Thursday, January 31, 2008

Bible Studies and Missional Mobilization

When I wrote on this blog about Panera Bread Company it was not to promote a certain place to eat. I want you to consider how to construct churches to recruit people to visit and stay for awhile. If Panera Bread can attract mobs of people who love to hang around for hours, I am sure we can build church buildings that do the same.

Every Panera Bread that I visit has been carefully designed to create a warm and inviting kind of climate for the customers. The emotional and physical layout complement each other.

The emotional center of a Panera Store is the fire place. This morning I had a breakfast meeting at the Tri-County store and it was buzzing with people studying the Bible, having small group staff meetings and reading the paper while they ate and drank various beverages. It was warm and nurturing.

The temp outside was well below freezing and the people filed in close around the fire place to draw from its physical and emotional warmth. When I was a kid we had an old coal stove in the middle of the house. During the winter the family sat around the stove and soaked in the family's togetherness. Panera reminds me of those days.

The church family needs places where warm Christian hospitality can be practiced and enjoyed. It is hospitality that draws people to Christ and shows the love of God in concrete ways. We can learn from Panera how to be more hospitable.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Welcoming Places

I go to Panera Bread quite often. It is usually alive with customers, many with lap top computers open and others reading or deep in a discussion. The Panera close to a school has a good deal of business from the students and

Mothers come with infants in tow as well as business people dressed in Black and Navy Stripes. I often see men discussing the Bible or a Christian book and women seem to love gathering there to pray and chat.

Why? Why does Panera attract so many customers from different age groups, vaocational areas and lifestyle preferences? How is it that this particular dinning place is open for business from 6:00 AM til 9:00 PM?

What do they know that so many other resteraunts evidently miss? I am amazed they have so much business when others have so little.

Churches are similar. Few draw people to their meeting places during the week. Why not? What do they have that churches need? How do they draw so many people of all ages and we struggle?
Write me with your insights and ideas and I will post them on this blog.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Listening to God

It won't be long before we have a gathering for Seasoned Believers who want to learn to talk to and listen to the Lord. When we followed up the October 13 time at Winton Woods with a small questionnaire, it became clear that a lot of people want to return to their first love and learn better how to "Abide in Christ and hear His still, small voice."

Well, put aside the date of March 15. It will definitely be a day of teaching, sharing, journal writing and listening. Our training sessions follow a DREAMS acrostic to make sure we have a time that is balanced, fun, insightful and experiential.

D=Didactic meaning talks and reading. (But brief)

R=Reflection or thinking and discussing what you are learning.

E=Experiential that practice what we preach and touch and see God at work

A=Accountability that keeps us focused on the most important learning's

M=Modeling that allows us to watch others practice God at work

S=Supernatural, encountering God's Spirit personally

On March 15 we will have a half day of DREAMS!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Christians Are Global Citizens

I often listen to the pod casts of Krista Tippet’s “Speaking of Faith” from Public Radio and two recent pod casts are of great interest to me. They speak to what is happening globally and how Christians are leading the way.

Christians have been globalists for two thousand years. Ever since Jesus gave His final marching orders we call "The Great Commission" to the Apostles, we have been traveling around the globe to make "Disciples of all nations."

To understand the role of God's people in taking peace, prosperity and healing to the world we need to do is read the stories about missionaries who risked everything to take the gospel to the world to see our importance to a global perspective. I strongly recommend these two pod casts to those interested in how we can use our faith in the global attempt to be Peace makers. Douglas Johnston from
Coach to Seasoned Believers
Consultant to Seasoned Leaders
We Christians need to lead.


THE WORLD Economic Forum Annual Meeting 2008 closed today with a call by business, government and civil society leaders for a new brand of collaborative and innovative leadership to address the challenges of globalisation, particularly the pressing problems of conflict – especially in the Middle East, terrorism, climate change and water conservation.

“Globalisation is forcing changes in how people collaborate in a fundamental way,” said former British Prime Minister Tony Blair, a member of the foundation board of the World Economic Forum and one of the co-chairs of the Annual Meeting 2008, at the closing plenary session.

“Globalisation is not going to go away – the question is what kind of globalisation do we have,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA).

Don't Panic

I am amazed at how glum the media are about the economic situation in America. I say that things are really pretty good. Yes, the housing bubble caused by cheap loans has burst. That is not really a bad thing for the overall economic situation.

Here is what the Wall Street Journal has to say.

The good news is that the U.S. financial system is not as fragile as many pundits suggest. Nor is the economy showing anything other than normal signs of stress. Assuming a 1.5% annualized growth rate in the fourth quarter, real GDP will have grown by 2.8% in the year ending in December 2007 and 3.2% in the second half during the height of the so-called credit crunch. Initial unemployment claims, a very consistent canary in the coal mine for recessions, are nowhere near a level of concern.

Because all debt rests on a foundation of real economic activity, and the real economy is still resilient, the current red alert about a crashing house of cards looks like another false alarm. Warren Buffett, Wilbur Ross and Bank of America are buying, and there is still $1.1 trillion in corporate cash on the books. The bench of potential buyers on the sidelines is deep and strong. Dow 15,000 looks much more likely than Dow 10,000. Keep the faith and stay invested. It's a wonderful buying opportunity.

Mr. Wesbury is chief economist for First Trust Portfolios, L.P.
See editorials and op-eds, plus video commentary, on The Editorial Page.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Veeeery Interesting!

When you click on the website link below, a world Map comes up showing what strange and dangerous things are happening in every country in the world. It is updated every few minutes.

You can move the map around, focus on an area and upload the story of what is going on. It is amazing to see the things that are happening now in the U..S. Some may be in our state or city.

Check SeasonedBelievers Blog

I have posted several times on the Seasoned Believers Blog about politics, finances and current events and I think most of you will find them interesting.

Gary Sweeten

My Face Book registration has disappeared and now they are insisting that I start over. What a bummer. I am considering how I can do my own private Social Network. Any suggestions?

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Sky is Falling, The Sky is Falling

I must confess that my blood pressure always goes up a bit when I see the distortions, poor education and political bias on TV. I have a strong need for reporters to be accurate and fair and that makes my television viewing a very sad experience much of the time.

For example, ever since the housing market started to wobble the media has been screaming that the USA is in a "Recession". Not true! "Recession" has a specific meaning to economists and by their standard we are not in one.

Tonight I was watching Jon Stewart, a rare event because he is so biased and so often wrong. He had a women on who is supposed to be a "Specialist" on the economy and she said, "Our unemployment rates are very high..." Not true!

The unemployment rates in the US are half those in much of Europe. They are at historic lows.

I expect politicians, both democrat and Republican to distort the data, but I wish the news reporters would actually report the news.

In the USA we desperately need some basic education on how the economy actually works. So many people think the President has a lot of influence on jobs, inflation and oil prices. He does not. He cannot raise or lower any of these factors.

The Congress has much more power than a President. However, the Federal Reserve has more influence than any other government agency. So, wake up and recognize the facts. You will sleep a lot better.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Worry and Rumination

Some forty years ago when I entered the Higher Education Student Personnel counseling program at Southern Illinois University, the self help resources available were very limited. Now they are extremely common. I am thankful for that fact.

The Wall Street Journal had an article today in the Health Journal that discussed the fact that some people seem to have a "Worry Gene". I have seen many people with a compulsion to ruminate over negative thoughts. We call them ANTS for Automatic Negative Thoughts.

The author also mentioned a screen for alcohol and gave readers the link. It is:

Log on and screen yourself in private to see if you or someone you love has a drinking problem.

How to Make Good Great

One of the foremost writers on leadership is Jim Collins. I suggest you go to his web page at and read his analysis of leadership.

I was particularly struck by this short summary of his "Levels of Leaders".

If you want to grasp the essence of the type of leader who turns good into great, just keep in mind Darwin Smith. It turns out that every good-to-great company in our study had a leader from the Darwin Smith school of management at the helm during the pivotal years. We eventually came to call these remarkable people “Level 5 leaders.”

The term “Level 5” refers to a five-level hierarchy. Level 1 relates to individual capability, Level 2 to team skills, Level 3 to managerial competence, and Level 4 to leadership as traditionally conceived. Level 5 leaders possess the skills of levels 1 to 4 but also have an “extra dimension”: a paradoxical blend of personal humility (“I never stopped trying to become qualified for the job”) and professional will (“sell the mills”).

They are somewhat self-effacing individuals who deflect adulation, yet who have an almost stoic resolve to do absolutely whatever it takes to make the company great, channeling their ego needs away from themselves and into the larger goal of building a great company.

It’s not that Level 5 leaders have no ego or self-interest. Indeed, they are incredibly ambitious—but their ambition is first and foremost for the institution and its greatness, not for themselves.

Do your look for selfless leaders? I don't mean co-dependent leaders who treat you like a victim but a person who will tell you the truth to set you free.

Who in the current gaggle of Presidential candidates is a Level 5 Leader? Who will you choose to be the next person to lead this nation? Do you want a Santa Clause who promises a lot of goodies and toys or a person who will face the tough choices that are here?

Monday, January 21, 2008

Training Opportunities

Cincinnati Vineyard Northwest has some great training programs coming up in the near future. Go to to see what they are doing.

It is rare for a church to sponsor a series of training programs and open them up to the community. However, VCNW is different and opens its doors and arms wide to support folks in need of God's touch.

Go take a look at what they are doing.

Love one another as I have loved you

It's a Marathon not a Sprint

In the forty years Karen and I have lived in Cincinnati we have seen a lot of progress in the area of mutual love and respect between and among differing groups. On the day we honor Martin Luther King, Jr. it is appropriate to think about what good things have happened to bring love to the world and what needs yet to happen.

Karen and I drove into Cincinnati with a car and U Haul Trailer full of clothing, household goods and academic materials in the summer of 1967. Those of you old enough to remember that long ago will have pictures of racial strife come to mind. Campus and urban riots, Black Power and political chaos were daily in the news. Separation if not downright segregation were common in work, education and religion. Tension between races was extremely high.

In my view, things are much better now but we still have a long ways to go. Anything that has been so strongly and deeply ingrained within a society as racial bias and racial separation cannot be rooted out easily. Just as it took forty years of wandering to "Get Egypt out of the Hebrew Children" it will take much more than forty years to rid America of racial bias.

I think things are much better now, especially among Christians. Not many congregations are fully integrated, but progress has occurred. People now are free to vote with their feet and preferences. There are no rules, laws or social stigma attached to "crossing over" from a White to a Black Church or vice verse.

In the past forty years I have marched, prayed and worshipped with people of all colors and cultures. We have started ministries dedicated to breaking down walls of racial bias and rejection. We have preached, taught and attended numerous services at Black Churches and Black leaders do the same in White groups.

Perhaps we can speed things up now that new generations of Christian leaders untainted by past practices are coming up. We are not yet entering the Promised Land of a neutral racial interaction but we are sending spies into the other side of the Jordan to root out the remaining enemies of harmony.

In the Cincinnati Enquirer editorial today is a quote I like. It is:

After a letter writer warned King against being in too great a hurry for equal rights saying even Christianity took 2,000 years to accomplish what it did, King wrote, "Such an attitude stems from a tragic misconception of time, from the strangely rational notion that there is something in the flow of time that will inevitably cure all ills. But human progress never rolls in on wheels of inevitability; it comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God."

Remember this---
"Human progress comes through the tireless efforts of men willing to be co-workers with God".

Wow! What a deeply insightful statement for accomplishing good things. How can we learn to better cooperate with God? Prayer is the first step.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Pray for Russian Friends

Did you know we have friends in Siberia? Were you aware that in Russia has ongoing programs in Siberian towns? Steve Griebling, Rich Halter, Art Gasch and I have all met folks who live in Siberia and minister there all year around.

Take a look at the Siberian Deep Freeze story to see what is going on now. Pray for our friends like Bishop Anatoly who has planted numerous churches in Siberia.

Jupiter Kalambakal - AHN News Writer
Moscow, Russia (AHN) - Russians are bracing for temperatures of as low as minus 55 degrees Celsius (minus 67 degrees Fahrenheit) in Siberia as Russia's emergencies ministry warns on Wednesday of its impending dangers in the coming weeks.

Government agencies were placed on high alert, reports AFP. The ministry ordered local administration officials to prepare for the extreme chill expected to last until Jan. 21.

The ministry warned that the unusually cold weather could kill, cause frost-bite, conk heaters and cut electricity to homes, disrupt transport, increase the rate of car accidents and even destroy buildings across Siberia.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Survival Skills for Wives in Ministry

Over the past 30 years we have helped dozens of ministers and their wives on issues of burn out, church conflict, dealing with aggressive members, gossip, rearing children, etc. Leading a ministry is perhaps the most daunting career in life. Now, help is on the way.

Steve Griebling, Family Therapist and international training expert, will provide four Mondays for “Survival Skills for Wives in Ministry”. February 11, 18, 25 and March 3.

The sessions will be from 7:00-8:15 at the Life Way Counseling Center Conference Room in Blue Ash. Directions after sign up. The enrollment is limited to ten women so each can receive personal attention.

Cost $20.00 per session.

Topics 1. How to love people without taking their problems
2. How to minister to distressed minds without losing your own
3. Boundaries as a Minister’s wife
4. Leisure, fun and be relaxation
5. Developing a support system that you can trust
Each attendee will get a copy of Dr. Gary Sweeten’s DVD on the importance of becoming a “Committed Couple”. It can be used as a guide for personal growth or teaching small groups or classes.

For questions, contact Steve @ 984-827 or

Steve is a senior trainer with Sweeten Life Systems. He has taught leaders in Norway, Sweden, Denmark, China, Russia, Zimbabwe and Singapore. Steve has been a Pastor, a Clinical Counselor and head of a Counseling Program so he is well qualified to train wives how to overcome the problems of ministry.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Ministry Abroad

Take a look at the report from Craig Springer who is planting a church in the Czech Republic. He and his wife Sarah are doing a great job of creating opportunities for spreading the good news.

I was able to spend some time with them in 2007 and taught at their first meeting. The Czech Republic has a long reputation of anti-religious bias. Pray for the Holy Spirit to send a revival to Prague.

Thought Leader

Over the past few years I have been thinking about how to motivate Believers to do more cutting edge thinking in areas of creativity, science, social change, education, poverty and developing healthy futures. That is one reason I started the new ministry thrust we call Seasoned Believers. (See the link) In the future we will be announcing some new ventures to educate, inspire and focus Christians so we can do more in these areas.

Google, that ever present search engine, has set up a foundation to promote ideas that benefit humanity as develop ways to sustain the organization financially. Go to these links to read more.

The head of the foundation is Larry Brilliant, M.D. See him here.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Sympathy Pains

Politicians Promise Everything
The foreign readers need to understand that news media in America pride themselves on being ever so sympathetic for the poor, and downtrodden who struggle to live here in this economic wasteland.

By the way, ths stories in national media during election years are twice as likely to imply or say outright that America is falling quickly into another Great Depression. That is happening right now in many papers despite the fact that we have almost full employment and almost every public store, cafe and car lot is trying to hire more workers.
Here are some of the latest stories from the L.A. Times. People are in deep pain and may be starving.,1,2689610,full.story?ctrack=1&cset=true

The faltering economy costs Leslie Garza, 18, nearly an hour of sleep each morning; her mom won't spend the gas money to drive her to downtown Los Angeles for her job scooping ice cream. So she sets the alarm early and takes the bus. . . .

Enoch Brown, 49, a data- entry worker in Atlanta, said his annual household income is about $100,000. Yet he's riding public transportation to work so he can save on gas and parking.

Bernadette Smith, 31, has watched credit-card debt climb to nearly $40,000. That's more than her annual take-home pay, though she works 13 hours a day at two jobs. Once obsessed with the latest style of designer jeans, Smith now shops for clothes only at Wal-Mart, or maybe Target. She has come to consider a dinner at Ruby Tuesday a splurge. (I think the Federal Government should do something, now!)

Johnny Brown can't afford premium gas for his "beloved Ford truck"!

Antonio Dabu "told his wife they may have to quit subscribing to HBO"!

Hairstylist Lisa Nartowicz "still has her job, but her customers are skimping: Instead of a full dye, they just want their color retouched"! As a result, she feeds her family sausage for dinner instead of steak!

I can barely stand the sympathy pangs as I read about so many people unable to afford steak every night. No wonder Hillary and Obama are promising free medical care and Edwards is promising free steaks every night. How long it will be before they suggest free HBO in every home. ("There are two Americas. One for the rich who can afford to watch Tony Soprano and those who are forced to watch only cable on their 60 inch flat screen TV!")

The L.A. Time obviously wants to promote a feeling of anger toward the evil Mr. Bush for holding people back in America. Compared to the people in Sub-Sahara Africa and the Pacific Rim our citizens have it rough.

You just can't make this stuff up.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

TV Ads for Jesus

For several years I have told my wife Karen about the best way to show the benefits of Christianity is to advertise on TV shows. However, we will need to choose the shows wisely to get the biggest "bang for the buck".

I think we need to place our advertisements carefully on such as DOG, The Bounty Hunter, COPS, Desperate Housewives and CSI. These and other "Reality Shows" that show the crises of Paris and Brittany's 24 X 7 are great examples of how to live without God.

Never once in all my years of watching TV have I seen a clip of the police raiding a Bible study. Nor have we seen the Cops busting down the door of a Sunday school class to confiscate their study materials. "OK you kids. Enough of that dangerous study about loving your neighbor and praying for those who hate you. That is very dangerous stuff."

I have never seen a church van being chased down a Bible Belt highway by State Police on “Most Exciting Video Chases”. We don't ever hear the miscreants yell out, “Stand back or I will throw these Communion supplies at you!”

I have yet to see a desperate group of bank robbers take hostages and threaten to kill them unless the bank coughs up enough money to build a new sanctuary. "OK you pagans. This is a stick up! Put all your money in the collection plate or the bank teller dies!"

Rosie O'Donnell says that Christians are as dangerous as Radical Muslims. We may need to place ads on "24". We could contrast suicide bombers with an all night prayer meeting with people staying "24 hours to intercede for peace in the Middle East".

Send your cards and letters to our ministry and we will see what we can do to get those ads on national TV. They may be too controversial for most networks.

We who pray together stay out of trouble together.

Relational Outreach

Several years ago I was playing golf in Malaysia with my friends Vincent Teo and Caleb Chan from Singapore. Caleb brought a Pastor from South Africa to the course. (It is a global village!) After playing we sat down in the club house for lunch and I asked the South African Pastor what God was doing in his city.

He immediately launched into a long and exciting story about mobilizing his city's churches to reach out with kindness and preach the gospel through servant evangelism. Congregations from every type and denomination both Black and White joined together to take love and action to the people.

The same kind of thing was happening with some regularly in Singapore after I taught Servant Evangelism to the Faith Community Baptist Church Cell Group leaders and Pastors. The Pastors in that Island of four million souls had begun a very aggressive SE program that brought thousands into the fold and deeply touched that tiny nation state with God's love.

I said to the Pastor, "When did you meet Steve Sjogren and learn about SE?" He looked at me in a puzzled fashion and said, "Who did you say?"

I replied, "Steve Sjogren. He is the originator of SE. He is Pastor of the Vineyard Church in my home town. Maybe you read his web about Servant Evangelism."

"I never heard of that fellow. Someone from Singapore brought the notion to us at a Cell Church Conference and we loved it. We have been doing it ever since."

SE has spread all around the world through "Viral Marketing" or word of mouth. God inspired Steve to start this thing and now it has become like Kleenex, the common name of a great idea. Steve gave his idea freely to thousands and God is using us to touch millions.

Jesus' best method of changing the world is not getting together in huge stadia but multiplying the good news personally through evangelism and discipleship. "Go into all the world and make disciples, teaching them to DO everything I have taught you to do." MT 28

Evangelism is always personal. It is always the result of a relationship and SE is a way of promoting caring relationships where people are touched by kindness and love.

The Pastors in South Africa learned SE from someone from Singapore who probably learned it from me and I learned it from Steve. That is God's plan of Viral Marketing and it has changed the world from Jerusalem to Judea to Samaria to Cincinnati to Singapore to Malaysia to South Africa.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Starbucks Evangelism

I have been talking and interacting on the Internet with an old friend the last couple of weeks. Steve Sjogren, founding Pastor with wife Janie of the Cincinnati Vineyard Community Church and the Father of Servant Evangelism. Steve, Janie and son Jack are down in Tampa, FL now planting another church called, Coastland Tampa.

I suggest you look in on Steve's doings at Steve is often controversial, usually misunderstood and never dull. Boring he ain't!

Steve came up with some truly new creative ideas about outreach evangelism. He is one of the truly original Christian thinkers of the 20Th Century. Steve is not written about as much as some others because he is not political as the people who are popular in the Evangelical and national media.

When TIME did its most influential Evangelicals he was nowhere to be seen. The folks from the national media are obsessed with politics.

Steve went back to the beginning and recaptured some important biblical principles for evangelism. These principles place his approach in a unique position among Evangelicals.
First, Steve focused on the fruit of the Spirit. He did not use emotional or rational arguments to get the attention of "Pre-Believers". Despite the fact that Jesus and Paul both emphasized love and kindness as the key to winning hearts and minds conservative Christians preferred to focus on fear and legalism.

Second, Steve emphasized action over talk. In fact, most of the time he told his people not to talk very much during outreach activities. To Fundamentalists Servant Evangelism looked an awful lot like the "Social Gospel" but to Steve it was being servants of Jesus and then servants of people.

Third, Steve refused to use serving people as "fish bait" to hook unbelievers into the Vineyard. He was clear that it was to be "Love with no strings attached." When was the last time a preacher did something for you without having a string attached? He did not care if those being served ever came to his church.

Fourth, he had fun in all things. Serving was fun and often off the wall in the things he did to serve people. (Here is a secret. I was with him in England and met a group of homeless folks who longed for a smoke. Steve and his team bought cigarettes for them.)

If you want your preachers nice and neat with pear shaped tones and traditional approaches, do not go to but if you like Jesus presented as grace and truth with a lot of seasoning thrown in, try it.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Relationships are Central

The core focus of this blog is how to enhance healthy relationships. That is what the Great Physician said was most important in life and who am I to disagree with Jesus? Matthew 22:36-40 relates how Jesus answered a question from a lawyer by quoting two passages from Deuteronomy 6 and Leviticus 18.

"You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and strength and your neighbor as yourself."

I do wish we had another term for this other than "love". This word is used in English to describe everything from my compulsive desire for chocolate to marital union to the sickest type of sexual behavior known to humanity as well as our love and respect for parents, children and God.

Any term that can be used that broadly cannot communicate with preciseness the importance of relating to God and neighbor with the quality of care that scripture intends. I do not have anything like the emotional connection with God that I have with my wife of 46 years. And, both are qualitatively different from the love I have for my grand kids. Yet, we use the same term.

All of these are relational and demand some action on my part. My love for God draws me to converse with Him in intimate ways but my love for Karen is expressed very differently in word and deed. I want to please God and Karen and my grand kids but I do it differently. I sense God's pleasure as I minister, preach and worship. I also feel His pleasure as I play golf and work out.

I also sense the pleasure of my grand kids when I do what they want. However, I often refuse to give in to their desires. I never intentionally refuse God. God is perfect and they are not. Karen is close to being perfect but still...

By following God I trust that all things will work out for the best in His plan. I don't always trust the plans of others. My love for God acknowledges His transcendance, power and knowledge of the future. Nobody else deserves the same respect so love is differently applied for God and humans and for each person.

Love does indicate a need to keep my relationships clean and open. Holding grudges and carrying resentments are contrary to godly love. Love indicates forgiveness and release from all desire to punish others. Man, that is difficult.

We are all works in progress. God is not finished with me yet. Have mercy upon me oh God. I desperately need it from you and everyone else.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Facts or Urban Myths

Golfing Bears?
Do you get some emails that sound so outrageous that you wonder if they are true? I do and I always want to know how to check the out before I send them on to half the population in China.

Here is how to check them out. Go to and look it up. This is a very interesting site that has a ton of urban myths to report.

In my day they were not called urban myths but scary stories. Have you heard about the kids parked out in an old abandoned cemetery who heard an awful scratching noise and drove off in a hurry? They arrived at the local drive in to discover a bloody hook on the door handle! (This one was spread by parents of good looking daughters!)

Go to and have some fun!

More on Galloping Greed

Dan Abrams, the lawyer who reports on legal issues for MSNBC, has a great video on the crude attempts by Dr. Phil to ambush Brittany Spears when she was in a psychiatric ward after encountering the police.

Take a look:

It occurred to me yesterday that our current culture is obsessed with making young, talented in actors, singers and sports' stars into compulsive, out of control freaks just so they can tear them down afterwards. Brittany is a good example of what happens when a greedy group of people from sales, marketing and media finally destroy a person. They become vultures who then eat the bones of the carrion.

There is no bigger load to carry than great potential. (Charley Brown)


Many of you realize that a group of us started an in-patient psychiatric unit in a Franciscan Hospital in 1989. In fact, we developed and oversaw one for teens and one for adults. It was a great experience that brought growth and healing to many people.

We knew nothing about the "Medical Model" and I was quite anxious because of my ignorance. I thought there must be something almost magical about the doctors and nurses who ran a hospital. Since they were treating the most distressed and dysfunctional people in a community they must know some deep dark secrets that the rest of us missed in graduate school.

I read everything I could get my hands on about how to build a therapeutic community and I read a lot of outcome research. (Research about what kind of counseling really helps people get better.)

What I read reinforced what I already believed and what I had done at my church. The most important factors were a combination of things not just one thing. For example, I assumed that the great insight and wisdom of the medical staff, including their knowledge of what medicines to use, was the single most important aspect of healing.

I was wrong. The most important factor is the Motivational Level of the Patient and the Support of Family, Friends and Associates other than the clinical staff. In other words, we needed to make sure the Patient was motivated to get better and motivated to help others get better. By giving, serving and loving the other patients each person helped himself.

So, we taught the patients how to love, serve and care for each other.

This also reinforced and supported the other key factor, having a strong support system. Remember, patients spend more time with other patients than anyone else. Doctors spend a few minutes each day with patients and Counselors and social workers a bit more. Nurses are with patients for eight hours but not with every patient alone.

Patients are with other patients all the time so we needed to train all of them how to listen, love and pray for one another. We did and it was a marvellous thing to behold.

Who spends the most time with church members? Pastors? Sunday school teachers? Small group leaders? All of these folks are important and influential in the church but not as important as family, friends and colleagues. So, we need to train EVERY MEMBER to care, love and pray for one another.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Why People are Confused about Counseling

Dr. Phil pushed his way into the hospital room of Brittany Spears without her permission or hospital privileges. Not only that, he spoke with her and then told the media about it. everything about such behavior is unethical if not illegal.

No wonder so many people are anxious about seeing a real therapist. They rightfully fear that a real therapist will act as unethically and selfishly as Dr. Phil or other high profile "Psychologists".

Here is part of the story from

"Britney didn't ask for it, Britney didn't know about it" and Spears walked out when Dr. Phil walked in, said managing editor Harvey Levin.

Sources also told that Spears angrily kicked McGraw out of her room and demanded he leave at once.

Dr. Phil said he eventually did meet with Spears for about an hour. He told "Entertainment Tonight" and "The Insider" in a press release that she's in "dire need" of medical and psychological help despite being let out of the hospital.

"My meeting with Britney and some family members this morning in her room at Cedars leaves me convinced more than ever that she is in dire need of both medical and psychological intervention," McGraw told the programs.
"She was released moments before my arrival and was packing when I entered the room," he said. "We visited for about an hour before I walked with her to her car. I am very concerned for her."

The fake concern of Dr. Phil is so blatantly manufactured that it is impossible to miss. Dr. Phil makes 30 to 50 million dollars every year by invading their privacy and acting like a real counselor on TV. His antics give all real counselors a bad name and set up false expectations for those who do seek counseling.

Real counseling is nothing like what Dr. Phil delivers on TV. He is much closer to an Oprah or a Judge Judy than a legitimate therapist. So, if you are facing problems in your life such as anxiety or depression, find a good counselor. You need not worry that he will be as mean and unscrupulous as Phil.

Friday, January 04, 2008

The Protestant Work Ethic

From a post by Rev. Bob Vincent, a Pastor from Louisiana.

Harvard University professor, Perry Miller wrote about John Cotton, 1584-1652

One respect in which the Puritans seemed a diabolical contradiction in terms of their enemies, and to many modern viewers remain a riddle, was the way they took to heart -- and to an astounding degree translated into daily conduct -- an observation of John Cotton's:

'"There is another combination of virtues strangely mixed in every lively, holy Christian: and that is, diligence in worldly business, and yet deadness to the world. Such a mystery as none can read but they that know it."

'Recently this complex mentality has been scientifically analyzed by the great sociologist, Max Weber, and after him it is called, for shorthand purposes, "the Protestant ethic." Actually, it is a logical consequence of Puritan theology: man is put into this world, not to spend his life in profitless singing of hymns or in unfruitful monastic contemplation, but to do what the world requires, according to its terms. He must raise children; he must work at his calling. No activity is outside the holy purpose of the overarching covenant. Yet the Christian works not for the gain that may (or may not) result form his labor, but for the glory of God. He remains an ascetic in the world, as much as any hermit outside it. He displays unprecedented energy in wrestling the land . . . trading in the seven seas, speculating in lands: "Yet," says Cotton, "his heart is not set upon these things, he can tell what to do with his estate when he hath got it."

In New England the phrase to describe this attitude soon became: loving the world with weaned affections. It was applied not only to one's love of his property, but also to his love for wife, children, parents and country' Perry Miller, The American Puritans (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1956), pp. 171, 172

More on Russia

As you know from reading the papers, life in Russia and the former USSR is facing a bleak future. Thankfully, despite the downward spiral of difficulties and challenges, there are some bright spots in the dark nights of Russian life.

Here are some of the clouds. The crisis in Russia is deepening with life expectancy dropping at an alarming rate. Male life expectancy has dropped one whole year from 60 to 59. Alcoholism, family abuse and environmental destruction are increasingly taking their toll.

It is estimated that some 75% of all adult males are alcoholics. The Russian team has established a recovery ministry among churches to bring hope in Christ to the hopeless and destitute.

Over the past fifteen years, our friends have trained several hundred leaders in pastoral counseling and formed numerous recovery groups in churches around the former USSR. Let's face it, there is no hope for the Russian people or for peace to break out between Russia and the USA. The situation is hopeless unless unless God breaks in to their world and into our world. The space between us cannot be filled with arms, money and oil.

If it were not for the Non Governmental Christian Organizations outside Russia the situation would be hopeless. They put millions of dollars and millions of volunteer hours into helping the Russian people get better and stronger.
Keep praying for our friends and colleagues because God is on the move. Send your tax deductible donations to:
Sweeten Life Systems
Attn: Galina
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, 45249
Go to for more information.