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Saturday, March 26, 2011


Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Drop-outs
by Thom & Sam Rainer
Chapter 1
study composed by Rev. Anderson T. Graves II
Consider this quote from a church drop-out called Joe: I guess I never saw how my faith and my church connected. I knew I was saved. I knew I was sinning. I felt convicted about living this lifestyle. But I didn’t see how it all tied in to the church.

We assume that everyone in church knows that they’re supposed to live right. We assume that everyone who’s been saved will strive to be holy. The author’s research indicates that those assumptions are wrong. People who were members of a church but become church drop outs typically maintain interest in spiritual matters and describe themselves as people of “faith.” However, they don’t see the connection between their faith and a church. In other words: They aren’t dropping their faith. But they are dropping the church.

1. What can our churches do to make real and essential the connection between what we do at church and how we live away from the church house?

20% of high school students who are members of church of a church actually plan to stop attending church when they move out of their parents’ home. The other 80%, the vast majority, plan to stay in the church.

2. From the stats above, we can conclude that most kids don’t drop out of church just to get free from their parents rules. Losing teen as they enter young adulthoold isn’t ineveitable. How do we apply this news in the church’s approach to teens?

In the parable of the sower (Mark 4: 1-20), productivity/ success isn’t marked when the seeds come up as plants. The seeds only succeed when they come up and bear fruit themselves. Another point is that the productivity of the seed is based on the type of soil on which it is sown.

3. Of the types of ground mentioned in Mark 4, which kind best describes the environment for young believers in your church? What “treatments” are most needed to make the soil more productive?

Interest in religious matters increases in college, but attendance of religious service decreases until about 3 years after college graduation.

4. What needs and opportunities does this present for the church?

The major source of disillusionment within the church stems not from the expected differences of worship style wrs, time slots, day of worship, or even geographic location of the church. while some do leave for these oft-stated reasons, the major loss originates from the lack of discipleship within our churches. (p. 31)
To be blunt, God has converted our children, but we have failed to disciple them. (p. 30)

5. Describe the specific means by which a new Christian in your church is developed into a mature believer? Can you?

The majority of chapter 1 is a section titled “Back to the Basics.” The authors make the case that the fundamental problem with retaining active members is that we have over-complicated what church means.

This section deals with 8 premises (in italics):
#1 People are Looking for more but not finding it in church.

#2 People make a decision to leave or return to church usually When past experiences collide with future opportunities.

#3 Dropouts usually just want church to Give me a break!

#4 A major reason for dropping out of, staying out of, or returning to church is The people of the church.

#5 Most church dropouts/ stayouts say “I just don’t feel connected to the people anymore.”

#6 Dropouts and stayins agree that a critical factor is The pastor of the church.

#7 An equally (or more) critical factor is The parents of the church.

#8 There is no separating The essential church and the essential gospel.

6. Take one or more of these premises and explain it in the same length as a Facebook post (420 characters). Then post your explanation(s) on Facebook and see what comments you get.

A former church dropout called Matt (pgs. 34, 35) described how he sacrificed time at church to spend time with a new baby and work the long hours at his job. After a while his wife and he felt a ‘void in our lives.” When asked if going back to church had filled that void, Matt answered, “No.” He didn’t so much want church, but he wanted to walk in the call of God on his life. He said, “I needed to be the man for my family that God was calling me to be.”

Matt didn’t blame his former church, but he said he was never personally challenged there.

Matt is now a lay leader in his [new] church. His current church challenges him, and he is part of a mentoring group for those working through a call to ministry. He preaches occasionally on Sunday nights. Matt now feels the church is essential to his life. While he still struggles with his work schedule and balancing family life (and who doesn’t), the church is a key component of helping him do that.

7. How do we challenge believers and help them figure out how to meet those challenges?

8.  Is asking them to take a church office or be on a church “program” the same as challenging them to live for God?

9. How do we impart the idea that taking “a break” from church is equivalent to taking a break from God? is it?

10. The people who report a disconnect with the people of the church were members of their churches. What mechanisms need to exist in our churches so that people feel connected to one another?

A myth repeatedly discredited in the book is the idea that young people prefer events and programs rather than substantive teaching and discipling. Essentially, young people leave the church because we have dumbed down the gospel while simultaneously increasing the complexity of church (Can you say “Pharisees”?)

11. What is an “authentic” church?

An essential church does not compete for sanctuary fillers. An essential church battles the dark powers for the hearts and minds of the lost. (p. 39)

12. Have we over-emphasized or under-emphasized adding to the numbers on our church rolls? What problems come from either approach? What is the correct approach?

65% of the people who stayed in church said that the senior pastor’s sermons were “engaging.” 63% of those who stayed said the pastor’s sermons were “relevant.”

13. How should considerations of “engaging” and “relevant” factor into sermon preparation?

Students are 20% more likely to stay in church when their parents are “authentic in their faith.”

14. What does your church do to help parents share their faith with their kids? What should your church do? Be specific.

Amos 8: 11 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord God, “That I will send a famine on the land, not a famine of bread, nor a thirst for water, but of hearing the words of the Lord. 12 They shall wander from sea to sea, and from north to east. They shall run to and fro, seeking the word of the Lord, but shall not find it. 13 “In that day the fair virgins and strong young men shall faint from thirst. “

Our young sistes and our young brothers (Amos 8: 13) are thirsty for the Word of God. They want to be told how the Bible says they are supposed to live. Think about it. Everything in the world already tells them that it’s O.K. to live anyway they want. If we deliver the same message or fail to deliver a different message (effectively the same thing), they we make ourselves irrelevant. Why do they need church if it only gives them the same crap they get everywhere else?

15. Essential churches are vessels out of which pours the living water of the Holy Spirit. What can you do in the next month that will move your church more fully into being that vessel?

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II
Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road
Montgomery, AL 36116
phone: 334-288-0577

Sunday, March 20, 2011


O.K., so you know stuff. Everybody knows stuff, but how do you know that you know? Most importantly, you know what the Bible says about Jesus, but how do you know that you know? The familiar story of Jesus and Nicodemus reveals a challenge from God to go deeper and higher in our knowledge of Him--to a place where we not only know, but know and know that we know.

Rev. Anderson T. Graves II, pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church
541 Seibles Road, Montgomery, AL 36116
phone: 334-288-0577; email:

Friday, March 18, 2011

ESSENTIAL CHURCH- Book Study , Part 2: 7 Deadly Sins

The quadrennial theme of the CME Church is An Essential Church: Poised for 21st Century Ministry

This is our 2nd post about the book  Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts by Thom & Sam Rainer (B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN).

The authors list "Seven Sins of a Dying Church":
Sin 1: Doctrine Dilution
Sin 2: Loss of Evangelistic Passion
Sin 3: Failure to Be Relevant
Sin 4: Few Outwardly Focused Ministries
Sin 5: Conflict Over Personal Preferences
Sin 6: The Priority of Comfort
Sin 7: Biblical Illiteracy

Before you reply, read the explanation of these sins (pgs. 16-19)  Here's a link to the introduction of the book.

1. Does/ How does each of these show up in our churches?

2. What do we do about them? 

3.  What is the comprehensive strategy  (Carolyn) to deal with them all?

4. How does church move out of a state in which the memories have become greater than the dreams (Rose)? 
*By the way, Rev. Lynn, that's a beautiful phrase. It needs to go on a banner. 

"When the memories become greater than the dreams, we can never make a difference in changing our world for God." ---Rev. Rose Lynn

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Hall Memorial CME Church



Matthew, Mark & Luke describe Jesus’ passion & agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Read and compare the three passages.
Matthew 26: 36-47
Mark 14: 32-42
Luke 22: 39-47

1. Consider John 18: 1; Luke 22: 39; & Mark 14: 32; Matthew 26: 36. Where did Jesus and His disciples go after the last Supper? Why?

2. In the garden as on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9) Jesus takes His 11/12 closest friends with Him. He brings his 3 closest friends aside with Him away from the other 8/9 disciples. Then He leaves the 3 to go off a little distance to pray alone. What lessons can we draw about prayer “circles” from Jesus’ example?

3. Matthew 26: 37, 38; Mark 14 : 33,34. Describe Jesus’ state of mind in the Garden of Gethsemane.

4. How many times does Jesus pray in Gethsemane? Give the verse references from
a. Matthew 26: _______
b. Mark 14: _______
c. Luke 22: _______

5. The first time Jesus goes aside to pray, what instructions does He give to Peter, James, and John? Give the verse reference(s).

6. The 2nd time Jesus goes aside to pray, what instructions does He give to Peter, James, and John? Give the verse reference(s).

7. What did Peter, James , and John do while Jesus was praying? Why? Consider Luke 22: 45 and compare with Luke 9: 32 .

8. The 3rd time Jesus returns to Peter, James, and John, what instructions does He give? Give the verse reference(s).

9. Consider Matthew 26: 41; Mark 14: 38; Luke 22: 40. Whom does Jesus ask the disciples to pray for?

10. Read Luke 22: 40; Mark 14: 38; & Matthew 26: 41. There are two possible meanings of the phrase “Pray that you may not enter into temptation.
a. Ask God to keep you out of temptation.
b. Pray because the act of praying will keep you out of temptation.

Which do you think was Jesus’ intention? Why?

11. What does Jesus pray for Himself? Give the verse references from
a. Matthew

b. Mark

c. Luke

12. What is the cup/hour Jesus doesn’t want to receive? (Compare with Mark 10: 37-39.)

13. If Jesus didn’t want to go drink from the cup, why did He? What are the implications for us? (Matt 26: 53)

14. Explain the term “Abba, Father.” Consider Mark 14:36 ; Romans 8:15; & Galatians 4:6.

15. How does God answer Jesus’ prayer in Luke 22: 43.

Read this article from Wikipedia:
Cutaneous hemorrhage- According to Dr. Frederick Zugibe (Chief Medical Examiner of Rockland County, New York) it is well-known, and there have been many cases of it. The clinical term is hematohidrosis. "Around the sweat glands, there are multiple blood vessels in a net-like form. Under the pressure of great stress the vessels constrict. Then as the anxiety passes the blood vessels dilate to the point of rupture. The blood goes into the sweat glands. As the sweat glands are producing a lot of sweat, it pushes the blood to the surface - coming out as droplets of blood mixed with sweat\
In a lecture, Dr. Zugibe stated: "The severe mental anxiety...activated the sympathetic nervous system to invoke the stress-fight or flight reaction to such a degree causing hemorrhage of the vessels supplying the sweat glands into the ducts of the sweat glands and extruding out onto the skin. While hematidrosis has been reported to occur from other rare medical entities, the presence of profound fear accounted for a significant number of reported cases including six cases in men condemned to execution, a case occurring during the London blitz, a case involving a fear of being raped, a fear of a storm while sailing, etc. The effects on the body is that of weakness and mild to moderate dehydration from the severe anxiety and both the blood and sweat loss."
Another effect is that the skin become extremely tender and fragile, so that any pressure or damage to the skin is more than ordinarily painful

16. What does this medical explanation add to your understanding of Luke 22: 44.

17. List at least 3 principles of prayer you learn from Jesus’ prayers in Gethsemane.



The quadrennial theme of the CME Church is An Essential Church: Poised for 21st Century Ministry

Below are some stats and conclusions from the introduction of the book Essential Church? Reclaiming a Generation of Dropouts by Thom & Sam Rainer (B&H Publishing Group, Nashville, TN).

- Big stat:  70% of church going young adults drop out of church between the ages of 18-22!

Top Ten Reasons Church Dropouts Stopped Attending Church:

1. Simply wanted a break from church.

2. Church members seemed judgmental or hypocritical.

3. Moved to college and stopped attending church.

4. Work responsibilities prevented me from attending.

5. Moved too far away from the church to continue attending.

6. Became too busy though still wanted to attend.

7. Didn’t feel connected to the people in my church.

8. Disagreed with the church’s stance on political or social issues.

9. Chose to spend more time with friends outside the church.

10. Was only going to church to please others.

General conclusions:  1) Churchgoing students drop out of the church because it is not essential to their lives.
2) Young adults are likely to stay in church if they see church as essential to their lives.

Here's a link to the introduction of the book.

Questions to begin discussion:
1. Do you see these top 10 in your congregations?  In your life/ past, personally?

2.  Do we address these reasons one at a time or in some more comprehensive strategy?  Keep in mind that these are the top 10 reasons, not the only 10 reasons.

3. What does an essential CME Church look like?

*If anyone has a link to the text or audio of the 2010 Episcopal Address, please post it.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


March 15, 2011
After  prayerful deliberation, the Senior Bishop of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, Bishop Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr. and the chair of the Committee on Episcopacy, the Rev. John W. Honeysucker, make the following announcements regarding Episcopal supervision.  These announcements are occasioned by the death of one of our Episcopal leaders, Bishop W. Edward Lockett.
Bishop Lockett's death leaves a void in the leadership of the Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and specifically in the Fifth Episcopal District.
In keeping with the authority within THE BOOK OF DISCIPLINE, REVISED 2006, specifically within  ¶432.7, page 119, and  ¶1402, §7, page 432, the Committee on Episcopacy has made the following appointments:
1.  The assignment of Bishop Teresa E. Snorton as the Presiding Bishop of the Fifth Episcopal District, effective immediately; and
2.  The recall of Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham to active service and the assignment of Bishop Ronald M. Cunningham to the Eleventh Episcopal District, effective immediately.
The Senior Bishop, on behalf of the College of Bishops, also announces the following administrative appointments, in the place of Bishop W. Edward Lockett:
1. The appointment of Bishop Sylvester Williams, Sr., as the chair of the Department of Ministry to Men;
2. The appointment of Bishop James B. Walker as the chair of the Committee on Economic Development;
3. The appointment of Bishop Teresa E. Snorton as vice chair of the CIT Advisory Committee and the CIT Standing Committee, and as vice chair of the Board of Directors of the Connectional Headquarters; and
4. The appointment of Bishop Teresa E. Snorton as representative to the Commission on Pan-Methodism. 
Thomas L. Hoyt, Jr.
Senior Bishop
"An Essential Church: Poised for 21st Century Ministry"

Saturday, March 12, 2011


A boy comes home from his first jr. high football game. He throws his uniform, pads and all onto the floor and announces, "We won. I quit!" The boy's mother doesn't understand....

This began the sermon God gave me for the Spring Convocation at Miles College. The Lord has a Word of challenge & hope for the church --all of us , and for the church--each of us. The answer is to get down and dirty.

Listen and apply the Word
-Rev. Anderson T. Graves II, pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church

Hall Memorial CME Church

541 Seibles Rd., Montgomery, AL 36116
phone: 334-288-0577

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


Let me tell you how great God is!

Tuesday morning I was in the dentist's office with people shoving metal into my mouth and asking, "Can you feel that?  Does that hurt?"

Tuesday evening I was in the Montgomery City Jail watching experiencing how God makes a way.  As I walked into the receiving area of the City Jail to start the evening of Bible study and GED preparation, I saw the warden talking with a well-dressed brother in a pin-striped suit. That usually means a lawyer or a detective, so I spoke, and started signing in and  making ready for the class we do every Tuesday night.

The brother with whom the warden was speaking had come without any clear reason why to talk to someone at the jail about helping in some vague way with the GED program.  It's 5:30 P.M., after business hours and this guy just shows up.  He didn't know me; Minister Whitener, our friend from Maggie Street Baptist; or anything about what we're doing at the jail. 
But, watch God do His thing.

This guy has resources that can help us get diagnostic tests & other resources we were lacking.  His contributions will make what we're doing even more effective.   We just met, but in about 15 minutes of conversation God revealed multiple connections between everyone standing there.   

If we do our part, if we just do all the ministry we can with however much or little we have, God will provide for us to do more and greater (Matthew 25: 21).

And, as we talked there in the jail God pointed the way to a door of opportunity we've been praying for---more to come on that.

Pray for this ministry.  It would make such a difference if these men could come out with something better in hand, a piece of paper that opens up new & legitimate opportunities to provide for their families (and almost everyone we work with is somebody's father) and to contribute to society.

Pray for this ministry.  The brothers in jail are people.  Their souls like the ones in our pews every Sunday. They cycle in and out of jail for a few days, weeks, months.  Most of the guys from our earlier groups are already out.  These brothers will get out.  But when they do, they can no something more about wisdom and the love of Christ.

Jail ministry ran late.  The math time was intense. (Thank God for Minister Luther Whitener out of Maggie Street Baptist for his math expertise.)

But let me tell you how great God is!
Tuesday night as the guards keys turned in the lock to take the brothers back to their cells.  I was kneeling on the concrete floor of the Montgomery City Jail praying with a brother named Phillip as he gave his life to Christ.

God is so great!

-- Rev. Anderson T. Graves II, pastor of Hall Memorial CME Church,
541 Seibles Road, Montgomery, AL 36116
phone: (334) 288-0577

Sunday, March 6, 2011


God used a kids' movie and a conversation with my daughter to open my eyes to a deeper understanding of the Transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus is the real-life model on which all superheroes are based. He is the real and original Super-Man. The record of Jesus' Transfiguration and the events leading up to it in Matthew, Mark, & Luke show us Jesus as the ultimate hero and teach us a lesson about the power we find in  our Hero's Secret Identity.

Please listen. --Rev. Anderson T. Graves II, Hall Memorial CME Church