Belize 2014: A Journey in Discipleship

geography-of-belizeThe invitation for Church Doctor Ministries to serve in the Central American country of Belize came from Dr. Steve Hughey in early 2014. A seasoned missionary and missions leader, Steve has a history of serving the cause of Christ in that part of the world. For months he has been working with church leaders in Belize to organize a conference on discipling and discipleship. This conference occurred in July, 2014 at a conference center just outside of Belize City.

Church Doctor Founder, Kent Hunter was invited to serve as plenary speaker on the topics of discipling new Christians (Matthew 28:19-20) and discipling Christian leaders (Ephesians 4:11-12). Kent saw the opportunity to add to the discipling process of a young DavidKent7-11Christian, David Bruce, who just graduated from high school. Kent also sensed the possibility of involving Tracee Swank, the Leader of Church Doctor Ministries, providing her the opportunity to teach in another culture for the first time.

Steve Hughey agreed that David and Tracee could accompany Kent and all three began raising support to make the trip. The idea to supply books to the leaders was based on the opportunity for these leaders to grow beyond the conference and train others in their churches during the coming months and years. Kent’s book, Foundations for Church Growth: Biblical Basics for the Local Church (international version) was selected.

THANK YOU, TO ALL THOSE WHO DONATED AND PRAYED FOR THIS PROJECT.

GroupCDiscipleship occurred in many ways. “I learned the issues and challenges facing ministry leaders are not as unique to North America as I thought,” reflected Tracee. “This was a valuable experience for me, as I continue to work with churches and ministry leaders.”

“I appreciated the discipline to write two ninety-minute teachings on discipling and discipleship,” says Kent. “We’ll use this again, probably developing a workshop for U.S. church leaders. Tracee’s teaching on spiritual formation was so well received, it could be a valuable part of this workshop to church leaders. Plans are developing to use this material again and again, allowing churches to host a workshop event in their area,” Kent continued.

DiscussCThe pastors at the Belize Conference were amazing in their eagerness to grow their churches by discipling others and to improve their own journeys in spiritual formation. David Bruce reflected, “Once we arrived at the conference site, it became apparent that everyone was grateful that we were there. I was very encouraged to see their enthusiasm.”

Steve Hughey provided a presentation that unfolded the meaning of the Great Commission, directing participants to practice insights that Jesus gave for reaching the world. Breakout sessions were provided by Justin Hannemann, Tracee Swank, Steve Hughey, Alex Merlo and Steve Zank. Tracee reflects, “The conference was filled with enthusiasm for the Great Commission. Investing in these leaders was humbling and fun for me.” David adds, “I found these teachings very beneficial to further missions in Belize as well as throughout Central American…and North America.”

books“I was reminded that, as you invest in others, you are blessed by their appreciation and gratitude. I am grateful that our prayer and support partners invested in us, and, through us, in these wonderful servants in Central America,” said Kent Hunter.

Tracee Swank added, “The ministry leaders were very eager to learn, and showed a real desire to grow in their own spiritual formation—and to grow those they serve in their churches.”

Conference Highlights

  • The pastors and leaders took copies of the participant’s notes, to multiply the conference among others in their congregations.
  • The group from Honduras asked if they could translate the teaching into Spanish. (Of course we said yes!)
  • The pastor from northern Belize who has a radio program reaching Hispanics in Belize and southern Mexico, wanted extra books to provide to his listening audience—for those who read English.
  • The pastor who has a Spanish speaking church in Belize City, who also asked to translate the participant notes into Spanish.
  • The powerful prayer and worship times during the conference.
  • The words of appreciation by so many—who have so little to work with and have big hearts of God’s work.
  • The extraordinary team of teachers who gave themselves for this effort.
  • The pastor who said, “I really wish more of my people could have been here—this is a wonderful teaching.”
  • The two women who eagerly returned to the spiritual formation session, four times!
  • The great questions and conversations that demonstrated a strong desire to learn.
  • Those who have so little and sacrificed so much, traveling so far to attend this conference.
  • The amazing team that Steve Hughey put together to teach in so many areas of church leadership and spiritual life.
  • The enthusiasm and leadership gifts of the Nigerian pastor who is planting a church in Belize and discipling young adults.

Personal Growth

“The Bible says, in so many words, you can’t out give God,” said Kent. “You come and give so much, outside of your comfort zone, outside of your temperature zone, outside of your cultural familiarity. And you learn so much, grow so much.”

TraceeKentC“This is really hard work, but so rewarding,” Tracee adds.

David reflected, “Personally, I found this trip energizing, invigorating, and encouraging to do God’s work.”

“The pastors we met,” Tracee shared, “were very gracious and expressed—many times—their thanks, to us, for investing in them.”

“This trip broadened my worldview and has made me think on a global scale for ministry,” added David Bruce.

“Our team traveled throughout the country after the conference, visiting other ministries. This helped me become a better ‘God watcher’ of what He is doing around the world,” said Tracee Swank.

“I’ve taught in conferences all over the world for the last thirty years. Its hard work, but unparalleled in my personal spiritual growth. I especially appreciated the opportunity, in this context, to continue to disciple Tracee as a leader and David as a young Christian and emerging leader. Also, I am moved that so many generous Americans invested, with us, and others. Praise God!” –Kent Hunter.

This conference was sponsored by CALMS: Connecting and Advancing Leaders in Mission and Service, led by Steve Hughey. The name of the conference was “Make and Grow Disciples of Jesus who Live For and Represent Jesus Every Day.”

To God be the glory!

Go, make disciples!

Thank you for your support in prayer and finances!

Partner with Church Doctor Ministries (click here) to support its mission: The transformational change of the Christian Church toward the effective implementation of the Lord’s Great Commission to make disciples of all peoples. 

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.

Have the Church Doctor Report and more news from Church Doctor Ministries delivered direct to your email inbox by subscribing now.

Evidential Witness: Walking the Talk

Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment at the end after reading this article! - Kent

Kent R. HunterEvidential witness: look at the actions. Faith in Christ brings results that are evident.

In John 10:22 and following, Jesus is in another threatening discussion with some Jews who could not grasp His divinity. Jesus had told them that they don’t believe because “you’re not my sheep.” In other words, they don’t follow him and they don’t recognize him as the Good Shepherd (verse 14). In verse 31, they pick up stones. Jesus basically says to them, “if you don’t accept the words—that I am God (verse 33)… then believe that I do what the Father does.” In other words, Jesus says, “look at the evidence of the actions that are right before your eyes” (Verse 38).

Somehow the church has overcomplicated what is most often called “evangelism,” and, in the process, scared off most Christians from personal outreach. There are those who are gifted to be “evangelists.” They have the gift of evangelism. It is a supernatural attribute given to them by the Holy Spirit. But just like those who are prophets, apostles, pastors and teachers, obviously that’s not everyone. In fact, evangelists are a relatively small percentage of the people in any community of believers. There seem to be just enough to form some kind of a committee or team. That focus alone which institutionalizes the game-changing opportunity that is supposed to be the operational opportunity for everyone. That all inclusive privilege is the calling to be witnesses. we are eye-witnesses. Anyone who has been a Christian for more than three years has some “God stories.”

When I was the pastor at one of the churches I served, it occurred to me that every church has some kind of an evangelism committee, or some outreach program, but few churches develop a culture of “eyewitnessing.” So I decided to experiment with an approach to change the culture of my congregation. Our church council met once a month. One month, at the beginning of the meeting, I said, without any explanation, “Before we start, would anybody like to share what God’s doing in your life recently?” The people around the table looked at me like I had just come from another planet! And, I might add, no one shared anything.

I did the same thing in a Bible class I taught on a weekly basis: “Before we start the teaching today, I’d just like to ask, is there anybody who would like to share what God has been doing in your life lately?” Again—no response. A couple of weeks later, we had a congregation meeting and before the meeting we had a luncheon. Before we started the luncheon, I simply asked, “Would anybody like to share what God has been doing in your life lately?” Again, not a single response.

Six weeks later, after continually asking this culture-changing question, we experienced breakthrough. It was in Bible class. A woman in her 30’s timidly raised her hand to share something. Quite frankly, her eyewitness “testimony” (as it is sometimes called—though I don’t recommend using that word, was, frankly, pretty weak. But it was a crack in the cultural dam. Within four months, when I asked the question, “what has God done in your life lately?” I had to shut down the discussion after fifteen minutes so we could have Bible class, get on with the meeting, or eat the food before it got cold.

What’s the point? The point is not for a bunch of Christians to sit around and share what God is doing in their lives. Although, the value of that new culture around church is tremendous. You should realize that every time someone shares about God working in their lives, whatever their story—whether it is told with great articulation or they fumble through it—basically declares the same confession: “from my life, from my perspective, God is alive and well, and working in our world right now!” This is an awesome boost of encouragement for Christians. But what happens at church is just the tip of the Christian movement iceberg. And that is the point, from a mission perspective.

When this culture is infused among the people of a church, sooner or later, they’re going to be talking with a colleague at work, who knows them well, and dares to share a personal challenge. That person might share, confidentially, over lunch, that he and his wife are having financial struggles that are stressing their marriage. The Christian may have, in their “eyewitness memory bank” a time when he and his wife had a similar scenario. It may have been an occasion to increase their prayer life, read their Bible, return to church or whatever spiritual growth step. And if he share that, at that moment, in that relationship, as an eyewitness—eyewitnessing—he is a cutting edge missionary whether he has the gift of evangelist. Consider a whole church of a hundred people or five hundred, or five thousand, who have processed into a culture of eyewitnessing. Consider the number of people who have not yet met Jesus who reside in the social networks of all those people. Consider the challenges that those people have on any given day. Consider the power of the movement, the way Jesus intended it. This is evidential. It is an event that takes place in our lives where we believe that God has intervened. That’s what it means to be an eyewitness.

Add to this dynamic, teaching people in your church the ability to identify what Jesus calls “a person of peace.” You remember that Jesus instructed his disciples to go into the town and share the Kingdom. When they meet a person of peace, they are to enter the house and stay with that person. When the person showed no receptivity and was not at a point of peace (which God creates!) then they are to, as a divine directive, shake the dust off their feet and move on. This doesn’t give up hope on a anyone, because hope is eternal in the Kingdom. But it recognizes that it is not the season to plant the seed. Develop a culture of identifying receptivity alongside a culture of eyewitnessing, sharing evidential realities, and the growth of the Christian movement becomes explosive with exponential potential. It is all about developing a mission culture in the church. This is not birthed as a program but through experiential modeling, and simply asking a question: “What has God done in your life lately?”

Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment below! - Kent

Under Stress for the Cause of Christ

Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment at the end after reading this article! - Kent

Kent R. HunterMinistry is riddled with stress. Whether you’re a full-time church worker, volunteer leader, or involved in any ministry of the church, sooner, rather than later, it is likely you’ll experience significant stress. It is in these stressful times that God builds character and that character is a key to our spiritual growth. The Apostle Paul was either a nutcase or writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (there’s really no other option) when he said, in Romans 5:3-5, “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment. For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with His love.” (New Living Translation)

In the first congregation I pastored, I found myself in a very challenging ministry. My first church as a young pastor was in the inner city of Detroit, Michigan. It was an old Anglo congregation in a young African-American community. My church consisted of mostly white-haired Anglo lifelong Christians and the neighborhood consisted almost entirely of African-American young families, many of whom were unchurched.

One day, I made the naïve suggestion to the members of our church that we reach our neighbors for Christ. You have to understand, these neighbors were neighbors to the church building, but not to my members. The members of our church had already, years before, moved to the suburbs. They called the area around the church the “old neighborhood.” I lived there, in a parsonage, but my members did not. For my neighbors, the African-Americans, it was not an old neighborhood, but a new neighborhood.

My suggestion that we reach our neighbors caused, to some degree, a firestorm. The president of my congregation was so upset about the possibility of inviting “those people” to our church, he showed his bigoted hand by interrupting a worship service. Imagine this: I’m a young pastor, preaching to about six hundred people in the late service, I’m about ready to close the service with the benediction. Standing before the congregation I take a deep breath, and just as I start the benediction, the president of our church stands up from the front row turns toward the congregation and says, “Think about what our pastor is proposing. Do you really want ‘those people’ in our church? We’re going to have a meeting after this church service and you better come to express your feelings about this!” I thought that this behavior in a worship service only happened in movies!

It not only happens in churches, but it happened to Jesus.

In a very graphic story that is not at all just a blow-by-blow description of an event, Jesus says, “…I am storm-tossed. And what am I going to say? ‘Father, get me out of this?’ No, this is why I came in the first place. I’ll say, ‘Father, put Your Glory on display.’” (John 12:27-28, The Message).

Do you get it? When we face challenges in the church, according to Jesus, it is an opportunity for the Father to put His Glory on display! Guess what? That’s exactly what God did in my congregation in Detroit. The president of our congregation, showing his bigoted hand, drove many more people to that meeting after church more than I could have rallied. The large room was packed at standing room only. I had never seen a meeting at this church with so many people. In his naiveté, my president started the meeting, thinking the masses would to rally to his prejudicial cause. It was just the opposite! The people rallied and said, in effect, “We cannot be Christians and continue to fail our immediate community. It is our privilege and responsibility to reach our neighbors for Christ.” This result was completely out of my control. It was also out of the control of the president of our church. He was so humiliated he left our congregation. I pleaded with him that God is a God of forgiveness and that, if he gives God a chance, the Lord can heal him of whatever attitudes need improvement. But he couldn’t get over his self-humiliation. He moved to a church in his own neighborhood in the suburbs.

God does this kind of stuff all the time. It seems like God does some of his best work in us, with us and through us in the middle of a storm. Think about your own life. Think about your own church. Hasn’t that been your experience?

Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment below! - Kent

 

Spiritual Globalization, Denominationalism, Centered Set, and Missionary Worldview

Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment at the end after reading this article! - Kent

Kent R. HunterNot since the Civil War have soldiers fighting for the same cause been segregated—for any reasons. Yet the divisions among denominations continues, diluting the Christian cause to win our world… for Jesus Christ. What is the origin of this circus of needless duplication, and, to the unchurched, a confusion of diversity?

The Protestant Reformation is well known for its biblical quest toward clarity. Thank God for the reformers! Perhaps no one at the time could see it coming, but the movement spiraled into theological nitpicking. Would Jesus call it “straining at gnats”? It amazes me that people equally sold out on Jesus as the only way of salvation and, committed unilaterally to the mission of The Great Commission, would build churches across the road from each other in a small rural town, because they look at The Lord’s Supper differently.

Equally profound and respected theologians disagree about how to explain certain issues about The Lord’s Supper. Truthfully, there are dimensions of The Lord’s Supper no one totally understands, or could ever understand. Much of Christianity is accepted by faith, not reason. After all, Christianity is…a faith.

In the denomination of my upbringing, for example, there are pastors who will not allow practicing Christians from another church- in town visiting their Christian relatives- to attend The Lord’s Supper with the rest of their family, who are members of the church. This is greatly offensive to these Christians. It is judgmental, and a bit arrogant. It sends the message: “we know it all, you don’t, and we’d like to stick it in your face in a public display of non-acceptance.”

Biblical integrity, at the highest level, is an important and non-negotiable objective. However, irresponsible and judgmental aberrations of Christian hospitality, in an air of superiority, represent the arrogance of Pharisees rather than the spirit of Christ.

Somehow the mission of The Great Commission has been hijacked by a mission of division on the basis of theological sticking points, even though all sides agree that these sticking points are not “deal breakers” for salvation. For example, when I was in seminary, I trained to be a counselor for a Billy Graham Crusade in St. Louis, Missouri. In the days and weeks before the Crusade, Billy Graham received a lot of attention in the media. One day I attended a class on theological systematics. Instead of following the syllabus, my professor took liberty to spend the entire class talking about what is wrong with Billy Graham’s theology. This was offensive to me, because Billy Graham was one of my spiritual heroes, who, among other things, had something to do with my desire to study for the ministry. Billy Graham’s passion for the lost was catching, and ignited my lifelong desire for Christian outreach. Further, since I paid good money to support this professor, I felt it was a breach of contract. ( I was wise enough to protect my future ordination to avoid speaking with my professor on that issue). However, after class, I did approach him and asked this question: “Bottom line: will Billy Graham be in heaven?” He responded, “Absolutely! The Bible says,” He continued, “whoever believes in the Lord Jesus Christ will be saved.” I thought about pursuing my point, but simply said “thank you,” and politely walked away, wondering why he had the license to waste an hour of twenty students who were studying to reach people for Jesus Christ, just like Billy Graham. I wondered why Christians who are sold out on the basics of faith couldn’t agree to disagree on less than bottom line issues and work together for the sake of lost people for whom Christ died.

In my perception, the Christian church—as a global effort birthed by the King of the universe—has been derailed by the Age of Rationalism. It seems like no one wants to admit it, but we are often hyper-focused on content minutia while the Leader of the movement is dying to see the world receive the love and relationship of abundant life.

Denominationalism is dying. This decline is a major contribution to effective world evangelization. In this information age, isolationism and imperialism, bullying and arrogance among nations—including America—will simply not fly. Neither America nor any other country can parade as a savior of the world and impose their will on other nations. This has also become true of denominations. At the end of the day, Christianity is a team-oriented movement.

During my mission school training, which came in graduate school, I had a breakthrough moment about this issue. It was also substantiated years later. Among missionaries there is a saying: “you hang together or you hang all by yourself.” I have seen this in many places on the foreign mission fields around the world, and nowhere more clearly than Almaty, Kazakhstan. I was there, with a team leading a teaching conference for about one thousand pastors and church leaders who served every day in the challenging environment of that mostly Muslim area of the globe. Many of them were missionaries. They don’t pretend their mission is The Great Commission. They don’t give lip service. They live and breathe the mission—something Jesus intended for all his disciples throughout history.

My breakthrough moment in mission school was a teaching about the missionary worldview. Many denominational nitpickers have a worldview that would render them missionally impotent. Since worldviews are subconscious, they don’t realize what they believe. What they believe, in fact, is that there are only two worldview positions one can take as a Christian: (1) the closed set, and (2) the open set. This can be visualized as follows:

Set-ClosedOpen

The closed set worldview describes anyone outside of these boundaries as part of an open set—based on the false assumption that there are only two worldview choices. This worldview continues with the concept that if you cross the line on any specific understanding of, for example, The Lord’s Supper, it puts you outside of my worldview. In this understanding, the only other option is that you must be part of the open set. This approach says, “If you are outside of my box on any issue of theology, you are part of a system with no boundaries whatsoever.” That is a slippery slope—a biblical domino disaster waiting to happen. “You don’t agree 100% with me about The Lord’s Supper. Watch out! It won’t be long and you will deny the divinity of Christ or say that Jesus’ resurrection is a myth.”

This approach is both right…and wrong. It is right, because there are those who choose an open set and their theological journey leads to Christianity without Christ. Missionally speaking, this is truly a non-option because it moves to a faith without substance. Churches that move to that position become the “body of Christ without a backbone.” No one is attracted to a faith that believes nothing, or so little it is not identifiable. So, that part of the closed set observation is correct.

However, it is also incorrect because there is another set—a third set, an additional worldview option. It is my perception, that this third worldview is the biblical option. It is a fundamental worldview for effective mission. It is the worldview of the centered set. This can be described in the following diagram:

Set-Centered

The centered set understands that we as fellow Christians are on the same journey, and that journey is to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18) Already, this is a dramatically different worldview. Christianity is not a destination or a position, but a lifelong journey. This has profound impact on the way we understand the Christian world and the way it works. The church is not a destination, but a community of believers, called out from the world to be not of the world but in the world. We are called “disciples” not because we have arrived at every conclusion about everything, but because we are dedicated to a quest that ends at death and not before.

It was the Pharisees, not the Christians, who made judgments about where people were positioned. The Christian, centered set, worldview is one that makes mission possible. When you are focused on position, you construct walls that inhibit effective mission activity. The closed set is closer to a sect than a movement, the movement of Christianity. Sects tend to subdivide into oblivion and die out. They begin with an attitude “we are right and everyone else is wrong.” Then, during the natural course for human beings, insecurities arise: “well I thought we were right, but after learning more about you, I think I’m more right than you are.” This leads to division and ultimate disintegration. It is not the way of Christianity.

The centered set recognizes that even people who don’t know Christ, have imprinted in their being, a notion that there is a God of creation, who they do not yet know. The mission-minded Apostle Paul said it this way in Romans 1:19-20: “But the basic reality of God is plain enough. Open your eyes and there it is! By taking a long and thoughtful look at what God has created, people have always been able to see what their eyes can’t see: eternal power, for instance, and the mystery of his divine being.” (The Message) Such a person who is at that point, in the missionary perspective, is far from Christ, representing one of the dots in the centered set diagram that may be quite a distance from the cross. But there is great hope, and with that hope, there is an attitude of acceptance because a person is on the divine journey even though they may not know it. This worldview is the only way that churches can reach people that most churches don’t reach. The key element is a worldview issue. The more we focus on denominational distinctives and ignore spiritual globalization, the more ineffective we are in reaching people for Jesus Christ.

Help write my new book and provide me feedback on this article. Please comment below! - Kent

Ten Ways to Clean up Communication

photo:

Across the landscape of Christianity, particularly the U.S., Canada and Europe, we, may not be healthy enough, spiritually, to handle technology. For every ounce of energy exerted to win lost neighbors to Jesus, there is a ton of resistance birthed through electronic media…from Christians!

Below are ten ways to clean up communication. Read a more in-depth discussion about spiritual maturity and technology in the July/August 2014 Church Doctor Report.

Ten Ways to Clean up Communication

  1. Pray before you speak, write, tweet, blog—especially if you’re upset.
  2. Never listen to another person speak negatively about someone who is not present. (The term for this is gossip, which is a sin).
  3. No matter how communication comes to you, STOP-THINK-DECIDE. What is the spiritually healthy way to respond? Choose the form of your response proactively. Never just react by mimicking the way it came to you. Two wrongs don’t make it right. They make it worse.
  4. If someone offends you, follow Jesus’ direction in Matthew 18: (1) Go to the person and meet face to face. (This does not mean asking them to meet you on your turf. It could mean a neutral site for both). (2) If you don’t make progress, return a second time and take an objective, spiritually mature person with you. (3) If you still do not make progress, involve wise leaders from your church who have “the mind of Christ” and who  are impartial.
  5. When interacting with other Christians, practice low control/high accountability. We are not called to “exercise lordship” over people, like the kings of the Gentiles, (Luke 22:25, ESV), but to “speak the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).
  6. Do not avoid sensitive issues with the excuse that you “don’t like conflict.” No normal person likes conflict. Christian behavior is not always about doing what you “like”.
  7. Never copy others about an issue you have with someone else. This is slander. Check out the Eighth Commandment.
  8. Focus on Christian charity when you have an issue with pastors and leaders. You are called to act with respect toward those who are in authority. This is a theme of the Fourth Commandment.
  9. Do not publicly criticize other ministries or visible Christian leaders. Contact them privately. Focus on loving corrections, repentance, forgiveness, rather than public criticism, judgmentalism, and a spirit of self-righteousness. Pray for others who mess up.
  10. As you speak the truth in love, start and end with appreciation for the positive. Don’t avoid hard subjects, but surround them with identified positives.

Kent Hunter, founder of Church Doctor Ministries, is known as the Church Doctor. His most recent e-books are The Future Is Now and The J-Dog Journey, available at no cost. Contact him at (800) 626-8515, by emailTwitter, Facebook, or visit www.churchdoctor.org.

Have the Church Doctor Report and more news from Church Doctor Ministries delivered direct to your email inbox by subscribing now.

Can Your Spiritual Maturity Handle Technology? – July/August 2014 Church Doctor Report

Can Your Spiritual Maturity Handle Technology?

CDR-JulyAugust2014Printer Friendly Version (PDF)

Pastor Allen opened his email account only to find another scathing list of complaints from Dave. Every paragraph had a gripe, a criticism—a negative comment about his ministry or the church. Three pages of anger, disrespect, attack. The email was copied to twenty church members and the conference superintendent.

Allen began to experience a physical change, from his stomach to his head. His blood pressure went up, heart began pounding, emotions were soaring. He looked out his office window at a squirrel, sitting on a branch, chewing an acorn. A thought pierced his brain: “I hate ministry…at least for the moment.”

What would you do?

That’s not a rhetorical question. What would you do? What would you do? Don’t read on until you answer. As a Christian, what have you done before? What would you do again?

This is not an intellectual exercise. Feel Allen’s emotions, sense the instant sweat, the churning of his stomach, the pounding in his head. See the squirrel and contemplate: fight or flight?

I suspect this has happened to you before, whether you’re a pastor or not. Electronic conflict impacts everyone sooner or later. What would you do?

Spiritual Health

This is not a conflict management exercise. This is a measure of your spiritual temperature. It is a barometer of the spiritual health of Christianity in this electronic age. Are you Christian enough to get this? Is your Christian community, your church, spiritually healthy enough to get this?

Across the landscape of Christianity, particularly the U.S., Canada and Europe, we, may not be healthy enough, spiritually, to handle technology. For every ounce of energy exerted to win lost neighbors to Jesus, there is a ton of resistance birthed through electronic media…from Christians! The internet is poisoned with bad Christian behavior: by notable and visible Christian leaders, denominational executives, everyday Christians from all walks of life, believers from all brands of Christianity.

Spiritual abuse of media is not an electronic discipline, communication art, exercise in conflict management, defense of Holy Truth, or an accurate biblical representation of Christian behavior, biblical theology, or spiritual practice. And it is killing our Christian witness. Are you, consciously or unconsciously killing Christianity?

Meet Mike

“Hi Mike, how are ya?” I said, as I walked by my neighbor’s house. Mike is a 28-year-old nonpracticing, lapsed Christian who drifted from the faith during law school. He and his wife Cindy have not always done well as a young couple. She was pregnant when they married, and that greatly upset her parents, who live across town. Mike works hard—a real achiever—and has a meth habit. “But I can handle it,” he says.

Mike’s law practice has taken off, and he’s doing well, but not well enough for their lifestyle. They overbought their house, daycare is expensive, Cindy is a teacher, but expecting their second child. Mike has educational debt. The financial pressures are mounting.

I’ve tried to share my faith with Mike. I learned early on that this is not a “would you like to come with us to church” approach. So, I’ve shared a few of my struggles—real stories about how, I believe, God has helped me and my wife get through hard times. Our talks go better over coffee at Starbucks.

“I’ll have a tall vanilla cappuccino,” I told the barista. “How about you Mike? My treat,” I said.

“Yeah, I’ll have a latte…venti,” Mike ordered.

I finally got around to square up with Mike:

“Hey, you know, we’ve talked about spiritual stuff before, Mike. Have you ever thought Christianity might be helpful to you and Cindy?” I wasn’t ready for Mike’s response.

“No offense,” he said. “I know you mean well, but why the hell would anyone want to be a Christian?”

I wanted to think he was searching for a theological answer, but I knew by his tone, that wasn’t going to happen.

Mike continued, “Do you use the internet? Facebook, Twitter —anything like that? Ever read blogs, podcasts?”

“Well, yeah, I’m online all the time,” I responded.

“Why would anyone want to be a Christian? All you people do is criticize each other. Why would anybody want to be a part of that? What a bunch of cruel people you are.”

I about choked on my cappuccino.

The Bible says to multiply, but critics prefer to divide. Don’t allow yourself to be a public critic. Jesus warns, “Don’t judge, or you will be judged” (Matthew 7:1). When you throw dirt at others, you will always make a mountain out of a mole hill. Through the grace of Jesus, no mud can soil you except for the mud that you throw at others. The mud thrower never has clean hands.
Source: John Mason, Conquering an Enemy Called Average


The Pastor Allen Options

What would you do? Dave sends him a scathing email, and copies a bunch of people in the church. What did Allen do? Sadly, he did what many pastors do. Without thinking or applying his Christian sensibility to the internet, he got caught in the electronic trap: “I got it by email, I’ll respond by email. And, I’ll have to copy these people, because they’re all in on it,” Allen thought.

Dave was dead wrong in his spiritual behavior. He should have never sent the email to the pastor. Jesus taught this in Matthew 18:15-17, “If someone offends you, (if you’re upset with someone), go to that person, privately.” Without question, that means face to face—not an email, not even a phone call. Why? When you are face to face, you can see body language, hear tone of voice. You can have a conversation. An email of three pages with a response of three pages is not a conversation. It is a one-sided dump followed by another one-sided dump. This produces heat, not light.

“What about Skype?” you ask. At the risk of sounding out of touch with the 21st Century, the answer is “no!” Why? Because you can’t shake hands, hug, or put a warm hand on an arm or shoulder. You just can’t.

And what about copying all your friends? Are you kidding? Dave totally missed the Eighth Commandment! Does anybody know what the Bible says about gossip? Slander? Consider this: if no one would listen to gossip, no one could gossip. And what about blogs that attack other Christians in front of the whole world? Really? Really?

All these issues predate Silicon Valley. Paul says to young Timothy, “Avoid godless chatter because those who indulge in it will become more and more ungodly. Their talk will spread like gangrene.” 2 Timothy 16-17a (NIV).

You can’t beat God’s plan, on any subject.

The Pharisees ended up talking to themselves and judging the world. As Christians, we are supposed to judge ourselves, and talk to the world.
Source: Walt Kallestad.


Quit Killing Christianity

What is the profile of a follower of Jesus Christ? How do others distinguish a disciple of Jesus—in contrast to a disciple of someone/something else?

It’s not by your website, email address, Twitter account, or Facebook page, per se. It’s not about how you use your tools of communication, including your tongue. Jesus got this right, like everything else. He told the disciples how people would recognize His followers. What did He say?

It’s not complicated, it’s not spiritual rocket science: “This is how everyone will recognize that you are my disciples—when they see the love you have for one another.” (John 13:34-35, The Message).

The Apostle Paul got this. As a mark of spiritual maturity, he said, “…speak the truth in love.” (Ephesians 4:15, RSV). Christians love one another by holding each other accountable. But we do it in a loving way, directly, face to face, one on one.

Please, on behalf of all of us imperfect but “willing to bust our butts” to reach people for Jesus: if you aren’t spiritually mature enough to stop beating up other Christians on social media, then for the sake of the Great Commission, at least stop killing the Christian movement: UN-PLUG.

Would you electronically behave, for God’s sake?

By the way, this one you can copy to all your friends!

Ten Ways to Clean up Communication

  1. Pray before you speak, write, tweet, blog—especially if you’re upset.
  2. Never listen to another person speak negatively about someone who is not present. (The term for this is gossip, which is a sin).
  3. No matter how communication comes to you, STOP-THINK-DECIDE. What is the spiritually healthy way to respond? Choose the form of your response proactively. Never just react by mimicking the way it came to you. Two wrongs don’t make it right. They make it worse.
  4. If someone offends you, follow Jesus’ direction in Matthew 18: (1) Go to the person and meet face to face. (This does not mean asking them to meet you on your turf. It could mean a neutral site for both). (2) If you don’t make progress, return a second time and take an objective, spiritually mature person with you. (3) If you still do not make progress, involve wise leaders from your church who have “the mind of Christ” and who  are impartial.
  5. When interacting with other Christians, practice low control/high accountability. We are not called to “exercise lordship” over people, like the kings of the Gentiles, (Luke 22:25, ESV), but to “speak the truth in love,” (Ephesians 4:15, NIV).
  6. Do not avoid sensitive issues with the excuse that you “don’t like conflict.” No normal person likes conflict. Christian behavior is not always about doing what you “like”.
  7. Never copy others about an issue you have with someone else. This is slander. Check out the Eighth Commandment.
  8. Focus on Christian charity when you have an issue with pastors and leaders. You are called to act with respect toward those who are in authority. This is a theme of the Fourth Commandment.
  9. Do not publicly criticize other ministries or visible Christian leaders. Contact them privately. Focus on loving corrections, repentance, forgiveness, rather than public criticism, judgmentalism, and a spirit of self-righteousness. Pray for others who mess up.
  10. As you speak the truth in love, start and end with appreciation for the positive. Don’t avoid hard subjects, but surround them with identified positives.


Key Resources

  • Christian Leadership Coaching (service). Corunna: Church Doctor Ministries. www.ChurchDoctor.org.
  • Freeman, Eric. Mixed Messages: When Praise and Slander Collide. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Plat-form, 2013.
  • Gangel, Kenneth O. Communication and Conflict Management in Churches and Christian Organizations. Eugene: Wipf & Stock Pub, 2002.
  • Hunt, June. Confrontation [June Hunt Hope for the Heart]: Challenging Others to Change. Torrance: Aspire Press, 2013.
  • Leod, F. Wayne Mac. If Your Brother Sins: Resolving Church Conflicts: A Study of Matthew 18:15-17. Nova Scotia: Light to My Path Book Distribution, 2012.
  • Munzenmaier, Cecilia. Write Better Emails: How to Stand Out by Being Short, Civil, and Savvy. CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2013.
  • Williams, Timothy. Gossip and the Gospel. Enumclaw: Wine-Press Publishing, 2004.

KRH Photo 2010 (edge faded)Kent Hunter, Founder of Church Doctor Ministries, describes himself as “an incurable missionary.” His focus over the last several decades has been to help Christians and churches through transformational change to become more effective in reaching those who are not yet Christians—to the end of making disciples. Kent is a certified Church Doctor who consults congregations of all sizes, from a wide variety of traditions and backgrounds. Kent says he is a theologian and a missiologist, with a pastor’s heart. He has served as a pastor in several congregations and trained Christian leaders on six continents. His latest projects have been the eighteen DVD teaching series, The Damascus Road: When Christians Become Missionaries and the twenty-four DVD series, Healthy Leaders Thrive! Connect with Kent via email, TwitterFacebook

To schedule a phone appointment to discuss this topic further with Kent, call Terry Atz at 1-800-626-8515.

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