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THE NETWORK EXCHANGE: PASTORS/BUSINESS CAFE

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2016 EVENTS AND CALENDARS

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September 2016 10:30 AM - 12:30 PM

Developing Christian Based Social Enterprise
One of the best of the options in preaching the good news while offering...

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October 2016 10:00 AM - 4:00 PM

THE ROAD AHEAD, NEW YORK CLERGY ECONOMIC SUMMIT
Equipping pastors, ministers and missions with information with hands...

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November 2016 10:00 Am - 12:30 PM

Reinventing
The mega trend speaks of the great changes that have swept...

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January 2016 10:00 Am - 12:30 PM

The Church in the Strategic Planning
As ministry evolves and grows, so also are its challenges...

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February 2016 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Structure & Governance
Organizing your members into units of ministry force,...

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March 2016 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Succession Ministry
By reason of man's life span, we are not endowed to continue forever...

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April 2016 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Diversification
Tithe and offering will continue as God's given financial...

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May 2016 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Taxes & Records
Many pastors, Churches and missions have become...

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June 2016 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Membership Development, System Design Software and Impact Strategies
As long as the Lord Jesus tarries, church membership...

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July 2016 10:00 AM - 12:30 PM

Clergy Compensation, Life Insurance Retirement Benefit
How to balance what comes in weekly as church...

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August 2016 10:00 Am - 12:30 PM

Avoiding Foreclosures: Keeping God's Houses of Worship Open
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Newsletter

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:

Prepared Remarks of Richard Cordray
Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
The National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.
Charlotte, N.C.

Thank you, Rev. Dr. Freeman for your kind words. I also want to express my appreciation to President Scruggs, Chairman West, and Rev. Dr. Gable. For their invaluable support of our work at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and for their deep commitment to those who struggle with their finances, we are most grateful.

Faith leaders often respond first to families in financial crisis. Like Aaron and Hur, who stood on each side of Moses and held up his hands when he grew weary in the battle, faith leaders use their own strength to steady others and enable them to carry on the fight. So you try your best to offer guidance. You try your best to offer help.

Now you have someone to lean on when people come to you with their financial troubles. Just two years ago, this federal agency was established by Congress at President Obama’s urging. We were given the great responsibility to protect all Americans from financial predators. We are here to make sure that the problems of the past, which hurt so many consumers, do not happen again. We are here to foresee and prevent the problems of the future. We aim to help people better understand the big financial decisions they may make in their lives – borrowing to buy a car, to pay for college, to own a home.

Before I tell you more about what we are doing, let us first be reminded of the story of Jacob’s Ladder. When Jacob left Beersheba and went toward Haran, he dreamed there was a ladder set up on earth and the top of it reached toward heaven. Then Jacob awoke from his sleep and said, “Surely the Lord is in this place; and I did not know it.”

We spend much of our lives with a sense that we want to be on this ladder, climbing toward our own place in the sun. It is an economic metaphor that has reached far and wide in our culture. It is about success, security, and stability. In today’s world, this ladder can look very different for different people. Some people start out near the top. Some start out near the bottom. Some have an easy climb. For others, it can be extremely hard.

In this country, we all know that African Americans have been climbing this ladder for a very long time. They have found that it has many rungs. There was the rung for freedom, and many different rungs for equality – for access to education, to public accommodations, to the ballot box. So many things had to be fought for. But millions of brave Americans took on that fight, and much has been achieved. We just celebrated the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. All across America, people saw the courage and discipline of those who gathered on the National Mall in 1963. A half-century later, we can now see that by their actions and by their words, they transformed our society in a lasting way.

In the years since the Civil Rights Act, many more African Americans bought their own homes. Many more African Americans went to college. Many more African Americans attained leadership roles within the community and in America’s boardrooms. They knocked down the walls of segregation and broke many barriers that had no place in America.

But five years ago this month, Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy. What followed was a credit freeze that spurred a much broader collapse of the economy. Many people who were entirely innocent got hit the hardest. They lost their jobs; many lost their homes; almost everyone lost much of their retirement savings. Considerable time has passed, but you know best that African American families are still reeling from the crisis. Unemployment remains high; net worth has sunk; inequality has widened. For these families, the Great Recession is far from over.

At the Consumer Bureau, we are working to understand these challenges. We know that consumers have to climb the ladder themselves – we cannot step into their shoes and do it for them. But what we can do, and must do, is hold the ladder steady. We can help empower Americans to make sound financial decisions they can live with for the rest of their lives. And we can make sure they are not forced down the ladder by what we call the “Four Ds”: deceptive marketing, debt traps, dead ends, and discrimination. Let me describe each of these problems more carefully.

***

The first problem is deception. Consumers cannot make sound financial choices if they are given false or inaccurate information. Yet this happened far too often in the lead-up to the financial crisis. Some lenders withheld important information. Others deceived consumers. One result was that too many homebuyers ended up with complicated mortgage products they did not understand and that were doomed to failure – products that if they had known better they would have avoided. We now hear these stories from consumers all the time – stories filled with personal tragedy and lasting regret.

So one of our signature projects at the Consumer Bureau has been our “Know Before You Owe” effort to make information more understandable. But cleaning up deception in the marketplace also requires tough action, so we have taken on credit card companies that misled consumers with deceptive sales pitches. So far, we have put more than $400 million back in the pockets of consumers. We also have gone after companies that claim to provide mortgage relief and debt-settlement services, but really just take people’s money and leave them worse off. We have secured court orders. We have frozen assets. We have shut down fraudulent operations. And we are taking bad actors out of the industry. This work is essential to protect consumers against financial predators.

***

A second major problem, that I know you see all the time, is debt traps that cause people to get stuck in a downward spiral that deeply undermines their personal finances.

Products marketed as short-term solutions to immediate needs can be risky for consumers. People in a tough situation with nowhere else to turn may think their only option is to use such products. Not everyone is lucky enough to have an uncle or a sister or a friend who can lend them money in a pinch. But after they get the loan with a huge interest rate, the fees alone can eat up all the money they can afford to repay. As a result, they often end up borrowing again and again.

Thanks to Rev. Dr. Scruggs and many other leaders here today who have been vigilant and outspoken on this subject, expressing their concerns, in particular, about payday loans. They have told us about the suffering of members of their congregations; about the shame people feel when they get stuck in a cycle of debt that is overwhelming.

We thank you for that, and we are paying close attention. For the first time at the federal level, we are supervising payday lenders. We have dedicated teams looking at their books, reviewing their marketing practices, and seeing how they treat consumers. We want to make sure that those who can afford to borrow are able to get the credit they need without ruining their lives. Debt traps should not be part of their financial futures.

***

Another “D” we are addressing refers to markets that create frustrating and damaging “dead ends” for consumers. When consumers have limited clout because they do not choose the businesses they must deal with, they lack the ultimate control of being able to sever their ties. This is true even though what goes on in those markets can have a profound influence on their lives.

Take, for example, debt collection. While there are many legitimate debt collectors, we all have heard horror stories about constant phone calls; relatives tracked down; false claims of facing arrest if the debt is not paid. These tactics are indefensible. People deserve to be treated with dignity, even if they do owe a debt. And we are insisting on it.

In other markets where consumers cannot vote with their feet, they experience similar problems. In mortgage servicing, millions of people have faced unwelcome surprises and constant runarounds, leading to improper fees and the needless loss of their homes. People also find they have little or no say in decisions made about their credit reports and it seems that nobody will bother to listen to them if they do complain. For consumers with errors in their reports, the damage done to their lives can be severe and lasting.

At the Consumer Bureau, we recognize that careful rules and effective oversight are needed to help protect consumers in these dead-end markets. We accept this task with firm determination.

***

The fourth “D” that is a clear focus for us is combatting the continuing evil of discrimination.

The African American community in the United States has been fighting for justice for hundreds of years. As you know best, this must include economic justice, the right to equal treatment in the financial marketplace, and freedom from predatory lending.

When consumers sit down at the table to discuss their prospects for a loan, they are often unaware of the options available to them. In many instances, hidden incentives for brokers or loan officers to negotiate higher rates have resulted in African American and Hispanic borrowers paying more than they should have for mortgages and auto loans.

At the Consumer Bureau, we have an Office of Fair Lending dedicated to these issues. This passionate and talented team focuses on ensuring all consumers have fair, equitable, and nondiscriminatory access to credit. So now none of us has to stand alone in the fight against financial discrimination; we are standing on your side to make sure you are treated fairly.

***

Let me close on an important note. In all of these financial matters, nobody cares as much about you as you care about yourself. Nobody understands your needs and wants, your hopes and dreams, as well as you understand them yourself. So everyone must recognize that I am my own first line of consumer protection.

Tell me whether you agree with me: it is a scandal and a stain on this country that we do so little to prepare our young people to deal with these issues before we send them out into the world. Year after year, we give them no real preparation to make the most basic and important financial choices. They will repeat the same mistakes others have made because we do not educate them to do better. When they fail, how can we be surprised, when we have not helped them succeed?

In our schools, in our workplaces, and yes in our churches too, I beseech you to push for more to be done for our young people and for all of us. We all need to know more. We owe that duty to ourselves, to clear a lasting path forward in our lives. If we do that, we will make ourselves stronger, our families stronger, and our country stronger.

A good place to start is with two new resources created by the Consumer Bureau. First, consumers can file a complaint with us and we will work to get it resolved. Already we have handled over 200,000 complaints about mortgages, credit cards, student loans, auto loans, bank accounts, payday loans, debt collection, credit reporting, and more. In many cases we are able to get people some relief – either money back or things like correcting their credit report or stopping harassing phone calls by debt collectors. We also have a growing amount of information available to help people understand financial issues better – we call this resource “Ask CFPB.” It consists of answers to hundreds of questions we hear directly from consumers.

You can find us online at consumerfinance.gov or by calling us toll-free at 855-411-CFPB. When someone in your congregation comes to you with a concern, feel free to refer them directly to us.

I firmly believe that the Consumer Bureau’s work will add greatly to the moral and spiritual security of our nation. We are dedicated to making sure each consumer is treated fairly and can get equal justice in the financial marketplace so we may all thrive. As Dr. Martin Luther King said, “An individual has not started living until he can rise above the narrow confines of his individualistic concerns to the broader concerns of all humanity.” People can only do that if we help make it possible for them to lead safer and sounder financial lives.

But to reach more than 300 million consumers, we need your help. Please spread the word about us. We are the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the C-F-P-B, and we have put both hands on the ladder to hold it steady for American consumers. Together we can see to it that more people can climb that ladder to security and prosperity.

Thank you.

***

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit www.consumerfinance.gov.

FISCAL CONSERVATIVE

THINK MINISTRY

THINK BUSINESS

THINK STRONG

How to repair my credit and improve my FICO credit score

It’s important to note that repairing bad credit is a bit like losing weight: It takes time and there is no quick way to fix a credit score. In fact, out of all of the ways to improve a credit score, quick-fix efforts are the most likely to backfire, so beware of any advice that claims to improve your credit score fast. The best advice for rebuilding credit is to manage it responsibly over time. If you haven’t done that, then you need to repair your credit history before you see credit score improvement. The tips below will help you do that. They are divided up into categories based on the data used to calculate your credit score.

3 Important Things You Can Do Right Now

  1. Check Your Credit Report – Credit score repair begins with your credit report. If you haven’t already, request a free copy of your credit report and check it for errors. Your credit report contains the data used to calculate your score and it may contain errors. In particular, check to make sure that there are no late payments incorrectly listed for any of your accounts and that the amounts owed for each of your open accounts is correct. If you find errors on any of your reports, dispute them with the credit bureau and reporting agency.
    Read more about Disputing Errors on Your Credit Report
  2. Setup Payment Reminders – Making your credit payments on time is one of the biggest contributing factors to your credit score. Some banks offer payment reminders through their online banking portals that can send you an email or text message reminding you when a payment is due. You could also consider enrolling in automatic payments through your credit card and loan providers to have payments automatically debited from your bank account, but this only makes the minimum payment on your credit cards and does not help instill a sense of money management.
  3. Reduce the Amount of Debt You Owe – This is easier said than done, but reducing the amount that you owe is going to be a far more satisfying achievement than improving your credit score. The first thing you need to do is stop using your credit cards. Use your credit report to make a list of all of your accounts and then go online or check recent statements to determine how much you owe on each account and what interest rate they are charging you. Come up with a payment plan that puts most of your available budget for debt payments towards the highest interest cards first, while maintaining minimum payments on your other accounts.

More Tips on How to Fix a Credit Score & Maintain Good Credit

Payment History Tips

Contributing 35% to your score calculation, this category has the greatest effect on improving your score, but past problems like missed or late payments are not easily fixed.

  • Pay your bills on time.
    Delinquent payments, even if only a few days late, and collections can have a major negative impact on your FICO score.
  • If you have missed payments, get current and stay current.
    The longer you pay your bills on time after being late, the more your FICO score should increase. Older credit problems count for less, so poor credit performance won’t haunt you forever. The impact of past credit problems on your FICO score fades as time passes and as recent good payment patterns show up on your credit report. And good FICO scores weigh any credit problems against the positive information that says you’re managing your credit well.
  • Be aware that paying off a collection account will not remove it from your credit report.
    It will stay on your report for seven years.
  • If you are having trouble making ends meet, contact your creditors or see a legitimate credit counselor.
    This won’t rebuild your credit score immediately, but if you can begin to manage your credit and pay on time, your score should increase over time. And seeking assistance from a credit counseling service will not hurt your FICO score.

Amounts Owed Tips
This category contributes 30% to your score’s calculation and can be easier to clean up than payment history, but that requires financial discipline and understanding the tips below.

  • Keep balances low on credit cards and other “revolving credit”.
    High outstanding debt can affect a credit score.
  • Pay off debt rather than moving it around.
    The most effective way to improve your credit score in this area is by paying down your revolving (credit cards) debt. In fact, owing the same amount but having fewer open accounts may lower your score.
  • Don’t close unused credit cards as a short-term strategy to raise your score.
  • Don’t open a number of new credit cards that you don’t need, just to increase your available credit.
    This approach could backfire and actually lower your credit score.

Length of Credit History Tips

  • If you have been managing credit for a short time, don’t open a lot of new accounts too rapidly.
    New accounts will lower your average account age, which will have a larger effect on your score if you don’t have a lot of other credit information. Also, rapid account buildup can look risky if you are a new credit user.

New Credit Tips

  • Do your rate shopping for a given loan within a focused period of time.
    FICO scores distinguish between a search for a single loan and a search for many new credit lines, in part by the length of time over which inquiries occur.
  • Re-establish your credit history if you have had problems.
    Opening new accounts responsibly and paying them off on time will raise your credit score in the long term.
  • Note that it’s OK to request and check your own credit report.
    This won’t affect your score, as long as you order your credit report directly from the credit reporting agency or through an organization authorized to provide credit reports to consumers.

Types of Credit Use Tips

  • Apply for and open new credit accounts only as needed.
    Don’t open accounts just to have a better credit mix – it probably won’t raise your credit score.
  • Have credit cards – but manage them responsibly.
    In general, having credit cards and installment loans (and paying timely payments) will rebuild your credit score. Someone with no credit cards, for example, tends to be higher risk than someone who has managed credit cards responsibly.
  • Note that closing an account doesn’t make it go away.
    A closed account will still show up on your credit report, and may be considered by the score.

To summarize, “fixing” a credit score is more about fixing errors in your credit history (if they exist) and then following the guidelines above to maintain consistent, good credit history. Raising your score after a poor mark on your report or building credit for the first time will take patience and discipline.

PASTORAL TREND

Statistics on Pastors
By Dr. Richard J. Krejcir

What is Going on with the Pastors in America?

Here are some startling statistics on pastors; FASICLD (Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development). This quest started in 1989 as a Fuller Institute project that was picked up by FASICLD in 1998.

After over 18 years of researching pastoral trends and many of us being a pastor, we have found (this data is backed up by other studies) that pastors are in a dangerous occupation! We are perhaps the single most stressful and frustrating working profession, more than medical doctors, lawyers, politicians or cat groomers (hey they have claws). We found that over 70% of pastors are so stressed out and burned out that they regularly consider leaving the ministry (I only feel that way on Mondays). Thirty-five to forty percent of pastors actually do leave the ministry, most after only five years. On a personal note, out of the 12 senior pastors that I have served under directly, two have passed away, and four have left the ministry totally—that is, not only are they no longer in the pulpit, but they no longer even attend a church. And, I run into ex-pastors on a regular basis at conferences and speaking engagements; makes me wonder “what’s up with that,” as my kids would say.

From our recent research we did to retest our data, 1050 pastors were surveyed from two pastor’s conferences held in Orange County and Pasadena, Ca—416 in 2005, and 634 in 2006 (I conducted a similar study for the Fuller Institute in the late 80s with a much greater sampling).

  • Of the one thousand fifty (1,050 or 100%) pastors we surveyed, every one of them had a close associate or seminary buddy who had left the ministry because of burnout, conflict in their church, or from a moral failure.
  • Nine hundred forty-eight (948 or 90%) of pastors stated they are frequently fatigued, and worn out on a weekly and even daily basis (did not say burned out).
  • Nine hundred thirty-five, (935 or 89%) of the pastors we surveyed also considered leaving the ministry at one time. Five hundred ninety, (590 or 57%) said they would leave if they had a better place to go—including secular work.
  • Eighty- one percent (81%) of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people or teaching them to deepen their Christian formation at their church (remember these are the Reformed and Evangelical—not the mainline pastors!). (This is Key)
  • Eight hundred eight (808 or 77%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they did not have a good marriage!
  • Seven hundred ninety (790 or 75%) of the pastors we surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others. This left them disheartened in their ability to pastor.
  • Seven hundred fifty-six (756 or 72%) of the pastors we surveyed stated that they only studied the Bible when they were preparing for sermons or lessons. This left only 38% who read the Bible for devotions and personal study.
  • Eight hundred two (802 or 71%) of pastors stated they were burned out, and they battle depression beyond fatigue on a weekly and even a daily basis.
  • Three hundred ninety-nine (399 or 38%) of pastors said they were divorced or currently in a divorce process.
  • Three hundred fifteen (315 or 30%) said they had either been in an ongoing affair or a one-time sexual encounter with a parishioner.
  • Two hundred seventy (270 or 26%) of pastors said they regularly had personal devotions and felt they were adequately fed spirituality. (This is Key).
  • Two hundred forty-one (241 or 23%) of the pastors we surveyed said they felt happy and content on a regular basis with who they are in Christ, in their church, and in their home!
  • Of the pastors surveyed, they stated that a mean (average) of only 25% of their church’s membership attended a Bible Study or small group at least twice a month. The range was 11% to a max of 40%, a median (the center figure of the table) of 18% and a mode (most frequent number) of 20%. This means over 75% of the people who are at a “good” evangelical church do not go to a Bible Study or small group (that is not just a book or curriculum study, but where the Bible is opened and read, as well as studied), (This is Key). (I suspect these numbers are actually lower in most evangelical and Reformed churches because the pastors that come to conferences tend to be more interested in the teaching and care of their flock than those who usually do not attend.)

Here is research that we distilled from Barna, Focus on the Family, and Fuller Seminary, all of which backed up our findings, and additional information from reviewing others’ research:

  • Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
  • Fifty percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
  • Eighty percent of pastors feel unqualified and discouraged in their role as pastor.
  • Fifty percent of pastors are so discouraged that they would leave the ministry if they could, but have no other way of making a living.
  • Eighty percent of seminary and Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
  • Seventy percent of pastors constantly fight depression.
  • Almost forty percent polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
  • Seventy percent said the only time they spend studying the Word is when they are preparing their sermons (This is Key).

Most statistics say that 60% to 80% of those who enter the ministry will not still be in it 10 years later, and only a fraction will stay in it as a lifetime career. Many pastors—I believe over 90 percent—start off right with a true call and the enthusiasm and the endurance of faith to make it, but something happens to derail their train of passion and love for the call.

Focus on the Family has reported (http://www.parsonage.org/) that we in the United States lose a pastor a day because he seeks an immoral path instead of God’s, seeking intimacy where it must not be found. F.O.F. statistics state that 70% of pastors do not have close personal friends, and no one in whom to confide. They also said about 35% of pastors personally deal with sexual sin. In addition, that 25% of pastors are divorced. The statistics I had with church growth resources is even higher. Pastors who tend to be very educated seem to have the ability to embark in sin on Saturday and preach the Word on Sunday without thinking anything is wrong.

Remember, Pride and Arrogance will be the diving board that will spring the pastor into the pool of sin and cause a church to fight amongst themselves!

Out of the 1050 pastors we surveyed during two pastors conferences held in Pasadena, California, 825, or 78% (326 in 2005 and 499 in 2006) said they were forced to resign from a church at least once. Sixty-three percent (63%) said they had been fired from their pastoral position at least twice. In the survey, we asked why they were fired—from the reasons given by the church board versus what they felt the reason was. We laid out 15 categories with a blank space to fill out what we may have missed: poor leadership, conflict with key staff or lay leadership, gossip, lack of funding, doctrinal divide, hardship on family, not connecting with membership, power plays, church council refusing to resolve conflict, resistance to their teaching, resistance to their leadership style or vision, failure to teach biblically, poor people skills, failure to follow job description, inappropriate relationship, or other sin. They gave us a top five main explanations on a scale of one to five, with few (8%) reporting on any of the other categories. These stats are based on number one response; at the same time, over 70% of pastors stated three of these five reasons. Here is the order (these findings have been retested and back up in internet polls done since 1998, and church survey studies done since 1980:

  1. Four hundred twelve (412 or 52%) stated that the number one reason was organizational and control issues. A conflict arose that forced them out based on who was going to lead and manage the church—pastor, elder, key lay person, faction, …
  2. One hundred ninety (190 or 24%) stated that the number one reason was their church was already in such a significant degree of conflict, the pastor’s approach could not resolve it (over 80% of pastors stated this as number 2 if not already stated as number one, and for the rest, it was number 3!).
  3. One hundred nineteen (119 or 14%) stated the number one reason to be that the church was resistance to their leadership, vision, teaching, or to change, or that their leadership was too strong or too fast.
  4. Sixty four (64 or 8%) stated the number one reason to be that the church was not connecting with them on a personal level or they could not connect with them, or the church over-admired the previous pastor and would not accept them.
  5. Forty (40 or 5%) stated that the number one reason was not having the appropriate relational or connecting skills as a pastor. (It is interesting that no one mentioned lack of teaching ability—only that their teaching was not accepted. Could this be pride?)

The other significant study of pastors that held similar results as ours was conducted by psychologist Richard Blackmon (with ties to Fuller Seminary and Dr. Archibald Heart), also reported by the Los Angeles Times newspaper. In 1985 as well as more recently too, Blackmon surveyed one thousand pastors from four major denominations in California, USA. His research, which was ongoing up to 2004, revealed that over 75% of ministers are extremely or highly stressed. He even found that 31.75% of the clergy surveyed had sexual intercourse with a church member—who was not their spouse! In addition, he found that 30% to 40% of ministers ultimately drop out of the ministry. His research goes on to say the average insurance costs to churches for dealing with mental breakdowns with clergy is four percent higher than any secular industry. Blackmon states that the significance of the stress is mainly based in the areas of personal finances, church finances, building issues, recruitment of volunteers, counseling issues, and visitation. Sermon preparation and teaching seem to be last on his list!

The stress, according to Blackmon, is a primary result of the continual, intense, care responsibility of pastors compared to a medical doctor who will see a terminally ill patient for an hour or so, then see them again in a few weeks. He suggests that the pastor must set personal limits for himself to maintain balance, develop relationships outside of the church, and to be in a support group with other pastors. Very good advice!

The problem, as we have found (and I agree with Blackmon, but as a symptom and not the prime issue), is that people lose focus on what the mission and central theme of the Church is. Both pastor and churchgoer miss the main theme of what a church is about, which is to know and worship Christ as Lord. So, when there is no growth from the pastor’s personal life, no discipleship, few people in Bible Study, then there is no mission or appropriate purpose for that church, and there are no goals; therefore, there’s nothing really to do effectively. The result is the “shearing of the sheep.” Instead of being fed, they will feed upon one another, as well as the pastor, in a feast of conflict and strife. Since the church has nothing to do, then all the energies are turned inward to attack one another. I guess it beats being bored.

When I was with another church growth consulting firm, we did a major study of pastors and came up with some astounding statistics. We found that 90% of pastors work more than 50 hours a week. One out of three pastors state that being in the ministry is clearly hazardous for their families. One out of three pastors felt totally burned out within the first five years of ministry. Over 70% of pastors do not have anyone they would consider to be a friend, and hardly any pastors had any close friends. Ninety percent (90%) of pastors feel they were not adequately trained to cope with ministry coordination and the demands of the congregation. Seventy-five percent (75%) of pastors experience a significant crisis that they faced due to stress in the ministry (Fuller Institute, 1989-1992). We at the FASICLD retested that data by various means starting in 1998 and also retested the results in an internet survey form several times over the last eight years. We found it has slightly worsened. Most pastors now work up to and more than 60 hours a week. Hence, why the divorce rate among pastors is rising and pastor’s children rarely stay in the church or keep their faith. In both studies, over 40% of the pastors reported serious conflicts with their parishioners every month. This leaves pastors physically tired, spiritually weary, and even distant from God! Thus, they cannot properly minister or connect with their flock.

There was a poll taken by a sociologist named Jeffrey Haddan (“Prayer Net” Newsletter, Nov. 13, 1998) in which he polled over 7,400 Protestant ministers. He found that 13% to 51% of ministers, depending on their denomination, accepted Jesus’ physical resurrection as a fact. His poll states between 19% and 60% of ministers believe in the virgin birth of Jesus. The poll goes on to say between 67% and 95% of ministers believe that the Scriptures are true in faith, history, and practice. These statistics are extremely despairing. What do these ministers think they are doing? What is their purpose? And, what are they trying to accomplish in God’s Holy Church? If you are the church leadership and you do not believe in the tenets of Scripture, you have no business being in leadership and certainly no business being the Shepherd and teacher of the flock. What you are is a wolf in sheep’s clothing, which will be harshly judged by God.

We at FASICLD conducted a simpler internet poll in 2005 of 2,245 pastors and another 1050 in person by our surveys in pastor’s conferences as seen above. Because we are reaching Reformed and conservative Evangelicals, the stats are very different. We found that over 90% of pastors polled believe in the resurrection, virgin birth, and the validity of Scriptures (we did not get into the various aspects of inerrancy). The significant problem we found is the “buzz” or willingness to go beyond belief into trust, and then model that to their congregations. Being beat up in the ministry wears them down and derails their focus.

The result of both studies is this: the pastor must be theologically sound. A pastor who does not have a good theology is like an engineer who does not know math; he or she would totally be unable to do the job of designing. A pastor that is not theologically sound is like a surgeon who does not know anatomy and physiology; would you want him or her to operate on you? Would you want a lawyer representing you who does not know the law or the court system? When we are in the pulpit proclaiming the truth of Christ, it better be just that—the truth of Christ, not our inclinations, new ideas, or the latest trend in theological thinking. All these new waves of theology just confuse and alienate the body of Christ, who are the parishioners we serve and are called to protect from false doctrine, rather leading to God’s truth. Most of these new ideas keep changing and conflicting, and only last a few years until the next latest theological fad comes into play. Why play with the fire of that game when God’s truth remains the same and only our creative thinking keeps changing? It’s good to be creative as long as it does not go against the teachings of Scripture!

The results of the survey are that pastors face more conflict, more anger, and more expectations than ever before. At the same time, they work long hours and have little pay, little reward, and produce their own dysfunctional families because of their absence. And, to top it off, they are not being adequately trained nor fed spiritually. I need to state clearly that this is not true of all pastors; there are many who are excellent in obeying their call, pastoring great churches, and being there for their families who are growing in the Lord. And, as a pastor, I must be aware of this so I do not fall in these traps myself. The statistics tell us that many more pastors have not learned to balance family and ministry or adequately deal with the immense struggles of the job. Thus, many are not able to lead their church where it needs to go because they have not been where they are seeking to lead others in growth or in spiritual formation. I totally sympathize with them, yet I call pastors to wake up to what they are doing, and why they are doing it. At the same time, hey church, take care of and respect your pastor!

The bottom line is this: if you are a pastor your job is to serve Christ first and foremost! Thus, it is imperative that we do not become thoughtless or uncaring concerning the buildup and practice of our personal faith. In so doing, we are also to be aware of and embrace the opportunities Christ has and will still bring for us. Our focus must be on the main thing and Christ is the main thing and at the same intention we are not to negate or neglect our personal faith development or our family. If we do, we personally fail and thus our churches will fail too and our family fails and we create the massive destruction, conflict, chaos and strife that has become so rampant in so many churches. We are called to do the opposite to discord and conflict, we are called to bring cohesion and community and show the character and love of Christ first to ourselves, then our family and then our church. In so doing we bring growth, maturity and love, being in and practicing “true spirituality!”

If we do not have a desire to pursue the call of God, we have to ask ourselves why and what is in the way. Why are we in ministry? We have to ask, what is the role of pride and the desire of sin and how is it blocking us from proclaiming Christ as a pastor? Sometimes, we may not recognize sin and will perhaps rationalize it away. This happens especially when solid biblical theology or teaching is not being rooted in us and not thus being taught from us, then our churches become just social clubs of gossip and contention or entertainment and not the real effectual Chuirch of Christ where He is model and shown as Lord. Remember, our election is proven by our obedience, fruit, and growth in Christ!

As pastors, it is our call and duty to be on guard against the erosion of biblical values and damage to our and our churches beliefs and biblical mindset (Psalm 123:3; Mark 4:19)!

Remember, churches fail because we as pastors fail; we tend to place our needs and desires over the Lord’s. It is His Church and we are His servant. Let our focus be on the right target—that is, His Way and not ours! We are called to a higher purpose. We are not called to ourselves. We are to lead others to Him, not to our self. Ministry is a wondrous call, it can be joyful and fulfilling; it is also a dangerous thing because we are before a Holy God. Yes we have grace, but we have responsibility too!

© 2007 (research from 1989 to 2006) R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Francis A. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership Development http://www.truespirituality.org/

Click ‘Pray’ to Pray: How Evangelical Megapastor Joel Osteen Is Saving Souls With Facebook

MIAMI — Halfway through megapastor Joel Osteen’s sermon at Marlins Park stadium, seven frazzled people sitting in a press box overlooking the field realize they have a problem: The prayers aren’t going through.
“I can forward ‘prayer’ to ‘prayer request,’” volunteers a member of Osteen’s technical staff as a possible fix. He fiddles with the trackball of his BlackBerry as he tries his best to reassure Osteen’s marketing director, Jason Madding, that they can redirect people’s emailed prayers to the proper place and prevent them from disappearing into the digital ether.

Click ‘Pray’ to Pray: How Evangelical Megapastor Joel Osteen Is Saving Souls With Facebook
MIAMI — Halfway through megapastor Joel Osteen’s sermon at Marlins Park stadium, seven frazzled people sitting in a press box overlooking the field realize they have a problem: The prayers aren’t going through.
“I can forward ‘prayer’ to ‘prayer request,’” volunteers a member of Osteen’s technical staff as a possible fix. He fiddles with the trackball of his BlackBerry as he tries his best to reassure Osteen’s marketing director, Jason Madding, that they can redirect people’s emailed prayers to the proper place and prevent them from disappearing into the digital ether.
Hunched over a MacBook, Madding flips back and forth between a Skype chat and a page tracking traffic to Osteen’s sites. He coordinates with a remote team of developers as he monitors the popularity of Osteen’s page to gauge whether the surge of visitors will overwhelm the servers and bring down the site.
On the field below, a musician blows two long blasts from a ram’s horn while drums thump in the background. “Every day has your name on it,” Osteen shouts to the crowd.
Osteen, a 50-year-old Texas native with an impeccable complexion, thick head of dark hair and a gleaming white smile, is the pastor of the largest church in America. On this April night in Miami, nearly 36,000 cheering people have gathered in the stands of the stadium to hear him speak. But for Madding, the crucial action is playing out on an iPad propped on a desk in front of him: He is watching the live stream of the pastor’s sermon as it appears to audiences who are tuning in from home — a group numbering more than 138,000. They are absorbing Osteen’s “Night of Hope,” a gathering of evangelical Christians aimed at strengthening people’s commitment to Christ, swaying non-believers and spreading Osteen’s message of self-improvement through Christianity.
Madding’s iPad displays a ceaseless stream of comments from those taking part from their homes around the world — people grappling with illness, joblessness, loneliness, despair and suicidal thoughts; people seeking comfort, prayer and fellowship here. These participants are not inside the stadium, but in an expanded gathering that connects the experience of those here in the flesh with those online.
Over the course of this night, Osteen’s team of social media consultants confronts the formidable task of making that synergy happen. They struggle to keep up with the relentless flood of digital interaction. In life, prayers may or may not be realized. But in the social media realm of the Night of Hope, all prayers must be answered.
Osteen’s staff has instructed online congregants to post prayers to his Web site or phone prayers to a 1-800 number. They’ve also provided an email address — prayer@joelosteen.com — assuring digital participants that the church has dedicated prayer partners on hand who will field their missives and pray for them.
But at this moment, those emailed entreaties have no prayer of reaching anyone. The email address Osteen’s helpers have supplied is the wrong one. It’s an address that doesn’t exist — the staff was meant to offer up “prayerrequest@joelosteen.com.” Thanks to the error, an automatically generated email reply is informing the faithful that delivery of their prayers has “failed permanently.”
“It bounced back,” types one of the people in the chat room, who has tried to email from her home in Canada. “I need your prayers.”
She tersely summarizes her feelings about the situation: “=(.”
joel osteen social media
A man prays at the Night Of Hope in Miami.
THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL MEDIA
Social networking sites, long celebrated as avenues for up-to-the-minute information from friends, pundits, celebrities and corporations, are now being deployed in the spirit of higher powers. They have emerged as vehicles for spiritual salvation.
Increasingly, the road to Damascus is a hyperlink and the Epistle is a tweet.

In some sense, this seems inevitable. The Internet is effectively doing for present-day pastors what television once did for Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart and the rest of the so-called televangelists: helping them spread Christianity on a mass scale while liberating their congregations from the confines of the physical church.
Beyond the tens of millions of viewers who can be reached via television broadcasts, the Web has amplified the potential audience to the hundreds of millions, while transcending geographic boundaries. Pastors need not concern themselves with buying TV time in the appropriate markets. They can instead use tweets, streaming video, podcasts and Facebook status updates — free, accessible anytime and widely shared — to turn hearts and shepherd their flock. And while TV is a one-way form of communication, the Internet enables interaction, letting ministries converse with the people tuning in.
“Thirty years ago, televangelists used technology that did not exist before then to spread their message, and that is essentially what technology is allowing pastors and churches to do now,” said Todd Rhoades, the director of new media and technologies at the Leadership Network, which seeks to help churches master technical innovation. “But it’s on a much larger scale and in many ways it’s on a more individual scale — it seems a lot more personal.”
joel osteen
Osteen during a 2012 interview with Matt Lauer on NBC News’ Today show. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)
Social media brand managers would pay dearly for fans as active as the followers that religious groups have attracted online. On social networking sites, megapastors’ fan bases are considerably smaller than those of pop stars or big brands, but church followers tend to be far more engaged and apt to spread the word of their preachers.
Religious groups regularly rank among the top five most-discussed fan pages on Facebook, according to PageData, a social media analytics firm. Rihanna, the most popular public figure on Facebook with over 70 million “likes,” averaged 41,000 interactions per Facebook post during the month of March, reported Quintly, an analytics firm that registers shares, comments and “likes” as individual interactions. Joel Osteen Ministries, with a relatively paltry 3.6 million “likes,” averaged 160,000 interactions per post, Quintly found — nearly four times Rihanna’s average, three times Justin Bieber’s and almost sixteen times the White House’s.
Evangelical Christians and social media creators ultimately share something fundamental in common: Both are consumed with the nature of how information spreads, and both are intent on fashioning a sense of community out of individuals separated by time, space, language and culture. Both also passionately apply themselves to filling what they view as a void in the human experience.
“Religion is the original social media,” says Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. “Even that phrase, ‘spreading the gospel.’ Religion is one of the original things that people shared to a good degree.”
‘THE DIGIVANGELIST’
Osteen has long harbored aspirations of reaching enormous numbers of people. Early in his career, when he published his first book, Osteen’s public relations team pitched him as “Billy Graham meets Tony Robbins.” His message of positive thinking and attaining personal prosperity through Christianity has attracted both devout followers and strident critics, who argue he preaches a watered down version of the Bible that overemphasizes material wealth. But his breed of self-empowerment evangelicalism — “Be a victor, not a victim,” “[God] wants us to enjoy every single day of our lives” — has proved so popular, Osteen delivers his song-filled sermons to traveling Night of Hope events held monthly in different cities around the world. He’s also authored several bestsellers and reaches 10 million homes a month via his weekly TV broadcast. He has a passion for television and doesn’t seem to have ever met a camera he didn’t like. “TV is Joel’s heart,” notes Madding.
But seeing new opportunities to expand his following and spread his brand of inspiration, Osteen has lately sought to master a new field: digi-vangelism.
In his telling, social media enables him to “impact more people in a positive way” — an impact he no doubt hopes will ultimately tether believers and non-believers closer to his congregation (and maybe even sell some of his books or DVDs along the way).
Other churches, like Oklahoma’s evangelical LifeChurch, have been more ambitious and creative with their approaches to technology, though none can yet rival Osteen’s reach.
And Osteen, born in an era where the dominant screen was a television, not a computer, is facing some of the same challenges other churches are confronting as he attempts to update his message for the Facebook era. Larger churches have traditionally been technology’s early adopters, and smaller congregations are likely to crib from Osteen’s social media strategy.
Here’s where devotees can currently find Osteen online: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, on podcasts, delivered to their email inboxes, as a blog on JoelOsteen.com, livestreamed via his website, in an iPad magazine and, coming soon, on two standalone iPhone apps. To handle the deluge of prayer requests posted to Osteen’s Facebook wall and phoned into his church, Joel Osteen Ministries has even launched a dedicated site, Pray Together, where people can post prayer requests for the ministry’s entire congregation to respond to. Just click “pray” to pray.
“It’s kind of like — are you familiar with Reddit or Digg?” asks Brian Boyd, the chief executive of Media Connect Partners (or MCP), a social media consultancy that assists Joel Osteen Ministries with their with day-to-day online outreach efforts, as well as their Night of Hope events. “You can vote a prayer request up or down, and actually pray.”
Some evangelical Christians view these developments with alarm, decrying what they portray as an insincere reach for souls with social media and a trend that could undermine the draw of in-person gatherings of people in one place. Evangelical Christian pastor John MacArthur railed against “flat screen preachers” in a 2011 interview with Christianity.com, declaring their form of ministry an “aberration” that moved “away from the core of sound doctrine.”

But Osteen’s social media consultants maintain they have witnessed the faithful finding real fellowship and solace in a virtual setting.
“You don’t have to sign up for an email, you don’t have to go to church, and you don’t have to go out and find it: you can literally log onto your computer or your phone, and you can get the encouragement or inspiration that you need,” says Kelly Vo, a twenty-something social media analyst manager with MCP who helps Osteen, along with other Christian figures, on his web strategy. “People share things on social media, with Joel, that I don’t think people would even share with their pastor in person.”
‘I SPEAK JOEL’
It’s just after noon on Saturday, more than six hours before the Night of Hope is set to begin, and already a gaggle of web gurus have arranged themselves at a long desk in the empty press box at Marlins Park. They are seated elbow-to-elbow, MacBook-to-MacBook, as they prepare for the intense activity ahead. The room is silent, save for the growl of planes flying overhead and the occasional twang from an electric guitarist rehearsing on the black stage below.
For the Night of Hope, Boyd’s MCP has rallied a team of 10 to run social media, with most of the moderators here in Miami and others working from their homes scattered from Las Vegas to Charlotte. Joel Osteen Ministries has tapped another 11 people, including Madding’s marketing staff and a group of developers, to be sure Osteen’s site doesn’t collapse under the weight of its online congregation. In Texas, Osteen has seven prayer partners, made up of Lakewood Church staff and volunteers, on hand to pray via email and on the phone.
The mission for this sizable social media operation is to transpose and transmit the real-life experience of Osteen’s Night of Hope sermon — a rock concert-like production where thousands pray, sing, shout, stand, stomp, hug, clap, cry and convert — to people sitting alone, in darkened rooms, before the glow of computer screen.
“I want it to be real, interactive,” says Boyd. “I want them to feel like they’re sitting in the stadium.”
MCP will update Joel Osteen Ministries’ social accounts throughout the night in an effort to drive people to the main attraction: the live, online video stream of the Night of Hope and the public chat room that sits alongside it on the screen. Osteen’s chat room will be open to all comers as a place where they can message with other followers or with the team of MCP moderators on hand to offer encouragement, share information on local churches and answer questions posed by the virtual attendees. A separate section of the screen will allow participants to post prayer requests for all to see and answer.
joel osteen night of hope
Osteen’s wife, Victoria Osteen, as seen during the Night of Hope live stream on Osteen’s site the night of the event.
Vo, a slim brunette dressed in purple pants, a lavender collared shirt, and black pumps, works on putting together a list of pastors to follow on Twitter. Peering into her laptop, she shifts between Twitter, Facebook, a custom-made scheduler listing outgoing posts and the Instagram app on her iPhone.
Though this is Vo’s first Night of Hope, she has worked smaller Osteen events, and she has a sense of what’s in store. She has warned her colleague to steel himself for a virtual stampede.
“There are thousands of comments a second,” she tells another team member. “It’s just a massive undertaking. It’s exciting because his fans are excited, and so nice, and they’re so happy to be a part of it and they’re so enthusiastic.”
That deluge of comments is the most stressful part of the night for Boyd, who notes it’s simply impossible to interact personally with every virtual attendee — though that’s the aim.
“We really do want to try to reach everyone,” he explains. “If someone asks a question, we want to get an answer to them. If someone has a concern or wants to give a praise report, we want to be able to talk to them, and you just can’t do it. Even with 10 people, with that kind of volume, you’re unable to get to every single person.”
A former literary editor who studied creative writing at Arizona State University, Vo knows Osteen’s fans better than most. She’s helped manage Osteen’s social profiles for six months, and spends an hour or two every day responding to his followers’ comments or drafting status updates to send from the pastor’s accounts. The posts, based on lines from Osteen’s sermons and books, are each screened by Joel Osteen Ministries’ media relations chief, Andrea Davis, before they’re published. Osteen is against personal updates and insists on short, motivational phrases: “It’s hope, it’s inspiration, it’s stuff that they can use,” the pastor explains. “That has helped us be effective.” Though Osteen doesn’t tweet himself, he has a separate, private Twitter account from which he monitors his official feed. If Osteen sees a tweet go out that doesn’t sound true to him, Davis can expect a call.
“I eat, breathe and sleep Joel at times,” says Vo. “I speak Joel now … You pick up the voice and it’s like, ‘Oh, God bless you’ and ‘Would love to pray for you.’”
And yet, much like the majority of the congregants who will gather here tonight via social media, Vo knows Osteen primarily as a digital experience: She has met him in person only once — the day before.
joel osteen social media
The MCP Web moderators in the Marlins Park press box, dubbed “Social Central JOM” (short for “Joel Osteen Ministries”).
Osteen’s Facebook and Twitter posts are relatively standard fare, but their reception is anything but typical. A tweet sent earlier that morning advised his 1.6 million followers, “Today, find something to be grateful for. Every day is a gift from God.” That message has been retweeted over 6,000 times, about average for Osteen, who takes a personal interest in his retweets. By contrast, Whole Foods, which boasts twice as many followers as Osteen and in 2012 was named the most influential brand on Twitter, is lucky to see one of its tweets retweeted a dozen times.
Retweeting and “liking” on Facebook amount to an effective way to convey the Word, as believers disseminate Osteen’s message through their genuine social networks.
“It opens up the doors for a lot of unbelievers,” says Alisha Brooks, one of the in-person attendees at the Night of Hope who follows Osteen closely online. “Through social media, I might have a whole bunch of people who follow me that may not be into the Word or anything like that. So if I see something [Osteen] tweets and I retweet it, now it has access to an extra 100, 200 or 300 people that didn’t have access to that or didn’t see it. And it might help.”
Vo breaks from her Twitter work to scan through the 400-odd comments on Osteen’s most recent Facebook post, systematically “liking” some and answering questions about the Night of Hope. That personal attention, says Vo, helps endear Joel to people by assuring them he’s hearing their prayers and praise — even if it’s from the “JOM Team,” not Osteen himself.
“Joel is there. He’s touchable, he’s interactive. You don’t feel like he’s just a TV,” she says. “The followers know he’s there, he’s listening, he’s a pastor and he’s watching, so they get the interaction.”
‘I NEED A PRAYER’
About twenty minutes before the Night of Hope is scheduled to begin, Vo resettles herself in front of her computer. In addition to updating Facebook and Twitter, she’s been assigned the role of “greeter,” meaning she will be welcoming people to the Night of Hope chat room. So-called “URL pushers” will answer queries with pre-written blocks of text that direct people to everything from Osteen’s Twitter account to local churches. Two others from the group will screen each incoming comment before publishing it to the public forum, and someone else will run giveaways (the prizes: free copies of Osteen’s books)
In the Night of Hope chat room, people waiting for Osteen to take the stage banter about where they’re from and where they’re watching the stream: Israel, Canada, Hawaii, North Carolina. Shortly after 7 p.m., Osteen’s big, pearly grin flashes onto the screen.
Prayer requests begin to flow into the chat room. Elsewhere on the Internet, people tend to present themselves in the best light. Here, people bare all, sharing stories about depression and abuse, seizures and strokes, infertility and lost children.
“Hey everyone I need prayer,” writes a woman, who identifies herself in the chat as “Lisa Elliott.” “I am dealing with Brain Cancer and dealing with abuse in my life and asking for some prayers in this I feel like I cant keep going with the way my life is going.”
Vo writes back to Elliott assuring her Osteen ministries “would love to stand with you in prayer.” She advises her to share her prayer request online, or by phoning into a 1-800 line, where volunteer prayer partners will join callers in prayer and offer them scripture.
Then, 30 minutes later:

8:05 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: siting here in tears
8:14 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: I hatmy life my abusive boy friend is drunk sleeping if he wakes up I get beat

“Lisa, We are standing with you during this time,” types one of the moderators, called “Matt-ADMIN.” He directs Elliott to a prayer site and to the erroneous email address, prayer@joelosteen.com. “Our prayer team would love to pray with you.”
Another woman in the chat room, someone not part of the Osteen team, tells Elliott: “my prayers are with you, I was in your situation nine yrs ago, there is a way to get help, call your local womans help center as I did.”
“Can I have the number so I can call them now,” Elliott asks. Then, “crying over this I have never had something like this.”
“Enjoy the experience, Lisa!” a moderator answers cheerily.
Another half hour passes.

9:00 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: please pray for me toight that nothig happens
9:00 p.m. Comment From Kelly-ADMIN: Lisa, we are standing with you in prayer and faith.
9:03 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: I know he will beat me tonight

Another moderator is congratulating Elliott. Apparently, she has just won a free copy of Osteen’s newest book.
The MCP team is having trouble keeping up. The room grows quiet, save for the frantic tap of fingers clicking on keys. An unpublished queue of comments speaks to the agitation of people waiting for answers: “CAN YOU SEE ME???” one person has typed. A moderator sends a private message to a particularly frustrated user, assuring him they’re doing their best.
As tens of thousands of people absorb the live stream, the video is stalling, spurring even more gripes in the chat room and on Osteen’s Facebook wall.
“You’ve got thirty complaints on your Facebook page that the servers are down,” the wife of one of Osteen’s photographers informs Vo.
Vo clenches her jaw. The audience is diminishing, with the number of concurrent online viewers down to 34,000 from over 41,000 earlier in the night. People have spent an average of 48 minutes watching the Night of Hope, but the video’s hiccups seem to be costing Osteen his viewers. Boyd tells Vo to post a link to the live stream on Facebook. Now.
“It’s frozen, my thing is frozen,” Vo answers through gritted teeth. “It’s literally frozen.”
joel osteen facebook
A view of the Marlins Park stadium on the Night of Hope.
In Rapid City, South Dakota, Janice Heigh, 53, logs on to the chat room to seek help. She and her husband have been overwhelmed by the work of caring for their three grandchildren. She feels distance and isolation seeping into her marriage.
She also feels removed from a community of people grappling with similar troubles. Though she attends weekly services and teaches Sunday school at a local Rapid City church, Heigh has struggled to find a Bible studies group for people in her predicament. There are meetings for parents with young children — populated by people decades her junior — and meetings for people in her age group, who generally have other worries. She has had trouble arranging her schedule around that of her local church.
But on the Web, church services are always happening, and support groups are to be found at every hour of the day. Heigh has tapped into them via Facebook, Prayer.com, and at sites like the one for Osteen’s Night of Hope. In this way, she has found other grandparents tending to their own grandchildren. She has taken comfort in seeing that other people’s lives are imperfect, too.

Unlike in person, these online exchanges spare Heigh from feeling like she’s a burden: The people she chats with online are there because they want to be. She takes refuge in the anonymity of this interaction.
“At midnight, I can go to the computer, pull it up and there’s someone on there somewhere who can give you insights, a kind word,” she says. “They’re thinking about you, praying about it and it’s like, ‘I’m OK. I’m all right. It broadened my horizons spiritually because I was able to feel connected, even though I knew there was no way I could make it to this or that.”
On this night, in the chat room at the Night of Hope, she begins typing.
“Iwill be maried 34years tomorrow,” she writes. “My husband and I have had many years of trials and triumphs. We are now raising our daughters 2 girls. I feel that my husband and I have grown far apart since we took on the resposibility of these GOD given children.”
“Please pray that we can come together after all these years.” Heigh continues. “We have had the girls for 7 years so it is not a new situation but seems I am a single parent.”
Vo answers a minute later.
“Janice, thank you for sharing your story and your heart with us,” she types back. “We are standing with you in prayer and faith. May God’s goodness and mercy shine upon you.”
From Miami to South Dakota, this message makes its way, arriving with the affirmation intended.
“It makes you feel validated,” Heigh explains later. “The Internet, to me, it has brought a whole situation to God.”

On the field below, a musician blows two long blasts from a ram’s horn while drums thump in the background. “Every day has your name on it,” Osteen shouts to the crowd.
Osteen, a 50-year-old Texas native with an impeccable complexion, thick head of dark hair and a gleaming white smile, is the pastor of the largest church in America. On this April night in Miami, nearly 36,000 cheering people have gathered in the stands of the stadium to hear him speak. But for Madding, the crucial action is playing out on an iPad propped on a desk in front of him: He is watching the live stream of the pastor’s sermon as it appears to audiences who are tuning in from home — a group numbering more than 138,000. They are absorbing Osteen’s “Night of Hope,” a gathering of evangelical Christians aimed at strengthening people’s commitment to Christ, swaying non-believers and spreading Osteen’s message of self-improvement through Christianity.

Madding’s iPad displays a ceaseless stream of comments from those taking part from their homes around the world — people grappling with illness, joblessness, loneliness, despair and suicidal thoughts; people seeking comfort, prayer and fellowship here. These participants are not inside the stadium, but in an expanded gathering that connects the experience of those here in the flesh with those online.

Over the course of this night, Osteen’s team of social media consultants confronts the formidable task of making that synergy happen. They struggle to keep up with the relentless flood of digital interaction. In life, prayers may or may not be realized. But in the social media realm of the Night of Hope, all prayers must be answered.

Osteen’s staff has instructed online congregants to post prayers to his Web site or phone prayers to a 1-800 number. They’ve also provided an email address — prayer@joelosteen.com — assuring digital participants that the church has dedicated prayer partners on hand who will field their missives and pray for them.

But at this moment, those emailed entreaties have no prayer of reaching anyone. The email address Osteen’s helpers have supplied is the wrong one. It’s an address that doesn’t exist — the staff was meant to offer up “prayerrequest@joelosteen.com.” Thanks to the error, an automatically generated email reply is informing the faithful that delivery of their prayers has “failed permanently.”
“It bounced back,” types one of the people in the chat room, who has tried to email from her home in Canada. “I need your prayers.”
She tersely summarizes her feelings about the situation: “=(.”

image
A man prays at the Night Of Hope in Miami.

THE ORIGINAL SOCIAL MEDIA
Social networking sites, long celebrated as avenues for up-to-the-minute information from friends, pundits, celebrities and corporations, are now being deployed in the spirit of higher powers. They have emerged as vehicles for spiritual salvation.
Increasingly, the road to Damascus is a hyperlink and the Epistle is a tweet.

In some sense, this seems inevitable. The Internet is effectively doing for present-day pastors what television once did for Jerry Falwell, Jimmy Swaggart and the rest of the so-called televangelists: helping them spread Christianity on a mass scale while liberating their congregations from the confines of the physical church.

Beyond the tens of millions of viewers who can be reached via television broadcasts, the Web has amplified the potential audience to the hundreds of millions, while transcending geographic boundaries. Pastors need not concern themselves with buying TV time in the appropriate markets. They can instead use tweets, streaming video, podcasts and Facebook status updates — free, accessible anytime and widely shared — to turn hearts and shepherd their flock. And while TV is a one-way form of communication, the Internet enables interaction, letting ministries converse with the people tuning in.

“Thirty years ago, televangelists used technology that did not exist before then to spread their message, and that is essentially what technology is allowing pastors and churches to do now,” said Todd Rhoades, the director of new media and technologies at the Leadership Network, which seeks to help churches master technical innovation. “But it’s on a much larger scale and in many ways it’s on a more individual scale — it seems a lot more personal.”

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Osteen during a 2012 interview with Matt Lauer on NBC News’ Today show. (Photo by: Peter Kramer/NBC/NBC NewsWire via Getty Images)

Social media brand managers would pay dearly for fans as active as the followers that religious groups have attracted online. On social networking sites, megapastors’ fan bases are considerably smaller than those of pop stars or big brands, but church followers tend to be far more engaged and apt to spread the word of their preachers.

Religious groups regularly rank among the top five most-discussed fan pages on Facebook, according to PageData, a social media analytics firm. Rihanna, the most popular public figure on Facebook with over 70 million “likes,” averaged 41,000 interactions per Facebook post during the month of March, reported Quintly, an analytics firm that registers shares, comments and “likes” as individual interactions. Joel Osteen Ministries, with a relatively paltry 3.6 million “likes,” averaged 160,000 interactions per post, Quintly found — nearly four times Rihanna’s average, three times Justin Bieber’s and almost sixteen times the White House’s.

Evangelical Christians and social media creators ultimately share something fundamental in common: Both are consumed with the nature of how information spreads, and both are intent on fashioning a sense of community out of individuals separated by time, space, language and culture. Both also passionately apply themselves to filling what they view as a void in the human experience.
“Religion is the original social media,” says Jonah Berger, author of Contagious: Why Things Catch On. “Even that phrase, ‘spreading the gospel.’ Religion is one of the original things that people shared to a good degree.”

‘THE DIGIVANGELIST’
Osteen has long harbored aspirations of reaching enormous numbers of people. Early in his career, when he published his first book, Osteen’s public relations team pitched him as “Billy Graham meets Tony Robbins.” His message of positive thinking and attaining personal prosperity through Christianity has attracted both devout followers and strident critics, who argue he preaches a watered down version of the Bible that overemphasizes material wealth. But his breed of self-empowerment evangelicalism — “Be a victor, not a victim,” “[God] wants us to enjoy every single day of our lives” — has proved so popular, Osteen delivers his song-filled sermons to traveling Night of Hope events held monthly in different cities around the world. He’s also authored several bestsellers and reaches 10 million homes a month via his weekly TV broadcast. He has a passion for television and doesn’t seem to have ever met a camera he didn’t like. “TV is Joel’s heart,” notes Madding.

But seeing new opportunities to expand his following and spread his brand of inspiration, Osteen has lately sought to master a new field: digi-vangelism.
In his telling, social media enables him to “impact more people in a positive way” — an impact he no doubt hopes will ultimately tether believers and non-believers closer to his congregation (and maybe even sell some of his books or DVDs along the way).

Other churches, like Oklahoma’s evangelical LifeChurch, have been more ambitious and creative with their approaches to technology, though none can yet rival Osteen’s reach.
And Osteen, born in an era where the dominant screen was a television, not a computer, is facing some of the same challenges other churches are confronting as he attempts to update his message for the Facebook era. Larger churches have traditionally been technology’s early adopters, and smaller congregations are likely to crib from Osteen’s social media strategy.

Here’s where devotees can currently find Osteen online: YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, on podcasts, delivered to their email inboxes, as a blog on JoelOsteen.com, livestreamed via his website, in an iPad magazine and, coming soon, on two standalone iPhone apps. To handle the deluge of prayer requests posted to Osteen’s Facebook wall and phoned into his church, Joel Osteen Ministries has even launched a dedicated site, Pray Together, where people can post prayer requests for the ministry’s entire congregation to respond to. Just click “pray” to pray.
“It’s kind of like — are you familiar with Reddit or Digg?” asks Brian Boyd, the chief executive of Media Connect Partners (or MCP), a social media consultancy that assists Joel Osteen Ministries with their with day-to-day online outreach efforts, as well as their Night of Hope events. “You can vote a prayer request up or down, and actually pray.”

Some evangelical Christians view these developments with alarm, decrying what they portray as an insincere reach for souls with social media and a trend that could undermine the draw of in-person gatherings of people in one place. Evangelical Christian pastor John MacArthur railed against “flat screen preachers” in a 2011 interview with Christianity.com, declaring their form of ministry an “aberration” that moved “away from the core of sound doctrine.”

But Osteen’s social media consultants maintain they have witnessed the faithful finding real fellowship and solace in a virtual setting.
“You don’t have to sign up for an email, you don’t have to go to church, and you don’t have to go out and find it: you can literally log onto your computer or your phone, and you can get the encouragement or inspiration that you need,” says Kelly Vo, a twenty-something social media analyst manager with MCP who helps Osteen, along with other Christian figures, on his web strategy. “People share things on social media, with Joel, that I don’t think people would even share with their pastor in person.”

‘I SPEAK JOEL’
It’s just after noon on Saturday, more than six hours before the Night of Hope is set to begin, and already a gaggle of web gurus have arranged themselves at a long desk in the empty press box at Marlins Park. They are seated elbow-to-elbow, MacBook-to-MacBook, as they prepare for the intense activity ahead. The room is silent, save for the growl of planes flying overhead and the occasional twang from an electric guitarist rehearsing on the black stage below.

For the Night of Hope, Boyd’s MCP has rallied a team of 10 to run social media, with most of the moderators here in Miami and others working from their homes scattered from Las Vegas to Charlotte. Joel Osteen Ministries has tapped another 11 people, including Madding’s marketing staff and a group of developers, to be sure Osteen’s site doesn’t collapse under the weight of its online congregation. In Texas, Osteen has seven prayer partners, made up of Lakewood Church staff and volunteers, on hand to pray via email and on the phone.

The mission for this sizable social media operation is to transpose and transmit the real-life experience of Osteen’s Night of Hope sermon — a rock concert-like production where thousands pray, sing, shout, stand, stomp, hug, clap, cry and convert — to people sitting alone, in darkened rooms, before the glow of computer screen.

“I want it to be real, interactive,” says Boyd. “I want them to feel like they’re sitting in the stadium.”

MCP will update Joel Osteen Ministries’ social accounts throughout the night in an effort to drive people to the main attraction: the live, online video stream of the Night of Hope and the public chat room that sits alongside it on the screen. Osteen’s chat room will be open to all comers as a place where they can message with other followers or with the team of MCP moderators on hand to offer encouragement, share information on local churches and answer questions posed by the virtual attendees. A separate section of the screen will allow participants to post prayer requests for all to see and answer.

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Osteen’s wife, Victoria Osteen, as seen during the Night of Hope live stream on Osteen’s site the night of the event.

Vo, a slim brunette dressed in purple pants, a lavender collared shirt, and black pumps, works on putting together a list of pastors to follow on Twitter. Peering into her laptop, she shifts between Twitter, Facebook, a custom-made scheduler listing outgoing posts and the Instagram app on her iPhone.

Though this is Vo’s first Night of Hope, she has worked smaller Osteen events, and she has a sense of what’s in store. She has warned her colleague to steel himself for a virtual stampede.
“There are thousands of comments a second,” she tells another team member. “It’s just a massive undertaking. It’s exciting because his fans are excited, and so nice, and they’re so happy to be a part of it and they’re so enthusiastic.”

That deluge of comments is the most stressful part of the night for Boyd, who notes it’s simply impossible to interact personally with every virtual attendee — though that’s the aim.
“We really do want to try to reach everyone,” he explains. “If someone asks a question, we want to get an answer to them. If someone has a concern or wants to give a praise report, we want to be able to talk to them, and you just can’t do it. Even with 10 people, with that kind of volume, you’re unable to get to every single person.”

A former literary editor who studied creative writing at Arizona State University, Vo knows Osteen’s fans better than most. She’s helped manage Osteen’s social profiles for six months, and spends an hour or two every day responding to his followers’ comments or drafting status updates to send from the pastor’s accounts. The posts, based on lines from Osteen’s sermons and books, are each screened by Joel Osteen Ministries’ media relations chief, Andrea Davis, before they’re published. Osteen is against personal updates and insists on short, motivational phrases: “It’s hope, it’s inspiration, it’s stuff that they can use,” the pastor explains. “That has helped us be effective.” Though Osteen doesn’t tweet himself, he has a separate, private Twitter account from which he monitors his official feed. If Osteen sees a tweet go out that doesn’t sound true to him, Davis can expect a call.

“I eat, breathe and sleep Joel at times,” says Vo. “I speak Joel now … You pick up the voice and it’s like, ‘Oh, God bless you’ and ‘Would love to pray for you.’”
And yet, much like the majority of the congregants who will gather here tonight via social media, Vo knows Osteen primarily as a digital experience: She has met him in person only once — the day before.

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The MCP Web moderators in the Marlins Park press box, dubbed “Social Central JOM” (short for “Joel Osteen Ministries”).

Osteen’s Facebook and Twitter posts are relatively standard fare, but their reception is anything but typical. A tweet sent earlier that morning advised his 1.6 million followers, “Today, find something to be grateful for. Every day is a gift from God.” That message has been retweeted over 6,000 times, about average for Osteen, who takes a personal interest in his retweets. By contrast, Whole Foods, which boasts twice as many followers as Osteen and in 2012 was named the most influential brand on Twitter, is lucky to see one of its tweets retweeted a dozen times.
Retweeting and “liking” on Facebook amount to an effective way to convey the Word, as believers disseminate Osteen’s message through their genuine social networks.

“It opens up the doors for a lot of unbelievers,” says Alisha Brooks, one of the in-person attendees at the Night of Hope who follows Osteen closely online. “Through social media, I might have a whole bunch of people who follow me that may not be into the Word or anything like that. So if I see something [Osteen] tweets and I retweet it, now it has access to an extra 100, 200 or 300 people that didn’t have access to that or didn’t see it. And it might help.”

Vo breaks from her Twitter work to scan through the 400-odd comments on Osteen’s most recent Facebook post, systematically “liking” some and answering questions about the Night of Hope. That personal attention, says Vo, helps endear Joel to people by assuring them he’s hearing their prayers and praise — even if it’s from the “JOM Team,” not Osteen himself.
“Joel is there. He’s touchable, he’s interactive. You don’t feel like he’s just a TV,” she says. “The followers know he’s there, he’s listening, he’s a pastor and he’s watching, so they get the interaction.”

‘I NEED A PRAYER’
About twenty minutes before the Night of Hope is scheduled to begin, Vo resettles herself in front of her computer. In addition to updating Facebook and Twitter, she’s been assigned the role of “greeter,” meaning she will be welcoming people to the Night of Hope chat room. So-called “URL pushers” will answer queries with pre-written blocks of text that direct people to everything from Osteen’s Twitter account to local churches. Two others from the group will screen each incoming comment before publishing it to the public forum, and someone else will run giveaways (the prizes: free copies of Osteen’s books)

In the Night of Hope chat room, people waiting for Osteen to take the stage banter about where they’re from and where they’re watching the stream: Israel, Canada, Hawaii, North Carolina. Shortly after 7 p.m., Osteen’s big, pearly grin flashes onto the screen.

Prayer requests begin to flow into the chat room. Elsewhere on the Internet, people tend to present themselves in the best light. Here, people bare all, sharing stories about depression and abuse, seizures and strokes, infertility and lost children.

“Hey everyone I need prayer,” writes a woman, who identifies herself in the chat as “Lisa Elliott.” “I am dealing with Brain Cancer and dealing with abuse in my life and asking for some prayers in this I feel like I cant keep going with the way my life is going.”

Vo writes back to Elliott assuring her Osteen ministries “would love to stand with you in prayer.” She advises her to share her prayer request online, or by phoning into a 1-800 line, where volunteer prayer partners will join callers in prayer and offer them scripture.
Then, 30 minutes later:

8:05 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: siting here in tears
8:14 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: I hatmy life my abusive boy friend is drunk sleeping if he wakes up I get beat

“Lisa, We are standing with you during this time,” types one of the moderators, called “Matt-ADMIN.” He directs Elliott to a prayer site and to the erroneous email address, prayer@joelosteen.com. “Our prayer team would love to pray with you.”

Another woman in the chat room, someone not part of the Osteen team, tells Elliott: “my prayers are with you, I was in your situation nine yrs ago, there is a way to get help, call your local womans help center as I did.”

“Can I have the number so I can call them now,” Elliott asks. Then, “crying over this I have never had something like this.”
“Enjoy the experience, Lisa!” a moderator answers cheerily.
Another half hour passes.

9:00 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: please pray for me toight that nothig happens
9:00 p.m. Comment From Kelly-ADMIN: Lisa, we are standing with you in prayer and faith.
9:03 p.m. Comment From Lisa Elliott: I know he will beat me tonight

Another moderator is congratulating Elliott. Apparently, she has just won a free copy of Osteen’s newest book.
The MCP team is having trouble keeping up. The room grows quiet, save for the frantic tap of fingers clicking on keys. An unpublished queue of comments speaks to the agitation of people waiting for answers: “CAN YOU SEE ME???” one person has typed. A moderator sends a private message to a particularly frustrated user, assuring him they’re doing their best.
As tens of thousands of people absorb the live stream, the video is stalling, spurring even more gripes in the chat room and on Osteen’s Facebook wall.
“You’ve got thirty complaints on your Facebook page that the servers are down,” the wife of one of Osteen’s photographers informs Vo.

Vo clenches her jaw. The audience is diminishing, with the number of concurrent online viewers down to 34,000 from over 41,000 earlier in the night. People have spent an average of 48 minutes watching the Night of Hope, but the video’s hiccups seem to be costing Osteen his viewers. Boyd tells Vo to post a link to the live stream on Facebook. Now.
“It’s frozen, my thing is frozen,” Vo answers through gritted teeth. “It’s literally frozen.”

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A view of the Marlins Park stadium on the Night of Hope.

In Rapid City, South Dakota, Janice Heigh, 53, logs on to the chat room to seek help. She and her husband have been overwhelmed by the work of caring for their three grandchildren. She feels distance and isolation seeping into her marriage.

She also feels removed from a community of people grappling with similar troubles. Though she attends weekly services and teaches Sunday school at a local Rapid City church, Heigh has struggled to find a Bible studies group for people in her predicament. There are meetings for parents with young children — populated by people decades her junior — and meetings for people in her age group, who generally have other worries. She has had trouble arranging her schedule around that of her local church.

But on the Web, church services are always happening, and support groups are to be found at every hour of the day. Heigh has tapped into them via Facebook, Prayer.com, and at sites like the one for Osteen’s Night of Hope. In this way, she has found other grandparents tending to their own grandchildren. She has taken comfort in seeing that other people’s lives are imperfect, too.

Unlike in person, these online exchanges spare Heigh from feeling like she’s a burden: The people she chats with online are there because they want to be. She takes refuge in the anonymity of this interaction.

“At midnight, I can go to the computer, pull it up and there’s someone on there somewhere who can give you insights, a kind word,” she says. “They’re thinking about you, praying about it and it’s like, ‘I’m OK. I’m all right. It broadened my horizons spiritually because I was able to feel connected, even though I knew there was no way I could make it to this or that.”
On this night, in the chat room at the Night of Hope, she begins typing.

“Iwill be maried 34years tomorrow,” she writes. “My husband and I have had many years of trials and triumphs. We are now raising our daughters 2 girls. I feel that my husband and I have grown far apart since we took on the resposibility of these GOD given children.”

“Please pray that we can come together after all these years.” Heigh continues. “We have had the girls for 7 years so it is not a new situation but seems I am a single parent.”
Vo answers a minute later.

“Janice, thank you for sharing your story and your heart with us,” she types back. “We are standing with you in prayer and faith. May God’s goodness and mercy shine upon you.”
From Miami to South Dakota, this message makes its way, arriving with the affirmation intended.
“It makes you feel validated,” Heigh explains later. “The Internet, to me, it has brought a whole situation to God.”

THE ROAD AHEAD
WORLD OF CHURCH FINANCE

CLERGY ECONOMIC SUMMIT ADDRESSING CONGREGATIONAL ECONOMIC INJUSTICE AND FINANCIAL INEQUALITIES

By Bishop Dr. Jonathan E. Owhe

The issue of Civil Right speaks of addressing racial divide, economic inequalities and social injustice, founded upon the constitutional belief that all men are created equal, and they have certain inalienable rights.

The position of the churches, majority of whom are economically disadvantaged and fiscally bankrupt cannot be overlook or treated with levity. THIS HAD BECOME A CIVIL RIGHT ISSUE: ADDRESSING THE ECONOMIC INEQUALITIES AND BARRIERS TO FINANCE AND OTHER RESOURCES THAT CHURCHES AND THEIR CONGREGATION NEED IN OTHER TO SURVIVE THE STORM.

The frustration being faced by Bishops, Apostles, Pastors, and Ministers in our world should not be, when without doubt most communities are being salvaged, built and cared for by these same leaders. Faith leaders are agents of change addressing the spiritual, mental, economic and social injustices that our communities are facing.

Faith leaders with smaller churches (congregation of 50 to 250) are slowing dying from financial frustration because the pasture is not getting greener. Many faith leaders have mortgage their own personal houses and properties to survive the economic onslaught. Many have left ministry all together because of ministry related illnesses and family stress.

The question is- WHO IS COMING TO THE AID OF THESE CLERGY’S?

Unfortunately, faith leaders, because of their confidence in Jesus Christ, exhibit such faith and confidence, and have learned in whatever condition, to be independent of circumstances. But they are LONELY VOICES IN THE WILDERNESS. They have been fighting this economic disparities and injustice alone for too long. THE HOUR HAS COME FOR A PARADIGM SHIFT in:

  • clergy ability to access resources and create sustainable wealth (enough to position them and their congregation to maintain their homes, put food on the table, have life insurance and send their children to college)
  • clergy ability to create employment through negotiation with local business and establishment of social enterprises
  • clergy ability to be fiscally responsible through fiscal training and discipline
  • clergy ability to help maintain stability in the community through systematic affordable housing package and anti-foreclosure strategies.
  • clergy ability to address and maintain the health determinates in their congregation–immigration, health, finance,etc.

THE QUESTION THAT SHOULD BE ASKED:
HOW HEALTHY ARE OUR CONGREGATION?
HOW CAN THE CLERGY’S AND THEIR CHURCHES BE ON SUSTAINED GROWTH PATH, WITH FISCAL EQUITY AND JUSTICE?

The measurement of this, is what the 2012 CLERGY ECONOMIC SUMMIT at the Marriott, Down Brooklyn will answer on June 5.

We will be bringing leading experts to the table who for years have been seeking for an opportunity like this forum to share their knowledge and expertise and help the clergy and churches.

At this summit, we are creating a WAVE THAT BISHOPS, PASTORS, APOSTLES AND MINISTERS WITH DYNAMIC VISIONS AND DREAMS, can surf again, lifting up their hands and giving glory to the Almighty God.

Most leaders coming to this summit are like Moses, some like Miriam, others like Aaron, Deborah, Samson, David, Paul and Peter.

We want to create a movement that will BRIDGE THE GAP BETWEEN STRONG AND WEALTHY CHURCHES AND THE WEAK AND STRUGGLING CHURCHES.

THERE IS A COUNT DOWN, for the Church of Jesus Christ to come to that place of glory which our Lord Jesus Christ envision. The Lord is coming for a Church that is vibrant, strong, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.

LET’S WORK TOGETHER IN A UNITED AND COOPERATIVE SPIRIT to craft a future for our churches and ministries.

THIS IS THE ROAD AHEAD

God bless you.

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