Latest Christian News Featuring Craig Groeschel, Dallas Willard, Darlene Zschech And The Newsboys, Amy Grant, Duck Dynasty, Hannah Luce
The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery . . . by Jonathan Cahn Sells More Than 1.5 Million Copies With 2 Years
The New York Times best-selling book The Harbinger: The Ancient Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future by Jonathan Cahn was awarded the Evangelical Christian Publisher’s Association (ECPA) Gold and Platinum awards for achieving sales of both 500,000 and one million units within one consecutive year at the recent ECPA Awards Banquet in Nashville, TN.
Deserving products receive the Gold award for 500,000 copies sold, and the Platinum award for over one million copies sold. ECPA has only presented both the Gold and Platinum awards within a consecutive 12-month period to four titles including the Left Behind series by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, The Purpose Driven Life by Rick Warren, and Heaven Is for Real by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent.
Tessie DeVore, Charisma House Book Group executive VP, said, “The record-breaking sales of The Harbinger is indicative of the interest byreaders from all walks of life who have been gripped by the uncanny scriptural parallels to what’s happened in current events.” She added, “What makes this milestone even more gratifying is to know that people around the world are not only learning about these mysteries but are also praying for America.”
Released Jan. 3, 2012, the book has gone to reprint more than 17 times. It is the first New York Times best seller for Cahn.
Raised in a Jewish home, Cahn became an atheist before accepting Christ as Messiah as a 20-year-old. Since 1988, he has led Jerusalem Center/Beth Israel, a worship center in Wayne, NJ, one of the country’s largest Messianic congregations. Through his Hope of the World ministry he has ministered in Cuba, Nigeria, and India.
The Harbinger is the 11th New York Times best seller for Charisma House Book Group. Fasting by Jentezen Franklin, 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese, and The Seven Pillars of Health by Don Colbert, MD, have also previously made the list.
Charisma House Book Group has also published several ECPA award-winning books, including 23 Minutes in Hell by Bill Wiese, Jerusalem Countdown by John Hagee, and The Bait of Satan by John Bevere.
B&H Publishing Group president Selma Wilson has announced a new strategy for the company’s fiction program.
Uniquely positioned for developing strategic partnerships, B&H will intentionally focus on publishing only those novels that are tied to broader strategic endeavors, including initiatives with ministries, external film partners, LifeWay Films, and the B&H Kids line. Past releases using this model have included such best sellers as The Love Dare, The Vow, The Resolution for Men, as well as titles such as October Baby andUnconditional. New and upcoming releases include the “Experiencing God at Home” line, The Lost Medallion by Bill Muir and Alex Kendrick, and “The Truth Seekers” series by Bill Myers.
“B&H is focusing on projects that align with our core strengths,” said Wilson. “We are uniquely gifted in working alongside partners and utilizing all of the tools that LifeWay Christian Resources is blessed to have. We are a team of people who want to spread the gospel around the world, and we believe we accomplish that best when we deploy our gifts to broader movements alongside strategic relationships.”
Upcoming B&H releases this year include The Love Dare for Parents by Stephen and Alex Kendrick (Jul. 1), Whispers of Hope by Beth Moore (Oct. 1), and Operation Christmas Child by Franklin Graham and Donna Lee Toney (Oct. 1).
Earlier this year, Mars Hill Music entered into a partnership with Tooth & Nail Records / BEC Recordings to share the variety of worship bands from Mars Hill Church. The second full-length release from this partnership will be from Ghost Ship, which finds its home in the new Mars Hill Downtown building in Seattle. The folk-rock worship band will release their full-length album, The Good King, on June 11. Click here to see and exclusive preview video from the Ghost Ship’s release.
Lead Worship Pastor at Mars Hill Church Downtown Seattle Cam Huxford thought he’d follow in his father’s footsteps (a pastor to the same congregation for 28 years); however, this Georgia native started down the path of a musician early as he discovered music.
“I had this really bad folk band,” he admits, detailing his early days as a musician, “And we were kids, just sharing songs we’d written, and I had an idea for a worship song…and we just wrote it.” He went on to study Music and Theology at East Tennessee University, and post-graduation landed as the lead worship pastor for a 20k congregation back at his father’s church.
Years later, Huxford and his wife started feeling called towards urban ministry and, after researching, found that Seattle was one of the most un-churched cities in the nation. They learned about Mars Hill and Huxford quickly became involved. He’s been leading worship at the downtown campus ever since.
Seeing the congregation sing alongside him is what Huxford and his band Ghost Ship have been doing for about two and half years. Comprised of Huxford, Doug Finefrock, Jamison Dewlen, Chae Choi, Shay Carlucci, and Fancy Morales, the septet worships with a rock-folk sound that fosters Huxford’s specialty of scripture-inspired storytelling. They write and lead with the faith that God will be at the center of it all, thus the name of their band. “Ghost Ship” is a reminder that they’re moving by the power of the Holy Ghost, active vessels for the Lord motivated through the Spirit.
Click here to see the album artwork and complete track listing.
ABOUT MARS HILL MUSIC:
Mars Hill Music is made up of a variety of musicians and worship leaders who serve throughout the various Mars Hill locations. Since its humble beginnings in 1996, Mars Hill has been committed to engaging the surrounding culture in order to point people to Jesus. Each Mars Hill band strives to do this with a natural expression and outgrowth of what God is doing in their cities.
REVEALING JESUS U.S. TOUR FEATURING DARLENE ZSCHECH, ISRAEL HOUGHTON AND BJ PUTNAM LAUNCHES IN SAN DIEGO
World-renowned worship leader and best-selling author, Darlene Zschech, and five-time GRAMMY Award-winner, Israel Houghton, open their U.S. “Revealing Jesus Tour” in San Diego today (April 16) followed by events in Las Vegas (4/17), Phoenix (4/18), Irvine and Rancho Cucamonga, CA (4/19), Houston (4/20-21) and Dallas (4/21). In addition to new music from Zschech and Houghton, the events will feature special guest worship leader and songwriter BJ Putnam. For all the latest tour detail and ticket information, go towww.darlenezschech.com.
Christians across continents are joining in the call to worship presented through Zschech’s Revealing Jesus live CD/DVD and 365-day devotional hardcover gift book from RGM-NEW BREED Music / Integrity Music and Bethany House Publishers, respectively. Released March 19 amidst international acclaim, her long-awaited new recording was produced by Houghton and features special guest appearances and song co-writes with Michael W. Smith, Kari Jobe and Houghton. The first video from the Revealing Jesus DVD, “Victor’s Crown,” has already received over 255,000 YouTube views, with additional videos, several song stories and more available now at http://www.youtube.com/integritymusic.
Gathering more than 48,129,000 Revealing Jesus Twitter impressions in the two-months leading up to the release of the project, Zschech has received widespread critical acclaim with numerous covers, features and reviews from radio, newspapers and television outlets internationally. Dr. Chuck Fromm, founder and publisher of Worship Leader Magazine / Song Discovery says, “Among today’s hymnwriters and music creators, Darlene Zschech is a pioneer, mentor and vital contributor with worldwide impact.” Charisma Magazine says, “Zschech, with Houghton’s direction, has crafted one of the finest live worship projects in recent memory, which serves as a bridge for those raised on early Hillsong music who want to sing a new song.” CCM Magazine says, “In her classic fashion, worship leader Darlene Zschech brings her A-game once more in this newest release.”
In addition to the 12 new Revealing Jesus CD/DVD worship anthems, bonus tracks in custom versions of the album will include fresh takes on such internationally acclaimed songs as “Shout to the Lord,” “Hosanna” and “Worthy is the Lamb,” as well as the Houghton-penned “Jesus at the Center.” The custom versions include a “deluxe” CD/DVD combination, an ebook with songs, and an iTunes LP® that includes video plus bonus resources, song devotional videos and more.
The companion Revealing Jesus book was poured out from the pages of Zschech’s personal journals. Honest, raw, and beautifully written, the devotional contains meditations and Scriptures revealing the heart of Jesus. Worship Leader magazine says the book is “beneficial for those who may feel stuck in a rut in their prayer life or for those who may not know where to start, overwhelmed by the vastness of the Bible…[it] will help readers to gain a fresh perspective and renewed hope for each day, deepening their understanding of God and drawing them closer to Him.”
Its been another banner opening week for Passion. The group’s latest album debuted with a 48,000 opening week according to Billboard.
Congrats to the good people of passion and sixsteps records.
BEC Recordings’ and GRAMMY-nominated artist Jeremy Camp celebrates another No. 1 Billboard Christian Album debut with his most recent studio album Reckless. The album immediately shot to the top of the iTunes Christian & Gospel chart as well as in the Top 10 on the overall albums chart. This marks Camp’s third No. 1 Billboard Christian Album debut in his career.
Rounding out his stellar street week, Camp appeared on FoxNews LIVE last Friday talking about his album and recent book release, I Still Believe (Tyndale House Publishers). The interview can be viewed here. In addition, Camp interviewed with Fox 411 about his recent releases, click here to read the interview. Media also touted the seventh studio album from Camp.
“Don’t let the title fool you. The album may be called Reckless, but Jeremy Camp is as solid as ever. While the songs encourage listeners to live with abandon when it comes to spiritual things, this is a well-planned collection of worship pop-rock.” – Rhapsody
“Camp’s fervent heart for ministry and for God is evident through the songs and the production of the album.Reckless is honest and heartfelt, and carries some songs that would be useful in the church.” – Worship Leader
“Musically, Reckless is one of the most raw and organic offerings of his career. Reckless simply reflects Camp’s heart-on-your-sleeve candor, a rare combination that shows up in a slightly more grown-up music bed.” – GMCtv
“From difficult times to good ones, Camp shares a Reckless faith through it all” – About.com
“Filled with passionate songs birthed in the furnace of worship, prayer and intercession, Jeremy Camp’s new studio album Reckless is a powerful experience calling the body of Christ to a revival and restoration in Christ with eleven brand new original songs.” – NewReleaseTuesday
In addition to Reckless, Camp recently released his personal book I Still Believe. This book tells the tale of his childhood growing up in Indiana, to college years, to meeting his first wife Melissa, who passed away from cancer just months after they married and then meeting his wife Adrienne and becoming a father of three.
Fans can see Camp on tour on the Rock and Worship Roadshow right now. Remaining dates can be found here.
Audio Adrenaline Kicks Off Their 30+ City Kings & Queens Tour March 1 Featuring, Group 1 Crew, Seventh Day Slumber and Manic Drive
Audio Adrenaline kicks off their highly anticipated “Kings & Queens Tour” this Friday, March 1 in Morganton, North Carolina. The tour will run in 30+ cities across the U.S. and is sponsored by ChildFund International. Audio Adrenaline will release their debut album Kings & Queens March 12 on Fair Trade Services.
The “Kings & Queens Tour” will feature Dove Award winning bands Group 1 Crew and Seventh Day Slumber, as well as Manic Drive, winner of GMA Canada’s 2012 Hard Rock/Alternative Album of the Year.
Audio Adrenaline is offering fans a VIP Experience throughout the tour. This exclusive ticket package includes a pre-show entrance and priority check-in, an autograph session and Q&A with the band. VIP Experience ticket holders will also receive a collector’s edition laminate and limited edition Audio Adrenaline photo.
As the band prepares to give audiences an inspirational yet electric show, fans can anticipate hearing Audio Adrenaline’s biggest hits along with music from their new album Kings & Queens. Concertgoers will also be introduced to Audio Adrenaline’s non-profit, Hands & Feet Project, an organization dedicated to providing long-term, family-style care for orphaned and abandoned children in need of a home and family.
Adding momentum to the tour, Audio Adrenaline’s Fair Trade Services debut Kings & Queens will release March 12. Kings & Queens conveys a passion and energy similar to previous Audio Adrenaline albums but with a renewed mission for Hands & Feet Project, as a portion of the proceeds will directly benefit the non-profit. Former lead vocalist and current Audio Adrenaline songwriter, Mark Stuart shares, “Honestly, I feel this is one of the best records, if not THE best, AA has ever put together.” The first radio single “Kings & Queens” is currently available on iTunes.
Audio Adrenaline Kings & Queens Tour Dates:
March 1- Morganton, NC, City of Morganton Municipal Auditorium
March 2- Washington, NC, Washington High School
March 3- Lancaster, PA, Lancaster Bible College
March 7- Baxter, MN, Heritage Assembly of God
March 8- Willmar, MN, Willmar Evangelical Free Church
March 9- Minneapolis, MN, North Central University Sanctuary
March 10- Green Bay, WI, Radisson Hotel & Conference Center
March 14- Vero Beach, FL, Vero Beach Performing Arts Center
March 15- Bellville, GA, Pinewood Christian Academy
March 16- Columbus, GA, Calvary Baptist Church
March 17- Gaffney, SC, Broad River Electric Auditorium
March 21- Philippi, WV, Haven of Hope Worship Center
March 22- Biddeford, ME, New Life Church
March 23- Ocean City, MD, Roland E. Powell Convention Center
March 24- Greencastle, PA, Greencastle High School
April 5- Enid, OK, Oakwood Christian Church
April 6- Burleson, TX, Venue 510
April 7- Tulsa, OK, SpiritBank Event Center
April 11- Indianola, IA, Indianola Community Church
April 12- Naperville, IL, Compass Church
April 13- Lebanon, MO, Boswell Auditorium
April 14- Lenexa, KS, Lenexa Baptist Church
April 20- Fort Smith, AR, 180 Youth Center
April 25- Louisville, KY, Okolona Christian Church
April 26- Fort Wayne, IN, First Assembly of God
April 27- Cincinnati, OH, The Underground
April 28- Port Huron, MI, McMorran Theater
May 2- Lake Charles, LA, Lake Charles Civic Center
May 4- Greenville, IL, Bond County Fairgrounds
May 5- Salina, KS, Bicentennial Center
About Audio Adrenaline:
After five years away, Audio Adrenaline is back — by popular demand and with a renewed mission. The faces may look a little different, but the heart and passion of this GRAMMY-winning band remains unchanged. Yes, that’s Kevin Max of dcTalk and solo fame at the mic and founding member Will McGinniss on bass. The new lineup is rounded out by CCM vets Dave Ghazarian (Superchick), Jared Byers (Bleach), and singer-songwriter Jason Walker. Former front man and co-founder Mark Stuart remains very involved and contributed to many of the songs for the new album.
This talented group of like-minded musicians shares a common goal: to be the voice for orphans in Haiti and around the world. Lead single, “Kings & Queens,” is an orphan anthem that celebrates the transformation God can bring about. The album’s remaining fresh rock tracks are just as powerful. The new Audio Adrenaline is creating music that will move you while making the world a better place for children in need. Thanks to the band, Know Hope and AA’s label, Fair Trade Services, a portion of proceeds will directly benefit the work of Hands & Feet Project. For more information, please visit AudioA.com andhandsandfeetproject.org.
About ChildFund International:
ChildFund International began in 1938 in an effort to support orphanages for the children who had been left without homes or families in the wake of the second Sino-Japanese War. American individuals funded the orphanages in China through sponsorships. Today, ChildFund International has grown into a global force working for children around the world. Now operating in 31 countries, approximately 17.8 million children and their family members were given assistance in 2012. ChildFund International works with children from birth to young adulthood, families and communities to provide a better environment for children to succeed. ChildFund.org
Steven Furtick’s Church’s Elevation Worship Releases Brand New Worship Album Nothing Is Wasted Today
Elevation Worship team returns to the national spotlight with its latest music offering, Nothing Is Wasted, on Essential Worship/Provident today. The album, a “must-have” for today’s modern worship enthusiast, is available in two unique expressions: a deluxe and a standard edition, debuting at No. 1 and No. 3 respectively on iTunes Christian & Gospel Top Albums chart. The deluxe edition also reached No. 6 on the iTunes overall Top Albums chart and continues to climb.
Originating from the country’s second-fastest growing congregation, Elevation Church in Charlotte, N.C., with more than 12,000 in weekly attendance, Elevation Worship once again puts forth this newest project as an extension of its flourishing ministry. Produced by Elevation Worship’s own Mack Brock, Nothing Is Wasted comprises 12 dynamic worship songs written to correspond thematically with Elevation Church Pastor Steven Furtick’s new book “Greater” (Multnomah Books).
Among those key songs on the record to be aggressively promoted via CCLI, EssentialWorship.com, Worship Leader and PraiseCharts.com, are title track “Nothing Is Wasted,” “Be Lifted High,” “In Your Presence,” “Open Up Our Eyes,” and “Give Me Faith.” The latter is the project’s first single, to begin vying for adds at radio in April. Additionally, “Give Me Faith” has recently become one of the most adopted and sung church anthems worldwide, as evidenced by the song jumping more than 160 spots on CCLI this past year.
Nothing Is Wasted is being offered in a standard edition, a live rendition for worship leaders to adopt into their churches, and a deluxe edition, which includes the live portion plus a studio recording of the same 12 songs. The deluxe edition is intended to take listeners to new heights with progressive production elements, dynamic arrangements, different worship leaders, and more.
Elevation Worship participated in more than six worship conferences last year alone and will continue to promote the new songs on Nothing Is Wasted at eight more in 2013.
For more information on Elevation Worship and Nothing Is Wasted, including album artwork and press images, please visit:www.elevationworship.com.
About Elevation Worship:
In the same spirit as Hillsong, Passion and Jesus Culture-modern worship grown from a single seed then catapulted onto a national stage-Elevation Worship is organic to its environment and yet unique to the digital age in which it was born. It is a passionately dedicated team of gifted songwriters, musicians and students of worship boldly leading, as a single worship team, before eight separate congregations across the Charlotte Metro area as well as internationally in Toronto, Canada.
Under the direction of Pastor Steven Furtick (also a worship leader and songwriter) this Charlotte, N.C. church was established by Furtick, and eight other families, with one massive vision: to reach people far from God. In just seven years, Elevation Church has become one of the fastest-growing churches in the U.S. with seven established campuses in the greater Charlotte area.
The Elevation Church worship gathering is simultaneously broadcast across these multi-city locations via cutting edge technology allowing the church’s 12,000+ weekly worshippers to feel closely connected as one church praising with one voice.
To date, Elevation Worship has sold more than 30,000 units of its debut album with Essential Worship, For the Honor, in less than a year. Its worship anthem, “Give Me Faith,” is currently one of the fastest-growing church songs at No. 140 on CCLI, moving more than 160 spots within a year. Additionally, the worship team was featured at the National Worship Leader Conference in 2012 and will be again this year.
American Idol & Country Music Star, Danny Gokey To Release First Book Hope In Front Of Me With NavPress In October 2013
In 2009, Danny Gokey burst onto the American Idol stage just four weeks after his wife’s heartrending death. Though rocked by loss, Danny never lost hope as he pursued the life-long dream he had shared with his Sophia. Although many know him from his time on Idol, they don’t know the story of overcoming that led up to it or the path of restoration and healing that followed it. Now, Gokey shares his American Idol experience—and the before and after—in Hope in Front of Me, slated for October 2013 release from NavPress (www.navpress.com), the publishing arm of the Colorado Springs-based U.S. Navigators.
“It has been a gratifying process to be able to share the parts of my story that many people may not know. My hope is that people can find a part of their story in mine and that it will inspire hope in others. There ARE new beginnings. You CAN recover after devastating loss. Your past does not have to define you or your future. And the greatest part of my story is that helping others brings healing to you and those you help. NavPress really caught the vision for what I am trying to accomplish and I’m delighted to be working with such a supportive, creative team on this project,” Gokey said.
In Hope in Front of Me, Gokey challenges readers to find purpose in their darkest moments and leave a legacy for others by investing in things that really matter. Filled with personal stories and illustrations, Gokey uses his life experiences to motivate and encourage readers. Hope in Front of Mereleases October 2013 in print and digital formats.
NavPress associate trade publisher, Rebekah Guzman, said, “NavPress is honored to partner with Danny on this project. We are encouraged not only by his story of overcoming but also by his passion to help others find hope and encouragement in any life situation. Danny has a heart for people, and our team has been changed by his passion and vision for this message. We know many others will be changed when they read it as well.”
Nashville recording artist Danny Gokey became a favorite of millions of fans as a top-3 finalist on the eighth season of American Idol. In 2010, Gokey released his debut album, My Best Days, which delivered the best first-week sales by any debut country male in 18 years and included the hits “My Best Days Are Ahead of Me” and “I Will Not Say Goodbye.” He is also the founder of Sophia’s Heart Foundation in honor of his late wife. The organization’s goals are to provide hope and help to homeless families, provide scholarships to deserving students, and operate a thriving inner-city music and arts program.
Learn more at www.sophiasheart.org.
Jesus Culture announces Jesus Culture One Nights April tour featuring worship led by Kim Walker-Smith, Chris Quilala, and the Jesus Culture Band and ministering by Banning Liebscher. The tour kicks off in April with Jesus Culture hosting One Nights in cities around the nation, beginning in Chicago and wrapping up in Charlotte, N.C.
“The goal of these events is to gather together to seek the Lord and encounter Him through whole-hearted, passionate worship,” says Banning Liebscher, director of Jesus Culture. “The One Nights consist of worship, prayer, ministry, and preaching.”
Ticket pre-sales for the tour begin today, February 14 at 10:00a.m. local time with a public on-sale date set for February 15 at 10:00a.m. local time. Pre-sale code is “worship.” For more information on Jesus Culture One Nights and to purchase tickets, visit JesusCulture.com/onenights.
Jesus Culture One Nights Dates:
April 17, 2013 Chicago, Illinois
April 18, 2013 Minneapolis, Minnesota
April 20, 2013 Indianapolis, Indiana
April 22, 2013 Memphis, Tennessee
April 23, 2013 Nashville, Tennessee
April 25, 2013 Birmingham, Alabama
April 26, 2013 Gainesville, Florida
April 27, 2013 Charlotte, North Carolina
Louie Giglio Is Getting A Taste Of Life As A Big Name Christian Celebrity Pastor With All Kinds Of Media Attacks
Just one day after news broke that Louie Giglio, popular speaker, founder of the Passion Conferences and pastor of Passion City Church in Atlanta, GA, was asked to pray at the inauguration of President Barack Obama the bashing and name-calling has already begun by some mainstream and online news outlets.
Giglio appeared on CNN yesterday where the host announced that Louie was asked to pray at the inauguration, and with that it seems he’s exposure in news outlets have increased dramatically with some outlets immediately calling him “anti-this and anti-that” and one even calling him “Rick Warren’s evil twin.”
This is the lot of every Christian leader it seems who seems to break through into the main stream. People like Rick Warren, TD Jakes, Mark Driscoll have all experienced the hell of having their name slandered in the media, and for a long time it seemed that Louie was flying under the radar but now it seems that his celebrity has increased to the degree that mainstream and online news outlets not only know about him but consider him worth “reporting” about.
This is definitely one of the things that breaks my heart for these up and coming pastors and christian leaders more than anything. It seems like once you cross a certain celebrity line as a christian leader the majority of the publicity you get is negative with all kinds of name-calling and character smearing etc.
Lets pray for Louie and the many others like him who are up against a barrage of uncontrolled negative publicity as they seek to live out Christ’s call in this generation.
News broke yesterday that Louie Giglio was asked to pray at the inauguration of President Barack Obama. Below is the video of Louie on CNN talking about it and the end it movement.
Judah Smith, The Pastor Who’s Best Friends With Bubba Watson And Skateboards With Justin Bieber, Releasing His New Book Jesus Is; Find A New Way To Be Human
When you imagine a thirty-four-year-old who is best friends with Masters champion Bubba Watson and skateboards with Justin Bieber, you might be surprised to hear that he’s a pastor. But Judah Smith is defying the stereotypes of ministry with his unconventional outreach methods.
Three years ago, under Judah’s leadership, The City Church in Seattle launched a “Jesus Is ___” sermon series and marketing campaign to get Jesus on the mind of the city and to reveal who he is. The initiative spurred inter-faith and cross-faith dialogue by utilizing billboards, bus signs, Facebook ads, bumper magnets, social outreach events, and a website-Jesus-is.org-where people could fill in the blank themselves.
One thing became abundantly clear. . . Jesus gets a reaction out of people. The response to this opportunity for open dialogue was overwhelming. Perusing the website provides a fascinating commentary on our culture’s concept of Jesus. Many submissions, of course, are pro-Jesus. Others are simply funny and bizarre. Many are blatantly anti-Jesus: they are blasphemous, hateful, and even perverse. The website’s pages have been viewed over one and a half million times, and has had seventy-five thousand people-and counting-submit answers to the blank. And the campaign has been mentioned on atheist, porn, and church websites alike, also catching the eye of would-be hackers multiple times.
“Christians often come across as not being interested in what others have to say, and even as uninteresting to the general public. But as a Christian pastor, I want to push the envelope. I want to have genuine conversations with all people, listen to what others believe and have to say, respond to their questions, and take time to understand why they feel the way that they do,” says Judah. “I want to encourage people to build bridges, have an open ear, and take interest in what others say.”
Now, Judah Smith and the campaign are taking their next step in continuing the conversation with the release of Jesus Is ___.: Find a New Way to Be Human, a book and DVD-based study slated for simultaneous release in February 2013 from Thomas Nelson, Inc. There’s even a CD inspired by the campaign that was released by The City Church in October.
Within its pages, Judah Smith digs deep to answer the most common and difficult questions about Jesus, one of history’s most famous but least understood figures. He explores a number of topics that reveal Jesus’ purpose for coming, what he accomplished while he was on Earth, and what that means for those who came after. Jesus is greatly revered, harshly criticized, sorely misunderstood, and often misrepresented. Judah breaks down who Jesus is and explains to readers how understanding that more fully will both enrich and bring greater meaning to their lives.
Jesus Is ___ leads readers toward a deeper, lasting relationship with Jesus, encouraging them to know him and grow in him. Judah wants everyone to know that Jesus is more than a good teacher and an inspiring leader. He is the point of all life.
By presenting the Bible in a down-to-earth style, often paraphrasing Bible narratives with a good dose of humor, Judah has written the book for real people facing real issues. His message of simple faith and grace is just as powerful for lifelong Christians as it is for those who have never heard the gospel.
“I think this book makes sense even if you don’t believe it, so it would be great if you approached it with an open mind,” notes Judah. “None of us has the whole truth, including me, but we can learn from each other.”
“My goal in this book is to help people see the irresistible Jesus for who he really is and to understand what that means for their life. If certain topics in this book strike a chord with them, I encourage them to respond. That might mean getting connected to a church near them that will help them grow in Jesus, slowing down and spending more time letting Jesus love them, or making some changes in their lifestyle,” says Judah. “No matter what they might have done or who they are, it’s never too late for grace. And although it may sound too good to be true, salvation is a free gift. We don’t need to clean up our act, make a sacrifice, or pay for our sins before we approach God. We receive forgiveness by faith, which simply means we choose to believe that Jesus died in our place.”
Judah adds that “I can’t think of a better mission in life. I’ll probably write more books, but I doubt I will ever write one as important as this. At the same time, this book barely scratches the surface of who Jesus is. Discovering the depths of his love has become my obsession, my passion, and my delight.”
Judah Smith and his wife, Chelsea, are the lead pastors of The City Church in Seattle, Washington. They were youth ministry pastors for ten years-ranked as one of the top five “most dynamic” youth groups in the country by Ministry Today-before stepping into their new role in 2009. Outreach has recognized City Church as being one of the fastest growing churches in the country. It has four satellite locations orbiting the Seattle, WA metropolitan area. Judah is in high demand as speaker, both in the U.S. and abroad, is the author of several books including Jesus Is ___., and is a popular voice on Twitter (@judahsmith). Judah and Chelsea have three children: Zion, Eliott, and Grace.
Trade Paper ISBN: 9781400204755
E-Book Download ISBN: 9781400204762
Both Formats: $16.99
Available Feb. 26, 2013
From Thomas Nelson, Inc.
As one of the most acclaimed worship leaders of our time, Chris Tomlin cements his luminary status with today’s release of his newest studio set, Burning Lights, to an outpouring of acclaim from media including The New York Times, USA Today and Billboard. Singing Tomlin’s praises, critics have applauded Burning Lights‘ “solid songwriting” and “stirring melodies,” underscoring Tomlin’s efforts of crafting songs for the church that cross cultures and generations. The album has claimed the No. 1 spot on the iTunes® Christian & Gospel Albums Chart and No. 2 position on the iTunes® Overall Albums Chart.
The internationally renowned GRAMMY® winner, whose venerable career has yielded widely known worship anthems such as “How Great Is Our God,” “Holy Is the Lord” and “Jesus Messiah,” has given voice to the Church and millions of people around the world as they worship Jesus. Burning Lights comes on the heels of the Passion 2013 conference in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome, where he lead worship with a generation of 18-25 year olds from around the world at the significant, four-day gathering. Comprised of 12 tracks produced by Jason Ingram (Tenth Avenue North, Aaron Shust), Ed Cash (Kari Jobe, Matthew West) and Dan Muckala (MercyMe, Brandon Heath) and featuring the powerful first single “Whom Shall I Fear [God Of Angel Armies]” and an all-new studio recording of the radio hit “White Flag,” Burning Lights is the follow up to 2011′s Grammy® winner for Best Christian or Gospel Album, And If Our God Is For Us…
Just last month, Tomlin earned his eighth GRAMMY® nomination with the announcement of a nod to “White Flag” for Best Contemporary Christian Music Song. Co-written with Jason Ingram, Matt Maher and Matt Redman, the song is from the live album Passion: White Flag, but also appears on Burning Lights.
In addition, the album’s lead single, “Whom Shall I Fear [God of Angel Armies],” is continuing its steady ascent toward No. 1 at radio, with it claiming the No. 6 spot on the National Christian Audience Chart, No. 7 at Christian AC Monitored, No. 8 at AC Indicator and No. 15 at Hot AC/CHR this week. In addition to charting in the Top 10 on the National Christian Audience chart, the single garnered over 7.5 million audience impressions this week. “Whom Shall I Fear” also owns the No. 1 spot on the iTunes® Christian & Gospel Songs chart.
With the praise for Burning Lights continuing to pour in, here’s just a sampling of what people are saying:
“Over the last decade Mr. Tomlin has become one of the most notable figures in Christian rock… Even when he is not around, his songs sustain him. Burning Lights is … heavy on broad, anthemic choruses; and straightforward praise. It is a skill … to write music this free of ego. Mr. Tomlin has a modest voice, full of yearning, but it’s not his voice that’s important. It serves only as a contour for others to follow, with a modesty that invites people in.” – The New York Times
“Walk into any evangelical church on Sunday, and chances are the congregation will sing at least one Tomlin song. He’ll add to their repertoire with these stirring melodies that tie him to both contemporary pop and hymns of old.” – USA Today
“…Chris Tomlin has steadily evolved into one of the strongest writer-performers in the contemporary Christian music genre. With a voice that blends the gentle rasp of Michael W. Smith and the sweet tenor of Jason Mraz and an arsenal of soaring songs that never stray from their purpose of worship, Tomlin is currently at his peak.” – Atlanta Journal-Constitution
“Nine albums in, Chris Tomlin is still turning exciting new corners. Besides his own artfully wound songwriting, the project includes compelling collaborations…” – CCM Magazine
“Burning Lights is the quintessential representation of solid songwriting married to classic commercial pop recording. What could strike you as grandiose, once you hear Tomlin’s heart, is really humility and truth that can set worship leaders free.” – Worship Leader
“Burning Lights is a well-rounded collection, highlighting Tomlin’s versatility as an artist and heart for furthering the praise and worship emphasis of today’s music world heralding Jesus.” – Charisma
“This album sets a new milestone on the worship song highway, breaking new ground with its mix of fresh relevant vibes and more established style of congregational worship. It’s the ultimate modern worship album that will set the standard for what others will produce going forward, and that’s why Chris Tomlin is rightly so influential.” – Louder Than The Music
“One of the most solid songwriters in Christian contemporary music…” -Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Tomlin will launch his nationwide “Burning Lights Tour” beginning February 19 in Charleston, W.V., visiting 34 markets including New York, Seattle and Dallas, before wrapping at the famed Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Denver on May 4. Friend and pastor of Passion City Church/Communicator/Passion founder, Louie Giglio will join Tomlin on the road for select dates, with Sparrow Records’ Kari Jobe appearing at all shows. For more information, please visit www.ChrisTomlin.com/tour.
WATCH CHRIS TOMLIN TALK ABOUT HIS NEW ALBUM:
Amongst newcomers leading the field alongside established artists, producers and songwriters, Reach Records’ artist Lecrae garnered his 2nd career GRAMMY ® nomination for “Best Gospel Album” with his recent studio project Gravity. Lecrae was included amongst the industry’s top entertainers as nominees for the 55th Annual GRAMMY ® Awards were announced last night during an hour-long televised concert in Nashville co-hosted by country-pop artist Taylor Swift and veteran GRAMMY ® host, rapper-actor LL Cool J.
Gravity released earlier this fall and debuted at No. 3 on Billboard’s Top 100 chart and dominated the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Rap, Independent, Gospel and Christian charts. The follow-up release to his GRAMMY ® nominated record Rehab (2010),Gravity showcases the esteemed hip-hop artist’s provoking lyrical technique, live instrumentation and hypnotic beats. His seventh studio project to date, Gravity also features the talents of Mali Music, Mathai (The Voice), label mates Trip Lee and Tedashii, Street Symphony’s Heat Academy and The Watchmen with production from DJ Khalil.
Lecrae performed Gravity‘s biggest hits such as “Violence,” “Tell The World” and “I Know” on his latest Unashamed Tour, which wrapped before the Thanksgiving holiday. He and label his mates, Trip Lee, Tedashii, Andy Mineo, KB and Derek Minor, visited 30 cities including New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago Dallas and Atlanta, among others. Lecrae will hit the road again in 2013 for a full spring tour while performing at various events and festivals throughout the year.
The 55th Annual GRAMMY ® Awards will be held on February 10, 2013, at The Staples Center in Los Angeles and will air nationwide on CBS starting at 8pm/7pm CST.
For more information on Lecrae and Gravity, please go to www.reachrecords.com.
Luke Smallbone proudly announced via social media (http://www.facebook.com/forkingandcountry) that he and his wife welcomed their first child into the world yesterday morning in Nashville, TN. The baby boy, Jude James Smallbone, was born at 7:13 a.m. weighing 7 pounds, 1 ounce.
for KING & COUNTRY recently released their original Christmas single, “Baby Boy,” on the A Very Special Christmas, Bringing Peace on Earth Special Olympics’ benefit album. They are set to perform their current single and one of Amazon.com’s 2012 “Song[s] of the Year,” “The Proof of Your Love,” on “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” January 10, 2013.
Rex Ryan Is The Loser And Tim Tebow Is A Winner: My Take On The Whole Tim Tebow New York Jets Debacle
Like many Tim Tebow fans I have been dismayed and annoyed to no end at the unfair media coverage of the whole Tebow to Jets move and the endless and unjustified criticism of Tim Tebow.
To me the only issue with the New York Jets is that you have a coach of a losing team not realize he has a winner that he refuses to play. And for that reason I feel like Rex Ryan and the Jets have gotten just what they deserve, humiliating loss after humiliating loss.
Now I consider myself a Tebow fan and a Jets fan, and I think to call the whole move by the Jets to acquire Tebow a dismal failure is both ridiculous and completely unjustified. How can you call the Tebow-Jets union a failure when Tebow didn’t even get to play for them. For the whole situation to be called a failure Tebow would have had to start at least 8 games and played 100 percent of the time and lose every game for it to be called a failure. That didn’t happen so there’s no way it can be called a failure. Neither can it be called a success. All it can be called is: an experiment that never happened.
The truth of the matter is the Jets are not the same team they were 3 seasons ago. Everybody in New York and the league knows that. And the reasons for their downslide is much much bigger than whose the starting quarterback. Every aspect of the team’s play is substandard quality and unless that changes even bringing in Peyton Manning or Tom Brady would not change anything (maybe a little bit, but nothing substantial).
By the way, Manning and Brady would not have the success they have if they did not have an A List team around them on both sides of the ball. Look at Manning’s move to the Broncos: he overhauled that entire offense. He’s upgraded everyone around him, even brining his ex-team mates from Indy over to Denver. No other quarterback gets to do that.
So the New York Jets has seen their quality of play decrease with each game, and Rex Ryan has been unable to do anything about it. By the way Rex: coming up to the podium after every game each week and saying the team’s play was horrible does nothing if you don’t personally improve their performance as the coach. You’re just pointing out the obvious.
Now Tim Tebow is a winner. His record speaks for itself. He doesn’t need to defend his ability to anyone. And the throngs of people who are on the anti-Tebow bandwagon are not worth wasting time on. Its the nature of sports that no matter how successful an athlete is, for some no matter what they do they won’t get the respect or credit they deserve. So there’s nothing you can do about that, so don’t even bother. Stories of people not getting credit is true not only of Tebow but even Colt McCoy at Texas or Greg McElroy at Alabama. So it is what it is. But one fact that cannot be denied is that Tebow is a winner. Last season the Denver Broncos were a failing, losing team and they made one change: they brought in Tim Tebow and left the entire team like it was before he came in to play and they went from a losing team to a winning team. So no matter how much you hate Tebow this is hard truth you cannot get around plain and simple. Tim Tebow made the difference in Denver.
So you have a losing team and you have a winner and you choose not to play the winner? What then do you expect; of course you’ll continue losing. And that’s exactly what’s happened in New York. The only failure with this whole situation is Rex Ryan’s refusal to play Tim Tebow.
He played Sanchez and he lost. He played McElory and he lost. He hasn’t played Tebow. So how is Tebow a failure?
Playing Tebow for 3 snaps a game means nothing. Its like playing a baseball player 3 times a season and saying because he did not hit a home run those 3 times they put him in at bat, he’s a failure. That’s ridiculous, especially when everyone else gets 15 chances at bat every game and none of them have hit home-runs. That’s unfair and unjustified criticism.
Tim Tebow has nothing to be embarrassed or ashamed about: he’s a winner. He’s record speaks for itself, and he doesn’t need to defend it to anyone. High School, College and Pro he’s record speaks for itself. Rex Ryan’s failure as a coach has been his inability to improve the performance of his team and his inability to admit the hard truth that Mark Sanchez isn’t working out for whatever reason, and that a change was long overdue. Then on top of that you have a player whose proven he can turn an entire team around and you refuse to start him? That doesn’t make any sense at all. The situation with the Jets is dismal regardless of whose playing quarterback so how in the world could playing Tebow have hurt them? No one’s saying Tebow would’ve turned that whole team’s performance around, we don’t know what would’ve happened because he never got the chance. My question is just this: your team’s losing and you have a proven winner on the sidelines, why won’t you play him?
Tim Tebow’s a winner and he will succeed wherever he goes, as long as he is surrounded by a good supporting cast. And Rex Ryan’s days in New York are numbered, whether he departs this offseason or in the next 3 years, he’s days are numbered.
So Tebow can walk away from the Jets with his head held high, and without feeling an ounce of embarrassment because his was the experiment that never happened. We all thought it would, but it never did.
JESUS CULTURE Releases New Album! Jesus Culture WITH MARTIN SMITH: LIVE FROM NEW YORK DOUBLE-CD RELEASES Nationwide
The seventh full-length recording from Jesus Culture, Jesus Culture With Martin Smith: Live From New York, releases today amidst acclaim at digital and physical retailers everywhere with special CD packaging, including an embossed sleeve and foldout poster, at both Christian and mainstream retail stores. Recorded live during Jesus Culture’s conference at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum in New York June 28-30, 2012, this new double-CD captures a dynamic collaboration of voices who have helped shape, and continue to inspire, generations of worshippers.
Known as one of the most influential youth and young adult movements around the world, Jesus Culture’s new album features Kim Walker-Smith and Chris Quilala, joined by Martin Smith (Delirious?), singing Smith’s classics and new favorites combined with Quilala originals, “Forevermore” and “Alleluia,” Walker-Smith singing Daniel Bashta’s “Pursuit,” and a bonus track, “I Belong To You,” written and sung by Derek Johnson (Jesus Culture’s Emerging Voices). Jesus Culture With Martin Smith: Live From New York also captures Jesus Culture’s signature call to intimate worship and bold praise along with thousands of worshippers’ voices representing an international community of believers gathered in New York.
For a compelling “behind the scenes” look at the album from the aforementioned worship leaders and Jesus Culture director Banning Liebscher, go to www.jesusculture.com/ny/videos.
Here is how the critics are responding to the music:
“…Jesus Culture have once again captured the voice of a generation engaging with God in their native tongue where passion, power, intensity and intimacy converge in a musical rhapsodic prayer.” – Worship Leader
“Intense, powerful and spiritually filled, this project has it all…this is perhaps the best worship album ever recorded. It is amazing from the first song to the last one, and you can sense the presence of God really moving and using the lead worshipers and all the singers and musicians.” – NewReleaseTuesday.com
“Simply stunning, one of the albums of the year, any year… The guitar playing on this album is nothing short of world class, with remarkable riffs that float and soar in the background, while passion soaked vocals from Martin and the Jesus Culture team articulate their worship.” – LouderThanTheMusic.com (5-star review)
“Live from New York is an engaging record which invites us not to be just listeners but participants of worship. And to be led by a joint effort of Jesus Culture and Martin Smith into such a holy experience is itself a historical moment not to be missed!” – Breathecast.com
“This album isn’t just worship music that we can listen to; this album actually leads the listener in worship. We dare you to try and listen to this without finding yourself pursuing the Father in worship.” – AllAboutWorship.com
“This is without doubt the best live worship album you could hope to hear this year…when it comes to modern worship music this album is a game changer… This album has all the hallmarks of a classic in the making.” – Eden.co.uk (10 out of 10 review)
“Jesus Culture is an inspiring flame to worship arts; they fan the embers of passionate praise, and it changes lives…this is a buy-the-whole-thing-album, not just a select few tracks… As always, Jesus Culture produces an album that isn’t just a great listen, they are an experience.” – Relate Magazine
“Live From New York is an experience like no other, and is my favorite Jesus Culture album of all- the 110 minute journey is truly magical and God-breathed!” – ChristianMusicZine.com
“…it has an intensity that starts right out and doesn’t let up. Each song is crafted perfectly…a treat for anyone wanting to have an intense and real worship experience anytime.” – Surrender Magazine
This December, Jesus Culture worship with Chris Quilala reunites with Martin Smith to take their worship and message to Manchester, UK for their first young leaders’ gathering, Jesus Culture Outpouring. This gathering for 20- and 30-something leaders in ministry (worship leaders included) and their teams will take place December 3-5, 2012. Hosting the event with Banning Liebscher (Director of Jesus Culture) will be Phil Smith and Ian Rossol. Designed to connect and equip the attendees, leaders are encouraged to register now at www.jesusculture.com/outpouring.
Jesus Culture then returns home to host their annual Jesus Culture Encounter conference January 11-13, 2013, which will be held at both Bethel Church and Redding Civic Auditorium locations in Redding, CA. Speakers include Banning Liebscher, Tom Crandall and Jude Fouquier, with worship from Jesus Culture, Kristene DiMarco, Bryan and Katie Torwalt, and Derek Johnson. For early registration, which ends Dec. 21, as well as conference resources and more, go to www.jesusculture.com/encounter.
Jesus Culture worship was formed organically through the momentum of a movement whose focus is to equip a generation to transform society by bringing people into an encounter with God’s love through worship and discipleship. Their albums capture the heart of this movement of young people who are passionate for God and seeking an encounter with His presence.
Fervent Records 14-time Dove Award nominated band and best-selling new CCM artist of 2004, BarlowGirl (Alyssa, Lauren and Rebecca), are retiring after they release their final song, “Hope Will Lead Us On,” on October 30. As their fans have been instrumental in their success, the sister trio want them to conduct their final interview. On October 29, live via Ustream, the band will perform a few of their hits acoustically, take questions from their fans and premiere their final song, “Hope Will Lead Us On,” (Ustream link: http://www.ustream.tv/channel/barlowgirl-live).
Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2004, BarlowGirl has sold over one million albums, received 14 Dove Award nominations and accumulated four No. 1 singles on the Christian radio. Their poignant 2005 hit, “I Need You To Love Me,” topped the charts for 13 weeks in 2005 making it the longest No. 1 single in Christian Hit Radio chart history. With a wonderful run, the sisters are ready to leave on a high note.
“The last 10 years as BarlowGirl has been one of the most incredible adventures we have ever been on,” said Alyssa, Lauren and Rebecca. “We could not have imagined this journey without our incredible supportive fans who waited in lines to get into shows, called radio stations to play our music, watched all of our ridiculous podcasts, bought or sent us hundreds of pounds of chocolate and encouraged us the entire way. We are so honored to have shared our dream with you. Thank you for being a part of it.”
On October 29, fans can log on to Ustream to submit questions. In addition, the sisters will play a few acoustic songs and will premiere “Hope Will Lead Us On” via a lyric video. The following day, their final song will be available at all digital retailers. Alyssa, Lauren and Rebecca Barlow also personally wanted to be the ones to notify their fans of their retirement. To do so, they have drafted a letter that fans can read at www.barlowgirl.com.
Since releasing their self-titled debut in 2004, Alyssa, Lauren and Rebecca Barlow have continuously inspired fans with such intimate portraits, as their sophomore set, Another Journal Entry and such bold challenges as 2007′s, How Can We Be Silent. Nominated for 14 Dove Awards, the songwriting siblings have written and recorded such landmark hits as “Never Alone,” which became Radio & Records’ Christian Song of the Year in 2004 and helped earn BarlowGirl best-selling new Christian artist status. Their poignant hit, “I Need You to Love Me,” topped the charts for thirteen weeks in 2005, making it the longest No. 1 single in Christian Radio Weekly Chart History. BarlowGirl has always represented an interesting dichotomy; tender-hearted, beautiful young women who aren’t afraid to take an aggressive, almost warrior-like stance when it comes to spreading the gospel and serving God.
For additional information on BarlowGirl visit www.barlowgirl.com.
Dan Dean (middle above) of the beloved, Dove Award-winning trio Phillips, Craig & Dean, recently announced that he has been battling prostate cancer. The worship leader and senior pastor of The Heartland Church in Carrollton, Tex., was diagnosed early this spring, just prior to the the release of Phillips, Craig & Dean’s most recent album, Breathe In. Dean recently sat down for an intimate video interview in which he shares the news of his diagnosis, the stuggles his illness has created and, ultimately, the faith-strengthening, emotional experience he’s had. Since his initial diagnosis, he has made great progress in his journey on the long road toward recovery and remission.
“You find out some devastating news, you get a phone call, you’re standing in a corridor at the hospital, and in those moments, you have a choice to make,” Dean reflects on learning he had cancer. “You can fall into doubt, and questions and fears. The temptation is there for all of us to do that. In the moments when I can’t see God’s hand, or see His face working in my life, I make a choice to believe that He’s there, that He’s involved in the daily affairs of my life, that He’s in control, that He knows what I’m walking through.”
In July, Dean, with his family, chose to have surgery to attempt to remove the cancer from his lymph nodes. Post-surgery, the doctors were confident that his lymph nodes were clear and that he is on his way to experiencing a normal life. Dean plans on making routine checkups with his doctors over the next several months and considers himself “80% recovered and moving along rather well.”
Dean is not the first in his family to battle this disease. Prior to his cancer journey, Dean lost his father-in-law to liver cancer and his brother to mesothelioma. A song originally inspired by his brother’s illness, “I Choose to Believe” (from Phillips, Craig & Dean’s most recent album, Breathe In), now has a special meaning all it’s own to Dean.
“Until you’ve experienced somebody looking at you in the face and saying you have cancer, you don’t know what that’s like until you’ve been there,” Dean says. “You don’t know the negative thought process that tries to attack you and come at you, and then how you have to build your faith. That’s when you can say, as the chorus of this song declares, ‘I choose to believe.’”
For more information on Dean’s cancer battle and to hear his story in his own words, please visit http://youtu.be/MEUilCx8lUU to watch an intimate video interview with the singer, songwriter and pastor.
In addition to his musical career with Phillips, Craig, & Dean, Dan Dean serves as the Senior Pastor at Heartland Church in Carrolton, Tex., and is a husband to Becky and father to Dusty (29), Devin (26), and Danielle (23).
About Phillips, Craig & Dean:
Since forming more than 20 years ago, Phillips, Craig & Dean have released 12 albums which have now produced 20 No. 1 radio hits, almost three million records sold, two GMA Dove Award wins, including the Inspirational Album of the Year for their 2009 release, Fearless, and Inspirational Song of the Year for their single “Revelation Song,” released in 2010.
Our friend Brandon Cox wrote a great review of Andy Stanley’s New Book Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love To Attend. Andy’s church North Point Community Church has long been a big model for many churches and pastors around the country, and his this latest offering Andy promised to tip his hand and show readers just what went into the creation of North Point.
And according to Mr. Cox, he didn’t disappoint. ”A little over a year ago, Angie and I started planting Grace Hills Church in northwest Arkansas, and one of our biggest hopes is that it’s a church that unchurched people love to attend. So Andy Stanley’s newest book, Deep & Wide: Creating Churches Unchurched People Love to Attendcaught my attention. I pre-ordered it and devoured it once it arrived. I found the book to be both deep . . . and wide.”
Andy opens with his parent’s high profile divorce and the subsequent church split of his father’s church First Baptist Church Of Atlanta, where Andy served on staff for 10 years. He also goes on to list the 5 questions every church needs to ask:
- Are we moving or simply meeting?
- Are we making a measurable difference in our local communities or simply conducting services?
- Are we organized around a mission or are we organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited from a previous generation?
- Are we allocating resources as if Jesus is the hope of the world or are the squeaky wheels of church culture driving our budgeting decisions?
- Are we ekklesia or have we settled for kirche?
The Five Faith Catalysts God Uses To Grow Our Faith:
- Practical Teaching
- Private Disciplines
- Personal Ministry
According to another reviewer Jill Waltz: Stanley warns leaders, “Time in erodes awareness”. He challenges pastors to view their churches through the eyes of an un-churched person. He doesn’t stop there. He shows pastors how to implement change in a church steeped in tradition and how to transform a congregation from an “about us” to an about the un-churched.
If you want to lead a church that is both deep and wide, Cox concludes, that draws people far from God and challenges God’s people to deeper discipleship, Andy’s book is a must-read.
Following three critically acclaimed projects, Franklin, Tennessee-based worship duo All Sons & Daughters announce the September 25th release of a new six-track EP, The Longing, along with a new experiential fan site, TheLongingEP, featuring videos and full-song streams.
The duo releases The Longing amidst a packed tour schedule that includes appearances with Kari Jobe for the “Where I Find You Tour” September 6-October 12 and with Chris Tomlin’s “And If Our God Is For Us Tour” October 23-November 10. (See AllSonsandDaughters for tour details.)
The Longing was preceded by All Sons & Daughters’ EPs Brokenness Aside and Reason To Sing and double album Season One, which have earned them comparisons to The Civil Wars and The Swell Season for their sweet harmonies and organic instrumentation. Composed of Leslie Jordan and David Leonard, who serve at Franklin’s The Journey Church, the duo is known for writing songs such as “All The Poor and Powerless,” “Buried in the Grave” and “Reason to Sing,” that focus squarely on Jesus while embracing the tension of the Christian walk.
When life is hard and heartache and confusion inevitably reign, what do we do with those moments, and how do we actually worship God in the midst of them? This uncomfortable tension is precisely what fuels the music of All Sons & Daughters whose songs give listeners permission to not only ask questions, but to express their pain in the midst of it. With The Longing, Leonard and Jordan continue to give words to the cries of worshipers everywhere with new songs like the title track and “Oh How I Need You.”
Love is and always was / The Longing placed inside my heart
To know You and be known by You – “The Longing”
Lord I find you in the seeking / Lord I find you in the doubt
And to know You is to Love / And to know so little else –“Oh How I Need You”
Working again with producer Paul Mabury (Hillsong/One Sonic Society), Leonard and Jordan welcomed guest musicians Stu G (guitar, dobro), Tony Lucido (bass), Chad Copelin (keys, organ) and Gabe Scot (slide guitar, hammered dulcimer, bouzouki, banjo) to the project. Mabury and Stu G also helped Leonard and Jordan pen some of the EP’s songs along with Matt Maher and the duo’s labelmate Travis Ryan.
The full track listing for The Longing, including writers, is:
1. Oh How I Need You – Leslie Jordan, David Leonard, Stu G, Paul Mabury
2. Hear The Sound – Leslie Jordan, David Leonard, Matt Maher
3. Rising Sun – Jordan, Leonard, Kyle Lee, Paul Mabury
4. Called Me Higher – Leslie Jordan
5. We Are Blessed – Leslie Jordan, David Leonard, Travis Ryan, Brandon Collins
6. The Longing – Leslie Jordan, David Leonard, Stu G
Creating music for their own congregation and mindful of the global Church, Jordan and Leonard express a simple but profound hope for The Longing.
“We’ve watched our people grow and mature in the way they worship and the way they come to worship,” says Jordan. “And we want people to experience that in their own churches.”
“We want people to dig into local community, to see the importance of being poured into and being poured out at the same time,” she continues. “I think you can hear that in these songs… I think you can hear the excitement and the beauty of being in the Word and being in community and being a part of the local body. I really hope that’s what people take away from this.”
For additional information on All Sons & Daughters, visit http://allsonsanddaughters.com/ and follow them on Twitter via @allsanddmusic.
Invisible Children, a non-profit organization that seeks to stop atrocities committed by Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) in Central Africa, recently announced the release “MOVE: A Movie About A Movie About A Movement About You” on October 7, 2012.
MOVE, the first film released by Invisible Children since the return of founder and chief creative officer Jason Russell, is a behind-the-scenes look at the making of the most viral video ever, the organization behind it, and the movement that made an African warlord famous. In this new movie, which was co-directed by Russell, who also directed KONY 2012, a generation is challenged to stand for justice.
“KONY 2012 was the start of an experiment about what our generation is capable of and it’s not over yet. How we finish will determine where international justice will fall from here,” stated Jason Russell. “Through MOVE we seek to hold world leaders accountable to their promises and challenge viewers to move their digital efforts into the physical world because children are still being abducted by Joseph Kony and the LRA. Where you live shouldn’t determine whether you live, but whether you move will determine where you stand.” MOVE asks the viewer: Will you take a stand for international justice and join us in Washington, D.C. on November 17th?
LECRAE’S New Album GRAVITY Sells More Than 72,000 Copies In Its Opening Week, Lands No.3 On The Billboard Top 20
Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae debuted at #3 on the Billboard Top 20 recently with his new release, Gravity. It bowed with his best opening week sales ever with 72,000 units sold. Before now, he had never sold more than 27,000 of an album in a single week, which did in 2010 with Rehab, which debuted at #17. Lecrae also never debuted higher than #15, which he did in 2011, with his album Rehab: The Overdose.
David C Cook announces author Francis Chan’s, Crazy Love, hits record sales of 2.2 million copies, while it remains on the New York Times Best Sellers list for 83 weeks.
“I am blown away at the impact that this book has had reaching so many people. Crazy Love embodies David C Cook’s mission, to make and teach disciples who obediently transform today’s generation. We hope it continues to reach new readers in the coming years changing lives forever,” says Don Pape, VP trade publishing.
Chan, with his fresh and honest teaching style of the Scriptures has ignited a hunger to “love your neighbor as yourself” in a day and age of me, myself and I Christianity.
Chan said this about the news of the sales, “I’m amazed by the book’s popularity. But if it doesn’t lead to concrete action in the readers’ lives, then it was just another book. I pray that it has caused us to truly fall more in love with the One who deserves our best.”
Chan not only talks about “crazy love” he lives it. Chan and his family left the growing church he founded, Cornerstone, in order to serve in the low-income Tenderloin district of San Francisco. His goal is to show the love of Jesus to this neighborhood and meet real needs with the hope to plant a church in every apartment building in the district. The ministry offers meals, clothes, school supplies, and anything else that might be needed. Chan writes, “I believe He wants us to love others so much that we go to extremes to help them.”
An internationally sought after speaker, Chan is traveling the world in 2012 continuing to encourage everyone he speaks to, to read the Bible, know it and live it. Earlier this year, Chan spoke to over 44,000 university students from around the United States and over 30 other countries – at the Passion 2012 Conference in Atlanta.
Francis Chan is the best-selling author of Crazy Love, Forgotten God, and Erasing Hell which are international bestsellers having all appeared on The New York Times bestseller list. Crazy Love was named Family Christian Store’s “Book of the Year” for 2011. His teachings are featured in the BASIC film series along with writing the children’s books Halfway Herbert, The Big Red Tractor and the Little Village and Ronnie Wilson’s Gift. Chan’s latest release, Multiply will be available in stores Nov. 1, 2012.
Chan is the founding pastor of Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, CA, and is the founder of Eternity Bible College. He sits on the board of directors of Children’s Hunger Fund and World Impact. He lives with his wife Lisa and their five children in Northern California.
Celebrated Christian Hip Hop And Rap Star Lecrae, released a new mixtape album last week. The mixtape features 18 brand new tracks, including the title track “Church Clothes,” and features a bunch of guest appearances by other Christian rappers. The mixtape is hosted by Don Cannon. You can download the album for free here.
After only a few days of release the album has already been downloaded more than 128,000 times.
The track listing is:
- Co-sign (3:10)
- APB (feat. Thi’sl) (3:32)
- Church Clothes (2:24)
- Cold World (feat. Tasha Catour) (3:33)
- Welcome To H-Town (feat. Tedashii & Dre Murray) (4:32)
- Inspiration (2:30)
- Rise (3:12)
- Darkest Hour (feat. No Malice) (2:37)
- Black Rose (2:56)
- The Price of Life (feat. Andy Mineo & Co Campbell) (4:00)
- Special (feat. Lester “L2″ Shaw) (3:29)
- No Regrets (feat. Suzy Rock) (3:31)
- Gimme A Second (3:33)
- Long Time Coming (feat. Swoope) (3:17)
- Misconception (feat. Propaganda, Braille & Odd Thomas) (4:31)
- Spazz (3:24)
- Sacrifice (3:58)
- Rejects (feat. Christon Gray) (3:32)
Recognized from the band Watermark and from the annual Passion Student Conferences held each year in Atlanta; Christy Nockels has released several chart topping songs throughout her career with Passion and Watermark; such as ‘Gloria’, ‘Glory of Your Name’ and ‘Knees to the Earth’. With acclaim for her first solo album in 2009, Life Light Up, her eagerly anticipated second solo album, ‘Into the Glorious’ released in early April. The result of the last three years were songs of heartfelt worship and praise, covering a diverse musical range from ballads and anthems to pop rock radio singles and country melodies. All throughout these 12 songs was the theme of coming before the Lord and worshipping with the knowledge of who He is and who we are in comparison to Him.
The first single of the album, ‘Ever Lifting’, starts off with a country impression, the banjo present in a song that could also be arranged in a country music playlist. The most upbeat of the album, ‘Ever Lifting’ makes me smile as I listen to the lyrics over the banjo and acoustic guitar melodies. As Christy sings ‘…You fill my heart to know the length of Your great love. And where You go, I’ll go; You set my heart above…’ I am reminded that God’s love is endless, no matter how far we turn; we are never far from His love. A different genre from Christy’s pop worship vein, the song is still worshipful, and the acoustic guitar, banjo and bass, together with Christy singing ‘…I’m lifting my voice just to sing a new song. I’m lifting my hands just to show You I know where I belong…’ makes the song even more special, knowing that it is in our Father’s arms that we find our belonging.
As Christy sings through the rest of the album with her soft but equally powerful vocals; we are brought through a journey of honest worship and praise as together we bow before and exalt the King of Kings. ‘Already all I Need’ speaks about how Christ is everything that we need in this life, we don’t have to ask the Lord for reassurances and promises because He has already promised us that He will never leave us. As Christy explains, ‘…So many times we come to Jesus in worship and ask Him for things that He already IS and has already done…’ With just the piano and violin to accentuate the lyrical content of the song; this is one of the album highlights. ‘Be Loved’ is another piano driven song about letting ourselves be loved by the God who loves us. God loves us, and we just need to let go of any fears and issues about performance and allow ourselves to be loved by God. With the piano again taking the foreground of instruments, ‘Wonderful’ is a powerful anthemic song that shows us how wonderful God is, and in light of everything He has done, all we can do is proclaim that ‘…my life will burn for You. ‘Cause Your light shined in the darkness. I was hopeless and You lifted up my head…’
‘Your Love is Moving’ is another song with just the piano, violin and percussion. This simple melody speaks the powerful truth to listeners that God is alive and living within us, stirring and moving in His people, raising up a generation longing for more of His presence in their lives. As Christy powerfully proclaims the lyrics ‘…we reach our hands to You. Our God, You are here and Your mercies are new…’ I can see myself singing along, lifting my hands to the God who loves to lavish me with the love that I don’t deserve, but I receive it anyway because of who I am in Christ. ‘Into the Glorious’ is a song that sounds most like the ‘radio friendly’ single, with the musical technique of using keys in the verses and powerful guitars and drums building in the choruses and bridge. But its message is anything but; and as I ponder on the lyrics ‘…out from the ordinary into the extraordinary…’ I can be sure that God made each one of us with unique talents and gifts, and as we use them, not for our own selfish gain; but to honour the One who holds the universe together; He will bring us up from the ordinary mundane 9-5 and give us satisfaction, fulfilment and hope as we experience the joy of not living for ourselves, but to help others.
With the theme of worship on Christy’s mind when she created the record, it is to be expected that some of her songs that are included are ones that she sung from the Passion Conferences held over the years in early January. Both acoustic versions of their live counterparts, ‘Healing in Your Hands’ speaks about how God is never far from us, that ‘…No mountain. No valley. No gain or loss we know. Could keep us from Your love…’ and ‘How I Love You’ is a simple song about loving Jesus, not out of duty or obligation, but because of understands the lengths that God went for His creation to be reconciled unto Himself. There is also a studio rendition of ‘Waiting Here For You’ previously on Passion: Here For You, and the same live atmosphere, enthusiasm and raw passion is transferred well into this 5 minute track. With a soft piano intro drawing the listener in as Christy sings ‘…if faith can move a mountain; let the mountains move. We come with expectation, waiting here for You…’; the song builds up with anticipation. As the instruments soar into electric guitars, strings and drums, I am amazed about how this song captures the heart of Christy and her longing to wait for Jesus, to feel His presence, and to dwell in Him with adoration and praise.
‘Sing Along’, originally from Passion: White Flag; has become one of my favourites from Christy Nockels ever. From first listen, this is a worship song to God, proclaiming to Him that He is great, that when He hears our worshipful cries around the world, He can smile and allow us to ‘…join in your song and sing along…’ Little did I know that this song was much more than a worship song; and as I understood the background of it from her blog that she wrote on her website, I was able to appreciate the song’s beauty, honesty and passion, and have grown to love the song more. As Christy explains it, ‘…This song started out like a lullaby that I would sing at night as I laid my head down on my pillow, keenly aware of the heartache in the world… an enormity beyond belief…’ This song is a worship song, but it’s also a cry to God when we see the injustice in this world. It is an anthem, sung from us to God, as a way of offering up our lives to help those around us who need it. As we sing this anthem, let us not forget those around the world who need the help that only God can give.
Overall: Christy Nockels has created a stellar album full of ballads and upbeat tempo songs full of worship, praise, reflection and honesty. This album has become one of my favourite for this year so far, and is recommended to those who would want to simply let their guards down before the Lord and worship in abandonment. This is a great collection of 12 heartfelt stories and as Christy continues to amaze me with her songwriting, creating moments in songs full of awe and wonder, I cannot wait to hear her third album.
This Friday, five-time Grammy Award-winning and multi-platinum-selling artist TobyMac will perform on ABC’s hit daytime talk show The View. At the personal request of co-host Sherri Shepherd, TobyMac and his band Diverse City will perform “Get Back Up” during the episode celebrating Shepherd’s birthday. The View airs weekdays on ABC at 11a/10a PT/C, and more information on the show can be found here.
Critics and fans alike bravoed TobyMac upon the recent release of Dubbed & Freq’d: A Remix Project, his first remix album in seven years. Fusing his signature rock-pop, hip-hop and urban styles with a treatment of today’s electronic music uprising, the album offers an outstanding new interpretation of 12 of Toby’s classics to an incredibly wide audience. Immediately upon release, the album made its debut at No. 2 on the iTunes® Christian & Gospel Albums chart.
In addition to the release of Dubbed & Freq’d, TobyMac is closing in on the finale of his unplugged “A Night of Stories and Songs” tour, which will wrap this Saturday, April 21in Ft. Wayne, IN. He has also confirmed appearances at high-profile festivals this summer including Spirit West Coast, Creation East and AtlantaFest, in additional to many more. See the cities and dateshere.
Like the original, half-hour documentary, this 20-minute film titled, Kony 2012 PART II: BEYOND FAMOUS,” attacks Joseph Kony, the Ugandan warlord featured in the first video. The new video also addresses critics who charged the first mini-documentary oversimplifies facts about the more than two-decade old Central African conflict.
The video does not address Jason Russell’s hospitalization. The 33-year-old filmmaker behind the original film sought treatment in March several weeks after the first video’s release.
Russell’s wife said that he had suffered a “brief psychosis” following the unprecedented attention garnered from the first film, which attracted more 86 million views on YouTube.
“Doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks,” Danica Russell said in a statement last month. “Even for us, it’s hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention—both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days.”
Russell, who is still undergoing treatment, isn’t featured in the sequel.
The new film was released, in part, to promote an April 20 rally in New York.
Creation Festival Northeast has just announced that David Crowder, formerly of the David Crowder Band, will start a new band simply called ‘Crowder,’ with all new band members. And the new band will makes its debut on the prestigious Creation stage in June 2012. No details were released about who the new band members will be, but this is awesome news for all us die hard DC*B fans. Now we can continue to enjoy the creative genius, energy and searching lyrics David Crowder has been known for. Words can’t express the excitement of all of us here at Awaken Generation at this terrific news. Incidentally all the ex-DC*B band members are also making new music as part of their new outfit simply called, The Digital Age. Let the merriment continue and turn up the volume!
The Latest Christian News Featuring Joel Houston, Louie Giglio, Chris Tomlin, Hillsong Live, David Platt
LOUIE GIGLIO Releases Trailer For New AND IF OUR GOD IS FOR US Tour Talk Called Symphony, I Lift My Hands
As we reported earlier Louie Giglio is set to release a new talk DVD called “Symphony, I Lift My Hands.” The talk was heard by thousands on the recent “And If Our God Is For Us” Tour headlined by Chris Tomlin and Louie Giglio. This week sixstepsrecords released a trailer for the new talk DVD set to release on March 13, 2012, the same day as the latest Passion album is set to drop.
Just weeks before the Passion World Tour hits Vancouver, and alongside the March 13 release of the Passion: White Flag live album, Passion founder and recent GRAMMY ® nominee Louie Giglio will debut the latest in the 900,ooo+ selling Passion Talk Series, SYMPHONY, I LIFT MY HANDS. As seen by over 200,000 people on the 50-city Chris Tomlin “And If Our God Is For Us… Tour,” SYMPHONY, I LIFT MY HANDS is one of Giglio’s most compelling talks and one that left audiences spellbound.
What a week it has been for Sparrow Records singer-songwriter Audrey Assad, whose critically adored sophomore album, Heart, bowed on Valentine’s Day to across-the-board praise and her highest sales-week numbers to date. Heart ranked in at No. 3 on the Christian Soundscan chart, selling over 7,300 units, giving her a 185 percent sales increase over the debut week of her last album, The House You’re Building. The CD also crowned the iTunes ® Christian & Gospel Albums chart and reached No. 18 on the overall iTunes ® Albums chart. In addition, before Heart‘s release, Rhapsody named it one of their “Most Anticipated Albums of 2012.”
Third Day is getting ready to make all of their Spring Tour shows available as digital audio recordings exclusively available from their website. To launch it, they’ll be making a 4-song live EP available for FREE for a limited time. Today, they announced… “As many of you know, we are always looking to improve our fan’s expierence and come up with new ways to continue to connect with you. Years ago, we had the idea to start recording all of our concerts. Then we thought, “We should share these recordings with people.” So, we started streaming the shows on our website. The one down side to that was that you had to be connected to the internet to be able to listen and could not take the recording with you to listen whenever you want.”
“Well, after lots of work we are excited to tell you that for the spring tour, you will be able to purchase each night’s concert as a digital download on our website! As a little teaser, we will be offering a Third Day Live sampler for free. This 4 song EP will include a favorite performance from the Make Your Move Tour from each of the band members. This sampler will only be available from March 1st – March 15th. Be on the look out for more info on this in the coming weeks.”
In the very beginning of the biblical story, right after Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating the forbidden fruit and ushering sin and death into the world, they realized they were naked and felt vulnerable. That started the first game of hide-and-seek. Adam and Eve tried to hide from God. They were exposed. And they didn’t want God or their partner to see.
This is a perfect illustration of the daunting challenge of becoming honest with God and each other. It’s like getting naked. It’s the deepest form of vulnerability, dating all the way back to seconds after the Fall.
Most of us carry at least two fears about sharing our pain and struggles with another person. One, we fear being exposed, being truly known by our struggles and faults, not just by the front we usually put forward. Two, we fear being rejected. Like Adam and Eve, we think that if God were to confront us in our total vulnerability, he would be appalled to the point of distancing himself from us and punishing us or shunning us.
So we do what Adam and Eve did. We don’t just hide; we try to cover our nakedness. They did it with fig leaves. We do it by pretending we’re not hurting and putting on a happy face despite feeling dead inside. We do it by trying to
make up for our faults with self-righteousness or lying to cover ourselves.
God did not accept the leaf coverings. They didn’t work. But he didn’t reject Adam and Eve. According to the Bible, he covered them himself using animal skins. The message is vivid and clear. We can be covered, but something must die. God’s providing animal skins to cover the first humans’ nakedness is a picture of God’s providing the sacrifice of Jesus to cover our sin.
The lesson is challenging but simple: if we want to experience the joy of unity, of relational connectedness, of the glory of God, we have to risk showing our true selves to God and others, and we have to be gracious coverers of one another with the good news of Jesus Christ’s sacrifice.
The beauty of this is that the more reliable we are with grace, the more reliable our communities will be with honesty.
THE PRACTICE OF HONESTY
Getting to the place of honesty with each other can be difficult, but there are few things more rewarding-and healing. There is a divine catharsis in unburdening ourselves of sin and painful experiences. It sets us free and allows the burden to be shared, if not lifted. Why do you think they call it “getting something off your chest”?
Of course, this is a risk. It can be a disaster to fall into the hands of insensitive, insincere, or just flat-out mean Christians. Many times we are reluctant to share what’s going on in our lives because we’ve been burned in the past by gossip, judgmentalism, bad assumptions, terrible theology, or even ambivalence or stony silence. Nevertheless, God calls us to know and be known. He wants us to be a living picture of the reconciliation he offers between himself and us. And we can’t do reconciliation if we don’t get real.
You may want to begin by identifying one Christian you can trust with the difficulties of your life. This person could be an accountability partner, an older believer whose wisdom and insight you respect, or perhaps a pastor, counselor, or therapist. Getting one on one is the first big step toward later sharing with multiple people, perhaps in a prayer group or small group or support group of some kind.
Identify cultures of grace. Are there pockets of Christians where you can see that lives have been transformed by the good news of Jesus, where sin is spoken against but sinners feel loved and cared for and not condemned? Can you see acceptance and belonging? Do you see honesty already taking place? Does the place feel warm and welcoming? Hopefully you have located this culture of grace in your own church or at least in certain groups or gatherings within your church.
When life falls apart, to some extent we all feel like we’re the first to experience it. So I know that tentativeness and unease will be there regardless. But take the risk!
If you lead a small group or community group of some kind at your church, or if you work with a group of volunteers, strive to create a safe place for honesty. This probably means you will have to go first. When someone goes first, it breaks the seal of fear and discomfort that prevents transparency. When someone goes first, it immediately tells others in the group that they are not alone. And we are more likely to get honest with others when we don’t feel as though we are alone. But somebody has to go first.
Will it be you?
God is faithful. He will meet you at every point with the grace you need and the healing you long for. And once you can be honest with him and find in him not rejection or condemnation but acceptance, your fear of people will gradually dissipate, giving you the confidence to get real with others too. You’ll be able to let them see how you are
torn, which will start helping you recover.
I attended the Easter Prayer Breakfast at the Whitehouse this past April and right before walking through the buffet line we paused to pray. I was expecting the typical pre-meal prayer, but it turned into a defining moment for me. A sixty-seven year-old African American pastor began to pray with such familiarity and authority that after he said “Amen,” I turned to Andy Stanley and Louie Giglio, who happened to be standing next to me, and said, “I feel like I’ve never prayed before.”
Have you ever felt that way? Someone prays with such familiarity with God that you feel like you hardly know Him? Or they pray with such authority that you feel like your prayers are impotent by comparison? I wonder if that’s how the disciples felt when they heard Jesus pray. Maybe that’s why they asked Him to teach them to pray in a new way.
I’ve never met anyone who felt like they prayed too much or prayed too effectively. All of us feel like we fall short when it comes to prayer. But that’s exciting because it means there is potential for improvement. There are new dialects, new tactics, new dimensions to be discovered. And if you transform your prayer life you transform your life. Why? Because the transcript of your prayers ultimately become the script for your life. We write the future with our prayers. Or in the words of Walter Wink: “History belongs to the intercessors.”
A few years ago, I was reading through The Book of Legends, a collection of stories from the Jewish Talmud, when I discovered the true legend of Honi the Circle Maker. It forever changed the way I pray. I pray more. I pray with more faith. I’ve learned how to pray circles around my dreams, my problems, my family, and most importantly, the promises of God.
A devastating drought threatened to destroy a generation–the generation before Jesus. The last of the Jewish prophets had died off nearly four centuries before. Miracles were a distant memory. And God was nowhere to be heard. But there was one man, an old sage who lived outside the walls of Jerusalem, who dared to pray anyway. His name was Honi. And even if the people could no longer hear God, he believed that God could still hear them.
With a six-foot staff in his hand, Honi drew a circle in the sand. Then he dropped to his knees and raised his hands to heaven. With the authority of the prophet Elijah who called down fire from heaven, Honi called down rain.
Lord of the Universe, I swear before your great name that I will not move from this circle until you have shown mercy upon your children.
Then it happened.
As his prayer ascended to the heavens, raindrops descended to the earth. The people rejoiced over the rain, but Honi wasn’t satisfied with a sprinkle. Still kneeling within the circle, Honi lifted his voice over the sounds of celebration.
Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain that will fill cisterns, pits, and caverns.
The sprinkle turned into such a torrential downpour that the people fled to the Temple Mount to escape the flash floods. Honi stayed and prayed inside his protracted circle.
Not for such rain have I prayed, but for rain of benevolence, benediction, and grace.
Then, like a well-proportioned sun shower on a summer afternoon, it began to rain in perfect moderation. Some within the Sanhedrin threatened excommunication because his prayer was too bold for their taste, but the miracle couldn’t be repudiated. Eventually, Honi the Circle Maker was honored for “the prayer that saved a generation.” The circle he drew in the sand symbolizes the power of a single prayer to change the course of history. It’s also a reminder of this timeless truth: God honors bold prayers because bold prayers honor God.
We have not because we ask not, or maybe I should say, we have not because we circle not. We give up too easily, too quickly. If God has given you a dream, you need to keep circling it in prayer. You can’t just pray. You need to pray through. You need to work like it depends on us and pray like it depends on God.
Prayer is the difference between fighting for God and God fighting for you. Some of you have been fighting so hard. Maybe it’s time to pray hard. Then God will fight your battles for you.
I’m convinced of this: your leadership potential is directly proportional to your prayer capacity. You can’t do anything until you pray, but when you start drawing prayer circles around your dreams and God’s miracles, all bets are off. With prayer, all things are possible.
You tell me: is there anything more important or more powerful than prayer?
If the answer is no then let’s pray like it.
The other night at a wedding I ran into an acquaintance, a longtime pastor of a large church. In the course of our conversation, I asked how I could pray for him. Without hesitation he said, “That I would actually spend time with Jesus and not be so caught up in being busy all the time…. You’d think after all these years I’d have that down, but I don’t.”
Isn’t it interesting how the ministry always seems to creep its way between the minister and Jesus? My friend was so busy doing things for Jesus that he didn’t have much time for Jesus.
Ministry flows from intimacy. The primary call on the minister is to be with Christ in an intimate love relationship. When Jesus called the twelve disciples, He appointed them “so that they would be with Him and that He could send them out to preach, and to have authority to cast out the demons” (emphasis mine). Note the order: Jesus ordained that his first leaders be with Him before they attempt to do workfor Him. As Jesus would later teach, He is the source for life and ministry. Without deep connectivity to Him, their ability to live and lead well would crumble beneath the pressures they would soon face as leaders in His kingdom.
The same is true for the Christian leader today. We have been saved that we might have a meaningful love affair with Christ; everything else is subordinate and subsequent to that glorious truth. Tozer wrote, “We are called to an everlasting preoccupation with God.” Yet Christians in general, and often leaders in particular, seem to succumb to busyness and struggle with practicing unhurried intimacy with Christ.
This is a dangerous compromise. Eugene Peterson asserts, “The word busy is the symptom not of commitment but of betrayal. It is not devotion but defection. The adjective busy set as a modifier to pastorshould sound to our ears like adulterous to characterize a wife or embezzling to characterize a banker. It is an outrageous scandal, a blasphemous affront.” “Ouch,” says this busy pastor.
In the book of Jeremiah, the Lord was expressing His displeasure with the southern kingdom of Judah: “The priests did not say, ‘Where is the LORD?’ And those who handle the law did not know Me” (emphasis mine). The word know used here is the word yada in Hebrew, and it means to know relationally and experientially. The Lord’s complaint is that they did not know Him relationally, experientially, and intimately. His rebuke targeted the spiritual leaders who, of all in the kingdom, carried the privilege and responsibility of knowing Him. Though many other sins were prevalent in Judah at the time, the one that seemed to most upset God was their departure from intimate relationship with Him. They were still working for God, but they weren’t really with God.
We sometimes get so caught up in doing good things for God that we don’t have time for God. The danger is that in our zeal and passion for the ministry, we can easily lose the sine qua non (essential condition) of simply knowing Christ intimately. Recall the words of the risen Lord to the church at Ephesus: “I know your deeds and your toil…. But I have this against you, that you have left your first love.” Their many good works were acknowledged by the Lord, but they were a pitiful substitute for relationally loving the Lord.
Our first love is to be our last love. All that would seek to place itself between us and our first love must be dealt with ruthlessly in the life of the leader, lest he or she become weary in the numerous responsibilities facing him or her. These responsibilities, apart from connection to the Object of our service, eventually grind us down to the very core of personal inadequacy. When busyness supplants with-ness we are in trouble.
Christ’s suggested course of action for the church at Ephesus was to repent. This can mean only one thing-that the leader or minister or ministry or church that is engaged in good works while neglecting sincere relational nearness to Christ is on a perilous path and must change course immediately to avoid shipwreck. We all know that the reefs and shores of Christian work are strewn with the wrecks of busy and important, but not intimate, men and women.
The work will always seek to pry its way between Christ and the Christian. The passion of every pastor and leader must be to love and enjoy Jesus with every fiber of his or her being. Authentic and eternally impacting ministry can flow only from an intimate relationship with Christ.
I was angry because I believed, and still believe, that the God who created the universe did not create too many children in His image and not enough love to go around. And I wanted to do more. I wanted to help them all.
God whispered that one is enough. He assured me that He would hold the others while they wait for someone to come along and give them their milk and their medicine. He doesn’t ask me to take them all but to stop for just one, because, as I do it for one of “the least of these” I do it for Him (see Matthew 25:40). I felt deep in my spirit that He was teaching me to care for the one person in front of me. Stop for the little boy with white hair and scabs covering his body; stop for the baby girl with feces covering her dress, so weak that she can’t hold up her head. Stop and love the ones right in front of me and trust Him with the rest. He whispered that it would be okay and that I didn’t have to be angry, I could smile because one less baby was hungry, and that was good enough for that day.
This is a lesson He has continued to teach me. And it is sometimes hard and ugly. Because every time I stop for that one sick child, that one hungry old man, that one new baby girl, my mind races with the statistics of how many more I am not touching, not feeding, not saving. God whispers every time, though, that this one is enough. It is enough that this one is feeling His love and that love is eternal. Eternal.
Today, that anger is gone, though sometimes I still have to sit with the Father in my sadness and brokenness over all the hurt in this world. Sometimes I still have to cry to Him and ask Him why innocent children must suffer and beg Him to move people to action. Still, we as a family just love the ones with whom God has entrusted us as best we can. We let Him hold us as we hold the little ones He has given us to look after. We do what we can do, and we trust Him with the rest.
When I have a rough day, or several rough days in a row, as I did around the time Patricia joined our family, I can easily forget why I do what I do. I used to repeat to myself, “Do not forget in the darkness what you have been promised in the light.” When my days are dark and difficult, I am tempted to look around and think, Why? Why do I do this? Why would I take one more child? Why would we live with less so we can give to others more? Why did I leave family and friends to go to a land of strangers? What am I doing here?
I do not usually forget the answer to all these questions: “For Jesus. Because He called me to this and because He gave His life for me.” This means that it has been granted to me, it is my privilege, not only to believe in Him but also to suffer for Him (see Philippians 1:29). That suffering is not alone, but is with Him, and oh, what a privilege it is just to be able to be in His presence, to share that with my sweet Savior.
This is what it means when I say I do it for Jesus. He loved me first; I love Him back. And sometimes it hurts. But even then it is pure joy to even be considered worthy to share in His suffering. That is the promise: not that He is sorry that it hurts, but that He sees; that He knows; that He is here with us.
I think of various “ones” with which I have been blessed.
I think of Michael, who is back at home with his stepmom, healthy now, but maybe still mistreated. God knows that, in Uganda, as a single woman I cannot legally adopt a little boy, so how my heart could be so knit to his?
I think of a girl named Gloria, whose brain was so damaged from her high fever she may always be in a vegetable-like state. God in His infinite wisdom knew that had I been there a few days sooner, this potentially lifelong damage could have been prevented.
But then I think of fourteen little girls who have a home and food and a mommy, and who know Jesus. I think of sixteen hundred Karimojong children, modern-day lepers in Uganda, singing about God’s love for them and leaving the school with their bellies full. I think of four hundred sponsored children who sometimes show up on Saturday in new clothes because their parents can finally afford to buy them a new dress or shirt, now that Amazima provides for all their basic needs (food, education, medical care).
I see thousands of deep brown eyes and feel thousands of little brown hands and I know that even on the hardest day, stopping is worth it. A life changed is worth it, even if only one. God’s love made known is worth it, even if only to one. I will not save them all. But I will keep trying. I will say “Yes.” I will stop for one.
My dignity as Abba’s child is my most coherent sense of self– Brennan Manning
In January 1998, Monica Lewinsky found herself in way over her head. Her face was on the front page of every newspaper, and each new day seemed to bring one more humiliation. She was 25 years old – and caught in a presidential sex scandal. She had no idea what was coming.
Today, at the age of 38, she’s still caught. Single, alone, and running out of options, she’s the butt of jokes, the object of stares – the easy sexual punchline. Seventeen years later.
Most of us are not former presidential interns. Most of us haven’t had our decisions scrutinized by pundits and talk-show hosts. And most of us haven’t had an affair with the most powerful man on the planet. We’re nothing like Ms. Lewinsky. Or are we?
How many of us live with embarrassment about secrets that got out? Or betrayal from past lovers and friends? Or fear that someone will recognize us as a fraud? Or hopelessness, brought on by repeated failures? I’m willing to bet Ms. Lewinsky knows what that’s like, and I’m willing to bet more than a few of us do too.
Those of us caught in embarrassment, betrayal, fear, and hopelessness are living with a label that lies. We live branded by things that happened years – maybe even decades – before. And as a society, we are 100% percent OK with letting that label stick.
Maybe you’ve heard or said things like:
“He’s the pastor that was bangin’ his secretary and then ran off with her.”
“Isn’t she the one that was hooked on prescription drugs and went crazy?”
“Remember, that’s the pervert youth pastor that was caught looking at porn at work.”
In our desperate need to understand each other and place people in context, we attach permanent labels – usually from the dirtiest and most controversial part of the story. Sometimes the label is attached to others, and sometimes it is a label we believe about ourselves. Either way, the label lies, strips away our complex humanity, and falls short of describing who we really are.
Grace is the second chance that erases labels for others, and it’s the permission to move on that we give ourselves. And yet, grace is so scarce. It’s disappearing, and its disappearance is leaving an army of wounded “has-beens” and “screw-ups” in its wake.
In grace’s absence, we instead choose to label. Our culture thrives on devouring the Monica’s, the Haggard’s, and the Michael Vick’s, replaying their past mistakes for a quick fix of pleasure and entertainment. It makes us feel good to think that people have flaws worse than ours; it feeds the insecurity caused by our own labels.
So what can we do? For one thing, we can stop kicking people when they’re down. We can start skipping the water cooler, deleting the emails, and raising our voice on behalf of second chances. When someone seeks to label another soul, we can speak up on their behalf.
We can start risking our own “personal brand” to encourage the downtrodden and defend life’s outcasts. In fact, People of the Second Chance was started to do just that – tear down the labels of a Vulture Culture and replace them with a culture of grace and second chances.
Of course, this is all utterly impossible if we can’t rediscover our own identity in grace. Giving someone a second chance starts with giving ourselves a second chance. It means stripping away the labels that we wear and finding the truth of who we are in grace. I’m sorry, but you can’t give what you haven’t first received. The strength to forgive others and forgive ourselves comes from finding our identity as the one God forgave first. In the face of that grace, labels are shattered. In the face of that grace, dehumanization crumbles. And in the face of that grace, someone like Monica Lewinsky stops being the punchline.
Roadside Attractions set to release Blue Like Jazz, the much-anticipated film adaptation of Donald Miller’s best-selling book.
GEOFF SURRATT Guest Post: I Felt Alone And Disconnected At Almost Every Church I Visited With My Wife
When finally given the opportunity to simply attend, and not preside or preach at a given church on Sunday, two notable Christian leaders found out just how difficult it was to fit into and connect to a new church today.
Having no current pastoral obligations, Geoff and Sherry Surratt, who have both served extensively at churches like Seacoast and Saddleback, visited over the past few months nine different churches, attending as anonymous visitors.
“It has been an eye-opening experience,” Geoff Surratt shared on ChurchLeaders.com. Discovering firsthand the obstacles of connecting with a new church, the former Seacoast Church executive pastor shared a few pointers on how to “make your church stickier” and retain visitors.
“None of these ideas are new or revolutionary, but I bet you think your church is a lot better at each one than you really are,” the father of two noted. “Trust me on this; they’re not.”
For example, though most churches thought they were a friendly and welcoming group, in actuality, they had minimal contact with newcomers outside of the front door greeting.
From an outsider’s perspective, a church could come off cold and unwelcoming because more often than not their greetings were never extended beyond the initial exchange.
The only interaction newcomers would get after their first step through the door would be during the “forced greeting time,” when neighbors only acknowledged their presence whe
n they were directed by their leaders to do so.
“Feeling alone and disconnected is the one experience we’ve had at almost every church we’ve attended,” Surratt shared, also stating that his wife, an extrovert, felt the same way.
In order to extend the welcome and “friendliness” of the church, he suggested teaching on hospitality, dividing the congregation into sections with chosen leaders responsible for the people who sat in their section, and creating things like a “gorilla greeter” team, made up of people who purposefully sought to find those who were disconnected and connect with them.
Many people seek connection and relationships when they come to church, but are often left alone and desperate for a friend.
“People want to connect, you want people to connect; let’s put significant time and energy into making this happen,” the Denver resident advised.
Although he was not pushing “consumer Christianity,” he felt that churches should be more like car lots, not in an overbearing or forceful way, but with the mentality of “How can I put you in this car today?”
“If the main reason people are showing up at church is to find relationships, there has to be a way to help them connect today. Not next month, not at the pancake breakfast on Saturday, but today.”
While friendliness and maintaining relationships are important, clear signs and directions are just as vital for first-timers, Surratt stated.
Marking where the parking lots, worship rooms, restrooms, and other places are located while also detailing programs for guests are things that help visitors navigate the church better.
Though regular churchgoers have ingrained the layout and worship schedule into their memories, no longer even needing to think about where to go and what to do, visitors are usually lost from beginning to end without guidance.
“The bottom line is we should do everything we can to make our church at least as easy to navigate as the local Target.”
Additional ways Surratt felt churches could be made “stickier” included better applicable and practical Gospel-centered preaching and more readily accessible volunteer opportunities and resources for newcomers as well.
All in all, Geoff and Sherry Surratt’s reflection on their personal experience with the church today is aimed at creating a warmer environment for the first-time visitor, guest, and attendee who feels lonely, needs comfort, or is discovering God for the first time.
Surratt not only seeks to help newcomers but the church as a whole as well to function in love and unity.
Geoff Surratt is currently a freelance Church Catalyst and Encourager and has written three books including Ten Stupid Things That Keep Churches From Growing. His wife, Sherry, was recently named the new president and CEO of MOPS International beginning January.