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Storm the Gates - Part 4
By: Philip Harrelson
John Bunyan’s book The Holy War describes the capture and re-taking of Mansoul. The gates were taken advantage of by Diabolus and his armies because they were not guarded properly. When King Shaddai decided that he was going to gain control of it again, he chose to assault the gates also. The Eye Gate and the Ear Gate were the primary ways of going back into the city. So he determined that he would have his best men to attack the Ear Gate. It literally shook while these men assaulted it. While the allegory is best understood as preaching that is being used to reason with the Ear Gate, Bunyan does an excellent job in describing the ways that it falls back to the control of King Shaddai.
The first to assault the Ear Gate was Captain Boanerges and his first assistant, Mr. Thunder. The second man to assault the gate was Captain Conviction and his first assistant, Mr. Sorrow. The third man sent in is Captain Judgment and Mr. Terror. Obviously Bunyan is describing the most effective tones of evangelistic preaching. Although all of these techniques, authority, passion, conviction, godly sorrow, judgment, and a fear of the judgment awaiting every man, it appears that much of this kind of preaching has fallen by the wayside.
Captain Judgment and Mr. Terror (knowing the terror of the Lord, we persuade men; 2 Cor. 5:11) are dressed in red uniforms with an insignia of a burning furnace. When he stepped up to speak immediately after Captain Conviction, his words rang out.
‘O ye, the inhabitants of the town of Mansoul, that have lived so long in rebellion and acts of treason against the King Shaddai, know that we come not today to this place, in this manner, with our message of our own minds, or to revenge our own quarrel; it is the King, my Master, that hath sent us to reduce you to your obedience to him; the which if you refuse in a peaceable way to yield, we have commission to compel you thereto. And never think of yourselves, nor yet suffer the tyrant Diabolus to persuade you to think, that our King, by his power, is not able to bring you down, and to lay you under his feet; for he is the former of all things, and if he touches the mountains, they smoke. Nor will the gate of the King’s clemency stand always open; for the day that shall burn like an oven is before him; yea, it hasteth greatly, it slumbereth not.
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Creative idea's to enhance your worship service Worship is a large and important part of being a Christian, and worshiping as part of the congregation can be a powerful experience. A worship service should guide people back towards God, and help the congregation feel God's presence, power, and anointing. As pastors, we should prepare our people to be sensitive to God's presence with a heart that is open to the love of Christ, and sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit. Our call to worship should cause hearts to burn with desire and a passion for God. Every visitor should leave our services knowing without a doubt that God was in the house.
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Creative idea's to enhance your worship service
Worship is a large and important part of being a Christian, and worshiping as part of the congregation can be a powerful experience.
A worship service should guide people back towards God, and help the congregation feel God's presence, power, and anointing. As pastors, we should prepare our people to be sensitive to God's presence with a heart that is open to the love of Christ, and sensitive to the moving of the Holy Spirit.
Our call to worship should cause hearts to burn with desire and a passion for God. Every visitor should leave our services knowing without a doubt that God was in the house.
[ 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...]
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 enviroment 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.
You are raising money for Life Transformation, not Organizational Survival. Your objective must be to advance the cause of ministry, not to perpetuate the survival of an institution. God can make great things happen in people's lives without an organization through which such ministry happens. Focus on the essential: Seeing lives changed for the glory and purposes of God.
People give to people and causes, not to institutions or programs. If you want to inspire people to become good stewards, help them see themselves as ministers. Their giving is a means of using their resources for the very reason they exist: to know, and serve God with all their hearts, minds, souls and strength. Encourage people to give to the church because it provides opportunities and means of helping people.
Repeat donors must be both inspired and persuaded. Great fund-raisers know how to identify the soft spot that inspires people to give generously. Eliciting such support is more than just finding a "hot button"; it initials penetrating both the head and the heart of the donor. Your goal should be to create a stewardship mind-set. You do not want to have to start from scratch every time you need money; you want to build on a foundation you have worked hard to develop, one that is based on trust, integrity and mutual benefit.
There is no substitute for absolute integrity. None! Honesty, transparency, accessibility - these are the characteristics on which a great stewardship campaign - and genuine, life changing ministry - are based. Integrity is not something to be fooled with. lose it and you will pay a major price for an extended period. Once the people's trust has been violated, the relationship cannot be restored until many years have passed and the donors who were hurt by the infraction are gone. Ministries cannot outlast that era.[ read more...]
One Snoopy cartoon depicts the famous beagle of Charley Brown lying on the roof of his dog house and complaining that everyone is constantly demanding something from him. He has so much more to do that he can possibly get accomplished. In the final frame of the cartoon, Snoopy sighs, “I hate being head beagle!”
Being head beagle is not always as glamorous as it appears to be. Amazingly, people struggle to become the top dog. There is some kind of allure to the top position in any given profession and the ministry is no different. An intoxication to be the one at the top of the ladder oftentimes blurs the true calling and divine purpose of too many people.
Few however, know the true cost of being the one with the title before his/her name. At the same time, those who are the One at the Top, overestimate their own true value. Any organization that only thrives because of the charisma of its sole leader is in trouble. In the day that the person whom the whole organization is revolving around falls away or steps aside, that organization is going to struggle to find direction for its immediate and future direction. Few churches/organizations who follow this pattern can survive completely with the loss of their fearless leader.[ read more...]
(Mat 20:20 KJV) Then came to him the mother of Zebedee's children with her sons, worshipping him, and desiring a certain thing of him. And he said unto her, What wilt thou? She saith unto him, Grant that these my two sons may sit, the one on thy right hand, and the other on the left, in thy kingdom. But Jesus answered and said, Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? They say unto him, We are able.And he saith unto them, Ye shall drink indeed of my cup, and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with: but to sit on my right hand, and on my left, is not mine to give, but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared of my Father. And when the ten heard it, they were moved with indignation against the two brethren.But Jesus called them unto him, and said, Ye know that the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and they that are great exercise authority upon them. But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant: Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
This woman’s only desire was that her two sons would receive a place of position.
Jesus turns to the young men and asks, “Ye know not what ye ask. Are ye able to drink of the cup that I shall drink of, and to be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” People do not know the responsibility that comes with leadership. They have no idea the sleepless nights that comes with ministry.
Leadership within the church is viewed in some romantic sense. The fact of the matter is many are people worshipers. They fail to realize that this is God’s kingdom. The Scriptures tell us that he is a jealous God and He will not share his glory with anyone.
Some will do anything for position and the prestige that appears to come with it.
They take short cuts.
They will try to buy their way into a position.
They will use their influence to bully their way into a position.
They will claim they have the right to a position due to duration of their service.
They will use their relationship or friendship with someone else already in position.
They want the title of an office without the work or obligation that comes with it. They are unqualified to do the job, or fill the office, but because they have been around longer than anyone else, they feel they deserve it. Even if their qualifications or lack of qualifications actually disqualifies them for the position.[ read more...]
If your ministry is only one of your jobs, here are 12 tips to make the road a little smother.
In light of the fact that 50 percent of all North American churches have 75 people or fewer, many pastors do not receive full salary from the church they serve. This forces them to consider options such as finding other employment on the side or having a spouse work to help make ends meet.
- Guard your attitudes. Sometimes it is hard for those “called into the ministry” to accept the fact that they may have to work “secular” jobs at times. These are understandable feelings, but will lead to bitterness of heart and cripple our ministries unless we overcome them.
- Look primarily to God. It is easy to become resentful toward people if we look to them as our sources. God is our ultimate employer and provider, not the church.
- Beware of get- rich-quick schemes. A pastor desperate for additional sources of income may be vulnerable to the allure of multilevel marketing and other “easy money” systems.
- Assess the hidden costs of having a spouse that works. After the cost of travel, food on the road, child care, house cleaning etc, you may find that it is cheaper for them to stay home. A job or career is often times more of an outlet or escape. Check all the motives and the real cost involved.
- Make the most of the situation while you’re at it. Working a secular job can actually have many overlooked benefits other than just additional income: contact with unchurched people and experience with realities of work environments.
- Define your ministry. Bi-vocational pastors should beware of trying to have a “full- service” ministry. You need definite limits and boundaries. You cannot do everything, so you must have a clear focus for what you will handle.
Five Things you must do to get Unstuck!
Has your church replaced truth with tradition? Have you done the same things for so long that neither God nor man could change things at your church? Do committees and programs substitute for the moving of the Holy Ghost? Has your church become boring and predictable? If so, your church may be stuck in a rut and may be unable to see a way out.
In his book, Rut, Rot or Revival, A.W. Tozer states,
"The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes "lord" in the life of the church. Programs are organized and the prevailing conditions are accepted as normal. Anyone can predict next Sunday's service and what will happen. This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut.
The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been, determines what is, and what is, determines what will be. That would be perfectly all right and proper for a cemetery. Nobody expects a cemetery to do anything but conform. The greatest conformists in the world today are those who sleep out in the community cemetery. They do not bother anyone. They just lie there, and it is perfectly all right for them to do so.
You can predict what everyone will do in a cemetery from the deceased right down to the people who attend a funeral there. Everyone and everything in a cemetery has accepted the routine. Nobody expects anything out of those buried in the cemetery. But the church is not a cemetery and we should expect much from it, because what has been should not be lord to tell us what is, and what is should not be ruler to tell us what will be. God's people are supposed to grow. As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability. Certainly we cannot predict exactly, but in many churches you just about can. Everybody knows just what will happen, and this has become our deadliest enemy."[ read more...]
The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ read more...]
Identifying that next leader is not easy. You must often times select a few prospects and begin to work with them waiting for the cream to rise to the top. While you are mentoring and waiting for maturity, here are a few things to begin to look for.
Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past. Is this a person who has worked well on a team previously? Maybe, they needed a break and stepped aside for rest, but are now able to get back on board.
The capacity to create or catch vision. When I talk to people about the future, I want their eyes to light up. I want them to ask the right questions. When you are sharing your vision with people do they get excited along with you? Do they offer suggestions that spur your imagination further? When you find someone who is able to catch the same vision as you, you have found someone that you can entrust much of the responsibility with. They will have a similar passion for the work as you yourself would.
A constructive spirit of discontent. Some people would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical. The unscratchable itch is always in the leader. These people are a bit hard to sift from the genuine critics, but when you do you may have found a diamond in the rough. Just because they are questioning a few things does not mean they are not on your side. Give them an opportunity to help make a needed change and you may have found a great friend
Practical Ideas. Not everybody with practical ideas is a leader, of course, but leaders seem to be able to identify which are and which aren't. A person's experience will often times lend practical ideas. When someone offers an idea that is helpful, it may be that they have been involved in a project much like what you are facing which will make them a helpful candidate for your ministry team.
A willingness to take responsibility. Leaders will bear work, for the feeling of contributing to other people is what leadership is all about. When you find a person who is willing to take responsibility for not only the ministry you have given them, but also the success of it, you have found pure gold. These are people to build upon. The ministry is dependent on individuals who are willing to take responsibility.
A completion factor. In the military, it is called "completed staff work." The half-cooked meal isn't what you want. Someone who competes what they have set out to do is invaluable. When looking for leadership that will help you move your church forward, look for people who finish what they start, no matter how small or trivial the task is.[ read more...]