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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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Pastor Philip Harrelson has contributed a fantastic sermon series titled, “The Little Foxes" to www.PreachIt.org.
We all have spiritual vineyards that we are to be the steward over. The first vineyard that Rev. Harrelson mentions is that of the soul. We also have the vineyard of our family and the church. These are vineyards that we have been chosen to watch over and maintain. However, there are little foxes that are working to destroy our vineyards.
In this encouraging and instructive series, Rev. Harrelson goes into detail and explains how to efficiently “improve the soil of these vineyards.” He describes how we need to meditate on God’s Word every day and pray throughout the week as just a couple of the ways to “water” our vineyards.
Every Pastor, ministry team member and saint of God would greatly benefit to read these messages and apply these life lessons. This is a series that needs to be taught to every church and every team member.
Here is the first paragraph of the first lesson in this series:
Every person has a vineyard. We may not perceive that we are keepers of vineyards but there are responsibilities that we all have for our vineyards. First, we have the personal vineyard of our own soul. It is perhaps the most important vineyard of all that we are to take the most care of. Our soul is the most valuable possession that we have according to the Word of the Lord (Matthew 16:26; 10:28; Ecclesiastes 12:7). The care of the soul is a very tedious and challenging process. It involves the careful work of plowing, planting, cultivating, weeding, watering, and harvesting. Just as a farmer is in a joint venture with God, to care for our soul will have to be a joint venture with God. We cannot do it all alone! We must have God to intervene with Spirit and Word to accomplish His will for us.[ read more...]
One of the perceived obstacles to winning people to Christ is that the convictions we hold are not attractive to the world. I beg to differ with that. If the convictions we hold are no different than those of the world then why would they want what they already have? Why would they be attracted to what we have? Attraction, by definition, means to draw an object away from one thing towards another. The law of attraction states that the force doing the attracting has to be greater than the force holding back.
What we have is much greater than what the world has;
1 John 4:4
4 Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Still, there is this perceived notion, that what we have is not what this world wants. Even though we know what we have is greater, the world doesn't know. They will not be attracted to what we have unless they can see it for themselves.
In 605 BC, the Babylonians invaded Jerusalem. Instead of destroying the nation, Babylon decided to destroy Israel's identity and culture. They turned Israel into a slave state. In the process of doing so, they selected the most promising children of Israel and shipped them off to be immersed into Babylonian culture.
At least four of these children were taken to the king's palace. Daniel was one of these four. He would be given and new name, a new wardrobe and taught a new language. Daniel did not protest these changes to his identity. Who could blame him? It seemed as if God had abandoned him.
Then the king asked one more thing of Daniel;
5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king's meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.
This is where Daniel drew the line. Consuming the king's meat and drink meant that Daniel would be eating meat offered to the false gods of Babylon. He would not have any part of it. So Daniel asked the chief of staff for permission not to eat the king's food. This presented a serious problem for the chief of staff. He was responsible to the king for these four boys. If he gave this permission and they became pale and thin, the king would have his head. This man was not attracted by Daniel's conviction. In fact, he wanted nothing to do with it.
Daniel responded to this in unique way. We can all learn from what he did;
Dan 1:11-15 NLT
11 Daniel spoke with the attendant who had been appointed by the chief of staff to look after Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah.
12 "Please test us for ten days on a diet of vegetables and water," Daniel said.
13 "At the end of the ten days, see how we look compared to the other young men who are eating the king's food. Then make your decision in light of what you see."
14 The attendant agreed to Daniel's suggestion and tested them for ten days.
15 At the end of the ten days, Daniel and his three friends looked healthier and better nourished than the young men who had been eating the food assigned by the king.[ read more...]
Casting a vision and leading people are not easy to do. Here are a few pointers when it comes to creating vision in the local church.
Don’t micromanage. Create a program or system for management then simply allow others to do their job. You may consider employing another person to do the managing. This would be someone who is close to you and knows how to follow your orders. Let them do the follow up, you cast the vision.
Admit mistakes. Being the leader does not mean you are going to be right 100% of the time. There are going to be times you make mistakes. Admit them quickly and cast a new vision. Allowing yourself to make mistakes will show your congregation that you are human and will enable them to feel that you are approachable.
Lead without fear. Fear will cripple your potential. “We have not the spirit of fear.” Seek your churches direction from the Lord. While it is good to get other people’s opinion and counsel regarding the direction the church should be moving, God alone can give you Divine direction. Seek God’s face for His will. Once he gives you direction, move forward into it without fear of defeat or what others may think.
Gather allies. Surround yourself with others who think like you do. Especially if they compliment your vision. As you begin to share your passion and burden with them, they will want to get on board. After training and equipping them, get them on board with you ASAP.[ read more...]
While in Bible College many years ago I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Chorale. It was a big thing to make the Chorale. We were to go on a two-week tour during the summer break. It was the highlight of our summer. I don't know why, but recently one of the songs we sang during that summer tour has been on my mind. I can't remember much of the song except the main line of the chorus, which was also the title of the song. It was called, "Shut up and March".
The theme of the song centers around the idea that talk can only do so much good. There is a time to quit talking and a time to get on with the business at hand. I frequently tell my employees, "A little less chatter and a little more clatter, please." I think you get the idea.
When Israel fled from Egypt after 400 years of slavery they thought they had gained their freedom. The Pharaoh had finally relented and allowed them to go. On their very first night of freedom, they set up camp on the shores of the Red Sea. I can imagine how their spirits were soaring. They were looking forward to a bright future. However, in a moment's notice, their freedom was taken from them again. The Pharaoh had changed his mind. He had assembled his mighty army and come to take Israel back. When Israel saw the Egyptian Army they panicked and began to cry out to God. They began to curse Moses for leading them out.
When this barrage of words came against Moses, he responded with some of the most inspiring words in Scripture;
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.[ read more...]
As the attack of Mansoul continued by Prince Emmanuel’s troops, the second captain came to the Ear Gate. The first attack had come from Captain Boanerges who was absolutely confident in what he had to say. Captain Conviction, whose main assistant was Mr. Sorrow, was just as confident but his attack on the Ear Gate came in a bit different manner. Their uniforms they wore were pale and their insignia was the book of the Law that issued a flame of fire. He said to the inhabitants:
‘Hear, O Mansoul! Thou, O Mansoul, wast once famous for innocency, but now thou art degenerated into lies and deceit. Thou hast heard what my brother, the Captain Boanerges, hath said; and it is your wisdom, and will be your happiness, to stoop to, and accept of conditions of peace and mercy when offered, especially when offered by one against whom thou hast rebelled, and one who is of power to tear thee in pieces, for so is Shaddai, our King; nor, when he is angry can anything stand before him. If you say you have not sinned, or acted rebellion against our King, the whole of your doings since the day that you cast off his service (and there was the beginning of your sin) will sufficiently testify against you. What else means your hearkening to the tyrant, and you’re receiving him for your king? What means else your rejecting of the laws of Shaddai, and your obeying of Diabolus? Yea, what means this you’re taking up of arms against, and the shutting of your gates upon us, the faithful servants of your King? Be ruled, then, and accept of my brother’s invitation, and over-stand not the time of mercy, but agree with thine adversary quickly. Ah! Mansoul, suffer not thyself to be kept from mercy, and to be run into a thousand miseries, by the flattering wiles of Diabolus. Perhaps that piece of deceit may attempt to make you believe that we seek our own profit in this our service; but know it is obedience to our King, and love to your happiness, that is the cause of this undertaking of ours.
‘Again I say to thee, O Mansoul, consider if it be not amazing grace that Shaddai should so humble himself as he doth: now he, by us, reasons with you, in a way of entreaty and sweet persuasions, that you would subject yourselves to him. Has he that need of you that we are sure you have of him? No, no; but he is merciful, and will not that Mansoul should die, but turn to him and live.’
Captain Conviction comes in and takes a different but just as effective method of preaching to Mansoul. Where Captain Boanerges relied on authority, Captain Conviction relies on passion and fervor. Notice how that he confronts them with their sin and their rebellion against God. He also establishes the fact that they have sold out their allegiances to a king who is far less superior to what King Shaddai had been toward them. He tells them that their actions are going to cause them increasing misery as time passes on if they do not respond to the gospel call. He tells them that they are to humble themselves before God because this is their only way of escape.
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Few people will deny the theory that a local church stops growing as the size of the church building reaches 80% capacity. The reason for this is purely human and not so spiritual. Most people simply will not tolerate feeling crowded in the pews. Using chairs instead of pews helps this problem somewhat, but eventually the congregants feel like their space is being invaded and soon become uncomfortable.
However, this is not the biggest reason for a church's lack of growth or the reaching of certain size and then growth stopping.
We use the analogy that a fish will only grow to a certain size in a small fish bowl but in a larger pond for instance, the fish can grow much larger. I’m not so sure however, that God’s church should so easily be compared to a fish. I suggest that the building however, is not necessarily the problem in most cases. In fact, we have all seen churches who were literally bursting out at the seams. In many parts of the world today, revival is happening at an unprecedented rate. Pews are packed and chairs are in the aisles. Some churches are utilizing 2-3 services per day to accommodate the crowds.
While it is true that most people don’t like to be in a crowded atmosphere, it is also true that people will come when they are being fed. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me Peter?” Peter responded in the affirmative and when he did, our Lord told him to “Feed my sheep.” He did not tell Peter to house them or get them plenty of exercise. He told him to “Feed Them."[ read more...]
The word 'pastor', or any other form of it, occurs only nine times in the Bible, and once in the New Testament.
We find this reference in...
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
The Greek word for pastor is, "poimen," which simply means a shepherd. The Hebrew word for pastor also means shepherd.
In modern day church culture, a pastor has also become much more than that. Unfortunately, the pastor has taken on every part of the five-fold ministry himself, thereby taking on offices not intended for him. This has led to much confusion and frustration for many who are pastors or feel led to become a pastor.
In modern vernacular, a pastor has become ' a one man, do it yourself, even though I am not really qualified to, kind of leader.' As Lee Stoneking stated, we have become a 'pastor driven organization.'
With that in mind, the very first thing that every pastor should consider is:
1. Is my office of pastor fulfilling God's role for a pastor?
A pastor is primarily a shepherd, somebody who cares for, protects and provides for every sheep in his flock.
· He is also the overseer of the flock.
· He is one who has experience.
· He must have a ready mind.
· He must manage the affairs of his flock.
1 Peter 5:2
2 Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof, not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;
As the shepherd, the pastor can also serve the role of the teacher. The pastor feeds his sheep through the teaching and preaching of the word.
28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
The Word of God is our 'bread of life', the pastor must be ready and able to teach and relate the scriptures to every member of his flock.
There isn't any one man who can fulfill the modern-day role of a "pastor." You can only fulfill the role of pastor as God designed -- as part of the five-fold ministry. Otherwise you will fail God, yourself, and most importantly, all of the people that you lead.
You need help, you can't do it all alone. If you want to succeed and grow your church you must operate as a pastor in the scope of the five-fold ministry.
11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers;
12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ:
As a pastor in this era of the church, you will have to be the one to re-instate the offices of the five-fold ministry in your church, it is up to you, nobody else will do it.[ read more...]
Are you struggling to get things done? Are you the one who is usually completing the projects of your church and overseeing every ministry? Does it seem like there is never enough time to get all that you need done, even though you are not doing nearly what your vision would require? Are you feeling used up and exhausted?
You are not alone! Many Pastors and ministry leaders feel this same way. One of the reasons is because we are not very good at utilizing the talents and strengths of others. Here are 10 ways you can begin utilizing the people in your ministry to create a more resourceful and accomplished ministry team.
Cast a vision - The next time you get up to announce a new ministry in your church or the direction you feel the church should be taking, cast a vision. Share with your ministry team the end result. You don't have to tell them all of what it is going to take to get there, just tell them the end result. "I believe our church can be running 200 by next Easter!" Now there will be many facets of ministry that are going to be needed to cause your congregation to run 200 by Easter, but for now all you want to do is give the leadership team a goal. "200 by Easter!"
Ask for help - Acknowledging you need help is liberating for the leader! it is also a grand opportunity for the team to feel like they are coming alongside their pastor. Asking for help is not becoming vulnerable, it is being honest. It is also being responsible. God gave you your ministry team for a reason. That reason is so that you can utilize their talents, knowledge and energy to accomplish the work of ministry God has envisioned you with. "Would you consider working together and with me to cause our church to be running 200 by Easter?"
Allow the Genius of the group to be found - The smartest person in the room is not you. Nor is it any one other person in the group. The Genius in the room is always the sum of all of those who are on your ministry team. If allowed to be heard, there are people on your team who have ideas and experiences that can advance your vision much better than you can by yourself. "What are some things that we could do to cause our church to be running 200 by Easter?"[ read more...]
Psalm 118:24 reads, “This is the day which the Lord hath made; we will rejoice and be glad in it.” The writer of this Psalm understood that if he was going to be a happy person, he was going to have to encourage himself. Who knows what all this person was dealing with at that moment of his life? The day he penned these words may well have been the worst day of his life. His determination however was that he was not going to allow his circumstances to determine his outlook on life.
Only you can decide for you if you are going to be a positive and happy person. There is much in the world to worry and be sad about, but that does not mean that you have to live a sad or worried existence.[ read more...]