STMs & Spiritual Transformation Movements: Iranians are converting to evangelical Christianity in Turkey #NPR.

“Iranians Are Converting To Evangelical Christianity In Turkey” by Fariba Nawa, National Public Radio, 12-/14/18.

…Sebnem Koser Akcapar, a sociology professor at Istanbul’s Koç University who has been studying refugees and their change of faith, says she has witnessed the rise in conversions.

“The numbers of Iranian refugees converting have grown tremendously over the years. A small church consisting of 20 to 30 families has become a much bigger congregation housing 80 to 100 people on a regular Sunday,” she says.

Akcapar believes only some of the refugees are genuine converts. Others are using religious persecution as a way to get to the West, which may be the only way for them to lead a normal life, she says.

With more U.S. sanctions on Iran, Iranians are facing economic hardships and political pressure.

The United Pentecostal Church in Denizli can’t keep up with the demand, says the church’s Turkey representative Rick Robinson, who has lived in the country for 13 years. It has churches in eight Turkish cities and refugees are calling on them to open more.

He says the church provides a spiritual outlet for refugees, not financial support, and that he welcomes anyone regardless of whether they are genuinely converting or not.

Robinson thinks many of the congregants may not be believers, at least not at first. “There might even be some who start with the help just for the refugee status and become sincere,” he says matter-of-factly.

Robinson, a tall pastor with silver hair, welcomes the Iranians into the church with hugs and laughter.

Farzana says one reason she converted was the way Iran’s interpretation of Islam treats women. When she divorced an abusive husband, she says, an Iranian court granted him custody of her older son and daughter. Under Iran’s Sharia Islamic law, fathers get custody of older children.

“Mostly because of this I became disillusioned with Islam,” she says. “That judge sitting there and giving orders was completely siding with men. Everywhere in Iran men come before women.”

Farzana says she was shattered and felt lost after her children were taken away.

But a year later, Farzana married her current Iranian husband and they had Andya. She hired a high school friend to assist her in her thriving beauty salon, and soon her friend, a Christian convert, began to recruit her to Tehran’s secret churches.

“Once she began trusting me, she gave me photocopied writings and said, ‘I’m giving these to you as a gift. Go read them. These are the word of God,'” Farzana recalls.

Read more at … https://www.npr.org/2018/12/14/669662264/iranians-are-converting-to-evangelical-christianity-in-turkey

SYSTEM 4 of 7SYSTEMS.church: REGENERATION & People/Places are supernaturally changed for the better.

7.4 systems yellow

This is fourth (4th) in a series of articles by Bob Whitesel, D.Min., Ph.D. (5/17/17) introducing the 7SYSTEMS.CHURCH and which first appeared in Church Revitalizer Magazine.

The “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) is based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice.  An introduction to the “7 Systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) can be found here: www.7systems.church

People & places are changed (regeneration system).

Regeneration most notably happens at conversion (2 Corinthians 5:17). And though spiritual transformation may sometimes be downplayed as it is unfashionable, people still want to be changed (the self-help industry is a testimony to this). Furthermore, the Bible makes clear that spiritual transformation lies at the center of Jesus’ message (John 3:16) and humankind’s destiny (Romans 6:23).

When people are spiritually transformed so too will be their neighborhoods. Not by politics nor coercion, this happens by transformed people daily living out their changed lives (Acts 2:43-47). Healthy churches embrace a system that equally emphasizes spiritual and neighborhood transformation. (The following is excerpted and adapted from Bob Whitesel’s Cure for the Common Church, chapter 7: “Why New is Needed.”)

Newness for Those in Spiritual Need

There is the true newness that will permeate the uncommon church.  It is an expectation and invitation for people to be transformed physically and spiritually by a reunification with their loving heavenly Father (and among a community that embraces such newness).  Figure 7.1 gives an overview of why and where supernatural newness comes.

Figure 7.1 An Overview of Newness for Those in Need

God cares about those in need.
  • “I know that the LORD will take up the case of the poor and will do what is right  for the needy.” Psalm 140:12
  • You have been a refuge for the poor, a refuge for the needy in distress,” Isaiah 25:4
God wants to bestow upon those in need a spiritual and physical newness
  • Jesus declared, “I came so that they could have life—indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest” (John 10:10)
  • “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Cor. 5:17)
Christians are to provide a fellowship that fosters and anticipates this newness 
  • “True devotion, the kind that is pure and faultless before God the Father, is this: to care for orphans and widows in their difficulties and to keep the world from contaminating us.” James 1:27
  • “Instead, when you give a banquet, invite the poor, crippled, lame, and blind.  And you will be blessed because they can’t repay you. Instead, you will be repaid when the just are resurrected.” Luke 14:13-14

In the previous chapters we saw that the term missio Dei describes God’s quest to be reunited with his wayward offspring.  Once this reunion is made, a real newness in personal lives emerges, a newness toward which the uncommon church will be orientated.  Though growing O.U.T., S.M.A.L.L. and L.E.A.R.N.ers are part of the process, a church will not become uncommonly supernatural unless it welcomes and expects spiritual and physical transformation.

People today (but probably no more than in any other period) are in search of newness.  They want to alleviate bad habits, overcome harmful enticements, curb destructive behavior, be more loving, kind and generous.  But something deep inside of each one of us seems to pull us back toward bad actions.  The cure, the real, long-term cure for uncommonness is a church where supernatural encounter and expectation is woven into the fabric of the congregation.  And so, an uncommon church will exhibit many of the characteristics of Figure 7.2. 

Figure 7.2 Church Patterns That Welcome Transformation 

The uncommon church
  • Expects miracles to happen
  • Expects people to be changed in positive ways that no human effort could accomplish
  • Expects people to show signs of growing in their dependence upon God rather than dependence upon humans
  • Does not put its trust in programs, pastors, the past or trends; but daily increases in their dependence upon God’s supernatural assistance to meet physical and spiritual needs

Why NEW is Needed

Humans Are in a Pickle.  

As we just noted, humans want to do the right thing, but we find ourselves constantly and repeatedly failing to do what we know is right.  God knows we are prone to this (after all he’s a long time observer of our behavior).  And, God has made a way for us to be changed.  The Message Bible is a good translation for putting such principles in modern idiom, and Figure 7.3 explains this fracture.

Figure 7.3 Our Wrong Actions Fracture Our Fellowship With God

We have an inner pull that makes us do the wrong thing, even when we know better
  • “It wasn’t so long ago that we ourselves were stupid and stubborn, dupes of sin, ordered every which way by our glands, going around with a chip on our shoulder, hated and hating back..” Titus 3:3 (MSG)
These wrong actions separate us from our loving heavenly Father
  • “There’s nothing wrong with God; the wrong is in you.  Your wrongheaded lives caused the split between you and God.  Your sins got between you so that he doesn’t hear.” Isaiah 59:2 (MSG)
If we accept God’s plan to have Christ bear our punishment, then God will restore our fellowship with Him, help us change and give us eternal life too!
  • “But when God, our kind and loving Savior God, stepped in, he saved us from all that. It was all his doing; we had nothing to do with it. He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG)

How Did God Create a Route Back?

Once humans see that we are prone to do what is bad for ourselves and that we are incapable of changing by ourselves; we then notice that God has created a route, a bridge so to speak, back to fellowship with God.  Figure 7.4 is how the Message Bible explains it.

Figure 7.4  God’s Plan for a Route Back 

Jesus took the punishment for our wrong actions (so we could be restored to a close relationship with our loving heavenly Father):
  • “But God put his love on the line for us by offering his Son in sacrificial death … Romans 5:8 (MSG). 
  • “Since we’ve compiled this long and sorry record as sinners (both us and them) and proved that we are utterly incapable of living the glorious lives God wills for us, God did it for us. Out of sheer generosity he put us in right standing with himself. A pure gift. He got us out of the mess we’re in and restored us to where he always wanted us to be. And he did it by means of Jesus Christ.” Romans 3:23-24 (MSG)
Trusting in Jesus’ actions will acquit us from the punishment due for our wrong doings and give us a “whole and lasting life:”
  • “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted…” John 3:16-17 (MSG)
This route back is only available through Jesus Christ.
  • “Jesus said, “I am the Road, also the Truth, also the Life. No one gets to the Father apart from me.” John 14:6 (MSG)

How Do We Take That “Route” Back to God?

Now that we understand that God has created a route back to fellowship with himself, we begin to grasp that the all-powerful Creator of the universe wants to have personal friendship with each of us who will return.  So, what is involved in returning to him?  The answer can be summed up in the statement of Figure 7.5.  let’s look at this figure and then examine three important words in it.

Figure 7.5  How We Take the Route Back to God

Repentance must be combined with faith in order to bring about spiritual transformation.

Repentance

Repentance is a decision to “break with the past” which also carries the idea of turning and going in a new direction.  This is what it means when 1 John 1:8-9 says “…if we admit our sins—make a clean breast of them—he won’t let us down; he’ll be true to himself. He’ll forgive our sins and purge us of all wrongdoing” (MSG).

People come to this stage when they realize they are dissatisfied with the way their life is going and know they need help beyond what humanity can provide.  They may be frustrated that their life is full of animosities, pride, biases, deceptions, conflicts and a host of other maladies.  And so, they seek inner change.

The good news is that God wants that change for you too!  He even promises to give you supernatural power to help you make those changes.  It is this trust (or faith) in God’s ability to help you that takes you to the next step.

Faith

“Faith” is a reliance and inner sense of knowing that God has the power to transform you.  The author of Hebrews offers a classic statement about faith:

It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that he exists and that he cares enough to respond to those who seek him.  Heb. 11:6 (MSG, italics mine)

Author and lay theologian C. S. Lewis reminds us that faith also carries the idea of growing in unwavering faith, stating, “Faith… is the art of holding on to things your reason once accepted, despite your changing moods.”

New People (Spiritual Transformation) 

Spiritual transformation in biblical terms means divine empowerment to reverse direction and go in an opposite direction with your life.  The author of Titus describes it this way:

He gave us a good bath, and we came out of it new people, washed inside and out by the Holy Spirit. Our Savior Jesus poured out new life so generously. God’s gift has restored our relationship with him and given us back our lives. And there’s more life to come—an eternity of life! You can count on this.” Titus 3:4-7 (MSG, italics mine)

Therefore … 

  • When repentance (for our wrong doings) 
  • combines with faith (in Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on your behalf) 
  • then spiritual transformation (into a new person) occurs.

  This spiritual transformation into a new person has been called many things: conversion, salvation, being born-again, etc.  And, though these are important terms they also have been mischaracterized.  Unfortunately to many people today they do not bring to mind the original meaning of being transformed from our old way of life.  

Today spiritual transformation may be the best term to sum up what God is doing.  When he creates a new person our old desires for self-satisfaction, preferring oneself over others, etc. will still be there, but spiritual transformation reminds us there is divine power to increasingly overcome these self-serving lures.   And, we experience an emerging confidence and power as we see God daily helping us come closer to him and as we participate in his mission.  And so, spiritual transformation is a remarkable intersection of human will, Jesus’ sacrifice, God’s forgiveness and a rekindled heavenward relationship.  This is not a transformation that we can muster up ourselves.  This is a change that goes deeply to the purpose of the One who created us.  It goes to the core of our relationship with a heavenly Father who loves us and can help us. 

And so, the Church is primarily a community that is collectively and constantly welcoming and experiencing this spiritual transformation where new people emerge.  Yet, the gloomy fact is that most commonly today, congregations are not experiencing this.  And, it does several things to a church, including robbing a church of its supernatural expectation and making a church more familiar with churchgoers than non-churchgoers.  

Thus, the “HOW” of Growing N.E.W. is critical for nurturing an uncommon church, But, before we look at Chapter 8: Grow N.E.W. HOW let us look briefly at why spiritual formation is at the pivot point of the uncommon church.

You can download the rest of the chapter here:

BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 7 WHY NEW

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BOOK ©Whitesel EXCERPT – CURE Chpt 8 HOW NEW.

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For an overview of the “7 systems” of a healthy church (www.7System.church) based upon an analysis of 35,000 church combined with 25+ years of consulting research and practice, see www.7systems.church

TRANSFER GROWTH & In the past, churches could grow by drawing nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case.” #ThomRainer

by Aaron Earls, LifeWay, 6/14/18.

… (Rainer:) “ministry is harder now than it used to be.” In the past, he said, churches could grow by drawing in nominal Christians as there was still a cultural benefit to church attendance. “That is no longer the case,” he said.

Many churches rightly jettisoned a programmatic approach to evangelism, but they failed to replace it with anything else, Rainer asserted. “Instead of reaching out,” he said, “they became inward-focused.”

Yet Rainer was optimistic about the future as he spoke at the breakfast with Jonathan Howe, director of strategic initiatives at LifeWay and co-host of the “Rainer on Leadership” podcast.

Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

…Rainer noted the importance of personal evangelism in seeing a denominational renewal. “The way to turn things around is if every member of every church will answer the call of the Great Commission and say, ‘Here am I. Send me,’” he said. That includes pastors and leaders.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/06/13/thom-rainer-points-way-forward-despite-denominational-challenges/

SPIRITUAL TRAMSFORMATION & Christians more intentional, but less likly to share the message of the Good News since 1993.

by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 5/1

… According to a new study from Barna, compared to 25 years ago, Christians today say they try to be more intentional about sharing their faith, but fewer say evangelism is the responsibility of every believer.

In 1993, 9 in 10 Christians (89 percent) who had shared their faith said every Christian has a responsibility to share their faith. Today, only two-thirds (64 percent) of Christians who had a conversation about faith agree—a 25-point drop.

When asked about how they share their faith, modern Christians are more likely to stick to a set formula or certain strategy than were Christians in the early ’90s. More than 4 in 10 Christians in 2018 (44 percent) say they use the same basic approach each time they have an evangelistic conversation, compared with 33 percent in 1993.

The most common approaches today are asking questions about the other person’s beliefs and experiences (70 percent) and sharing their faith through their lifestyle (65 percent).

Those methods were common a quarter of a century ago as well, with 74 percent saying they ask questions and 77 percent saying they share with their lifestyle rather than their words.

The most common method in 1993, however, has since fallen out of favor. Almost 8 in 10 of Christians who had a conversation about faith (78 percent) said then they spoke about the benefits of accepting Jesus. Today, only 50 percent do that.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/05/16/christians-more-intentional-less-evangelistic-since-1993/

ENTHUSIAST.life & Churchgoing versus conversion?

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., Jan. 2018.

Waypoint 11 – Churchgoing versus Conversion

In the fall of 1740, parishes in the English countryside were emptying as people moved to the cities to find work in newly built factories. Farmworkers left an uncertain economic life for the promise of financial stability, even though factories were known for inhumane working conditions and squalor. Cities teemed with disadvantaged strangers from the countryside. This was the beginning of the Industrial Revolution.

City dwellers, feeling more sophisticated than their country cousins, treated these economic immigrants with disdain, suspicion, and exclusion. Wesley saw the church as God’s instrument to reconcile this cultural hostility, though his message gained little headway. 

All this changed after his Aldersgate experience. He started to preach that poor and rich alike would instantly change their outlook when they realized they were God’s children and not His servants. For a servant, loving people who are different from oneself is a duty. But loving those who are different is a personality trait of the sons and daughters of God.1

The idea that such a change of heart might happen quickly came from Wesley’s theological colleague Peter Bohler,2 as well as Wesley’s reading of Jonathan Edwards’s descriptions of conversions in New England. 

John measured his own experience with the guidelines given by Paul, and added a commentary. Paul wrote, “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Cor. 5:17 kjv). John commented: “First, his judgments are new: his judgment of himself, of happiness, of holiness. . . . Secondly, his designs are new. . . . Thirdly, his desires are new. . . . Fourthly, his conversation is new. . . . Fifthly, his actions are new.”3 And later he stated, “Love of the world is changed into love of God, pride into humility, passion into meekness; hatred, envy, malice, into a sincere, tender, disinterested love for all humankind.”4

Outlooks, intentions, desires, conversations, and actions had changed and would continue to develop in both John and Charles. They were not continually happy, nor free from worry,5 but the faith of a child signaled a new trajectory.6

Wesley entered English pulpits with the message that churchgoers must be converted from the faith of a servant to the faith of a son or daughter. Since poor and rich alike dutifully went to church and struggled to obey God’s commandments, both groups resonated with the idea that He wants a relationship rather than just cold, religious duty.

Not all resonated with John Wesley’s teachings. Some were threatened. Churchgoers, pastors, and even bishops, who had long preached service to God out of duty and obligation, were offended by Wesley’s message that the rabble of the city should think of themselves as God’s children. John used his own life as an example, pointing out that he had been an Oxford lecturer, even a renowned church planter, but still had not been converted from the faith of a servant to something better. He invited his hearers, parish priests, and bishops, to be converted to the faith of a child. 

Not surprisingly, some pastors who opened their pulpits to Wesley were not overjoyed. They felt that Wesley insinuated that they might not be converted. Furthermore, some congregants didn’t like to hear that their years of service and church attendance didn’t alone please God.

Lesson

Enthusiasts move beyond religious observance to embrace a parent-child relationship with God.

The Bible reminds us that serving God is not about obligations such as laws and rules, but rather is an opportunity to have a personal relationship and journey with God.

Happy are people who are humble, because they will inherit the earth. (Matt. 5:5)

Happy are people who are hungry and thirsty for righteousness, because they will be fed until they are full. (v. 6)

Happy are people who make peace, because they will be called God’s children. (v. 9)

An instantaneous change and a new beginning brought about by accepting our father-child relationship with God was at the heart of Wesley’s message. Is it at the heart of your faith?

Application

[Special block or other formatting.] For personal devotion, read the questions, meditate upon each, and write down your responses. For group discussion, share, as appropriate, your answers with your group and then discuss the application.

Are you going through the motions of being a Christian because of fear, guilt, or even expectations? Or do you have the liberating and empowering sensation of serving God because He loves you like a daughter or son?

In the following list, circle all the statements that represent your true feelings. 

Faith of a Servant

I fear going to hell.

I serve God because of duty.

I serve God because people expect me to do so.

Faith of a Son or Daughter

I look forward to meeting God in heaven.

I serve God because of my relationship with Him.

I serve God because He daily empowers me to do so.

Ask God to show you the faith of a child rather than the faith of a servant. Read seven Scriptures that depict our relationship with God. Start with those below, then add at least three more.

You are all God’s children through faith in Christ Jesus. (Gal. 3:26)

Because you are sons and daughters, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, ‘Abba, Father!’ Therefore you are no longer a slave but a son or daughter, and if you are his child, then you are also an heir through God. (Gal. 4:6–7)

See what kind of love the Father has given to us in that we should be called God’s children, and that is what we are! Because the world didn’t recognize him, it doesn’t recognize us. Dear friends, now we are God’s children, and it hasn’t yet appeared what we will be. We know that when he appears we will be like him because we’ll see him as he is. (1 John 3:1–2)

Finally, ask God to transform your faith today to that of a son or daughter. Did you feel something happen inside of you? If you didn’t yet, keep praying and seeking God. And when it happens, tell someone!

Speaking hashtag: #Kingswood2018

SPIRITUAL TRANSFORMATION & 4 waypoints I use to explain salvation & conversion

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/22/18.

As my clients, colleagues and mentees know … I believe every person should be ready to explain the Good News at any time. I’ve created a short version based upon the most popular presentations (such as the Romans Road, the Four Spiritual Laws and the Four Steps to Peace with God). The 4 Waypoint presentation is a work in progress, but here it is:

(intro.) Think of life as a journey, it’s easy to do. You are going from Point A to Point B, etc. These are called “waypoints.” Here are the 4 waypoints God wants you to encounter.

1. God loves you & wants to give you eternal life.

(John 3:16) For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.

2. But our poor choices have wrecked our relationship with Him and doomed us.

(Romans 3:23) For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

(Romans 6:23) For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.

3. Only Jesus can get us back in a right relationship w/ God.

(Romans 5:8) But God demonstrates His own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.

(John 14:6) I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.

4. Accept His forgiveness & start living a full and eternal life.

(Acts 16:31) Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved.

(John 10:10) I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

For other Good News presentation tools: CLICK HERE.

Speaking hashtags: #Kingwood2018

GENERATIONS & The surprising reasons members of Generation Z become Christians: #Family #ChristianSchool #SundaySchool #Bible

By Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends, LifeWay, 3/28/18

A recent survey sought to find out the spiritual temperature of British members of Generation Z. Researchers were so shocked by the results they delayed releasing the results until they could analyze it more.

More than 1 in 5 British people (21 percent) between the ages of 11 and 18 describe themselves as active followers of Jesus, with 13 percent saying they are practicing Christians who attend church.

The perception had been that Christianity was much lower among British teens. “There was disbelief among the team [of researchers] because it was so high,” Jimmy Dale, the Church of England’s national youth evangelism officer, told the Telegraph.

The survey, commissioned by Hope Revolution Partnership, a Christian youth organization, also asked young people why they became Christians.

While almost half (45 percent) say their growing up in a Christian family was one of the most important reasons they became a Christian themselves, many listed some unexpected reasons for their faith.

Researchers asked: “When you think about the reasons you became a Christian which two or three of the following, if any, were most important for you?”

Here’s how the members of Generation Z responded:

45% growing up in a Christian family
17% going to a religious school
15% Sunday School
15% reading the Bible
13% visiting a church building
13% going to a church wedding, funeral, christening, baptism, confirmation
12% going to a regular church service
11% a youth group
10% a spiritual experience

Even fewer spoke about other church youth activities or specific courses on Christianity popular in England like Alpha or Christianity Explored.

Read more at … https://factsandtrends.net/2018/03/27/the-surprising-reasons-generation-z-become-christians/