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Why Some Churches Grow And Others Decline
By: Author Unknown
In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.
[ read more...]
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I hope that this little series has been provoking to your thinking. I hope that the ministers who are reading will delve into Bunyan’s The Holy War and discover that there are some fantastic sermon nuggets and Bible study thoughts that can be derived from it. Before progressing along with the Ear-Gate analogy, I think that giving a setting of what took place after the capture of Mansoul can contribute to the interest factor of this allegory.
Chapter 2 gives the description of the actions taken by Diabolus after Mansoul had been taken down. Immediately Diabolus instructs Mr. No-Truth to deface the large image of King Shaddai that was prominently located in the city. Additionally, he instructs Mr. No-Truth to go and create a similar image of Diabolus as a replacement for the citizens of Mansoul to have to come into contact with as they move about the city in their business dealings.
Diabolus is very focused on changing the nature of the city and that plot leads him to take all of the laws, statutes, morals, and principles that had been established by King Shaddai and destroy them. His whole purpose is to turn Mansoul into an absolute brute. His two primary henchmen in accomplishing this are Mr. No-Truth and Lord Willbewill. What a play on words that Bunyan uses in this allegory! He seeks to tear down truth and in doing this he lets the citizens be run entirely by the whims of their own selfish will.
Diabolus also knows that the city council has to be replaced with suitable men who will continue to contribute to the demise of the town. His new mayor is Lord Lustings, who has no eyes or ears, and is completely run by the beastly impulses that move within his sorry soul. His secretary is Forget-Good who cannot remember anything that is good and is solely run by mischief and does everything he can hurt people in whatever capacity that he can. The remaining men who sit on this troubled council are Mr. Incredulity (Skepticism), Mr. Haughty, Mr. Swearing, Mr. Whoring, Mr. Hard-Heart, Mr. Pitiless (Ruthless), Mr. Fury, Mr. No-Truth, Mr. Stand-to-Lies, Mr. False-Peace, Mr. Drunkenness, Mr. Cheating, and Mr. Atheism. As you can see these men have the ability to greatly harm any positive direction that Mansoul might have in recovery.
Now we come to the Ear-Gate, which was one of the primary ways that Diabolus managed to get into Mansoul to capture it. After its fall, Emmanuel determines that He is going to rescue the city from Diabolus and his unholy hordes. To do this, He will have to go into the same gates that Diabolus compromised at the beginning. He understands that the chief way to accomplish this task is to go through the Ear-Gate. As the story unfolds, Bunyan particularly enforces the idea that the voice of the preacher is what attacks the Ear-Gate. Again, you have to appreciate the names of the characters that Bunyan uses in his allegory.[ read more...]
Most of us worry unnecessarily about too many things.
It's almost as though we search for problems to give ourselves stress. The amazing news is that much of what we worry about doesn't matter at all! Take a look at these statistics about worry:
- 40% of all things that we worry about never come to pass.
- 30% of all our worries involve past decisions that cannot be changed.
- 12% focus on criticism from others who spoke because they felt inferior.
- 10% are related to our health, which gets worse when we worry.
- 8% of our worries could be described as "legitimate" causes for concern.
All too often, our church members don't feel comfortable asking someone if they would like to have a Bible study. One of the main reasons for this, is because they are afraid they won't have all of the answers to all of the questions that the person may ask about the Bible. Many people today want to teach Bible studies to their friends and families, but oftentimes, don't know how to teach a Bible study,what teaching materials to use or lack the experience to feel confident enough to teach one.
One idea to overcome this, is to use the mid-week service to teach your church how to teach a Bible study. In most cases, the people that show up for the mid-week service are the core of the church. They are usually the more "spiritually mature" of your saints. Also, when teaching on how to teach a Bible study, let them know which Bible studies you recommend for them to teach. This will give them confidence to teach a Bible study and when they find one that they feel comfortable sharing with someone, they will be more apt and better prepared to teach.
You can use this outline to teach them how to teach a Bible study:
Psalm 119:89 "Forever O Lord, thy word is settled in heaven."
Psalm 119:161:162 "..but my heart standeth in awe of thy word….as one that findeth great spoil (treasure)"
Psalm 119:11 "Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee."
· Establish at the beginning of the study the importance of the "whole" Bible.
1) 1 Tim. 3:16 "All scripture is given by inspiration of God…
2) The Word of God is true! From cover to cover!
A few things to remember when preparing for your study:
· Always bring two Bibles; one for you and one for your student. (Remember, this is a Bible study!)
· Be on time!
· Breath mints are good!
· Choose a Bible Study that teaches on one of these topics:
3) Church History[ read more...]
Probably the worst thing that can happen to a God-called minister of the Gospel is that they would be confused about their calling. Confusion in the ministry thwarts the positive impact of the church. No congregation or ministry can move forward when the leadership of that organization is confused about their calling.
Whether we are talking about an individual’s or an organization's calling, confusion can kill their potential. Some men/women spend their entire lives confused about their calling. Hearing a call from God, but listening for direction from other people.
It’s important to understand that every Calling is not a call to preach. Some would argue this. Countless young men and women have felt a call on their life, but got their direction from good-meaning people who put Preaching on them. “You’re going to be a great preacher.” “I feel you are called to preach!” Prophecies are spoken over these people by many misguided folks who believe or have been taught that only a preacher can have an effect on the work of God. Some would have every worker in the harvest to be Great Preachers.
Stop! The world does not just need more preachers. It needs more people who are concerned about souls. It needs compassionate people who care enough about their fellow man to pray for them and invite them to church. It needs not preachers, but teachers. Teachers who will take Bible in hand and sit in someone’s home and teach them a Bible study. Truth is hard to come by, yet it is right at our fingertips. Our generation is lost for a lack of understanding of the Bible.
What is the calling you are called to? Share truth with someone who does not know the truth. Jesus said, “I share with you a truth”. Long before Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost, Jesus (our example,” was teaching in the synagogue.
What is it about our human nature that desires to be “The one up front.” The one doing the talking. What is it about our human nature that desires not a teacher, but a preacher. Midweek Bible studies have only a slice of the attendance that Sunday preaching services have. Why is that? We are still coming together to worship and share the Word. Yet on Sunday there is preaching and on the midweek service there is teaching. And the church would rather hear a preacher than a teacher.
It’s in our nature. We want an icon. We want someone to idealize. We want a spokesman for our church. We want preachers. So every person who feels a call on their life gets “pushed’ into the preacher mold.[ read more...]
There are seven things sheep want from a shepherd:
- They expect shepherds to be concerned for their safety. People want the assurance that their organization is wise enough to survive in turbulent times and will provide for their futures. A protector who is concerned with the welfare of his flock won’t hesitate to communicate the possibilities and the perils looming on the horizon.
- They expect shepherds to know them by name. When a responsible shepherd enters the fold, his sheep respond to him because he calls them by name. We cannot underestimate the value of establishing a connection with every person on our team – even if that number is large. The bond is strengthened each time people hear us speak their names.
- They expect shepherds to be gentle and kind. When people you serve are less than cooperative, it’s not an excuse for retaliation. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said about his war experiences, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” If you feel the urge to lash out at those around you, get tough on yourself. That’s where discipline yields the greatest harvest.
- They expect shepherds to rescue them. What is our response when one of our employees becomes distracted? Do we let him stay off course and struggle to find his way back, or do we stop what we’re doing and give him our attention? Jesus said a good shepherd would leave a flock of 99 to go after the lost sheep until he finds it. That’s true of leadership.
Every pastor, preacher, and minister should memorize these words that Paul shared with Timothy;
2 Tim 4:1-5 New Living Translation
1 I solemnly urge you in the presence of God and Christ Jesus, who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom:
2 Preach the word of God. Be prepared, whether the time is favorable or not. Patiently correct, rebuke, and encourage your people with good teaching.
3 For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching. They will follow their own desires and will look for teachers who will tell them whatever their itching ears want to hear.
4 They will reject the truth and chase after myths.
5 But you should keep a clear mind in every situation. Don't be afraid of suffering for the Lord. Work at telling others the Good News, and fully carry out the ministry God has given you.
Each time I read this letter I find myself asking these questions:
1. Am I prepared to preach; whether the time is favorable or not?
2. Am I able to correct and encourage my congregation with good teaching?[ read more...]
Here are a few things to remember when taking up the offering.
Don’t be timid or embarrassed to ask people for money. It takes money to make ministry happen.
Teach your people to give financially to the church. You are robbing them of a tremendous blessing if you are not teaching them to give tithes and offerings. It is the job of the ministry to instruct people how to give financially to God’s work.
Be the first to give. Instruct your ushers to take the offering from the platform first. The Pastor should be the first to give and then anyone who is seated on the platform. Preachers, musicians, singers, everybody should be instructed to be an example in giving in every service. Rule number 1 – If you are on the platform, you must give in every offering. (This serves as an example to the rest of the congregation. You will be amazed at the increase in offerings when your congregation begins to notice the leadership of the church being the first to give.
Tell the ushers to slow down – Recently I visited a church where the ushers went so fast collecting the offering that people did not even have time to get their wallets out before the ushers were finished. Slow them down. People need time to dig deep.[ read more...]
In his book The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley offers 5 valid points to consider if you desire to be an effective leader. We highly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position.
- Face it, you are not as good as you could be. So what are you going to do about it? The only way to go farther, faster, is to engage outside help. You can maximize your leadership potential by getting a coach...or two.
- Find someone to observe you in a variety of leadership settings. Outside input is critical. Even if you could watch yourself in a mirror twenty-four hours day, you would never see yourself as others see you.
- Select a coach who has no axe to grind and not reason to be anything except brutally honest. He need not be an expert in your field. What your coach must be able to do , however, is put himself in the shoes of those who are influenced by your leadership.
What makes people act the way they do when they get in a car.
If I bumped into you as we enter an elevator, I would politely say "excuse me" and that would be it. But if my car comes into your lane and "almost" touches yours, Look Out! How many times we read or see where someone was even beaten up or shot over road rage. Testifying before a House transportation subcommittee, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration officials estimated that two-thirds of the 42,000 highway deaths last year were related to aggressive driving, which appears to have joined drunk driving as a perilous trait of American culture.
Otherwise seemingly, quite, reserved people who turn violent when someone cuts them off in traffic. I've done it and so have you. Nothing irritates me more than sitting at a 4 way stop and the person to my right doesn't know it's their turn to go. And so there we sit, waiting for the other person to go first. I wonder if some folks ever did read the driving manual.
I'm sure all of us at one time or another have been rewarded with that certain hand gesture by someone who felt we offended them in traffic. I've even had young girls offer that one now and then. (Maybe I'm just a bad driver.) How could someone give such an offending gesture to someone they don't even know?
Well, that's really what I want to talk about. I only reminded you about your road rage to make a point. The fact is, people experience road rage, because they don't know you. There is nothing personal about driving past someone on the road. Yours is only a very brief encounter. You will never see them again. They can say or do what they want to you and they will never have to face up to it. Your relationship has no value. And as a result, neither do you. Isn't that sad?! (I'll give you a little hint. If you need to get into a lane and no one will let you into it, simply roll the window down and give them a big smile and wave. Now they will let you in.) Try it.
As long as you are only another car on the road, you don't matter. But when you become a face and a person with a smile, well that's another story. They'll stop the traffic in their lane to let you in. I'll admit, I'm a horrible driver. Just ask my wife, she'll tell you. But even she knows that I can cut into any lane of traffic I want, because of a smile and a wave.
I wonder though how many of us have this same mentality even when we get out of our cars. Hmm, let's try a little test here. Let's say you are on vacation and a few hundred miles out, you stop to have dinner at a restaurant. You know, at one of those places where they cook everything in lard. What happens if the service or food is bad? Do you tip her any way? Well you don't have to do you?! After all, she doesn't even know you. Well, you might even be able to get off a couple of "complaints" to her since she won't see you in church this week.[ read more...]