Friday, December 29, 2006

RESOURCE ~ Knocking on Heaven's Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer

A MHP Interview with David Crump, author of Knocking on Heaven’s Door

Knocking on Heavens Door: A New Testament Theology of Petitionary Prayer

Bob Dylan’s repetitive “Knock, knock, knockin’ on heaven’s door,” is less a call to prayer than it is a call to beckon the hereafter. Nonetheless, the fact that there is a barrier between time and eternity, skin and divinity, asphalt and gold brings the tone of the song in line with of a new book by David Crump that takes the line as its title.

Knocking on Heaven’s Door tries to get at prayer like a savage stabbing the sun. You can get atop a mountain and be that much closer but you’re never going to get remotely close to God. As go the heavenly lights so goes the heavenly Trinity - sometimes evasive, sometimes brilliant. The disciple Thomas got what we all want – a physical reference point for his faith – when he touched Jesus’s wounds. We pray and hope our pleas board rocket ships to heaven’s door – a Polar Express of sorts – and into the unfathomable ears of a God that we understand loves us and wants to hear from us.

Dave Matthews talks about the space between and U2 the gapping wound. For the Christian, the distance between our words and Jesus’s right-hand seat is luminous – two dots in a grand canyon of echoes. That’s why the narrative in the Acts of the Apostles introduces the ghost who hovers around like he did in Genesis and has the charge to comfort travelers who believe in what they’ve never seen. And when we don’t know what we need, the ghost relays our stories to the angels and Jesus.

Well, all this prayer talk and the 300+ pages of reading material that Knocking on Heaven’s Door offers brings up a number of questions. So I contacted David Crump and asked a few questions.

Zach Kincaid: Is prayer a necessity because of the space between earth and heaven, the eternal and temporal, the veiled and the revealed?

David Crump: Christian prayer is a necessity because our God is personal. Prayer is communication with the Father. Communication is essential to intimacy. Since the Father wants an intimate relationship with us, we need to pray. The divine attributes you mention – transcendent, eternal, etc. – make communication with God a unique type of conversation, so it becomes “prayer” rather than mere “talk.”

ZK: Does one have to believe in an omniscient God to pray rightly? Does prayer “work” better if God is not?

DC: First, let me say that I’m always hesitant to talk about “the right” way to pray. Such language easily slips into the magical mindset that I warn against in my book. Second, I’m no more comfortable identifying the best way to make prayer “work.” This slips too easily into an equally dangerous, mechanistic mindset. God is not a machine that has to be made to work in the right way.

On the other hand, the New Testament certainly indicates that personal qualities such as obedience, submission and right motives have a role to play in God’s response to prayer. I am convinced the New Testament teaches that, within certain parameters, God is quite willing to alter what he does or doesn’t do according to his children’s prayers. Regardless of whether one believes that God knows the future through omniscience, or causes the future through omnipotence, or both, I suspect that when the chips are down we all ask him to answer our needs in much the same way.

ZK: Does Philippians 2 answer completely why Jesus had to pray? If we take the Garden wrenched in sweat-turned-to-blood then it certainly was more than an exercise.

DC: [Actually, it’s sweat “like” drops of blood; the reference is comparative. The sweat did not actually change.] Jesus’ life was not a dramatic production; it was real. He wasn’t jumping through a series of heavenly hoops to make a certain impression on his audience. The book of Hebrews insists that Jesus “learned obedience by the things he suffered” and that his prayers were “heard because of his reverent submission.” We cannot ignore those claims, no matter how awkward they may appear. In this light, Jesus’ anguish and prayer in Gethsemane must serve as a genuine instance of human perseverance through prayer.

ZK: I know your text is on New Testament prayer. Do you purposely frame in the New Testament as to say (without saying it) that prayer in the Old was somewhat different?

DC: Although I cannot evaluate the personal experience of prayer in the lives of God’s Old Testament people, the New Testament insists that the theological substance of prayer has radically changed. In the New Covenant, all God’s people (1) are endowed with the Holy Spirit who prays on our behalf, and (2) have a resurrected Savior interceding for us in heaven. Christian prayer involves all three members of the Trinity. The Spirit works to transform believers from the inside out, so that we can learn to pray as Jesus prayed to his heavenly Father.

ZK: No doubt prayer makes us vulnerable – to God, to faith, to each other – but doesn’t it, to some degree, make God vulnerable?

DC: Yes, I believe the New Testament clearly shows that it does, not because human beings have an innate ability to subject God to their whims, but because God has freely decided to engage us in genuinely reciprocal relationship opening himself to its consequences. Anything and everything is not subject to change, mind you, but the Father has decided that some things will be. In a previous book, Feeling Like God: A Spiritual Journey to Emotional Wholeness, I explore the Biblical evidence for God’s emotional vulnerability in tandem with his willingness to change certain aspects of his plans. I know that some theological traditions are hostile to these suggestions, but I have become convinced that such “divine vulnerability” is an essential component of Biblical teaching.

ZK: You talk about the self-confidence of the disciples and their subsequent failure to pray. There seems to be, then, a repercussion if one does not pray. It appears that there is very little repercussion if one does not pray. But, is prayer – that opening dialogue with God – not salvific, at least in part? Is this not why last rights have been so important in the church – to spur the heavenly afterlife closer? Are not the asking and the listening necessary?

DC: In part, the answer is a matter of perspective. Many aspects of Christian prayer appear paradoxical, but the apparent contradictions loom largest when we try to analyze how prayer works or doesn’t work, as if it were part of a cosmic mechanism. The paradox diminishes, however, when we remember that prayer is, first and foremost, personal communication with a personal God. Do the Spirit’s prayers make our prayers redundant? Why pray at all if the Spirit always intercedes on our behalf according to the Father’s will? Well, if prayer were simply a matter of getting things from God, we could easily conclude that it is redundant, and there is no reason for us to pray. However, since prayer is about personal relationship, both the Spirit’s prayers and ours coexist in a complementary fashion. While the Holy Spirit intercedes for us, we still need to draw close to our Father.

With regard to salvific prayer, I’m firmly Protestant and see no biblical evidence for the efficacy of such rituals as the last rites. Yet, every relationship with Christ must begin somewhere in space and time, so that initial prayer of repentance/acceptance, wherein the sinner receives God’s grace through faith, could certainly be called a salvific prayer.

ZK: The early church was influenced by its culture. In the use of Jesus’ name in prayers you make mention of the magical spells that at least one parchment indicates. You end this section with a warning to be on guard about magic entering our prayers. Is it really the exactness or the expected fulfillment of magic as you reference earlier? Are not Chants are used throughout church history and this idea of words being attached to petitions seems magical?

DC: Different Christian traditions embody different expressions of piety. Some chant, others don’t. Those differences can be an expression of healthy diversity in the body of Christ. Problems arise when we imagine an equation correlating the power of prayer with proper technique. It is one thing to say, “I prefer to chant my prayers.” It is quite another to say, “Chanted prayers are the only effective prayers.” The first is an expression of cultural diversity; the second is magical thinking.

ZK: Is there an importance of using Scripture in prayers? I know Jesus often did this. Why is it or is it not important?

DC: Scripture reveals the mind of God, the God with whom we seek true intimacy. It makes sense, then, that Christian prayer should be directed and informed by scripture. The psalms are prayers that can teach us a great deal about interacting with God. The New Testament is filled with hymns of praise and prayers of thanksgiving that offer valuable instruction to anyone willing to learn. As long as we stop short of turning biblical language into a charm that makes prayer more powerful, scripture offers important direction for every aspect of the Christian life.

ZK: Hebrews talks about a great cloud of witnesses and the transfiguration brings out Moses and Elijah. Are these, combined with the orthodox view of the perpetuation of time, at all suggestive to the idea that petitions could be made to those who have “run the race”?

DC: No, not at all. Certain branches of second temple Judaism had developed the notion of heavenly mediators, such as Abraham, Moses and certain of the prophets, interceding for God’s people in the heavenly court. The New Testament does pick up this idea but emphatically limits the role to Christ alone. The New Testament writers would be aghast at any suggestion that believers could address their prayers to someone besides the Father and the Son.

ZK: You end with the hiddenness of God, that he is most clearly revealed when he hides inside our discomforts. Is that to prove our dependence, be okay with hanging upside down between the now and yet to be, or simply a way of understanding of what God wields and what he does not? Or is it that we’re not calling down or asking the widow to fill her jar one more time or watching out for parting waters or water rich rocks or – leap forward – earnestly praying for the marks of Jesus as St Francis did. We don’t have because we don’t ask… no? And aren’t we tasked to do even greater things? Is it that we don’t really have faith or subjugate faith to hobble around with crutches? Prosperity Gospel – all that – I don’t buy. Here, I’m talking about holy and wholly believing not for gain but for a working out of our salvation. It’s praying for apartheid to end and knowing that Mandela’s jail cell will be flung open or praying for Iran’s leadership to find Jesus on their road to Emmaus or that a third great awakening might spread across this entire nation and rescue saint and sinner from mega buildings and multi media. Again, not to sell what would jesus do bracelets but to die trying to call down the spirit of God like Wilberforce did in the 1820s or Mueller did, in very different ways, later on.

DC: Of course, I can’t predict what God may or may not do in the future, but we should never forget that God’s most profound self-revelation is seen in the crucified Lord, not because God is a sado-masochist but because such insight requires the eyes of faith. Yes, on one day Jesus prayed and saw Lazarus rise from the dead. But on another day, he prayed again and was led to the cross. We should not recall men like Wilberforce without remembering the severe ostracism and hurtful opposition he endured. We can’t read about Mueller’s miracles without remembering the tremendous self-sacrifice and hardship of his life. God works miracles among those who first pick up their cross and follow Jesus in self-denial.

ZK: What did you think of prayer before writing this book and what have you learned about prayer since its completion?

DC: It’s something I’ve been trying to live out, learn about and experience more deeply for many years. Over the past 35 years or so, I’ve learned not to trust my feelings; that simple obedience today is more important than grand schemes for tomorrow; that if I wait for “proof”, I’ll never take the next step; that the immediacy of this world is the greatest temptation to sin; and that the love of Jesus Christ is my only hope.

ZK: What is your “wish” prayer as you say toward the end of the book?

DC: I wish that everyone who reads my book “may have power, together with all the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge – that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:18-19).

© October 2006


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Thursday, December 14, 2006

Praying to be Christ-like?

The Ministries of Francis Frangipane - Message of the Week


The Christ-Pattern
Francis Frangipane

We have often taught that the ultimate test of any church is if, over the months and years, the likeness of Christ is being replicated in the people. Such is the goal of God, and such must be the goal of the church.

Yet, how exactly is a congregation transformed? What stimulates a church to move from merely being outwardly religious to actually becoming inwardly Christlike? In many cases, the exodus from religion to Christlikeness begins as the vision of becoming Christlike grips the heart of a pastor.

Let me explain. In our competitive world, a pastor must excel in many areas. He or she must be a good speaker, rightly educated, and also be sensitive to the needs of the lost. He must be a person of vision, yet realistically practical. He will often be required to sacrifice time spent with the family for time given to people in the church. And, he must not complain about working conditions or modest pay.

Of course, most of these pastoral job descriptions are not requirements from God, but they do represent the expectations of man. The reality is, no individual can satisfy the great variety of preferences that church people typically require of their pastor. Indeed, the minister who seeks to increase growth in his or her church by striving to please people will soon exhaust himself of energy.

It has been my experience that, for every pastor who develops a church growth plan, there are scores of ministers who are struggling to stay alive spiritually. To compound this problem, if a leader is repeatedly the object of people's disapproval, his soul grows increasingly demoralized. Discouragement will cause vision to fade. His sense of destiny will quietly degrade from a high calling to showing up at a mostly joyless job.

Personal Revival
Remember, as pastors, God defines our success by how genuinely Christ is revealed in the lives of our congregations. This is Christ's stated goal to all who serve as leaders (see Matt. 28:19-20). Indeed, each leader shall one day give an account to God for how he carried out the Great Commission (Heb. 13:17).

Therefore, pastors, let us proceed with the fear of the Lord. Yet also let us walk with wisdom: If our pursuit is to lead our congregation into Christ's likeness, let us take care to start with ourselves. Let us walk in meekness, yet without being ensnared by the fear of man. For the fear of man manifests like a curse upon our efforts. There is only one path that unfolds into true blessedness, and that is to set one's heart toward attaining the likeness of Christ.

When a leader positions himself to lay hold of Christ, it is without question that conflicts will rise against him. For how shall one become Christlike without the Lord testing the genuineness of one's character. Yet, as the pastor becomes a person of prayer, as love of God grows pure and humility deepens into peace, those who love Jesus will behold Him in their pastor. The conflicts, as hard as they may have been, will be but staging for the glory of Christ within him. People since ancient times have desired "to see Jesus" (John 12:21). When they behold Him in the character of their pastor, they are beholding God's vision for their church.

A Christlike Church
I am not saying individuals in the church must have fully transformed pastors before they can pursue Christlikeness. No. The path to Christlikeness can be walked at any time or in any church. But for a congregation to genuinely move toward its highest destiny, at some point the pastor must become a Christ-pattern for the sheep to follow.

If you are an intercessor, pray for your pastor. Lift up the church leadership and pray that the vision of Christlikeness becomes the fire which compels your leaders. Pray with grace, not judgment; stand in mercy, not fear. Be visionary, yet patient. God will answer your prayers.

The truth is, pastoring is simply a call to become like Jesus, to set an example for the sheep to follow. Without this quest, a pastorate can actually become a prison of un fulfillment, a job without life.

Yet, if we continue in our pursuit of Christ's likeness, even persevering through trials, a time will come when the presence of the Son of God will increasingly be revealed in our lives. If Christ is lifted up in our lives, the living presence of the Lord will draw men to Himself. And the pastor's quest will become the Christ-pattern that others follow.

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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Addictions? Attractions?

At LeadershipJournal.net:

After the recent news about pastor and leader Ted Haggard, we started thinking again about the stresses of the ministry. Because of her former husband's problems, Sally Morgenthaler wonders, "Does ministry fuel addictions?"

A pastor told us his story of battle with same-sex attractions in "My Secret Struggle."

Columnist Mark Labberton says busy ministers have no excuse, we actually have MORE time than other folks. See if you agree===>Click headline to access these and other relevant articles . .

Until next week,
Eric

Eric Reed, Leadership, managing editor
To respond to this newsletter, write to Newsletter@LeadershipJournal.net

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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

RESOURCE ~ Preaching with Power ... Includes Praying



Note ... I was happily surprised at how many of those interviewed identified prayer as a vital component in their sermon preparation . . .

Preaching with Power: Dynamic Insights from Twenty Top Communicators

Author: Michael Duduit, ed.
Price: 16.99
Number of Pages: 256
Publication Date: Jul. 06

Preaching with Power brings together powerful personal interviews with dynamic preachers and those who influence preaching today. Discover here how these top communicators prepare and plan for sermons, what role culture plays in shaping their messages, who influenced their ministries, and what they have to say to you.

Drawn from the best of the last decade of Preaching magazine, this book provides an insider's look at the life and vocation of leaders such as:

Bryan Chapell
Jerry Falwell
Jack Graham
O. S. Hawkins
Jim Henry
T. D. Jakes
David Jeremiah
Dan Kimball
Erwin Lutzer
John MacArthur
Brian McLaren
John Maxwell
Lloyd John Ogilvie
Haddon Robinson
Adrian Rogers
Andy Stanley
Jerry Vines
Rick Warren
James Emery White
Ed Young Jr.

Author Information: Michael Duduit (Ph.D., Florida State University) is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine and PreachingNow, a weekly email newsletter that reaches more than 12,500 pastors nationwide. He is also the author or editor of several books and has served on the administrative staffs at Southern Baptist Seminary and Samford, Palm Beach Atlantic, and Union universities. He resides in Franklin, Tennessee.

Buy this book from Amazon.com, ChristianBook.com, Barnes & Noble, or your local bookstore.

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The Starting Point of Prayer

Your Starting Point Matters ~ Dr. Ray Pritchard
Ray Pritchard
I have learned that where you start makes all the difference in thinking about sickness, suffering and death. If you start with the accident or with the sickness or with death itself, you will never come to the right answer. I know many people whose faith has been badly shaken and even destroyed by the tragedies of life. I know that feeling myself. If you start at the tragedy and try to reason your way back to God, you won’t make it. You’ll fall off the ladder somewhere. None of us is smart enough to reason from a tragedy back to God. If you start with yourself, you'll end with yourself, and you won't be any better off.

The only hope is to start at the other end, with what we know to be true about God. The theologians call this the First Principles. In the time of trouble, start with God. Ponder his character. Meditate on his attributes. Think about who God is.

God is holy.
God is righteous.
God is just.
God is gracious.
God is merciful.
God is love.
God is all-knowing.
God is all-wise.
God is present everywhere.
His ways are perfect.
His plans are beyond finding out.
He works all things together for our good and his glory.
He loved us so much that he sent his Son to die for us.
He sent the Holy Spirit to indwell us.
He forgives our sin through the blood of Jesus.
He seals us with the Holy Spirit.
He fills us with the Spirit.
He promises to conform us to the image of his Son.
He will never leave us.
He disciplines us when we stray.
He loves us with an everlasting love.
His plans for us are good.
He makes no mistakes.

Make a list like that. Write it down. Say it aloud. Repeat it in prayer. Tattoo the truth on your grieving heart. Start with what you know to be true about God. If you remember who he is and why he sent his Son to the earth, and his wisdom, power, goodness and love, if you start there, you can slowly make your way back to the tragedy itself. I have walked that road myself many times. This is not some sort of magic trick that will make the pain go away (it won’t) or answer all your questions (it won’t do that either), but starting with God provides the only possible framework for answering the questions we all have.

We need a God so big, so great, so powerful, so wise, so vast, so eternal, that he can encompass the sudden death of one of his children. Some people talk as if the tragedies of life are accidents in the universe. As if God turned his head away and something bad happened while God wasn’t looking. As if God tried to stop it but couldn’t. A God like that is no God at all. I cannot worship an impotent, puny, manmade God who abdicates the throne of the universe and leaves us alone in our despair. That is not the God of the Bible.

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Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Quote; Unquote . . .

Why does prayer rank so high on surveys of theoretical importance and so low on surveys of actual satisfaction?"
Philip Yancey, Prayer: Does It Make Any Difference?


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Friday, November 10, 2006

Inner~Views: A Praying Pastor Might Need a Coach

Praying Pastor interviewed Tony Stoltzfus of Coaching Pastors

*Tony, you have written a book on coaching, Leadership Coaching. For many Christian leaders, this is a new term - Please define it and describe how it is different from both discipleship and the process of consulting.

Coaching is the art of helping people grow without telling them what to do. It is probably closest to mentoring or spiritual direction, in that it is a one on one relationship designed to help you move forward in life. But mentoring is about one person imparting to another (the mentor gives wisdom, advice, influence or perspective to the mentoree), whereas coaching is about one person drawing out another (a coach uses listening and asking to help you find what God is saying to you). Coaches help people think things through and get things done, but the emphasis is always on the ability of the coachee to figure out what to do and do it, with the coach walking alongside to support the change. Another definition of coaching I often use is that coaching is walking with people as they grow in a way that consistently expresses belief in them, keeps them responsible for their own lives and allows God to be the initiator of change in them. That definition references three key values of the coaching approach: believing in people, personal responsibility and God as the initiator of change.

The usefulness of coaching is that it is uniquely suited to developing leadership qualities in people. Different approaches are more and less suited to our stage of development. I like to use a parenting analogy to help people understand how this works. When your kids are 3, you take them to bed (just like a discipler might pick up a disciplee and take them to church). When they are 10, you've set boundaries for bed time and you expect your kids to take some responsibility to follow them. If you are a good parent, you are also explaining the wisdom of regular bedtimes, so the kids aren't just doing whatever you say, but are developing their own motivation to do this. In other words, you are moving toward more of a mentoring approach as a parent. When your kids are 17, they may be setting their own bedtimes. The boundaries are getting looser as they move toward adulthood, and effective parents are helping their kids think through what actions to take and what the implications of those actions are. In other words, you are coaching. As a parent, a big part of your job is to gradually give more and more responsibility to your kids, so they are ready to assume full responsibility for their lives as adults. Coaching is a way to help people and influence them toward making great decisions without taking responsibility for their lives and telling them what to do -- and that's why it works great for working with leaders.


* "Coaching is a dialogue, not a monologue." (Jospeh Umidi) - What are the implications of this statement to a person who does the coaching? To a person or group that invites someone to serve them as a coach?

The toughest part of learning to coach is turning off the "Mr Fix-it" gene that listens for about 3 minutes and then is ready to give advice or suggest a course of action. Too often when we are helping people we are monologuing: sharing our thoughts about the situation without having really heard, and with no way to test whether the solution we are offering (which probably worked for us at some point in the past) is really a viable one in this situation. Coaches are trained to really listen, to really hear, and to believe in the work of God in a person's life. When you invite a coach into your life, you're bringing in someone who will push you to think things through, who will believe you can come up with great solutions to the challenges you face, and who believes that God is speaking to you about what to do and that you can hear him.


*Can anyone simply declare them self a coach? What skills are required? Personality? Experience?

There certainly are a lot of people out there who have declared themselves coaches! Frankly, almost all people who "coach" without undergoing formal training are really mentoring under a different name. We have no idea how prone we are to think for people and tell them what to do until we are in a situation where we get some feedback from a trainer on what we are doing. So if you are serious about coaching, or you want to call yourself a coach, coach training is vital. My experience in running a coach training school for years and doing training around the country is that it usually takes 3-6 months of immersion in coach training for a person to really break out of the "telling" habit and begin to coach instinctively. We've all been conversing for our whole lives, and do it every day: habits that deeply ingrained are hard to change!

There isn't a particular personality type or track record that you need to become a coach. Your life experience helps you shape your coaching niche: you'll coach best in an area where you have experience, and clients are most drawn to a coach who understands and has experience in their world. People who are drawn to coaching generally have a passion to help others grow or maximize their potential.


*Agree or Disagree ... Life coaching (developing an individual leader) and group coaching (guiding a team of leaders in a particular project or initiative are radically different ... And explain why.

There are actually numerous niches in the coaching field, of which life coaching is one. Life coaching is walking with people through destiny discovery, life balance, getting the personal life they want, transitions, etc. Performance coaching helps people be more effective or get more done, transformational coaching changes who you are to change what you do, relationship coaching focuses (usually) on romantic relationships... there are a bunch of different sub-categories under the heading of coaching. Group coaching can be coaching a team in a project, or it can be working with a group of people who are all working at the same thing -- in other words, you could do group coaching with a group of people who are in the process of discovering their destiny.


*A successful or famous leader may not necessarily be the best coach. Why, and what should an individual or team look for in a great coach?

The skills and personality that make a great large sphere leader often include a lot of directing, oversight, vision-casting, ability to work in large group settings, public speaking, etc. None of these are key coaching skills. A great coach is first of all a great listener: someone who is willing to completely focus on you and what is going on in your life. The second key skill of coaching is inquiry: drawing out of you your thoughts, feelings, motivation, etc. Third, coaches are experts in the process of personal change. They need to understand how the change process works in individuals and how to manage things like encouragement, accountability, support structures, and motivation. Great coaches are people called to change the world one person at a time, by working with one person at a time. Most large sphere leaders have an organizational calling -- in other words, they are called to change the world by building world-changing organizational structures. It's a different animal.


*Give us a one sentence reply to each of these coaching principles identified in your book:

> Ask, don't tell ...

The fundamental skill of coaching is to draw out a person's true heart and their own insight, instead of offering your own.

> Skills channel character ...

What you do is a function of who you are. The skills and techniques that you've acquired are only a conduit for what is inside your heart: so, for instance, if you aren't interested in a person or you think their life is trivial, no amount of listening technique will cover that up or keep them from receiving that message from you,

> Transformation is experiential and relational, not informational ...

Deep, lasting significant change is not a cognitive process: God breaks into our lives at the point of our experiences and relationships, and that is where the transformational process begins.

> Build leaders, don't solve problems ...

If as a coach I help you make the "right" decision, I've helped you a little today. If I help you use this decision to learn to hear God's voice or become a better decision maker, I've affected every decision you'll make for the rest of your life.

> Change is more a function of motivation than information ...

In church settings we generally try to get people to change by telling them what they ought to be doing. It's not knowing the right thing to do that causes us to change: it is being motivated to take action.


* What have you found to be the most misunderstood aspect of coaching among Christian leaders, and how can this be overcome?

Its just the fundamental understanding of what coaching is. In much of the church, "coach" is just another name for "mentor" or "supervisor". I think the biggest need right now is for great training materials that are accessible to the church that can teach people the difference.


*Tony, please write a prayer on behalf of Christian leaders and teams that would benefit from the service of a coach . . .

I pray that you would have such a passion to engage life, that you would have such a desire to find God's purpose for your growth in every circumstance or challenge that you face, that you would not be content to just keep sloggin through your days without seeking out the meaning in what is happening to you. I pray for the awakening of desire in you, I pray for the awakening of the hunger to experience the reality of God's work in you each day; and I pray that that yearning would lead you to reflect deeply, to stop and look for your creator in everything, and that seeking him you'd find him. And I pray that you would draw many others along with you on that journey to a deeper experience of life in God.

Tony Stoltzfus
Coach22 & Coaching Pastors
Virginia Beach, VA
Tony@CoachingPastors.com
Bookstore: www.Coach22.com
Personal Coaching: www.CoachingPastors.com

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Monday, November 06, 2006

RESOURCE ~ Personal Inventory Worksheets



Life Action Ministries has a notebook full of personal inventory worksheets designed to help you take inventory of your walk with God===>Click headline to access website or call 800-321-1538


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Thursday, November 02, 2006

Are You Keeping Company WIth God?

Doing The Work Of Prayer

Georges Boujakly writes a monthly column on spiritual disciplines for the Christian life.

In December of 2004, I wrote about doing the “work of prayer”. A friend quizzed “what on earth do you mean by that?” I take her challenge to describe what I mean by showing how people I know do it.

James Houston defines prayer as “keeping company with God”. This is something like what my kids would say when I ask: “Where have you been?” “Hanging out with friends,” they reply. Being there or being present to God, being available and open to enter into conversation at any moment he beckons is the work of prayer. Do you think it would be a good idea to accuse my daughters of wasting time? They think that “hanging out” is a major occupation of their time with friends. It is productive time. Presence is what they “do”.

Another experience to describe the work of prayer comes to mind. A few years ago, I met a woman at a Wichita pastors’ gathering. Right then Holy Spirit summoned her to begin praying for me. Ever since, every few months she calls and asks about my prayer needs. I share with her my family needs and my ministry needs. When she calls again she asks specifically about the needs I shared with her the time before. She marks off her list those prayers that God has answered. Would you say she is one who does the work of prayer? Do you do the work of prayer in someone’s life? What a blessing you are and could be!

Yet another idea. My wife, Carolyn, loves to minister to the elderly. This is her favorite job. Presently she is a companion to the mother of a woman from our home church. This wonderful daughter pays Carolyn to go to the house daily to meet her mother’s physical needs. But that is not the most important thing she does. According to her, the time she spends listening to her older companion is very rewarding to both of them. Listening to the heart of people is God’s work and when we do it, we do the work of prayer. We imitate Abba.

Carolyn has discovered that one way to get her older friend to eat sufficiently to keep up her physical strength is to bring her own lunch and to eat together. Doing the work of prayer is keeping the company of others listening to their dramas and hopes. It is sharing what sustains, heals, reconciles and guides.

The work of prayer is keeping company with God, praying intensely for others, listening to others and sharing life with them. It sounds a lot like Jesus to me. Walking with the master is doing the work of prayer.



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Monday, October 30, 2006

Pastor, Appreciate Them Month

1994-FEBRUARY 23-JOURNAL ENTRY~

A strange woman came to our door last evening and handed Marilyn an envelope with a brief typewritten message. In the envelope was a very generous cash gift for us to use on our winter vacation. The note read:

“Please accept this gift as a blessing from the Lord. It is our desire this gift will help in some way to allow you to relax more, and do less. (More ‘Mary’ time and less ‘Martha’ time.) We were really blessed last year to see your zeal after returning. We hope this year will be a repeat performance. We love you and wish you a grand time, loving God and loving each other.” Signed~ “Love, whosoever.”


Thank You Lord! We were really short on funds for this year’s vacation. How You provide!


2006-OCTOBER 30-REFLECTION~

Once again, October was designated as Pastor Appreciation Month. During most of our ministry, no such month existed. However, time and time again our people would surprise us with notes of affirmation, promised prayer and unexpected generosity.

We give thanks to congregations and individuals who care deeply for their spiritual leaders.


May this e-mail be a reminder to send a thank you note or gift, it’s never too late. Words of affirmation restore the discouraged. I keep an annual file marked “Affirmation” in which cards, notes and prayer promises of that year are kept for occasional reference. (A reminder to fellow pastors/leaders….let’s be sure we respond to those who remembered us, not only this month but in the future as well.).

Be responsive to your pastoral leaders. Listen to their counsel. They are alert to the condition of your lives and work under the strict supervision of God. Contribute to the joy of their leadership, not its drudgery. Why would you want to make things harder for them?” Hebrews 13 (The Message)


SAYING YES TO GOD Pastorsinprayer@Verizon.net Vol. VII # 19-bob and marilyn yawberg.


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Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Inner~Views: Pastors & the Struggle of Prayer

Praying Pastor interviewed Dr. Ray Pritchard
Ray Pritchard Photo
1) Ray, you are a pastor-teacher who recognizes the role of prayer in the life of both the believer and the corporate body ... What factors led to this awareness?

After serving as a pastor for 26 years in three churches in widely differing circumstances, I can look back over some wonderful high points and some very difficult low moments. I have known the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. Often they came in the same day. When I look back to those early days of my ministry, I smile because like a lot of young people, I came out of seminary with no shortage of self-confidence. That in itself is a good thing and even a gift from God because the young often approach life with a kind of fearless courage that enables them to do things the rest of us think can't be done. Time has a way of refining our self-confidence and ideally replacing it with a new kind of God-confidence. In my early in Oak Park we came to a crisis in the church that plunged us into controversy. It was a combination of worship issues, theological issues, and the whole question of what sort of church we would become. At one point a man came to me and told me that not only should I leave the church, but Ithat should never be a pastor again and that he would work to see that happen. In God's providence at that very moment I spent a few days teaching at a mission station in Belize. There in the jungle, far removed from all the controversy, I had a powerful experience of the Holy Spirit. I pictured the church with a large black cloud hanging over it. It seemed that the Lord was saying to me, "You have seen what you can do, but you have no answers for this problem." I came to a deep conviction that the cloud would not lift by preaching or programs but only by prayer. When I shared that with the congregation upon my return, the people were deeply moved. Out of that came the prayer movement at Calvary, and l look back on that as the turning point of my entire ministry in Oak Park.

2) What led you to write And When You Pray and how did it help you in your pastoral role?


In the early 1990s I happened to read a book that mentioned the importance of the Ten Commandments, the Lord's Prayer and the Apostles' Creed to the early Christians. The Ten Commandments tells us how to have a right relationship with God, the Lord's Prayer shows us how to maintain that relationship, and the Apostles' Creed lays out the broad outlines of the Christian faith from the very beginning. I decided to preach through all those documents as a means of equipping my own congregation. It happens that I did the Ten Commandments in 1991 and the Lord's Prayer in 1992. It took me twelve more years, but I finally got to the Apostles' Creed in 2004. By the way, I should say that I recommend this sort of preaching to pastors everywhere because it provides a unified approach to the spiritual life and it connects the congregation to the larger stream of Christian history across the generation.

As I preached through the Lord's Prayer, I found it a profoundly enriching experience because those few simple sentences start in heaven, sweep down to the earth, and then take up back to heaven again. It. Because I was not raised in a church that said the Lord's Prayer very often, I had never studied it in depth. The book simply came forth from the sermons and from my own reflections on the words of Jesus. I still remember meeting a Christian leader who told me that there was a part of the prayer that everyone should pray every day. He said he learned it himself as a young man when he asked a wise older leader to help him as he was just starting out. So from the older leader to my friend to me, here is the one part of the Lord's Prayer we should pray every day: "Yours is the kingdom, the power and the glory forever, Amen." We ought to pray that way to remind ourselves it's not our kingdom we're building, it's God's. It's not our power that matters, it's God's. It's not our glory we seek, it's God's. Many days those simple words have refocused my soul.

3) The praying Pastor is strategic to the corporate prayer life of the congregation. What struggles did you encounter? How did you compensate/overcome them?

Years ago I read a book by Peter Wagner where he talked about the importance of pastors having a "prayer shield" to cover them. As a result I recruited 15-20 men and asked them to become my prayer partners. As I recall, the men were not only ready, they were eager to pray for me. I wrote them with updates, met with them occasionally, and updated them on my particular needs. Later we opened that ministry to women and called it the Prayer Warriors movement, which eventually grew to over 200 people. That led to building a prayer room under the sanctuary where people would come to pray during all the worship services. Looking back, I can see that there was a correlation between the evident blessing of God on my ministry and the strength of those who were praying for me. It is not a matter of numbers but of fervent believers who lifted up their pastor in prayer. The first man I ever recruited as a prayer partner eventually moved to a distant city. Every time I see him (one every couple of years), he tells me that he still prays for me every morning at 6:30.

Knowing that so many people were praying for me gave me purpose and endurance in my own walk with God. I once had a friend tell me he was praying for my prayer life. That took me aback for a moment, but I think that was a wonderful gift. I have no doubt that my prayers had more depth and power because others were praying for my prayers.

4) In your observation, what is the biggest misconception Pastors have regarding prayer?

I suppose most pastors instinctively feel that prayer comes to the very core of what we ought to be doing, yet in our culture we often are not rewarded for time spent in prayer. We live in a performance-based world where pastors are asked to produce tangible results quickly. While it has never been easy to be a pastor, I think that expectations are higher than ever and patience is lower than ever. The honeymoon for most new pastors doesn't last very long. As a result it's easy for a pastor to fall into the trap of thinking that he's got to get busy and make things happen now, today, this very moment. Slowly we can slip into the fallacy of believing that our "production" in the ministry depends on us. To the extent we begin to think that way, prayer will not seem very important to us. But once we fall into that trap, we enter a game we cannot win and that will only wear us down and eventually burn us out. No pastor can satisfy the competing demands of all the people in his church. Unless we build a strong inner core where our souls find rest in God, we will probably not last very long in the ministry or we will be swept away by one fad or another or we will be held captive by interest groups in the church, and we will probably become angry, frustrated and disillusioned. At that point prayer becomes a burden, not a blessing.

All of us as pastors struggle with prayer. And that struggle itself is not sinful. It is a reminder that we are made of flesh and that something in us will fight against prayer because prayer is an admission that apart from God, we are a bunch of pathetic losers. The flesh flights against that judgment but it is true nonetheless. When we pray, we launch a revolution against self-sufficiency and plant the flag of God's sovereignty in our heart.

Ray, write a prayer for your colleagues who lead ministries and congregations...

Father in heaven, I thank you for the godly men and women you have called to lead your church. I ask your special help for those who are discouraged and feeling overwhelmed. Grant them a fresh vision of your love. Help them to see that you love them beyond all human reason. Your cross has proved forever that you love the unlovely because while we, the leaders of your church, were yet sinners, Christ died for us. May we never forget that truth. Save us from the folly of preaching to others what we fail to believe ourselves. Show us again that apart from you, we are nothing but pathetic losers.

Thank you for calling us out of the marketplace of life and giving us a job to do in your vineyard. When we are tempted to compare or to complain, open the eyes of our heart to see the glory of what shall one day be revealed to us.

Grant courage to the faint of heart.
Grant wisdom to the confused.
Grant strength to those who being tempted.
Grant overflowing love to those whose love is running on empty.
Let Jesus be seen in us so that those who follow us might truly be following him. Amen.

===>Click headline to access Ray's website . . .

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Monday, October 16, 2006

Inner~Views: Praying Pastors & Conflict

Praying Pastor interviewed Pastor Alfred Poiner,


author of the newly released:

1. Pastor Poirier, three hundred and seventeen pages on conflict ... Is there that much pastors need to know about this issue?
Great question. I recently asked a group of graduating seminarians how much of the Bible is about conflict and one young man lifted his right hand and showed me his four fingers and said: “Gen 1-2 and Rev 21-22. Everything in between is about conflict.” As I say in my book, the Bible is all about conflict and about Christ the great Peacemaker.” So, yes, there is a lot to say about conflict and 314 pages is probably just scratching the surface

2. What does the title of your book tell us about your perspective on the pastor's role before-during-after a conflict?

That’s a big question, let me simply address the most important part—the pastor’s role before a conflict.
If sinful conflict arises out of indwelling sin, then peacemaking must be more than a skill set. It must become a habit of being.
The Peacemaking Pastor isn’t about the odd plumber’s wrench that we are to take out once a year to fix a leaky faucet (conflict). True biblical peace is the fruit of the gospel of reconciliation. Hence, the call to peacemaking is more than just a call to develop a skill set—it is is a “habit of being.” Peacemaking is as much about who we are as something we do. Jesus says this in his seventh beatitude, Matt 5.9 “Blessed are the peacemakers for they will be called the sons of God.
Peacemaking Pastors must recover that sense of awesome gratitude for the work of Christ our Peacemaker. Our souls first must be saturated with Christ’s message and ministry of reconciliation before we can be peacemakers. Prayerful reflection on the gospel of reconciliation (see for example Rom 3-5, 8; Eph 1-3; Col 1-2) alone will renew our hearts and our calling to recover the message and ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor 5.18-21).
Biblical peacemaking is about building a culture of peace in our congregations. By “culture” I mean ingraining godly habits that flow out of having been embraced by the gospel. Those habits are regular thanksgiving and praise to the God who saves us (Eph 1.3-14), confession of sin, granting of true forgiveness (Col 3.12-17), walking in humility and truth before one another, looking out for each other’s interests (Phil 2.1-5).
As pastors we are culture-makers. Through preaching, teaching, and counseling the message of reconciliation –that is coupled with joyful, strategic, and Spirit-relying prayer—we feed, direct and lead our people to be the peacemaking children of God in the family of God.

3. How should a peace-minded pastor incorporate prayer into conflict?
One of my favorite definitions of prayer is taken from an ancient catechism. It asks: What is prayer? And answers…“Prayer is an offering up of our desires to God for things agreeable to his will, in the name of Christ, with confession of our sins, and thankful acknowledgement of his mercies.” (Shorter Catechism. Q. 98).
Prayer couple with God’s word directs me rightly in a conflict. My default desire is not to experience conflict, trial or tribulation, yet James calls it pure joy (Jas 1.2-5). So true biblical prayer must be our desires for things agreeable to God’s will. God purposes conflict as opportunities to display his glory, his wisdom (Jas 1.5) his goodness, mercy, grace, holiness, justice and truth. Conflict drives me to prayer—to trust on God. In the confusion of conflict, I pray for God’s wisdom. Conflict highlights our weakness, our bondage to sin, our immaturity, so it affords me the opportunity to pray for God’s power and might and not my own. Paul saw this most vividly when faced with his own weakness and then experiencing God’s resurrection power (2 Cor 12.9-10).
Paul says God has given us the ministry of reconciliation and that we are Christ’s ambassadors. As ambassadors, we are not here to serve and advance our own agenda, but rather that of God’s We are not to speak our own words, but to ask: Lord, help me to speak your word (the gospel) to my brother sand sisters who are at war with each other. A great example of this is again the apostle Paul. He calls two women in the Philippian church to come to agreement. He then calls upon the rest of the church to help them. And then, beginning in v.4-9, he gives specific commands as to how to do this and one of these is prayer—“Rejoicing…petitioning God, praying instead of getting anxious (anxiety and fear frequently enflame our hearts in conflict). [I flesh this out much more in Chapter 6 of my book).

4. You make it clear that biblical forgiveness is essential - What role does prayer play in forgiving and what is the difference between forgiving as an individual and forgiving as a corporate body (congregation?
Again, let me address the first part of you question—the role that prayer plays in forgiveness.
If our heavenly Father delights most when we forgive those who have offended us, then prayer and forgiveness are intimately related. God’s Spirit reshapes my heart and helps me to forgive others when through prayer I am drawn back to the great ground of prayer—Christ’s death and resurrection for me.
In Matthew 18.21-35, Peter’s struggle to forgive is answered by Jesus’ parable that points Peter to the great forgiveness he has received. I can’t strangle my sister for 100 denarii debt and at the same time truly rejoice at the 10,000 talents God has forgiven me.
Jesus reiterates this truth in Matthew 6.9-15 where we find he teaches us to pray and then of all the petitions he emphasizes, the one he emphasizes is our own petition to be forgiven. For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. I do not understand Jesus to mean that we earn God’s forgiveness by first forgiving, but rather that the true evidence that we are forgiven and saved by grace is that we are forgivers and givers of grace.

5. One of your chapters, Toward Becoming A Peacemaking Church, talks about confession and celebration. How do they relate to the peacemaking process and how can prayer serve the pastor in each case?
Peacemaking Pastors lead their people to regular confession of sin and praise over God’s rich and bountiful forgiveness through Christ.
Sinful conflict is self-blinding. We will never confess our sin if first we do not pray for the convicting work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Like David, we must pray: “Search my heart, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts; See if there is any offensive way in me…” Ps 139.23-24. As pastors, leaders, as brothers and sisters in Christ, and as the body of Christ, this must be our first prayer. With conviction of sin can come true confession. I remember how I had mistreated my secretary. My Ps 139.23-24 prayers didn’t make me aware of my offenses, but they did prepare me to listen when my church administrator approached me to gently restore me and help me be reconciled to my secretary. This in turn lead to my public confession of sin before my congregation which was received with joy by my people as they rejoiced to see God work in the heart of their pastor.

6. Pastor, please write a prayer for praying pastors who desire to become peacemaking pastors who lead peacemaking congregations...

Heavenly Father, the God of mercies, even as you have given us the message and ministry of reconciliation, and called us to be ambassadors of Christ, your Son, we ask you to give what you command. We offer to you our prayers that you may begin with us first. Reveal to us, the pastors of your church, the ways we offend you and grant us the grace to confess and renounce our sins that we may once again experience the riches of your grace and forgiveness for us. Then, O Lord, send us out anew as ministers of reconciliation, that we may lead your people to be the peacemaking sons of God, calling to each other and to the world: “Be reconciled to God.” Amen.

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Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Devotional Thoughts Give A Dose of Inspiration

Devotions for Pastors

Even pastors need a regular dose of inspiration. Focus on the Family's pastor to pastors, H.B. London Jr., shares some devotional thoughts just for God's servants based on his three decades of ministry as a senior pastor.



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Why You Need A Prayer Support Team!

By Chris Turner, Baptist Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)--The general inability to �get along� is again at the root of the top five reasons staff members in Southern Baptist churches are terminated from their positions, according to a study by LifeWay Christian Resources� department of pastoral ministries.

Relational issues top the list for the 10th consecutive year, according to Bob Sheffield, a pastoral ministries specialist. The top five are: control issues (who's going to run the church), poor people skills, churches� resistance to change, pastor�s leadership style being too strong, and churches already in conflict when the pastor arrived.

"The interesting thing since we began doing this study in 1996 is that the top five have been the top five every year," Sheffield said. "The only difference is in their order from year to year. We consistently see the inability to develop and maintain healthy relationships within the church as the reason for dismissals." ===>Click headline to access full article . . .

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Sunday, October 01, 2006

RETREAT with "Devotional Classics"


Devotional Classics: Revised Edition By Richard J. Foster

Devotional Classics: Revised Edition

Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups

buy Devotional Classics: Revised Edition: Selected Readings for Individuals and Groups

A New, Expanded Edition of Renovaré's Classic Companion to the Devotional Life
Updated to incorporate all six traditions, or "streams," that comprise a healthy and holistic life of faith, these fifty-two selections have been organized to introduce the reader to the great devotional writers over the course of one year. Edited by James Bryan Smith, each reading is accompanied by an introduction and meditation by Richard J. Foster. In addition, each entry includes a related biblical passage, discussion questions, and individual and group exercises.

With devotional readings in

  1. The Prayer-Filled Life ~ Contemplative Tradition
  2. The Virtuous Life ~ Holiness Tradition
  3. The Spirit-Empowered Life ~ Charaismatic Tradition
  4. The Compassionate Life ~ Social Justice Tradition
  5. The Word-Centered Life ~ Evangelical Tradition
  6. The Sacramental Life ~ Incarnational Tradition

Foster and Smith sift through works from the great spiritual writers of the past as well as readings from contemporary spiritual leaders to create a guide that is indispensable for those looking for a deeper and more balanced spiritual life.


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Friday, September 29, 2006

Pastor Retreat Network

Founded in 1997, Pastors Retreat Network offers five-day retreats to pastors and pastor couples. Our programs balance solitude and community time. Scripture reading and meditation are at the heart of the experience.

Pastor Retreat Network’s strategy
flows out of a profound vision:

To glorify God and build His kingdom by strengthening Christian pastors for better ministry to the people they lead.

We do this by providing a self-directed and Christ-centered retreat experience, where God prompts Christian pastors to feel His presence, discern His will and follow His leading. These spiritually strengthened pastors will be empowered by God to transform their ministries and build His kingdom.

The concept is both simple and profound: Invite pastors and their spouses on five-day retreats in beautiful settings. There, they can focus completely on their relationship with God and their relationship with each other.

The absence of phones, television, calendars, and the demands of daily living help our guests rest, reflect, pray, seek God, and remember the reason they entered ministry. Here the redeeming love of Christ and His faithful work through them becomes clearer. This reality ignites a passionate response to God and a desire to make Him known.

Conversations with other pastors from across denominational lines open new areas of communication and become a forum for sharing "best practices." Deep, long-term friendships often take root in this safe, anonymous community.

Pastors Retreat Network is received by the IRS as a continuing education program. Our guests can attend free of charge without tax penalty, if they are involved in program activities 4-6 hours daily. While fully meeting the IRS guidelines, our programs also allow large blocks of unstructured time and freedom from daily responsibilities.

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Monday, September 25, 2006

RESOURCE ~ Eight Ways to Grow a Great Soul



Eight Ways to Grow a Great Soul

To cultivate an effective, fulfilling ministry, let’s get specific about how to grow a great soul. Try to view spiritual fitness as more than a high-octane spiritual additive to be poured into the details of ministry. Think of growing a great soul as nothing more or nothing less than an authentic Christian life—normal, whole, well adjusted and Jesus-focused—that is lived as God intends us to live.

The following section provides eight practical ways to grow a great soul. Note, however, that because spiritual growth can come from any activity or action that draws us nearer to God, this list is not exhaustive.===>Click headline to access the complete exerpt . . .


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RETREAT to Northern CA


The Ministry at Genesee Home

The primary ministry of Genesee Home is to provide an environment where Pastors and their spouses can break away from their normal daily routine and retreat to a wilderness setting free from the distractions of ministry. Below is a current description of the ministry program offered by Genesee Home.

A visit to Genesee Home is an opportunity for the Holy Spirit to minister to Pastors and their spouses. In addition to giving you a beautiful space and uninterrupted time for the work of the Holy Spirit we offer the following resources::

  • Quiet time to be in the presence of God
  • Uninterrupted time with their spouse
  • Opportunities to be inspired by God regarding your ministry, personal walk, calling, etc.
  • Prayer time, both individually, as couples, and with other Pastors and spouses
  • Time in the Word
  • Time to just relax and let go
  • Reading time (many resources are provided)
  • Opportunity to fellowship over dinner and throughout the evening with our host couple and other Pastors and spouses.
  • Guided discussions on marriage, family and ministry
  • Opportunities for recreation on the ranch are available
  • We ask that you observe a fast from most electronic media such as cell phones, faxes, computers and the internet.
  • Encouragement, a listening ear, prayer, and Spiritual Direction as need with our Host Couple.

We do not provide the following:

  • Professional counseling
  • Therapy sessions

In His Grip,
Charley & Bev Blom
Directors, Genesee Home, 7202 Genesee Rd, Taylorsville, CA 96983
530-284-1082
FAX: 530-284-1083
www.geneseehome.org
ministrydirector@geneseehome.org


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