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Pastor to Pastor Interview

Zach Szmara has been pastor at The Bridge Community Church in Logansport, Ind., since 2012. During that time, a tiny, dying, monocultural church in a declining community has been transformed into a growing, multicultural, multilingual congregation that is a cultural center of its city and the hub of the largest Protestant-church-based network of legal aid for undocumented aliens trying to normalize their immigration status.

Pastor Zach Szmra

But this story of remarkable success followed a hard landing after serving on the mission field that left Zach and his wife, Lyndy, emotionally broken, their marriage hanging by a thread.

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James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church and a prolific writer on church and culture. His latest book, Meet Generation Z, profiles the largest demographic cohort in North America today.

In a webinar hosted by Wesleyan Investment Foundation on April 25, White talked about the unique characteristics of this up-and-coming generation and what churches must do to reach them.

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Preaching has been the central element in most Protestant worship services for over 500 years. It’s the main thing pastors do, in terms of time consumption. Yet remarkably few pastors have a strong sense of identity as a preacher.


Not every pastor approaches the task of preaching in the same way. There are at least four distinct approaches to the pulpit.

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Pastor to Pastor Interview

Adam Weber planted Embrace 11 years ago as a 24-year-old seminary student with just 32 people attending. The Sioux Falls, S.D., church now welcomes some 4,000 people each Sunday through five campuses plus an online venue. Outreach Magazine has named Embrace one of the fastest-growing churches in the country for four years running, and this innovative congregation is the fastest-growing United Methodist church in North America.

Yet this thriving church nearly burned up on the launch pad when its young pastor almost burned out from the crushing workload. The 35-year-old husband and father of four talks candidly about the experience in his new book, Talking With God.

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Is Communion Safe?

April 11, 2017

>This Sunday I’ll be offering communion at Fall Creek for the first time. We will receive the elements in a way that may be new to some. Here’s how intinction works.

Row by row, people come forward to servers who stand at the head of each aisle, one holding a loaf of bread, the other a cup of wine (or grape juice, in our case). The server holding the bread breaks off a piece and hands it to each person, one by one. Each person then dips the bread into the cup, eats it, and returns to be seated.

On hearing about this for the first time, some folk wonder whether they’ll catch other people’s germs from the bread or cup. 

While I understand the concern, there really is no risk of disease. In fact, this may be the safest method of all. Normally, everybody fumbles around trying to pick up those little freeze-dried crumbs, and a few people sneeze on the tray while they’re passing it along.  This way only one person (the server) touches the bread, and that person will have just washed his or her hands. (I’m actually going to give each of them a tube of hand sanitizer before church.)
I like intinction for several reasons.
First, it’s more earthy, more sensory. Touching the bread and tasting the juice have more tactile appeal than using those dry wafers and tiny cups. 
Also, the act standing and coming forward to receive the elements can be powerful. It seems to re-create our decision to follow Christ and receive his grace. 
Finally, I love the way it symbolizes both our individual relationship with God (we receive the elements individually) and our unity as a body (we’re all doing it together). 
This is a very powerful way to receive communion.

But here’s my question: Given the fact that when we receive the Lord’s Supper, we place ourselves in a position to be alone with God, filled by his Spirit, and transformed by his grace … can it ever be considered safe?

What do you think happens when you receive communion?

Nobody likes to talk about it, but ageism is a significant problem in the church. The same battle women clergy have faced to gain respectability and access to employment is now being fought by men over 50.

A 57-year-old pastor with a record of significant growth was dropped from consideration by a search committee who reported that “the congregation expressed its wish for a youngish pastor with children still at home in order to draw people of the same age and life-stage.” He never made it to the first interview.

One church official confided that, in some circles, mature pastors are being encouraged to re-career rather than seek a new appointment.

Young pastors attract young families, so the thinking goes. They have more energy, fresher ideas, and are more likely to help the church grow.

Ironically, church may be the one institution where maturity is a handicap.

It doesn’t have to be that way.

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