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LOVE CONQUERS HATE IN CHARLESTON

Roses 3What the enemy intended for evil, God will turn it around for your good. ~ Genesis 50:20

On Wednesday night, June 17th, a 21 year-old white gunman brutally gunned down nine (9) African American church goers at a Bible Study at the historic Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C. Investigators  labeled it a hate crime.

The entire nation was totally shocked and repelled by this senseless, horrific massacre! The church goers had welcomed the stranger, who’d walked into their Wednesday night Bible Study, with opened arms. They had no idea that he would, very shortly, kill them with a hidden firearm. Nine loving Christians were martyred while sharing Jesus’ Gospel of love and redemption with an unknown stranger. (See the names of these nine incredible individuals below.)

Amazingly, many of the relatives of those who were killed forgave the confessed murderer in a court proceeding. One relative affirmed, in her statement of forgiveness, “Hate won’t win.” What an inspiring message! Those relatives set a monumentally high standard of compassion and forgiveness that, quite frankly, not many of us could, conceivably, hope to attain. It is this, almost impossibly high, standard that was set by the crucified Christ who, from the cross, prayed concerning his executioners, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” ~ Luke 23:34

The question immediately arises, “What would possibly compel one human being to gun down nine other human beings who had shown him nothing but love and kindness?” According to investigators, the confessed killer stated that he wanted, by his actions, to start a race war in America. He intended to ignite a national conflagration of hatred, violence, and mass killings.

However, the Bible says, What the enemy intended for evil, God will turn it around for your good. ~ Genesis 50:20. Rather than being rent by violence, and greater racial divisions, Charleston, SC has, instead, chosen to embrace peace and love, not violence and hatred. Miraculously, the City of Charleston has begun the difficult process of coming together in worship, and solidarity, across racial, ethnic, political, and religious lines!

In the wake of the Massacre at Mother Emanuel Church, and with the spotlight of the nation, and the world, firmly fixed on South Carolina, SC Gov. Nikki Haley (R), at potentially great political cost to herself, has, courageously, stepped forward and called for the Confederate battle flag, long a symbol of division and bigotry, to be taken down from South Carolina’s state capitol grounds, and put in a museum. Amen to that, Governor!

What the Charleston gunman intended for evil is, indeed, beginning to be turned around for good! The gunman’s bloody and horrific act of despicable evil is, now, ironically, bringing together people of good will, of all backgrounds, colors, races, and creeds for the greater good of the community as a whole. Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. famously stated, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” Love is beginning to drive hatred out of Charleston.

Make no mistake, Charleston’s problems, racial and otherwise, are far from over. And the same can be said of South Carolina, and of America. We have yet to attain the goals of ending gun violence, racial division, and poverty. There is, definitely, still a long way to go to achieve an inclusive society that reflects the ideals of freedom, justice, and equality for all. However, Charleston, for the moment, appears to be heading in the right direction, and perhaps there are some lessons of love that we can learn from her journey along the way.

The nine red roses at the top of this article are dedicated to the memory of the following nine Christian martyrs felled at Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Charleston, SC on June 17, 2015:

  • The Honorable Clementa Pinckney, 41, South Carolina State Senator, and Pastor of Emanuel A.M.E. Church, who lent his booming voice to those whose voices often went unheard.
  • Cynthia Hurd, 54, a Library Manager, whose life was dedicated to the love of children, books, and her church.
  • Susie Jackson, 87, a Longtime Emanuel A.M.E. Church Member, and Mother Figure to generations of her family, as well as, to many of her Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church family.
  • Ethel Lance, 70, Employee of Emanuel A.M.E. Church for 30 years, who loved her church and its members.
  • Rev. DePayne Middleton Doctor, 49, Admissions Counselor at Southern Wesleyan University, whose angelic voice could heal aching hearts.
  • Tywanza Sanders, 26, Poet, and Aspiring Entrepreneur, who recently earned a Business Administration Degree from Allen University.
  • Rev. Daniel L. Simmons, Sr., 74, Retired Pastor, who served as a model of endurance and service to God.
  • Rev. Sharonda Singleton, 45, a Pastor, and Track Coach at Goose Creek High School, a dedicated Minister of the Gospel, and inspirational coach, both, on the track and off.
  • Myra Thompson, 59, A Builder of Faith, who worked diligently to restore her beloved church’s property to its full beauty.

May God wrap his arms of love and comfort around the families, loved-ones, and friends of these saints of God, and grant them His peace.

Please feel free to share your thoughts on the events in Charleston, SC in the comments below.

Until next time, remember, you can do all things through Christ.

God Bless,

Kenneth Lillard

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KICK-OFF YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON

Seahawks vs Packers

Today marks the ‘Kick-Off’ of the new NFL season. Excitement is in the air! It’s a brand new season. The Super Bowl Champion Seattle Seahawks have already faced-off against the talented and very hungry Green Bay Packers. What are the expectations for the new season? Will QB Russell Wilson and the Seahawks repeat as Super Bowl Champs? That is the question.

Also, for many students, teachers, and administrators, this week is the beginning of a new school year filled with many new expectations. And pretty soon, the green leaves of summer will give way to the reds and gold of autumn. And, so, like the new NFL and other seasons, new seasons come into our lives, as well. (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8)

How can we prepare ourselves, so that our new seasons will be truly Championship Seasons? What can we expect in our new seasons?  How can we best be successful, seize new opportunities, and share in the excitement that new seasons bring?

First, there is one thing we know, that every new season, definitely, brings – CHANGE! The Seattle Seahawks will be facing totally new offenses and defenses this year. All those new changes will make it much more difficult for them to repeat as champions. The Seahawks will have to make adjustments, and deal with the uncertainties that accompany change. As we enter the new seasons of our lives, we, too, face the uncertainties of change. And uncertainty, the unknown, very often elicits anxiety and/or fear.

However, the Bible reassures us, “Be strong and courageous. Do not be terrified because of them, for the LORD your God goes with you; He will never leave you nor forsake you.” ~ Deuteronomy 31:6. Have faith and trust in God, and He will see you through whatever uncertainties your new season brings. (See 2 Corinthians 5:7.) You don’t have to be stressed out nor anxious as you enter your new season. The LORD your God goes with you!

Secondly, a new season brings new challenges. Last year’s game plan is not going to work, if the Seattle plans to repeat. They’re going to, definitely, need a new game plan to meet the new challenges of the new season. To meet the challenges of our new seasons, we need wisdom – new strategies and game plans. James 1:5 tells us, “If any of you lacks wisdom, he should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to him.” We have to pray, and ask God for the wisdom  we need to meet all our challenges, and He will supply us with the wisdom, the winning strategies and game plans we need to succeed in our new seasons. (See Philippians 4:19.)

Finally, a new season reveals new champions! Will the Seahawks get new Super Bowl rings at the end of this new season? Or will a new champion be crowned? What are the chances of you becoming a champion in your new season? Through your own strength, it may be difficult, and even appear impossible. But the Bible says, “Humble yourselves before the LORD and He will lift you.” ~ James 4:10. “Jesus looked at them and said, ‘With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” ~ Matthew 19:26.

So, as you enter the new season of your life, go in with great expectations. Enter with a champion’s attitude, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” ~ Philippians 4:13. Yes, in your new season, you, most definitely, can be a champion in Christ, if you truly believe. “…In all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.” ~ Romans 8:3

Have a Fantastic Championship Season!

Until next time, remember, you can do all things through Christ Jesus,

Be Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard 

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Leveraging Online Discipleship

“Come to me, all who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your soul. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

Everyday, more and more people are coming to Christ over the Internet! It’s a truly amazing phenomenon! Who would have ever imagined that people would be giving their lives to Christ over twitter, through church portals on Facebook, and via church apps on their iPads?

The church’s challenge today is to effectively reach out and meet the needs of these new (and often returning) online believers. In our digital age, as more churches deploy digital technologies (including streaming live services on smart phones, and establishing internet campuses) there is an increasing need to extend discipleship training into the digital space beyond the traditional walls of the church.

The church’s online presence will continue to direct people into the church’s physical sanctuary to fellowship and connect offline. However, a new and unique church community of believers is emerging on the Internet – an online community that needs to be ministered to by qualified ministry professionals, familiar not only with the Word of God, but also knowledgeable about online networking, social media platforms and strategies, and the latest web 2.0 technologies! In no area is this need greater than in discipleship.

Christian discipleship is the transformational process that turns a believer into the person God wants them to be. It’s the calling of every believer – to follow in the footsteps of Christ!

We are instructed by Jesus, in the Great Commission, to make disciples. A disciple is a student or adherent of the teachings of Jesus Christ. Discipleship is the process of learning the teachings of Jesus, internalizing them, and then acting upon them.

The discipleship process begins with the believer desiring to be a disciple of Christ.The believer, with the help of the Holy Spirit, then learns what Jesus taught, follows through by living out those principles in his/her daily life, and finally passes them on to others.

The discipleship process can be described as eight distinct steps: 1) interest, 2) awareness, 3) decision, 4) commitment, 5) application, 6) inculcation, 7) transformation, and finally 8) replication.

Extending discipleship online (i-discipleship) through relational e-learning, enables churches and ministries to disciple more people, more effectively, locally, as well as,  globally. And, financially, the cost of i-discipleship is much lower than traditional discipleship strategies!

For more on effective online discipleship check out the following resources:

God is calling you to transform the world – one person at a time. What better time to start than right now?

How are you using social media to leverage online discipleship?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Social Media and Ministry 2012 – Trends and the Road Ahead

“For I am about to do something new. See, I have already begun! Do you not see it?” Isaiah 43:19

Can you believe we’re already halfway through 2012? Now is a great time to take a look at the state of social media and ministry today! And perhaps, more to the point, where it’s going in 2013 and beyond.

The ubiquity of the internet, social media, and digital devices has caused a paradigm shift in how we do church today. Now, when pastors call out scriptures in church, it’s not unusual to see half the congregation reach for their iPads. And the other half pull out their cell phones! Whew, what a sea change! Not very long ago, to be seen on a digital device in church brought on disapproving glares and, in some cases, verbal rebukes! Today, even the Bishop has an iPad in the pulpit!

And even though the Gospel message of love and deliverance remains the same, new and creative forms of communications, fellowship, and worship are emerging in our churches. New ways of engaging our faith, creating and distributing content, and interacting, both online and off, are surfacing daily. Internet church campuses are connected by the latest digital technology. Church is no longer just services one day a week, and Bible Study on Wednesday night. It has become a connected experience available and accessible 24/7, online and off.  Case in point, check out the International House of Prayer (IHOP)!

The state of social media and ministry today is clearly displayed all over my twitter timeline: “Come get your church on this morning with T.D. Jakes Internet Church @OMARSHIN…” “I’m so impressed @ how older members of church have got in on technology! #justsaying @Kadeciables…” “Learning how social media could enhance our church. Imagine if all your fb friends could be with you this Sunday? #nwlc12 @kelliag…” “The church doesn’t have a choice of IF it will use social media only HOW WELL it will use it. @donmillerag…” “One church I went to when @Teracarissa came to town, the pastor was calling ppl by their twitter handles. Social media church. @Gbemisok…” The handwriting is already on your Facebook wall!

So, here are some of the major trends emerging in social media and ministry for 2012:

  • Church is becoming available everywhere at anytime with apps on mobile digital devices like iPad 3’s and iPhones.
  • The central role of video continues to expand, particularly with the streaming of live and recorded sermons, services, and special events.
  • Digital technology and a variety of social media platforms provide smart channels for networking, collaborating, mobilizing, and creative, dynamic interaction.
  • Online chats are taking on an increasing significance, especially Google + hangouts, and Google+ on Air
  • Networked churches with Internet campuses continue to grow and innovate.
  • Creative initiatives like Global Media Outreach, Multiply Movement, and Mobile Ministry are having an expanded impact.
  • More churches are establishing Pinterest accounts.

As we look beyond 2012, there is clearly a place for an expanded role in the church for such cutting edge technologies as geo-locationmobile money, and AR. If popular music artists can include holograms as integral parts of their live  performances, why can’t the iChurch use similar technology to creatively share and communicate the incomparable Gospel of Jesus Christ!

These are only a few of the major trends happening in social media and ministry today. For more, and a look ahead, check out the following:

How is your ministry using social media to connect with others, creatively share the Gospel, and expand your influence?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Creative Use of Social Media by Churches Continues to Grow

Digital technology and social media definitely enable churches to expand their reach far beyond the four walls of the sanctuary! Ministries have begun to get a firm grip on these new, exciting, web 2.0 technologies. Many churches are expanding their creative and strategic use of a wide variety of social media platforms to effectively share the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

A recent FACT study of 11,077 congregations by the Hartford Institute for Religious Research revealed 7 out of 10 U. S. congregations have websites. In addition, 4 in 10 had Facebook pages in 2010! The following are examples of how some congregations are creatively using the continually expanding array of social media tools to enhance their effectiveness:

  • YesHeIs is using short documentary video to very creatively point people to Jesus.
  • Churches are making it much easier for people to find them online by putting up their own website or Facebook page.
  • Christ Fellowship Church in McKinney, Texas allows you to download their worship program by scanning a customized QR code.
  • Many churches allow you to watch worship services streamed online from their internet campus with live chat running, so you can share spiritual insights in real-time.
  • Church apps are available to watch sermons, donate, and do much more, including even swapping goods and services to help others in the community.
  • Confession: A Roman Catholic app was recently released for the iPhone. It prompts the user through pre-confession soul-searching prior to meeting with the priest.
  • The Internet evangelism project, PeaceWithGod, employs search-engine algorithms to steer people toward salvation!
  • Sing along with a new tablet hymnal from Church Publishing. In March the Episcopal Church’s publishing house released eHymnals for the iPad and other digital readers.
  • Biola University, a private evangelical school in La Mirada, CA is hosting a Digital Ministry Conference, June 5-7, 2012! 
  • The digital Bible  is available for your mobile devices, including smart phones and iPads, allowing you to connect with your faith in the checkout line at the grocery store, on the subway, or in the gym!
  • FB and twitter status updates provide insight into the lives of many congregation members, availing ministries  ample opportunities for service and caring.
  • Pastors can work relevant FB or twitter status updates into their sermons.
  • Pastors and church leaders are creating blogs and e-newsletters to regularly deliver current updates on ministry activities within the church, on mission trips, and in the community at-large.
  • Videos are being used to provide a virtual tour of churches.
  • A number of churches have begun to use the new, fastest-growing social media platform, Pinterest , to create buzz and generate more interest and excitement around their ministries.

Get a free sample or buy Social Media and Ministry by Rev. Dr. Kenneth Lillard from iTunes for additional insights into how ministries can more effectively use social media to carry out the Great Commission. 

What creative/innovative way is your church/ministry employing social media?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Social Media Team – Connecting Church and Community

What do the following jobs all have in common: content strategist, cloud architect, and app development manager? They are all new positions which didn’t exist before the advent of the digital age! The tech revolution  has ushered in a plethora of previously unimaginable job titles to reflect the new job functions demanded by the new information era.

Along with other institutions, the church has also been significantly impacted by the social media revolution. Even though the church’s message of hope and redemption through Jesus Christ has not changed, the many ways it communicates that message in the 21st century are changing, both rapidly and dramatically!

One major impact the church has experienced is in the creation of new job functions and titles. This has been necessitated by the recognition that increasing numbers of people, including church members, are engaging on FB, twitter, Google + , Pinterest and other social media platforms and networks. Effectively engaging and interacting with these individuals requires the creation of a dedicated approach, e.g., employing social media teams, to creatively connect the church with this burgeoning online community. Indeed, the congregation is emerging as a new and savvy online community with unique needs, expectations, and requirements!

In the contemporary church, many of these social media teams are led by a Social Media Manager aka Director of Social Media, Social Media Coordinator, Social Media Pastor, or Church Community Manager, among other new titles. Sometimes the roles and responsibilities of the church’s Social Media Manager are folded into the traditional  positions of Director of Church Communications, Communications Minister, or Marketing and Communications Director.

Whatever the title, the essential functions of the position are: 1) effectively share the Gospel of Jesus Christ; 2) tell the story of the church’s congregation in a creative, compelling, and engaging way, and 3) connect the church deeply with the community by strategically deploying appropriate social media platforms, tools, and strategies in collaboration with other church ministries. And only a high performing social media team led by a passionate manager/ minister can acheive these lofty goals!

Today’s Social Media Manager supervises the church’s social media teams to accomplish a cohesive, branded message for all aspects of church communications. However, rather than this being like your traditional Church Communications Director, it is more like Church Communications Director 2.0, revised and upgraded for the digital age! The new Social Media Manager will be comfortable with branding strategies, crafting an effective s0cial media strategy, interacting in a multi-media environment, and creating compelling messages and story lines. Excellent listening and customer relations management skills are mandatory, as are a mastery of social media tools and platforms required to keep the congregation and community engaged and excited about the ministry’s vision. However, the most important requirement is to have a heart for the church and the people, and a passion for communicating the Gospel clearly and effectively!

The following are links to more information on the function of an effective social media manager and creative social media teams:  

What exciting things are the social media team at your church doing?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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Can You Hear Me Now? – Mobile Ministry

“Can you hear me now?”

Today everyone has a cell phone! And it seems people are on their cell all the time – on the street, in the line at the supermarket, even at church!

 And they’re not just talking. They’re texting, tweeting, taking pictures or videos, reading books, and updating their Facebook status. And to cellphones, you can now add the iPad and a host of other mobile devices on which people are connecting and engaging! 

However, the mobile platform has tremendous potential for helping to fulfill the Great Commission. Mobile devices are highly personal, rapidly deployed, and universally embraced! And there are nealy 5 billion mobile units already in use worldwide!  

Mobile ministry can be defined as connecting and engaging people with the message, mission, and community of Jesus Christ through personal, mobile technology. Every unreached person, wherever they are in the world, now has a better chance to encounter Christ and His Kingdom, in creative and compelling ways,  through their personal mobile devices!

Here are a few reasons why mobile ministry is so important:

  • Mobile is everywhere. It is the most ubiquitous media device in the world with nearly 5 billion users!
  • Mobile can provide Gospel access to hundreds of millions of people outside the reach of the Internet or other media.
  • The mobile device is highly personal and a great way to share the Gospel in a more personal way.
  • Mobile is one of the most economical means of Christian content creation and distribution.
  • Research shows the majority of Internet usage will be via mobile devices by 2015!

For all the above reasons, the Church definitely cannot afford to sleep on mobile ministry as a very effective vehicle for accelerating Kingdom growth!

For more inormation on mobile ministry check out the following:

How are you using mobile devices for the glory of God?

Until next time, remember, you can do all things thru Christ Jesus!

Stay Blessed!

Kenneth Lillard

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