Archives For March 2013

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imprrh@gmail.com —  March 29, 2013

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Our largest mission field is North-America. But, can we reach them?

Infighting.  Politics. Apostasy. Extremism. Apathy.  Sin. Power-plays.  In some churches, it is easier to add a 4thperson to the Trinity than it is to change the color of the paint in the  foyer.  In our effort to be different, we sometimes have become weird, but worse yet, irrelevant.  In some communities, if the Adventist church would disappear tomorrow, would it be missed?

 

 

While we are fighting amongst ourselves, with our FUBU brand of Christianity (For Us By Us), the world around us is rapidly changing.  The book Unchristian, points out some very disturbing trends.  Done by the Barna group, this study brings to light some troubling perceptions of Christianity in America.  I understand that the study was not exclusive to Adventism, but some of the results should be looked at very carefully, because they could very well apply to the church we all love.
Disturbing Findings

The younger they are, the less they believe. 

The first disturbing trend is that they younger generation, namely 18-29, has more agnostics in it than any previous generation.  In fact, the percentage of people that described themselves as having no religion doubled in the past 10 years.  Couple that with the Adventist church growing at  3% a year, it’s easy to see we have a problem, especially with the younger generation.

In North America, even though there are thousands of committed young Adventists that are living out their faith every day, the average age in a Adventist congregation is in the fifties and getting older.  As I travel the country, I get to meet many people of different cultures, but I am more familiar with Hispanic Adventism.  In most Hispanic churches, the membership is young, younger and youngest.  This would tell me that the age percentage in an English speaking church might be even higher than 51.  Somewhere along the way, we stopped being as effective in reaching the younger generation with an unchanging message.  Some believe that just putting a drum set and singing a couple if praise songs will be the “it” factor.  Others feel that we have to return to the “old ways”.  While I believe that inspiring worship is a must, worship is more than just what you do one hour a week in a building.  How do we become relevant, authentic and life changing to this generation and the next remains a baffling mystery to many congregations.  We are called not to just hold on to what we have, but reach more people every day with this last days special message.

 A close family member, who is in his early 70’s, has a passion and desire to see Cuba be free from communism.  When he was a young soldier, more than 40 years ago, he was hours from getting on a plane and parachuting into Cuba to support the Bay of Pigs invasion, which failed miserably.  Since that time, a group of hundreds, maybe thousands of Cuban Resistance Fighters, have trained regularly in the humid swamps of south Florida, waiting for the day that the invasion finally happens and Cuba is free again.  There is only one problem.  There is a lot of training, over 40 years worth of it, but no actual combat.  It’s kind of funny (although I won’t tell him that) to see them getting together every year to talk about their plan, have strategy sessions and share the latest news about the war no one is fighting. 

 Most are retired now, but to hear them speak, you would think that they are ready to take on the Cuban army.  I am sure the Castro brothers wet their pants at night thinking about the ever decreasing number of commandos that will, with their canes and hearing aids descend into Cuba and annoy the communist government by leaving their turn signals on.  This last summer, this family member received a lifetime award.  That’s right.  A lifetime award.  For what?  He is never fired a single bullet!

I am afraid that scene is all too familiar. Not to discredit the older generation, for we are all heading that way, and they too have an important job to do, but what happens when they go to their sleep?  Who will finance the church?  Is the younger generation ready to step up in commitment to God’s church?   Are we empowering the younger generation to take over or are we so caught up in ourselves we neglect to elect and deploy the “army of youth”?

The following percentages are worrisome and should be in themselves a wake-up call.

Generation                 Age                  Percentage of agnostics        Number in USA

Mosaic & Busters       (18-41)            37%                                         34 million

Mosaic & Busters       (16-29)             40%                                        24 million  
Boomers                     (42-60)            27%                                         21 million
Elders                         (61+)                23%                                         12 million
Our largest mission field is North-America! What will you do?

A Dirty Little Secret

Most of the problems people had, in the churches I pastored, could be traced back to the misuse of sex. Abuse was one of the mayor culprits.

Avance: A Vision for a New Manana, a book that came out several years ago on Hispanic Adventists in North America, stated that 67% of Hispanic Adventists had been abused. Think about that statistic for a moment. If you were a Hispanic pastor that stood up to preach in church last Sabbath, you can safely assume that almost ¾ of the people staring at you, have gone or are going through an abusive situation be it mental, physical or sexual.

I believe this statistic is not very different from other skin colors or nations of origin. While all abuse is damaging, I am thinking especially of sexual abuse as I write today. Here are three recommendations for leaders:

1. Silence is not working.

Its mind boggling to me the deafening silence in many congregations of such a pervasive malady. If tomorrow I told you that ¾ of you congregation had contracted a disease, any disease, the action would be swift and intentional. Why is there so much silence in this topic? Honest, frequent conversations need to happen, from pulpit and classroom about it. The devil loves silence, secrecy and cover-up. Silence is the petri dish where dysfunction is cultured. 

2. Anyone can be an abuser. Anyone can be a victim.

Many victims and predators looked like perfectly normal, even outstanding, members of the community and church. The truth is, that usually, predators don’t look the part, only play it. I learned long ago, not to assume anything, discount anything or believe anyone is above being a victim or a perpetrator. Experts in the field tell us, one of the most common mistakes people make is not believing the victim, because the perpetrator is such an outstanding member of society.

3. There is healing in Jesus. There is help available. There is hope for you.

In the last church I pastored, I once preached on the very difficult passage of Tamar and her brother, a story that highlights the pain and consequences of abuse. We offered prayer and help for people in the congregation that had experienced abuse in their lives, following the service in a private section of the church. I thought a handful of folks would search out the professional counselor and ministry staff that would intercede and guide the process. Truth is I was surprised. Men and women. Young and old. Leaders and newcomers. We prayed for them into the night. The healing that took place was not instantaneous, nor was it only a spiritual component to it, yet the fact that the pastor mentioned and started the conversation, helped people begin to deal with an issue long repressed. Referrals were made. Lives, I believe, were saved.  

A note to pastors:

Before my wife and I got married, we went to a Christian counselor to deal with painful childhood experiences that would have threatened our union, had they been left unchecked. The healing that took place, combined with our faith in God and our desire to grow from that experience, made a huge difference. Repression, avoidance, ignoring, didn’t work. Identifying, working through it, and moving past it in a healthy way did. I encourage you, pastor and leader, to deal with this issue.

What can your church do? What places, times and venues can foster discussion on this topic? What practical suggestions can you give concerning this topic?

PS: Check out this resource brought to us by Dee Knight:
I recommend the Darkness to Light, Stewards of Children training. It’s the only evidence-based program for PREVENTING child sexual abuse. The training is available online, but much better when facilitated in person, in my opinion. Here’s a link to their site: http://www.d2l.org/site/c.4dICIJOkGcISE/b.6243681/k.86C/Child_Sexual_Abuse_Prevention_Training.htm

This presentation is in spanish and english. The topic is how to make guests experience in your church a memorable one:

English
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/in-their-shoes-making-guest-experience-great

Spanish
http://www.slideshare.net/RogerHernandez6/en-sus-zapatos-mejorando-la-experiencia-de-las-visitas-a-la-iglesia

Have a blessed day!

Monstruos Secretos

La noticia triste, (y reciente), de dos figuras muy conocidas en la iglesia adventista en Norteamérica, me motivo a pensar y reflexionar en mi propia vida.

En primer lugar, el líder de un ministerio juvenil tiene una caída moral publica. Una voz fuerte en el ala conservadora de la iglesia, sus decisiones equivocadas traen repercusiones a lo largo y ancho de la denominación. La noticia de su caída, revelan su lucha con los monstruos secretos.

De igual manera, la noticia de la muerte auto-infligida de un ex-pastor y evangelista. Nunca lo conocí, pero tengo buenos amigos míos que lo tuvieron en su iglesia para campañas evangelisticas y dicen que era extremadamente capaz. Dejó el ministerio adventista oficial por un ministerio de sostén propio. Él también estaba luchando con monstruos secretos, en su caso, un problema de salud mental que agravo la situación difícil de su matrimonio que estaba en problemas.

Al darme cuenta de sus experiencias, reflexioné sobre mi propio ministerio y decidí escribir este corto artículo. Tres reflexiones son apropiadas:

1. Lloramos y nos entristece lo ocurrido en la vida de todos los afectados por estas tragedias. Independientemente de tus puntos de vista particulares sobre la política en la iglesia, el enfoque que tienes en el ministerio, ya sea conservador o contemporáneo, la postura sobre la ordenación de mujeres o la música, nunca nos regocijamos con la caída de un líder. Lloramos y aprovechamos este tiempo para hacer un estudio sobrio de nuestras propias vidas, y no nos atrevemos a gastar un minuto apuntando con el dedo que pudiera ser aprovechado de rodillas.

2. Como líderes, cualquier cosa que no se enfrente, admite y borre, con la gracia de Dios, puede afectarnos grandemente. Todos tenemos luchas internas, peleamos con debilidades, miedos, tentaciones y pecados sobre los cuales preferiríamos no pensar. Suprimir nuestras luchas y pretender que todo esta bien puede ser fatal.

3. Me parece a mi, (esto puede ser mi propia percepción, y puedo estar equivocado) de que el énfasis de nuestro ministerio y vida puede reflejar nuestra debilidad. Recuerdo varios consejeros matrimoniales que terminaron divorciados, una pareja en particular que estaba peleando detrás del escenario antes de que el marido hable sobre el matrimonio a la congregación. La realidad es que muchas veces luchamos con aquellas cosas que atacamos.

Tengo que analizar mi ministerio y mi vida y preguntarme:
¿Cuáles son los temas recurrentes en mi predicación?
¿Qué temas veo salir una y otra vez en mis interacciones con la gente?
¿Estaré proyectando un déficit en un aspecto de mi carácter al poner demasiado énfasis en esa área?

Tragedias como estas son evitables. Pero depende de mí el hacer los cambios, buscar ayuda, admitir mis imperfecciones, vivir basado en la realidad y no en una imagen. Tengo que encargarme de los Monstruos Secretos, antes de que me destruyan. Tengo que tomar una decisión, y elegir ser sano, no admirado.

Minimize to Maximize

imprrh@gmail.com —  March 20, 2013

Minimize to Maximize

We live in a world with the attention span of a 12 year-old, on Monster. How do you make your point without taking forever? Two words: BE BRIEF! Here are three recommendations. (brief) These are taken from The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?


1.       Forget your grammar teacher:


“Making a point is easier if you’re brief. Sometimes doing this makes people nervous. Teachers told them to write long, flowing sentences that show off their ability to produce great prose that stacks up against the likes of Herman Melville and prove, once and for all, that they understand grammar. Phooey. Write brief sentences. Need help getting into it? Read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. No, it has nothing to do with business. It’s fiction. It’s a few years old at this point. Whatever. It will cure you of the need to write super-long sentences.”

2.       See #1


“The rule of grammar and paragraphs is to write three sentences per paragraph at minimum. Phooeypart two. Welcome to the land of skimmers. If your idea is packed into a dense thicket of words, it’s lost. The faster you can shave off the fat and get to the point, the faster you’ll see your e-mail response rate go back up. Articulation and brevity go hand in hand. If someone is to understand your idea, it has to be in a very tight package. Could you say it in three words?”



3.       Tell it to a six year old.


 “When someone comes into my office and starts telling me about paradigm-shifting, world-class whatever, I hold up one hand, wait for them to stop talking, and I say, ‘Tell it to me like I’m six years old.’” This is the Ken Hadge method… “Tell it to me like I’m six years old.”

Realize that in life and business, it’s always what stands out that gets remembered.

Brogan, Chris; Smith, Julien (2012). The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise?

Siempre estoy en busca de cosas que pueden hacer sus vidas más fáciles y más eficaces.

Hoy: Cómo escribir mensajes de correo electrónico effectivos (que otros responden)

Si escribes muchos correos electrónicos, por favor lee las siguientes 5 recomendaciones:
Recuerda que las ideas en este mundo lleno de informacion ya no reciben una segunda oportunidad. Necesitamos saber cómo expresarnos con claridad la primera vez.”
1. ¿Es el titulo del mensaje obvio y claro? ¿Podría responder la persona con solo leer su titulo?

2. ¿Ha puesto la parte más importante del e-mail en el primer párrafo? ¿Terminaste el e-mail con la pregunta que era más importante?

3. ¿Hubo un “pedir” en el e-mail o más de uno?

4.  ¿Fue el e-mail de menos de trescientas palabras? Nadie tiene tiempo. Sea breve.

5. ¿Podría el destinatario leerlo en menos de treinta segundos?
Hay varias razones por qué la gente ha dejado de responder a los correos electrónicos rapidamente, y la mayoría de ellas giran alrededor de tener su casilla de correo electrónico sobrecargada, lo que hace cada vez mas dificil responder.

Consejo final: Si los mensajes de texto está en aumento, ¿por qué seguir enviando emails de 1.400 palabras?

Tomado del libro: Brogan, Chris; Smith, Julien (10/25/2012). La ecuación de impacto

          The Secret to Great Emails

If you write a lot of emails, please read the following 5 suggestions. Remember “Ideas no longer get second chances. We need to know how to express ourselves clearly the first time.”

1. Was your subject line obvious and actionable? Could the recipient answer based almost entirely on it?

 
2. Did you put the most important part of the e-mail in the first paragraph? Did you end the  e-mail with the one question that was most important?
 
3. Was there one “ask” in that e-mail or more than one? Was the e-mail HTML formatted and sent via a “donotreply@” e-mail address? (That is, was it a newsletter?)
 
4. Had you messaged the recipient recently (within a few months) without making an ask? Was the e-mail fewer than three hundred words?
 
5. Could the recipient read it in under thirty seconds?
There are several reasons why people have stopped responding to e-mail in a timely fashion, and most of them revolve around too much e-mail in their box and e-mail becoming less and less easy to answer. Hint: If SMS text messaging is on the rise, why would you still send 1,400-word e-mails?
Brogan, Chris; Smith, Julien (2012-10-25). The Impact Equation: Are You Making Things Happen or Just Making Noise? (pp. 111-112).