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By: Dr. Fred Childs
All it takes to start a fire is a little fuel, the right atmospheric conditions, and a source of ignition, perhaps as small as a tiny spark. If circumstances are right, a single blade of grass once ignited can build into an inferno that burns and ravages countless acres of prime forest. Humble beginnings can transmute into raging fire storms, exploding trees, molten sand, and death. The aftermath of such devastation causes one to wince in regret at the horrible and blackened scars left behind where beauty once stood. As unnatural as it may appear it is but another witness of the beauty of the healing and creative powers of God. Most pristine forests have at one time or another been destroyed by fire, but eventually they grow back stronger and more beautiful than ever. It is a cycle that must be understood.
Seral Succession is an ecological principle in which, over time, the natural biological systems become so developed that they begin to atrophy and bog themselves down. A strong forest becomes weakened and diseased because of the vines, weeds and assorted parasitical vegetations that erode its strength. New growth is repressed and beauty lies dormant because the system prohibits it. Extreme cases may require a controlled burn - an act of destruction - before beauty, order and strength can return. The temporary and painful state of charred ugliness is quickly forgotten once the beauty of a healthy forest burst though.
The same principle applies to agriculture. It is not uncommon for farmers to burn certain fields in anticipation of planting a future crop. Soon afterward the tractor tills the soil and much of the ugliness disappears. As horrible as the blackened field may have first appeared, its memory will be completely erased as spring bursts forth in a display of brilliant colors and verdant growth where once only charcoal and ash had been.
In effect, the fire’s devastation produces healing by burning away the undergrowth that prevents fresh, new vegetation. The ash becomes a natural fertilizer.
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When I read of this amazing wonder of life, I can't help but think of the time and effort we invest into our ministries, often without any evidence of growth or life. There have been many times I have personally invested my time, talent and finances into a person or ministry without evidence that it would pay off. There have been times, because of this, that I have given up on a person. Yet, there have also been times after giving up, that I have seen a breakthrough, and that person I worked with finally accepts a bible study. They finally come to church. They receive the Holy Ghost. Those years of hard work and effort finally pay off.
The Bible states;
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.[ read more...]
A budget is the tool provided in accounting terms that gives us the proper indication of how we stand in our finances. Too often people refuse to prepare a budget because it seems cumbersome and boring. A budget can be implemented in most homes but give only 1-2 hours per month. That is not much time to have a clear indication as to where you stand financially. Not only will a budget give you a picture of where you stand, it will help you organize your bill paying so you don’t get behind and have to pay late fees, and it will show you the debt you have so you can pay it off systematically.
A budget is a guide that tells you whether you are going in the right direction so that you can expect to meet your financial goals. You may have goals and dreams but if you do not set us guidelines for reaching them and you do not measure your progress periodically, you may end up going so far in the wrong direction you can never get out of financial difficulty.
- A budget lets you control your money instead of your money controlling you.
- A budget lets you control your spending habits.
- A budget allows you to save in a systematic manner.
- A budget allows you to meet your goals.
- A budget will tell you if you are living within your means.
To avoid burnout one needs to identify ways to refuel the energy expended in their challenging role of bi-vocational ministry. Exercise, proper diet, and adequate rest cannot be over-emphasized for long-term health, stamina, and creativity.
One analogy is that of an automobile over the course of a year. It order to function without failure it needs to visit the occasional gas station, be serviced for lubrication and filter replacements, undergo routine preventive maintenance, be cleaned, have inspections and documentation kept current, and so forth. Just as these things are essential to problem-free automobile service, similar things are essential to problem-free bi-vocational ministry. A few tips include:
- Block out multiple windows of time for quality family time each week.
- Maintain spontaneity and the capacity to have fun.
- Schedule a vacation or time away from church and work at the same time.
- Leave work at the office. When you come home bring “you” with you.
- Discover ways to expend excess energy, tension, and anxiety.
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 they soon become uncomfortable. However this is not the biggest reason why churches plateau and stop growing.
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 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”.
People who are starving in the natural will do everything they can to get even the smallest amount of food or water. Something within them drives them on as they struggle to find something to fill their belly. It is very sad that much of our world’s population goes to bed hungry and starving every day.
We are also living in a day when people are starving spiritually. People are eating almost anything that comes along spiritually speaking. Truth is often ignored in the famished rush to simply fill the starving spiritual belly. People don’t care what you are preaching, just so it answers some of the gnawing that is in their heart and soul. An alcoholic will receive the five (or is it six) step program and ignore the friend who is telling him about the delivering power of the Holy Ghost. Why is that? He’s hungry. He wants whatever is going to fill his spiritual belly. Mentally he makes the decision to do what is simplest and easiest to fix his spiritual problem. That couple in the divorce court often don’t care if you say God is 3 or God is 1. They are looking for the thing that is going to keep their family together.
What’s the greatest church growth program you could have this year? Feed His sheep. People won’t mind sitting closer to one another when your ministry is holding their family together. When the Holy Spirit is the element that is behind every song and every sermon, people will crowd in to see and hear what is going on.[ read more...]
According to the latest statistics, over one-half of all families in America are experiencing financial difficulties. This includes single parent homes. Most people have financial problems, but don’t know why!
In order to be aware of the financial difficulties one has and know what causes them, a person must educate himself to the reasons for the difficulties. The following are a list of reasons that most people find themselves in financial difficulty.
- FAILURE TO FOLLOW SCRIPTURAL PRINCIPLES. The Bible is full of guidelines regarding financial principles. In fact, one-half of all parables and one out of six verses in the New Testament deal with stewardship. Get your Bible out and start studying. Ask your pastor for more information. See a Christian Financial Counselor for assistance. You will find great guidelines and principles in the Word of God.
- FAILURE TO IDENTIFY YOUR PRIORITIES. Just exactly what do you want? More things or better financial stability? Prioritize your desires and needs and stick to it.
- NO DISCIPLINE! That one horrible word causes us more problems than anything else in the world. We need to exercise discipline in every phase of our life, especially when it comes to discipline! Discipline yourself to limit unnecessary purchases and wasting money. Discipline yourself to set down once per month to analyze your finances. Discipline will be the greatest thing you can establish in your life. Work diligently with disciplining yourself.
- FAILURE TO ESTABLISH GOALS. A person who has no goal is a person without direction. A person without direction is going…nowhere! To solve your financial difficulties, you have to establish a clear goal. Where do you want to be one year from now; five years from now, etc.? Write your goal down and work toward it.
- NO CONTROLS. This compares to discipline, however, it means to have written controls over your spending. Write down what your limits are. Review them frequently.
- FAILURE TO ESTABLISH A BUDGET. A budget is not a nervous breakdown on paper. It is a clear cut guideline of where your money comes from and how it is to be spent. It only takes about 1 hour per month to maintain a budget so that you can control the process of knowing where your money is and how it is spent. Don’t negate the importance of a written budget…it will be the greatest factor in helping you get your finances under control.
- UNABLE TO CONTROL IMPLUSIVE SPENDING. If you don’t follow the direction of your budget and discipline yourself, you will be unable to stop spending when you see that item that you just must have. Don’t spend any unnecessary money until you discuss it with someone. You must control your spending if you ever hope to get ahead financially.
How do you evaluate your performance as a Christian leader? I hope it’s not just by how hard you work or how good your intentions are. Listed are 15 points to use as a gauge of leadership effectiveness:
- Leaders know their No. 1 assignment is to develop others. The find joy in giving a new skill to someone they have a glimmer of vision for. Leaders develop other leaders; non-leaders are interested only in self-development.
- Leaders understand the “WOW factor.” The WOW factor means a commitment to a standard of excellence that goes beyond the call of duty.
- Leaders see what is really going on. They understand that parking-lot attendants aren’t just parking cars; they are forming a first impression and winning friends. Effective preachers realize that when they are preaching, something more is happening; They are building faith and bringing healing. Anointed musicians know they aren’t just playing music; they are opening hearts.
- Leaders are people of action. They do. They don’t just talk. This is one of the key factors that sets the leaders apart from the followers.
- Effective leaders have dealt with their insecurities. Leaders make room for others. They seldom feel threatened and are happy to make room for the growth of those they lead.
- Leaders don’t care who gets the credit. The success of the cause is more important than the need for a personal ego boost.
- Leaders constantly find new ways to include people in the action. Only a small portion of the work is done by the leaders themselves.
Leadership seems to be the buzzword of our times. Bookstores now have multiple rows upon rows of books concerning this particular subject. Some of the content is very good and can help a person to hone their management skills and work toward becoming self-disciplined in a manner that will prove good for the organization that they are serving. I personally have benefited from some of the secular leadership books that I have read over the years. Despite all of these necessary and good resources only a small, in fact, microscopic amount of these books address spiritual issues in the life of the leader.
There aren’t any spiritual leadership concepts given in the books that Jim Collins has written. Patrick Lencioni does not address the spiritual side of a man who wants to build a Fortune 500 company. Peter Drucker’s works have almost elevated him posthumously to an exalted messiah among the leadership gurus of the last century. If we are not careful, there can be a tendency to think that we can build a church the same way that Steve Jobs made Apple successful. Once a spiritual leader buys into that particular idea that he can build a spiritual church with the same techniques that a profit-driven company is built, he deceives himself and he will create spiritual mayhem with the sheep he is meant to feed.
Spiritually abusive leaders are often very ambitious and driven toward success. It is important to understand the motives that drive men in spiritual leadership because our motives say much about our true intentions. Gary McIntosh in his book, Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership, identifies five types of leadership styles that lead toward tendencies to be spiritually abusive. The compulsive leader is characterized by being status conscious, looking for reassurance and approval from those in authority. He will have a tendency to try to control activities and keep order at all times doing this by being an extreme workaholic. They can be excessively moralistic, conscientious, and judgmental. He may have an angry and rebellious attitude but will repress his true feelings and hold in the anger and resentment. When these dark emotions turn on the church, the atmosphere immediately turns into one of control and extreme authoritarianism.
There are certain traits that usually show up in the preaching style of a compulsive leader. He will frequently be a gifted and charismatic speaker but has the tendency to minimize any impact of the Scriptures unless they are going to serve his own agenda. He will also be the hero of all of his stories and listeners will be “amazed” at his feats in personal outreach/evangelism, prayer schedule, and devotion to the Scriptures. He may even say something like this; “I am God’s appointed authority in your life. If you oppose me you’re opposing God.” He will almost have the capacity to turn himself into a rock star for a lack of a better description. He leads people to follow him instead of the Lord.
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Making a change in pastoral ministry is challenging for any pastor and his family, even when they have chosen the time to make that transition. However, a staff pastor and family who are released from their present ministry and must make a transition to a new place of ministry face a different situation. Thus the question, “How should a minister respond, act, and live if he is asked to leave his pastoral ministry?”
Ministers have been released from staff ministry positions for various reasons: decreased church income, downsizing of pastoral staff, the phasing out of a particular ministry position or consolidating church ministries. Regardless of the reason(s) for ministry release, this type of transition can be traumatic to the pastor and his family. Because of the emotional, financial, spiritual, and family issues, this topic must be addressed to help ministers and their families who have been asked to transition from their church ministry. Having been through this type of transition myself as a staff pastor in the past due to pastoral change and staff downsizing, I share some insights that will help edify and support the minister and his family who are in transition.
The ministry family leaving a church may experience emotional stress, financial strain, grief, and a sense of frustration. The exiting staff pastor may question the effectiveness, value, usefulness, credibility, future, and potential of his ministry. Income may be an issue, especially if the staff pastor was the major wage earner in the family. There will also be the question of health insurance. Because health costs can be expensive, health insurance is a necessity. If a transitioning staff member lives in a church parsonage he may wonder, How long can we live here? These are just a few of the concerns that a transitioning staff pastor will be forced to address. What follows are a few suggestions that will help the transitioning pastor and family.
1. Affirm your personhood as a Christian.
God loves you. You, your ministry, and family are valuable to Him. He knew this change would take place before you were asked to make your transition. He has confidence that, with His help, you will make it and your future will still be bright. He knows this is a traumatic change that affects your life, finances, ministry, self-perceptions, spouse, and children.
2. Continue growing in your personal faith walk with God.
You will need to grow spiritually through this situation. Don’t become stuck on, Why is this happening to me? Instead ask,How can I grow through this situation and see glory brought to God?[ read more...]