Friday, February 17, 2017

Today in church history

I am an avid fan of Church History.  Recently I subscribed to a service of Today in Church History and enjoy reading the daily  reminders of those who came before us.

Here is the offering for today -  February 17, 2017

February 17, 661: Finan, bishop of Lindisfarne (an island off the eastern coast of England) who throughout his life sought to preserve Celtic customs against Roman influence, dies. Three years later, at the Synod of Whitby, Celtic Christians agreed to abide by Roman traditions. "Peter is guardian of the gates of heaven, and I shall not contradict him," said the Celtic King, Oswy (see issue 60: How the Irish Were Saved).

February 17, 1858: Waldensians, ancient "Protestants" from the Italian Alps who survived through persecution for 800 years, are finally guaranteed civil and religious rights. They began with the teaching of a wealthy merchant named Pater Waldo in the late 1100s; thus they are considered "the oldest evangelical Church" (see issue 22: The Waldensians).

February 17, 1889: Former White Stockings baseball player Billy Sunday preaches his first evangelistic sermon in Chicago. By the time he died in 1935, he had preached to an estimated 100 million people, and about 1 million "walked the sawdust trail" to become Christians at his invitation.

February 17, 1898: Francis Willard, crusader for prohibition and women's suffrage, dies. She served as dean of Northwestern Women's College before becoming president of the Women's Christian Temperence Union.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Every Pastor Needs a Plane!

Kenneth Copeland, Jesse Duplantis,
defending their private jets...

In a commentary on this video,  Drew Dyck
Senior Editor CT Pastors , said the following:

In the exchange, they talked about the hassle of being recognized and approached by strangers wanting prayer on commercial flights (as a celebrity newsletter writer, I get this All. The. Time.) One of them described the horrors of flying commercial as getting into "a long tube filled with demons."
(I guess he'd flown Spirit Airlines).

Like many, I was horrified by the video. How could a pastor cope without a private jet? Now that I think about it, I've attended many churches over the course of my life and not one of my pastors owned a plane. Not one! Where is their faith?
But let's not lay all the blame at the feet of planeless pastors. Those of us in the pews have sat idly by and ignored these pastors' planeless plight (that alliteration was for the pastors, by the way). I for one intend to do something about it.
Maybe it's a pledge drive. Or a Kickstarter campaign. But we have to do something. In the 1920s, President Hoover proudly promised Americans a "chicken in every pot." I can't help but wonder if this is my President/Chicken moment. But instead of promising poultry, my rallying cry will be "a plane for every pastor!"
Please give generously. Unless you want your pastor in a "tube filled with demons."

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How Do We Glorify God in All We Do?

God reveals Himself to us, and we are to mirror Him.
He created, and at the end He said, “It was good.”
So whatever it is that you do—do it well.
Do it with purpose. Do it for Him.
And at the end of the day, you can say,
“It was good.”

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Preparing for worship at First Wesleyan Church - Gastonia - Mission

Yesterday I asked a simple question on the Facebook page of our church:

Why would you NOT invite someone to church?

I am already aware that there will be several people away from church tomorrow. The beaches of NC are calling – the beautiful Mountains beckoned their call and others will enjoy the comforts of bed in the am.

I am excited about church tomorrow at First Wesleyan Church of Gastonia NC. I have already walked the worship center and placed my hands on each pew to pray the Lord’s Presence upon our time together tomorrow.

Tomorrow may be a life changing day for some who are at church.  Who will YOU bring with you? 

Here is the order of worship we have planned - We make our plans, but God has the last word! 

We begin with a welcome and then stand to sing unto the Lord

We now pause for some announcements and bringing our tithes and offerings to the Lord. The choir will present a special entitled:

Take Now My Voice

It is now time for our Missions Moments as we feature Tome and Grace Ensz - Missionaries to Brazil, South America. 

We continue singing in worship:

Hear the Word of the Lord!

Here is a little thought to prepare for tomorrow: 

Friday, February 10, 2017

If Jesus Trusted the Bible, Then You Can, Too

“For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished”               (Matthew 5:18 NIV).

You may have heard someone say,   “I trust Jesus, but not the other guys who wrote the Bible.” There’s a problem with that logic.

Jesus trusted the Bible — every word of it! He taught that the Bible was a unique book, above all the others.

Jesus said in Matthew 5:18, “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished” (NIV).

Jesus says the Bible will last until the end of time. It will accomplish what God wants to accomplish in this world. In John 10:35a Jesus said, “We know that Scripture is always true” (NIRV). Jesus proclaimed the truth of the Bible. And when Jesus talks about the truthfulness of the Bible, we need to listen.

When Jesus talked about the Bible with people, he would often base his argument about the truth of the Bible on a single sentence or even a single word from the Bible. He believed every single sentence, every single word of Scripture. So if I trust Jesus, why wouldn’t I trust the Bible?

When Jesus talks about the Bible, he doesn’t just talk about it as poetry and history, either. He saw the Bible as something that changes lives. In Luke 11:28 Jesus said, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it” (NIV). Jesus doesn’t just want us to read the Bible. That’s what you do with poetry and history. Jesus wants us to obey the Bible. That’s what you do with anything the Creator of the universe writes.

When Jesus talked about the Bible, he talked about it as if the people and events in it were real. He talked about all the prophets being real. He talked about Daniel being real. Jesus believed in Noah and everything that happened with the flood. He believed in Adam and Eve. He believed in the tragedy of Sodom and Gomorrah. He believed that Jonah was swallowed by a large fish.

Jesus believed in some of the most disputed stories in the Bible, particularly Noah, Adam and Eve, Sodom and Gomorrah, and Jonah. People who think that the Bible is mostly good stories that didn’t really happen always point to those four stories.

If Jesus really believed in Jonah, then I should, too. I don’t know how God created a fish that could swallow a guy, but he did.

I trust in the Bible because Jesus trusted in it.

Source:  Pastor Rick Warren

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Systoms of a church dying for change

It wasn't the surgery that killed him. 

The boy died because hospital residents and nurses overlooked signs that the postoperative pain control regimen had gone awry. 

Autopsy revealed the error. He bled to death internally via a perforated ulcer brought on by pain meds he had been given as part of his treatment.

It was a tragic case of professional attitudes and diagnostic preconceptions led to catastrophic failure—the death of an otherwise healthy fifteen-year-old boy.

The same problem—preconceptions and attitudes that obscure otherwise evident problems—may lie at the heart of many a church's failure to recognize serious trouble. In our ministry we have found that pastors, church leaders, and congregants overlook the obvious signs, focusing on those few data points that allow them to feel comfortable in their plight.

The following list is far from complete. My objective isn't to produce the definitive list; it is to motivate pastors, church leaders, and congregants to set aside their preconceptions, approach the condition of their churches with open minds, and then listen closely to what the patient is telling them. They will recognize whether the church is in need of change lest it die.

1. The church isn't praying for laborers, open doors, and for evangelistic success.

On numerous occasions (e.g., Matthew 9:35-38; Luke 10) Jesus instructed us to always be prayerful for the gospel's effectiveness. Paul prayed diligently for opportunity, for the right words to say, and for successful evangelistic endeavors (e.g. Colossians 4:2-4). He often recruited the churches to join him in these prayers.

What signs reveal that your church prays regularly and fervently to the Lord of the harvest? The people in the church should be praying for laborers to enter the field, for boldness to speak clearly and persuasively in the face of hostility, and for open doors to the people in their social circles and to the people in the community.

2. Lagging indicators reveal unproductive processes.

Churches and pastors tend to pay attention to lagging indicators- things like attendance, income, baptisms, membership. Metrics of this type are the results of the systems and procedures already at work in your church.

By looking more closely at these lagging indicators, and analyzing what they mean, you will discover where change needs to occur. For example, consider the number of visitors who find their way to your church services. A widely used rule of thumb is that the annual total number of visitors should be equal to or greater the average worship service attendance. Thus, a church with an average Sunday attendance of 125 should see at least 125 first-time visitors per year. Another bit of conventional wisdom holds that a church needs to add new people at the rate of 2.5% per year to offset its losses. 

Those church visitors are low hanging fruit. They will be the easiest to move into the ranks of the affiliated - into church membership.

Do the metrics indicate your church is on plateau or in decline? If so, isn't about time to give some serious consideration to changing things up to revitalize the church?  

3. Ten people selected at random give different statements about the mission and vision.

If the church's core constituents don't voice the same ideas about the church's mission and vision, then one of two conditions exist. Either the pastor has been an unclear and inconsistent communicator about the vision, or there really is not a settled mission and vision at the heart of the church's ministry.

This can lead to a deadly condition in which bitter conflict erupts because people will always fill the "vision vacuum" with their own ideas.

4. Programs, events, and activities are designed for church members.

This is deadly. Smaller churches (less than 200) are especially prone to this. Congregations with limited resources (time, money, space, personnel) must apply those resources to fulfilling the mission and achieving the vision. If the church is aligned around its members, it is living in maintenance mode. 

"Maintenance" keeps a church on the downward trajectory - until there's impact at ground zero.

5. Leadership is different from the people you've focused on reaching.

While mature believers are (or should be) comfortable worshipping and ministering with a diverse gathering of believers, such is not the case with unbelievers. The people we would reach with the gospel respond far more readily to the gospel when it is brought to them by others who are like them.

The makeup of a church's leadership team (staff - paid and unpaid, officers, ministry leaders) conveys a subtle message about "the kind of people we are." The team should include people with whom outsiders will comfortably identify. A church three miles from the local university campus should include young adults, perhaps even some university students, on its leadership team. If your church hopes to minister to political refugees from the Congo and Burundi, the public faces of your church should be familiar to them. 

A physician friend, now retired, once offered an interesting observation:

If the physician would listen, the patient will generally tell what's wrong with them.

Apparently attentive listening is a skill not widely taught in medical schools or mastered by medical practitioners.

So, as the physician attending to an ailing congregation – what changes do the patient's symptoms call for?

Bud Brown / An experienced ministry leader, writer and educator, Bud Brown is co-founder of Turnaround Pastors. He is a change leader in many venues — small rural, upscale suburban and mega-sized churches. Bud also trains pastors in conferences, workshops and coaching sessions. You can reach him by emailing

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Prayer does not work according to a fixed formula

Dr. Philip Yancey writes the following on his blog:

Prayer can be frustrating, confusing, and fraught with mystery.  I probe such questions as: Is God listening? Why should God care about me? If God knows everything, what’s the point of prayer? How can I make prayer more satisfying?  Why do so many prayers go unanswered? Do prayers for healing really matter?  Does prayer change God?

I began with a list of such questions, then   I studied all 650 prayers in the Bible and interviewed scores of people about their own experiences with prayer.  The process of writing caused a revolution in my own conception and practice of prayer.

I now see it not so much as a way of getting God to do my will as a way of being available to get in the stream of what God wants to accomplish on earth.

This evening at Gastonia First Wesleyan Church we will gather at 7:00pm in the Worship Center to explore session 5 of this series:
Prayer Problems
Prayer does not work according to a fixed formula: get your life in order; say the right words; and the desired results will come. If that were true, Job would have avoided much suffering, Paul would have shed his thorn in the flesh, and Jesus would never have gone to Golgothia. Between the two questions, "Does God answer prayer?" and "Will God grant my specific prayer for this sick child or this particular injustice?" lies a great proof of mystery.   - Philip Yancey

Join us for this teaching followed by a powerful time of prayer.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Pastors Help People ‘Find Deeper Meaning in a Changing World’

Mark Zuckerberg’s personal challenge for 2017 is to visit and meet people in every state in the U.S. A recent trip to Texas allowed Zuckerberg to better understand the work of some ministers in Waco.

Zuckerberg commented on the pastors’ intentions to help their congregations “find deeper meaning in a changing world.” While he met with a diverse group of people in Texas, he said the experience helped him “understand just how important community is” and that “we’re all just looking for something we can trust.”

Zuckerberg is the founder of Facebook and is increasingly becoming more involved in humanitarian efforts. In August, Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla, met Pope Francis and told him “how much we admire his message of mercy and tenderness.” The couple also expressed their admiration for how the Pope has found ways to “communicate with people of every faith around the world.” And while Zuckerberg, who was raised in a Jewish home, does not claim to adhere to any one religion, he stated on his Facebook page around Christmas that he is not an atheist, and believes “religion is very important.”

Speaking about his personal challenge to visit every state this year, Zuckerberg says he wants to “talk to more people about how they’re living, working and thinking about the future.” These are excellent questions to pose to Christians as we are constantly thinking of how we are living, how we are working toward securing more people into God’s Kingdom, and what that Kingdom is going to look like when it comes to fruition.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Science points us to God

Someone may have told you at one time that the Bible isn’t scientifically accurate. That person is wrong. He or she has either never studied the Bible or never studied science.

God set up the laws of science; he made sure that his Word doesn’t contradict those laws.

Johannes Kepler, the famous mathematician and astronomer, once said, “Science is simply thinking God’s thoughts after him.” In other words, God established the laws of physics, and then we discover them.

The Bible wasn’t meant to be a scientific textbook. You don’t study the Bible to build a rocket. And the Bible doesn’t use scientific language. But the Bible never gives bad science! Not once during the 1,600 years in which the Bible was written does it give bad science. In fact, it’s always ahead of science.

For example:

  • For thousands of years, people believed that the earth was flat. But God said 2,600 years ago in Isaiah 40:22 that God is enthroned above the sphere of the earth.
  • For thousands of years, people believed something held the earth up. Hindus believed huge elephants did it. The Greeks believed Atlas did it. The Egyptians believed five columns held the earth up. The Bible never says that anything is holding the planet up.
  • For thousands of years, people believed that the number of stars were finite. But Jeremiah 33:22 says the number of stars can’t be counted.

In 1861 a very famous book came out called “Fifty-one Incontrovertible Proofs that the Bible is Scientifically Inaccurate.” Today, you can’t find a single scientist on the planet who would agree with any one of those “incontrovertible facts.” They’ve all been disproved by science. 

The Bible says, “Praise him, you highest heaven and the water above the sky. Let them praise the name of the Lord because they were created by his command. He set them in their places forever and ever. He made it a law that no one can break” (Psalm 146:4-6 GW).

You can’t say that the second law of thermodynamics works today but not tomorrow. It always works because it is true and made by God.

Truth doesn’t change.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

Did you miss it - or - Want to share it with a friend? Football Sunday 2017

Do you miss the presentation today at First Wesleyan Church Gastonia?  The Main Event was blessed by God!

Here is another opportunity to see the presentation
or share it with a friend:

Today is a day for overcomers - Football Sunday 2017

Today is going to be  a wonderful day at First Wesleyan Church.

Here is a preview of out time together today and also the pre-game clip I plan to show following the Chili and Soup
Cook-off this evening that begins at 5:30pm

Saturday, February 4, 2017

Join us for FOOTBALL SUNDAY 2017

Tomorrow at First Wesleyan Church in Gastonia NC is going to be AWESOME!   Plan now to join us for FOOTBALL SUNDAY 2017

Here is the order of worship we have prepared:

A Special presentation by Amy Ledbetter:

Here is the invitation:

Who will you invite to join you to church tomorrow?

Friday, February 3, 2017

The Church is the greatest force on earth!

The Church is the most magnificent concept ever created. It has survived persistent abuse, horrifying persecution and widespread neglect. Yet despite its faults (due to our sinfulness), it is still God’s chosen instrument of blessing and has been for 2,000 years.

The Church will last for eternity, and because it is God’s instrument for ministry here on Earth, it is truly the greatest force on the face of the Earth. That’s why I believe tackling the world’s biggest problems—the giants of spiritual lostness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease and ignorance—can only be done through the Church.

The Church has eight distinct advantages over the efforts of business and government:

1. The Church provides for the largest participation.

Most people have no idea how many Christians there are in the world: More than 2 billion people claim to be followers of Jesus Christ. That’s one third of the world’s population! The Church has about a billion more people than the entire nation of China.

For example, close to 100 million people in the United States went to church this past weekend. That’s more people than will attend sporting events in the United States throughout this year. The Church is the largest force for good in the world. Nothing else even comes close.

2. The Church provides for the widest distribution.

The Church is everywhere in the world. There are villages that have little else, but they do have a church. You could visit millions of villages around the world that don’t have a school, a clinic, a hospital, a fire department or a post office. They don’t have any businesses. But they do have a church. The Church is more widely spread—more widely distributed—than any business franchise in the world.

Consider this: The Red Cross noted that 90 percent of the meals they served to victims of Hurricane Katrina were actually cooked by Southern Baptist churches. Many churches were able to jump into action faster than the government agencies or the Red Cross. Why? The Church is literally everywhere, and Christians who could provide help to the Gulf Coast communicated with Christians in need of help so relief could be sent immediately.

3. The Church provides the longest continuation.

The Church has been around for 2,000 years. We’re not a fly-by-night operation. The Church has a track record that spans centuries: Malicious leaders have tried to destroy it, hostile groups have persecuted it and skeptics have scoffed at it. Nevertheless, God’s Church is bigger now than ever before in history.

Why? Because it’s the Church that Jesus established, and it is indestructible. The Bible calls the Church an unshakable kingdom. In Matthew 16:18, Jesus says, “I will build my Church and all the powers of hell will not conquer it” (NLT). All the powers of hell—in other words, no hurricane, no earthquake, no tsunami, no famine, no pandemic, no army will ever conquer the Church established by Jesus Christ.

4. The Church provides the fastest expansion.

Did you know that every day 60,000 new people come to believe in Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior? By the end of today, thousands of new churches will be started throughout the world, and that will happen tomorrow and the next day and the next.

In one country that is closed to traditional Christian missions, more than 60,000 house churches have been started in one province by the work of lay people, no different from the people who fill your church sanctuary every weekend.

Why is fast expansion important? If you’ve got a problem that’s growing at a rapid rate, then you need a solution that will grow even more rapidly. For instance, HIV/AIDS is growing at an incredibly fast rate in the world. Yet thank God the Church is outgrowing the disease, so more and more believers can help minister to those with HIV/AIDS.

If we’re going to tackle global giants like poverty, disease or illiteracy, then we must be part of something that’s growing faster than the problem. The Church is doing just that!

5. The Church provides the highest motivation.

Why do any of us do what we do in ministry? It’s not to make money, not to make a name for ourselves and not for duty to our nation. We do it out of love. Jesus stated it as the Great Commandment: Love God with all your heart and love your neighbor as yourself. We wouldn’t do the hard work required to tackle these global giants for money, for fame or for anything else. It just wouldn’t be worth it; we’d quit before the end.

We’re motivated to keep at the hard work of ministry because we love God, and our love for God compels us to love other people. It is love that never gives up; it is love that keeps moving forward despite the appearance of impossible odds; and it is love that outlasts any problem.

6. The Church provides the strongest authorization.

God authorized the Church to take on global giants, such as spiritual lostness, egocentric leadership, poverty, disease and ignorance. With God’s authorization, the outcome is guaranteed to be successful.

When you know that God has authorized you to do something, you don’t worry about failure because God doesn’t sponsor flops. If God says we’re going to do it, it’s going to happen. It is inevitable. In fact, the Bible teaches that God will give us his power to complete the task. This is God’s way—ordinary people empowered by his Spirit.

7. The Church provides the simplest administration.

The Church is organized in such a way that we can network faster and with less bureaucracy than most governmental agencies or even well-meaning charities. For instance, the organizational structure at Saddleback, which is based on the New Testament model, holds that every member is a minister. Each person in our church family is encouraged to use his or her own SHAPE (Spiritual gifts, Heart, Abilities, Personality, Experiences) to do what God has called him or her to do. There is no bureaucracy or hierarchy. There isn’t a single committee, and the process doesn’t require a long list of approvals.

The old wineskin of command and control won’t work well in the 21st century. The organization of the future is the “network.” And there’s no better worldwide network than the Church, where every member is a minister and empowered to do what God wants done.

Consider it this way—tens of millions of Christians in millions of small groups that are part of churches around the world can take on the global giants with no other authority than that given from Jesus Christ. In other words, we have God’s permission and we have God’s command to do it. There is no need to seek permission from anyone else.

8. The Church provides for God’s conclusion.

Since we believe the Bible is God’s Word, we already know the end of history. Jesus said in Matthew 24:14, “The good news about God’s Kingdom will be preached in all the world to every nation, and then the end will come” (NCV). It is inevitable and unavoidable.

When you consider these eight advantages, think about the exponential explosion of ministry when millions upon millions of small groups in millions upon millions of churches organize in such a way that each person can do their part in attacking the five global giants.

What do you think could happen if God’s people prayed against these global giants, prepared for action against these giants and then moved through faith to tackle these giants?

We may look at these problems and think, “These are too big! How could we possibly solve them?”

But with God, nothing is impossible—and if we all work together as his Church, we’ll see these giants fall just as Goliath fell when faced with David’s obedience to God.

Pastor, it is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility to lead a local church. God wouldn’t have placed you where you are if he didn’t believe you could handle the task before you. You play a vital role in tackling these global giants. It is my privilege to co-labor with you.

Source:  Rick Warren

Thursday, February 2, 2017

5 Big Mistakes Pastors Make Every Sunday

“For pastors, Sunday can be the most draining day of the week. As a result, we can make one or more these five mistakes.”

“It’s important to periodically ask ourselves what is brewing below the surface of our lives.”

For pastors, Sunday can be the most draining day of the week. Intense people interaction, teaching or preaching, seeing our critics, trying to remember names and attempting to put our own problems aside to listen to other peoples’ problems—they add up to a stress-filled day. The very day we want to be at our best requires more from us than any other day.

As a result, we can easily make one or more of the five biggest mistakes pastors make on Sundays. Evaluate this list to find out how many you make. Following the list are some suggestions on how to avoid these mistakes.

1. Failure to Recognize Allostatic Load

This term describes the wear and tear on our body from chronic stress. Our bodies have limits. Yet, when we are under stress for long periods of time, our bodies suffer.

Prolonged stress causes sustained high levels of the stress hormone cortisol, which, along with an overabundance of other neurotransmitters and hormones, can cause heart problems, weight gain, impaired immunity, decreased memory due to brain cell atrophy and diminished brain functioning.

If we don’t manage our stress during the week, we will limit our ability to function at our best on Sundays.

2. Too Much Emotional Labor

Psychologists call the emotional work necessary for any job emotional labor. It’s the effort required to put on a public face when we interact with others. Unless you’re a grump or you hole up in your office until right before the Sunday service, your role requires considerable emotional labor as you interact with people on Sundays.

However, when we surface-act too much, putting on a fake smile, we’ll quickly use up the energy stores God gave us for the day.

3. People Pleasing

I based my third book, People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership, on extensive research of more than 2,000 pastors. I discovered that over 70 percent of pastors self-assessed themselves as being affected in some way by people pleasing.

As humans, we have a basic drive to be liked. Rejection actually physically hurts because social pain registers in the same part of our brains as does physical pain. On Sunday when we get sucked into trying to make everybody happy (by saying yes too much and/or saying what people want to hear), we quickly get drained.

4. The “Sacrifice Syndrome”

Richard Boyatzis and Annie McKee, authors of Resonant Leadership, coined a concept called power stress to describe a kind of stress unique to leaders: “Power stress is part of the experience that results from the exercise of influence and sense of responsibility felt in leadership positions.”

McKee and Boyatzis explain that when the demands of leadership get so high and leaders fail to manage it, they risk becoming trapped in what they call the Sacrifice Syndrome.

Sometimes we leaders feel so overly responsible for the success of our churches that we get caught in a vicious cycle of unhealthy sacrifice for others that leads to burnout. And often that weight drains us on Sundays.

5. “Continuous Partial Attention” (CPA)

Linda Stone, author and consultant, developed this phrase to describe the mental trap we easily fall into when we constantly scan our surroundings to look for the best opportunities upon which to focus our attention. It happens when we “skim” and pay attention, but only partially.

When this happens to you, you won’t focus on the most important tasks at hand and will get further behind on mission-critical issues. Then, you must rush to get the important things done, which in turn contributes to chronic stress.

On Sundays when we are listening to someone and we try to scan the crowd to see who else may want to talk to us (CPA), our energy stores get burned up faster than if we paid full attention to one person.

So what can we do to avoid these Sunday traps? I’m still learning to wisely manage myself on Sundays, but I’ve found that four practices help me avoid those four mistakes.

1. Exercise on Sunday Morning

For years, research has shown that exercise benefits our body. But recent research has discovered that it benefits our brains, as well.

When we exercise, it causes our brains to release a protein called brain derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), which has been called the Miracle-Gro for the brain. It encourages new neuronal growth and protects brain cells from stress.

Exercise also releases pain-dampening neurotransmitters—endorphins—which trigger positive feelings in our bodies, similar to what morphine does. On Sunday mornings I usually exercise 30 minutes about two hours before our service begins. This positive mood benefit can last a few hours.

2. Statio

Statio describes a Christian monastic practice that we might call a “mini-transition” between events of the day. It’s a moment between moments when we pause from one task before going to the next. It allows us to break our hurry, obtain closure from the prior task and prepare our hearts and minds for what comes next.

Leaders who practice this can turn down their body’s fight-flight system (the sympathetic nervous system) and engage the rest-and-digest system (the parasympathetic system), which makes us calmer.

Try to practice this between tasks and interactions with people on Sunday mornings. When I remember to do it, my racing mind calms down. Read this post by Daniel Schroeder to learn more about statio.

3. Adequate Sleep the Night Before

“When we don’t get enough sleep, we rob our brains of important neural functions because the brain is actually very active during sleep. Although the brain never really shuts down, it’s only truly at rest during non-REM sleep, which accounts for only 20 percent of our normal sleep cycle. During the other 80 percent, sleep helps the brain encode, strengthen, stabilize and consolidate our memories from the day. Our brain replays what we have learned during the day to make our memories stick. Sleep also plays an important role in learning.”

I can’t overestimate the benefits of getting a good night’s sleep the night before Sunday. It works wonders in my ability to be at my best on Sundays.

4. Strategic Use of Caffeine

Yep, I said” caffeine.” Moderate use of caffeine brings several benefits, including blocking the sleep neurotransmitter adenosine (that’s the mechanism behind caffeine as a waker-upper), increased energy, and a better mood You can read my post here about caffeine.

Sunday is great day because it reminds us that Jesus rose from the dead. Yet, it’s also a draining day. Consider applying one or two of these pointers this Sunday and see if it helps you be your best.

What has helped you be your best on Sundays?

Charles Stone - the senior pastor of West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, the founder of StoneWell Ministries and the author of several books, including most recently Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry. This post was originally published on

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Praying the Bible—A Framework for Unity

So when they heard that, they raised their voice to God with one accord and said: “Lord, You are God, who made heaven and earth and the sea, and all that is in them, who by the mouth of Your servant David have said: ‘Why did the nations rage, and the people plot vain things?’” Acts 4:24–26

The early disciples not only studied and preached the Word of God, they prayed the Scripture. In fact, while the apostles were wrestling to find a solution in the midst of the growing pains of the church in Jerusalem, they emphatically declared they must continually give themselves to the ministry of the Word and the ministry of prayer as their priority (Acts 6:4). Ministry of the Word in this context obviously centers around proclaiming and teaching the gospel. However, I personally believe the ministry of the Word in the context of the early church included the application of the Scripture in prayer and in worship.

Praying the Bible is one of the most rewarding engagement experiences. It essentially demands we put our faith in God’s Word and utter it back to Him, expecting Him to stay true to His Word in His time. We often do not know how to pray or we lack the language of prayer. The Bible provides us with the basic language of communion with God. Praying and agreeing with the truth in the Bible also assures us we are praying in the will of God, and He delights to perform that which was written in His Word.

Now this is the confidence that we have in Him, that if we ask anything according to His will, He hears us. And if we know that He hears us, whatever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we have asked of Him. (1 John 5:14–15)

In the context of private prayers, the Word of God provides us framework, guidance, confidence in His will and language for prayer. In a group prayer context, the Word of God provides a solid point of agreement, which fosters unity in prayers and provides the core language of prayers.

Group prayers are often anemic in the church because the people of God have a limited language of prayer and are often embarrassed or shy to publicly utter their limited expressions of prayer. When the language of the Scripture undergirds our prayers, we have more confidence to utter them publicly and elaborate on them.

I pray the Bible in private and in public. In my private prayers, I have more liberty to let my emotions be mingled into my utterance and expression, but in public, unity in prayer with those with whom I pray is of the utmost importance. Therefore, I often use the text of the Bible, especially using as my anchor prayers prayed by saints as recorded in the Bible. From that shared foundation, I will continue praying by applying those biblical requests to our present context.

This is true when we pray with thousands of believers in a congregation or in a small group of two or three people. I love to pray through the Psalms privately and publicly. While writing Bible 360°, I have been praying through Psalm 91 with a group of fervent young adults. We pray through key phrases of each verse and apply them to our personal, family, ministry, missional and national needs. Let’s take the first verse as an example:

He who dwells in the secret place of the Most High shall abide under the shadow of the Almighty. (Psalm 91:1)

Several members of my prayer group were heard praying these utterances in Jesus’ name, based on Psalm 91:1,

“Father, we desire to abide in Your secret place. In that secret place, reveal Your heart to us. We want to hear Your voice, and we want see Your face.”

“We delight to dwell under the shadow, the canopy of Your wings. There we find safety, comfort and delight. Come and cover Your people in the midst of our adversaries. Shine in and through Your people to touch those who are wounded and dying. Let Your shadow be cast long over them, and may they be spared from the heat of life.”

Praying the Bible keeps our prayer focused and unifies us in the will of God. As Christians from various traditions have different expressions and styles of praying, the biblical prayers provide a context for agreement in prayer irrespective of our liturgical tradition. Agreement is crucial when two or three or more believers pray together. Jesus told us that “‘if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven’” (Matthew 18:19). Psalm 133 promises blessings from the Lord when brethren dwell together in unity.

Behold, how good and how pleasant it is
For brethren to dwell together in unity!…
For there the Lord commanded the blessing—
Life forevermore.
(Psalm 133:1–3)