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Feed My Sheep
By: James Smith
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.
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Most people react badly to being interrupted. They often feel disrespected and small when you talk over them. People who tend to interrupt others generally do so for one of these reasons:
- They don't place enough value on what the other person has to say.
- They want to impress others by showing how smart or intuitive they are.
- They're too excited by the conversation to let the other person finish talking.
If you are in the habit of interrupting other people, examine your motives and determine to make a change.[ read more...]
There is truth in the saying that you live life in forward motion but you understand it looking backward. I know for myself I would certainly have done many things differently had I the opportunity to do things all over again. However, like everyone else, you only get one chance at this circle of life.
Those who have a teaching father or mentor have an inside edge on doing things right the first time . . . if they have the willingness to listen and apply Godly advice to their life and decisions. Unfortunately, such is not the case for most individuals.
Leaders are a unique breed. They are fueled by passion. They feed off the energy of accomplishment. The adrenaline can be addictive. It is not uncommon for leaders to be so enraptured by the doing that they lose track of their state of being. Many people who succeed at leadership therefore fail at the more important things in life such as family and personal development.
The scripture asks, "And what shall a man profit if he gains the whole world and loses his own soul?"
The best time to consider the impact of leadership upon you and your family is now. It cannot wait any longer. Today needs to be the day that you do what is best for those you love the most.
Ponder this sobering thought. At the end of your days who will be there to weep over you? Who will carry you to your final resting place? Who will bury you and weep afterward over regrets and missed opportunities? The answer is your family. It won't be those you neglected your family for.
Ponder another sobering thought. If your spouse or one of your children died today would you bury them with regrets over missed opportunities? If you are like most leaders the answer probably is yes. Please don't say this can't happen to you. It can.
A few years ago I landed at a large airport. Soon after deboarding I noticed multiple ministry colleagues in the area. As I spoke to them they informed me they were there to meet another colleague who had been on an overseas mission trip. He was to land soon and they had to give him the sad news. His wife was killed in a tragic automobile accident on her way to the airport that day to pick her husband up from his missions trip.[ read more...]
One of the keys to Effective Church Leadership is delegating work to others - no one can do everything for themselves. Learn to delegate aspects of your ministry properly, and you will have time to complete the most important needs of the church successfully.
The process of delegation consists of the decision to delegate, the briefing, and the followup. At each of these points, anticipate the potential problems.
The decision: Persuade yourself to delegate. You will not benefit if you lead the Church with the assumption that it takes longer to teach somebody else to do a job than to do it yourself. Delegation has its own rewards. Once somebody has learned a particular task, they will be able to do it in the future without repeated briefings. However, be sure to delegate each job to a person with the appropriate skills, experience and knowledge.
The briefing: Make sure that the person to whom you are delegating clearly understands the brief - what you want them to do and by when. Offer ongoing support and guidance.
The followup: During the course of the project, check the standard of work produced. Provide positive feedback, but beware of overdoing it - there is a narrow line between helpful supervision and debilitating interference.
Delegation does not mean handing over control of a project, but handing over responsibility for certain tasks. Encourage people to work using their own methods, providing they stick to the instructions you have given them. This allows you to utilize their specialized giftedness or to provide them with an opportunity to develop a new area of expertise. One of the common contentions arising out of delegation is conflict over responsibility, so it is vital to define exactly what the person is responsible for.
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While musing on the things of God, my thoughts began to ponder modern day pulpit preaching in churches and gatherings around the world. I thought about the many presentation styles I have seen, the expectations of the audiences, the tantalizing titles, the packaging of sermons for media sales, books published consisting of the author’s sermons, the humanistic rankings and comparisons of our favorite preachers, and so forth. I smiled thinking that just as kids might argue with one another, “My dad can beat up your dad,” or, “My mommy is prettier than your mommy”, we might also argue that, “My pastor can preach better than your pastor”. We all tend to be pretty human at times.
This led me to meditate on the evolution of preaching just over the last century. I wondered what changes came about after Bible colleges and seminaries began teaching students about exegesis, hermeneutics, extrapolation, and the fine art of sermon preparation? How did the invention of the public address system change the delivery of preaching? How have Power Point, Bible software, and multimedia projection altered sermon preparation and presentation styles? What differences have radio, television, audio and video recorders, cameras, live streaming, and social media made? Should these and other innovations have had any impact at all on the delivery of God’s Word?[ read more...]
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.[ read more...]
I stared out of my office window. In 3 hours my congregation would be filling the auditorium to receive watering for their souls and seek direction and inspiration. The prospect used to snap my adrenaline to attention and send me bounding through the sanctuary straightening chairs, adjusting microphones, checking thermostats. Anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry would stir my faith with expectation. It was my favorite time of the week – then. I managed to continue preparing messages, but careful planning of the services overloaded the limits of my emotional energy. I winged it more Sundays than I care to admit. Routine pastoral tasks were postponed or neglected. Knowing I wasn’t giving the pastorate my best effort nagged my conscience and compounded my distress. Thankfully, I survived. Ministry once again puts a bounce in my steps. My devotional life has regained its pulse. Vision and purpose flow through my veins. I’ve come through to the bright side of the “valley of the shadow of death.” Here are some things I learned about surviving when the well runs dry.
- Recognize the Adversary. According to I Peter 5:8, we have an adversary who seeks to devour us. Satan’s strategy is seen throughout the Scriptures – to strike shepherds and scatter the sheep. For instance, he assaulted Timothy with insecurity and inadequacy. I was Timothy. Satan harassed me with thoughts: You’re a failure. You’re a terrible pastor. Your aren’t gifted enough. The church would be better off without you. You’ve missed your calling. They hounded my mind continually, and I gegan to believe them. Then I had to trust that He would equip and enable me to get the job done. I went to the Scriptures that speak of endurance and perseverance. Deep down I knew I had to press on, and God would see me through. He did. I’m thankful I didn’t quit.
- Settle the Commitment Issue. Another breakthrough came by committing myself anew to the call of pasturing. Discouragement caused me to entertain ideas of quitting the ministry and pursuing other professions. Mentally I packed my bags daily. The fantasies provided brief oases in my desert, but ultimately they sucked me down into deeper depression. Indecision frustrated and complicated my state of mind. I became angry that the ministry forced me to say “No” to other options. Then Jesus’ words began to impress my thoughts, “Whosoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25). I was trying to save my life. Leaving the ministry would be a cop-out and would cost me long-term blessings and character development. Therefore, I determined to stick with it and be faithful to the call. Even if it killed me, I would give myself to the ministry. It was a turning point. The distracting, conflicting desires faded. Contentment came, followed by genuine joy.
What are some of the principles that greatly impact our lives and help us become mature, growing, productive people? Listed are principles to guide your life:
- Your attitude determines your altitude.
- It’s not what happens to a person, but what happens in a person that makes the difference.
- Every problem has a hidden possibility and a seed of victory in it.
- Failure is not final. Learn from it and go on.
- Limitations are guidelines, not stop signs.
- Expect the best and express the best.
- There is not much difference between success and failure. The successful usually gave just a little bit more.
- Each person can increase a little. You can improve your attitude, relationships, priorities, determination and credibility a little each day.
- Helping others succeed helps you to succeed.
- Be yourself – that’s who God made.
- People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Live what you teach.
- Pay now and play later.
Causing growth in a church and leading God’s people is a challenge. Looking through the scripture one quickly notices that no leader of God’s people found his role easy.
It often seems that our job as ministers is more reactive than proactive. It’s important to understand that while there will always be a needed degree of reactive management, there also needs to be a healthy measure of proactive leadership.
One doesn’t need to pastor long before he/she finds themselves becoming bogged down with the daily routine of managing a congregation. Your own list of duties preformed regularly would be very comparable to many other Pastors and church leaders. As I communicate more and more with church leaders around the globe, I am surprised to find that even though regions and languages may differ, there are often, very similar “People Problems” that Pastors have to deal with.
Managers organize. They report on what is. Their role is to assign and control people. Leaders on the other hand cast vision. They offer what could be. Their role is to align and motivate people. Notice the difference between these two leadership styles. One is managing what already exists and the other is moving the church forward into new growth and greater increase.
Nearly all pastors and church leaders perform both management and leadership roles. An imbalanced church is often one whose Pastor and leadership team has succumbed to one role or the other. It is the Pastor who has lost his zeal for growth so he simply manages what is already happening. Or it is the Pastor who constantly promotes growth and new programs, but does not provide constant management for the growth that happens.
Have I lost you? Are you already saying, “Now wait a minute. I can’t do it all!” You are right. You can’t. As much as you are talented, gifted, anointed and blessed, you are not Solomon. Moses couldn’t do it all and neither can you. In fact, the church leader that attempts to do all the management themselves will be overridden with the load of caring for God’s people.
This is why our Lord brings us other people into the church. Many Pastors overlook the people resources in their congregation. Since they lack the ability to trust others to a task, many Pastors fail to allow the talents of their congregation to become invested.
Moses had his captains of fifties and thousands. You too have been given certain individuals who can come beside your ministry to assist you in maintaining the growth from the vision you cast.
Do you find yourself routinely doing the job of the church janitor? Did you fix or repair something around the church lately? Are you the office manager? Are you the one who adds ink to the printer? Are you the only one visiting and praying for the sick? Who does the computing and tallying of numbers to record progress?[ read more...]
New Pastors often make elementary mistakes when they assume the pastorate of a church. Even though you’re now the pastor, you’re still the “new kid on the block.” Listed are some strategies to employ during the first year of your new pastorate.
- Earn confidence by showing competence in decision-making.
- Focus on people first – programs second.
- Make no major changes the first year.
- Promote health through loving the people.
- Tackle the most critical problems one at a time – line them up single file.
- Respect culture – each church has its unique history.