Summary: Our God has called us to engage the community around us and it will be a fight!

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EXODUS 17: 1-17

FEBRUARY 20, 2005


There are about 600 inmates who await execution in the state of California. A dozen of these are women. All of them have committed heinous crimes. But that doesn’t stop Ann Baker, a grandmother from San Diego, from treating the inmates like she believes Jesus would treat them.

Baker heads a letter writing campaign designed to love the men and women on Death Row. The people who write do not write to condemn or condone. They write out of conviction and compassion. They write because they believe even the worst criminal is a child of God.

The letters are sometimes mundane. Baker writes to her prison pen pal about the dog, going to church and seeing the hot-air balloon festival in Albuquerque. Her male pen pal tells Baker about exercising in the prison yard and of the screaming and cursing that goes on around him at night. "On a bad night, it’s hard to hold onto his sanity," she says.

They trade trivia questions. "We’re constantly trying to stump each other," says Baker.

One LA County attorney who prosecuted a woman convicted of killing her five children is not a fan of the outreach program. She says "as a society we’ve decided these people are beyond redemption.”

Beyond Redemption?

This group believes otherwise.

SOURCE: SermonCentral staff. Citation: "Crime & ministry" by Sandi Dolbee, San Diego Union Tribune, March 15, 2002.

Contributed by: SermonCentral PRO

Church Priorities for 2005 Vary Considerably Georga Barna:

February 14, 2005

(Ventura, CA) - Church analysts have noted that most congregations operate independently of the ideas and efforts of other churches. That absence of consensus emerged in the data from a new study conducted by The Barna Group (Ventura, California) regarding the ministry priorities of Protestant churches. When a nationally representative sample of 614 Senior Pastors was asked to identify the top three ministry priorities for their church in the coming year, not a single ministry emphasis was listed by even half of the church leaders.

Three-Stage Ranking

Overall, twelve different ministry emphases were listed by at least 3% of the pastors, aligned in three distinct levels of priority.

The most frequently mentioned priorities were discipleship and spiritual development (47%); evangelism and outreach (46%); and preaching (35%).

The second level of priorities included congregational care efforts, such as visitation and counseling (24%); worship (19%); ministry to teenagers and young adults (17%); missions (15%); community service (15%); ministry to children (13%); and congregational fellowship (11%).

The lowest priorities among the dozen ministries described by pastors were ministry to families (4%) and prayer (3%).

TRANSITION THOUGHT: Who is redeemable and what should be the focal point of our priorities? These are two questions we should wrestle with on a regular basis. Last week I started us on the Journey of Lent. One of the most important things we can ever learn to do is pray and fast. Not only will we see great victories in our own lives, but everyone around us will be blessed, their lives changed and God glorified. Today, I want us to move out a little. I want us to think about ENGAGING OUR COMMUNITY as the true battle that it is. The battle is fought on many fronts. First and foremost, the battle begins with us deciding that we should be in this fight in the first place. The next big issue is the question of How: how do we go about reaching our community?

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