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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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Though God gets all the credit for growth in any ministry, there are practical steps pastors can follow to make their cities their congregations and enlarge their ministries for Christ:
1. Know your call and catch the vision. If a pastor has the vision, the mind-set, to break out of traditionalism, great things can happen. Don’t lock yourself in a box. Find a need and determine to fill it.
2. Be faithful in the little things and be consistent. “One thing about pastor is that he is very predictable,” says Jennifer Mallan, an outreach pastor at Church Without Walls. “He does the same things every day, so people know they can count on him. You know that on Wednesdays and Fridays our trucks will be out; on Saturday foods are prepared. It’s never hit-and-miss. Pastor has parented the city very well.”
3. Realize that it takes time to grow. You have to prove yourself. You want to show that what you are doing is not fly-by-night. Ask yourself, “Am I building my own kingdom or really helping my community?”
4. Put people around you who will catch your vision. Build a team that has diverse talents to accomplish the vision you are called to fulfill. Focus on a particular hurt and cure it; find an ill in society and figure out how to solve it. Realize that you and your team will need to put 100 percent into bringing a solution to the problem. Bridge the gap.
5. Work within all aspects of your community. Realize that the support of city council members, police chiefs and other leaders is necessary for the large-scale success of any growing ministry. Meet with city leaders when you first start and share your vision. Then get on a council agenda once or twice a year thereafter to give a progress report.
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If you are like most Christian church and business leaders you have already discovered that "quick-fix" leadership solutions simply do not work.
At best they are Band-Aids that only temporarily mask the real problems. Perhaps you also have experienced the frustration experienced after spending precious dollars to attend conference after conference and realizing that the motivation received wore off shortly after returning to the real world at home. Or maybe you are one of the countless leaders who visit the bookstore for the latest catchy title, only to buy another book that never gets finished and simply winds up looking good on the bookshelf behind your desk. Impressive but ineffective.There is a solution to the leadership dilemma. For many pastors the real solution is less costly than hosting an evangelist, or for a business leader to hire a consultant. The real solution is one-on-one live mentoring with a gifted and seasoned professional who is focused on you and your needs.
Dr. Fred Childs is highly solicited by Christian church and business leaders for personal mentoring. He offers invaluable understanding, insights, and solutions to leaders on a wide range of topics.ChurchMentor.net has an inexpensive monthly membership fee that introduces its members to an abundance of relevant leadership materials in written, audio, and video formats. However, now the services being offered are expanding to include live mentoring as well.[ read more...]
The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ 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...]
How do you handle disagreements among brethren? The following article appeared in Brother T.F. Tenney’s book, “Advice to Pastors and Other Saints.” It gives excellent advice concerning how to get along.
Keep the disagreement in perspective. Don’t reject the person because he or she has a different opinion. A variety of opinions are the spices of life.
Do not transfer the disagreement to other areas. Do not generalize. A two- color piece of literature is more attractive to the world, not when we are monotonously uniform, but when we function as the body of Christ, where one is the eye, another the hand and another the foot. The world will be impressed by our agreement to cooperate and compliment each other, not by all of us being the same, acting the same, or even speaking the same.
Do not question the motives of the person with whom you disagree. If you assume the right of questioning another’s motive, remember you must permit him or her the same privilege.
Do not assume that personal differences are sinful. They are usually due to different cultural, intellectual, and doctrinal positions. Remember this, a person does not necessarily have to be in fellowship with you to be in fellowship with Christ. Some people do not think it’s smoke unless it comes out of their stack.[ read more...]
Solipsism is the belief that nothing exists outside of your self. If you, while reading this article, believe that this article and everything around you are figments of your imagination, you are solipsistic.
Sounds strange? No, it is very real.
Engine Charlie Wilson, former CEO of GM, once said, “What is good for GM is good for America!” Engine Charlie was indulging in solipsistic thinking on behalf of GM.
Grades in school may be another example of solipsism. The purpose of school is learning. We create a surrogate indicator of learning: grades. Then we collude with each other to pretend that grades are an accurate indicator that learning has or has not taken place. We no longer even question the legitimacy of grades.
Another example is sweeps week. Twice a year there are weeklong surveys of TV viewership. The ratings during sweeps week are important because they determine what the networks charge for advertising. The solipsism is this: We pretend that the programs during the sweeps week are representative of the network’s regular fare and that the ratings during sweeps are indicative of something real.
Another example: The Discipline of Market Leaders, a book that made The New York Times list of best-selling books. This occurred because those behind the book were able to identify which stores around the country were used by The New York Times as their sample for calculating which books were best sellers. By buying up their book at these stores, they could artificially inflate the figures. The solipsism: pretending that The New York Times list accurately depicts the sales of books (and that the volume of sales of books is an accurate measure of what is worthwhile to read).[ read more...]
Early on in my days as an RN, I greatly enjoyed working with patients who had come through multiple trauma situations. Even when I was in nursing school, I would frequently spend my evenings at work as a patient care tech, in the Emergency Department or in the Surgical Intensive Care Unit. The reason was because these areas were generally the hubs for patients who had multiple trauma insults to contend with. Then when I graduated from nursing school, I went to work in the SICU and it was there that I found a niche specifically with neuro-trauma and the other injuries associated with the brain and the spinal cord.
There have been numerous times that I have seen patients that hardly had a mark on their body but had been dealt a massive blow to the head to the extent that they never recovered. In fact, far more than I would like to have liked, we would send them to long-term care facilities basically in a very obtunded or comatose state. Never again would they function normally and be able to assume even the most basic of daily functions of living. A perfectly healthy body but with horrific brain injury that disabled them.
John Bunyan wrote another classic besides Pilgrim’s Progress. It was a book called The Holy War. The focus of the story was the capture of a city called Mansoul. In it Diabolus (the devil) has taken it and the battle rages as the Prince Emmanuel works to recapture it. The way it was overcome was because the gates of the city had been compromised. Diabolus and his wicked imps had traversed it by taking advantage of the Eye Gate and Eye Gate which are symbolic of the use of the senses to cause the capture of the city.
It is imperative that a minister guards the gates of his mind. He is constantly under the assault and duress of the devil and because of this, our mind must be worked on very diligently to prevent the capture of it. Don’t be surprised at the tares, which may loom among the wheat because this is the way it has to be. In fact Paul cautioned the ever-vigilant servant when he expressed the fact that there must be heresies to grow like clover in a pasture. The reason is for the church to be approved by God (1 Cor. 11:19).[ read more...]
The story goes like this...
The guy wakes up on Sunday morning and say's, "I'm not going to church today!" "Why not?" The good wife asks. "I just don't feel like it and besides, I'm not sure everyone there likes me. In fact, I'm sure that Sister Jones outright hates me!" The man retorts. "Well you have to go." Responds his wife. "Why's that?" He asks. "Because", she says, "You're the Pastor!"
Ever been there? Don't answer that. I can't find much scripture on this, but I honestly feel a spirit of Defeat attack me at least one day out of the week. This little guy must keep a tight schedule, since he always comes on the exact same day. Hardly ever does he come around on an off day. It's always the same day, Monday!
You may not understand this unless you've Pastored or been in ministry for a while. I've heard other ministers say this Imp who I will call Defeat, attacks them on Mondays too. So I suppose I am not alone on this one.
I'm not much of a quitter. Quitting is just not in me. Sometimes I wonder if I'm too stubborn to quit, or too stupid to realize it's time to quit. Like old Shammah. Defending a field of lintels against a whole troop of Philistines. Just him and an dead donkey's jawbone.
Was that guy tough or just not smart enough to get out of the way? We've preached him tough, but I really worry for the man. He didn't have much to work with there. Why didn't he just fall back (quit) and regroup? You know, get some help. I believe I have the answer...He was neither stubborn or dumb. He knew his purpose![ read more...]
Has it ever happened to you? It happened to me again today. Someone said I said something that I didn’t. They did it to defend themselves and their lifestyle of sin. I guess they figured if they could make me look small, it would somehow make them bigger, or at least more righteous.
Several years ago, I realized that people will (dog) the Pastor or the church in order to make themselves appear better than the church. This way, when someone comes to invite them to church, they can use this as a way of saying, “your Pastor is no better than I am. Why should I come to your church?!” And boy if you did say what they said you said. Or if you did what they said you did, now they have every reason in the world to never come to church. As if by some miracle, you were as wise as Solomon and did everything perfectly.
I believe Jesus understood this. Mary and Martha would have blamed Him for their brother’s sickness and death, but the fact of the matter was it was their own lack of faith that allowed their brother to die. And for their lack of faith, Jesus wept. Adam himself wanted to blame his wife for his own sin. As much as Eve did play some part in tempting Adam, the real one at fault was no one else but Adam.
I’m sure if you have been in ministry long at all, you have counseled people only to have them use your good counsel to try to destroy your character and reputation. Personally, I refuse to allow other peoples sin to affect me. When they want to make excuses and bring my name into the situation, I have decided to quickly turn the conversation around and allow light to come into the problem. “The real reason there is a situation, is you have had an affaire, not that I counseled you or did not counsel you about this.” I think you get my thinking here. There are several examples I could give.
“My brother would have lived if you would have been here Jesus”. No, he would have lived if you would have prayed for him to live. Why bring my name into your faithlessness. “My family would have stayed together if the Pastor would have spent more time with us.” No, your family would still be together if you would have slept in your own bed. “I’d still be in the church if that Pastor wouldn’t have offended me with his preaching.” The only thing that is offended by good preaching, is sin. Why don’t you confess your faults and be healed instead of blaming the Pastor for your unrighteous lifestyle.[ read more...]