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Eight Refocusing Questions
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)
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As the attack of Mansoul continued by Prince Emmanuel’s troops, the second captain came to the Ear Gate. The first attack had come from Captain Boanerges who was absolutely confident in what he had to say. Captain Conviction, whose main assistant was Mr. Sorrow, was just as confident but his attack on the Ear Gate came in a bit different manner. Their uniforms they wore were pale and their insignia was the book of the Law that issued a flame of fire. He said to the inhabitants:
‘Hear, O Mansoul! Thou, O Mansoul, wast once famous for innocency, but now thou art degenerated into lies and deceit. Thou hast heard what my brother, the Captain Boanerges, hath said; and it is your wisdom, and will be your happiness, to stoop to, and accept of conditions of peace and mercy when offered, especially when offered by one against whom thou hast rebelled, and one who is of power to tear thee in pieces, for so is Shaddai, our King; nor, when he is angry can anything stand before him. If you say you have not sinned, or acted rebellion against our King, the whole of your doings since the day that you cast off his service (and there was the beginning of your sin) will sufficiently testify against you. What else means your hearkening to the tyrant, and you’re receiving him for your king? What means else your rejecting of the laws of Shaddai, and your obeying of Diabolus? Yea, what means this you’re taking up of arms against, and the shutting of your gates upon us, the faithful servants of your King? Be ruled, then, and accept of my brother’s invitation, and over-stand not the time of mercy, but agree with thine adversary quickly. Ah! Mansoul, suffer not thyself to be kept from mercy, and to be run into a thousand miseries, by the flattering wiles of Diabolus. Perhaps that piece of deceit may attempt to make you believe that we seek our own profit in this our service; but know it is obedience to our King, and love to your happiness, that is the cause of this undertaking of ours.
‘Again I say to thee, O Mansoul, consider if it be not amazing grace that Shaddai should so humble himself as he doth: now he, by us, reasons with you, in a way of entreaty and sweet persuasions, that you would subject yourselves to him. Has he that need of you that we are sure you have of him? No, no; but he is merciful, and will not that Mansoul should die, but turn to him and live.’
Captain Conviction comes in and takes a different but just as effective method of preaching to Mansoul. Where Captain Boanerges relied on authority, Captain Conviction relies on passion and fervor. Notice how that he confronts them with their sin and their rebellion against God. He also establishes the fact that they have sold out their allegiances to a king who is far less superior to what King Shaddai had been toward them. He tells them that their actions are going to cause them increasing misery as time passes on if they do not respond to the gospel call. He tells them that they are to humble themselves before God because this is their only way of escape.
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While in Bible College many years ago I was fortunate enough to be selected for the Chorale. It was a big thing to make the Chorale. We were to go on a two-week tour during the summer break. It was the highlight of our summer. I don't know why, but recently one of the songs we sang during that summer tour has been on my mind. I can't remember much of the song except the main line of the chorus, which was also the title of the song. It was called, "Shut up and March".
The theme of the song centers around the idea that talk can only do so much good. There is a time to quit talking and a time to get on with the business at hand. I frequently tell my employees, "A little less chatter and a little more clatter, please." I think you get the idea.
When Israel fled from Egypt after 400 years of slavery they thought they had gained their freedom. The Pharaoh had finally relented and allowed them to go. On their very first night of freedom, they set up camp on the shores of the Red Sea. I can imagine how their spirits were soaring. They were looking forward to a bright future. However, in a moment's notice, their freedom was taken from them again. The Pharaoh had changed his mind. He had assembled his mighty army and come to take Israel back. When Israel saw the Egyptian Army they panicked and began to cry out to God. They began to curse Moses for leading them out.
When this barrage of words came against Moses, he responded with some of the most inspiring words in Scripture;
13 And Moses said unto the people, Fear ye not, stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will shew to you to day: for the Egyptians whom ye have seen to day, ye shall see them again no more for ever.
14 The Lord shall fight for you, and ye shall hold your peace.[ read more...]
I marveled as I observed each presentation. The goals were impressive, and every presenter received accolades at the conclusion of each delivery. It was an annual goal setting and calendar planning session. It was expected that I would be impressed. When everyone was finished the pastor asked me if I had any questions for the various department leaders now that the presentations were finished. I did have a few.
“How many people on your team or in each department have any clue as to what you just presented? As the department leader did any of you create these presentations on your own and without the input of your team? Were any of these presentations simply modifications to last years? Did anyone achieve what was proposed to do last year? How do you hold yourselves accountable to attaining these goals? Do you or they know how you are going to accomplish these goals? How do your goals support the goals of the other departments? Are the goals of every department mutually supporting one common church vision? Are the goals of any one department pulling in a separate direction and counteracting the goals of another? Did the church develop its vision first and then have every department develop goals that are essential in order to reach the vision? Are your goals self-serving or do they benefit everyone else? Are any departments competing for people, calendar time, resources or talents in order to achieve your goals? How do you intend to measure these goals in order to track them? What data did you use in order to set your goals? Does anybody know exactly where this church is heading and what its vision is?”
These were just a few of the questions I asked. Surprisingly nobody had answers for any of these questions.
I then told them a true story. Recently my wife and were stopped at a traffic light. A Day Care Center was located on the corner and we observed over twenty children and a few teachers having a car wash. It was hilarious! Each child had on a little yellow T-shirt with the Day Care Center logo emblazoned proudly across the front. They were running, chasing each other, and expending a lot of energy. It looked like a swarm of little bees humming around. One little boy was chasing some girls with a soapy sponge. Another was spraying his friends with the water hose. There was a cacophony of screaming and laughter in the air. We both laughed at the sight of the people actually doing all of the work. The teachers were washing the cars and trying in vain to get everyone to cooperate with them.[ read more...]
Why is it that in some churches, meeting with the creator of the universe is often a boring showcase for bad music, inept preaching and poor taste? Listed are 9 perspectives that can enhance the effectiveness of your services.
- Put yourself in the congregation’s shoes. Pastor, how long has it been since you just sat in the congregation? How often do you really try to identify with the needs, hopes and dreams of those in your congregation?
- Tell stories. Storytelling was Jesus’ primary method of teaching. He put the most profound concepts into simple and compelling stores that captivated people and changed their lives. Never telling a story is a prescription for putting people to sleep.
- Question everything. Why do you take up the offering the same way each week? Why do you always sing the same hymn of invitation?
- Find some fresh jokes-or don’t use any. How many of you would rather be here in church than in the finest hospital in town? Please discard your moth-eaten jokes. Otherwise your congregation will start laughing out of pity, not humor.
- Go beyond your trusty old sermons of the past. Yes it’s nice to have some standby messages you can rely on. But the danger is that the more you preach the same sermon, the more difficult it is to present it with conviction, originality and excitement.
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...]
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.
I am sure that most of those reading the title will think I have lost it for sure. However, I feel I have found it: While we seem to waste so much energy trying to avoid problems, troubles and things we deem unpleasant, the truth is—Trouble has built within it a blessing for all who will deal with it honestly. Trouble can surely reveal ourselves quite painfully and quickly, to say the least. Trouble has a way of making us reach beyond our small, imposed limitations and really allows for the accomplishment of so much more.
Difficulty is not a dirty word. We are made strong by what we are forced to face, not by what we have managed to side-step and avoid. Trouble has within itself a CHALLENGE we all need, to propel us into a higher level and to tap into our Latent Potential laying dormant. We all have a built-in desire to just coast. To do what has to be done and take life easy. This has never been the Way Of God. He has always managed to put His people into some tough situations, yet He always brings them out—and much better, I might add.
Various trials and tests are never sent to us, so we can crash and fail, but rather to educate us about the weak areas of our lives. These trials reveal the Power Of God that is available for the asking.[ read more...]
There are a number of great ways to preach the Word of God, but one of the most effective is expository preaching.
Stephen Olford defines expository preaching this way;
"Expository preaching is the Spirit-empowered explanation and proclamation of the text of God's Word with due regard to the historical, contextual, grammatical and doctrinal significance of the given message or given passage, with the specific object of invoking a Christ transforming response."
That is a pretty heavy definition, let me simplify; "The text does the talking, the preaching, the teaching and the transforming." The message is already there, you just have to open it up and discover it for yourself. Expository preaching forces the man of God to open his own heart first and allow the scripture to change him before it ever changes his audience.
An expository sermon comes from a portion of text that is usually at least one paragraph in length, and where at least a good portion of the story is told in its context. For an expository sermon to have impact, the story of the text must be opened up to your audience. A casual reading and retelling of the scripture is not quite what it is about. Nor is it a step by step outline of each verse. There is a message in the story of the text that must be shared in a meaningful way.
There is a pressure in our culture today for preachers to be 'relevant' to their audience. In doing so, expository preaching has become less and less popular. Many insist that it is no longer effective. Most of today's mainline preachers have adopted the 'topical' style of preaching in their attempt to become relevant. In this style of preaching they choose a topic and then go to the Word to see what the scripture says about it. The danger in this is that they become so topical in their preaching that there is very little of the Word of God left. The one or two scriptures they do use are often taken out of context and used in ways that alter their intended meaning. I would like to say that there is nothing more relevant for our culture today than the Word of God. The Word of God transcends time, tradition and culture. The writer of Hebrews declares that the Word of God is quick enough, sharp enough and has enough power to pierce into the thoughts and hearts of every person.[ read more...]
Most people have problems with finances, but they just don’t know why.
According to the latest surveys, over one-half of all families in America are presently experiencing financial difficulties. And the real truth is many do not seem to know why they are having these difficulties. If these type problems are so common, then it would be important to understand the reasons they exist.
The following is a listing of some reasons of financial difficulties. This listing can be a means of educating oneself in these most critical areas.
- 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 the Bible and start an in-depth study of the guidelines and principles in the Word of God.
- Failure to identify priorities. A person and family must identify their priorities if they are ever going to be successful in their financial life.
- Failure to discipline. This horrible word causes people more problems than anything else in the world. Discipline must be exercised in every phase of a person’s life and in the world of finances it is critical.
- Failure to establish goals. A person who has no goal is a person without direction. A person without direction is going nowhere. A person must establish the financial goal for themselves if they ever want to arrive at a successful financial position in life.
- Failure to control spending. A written control is necessary to control impulsive spending. Limits must be established and kept.
- Failure to establish a budget. A budget is not a nervous breakdown on paper. It is a clear guideline of where your money comes from and where it goes. Do not negate the importance of a written budget…it is vital to anyone’s financial success.