Compassion Costs Us

Excerpt from Amazing Faith by Wilfredo De Jesús

Compassion is good, right, and noble. We have to realize, though, that caring for people always has a price tag. Stopping to mend broken hearts and shattered lives requires an investment of time and other re- sources. Many individuals and churches don’t want to pour themselves into people who are “unclean” and take so long to see substantial progress, even when they respond to the gospel. People today want instant success, and ministries of compassion rarely meet this standard.

There’s another risk when we step into the lives of the down-and- out: potential damage to our reputations. I’ve been criticized by leaders of some churches who believed we’d “lost our calling” by giving so much attention to prostitutes, addicts, single moms, and other disenfranchised people.

The Christian faith isn’t about getting; it’s about giving. Far too many Christians don’t understand this basic principle of spiritual life, so they have empty, impoverished hearts. Jesus told His disciples (including us),

“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul?” (Matthew 16:24-26)

We gain by giving, we rise by bowing to serve, and we’re filled by pouring ourselves out to God and others. This isn’t a new concept. The paradox has been central to the faith since time began, and we have a supreme example. Saint Augustine captured the paradoxical wonder of Christ when he wrote:

“Man’s maker was made man that He, Ruler of the stars, might nurse at His mother’s breast; that the Bread might hunger, the Fountain thirst, the Light sleep, the Way be tired on his journey; that the Truth might be accused of false witness, the Teacher be beaten with whips, the Foundation be suspended on wood; that Strength might grow weak; that the Healer might be wounded; that Life might die.”

Christians talk about “becoming like Christ.” Augustine captured what the phrase really means. True transformation happens when powerful people become humble and timid people become bold.

It’s not enough to have a hit-and-run message of grace to people who are deeply hurt and have lost hope. We need staying power. We have to hang in there with a prodigal child, a friend who is an addict, someone who is chronically sick, or anyone else who requires extra grace.

2014_Faculty_Wilfredo_De_JesusWilfredo De Jesús is one of the 2014 Faculty for The Global Leadership Summit. He is the Senior Pastor of New Life Covenant Church in Chicago, Illinois and was recognized as TIME’s 100 Most Influential People in 2013. Learn more about Wilfredo HERE.

Readers Not Only Want More, But Need More

Post by Mark Forshaw

The Problem (Some Bad News)

Since 2011 the State of the Bible report—put out by American Bible Society in partnership with the Barna Group—has taken the Bible pulse of America.

This year, that pulse appears to be a little fainter.

                                                                                               2011                        2014

Viewed the Bible as a sacred                                                          86%                          79%

Turn to the Bible to find intimacy with God                                      64%                          56%

Antagonistic to the Bible                                                                 10%                         19%

The Opportunity (Some Good News)

While the rest of the Western world struggles with a culture of post Christianity, America is different. And that’s where the opportunity comes in for church leaders.

In the U.S., 79% believe the Bible is sacred and 88% own a Bible. The best news is that 19% are “Engaged.” They believe the Bible is the actual Word of God and read it four or more times per week (remember that definition).

So why do we still see a decline in those who respect the Bible? In fact, why do we see a growth in antagonism towards the Bible? And what can we do about it?

The Trends (What’s Really Happening)

Let’s look at the Engaged group (the group we mentioned above). The 2014 State of the Bible reports that for the Engaged:

·       72% saw reading the Bible primarily as a way to be closer to God;

·       45% increased their Bible reading over the last year and

·       79% wanted to read the Bible more.

So there is a committed and waiting audience that wants more Bible.

But they also need more Bible.

The 2011 report found that even this group—the Engaged—struggled.

·       32% found the Bible hard to understand,

·       30% saw it as teaching intolerance and

·       19% could not identify the “3” in John 3:16.

Before we set out to reach the Friendly, Neutral or even Antagonistic, we must equip the Engaged to comprehend the Bible.

Solution (Where You Come In)

The 2014 survey gives some very helpful indications of what directions we can take.

·       Focus on digital. Forty-four percent of Americans access the Bible via the Internet and 21% use a Bible app (up from 13% in 2011). As leaders, do we utilize technology and all mediums (84% still prefer to read the Bible in print) to encourage daily engagement with the Bible?

·       Context, context, context. People see their lives reflected in the pages of the Bible. In your church, keep an eye out for when people are going through stressful life changes. According to the survey, that’s an opportunity for people to reconnect with God’s Word.

·       Remember the big picture. Eighteen percent of Americans said they increased their Bible reading for the following primary reasons: “came to understand it as an important part of my faith journey,” “difficult experience in my life caused me to search the Bible for direction/answers,” “significant change in my life.”  So, are we teaching that personal understanding that the Bible is truly central to understanding our faith?

I attend a church in the Northeast that has grown threefold in two years, from 70 to more than 200 people. Why such rapid growth? I thank God for bringing us a godly pastor who expounds Scripture. He is gifted, trained, knowledgeable, multi-media savvy, and aware of his world. He inspires me to read more of the Bible. Many people have come to our church because they couldn’t find that anywhere else on a Sunday morning.

As a researcher, I see a story in the data. When church leaders like you focus on God’s Word, your people will grow spiritually.

Mark ForshawMike Forshaw is the executive director of Global Scripture Impact (GSI), the research arm of American Bible Society. He came to GSI after working for the World Health Organization, Geneva Global, Tearfund UK and African Inland Mission.

5 Things Change When a Church Embraces Orphans and Foster Youth

Post by Jedd Medefind

Flood. Ice. Fire. They can alter a landscape profoundly. That kind of change happens, too, when a church community begins to mirror God’s love for orphans.

Adoption. Foster care. Mentoring. Support of orphans worldwide. Expressions of love for orphans are about justice and mercy, to be sure. But they’re also more. Loving orphans can deepen discipleship and proclaim the Gospel like little else can do.

In fact, when a church embraces orphans, no one remains the same. Here are five big things that change as we do.

1. Children Change. When a neglected child begins to experience love, even the pathways of her brain begins to change.These EEG images show that vividly. On the left is the brain of a child in an orphanage with little caregiver attention.The other – which glows with neural activity – is a child cared for in a family. (Source: Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience)

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2. Families Change. A friend who helps Arkansas churches engage in foster care remarked to me, “I see those children change. I see the families change even more.” This is true for all who welcome hurting children into their “personal space” – whether via mentoring, Safe Families, adoption or otherwise.

An adoptive father with three biological sons expressed it this way: “I’ve been in church all my life, taught Sunday School and all that; tried to raise our sons to be godly men, but the act of adoption and what has followed has impacted our sons for the Lord more than anything we’ve ever done. It really has been a profound experience of the Gospel for each of them, and for us.”

3. Churches Changes. A Costa Rican pastor whose church has taken in many abandoned and abused children shared what I’ve heard from many other pastors, too. “With these children coming into our church, we have deepened our understanding of what Christianity is really about…We all have been adopted. God’s grace has come to our lives. What we are doing is to give just a little bit of what we have received.” As we do this together supporting one another amidst the joys and challenges of helping wounded children to wholeness – it grows real community like nothing else.

4. State Social Welfare Changes. In Colorado, many churches have made kids in the foster system a central focus. Over the past four years, the number of foster youth waiting to be adopted has been cut from 677 to less than 300. The woman who oversaw foster care adoptions for the state, Dr. Sharen Ford, expressed, “There is no question who is doing it. It’s the church families adopting these precious children that no one else would take in the past.” Similar changes are emerging from Oregon to Georgia to DC and beyond.

5. The World’s View of Christians Changes. Following an article criticizing Christians in the Huffington Post, a “HuffPost SuperUser” pushed back. She wrote, “I have been a reproductive rights activist and pro-choice for more than 40 years. I am very involved in the cause. I have a dear friend who is vehemently anti-abortion…I have the utmost respect for this woman because she had 6 biological children and, late in life, she and her husband adopted a boy from South America with severe facial deformities…My friend puts her beliefs into her real life and she is worthy of my respect, even though we disagree on so many issues…” Beautiful. May we see a day when all Christians can be described with such words!

Want to learn more about how your church can embrace orphans and foster youth…and also the changes that come as we do? Join us at the CAFO2014 conference at Willow Creek Community Church, May 1-2, 2014.

 

Jedd-150x150Jedd Medefind serves as President of the Christian Alliance for Orphans. His most recent book, Becoming Home, helps Christians and churches engage adoption, foster care and orphan ministry.

4 Inner Negotiators

In this video, Summit 2014 Faculty, Erica Ariel Fox explains what the four inner negotiators are (the thinker, the dreamer, the warrior and the lover) and briefly describes them.

Erica Ariel Fox is the author of “Winning From Within: A Breakthrough Method for Leading, Living, and Lasting Change.” (Learn More About Erica) On August 14-15, 2014, Erica will be making her first appearance on the Summit stage. For more information or to register for Summit 2014, CLICK HERE.

It Started at 15

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The GLS has had a strong impact on Pastor Kaspars in Latvia. Pastor Kaspars discovered his calling into ministry when he was 15. In the midst of the darkness is a culture of apathy and corruption, and he recognizes that the only hope for the world lies in Jesus. In the post-Communist era, people in Latvia have developed great apathy toward the church, and Pastor Kaspars has huge passion to reach his country for Christ. For the past three years, he has led and overseen a church-planting movement that has grown to 20 successful teams of church planters, and continues to grow.

Utilizing the leadership tools he’s learned at the Global Leadership Summit, Pastor Kaspars is impacting his community in incredible ways. Church plants have started ministries that go to where the people are—evangelizing in schools and local cafes. In the hope of reaching out to non-Christians in new ways, Pastor Kaspars’ church started date nights for couples in a local cafe where they provide dinner, babysitting, and teachings on marriage. This outreach has given people in the community the opportunity to make new connections and hear the Gospel. Most of these couples say they have never stepped foot inside a church.

“Thank you for your heart for Latvia! Thank you for your support and prayers! My prayer is that God is giving back 10 times more what you are giving to us!” – Pastor Kaspars, Latvia

Pastor Kaspar is just one of the many leaders living out the hope of the local Church throughout the world. Please be in prayer for this ministry. The stakes are high.

 

Joseph Grenny at Summit 2013: Mastering the Skill of Influence

Everyone has influence, but how are we leveraging it? At Summit 2013, Joseph Grenny helped leaders gain a more complete understanding of how they can increase their impact by using his model of the 6 sources of influence. Watch to learn more and hear thoughts from Bill Hybels.

Hear Bill Hybels and Joseph Grenny August 14-15, 2014 at The Global Leadership Summit. To register or find out more information click here.

It’s Official! The Stage is Set.

“Long before it was common to talk about leadership in the Church I knew in my gut that a high challenge vision built experience for Christian leaders was desperately needed. Now 20 years later, the stage has been set for an unprecedented global movement impacting 190,000 leaders in 105 countries around the world.”

 

Watch for the announcement of the official 2014 Summit Faculty Line-Up

 

Register for The Global Leadership Summit 2014

NOAH – The Hollywood Movie

Post from Jon Bock

This may be the most exciting time in recent cultural memory to be a movie-loving Christian. That’s because all across the U.S. and around the world, people are talking about the Bible. Specifically, they’re talking about NOAH, the Paramount Pictures film opening nationwide Friday – a movie I’ve had the honor and pleasure to work on as a consultant to the studio and filmmakers for nearly two years.

I’m in the marketing business – the movie marketing business, no less – but I can assure you it is without hyperbole that I say I believe we are at the dawn of a new Renaissance. That moment we’ve all hoped and prayed for, when Hollywood would take seriously and treat reverentially the stories that form the foundation of our faith, is here.

As someone who has seen the film more than a dozen times already, I can assure you that Russell Crowe’s Noah is, at his core, a brilliant and unforgettable metaphor for God.  In Scripture, God sees His beautiful creation turn its collective back on Him and His anger is warranted.  But by the end of the Biblical account, God has chosen grace and love in the form of a promise and a rainbow. Throughout the film, Noah also wrestles mightily to balance justice with mercy. The question on his mind, the weighty decision that tests and torments him, mirrors what God had to decide just 10 generations after Eden: Is mankind, inclined as it is to evil against each other and rebellion against its Creator, worth saving?

Make no mistake, director Darren Aronofsky has masterfully colored outside the lines of rigid Biblical orthodoxy in crafting this story. This is no children’s ministry sing-along about animals marching two-by-two past a beaming old man with a white beard onto a wooden version of a Carnival cruise ship. Will you like every creative decision Darren made?  Very possibly not. But remember this: While God is precious, He is not fragile.  The world will not end because of this film and its creative license, just as it didn’t end when Michelangelo took liberties with his religious art during that earlier Renaissance. Far from it, in fact. Five hundred years later, we’re still being moved by the beauty of his artistic interpretations of our sacred text.

I believe beauty can spring from NOAH, as well – because it is gritty and challenging, insightful and inspirational, thoughtful and thought-provoking. The creative impulses that drove Aronofsky and Ari Handel, his writing and producing partner, to pore word-by-word through Genesis and to consult dozens of other historical and commentarial texts makes for a rich cinematic experience that tees up all manner of conversations about sin and redemption, judgment and forgiveness, and the nature and love of God.

So, Hollywood has done its part. They’ve taken one of “our” stories to make one of “their” stories — and they’ve done it on a grand scale. Now it’s our turn. If we want to see more movies like this in the years to come, if we want our culture to continue to be saturated with talk of God and His Word, we’ve got a grand-scale mission of our own to accomplish: going to theaters in mass this weekend and making NOAH a huge hit.  Box-office success is the language Hollywood understands, and then repeats. If NOAH does well, that new Renaissance we’ve so long desired will be in full bloom.

Let me leave you with this video featuring several well-respected Christian leaders – from Focus on the Family’s Jim Daly to radio talk show host Hugh Hewitt to National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference President Sam Rodriguez – offering their reactions to NOAH. Among the words you’ll see and hear are “brilliant,” “bold,” “spectacular,” “pro-God,” “amazing,” “powerful,” “artistic,” “profound,” “riveting,” “astonishing,” “path-breaking,” “deeply important,” “beautiful,” “visually stunning” and “a rare gift.”

jon bock mugshotJonathan Bock is a the Founder and President of Grace Hill Media. He began his career in publicity at Warner Bros. Bock serves on the board of Reel Spirituality at Fuller Theological Seminary and is a deacon at Bel Air Presbyterian Church. He is the father of two beautiful daughters and is married to his wife Kelly.