Category Archives: Church Life and Growth

Why I Facebook and Twitter

When I tell people I Facebook and Twitter I often get

STRANGE REACTIONS…

Uninformed people often roll their eyes and question me.

They ask how I can justify

wasting so much time in such frivolous pursuits!

Well, this weekend I had that experience once too often!

I set up a table in our church lobby…

with the aim of recruiting bloggers and social-network enthusiasts.

My intention was to start a Blogging and Social-Networking Group.

A group which would gather people

who are interested in the SKILL behind Internet Social Media.

A group focused on learning new ways to reach out and

effectively communicate with more people on the worldwide web.

A group whose goal is, ultimately,

to stay in step with our culture and

to share our Christian values in culturally relevant ways!

But what did I get for all my trouble!

FRUSTRATION!!!

I was horrified as a talked to large numbers of people

who are CLUELESS about the value and importance of social media.

It was not one or two people who questioned me,

about why I view social networking as having redeeming social value.

It was, in fact the majority of people.

Well, a couple of days have passed since then…

and, my frustration has not passed!

So, I have written this post to answer my critics,

I want to scream ARE YOU KIDDING ME?

HAVE YOU BEEN LIVNG ON THE MOON?

I just want to take the time to point out, I am NOT THE CRAZY ONE!

If you think becoming effective at social media is frivolous or valueless;

YOU ARE UNINFORMED.

Our culture is currently in a SOCIAL MEDIA REVOLUTION and whether you know it or not,

there is…

NO TURNING BACK.

Social networking is the BIGGEST thing on the internet.

It is BIGGER than porn!

And BIGGER than on-line shopping!

IT REPRESENTS A MONUMENTAL SHIFT

IN COMMUNICATION STYLE!

IT REPRESENTS PERHAPS THE BIGGEST SHIFT

IN THE STYLE OF COMMUNICATION IN HISTORY!!!

Please educate yourselves and watch the following video!

Please save me the awkward chore of insulting you!

THIS IS WHY I FACEBOOK AND TWITTER!!!








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Some Food For Thought–Sour Godliness???–The Devil’s Religion!

Screwtape encountering his "righteous" victim

Have you been the unwitting accomplice of any demons lately?

Hmmm…church ladies…could it be Satan?

The capability of church people to spew forth guile and judgment never ceases to amaze me.

I hate the contemporary versions of the “religion of the pharisees” that I see run rampant in the Church of Jesus Christ.

John Wesley, seeking to put a name to the critical judgmental attitude he experienced among the Christians of his era wrote,

“Sour godliness is the devil’s religion. It does not owe its inception to truly spiritual people.  I suspect that sour godliness originated among unhappy, semi-religious people who had just enough religion to make them miserable, but not enough to do them any good.”

Sour godliness, (i.e. bitter piety) could it be described any better and it is as prevalent today as it was over two hundred years ago…or for that matter over two thousand years ago.

What is so ironic is…

Jesus fought against “false perceptions of godliness” judgmentally perpetuated by those who viewed themselves as “the righteous” of His day.

Jesus battled “the Pharisees” those He called “the sons of devils” and had no qualms about declaring them in league with Satan himself.

Jesus was not at war with the sinner, he was at war with the self-righteous.

And alas, in the end, they won…it was their same false judgments– kindled to a bonfire and ignited by the devil–that were used to murder Him.

And…What is so scary to me is…

The same demons that were alive back then are still around today.  Those same evil entities that whispered in the ears of the Pharisees are still deluding, deceiving and encouraging those puffed up with their own “errant pious” inclinations to do their dirty work.

C.S. Lewis, in his classic, “The Screwtape Letters” aptly pictured these demons schooling one another in the talent to tempt vulnerable Christians into “religious unholiness.”  Lewis with his words paints a picture of the Senior devil Screwtape in a Speech before the “Annual Dinner of the Tempters’ Training College for Young Devils.”

Screwtape slithers to the stage and exhorts his underlings of the underworld…

“It will be an ill day for us if what most humans mean by “religion” ever vanishes from the Earth. It can still send us the truly delicious sins.  The fine flower of unholiness can grow only in the close neighborhood of the Holy.  Nowhere do we tempt so successfully as on the very steps of the altar.” — quoted from C.S. Lewis’ “The Screwtape Letters”

Fellow Christians, let’s be wary of falling into Screwtape’s trap–let us beware of enlisting ourselves in the pursuit of “unholy religion” practiced at the very foot of the altar.

This week in my home church we are studying, Luke 23, the trial of Jesus before Pilate.  In this passage, Pilate–the secular ruler of the time–would have let Jesus go free finding no fault in Him, but in the end the cries of “the unholy religious” of His time dictated Jesus’ death instead.

Could you be allowing “sour godliness” to rule your soul?  Evaluate yourselves and hear Jesus’ counsel, “beware the leaven of the Pharisees!”


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Ten Great Personal Benefits to Blogging

1.         Blogging allows you to meet interesting new people that you would not ordinarily meet and it is a great tool for introducing yourself to others.

2.         Blogging is a great way to get attention to the cause of Christ and share information about your personal mission.  In the last two years that I have had my blog I have averaged about 1,500 visitors a month to my blog and with each one I have had the chance to share insights about my personal relationship with Jesus Christ. My blog has greatly enhanced my personal ability to be a witness and share the testimony of my walk with Jesus Christ.

3. Blogging is a means of self documentation.  A blog helps you document many of the facets of your personal life.  It is a tool to help you express what you are experiencing, believing and feeling at a given point in time.  I value my blog because it is a valuable personal resource and an online record of my life that I can easily go back to and reference later.

4.         Blogging helps you leave a legacy. I write because I love writing and my blog will survive allowing my kid and grandkids to see a different side of me. I wouldn’t mind writing a book someday, but until then my blog is something I am proud of that is a compilation of my beliefs, experiences, thoughts and creativity.

5.         Blogging can be a team sport: you can get a lot of people in a community involved in blogging and when the interaction starts it can be really fun. Blogging is simple to do and doesn’t require a lot of technological genius to get started.  A great side benefit is that it is easily accessible to a wide range of people. When I started blogging I was not very computer savvy, but in no time at all I had learned the ropes and I was reaping the benefits.

6.         Blogging helps you become better at using words. Writing is much more comfortable than speaking for a lot of people.  When writing we can think without the pressure of  having “the immediate right words” to say.  The written word, plus current technology gives us the opportunity to go back and edit statements.  In my life the opportunity to undo and amend my thoughts before communicating them has been a big plus

7. Blogging is a vehicle that can be used to declare your personal dream or vision. What I blog tends to be a declaration of what I believe is the right attitude to have, the right way to behave or the right thing to do.  My posts reflect what I am dreaming of and the way I wish things were.  While writing is much easier than doing, recording things in an organized way is a definite step towards pin pointing and actualizing the dream that is in one’s heart.

8.         Blogging expands your personal horizons. Blogging not only allows you to share stories about your expertise, but it also gives you the opportunity to post photos, videos, and audios fairly easily and the creative options are endless. Blogging has given my readers a multimedia experience with me!

9.         Blogging gives you an audience of supporters and detractors. If your mission, dream or vision has a passionate edge to it, a blog has the ability to join you with supporters, which validates your cause.  And on the other hand a blog also supplies you with access to a pool of detractors giving them a place to voice their concerns and opinions. It is important to be in touch with supporters and detractors because this can only serve to hone your focus and sharpen your reasoning abilities and skills.

10.       Finally, blogging will cause you to have to learn more. It is a richer life when you are constantly on the lookout for more opportunities to learn, more insights to be gathered and more wisdom to be shared.

These are some of the reasons I blog.  How has blogging been beneficial to your life?  Please feel free to comment.

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Honoring Dad on Father’s Day

Today is a day for honoring fathers.  I have a wonderful Christian father.

And a wonderful Christian husband who is the father of my children.

 I am doubly blessed!

 My husband is not perfect but in building a family and raising our children he has always sought the wisdom and power of the Lord and I couldn’t have asked for more.

 Many years ago he wrote this stanza in a song called “Family Ties” and it sums up his humility and dependence on Jesus.   

I’m not good at walk’in on the water,

Or turning water into wine,

But I’ll keep a family fed,

With the help of the one Who did.

Two hearts make a family tie.

I am grateful that my husband knows the True Source of life and all wisdom and I honor him today for his solid uncompromising commitment to our Savior.   Tom’s focus on following Jesus and putting Him first has been a wonderful example and made him an awesome father for over thirty-five years.  Thank you, honey for a job well done!

The Bible makes it clear that we should honor our fathers.  Commandment number five of the Ten Commandments is: “Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Ex 20:12 (NIV).

Today we celebrate a national holiday for dads, but it has not always been that way, the history of a day set aside to honor fathers is only about a century old.

 The History of Father’s Day

 The first known celebration of Father’s Day was on July 5, 1908 in Fairmont, West Virginia, where it was commemorated at William Memorial Methodist Episcopal Church South – now known as Central United Methodist Church. Grace Golden Clayton is believed to have suggested it to her pastor after a deadly explosion in nearby Monongah in December, killing 361 men.

 It was also during a sermon in 1909 that Sonora Smart Dodd became inspired by Mother’s Day. After the death of her mother, Sonora and her siblings were raised by their father William Jackson Smart, a Civil War veteran. Sonora wanted to show how thankful she was to her father and, because William was born in June, she worked to have the first Father’s Day celebrated on June 19, 1910.

In 1924, President Coolidge recommended that Father’s Day become a national holiday.

President Johnson designated the third Sunday of June to be Father’s Day in 1966.

It was not until 1972 that President Nixon instituted Father’s Day as a national observance.

Info for this section was taken from history.com– for more on the history of Father’s Day and inspiring storys of contemporary dads follow this link: http://www.history.com/content/fathersday/history-of-father-s-day

Happy Father’s Day

Feel free to comment and share why you honor your Dad!

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Making a Believing Preparation for the Divine Blessing

 

A Word For Today

From Morning and Evening

by C.H. Spurgeon

Entry May 16th Evening Verse

 

“And he said, Thus saith the Lord, Make this valley full of ditches. For thus saith the Lord, Ye shall not see wind, neither shall ye see rain; yet that valley shall be filled with water, that ye may drink, both ye and your cattle, and your beasts.” 2Kings 3:16,17

The armies of the three kings were famishing for want of water: God was about to send it, and in these words the prophet announced the coming blessing. Here was a case of human helplessness: not a drop of water could all the valiant men procure from the skies or find in the wells of earth. Thus often the people of the Lord are at their wits’ end; they see the vanity of the creature, and learn experimentally where their help is to be found.

 

 

Still the people were to make a believing preparation for the divine blessing; they were to dig the trenches in which the precious liquid would be held. The church must by her varied agencies, efforts, and prayers, make herself ready to be blessed; she must make the pools, and the Lord will fill them.

 

 

This must be done in faith, in the full assurance that the blessing is about to descend. By-and-by there was a singular bestowal of the needed boon. Not as in Elijah’s case did the shower pour from the clouds, but in a silent and mysterious manner the pools were filled. The Lord has His own sovereign modes of action: He is not tied to manner and time as we are, but doeth as He pleases among the sons of men. It is ours thankfully to receive from Him, and not to dictate to Him.

 

 

We must also notice the remarkable abundance of the supply –there was enough for the need of all. And so it is in the gospel blessing; all the wants of the congregation and of the entire church shall be met by the divine power in answer to prayer; and above all this, victory shall be speedily given to the armies of the Lord.

 

 

What am I doing for Jesus? What trenches am I digging? O Lord, make me ready to receive the blessing which Thou art so willing to bestow.

 

I felt the Holy Spirit as I read this entry from Spurgeon’s Morning and Evening devotional today, so I decided to post it. If after reading it you feel it is fitting for the situation you are in or your church is in or if you have an insight or opinion please take the time to comment.  

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Changes Are Needed in Evangelism in America–Let Your Light So Shine Before Men

Linus’ buddy the little blonde girl may have had good results as an evangelist by hitting people over the head to get them to change their religious stance.  But in the current climate of religious change in our country; it is doubtful that hitting someone over the headwith your lunch box or even your version of the truth for that matter–will yield much fruit.

Preaching the gospel is getting far more difficult in our county where resistance to Christianity is spreading.  The old tactics of competitive evangelism –“my truth is better than your truth”– are simply not as effective as they once were. 

Many are calling for change in the predominant style of evangelism; a change that couples sharing gospel truths with demonstrations of Christ’s love and relationship in an impacting way.  In a post-modern America that is increasingly antagonistic to Christianity–just arguing for our version of the truth is frightfully anemic.

America is no longer a Christian nation.

President Barack Obama recently stated at a press conference in Turkey that “as Americans we no longer consider ourselves a Christian nation.”  This quote was startling to many people but in reality it was just Obama giving voice to the inevitable trend that is showing up everywhere — Christianity is no longer as popular or influential as it once was.

Obama’s comment came as a reinforcement of a published cover article for Newsweek magazine. The article entitled “The Decline and Fall of Christian America” discussed the shift in the religious identifications of the United States and claimed that according to polls done in recent years things look pretty dismal for Christianity. 

The article pointed out that the percentage of self-identified Christians has fallen over 10 percentage points since 2000, and meanwhile the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation at all has nearly doubled in the same amount of time.

While such statistics may seem jolting to some, Christianity’s slipping image is in actuality old news.  In 2007, in a book entitled unChristian, Barna group president David Kinnaman, began revealing statistics about the spiraling downward popularity of Christianity. 

His research showed that: a decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society.  While today, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

Kinnaman also illustrated that Christians seem aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of “the faith.”  Barna polls showing: that 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”  The author, Kinnaman writes,

“Some Christians fear the changing reputation of Christianity and it certainly represents an uncomfortable future. Yet, rather than being defensive or dismissive, we should learn from critics, especially those young Christians who are expressing consternation about the state of faith in America.

Jesus told us to expect hostility and negative reactions. That is certainly nothing new. But the issue is what we do with it. Is it a chance to defend yourself and demand your rights? Or is it an opportunity to show people grace and truth?

In order to deal with the vanishing common ground between Christians and those outside the faith, Kinnaman and many others such as John Piper, Mark Devers, Francis Chan and Rick Warren to name a few are all calling for changes in our evangelistic methodology.

What these best selling Christian authors are saying is that Christians need to begin to deal realistically with the pessimistic and skeptical views that those outside of Christian circles possess and that we need to take measures to change their view of Christians.

It seems to be a consensus that when we set out to evangelize in American society today, we must take into account the expanding hostile environment that surrounds us and have strategies to counter act the negativity. While it is true that none of us are perfect, our lives should lend credence to and speak well of the gospel we are preaching.  And our interactions with others should be the confirming echo of our witness for Jesus Christ.

 

It is taught throughout Scripture that our lives are meant to be God’s best advertisement in our community and that Christians corporately need to begin living that way.  Jesus Himself taught,

 

Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.  Matthew 5:16

 

And the Apostle Paul reiterated the same emphasis on lifestyle and relational evangelism in the epistles.

 

Do all things without complaining and disputing, that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.  Philippians 2:14-15

 

Live wisely among those who are not believers, and make the most of every opportunity.6 Let your conversation be gracious and attractive so that you will have the right response for everyone. Col 4:5-6 (NLT)

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing when it is lived out and we as Christians need to take heed to that and begin to demonstrate it in the communities in which we live. Christian evangelism today needs to be a lot more about demonstrations of  Christian love, faith, relationship and the power of God to change lives and a lot less about correctness and aggressively assaulting the other guy’s truth before you have earned the right to speak.

 

We need to learn from the advice of the Apostle Paul who in the first century was also operating in a culture that was antagonistic and suspicious of Christianity.  David Kinnaman has pointed out and I agree that Paul’s exhortation to “live wisely among those who are not Christians’ and to ‘let your conversation be gracious and effective,” (Colossians 4:5-6, NLT) is perfect counsel to committed Christians in America today. 

 

Let’s put away our “I’ll hit you over the head with the truth” techniques of old and begin sharing the truth clothed in Christlike love, integrity and authenticity the way Jesus did and maybe then they will listen to our truth.

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Vision 2009 – A Vision for a Church God Can Grow

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In 2008 according to pollster George Barna it became evident that Christianity’s image is indeed slipping among the younger generation.  In an article entitled A New Generation Expresses its Skepticism and Frustration with Christianity” Barna speaks of the book, entitled unChristian, by David Kinnaman, and an accompanying study that revealed startling facts about the under thirty age group. 

 

The study shows that 16- to 29-year-olds exhibit a greater degree of criticism toward Christianity than did previous generations at the same stage of life.  In fact, the investigation uncovered a steep negative downward spiral in young people’s overall attitude toward Christianity. 

 

A decade ago the vast majority of Americans outside the Christian faith, including young people, felt favorably toward Christianity’s role in society. Currently, however, just 16% of non-Christians in their late teens and twenties said they have a “good impression” of Christianity.

 

To add to these findings it has also come to light that society is being far from subtle in their expression of hostility toward Christianity. Barna’s research shows that Christians are acutely aware of the shift in people’s perceptions of their faith: 91% of the nation’s evangelical Christians believe that “Americans are becoming more and more hostile and negative toward Christianity.”

 

Taking facts like these into consideration it brings a serious tone to the topic of praying for new vision and life for “the Church” in 2009.  We need to be falling on our faces before God and asking for a transformed church that God can grow in the 21st century.  And in my opinion we must pray for breakthroughs in reaching an expanding unchurched generation of young people who are hostile to the Christian faith. 

 

It becomes helpful to think about the characteristics we need to pray to see demonstrated in the Church in order to see it become desirable.  We are not the first Christian generation to face a society that is hostile toward the Christian faith.  But in order to change minds and hearts about “our faith” we must demonstrate a “life of faith” that people will want to try and to be a part of.  Reflect with me on the type of Church that God engineered to reach the world for Christ in the first century.

 

 

A Reflection on the characteristics of a “Church God can grow” from Acts 2:42-47 NKJV.

 

Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

 

 

1.         42 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers.

 

It was a learning Church.

It was a fellowshipping Church

It was a praying Church.

 

 

2.         43 Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles.

 

It was a reverent Church full of respect for God and His ways.

It was a Church where God-things happened. 

 

If we expect great things from God and attempt great things for God–more of God’s presence and power is bound to be demonstrated. More of God’s presence among us would occur if we had faith and believed that together—we and God could see supernatural things happen.

 

 

3.         44 Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45 and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need.

 

It was a sharing Church; these early Christians had an intense feeling of responsibility for each other and were willing to go to great lengths to care for the poor among them.

 

 

4.         46 So continuing daily with one accord in the temple,

 

It was a worshipping Church; they never forgot to visit God’s house.

 

Things can happen when we come together. God’s Spirit moves upon his worshipping people.

 

 

5.        and breaking bread from house to house,

           they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart,

 

It was a happy Church; gladness was there and they were simple in heart they were easily satisfied and not preoccupied with what they did not have.

 

 

6.         47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.

 

It was an attractive Church

filled with people others could not help liking.

 

The phrase having favor with all the people is also translated in other versions as “having the goodwill of all the people.”  In reference to the original language this phrase was written in it is important to realize that there are two Greek words for good. Agathos simply describes a thing as good but kalos (the term used here) means that a thing is not only good but looks good; it has a universal attractiveness about it.

 

Real Christianity is an attractive thing. There are so many people who are good but their goodness is tainted by a streak of hardness or self-righteousness. The early Church was not only ethically good but also visibly good.

 

As we enter the New Year 2009, let’s pray that the Church of our Lord Jesus Christ could once again be in all aspects a church that God can grow.  Pray especially for Crossroads Church of Denver that we could embody the characteristics of the early church identified in Acts 2:42-47.

 

Happy New Year,

Maryellen Stipe

 

Please feel free to add your comments and reflections regarding prayer and new vision for the Church (either the church-at-large or specifically Crossroads Church of Denver) in 2009.

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