The Virtual Extension to Faith Forward Forum | Jan 22-24, 2007

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Our Generation’s Defining Moment:

By Judah Smith [bio for event]

Christianity in the United States is in a defining moment. We have reached a point of critical mass. If, as a whole, the Church is unmoved in this time, history will record our irresponsibility and the America we know today will cease to exist.

Today we have the emergence of the largest generation that has ever existed in our nation’s history. This generation is larger than even the “boomers.” They have been called the “busters.” Although they number millions more than the boomers, yet only 4% claim to be Christians.

The boomers, who run America, claim over 30% Christianity, yet we fight moral wars from the White house to the school house. Imagine for a moment an America run by a generation larger than the boomers yet claiming only 4% Christianity!

If we lose this generation, we lose America. Ron Luce is leading this charge to rescue the youth of America and I stand with him! We know the vast majority of believers come to Christ before the age of twenty. We have five short years left before this massive generation crosses the threshold of twenty.

This is my mandate. As a father of two boys, what kind of America will I leave to them? Even as I write this I hold a pacifier in my youngest son’s mouth. I look at his newborn face and I am overcome with a sense of responsibility and mandate to hand him a nation under God.

The answer to this crisis is clear-the Church of Jesus Christ! Christ, in and through His Church, is the hope of the world. There is no other hope.

Our Churches MUST grow. The question is not, “Will it take place?” but, “Who will it take place through?” Your Church MUST grow, your city MUST be reached and America MUST be saved. Will it happen through us? Or will the world have to wait for another era, another generation who will meet the "MUST" of God? God always needs a man to meet His “MUST”—I pray it will be you and me!

Generation Church, our youth ministry in Seattle, has picked up this "MUST" and is ready to do whatever is necessary to meet it! We presently have over 1500 students in weekly attendance in our four locations. We plan to add a thousand more young people within the next few months.

Our vision is simple—to disciple 10,000 weekly in 10 locations in 10 years! We have six years left and are on the verge of experiencing true Book of Acts multiplication.

Nearly three years ago we started a service on the University of Washington campus in its main lecture hall. We filled it with over 700 by the end of last school year. We have just purchased a multimillion dollar building right on fraternity row, steps from the main entrance to the University, and have begun our services there. We expect to add multiple services very soon. We have seen hundreds of converts and expect to see thousands in the next few years.

I believe there is a great and effective door open to the Church on University campuses in America! We MUST see a sovereign move of God in the Universities!

Recently I have been challenged by Ron Luce to double and disciple our entire youth ministry every year for the next five years, which would put us at about 48,000 students. Why not!?! If we really serve the God who desires all men to be saved, our desires should reflect His!

I truly believe this will be the Church’s finest hour, not only in America but around the world! God is raising up a new generation to meet His MUST! Will you be a part of God’s MUST?

Judah Smith is Generation Pastor @ The City Church  Seattle, Washington

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Faith In America:

By Rev. Miles McPherson [bio for event]

Faith is a hot topic at the moment, being talked about in the media, the news and through outlets. Even though it is encouraging that the conversations are happening, that biblically-based movies are being made and that Jesus’ name and character are being portrayed; I also see the hand of the author of confusion in the process. The content of those conversations are not always biblical, and if taken from the Bible, not always truthful to the context and heart of scripture. At times it seems that faith is being repositioned as a thing to be achieved on its own, transcending any and all forms of religion. That faith, no matter what in, is enough to propel man towards true understanding. As I look into the future and consider faith in America and the world, I am very concerned.

The “old-school” truths of the gospel are being replaced or completely omitted for the sake of inclusiveness, with the idea that everyone should just “get along”. America, and at times the Church, is turning its back on the uncompromising sacrificial life of biblical discipleship. With this, the sense of right and wrong in this nation seems to be crumbling faster and faster right before our eyes. This sense of right and wrong, our moral compass, is what has made this nation great over the last few hundred years.

The more pluralistic our culture grows and the more the Church strives to be inclusive and politically correct, the more watered down our message becomes. Jesus is the very person of truth. If we de-elevate Christ in any way to make room for other socially accepted gods and prophets, He is no longer Christ our Savior; He’s just a man among men. If we do this, we will have traded the Truth for a handful of convenient lies. The devil is systematically removing Jesus from our society; Christ is being taken out of Christmas and prayer is being taken out of schools. We are going out of our way to promote beliefs that are completely contrary to the Bible. God told us not to have any other gods before Him, yet we are in the process of doing just that.

God has blessed us as a nation because we have honored Him with our beliefs and actions, and if we continue to move away from Him, we will experience less of His blessings and protection. Has America become like the nation of Israel in the book of Judges, doing what is right in our own eyes? Have we come to believe the lie of Genesis chapter three that we are like God and can decide right and wrong on our own? It seems this is already happening: child molesters get out on just probation and young kids filled with hatred and anger murder their parents and classmates.

Trusting in Him and honoring Him as the only true God is the foundation of life and once the foundation is destroyed the building will fall. If we do not live from this truth then we are in diabolical opposition to God. Our hearts are dead to the Spirit and we have given up the life of Christ. If we do not choose Christ, we have a very dangerous road ahead of us.

As pastor of the Rock Church, I am very aware of the danger before us, not only to the church community and our identity, but the effects on America as a nation. I feel a strong responsibility to leverage the immeasurable power of God to bring the highest benefit to the people of the Church and the world.

My fear is that young people, who are just learning about God and do not have the knowledge of how He was represented ten to twenty years ago, are being cheated out of the opportunity to make an intelligent and informed decision about their faith. They are being told, right out of the shoot, that this is a multiple-choice test when in fact it is not. In the long run this satanic strategy will destroy the faith of an entire generation if we do not do something biblically drastic.

Our mission at the Rock church is to Save Equip and Send out soul winners for Jesus Christ. There are no gimmicks. We simply believe in fulfilling the great commission and obeying God’s Word. We are compelled to promote “old school” evangelism in a new, updated package. The way we “do” church may be non-traditional, some may even consider it controversial, but who we are and what we preach is based on the very politically incorrect belief that faith must be placed in Jesus Christ alone. We use terms like soul winner and God’s ARMY which may seem out dated as they are seldom used in our modern terminology, but we believe them to be a staple of our belief system and activities. We teach all 7,500 members of our congregation that they are soul winners in God’s ARMY and that our singular goal is to make disciples who will in turn make other disciples. We accomplish this goal by employing three “old-school” strategies.

The first is enlistment. We believe people need to be given the opportunity to meet the God of the Bible and He will take care of the rest. We do this by conducting altar calls and asking people to take a simple step of faith toward God, challenging them to believe in and act on God’s promise that He will change their life. We do not believe that a message has to be eternally complicated to be eternally beneficial.

The second strategy is basic training. Once someone has chosen to believe the truth about Jesus Christ, it is essential that they learn how to live from that truth. We believe that being accountable to someone who knows the truth and can speak wisdom into their life is key. Through this training and discipleship period we, in a sense, dare people to challenge biblical truth and if it does not work to walk away. So far God’s truth has always worked and we believe it always will.

Finally, once their basic training and discipleship is completed it comes time for deployment. Each member of the ARMY must reach out to those who are still lost and unsaved. Everyone who comes to Christ walked out of some sort of destructive lifestyle. They need to go back like Matthew of Bible and invite their friends to meet Jesus. As part of this strategy it is our goal to create an opportunity to be saved in every segment of society where someone is lost.

This is how we, at the Rock Church are working to keep faith real. No matter what strategies churches may use or how they “do” church, we must stand firm in the truth. “Old school” faith believes uncompromisingly that God is who He says He is, that He has plan for our lives and that all we have to do is choose Him. My prayer is that more people will go “old school” with the gospel and watch what only God can do – change lives.

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Christmas is Coming, and Christ is Making a Comeback:

By Dr. Ted Baehr [bio for event]

I believe our nation is on the threshold of a major revival, perhaps not equaled since the Great Awakening. The signs are there – some of them subtle, some not-so-subtle. One important sign is what appears to be the re-emergence of Jesus Christ in Christmas.

Christians have long known that it is more important to be “correct” than “politically correct.” Christmas is about Christ, and that is “correct,” accurate and true to history and tradition. Santa Claus, reindeer, wreaths, Christmas trees are fine, but what it is all about is the birth of the Messiah. Christmas heralds the turning point in history.

There is now evidence that our prayers over the last few years are being answered. Hollywood, Big Business – they seem to be finally getting the message: There are believers out there! God is alive and well in the popular culture!

Yes, the Christ-child is creeping back into Christmas. No, let me rephrase that – Christ is marching triumphantly back into Christmas. Hollywood is recognizing it, as are Wal-Mart, Kohl’s, Sears, Macy’s and others.

The tide is starting to turn.

The new movie, “The Nativity Story,” to open Dec. 1 in more than 3,000 theaters nationwide, will be a welcome reprieve from the usual holiday fare of action, violence, cornball comedy, and even those films that revolve around “the holiday season.”

Incidentally, “The Nativity Story” will make history when it premieres at the Vatican. That hasn’t happened before, as far as a feature film is concerned.

People, especially families, will want to go together to see this remarkable movie. Children will want to see it. Church members will go in groups. And yes, non-Christians will go out of curiosity. And how they will be rewarded – not just by a wonderful, dramatic, engaging movie, but one that tells the ultimate truth of what Christmas is all about.

I believe the movie is destined to become a Christmas classic. So move over “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Home Alone.” You’ve got some real, make that REAL, competition.

The movie is incredibly true to the authenticity of Scripture. Filmed in extraordinarily vivid color, it begins with a passage from Jeremiah. The rest of the movie references and quotes the Bible. The script was written by a Christian, Mike Rich, whose credits include “Finding Forrester.” Costuming and settings are authentic.

In short, it is a near perfect movie.

With all the fallout from fallen leaders and election turnabouts, Christians have an opportunity this year to put aside political agendas and really focus on what Christmas is all about. The distractions are behind us. Let us not miss this wonderful, crucial opportunity to proclaim the birth of our Lord in the highways and byways, yes, even in the marketplaces and the movies.

Dr. Ted Baehr is a noted critic, educator, lecturer and media pundit. He is founder and publisher of Movieguide ( and is chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission. For more information, please go to:

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Five Issues in which I have moved from Deconstruction:

By Todd Hunter [bio for event]

The answer to deconstructing ineffective, unethical, manipulative or even just “religious CEO” leadership is not to throw out leadership altogether. In the Bible, in the history of cultures, and even in the animal world, there is no such thing as “no leadership.” Leadership simply exists; it is more like the law of gravity than an option—like say a sunroof—on a car. We have many options for constructing positive alternatives for leadership, but “no leadership” is not one of them. Taking a no leadership tack just creates a vacuum that sucks up into it the neediest, most verbal and often most unhealthy people. This is why a radical, uncritical egalitarian approach will not work. There are differences among people. The Bible uses language like “gifts” and “callings” to describe these differences. This does not have to lead to power game hierarchy any more than it has to lead to mindless egalitarianism. Let’s think body life, humility and celebration of diversity. Leadership is simply a task: it doesn’t have to be sexy or celebrity driven; it can be functional, for the good of the body and the world, and done with holiness (see Jesus).

In the emerging church scene, there is much tension these days over the intention to evangelize. But, as above, the answer to wrong use is not “no-use”—it is right-use. As the people of God, we do not have the option to live unintentional lives with reference to evangelism, social justice, etc. I think a way forward here is to think about the difference between intention and manipulation. To manipulate means to control or play upon another by artful, unfair, or insidious means, especially to one’s own advantage; in dealing with people, to give them an appearance of, but not a real choice in a matter and to do so for selfish interests. To intend something, however, simply means to have a determination to act in a certain way; to aim at a target; to have the resolve to will something into being; to focus one’s capacity to choose on an object or course of action. Intention, thusly conceived, is a natural and normal part of human life. What is needed in evangelism is the following thought: “It is not about me or you.” It is about God and others. Envision with me evangelism bathed in the Golden Rule and the Great Commandment. There: do you feel freer? I do, it gives me an imagination for how to share my faith in ways that others around me are actually freer themselves, not less so. Whether correcting, dining, rebuking or attending a wedding, Jesus was himself utterly and totally free. As a freed man, safe in his Father’s love, as a servant, he was free to intend to help others find the Way.

I see a deconstructive reaction in the alternative church landscape to the work of the Holy Spirit. Having spent a great deal of time around classical Pentecostals, Charismatics and Third-Wavers, I can see why. But again, we are forced to ask if we are throwing out too much baby with the water. My experience in the emerging church world leads me to say that the contemporary church must come to grip with issues of power and authority: who has it, how it is shared, how it is exercised with integrity, ethics and holiness. “Jesus is the head of the church” could be marked “True” on any theological pop-quiz. The same is true for “The Holy Spirit is the continuing presence of Christ in the church.” We move from theological lip service to action by actually repenting for grieving the Holy Spirit. Remember, he can be grieved as easily by being ignored as by bizarre behaviors. Then we invite Him into our communities of faith, we prayerfully listen with the intent of developing a conversational relationship with God—like the ones people had in the Bible. Lastly, we take appropriate risks, in faith, that like a child learning to walk or speak, God will be with us to train and encourage us. Experiential religion is the Biblical norm and the only kind of religion that will fly in post-modernity.

Fearing intention works against us in being “otherly” or missional, too. God did not, after creating Adam and Eve, say: “Now go and merely relate, just have community with each other and with me.” Sometimes we think of work and its associated intentionality as a part of the curse. But it is not so. God actually said to Adam and Eve: Come work with me, be my co-laborers, my sub-contractors in this cool new creation I have just started. It will be utterly satisfying to you—it is what you are made for. And by the way, in the process of doing stuff together, you, the human community, and I will develop genuine, non-utilitarian relationships. Instead of feeling used, you will feel like a devoted dancer who finally got to Carnegie Hall with all her best friends (Hunter’s paraphrase of Genesis). Of course, the fall and the resulting curse changed every thing. But cooperating with God’s intention for humankind takes intention on our part. This is especially true now that we know more than “good”: we “know evil” and how to use it; we know power and authority and how to abuse it. This is why “intending” spiritual formation is so important: so we can become the kinds of people God dreamed of; people like Jesus who only did what He saw the Father doing, only said what He heard the Father saying and who did not count equality with God as something to be grasped. Just try this thought: we cannot live unintentional lives in any important area of life. And despite the language to the contrary, no one is now doing so. Those talking the loudest about “just relationship” or “just community” are actually envisioning and intending a course of action as well. They just intend to leave behind an appropriate negative (manipulation); they intend an absence of something. But “stuff” must be done, action must be taken, decisions must be made to implement that or any other vision. It is like wanting a “garbage-free” room in the house: action is required, one must use their will, and they must determine and intend to pick up the litter in order to free the room of trash.

“I've died a thousand deaths...” Those words have frequently come out of my mouth the past few years as I've tried to answer people’s questions about the transition I've been in. I am not complaining with those words; the deaths were needed and still need to happen. I am better off for it. Losing one’s old life leads to a far superior one according to our Teacher/Savior/Lord. Still, facing "deaths" are a little scary to most normal people. Some of the biggest deaths for me have revolved around leadership. If I led "too much," shutting down the gifts of others, or worse, The Holy Spirit, I felt horrible; if too little, like a dunce who ought to know better after 25 years. Along the way I formulated a question: "What does it mean to function as a leader in a group of people who are supposed to be following someone else (God the Holy Spirit) and someone else’s (God’s) vision to have a redeemed, covenant people who would be his cooperative friends (not for merit, but of grace and “Spirit-strength”) leading constant lives of creative goodness on behalf of the whole world…even up to and including, the new heaven and new earth? Next, I developed a hypothesis: Christian leadership means to serve, coordinate and empower the sovereign given activities of the Holy Spirit in a (usually local) group of people. What is the biggest lesson in this Transition? That I needed “deconstructed,” like Peter having the rooftop revelation, like Paul grappling with ideas of Trinity and the Gentiles, I needed a new imagination for living Christian life. At worst, I have been tempted to let this process shut me down and rob me of so much confidence that I felt backed into a corner from which I could not say anything (“What is truth anyway?) or do anything (“It is just a power play”). If deconstructing faith and church leads there, we have gone down the wrong road. But if it leads to an appropriate dying to self that we might serve Christ as we serve others, then we can all thank God for the influence of postmodern culture.

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The Future of the Faith; “Three Commissions for the Church of the Future:"

By Kenneth C. Ulmer, D.Min., Ph.D. [bio for event]

The Lord has called us to the Kingdom, “for such a time as this.” A time of transition, of political upheaval, of war and rumors of war. A time of poverty, disease, and even wickedness in high places. Yet, this is our time—a time when vast opportunities have opened up to expand the Kingdom of light in this world of darkness.

In these last days, we hear a great call for the church to come out. Come out from the comfort of the padded pews and stained glass windows; and come in to an atmosphere of praise and worship as the coming of the Lord draws near.

We live in a culture more diversified, more cynical, more humanistic than at any time in history. Theological-religious and ethnic-racial pluralism has, in many parts of the world, disintegrated into devastating walls of division. Tension between the great monotheistic religions of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam is poised like a sword over the necks of future innocent victims of the coming storm. However, in these perilous times of spiritual sectarianism, sociological despair, and ethical disparity, God still calls to the church, “Go ye into all the world and make disciples.” In fact, God’s marching orders to the church can be summarized in three commissions: The Great Commission, the Greater Commission, and the Greatest Commission.

The Great Commission
We must never forget the mandate of the great commission: To Go. It is a call to decry the status quo, and do. It speaks of the church as more than a bit player in a chaotic moment in time, or a mere “movement” that comes and goes. Indeed, the Lord is calling us to be the move of God, to be a dynamic organism moving by His empowerment as Head of the Church, and to go into all the world as witnesses for Christ’s Kingdom.

In John 17:4, Jesus prayed, “Father, I have glorified you.” This verse gives the most succinct definition of what it means to glorify God than any other passage in scripture. Jesus is saying that He has glorified God because He completed the work God gave Him to do. Therein lies Jesus’ definition of “glorify”: To do the work of the Lord! There is a sense in which we only glorify God if we do the work He gives us to do. Eugene Peterson captures this revelation in The Message when he cites Jesus as saying, “I glorified you on earth by completing down to the last detail what you assigned me to do.” That’s what it boils down to. We glorify God by doing our assignment. If we do not do what He has called us to do, it doesn’t matter how well we do what we do!

The church has for so long emphasized the “thou shalt not” of the Word and has neglected the positive exhortations to “do.” We only glorify Him to the degree that we do our assignment. Jesus glorified the Father by what He did.

What has God called you to do that you have not yet done? What are you neglecting while concentrating on other things? What has He given you that you are not doing because you are putting your energies into something He called someone else to do? If you are still drawing breath, you still have work to do. Go forth and do it! We are not called to open the window of spiritual pomp and wave to the pilgrims admiring our ecclesiastical laurels. We are called, assigned, and commissioned to “go” into all the world with the love, compassion and power of the Gospel, and make disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. That is our mandate. That should be our motive. To go should be our method.

The Greater Commission
Jesus added an important condition to “go.” As He met with His disciples for the last time before He returned to the Father, He told them, “Wait…” For what? For the coming empowerment of the Holy Spirit. This is the Greater Commission. Jesus has said, “Go.” Yet, He knew He was calling them to the extraordinary task of changing the world by making disciples of Himself. He acknowledged their limitations by telling them they were not quite ready to go. He says, Wait and I will add something extra to your lives: The promise I told you about. And when He adds His extra to your ordinary, you have the power to do the extraordinary.

To go forth in the power of the Holy Spirit is the second commission the Lord presented to the church today. If we go forth in our own power, academic achievements, political connections and personal determination, then the moral, ethical, and spiritual failures the world has watched the church struggle with for two thousand years will only continue.

The Holy Spirit gives us a practical power that enables us to live a God-honoring life before a sin-filled world. Even with the current emphasis on praise and worship, it is not the pseudo-entertainment atmosphere of upbeat music and quasi-spiritual gyrations that changes lives. Lives are affected by the Word of God given by the Spirit, the Will of God revealed by the Spirit, and the Way of God as guided by the Spirit.

Therefore, go—but before you go, wait for God’s power, which enables you to do what you are called to do.

The Greatest Commission
Finally, Jesus gives the Greatest Commission. In Acts 1:8 He says, “You shall receive power after the Holy Spirit comes upon you and you shall be witnesses unto me, in Jerusalem, in Judea, and the uttermost parts of the world.” Did you catch that tiny word? He said that above all we shall “be witnesses.” There it is, the greatest commission: Be!

The tension that the church faces today as we consider what we are to “be” in the world is the fabric of separation between being both attractive and authentic. In an attempt to be attractive, we too often sacrifice authenticity, therefore representing nothing different to a world craving something better. To the other extreme, some of us have become so “authentic” that we drive away a dark and dying world. Yet, it is not enough that people leave church “feeling better;” the goal is that they leave being better.

We are called to address the issue of poverty and must minister to the poor. But, do we? We must respond to the millions who are dying in the worldwide pandemic of AIDS/HIV. Yet, do we? The church—especially in America—must address the economic disenfranchisement of the masses by using our resources to create jobs and economically empower communities on a level that monopolizes our combined influence greater than individuals alone can achieve. So, are we? Such ministry, such aid, such economic empowerment must be done in the context of a message that is both authentic and attractive.

We are called to do ministry in the most exciting time in history. We are called to go into all the world with the message of the Kingdom of our Lord. That is the Great Commission. We are called to wait, and then to go in the power of the Holy Spirit of the Living God. That is the Greater Commission. We are called to change the world by penetrating it in the power of the Holy Spirit Who dwells in us, and by His presence we are called to be His witness. That is the Greatest Commission.
…Shall we?

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Faith Forward – Faith Future:

By Bob Roberts [bio for event]

To try to be a “prophet” in today’s world is nearly impossible. With the speed of change and the introduction of continuously new technology and information – predicting the future for us is like Noah telling people a flood is coming! What’s a flood? They had never seen a flood and didn’t know what one was. But, even in Noah’s day, something was up. People had moved away from God and everyone was on edge. Noah’s building this ark for something he’s never seen. I can’t tell you for sure this is what the future will be. I can tell you this is how we are positioning our church and ministry because it is what we see emerging. My book Transformation gives an overview of how we “do” church with these things in mind. I could list 15 things – but will focus on just three:

1.GLOBALIZATION is and will continue to dramatically change the faith of Christianity in positive and healthy ways. The church is starting to engage the world and many people say it’s because the church is becoming more mission-minded. I disagree. What is happening is – our church members are involved in global business and marketplace on a daily basis. They travel to nations and do work, like people traveled to different states 25 years ago. As people see more of the world, recognize the needs, they feel ownership and a sense of responsibility to do something about it. For the first time we are connected globally in very intricate and strategic ways – from business to tourism. The forward drive for engaging the world in many churches is coming not from the pastors but from the laymen who are discovering the world like never before. I’m convinced globalization is not the result of technology but the passion of God to connect the entire world so His message of hope and meaning can change people and nations. This is what my book GLOCALIZATION deals with – how do we engage this emerging new world.

Our church adopted the northern part of Vietnam starting in Hanoi over ten years ago to work. It has been incredible. Both for the Vietnamese and us. Sometimes we think we are going to give – failing to realize all we are going to receive from others. Schools, clinics, universities, government issues, micro-business and hundreds of people a year at NorthWood are engaged there.

2.THE FIRST GLOBAL CHURCH PLANTING MOVEMENTS (CPM) will emerge from the East and impact the West thus changing the flow of faith in America. For the first time in the history of the church in the West we are using terminology, and desire something that has been happening in Africa and Asia – church planting movements. To date – I would say there is a lot of church planting taking place – but no legitimate church planting movements in the U.S.. The response and responsibility of the church is multiplication –that’s an obedience issue. Movement is a Holy Spirit issue. We should multiply – and when enough multiplication begins to happen, movements emerge. Multiplication is like tithing – when churches multiply God blesses. Movement is the blessing of the Spirit that comes from giving. For the most part – in the West, church planting is something young guys do – but also something very few churches do in terms of starting churches every year. The action is forgotten – we’ve become more like mules that race horses – even though we have big barns! Currently, we see church planting movements that are tied to specific tribes and nations. In the early Great Awakening they moved as far as the roads and English language would allow. Think about it – we are connected by planes and the internet and English is the global language for the time being – “Chinglish” is being predicted as the new language in 20 years. Once a movement uses these tools watch out! Currently NorthWood plants about 12 churches a year – we long for the day we are planting 50 a year. I’m in the middle of writing a book right now on how to multiply churches out of your local church.

3. THE WORK OF THE CHURCH WILL MOVE FROM THE GOSPEL OF SALVATION TO THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM. If my focus is on salvation – then for the most part my job is complete when someone accepts Christ and all I need to do is get them in my building and listening to my sermon and involved in our programs. If, however, it’s the Gospel of the Kingdom, which is what Jesus, Paul, and the other New Testament writers wrote that’s different. The biggest difference could be seen as this. Most Christians start with Matthew 28 in the Great Commission. They should start with Matthew 5-7 in the Great Sermon on the Mount that describes what a disciple looks like. They should then read Matthew 25 that shows how we’ll be judged by God. Once they get that – then Matthew 28 makes sense. The desire of God is that the whole of society is redeemed. Thus, the implication is we are truly ministers of reconciliation. This means I must be concerned about a persons eternal destiny – BUT – I must also be concerned about poverty, justice, abuse, and anything that is broken in this world. In my early years of ministry – I viewed the focal point of my ministry as the pulpit. I’ve come to see the focal point of my ministry as the society. This is in keeping with Deuteronomy and how Israel was put together, the whole Old Testament, and even the judgment we face from God in Matthew 25. As a result we look at the domains of society as the way of engagement be it education, economics, governance, health, communication, etc. As believers work in those domains faith lays across the society.

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“Tis More Blessed to Give Than to Receive”

By Stephen G. Post, Ph.D. [bio for event]
[Acts 20:35]

The future of the faith will be enhanced if we focus the resources of science on the reality of agape love. St. Jerome (c. 340-420 A.D.), in his Letter to Paulinus, Epistle 53, wrote, “Let us learn those things on earth the knowledge of which continues in heaven.” Agape is therefore the best thing about which to learn.

Jesus the Christ revealed the divine unlimited love (agape) that underlies all of the universe and is the basis of all that we call goodness, both ethically and spiritually. Every aspect of his life was a once-in-history revelation of a perfectly exceptionless, enduring, pure, wise, and energetic love. In his life, Jesus demonstrated the many forms that agape must take in response to human needs. Among these were compassion, forgiveness, attentive listening, mirth, creativity (e.g., his amazing Parables), loyalty, celebration, immense courage, and healing. Not one human being was ever wronged in anyway whatsoever by Jesus, and there was no accusation that could stand against him. Why? He was and is perfect self-giving love. His atoning death was for all time the most absolutely vivid expression of perfectly pure and perfectly effective love. This revelation of divine love cuts history like a knife through butter – there is everything before, there is everything after.

The idea of a future in which people of Christian faith facilitate the study of such goodness with the help of science is already underway. In 1999, the John Templeton Foundation invited me to co-chair a conference convened in Boston entitled Empathy, Altruism and Agape: Perspectives on Love in Science and Religion – A Research Symposium. A year later, Sir John Templeton and Charles L. Harper, D.Phil., Senior Vice President of the Foundation, asked me to lead a new project, The Institute for Research on Unlimited Love (, which was generously funded by Sir John. It is located in our secular university’s academic medical center at Case Western Reserve University (Stephen.Post@Case.Edu), where I am a professor.

The Institute focuses on the science, spirituality and theology of benevolent love for all others without exception. Such love, given without requiring personal gain, is
prescribed in the golden rule, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Jesus also put it more clearly, “Go and do likewise.” In a time when rage, intolerance, and violence are so visible in our world, we need to better understand and practice a love that acknowledges for all humanity the full significance that we otherwise acknowledge only for ourselves, or for those most like us. Our work is devoted to dialogue around the scientific and theological understanding of such love with regard to the substrate of human nature and divine grace.

We support research and dialogue through a competitive review process to ensure the highest quality. Institute-funded researchers at more than sixty leading universities, among them Harvard, Stanford, Princeton, Yale, the University of Chicago, and the University of Michigan. Researchers are publishing in influential journals, presenting at professional meetings, and teaching new courses. People recognize the Institute as a pioneering organization for the development of a field that is transformative.

Jesus said, “’Tis better to give than to receive.” These words echo down to St. Francis of Assisi and beyond. Shakespeare wrote that “the quality of mercy” blesses both those who give and who receive. One thing that the Institute has shown conclusively is that in general, people who love others unselfishly will live longer, healthier, happier lives. There is a wonderful paradox in a life of love – in the giving of self lies the unsought discovery of a deeper and better self. In this sense, those who lose their lives do indeed gain them. As the Christian psychiatrist Karl Menninger wrote, “Love cures – both the ones who give it and the ones who receive it.” Thus, the life of agape love is blessing for those whom we love, and also a blessing for those who love. This universal truth is captured in Why Good Things Happen to Good People: The Exciting New Research That Proves the Link Between Doing Good and Living a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life, which I co-authored with science journalist Jill Neimark (Random House, May 2007).

Questions abound. How can we learn to love our neighbor even when he or she can give nothing in return, or is not a member of our group? Do benevolent people experience higher levels of psychological well-being and happiness? Are they healthier and do they tend to live longer? Does compassion help heal the ill? How can love last in marriage and how can we raise caring children with a sense of a shared humanity? What can we learn about the emotional and spiritual dynamics of exemplary loving people? Is love the deepest and most fulfilling ground of human nature, deeper than hate and violence? Is love really the “ground of being,” as the Christian faith says? What spiritual practices allow us to become its instruments?

Modern science has virtually ignored the subject of love as a valid source of practical, useful knowledge—until now. By empirically exploring loving behavior, including people’s perceptions of their experience of the Holy Spirit, the Institute is helping to set the stage for a future in which agape love is understood by everyone everywhere as the very essence of human fulfillment.

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The Future of the Faith:

By Dennis Peacocke [bio for event]

Every believer has a “duty watch,” just like a soldier. That “duty watch” is determined by God, and encompasses what He wants the generation we have been born into to accomplish as God moves history towards Christ’s return. We are all therefore called, like King David, to “serve the purposes of God in our generation” as Acts 13:36 reminds us. We are also responsible to contribute to the fulfilling of the Great Commission of Matt 28:18-20, lending our lives in some meaningful way to the discipling of the nations. Our faith is to “cast light” and offer others the “salt” of Christ’s preserving love and possibility of living a significant life.

Every generation has a defining challenge and a set of problems that requires courage, faith, and self-sacrifice to resolve them. For my parents, it was living through the Great Depression, World War II, the rebuilding of the nations under the shadow of the “Cold War,” and the possibility of nuclear annihilation. For us, it is an equally compelling challenge; it is the challenge of answering the following question: Is the Church really a relevant social force, or should it be marginalized to the point of overt persecution? Should the Church’s role and influence be expunged as the historical core of Western Civilization? In short, does the Church love people enough to truly bring value to their lives and communities? The fate of the Church in our lifetime therefore hangs on our response to these questions. We retreat, and be further ghettoized, or we engage. It’s really that simple.

While we hear constantly about the “war on terror,” we really do not believe that it is the “root issue” assigned to our generation. The deeper issue is the response our generation takes to our own Judeo-Christian civilization’s roots which helped create both our historically unique freedoms and wealth. Will we care enough about the fruits of that civilization to make the hard choices to defend it? Do we believe enough in our own historic values to not simply defend them, but rather to extend them? This is the challenge which will require heroes and leaders, and “A-Level” players. The unprepared and the untrained cannot, and will not, survive on this battlefield. It is a clash of civilizations. It is a war in the heavenlies. It is a place for men and women who willingly risk their lives for Christ, and the influence of His name and power, in the streets of the nations.

What I am here to talk about is how and why Christians must get into the public conversation as “fishers of men” (Mt 4:19). If we continue to focus on the questions we want the world to be concerned with instead of what they are concerned with, we will continue to see our increasing marginalization under the guise of “the separation of church and state.” A relevant church, dealing with root-level issues, will be a sure sign that the Holy Spirit is awakening us in a generational sense.

So come on. What could we possibly be waiting for? This is the “real game,” the real place of growth, the spiritual incubator which will help make world changers of our children as they follow us. Welcome to our focus at Strategic Christian Services. We recruit and help equip A-Level players, for the A-Level challenge which God has dealt to our generation.

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The Future of Faith – For A Changing Church In Uncertain Times:

By Eddie Gibbs [bio for event]

The Bible emphasizes time and time again that the life of one who follows Christ is a life of faith. It was so from the day in which Jesus called His first disciples to follow Him. Then He gave no indication where He was heading and there were no assurances. Yet they followed without question because they knew they would be with Him. Faith ever flows from the relationship believers have with their Lord as apprentices in the school of discipleship.

Such risk-taking faith can degenerate into complacency when life becomes too predictable and comfortable. Alternatively, it becomes a narrow religious category, by which we place our trust in Christ for eternity, while living day-by-day with a rationalistic, calculating, self-assured mindset. However, as we move from the false assurances of modernity into the increasingly precarious and chaotic world of the twenty-first century, it is imperative that we learn, again, to live the life of faith one day at a time. But we can only do this so long as we keep the Big Picture in mind. And the story of the redemption of humankind and God’s unfolding plan for the universe as recorded in Scripture provides that Big Picture.

We need a faith perspective as we review the trends of the church throughout the Western world. For the past four decades we have witnessed the serious and relentless decline of church membership and attendance in all of the traditional denominations. In Europe, some of these historic and once influential churches have declared their own demise as they project their statistical trends into the next twenty years. It is all too easy to succumb to a gloom and doom mindset, which becomes self-fulfilling prophecy.

Yet, there are a growing number of congregations within these declining denominations that are exceptions to the overall trend. And their numerical growth is not entirely due to members transferring from other churches. They are providing a hopeful sign of what “church” should and can be like, to a generation that has abandoned the church through boredom or disillusionment. Leadership that is inspired by a faith-generated vision characterizes these churches.

We are seeing “fresh expressions” of church both in Europe and North America that have woken up to the fact that they are facing a missional challenge on their own door-steps as never before. They see the church not just as an inspiring place to which to invite the seeker, but as a place where the disciples themselves become seekers – seeking out the people with whom they come into contact to introduce them to Jesus, in whom alone can be found peace, wholeness and fulfillment. As they see lives transformed by the gospel, which is the power of God to salvation, their own faith is strengthened and renewed.

Faith is also required to see the hand of God at work in a troubled and disaster-prone world. The Bible does not provide us with off-the-shelf answers to our personal tragedies or to the horrendous scenes that we see on our TV screens from Darfur or Iraq for which humans are responsible, or of floods, fires and earthquakes, which we refer to as natural disasters. We often do not know what God is up to, but God’s people caught up in those tragedies discover that God is with them, and that faith triumphs in the midst of suffering. And we in the cushioned West need to learn the hard lessons of faith, because we are neither remote nor immune from acts of violence and devastation.

Faith cannot be narrowly defined in terms of assurance of the individual’s eternal security, though we must never lose sight of that central gospel truth. It must be related to the whole of life. This is especially the case as we face an unpredictable future. Social scientists describe the times through which we are moving as characterized by chaotic change. We can no longer make long-range plans and steer them to fulfillment by a step-by-step strategic goal achievement. Institutions across the board, whether political, business, educational, military, or religious are finding that you cannot plan for an uncertain future. Yes, they need a guiding vision and strategic thinking, but their planning has to be on the basis of possible alternative scenarios playing out, and when the completely unanticipated occurs, just-in-time planning. Competence is no longer enough, but must be combined with faith that is constantly re-defining reality in the light of God’s Big Picture. Faith, biblically defined is “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1).

For the past five years I have been meeting with a large number of younger leaders – under 35s who have given me insight into the future of faith. They are risk-takers who are passionate for God and prepared to give whatever it takes to demonstrate the relevance and power of the gospel to the generations most alienated from the institutional church. But the future does not lie exclusively with these young leaders. There are also older leaders who are engaging with the profound changes taking place in our culture. They are reaching beyond their denominational structures and sub-cultures to create ground level combined mission task forces. In the midst of cultural turmoil there will be much confusion and not a few casualties. The key to the future of faith is not just in the hands of the younger leaders, but with older Christians who are committed to ministries of intercession and mentoring. Many under 35s did not have a good relationship with their preoccupied parents, but they love their grandparents!

Perhaps the challenge of faith is strongest for the Boomer generation, who may be tempted to rely upon the financial and institutional securities they have built up around them. In middle age there is a strong tendency to “circle the wagons.” I am reminded of the old saying; “Once, by faith, I set my goal further than the eye can see. Now I am near to my goal. I have moved it nearer me.” But with the uncertainties of the twenty-first century God is removing the goalposts!

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The Future of Faith, Media and Culture:

By Dr. Ted Baehr [bio for event]

In answer to prayer and God’s Grace manifest, more and more redemptive, Christian content is appearing in movies. We have come a long way from the mid-1980s when there were only a handful of movies with positive Christian content. Now, every week's crop of movies seems to bring another movie with redemptive content.

Part of the reason for this is the Annual MOVIEGUIDE® Faith & Values Awards Gala and Report to the Entertainment Industry. This annual event encourages top Hollywood decision makers to put more Christian content in their movies, videos and television programs.

And, guess what? That's exactly what Hollywood has started to do!

Clearly, we're making a difference, but at the same time, our culture seems to be moving away from faith and values and toward the most wicked forms of behavior known to God and Man. As the New York Times noted recently, over 60 percent of the World War II generation had faith in the Bible, but only 35 percent of the Baby Boomers and perhaps as low as 4 percent of the next generation. Thus, the young generation sees nothing wrong with moral decadence in their culture, including torture movies like SAW III, sexually perverted movies like BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN, and overtly anti-Christian movies like THE DA VINCI CODE.

So, what is the future of faith and culture? The future of faith is triumphant because it comes from God. God wins in the end, and those who are His and regularly read His Word know the end of the story. In fact, they already live in His kingdom of righteousness.

But, many adults have abandoned their children and grandchildren to the secular humanist, paganized world. And, that evil world is leading them straight to Hell! That's why the future of the Christian faith depends upon evangelizing and discipling this neglected generation, as well as the future generations to come.

We can do this through movies and entertainment, but only if we humble ourselves and care about God and other people in a revived, passionate, faithful way that focuses on Jesus Christ. Revival is occurring in the mass media of movies. It can easily occur in the culture – if we turn away from our selfish sins and move forward to God's grace through Christ Jesus, the Savior of the world.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Baehr is the publisher and host of MOVIEGUIDE®, a family guide to movies and entertainment, and founder and chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission™. For more information on MOVIEGUIDE® or the Commission, call 1-800-577-6684, or visit their website at

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