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August 18, 2014

One Reason People Won’t Join Your Church

Remember hurt can make commitment scary


The book of Hebrews urges us not to forsake assembling together with fellow Christians, but it does not say I have to be a member of your church (Hebrews 10:25). We have all heard the phrase “Church hurt is the worst hurt.” I don’t know if it’s true for everyone, but it has been true for me. The world is a dark place, so many seek to find light in the body of Christ. People expect love from their church families, but when they are bruised, they feel a pain that cannot be described. It pierces the soul. For a victim of church hurt, the thought of church membership can be paralyzing. It can be overwhelming and suffocating. Thus, many have opted for fellowship beyond the walls of church buildings.

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August 14, 2014

How to Really Address Declining Attendance

Reviving the committed in a low-commitment culture


When I was growing up in the Bible Belt, Sundays consisted of church, fried chicken, an afternoon nap, and then another dose of church in the evening. My childhood memories are full of handbells, youth choir, discipleship training, visitation, and potlucks. Fast-forward 20 years and Sundays look very different around town. No longer is the church the center of the family’s social network. According to a recent Barna poll, only 2 in 10 Millennials (those age 30 and under) believe church attendance is important. Even the definition of regular church attendance has changed from those who attend several times a month to once every four to six weeks.

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August 11, 2014

We versus You

Membership makes a church stronger

We versus You

I came to Christ through a parachurch organization as a teenager. Before that time, I had absolutely no church experience. I had attended Sunday school with a friend for a year when I was 9, but other than that, I knew nothing about how churches should operate.

However, when I became a Christian, attending a church became very important to me. I got involved in a low-key church that catered to college students. The idea was to draw in as many students as possible, so the commitment required of us was almost nonexistent. I bought into the idea that any formal church accoutrements were unnecessary and even detrimental. A popular thought bantered around in my church was that the body of Christ could exist without much of anything, even a building. After all, we could meet under a tree and do fine (which was rather odd, since we lived in a northern clime with pretty severe winters).

But as I matured in my faith, I began to notice some flaws in this approach. People didn't stay around one church but quickly flitted from one to another, trying to find something that would hit their fancy. I also noticed a lot of complaining about church, and it usually was phrased, "You should do this in your church" or "If you'd just do that at your church…"

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August 7, 2014

The Promise of Church

Reasons we must go—and keep going

The Promise of Church

In Confessions, Augustine tells the conversion story of Marius Victorinus, an honored philosopher in ancient Rome whose statue stood in the Roman forum. Before his baptism as a Christian, he had vigorously defended the idolatrous Roman cults. After his study of the Scriptures, Victorinus was converted, though he did not immediately pursue membership in the Christian church. "He was afraid to offend his friends, proud devil-worshippers," Augustine concluded.

Victorinus did, however, privately announce his conversion to Simplicianus, a church leader. "Did you know that I am already a Christian?" he asked eagerly.

"I shall not believe that," said Simplicianus, "or count you among the Christians unless I see you in the Church of Christ."

This is a strange story for evangelical ears. Today we can hardly imagine refusing recognition of someone's sincere confession of faith or making salvation conditional upon church membership. Yet 1600 years ago, this was an agreed-upon formulation of obedient Christian faith: if a person wanted to follow Jesus, he or she belonged to the church.

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August 4, 2014

Turning a Blind Eye Is Not an Option

People of God, we must speak up and out against abuse

Turning a Blind Eye

Years ago when I served as an assistant prosecutor, I was approached by a few coworkers (on different occasions) who were working on cases where children were sexually abused by someone in the church. Prosecuting cases where children are abused are the toughest cases to prosecute, in my opinion. Children are among the most vulnerable members of our society, and someone taking advantage of them pierces my heart.

One of the most troubling aspects of those cases was when the churches took sides with the offenders. On more than one occasion they tried to keep the offenses "in house" without going to the proper authorities. Many times the parents didn't go to the police until the church failed to appropriately respond. As a believer, it broke my heart when my coworkers asked me why church members would side with offenders and demonize the victims. They often received phone calls from angry church members who pronounced that the offenders' sins were forgiven. They told us that our office was wrong for prosecuting these cases.

I didn't know these Christians, so it was easy to write them off as crazy. It did bother me that fellow Christians would respond this way, but I subconsciously wrote them off as unbelievers. This is how I processed it. That way, I was able to make sense of it and make peace with it—until I met Taylor* and Bobby*.

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July 31, 2014

On Not Getting Killed

I have a lot to learn about Jesus’ kind of love


Great psychological thrillers, combined with innumerable episodes of crime drama, have given me a healthy appreciation of the dangers of picking up hitchhikers.

In sum: hitchhikers bad. First nicey nicey and uber-friendly. Then stabby stabby and a cold, shallow grave. Generally and basically, it's not the way I want to end my life. So up to this point, absolutely and categorically no picking up strangers along country lanes.

But then there was a bright autumn week that turned out unexpectedly to be hitchhiker week.

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July 28, 2014

A Safe Place to Break Down

An interview with Simone Halpin, director of women’s care at Moody Church

A Safe Place to Break Down

Simone Halpin is director of women's care, part of the women's ministry team at historic Moody Church in Chicago. She sat down with Gifted for Leadership to tell us about an inspiring new ministry to women escaping sex trafficking in her city.

Simone, tell us about Naomi's House.

Naomi's House is a new ministry of Moody Church in Chicago. It will be a suburban home for women who have escaped from sex trafficking and exploitation in the Chicago area. A lot of the women that we plan to serve will be coming straight from Cook County Jail's Women's Justice Program. We are looking for a home that will accommodate up to 15 women. We don't know that that's where we'll start—we may start with something smaller, maybe 4 or 5 women we could serve and get our feet wet a little bit, really develop the program a little more and then grow with it. We haven't decided. We just have kind of waited on God to show us: This is the house.

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July 24, 2014

Lead Me On: Mouthy Mistakes

God gave you a voice—use it

Mouthy Mistakes

I talk too much.

It's a habit. I talktoofast and talktoomuch.

Sometimes I could stand to zip it. I'm working on it.

However, I hate to contribute to what has been a common refrain in society—a common refrain also in some churches. The refrain goes like this: women might need to PIPE DOWN already.

God's opinion on the matter appears to have a refrain more like this: Do not neglect to use your voice.

If ever a story demonstrated that the clear voice of women matters to the God of the Bible, it would be the story of Pontius Pilate's wife.

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July 21, 2014

The Ministry of Orthography

How do you spell team?


We hear it said often, "There's no "I" in team." Yes, that's a fact, but unfortunately some clichés are said so much they lose their power. We know team means working together effectively for the common good, a joint project with shared vision and goals. But the question is; do you really care about working together for a team goal—especially in ministry? Do you really have the team on your mind? Are you really excited about what your team is about to accomplish? Are you thinking about how hard your team has worked to save souls? Or are you more excited about all the praise you'll receive at the end of day? Are you wondering when the current leader will step down so you can take over? Are you happy that the new person with the MBA in Leadership Structure, who kept trying to join the team, finally left the church?

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July 17, 2014

Shut Up and Show Up

Become a minister of presence


My husband and I couldn't eat or sleep. We couldn't think clearly enough to work and yet couldn't imagine being home with the walls caving in around us. We had cried until we were surprised there were any tears left. The news we had received was devastating. We found ourselves in one of those time-stands-still experiences that we had seen happen to others but never expected to happen to us. There was no fix or solution or possibility of wishing it away.

And then my parents showed up. They dropped everything in their lives after our call that morning and made the five-hour drive to our door. Not telling us ahead of time, knowing we would try to talk them out of it, they came not to make it better, but to simply be with us.

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