*** What’s Your Perception? ***

“Perception is a more or less clear understanding of something” the dictionary tells us. This is already not a very clear definition… But if we add to this that our perception goes through the filters of our culture and our feelings, you realize that the perception we have of something can be very far from its reality.
Recently, I received some news from Japan. I was so happy about this news, that I considered excellent according to my perception, that I sent it to an American friend. And this friend answered me: “Eric, are you so egotistical that you would send me such news?” Ouch! For him, this news was really bad news. Surprising, isn’t it?
That made me think about two famous animals that we love in France: frogs and roosters. Do you know the sounds of these animals? I am not sure! So, try to imitate them…
Did you know that a frog says “Croa” in France but that it says “Ribit” in the United States? And that a rooster says “Cocorico” in France and “Cockadoodledoo” in the United States? Who is right in your opinion? Do you think that it’s the French because we eat frogs and the rooster is our national emblem? Oh, no! The French and the Americans are both right!
You are going to say to me: “Eric, why are you telling us all this?” To explain to you that it isn’t easy to work with partners who have another perception and who hear something different from what you are telling them. I thought that I had said “Croa” but they heard “Ribit”. All this is to say to you: Pray for me because there are some days when communication is really very complicated, and I am afraid of losing precious partners over a simple question of perception. Really! Anyway, I hope that you have truly understood me. :-)

Eric Célérier

*** An Open Letter to My Friends ***

ONE VISION ...

Our ministry developments are impressive. They are occurring nationally with Top Chrétien and internationally with Jesus.net. Opportunities present themselves one after the other, and the list of projects is getting longer and longer. As our Anglo-Saxon friends say “Every one of them is very exciting.”

Recently the president of a big international ministry told us: “I want this project for 5 million churches...” All of this seems very good but one question keeps growing in me: “What does God want? What should we accept, refuse, put off until later?” I have an evangelist’s heart. I would like everyone to know Jesus but I cannot save the world. It’s Jesus who is the Savior!

I am also feeling the pressure on our small team. Lots of work but few workers. I do not want them to “burn out.” They are very precious, especially my wife.

So what should we do? I know the spiritual response: “Pray, ask God, let the Holy Spirit lead you,...” That’s true, but it’s not that simple! God also speaks through opportunities, divine connections, circumstances,... What I understand is that God expects me to become more and more of a “true” spiritual leader, that is someone who listens to him and obeys him. God says: “My thoughts are not your thoughts!”

It's a challenge for me. The future of a family, a team, and a ministry depends upon this listening and divine direction. Would you like to accompany me with your prayers? I never want to stop learning, growing and, when necessary, changing.

Thank you for your friendship and your advice which are so precious to me.

Eric Célérier

*** Pastors, I love you! ***

The title of this blog may surprise you, but if you have a pastor, ask yourself this question honestly: “When is the last time that I expressed my appreciation and my brotherly love to my pastor?”

I know that all of you who read this blog do not necessarily have a pastor or a local church. I also know that some of you have been hurt, sometimes even by a pastor. Nevertheless, I want to encourage you to look beyond your past experiences and to ask God for all His grace to go forward.

Pastors are human like we are. They are Christians like any other Christian. They are saved by the same grace and are even prone to the same struggles, to the same doubts, to the sames fears as all other Christians. Didn’t the Apostle Paul write: ” … conflicts on the outside, fears within … ?”

Pastors are part of the body. Sometimes they are identified under the wrong name of “Pastoral body”, yet it is a myth to believe that they are so far apart! They simply have a special function in the body, with this divine call “take care of my flock.” Someone has said that being a pastor is the finest vocation and the most difficult occupation.

I remember I once read in a forum that the pastor should be “the church carpet on which you wipe your feet when arriving!” And whoever wrote this really meant it, alas …

Before I devoted myself full time to developing Top Chrétien, I was the pastor of several churches for a dozen years. My wife, Muriel, and I experienced the joys of birth but also the sadness of funerals. Some events will remain forever etched in my memory, as the death of Christopher or Malvina … As I write these lines, I still cry thinking about the pain of their relatives at their premature death.

I also remember those who left the faith and the guilt that invaded me at that time: “And if I had not been a good pastor …?”.

I remember some difficulties, divisions in the body of Christ, which unfortunately leave scars on the heart that are difficult to heal. However, I also cannot help but remember the wonderful moments, such as the conversion of an unsaved husband, the homecoming of a prodigal son, the baptisms in the Spirit, healings, deliverances, souls saved … What grace to be a pastor in moments like these!

So pastor, it’s true, you’re not perfect! And I’m not either! Besides, who would be? If such a person exists, I do not believe that his vocation is to be a pastor!

Pastor, I love you and I tell you: “Be courageous!”

Your friend,

Eric

*** What if We Offered All Christian Music Free-of-Charge? ***

The Internet has changed lots of things in our lives, hasn’t it? Even the way we listen to music.

Cassette tapes are already a part of ancient history and maybe very soon, gone the good ole’ CD… it’s time for downloads!

Oh, yes, those famous downloads… At first, they were illegal with lots of hacking. But we have to admit that an easy way to buy music online just didn’t really exist. Then, new systems appeared like iTunes, for example. Now, it’s very easy to buy music online; so, no more excuses for hacking! Things seem to be coming back into order and the music industry has reset the standard, at least in the secular music field. And that’s good, artists need to be able to produce and live! Let’s hope, and especially act, to bring back this standard to our Christian music environment, too.

Did you know that websites for free listening are on the Internet, such as Last FM or Deezer? So, we started dreaming at the Top: Why not create a platform for listening to Christian music free-of-charge? In this way, we would make the French-speaking Christian artists known throughout the French-speaking world. If someone likes a certain artist, he could order the CD at a store or buy the songs by downloading.

We also became aware of this through our large survey in 2009 (Together, Let’s Improve the Top). Out of 18,000 respondents, 14,000 wished for a music section on the Top. Those results spoke loudly!

So, we began to consult with Christian artists who, in general, have reacted very positively. Special mention goes to Youth with a Mission (YWAM) who is putting its entire catalog for free listening on TopMusic … Surprises will rain down! I would like for all the Christian labels to do the same and for all the Christian artists to be there. Become leaders! Offer our resources and see God bless us! Would somebody say “Amen”?

No business transactions for the Top since we gain nothing on sales. The sales, particularly those relating to downloads, go to the artists. And I hope many of you will encourage them by buying their albums! At the Top, we will pay taxes to the SACEM who will then redirect them to the registered artists. Thanks to the donors of the Top, we will also pay for the significant costs of bandwidth that the service will generate: thousands of dollars each year …

So why do it? Our mission is to proclaim the Gospel and encourage Christians. Music is a great way to achieve both goals. In addition, we will encourage Christian artists by promoting them. So why not do it? This is planned for Sept. 6th with the launching of a new section on Top Chrétien: TopMusic.

What do you think? Do you like this idea?

Together for changed lives,

Eric

*** Should we discontinue TopInfo? ***

As you must know, the web portal TopChrétien offers various services such as TopMessages, its well-known Thought for the Day, TopFamily, TopTv, TopBible, etc. The main purpose of each one of these sections is to encourage Christians in their relationship with God.

TopInfo is one of the sections that attracts the most visitors. Its objective is to inform. Up to now, we have gathered information and then proposed the news that seems pertinent and interesting to the visitors of our portal. Every day thousands of people go to TopInfo and many comment on the different articles.

However, in the history of TopChrétien, I noticed that our problems often come from this section. For example, certain subjects (homosexuality, abortion, Islam, ecumenism, politics, …) regularly create controversy. In addition, we sometimes get complaints from disgruntled visitors. Some Christians do not understand why we have released this or that information and form a negative opinion of TopChétien through the narrow lens of one single article.

Moreover, following the dissemination of information from a Jewish Agency considered defamatory, we lost a lawsuit against an Islamic association, and we were forced to pay 15,000 € in damages and interest. It is the only lawsuit that we have suffered in the space of ten years, but logically, it has caused some changes in how we work.

Finally, after years of loyal service, Didier Biava, – who insured the information gathering – preferred to discontinue this service to focus on our evangelism website, ConnaitreDieu.com (KnowingGod.net). A big thank you to Didier for all those years of dedicated service to Internet users.

You probably now understand better the title of this blog! Should we discontinue TopInfo?

Personally, I see three options:

1 / Discontinue TopInfo, despite the large number of visitors, considering that this service no longer has its place in TopChrétien.

2 / Limit TopInfo to a feed aggregate (like Google News). TopInfo would automatically retransmit information from other Christian news sites.

3 / Transform TopInfo, so that the service is more consistent with the overall vision of TopChrétien: evangelism, encouragement, interaction and communication.

What do you think? The TopChrétien Team and I would love to hear your opinions and ideas. Tell us which option you prefer and why.

Together for changed lives,

Your friend, Eric

*** Persevere! ***

Oh yes! How we need perseverance: perseverance in trials, perseverance during sickness, and even perseverance when everything seems to be going well. The Bible says that it is by persevering in doing well that we inherit the promises!

And so, I would like to encourage you to persevere. Top Chrétien’s story is one of perseverance. If Top Chrétien still exists today, it is because many times we have had to persevere and wait for God’s help. And his help never fails to come! Someone once said that God’s help sometimes comes late but never too late! It’s those who persevere who are helped!

Jesus has often encouraged me not to give up ! And I have to admit that I have sometimes felt like it… May the one who has never felt like giving up, please tell me. I would like to know his secret.

A song has encouraged me during the years of sickness and opposition. It’s “Persévère” by Olivier Cheuwa. I even made it the ring tone on my telephone! Therefore, every time someone called me, even for a problem, I would let the phone ring a few seconds and I would hear:  persevere! oh oh, persevere… In this way, I was ready to face any situation.

Just recently, I discovered another song on perseverance composed and sung by my friend, Pastor Mohamed Sanogo of the Ivory Coast. I asked him if I could offer it to you. He said yes, so here it it, especially for you Top Blog readers whom I love so much. Mohammed and I dedicate it to all those who need to persevere. My friend, persevere!

This song is part of the album “Persévérez” available on Top Boutique

[audio http://media.topc.fr/mp3/perseverer.mp3]

*** ICC: A Relevant Church! ***

ICC Church (Impact Centre Chrétien), whose services we appreciate every Sunday at 11:30 a.m. (Paris time) on Top Chretien, is going to launch two very interesting initiatives using new technology.  “Think outside of the box,” say the Anglo-Saxons. That’s just what Pastor Yvan Castanou does, and I welcome his initiatives that I’ll share with you in this blog.

Many churches do not yet understand that using new technology should be an integral part of the life and development of a church. Why should it be? Quite simply because new technology is part of people’s daily life today! “Go all over the world,” Jesus said! We can go with emails, with websites, with Facebook, with text messages, with Knowing God, etc.; so many tools just as effective as a sound system and a video-projector!

Our study of Knowing God Internet users shows us that 100% of them visit a church’s website before visiting the church. Thus, it is extremely important for a church to be present and visible on the Internet. Besides, it is for this reason that we launched MonEglise.net, to fill somewhat the technological gap, and help Internet users understand what a local church is so that they want to go to one!

Today, new technology allows the church to go beyond its “locality”! So why not take advantage of it? ICC, therefore, is going to launch two promising initiatives in this direction:

-A multi-site conference with Myles Munroe as the speaker. Myles Munroe is an excellent preacher and a marvelous conference speaker. Sponsored by the CEAF- http://www.ceaf.fr (Community of Churches of African Expression in France), this conference is offered to all local churches that would like to broadcast it live. It will take place Thursday, June 10 to Sunday, June 13, 2010. I encourage pastors and all Christian groups to register on the website http://parisleadershipconference.com. You will need an Internet connection, a video-projector, and a meeting place. If you, as an individual, would like to follow this conference, you will need to go to one of these broadcast places. However, nothing stops you from creating your own meeting place for the broadcast if you are a group of Christians. You must hurry though! It’s coming very soon! And, I think this conference will be a great blessing for all those who follow it.

-The second initiative is courageous, and I am anxious to see the fruits with lots of enthusiasm! ICC is going to open up, as a beginning, three other meeting places, but keep only one church. How are they going to do this? By gathering people together in meeting places or hotel conference rooms in the north, in the east, and in the west of Paris and broadcasting the Sunday morning services live from ICC auditorium. In fact, the praise and worship can be done locally but the preaching of the Word of God will come from the main service. In summary, it’s one church but many meeting places united through the Internet. As a result, I think that ICC is going to have an extraordinary impact in the years to come throughout the French-speaking world. I also think that many people are going to discover Jesus as Savior.

I have been convinced for several months now that churches should grasp this vision and do the same. I welcomed, at ICC by the way, an entire pastoral team from Lifechurch.tv. They are the pioneers in the domain of multi-site churches. They have a church in Oklahoma City and 15 meeting places all over the United States. They originated the YouVersion, the free Bible for iPhone. They are also the initiators of ChurchOnline, an internet church that encouraged me a lot. (I’ll talk to you about it another time.) Thirty pastors responded to the invitation. The general idea is that we can move the church to where the people live, and therefore, increase the impact of a local church or a particular ministry. In other words, multiply the number of meeting places by broadcasting the services through Internet, and thus, increase the impact of a church.

I understand that this new model of the church doesn’t suit everyone! But I believe that it is very biblical that a particular ministry of teacher, evangelist or prophet not be confined to only one meeting place. We have always defended the idea that these ministries should be itinerant, and rightly so. Today, there are other means of going, and the Internet gives us the opportunity. So why not seize it! Why shouldn’t the church use this technology to reach cities and even islands everywhere in the world, especially where there is no pastor!

I congratulate Pastor Yvan Castanou and ICC Church for opening up this new way. For goodness sake, let’s avoid petty criticism, and let’s try to encourage creative and innovative initiatives for the Kingdom of God, in any case, at least on Top Chretien. I count on you for that!

Allow me to ask you this question: “Do you think that the actual model of operating our churches is sacred? Or do you think that we should use all means at our disposal to spread the knowledge of Jesus Christ?” I will be very interested in knowing your opinion.

*** Are you relevant? ***

We live in a very different culture from the one the Apostle Paul lived in. His culture was essentially religious. However, he had understood a very great principle: it was to become all things to everyone in order to win some of them. I do everything for the cause of the Gospel, he said! (1 Cor. 9) Besides, he wrote his epistles in the New Testament in Koiné Greek (popular Greek) and not in Hebrew (the language of the Law) … do you wonder why …

We live in a visual and artistic culture made up of music and dances in which the image is extremely important. How do we approach our culture with the Gospel? Are we relevant?

Several years ago, I went to Hungary in the context of my role with CIJEM (a youth movement that I like a lot). That weekend, as if by chance, the “Faith Church” was inaugurating their new facility. So, I asked the young person accompanying us to take us to their dedication service. Imagine three “big” French pastors in a 1970′s Traban. It was a very old, tiny car, and it had no shock absorbers. We arrived at their brand new facility and believe me, I was shocked! The entrance hall could hold 500 persons seated and the main hall, more than 10,000. And it was packed! Perhaps this isn’t your style of church, but that’s not the question! The question is: How could a church experience such growth in so difficult a context as post-communist Hungary? And, it is this same church that offers us the following video clip where we see 1,300 youth dancing in the streets of Budapest, the Pearl of the Danube. They dance to openly testify to their faith in the resurrected Jesus Christ as the answer for their country.

[youtube=http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i5dSIL358NM]

And you, what do you do to be relevant in your culture and bring it the Gospel message? What do you do to become all things to everyone in order to win some of them?

As for me, I try to understand where the Internet is going and how to reach the greatest number on the Internet with the Good News of Jesus Christ. With the evolution of social networks like Facebook and its famous question “do you want to be my friend?”, I think that we have an incredible opportunity to introduce the one who wants to be their friend, Jesus! But we need to reflect, to understand this culture, and then to act in consequence. Of course, not intentionally, this will always evoke reactions from religious people who think that their church culture is sacred. I think that the Gospel is sacred, not culture. And you, what do you think?

*** Quality is never an accident ***

Someone once said, Quality is never an accident. It’s always the result of high intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and talented execution.

Besides, isn’t this what God demonstrated by his extraordinary creation? High intention, sincere effort, intelligent direction, and talented execution?

God expects the best from us for his work. Let’s drop the “just abouts”, the mediocrity, and let’s seek quality. Let’s pursue excellence in every project we endeavor.

One day, a father gave some advice to his son: Whatever work you do, just always do more than what is expected of you, and you will never miss out on a promotion. You will finish at the very top!

Jesus said that to the one who is faithful in the little things, he will entrust greater things.

Gideon was still threshing wheat when God already saw him as a valliant hero, a liberator! God knew that Gideon was going to give his best and count on God, whatever the circumstances.

No matter where you come from, you can accomplish exploits for God. But this will be done in stages. At each stage, pursue excellence, give the best of yourself. Then, move to the next stage. Don’t shoot too high or too far before even beginning, but seek to do a quality job of whatever is entrusted to you. And I am sure that God will take you far!

At Top Chretien, we believe that God wants to take us further. But we are aware that we need each one of you to get there. What can we do together to improve the quality of Top Chretien? I would truly like to have your opinion.

*** Give It All You've Got! ***

I don’t know if you’ve heard of Seth Godin. He’s a well-known American writer especially in the fields of marketing and communication. He recently wrote the following blog which caught my attention and you are going to understand why:

This was sort of shocking, at least to me:

I was talking to a religious leader, someone who runs a congregation. She made it clear to me that on many days, it’s just a job. A job like any other, you show up, you go through the motions, you get paid.

I guess we find this disturbing because spiritual work should be real, not faked.

But isn’t your work spiritual?

I know doctors, lawyers, waiters and insurance brokers who are honestly and truly passionate about what they do. They view it as an art form, a calling, and an important (no, an essential) thing worth doing.

In fact, I don’t think there’s a relationship between what you do and how important you think the work is. I think there’s a relationship between who you are and how important you think the work is.

Life’s too short to phone it in.

This blog gets our attention, doesn’t it? I don’t know if Seth Godin is a Christian or not, but he puts the finger on an important point. Why and how we do things…

What he cites obliges me to examine myself. I am a little ashamed of what that religious person said for I, too, am what one would call a “religious leader”. I am one, not by career choice, but because I received a very clear call to serve God. I would never want that calling to be transformed into a job that I should accomplish to earn a living! However, I must likewise admit that certain days are also more difficult than others: fatigue, lassitude, personal battles, temptations, routine…And during days like those, I remember some very good advice that my wife forwarded to me, and that I try to put into practice: the three Es.

Energy: God gives strength to the weary one. Keep moving forward!

Enthusiasm: Do everything with the right attitude, for the Lord and with him!

Empathy: If I am interested in others, I forget my little mistakes. I am not the center of everything!

I hope this advice will be as useful for you as it has been for me.

And you, how do you live your work and your life? With all you’ve got or as an obligation?

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