MUSIC & The impact of the faith & music of DMX

by T.C. Moore, Religion News Service, 4/14/21

The Gospel of John tells the story of the prophetic ministry of John the Baptist, describing him as “the voice crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord,’” paving the way for Jesus the Nazarene.

Hence, his other, lesser-known title: John the Forerunner. John’s fearlessness and bold announcement of the coming of the Messiah tilled the soil of hardened hearts and planted the seeds Jesus would cultivate into his world-changing kingdom of God movement.

Earl Simmons, better known as DMX, was my John the Forerunner.

In the wilderness of my gang-involved teens, DMX was a voice unlike any other, piercing my defenses and opening me up to the work of God that would eventually convert me into a devoted follower of Jesus.

DMX burst onto the hip-hop scene in 1998 with an utterly unique debut album, “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot.” It was at once a raw testament to DMX’s story of suffering and survival while also sounding a faith-filled and hopeful note.

It wasn’t as if God was a stranger to hip-hop lyrics: Tupac Shakur, whose posthumous 1996 album “The Don Killuminati: The 7 Day Theory” depicted the rapper on a cross on its cover, had often invoked God and heaven, to say nothing of the “Five Percent” theology that pervaded so much of East Coast rap.

But what “It’s Dark and Hell Is Hot” had that no other could claim was a distinct and overt Christian — maybe even charismatic — spirituality. DMX spoke directly with God in “The Convo,” in a lament worthy of Job (“Why you chose the hood for me?”) and wrestled with satanic temptation in “Damien” as Jesus did in the wilderness. “The Snake, the Rat, the Cat, the Dog / how you gonna see him if you livin’ in a fog?”

DMX wrote hauntingly about death, summoning the anguish of Jesus praying passionately in the Garden of Gethsemane. “You give me the Word / and only ask that I interpret / and give me the eyes / that I may recognize the Serpent.”

The only child of a schizophrenic single mother, I’d experienced more than my fair share of abuse and neglect. For a teenager wrestling with his own inner demons, DMX opened up a way out of the game through faith. If he could loft his questions about the problem of evil directly at God and rebuke the devil who tempted him to sin, maybe I could too. “Somebody’s knocking / should I let him in? / Lord, we’re just starting / but where will it end?”

Later that year, DMX dropped “Flesh of My Flesh, Blood of My Blood,” which, like “Hell Is Hot,” topped the charts. When the criminal community to which I’d fled for safety began to unravel and my own choices landed me in one too many potentially deadly situations, the lyrics of “Slippin’” hit me like prophecy: “See, to live is to suffer. But to survive, well, that’s to find meaning in the suffering.”

About this time, my childhood friend Nate invited me to his baptism at a Pentecostal church. I heard God’s voice through the pastor. It called me like the voice of God in DMX’s music. After I was baptized, I encountered a new version of myself. On repeat on my Sony Discman, meanwhile, DMX was telling the story of a prodigal come home: “My child, I’m here as I’ve always been / it is you who went away and are back again,” he said on “Ready to Meet Him.” I tagged my first Bible with a sketch of myself drenched in blood like the cover of that album.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2021/04/14/dmx-was-my-john-the-forerunner/?utm_source=

MINDSET & 7 questions that rewire your brain for success.

by Debbie King, Inc. Magazine, 2/4/21.

…start by noticing how you feel. When you’re feeling frustrated or overwhelmed, ask yourself these questions:

1. Why am I choosing to feel this way?

This question makes clear that how you feel is a choice. It creates an opening for change…

2. How do I want to feel?

Asking how you want to feel can jolt you into awareness that you have a choice. If you’re frustrated because you or someone else missed a deadline, you may feel justified because you’re thinking, “This will damage our relationship with the manager or client.” But it’s this thought that creates the feeling of frustration, not the person…

3. What am I making this mean?

This question helps you see that you’re the one assigning meaning to every situation and it’s up to you to decide what that meaning is. For example, if an employee quits, you could make it mean “I’m not a good leader.” But does it serve you to think that?..

4. What else could this mean?

The primitive part of the brain is quick to imagine the worst-case scenario in order to keep you safe, but its judgment is often wrong. This question helps you imagine other possibilities…

5. What if I did know what to do?

Asking this is especially useful when you feel overwhelmed, uncertain, or worried. For example, you lost a client, and need to make up the revenue to reach your goals…

6. Where else does this happen in my life?

This question will help you find patterns in your instruction manual. The brain develops patterns of thinking, feeling, and acting that lead to similar results and point to core beliefs, like “I’m not good enough,” or “Leaders must always be right.”..

7. What would the best version of me do?

This question is a great reminder that you have a choice in how you show up…

Bestselling author and mindset expert Debbie King is the founder of Loving Your Business and now teaches her proven approach to other business owners.

Read more at … https://www.fastcompany.com/90601076/7-questions-that-rewire-your-brain-for-success

MINISTERIAL TRANSITIONS & Setting the Record Straight on Switching Jobs

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I’m writing a Doctor of Ministry course for a nationally known seminary on pastoral transitions. The average pastor will go through 4 to 5 translations in his or her ministerial career.

Yet leadership developmemt departments of denominations typically don’t prepare us for these transitions. However, my very first consultation over 30 years ago was to coach a ministry transition. And to my surprise it went very well. And, it cemented in my heart the confirmation that I was to go into consulting.

Therefore, I’ve put together a course on best practices. To give you a preview, here’s one of the research based articles I’ll be utilizing from Harvard Business Review.

“Setting the Record Straight on Switching Jobs” by Amy Gallo, Harvard Business Review, 10/15.

… experts have described the current labor market as “candidate-driven.” Job seekers hold more power than employers, a trend that seems to be deepening.

So does this mean when switching jobs, you’re in the driver’s seat? Not necessarily. But it does mean that you can’t rely on “age-old” guidance.

2. “Stay at a job for at least a year or two — moving around too much looks bad on a resume.” 

“This is a popular piece of conventional wisdom,” says Sullivan, and it’s simply not true anymore. First of all, it’s not always realistic. “There are many times when you really need to leave your job without anything else,” says Fernández-Aráoz. You may need to relocate because of your spouse’s job or quit to take care of a family member.

Second, short stints no longer hurt a resume…

3. “Don’t quit your job before allowing your current employer to make a counter offer.”

If you’re a valuable employee, Sullivan says that smart companies will make an attempt to convince you to stay. “If you’re on their priority list, it would be considered ‘regrettable turnover’ for them and they’ll do what they can to keep you.” Counteroffers have become much more common… “They usually come with some form of flattery, promises, and even better conditions,” he says.

But be careful, he warns: “In my three decades of experience, I’m genuinely convinced that most counteroffers are bad for all parties.” He gives two reasons you shouldn’t accept a counteroffer. First, there was a reason you started to look for another job and that’s unlikely to change despite your employer’s promises. “The rule of thumb among recruiters used to be that 80% of those accepting counteroffers leave, or are terminated, within six to 12 months, and that half of those who accept them re-initiate their job searches within 90 days.” Even if your manager is able to make good on the promises in a counteroffer, there is the issue of broken trust. “They may still consider you less loyal and therefore offer you lower chances of future development.” Second, Fernández-Aráoz says, “you’ve made a commitment to the new company and you should honor it.”

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/07/setting-the-record-straight-on-switching-jobs?

MULTICULTURAL LEADERSHIP & When I designed a doctor of ministry program on leadership, the first thing I wanted to emphasize is that church leadership varies by culture. Here’s why …

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: My PhD from the School of Intercultural Studies at Fuller Theological Seminary immersed me in the tensions and bridges of cultural differences.

So, when I designed a doctor of ministry program on leadership, the first thing I wanted to emphasize is that church leadership varies by culture. I also have a sensitivity to this because many of my students and Missional Coach mentees are African-American. For over 25 years they have taught me much about how leadership differs between cultures.

Toward that end, two of the first leaders that I had address my DMin students were African-American leaders: Dr. Dewey Smith of Greater Travelers’ Rest Church and Dr. Raphael Warnock of Ebeneezer Baptist Church.

Regardless of where your politics lie, it’s important for today’s leader to have a multicultural understanding about the different ways to lead. I hope you will read this article and begin to learn more about the ways different cultures lead so as a result that we can complement and coach one another.

Senate race thrusts ‘Black America’s church’ into spotlight.

by Aaron Morrison, Associated Press News, 1/3/21.

For decades, the red-bricked Gothic Revival church where the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. once preached has been a monument to the history of Black Americans’ fight for civil rights and the legacy of an activist icon…

For King’s former church, the intense spotlight isn’t new. Its 6,000 members are accustomed to standing-room only Sunday services, due in large part to the out-of-town visitors who flocked to the church. Still, Loeffler’s criticisms have renewed attention on a pillar of Black life in Atlanta and a tradition of political activism it represents.

Read more at … https://apnews.com/article/race-and-ethnicity-georgia-senate-2563753b703f7a46af9a0e75565b84db

MEGACHURCH & Read the latest report by Hartford Seminary = multiple venues let you have multiple cultural expressions & smaller groups foster friendship & discipleship.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: ever since I studied one of the first megachurches that grew exponentially by moving in to multiple smaller venues, St. Thomas’ Church of Sheffield England, in the 1990s I’ve been a big advocate of multiple sites and smaller groups for almost any church.

(See the chapter I wrote on St. Thomas’ Church of Sheffield, England in Ryan Bolger’s The Gospel After Christendom: New Voices, New Cultures, New Expressions)

That’s because I’ve seen in the churches I’ve coached that multiple venues let you have multiple cultural expressions and smaller groups foster friendships and discipleship.

More research has continued to support this, including the latest exhaustive research from Hartford Seminary. 

Read the latest research here (there are valuable church health and growth insights for any size church): hirr.hartsem.edu/megachurch/2020_Megachurch_Report.pdf

MEGACHURCHES & Report discovers they continue to grow as they emphasize small groups, embrace modern worship and diversify, but steer clear of politics.

by Bob Smietana, Relcion News Service.

A pre-pandemic, national survey of megachurches from the Hartford Institute for Religion Research found the median megachurch draws about 4,100 attenders to its worship services, up from about 3,700 in 2015. 

The average megachurch budget is $5.3 million, up from $4.7 million in 2015. Seven out of 10 have more than one location. Six out of 10 (58%) say they have a multiracial congregation.  

Despite the decline among Christian groups overall, most megachurches seem to be doing well, said Scott Thumma, professor of sociology of religion at Hartford Seminary and director of Hartford Institute.

“They continue to do things that other congregations should be doing,” Thumma said.

Thumma said the use of contemporary worship — along with a focus on small groups and international diversity — has helped megachurches continue to grow. Megachurches, in general, he said, also tend to steer clear of controversy, staying away from culture wars or political battles.

Read more at … https://religionnews.com/2020/10/29/report-megachurches-continue-to-grow-and-diversity-steer-clear-of-politics/

MULTICULTURAL & In multiracial churches, pastors of color hitting ‘the same white wall.’ #AmericanReligiousDataArchives #ARDA

by David Briggs, ARDA, 7/20/20.

… New findings from the Religious Leadership and Diversity Project suggest white pastors of multiracial churches receive disproportionate resources, have greater authority and are valued more by their congregations than clergy of color.

In their own words, many black and Asian pastors in multiracial churches say they are denied a seat at the table in predominantly white denominations, while they are also alienated from their spiritual homes in Asian American and African American churches.

“The stories of the African American pastors and Asian American pastors are ones of people standing on the doorsteps of assimilation only to be ultimately denied entrance through the door of whiteness and access to the privileges enjoyed by the white majority,” reported researchers Korie Edwards of Ohio State University and Rebecca Kim of Pepperdine University.

… A good deal of ethnographic research has indicated people of color pay “the lion’s share” of the personal costs associated with attending multiracial churches, Edwards and Kim noted.

These costs include feeling isolated, not having their religious and cultural preferences met and having only symbolic influence in their congregations.

The recent research involved 121 in-depth, face-to-face interviews with head clergy of multiracial churches as part of the religious diversity project, a nationwide study led by Edwards of leadership in multiracial religious organizations in the United States.

Three articles analyzing study data were recently published in the journal Sociology of Religion.

What the research revealed is that even in multiracial churches, “Neither African American nor Asian American pastors—regardless of their particular ethnicity, race, culture, or histories—are gaining entrée into the white majority. They are both hitting the same white wall,” Edwards and Kim wrote.

Read more here … http://blogs.thearda.com/trend/featured/in-multiracial-churches-pastors-of-color-hitting-the-same-white-wall/

MISSIONAL COACHES & 3 weeks until application opens again. Here are pictured our diverse team coaching a mega-client. Learn more at MissionalCoaches.net & get your copy of the book we are using on Amazon: “Growing the Post-pandemic Church”

Amazon Links

Kindle

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide, https://www.amazon.com/dp/B08F5L7S1T/ref=cm_sw_r_sms_awdo_t1_DSDlFbA5FTSM5

Paperback

Growing the Post-pandemic Church: A Leadership.church Guide

https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B08FK8VMWS/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

MULTIRACIAL CHURCHES & How researchers found that a multiracial church won’t succeed unless it is more about reconciling cultures, than about reconciling styles. #reMIX #AbingdonPress

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: For over a decade I have coached hundreds of church leaders on how to become multiracial congregations. I’ve even written a book with my colleague Mark DeYmaz in how to do it, titled: reMIX: Transitioning Your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press)

But churches only succeed at this when their goal is not to become multiracial. Instead they succeed when they step up and undertake the goal Paul gave us, which I call “a holistic ministry of reconciliation.”

Look at the scripture below from The Message Bible. Paul is not just talking about reconciliation between humans and God. He is also talking about how the Church is to be a community of reconciliation between prosecutors and the persecuted, Jews and Greeks, etc. and etc. Without a focus on reconciling our histories, fears and aspirations we won’t be partnering with God in a ministry of reconciliation.

I know, there are some people that say if we undertake a ministry of reconciliation between people, we will lose our emphasis upon a ministry of reconciliation heavenward. But churches do so many things at the same time! Certainly they should be able to embrace both these important aspects of reconciliation at the same time?

I am calling upon young pastors, planting pastors, church revitalization pastors and judicatory leaders to start showing how these dual aspects of reconciliation can be practiced at the same time in the local church!

If readers wonder about details of how this can be done, I just point them to my and Mark DeYmaz’s book on transitioning your church to living color..

And, don’t get me wrong, spiritual reconciliation is the fulcrum for eternal life.

But one of the ways we demonstrate it down here is by practicing physical reconciliation too, as did Paul who at one time lined up with the persecutors but eventually was the one to build bridges to them.

Here is what Paul says in 2 Corinthians 5:16-20 about the synergetic nature of spiritual reconciliation and physical reconciliation.

“Because of this decision we don’t evaluate people by what they have or how they look. We looked at the Messiah that way once and got it all wrong, as you know. We certainly don’t look at him that way anymore. Now we look inside, and what we see is that anyone united with the Messiah gets a fresh start, is created new. The old life is gone; a new life burgeons! Look at it! All this comes from the God who settled the relationship between us and him, and then called us to settle our relationships with each other. God put the world square with himself through the Messiah, giving the world a fresh start by offering forgiveness of sins. God has given us the task of telling everyone what he is doing. We’re Christ’s representatives. God uses us to persuade men and women to drop their differences and enter into God’s work of making things right between them. We’re speaking for Christ himself now: Become friends with God; he’s already a friend with you.” 2 Corinthians‬ ‭5:16-20‬ ‭MSG‬‬

“Multiracial Congregations May Not Bridge Racial Divide” by Tom Gjelten, National Public Radio, 7/14/20.

…Integrated churches are tough things,” says Keith Moore, a Black pastor in Montgomery, Ala., who works closely with local white pastors. “When you see both African Americans and Caucasian Americans [in a church], it’s more than likely to have a Caucasian pastor,” he says. “I think it’s sometimes more difficult for whites to look at a black pastor and see him as their authority. That’s a tough call for many.”

… As a result, Moore says, African Americans ready to worship in a multiracial church are often forced to accept white leadership and a different worship style.

“You have to abandon some of your ethnic culture and become more palatable to the majority white culture,” Moore says, “give up some of the old traditional African American experience to fit in. So there is a sacrifice.”

Moore’s impressions, in fact, are supported by the research of Emerson and Dougherty.

“All the growth [in multiracial churches] has been people of color moving into white churches,” Emerson says. “We have seen zero change in the percentage of whites moving into churches of color.” Once a multiracial church becomes less than 50% white, Emerson says, the white members leave. Such findings have left Emerson discouraged.

“For the leaders of color who were trying to create the multiracial church movement,” Emerson says, “they’re basically saying, ‘It doesn’t work. The white brothers and sisters just won’t give up their privilege. And so we’ve been defeated, in a sense.'”

The continuing power of race 

In Columbus, Ohio, Korie Little Edwards found a similar pattern in her own research. After her personal interest led her to join a multiracial church, her subsequent study left her skeptical that such churches were making the difference in promoting equality that she had hoped to see.

“I came to a point where I realized that, you know, these multiracial churches, just because they’re multiracial, doesn’t mean they have somehow escaped white supremacy,” she says. “Being diverse doesn’t mean that white people are not going to still be in charge and run things.”

In her book The Elusive Dream: The Power of Race in Interracial Churches, Little Edwards argued that people of color often lose out.

“The pain people experience is not feeling like they’re accepted for who they are,” she told NPR, “not being able to be themselves, not being able to worship how they want to worship, feeling like you have to fall in line with what white people expect you to do.”

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2020/07/17/891600067/multiracial-congregations-may-not-bridge-racial-divide

MULTICULTURAL & #SundayChurchHacks: If you are reaching multiple cultures, then include in worship symbols/aesthetics from all cultures. Here a client church creates an “ancient-future” environment to make two cultures feel at home.

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Note the detail in the stained-glass windows above the minimalist depictions of buildings on the stage.

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Notice how the speaker dresses in a manner that can relate to multiple generations.  The older culture has expectations of dressing up to honor God, which usually in their culture includes a jacket.  Younger generations may synergize styles to create innovation, sometimes called aesthetic fashion.

MIRACLES & Why Doesn’t God Move the Same Everywhere? Guest post by Josh Howard.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel. These are well written and engaging thoughts from the developing world and by my former graduate student at Wheaton College. I hope you are inspired (I was). And if you are, you may want to follow his musings. Click here to sign up for Josh’s email list!

Why Doesn’t God Move the Same Everywhere? by Josh Howard, 7/9/20.

In these 12 years, I have had a front row seat to some of the most amazing movements of God that I’ve ever seen. Churches multiplying like crazy…people getting radically saved…others getting radically healed. It’s like the Book of Acts: Episode II Return of the Jedi. (Apostles)

And almost every time I talk to a group of Americans, they always say something like, “Why doesn’t that happen in America, Josh?  Why does it only happen in India or Africa or China or (insert your favorite mission field here.)”

And I don’t really have an answer…

And then, a while back, I was listening to a message by the famous evangelist, Reinhard Bonnke … And his answer finally gave me an answer. This is what he said —

“If you want to see the power of God…go to where the Gospel has never been preached and His Power will meet you there!!!”

Wow.  Profound.  (Insert mindblown emoji here).  

I don’t know exactly what it is…and there is no special formula, but God’s power moves greatest when we are loving and serving those who don’t know Him.  He’s still leaving the 99 to go after the 1.  His heart is still breaking over the coin that rolled under the table.  He’s still on his front porch looking for the lost son to run home.  And his power is waiting for us to move.  His Hand always moves in the direction that His heart always longs…

You aren’t going to miraculously get the power of God sitting on your couch watching Netflix. His power will meet you at the places furthest from your comfort zone.  

P.S. For the past few years, we have been getting people together over zoom every month to talk about how they can begin to “get in the game” or get their church in the game. If you’re interested in being a part of a group like that, Read more at … https://ignite.mykajabi.com/eb/BAh7BjoWZW1haWxfZGVsaXZlcnlfaWRsKwfcVTdp–ff6a2222e884f89a28edcc9c51e706bf3ab53696

MULTIPLICATION & “3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times”

Ed Stetzer, Twitter, 12/10/19.  
3700 U.S. churches closed in the most recent year studied (2017), and over 4000 were started. More churches started than closed… all the while the culture grew more secular. We live in interesting (and challenging) times.  
You can follow Ed Stetzer on Twitter: @edstetzer

MULTICULTURAL & Why today’s leader must understand “ethnic consciousness.” Article published in Biblical Leadership Magazine by Bob Whitesel DMin PhD

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Read more here … https://www.biblicalleadership.com/blogs/why-todays-leaders-must-understand-ethnic-consciousness/

MULTICULTURAL & Researchers find that almost 20% of churches are transitioning to multicultural congregations. #BaylorUniversity #re:MIXbook

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: This latest research from my friend and colleague, Dr. Kevin Daughtery at Baylor University, indicates that almost 20% of churches are transitioning to multicultural congregations.

Learn about this exciting new trend in the article below and then pick up a copy of ReMIX: Transitioning your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press) to find out how almost any church can do it.

Multiracial Congregations Have Nearly Doubled, But They Still Lag Behind the Makeup of Neighborhoods

By Terry Goodrich, Baylor Univ. communications, 6/20/18

The percentage of multiracial congregations in the United States nearly doubled from 1998 to 2012, with about one in five American congregants attending a place of worship that is racially mixed, according to a Baylor University study.

While Catholic churches remain more likely to be multiracial — about one in four — a growing number of Protestant churches are multiracial, the study found. The percentage of Protestant churches that are multiracial tripled, from 4 percent in 1998 to 12 percent in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available.

In addition, more African-Americans are in the pulpits and pews of U.S. multiracial churches than in the past, according to the study.

Multiracial congregations are places of worship in which less than 80 percent of participants are of the same race or ethnicity.

“Congregations are looking more like their neighborhoods racially and ethnically, but they still lag behind,” said lead author Kevin D. Dougherty, Ph.D., associate professor of sociology in Baylor’s College of Arts & Sciences. “The average congregation was eight times less diverse racially than its neighborhood in 1998 and four times less diverse in 2012.”

“More congregations seem to be growing more attentive to the changing demographics outside their doors, and as U.S. society continues to diversify by race and ethnicity, congregations’ ability to adapt to those changes will grow in importance,” said co-author Michael O. Emerson, Ph.D., provost of North Park University in Chicago.

  • The percentage of Americans worshipping in multiracial congregations climbed to 18 percent in 2012, up from 13 percent in 1998.
  • Mainline Protestant and Evangelical Protestant churches have become more common in the count of multiracial congregations, but Catholic churches continue to show higher percentages of multiracial congregations. One in four Catholic churches was multiracial in 2012.
  • While whites are the head ministers in more than two-thirds (70 percent) of multiracial congregations, the percentage of those led by black clergy has risen to 17 percent, up from fewer than 5 percent in 1998.
  • Blacks have replaced Latinos as the most likely group to worship with whites. In the typical multiracial congregation, the percentage of black members rose to nearly a quarter in 2012, up from 16 percent in 1998. Meanwhile, Latinos in multiracial congregations dropped from 22 percent in 1998 to 13 percent in 2012.
  • The percentage of immigrants in multiracial congregations decreased from over 5 percent in 1998 to under 3 percent in 2012.

Read more at … https://www.baylor.edu/mediacommunications/news.php?action=story&story=199850

Learn about this exciting new trend in the article below and then pick up a copy of ReMIX: Transitioning your Church to Living Color (Abingdon Press) to find out how almost any church can do it.

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MOVIES & New film’s modern take on ‘Mary Magdalene’ will disappoint devotees of this great saint

by David Ives, Aleteia Magazine, 4/12/19.

While the look of the film is fine and the acting is uniformly good, any viewer with an ounce of respect for the actual biblical narrative will find themselves far too distracted keeping track of all the little ways the film butchers history to enjoy any of it. On top of that, to put it bluntly, it’s boring. If you’re going to make a revisionist tale that challenges centuries of belief about its main characters, you really need to find a more engaging way of doing so than showing repeated scenes of people staring wistfully into the desert.

Worst of all, though, is what the film does to Mary herself. The Magdalene is justifiably considered one of the greatest saints in the history of Christendom. She followed Jesus throughout his ministry, was present when he was crucified, and was there for his resurrection. More importantly, as the woman possessed by seven demons, and in tradition and art an acknowledged great sinner (though likely not the prostitute some claimed her to be), Mary Magdalene offers a narrative of salvation, conversion, and unswerving devotion to Jesus that is one of the most beautiful portrayals of discipleship in the Bible.

None of that applies to the woman in this film, however. Instead we are presented with an insufferable “Mary Sue” Magdalene who is always the smartest person in the upper room, and whose only sin is her apparent inability to convince the Apostles how stupid they are. Such an approach may prove inspirational to a select few, but to the untold numbers of those who have developed a devotion to the saint over the past two centuries, it’s going to fall flat. In short, by trying to give Mary Magdalene an appeal to a certain modern mindset, the film robs her story of all the elements that have made it timeless.

… possessed by seven demons, and in tradition and art an acknowledged great sinner (though likely not the prostitute some claimed her to be), Mary Magdalene offers a narrative of salvation, conversion, and unswerving devotion to Jesus that is one of the most beautiful portrayals of discipleship in the Bible.

None of that applies to the woman in this film, however. Instead we are presented with an insufferable “Mary Sue” Magdalene

Read more at … https://aleteia.org/2019/04/12/this-films-modern-take-on-mary-magdalene-will-disappoint-devotees-of-this-great-saint/

MULTIPLICATION & The 5 Levels of Churches Explained & the Percentage of Churches in Each Level. #NewResearch #Exponential

by Thom Rainer, LifeWay, 3/6/19.

In addition to the categorization of churches as

  • declining/subtracting (Level 1),
  • plateauing (Level 2), and
  • growing/adding (Level 3),
  • the study looked at two other supplemental categories.
    • A Level 4 (reproducing) church places a high value and priority on starting new churches.
    • A level 5 (multiplying) church takes church planting to multiple generations of congregations.

    … Here are some of the fascinating findings:

    1. 70% of churches are
    2. subtracting/declining or plateauing. Only 30% are adding/growing based on Exponential’s categorization of churches which is defined above. This data is largely consistent with other research we have done. The period covered is three years.
    3. There are relatively few reproducing churches. The research categorized only 7% of the churches as reproducing (Level 4). The numbers of churches considered multiplying (Level 5: multiple generations of church plants) was 0% in the sample, indicating a negligible number in the total U. S. church population.
    4. The majority of Protestant churches had less than 10 people commit to Jesus Christ as Savior in the past 12 months. That’s fewer than one person per month. That’s not good. That’s not good at all.
    5. Smaller churches are at severe risk.Among those churches with an average worship attendance under 50, only 20% are growing. That is the lowest of any of the categories of churches and is an indicator that these churches are at the greatest risk of dying.
    6. Larger churches have a much lower risk of dying. Among the churches with an average worship attendance of 250 and more, 42% are growing. That is, by far, the largest number of growing churches in any category.

    Read more at… https://thomrainer.com/2019/03/major-new-research-on-declining-plateaued-and-growing-churches-from-exponential-and-lifeway-research/

    MILLENNIALS & This 1 Sentence Summarizes the Entire Millennial Generation

    by Nicolas Cole, Inc. Magazine, 1/21/18.

    This one sentence summarizes the entire Millennial generation:

    “I want to be the one who comes up with the idea, not the person who executes on it.”

    That’s the problem.

    The world doesn’t need more ideas. Ideas are easy. Ideas are as abundant as air itself.

    What the world needs is more hands on deck, more doers, more builders–more people who know the value of patience, and who can take something that sounds great in theory and work to bring it to life.

    Because let me tell you: The way an idea starts is never the way the idea ends.

    What sounds like utopia often turns out to be a complicated web of inconsistencies.

    And any idea that is immediately validated because it sounds good usually turns out to be a weak or worthless idea.

    Read more at … https://www.inc.com/nicolas-cole/every-ambitious-millennial-that-makes-this-1-mistake-fails.html

    MULTI-VENUE & Ch. of England Allows Sunday Services to Move to Other Times During the Week

    by BBC News, 2/22/19

    …. Decades of falling church attendances have left some priests looking after up to 20 rural churches. Previously, a rural priest would need to apply for permission from a bishop to not hold a Sunday service in each church.

    The Bishop of Willesden – the Right Reverend Pete Broadbent – chairs the Simplification Task Force formed in 2014 to improve the process of the Church of England. He said changing the law reflected the current practice of priests who look after multiple churches. Following the vote, he said: “You’re meant to get a dispensation from the bishop – this just changes the rules to make it easier for people to do what they’re already doing. It stops the bureaucracy.

    “This was just one (amendment) where we said, ‘Out of date, doesn’t work, we’re operating differently in the countryside now, therefore let’s find a way of making it work.'”

    When asked if the decision would affect elderly churchgoers in rural locations, who might have to travel further to attend a service, Rev Broadbent said: “No, because at the moment this is already regularised and it’s already happening.”

    The Reverend Rose Hudson-Wilkin, a chaplain to the Speaker of the House of Commons, said although it was “wonderful” to have “that one day where everyone can concentrate”, the Church had to be realistic about people’s day to day lives.

    “Times are changing – it is not just about a shortage of clergy but also the fact that people work on a Sunday,” she said. “There is no use in crying over spilt milk. We need to find creative ways to worship.”

    She added that at her churches “Thursday is the new Sunday”.

    Read more at … https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-47326993

    MISSIONARIES & Their role in raising awareness of global atrocities and bringing about moral reform

    by Jason Bruner, Arizona State Univeraity, The Conversation, 11/7/18.

    …One of the most notable examples of the use of missionary networks in bridging the imagined distance between a Western Christian public and distant people comes from the Congo Free State, which was established in 1885 and ruled solely by King Leopold of Belgium. 

    Leopold’s rule was characterized by widespread atrocities. Some estimates of the death toll of Leopold’s policies exceed 10 million people. Leopold used his reign to extract natural resources from the region. Following a boom in rubber prices, his agents were quick to use violence against the local population to make them harvest and process rubber.

    In 1904, Alice Harris, a Protestant missionary with the Congo Balolo Mission, which was organized and supported by British Baptists, took what would become an iconic image of the horrors. Her image has a Congolese father sitting in a kind of stupor, gazing at his daughter’s severed hand and foot, which lie in front of him on the missionary’s porch. 

    Harris’s image was reproduced in a host of pamphlets, books and newspapers in both Britain and the United States. Along with other images and reports, it helped foment an international reaction against Leopold’s brutal reign…

    Missionaries believed that God worked with them through religious conversions, moral reform and material and economic progress, to spread the truth of Christianity. The role of missionary media became foundational in providing information and images of suffering in the world.

    This role often pushed them into ever more remote territories. The information that they sent enabled many Christians in the West to more easily imagine the world as a globally connected community.

    Read more at … https://theconversation.com/how-christian-missionary-media-shaped-the-world-104888

    MEETINGS & A New Study of 19,000,000 Meetings Reveals That Meetings Waste More Time Than Ever (But There Is a Solution)

    by Peter Economy, Inc. Magazine, 1/11/19.

    …According to Doodle’s 2019 State of Meetings report, the cost of poorly organized meetings in 2019 will reach $399 billion in the U.S. and $58 billion in the U.K. This is almost half a trillion dollars for these two countries alone — a tremendous drag on the effectiveness of businesses.

    And what are some of the consequences for employees who suffer through poorly organized meetings? According to the report, respondents most often cited:

    • Poorly organized meetings mean I don’t have enough time to do the rest of my work (44%)
    • Unclear actions lead to confusion (43%)
    • Bad organization results in a loss of focus on projects (38%)
    • Irrelevant attendees slow progress (31%)
    • Inefficient processes weaken client/supplier relationships (26%)

    The good news is there are things anyone can do to make their meetings better and more efficient and effective. Doodle’s State of Meetings report suggests that doing these four things can make a big difference:

    • Set clear objectives for your meeting
    • Have a clear agenda
    • Don’t have too many people in the room
    • Use visual stimulus such as videos and presentations

    Read more at … https://www.inc.com/peter-economy/a-new-study-of-19000000-meetings-reveals-that-meetings-waste-more-time-than-ever-but-there-is-a-solution.html