, I started paying attention.

And it was in that paying attention that I came to miss him.

‘And But So …’

First, a little background may be in order.

David Foster Wallace was born in 1962 and lived for 46 years. He published just two novels when he was alive, The Broom of the System and Infinite Jest. A third novel, The Pale King, was pieced together from an almost-finished manuscript and notes after he died, and it was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize. He also published short stories and a couple non-fiction books, mostly long-form journalism collected from magazines such as Harpers and The New Yorker. That’s about it.

Not all of it was excellent. Wallace could be weird, rambly, and esoteric. But all of it was unique, distinctive, particular. Just as Terrence Malick (some say) invented a new vocabulary for cinema, Wallace invented a new form for the novel.

Take his masterwork, Infinite Jest. It’s a 1,079-page book with a hundred pages of footnotes. Despite its mammoth length, it does not have proper chapter divisions. Sentences often go on for hundreds of words. A few are more than 1,000 words long. It has so many characters that fans and critics built a website to catalog them. Some sentences are positively luminous, but one of the book’s most common phrases, used sometimes as a stand-alone sentence, is a pedestrian, colloquial, ambiguous expression that has become a catch phrase for a certain class of literary millennials:

“And ...

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Making Strides Against the Opioid Crisis: Churches and Government Working Together for Good

Many Americans wonder what to do and, most importantly, who to turn to for answers.

Last October, President Trump declared the opioid crises a public health emergency. With the loss of 72,000 lives in 2017 due to an overdose of prescription drugs, our country is still firmly in the midst of an opioid epidemic, leaving many Americans wondering what to do and, most importantly, who to turn to for answers.

The difficult truth is that drug overdoses are currently our nation’s leading cause of accidental death. In an otherwise healthy country with widespread access to medical care, thousands are literally dying in their excess—losing their lives to drugs purchased out of dependency rather than dire need.

Deaths by drug overdose particularly pain us because they feel senseless. All around us, friends, family members, and loved ones are slipping through the cracks of addiction, hiding from help, and trying to cope with the effects of these deadly drugs all on their own.

After all, isn’t that the greatest lie? That we’re all alone? That no one understands?

Chris Eisele, president of Warren County Fire Chiefs’ Association in Ohio, alluded to one of the greatest challenges of the opioid epidemic: “This epidemic,” he said, “It’s got no face.” People from all walks of life, economic backgrounds, professions, and cultural contexts are finding themselves battling the bitterness of substance abuse and addiction. There’s no ‘type’ or typical victim—and, most importantly, everyone is in hiding.

It is into this environment—one ripe with shame and fear—that the church has the opportunity to walk and speak boldly.

First, with biblical truth

The nation of Israel was in a state of disrepair, immersed in sin and desperately in need of repentance. ...

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[Cfamily]Preparing to Witness an Act of God
« Reply #1013 on: September 17, 2018, 01:00:12 AM »
Preparing to Witness an Act of God

Science can explain why Hurricane Florence is threatening my home. But it can’t interpret it.

On Ash Wednesday 1962, the dead didn’t just rise again. They floated.

The Ash Wednesday Storm of 1962 was one of the worst storms to hit the Eastern seaboard in modern memory. One of the places hardest hit was Chincoteague Island, a tiny barrier island off the coast of Virginia. As the island flooded, and residents scurried into their upstairs bedrooms, the tidal surge was so great that it sucked the wooden burial vaults out of the ground. The dead floated down Taylor Street.

Everyone alive has experienced the storm—maybe it was a hurricane, maybe it was a nor’easter, maybe it was a tornado, or gale, or earthquake. I grew up hearing the stories of my grandparents being airlifted off of Chincoteague by US Navy helicopter the day after the 1962 storm. In 2015, I watched as the flood waters of the 1,000-Year Flood rose across my yard and ran under my house. Each one is a unique event, the sum and total of which is unexplainable from our limited, human perspective.

Beyond Our Understanding

The night before the Chincoteague storm, waterman Herman Fitchett told his daughter, “The barometer is the lowest I’ve ever seen it in my life. Something bad is going to happen.” Still, in 1962, the residents of places like Chincoteague had relatively little warning.

Times have changed. As Hurricane Florence bears down on the Eastern seaboard, coastal communities like Chincoteague are under mandatory evacuation. At time of writing, Florence is a Category 4 hurricane, a tropical cyclone with winds of up to 130 mph. In 1962, the Weather Service wasn’t able to predict the Ash Wednesday Storm. Today we have Doppler radar that allows us to watch the hurricane’s every move.

Modern science has provided us ...

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[Cfamily]One-on-One with Tom Lin on InterVarsity’s 2030 Calling
« Reply #1014 on: September 19, 2018, 01:00:07 AM »
One-on-One with Tom Lin on InterVarsity’s 2030 Calling

"Longing for revival, we catalyze movements that call every corner of every campus to follow Jesus."

Ed: Ministry on 2,500 college campuses is a huge goal. Can you share a bit about how InterVarsity came to this calling?

Tom: When I became president of InterVarsity in 2016, I started praying with InterVarsity’s leadership team about where we were as a ministry and what God wanted to do next through us.

Right now, the Spirit is doing tremendous things on campus. By God’s grace, we have over 1,000 chapters on almost 700 campuses, and are planting ministry on new campuses around the country.

And record numbers of students and faculty are making first-time decisions to follow Jesus in our chapters, more than at any other time in our 77-year history. This propulsive energy has been exciting to watch.

At the same time, as leaders fasted and prayed together, God kept returning us to a challenging truth: 53 percent of the 2,500 U.S. campuses with more than 1,000 students still have no campus ministry to speak of.

That really broke our hearts. By 2030, we want high school seniors to be able to enroll at any college in the U.S. and find a loving, vibrant, missional Christian community waiting there to welcome them. We want every student and faculty member to have the opportunity to hear the gospel and experience the hope of Christ.

So our 2030 Calling is this: Longing for revival, we catalyze movements that call every corner of every campus to follow Jesus.

Ed: Why do you think it’s possible to reach all 2,500 campuses?

Tom: The starting point for us is the extraordinary goodness and strength of God, who wants to do immeasurably more than we can ask or imagine. We recognize that God’s heart breaks for these campuses even more than ours do.

InterVarsity is pursuing a vision for which we have to rely on the Lord completely, ...

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China on My Mind: Why We All Must Care about Our Suffering Brothers and Sisters

Their suffering does not go unnoticed by God, and so it should never go unnoticed by us.

Friends, our brothers and sisters in China covet your prayers.

This past Sunday, Zion Church—one of Beijing’s largest house churches—is being persecuted by Chinese government authorities. These threats came after months of persecution and harassment endured by Zion’s pastor Jin “Ezra” Mingri and many parishioners.

To add some background, the persecution of Christians and other religious minorities has been taking place in China for decades; the country has been listed as a country of particular concern on the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom report since 1999.

But religious persecution as a whole in China has been on the upswing ever since President Xi took office back in 2013. Under his leadership, the nation has tightened its grip on religious affairs taking place within its borders.

In February of this year, a list of Regulations for Religious Affairs was released by the Chinese government with the supposed aim of “protect[ing] citizens’ freedom of religious belief.” The governments actions, however, continue to speak louder than their words.

After Pastor Mingri refused authorities request for the church to install video cameras for “security reasons,” the retaliation began. Parishioners were harassed by government officials. The church’s landlord suddenly evicted them from their building. Pamphlets were distributed to Zion’s attendees advertising the “officially sanctioned” churches that they might attend.

Sadly, this story isn’t told in isolation; churches across the country could tell us similar tales of the ways President Xi and his officials are attacking their religious rights. The Chinese government ...

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