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How to Deal with Critics October 19, 2009

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

I wanted to share this GREAT video with you all.  Perry Noble is a pastor in Anderson, South Carolina who is doing an incredible work for the Lord. If you ever deal with criticism, this is a great word for you today:

Stupid Leader tricks March 16, 2009

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.
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I read this great article from Geoff Surratt…pastor of Seacoast Church in South Carolina.  I have become a big fan of his and always enjoy what he has to share.

This particular article is actually an excerpt from his upcoming book and is one that I thought was very beneficial for anyone in the ministry to read.  I hope you will enjoy it and feel free to comment on it.

One of the most challenging aspects of working with leaders is seeing an otherwise brilliant leader making a stupid mistake. The most common stupid mistake I see is when a leader tries to do most of the work of the ministry themselves. The reason often comes down to one of several basic issues:

Lonely Martyr Syndrome
Have you ever thought, “No one will do it as well as I will”? If you are like most leaders you think no one cares more about the outcome of ministry than you. You have given away tasks to others in the past and they either did a poor job or dropped the ball altogether. You know that you need to give away ministry to other leaders, but if you do the quality of the ministry will suffer, needs will not be cared for and people will leave the ministry. Rather than giving away ministry you wind up taking on more and more tasks, stretching yourself beyond the breaking point.

If we were really honest we would admit that deep inside we believe that the success of the ministry depends on us. And deeper down we would admit that we like it that way. We crave the validation we get from praise. This attitude also feeds our bitterness and resentment toward people who we feel are using us. We relish the role of the lonely martyr.

Hired Gun Disease
The thinking goes like this, “I am being paid to be the leader, how can I ask volunteers to do my work for me? We’re taxing our people’s time already by asking them to teach classes and attend small groups, we can’t ask them to do even more. And what will the people think of me if I am not working hard? They will find out that other people are doing all the work and I am laying down on the job.” One of the key factors of moving to a team based ministry is to get past the guilt of giving away work and realizing that what is a burden is for you is a blessing for someone else.

Corner Cutting Disorder
Sharing ministry is a lot of work; often it is easier to just do it myself. To share the load I have to first identify what part of the ministry I will give away. I then have to find a leader who could take over the task, recruit the new leader and train the new leader. After I have trained the leader I need to coach them in their new task. When they make mistakes I have to help them improve rather than stepping in and taking over. In the end recruiting, training and coaching usually takes a lot more time and effort than doing the task myself. Many leaders work too hard and do too much because doing it themselves is simply easier.

Rejection Aversion
When I first saw Sherry Sparks I knew I was in love. She was the foxiest looking 15 year old chick I’d ever seen. (That is how we talked in 1978) The problem was that the thought of actually talking to her terrified me. What if something fell out of my nose while I was talking to her? Worse, what if I finally got the courage to ask her out and she rejected me? Fortunately I was able to ask a friend to see if a girl he knew would ask her best friend to call Sherry and find out if she would be willing to allow me to call her. Finally I called the lovely Miss Sparks and invited her to our church’s next youth group party; two children and 32 years later she still has that effect on me.

Sometimes we don’t ask people to share the load of ministry because inside we are still that fifteen year old terrified of being rejected. Whether it’s asking for a first date or asking a member to lead a ministry the fear of rejection is never easy to deal with. (By the way it would be a bad idea for a pastor to ask someone to lead a ministry WHILE on a first date.)

Ministry Garage Sale
Every couple of years we go through a painful exercise at our house; we clean out the garage. The challenge is that cleaning out always entails getting rid of stuff. If we aren’t ruthless each spring we will eventually drown in a pile of priceless treasures.

Is it time for a garage sale in your ministry? You have been accumulating tasks and responsibilities for years and it might be time to give some stuff away or to simply throw some things away. What are you willing to pass on to someone else? What are you ready to see end all together? Be ruthless, your ministry will grow when you do.

A/G Church Attacked this past Sunday November 14, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

Here is a link to the story:



Here is the statement from the church:


What do you get from this?

  • Do you feel this kind of thing will take place more often or is this an isolated incident?
  • Do you have some kind of security plan in your church in place if something like this happened?
  • Do you feel we are at a point in our history where we need security in church-settings?

I would love to see your responses.

The Starbucks/Church Comparison November 8, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.
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I would love to see your thoughts on this.  Keep your sense of humor on this one!

Is Sarah Palin Acting Unbiblically? November 3, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

Here is a video from John Piper…the Pastor for Preaching at Bethlehem Baptist Church in Minneapolis, Minnesota. He has a number of thoughts on tomorrow’s election:

What are your thoughts?  Do you feel he is correct on Sarah Palin?  Do you agree with his different takes on the election, the issues and the possible outcomes?  Fire away!

Mystery Worshippers October 10, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

John Wootton sent this article  to me from the Wall Street Journal and I found it pretty interesting.  Check it out:

Department stores hire mystery shoppers. Restaurant chains bring in undercover diners to rate their food and service. Churches enlist Thomas Harrison, a former pastor from Tulsa, Okla., and a professional mystery worshipper.

Mr. Harrison — a meticulous inspector who often uses the phrase “I was horrified” to register his disapproval of dust bunnies and rude congregants — poses as a first-time churchgoer and covertly evaluates everything from the cleanliness of the bathrooms to the strength of the sermon. This summer, Mr. Harrison scoured a megachurch in Cedar Hill, Texas, and jotted down a laundry list of imperfections: a water stain on the ceiling, a “stuffy odor” in the children’s area, a stray plastic bucket under the bathroom sink and a sullen greeter who failed to say good morning before the worship service. “I am a stickler for light bulbs and bathrooms,” he says.

Mr. Harrison belongs to a new breed of church consultants aiming to equip pastors with modern marketing practices. Pastors say mystery worshippers like Mr. Harrison offer insight into how newcomers judge churches — a critical measure at a time when mainline denominations continue to shed members and nearly half of American adults switch religious affiliations. In an increasingly diverse and fluid religious landscape, churches competing for souls are turning to corporate marketing strategies such as focus groups, customer-satisfaction surveys and product giveaways.

At least half a dozen consulting companies have introduced secret-church-shopper services in recent years. The A Group, a Brentwood, Tenn., marketing firm for churches and faith-based groups, now conducts mystery-worshipper surveys at 15 to 20 churches a year, up from a handful five years ago. Church marketing company Real Church Solutions in Corona, Calif., introduced mystery-worshipper services five years ago. “First-time guests, they don’t come with mercy, they come with judgment,” says the company’s president, Chris Sonksen. “They’re looking for a reason to leave.”


Mr. Harrison grades churches on a wide range of categories, using a colored-light system: green is good, yellow means caution, and red signals trouble.

Here are a few details from a 67-page report on a Texas megachurch.

CATEGORY: Sidewalks
COMMENT: “The brick-paved island in front of Arena needs attention. Some weeds are growing through the cracks.”
GRADE: Yellow Light

COMMENT: “Tissue boxes are placed at the end of each row. All looked tidy.”
GRADE: Green Light

CATEGORY: Parking-lot greeters
COMMENT: “From the parking lot into the church, I was not greeted by anyone. Upon leaving church and returning to my car, I was greeted by very friendly man who wished me ‘a good day.’ ”
GRADE: Yellow Light

CATEGORY: Greeters in the sanctuary
COMMENT: “I was not greeted upon entering the seating area in either service. In the second service, I even moved to a second area of the auditorium about 10 minutes into the service — but still no greeting.”
GRADE: Red Light

COMMENT: “The message is appropriate and meaningful. It is challenging and inspiring.”
GRADE: Green Light

Some secular secret-shopping firms are seeking a toehold in the religious marketplace as well. Customer First, a national company with a database of 260,000 secret shoppers, has sent undercover worshippers to 20 churches in the last three years. Earlier this year, Guest Check, which specializes in hotels, spas, restaurants and golf courses, launched a pilot program for churches. It has dispatched shoppers to Catholic, Lutheran, Baptist and Unitarian congregations in Colorado and plans to expand the service to Washington, D.C.

The rise of these services has been buoyed by the growth of the secret-shopper industry. There are roughly one million secret shoppers in the U.S., according to the Mystery Shopping Providers Association. Secret-shopper firms have expanded their reach in recent years from restaurants and stores to hospitals and public transport systems. Churches eager to adopt cutting-edge business practices have emerged as the latest market willing to pay for blunt advice. The cost can range from around $150 for a one-time visit to between $1,500 and $2,500 for multiple visits and a detailed report.

So far, secret-shopper services mainly target Christian churches, where declining “brand loyalty” among worshippers has become a common motif. A 2008 survey by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life, which drew from interviews with more than 35,000 people, found that 44% of American adults have switched religious affiliations. Church leaders say they’re seeking new ways to assess their services and evaluate everything from the style of music to how comfortable the pews are as they court fickle churchgoers.

Mr. Harrison, a 51-year-old former Assemblies of God minister who launched his secret-shopper service in 2006, charges about $1,500 plus travel expenses for a site inspection, worship-service evaluation and detailed report. He’s inspected more than a dozen Protestant churches ranging in size from 50 to 5,000 members. He’s yet to give his highest rating — five stars. Demand is growing: Mr. Harrison was recently tapped by Building God’s Way, a church-consulting firm that works with 500 churches, to conduct undercover visits at 40 to 50 churches nationwide each year.

His critiques can be bruising, pastors say. “Thomas hits you with the faded stripes in the parking lot,” says Stan Toler, pastor of Trinity Church of the Nazarene in Oklahoma City, who hires a secret shopper every quarter. “If you’ve got cobwebs, if you’ve got ceiling panels that leak, he’s going to find it.”

One weekend this past summer, Mr. Harrison drove up to Trinity Church in Cedar Hill, Texas, in a bright-red rented Chevrolet. Armed with a digital camera, he trolled the church’s grounds and its new $13 million sanctuary, snapping shots of weeds growing in the parking lot, loose lighting fixtures and a fuse box missing a lid. “Please cover as soon as possible,” he wrote in his 67-page report. Few staff members were around on a stifling Saturday afternoon, but Mr. Harrison had a cover story just in case: He was a friend of the pastor’s visiting from out of town, and was touring to get ideas before renovating his own church.

Before inspecting the church grounds, Mr. Harrison called Trinity early in the morning to test its voicemail, scrolled through the church’s Web site and asked a clerk at a nearby copy shop if he knew anything about Trinity. The young man hadn’t heard of it.

The next morning, Mr. Harrison — who has a round, dimpled face, a salt-and-pepper mustache and a talent for blending into crowds — arrived a few minutes before the Sunday worship service started. He strolled past the coffee bar where dozens of people chatted, past the electronic giving kiosk and into the cavernous, stadium-style sanctuary, where he sat alone in the eighth row. Wearing a short-sleeved shirt rather than his usual suit and tie, Mr. Harrison fit into the boisterous, casually dressed crowd of 800 worshippers. He turned off his cellphone and filled out a visitor-information card. The lights dimmed as a 10-piece rock band took the stage and ripped into a rollicking song. Mr. Harrison discreetly scribbled notes onto a tiny pad tucked into his palm.

The church scored a solid four stars — three stars on hospitality and cleanliness, four on appearance and five on the worship experience. Mr. Harrison praised Trinity for using ushers (“I just think it’s classy,” he says) but hammered the church for its coolness toward visitors. “None asked my name. None asked about my church background. None asked about my spiritual condition. None invited me to return,” he wrote in his report.

Trinity’s pastor, Jim Hennesy, who has led the congregation for 14 years, says he frequently brings in consultants to make sure quality doesn’t slip as his congregation grows. The church, which belongs to the Assemblies of God, a Pentecostal denomination, now draws 3,000 people to its services, up from 1,000 members 14 years ago. It drew 1,200 new congregants this year. “They see things we’ve grown accustomed to,” Mr. Hennesy says of consultants. He doesn’t always heed their advice, however. He differed with Mr. Harrison’s critique of how his church treats visitors, noting that Trinity tries to make newcomers feel welcome without singling them out or putting them on the spot.

Mr. Harrison has had far worse experiences as an undercover worshipper. He’s been knocked out of the pew — twice — when someone scooted over too quickly. Once, a woman reached right over him to shake a friend’s hand without excusing or introducing herself, he says. And on more than one occasion, Mr. Harrison says he’s caught congregants complaining about the pastor. “I’ve had people tell me, ‘You’ve come to the wrong service. Our pastor is speaking today; the associate pastor is much better,’ ” Mr. Harrison recalls. “I was horrified.”

Raised in a Baptist household in Little Rock, Ark., Mr. Harrison says he wanted to be Walter Cronkite when he was a boy. He studied communications in college and managed several local radio stations in Oklahoma before getting ordained in 1993. He served as an associate pastor at three congregations around Oklahoma, and in 2005 launched his church-consulting firm, Media Embassy, which helps churches polish their media and public-relations skills.

Mr. Harrison stumbled upon the idea for his secret shopper service after reading a book called “The Five Star Church.” Having been a secret shopper for a pizza restaurant in Broken Arrow, Okla., Mr. Harrison figured churches could benefit from similar scrutiny. So he contacted the author, Mr. Toler, and suggested a service based on the book. Mr. Toler liked the idea and offered to be the guinea pig. The results shocked him. “We came in at 3.5,” Mr. Toler says.

Ron McCaslin, pastor of Cathedral of the Hills in Edmond, Okla., hired Mr. Harrison because his church was struggling to attract members even though the surrounding neighborhood was bustling with new residents. Mr. Harrison suggested changing the church’s name and its billboard — a 25-year-old wooden sign with Old English-style lettering. He also recommended changing the worship music to make the early morning service traditional, with well-known hymns that appeal to an older crowd, and the later service more contemporary, with a lively band. The church now draws about 500 people to its weekend services, up from about 350.

Some theologians warn that mystery-worshipper services will drive “spiritual consumerism.” Evaluating churches as if they were restaurants or hotels might encourage people to choose their church not according to its theology, but based on which one has the best lattes or day care, says Paul Metzger, professor of theology at Multnomah Biblical Seminary in Portland, Ore. “We tend to look for religion or spirituality that will give us what we want, when we want it,” Prof. Metzger says. “There’s a pressure for the church to be something that the church is not.”

Others say that church shopping has become necessary for churches seeking to compete in an increasingly mobile and consumer-oriented society. “My competition is Cracker Barrel restaurant down the street,” says Pete Wilson, pastor of CrossPoint Church in Nashville, Tenn., who regularly enlists a secret shopper to evaluate his 2,000-person congregation. “If they go in there and are treated more like family than when they come to CrossPoint Church, then it’s lights out for me.”

So what do you think?  Have you ever used a resource like this before?  Would you be interested in such a thing?  Why or why not?  I would love to see your thoughts…

Ray Boltz Announces He is Gay September 16, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

 To see the article from the Washington Blade, feel free to click below:


This is very sad, in my opinion.  My questions to you are these:

  • Will you continue to allow his music to be played, sung or used in your church/ministry?
  • Why or why not?
  • How prominent do you think this situation is in the body of Christ?  Do we have a number of men and women in our churches who are struggling with this issue?

Church Pirates August 19, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

A big thanks to Josh Moraghan for sending this video to me.  I found it to be very thought provoking.

Watch it and let me know what your thoughts are…it should be interesting.

The Lakeland Revival July 22, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.

I found this article from onenewsnow.com  and thought I would share it with you.  It is in regards to the current series of services taking place in Lakeland, Florida with Todd Bentley:

LAKELAND, Fla. – Todd Bentley believes God acts through him to cure cancer, heal the deaf and raise the dead.  So do hundreds of thousands of people who have visited his raucous revival meeting, now in its third month and broadcast nightly from a huge tent in the middle of Florida.

The 32-year-old Canadian, tattooed to the fingers and neck, puts a palm to the forehead of the sick, desperate and faithful. Bentley yells “Bam!” they collapse and he proclaims them cured. Attendees dance in the aisles, shout to Heaven, laugh, shake violently and cry.

Such revivals aren’t new, but Bentley’s stage show has become a phenomenon in the religious world – for both its pull and the criticism it has attracted – in just a few months.

He claims to have medical proof of mass healings, but has not produced widely convincing evidence.

His tactics, sometimes violent, have made skeptics even of Pentecostals who believe in concepts that aren’t accepted by all branches of Christianity such as speaking in tongues, miraculous healing and spontaneous twitching from the Holy Spirit.

“Some of the language used during the Lakeland Revival has created an almost sideshow atmosphere,” wrote J. Lee Grady, editor of the Pentecostal magazine Charisma, in an online column. “People are invited to ‘Come and get some.’ Miracles are supposedly ‘popping like popcorn.’ … Such brash statements cheapen what the Holy Spirit is doing.” Grady wrote another column this week expressing concern that the Lakeland event has the potentital to cause a “charismatic civil war.”

When Bentley performs healings, often wearing jeans and a T-shirt, aides bring the sick up both sides of an elaborate stage. The preacher’s assistants tell the audience each person’s condition and how far they came to be cured: from Europe, the West Coast, up to the Northeast and beyond.

Like a psychic, he will proclaim someone in the crowd has a particular kind of tumor, growth or affliction.

“Someone’s getting a new spinal cord tonight!” Bentley yelled in one service.

Bentley gives the credit to God, but Christian critics say he rarely opens a Bible or sermonizes about Jesus Christ. They worry he is too little about conversion, too heavy on his own hype and too focused on self-proclaimed miracles.

“How can you be too focused on miracles?” Bentley shouted to another packed house.

The revival sprung from Bentley’s April visit to a Lakeland church for a speaking engagement. He has traveled the world as head of Fresh Fire Ministries, based in Abbotsford, British Columbia, but never received a fraction of this exposure.

Thanks to Internet streaming and live broadcasts on the satellite channel GodTV, Bentley’s revival has outgrown four venues in Lakeland and drawn more than 400,000 in-person from around the country and world, promoters say.

GodTV estimated its viewership has more than doubled since it began televising the event each night, and Web hits have risen from 25,000 to 200,000 weekly. Bentley’s own page is now getting 8 million hits a month, he said.

But the ease of Internet communication cuts both ways for Bentley. Critics circulate a YouTube video from Lakeland of him kneeing a supposed terminal stomach cancer patient in the abdomen, saying God told him to. In another clip, Bentley explains how he kicked an elderly lady in the face, choked a man, banged a crippled woman’s legs on a platform, “leg-dropped” a pastor and hit a man so hard it dislodged a tooth.

The criticism has grown so acute that Bentley addressed it directly on stage earlier this month. He said he has used those extreme methods only about 20 times in 10 years of preaching, and those cases were taken out of context. Each person was healed, not hurt, Bentley insisted.

“People just can’t understand why God would tell me something like, ‘Kick that woman in the face,’ who was not injured and hundreds were healed,” Bentley said. “Or the incident where I did hit a guy so hard one time that he did hit the ground and his tooth popped out.

“But what people don’t know is that he was a dentist. There’s a whole miracle that took place in his body. He was healed of cancer and he became a (ministry donor) after the incident of knocking his tooth out, because he knew it was God. And he said, ‘I never felt a thing.'”

The claims of healing range from disappeared tumors to a man who says he can now see out of a glass eye. In more than 20 cases, Bentley says, his revival has even literally resurrected the dead. Such claims have been made by revivalists in the past, but they are not common and some Pentecostals reject them.

Expecting critics, Bentley’s ministry distributed a list of 15 people it said were cured, and vetted by his ministry, with all but three of their stories “medically verified.”

Yet two phone numbers given out by the ministry were wrong, six people did not return telephone messages and only two of the remainder, when reached by The Associated Press, said they had medical records as proof of their miracle cure. However, one woman would not make her physician available to confirm the findings, and the other’s doctor did not return calls despite the patient’s authorization.

Bentley also insists he hasn’t accepted a cent from the nightly offerings in three months at Lakeland, instead putting it into the ministry and living on his regular salary from Fresh Fire. According to records from the Canadian Revenue Agency, the ministry as a whole made $2.7 million in 2006 revenue, the most recent year available.

Bentley would not disclose donations from the revival, but said it carries a $35,000 daily operating cost. Offerings aren’t taken until four hours or so into the nightly proceedings, he notes, when all are tired and some have left.

To those who doubt the healing claims, he asks: If you believe in the Bible’s miracles, why can’t you believe they’re happening today?

“Miracles and healings are evidence,” Bentley said. “They are signs of the Kingdom, and if we don’t have signs then all we have is a bunch of theology. How one individual wants to interpret Scripture and how another individual wants to interpret Scripture.”

The revival is similar to yearslong events in Toronto and Pensacola, on Florida’s Panhandle, in the 1990s, said Vinson Synan, a professor of church history at Regent University and sympathetic expert on Pentecostalism. The difference is Bentley’s focus _ more on healing, less on conversion _ and appearance, he said.

“What I see is exhortation _ encouraging the people to worship and to praise, exhorting people rather than teaching and preaching, in the traditional sense,” Synan said. “I told my class he’s the most unlikely evangelist you can imagine, compared to the curly haired Billy Grahams and Oral Robertses, who were attractive people. This guy’s kind of short, fat and bald, with tattoos on his arms. He looks like a hippie. … In a way it’s a positive, because he’s very much of the common man.”

Though that has helped Bentley attract a broad mix, it has not necessarily convinced the larger Pentecostal community. Some local church leaders have criticized the event, and the Assemblies of God, one of America’s largest Pentecostal denominations, got so many questions it published a five-page statement of guidelines to help parishioners test the validity of a revival. It doesn’t mention Lakeland specifically, or directly opine for or against Bentley. But it is consistent with much of the criticism against him.

“Miraculous manifestations are never the test of a true revival – fidelity to God’s Word is the test,” wrote AOG Superintendent George O. Wood. “Jesus Himself said there would be many who would do miracles in His name and even cast out demons, but he does not know them. Jesus warned that ‘many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.'”

So, what are your thoughts on the article?  I have not been to the revival but have seen some of the services online. Have you been to the services or watched the services via the Internet?  What was your take on it?   I would love to see your comments.

Don’t Come to My Church June 24, 2008

Posted by illiniphil in Uncategorized.
1 comment so far

I found an interesting blog {essential shift} from a layperson in a church in the Chicago area.  Here is a big segment of it:

If I had it my way I would do away with outreach events. I would get rid of every event we hold at our church that is geared towards bringing non-Christians to our church. Now let me explain. Non-Christians are non-Christians for a reason, and they don’t come to church for a reason. 99% of everyone here in America has been to a church, has been invited to a church, or has been witnessed to, and there are still those who want nothing to do with the church. Why do we think that inviting them to a murder mystery night will get them to change their mind? I’ll tell you why, we want it on our turf, we want to call the shots.

Ok, let me rephrase my opening comment, I would get rid of them until we are doing our job by going to them first. We like being comfortable, we don’t like confrontations, and boy to do we hate not being in control. This is because we are human (and Americans), the moment something happens that is out of our control we run away, we hide in the familiar. That is why the church loves holding bake sales and pot luck dinners, we are in control and comfortable, nothing is unexpected. But if you throw the average church goer into the middle of Lower Waker Dr in Chicago, you’ll see panic. Heck I panicked the first time I went down there, the only thing that kept me together was the fact I was with friends.

I think we have forgotten how important communication is. People don’t like to be talked at, they like to discuss, ask questions, and unfortunately we don’t give that type of atmosphere at the church. There is a preconceived notion among non-Christians that when they are at church they will be talked at. We don’t give them a whole lot of evidence the other way either. If we go to them, they are comfortable, they are in control. In that situation, they can ask questions and even leave if they want to.

I don’t want to beat a dead horse here but I need to say it, we are called to GO. Paul is a perfect example of this. You read all throughout the book of Acts of Paul going into other peoples territory. He was never in control. The first thing he did in each city was visit the synagogue and talk with them. He would talk for days, months, even years. He was run out of towns by angry mobs, he met them on their turf no matter how hard or uncomfortable it was. He never sent out fliers for people to come to his place, he went to them.

Now that being said, outreach events have a time and place. Outreach events are great for those who are already looking into churches, who already have there mind in that direction. They will get something out of that. So, I am not saying never hold a pancake breakfast ever again, just be sure you are going as well.

So what do you think? I must confess, I share a few of the same sentiments in regards to our historical attempts at winning the lost.  Don’t get me wrong…I believe in the ministry of the church and I have seen a number of people make decisions for Christ in the church.  But, I find myself growing more and more ‘antsy’ when it comes to reaching the lost.  We need to figure out how to do it better.  I am a little tired of church growth without seeing the lost won for Jesus.

Your thoughts…