Posts Tagged Florida

Creature of Habit

by Rev. Rick Robinson

When I was a boy growing up in rural Marion county Florida, my dog Stubby took up a sport that many rural dogs enjoyed. He chased cars. That was not a habit cats would participate in, because animals really are creatures of habit. Dogs like to chase cars and hang out the window when they go for a ride in a car. I have never seen a cat do that either, what they must think of dogs.

Are you a creature of habit? We all are, to a point. When I need to buy something for a home repair, I go to the same Lowe’s store. No, they did not pay me to mention that, I am a creature of habit. We shop in the same stores, buy the same products (although pricing these days may drive business more than convenience or loyalty) and go to the same places.

Not all habits are convenience or market driven. When we go to church we tend to sit in the same area and even sit in the same seat if it is available. A few years ago, my wife and I walked into a church with a capacity about 1000. We were the only ones there, so my wife selected a seat by placing her Bible and purse on the pew. She then went to find the ladies room. While I was waiting for the pastor in the sanctuary, an elderly lady came in and discovered the purse and Bible sitting on the pew where my wife had left them. “Oh!” the lady exclaimed. “Somebody is sitting in my seat! What shall I do?” Keep in mind there are still close to 1000 available seats. Instead of sitting in one of those available seats, she picked up my wife’s belongings and moved them back a pew. That is a perfect example of a creature of habit.

Habits become such a part of our life that we don’t even have to think about them, they place us on sort of an auto pilot. There are good habits; we call discipline, and bad habits that cause detrimental things in our lives to happen. Although every habit is not sin, bad habits are encouraged by bad thoughts.

James 1:13-15
When tempted, no one should say, “God is tempting me.” For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone; but each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed. Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

That is a good reason we should take every thought captive.

2 Corinthians 10:5-6
We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, and we are ready to punish all disobedience, whenever your obedience is complete.

For every 100 people that watch a television commercial only a certain percentage will pay attention to it. A smaller percentage will understand what the message was, and an even smaller percentage will relate to it. The percentage of people who will act on the ad by making a purchase will be determined by the repetition of presenting a relative message to the audience. That’s why the chewing gum ad says it will last longer, you will kiss longer, and have whiter teeth, instead of saying it taste good for a while then you spit it out. It has to look relevant and good.

The devil is a pro at making sin look relevant and good. When God told Adam and Eve not to eat from the tree in the middle of the garden, the sales pitch began and became very persuasive. What Eve was thinking when she made a decision to sin is something we can all relate to. We are often tempted that a certain sin would be to our benefit or enjoyment.

Genisis 3:6
When the woman saw that the tree was good for food, and that it was a delight to the eyes, and that the tree was desirable to make one wise, she took from its fruit and ate; and she gave also to her husband with her, and he ate.

If we fail to take our thoughts captive, our thoughts will take us captive. When your thought process comes in obedience to Jesus Christ, it will cut off your bad habits. This is not a complex issue, it just requires one to keep the habit (or the discipline) of staying in God’s word, and thinking about what you are thinking about. You are either a servant of Jesus Christ, or a prisoner of the devil. There are only two choices; the category of “neither” does not exist, except in the minds of those who lack knowledge of the truth.

2 Timothy 2:24-26
The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, having been held captive by him to do his will.

We must make it a habit to have fellowship with God and walk in His word. This does not mean you will never sin again. It is a matter of becoming a creature of habit when it comes to taking thoughts captive and bringing them into obedience to Him.

1 John 1:5-9
This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth; but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

The word walk used here is the Greek word peripateo (per-ee-pat-eh’-o) and it means to make one’s way, progress; to make due use of opportunities. Has that become your habit yet? The good news is when we fall, there is forgiveness and hope. Are you walking in the freedom of the forgiveness of Jesus Christ, or living as a captive to sin? Allow Christ to rule in your heart and bring you into the fullness of life that no bad habit or sin can provide.

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Are You Secure?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

I grew up in the sixties in a rural community outside of Ocala, Florida. We didn’t have any alarms on our family cars and the only alarm system in the house was my dog Stubby. My dog took up hobbies like chasing the VW the mailman drove. He was a good dog and nothing came up missing on his watch.

Now days you can subscribe to services that protect your identity. My computer has more passwords that mostly keep me out. People have those annoying alarms on their cars and you see home security signs in neighborhoods everywhere. I hear gun sales are up, but I don’t own one of those either. I don’t expect to shoot anyone, and I don’t get into hunting. If an intruder is not demon possessed, I guess I’m in big trouble. The theft problem is not really a contemporary problem.

Matthew 6:19-21

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

Let me say here, if you have services, alarms, and weapons to protect you I am not being critical of those things. Now that you have your security measures in place, are you really secure? To answer this question, we need to know who is it that wants to steal from us, and what is it they want to take? Jesus answers those questions, and gives solutions that will bring true peace.

John 10:10

The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

It is the devil himself that comes to steal from you, but what does he want? He doesn’t want your stuff. Sometimes our stuff works against us when it comes to growing spiritually in our relationship to Christ. He comes to steal the word of God from you. Stuff can be fun, but it is the word of God that is the key to a fruitful life, not our stuff.

Matthew 13:18-23

“Listen then to what the parable of the sower means: When anyone hears the message about the kingdom and does not understand it, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is the seed sown along the path. The one who received the seed that fell on rocky places is the man who hears the word and at once receives it with joy. But since he has no root, he lasts only a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the word, he quickly falls away. The one who received the seed that fell among the thorns is the man who hears the word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful.  But the one who received the seed that fell on good soil is the man who hears the word and understands it. He produces a crop, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.”

In this second telling of this parable to His disciples, Jesus identifies who the thief is, and what he wants to steal. The parable goes on to explain the methods used to steal from us. A lack of understanding, trouble, persecution, the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth (not wealth itself) are all tools used against us to steal the word. Did you notice the scripture says making “it” unfruitful? It is not you that are unfruitful; it is you minus the word that will not be able to stand. You can see why it is the word the thief wants to steal, since that is where our hope is found.

Are you yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times (or less) of the word that has been sown? Are you taking the right precautions in your life to stop the real thief? Don’t hold the door open for the thief. Alarms, services, and guns will not keep him from stealing. You must stay faithful to God’s word, read it daily and meditate on it. Stay faithful to the fellowship of believers, praying for and encouraging one another. Be faithful in your obedience to Christ. Remember He is the one that gives life to the fullest, not the manufacturers of our stuff.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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That’s No Way To Act!

By Rev. Rick Robinson

This week on the O’Reilly Factor on Fox News, Bill O’Reilly had an atheist as a guest on his show. The atheist claimed the church today has many atheist worshipping in it, they just don’t feel comfortable admitting it. I guess he wanted to encourage atheist to “come out of the closet” and out of their churches. I think the church is full of people that act like atheist much of the time. I am guilty of that sometimes just like you are. We don’t share our faith, we don’t believe God will provide our needs, we don’t spend time in prayer, reading the Bible and having fellowship with God. Neither does the atheistic guest that appeared on O’Reilly this week.

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.  For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.” Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. Jews demand miraculous signs and Greeks look for wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than man’s wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than man’s strength.

It has been my experience in talking to atheist; they don’t usually come to be atheist by studying the facts. Genuine hard fact research (not opinion) will lead you to Jesus. The self-proclaimed atheist I have talked to, come to the belief there is no God through a hurt usually inflicted by a church member. Once when I was going door to door sharing Christ, an 83-year-old woman told me she did not believe in God, or heaven or hell, when you are dead it is over. While I talked with her I discovered that when she was a little girl, her parents got a divorce. The church they attended told them they were going to hell and could not be members anymore. At that point this woman decided it was easier to believe there is no heaven or hell, and no loving God, than to believe her parents are in hell. Friends, nobody is going to hell for getting a divorce. It is only possible to get there by not accepting the gift God gave us through Jesus Christ.

You are not all that likely to have a conversation with the rare atheist, but you are very likely to come into contact with another people group, called the un-churched. It is usually much harder to detect if This group of people are saved or not. (That word “saved” means “rescued from certain death.”)

The latest numbers on church attendance reveal that 60% of the people in Florida don’t attend church on a regular basis. (The national un-churched rate is about 58%) Florida is not even in the top ten states where people do go to church on a regular basis. Here are two positive things for the Florida church attendee to think about. First of all, we are not at the top of the bottom of the list. Vermont is the number one state in the U.S. for people who do not go to church with 77% un-churched. The second thing is–six out of ten people you come in contact with in Florida, are prospects for you to invite to church. Don’t proselytize, there are plenty of un-churched people to go around.

I have had a lot of conversations with un-churched people about spiritual and religious things. I also came up with a survey I use to find out how the un-churched are thinking. To the question, “If you were looking for a church to attend, what would you look for?” The number one answer is “Someplace I could feel accepted just like I am.” Now, this could indicate an un-willingness to change a lifestyle, but I think it is something those of us inside the church need to take to heart. I have lived in Florida all my life, and I have never seen workers picking oranges with a baseball bat. When we don’t take the time to talk with people who do not have a relationship with Jesus Christ, we are doing just that. It is like fishing with a scaling knife. Trying to clean the fish before you catch them only scares the fish away. Charles Roesel, (the man who led me to Christ) told me something a long time ago that has forever stuck in my mind. He said “Rick, I only catch the fish–I let God clean them.”

Are you guilty, like I am, of acting like an atheist at times? Do you live your life daily like the majority of un-churched, allowing a need to be accepted by the people around you to control your decisions? Are your picking fruit with a baseball bat and fishing with a scaling knife? There should be something very different about us that will speak clearly to the atheist and the un-churched around us. It will speak clearly to those of us inside the church to encourage us all to live the new life we have been given. It is the love of Christ. May it be evident to all that are around us.

Romans 12:9-13

Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good. Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honor one another above yourselves. Never be lacking in zeal, but keep your spiritual fervor, serving the Lord. Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer. Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Where Are You From?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

You probably have heard the old expression, “All roads lead to Rome” at some point in time. When you think of “The Roman Road” today, perhaps you think of sharing the gospel of Christ by using scripture from the book of Romans. The fact is, in Old Testament times, the Romans were the best road builders in the world. Roman roads were straight and level and were made of four layers. They would start with a layer of sand, followed by pieces of stone and rock in concrete, then crushed stone in concrete, and finally a paved surface. Proper drainage was also provided, and where the roads went into the cities, there were raised walkways for pedestrians. Sounds better than the United States roads before the automobile came on the scene, doesn’t it?

Don’t you like the mile markers we have on our interstate system today? Well, in Old Testament times, the Romans placed milestones along the advanced roads to show travelers how far it was to the destination and how far they had come. These stones served another purpose, since Roman law made it possible for a soldier to compel a civilian to carry his pack from one milestone to the next. Jesus had this in mind when he said that if anyone compels us to go one mile, we should be willing to go an extra mile.

Matthew 5: 38-43
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if someone wants to sue you and take your tunic, let him have your cloak as well. If someone forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,

That is a hard teaching to live by for most of us. Pride, and our sense of justice stand in the way of the “Roman road” to the gospel for us. I have a map of Florida from 1925, given away by Ford Motor Company. (No I am not that old.) None of the roads I use today are on that map. I remember when I was a boy, (in the 1960’s) you could walk in almost any service station and get a free road map. Being able to plan a trip is not something that took place after the first automobiles. Fifty thousand miles of roads were built with this advanced paving throughout the Roman Empire. In the shops in Rome during those days, road maps were even available for purchase. God also wants us to be able to make plans for our life journey, so He gave us a road map we call the Bible.
People did not like traveling in those days for several reasons. Travelers were in danger from bandits.

Luke 10:30-36
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he fell into the hands of robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead. A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, took him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two silver coins and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’ “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”

Today, if you look at things from God’s perspective, there are people who have been robbed all around us. You may have been robbed as well, and not realize it.

John 10: 7-10
Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.

Has Satan been robbing you? Has he stolen your joy…Your peace? How much have you lost, and how much more will he get? Jesus came to give us life to the full, but the enemy lurks on our journey in life to devour us. He doesn’t really need your stuff, he just wants your joy, and your peace, and your relationship with Christ.

1 Peter 5: 8-11
Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings. And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen.

God knows when you are hurting. He will restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast, even if it does not seem that is possible right now. Don’t feed the lions!

Travelers were completely at the mercy of the local people in that day. Staging posts for the ordinary traveler developed. The inn was built around a central courtyard. Stabling for animals was provided at courtyard level, and other accommodation was above. It was the ancient equivalent of a motel. In theory, the staging posts provided free accommodation, food, and other services were paid for. It was a feature of most of the inns that prostitution was part of the system. Jesus told his disciples to seek accommodations elsewhere. That is one reason it was so important for first century Christians to practice hospitality.

Matthew 10:11
“Whatever town or village you enter, search for some worthy person there and stay at his house until you leave.

Romans 12:13
Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.

another problem with a journey in that day was that taxes had to be paid on goods, wheels, axles, and persons as one passed through successive tax districts. (Toll roads apparently aren’t our idea either.) Your journey in life may seem quite “taxing” at times. Do you feel like one more thing to go wrong and you will break down in despair? Maybe your journey is just there at this time. Maybe the despair has become the lion who devoured your hope and your joy. Is your hope in your ability to navigate through the trouble you face along this journey, or in the one who called you to it? Is not the destination of your journey, and those around you much more important than where you came from?

Greetings on a journey took time. It was not considered polite simply to pass the time of day. It was necessary to ask and receive answers to questions such as “Where are you going? Where are you from? What is your name? How many children have you?” and so on. (Today it would be considered profiling by many.) Jesus gave practical instruction when it came to all these issues.

Luke 10:3-7
Go! I am sending you out like lambs among wolves. Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road. “When you enter a house, first say, ‘Peace to this house.’ If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house.

While you are on this journey in life, you will greet many people. Remember where you came from. There are others around you going through things you have experienced, and they may need help. Will you be that Samaritan on the road of mercy? Your life experiences may bring the encouragement someone needs. Remember where your journey in this life will end. Will you use the “Roman road” of the gospel to provide a map for those who are lost? Jesus knows we are like sheep among wolves, but the peace of God has no limitations except the ones we ourselves place upon it. The journey of life is often inconvenient, dangerous, and taxing, but there are many others going through the same thing you have already seen on your journey. I pray God gives you some encouragement through these words that your journey will be a little less burdensome. We are all in this together, and that includes Jesus.

Copyright 2010 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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The Simplicity of Writing a Mission Purpose Statement

Rev. Rick Robinson

Matthew 28:18-20

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

The mission purpose statement of a church is a very important part of your church growth mix. One of the reasons people drop out of church is from a lack of affinity. When people don’t know what the purpose of the church is, it will lead to confusion, fragmentation, and disappointment. This lack of affinity goes virtually undetected and cost the church unknown times in members, because it is often an overlooked part of the growth mix.

Philippians 2:1-2

If you have any encouragement from being united with Christ, if any comfort from his love, if any fellowship with the Spirit, if any tenderness and compassion, then make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose.

So what is a mission purpose statement? Before making church growth plans for the future we must have an understanding of where God wants us to go. The direction God wants us to go, is our mission purpose statement. Isn’t that a simple enough concept? Don’t get the mission purpose statement and the plan or church growth strategies of accomplishing your mission confused. This is where most churches go wrong, and why most mission purpose statements are of no use. Your mission purpose statement is a very important part of your church growth mix, since it is the anchor of what you do. All your church growth ideas and strategies will be based on that mission.

In my home church, Idlewild Baptist Church, we have four words that explain our mission. This is the best example I can give you, and I didn’t write it. (I wish I had.)

The four words are:

  • Attract
  • Connect
  • Grow
  • Serve

 

Wow! What more do you need to communicate your purpose as a church. Not only is it simple and easy to remember, it is also in order of a continuous cycle. Notice how short and simple this example is. How does it compare to others you have seen or heard?

You may be asking if the mission purpose statement is really that important. Would you buy property, build a factory, and hire a thousand workers without telling them what they were to build? Keep in mind, telling the factory workers what they are to build and how they are to build it, is two different things. In the same way, we cannot expect to mobilize a church by letting everyone presume what our joint purpose is.

I want to share this story that was first published about fourteen years ago in one of our church growth newsletters. In my daily travels I am in hundreds of churches each year for various reasons. During the week I was gathering notes to write “How To Write A Mission Purpose Statement”, the Lord gave me an interesting experience. As I entered one church office, the secretary asked me to wait a moment while she answered the phone. I could not help but hear the answers given promptly by the secretary to the obvious prospective visitor on the other end of the line. The time of worship, the location of the church, the style of worship, and the mission purpose statement. Yes, they asked the mission purpose statement of the church. The secretary answered all the questions with enthusiasm, even that last one about the mission purpose statement.

I wondered how many secretaries, receptionist, even ministerial staff around the country would have been able to answer that question? Could your staff answer that question? How many of your members could answer that question? Could you even answer that question?

I felt as though God had put me there in that church at that very time to hear this conversation. It was a great experience, although I have opportunity to see many mission purpose statements throughout the year. Some are very good, and others, an attorney and an insurance agent together would have trouble reading those documents. (No offense to you professionals!)

Sometime last year as I worshipped in a Wednesday evening church service with excess of 1,000 in attendance, the pastor did something I had never seen before. He took some money out of his wallet, held it up and said, “If anyone can quote the mission purpose statement, I will give this to you.” The response would have made an extremely boring episode of the game show, Jeopardy. This church has published the mission purpose statement on every bulletin, so it is available to all members and guests. The “winner” of the pastor’s money was only “close enough” to the idea of the mission purpose statement.

Why could so many people not respond? In my estimation the mission purpose statement of that church is too long. In writing a mission purpose statement, don’t make it difficult to remember. Don’t use reams of paper, just keep it short and simple. You don’t want to confuse your mission with your technique or tactics.

How does a church get started? The first thing I would suggest is preaching sermons dealing with the subject. This will prepare the church for the process. A scriptural basis, is a must. There are resources available to help with this important task. One resource is the workbook, “Planning For The Next Five Years In A Southern Baptist Church”. If your not a Southern Baptist like I am, it will still be a useful resource, but this article may well be enough to help you.

Next, prepare a tentative mission purpose statement. You may be using a long range planning committee to do this depending on how your church is structured. If a committee of sorts will be preparing the statement, each member of that committee should write their own statement to be reviewed and edited later in the group.

Here are some suggestions for editing the statement:

  • Does your statement match the mandate of Jesus Christ?
  • Be certain the wording is simple.
  • Will this statement communicate clearly the direction the church will take in the future?
  • Is the statement brief enough for the average church
  • Be certain the statement defines the direction God wants the church to go and not the methods to be used to get there.

 

Once the process is complete, more ownership should be generated through circulating the statement to deacons, church counsel, and other groups. Discuss with them the tentative statement.

We have a great statement, now what? You are ready to present the mission statement to the church for adoption. Once approved, publish it on everything possible. Above all, use it to determine actions the church will participate in. If the action does not work toward accomplishing the mission, then it should not be considered as an official activity of the church. Imagine every activity of the church working toward your mission. Would your church become less like a club house and become a more powerful force in your community? The answer is yes!

I pray this lesson will help you to understand the mission purpose statement and bring a confidence to tackle the task of revising or writing a mission purpose statement for the first time. You can use it as a guideline, adjusting the details to fit your church environment. Following these simple guidelines, you will be able to lead your church in creating an effective and useful mission purpose statement.

To see if Church Growth Associates can help your church, click here;  Can Church Growth Associates help my church? A consultant will contact you to hear your story.

Rev. Rick Robinson is a church growth consultant helping churches of all sizes with church growth and evangelism strategies. Check out our iconsultations and Onsite Consultations   http://MyChurchGrowth.com

 

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Where the complexity of church growth intersects with the simplicity of the gospel

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