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True Christianity


True Christianity is a collection of sixteen messages by Charles Finney (1792-1875). Divided into four sections -- repentance, prayer, witnessing, and spiritual growth -- the book defines the simple essence of the Christian life. Written primarily for those who call themselves Christians and want a deeper walk with the Lord, each chapter will challenge you with Finney's bold and clear teachings. Compiled and edited by F. G. Kuruvilla, the 1800s language has been updated for the twenty-first century reader. To view the book in pdf format, click here.

The Indian Christian community has been facing some unprecedented challenges in the past couple of years. Agape Partners International (API) was approached by many families, churches, and organizations for providing resources to deal with some of these problems. Even though there has been numerous efforts have to help out those in need in many ways, the problems are getting more complex as days pass. API sponsored a consultation on January 18, 2009 at First Church of God, as we approach another year with conferences, conventions and camps, to openly discuss the critical issues of our community and possible solutions. This event was an informal gathering of a selected group of concerned men and women of God who are doing ministry or are interested in helping young people and families in various capacities. The purpose of the meeting was to create an environment where attendees could learn from one another's experience.

The participants of the consultation represented people from diverse background including Social Workers, Psychiatrist, Chaplain, Counselors, ministers, other leaders representing various churches such as AG, Church of God and IPC, and other organizations such, PYFA, Parivar International, Redeemed Music, NextGen, YWAM, and Agape Partners International.

Major Challenges of the Community

·         Relationship Issues:-There is a very powerful agenda in the media lobby to influence the society especially young people with the intent of ‘normalizing’ previously deemed ‘abnormal’ practices such as homosexuality. Removal of ‘homosexuality’ from deviant behaviors from DSM–IV (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders) is a major example. Acculturation or Cultural Assimilation has led to an erosion values in the Indian Christian Community which is also cited as another reason:-

o    Cohabitation before and In lieu of Marriage

o    Uncontrolled Dating

o    Interfaith marriage

o    Sexual Relationships outside the boundaries of marriage

o    Homo and bi sexual behavior

o    Marital conflicts, separation and Divorce

o    Domestic Violence and Abuse

 

·         Church Issues

o    Weak churches – Lack of resources to deal with problems faced by the members

o    Shallow Spirituality – Lack of consistent and powerful teaching of God’s word in the churches

 

·         Individual Issues

o    Internet Addiction – Pornography, Unrestricted chatting leading to sexual perversion

o    Drinking and Drug Use

o    Gang Involvements

o    Unrestricted Spending

 

 

 

Analysis of the Problems

·         Family is the basic institution for the development of any individual – Families have failed to instill the values and transmit them effectively to the younger generation

o    Communication between parents and children does not take place effectively

o    Parents do not prepare children about appropriate relationships – The values are not instilled early enough

o    Children often cross boundaries impulsively (immature behavior)

o    Commitment is often given to ‘partners’ prior to communicating to parents and praying about their ‘choice’

o    There is no awareness that marriage involves ‘two families’ and not ‘two people’ especially in the Indian community

o    There is relatively very poor awareness among parents about ‘acculturation and assimilation’

·         The failure of the ‘church’ in helping ‘families’

o    Pastors do not speak openly about above stated problems

o    There are no trained ‘people’ in churches to deal with such problems

o    Services are ‘program’ oriented and ritualistic and not geared towards proactive measures or solutions to problems

Proposed Solutions and Available Resources

·         Churches must emphasize having ‘trained counselors’

·         Pre marital and marital counseling must take priority in the coming days in the church agenda

·         ‘Topical’ messages and ‘contextual’ Bible study series are essential

·         Church infrastructure must be changed to gear its focus towards ‘spiritual growth’ of young people (Peer groups, informal awareness gatherings etc)

·         Retreats and other Informal gatherings to help parents to deal with ‘needs’ and ‘problems’ in a practical way

·         Churches must provide ‘support’ (financially, emotionally …..) for young people to come up in ministry with a focus to deal with the problems of the ‘now generation’

·         Transform programs and services of churches with a focus to build a ‘relationship’ and ‘trust’. Young people and parents must have confidence in ministers that they are ‘capable’ of helping them solve their problems without breaching the principles of confidentiality.

 

Immediate Course of Action

The gathering unanimously agreed to have a joint venture of a one day training of Pastors, Ministers and Youth Leaders

·         Focus will be on the most crucial problems of the community and possible solutions

o    Creating an awareness of the felt needs

o    Review resources available in the community

o    Discuss and strategize reinforcement of the institutions of family and church

o    Develop practical measures for adequate pre marital and marital counseling

o    Change church environment to a place of ‘equipping’ and ‘discipling’

·         PYFA and Citywide Pastors Fellowship will take initiative in coordinating the event with support from local organizations such as ICPF, Parivar International, Redeemed, PYPA, Regional church fellowships etc.

·         Agape Partners International will provide the needed resources as well as identify resource persons for the seminar, presentation materials etc.

·         A joint letter signed by the PYFA President and Pastors Itty Abraham and Wilson Jose will be sent to all churches regarding the initiative ASAP.

·         More details of the proposed plan of action will be discussed via conference calls and e-mails after the joint letter is sent out.

 

For information, please contact:

Leslie Verghese, 917-669-0275 lverghese@agapepartners.org

Thomas Idiculla, 781-223-0082  tidiculla@agapepartners.org

Agape Partners International www.agapepartners.org

I am a Christian and had the born again experience when I was 12 years old. I have since had an off and on relationship with God (I am in my forties now). First I had many questions and concerns growing up that I did not have answers to. Slowly but surely God has shown me through life experiences the true meaning of Mercy and Grace that flows only through Jesus' blood that was shed or the whole world.

I am now in that phase where I am trying to have a real and closer walk with Jesus rejecting all that is of this World and trying to follow him unconditionally. It is indeed hard to do that but I am trying. The Holy Spirit is revealing to me some of my Sin that I could not see clearly as Sin and I am asking for his Mercy and Grace.

I believe God has a very Specific purpose for my life (as he has for everyone who believes) and I am trying to ask his Guidance to find that out. I believe that God is making me ready for this purpose. So the first step to that is to spend time with God in prayer, everyday and also read the Bible every day (Which I was not doing earlier)

You might ask so what is the purpose of sharing this with the world?

If there is anyone out there reading this and is my similar situation where you have received Christ as your savior and are not able to move forward in your Christian life here is what I would recommend, which is what I am implementing in my life.

1. Let God shine in light deep in your Soul so you can see your own sin. Many Christian are not committing any so called Sin that amounts to a Crime in fact some do not commit socially unacceptable Sin either. It is the socially acceptable or sometimes hidden Sin that cause us to not have a closer walk with Jesus. For e.g. the first temptation of Jesus apparently looks ok to do which was to change Stone to Bread. Most often we Christians fall prey to such schemes of Satan. To follow what apparently looks ok from a human perspective.

2. Set a particular time and a specific length of time to spend with God on a Daily Basis. After all when we work in secular environment we spend specific length of time at work and start work every day at a specific time why not same do or better for King of Kings and Lord of Lord.

3. Read the Bible on a daily basis as it is the light to our footsteps and when tempted we will see through the pitfall as well as by able to Quote the Bible (Spiritual Sword) to fight of Satan and his buddies.

So these are the 3 things that I am trying to adhere to by no means have I mastered this. But once I have mastered this I will be ready to get to the next level spiritually and I will then write about that. I think at that point God put completely expose to me the Purpose of my Life for his Kingdom.
We had a wonderful counseling consultation with a teleconference group of 13 Indian Christian community leaders from 9 cities on Jan 15, 2009. During the first part of the teleconference group discussed the issues around the major common challenges facing the Indian Christian community with the objective of: Identifying major problems and systemic issues; the second part focused on how we address these issues and what can we do collectively.

Major Issues Identified (Participants) and the Root Causes:
-Mental health issues:  Ignorance, stigma, over spiritualization etc have led to the Indian Christian Community not seeking help adequately. Explosive Disorders, Adjustment Disorders, Depression etc that need professional intervention are often neglected by the families and churches.

· Marriage related issues - Epidemic of failed marriages in the community during the past decade

· Lack of sufficient preparation for marriage - Preparing the children is more of the parents’ responsibility than church responsibility. However it is not taking place from either side effectively

· There is no emphasis for premarital counseling in our community. Post marital counseling is sought only after the crisis gets totally out of control.

· There is a growing number of marriage conflicts, separation and divorces in the Indian community, Co-habitation of couples before marriage; and an increase in bi-racial, multi-cultural, and interfaith  marriages

· We are subject to an ‘honor shame culture’ that often leads to breed people who are hypocritical; Lack of confidence in others causes people to hide their problems

· There is a prevalence of ‘shallow spirituality’ often translating to lack of personal intimacy in relationship with God resulting in many people falling prey to the increased and unlimited freedom.

Challenges facing the churches

·   Leadership issues-Preaching often is not practical; Lack of training among pastors to deal with practical issues
·   Generational differences and preferences in worship and church programs
·   The ritualistic, program oriented, mundane format ‘tune’ young people ‘out’
·   The shepherd does not ‘feed the flock’ but ‘visiting missionaries’ creating a lack of consistency from the pulpit
·   ‘The more you emphasize an area the better they get at it’ – It is often neglected by our churches. We specialize in moving from crisis to crisis
·   We do not make ‘disciples’.
·   There is no follow up at home what happened in church

Next Steps (What Can We Do?)
·   Need pre-marriage counseling and marriage counseling
·   Need trained mentors in local churches.
·   Conduct Marriage retreats and workshops to encourage and reinvigorate couples. Intimacy with God should be an emphasis as we work towards that goal through practical terrains
·   Continue the conference calls; emails and encourage more people to participate to share information, learn from each other and be more effective in the areas that God has placed us in - Identify one issue or problem for each conference call- analysis of the problem  and possible solution
·   Emphasize the need for discipling through available resources; assist in training and mentoring
·   Training pastors in the areas of counseling (local churches must sponsor leaders if needed for short term courses)
·   Continue to spread the word through Newsletters, publications, web site etc
·   Conduct city wide consultations - New York (scheduled January 18), Chicago, Tulsa, Tampa, Atlanta

Summary:
· There are critical issues and challenges for the Indian Christian Community
· Pastors, Lay Leaders, Professionals – God has placed each of us in these positions for a reason
· This is not the time to be idle; There are areas we need to be proactive and areas we need to be reactive

Participants:
Dr. Tony Joseph -Tulsa (OK)
Selin Philip -Boston (MA)
Robin Puthernparambil- Boston (MA)
Leslie Verghese -Bethpage (NY)
Liza Isaac -Atlanta (GA)
Dr. Varghese Mathai-Chicago (IL)
Baiju Mathew -Chicago (IL)
Sam George -Chicago (IL)
Elizabeth Robins -Boston (MA)
Presley Paul -Saratoga (FL)
Dr. George Kurian -Baltimore (MD)
Dr. Thomson K Mathew- Tulsa (OK)
Dr. Thomas Idiculla -Boston (MA)


Participants:
Sam George (Chicago, IL)
Executive director of Parivar International, a non-profit initiative to address the needs of youth and families of Asian Indian origin in North America. George is the author of the book "Understanding the Coconut eneration" (www.CoconutGeneration.com). Sam did his seminary studies at Fuller and Princeton with specialization in the area of youth and family ministry. Email: sam@coconutgeneration.com

Thomas Idiculla, PhD (Boston, MA)
Director of Mental Health Services Evaluation Department at McLean Hospital, one of the largest psychiatric hospitals of Harvard Medical School in Boston. Founder and President of Agape Partners International, Boston, MA.

Liza Isaac (Atlanta, GA)
Liza holds an M.A. in Clinical Psychology from Wheaton College (1997). She counsels/mentors young girls and women from various ages and backgrounds within the church body which she considers an enormous privilege.  Liza is married to Dr. John Isaac.  LizaJohn97@gmail.com

George Kurian (Baltimore, MD)
A Psychologist working at the Regional Institute for Children and Adolescents, Baltimore. He has two Master’s degrees from Howard University and a Doctoral degree from George Washington University. He is the founder and president of Crossroads Counseling Ministries, Inc. in Silver Spring, Maryland. Through professional counseling services, skills development seminars and consulting, CCMI seeks to strength the Christian community in their individual, family and corporate lives. He is certified by the National Board for Certified Counselors and the State of Maryland Board of Examiners for Professional Counselors. He is a Charter Member of the American Association of Christian Counselors.

Varghese Mathai, PhD  (Chicago, IL)
Teaches Writing and Literature at Judson University in Elgin, IL, a suburb of Chicago.  He has been working US in higher education for the last thirty years. Varghese  is also a licensed minister of the Christian and Missionary Alliance.  He has strong ministry interests, particularly among the international people groups; Phone: 847-628-1065; email: vmathai@judsonu.edu

Thomson K. Mathew, PhD (Tulsa, OK)
Thomsoson is a third-generation minister in the Pentecostal/charismatic tradition. A graduate of Kerala University, India, Dr. Mathew received his Master of Divinity and Master of Sacred Theology degrees from Yale University Divinity School. He holds two doctorates: a Doctor of Ministry from Oral Roberts University and a Doctor of Education from Oklahoma State University. Dr. Mathew is a Board Certified Chaplain and a Clinical Member of the Association for Clinical Pastoral Education. He now serves as Professor of Pastoral Care and Dean of the ORU School of Theology and Missions. Dr. Mathew is active in ministry as a speaker and seminar leader at Pentecostal/charismatic conferences and local churches. His seminar, "Church Growth through Caring," has impacted many congregations.

Rev. George Mathew (Philadelphia, PA)
Rev Mathew is the Associate Pastor of Philadelphia Full Gospel Assembly, Philadelphia, PA. He was the National Convener of the 21st PCNAK (Pentecostal Conference of North AMerican Keralites) held Philadelphia in 2003.

Selin Oommen (Boston, MA)
Selin has two Bachelors degree, one in Theology and other in Sociology from New Theological College, Dehradun, India. She did her Masters of Education (M.Ed) in counseling from the University of Alaska Fairbanks, AK.  She is specialized in providing counseling services for adults, children, couples, and families, who have experienced trauma (physical, emotional or sexual abuse) in their lives and does focus on improving family relationships in her therapy with clients.

Robin Puthernparambil, (Boston, MA)
MBA graduate, working as Business Manager with Navionics Inc, Boston; and currently pursuing M.Div. from Gordon Conwell Theological Seminary, Boston. He is also a Ministry Associate at India Pentecostal Assembly of Boston, supporting the teaching/preaching ministry for English Services.Born and brought up in North India, primarily Bombay. Living in the USA for last 3 years. Wife: Elizabeth, MCA graduate, born and brought up in Dubai, involved in leading Bible studies on college campus, Sunday School and music ministries.

Leslie Verghese, LCSW (Bethpage, NY)
Director of Lifespire Clinic Services, a premier Social Service and Rehabilitation agency in New York; Executive Director of Agape Partners International; Rev. Verghese is a licensed psychotherapist practicing in New York. He is also a minister at the First Church of God in Elmont, NY.  lverghese@agapepartners.org.
The Communities all over the world have gone through radical changes socially, spiritually and materially over the past two centuries and especially the past two decades. With respect to the latter, the Indian Christian Community in North America and Canada  is no exception.  As the third and fourth generations of the Christian community who are born and brought up in a totally different culture are now ready to enter into family life, there has been an increasing concern over the fast changing practices. Apart from the cultural and generational differences, what is seriously lacking in our communities is a set of written guidelines based on biblical patterns and conservative Christian traditions.

The unprecedented scientific, financial and intellectual growth that our communities have seen has come with a heavy price tag.  Until the beginning of the 20th century societies believed in a Biblical Morality which meant that there is such a thing a right and wrong and people knew why. For the next fifty years societies moved to ‘abiblical morality’. Societies knew there were such things that were right and wrong but did not know why. The 60’s and 70’s saw the influx of immorality where even though people knew that certain things were right and wrong, they did not ‘care’. Since then, the developed as well as developing societies have been under the influence of a state of ‘amorality’ or ‘relative morality’. It simply means that there is no such thing as right or wrong.

The need of the hour is to address the reality in based on the principles of God’s word in a professional way.

 

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