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Fish Bowl Mentality
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 soon become uncomfortable.
However, this is not the biggest reason for a church's lack of growth or the reaching of certain size and then growth stopping.
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 however, 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."
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Too many Christians find themselves in financial hardship. Why? We belong to the body of Christ and we have God on our side. If heaven is his throne, the earth his footstool; if He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, then why are his children struggling and finding it difficult to “get by” in this affluent society?
The secret to getting ahead is not from “have luck in the stock market” or “making that once in a life time investment” or even in “receiving an inheritance from a wealthy family member”. It is defined as time!
All the investments and inheritances one can attain will not be the solution if you don’t take the time to plan and protect. People must take the time to discipline themselves to have a written plan that will provide the guidelines of scheduling money in and out of the home, thus providing a means of protection from financial disaster.
A Christian should expect their finances to be in better shape than that of the average person in the world. Christians have the backing of the God of glory and His Word! One of the first things a Christian should do is take the time to investigate the scriptures concerning their financial situation. Notice some scriptures that give us guidelines for planning, preparation, and protection of finances.[ read more...]
Fear can and will keep many good leaders from becoming great leaders. Many mountain climbers have stood at the base camp of Mt. Everest, yet only a small percentage of them have had the courage it takes to actually climb to the top of that mountain.
Fear of the unknown. Fear of what people will say if we fail. Fear of the criticism along the way. Fear of being the only one saying “It can be done.” Fear of our vision being rejected by others.
Fear can kill our God given directive. It can suffocate our dream.
A position or office does not cause a person to become a leader. Though a person be chosen to Pastor a church, they are not truly a leader until they face their fears and actually lead that congregation into the places that God would want it to go. Being chosen to lead is easy. Actually leading is hard.
What defines a true visionary? Is it someone who has a lot of great ideas? Someone who sees the need for change, but never causes that change to take place? About 1 year ago I asked my wife to be very critical of me. I asked her to honestly tell me if I was someone who saw the things that needed to change and caused them to change or if I was someone who pointed out all the areas of needed change and did nothing. Her response though honest, was not what I wanted to hear.
I have determined, that if I am unable or unwilling to cause change in a given area, I will keep my mouth shut. Although I may see a need to change, I will say nothing, unless it is to spark a vision in another person who is capable of creating the needed change.
When I see another person or ministry who is successful, I go to them and find out how/why they are having success. I try to learn from them. Yet, I usually find that the reason they are having success is something I felt the Holy Spirit speaking to me about in the past. I get beat up pretty bad as I realize that God told me to do this same thing several years ago, only I lacked the courage to launch into it. You must admit with me that some of the more successful people around you are doing things that you yourself have considered, only they did it and you didn’t.[ read more...]
How important is it? Consider this. Early in Jesus’ ministry, he chose out 12 men who would become his disciples. His purpose in choosing these 12 men went beyond their need for salvation. His vision was that he might “…make them fishers of men”. Jesus understood immediately upon starting his early ministry that his role was to not only bring salvation to this world, but to also raise up others who would do the same after He was gone.
What would happen to the church or ministry the Lord has given to you should you be removed from the picture today? Is there someone you have been training to do your job? Have you mentored anyone to take your place? Or have you like most ministers been so busy doing your fathers business that you don’t have time to train other leaders.
Jesus understood that this was paramount to all he did in this world. He realized that unless he mentored these 12 men, all he accomplished in this world was in vain as there would be no one to continue it after he left.
Many ministers don’t see the need to raise up other leaders in the church. In fact, many ministers view this as threatening to their own position in the church. Can I suggest to you that this is “small thinking”. Whose kingdom are we working for anyway? If it is ours, we will lose it. If it is God’s, we will gain it. Small thinking hinders revival.
We all so often can find fault in our congregations regarding the lack of growth in the church. We point out all the ways they fail in outreach and preach them into a level of guilt that kills their joy stymies their efforts to share Jesus. Yet, we need to ask ourselves honestly, how many people do we pull aside on a weekly basis to mentor and raise up?
It is a fact that our church will only grow to the level that it’s leadership is able to minister to. A single man or woman will never effectively pastor a church of 200 or more people. It is impossible. A single person can only effectively pastor 70-80 people “if” he is full time. Someone one would say, “But I don’t have time to train other leaders in the church”. Can I say to you, “This should be the first thing you are doing.” You might say , “but I am too busy teaching, preaching, praying for the sick and ministering to the needs of others.” Can I ask you something? What would be so wrong with raising up 5-10 men in your church to do most of these things or even do much of the teaching and some of the preaching for you?
Jesus took his focus off of the multitude on occasions to focus on his 12. He sent them out to do what he had been doing all along. Did they do it exactly like he would have done it every time? Doubtful, but they did get the job done and in greater measure than He alone was able to do it. Jesus understood that 12 was more than one. Do we really understand that? Or do we think “I” am the only one who can do this job. “I” am the only one called to do this job. “I” am the only one anointed to do this job.[ read more...]
Matthew 5: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
“Pure” as it is used here in the original Greek is katharos. Katharos is pronounced Kath-ar-os. It means of uncertain Affinity; clean (literally or figuratively): clean, clear, pure.
Jesus declared to the people that day that if someone was capable of having, keeping or obtaining a pure heart, that they would see God someday.
It is the desire of every believer that, one day, they would see God.
However, the enemy of our souls has a desire too. His desire is to keep us from seeing God. Both in this world and in the next. His attempt is to cause us to lose our pure hearts.
One thing that I have found to be universal amongst new converts/believers is the pure heart that the Lord gives to them.
As newborn babes in Christ, their hearts are open to receive anything that the church has to offer them. They trust the ministry and they trust their newfound church family.
Their hearts are pure. Their motives are pure. Their intensions are pure. They are simply thankful to be saved and are happy and content to be a part of the Family of God.
These people are the source of revival in the church. They are usually the ones who bring new people to the church. They tell all their family and friends about what the Lord has done for them. They are not afraid or ashamed to declare their Love for God or what He has done for them.
What makes these people so important to a community’s infiltration of the Gospel?
What makes these people so valuable to the growth and continuance of a church in a given city?
Their pure heart.
- A heart that is pure is capable of loving someone who is unlovable.
- A heart that is pure is able to look beyond a person’s faults and see their potential greatness.
- A heart that is pure has no selfish motives. It only wants to bless those around it.
It labors for the Lord because it loves the Lord and the people who surround their life.
This person is not perfect. They are still human. They still make mistakes. They still sin. But Jesus said that because their motives were correct and their heart was pure, that they shall see God.
So it seems paramount that a believer in Jesus Christ should seek to have and maintain a pure heart.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.”[ read more...]
Accountability – “The quality or state of being accountable. – Webster’s dictionary
- Accountability is a binding relationship that develops growth, moral and ethical excellence.
- Accountability is not support therapy an opportunity to allow for excuses.
- When a person becomes accountable to another, they make themselves accountable to someone other than themselves.
Why should we consider becoming accountable to someone else?
- We cannot stand without accountability. 1 Cor 10:12
- Every man/woman should make themselves accountable to at least:
- Their spouse
- Their family
- Those they lead
- Those leaders above them
- At least one other person who could be considered their spiritual mentor.
We are all accountable whether we know it or not. People are watching us day and night. They are looking to see if we are who we say we are. They base their trust and confidence in us according to the level of truth they see in our lives. If they do not consider our lives to be worthy of their confidence or trust, then our ministry will have no effect on their lives.
Accountability keeps us from moral and spiritual failure.
Proverbs 27:17 Iron sharpeneth iron: so a man sharpeneth the countenance of his friend.”
Having someone to be accountable to keeps us from ourselves. Realizing that someone else will judge our actions causes us to “consider our ways”.
I hope that this little series has been provoking to your thinking. I hope that the ministers who are reading will delve into Bunyan’s The Holy War and discover that there are some fantastic sermon nuggets and Bible study thoughts that can be derived from it. Before progressing along with the Ear-Gate analogy, I think that giving a setting of what took place after the capture of Mansoul can contribute to the interest factor of this allegory.
Chapter 2 gives the description of the actions taken by Diabolus after Mansoul had been taken down. Immediately Diabolus instructs Mr. No-Truth to deface the large image of King Shaddai that was prominently located in the city. Additionally, he instructs Mr. No-Truth to go and create a similar image of Diabolus as a replacement for the citizens of Mansoul to have to come into contact with as they move about the city in their business dealings.
Diabolus is very focused on changing the nature of the city and that plot leads him to take all of the laws, statutes, morals, and principles that had been established by King Shaddai and destroy them. His whole purpose is to turn Mansoul into an absolute brute. His two primary henchmen in accomplishing this are Mr. No-Truth and Lord Willbewill. What a play on words that Bunyan uses in this allegory! He seeks to tear down truth and in doing this he lets the citizens be run entirely by the whims of their own selfish will.
Diabolus also knows that the city council has to be replaced with suitable men who will continue to contribute to the demise of the town. His new mayor is Lord Lustings, who has no eyes or ears, and is completely run by the beastly impulses that move within his sorry soul. His secretary is Forget-Good who cannot remember anything that is good and is solely run by mischief and does everything he can hurt people in whatever capacity that he can. The remaining men who sit on this troubled council are Mr. Incredulity (Skepticism), Mr. Haughty, Mr. Swearing, Mr. Whoring, Mr. Hard-Heart, Mr. Pitiless (Ruthless), Mr. Fury, Mr. No-Truth, Mr. Stand-to-Lies, Mr. False-Peace, Mr. Drunkenness, Mr. Cheating, and Mr. Atheism. As you can see these men have the ability to greatly harm any positive direction that Mansoul might have in recovery.
Now we come to the Ear-Gate, which was one of the primary ways that Diabolus managed to get into Mansoul to capture it. After its fall, Emmanuel determines that He is going to rescue the city from Diabolus and his unholy hordes. To do this, He will have to go into the same gates that Diabolus compromised at the beginning. He understands that the chief way to accomplish this task is to go through the Ear-Gate. As the story unfolds, Bunyan particularly enforces the idea that the voice of the preacher is what attacks the Ear-Gate. Again, you have to appreciate the names of the characters that Bunyan uses in his allegory.[ read more...]
Jesus died for the sins of the world. He did not die for most, several or some. He died for all. When He suffered on the cross, He did not have only a few hundred or a few thousand on His mind. What held Him to that tree was every single man, woman, boy and girl who would ever live on this planet. Is our own directive the same?
How many churches would be quite satisfied if they could just reach a few hundred from their community. Think about it, if your church directly affected 300-500 souls on a weekly basis, would you be satisfied? I would. For a while any way.
We've got to stop thinking small. Jesus did not think small. The scripture does not speak small. This gospel was given that every single person ever conceived could have a relationship with Him. For too long the Church’s growth has been limited by our small thinking.
There are well over 6 billion people on this planet today. Some would say that God will add to the church in His time. That growth will happen when He wills it to happen. Jesus proved his commitment and desire to see every person in your city saved when he suffered that horrific beating and the cruel death of the cross.
Revival has nothing to do with God’s will for it to happen. He has proven His will. It has everything to do with our putting ourselves in a position to allow it to happen and to receive and maintain it when it comes.[ read more...]
Problems. If you're going to work with or minister to people, you are going to have problems. Sometimes big problems. Moses was one person in the scripture who had people problems. Millions of them. Everywhere he looked - people problems. How to feed them. How to water their livestock. How to settle their petty problems. How to settle their big problems. Where do the tents go? How about the toilets. Everywhere problems.
Surely with all these problems, the solution must be complex. Big problems should mean big, intricate, thoroughly researched and analyzed solutions - right? Not necessarily. In fact, very often, the solution to one's problem is asymmetric to the problem itself. Big problem, small solution.
When our problem is large or complex, we too often feel that the solution has to be the same. Because of this we usually miss the obvious, simple answer. In Moses' case, it took his shepherd father-in-law's simple mind to figure it out. A shepherd understands that a flock can get too big. When it does, it can begin to overgraze the fields and ruin the good pastures. This simple sheepherder was not educated by the most learned teachers of Egypt as Moses was, but he did understand something about having too many sheep in one place. He knew that when you have more sheep in a field than what that field can contain, you have to hire an under-shepherd to take part of the flock to another field. With that elementary laymen's thinking Moses was able to correct very simply, the extremely complex dilemma the nation of Israel had found herself in. Jethro told Moses to break the number of people down into smaller segments and then place leaders over these small segments. How simple.
The biggest problems that your ministry is facing today probably could very well be corrected with a simple solution. Too often however, we go shopping for the big answer: The complex answer. The expensive answer. The time consuming answer. Here's why: We focus on the negative instead of the positive. Seriously, nearly everyone does. Did you know that in the English language, 62 percent of the "emotion" words are negative, vs 38 percent that are positive. A group of psychologists once reviewed over two hundred articles and concluded that for a wide range of human behavior and perception, a general principle holds true: "Bad is stronger than good." Ask yourself, do you remember more of the bad that you hear about others or do you remember more of the good. A vastly larger audience of people remembers the bad instead of the good.[ 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.