Multi-site churches provide opportunities

By Sheila Allen

April 7, 2016

Large churches in North America are getting bigger and small churches are struggling, according to Wade Burnett of MultiSite Solutions based in Tennessee.


As recent as 20 years ago, few churches would consider meeting in more than one location. Now a growing trend, multi-site churches change everything about the way leaders think about and “do” church.


Although there are 320,000 Protestant churches in North America, more are closing every day than are being launched. While it takes an average of 100 members to support a church and one full-time pastor in many settings, the average church size in the U.S. is 75 members.


“The harvest need is tremendous,” Burnett said. “We lose sight of it when we are involved with other Christians all the time. We have got to come up with new ways to reach those who don’t grace our doors.”


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Learning to listen

By Sheila Allen

April 7, 2016

Many Christians have intentions about sharing their faith, but are thwarted by not actively listening or recognizing cues, according to Margaret Slusher, president of LeadPlus.


Slusher, who led Story Witnessing Workshops in eight cities around the Northwest recently, helped participants learn to connect people to the gospel message by primarily listening.


“All our lives we are so used to talking and entertaining everyone to get our own way instead of listening,” Slusher said. “Remember to keep your mouth closed and you will have tremendous opportunity to share the gospel.”


The isolation and loneliness people feel today leaves them wanting to talk. “While it is hard to listen, you must hear what they are really telling you,” she said.


Many things distract from listening, including pride, personal agendas, thinking about a next response and being a problem solver. Slusher encouraged participants to “practice engagement” with open body postures, such as standing with arms and legs uncrossed, palms open, leaning forward and maintaining eye contact with people. Those kind of social cues can lead to more rapport with people.


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Preparation key to church safety

By Sheila Allen

April7, 2016

As images of violence in public places increasingly become fodder for news media, many church leaders still do little to address potential threats, according to Joe Puckett, course instructor for a public safety education association.


Faced with perceived slim odds of intruders striking and a lack of knowledge about appropriate safety measures available, churches leave members and employees in a vulnerable position, said the former police captain.


“The majority of incidents occur outside of the church building and during off-hours,” Puckett said. “Most involve a lone male attacker who is not affiliated with the church. But many others give warning signs that can be defused with a strategy and good preparation.”


A plan for emergencies should be in place for all churches and include medical needs, power outages, evacuation plans, fire drills and lock down procedures. Puckett advised churches to start with simple items, such as placing non-emergency phone numbers and the street location of the church by any public phones.


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Church offers respite for first responders

By Sheila Allen

April 7, 2016

Nestled just off a main Oregon thoroughfare in an area brimming with needs, a compact yellow house owned by Solid Rock Baptist Church in Portland sits largely unused throughout the week. But an effort to meet the needs of law enforcement personnel has opened up the tidy property into a rest stop for those that serve the community.


Pastor Randy Duckett has served as pastor at Solid Rock in Portland, OR, for just one year, but an introduction to Steve Chadwick of Responder Life opened new ministry possibilities for a congregation that sits in the shadow of a major freeway and bustling business district.


“I mentioned to an officer that we wanted to serve our police officers on Halloween because there is so much mischief on that night,” Duckett said. “I heard back from Steve Chadwick, who is a police chaplain and director of community and church partnerships for Responder Life. He told me about rest stops provided for first responders in the metropolitan area.


“We prayed about it for a couple of months and our church wants to do things and not be stagnant,” he added. “Some in our church had been discouraged because of our location, as it is difficult to get to our campus, but we realized it is perfect for this ministry, as it is off the beaten path.”


A recent open house to introduce the rest stop was held for all first responders, including firefighters, ambulance drivers and others, but the facility meets a special need for law enforcement personnel to take a break, use the restroom and write reports out of the eye of the general public. The church will offer cold drinks, snacks, wireless internet and television to those who make use of the church property.


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Florist who refused gay wedding gets appeal

April 7, 2016

The highest court in Washington state has agreed to hear the appeal of florist Barronelle Stutzman found guilty of violating state laws and the constitutional rights of a gay couple when she refused to arrange flowers for their wedding, citing religious beliefs.


The Washington Supreme Court will hear the appeal of Stutzman, a 70-year-old Southern Baptist grandmother who owns Arlene's Flowers in Richmond, possibly as early as its spring 2016 session beginning in May, according to the court's official website.

The Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF) continues as Stutzman's counsel in her three-year-long battle to live out her Christian faith that affirms marriage as a lifelong commitment between one man and one woman.


"We hope the Washington Supreme Court will affirm the broad protections that both the U.S. Constitution and the Washington Constitution afford to freedom of speech and conscience," ADF Senior Counsel Kristen Waggoner said when the state's highest court accepted the appeal. "Barronelle and many others like her around the country have been willing to serve any and all customers, but they are understandably not willing to promote any and all messages. Join us in prayer for Barronelle and her legal team as she continues to take a courageous stand for her right to freely live out her faith."


Stutzman is among many small-business owners who have faced legal repercussions for upholding their Christian beliefs in business.


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Platt unveils "reset" of IMB strategy, structure

April 7, 2016

David Platt, IMB President


The International Mission Board announced recently that 983 missionaries and 149 stateside staff have left the mission agency as a result of its retirement and resignation incentive programs.


IMB President David Platt told trustees the organization now expects to operate a balanced budget for 2017 due to its 2015-16 organizational “reset” processes.


 “IMB is now in a much healthier financial position,” Platt said during IMB’s February meeting near Richmond, VA. “Due to increased giving from Southern Baptist churches, Cooperative Program and Lottie Moon Christmas Offering giving are trending upward.”


 Over recent years, IMB has consistently spent more money than it has received -- a combined $210 million more since 2010. Though IMB has covered the shortfalls through reserves and global property sales, in August 2015 Platt announced a critical need to balance the organization’s budget. Because 80 percent of IMB’s budget is devoted to personnel salary, benefits and support expenses, leaders determined a need to reduce the total number of personnel by approximately 600-800 people to get to a healthy financial place in the present for sustained growth and engagement in the future.


At that time, Platt outlined a two-phase process for reducing the number of IMB personnel. The first phase involved retirement incentives available to eligible retirement-age personnel, while the second phase was a resignation incentive available to everyone in the IMB.


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