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By: James Smith
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.
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In The Holy War by John Bunyan we find that for Prince Emmanuel to take back the city of Mansoul, he will go through the same gates that Diabolus took advantage of. In the first part, there were a listing of four of the captains and their first lieutenants who were assigned to go after the gates. From the analogy that Bunyan uses, these four men were preachers who were specifically going to gain a foothold in the Ear Gate.
The first captain is Captain Boanerges along with aide, Mr. Thunder. They all wore black and the insignia on their uniforms was three lightning bolts. They led a company of ten thousand men. Obviously, Bunyan gets his word picture from the description of James and John who were referred to as the Sons of Thunder by the Lord. They were men who appealed to the authority aspect of ministry.
For Mansoul to be redeemed, the gates will have to be stormed with authority. This brings up the question as to where a preacher gets his authority. This is not the contrived and manipulative power that comes from spiritual abuse but rather it is an authority that confronts the issue of sin and points to the way of redemption. For this kind of authority to come to a preacher’s life there are some key components that will have to be incorporated.
Before going further, here are the words spoken by Captain Boanerges:
Be it known unto you, O unhappy and rebellious Mansoul, that the most gracious King, the great King Shaddai, my Master, hath sent me unto you with a commission (and so he showed to the town his broad seal) to reduce you to his obedience; and he hath commanded me, in case you yield upon my summons, to carry it to you as if you were my friends or brethren; but he also hath bid , that if, after the summons to submit, you still stand out and rebel, we should endeavor to take you by force.
First, he will have to be a man who has an absolute confidence in the authority of the Scriptures. This means that he will have to believe that Scripture as we have it today is infallible (2 Timothy 3:16-17), inerrant (Psalm 12:6; 19:7-11; 119:140), authoritative (Psalm 119:89), and sufficient (2 Timothy 3:17). For the lightning bolts to be able to thunder from a pulpit, the man who is standing in that pulpit must have the belief that what he is preaching is literally the words of God.
Second, he will have to be a man who unwaveringly preaches those Scriptures. This means that a preacher ought to make a commitment to preaching through the whole of the Scriptures. He cannot afford to take a hodge-podge approach to preach here and there and cherry pick the texts that come to his mind but rather to make a commitment to work through books of the Bible and make them useful for the edification and equipping of the saints (Ephesians 4:12-14). We will have to clearly mark the thought that however the Word is handled in the pulpit will be the way the Word is handled by those who hear us. If you place a high priority on the Word, you shall discover that over time, the congregation will place a high priority on the Word also.[ read more...]
I recall the story of the most famous of all the prophets. Elijah was one of the most powerful prophets of God. Nobody doubted his calling, his prayers brought results. When Elijah prayed, fire fell from heaven. When Elijah prayed, rain fell from the sky. Through his prayers, Elijah altered the course of an entire nation. He was one of only two men in scripture who did not see death. There is no doubt that Elijah was in the perfect will of God.
Having said that, the book of 1 Kings reveals a time in Elijah's life when it seemed like the all of hell was rising up against him. Israel had forsaken the ways of God, the altars had been destroyed, the prophets of God had been slaughtered. Elijah found himself all alone and began to wonder if God was still with him. He decided to run for his life, in fact it got so bad, he asked the Lord to take his life.
1 Kings 19:1-4
1 And Ahab told Jezebel all that Elijah had done, and withal how he had slain all the prophets with the sword.
2 Then Jezebel sent a messenger unto Elijah, saying, So let the gods do to me, and more also, if I make not thy life as the life of one of them by to morrow about this time.
3 And when he saw that, he arose, and went for his life, and came to Beer-sheba, which belongeth to Judah, and left his servant there.
4 But he himself went a day's journey into the wilderness, and came and sat down under a juniper tree: and he requested for himself that he might die; and said, It is enough; now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.
The wicked queen Jezebel had been threatening Elijah's life for some time. Now it was heating up. Jezebel had just informed Elijah by way of messenger that he would be dead by the same time tomorrow! This was a man hunt, she had people looking for him everywhere, he was a wanted man, dead or alive. Elijah could feel the heat and he couldn't take it anymore.
It is hard to picture the most powerful of all of the prophets backed into a corner by the enemy and running for his life. Often times that is where we find ourselves. Yet, in the midst of running, God sends an angel to feed him. That ought to be enough to confirm that God is with you Elijah. I know if an angel visited me, I would be ready to do whatever God asked of me. Still, Elijah kept running.
The meat the angel brought to Elijah sustained his life for forty days and nights. That might be a hint that God is with you. Finally he finds a cave to hide in and the word of God came to him there, "What are you doing here, Elijah?"
God wasn't asking about Elijah's physical location, He was asking about Elijah's spiritual condition. God wanted to know why Elijah had given up. Listen to Elijah's response...
1 Kings 19:10
10 And he said, I have been very jealous for the Lord God of hosts: for the children of Israel have forsaken thy covenant, thrown down thine altars, and slain thy prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away.[ read more...]
Have you ever preached a message, then walked away from the pulpit feeling like the message was more for you than anyone in the congregation?
I preached one of those last night. The title of it was Being Fruitful. In John chapter 15, Jesus lets us know that if we are going to be a part of the vine, that we are going to have to be fruitful. I'm not sure we totally understand what that means. Often times we allow ourselves to be overwhelmingly busy with situations that will never be fruitful. So much of a ministers time is spent on things that if we were to take the time to think about it, could be delegated. People will let you do all the work if you let them. They will smile at you, thank you and tell you that you are the greatest thing that ever happened to their church. But ultimately you have to ask yourself, what am I really accomplishing that is relative to my calling.
The scripture tells us to make our calling and election sure. Of course it is calling us here to settle in our minds what is our calling. However, it is saying more than that to us. It is telling us also to know our job description. I have learned by Pastoring, that people will let the Pastor mop the floors, shovel the sidewalks, cut the grass, and nearly every other menial task of the church if he lets them. There is a certain source of self gratification that comes with having done some manual labor. It is even good exercise. However, we truly have to ask ourselves, is this my calling. Did God call me to this city to mop the kitchen floor and to cut the grass? Did he call me here to teach every single Bible Study? If you answered yes to those questions, then keep at it. However, you are about to find that the human body is only capable of so much. As well, your mind can only take in so much information.
If however, you were called to that city to Preach the Gospel and Pastor a church, you may need to learn the art of delegation. Finding someone to accomplish a simple task is not as hard as we make it. It might be as easy as making a list of areas you need help with and putting it on the bulletin board of the church. Let people sign up to help you. God brought those people to your church for more reasons than paying a tithe and showing up on time. He brought them into your local assembly to help you raise up a church for the name of Jesus.
Reaching the lost is not just the Pastor's job. In fact, your soul winning efforts would be better served by teaching and training others to be soul winners. Now we all know that you may be better at it than they are, but training and delegating others may serve to bring more results. The scripture tells us that we are chosen and anointed to bear much fruit. I'm not sure I fully understand this idea of much fruit. I'm only capable of so much. However, by using the many talents and abilities of those placed in my care, much fruit can be harvested.[ read more...]
In one of our recent family devotions, my wife and I sat our three children down to talk about the importance of 'family.' We do this ever so often because our children, and probably yours as well, often withdraw into their own world of fantasy and ignore the rest of the family. They each have their own room and their own ideas about how to spend their free time. If we allow them, they will shut themselves out from the rest of us to do their thing. While this can be cute when they are very young, my wife and I have noticed that it lends itself strongly to an attitude of selfishness. It becomes all about 'me' and less about others in the family. When the kids do get together, it becomes a war of words or worse, as each of them stand up for what they feel is 'their rights'. They have no sympathy or compassion for their siblings. It is almost as if they desire to build their own little 'kingdom' or 'empire' in their own little space.
As I was thinking about this it struck me that this is also a danger for all of us in ministry. If we are not careful, we can allow ourselves to get caught up in building 'our kingdom' instead of building 'His Kingdom.' Even though we feel like we are doing the work of Christ, it can become more about 'me' and less about others. There is a grey area here where the lines of demarcation become blurred. 'His Kingdom' begins to blend into 'my kingdom.' Motives become mismanaged. Desires turn dangerous. And it is not too long until 'my kingdom' becomes more important than anything or anybody else. Because of this danger, we all need to test ourselves every so often. We do this by asking; How do I feel about the others in this Kingdom? Do I truly have sympathy and compassion for their needs? Or, are my desires more important?
As we all do, I understand the importance of caring for others, but recently, while listening to a Jewish Rabbi, this understanding became crystal clear.
Rabbi Daniel Lapin was speaking of the typical Orthodox Jewish family. I paraphrase his words;
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Why is it that everywhere in the world the Jewish people are so successful and wealthy? Why are their families so close knit and strong? Why is there very little divorce?
The obvious answer is they put God first. However, beyond that, it is because of their strong sense of 'family'.
The origin of the Hebrew word for 'family' means; to serve. A family is not a family unless they serve one another. Brother serves brother. Sister serves sister. Husbands serve their wives. They put others needs in front of their own. The Jewish people live this way.
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...]
All it takes to start a fire is a little fuel, the right atmospheric conditions, and a source of ignition, perhaps as small as a tiny spark. If circumstances are right, a single blade of grass once ignited can build into an inferno that burns and ravages countless acres of prime forest. Humble beginnings can transmute into raging fire storms, exploding trees, molten sand, and death. The aftermath of such devastation causes one to wince in regret at the horrible and blackened scars left behind where beauty once stood. As unnatural as it may appear it is but another witness of the beauty of the healing and creative powers of God. Most pristine forests have at one time or another been destroyed by fire, but eventually they grow back stronger and more beautiful than ever. It is a cycle that must be understood.
Seral Succession is an ecological principle in which, over time, the natural biological systems become so developed that they begin to atrophy and bog themselves down. A strong forest becomes weakened and diseased because of the vines, weeds and assorted parasitical vegetations that erode its strength. New growth is repressed and beauty lies dormant because the system prohibits it. Extreme cases may require a controlled burn - an act of destruction - before beauty, order and strength can return. The temporary and painful state of charred ugliness is quickly forgotten once the beauty of a healthy forest burst though.
The same principle applies to agriculture. It is not uncommon for farmers to burn certain fields in anticipation of planting a future crop. Soon afterward the tractor tills the soil and much of the ugliness disappears. As horrible as the blackened field may have first appeared, its memory will be completely erased as spring bursts forth in a display of brilliant colors and verdant growth where once only charcoal and ash had been.
In effect, the fire’s devastation produces healing by burning away the undergrowth that prevents fresh, new vegetation. The ash becomes a natural fertilizer.[ read more...]
All churches must learn to use their announcements as a tool to create anticipation and excitement for the future growth of the church, both short and long term.
Announcements are part of the 'marketing' campaign of the Church. Why is it that corporations will spend millions of dollars and months of planning on their 'announcing', yet we spend very little time and money concerning the marketing of our church and its events.
· Make sure to announce only those events that pertain to the entire body of the church.
· If you start announcing personal events, you are guaranteed to forget something or somebody along the way, and you will end up offending somebody.
· Personal events such as showers, weddings, etc. can be included in Church Bulletins, and Church Websites.
· Another easy way to announce personal events is to create a power point slide show of all of the upcoming events of the church including these personal events. This slide show can be shown before each service as part of a countdown, or simply as a media presentation before service.
· Announcements can also be used to create excitement for[ read more...]
When God fills us with His Spirit and we become a member of the body of Christ (Romans 12:5) we automatically have a ministry. What is that ministry? Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 5:
17Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. 18And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; 19To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation.
We have a ministry of reconciliation. Reconcile is a verb that means to reconsecrate (devote or dedicate to some purpose). Our responsibility to our world is one that requires us to reach out and "minister" to those in need. There are various ministries that we can take on. Whether one is a greeter as David desired in Psalm 84:
10 For a day in thy courts is better than a thousand. I had rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God, than to dwell in the tents of wickedness.[ 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...]