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Why Home Friendship Groups? - Community
By: James Smith
There are two essential elements of community. 1) interpersonal commitments and 2) a sense of belonging. True community needs both of these elements in operation. Without interpersonal commitments, a sense of belonging would soon be lost as a sense of belonging is derived from and is a result of the interpersonal commitments. Did I loose you there? Ok, let me break it down.
Bob joins a new church. He is warmly welcomed. He soon receives salvation. Bob likes the people and enjoys what he feels in the church. However, as time goes on, Bob soon realizes that since his only real commitment is to come to church, worship and give in the offerings, his commitment level is not very deep. In fact, if Bob only develops a deep relationship with the pastor there, then the Pastor is Bob’s only real reason for staying there. What happens however, when Bob gets upset at the pastor? What happens if the pastor resigns? You and I know what happens, Bob soon leaves. However, what would happen if Bob were was interconnected in a deep level of community or fellowship with 10-12 other people within the church? (Small Group) What if it were possible that Bob could get upset with the Pastor, yet his love for and interconnectedness with these other 10-12 were so deep that he would stay?
Relationships are powerful. A good relationship will build a person up and a bad relationship has the potential to destroy someone. We often fail to realize the value of relationships within the church. We exhaust ourselves with evangelistic efforts and get so excited over the sudden growth or influx of visitors. Yet we then often fail to get those new people into bonding relationships within the church and soon lose them. What we end up with is a person who is easily offended and will have nothing or nobody to stand in their way of an exodus.
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What basic leadership skills make pastors effective in their ministries? Here are 9 essentials.
- Leaders do lead. Many people in positions of religious leadership simply don't lead. The fact is that true leaders do lead. They chart a course, garner the necessary support and resources, and work to succeed.
- Leaders lead from a spiritual center. Men and women engaged in ministry are careful to ask God to help them lead from a spiritual center. Today's spiritual leaders must also take the time they need to quietly seek guidance.
- Leaders compromise creatively. As soon as a vision is articulated and plans are established, obstacles and roadblocks will occur. They'll seek ways to compromise creatively so that the end goal will still be accomplished.
- Leaders deal constructively with conflict. Whenever someone provides leadership, conflicts will arise. Effective leaders learn how to deal constructively with conflicts and maneuver around them.
- Leaders are willing to listen. Strong leaders know that listening to others helps them in two ways. First, by hearing what others say, their own vision for the future can be clarified, modified, and intensified. Second, when leaders listen respectfully, even to criticisms, they not only gain additional insight, but often receive the support of the speaker. When leaders listen, people rally around.
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A budget is the tool provided in accounting terms that gives us the proper indication of how we stand in our finances. Too often people refuse to prepare a budget because it seems cumbersome and boring. A budget can be implemented in most homes but give only 1-2 hours per month. That is not much time to have a clear indication as to where you stand financially. Not only will a budget give you a picture of where you stand, it will help you organize your bill paying so you don’t get behind and have to pay late fees, and it will show you the debt you have so you can pay it off systematically.
A budget is a guide that tells you whether you are going in the right direction so that you can expect to meet your financial goals. You may have goals and dreams but if you do not set us guidelines for reaching them and you do not measure your progress periodically, you may end up going so far in the wrong direction you can never get out of financial difficulty.
- A budget lets you control your money instead of your money controlling you.
- A budget lets you control your spending habits.
- A budget allows you to save in a systematic manner.
- A budget allows you to meet your goals.
- A budget will tell you if you are living within your means.
To avoid burnout one needs to identify ways to refuel the energy expended in their challenging role of bi-vocational ministry. Exercise, proper diet, and adequate rest cannot be over-emphasized for long-term health, stamina, and creativity.
One analogy is that of an automobile over the course of a year. It order to function without failure it needs to visit the occasional gas station, be serviced for lubrication and filter replacements, undergo routine preventive maintenance, be cleaned, have inspections and documentation kept current, and so forth. Just as these things are essential to problem-free automobile service, similar things are essential to problem-free bi-vocational ministry. A few tips include:
- Block out multiple windows of time for quality family time each week.
- Maintain spontaneity and the capacity to have fun.
- Schedule a vacation or time away from church and work at the same time.
- Leave work at the office. When you come home bring “you” with you.
- Discover ways to expend excess energy, tension, and anxiety.
There’s a difference between leadership and management. Management consists primarily of three things: analysis, problem solving and planning. If you go to any management course, you’ll find it revolves around those three things. But leadership consists of communicating your Vision and Values.
If you don’t clarify the purposes as the leader, who will?
Here are a few guidelines:
Believe it or not, the bigger your vision, the easier it is to reach. People are rarely motivated by small visions. They will follow a big vision easier than a little one. People need a purpose. Giving them a grand vision will enable them to connect as some level with that vision. If your vision is narrow, you may fail to interest some people. However, if your vision is large, it will leave plenty of room for others to get involved.
Don’t worry about solving the problem before casting the vision. A good example of visionary leadership would be the United States President, John F. Kennedy. Regardless of what you think about his politics, Kennedy stood up one day in the early 1960’s and said, “We will put a man on the moon by the end of the decade.” He was clear; he was precise; and the vision was something people could look to. Now, here’s the interesting thing – when he said it, the technology to put a man on the moon hadn’t even been developed. That’s visionary leadership! Just because you don't have all the pieces of the puzzle just yet, does not mean that you can't share the vision. Let others come along side you who will bring those pieces to the table.
Your God determines how big your goal is. So, how big do you think God is? The issue is not who do you think you are, but who do you think God is? In your dreams for ministry, don’t limit yourself by saying, “What can I do?” Instead ask, “What can God do? What can God do in this place?” Then, use every single tool and resource that God puts in front of you - no matter what it looks like. Judging whether or not a resource if "of God" will limit God's ability to bless you in your work for Him.[ read more...]
I have taken my inspiration from this series from the book written by John Bunyan called The Holy War. The previous messages (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3) were instructional in how we should work to control the gates of our mind. Early in the book, Bunyan introduces us to what he terms the Council of War. At this council, there is a conglomerate of devils that all are sitting down trying to make a determination of how they are going to get into the city of Mansoul to destroy it. There are four schemes that they consider prior to the attack of the city.
1. Whether or not all of the wicked hordes should attack the city or should they send just a single soldier in to gain access to the city.
2. Whether or not they should go as they are, which would be easily recognizable to the citizens as intruders, or should they go in disguise.
3. Whether or not to show their real intentions at the start of why they have come into the city or to assault the city with words and ways of deceit.
4. Whether or not they should determine which of the citizens were the most prominent and influential and then destroy them before attacking.
This council of devils finally made a decision that they will go in by subtlety and deceit. Giant Diabolus will go in as a Dragon (Rev. 20:1-2) but by clever disguise in the role of the serpent. A decision is also made that they will kill Mr. Resistance who is the greatest man of Mansoul because he has such a godly influence over the people who are living there.
So once all of these decisions are made, Giant Diabolus in the form of a serpent ascends up close to the Gates—primarily the Eye Gate and the Ear Gate—and sets up the ambush. The Eye Gate is described by Bunyan as the place of Perspection. We might call it our perspective, perception, mindset, attitude, aspect, or our viewpoint. The Ear Gate was the place where the entire Town gathered to hear any information that would be applicable to them for direction of life. What Bunyan was hitting at was the thought that what we see and hear has a huge amount of influence into how we think.
Giant Diabolus begin presenting his spiel of things and when his great swelling words began to capture the residents of Mansoul, they started moving closer to him so they could see him. This was the great mistake because when Captain Resistance moved out of his place of protection and stood on top of the Gate, one of the cruel archers shot him in the head and killed him. Shortly after the death of Captain Resistance, Lord Innocency dies from an unclear reason. Bunyan says that he died either by a “sinking qualm” that came over him or from the “stinking breath of that treacherous Villian old Ill-pause.”[ read more...]
As technological progress continues, it axiomatically leads to increasing rates of stress, overload, complexity, and change, speed, debt, and meaninglessness. Yet how can we protect ourselves, or families and our churches from the exhaustion and burnout of our age? The following suggestions may provide some relief, both for you and for those you minister to.
- Put more control in your life.
- Learn to laugh.
- Generate good will. The greatest thing we can do to buffer ourselves against the ravages of stress is to continually spread good will to those around us.
- Limit negatives. Stop negative self- criticism. Limit your time with negative people.
- Stop digging. If you're in a hole, the first rule is to quit digging. If you're overloaded, start saying "NO!"
- Accept your limitations. God is the author of limitations, and He gave them to us for our protection. We violate them at our peril.
- Defend your boundaries. Establish appropriate boundaries and defend them against the onslaught of an extraordinarily demanding world.
- Prune the activity branches. Like new branches on a fruit tree, additional activities and commitments add themselves to our lives every year, often without our permission.
- Value simplicity. No one ever lived a simpler, more unencumbered than Jesus.
- De-accumulate. Everything we own also owns us. Each possession must be cared for, maintained and paid for.
- Control the "paper tumor." Every year the amount of paper and information it contains seems to metastasize without pity. When at all possible, use the "OHIO" rule - "Only Handle It Once."
- Restrain technology. Maintain a healthy skepticism of any new technology and don't buy it unless you can control it.
- Value traditions. Identify the traditions in your personal, family and church life that have special significance and protect them vigorously.
- Establish stability zones. People generally benefit from having certain areas in their lives where change is kept to a minimum, and stability and reliability are assured.
- Move less often. Church leaders are often called on to relocate frequently. But at a time when the rest of the world continues to change so wildly, leaders who have a choice may want to consider the benefits of greater longevity in one position.
What does sustaining hope mean to you?
We live in a world of epidemic uncertainty from politics to the financial world. Even religious views and positions have taken changed dramatically in recent years. Ours is a world with changing opinions and attitudes about God and His church. How people thought about the church 20 years ago is much different than how their children feel about it today.
How does one stay resolute in Hope? Those who feel a call of God to preach His Word to this ever-changing world should guard themselves from the elements that would discourage or dissuade them from the call to "sustain hope."
Sustaining hope means being encouraged when everyone else is discouraged. It means keeping your head up and showing people faith even when situations look their darkest. But, how does one stay encouraged? How do they keep that positive mental attitude when life is hitting them the hardest?[ read more...]
Dr. Fred Childs is a leading church consultant, organizational development expert, and leadership authority. He and Monica reside in Pearland, Texas.
There is the most remarkable story of selfless sacrifice in I Samuel 23. I had never really paused to consider the irony of this story until recently. It came to me at a time when I needed it the most.
On a recent day, weary from the battle, I was having my own little pity party. I was questioning why had I given myself so fully to the work of God and to helping others, only to feel so unappreciated by some who perhaps didn’t understand me? I was feeling somewhat like Elijah must have felt when he thought he was the only prophet that God had left, only to hear God tell him that he had seven thousand others whom Elijah was not even cognizant of. Elijah was immediately transformed from a minority of one to a member of a great multitude of brethren who could relate to his dilemma. Elijah was not alone. Many had experienced the same feelings while adhering to the same values as he.
As I was wrestling with this internal struggle I had a phone conversation with a pastor friend in another state. As we talked he reminded me of the story of David at Keilah, and the words of my friend began to minister to my wounded heart. I knew by what he was saying that he not only understood my situation, but he had been there and back again.
In the aforementioned Bible story David received word that Keilah, a city in Judah, was under attack from the Philistines. The Philistines were robbing their threshingfloors. When David enquired of the Lord he was directed to go and deliver the city from the Philistines. His men were wary because King Saul was after David, and Keilah was a natural trap. David enquired again of the Lord and was told to go fight and the Philistines would be delivered into his hands.
David obeyed the Lord and delivered the city. While he was and actually doing the will of God, King Saul heard about his presence at Keilah. Saul said, “God has delivered him into my hand,” because Keilah was a city that was enclosed by gates and bars. King Saul thought David was trapped, and that it was God’s will for him to overtake David.[ read more...]
Here are some simple ways to keep the little things from taking over your life:
- Ask yourself the question, “Will this matter a year from now?” Is what you are worked up over going to matter a year from now? If not, don’t let it destroy you today.
- Practice Humility. The less compelled you are to try to prove yourself to others, the easier it is to feel peace inside.
- Remember that you become what you practice the most. How do you spend your time? What you do is what you become.
- Every day, tell at least one person something you like, admire, or appreciate about them. Telling others that you appreciate them takes almost no effort, but pays enormous dividends.
- Choose your battles wisely. Every circumstance or problem is not worth the fight. There will always be things and people that don’t do right.
- Life is a test. It is only a test. When you look at life as a test, you begin to see each issue as an opportunity to grow.
- Remind yourself that when you die, your “In Basket” won’t be empty. The purpose of life isn’t necessarily to get it all done, but to do the right things.