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The Chinese Bamboo Tree
By: David Church
When I read of this amazing wonder of life, I can't help but think of the time and effort we invest into our ministries, often without any evidence of growth or life. There have been many times I have personally invested my time, talent and finances into a person or ministry without evidence that it would pay off. There have been times, because of this, that I have given up on a person. Yet, there have also been times after giving up, that I have seen a breakthrough, and that person I worked with finally accepts a bible study. They finally come to church. They receive the Holy Ghost. Those years of hard work and effort finally pay off.
The Bible states;
7 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8 For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9 And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
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Home Friendship Groups (Cell ministry), are gaining greater and greater interest as we hear the success stories from those who have ventured into this ministry. The largest and fastest growing churches in the world are churches with HFG's.
10 years ago, the Lord began to speak to me about a model of ministry that to my knowledge, no one was doing at that time. (little did I know) Often, I would look over the congregation and notice people who were faithful to church services, but because of a lack of available positions in the church or their inability to find their own personal ministry, they weren't doing much for the Lord. I also noticed that many visitors and new converts were coming into the church and going right back out since they had no one to befriend or disciple them. As much as these churches had great evangelistic efforts, there was no clear cut program or ministry that was designed for the purpose of retaining new converts.
A short time later, my wife and I began a new church in Chesterton, IN. Within a year, I became very frustrated. I was attempting to model this young church's government and ministry after the larger well established, management driven churches I had been a part of. About that time, I began to hear about Cell ministry. I even found some books which told of the tremendous success of Yonggi Cho's church in Seoul, Korea and Rick Warren's church in Saddleback, CA, as well as several others.
It wasn't long before the Lord directed me to Pastor Anthony Tamel's church in Oak Creek WI. I attended their New Wineskins seminar and wept as they showed me that God was changing my paradigm for church evangelism and discipleship.
With their help and training, we soon brought HFG's to our small church in Chesterton and watched as the Lord transformed peoples lives to both disciple and become discipled through HFG's.
After 6 years of pastoring the church in Chesterton, I began to feel the Lord direct me to turn the church over to the man who assisted me. With that, I heard God tell me to not take another church right away. I felt that the Lord was directing me to make myself available to help teach and train other churches, in the area of Home Friendship Groups.
After discussing this burden with two area Pastors of larger churches, they both asked me to come there and help them train their leaders and raise up HFG's in their church. Both churches now have young, successful HFG ministries.
I have spoken at several churches on the subject of HFG's and have worked very closely with other pastors who have or are in the process of raising up HFG's in their local church.
Home Friendship Groups are very much like early Apostolic evangelism. It's entirely more reflective of true Apostolic ministry than most of today's church structure that is management driven at best.[ read more...]
In a recent study of church growth, the following factors and strategies were noticed as being utilized in growing churches while churches that were declining were not using these principles.
1. Reach out to Newcomers. Focusing on the needs and concerns of newcomers, making inquiry convenient and non-threatening, and allowing people to move at their own pace, characterized the growing churches.
2. Build Member Commitment. While reaching newcomers is most important, the growing churches expected much of members, and active involvement of everyone was sought.
3. Train and Involve Laity. There was always a bold, compelling vision for the congregation’s future as well as ways of equipping and deploying laity drawn to the vision for ministry.
4. Make Bold Plans. Churches with goals and dreams far beyond current ministries and resources were more likely to grow than other churches, all other things being equal.[ read more...]
"And after this Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews, besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus: and Pilate gave him leave. He came therefore, and took the body of Jesus.
And there came also Nicodemus, which at the first came to Jesus by night, and brought a mixture of myrrh and aloes, about an hundred pound weight.
Then took they the body of Jesus, and wound it in linen clothes with the spices, as the manner of the Jews is to bury." (John 19:38- 40 KJV)
Upon His death, Nicodemus came to Jesus’ tomb and he and Joseph of Arimathaea, wound the body of Jesus with linen clothes and 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes. This amount of burial myrrh and aloes would have been an extreme even for a wealthy person. The usual custom was to use 20 pounds.
Think of this with me. If any of you have ever baled hay on a farm, you know that a bale of hay weighs around 60-70 pounds. This bale being compacted and compressed into some sort of shape by a baler. In Jesus’ day, there were no such machine. They would have had to carry this in a sack of sorts. Imagine the scene of Joseph carrying the roughly 175 pound body of Jesus and Nicodemus carrying the huge sack with 100 pounds of myrrh and aloes for the burial.
Putting myself into this text, I find two men who loved Jesus. Enough, that they would risk their own life to see that the Lord would receive they very best burial they could give. So, Joseph donates his very expensive tomb and Nicodemos, not wanting anyone to smell the decomposing body of Jesus, brings 100 pounds of costly burial aloes. When people walked by the tomb, he wanted them to only notice the beautiful smell of the myrrh and not the rotting flesh of a dead God.
I’m not sure where these two were doctrinally at this point, but I do know that they heard the truth preached to them by the Lord himself. However, I’m not so sure they got what Jesus tried to get them all to understand. “(John 2:19 KJV) Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”
People often quote John 11:35, “Jesus Wept”. Recently at a funeral of 2 friends, the minister referred to the Lord as a mourner who also wept at the funeral of His friend Lazarus. I don’t believe Jesus wept because his friend was dead. He sure was not too concerned when they told him about Lazarus being sick a few days prior. I am certain that the reason Jesus wept at the tomb of his friend is because of the unbelief of those whom Jesus had spent much time with, trying to convince them that He was the Resurrection. How many funeral processions did Jesus stop to raise the dead? He had proven to all of them that He was able to raise the dead. I believe He went to the tomb of Lazarus hoping to find Mary and Martha sitting in wait, full of faith that regardless of how long it took, Jesus would show up and when He did, He would raise His friend to life again. Jesus did not weep for Lazarus’s death, he wept because of the faithlessness of Mary and Martha. Hear his rebuke to them, (John 11:25 KJV) “Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live:”[ read more...]
Without a doubt, interruptions in a day can kill your effectiveness. A "list of things to do" is hardly started before the first interruption sends you reeling toward another unproductive day.
It's important to know who can interrupt you when you are busy and who cannot. To reduce the number of interruptions you receive, draw up the following lists:
- People who may interrupt you at any time, such as your spouse or other church ministers.
- People who may interrupt you when you are not particularly busy, such as important members of the church.
- People who may not interrupt you at all.
These lists can save your day. Keep them in mind and give copies to your support staff and relevant ministers of the church. Ask them to follow these lists as much as possible.
A few good ideas to minimize interruptions:
- Ask your secretary or assistant to screen calls for you.
- Stand up and walk towards the door to indicate the end of a meeting.
- Do not sit down if you are followed into your office.
- Keep your office door closed when you do not want to be interrupted.
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.
Why is it that so many Christians who are working are not doing well financially? Unfortunately too many Christians are not equipped with the scriptures and methods required to better manage their money. God has redeemed man from the curse of the law to give him liberty in all things. This includes money.
A person who calls himself a Christian must adhere to the scriptures in order to better prepare himself. Christians should not worry about money. They should not fret about their finances. But they should rely on the blessing of God to provide for them everything they need.
In the Chronicles, the young king Amaziah was entrusted with the army of Judah. He numbered them and prepared them for battle. However, with only three hundred thousand men ready for battle, the king felt that he needed more soldiers. So he contacted with Israel for one hundred thousand more men and paid one hundred talents of silver for their services.
The man of God came to King Amaziah and said that God did not want him to use the soldiers of Israel and if the king did so, God would not be with him. It was obvious what had to be done, however, the King questioned the man of God. “What then shall I do with the hundred talents of silver that has been paid for the service of Israel’s army.” The man of God replied, “God is able to give you much more than this!”
God is able…fully capable…ready and willing to give you much more if you will only learn to maintain his economic plan and manage what you have. You can have the blessings of God on you life by obedience.[ read more...]
Fundamental principles underlie the thinking and conduct of all true leaders, and these principles are even sharply defined for leaders within the kingdom of God. From time to time those whom the Lord has chosen for leadership need to examine themselves in the mirror of thought- provoking maxims. These proverbs are designed to help Christian leaders move forward in administrative excellence.
Responsible leaders do not make irresponsible statements.
A godly leader speaks out of the presence of God.
A humble leader never makes light of eternal truths, but esteems them with reverence.
A wise leader resolves conflicts peacefully, not forcefully.
An enduring leader withstands insult without anger.
A wholesome leader is characterized by tolerance, which saves him from hasty decisions in crisis, and retaliations in the face of contrariness.
The good leader attempts to make friends, not enemies.
Dealing harshly with opponents causes more aggravation and hostility. A polite leader uses gentleness and kindness.[ read more...]
When working with those who are volunteers in the church, it’s important to remember a few things. Consider these…
They are not paid to work in your church. Very few businesses are operated by volunteerism. The church is one of the few organizations who operate because of volunteers. A volunteer is a gift from God to the church. However small a person’s contribution may be, is a great gift as it costs the church nothing.
They do it because they want to. What causes one person to volunteer may be something that would not cause another person to volunteer. The bottom line is they want to do it. You cannot make a person volunteer. You can however help them to want to volunteer by finding the “motivational button” that would cause them to want to volunteer.
They do it because it makes them feel good. People receive a sense of value by volunteering. It makes them feel like they have invested a part of themselves. Volunteering in the church makes one feel like they have truly helped a worthy cause.
They do it because they want to please God and Pastor. Always remind the volunteer that you are thankful for their help and that it means a great deal to you that they helped. Remind them also that God is pleased with their contribution.[ read more...]
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...]