Tuesday, July 28, 2009

PRAYER ~ Give Children an Early Outward Focus

Spotlight On: Praying for My Neighborhood


Praying for My Neighborhood

by Arlyn Lawrence

When God works in a community, He doesn't just use adults. He uses the prayers of kids! Sold in packs of 20 cards. Here's what one customer shared about them:
"Wonderful cards! These cards are not just for children. Although the pictures are designed with children in mind, these prayers are excellent for us as adults to pray for those God has put us near in our neighborhoods."

Below is an excerpt from the Praying for My Neighborhood kids' prayer card:

Families. Dear God, may the families in my neighborhood enjoy peace in their homes. Help parents to treat each other and their children with love. Help children to respect their parents and be thoughtful of their brothers and sisters. Help families who are separated from each other to feel complete in You. (Philippians 4:7; Ephesians 5:33, 6:1-3; Psalm 68:5)

Relationships. Help my friends and neighbors to be the kind of friend that You are, Jesus: patient, kind, forgiving, and thinking of others first. If any are lonely, help them to find new friends. If any are angry with each other, help them to forgive. Give them strength to resist Satan’s attempts to make them argue with each other. (Col. 3:12-13; 2 Cor. 2:10-11)

Environment. Lord, help me and my neighbors to keep our neighborhood clean and beautiful so that everybody can enjoy it. Help us to recognize that the earth and everything in it are Yours and to...

Place an order or preview the whole card.

Save 25% off all kids' prayer cards with code K79N3N6K4:

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Friday, July 24, 2009

PRAYER ~ Talk to God about people before you talk to people about God

Hope For Your Neighbors

by Alvin Vandergriend

On Prospect Street in Grand Rapids, Michigan, four church members met weekly to pray for their neighbors. High on this House of Prayer prayer list were four youths who lived next door, all members of a street gang. The four young men eventually decided to leave their gang. A few weeks later the Holy Spirit nudged the prayer group to witness to them. As a result of the obedience of these prayer warriors, all four young men committed their lives to Christ and joined the church's youth group.

During a seven-year period, Pastor James Halstead and his wife, Kristi, of Sunrise Community Church in Florida, have led eight neighbors to Christ as a direct result of prayer and relationship building. Excited about how God worked, Pastor Halstead began helping his congregation form a similar House of Prayer. Nine people currently meet weekly for intercession, and he hopes to organize more groups soon.

In Washington, D.C., Pastor Scott Hessler and his wife met biweekly with another couple in a House of Prayer. God answered their prayers in amazing ways. First, a neighbor accepted Christ and asked to be baptized. She invited her neighbors—for whom House of Prayer members had been praying—to her baptism. There, those neighbors heard the gospel message....

(Please click here to read, print, or email this article from Pray!'s online archives)

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Changing The Culture ~ Belong to Believe

Church Membership is Not Enough

Let people belong and mobilize servants.


Editor's Note: This entry is a response to an earlier post about the merits of church membership.

Like Thabiti, I believe that connecting to a local church remains an important part of the life of a follower of Jesus. According to Paul, whether we like it or not, when we choose to follow Christ we become part of the "body of Christ." I agree with Thabiti that Paul could not imagine a follower of Jesus who was not connecting with other followers of Jesus in homes or gatherings in the city in which they lived. Rather than thinking we should get rid of church membership, then, I do not believe that church membership is enough.

Too many churches have more members than attenders. In other churches, members may attend, but they are not engaged whatsoever. Unfortunately, membership in a local church sometimes feels like joining a gym. You start going for a few weeks and then stop when you get too busy.

In other cases, churches have allowed the mantra from American Express—"membership has its privileges"—to infiltrate their culture. Church members become more consumeristic or concerned with power than the apostle Paul ever intended.

Finally, the word "member" ends up emphasizing who belongs and who doesn't. As a result, too many of our churches have become a fortress from the world rather than "salt and light" in the world.

We have a different approach at Mosaic. Anyone can be a part of our community no matter where they are in their spiritual journey. People are allowed to belong before they believe. It has been a beautiful experience to see people from diverse ethnic, socioeconomic, and spiritual backgrounds come together to discover that God loves us and that His name is Jesus.

While we have a wide open front door, the path to join our volunteer staff—the team that oversees the lives of others—is very narrow. The women and men serving as part of our volunteer staff have been mentored through "Life in Christ," participated in a seminar about our particular calling as a community, and commissioned to be missionaries, pastors, and mentors in our city. We anoint them with oil and commission them in the same gatherings where we commission our overseas workers.

Since our volunteer staff share our convictions and values, they are encouraged to start new efforts in reaching others and raising up leaders. They commit to live in a God-honoring way, serve faithfully, reach out to the disconnected, and give 10 percent of their income towards our efforts as a community. Not every person who follows Jesus in our community chooses to join our volunteer staff. We will love, serve, and care for anyone in our community. The only reason to join our staff is if you want to be one of those loving, serving, and caring for our community.

Allowing people to belong before they believe and mobilizing volunteers to serve with such a high level of authority and responsibility comes with great risks and great rewards. We joke that we have the same characteristics as the early church—immorality, heresy, and conflict. At the same time, we have discovered the beauty of seeing people choose to follow Jesus and come alive serving in the areas where they are gifted and passionate.

Eric Bryant is an elder, speaker, and navigator overseeing the leadership team at Mosaic, a church in Los Angeles, and is the author of Peppermint-Filled PiƱatas: Breaking Through Tolerance and Embracing Love.

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CITY IMPACT ~ Portland, OR: "Fascinating Things"

When Christians Do 'Fascinating Things'

QUOTE: "Given the demographics, dominant status is not a 'problem' that's going to afflict Portland's evangelicals anytime soon. That's hardly stopping them from doing what has always served Christianity best. Shane Claiborne, a Christian activist based in Philadelphia, described it this way when he came to speak in Portland earlier this year. The best way for Christians to make people know about Jesus, Claiborne declared, is by 'doing fascinating things.' That's clearly what's happening here in 'Jesus' favorite city.' And more and more of the nonevangelical rest of us are becoming fascinated. —Portland, Ore.-based writer and USA Today columnist Tom Krattenmaker, on the noticeable shift in how Christians in his city are perceived.

Through such initiatives as the "Season of Service," which brought together more than 500 area churches to serve the community through various means, Portland's believers are becoming known for their "show, don't tell" approach to sharing Christ and their partnerships with unlikely camps (including Portland's gay, liberal mayor, Sam Adams). " Although Portland is hardly the only place where evangelical Christianity is evolving (and making new friends in the process), there is little doubt that evangelicals here are on the front end of a deep-change trend that is taking Christianity into its new future," Krattenmaker writes. "What's especially interesting is the 'why?'—the strong likelihood that Christianity's best face is showing up here in the unchurched mecca not in spite of the city's secularism and skepticism, but because of them." [usatoday.com, 7/20/09]

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

SHARE ~ Be Careful When Witnessing to Children

Is it possible to communicate the gospel on a child's level? Here are two different perspectives...

Christianity embodies the eternal story of salvation. God sent his son Jesus Christ to earth to die for our sins. At some point, every person must reckon with this man-is he Savior or lunatic?

We in children's ministry have another dilemma related to these faith questions. When can a child fully understand the whole issue of reconciliation? Is it possible to communicate the gospel on the children's level, or is it better to wait until they're older?

We asked two authors to tackle this issue from their perspectives.

Seize The Day!

Statistics slightly vary, but surveys of seminary students and missionaries show that, at a minimum, 70 percent of these people came to know Jesus Christ as Savior before the age of 14. If we dig a little deeper, we'll uncover this startling fact: Over 50 percent of Christians chose to follow Christ between the ages of 5 and 9. If we skip by children at these ages and wait until they're teenagers, we'll be too late.
According to surveys, the numbers of people who choose to follow Christ after the teenage years drop off so dramatically that they become almost nil after age 30. I'd rather err on the side of presenting the gospel to a child "too young," than risk missing that child at the most spiritually sensitive time in life. It may be the only chance that child gets. The question is not, "How young is too young?" but rather, "How old is too old"?

Also, consider that the surveys referred to were of adults. An entire generation of children has been born since those surveys were conducted. This generation is maturing earlier than their predecessors. The "mean age" for salvation seems to be dipping lower with each successive generation.

Many teenagers and adults today say they came to know Jesus as their Savior at 3 years old. We can no longer afford to "save" the gospel message for children we consider old enough to understand. Obviously, the container for the message needs to be adapted for the age group we're ministering to; however, the content of the message never changes.

There are those who feel children may be too young to fully understand the gospel. Of course they are! But in the defense of children, I have yet to meet an adult who fully understands the gospel-even those who've been Christians for decades!
Remember, Jesus told us the kingdom is made up of "such as these." There's something about child-like faith that makes it easier for a child to understand the gospel than it is for most adults. One of the main differences between an adult's understanding and a child's understanding is language.

Analogous to translating the Bible into a foreign language and presenting it to indigenous peoples, we need to translate the gospel well enough for children to receive Christ-whether they are in preschool or sixth grade.

If children have not yet received Christ, by all means, give them a very clear and direct opportunity to do so. As children grow older, they become hardened and spiritually calloused. Don't let children slip into the tumultuous teenage years without God.===>Click headline for complete article . . .

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Love Your Neighbor - The Essence of Prayer-Care-Share

ePistle: Evangelicals for Social Action Newsletter,    promoting engagement, analysis and understanding of major social, cultural and public policy issues.

Can We Make Neighborly Love a Reality?
by Lori Baynard

“In our quest to make neighborly love a reality, we have, in addition to the inspiring example of the Good Samaritan, the magnanimous life of our Christ to guide us. His altruism was universal, for he thought of all men, even publicans and sinners, as brothers. His altruism was dangerous, for he willingly traveled hazardous roads in a cause he knew was right. His altruism was excessive, for he choose to die on Calvary, history’s most magnificent expression to the obedience to the unenforceable.”
- Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Americans celebrated Independence Day over the weekend, commemorating the signing of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, a document that established some of the fundamental beliefs upon which our country was founded. These beliefs include the conviction that all men are created equal and that all men possess a number of God-given and unassailable rights, including the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

America has defended its freedoms in many wars and has survived numerous external threats that sought its annihilation. Along with these freedoms comes a enormous responsibility, because “to whom much is given, much is required” (Luke 12:48). While most of us are aware of the manifold threats to our nation from without, most of us are ignoring a significant threat that is seeking to destroy us from within—sin. “While righteousness exalts a nation, sin is a reproach against any nation” (Prov. 14:34).

There are laundry lists of favorite sins that we as the faith community love to address. Sexual sins are among our favorites: We have heard them preached against, argued about in the public square, and widely debated in our courts and in our public policies. While we can debate ad nauseam whether adulterous governors should resign from public life or whether gay people should marry, I can’t help but wonder whether we are failing to deal with one of the most deadly sins of all, our failure to love our neighbors as ourselves. Read more.

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SHARE ~ Utilizing the Internet to Impact our Cities

Internet Evangelism Day

IE Day is an initiaive of the Internet Evangelism Coalition, based at the Billy Graham Center, Wheaton

Internet Evangelism Day has a panel of speakers available for conferences, Bible College modules, or ministry consultations. They can address a wide range of digital ministry topics, in a number of countries.

Internet Evangelism Day has released a suggested curriculum for digital ministry, that Bible Colleges and seminaries may consider using or adapting to their own needs:

In several countries and regions of the world, informal networks of ministries are dramatically enhancing overall fruitfulness. When web evangelism teams combine with radio and literature ministry and local church networks, there is huge crossover synergy for effective evangelism and followup of inquirers. It is a model that will work in any country.

Suppose God sent you a letter. And in it, He offered you a gift - a simple evangelistic approach similar to the parables that Jesus used. Something that would engage with people’s interests, and employ a common language and experience. Would you want to use it?

Internet Evangelism Day is convinced that this is exactly God's heart, and that He does indeed offer us a resource which is grossly under-used for ministry: contemporary culture – the world of film, TV, music, theater and books.

In the last year, over 500 churches have used Internet Evangelism Day's church website self-assessment tool and received the free evaluation report that this provides. Each report provides a comprehensive list of suggestions for action that will enable a church's website to better engage with outsiders in their community.

For use in print, you can shorten these URLs thus:
www.internetevangelismday.com/speaker.php = InternetEvangelismDay.com/speaker
www.internetevangelismday.com/building-networks.php = InternetEvangelismDay.com/connect
www.internetevangelismday.com/curriculum.php = InternetEvangelismDay.com/curriculum
www.internetevangelismday.com/popular-culture.php = InternetEvangelismDay.com/popular
www.internetevangelismday.com/church-site-design.php = InternetEvangelismDay.com/design

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Thursday, July 09, 2009

SHARE ~ Showing & Teling the Gospel in Cities

MAC Logo Evangelism Connection view as web page
JULY 2009
Evangelism news from the Mission America Coalition

The whole Church taking the whole gospel to the whole nation - and to the world.

El Paso Surges with Prayer, Bible Reading

LC2C city leader Barney Field, El Paso for Jesus, had a vision for round-the-clock prayer for the city, and in June The El Paso 24/7 Prayer Vision launched with 168 intercessors from 28 churches participating. Intercessors pray in one-hour time slots from their homes or wherever they are, covering the city in non-stop prayer. Also in El Paso, in May the local LC2C initiative coordinated a "Read through the New Testament" campaign at the Mayor's Prayer Luncheon. More than 1,000 of the 1,500 present signed up on the spot to commit to read through the New Testament using a bookmark developed by Barney. The Mayor of El Paso endorsed the bookmark and encouraged those in attendance to join him.

More info

Ivy Jungle Network Reaches Collegians

Ivy JungleThe Ivy Jungle Network serves church-based college ministers, para-church campus workers and college and university ===>Click headline for complete E-letter . . .

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