Rabu, 27 November 2013

Loving the Homeless

Loving the Homeless

One of the primary ways we can be the church in the community is by following the example of Jesus in showing love to the needy and homeless in our town. Here are some practical examples from Sam Riviera about how he loves the homeless in his city. Sam has written several posts on this blog about helping the homeless. Go check them all out!
helping the homelessJesus said that we would always have the poor with us. Thinking about that, we find it easy to conclude that the problem of the poor is too big for us to solve, so we drop a few dollars in the Salvation Army kettle at Christmas and write a check for missions and give it to our local church.
We almost become blind to the poor where we live.
When the recent census revealed that there are over ten thousand homeless people in San Diego, everyone I know thought those numbers must be incorrect. “Occasionally I see a homeless person at an intersection begging for money but surely there can’t be more than a few hundred homeless people in the entire city!”
One church group of which we were a part decided that the homeless were on the streets because of “bad decisions” they had made. The group felt that helping them would only encourage them to stay homeless. The solution – “They should get off their butts and get jobs!” Another group felt that God only “calls” certain people to help the poor and the homeless, and no one in the group felt “called.”

Going to the Homeless

Last Saturday our small group ventured to downtown San Diego to an area where several hundred homeless people live on the sidewalk, in the shadow of the ballpark. I was reminded of Jesus being born in Bethlehem, literally in the shadow of the Herodian, location of one of Herod’s palaces and a symbol of the wealth and might of the Roman Empire.
Friday had brought a soaking rain. On Saturday the homeless were trying to dry their clothes, blankets and sleeping bags. As several told us, “We’re trying to get dry before it rains tomorrow”. We shared chips and some other prepackaged food we had taken with us and talked to them. Some had been living on the streets for months or years. One man said he had lost his job, had run out of money and had just joined the ranks of the homeless that day.
About lunch time on Sunday the second storm arrived. The rain continued until the middle of the night. Several times after we went to bed the heavy rain woke me. I prayed for the people sitting in the rain on the sidewalk downtown, some without even a garbage bag to put over themselves. The temperature dipped into the upper forties and low fifties. As the homeless we have known have explained, even though the temperature is above freezing, being soaked to the skin on a chilly night can lower body temperature and is especially dangerous for those with health problems.

Are the Homeless My Problem?

I prayed while it rained. We had taken food to the homeless, but I was lying in a warm dry bed and they were sitting on a cold, wet sidewalk getting soaked. The problem is too big for me or our small group to solve. But should we do something?
We are trying to do something. Last winter during similar, but colder weather, we gathered two carloads of blankets, coats, sweaters, tarps, socks and similar supplies and delivered them to the winter homeless shelter. Once again we are gathering similar supplies for this winter. But is that enough?
Even when all of the winter shelters are open, there are still hundreds of homeless who can’t be accommodated. I think of them sitting in the rain, soaked to the skin, sometimes shivering uncontrollably. What can we do? What should we do? (Not just our group here in San Diego, but all of us, wherever we live.) What do you think?

Be the Church in Your Community

Be the ChurchWant to be the church in your community but don't know? Here are some posts which not only explain what it means to be the church in your community, but also gives concrete, practical examples of what it looks like and how to be the church whatever you do and wherever you go. Remember, you ARE the church, and wherever you go, Jesus goes with you!

Kamis, 14 November 2013

Stryper to record a live CD/DVD at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, California

Stryper to record a live CD/DVD at the Whisky A Go Go in West Hollywood, California

By Ginny McCabe
Special to ASSIST News Service
WEST HOLLYWOOD, CA (ANS) -- Stryper is set to record a live CD/DVD this weekend, on Saturday, November 16 at the Whisky a Go Go, the world-famous nightclub in West Hollywood, California.

Ad for the band's appearance at the Whisky a Go Go
As long as there has been a Los Angeles rock scene, there has been the Whisky a Go Go. An anchor on the Sunset Strip since it’s opening in 1964, the Whisky A Go-Go has played host to rock ‘n’ roll’s most important bands, from the Doors, Janis Joplin, and Led Zeppelin, to today’s up and coming new artists.
The Stryper show will mark the Christian band's first live concert appearance since the release of No More Hell to Pay, and it will be documented for future release.
The project is expected to feature hits like “Calling On You,” “Free” and “Honestly.” Tickets for the show may be purchased at http://tinyurl.com/whiskytickets.

Stryper performing
No More Hell to Pay, released last week, on Tuesday, November 5, from Frontiers Records. The project marks the band's eighth studio album.
Comprised of the original line-up, which includes front man Michael Sweet (vocals/guitars), Oz Fox (guitars), Tim Gaines (bass) and Robert Sweet (drums), Stryper delivers a collection of new material that is characterized by the band's signature sound.
Produced by Michael Sweet, standouts on the project include “Revelation” “Saved By Love,” “The One,” “Legacy,” “Renewed,” and seven more.
No More Hell to Pay is available at all digital retailers and can be ordered through iTunes at http://tinyurl.com/StryperiTunes. It is also available on CD and as a deluxe digipak format featuring exclusive video content at Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/StryperAmazon and at all major retail outlets.

The world-famous nightclub
Stryper was formed in 1984, and is responsible for '80s metal classic albums, such as “Soldiers Under Command”, “To Hell With The Devil” and “In God We Trust”.
Stryper was also the first band to ever have two songs in MTV's Top 10 simultaneously with their hits “Free” and “Honestly.” As a Dove Award-winning and Grammy-nominated band, Styper has sold more than 10 million records, worldwide.
For more about Stryper, the latest news and tour dates, go to www.Stryper.com.

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Ginny McCabe is an author, feature and entertainment writer from Cincinnati, OH. You may email her at gmwriteon@aol.com.

Introducing Children to God’s Greatest Gift

Introducing Children to God’s Greatest Gift

November 14, 2013
Re-enactments of Jesus’ birth, a holiday meal, and gift-giving are just a few of the activities planned when indigenous ministries hold Christmas parties next month as an outreach to their communities.
The Christmas season is just around the corner, and dozens of ministries assisted by Christian Aid are organizing celebrations to bring joy and the good news of the Savior to thousands of hurting children.
Ministry leaders say they look forward to this time of year when they have opportunities to openly share the gospel message. Their non-Christian neighbors may not know who Jesus is, but they have heard about Christmas.
From Southeast Asia to South America, holiday events geared for the local community have been hugely successful in attracting families who typically do not attend church. These festive programs include a dramatic presentation of Jesus’ birth, a meal, and Christmas gifts for children. As a result, many people come to understand the true reason for the season and commit their hearts to the Lord.
“This year we plan to organize Christmas celebrations in three locations,” said the leader of an indigenous ministry in Myanmar. “We estimate over 1,000 children will be exposed to the gospel.”
A nine-year-old boy named Maung was one of the children who attended the ministry’s Christmas program in 2011. Try as she might, his older sister could not persuade him to go with her to the weekly Bible club meetings at an evangelical church in their village. But when Maung heard about a birthday party, he could hardly wait for the big day.
Singing Christmas songs is a fun way to convey the gospel message.
Maung and his sister had never attended a birthday gathering quite like this one. The church sanctuary was packed with over 100 kids who were just as excited as Maung. Many parents had come too. His sister told him they were celebrating the birthday of someone called Jesus. Maung didn’t know who Jesus was, but he figured he must be a really important person.
Learning the lyrics to Christmas songs was a new experience for Maung. However, he did not understand the message behind the words. It wasn’t until a group of youth performed a dramatic skit about God’s gift of love to the world that the name Jesus took on special meaning for him.
After the program, Maung wanted to know more about Jesus. He asked his sister to explain why Jesus was crucified. She directed him to a Sunday school teacher in the church, who explained that Jesus died and rose again so people could be saved from their sins and join Jesus in heaven. Even though he was just a little boy, Maung knew that he had committed sins. He was touched that Jesus loved children like him. The teacher led him in prayer to receive Jesus as his personal Savior.
Maung’s story does not end there. The following week the Sunday school teacher went to visit his home. Even though the family was Buddhist, Maung’s parents were open to hearing the gospel and welcomed the teacher. Soon Maung, his sister, and his mother began attending church together. His mother eventually gave her heart to the Lord, and now they are praying for his father to receive Christ, too.
As part of their Christmas activities, the churches planted by the Myanmar ministry will hand out presents to about 300 children who attend their weekend Bible clubs. This year the ministry will supply them with gift packages that include items such as a blanket, a sweater, shoes, a pack of candles, toothbrush and toothpaste, notebooks and other school materials, and a backpack.
“The purpose of our gift is to thank the children for their exemplary life and conduct throughout the year,” explained the ministry’s leader. “We also want to thank their parents and encourage them. Please pray for the children and their parents to see the real reason for the season.”
Middle East churches will host special events for Syrian refugee children and their families.
Perhaps no place is more in need of a little holiday cheer than the subdued hearts of Syrian refugees. Children in particular have endured a lot of trauma and upheaval as a result of the brutal civil war. What better time of year than Christmas to bring them renewed hope and, at least for a few hours, help them reclaim the innocence of childhood.
Through ministries assisted by Christian Aid in Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey, Iraq, and Greece, gospel workers are inviting thousands of refugee children to Christmas parties that will be held in area churches next month. The events are free and include meals and simple Christmas gifts. Muslim moms and dads are blessed to see smiles return to the faces of their children, and they, too, hear the message of the true meaning of Christmas.
After the celebrations, Christians visit with families in their homes. They offer Bibles and gospel tracts to anyone who is interested.
One Jordanian ministry is planning a kids’ event called “Warm Christmas.” Their goal is to give blankets and children’s Bibles to 2,000 refugee youngsters.
“Jordan is a cold country in the winter, and a blanket will act as a warm and practical gift of love from God to those living in utter poverty,” said that ministry’s director. “We also want to encourage these kids and their parents to read the Bible, realize its importance in their lives, and feel the warmth it brings to their souls.”
“This outreach will help the church bring the good news of Christmas to as many families as possible by reaching their children first,” he said.
Similar outreaches will be held in India and Nepal, where 12 native ministries are planning to invite children, widows, and poor families from the community to their Christmas activities.
Last year about 800 people came to a Christmas Day event hosted by a ministry based in northern India. Most of the attendees were non-believers who were hearing the story of the Savior’s birth for the very first time. After the service, 20 people joined the fellowship.
In one region more than 350 residents, including Christians from all of the surrounding villages, gathered for a holiday program at a church. The youth of the congregation performed skits and played music.
Teams of missionaries in one Indian city distributed New Testaments and some small gifts to those who attended their open air worship services.
“It was a blessed time to make the whole city aware of the meaning of Christmas,” the ministry commented.
Without a doubt, Christmas is the best season for native missionaries to share their faith more freely and more publicly. While there are occasional incidents of opposition, for the most part people—whether a Buddhist in Myanmar, a Muslim in Lebanon, or an animist in India—are curious to learn why so much excitement is associated with Christmas.
These Peruvian girls received dolls at a Christmas celebration in their village.
The celebrations have a particularly lasting effect on the boys and girls who hear the gospel presentations, share the Christmas story with their families and friends, and become ambassadors for the Lord Jesus in their own communities.
That’s what happened to Tatiana, an 11-year-old Peruvian girl who was invited by a friend to a Christmas event held by New Life Evangelistic Ministry.
“On that day I heard for the first time that Jesus died for me and that He cares for me and my family, so I received Jesus in my heart,” she said. “Now I am studying the Bible in church and soon I want to get baptized.”
Use the form below to contribute online to help indigenous ministries host Christmas outreaches in their communities. Or call 434-977-5650 to contribute by phone. If you prefer to mail your gift, please mail to Christian Aid, P.O. Box 9037, Charlottesville, VA 22906. Please use Gift Code: 095CMAS. Thank you!

Selasa, 12 November 2013

Prodigal Pastor Kids: Fact or Fiction?

Prodigal Pastor Kids: Fact or Fiction?

November 12, 2013 — Katy Perry. Rick Warren. Anne Graham Lotz. Franklin Graham. The Jonas Brothers. Frank Schaeffer. Jessica Simpson. All of these names, disparate though they may seem, have something in common: They are all pastors kids.

When it comes to the children of the clergy, stereotypes abound. First, there's the model child, who lives by the rulebook and follows in the footsteps of his or her minister parent. In many churches, this is an expectation as much as it is a stereotype. Yet perhaps the dominant stereotype of the pastor's kid is the prodigal—the wayward child, the rebel who has fallen away from the faith, the backslidden who'd rather strike out on their own than live in the shadow of the steeple.
The underlying assumption of this stereotype, however, is that Christians believe those who've grown up closest to the church are the quickest to leave it. And as with any stereotype, it's worth closer examination to see if any of these perceptions are really true.
After all, those named above have chosen different routes. Some have willingly taken up the ministry as their own calling, while others have disassociated with the Christian faith entirely, and others still have gone through a period of rebellion only to return with a renewed sense of spiritual purpose.
So where does this stereotype of the prodigal pastor kid come from? Are those who grow up as the children of faith workers really more inclined to "grow out" of church later in life? And is it as big of a trend as it is often perceived? The latest Barna study put these questions to the test, with surprising results.
The Faith of Pastors' Kids
Certainly those who have spent their childhood in the front row seat of the sanctuary are given a unique vantage point of church—for better or for worse. If it's for the worse, one might understand how this could contribute to a rejection of the faith later in life.
Two out of every five pastors (40%) say their child, age 15 or older, went through a period where they significantly doubted their faith. One–fifth of pastors say this is "very" accurate of their children and another 22% say it is "somewhat" true. This is about the same rate as today's Millennials, about 38% of those with a Christian background say they have experienced a similar season of doubt. In other words, pastors' kids are pretty normal—about as likely as other kids raised in the Church to experience significant spiritual doubts.
When broken down into types of congregations, the pastors most likely to agree their children have faced significant doubt are pastors serving white congregations (43%) or mainline churches (51%). In contrast, the pastors least likely to say this describes their children are pastors serving non–white congregations (25%) or non–mainline churches (37%).
Overall, one–third of pastors (33%) say their child is no longer actively involved in church. Yet when it comes to the rejection of Christian identity altogether, the occurrences are even less.
When pastors were asked if their children no longer consider themselves to be Christians, only 7% said this was "accurate" of their kids—that's less than one in 10. This compares to the nationwide prodigal rate of about 9% among Millennials. The parent–pastors who are most likely to say this is not at all accurate of their kids are non–mainline pastors (98%) or Southern Baptist pastors (97%).

Top 7 Reasons Pastors Believe their Kids Struggle with Faith
Yet even if pastors' kids are more spiritually grounded than many might give them credit for, it's hard to argue that they don't face distinct social and spiritual challenges.
First of all, pastors' kids are raised in a unique culture of expectation. They share the name of the one in charge, and as such, they often live in the awareness that their words, attitudes and actions are a reflection of the family's spiritual position. But while their parent may have been called to ministry, the social expectations placed upon them can leave some pastors' kids thinking, "I didn't sign up for this."
The survey results show pastors are not oblivious to this heightened scrutiny of their family. In fact, pastors (28%) name unrealistic expectations of their kids as the number one reason pastors' kids struggle in the development of their own faith. The second reason listed by pastors (18%) is exposure to the negative aspects of church.
But next, the reasons for stunted spiritual growth hits closer to home. Nearly two out of 10 (17%) pastors link their own preoccupation as too–busy parents with the frustrated faith of their children. And about one–sixth of pastors trace the prodigal tendencies of their children back to the lack of faith modeled consistently at home (14%). Other reasons given by pastors include the influence of peers and culture (9%), the child's free will (7%), and their never making faith their own (6%).

The Parenting Successes and Regrets of Pastors
Like all parents, pastors are only human. And their self–confessed failures and successes in parenting provide an intriguing study in contrast. Overall, the research reveals pastors feel they've parented successfully in teaching their children right principles to live by—in terms of faith, values and moral choices. Yet when asked about their parenting regrets, pastors' answers reflect primarily relational deficiencies.
When asked what they feel they've done best in raising their kids, pastors (37%) overwhelmingly answered that they introduced their children to Christ and maintained a Bible—focused home. Only 5% wish they had done better in this area, by giving their children more biblical instruction.
Overall, a startling 19% say they wouldn't change anything in their parenting methods, even if they could turn back time. Yet for those who do admit parenting regrets, things get a little more personal.
While 21% of pastors believe they were good parents in terms of supporting and spending time with their children, twice that amount have regrets in this area—42% say they wish they had spent more time with their kids. Perhaps in reference to the unrealistic expectations pastors agree are placed upon their children, 8% of pastors also said they wish they had been more understanding with their kids.

What the Research Means
David Kinnaman, author of You Lost Me, directed the research on pastors' kids. He comments, "The numbers show that pastors' kids—at least as reported through the eyes of their parents—are about average when it comes to their struggles with Christianity and with the Church. This is perhaps to be expected, yet also disappointing. The children of pastors are not destined to become prodigals, but more than one out of 14 seem to have left their faith behind. And nearly two-fifths of these church-raised kids go through a period of significant doubt—we call this the spiritual journey of nomads, those who still call themselves Christians yet are no longer connected to a local church.
A pastor's kid himself, Kinnaman stresses the importance of pastors and churchgoers maintaining realistic expectations for the children of clergy. "Pastors are feeling the pressure. Their children are living in a moral and spiritual fishbowl; their actions are evaluated by all sides in the church. This constant evaluation is only compounded with the rise of social media and always-on leadership. In fact, it is telling that the most common improvement pastors would make to their parenting, looking back, is to have spent more time with their children. It is a haunting question: Are faith leaders sacrificing their best hours for the sake of other people instead of their own children?"
"On the one hand, a pastor's family should aspire to be a great example of what a healthy, functioning and grace-filled family looks like. It's natural to look to our leaders as examples of how we should live. And in the face of cultural disillusionment with fallen leaders, it's hard not to expect something more from faith leaders. Still, it's a problem when heightened expectations are piled on families that are typical in every way. After all, even faith leaders and their families are in need of spiritual renewal and transformation."
Comment on this research and follow our work:
Twitter: @davidkinnaman | @barnagroup
Facebook: Barna Group

This report is based upon a nationwide, random sample of 603 senior pastors of Protestant churches throughout the continental United States. Questions related to parenting were asked of the 456 pastors in the study who have children 15 years of age or older. The study was conducted via telephone interviews from April 20, 2012 to May 1, 2012. The maximum margin of sampling error associated with a sample size of 456 is ±4.5 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. Minimal statistical weighting was used to calibrate the aggregate sample to known population percentages in relation to regional and denominational variables.

Mainline Protestant 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 Protestant denominations are Protestant churches other than those included in the mainline category described above.
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. 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, 2013

Rabu, 06 November 2013

Reaching Youth for Christ in Pakistan

Reaching Youth for Christ in Pakistan

A Christian Aid-assisted ministry in Pakistan has planted a church in most major cities in the nation and has established over 250 outreaches in towns and villages. In July they hosted the second annual leadership training camp for Christians who are interested in ministering to teenagers. The 54 men and women who attended the weeklong event participated in workshops to strengthen their personal spiritual lives and to develop skills to work more effectively with youth. In addition to the training sessions, they enjoyed a wonderful time of worshiping the Lord and fellowshipping with one another