Friday, February 29, 2008

Major on Minors

We humans really do love gossip.
The media wallows in it and we who read and watch eat it up. When Bill Cunningham took aim at Barack Obama and the Democrats a few days ago he knew that it would be red meat to the media talking heads and to You Tube.

People protested, ranted and raved and the Right Wing was shocked, shocked that anyone would be offended. Rush got himself into a lather claiming that the Left Wing was trying to "Shut him and other Conservatives up in a bold bid to stop free speech." Sean Hannity was psychotic he was so offended. Poor guy was hurt; badly.

Secretly, of course, Billy and all the red meat radio heads were extremely pleased. They got what they all wanted; the became even more notorious and their ratings went up accordingly. What happens when a radio show talking head has bigger audiences? They charge greater fees for advertising and make tons more money. They must really hate controversy to stir up so much of it.

Although I do not agree with their tactics or their approach, I have to admire how they love to play the victim card every chance they get. And, it works. All the rabble are aroused and call in to sympathize with poor little Willy Cunningham. And Rush, the most successful radio head in history and the richest in memory, also spoke about how the "censors" were all after him.

Hillary cries and Rush blusters. It is great fun to watch. However, it is terrible that important issues are completely ignored by the politicians and talking heads. Chris Matthews is apoplectic with the gossip and the fact the Social Security and Medicare will be bankrupt soon is completely ignored. Even Tim Russert, usually a real reporter, did not ask one single question of Hillary or Obama about the soon coming financial melt down. But they did ask about the gossip.
Bread and circuses for the media. Bread and circuses for the talking heads. But taxes and no bread for the citizens.

I hope someone will confront the candidates about real issues. But, if Willy has his way they will all be talking about him instead.

Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Systems
We deal with real issues not made up spin issues

Thursday, February 28, 2008

A Lesson for Leaders

As a sometime consultant to Churches and Organizations I am watching the current presidential race with great interest. In it I think we see why so many Preachers and Organizational Presidents with great ideas fail so miserably. They have not learned the lesson Jesus tried so hard to teach: Love covers a multitude of weaknesses, sins and bad ideas.

Obama has little experience and almost no ideas different from Hillary. But he is overwhelming her like a tsunami over a fishing boat. Why? It is rhetoric but no all talk. His talk is warm, peaceful, kindly, thoughtful and never mean. He is self effacing, gentle and careful not to hit an opponent directly. He is the Karate
Kid in action.

Hillary goes negative and is rejected for it. Bill pulls the race card and is punished by the press. Hillary cries, drops her hankie and no one picks it up to save the damsel in distress. She attacks and he wins.
So many conservative preachers and politicians need to learn from this. Willy Cunningham, Sean and Rush need the lesson. As Paul said, "Let nothing that does not edify come out of your mouth." It is the process as well as the content of the message. Jesus was clear to say that the ways we treat each other is more important than what we say about out faith.

John McCain knows it and immediately confronted Willy's mistakes. This election will not be won by personal attacks. Reagan could not be defeated by negative attacks and Obama cannot be beaten that way. Perhaps McCain can win if he combines truth and love. Paul said those two in tandem were winners. But, it might well be the "Year of the Democrats".

Can we theologically conservative Christians gain from this process?? The candidates are spending a couple of hundred million dollars to get to the Washington they all profess to hate. That is an awfully expensive school ma rm but it will be even more tragic if we miss its meaning after they have worked so hard to train us.

Gary Sweeten
Support Sweeten Life Systems
We Coach and Consult with Leaders

If I Knew Then...

I have often thought of alternative careers to those I have chosen, or have been chosen for me. (My Calvinist self forced me to say the last part.) I think there are two or three options that I would have been very good at. In fact, I might have made millions and not worry about paddling a canoe in retirement. After all, others have.

Option 1. Weather Man. Here is a career that gets a person on TV and radio daily. Everybody knows your name but even better is the fact that you get a new Professional Name: Climatologist or Meteorologist. Best of all, it is a profession in which the players never, ever have to be even close to correct and yet they never, ever lose their jobs. A Meteorologist can be 100% wrong every day and ever week for months but no one pays attention.

Option 2. Monday Morning Quarterback or TV/Radio Pundit: This is even superior to Weather Person. The only bad part is not getting a long, academic sounding name. "Radio Jock" just doesn't have the power that Climatologist carries.

A Monday Morning Quarterback needs no education or experience. In fact, both are detrimental to success. One must possess a combination of arrogance and so the Hyper-Active Mental Cases in the Audience can call in and rant. Thus, the greate qualification is that combination so often found in sports and revered by fans everywhere. But the MMQB, unlike the weather babe, is always 100% correct. Why? Because the call the game after they know the score.

I have some other nominations but I pause to allow you to write me your Dream Vocations. The winner will get a month's vacation in Antarctica to measure the depth of the ice.

(You must pay all expenses.)

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

What Would Martin Luther King Say?

I must tell you that I have heard more biased, narrow minded prejudiced talk from reporters, pundits and politicians during his political campaign than at any other time I remember. Over 80% of African Americans are voting for Obama instead of Hillary and women are voting for Hillary over Obama. Women are very angry that white males are voting for a Black man. Is this what Martin Luther King, Jr fought for?

The Democrats are ripping each other over race and gender and John McCain over his age. So, the primary attacks by the left wing liberals on their opponents are based largely on sexism, racism and ageism. Wow! I never, ever thought this would happen. We are used to the lefts attacks on religious people but this is amazing.

In the past post I mentioned the increase in people of maturity. The Wall Street Journal has a story about people in the past who have entered high office after age 65.

The Journal tells us that many great leaders were of retirement age in the past.

John McCain will be 72 if he is elected President. Winston Churchill was 65 when he became prime minister of Great Britain in 1940. When World War II ended in 1945, he was 70. He became prime minister again in 1951 at the age of 76; when he left office in 1955 he was 80.

Konrad Adenauer became the first chancellor of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949 at the age of 73. He remained chancellor until his retirement in 1963 at the age of 87.

In 1958, at 68, Charles de Gaulle was elected the first president of the Fifth Republic of France. He held this office until retiring in 1969 at the age of 78.

Golda Meir was 70 when she became the fourth prime minister of Israel. Serving until she was 76, she was in office during the massacre of the Israeli Soccer Team at the 1972 Munich Olympics.

In 1994, Nelson Mandela -- after 27 years in prison -- became the first democratically elected president of South Africa. He was 75 at the time.

Ronald Reagan was 69 when he became President of the United States in 1981 and 77 when he left office in 1989.

These men and women were very successful leaders even though they were quite old. It does not mean that Senator McCain will be a good President. I do not know. However, the issue of age cannot be used as an excuse against him either. To attack a candidate because of race, gender or age is wrong.

By the way, McCain's mother is 97 and is vigorously campaigning for him on the stump.

Age and Ability

Is the sun coming up or going down?
As you must know from my former posts, I have started looking seriously at the age wave, actually a tsunami, that is sweeping our nation and our world. The combined numbers of Boomers, Silents and GI Joe's is staggering. This group is still very much involved in leading the nation. The causes are several fold.

1. There were a lot of people born from 1930-64. They are Blooming right now into the mature adults I call, Seasoned Citizens. Their care, feeding and positive involvement is central to the good life in America.

2. People are living a lot longer now than at any time in history. When Social Security was signed into law in 1935 the average longevity of males was 62 and they could take their pensions at 65. Today, the average length of a Male's life in the USA is 80 so if Franklin Roosevelt were alive and signing a new law for Social Security it would set the age of retirement at 83 or 85.

3. Not only are we living longer, we are living much, much better. We have incredible health care and even older folks are on average less disabled by the arthritis and other diseases that kept people in their fifties and sixties "stove up" in past decades. Thus, we are very active at a much later time of life.

4. Common people are much better educated, trained and experienced in the ways of the world. In WWI and WWII millions of Americans traveled around the world and learned about different cultures and people. It is obvious, despite Lou Dobb's hysterical opinions, that we live in a global village.

5. We are incredibly wealthy in material goods. There are no economic or governmental impediments to wealth, only impediments of personal disabilities. This means that millions of people from lower and middle class backgrounds are wealthier than Solomon in all his glory. Our problem in the West is not poverty of material goods but too much material and a lack of distribution of spiritual goods.

6. Age is an asset not a hindrance to leadership. Age brings wisdom and insight. The spiritual or non-materials aspects of older people are better developed. We are right now experiencing The Fourth Great Awakening and sharing our spiritual values is central to this period.

7. Leisure time has increased dramatically since WWII. This makes finding outlets for non-material/spiritual goods of time, energy and good deeds is critically important.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Now They Tell Us!!

We've got the whole world in our hands!
For the past year or so the airwaves and papers have been full of warnings that we needed to replace our old light bulbs with the new twisted ones. The newer bulbs are longer lasting and use dramatically less energy to produce the same light. That is good news.

So, I went out and bought a bunch of these "Twisted Sisters" and started using them to replace my old ones when they burned out. So far so good.

Today I read a very disturbing story about these new bulbs. I was reading the Wall Street Journal when I came across a report that the bulbs are VERY, VERY DANGEROUS if broken!!!!!!!!!! Yikes!!!!!

Here is the report from a Boston paper.

The Maine study, which shattered 65 bulbs to test air quality and clean-up methods made these recommendations: If a bulb breaks, get children and pets out of the room. Ventilate the room. Never use a vacuum -- even on a rug -- to clean up a compact fluorescent light. Instead, while wearing rubber gloves, use stiff paper such as index cards and tape to pick up pieces, then wipe the area with a wet wipe or damp paper towel. If there are young children or pregnant woman in the house, consider cutting out the piece of carpet where the bulb broke. Use a glass jar with a screw top to contain the shards and clean-up debris.

That is not all.
“We found some very high levels (of mercury), even after we tried a number of clean-up techniques," said Mark Hyland, Maine director of the Bureau of Remediation and Waste Management. During several of the experiments, for example, he said mercury in the air was more than 100 times levels considered safe even after a floor was cleaned. He said such levels would quickly decline if the room were ventilated and people followed their tips.

This is a double bind. We are damned either way. Buy and die or don't buy and the world melts. Green, or Mercury Red?

Can Ministries Learn from Starbucks?

Many churches are losing customers. Go to the Pew Research noted in an earlier post and see. But, what can ministry leaders do? Well, maybe we can learn from Starbucks.

SEATTLE - Starbucks is shutting its doors for three hours Tuesday night, the latest drastic step in a company wide bid to improve its sagging fortunes.
The shutdown is one of several big moves spearheaded by Chairman and Chief Executive Howard Schultz, who recently took back the reins of the company amid concerns that it was losing its edge and facing increased competition from the likes of McDonald's and Dunkin' Donuts.
Schultz has said the shutdown, which begins at 5:30 p.m. local time, is a way to energize its 135,000 employees and provide some barista re-education in the "art of espresso" at its 7,100 U.S. locations.
Many churches are "losing their edge" to new churches. What can they do?

1. Attack the successful churches. Preach against the growing churches and tell your people they are from the devil. This is happening with great regularly to Joel Osteen, Rick Warren and Bill Hybels.

2. Beat your members that are loyal. Those who have left are gone so you can't beat them so whip the people who have endured. "When you are riding a dead horse, get a bigger whip."

3. Fire the Pastor. Maybe if the dead hose has a better jockey he will run faster.

4. Play hip hop on Sunday morning. We all know that "Contemporary Music" will heal all wounds.

5. What do you propose?

Ready for Action

On the Seasoned Believers' Blog I posted a question. Larry Norman's passing reminded me to post a similar challenge on this Blog. The number of people who I call, Seasoned Believers is enormous. This group has so much to contribute to society. Especially since we are in the middle of The Fourth Great Awakening as the culmination of the Jesus Movement.

It takes several decades for any revival to mature into an Awakening and impact society. When we were young we thought that the only route to change was another revival. So, many ex-Jesus Freaks are still preaching the same message they preached during the Seventies. We are well past the time of revival and into the day of the Awakening.

The Jesus Freaks are now Seasoned Believers from age 45 onwards. We have learned, grown, changed and become Seasoned Salty Dogs in action. We have time, money, wisdom and talents as well as experience galore. What we don't have is opportunity and context.

Our churches are stuck in the old model of ministry that places people into roles that are tame and sedentary. Youth is worshipped and Seasoned Salty Dogs or Gray Panthers are asked to take bus rides to Branson and support the new Children's Wing. It isn't enough. We are not tame tigers!

Take a look at the data on seasoned Believers around Greater Cincinnati. There are 2,477, 826 people living in the Ohio/Kentucky/Indiana counties around the 275 Beltway. How many are Seasoned Citizens and then how many are Seasoned Believers as well as un-churched Seasoned Citizens?

The closest guess wins a free book from me.

Don't just sit there, let me know what would draw you into a ministry?

Gary Sweeten

Who is Who in the Pew?

The Pew Forum on Religion and Life has done another service for Christians of all stripes. You can take a look at

Christianity Today is reporting on how well it counts Evangelicals at:

They even have an interactive map showing their ideas on the percentage of differing Christin groups in each state. The Map above is about Evangelicals.
Here is the problem as I see it. Evangelicals within a Mainline group are not counted. For example, Evangelical Presbyterians, Methodists and Lutherans are called, "Mainline" not "Evangelicals". Evangelical Roman Catholics are counted only within the RC category.

At one time I was President of the Board of an Evangelical Ministry within the Presbyterian Denomination. There were many of us and we knew of many in other denominations. All Mainline groups have a large spread of theological commitments that can range from Unitarianism to Charismatic Evangelical. But these distinctions are difficult to make in surveys.
Evangelical is an individual term not a denominational term. I might be a Baptist and not be Evangelical or a Catholic and be an Evangelical. This is the difficulty with trying to use two different categories to count Believers.

But, the Pew research is insightful and helpful. For example, they conclude that religion is very dynamic and shifting. However, the percent who are self called Christians remains almost exactly the same. People shift frequently from a Christian group to another Christian group frequently. For example, from Catholic to Vineyard or Baptist to Catholic but rarely from Christian to Hindu.

For the pessimists it is bad news. The USA is a very religious nation, in fact a very Christian nation. God is good and people are coming to Him and to His churches. But many of the elite writers and media are not religious so it seems as though the nation is crumbling faith wise. It is not.

As one wag said: India is the most densely religious nation on earth. Sweden is the least religious nation on earth. America has a population of Indians led by Swedes!
But many people are switching groups and are open to try yours. Right now you can prayerfully consider who you want to invite to go to worship with you.

Gary Sweeten

More on Larry Norman

Christianity Today has more about Larry Norman on their e newsletter.

Monday, February 25, 2008

The Seven Deadly Sins

Are you interested in what cities in America rank highest in the seven deadly sins? Where do you think your city is ranked? ( They are lust, gluttony, avarice, sloth, wrath, envy and pride). Go to Forbes Magazine and look at their interactive map. It is fun.

I immediately looked up Cincinnati and discovered to my surprise that we ranked very high in two categories. Want to guess which two?

A Jesus Movement Genius Goes Home

As I remember most of you from our decade of the Jesus Movement aka as the Fourth Great Awakening and that most of you were involved in the music and music ministry of that time, I wanted to share with you that Larry Norman passed away this past Sunday at his home in Oregon. He had been very ill for the past ten years with severe heart ailments. When I was a new Christian, Larry's music meant a lot. And it still does. He was an inspiration to a generation to focus their attention away from the things of the world.

May God bless you all,
Marc O'Hara

Here is the message from
Hello everybody.
Our friend and my wonderful brother Larry passed away at 2:45 Sunday morning. Kristin and I were with him, holding his hands and sitting in bed with him when his heart finally slowed to a stop. We spent this past week laughing, singing, and praying with him, and all the while he had us taking notes on new song ideas and instructions on how to continue his ministry and art.
Several of his friends got to come and visit with him in the last couple of weeks and were a great source of help and friendship to Larry. Ray Sievers, Derek Robertson, Mike Makinster, Tim and Christine Gilman, Matt and Becky Simmons, Kerry Hopkins, Allen Fleming and a few more. Thank you guys. Larry appreciated your visits very much. And he greatly appreciated the thoughts, wishes, support and prayers that came from all of you Solid Rock friends on a daily basis. Thank you for being part of his small circle of friends over the years. Yesterday afternoon he knew he was going to go home to God very soon and he dictated the following message to you while his friend Allen Fleming typed these words into Larry's computer:________________________________
I feel like a prize in a box of cracker jacks with God's hand reaching down to pick me up. I have been under medical care for months. My wounds are getting bigger. I have trouble breathing. I am ready to fly home.
My brother Charles is right, I won't be here much longer. I can't do anything about it. My heart is too weak. I want to say goodbye to everyone. In the past you have generously supported me with prayer and finance and we will probably still need financial help.
My plan is to be buried in a simple pine box with some flowers inside. But still it will be costly because of funeral arrangement, transportation to the gravesite, entombment, coordination, legal papers etc. However money is not really what I need, I want to say I love you.
I'd like to push back the darkness with my bravest effort. There will be a funeral posted here on the website, in case some of you want to attend. We are not sure of the date when I will die. Goodbye, farewell, we will meet again.
Goodbye, farewell, we'll meet againSomewhere beyond the sky.I pray that you will stay with GodGoodbye, my friends, goodbye.

New Survey

"The American religious economy is like a marketplace -- very dynamic, very competitive," said Luis Lugo, director of the Pew Forum. "Everyone is losing, everyone is gaining. There are net winners and losers, but no one can stand still. Those groups that are losing significant numbers have to recoup them to stay vibrant."

People vote with their feet in the USA. Thankfully we do not have a state church.

It is great to be alive spiritually. But, if you want to just hang on to the past and get paid, you are facing a long, hard battle to stay alive.

"More than one-quarter of American adults have left the faith of their childhood for another religion or no religion at all, the survey found. Factoring in moves from one stream or denomination of Protestantism to another, the number rises to 44 percent.

One in four adults ages 18 to 29 claim no affiliation with a religious institution.
"In the past, certain religions had a real holding power, where people from one generation to the next would stay," said Penn State University sociologist Roger Finke, who consulted in the survey planning. "Right now, there is a dropping confidence in organized religion, especially in the traditional religious forms."
Call us if you want to grow and not lose so many members.
Gary Sweeten
Sweeten Life Systems

It's a Wonderful Life

Russian Kids
It is a great time to be alive. I just wish I could live another 50 years or so. God is doing so many great things that I am overwhelmed by His goodness. I received reports almost daily about progress that just a few years ago seemed impossible.

I can remember clearly the days of the Cold War when I joined with other men and women to march and pray for people behind the Iron Curtain. Now they are praying for us. I am not sure I even believed it was possible for the Wall to come down; for our prayers to be answered. But they were and in far,far greater ways than we ever thought or imagined.

I was in St. Petersburg, Leningrad, in 1978 and saw the devastation wrought by Socialism. Cuba looks good in comparison. At least they were driving old Chevvys but the Russians were stuck with Vladas, a piece of junk. Now Moscow and St. Petersburg are alive with BMW's and Mercedes.

But much more important are the thousands of men and women who are finding freedom, healing and hope in Jesus Christ. Our ministry, like hundreds of others, is growing in numbers, strength and impact. The devastation caused by Socialism is waning but much more waits to be done because we need more leaders.
Pray for the work we are doing in one of the greatest nations on earth. The Russian people love America and welcome our support. Support Sweeten Life Systems as we develop creative ways to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free."

The Russian people need your prayers and financial investment.

Try Seasoned Believers Blog

I have posted a quiz on the Seasoned Believers Blog.
Take a look. You might win a book!

Friday, February 22, 2008

More Compliments

It is always good to hear feedback from our former or current students. In that past few days we have received notes and letters from several who studied with us overseas and in the USA who are still using our materials to train others.

Why would they still use what they learned 20 years ago to equip their own followers? Because their own lives were changed radically though learning experiences in Asia, Scandinavia, America, Russia and Africa.

One wise Seasoned Leader said, "Wow! I had no idea what to expect when I heard you were coming to lead our planning session. But it was great. I now see what a consultant can do to re-energize an organization. Thanks a million!"

Support Sweeten Life Systems
Gary Sweeten

Coach to Seasoned Believers

Consultant to Seasoned Leaders

A lifetime of great relationships.

The Little Engine That Could Do More

This is the season of political madness. We see gross spending on TV, fancy food and expensive hotels to say nothing of high priced consultants. The New York Times reports on some of the recent spending by Hillary Clinton.
Nearly $100,000 went for party platters and groceries before the Iowa caucuses, even though the partying mood evaporated quickly. Rooms at the Bellagio luxury hotel in Las Vegas consumed more than $25,000; the Four Seasons, another $5,000. And top consultants collected about $5 million in January, a month of crucial expenses and tough fund-raising.

Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's latest campaign finance report, published Wednesday night, appeared even to her most stalwart supporters and donors to be a road map of her political and management failings. Several of them, echoing political analysts, expressed concerns that Mrs. Clinton's spending priorities amounted to costly errors in judgment that have hamstrung her competitiveness against Senator Barack Obama of Illinois.

"We didn't raise all of this money to keep paying consultants who have pursued basically the wrong strategy for a year now," said a prominent New York donor. "So much about her campaign needs to change — but it may be too late."

The firm that includes Mark Penn, Mrs. Clinton's chief strategist and pollster, and his team collected $3.8 million for fees and expenses in January; in total, including what the campaign still owes, the firm has billed more than $10 million for consulting, direct mail and other services, an amount other Democratic strategists who are not affiliated with either campaign called stunning. (Just think how much of your money she will spend as President.)

Para-church ministries do a lot of consulting and coaching and they do a lot of good. Churches and ministries are, for the most part, effective. People they touch are converted, healed and raised up in leadership. Yet, many ministries find it difficult to raise money. What is the difference?

Political issues seem more important than salvation, healing and freedom because the TV and Newspapers constantly cover those issues and we rarely get attention from the media when we minister.

If you want to see national and international changes find a strong ministry and support it. I can guarantee you that politicians will not solve the root problems of this life and eternal life.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The Little Engine That Could

When our kids were young we looked for ways to inspire them to believe in themselves. One of the books that was available at the time to encourage children to take responsibility for themselves was "The Little Engine That Could". The book tells about a tiny locomotive that huffed and puffed until he was able to accomplish a very difficult goal.

In 1974 I was challenged by my doctoral committee to finish a dissertation and complete my doctorate. I was very insecure about my ability to do the research necessary to earn a doctorate. My fear of failure stopped me cold and I procrastinated until an Elder at church insisted that I make good on the commitment to finish the job.
I am so thankful I did. God showed up in a friend who told me about a training program that was right down my dissertation alley. The dissertation and my Doctorate was the key to unlocking the future God had planned for me.

Yesterday I received an email from a leader Asia. She and her husband, an Anglican Rector, were sent by Church officials from New Zealand to minister in Singapore. Anne and David eagerly invited our teams to their church to set up a care training center. Anne is now in Virginia working with the Anglican Renewal Movement and wrote to say the people there are also using our materials and model to disciple members in better relationships.

Thank God that I got the encouragement to face my fears and finish my doctorate in discipling Christian leaders. The little engine that grew out of my dissertation has expanded into equipping centers in over 30 countries. God is still raising up Believers by the thousands to build better marriages, develop good parents, empower healthy pastors and model the gospel. Our little ministry is used all around the world to "Heal the broken hearted and set the captives free."
We are still a small ministry with very low overhead but a huge impact. Because we partner with local leaders who take what we freely give and multiply it many times, our staff is small and we minister through networks of volunteers. Support Sweeten Life Systems and keep the "Little Engine" going.
P.O. Box 498455
Cincinnati, Ohio 45249
Our Motto: A lifetime of great relationships

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Prayer Request

We have an opportunity to develop a way to stay in touch with Seasoned Believers all over the earth. Pray that we will hear God directly about the steps to take.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Hearing God-A lifetime of great relationships

When we left Pastor Don he was puzzled and fearful. He wondered what God wanted him to do about praying for divine guidance. Sure, he believed in following God from scripture but the Bible doesn't have anything to say about when to take a call to another church or how to unravel a badly mixed up marriage.

So, he asked God to reveal His will to a well known Lay Woman in the city when she was facilitating a meeting of leaders. Later in the day she called Don and said God had given her a strange insight during prayer.

"I was very surprised that I had a picture of you popped into my head. I saw you from a distance this morning at the meeting. But since we never spoke I was shocked when the Lord brought you to mind. Then I heard a voice say, 'Tell Pastor Don to seek me like he did in college and I will be with him.' Does that make any sense to you Pastor?"

Pastor Don: "Yes, indeed. I know exactly what I to do. In college I met with a small group of friends and we worshipped for thirty minutes or so and then went silent and listened to see what He had to say. Almost every time we had inner guidance about leading the student gatherings on the weekends. We were able to agree on what to teach and the issues that might arise so we could be prepared. I need to find a group of people at my church with whom I can pray and seek His voice. He is saying for me to not be afraid of seeking His voice."

Monday, February 18, 2008

Dryness or Dark Night of the Soul

A Touch of the Master's Hand
I left you a few days ago with Pastor Don as dry as Death Valley. Despite preaching in a large church and teaching in seminary he had not experienced God's presence in years. Pastor Don had the right answers about prayer, God and the Holy Spirit but no experience since he was a young man.

So, he called us one night at the suggestion of an old friend who had prayed with us back in the Jesus Movement. He knew that I hadn't lost my faith in hearing God speak. When we met and I asked Don about how long it had been since he had sought God's personal direction, he was embarrassed to admit that he had lost his fire and fervor at seminary.

During the next discussion, Don was in a very different mood. He related an incident that had shaken him up. He attendeda network of pastors from the community and during a time of reflection he had asked God for a specific word of direction. He layed out a "fleece" to the Lord to see if God would "Prove Himself interested in speaking a still small word in Don's heart."

After a few minutes of contemplation a thought entered his mind about the woman leading the meeting. It went something like this: "I must ask God to tell Mrs. Ames to get a word for me." So, he prayed, "Lord, tell Mrs. Ames what you want me to do. Amen."

At the end of the meeting, he rushed out of the room and hurriedly went to lunch where he met one of the Elders to discuss the church budget. He thought about sharing his fleece with Elder Maxwell but was too embarrassed to tell him. Since Mrs. Ames had failed to speak to him in the morning it must mean the Lord was not interested in showing up.

The lack of an answer was disappointing and somewhat of a relief. He came back to the office and received a message that Mrs. Ames had called and asked him to call her immediately. Don's heart raced as he dialed her number and listened for her to answer the phone.
"Hello, this is Muriel Ames. How may I help you," he heard from the other end.

Don said, "Mrs. Ames, this is Pastor Don and I am answering your call from earlier today.

"Oh, thank you for calling Pastor. I need to speak with you about a very strange event that occurred to me at lunch. May I tell you about it now?"

"Yes, mam," Don said. "Go right ahead."

"Well, as I was saying grace at lunch I had an odd thougth about you. I am not accustomed to speaking like this to a Pastor but I feel compelled to tell you to read a passage the Lord gave me. I have no idea what it is about but I must tell you. Is that all right?"

"Yes, Mrs. Ames. That is more than all right. Go right ahead. I am really interested in what you have to say."


My spell checker is broken.
Our workshop on speaking and hearing God is March 15. Write if interested.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Finally, An Answer for the Mainline Churches

I get a lot of requests to help mainline churches find renewal and new churches find ways to steal sheep from the Mainliners. As an Organizational Development Consultant I am all about finding ways to manage change or change the management.

Maybe better coffee is the answer!

One of the trickiest issues faced by older, more established churches is how to maintain their have.

New churches have the opposite problem. They want to know how to grow a new church and keep the ones who show up. (All this while finding enough money from young singles and families to pay the bills.)

The Mainline Churches are in a panic because they find the competition for new members to be a real challenge, especially while hanging on the the ones they have. Ron Tate, author of The Boomer Blog sent me a file made just for this purpose.

Take a look and call the team immediately.

Where is the Spring of Living Water?

In my ministry I talk to a lot of people who are spiritually dry. They are Seasoned Believers and Seasoned Leaders but they have not had a recent transforming experience with God. And they don't know why.

One pastoral leadership couple came to see me because their marriage was in deep, deep trouble. They were at a big Evangelical Church out west and it was growing in leaps and bounds.
Revival was occurring to many, salvations were common and giving was up to build a mega-sanctuary to hold the harvest. But neither of them was happy. It had been years since "The joy of the Lord had been their strength."

It took a crisis to get them to call. It always does. Prevention is not in a Seasoned Leader's vocabulary. I flew out to be with them for a few days and after telling me their tales of woe, I asked him about his spiritual life.
Gary: "Tell me about your relationship with God."

Pastor Don: I am dry; very dry.

G: Do you pray?

PD: I am so rushed and my mind is so full of things I need to do that I can't rest in prayer.

G: Have you ever had a deep heart experience with then Holy Spirit?

PD: Oh, yes. That is what drew me into the ministry. As a college student I was all fired up for God and loved to be with Him.

G: How did that happen? What seemed to "work" to help you experience God?

PD: I came to Christ in college and worshipped with a small group of students. We learned how to listen to the Lord. That is where I met Mary. She was a wonderful small group leader and we prayed together. We regularly met and listend to God about what to do. That became a wonderful time of loving God and each other. We decided to go to seminary and get married.

G: But that is not happeneing now?

PD:I have not heard God's voice in years!"

G: How about prayer in small groups?

PD: Well, in seminary Mary had to work and I studied and then we had kids. We haven't prayed together for years. And seminary was tough with Greek, Hebrew and preaching. And they warned us in seminary against getting involved in a lot of "Mystical Experiences". Pastors can't get in a group and start sharing all their issues. It isn't safe. We haven't been in a small group since college.
G: Would you be open to hearing God again or has seminary moved you away from that kind of experience?
PD: Wow. I don't know. What would my profs and ministry brothers say? (Continued)

Come to the Abiding Prayer Workshop on March 15. You will learn Simple Steps to Spiritual Renewal.
Write me at with name, address and phone number.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Great post on AIDS

Take a look at this post be an Illini grad and fan.

My Passion: Raise Up Effective Change Agents!

Most of the books and the articles I read are focused on how to do good for people. I am trained as a Change Agent. Over the years I have read almost everything there is about what works and what does not work to ,otivate people to make positive changes.
I have several degrees in how to Manage and Motivate Change. One degree is in teaching, another in organizing systems to promote growth and change and a doctorate in healing and growth of mental and emotional issues.
Our most recent book, "Hope and Change for Humpty Dumpty" has many of the principles that work in it. We have summarized the core principles and made them available to ministers, educators, counselors, coaches and consultants. Steve Griebling and I often teach on those principles to people who wish to grow as change agents.
In today's mail I received A Devotional Reading from a great guy named Chuck at I have asked him before if I might reproduce portions of his emails and he agreed it was OK. Here is his take on some things that DO NOT WORK as positive influencers.

Friday - February 15, 2008 Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules Colossians 2:20

Almost every state, as well as other countries, has laws on their books that would surprise most people. For instance:
In Salt Lake County, Utah, it's illegal to walk down the street carrying a violin in a paper bag.
In Oklahoma, you can be arrested for making ugly faces at a dog.

In California it is illegal for a vehicle without a driver to exceed 60 miles per hour.
In Danville, Pennsylvania, all fire hydrants must be checked one hour before all fires.
In Pennsylvania, it's against the law to tie a dollar bill on a string on the ground and pull it away when someone tries to pick it up.

In Calgary Alberta, there is still a by-law that requires businesses within the city to provide rails for tying up horses.
In Wilbur, Washington, it is illegal to ride an ugly horse.

Finally, in Samoa, it's a crime to forget your own wife's birthday.
Through God’s grace, we are free from regulations that have an appearance of making us holy and are able to enter into a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
You cannot legislate the human race into heaven. (Or human relations for that matter.)
Charles Henry Parkhurst

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Green is Good

Let me put my two cents in ffor going green in as many ways as possible. As a Believer I am committed to doing all I can to preserve that which God created. I grew up in open pit coal country and I saw the ugliness of leaving the pits ripped up. I know they can be cleaned up and smoothed over to be great parks, farms and building lots.
Once when I was serving as an oil filed worker I drove my car rather recklessly into the field where we were drilling and smashed a lot of corn plants. The driller, you can call him the boss, read me the riot act for tearing up a farmer's field. He was right. I was wrong.

Since those youthful hijenks I have become much more concerned about creation. I think it is wise as well as godly to tend that which God made.
Maybe my love of golf is partly my love of natural beauty. And, there is no doubt that nature helps me worship God and appreciate His glory. I remember when I visited the Rocky Mountains and had devotions sitting on a boulder. I felt very close to God and I was in awe.

So, let's admit that God is green

Ignorance of Citizens

Have you seen the You Tube video of the beautiful young woman on the TV show who did not know Europe was a continent? She was also bumfuzzled about learning Hungary was a nation. Well, ignorance is not restricted to beauty queens in America.

I often read Norwegian papers because I have many Norske friends and have visited that beautiful land many times. I recently read that their largest paper, The Aften Posten, reported on a Norwegian reporter who ranked American Presidents from best to worst. It is an annual game in the US as well as Norway and it is a silly but harmless past time.

The Professor, Mr. Moen, ranked George W. Bush as the worst in history. That may be true. I do not know. What concerned me as his rationale for naming Mr. Bush the worst. Here they are: Bush started the Iraq War, he was wrong about Weapons of Mass Destruction in Iraq, he defied international opinion on a host of other issues, from the Kyoto agreement to rules for an international court, and his tax measures have widened the gap between rich and poor.

Mr. Moen's opinions are as valid as your or mine. However, Mr. Moen has no right to offer wrong information. As you read his reasons, which are patently untrue. Not a matter of judgment, but false?

The first person to pick two of Moen's reasons that are false will get a copy of one of my books.

Click comments and tell me which are historically inaccurate.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Passionate Good Intentions

In the late Sixties I became a very passionate promoter of small groups in the church. My passion was built upon my Good Intentions to help my church and promote Bible study methods among the College and Career Sunday school class. In accord with the old adage, "The road to Gahenna is paved with good intentions" my brilliant and passionate ideas blew up in my face. As a result I studied change management or "How to manage change so it doe not blow up in my face."

For many years I have believed and taught that Christians have a mandate from God to "Tend creation". I come from rural Illinois and learned as a youth the importance of caring for the earth, water and air. But when the "Global Warming Fanatics" started promoting all kinds of very expensive ways to protect the environment, I was suspicious. I started researching how well these changes will work and not "Blow up in our face".

For example, I studied bio-fuels made from corn and other plants. It was quickly obvious that making bio-fuels was a disaster economically and environmentally. Taking so much corn from food would raise the price of cereals, grain and meat dramatically. And, bio-fuels cause more carbon in the air. Yes, I said MORE carbon, not less.
Here is the conclusion of the Wall Street Journal article in today's paper.
So, incredibly, when the hidden costs of conversion are included, greenhouse-gas emissions from corn ethanol over the next 30 years will be twice as high as from regular gasoline. In the long term, it will take 167 years before the reduction in carbon emissions from using ethanol "pays back" the carbon released by land-use change. As they say, it's not easy being green.

Why did President Bush and Congress pass laws mandating biofuels? Because farmers love the idea and politicians are buying their votes and punishing the rest of us.

So, let us understand the reality of making changes in what we grow, the fuels we use and what we ask the government to do for us. The Congress of the United States gets reelected by buying out votes. The $600.00 kick back recently voted by Congress is a disasterous policy and will hurt the economy badly. They voted to give us money to buy our votes despite the fact that it will hurt American economy.

When a politician says, "I am here to help you," cover your pocket book and run as fast as you can to the nearest exit.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Challenge of Leadership

As a Consultant to Seasoned Leaders I see many churches that are facing great leadership challenges. Unfortunately, most of them do not realize how great the challenges are.

Sometime ignorance is bliss. Wanting to get married in a fever is one level of bliss we all face at one time or another. Most people have been like Romeo and Juliet at some time in their life. The passion, thrill and excitement we felt was going to last forever and we could just "Live on our love!"

Some marriage specialists call that the "Ideal Stage of Love" and realize that despite its wonder and power, will not last forever.

After Ideal will come the "Real Stage" when the daily grind wears us down and dealing with money, house chores and kids makes us realize that love is more than feeling romantic.

After Real comes the "Work Stage" when we have to decide if our love is strong enough to carry us through the difficulties, hurts and raw emotions of disappointments and lack of romance. It is then that the Pastor's wedding talk on I Corinthians 13 starts to make some sense.

Joining a church has some similarities to falling in love. We visit and "fall in love" with the preaching, the music or the buildings. Everything is perfect and the feelings are sure to last forever. Unfortunately, church congregations and leaders are human, frail and prone to unfortunate lapses in judgment.

"Yikes" we cry. "I never expected Christians to be so, so much like my own family. They are so FALLIBLE!" This is the "Real Stage" of a church member's or staff member's life.

As Peter Drucker, the father of Organizational Change Management said, "The most difficult of all organizations to lead and manage are non-profits. And, the church is the most difficult challenge of all non-profits".

Churches are very complex organizations. The notion that a modern American church is just a simple "Church in the Wildwood" and can be led like a village church of the past is distressing. Even more troubling is the lack of wise leaders in mega churches.

Mega-churches are almost impossible to lead/manage unless they have a well trained team of systems' experts. Successful mega churches always have experts in administration, organizational development, vision, mission and strategic thinking. Pastors are not placed in the impossible place of management / leadership and preaching.

Passion and good intentions are good for road paving. Selecting a preacher to be a head of staff is as foolish as selecting the quarterback of a football team to also be the head coach. Such a decision will lead to certain failure unless the pastor has the wisdom to find others gifted in leading.
Ephesians 4 lays out the principle that God expects the church ot have a plurality of leadership gifts, talents and offices. St. Paul mentions Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, Pastors and Teachers. I think the list is incomplete and we can expect to find other gifted and dynamic leaders to lead the churches forward.
For example, I call myself a Coach and Consultant to Leaders. In an earlier era that might be a Bishop. I have no real "Authority" over others but I do exercise wisdom and counsel for many church officers. But, Coach is not in the list nor is Bishop.
Is you role listed? What other roles do you see that need to be added to the list?

Ps My spell checker is broken.

Hearing God

When we asked Seasoned Believers what topics they wanted us teach, over 90% said two things:
1. How to rest or abide in Christ and 2. How to hear the Lord speak to them.

On March 15 we will spend a half day focusing on those two issues. Our time will not be just theory. We have a design that will take theory and make it practical. We call if, TIPS: Theory Into Practical Skills.

One brief morning is not a lot of time to learn the ways to rest in the peace of Christ and hear the voice of the Holy Spirit. But it is enough. God wants us to hear Him and He is speaking to us all the time.

About forty years ago I read a book on Dialogue Prayer by missionary Roz Rinker, and it was simple, clear and wonderful. I will share her approach to prayer and hand out her principles.

Write me at if you are interested in drawing close to God on Saturday, March 15.

Gary Sweeten

Coach to Seasoned Believers

Consultant to Seasoned leaders

A lifetime of Transforming Relationships

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Jesus, The Greatest Leader Ever

Jesus was smart, savvy, spiritual and wise. He is the kind of man we need to emulate. This drawing from a Roman Catholic Church outside Moscow shows both His toughness and tenderness.

Jesus was tender when needed and tough when needed.

I have been thinking about our work at Sweeten Life Systems. We specialize in developing Seasoned Leaders. We transfer the knowledge, skills and values necessary to effectively influence others to Seasoned Believers and help them become better leaders.

We are well trained in the art and science of influence. We have many years of working with leaders all around the world so we know what works. We transfer our wisdom and to others so they can build leadership capacity and multiply themselves over and over again.

Gary Sweeten
Coach to Seasoned Believers
Consultant to Seasoned Leaders

A Wonderful Country for Us

I was born at the tail end of the Great World Wide Depression. We lived in poverty for most of our childhood and youth and Maurie and I each got jobs in a factory. Here we are 50 years later living better than Solomon in all his glory.

What happened? Did we suddenly inherit a lot of money from some rich relative? Did we play the lottery and win? No, we were blessed to live in America, the best place in the world for poor people because few stay poor.

Thomas Sowell was recently interviewed on the supposed gap between rich and poor in America. Like so much that is reported in the news, it is a myth. Here is Dr. Sowell's comment.

It's maddening to me to keep hearing how the rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer, and so on. The fundamental difference is the difference between talking about abstract statistical categories and talking about flesh-and-blood human beings. Since the book came out, for example, there's been a study released by the Treasury Department based on income tax returns. There, they are talking about following the same human beings over a span of years, which is wholly different from following income brackets over a span of years, because in all the brackets more than half the people change in the course of a decade. So what happens to a bracket is an abstract question; what happens to the flesh-and-blood human beings is different.

For example, for the flesh-and-blood people who were in the bottom 20 percent of taxpayers in income in 1996, their average increase of income over the next decade was 91 percent -- so they almost doubled their incomes. Meanwhile, for the people in the top 1 percent -- presumably the rich who are getting richer -- their average income declined 26 percent. That's diametrically the opposite from what we're hearing from nearly every newspaper and practically every political platform.

Maurie, my elder brother, Tom, my younger brother and I are all prosperous America provides opportunities for the poorset of the poor to get ahead if they get an education, work hard and save money. We three did and came up out of poverty in a very few years. PTL we were born in America.

Friday, February 08, 2008

Change Management

Today I met with a bright woman who serves in Human Relations at a mid size company in Cincinnati where I am doing some consulting and coaching. The question of the motivation and interests that caused me to enter the field of change management.

You see that is who I am. I cannot imagine a life without being a change agent. I love to impact people. I want to see people grow and change for the better.

Ever since I was zapped by God while driving a 57 Fold Fairlane on Route #37 south of my hometown in southern Illinois, I have longed to be a Helper. After the ZAP I had a strong desire to attend college. "Why?" I was asked by the Career Counselors. I did not know what to say so I just mumbled something.

I taught school for five years and loved it because it is all about being a change agent. Kids arrive in school with a lack of understanding about many things. The do not know math, English, science or geography and I was able to teach them those topics plus many other things.

But the most important thing I learned in those five years was this: People learn more from each other and from home then they do from teachers. We do not actually teach the little buggers much but we can set the table for them to eat what is good for them.
I soon realized that to get the kids to change I had to get their permission to teach them. As the saying goes, "You can lead the horse to water but you cannot make him drink."

To that I added, "You can lead the kid to education but you cannot make him think."

Oh, how I wish other change agents knew that truth. Stick around and learn how to be a better change agent as a teacher, preacher, parent, salesman, manager, scientist, husband or CEO.

More Seasoned Friends

A few days ago a dear friend from the past, a Seasoned Believer, called to re-connect after several years of silence. She and I got together today for prayer, sharing and networking.

Angela Anno was involved in our ministry almost 30 years ago when she and several others in the Roman Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement came to the Teleios Center at College Hill Church for training. I invited them to allow us to be trained how to set up their own Center for Growth and Healing.

The group grabbed the challenge The Reach Center for growth and ministry was born on the West side of Cincinnati. The Reach Center blossomed and bloomed and set up training programs all over the city and the nation.

Thousands of Believers were touched by the Holy Spirit and hundreds were healed, delivered and sent to minister to others. Several of the Reach Volunteers became Professional Counselors after finishing Graduate School.

I have always emphasized "Equipping Believers to teach fishermen and women how to fish. This was the approach of Jesus and it has been my approach at Teleios, EMI, Life Way Inc and Sweeten Life Systems.

Angela Anno is a perfect example of that strategy. She became a very skilled Peer Helper and Teacher at Reach. As a Peer Helper she provided care and counsel as good or better than that provided by a professional. As a result, many were significantly healed. Angela went to grad school and received her Master's in Counseling.

Angela has personally minister deep healing to hundreds of individuals, especially damaged children. She is a very therapist. But individual therapy is extremely limited in its scope and impact. It is far, far more effective, efficient and helpful to train lay volunteers to provide support and assistance to families so they can prevent a crisis than it is to wait until that family is in crisis.

Angela is providing leadership, energy, insight and hope to numerous organizations and groups in Greater Cincinnati. She is multiplying herself a hundred fold by training, consulting and coaching others. Keep up the good work Angela.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

The Blessings of Staying Long

There are many payoffs to living in one place for a long time. Karen and I moved here in 1967 so for 41 years we have built relationships and reared our family in the Greater Cincinnati area.

Today I had the pleasure of meeting with six long term friends from my days at College Hill Church. Frank Baker is in The Christ Hospital recuperating from a four-way by pass. PTL Frank is doing well and we were able to visit for twenty minutes before a nurse took him away for a walk.

Many good memories came back to me as I headed toward Frank's room. He is largely responsible for kicking me in the rear when I got behind in my doctoral studies. Frank confronted me about my promise to finish a dissertation, a vow I had neglected. As Proverbs 27 says:

5 Open rebuke is better than secret love.

6 Faithful are the wounds of a friend;

but the kisses of an enemy are deceitful.

After visitng Frank I met with Jon Kopke and Maurie Loomans, both from CHPC and two of the finest men I ever knew. We met to discuss a study group Jon invited me to at UC Medical School. It is an interest group on faith and medicine.

Maurie was a medical researcher for P&G for over 30 years and wanted to know how the scientists at UC measured faith. Jon runs the computer programs that track some of the research. Both are elders and Seasoned believers who believe in and practice healing prayers. The conversation was challenging, cutting edge, insightful and wonderful.

Upon arriving home I received word that Ron Meeks was in the hospital and needed prayer. Karen and I got on our horse and drove down to Deaconess to pray for Ron. God showed up and we had a great time of worship and intercession.

On our way home we stopped at The Lemon Grass, our favorite Thai place in Hyde Park. There we saw Julie and Ken Rothe, two friends and colleagues. They were our partners in founding the Life Way Counseling Center and Hospital in 1989. Ken was a hospital consultant and Julie a Counselor. What a joy to re-connect.

Being in one place allows friendships to mature and grow. We can immediately talk about our children and old times. Thank God for nostalgia.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008


One of my favorite things to do is Consultation with organizations and groups. My minor at UC was in Organizational Development with a focus on Change Agents. I needed all the help I could get back then. I am hopefully better now. After all, I have several degrees, certificates and forty years experience.

There is a new Social Network for professional consultants. It is called Linked in and the web address is, If you are a consultant/coach, it might be a good idea for you to register.

If you are already registered, let me know how it is going.
I am a member of the Cincinnati Organizational Development Network as well. I find these kinds of networks very positive ways to keep me up to date in the profession. The web address is
Our next meeting is Tuesday, February 12 at DeVry University.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Contest Prayer

A New Prayer for Sleeping
© Gary Sweeten

Now I lay me down to sleep
I thank the Lord, my soul will keep.

No fear of night,
He will provide
His angels near,
My sleeping side

At morning’s dawn,
I will awake,
To live again
For Jesus’ sake

He gives me strength,The whole night rest,
Enough each day
To give my best

© Gary Sweeten
LifeWay Ministries Inc

My Friend's Blog

If you love houses you will love this blog. I have it linked on the left of my blog but try it once and see how well she has it layed out and how well she writes about houses and the things in them.

I Voted for Jimmy Carter

When Jimmy Carter ran for President way back in the Seventies I was strongly in favor of his candidacy. He was not only a Christian, he was a southern Baptist and since that was the flock of my childhood and youth it was an endorsement for me.

When Mr. Carter gave an interview to Playboy Magazine in 1979 many Believers were shocked and disturbed. I, however, felt smug pride that a Baptist could even get into that magazine. It did not deter me from voting for Jimmy one bit. Unfortunately I had not read his entire interview or I might have voted differently.

How many of you, my loyal readers, remember what Mr. Carter told Playboy? All I remember was his statement that went something like this: "I have looked in lust on many women so I have committed adulter in my heart." That is not all he said. Now as I look back to 1979 I wish I had read the whole thing.

Here is the larger context of his interview.
Because I'm just human and I'm tempted and Christ set some almost impossible standards for us. The Bible says, "Thou shalt not commit adultery." Christ said, I tell you that anyone who looks on a woman with lust has in his heart already committed adultery. I've looked on a lot of women with lust. I've committed adultery in my heart many times....

This is something that God recognizes, that I will do and have done, and God forgives me for it. But that doesn't mean that I condemn someone who not only looks on a woman with lust but who leaves his wife and shacks up with somebody out of wedlock. Christ says, don't consider yourself better than someone else because one guy screws a whole bunch of women while the other guy is loyal to his wife.

The guy who's loyal to his wife ought not to be condescending or proud because of the relative degree of sinfulness.

What think you of this comment? Does it matter at all?

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Innovation and Change That Works

I was once asked by the Pastor and Board to stop teaching Sunday school at a local congregation. In fact, I was asked to leave the church. My sin? Karen and I started meeting with the College and Career Sunday school class in homes during the week as well as at the church house on Sunday morning.

This was a church in Cincinnati that held to the "Fundamentals of the Faith". However, starting a new thing was a real threat. Submission to authorities has never been a high priority of mine but in this case I rebelled without trying to.

I was Associate Dean at the University of Cincinnati at the time and taking some classes on the positive power of a group to mold the behavior of its members. I concluded that groups could be used to more thoroughly disciple Christians in knowing and doing the word of God.

I also learned from Inter Varsity how to do inductive Bible studies. An inductive process has the students read and discuss a passage without the teacher insisting on one interpretation. This process brought new and challenging issues to the fore and I loved the bright, intelligent discussions that resulted.

This was a threat. The young people seemed to like and appreciate the groups and they grew in size and enthusiasm. But, some of the parents were upset because their children were asking deeper questions about spiritual matters.

I was reported to the Board and they called me in to face them in a heresy trial. The entire proceedings were puzzling. One of the main points of contention focused on my beard. They concluded that I was a Quaker.

I did not handle the affair well. I was defensive, angry and unable to clarify what I was trying to do. The result was my resignation from the class, the church and the denomination my family was in for generations. It was extremely painful to Karen and me. I had never intended the home groups to be controversial and I never, ever thought I would leave the denomination my family identified with since the founding of America.

I had failed to see the truth of the parable of Jesus when He said: "You cannot pour new wine into old wineskins or they will burst." Well, it burst.

I focused some of my doctoral studies on Organizational Change. My failure at to bring a new way of teaching into the church without causing conflict motivated me to learn more about being a change agent. I never intended to get the Board upset. But I did cause trouble because I was unwise in how I brought the new ideas.

The process of a change is as important as the content of the new ideas. In fact, the way we do a new thing may be more important than what we do.
Any change is a threat. Any change brings stress and anxiety. When it is brought up in a clumsy manner it will very likely fail.
I wish I had known that when I was young.

Have you ever caused people to be upset with your new ideas? What were the ideas? What happened?

Were any of you ever burned at the stake?

How innovative is your church?

Gary Sweeten

Coach to Seasoned Believers

Consultant to Seasoned Leaders