COMMUNITY by Martha Noebel: “Thes. 5:13-22 insights…Live in peace w/ each other, warn those who do not work, & encourage the people who are afraid. Help those who are weak, be patient with everyone, be sure that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other.”

“In 1 Thes. 5:13-22, we get these insights: Live in peace w/ each other, warn those who do not work, & encourage the people who are afraid. Help those who are weak, be patient with everyone, be sure that no one pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to do what is good for each other.”

Read more at … https://www1.cbn.com/devotions/heart-set-apart-god

COMMITMENT & “Do not pray for easy lives; pray to be stronger men.” — Ralph D. Winter, Missiologist (via @nelsonsearcy)

(December 8, 1924 – May 20, 2009)

Winter was a pioneer in the area of developing strategies to evangelize unreached people groups. He was a longtime professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, and the founder of the U.S. Center for World Mission (today known as Frontier Ventures), as well as the related William Carey International University.

Learn more at … https://churchleaderinsights.com/ralph-d-winter-on-building-strength/

CRITICISM & Synopsis of the new book: How to have impossible conversations.

by Eric Barker, 12/20/19, from How to Have Impossible Conversations (2019) by Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay.

1. Attempt to re-express your target’s position so clearly, vividly, and fairly that your target says, “Thanks, I wish I’d thought of putting it that way.”

2. List any points of agreement (especially if they are not matters of general or widespread agreement).

3. Mention anything you have learned from your target.

4. And only then are you permitted to say so much as a word of rebuttal or criticism.

How much more positively would you respond if someone did that? In this era of hostile polarization I fear I would immediately and uncontrollably hug them.

Read more at …https://www.theladders.com/career-advice/this-is-how-to-change-someones-mind-6-secrets-from-research

CHRISTMAS & LifeWay Research asked people when they are more open to considering matters of faith. Christmas was the most common response. Almost half (47 percent) said they were more open to thinking about faith during the holiday season.

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 12/4/19.

Four in 10 Americans who never attend church (41 percent) say Christmas should be more about Jesus.

In 2015, LifeWay Research found 61 percent of Americans typically attend church at Christmastime. And among those who do not attend, 57 percent said they were likely to attend if someone they knew asked them.

In 2010 LifeWay Research asked people when they are more open to considering matters of faith. Christmas was the most common response. Almost half (47 percent) said they were more open to thinking about faith during the holiday season.

Read more at …https://factsandtrends.net/2018/12/12/why-x-mas-actually-keeps-christ-in-christmas/

COACHING & 15 Essential Questions To Ask Your Mentor Or Coach

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In my coaching of church leaders, pastors and denominational leaders I ask them to look over the following questions and ask me one at each coaching session.

By Forbes Magazine Coaching Panel, 11/25/19.

1. Can you help me identify my blind spots?

2. Where are my areas of opportunity?

3. What is holding me back from my next level?

4. How can I make better decisions?

5. Which skill should I focus on?

6. How can I help you?

7. What’s the most important leadership lesson you’ve learned?

8. Who else should I speak to?

9. What are my end goals?

10. When I look in the mirror, how should I react to myself?

11. Who coaches or mentors you?

12. What might not work in our coaching relationship?

13. What would you do if you were me?

14. What are you noticing about me?

15. Ask them your most ‘burning’ question.

Read more at … https://www.forbes.com/sites/forbescoachescouncil/2019/11/25/15-essential-questions-to-ask-your-mentor-or-business-coach/

CHURCH HISTORY & Christian Smith explains what happened in the 1990s that led to a surge in the “nones” – the religiously unaffiliated.

by

In the early 1990s, the historical tether between American identity and faith snapped. Religious non-affiliation in the U.S. started to rise—and rise, and rise. By the early 2000s, the share of Americans who said they didn’t associate with any established religion (also known as “nones”) had doubled. By the 2010s, this grab bag of atheists, agnostics, and spiritual dabblers had tripled in size.

Christian Smith, a sociology and religion professor at the University of Notre Dame, America’s nonreligious lurch has mostly been the result of three historical events: the association of the Republican Party with the Christian right, the end of the Cold War, and 9/11.

This story begins with the rise of the religious right in the 1970s. Alarmed by the spread of secular culture—including but not limited to the sexual revolution, the Roe v. Wade decision, the nationalization of no-fault divorce laws, and Bob Jones University losing its tax-exempt status over its ban on interracial dating—Christians became more politically active. The GOP welcomed them with open arms…

The marriage between the religious and political right delivered Reagan, Bush, and countless state and local victories. But it disgusted liberal Democrats, especially those with weak connections to the Church. It also shocked the conscience of moderates, who preferred a wide berth between their faith and their politics. Smith said it’s possible that young liberals and loosely affiliated Christians first registered their aversion to the Christian right in the early 1990s, after a decade of observing its powerful role in conservative politics.

Second, it may have felt unpatriotic to confess one’s ambivalence toward God while the U.S. was locked in a geopolitical showdown with a godless Evil Empire. In 1991, however, the Cold War ended. As the U.S.S.R. dissolved, so did atheism’s association with America’s nemesis. After that, “nones” could be forthright about their religious indifference, without worrying that it made them sound like Soviet apologists.

Third, America’s next geopolitical foe wasn’t a godless state. It was a God-fearing, stateless movement: radical Islamic terrorism. A series of bombings and attempted bombings in the 1990s by fundamentalist organizations such as al-Qaeda culminated in the 9/11 attacks. It would be a terrible oversimplification to suggest that the fall of the Twin Towers encouraged millions to leave their church, Smith said. But over time, al-Qaeda became a useful referent for atheists who wanted to argue that all religions were inherently destructive.

Read more at … https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/09/atheism-fastest-growing-religion-us/598843/

CHANGE & Research finds if congregations can change, they can grow.

by Hartford Seminary American Congregations Project.

Congregations Can Change, They Can Grow Congregations that are spiritually vital and alive, have strong, permanent leadership, and enjoy joyful, innovative and inspirational worship are more likely to experience growth, this 2011 study found. Other factors that support growth are being located in the South; having more weekly worship services; and having a clear sense of mission and purpose. These are among the conclusions that stood out in a Faith Communities Today report on American congregations titled “Facts on Growth: 2010”. “They almost seem commonsensical,” said David Roozen, Director of Hartford Seminary’s Hartford Institute for Religion Research, “but it is surprising how many struggling congregations puzzle over the challenges of growth.” FACT released this report to help and provoke the reflection of just such congregations — those seeking to discern which issues help and which hinder growth. The author is C. Kirk Hadaway, former Church Officer for Congregational Research, The Episcopal Church. The report was one in a series produced by The Cooperative Congregational Studies Partnership (CCSP), based on a 2010 survey that analyzed responses from 11,077 randomly sampled congregations of all faith traditions in the United States. “Location, Location, Location used to be the kind way that researchers described the extent to which the growth or decline of American congregations was captive to the demographic changes going on in their immediate neighborhoods,” said Roozen. “Congregations cannot totally ignore what is going on in their context, but the clear message of FACTs on Growth: 2010 is that in today’s world, growth and decline are primarily dependent upon a congregation’s internal culture, program and leadership, and therefore a congregation’s own ability to change and adapt.” Hadaway wrote, “Decline is more prevalent today than it was five years ago and congregational economics are much more precarious. Still, many congregations in America are growing. What are they like and what are they doing?” Among the findings in the report: In a shift, congregations located in the downtown or central city area are more likely to experience growth than congregations in other locations. Previous surveys found that newer suburbs were associated with the greatest potential for growth. The South, from Maryland to Texas, is better for growth than any other region. The youngest congregations, those started since 1992, are most likely to grow. Growth in predominantly white congregations is less likely, in part because this population has zero growth demographically. The members tend to be older as well and less likely to have contemporary worship services. Denomination matters – growth is more likely among conservative Protestant groups and least likely among mainline Protestant congregations. There is a clear correlation between growth and the sense that a congregation is spiritually vital and alive along with a clear mission and purpose. While only nine percent of congregations have three services on a typical weekend and five percent have four or more, these congregations are more likely to have grown. It is unclear, however, whether churches grow because they have more services or they grow first and add services. Where a worship service is considered joyful, a congregation is more likely to experience substantial growth. And congregations that involve children in worship were more likely to experience substantial growth. Congregations whose members are heavily involved in recruiting new people have a definite growth advantage, as do congregations that use multiple methods to make follow-up contacts with visitors, that regularly invest in special events or programs to attract people from the community, and whose senior clergy spent priority time in evangelism and recruitment. In general, having congregational programs of all kinds is related to growth. Be it Sunday school, Scripture study, fellowship, retreats, youth programs, team sports, or community service, nothing works against growth. The programs that produced the strongest link to growth were (1) young adult activities (2) parenting or marriage enrichment activities and (3) prayer or meditation groups. Congregations without a leader or an interim leader are least likely to experience growth. Generally, the younger the leader, the more likely a congregation has grown. Leaders 35 to 39 years old are most likely to be in growing congregations. Congregations that saw themselves as not that different from other congregations in their area tended to decline.
Read more here … https://faithcommunitiestoday.org/facts-on-growth-2010/