insidetherevolution.jpgI have been reading a new book by Joel C. Rosenberg, Inside the Revolution. He divides the book into three sections.

  1. The radical element of Islam.
  2. Reformers within Islam.
  3. Revivalists within Islam.

This is a very fascinating and informative book. We hear mostly about the Radical element of Islam. They are the ones making the news on our TV, radio and newspapers. We hear less about the reformers–those who are Muslim but do not take the radical position of expanding by terror.

All of the sections were revealing and very informative. But the section on the revival that is taking place within the Muslim world gripped my heart. Joel reports that thousands responding to the message of faith in Jesus. I felt as though I were reading a new chapter in the book of Acts. Some of the stories of how people are coming to Christ literally gave me goosebumps and made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. We’re talking direct intervention by Jesus as he reveals himself to many people. We’re talking about New Testament stuff here.

I strongly recommend that you read Inside the Revolution. It is a large hardback book and is relatively expensive. Possibly you could check out a copy from a local library. If they don’t have it, encourage them to get it. Another possibility is that your local church could purchase a copy or two to loan out to members of that body. Or find a friend who has it and see if you can read theirs.

I believe this is a must read for United States Christians. We need to know the content of this book, which we will never get from our media. It would make you feel better to read the third section first, although I recommend reading the book as it is written. Also, you might want to re-read the books of Daniel, Ezekiel, Matthew 23 and 25, Acts, and Revelation.

And by the way, I’d read anything I can get my hands on from Joel C. Rosenberg. He has written a series of five works of fiction that is his interpretation of the “last days.” He also wrote a non-fiction work, Epicenter that contains all the information and research he did for the works of fiction.

Let me know what you think after your have read any of his books.

In a seminar on Church Consultanting, I learned a concept that I found to be very helpful. You may have heard the Berry Bucket analogy before. You have four buckets of berries in your church.

  1. The Older Former Berries (those who are older than the pastor and were there when he arrived).
  2. The Younger Former Berries (those who are younger than the pastor and were there when he came).
  3. The Older New Berries (those older than the pastor but came since the pastor).
  4. The Younger New Berries (those younger than the pastor and have come since the pastor).

The Older Former Berries usually want the pastor to be a chaplain. The Younger Former Berries are mostly related to the Older Former Berries and are the “yes but” people. The Older New Berries are on board with the direction of the pastor and they bring some wisdom to the discussion. The Younger New Berries are the “Let’s Go” people.

The former berries can never get heavier. So a great deal of the pastor’s time is reaching and training new berries. And the closer you get to equilibrium, where the new berries equal in number the former berries, the level of conflict increases. You must count all four groups and help them know each other. And there should be a time in one’s ministry where the new berries outweigh the old berries. That, of course, requires reaching new people for Christ.

I found this very helpful when trying to transition Mainsteet Church to be an outward -ocused church whose purpose was to “See Everyone Become a Fully Devoted Follower of Jesus Christ.” How you treat each group is extremely important to the health of the church in transition.

If there are just a few new berries, it’s more difficult to make a significant transition. Some former berries may get on board with transition, but the greatest momentum in the transition will come when there are new berries. Hopefully a good percentage of new berries are people who have recently come to Christ and are being discipled.

SacredMarriagebooks_200.jpgLet me recommend two excellent resources for your premarital and marriage counseling.

  • Sacred Marriage, by Gary Thomas (Zondervan).
  • Sacred Sex, by Tim Alan Gardner (Water Brook Press).

In my humble opinion, these are without a doubt the best books I have read on these subjects.They are very biblical in their approach. I used them as reference material whenever I preached a marriage series, but I also used them with the couples that came to me for their pre-marital counseling.

If you’ve been looking for good resources on these topics, you might want to take a look at these two books.

I am asked quite frequently about the books I am reading. There are two, one of which I read some time ago. These books have gripped my heart.

  • The American Church In Crisis, by David T. Olson and Forward by Craig Groeschel.
  • The Multiplying Church, by Bob Roberts Jr. The forward is by Alan Hirsch and Ed Stezer.

Have any of you read either one of these? If so what did you think?

I’ve been slow to post about the book “Prayer Coach” that we began a month or so ago.  Well, I have been wondering if any of you have used the prayer patterns, i.e. praying through the armor, or the fruit of the Spirit, or even you body. It certainly provides a new, fresh approach to prayer.

I like that it’s so teachable. You could teach a new believer to pray like that. And after all, that is one of purpose of the book–that we leaders begin coaching prayer. Anyone have any neat stories about trying it?

In reading the book, God has given me many flashbacks to events in my life that center on prayer. I think he just wants me to remember the power of prayer.

As I was reading recently, I remembered a time when I called for a special period of prayer at 10 PM on Saturday night to begin the first of September. The purpose: to pray for revival in our church. As you can well imagine, not many showed up. Actually, most of the time just one man showed up to join me in praying.

Harold I would would gather at the altar. Sometimes we would go through the sanctuary, stopping at each pew praying for those who would be sitting there the next morning. Sometimes we went to every classroom and prayed for the teachers and students who would be in those rooms the next day.

EJ and I lived about 3-4 miles from the church, and some Saturday nights I groaned when it was time to leave. But I went because I knew Harold would be there.

Harold lived just about half a block from the church. The man could pray. We prayed together at the altar until summer.  When Harold passed away some time later, I began to reflect on his life, his friendship, and his love for the Lord. Looking back over church stats, I realized that the church had one of its greatest growth spurts during the time we were praying at the altar at 10 PM on Saturday night.

Well, don’t know why I told all that, but I do believe that God is interested in his children coming to him with their needs, burdens, and praises.

epicenter.gif
Joel C. Rosenberg wrote a series of five books of fiction dealing with his theory of how the world will end. He also wrote a nonfiction book detailing the facts and interpretation of Scripture that planted the idea for his fiction books.

The non-fiction book is called Epicenter and is published by Tyndale House. I personally believe it is worth the read, even if you don’t read the fiction series. You might vigorously disagree with his views, but they are challenging and will make you think

Ron Ramsey, Bishop

winningonpurpose.jpgJohn Edmund Kaiser in his book, Winning on Purpose, proposes that a new organizational structure is needed to assist and support church growth. The structure is called “governance” which is described this way:
  • The church board govern.
  • The pastor leads.
  • The staff manages.
  • The congregation ministers. 
This book and system is one that both Pat Jones and I have advocated for our local churches.
I came across an article written by Bill Essum on the Church Central website (www.churchcentral.com) and I wanted to excerpt a paragraph from that article for our consideration. The overall theme is that churches need to reproduce themselves in order to stem church decline in the US.
Bill writes: 

There needs to be an end of democracy and consensus. Apostolic-led churches are structured around the Spirit-led leadership of a man or woman who listens to God rather than following a board. The more democratic the church is, the less likely it is to grow, much less become reproductive. Reproductive churches have small boards and very few committees if any. If you dig under the covers of the large megachurches and the churches that are planting churches, you won’t find much structure; and the sheep aren’t leading the shepherd. (Emphasis added)

I am tired of dealing with churches more interested in who is in charge than they are about being a Great Commission Church that is reaching lost people and seeing them become fully devoted followers of Jesus. I am tired of being called to churches where the sheep are trying to lead and the shepherd is just a “hired” employee.  
I recently was in one of our churches talking about the need for that particular church to become more focused on Great Commission issues. One of the attendees took offense and pounded the table, “This is my church and we don’t want to be one of those big churches.”  
I was able to inform the person they were wrong, it isn’t our church. The Church belongs to Jesus. He is the head. And because Jesus is the Head of the Church, he is also the head of our church. Wasn’t received real well.  
Anyway, this whole debate about who is in charge in a local church is diverting much of our energy away from Great Commission ministries. To me, there are two crucial elements to what Essum is arguing:
  1. That the congregation sees the pastor as a Spirit-led man or woman who listens to God first.  
  2. That the pastor is willing to lead. As Essum says, “The sheep aren’t leading the shepherd”.
I think that Essum makes a lot of sense. What do you think?

I remember a young man who had come to faith in one of the churches I pastored. His wife was already a believer. They just had their first child. Anyway, in a sermon I talked about how the man of the house is responsible for seeing that prayer takes place in the family.

Well this young man came to me and told me he didn’t know how to pray–not even to give thanks before a meal.

“What time do you eat your evening meal?” I asked him.

“About 5:30,” he said.

I told him, “I’ll be there tomorrow night and teach you how to return thanks for the meal.”

I did that several times before he told me he could do it. Then I asked him whether he prayed with his new baby when they put him down for the night. He said he didn’t know how. “When do you put your baby to bed?” I asked him. And for a couple nights, I showed up at their house, showing him how to pray over his new child until he told me he thought he could do it.

The point is–don’t assume that people know how to pray.

Ron Ramsey, Bishop

I was with a group of guys who were discussing the question something like this: “When was prayer most meaningful and when was it not meaningful.” 
I’ll never forget what one man said. “Prayer is most meaningful when I have something specific to pray about, and is least meaningful when I don’t have something specific to pray about.” How profound! I have continued over the years to think about that answer.
But I have since changed my mind. 
A believer should always have something specific to pray about, don’t you think? I mean, isn’t one purpose of prayer to bring praise, honor and glory to our Lord? Yes, I know, we are also invited to share our petitions and then confessions, but to me the most urgent reason to pray is to give praise and glory to our Lord and King. 
I guess that is why I enjoy reading the Psalms over and over. They teach me how to think properly about God and how to regard him in my praying and worship. Even aside from praising and adoring a holy, loving and generous God, is there any moment of any day that I don’t have needs to be met? 

Ron Ramsey, Bishop

A few weeks ago I suggested that you read the book “Prayer Coach” and that we begin a discussion around the ideas of that book. It has been longer than I intended, but at last here is my first post about this matter of prayer and coaching others to pray.
Before we get any further, be thinking: do you have a daily plan for spending time with God? Because I’d like to hear about it.
To introduce the subject, I want to begin with an example. 
Many years ago, probably around 1985, I developed the habit of reading five Psalms and five  Proverbs every day. I either heard or read years ago that Billy Graham follows this practice. 
While I was attending a convention representing Scripture Press, I found in another exhibitor’s booth a little book called “31 Day of Wisdom & Praise,” which has long since become out of print. This little booklet structures my Psalms/Proverbs reading. Each day I read five Psalms, and they are spaced 30 apart. For example:
  • On Day One of a new month I read Psalm 1, 31, 61, 91 and 121, and Proverbs 1. 
  • On Day Two, I read Psalm 2, 32, 62, 92 and 122, and Proverbs 2.
Today, January 13, I read Psalm 13, 43, 73, 103 and 132, and Proverbs 13.
As I read each day, regardless of how many times I have read it, I find new and exciting things that God seems to be saying to me. Even in personal times of deep disturbances of my heart, God has spoken to me with comfort and help. 
Yesterday I read Psalm 12:8, a verse I have read many times, yet this verse seemed to describe our culture. Listen:

The wicked freely strut about
when what is vile is honored among men.

Boy, is that true or what? Sin is being honored in our society and wicked people strut about. It is getting more and more pronounced. Wow! What a verse. Nearly every day I find a passage that speaks to me in a way that it has never spoken to me before. After all, if it is the Living Word, that is what we should expect. Is it not?
I follow the reading with a time of prayer. And I have adopted the pattern in my private prayer life to talk to God as I would talk to you. I would say that my private prayer is more of a dialogue with God than a “formal” prayer. I talk to him as a friend. In the past I have written my prayer out in a journal. For some reason I have not done that these past three years.
Now, I say all of this not to have you follow my plan but to ask a simple question: What is your prayer plan? Our prayer lives are lacking to the degree we have no consistent plan. If I skip a day or two or three or four etc., I really miss the time with God. 
So, I’d like to hear about your plan. Caution: don’t make something up to impress me. I’m not the one you have to impress. Post something in the comments (my preference, so others can see it), or use the “Contact” tab on the right to send me an email.