Monday, March 30, 2009

Culture Change in the Church - Three Possible Responses

A World Marked By the Love of God
John H. Armstrong

A student of mine, for a final paper in a course on apologetics, wrote the following:

At this point, the church has a few different responses that she can take with the shifting realities of culture and public life. One response would be to ignore these realities. While this may seem plausible to some, it is theoretically impossible to responsibly engage the context in which it finds itself through such a response. Another response would be to attempt to reverse the process. This is an attempt to reestablish Christianity as the dominant religion in the world. However, this response seems to be met with a solution of militancy and even violence. The third response is to embrace what God might be doing in our culture. If our world is already marked by God's love, then it seems that the only responsible reaction to this cultural shift is to accept this and give it positive meaning and direction. It's a response that favors using the context to communicate the Christian faith in a way that the context can hear it. The task of apologetics is to embrace this context and respond.

If this is a world marked by the love of God (cf. John 3:16; Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:9, 10) then observing and interpreting culture, and inviting wholehearted response to the God who loves the world, is always an appropriate goal for Christians. As I have attempted to show, this is where my apologetic originates.

Rethinking the Attractional Model of Mission

Most churches in the West were afforded a long-term historical context in which they could use various programs and ministries to invite non-Christians to come to their ministries and churches to join them. This produced everything from "seeker" churches to mass-evangelism. Generally speaking, people came. Sometimes, when Christianity was still a majority religion, they even came in large numbers. This all began to change about 25 years ago. This model can no longer produce the fruit it once bore. Now it seems to draw Christians from one congregation to another, but rarely does it reach the genuinely non-religious, the fastest growing category in our mission field. (I realize that there are still those rare places where this approach works, but time and continual change will eventually reach into these places too. Many of the more effective mega-churches are quickly and correctly adapting to this new reality.)

What I believe is called for is a new approach, an approach rooted in the missional mindset. The word missional is derived from the missio Dei, or the mission of God. As the Father sent the Son (John 20:21) so we, as God's people, are now being sent as a people (in our shared life together) to be his divine mission in the world. If we are missional people then the apologetic we need must be a missional apologetic. To grasp this we need to understand that there is a certain quality about this "sentness" in John's Gospel that requires us to engage apologetics as a community, not privately. Traditionally, we have understood apologetics as the work of individuals making various arguments with their friends in one-on-one contexts. Or, even worse yet, we think of apologetics as the work of a professional philosopher who debates non-Christians so they can demolish the arguments we cannot handle on our own.

Missional Apologetics

Missional apologetics sees all of this very differently. (This term is not specifically mine. I was using it for several years before I discovered that others were doing the same.) Missional apologetics recognizes that God has called the church to be a living community of relationships where the lived arguments for faith flow out of the life that we share together. Missional apologetics relies on the gospel lived and taught. It does not decry powerful preaching and teaching but it says these are not enough. It is, if the truth is seen, an apologetics that looks more like what we see in the story of the New Testament itself.

Missional apologetics is also a dynamic engagement. It seeks to listen and ponder the questions people are actually asking now, not the ones they once asked in an earlier time. Missional apologetics believes that the answers to people's questions are generally discovered in the mysteries of the Christian metanarrative (big story) as this story is lived out in Christ-centered churches. Missional apologetics also requires us to learn how to listen to the Holy Spirit's direction in our conversations and human relationships so that we truly believe that each person is someone loved by God and precious to their Creator. To listen well will take more grace and disciplined practice. Too many of us want instant response. Even fewer of us have the disciplined practice, since very few of our churches are geared to the actual people who are outside our own religious culture.

Proper Confidence

For some years my favorite primer on postmodern apologetics has been a little book with the title, A Proper Confidence (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995). Written by teacher and missiologist J. Lesslie Newbigin (1909-1998), this book is a small treasure of only 110 pages. I have read it many times and highly recommend it to everyone. I make it a required text when I teach apologetics. Newbigin rightly concluded that "we are invited to respond to a word of calling by believing and acting, specifically, by becoming a part of the community which is already committed to the service of the Builder" (A Proper Confidence, 66). Missional apologetics has confidence in the gospel lived out, not in mere human arguments.

What I think Newbigin means in this statement is not hard to grasp if we take the time to think about it. In John 1:35-50 those who followed Jesus invited people to "come and see" the one who had transformed their lives. This invitation is very different from the older way, a way which said, "Go and see." This "come and see" response focuses upon communal involvement and active participation in the life of Christ. This response is comfortable with processing new ideas and seeing old things in entirely different ways. It allows for doubt but it leads to lifelong learning and deep personal trust in the God who reveals himself.

We learn in the Scripture that when people "come and see" the process is just beginning. People's questions are never answered all at once. In fact, people only grow within relationships as they interact with Jesus and other Christ followers. But as they go along in this journey of faith their questions often change! "What does it mean to truly follow this one who is the Lord of all?" "How do I live a life that is radically opposed to the consumerism of my culture?" "How do I lean into my deepest questions in a way that pushes me to Jesus day after day?"

Belonging and Believing

My colleague, Dr. Rick Richardson, has written a helpful book called ReImagining Evangelism (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity, 2006). In his book Rick observes what so many of us have experienced in the missional apologetical context: "Belonging comes before believing." A person comes and sees and then they begin to understand. They observe us, our actions and convictions, and choose to believe and follow the same Christ that we love. It is thus helpful to always keep in mind this John 1 story. The disciples of Jesus invited others to come and see. They invited people to go beyond their questions, to enter into the actual missional story being lived out. If I could put this in a modern way I would say they invited their friends to use reason, experience and emotion, understanding that each had a proper place in how people came to know Christ. But the primary emphasis was not on reason and certainly not on Enlightenment arguments for reason.

Some of my students, particularly those who engage college students in evangelism, tell me how they see new believers coming into the kingdom through this missional approach. One example will suffice. A student came to believe in Christ over the process of several years in a college setting. She had a strong sense of justice when she first began to seek. This drew her to an InterVarsity group on campus because she found Christians there who wanted to live out Jesus' teaching about the poor and marginalized. Though this student often argued with Christians about many points of faith, she felt welcome to keep coming with her questions. She valued the honesty that she witnessed when she met people who did not pretend to have all the answers. She listened and tried to deal with the problems she had which were associated with the exclusive claims of Jesus to be "the way, the truth and the life" (John 14:6). My graduate student told me that when this young lady came to faith it was hard to actually tell when it finally happened. She simply moved from belonging to believing-from the darkness to the light. The proof of conversion could be seen when this student, in her senior year, was sharing the gospel by mentoring and reaching freshmen with the gospel that she had once rejected. She had belonged and now she truly believed.


Newspapers regularly report that the influence of Christians in our culture is in a state of disrepair. Much of this reporting tells a very negative story. (Such reporting is not always fair but we should not be surprised by it!) The general feeling we have is that Christians do not get a fair shake in the press. The result of this is that Christianity is increasingly seen as the least desirable of all religious options in the West. We need to be honest about this: It is what it is. And this is a major reason why the older approaches to people's misconceptions about Christianity do not work. What then are we to do?

We must engage non-Christians as friends. We must equip ourselves for unexpected conversations so we can seize opportunities to talk about being Christ followers. (Note: I use this designation on purpose. I do not refer to myself as a Christian in most conversations with non-Christians. I use the more neutral, but very biblical term: "Christ follower.") Teachers of the Christian faith must help people understand the different approaches that can be taken so we can discuss spiritual issues. People are very open to spiritual conversations. But people will ask questions that we cannot answer. The best response we can offer them is: "I do not know the answer to that." Or, "I do not know the answer but I will seek to find one and try to share it the next time we talk."

Finally, the overriding force in such an apologetic context will not be our rational arguments but our lively demonstration of Christ's love and humility. We should be informed. We should learn how to respond. But at our very best we can, and we must, love better.

A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another (John 14:34-35).

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Friday, March 27, 2009

LC2Connections #6 - Conference Call + Interview + Skeleton Notes

Loving Our Communities to Christ
Issue: #6 Promoting the Prayer-Care-Share Lifestyle
April 1st - Wednesday - Special Announcement!

The LC2C Learning Community reconvenes for 60 minutes of thought stirring, stimulating conversation. Leaders from all 17 LC2Cities are invited to call-in, think-hard and talk-up.

Lc2Coach Tom White will be interviewed (10-15 minutes) on a topic that came up in Boise during a February two-day prayer emphasis (hint: see the interview in this edition) ... followed by open discussion on what we are learning about sharing the gospel in a rapidly changing culture.

1-712-451-6000 -- Code: 268855#

Noon eastern / 11am central / 10am mountain / 9am pacific

Skeleton Notes for Pastors [1:72 ]
Uncomplicating LC2C
One of our coaches asked for my "skeleton notes" to help him prepare for a presentation to pastors in a new LC2City ... It made me think leaders and pastors in all of our cities might benefit from a skeleton review too - -

I am concerned that we seem to be more successful at exciting local leaders on the collaborative (mezzo & macro) possibilities than the congregational (micro) elements of LC2C. Macro events definitely stir action at the congregational level but we must seek opportunities to challenge pastors to integrate prayer-care-share into every aspect of their ministry:
  • Permeate P-C-S into every believer's life (children, youth, adults)
  • Saturate P-C-S throughout every ministry in the church (classes & committees, teams & groups, events & activities)
  • Penetrate P-C-S into neighborhoods & sub-cultures trough dedicated and deployed Christians (individual witness plus affinity group projects)
Hope something here helps you,

The Elevator Speech

What is Loving Our Communities to Christ?
  1. Catalytic: think framework, not programmatic
  2. Culture Change: our goal is nothing less than a dramatic change of how the church functions; an internal culture change that results in community impact
  3. Prayer-Care-Share: congregations change as pastors/leaders model, teach & train, celebrate, restructure church life on the foundation and expectation of every believer praying for, caring about and sharing with people who need the faith, hope and love of Christ.
  4. Loving Our Communities to Christ: as we stir a change toward a multitude of Christians actively pursing and expressing a prayer-care-share lifestyle, we believe the community will recognize we are loving them for Christ, with Christ, to Christ.

How does the national LC2C team help a pastor?
  • Your City Lead Team can connect you to your city's coach to discuss customizing Prayer-Care-Share to your congregation
  • Your coach can help your leadership develop a prayer-driven strategy to implement prayer-care-share throughout every aspect and activity of your church
  • You are part of the LC2C Learning Community which is currently 17 city movements:
    • Don't miss the next LC2Conference Call with leaders from many of our cites
    • Look for a Regional City Impact Roundtable later this year
    • Ask your coach what he is catching in our team calls
  • Your LC2C coach serves on a team of specialists who are available to coach/consult in:
    • How to Design a Lead Team Meting
    • Strategic Prayer-Driven Planning
    • Training for Pastors:
    • What is (and how do we get!) Culture Change?
    • How do I Implement Prayer-Care-Share?
    • Training for Church Members
    • Gutless Evangelism
    • Community Impacting Prayer
    • Reconciliation
    • Macro or Mezzo Event Planning and Production
    • Prayer Summits for Pastors ... For Marketplace Leaders
    • Measuring Progress in Churches and Across the City (City Faith Survey)

Our questions to the local collaboration:
  • Have you assessed what God is doing in your city to determine who, what, where and when? (For example, do you know how many congregations are praying for lost persons? How many food pantries are serving hungry and homeless people (could they consolidate purchasing or distribution services to save expenses or avoid duplication?) Who is not part of our network but is passionate about or pursuing revival or justice or community development or evangelism in he name of Christ?)
  • Who among those (congregations or ministry organizations) serving in the name of Christ has yet to be informed, invited or included in your city movement?
  • Are pastors willing to "launch" an emphasis on prayer-care-share that will:
  • Coordinate first steps (such as a Go To The Wall Sunday or agreeing to use Go Fish together on the same Sundays )
  • Cooperate in training (a central training event or regional options to equip members in praying-caring-sharing)
  • Collaborate in accountability (reporting results and meeting to prayerfully evaluate approaches and next steps)

Communication Tools - Click here
  • The "Elevator Speech" ~ LC2C 101
  • LC2C FAQs (.pdf)
  • The Role of Coaching
  • ( View Online | Download PDF )
  • Appreciative Inquiry: Seeing Your City with New Eyes
  • The Seven Questions ~ Staying Focused and Faithful
  • Casting The LC2C Vision Citywide
  • Measurable Objectives (.doc)
  • Strategic Planning Grid (.pdf)
  • Coaching For Your City's Prayer Movement
  • Partnership Training - Steps Toward More Effective Collaboration
  • How Pastors Develop A Prayer-Care-Share Culture
  • Prayer, Care, Share Tools
  • LC2C Blog: The Latest Stories, Stats & Strats
  • LC2Connections - Impacting Through Communication
  • Community Influence & Impact: Six Paradigm Shifting Articles
  • Put Us To Work!

SHARE ~ Rethink The Gospel
Phil Miglioratti interviewed Todd Hunter, author of Christianity Beyond Belief

Inner~View #58: Rethink the Gospel
book cover
===>Click here to access information or to purchase the book

Phil ~ Todd, let's get right to it ... This book is your attempt to help Western Christians rethink how they think about the Gospel. You are not advocating any change to the biblical gospel of Jesus Christ but you are challenging us to communicate it differently. Agree or disagree? ...and if so, why is it so important that we rethink the gospel?

Todd ~ That all depends Phil-if someone thinks the Gospel has only to do with forgiveness of sins so that they can go to heaven when they die, then yes-I am challenging that notion of the Gospel. That reductionistic version of the Gospel is only a part of the Gospel according to Jesus-The Gospel of the Kingdom. The Good News of LIFE in the Kingdom through the grace of God in Jesus is what the Gospel is all about. Forgiveness and heaven need to be seen in that context. They are included in the Gospel, but the Gospel cannot be reduced to mere forgiveness and be expected to produce disciples as well. We only have to look back over the last couple of generations in America to see that this is obviously true.

We need to re-think the Gospel so that it primarily has to do with our life-of which death is just a part. Eternal life is not spatial-out there beyond the stars somewhere; neither is it chronological-out there somewhere in time. It is not about mere existence-even dead things continue to exist-just look out the window and see a dead weed, plant, etc. Eternal life is a qualitative term. It is about the kind of life described in John 17:3-"knowing" God and his Son. Eternal life describes an experiential knowing of God-a relationship with begins in this life and extends to eternity.

Phil ~ Several who endorse your book have made significant statements. Please comment:

Todd ~ It is a little hard for me to say for sure, but I think what most of them have in mind is the vision for what it means to be a Christian based on an understanding of the Gospel of the Kingdom. Here is the problem: the Gospel of going to heaven when die routinely ignores life in the Kingdom. On the hand the Gospel of the Kingdom includes everything about Jesus: virgin birth, life, teachings, works, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension and present day ministry...which naturally then brings our whole life into play.

Phil ~ Richard Foster believes your book will "stir your heart, engage your mind, enlarge your soul and reshape your imagination" ...

Todd ~ I am trying to give people a new imagination for what it means to be a Christian in this life based upon the Gospel according to Jesus...not just the Gospel about Jesus. We need both in order to make discipleship more natural and routine.

Phil ~ Brian McLaren speaks of your "radical commitment to digging deep to truly 'get' the good news of the kingdom of God" ...

Todd ~ This is an easy one Phil-but people seldom pause to think about it. The Kingdom of God is the rule and reign of God. It is the expression of his being, his will. It is the realm in which what he wants done is actually done. This is why Jesus taught us to pray "Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done..."

Thus the Kingdom is preeminent. The church is secondary; it is created by the ruling and reigning of God. The church is the instrument or the means through which God does his work on earth. So maybe a good way to think of it is: Kingdom first, church second, denominations a distant third!

Phil~ Dallas Willard claims you "rethink the central concepts of Christian life in terms of contemporary experience" ...

Todd~ ~ Radical simply means to get to the root of something. I am trying to get to the root of Christianity: to be the cooperative friends of Jesus, seeking to live constant lived s of creative goodness, for the sake of others, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Phil ~ John Ortberg tells us you "are part of a movement to rediscover the true meaning of Jesus and how we are to respond to it" ...

Todd ~ Yes, I think there is a movement. It includes pastors, scholars, campus workers-anyone who preaches the Gospel and works in discipleship. The "movement", in my view is a reaction-a positively motivated reaction aimed at two things. 1) Have we been preaching, under the demands of marketing sound bites, a truncated version of the Gospel? 2) How can we understand and preach the Gospel so that those who hear it, naturally, as a consequence of it, become followers of Jesus.

Phil ~ You offer a new set of Four Spiritual Laws - Why is a new set/approach necessary? How are they different than the classic Four Spiritual Law first written in the early 1950's?

Todd ~ As I said above, we need a new way of thinking about the Gospel that leads to the holism inherent in the Kingdom Of God. What I offer is not really a replacement for the Four Spiritual Laws. Rather, I hope it is a new way to explain what it means to be a Christian. To do this I put Christians and Christianity back into its larger story. I show that God's intention with humanity (Adam and Eve), Israel and the church are the same: to be his cooperative people, living constant lives of creative goodness, for the sake of others, through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Phil ~ Your initial engagement changes from "God loves you and has a plan for your life" to " Become a cooperative friend of Jesus." What is the difference and why it is important?

Todd ~Some how the part about "God having a wonderful plan for your LIFE..." has gotten lost in the pursuit of what happens when we die. I am trying to bring "life" back into the picture. "Cooperative friends..." is simply a way to explain, in an easy and straightforward manner, what the plan of God for humanity might look like.

Phil ~ One chapter subtitle immediately caught my attention: Maybe Jesus Didn't Intend To Start a World Religion. What does that mean and what are the implications for the typical or traditional church?

Todd ~ It is startling to say, but Jesus was not a "Christian". That word was only first used in Acts 11.26: "The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch." Even then the word did not refer to a world religion as we think of it. It was actually a very specific term used to describe a very specific group of people: disciples of Jesus-learners and apprentices of Jesus.

It is easy to see that Christianity as a world religion had slipped very far from being followers of Jesus. There are many followers of Jesus within Christianity, but not the majority by a long way. I only mean to point out that was calling people to follow HIM, not what hundreds of years later became "a religion".

Implications for the church: we are not trying to create adherents to a religion; we are trying to make disciples in the manner of the Great Commission. I love the way Peterson gets The Great Commission in The Message:

"Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life... instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you..."

This is a way of is not the picking of a religion from among the various choices of world religions.

Phil ~ Just because we speak our message does not mean the culture hears the authentic, biblical gospel. How long / what will it take for the Church to change the way we present the gospel so the current culture can truly hear the message?

Todd ~ Because of the outstanding work of people like Tom Wright, Dallas Willard and others we are getting there. Those two men along with books like Missional Church are giving thousands of young leaders a new imagination of what it means to be the church.

I think we present the Gospel as a huge gift for LIFE! Yes; death is the last and greatest enemy. Yes-it is unspeakably important that our sins are forgiven through Jesus. But forgiveness is not the finish line-it is the starting line-the starting line of a new life. In receiving forgiveness and beginning to follow Jesus as his cooperative friends, we are given a brand new life-with more of the same life coming to us in the ages to come, a life which will never end.

But that life starts now. As we follow Jesus, which is the greatest invitation ever given to humanity, we become humanity as God intended. This message has much more potential on our current social climate. The vast majority of people out side the church cannot any longer abide the notion that you can say a sinners prayer, live like hell and then go to heaven when you die. Seekers instinctually know that to follow God has to include more than that reductionism.

I do not doubt that God in his love may accept millions of people who only say the sinner's prayer-in fact I hope he does! But that is beside our point here. Here we are talking about how to have Christian LIFE.

Phil ~ Todd, please write a prayer you hope each reader will pray along with you ...

Todd ~ May Jesus' announcement of the Gospel of the in-breaking of the Kingdom come true in our lives. May the rule and reign of God capture our hearts, minds and imaginations. May the Holy Spirit lead us to live our present lives as the cooperative friends of Jesus, in constant creative goodness for the sake of others.

The Impact of a Prayer Summit


"Phenomenal time of refreshing! So helpful to steal away from the business and recharge. This makes me a better leader for my church and the Lord."

"The powerful presence of God was amazing as we worshipped in unity.

"This was my 11th Prayer Summit. The presence of God, the openness of each one here, the intensity of the prayers all made for a time of spiritual refreshing. We sensed God's anointing!"

"A great opportunity to meet and spend time with church leaders, and to see their hearts for unity and a deep concern for our community. It was amazing to see how God continues to break the hearts of those who love Him and desire to see His hand move over our city."

"I've appreciated the Spirit led prayer and worship. I've been encouraged by the cross-denominational respect and affirmation. I believe our prayers and worship directly affects the spiritual atmosphere here. Thank you for including us."

"Since 1996 I have continued to be amazed at how God "shows up" when pastors come together in unity in His presence. This Summit was one of the top three for personal impact in me, and it feels as if a fresh "wind" of the Spirit is blowing through Branson."

During our small group the compassionate prayers of those who laid hands on me allowed me to experience a special touch from God. Awesome, awesome prayers."

"Being with other brothers and sisters in Christ in focused prayer is a real blessing. Most of all being touched with a fresh presence of the Lord brings great refreshing. Thank you for investing in the churches of the lakes area."

"Once again the Pastor's Prayer Summit was wonderful. Very touching one on one ministry. I was greatly touched by the Spirit of God. Great unity in the Messiah Jesus."

"Refreshing, cleansing. Wow. Thank you!

"Uplifting! Encouraging! Strengthening! Came out able to speak to dreams that seemed to have died but were brought back to life. It was great to be with fellow soldiers in the battle. It is wonderful to know you're not alone."

"Thank you for the time shared with fellow believers. This time has enriched our lives. We look forward to the next Prayer Summit."

International Renewal Ministries is a fountain head of information and provides facilitators for citywide or regionwide prayer summits. Click here to make contact.

CARE ~ Reaching Out to the 70%
Students Graduate than Evaporate

Phil Miglioratti interviewed with Pat Siler of inerlinc

Phil ~ Pat, statistics and surveys about graduates after leaving high school are alarming .. tell us about your passion to prepare and reach students with the Gospel during this period of transition...

Pat ~ Approximately 70% of high school graduates stop attending church. From my own family, here's a quote, "Dad, I would never have imagined doing what I have done these past years of living life my way..... instead of God's way! Now I have to undo these poor choices yet still live with the consequences that have caused great pain and shame." In the past six months my 27 year-old daughter and her husband have joined a church and are finding truth, grace and purpose. My 24 year-old son and girlfriend are now reading the Bible together and contemplating the church scene. Thank you Lord Jesus for your pursuit, grace and forgiveness upon my children and for all the young adults in every city in America.

My passion began long before these statistics. At the age of 15, I ran away from God and church, indulging in every thing that I could buy, use and abuse. In my early 30's a friend whom I used to party with, gave me a Christian music cassette, which challenged me to question my lifestyle. A few months later he invited me to a Steven Curtis Chapman concert where I accepted Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.....No tracts, no preaching, no telling me I had to attend church, simply loving me despite my foolish lifestyle, praying for me, caring enough to invite me and then turned it over for the Holy Spirit to do only what He could do through SCC and his music on October 17, 1991. Wow...transformation which continues today....

Phil ~ How can the interlinc initiatives help a citywide movement focus on students?

1. First and foremost by encouraging every city towards intercessory prayer, asking God to reveal His heart for those students attending schools in the city/region. Speaking a blessing upon each student, faculty member and administrator in every school in the city. (LC2C within your schools)
2. Encouraging the city youth leaders to start or get involved with networks of other youth leaders within their city. (Critical to the success of transformation of the schools).
3. Pray that God will raise up student leaders/ministers in each school.
4. Pray that God will bring forth spiritual fathers and mothers
5. interlinc's President Allen Weed is a 25+ year member of National Network of Youth Ministries and has developed long standing relationships with youth leaders over the past 25 years
6. interlinc's staff gets this generation!! We are a crazy group of youth leaders, very involved in youth ministry in our local churches and communities.
7. My personal commitment, to assist cities as needed: as a former youth pastor, city network coordinator, both locally and regionally, currently market place minister and serving on the core leadership team for Transformation Traverse City, MI

Phil ~ How can the Adopt-A-School initiative involve marketplace leaders?

Pat ~By engaging with the city intercessors, youth leaders, students and churches providing the financial resources needed to see the ConGRADulations CD/DVD/Gift Book given to every senior in every public, Christian, Catholic, and Charter School in cities throughout America.

As market place leaders receive the insights and affirmation for which they are being called as market place ministers, they will begin to see their companies, schools and cities as their mission field, thus bringing together the church of the city and Kingdom resources for Kingdom purposes, resulting in transformed schools in the city.

Sample Scenario:
Graduating class of 1200 city-wide from four high schools
(12) market place leaders/ministers adopt the schools to provide financial resources for the distribution of the GRAD project (less than the cost for a sub sandwich combo with fries and pop per graduate) ...

Bringing the good news of Jesus Christ through the use of music/media/print. Note: Statistics show that the average teenager today spends 44.5 hours per week in music and media alone.1
Phil ~ Explain the ConGRADulations! resource and how it has been used by youthworkers.

Pat ~ This year's CD/DVD/Gift Book project is titled iM4u and includes:

A Music CD with 14 powerful songs dealing with success, money, failure, future, personal faith, life-long friends. Features the top names in Christian music: tobyMac, Relient K, Flyleaf, Hawk Nelson
Media DVD-over 50 minutes including Dave Ramsey, Francis Chan, student sharing insights and wisdom gained through both poor and good choices they have made.

48 Page Gift Book- challenging questions from each song complete with scriptures, testimonies from artists and students, including all song lyrics.

Plus 30+ web links to Grad advice books, year in review video, an online Bible and Ministry-based transition web sites

In the past decade ConGRADulations! has been given to over 1 million grads by 25,000 churches, primarily through youth groups, parents and students.

Phil ~ If someone is interested in receiving more information or discussing how this might look in their city, how would they reach you?

Patrick Siler
888- 515-7127 // 231-360-1040

On the totally interactive site, leaders can listen to songs, view video clips, read pages from gift book - Click here

Click here to download a free PowerPoint presentation for your city.

Phil ~ Pat, please write a prayer for the students in our cities and we'll pray with you as we read it ...

Pat ~
Precious Father, Lord Jesus....You Oh Lord reign over the entire world. You Oh Lord are the Alpha and Omega...The King of Kings and the Lord of Lords. Who of us can say to the mountain to rise or fall, who of us can speak to the wind and command it to stop? Who of us can silence the storms of the oceans.....Only You Father God only You

Forgive us when we try to figure You out, forgive us when we spend countless hours days and weeks in meetings without inquiring of YOU....Yes Lord inquiring to you ....seeking You....listening to You through your Spirit, Your word and Your people whom You have prepared for this hour....Father God Abba Daddy....break us of our old ways of thinking, impart in us Your wisdom, Your revelations, Your compassion, Your peace....yes Jesus peace....peace hmmm...peace my friends...... receive this....................... Thank You Father ....Thank You Holy Spirit...Thank You Jesus......and as we rest in Your Peace.................................Bring forth spiritual fathers and mothers for Your young people, young adults who have been called, assigned, commissioned and anointed by You Father God......Bring forth these disciples to who will see with your eyes and hear with Your ears what You are doing, in these young people and young adults. Align these spiritual fathers and mothers to Your train, intercede and release this assembly of young adults....may we stand in the gap so that none should perish...Oh Lord impart in us the message in Luke 10, Romans 12 and Ephesians 4:11-17 may this burn deep within us....and may this be released into this young they love deeply, pray fervently, care more for others than themselves and share through the authority given by you with the power of your Holy Spirit living within us.

The Adopt A School Initiative.
We are working with Christian businessmen and market place leaders to give the ConGRADulations! Class of 2009 Gift to entire senior classes. We have had good response to this all across the country as an outreach ministry. We would like to partner with Mission America in 5-10 of your targeted cities to do an outreach using the ConGRADulations! Grad Gift to the entire senior class at multiple high schools.

The Graduation Invitation Initiative.
There will be 3 million grads in the class of 2009. Each of them will send out 20 graduation invitations. We know that many of the invitations will land on the kitchen counters of Christians who are interested in giving a gift that will be used and appreciated and have spiritual impact. When Christians are unable to find a gift that meets the criteria, they opt for the gift card or cash option. We believe that the ConGRADulations! CD-DVD-Gift Book is the perfect answer for thousands of Christians. We would like to partner with Mission America to let believers know about this powerful, low-cost graduation gift.
If you've gotten this far ...
then I hope you realize how this edition can::
  • Excite pastors about developing a prayer-care-share church culture
  • Encourage marketplace Christians to participate in your city's collaborative efforts
  • Explain LC2C and P-C-S to those who need to join the movement
SO - May I ask you to add a note to the top of an message then forward this to your network of colleagues?

Your city will benefit and we'll be grateful,
Phil Miglioratti
for the entire LC2C Team
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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

PRAYER ~ Prayer Summit Births Transformation

Prayer Transforms a City

Discover how churches and pastors praying together can unite a city for Christ.
If what you say is true, then what you are experiencing in Lubbock, [Texas], is nothing less than a miracle!" The reunion of two friends, one ministering in Austin, Texas, and the other in Lubbock, came at a prayer gathering in the state capital last fall. The two had worked together on the same church staff in Lubbock more than 20 years before. Both were now serving as senior pastors of new churches that had been established since those early days in west Texas.

The story of what the Lord had been doing in Lubbock was almost unbelievable. Twenty years earlier the city was known as a "city of churches," with a different congregation staking its claim on every other street corner.

Suspicion among churches was the norm. The attitudes of one congregation for another--often even within the same denomination--ranged from ambivalence to outright mistrust. If they did not actually view one another as the enemy, they were at least "the competition."

Churches viewed each other as nothing more than obstacles to be overcome as each congregation battled to carve out its own empire. And empires they were, with the largest Baptist, Methodist and Church of Christ congregations in the nation making Lubbock their home.

But in the last four years something phenomenal has taken place. A vibrant and growing prayer movement is penetrating the city, changing the hearts of Christian leaders, instilling a refreshing hope in the hearts of laymen and leaving in its wake a new kind of church.

The church that is emerging in Lubbock is a city-church, which rallies around a shared devotion to Jesus Christ. It is a church that has awakened with a kingdom vision--a vision greater than any single congregation.

Busily preparing the way of the Lord through fervent, prevailing prayer, believers in the city are truly beginning to love one another regardless of denominational labels or ecclesiastical preferences. The citywide movement is such a departure from the past that city officials, educators, journalists and outside observers are beginning to take notice (see related story on page 27). The story of how God is bringing these things to pass in this most unlikely of places can be told by the milestones along the pathway to prayer in the city.


The first recognizable milestone was the First Citywide Pastors' Prayer Summit held in the fall of 1995. Attendance was modest considering the number of pastors in the city. Still, something was birthed as pastors set apart three days for prayer for one another and the city.===>Click headline to access complete article . . .

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Friday, March 20, 2009

1-2 Minute Prayer-Care-Share Features >Great Resource

The Lighthouse Report

>>>Note - Click on the headline to access hundreds of 1/2 minute interviews and stories on how Prayer-Care-Share is becoming a lifestyle in individals and in cities . . .

Praying, caring and sharing is happening all over the U.S.! On today’s Lighthouse Report, there’s an exciting update how people are reaching their cities for Jesus Christ!

People are coming to Christ in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! And coming up on The Lighthouse Report, today’s guest shares how Christians have united to make it happen!

Churches in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, now have prayer walls! And you’ll hear more about how lives are changing as a result… coming up on The Lighthouse Report with Steve Douglass.

It’s happening in Cedar Rapids, Iowa! Churches of all types are working together! Check out the update about that on today’s Lighthouse Report!

People in Corvallis, Oregon, are loving their community to Christ! Join host Steve Douglass and his guest for more of the update on today’s Lighthouse Report.

On today’s Lighthouse Report, the scene is Corvallis, Oregon! And today’s guest gives an update of what happening among pastors

When we’re available, God will use us to help change lives! Join host Steve Douglass with some personal insight on today’s Lighthouse Report.

Regrettably, it usually takes a disastrous event like a flood or hurricane to bring a community together. But what can churches do to unite their community in more peaceful times? Phil Miglioratti from Mission America is today’s guest on the Lighthouse Report.

Mission America calls it “Loving Our Communities to Christ.” And Phil Miglioratti defines it regarding the principle of connectivity. “Connect” with us on today’s Lighthouse Report.

Prayer teacher Eddie Smith calls it spiritual arm twisting. Join Eddie and host Steve Douglass for more on that subject on today’s Lighthouse Report.

We call them neighbors because they live right next door or within a few houses away. If they have more “things” than we do, we may be jealous. If they do something we don’t like, we may be angry. On today’s Lighthouse Report Steve Douglass tells us it’s better to love our neighbors. He shares the story about a man who was a good neighbor in spite of distances.

Larry DeWitt says, “Shepherds take care of sheep… Shepherds don’t produce sheep!” How can that statement encourage your pastor? Well, we won’t pull the wool over your eyes… on today’s Lighthouse Report.

Steve Douglass said, “God doesn’t NEED us… but He CHOOSES to use us to be Lights in this world!” Consider the impact your words will have on others this day. Will they curse or bless? Will they put down or lift up? Ponder your Light impact as you listen to today’s Lighthouse Report.

It’s already been awhile since the holidays. How was the time spent with family? Some would say it was challenging. On today’s Lighthouse Report Steve Douglass shares that you may be God’s best plan to reach your family for Christ!


On today's Lighthouse Report author Paul Copan (shown on left) tells us about his latest divine appointment. One short lunch hour changed someone's life for eternity!

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Wednesday, March 18, 2009

CARE ~ Branson Churches Feed 8,425


>>>Note: Branson, Missouri has an off-season that places many in the city's entertainment industry at risk ...

8,425 guests are fed at Loaves & Fishes!

To date 1,476 volunteers have provided 8, 425 guests with a warm, nutritious meal during the past 10 weeks! In addition, an astonishing 3, 234 to-go boxes made their way to neighbors and the homeless. This year’s Loaves & Fishes saw “Hope on the Road” bus ministry provide a ride to the Loaves & Fishes locations as well as welcoming and friendly fellowship from Abby Lewis and other volunteers who ministered to those who climbed onto the bus each night. What they found was acceptance and love and the initial awkward quietness grew into songs and stories (even some guitar playing and hymn singing).
The Loaves & Fishes and Hope on the Road “FAMILY” did not want to see the season end, so as a trial run for the next several weeks will be volunteer groups providing meals on Monday (Branson First Baptist) and Thursday nights (Branson United Methodist).
My hat is off to Dee Klein and to Abby Lewis, whose passion has expanded the scope and reach of Loaves & Fishes. Their enthusiasm and love for the “family” is precious. Abby will now serve as the scheduling coordinator for Loaves & Fishes, and Dee will continue to minister to guests and look for additional ways to meet needs. I will transition from my role into helping College of the Ozarks students, who have a passion for the poor, connect with events and projects in the area where the LORD can use them. To date, 110 C of O students have committed to work on the poverty issue. The students are taking a leadership role in spreading awareness on campus and urging students to get involved. I feel called to encourage them in their efforts.
Loaves & Fishes is a testimony of how powerful the love of Christ is in a community. Seeing 70 groups step up to help those in need has been a joy, and I am humbled at how generous the people of Ozark Mountain Country are.
Thanks for all you have done! The LORD is at work in our community.
Sue Head, College of the Ozarks
P.O. Box 17, Point Lookout, MO 65726

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CARE ~ Special Deal on Resource Package

>>>Note - This offer is from Steve Sjogren, who collaborated with Steve Hawthorne in this year's Seek God for the City prayer guide . .

I am asked via emails that arrive to my "IN" box many times each week "How can I inspire my people to become more outward focused? I don't know how to do it and it's driving me nuts. Please help me!"
I am a bit flustered as well. I have lots of ideas on this front. The challenge is getting things in your hands. This month I have put together a Zinger Pack of three books that are not only just what is needed but they are at an amazingly low price. In fact, this price is so low I had to convince my accountant that this was a decent idea. He called me a nut for wanting to offer you all of these books at half off and free shipping. I am doing this quickly before someone gets in the way and pulls the plug on this deal. (Some of my best ideas have been derailed in the past as you may know - I don't want this one to go that way as well!)
Here are the books:
Changing The World Though Kindness (retail $16.99)
My story of spiritual assault - how do we live lives of serving in times of challenge? It's not all that difficult if you just begin to notice the people around you who are in need. This stuff will preach. Tons of stories here. Called by many the best explanation of the servant evangelism movement anywhere.

Community of Kindness (retail $12.99)
Now that you've experienced a bit of servant evangelism, how do we now integrate it into our daily life as a church? Here are 106 ideas jam-packed into a book that is fast-moving and super practical.

The Day I Died (retail $12.99)
My story of personal break-down that led to rebuilding that occurred a few years ago when my life hit the skids in every way - I even died for a time. This one is worth reading, preaching about the principles and loaning out.

So here's the deal on these three volumes. After my accountant got over his shock of this wild idea of selling all these books at a super low price, he kept asking how much I was going to sell them for. I told him I'd get back to him on that! (The poor guy has a bad ticker - can't take too much stress at once you know.)

Two things: This price is super low: Instead of the retail price of $50.97 (with shipping and handling) we are selling all three of these books (with shipping and handling) for just $25.00.
We are only able to make this offer available for 1 week and quantities are limited, so hurry and place your order before we run out! I know what it is like to be struggling with evangelism, coming up with new, exciting and fun ideas that people can get excited about - These books will go a long way toward conquering this need for inspiration that makes a difference.
Again, the quantities are limited, and this deal is only going to last for 1 week.
Keep walking in the outflow!
Steve Sjogren
Serve! E-Zine | P.O. Box 89357 | Tampa, FL 33689

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Sunday, March 15, 2009

Culture Change. Why We Memorize Verses Rather Than Stories


I made a quick trip to my hometown of Peoria to my former church, Riverside Community Church for their Related Leaders seminar with Leonard Sweet.

Len is an author, futurist, and all around incredible thinker in the church world. I've had the privilege of getting to know him as a friend and have always been challenged when I've had the chance to converse with him or hear him lecture.

His talk was called A Gutenberg Church in a Google World. I'll write a brief synopsis of what I got from what he was saying and round it out with some quotes. If you know me well you know I can be a bit of a manic note-taker.

Tim Schraeder, Park Community Church, Chicago, IL


The Gutenberg Church represents the world and culture pre-1973 (the year the cell phone was invented). The Gutenberg world was impacted by a technology called the printed press. The printed press gave us access to the Bible and opened the door to the birth of an individualistic culture. At one time, books were considered the most anti-social technologies ever invented. Thought and reason, logic and argument were all key in the Gutenberg world.

The Gutenberg mind is very "left brain" dominated. It's logical and linear. It's organized, categorized and sequential.

In the Gutenberg world the book was the delivery system for learning.

But we aren't in a Gutenberg world anymore, we are in a Google world.

The Google world is "right brain" dominated and is all about beauty, meaning, experience and community. The Google world has taken the individualistic culture created by the Gutenberg world and turned it into narcissism. [For more on the left brain vs right brain thing, check out Daniel Pink's book A Whole New Mind.]

The modern church is the result of the Gutenberg world. We learned to do church and ministry through the context of the Gutenberg mindset.

While churches are growing what we are really witnessing is the "Wal-Martization" of churches. Smaller churches are closing and megachurches are growing, but the megachurches are just the smaller churches under a bigger roof. We've "built it" and "they have come", but the people coming aren't new disciples. Things like the seeker-sensitive movement did a great job of getting crowds but a did a terrible job of making disciples.

Today the church is one of the only places still trying to reach people with words. Today's marketers don't spend time or energy trying to sell you with products or words. They use images and stories to sell experiences.

So why in the Church are we still using words instead of story... arguments instead of metaphor? (Why do we memorize Bible verses instead of Bible stories?)
With advances in technology, we are seeing a new way of living, moving and being. A question that the Church MUST answer is "how are we going to incarnate the Gospel in this new world?"

Our words and our mission statements don't connect with our culture. Instead of spending time on crafting mission statements, we should spend time considering what image or metaphor we are going to present to people.

Building an attractional church isn't about attracting people to the Church, but to Christ. But too often we don't trust Jesus is going to drawl people to Himself so we invent and draw on our own ideas to get people there. What we need to do, instead, is find new ways to lift Him up. He's the main drawl.

The Gutenberg way of doing things in a Google world will render the church irrelevant and obsolete. We MUST change.

Misc One-Liners
  • The Church should be one of the most creative, imaginative places on earth.
  • Holiness is not isolation, it's insulation.
  • God is up to something and the question we need to answer is, "Do we know God well enough to know what He's up to?"
  • Churches don't need mission statements, we already have one. It's called the Great Commission.
  • One of the worst things that could ever be said about someone is that they were in the presence of greatness and they didn't recognize it.
  • Pilate was the first postmodernist. He looked in the eyes of Truth and asked what truth was.
  • As the book was the delivery system in the Gutenberg world, the cell phone (mobile technology) is the delivery system for faith and learning in the Google world.
  • Praise music is not meant to be performed but participated in.
  • Illustrate points, animate experiences.
  • In Medieval times, the Church saved arts; in the Google world, the arts may save the Church.
  • It's not our job to make the Word of God "alive to people" - it's already the living Word of God. Our job is to help people come alive to what is already living.
  • Image is everything. Jesus Christ is the image of God. How do we lift up the image of Christ to the world?
  • Every Starbucks is an indictment against the church - they've created the Third Place that the Church should be.
  • A missions trip is not something you take, it should be your entire life.
  • Oftentimes God is more at work in the world than He is in the Church. Too often we get in the way of what God is doing when we get into what we are doing instead of what God is doing.
  • The Church should be a place where you come so you can GO.
  • 2/3 of the Word of God is "go."
  • Our goal should never be numbers or converts, but making disciples.
  • All of our methods of defining a "successful" church are based on consumption standards.
  • The one thing we don't like to say about Christian leadership is that we are not the leader - Jesus is.
  • Leadership is not a role, it's an activity.
  • We were made for a mission to be on mission.
  • Many churches need to re-invent and re-conceive themselves.
Final thoughts: While this is all a bit scattered, I think the message is clear. The world is changing while the church has remained the same, and we're beginning to see the devastating results as the younger, Google generation is moving away from the church. This isn't about being relevant, hip or cool... it's about incarnating the Gospel in a culture that is looking for beauty, truth and meaning. Our job is to translate the Gospel in a language that is connecting and to provide experiences for people to encounter the Living Christ.

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Friday, March 13, 2009

Culture Change. What We Can Learn From A New Hit Country Tune


Christian Country with a Twist

By Jeremy Reynalds
Correspondent for ASSIST News Service

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (ANS) -- Country superstar Toby Keith's New Hit Song "God Love Her" and the accompanying video should be required material for all Christians.

Toby Keith

The video portrays a romance between a preacher's daughter and a motorcycle-riding "bad boy" universally feared by all good "fundamentalist" Christian parents. After receiving heated disapproval from her father, the girl decides to run away with the boy.

The video starts with a white cross, and then moves to a wooden church in a country setting. Organ music plays softly. A pretty girl is alone inside the church popping gum and reading a Bible. The organ music stops and Toby Keith catapults into the picture.

Viewers next see the girl leaving the church and going outside. She walks over to "bad boy," reclining on his motorbike. The young man takes off his sunglasses and looks at the girl as she draws closer.

Holding the Bible to her chest, the preachers's daughter walks over to the young man who has now gotten off the bike. Viewers have already heard Toby sing the words, "Just a girl born in Dixie washed in the blood and raised on the banks of the Mississippi mud. She always had a thing about fallin' in love with a bad boy."

The young woman drops, or perhaps throws, the Bible down on the ground, and "bad boy" runs after her. They embrace somewhat seductively, and the viewer is left to imagine what happens next.

The scene shifts to the girl's horrified preacher father throwing open the doors of the church with an expression of unbridled horror on his face, and then "bad boy" rides away. However, the preachers's daughter runs after her love, and joins him on his bike.

The video shows them riding initially carefree to California. Then Toby sings, "My gypsy life started taking its toll and the fast lane got empty and out of control, and just like an angel she saved my soul from the devil."

The Bible is back in the picture, and the next thing viewers see is a young man who's bad no more. He's now reading the Bible and things are starting to change for the better.

Toby sings, "She holds tight to me and the Bible on the back seat of my motorcycle."

Meanwhile, preacher dad is shown back in his small church where apparently nothing has changed. He is still there "preaching to the choir," while mom gazes dispiritedly into the distance.

The video (at ends with them still riding, but a look of fulfillment on their faces.

Why Christians Need a Song Like This

I'm not a devoted Toby Keith fan (my tastes are more for Randy Travis, George Jones and Josh Turner), but I loved both the lyrics of this song and the video. Why? Because it's so much more realistic than much of the Christian music I used to listen to and, I believe, better reflects our struggles as human beings as we live out our life on a daily basis.

While some online reviewers were disturbed about some of the scenes in the video, many people at one site I looked at agreed with me. One person wrote, "I love this song and the video. It's my story exactly."

Another person spoke my thoughts, writing "The message is good. People walk away from God but they find their way back ... I loved it, and a small walk away from God does not mean all is lost. She found God again ... what a great story."

I couldn't agree more!

Why The Preacher's Daughter Ran Away-My Take

As I watched the video, I wondered why the preacher's daughter ran away. Perhaps it was because her father preached what I have begun to call "The Gospel of No," a lifestyle of condemnation with all rules and none of the life- changing freedom originally intended by Jesus.

After all, if you ask people what comes to mind when they think of Christians, you might be shocked at the results. Here's some of what I suspect you may hear.

"Christians? They're those people who are against everything. They think they're right and everyone else is wrong."

"Christians? They hate homosexuals and people who have abortions."

"Christians? Oh, they're those people on TV who are always begging for money. With everything I've seen about them on the news recently, I think they're all crooks and hypocrites."

Somehow there seems to be a huge disconnect between the Jesus of the Bible and what His followers are known for today.

While we complain about the way we're profiled by the media, is the coverage really unfair? Perhaps we're suffering the effects of our own shortsighted interpretation of the gospel, as well as the strident, angry discourse dispensed by those individuals and groups whom the media believe speak for us.

For example. Maybe some of you will be horrified about some of the scenes portrayed in Toby Keith's video, portraying it as a perversion of the gospel, while failing to realize the message of God's love and redemption which it carries to hundreds of thousands of people who never go near the doors of a church. Am I endorsing Toby Keith as consistently portraying a message that should be welcomed by Christians? Absolutely not! Do I believe that the Lord is using this video and song lyrics to accomplish His purposes? Most certainly!

I think it's fair to say that evangelical Christians (of which I am one in the sense that I hold to a literal interpretation of the Bible) are not known as the dispensers of love and compassion. As a result, we're not necessarily the first people to whom the hurting turn for help.

In our haste to condemn everything with which we don't agree, we have many times failed to offer any solutions for the issues we criticize.

Over the last few years I've had a spiritual epiphany as I've come to realize that rather than being defined for what we are against, we should be known for what we stand for.

Here are some examples. Christians should be the leaders in compassionate assistance for the troubled children of ministers, the disenfranchised, and the hungry and homeless.

And when people whom we try to help don't behave in a societally acceptable manner, rather than writing them off and congratulating ourselves for being Biblically correct, we should try and dig deep into their circumstances to see what issues they are dealing with that are causing them to act inappropriately.

As Christians, we should also be in the forefront of the battle against AIDS and be known as comforters of those who are so afflicted.

On the world scene, we should also recognize that while we have a Biblical obligation to love Israel and its people, we have just as much of a mandate to love the Palestinians and remember their plight and the needs they experience.

As a character said in the John Grisham novel "The Appeal," Pastor Ott "believed and taught that poverty and injustice were more important social issues than abortion and gay rights, but he was careful with his politics ... Ott considered (the entire town) to be his mission, and no one would go hungry, homeless or sick if he could possibly prevent it. Not on his watch, and his watch never ended."

Sometimes preachers's daughters run away with bad boys, people have abortions, get involved with gay rights and become homeless because of tragedies that they've experienced, or needs that haven't been addressed in their lives.

If we begin addressing these issues, we just might end up convincing people that God loves "Bad Boys" and disillusioned preachers's daughters, and that Christians really do bring "good news," not just the gospel of no.

Jeremy Reynalds is a freelance writer and the founder and CEO of Joy Junction, New Mexico's largest emergency homeless shelter, He has a master's degree in communication from the University of New Mexico, and a Ph.D. in intercultural education from Biola University in Los Angeles. His newest book is "The Face of Homelessness." Additional details are available at Reynalds' latest book is "We All Need a Little Help." It was released on October 3 2008. He lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. For more information contact: Jeremy Reynalds at Tel: (505) 400-7145.

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