Monthly Archives: February 2012
I married Sarai in the land of my father, a place called Ur, before God called us to go. Looking back, it seems odd that we didn’t know where we were going. I do remember the move feeling right, beyond reason or explanation. She felt it too, so we went. Our sense of purpose was clear and it was easy to trust. My bones are older now and she is gone. Looking over the canvas of my days, I remember divine moments and conversations and I see that God is so faithful in every single thing that He promised. His words to me as a young man are finding their beginning in the earth. I can see in my children the nations they will become. Their children will be generations upon generations held in the very hands of God. I can still hear His voice to me like it was yesterday. Your children will be like the stars in the sky. And it’s happening. I don’t deserve how good God has been to me. Yet even in the midst of promises being kept, I sometimes wonder about the mistakes I have made. There are so many things I would undo if I could. When I convinced Sarah to lie about being my wife to the Egyptians, it seemed so necessary. The famine was severe and both of us were very afraid. She was immediately noticed like I knew she would be. Pharaoh treated me extremely well for her sake, like I knew he would. I’ve never been more frustrated for being right. My decision put her in an impossible situation and wounded her deeply. More than that, it wounded “us” deeply. She still loved me. I still loved her. But our relationship was never quite the same. Seasons came and went but the years of trying and remaining childless were the hardest. To watch the joy and growth of children, who are not your own, is bittersweet. Our hope for a son by itself was a strong one. When coupled with God’s speaking and destiny in our lives it was unbearable. We were failing Him. The dream of starting a nation to bless the earth eventually was something we just didn’t talk about. For years we lived, maintaining our house and wealth and the hope of children faded like a barely remembered dream. When we were older and the chance for our own children was long past, we came up with a plan to return to the dream that God had for us. Sarah suggested Hagar and it seemed like a way for us to finally have the children we longed for. It seems obvious now, but I could have said, “no.” I dishonored my wife completely. I was trying to do what I felt was right, what I talked myself into believing God would have me do to carry on our family name and heritage. I was such a fool. It’s a hard lesson, but if we trust God to do only the things we can do without Him, that isn’t trusting at all. That’s glorifying our own effort and calling it divine. It wasn’t until God spoke that the weight of our mistake settled on my heart completely. I looked at my hands, now grown old. I looked at my wife’s features and her beautiful gray hair, seeing for the first time what I had missed all of these years. God wasn’t bringing the promise through me. He was bringing the promise through us. His plan was for Sarah to make this journey with me. He changed her name too. The times I trusted God afterwards, the great moments of faith and the stories that live on, all find their root in the failures I experienced with her. The fear, the lack of trust and the belief that the promise was dependent on us were all revealed in my relationship with Sarah. He used my mistakes and lack of courage to open my own heart to me. He used those moments to teach me and to lead me closer to Him. But the wounding she experienced wasn’t the only way for God to shape me, it was the path that I chose and I would do that differently if I could. All of my regrets find a single truth in common: I didn’t love Sarah like I should have. Focused on what I wanted God to do, I lost so much of the joy that we should have had together. The way I pursued my work and my drive to follow God hurt my marriage. My wife paid a heavy price to walk through life with me. Then Abraham breathed his last and died at a good old age, an old man and full of years; and he was gathered to his people. His sons Isaac and Ishmael buried him in the cave of Machpelah near Mamre… the field Abraham had bought from the Hittites. There Abraham was buried with his wife Sarah. (The Book of Genesis, 25)
Devotional Thought for the Day
Abraham dishonored his wife Sarah more than once in the pursuit of fulfilling God’s promises to him. These events ultimately reflect a lack of trust in God and weaken the husband / wife relationship. Unfortunately, its all too easy in ministry to dishonor our spouses and fail to see them as partners in the journey of living out our calling. Reflect on how you might be dishonoring your spouse (or close friends if unmarried) during your current season of ministry. What do you need to change to more fully honor God and your spouse.
What People Experience in Churches
Most Americans have first-hand experiences in churches or parishes. What happens, if anything, in the hearts and minds of those who attend? To explore this matter, Barna Group surveyed Americans who have attended a Christian church sometime in the past and discovered what they say about their experiences in these congregations.
Connecting with God
Connecting with God is perhaps the most important outcome facilitated by churches. Most people (66%) feel they have had “a real and personal connection” with God while attending church. However, that means one-third of those who have attended a church in the past have never felt God’s presence while in a congregational setting. Also, when asked about frequency, most of those who have attended church describe these encounters as rare. One-third of all adults in the country report connecting with God at least monthly (35%) via a congregational setting. Among those who attend church every week, 44% said they experience God’s presence every week and 18% do so on a monthly basis.
The survey also probed the degree to which people say their lives had been changed by attending church. Overall, one-quarter of Americans (26%) who had been to a church before said that their life had been changed or affected “greatly” by attending church. Another one-fourth (25%) described it as “somewhat” influential. Nearly half said their life had not changed at all as a result of churchgoing (46%).
Gaining New Insights
One of the most significant gaps uncovered by the research was the fact that most people cannot recall gaining any new spiritual insights the last time they attended church. Asked to think about their last church visit, three out of five church attenders (61%) said they could not remember a significant or important new insight or understanding related to faith. Even among those who attended church in the last week, half admitted they could not recall a significant insight they had gained.
Feeling Cared For
Another aspect of the research was to explore whether people feel connected with other human beings at church. The study revealed that nearly seven out of 10 respondents (68%) said when they attend church they feel “part of a group of people who are united in their beliefs and who take care of each other in practical ways.”
On the other hand, one-quarter (23%) of those with church experience selected the description that church feels “like a group sharing the same space in a public event but who were not connected in a real way.” One in 11 (9%) said they were simply “not sure.”
Helping the Poor
Finally, the study examined whether people believe their church prioritizes caring for the poor outside of the congregation. The survey asked respondents to consider the budget, activities, and encouragement of the church they usually attend and to rate how much of an emphasis is placed on serving the poor. In total, 40% of adults with church experience said caring for the poor was emphasized “a lot,” while 33% indicated it was “somewhat” of a priority.
Does Church Size Matter?
Many heated discussions occur about the optimal size for a church, but this data suggests that church experiences do not differ all that much based on the size of the church. For the most part, attenders of small, medium and larger churches described similar outcomes from their church engagement. Looking at moderate differences, attenders of mid-sized churches (defined as those with 100-299 adult attenders) were slightly less likely to report positive outcomes from church than were those attending larger and smaller congregations. Also, those attending larger churches (300+ attenders) were more likely than average to say they had gained new spiritual insight and understanding and that their church clearly prioritizes serving the poor.
Another noteworthy research finding is that older adults generally report the most favorable experiences at churches. This is not altogether surprising, but the level of disaffection of young adults is striking. The youngest generation—a segment Barna Group labels Mosaics, ages 18 to 27—is significantly less likely to describe positive outcomes while attending congregations. In particular, there were significant gaps between young adults and older adults when it came to feeling part of a group that cares for each other, experiencing God’s presence, knowing the church prioritizes assisting the poor, and being personally transformed.
Barna also compared the experiences of Catholics, mainliners and non-mainline attenders. To control for differences in participation, the analysis of these data was limited to those who are “practicing Christians” —that is, those who go to church at least monthly and who say their religious faith is very important in their life. The research revealed that practicing Catholics generally had less positive outcomes in their congregational experiences than did Protestant attenders. Statistically speaking, non-mainline Protestants were only distinct from mainline Protestants in their likelihood of gaining a new spiritual insight at church.
Perspective on the Findings
David Kinnaman, president of Barna Group, commented on the findings. “This research points to both good news and causes for concern. On the positive side, many churchgoers receive a diverse and rich set of inputs by being involved in a church or parish, most notably connecting with God and others.
“Yet, the research results are also a reminder that faith leaders cannot take these things for granted. Millions of active participants find their church experiences to be lacking. Entering the New Year, consider spending time thinking and praying how your faith community can identify, plan, and measure a deeper, more holistic set of experiences and outcomes so that people are not mere observers of ministry but genuine participants.”
About the Research
This report is based upon telephone interviews conducted in the OmniPoll℠ (part of Barna Group’s Barna Poll series). This study consisted of a random sample of 1,022 adults selected from across the continental United States, age 18 and older. The research included 150 interviews conducted among people using cell phones. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with the aggregate sample is ±3.2 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to several key demographic variables.
Elders are those born before 1946; Boomers are the generation born from 1946 to 1964; Busters are individuals born between 1965 and 1983; and Mosaics are adults born between 1984 and 1993.
“Practicing Christians” are adults who describe themselves as Christians, attend a worship service at least once a month, and say their religious faith is very important in their life.
Mainline denominations include American Baptist Churches in the USA; the Episcopal Church; the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America; the Presbyterian Church (USA); the United Church of Christ; and the United Methodist Church. Non-mainline denominations are Protestant churches other than those included in the mainline category described above.
About Barna Group
Barna Group (which includes its research division, the Barna Research Group) is a private, non-partisan, for-profit organization under the umbrella of the Issachar Companies. It conducts primary research, produces media resources pertaining to spiritual development, and facilitates the healthy spiritual growth of leaders, children, families and Christian ministries.
Located in Ventura, California, Barna Group has been conducting and analyzing primary research to understand cultural trends related to values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviors since 1984. If you would like to receive free e-mail notification of the release of each update on the latest research findings from Barna Group, you may subscribe to this free service at the Barna website (www.barna.org). Additional research-based resources are also available through this website.
© Barna Group 2012.
…something to think about…
Washington, DC Metro Station on a cold January morning in 2007. The man with a violin played six Bach pieces for about 45 minutes. During that time approximately 2 thousand people went through the station, most of them on their way to work. After 3 minutes a middle aged man noticed there was a musician playing. He slowed his pace and stopped for a few seconds and then hurried to meet his schedule.
4 minutes later:
The violinist received his first dollar: a woman threw the money in the hat and, without stopping, continued to walk.
A young man leaned against the wall to listen to him, then looked at his watch and started to walk again.
A 3-year old boy stopped but his mother tugged him along hurriedly. The kid stopped to look at the violinist again, but the mother pushed hard and the child continued to walk, turning his head all the time. This action was repeated by several other children. Every parent, without exception, forced their children to move on quickly.
The musician played continuously. Only 6 people stopped and listened for a short while. About 20 gave money but continued to walk at their normal pace. The man collected a total of $32.
He finished playing and silence took over. No one noticed. No one applauded, nor was there any recognition.
No one knew this, but the violinist was Joshua Bell, one of the greatest musicians in the world. He played one of the most intricate pieces ever written, with a violin worth $3.5 million dollars. Two days before Joshua Bell sold out a theater in Boston where the seats averaged $100.
This is a true story. Joshua Bell playing incognito in the metro station was organized by the Washington Post as part of a social experiment about perception, taste and people’s priorities. The questions raised: in a common place environment at an inappropriate hour, do we perceive beauty? Do we stop to appreciate it? Do we recognize talent in an unexpected context?
…. How many other things are we missing?
20 Leaders in 20 Days (Daily Devotional Series).
Join Day 2 [SOS JONAH]
It all started with a simple question of “do you maybe have something in your bucket”… I’m feeling so sick today, but couldn’t resist the temptation of actually answering this question.
Baptisms in church services always marks a very special experience, for me and I’m sure for you!
Not only for those who are being baptised, but its also for those standing on the side lines, who have not yet made that decision or have made it years before and went through the spiritual journey of it already. Its so important, when prayerfully programming this service to think about these three categories of people and where we are taking each of them on the journey! So let’s look at these three categories of people:
1) The ones being baptized
2) The ones on the side line yet to make a commitment
3) Those who have taken this step in their spiritual journey
To each of the above, there is a message to be received during this service. What will it be? What are we communicating? What will be their insight? What will be their integration?
Have a look at this extremely beautiful, moving video combined with a live element of performance of the song “Beautiful Things”.
This weekend we celebrated the holy sacrament of communion, which is always a highlight. To gather around the bread and cup – remembering what Jesus did and reminding ourselves of what Jesus does – is at the center of what it means to be a Christian.
We began with a new song Here and Now, and the great hymns Praise to the Lord the Almighty and And Can it Be. And then Darren Whitehead guided us into communion by giving us a few minutes to “examine our hearts” and prepare ourselves. In this space, Becky and Sharon sang and spoke this moving hymn over us…
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in him, is mine;
alive in him, my living Head,
and clothed in righteousness divine,
bold I approach th’ eternal throne,
and claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be
that thou, my God, should die for me?
After receiving communion together, we stood and sang the second half of “And Can it Be”…
20 Leaders in 20 Day (Daily Devotional Series).
Join Day 1 [SOS PETER]
Churches Reaching Out With Pinterest
=by Tim Schraeder
Whether you’re crazy about pinning or think that it’s just a fad, there’s no denying that Pinterest is a new player on the social media scene. In January it beat YouTube, Reddit, Google+, LinkedIn and MySpace for percentage of total referral traffic in January, according to a Shareaholic study. One church is pioneering this new territory and has some insights to share on how churches can use Pinterest.
Jake Johnson is the publishing and content manager for Mars Hills Church, Resurgence and PastorMark.tv. He oversees content strategy for all of Mars Hill’s online platforms, social, media and various marketing efforts, including their new residence on Pinterest. I had the chance to ask Jake a few questions about what inspired their move onto Pinterest and ideas they would have to offer other churches.
What sparked the idea for Mars Hill to begin using Pinterest?
Jake Johnson: We were impressed with the growth of the platform and intrigued by its visual focus, as Mars Hill has always excelled at visual mediums like design and video. Additionally, we knew the users of Pinterest were overwhelmingly female and wanted to use that opportunity to speak well to the women of Mars Hill and to women who engage with our content.
There have been a number of social media platforms we’ve wanted to explore and expand into but due to lack of resources it was put on the back burner. With the recent addition of our new social media manager, we were free to move forward with some of those plans and Pinterest was our first choice. We love that it makes sharing content interesting and the potential it creates for content to reach far.
Mars Hill traditionally seems to be more masculine in its design and communication. Was this a way of softening your image and appeal to women?
Jake: Yes, in a way. In general, we’ve made a concerted effort to soften the design to be still masculine but more approachable for women. The redesigned marshill.com is a great example of that, as is pastormark.tv. Jesse Bryan, our creative director, has done an incredible job of spearheading the vision for much of our new look, which included adding in some new palette colors, a reworked logo, and a more classic design approach that relies on simplicity and grids.
Our content efforts are following the lead of the new branding direction. Pinterest is an example of that but so is featuring a lot more content on theresurgence.com from the awesome women who are leading ministries at Mars Hill as deacons. We plan on also featuring more content by our female leaders on the Mars Hill blog.
At the end of the day, we’re simply trying to reflect the reality of life at Mars Hill.
What type of content are you pinning? And why?
Jake: Our first priority, as always, is to talk about Jesus. We view all our online efforts as evangelical ones and want to steward well the significant platform God has blessed us with to preach the gospel. As such, our first and most prominent boards are the Jesus board—which is fun because when people follow it, a message says so and so is “following Jesus”—and the Gospel board.
Additionally, we’re highlighting events, design, sermon series, music, books, and dovetailing in support of our current sermon series, Real Marriage, with content applicable for men, women, couples, singles and parents.
It’s new territory, so we’re testing stuff out to see what has traction and what doesn’t. One board we’re looking forward to launching is a typography board that will have well designed type treatments of quotes from the Bible and from sermons.
What has the response been?
Jake: It’s been good so far. Many of the boards have over 700 followers and we’re starting to see some stuff re-pinned. Some folks who are especially passionate about the platform have thanked us for jumping on.
How do you think churches could effectively use Pinterest?
Jake: Pinterest will force churches to up their game on design, as it’s such a visual platform. In order to get noticed, you have to have great photography and art. Churches that want to gain traction should start making design a significant part of their content strategy so that when there is good content to share there is a good image to pin associated with it.
Any other thoughts or comments on this… advice from what you’ve learned so far?
Things can take off fast on the platform, so it’s a great way to get the word out about posts, sermon videos and events. One lesson we’ve learned is set up your boards before launching. Otherwise you’ll overflow people’s dashboards. The first day we launched, my dashboard was awash in a sea of Mars Hill posts.
Also, though it’s a fast-growing platform, the jury is still out on how welcome brands are and you need to think about it differently than Facebook and Twitter. As I’ve mentioned, thinking visually is key.
There’s definitely space for churches to engage in this new space and it’s great to take some notes from Mars Hill’s experience and think about how your church could leverage Pinterest.
I’m so excited to share this with you this afternoon. This is a post that was inspired from Ode 13 “The Lord is our Mirror” reading by James H. Charlesworth which was published in September last year. So start off by reminding yourself where this might have come from. But a community of faith in George decided to pursue this and see where the spiritual journey of this Ode would take them. Read their story below and download the MP3 and Chart of their beautiful workmanship!
If you have moments like these that you would like to share with the Local Church, please email me at email@example.com. We would love to share your moments and learnings!
Love in Christ Anicke
As a community, we are on a journey of discovery.
Discovering God anew in ancient poetry, writings, and liturgy.
In Deutoronomy 33:13-17, a blessing is blessed over Joseph:
New International Version (NIV)
13 About Joseph he said:
“May the LORD bless his land
with the precious dew from heaven above
and with the deep waters that lie below;
14 with the best the sun brings forth
and the finest the moon can yield;
15 with the choicest gifts of the ancient mountains
and the fruitfulness of the everlasting hills;
16 with the best gifts of the earth and its fullness
and the favor of him who dwelt in the burning bush.
Let all these rest on the head of Joseph,
on the brow of the prince among[a] his brothers.
17 In majesty he is like a firstborn bull;
his horns are the horns of a wild ox.
With them he will gore the nations,
even those at the ends of the earth.
Such are the ten thousands of Ephraim;
such are the thousands of Manasseh.”
As a church we long for those ancient mountains.
The gems hidden within thousands of years of dedication and love for the
As I was doing some research on old writings, I came across the Ode 13
translation as posted on theemptycanvas.
Deep within the Lord blessed me with the deep waters that lie below, the
gifts of the ancient mountains, along with the smile of the Burning-Bush
As I shared it with our team, we knew that this is a treasure to be shared
with our community.
Holy silence filled the theatre.
Are you ready to let go of the masks you hold before God?
Ready to wipe the paint off your face, and be real with Him?
An arrangement of the Ode was the obvious next step in this journey within
our sermon series and again we used it in the worship set for the next
God’s pictures in your life.
Do you see God’s pictures?
Are you stuck in routine?
Do you long for His plan for your life?
Can you honestly pray: Be THOU my vision?
Listen prayerfully the Ode once again with us
Ask God to be the Centre.
So that His way becomes your way
So that your eyes will be opened
To see His plans.
To see His pictures.
To see Him.
Thank you for sharing ancient treasures with us.
You’ve set alight a spark within our ministry, thinking and experience with