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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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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.
One of the most frustrating and worrisome questions a pastor has to continually ask himself is, "Where is the money going to come from."
· Lord you called me to this city for the purpose of revival.
· You have commissioned the church to go out into the highways and byways to compel people to come.
· This gospel of the kingdom must be preached in all nations for Your Name sake.
· Lord you said that we need pastors, teachers, prophets, evangelists, and apostles.
· We need them for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, and for the edifying of the body.
· We need land, buildings, and ministers to house this revival.
How are we going to accomplish Your will without the finances that we need?[ read more...]
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.
Making a change in pastoral ministry is challenging for any pastor and his family, even when they have chosen the time to make that transition. However, a staff pastor and family who are released from their present ministry and must make a transition to a new place of ministry face a different situation. Thus the question, “How should a minister respond, act, and live if he is asked to leave his pastoral ministry?”
Ministers have been released from staff ministry positions for various reasons: decreased church income, downsizing of pastoral staff, the phasing out of a particular ministry position or consolidating church ministries. Regardless of the reason(s) for ministry release, this type of transition can be traumatic to the pastor and his family. Because of the emotional, financial, spiritual, and family issues, this topic must be addressed to help ministers and their families who have been asked to transition from their church ministry. Having been through this type of transition myself as a staff pastor in the past due to pastoral change and staff downsizing, I share some insights that will help edify and support the minister and his family who are in transition.
The ministry family leaving a church may experience emotional stress, financial strain, grief, and a sense of frustration. The exiting staff pastor may question the effectiveness, value, usefulness, credibility, future, and potential of his ministry. Income may be an issue, especially if the staff pastor was the major wage earner in the family. There will also be the question of health insurance. Because health costs can be expensive, health insurance is a necessity. If a transitioning staff member lives in a church parsonage he may wonder, How long can we live here? These are just a few of the concerns that a transitioning staff pastor will be forced to address. What follows are a few suggestions that will help the transitioning pastor and family.
1. Affirm your personhood as a Christian.
God loves you. You, your ministry, and family are valuable to Him. He knew this change would take place before you were asked to make your transition. He has confidence that, with His help, you will make it and your future will still be bright. He knows this is a traumatic change that affects your life, finances, ministry, self-perceptions, spouse, and children.
2. Continue growing in your personal faith walk with God.
You will need to grow spiritually through this situation. Don’t become stuck on, Why is this happening to me? Instead ask,How can I grow through this situation and see glory brought to God?[ read more...]
This series of articles are dedicated to those individuals who would struggle to maintain the momentum of God's workings in the church.
Latin centum, movement, from *movimentum, from mov re, to move. See meu - in Indo-European Roots
a property of a moving body that the body has by virtue of its mass and motion and that is equal to the product of the body's mass and velocity; broadly : a property of a moving body that determines the length of time required to bring it to rest when under the action of a constant force
n 1: an impelling force or strength; "the car's momentum carried it off the road" [syn: impulse] 2: the product of a body's mass and its velocity; "the momentum of the particles was deduced from meteoritic velocities"
Momentum is very hard to create. The larger the object, the harder it is to move. Depending on how much energy is needed to move it and the amount of time that energy can be applied decides how much momentum can be generated.
Building momentum in the church is not easy.
- A constant Investment Of Time
- An Endless Amount Of Energy
Pat yourself on the back.
Have you been feeling underappreciated lately? Does it seem that no one understands how hard you work or how much you are trying? The feeling that no one appreciates you can be very discouraging to most people.
We all know the power of congratulations. Rewarding people with our praise is one of the easiest and most powerful ways to motivate others. Simple words of encouragement can literally change a person’s life when given at the right moment. Saying “Good Job” or “This Looks Great” can motivate a person to want to try harder next time in order to please you, as well as give them a much needed sense of accomplishment for the hard work they have invested.
What happens though, when no one gives “You” that needed praise? Who encourages the encourager? Who tells the guy at the top “Good Job”? Oftentimes, nobody does this. Even a self-motivated person has a point where they just need to hear someone say “I appreciate what you are doing.” So what do you do when those affirmations are few and far between?
Encourage yourself! David did it. 1 Samuel 30:6;
And David was greatly distressed; for the people spake of stoning him, because the soul of all the people was grieved, every man for his sons and for his daughters: but David encouraged himself in the LORD his God.
Maybe you’ve never had the congregation ready to stone you, (Or maybe you have…) but there have probably been many times where you wondered where even your closest followers' devotions were. David understood that this was one day where encouragement from the men was not going to come. They were tired, discouraged, and let down. He knew that there was nothing he could do or say that would cause them to appreciate all he was trying to do for them. The only thing left for David to do was to “Encourage Himself”. The scriptures say he “…encouraged himself in the Lord his God.” Wouldn’t it be something if we could know exactly what he said or did to do this. What were his words? “Don’t worry David (to himself), God’s got your back. You’re doing a fantastic thing for the Kingdom of God. Don’t be discouraged, the Lord knows where you’re at right now.” These are things we might say to another person to encourage them, so why not say them to ourselves?
I confess, I talk to myself on occasion. Not like a lot of people do, but rather to encourage myself. A few years ago, I began to become very discouraged when it seemed that no one else seemed to appreciate the very hard work and tremendous accomplishment that I was experiencing. So, I began to do something that might sound a bit strange to many people. I began “patting myself on the back”. Seriously, I literally patted myself on the back and said to myself, “Good job Jim. No one else may notice what you just did, but I did and I think you did a fantastic job.” I know that sounds odd, but I have to be honest with you, it felt good. I said it to myself and at the same time realized that the guy saying it knew what he was talking about. He was someone who recognized when someone did something great and he was now complementing me. Only, me was also me, so for some that might not sound so great.
However, it was the only praise that was going to come to me that day, so if it had to come from me, I was going to accept it.[ read more...]
I remember as a young person, admiring the Pastors and Ministers of our movement. In my mind they were (and are) equal to the Apostles. I cannot explain in words my respect for them.
20 years later, I am one of those men. Often I find myself comparing my ministry to those men who I admire. Who I am as a leader, seems far short to that of many of the men around me. Now please don't think that I am wanting to be them. I realize that we are all unique and gifted according to His desire. But there is something in me that always wants to improve. I never want to become satisfied with who I am as a Man of God. I always want to do more for Him. I want to get closer to who He wants me to be. Like Paul of old. After all he did for the Lord, he said "Oh, that I might know Him..." As great a man as Paul was, he still looked to Jesus for a deeper walk.
I'm not sure we always realize the effect we have on the young people around us. Or for that matter, any saint. One thing that God consistently reminds me of, is that I am an example to those who look up to me. I feel that there is blood on my hands, if I lead an example, that would discourage them from living for God.[ read more...]
In John chapter 15, Jesus lets us know that if we are going to be a part of the vine, we are going to have to be fruitful. Do we truly understand what that means.? Often times we allow ourselves to be overwhelmingly busy with things that will never be fruitful. Much of a minister’s time is spent on things that could be delegated.
People will let you do all the work if you let them. They will smile at you, thank you and tell you that you are the greatest thing that ever happened to their church. Ultimately however, you have to ask yourself, what am I really accomplishing that is relative to my calling.
The scriptures tell us to make our calling and election sure. It’s important that we settle in our minds what our calling is. Yet, this is saying more than that to us than this. It is telling us also to know our job description. I have learned by Pastoring, that people will let the Pastor mop the floors, shovel the sidewalks, cut the grass, and nearly every other menial task of the church if he lets them. There is a certain source of self-gratification that comes with having done some manual labor. It is even good exercise. However, we truly have to ask ourselves, “Is this my calling? Did God call me to this city to mop the kitchen floor and to cut the grass? Did he call me here to teach every single Bible Study?” If you answered yes to those questions, then keep at it. However, you are about to find that the human body is only capable of so much. As well, your mind can only take in so much information.
If however, you were called to that city to Preach the Gospel and Pastor a church, you may need to learn the art of delegation.
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One of the saddest occurrences is when I spend time trying to mentor an experienced Christian minister who is wrestling with regrets, guilt and self-condemnation after they have given a lifetime to the work of God.
Christian ministry should be satisfying and rewarding. The joy, peace, fulfillment and contentment should be overflowing for anyone who has devoted their life to arguably the world’s most noble profession. Surprisingly instead of entering a time of bliss and contentment, a vast number of ministers and their spouses enter their later years disillusioned, angry, bitter, depressed and saddened over missed opportunities, mistakes, bad judgments, regrets, and a list of similar discouragements.
This simply ought not to be.
What about you? Are you living with regret, guilt, or condemnation right now?
Is it easier for you to quote Romans 8:1 than it is to live it?
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
The word “condemnation” means an adverse sentence (the verdict). There should be no adverse sentence or condemnation but reality says there often is. If so, then the question is what caused it? Or, from where did it originate?
Even if you could identify the point of origin for your feeling of condemnation you cannot change the history that caused it. However, you can learn from history, make adjustments, and not repeat the same mistakes in the future. Another key point is that Romans 8:1 reveals the answer to living condemnation free. It says to, “walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” To state it plainly: the Spirit will lead you to a condemnation free life and ministry whereas the flesh will lead to condemnation.
From a practical standpoint the following suggestions will assist you in building a condemnation free life and ministry.
Plan your finances as though you will live 150 years. One of the greatest tragedies is that many of us have failed to plan for the day of retirement. It is a mistake you will live to regret. Many of those who chose to spend it all because the Lord was coming and they didn’t want to leave it for the antichrist died broke and foolish. They had no oil in their lamps when the day came that they needed it.[ read more...]