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It's Not The Size of The Church, But Its Health That Counts!
By: Donald Bryan
I’ve heard many people say over the last year that, as we enter into the 21st century, it will not be the size of the church that matters, but its health that will ensure its survival. So, what about the health of the church? May I suggest a few guidelines for assessing the health of a congregation of any size?
- Biblically based. Do your congregation members have a clear understanding of what they believe and substantial information to assist them in defending their faith? Is there a discipleship- training program?
- Mutually concerned. Do your people genuinely care for one another? Is there a system in operation that easily allows your congregation to know when people have needs and a prayer chain to respond to those needs?
- Socially concerned. If you do not have a small group ministry, do you have a Sunday School program that provides adequate time for your people to break bread together? Church is fellowship as much as it is a formal worship service.
- Community saturated. Are you aware of the day-to-day decisions that are made in your community that affect the school system, the social programs, and the overall moral climate of the city you serve?
- Financially stable. The church that is fiscally responsible will be able to weather any situation. Every pastor and board should insist on maintaining a certain dollar reserve, and do everything possible to avoid paralyzation of ministry through an unrealistic building or property debt. People must be taught by example to give and to give cheerfully.
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Fourteen years ago I began a career as an investment advisor. After spending weeks studying for the state and federal securities exams, I began a very successful, though brief, career. Successful, because I was landing sales of which most security brokers only dream.
After spending years as a house painter, I felt that I had found my calling. I loved the idea of helping people find ways to invest their money to achieve the greatest amount of profit for the least amount of investment risk. The idea of making money with money thrilled me. Imagine, making money not only during the 9-to-5 work day, but also making money while asleep.
After only a few months in my new career, I attended a securities symposium in Indianapolis, Indiana. For a full week, investment firms presented their funds, boasting their returns as far back as 20 years. For several days, I sat thru presentation after presentation from some of the largest and most prominent investment firms in the world.
Using Power Point presentations, each firm showed annual returns that all seemed to point upward when it came to opportunities for investment. With a room full of some of the most successful sales advisors, these firms worked to convince us that their funds were the best investment for our clients.
By the time I headed home from the symposium, my head spun with excitement. I knew that some of these investments were exactly what many of my clients wanted and needed. That night I went to bed still excited about what I learned and the potential to help my clients increase their savings.
After I slept several hours, a loud booming voice awakened me saying, “The kingdom of God is the best investment!” The voice frightened me. I looked over at my wife, expecting her to be fully awake and as startled as I was. But she was sound asleep. “Did you hear that? I said, nudging her awake. “Hear what?” she mumbled. I realized it was the voice of God, reminding me that His kingdom was the best place to invest. It pays the highest dividends and interest and, best of all, there are no penalties or risks of investment loss.[ read more...]
As you look through history, you find remnants of people who preached and believed the Apostolic doctrine. Whether in parts or in whole, the Acts 2:38 message has been found throughout history. Consider the countless, precious people who gave their lives in defense of the Apostolic message. People who suffered the death of martyrdom unnoticed. Praying saints who never did see their world come to Christ. Men and women who held on to the promises of God's Word, in a day and place when it would cost them their lives.
Being Pentecostal is popular today. Even a good Catholic friend of mine recently told me that their services are becoming more Charismatic. I'm not sure what he meant by that, but I guess he was trying to say, that they were embracing the Spirit of worshipfound in Pentecost.
However, time has a way of erasing things. The tide of generations coming and going, dull and even erase people, governments and religions. Why, if we didn't dig into the earth in the deserts, we wouldn't even know that some civilizations ever existed. Whole nations have been erased from the earth without anyone even noticing that they were there. People who were once proud and who ruled large kingdoms are only remembered in small bits of history if at all.
What will be said of our generation should the Lord tarry 500 more years? Now, I'm with most of you on this one. I believe the Lord is coming back very soon. However, we do not know this for sure. What will future generations remember about us? What will be in the history books of the future about us?
I don't believe there has ever been a brighter day for the Church. We are living on a planet with over 6 billion people living on it. If there ever was a day in which God wanted to give a great revival, I believe today is that day. However, we should ask ourselves, are we looking forward? Are we considering the effect of all that we are doing for the Lord, on future people. What will they say about us? Will they remember us?
Some time ago, I read a book about the Nazi concentration camps from World War II. The story was about a little Jewish girl who was too small to work for the Nazis, and had somehow escaped being shot for being too young. It was often their practice to kill someone if they could not work. So, this little girl lived her life through much of the war and many of the concentration camps.[ read more...]
It began with the outpouring of the Holy Ghost in Acts chapter two, but was continued and maintained, in part at least, by the giving and sacrifice of the first century church!
The bible says that they gave their all and laid it at the Apostles feet. They sold houses and land, possessions and goods, and parted them to those who had need of them.
Were these new, born again, Christians giving of their all, simply out of faith, or was there some precedent that had been set by the words and actions of the Jesus and His disciples?
Obviously, these Christians did not yet have the New Testament writings to refer to...but they were there in person when Jesus taught, instructed, and acted as their example in all things.[ read more...]
Matthew 5: Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God.
“Pure” as it is used here in the original Greek is katharos. Katharos is pronounced Kath-ar-os. It means of uncertain Affinity; clean (literally or figuratively): clean, clear, pure.
Jesus declared to the people that day that if someone was capable of having, keeping or obtaining a pure heart, that they would see God someday.
It is the desire of every believer that, one day, they would see God.
However, the enemy of our souls has a desire too. His desire is to keep us from seeing God. Both in this world and in the next. His attempt is to cause us to lose our pure hearts.
One thing that I have found to be universal amongst new converts/believers is the pure heart that the Lord gives to them.
As newborn babes in Christ, their hearts are open to receive anything that the church has to offer them. They trust the ministry and they trust their newfound church family.
Their hearts are pure. Their motives are pure. Their intensions are pure. They are simply thankful to be saved and are happy and content to be a part of the Family of God.
These people are the source of revival in the church. They are usually the ones who bring new people to the church. They tell all their family and friends about what the Lord has done for them. They are not afraid or ashamed to declare their Love for God or what He has done for them.
What makes these people so important to a community’s infiltration of the Gospel?
What makes these people so valuable to the growth and continuance of a church in a given city?
Their pure heart.
- A heart that is pure is capable of loving someone who is unlovable.
- A heart that is pure is able to look beyond a person’s faults and see their potential greatness.
- A heart that is pure has no selfish motives. It only wants to bless those around it.
It labors for the Lord because it loves the Lord and the people who surround their life.
This person is not perfect. They are still human. They still make mistakes. They still sin. But Jesus said that because their motives were correct and their heart was pure, that they shall see God.
So it seems paramount that a believer in Jesus Christ should seek to have and maintain a pure heart.
Jesus said in Matthew 11:29, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest for your souls.”[ read more...]
"...happy is that people, whose God is the LORD." (Psalm 144:15)
Allen Funt, creator and original host of the landmark television series Candid Camera, perfected an art that has entertained people for over 60 years. From a humble start on radio in 1947, he used hidden microphones and cameras to catch unsuspecting people worldwide—all in the spirit of fun. The show's famous tag line—"Smile! You're on Candid Camera!"—is universally known.
Somebody is always watching you, so why not smile. All too often, we’ve all been in church services where the people who were on the platform, hardly ever smiled. In some of these instances, I personally knew these people and knew that they had a great sense of humor and personality, but watching them from the audience I realized that they hardly ever smiled while on the platform. I know that there are times of deep worship when there is crying and weeping before the Lord. I'm not talking about these instances. What I am referring to are all of the other times while on the platform. Most of the time our musicians and singers are on the platform for most, if not all, of the service. Pastors and other spiritual leaders usually sit on the platform for all of the service also. Spending all of this time in front of the congregation becomes second nature to us and we develop the bad habit of not smiling. Sometimes while leading worship service, preaching or even singing, we scrunch up our face and it looks like we are mad at something or that we are in a bad mood. All the while, we may be in the best mood ever but it comes across to the audience in a different way.
A smile is an inexpensive way to change your looks. ~Charles Gordy
"If you're happy and you know it then your face will surely show it." In fact, all of the leadership of the church represents who the church is to the congregation and also to the guests. If you are the greeter who stands at the front of the church and welcomes everyone into the sanctuary, you definitely should be smiling. You are the first face that members and guests see and it should be a happy, welcoming face. If you are a Sunday School teacher, make a conscious effort to smile, whether you are teaching that Sunday or not. If you are a musician in the church who is normally on the platform but maybe you have the service off and are sitting in the congregation, make sure you are still smiling. You would be surprised who is watching you to see who you are whenever you aren't in front of everyone.[ read more...]
Solipsism is the belief that nothing exists outside of your self. If you, while reading this article, believe that this article and everything around you are figments of your imagination, you are solipsistic.
Sounds strange? No, it is very real.
Engine Charlie Wilson, former CEO of GM, once said, “What is good for GM is good for America!” Engine Charlie was indulging in solipsistic thinking on behalf of GM.
Grades in school may be another example of solipsism. The purpose of school is learning. We create a surrogate indicator of learning: grades. Then we collude with each other to pretend that grades are an accurate indicator that learning has or has not taken place. We no longer even question the legitimacy of grades.
Another example is sweeps week. Twice a year there are weeklong surveys of TV viewership. The ratings during sweeps week are important because they determine what the networks charge for advertising. The solipsism is this: We pretend that the programs during the sweeps week are representative of the network’s regular fare and that the ratings during sweeps are indicative of something real.
Another example: The Discipline of Market Leaders, a book that made The New York Times list of best-selling books. This occurred because those behind the book were able to identify which stores around the country were used by The New York Times as their sample for calculating which books were best sellers. By buying up their book at these stores, they could artificially inflate the figures. The solipsism: pretending that The New York Times list accurately depicts the sales of books (and that the volume of sales of books is an accurate measure of what is worthwhile to read).[ 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...]
"Not on your own, but with God's help you can!"
37 For with God nothing shall be impossible.
If you asked anybody, "What amazes you most about what Jesus did while on this Earth?" You would get responses like, "He raised the dead," or "He died for my sins" or "He healed the blind and the lame." No doubt that each of these are amazing works of God, Calvary can never be denied as the greatest work that Jesus did. I would have responded the same way. Calvary aside, one of the most amazing things to me that Jesus did while on this Earth was transforming the twelve into disciples, and ultimately into the leaders of the first century church. That was an amazing accomplishment.
I know firsthand as a leader and a pastor how difficult it is to change people. I understand how much time it takes to cause habits and thinking to change. Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that the twelve disciples were total idiots, but let's be honest, they didn't have a whole lot going for them. They were definitely less than ordinary. They didn't have a lot of natural talent. Their intellectual abilities were lacking. Each one of them was prone to failure, bad attitudes and mistakes, no one more than the leader of the group, Peter. Almost every one of them had issues with their faith. They all had bouts with doubt. On one occasion, Jesus said of them;
25 Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken:
Jesus called them fools, yet He also saw them for what they could be, instead of what they were. These twelve "fools," or at least eleven of them, went on to turn their world upside down. They became the propagators of the Gospel after Jesus ascended. They built the church from the ground up. Their ministry continues to influence us to this day. So the answer is 'yes', a loser can be turned into a leader. A fool can become a person of wisdom. In fact, more often than not, God typically calls these kind of men and women to become the leaders in the church[ read more...]