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How Many Will Follow?
By: James Smith
Here is a question every leader of people asks himself/herself at one time or another.
When Jesus looked out over the masses who followed him, I wonder if He asked himself this same question. As He counted, in His mind, the healings and considered all who he helped, I wonder if he pondered how many would come after him.
Of course they would follow him to the next miracle. They would follow Him to the next free dinner. They would be there to hear him preach again, but would they follow him all the way to the cross.
People are fickle. Have you noticed this? It doesn't take much to turn their heads. You can spend all your energy helping them and teaching them, but when something/someone flashier comes along, off they go
It's no wonder we are likened to sheep in the scriptures. Sheep are wanderers. If the shepherd is not watchful, his sheep will simply wander off. They don't mean to leave the shepherd really. They just found a patch of grass that is greener and so off they go.
I look at the ministry of Jesus and I am dumfounded at the throngs of people he could gather. So many on the sea shore that he would have to launch out on a boat to talk to them. Thousands were there the day he multiplied the little boys lunch. They pressed against him. They cried out to him from the edges of the crowds. They climbed into trees to see him. They tore the roof off of houses to get to where He was at. Yet I believe he had one question in His mind every time he saw them press in. "How many will follow?"
Each time you get in front of the group you minister to, do you ask yourself this question? How many will follow me? How many will live the way I teach? How many will stay strong to the faith? How many will be saved?
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In his book How To Increase Giving In Your Church, George Barna gives several key principles for effective stewardship. Our challenge is to create an environment and facilitate a mind-set in which people want to donate money to the church for the right reasons. The following are some guidelines toward achieving that outcome.
Part 1 was offered in last weeks newsletter.
8. Dream big, pray big, ask big, minister big.
- No dream, no vision, no need, no ministry transcends the capacity of our Go. Sometimes we reflect our lack of faith in our unwillingness to let Him determine the vision, and in our refusal to truly believe He can accomplish incredible things through us.
9. Ministry donors do not just give; they invest.
- Set your sights high. Challenge people to do their homework, to evaluate all the options they have for stewardship and to behave as wise investors of funds. Once you investors have done their part, live up to your part of the bargain: Give them an unbeatable return on the investment.
10. Stewardship is a lifestyle, not an event.
- You may choose to sponsor fund-raising events, but always remind your people that stewardship is a way of living. As in dimension of our lives, if we take God's promises and admonitions seriously and develop habits that reflect those promises and admonitions, we will soon be able to transfer our focus from wondering if He will bless us for our faithfulness to amazement at how He blesses us.
11. Listen carefully, respond strategically, thank people sincerely.
- Good leaders listen to the people; they respond so that they hear in strategic ways, and when the people live up to the expectations placed upon them, sincere appreciation is one of the rewards and ongoing motivations for their continued involvement. Just as people give for the benefit of other people, so they also give in response to those who have demonstrated sufficient interest and concern about the donor to spark such generosity. The Holy Spirit gets the credit for inspiring people to give; and you must allow the Holy Spirit to direct your steps, too, as you interact with your donors.
42 And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.43 And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles.44 And all that believed were together, and had all things common;45 And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.46 And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart,47 Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.
1. A Praying Church.
The first century church continued in prayer. The fact that it continued means that it had previously started. These people had been praying long before the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in the book of Acts.
Acts 1:14 KJV14 These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.
Before the church ever experienced growth there was prayer. Corporate and unified prayer. This was the foundation of what happened in Acts chapter two. Prayer is the most basic and necessary requirement of any church. Prayer is the foundation upon which everything else is built. A praying church is a church that is ready and waiting to do whatever God desires to do amongst them.[ read more...]
One of the saddest occurrences is when I spend time trying to mentor an experienced Christian minister who is wrestling with regrets, guilt and self-condemnation after they have given a lifetime to the work of God.
Christian ministry should be satisfying and rewarding. The joy, peace, fulfillment and contentment should be overflowing for anyone who has devoted their life to arguably the world’s most noble profession. Surprisingly instead of entering a time of bliss and contentment, a vast number of ministers and their spouses enter their later years disillusioned, angry, bitter, depressed and saddened over missed opportunities, mistakes, bad judgments, regrets, and a list of similar discouragements.
This simply ought not to be.
What about you? Are you living with regret, guilt, or condemnation right now?
Is it easier for you to quote Romans 8:1 than it is to live it?
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
The word “condemnation” means an adverse sentence (the verdict). There should be no adverse sentence or condemnation but reality says there often is. If so, then the question is what caused it? Or, from where did it originate?
Even if you could identify the point of origin for your feeling of condemnation you cannot change the history that caused it. However, you can learn from history, make adjustments, and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Another key point is that Romans 8:1 reveals the answer to living condemnation free. It says to, “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” To state it plainly: the Spirit will lead you to a condemnation free life and ministry whereas the flesh will lead to condemnation.
From a practical standpoint the following suggestions will assist you in building a condemnation free life and ministry.
Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years. One of the greatest tragedies is that many of us have failed to plan for the day of retirement. It is a mistake you will live to regret. Many of those who chose to spend it all because the Lord was coming and they didn’t want to leave it for the antichrist died broke and foolish. They had no oil in their lamps when the day came that they needed it.[ read more...]
There are reasons that we have to work. Listed are some brief reasons that we are to work and the benefits we gain from it.
1. We work to provide for our Family. I Timothy 5:8 says, “but if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his own house, he hath denied the faith and is worse than an infidel.”
- God expects a Christian to labor to provide for family needs. Providing for family necessities is a part of keeping the faith. Failure to do so makes that person equivalent to an unbeliever.
2. We work in order to help others. Ephesians 4:28 says, “Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth.”
- Our generosity to help others is important to our Christian character. We must be concerned with the needs of other.
3. We work to render to God. Mark 12:17 says, “…render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”
- God gives us the 100% so that we might in turn give him 10%. By doing so, he blesses the 90% that is remaining.
In this unpredictable and changing world, the one thing we can always control is the way we think. While we have little control over circumstances or the actions of others, we can control our reactions to them. And anyone can learn how to think more positively and operate with a better attitude, regardless of circumstances, temperament, or intellect. To begin thinking more positively and leading your people to do the same, follow these guidelines:
Act like the person you wish to become.
To start thinking positively, begin by acting positively. Most of us wait until we feel like taking action, but that’s going about it backwards. Instead, by putting our desires into action, we can establish a habit of thinking positively – and this results in a positive attitude.
Cultivate a Consistent Positive Attitude.
To reap a successful harvest, a farmer doesn’t plant seeds and then just expect them to grow on their own. He must continually water, weed, fertilize and nurture the growing plants if he wants them to reach maturity. Likewise, if we want a successful life, we need to spend time everyday nurturing our attitude. Focus on the positive and successful. Don’t feed the weeds.
While musing on the things of God, my thoughts began to ponder modern day pulpit preaching in churches and gatherings around the world. I thought about the many presentation styles I have seen, the expectations of the audiences, the tantalizing titles, the packaging of sermons for media sales, books published consisting of the author’s sermons, the humanistic rankings and comparisons of our favorite preachers, and so forth. I smiled thinking that just as kids might argue with one another, “My dad can beat up your dad,” or, “My mommy is prettier than your mommy”, we might also argue that, “My pastor can preach better than your pastor”. We all tend to be pretty human at times.
This led me to meditate on the evolution of preaching just over the last century. I wondered what changes came about after Bible colleges and seminaries began teaching students about exegesis, hermeneutics, extrapolation, and the fine art of sermon preparation? How did the invention of the public address system change the delivery of preaching? How have Power Point, Bible software, and multimedia projection altered sermon preparation and presentation styles? What differences have radio, television, audio and video recorders, cameras, live streaming, and social media made? Should these and other innovations have had any impact at all on the delivery of God’s Word?[ read more...]
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23)
The colonel was trying to get a convoy of trucks out of the battle zone. The trucks had been under siege by the enemy and there had been terrible wounds and deaths that had occurred. They had to get out of there if they were going to survive. The colonel went to the lead truck where the driver had been killed and pulled the body out. Then he turned to a Sergeant and told him to drive the truck out of there. The sergeant responded that he had been shot and therefore wouldn't be able to drive, to which the colonel replied, "We've all been shot! Now drive the truck."
When I first heard this story told from the book Black Hawk Down, immediately I thought of the church and what happens there or, for the case of this article, what doesn't happen because we allow ourselves to make excuses.
We all have a person, or maybe even a few people, in our church that are ready and willing to do whatever it is that we ask of them. Whether it be cleaning the restrooms, mowing the lawn, greeting everyone that enters the church, teaching home bible studies, teaching Sunday School, etc., they will do it. You know who I'm talking about. They never stop asking you if you have something that they can do. They are always the first to greet you after service. They seem like they are always there. These people are great and wonderful to have in our congregation. When you ask them to do something you never have to worry about it getting done, because they have a desire to be used for the Kingdom. However, these people are usually few in number.[ read more...]
Here are five symptoms that indicate you need a church administrator to help with the load:
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1. More than 25% of your time is spent on church administration. Pastors often find themselves attending to administrative needs that are beyond the scope of a secretary’s authority. This may include tasks such as directing the volunteers who clean the church, reviewing the accounts payable and managing the building maintenance.
2. Your administrative tasks are increasing – with no relief on the horizon. A growing church will generate an ever-increasing amount of administrative tasks. Although the financial strength of the church is a key factor in determining the right time to hire an administrator, the problem of administrative overload will have to be faced and resolved sooner or later.
3. You can’t seem to find enough time for prayer and sermon preparation. Too many hours spent on administration can result in a starving flock because your times with the Lord and your personal study of the Scriptures have been neglected.
One of the challenges all pastors face is leading those who have the same vision you have but don't have the same idea's about accomplishing that vision. I call these people 'thinkers'. Thinkers are good and bad. Every pastor loves to have a group of leaders that agree with everything he says. But there comes a point when that starts working against the pastor.
It is not always healthy to have a ministry team full of 'yes-men.' Most "yes-men" cannot think for themselves. What good are leaders who cannot work situations out? They need instruction for just about everything they do. Some even like to be micro-managed. Pastors cannot afford to be micro-managers, it steals ones time and produces people who cannot make it on their own.
As a builder of homes I have worked with hundreds of different carpenters from around the country. While working with these different tradesmen there were a few things I learned very quickly about people. Some of these carpenters would come to me and ask me how I liked things done. They wanted to be sure they built the house the way I wanted it to be built. At first I really appreciated this, but soon I realized that most of my time was taken up showing them my method when their method would have worked just as well.
Other carpenters would jump right in and do their own thing. This frustrated me even more because they didn't even have the courtesy to ask for my plan or opinion. But then there were those very few carpenters who would ask a few questions about the blueprint, get dialed in on my plan of attack, and then proceed to carry out that plan. If they ran into a problem, they could "think" it out for themselves. They didn't have to come to me about every little thing, but if something major came up they wouldn't hesitate to consult me. Sometimes they even offered suggestions that increased the productivity of my crew. In twenty plus years of building homes, I found only a handful of carpenters with these qualities. These were valuable men. These were the men who helped me achieve my goals. These were the carpenters that made my company money.
We need leaders like this in our churches. We need men and women who can work through problems and think things through on their own. It is important as a leader that you develop leaders who can think. It is also important that you are confident enough to lead leaders who may have a better idea or plan than you have. I am not talking about those who disagree with everything you have to say. I am talking about those who are dialed in to your vision, but may have better ideas than you about how to accomplish that vision.
In the Old Testament, the Kings surrounded themselves with people who were dialed into their mission. There are many accounts where this team of leaders did not agree with their King. They had different ideas of how to accomplish the mission. They were not "yes-men". What kind of value would they have to the King if they agreed with everything the King asked? The king though, would have to be humble and confident enough in himself to act on their advice. Their advice was oftentimes critical to the success or failure of that nation.[ read more...]