Category Archives: News & Info

Links I Liked and Learned from this Week

A few Interesting Stats on Church & Religion in the US

From the current issue of Outreach Magazine:

  • More than 25 million people in the US have never heard the Gospel (Ralph Moore, How to Multiply Your Church)
  • Only 34% of adults believe in absolute moral truth (Barna).
  • Only 27% of adults are confident that Satan exists (Barna).
  • For most churches the largest worship attendance occurs between the 15th and 20th years of their life cycle (Gary McIntosh, Taking Your Church to the Next Level).
  • 2010 growth by denominations – 1) Mormon Church, 1.71% to 6 million, 2) Roman Catholic Church, 1.49% to 68.1 million, 3) Assemblies of God, 1.27% to 2.9 million. Every other mainline denom in the US decreased (National Council of Churches).
  • Every year 2.7 million church members fall into inactivity (Schaeffer Institute).
  • Residents of the south make up half of all the nations small group attendees (Barna).
  • 28% of Americans believe religion is old-fashioned and out of date. Up from 7% in 1958 (Gallup).
  • Christian Church attendance is 2 times higher in the South and Midwest than it is in the West and Northeast (David T. Olson, The American Church in Crisis).

Interestingly enough, these #’s reported in Outreach’s Annual 100 Largest and Fastest Growing Churches in America edition. Neil Cole notes in his book Church 3.0 that almost every statistical category for evangelical life and Biblical morality and spirituality is decreasing in America except one – the growth in the number of  mega-churches. Correlations? or is it only that growth of our churches is not keeping up with the national birth rate? Whatever the case, we’ve got work to do.

“I was in prison and You came to me” Matthew 25:36

One of the goals for our current church plant in West St. Tammany Parish was to develop a sustained discipling presence at our local jail (which houses over 1,100) and to connect with their families on the outside. We have been able to walk with a group of guys through Celebrate Recovery, we’ve began a Sunday AM worship gathering at the Jail complex, we hope to launch a state approved Faith based recovery program this month, and we have seen several families of inmates plug in with Bridge Church. I have personally enjoyed being involved in these ministries and seeing the transformation in lives of men on the inside. Why? Two reasons at 10pm on Thursday night:

  1. The goal is community transformation. To transform a community requires a willingness to go to the dark corners with the light. What good is it, if our church grows, but the community continues to deteriorate. Reducing recidivism and bringing hope to the inmate is one way for churches to push back darkness in our communities.
  2. The heart of Christ – “I was in prison and You came to me.” Christ’s example to us was, whatever it takes, and that’s how he desires for us to live.

Last weekend, Bridge Church, sponsored the first ever Family Day at a local Work Release Center. It was great to see the second part of that goal coming to pass as we connected with families of inmates. It was also great to see members/partners of Bridge Church giving themselves in service to the prisoner.

Here’s part of a recent letter received at our church, written by an inmate in a local jail:

“Thank you for your part in bringing something so goo to a situation that is mostly filled with loneliness and loss and despair.”

“It is lonely here as a Christian and you coming here and bringing the Spirit you have is bitter sweet. It just magnifies the lack of it in so many others we are forced to live with. So, thank you for the time you spend with us.”

Glad to be part of a church that reflects the desire of Christ – “I was in prison and You came to me.”

Zimbabwe Orphans

In 2009, Cassy & Steve DiLeo, organized a clothing drive that pulled in churches and businesses including PJ’s Coffee, who allowed boxes to be placed in all of their St. Tammany stores for a month or more. hundreds of boxes of clothes were shipped to Zimbabwe. This morning I was blessed to receive the first pics of orphans at Melfort Children’s Home in Zimbabwe receiving some of those clothes!

Thanks to Steve and Cassy for your AGAPE-like leadership and initiative to take on the task. Along with the clothes, this orphanage has received new life through a new water pump and system for the on site well, thanks to the Make-a-Wish Foundation and the desire of Jonathan DiLeo, Cassy & Steve’s youngest son who passed away last year due to complications with a brain tumor. His last wish was that Melfort have clean water. I was privileged to travel to Zimbabwe and visit Melfort Orphanage with Steve, Cassy, and Jonathan in 2005. It’s just a snapshot of the plight of millions of orphans in Zimbabwe and other parts of Africa (estimated 25% of the population in Zim are orphans). Peter Mabasa, Pastor of Global Life Ministries in Zimbabwe writes about the children at Melfort:

We paid a visit to Melfort Children’s Home this week to distribute the clothing you and others donated to us recently. It was such a beautiful sight seeing many of these children smiling and happy to get a new pair of shoes, dress or perhaps a warm jersey to counter this year’s severe winter. Most of the children at this home have their own story to tell. They come from dysfunctional families some shunned by their families because they dared report a case of sexual and or other abuse resulting in the arrest of a family member e.g. an uncle. Then there are the orphans as a result mostly of the HIV pandemic. Other groups comprise children abandoned at birth by young mothers not prepared to take the responsibility of motherhood. You sit down with any of these children and you hear harrowing tales that will bring the most hardened person to tears. Making a small difference in the life of these children is one of the most fulfilling things one can ever do and for that we are grateful to you brethren for making this possible.

Along with aid to orphans, churches are being planted, medical aid provided, and leaders are being trained in rural Zimbabwe in partnership with Global Life Ministries and churches on the Northshore and in Central Louisiana. This weekend we are praying for Global Life as they trek to remote Binga, Zimbabwe, for a medical outreach. Also, praying for teams from Central Louisiana currently on mission in Zimbabwe. I’m looking forward to getting back to Zim in 2011. Let me know if you’d like to get on board.

D-Day, personal pics from the National WWII Memorial in DC

Memorial Day

Very proud of my family who have protected and are protecting our freedom in the US Military. My Grandfather, PT Corley, served in North Africa during WWII. My Father, Danny Corley, and his older brother Robert served in Vietnam. Then today, Burt Corley just returned from Afghanistan and is a veteran of several theaters of war and conflict since the early 90’s. Chad McCann is currently in Afghanistan with the Louisiana National Guard. Whit Gallaspy has served in Afghanistan, Iraq, and is expected to make another deployment in the near future. If I’m leaving someone out, family, please remind me.

Praying this weekend and always for all of our troops. And not taking for granted the freedom that they have and are providing for my family.

Interesting side note: a relative of mine has found two great, great, great uncles of ours who were injured in the Civil War. She found their application for VA disability in the late 1860’s. They were injured in the battle of Hope Church, which actually was the name of our first church plant :)).

Utilizing Social Networking for Ministry

— This was originally presented at a Conference for Ministry Assistants. Download the PDF version here —-

The Gospel of Jesus Christ is big news. It’s a message to be declared, proclaimed, announced, and distributed to as many people as we can as often as we can. God’s work among His people is also news and a story that needs to be told. The tools that churches have relied upon to announce their message and distribute their stories are the pulpit, newsletters, letters and post cards, phone trees, scrolling power point announcements, and email. As a Pastor, my church utilized each of these tools and still I heard regularly from people in my church – “I didn’t know anything about that.” Communication is definitely one of our biggest challenges. Also challenging is the fact that a generation is here that is abandoning paper and phone lines for wireless messaging and social networking. It’s time for the church to take communication to another level and engage the world in the fastest growing means of messaging that we have today and utilize the world of Social Media.

Why?

So you’re not a computer geek, you don’t enjoy video games, you hate hype and fads. These are some of the reasons given for not engaging in the popular social networking domains. Here are four reasons why you should put all excuses away and just do it:

1)    It’s where the people are. In February, Facebook announced that it now has 400 million users and some estimates show that growing by as much as 35,000 a day! There are 3.5 billion pieces of content uploaded to Facebook each week. Facebook now supports 65 languages. Twitter boasts 75 million users and growing. Currently there are 50 million tweets everyday, about 600 tweets per second. These interfaces are growing and people are using them more and more each day. If we’ve got a message that we want to get out to as many people as possible it seems that we’d want to get it where the people are and social media seems to be that place.

2)    Message saturation is possible. Recently I asked a group of Church Secretaries and Administrative Assistants if the teenagers in their church are reading the church’s publications. 100% expressed uncertainty. We recognize that a hard copy newsletter does not reach all of our audience. Utilizing social media will allow you to get the exact same information to them in a way that does attract their attention. It is possible to saturate your message throughout the different age-grades and audiences in your church today like never before.

3)    It’s Free. The most compelling reason for utilizing the fastest growing communication tools today is the cost. It’s completely free! At every level of social networking, free is an option that gets you out to where millions of people are interacting every second of everyday.

4)    You Might Have Fun. Why has Facebook grown so fast? It’s enjoyable. People like having info at their fingertips in real time. They like talking about themselves and connecting with people. They will enjoy connecting with your church and discovering what it’s all about as well. And it’s ok to have fun while we proclaim His message and tell our story.

TOOLS OF THE TRADE

With so many different social networking sites popping up, here are three types that can definitely help ministries communicate their message in this new age. I’m sharing personal discoveries and what I’ve learned over the last few years as I’ve waded into these waters, so I’m certain my knowledge is far from exhaustive, but here goes:

Read the rest of this entry

Saint Patrick – Slave, Shepherd, Priest, Apostolic Church Planter, Movement Maker

My family name was most likely originally Curlee or O’Curlee, until changed to Corley many generations back. The Curlee name found its way from western Scotland and Ireland to New Orleans, and other parts of America, in the 1630’s, and then in droves after the potato blights of the 1800’s. From there, I’m guessing, a few caught on with saw mill companies and made it to beautiful Central Louisiana and settled as Corley’s. On my family’s land in Grant Parish, you can actually still make out the rows in the woods from when it was all one big potato farm. Being a “history buff,” this knowledge about my family name planted in me an interest in Saint Patrick. Here’s some interesting info I found out about:

  • Patrick actually isn’t a Saint, as he was never officially canonized by the Roman Catholic Church, but he is celebrated with a feast day and widely venerated by the church.
  • Also, he was not Irish, but an Englishman from Roman Britain. Patrick was born in AD 390, to a middle class Christian family. Though his grandfather was a pastor and both parents devoutly religious, Patrick says that “he knew not the true God” as a rebellious teenager.
  • At age 16, pirates raided his home town and carried him away to Ireland. He was sold as a slave to an Irish warlord and forced to become a shepherd.

At this point in history, Ireland was radically pagan and extremely violent. The Roman Catholic Church had given up on converting the territories and even discouraged people from traveling there. Maps of the day would label areas such as Ireland with the words “MONSTERS LIVE HERE.” In a lot of ways the people were monsters. They were illiterate, except for the language of war and bloodshed. They had no cities and little organizational infrastructure. There were around 150 clans who were constantly at war with one another. They valued getting drunk, fighting, sexual perversion, and torture. Their enemies were terrified of them because of their obscene ways of fighting. They called their battle formation the warp-spasm. Basically, they painted themselves, got drunk, stripped naked, and rushed screaming at their opponents like they were demon-possessed (they very well may have been). Even Roman Soldiers, who had conquered the world and were known for their brutality, were shocked and frightened by the Irish. The Irish religion was paganism and mysticism, led by druids and pagan priestesses who performed human sacrifices, sex rituals, claimed to be able to control the elements, and preyed on the fears of the people.

This is the world that Patrick found himself in. As a shepherd he endured total isolation in the rain and snow, never having shelter, much food, or descent clothing. It was during this time that Patrick turned to prayer and the God he knew little about. After six years, God spoke to Patrick and told him to escape because a ship was waiting on him. He walked 200 miles without being caught, found a ship and miraculously made it home, just as God told him he would.

Upon returning home Patrick enrolled in seminary and was eventually commissioned as a Priest by the Roman Catholic Church. When he was in his 40’s, God spoke to him again and commanded him to return to Ireland to preach the gospel and plant churches for the pagans that had enslaved him years before. So, Patrick sold all he had and sailed back to Ireland ready to give his life for the sake of the Gospel.

In Ireland, Patrick began using methods completely unique to his time and that would bring much opposition from the Roman Catholic Church.

  • Like modern church planters and missionaries, Patrick sought to use his knowledge of the people and Irish culture to gain open doors to communicate the Gospel.
  • He used things such as the three leaf clover to teach doctrine and adopted their styles of music and art in compelling people to put their faith in Jesus Christ.
  • If enough new converts were present in a village he would lead them to build a simple church that did not resemble Roman architecture and then hand over the church to pastors that he had trained so that he could then move on and repeat the process.

Patrick allowed the Gospel, not Roman civilization, to change Ireland. Thomas Cahill, in his book How the Irish Saved Civilization, says it like this, “Patrick’s gift to the Irish was his Christianity – the first de-Romanized Christianity in human history…a Christianity that completely inculturated itself into the Irish scene.” A Christian, not Roman-Irish, culture formed and as these “transformed warrior children of Patrick’s heart lay down their swords of battle, flung away the knives of sacrifice, and cast aside the chains of slavery, they very much remained Irishmen and Irishwomen.”

In the span of 30 years, Patrick saw between 30 and 40 of the 150 tribal clans become Christian. He trained over 1,000 pastors, planted 700 churches, and God used him to bring the peace of Christ to one of the most violent territories in the world.

What lessons can we learn from Saint Patrick?

1) Our goal for people – In Patrick’s day, winning people to Christ meant winning people to Roman culture. It seems Patrick was content to allow the Gospel to transform Irish culture instead of forcing Roman culture upon them with the Gospel thrown in. As a church we must always remember that our goal is not to make people like us, but through the Gospel, like Christ.

2) Fearless, sacrificial faith – Patrick sold all his possessions and gave his life to people who had once enslaved him and who would think nothing of doing a quick “warp-spasm” on him and take his life. He was wholeheartedly surrendered to the task of seeing the Irish people come to Christ. It was that kind of faith that the Irish needed to see. Cahill says “his refusal to be afraid of them…his steadfast loyalty and supernatural generosity” spoke volumes to the Irish people. Today, our culture needs to see people that are fearlessly and sacrificially committed to Christ in that way. Does that describe your faith? If so, get ready to be used of God to do amazing things.

 

Worth Reading: A Few Links

A few posts that caught my attention last week:

What is Lent Anyway?

This week marks the beginning of a major religious celebration around the world called Lent. In our area it means FRIDAY’S ARE FOR SEAFOOD! What is Lent exactly? In Brief:

For Roman Catholics, the Eastern Orthodox Church, and other liturgical protestant denominations (those with a continuous history before AD 1500) Lent is the forty day period from Ash Wednesday to Holy Saturday. It is to be a season of soul-searching and repentance. It can be loosely traced to the early days of the church, but was certainly less formal (most scholars believe the time of fasting was two to three days and not forty) and of course much more spiritual. Lent, as we know it today, originated in the fourth century and has changed in practice throughout the years. In AD 325, the Council of Nicea discussed a forty day season of fasting and preparation for new converts to be baptized. In the seventh century, Gregory the Great moved the beginning of Lent from Sunday to Wednesday, now called Ash Wednesday. He is also credited with beginning the ceremony of marking foreheads with ashes, as a symbol of repentance taken from the Old Testament. The practice of fasting during Lent has become more relaxed over the centuries and in 1966, the Roman Catholic Church restricted fast days to Ash Wednesday and Good Friday.

Having moved to South Louisiana just 10 years ago, I have observed that Lent is practiced but not understood by many. Even many irreligious people will give up something of value (if you count chocolate, certain adult drinks, coffee, or some other modern convenience that doesn’t really affect a person’s way of life as valuable) and will abstain from meat on Friday. When asked the purpose behind this, the person will say, “I’m not sure,” or take a great guess that would fool everyone if they were playing the board game Balderdash. Herein lies the problem with modern spirituality – it’s long on activity and short on meaning and understanding.

Too often we use religious expression, such as Lent, as a means to fit in, to feel better about ourselves, but not to understand and conform to God’s desire for our lives. In many ways Lent illustrates our lack of understanding about God and His will for humanity. Many people give up for forty days what they know they shouldn’t be doing anyway. In the 2002, movie 40 Days and 40 Nights, a single man vows to stay celibate during Lent, but meets the girl of his dreams and regrets being unable to rebel against God’s commands concerning sexual purity (1 Thessalonians 4:3-8) and to “let the marriage bed be undefiled” (Hebrews 13:4) until Lent is over. As this movie illustrates, some people may see Lent as a window of time to be serious about their faith. I tend to believe God deserves and expects 365 days of devotion and obedience, not just forty.

A somber season of soul-searching and repentance, which includes fasting, is necessary for our generation. I don’t search my soul when I give up my favorite commodity but when I understand and get a glimpse of what God has done for me through Jesus Christ. His suffering, His sacrifice, and His love should make us forget modernity for awhile and focus ourselves on repentance and new life that Christ’s death and resurrection make possible.

So how should we view Lent? One 19th Century preacher called it “The Season of the Cross.” I like that. It’s the cross that is the centerpiece of our faith (1 Corinthians 15:3) and it’s the cross that we are called to carry (Luke 9:23). So, join me during the season of the cross and do more than just mark your calendar and do without some material luxury. Let’s increase our awareness of Christ’s love and His desire for our lives. We may find ourselves gaining more, spiritually, than we could ever give up in 40 days.

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