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Communicating With A Secular Audience
By: Author Unknown
A crucial issue for today’s church is communication. At the heart of the Christian faith is the message of the Good News of Jesus Christ. Yet today this message is one of a multitude of messages people are bombarded with daily. Furthermore, the “audience” has changed drastically. Today, the church faces the increasingly difficult task of communicating sacred meaning to a secular audience.
Here’s a check list of things to consider when it comes to evaluating what you’re communicating today as the church amid the rising tide of secularism:
- Keep it simple. Simplify everything from the bulletin to the sermons. You will communicate better with secular people.
- Translate please. Secular people don’t understand the theological jargon we use. You can simplify Biblical terms without sacrificing their integrity.
- Timing is everything. Time is the new currency. Communication must be concise. If people lose focus because of time, they lose the message.
- Take nothing for granted. The average churchgoer often takes for granted the things new people may not understand. The answer? Define what terms mean.
- Define non- negotiables. Some language and practices simply can’t be changed. Define the non-negotiables and then clarify their meaning.
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This is the third installment in a series on spiritual abuse. The whole idea of spiritual abuse is a very troubling at best. The church was intended to be a place of redemptive recovery facilitated by the grace of God. When manipulative control moves to the forefront it can have a very harmful effect on the people who gather to worship. It also has to be established that spiritual abuse can take place in a reverse order. It can originate from the congregation in the form of a board of elders or a single influential member who controls the pastor through financial means or sometimes through psychological and physical intimidation. Increasingly one will find the reverse order in churches that once had to deal with a pastor who was spiritually abusive.
Spiritual abuse is defined as “the mistreatment of a person who is in need of help, support, or greater spiritual empowerment, with the result of weakening, undermining or decreasing that person’s spiritual empowerment.” It can be defined another way as “destructive and dangerous involvement in a religion that allows the religion, not a relationship with God, to control a person’s life. He also goes on to say, “People broken by various experiences, people from dysfunctional families, people with unrealistic expectations, and people out for their own gain or comfort seem especially prone to it.”Spiritual leaders who resort to this kind of activity may or may not immediately recognize the control they are exerting. The trend usually isn’t immediately recognized but as time passes the cycle of behavior manifests in a manner that has a horrific effect on people’s lives. Even worse is the leader who acclimates himself to a state of denial of his own personal responsibility. To compensate for the increasingly unsettled environment, he may begin to assign all of the spiritual shipwrecks of the past as those who were “wolves” or “rebellious.”
As I filtered through all of the material concerning spiritual abuse, I jotted down a series of questions concerning not just the church but the leader too. They were based more on a rhetorical nature that did not so much require an answer but rather an evaluation of the spiritual health of the place where this activity is taking place.
• What does spiritual abuse do to those who worship there? How does it affect their sense of worship and understanding of God?
• Can God have freedom to transform and can grace really do an adequate work in this atmosphere where fear, intimidation, and manipulation prevail?
• Can true spiritual growth and discipleship take place in this setting?
• What do the actions of the pastor have on his soul in the long term? This was a very troubling question to me personally. What dark things begin to take place in the soul of the pastor who exerts force in such a way that he is never challenged and held to a standard of accountability himself?
• Are his actions motivated by pride of place or position?
• Has he moved from being an under-shepherd to a lord over God’s heritage? Such spiritual abuse literally takes the place of God in the working of the church.
• Is there a sense of the grace of God reflected in any of the public ministry of the Word?
• Is there an attempt to place heavy weights on the people he is called to shepherd?
• Does he empower people to live in a venue of spiritual growth in a public setting as well as within the private confines of the heart?[ read more...]
Matthew 5: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
“Pure” as it is used here in the original Greek is katharos. Katharos is pronounced Kath-ar-os. It means of uncertain Affinity; clean (literally or figuratively): clean, clear, pure.
Jesus declared to the people that day that if someone was capable of having, keeping or obtaining a pure heart, that they would see God someday.
It is the desire of every believer that, one day, they would see God.
However, the enemy of our souls has a desire too. His desire is to keep us from seeing God. Both in this world and in the next. His attempt is to cause us to lose our pure hearts.
One thing that I have found to be universal amongst new converts/believers is the pure heart that the Lord gives to them.
As newborn babes in Christ, their hearts are open to receive anything that the church has to offer them. They trust the ministry and they trust their newfound church family.
Their hearts are pure. Their motives are pure. Their intensions are pure. They are simply thankful to be saved and are happy and content to be a part of the Family of God.
These people are the source of revival in the church. They are usually the ones who bring new people to the church. They tell all their family and friends about what the Lord has done for them. They are not afraid or ashamed to declare their Love for God or what He has done for them.
What makes these people so important to a community’s infiltration of the Gospel?
What makes these people so valuable to the growth and continuance of a church in a given city?
Their pure heart.
- A heart that is pure is capable of loving someone who is unlovable.
- A heart that is pure is able to look beyond a person’s faults and see their potential greatness.
- A heart that is pure has no selfish motives. It only wants to bless those around it.
It labors for the Lord because it loves the Lord and the people who surround their life.
This person is not perfect. They are still human. They still make mistakes. They still sin. But Jesus said that because their motives were correct and their heart was pure, that they shall see God.
So it seems paramount that a believer in Jesus Christ should seek to have and maintain a pure heart.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.”[ read more...]
Here are some foot- dragging steps that are sure to keep you buried in things to do.
Floundering - The failure to focus attention and efforts in a single direction. The cause is a lack of clear-cut goals. This trap can be avoided by crystallizing your goals. Try writing them down on paper. Make them as specific as possible. And Give Them Accomplishment Dates.
Wheel-Spinning - Trying to do something so you'll feel busy but accomplishing little or nothing. This usually happens when we let ourselves get behind in our work and try to assuage out guilty feelings by doing everything at once. You won't solve the problem by frantic activity. Survey your list and make a schedule to accomplish everything in a realistic time frame.
Fire-Fighting - Living in a state of perpetual crisis. We often end up like this due to a lack of planning and goals. It's important to include in your schedule planning time. Take the time to sit down and review your schedule and you goals on a daily and weekly basis.
Vacillation - Indecision. This happens when we fail to weigh the alternatives or consider the possibilities. Get tough with yourself. Weigh the pros and cons, write down all the possibilities and make decisions. Trying to do something and failing is better than trying to do nothing and succeeding.
Dawdling - Drifting, daydreaming, dilly-dallying. This is a failure to keep your goals clearly in mind and make them a priority. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Promise yourself a reward when you've done it.
Spraying - Diverting your efforts to many tasks instead of one; spreading yourself too thin. This is also the result of a failure to focus on your goals. After you've written down your goals, focus all your energy on accomplishing them one at a time.[ read more...]
Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: (Philippians 2:5)
"You can think your way to failure and unhappiness, but you can also think your way to success and happiness. The world in which you live is not primarily determined by outward conditions and circumstances but by the thoughts that habitually occupy your mind." -Norman Vincent Peale
Marcus Aurelius said, "A man's life is what his thoughts make of it."
It has been said that the wisest man who ever lived in America was Ralph Waldo Emerson, the Sage of Concord. Emerson declared, "A man is what he thinks about all day long."
If you think you can have revival, you can.
You get what you preach. If you are preaching revival and believe with all of your heart that revival will come, it will come. It will come with God's timing, and He is bound by His word. And His word says that He hears us when we pray. If we are seeking for His will and are sincerely seeking revival for our church and community, it will come. We have to believe!
"But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come." (Mark 4:29)
If you think your church will grow, it will.
If you are praying for your church to grow, it will. If you plant the seed of faith, and water it with prayers and fasting, the church is destined to grow. It is the will of God for the church to grow. This is His church and He wants it to succeed. We have to get our thinking right, get our attitudes straightened up and get on board with what God has in store for us. Rick Warren, in his book A Purpose Driven Church, tells us to not ask the question "Why is the church not growing," but to ask, "What is causing the church to not grow." Whenever we get our thinking on the right path, the church will begin to grow and mature. Paul wrote to the church at Corinth,
"I have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase." (1 Cor. 3:6)[ read more...]
Few people will deny the theory that a local church stops growing as the size of the church building reaches 80% capacity. The reason for this is purely human and not so spiritual. Most people simply will not tolerate feeling crowded in the pews. Using chairs instead of pews helps this problem somewhat, but eventually the congregants feel like their space is being invaded and soon become uncomfortable.
However, this is not the biggest reason for a church's lack of growth or the reaching of certain size and then growth stopping.
We use the analogy that a fish will only grow to a certain size in a small fish bowl but in a larger pond for instance, the fish can grow much larger. I’m not so sure however, that God’s church should so easily be compared to a fish. I suggest that the building however, is not necessarily the problem in most cases. In fact, we have all seen churches who were literally bursting out at the seams. In many parts of the world today, revival is happening at an unprecedented rate. Pews are packed and chairs are in the aisles. Some churches are utilizing 2-3 services per day to accommodate the crowds.
While it is true that most people don’t like to be in a crowded atmosphere, it is also true that people will come when they are being fed. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me Peter?” Peter responded in the affirmative and when he did, our Lord told him to “Feed my sheep.” He did not tell Peter to house them or get them plenty of exercise. He told him to “Feed Them."[ read more...]
"And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." (John 19:38- 40 KJV)
Upon His death, Nicodemus came to Jesus’ tomb and he and Joseph of Arimathaea, wound the body of Jesus with linen clothes and 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes. This amount of burial myrrh and aloes would have been an extreme even for a wealthy person. The usual custom was to use 20 pounds.
Think of this with me. If any of you have ever baled hay on a farm, you know that a bale of hay weighs around 60-70 pounds. This bale being compacted and compressed into some sort of shape by a baler. In Jesus’ day, there were no such machine. They would have had to carry this in a sack of sorts. Imagine the scene of Joseph carrying the roughly 175 pound body of Jesus and Nicodemus carrying the huge sack with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes for the burial.
Putting myself into this text, I find two men who loved Jesus. Enough, that they would risk their own life to see that the Lord would receive they very best burial they could give. So, Joseph donates his very expensive tomb and Nicodemos, not wanting anyone to smell the decomposing body of Jesus, brings 100 pounds of costly burial aloes. When people walked by the tomb, he wanted them to only notice the beautiful smell of the myrrh and not the rotting flesh of a dead God.
I’m not sure where these two were doctrinally at this point, but I do know that they heard the truth preached to them by the Lord himself. However, I’m not so sure they got what Jesus tried to get them all to understand. “(John 2:19 KJV) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
People often quote John 11:35, “Jesus Wept”. Recently at a funeral of 2 friends, the minister referred to the Lord as a mourner who also wept at the funeral of His friend Lazarus. I don’t believe Jesus wept because his friend was dead. He sure was not too concerned when they told him about Lazarus being sick a few days prior. I am certain that the reason Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend is because of the unbelief of those whom Jesus had spent much time with, trying to convince them that He was the Resurrection. How many funeral processions did Jesus stop to raise the dead? He had proven to all of them that He was able to raise the dead. I believe He went to the tomb of Lazarus hoping to find Mary and Martha sitting in wait, full of faith that regardless of how long it took, Jesus would show up and when He did, He would raise His friend to life again. Jesus did not weep for Lazarus’s death, he wept because of the faithlessness of Mary and Martha. Hear his rebuke to them, (John 11:25 KJV) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”[ read more...]
Any licensed or ordained minister in the U.S. who performs ministerial duties and who is employed by the church qualifies for a housing allowance which is a great tax benefit. Housing allowances are not taxable to federal or state income taxes, so you can save taxes by utilizing the housing allowance. In general the rules are as follows.
To have a housing allowance, you must have a resolution pre-authorizing the housing allowance. A pastor cannot designate his own housing…it must be done by either the church board or the church membership. The amount designated goes to pay all housing expenses: rent or house payment, utilities, taxes, insurance, repairs & maintenance, upkeep, association dues, furnishing & appliances (purchase or repair). Any expenditure that is for the upkeep of the house you live in is included in the housing allowance.
The housing allowance is ONLY for your primary residence, not any other vacation home, etc. The allowance is paid by church funds as a portion of the overall compensation of the minister. The housing allowance used cannot exceed the actual expenses incurred for the housing expenses. The amount paid toward the house payment cannot exceed the fair rental value of the home.
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In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.[ read more...]
- Get Rid of Stuff - Paper, publications and possessions require maintenance; maintenance costs time, energy, space and money. Dispose of seldom or never-used items. Ask yourself, “What will happen if I let this go?” If the answer is “nothing,” get rid of it.
- Limit Your Reading Material – Realize that you can’t read, know, or retain all the information you receive. Set up a reading folder for holding unread information. Pitch the oldest material (read or not) when that space is full.
- Touch it Once – Be decisive: Handle mail only once and move on. Don’t shuffle papers with the vague “I don’t know what to do with this so I’ll put it here for now” Syndrome. Use a simple DRAFT technique – Delegate, Read, Act, File or Toss – the first time you touch it.
- Think Before Acquiring More – Evaluate before accepting new items. Get off mailing/routing lists that serve no purpose. Ask yourself if you really NEED this item.
- Organize Before Increasing Space – The more space you have, the more inclined you are to be a saver. Keep things as simple as possible by retaining as few items as you absolutely need.
- Don’t Leave Things Out As Reminders – Leaving items out is a common mistake.
- Keep Frequently Used Items Handy – Keep within easy reach your current working papers and items you’ll need when you answer the phone.
- Don’t Crowd – Individual file folders over ¾ of an inch thick need to be first purged, then divided if necessary.