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Keep the Fork
There was a woman who had been diagnosed with a terminal illness and had been given three months to live. As she was getting her things "in order," she contacted her Pastor and had him come to her house to discuss certain aspects of her final wishes. She told him which songs she wanted sung at the service, what scriptures she would like read, and what outfit she wanted to be buried in. The woman also requested to be buried with her favorite Bible.
Everything was in order and the Pastor was preparing to leave when the woman suddenly remembered something very important to her.
"There's one more thing," she said excitedly. "What's that?" came the Pastor's reply. "This is very important," the woman continued..."I want to be buried with a fork in my right hand." The Pastor stood looking at the woman, not knowing quite what to say... "That surprises you, doesn't it?" the woman asked. "Well, to be honest, I'm puzzled by the request," said the Pastor.
The woman explained. "In all my years of attending church socials and potluck dinners, I always remember that when the dishes of the main course were being cleared, someone would inevitably lean over and say, "keep your fork." It was my favorite part because I knew that something better was coming..like velvety chocolate cake or deep-dish apple pie. Something wonderful, and with substance! So, I just want people to see me there in that casket with a fork in my hand and I want them to wonder 'What's with the fork?' Then I want you to tell them: "Keep Your Fork...The best is yet to come!"
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One church may be in a small rural community where it is easy to develop close personal relationships. Another may be in a big city where shallow impersonal relationships are the standard. (In the country they all wave to each other – even to strangers. In the metro areas, they don’t speak to one another even when they walk abreast on the streets.
One town may have a growing populating while another may have a shrinking population. Industry is brining people into one area and as a result the pews seem to fill up all by themselves. Factory shutdowns may be causing another town to be losing its population, hence it looks like the church is not doing a good job since it too is shrinking.
One town may have a wealthy populace while another may be in a poverty stricken area. There is not going to be much need for a food bank in a wealthy area, but it may bring many new contacts and converts to a church in an impoverished area. If a pastor of the wealthy community says, “Hey, we need a food bank.” since he sees the success of the struggling community church, he may be wasting church resources and time.
One church might be a new church and another very established. (Established doesn’t always mean it has arrived, it just means it’s been there for a while.) I have worked in 2 church start ups and in 4 established churches. It is much easier to get things started and rolling in a newer church than one that has been around for 50 years. I could get programs started in one day in that small baby church where it took me months to get the same program started in larger established churches. Because it works overnight in one town does not mean it will work over night in another.[ read more...]
One of the reasons so many ministries become discouraged and too often fail is the inability to understand God's timing. Having lived for the Lord for over 25 years and served Him in ministry for over 20, I admit that there are very few times when God acts when I think He should.
In my own ministry, this has caused me much grief and discouragement. I'm an action person. When I see a job that needs to be done, I find a way to get it done before others even realize there was a need. It drives me nuts when I see other people drag their feet when there should be action in a needful situation. So waiting on God who does not operate in the same time zone as I do has been very hard. (CAN I GET A WITNESS?)[ read more...]
1. Don’t live beyond your income.
2. Don’t be a stingy person.
3. Don’t preach your doubts.
4. Don’t preach so much against things but preach principles.
5. Don’t be tempted on any occasion not to preach your best.
6. Don’t be looking for a larger field or another call.
7. Don’t be a pessimist.
8. Don’t deal in off-color stories.
9. Don’t lose your temper in public.
10. Don’t overlook the Bible when looking for preaching texts.[ read more...]
"For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God;" (Romans 3:23)
The colonel was trying to get a convoy of trucks out of the battle zone. The trucks had been under siege by the enemy and there had been terrible wounds and deaths that had occurred. They had to get out of there if they were going to survive. The colonel went to the lead truck where the driver had been killed and pulled the body out. Then he turned to a Sergeant and told him to drive the truck out of there. The sergeant responded that he had been shot and therefore wouldn't be able to drive, to which the colonel replied, "We've all been shot! Now drive the truck."
When I first heard this story told from the book Black Hawk Down, immediately I thought of the church and what happens there or, for the case of this article, what doesn't happen because we allow ourselves to make excuses.
We all have a person, or maybe even a few people, in our church that are ready and willing to do whatever it is that we ask of them. Whether it be cleaning the restrooms, mowing the lawn, greeting everyone that enters the church, teaching home bible studies, teaching Sunday School, etc., they will do it. You know who I'm talking about. They never stop asking you if you have something that they can do. They are always the first to greet you after service. They seem like they are always there. These people are great and wonderful to have in our congregation. When you ask them to do something you never have to worry about it getting done, because they have a desire to be used for the Kingdom. However, these people are usually few in number.[ read more...]
I remember as a young person, admiring the Pastors and Ministers of our movement. In my mind they were (and are) equal to the Apostles. I cannot explain in words my respect for them.
20 years later, I am one of those men. Often I find myself comparing my ministry to those men who I admire. Who I am as a leader, seems far short to that of many of the men around me. Now please don't think that I am wanting to be them. I realize that we are all unique and gifted according to His desire. But there is something in me that always wants to improve. I never want to become satisfied with who I am as a Man of God. I always want to do more for Him. I want to get closer to who He wants me to be. Like Paul of old. After all he did for the Lord, he said "Oh, that I might know Him..." As great a man as Paul was, he still looked to Jesus for a deeper walk.
I'm not sure we always realize the effect we have on the young people around us. Or for that matter, any saint. One thing that God consistently reminds me of, is that I am an example to those who look up to me. I feel that there is blood on my hands, if I lead an example, that would discourage them from living for God.[ read more...]
A topical message is a sermon when a passage of scripture is used to support a single topic. You should be able to state what the topic is in a single sentence. This topic is then communicated to the hearers through the use of several different scriptures that all address the truth of this topic.
There are many pros and cons to topical preaching. Many Bible scholars feel that expository preaching is the only way to preach. They point out that you must preach verse by verse through the text in order to keep the story in its context. This is correct and very true, but a good topical sermon can also be kept in context if prepared properly.
When you look at the New Testament examples, both Peter and Paul preached on topics and used scripture to support their points. They did this very well in the epistles. The most famous sermon in the entire Bible is a topical sermon. The Sermon on the Mount is considered by most Bible scholars to be the greatest sermon that Jesus ever preached. The beatitudes are in this sermon, the Lord's prayer is in this sermon, and The Golden Rule is in this sermon. Jesus spoke on topics and used Old Testament scripture to supports His teachings. He did not preach verse by verse through entire chapters or books. Even the Old Testament prophets were very topical in their messages. If we are using the Bible as our example on how to live, we should also use it as our example in how we preach.[ read more...]
Most of us know how valuable momentum is. When you have it, things happen almost without effort. Without it, things come to a grinding halt. Where does momentum come from? Momentum comes from God, and it begins in your personal devotion to Him. Many leaders struggle because their devotional life is not what it should be. If you do not have momentum in your personal life, those you lead will not experience it.
Bi-vocational pastors face many challenges in life. One of their biggest challenges is time. Time is critical. Approximately sixty hours a week are spent working and getting to and from work. Another sixty hours are taken up sleeping. Church services and functions take up another twelve hours. That leaves only thirty-six hours a week to eat, exercise, spend time with family, train leaders, prepare sermons, teach Bible studies, counsel people and have personal devotion. Personal devotion is one of the areas that gets pushed off until the very last, and usually one does not have sufficient time or energy to have meaningful devotion with God.
That is a problem because devotion is a focused and faithful commitment of one's time and energy. Without personal time with God, spiritual momentum comes to a grinding halt. One begins to depend on their own power and abilities instead of God's power. It isn't long before the entire church and its ministries feel the effects.[ read more...]
Have you ever thought of the various motivators in your life?
Early in my life I found my father to be a great motivator. His way of motivating is not one I would quickly recommend. I remember one morning when my brother and I were making a little too much noise, a little too early in the morning. Dad wanted to encourage us to “Quite Down!”. His way of motivating us to a more docile nature was to cause our heads to come together with such force as to render us almost unconscious. This was one of the more unkind ways my dad had of motivating his kids.
Thank God that all the people in my life weren’t so barbaric in their way of motivating me.
I remember Mrs. Klewer. She was my 8th grade English teacher who motivated me to learn to read. She allowed me to get a passing grade if I would read a short story of about 20 pages. The reading material was probably on the 1st or 2nd grade level. However, she knew that even this was a great challenge for me and encouraged me in my struggle. As soon as I finished the short story, she put another one in front of me. And so on and so on, until I was getting straight A’s in her class and found a love for reading which I never knew I had. Throughout my high school and college career I would get straight A’s in English because of the gentle nudging (motivating) of someone who could have overlooked my potential but didn’t.
Motivators, some times they come in the form of the Policeman who writes the citation motivating us to “slow down”. In other times they are the kind hearts around us who cheer from the sideline of our life, “You can do it!”. We are all motivated by something. Money. Recognition. Love. Personal Ambition. This list could get very long and would change depending on the person making it.
I wonder though, how often I have allowed God’s Purpose be my motivation. His Purpose takes me beyond my personal goals. Why do I want to be a good preacher? Is it to be heard of men and recognized as such? Or is it so I may persuade men and women to come to the Lord?
Why do I want to be a good father? Is it so my children will call me blessed and so I would have the respect of my neighbors as being a good father? Or is it so my children will learn of my example that their Heavenly Father too is One who can be trusted to keep them and minister to their needs.
What is God’s purpose in my life? I want to find it. I want to know it.[ read more...]
Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas.
There is the most remarkable story of selfless sacrifice in I Samuel 23. I had never really paused to consider the irony of this story until recently. It came to me at a time when I needed it the most.
On a recent day, weary from the battle, I was having my own little pity party. I was questioning why had I given myself so fully to the work of God and to helping others, only to feel so unappreciated by some who perhaps didn’t understand me? I was feeling somewhat like Elijah must have felt when he thought he was the only prophet that God had left, only to hear God tell him that he had seven thousand others whom Elijah was not even cognizant of. Elijah was immediately transformed from a minority of one to a member of a great multitude of brethren who could relate to his dilemma. Elijah was not alone. Many had experienced the same feelings while adhering to the same values as he.
As I was wrestling with this internal struggle I had a phone conversation with a pastor friend in another state. As we talked he reminded me of the story of David at Keilah, and the words of my friend began to minister to my wounded heart. I knew by what he was saying that he not only understood my situation, but he had been there and back again.
In the aforementioned Bible story David received word that Keilah, a city in Judah, was under attack from the Philistines. The Philistines were robbing their threshingfloors. When David enquired of the Lord he was directed to go and deliver the city from the Philistines. His men were wary because King Saul was after David, and Keilah was a natural trap. David enquired again of the Lord and was told to go fight and the Philistines would be delivered into his hands.
David obeyed the Lord and delivered the city. While he was and actually doing the will of God, King Saul heard about his presence at Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand,” because Keilah was a city that was enclosed by gates and bars. King Saul thought David was trapped, and that it was God’s will for him to overtake David.[ read more...]