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Rick and Kay Warren at the PEACE CenterBy Tommy Hilliker

It started with a bag of groceries to meet a serious need in our community. Our benevolence requests went from six a day to more than 40 a day, and 15 percent of our congregation was out of work. At the peak of the economic recession, our community was hurting and in need of real assistance. In response, Saddleback Church launched its food pantry, which two years later would turn into The PEACE Center.

Jesus said in Mark 9:41, “Anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name … will certainly not lose their reward” (NIV).

Everything we do centers on providing practical help and connection to the church and sharing the hope of Jesus Christ.

People came to our doors the first day we opened them. We have fed more than 80,000 people in south Orange County, Ca. We also provide free legal aid, immigration help, tutoring clubs, ESL classes, medical services, and much more. And the most amazing part is that more than 1,600 people have given their lives to Jesus because of the work done through The PEACE Center. People…

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TeamsThatThriveHealthy conflict is the catalyst of extraordinary performance. If your church leadership team never has conflict, then something is wrong. Effective teams welcome healthy conflict – and they manage it in such a way that it actually aids the team.

Numerous studies overwhelmingly suggest that task conflict is good, whereas affective, or relationship, conflict is bad. In other words, team members should challenge each other’s ideas, interrogate one another’s beliefs and values, and willingly offer different perspectives while refraining from attacking others in the process, or making snide, sarcastic comments in the process.

Based on our recent study of nearly 150 church leadership teams, we encourage you to cultivate the kind of conflict that fuels great team performances. We found that thriving teams engaged in challenging dialogue. They also cultivated (rather than squashed) healthy conflict significantly more than under-performing teams.

To spur healthy “task conflict” on your team, we suggest that you and your teammates:

  1. Vigorously solicit critiques of plans, decisions and assumptions guiding decision making.
  2. Model respectful, assertive, thoughtful and honest critiques of ministry ideas and plans, and invite others to do the same of your own ideas and plans.
  3. Celebrate group members who say the…

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StuckIf you have a broken relationship, I hope today’s post encourages you.

I was certain that God was leading me to start a different kind of church across town. My pastor was certain that God would never lead me to do such a thing. I was devastated that he wouldn’t support me. He was devastated that I would risk hurting the church he pastored. After serving together for 12 years and despite being best friends, our relationship completely severed and we wouldn’t talk to one another for years to come.

Years later we reconciled and I interviewed my “friend again”. (I ask the questions and he provides the answers.) I shared some more of this story in my new book STUCK When You Want to Forgive but Don’t Know How.

Warning: Reconciliation may not be appropriate for you if your offender is abusive and reconciling would cause further injury, if your offender does not want to reconcile, or if your offender is unrepentant. It only takes one person to forgive, but it takes two people to reconcile.

I was not only your Associate Pastor for twelve years, but we were pretty close friends weren’t we?

“We…

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By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Christian broadcasters have a devoted following, with about two-thirds of weekly churchgoers and evangelicals saying they tune in to Christian radio and television on a regular basis.

Christian books have a similar use by churchgoers and evangelicals and Christian movies remain popular, with about 4 in 10 Americans having seen one in the last year.

But many Americans ignore Christian media.

Those are among the findings of a new study on the use of Christian media from Nashville-based LifeWay Research. The study, sponsored by the National Religious Broadcasters (NRB), included an online survey of 2,252 Americans and a phone survey of 1,009 Americans.

“Christian media delivers teaching, music, and entertainment to a predominantly Christian constituency,” says Ed Stetzer, executive director of LifeWay Research. “Not surprisingly, those who embrace Christian teaching will value and consume these the most.” Stetzer released the study’s findings during the NRB national convention in Nashville, February 24.

Researchers found demographic splits between those who frequently or sometimes listen to or watch Christian broadcasts and those who rarely or never tune in.

Self-identified evangelicals (69 percent), weekly church attenders (62 percent), and African-Americans (54 percent) are more likely to watch Christian television.

They are…

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Daniel PlanBy Dee Eastman

Pastor Dave Barr and his congregation at New Hope Windward Church in Hawaii managed to get their entire congregation of 900 into small groups for The Daniel Plan. The weekend attendance during the campaign exceeded the previous Easter and Christmas services and continues to grow.

The six-week study launched more than 100 groups that began a vibrant small group ministry. The Daniel Plan series was a huge attraction point in their community, as it was with the initial rally at Saddleback, as it focuses on a huge felt need but ultimately fulfills the deeper needs we all face.

The Daniel Plan was inspired through Pastor Rick Warren’s vision to provide a practical program for people to restore their health and ultimately prepare them to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives. During an afternoon where he baptized more than 800 people, he came to the conclusion that his congregation was overweight. He confessed that while he only gained three pounds per year while leading the church, he had been their pastor for 30 years and needed to improve his health as well.

“With diabetes at epic levels in the U.S. and…

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SimplifyThe path to simplicity is not for the faint of heart. It’s a process that requires total honesty. So let me pose the question: How depleted are you? How long has it been since you have felt fully replenished?

Jesus told Martha that her only hope was to pull up a chair, unplug from all the busyness, and begin a conversation with the only one who could restore her frenetic heart, settle her spirit, and get her heading back to true north. Is the same true for you?

Allow me to ask a follow-up question: Would an honest conversation with Jesus, in an unrushed setting, help you, too?

Of all the leaders I’ve had the opportunity to meet—from CEOs to nonprofit execs to politicians to church leaders—guess which type is most likely to have a problem with being overwhelmed, overscheduled, and exhausted?

Senior pastors! Card-carrying, seminary-graduated women and men of the cloth. Exhaustion runs rampant among pastors. This subject comes up in every city, every country, every culture, and every language group in which I’ve had the privilege of doing some mentoring and training. It’s a universal theme.

Here’s what I often do with my…

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Stats

By Bob Smietana

NASHVILLE, Tenn. — One of the dangers of being a reporter who goes to church is that you know when the preacher is wrong.

Not wrong in theology. Wrong in facts.

Like this one, which came halfway through a recent sermon on marriage. Things are scary out there, the preacher told us. And there’s no difference between people sitting in these pews and everyone else when it comes to divorce.

It made a great sermon illustration. Only it’s not true, said Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut and author of Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told.

Wright looked at marriage statistics from the General Social Survey (GSS), a national random survey of Americans, taken since the 1970s. Half of the “Nones”—people who claim no religious identity—were divorced. Only 42 percent of self-identified Christians—and members of other faiths—were divorced.

Catholics (35 percent) were least likely to divorce, followed by Mainline Protestants (41 percent) and evangelicals (46 percent). Believers who show up…

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Consider this predicament.  Your boss, the company CEO, has given you a high-level project.  After a few months on the job you discover that your new responsibilities involve falsifying records.  Not only that, but it appears your boss has been trying to cover up questionable accounting practices.  When you confront the CEO, he makes it clear that your career will be over if you share his secret.  He makes a strong argument that you have much more to lose than gain by going public. Then he demands your silence, asserting his authority as your supervisor to ensure you will comply.

Out of respect for his position of authority do you keep his secret? Even if means you are putting yourself at risk, now that you are knowledgeable of a crime but choosing not to report.

Now read this scenario.  Mary’s husband Jim hasn’t been himself for months – moody, short-tempered, abrupt.  One night, Mary wakes up and Jim is not there.  When she walks downstairs, the reflection of the computer screen in the dining room mirror tells the story.  Jim says he is sorry and…

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The following is adapted from the first chapter of God Distorted by John Bishop.

I know people who have incredibly blessed relationships with their fathers. But sadly, in my experience, they are the minority. Mostly I hear stories of people who feel abandoned, devalued, criticized, and unable to measure up. I have heard stories of horrible abuse and of dads who were there but never really “there.” Yet, as important as a dad is, many children in America and throughout Western civilization are living with- out a father, or they bear the scars of an abusive, demanding, uninvolved father. The statistics are frightening:

  • 63 percent of youth suicide victims are from fatherless homes.
  • 90 percent of all homeless and runaway children are from fatherless homes.
  • 80 percent of rapists with anger problems come from fatherless homes.
  • 71 percent of all high-school dropouts come from fatherless homes.
  • Children living in two-parent households with a poor relationship with their father are 68 percent more likely to smoke, drink, or use drugs, compared to all teens in two-parent households.
  • Children with fathers who are involved are 40 percent less likely to repeat a…

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UnstoppableKirk Cameron’s new film, Unstoppable, is one you won’t want to miss. This film is intimate, edgy, bold and full of the unexpected. Let me explain.

It is intimate. The idea for the film came from the life and death of a 15 year old son of one of Kirk’s friends. The young man battled cancer for ten years. His death hit home to Kirk in a personal and painful way. The deep and heart-rending  impact comes through powerfully in the film. When something like this happens, we want to know why. Why would God bring cancer to a family that only wants to serve him? Kirk addresses the universal question, why do bad things to good people. Unstoppable provides truly satisfying answers from God’s word and the story of redemption.

It is edgy. The film is edgy because it presents God’s answers without regard to the artificial comfort zone created by our modern culture. Today we attempt to shield ourselves from death and the unpleasant consequences of sin. We also attempt to shield ourselves from the raw truth of the fall and the impact of the great flood. Unstoppable takes these issues head-on and shows…

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Multi-ethnic ChurchThis blog is co-authored by DERWIN GRAY.  I am the founding and Lead Pastor of Transformation Church & FRANK VIOLA is the author of numerous books on the deeper Christian life.  Full bio’s are at the end of the blog.

The Zimmerman trial and the tragedy that surrounds it has captured the world’s attention. Including that of the body of Christ.

Media coverage has heightened passions on both ends. Conversations about race, law, injustice, prejudice, guns, etc. are all being argued and inflamed.

In this article, we don’t want to weigh in on the public debate. Instead, our passion is to encourage God’s people everywhere to transcend the debate that the world is holding on its own terms by seeing ethnicity through the eyes of our Lord. There is only one race, the human race, which is comprised of different ethnic groups (Acts 17:26).

We want you, dear Christian, to take your cue from the New Testament believers, for they can teach us a great deal about this subject.

A Walk Into the First-Century Church

The world of the first-century was littered with racism and oppression. In the mind of a first-century Jew, Gentiles (Africans, Romans, Greeks, Syrians, Asians,…

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Formed for the Glory of GodJonathan Edwards (1703-1758) is considered by many to be one of the smartest philosophers and theologians in American history. But more than that, Edwards is one of the great spiritual thinkers as well. Edwards helped the churches in New England navigate the work of the Spirit in the “Great Awakening,” and he continues to help pastors walk through these issues through his great work The Religious Affections (one of the most beloved spiritual classics of the Protestant church).

How can we learn from the spiritual practices of Edwards? Here are three lessons that are as important today as they were in Edwards’s time:

1. Spiritual Practices are God-Focused

When engaging in a spiritual practice, whether reading the Bible devotionally, praising God in church or even listening to a sermon, it can be incredibly easy to start focusing on side-issues. Maybe our lips are moving while singing a praise song, but our minds are thinking about everything else we have to do. Maybe we are reading the Bible for something to say that will sound smart and informed rather than hearing from God.

Whatever the case, Edwards would encourage us…

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