Bible Reading

By Bob Smietana

Americans have a positive view of the Bible. And many say the Christian scriptures are filled with moral lessons for today.

However, more than half of Americans have read little or none of the Bible.

Less than a quarter of those who have ever read a Bible have a systematic plan for reading the Christian scriptures each day. And a third of Americans never pick it up on their own, according to a new study from Nashville-based LifeWay Research.

Small wonder many church leaders worry about biblical illiteracy, said Scott McConnell, executive director of LifeWay Research.

“Most Americans don’t know first-hand the overall story of the Bible—because they rarely pick it up,” McConnell said. “Even among worship attendees less than half read the Bible daily. The only time most Americans hear from the Bible is when someone else is reading it.”

Many unfamiliar with biblical text

Almost nine out of 10 households (87 percent) own a Bible, according to the American Bible Society, and the average household has three.

But Bible reading remains spotty.

Why Not Read the BibleLifeWay Research surveyed 1,000 Americans about…

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Clear Lake

No matter how many times I hear it, it still shocks me: A pastor announces his resignation because of adultery. Often it’s with someone within his church, sometimes even someone actively involved in ministry, such as a choir member or Sunday school teacher.

It’s such an incredible waste of God’s resources that it not only grieves me, it angers me. I have told my staff that if any of them even flirt with temptation, I will come after them with a baseball bat, and I’ve told them to do the same with me.

As Christian leaders, we need to be above reproach. Paul wrote, “Don’t be so naive and self-confident. You’re not exempt. You could fall flat on your face as easily as anyone else. Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence” (1 Corinthians 10:12 MSG).

That’s why I established these Saddleback Staff Standards for maintaining moral integrity:

  1. Thou shalt not go to lunch alone with the opposite sex. *
  2. Thou shalt not have the opposite sex pick you up or drive you places when it is just the two of you. *
  3. Thou shalt not kiss any attendee of the opposite sex or show…

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Temptation

We’re struggling! More people than ever before are falling prey to sexual temptation, especially through viewing pornography.

Unfortunately, many pastors admit (anonymously) to viewing pornography as well.

If this is a temptation for you, here are some steps to take . . .

Be honest when you’re fatigued and take a rest.

When you’re tired, you are vulnerable to a lot of things – discouragement, depression, and temptation. The Bible encourages us to work for six days and rest on the seventh. If you’re not taking a day off every week, you’re breaking the fourth commandment. Take a day off.

It’s particularly important to take some time off after a spiritual and emotional high. No doubt you’re familiar with the story of Elijah in 1 Kings 18, where he had a big God contest with the prophets on Mt. Carmel. Right after that, he’s in the desert saying, God, I want to die. Take my life. Fatigue is a hazard of being in the ministry, and it lowers our resistance to temptation.

Don’t believe your own hype.

In ministry, you’re put on a pedestal with lots of people admiring you. After one high-profile leader sinned sexually and stepped down temporarily from…

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Dale (not his real name) was in my office, and through sobs of despair and shame, he said, “I don’t know what happened or why, but I cheated on my wife, and now she’s found out and is leaving me.”

I wish I could tell you confessions like that are rare. They’re not.

The question I want you to consider with me is this: Is illicit sex worth it?

In particular, are adultery and pornography worth the cost?

On a regular basis, I teach that sex is a gift from God, and it is. Regardless of the current level of satisfaction in your marriage, sex is a blessing from the Creator. He wants you to experience loving, creative, and exciting sex with your spouse. That’s God’s plan, and after over forty years of marriage, I can tell you from firsthand experience—it’s awesome when his plan comes together.

Few want to hear this, and even fewer believe it nowadays, but illicit sex outside of your marriage, including adultery and pornography, is costly. Tragically, we humans tend to focus on the “fringe benefits” of immorality rather than the high cost of our infidelities.

According to researchers:

Vacation

I’m seeing a disturbing trend.

As of late, a number of highly gifted friends of mine who are senior pastors of small to medium-sized churches have come perilously close to burning out.

Now, there has always been burnout in ministry as long as there have been senior pastors. But my read on this is that the stress placed on the shoulders of leaders in the trenches is unprecedented, at least in my lifetime.

People are attending less, serving less, giving less, and demanding more. And you and I know whom this ends up affecting the most.

Listen, I can’t change the demands being placed on you, but I might be able to give you some practical ideas about how to simplify your life and keep your tank filled.

1. Take a dull axe to your overloaded weekly schedule.

One of the first things I do when I begin coaching someone is spend an exorbitant amount of time figuring out how they’re wired, then challenging every single thing they have on their calendar. We forcibly align what they say their priorities are with the actual, realistic, finite amount of time they have to accomplish these things.

All sermon writing gets done by Wednesday at…

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168. That’s it.

You and I have exactly the same amount of time. Rich or poor, young or old, we each get 168 hours in a week’s time.

With some of that, we need to rest, or we’ll get fewer total weeks in our short lives. With some of that time, we need to spend quality time with people, building friendships and relationships.

And with some of that time, we work. Actually, most of us work during a lot of those168 hours, proportionally speaking.

How many times have you gotten to the end of the day, or the week, or maybe just Monday morning and said, “If I just had more time, I’d . . . ”

Reality check: You can’t get more time.

But what you can do is expand your capacity. You have the ability to be more fruitful with the same amount of time you’re working now.

I recently wrote on another website about the difference between bandwidth and capacity, and how we often confuse the two.

Bandwidth pertains to how much time we have for a given area of life, such as family, work, or volunteering. And capacity refers to how much fruit I am able to bear in…

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Party

Celebrate!

I recently had an aha moment.

I realized I had made significant personal growth in a particular area of my life. As this sunk in, I physically felt taller, and heard that little voice inside my head say . . . Well done. Good job. It was worth the effort. I felt great.

However a deeper impact came when my husband verbalized the same positive messages. When he said the words I felt proud, positive, stirred up, ready to take on a new challenge!

Celebrating a person’s growth; whether it be increased effort, a job well done, reaching a set goal or their willingness to serve God and others is always worth doing because of this effect. We honor what the person has done but the celebration also acts as a catalyst to build self-belief and impart a desire to take on the next challenge.

So how can we celebrate and honor those who lead in our small group ministry? Here are a few ideas you might like to try.

Share the stories

If a leader is doing something creative or different in their group and it is reaping rewards for group life, talk about it! Whether it’s in a…

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Baptism at Saddleback

Many people came through the front doors of our churches during Easter – and many people were saved. But, as you already know, not all of those who come during Easter return the following week. And not everyone who gets saved during Easter services grows spiritually either.

So how do we make sure those who attend our Easter services return, become active in our churches and get involved in ministry?

Keeping the fruit of your ministry is as important as winning the fruit in the first place.

What did the early Church do after big evangelistic harvests?

  • They preached the gospel in that city and won a large number of disciples. Then they returned to Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, strengthening the disciples and encouraging them to remain true to the faith. “We must go through many hardships to enter the kingdom of God,” they said (Acts 14:21-22 NIV).
  • Judas and Silas, who themselves were prophets, said much to encourage and strengthen the believers. After spending some time there, they were sent off by the believers with the blessing of peace to return to those who had sent them. But Paul…

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By Joe Clark, Director of Celebrate Recovery Native Nations

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.

1 Peter 1:3 (NIV)

When you start praying for God to use you, the adventure begins! I have learned that prayer releases Resurrection power – Amen!

The mission of Celebrate Recovery Native Nations is to bring the Gospel to the over 500 sovereign peoples within the borders of the United States and over 600 in Canada. These people face staggering rates of alcoholism, abuse, poverty, and suicide. In that darkness, we see a profound opportunity to walk as the light of the world and share the Gospel of Jesus through the gift of recovery and thus, see a generation transformed.

We can, with God’s help, make an eternal difference! Pastor Rick Warren once said that you can do one of three things: spend, waste, or invest your life. Having cancer twice taught me I am not guaranteed tomorrow, so I need to make an eternal difference today. Connecting, building relationships and lasting…

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Plains

By Roland Wade

Halito! I’m a believer in Jesus Christ. My sobriety date is May 28, 1983. God has delivered me from alcoholism and drug addiction for 33 years, and I am grateful for what the Lord has done in my life and my family. I’m a believer who is in recovery and I struggle with alcohol and sexual addiction. My name is Roland.

I am half Choctaw. I was born in Broken Bow, Oklahoma, on January 18, 1950, to a full-blood Choctaw father and a full-blood Coushatta mom from Alton, Louisiana. When I was 5, my father beat me so bad that it left a scar on my leg. Over the next 20 years I became an angry, selfish kid. I hated myself and others. My spirit was broken. Fear had entered my life because I lived in an abusive home.

I didn’t feel like a part of my home and I hurt everyone, including kids. I lied, stole, and drank alcohol until I passed out. When my dad drank too much, he became angry and would beat my mom. I heard stories that my mom got pregnant while my dad was overseas during World…

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Kids

One of the most common excuses I hear from people for not being able to attend or host a small group is, “I don’t know what to do with my children.” This particular issue, although it requires a little bit of thought, should not be used as excuse to disengage from small group community.

Biblical disciples are formed in biblical community. Children are a blessing from God, not a deal-breaker for your own spiritual formation. At first, the childcare issue can look like an obstacle to being involved in groups. However, like many dynamics in our life, it is another key opportunity for us to ask ourselves, “Do we really believe we need to be plugged into biblical community?” If the answer is a resounding “yes,” (and I hope that it is) then our attention and energy shifts away from waiving the white flag towards focusing on practical solutions.

As a Small Groups Pastor, I’ve always tried to identify groups in our church directory that are “child-friendly” so parents know what their options are but this is only the first step (Note: Groups that are marked “child-friendly” in our groups directory are facilitated by hosts…

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Group of Kids

Okay. The big day is in the books. Whether you accomplished all of your goals or not, God was glorified and honored. However, now there is work to do. How do you respond to the big day?

Celebrate, but be careful what you celebrate from the big day.

Don’t just blow past this. God did some amazing things in the lives of many. Celebrate! Celebration is often a discipline. Rejoice in what God did no matter what. Celebrate decisions. Celebrate stories. Celebrate the crowds. However, I offer one word of caution: What you celebrate communicates what you value. If you only celebrate packed auditoriums and parking lots, then what do you have to celebrate next Sunday? Can you only celebrate God when the room is full? Keep in mind that most people are more moved by stories than by numbers. Focus on the individual stories of life change that have happened and continue to happen because of the big day. People just want to know that God is using them to make a difference in the lives of others.

Debrief every component of the big day.

You are not done with the big day until you have fully debriefed it….

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