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Home Friendship Groups - The Individual
By: James Smith
I doubt there has ever been a day or society more dysfunctional than the one we are living in today.
Children are growing up in homes with absent and all too often abusive fathers and mothers. These children grow up in an emotionally or physically abusive atmosphere. One recent statistic stated that 1/3 of the homes in America are verbally abusive homes. Where husbands stop short of hitting their wives, but instead wound them with words that cut deep into her heart and emotional make up. Many husbands are grown men with childhood scars that leave them wounded little boys for the rest of their lives. These same men are often emotionally unable to minister to the sensitive needs of their own children and thus a new generation of dysfunctional adults are born.
The individual is wounded, emotionally scarred and hurting spiritually. There is in America a vacuum of need in the individual's life. It may well be said that there has never been a time when this vacuum has been greater.
We have a Savior who can answer the needs of the individual, yet with this wonderful touch of God on our lives, we are all too often unable to transfer God's loving touch to the hurting, needy individual.
Where is the catalyst that will bring Christ to this hurting world? The catalyst is the Church, yet the catalyst is sometimes unable to accomplish her part. We have to ask ourselves, why? The disciples tried their best to shut Blind Bartimaeus up. They were so inebriated with their own relationship with Jesus that they almost angrily tried to shoo Bartimaeus away. Never noticing his need, they said, "Leave the Master alone".
The individual in America is an emotional mess, with wounds and scars that alcohol, drugs and psychologists cannot heal. The Church is this person's only hope. However, in the traditional church setting, the individual is not always wholly ministered to. Many people have needs that cannot be completely met in the traditional church service. If a silent poll were taken in the average church, I believe we would be surprised to hear what some people would say concerning their personal, spiritual and emotional needs being met.
In the Home Friendship Group setting, the individual has an opportunity to not only be ministered to, but to minister to others. The Bible does tell us to "edify one another". A true family unit is developed when adult members share in the responsibility of preparing food for fellowship times, praying & worshiping together, caring for the children of the group, and hosting meetings in one another's homes.
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Get up before they get up. If you are lazy and don’t get started on things until the last minute, your critics will have already accomplished an alternative less effective way of doing things.
Do your homework – Study the situation. Don’t take other peoples word for it. Research the problem and with God’s help, find the best solution.
You run the meetings – Never let anyone but you or someone you desire, to run a meeting. If they take the platform, shut them down. Don’t let them take over the meeting. Never walk into a meeting without knowing the direction and result that the meeting will bring.
Know the trouble makers past – Find out what makes that person tick. Why are they the way they are? Knowing more about them will enable you to understand why they feel the way they feel about things and enable you to change them.
Share your vision with others before your critic gets the opportunity to share theirs. These are busy little people and they work hard at spreading their opinions. Work harder! Have coffee meetings where you tell others your dreams and vision. Go to congregants homes unexpectedly (As your critics do.) and open your heart to them.
Be confident. No one wants a sissy for a Pastor. (Sorry if that sounds demeaning, but I’ve seen some.) Don’t be bullied. Be strong. Know your calling. Walk tall. Square your shoulders. Lead! People will follow. You may lose some critics along the way, (Let them go!) but you will gain a congregation who will follow you into revival.[ read more...]
Jesus died for the sins of the world. He did not die for most, several or some. He died for all. When He suffered on the cross, He did not have only a few hundred or a few thousand on His mind. What held Him to that tree was every single man, woman, boy and girl who would ever live on this planet. Is our own directive the same?
How many churches would be quite satisfied if they could just reach a few hundred from their community. Think about it, if your church directly affected 300-500 souls on a weekly basis, would you be satisfied? I would. For a while any way.
We've got to stop thinking small. Jesus did not think small. The scripture does not speak small. This gospel was given that every single person ever conceived could have a relationship with Him. For too long the Church’s growth has been limited by our small thinking.
There are well over 6 billion people on this planet today. Some would say that God will add to the church in His time. That growth will happen when He wills it to happen. Jesus proved his commitment and desire to see every person in your city saved when he suffered that horrific beating and the cruel death of the cross.
Revival has nothing to do with God’s will for it to happen. He has proven His will. It has everything to do with our putting ourselves in a position to allow it to happen and to receive and maintain it when it comes.[ read more...]
We live in a world that needs healing. We are surrounded by people who need healing. The pain of this healing is manifold. It comes from the past. It comes from the present. It is physical. It is emotional. It is spiritual. It is mental. Some of these people have received a bad report from the doctor and are desperate for a miracle. Physical injuries of every kind have left others maimed or crippled to the point that they struggle to accomplish even the smallest of tasks. Many others are victims of childhood abuses and neglect that have crippled them emotionally and mentally as adults.
These people encircle our churches. They are our members. They are our neighbors. They are the people we bump into at the grocery store and places where we do business. We speak to them on our jobs. We speak to them on the streets. Every day of our lives we are in constant contact with individuals who desperately need a healing of some sort in their life.
But healing does not come. The pain does not subside. The inner and outer suffering is constant and there is oftentimes no help from doctors, psychologists, counselors or even the ministry.
This is very sad, especially when you consider that many people spend their entire lives and fortunes seeking the healing they need.
Just because a person is a member of a church and filled with God’s Spirit does not mean they are not still suffering as the world does. Oftentimes, a person can sit in a church pew their entire lives, and many of them never do completely open up and let God heal the wounds of their heart and mind. Others still are struggling with the news they just received from the doctors. Panic, fear and despair all attack these sweet people as the realization sets into their minds that they may not have long to live or that their malady is something that cannot be healed by the doctors.
For many, the doctors and specialist have done all they can do. Help is not eminent. The suffering is going to continue. Pain, of the heart and mind and throughout the body, is all they have to look forward to. Fear, panic, worry, and anxiety of every kind is constant and is not promised to end.
But God asks the question, “Are You Ready For Your Healing?”
Why does it seem that God heals some and not others?[ read more...]
Don't slow it down to fit your expectation of what the service should be doing.
It doesn't have to be a fast song, just don't let it be a dead one.
The last song should be the most powerful one.
If the congregation is worshipping, let them enjoy the presence of God for a while.
"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...]
One definition of insanity is to believe that you can keep doing what you’ve been doing and get different results. We want revival. We want growth in our churches and we think that it is somehow going to miraculously happen by the methods and programs we have used unsuccessfully for the past 20 years. We think that because we did have “some” growth using manmade antiquated methods, that we are definitely on the right track.
Someone once said , “It takes all the running you can do to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that.” I’m not so sure you have to run twice as fast to get somewhere else. All you have to do is change the direction you are heading. Many of us are “running as fast as we can and yet, we find ourselves stuck in the same place”. Some of us are trying as hard as we can try. We are working very very hard and yet at the end of the day, our efforts for the Kingdom are rewarded only minimally. Why is that?
Peter and his co-workers had labored all night. Using techniques and skills they had learned over a lifetime of working on fishing boats, they toiled fruitlessly in dangerous seas. Their response to the Lord was, “We’ve caught nothing!”
Jesus who probably never spent a single day fishing on a boat tells them, “Cast your nets on the other side.” Peter must have inwardly thought, “What does this carpenter know about fishing?” “What can he tell me that I don’t already know?” “I’ve been doing this all my life!”
You know what happened. They caught a ton of fish, simply by changing the side of the boat they were casting their nets on. Now you may also say, “Well, Jesus did a miracle for them”. He may well have, however, notice that He did require them to do something they had never done before, to get the miracle. Had Peter cast his net one more time from the same side of the boat he had been casting on, he would have again, pulled in empty nets.
Too many of us have worked all the night also and caught little or nothing. We may brag that we’ve had a 10% or even 20% increase of growth to our church in the last year, but is that truthfully the kind of revival our Lord would want to give? Considering the tens of thousands of people in your city, is 10% growth in our church really what He would want to give.
The early Apostolics turned all of Asia upside-down in just 2 years. What have we honestly accomplished in our city in the last 20 years? Too many of us have only held onto the status quo. While many churches have folded up (We don’t like to talk about these.) and others have barely grown at all.
We call ourselves Apostolic. We identify ourselves and our movement with the people of the book of acts. We speak as if we have arrived at the same conclusions and understanding as those who turned Asia upside down in two years, but this preacher believes we have sadly fooled only ourselves.
Let's be honest … 20 years ago, didn’t God give you a much greater vision than what you’ve realized. Didn’t you step into this boat thinking, “I’m going to win my city!”. “I’m going to have a great drought.” “We’re going to have a great revival!”[ read more...]
How important is it? Consider this. Early in Jesus’ ministry, he chose out 12 men who would become his disciples. His purpose in choosing these 12 men went beyond their need for salvation. His vision was that he might “…make them fishers of men”. Jesus understood immediately upon starting his early ministry that his role was to not only bring salvation to this world, but to also raise up others who would do the same after He was gone.
What would happen to the church or ministry the Lord has given to you should you be removed from the picture today? Is there someone you have been training to do your job? Have you mentored anyone to take your place? Or have you like most ministers been so busy doing your fathers business that you don’t have time to train other leaders.
Jesus understood that this was paramount to all he did in this world. He realized that unless he mentored these 12 men, all he accomplished in this world was in vain as there would be no one to continue it after he left.
Many ministers don’t see the need to raise up other leaders in the church. In fact, many ministers view this as threatening to their own position in the church. Can I suggest to you that this is “small thinking”. Whose kingdom are we working for anyway? If it is ours, we will lose it. If it is God’s, we will gain it. Small thinking hinders revival.
We all so often can find fault in our congregations regarding the lack of growth in the church. We point out all the ways they fail in outreach and preach them into a level of guilt that kills their joy stymies their efforts to share Jesus. Yet, we need to ask ourselves honestly, how many people do we pull aside on a weekly basis to mentor and raise up?
It is a fact that our church will only grow to the level that it’s leadership is able to minister to. A single man or woman will never effectively pastor a church of 200 or more people. It is impossible. A single person can only effectively pastor 70-80 people “if” he is full time. Someone one would say, “But I don’t have time to train other leaders in the church”. Can I say to you, “This should be the first thing you are doing.” You might say , “but I am too busy teaching, preaching, praying for the sick and ministering to the needs of others.” Can I ask you something? What would be so wrong with raising up 5-10 men in your church to do most of these things or even do much of the teaching and some of the preaching for you?
Jesus took his focus off of the multitude on occasions to focus on his 12. He sent them out to do what he had been doing all along. Did they do it exactly like he would have done it every time? Doubtful, but they did get the job done and in greater measure than He alone was able to do it. Jesus understood that 12 was more than one. Do we really understand that? Or do we think “I” am the only one who can do this job. “I” am the only one called to do this job. “I” am the only one anointed to do this job.[ read more...]
In his book How To Increase Giving In Your Church, George Barna gives several key principles for effective stewardship. Our challenge is to create an environment and facilitate a mind-set in which people want to donate money to the church for the right reasons. The following are some guidelines toward achieving that outcome.
Part 1 was offered in last weeks newsletter.
8. Dream big, pray big, ask big, minister big.
- No dream, no vision, no need, no ministry transcends the capacity of our Go. Sometimes we reflect our lack of faith in our unwillingness to let Him determine the vision, and in our refusal to truly believe He can accomplish incredible things through us.
9. Ministry donors do not just give; they invest.
- Set your sights high. Challenge people to do their homework, to evaluate all the options they have for stewardship and to behave as wise investors of funds. Once you investors have done their part, live up to your part of the bargain: Give them an unbeatable return on the investment.
10. Stewardship is a lifestyle, not an event.
- You may choose to sponsor fund-raising events, but always remind your people that stewardship is a way of living. As in dimension of our lives, if we take God's promises and admonitions seriously and develop habits that reflect those promises and admonitions, we will soon be able to transfer our focus from wondering if He will bless us for our faithfulness to amazement at how He blesses us.
11. Listen carefully, respond strategically, thank people sincerely.
- Good leaders listen to the people; they respond so that they hear in strategic ways, and when the people live up to the expectations placed upon them, sincere appreciation is one of the rewards and ongoing motivations for their continued involvement. Just as people give for the benefit of other people, so they also give in response to those who have demonstrated sufficient interest and concern about the donor to spark such generosity. The Holy Spirit gets the credit for inspiring people to give; and you must allow the Holy Spirit to direct your steps, too, as you interact with your donors.
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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