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It's Not The Size of The Church, But Its Health That Counts!
By: Donald Bryan
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.
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What is Leadership? Leadership is first and foremost influence. When you look over history, you will find People like Hitler, Churchill. Mother Teresa, Gandhi, Martin Luther King, who were all great leaders. Not all of them were great people, but they had a way of drawing the masses into their way of thinking.
Of those people listed here, the one who intrigues me the most is Adolph Hitler. If there ever was a political mad man, he was one. However, with all of his error, he was able to lead the masses of Germany into his way of thinking. He was able, with his mindset of madness, to convince them, that murderous mayhem was the necessary means of creating a better and stronger Germany.
So, leadership is influence. How a person uses that influence is the proof of that persons character. Some even in church arenas, have used their influence of people for their own self gratification. Their own self-preservation. And their own agendas. This is not Godly or Spiritual Leadership, however it is Leadership.
Regardless of the result of your effect on a person’s life, whom you have influence over, you are ultimately leading them. It may be your children. It may be the people who work for you or are under you in a corporation or church. It may be the kids in your Youth Group. Or it may be the people you Minister to in your local church.
I recognize the effect of my father’s leading in my life growing up as a child. For years, my father was an alcoholic. He beat his wife. He neglected his children. He abandoned his post of fatherhood, yet he was, with all of his silence in my life, leading and influencing me. Who I would become as a man, was being formed by a person who, for the most part of my childhood, was absent.[ 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...]
“You know you are a leader if you look behind you and people are following you.” There are many leaders who have people following them, but the leader is not leading them anywhere.
All too often, the leader himself is not being led. It is a shame when a leader is unwilling or unable to be led of the Holy Spirit. It is a tremendous loss of potential to the Kingdom. As well, those who want to follow that leader become discouraged as their willingness to be led turns to disillusionment.
A leader who refuses to move in the direction God would lead him lacks the courage to see beyond the obstacles in his way. Someone who’s intent is to wait until circumstances are perfect before he moves forward, will never move. There will always be some obstacle between where you are and where you want to be. Moses and the Children of Israel are the perfect examples of people who had a clear vision of where they felt God was leading them. They found that there were going to be many walled cities and giants they were going to have to face before they arrived at their place of promise.
Courage is not the absence of fear. Courage is the willingness to face your fear and move forward in spite of the uncertainty or risk.[ read more...]
As leaders, we have all been guilty of getting excited and all fired up to start a new project. In our excitement, we call our leadership teams together, plan it all out and set it in motion, without first answering all of the questions that need to be answered. This is great for creating momentum, but before you begin, ask yourself and your team of leaders if you will be able to sustain everything that you start.
· If you don't have the right people in place to make it happen, it may be that you need to refrain from starting until you have the right people trained to take on the new project.
Jesus was a great example to us in this.
Think of what God's ultimate plan was. God was bringing into existence the New Testament plan of Salvation. To institute this plan, He robed Himself in flesh and became the Supreme sacrifice for all sin for all of time! That was the first part of His plan. In order for this plan to continue, Jesus needed the right people to make it happen.
In three years time, Jesus needed to have the right people trained and in place, and ready to carry on His ministry by the day He ascended into Heaven. That is why Jesus so often said, "My hour is not yet come", or "It is not my time." Jesus wanted to be sure that He had His disciples ready and willing to carry on His work after Calvary. He wanted it to succeed. It had to continue. It must not fail![ read more...]
In John chapter 15, Jesus lets us know that if we are going to be a part of the vine, we are going to have to be fruitful. Do we truly understand what that means.? Often times we allow ourselves to be overwhelmingly busy with things that will never be fruitful. Much of a minister’s time is spent on things that 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. Ultimately however, you have to ask yourself, what am I really accomplishing that is relative to my calling.
The scriptures tell us to make our calling and election sure. It’s important that we settle in our minds what our calling is. Yet, this is saying more than that to us than this. 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.
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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.
Pass the plate. Don’t let the ushers simply walk around with the plate in hand – only putting it in front of those they feel will give. Tell them that each person in the congregation should have the plate passed to them. Let the congregation handle the plate as it passes through every row.
Worship during the giving. Don’t let the offering be the dead spot of the church service. Have the musicians play and the singers sing. The church should worship while they give.[ read more...]
People are very busy, don’t burden them with mere activities.
- Many full time church leaders do not understand the time constraints of the working saint and their family.
- Many homes are two income homes where families seldom have time for one another.
- God and church should be at the center of our lives, however church leadership needs to realize that people need a break once in a while as well.
- We live in a different world than we did 30 years ago and the family unit is suffering as a result.
- It would be a good exercise for church leadership to see how they can cut the church calendar 20% by removing unproductive activities.
- Often a meeting can be held shortly after church rather than have people set aside another evening of the week to attend.
Church activities should have a purpose.
- Just because you did it last year is not a good reason to do it this year.
- Kill the sacred cow!
- Does the event promote evangelism?
- Will souls be won as a result of it?
- Will the body be strengthened because of this event?
- If not, consider something that will or give them a break by deleting that event and moving on to the next one.
Don’t have a meeting just to have a meeting.
- If you have no clear direction for the meeting or there is not immediate need for one, don’t have it.
- Wait until you have the agenda thoroughly thought and planned out and then announce a meeting.
- Accomplish something at every meeting and your people will feel like coming to the meeting was worth their sacrifice of time.
One of the most exciting and powerful methods of preaching is to share the story (biography) of a character in the Bible. This method is extremely valuable in building people and moving people from one level of ministry to another. God's desire is to grow His Kingdom. His Word is full of ordinary and less than ordinary people who He used to accomplish this purpose. It would behoove us as pastors and leaders to use this method of preaching a lot more than we have in the past. There is nothing more powerful than the testimony of a life that has been transformed by the power of God.
The proper definition of biographical preaching is;
The method of preaching that expounds a Bible character, based on careful exegesis, to deduce the principles that regulated his or her life and to apply the principles to the modern listener. A simpler definition is; Biographical preaching is preaching that provides a biography of the life of a person from scripture and draws a moral lesson or message from that story.
It is essential to understand that all preaching in its most basic of forms is (or at least ought to be) expository in nature. By that I mean that every scripture you share in a sermon should be exposed and expounded upon. Even when only one verse is used in a topical sermon, there is a degree of exposition that takes place. In the same sense, biographical preaching is a type of expository preaching. You are telling the story of an individual rather than the story of a chapter or a book. Instead of exposing a passage of scripture, you are exposing the life of a person in scripture. Your text may include several passages of scripture about the character.[ read more...]
In his research of leaders, both historical and contemporary, author Robert Clinton found that few leaders actually finish the race well. His two books, The Making of a Leader (NavPress) and The Mentor Handbook (Barnabas), explain that finishing well could be defined as a life that until its end is increasingly more in love with Christ, more committed to His service and more devoted to godly leadership.
What causes a leader to continue to grow, to stay on track and to finish well in life and ministry?
Five Habits of effectiveness. Effective leaders learn to become intentional about their character growth and formation. In this development of a leader we can make three general observations:
- God develops a leader over a lifetime;
- God uses people, circumstances and ministry assignments to shape the life of a leader; and
- Leadership plateau is often indicative of a growth issue within a leader's life.
To help us become more intentional about our health as leaders, let's explore five insights from leaders who have finished well.
- Healthy leaders are lifelong learners. Leaders pursue three types of training: personal training, (personal growth, projects, personal research); informal training (workshops, seminars, conferences); and formal training (continuing education, degree programs).
- Healthy leaders are committed to serve and develop others. Be alert to potential leaders in your sphere of influence (II Cor. 1:3-4; II Tim. 2:2).