Does God Care

Dave Earley

Las Vegas is Sin City. Sin has a price tag and the price tag is brokenness. Yet, it is not only Las Vegas “sinners” who experience suffering and sorrow. We all do.

The question we are faced with is this: Does God care?

Sometimes when we are hurting, we feel all alone and that, of all people, God has no idea what we are experiencing. This is a lie.

Two thousand years ago, God stepped out of paradise in Heaven so He could experience our pain. He not only saw our suffering, He tasted it, He wore it, He lived it, and He died as a result of it.

The ultimate and only pure picture of a bad thing happening to a good person is the cross. Jesus Christ was the only sinless person who ever lived. He is the Son of God and God the Son. Yet, He experienced the ultimate in bad. Pain, suffering, sorrow, and evil resulting from sin filled the cup that Jesus drank in full measure.

Are you struggling with emotional anguish? Many of the people Jesus had lovingly healed and fed called for His crucifixion. His friend betrayed Him, His best friend denied Him, and His followers abandoned Him. He was spit upon and mocked. Jesus knows about emotional pain.

Are you frustrated by injustice? The witnesses at the trial of Jesus lied about Him. The courts operated illegally to convict Him. Even the governor, after plainly stating “I find no fault with this man,” condemned Him to death.

Are you in physical pain? Remember that Jesus was beaten. He was whipped nearly to death with a whip designed to shred and rip the skin off His body. He experienced crucifixion—the most painful type of execution the Romans could imagine. Jesus died gasping for air, pulling against spikes in His wrists and feet, writhing for hours in front of a vicious crowd.

Is your battle against spiritual torment? The eternally innocent One, Jesus, had the filth of our sins dumped upon Him. His own Father had to turn His back on His then sin-covered Son. Darkness, torment, and hell filled the cup He drank down for us.

Imagine the excruciating agony of the Heavenly Father, after an eternity in union with His Son, being forced to turn away at His Son’s greatest point of need. Imagine having the power to remove all the pain from His Son, but knowing that to do so would leave the world cursed by sin.

Does God know anything about pain? You have got to be kidding. On a much higher, deeper, broader level than we can possibly imagine, God experienced exactly what it is to have bad things happen to a good person. He knows what it is to suffer, and He knows how to help us in our suffering.

Are you in deep anguish? Battling bitterness? Staring at a thick wall of doubts and questions? Worn out by your pain? You need God. Take your pain and turn it into prayer. Talk with God. Tell Him that you hurt. Tell Him you need encouragement. He is there.

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By Dave Earley

I love looking at the lives of people who were moved by God to do the difficult in order to try and make a difference. David Wilkerson was such a man.

He was the pastor of a small church in Phillipsburg PA when he saw a Life Magazine cover photo of seven gang members arrested in New York City. He was stirred by love believing that “Love is not only something you feel. It is something you do.”

He left his comfort zone and did something. He resigned his church, moved to the city and began a street ministry to young drug addicts and gang members. He understood that the key to city impact was not going with the goal of making converts, but going with the goal of meeting needs. Then he said, “The conversions would take care of themselves.”

He later stated that as he began to actively love gang members, meet their needs and proclaim to them the love of God, God began to do miracles.  He also build his ministry with a strong belief in prayer, “The day you learn to be publically specific in your prayer that is the day you will discover power.”

Later that year, Wilkerson founded an addiction recovery program now known as Teen Challenge. The ministry grew and expanded and now helps alcoholics, drug addicts, gang members, prostitutes, and others of all ages bound by life dominating and disabling issues. It now includes more than 1000 centers in 82 countries, Studies show that graduates of the program are less likely to return to their addictions and are more likely to be employed than those who went through similar non-faith based programs.

Wilkerson then wrote a book, The Cross and the Switchblade. It told the true story of Wilkerson’s first five years in Brooklyn as he ministered to disillusioned youth, encouraging them to turn away from the drugs and gang violence they were involved with. It details the conversion of gang leader Nicky Cruz. In the book, Wilkerson tells how he reached Cruz,

“Nicky Cruz: You come near me and I’ll kill you!

David Wilkerson: Yeah, you could do that. You could cut me up into a thousand pieces and lay them in the street, and every piece will still love you.”

The book became a best seller, with more than 16 million copies distributed in over 30 languages. It has been recognized by Christianity today as one of the “Top 50 Books That Have Shaped Evangelicals.”

Several years later, the book was turned into a major motion picture by the same name starring Pat Boone as David Wiklerson and Erik Estrada as Nicky Cruz.  The film has been viewed by an estimated 50 million people in over 30 languages in 150 countries.

Wilkerson did not stop there, he then began Youth Crusades, which was an evangelistic ministry aimed at teenagers whom Wilkerson called “goodniks”—middle-class youth who were restless and bored. His goal was to prevent them from becoming heavily involved with drugs, alcohol, or violence.  Later, he moved his ministry to Texas and began a national ministry to college students and also a global ministry for missions.

In his mid-fifties he continued being stirred by love and moved to Manhattan and launched Times Square Church. The church quickly grew to include people from over 100 nationalities and now has over 5,000 people involved weekly. It became aggressive in serving the community by feeding the homeless, and helping the disenfranchised. It developed a large emphasis on prayer and a large Thursday PM prayer meeting.

At the end of his life, Wilkerson said, As I look back over fifty years of ministry, I recall innumerable tests, trials and times of crushing pain. But through it all, the Lord has proven faithful, loving, and totally true to all his promises.”

He was killed in a car crash at the age of 79.

The legacy of David Wilkerson is that he allowed himself to be stirred by love. He left his comfort zone and left a big footprint. He made a difference that is continuing today.

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Worth IT

#worth it
By Dave Earley

When it is 110 degrees and my back hurts and I’ve have had a long week and my allergies are acting up and I’m tired of living in “Sin City” it is easy to wonder, “Why am I doing this?”
I think about having most of my family living 2,300 miles away and I miss my friends. I consider the book contracts, the great retirement plan and great health insurance I left behind. I think of people we have poured our lives into in Vegas who have gone back to their addictions. I consider giving up and I ask, Is it worth it?”

Then God allows us to be a part of something that answers the question in bold print. YES, IT IS WORTH IT!

Thursday night, in spite of the heat 110 degree heat several hundred people came to the park for a Jesus Party. God reminded me through several people that it is worth it.

Buford, one of my friends who has been attending our Sunday night Grace City Flamingo services, asked if he could talk to me privately. I have learned that with street people, what will happen next is they will tell you a sad story and ask for some money. After giving them the money, you should not expect to see the money again.

Just a couple of weeks earlier, I had given Buford enough money to cover his rent so he would not have to be homeless. So I was thinking, I am not going to give him anymore money.

But this was different.

He pulled me aside and said. “I told you that when I got paid, I would pay you back.” Then he opened up his wallet and tried to pay me back!  I was so proud of him I almost cried. He seemed fairly proud of himself as well.

Then there were four ladies (Sandy, Lori, April, and Leslie) from Center Grove Baptist Church in Clemons NC who came to spend the week serving with us. They had wash basins and joyfully washed the feet of strangers’. You need to understand that some of those feet had not been washed in a very long time and smelled awful. Plus they painted some little girls nails for the first time.

Sam and Graham
, two of our pastoral leaders, did a great job of boldly sharing the gospel.

Ben (an intern from Virginia), Angel (the homeless advocate) and Gary and Lashunda (who we met in the park last year and since then have been saved, freed of drugs, baptized, married, and have both gotten jobs ), along with a lot of other great people served several hundred people free hamburgers, hotdogs, chili, chips, cookies, pop, and ice water. They gave out snow cones and popcorn (more snow cones than popcorn). They helped little kids play in inflatable bounce houses and have their faces painted.

who lost her best friend this week, was meeting people at the registration tent.

Xavier came to the park to get drunk and left with Jesus. Viktor, an ex-gangbanger, was brought to the park by his family and found new purpose pursuing young gang members for God. Plus a dozen other people were deeply touched by the love and power of God.

Rachel Pezzuto
and her kids heard me speak at a Spotswood Baptist Church in Virginia last year. Since then, they wanted to come to Vegas and serve with us –which is pretty cool! What really blessed me is when she told me that she prays for us every day!
So yeah,

I guess it is worth it.

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Reaching The Defining Generation

Reaching The Defining Generation
By Dave Earley

The Millennial generation, those born 1980-2000 and now aged 14-34, is the largest in US history with a population of 77.9 million. As we discussed last week, based on population, there should be a large number of young adults knocking down the doors of our churches, but this is not the case.

We need to rethink how we “be the church” for this defining generation. As I said last week, the challenging thing is that the only type of Christianity that will reach Millennials is authentic, relational, missional, global, biblical, sold-out, radical Christianity. Business as usual is not working. For example, 80% of Southern Baptist Churches baptized less than one young adult last year. Sixty percent did not baptize a single teen.

The good news is that the only type of Christianity that will reach Millennials is authentic, relational, missional, global, biblical, sold-out, radical Christianity. So when I read the book of Acts, I see the same values that are reaching pluralistic, Post-Christian Millennials.
Look at Acts 2:42-47 with fresh eyes

And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching, to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread, and to the prayers. 43 Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles. 44 Now all the believers were together and held all things in common. 45 They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.46 Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house. They ate their food with a joyful and humble attitude, 47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And every day the Lord added to them those who were being saved.

  1. Teaching the Jesus Way of LivingThey devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching.

The apostle’s had just spent three years living with Jesus, watching His life and memorizing His teachings. Jesus had commanded them to teach others all he had commanded them (Luke 6:42)  So starting with the basics of loving God, and others, and moving on to loving one another, they taught their people the Jesus way of living.
I find we the best “teaching” to give Millennials is the straight stuff – everything Jesus said and did  – even the hard stuff, without watering it down.

  1. Devotion to Living in Community. They devoted themselves … to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread… Now all the believers were together and held all things in common T

In the second century Justin Martyr described Authentic Christian love in this way, “We who used to value the acquisition of wealth and possessions more than anything else now bring what we have into a common fund and share it with anyone who needs it. We used to hate and destroy one another and refused to associate with people of another race or country. Now, because of Christ, we live together with such people and pray for our enemies.

Tertullian reported that in the third century the Romans would look at the Christians and exclaim, “See how they love one another!”

According to A Lifeway Research survey, Millennials value relationships more than other generation. Family and friends, Facebook and twitter deeply impact their lives. I find that most young adults are looking for “family” and when the church feels like “family,” they feel at home. They like smaller more intimate venues than the boomer generation.

  1. The Discipline of the Prayers. They devoted themselves … to the prayers.

Possibly because they were motivated by the example of David and Daniel, the pattern of prayer three times daily was adopted by the Jews and was regularly practiced up through the time of the early church. Regarding the Jewish pattern of prayer, Epiphanius speaks of “Rising up in the morning and in the middle of the day and in the evening, three times a day, when they say their prayers in the synagogue. 19

The early church continued the practice. For example, church father, Tertulian says explicitly that we must always pray, and adds, these significant words:

“As regards the time, there should be no lax observation of certain hours—I mean of those common hours which have long marked the divisions of the day, the third, the sixth, and the ninth, and which we may observe in Scripture to be more solemn than the rest” 20

Many Millennials are flocking to liturgical churches such as Catholic and Episcopalian because of the discipline of the liturgy. On the other hand, one of the largest Christian movements of young adults in America (IHOP-KC) is built around the practice of a community of believers practicing worship and prayer 24/7/365. Over 1,000 young adults commit to spending 24 hours a week in the prayer room.

  1. Experiencing the Supernatural. Then fear came over everyone, and many wonders and signs were being performed through the apostles.

Jesus launched His ministry with supernatural healings and deliverances. Jesus sent His disciples out to do the same (Summoning His 12 disciples, He gave them authority over unclean spirits, to drive them out and to heal every disease and sickness).

Before He left, Jesus told His disciples they would be able to do those works and even greater ones than these (John 14:12-15). He also told them to wait to launch their ministries until they had been empowered by the Holy Spirit (Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8). The first several centuries of church history tell the story of a church moving ahead on the winds of the Holy Spirit.

American Millennials have grown up with a much greater sense of the supernatural than their parents. Wizards, witches, vampires, werewolves, angels and demons flood their media options. Millennials have a global awareness. They have been exposed to supernatural healings and deliverances on mission’s exposure trips to the majority world.

Churches that reach Millennials cannot just skip over the supernatural aspects of the Bible.

  1. Generous Living. They sold their possessions and property and distributed the proceeds to all, as anyone had a need.

In the second century, Bishop Clement, described the change that occurs in the life of a new Christian, “He impoverishes himself out of love, so that he is certain he may never overlook a brother in need, especially if he knows he can bear poverty better than his brother. He likewise considers the pain of another as his own pain. And if he suffers any hardship because of having given out of his own poverty, he does not complain.”
Churches that reach millennials cannot ignore social justice and mercy ministries. They also cannot just delegate it as a fringe program of the church. Caring for the poor and broken must become a huge part of what they church is and does.

  1. Non-segmented Christianity. Every day they devoted themselves to meeting together in the temple complex, and broke bread from house to house.

First century Christianity was not a one hour a week compartment in the life of the Christians. It was a daily lifestyle of worship, study, fellowship, service, evangelism.
Even though less Millennials are practicing Christians, those who are following Christ are highly committed. They avoid lukewarm churches and go for churches that are all out all the time in following Christ.

  1. Experiential Worship

Millennials learn best through experience and participation. Several years ago, we led a prayer summit with 60 young adults where we met for a weekend without a microphone, stage, screen, platform, or speaker. We sat in two concentric circles and worshipped, read the Bible together, and prayed with and for each other.  I interviewed each of the young adults after and without exception they all loved it. Most said something along the lines of, “This is what I thought Christianity was supposed to be like.”

8. Global Engagement
Christianity was started to be a global enterprise extending from Jerusalem, to Judea, to Samaria to the furthest ends of the earth. Millennials have been raised to believe that they can change the world and will join churches that they feel are seriously trying to make a difference. They have travelled more than any other generation and have more friends from and in other countries than any other generation. Churches that reach them have to be serious about impacting the world.

So, in order to reach millennials we really don’t to try to be what they want a church to be. We only need to be what Jesus intended a church to be. Why wouldn’t we want to do that?

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The Defining Generation
By Dave Earley

Possibly the most significant generation in American history is rising to the forefront and the church is not prepared. The Millennial generation, those born 1980-2000 and now aged 14-34, is the largest in US history with a population of 77.9 million. Based on population, there should be a large number of young adults knocking down the doors of our churches, but this is not the case.

Millennials are the least spiritual and religious generation in American history. Only 13% consider any type of spirituality to be important. Most don’t think of religious matters at all. Only 31% believe that Jesus is the only way to get to heaven. Only 5% have evangelical beliefs. A majority (65%) do not attend any type of religious services. When they leave home, they leave church. Their lack of Christian involvement is rapidly drawing our nation into the ranks of post-Christendom.

They view churches as not being for them. In most of their minds churches are an unsafe place to express doubt. They see churches as a place that doesn’t give satisfactory answers to life’s difficult questions and providing a culture that doesn’t work for them. They describe churches as overprotective, shallow, anti-scientific, repressive, and exclusive.

Most churches are failing to reach them with the gospel. For example, 60 percent (27,600 churches) of the more than 46,000 churches in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC) reported no youth baptisms (ages 12 to 17) in 2012. Eighty percent (36,800 churches) reported only one or zero baptisms among young adults (ages 18 to 29).

The American church needs to realize that one of the largest mission fields in the world -78 million Millenials – is right down the street. We need to rethink how we befriend, win, grow, and send out this defining generation.

I see myself as a missionary to the millennial generation. I have focused most of my energy on helping millennials who have a Christian background discover, develop and define their own faith. In my experience, I have found the following strategies of ministry to be most effective.

  1. Relationships. Millennials value relationships more than other generation. Family and friends, Facebook and twitter deeply impact their lives. I find that most young adults are looking for “family” and when the church feels like “family,” they feel at home. They like smaller more intimate venues than the boomer generation.
  2. Mentoring. Most millennials want a guide by their side as opposed to a sage on the stage. Millennials will join multi generational churches if the older people in the church act as mentors to the younger ones.
  3. Missional. Millennials believe they can change the world and will join churches that they feel are seriously trying to make a difference.
  4. Spiritual. While there are less millennials involved in church than other generations, the ones who are there are very committed and passionate. They can’t go with the flow because the flow of their peers is away from church. So they are passionate about their faith.
  5. Experiential. Millennials are not looking for a class, they are looking for an experience.
  6. Participatory. They do not want to watch others do ministry, they want to do it.
  7. Substantive. They are abandoning the overly shallow, overly simplistic churches of the boomers. They are more educated than previous generations and have encountered more intellectual arguments against Christianity. While they have shorter attention spans than previous generations, they don’t want you to dumb it down. They are comfortable with the mysterious, unanswerable aspects of the gospel.
  8. Global. They have traveled to more nations and have more relationships with people from other nations than any other generation. They like churches with a global mission.
  9. Challenging. I find that millennials like to be stretched and challenged, not entertained.
  10. Patient. They want to try things and do it now, so let them. But be patient.
  11. Passionate. They have been hit with a constant stream of commercial noise all of their lives. What attracts them is genuine passion for God and compassion for people.

The beautiful thing about Millennials is that the only type of Christianity that will reach Millennials is authentic, relational, missional, global, biblical, sold-out, radical Christianity.
The challenging thing is that the only type of Christianity that will reach Millennials is authentic, relational, missional, global, biblical, sold-out, radical Christianity.

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Dave Earley

How can you tell if a church, especially a new church, is successful?

By Sunday, and weekend worship service attendance? By offerings? By baptisms? By number of members? By Sunday school attendance? By number of small group leaders? By number of missionaries supported? By amount of foreign mission dollars raised? I know different churches that measure success by each of those things. We count those things as well.

But since Grace City Church is not just a Sunday morning church, but tries to be the church all week long, we have started measuring success by what we call extended impact. The idea is to see how many people we touch with the gospel each week and see if that number is growing. We want the number of people impacted Monday through Saturday to be at least as many as impacted on Sundays.

So we add our two Sunday worship experience numbers to all of the people we minister to every week who aren’t with us on Sundays. This includes the children reached in our weekly public school Good News Clubs. It also includes the number of people who meet on Wednesday nights in the park for worship and Bible study.

Then add in the students in our UNLV collegiate ministry, and the people we personally meet with to help with food, clothes and prayer in our outreach center. Many of these people will not make a Sunday gathering, but view the Grace City ministry they participate in weekly as their “church.”

Being the Church
While we are told to not miss worshiping together (Hebrews 10:25), there is no verse in the Bible that says “church” is a special service on a special day in a special building. In fact, there were no “church” buildings until the second or third century. The church met in houses
Acts 2:46; Romans 16:5,).  In Jerusalem they also met in the temple courts area. (Acts 2:46; 5) In Ephesus, they met daily in a lecture hall Acts 19:9).

There is no verse in the Bible that states that “church” only counts as a worship service one day a week.
The first church met every day of the week (Acts 2:46; 19:9)).

There is not even a command in the Bible to “go to Church.”
But we are told to “go make disciples.” (Matthew 28:18-20). He invited us to be the church out in the community all week long.

Jesus said that rescuing the lost is a key to bringing joy to heaven.

Luke 15:7 Count on it—there’s more joy in heaven over one sinner’s rescued life than over ninety-nine good people in no need of rescue.

Last fall, our extended impact reached nearly 500 people a week. Our goal now is that by our second anniversary in November we want to see if we can impact 700 people weekly with the gospel.

How do you measure success?  

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By Dave Earley
“Devote yourselves to prayer” Colossians 4:2

The apostle Paul challenged the first century church to live devoted to prayer. We take that command seriously. At Grace City, everything flows out of prayer. We strive to live in an atmosphere of prayer and worship.

We understand that in the parts of the world where the church is exploding, the church lives to pray and prays to live. “Church” is not being entertained from a stage an hour a week, but rather “church” is powerfully encountering God in prayer and worship.

The first church in history was birthed as a result of a seven day “Burn” week of prayer (Acts 1:12-14). Prayer was transcribed into the DNA of that first church (Acts 2:42). They observed the three Jewish hours of prayer (Psalm 55:17; Daniel 6:10 met with God three times a day – morning (Acts 2); noon (acts 10:9); and afternoon (Acts 3:1). They responded to persecution with more prayer (Acts 4:23-31). They resolved church issues by re-prioritizing prayer (Acts 6:4). Church leaders made decisions and commissioned leaders after seasons of prayer (Acts 13:1-3).

This past week at Grace City held another Burn Week of prayer and worship. Since the Lord’s presence is often referred to as fire (Exod. 3:2; 13:21-22; 40:38; 2 Chronicles 7:1-3; Ezekiel 1:27-28; Matt. 3:11; Acts 2:1-4; Hebrews 12:28-29), our goal was to  draw so close to Him that His glory consumed us. Four days were spent chasing God in Word-fed, Spirit-led, worship-based prayer. Following the pattern of the early church, we pursued God three sessions a day: 9:00 AM, 10:30 AM, 7:00 PM.

An average of 30 people joined us every morning as we focused on practicing the human aspects of revival as discussed in 1 Cor. 7:14 – humble brokenness, prayerful pursuit, and honest repentance. The presence of God often left us humbled on our faces before Him!

Between 70 and a 105 people came each night as each night had its own theme. God powerfully met different people on different levels. People were saved. Deep hurts were healed. Sins were repented of. Addictions were broken. Ministers were called and anointed.

Over 170-180 different people were involved at some level through-out the course of the week. Along with our Worship Leader Sara Malsch, we were also led by guest Worship Leader Emaurie Woods.

The Lord seems very pleased with our efforts to seek Him. On several occasions, there was heavy, thunderous, glorious silence. At other times, joyous dance broke out. A few times, the Lord unleashed a wonderful atmosphere of inner healing. At least once a day, it was awesome to look around to see a room full of people spontaneously finding others to pray for.

They say “the heart is like a rubber band, once stretched it never returns to its original size.” We hope that will be true of us as God exploded our hearts with His glory.
If you missed this June Burn Week plan on joining our next one in January. It will change your life!

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