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Arquivo da tag: igreja mundial

Vende-se fé

O leitor Vadi Simão de Lima contesta a nota “Falsos Milagres”, nesta coluna, e diz que é generalista a afirmação “é típico dos neopentecostais” se arvorarem no direito de operar milagres (como afirmou Ancelmo Goias, n’O Globo) e que ela não leva em consideração posturas e “posturas”. “Jesus, quando esteve na Terra, não curou ‘todos’, no tanque de Betesda. Havia muitos e curou um. A cura é de Jesus, não da Igreja. Busque na Igreja quem foi curado, lá terá provas! Atirar a esmo é fácil”, arremata Lima.

A propósito, ontem à noite, no Canal 8, o “bispo” Sidnei Furlan, da Igreja Mundial do Poder de Deus, oferecia um vidro com água supostamente abençoada e recomendava que os fiéis escrevessem, num envelope, todos os seus problemas, enviassem à igreja e esperassem o milagre, a ser anunciado pelo “apóstolo” Valdemiro Santiago, na semana que vem, em Cuiabá. Em tempo: no final, o “bispo” sugere que, em anexo ao rol de problemas, o fiel envie R$ 50 ou R$ 100. Quando nada, já estão estabelecendo o preço da fé.

Fonte: MIDIA NEWS

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Publicado por em 20/10/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Que se cuidem os infiéis

Por Gilberto Nascimento
Um novo coronelismo eletrônico começa a tomar corpo no Brasil. Ele se espelha na velha estratégia de associar o controle dos meios de comunicação ao poder político, à moda de clãs como os Sarney, no Maranhão, e os Magalhães, na Bahia. Com uma diferença: os movimentos têm como pano de fundo a fé religiosa.

Nunca antes grupos – sejam evangélicos, sejam católicos – acumularam tanta influência na mídia. E nunca trabalharam tão claramente para eleger diretamente deputados, senadores e governadores ou apoiar candidatos identificados com suas ideias e projetos, que incluem a oposição ao aborto e à união homossexual, para citar dois casos no campo dos direitos civis.

“O deputado-pastor ou deputado-bispo tem a sua eleição garantida pela hierarquia religiosa que o escolhe, mas tem por função defender todo e qualquer interesse que envolva a sua agremiação religiosa. O seu mandato não é dos eleitores, mas daqueles que o colocam no Parlamento. Ele deve prestar contas somente a quem o indicou”, constata o presbiteriano Leonildo Silveira Campos, professor de pós-graduação em Ciências da Religião na Universidade Metodista.

“Na Câmara, os representantes das igrejas vão defender os valores considerados legítimos por elas, como o combate ao aborto, e os interesses das corporações religiosas no campo da comunicação”, acrescenta Campos, autor do estudo Evangélicos e Mídia no Brasil – Uma história de acertos e desacertos.

Igrejas evangélicas como a Universal do Reino de Deus, Internacional da Graça, Mundial do Poder de Deus e Assembleia de Deus e os movimentos ligados à Renovação Carismática (a versão católica do pentecostalismo) aumentam a cada dia a sua presença na mídia. Entre os carismáticos, o grupo que mais cresce é o da Canção Nova, fundada em 1978, em Cachoeira Paulista (SP), no Vale do Paraíba.

Com o controle dos meios de comunicação para expor suas ideias, os grupos religiosos se fortalecem politicamente. Fazem o seu proselitismo, combatem ideias contrárias aos seus interesses e expõem maciçamente a imagem dos religiosos que, no futuro, podem se tornar líderes políticos.

A tendência, avalia o pesquisador Antônio Flávio Pierucci, professor do Departamento de Sociologia da USP dedicado aos estudos da religião, é o Congresso tornar-se mais conservador, principalmente em temas ligados aos direitos civis. “Há um risco para a sociedade de termos cada vez mais, na Câmara dos Deputados, políticos defendendo teses conservadoras. Eles estão lá para impedir a modernização cultural. Vão barrar propostas sobre aborto, união civil de homossexuais e outros temas morais. Questões como os direitos reprodutivos da mulher são combatidos pela bancada evangélica, com a ajuda da católica. Haverá um grande atraso para o País”, acredita Pierucci.

Já o avanço de cultos no controle da mídia provoca reações do velho oligopólio dos meios de comunicação e não mais só da Rede Globo. Em sua estratégia de crescimento, as igrejas pentecostais elegeram como alvo as emissoras regionais e passaram a comprar canais afiliados às grandes redes. O SBT, a emissora que mais perdeu espaço para os evangélicos, decidiu agora declarar guerra a esses grupos.

Não se trata exatamente de um movimento para levar os fãs de Silvio Santos às ruas contra a liberdade religiosa. Mas o canal do homem-sorriso quer impedir que bispos e pastores continuem arrendando canais de tevê ou comprando espaços na programação. Em dificuldades para bancar o custo da transmissão dos programas das redes nacionais, as emissoras locais passaram a receber ofertas vantajosas das igrejas.

A tevê “mais feliz do Brasil” (esse é o slogan do SBT) tem motivos de sobra para ficar triste. De 1995 para cá, o canal de Silvio Santos perdeu treze de suas emissoras afiliadas apenas para a Record, controlada pela Igreja Universal do Reino de Deus, do bispo Edir Macedo.

Somente em 2009, outras cinco emissoras abandonaram o dono do Baú da Felicidade para passar a veicular os cultos e pregações do apóstolo Valdemiro Santiago, líder da Igreja Mundial do Poder de Deus. De uma hora a outra, Silvio Santos ficou sem as tevês Alagoas, de Maceió, e Cidade Verde, de Cuiabá, Sapezal, Rondonópolis e Tangará da Serra, de Mato Grosso.

No ano passado, o SBT perdeu para a Record quatro emissoras da Rede Santa Catarina (a de Florianópolis, a de Blumenau, a de Chapecó e a de Joinville). A RedeTV! é outra vítima. No dia 29 de setembro, ficou sem a TV Piauí (canal 19), de Teresina, que migrou para o grupo do apóstolo Santiago.

Dissidente da Universal, o apóstolo da Mundial é um novo fenômeno do pentecostalismo. Como Macedo, promete curas milagrosas e atrai multidões em seus cultos. Sua igreja ocupa atualmente 22 horas da programação diária de emissoras como o Canal 21, da Rede Bandeirantes. Valdemiro desbancou a PlayTV, da Gamecorp, empresa de jogos para celular e tevê que tem como sócio Fábio Luís Lula da Silva, o filho do presidente Lula, e era a responsável pela grade do Canal 21 até 2008. Pelo espaço na programação, a Mundial paga 3 milhões de reais, segundo seus dirigentes. Mas há quem garanta que o valor é maior.
A Band produz apenas um telejornal de duas horas e o restante da programação é completada com os cultos da Mundial. Na TV Alagoas e na TV Piauí, essa prática deve se repetir. Santiago ainda arrenda ou compra horários em outras catorze emissoras, entre elas a RedeTV!, a CNT e a Boas Novas (da Assembleia de Deus).
Para tentar frear o ímpeto dos evangélicos, o diretor de rede do SBT, Guilherme Stoliar, foi a Brasília pedir apoio ao ministro das Comunicações, Hélio Costa. O executivo da emissora considera ilegal o arrendamento de canais. Ele se baseia no Decreto 8.806, de 1983, que determina que as tevês não podem vender mais do que 25% de seus espaços.

A Record aluga hoje cinco horas diárias – 21% do seu espaço – apenas para a Universal. A igreja compra por valores majorados o horário das madrugadas, de baixíssima audiência. Segundo informações divulgadas pela imprensa, o valor teria chegado a 400 milhões de reais no ano passado. A Record diz que não divulga o total pago. Mas a própria Universal chegou a oferecer à TV Globo, em agosto, 545 milhões de reais por horários na grade da concorrente. A Globo nem sequer respondeu. Em 2007, já teria recusado proposta semelhante.

Ao controlar a programação quase completa de várias emissoras, a Mundial estaria em situação irregular. “Não é legal e traz prejuízos para a radiodifusão e para a sociedade o arrendamento de programação parcial ou integral. A empresa que recebe uma concessão, dada pelo Executivo e homologada pelo Legislativo, não tem o direito de arrendar a terceiros”, defende Stoliar. A Mundial rebate. Diz que as igrejas têm o direito de divulgar suas mensagens e o acordo feito com as emissoras resulta num “contrato de gestão de conteúdo”.
Segundo Stoliar, a prática do arrendamento nas tevês tem aumentado. Ele diz, porém, não saber se a perda de suas emissoras deve-se unicamente ao dinheiro. “Não podemos afirmar, pois não temos como provar. Existem informações de que algumas foram compradas e outras alugadas por valores expressivos. Em nenhum dos casos fomos procurados por nossas afiliadas para uma negociação. Simplesmente fomos informados”, protesta.

Em contrapartida, representantes da Mundial lembram que o próprio dirigente do SBT é dono da TV Alphaville, de São Paulo, e transmite nessa emissora programas de religiosos, inclusive do apóstolo Santiago. “Na televisão fechada não existe nenhum impedimento legal de se vender programação a terceiros. A tevê a cabo é essencialmente uma distribuidora de conteúdos de terceiros. As leis para a cabo e para a radiodifusão são distintas”, defende-se Stoliar.

O executivo não revelou o teor de sua conversa com Hélio Costa. O Ministério das Comunicações informou, por meio de sua assessoria, que só se posiciona nesse tipo de caso quando provocado por uma denúncia formal. O dirigente do SBT, entretanto, não teria feito uma representação. Por outro lado, o ministério abriu processo contra a Record por ter transformado sua retransmissora de Campinas em geradora.
O novo inimigo da rede de Silvio Santos, Santiago, repete hoje Edir Macedo. O apóstolo ergue diariamente novos templos no Brasil e no exterior. Seus seguidores dizem que o número de igrejas no País pulou de 487, em 2008, para 1.600 neste ano. O crescimento é de 328,5%.

Em Moçambique, a Mundial conta com 30 templos. Na Argentina, 12. A Igreja está instalada ainda nos Estados Unidos, no Japão, em Portugal, no Uruguai e em Angola. Sua programação religiosa vai para toda a África e Europa por meio de um satélite. Uma produtora se encarrega de fazer a tradução simultânea, ao estilo dos programas dos tele-evangelistas americanos, como Rex Humbard, Billy Graham e Jimmy Swaggart, famosos nos anos 1980.

A sede das igrejas pelo seu próprio veículo de comunicação, segundo Leo-nildo Campos, é resultado da competitividade no campo religioso do País, a partir dos anos 1980. “É preciso atrair mais fiéis. A mídia, numa sociedade urbana e de massas, é o único meio para anunciar a sua mensagem. Porém, como outros estão nessa competição acirrada, torna-se necessário vencer a concorrência por meio de uma decisão religiosa. Essa decisão pode ser estimulada por uma propaganda religiosa apropriada e daí vem a importância do veículo de comunicação”, detecta o professor. “O religioso, então, supera o seu púlpito e torna-se um pregador das multidões.”

Outra razão para o crescimento das novas igrejas na mídia é o fato de terem um caixa único, observa Campos. “Se alguém faz uma doação para a Universal no Acre, no dia seguinte está na conta. Isso possibilita à igreja ter uma quantidade de dinheiro suficiente para participar de um leilão ou de uma disputa em melhor condição”, avalia o estudioso. “A Universal pode ter 10 milhões de reais na conta. Não precisa dividir com paróquias ou bispos. Essa foi a grande sacada do Edir Macedo: ter dinheiro na mão para fazer negócio.”

As igrejas buscam os veículos de comunicação e o poder político também para tentar superar as concorrentes. “Eles vão se comer uns aos outros. Há ataques violentíssimos feitos por integrantes da Mundial à Universal. A igreja de Edir Macedo cresceu, ficou muito forte e a sua trajetória é imitável. O Valdemiro quer chegar aonde o Macedo chegou. Por isso, ele peita o Macedo”, diz Pierucci.

A Rede Record, que diz ter a Universal apenas como uma “cliente”, reúne hoje 30 emissoras no País (cinco próprias e 25 afiliadas) e 747 retransmissoras, segundo o Ministério das Comunicações. A Record afirma ter 105 emissoras (entre próprias e afiliadas). Conta ainda com a Record News, a Rede Família e a Record Internacional (Estados Unidos, Canadá, Japão, Europa e África). A Igreja Internacional da Graça, do missionário R.R. Soares – fundador da Universal, ao lado de Macedo – montou a Rede Internacional de Televisão (RIT), com oito emissoras próprias. Já chegou a Portugal e aos Estados Unidos.

Os católicos também continuam a construir o seu império de comunicação. Mas, por contarem com a simpatia dos meios de comunicação dominantes e de setores influentes da sociedade, raramente são criticados por isso. Em março, o Ministério das Comunicações concedeu quatro retransmissoras para a Rede Vida: em Joinville (SC), São Roque (SP), Oiapoque (AP) e Pedra Branca do Amapari (AP). A rede já contabiliza 472 transmissoras.

Reconhecida em 2008 como uma nova comunidade da Igreja Católica, a Canção Nova cresce a passos largos. Já possui duas emissoras de tevê e 272 retransmissoras, além de uma rede de rádio. Conta com tevê e rádio em Portugal e casas de formação em Israel, França, Itália, Portugal, Inglaterra, Estados Unidos e África. O site da Canção Nova é uma das páginas religiosas mais acessadas no mundo. Tem 7 milhões de acessos ao mês e reveza-se na liderança com o portal do Vaticano, segundo os dirigentes do movimento.

Para o pesquisador Pierucci, grupos católicos, como a Canção Nova, querem trilhar o mesmo caminho que os evangélicos, mas não conseguirão êxito. “A estrutura é muito diferente. Na Igreja Católica, sempre há alguém acima mandando mais que o padre. Entre os evangélicos, se há algum problema o pastor sai e funda outra igreja. Os católicos não têm como fazê-lo”, analisa.

Como acontece entre os laicos, a expansão do controle midiático implica imediatamente aumento do poder político. Católicos e evangélicos trabalham com uma intensidade inédita para aumentar sua representação política em 2010. A Canção Nova vai lançar candidatos à Câmara dos Deputados e às assembleias de todos os estados. Para o Senado, já tem ao menos três nomes de políticos ligados ao movimento: o vereador Gabriel Chalita (PSB), em São Paulo; o deputado estadual Eros Biondini (PTB), em Minas Gerais; e Marcio Pacheco (PSC), no Rio de Janeiro.

Integrante da Canção Nova, a atriz Myriam Rios vai atrás de votos dos cariocas. Concorrerá a uma vaga de deputada estadual pelo PDT. Outros políticos ligados à Renovação Carismática devem disputar a reeleição, como os deputados Alexandre Molon (PT), na Assembleia do Rio, e Miguel Martini (PHS-MG) e Odair Cunha (PT-MG), na Câmara. “Nós não podemos substituir o partido em relação ao movimento nem o movimento pode se tornar um partido”, ressalta, sem muita clareza, o mineiro Cunha.

A Mundial segue na mesma linha. Nas últimas eleições, a igreja elegeu um vereador em São Paulo, José Olímpio (PP). No ano que vem, pretende lançar candidatos a deputado federal em todas as capitais do País. Deve ainda dar apoio a políticos como Marconi Perillo (PSDB) e Jaques Vagner (PT), candidatos ao governo em Goiás e na Bahia, respectivamente, e ao senador Aloizio Mercadante (PT-SP), que disputa a reeleição.
O candidato a deputado mais conhecido da Mundial é o pastor Ronaldo Didini (PSC), ex-Universal e ex-Internacional da Graça. Didini assume que sua principal bandeira é o combate ao casamento de gays. O pastor também promete propor na Câmara mecanismos para controlar o que “pode sair e entrar nas igrejas e o que deve ou não ser tributado”.

Para puxar votos, a Universal do Reino de Deus pensa em lançar a deputado federal em São Paulo o bispo e atual senador Marcelo Crivella (PRB-RJ), segundo comentários nos meios religiosos. Procurada, a igreja não falou sobre o assunto. Outros deputados ligados à Universal devem concorrer à reeleição, entre eles o bispo Antonio Bulhões (PMDB-SP). A Internacional da Graça e a Renascer devem repetir as candidaturas de Jorge Tadeu Mudalen (PMDB-SP) e do Bispo Gê (DEM-SP), respectivamente.

Nesse emaranhado de siglas e crenças, pouca coisa une os grupos religiosos. Um partido, porém, reúne religiosos de grupos distintos. O Partido Social Cristão (PSC), vai lançar candidatos como o católico Márcio Pacheco, Ronaldo Didini, da Mundial, e o ex-deputado e pastor Gilberto Nascimento, da Assembleia de Deus.
Na eleição de 2006, as bancadas da Universal e da Assembleia de Deus tiveram significativa redução por causa do envolvimento de seus parlamentares com os escândalos dos sanguessugas e de caixa 2 (conhecido como mensalão). A bancada da Universal caiu de 18 para 6 deputados e a da Assembleia de Deus, de 22 para 9. Os candidatos da Assembleia receberam 200 mil votos a menos do que em 2002. E de uma eleição para a outra a Universal teve a votação de seus representantes reduzida de 1,6 milhão de votos para 573 mil. Sinal, aliás, de que a fé religiosa não gera políticos mais éticos. O objetivo de ambas é recuperar o terreno perdido. Para tanto, contam com os púlpitos midiáticos.

Fonte: ZUGNO

 
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Publicado por em 17/10/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Pai nosso que estás nos céus – João Alexandre

 
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Publicado por em 27/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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“Unproductive” Visits

Why must I spend so much time nodding and smiling, when my to-do list is so long?
Scott Penner

What is it about nursing homes and hospitals that makes me squeamish? I thought to myself as I entered The Mira. This was home to a 98-year-old lady from the church and a man several decades younger who needed extensive care following a severe stroke. Is it the smells? Or does entering here force me to think about of the brutality of aging?

Ignoring the butterflies in my stomach, I swung open the heavy doors and set my course by the sounds of music from down the hallway.

Knowing that Dick loved music, I figured that if there were a gathering that included singing, he would be there. The sounds led me through double doors into a common room. People were dancing. Some shuffled awkwardly and others pushed wheelchairs about slowly, but you could tell that inwardly they were dancing with grace. I slid a chair beside Dick. Swinging my leg over the chair, I sat on it backward with my arms folded over the back, my chin resting on them.

“How are you today, Dick?” I ventured.

Our eyes met, locking in a silent gaze. Apparently no words could be found inside the man to express his thoughts. Silence, a long stretch of silence, was all that followed my greeting. I would try something else.

“Hazel was out to church on Sunday. She seems to be doing well.”

More silence. Deafening silence. No apparent recognition of his wife’s name or of church.

What would I want in a visit from my pastor? Not the million questions I posed to Ruth.

Maybe, behind his blue eyes was the desire to say something, but that desire was chained by a body that did not cooperate with its owner. I wanted to look away, to scramble for comfort, but that felt rude. After all, he seemed quite comfortable simply for us to keep looking at each other.

I wondered if he even recognized me. We sat together a long time. He gazed blankly into my eyes. I supposed he was running my image through his memory bank in search of a match.

I recalled my trips to Dick’s farm, a testament to his creativity and ingenuity. He had taken the remains of a worn-out school bus and turned it into a functional sawmill. I can still point to posts holding up our lean-to and boards on our old chicken coop that were milled by Dick on that transformed bus. I pictured the homemade motor home in which they as a family traveled across the country.

It seemed such a shame that those calloused hands that could make anything mechanical work, that could fix anything broken, that felled trees and milled timber, were now soft, white, and shaky. In that moment I grew a bit angry at life, even at God, for allowing my friend to suffer as he did. I wanted to know that if I lived my life for God, as Dick had, that it would conclude with dignity. I —

“Are you going to preach now?” Dick interrupted my mental meandering.

I smiled and patted his back. It felt good to be remembered. But my heart was heavy from the acute reminder of the harshness of growing old. Am I going to preach? No, Dick, not now. But if I were, what would I preach?

Could I hold onto the truth that God is good, even when the evidence around me seems to contradict it? I definitely prefer living by sight, but so often am called to live by faith. With these thoughts rattling around in my mind, I left the dance to find Ruth. She was in a semi-private room down the hall.

Quarantined

“Hi, Ruth. I’m Pastor Scott,” I yelled, answering the question posed by her stare.

Without hesitation Ruth inquired, “How is your new baby? Is it a boy or a girl?”

“It’s a boy, Ruth, and he is doing just fine. Still does not have a handle on sleeping through the night, but other than that, doing fine.”

Ruth had a pencil in her hand that she was using to compute a mathematical equation on scrap paper. On the back of a word search puzzle, she was struggling with two large numbers, subtracting the smaller number from the larger one. The larger number I recognized as the year in which we were living. The smaller number did not ring a bell. The answer to her equation I saw was 118.

“How old am I?” she asked.

Remembering she was quite proud of her age, I answered the way she preferred her age to be told, “If I remember right, you are in your 99th year.”

“Are you sure?”

“No, but I bet we can figure it out.” I said, clueing into her math exercise. “Can I borrow your paper? Let’s see, what year were you born?” She did not have a problem producing that number.

“Now if we subtract that from this year, it would make you … 97.”

I wondered if she was happy or disappointed to hear she was a whole year younger than she’d thought, not to mention the gap between the reality and the possible 118 she had calculated.

Because I am a pastor and not a mathematician, I checked over my work. Whoops! I spotted an error that brought her age up to 98. I apologized for the mistake, then added another year with her word game, making her “in her 99th year.”

“Oh,” she sighed. “Your youngest child? Is it a boy or a girl?”

“He’s a little fella.”

“O-kay,” she sang, giving us permission to have had a boy.

We turned over the scrap paper revealing a word search puzzle. I asked if she would like to work the puzzle with me.

“I already did it.” she stated matter-of-factly.

I have to think so hard when I visit. How could she have done it? There was not a mark on the paper, no indication that this puzzle was ever started, let alone finished. How could I respond to that?

“O-kay,” I sang, giving her permission to have finished the puzzle.

Sensing my bewilderment, she explained that shecompleted it in her head, not on the paper. I asked if I could circle the words on the paper. She did not have a problem with that, but doubted if she could remember where they all were. It sounded to me like we could start from scratch, enjoying the afternoon searching for words together.

It was a Christmas puzzle, and we were off, taking turns finding words. As I reached into a drawer for my own pen, I spotted more scrap paper with more math. Sometimes she ended up being quite young, sometimes she gave Noah a run for his money, and sometimes she ended up 98. I felt sorry for her struggling hard to do the tasks that were so simple only a few years ago. Why does it have to be this way?

“Snowman” and “hayride” were along the edges and easy to find. After she discovered “Christmas Carol” from corner to corner, she inquired again as to the gender of the latest addition to our family.

“A boy, a boy,” she repeated, squinting her eyes as if to squish it into her mind with more permanence.

I wanted to assure her that she could ask me a hundred times and I would not care. But I knew it was for her sake she wanted to remember, not mine.

Again I wondered about growing old, and what that would look like for me. What would I want in a visit from my pastor? What would I appreciate him doing? I knew I would not like to be asked the million questions I usually posed to Ruth. She must have felt a lot of pressure.

I decided I would probably deem it a pretty good day simply to sit and explore a word search with my pastor. That thought lifted the pressure I felt to help her remember it was boy, to find a psalm that fit her situation, to say something wise, or even to pray the right prayer.

I put my feet up with hers on a footstool and relaxed, giving Ruth not my wisdom, brilliance, or professional platitudes, but simply my presence. It was a rare and beautiful moment of believing my presence alone was a meaningful gift.

“Mistletoe,” I said, “how hard can it be to find ‘mistletoe’?” Though it was my turn, Ruth found “mistletoe” for me. It was written backwards. (I did not know that was allowed in a word search.) We mused at her ability to find all the backwards ones, her probably thinking I’d get better as I matured, and me thinking she was doing pretty well for being “in her 99th year.”

I was starting to enjoy myself, oblivious to my own squeamishness, when Ruth’s roommate yelled loud enough for the whole nursing home to hear, “Should we tell your minister we are quarantined because of our diarrhea?”

“Did she say something?” Ruth inquired looking up from the puzzle.

“I’m not sure,” I lied, smiling nervously to myself and trusting God would forgive my lie and either keep me from getting diarrhea or befriend me through it. “Look, here is ‘Christmas tree’ and there is ‘Bethlehem.’ Your turn.”

I looked out the window as Ruth picked out her next orderly word from the chaos of letters. Who else, I wondered, has the privilege of sitting down in the afternoon doing a word search with a friend? I felt blessed to be Ruth’s pastor.

I did read a psalm with her and I did pray with her, but mostly I just sat with her.

I know what you are wondering, well forget it, I’m not telling. You’ll never know if it was a play on words or simply a figure of speech when I said, “Bye for now, Ruth, I’ve got to run.”

No more to do

This past summer our congregation gathered to say goodbye to Dick. At his funeral, I told the story of that particular visit. His question, “Are you going to preach now?” drew some chuckles. We look forward to seeing him in heaven, free from the limitations imposed by his balky body.

Ruth is in her 101st year and still wrestling with the math. I visit her now without agenda, willing to lay aside my to-do list for an afternoon, and with the deep desire that our time together not be an item to check off. I still don’t enjoy the nursing home, and I dread the effects of aging, but I am learning more to trust God in these “unproductive” moments with friends.

Scott Penner is pastor of Truro Alliance Church in Truro, Nova Scotia.

Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Source: LEADERSHIP

 
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Publicado por em 21/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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The Zoloft Dispensation – Pastoring in the meds age, when everybody’s on something.

Elliott Anderson

One afternoon, I received a call from a professor who had found something disturbing on a student’s drafting table. As dean of students, I went to investigate and discovered a rash of obscene and violent messages depicted in both art and written form. So I confiscated what would be needed to document the handbook violations and assigned a member of our residence life team to track down the artist.

Close to midnight, I heard from a staff member that our missing student was seen running around campus with his shirt off in the pouring rain. They encouraged him to come in and get dry, but he refused. He bunkered down in a dumpster and was convinced he was in tremendous danger.

With my job title and my degree in counseling, guess who was called in for garbage duty?

It took a while to get this young man out of the dumpster and into the dorm, and even longer to get him to go to the hospital with me for an evaluation. Once there, thanks to a release the doctors encouraged him to sign, his history of mental illness was revealed. We learned his supply of medications was depleted, and he had stopped receiving the stabilization he needed to function appropriately.

We gave him every opportunity to return to school and to complete his degree, but it didn’t work out. He eventually returned home to enroll in long-term psychiatric care.

People on campus thought we expelled him for his behavior, but that couldn’t have been further from the truth. We just don’t disclose mental health situations over the campus e-mail. Even when accused by others of treating the student unfairly, we kept private information private, and suffered the complaints.

The lessons I learned in my decade serving at a Christian college have served me well in my new role as a pastor. I didn’t expect to find so many people affected by mental illness, meds, and their effects.

According to the 2005 Boston University Slone Epidemiology Center survey on the patterns of medication use in the United States, in any given week, 81 percent of adults in the U.S. are taking at least one medication, from insulin to Ritalin, from blood pressure pills to Prozac.

Given that staggering number, it’s obvious that a sizable percentage of the people in our congregations are on medications, some of which are mood altering or psychotic behavior stabilizers.

Does this change the way we counsel? Does this change the way we preach?

On the college campus, it became more difficult with each succeeding year to deal with medical issues when evaluating a student’s behavior and mental health. This became even harder to assess once the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996.

HIPAA was instituted by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to address the use and disclosure of personal health information. The law was made for all the right reasons; unfortunately, it doesn’t always work for the benefit of those who are being protected. Armed with the appropriate consent forms, we college administrators were usually able to learn of the students’ medical histories so we could stay alert to their wellbeing.

Colleges are all about developing policies, even for ministry. But what about the local church? How can we uncover the medication issues involved in our body? What do we disclose to the staff or leadership team? And what if the leaders are the ones on Zoloft?

Too often we discover a troublesome medical history by accident—or by incident. And although most pastors aren’t medical professionals constrained by HIPAA, we still feel hamstrung about sharing personal medical information.

A Series of Unfortunate Events

Something was really different about “Tammy,” one of our church’s regular attenders. She had a hard time making eye contact. She was disheveled and unkempt. She talked in an agitated and staccato pattern, as if she already knew you weren’t listening and assumed you didn’t care. She had obviously been hurt, scarred, or violated, and her tone told me she didn’t trust authority or believe

I could possibly be sincere.

I slowly pieced together her story through conversations with other women in the church. As the years passed and her church relationships grew, Tammy began to blend in as one of our own. She developed some close friendships, and she often stopped by the church office to talk with me and to pray.

Then about a year ago, and for a period of about six months, her life turned tragic. Every week there was a new development: She told us she had developed a liver disease that led to hospitalizations and the medical staff had shaved her head; the death of a close family member produced traumatic grief; she reported a clandestine relationship that turned from romantic to violent; she had wild and crazy phone conversations in my presence with people I’d never heard of. Those ministering to her tried to love and nurture Tammy through all these dramatic episodes, but we were all overwhelmed.

Her story of the death of a second family member sounded too strange to be true. It was.

With a little research, we found all her histrionics were based on lies. Even the phone calls were faked. When we confronted her with the truth, she didn’t fight us. She was defeated and broken and agreed to take steps toward recovery and mental health.

Tammy signed the release forms and agreed for us to discuss her mental health issues with past therapists and caseworkers.

What we discovered in those conversations was that Tammy’s story, like her illness, was many layers deep. The eye-opener was that Tammy had been off her medication for the last six months and had slipped back into psychotic episodes familiar to her former counselors and well-documented in her records.

We loved Tammy as best we could, in ways we thought Jesus would, but we could have served her better by recognizing her medical issues earlier.

Off With Their Meds

I am an experienced therapist who specialized in crisis work, and still I was blind to some obvious signs that Tammy was off her meds. I should have noticed some of the changes, but I think I was caught up in the day-to-day spiritual and relational issues and missed the bigger picture. In review, here are some signs that people are having meds issues—either they need meds, or are off them:

  1. Significant and drastic changes in mood.
  2. Impulsive or random behavior that is contrary to normal functioning.
  3. Inconsistent verbal or non-verbal behavior.
  4. Increased difficulty making eye contact or finishing sentences.
  5. Repeatedly canceled appointments.

Going Public

How common is this in church life? Do people who struggle with interpersonal relationships and exhibit strange behaviors actually need to be on some kind of medication? As pastors, how can we find out this kind of information? After we do, who do we tell?

Key to addressing this issue is creating an environment where it’s okay to admit you have medication and mental health issues. I am now communicating with our congregation in a similar way I did with the staff and students at the college campus. Mental health is a reality, and so is mental illness. We all know people with phobias and disorders. In fact, we are those people.

I try to reduce the stigma by referring to standard mental health issues like depression and addiction in my messages. I use dramatic stories I’ve read as introductions or illustrations. And I try to communicate that mental health issues are not spiritual failings. God heals in many ways, including regular, carefully regulated doses of mood stabilizing drugs. And God can use these conditions to draw people closer to himself.

For some people in our congregation, such as those who ministered to Tammy through an accountability group, mental health is a ministry field. I don’t reveal names or imply that we have such cases in our church, but occasional references to mental and emotional wellbeing are encouraging to the hurting and to those trying to help them.

More important is how we handle mental health issues in our office, specifically when dealing with parishioners who come in for counseling. In most of my pastoral counseling appointments, I ask about medication history and current medications as a routine part of the intake process (see the box “Probing Questions”). I think it is a must.

This may seem intrusive, but most people are very comfortable with this line of questioning these days. If they aren’t, I simply move on. Some folks still feel guilty about taking medication for what they perceive to be “a spiritual issue,” but at least they know I’m open to discussing medications in the future. Because I raised the issue initially, they may feel free to bring it up later.

If they answer the medical questions, I take the time to research the condition on the internet, learning what each medication does and its side effects. Sometimes I call mental health professionals to ask how to deal appropriately with someone using that kind of medication. I don’t reveal names or specifics, just ask for some basic guidelines.

Once I know more, I follow-up by giving the counselee tools for better self-awareness and accountability. And I encourage the counselee to reveal the condition to at least one other trusted person in the congregation. The pastor should not be the only one who knows.

I give the counselee a copy of the information

I gathered. If appropriate, I will challenge him or her to get involved with a small group that deals with such issues—whether that is available at our church or another church in town. In Tammy’s case accountability has proven to be life altering. Although she now lives in a different city, she stopped by last week to visit. She is doing much better, she says, and her mood and behavior have stabilized. It was good to see her smile and to hear her laugh. It was encouraging to know that she has received help and that she is seeing her counselor and doctor as prescribed.

Wait a minute … I have a phone call. It’s one of Tammy’s accountability partners. Tammy’s counselor just called and said Tammy skipped her appointment again. The partner wanted me to know she would be confronting Tammy. It’s good to know that the system we worked hard to get in place is helping us care for one of God’s children.

Probing Questions
They’re nosey, but necessary.

Here are the baseline mental health questions I ask during an initial pastoral counseling visit:

  1. Are you currently taking any medication for this condition? If so, what and how much? If not, have you considered it?
  2. Does your family have a history of this condition? Has anybody else in your family taken medication for this issue?
  3. Are your parents/children/family aware of what this issue is doing to you? Do they think that you should be on medication?
  4. Do they want you to be on medication?
  5. Have you had a mental health evaluation? If so, what were the findings? If not, are you interested in having one?

—EA

I found out I have Bi-Polar Disorder two weeks after I was ordained a deacon. It started several years earlier with a breakdown while I was on a trip to Appalachia with two high school classmates and a Franciscan Brother. We were off to save the world.

It was there I began that roller coaster ride from manic behavior to deep depression. I spent days eating and sleeping too little and praying too much. In my mind I thought that if I ate less, there would be more for the poor. If I prayed more, I would be holy. I wanted to be a saint and decided that I would kill myself in the process if need be.

Within two weeks I was on a flight back to New York with some unknown illness. I had lost a lot of weight, I wasn’t sleeping, I experienced delusions, and I rambled on about anything. The plane ride only added to my agitated state. When I arrived home, my parents took me to a psychiatric hospital.

I spent a long and painful month in the hospital. The goal was to slow the chemical imbalance in my brain and bring me to an even pace. I left never knowing why I was admitted. Everyone hoped it was an isolated event. It was not. It was five years before I even mentioned my illness anyone. Eventually the cycle repeated itself, and again I was hospitalized; by this time, though, I was a priest. That’s when they called me bi-polar.

Heavily medicated this time, I was a virtual zombie for about two weeks. I could not carry on meaningful conversation or deal with reality. The shame remained, as my family and friends were told I was having my appendix removed.

I cried myself to sleep. I felt as if I had descended into hell. Questions flooded my mind: Why is this happening to me? Where is God now? I thought God was on vacation or something, for he certainly wasn’t with me. I felt abandoned.

What I didn’t realize, because of the medications and the disease itself, was that God was right there beside me, crying with me and for me. Even so, I focused my anger on God. I was reminded of Jesus’ innocent suffering, but that doesn’t always help when you’re aching.

I wanted God to reveal saving love by telling me that I didn’t need the medicine anymore. But God didn’t say that, and I do need it, because loving who I am means taking the medicine.

Some time later, while on retreat, the line from Mark’s Gospel hit me: “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone” (Mark 12:10). These words haunted me. The rejected stone in my life was the disease. The Lord invited me to accept and embrace my disease so that God could continue to build me into the person God intended. The shame was lifted, but the scars remained.

It has taken twenty years to “let go and let God,” but it has made all the difference. I have now been able to recognize mental illness as one, and only one, aspect of who I am. Once I could embrace that, I could be more in tune with who I am, and who God calls me to be. I was able to live life without shame.

My greatest fear was that I would experience another psychotic attack and never regain my health. Now I am confident that if this should occur, it would not change my relationship with God. My love for God and God’s love for me is so strong that when my body finally surrenders in death we shall embrace again.

“Nothing will separate us from the love of God…” Not even mental illness.

— Jerry DiSpigno Bellport, New York

Elliott Anderson is pastor of Elgin (Illinois) Evangelical Free Church.

Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Source: LEADERSHIP

 
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Publicado por em 19/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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Money-Back Tithing

Elizabeth Diffin

The Money-Back Guarantee. The friend of consumers everywhere. And at LifeChurch, the promise now applies to tithing.

The Edmond, Oklahoma-based congregation instituted the Three-Month Tithing Challenge. Recognizing that the prospect of giving away ten percent of one’s income can be frightening for first-timers, LifeChurch encourages members to tithe for three months, and look for signs of God’s faithfulness. If members believe God hasn’t proven himself faithful, 100 percent of the tithe will be returned, no questions asked.

In order to prevent abuse, LifeChurch has set up a number of rules. In order to qualify for the challenge, participants must not have tithed in the past six months. Before beginning to tithe, they must fill out a registration form, and at the end of the challenge, any request for a refund must come within 30 days.

The inspiration for the money-back guarantee comes from Malachi 3:10-11, which commands a tithe and promises blessing to those who give faithfully. Two separate sermon series, “Mind Your Own Business” and “Give it Up,” were presented in conjunction with the challenge. They can been viewed on the church’s website, LifeChurch.tv. Overall, the leaders of the church hope to encourage faith among those who give, and they’re waiting for the Lord to do some big things—guaranteed.

No Secrets Aloud

LifeChurch is also bringing back the confession booth—online. The church has a website, MySecret.tv, that allows people to anonymously post their secret sins or personal skeletons. It breaks sin into categories: addictions, shame, abuse. The confessions total more than 1,500 at last count.

Some postings are graphic (the site is for adults 18 and over), but no one is encouraged to wallow in their sin. Instead, the keystone is 1 John 1:9: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” A collection of “Your Stories of Life Change” demonstrates how strong that cleansing is.

“There is no magic in confessing on a website,” said Craig Groeschel, pastor of LifeChurch. “My biggest fear is that someone would think that and would go on with life. This is just Step 1.” Confessors are encouraged to visit the church or join a small group, and it extols the power of community for healing from past sins.

“We confess to God for forgiveness but to each other for healing,” Groeschel said. “Secrets isolate you, and keep you away from God, from those people closest to you.”

Apparently, confession is still good for the soul.

—With info from LifeChurch.tv, New York Times, and churchmarketingsucks.com

Copyright © 2007 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Source: CHRISTIANITY TODAY

 
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Publicado por em 17/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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The X Factor – What have we learned from the rise, decline, and renewal of “Gen-X” ministries?

Collin Hansen

When the willows sway in South Barrington, the evangelical world notices. So Willow Creek Community Church provoked headlines in 2006 when leaders said they would end Axis as everyone knew it. As recently as 2001, about 2,000 young adults had gathered on Saturday nights for alternative music and relevant teaching. But before temporarily closing in 2006, Axis attracted fewer than 400 twenty-somethings. How could a trend-setting ministry decline so severely in just five years?

Due in no small part to Willow’s example, ministry leaders across the country once viewed separate, age-targeted services as the key to reaching a generation largely absent from the churches built by their Boomer parents. Little more than 10 years after Willow launched Axis in 1996, many of these once-prosperous twenty-something ministries have folded, spun off, or morphed. Leaders from these ministries have learned differing lessons from the experiment. Some are now advocating new messages for reaching the emerging generation. Others have changed their ministry’s structure. Still more want better biblical preaching and radical discipleship. All have been provoked to think deeply about the nature and implications of the gospel and have seen their ministries leave lasting effects on the larger church.

Costly conformity

Only one thing surprised Dan Kimball about the Axis reorganization: it took 10 years. Kimball, who teaches and oversees the Sunday gatherings for Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, California, has tracked many young adult ministries over the years. He estimates that 90 percent of worship services targeting a younger generation run into serious trouble after three years. One factor is the way these age-specific ministries isolate young people from the rest of the church.

He talked to Axis leaders, including Nancy Ortberg, for his 2004 book Emerging Worship. Ortberg told him that the Axis staff interacted little with other Willow Creek leaders. As Axis participants aged, few connected with other Willow Creek ministries. Trouble was brewing. Kimball questioned whether a ministry based on generational preferences could long survive.

“If we are talking about a mindset, then to make someone switch to another approach to spiritual formation and worship when they reach a certain age is a difficult undertaking,” Kimball wrote in Emerging Worship. “It would be like birthing a Korean worship service that uses Korean language, Korean music, and a Korean mindset in all their communications, and then—when they reach a certain age—telling them they can’t worship as Koreans anymore.”

“If your model is based on the big event with one person teaching, I just don’t think it’s going to work.”

Kimball learned this lesson the hard way. In the mid-1990s he served as the young adults pastor at Santa Cruz Bible Church where he began experimenting with a new worship gathering. He darkened the room, arranged the chairs, lit candles, and served coffee. While these moves seem cliché today, they were radical for the time. Within a few years, Kimball’s experiment had become the church’s largest worship gathering. Then the questions started. When will the twenty-somethings start coming to “normal” church?

“So what began as a very exciting missional adventure slowly turned into a tension-filled dilemma. It felt like two churches in the same church,” Kimball said.

Church leaders opted to introduce commonality across generations. The two groups shared a small group structure, music ministry, and even sermons. The strategy didn’t work. Though he started with candles and coffee, Kimball had begun to realize that his generation thought about community, evangelism, leadership, and communication very differently than the older leaders. The relationship had to change, so he decided to end the next generation ministry at Santa Cruz Bible and plant a new church. For the first year, Vintage Faith Church rented space from Santa Cruz Bible Church. Later it merged with another aging congregation. They had facilities; Vintage Faith had people. Those from the older church who persevered through the merger have become grandparent-like figures to the twenty-somethings at Vintage Faith.

“I feel that if we can see church as the people, and not just define church by the worship gathering, a lot would be solved in bridging generations,” Kimball said. “We could focus more on the older mentoring the younger, the older opening their homes and being sages and guides to the younger. Instead we focus so much on getting the twenty-somethings into the main worship gathering. But just sitting in a room for an hour and half looking at the backs of everyone’s heads does not make something intergenerational.”

Conspicuously absent

Not even Kimball knows the exact origin of twenty-something ministries. As more young adults delayed marriage and parenthood, there developed a need for adult ministries that were not family-based. The simplest solution was to follow the model of high school and college ministries. The result was age-specific programs that functioned like youth groups for young adults.

This approach appeared to be working until “Gen X” became a catchphrase in the 1990s and Boomer church leaders noticed their conspicuous absence. Churches across the country began launching worship services designed to attract the missing generation. Willow Creek had Axis, McLean Bible Church launched Frontline, Applewood Baptist in Denver began The Next Level, and North Point in Atlanta started 7|22. The “church-within-a-church” model became the preferred strategy for reaching Gen X.

Daniel Hill attended the first-ever public Axis service in 1996. He remembers it being dark and sad. A young woman dressed in black and wearing black makeup read poetry, fitting the stereotype of Gen X as cynical and pessimistic. But the young adults attending the service were ambitious young executives like Hill. He had moved to the western suburbs after college to work for an internet startup company.

Bill Hybels captivated Hill during a leadership conference when he described the local church as the hope of the world. After this transformative experience, he became more involved in Axis as a small group leader. Then he began to coach leaders and grew close to the Axis staff. But during one severe conflict, every Axis staff member except one quit. The interim director asked Hill to carve out one day per week to help the struggling ministry. By the end of the summer in 1997, Hill had joined the staff.

When Nancy Ortberg took over Axis, she saw promise in Hill. She had little interest in discussions about the emerging church, so she dispatched Hill to represent the Willow Creek Association in meetings with Mark Driscoll, Doug Pagitt, Brian McLaren, and others. While working for Axis, he moonlighted at Starbucks and engaged in regular evangelistic conversations. Hill began to feel restless. Like Kimball, he began to see that his generation sought more than a new worship style. Hill was developing a burden for racial reconciliation and social justice, but he felt constrained by the affluent suburban location of Willow Creek. Ortberg encouraged him to dwell in the tension.

Hill decided to experiment with starting an Axis ministry in Chicago. But he despaired when he sensed an expectation that the urbanites attend services in the far northwest suburbs.

“There is a collective sense in the emerging generation that one of the areas of failure in the modern church has been its inability to preach and live a gospel that cuts across racial, cultural, and socio-economic lines,” Hill said. “But people are struggling to know what to do with that sense.”

Ortberg observed that Hill’s loyalties were divided between Willow Creek and the city, so near the end of 2002, she finally nudged him from the nest. He left Willow Creek and founded River City Community Church in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Community hubs

The younger generation’s commitment to social impact, as seen in Daniel Hill’s story, came to impact Axis when it reorganized in 2006. Nine full-time Axis staff and ten interns found other employment within and outside of Willow Creek. Only John Peacock remained. That fall he began rebuilding Axis from the ground up. As the millennial generation replaced Gen X, the time-tested combination of relevant teaching and cool music no longer sufficed. Media-savvy young adults could download all the great teaching and music they wanted for their iPods. Nothing seemed to impress them.

Peacock, 29, recognized he would need to equip twenty-somethings to go and serve as missionaries in their own zip code. He launched missional community hubs, where a core group of four to six young adults move into an apartment complex or condominium unit. Meeting three times per month there, the missional community hubs focus on prayer, Scripture, and community. Keeping with Willow Creek’s mission, the small-group gatherings must be accessible to unbelievers. Outside these Tuesday night meetings, missional community hubs host social events where Christians can mingle with unbelievers. They also serve their neighborhoods with justice and compassion initiatives. Those who want to invest even deeper can meet in gender-specific life transformation groups where two to five young adults study Scripture and hold each other accountable. Everything Axis does today comes back to the need to build tight-knit communities in order to reach the millennial generation.

“The model must be relational,” Peacock said. “If it is based on the big event with one person teaching, I just don’t think it’s going to work. We’ve learned to break these things down into smaller communities where people actually know each other. We didn’t come up with it, but our mantra is, ‘People belong before they believe before they behave.’ Many people in this generation are already coming in with distrust toward God and the church. The more relational environments we have, the more trust can be built and people will be more open to exploring Christianity.”

The hubs come together only one time per month for the Axis Experience, where Peacock teaches briefly, a band leads worship, and representatives from the missional community hubs celebrate stories together. But even these gatherings have been broken down into smaller segments. Peacock leads the Axis Experience in South Barrington at the main Willow Creek campus on the first Friday of the month, but the first Saturday he leads a similar meeting in Chicago near Wrigley Field, where many young adults live.

A commitment to relationships rather than events also explains Peacock’s drive to partner Axis members with mentors. There are currently more than 30 people over the age of 50 attending Axis gatherings and actively mentoring younger believers. Those involved in the eight urban hubs are also a bit older than the suburban demographic. According to Peacock, the city groups range between the ages of 24 and 34. He isn’t sure whether these older members will stay involved with Axis or transition into other Willow Creek ministries, but he has encouraged them to mentor younger leaders.

If small, home-based, relational groups are the best way to reach twenty-somethings, then one question begs to be asked: What will happen to Willow Creek and its massive auditorium? Peacock says Willow Creek’s senior leadership sees Axis as a research and development department, and Bill Hybels has been one of their “biggest fans.” But does the Axis shift indicate that Willow Creek will need to put even more emphasis on its small groups and perhaps scale back its Sunday morning services? Or will today’s nearly 400 Axis members, 95 percent of whom are single and without kids, grow into “Big Willow” as they age?

“I do think when variables change in their lives, like getting married and having kids, that will adjust some things,” Peacock said. “However, this generation’s desire to connect will always be there. I don’t think that when they turn 30 they will suddenly want something different. But we’ll need to be flexible to adapt to their lifestyle and life stage.”

Peacock has already shown flexibility in his leadership style, which he describes as open-source leadership, likening it to Wikipedia. He establishes a baseline of trust but then unleashes other leaders to do the work of ministry. He and three other staff members spend the bulk of their time developing lay leaders, equipping all believers to live up to their priestly calling. To make this decentralized structure work, Peacock has laid out strict training requirements for prospective leaders. Over four weeks he and other staff imprint leaders with the Axis vision so they can shepherd missional community hubs and deal with day-to-day crises. Driven by principle and necessity alike, Peacock said working with younger generations demands a new leadership style for fellow staff and lay leaders.

“Your staff culture has to represent the culture you’re trying to create in the wider church,” Peacock said. “That’s one of the biggest misses in contemporary church work. You have a business-run, top-down, bottom-line culture yet you’re trying to bring around a loving, transformative culture in your community. It just doesn’t work.”

Integrated, Sort Of

Justin Buzzard was hired by a church that couldn’t help but notice the obvious lack of twenty-somethings attending worship services. Central Peninsula Church in the Bay Area of California charged Buzzard to preach the gospel to the least-churched age group and cast a vision for them to live radically centered on God and his gospel. Three years later, the church’s twenty-something ministry claims about 150 members in a church whose attendance tops 2,000.

Buzzard, 30, has found a receptive audience among young professionals who moved to the Bay Area for work and longed for community. Many had some religious background which they had rejected. Some who grew up in the church had heard distorted messages more concerned with good morals than grace. The welcoming community at Central Peninsula allowed them to take another look at Christianity.

Buzzard’s approach is a departure from the “church-within-a-church” model pioneered in the ’90s. Rather than building a next generation worship gathering Buzzard regularly reminds the young adults their ministry is no substitute for the local church. Sunday morning is more important than Thursday night, he says. The body of Christ needs them to serve children, mentor high schoolers, and glean wisdom from aging members.

“Twenty-somethings want and desperately need someone to yell at them from the Bible. They need an authoritative voice in their life.”

Having learned from the example of other next generation ministries, leaders at Central Peninsula Church suppressed the tendency toward intergenerational dissension with one key decision made when hiring Buzzard—he regularly preaches before the entire congregation on Sunday mornings. The church doesn’t see him as a youth pastor for young adults, but as another shepherd and teacher for the whole congregation. Just listening to a young preacher and seeing many young faces in the congregation has reminded the church that their God is mighty to save.

“The Baby Boomer’s strategy was getting the people most likely to attend church,” Buzzard said. “Our strategy is to find those least likely to come to church.”

Beyond preaching the gospel and loving people, Buzzard doesn’t claim any special strategy for reaching twenty-somethings. In fact, Buzzard said he approaches church elders twice a year to tell them to shut down the twenty-something ministry. But these leaders continue to recognize a need to set aside at least one teacher who will focus his efforts on young adults, injecting the larger church with life, vitality, and sound doctrine. It’s the best job in the church, Buzzard said.

“My very strong opinion is that twenty-somethings want and desperately need someone to yell at them from the Bible,” Buzzard said. “They need a pastor, an authoritative voice in their life who will stand up and proclaim God’s Word, to proclaim the gospel.

“I’m always saying that this is a prime, ripe season in your life to catch a vision for God and get centered on Christ. The choices and decisions you’re making during this decade are setting a trajectory for the rest of your life. The older you get, the harder it is to change. A lot of older folks in our church say they wish they could have done their twenties differently.”

Over the long term, Buzzard wants the twenty-something ministry to be the hose that waters the rest of the church, encouraging older members to take risks for Christ.

Adopted for Life

While Buzzard joyfully if reluctantly leads a separate ministry for young adults, several others have folded for good. Shortly before Axis reorganized, Jarrett Stevens moved to suburban Atlanta where he led 7|22, a twenty-something ministry at North Point Church. But church leaders recently closed down 7|22—not for lack of interest, but because the larger church had taken on the ministry’s ethos. It had simply become redundant.

“So many churches have responded positively to what was being experimented with by twenty-something ministries,” Kimball said. “Now these experiments are being adopted into the life of the main church itself.”

Nevertheless, churches differ on exactly how to experiment with twenty-something ministry. Some younger leaders have favored independence, concluding that older models neglected discipleship and commodified the gospel in order to build bigger churches. Some have forsaken centralized teaching and large worship events in favor of small group discussions. Yet others advocate stronger preaching, heavy doses of doctrine, and passionate challenges to apply the gospel.

But across the spectrum, twenty-something ministry leaders say reaching the millennial generation will require more than playing mainstream music, dimming the lights, and talking about sex. All see deep, genuine community as a crying need and key avenue for communicating and displaying the gospel.

Collin Hansen is a Christianity Today editor at large and author of Young, Restless, Reformed: A Journalist’s Journey with the New Calvinists.

Copyright © 2009 by the author or Christianity Today International/Leadership Journal.

Source: COMMUNITY LIFE

 
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Publicado por em 15/09/2009 em POIMENIA

 

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