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Developing a Growing Church
By: Ray Johnson
1. There are specific, reasonable and attainable growth goals that have been developed. A pastor must see, believe it and work for it!
2. There is powerful Bible-based preaching and teaching, anointed singing, vibrant worship, fervent praying, and generous giving.
3. There is consistent visitation and follow-up on visitors.
4. The pastor recognizes and releases the gifts and callings among the congregation. These gifts include the gifts of teachers, helpers, prophecy, exhortation, ruling, etc.
5. The organization, coordination, and emphasis of the basic departments - Sunday School, Youth, Outreach, Music, New Convert Care - is always on soul-winning and discipleship.
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How important are relationships anyway? I don’t know about you, but in my life, one of the things that has caused me the most pain, is relationships with other people. The relationship between myself and my parents when I was growing up was a most excruciating experience. I nearly took my own life as an adolescent because of the painful experience of relationships in our home. My brothers and sisters beat up on me and literally tortured my brother and I at times.
I have to admit, my understanding of proper relationships or relationship skills was pretty messed up for almost half of my life. For that matter, even for the last 20 years of ministering to others, I have to admit, I have suffered painfully at the hands of relationships with people. People I have trusted have stolen from me and lied on me. People I have loved, have hated me. People I have helped have turned on me. I don’t know about you, but relationships with other people, have really hurt me.
On the other hand, my relationships with some other people have been my salvation. Had it not been for a relationship with a friend in High School, I may have never been introduced to Christ. My relationship with my Pastor helped mold my character as a young man. My relationship with other ministers has solidified my faith and walk with God. My relationship with other Christians, has renewed my faith in people and allowed me to experience a proper relationship experience. In fact many of the brothers and sisters in the church are closer to me than my own siblings. My relationship with my wife has given me something to work towards every day. My relationship with my children is my passion.
Relationships. A good relationship can make you, but a bad relationship can destroy you. The chance we take to have a good relationship is almost not worth the risk to many people. They have been so hurt by relationships that they choose rather to become introvert and avoid relationships with other people at all costs. Their way of avoiding another painful experience is to avoid all close relationships.[ read more...]
I stared out of my office window. In 3 hours my congregation would be filling the auditorium to receive watering for their souls and seek direction and inspiration. The prospect used to snap my adrenaline to attention and send me bounding through the sanctuary straightening chairs, adjusting microphones, checking thermostats. Anticipation of the Holy Spirit’s ministry would stir my faith with expectation. It was my favorite time of the week – then. I managed to continue preparing messages, but careful planning of the services overloaded the limits of my emotional energy. I winged it more Sundays than I care to admit. Routine pastoral tasks were postponed or neglected. Knowing I wasn’t giving the pastorate my best effort nagged my conscience and compounded my distress. Thankfully, I survived. Ministry once again puts a bounce in my steps. My devotional life has regained its pulse. Vision and purpose flow through my veins. I’ve come through to the bright side of the “valley of the shadow of death.” Here are some things I learned about surviving when the well runs dry.
- Recognize the Adversary. According to I Peter 5:8, we have an adversary who seeks to devour us. Satan’s strategy is seen throughout the Scriptures – to strike shepherds and scatter the sheep. For instance, he assaulted Timothy with insecurity and inadequacy. I was Timothy. Satan harassed me with thoughts: You’re a failure. You’re a terrible pastor. Your aren’t gifted enough. The church would be better off without you. You’ve missed your calling. They hounded my mind continually, and I gegan to believe them. Then I had to trust that He would equip and enable me to get the job done. I went to the Scriptures that speak of endurance and perseverance. Deep down I knew I had to press on, and God would see me through. He did. I’m thankful I didn’t quit.
- Settle the Commitment Issue. Another breakthrough came by committing myself anew to the call of pasturing. Discouragement caused me to entertain ideas of quitting the ministry and pursuing other professions. Mentally I packed my bags daily. The fantasies provided brief oases in my desert, but ultimately they sucked me down into deeper depression. Indecision frustrated and complicated my state of mind. I became angry that the ministry forced me to say “No” to other options. Then Jesus’ words began to impress my thoughts, “Whosoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.” (Matt. 16:25). I was trying to save my life. Leaving the ministry would be a cop-out and would cost me long-term blessings and character development. Therefore, I determined to stick with it and be faithful to the call. Even if it killed me, I would give myself to the ministry. It was a turning point. The distracting, conflicting desires faded. Contentment came, followed by genuine joy.
Probably the worst thing that can happen to a God-called minister of the Gospel is that they would be confused about their calling. Confusion in the ministry thwarts the positive impact of the church. No congregation or ministry can move forward when the leadership of that organization is confused about their calling.
Whether we are talking about an individual’s or an organization's calling, confusion can kill their potential. Some men/women spend their entire lives confused about their calling. Hearing a call from God, but listening for direction from other people.
It’s important to understand that every Calling is not a call to preach. Some would argue this. Countless young men and women have felt a call on their life, but got their direction from good-meaning people who put Preaching on them. “You’re going to be a great preacher.” “I feel you are called to preach!” Prophecies are spoken over these people by many misguided folks who believe or have been taught that only a preacher can have an effect on the work of God. Some would have every worker in the harvest to be Great Preachers.
Stop! The world does not just need more preachers. It needs more people who are concerned about souls. It needs compassionate people who care enough about their fellow man to pray for them and invite them to church. It needs not preachers, but teachers. Teachers who will take Bible in hand and sit in someone’s home and teach them a Bible study. Truth is hard to come by, yet it is right at our fingertips. Our generation is lost for a lack of understanding of the Bible.
What is the calling you are called to? Share truth with someone who does not know the truth. Jesus said, “I share with you a truth”. Long before Peter was preaching on the day of Pentecost, Jesus (our example,” was teaching in the synagogue.
What is it about our human nature that desires to be “The one up front.” The one doing the talking. What is it about our human nature that desires not a teacher, but a preacher. Midweek Bible studies have only a slice of the attendance that Sunday preaching services have. Why is that? We are still coming together to worship and share the Word. Yet on Sunday there is preaching and on the midweek service there is teaching. And the church would rather hear a preacher than a teacher.
It’s in our nature. We want an icon. We want someone to idealize. We want a spokesman for our church. We want preachers. So every person who feels a call on their life gets “pushed’ into the preacher mold.[ 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...]
Ever had one? One of those days where you wish you would have stayed in bed? I had one last week. Well, actually I had two of them in a row. My boy Jeremy had just gotten the cast off his arm from the break he received when he fell out of the tree 2 months ago. So, Thursday evening, we decided to take our dirt bikes out and go riding. We had ridden about an hour when Jer flipped his bike on a jump and it landed on his foot, thus breaking it. So to the house we go to get a few things before we head to the emergency room. Before we leave the house though, we should let Molly out. Molly is our 5 pound Maltese. The baby of the family. She is almost ready to come into the house when the neighbors dog comes over and mauls her. She wasn't hurt badly, only bruised and frightened, but we don't have time to comfort her because Jeremy is needing to go get X- rays. This has turned out to be a very bad day.
I wake up Friday morning, thinking, O. K. the worst is behind us. It's a brand new day, right?! Wrong. All I did was turn my head and sneeze. That's all. But now my neck has gone into a spasm and the vertebrae are out and I can't move my neck in any direction more than an inch without causing excruciating pain. So I lay on the bed for an hour. Unable to move. (6 days, and 2 chiropractor appointments later, I'm still in pain.) Boy this is starting out to be a bad day. Unable to get an appointment with a chiropractor, I suffered though a very painful day at the computer, with set back after set back on site development. Finally after a long, frustrating, painful day, my wife and I (still suffering) go to bed hoping tomorrow will be better.
Two hours later the phone rings. It's Kristi, our 17 year old. She was driving back from church camp, a 2.5 hour drive from Indianapolis and fell asleep at the wheel. All she could tell us was that she was in a wreck. She didn't know where she was at and the car is totaled. We asked her if anyone had stopped to help her. "No". "Do you see any road signs?" Frantic and in shock, she replied in tears, "No, I don't know where I'm at." I cannot tell you how fearful my wife and I were. Not only were we not able to tell the police where she was, but we really did not know her condition since she was in shock and unable to tell us very much.
Guessing her time of departure and the approximate distance in the trip, I called the State Police and told them the situation and to look for her on Route 65 between Rensselaer and Lowe, about a 60 mile stretch. Amazingly the phone rings 10 minutes later and the fire department has found her 1 mile off the exit ramp from Rensselaer To our relief she is bruised, but ok. God really had his hand on her. She hit the guardrail at around 65 MPH, completely destroying the guardrail and totaled out the car.
But God is good isn't He! At the end of a second very bad day, I got to hold my baby girl in my arms and thank God for keeping her from certain death. Holding her, I realized that by all rights, we should be in a hospital room seeing the worst.
We can complain about the neck spasms, dog fights, broken bones, and bad days at the office, but when it's all over we really just need to stop and thank the Lord for breath. Thank Him for our children. Thank Him for a job, any job. We would complain about the old junk car that we are driving, but we need to notice the old lady walking home from the grocery store with bags in her arms and a long walk ahead of her. How blessed we really are.[ read more...]
Here are some foot- dragging steps that are sure to keep you buried in things to do.
Floundering - The failure to focus attention and efforts in a single direction. The cause is a lack of clear-cut goals. This trap can be avoided by crystallizing your goals. Try writing them down on paper. Make them as specific as possible. And Give Them Accomplishment Dates.
Wheel-Spinning - Trying to do something so you'll feel busy but accomplishing little or nothing. This usually happens when we let ourselves get behind in our work and try to assuage out guilty feelings by doing everything at once. You won't solve the problem by frantic activity. Survey your list and make a schedule to accomplish everything in a realistic time frame.
Fire-Fighting - Living in a state of perpetual crisis. We often end up like this due to a lack of planning and goals. It's important to include in your schedule planning time. Take the time to sit down and review your schedule and you goals on a daily and weekly basis.
Vacillation - Indecision. This happens when we fail to weigh the alternatives or consider the possibilities. Get tough with yourself. Weigh the pros and cons, write down all the possibilities and make decisions. Trying to do something and failing is better than trying to do nothing and succeeding.
Dawdling - Drifting, daydreaming, dilly-dallying. This is a failure to keep your goals clearly in mind and make them a priority. Give yourself a deadline and stick to it. Promise yourself a reward when you've done it.
Spraying - Diverting your efforts to many tasks instead of one; spreading yourself too thin. This is also the result of a failure to focus on your goals. After you've written down your goals, focus all your energy on accomplishing them one at a time.[ read more...]
Identifying that next leader is not easy. You must often times select a few prospects and begin to work with them waiting for the cream to rise to the top. While you are mentoring and waiting for maturity, here are a few things to begin to look for.
Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past. Is this a person who has worked well on a team previously? Maybe, they needed a break and stepped aside for rest, but are now able to get back on board.
The capacity to create or catch vision. When I talk to people about the future, I want their eyes to light up. I want them to ask the right questions. When you are sharing your vision with people do they get excited along with you? Do they offer suggestions that spur your imagination further? When you find someone who is able to catch the same vision as you, you have found someone that you can entrust much of the responsibility with. They will have a similar passion for the work as you yourself would.
A constructive spirit of discontent. Some people would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical. The unscratchable itch is always in the leader. These people are a bit hard to sift from the genuine critics, but when you do you may have found a diamond in the rough. Just because they are questioning a few things does not mean they are not on your side. Give them an opportunity to help make a needed change and you may have found a great friend
Practical Ideas. Not everybody with practical ideas is a leader, of course, but leaders seem to be able to identify which are and which aren't. A person's experience will often times lend practical ideas. When someone offers an idea that is helpful, it may be that they have been involved in a project much like what you are facing which will make them a helpful candidate for your ministry team.
A willingness to take responsibility. Leaders will bear work, for the feeling of contributing to other people is what leadership is all about. When you find a person who is willing to take responsibility for not only the ministry you have given them, but also the success of it, you have found pure gold. These are people to build upon. The ministry is dependent on individuals who are willing to take responsibility.
A completion factor. In the military, it is called "completed staff work." The half-cooked meal isn't what you want. Someone who competes what they have set out to do is invaluable. When looking for leadership that will help you move your church forward, look for people who finish what they start, no matter how small or trivial the task is.[ read more...]
I am the second born in a family of five siblings. My older brother is a little less than two years older than me. While growing up, I can remember my mother dressing me exactly like my older brother. This happened quite frequently, especially while we were young. I remember people asking her if we were twins. I thought that was really strange since I was two years younger, smaller and did not look like my brother at all. (I am better looking) Then my twin sisters were born. Identical twins. They were the cutest little girls. They looked exactly alike. Even until recently their husbands have mistaken their identity. This has led to many interesting moments in our family.
I don't know what mom was thinking, but after the twins were born the matching outfit thing became more regular. I caught up to my brother quickly in size and for a number of years it actually looked like there were two sets of twins in the family. I admit it probably looked cool to have two sets of twins. We drew a lot of attention from people in churches, restaurants and malls. Everywhere we went, people would crowd around the 'church twins'. They thought it was cute, but it was actually an identity crisis times two.
As I grew older, I did not appreciate being dressed like my brother, and he felt the same way. It wasn't so cool anymore. We weren't twins and were not anything alike. I didn't want to be like my brother and he didn't want to be like me. In fact, we wanted to be as different from one another as possible. My twin sisters came to feel the same way. Thankfully, mom gave up on the 'two sets of twins' thing and our unique identities were preserved.
We live in a world today of 'identity crisis times two'. Everybody wants to be like somebody else. Look like somebody else. Talk like somebody else. Live like somebody else. It is no different in the church. It is part of man's nature. We want to preach like somebody else. Sing like somebody else. Build a church like somebody else. Inherently, we look to others successes and desire the same for ourselves.[ read more...]
The 1st Fatal Error: No Clearly Defined Mission or Purpose
If people do not know and can’t offer a simple explanation to the questions, “Why do we exist, and what are we here to do?” they will not pour themselves into your lack of purpose indefinitely.
The 2nd Fatal Error: The Wrong Organizational Structure
God designed every land dwelling creature over 7 inches in length to have a skeletal structure to overcome the downward pull of gravity. However the structure must always fit the purpose of the creature. You cannot do the work of the Church with an antiquated structure designed by yesterday’s business world. The Church is physical and spiritual, and its structure must fit God’s designed purpose.
The 3rd Fatal Error: Using a Shotgun to Hit a Distant Target
If you place a target 150 yards away and shoot at it with a shotgun then hitting the target becomes accidental. If you want to intentionally hit the target every time use a rifle with a scope. Your vision and supporting actions must be focused and intentional.
The 4th Fatal Error: Containment
The best way to kill a church is to keep it contained in the four walls. Don’t let the message out. Don’t advertise. Don’t give to outside ministries. Stay away from media markets for telecasting services. Keep the people submitted and never release their ministries. Death will eventually come to such a church, but very few people will ever even hear about it.[ read more...]