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Why Christian Fellowship is Important
"Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching." (Hebrews 10:25)
The writer of Hebrews clearly stresses that fellowship is very important. True Christian fellowship can accomplish so much in a person's life. Sometimes we feel that we don't need fellowship and that we can do things on our own. This individualistic way of thinking is not how Jesus intended for us to think and He shows us that throughout His Word. Also, a church will never grow to its full capacity if there is not a love for fellowship. Our English word, “fellowship” is the translation of the Greek word, “koinonia.”
"Koinonia": meaning "close association; communion; close relationship." It is the most frequently used word for fellowship, sharing, and communion. This speaks of the act of using a thing in common.
The word "fellowship" is found numerous times throughout the Bible. In the Greek New Testament, the word koinonia occurs nineteen times. This beautiful Greek word has become almost as popular in English-speaking congregations as the well-known agape (love). Fellowship groups and Bible classes are sometimes called "koinonias." Fellowship is one of the four staples of the New Testament church, along with the apostles' doctrine, prayer, and the breaking of bread (Acts 2:42). We are called unto the fellowship of Jesus Christ.
"God is faithful, by whom ye were called unto the fellowship of his Son Jesus Christ our Lord." (1 Corinthians 1:9)
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1Thus saith the LORD unto me, Go and get thee a linen girdle, and put it upon thy loins, and put it not in water.
2So I got a girdle according to the word of the LORD, and put it on my loins.
3And the word of the LORD came unto me the second time, saying,
4Take the girdle that thou hast got, which is upon thy loins, and arise, go to Euphrates, and hide it there in a hole of the rock.
5So I went, and hid it by Euphrates, as the LORD commanded me.
6And it came to pass after many days, that the LORD said unto me, Arise, go to Euphrates, and take the girdle from thence, which I commanded thee to hide there.
7Then I went to Euphrates, and digged, and took the girdle from the place where I had hid it: and, behold, the girdle was marred, it was profitable for nothing.
In the passage above, we find the Lord telling Jeremiah to go and get a belt and wear it. He then tells him to take his belt and go to the Euphrates River and bury it among the rocks. The Lord comes back to Jeremiah sometime later and tells him to go and dig out the belt. Whenever Jeremiah does this, he finds the belt is now marred and useless.[ read more...]
I’ve heard many people say over the last year that, as we enter into the 21st century, it will not be the size of the church that matters, but its health that will ensure its survival. So, what about the health of the church? May I suggest a few guidelines for assessing the health of a congregation of any size?
- Biblically based. Do your congregation members have a clear understanding of what they believe and substantial information to assist them in defending their faith? Is there a discipleship- training program?
- Mutually concerned. Do your people genuinely care for one another? Is there a system in operation that easily allows your congregation to know when people have needs and a prayer chain to respond to those needs?
- Socially concerned. If you do not have a small group ministry, do you have a Sunday School program that provides adequate time for your people to break bread together? Church is fellowship as much as it is a formal worship service.
- Community saturated. Are you aware of the day-to-day decisions that are made in your community that affect the school system, the social programs, and the overall moral climate of the city you serve?
- Financially stable. The church that is fiscally responsible will be able to weather any situation. Every pastor and board should insist on maintaining a certain dollar reserve, and do everything possible to avoid paralyzation of ministry through an unrealistic building or property debt. People must be taught by example to give and to give cheerfully.
In The Holy War by John Bunyan we find that for Prince Emmanuel to take back the city of Mansoul, he will go through the same gates that Diabolus took advantage of. In the first part, there were a listing of four of the captains and their first lieutenants who were assigned to go after the gates. From the analogy that Bunyan uses, these four men were preachers who were specifically going to gain a foothold in the Ear Gate.
The first captain is Captain Boanerges along with aide, Mr. Thunder. They all wore black and the insignia on their uniforms was three lightning bolts. They led a company of ten thousand men. Obviously, Bunyan gets his word picture from the description of James and John who were referred to as the Sons of Thunder by the Lord. They were men who appealed to the authority aspect of ministry.
For Mansoul to be redeemed, the gates will have to be stormed with authority. This brings up the question as to where a preacher gets his authority. This is not the contrived and manipulative power that comes from spiritual abuse but rather it is an authority that confronts the issue of sin and points to the way of redemption. For this kind of authority to come to a preacher’s life there are some key components that will have to be incorporated.
Before going further, here are the words spoken by Captain Boanerges:
Be it known unto you, O unhappy and rebellious Mansoul, that the most gracious King, the great King Shaddai, my Master, hath sent me unto you with a commission (and so he showed to the town his broad seal) to reduce you to his obedience; and he hath commanded me, in case you yield upon my summons, to carry it to you as if you were my friends or brethren; but he also hath bid , that if, after the summons to submit, you still stand out and rebel, we should endeavor to take you by force.
First, he will have to be a man who has an absolute confidence in the authority of the Scriptures. This means that he will have to believe that Scripture as we have it today is infallible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), inerrant (Psalm 12:6; 19:7-11; 119:140), authoritative (Psalm 119:89), and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:17). For the lightning bolts to be able to thunder from a pulpit, the man who is standing in that pulpit must have the belief that what he is preaching is literally the words of God.
Second, he will have to be a man who unwaveringly preaches those Scriptures. This means that a preacher ought to make a commitment to preaching through the whole of the Scriptures. He cannot afford to take a hodge-podge approach to preach here and there and cherry pick the texts that come to his mind but rather to make a commitment to work through books of the Bible and make them useful for the edification and equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:12-14). We will have to clearly mark the thought that however the Word is handled in the pulpit will be the way the Word is handled by those who hear us. If you place a high priority on the Word, you shall discover that over time, the congregation will place a high priority on the Word also.[ read more...]
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.
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...]
Have you ever preached a message, then walked away from the pulpit feeling like the message was more for you than anyone in the congregation?
I preached one of those last night. The title of it was Being Fruitful. In John chapter 15, Jesus lets us know that if we are going to be a part of the vine, that we are going to have to be fruitful. I'm not sure we totally understand what that means. Often times we allow ourselves to be overwhelmingly busy with situations that will never be fruitful. So much of a ministers time is spent on things that if we were to take the time to think about it, could be delegated. People will let you do all the work if you let them. They will smile at you, thank you and tell you that you are the greatest thing that ever happened to their church. But ultimately you have to ask yourself, what am I really accomplishing that is relative to my calling.
The scripture tells us to make our calling and election sure. Of course it is calling us here to settle in our minds what is our calling. However, it is saying more than that to us. It is telling us also to know our job description. I have learned by Pastoring, that people will let the Pastor mop the floors, shovel the sidewalks, cut the grass, and nearly every other menial task of the church if he lets them. There is a certain source of self gratification that comes with having done some manual labor. It is even good exercise. However, we truly have to ask ourselves, is this my calling. Did God call me to this city to mop the kitchen floor and to cut the grass? Did he call me here to teach every single Bible Study? If you answered yes to those questions, then keep at it. However, you are about to find that the human body is only capable of so much. As well, your mind can only take in so much information.
If however, you were called to that city to Preach the Gospel and Pastor a church, you may need to learn the art of delegation. Finding someone to accomplish a simple task is not as hard as we make it. It might be as easy as making a list of areas you need help with and putting it on the bulletin board of the church. Let people sign up to help you. God brought those people to your church for more reasons than paying a tithe and showing up on time. He brought them into your local assembly to help you raise up a church for the name of Jesus.
Reaching the lost is not just the Pastor's job. In fact, your soul winning efforts would be better served by teaching and training others to be soul winners. Now we all know that you may be better at it than they are, but training and delegating others may serve to bring more results. The scripture tells us that we are chosen and anointed to bear much fruit. I'm not sure I fully understand this idea of much fruit. I'm only capable of so much. However, by using the many talents and abilities of those placed in my care, much fruit can be harvested.[ read more...]
1. Don’t live beyond your income.
2. Don’t be a stingy person.
3. Don’t preach your doubts.
4. Don’t preach so much against things but preach principles.
5. Don’t be tempted on any occasion not to preach your best.
6. Don’t be looking for a larger field or another call.
7. Don’t be a pessimist.
8. Don’t deal in off-color stories.
9. Don’t lose your temper in public.
10. Don’t overlook the Bible when looking for preaching texts.[ read more...]
How do you influence people? Do you influence them intentionally? Do you influence them in a positive way? Are you even a person of influence? Do people listen when you speak? John Maxwell lists influence as number two on his list of the twenty one laws of leadership. You must have influence with people if you desire to be a leader.
In life and in leadership you will be influenced and you will also influence others. The degree to which you can influence people is the key to success. Influencing people to become great will help you to succeed. There is also a flip side of influence; allowing great people to influence you will help you to influence others. Before you ever become a person of influence, first you must become influenced. Winston Churchill said, "Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must first yourself believe."
In 1832, at the age of twenty three, Abraham Lincoln wanted to serve his country in the war against Black Hawk and the Sac and Fox Indians of Northern Illinois. The government had called for volunteers to help drive these Indians back into their land beyond the Mississippi. In those days, the person who put together a group of volunteers often became its leader. So with no experience as a soldier, and no experience leading men into battle, Lincoln was given the rank of captain of this company.
Lincoln soon found himself in a very awkward position, he soon found that he did not have any influence with these men. Having never received influence from anybody as a soldier, he did not have the ability to influence his soldiers. He knew nothing of tactics. He knew nothing of procedure. He knew nothing of military jargon. So he couldn't even give the right commands to his men. On one occasion, he was trying to guide his men through a gate from one field to the next, but he couldn't manage to do it. Remembering the incident, Lincoln said, "I could not for the life of me remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise. Finally, as we came near the gate I shouted: 'This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate.'"
In the few weeks after this, Lincoln and his company of soldiers marched northward and westward all the way to the Mississippi. They never did any fighting, they were never even able to find any Indians. Other, more able companies, finally tracked these Indians down and defeated them at Bad Axe on the Mississippi River in July of that same year.
Lincoln's career as a Captain lasted only four weeks. Lincoln though was not done. He did not want to end his military career on such a negative note. He enlisted again to a company of mounted rangers. This time he became a private. He had learned the lesson that He needed to be influenced by a captain before he would ever be able to influence as a captain. We know the rest of the story. Lincoln overcame his inability to influence others and became a person of enormous influence as our nation's finest president.[ read more...]
Over the holiday season, I took my family shopping in Chicago. As we were heading home to Indiana, it was dark and you could see the lights of the city. As we topped the Skyway (a very high bridge), I looked out and viewed a sea of rows of lights from the street lights below. Thousands and thousands of illuminating beams of light in every direction. As I drove along viewing the endless rows of lights that make up the Chicago skyline, I couldn't help think about a man by the name of Thomas Edison. He's the guy who thought up the light bulb. Without him, we would still be in the stone age with regards to much of the technological breakthroughs of this century. As I thought about Mr. Edison, I couldn't help wishing he was there with me right then to see the spectacle of light that came from his dream.
Over 10,000 failed experiments went into the first light bulb being created. People all around him, inventors and investors alike said he was mad, even insane.
- He believed in something no one else believed in.
- He saw something no one else saw.
- The light bulb!
You can buy them for around a quarter today. Imagine, a world without the light bulb. I could go on and on telling of all the inventions and advancement which came as a result of that one human hair dipped in carbon and encased in vacuumed glass.
It's hard for us to imagine a world without cars, computers, airplanes, Palm Pilots or light bulbs. However think with me for a minute. For thousands of years, the best mode of transportation was the horse. From the beginning of time the very best thing the human mind could come up with was a saddle to put on that poor beast of burden. They thought they really came up with something when a guy from England came up with something called the stirrup to keep a rider from falling off.
This last century has been filled with incredible advancements which we credit to the superior minds of our century. However, I'm not so sure we should give the credit so vainly to our selves. Yes, the Wright brothers really had something with that small glider. Yes, Henry Ford had a great idea with that assembly line. But, let's not be so foolish as to think that the medical, technological, manufacturing, farming, space exploration advancements have come from the human mind.[ read more...]