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Common pitfalls for Church-growth guys

1 Corinthians 10:13 reminds us how we ALL struggle with temptation.  Those who attempt to build growing churches must be aware of some common pitfalls (these are things I have personally experienced and struggle with):

1) Developing an unhealthy view of yourself.  Pride, an over-inflated view of your own importance, has destroyed many a talented pastor.  Thinking you are the answer to everyone's needs, that you should always be available and approachable, will end up crushing you and your family. Thinking you are above being questioned and shouldn't be held accountable to others in the church is precisely what the devil wants to do to turn God's servant into a taskmaster.
2) Developing an unhealthy view of others.  You may begin to see SOME people as expendables - people who don't bring a lot to the table, as though they only exist to meet some need in YOUR life. Others who aren't your 'yes men' or fail to stroke your ego sufficiently, you will view as your p…

The Importance of Sexual Purity

1 Thessalonians 4:1-8

Finally, then, brothers, we ask and urge you in the Lord Jesus, that as you received from us how you ought to walk and to please God, just as you are doing, that you do so more and more. 2 For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. 3 For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, 5 not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. 7 For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. 8 Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.





In the forests of northern Europe there lives a little animal called the ermine - known for his snow-white fur in winter. He instinctively protects his whit…

Objectives of a Men's Ministry

KEY... KEY in a growing church are the men.  To build a stronger, healthier church, you MUST be a builder of men.  What are some basics goals we should have for men's ministry?  You need to:

1.Pull men IN - In your circle of influence - get involved in their lives.  Surround yourself with men at different stages of growth
2.  Lift men UP - Through mentoring - through teaching - through modeling the Spiritual Man they ought to admire and aspire to
3.Push men OUT - Men are doers... effective leading of men equips and releases them to serve. You need to give them something to do - you need to trust them to do it sufficiently - and when they don't, don't blow a gasket.  They will learn.

You will never grow a church without men.  Be the man God has called YOU to be and they will naturally gravitate to you

3 Keys to growth

Pastors long for church growth for different reasons.  While there ARE a few who have made church growth about ego, most have a genuine desire to fulfill the 'Great Commission.'  What are a few common factors in growing churches?
1) A passionate, visionary pastor.  Though we often downplay the importance of leadership, it is "nigh-to-impossible" to have a growing church without a man who is an enthusiastic, loving, courageous leader.  We must not fall prey to over preoccupation with SELF, but we MUST continue to grow and stretch ourselves as leaders through books, seminars, self-scouting (a sports term for studying your tendencies - your strengths and weaknesses as a leader), and spending time with other, quality men.  Be a learner.  Be a risk-taker.  But above all else, fall in love with your church and the LORD of your church.
2) An outward focused, mobilized laity.  I have been blessed to be a part of several growing churches. And while some had good locations and p…

Diagnostics

When your car isn't running properly you take it to a mechanic who has an electronic gizmo that reads your car's computer and diagnoses the problem(s).  Sometimes fixes are relatively simple - a new set of plugs, replacing a bad sensor... other times, problems are much more significant and require greater investment (or trade in :) )

Effective pastoring requires a great amount of diagnostics as well.  Blessed is the man who is able to get to the root of problems quickly and knows how to 'fix' them.  Here are a few 'trouble-shooting' tips from a pastor with a lot of "grease" under his nails:

If your church is experiencing disunity... try getting them to focus outside themselves.  Churches will devour themselves when they are (1) in a pattern of decline or (2) have no vision beyond themselves. For decline, establish attainable goals for your church.  If you average 60 worshipers on Sunday, have a campaign to hit 90 or 100 on a special day.  Say what you…

Exit Etiquette

Last night I  finished a great ministry in an awesome church.  Not all exits are bad.  In our case, God was moving me into church planting - so leaving was bittersweet.  United  respected our decision and loved us till the end.

That said, the way you leave a ministry says a lot about you as a leader.  The calling of God does not end when a man resigns.  The way you leave will define your ministry in the minds of that congregation for years to come.  How can you be sure you leave...well?
1.  Understand your role.  You are no longer their pastor but you can still offer helpful advice that will aid their transition.
... be an encourager.  It is perfectly natural for a church to think "What's wrong with us?" when a man they love resigns for another work.  You need to be sensitive to their needs and affirm them.
... be helpful.  Help the church publicize the vacancy and include contact info of members of the pulpit committee.
... put together a list of immediate needs the chu…

Determining the Will of God

Would be nice to hear from God sometime, wouldn't it?  I mean, we want to be in the center of His will, working in a ministry that honors Him.  It is the deepest desire of my heart to do and be what God would have me do and be.  So...Why is finding the will of God so difficult??  We pray, "Lord, if it is your will, open the door,"  but then two or three doors open simultaneously.  How do you know you are where God wants you to be?

It's interesting the answers you get when you talk to peers about 'God's Will.'  A lot of men believe there is only one church on earth they can serve and be in the center of God's will.  Similarly, and I admit it sounds very romantic, people believe there is only one person in the world they could marry and be in God's will.

If true, what happens if one guy makes the wrong choice in a church or mate??  The whole world is thrown off its axis and people are marrying the wrong people unintentionally; pastors serving the wr…

Three things I didn't learn in Bible College...

I was a young father when I felt God calling me to pastoral ministry.  At the urging of my pastor, I moved to Nashville to learn how to be a "pastor."  While my experience there was invaluable, learning from great men like Bro. Forlines, and Drs. Miley, Pic, Outlaw, Woodard, and Reed, there were some things I was left to get on my own.  What are they?

1.  Stay out of debt - In the interest of self-preservation, colleges don't simply INFORM students about loan options, they actually ENCOURAGE indebtedness.  Recruiting tactics include more than the benefits of a Bible College education, they are now aimed to eliminate financial concerns parents might have as their child forgoes local, more affordable options for the much more expensive private college. College costs across the board have skyrocketed and Bible College is not the "exception."  In an attempt to appeal to more students, Bible Colleges have broadened their offerings and found "painless" ways …

Are we as a denomination in trouble?

"Having given ourselves to God, by faith in Christ, and adopted the Word of God as our rule of faith and practice, we now give ourselves to one another..."  Recognize that statement?  It's the opening line of our covenant - a document expressing the desire of our forbearers to work together for the greater good of the kingdom.  Our covenant calls us to lay aside petty differences voluntarily... for the purpose of fulfilling the Great Commission on earth.  As a fundamental denomination tracing it's roots deep into church history, we have had our fair share of disagreements and divisions that threaten our success.  Still we continue to affiliate, we continue to work cooperatively, convinced there is strength in numbers and that the good accomplished by our collaboration far outweighs the bad we've tolerated.

Is that fellowship on the verge of failing?  Are lines being drawn in the sand, are powerful personalities forcing brothers to 'choose sides' demanding…

Facing the difficulty of ecumenism as a FWB Pastor

I have a confession to make.  Please don't judge me for this.  I went to an ecuminical service last night. There.. I said it.  I realize in our ranks there are those who would tell me to 'Lighten up!'  "It's no big deal!!" And there are others who would tell me I should turn in my FWB credentials.  One side might need a bit more wisdom in such things.  The other, well, I don't really know what to say to them.

If you are like me, it's hard to find a comfortable balance between being Free Will Baptist and joining in with others who might disagree with our doctrine.  We don't have any trouble buying their commentaries or reading their books - but  is there a difference between going to an event with them and owning their church growth materials?  What if your church is invited to participate in a men's event where there will be ten or twelve denominations present?  Where do we draw the 'theological line' of separation?  Here are a few que…

Pastoral Candidate check-list, p.2

What information should churches provide prospective pastors?  Boards expect honesty and transparency from the men they interview as candidates.  Should pastors not expect the same?  For those laymen who might happen to read this blog, let me be frank with you for a moment...
1.  You should be willing to discuss issues surrounding the former pastor's exit.  There are legal concerns obviously - particularly where there are churches and pastors who have failed to handle an exit in a biblical fashion.  A violation of confidentiality can create a cloud of suspicion on BOTH parties.  I get that. But you need to be prepared to be as transparent as you can when asked by a candidate.  "There were some personal problems involved that we cannot talk about because of a confidentiality agreement, but you can rest in the fact that we handled things as spiritually as possible."  Obviously there are two sides to every story, and if you handle YOURS correctly, you shouldn't be upset …

Pastoral Candidate check-list

If I was on a pulpit committee, what would I look for in my future pastor?  What questions would I ask that might rule out potential candidates?

1.  "Describe your personal devotional life."  I would explore this topic beyond the initial response.  I would be looking for something specific.  If a man doesn't have a significant prayer and study life, he is not qualified to be a pastor.

2.  "Can we pull a credit report on you?"  If a man's financial house is not in order, he is not qualified to be a pastor.

3.  "Tell us the last time you lost your temper and why."  If a man is a hot-head, he is not qualified to be a pastor.

4.  "How many people have you personally led to Jesus Christ?"  This is not about notches on the belt.  If a man is not a soul-winner, he is not qualified to be a pastor.

5.  "Does your family support your ministry and how do they show it?"  If your family isn't solidly behind you, you are not qualified to be a…

Earning respect by being human

I have mentioned a couple of times how 'respect is earned, not deserved.'  When churches hire a pastor, they want the experience of an elder statesman in the body of a youth.  What often happens to younger men in the ministry is they don't have the respect the office needs in order to lead the congregation.  When a new idea or a vision is cast, the people look the the real leaders in the church (that old respected deacon, that former pastor who still attends, or that guy with lots of money) before they voice support of your idea.  That is reality for many of our young pastors.  What can the younger man do to earn their respect?

1.  Accept the reality - the longer you stay, it will change.  Right now, be the best YOU you can be.  Learn the ropes.  Use the respected men as sounding boards and don't worry about who gets the credit for the idea.  The work is what matters - and according to the Bible, God is a good Accountant and remembers your labor of love.  Stay in good g…

The art of following the former pastor

Ahhh the excitement of a new pastorate.  The organized books on the shelves, the smell of pencil-shavings and cardboard... the first time someone dials your phone and calls you"Pastor!" It's good to be the new guy.  Everything is fresh.  They don't know your flaws.  They are happy to see you.  They want to know what you think.  Inevitably, as you get to know your new congregation, you will begin to hear a lot of talk about the former pastor.  How great he was.  How awful he was.  How powerful his sermons were... how he was prideful and rude.  Yep, you will hear a lot of things about the pastor, his family, and his tenure.  What should you do with this information?

1.  Don't listen to it.  Being a pastor is one of the most difficult jobs I know of because everyone is a critic.  Everyone thinks they know how it should be done.  People are unfairly critical.  I remember telling a woman in my 2nd pastorate, "If your son answered the call to preach, how would you …

Why yours should be a 'Relational Ministry'

"So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed:2 shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight,not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly;3 not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock.4 And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory."  1 Peter 5:1-4(ESV)
Pastoring effectively requires us to find that difficult balance between being OVER our people and yet AMONG them.  How can a pastor be friends with his members and yet maintain the respect necessary to lead them into uncharted territory?  Peter teaches us to have a three-faceted ministry.  Hear his call to...
1.  Feed them - "Shepherd the flock of God..." "ποιμάνατε"  As a shepherd scopes out pasture for grazing his flock, you must know the needs of your peopl…

The importance of a well-defined 'Philosophy of Ministry'

While churches are about as varied as the flavor offerings at Baskin Robbins, they generally fall into two distinct camps when it comes to how they do ministry.

The In-Reach model - These churches see their main purpose as leading Christians in worship and discipleship.  Sermons are directed to Christians and the issues they face.  Growth strategies focus on the quality of programs, buildings, and staffing.  The danger of such a model?  These places often become so "Christianized" over time that the people who attend hardly know ANY lost people personally.

The Out-Reach model - These churches have as their main emphasis evangelism and church growth.  Instead of the "Come and see" approach of the in-reach model, these churches have a 'Go-and-Tell' approach to ministry.  The question "How can we grow?" permeates every planning session.  The danger of such a model? Often more emphasis is placed on decisions than discipleship, leading many to a live out…

Boundaries and why you need them, p. 2

I have always been a fairly driven, structured time-manager.  I like having a schedule.  Juggling the demands of a large family and a growing church is challenging.  That's why you need boundaries. Those little time killers that eat away at your schedule - you need to control those as much as you can.  Why?

1) Your stress level, for one.  There are only so many hours in a day and when study time or visitation is compromised, you begin to panic.  You get slack in your study and cannot feed your congregation or pray for them as you should.  If you already battle flare-ups of temper OR depression, the best way to extinguish those character killers is to reduce stress.

2) Another reason to control those non-scheduled drop-bys is that it creates a neediness in your people - the unhealthy expectation that they deserve more of your time than something or someone else.  Your accessibility has to be guarded because they will just drop by to have coffee for no particular reason.  Though so…

Boundaries and why you need them, p. 1

We appreciate boundaries in life.  Though there ARE personality types that like to push boundaries, we have a pretty good sense of what it looks like when relationships don't have appropriate boundaries: a deacon who doesn't respect confidentiality or the role of the pastor; a Mother-in-law who has difficulty hiding her disagreement with your parenting philosophy; a friend who never gets the signal when he is encroaching on family time.

Boundaries are important - and none more so than in the ministry.  Here are a few you need to consider:

1) Limited access from the opposite sex.  Pastors so want to be "all things to all people," that they boarder on inviting emotional affairs and questionable/reproachable contact.  The advent of social media has created a firestorm of "e-affairs."  What often begins as a comment on a Facebook page or photo, can devolve into private messaging and conversations that we wouldn't want our spouses to know about.

Counseling..…

"80% of success is just showing up"

Terrible, terrible person to quote, I'm sure, but Woody Allen had a point.  When it comes to successful ministry, a great part of it is showing up.  Showing up at the hospital when one in your 'sphere of influence' is sick.  Showing up at the funeral home, where loss is felt keenest.  Showing up at a members home when his wife has left him.  Showing up at a preachers house who is discouraged.  80 percent of success is just showing up.

Set visitation goals for yourself.  Stay connected to your people emotionally.  When you sense someone is down, send them a card in your own hand-writing.  When an important milestone is passed, recognize it publicly - "We are so proud of Angie for graduating college this week..."  "2 years ago, John had open-heart surgery, and now look at him - serving more now than ever!"  Details matter.  Make it a point to remember names.  Ask good questions - as a general rule, people love talking about themselves.

When people begin t…

When to pull the plug on a ministry...

As a leader in growth, there may come a time when you have to "pull the plug" on a ministry.  Let's look at this objectively:

1) Is the ministry valid?  That is, does it serve the basic purposes of the church?  Ministries often lose their purpose over time.  For instance, some men's prayer ministries really turn into an opportunity to eat a free breakfast and talk about fishing (or worse, the pastor).  Some women's ministries devolve into gripe sessions about their husbands.  When any ministry does not fit a defined purpose of the church, you may need to pull the plug.

2) Is the ministry suffering for lack of leadership?  I am convinced that God gifts us uniquely and for a purpose - that we might serve others.  That said, not everyone is called to teach a class or head a ministry.  They may be excellent at other things, but it's a very painful thing to drive a square peg into a round hole.  The wrong leader can KILL a ministry.  Before pulling the plug, ask you…

Developing future workers for future growth...

Plan ahead for growth.  Don't wait for it to happen before you do something to your organizational structure.  I call it "the pyramid principle."  The structure can only reach as high as the base allows it.  A tall pyramid on a small foundation will easily topple over.  Churches that are growing because of the personality of the pastor or the gifts of a limited number, will reach a certain height and fall over.  I have seen pastors with great charisma take a church to higher heights than they've ever reached before, but because the structure didn't grow WITH the new growth, it didn't last.

What can we do to grow our leadership team?  A few things...
1.  Pray.  Pray God would make you a leader.  Pray that He would help you spot leadership qualities in others.  Pray that God would send you people OR help you identify people from within, who you should spend more time equipping for leadership.  The more you grow, the more selective you will have to be in the amo…

Can Free Will Baptist Churches Grow? p. 4

Today I want to talk about assimilating new people into the church body.  As you begin to eat, drink, and sleep the Great Commission (impacting YOUR world with the Gospel) you will find two churches developing in your congregation - the veterans who have seen many a battle and have remained loyal to the church through thick and thin, AND the new Christian (or at least new member) who is filled with zeal, but has little appreciation for the wars of old. Both groups tend to be impatient with the other.  An unnecessary tension that is often unconsciously (or consciously) encouraged by the Pastor.  Don't be a reactionary leader.  Don't wait for fires to start popping up BEFORE you do anything to put them out.  Naturally assume your church is no different than others and that the enemy looks for opportunities to press his advantage to thwart growth.  There are a few things you can do as a leader that will head off SOME of the division that develops with growth:

1.  Present a vision …

Can Free Will Baptist Churches Grow? p. 3

If you hear the subject of "church growth" discussed and come away feeling one of two ways - Pumped and ready to storm the gates of hell with a water-pistol (but having no practical steps for growing in MY context)... or, Discouraged - "What is wrong with me and my church?  Maybe I should just move to another work with fewer obstacles..."  I understand you.

Key to the whole discussion (at least in Free Will Baptist circles) is the pastor - from his leadership to his example.  There are a few things pastors can do to help his church become Great Commission minded:
1.  Preach passionate gospel messages with an urgent plea to see people come to know Christ.  Sunday morning is the service in which you will have the most non-members attend.  Some are searching for a new church.  Some are searching for meaning and purpose in life.  Some are searching for a reason to keep living.  Preach the gospel.  People need Jesus.  Craft your sermons to include something for the saved…