German-Americans – the largest and most silent ethnic heritage group in the U.S.

Innovation, Other Authors

ON A snow-covered bluff overlooking the Sheboygan river stands the Waelderhaus, a faithful reproduction of an Austrian chalet. It was built by the Kohler family of Wisconsin in the 1920s as a tribute to the homeland of their father, John Michael Kohler, who had immigrated to America in 1854 at the age of ten.

John Michael moved to Sheboygan, married the daughter of another German immigrant, who owned the local foundry, and took over his father-in-law’s business. He transformed it from a maker of ploughshares into a plumbing business. Today Kohler is the biggest maker of loos and baths in America. Herbert Kohler, the boss (and grandson of the founder), has done so well selling tubs that he has been able to pursue his other passion—golf—on a grand scale. The Kohler Company owns Whistling Straits, the course that will host the Ryder Cup in 2020. More

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This Beautiful, Messy Life

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The Russells are friends who serve selflessly among the Ati tribe in the Philippines. This story is a relatively common daily experience for them. I thank the Lord for their faithful and selfless service.

RUSSELLS REACHING THE PHILIPPINES

Here I am sitting in another medical waiting area. Today my companion is an Ati woman who’s aged father is on the other side of the waiting area, on a stretcher awaiting his echo-cardiogram. It’s Thursday. This test was ordered upon his transfer to the regional hospital on Sunday afternoon, having a bad case of pneumonia with cardiac complications.

The irony seems lost in the wait. After church we were told about his situation and asked to help with the transfer. Reluctant to start what we knew to be a lengthy process and uninterested in the stomach upsetting speed ride in the ambulance, we gave the family

some money and promised to visit later in the day. But the family had never had a patient transferred before and were uneasy doing so alone, so quickly we adjusted our Sunday afternoon expectations and assisted them in his transfer.

The medical ward…

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Jesus Loves Everyone!

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Ritzmans in Cleveland

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I’m excited about how Jesus is growing my brother-in-Christ, Dean (pictured above with Ruthie), who lives in an apartment complex on the West Side of Cleveland! I’ve known Dean for a couple of years, and we became friends as  I visited his apartment building to share Jesus with people. As I continued to share how Jesus loves him again and again, he finally came out and told me, “Mark, your God doesn’t love me because I’m gay.” I told him that wasn’t true and that Jesus died for him and loves him more than we can imagine. After literally months of my trying to convince him and Jesus wooing him, Dean gave in to the love of Jesus by asking forgiveness of his sins and asking Jesus into his heart. He’s been growing in his walk with Jesus ever since! Here’s a Facebook post he put up yesterday (shared with permission)…

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Coffee – a gift from God!

Jesus

coffeetree-2jvxey8I was sipping a cup of Pike Place coffee yesterday morning at a Starbucks in the Miami International Airport. With little else to do while waiting for my flight home to Philadelphia, I mused about the origin of coffee. So, I decided to “Google” it – the scholarly thing to do. I discovered that no one knows exactly how or when coffee was discovered, though there are many legends about its origin.

An Ethiopian legend

According to the National Coffee Association of the USA (http://www.ncausa.org), the coffee grown worldwide can trace its heritage to the ancient coffee forests on the Ethiopian plateau. Coffee trees still grow as they have for centuries in the Ethiopian highlands, where legend says the goat herder Kaldi first discovered the potential of these beloved beans.

It is said that Kaldi discovered coffee after noticing that his goats, upon eating berries from a certain tree, became so energetic that they did not want to sleep at night.

Kaldi reported his findings to the abbot of the local monastery who made a drink with the berries and discovered that it kept him alert for the long hours of evening prayer. The abbot shared his discovery with the other monks at the monastery, and slowly knowledge of the energizing berries began to spread. As word moved east and coffee reached the Arabian peninsula, it began a journey which would spread its reputation across the globe.

I thought about the energizing power of the Gospel. Does it still energize me so much that I don’ want to sleep at night; or, at least, I can’t wait to wake up to scatter the seed? I mean, do I get a headache or feel sluggish or feel unfulfilled when I don’t have the opportunity or time to meet with Jesus? Does the Gospel still energize me? If not, why? Is the problem with Jesus? No! He is the same yesterday, today and forever!

So…me? Yes.

Then I thought of first love; of a discipline of time spent with Jesus. Of prayer. Of meditation. Of Bible time.

So maybe, for me, that cup of coffee first thing in the morning along with my Bible and dedicated time to meet with Jesus is a good idea. A great way to start the day. To get energized. A gift from God!

Proven Qualities of Successful Church Planters

Church Planting

Characteristics for Successful Church Planters

Researcher Charles Ridley has identified a list of essential characteristics for successful church planters. While these characteristics can be developed or even shared with relative strength among members on a church planting team, a lead pastor who possess and/or values the majority of these traits enters the new role with a significant advantage.

1. Visioning capacity

  • being a person who projects into the future beyond the present
  • developing a theme which highlights the vision and philosophy of ministry
  • persuasively selling the vision to the people
  • approaching challenges as opportunities rather than obstacles
  • coping effectively with non-visioning elements
  • not erecting artificial walls or limits either overtly or subconsciously
  • establishing a clear church identity related to the theme and vision
  • believing in God’s capacity to do great things

2. Intrinsically motivated

  • having a desire to do well and a commitment to excellence
  • stick-to-itiveness and persistence
  • having initiative and aggressiveness without the negative connotations
  • having a willingness to work long and hard
  • being a self-starter with a willingness to build from nothing
  • having a high energy and vitality level; physical stamina

3. Creates ownership of ministry

  • helping people to “buy in” and feel responsible for growth/success of the church
  • gaining commitment of the people to the vision
  • establishing a congregational identity
  • avoiding stereotyping of congregation by imposing unrealistic goals

4. Spousal cooperation

  • having an explicit agreement regarding each partner’s respective role and involvement in ministry
  • having explicit rules regarding the use of home as an office
  • evaluating the consequences of ministry demands upon the children
  • functioning as a team through individual and collective action
  • having a strategy for dealing with strangers
  • modeling wholesome family life before church and community
  • agreeing upon and sharing the ministry vision
  • deliberately planning and protecting private family life

5. Relates to the unchurched

  • communicating in style that is understood by the unchurched
  • understanding the “psychology” or mentality of the unchurched
  • functioning in the “personal space” of the unchurched without fear
  • quickly getting to know the unchurched on a personal level
  • breaking through the barriers erected by the unchurched
  • handling crises faced by the unchurched

6. Effectively builds relationships

  • responding with urgency to expressed needs and concerns of people
  • displaying Godly love and compassion to people
  • getting to know people on a personal basis
  • making others feel secure and comfortable in one’s presence
  • not responding judgmentally or prejudicially to new people
  • appreciating and accepting a variety of persons
  • spending quality time with present parishioners without neglecting them for new people

7. Committed to church growth

  • believing in church growth as a theological principle
  • appreciating steady and consistent growth without preoccupation with the quick success factor
  • committing to numerical growth within the context of spiritual and relational growth (more and better disciples)
  • recognizing that non-growth is threatening and self-defeating
  • establishing the goal of becoming a financially self-supporting church within a specific period of time
  • not prematurely falling into a ministry of maintenance
  • seeing the church project within the larger context of God’s kingdom

8. Responsive to community

  • understanding the culture of the community
  • identifying and assessing community needs
  • responding to community needs on a priority basis such that resources are most efficiently used
  • determining successes and failures of other organized religious attempts to respond to community needs
  • not confusing what the community needs with what the church wants to offer
  • acquiring and understanding of the character and “pulse” of the community
  • adapting the philosophy of ministry to the character of the community

9. Utilizes giftedness of others

  • releasing and equipping people to do the task of ministry
  • discerning of spiritual gifts in others
  • matching the gifts of people with ministry needs and opportunities
  • delegating effectively in areas of personal limitation
  • avoiding personal overload by delegating effectively
  • not prematurely assigning ministry assignments before people are adequately equipped
  • not placing unwarranted restrictions on other’s spiritual giftedness

10. Flexible and adaptable

  • coping effectively with ambiguity
  • coping effectively with constant and abrupt change
  • adapting oneself and one’s methods to the uniqueness of the particular church planting project
  • shifting priorities and emphasis during various stages of church growth
  • doing “whatever” is necessary “whenever” necessary

11. Builds group cohesiveness

  • developing a nucleus group or groups as a foundation
  • quickly incorporating newcomers into a network of relationships
  • engaging others in meaningful church activity
  • monitoring the morale of people
  • utilizing groups effectively
  • dealing with conflict assertively, constructively and tactfully

12. Resilience

  • experiencing setbacks without defeat
  • riding the ups and downs (i.e. attendance)
  • expecting the unexpected
  • rebounding from loss, disappointments and failure

13. Exercises faith

  • possessing a conviction regarding one’s call to church planting ministry
  • believing in God’s action
  • having expectation and hope
  • having a willingness to wait for answers to specific prayer requests

Charles Ridley

Chuck Ridley is professor of counseling psychology at Texas A & M University. Previously, he has taught at Indiana University and the Graduate School of Psychology at Fuller Theological Seminary. A licensed psychologist and Fellow of the American Psychological Association, he earned his Ph.D. from the University of Minnesota. He has consulted with a variety of organizations conducting jobs analyses, managerial and executive assessments, assessment centers, outplacement counseling, executive coaching and counseling, and training and development.

Dr. Ridley is an avowed scientist-practitioner, one who applies sound social science principles to individual and organizational functioning. He also is deeply committed to the integration of psychology and theology. As a faculty member at Fuller Seminary, he developed the Church Planter Profile. As a researcher, he has published many articles, chapters, monographs, and books. His book, Overcoming Unintentional Racism in Counseling and Therapy (Sage), was the recipient of the Gus Meyers Center Award for Human Rights.

Chuck lives in College Station, Texas with his wife, Mary, who also is a professor at Texas A & M University.

3 Reasons Why Social Justice Will Not Change the World

Church Planting, cities, Discipleship, Jesus, Other Authors, Social Justice, Transformation, Urban Ministry, Urban Poverty

You simply cannot separate the Gospel and social justice. Is the modern Church too “social justice” focused? This blogger challenges us to examine our practices or lack thereof.

The Asian Rough Rider

For those of us who followed the news in 2014 it was a depressing year. Images of violence, racism, government coups, injustice and world-wide evil have wracked our brains and broken our hearts. As we look at our lost nations, communities and target people groups we have to ask ourselves an important question. What is it really going to take to bring lasting transformation in our world?

The answer is incredibly simple. Jesus. All the social evils of our world are a direct result of sin. The remedy for sin is not social justice, it is Jesus.

So why then do we fight evil, poverty, hunger, human trafficking and sanitation with social justice? It’s because it’s easy to be a social justice activist. Tell your Facebook friends that you are building wells in Africa and they’ll praise you. Ask your school to join your campaign to end human trafficking and…

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Engaging Members Through Transformational Innovation

Church Planting, Discipleship, Equipping, Innovation, Transformation

In a world in which the balance of power in the marketplace has shifted from seller to the customer, it is becoming increasingly more difficult for church leadership to move a Customer-centric culture at home into a more Mission-centric culture in the church. This contemporary shift in the marketplace is making the role of governing leadership in the church all the more critical.

In many churches, especially those with elder oversite, the only explicit feedback mechanisms alluded to in their constitutions are vertical. There are no explicit feedback mechanisms from the member/attendee, i.e. the people for whom the work is being done. This is not to say that members are formally excluded from sensing a “Tension” from failure to meet member needs of which they happen to become aware and then take action to resolve that “Tension”. But, it is also true that the explicit focus of many church constitutions is entirely internal to the leadership team. The ‘non-leadership team’ member or attendee is simply not in the picture.

When so much time and effort of the leadership team is spent on the micro-details of the internal decision-making mechanisms of a church and little discernible attention given to any external feedback mechanisms, one could easily get the idea that the internal mechanisms are supremely important while the member is irrelevant. Unless and until this “gap” is rectified, leadership in the local church risks being a distraction from the central organizational challenge of our times, namely, how to help the church to be more able to add value to its members.

In this highly customer-centric culture ‘transformational innovation’ becomes the current big challenge for church leadership.

Transformational innovation is difficult because it continually changes the way we live and ‘do’ church. Most churches are loath to pursue ideas that will make them change. Unfortunately, this is one of the reasons that they die. The computer and entertainment electronics industries have been prime examples of this. How many of us have audio 8-track machines, cassette players, videotape cameras, recorders and players, bag phones, clunker desktop computers, etc. sitting in our basements?

I am not writing about church growth. This article is about church health and the ability of the local church to effectively equip and add value to its members so that they will accomplish the mission of the church now and in the future. Church leaders today, more than ever, must realize the need to innovate in order to to maintain and accelerate their missional efforts. They cannot rely solely on past momentum to achieve their ambitions.

Soliciting innovative ideas from various sources is a must. Discovering the best of these ideas is critical. Here are four good practices for improving idea quality for transformational innovation:

Define the problem before brainstorming solutions – Guide leaders to collectively agree on the problem first, in order to generate the most effective solutions.

Enable members to self-assess ideas to improve idea quality – Teach members to self-assess the quality of their own ideas by using simple yet objective criteria to improve the quality of the idea pool, while freeing up leadership time for prioritization decisions.

Actively manage social media to refine ideas – Use social-media platforms to allow members, attendees and other interested parties to virtually share, assess, and refine ideas.

Motivate well-connected network partners to provide their ideas for your church – ask closely partnered neighborhood churches, fellow denominational churches, partnered social-concern agencies who share vested interests, etc. to bring high-quality ideas.

These practices identify and find solutions; and, they provide a clearly defined mechanism for member involvement through a targeted inquiry system that identifies the problem and ensures participant feedback.

Leaders who are thinking innovation will provide an ongoing, time-saving feedback mechanism that allows for rapid and interim changes to ideas based on valued perspectives from members, attendees and partners. Obviously, there will be idea prioritization filters that combine internal feedback with strategic considerations such as mission statement, alignment to strategy, etc.; but, by tapping the collective wisdom of church members, attendees and partners, churches can source better ideas for transformational innovation.

Once Implemented, these innovative ideas can result in member appreciation; greater member equipment and involvement; and, raving excitement that spills out into the neighborhood in the form of contagious missional living and conversion growth.

Wouldn’t it great to see the day when all churches realize they can have a successfully missional church where their members love coming to church, are happy and engaged, who are growing in their faith, are active in their outreach and whose neighbors and communities are thankful they are there!

Our Gospel Aim: Decisions or Disciples?

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Good insights from a young Asian blogger I have never met, but who I enjoy reading. Good insights on discipleship and T4T.

The Asian Rough Rider

Disciples1

Last week some friends and I were gathered around a frail woman who was possessed by evil spirits. The woman and her family had come from a rural village several hours away. They were desperate for help and wanted to turn from spirit worship. They decided to put their faith in Jesus.

The moment we laid hands on the demonized woman she let out a deep long growl. Her eyes rolled backed and she began to shake. There was nothing special about what we were doing. We simply copied Jesus and commanded the spirit to leave in His name. Thirty minutes later the woman threw up some nasty red gunk and came to. She blinked, recognized our faces and praised God. We spent the next hour telling her the Gospel story and teaching her how to pray.

Sounds like a success story right? The family said a prayer and made…

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MetroGrace – church planting in philadelphia

Church Planting, Philadelphia, Urban Ministry

MetroGrace is an urban church development ministry. Our purpose is to gather, train, send and coach teams to develop gospel-centered, community-based churches in neighborhoods throughout Philadelphia.

Gathering: We gather urban workers by sharing our vision and hosting short-term mission teams. We share our vison in a monthly newsletter that details God’s work in Philadelphia. This allows us to share with supportive friends from all over the world. (Contact us if you’d like to receive our newsletter.) We send speakers to churches, schools and conferences. They help others to see the needs of the city and invite friends to serve. We also recruit workers by hosting short-term mission teams. These teams help cultivate the soil for new church plants and strengthen existing churches. This exposure to urban ministry enables informed response to God’s call.

Training: MetroGrace trains urban missionaries through internships. Summer interns serve for 8-12 weeks. They receive hands-on training in urban ministry while receiving credit from their college or seminary. Church planting interns serve for 18-24 months as they prepare to lead a team to establish a new church.

Sending: We send teams to establish new urban churches. We assist the team in its own development. We connect the group with a network of urban churches. We help them formulate a plan. We guide the team in discovering financial support. And, we assist with the launch of the church plant.

Coaching: MetroGrace coaches teams to establish new urban churches. For at least two years, the team leader meets regularly with a coach. Encouragement, advice and assistance are provided during these formative years of the new church.

Our Goal: When we’ve accomplished our purpose, at least ten biblically relevant, reproducing churches will glorify God by transforming lives in neighborhoods throughout the city. These believers will renew their city by acting to influence their culture. And Philadelphia will truly become the City of Brotherly Love.

If interested in joining MetroGrace on a small group, summer internship or a church-planting team contact Kurt Miller / kurt@metrograce.org / @kurtmiller01