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Back Row Bullies
By: James Smith
They may not sit in the back row. In fact many times they sit closest to the front. Most would say they are “Faithful” as they seldom miss a service. They appear to be the backbone of the church. They pay their tithes. They dress right. They look right, but once you really get to know them, you find that they are the Back Row Bullies of the church.
These people all too often run the church. They decide who is going to do what. They decide how loud the music is and what color the walls of the sanctuary are going to be. Little happens in the church that they don’t know about and don’t in some great way influence the out come of. Theirs is a mission. Theirs is a job that nobody else will do. Without them they know that the church would fall apart. They are the Back Row Bullies.
No one is quite sure how they gained such influence. Maybe it has to do with the amount of money they gave at one time or even still. They may have family within the church whom they have great influence over. Their measure of sacrifice is probably great, but nonetheless, they are Back Row Bullies.
We all know what a bully is. It’s someone who pushes their weight/influence/resources around to cause you to do something you would not ordinarily do. Let me break that down a bit. You ordinarily would not put up with someone creating division in the church behind your back, but since they give so much money… You otherwise would not allow them to have the position in the church that they have, but because their influence over so many in the church is strong…
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"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...]
(This is an excellent article for Pastors to share with anyone involved in leadership or ministry in their church.)
Sometimes you just have to say it like it is. This is one of those times. I offer this to you in a gentle spirit and pray that if you share it with others on your team, that you would do so in a spirit of gentleness and meekness.
John Maxwell says “Only do what only you can do.” This is important in the various areas of ministry of the local church. One thing that stops the momentum of a church is various leaders trying to run someone else’s ministry. When God has placed you in an area of ministry within the church, he did not put you there so you could judge other lay ministers of the church. Do your job and let others do theirs.
Focus on your own ministry. What can you do to cause your own ministry to make a greater impact in your church and community? Anytime you spend even a few minutes judging the way another person is running their own department or area of ministry within the church, you are wasting valuable time, energy and emotion that if better used, could be applied perfecting your own.
Too often people criticize the work of others in order to make their own ministry look good. Lazy people usually find time to do this. These people are jealous of other people’s success and try to destroy them in order to preserve their rank or position in a church. This is not a Godly spirit and should be stopped immediately. There is no room in any church for division. If you do not like what other people are doing, mind your own business and do your own job and trust God to take care of the rest. It is His church and not yours after all.[ read more...]
Any licensed or ordained minister in the U.S. who performs ministerial duties and who is employed by the church qualifies for a housing allowance which is a great tax benefit. Housing allowances are not taxable to federal or state income taxes, so you can save taxes by utilizing the housing allowance. In general the rules are as follows.
To have a housing allowance, you must have a resolution pre-authorizing the housing allowance. A pastor cannot designate his own housing…it must be done by either the church board or the church membership. The amount designated goes to pay all housing expenses: rent or house payment, utilities, taxes, insurance, repairs & maintenance, upkeep, association dues, furnishing & appliances (purchase or repair). Any expenditure that is for the upkeep of the house you live in is included in the housing allowance.
The housing allowance is ONLY for your primary residence, not any other vacation home, etc. The allowance is paid by church funds as a portion of the overall compensation of the minister. The housing allowance used cannot exceed the actual expenses incurred for the housing expenses. The amount paid toward the house payment cannot exceed the fair rental value of the home.
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Only those leaders who act boldly in times of crisis and change are willingly followed. (Jim Kouzes)
Within the church, God has placed men and women who love to see growth. It is what keeps us to our tasks. The lack of increase can kill the joy of our calling so we lean forward looking for any type of progress we can possibly measure.
Growth however, requires change. Going from where we are presently to a place of increase requires seeing what most people are not able or willing to see. Seeing change before it happens is called a vision. Few people are capable of a vision as most would rather stay in a climate that is comfortable. Comfort however can cause one to never imagine anything better. A Pastor or congregation who is comfortable with an attendance of 90 will never see a crowd of 300 because they are not desperate enough to make the kinds of changes it would take to gather that kind of increase.
Change means leaving a place that is familiar and going to a place that is unfamiliar. Few churches are willing to follow even the most seasoned pastor into a place of unfamiliarity. Here is why so many of our churches stagnate numerically. This is why the average church in America only runs about 85 people. Even in cities with populations in the hundreds of thousands, churches often find it hard to get over the 100 person hump.
Change requires casting a vision. Within the church it requires faith in the leader who is casting a vision of a place of revival we have not yet seen. As Moses of old preached of a Promised Land that was ahead, the current day Preacher must be willing to stand in a desert of nothingness and promise something far better than the status quo. As Joshua shouted, “Let’s cross over this river!” present day church leaders must be willing to look at obstacles as opportunities for miracles instead of places of failure.
No walled city ever came down without some great leader first standing far out front of the crowd and saying it could be done. No bridge was ever built nor building raised where some imaginative mind did not first dream it. No church ever grew exponentially without first, the Man or Woman of God casting the vision for it’s growth.
Where are the End Time revivalists who would tell our generation “Jesus is Coming”. Who are the men and women who will affect the kind of change necessary for a great Later Day outpouring? Where is the Pastor who will stand in a dormant church and declare “Revival, Growth and Increase”?[ read more...]
“Have you been trained to fail?” You have been trained in ministry to fail if you have been taught to do the ministry rather than to train others for ministry. I am grateful to the teachers who taught me to perform the functions of ministry: visiting, counseling, marrying, burying, teaching, witnessing, and a host of other duties. All are needed. By themselves, however, they help us only to maintain, not to maximize ministry. We can never be effective ministers until we learn what it means to be a leader and how to function as a leader. The following are five common ingredients in growing churches:
- (1) The pastor and the congregation understand their God-given gifts and use them in ministry.
- (2) The pastor’s hands-on ministry decreases and the congregation’s increases.
- (3) Both the quality and the quantity of ministry increase.
- (4) The pastor’s ministry influence increases as he shares ministry responsibilities with the congregation.
- (5) A biblical philosophy of ministry is established. That is, leadership plus lay ministry equals growth.
How can you build a leadership team and maximize ministry in your church? The following six steps are proven and effective.
- Identify the leaders in the church. Who are the influencers? These persons may hold formal or informal positions of leadership. They are the ones to whom others look for decisions. Write down their names and rank them on a scale of 1 to 10 as to their leadership and influence within the church.
- Intentionally take time to build relationships with your current and future leaders. Do not ignore or exclude the others, but focus on developing leaders.
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 question haunts many conscientious leaders. Although many people receive the Holy Spirit, many do not remain. Their new birth often proves to be more of a stillbirth. How can we reduce the number of stillbirths and lead newborn Christians into meaningful relationships with the Lord and the church?
Statistics reveal that unless a new convert is able to develop six or seven new relationships in the church within 9 months, he will probably leave the church. To compensate for this, we need to develop a caring community to nurture and integrate these people into the life of the church. Such a program will include:
- A. A strong commitment from the leadership, not only to reap, but to keep the harvest;
- B. A method for nurturing new converts; and
- C. A way to help the new convert make friends in the church.
Here is a method that is working in several churches.
- Start with a new convert’s follow- up class to be taught by the pastor. He may later turn it over to someone else with the ability to care for, teach, and nurture new converts.
- Find one or two couples who are outreach oriented, motivated by love, and loyal to the pastor to work in the area of new convert follow- up.
Why is it that in some churches, meeting with the creator of the universe is often a boring showcase for bad music, inept preaching and poor taste? Listed are 9 perspectives that can enhance the effectiveness of your services.
- Put yourself in the congregation’s shoes. Pastor, how long has it been since you just sat in the congregation? How often do you really try to identify with the needs, hopes and dreams of those in your congregation?
- Tell stories. Storytelling was Jesus’ primary method of teaching. He put the most profound concepts into simple and compelling stores that captivated people and changed their lives. Never telling a story is a prescription for putting people to sleep.
- Question everything. Why do you take up the offering the same way each week? Why do you always sing the same hymn of invitation?
- Find some fresh jokes-or don’t use any. How many of you would rather be here in church than in the finest hospital in town? Please discard your moth-eaten jokes. Otherwise your congregation will start laughing out of pity, not humor.
- Go beyond your trusty old sermons of the past. Yes it’s nice to have some standby messages you can rely on. But the danger is that the more you preach the same sermon, the more difficult it is to present it with conviction, originality and excitement.
Let’s look at some real examples of effective preaching. Our text will be from Acts 2 where Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, and from Acts 3 where the lame man was healed while they were on their way to the temple. In both of these instances Peter ministered in such a way that thousands were saved. I think we can learn a lot from Peter (Acts 2:14-38 & 3:12-26).
Effective preachers must study. As you look at these two messages from Peter, you will see that he had studied the word. In both instances he was suddenly given the opportunity to preach, and he was “instant in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2). There is no shortcut to “studying to show yourself approved, a workman that needs not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).
When I first started preaching I would minister on a different book of the bible every service – and we had three services each week! I used at least seven commentaries on each book. After researching them thoroughly, I would then seek the Lord as to how He wanted me to present the message and what kind of application He wanted for His people.
This took a lot of time and effort, but it was well worth it. It placed ample research under my belt to draw upon later when I wouldn’t have as much time. Taking shortcuts to in depth study will rob you of the rich jewels that the Lord desires to give you from His word and Spirit.
Effective preachers must memorize the Word. There is nothing more powerful than the Word of God. Peter, in his sermon on the day of Pentecost, quoted large and obscure passages of scripture. He didn’t pull out a scroll and start looking things up, he knew them by heart. We have the promise that His word will not return to Him void (Isaiah 55:10-11). It is sharper than any two edged sword (Hebrews 4:12). The word will do more in the hearts of people than I ever can. When I was first saved I made up my mind that I wanted to give people God’s answer to the problems of life and not only what I thought. My opinion is not worth much, but what God has to say is of eternal value.
Nothing has helped me in my preaching and teaching more than the memorization of scripture. Even if people have a hard time taking it all in, it will go on to work in their lives for years to come. Jesus said the Holy Spirit would “bring all things to your remembrance whatsoever he has said unto us” (John 14:26). His promise is that He will bring the appropriate scripture to us when it is needed the most. It was said of Jesus that when He was in a house in Capernaum, and there was so many people crowding into the house that there was no longer any room, that “He preached the word unto them” (Mark 2:2). It’s the word that makes our ministry truly effective as it did Jesus’.[ read more...]