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Evangel University selects new president

After conducting a nationwide search for its next president, the Evangel University Board of Trustees has announced the unanimous selection of Dr. Mike Rakes as the institution’s fifth president.

Does Faith Fit Into The World We Created?

Reprinted with permission from Convene Corporation.

By Helen Mitchell

Imagine with me for a minute. What if we lived in a world where all commerce stopped? There would be no electricity, no gas stations, no mass transportation, no cell service, no grocery stores or food distribution, no hospitals, schools, movie theaters or amusement parks. There would be no food on the shelves, gas pumps would go dry, streets would not be patrolled and fires would burn themselves out. Civilized life as we know it quickly melts away.

And what if all Christians left their jobs in the marketplace to work for the local church? What if their values, skills, ideas and influence were no longer in the marketplace? Very likely, corporate misconduct, oppression and injustice would increase. Courts and laws would become increasingly more unjust. Ethical dilemmas would not have a Christian’s perspective.

You may be thinking this sounds apocalyptic, unrealistic or far-fetched – is it? If we are honest, isn’t this the natural conclusion of a world we designed from our own reasoning? A world created by a belief system which says that only what happens in, through and for the local church is sacred, and what happens in the marketplace is secular.

Can ministry and kingdom work only be associated with the work and programs of the local church, a non-profit or in jobs that are in a helping profession, like nursing or teaching?

Most pastors and individuals I have met don’t see how work and vocation connect to the Christian life. At best, work in the marketplace is to be done honestly and with moral behavior, while searching for an opportunity to share the gospel message. Unfortunately, not only is this a distorted view of work and its purpose, it also leads to an incomplete Christian life.

Work was designed to provide intrinsic value for human flourishing and a better society. Work is also part of one’s calling and part of one’s service to Christ. Work, when done in the hands of a believer, can be ministry.

In Genesis 1:27-28, before the entrance of sin into the world, God gave Adam and Eve work to do in the Garden. Their work was to be fruitful. They were to oversee, develop and manage all of creation. Mankind has enhanced creation in numerous ways so that the quality of life for many people has improved. Medical advances, technology, housing, clean water and space exploration are but a few ways that our creative abilities have improved life for an entire society.

Psalm 24:1 tells us, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it;” (NIV).

God is the owner of the world and we are his managers.

Ephesians 2:10 tells us, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.” (NIV)

We often think of that scripture, and rightly so, of the works and ministries of the local church, such as teaching Sunday school, directing traffic or greeting people. We also might think of doing good works in the community such as helping at a food bank, volunteering in a nursing home or tutoring underprivileged children. And we would be correct.

What if our understanding of good works was incomplete? The word “works” here in Ephesians 2:10 in the Greek is “ergon,” which can mean business, employment and anything done by hand.

Let’s look at that scripture again, inserting the Greek definition of “works”.

“For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus ‘to (run a good business), to (develop beautiful art), to (draft safe and innovative architectural plans),’ which God prepared in advance for us to do.”

Before the foundation of the world, God determined who he would gift with the skills, talents, and abilities to manage their part of planet earth. I like to think that God gifted certain individuals to be plumbers because he gave the design to another to create indoor plumbing.

We have just looked at how work has intrinsic value and is part of one’s calling and service to Christ, but you may be wondering, how is it ministry?

Somehow, we got the word “ministry” mixed up. It is not an industry, a job title or an occupation. For a follower of Jesus Christ, it is a way of living. We all enter full-time ministry, or full-time service to Jesus at the moment of our salvation. The Greek word for ministry is “diakonia,” which simply means active service. The mailman, the hairdresser, the mechanic and the entrepreneur, each contributes positively to society and in service to one another.

One of the first demonstrations of ministry or service was in Acts 6:2, regarding the daily distribution of food for the widows. The apostles said it wasn’t their job or their calling to serve tables. We may be tempted to misread this passage that the work of preaching the gospel is superior to the work of waiting on tables. The word “serve” in this scripture comes from the Greek word, “diakonia,” which means to minister to or be in service. Both are equally important. Both are equally ministry.

Work when done with a willing heart, to serve others and for the glory of God, is part of our service to Christ. Your work matters to God and to others. Will you fully embrace your call to work? The world is waiting.

Should I Talk About My Faith During a Job Interview?

This article was originally published on January 21, 2021 at the Thorns and Thistles section of the Gospel Coalition and appears here by permission.

By Charlie Self

I’m looking for a new job, and so I’ve been doing various interviews. I’m not sure how forthright to be about my faith. Do I leave it out of the conversation unless the interviewer brings it up? Do I slide it into the conversation, perhaps by referencing my church or my wife’s job (which is at a Christian organization)? I want to be a witness to everyone, even my interviewer. But I also don’t want to be overbearing. And I do want to get a job. What should I do?

I commend your desire to honor God and give witness to Christ’s gospel in all circumstances. Please keep that disposition, and allow it to be tempered with wisdom.

Thinking carefully about how we answer questions is not capitulation to compromise or fear. The apostle Paul sometimes positioned himself as a faithful Jew contending for the resurrection when he was before Roman authorities. In other moments he took on skeptical philosophers, using their own literature to evangelize.

In the same way, your answers may depend on what company you’re interviewing with, the questions of your interviewer, and how well—if at all—you know that person.

Two Cautions

Generally, the interviewer is in charge of the conversation. Out of respect for them, it’s wise to follow their lead—answering the questions to the best of your ability, then expanding when prompted. If you are asked directly about matters of faith, you can answer honestly. If the conversation drifts into what you did last weekend, you may want to mention the church service you attended or the volunteer work you did.

Here are two cautions:

First, if the questions about religion seem pointed or hostile, you have the right to challenge them, since religious discrimination is forbidden by law.

Second, don’t be pushy or dogmatic. One of Christianity’s great contributions to the world is freedom of conscience and religion. Christ invites us to follow him voluntarily (Luke 9:56–63). Generosity and sacrifice for the sake of others is voluntary (2 Cor. 8–9). In a pluralistic world, we desire for all others the liberties we want ourselves. Our aim is humble obedience, not haughty obnoxiousness.

Indirect Preaching

Being ready to share your faith with gentleness and respect is good (1 Pet. 3:15–16). But if the opportunity for a direct testimony doesn’t open up, that doesn’t mean you can’t be a witness.

If you are asked about guiding principles and ethics, or if it’s an inquiry about integrity, you can bring biblical truth to the conversation without becoming preachy. A Christian executive-employment coach offered these pointers to professionals as they sought fidelity to Christ in the workplace:

Let the interviewer know your decisions are guided by the timeless values of clarity, honesty, and integrity.

Communicate your willingness to work with people of all cultures and lifestyles in an environment of mutual respect and common mission. If you are pressed on “tolerance,” you can offer that there is a difference between living peaceably with different views and being compelled to promote attitudes and actions contrary to conscience.

If an interviewer goes “off the record” and wants to know more about your beliefs, ask for a completely separate setting and distinguish a personal conversation from a professional one. You do not want to be trapped and then accused of preaching or imposing your religion.

There will be moments when you must declare the truth. Doing so with kindness and inviting further dialogue is vital. It’s also important to remind coworkers that other religions have moral absolutes as well, and singling out Christianity is unhelpful in a larger conversation.

Even if we do everything wisely, there is still a real spiritual battle. All our communication must be infused with deep prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

Years ago, I worked for a technology firm in Silicon Valley. One day I was invited into a manager’s office to discuss some difficult accounts. After the business was done, the manager commented, “I hear you are a minister and going to seminary.”

I affirmed the rumor. The manager continued, “I grew up in church but left it behind in college.” When I asked why, the manager replied, “I was weary of feeling condemned while I tried to follow all the rules.” Fervently praying, I sensed an opportunity. I asked, “May I share some thoughts about Christianity with you? Can we consider this a personal conversation?” With permission, I shared a one-minute presentation of the gospel of grace. The conversation ended with the manager pledging to consider God’s invitation.

All our communication must be infused with deep prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.

If you’re asked directly about being a believer, answer kindly in the affirmative and inquire if the person desires to dialogue outside of work. Be alert for traps that will try to paint you as intolerant.

This is why the apostle Paul tells us to pray without ceasing (1 Thess. 5:17) and to seek the mind of Christ through reliance on the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 2:16). Be alert for opportunities to share, while being wary of snares. With God’s help, you can walk in confidence and wisdom.

What Being a Business Woman Taught Me about Ministry

by Svetlana Papazov – svetlanapapazov.com

THESE DAYS I FIND MYSELF JUGGLING MUCH ON MY PLATE. I’m a wife, a mom, a business consultant for entrepreneurs and a church planter. But a church planter not of the conventional type. First, I’m a female. And if that isn’t enough to raise a brow or two, the church I started, called Real Life, is what one may call an insideout-church. At Real Life, we open our doors to entrepreneurs seven days a week. We integrate a faith community and a business incubator all in one package in order to make real difference in our city’s economy and effect social, economic and spiritual lift.

But I wasn’t always a church planter. Neither was I always a pastor. My path to pastoral vocation took, what it felt like to me, a “detour” route through the marketplace in order to shape my heart to serve. Here are lessons I learned along the way of pursuing God’s call on my life and finding its expression in mission in the marketplace.

1. There is mission in the marketplace

After my husband and I, with our nine-monthold baby, escaped the iron curtain and settled in America, we began to pray that God would bring to pass one of my childhood dreams — to be in ministry in order to preach the gospel. As a family, we began praying for God’s strategy on how to get into pastoral ministry. And as God often does, He clearly answered, but not as we expected.

This is what I heard the Holy Spirit impress on my heart: “There are many people willing to work on the inside of the church, but very few minister outside the church walls. I need you on the outside of the church’s walls.” I guess that was what Jesus meant when he told His disciples to pray to the Lord of the harvest for workers.

The harvest is outside of our church walls, profusely maturing in vast, white fields, but the workers willing to leave the comfort of airconditioned sanctuaries and go into the scorching heat to bring in the sheaves are few and far between. God was going to teach my heart to love His harvest as He loves it by having me be with the harvest in the marketplace for the first 13 years of my work life in the U.S.

2. Go slow to go fast

I considered myself to be a willing harvest worker, but I found out I was an impatient one. Have you rushed to do something good for God only to find yourself being calmly slowed down by the Holy Spirit’s hand on your shoulder? Have you ever been there? I have.

What the Holy Spirit whispered during that prayer as God’s strategy for my ministry vocation looked like a long detour to reaching my dream. I already had worked out a plan. Pastors who work in church ministries have degrees in theology. I fully expected that as I prayed my heart out, the Lord would give me green light to go for a Bible college degree. And why not? I had successfully escaped to my new country of chosen citizenship. Finally, I could do something that I couldn’t do freely in my country of origin — preach the gospel from the pulpit without persecution.

Instead, God had another plan. He wanted me to go slow in order to go fast. God was setting my pulpit in the marketplace, so I would build an integrated life of faith and gospel proclamation. There, my actions, my words and my attitude toward the lost could preach some of the strongest messages that I would ever proclaim. He knew that He would lead me one day to preach behind a pulpit set on a church stage, but for the foreseeable future, my preaching opportunities would be interacting with my future clients.

God wants all of us to steward faithfully the opportunities for mission in the marketplace, because this is where his harvest lives and hurts. We are His open epistles of love and healing to the broken world in our work places, our government, our schools and our entertainment. If we exit the public square, then we are leaving the blind to lead the blind.

3. Detours are God’s straightest paths to wins

In my zeal to pursue God’s call on my life, I thought that the fastest way to get from the place I was to the place I perceived that God wanted me to be was to draw a straight line through the circumstances in my life and follow it. But I discovered that often, on the way to the new destination, God allows us to zig-zag through relationship obstacle courses, meander through the dark nights of our souls, slow down because of strategies gone haywire — all in order for our hearts to transform, so we can lead in a new way at the new place. Our new destinations, together with our new dreams, are not only about new wins, but about the new person that slowly emerges from the zig-zags of life. We become new creations as God’s grace transforms us with every foreordained step we take. Our detours become God’s straightest paths to wins.

4. Work as worship to God

Somewhat surprised, maybe even a bit disappointed that my Bible college dream wasn’t going to materialize right away, I had to admit that what God was leading me to do made sense. My husband and I decided to put my landscape architecture degree and my husband’s skills for building beautiful yards into God’s kingdom mission and started our first small business, a design and build landscaping company. We took our work as worship to God by discipling our unchurched employees, by leading missional conversations, servicing our customers in excellence, praying for them and giving them Bibles as gifts. God blessed our business and we went on opening three more.

All our work was done “as to the Lord” (Colossians 3:23, KJV). He taught us much about how to reach unchurched people and eventually began to stir our hearts to start a marketplace church that integrates faith, entrepreneurship and work and trains believers to reach the lost outside of the church walls.

Doing real life with real people, connecting them to the real God.

After training my heart to love His harvest, God released me to get my biblical degrees in preparation to see my dream of opening a marketplace church become a reality.

In 2016, after much prayer, our family moved from Maryland to the greater Richmond area in Virginia in order to start Real Life Church and Real Life Center for Entrepreneurial and Leadership Excellence (Realliferva.com). Doing real life with real people in order to connect them to the real God is the mission we find in the marketplace and the desire of my heart!

This is one believer’s journey of integrating faith, entrepreneurship and work. What is yours? 

A Year of Working from Home

This article was originally published on February 9, 2021 in Common Good magazine at Made to Flourish.

https://www.madetoflourish.org/resources/a-year-of-working-from-home

By Hace Cargo

Many at-home workers are hitting a point of fatigue they didn’t anticipate or might not even recognize yet.

In just a few weeks, thousands of Americans who once commuted to an office almost every day will meet one year of working from home or remotely. While the effects of this shift in work dynamics are apparent in improved home internet speeds and office setups, many people in our congregations and broader communities are growing aware — maybe for the first time — of the toll this “new normal” has taken on them.

In recent conversations with people in my church, I have observed this new awareness in several ways. An empty-nester who has spent decades in the office every day doesn’t realize how his newfound comfort with working from home has erased every barrier that once existed between work and the rest of his life. A young couple, juggling two careers and virtual schooling for their children, feel defeated, unable to keep up at work or at home. Young single professionals who moved to our city within the last year or two for jobs now rarely have reason to leave their apartments, and the weight of loneliness continues to grow.

There is still far more speculation than certainty about the future of the office in corporate America. And the longer that uncertainty lingers, the more pastors should be aware of the subtle effects of this unchosen work-from-home arrangement on the people in their churches. How can pastors be aware of and try to meet these needs?

Innovative Discipleship

As is often the case in pastoral care and counseling, it may start with helping people identify spiritual and emotional dynamics still lurking below the surface of their daily lives. In the midst of all the challenges presented by the last year, frustrations and temptations created by working from home are just one aspect of their struggles.

None of the parishioners I referenced in the examples above engaged with me for the purpose of talking about their work. But it became clear to me (and then to them) as we talked that their work affected their general discouragement or loneliness more than they realized. Once we help workers realize these dynamics, we must respond to them with compassion and creativity.

One thing that has encouraged me during the pandemic has been the remarkably innovative ways that churches are approaching pastoral care and discipleship. For example, if your church does small groups or community groups, can you form a group just for working parents and find a safe way to care for their kids while they meet in person or online? Maybe a single person struggling with loneliness would be open to moving in with a family for a few months to share the load of caring for kids and receive the care of embodied friendship. Maybe an empty nester could be lured away from his email for an hour by the chance to mentor someone younger in his field, even if it is another Zoom meeting for now.

Perhaps this season of continued disruption is still ripe with opportunities for new ways to “stir up one another to love and good works” (Heb 10:24).

Hace Cargo is an assistant pastor at Brookhaven Presbyterian Church in Atlanta, Georgia. He is also a City Network Leader for our Atlanta network. Hace received his M.Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary and studied Speech Communication and Sociology at the University of Georgia. Hace previously spent several years in campus ministry and interned with a multi-ethnic urban church in St. Louis, Missouri during seminary, before returning to his hometown of Atlanta in 2014. Hace and his wife have two sons.

World-renowned evangelist Marilyn Hickey awarded AGTS Pillar of Faith

 Dr. Marilyn Hickey

SPRINGFIELD, Missouri – The Assemblies of God Theological Seminary (AGTS) recently awarded Dr. Marilyn Hickey, teacher, televangelist and Assemblies of God (AG) minister, a Pillar of Faith in recognition of her global impact on the Church through biblical teaching and ongoing healing ministry.

“Marilyn has led an amazing life,” said Dr. George O. Wood, Evangel University (EU) interim president. “Here in the United States and around the world, Marilyn has a sterling reputation in ministry. We are grateful for her support of students who are preparing to make an impact in their future careers.”

Vice President and Dean of AGTS Dr. Tim Hager traveled to Hickey’s home in Colorado to present her with this prestigious award and to interview her about her life in ministry.

“Pillar of Faith Awards serve to highlight the great effectiveness of some of our fellowship’s top ministry leaders,” said Hager. “Marilyn is most deserving of this award.”

The video interview, which includes congratulatory messages from a number of ministry partners, including AG General Superintendent Rev. Doug Clay and Dr. George O. Wood, will premier this Saturday, March 20, at 6 p.m. on the AGTS Facebook page.

Foundation in ministry

Marilyn Hickey is the founder and president of Marilyn Hickey Ministries, a non-profit organization focused on international preaching and teaching, humanitarian outreach, and a daily motivational television broadcast.

Hickey and her late husband, Wallace, were actively involved in local church ministry, serving in a variety of pastoral roles in Texas and Colorado. A hallmark of their leadership was an emphasis on the Holy Spirit and biblical literacy.

 Dr. Hickey leads conferences around the world.

Local pastorates paved the way for Hickey to build a network of in-home Bible studies that led to a fully syndicated daily radio show and eventually a dynamic television ministry that includes a daily Bible teaching program with a potential reach of 2.5 billion people across a host of international tv networks.

“At the age of 42, God spoke so clearly to me about my calling in life,” said Hickey. “He said, “I want you to cover the earth with the Word.” His words brought me peace and direction.”

Global impact 

Hickey’s ministry has expanded to include speaking and teaching opportunities and Bible distribution events in over 138 countries, including Pakistan, Iran, Ethiopia, Sudan, Russia, India, and China. These visits included private meetings and prayer with high-ranking Muslim and Hindu government officials.

Her lectures on healing and the Bible have broken records for the largest public meeting ever held in Cairo, Egypt and Pakistan.

A ministry trip to northern Ethiopia in 2009 found Marilyn’s daughter, Sarah, holding newborn twins left abandoned in a field, and prompted the development of Hickey’s Saving Moses humanitarian initiative. This effort assists children ages five and under with basic food, water, shelter, and medical needs.

“For over 40 years, Marilyn’s life and ministry has been expanding the kingdom of God, not only here in the United States, but around the world.” said Clay. “The Assemblies of God family congratulates Marilyn and expresses our appreciation for her ministry among us.”

Well-deserved recognition

 Dr. Hickey preaches to a crowd in Pakistan.

Hickey has received commendation from the First Lady of Cambodia on her humanitarian efforts in the country, and was granted a private audience with then Ethiopian President Girma Wolde-Giorgis to speak about her ministry work.

In 2008, Hickey was awarded a gift of recognition by the country of Egypt, an honor usually reserved for presidents and dignitaries.

In 2015, she was awarded a prestigious Lifetime Global Achievement on behalf of Oral Roberts University.

Pillars of Faith

The Pillars of Faith, awarded by AGTS, recognize men and women who have dedicated their lives to ministry and who have done so with commitment and excellence. Honorees hold an established endowment at the university that provides scholarship opportunities to students pursuing full-time ministry careers.

To support the Marilyn Hickey Pillar of Faith Endowed Scholarship, visit evangel.edu/hickey.

To view the full video, click here.

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About AGTS and Evangel University

AGTS serves the larger Pentecostal and Evangelical traditions with 21st century leadership for the Church and its mission. AGTS is accredited by The Association of Theological Schools and the Higher Learning Commission. AGTS is the embedded seminary of Evangel University, the national school of the Assemblies of God.

Leadership: Practice

Marketplace Missionaries

Four ways to prepare believers on Sunday for their work on Monday.

By Svetlana Papazov

The excitement was palpable as pastors and marketplace leaders began filling our church for a one-day conference on whole-life discipleship and the value of work. The morning training focused on the redemptive mandate of every Christian in the workplace. The idea that any work can be evangelistic challenged my new friend.

He had walked in with his mind made up to quit his job and go into full-time ministry. My friend enjoyed his work as an inventor, but thought the only Kingdom value was in the tithes he gave the local church.

Because of what he had heard — and hadn’t heard — from the pulpit, this sincere believer was struggling to see a connection between his faith and his calling. My friend’s attitude toward his Monday-through-Friday job reflects that of many congregants who faithfully attend church on Sundays.

A week has 168 hours. On average, people who work full-time spend fewer than two of those hours on religious, civic and organizational activities, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. But they devote about 44 hours weekly to their jobs — more time than they spend on any other waking activity.

Every day, churchgoers work alongside people who are skeptical of religion. According to Pew Research Center, 54% of U.S. adults seldom or never attend services.

The American Church has sent many missionaries abroad, but there is also a vast mission field in our own backyard. To evangelize anew those who might not otherwise hear the gospel, we need to empower our congregants to become marketplace missionaries.

Believers have an opportunity to build a bridge to grace for people who never hear from a pastor. But they may not recognize their potential to make an eternal difference without the support and encouragement of their local churches. Barna Group reports that 72% of Christians “don’t fully connect the importance of their faith to their mission at work.”

To help parishioners begin to see their workplaces as mission fields, pastors should regularly affirm Monday work as a calling that’s just as important as Sunday work. Here are four ways to do that:

1. Intentional Language

What you say as a leader matters. If you associate God’s calling only with the work of full-time pastors, missionaries, and church staff, you communicate that these are the God-chosen and blessed vocations. What about the truck driver, mechanic, office manager, farmer, chemist or business owner?

Intentionally acknowledging on Sunday the redemptive value of vocations outside the church will change the way your people think about what they do on Monday.

2. Workplace Visits

Arrange to meet up with congregants for lunch at their office buildings, construction sites, and factories. Ask permission to deliver coffee and bagels for the entire office or work crew. Pray with police officers and hospital workers before they begin their shifts. Show up to support a military family when a member deploys. Bring several church staff members and some colorful baskets of supplies to help a teacher prepare, and pray over, the classroom before the start of the school year.

When pastors build into their weekly schedules this vital function of shepherding, it allows them to connect the two worlds — the church and the marketplace — and convey to congregants, “Your work matters to God.”

3. Celebration

People often sit in church for decades before they see someone from their profession on the platform. Set aside a special time to recognize and celebrate God’s call on marketplace workers. Give it a creative name, such as Monday on Sunday or This Time Tomorrow.

Ask parishioners interview questions that focus on their workplace mission: What has God called you to do this time tomorrow? What are the joys and challenges of being a follower of Jesus where you work? How can we pray for your work?

4. Commissioning

To help congregants integrate faith and work, consider commissioning them during a service.

Labor Day is a natural time to recognize the work congregants do. You may want to commission teachers and school staff in the fall.

Just as you might do when sending out vocational ministers, invite those who agree to be marketplace missionaries to come to the front of the church. Then have elders, pastors and members of the congregation extend hands and pray over them. Release these workers to advance the purposes and presence of God outside the church walls.

I’m happy to say my inventor friend left the conference encouraged that most Christ followers preach from behind the desk, not the pulpit.

Pastors can make a pivotal difference by affirming the unique contributions and callings of Christian lawyers, baristas, architects, forklift operators, doctors, and teachers, and sending them out as marketplace missionaries.

These workers can translate the gospel for the unchurched in word and deed, reaching their respective mission fields with the hope of Christ in ways no one else can.

This article was first published in the November-December 2020 issue of Influence magazine and appears here by permission.