For most people, the Christmas holiday is a wonderful time of the year. Families come together to celebrate Christ’s birth and exchange gifts. Churches welcome one and all to worship Christ, the real Reason for the season. The words “Merry Christmas!” and “Happy Holidays!” seem to be on everyone’s lips.
Not everyone is having a good time, though. It’s a myth that suicides increase at Christmastime. But it’s a very real fact that some people are sad and lonely during this season. As Christian leaders, how do we help the hurting during the holidays?
That’s the question I’m talking about with Dr. Don Lichi in Episode 162 of the Influence Podcast. Dr. Lichi is a licensed psychologist and interim president of Emerge Counseling Services in Akron, Ohio.
Andy Williams sang that Christmas is “the most wonderful time of the year.” He was right, though for the wrong reasons. Now, don’t get me wrong! “Parties for hosting, marshmallows for toasting, and caroling out in the snow” are great and everything, but they’re not what Christmas is ultimately about.
In Episode 161 of the Influence Podcast, I talk to Dr. Joseph Castleberry about the real reason why Christmas is such a wonderful time of the year. We also debunk a few myths people believe about Christmas.
Dr. Castleberry is president of Northwest University in Kirkland, Washington, an ordained Assemblies of God minister, and a former missionary to Central America. More germane to this podcast, he’s author of 40 Days of Christmas, published by Broadstreet.
When a problem hits a church, who’s responsible for fixing it?
That’s the question Influencemagazine’s executive editor George P. Wood discusses with Rob Ketterling in Episode 160 of the Influence Podcast.
Ketterling is the founder and lead pastor of River Valley Church, a multisite congregation that currently serves more than 10,000 people weekly in greater metropolitan Minneapolis, Minnesota. He’s also author of the just-released book, Fix It!, which talks about three categories of ownership for problem-solving.
America is angry. Turn on TV news, tune into talk radio, check your timeline on social media, and chances are good you’ll see someone angry—outraged!—about something. Some commentators even worry that our nation is on the verge of a civil war.
It would be nice to say that Christians in America are tamping down the fires of outrage, but unfortunately, that’s not always true. Instead, some Christians are fanning the flames. They’re kicking outrage up to 11.
One Christian leader who’s trying to turn the outrage down is Ed Stetzer. He thinks outrage is unbiblical and anti-Great Commission. In his new book, Christians in the Age of Outrage, he explains why Americans are mad, why that’s bad, and what Christians should do about it.
Stetzer is Billy Graham Distinguished Professor of Church, Mission, and Evangelism at Wheaton College; dean of its School of Mission, Ministry, and Leadership; and executive director of the Billy Graham Center. He talks about his new book with Influencemagazine executive editor George P. Wood in Episode 159 of the Influence Podcast.
According to an October 8, 2018, Pew Research Center report, 62 percent of Americans believe that marijuana use should be legal. That represents a doubling of public support for pot legalization since 2000, and a quintupling since 1969.
Although the federal government still classifies marijuana as a prohibited drug, nine states and the District of Columbia permit its use. On Election Day 2018, several other states will consider referenda to legalize recreational and/or medical marijuana usage.
How should Christians think about these things?
That’s the question Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood explores with Phil Steiger and Chad Graham in Episode 158 of the Influence Podcast.
Steiger and Graham are ordained Assemblies of God ministers and pastors of Living Hope Church and University Assembly, respectively. Both churches are located in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Colorado was the first state in the Union to legalize recreational pot.
To hear more of their thoughts about a Christian view of marijuana use and legalization, check out their Thinker Sensitive Podcast series.
It’s been said that teamwork makes the dream work. That’s true for any organization, but it’s especially true for churches. After all, the business of Church isrelationship—with God and with others.
Unfortunately, many churches experience relational dysfunction in the leadership team, the congregation as a whole, or both. They also often fail to realize the vision for the Church laid out by Christ in the Great Commission. In High Impact Teams, Lance Witt explains why churches don’t have to choose between relationships and results. He then shows how to bring those two things together for greater effectiveness in ministry.
Witt is founder of Replenish, a ministry with two goals: (1) to help individuals live and lead from a healthy soul and (2) to teams and organizations become healthy and high-performing. Before launching Replenish, he served twenty years as a senior pastor and six years as an executive and teaching pastor for Rick Warren at Saddleback Church.
He’s the guest on Episode 157 of the Influence Podcast, which is hosted by George P. Wood, executive editor of Influencemagazine.
Psalm 23 is one of the best recognized and most loved passages of Scripture. For three millennia, its words have comforted believers in good times and bad.
In his new book, Grace in the Valley, Heath Adamson explores a baker’s dozen of lessons the psalm teaches about life and ministry under the Shepherdhood of God.
Heath Adamson serves as chief of staff at Convoy of Hope, “a faith-based, nonprofit organization with a driving passion to feed the world through children’s feeding initiatives, community outreaches and disaster response.” He also serves in leadership roles for Empowered21’s Next Gen Networkand the Next Generation Commissionof the World Assemblies of God Fellowship.
Publishers harvested a bumper crop of atheist book in 2006 and 2007. Letters to a Christian Nationby Sam Harris, The God Delusionby Richard Dawkins, Breaking the Spellby Daniel C. Dennett, and God Is (Not) Greatby Christopher Hitchens come readily to mind, among many others. Each of these book claimed in one way or another that belief in God was intellectually deficient, a matter of faith rather than reason.
The philosophers who contributed to Two Dozen (or So) Arguments for Godbeg to differ. They think there are good reasons to believe that God exists. In Episode 155 of the Influence Podcast, Influencemagazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Jerry L. Walls about good arguments for God.
Walls is Scholar in Residence and Professor of Philosophy at Houston Baptist University, as well as co-editor with Trent Dougherty of Two Dozen (or So) Arguments for God, which is published by Oxford University Press.
Hospitality is a Christian virtue. “Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers,” Hebrews 13:2 tells us, “for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.” According to the apostle Paul, one of the requirements for holding church office is being “hospitable” (1 Timothy 3:2, Titus 1:8). At minimum, hospitality means providing food and shelter for those in need.
But what if that’s only the start? What if hospitality is a mindset that has multiple expressions affecting every aspect of leadership? That’s the question Influencemagazine executive editor George P. Wood explores with Terry A. Smith in Episode 154 of the Influence Podcast.
Terry A. Smith is lead pastor of The Life Christian Churchin West Orange, New Jersey, as well as author of The Hospitable Leader: Create Environments Where People and Dreams Flourish, published by Bethany House. You can learn more about his book at this webpage, specifically created for Influence Podcast listeners.
God designed the Church to run on volunteer power. Every member of the congregation is a spiritually gifted individual, after all, called and empowered to do “the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12 ESV). And yet, many churches experience a chronic shortage of volunteers.
What is the cause of this shortage, and what can pastors and other church leaders do about it?
Those are the questions Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood explores with Jill Fox in Episode 153 of the Influence Podcast. Fox is Ministry Initiatives and Next Gen pastor at Westwood Community Church in Excelsior, Minnesota, and co-author, with Leith Anderson, of two books: The Volunteer Churchand Volunteering, both published by Zondervan.
Cynicism. Compromise. Disconnection. Irrelevance. Pride. Burnout. Emptiness.
No one expects to experience these negative feelings, but everyone does. As Christians and as leaders in the church, the question we need to ask ourselves is what we should do about them.
That’s the question Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood explores with Carey Nieuwhof in Episode 152 of the Influence Podcast. Carey Nieuwhof is pastor of Connexus Church in Barrie, Ontario, and author of Didn’t See It Coming, published by WaterBrook.
This past summer, thousands of Assemblies of God churchgoers went on short-term missions trips. These trips often do much good. They certainly change the people who go on them for the better. But is it a good idea to shift a church’s missions strategy to short-term missions?
Similarly, churches are increasingly supporting “social justice” causes such as anti-human trafficking initiatives and water well drilling as an important part of missions. Granted, these are great causes, but are they missions?
In today’s episode of the Influence Podcast, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks with Doug Clay and Greg Mundis about what missions is and why missions need long-term missionaries. Doug Clay is general superintendent of the Assemblies of God (USA), and Greg Mundis is executive director of Assemblies of God World Missions.
America is in the midst of a generational sea change. Baby Boomers are no longer the nation’s largest generational cohort. Instead, Millennials are.
Unfortunately, Millennials are the least religious generational cohort in our nation’s history. If the Church wants to reach Millennials, it cannot rely on strategies that worked with Boomers. The generations are simply too different.
In today’s episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Geoff Surratt about five tensions churches must manage to successfully engage Millennials.
Together with his wife, Sherry, Geoff is the founder of Ministry Together, which “partners with “ministry leaders for relational health, organizational growth and Kingdom impact.” He is also author of the free e-book, The Church Will Thrive.
Roughly half the U.S. population is male, but fewer men attend church on average than women do. In the Assemblies of God, for example, the latest statistics indicate that men account for 31.5 percent of Sunday morning attendees, while women account for 40.4 percent. This gap in attendance reveals a ministry opportunity.
Earlier this year, Michael Zigarelli — professor of Leadership and Strategy at Messiah College in Mechanicsburg, Pennsylvania — conducted a qualitative survey of seven Protestant churches with greater parity in attendance between men and women. His working paper, “Churches that Attract Men,” identified transferable principles of man-friendly churches and is the springboard for today’s Influence Podcast conversation between him and Influence magazine’s executive editor, George P. Wood.
Topics of conversation include why attracting men is a good church-growth strategy and what man-friendly churches have in common. But Zigarelli also addresses “pushback questions”: Why are we talking about man-friendly churches in a culture that’s talking about “toxic masculinity”? Does being man-friendly trade on shopworn gender stereotypes or complementarian views of church leadership? And does attracting men create a void of ministry to women and children?
It’s an interesting, informative conversation, so make sure to listen to the entire thing!
In today’s episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Chris Sonksen about his new book, Quit Church: Because Your Life Would Be Better If You Did, published by Baker Books.
Sonksen believes too many American Christians take a "noncommittal, casual approach" to both God and the Church. By doing so, they miss out on the tremendous blessings God has for them. Quit Church is about quitting nominal religion and practicing a vibrant faith.
Chris Sonksen is pastor of South Hills Church, a multisite congregation in southern California; founder of Church Boom; author of When Your Church Feels Stuck; and an Assemblies of God minister.
Religious liberty has emerged as a particularly contentious issue in American public discourse, especially in light of President Donald Trump’s nomination of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to succeed Justice Anthony Kennedy on the U.S. Supreme Court. But religious liberty didn’t become controversial overnight. Indeed, if history is any guide, religious liberty has been a controversial issue in the United States since its founding.
In today’s episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Brandon J. O’Brien about Isaac Backus, a Baptist who led the fight for religious liberty during America’s founding era. Backus’ example is both inspiring and instructive, shedding light on what religious liberty means in a contemporary, pluralist America.
O’Brien is director of content and distribution for Redeemer City to City in Manhattan, author of Demanding Liberty, a new biography of Isaac Backus published by InterVarsity Press, and coauthor with E. Randolph Richards of Misreading Scripture with Western Eyesand Paul Behaving Badly.
To be a Christian is to bear witness to Jesus Christ in the place and time in which you live. Every age presents unique challenges to, as well as unique opportunities for, Christian witness. In this episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Prof. Alan Noble about how Christians can bear witness to Christ in the midst of a distracted, secular culture.
Alan Noble is assistant professor of English at Oklahoma Baptist University, cofounder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture, and author of Disruptive Witness: Speaking Truth in a Distracted Age, published by IVP Books and hitting bookstores on Tuesday, July 17.
Spiritual warfare is a component of every Christian’s life and ministry (Ephesians 6:10–20). Pastors are often on its frontlines, however. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Wayne and Kristi Northup share what they have learned about this often overlooked aspect of the Christian life.
The Northups are co-lead pastors of Saints Community Churchin New Orleans, Louisiana. They planted the church in 2011 with a vision to win a city, starting congregations throughout the greater New Orleans area. They have three children.
Jeffrey and Joanne Portmann planted Newhope Church in Puyallup, Washington, on Easter Sunday in 2014. From the outset, their vision was to have five locations within five years. Today, Newhope has five campuses throughout South Puget Sound.
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Influence senior editor John Davidson talks to Jeffrey Portmann about how pastors and churches can implement a multiplication philosophy whatever their current size or location.
Over the past eight years, LifePoint Church in Clarksville, Tennessee, experienced explosive growth. That was good news, of course, but it created stresses throughout the organization, in terms of both personnel and finances. Indeed, the stresses almost caused Pastor Mike Burnette to leave the ministry entirely.
Few pastors lead churches that experience explosive growth, which is always a sovereign move of God. But all pastors experience heightened levels of stress. In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Burnette shares his experience of burnout and identifies practices that will replenish a leader's soul.
Husbands and wives ministering alongside one another in the church is common. Indeed, it has biblical precedents in ministry couples like Priscilla and Aquila and Andronicus and Junia (Romans 16:3, 7). But working together, even in ministry, presents unique challenges to healthy marriages.
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, Influence magazine senior editor John Davidson talks to Geoff and Sherry Surratt about how ministry couples can have thriving marriages.
The Surratts are founders of Ministry Together, and coauthors of Together: A Guide for Doing Ministry Together. Geoff wrote a feature story on multisite churches for the March/April 2018 issue of Influence magazine.
May is Mental Health Month. In today’s episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Dr. Stephen Grcevich about a mental health inclusion strategy for the local church.
Dr. Grcevich is founder and president of Key Ministry. He is a child and adolescent psychiatrist with over thirty years of clinical experience and extensive research experience evaluating medication prescribed to children and teens for mental health disorders. A past recipient of the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, he is the author of Mental Health and the Church, published this year by Zondervan.
Yesterday—May 20, 2018—was Pentecost Sunday. Many churches marked the occasion with a special emphasis on the person and work of the Holy Spirit.
In today’s podcast, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks to Dr. Jim Bradford about how pastors can create environments for people to be filled — and refilled — with the Holy Spirit on a regular basis.
Dr. Bradford is the outgoing general secretary of the Assemblies of God. After nine years in that position, he is returning to ministry in the local church as senior pastor of Central Assembly of God in Springfield, Missouri.
May is National Foster Care Month.
In today’s episode, Influence magazine executive editor George P. Wood talks with Jay Mooney and Johan Mostert about how churches can support foster care parents and thus solve the twin problems of America’s foster care system: capacity and stability.
Jay Mooney is executive director of COMPACT Family Services, formerly Assemblies of God Family Services Agency. Johan Mostert is director of COMPACARE, one of COMPACT’S initiatives.
To learn more about COMPACT Family Services, go to CompassionateAction.com, or follow it on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
Episode 139 Notes
People--including practicing Christians--are neither as morally good as they should be nor as morally bad as they could be. This is the sanctification gap, the distance between who we are and who we should be.
In this episode of the Influence Podcast, executive editor George P. Wood talks to Christian Miller about how to close that gap. Miller is A. C. Reid Professor of Philosophy at Wake Forest University and director of the Character Projected, funded by the John Templeton Foundation and Templeton World Charity. He is also author of The Character Gap: How Good Are We? (Oxford University Press).
Episode 137 Notes