Here’s some great articles to browse through as you start your week. The theme I picked for this week is harmony and reconciliation:
Churches often need more accountability with their funds. 34% of leaders surveyed said that their church has not had an audit in over five years or more.
Read the article here: LifeWay Research: 1 in 10 Churches Has Had Funds Stolen
Here’s some great articles to browse through as you start your week.
The theme I picked for this week is 5:
I really love my truck. It’s a manly, testosterone laced, V10 F250 beast that pulls anything I want anywhere, anytime. I’ve taken it up hills in the snow, gone into the woods where puny she-cars can’t go, and I’ve never gotten stuck. Ever. Yep, breathe in that manliness!
The problem is the only thing it never passes is a gas station! And though I love my truck, 10 miles per gallon on a good day is tough to swallow (7 when pulling my camper). However, I recently had new plugs and wires put in the truck and my gas mileage increased by 20%, not too shabby! You see, it turns out that one or more of the cylinders in my hefty engine wasn’t quite connecting right, and the engine wasn’t performing as it should. My engine was misfiring. It was “missing,” and I didn’t even know it.
There are plenty of churches that are not performing as they should. And what I’ve seen is that they miss the mark on one major thing- the discipling of others. In fact, a church without a clear strategy for discipleship is like a sputtering engine that over-consumes resources and lacks power. The church might exist, but the potential to do so much more is left unused.
If this is you and your church, what can you do? I think it is so important to pray for a strategy that is easily remembered and easily repeatable. As a local church pastor, I encouraged people to come, grow, serve, and share the gospel, and I used this as a process as much as a tag line. New believers were quickly encouraged to be a part of a bible study, serve on a team, and were encouraged to share what Christ did for them. The result: lives were changed, leaders were developed, and a church was changed.
So let me ask you: are you missing? Are all your cylinders firing? You can change this! Begin with yourself, then look to help another. If you are a church leader, begin to think about what discipleship looks like. Pray, think, and ask questions, hard questions, and come up with a memorable, repeatable process. Do this, and let God use you and your church in a remarkable, amazing way!
Over the years, I have seen incredible, vibrant Vacation Bible Schools, complete with biblical teaching, gospel responses, and life altering experiences. I mean, it’s just awesome to see families, workers, and leaders with nothing but smiles as the week is finished and Sunday worship approaches. Now, if we can only find ways to connect the people from the past week with Sunday morning, right? Well, sure, we all want that!
There are many, many creative and enjoyable ways to reach those who have experienced one of the greatest efforts that you and your church family have made all year. Here are a few ideas, in no particular order:
- Host a post-VBS Family Day. Several churches that I have visited have done this. In some cases, they have a Sunday morning worship featuring the children, followed by a church-wide picnic. Personally, I have seen whole families come to Christ through this sort of personal touch.
- Visit with a thank you gift. To connect your Vacation Bible School with your Sunday School/Small Group, how about a thank you gift, delivered to their home? I know, it sounds old fashioned, but you wouldn’t believe the great reception people give when you show up and have a conversation at a doorstep! Some ideas: bring a small gift, a plate of cookies, a flyer advertising the classes for the child, and even a Sunday School Personal Study Guide for the parents.
- Send a thank you card or letter. Children love getting mail, and a card to a child would make their day as well as show parents that you care. Consider sending a card or letter once in a while advertising the next big event and the regular activities.
- Start an email newsletter. This doesn’t have to be hard. Remember this: MailChimp is your friend, MailChimp is your friend. It’s free, it’s fun, and it’s easy. Build a good address list and email them great info in a newsletter monthly. It’s a great way to build familiarity with the parents. And don’t forget to include stories of changed lives in your newsletter!
- Call to set up a follow up on decisions made. This is the single most important task that you need to do. It’s a command and a pleasure to have a discussion on the gospel. Be sure to make an appointment and clarify the key points of the gospel story with child and adult alike.
All of these ideas are for one purpose alone: to be a catalyst to conversations so people can know Christ personally. After all, isn’t this what we want to do with this giant outreach? Please share if you have used other ideas that have worked.
For years, I have been an advocate of families studying the same concepts while in their bible study. Thankfully, I am a part of an awesome organization (LifeWay) which supplies three avenues of synchronous activity across all age groups (some more than others, but see it here or here or here). And while there are a few resources from other publishers that might appeal to one age group or another, there’s few that specifically unite the family in this way. Now imagine this: mom and dad can have a conversation on the same topic or scripture verse or even theological truth to reinforce biblical teaching- now that’s exciting!
But just in case you don’t think that having some sort of link between age is a big deal, here are five reasons that it is:
- It places the parents in their proper role as teachers. Parents are able to take the reigns and expand on what their kids and students have been taught, and a great conversation can develop as soon as the ride home.
- It utilizes the learning tool of repetition. As each family member talks about the lesson, the concepts are reinforced. Repetition can do that.
- It encourages bible conversations. Families might talk about sports, TV, or other inconsequential things. Having similar lessons will encourage real talk about real things.
- It moves “Sunday” to “every” day. Talking about the lesson on other days will de-compartmentalize the faith walk that many are accustomed to. Even more, having resources such as a Daily Discipleship Guide (coming this fall to Explore the Bible users) will give the parents tools to have family devotions for any age.
I am all for parents and their families to be on the same page. I am even more for parents to be the lead disciplers. If you aren’t using your bible study as a tool to train your children, think about doing it. After all, the study will be fresh in your mind and the effort will do nothing but pay dividends for years to come.
I’ve been a senior pastor for almost 12 years and on a church staff for the rest of my 23 plus years of ministry. I’ve pastored in several states both in the North and the South, urban, rural, and suburban. During that time, I’ve seen a flurry of changes as the church has come into the digital age and the culture has drastically shifted nationwide.
One thing that hasn’t changed is our inherent sinfulness and our reaction to change. Most of us don’t like change (unless we are involved in it), yet change is a certainty in life. Thankfully, some churches and leaders have successfully pushed past the resistant bullies and are seeing the fruits of their work. However, with so many churches plateaued or declining, subtle and not so subtle battles are taking place in churches all over. Bullies, ingrained in their traditions and positions, threaten the survival of churches themselves, and sadly, hundreds of churches close their door each year because the church didn’t respond to their community with the gospel.
So what is a leader to do? Start over? Take over? Leave? None of the above? Lots of options here, but something needs to be done (NOTE: check out Thom Rainer’s podcast for this great insight). Also, I’ll write more on the how and what to do in another post, but here’s some reasons why leaders need to press on despite the bullies:
- Jesus died for you. You are saved, gloriously and wonderfully saved by grace through faith. His death meant your life, and His gift was sealed by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in you. Hold on to this truth, and rely on God’s leading through His Spirit.
- Jesus prepared you. One of my favorite sayings of late said by a pastor is that “God never wastes a hurt.” Whatever you have gone through before has been used by God to prepare you for this task ahead. Remind yourself of what you have experienced and what you have learned from it.
- Jesus called you. Jesus called you to this church, and until He moves you to another place, you need to bloom where you are planted. As in the case of Nehemiah and the task he had, opposition from ungodly, fierce people threatened to stop the work. He and his followers pressed on.
- Jesus loves you. This is of course a great reminder, but remember that Jesus also loves others, too. He even loves those bullies. Pray for them, talk to them, and press on despite them. Your work in the gospel is not for the bullies, but for the new believers who need Christ and then need to grow in His grace.
Hope this encourages you you as we go into the greatest weekend of the year leading up to Resurrection Sunday. May you do His gospel work through His power as we remember that Christ died, Christ was buried, Christ rise again!
How do you grow in your love for God? Sure, love Him with your heart, soul, and strength, but what about loving Him with your mind?
It’s more than simple mental assent, to know the facts about Jesus, to understand the basics, to hold dear the concepts of the essential and even non-essential doctrines. But is this love? Hardly. Studying without heartfelt application is an academic exercise, not much different than the Pharisees of Jesus’ day or those that Paul explains in Rom 1 who “suppress the truth in their unrighteousness.”
There is a sense, however, of knowing and doing God’s will. Romans 12:2 (ESV) says,
“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.”
We love God by being transformed by what we know of God to understand the perfect will of God. This means that bible study is to be applied for His Kingdom’s sake. We grow to show ourselves approved to Christ. We do this as a daily sacrifice to glorify Him.
So read the Word, study it, devour it in fact, and always apply this not for the sake of knowledge, but for a greater glory in Christ.
Until next time,
About three weeks ago, I received a phone call to see if I was open to discussing a possibility of serving in a full-time position that would involve ministering to churches and pastors throughout the Upper Midwest region of our country. Although I was not at all looking to leave Mt. Healthy, I did want to be faithful and seek the Lord’s leading in this. After several helpful conversations, Teresa and I took the time to pray, read the Word, seek advice, and again, seek His leading through more prayer. Ultimately, I felt God reminding me that my life is not mine to live, and whatever I do, I must be faithful to go enthusiastically to where ever He leads.
My brothers and sisters, it has become clear to me that God is leading me to serve Him in this new ministry. In this capacity, I will have the chance to serve and love on hundreds of pastors and churches in several states throughout the Upper Midwest. I will have the chance to focus on disciple making and a chance to affect thousands of lives with the gospel. As you can imagine, this is an amazing and exciting opportunity to see many, many lives being changed by the Lord!
That said, leaving you is not easy. Teresa and I love you as our family and we struggled with our decision to leave! You can take comfort that I am not leaving with any negative feelings whatsoever- I am not mad, upset, pressured, or angry in any way. To the contrary: I am leaving with the joy of the Lord and with my gratitude and love for you! I can truly say that it’s been nine wonderful, memorable, uplifting years of fulfilling the gospel work!
As I prepare to finish my last Sunday on April 2nd, I want to share some words of encouragement. First, be assured that both the deacons and church staff have already begun planning for this time of transition so that everything can run as smoothly as possible during this interim period. Your leaders need your confidence, prayers, and cooperation during this time. You have wonderful, godly leaders who love the Lord and His church, so trust them!
Second, know that I will be your biggest cheerleader and greatest prayer partner. I am already praying for you as you seek the Lord for a new pastor, and I have already begun to pray for him as you receive him in love. In the same way, please pray for Teresa and me as we serve Christ in this new way. It will be an honor to love on our sister churches and pastors as I help them to serve Christ more fully.
Thank you, my beloved church family, for these past nine years. I will always treasure this time of our sweet blessings and steadfastness in Christ. I love you all. Watch this blog for updates of God at work in and through this new ministry for us. May the Lord bless you and may the Lord bless the gospel work of His church!
In Christian love,
We all have seen it: when talking about pastors, deacons, and the ministry of the church, there are many applications on a local church level. In my own research on deacon ministry, for example, I found as many varieties of deacon ministries as I did churches!
However, there’s a couple of questions for ministry that should always be asked:
- Is it biblical?
- When applied, is it sustainable?
Here’s a brief summary of the various duties of church members as seen in Scripture (these references are not an exhaustive list):
- Ministry of the Pastors– the pastors primarily preach, teach, oversee, and minister to the spiritual needs of the church (1 Tim 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-16, Acts 20:28, 1 Pt 5:2).
- Ministry of the Deacons– the deacons primarily care, visit, serve the poor, and ministering to the physical needs of the church (Acts 6:1-7, 1 Tim 3:8-13).
- Ministry of Teams– the ministry teams primarily reach, teach, fellowship, worship, serve, and pray for the work of the gospel (Eph 4:11-16, Ex 18:17-26).
The model might look a little like this:
So how does this work together? First, all ministries at First Baptist Church submit to the Scriptures for all guidance and practice. Second, all ministry leaders abide by the decisions of the church, knowing that the church is the Bride of Christ. Third, the support for one another in various ways will assist each another in their ministry functions and gifts. But last, these three areas (pastors, deacons, ministry teams) will help the church as a whole get healthy and be able to attend to physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of each other and of unbelievers.
Balanced ministry, biblical ministry, led by pastors, served by deacons, ministry in the teams. In a quick summary, this is how we do it.