Monday, July 30, 2007

Legacy

Over the next few years the current crop of Seasoned Believers and Seasoned Non-Believers will leave several Trillion Dollars to the following generations. What will they do with all that money? Can our kids and grand kids handle the pressure of wealth? Will they read and understand from Ecclesiastes that it is folly? Or, will it ruin them?

Bob Robinson recently said something striking about this group of Believers. "I want my generation to be 'The Greatest Generation"'. It can be if we leave a legacy of wisdom, love and truth and not just money.

We live in a unique era. Never before has the world seen a time when the ordinary working men and women who sit in the pews and coffee houses of America had more knowledge, spiritual insight and practical experiences than the people in the pulpit.

The Revival we know as the The Jesus Movement drew millions of young men and women to follow Christ, live like Christ and learn from Christ to be like Christ. These ordinary people completed their education and worked in jobs that opened up the world of science, industry, leadership and exploration. That group has reared and launched their kids and is ready to rekindle the fires of the Holy Spirit that inspired them two or three decades ago.

This will be the greatest generation if we can find a way to unleash these Seasoned Believers to leave their unbelievable wealth of compassion, skills and know-how. Think of the school systems, abandoned kids, inner city neighborhoods, burned out ministers and broken homes that need their insights and wisdom. And, this shall we do as God gives us the strength and abilities.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Bible Way Church Annual Family Affair




The faces of the people were aglow with the Holy Spirit this week as God's word and works went forth to heal the sick and bring hope to all. I had several of my books with me when I shared
my heart at the Bible Way Church Family Affair Conference.
Pastors Grace and James Blue invited me to pray, teach and worship the Lord at the Cincinnati Bible Way Church's annual healing and training event. Each year they bring in teachers and ministers from around the nation to share their gifts with the Bible Way Congregation and guests. Teachers came from California, Missouri, New York, Florida and Illinois to bring God's truth, power and love to Cincinnati.

The workshops were uniquely focused on the needs of modern people in dire need of God's healing and delivering power. For example, my first workshop was "I Sold My Heart to the Junk Man and Now I want it Back". (Healing Wounds From the Past). And we ministered directly to the people in practical ways not just theory.

Go to http://www.cbiblewaychurch.org/ for additional information on the church and its ministries.






Friday, July 27, 2007

Seasoned Believers from Korea

Unless you live in a cave you realize that a group of Seasoned Believers were taken captive by the Taliban and one was recently executed. This morning I received an e mail from a Korean Brother that said:

Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,

I have sad news. One of the 23 missionaries to Afghanistan
was executed. He was a Korean pastor from Summul Church
at Bundang, South Korea.


Joseph Lee

Please pray for our brothers and sisters and their families and churches in Korea. As a some time missionary traveler I know the anxiety felt when going into dangerous areas of the world to love the people by spreading the good news of the Kingdom of God.

Also pray for the members of the Taliban to come to Christ and leave their false gods. They think they are serving Allah by murdering men who love God and serve Him by serving others. May the Holy Spirit open their eyes to the evil they are committing so they can find the Prince of Peace and eternal life through Him.

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Non Celebritity but Famous

It is a shame that the large media spend so much time, money and space on famous celebrities who are famous for being famous. But, we must really like it and tune in or they would not do it.

In a refreshing break from beauty and rascally, Jonathan Alter recently wrote a great story in Newsweek Magazine about a man named Norman Borlaug who is estimated to have saved a billion people from starvation. WOW! When I read the headline I thought Newsweek had made a mistake but they intentionally meant to use a B rather than an M so BILLION was right.

See http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/19886675/site/newsweek/

I can well remember when the gloom and doom nay sayers of the 1950s and 60s who were predicting economic and social disasters because the population was outgrowing the production of food. They had not considered the advent of scientific research to produce more food; lots more food. Alter writes,

The experts who said peasants would never change their centuries-old ways were wrong. In the mid-1970s, Nobel in hand, Borlaug brought his approach to Communist China, where he arguably had his greatest success. In only a few years, his ideas—which go far beyond seed varieties—had spread around the world and disproved Malthusian doomsday scenarios like Paul Ehrlich's 1968 best seller "The Population Bomb."

In 1960 about 60 percent of the world's people experienced some hunger every year. By 2000 that number was 14 percent, a remarkable achievement. But as Borlaug cautioned at the ceremony in his honor, that still leaves 850 million hungry men, women and children.

Mr. Borlaug is 93 and still thinking creatively. There are millions of Seasoned Believers who have the knowledge, ability and wisdom to make a difference in the world. It would be a stinking shame if they simply stopped thinking and serving to play golf or Canasta all day until they die. That kind of thinking that my friend Kim Terry called, "Shuffle Board Theology" is contrary to God's intention and call. It will lead to depression, hopelessness and early death.

It is time for us to start thinking about how we can FINISH WELL

Monday, July 23, 2007

Small Group Book

Review of “Why Didn’t You Warn Me?”
By Pat Sikora for Standard Publishing
Sub title: how to deal with challenging group members
The book is available in most bookstores and Amazon.com
www.whydidntyouwarnme.com

In the interest of full disclosure I will admit to having had Pat in several of my training sessions when we had an Equipping Center in San Mateo, CA. She was an alert and lively learner who eagerly soaked up everything I taught about Christian growth and healing. Pat has taken her insights to a deeper level of practice.

When I was consulting with the Cell group Movement in Singapore, church leaders were fond of saying, “Small Groups are Powerful!" They tried to convince me that small groups were effective places to evangelize unbelievers, disciple believers and heal broken believers. I was alreay a convert to that point of view.

Pat Sikora in her new book “Why Didn’t You Warn Me?” by Standard Publishing also believes and states those things nicely but she adds another part to the mantra: "Small groups are powerfully good or powerfully bad”. Pat wisely trains her readers how to minister to the “good, the bad and the ugly” in groups.

Many churches start groups with great excitement but must close them prematurely because they do not deal well with those “Challenging Group Members” who are bound to show up. One or two unchallenged member can destroy the group, turning group dynamics is turned on its head. Instead of growth, healing and evangelistic outreach the group chokes on its members’ dysfunctions.

As you read Pat’s neat little book, you will find that she humorously describes many of the “Characters” who are attracted to our groups and lays out the various ways a lay leader can successfully deal with them in truth and love. Pat is caring but she is also realistic about how much a group leader can do. She shows unusual candor and courage by lovingly addressing chronic problems without stooping to co-dependency.

Pat wisely includes specific hints, proven over the centuries to be growth producing, that leaders can use to calm and motivate members. She shows how one’s voice and non-verbals can cover a multitude of sins and problems. If you work with Sunday school classes, committees, task forces or Bible studies, get her book and enjoy its useful insights. (www.whydidntyouwarnme.com for more information)

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Pastoral Care and Counseling Lead to Growth

I just read some statistics that anyone with a heart for ministry will find disturbing. http://churchrelevance.com/category/research/demographics/ reports the following from a survey:

One out of every 12 full-time workers in the United States admit illegal drug use in the past month according to a new survey by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration. Among those who admitted using illegal drugs in the past month:

19.0% were ages 18 to 25
10.3% were ages 26 to 34
7.0% were ages 35 to 49
2.6% were ages 50 to 64

Based on these numbers, 1 out of every 5 students that a college ministry wants to reach has a problem with illegal drugs.

The writer says, ...despite the “everything’s okay” appearance that people project on the outside, people often have hidden problems that need God’s help.

Any church that does not have an active and well designed ministry to hurting people it is committing "Spiritual Malpractice". We have had the resources to minister growth and healing for many years but a majority of churches have closed their eyes to the needs of people and their own considerable resources to minister effectively.

I admit it is very frustrating to know so much about training churches to expand their Pastoral Care and Counseling and still see so many people in the pews have their most basic needs ignored. I just read another research paper on the effectiveness of Professional Counselors and it said essentially the same things I have read about since the Sixties.

This journal article focused on Family Therapy but we have known for decades that the "Therapy Brand" is rather meaningless to a good outcome. Counseling has its "Denominational Advocates" just as we Christians but the "Counseling Brand" has little to do with whether counseling works or not.

What makes a Helper effective in meeting the needs of hurting people is available to every church in the land. One does not need a degree in psychology or social work and certainly does not need a seminary education. Medicine is not effective for most people than talk and advanced degrees be dangerous to the client's health.

Let me sum up the key components to the most successful Helpers: Love, kindness, compassion, gentleness, patience and humility. (Researchers call these "The core conditions of a Helping relationship.") They are:

Genuineness (Humility and Self Awareness)
Respect (Belief in the Seeker)
Empathy (Understanding the Seeker)
Warmth (Liking the Seeker)

People can be trained in these skills and any congregation that is not doing so is remiss.

These are essentially what scripture calls, "The fruit of the Holy Spirit" and are essential to a healthy church. Why do solid churches fail to train each and every one of its members in realting to each other with love?

do so few churches.schools and businesses fail to train their people in how to get along by listening with Genuine interest, Respect and Warmth?

Ps I started an organization in 1978 called EMI that is still training churches how to love and grow. Write them at equipmin@equipmin.org or go to http://www.equippingministries.org/
to find out how to equip your people.

Just do it!

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Interesting Issues

Allow me to touch on a few items of note.

My friend Erin Campbell has a dynamic ministry on radio, TV and at seminars. She has the ability to reach into the heart of a person and open it up to receive the grace of God. When Erin interviewed me for her radio broadcast I found her outwardly relaxed and spontaneous but very focused on getting me to tell my story about God's interventions in my life. In the process I was opened to experience the Holy Spirit in a new way myself. That requires a very special anointing from the Spirit.

Erin is primarily focused on women and their issues but any time a person influences a woman the males are also deeply affected, so men, open your eyes to God's work through Erin. Take a look at her web, the link is on my blog,
Web: http://www.waterthroughtheword.com and http://www.captivatingspeakers.com/ and see what she is up to.

Secondly, The Wall Street Journal recently published an article about revival in Europe. This has been quite a shock to many people who had assumed that God had been permanently disposed in the highly educated region of Europe and Scandinavia.

But God is very much alive and well and bringing former atheists to Himself. Get a load of these quotes from the WSJ article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB118434936941966055.html

Sting, British rock star, was raised a Catholic, turned away from organized religion but has often talked about faith. On "The Oprah Winfrey Show," he said:

"Religion is an interesting word. It comes from Latin; it means to reconnect, reconnect with the world of the spirit. There are many ways to reconnect with the world of the spirit, not just through going to church or praying, you can reconnect through music, through the woman or the man you love. These are my roots to the sacred."

J├╝rgen Habermas, influential German intellectual, member of the originally Marxist Frankfurt School of philosophy and self-described "methodical atheist," has revised his view that modernization inevitably leads to secularization. In a 2004 book, "Time of Transitions," he hailed Christianity as the bedrock of Western values:

"Christianity, and nothing else, is the ultimate foundation of liberty, conscience, human rights, and democracy, the benchmarks of Western civilization. To this day, we have no other options [than Christianity]. We continue to nourish ourselves from this source. Everything else is postmodern chatter."

WOW!!! What a statement! You must look at the Journal article and then read my response.

Third, I am more excited than ever about the Holy Spirit leading us to develop a new ministry thrust to Seasoned Believers. That focus fits exactly with what God is doing in Europe, Asia and America. Our theme: Unleashing Seasoned Believers to Love and Enjoy the Lord.

Why not say, "Serve the Lord"?

Because many of Seasoned Servants have served and served and served and need a new way of living from love and joy not duty.

  • The questions God is asking us to answer are all about how we can empower Seasoned Believers to experience the fullness of their gifts, wisdom, talents and resources to serve Christ with gladness and joy.

    How do we help Pastors and Churches do a better job of unleashing people?
    How do we encourage Christians leaders who are stymied with ways to develop a new wineskin while keeping the Seasoned Servants Satisfied? It is not easy!!

    Do you resonate with the Seasoned Believer identity? If you want to know more write me @ gsweeten@cinci.rr.com

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Never Give up on Prayer

Five days each week I get an e mail from ParacleteLetter@yahoogroups.com; on behalf of; Stationedhere [chuck@stationedhere.com] In it, Chuck never fails to write some inspiriting story from history ancient or modern about some even that glorifies God and teaches me to trust the Lord more. Today I received the very exciting story below.

On January 18, 1989, Pastor Don Piper was returning home from a pastor’s conference. There was a steady rain and a gusty wind as he approached a bridge at Trinity Pines, Texas. As Don’s Ford Escort was about to clear the far end of the bridge, an 18-wheel semi-truck plowed into Don’s car.

First responders on the scene declared Don had died immediately upon impact. About an hour later, Pastor Dick Onerecker came upon the accident. Though he was told by emergency personnel that the driver of the Escort had died, Pastor Onerecker felt God’s calling to pray for the man trapped inside the vehicle. He reached out and touched Don and began to pray for him. He then began to sing a hymn and miraculously Don was revived and began to hum along with Pastor Onerecker.

Don Piper was extracted from the mangled vehicle and faced long months of rehabilitation. He described the time he was dead in his book “90 Minutes in Heaven.” He said: “My heart filled with the deepest joy I’ve ever experienced.” He was awed by the sights and sounds of praise to the Lord.

During his rehabilitation, Don often wrestled with the question of why he wasn’t allowed to stay in heaven and why he faced such difficult injuries. He finally found purpose that the Lord wanted Don to give his testimony and to give hope to those who are facing traumatic injuries that there is life after death.

“Do not look to your hope, but to Christ, the source of your hope.” – Charles H. Spurgeon

Thanks, Dick, for the encouraging word.

Never forget to pray and expect God to answer.

New Name and Ministry

In the last post I wrote about my early days at College Hill Pres. They were exciting and perhaps the best learning experiences of my life. My background was Elementary and Secondary Education, Higher Education and Counselor Education. I had no formal training in Christian Education or seminary. However, my background as a teacher, coach and counselor was great preparation for Christian ministry.

It was at College Hill that I began to leave my childish thinking behind. It was there that the full import of my own ignorance came crashing through. The staff and elders were wise and well educated and I was privileged to learn from them. Although I had already gotten several college degrees, my training in practical ministry began to sink in as I met with men and women who worked at P&G, GE, leading law firms and so forth.

I also learned a lot from people who had served the Lord faithfully behind the scenes as Sunday School Teachers, Nursery Workers, Deacons and Secretaries. I saw that all churches and life operate best when good people give their creativity and sweat to care for others without fan fare or outward rewards.

The scripture below tells about developmental changes that occur as a result of living in a world that knocks the hard, sharp edges off of us. When God gets hold of us He changes us. And it is usually through learning about what it means to be powerless without becoming hopeless.

When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I gave up childish ways.

now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall understand fully, even as I have been fully understood. So faith, hope, love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13:11-13

Over the past few years it has become obvious that the Lord is bringing about enormous changes in the social order. Knowledge from the past is insufficient to take us into the next era. But, we desperately need the creativity of men and women who have become wise in the ways of the Holy Spirit. We need people who know how to hear God for today and tomorrow based on hearing Him over the past twenty, thirty or forty years.

I am focusing on Unleashing Seasoned Believers to Love and Enjoy the Lord; who are living as adults in a psychologically, morally and spiritually stunted world. People must be fully engaged in giving and creating if they are to stay healthy and alive. Seasoned Believers need to be involved in offering their wisdom and creativity and society needs what we have to offer.

Give and it shall be given unto you... Jesus



We are changing our ministry name. The old name, Life Way Ministries, Incorporated, was a good name but it was a confusing name. In almost every airport I ever entered with a shirt with Life Way on it I was mistaken for a member of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board whose publishing arm and bookstores are called, Lifeway.

In Cincinnati my non-profit, 501 c3 group (Life Way Ministries, Inc) is often confused withe Life Way Counseling Centers, an S Corporation. The two are completely separate organizations and have always been separate even though I am the founder of both.

During the previous year our name has caused even more confusion in the mind's of many people. An organization called Lifeway for Youth has been placing children in foster homes in several states. It is a needed and important function of a great nation. However, one of their children was placed with people unworthy to oversee their own children let alone kids under the care of the state. That child, Marcus Feisel, died in that house and the name Lifeway was splashed all over the news for months causing enormous confusion for everyone else with a similar moniker. As is often the case, the news media brought confusion and darkness rather than light into the situation.

Our new name is Sweeten Life Systems. It is the same old organization with a new name. We have the exact same Federal Tax ID Number just a new name and address.

I have been associated with numerous groups and ministries since 1967 when Karen and I moved to Cincinnati. I have written several books, monographs and magazine articles with various groups. The only thing that is the same is my name so we decided to call it Sweeten. It will hopefully clear up the confusion.

The Life Systems part comes from our emphasis on Systems that are alive in Christ. Human systems; family systems; church systems; work systems; all these are our focus.

Please pass the word around so the confusion will end. Life Way Counseling Centers will go on with that name and it is completely, totally and absolutely a separate organization from Sweeten Life Systems.

Memories of Good Times

One of the many different and wonderful ministry positions I have occupied over the years was Minister of Christian Discipleship at College Hill Presbyterian Church. This photo captures an exciting time in the life of part of that ministry.

Cliff Mueller, Chairman of Adult Education, is MC at our annual CD Banquet held in Fellowship Hall. I can identify almost all the people who are being honored by Cliff. From right to left are Rick Schatz, Ted Salt, Bob and Lillian Rumford and Marsh and Chatty Pollock. The woman next to Cliff is still not clicking the memory cell in my brain.

I had joined the staff at CHPC in August of 73 and this was my first time to see the Adult Ed part of the Discipleship Committee in public action. We all were excited and creative about ways to make biblical and theological education become a real form of life giving and life changing Discipleship. Before I left the CD Committee to start a new Equipping Center called, Teleios, this group had made several radical changes in ways we taught to make sure we focused on the best ways for Adults to learn.

That group, including several others, created a new systematic and developmental curriculum, added many new classes, completely reorganized the old library into a cutting edge Resource Center with books, tapes and a bookstore. We brought in top speakers, held equipping and training seminars and re energized the Bethel Bible series by adding small group discussions and worship.

Thanks to Bob and Lois Parker, we had a seminar led by Mary Cosby from Church of the Savior in Washington, D.C. who inspired us to try many new things in small groups and in stimulating people to expand their ministry horizons. The Small Group Ministry was revolutionized by Bob by developing what Mary Cosby called Base Groups, a term that meant the group was the "base" of church life. They would be called Cell Groups today.

God the Creator of all life certainly used the ordinary but wonderful minds of these and other folks like Peter Pfeil, Tom Seith and many others to usher in a dynamic and exciting era in church life. I will forever be thankful to the Lord for bringing me to CHPC and taching me so much through these humble people.

Ah, these were the "Good Old Days" for sure.
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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Sisters Need Prayer

Two dear Seasoned Saints need our prayers.

Deb Smith is suffering greatly from cancer and is in awful pain. It is also attacking her eyes and keeping her from looking at the grand kids and the blog friends have set up for her. Go to http://lovingdebsmith.blogspot.com/ for more information.



Galina Chentsova, M.D., PhD., the Director of the Liferoute Ministry that has training centers all over the former USSR, is going into the hospital for extensive tests this week. Pray for a good diagnosis and a health treatment protocol. Our entire ministry in the Eastern Bloc is because of her brilliant and difficult work.

Pray for financial blessings for both families.

Mentoring

If I had to write a resume to actually impress folks I would simply write down the names and ministries of the men and women who have been involved in my mentoring over the past 40 years. I have done what the church called "DISCIPLESHIP" ever since I taught school and discovered that it was impossible to teach all the kids by myself.

There was not enough time or energy in the first place. Second, surprisingly, the brighter kids did a better job of coaching and mentoring their friends than I. They had the same language, the same needs and the same mental and emotional levels of learning.

When we planted three house churches around the UC campus during the Jesus Movement I rediscovered that those principles still worked. As I studied the Bible and noted how Jesus taught I found that mentoring/coaching was not an original idea with me. Jesus thought of it 2000 years before I hit on the idea.

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That brings me to another part of my resume. Way back in the Eighties a couple named Bill and Kay Martin came to one of the LIFE Seminars at College Hill. They were deeply touched by the Listening and RCT training and found that these skills were foundational to an overseas ministry. Unfortunately, Bill passed away before they could take their mission assignment, but Kay decided that she would not be deterred by his death and went to Ukraine.

Kay fit right in with the widows and Babushkas in Ukraine and she implemented many great programs to help the people. Her ministry included a great deal of work with addicts and she worked to translate our books into Russian. She also got permission to translate The Recovery Bible by Steven Arterburn into Russian. Go to www.liferoute.ru to see part of the Recovery Bible online. It is a testimony to Kay's perseverance and love.

Thank you Bill and Kay. I am sure Bill is smiling in Heaven and Kay is happy back in the USA over the ways God has blessed their outreach. Galina sends her warmest greetings and love from Russia where their hard work is paying great dividends in lives saved and families delivered from addiction. Thank you for giving to the Lord.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Seasoned Believers Showed Up

In the last couple of days I have heard from several of my Seasoned friends from years past. People who have served the Lord faithfully in quite different areas of life and are still looking for ways to use their wisdom, love and gifts.

Carol and Roy "Scooter" Franks have been friends and colleagues in ministry for decades. In fact, Carol was one of the first people that greeted me when I was introduced to the Children's Ministry teams in 1973 and we have worked together, prayed together and planned together ever since. Carol is a gifted artist and interior designer and she radically improved the inner space for kids at CHPC.

Scooter had a strong visitation from the Lord one late night and was powerfully called to plant a new church. They labored with fellow believers for months and years until the Evangelical Community was formed in Cincinnati.

They moved to New Mexico after Scooter retired and immediately got involved in a large church by using their gifts of teaching, pastoral care and caring for the buildings and grounds. It wasn't long before the Lord called Scooter to unleash his Pastoral Care gifts and he was "called" by the Pastors to carry out that function in the second new church they had helped plant.

So many congregations see Seasoned Saints as being dependent and unable to contribute to the overall gift mix of a church ministry. Nothing Could be farther from the truth. This couple shows us why "Unleashing Seasoned Servants to love and enjoy the Lord" is critical to expanding the Kingdom.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Resources for Seasoned Believers


One of the results of so many people knowing the Lord for so many years and then living so long is unexpected. It is counter intuitive to think that childhood or youth conversions would lead so many people to drop out of organized religion at 35 or 40. But, it does seem to be happening with great regularity.

I have tried to think about why so many churches are stuck in the rut of focusing only on a narrow age group. For years we have recognized that congregations tend to attract people from similar socio-economic strata. Now a lot of congregations appeal to only people of similar age and spiritual stage.

Seeker Churches have become quite successful by intentionally appealing to a certain age group. They play only styles of music that their target group will like and use language and metaphors they fully understand. It is "narrow casting" at its very best.

In many of the mega and fast growing churches that narrow group is mostly new believers who are 20 to 30 years old who have one or two young children. The "speaker" (no preaching allowed) is hip, the music cool and the atmosphere may be more like a concert than a worship service. There is very high entertainment value and the audience is energized.

This may work for new or recent believers but it is "too light" for people with spiritual seasoning. People who have known the Lord since childhood have heard many good speakers tell about Joseph's coat and Saul's Damascus Road encounter. They get bored or restless and do not know why. Many drop out and choose to attend "The Church of the Inner Spring" on Sunday morning.

What is available for such Seasoned Believers? Frankly, not much. Where does one find meat and ministry that excites them and keeps them involved with God and His word? Big churches need to intentionally plan ways to engage these Seasoned Men and Women in deep worship, prayer and ministry by planning services geared to their stage of spiritual development.

I know of one congregation that intentionally planned six services each Sunday morning and even had a home group meeting on Sunday morning. Only two of the services were similar in design. Each was designed to fit a certain target audience.

Even a small Pentecostal Congregation I know analyzed its service offerings and found them wanting in the area of attracting young families. The church and its leaders had come into being back in the Jesus Movement and specialized in two-hours of intense worship with tongues, intrepretaion, prophesies and animated dancing. The Seasoned Saints loved it and considered change almost heresy.


Upon interviewing their young families and discovering that they would not invite friends to such a service they made a very courageous decision to change Sunday mornings into a "Seeker Sensitive" approach and have the traditional Pentecostal offerings at night.


All that is needed is a little imagination and creativity as well as the faith that God can handle variety in styles and leadership and a variety of ages and stage can be accommodated. To better understand the needs of Seasoned Believers, as well as younger believers, read The Critical Journey, by Janet Hagberg.

If you just cannot imagine how to minister to a variety of people, call me. I regularly consult with churches that are stuck. After all, I am "The Church Doctor".

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Why Change?

Seasoned Believers are people of courage.

It takes courage to grow up and turn out to be who you really are.
E. E. Cummings

Who would you nominate as a Seasoned Believer? Can you think of a person who has faced his or her issues and allowed the Lord to take them through them?

Dan Gilliam, a man from my past who has faced the darkness and let God bring the light into his life. Take a look at http://www.dangilliam.net/

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I just heard from Galina whose team grew a lot on the trip to Abakan. Galina became very ill with the flu and the team had to do everything without depending on her as a leader. Necessity is the mother of invention so God Galina's sickness to stretch the team into real leadership.

Because of Communism the people of Russia who traditionally had been very tough became like little, weak lambs. One of our biggest challenges in Russia is to convince the people they can be used by the Holy Spirit to teach, care, counsel and lead.

The team without Galina rose to the occasion and did very well. The success in Abakan gave them a big boost in confidence because they faced their fears and found God faithful.

Yerina, Yvgenia, Marina, Anatoly and the team are my nominees for Seasoned Servants.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Visitors

One of the joys of writing a blog is to see how many old friends visit it. Every time I see someone who is reading from Illinois, the state of my birth, I feel a bit of excitement.

I have also heard from old friends from my past adventures on Jesus Movement and the U. C. Campus. Jay is back in North Carolina, Michael has a marketing firm in Cincinnati, Marc O'Hara and Lynnie are still in Cincy and they often write but usually offline. By the way, congratulations to Michael and family on a new grand baby.

Wow. Am I old enough to have former students with grand kids? Yikes!

I hope to hear from many more colleagues and friends from the past.

Old But Unseasoned Believers




Who are the Seasoned Servants?

Seasoned Believers in Singapore

When I tell people about being called us to Unleash Seasoned Servants to love and enjoy the Lord I often get a response like this: "Oh, that is not me. I am just a poor, lay person with no degrees in theology and I certainly cannot teach or preach."

Another common response is, "Haven't I done enough to please the Lord? I have served as a Sunday school teacher or usher or donor on the building campaign or worked in the kitchen for many years. What does the church want me to do now?"

The answer is, "We are not an organization that is recruiting people to do our thing nor do we have a plan for your life. We are not trying to get you to DO anything but to BE all that God has made you to BE!"

We are working to help Seasoned Christians find a new way to love and enjoy the Lord in whatever way is best for them.

The usual age of a Seasoned Believer is 40 and upward. it normally takes a few decades for people to learn about God's grace, mercy and love. Some have been believers all forty years and others came to faith in college. But all have served the church and ministry groups for two or more decades. They are not brand new believers.

Does this fit you? There are approximately 50 million such people in the USA alone and millions more in other countries.

Who do you nominate as a Seasoned Believer that has been Unleashed?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

New Ministry Thrust and Focus

Ever since I was touched anew by the Holy Spirit in 1958 I have had a great passion to see Christians grow up into what the Apostle Paul referred to as "Adults" in I Corinthians 13. He said that "When I was a child I thought childish thoughts and walked a childish walk. But when I grew up an became an adult I put away childish things."

There are way too many Believers who have not been able to "Put away childish things." This is causing problems in the Christian community because it leads to immature members and, far worse, immature leaders.

My new ministry thrust will be to recruit and train Seasoned Believers, those who have known and served God for several years, and help them move on in life. I am calling it, Unleashing Seasoned Believers to Love and Enjoy the Lord. Sweeten Life Systems will emphasize that part of the Christian community.

People are living much longer now have more hours before and after work than ever before. In fact, some statisticians estimate that over the past 100 years the amount of time people have use as they please has grown by 2/3.

Just a century ago, about 2/3 of the time people were busy doing things that they had to do to survive. Only about 1/3 of the time were they able to freely choose what they did.

Now, those numbers are rapidly being reversed. People spend only about 1/3 of their lives in activities that are required to survive and 2/3 on leisure, volunteering, watching TV and films, playing sports or games and travel or shopping.

But too much time off is not only boring it is emotionally dangerous. As the old saying goes, "Idle time is the devil's workshop." Finding meaningful and satisfying things to do is required for people to have a sense of Significance and Accomplishment.

What are you going to do to give back and feel better about yourself?

Contact me if you are interested in finding out what we are planning.

Monday, July 09, 2007

New Name

What's in a Name? Is a rose by any other name not smell as sweet?

Why are we changing the name of our organization from Life Way Ministries, Inc to Sweeten Life Systems, Inc?

There are too many organizations with the moniker "Life Way". It is a simple and long over due change. I wish I had done it many years ago.

The Groups Named Life Way or Lifeway or LifeWay.

Lifeway for Youth. This is an organization dedicated to placing foster children who are in the care of the state in loving homes. Last year a young boy by the name of Marcus Faisel was placed in a home near Cincinnati but was killed by the care givers. The Lifeway name has become confused with our name. That alone would be enough to warrant a change.

Lifeway Resources. This is a subsidiary of the Southern Baptist Sunday School Board and it does many good works in publishing, research, training, etc. Many people are very confused because they do a lot of the same things as we but they are completely different from us.

Life Way Counseling Centers. This is a for profit, Sub Chapter C Corporation dedicated to provide Clinical Mental Health Counseling and Medical treatment by licensed therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, social workers and counselors. I was the founder of this organization and so it is even more confusing to people for my name is associated with both organizations. It was a bad decision to have two different organizations with the same name.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

TA DA!!!!

Life Way Ministries, Inc. This is a 501 c3 Faith Based non-profit, tax deductible charity recognized by the State of Ohio and the IRS. The tax ID is # 31-1254534.


We are changing the name, address and phone number but not the tax ID or the tax status.

The new name will be:

Sweeten
Life Systems

P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249
A non-profit 501 c-3 tax deductible ministry # 31-1254534

www.garysweeten.com
http://garysweetenblogspotcom.blogspot.com/
http://committedcouples.blogspot.com

513.697.0217.Fax
513.697.6494.Office
513.300.5065.Cell

Why Sweeten? Because I have founded and/or ran many organizations with differing names and my moniker is the only consistent thing from one to another. ( Jesus Family, Christian Discipleship at College Hill Presbyterian, Teleios Center, CIC International, EMI International, Teleios Norway, Teleios Russia, Presbyterian Renewal, Life Way Hospital, Christian Comprehensive Care, Life Way Counseling Centers, Life Seminars, Counseling With Power, Apples of Gold, Listening for Heaven's Sake, Rational Christian Thinking, Breaking Free from the Past, etc.

Why Life Systems? We are strongly committed to life abundantly and to a systemic approach to ways we work together.

Welcome to Sweeten Life Systems

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Testimonies

Gary Sweeten has been a teacher to me even before we met.

I have learned relationship skills that make me more sensitive to all those I come in contact. I have specific strategies now to know how to listen, speak and live a more consistent life with my beliefs and values as a Christian.

These courses were being taught in Illinois at the Champaign Vineyard Fellowship years before we moved to Cincinnati in 1999. The church was continuing on with those courses after Gary had come and introduced them to the staff in Champaign. Now our church continues to teach those same principles in regular courses throughout the years here in Cincinnati.

Gary has also been a teacher in person at seminars he holds for church leadership. His thinking and materials have developed into an exciting interactive sessions encouraging participant involvement and scratch where we itch in the area of personal and church wide ministry.

I so appreciate his desire to minister to church laymen and fulltime workers who are so much in need of support and encouragement and are the last to ask for it. He has introduced us to family systems concepts and thinking which has opened up new and fresh ways to counsel and personally grow ourselves.

I am a more confident and equipped ambassador of the gospel because of the biblical and Holy Spirit empowered teaching of Gary Sweeten. Please support him for it will be an eternal investment in advancing God’s kingdom.

Gary has also encouraged me as a Christ follower, wife and mother through personal conversations.

Laurie CochraneDirector of Alpha,
Assimilation and Administration
Vineyard Northwest

A Big Shock

As you may know, my doctoral dissertation was focused on training lay people to care and counsel people in pain. One of the great shocks of my research was the fact that, in most cases, lay people are as effective as professionals. Sometimes they are even more effective.

My research was conducted primarily in the early Seventies with writing the dissertation and graduation coming in 1975. Yep, 32 years ago the data were clear that ordinary house wives and farmers were just as effective as psychologists in helping people defeat depression, anxiety, marital conflicts and other issues.

Here we are in 2007 reading all over the place that we must depend upon "experts" to tell us how to act to be happy. From Dr. Phil to Dr. Laura we are surrounded by "experts". It reminds me of an old proverb: Until lions have historians the hunters will get all the good press.

Some of the most gifted, talented and sensitive people I have ever known were licensed only by the Lord and were forbidden to minister in His Name because they had no "Official Seminary Education or Ordination".

Many years ago I was discussing this topic with an "Official Minister of a Reformed Church Tradition". He was incensed that I had the title of "Minister" at College Hill Presbyterian although I had not attended seminary. "It isn't right..." he sputtered in frustration. "You are destroying the traditions of the church."

I admit that my flesh got the better of me and I was unable to "Turn the other tongue". I said, Yes, that great tradition of seminary that the Apostles Peter, James and John went through as well as John Calvin himself. (All four were lay people used mightily of the Lord.)

He was startled and could only say, "Oh, that was different."

(To be honest my doctorate integrated theology and psychology and I have been ordained so I am not immune to an "official status".)

In psychology, counseling, social work and all other types of and counsel the most important aspects of healing come from how well we relate in love and compassion. So, the Bible is still true and caring with the "Fruit of the Spirit" does trump knowledge, psychology and medicines.

People are staying stuck in pain because they cannot afford or find a Licensed Therapist. That is too bad for finding a person who will listen in love is just as important to their recovery. For over forty years I have been training ordinary lay people how to care through love and God's truth and the research just proves that the scripture has been correct all along.

Thankfully, in 1989 God called me to set up a Professional Counseling Center that combined the best of psychology and the Fruit of the Spirit. Wow, what power is in that combination.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

There He Goes Again

Yes, Gary is listening to the Lord and making changes again.

I have been involved in so many events and organizations that the question people ask always begin with some form of: "Are you still ____________________?"

Some fill the blank with a church, a counseling ministry, a ministry in Asia or Scandinavia or Russia but most of the time folks are a bit confused about what I do.

I am somewhat of a Christian entrepreneur who goes about seeing things that need to be done and listen to the Lord about what I can do to solve the problem. For example, I have been involved in starting several groups, organizations and ministries. Karen and I founded three house churches near the campus of UC back in the Seventies.

Dick Towner and I started a Christian Fellowship for Faculty and Administrators at UC. That fellowship held prayer meetings and teachings and even invited the well known theologian R.C. Sproul to lecture students. Dick, Sybil, Karen and I also bought two houses and rented them to UC students.

At College Hill Presbyterian Church we reorganized the Discipleship Ministry and started an Equipping Center for Lay Counselors called Teleios. Maurie and Lorraine Loomans along with Larry and Ellen Chrouch, Bea Combest, Ada and Rich Halter joined with us to form a group of thirsty souls called, "The Thursday Thirty". We offered prayer, counsel, love and concern to people in need.

Pat Wray was a great gate keeper for Teleios and before long Alice Petersen came from Fuller Seminary to give us her wisdom and insights. We saw hundreds of ordinary people release their gifts, talents and love into the lives of hurting people. What fun and what excitement to follow the Holy Spirit into uncharted waters.

The Teleios Ministry grew greatly and expanded into an international ministry called CIC that became EMI and set up centers all around the world and wrote training materials still used in many countries. There are still Teleios centers in Norway, Denmark and Russia and I often hear from folks who have taken the Teleios Model and developed it even farther than we did.

EMI continues to minister as an equipper of lay care givers under the direction of Dave Ping. I am no longer associated officially with any of those great organizations except Russia. All are grown up and developing their own independent identities.

What does Gary Sweeten do now?

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Russian Web Page

I forgot to add the web page of the Russian Ministry. It is called Liferoute in Russia because that name is easier to understand in Russian that our former name, Life Way Ministries.

Here is the web page: www.liferoute.ru

(Our new name is Sweeten Life Systems and our new address is

P.O. Box 498455, Cincinnati, Ohio 45249. You can still send your donations to the old address but we are changing as we write.)

On the Liferoute web page you will find photos, brief stories about their various workshops and seminars as well as the Recovery Bible in the Russian Language. To my knowledge, it is the only web based Bible dedicated to recovery, co-dependence, spiritual growth and healing. The USSR required all of the people in their captured satellite nations to learn the Russian language. Although the Soviets made life difficult and painful for almost everyone they ruled, the fact that millions of folks learned Russian that could not read it before.

(Thanks to Stephen Arterburn for permission to use the Bible and to Kay Martin for all her assistance in translating it.)

Thanks be to God, because for using Soviets evil intent against evil. God arranged things so the Bible can be studied by needy people all over the world. As Joseph said after he was made COO of Egypt, "They meant it for evil but God meant it for good."

Monday, July 02, 2007

To the Wild, Wild East in Russia

As you may know, Russia is a huge country. Once I fly from the US to Moscow I am only half way to the East side of that wide nation's expanse. Over the past few years Galina and her teams have taken the good news of Christ and His healing love to Siberia, the Ural Mountains, Prison Labor Camps and other places forsaken by civil society and where Christianity was usually outlawed.

Now Galina Yerina, Anatoly and Yevgini are leaving July 2 for Abakan to deepen and expand the work of God’s healing and teaching ministry there. Abakan is one of the Soviet’s former “Secret Cities” where armaments were made. They were so secret that they did not appear on any maps and all Christian life was forbidden.

Places that forbid Jesus to be honored also welcome Satan and his henchmen. Abakan's people turned to alcohol and drugs as well as domestic abuse and violence. In addition, the people celebrate and worship demonic cults and Satanic worship.

What we call "The New Age" is not new and it is not an age. It is as old as the devil and as long lasting as evil intentions. Please pray diligently for our ambassadors to this dark and destructive slice of the world.

If we want peace and prosperity in America and the Middle East, Revival in Russia is critical. Mr. Putin must be convinced that Christ is Lord of all life, including his life and the life of his people. Only through a revival led by Jesus Christ can overcome the long, evil history unleashed by the Bolsheviks.

Our dear friends are pioneers in telling the old, old story about Jesus and His love so please do them a favor and pray for their health, protection and power to share the good news.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Revivals and Awakenings in American History

I was deeply involved in the Fourth Great Awakening and did not even know it. Did the people of Boston, New York and Philadelphia realize it when the Lord stirred them up at the beginning of the First Great Awakening? I doubt it.

When Ben Franklin's heart was strangely warmed at a sermon by the most powerful speaker in the history of English preaching did he recognize its import in American history? I cannot imagine that he understood the historic significance of George Whitfield's rhetoric.

Were any of them together the time line of revival ---awakening that brought us the American Revolution? Did Jonathan Edwards see his place as a hero of freedom from the British throne? I do not think so.

I seriously doubt if any of them even heard of such a thing as a great Awakening. Despite the fact that we now look back on those days as special outpourings of the Spirit, it was just life to them. It probably was a very special thing without a special name.

The Fourth Awakening began with the Jesus Movement Revival and is now maturing into an Awakening in its fourth decade. How many of you were there for the birthing? How many of you saw the spiritual, economic and political significance for the future of the USA back then?

I did not. In fact, I never heard of the Third Great Awakening let alone considered we might be in the next one. But, according to the Nobel Prize Winning Economist and author, Robert Fogel, we are and I want to intentionally be in the middle of it.

Hang on to discover what we are doing to "Ride the Wave of God's Spirit!"