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How important are relationships anyway?
By: James Smith
How important are relationships anyway? I don’t know about you, but in my life, one of the things that has caused me the most pain, is relationships with other people. The relationship between myself and my parents when I was growing up was a most excruciating experience. I nearly took my own life as an adolescent because of the painful experience of relationships in our home. My brothers and sisters beat up on me and literally tortured my brother and I at times.
I have to admit, my understanding of proper relationships or relationship skills was pretty messed up for almost half of my life. For that matter, even for the last 20 years of ministering to others, I have to admit, I have suffered painfully at the hands of relationships with people. People I have trusted have stolen from me and lied on me. People I have loved, have hated me. People I have helped have turned on me. I don’t know about you, but relationships with other people, have really hurt me.
On the other hand, my relationships with some other people have been my salvation. Had it not been for a relationship with a friend in High School, I may have never been introduced to Christ. My relationship with my Pastor helped mold my character as a young man. My relationship with other ministers has solidified my faith and walk with God. My relationship with other Christians, has renewed my faith in people and allowed me to experience a proper relationship experience. In fact many of the brothers and sisters in the church are closer to me than my own siblings. My relationship with my wife has given me something to work towards every day. My relationship with my children is my passion.
Relationships. A good relationship can make you, but a bad relationship can destroy you. The chance we take to have a good relationship is almost not worth the risk to many people. They have been so hurt by relationships that they choose rather to become introvert and avoid relationships with other people at all costs. Their way of avoiding another painful experience is to avoid all close relationships.
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A question haunts many conscientious leaders. Although many people receive the Holy Spirit, many do not remain. Their new birth often proves to be more of a stillbirth. How can we reduce the number of stillbirths and lead newborn Christians into meaningful relationships with the Lord and the church?
Statistics reveal that unless a new convert is able to develop six or seven new relationships in the church within 9 months, he will probably leave the church. To compensate for this, we need to develop a caring community to nurture and integrate these people into the life of the church. Such a program will include:
- A. A strong commitment from the leadership, not only to reap, but to keep the harvest;
- B. A method for nurturing new converts; and
- C. A way to help the new convert make friends in the church.
Here is a method that is working in several churches.
- Start with a new convert’s follow- up class to be taught by the pastor. He may later turn it over to someone else with the ability to care for, teach, and nurture new converts.
- Find one or two couples who are outreach oriented, motivated by love, and loyal to the pastor to work in the area of new convert follow- up.
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...]
2. Getting everybody on board and keeping them on board. We all start out great, but it is a constant struggle to keep people motivated and focused.
3. Causing people to change and grow can be exhausting spiritually, mentally and physically.
4. It seems like the attack of the enemy in the spirit realm is greater since I have been a pastor.[ read more...]
In his book The Next Generation Leader, Andy Stanley offers 5 valid points to consider if you desire to be an effective leader. We highly recommend this book to anyone in a leadership position.
- Face it, you are not as good as you could be. So what are you going to do about it? The only way to go farther, faster, is to engage outside help. You can maximize your leadership potential by getting a coach...or two.
- Find someone to observe you in a variety of leadership settings. Outside input is critical. Even if you could watch yourself in a mirror twenty-four hours day, you would never see yourself as others see you.
- Select a coach who has no axe to grind and not reason to be anything except brutally honest. He need not be an expert in your field. What your coach must be able to do , however, is put himself in the shoes of those who are influenced by your leadership.
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.
It's not unusual to feel stuck, trapped, and unable to move from a situation you feel is stifling. Actually, it's part of life and growth. But getting "stuck in" and "growing through" situations are different. Here are some ways to shift from one to the other.
- Step back and ask yourself what's really going on. When you're caught up in the stuff of everyday life, it's easy to lose objectivity. It's good to set aside a little time each day to challenge the obviousness of what seems to be going on. Is there a lesson to be learned that you are missing? Might that setback really be a step forward? Will things really turn out as badly as you think they will?
- Consider whether what's happening has happened before. Is this a unique situation or is it just another example in different garb, of an issue you've failed to confront before? If it's the latter, maybe now's the time to solve it and move on.
- Assume that present events and circumstances may be less of a "problem" than parts of a larger "process." There's a fair case to be made for the notion that, in this life, all is process rather than result. In other words, what this life is really about is growth and learning. Viewed in this light, where you're heading is not as important as how you choose to get there.
- Ask yourself what you can do next. It's the small steps that lead to successful journeys. Don't get sucked in by the suggestion that you've got to solve it all today.
Every Church needs to answer the following eight strategic questions:
1. Why do we exist as a church? (Biblical Purpose)
2. How has God worked in our past? (Ministry Milestones)
3. Whom has God called us to reach? (Ministry focus)
4. Who has God shaped us to be? (Core Values)
5. Where is God leading us in the future? (Vision)[ read more...]
But the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth: for the Father seeketh such to worship him.
There are many worship services going on today but too many lack Holy Ghost (Holy Spirit) involvement. The only way to lead a Spirit-filled worship service is if those doing the leading are filled with the Spirit. Sounds basic I know, but it really is the answer to leading a true Holy Ghost inspired worship service. Those who are involved need to have a true love for worshipping God and they need to express that while leading. The musicians, singers and anyone on the platform leading worship should be full of the Holy Ghost themselves (John 20:22).
Lead by example! When you are singing songs about worship and you yourself are not worshipping, you are sending the wrong message. As "worship leaders" we should be leaders of worship. To lead someone is to show someone the way. While leading worship, one should not feel constrained or bound by anything. Outward demonstrative worship requires us doing just that…demonstrating worship! Whatever the Lord impresses on your heart to do while leading, you should do without hesitation.
2 Corinthians 3:17
Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.
liberty- freedom from control, interference, obligation, restriction, hampering conditions, etc.; power or right of doing, thinking, speaking, etc., according to choice.
Pray to be sensitive to the Lord's leading. The Lord knows in each and every service, where He wants to take the congregation. If we limit Him by not leading the way we are supposed to lead, the service goes in the wrong direction. We should pray every service to be sensitive to His voice and that He would show us what He would have us do in that service. Worship is not something we do for anyone else but for our Creator. Worship is something that does not require the attention or approval of anyone else but our Lord and Savior! We were created to worship Him. He doesn't make or force us to do it, it is something He wants us to do from the bottom of our hearts. He gives us the choice to worship Him or to not worship Him.[ read more...]
Are you about to crash and burn because your personal life doesn't measure up to the expectations of the ministry? Here are three warning signals to watch for.
1. Anger. Anger usually results when we feel that we have lost control of a situation or circumstance. Many times we instinctively know that some area of our lives is out of control. That is when we become less tolerant of those around us.
Outward bursts of wrath are easy to detect. Another expression of anger is harder to recognize, but it needs to be viewed as a "red flag" of a troubled heart: sarcasm.
Anger turned inward often comes out in the form of sarcasm. This form of anger is veiled in humor and it may seem harmless, but it has a detectable "edge" to it. It subtly fires darts of hidden criticism.
In Ephesians 4:26-27 we read, "Be angry, and do not sin: do not let the sun go down on your wrath, nor give place to the devil" (NKJV). This scripture is not giving us a license to entertain the emotion of anger. Rather, it is saying that we must deal with this damaging emotion before the day ends. If we don't, we will give place to Satan.
2. The Elijah Syndrome. A second symptom of spiritual bankruptcy is what I call the "Elijah Syndrome". We first see it demonstrated in the life of Elijah himself. The syndrome is displayed in the infamous church service described in I Kings 18:21-40.
But in I Kings 19:9, we see that in not time at all, Elijah went from basking in the blinding light of God's glory to cowering in the corner of a dark cave. He became imprisoned by despair. When we are facing any kind of difficulty, one of the most effective lies Satan feeds us is that no one can understand what we are going through. "No one else has it as bad as I do," we think.
As a result, we begin to cut ourselves off from those who can offer us wise counsel. We are then left to our own distorted reasonings and perceptions.[ read more...]