Friday, December 28, 2012

Planting Churches in America's 'Celebrity Pastor' Culture

Many Americans clamor for celebrities....not only in Hollywood, but even in churches. This creates both a challenge and an opportunity for churches today. The challenge in our "celebrity pastor" culture is to joyfully embrace the need to send out more and more disciples to plant new churches. The opportunity is actually identical to the challenge. It is the incredible privilege to turn attenders and members into church planters.

Why church planting? Because it is God's method for reaching the lost and making disciples....and it is God's method for taking your discipleship to the next level. There is a tremendous amount of spiritual warfare that goes on with church planting. Satan hates to see Spirit-filled believers plant new congregations, and so he works very hard to discourage, distract, and divide any group of disciples who pursue this task to the glory of God.
All Christians encounter some spiritual resistance when attending worship services and participating in a small group....but when a group of believers are sent out to start a new church, watch out! They better be "prayed up," and geared up for the long haul. It will be unlike anything they have encountered in their Christian life, and it will stretch their faith like never before.
It is one thing to go on a week-long mission trip to another country. That will certainly test your faith a bit. But if you step out as part of a church plant, it is a whole new dimension of spiritual activity. It's like the difference between babysitting a child for a compared to adopting a child for a lifetime. One is good....the other is "off the charts" good. Church planting is the most vital work in God's kingdom, and it is straight out of the New Testament. But it is not for the faint of heart....and not for anyone who feels like he must attend a megachurch in order to have his needs met....or a church of any particular size for that matter.
A church plant is not driven by a consumer mentality of "what's in it for me and my family?" It is about frontline mission work for Christ....and that is in direct opposition to the spiritual forces of darkness in our world. There will be little applause....and plenty of trials....but boy can it accomplish God's purposes on earth if the Holy Spirit sends you and a group of believers to do it.
There are quite a few lay elders in churches today who are capable of planting a new church. Some of them have pastoral gifts of preaching and teaching which are rarely used in their "big church." These guys need to spread their wings and fly. Church planting provides a much broader focus than attending elders' meetings to make decisions for hundreds or thousands of people. Church planting is not really about who gets to make the decisions....but more about New Testament pastoral ministry with the believers. It is significantly different from the role that many lay elders seem to have today. Church planting is mainly about prayer and the ministry of the Word....and personal relationships between the shepherds and the sheep.

Urbana Missions Conference: 16,000 Students Urged to Listen to God's Calling

ST. LOUIS – An estimated 16,000 Christian youth attended opening night of Urbana 2012, a triennial student missions conference, at Edwards Jones Dome in St. Louis Thursday. InterVarsity Christian Fellowship organizers, who are hosting the event, hope that students will come to a decision about serving God locally or globally.

"Surrender your plans and allow God to surprise you. God's invitation may be unexpected," Tom Lin, who is the Urbana conference director and InterVarsity's vice president, said from the stage. "You and I are called to share God's Kingdom news not just for our campuses, not just for our cities, but also for the ends of the earth – the unfamiliar places, the unfamiliar cultures, and for unfamiliar friends.
"I encourage you to hear God's voice this week. I encourage you to give yourself to areas of God's mission that are unfamiliar to you," Lin added.
InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, a national ministry based in Madison, Wis., is keeping a rather low profile during the event, while hosting more than 250 exhibitors during the 5-day event. The fellowship has almost 900 chapters active at 576 U.S. colleges, from Ivy Leagues to community colleges.
Organizers say that conferences such as Urbana are more important than ever. A recent study done in Canada about young adults and the church showed that among 2,000 adults surveyed, all having some connection to the church as children, many no longer claimed any connection to faith.
Statistics from the study, called "Hemorrhaging Faith," show that only one in three young adults who attended church as a child still do so today. Out of those who are no longer in church, 50 percent no longer identify as Christian.

18,000 students attend Urbana 12

USA (MNN) ― The sound of 18,000 cheering students helped kick off InterVarsity Christian Fellowship's Urbana 12. While the cheering crowd was a culmination of years of planning, Urbana 12 faced problems. Spiritual warfare? Maybe.
The largest student missions conference in the world had a MAJOR glitch. Urbana 12's communications director Bethany Horvath says, "Our registration and check-in on site require using Due to high capacity there, and due to people outside of St. Louis and outside on-site Urbana using the Web site, our servers just couldn't take it anymore."
While Urbana officials discovered the problem quickly, it took most of the overnight to fix it.


Top 10 Most Popular Stories of 2012

The Christian Post rounded up its 10 most popular stories based on views from our readers this past year. Here's a look back at CP's most viewed stories of 2012.

Iran: Pastor Nadarkhani Jailed Again

By Dan Wooding
Founder of ASSIST Ministries

RASHT, IRAN (ANS) -- It was a bad Christmas for Pastor Yousef Nadarkhani, the Church of Iran pastor who, according to Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), has been returned to jail on an earlier charge.
In September, a court acquitted Pastor Nadarkhani of apostasy, but sentenced him to three years for evangelizing Muslims. Since he had already spent close to three years in Lakan Prison in Rasht, the pastor was released after posting bail.
However, CSW sources now report that Pastor Nadarkhani has now been returned to jail on the orders of the director of Lakan Prison, who claimed he had been released several days too early due to the insistence of his lawyer, Mohammed Ali Dadkhah.
In November, Pastor Nadarkhani was a special guest at CSW’s National Conference in London, England, where he thanked all who had prayed and petitioned for him during his initial incarceration.
Mervyn Thomas, CSW's Chief Executive told the ASSIST News Service: “We are disappointed to hear Pastor Nadarkhani has been returned to prison in such an irregular manner. The timing is insensitive and especially sad for his wife and sons, who must have been looking forward to celebrating Christmas with him for the first time in three years.
“We hope that Pastor Nadarkhani will be released without delay once this alleged sentence has been fully served. We are also asking for prayers for the pastor's safety, and for his family at this difficult time.”


CBS report: Christian population in Israel growing

CBS statistical breakdown: 158,000 live in country, 80% are Arab; sector boasts highest rate of high school graduates.

With thousands of Christians across Israel celebrating Christmas on Tuesday, a statistical breakdown of the Christian population by the Central Bureau of Statistics found that there are currently 158,000 Christians living in the country, representing 2 percent of the total population.

According to the report, approximately 80% of Christians in Israel are Arabs with the remainder mostly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to the country under the Law of Return, which provides for Israeli citizenship if a person has a Jewish grandparent.

Most Christian Arabs live in the northern Israel, and the cities with the largest Christian populations are Nazareth, with 22,400; Haifa with 14,400; Jerusalem with 11,700; and Shfaram with 9,400.
The Christian population is also growing, albeit at a slower rate than all other sectors.

Christian population growth stands at 1.3%, compared to 1.8% for Jews and 2.5% for Muslims.


Christian celebrate Christmas in ancient Bethlehem church marking Jesus' birthplace

Pilgrims celebrate Christmas Day Mass in the ancient Bethlehem church where tradition holds Jesus was born, candles illuminating the sacred site and joyous prayer filling its halls.
Worshippers lined up Tuesday inside the fourth-century Church of the Nativity complex, waiting to see the grotto that is Jesus' traditional birthplace.

Church on cutting edge of technology

When Oro Valley Church of the Nazarene holds Sunday services, people around the world can watch.
Capturing and broadcasting its sermons with six cameras and thousands of dollars' worth of cutting-edge equipment, the technology-friendly church streams services online, as well as through Internet-connected Roku boxes, which many customers use to stream Netflix movies on TV.
Churchgoers can pick up a DVD or Blu-ray copy of the service after it's over, and can go to the church's website ( to watch broadcasts.
Under the direction of Pastor Craig Coulter, Worship Pastor Larry Vinyard has led the church's transformation into a technological dynamo.
"We use four to six cameras per service, and we try to capture the crowd response from time to time," Vinyard said.
"We try to video in such a way that those watching feel they are part of the congregation and not just a person at home on a computer watching a sermon or small group on stage performing. I'm not sure how successful we are with this, but it is definitely one of our goals."
Vinyard said the efforts are all about spreading the church's message to as many people as possible.
"It adds another way people can access our services if they're not able to come," Vinyard said. "We have an older lady who's a shut-in, and we set up Internet at her house. Now she streams with us Sunday mornings."


Saudi Police Storm Home and Arrest 41 People for…’Plotting to Celebrate Christmas’

The next time you complain about having to get together with your “crazy” family for Christmas, remember this story.
Forty-one apparent Christians and two Saudi Arabian and Egyptian Muslims were recently arrested in Saudi Arabia after authorities busted a party by a reported Asian diplomat. Their crime? “Plotting to celebrate Christmas,” reports the outlet Al-Akhbar.
The outlet has more:
The guests were said to have been referred to the “respective authorities.” It is unclear whether or not they have been released since.