Among the Sirens

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Among the Sirens

Take a step with me. Close your eyes it's Monday morning. You're sitting in traffic sipping your coffee and already begin to have the wheels in your head start to spin of what you need to do today. What you will eat, and how much sleep you'll get all while the radio plays and the phone rings? We develop that cycle of tunnel vision of what the week will bring without seeing what’s around us and the blessings of what is to come with every morning we wake of the week. All of a sudden, you hear in the distance the muffled sound of an ambulance coming towards you and the lights and sirens fly by as you swerve out of the way. In an instant you forget all those thoughts crowding your head of what is to come and be done on your schedule.

This is how I see God’s need to calm our storms. Leaders, in Zechariah 2:5 it states, "And I myself will be a fire around it and I declares the lord will be its glory within"

No matter how packed our schedules can be or the worries weighing down our shoulders, there is a God who will be a wall around you and protect you in whatever battles we face even when our mind is crowded.  We forget this sometimes, and that is when He will come and be the glory within. He will protect you like sirens that warn you of what is approaching your way.

When we find ourselves overwhelmed or unable to handle the tasks we face in “you name it” ministry, our careers, college, etc. and we need a reminder of the protection, we have of our lord we can look to. No matter the aches or routines of everyone around, just like the sirens that symbolize a fast approaching comfort to someone in need we have a God who is with us everyday and through every "To Do List." He will be the force of glory always approaching to bring comfort for you. Sometimes we need to look in that rear view mirror and hear the sounds God sends to say He is with us and is by our side.

Things that stick out to me from each level:

1. Your job title - this is when you initially get the promotion. You don't have the skills yet to lead. Your co-workers follow because they feel they have to.

This leads to you not getting the best of people.

2. You will see the switch of them following because they want too.

Relationships are made and formed. This is the foundation of the bond you make with your co-workers. If you antagonize your co-workers, you can't influence them. You need to LISTEN WELL, OBSERVE, and LEARN THE ATTIUDES OF SERVANTHOOD. Start to grow beyond your title.

3. You will be an effective leader because you produce by example and show creditability. Always model what you want to see.

We will always attract workers who reflect who we are.

*Momentum is a leaders best friend.

4. This is a people development level. When you increase their capacity you increase yours.

A. Recruitment is the key

B. Bring the right people to the right spot. Successful leaders put people in the right spot

C. Equip well

5. They will follow you.

You earn respect for what you have accomplished. It takes time and will always be an on going process.

My name is Morgan Putbrese and I am twenty years old. I attend Cross Church (Mcallen campus). I have experience serving in the youth ministry. I am an EMT here in the Rio Grande Valley and I am currently going to school for my Paramedic certification. 

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You Aren't Called to Be Average

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You Aren't Called to Be Average

When I look at society at large and those who lead it, there is one blaring question: Where are the Christians in places of prominence who are leading our society? Yes, there are certainly Christians in some positions of leadership in various arenas—but when it comes to leading, creating, and influencing culture, we are lagging behind the world. Which leads us to ask the question: why?

As Christians we are empowered by the grace of God, and God’s very Spirit resides inside of us—so why are we as a church often found imitating the world’s methods rather than leading?

Consider this account of Daniel:

Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom. —Daniel 6:3 NIV

First things first—notice this is in the Old Testament, meaning Jesus had not yet made us clean and paved the way for the Holy Spirit to take up residence in our hearts. That means Daniel did this under an inferior covenant! That is astounding.

Next, notice it doesn’t say, “God distinguished Daniel.” Every major Bible translation says that it was Daniel who “distinguished himself.” The Message Bible states it this way:

But Daniel, brimming with spirit and intelligence, so completely outclassed the other vice-regents and governors that the king decided to put him in charge of the whole kingdom. —Daniel 6:3 MSG

How did Daniel do it? He had exceptional qualities because he was a man who was connected with God. It should be no different for anyone who has the Spirit of God living inside them. In fact, it should be better. He did all this under the old covenant, which we are no longer under. Hebrews 8:6 tells us that because of Jesus, “the new covenant is established on better promises.”

The New American Standard Bible says, “Daniel began distinguishing himself…because he possessed an extraordinary spirit.” The word extraordinary means “to go beyond the norm, to break out of the status quo, to exceed the common measure.”

As a people filled with God’s Spirit and empowered by His grace, under a new and better covenant than even Daniel had, we are called to rule in life. But don’t take my word for it. Look at Paul’s words to the Roman church. He says:

“All who receive God’s abundant grace and are freely put right with him will rule in life through Christ.” —Romans 5:17 TEV

As a believer, you are not called to just get by. You are not called to blend into the crowd. Nothing of the sort. You are called to rule in life. God made you to be extraordinary—and He’s placed His Spirit inside you to set you apart!

If you are a teacher, empowered by God’s grace, you should inspire students in a way that makes others marvel and ask you what you are doing differently. If you are in business, you should be ahead of the market, at the cutting edge of innovation. If you are an artist, others should look to you for creative ideas, wanting to replicate the originality of your work. The same principle applies if you’re a musician, researcher, athlete, scientist, politician, police officer, flight attendant, or stay-at-home mom, or if you’re in the media, the military, or any other arena of life.

Again, remember the words of Paul in Romans—our mandate as Christians is to rule. Like Daniel, we are to distinguish ourselves by God’s empowering presence on our lives.

It’s time the world looked to the church for inspiration and not the other way around. It’s time we begin living our lives with such a degree of excellence that we move into positions of influence in every arena of society. Not only do I believe this is possible—I believe it is a part of our calling—it’s God’s mandate on us as His followers. May we recognize our God-given identity as sons and daughters, rely on His empowering grace, and in a world of average, begin to distinguish ourselves for God’s glory.

 

John Bevere and his wife Lisa are the founders of Messenger International. A minister and best-selling author, John delivers messages of uncompromising truth with boldness and passion. His desire is to support the local church and resource leaders regardless of location, language, or financial position. To this end, his resources have been translated into over 90 languages, and millions of copies have been given away to pastors and leaders worldwide. When he’s home, John tries to convince Lisa to take up golf and spends time with his four sons, daughter-in-law, and grandbabies.

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Keys for an Effective Ministry Leadership Team

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Keys for an Effective Ministry Leadership Team

It was said best by John C. Maxwell, “Teamwork makes the dream work, but a vision becomes a nightmare when the leader has a big dream and a bad team”. The importance of that quote dug deep into my mindset as I sat at my computer for days on end trying to think of original and genuine words to speak about. I realized shortly after seeing that quote just how important it is to have a good team that is in sync with the goal. What is the ultimate goal by the way? All our goals may be worded differently but they should all ultimately lead to serving God. Why? Why should they? Because we must be sure that our goals align with God’s will for us. If they contradict the Word and character of God, they will not bring us happiness. Moving towards a focused group of leadership, our ministry should reflect the Word of God. The following keys will help you to have an effective leadership team:

1.     Creating a Team

We must pick out a solid group of individuals who understand the importance of their role in the church. Individuals who have a consistent and growing relationship with God, and are willing to be servants. John 13:12-15 states, “When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you”.

2.     Staying Organized

Having an organized system is extremely important. Mostly because once we start digging into the next couple of keys for an effective team we need to have our vision clear as opposed to chaotic. In addition, the roles everyone oversees should be very simple to remember in order to refrain from mistakes. The best way to do this is to be patient with new leaders. Train them by setting an example, and by always being organized and prompt. There are methods such as keeping a planner, google calendar, and other applications that are helpful tools when it comes to staying organized. 1 Corinthians 14:10 states, “But all things should be done decently and in order.”

3.     Staying Focused

Writing down what the team values within the church, what is not working, and what they wish to see changed and done differently are very important steps. Everybody sees things with a different perspective, so being open minded allows room for improvement. Whatever your team’s goal may be, examine it carefully and be sure that the main purpose is leading back to Christ. We must be still and consult the Lord before we move forward. Seeking His guidance in any decision that needs to be made in our lives will allow us to make wise choices wile submitting to his will as opposed to being impulsive. Not only will we be fascinated by reaching our destination but we will also enjoy the journey. Habakkuk 2:2 states, “And the Lord answered me: “Write the vision; make it plain on tablets, so he may run who reads it”.

4.     Staying Faithful                       

It is known that “faith can move mountains”. Well I come to you as a living testimony that it sure can. We as a team need to have enough faith for our entire church. If we don’t, how could we expect anybody else to? We are leading. We are setting an example. Not only through our words, but our actions as well. We need to show our church members and youth that we serve a mighty God! A God who accomplishes the impossible. A God who is never-failing, trustworthy, faithful, loving, and always has our best interest in mind. If we truly believe that we weren’t made to live mediocre lives, then we can be an inspiration to those around us as well, and with that comes humility. The Lord’s will always exceeds our own, and we need to be sure that we have humble hearts that are ready to receive all the blessings God has in store for us. Times will get difficult and trials will come our way, but we must remain faithful because there may be a single moment that we live on faith alone, and someone is watching and learning how to do the same. That is a true Christ-seeking leader that has the ability to change someone’s life simply through their character. 2 Chronicles 15:7 states, “But as for you, be strong and do not give up, for your work will be rewarded”.

5.     Staying Committed, Diligent and Motivated

Before we even agree to be a leader, we need to make sure that we will commit. Regardless of how busy our lives can become; we cannot give up. If anything, we need to say no to things we may want to do but take us away from our duties of being a leader. This is the sacrifice of being committed to a task. If we want to see our church grow and accomplish our mission for that year, then we need to commit ourselves to the Lord. He will provide all our needs. We must not worry about anything but have faith that everything will work out for His glory. We must be diligent in our efforts. Any goal requires hard work for it to be achieved. Finally, we must stay motivated. We must ask ourselves why we are working so hard for our goal, and if our motives are selfish. We need to operate with healthy and selfless, hearts. Matthew 17:20 states. “Truly I tell you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, “Move from here to there”, and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you.” 

My name is Krista Isabel Cruz and I am twenty-two years old. I currently minister at Trinity Baptist Church, as the worship leader, children's minister and youth service assistant. I am a graduate of Texas A&M International University and will be attending Thomas Jefferson School of Law in San Diego, California in the fall of 2017.

 

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 How to Lead an Effective Meeting

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How to Lead an Effective Meeting

Over the years, I have coordinated LOTS of meetings.  Both small and great.  

I have learned that there is a skill behind a good, effective meeting.  Being able to coordinate and host a good meeting creates upscale potential for you to get recognized in your organization for your effectiveness.

If you are an administrative assistant, ministry director, or even a Pastor, here are a few thoughts on what is required for a good meeting:

· Plan ahead.  Do not wait until the day of.  Planning helps to prevent failure.  "If you fail to plan, you plan to fail."

· Have an agenda.  Take people's time seriously.  An agenda makes sure that you talk about the essential items, and that you remember.

· Create a set time.  Start on time, and end on time.  Don't let the meeting go on and on. Tell the people what time you want to end.  People will respect that.  You give them an outlet.  

· Decide on whether food is an option or not.  Think this ahead.  Some rooms or places may not allow food.  Are people going to be getting off of work to attend the meeting?  Is it during lunch?  Is food really necessary?  Again - ask the right questions.

· Media needs.  Decide whether or not you are going to need PowerPoint, graphics, or show a video.  Does the room have the technology for this (televisions, projector, screens)?  If they do, then I would conduct a test before the meeting.  It never fails - something may go wrong.  Loading takes time.  What's the wifi passcode?  Again, investigate to find answers.

· Music.  I would suggest to have a speaker or songs ready to fill in "awkward" quiet space if necessary.  Not all meetings require this, but it helps in certain settings.  Music helps to create energy, and lack of music can hinder the energy in the room.

· Send reminders leading up to the meeting.  People are busy.  People forget.  A friendly reminder takes nothing away from you, and people will be grateful.  Don't overdo it, but keep it cordial and gentle.

· Check the room.  If you are hosting the meeting outside of your typical sphere, I would recommend to go check it out in advance.  Notice the setting.  Where are the restrooms? Do you have access to control the air?  What is limited?  Any other potential distractions you should be aware of?

· Keep the conversation moving forward.  If you are the facilitator of the meeting, do your best to keep the focus of the meeting.  Remember why the meeting was called in the first place.  Don't allow sidebar conversations to highjack the meeting.  If people want to connect over other types of topics, they can do so after the meeting.

· Action points.  Meetings are meant to discuss a topic and go from there.  Action is generally required.  If there were action points discussed in the meeting, go over it in the summary at the end of the meeting.  What was decided upon?  Who is doing what? I would recommend to  send a follow up email to include a thank you, a summary, and the written action points.  I have done this repeatedly in the past, and it helps to document.

Meetings are often a part of work and business.  However, they do not have to be ineffective, nor do they need to be a waste of time and space.  

In whatever you do, do it well.

 

Abram Gomez is the Executive Pastor of Cross Church, formerly known as Valley International Christian Center, in San Benito, TX. He serves under the leadership of Bishop Jaime Loya and helps in leading the 2,500-member congregation. Abram is a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Ministries. He recently earned  his Master’s Degree in Human Services Counseling with a specialization in Executive Leadership from Liberty University. Abram is the founder and director of Next Gen, a movement designed to mentor Next Generation Church Leaders. Abram recently received approval as a team member and representative for Nation 2 Nation University, a video-based ministerial school offering two and four year degrees.  His teaching is a part of the curriculum including Youth Ministry, Church Administration and Church Growth. Occasionally, Abram writes for Valley Christian Magazine, a regional periodical that covers the entire valley.  He and his wife, Rebecca, reside in Harlingen along with their precious daughter Isabella and son Jude.

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Developing Small Group Leaders

A lot of churches have now joined in the strategy of using small groups to help disciple and create community within their congregations. 

If you are part of your church leadership that is helping to navigate small groups, or you are thinking of doing small groups for your ministry department, here are some tips for developing small group leaders:

1.  Determine a timeline and rhythm.

Decide what type of timeline you are going to have for small groups at your church.  Do you plan to do semesters?  How many weeks will groups last each semester?  Will they have a break in between semesters?  Do you plan to go 52 weeks?

The reason this is important is because it let's people interested in leading a group figure out if it works for their schedule.  Also, it provides a start date and an end date.  

2.  Be clear on expectations. 

Sometimes, we make the mistake of assuming that people know what we know. Being clear up front removes the confusion in the middle.

Be sure to give potential small group leaders clear guidelines and expectations.  Even if you are just starting the small group "system" in your church, setting the tone early will give them better clarity of what they are allowed to do.

3.  Offer continued support.

Once the groups begin, leaders will need some type of support throughout the semester or schedule.  It is almost certain that they will run into some type of small dilemmas where they may need direction and counsel.

For example, their small group may be lowly attended.  Or, they have a unique situation arise in the life of a member. Maybe, they are just excited about what God is doing in their group and want to share with someone!  

As a leader or director, provide some type of way to connect with leaders, and keep communication open.  Encouragement and support go a long way!

4.  Create healthy accountability.

If you are afraid that groups may go in a wrong direction, it's ok.

We all deal with certain fears when it comes to new things or fresh strategies.  But, if you feel small groups is for your church, then proceed with intentionality.

You would be wise in keeping some type of healthy accountability on group leaders such as weekly reports, metrics, end of semester evaluations, and other strategic devices to keep a pulse on groups.  It is not micromanagement - it is healthy accountability.  

Small groups are a great way to develop leaders and disciples in your church.  They create strong relationships and a community for believers to find refuge and strength from others.

By: Next Gen Staff

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Sharpen Your Ax

Nowadays, life is so busy. At times, I envy the days I was younger and didn’t have the responsibilities that I have today. It was just simpler back then. No bills, no responsibility, no worries. But now life is different---great, but different. There’s so many things that fill up our day. In no particular order: family, school, work, friends, social media, ministry, and Designated Survivor (if you haven’t checked it out, do yourself a favor. It airs on ABC). All of these things are good, but often times what ends up happening is that we prioritize these things over our personal relationship with God. If you go back to the list I mentioned, I noted family, school, work, friends, social media, ministry, and Designated Survivor. The thing is this; there is one very important aspect to the life of a Christ follower that I left out: our relationship with God. Often times we substitute our relationship with God with ministry, when in reality, those are two separate things. We trick ourselves into believing that because we are doing ministry that we are growing and strengthening our relationship Him, but the truth is our relationship with God might be suffering. And when we allow ourselves to get to that point we lose our edge; we lose our effectiveness. 

To better illustrate this, I am reminded of a story: 

One man challenged another to an all-day wood chopping contest. The challenger worked very hard, stopping only for a brief lunch break. The other man had a leisurely lunch and took several breaks during the day. At the end of the day, the challenger was surprised and annoyed to find that the other fellow had chopped substantially more wood than he had. “I don’t get it,” he said. “Every time I checked, you were taking a rest, yet you chopped more wood than I did.” “But you didn’t notice,” said the winning woodsman, “I was sharpening my ax when I sat down to rest.” (Source unknown).

This man was able to win the competition because he would PAUSE to SHARPEN his ax. Translation: he never let his blade go dull. You can’t be effective with a dull blade. You’ll only grow tired because you are trying to do it with your own strength rather than relying on a sharpened blade to cut through the wood. The same thing applies to our lives. In order to be effective in ministry, have a successful marriage or whatever task we are working at, we need to continually be sharpening our relationship with God. If we do not, we will go through life without being able to be effective because we are relying on our own strength, chopping away with a dull blade. I have to wonder, is it possible that you are not being as effective as you can be in your life because your ax, your prayer life, is dull? I encourage you to PAUSE from the demands of life and SHARPEN/STRENGTHEN your relationship with God. 

By: Josue Holguin

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The Success of Failure

A few years ago I decided that I wanted to give teaching a try. I always loved school when I was growing up. I was the student who reminded the teachers when they forgot to pickup the homework, the kid that volunteered to go to summer school, the little girl who broke down in tears at the prospect of having a substitute teacher, for fear of the entire class being rebellious.

When I was offered a teaching position at a Christian private school, I was quick to say yes. I could not wait to return to my first love: school. With visions of perfect students who were eager to please the teacher and ready to learn, I carefully picked out a plain black dress, teal coat and black flats. I perfected a powerpoint of the first chapter of the Biology book, complete with a couple of (in my opinion) funny “first day back” jokes and put on my best “welcome to my classroom” smile.

This was the memory that came to mind three and a half years later, when I found myself now teaching at an inner city public school, in front of a classroom of 32 seventh graders whose last mission in life was to learn pre-algebra. I started my teaching career thinking I was the next Ron Clark, who managed to run a classroom of failing elementary school students from the inner city in New York into the top achievers in their state. I was now wondering why they were still letting me teach. In spite of countless hours spent planning lessons, purchasing resources with my own money and watching youtube videos on how to manage a classroom; I was simply not being successful. I could not keep my student’s attention or keep my room quiet for more than one minute. It did not help that the teacher next door was a veteran classroom manager who could quiet a class down with a simple glare. Walking past her classroom was a like a walk in a peaceful library. Walking past mine was like being in a mosh pit at a rock concert.

Multiple times throughout the year, I contemplated quitting my job. Some days I simply did not have the motivation to get up and face the one hundred and twenty students who wanted nothing to do with finding the area of triangular prisms. To my surprise, my principal offered to renew my contract to teach the following year and I gratefully, but firmly, declined. My mind was made up; teaching had turned me into a failure and I was not about to take another year of that. For whatever reason, my principal encouraged me to return to the school in a different position, one that did not involve direct teaching, and I did. I came back the next year, hoping with all my heart I had not made a terrible decision.

Going back to the school had to be one of the best decisions I have made, both personally and professionally. In my current role, I still see the same students I saw last year, but my interaction with them is very different now. I now realize what I could not see last year. I was so blinded by my failure that I could not see that my failure had resulted in a few “side effects” that I dare to even call successes. This is the frustration of failure: it is hard to take notice of the wins, when you feel like you are constantly losing. As Christians, it is also hard to reconcile the fact that we are “more than conquerors” with the reality that we are simply not always going to win at the task at hand. Yes, we are victorious and yes, nothing is impossible for God. But sometimes God, in his infinite sovereignty, will not give us the win. I remember praying for wisdom and understanding and that God would show me how to win my students over so that they would love me and respect me and listen to me. Yet I would show up at work and be cursed at, ignored and even ridiculed.

It did not make sense then, but I see now what I could not see then; even in my failures God grants me success. God does not measure success the way that I measure success. It took a whole school year of daily failures, but here are three specific lessons I learned about how God grants us the most success right in the middle of our greatest failures:

1. It’s not always about what is happening in the moment, but what will happen in the future. 

No, not all my students passed their state boards. I did not come up with a witty rap for them that caused them all to fall in love with me. But this year both of the math teachers who teach the students I had last year have repeatedly expressed how much their students learned last year and what a solid foundation in pre-algebra they have. There I was thinking that nothing had stuck, but apparently they actually learned a lot more than I gave myself credit for. They were not outwardly expressing it, but inwardly they were learning. We may not see it outwardly, but we are impacting people even when we don’t realize it. When we work with people, we may not see immediate results, but that does not mean a harvest is not coming. Moses never saw the Israelites make it to the Promised Land, but eventually they did, or their descendants did to be more correct. Either way, it happened even though he did not see it.

2. It’s not always about what God wants to do through you, as much as what he wants to do to you.

Because my classroom was so challenging last year, I literally had to pray myself into getting up every morning. Then I had to talk to God the entire 25 minute drive to school to make sure he was with me as I stood in front of the students and taught that day. Then I had to repeatedly ask for wisdom throughout the day to handle stressful situations. I didn’t see it then, but that created a large dependency on God that I know sustained me and gave me grace with my supervisors. When David was anointed to be king he did not immediately take the throne. In fact, he spent a good amount of time, already having been anointed, fleeing for his life. It was during this time that he wrote some of the most beautiful Psalms as expressions that would live forever as anthems and templates for believers to look to for guidance.

3. Success is more about doing what God asks me to do than it is about seeing the results I want.

When Moses went before Pharaoh to ask him to release the Israelites, he did not get the result he was seeking. Not once, not twice, not three times but nine times Pharaoh refused to let the people go. And yet Moses kept going before him. He kept trucking along, doing what God asked of him. Though he did not get the result he was seeking (the release of his people), God was using Moses to build up His street credit so that all glory would be brought to the Lord. I did not leave the school because I knew that was the place God was calling me to be. So I made it my mission that even if I felt like I was a failure at my job, I wanted to be certain that I was a success at obeying God.

A parent who literally tried to get me fired last year sent me a text message this week stating how grateful she was for everything I do for her four kids. Three students who I constantly sent to the Vice-Principal last year for discipline were sent to me last week so I could disciple to them. A student who I was convinced absolutely hated me pulled me aside in the hallway to show me a certificate he received for passing his state exam. I still don’t have it all figured out (far from it) and I am certainly by no means the best employee at my job. But as it turns out, all of the failure I carried with me last year has given me a degree of success that I am more than convinced was given to me only because of God’s grace. After all, isn’t that the sweetest success of all?

By: Benita Holguin

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Good-bye RadioShack

For Sale…all around my city of Amarillo, TX you see these signs; where nationwide chains, such as RadioShack, are closing their doors. If you've heard of or perhaps are a subscriber to Hulu and Netflix, you are a contributor without knowing of the cards dealt to RadioShack. Uber is removing cabs, Netflix is removing cable and HBO, Amazon is removing RadioShack. The new trends are catching fire with the new generation and if a company is not willing to make changes or innovate, it seals its fate to the same of Blockbuster. The church of America needs to see these trends and learn from the “For Sale” signs being posted. Innovation must play a key role to continue to grow and expand. The church is not exempt from these patterns. As a leader I’d love to spend these next moments asking you a few questions that every leader needs to ask themselves often to continue to be a leader worth following.

Can you change? Throughout life we can be guaranteed one thing, we will go through life-changing experiences. However, only a few allow the experience to change their lives. As leaders, we were assigned because someone saw a quality in us that could be used to lead a following. Leaders are born with a spark inside that can be fanned into a flame, and with the right mentorship into a forest fire. The real challenge comes for some leaders when it’s time to transition from a spark to a flame. Can you accept the change when it comes? For years, yellow cabs would drive around and look for someone to pick up. If it was movie night, you would get into your car and drive to a Blockbuster. Or perhaps, you need a new cable to connect your new streaming device, you would drive to the RadioShack and pay 4x the amount of Amazon. Today from your mobile device you can summon a cab to your exact location, give the directions, and pay with a push of a button with the UBER app. The change came and now those that evolved are still in the game, others needed to close the doors.

Can you be around other leaders? A great leader is one who won’t be insecure when other great leaders come around. In fact, they invite and surround themselves with leaders who are on higher levels than they are. So much can be learned from being around someone who has been in the game longer. If you want to sit at the King’s table one day, surround yourself with those who frequent that table.

Can you lead without your title? The latest Marvel movie, Spider-Man, has a certain line that Spider-Man says to Iron Man after he messes up and Iron Man asks for the suit he made for him back, “But I’m nothing without the suit”. A real leader doesn't rely on his title to carry him to where he needs to go. A real leader is always seeking how to grow. How to innovate. How to make change for the better. Becoming complacent or even lazy because we have earned a title is a road to certain demise. I love the saying “Stay Hungry.” It's a saying I apply to my life in every area. Always growing keeps the water flowing, not flowing will result in dirty stagnant waters. If your title is the only thing you've learn to use, I’ll say what Iron Man says to Spider-Man, “If you are nothing without the suit, you don't deserve it”

The fate of the church is in the hands of a leader. How can we keep our church growing and moving forward? We must innovate to keep the doors open in our church. Let’s not become satisfied with how our church has done things, and be on the lookout for how to reach our next generation. 

By: Angel Mendoza

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Defining Moments

Inside each and everyone of us, God has placed a unique and specific purpose to fulfill, but it is up to us to be intentional in making it come to pass.

It’s not uncommon that while serving God and pursuing our dreams we face opposition and difficult trials arise.

But as I once heard Michael Fernandez say, “God never calls us to do easy things but great things that scare us to the point that we wonder if what is being asked of us can really be done. This is why we have this thing called faith.”

Faith allows us to stand firm in the middle of the storm, remain full of joy while we suffer, and move forward confidently knowing God goes before us.

In my life personally, I’ve had to overcome numerous events and situations where I wanted to throw in the towel and give up. But thankfully I’ve been able to rely on my faith in God and the support of those nearest me to continue ahead. And as I look back at different experiences I’ve encountered, I now understand that those difficult moments, although they felt unpleasant, I believe were actual key defining moments in my life.

And today, I simply want to share with you 3 thoughts/lessons that I’ve learned while passing through various defining moments.

1.     Defining Moments remind us of our need to daily depend on God.

Like any other relationship that we have whether it is with a family member or friend, our relationship with God must be fed daily and consistently in order to mature and remain strong. Imagine if we connected with God, through prayer or His Word, as often as we connected our cell phone to charge. I truly believe our relationship with Him would be on another level. The truth is like we needed Him yesterday, we also need him today, and tomorrow isn’t any different.  To persevere and make any type of positive impact in this world, we need His help daily.

2.     Defining Moments reveal us for who we really are.

Just like until when an orange is squeezed can we enjoy its fresh juice; or when we push down on a pen, does the ink flow out leaving a mark on the paper; when we are passing through defining moments that’s when it truly show what’s in the inside of us and allows us to leave our mark. We can say one thing when everything is good, but when certain things don’t go your way, are we the same person? Lets be authentic, lets be transparent, lets display to those around us Godly characteristics that catch their attention and makes them say, “There’s something different about him/her.”

3.     Defining Moments teach us another aspect of who God is and lets us get to know Him in a new way.

We can’t experience His healing power if we are never sick. Nor can we feel what it feels to be comforted if we never have a broken heart. If you and I are honest with ourselves and think back for specific moments of when we have felt and seen God perform the greatest miracles in our lives, it probably would have to be while we were passing through difficult moments.  I used to run from problems, I used to think they were the end of me, but we when I realized that they are opportunities for me to get to know God in a way I haven’t before, I now run to them. For where trouble is, God is there (Psalm 46:1). And if it wasn’t for those difficult moments I would have never said new prayers, and seen God in numerous facets.

Maybe you’re passing through a tough moment in your life right now and you have lost hope in others, your dreams, or even God. Remember that God says to you in Isaiah 41:10...

Dear (your name here) ,

       Fear not, for I am with you;

       Be not dismayed, for I am your God.

       I will strengthen you,

       Yes, I will help you,

       I will uphold you with My righteous right hand.’

Mark it on your calendar today, that you will no longer avoid, hide, or see difficult moments as negative opposition but as a defining moment, a purposeful opportunity to depend on God, define who God is in your life, and tell this world He is faithful.

By: Joey Salazar

www.joeysalazar.org

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Loving Tigers

They didn't prepare me for this. I learned how to preach, how to create a budget, how to lay hands on students and pray for them. But nowhere in my ministry preparation was I taught how to love a tiger, it just never happened. But now I had one coming to Church every Wednesday and causing chaos. What do you do when you have a tiger coming to your youth group?

Every summer our Church puts on a six week summer program for young people who desire to get closer to God. On the second week of the program as students are walking to their class, a father walks in asking if we could take his son. Registration had closed; we had no more space, and were already understaffed. What student ministry do you know that is OVER-staffed? I want to know their secret. Anyway, he began to explain how no one else would take him because of his issues and conditions. Nothing major: depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and epileptic seizures. No big deal right? After much negotiation, we decided to accept him. After all, what would Jesus do? Maybe I shouldn't have asked that question. I didn't know what I was getting myself into.

I asked to meet him. This five foot nothing twelve year old walked in with his iPad and big head phones on, and like any good youth pastor I asked, “Hey man, what’s your name?” He looks me in the eye and says, “My name is Roberto”, he then points his finger to my face and says, “But you’re going to call me Tiger,” and our relationship began.

Here’s what I believe about you and every youth pastor or youth leader. You already have or will soon come in contact with YOUR Tiger. Mine was suicidal, always went missing, never ate the food we gave him, and one time preached the most heretical and biblically incorrect message I've ever witnessed. He then managed to run away from the team because someone told him that in the Old Testament false prophets were stoned. Those were fun times. Gotta love student ministry.

Sometimes as youth workers we actually run away from the “tigers”. We ask parents, volunteers, or interns to deal with them. We try to avoid them and focus on our “good” students, or on the students we like to be around because they listen to us. Not because we don't care, but because tigers have claws and we already go through enough, we didn't even sign up for this! THEY TOLD US TO HELP FOR A FEW MONTHS! And now on top of trying to get kids to youth group, we have to run away from Tigers.

But what if? What if...the Tigers that we run away from are actually the people God brought us to love?

As a Youth Worker I know that YOU KNOW that we should love every student, including the difficult ones. But I want to give you a reason that I don't think we think about enough.

There’s no doubt that God put us where we are to love students, particularly difficult Students, and there’s no doubt that these students need us. But as I begin to finish I want to submit an idea to you: Maybe we need the tigers we love more than they need us.

I believe God brought me into student ministry to change students, but I don't think I've thought enough about how God wants to use student ministry to change ME.

Many times I made student ministry about what God could do through me but not IN ME. I don’t think it’s one or the other, but rather both.

Here are three things God has done in me through my Tigers:

1. God has taught me that I have a lot to learn about love.

2. God has taught that I can’t change anybody, that’s the Holy Spirit’s job.

3. God has taught me, that I’m a “Tiger”, and he still loves me.

By the way, I'm still loving Tiger. Pray for him, he needs it, and pray for me because I still need him too.

I am praying for you as you go into the world and love tigers. I think God is going to do amazing things THROUGH you, but really hoping that you allow Him to do something IN YOU too...

By: Jonathan Rivera

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Man in the Mirror

Michael Jackson wrote a very famous song called “Man in the Mirror,” and it concentrated on making change. We live in a world that is constantly changing, and in leadership this applies as well. In leadership our ministries win when we win. The most important win is the one that comes from within.

Psalms 139:23-24 says, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

King David was the perfect example of a leader who allowed God to lead him. He was famous and won many wars, but he also understood that the war within him needed some reconstructing. As leaders it is easy to get caught up in the hype and flow of our services, but it means nothing if we are losing the battle within our lives. So many times we see leaders fall because they could not handle privately what was going on within them. Who we are is more important than what we do. When we allow God to work and change us, then God will work the rest out on our behalf. So the question we need to ask is not how God is going to take our ministry to the next level, but rather what is it in our lives that needs to change in order for God to raise us up? Just like the everyday routine of looking in the mirror before we go out, we must look at ourselves in the mirror and make the necessary changes before we ever step on the platform of leadership.

Practical Tips:

1. Evaluate who you are

2. Connect with someone that can keep you accountable (tell you like it is)

3. Make the change

By: Sam Velez

Sam serves as the newly appointed Next Generation Director with the National Hispanic Christian Leadership Conference, the world's largest Hispanic Christian organization. He is also a former Next Gen Tribe graduate and an Associate Pastor, overseeing youth and young adult ministries at Iglesia Cristiana Misericordia in Laredo, Texas along with his wife.

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The Cadence of Leadership

That was a wild finish to Super Bowl 51. There were brutal hits, acrobatic catches, fumbles, interceptions, highs and lows and an improbable victory. I’ve always been inspired and motivated when watching great football quarterbacks lead their teams out of the clutches of defeat and into the arms of victory. They seem cool, calm, and collected as they break their team out of the huddle and make their way to the line of scrimmage to start yelling their cadence. If you aren’t sure what that is, it sounds a little something like this:

“Omaha!” “Omaha!” “Blue 80!” “Blue 80!” “Down! Set! Hut-Hut!”

The cadence is a skill that has been developed from the ranks of pee-wee football and all the way up to the pros. So what’s the purpose of the cadence? Well, to sum it up, they are positioning their team for success. The play has been called by the coaches and now the quarterback is tasked with communicating and implementing the play. So as they walk up to the line of scrimmage they are reading the defense, they are making sure their team is in position, they audible when needed, and then they run the play.

Joshua 1:2 “Moses my servant is dead. Now therefore arise, go over this Jordan, you and all this people, into the land that I am giving to them, to the people of Israel.

Joshua finds himself with a monumental task of leading the Israelites into the promised land, or in our case, to the “championship.” The uncertainty of tomorrow coupled with the pressure of “filling” the shoes of Moses had to weigh heavy on him. The spotlight was on and the pressure was being felt. But as the assistant to Moses, this is what he had been groomed for. It was time time for Joshua to put the “helmet” and “clipboard” down, strap that helmet on and lead this team to victory.

The Coach calls the Play:

God called the next play. Joshua, get up and lead my team into their inheritance. God not only called the play, but He also challenged Joshua to be strong and courageous. Great coaches have the innate ability to bring out the best in their players. God also gives a strong reminder to Joshua that He is the one calling the plays, and that his success would be directly linked to his ability to keep his eyes on the “playbook.”

Joshua communicates the play:

Joshua huddles up with his team in Chapter 1:10 and with boldness and great certainty commands his team to “Prepare provisions, for within three days you are to pass over this Jordan to go in to take possession of the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.”

The Cadence begins:

* Read the defense:

“Omaha!” “Omaha!” Chapter 2:1 tells us that Joshua sent two men to spy out the land. Guess what? He’s reading the defense. What are their strengths and what are their weaknesses. What are we facing?

* Position the offense:

“Blue 80!” “Blue 80!” Joshua has led his team to the doorstep of Jericho. And it is at this moment in Chapter 6:1-7 that the details of the play are revealed. Joshua now knows how to position the team. He knows where the priests and the men of war need to line up. He can position them for success!

* Call the audible:

Every now and then the quarterback has to call an audible, which is a change to the play. We see this in Joshua 7 when Joshua and his team lose the battle at Ai. The called play was to take over the promised land, the audible was saying, “there’s sin in the camp that’s infecting the team! Stop and get it fixed.”

Vision, wisdom, insight, and the quarterback's ability to communicate such are usually developed in practice; but they are forged in the trenches of the “gridiron battlefield.” As leaders, we will taste the sweetness of victory and bitterness of defeat. Let’s learn from both. Let’s rise up and lead! Let’s get in the game because this is what we’ve been called for! The game is on….the clock is ticking…..run the play!

By: Daniel Ramirez

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3 Qualities Every Worship Leader Should Have

One of my all-time favorite characters to read about in the Bible is David. And although he seems to be the go-to person every time we hear a message or bible study about worship or music, I’d like to shed some light on a few characteristics that I’ve learned about him while studying about his life. These characteristics actually have nothing to with music per say, but characteristics I feel are important for every person that leads others – whether on or off the platform. I think we can all agree that David, just like us, was far from perfect, but there are a few things he got just right.

Let’s start with the first one… His passion for the presence of God.

Passionate:

David was passionate for the presence of God. That’s why you read passages like Psalms 27:4 where he says: “The one thing I ask of the Lord, and the thing I seek MOST, is to live in the house of the Lord ALL the days of my life, DELIGHTING (basking) in the Lord’s perfections and meditating in his temple.”

When you are passionate for something or someone, there are never enough hours in the day. You’ll wake up early and go to sleep late. You’ll cancel plans, and do whatever it takes. No one has to force it on you or out of you, it just comes out naturally. And you can spot what people are most passionate about by observing three things: what they talk about the most, where they spend their money and what they do daily.

As worship leaders, musicians, and leaders serving in ministry, we can get so caught up in the hype of “doing” that we forget our role of “being.” In a fast-paced world, we need to learn the art of being still. We need to find that quiet place where our cell phones are off or in another room, and where there are no distractions.

Colossians 1 says that everything was created “for Him.” How can we lead people to God, if we don’t know who God is? How can we ask of others to commune with Him, when we don’t do it ourselves? Do you know one of the reasons why there is so much burnout within ministers and leaders? Because they’ve poured out more than what they’ve poured in.

Before we are called to serve, we are called to commune, that’s our source, He is our fuel. And if we want to see our leaders and congregation passionate for God, we need to be the first to lead by example. Those under our leadership will only model what they see in us.

Transparent:

David was real and authentic. When he was having a good day, you KNEW he was having a good day. But when he was having a bad day, you KNEW he was having a bad day. And you can read it all throughout the book of Psalms. It almost seemed like he was bipolar because his mood would LITERALLY change from one verse to the next.

Listen to what he wrote in Psalms 31 - this is the happy David - “You are my rock and my fortress” (v.3), “I trust in the Lord” (v.6), “I will be glad and rejoice in your unfailing love” (v.7), and then just two verses later, we see the sad and anguished David: “Have mercy on me, Lord, I am in distress” (v.9), “I am dying from grief” (v.10), “I am ignored as if I were dead, as if I were a broken pot…” (v.12).

David’s emotions were raw and real. But one thing I love about him was that He didn’t go running to his phone or laptop to blast every single thing he was going through on social media, or go to cry and complain to all of the members of the congregation. He did all the opposite; he took it straight to God. All of his cries, moments of anger, feelings of abandonment and moments of victory were shared with God. He knew who his source was. He knew where he could find the answers. He knew that if the situation needed to change, it wasn’t going to come through a man, but through God.

Life is hard, and it can sometimes be very messy, but there is something that we need to remember, and that is that we can’t hide ANYTHING from God. He knows us better than we know ourselves.

Even with all his mistakes that he made, the bible tells us that David was a man after God’s own heart. Can I tell you something? It’s one thing for man to recognize you and say these words about you, but it’s totally different thing when God says them about you!

May God find in us a people that are raw, real and authentic.

Submissive:

David knew how to submit to authority. Even though he had already been anointed to be the next king over Israel, he honored the season he was in, and waited his turn with patience and perseverance. He knew God’s timing wasn’t his timing.

You might say, but you don’t know the type of leader I have to serve under. He/she is arrogant, full of themselves, and they love to make things difficult for me. Welcome to David’s life. Do you remember what David’s first role in the palace was? It was to come and play the harp so that the evil spirit that was on King Saul would leave him. Imagine that. David was serving under the leadership of a demon possessed man. How’s that for difficult!

But even when David had the perfect opportunity to kill Saul, he said some of those most powerful words ever written in scripture about leadership. He said I WILL NOT TOUCH God’s anointed. “But David, you have all the right to do it! But David, he’s been a terrible leader. But David, you deserve to be in that position, not him. But David…” What a way for him to honor God, by honoring the man God had put in place of authority over him (with no questions asked).

We live in a culture that speaks their mind about everyone and everything, and they aren’t afraid to voice it at the top of their lungs to share it with the world. And that mentality has filtered into

our churches today. We’ve lost the culture of honor. We don’t understand the blessing there is when we submit to our authority.

I love how real the Bible is, because it shows us the good, the bad and the ugly. If it were filled with perfect scenarios, we’d have reason to question things. But the Bible is as real as they come. And our job is quite simple, and it’s two fold: #1, to submit to those in leadership and #2, to pray for those that serve in leadership. If we prayed for our leaders as much as we complained about them, things would be so different.

Stories like that of David inspire, motivate and encourage me. In the busyness of our lives, I pray that we would learn take a step back and make room for more God-encounters that would help change the way we view God, ourselves and those we do life and ministry with. May we each day live lives that are passionate for the presence of God and the things that move His heart. May we also live lives that are open and honest with God and those around us, and may we cultivate the culture of honor with those we get to serve alongside with – whether secular or ministry, knowing that we encounter blessing every time we submit and pray for those that lead us.

By: Lizette Y. Ruiz

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How to Creatively Capture Your Audience

Hey there! Quick intro of myself before we dive into the rest of our blog!

Kevin Barraza, 21, Los Fresnos, TX. I love all things creative, the drums, the New England Patriots, and tacos. I also have the incredible privilege of being the Lead Designer for Cross Church. Okay enough about me, let’s get to it!

The state of design for the Church is at an all time high. Never before has the Church relied on the Adobe Suite to run its day to day operations. With such high demand, designers are constantly being stretched and challenged to do above and beyond. High traffic of media is constantly drawing your audience’s attention and your marketing pieces can be taking hits as a result of that. Designer let me be the first to tell you that you are NOT doing a bad job. You are simply battling with the 21st century. Arrays of colors and multitudes of designs are what exist between you and your audience. You may be asking if it’s even possible to generate engagement from your followers. The answer to that question is YES! Let me share with you 4 things that I believe are crucial to capturing your audience:

1) Be Original

Yes, cliché but oh so true. The church world has been flooded with graphics. From the greats like Hillsong and Elevation to your own Bible App which creates custom graphics. It is incredible to see the creativity that the church has dished out, however with all that has come out, originality takes a hit. If you’re a designer that means you can also replicate images. Please don’t. You are far too gifted to do that to your talent and ministry. Create items that will resonate with people, something that will get them to say “Hey, that’s different!”. Trust your gut. If you create something that is different, that’s okay! That is your originality. At the end of the day you’re not creating a piece for Highlands or Free Chapel, you’re creating a piece for YOUR MINISTRY. Take time to get to know your people, community and followers. Look at what they like and dislike. That will give you an idea of what to create from scratch.

2) Be Disciplined

Do you workout? If you answered no to that question, that makes two of us… BUT that doesn’t mean you can’t be disciplined with your God given talent! Constantly strive to become better at your craft. Once your audience is captured by your originality, then they will look at everything you do. Don’t make the mistake of riding that one wave of success. Discipline yourself to push your limits in designing. Exercise your eyes and mind.  Make it a weekly goal to create something new each week. Practice the multiple techniques of design. Your audience will not only appreciate this, but they will engage in your posts. Think about it, if you see the “same image” over and over would you engage in it? Of course not. The same goes for those you are trying capture.

3) Be Clean

Please, for the sake of your 5x5 graphic, don’t overpopulate it with so much information. Graphics weren’t mean to have a heavy load of information on them. If you’re going to create something, then let the graphic speak for itself. The church has often had a bad wrap for creating some ugly designs. That is no longer acceptable. We serve a God of excellence, order, and clarity. Our graphics should reflect those very things. I’m going to give you 2 words that your graphics should flow by:

- Clean

- Bold

Choose 1 or 2 fonts per graphic. Do not incorporate more than 3. Make sure they are all within the same weight. You don’t want a light font for your main header and a heavy font for your information, know what to use and when to use it. Part of capturing your audience’s engagement is also capturing their curiosity. We live in a world that searches. If people really want to know about it, they will go to where they need to go to get the information they need. Give them just enough to leave them wanting for more. In Marketing, there is a term called Direct Marketing. In a nut shell that is selling your product through email, online, etc. That is what you do, try convince people to come to come to your services, conferences, or special events. Selling it.  One more thing, it is highly recommended to have a call to action in every piece you release. Be clean with your design and bold with your call to action. Trust me it will work.

4) Be Connected

No, I don’t mean connected to social media. I mean be connected to the Creator of it all. Often times you reach that creative slump where you don’t know what to make. You run out of ideas and immediately go get Starbucks because that’s what will help – News Flash – no it won’t. Instead of going on that coffee run simply close your computer, close your eyes and pray to God. His creative spirit is available to you. Believe it or not as you design it’s not you designing, it’s Him using you as His vessel. As a result of that your graphics can truly speak. They can trigger emotions and say things louder than a message could. Ever heard the quote “A picture is worth a thousand words”? It’s true. You can minister through your graphics. Whether it’s a morning bible verse, a powerful sermon quote or an impactful series design you are ministering to your audience!

In closing, there are many things you can do to capture your audience. I feel that these are most practical things you can apply to yourself today. No matter if you’re a novice or a seasoned designer, you can never stop learning and growing. Always give it your best, because He gave us His best. If you ever need anything, feel free to reach out to me I’m always looking for someone new to connect with.

Till next time.

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The Keychain

Do you own a keychain? If not, you should consider getting one. I have a keychain and honestly, whoever invented the keychain should get an award. The keychain is a great invention because it allows me to idiot-proof one area of my life. I own quite a few keys that are extremely valuable to me. These keys are valuable to me because each key unlocks a different door that holds some type of importance to me. Without these keys, I would be locked out of a few places that I need access to every day.

Have you ever been locked out? Have you ever needed to access a special place and didn’t have the right key? Have you checked your keychain lately? I have. In fact, recently, I cleared out some unnecessary stuff from my keychain and made sure that I only carried the keys that I actually need. After clearing some space on my keychain I found that I was left with four keys that were the most valuable keys I could carry with me.

Theology is a lot like a keychain. To put it simply, theology is the overall study of God. Theology in itself doesn’t really unlock any doors any more than my keychain does. But what I have found is that the there are certain keys that we can carry on our keychain of theology that will help us unlock the doors of revelation that God has for us. I want to share with you the four keys I carry with me and how these keys, attached to the keychain of theology can help keep you from being locked out of the treasures that God has for you through His word.

1. My house key. (The Holy Spirit)

The single most important key that I carry with me on my keychain is the key to my home. It is the most important key because it unlocks the door that leads me to the most important relationships I have. This key allows me access to my family. Without this key, I would be locked out of my home and locked out from being with the ones I love.

The Holy Spirit is the first and most important key you can have on your keychain of theology. Just like my house key unlocks the door to my home, the Holy Spirit is the only one who can unlock the door to the relationship you have with Jesus through scripture. So how do we use the key of the Holy Spirit? When studying scripture always ask this question: “Holy Spirit, what is it that you want me to learn through the passage that I am studying?” What you will find is that the Holy Spirit will help guide you and unlock the door of understanding so that you can receive from the Bible.

2. My car key. (CONTEXT)

The second most important key I own is my car key. It is important to me because without it I can’t get to where I want to go.

The second key you need in your keychain of theology is the key of CONTEXT. Without context, you’ll never get to where you need to go. Think of it this way; if you take the text you’re reading out of context then you are left with a con. Context is king. When studying a passage of scripture always ask this question: What is the proper context of what I am studying? Make sure you always look to interpret every passage in its proper context.

3. My storage key. (Original languages)

The third key I keep on my keychain is my storage key. The storage key is important because it holds valuable items that I own that I usually have to dig through to find what I’m looking for. Without my storage key, I’ll never access what I have that is hidden.

The third key you need in your keychain of theology is the key of “original languages.” The Bible was written in two different languages. The Old Testament was written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek. I recently read a passage of scripture in Matthew where Jesus says; “Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.” When I read that I was like wow! When I mourn God will comfort me! But a closer look at the Greek word for comfort is the word “paracletos”. The word “paracletos” is actually the same word used for the Holy Spirit.

By looking up the word in the Greek, I actually received a greater revelation of what God had for me. Not only does God want to comfort us, he actually gave us the person of the Holy Spirit who gives us comfort. By looking at the original languages, you can unlock spiritual blessings that you otherwise might not receive had you only studied it in English.

4. My mailbox key. (What’s to come)

The fourth and final key I keep on my keychain is my mailbox key. This key unlocks a door that leads to what I am waiting for.

The fourth key you should keep on your keychain of theology is the key of “what’s to come”. When studying scripture you should always study it with the mindset that scripture is a revelation of God’s plan for humanity. His ultimate plan is revealed through redemption in Jesus Christ and the plan that he has for his church. When studying scripture you should always ask this question: What has God done and what is He going to do? This key will help unlock the door that leads to discovering the hope that we are waiting for: The blessed assurance of an eternity with Jesus Christ, forever!

By: Danny Castro

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3 Essential Qualities of an Overcomer

16. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego replied to him, “King Nebuchadnezzar, we do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter. 17. If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to deliver us from it, and he will deliver us from Your Majesty’s hand. 18. But even if he does not, we want you to know, Your Majesty, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.” 19. Then Nebuchadnezzar was furious with Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, and his attitude toward them changed. He ordered the furnace heated seven times hotter than usual 20. and commanded some of the strongest soldiers in his army to tie up Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego and throw them into the blazing furnace.  (Daniel 3:16-20 NIV)

 

It has been said: “If life throws you lemons, make lemonade”. I’ve also heard this other saying: “If someone throws you rocks, build an altar”.  What I’ve interpreted from these common sayings, is that it doesn’t matter how the vicissitudes of life or the world treats you, if it’s either sweet or sour, make the best of it. Nonetheless, it is indispensable to understand that life, in its different facets, whether in marriage, work, leadership, ministry, obtaining a degree, building a team, embracing change or transitioning; it’s not just so easy as making lemonade or even building an altar. It requires more than that! Therefore, there are at least three things or qualities perhaps, that I would like to share with you, that you'll need to overcome in any endeavor, task, downturn, challenge or consequence in life; these are Courage, Confidence, and Decision. 

This narrative tells us about three distinctive young Hebrews slaves in Babylon, who were far from home and separated from their families and their Jewish customs. While in captivity, the Babylonians changed their names, and they were forced to do many other things. But something they could not change in them or forced them to do, was their hearts and much less their faith in God. Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego didn't adapt to the Babylonian world, although they changed their names, and even dressed like them, and even spoke their language, they didn't adapt in the sense of serving their gods or practicing the customs that offended The Lord. And when they were challenged by Nebuchadnezzar, to deny their faith, these three young men stood up firm and showed courage, confidence in God, and decision for they were determined to overcome no matter what. 

1. Courage. (Daniel 3:16) "We do not need to defend ourselves before you in this matter"

What a courage! Courage to stand firm in their beliefs. They didn't fall and worship the image, those are pants! Courage to respond or reply to the king like this, that was dangerous, they could get killed. They had no right to speak or reply to the king in this manner. But these young men were very brave and courageous to do what they needed to do. In the same way, God needs courageous people, a brave young generation of leaders, overcomers that will not bow down to sin, temptation, the world, problems, circumstances, challenges, etc. And, even putting it in terms of Christianity, the Bible tells us that from the days of John the Baptist until now, the kingdom of Heaven has been subjected to violence, and violent people have been raiding it. (Matthew 11:12 NVI) In other words, church, ministry, every blessing and anything that has to do with the kingdom of God, if you want it, if you want to become part of it, achieve it, you will need courage. 

2. Confidence. (Trust in God, full trust) (Daniel 3:17) "The God we serve"

They knew the God of Israel, the God of their fathers, but not just that, they even served Him. These young men knew that He was a jealous God and that He would not tolerate idolatry. They had experienced the hand of God giving them grace and favor before. They also knew that God honors those who honor Him (1 Sam. 2:30). Therefore, they trusted in the Lord and did not obeyed Nebuchadnezzar’s orders, neither were they intimidated by him. They trusted blindly in the Lord. In life, ministry or whatever endeavor we might be in, when it comes to difficulties, struggles or any hardship, God requires that we also have confidence and trust in Him. In one occasion, Jesus told his disciples: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world, you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33 NIV). No matter what comes or what happens, no matter the challenge, nothing shall move your faith and trust in God. There will be difficult moments in life, complicated situations where only your faith, trust, and confidence in God will help you overcome. 

3. Decision. (Daniel 3:18) "We will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up."

They were determined! It will not happen this time, nor another time. It was not that they were weird, they were just different, they were determined men of decision. And even when the king ordered the furnace to be seven times hotter than usual. That didn't make their mind change. They were determined and no one would change them. This is just a great example of determination and decision making. The Bible says that they were willing to give up their lives rather than serve or worship any god except their own God. (Daniel 3:28 NIV). Consequently, God honored them for this brave act. They were not consumed, not even their hair singed nor smell of fire in them, their clothing was intact, only the bonds were burned.... God needs determined and decided people. Life is full of a number of decisions, such as: deciding on a boyfriend or girlfriend, job offers, school, career, how to deal with a difficult boss, and even perhaps complicated situations that involve temptation, sinful and lusty offers from friends and peers from school or work. Some of these decisions are and will be difficult and complicated; but in the end, you have to decide and you have to decide well. Because you will end up paying the consequences of any taken decision. You'll have to make a decision and say "no", and risk it. Esther said: “If I perish, I perish”. (Esther 4:16) 

Life, ministry, leadership and career are not easy. The fight is real. The struggle is real. And unfortunately, we will have to face the different vicissitudes of life. On the other hand, there’s also a spiritual world, an evil one, where we will encounter sinful currents, immoral acts, and much more. Therefore, if you want to overcome in the different realms of life, you will need to show and reveal at least these three qualities that overcomers model; courage, confidence and decision. 

 

Rev. Ramiro Camero Jr. is an Assemblies of God Ordained Minister. He actually is the Executive Pastor/ Youth Pastor of Iglesia Cristiana Emmanuel, in Laredo, TX. He serves under the leadership of Pastor Jose Luis Renteria and helps in organizing, leading and ministering the congregation. Camero is a graduate of Texas A&M International University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration. He also holds a bible or theological degree. Ramiro actually is the Assistant District Youth Director of the Texas Gulf Hispanic District of the Assemblies of God. He is also the founder and director of YLA (Young Leaders’ Academy), a mini school on site program designed to equip and mentor actual leaders or all of those interested in leadership. Ramiro has been in ministry and leadership for over a decade and has travel to more than 12 countries preaching the gospel in multiple events. Sporadically, Ramiro travels to speak in different events, as well as to give workshops to train leaders in different ways. He and his wife Daniela and their lovely daughter Daniella, live in Laredo. 

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5 Books You should Read

1. Necessary Endings- “Henry Cloud, the bestselling author of Integrity and The One-Life Solution, offers this mindset-altering method for proactively correcting the bad and the broken in our businesses and our lives. Cloud challenges readers to achieve the personal and professional growth they both desire and deserve—and gives crucial insight on how to make those tough decisions that are standing in the way of a more successful business and, ultimately, a better life.” (Summary copied from https://www.amazon.com)


2. Tribes- “Since it was first published almost a decade ago, Seth Godin's visionary book has helped tens of thousands of leaders turn a scattering of followers into a loyal tribe. If you need to rally fellow employees, customers, investors, believers, hobbyists, or readers around an idea, this book will demystify the process. Social media gives anyone who wants to make a difference the tools to do so. With his signature wit and storytelling flair, Godin presents the three steps to building a tribe: the desire to change things, the ability to connect a tribe, and the willingness to lead. Tribes will make you think—really think—about the opportunities to mobilize an audience that are already at your fingertips. It's not easy, but it's easier than you think.” (Summary copied from https://www.amazon.com)


3. Courageous Leadership- “This book resonates with this conviction: that leaders such as you have the potential to be the most influential forces on planet Earth. Too much is at stake for you not to maximize your spiritual gift of leadership, insists Hybels. In this passionate, powerful book, he unpacks the tools, tasks, and challenges of your calling. You’ll discover the power of vision and how to turn it into action. You’ll gain frontline insights for developing a kingdom dream team, discovering your leadership style, developing other leaders, making decisions, walking with God, embracing change, staying your God-given course, and much, much more. This is far more than another book on leadership strategies and techniques. You’ll find those topics in here, to be sure. But beyond them, you’ll find the very essence of one of today’s foremost Christian leaders—his fervent commitment to evangelism and discipleship and his zeal to inspire fellow church leaders even as he seeks to keep growing as a leader himself. If unchurched people matter to you . . . if you love seeing believers serve passionately with their spiritual gifts . . . if God’s heartbeat for the church is your heartbeat as well . . . then this book is a must.” (Summary copied from https://www.amazon.com)


4. The Advantage- “There is a competitive advantage out there, arguably more powerful than any other. Is it superior strategy? Faster innovation? Smarter employees? No, New York Times best-selling author, Patrick Lencioni, argues that the seminal difference between successful companies and mediocre ones has little to do with what they know and how smart they are and more to do with how healthy they are. In this book, Lencioni brings together his vast experience and many of the themes cultivated in his other best-selling books and delivers a first: a cohesive and comprehensive exploration of the unique advantage organizational health provides. Simply put, an organization is healthy when it is whole, consistent and complete, when its management, operations and culture are unified. The Advantage provides a foundational construct for conducting business in a new way—one that maximizes human potential and aligns the organization around a common set of principles.” (Summary copied from https://www.amazon.com)


5. The 4 Disciplines of Execution- “An insightful new book from the multimillion-copy bestselling author Sean Covey and the FranklinCovey organization based on their work with hundreds of thousands of employees and large companies to unveil the essential disciplines proven to help businesses and individuals realize their most important goals. The 4 Disciplines of Execution (4DX) is a simple, repeatable, and proven formula for executing on your most important strategic priorities in the midst of the whirlwind. By following The 4 Disciplines: Focusing on the Wildly Important, Acting on Lead Measures, Keeping a Compelling Scoreboard, Creating a Cadence of Accountability; leaders can produce breakthrough results, even when executing the strategy requires a significant change in behavior from their teams. 4DX is not theory. It is a proven set of practices that have been tested and refined by hundreds of organizations and thousands of teams over many years. 4DX represents a new way of thinking and working that is essential to thriving in today’s competitive climate. Simply put, this is one book that no business leader can afford to miss.” (Summary copied from https://www.amazon.com)

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4 Keys to Building and Preserving Unity

1. Humbly depend on the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 4:1-6, Romans 7:19-25)

Through Ephesians 4:3 we can see how the apostle Paul encourages us to promote a unity amongst the brethren. If we really think about it, there is hardly a day that passes by that I don’t hear about a ministry having some issues that threatens to split the church. It comes to mind a time a group of people left our congregation because we had moved Holy Communion from Sunday morning to Wednesday nights. It was unfortunate that they left for a reason as such. 

That is only one of the many that I have experienced during my time in ministry. Today we see believers fighting over styles of music and attire and all manners of other nonessential issues seem to come up all the time. Paul urges us to persistently guard the togetherness and unity of not only the church but outside the church.  

So what is the source the unity described? The apostle stresses the things that are in common. By doing this, we tend to forget the things that threaten to destroy our unity. Ephesians 4 sets forth the things believers have in common. One Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all. When we fully depend and walk in the Spirit we are able to have communion with anyone who holds the belief that salvation is only obtained through Jesus Christ. 

2. Walk in love (Ephesians 5:2)

Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

Think about a time when someone demonstrate care for you and reached out with unreserved love. Think about the connection that was created and envision what the life would look like if we operated this way all the time. If we are to conserve unity we are to walk in love and focus on the main issues that bring us together. Whether you are married or single, we are all in some kind of relationship, whether it’s a friendship, a classmate, or a family member, but as humans we never agree on everything. However, that doesn’t mean that because I don’t agree with my wife, friend, classmate, or family member that I am going to end my relationships with them. The approach should be: how can we agree to disagree? How can we compromise? How can I resolve to make things right? You’re better off being wrong and unified than right and divided.

 If we are to maintain unity we are to learn to love people for who they are, nevertheless we should strive to help and teach people, know Jesus, love Jesus, and live like Jesus.

As I mentioned before differences will always arise in any content, church, workplace, school, you name it but we must learn to value unity more than progress, we must value relationships more than decisions. Ephesians 5:2, “And walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweet-smelling aroma.”

3. Submit to authority (Romans 13:1-2, Hebrews 13:17)

When Jesus talked about servant leadership He said they should be servants, not behaving as gentiles who “lord it over” people.

Matthew stated, “But Jesus called the disciples and said, "You know that the rulers of the gentiles lord it over them and their superiors act like tyrants over them.  That's not the way it should be among you. Instead, whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first among you must be your slave.  That's the way it is with the Son of Man. He did not come to be served, but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many people.

We must understand that ecclesial authority is very different to secular authority. Leaders within the church must, first of all, be servants. Today more than ever there is a craving hunger for authority, not submission. However Matthew wrote, “Whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant.” 

In my time in ministry, I would lie if I told you that it was always easy submitting to my leaders. There are times that it is quite difficult to submit, especially when you differences exist. But I have learned that even if my leader is wrong God honors when you submit under their leadership. If desire to be over people one day, you must first learn to be under them with integrity. Perhaps you might say but my leader is not worthy, always remember that respect is earned, honor is given. 

Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you. Hebrews 13:17 For the sake of unity in the church and leadership we must submit to authority with a willingness heart. Once again we see here that the Lord honors your submission to your leaders. 

Our NextGen founder and director Abram Gomez said, “you cannot fully benefit from your leader until you truly submit to your leader.”  What will God bless? God will bless unity, not our selfish desires, therefore we must love, embrace, and submit under our spiritual guidance.

4. Deal with problems and offenses quickly and biblically (Ephesians 4:26-27, 30-32, Matthew 18:15; Titus 3:10)

Dealing with issues both inside and outside the church has never an easy task. But the things that you don’t confront, will never change. Through my experience in ministry I have dealt with many problems and offenses, at times rightly and other times wrongly. It is imperative to never allow problems or offenses go unaddressed. The enemy is astute, he may use the latter as a foothold into provoke anger, resentment, or bitterness. 

Within our church leadership we call it managerial courage, which can be defined as the willingness do to what’s right (even when it’s difficult) in order to help people and fulfill the vision. I have learned that in order to lead correctly at any organizational level I must exercise courage. Ezra 10:2, Then Shecaniah son of Jehiel, one of the descendants of Elam, said to Ezra, "We have been unfaithful to our God by marrying foreign women from the peoples around us. But in spite of this, there is still hope for Israel. Allow me to explain what was going on here, During this time there was a problem with people of God marrying ungodly women, Shecaniah, a leader, took a stand and decided not to involve himself in the mixed marriages. Shecaniah was bold and chose to obey God rather than please his relatives. Shecaniah challenges Ezra to lead courageously.

Why do so many not deal with problems and offenses?

  • We are afraid or fearful (creates relational tension)
  • We rather have the allusion of peace than having people developed
  • We either don’t see the bigger picture or we don’t have the energy to deal with it
  • We forget we are accountable (we aren’t managers, we are stewards)
  • We have lost hope or love (it can’t get better or we don’t care anymore)

What happens you don’t deal with problems and offenses?

  • Unhealthy relationships are formed (no trust, no honesty)
  • Under developed people (no discipleship being done)
  • Someone else has to do clean up duty (because someone else didn’t do their job)

In core, it is quintessential to strive and promote and preserve unity inside and outside the church. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn them a second time. After that, have nothing to do with them. Titus 3:2

Remember that God won’t release his anointing where there is disunity. All success in church works in unity, all failure in church work in discord. God abominates someone sowing discord.

Hervin Antonio Hidalgo received his calling into ministry at the age of 19 although he began to serve his church in the worship ministry at a very young age. At age 21, he began to study music and bible Instituto CanZion Tennessee. He currently serves as an administrative and worship pastor at ICE Church in Laredo, TX. Hervin will soon graduate from The King’s University at Gateway with a Bachelor’s in Biblical and Theological Studies, he plans to continue his studies by pursuing a Master’s Degree from Liberty University. He and his wife, Abigail, reside in Laredo, TX.

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Refuel

St. Augustine famously stated,  “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”  I have learned that there are seasons in ministry that are crazy busy.  And, it is vital for all leaders to take time to reflect, glean, and refuel after those busy seasons.

Here are ways I REFUEL after a busy season of ministry:

1.  I create quiet time and place it on my schedule.  I want to think about what just happened.  I want to give myself time to reflect, and learn.  I make room for the Holy Spirit to speak to me.

2.  I listen to podcasts.  I don't listen to podcasts "every" day, but when things slow down a bit, I tend to soak up a bit more to refuel my mind and heart.  This feeds my thoughts and soul. 

3.  I appreciate people.  We cannot do this alone.  I thank time to say thank you to different people who helped to win the battle.

4.  I gather my thoughts, and look at my calendar, and get ready for the next wave.  I "wash my nets". Luke 5 states that the disciples were washing their nets after they had toiled all night.  In other words, after a busy season, they gave their nets some attention.  The net was important because it is what they were going to use again for the next catch.

  • Washing your nets means checking your roster.

  • Washing your nets means checking your systems.

  • Washing your nets means updating emails and meeting with key people.

  • Washing your nets means setting up a debrief meeting with your team.

You need to stay fresh in every season.  You deserve it, your family deserves it, and so does your ministry. My desire is for you to have an awesome ministry year!

 

Pastor Abram Gomez Abram Gomez is the Executive Pastor of Cross Church, formerly known as Valley International Christian Center, in San Benito, TX. He serves under the leadership of Bishop Jaime Loya and helps in leading the 2,500-member congregation. Abram is a graduate of Southwestern Assemblies of God University with a Bachelor’s Degree in Church Ministries. He recently earned  his Master’s Degree in Human Services Counseling with a specialization in Executive Leadership from Liberty University. Abram is the founder and director of NextGenRGV, a movement designed to mentor Next Generation Church Leaders. Through NextGenRGV, Abram has established an online presence providing resources for young leaders with blogs, videos, and podcasts.  Additionally, he has founded the Tribe, an intensive coaching program for leaders between the ages of 18-40.  Abram recently received approval as a team member and representative for Nation 2 Nation University, a video-based ministerial school offering two and four year degrees.  His teaching is a part of the curriculum including Youth Ministry, Church Administration and Church Growth.  Nation 2 Nation University has partnered with churches around the world to establish ministry training centers equipping pastors and leaders.  Occasionally, Abram writes for Valley Christian Magazine, a regional periodical that covers the entire valley.  He and his wife, Rebecca, reside in Harlingen along with their precious daughter Isabella.

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Forget the One Liner

I love hearing preachers preach on a daily basis. You will often find me hearing sermons in my truck as I head to work, at the gym as I get my pump on, or even at home on my Ipad. I am sure we all listen to the same speakers like TD Jakes, Jentezen Franklin, and Steven Furtick just to name a few. These men of God are anointed to articulate, break down, and share some deep revelation that blesses us as we hear them. A lot of the times they use that one powerful one liner “to blessed to be stressed”, “to anointed to be disappointed”, or my favorite one “Where there is vision there is provision!” These are used in the sermon to fire up the crowd and have everyone on their feet clapping as the preacher goes bananas. By the time you know it, half the congregation is posting it on Facebook and twitter by the end of the service. I must admit they are catchy and encouraging and seasoned ministers can come up with one in a flash. They don’t even have to put much thought into it. It just pops up in their head like a pop tart.

I remember when I was given the first opportunity to speak at my church I wanted to create a one liner that was going to blow the congregation away. I was speaking on Jehoshaphat and the title was “Power in Praise”. I am sure you know where I was going with this sermon. As I was preparing, I was spending too much time on developing a one liner. Sunday morning came and I had my new Express suit hanging, my message typed out, and still no one liner. I said, “God give me a one liner to use!”  Funny how I was more concerned with the one liner than the message. I remember as I was going over the message that morning I came across this scripture found in Hebrews 4:12, “For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” It was like God slapped me in the face and made me realize that Hs word has the Power, not the one liner. When I got saved in 2009 at Destiny Through Christ Church, it was the word that captured my heart not the one liner. It is Jesus who can save, who can set free, and who can cleanse us from our filthy sin, not the one liner.

As I preached that Sunday message I didn’t have a one liner, I just showed up with a message straight from the heart. After service I was humbled when people from the congregation said they were blessed. If you’re a rookie preacher like me, don’t focus on the one liner. Focus on what God has placed in your heart.

Donny Villarreal and his wife Jessica Villarreal serve at Destiny Through Christ Church in Pharr, Tx. They serve under Pastors Rudy and Annemarie Beltran. Donny is a Registered Nurse at Doctors Hospital Renaissance and has a passion to serve the people of his church and his community.

 

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