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Guard The Gates - Part 4
By: Philip Harrelson
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.”
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Often times in ministry we feel that the problems we face in the church are usually people problems. After all we are in the business of ministering to people. So when a problem arises it must be a people problem - right? Not always. Too often, but thankfully, a problem is not as it seems. It's not ALWAYS a people problem. Let's face it. People problems are a hassle. Dealing with personalities and character flaws is exhausting. Sadly, many Pastors and Ministers simply stop trying to improve the ministry capacity of their congregation simply because they have grown tired of trying to change the behaviors of people to create positive change. Do you feel that people are most often the problem in your ministry? If so, you are among the majority of pastors and ministers. Would you be interested to find that not all problems are people problems? In fact, many of the situations that we believe are people problems are simply situation problems. Here's an example of a situation problem: The person who is the lead minister over your churches Greeters ministry is growing frustrated. Too often, the people they employ to greet guests are calling at the last minute to say they cannot be a "greeter" that Sunday morning. This is very frustrating for the lead minister as they thought they had everything under control. Their work was done...everyone was in place. But now at the last minute, there is confusion and worse yet, disappointment in people. This all creates another host of problems, as now the faithful few who the lead minister is about to call upon to "fill in" for the absentee are about to become burdened with the constant chore of being a greeter. These gracious people have limited patients too. If constantly obliged upon, they are going to begin to experience resentment at those who are "calling off" all the time. Worse yet, they are going to begin to feel frustration at their fearless leader who is once again asking them to fill in for someone else.
Often times in ministry we feel that the problems we face in the church are usually people problems. After all we are in the business of ministering to people. So when a problem arises it must be a people problem - right? Not always.
Too often, but thankfully, a problem is not as it seems. It's not ALWAYS a people problem. Let's face it. People problems are a hassle. Dealing with personalities and character flaws is exhausting. Sadly, many Pastors and Ministers simply stop trying to improve the ministry capacity of their congregation simply because they have grown tired of trying to change the behaviors of people to create positive change.
Do you feel that people are most often the problem in your ministry? If so, you are among the majority of pastors and ministers. Would you be interested to find that not all problems are people problems? In fact, many of the situations that we believe are people problems are simply situation problems.
Here's an example of a situation problem: The person who is the lead minister over your churches Greeters ministry is growing frustrated. Too often, the people they employ to greet guests are calling at the last minute to say they cannot be a "greeter" that Sunday morning. This is very frustrating for the lead minister as they thought they had everything under control. Their work was done...everyone was in place. But now at the last minute, there is confusion and worse yet, disappointment in people.
This all creates another host of problems, as now the faithful few who the lead minister is about to call upon to "fill in" for the absentee are about to become burdened with the constant chore of being a greeter. These gracious people have limited patients too. If constantly obliged upon, they are going to begin to experience resentment at those who are "calling off" all the time. Worse yet, they are going to begin to feel frustration at their fearless leader who is once again asking them to fill in for someone else.[ read more...]
Few people will deny the theory that a local church stops growing as the size of the church building reaches 80% capacity. The reason for this is purely human and not so spiritual. Most people simply will not tolerate feeling crowded in the pews. Using chairs instead of pews helps this problem somewhat, but eventually the congregants feel like their space is being invaded and they soon become uncomfortable. However this is not the biggest reason why churches plateau and stop growing.
We use the analogy that a fish will only grow to a certain size in a small fish bowl but in a larger pond for instance, the fish can grow much larger. I’m not so sure however that God’s church should so easily be compared to a fish. I suggest that the building is not necessarily the problem in most cases. In fact, we have all seen churches who were literally bursting out at the seams. In many parts of the world today, revival is happening at an unprecedented rate. Pews are packed and chairs are in the aisles. Some churches are utilizing 2-3 services per day to accommodate the crowds.
While it is true that most people don’t like to be in a crowded atmosphere, it is also true that people will come when they are being fed. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me Peter?” Peter responded in the affirmative and when he did, our Lord told him to “Feed my sheep.” He did not tell Peter to house them or get them plenty of exercise. He told him to “Feed Them”.
People who are starving in the natural will do everything they can to get even the smallest amount of food or water. Something within them drives them on as they struggle to find something to fill their belly. It is very sad that much of our world’s population goes to bed hungry and starving every day.
We are also living in a day when people are starving spiritually. People are eating almost anything that comes along spiritually speaking. Truth is often ignored in the famished rush to simply fill the starving spiritual belly. People don’t care what you are preaching, just so it answers some of the gnawing that is in their heart and soul. An alcoholic will receive the five (or is it six) step program and ignore the friend who is telling him about the delivering power of the Holy Ghost. Why is that? He’s hungry. He wants whatever is going to fill his spiritual belly. Mentally he makes the decision to do what is simplest and easiest to fix his spiritual problem. That couple in the divorce court often don’t care if you say God is 3 or God is 1. They are looking for the thing that is going to keep their family together.
What’s the greatest church growth program you could have this year? Feed His sheep. People won’t mind sitting closer to one another when your ministry is holding their family together. When the Holy Spirit is the element that is behind every song and every sermon, people will crowd in to see and hear what is going on.[ read more...]
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...]
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...]
There are times that I really get wrapped up with being important. I mean those times when I am so into the importance thing that the whole world finds it’s orbit around me. I know that you may find that hard to believe, that “importance” could have such a dizzying effect on me but it does.
In fact some time ago, I found myself being very important. Our church was hosting a preaching workshop. Rick Wyser was doing his very good seminar “The Six Should-Be’s of Preaching” and I was feeling particularly important. We had plotted and planned and had all sorts of free books, gadgets, computer programs and all sorts of other things to give out to the participants. Somewhere around fifty ministers came and we were having a tremendous time. Nothing motivates me like talking about becoming a better preacher, so I was definitely enjoying the element.[ read more...]
Motivating yourself to get going and gain momentum is one thing, but inspiring others is another. It starts with your own motivation and continues with strategies that speak to your people. Use the following ideas to give those around you an extra boost of motivation:
• Communicate with Clarity. Before you try to motivate others to act, be sure you know exactly what to ask for. Then communicate it as simply and clearly as you can. After all, people cannot do what they do not understand.
• Be Committed to a Purpose. The one common denominator of all great people in history is that they believed in what they were doing. They were dedicated and committed to their vision and purpose. People will always be persuaded more by the depth of your convictions than by the height of your logic. So, to motivate others, always show them your commitment.
• Give People Recognition. Few things motivate us better than praise. When you tell others that they are doing a great job, it makes them want to work even harder to continue earning your praise. We all have a desire to feel needed and important. For that reason, recognition can be the most dynamic of all motivating factors.
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Most pastors would sacrifice everything they have to know a sure way of winning people long term. The truth is, most of us have personally won very few people that are still with us to this day. I have looked around my church recently, and I could find only two men in our church that I have been personally involved in winning to the Lord.
Winning these men actually began about four years ago. When I say long term, I am talking about a period of time of at least two years, preferably more. During that time I have been a witness to many more people than these two. I have baptized many more than that. I have taught bible studies to dozens of people. Many have received the Holy Ghost. Yet there are only two that have stayed in the church long term. Why only two? Why not more? Is there something wrong with me and my approach? How can I improve in this area? They say that hindsight is 20/20. During this article I want to go back in time to see what it was that worked, and what it was that didn't work.
The first thing that I can say without a doubt is that you must have a passion and a love for people. If you don't, they are going to sense that within a very short amount of time, and they will be gone. We must understand that it can be a very lonely time when somebody comes into the church. They are often leaving behind most of everything that they know and love. The Bible says...
26 "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters — yes, even one's own self! — can't be my disciple.
33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.[ read more...]
Here are a few things to remember when taking up the offering.
Don’t be timid or embarrassed to ask people for money. It takes money to make ministry happen.
Teach your people to give financially to the church. You are robbing them of a tremendous blessing if you are not teaching them to give tithes and offerings. It is the job of the ministry to instruct people how to give financially to God’s work.
Be the first to give. Instruct your ushers to take the offering from the platform first. The Pastor should be the first to give and then anyone who is seated on the platform. Preachers, musicians, singers, everybody should be instructed to be an example in giving in every service. Rule number 1 – If you are on the platform, you must give in every offering. (This serves as an example to the rest of the congregation. You will be amazed at the increase in offerings when your congregation begins to notice the leadership of the church being the first to give.
Tell the ushers to slow down – Recently I visited a church where the ushers went so fast collecting the offering that people did not even have time to get their wallets out before the ushers were finished. Slow them down. People need time to dig deep.[ read more...]