Four Ways Your Church Can Care for the Poor

I’ve always found it significant that Jesus mentions the poor in his very first sermon: “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, for he has anointed me to bring Good News to the poor” (Luke 4:18 NLT).

We must care about the poor because Jesus did. We don’t have a choice. So how can we help the people in our churches minister to the poor? Here are a few ideas I have; perhaps you have more:

1. Treat the poor with dignity.

We’re not smarter, we’re not more talented, and we’re not more valuable than people who are poor. The Bible says, “Rich and poor have this in common: The Lord is the Maker of them all” (Proverbs 22:2 NIV). I like to say that our self-worth isn’t based on our net worth.

2. Offer the poor opportunities.

The Bible says, “When we have the opportunity to help anyone, we should do it” (Galatians 6:10 NCV). As I’ve talked to people in various ministries, they all say that the best way to help the poor isn’t to give them a bunch of money. It’s to give them opportunities.

Maybe people…

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By Vinson

The first time I walked into Celebrate Recovery® at Horizons Church, I showed up for all the wrong reasons: I wanted to impress my girlfriend, Kourtney, who had been bugging me to go with her.

As I sat through 45 minutes of what I later learned was “Large Group,” I determined my Celebrate Recovery experience would be “one and done.” I thought it was time to go, but Kourtney informed me that there was more to the CR experience. I listened halfheartedly as the man up front rattled off several “Open Share Groups” that would be taking place in five minutes. The last group he mentioned was “Men’s Welcome Home for Veterans.”

“They’ve got a group just for veterans?” I mumbled. “Well, I’m stuck here until Kourtney is ready to leave; I might as well be stuck with some fellow veterans.”

I had joined the Marine Corps right out of high school, after a very difficult childhood in rural Lewis County, West Virginia. My early years were an endless crucible of sexual and violent physical abuse. I often told social workers cover stories for my own mother. I thought I was being responsible…

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Thank You

By Celebrate Recovery

By Quint Pitts, National Director Welcome Home

When I was a kid we played outside—without iPhones, Xboxes, and PlayStations. We used our imaginations a lot. Some of my earliest memories are of playing Army in my neighborhood. The tiny town of Nutter Fort, West Virginia, became the great battlefields of American history. Park Hill was Mount Surabachi on Iwo Jima, Elk Creek was Omaha Beach, Norwood Park became Gettysburg, the woods behind the elementary school became the Ardennes. My friends and I were fierce warriors, turning back our nation’s enemies with our daring deeds. We never lost a battle. We never lost a friend.

When I was a kid I’d never even heard of Iraq or Afghanistan. But in those distant lands, war ceased to be a game I played as a kid. The weapons weren’t made of plastic, the explosions weren’t cheesy sound effects I made with my voice, and the battles didn’t end when Jimmy had to go home for dinner.

In Iraq and Afghanistan, we lost battles.

I lost friends.

It’s one of the reasons we honor every veteran on Veterans Day. There is perhaps nothing more honorable in all of human activity…

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The way you see your life shapes your life.

I wrote those words 16 years ago in The Purpose Driven Life, and I still mean them today. We’re tempted to see ourselves as everyone else does. You know the way it goes. You see yourself as broken and beaten up. You see yourself as an addict or former addict. You see yourself as a failure.

If that’s what you believe about who you are, you’ll never become who God wants you to be. How you define your life determines your destiny.

That’s one of the reasons why, when John Baker first started Celebrate Recovery®, he didn’t ask people to identify themselves by their addictions.

Instead, in Celebrate Recovery, participants each identify themselves as “a believer who struggles with” a specific issue.

There’s a huge difference between the two. Your identity isn’t your sin. Your identity is in your Savior.

Don’t let the ugly words in your past (or even in your present) define you any longer.

Other people may see you as broken and damaged goods. But that’s not how God sees you.

I don’t know where you are in your walk with God today, but if you truly…

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Tips to Improve Your Sermon Preparation

One of the ways I prepare for sermons is by constantly collecting content—things like news stories or statistics that might make a good illustration, anecdotes and quotes, and Bible verses based on a common theme.

I usually start collecting this stuff months or even years before I ever write the sermon. This kind of collecting is one of the most underrated habits of great preachers. We can learn from them by always being on the lookout for things that will help us develop future sermons.

I’ll give you an example of what I mean. A few years ago, I preached a sermon series on Psalm 23. It turned out to be a great evangelistic series. In fact, 446 people gave their lives to Christ during the seven-week series. But here’s the thing: I started collecting material on Psalm 23 back when I was in college! And so when it came time to preach this series, I had a huge file of information to draw on. I’d been thinking about the topics in Psalm 23 for years, so I don’t believe it was accidental that God used the series…

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How to Mobilize Our Churches to Finish the Task

For the past 2,000 years, Christians have been praying for the fulfillment of the Great Commission.

And we’re still not there yet. But it’s within sight. We’re closer than ever before.

More than 2 billion people have never even heard the message of Jesus, so it’s time to take a radical stand and say, “This has to be completed in our generation.”

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to people who haven’t heard it.

It’s why you’re still on this planet. It’s why every person in your church is still around. There are only two things you can’t do in heaven: You can’t witness to other people, and you can’t sin.

Nothing matters more than getting the Good News to everyone—and finishing our task. History depends upon it. The spiritual destinies of people depend upon it.

The church’s birth in Acts 2 gives us a great model for how we’ll reach the remaining unreached people groups on the earth. Within the story of these early Christians, we get the biblical foundation for mobilization.

1. We must depend upon the Holy Spirit.

If we don’t begin, continue, and end with…

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10 Reasons Churches Plateau

Every church goes through plateaus—times when your church simply doesn’t grow. It’s natural and normal, and they’re part of our story at Saddleback.

Our plateaus have looked different at times, but they’ve been there. In fact, a decade ago we were in the midst of one such five-year plateau. But then God did what only he can do. Today we’re going through a renewed period of growth.

In nearly 50 years of ministry, I’ve talked with thousands of pastors going through their own periods of plateau. I’ve studied the issue extensively. Here’s what I’ve learned.

1. Plateaus are natural.

Don’t get freaked out by them. Plateaus are just a state of little or no change. Everything stops growing at some point. It happens all of the time in nature. It shouldn’t surprise us when it happens in our churches. It will happen in our churches. You can count on it.

2. God created every organism to have a maximum limit on its growth.

Even redwood trees, which grow to 400 feet tall and live for 2,000 years, have a growth cap. Your church does, too. You can’t use it as an excuse, though….

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4 Things That Matter Most in Holiday Giving Campaigns

You’ll hear one word more than any other during the holiday season.

I’d like to say that word is Jesus or Gospel or even gratefulness. But it’s not.

The most popular word, by far, is gift. Everyone wants to talk about gifts they’re giving or gifts they’re getting. It’s not just a national obsession. It’s a global one. We spend at least a month—and these days, likely two months—in a mad dash to find the right gifts.

Many people think that the idea of giving gifts at Christmas began with the wise men bringing their presents to the Baby Jesus. It does begin in the Bible, but it isn’t the wise men who gave the first Christmas gift.

It was God himself.

The most famous verse in the Bible says it like this: “God loved the people of this world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who has faith in him will have eternal life and never really die” (John 3:16 CEV).

Jesus was the original Christmas gift. God loved us so much that he gave.

That’s why it’s natural to encourage people to give to ministry…

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I’ll never forget the night years ago when my younger brother, Andy, told me he was addicted to heroin. We sat in my parked car near the beach, the darkness shrouding his face as he told me the story.

“I need to tell you something, Kay. I know you’re going to take this hard. I started using heroin a few months ago and I can’t stop.” The world stood still for a few moments as I absorbed the news that my baby brother—the one whose arrival in our family eight years after I was born gave me the sibling I had longed for, the one I carried in my arms, the one I pretended was my personal walky-talky doll when he was 2, the one who used to snuggle in my arms and call me “Sissy”—was a heroin addict.

Through my tears I shouted questions at him: “Why did you start shooting up heroin? What’s the matter with you? Are you stupid? What did you think would happen? Did you think you could play with heroin and not become a drug addict?” I was shocked and angry and confused. Mostly I was frightened. Was I going to…

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By Nate Stewart, CR National Director – Mental Health

“But now, this is what the Lord says—he who created you, Jacob, he who formed you, Israel: ‘Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have summoned you by name; you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.”’ (Isaiah 43:1-2 NIV)

I find a great deal of comfort in these two verses of Scripture. I am reminded of times as a child when I would look across a crowded room and see my father. I knew that at any moment if I needed him, he would be there for me—he would protect me. I knew that my father loved me and was there for me because I was his.

God is illustrating through these verses that, in the same way, my father was there for me, God is there for us. When trouble comes—and it will most definitely come—God is there. And because I put my faith in Jesus,…

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Truth Over Lies

By Celebrate Recovery

By Michael

When I look at the face of this 52-year-old man in the mirror, I finally understand why my fears look the same as they did in 1973 when I was in first grade. I am a grateful believer in Jesus Christ. I struggle with anxiety and its different manifestations. My name is Michael.

My early childhood was torn apart by alcohol, anger, and abuse. My father was a violent alcoholic. My mother was a nurturing codependent who loved him as long as she could. They divorced when I was 4. My world was already filled with fear. But it wasn’t from fear of physical threats or beatings. My fear began as soon as I felt I had something to hide. I had an older friend who was 7 or 8 at the time. He was teaching me things that were always our secrets. I was told not to tell anyone. He said people would be angry and punish me. Or even worse, they would be ashamed and send me away. From age 4 through 6 these days were common in my life. A child that age doesn’t see the lie or…

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4 Ways to Involve Your Small Groups in the Great Commission

If you want your church to balance God’s purposes and grow in a healthy way, your small groups must lead the way.

It’s like this: You’re only as healthy as the cells in your body. It’s a basic truth of human health. If your cells are sick, your body will be sick, too.

The same is true in churches. Your church will only be as healthy as the cells within it.

And your small groups are those cells. They help build God’s purposes into every heart, every group, and every ministry.

In Acts 2, we can read about the first small groups in the early church. The Bible says:

    • They grew spiritually (v. 42)
    • They ministered to one another (v. 45)
    • They fellowshipped (v. 46)
    • They worshiped (v. 47)
    • They evangelized the spiritually lost (v. 47)

Unfortunately, many small groups today just focus on one or two purposes. Often, it’s fellowship or discipleship (or both). Maybe they’ll add some worship songs at the beginning of the meeting time. They might even be involved in ministry as a group.

But evangelism and missions tend to…

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