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Thanks for visiting our website! Picture of the Month: sharing the word in Pilanqui, Ibarra, Ecuador; a view of part of the crowd, two baptisms. [Click picture to enlarge.]

Preaching in Pilanqui

Ministry is always a team effort--Jan and I have shared the work of ministry and missions for 48+ years! Countless others have encouraged us, supported us, loved us, and prayed for us. In addition to the customary "Brother Bob," I am also known as dad and papaw. My favorite breakfast is huevos fritos, frijoles, and tortillas, with a good hot sauce and a cup of quality coffee! My greatest joy in life is being part of the kingdom; my #1 priority is to advance "kingdom things" and help develop authentic "kingdom people." I seek to serve and share the good news about Jesus everywhere I go, helping people find Jesus and helping people mature in Jesus. One of the greatest blessings of my life is to be loved by countless people around the world!

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Archive for December, 2007

Ending the Old Year Well

Saturday, December 29th, 2007

One of my sermons Sunday will focus on the theme: “Ending the Old Year Well.” While the process I will share is valid at anytime, it seems especially appropriate as the calendar turns and the year advances. Here are the steps: Reflection, Relationships, Renewal.

As a first step, I reflect upon the past year. When I reflect upon the events of the past year, I look for two things. What did God do? What did I learn about God’s nature? I recount the year, I consider God. You can do it however you like. I like to use a page with two columns. We cannot be still as the Psalmist teaches (Psalm 46) until we are confident that God is God–active and consistent.

If reflection is primarily a mental process, relationships involve the heart and emotions. The first part of the second step is thinking about my relationship with God. Does my life reflect my confident trusting relationship with God, based on his nature and actions? My loving relationship with God compels my relationship with others, so I cannot complete the second step until I honestly consider how my heart connects with those around me.

The ultimate goal is renewal. The average New Year resolution does not reach the goal. Renewal is a life-changing process which occurs only when the foundations are in place and the current situation is understood. That’s why every step of this process is so important. God + the present reality = the future.

Certainly there are other ways to end the year well, but here is a memorable and easy tool. Why not invest some time over the next couple of days? Spend that time with God thinking about who he is and what he does. Take an honest inventory of your present reality, both where God is and where God isn’t in your life. Seek to rebuild and restore relationships. Try to understand God’s plan and will for your future. You will find renewal in trusting, experiencing, and depending on God.

How Do People Choose Churches?

Tuesday, December 25th, 2007

The Barna report was titled, “Americans Describe Their Ideal Church.” The changing religious scene Barna surveys is a reality for churches desiring to reach out with effective ministries to their communities. As John Douglas Hall pointed out in Thinking the Faith, historically, until the last quarter century or so, most Americans have attended the church of their parents. Hall says such faith was not “thought” but inherited. In many religious groups, one is designated a member even before faith develops. This means that previously any choice of churches was virtually arranged for most people at birth. People went to the church of their parents which was the same church their grandparents had attended. Church shopping was unknown.

In time past, one changed churches when one moved, when the church went through a split or when you entered a “mixed marriage” – meaning people from two different churches married and had to choose to attend one or the other or one entirely different. Things have changed. Church (denominational) loyalty is at an all-time low. According to the Barna report, more than one out of seven adults change their church affiliation each year, and another one out of six attend a carefully chosen handful of selected churches on a rotating basis rather than sticking with the same church week after week. The conclusion: Americans are religious people and church remains an important aspect of life for tens of millions of people. However, there is less concern about religious “brand loyalty” than there used to be.

The survey was conducted by the Barna Research Group among a national random sample of U.S. adults. Those who attend a Christian church were asked what qualities they would prioritize if they moved to a different community and were seeking a church to attend. Nine factors were significant–13 others included in the survey were not seen as significant. One should note that these are the factors important to churched people, and that the survey did not inquire of unchurched people concerning their desires.

What Really Matters?
The three most significant factors (labeled “extremely important” by a majority of respondents) were (1) the beliefs and doctrine of the church, (2) how much the people in the church seem to care about each other, and (3) the quality of the sermons. Three additional high priority items were (4) friendliness to visitors, (5) involvement in serving the poor and disadvantaged, and (6) the quality of programs and classes for children.

Three additional factors were significant: (7) how much the person liked the pastor, (8) the denominational affiliation of the church, and (9) the quality of the adult Sunday school classes. Given the emphasis of some contemporary churches, it is interesting to note that factors considered unimportant by most included worship music, convenience, comfort, and small groups.

Different Strokes
A strength of the Barna research model is the ability to determine the responses of different demographic groups. Women considered the quality of sermons, the type of worship music and the quality of programs for children to be more important than men did. Baby Busters were comparatively less interested in the quality of adult Sunday school and in the quality of the music in worship services. Baby Boomers were less concerned about helping the disadvantaged, the convenience of the service times, the quality of music, and the ease of parking. Builders, those in their fifties and sixties, emerged as the most concerned about a church’s theology and doctrine, the type of music used in the worship services, and the importance of having good friends at the church. Those who had not attended college were more interested than were college graduates in items such as the quality of children’s programs, the type and quality of worship music, the quality of he adult Sunday school program, and the various convenience factors such as meeting times and parking. College graduates were notably less concerned about matters such as how much the people seem to care for each other and the quality of the sermons preached.

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