Tag Archives: michael ireland

Book review: Peace making as a way of life for pastors

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By Michael Ireland
Special Reporter, ASSIST News Service

Editor’s note: This review was first published on Michael Ireland’s blog, “Devotional Moments with Mike.”

MINNEAPOLIS, MN (ANS) – In the introduction to ‘The Peace Making Pastor’ by Alfred Poirier (Baker Books, 2006), the author states that to be a pastor is to be a peacemaker (p.13).

Poirier says that too often pastors view peacemaking as only a tool of ministry, rather than a habit of being. “Instead of being ministers or reconciliation (2 Cor.5:19-20), we confine peacemaking to special crisis situations within the church.”

Poirier actually goes further than to say that just pastors are peacemakers or in the ‘ministry of reconciliation.’

Poirier says: “Since God reconciled all things in heaven and on earth to himself through the death of his Son on the cross (Col.1:19-20), then we who are children of God are redeemed to be reconcilers.”

Poirier develops this theme in Chapter 5, ‘Peacemaking in the Family of God,’ specifically on p.92, under the heading ‘Theology of Sonship.’ Here he says that Jesus’ connection between “peacemakers” and being called “sons of God” is not an arbitrary one. “Peacemaking is the defining characteristic of sonship. And of all Christian virtues and actions, peacemaking reflects most the meaning of being a son or daughter of God.”

This is my favorite chapter in the book because here the author lays out the biblical basis and foundation for our role as 24/7/365 Christians to be peacemakers and reconcilers in a broken and hurting world.

Poirier goes on to say that if this claim is true (that Scripture proclaims and endorses this view of us as believers), “we must not relegate our individual identity as sons and daughters and our corporate identity as family to a minor place in our theology, as if our sonship were one image among many that Scripture uses to describe God’s relationship with the church.”

Poirier states three reasons why this ‘sonship reconciliation theology’ is true.

First, he says that the significance of sonship is proved by its dominant presence in several key ‘programmatic’ passages of Scripture (Rom.8:15-32; Gal.3:15-4:7; Eph.1:3-6; Heb.2:1-18;12:1-14;1 John 3:1-3). [By programmatic he means those texts that give the sweep and order of God’s redemptive purposes].

Second, Poirier says sonship is the distinctive mark of the new covenant. He says that in Galatians 3:26-4:7, Paul likens the radical shift in the status of God’s people in redemptive history to the transition from being slaves to being sons.

The third line of evidence showing the significance of sonship in God’s redemptive purposes is that sonship is a key characteristic of our sanctification, most overtly seen in Hebrews 12.

Poirier says (p.95) that to be “Like father, like son,” is not only a common proverb, but is inherently biblical in nature. “In Scripture, sonship is about likeness.”

Elsewhere in Scripture, Paul says that we are ‘heirs and joint heirs (co-heirs) with Christ’ and that one day we shall be like Him. But there is a very real sense in that we are called to be like Him NOW. Jesus said ‘the Kingdom is within you, and NOW is’ – the Kingdom of God has come near, is with us, and within us NOW by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit.

Therefore, if we are heirs, and joint heirs with Christ NOW, we are to be like Him NOW, and to exercise the role of peacemakers and reconcilers NOW.

From reading Poirier, I conclude that not only pastors, but all Bible-believing Christians, are to be “reconciling peacemakers,” as Paul says, “as if God were making His appeal to you though us.”

This being the case, I believe it is incumbent upon us as Christ followers, in the words of Paul, to “as much as it is within your power, live at peace with all men,” and “to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”

For me, this means to live a Spirit-filled, Spirit-directed life, seeking to bring the message of ‘the peace with God’ and ‘the peace of God’ to all men, everywhere.

Churches band together for National Back to Church Sunday on Sept. 16

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO (ANS)Since the initiative began in 2009, National Back to Church Sunday has become a nationwide movement, with church members inviting more than 3.5 million family members, friends, neighbors and co-workers to special services.

In 2011, more than 7,600 churches – double the number of the prior year – representing 34 denominations participated in the nationwide effort to reach out to their communities, inviting millions of people to attend.

As a result, participating churches opened their doors to an estimated 250,000 visitors. The churches welcomed an average of 34 new visitors and experienced an average 25 percent increase in attendance.

Now, as part of a growing national movement to ignite spiritual awakening in America, more than 14,000 churches are expected to invite people to come back to church on National Back To Church Sunday (NBTCS), Sept. 16.

Although 83 percent of American adults identify themselves as Christians, only about 20 percent attend church on any given Sunday.

Some people have tried church, had a falling out, and never came back. Other people went to church in the past, moved or had a change in life circumstances. While others went to church in their youth, they drifted away. Some have just never been to church.

Regardless of the reasons, research shows about two-thirds of people would attend church if someone simply invited them.

A study by LifeWay Research and the North American Mission Board of more than 15,000 Americans found 67 percent say a personal invitation from a family member would be effective in getting them to visit a church. Sixty-three percent say an invitation from a friend or neighbor would likely move them to respond.

“Many people are waiting for an invitation to be healed from the hurt previously experienced in church,” said Pastor Ralph A. Martino of First Church of Christ Holiness in Washington, D.C. “They want to know they are welcome and encouraged to come back to church.”

In response, thousands of churches representing a cross-section of denominations are encouraging members to invite family, friends, neighbors and co-workers to attend church as part of the 4th annual National Back to Church Sunday on Sept. 16 in an effort to ignite the next Great Awakening.

“This is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America back to church,” said spokesman Philip Nation of LifeWay Research. “This year we are praying for churches to band together and bring spiritual renewal to their communities through National Back to Church Sunday.”

A list of participating churches is available at www.BacktoChurch.com/roster . As churches register their participation, their names and locations are added to the roster, allowing people to easily find a church to attend on that special Sunday.

National Back to Church Sunday is the single largest annual community outreach in the nation, sharing the simple message and mission of inviting everyone in America Back To Church. The campaign empowers churches and church members with the tools they need to welcome their neighbors, friends and loved ones back to church, while providing the unchurched with an easy way to find a welcoming church in their community.

Aurora churches pray for victims of theater shooting

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By Michael Ireland
ASSIST News Service

AURORA, CO (ANS) — Prayers for love and forgiveness, rather than condemnation, were led from pulpits and altars in churches across Aurora on Sunday morning, according to Jennifer Rios, writing for the website m.vcstar.com/news.

At Aurora Hills Baptist Church assistant pastor Zac Clark spent part of the service talking about the parents of Jason Holmes – the 24-year-old alleged gunman who was taken into custody after the shooting at the Century 16 theater complex.

“What are they going through right now?” Carter asked his congregation. “They’re thinking ‘where did I miss up? The whole world is going to hate us because we raised a monster. Because we did this.'”

“And I felt horrible,” he said. “No parent wants to raise a kid who ends up doing something like this.”

Rios reports that Pastor Clark said what Holmes’ parents need now is comfort and prayers — along with families of the 12 people killed early Friday morning. While he hopes justice will be served in this case, he reminded the crowd it wasn’t their place to do so.

Rios said Clark was grateful that some of the members of his youth group who had planned to attend the premiere of “The Dark Knight Rises” had opted instead on church camp. He reminded people that after forgiveness they should “be bold in their faith.”

“We’re here as a church to help our community…. if you see somebody in tears, take that opportunity to pray with them, to just be someone who can listen to them, to be someone to give a shoulder to cry on. That’s what we’re called on as the church. To really step up to be that light in such a dark world.”

At Harvest Christian Center about 300 people gathered for the morning’s two services honoring those victims lost Friday, Rios stated.

“The message was really just that,” Bishop Kevin Foreman said about the church’s “We Will Rise” service.

Rios reports that a special prayer was said for the victims, and their families, and their photos were shown. To Foreman’s knowledge, none of the victims’ families were present at the service.

Those who died in the shooting include Jonathan Blunk, Jesse Childress, Gordon Cowden, Jessica Ghawi, John Larimer, Alexander “AJ” Boik, Matt McQuinn, Micayla Medek, Alex Sullivan, Veronica Moser Sullivan, Alexander Teves and Rebecca Ann Wingo.

Rios said the congregation was not directly affected by the shooting, but one member had a brother who was shot in the leg while at the theater.

Rios reports Foreman said he spoke with the mayor’s office July 20 and Aurora Police Department to see what it was they needed.

“I knew we needed to get to work,” he said Sunday after the services. “Not talk, but actually do something.”

Rios said that as a result, Foreman’s church delivered breakfast burritos, juices and donuts to feed about 50 on-duty officers Sunday morning.

On July 20, the church’s food bank saw a spike in calls for help — a number Foreman said may be related to the number of people displaced while officers secured the area around Holmes’ apartment.

Rios reports Foreman said it was too early for him to talk about forgiveness in connection to the shooting for several reasons. Not enough is known about the case at this time, Foreman said, and another is that people sometimes interpret forgiveness as a sign to those suffering to get over their grief.

“We believe God can take tragedy and turn it into triumphs,” Foreman said.

Egyptian captors release American pastor, other hostages

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By Michael Ireland
Senior International Correspondent, ASSIST News Service

CAIRO, EGYPT (ANS) – Kidnappers in Egypt have released two Americans, one of them a pastor, and their Egyptian tour guide, after holding them hostage for three days, a news source stated Monday.

Mohamed Fadel, writing for the online presence of CNN in a report to which CNN’s Salma Abdelaziz and Ed Payne contributed, cited Gen. Ahmed Bakr, head of security in northern Sinai.

“They are at security headquarters with us now, in good condition. The negotiations succeeded, but we did not give in to the kidnappers’ demands,” said Gen. Bakr.

CNN reported the Americans were happy and relieved to be free.

“We are heading directly to Israel to join the members of our church as soon as we get our passports sent to us from Cairo,” said Michel Louis, the pastor of a Pentecostal church in Boston.

“I tell my family I am in good health and in good spirits, but I have not taken my medicine since Friday, so I am a little tired.”

Family members had previously said that Louis suffers from diabetes and they weren’t sure if he had his medicine with him, according to the CNN report.

Lisa Alphonse, a parishioner at another American church, said the group was “treated really well,” the CNN report said.

Earlier Monday, a senior Egyptian government official told CNN that intelligence officers had visited with the alleged kidnapper, Germy Abu Masouh, on Friday and on Sunday, and communicated with him by phone.

“We saw the hostages, who seemed to be composed, but in a state of shock and fatigue from the grueling heat, especially Michel Louis, who said he had suffered a minor diabetic attack and avoids eating much,” the official said before the hostages’ release.

CNN said that Abu Masouh, a member of a prominent Bedouin tribe in the Sinai, had said he wanted Egyptian police to free his uncle, whom Bakr said had been caught in Alexandria, Egypt, with a half-ton of drugs.

CNN also reported that family members said the two Americans and their guide were taken hostage Friday when gunmen boarded their tour bus, which was on its way to Israel.

Louis offered himself as a hostage after gunmen took the female parishioner, his son, the Rev. Jean Louis, told CNN on Monday.

“Being the leader of the missionary group, my mom said that … he stood up and he just asked that they leave the lady and take him. So this is why there’s two people in addition to the translator detained right now somewhere in Egypt,” he said. Michel Louis’ wife was on the bus when the kidnapping occurred.

Jean Louis told CNN the family was not aware of security concerns about travel across the Sinai, where Americans had been kidnapped and swiftly released in two separate incidents since February.

“If we were aware, I would believe we would use correct judgment not to enter that area,” Louis said.

According to the CNN report, Bakr earlier said the situation was “partially the fault of the travel agency,” which he said had not informed police of their route. If it had, “we would have sent a police escort,” he said.

Kidnappings and armed robberies have increased since the “Arab Spring” popular uprising which ousted Egypt’s long-ruling dictator, Hosni Mubarak, last year.