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A Century of PennDel Missions

For one full century, the Eastern District (now PennDel Ministry Network) has been sending missionaries to engage in “the greatest evangelism the world has ever seen!” In December of 1916 Christopher and Inez Hines went to Guatemala and would become the Eastern Districts first recorded missionaries. That same month W.W. & Martha Simpson left for China, and would represent the District’s second missionaries.

A total of 131 missionaries have been sent from our District over the years, with 38 fully appointed missionaries and 18 missionary associates presently engaged in global ministry. Their stories are as inspiring as they are diverse. Personal sacrifices were sometimes monumental. Their experiences were legendary. Some would bury their spouse on their field of service (Margaret Baltau in 1919 and Isabelle Mueller in 1922). Some would find their helpmate on the field (John & Bernice Burgess, India 1926-1953). Others would find their efforts interrupted by world events (George & Helga Hemminger had to return from Africa during World War II because travel had become so dangerous). Others, like Annie Bailey (’44-’86, China/Hong Kong) would so impact their place of service, that dignitaries would honor them in their passing.

As the United States was exiting the Great Depression and entering World War II, the Eastern District continued to advance the cause of global missions by giving $131,185 to missions (an equivalent of $2 million dollars today). World Missions has always been at the heart of the Assemblies of God. Reaching the lost both at home and abroad has been a driving force and a central purpose in who we are as a fellowship. “We’re better together” is nowhere better exemplified than in our cooperative effort in sending missionaries, compassionately ministering to lost people, and leading these lost to saving faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.

Missionary: Bernice F. Burgess (Wife of John H. Burgess)

“My early life was lived in a strict adherence to the Roman Catholic faith as was that of my entire family. It was an unusual experience for me to visit the Pentecostal Church on Parrish Street, Wilkes Barre. At that time there was a great revival in progress. Having never seen anything of this sort, this was indeed a revelation to me.
At the close of the second service I was invited to the altar. I was told I was a sinner and needed salvation. This upset me, for I had been very faithful to my Catholic Church. Romans 3:23 was quoted to me; the Holy Ghost then gripped my heart with conviction, which prompted me to call upon the Lord for salvation and I was gloriously saved. Ten days later, I was filled with the Holy Ghost. At that time God called me to India as a missionary. I went to Bible College and in 1927 sailed for India and upon arrival there, I was married to Rev. John H. Burgess. In 1927 Bethel Bible School (Punalur, India) was established.”

Network Notes of Interest:

  • First District Missionaries – Christopher and Inez Hines (Guatemala, 1916-1919)
  • Most recently fully appointed missionaries: Steve & Sophia Getchel to Eurasia and Ben & Jessica Bock to Spain
  • 31 single women have served as missionaries
  • 2 sisters served together as missionaries to China (Bernice & Thelma Hildebrand, 1936-1957)
  • Over the past 5 years, Network churches have contributed over $750,000 to District projects in India, Africa, and Israel
  • In 2015 PennDel churches gave 6.7 Million dollars to Assemblies of God World Missions

Christianity Today Top Ten books for ministry leaders 2008

Here is a link to an interesting list of books from Christianity Today to provoke thought and conversation for ministry leaders.

From the article: “Charles Spurgeon counseled his students to be discriminating about what they read, and to bathe in good books “until they saturate you.” He said, “A student will find that his mental constitution is more affected by one book thoroughly mastered than by twenty books merely skimmed.” But which books to choose? Each year in ministry, leaders find there are more books to read and less time to read them. That is why Leadership is presenting the ten books of 2008 deemed most valuable for church leaders. The titles were compiled from submissions by a diverse group of more than 100 pastors from across the country. Our contributing editors then voted to determine the winners in two categories: The Leader’s Inner World, and The Leader’s Outer World. We hope this canon contributes to your development as both a follower of Christ and a leader of his church. And yes, we know canon means “list” and not “artillery,” but we still liked the image.”
ALSO- for those interested in growing your library cheaply with local library Book Sales sign up here for automatic notification of sales in your area. Books typically sell for between $1-3 for hardcovers, and .50c and $1.50 for paperbacks at these sales, but arrive early.

Seeds planted in unreached tribe

I visited our local skate park in Shamokin alone last night with 7 Bibles in hand to give away. Last week a group of 17 of us cleaned up their park again and served BBQed burgers and dogs, but I think we overwhelmed them and felt we invaded their turf. The Lord showed me last week what I needed to do to plant some seed. Going alone was the right thing last night.
As I got out of my car I approached a group of about 8 youth in the parking lot and asked if they wanted free Bibles. They were suspicious and unreceptive and said they did not need a Bible. I was glad there was another group over by the skate ramps or this trip would have been a bust in 30 seconds flat!
As I approached the group by the ramps I was glad I had called for prayer support from my wife Faith. I could feel the Lord’s hand on me. Cold call evangelism is not my style, so I was glad when some of the kids recognized me from our previous clean up trips.
I asked them if they would like a free Bible and they all said “sure”. I then asked if I could read a chapter to them and they said “no problem”, and started asking me questions about heaven before I even got started. I was concerned that one wise guy would dominate and distract the group with silly questions, but his questions turned out to be sincere. He even told me that he gets afraid sometimes that heaven is real and he won’t be there.
There were 7 kids at first, all boys, but then a few others came over to see what was up. We talked for 40 minutes and I got to look into their eyes and see a lot of pain and hunger. I told them that connecting with God was the most important thing, we talked about repentance and drugs and demons and miracles. Some of them knew quite a bit about the Bible, and you could tell which ones knew right from wrong. The focus was on Jesus and what He came to do on this earth. I left when it got dark and told them I would be back soon. I need more Bibles…
This was one of the most exhilirating times of evangelism I have ever had. I think it was because of the uncertainty. I like security and usually try to make any ministry opportunities a “sure thing” with no room for error. I don’t think Jesus operated that way. He was on the edge all the time. It did not make Him nervous, but it gave the disciples fits!

Second unreached tribe discovered in Shamokin

My last post seemed to generate some interest so I am following it with this which occurred Sunday night. I do believe that the discussion and implementation of missional ideas and practices is just beginning. Experimentation and retooling are words we had better get used to.
The fact is that unreached tribes make up most of our culture. When we focus on being attractional we see these tribes as competition because we want them to leave their tribe and join ours. But that’s not how successful missions work accomplishes the goal of growing the kingdom. We cannot merely put on native clothes in order to infiltrate the new tribe. We must have genuine love for people, and be willing to spend time with them.
Our Faith in Action team of 25 (including teens and children) met at 6 pm for prayer and the Word before heading out on four mercy missions. I shared Luke 14 -the Parable of the Great Supper -to give foundation to our task of going into the highways and hedges. We also included our prayer team, who remained at the church to intercede for our work.

Space does not permit me to elaborate on the amazing God moments experienced by the three smaller groups we sent out. But the group I was leading discovered a second lost tribe of young people at a local skate park. It resembled “Lord of the Flies” as there were no adults in sight, and there was an aboriginal feel to the place.

We first set out for the park where we discovered the “Ultimate Fighting” tribe a few weeks ago (see earlier post). They were nowhere to be found. So we cleaned up the park again and talked and prayed with a group of five who were playing basketball. They seemed embarassed, but grateful as we gave them each a 20 oz. ice cold energy drink.
Next we headed to the skate park. A notoriously dirty and dangerous place. It was filthy, but the tribe of about 30 skaters between the ages of 11 and 20 seemed oblivious to their surroundings. We began sweeping and picking up, waiting for a chance to speak with some of them. We had only 19 energy drinks to give out, but with 30 kids there, I was afraid giving them out would start a riot, so I began to ask the Lord what to do.
Then it became clear to me that I could stand in the middle of the park and hand the drinks out to those who answered questions I would ask. It was a bit risky, but I ran to the van and got the cooler. I summoned anyone who wanted an energy drink to come close, and instantly had a group of 15 hanging on my words. (the older “cool ones” did not come around, it was mostly the younger ones)
I proceeded to ask them general Bible questions off the top of my head. “Who was Moses and what was the most important thing he did?”, “Name one thing Jesus said,” “Who was Judas and what did he do?”, and so on. It was electric. These kids were thinking and talking about God. One kid recited the entire Lord’s Prayer. They came up short on John 3:16, but it gave me a chance to tell them about it.
The spontaneous atmosphere, and incarnational character of what we have been doing opens the door for the Spirit to do more than if we had stayed in our church box. It also gives more value to the times we do meet for worship and teaching because that’s where we get fueled for the mission.
As we were leaving some of the boys came and said thanks for cleaning up, and for the drinks. I am hoping they will begin to take pride in the place and keep it clean themselves. Then one of the boys, who was wearing a Led Zeppelin t-shirt, came up to me and said, “I think you were my pastor when I was a kid.” I thought he looked familiar, and it turned out to be Georgie. His family had left the church in a split a few years ago, but George always sat up front and loved to be in church. It was great to reconnect with him, and I think something stirred in his heart. I know something stirred in mine.

1 Corinthians 15:58 With all this going for us, my dear, dear friends, stand your ground. And don’t hold back. Throw yourselves into the work of the Master, confident that nothing you do for him is a waste of time or effort.

Can God Speak Through ESPN?

Throughout the years I’ve been enamored by the similarities I’ve seen between coaching a football team and pastoring a church. I don’t know how many times, while watching an NFL Films documentary of some historic gridiron battle, that the coach’s passion, instruction or frustration matched perfectly with what I had at some time experienced in ministry.

Now I’m not a jock or a sport’s junkie or anything along those lines. In fact, the closest I’ve ever come to the chalk-marks was when my sons were younger and we became part of the fantasy football phenomena. I say “we,” but it soon became “I.” Like many of you, I don’t do anything in a small way, so I soon found myself studying the lineups, depth charts and injury reports so as to gain an advantage in the weekend match-ups. Through a brief vision the Lord revealed that this “little hobby” had innocently become a “little fox” that was stealing much from my spiritual life. (“Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial”). Before this correction, I seemed to be able to harness the conviction of the Spirit as I stood in worship on a Sunday evening; hands lifted and mouth moving, while at the same time wondering how many points my running-back and tight-end were racking up in the late starts that day. Since then, with fantasy football forsaken, it’s been all things in moderation.

This past Tuesday, however, I was once again challenged by a parallel between the coaching and pastoral worlds, and I believe God had something to say to me though ESPN. Perhaps you saw the news conference where Bobby Petrino, the head coach of the beleaguered Atlanta Falcons, resigned mid-season to accept a new position as coach at the University of Arkansas. Petrino, who was only in his first season in the pros, smiled gleefully at his press conference, noting that “it was a sad but glad day” as he severed himself from the Falcons to head back to the collegent world where he had experienced immense success the year before at lesser Louisville.

Petrino is now perceived to have “used” the Falcons as a stepping stone to a better position in the college ranks. Adding an NFL coaching job to his resume was in some critic’s minds a clever way to raise his stock as he waited for the right opening at a power-house football school. Arthur Blank, the Falcon’s owner, bemoaned the fact that “he felt betrayed” by Petrino’s resignation, seeing that the coach had apparently told him the day before that he would remain with the team.

The players were even more shocked and outspoken. Veteran tackle Grady Jackson, who was cut this season by Petrino, spurned, “It just shows his true color, like a coward with a yellow stripe down his back!” And again, “He probably didn’t want the job anyway. He was probably waiting for a better job to come along, a college job. He wanted out of Louisville.” Safety Lawyer Milloy added, “This league is for real men. I think he realized he didn’t belong here. I feel like I’ve been sleeping with the enemy.” When defensive-end Jamaal Anderson was asked about how Petrino would be remembered, he replied, “One word: Disloyal!”

But it was during cornerback Deangelo Hall’s phone interview with ESPN anchor Scott Van Pelt that something stirred in my spirit. “…We were a little bit disappointed in the decision he made,” Hall said. “But when you see him out there celebrating and smiling and having fun, you tend to be a little angry. This was the guy who wanted us to buy into his system. I was one of the guys who was a little bit leery at first, and I guess I had right cause to be because he obviously had ulterior motives when he came. He came to the Atlanta Falcons as a stepping stool to get where he wanted to be, and that’s, a better college job.”

As I listened to the comments of the “Falcon congregation” regarding the departure of their “lead pastor,” I realized that these are the same feelings and emotions that arise within the church when the shepherd “chooses” to move on to more pleasant pastures after having just convinced the congregation to “buy into their system.” I say “chooses” because, while I can’t discount the fact that God can and does move people in ministry, I am not convinced that every pastoral transition is in obedience to the Spirit’s voice. Sadly, Petrino is a parable of many of the leaders of our day. Hirelings and opportunists who move from church to church, bolstering their resume in pursuit of that illustrious ministry, yet willfully ignorant of the great hurt and disappointment they leave in their wake.

Petrino’s world was surely complicated by the negative press associated with the arrest, trial and conviction of quarterback Michael Vick, who was sentenced the day before the coach’s resignation to 23 months in prison on dog-fighting charges. But Petrino knew it was going to be a demanding position even before he inked-out his five-year, $24 million contract (OK – this is where the pastoral parallel breaks down). We must ask ourselves as spiritual leaders; “Are we going to quit simply because we are facing the challenges we were told to expect when we first answered the call to ministry?” Are we really to be surprised when the going gets tough or opposition rises against us? The Apostle Paul’s instruction to “beware of dogs” in Philippians 3:2 isn’t a warning to mailmen (or quarterbacks). Instead it speaks of the spiritual dogfights which we can expect to encounter as the Kingdom of God advances against the darkness of this present age. This league really is for real men! Sadly, many leaders transition out mid-season in their ministry because results don’t come as quickly as expected. Like Petrino, who resigned after dropping his tenth game of the year, many pastors decide to “go back” to their comfort zone; back to the where all of the challenges are understood; back to the realm where they are guaranteed some measure of success.

At his responding press conference, owner Arthur Blank, looking like he’d been stabbed in the back, made reference to a sign on the wall posted by Petrino in the team meeting room soon after his hiring. The sign listed the traits the new coach demanded from his players. Blank made special reference to Petrino’s final characteristic – Finish! My friend, this word is not limited to the locker room but should be etched indelibly upon every leader’s heart. Speaking sarcastically, Blank added, “I don’t think quitting after 13 games is equal to the word ‘Finish!”

Is it Monday yet? Da-Nuh-Nuh; Da-Nuh-Nuh!

Changing bulbs

Changing Bulbs

It seemed like a radical idea. Last week we decided to transition all of the incandescent light bulbs in our home to the new earth-friendly CFL bulbs. I am not under the delusion that this will somehow “save the planet”, but they last ten years and use 1/4 the power. I can live with that!
I was able to get a great deal on a whole bunch of them on Ebay. We changed every bulb in the house for under $35. I should recover those costs in a little over a year. After that, it’s all gravy! I am more than willing to have others consider me environmentally responsible, but I must confess that my real motivation was capitalistic!
The question my kids and wife had was “will they be as bright as the old bulbs?” As I installed the first few new bulbs, I got a little nervous. They were definitely not as bright as the old ones. In fact, they were downright dim! Instead of being praised for such a responsible carbon-neutral decision, I would now be mocked for my foolhardy scheme. Oh the shame.
But alas, I soon noticed that the bulbs were brightening. In fact, they were clearly brighter than the old incandescents, and my fear turned to brimming pride. My daughter came out of the bathroom and said, “I can see myself in the mirror better than before!” Case closed.
You see, the new bulbs start out slow, but after less than a minute they warm up and outperform the old bulbs easily. We are now bathing in cheaper, stronger light, and we won’t have to change bulbs for another decade!
Now for the metaphor.
We are in the midst of a huge shift in our culture, and in how the church functions and fulfills its mission in the world, especially here in America. There are many of our colleagues who fail to see how to make the necessary changes to transition their flocks. They are used to the yellow incandescent glow, and cannot imagine trying something new.
I must admit that initially the results of the changes we are making (Penn Del C3, attractional to missional, corporate to apostolic) look a little dim. My belief is that we are in the warming period. The full glow will not be seen for some years, but I am certain it will come if we stay on course. We must continue to change to stay on course. It’s fluid.
I sense God’s hand in it, and His pleasure as I let go of my tried and true formulae and grab a hold of His mighty coattails for a free ride into the light. I sense it when I share what God is doing and saying with a group of pastors. They either lean forward and their eyes light up, or they look away, fearing what the changes might mean for them and their church.
We were promised boldness when the spirit came upon us. Lord, deliver us from fear, and propel us with missionary zeal to embrace your change. These are radical days and they call for radical measures. I don’t care to bask in the afterglow of dying embers when the Lord is starting a new fire. (sorry, I guess I switched metaphors there :))

Guest Post by Dr. George O. Wood

Recently, I was in contact with Dr. Wood, new General Superintendent for the U.S. Assemblies of God. In sharing about this blog, I invited him to submit a guest posting. What he shares below has been shared on another blog, but in case you haven’t seen it, I think it will give you a wonderful window in Dr. Wood’s heart and mind.

Let me also share that Dr. Wood is scheduled to speak at State College Assembly of God (use for directions) on January 13, 2008. The evening before he has made himself available to meet with any A/G credential holders who wish to come for an evening meal and a personal time of sharing.

The dinner will be provided free of charge by State College Assembly and will be held from 6-8 pm on Saturday, January 12 in our Fellowship Hall. Please RSVP by emailing scassembly@aol.com and simply saying who is coming and from where (for name tags). RSVP deadline is Friday, December 28.

He will be unable to interact with comments here, but I do hope you enjoy the following:

For my devotions this year, I’ve been slowly moving through Ezekiel with Donald Bloch’s terrific (and technical) commentary; and journaling a verse a day through the Gospel of Mark. My journaling is definitely not exegesis, but iso-gesis. I type in the verse and then “think (i.e., write) out loud” my thoughts onto the computer. At the end I write a brief prayer. I’ve found this daily absorption in the Scripture to be really invigorating.

For the last few weeks, I’ve been plowing through Mark 9 – a very long chapter. Now, I’m almost at the end and suddenly some things fell together as I awakened the other morning. Funny how you can cogitate and meditate on something for a long time and not see how the parts fit – and then all of a sudden, a flash of inspiration comes in a nanosecond and you see everything clearly.

So, here’s how I see where Mark 9 fits into a lot of discussion on the blog. Mark 9 is all about the disciples and their perception of themselves and their place in the kingdom. The chapter follows the disciples through 4 stages, and I suspect we’ve all been there or are in one of them now.

First, revelation. That’s the Transfiguration or Metamorphosis of Jesus. It’s the only time in his early life where his divine nature shown through his humanity. Moses and Elijah are there. Jesus face is shining like the sun and his clothes whiter than any Clorox could get them. What a great moment for the three: Peter, James, and John.

Revelation is the spot where we are overwhelmed in the presence of the majestic Christ. It’s something we Pentecostals covet – being caught up into spiritual revelation and experience beyond what the rational mind can fathom. It’s being lifted into the heavenlies and encountering God in such a way that language cannot hold the experience nor can the emotions be articulated.

Second, argument. When Jesus and the inner 3 come down from the mountain they find the remaining 9 locked in an argument with the teachers of the law. What’s the argument about? The 9 cannot cast the demon out of the boy. They cannot do this even though earlier Jesus had commissioned them to cast out demons and Mark reports that they had done so. But, now they command and nothing happens – so they’re left to argue with the critics.

It seems to me that this is one of the problems we are having now in the Pentecostal movement. When we don’t have power, we argue. The fullness of the Spirit has leaked all the way out. And, our arguments don’t solve the pressing needs of those who are looking to us. I fear a dried up Pentecostal theological scholasticism that has no power. Argument (except for a wholesome apologetic for the faith such as the Apostle Paul’s dialogical evangelism) never produces the fruit of the Spirit, much less the gifts.

But, since the disciples at the foot of the Mount of Transfiguration have no power, they can only fall back on defending themselves with argument. It’s not a pretty picture. Jesus chews them out for not praying, thereby connecting argument with prayerlessness, and authority with prayer.

Wait. It gets worse. Third. Arrogance. After getting chewed out by Jesus for their powerlessness, they then start arguing about who is the greatest. They are doing the very thing that breaks community. Whenever we pit ourselves against others, or take the attitude “I don’t need you” – aren’t we exhibiting the same arrogance? When I was a new district official I visited a pastor who had a large church in our district but never was involved in anything. I wanted to reach out to him and find out what we could do to establish relationship. His response to me was, “I went to Springfield once and the brethren had nothing to add to me.” I wished I had said, “Well, maybe you could have added something to Springfield.” I think that’s what the Antiochians would have done for Jerusalem.

And, let’s face it – “Springfield” can be just as prone to arrogance as “non-Springfield” because arrogance doesn’t have territorial limitations.

So, Jesus talks to his arrogant disciples about being a servant, and he sets a little child in their midst. I think he does that because he’s telling the disciples: “If you really want to be great, then put your arms around the next generation and serve them. Stop being so narcissistic. My way is not self-fulfillment but self-denial. My way is not independence, but interdependence.”

Fortunately, by the time we get to the book of Acts – the disciples have gotten over arrogance and become a model community. It took awhile for them to realize the world would know them by their love for one another, not how smart they were, how cutting edge (or dull) they were, or what their age and cultural preferences were.

Then, the fourth thing happens in Mark 9. From revelation to argument to arrogance to exclusivity.

The disciples, who couldn’t cast out the demon, tell other people who are casting out demons to stop. If it weren’t so serious, it would be funny. They think they’ve got the exclusive franchise on Jesus.We must avoid narrowness of heart and spirit. Jesus tells these disciples of his that they better not lead the “little ones” into sin for if they do, it would be better if a millstone were tied around their neck. What he’s really saying is that the fractiousness of the disciples is going to doom the novices in the kingdom, that exclusiveness is not only silliness but spiritually deadly.

So, in these recent weeks I’ve been drinking deeply from the well of Mark 9 and asking the Lord to help me stay fresh on the revelation side so that I’m inundated with His presence; and spared from the traps of being argumentative, arrogant, or exclusive.

During the charismatic renewal of the 70s (for those of us who were alive then!), we sang a beautiful and haunting chorus. I almost always led it at communion time: “Bind us together, Lord; bind us together . . . with cords that cannot be broken.” That binding is to Christ and to one another. In Mark 9, the disciples are seen at their nadir – but the Lord wasn’t finished with them. By the time he was done working on them – that argumentative, arrogant, and exclusive minded group had become a community (the body of Christ) that changed the world. They got bound together by the work of the Spirit.

And, incredibly, by the grace of the Lord, he’s doing the same thing with us! He works with all our limitations and sees that he can bring gold out of all our dross.

George O. Wood
General Superintendent

Praying for the Sick

We are living in a time of momentous change in the Body of Christ. Some of it is great; some of it is not so great, but let me focus on what I think is positive.

A recent poll of Southern Baptist pastors and laity found a majority believe that tongues as a private prayer language is for today.

Today, David Rogers, son of the former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, Adrian Rogers, and one of the best known and loved missionaries in the Southern Baptist Convention today, posted this on his blog about divine healing.

Read, enjoy and be encouraged. God is up to something big!

A Resource for You at Penn State

One of the desires we have for the Penn-Del District is to resource you. Of course, most of the time we are connecting you to existing resources of which you may not be aware. There’s more out there than we often realize.

Actually, there is quite a valuable resource to you right here at Penn State. Roger Finke, a nationally recognized sociologist of religion and professor at PSU (his best known work is probably The Churching of America, 1776-2005: Winners and Losers in Our Religious Economy, co-authored with Rodney Starke), started an incredible archive of religion-related information some years before Penn State snagged him. Since he came to Penn State it has expanded into, possibly, the best one-stop religion data resource on the internet.

That archive is called ARDA, or the Association of Religion Data Archives. It has a wealth (actually an understatement) of information!

On that site you can find religious data from most nations of the world. For instance, if you wonder how many Christians there are in Iraq (a rapidly diminishing number, actually), ARDA will tell you.

Or maybe you want to know about American people’s attitude toward the war in Iraq broken down by broad religious affilliation, or even church attendance, ARDA can tell you that as well.
Or maybe you want to know how many Old Order Amish (or Jews or Muslims or Christian Scientists) there are in Pennsylvania. Look no further.

Of the two states in our district, let me focus on Pennsylvania just to illustrate how helpful his data can be.

Pennsylvania, as a whole, is fascinating from a religious standpoint. According to ARDA, Pennsylvania has the most mainline Protestant churches of any state in the U.S. It is also #2 in the number of Catholic churches (second only to New York). That, in and of itself is hugely important, but then there is the fact that many of those churches are more conservative than their national counterparts. Two major American Protestant denominations (The Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church [USA]) have conservative resurgent movements epicentered in, off all places, Pittsburgh.

Pittsburgh is spiritually very different than Philadelphia (I’ve pastored near both cities). Both have a large population of Catholics, but it was Pittsburgh where the 1960’s Charismatic Renewal took hold, specifically at Duquense University. It is also the place where the healing evangelist, Kathryn Kuhlman, headquartered her ministry in the 50s and 60’s. Many of her meetings were held in the prestigious, downtown First Presbyterian Church (next door to Trinity (Episcopal) Cathedral)! Can you imagine that in Philadelphia?

Here are the overall stats for Pennsylvania.

Now, to more specific information. This map shows the relative strength of the evangelical Protestant Christian population. You will notice that it shapes what some would call the Pennsylvania ‘Bible Belt,’ having much in common (both culturally and historically) with western Maryland and northern Virginia. I would submit that the dividing line on the western end is the city of Altoona, with southern Blair County being noticeably different than northern Blair County (of course, Cambria County to the west is predominantly Catholic–55%, in fact).

The second map shows the relative strength of the mainline Protestant Christian population (with the percentage being as high as 35% in Snyder County). You will notice that the shift is toward east central Pennsylvania. It should be remembered that many of these congregations/church members are rather evangelical, though usually not quite as conservative as those ARDA designates as evangelical denominations.

Regarding the A/G in particular, this map shows the relative strength of the A/G in every county in PA. This one shows the same in Delaware.

I encourage you to explore the site. There’s lot of stuff there.

I’ve recently been told that ARDA is going to do a major upgrade of their site. I’ll let you know about that when it happens.

Can church be both missional and attractional?

Alan Hirsch in The Forgotten Ways says, “The major challenge to the viability of Christianity is not Buddhism…nor is it Islam…nor the New Age… All of these are challenges, no doubt, but I have come to believe that the major threat to the viability of our faith is that of consumerism.”  

Yes, Paul, we are pastoring people who are consumers first and Christians second (or third, fourth…)  Willow Creek says that their mission is to turn irreligious people into fully devoted followers of Christ.  I wonder if we should say that our mission is to turn American consumers into authentic sacrificial Christ followers?  Is that possible when we seem to be “selling” Jesus as “the way to have all your needs met” and our church as the place where you can find it?  Is it possible to attract consumers to church without appealing to their consumer instincts?  And if we are appealing to their consumer instincts, how can we expect them to turn into missional, cross-bearing, loving-the-least-of-these kinds of people?  
Can a church be both attractional and missional?  I hope so and I’m looking for examples.  

Are We Just Pastoring Consumers?

Jeff, I join with Gerry in thanking you for posting the Hawkins video.

An even scarier thought than that we are not meeting deeply felt needs is that American Christians seem themselves as little more than weekend church consumers.

Here is a book review of “Shopping for God” in Tuesday’s Wall Street Journal that may reinforce our worst fears–that we are pastoring consumers rather than transformed transformers.

Here is further discussion on getreligion.org.

the Reveal video

Jeff, I found that Reveal video interesting. And frightening. And then funny.

Interesting in looking at the different people that we serve in our churches. Frightening in that the one group of people least likely to be enjoying our churches, is the group that identifies themselves as closest to Jesus. It took me awhile to digest that.

And then funny. Funny because I can remember various people who really did see themselves as far too close to Jesus as to be weighed down with something as messy, hard, and uncomfortable as church can be sometimes. I’m ashamed to admit that I have had that sorry attitude myself at times.

I’m just glad Jesus wasn’t like that.

Willow Creek’s Soul-Searching

The team at Willow Creek has launched a new website called REVEAL. The are in the process of doing research about what is truly effective in making ‘fully devoted followers’.

Greg Hawkins, their Executive Pastor, talks very openly in this online video about what has been effective and what has apparently not been.

He describes five different groups that the church attempts to provide ministry for: Exploring, Growing, Close, Christ-Centered, and Stalled.

I found this very thought provoking. The video is 13 minutes long, but it is worth the watch.

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