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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...]
People in every community are in need of healing and restoration. “Are You Ready for Your Healing?” is a tremendous tool to help you connect those individuals in your community to Jesus. The lessons in this series are designed to teach people the faith-building Biblical truths about God’s ability to heal the body, mind, emotions, and even your past. It unveils many common barriers, misperceptions, and hindrances to healing and provides truths and insights as to how God really works.
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"Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that believeth on me hath everlasting life. I am that bread of life. Your fathers did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. This is the bread which cometh down from heaven, that a man may eat thereof, and not die. I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world." (John 6:47-51)
At the beginning of this chapter in John we find Jesus feeding a multitude of people. This multitude of people had followed Jesus because they saw all of the miracles that He had been doing. He had been healing the sick everywhere he went. After a while, this group of people were getting hungry. Jesus asks Philip where they could buy bread, although Jesus already had a plan about what He was going to do. While they were talking, Peter's brother, Andrew, mentioned that there was a young boy who had brought his lunch of five loaves of bread and two small fish. Jesus told the disciples to sit the men down. When they sat them down there were about five thousand men. Jesus takes the loaves of bread, gives thanks and distributes it out to the disciples to give to the men. Afterwards, when all were full, they gathered up the leftovers and filled up twelve baskets. Jesus leaves from this place and crosses over to Capernaum. The people finally realize that Jesus and the disciples have left. They get in their ships and go to Capernaum and find Him there. Jesus turns and says to the multitude:
"Verily, verily, I say unto you, Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled." (John 6:26)
Jesus was telling this multitude that they were seeking Him for the wrong reasons and ultimately, for the wrong bread. He then tells them that He is the bread of Life. And when you eat of that Bread you will never hunger again.[ read more...]
New Pastors often make elementary mistakes when they assume the pastorate of a church. Even though you’re now the pastor, you’re still the “new kid on the block.” Listed are some strategies to employ during the first year of your new pastorate.
- Earn confidence by showing competence in decision-making.
- Focus on people first – programs second.
- Make no major changes the first year.
- Promote health through loving the people.
- Tackle the most critical problems one at a time – line them up single file.
- Respect culture – each church has its unique history.
The expression of guarding the gates really has to do with guarding the mind. As noted in the previous message, John Bunyan wrote another classic although much less recognized than Pilgrim’s Progress entitled The Holy War which tells the story of Mansoul being captured and taken over by Diabolus because of the gates being compromised. That same plan is still being effectively carried out in our generation. People of every kind and status within the church have a responsibility to not let this kind of thing take place. This is especially true of those who are actively called into the ministry. If the shepherd can be toppled, the sheep will scatter.
It was explored how that study allows a man who serves a church to guard his mind. While that is a good measure to take up, there is another crucial “guard” that we have to recognize. It is the aspect of prayer. Of all the disciplines involved in a Christian’s life, prayer is the most difficult one to maintain conversely it can be one of the most joyous and powerful tools we can find in our spiritual arsenal. A preacher must maintain regular habits of communion with God in prayer. If a minister is not careful he can come to the place in which he will neglect his place of prayer because of his attention to the Kingdom. He may have all kinds of grand truths rolling through his soul because of the constant exposure to the Word. He can be so busy with various meetings, discipleship of new converts, and counseling of those who are in the throes of some dilemma of life, and obligations to duties of the organizational stripe, that he can entirely neglect his prayer life. In fact a minister is more likely to omit his praying than a new convert who has just come in to the church.
Diabolus loves to get the men involved in ministry to fall to the temptation of substitutes for prayer. Sermons on prayer, reading books on prayer, attending prayer conferences, and hearing sermons on prayer can never take the place of prayer. One can even come under the belief that church attendance, praise, singing, giving, and doing measures of physical labor at church can be a valid substitute for prayer. What soon happens is a tendency to resort to all of these things to move us into a position for revival without true heart-felt prayer.
Pastoral prayer is a great biblical concept and it has great authority. There is an ingredient of spiritual authority that comes to life when a pastor will discipline himself to prayer for his people. From the outset, I have to tell you that this is NOT an easy task to do. Prayer that is truly heart-felt and sincere rarely takes place (for me, perhaps not others) when we just decide to get on our knees and begin to pray. There has to be some stimulus of preparation that is involved in it. There are useful things that you will learn to use to help put your mind into a vein of prayer.
There are times when reading books on prayer will be very helpful to put you into a mindset of prayer. Some of the ones that I have regularly gone back to frequently and year after year are listed below:
E. M. Bounds Complete Works on Prayer—There are eight books in a single volume and are very rich and motivational toward opening my heart for prayer. The Necessity of Prayer, The Essentials of Prayer, The Possibilities of Prayer, The Reality of Prayer, Purpose in Prayer, The Weapon of Prayer, Power Through Prayer, and Prayer and Praying Men.
Leonard Ravenhill on Prayer—Ravenhill’s material is becoming increasingly rarer to find in bookstores these days. He was a staple for many of the preachers who attended the Deeper Life conferences scattered around the nation in the 1970’s. There have been times that I have read just a page or so of Ravenhill’s material and found it incredibly rich in preparing my heart and mind for prayer. Particularly helpful a [ read more...]
“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Prov 18:19
Bob stopped me a while back to thank me. A trustee and board member in his church, he explained that he and his wife were greatly offended by a situation and people in the church. He told how one Sunday without knowing their situation, I encouraged them. I told them that “they were very important to the work of God there” and a “wonderful example to me”. I didn’t know they had already decided this was their last service in that church. He told me that had it not been for my encouraging them that day, they never would have gone back.
I wonder how many Bob’s leave the church without anybody noticing.
It is often said, “If we could just win back those who have already left, that would be a great revival. My question is, “how did we ever let them get away in the first place”?
In my years of pastoring and ministry, I’ve found that people usually leave the church because they were never truly assimilated into the family of God to begin with. Once a person is established into the church and have formed nurturing relationships, it’s less likely they would become offended and leave.
We think that we have to “get them into the choir right away” or “find them a position or job in the church” to keep new converts. This may help that person feel more attached, but it will never assimilate them into the church.
Why do people exit the church? Many times, a person leaves because they were never provided the proper relationships within the church.[ read more...]
Most leaders must constantly work at making decisions simple. The implication of a decision will always be complex enough, and sometimes we try to solve or deal with all the implications - the how, who, why, how much and so on at the same time we make the decision.
What are the five to ten most relevant, proven facts in this situation?
- Right up front, distinguish proven facts from what are simply your assumptions. Assumptions are what we believe to be true. They can be very faulty foundations on which to build your decision. A proven fact is "Last month the house down the street sold for X dollars." An assumptions is "I think houses in this neighborhood will generally sell for about X dollars."
- The most frequent violation of sound decision making is trying to decide before all the facts are known. Somehow in our minds we have a need to decide now, a need to bring closure, a need to have things settled. Because an undecided situation often brings us stress, our minds compel us to make a decision too quickly before all the facts are in. "Once the facts are clear, the decisions jump out at you." Find out the facts!
How will this decision impact all the people involved?
- Who are the main players? Who else will be affected? People in other departments? You spouse and children?
What will be the long-term impact of this situation?
- What will be the long term impact of this decision?
- How would this decision affect people a year from now? Five or ten years from now? By the time the children leave home? By the time I retire?
- The more reversible the decision and it's consequences the freer you are to move faster in making it.
What legal, moral, or ethical concerns are involved in the decision?
- Be clear on these factors, especially if it's a big decision involving major commitments of money, time, and energy and affecting a number of lives.
- Understand the difference between these three categories. Legality is based on a coded law. Morality is based on a moral code or trust. Ethics are based on an accepted local or cultural standard.
- Sort out these terms and their application to your decision making process, since some decisions you make could be legal and yet immoral or ethical and yet illegal.
Most of us worry unnecessarily about too many things.
It's almost as though we search for problems to give ourselves stress. The amazing news is that much of what we worry about doesn't matter at all! Take a look at these statistics about worry:
- 40% of all things that we worry about never come to pass.
- 30% of all our worries involve past decisions that cannot be changed.
- 12% focus on criticism from others who spoke because they felt inferior.
- 10% are related to our health, which gets worse when we worry.
- 8% of our worries could be described as "legitimate" causes for concern.
Most of us know how valuable momentum is. When you have it, things happen almost without effort. Without it, things come to a grinding halt. Where does momentum come from? Momentum comes from God, and it begins in your personal devotion to Him. Many leaders struggle because their devotional life is not what it should be. If you do not have momentum in your personal life, those you lead will not experience it.
Bi-vocational pastors face many challenges in life. One of their biggest challenges is time. Time is critical. Approximately sixty hours a week are spent working and getting to and from work. Another sixty hours are taken up sleeping. Church services and functions take up another twelve hours. That leaves only thirty-six hours a week to eat, exercise, spend time with family, train leaders, prepare sermons, teach Bible studies, counsel people and have personal devotion. Personal devotion is one of the areas that gets pushed off until the very last, and usually one does not have sufficient time or energy to have meaningful devotion with God.
That is a problem because devotion is a focused and faithful commitment of one's time and energy. Without personal time with God, spiritual momentum comes to a grinding halt. One begins to depend on their own power and abilities instead of God's power. It isn't long before the entire church and its ministries feel the effects.[ read more...]