Daily Purpose

Luke 9:23

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Daily purpose is one of the 7 things the New Testament speaks of being done “daily.” Our purpose is what helps us find who we are in the Lord.

A Decision To Followfollow me

The first decision we have to make is do I want to follow the Lord? If we so choose, there are three badges of discipleship.

  • Self-denial
  • Let him take up him cross
  • Follow me

Often times it can be a struggle for people to make this decision. If you find that this is the case far too often, I have some helpful hints in one of my other blogs on spotting the fatal flaws in disciple making. Can you spot the four fatal flaws in disciple-making?

head-2713346__340The Challenge called “SELF”

Self enjoys money, food, recognition, success, and pleasure. Self has its own agenda. Our “self” is expressed in many ways. It often acts jealous, angry, boastful, or envious. We are a very self-oriented society.

Self-will At Work

Self-will caused Eve to bite forbidden fruit. Cain’s offering was worship in self-will. Of the three enemies of our salvation, flesh is the most difficult to overcome.

Self, the Sinner

Sinful humanity says, “I’m going to live the way I want to live.” The four principal manifestations of self-assertion are:

  • Self-sufficiency, “I can do it.” It is the opposite of trust. It puts no confidence in God.
  • Self-will, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’m going to live as I please.” Stubbornness is the opposite of submission.
  • Self-seeking, “I’m the greatest.” It’s this business of boasting and bragging. It is the opposite of honoring others.
  • Self-righteousness, “I’m good within myself.” It is the opposite of humility.

Daily Self-Denial

One biblical translation says, “If any man come after me let him ignore self, and ignore self’s desires.” Ignoring self’s desire is the bottom line of totally following Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He had to have his Father’s help. If he who did no sin could do nothing of himself, what makes me think that I can do this alone? I am spiritually impotent until I discover the need for God in my life, and begin denying my own capability. The only way to get there is through self-denial.

Living Self-Denial

Self-denial puts “self” on the back burner. Self has no voice or vote in any decision. God’s word and the guidance of the Holy Ghost will order the path of a man who is a denier of self.

Daily Purpose

Far too many are Christians without commitment. The majority do not know what God has called and equipped them to do. This makes for frustrated spectators sitting on the church sideline. Jesus instructed, “. . . take up your cross (purpose) daily and follow me.”

We want the crown without the cross. We long to experience success without bearing a cross of responsibility.

It’s all wrapped up in a cross. We should ask, “Do I have a purpose?”, and “What is my cross?” If you have the desire you reach down and pick up a cross, but God does not forcibly load it on your shoulder. The Bible says, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily. . . . .”

sheep-690198__340Follow Christ

Christ also said, “Follow Me.” The very term Christian means to be a follower in the footsteps of the anointed. Loren Yadon’s study of the twenty-third Psalm concluded the sheep following close behind the shepherd always eat the best and purest grass. People who follow closely after the Lord, always receive the greatest blessing.

Our “self” is often at odds with the Lord. Living self-denial and daily self-denial are all things that we have struggled with. What are some ways that you have overcome your “self”. Please share your stories with us!

I have book recommendations as well as other useful information in my book “Daily Things of Christian Living” available on my website at http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/daily-things-of-christian-living/.

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Daily Prayer for Daily Bread

Matthew 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Jesus’ pattern of prayer includes the request, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Most Americans find His instruction irrelevant. We do not awaken to pray “Father, the shelves are bare, would you provide some bread?” There is no need because we have tremendous financial blessings. Further, we no longer live day to day. James the apostle advised against looking beyond today because we do not know what tomorrow holds.

James 4:14

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

There are 7 things the New Testament speaks of being done “daily.” Doing these 7 things are the difference between strong Christianity and mediocrity. These make a great series of lessons to teach a local church.

A “Give us this day our daily bread” lifestyle is important for three reasons:                                                                                 bread-1643951_960_720-3

  • It testifies of a dependence on God.
  • It focuses on the bread things. Ancients called bread the staff of life. Bread things are the basic elements of live.
  • We need a regular (daily) feeding from God’s hand.

Daily Affirm Dependence

If your radio receives a clear signal, you might say, “It’s a powerful radio!” Flip a switch and lights illuminate the room. You could say, “Those are bright lights!” the fact is radios and light bulbs are frail. Neither is productive unless connected with a power source. Neither is the child of God unless he connects with God. Our strength is not in ourselves. We depend on Jesus Christ and must live each day seeking to be “plugged in” to Him.

socket-33137__340

Daily Bread-Basic Necessities

In Jesus’ day, bread was the staff of life. When I was a child our family had bread at every meal. Supper meant biscuits or cornbread.  I’ve never heard Dad say to my mother, “Faye would you bring the cream puffs and caviar?” However, I have often heard him ask her for the bread. Bread was basic stuff, nothing flamboyant about it. “Lord, give us daily bread.” True Christian living does not ignore the basics.

John 6:35

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. “ Jesus called himself the bread of life. Simply put, we need Jesus Christ every single day of our lives. Furthermore, we need to be content with HIM. Jesus’ instruction taught that we should focus on daily basics. Jesus told the Jews:

John 6:51

“I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread that I give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”

Christ is the basic element of life. We must get empty for Christ to be valuable to us. Vance Havner said, “The best preparation for the bread of life is a good hearty appetite.” Jesus Christ should be the basic experience of each day. Daily bread is important in any walk of life. If you are looking for ways to implement this into your congregation read my other blog post on “How to Develop a Sustainable Prayer Program for a church of any size”.

Daily (consistent, regular) Portions

people-2596890_960_720

What a strange diet many people follow in their Christianity! Sunday is the feeding day. A time to spiritually gorge. Monday starts a six-day fast during which nothing remotely spiritual enters the mind. The following Sunday is again the feeding day. Isn’t this living as though Jesus taught, “Give us on Sunday our weekly bread.”

When Israel lived on manna, they had to gather each day for themselves. They could not gather two days’ blessings except before the Sabbath. The same principle can be applied to the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yesterday’s nourishment does not give strength for today or tomorrow. Daily living Christians constantly reaffirm their dependence on God; accept that the bread of life is not an option, and realize that daily portions are absolutely necessary.

Verses that offer spiritual application:

  • Joshua 1:8

    He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

  • Psalms 119:15

    I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

  • Philippians 4:8

    Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I hope that you have found this information beneficial in your walk with God.  I am interested in how you petition Jesus for “daily” bread? Each person does this in a different way. Your approach will likely help others!

 

I have additional information available in this same series from my book titled “Daily Things of Christian Living”. Please visit my website at http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/daily-things-of-christian-living/.

daily

Green Screen Living

Surviving Depression–Look Behind the Green Screen

Depression

Hope and Despair

Mental or emotional depression is compared to many things. Let me add another. Depression is for the mind and emotions like the physical experience of walking through a swamp. My upbringing was in central Louisiana. On occasion, I duck-hunted in a swamp. At times, I’d walk several hundred yards through water mid-thigh, with mud sucking at every step. Wading through a swamp is muddy, messy, slow and exhausting. Similarly, depression is also muddy, messy, a slow trudge. It is also similarly exhausting.

To make matters worse, the swamp of depression seems perpetual. When a hunter is trudging back to higher land, he can see and know that dry ground is just ahead. Such is not the case with the swamp of depression. In every direction, there is the swamp extending as far as the eye can see.

It is a mental and emotional trip through the thigh-deep water with muck sucking at your boots each step.

The swamp goes forever. It seems that life does not exist beyond depression. Every sun-rise will find you in the same swamp. Walking through a swamp of depression is hard. When the swamp is the only thing, you can see it generates unspeakable despair.

The swamp of depression is real. It is exhausting and debilitating. Let me offer expanded perception.

Depression surrounds you with a “green screen”

“Green screen” is the technique of photographing or filming a person or object against a green monochrome backdrop. With the use of technology, a different image then replaces the monochrome backdrop. The person in the photo may not have traveled to the desert or mountain. Photographic or cinematic sleight-of-hand created what you see.

Understand, I’m not suggesting depression is fake. The defining characteristics of:

  • Sadness without reason
  • Lack of motivation
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of focus
  • Less energy than usual
  • No pleasure in things you have always enjoyed.
  • It being a struggle to maintain normal social activities
  • Breathing taking all of your energy

All of these, along with several other symptoms are as real as this morning’s sunrise.

Depression’s Green Screen

But there is a falsehood in depression. It prompts my “green screen” analogy. Our mind can create its version of a “green screen.” Remember, a “green screen” allows an unreal image to become part of the picture being seen.

In depression, when you look ahead – you see the swamp. It extends as far as your eye can see. Look behind you, and it seems you have been in the swamp forever. All past success has little value while in the swamp of depression. On every side is the same – more swamp. The dark, muddy, and forbidding surrounds you. Every single step is an effort. Beyond that, the “green screen” says your current struggle will be there for every tomorrow. The sense that the depression will be perpetual is debilitating.

Does this not describe depression?

Depression’s green screen lie tells you that you are surrounded by a perpetual swamp of despair. The fable is that you have been here forever and that your life has no value. That part of depression is a “green screen.

Look Past the Green Screen

Surviving depression may become a bit easier, if you can know the lie for what it is. Depression, regardless of its source seldom lasts forever. Mine never has. High ground awaits. But, the false “green screen” would have you think different. Know better!

Use your past survival as a source of present encouragement

Many readers will have already walked through this swamp. In your previous journey through depression, didn’t it also seem as though the marsh would never end? You felt hopeless back then. Remember! You felt then, just like you feel now. Most people eventually come out of the depression. Your earlier depression may have lasted six months, a year or five years. You survived. Remember that survival – it will help you make it now.

Really Think about Tomorrow

For a moment limit your feeling and elevate your thinking. By the way, what we “think” and what we “feel”  are not the same thing. Emotions can be illogical. Look at your calendar. Before you walked into the swamp of depression what coming event would have brought you joy? Is a grandchild about to be born? Maybe, college graduation is just ahead? Perhaps, a conference you have always enjoyed awaits. Possibly, some of your “laughing friends” are coming to town. “Laughing friends” is my term for the small group of people with whom we can laugh with abandon. For most of us, such friends are a rare treasure.

I know what you are thinking, “Pastor, the idea of spending time with anybody or going to any event makes me feel exhausted.” Remember, in this exercise you are not feeling. You are “thinking.” When you think about it, there is great value in the time with those “laughing friends.” Somewhere ahead there is the likelihood of better times. There is a reason to slog on. The surrounding green screen says it is not so. Remember, it is a green screen. The green screen lies!

Really Think about the Past

For a second moment, limit your feelings and elevate your thinking. Open the pictures and videos on your phone or get the box of photos from a closet. Look at the pictures. Think about what you are seeing.  Some examples from my world:

  • Pictures of Lane and Chris as boys,
  • The picture of our two grandsons (holy children to me) at three years old having a whispered conversation on the drive leading to our home.
  • The pictures of our wedding
  • A framed copy of my first published book, Daily Things of Christian Living.
  • The video clip of 18-month-old Elsie, for the first time, discovering her shadow and head-butting it.

These help me peek around the green screen of despair. My life has not been so bad. Pictures of experiences shared with “laughing friends” like Stan and Melba, Tim and Joan, Jerry and Phyllis, Perry and Loretta, or Roy and Debbie help remind me. I have not always been walking through this swamp. As you look at your pictures – remember.

God IS – There!

Job had a similar experience. Job was depressed with good cause. He looked for God in front of him and behind him and on each side. (Job 23:8-9) In spite of Job’s search, God was not to be found. Job was seeing “green screens.” What Job felt was Job’s emotional reality. But, what Job saw was not the conclusion of this. Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take . . ..” (Job 23:10). Job’s based this final conclusion on faith, not feelings. While in his dark place, Job did not know where God was. By faith, Job understood that God knew right where he was.

In conclusion, take heart – this describes your situation as well.

Depression is real.

Depression being permanent – unlikely.

Your past life having no value – nonsense.

All of that is a “green screen.” Know the green screen surrounding your depression for what it is.

Daily Things of Christian Living

 

Destroyers

Identify the Destroyers Without–The Science of Shepherding

Destroyers come from without. It is common. People backslide. Unfortunately, in some cases, they are no longer even present at churches. Others backslide into comfortable carnality. Sadly, precious people are devoured. Through history, some of the finest of God’s flock became prey. Especially noteworthy, destruction comes in different forms. Most of these destroyers, a pastor/shepherd will need to repeatedly address as a part of the “Science of Shepherding”. The primary tools to deal with “destroyers”:

  • Strong, consistent, relevant Bible-based teaching and preaching.
  • An environment where the Holy Ghost minister, convict, direct and re-direct.

Feed the Flock with Protective Intent

It takes intentional behavior from the pastor/shepherd for the tools to work. Intentionality, means you are not always providing an exciting “that will preach” type sermon. Sadly, my “that will preach” sermons tend to be dessert rather than main course. While feeding with intent, this includes quite a few meals of spiritual oatmeal. Similarly, the flock needs some “fiber.” Feed with intent!

Further, studying and preaching about enjoyable topics is easy. My list of “enjoyed topics” is a bit narrow. The needs of the flock are broader than my preferences. For this reason, I have a list of 20 topics to preach or teach about two times each year. As a result, my “list of twenty” keeps me ignoring important topics.

Fortunately, relevant teaching and preaching will address the “destroyers.” Defending the flock begins in the pulpit. Therefore, a pastor/shepherd must patiently and repeatedly identify the predators. The world, flesh and devil are out to destroy people of the flock. My last blog post addresses identifying and dealing with those destroyers in the science of Shepherding series: http://carltoncoonsr.com/know-your-wolf-pastor/

Loose the Spirit

Make room for the Holy Ghost to work. When people are being confronted by a predator the spirit can warn and direct. It is the Holy Ghost who becomes the “teacher” about life. Firstly, let the Holy Ghost have a free channel in which to work.

Such moments often come during a praise and worship service, corporate prayer, and at the altar. The Holy Spirit can do more in seconds than my effort can do in years. So let God have access to the flock.

First of all, let’s consider the destroyers that attack from without.

Destroyers Wolf Lurking

Destroyers from Without

Those destroyers “out there” are identifiable. Responding to the predators without is easier than responding to things within. The late Billy Cole said, “Dealing with a demonic spirit is much easier than dealing with a human spirit.” Wolves can be seen as they flit about. In time, a pastor/shepherd identifies the predator.

So in the natural world, no sheep challenges a wolf. Consequently, a sheep who plays game with a wolf won’t survive. Unfortunately, we humans tend to enter into dalliances with our destroyers. People you pastor who interact with the wolf, imagining they can prevail, don’t survive. Some are so foolish as to imagine their ability to overcome what no human before them has overcome. Most of all, know the destroyers from without.

Bad influences

“Evil communication corrupts good manners!” (1 Corinthians 15:33) The word communication here does not refer to language. It instead refers to interaction with others. Good people spending time with others who are a bad influence, generally has a bad outcome. “Bad” influences result in people misbehaving. As a result, people find themselves acting in ways  they would have earlier found unimaginable.

Because one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch, Paul warned the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5) of immoral behavior they were tolerating. And Paul’s concern with their tolerance was the fornication being like yeast in dough. Especially relevant, in the chapter, Paul spoke of the leaven of fornication, malice and wickedness. Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character (AMP 1 Corinthians 15:33)

Unfortunately, negative influence does not just come from individuals. A pervasive sense of unrighteousness surrounds your flock. It flows from academia, politics, sports, entertainment, media, etc. Christians are the frog in the kettle. And the heat is being turned up. Behavior held in disrepute a generation ago is now accepted. It is affecting those you lead. Consequently, you will find defending against individuals who are a bad influence is a challenge. Most often, it is less of a challenge than defending against the surrounding “evil communication.”

Protect the Flock from Bad Influences

  1. You cannot protect people who don’t want to be protected. It’s not in a pastor/shepherd’s job description to micromanage. Jesus respected people’s right to be wrong. Examples:  The rich young ruler and Judas Iscariot. As a pastor, you do the same. Respect people’s right to be wrong. When people make bad choices, they don’t become my enemy. This is important. If you keep on loving people, in time, some realize their error and return to the fold.
  2. Identify bad influences. Warn the people. Preach and teach about influences. Describe the sorts of people who are a bad influence. Prepare the flock to know predators. Idolatrous nations surrounded Israel. Unfortunately, God’s people often took on the identity of their neighbors. The Israelites made those choices. They didn’t make those decisions unwarned. You must sound a warning identifying bad influences.
  3. Emphasize spiritual disciplines. People don’t pray if the pastor/shepherd does not lead them to prayer. People do not pray effectively, if their pastor/shepherd does not equip them to pray. One of my earlier and most oft-read posts addressed, How to Establish a Prayer Program for a Church of any Size.
  4. When someone is under the sway of bad influences, express concern in a personal way. The Bible calls this “exhortation.” Keep it confidential. Don’t share your concern with ten other people, rather, talk to the person directly. You can express your concern, in moments of conversation. When the predator of bad influence is near don’t delay raising your concern. As part of the “exhortation”, always pray with them. Conversational prayer has been effective for me. The prayer should not be generic. Ask the Lord to open that person’s eyes and understanding and give them strength to rise above “evil communication.”
  5. Ask, a person coming under such attack, “How can I help you?”

False doctrine

First of all, false doctrine is a ravenous wolf. As a result of our “no doctrine” world people don’t “know doctrine.” In some churches, a person attending for decades will still not know what the church teaches. And this is particularly true of those who attend Sunday worship, because most evangelistic preaching gives little doctrinal depth.

Most noteworthy, over thirty times the New Testament references false teaching or doctrine. People whose parents/grandparents came in the church are susceptible to false doctrine. There is no such thing as “hand-me-down” knowledge. Knowledge has to be gained personally. This is true, whether we are speaking of the multiplication tables or the new birth.

The Remedy for False Doctrine

  1. Teach correct doctrine. A strong flock is built by teaching. Unfortunately, Bible-teaching has fallen from favor. The result:  Many get a steady diet of preaching. The sermon begins with a Bible text. After the text has been read, it is often never again referred to. Because we can do better, we must do better.
  2. To combat false doctrine, let the word of God be the authority. Topical teaching that uses verses within context helps. Expository teaching and preaching are also effective. In both instances, God’s word rules!
  3. Empower people to study for themselves. Each person you teach must assess what is being taught. It works well to encourage people to study for themselves. My approach is to say, “Don’t accept what I’ve taught without examination. Someone is a false prophet offering false teaching. Perhaps I am such a false prophet.”  Several times I’ve preached, “Am I a False Prophet?”  We do believe false prophets exist.  “What We Believe and Why”.

Hence, a caveat is needed. A pastor/shepherd can do everything possible to teach people. Unfortunately, those who need it the most may not be present to be taught. In such instances you cannot protect them from false doctrines. There are others who do not mentally apply themselves. Such people are like a child sleeping through the math class. Finally, they gain nothing.

Furthermore, is there a remedy for people who are unteachable? I’ve not come up with one. If you have please pass it on.

Worldliness

A final common devourer from without is worldliness. When people become worldly, they “love the world.” (1 John 2:15-17) The world referred to is not planet Earth. We see that the Greek word translated world is kosmos. The kosmos according to Kenneth Wuest is the “ordered system of things.” (Wuest Word Studies in the Greek New Testament are a great help to the majority of us who are not Greek scholars.) The world as Wuest describes it includes your career, financial transactions, education, entertainment, etc. In essence, the world is our society’s operating system. So we are all living in the world. The pastor/shepherd and his flock are part of the kosmos.

Consequently, worldliness comes when people love the kosmos. John described worldliness:

  • The lust (desire) of the flesh.
  • The lust (desire) of the eyes.
  • The pride of life.

These things that are not of the Father, become the things a person cares about. Unfortunately, the topic of worldliness is broad ranging and ever-growing.

  • Ambitions for success are good. Worldliness is when the ambition causes someone to regularly miss church for extra work.
  • Worldliness is a love for the NFL that keeps someone home from church to watch the Super Bowl.
  • Worldliness is the competition for possessions. Richard Foster called it, “the kingdom of thingdom.” We have to keeping pace with the Jones’ and Smiths.
  • Dressing in ways that while not immodest is extravagant and attention-getting is worldliness.
  • An enjoyment of video games to the point that the musician no longer practices to do their best – worldliness.
  • Loving fishing, golf or quilting can become worldliness. How great is the hold any of those thing have.

While worldliness came come in many guises, worldliness is often not a specific behavior, but rather it is the love of the behavior.

The Remedy for Worldliness

So you may have noticed that the remedies tend to be similar. Again, preach and teach about the world. You will have to define the “world” for your people. As a result, you will also have to give them examples of what “loving the world” looks like. If you don’t name the symptoms, people won’t know worldliness when they see it.

People who love the world do not do God’s will with their life. Similarly, the wolf of “worldliness” is always lurking. The world is the system that surrounds us. So everything people deal with is an opportunity to fall in love with the “ordered system of things.”

Pastor/shepherd, the predator of worldliness is one you won’t run off for long. Worldliness is always near. Finally, worldliness always returns with another effort to destroy the Lord’s lambs.

In conclusion, I’m interested to know the efforts that you have used to deal with the destroyers that have come against the flock. Perhaps the struggles you have been through are different from mine. Someone may well be dealing with a situation similar to something you have worked through in the past.

4 For the Minister Set

After You KNOW Your Wolf

A wolf will attack sheep. Predators destroy. A previous chapter talked about “The Sheep Can Smell What the Shepherd Cannot See!” http://carltoncoonsr.com/sheep-can-smell-shepherd-cannot-see/ Predators do not remain hidden. The lion, wolf or bear come from behind a bush or arise from a swell in the landscape. Their location is no longer secret.  It is important for the pastor/shepherd to:

  • Know WHAT you are dealing with.
  • Know WHERE the destroyer is at.

When You Have Seen the Wolf

In the natural, sheep have no defense against a predator. Their only choice is to flee. The problem: sheep are not good runners. This makes sheep relatively easy prey. It is not flattering to we humans that the Lord chose this particular word picture to describe us.

Throughout human history, the answer for defenseless sheep has been a shepherd. A shepherd defends the flock in its entirety. Not only that, the shepherd is the defender of individual sheep (Amos 3:12). A good shepherd tries to save all the sheep under his care.

Shepherds Feel Loss

A good shepherd feels a sense of loss when one of the flock does not survive. Jesus expressed dismay at not being able to keep Judas safe in the flock. A good shepherd never says, “Good riddance,” at any loss. Over 30 thirty years back, I heard Jerry Jones preach, “Please Take It Personal.” He spoke of Paul’s concern for those who made bad choices. He referenced Hymaneus and Demas. Hymaneus was devoured by doctrinal error. Demas lost out to worldliness. These were men who had abandoned Paul. Paul’s sense of personal loss is clear.

Paul did not feel their departure to be, “good riddance.” His prayer was for their recovery. At times I am moved to pray for two “sons in ministry” who have followed Demas’ path. Most days I find myself angry at their choices. Yet, I felt an acute sense of loss and grief at a sad story not yet completely written.

Strategically Defend

A pastor/shepherd is intentionally strategic in defending the flock against a predator. As discussed earlier, it is a mistake to hurry to “do something.” The sheep are restless and smell a predator. But, upon identifying a predator, timely, decisive and appropriate action is required. I chose the underlined words to specifically describe the sort of action needed for strategic defense.

Appropriate action

This is an action that matches a situation. Don’t use a cannon to deal with a mosquito. A pastor/shepherd can address most things with a quiet conversation sitting on a pew. This extends to spiritual predators. In my experience counseling appointments tend to validate a problem. The wolf begins to look bigger than he is. The late J.T. Pugh confirmed my approach as he talked about pastoral ministry. That conversation is found in a CD set that David Elms did with Bro. Pugh. The title is, “A Conversation with J.T. Pugh.” Every preacher should be required to listen to the series. The series is available at the Pentecostal Publishing House.

Timely action

This means the action is right on time. Not early and not late. Moses experienced a miracle as his rod became a serpent. When the Lord told Moses to pick up the serpent, Moses waited till he could grab the serpent by the tail. Moses picked his time! You do the same. At times you must wait until a predator gets positioned right before dealing with it. The “right time” may be during or after a mighty move of God’s spirit. Many times, the predator can be dealt with in almost a casual aside during a conversation over coffee. You won’t kill every predator. Most of them you will scare away. Like a wolf or bear, the destroyers will return.

Decisive action

The shepherd made a decision. There is no vacillating. No uncertainty about what will be done. I’m not describing a knee jerk reaction. Effective leaders seldom take decisive action on the basis of emotion alone. You determine the strategy through prayer, deliberate thought, and counsel.

When military leaders defend a city, their success is not found by, “do something.”  They take appropriate, timely and decisive action. Their action is intended to defend what they have been assigned to defend. Can those who protect the flock for the Lord Jesus be any less intentional?

As You Deal with Predators Find a Coach

This suggestion may not apply to you. If not, ignore it. Our first pastorate was a Home Missions setting in northeastern Louisiana. I’d not been equipped to be an effective pastor. Few people ask: Is there a course on “Effective Pastoral Ministry?”  If such existed, it might be a best-selling training program.

While I did not have experience, God had blessed me with enough gumption to realize when I was in over my head. When faced with a situation “new to me” I’d phone a mentor. Each man influenced me in specific areas of ministry. It never diminishes a person’s standing to seek advice. As I moved along in life, I continued to seek counsel from people more experience than me. Young pastors are wise to do the same.

Mentors and How They Helped

In my case the mentors and their role were:

  • Crawford Coon is my uncle. More important, he is an accomplished speaker and writer. He also had pastored in situations complex enough to have seen many different things. When I dealt with people challenges I’d call Crawford. I’d lay out the situation and share with him what my strategic response was going to be. Crawford would then coach me along to improve the outcome.
  • If my challenge had to do with leading the church through a difficult season, T.F. Tenney was my leadership coach. He was my district superintendent. Again, I’d explain the challenge, offer my plan of action, and get his perspective.
  • Finally, at times the church was out-of-sync. A revival was somewhere but not at the Vidalia Revival Center. My call would be to the late G.A. Mangun. I knew Bro. Mangun’s direction before I even asked. In the stubbornness of my youth, I needed to hear it anyway. The elder’s solution was always, “Get those people praying. Call a fast. Go on a fast yourself.” Things Learned From G.A. Mangun http://carltoncoonsr.com/things-learned-from-g-a-mangun/
Wise Elders Help You Strategize

Notice, there was more than one coach. Each man brought specific value to the table. I include this side journey for a reason. Talking with such men helped me develop an intentional strategy to respond to a predator. Now, I spend some amount of time coaching others dealing with attacking predators. As I write, a young pastor has asked about how to respond to a particular situation. A district leader has sought advice about a divisive matter of concern. Do not be afraid to get help as you develop your strategy. Through the years, meaningful men and women have always made time for my questions. They will do the same for your questions.

 

Elder, Tell Me Your Memories

 

The Sheep Can Smell, What a Shepherd Cannot See

Because they are prey animals, sheep have a well-developed sense of smell. Sheep are short. Further, they graze with their head lowered. Sheep have a limited range of vision. While a sheep is limited in what he can see, he is not anywhere so limited with the sense of smell. The smell of a predator in the vicinity creates a restless flock. The predator may well be out of sight of the shepherd. Yet, the shepherd does not have the acute sense of smell. The shepherd can’t smell what the sheep smell. So, a shepherd can be unaware of the presence of danger to the flock – while members of the flock are aware.

 

When the Sheep are Uneasy a Pastor/Shepherd Should Beware

Be sensitive to your sheep. The late Ralph Reynold’s book title, If the Sheep Could Speak is interesting. (By the way, this book should be required reading for anyone who will lead a church.) The title makes a powerful point. Shepherds are the ones who “speak.” Yet, as most pastors know, there are times when the sheep do speak. The speech can be about a problem. The speech from the flock will at times be patently unfair to the best efforts of the shepherd. Yet, the sheep do speak. Sometimes, I’d prefer they be silent.

The Benefit of Listening

Yet, I need to express appreciation for some occasions when the sheep spoke. A wise pastor/shepherd is not oblivious to uneasy sheep. Our home missions experience was in Vidalia, Louisiana. V.C. Etheridge was one of our men. V.C. had no formal education. He signed legal documents with an “X.” There is a difference between education, understanding, and wisdom. V.C. had no education. He had a world of wisdom. To get this picture, you need to see the contrasts:

  • I was V.C.’s pastor. The pastor of Vidalia Revival Center. I’m the guy in charge. The fellow running things. V.C. was “just a saint.”
  • Me – a young fellow near 30 years old. V.C. was near 70.
  • My name was on the sign in front of the church. V.C. was a significant member of the church, but his name was not high profile.
  • I had a bit of education from Louisiana College and elsewhere. V.C. had no formal education.
  • My signature is a scrawl scribbled so fast as to not be legible. V.C.’s signing a document was painful to watch. His “X” was not a quick “X.”  Even marking his “X” required him to focus.

Now please understand, V.C. was no rabble-rouser. He and his wife Eula were not prone to gossip. The Etheridges were some of the finest supporters in the church. Beyond retirement age, V.C. continued to work so he would have more money to give to God’s work. As a “baby church” we did not have many options for trustee. V.C. was one of those church trustees.  He loved me and Norma without reservation. V.C. was always excited to introduce me as his pastor.

Just a Sheep?

Still, in the analogy of sheep and shepherd. V.C. was one of the sheep. One among a couple of dozen in the flock. I was the shepherd. I’m the “big kahuna,” with V.C. my underling. As is at times communicated by insecure pastor/shepherds – “Me – Pastor, You – Saint.” In such situations, you can almost hear the guttural communication of egotism gone to seed.

On some church business matter, the specifics of which I cannot recall, V.C. came to me in private. He said, “Bro. Coon, I’m not sure I’d do that. At least not yet.” One of the lead sheep in my flock was nervous. V.C. was no “nervous Nellie” who was afraid of every shadow. His instincts, his sense of smell was something to trust. Something didn’t smell right to him.  V.C. wasn’t rebelling. He was not being contrary. V. C.  was alerting me to danger and uncertainty. He could sense something that I could not.

Responding to Nervous Sheep

There are at least two responses available.  A pastor can become defensive at the sheep’s unease and respond, “Don’t question me.” or “Are you trying to tell me what to do?” The classic response is, “V.C., where is your faith.”

Another option existed. I was a novice pastor/shepherd. Even then I had enough gumption to know that the flock was restless. V.C. could smell what the pastor/shepherd was unable to see. I put the decision on hold. A man who was a financial backbone for the church soon relocated his membership. It was good that I had “listened to the sheep.”  Be wise – a good pastor will not overuse the, “Bless God, I’m running this church,” approach. Watch the flock. Be aware of nervous sheep.

It is worthy insight, “When certain sheep speak, you need to listen!” Listening to V.C. Etheridge helped me keep the flock from great stress.

When the Sheep are Sniffing – Move Slow

When there is danger, the inclination is fight or flight. There is much drama in both fight and flight. Good pastor/shepherds do all they can to limit the drama.  The more of your life and ministry that can be spent not having to “fight or flee” the better. Fight and flight create a tumult in the flock. Sheep are healthier where there is less tumult.

Don’t do the wrong thing, just to do some-thing!

Let’s set the scene. The flock is not grazing. As they huddle close to each other the sheep sniff the air suspiciously. Their weak eyes strain as they try to see the source of the danger they can smell. The shepherd senses the nervousness of his flock. In our scenario, the shepherd decides something has to be done! We have to do it now! Quickly, he begins to move the flock along. The shepherd berates the laggards and uses his staff to pull others along. The pastor/shepherd is leading. He is doing something. Since the shepherd does not actually know where the danger is; he leads the flock to the wolf. 

The sheep knew there was a danger. It was communicated by their behavior. The shepherd was not wise. In his haste to resolve the matter, to escape the danger, the pastor/shepherd led his flock into chaos. When the sheep are nervous, it is not wise to act without knowing for sure where the danger is. Some take the approach, “I’m going to do something, even if it is the wrong thing.”  Most of the time, it is the wrong thing.

Wise shepherds don’t panic.

A panicked pastor/shepherd does not inspire confidence in the flock. God has provided tools to respond to any crisis or to any predator. His Word and the Holy Ghost provide you deliberate guidance. Don’t act outside the guidance of His word. So while quaking on the inside, outside the pastor is a rock.

Do you see this? If you don’t know exactly where the predator is, your impulsive action may move the flock into greater danger. Don’t move the flock into harm’s way. Take it slow. Somewhere a wolf waits. The sheep can smell it. it isn’t time to figuratively take a nap while the flock is restless. Hear what is being communicated. There could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. There may be moral turpitude. Personal grievances may not be being addressed. Some key family may be on the verge of divorce. When the sheep are nervous be aware but don’t panic.

Strategies for the “Nervous” Times

There are things a pastor/shepherd can do when he senses the nervous flock.

  1. Keep the flock close together.  Keep them near you. Be at the door as people enter or exit. Be available. Listen. Be close. Hug the old ladies and kiss babies. Use the power of touch and blessing.
  2. Be watchful of people on the outer edges of the church. Do your best to reach out to them.  It is a good time to send cards and make phone calls that say, “I had you on my mind today. I prayed for you.” Don’t talk problem, be their pastor.

Most things a pastor/shepherd can do to keep the flock secure focus on spiritual disciplines. These include:

Lead a season of focused prayer and fasting.

  • Jesus taught that unclean spirits can only be cast out through prayer and fasting. Most issues of carnality are addressed in the same way.
  • Call the church to a prayer chain, or have several nights of prayer. Leading this is not something you can delegate. The pastor/shepherd will have to lead the church in focused prayer.
  • On occasion, I’ve forgotten the normal protocol of Sunday church. Instead, leading the church in an entire service devoted to prayer.

Preach the exaltation of Jesus and nothing else.

  • When there is church stress, the default setting is to preach Jesus. When you don’t know what to do preach and teach on the “exaltation of Christ.”
  • How do you preach the exaltation of Christ? Each message celebrates some unique attribute of Christ. When Jesus is preached, Jesus comes in as the protector and provider. As Jesus is exalted the presence of a predator is less ominous. Jesus is bigger than whatever the battle may be. When you exalt Christ, it is as if the flock settles down to feed on the good things of God.
  • A suggested resource for preaching and teaching of this sort is Charles Rolls books. Specifically the five books on the Names and Titles of Christ.

Take communion together.

  • There is something profoundly spiritual in celebrating the Lord’s supper.
  • It is somehow humbling yet powerful in remembering His body broken and His blood poured out.  This practice has served well in times when the sheep can smell what the pastor/shepherd was unable to see.

I have spent a bit of time on this topic. Here is a recent blog post about the “science to shepherding: http://carltoncoonsr.com/practically-spiritual-science-sheperding/

Now I need to learn from you. Many of you have similar experiences to what I address here. Would you be kind enough to share your story? It is also helpful to share times when we did not handle things in exactly the right way. There are some other occasions, when I’d have done well to listen to some other key sheep. How I wish I’d listened. We learn from each other. We learn from each other’s mistakes.

I’ve shared three strategies for “nervous times.” Perhaps because Norma and I, “don’t do drama” there have not been many of these times. I’m thankful. I’ve not had to seek many solutions to these challenges. Others will have needed more strategies. You may have used different strategies. Teach us. What have you done when “the sheep could smell, what the shepherd could not see?”

The next post will address things to do when a predator is identified….


Questions? A practical and understandable guide to dealing with the real world stuff in ministry:

“Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask” http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/questions-pentecostals-preachers-ask/ $7.99 SALE

 

My 20 Topics to Preach on 2X per Year

This idea is not original to me.  I heard Anthony Mangun speak of his strategy in this regard; later I read of something similar in one of Warren Wiersbe’s books.  This was developed into a chart that I kept in the front of my Bible that I used to record the name of the sermon and the date I preached it.  My list included the following topics I wanted to preach about.  This was helpful because there are certain topics that do naturally flow from so

 

Commitment                                     Outreach

Communion                                      Overcoming the Flesh

Discipleship                                      Praise

Discouragement/Encouragement   Prayer

Doctrine                                               Prophecy

Exalting Jesus                                   Revival

Failure                                                Stewardship

Faith                                                   Suffering

Forgiveness                                       Vision

Holiness                                              Worldliness

 

There are also special days that have the potential for specific preparation.  Such events: Easter, Christmas, Pentecost Sunday, Baby Dedications, Mother=s Day and Father=s Day

 

 

You can use something similar in preparing evangelistic sermons.  (Such a list is available in Masterful Preaching by the author; Truth Publications, Inc.) This sort of planning gives structure to the process of study.

Guest Post: Daniel Koren – Considering Women in Ministry

This guest post requires a “Challenging Thoughts Ahead” warning.  Daniel Koren is a neighboring pastor. He is

also my friend. We don’t always agree. I do agree with him that we need a better understanding and application of the concept of women involved in ministry.  Having served as the General Director of North American Missions for a major denomination my perspective on the “needs in the field” is unique.

I’ve observed that many North American locales need a missionary of whatever gender.  I’ve gone so far as to say that any extra-terrestial help would be welcomed.  The impact of women planting churches, doing missionary work and developing people is clear.

  • The late, Agnes Rich planted a strong church in central Nebraska.
  • Nona Freeman, partnered with her capable husband to impact Africa.
  • Janet Trout personally planted multiple churches in Delaware. She joined with her husband to plant others.

I’m pragmatic above all else. By contrast, Daniel’s material will wax theological. I’m driven by the necessity of the thing. Souls are at stake. They must be reached by all means possible. Melissa Fross, a French speaking Missionary to Quebec City has import, significance and value. Equally as much as my English speaking son, Lane does planting a church in Atlanta.

Whatever it takes – let’s get the job done.  So some of my friend’s observations are his – not mine. However, we need all hands available to get this thing done.

Carlton L. Coon Sr.


Considering Women in Ministry

It sounded weird to say “Woman Minister” but then I discovered…

As a pastor in rural Missouri, I was teaching a series years ago that brought me to a passage of scripture that seemed in conflict with others. It became a real crisis for me in prayer and study. I had to have answers. I contacted my presbyter and asked him what he thought. My dilemma was the Scriptures that said women could not teach or preach in the church.

Really, I didn’t have so much of a problem with that, but with a verse that said they should. My emergency phone call that day did help relieve my fears to a great extent, but still I had questions. And then I started seeing reports….

“We licensed more women ministers this year.” Really? Now, remember, I was sure women were not to teach or be in church authority. So,… now my organization was giving them licenses? Licenses to do what? I had to have answers.

Of course, I was never hateful toward sisters of the faith in speaking roles. In fact, I watched some of the videos from ladies’ conferences and God spoke to me through the preaching. But that was women preaching to women, except for all us men sitting at home watching the DVDs.

Could God use women? Would God speak through women? The old theory was that He would only use a woman when a man wouldn’t respond. What should we think of the latest reports of more women being licensed? Is this bad news? Does it mean more and more men are not responding to the call, so we have to summon the reserve forces?

Well, briefly, No!

Today, I can absolutely and definitively say “YES! God approves of women ministers.” I know He does. You could never argue me out of it. His daughters will prophesy!

My opinion did not change because of a friend or family member. It did not change because some person of influence said women could be in ministry. It changed because of the Spirit of God and His powerful Word.

I began an investigative quest to get to the root of the issues regarding women in ministry. Was this feminism in disguise? I can tell you that no, it isn’t even connected!

Then, after years of research through piles and piles of books (it was a little obsessive, truly), I realized one day that I could not keep my findings to myself. I had to let others know!

Therefore, I went to the equally exhaustive labor of building a book. We also made a video series which includes more detailed insights which will help a person’s understanding.

As a pastor, I wanted to be able to give the right answer to women who expressed an interest in ministry. Could they only serve the children? Could they only sing but not preach? Could they only speak but not lead? I had to know.

I know you have many of the same questions I had. I want to email you a free resource. It is a report on one passage from Paul that many use to say is proof that women cannot be ministers. Take a second look and you will be amazed at how this is really Paul defending women in ministry! You have to read it for yourself.

Regards,

Daniel Koren

P.S. What are you reading this for? Grab my free report already. If you don’t like it, well, you’ve lost nothing. It was free to begin with. If you do like it, well, you might also benefit from some more insights on the topic that I will send along as well.


To purchase Daniel Koren’s material use the links below to access his website.

No Favoritism–The Science of Shepherding

There are people a pastor/shepherd has a lot in common with. Other people are almost a mystery. The basis of common interest of enjoying someone’s company includes:

  • Personality
  • Temperament
  • Mindset
  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Education
  • Value-system
  • Approach to life

Some People Never Realize How Wonderful Their Pastor/Shepherd Is 

The previous observation is “tongue in cheek.” Admit it, some people don’t like you. Oh well, I’ll admit it for all os us – there are people I don’t particularly like. Welcome to pastor/shepherding. We don’t get to pick our flock. The Chief Shepherd does the assigning. He may send certain challenging people my way to help me be a better Christian. An elder called such people our “grace builders.”

I’ve effectively pastored people who did not particularly like me.

Being respected and trusted is more important than being liked.

If you pastor even a few dozen people and you will likely pastor people

who you love but do not like.

The Youtube Vido clip below may well describe how a pastor feels at times.

Understand the Human Dynamics

Is a pastor/shepherd likely to have people he spends more time with?  Sure! Jesus did. Does a pastor have people who seem to be nearer to him? Sure, Jesus did.  John even described himself as, “the disciple who Jesus loved.” How do such relationships occur?

By the bond of investment!

Those who have worked with livestock know certain animals tend to become better known. The pet may be a calf rejected by its mother. Bottle feeding a calf will create something of a connection. In a similar way, helping people through the early stages of their Christian development may create a bond. Standing alongside a person as they overcome addiction or a troubled past becomes a special glue.

Due to Common Interests

Pastor/shepherds will lead some people to whom they relate well. These are people with whom you are a bit more comfortable. It may be like my experience with Curtis Thornton. He was our first convert in Vidalia, Louisiana. Curtis and I were the same age. We both enjoyed sports. He was easy for me to be around. We had common interests. I performed he and Sherlene’s wedding ceremony. Taught his mom and some siblings a Home Bible Study. Dedicated their son Benton to the Lord. We had and even today have several common interests.

Dedication to a Shared Cause

Not only were there common interests, there was a shared cause. Leaving an old life of drugs, Curtis quickly bought into everything at the Vidalia Revival Center! He prayed, worshiped with exuberance, taught Home Bible Studies, influenced others, helped with fireworks stands and fund-raising barbecues. We worked together. Because we had much in common and a shared cause.

But . . . Favoritism Is Not Allowed

A teacher’s pet who does not have to do the homework is everybody’s enemy. Under no circumstances can a pastor/shepherd show favoritism. Having people with whom you have much in common is fine.  What is wrong is “favoritism.” Favoritism as described below causes people to lose confidence in a leader. On occasion, I’ve seen favoritism.

Don’t Play Favorites With Your Family Members

You love your family. To allow your love for family to cause you to abandon principles is wrong. Such behavior will impair your ability to lead.

Let me give an example.  The pastor requires that any person on the platform team be in pre-service prayer. The pastor’s son plays the drums. The young man’s habit has become to arrive at church minutes before church starts. His reason. He has been working late. His father, the pastor gives the son a pass. Not having the same requirement of the pastor’s son is a grave mistake. The pastor is doing for his son what he would not do for another. Such behavior is favoritism. Favoritism erodes trust. The pastor may justify the behavior by saying, “Well, I know my son. I trust him. I’m sure he prayed earlier.” Or possibly the pastor fears that if the son is not involved in music it will lessen the son’s commitment. Neither justification or the will override reality. Reality is the pastor is treating his son in a favored way. Don’t do it.

Where family favoritism happens

Some prime and unfortunately too common examples of family favoritism.

  • Grandchildren who do not adhere to the lifestyle disciplines of the church continue to sing on the praise team.
  • High profile platform opportunities like singing the solo almost always involve the pastor’s family.
  • A pastor’s adult son or daughter are as unstable as water. Yet after a trip to the altar, the pastor’s unstable progeny are quickly designated as the leader of a ministry. No other returning backslider would ever be elevated in such a way.
  • The pastor’s family get a pass on the grunt work like church cleaning, lawn care, working in the nursery or church work days.

These things seem minor. To the “Great Shepherd” and his flock, they aren’t. Ezekiel indicted failed shepherds. His indictment was primarily about shepherds being motivated by self-interest. Every person in the church has a similar feeling about their children and grand-children. If you give your offspring special treatment – in any way, the flock expects you to treat their offspring in the same way. In matters of principle and in leading a church to healthy growth – good pastor/shepherds do not favor family members.

In matters of principle and in leading a church to healthy growth – good pastor/shepherds do not favor family members.

Playing Favorites With People

I’m not particularly oriented toward “hanging out with people.” I mentioned earlier that Curtis and I played golf. Actually, we worked on church projects far more than we golfed. In a similar way, Jesus had a working group. There were the twelve disciples. Jesus also spent much time with an even smaller group. Jesus strategy seemed to work well. Peter, James and John became cornerstones of the New Testament church.

A good question to ask regarding Jesus behavior with His inner circle is, “What is the motive?” The significance of the work drove Jesus. He spent strategic time with people who were keys to the future. Jesus was not playing favorites. He was accomplishing what He came to do!

Sum it up this way. As a pastor/shepherd, there will be people you enjoy. A few people may make you almost go running for cover. For such to not be the case would defy human nature. Be wise! Even as you enjoy the company of particular people don’t play favorites.

 Four Suggestions for Not Playing Favorites

#1 – Never position an “inner circle” as “us against them.”

I’ve got an acquaintance who pastors this way. He pastors by pedigree. People of the right culture or background and those who have been supportive (almost to the point of subservience) are permitted in the small Pastor’s Golden Circle. In this particular situation, the group becomes ears collecting information for the pastor about any negative thing being said. Such behavior smacks of being a cult of personality. A “us” versus “them” mentality creates perpetual distrust within the flock. People are constantly looking over their shoulder.

#2 Don’t gossip

Sharing counseling information or any other private information with a “favorite” will eventually be a disaster. Telling a favorite about who tithes and who does not is not acceptable. Sharing the amount of money given creates a platform for jealousy or covetousness.

Keep confidences! Always!

I’ll take to my grave many unfortunate failings of precious people.

#3 Keep Your Own Confidence about Time Spent with various people

The Bible teaches, “Forsake the appearance of evil.” Wisdom decrees, “Forsake the appearance of spending a lot of time with a few select people.” Be careful to not flaunt or bring into conversation the time you spend with people you enjoy.A good approach is to spend time with favorites like I spent time with Curtis. Not many were jealous of Curtis being with me as we set up a fireworks stand on a hot June afternoon.

#4 Carry Burdens to the Lord and Not to an Inner Circle

Your favorites don’t need to hear about negative things that happen in the church. Even things directed toward you. At times people will dislike decisions you make. They may react. Those sparks of minor frustration can turn into a forest fire. To pour gas on a spark just tell someone in the “inner circle” about the difficulty. The “favorite” may well rise to your defense in ways that make matters worse.

Your goal is to be reconciled and at peace with any person who you currently have a problem with. Reconciliation becomes more difficult when other people get involved. If the “fire” spreads other people may decide to choose a side in what has now become a “church fight.”

If you deal with the difficulty alone, you may well accomplish complete reconciliation. However, if you share the problem with someone in your inner circle that person will tend to always harbor a grudge. The grudge remains, even though you and that person have long since reconciled. Your behavior will have added restlessness to the flock.

Pastor/Shepherds Who Show No Favoritism Lead Healthier Churches

Some of the concepts I’m addressing here are in my book Healthy Church – Start Here!  Those who have read it give a good review to Healthy Church – Start Here!  Each of 18 reasons church plants do not survive or churches do not grow are addressed in the book.  You can lead a healthy growing church.

I also recommend the late Ralph Reynolds book If the Sheep Could Speak! It is available at the Pentecostal Publishing House website.

Practically Spiritual – The Science of Sheperding

Effective Pastor/shepherds aim for a spiritual outcome. This requires you to be practically spiritual. To do practical things that aim people toward the spiritual. God chooses His words well.

The Almighty did not accidentally use the word “shepherd” to describe pastoral care. The work of a shepherd, even as he helps people toward a positive spiritual life is above all practical. It is earthy.

Pastor/shepherding is part of the conversation regarding practical theology. This is a practical work. There is no “ivory tower” in pastoral ministry.

Pastor/Shepherding is a Different Sort of Work

It is not enough for a pastor to be someone’s “buddy.” The objectives of the work are life change, spiritual maturity, and eternal life. In heaven, the size of a pastor’s crowd at church won’t determine success. Hearing the master say, “well done,” to those the pastor led will be all that counts.

This need for a spiritual outcome challenges us. We tend to segregate the spiritual from the practical. It can’t be done. A person’s physical behavior affects their spiritual life. Daily decisions determine the spiritual outcome. (My first book Daily Things of Christian Living addresses 7 things the New Testament says to do “on a daily basis. A few copies of the first edition remain available.) A pastor/shepherd must lead people along a practical observable path. Consistency and sustainability are necessary parts of the process. If the path is followed, the spiritual growth will come. A good pastor/shepherd is not trying to “win friends.” He determines the practical steps that lead a person to a mature spiritual life.
 
One ineffective approach to pastor/shepherding was a preacher (I’d not call him a pastor. He exhibited no pastoral behavior.) who presented himself among his people as living on some “other-worldly” plain. The fellow would walk about muttering deep words. An occasional “Ooooo” expressed something no parishioner could understand. He had nothing pragmatic to offer. You could not be comfortable in his presence. It was a disaster. Of course, from that preacher’s perspective, the problem was the unspiritual flock. It wasn’t! The problem was a preacher who did not understand the practical realities of the work. A pastor/shepherd leads people to prayer, maturity in God’s word and good decisions.

 

Be practically spiritual

However, you go about it practical and spiritual will coexist in your ministry. The practical and spiritual are part of the same human existence. How does a pastor/shepherd bring people to spiritual development?

  1. Have a plan and a vision regarding what you want people to become. Examine the Bible on everything Jesus said about those who would be his disciples. There are three specific characteristics Jesus gave. These are all in Saint John.  I’ll let you find those. If those are known the pastor/shepherd then consistently teaches and trains people toward having the traits Jesus described.
  2. Validate the Bible as the “green pasture.” In normal times, sheep don’t come to a trough, they are led to a pasture. If all the people at SpringfieldCalvary.church gain from the Bible is what I teach or preach they are spiritually malnourished. It is my responsibility to lead them to “green pastures.” Encouraging Bible Reading Enriches Any Day is an option. A better approach is to ask people to read a complete paragraph of the Bible each day and examine that paragraph thoroughly.  My approach might be called Bible Research Enriches Any Decade. I’d prefer the flock, read a little and retain a lot than to read a lot and retain a little.
  3. Instill personal devotion and quiet time as an expected norm.  Personal devotion does not come naturally. At Calvary, we have worked a bit on a course of study for converts to train convert on personal devotion before addressing anything else. The working title for our project is “Good Ground.”
  4. A consistent sustainable corporate prayer program. The pastor/shepherd must establish a local church prayer program. A post from a time back offered some insight on “Establishing a Sustainable Prayer Program for a Church of any Size.”
  5. Lead people to practical service that uses their motivational gifts in a meaningful way. If the church is a body, then every member should be participating. No spectators! The goal sounds good.  Accomplishing the goal is not easy. It takes sustained repeated effort. I’ll write about having perpetual Fitly Framed classes, a church personnel director and volunteer banquets in the future.  Fitly Framed is my seven lesson series that helps find a person’s Romans 10 motivational gift. When things are going right, that gift is then put to work. It is available as an inexpensive ebook or on a CD. In either case, make as many copies as you want.

These are the sorts of practical things that work to develop people to mature spirituality.

Contrasting Bad Behavior

In most cases the contrast between the “grind it out” practical work mentioned above and ineffective pastor/shepherding is the result of one of two things:

  • An honest misunderstanding of what a pastor/shepherd does.
  • The self-interest of a pastor/shepherd.

Either is dangerous and unproductive. Either way a person tries to arrive at a hoped for outcome while following the wrong practical steps. In some cases, such decisions may make life easier for the pastor/shepherd, but such will not grow the Chief Shepherd’s flock. Some examples of “God work” done without a solid theological premise:

A desire to control.

John said, “Diotrophes loveth to have the pre-eminence . . ..” Diotrophes was likely fearful. Someone else’s anointing or calling might make his own seem less important. Diotrophes chose to close the door to the Apostle John’s influence. The word “preeminence” means “to be fond of being first.”  Diotrephes was not just concerned about worldly influence on those he led. Diotrophes wanted no Apostolic influence if he could not control it. “It was not smoke if it did not come from Diotrophes stack.” Sound familiar? Pastor/shepherds who take this fear-based approach, not only control they also limit. Your flock will become weak and inbred.

 

What’s good for me is good for God.

This is a modern mantra. Too many want an easy job. God hasn’t called pastor/shepherds to ease. He has called you to earthy labor among His sheep. “What’s good for me is what’s good for God,” results in all the tithe funds flowing into a church going to a pastor/shepherd’s personal coffers. This happens even as the church cannot afford a part-time secretary to answer the phone.

At first glance, “What’s good for me is good for good,” seems to be a “Win-win” concept. Actually, pastor/shepherding does not guarantee any earthly wins! God never promised that serving Him would result in success or a full-time pastorate. “What’s good for me is good for God,” is actually a prosperity doctrine. “What’s good for me is good for God,” does not survive a Bible smell test. Don’t believe me? Read the last portion of Hebrews 11. People of faith do not always experience a positive outcome on this earth. A better mindset for those who are pastor/shepherds is John the Baptist. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” In ministry decisions what is best for Christ’s kingdom – even beyond our local church should be the guiding principle!  It also guides us to do the necessary practical work that grows the flock.

Where should we find our practical behavior regarding the sheep?

  • The behavior of the Lord Jesus Christ gives much to consider. He is the Great Shepherd. Ultimately, He will grade my effectiveness as a pastor/shepherd.
  • David’s comments about shepherds, shepherding and sheep. We will explore some of these as we look at “The Benefits Package for the Flock.”
  • Old Testament prophets often spoke to how a shepherd should act. Much of this is in indictments against Israel’s leadership. Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah have much to say about the negative behavior of leaders. Each uses the word “shepherd” in their indictments. Unfortunately, the same behavior can exist today. I doubt the Lord is any more pleased with it now than He was then.

A pastor who fails in his developing people should recognize that the failure can be the result of an erroneous understanding of what a pastor is to do. The work is practical as we guide people into the spiritual. Where there is no practical roadmap spiritual maturity seldom happens.  If this is your situation set out to acquire the wisdom and skills needed to correctly pastor/shepherd.

Think About Your Why!

If we cannot find the basis for our pastor/shepherd behavior in “the Book” we should likely examine the book for some other approach. We can retrain ourselves to be more effective.

As I worked through this the “The Why Factor” was much on my mind. To a degree, it was on my mind because I’m doing an FB Live Webinar on “Why, What and How” on April 25. It is at 7 PM CST at Carlton Coon Sr. on Facebook.  It is also always with me, because as a person hoping to lead and develop people, “Why” is never far from my mind. “Why” is important. “Why” is the motive for behavior.

As a pastor, can you explain “why” you did or did not do a particular thing? Using the Bible, can your “why” be accurately validated? Can you answer “why” without there being a personal benefit to the decision made or action taken? Remember, in all things of Jesus’ work:  What’s good for me is not always what is good for God.

 

Thinking Theologically – The Science of Shepherding

 Thinking Theologically about Pastor/shepherds

I’ve been reading some of what others have written about pastoring. I’ve also seen quite a few different flocks. Some seem to approach pastor/shepherding without giving attention to the Bible.  In such an approach, the filter of pastor/shepherd behavior becomes something other than the Bible. That is not acceptable. None of us should attempt to defend the indefensible.

Indefensible Behaviors

Let me give two examples of common but indefensible behavior by a pastor/shepherd.

  • Example #1:  a pastor/shepherd has a difficulty with someone. The difficulty is then addressed from the pulpit or in conversation with other people. Jesus taught, that this is not proper Biblical procedure. To have a problem with someone and not go to that one person is indefensible!
  • Example #2:  in counsel, a pastor/shepherd learns of a particular couple’s marital difficulties. Later that day the pastor/shepherd tells someone, “Join me in praying for Tom and Joan. I’m not sure they are going to make it.” Such innuendo is gossiping. Gossip is indefensible!

Dozens of equally indefensible happenings could have been mentioned. It is unfortunate that the Chief Shepherd’s flock has to tolerate such. As a pastor/shepherd, I should know better. I can do better! No similar behavior toward the flock or toward individual sheep can be found in the Bible.

The Bible needs to be our guide as to how we behave. Pastor/shepherd is a call of God. It is wiser to approach the behavior from a “God perspective” A better theology of pastor/shepherding is needed.

We use terms drawn from His Bible. Yet, the approach taken is often inconsistent with what His Bible has to say on the topic of pastoral ministry.

BAD pastoral theology – in dealing with the sheep!

How have we got to the place of accepting “bad behavior” as acceptable?

Let me paint with a broad brush. You can expand the concepts of bad theology to fit your knowledge and observations. Examples of bad pastoral theology are seen where there is: 

  • Lording rather than leading and serving! Pastor/shepherds are not “lords over God’s heritage.” One modern commentator/translator warned leaders, “Don’t be a little tin god.” “Tin god” leaders have image as the primary measure. Substance is surrendered to style! A “tin god” pastor/shepherd is above the people. My elders suggested I drive a car that fit the level of the average person within our congregation. This was to be the case even if something better could be afforded. The late G.A. Mangun was bishop to a church of 3,000. At the time of his death, he still drove a mid-range Ford. He served and led. Bro. Mangun did not “lord.” 
  • Divas who won’t dirty their hands. The median size church of any sort is around 80. Such churches involve manual labor. Pastor/shepherds in those churches (and all I pastored up to 300+) meant I was there for workdays. I’ve no skill, but my organizing ability and encouragement made a difference. Pastor/shepherds get their hands dirty.
  • No sense of accountability for what matters to the chief shepherd. A fellow once told me, “I have run off four families. If I can run off three more I’ll have been a success.” Unfortunately, he seemed to have no specific strategy to replace those families. It was appalling. People may have needed to leave. I was simply disgusted that the fellow would brag about it. Some necessary life experiences a wise man keeps to himself. Or perhaps he discusses them with his own pastor. Such heartbreaking happenings are not for common conversation. The parable of the “ninety and nine” in Luke 15 shows a shepherd counting his flock. A count provides accountability.
  • Having the sheep depend on the shepherd for too many things. Every sheep cannot always be beside the shepherd. A pastor/shepherd teaches people to read the Bible in a way to gain benefit. Equip the flock to pray. Prepare people to make good decisions. A Messianic complex result in a pastor/shepherd counseling over the inane. Let your people learn to eat. A sheep feeding itself is natural!

Bad Pastoral Theology Within the Pastor/Shepherd

A poor understanding of “what” shepherds do results in poor pastoral care. A poor understanding of “how” shepherds behave results in poor pastoral care. Not understanding of “why” a shepherd acts as he does results in bad pastoral care.  What, how and why are three keywords that affect all life outcomes.  If a person cannot give a good Bible reason as to “why” they act in a certain way, there “what they do” and “how they do it” will usually be inconsequential.

  • Repeating an ineffective model. Following someone else’s behavior works if what that pastor did resulted in a healthy flock. (Keep in mind a healthy flock always has lambs! Without that caveat, some might define a healthy flock to be a group of people easy to pastor. All flocks have times of difficulty. Some sheep are easier to lead than others. The job being easy does not mean a person is doing a good job.) On the other hand, doing what someone else did that is ineffective is not smart. Within yourself examine your mentor/model’s effectiveness or lack thereof. If necessary, bring other mentors into your life. Learn from their behavior.
  • Seeking to be a “rancher,” when God only calls shepherds. I’m not comfortable with, “The Lord is my rancher . . ..” I still want the Lord to be my shepherd. In modern agriculture, the rancher is generally disconnected from the livestock. The rancher’s office has more significance than the flock or field. The shepherd’s priority is the flock.
  • It’s the pastor’s “tithe,” is bad theology. It isn’t the pastor’s tithe! The tithe is the Lord’s (Leviticus 27:30). The pastor/shepherd having oversight of the tithe fits Bible-based theology. In normal cases, (and there are exceptions) a shepherd/pastor personally using the tithe of 30 or 35 families is a poor strategy. A pastor/shepherd should find a level of income that fits the church body. Use the rest to bring in evangelists, trainers, and to hire staff. Any church can gain from a secretary, outreach workers, etc. funded by the tithe. Virtual Assistants who help me with some necessary work of Calvary are paid from the Lord’s tithe. (In my case, bi-vocational work is also helping pay our personal bills.) Investing some of the tithes into the efforts of others will help grow the Lord’s flock!
  • Bible teaching is not an emphasis. Scholar Kenneth Wuest connects pastor to teacher in the Ephesians list of ministries. Wuest says pastor cannot be separated from teacher. A pastor is always a teacher. This concept is important and overlooked. You cannot grow people with a steady diet of inspiration. They need instruction.  Borrowing from the athletic world. Good pep rallies don’t make a winning team. Practice, coaching, and training make for a winning team. If you want people to pray – don’t “pep rally” them to prayer; teach them to pray! If you want people to be evangelistic – don’t “pep rally” them to outreach; teach them to evangelize.

There are other poor approaches to pastoral care. Any one of those will limit the growth of the Lord’s flock. All are tragic. There are positive models available. Generally, these effective models are seen in a healthy church growing through conversions and disciple-making. Much good information in the Bible directs us about being the sort of pastor God wants.

There are plenty of bad examples out there. A time back, my blog, The Four Worst Things I’ve Seen in Church produced a significant response.  Read the blog and the comments to learn of tragic things that happened among God’s people. 

Pastor/Shepherd a Better Way

In many instances, a better way is to do the opposite of a “bad” thing. I described some non-Biblical theology about pastor/shepherding is above. We can do better for the Chief Shepherd! We must do better. The flock is what matters. Upcoming blogs on The Science of Shepherding will include several topics. Feel free to suggest other topics you would like addressed. I’d also welcome some guest blogs about the work of pastor/shepherd. This topic is thought-provoking and challenging.

Having better pastor/shepherds will result in better flocks. Having better pastor/shepherds will result in more people going to heaven. We need to do this! Please take the time to forward a link to a friend who may enjoy the discussion. I would particularly like to influence the fellow arriving at his first pastorate. He or she may be planting a church or assuming a pastorate. 

In your comments would you consider posting something you learned about pastoral care?  Particularly share something you wish you had known earlier, and why.

New Book – Details Matter

My new book Details Matter on effectively administering a church for growth and progress is available now. Details Matter is receiving rave reviews on the UPCI Church Planters Facebook page and elsewhere. The book is only $12.99. Get it here. An ebook version is available at the Pentecostal Publishing House website.

UPCOMING WEBINAR

“The What, How and Why of Disciple-making”

The Science of Shepherding – It’s ALL About the Sheep

To be a pastor should be simple. It isn’t! The Bible word translated pastor is often translated shepherd in other ancient literature. Several upcoming blog posts will use my concocted term pastor/shepherd. The term will put in our face what pastoral life is about.

“Hey Preacher” is Not the Same as, “Hey Pastor”

A preacher may be different things. Someone filling a pulpit while the pastor is away is a preacher. The measure of the person’s success will be how he or she did in the pulpit. People may also notice to what degree the preacher was friendly.

Defining a preacher can happen using any number of methods. The preacher’s preaching can illuminate, entertain, challenge, instruct and more. Those of us who preach are being assessed by our audience on how we handle God’s word. A preacher can preach a conference or speak at a marriage retreat. Someone might lead a Plowing Before the Planter campaign for a church planter. 

All such efforts have value. They are important. Potential measures of these efforts include audience appreciation of the speaker. Media sales; the number of views on YouTube; or marriages changed could also measure. People use a myriad of measures, subjective and objective to evaluate a preacher. All such is fine – FOR A PREACHER!

 

The Pastor/Shepherd Has a Single Scorecard –It is sheep

  • Is the flock healthy?
  • Is the flock growing? Can we imagine that a healthy flock is a growing flock?
  • Are diseases that affect sheep being watched for and treated?
  • How many little things are bedeviling the sheep? Flies and insects are maddening to livestock. The small annoyances mean drops in productivity. 
  • Is the flock eating well and getting proper rest?
  • Are predators being fought off? 

For those who pastor, the flock is the only measure that matters.

  • A fellow can be a grand businessman and manage church finances well BUT what about the sheep?
  • A man can be an exceptional orator and keep an audience interested BUT what about the sheep?
  • Are there any lambs (new converts) in the flock? Is a flock only consisting of “mature” ewes and rams a good thing?
  • A person can have an engaging personality BUT what about the sheep?
  • The building is nice. What about the sheep?
  • I’m impressed with the emergency procedure manual. What about the flock of God?
  • I love the new location. How is the flock doing with the move?
  • The church bylaws seem to protect church assets (and at times even over-protect the pastor). Is God’s flock healthy?

The pastor/shepherd has an obsession with sheep. Sheep are the only measure that matters.

Pastor/Shepherding is NOT Easy Work

In many instances, Pastor/Shepherds are overworked and underpaid. The work should be easy and uncomplicated. It isn’t! Pastor/Shepherding has many moving parts. Many things can go wrong. In spite of all best efforts, many things do go wrong.

  1. Sheep are docile but can endanger themselves. The herd instinct works but each sheep is a risk to wander. From the oldest to the youngest the risk never ends.
  2. Each member of the flock is different. These differences mean different ways of handling people. No, you cannot deal with everybody the same way.  Jesus didn’t! Read and compare how Jesus dealt with Peter contrasted to how He dealt with John. How a pastor/shepherd deals with people is influenced by:
    • Personality and temperament
    • Motivational gifts
    • Education
    • Christian maturity
    • Family background
    • Culture
    • Etc.
  3. Wandering sheep pursue their own interest. With its head up a sheep can see at best fifteen yards. When grazing, a sheep is intent on nothing but the grass. A pastor/shepherd better look out when people get their “head down.”  It means they are not looking at the big picture. Their vision is limited to the “next clump of grass.” People lose sight of what matters. A stable, sane saint becomes obsessed with an inappropriate relationship. Their head is down and they are not looking at the big picture. The “next clump of grass” can be pursuing wealth, an obsession with sport, or a hobby. It can also be a hypochondriac locked in on their symptoms. It all becomes a dangerous distraction leading that person further from the flock. Whatever the “next clump of grass,” a pursuit of the immediate causes a loss of perspective.

 

The Challenges Beyond the Sheep

  1. Diligence and alertness are always needed. The late James Kilgore grew and pastored a thriving church in Houston. He observed, “Pastoring is like riding a horse. You can never sit easily in the saddle. When you get too relaxed the tamest horse will surprise you and begin to buck. In pastoring you can never totally relax.” The elder was suggesting constant vigilance. Be aware!
  2. Predators intrude! David fought a lion and bear in defense of Jesse’s sheep. The world, the flesh, and the devil are never far from your flock. All three have one goal. To destroy!
  3. Sheep don’t take a month off from needing to eat. Each day is another day for the pastor/shepherd to feed the flock.
  4. Time! You lead a flock, but individuals within the flock need individual attention. Individual attention takes time.

The Biblical work of pastor/shepherd includes terribly broken sheep.

Jesus is the good shepherd. He is an example of what pastor/shepherd work can be. Even as he worked with a core of disciples. Many of them unnamed. Jesus was also helping troubled people reorder their lives. With Jesus’ involvement in their life, people’s priorities and values changed.

Restoration of values and relationships occurred as the good shepherd did His work. Examples of broke sheep are abundant. Mary Magdalene, the demoniac of Gadara, and the woman at the Samaritan well come to mind.

  • Each had chaos within.
  • Each had chaos in their relationships.

The good shepherd intervened! He did not limit His work with healthy, happy, “got it together” people. Jesus shepherded people’s lives to a better place. Pastor/shepherds do the same. They guide people to a better place. A pastor/shepherd invests time and energy into people who are a bit of a problem. Yes, the work has many moving parts. A lot of the meaningful work happens away from a stage. It is far behind the scenes.

Upcoming topics in The Science of Shepherding Series:

  • A Shepherd’s Distractions
  • Spiritually Practical or Practically Spiritual
  • A Pastor/Shepherd’s Greatest Problem
  • Understand the Church to Understand Pastor/Shepherding
  • Pastor/Shepherd – What is the condition of the flock?
  • Sheep Identify with their Shepherd
  • Quarantine – Church Discipline
  • Do you Know the Three Reasons Healthy Sheep Become Restless!
  • A Safe Place!
  • The Rod of the Pastor/Shepherd – Being Bruised is Better than Being Dead!
  • The Staff of the Pastor/Shepherd
  • Pastor/Shepherds Who Cry, Wolf
  • The Heart and Mind of the Great Shepherd or that of a Hireling?
  • The Benefits Package – If the Sheep Could Choose!
  • The Pastor/Shepherd’s 82 Hour Work Week!
  • Pastor/Shepherds on Watchtowers
  • Pastor/Shepherds as Watchmen!

UPCOMING WEBINAR

“The What, How and Why of Convert Care”

Disciple-making and Church Terrorists – This is “MY” Church

In the process of discipleship, territorialism can result in church terrorism. King Herod was not concerned when another Jewish baby was born. Herod was bothered, by the Magi’s question, “Where is he that is born king of the Jews?” Herod fretted a lot! This new addition reportedly being born in Judea was suddenly a direct threat to Herod.

Fear is a powerful motivator. Herod instructed the destruction of all the boys born in the kingdom. Since Herod could not be sure who was a threat. He decided to act as though everybody was a threat. Such responses still happen.

Jihadists at Church

  • A church attracting newcomers had a participant act as a “church terrorist.” When a newcomer would sit in the pew her family generally sat in she would say, “That is our pew. You will have to sit somewhere else.” Church terrorism!
  • Another interesting experience was the person who decided some newcomers dressed too nice and had done too well in life. Using a device to change their voice, the person phoned newcomers to say, “You don’t fit at our church. Your clothes are too nice. You are too uppity. We don’t want you here.” Church terrorism! 

Sadly tragic. A funny story to tell a few decades out. At the moment, it was behavior similar to that practiced by Islamic jihadists. In these instances, the terrorist symptoms were verbal. More often the terrorism shows up in attitudes. The results are often the same. 

Motives for Church Terrorism

The real basis of all terrorism is fear.

  • Change.
  • Progress.
  • Not being in control.
  • Losing place.
  • Not being treated with kid gloves. 
  • Not being in the know.

Such behavior has to be eliminated

In whatever way, it has to be stopped. It has to be stopped! It is best if the behavior stops through teaching or direct confrontation. If the elimination does not happen using these means then the terrorist will have to go. Since it is not in the best interest of a leader to “run people off.” Patiently pray them out. One elder said of a particular church, “They are two good funerals away from a revival.” The terrorists have to go – whatever “going” looks like.

Most terrorism does not rise to the level referenced. It is more often subtle. Lack of a smile or making a point of not speaking. Commenting about “those new folks,” in a way that has a bit of disdain or derision. What I’m describing is an unhealthy “my church” attitude. 

Actualized “My Church” Territorialism

Territorialism happens when people feel threatened. Notice that the concern is always reflected in thoughts about me, my and mine. There is no reference to the expansion of Christ’s kingdom. In such a mindset every change and all growth filter through, “How does this affect me?”

  • I’ve been playing music.
  • I’ve been SS Superintendent
  • My kids have always sung the solos
  • Legacy memberships. My mom has been coming here thirty years. Some who use such arguments do not actually support the church in any tangible way.
  • Someone who has been in the church more than five years fills all leadership roles.
  • My seat, my parking spot . . . 
  • Two decades ago a lady told me, “You are too focused on developing new people. I’m going somewhere else.” She and her physician husband went across town.
  • I’ve given money and been faithful in attendance. Do you mean the priority is reaching and discipling new people? These people we are welcoming have never given a dime to this church.

Parallel to Israel

The church universal tends to struggle with a “me first” attitude. There is nothing new there. This is what Israel became. God called Abraham so that there would be a family and nation positioned to bless other nations. Abraham’s descendants wanted that blessing. However, the people of Israel did not see themselves as “a nation of priests” to other nations. The Israelites were instead content for the blessing to end with them. As long as they experienced salvation all was well. They did not see what God had done for them connected with God’s next step in redemption and reconciliation.

I wrote about the importance of the “So That” principle in a chapter of Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper. God does few things as an end in themselves. Instead, He is always moving the pieces about to do a significant next thing.

At the time of Christ, the Jews defined themselves by heritage instead of activity. They said, “We have Abraham to our father.”  Their past identified them. A church can be the same!

Addressing Territorialism and Terrorism 

Preach and teach HIS kingdom on the earth. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven” can be a good place to start. Jesus came to seek and save the lost. Study everything Jesus said after his resurrection. The take-away will be that the apostles, and the church were to “make disciples.” Every ministry within the church body is to focus on evangelism and disciple-making. Nothing gets to just “maintain.” When you teach this, be sure you have a plan to carry out what you are teaching. Teach toward application.

Define and contrast a religious club and the church. A church is intent on growth in both the existing constituency and numerical growth. A religious club comes together to talk about religion.

With faith, express your expectation of growth. Park in the most remote parking space on the church parking lot. If anyone asks why you parked so far away, tell them, “I’m declaring my faith in making room for the new people who are coming.”

Practice growth! Bring people, invite people, spend time with first and second-time visitors. Model the way. Pastor, you must be seen as investing in the lost and in those who are becoming disciples. Have a strategy to follow up on each guest. Jesus talking with the woman by the Samaritan well astounded His associates. Similarly, existing church members MUST see you involved with newcomers to the church. This has to be more than a handshake at the door. Take a new person to lunch on Sunday.

Don’t let terrorism go unchecked. Confront it! If nothing else works, pray it out. Whatever the terrorism being gone requires. It has to go!

Work at Overcoming Territorialism

Moving from a “me first” posture to being on the offense in welcoming new people can be a struggle. As a leader, you cannot make that decision for someone. You can teach, preach and act the principles of hospitality. Some will likely leave. No worry! A church cannot grow if it has its own version of a Herod who kills babies. Those who threaten newcomers are murderers. This is tragic. Discipling “new people” is the work product of the New Testament church.

How Will YOU Get it Done?

Let me give you some broad principles and approaches to applying these.

  • The 3-minute rule. At the end of service, I say, “Spend the next three minutes getting acquainted with someone you do not know well.” Does everybody do it? No . . . but those who care about the church reaching new people will do so. It also gives me as the pastor time and a reason to go to newcomers. Those words and my action make newcomers a visible priority. 
  • Focus on disciple-making classes that feed newcomers at their level of understanding. Where a church is median or less I encourage the pastor to teach the converts class. Median is about 80 in attendance. I currently teach “Bear Fruit” our second level of discipleship training each Wednesday. Others teach a much larger audience. The lesson – new converts are important to the pastor.
  • Communicate that growth is your priority and will be the church’s priority.
  • Schedule opportunities to celebrate. What gets honored, moves up in significance! Each quarter, we welcome newcomers with baptismal and Holy Ghost certificates. Each person comes up front. We give the newcomers their certificates. After this, the church body come by and welcome the newcomers with a right hand of fellowship. We are making a point of welcoming these people into our church. We also do discipleship class graduations – with certificates and a gift. I try to have people prompted to applaud and cheer about this.
  • Defend spiritual babies. Moses’ mother did not let Pharoah’s insecurity destroy her baby. She did all she could to save her child. She hid him. When Moses had grown so that his mother could no longer hide him she shaped a basket for her baby. Not only that, she involved her daughter as a watcher. Invest energy in new converts. Protect them . . . if you see someone not being kind you do your part to defend them.

My webinar on Sociological Issues in Disciple-making is available here. It addresses two other social challenges!

Church Terrorism is Not NEW!

Evangelist Samuel Chadwick blamed himself for letting converts get in a church that was apathetic toward them. Chadwick’s self-indictment, “It was like putting a new baby in the arms of a corpse.” John Wesley stormed at preachers he was training, “How dare you lead people to Christ without providing an opportunity for growth and nurture! Anything less than growth and nurture is begetting children for the murderer.”

Herod and Pharoah were destroyers of the innocents. It still happens. Most things begetting children for the murderer are produced by fear and jealousy. You can overcome these with intentional behavior and the right priorities.

I shared three of my horror stories about church terrorists. My stories are mild compared to some. I’m interested in actions taken that remedied terrorism. Yet solutions are often based on those tragic stories.  Please tell your story.

Are You Closed to New Disciples?

Discipleship is hard when a church functions as a closed set. “Closed set” is a math term. I will misuse the term. Mathematicians, please forgive me.  A bit of housekeeping before I try to break the “closed set.” 

This post is an expansion of a concept covered in an early webinar.  Watch here:  February Facebook Live Webinar.  

Topic:  Right and Wrong Methods of Rooting Converts
     Date:            Tuesday, March 28, 2017
    Time:            7:30pm CST
    Cost:             $0
    Speaker:   Carlton L. Coon, Sr.
  • Is the soil too hard? Change it!
  • Root stimulator! Provide essential nutrients.
  • Impatience for outward growth. Stop! Let the process happen.    

A Closed Set

A “closed set” happens when specific numerals belong within the set. A “closed set” excludes all other numerals. It has nothing to do with whether the excluded numeral is larger or smaller. The numeral does not fit.

I will define a “closed set” church as a group where people are so “alike” there is no room for any who are “unlike.” The “like” can be any number of things. It includes being “alike” in:

  • Age
  • Socio-economic level
  • Race
  • Years since conversion
  • Christian maturity
  • Educational level
  • Family connections
  • Common interests
  • Church heritage

This “closed set” is such a part of the church’s identity that the group repels anyone who does not have the same traits. There is no open door of entry for a newcomer to become part of the set. A “closed set” church is actually like a magnet positioned to repulse instead of to attract.

Indicators of a Closed Set

Few church groups will self-identify as a “closed set” but the following are indicators.  Assess your church using these key indicators. In a “closed set” church:

  • It takes a LONG time for a newcomer to be active in the church.
  • There is no structured orientation path for newcomers. A new convert course does not exist. Why would one be needed? Honest, though unspoken, expectations are that nobody will actually want to travel the path, so why should we develop it?
  • The standards of behavior are high. If this were a family rather than a church. It would be a family that did not permit “dirty diapers” for newborns. No baby could survive in that setting.
  • Everybody is welcome here . . . if . . .!  The “if” of the closed group church may be spoken. Generally, the “if” is unspoken but practiced by a cold shoulder toward those who don’t fit the specs of the “closed set.”
  • You can be part of us if you agree with everything we do and how we do it.
  • People not like the existing group are not wanted. The new person can be too poor, too rich, too well-dressed, too educated, or have the wrong skin color.
  • The outsider’s cultural background is too different or their past can be too ugly.
  • Using a “church word” vocabulary.
  • Inclusive/exclusive language.  A member of the “closed set” is called “Bro. John” while one outside the set is “John.” 

How to Break a “Closed Set”

Everything I propose will not work in every setting. But, a culmination of several strategies will likely break the “closed set.” 

Teach that a “closed set” is not the Lord Jesus’ plan. A “closed set” was what the Jews lived and celebrated. They were quick to say, “We have Abraham to our father.”  It gave the Jews a unique identity. Their being unique made the Jews content. Pointing out a similar mindset is helpful. Ephesians 5 is full of wonderful material that describes God’s inclusive plan. He broke down the wall between Jew and Gentile. Jesus has brought together:

  • Rich and poor
  • Employee and employer
  • Educated and uneducated
  • People from every kindred, tongue, people and nation

It is sad if each person in a church seems to have been in the group for over 30 years. A healthy church will have people in varying stages of development.  The variety of people communicates that the church is closed to none. 

Be an example. The “closed set” is not where leaders should put their primary focus.  A pastor sets the tempo. Jesus gained criticism for eating with “publicans and sinners.” Be guilty of the same, add to the list by spending time with converts. Decades ago Vesta Mangun told me, “Love the elders, but invest your time and energy in the new ones.” Teach something like a Take Root class. In My Father’s House and several similar discipleship resources exist. Whether you use my Take Root or develop your own – do something to focus on the newbies!

If necessary, have someone else teach a larger group of saints while you invest energy in the face of the future.

Mentor pouring into protegeNow some coaching!  Not putting a focus on maintaining “closed set” people, will cause you to lose people. People leaving is never pleasant. It can happen. It will often happen when a pastor is working to open up a “closed set.”  If it happens – bear it. Don’t talk bad about any who leave. Accept their departure as part of the process.

Connect “closed set” people with newcomers who do not fit their norm. Have lunch with two families. One family a “closed set” family, the other an “outsider” family. A meal together at Wendy’s may do more to link people than does sitting across the church from each other. Unfortunately, people tend to distrust those they’ve had no personal dealings with. Such connection has helped SpringfieldCalvary.church

Link people together through the use of structured events.   What you are trying to do in breaking a “closed set” is not quick. It is uncertain. Every member of the “closed set” won’t buy in. What you are working to overcome is a sociological dynamic. Imagine moving to an area of the Amazon jungle and deciding to become part of a tribe living along the river. You’d not become part of the tribe quick – if ever.  This would be true even if you knew their language. Why? Sociological factors are against you. This is also true with the “closed set” church.

Get leadership on board and GO!

You cannot glue people together, but you can velcro them.  At SpringfieldCalvary.church I’ve used a breakout session provided by Pastor Galen Thompson. (Galen is a veteran church planter, pastor, daughter-church planter and educator. He is Minnesota’s North American Missions Director for the UPCI. Galen is a certified trainer who turns teaching content into training material. This is important. Training content stays with the student longer. Student application is also much more likely than from a lecture. You can contact Bro. Thompson at galenann@gmail.com ) I will tell you more about his great exercise in a future blog. The one I used was Two Shining Moments. It worked well as part of an ongoing effort of connecting people.

Win new people and “outgrow” the sense of being a “closed set.”  The bottom line is to win and disciple new people. As this happens, honor and celebrate any person’s effort to connect with newcomers in a welcoming way. What gets honored, gets repeated. When “closed set” saints have lunch with “outside the set” people find a way to mention it in an upcoming service. It is best to almost your comment an “aside.”  Your honoring the action will do more to cause others to do similar things than about anything.

There are other dangers to your converts. Some while back I wrote about those who “drop the babies” in their care. Don’t Drop the Baby is a worthy read.  Don’t Drop the Baby is also available as a video. Watch “Don’t Drop the Baby here!

New Convert Care matters.  I’m a bit obsessed with us being more effective at it. Tell me what has worked or is working for you.

I’ve seen more “closed set” churches than experienced such. Others of you will have fought quite a battle opening the door to new people. Please share your experiences, thoughts, and ideas with us.

 

 

 

 

Are You Guilty of a Single Cell Mindset?

Dicipleship is affected by the environment into which converts are born.  With work, you can create a welcoming environment for your church. 

Sociology is the study of cultural units. A cultural unit can be a:

  • Familymagnifying-glass-1607208_1920
  • Tribe
  • Club
  • Organization
  • Church

Choosing to Become a Member

Sociological research examines how the people within that cultural unit interact with each other. It also considers how those with the cultural unit relate to and interact with those outside the unit. The fascinating research includes the response a person will receive if that person is making a choice to become part of the particular family, tribe . . . or church!

Our consideration of sociological factors in disciple-making is simple, but the implications when a church does not get this right is huge. So set aside all the big words and think about how welcoming your church is toward new people.

Fearing the Newcomer

Herod and Pharoah’s responses to the birth of a promised child seems a bit extreme. They were put at risk by a new baby. These two influential leaders simply destroyed all the male new-born. Herod and Pharaoh were both frightened by the prospect of this new addition into their comfortable kingdom.

Ask yourself,  “Does out attitude and behavior toward newcomers cause them to want to be part of us?” There are some things to consider from the pragmatic side of things:  The median size church of every denomination in North America is around 75. A group of that size is just a bit larger than a social unit described as a “single cell.” In a single cell organization, everybody knows everybody. In most instances, those within such a church know each other intimately. The church group may well consist mostly one or two families.

Symptoms of a church operating as a single cell social group:

  • Not being consistently friendly to strangers who come to church.
  • Tight forced smiles, contrasted to “open arms” of hugs that welcome.
  • Few people within the church say, “I’m glad you are here today. Thank you for coming.”
  • Conversations happen in small groups that exclude newcomers rather than welcome them

A minister from our church visited a church this past week. For over ten minutes no person spoke to this lady who has been wonderfully used of God in numerous ways. If this lady was not made to feel welcome, the sinner fellow who arrived on a Harley Hog would certainly not feel at home. Do you see the issue at hand?

christmas-dinner-750362_1920So you have this single cell group that is comfortable with each other. Having newcomers, even as guests, is a bit like having a relative stranger show up for a family Thanksgiving dinner.  A single cell group is thrown out of its comfort zone by new people.

 

How do you change this “single cell” culture?

  1. Elevate the expectations. Talk about newcomers coming. Then as a leader, you will likely have to “go get” guests. People will need to see that you mean for there to be growth.
  2. Give proper attention to guests. The late G.A. Mangun took visitors to a local restaurant while hospitality for his Sunday evangelist was provided by good saints in the church. I know because I was that evangelist. I’ll never forget the elder’s unintended lesson on where a pastor’s priorities lie. Priorities are not on the 99 who are already saved. The priority is on one who is lost.
  3. Put pastoral time, energy and effort into disciple-making. Where possible, involve some of the people who are part of the existing “single cell.”  Always respect faithful saints, but without resentment communicate that new converts are the responsibility of the church. If necessary, a pastor should teach a “Take Root” class for new converts while someone else teaches a much larger group of older saints.
  4. Officially welcome newcomers! Bring newcomers to the front to receive a Holy Ghost or baptism certificate. Celebrate this by having people come by to welcome these newcomers. Time is required for this celebration, but it is well worth the time expended.  Such an event one time each quarter conveys that something is happening here.

newcon1-600x461 (1)

What is working for you?

I know some of our church planters have resolved the “single cell” challenge. Others who have led a church to break the 100 barrier have also overcome the “single cell” sociological factor.

Help us all!  Please share some intentional and strategic behavior you have used to good advantage. I’m always looking for ideas to help us be more effective at SpringfieldCalvary.church

By the way, several pastors have said they are gaining more from listening in to the audio of our services at SpringfieldCalvary.church than the decade my sessions on Mission North America webcasts.  I suppose concepts presented where the rubber meets the road are always more effective. 

Resources for New Convert Care

My e-book shown above provides some of the things we do to break the sociological issues in disciple-making.  “The How and Why of New Convert Care” contains letters we email to converts, my strategy for how to welcome newcomers and what a convert’s social should look like and involve. The e-book is $9.99. You can be using “The How and Why of New Convert Care” resources within ten minutes.

Hang out here for a bit – explore.  There are many older blog posts about growth. There are also resources that can help you grow people. As you grow people, you will grow His church. 

 

 

Guest Post – Which Kid Will be a Leader?

One writer said the church that will be impact tomorrow should be determining future leaders and investing in them before they reach 12 years old. How do you discern a leader among 9 year old children? Well, learn which kid the other children are following into mischief.  That child will almost certainly be a future leader. He can lead a drug-dealing gang, a corporation or a church.  What the person leads will be determined by the influences shaping their life when they are 9 or 10 years old.

To that end . . . Blog pic me

Bill Jones is a church planter (Bolivar, Missouri). He and Sandy’s church plant is now over 25 years old. After much struggle and challenge, they have traction in their community. The church has purchased and remodeled a beautiful building beside the main highway through Bolivar. He is a quality speaker. When circumstances have me away from Calvary, he has been one of several “pinch hitters” our church family greatly enjoys.  He has developed several tracks of training on evangelism.  An area of Bill’s personal interest is how influence is gained. This particular guest blog is at my request to help us think about the need to intentionally influence future influencers.

I enjoy reading and recommending good books. If you have recently read something that has been of benefit please recommend it to me and others in the comment section after the post.

Carlton L. Coon Sr.

carltoncoonr.com

carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

__________________________________________

Young leaders need a good book

Many young people labeled as trouble makers actually have a leader inside them trying to get out. With no understanding or guidance, the impulse to lead can turn into a “head-butting” session. It can begin with family and end with the law. It doesn’t have to be that way.

Uncle Vince bookI wrote Uncle Vince’s Leadership Keys because my grandson had the makings of a leader. He needed an edge for the future. I also didn’t want him to spend a lot of his life “head-butting” with other people. To accomplish this he needed all possible resources available to mentor him.

Actually, every leader needs a good book

I wrote this book for my grandson and teenagers.  It is also for adults. As I will share in a moment, Uncle Vince’s Leadership Keys has value for anyone in the early stages of their own leadership journey. Many who already occupy leadership positions lack some basic skills. Leadership is not about position.  Leadership can happen without position!

I wish there had been an Uncle Vince years ago

This is material I wish I’d have owned when I started my own leadership journey forty years ago. The most important lessons I’ve learned along the way I have condensed. They are woven into an engaging story. One that allows teenagers and adults to understand and apply the basic principles of leadership and life.

Some leadership principles in Uncle Vince . . .

  • What is the quickest way to check and change your attitude in any given situation?
  • A three phrase outline that will allow you to cast vision like a pro.
  • One of the worst things about giving up is that quitting can become a habit.
  • The connection between a birthday card and personal growth.

These are things you, your grandson, granddaughter, nephew or son can understand and apply!

When I understood and applied these concepts, I immediately became more effective. The effort is so small, but the impact is so great. Read and apply!  You will start seeing success in your personal leadership immediately. Of course, Uncle Vince . . . is really still for my grandson. You get to join in his journey. Maybe you are looking for a special gift for someone graduating this year. This book can give them an edge for their future.

Don’t put it off

Why not become a master of the basics now? Why wait another five or ten years to finally invest in your own grandson?  Don’t wait to invest in yourself! Don’t realize too late how much stress these basic principles could have saved you.

To your leadership success,

Bill L Jones

Email:  bjgray67@yahoo.com

 uncle Vince’s Leadership Keys can be found on Amazon.com for $10.99 Grab your copy today and remember to give my book  a review.

You can also check out my new blog dedicated to church planters, small church pastors, and leaders in small church settings at billljones.com

Can You Spot the Four Fatal Flaws in Disciple-making?

Disciple-making cannot be done in haste. Someone in a hurry permanently harmed Saul’s grandson, Mephibosheth.  Mephibosheth’s lameness was not a result of nature. Instead, the limitation came as a result of the behavior of a person who cared for him. Mephibosheth’s nurse sought his well-being.

How Mephibosheth became lame is a parable on failed disciple-making.  (Mephiobosheth) . . .  was five years old when the tidings came of Saul . . . and his nurse . . . fled . . . as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 4:4).

Let me expand on the principles related to how we either develop healthy disciples or damage these same converts.

How are we hasty in dealing with new converts?human-440127_1280

  • Not taking the time to know where a person is coming from.

    Each convert has a story. No story is like another. The more personal and intimate our knowledge the more effective we are likely to be. Fellowship and conversation is where such knowledge is gained. An example, those who win Hindus need to know that the inclination of someone coming from Hinduism is to add their encounter with Jesus to their experience with a pantheon of other deities. Of course, those other deities are false and demonic. The Hindu who experienced the tug of the Holy Ghost does not have the knowledge to understand what you know to be true. Not taking the time to know this will limit your ability to make a disciple of Jesus. Of course, responding with a, “Why, that’s a stupid way of thinking,” is a failure too.

  • “It’s Elementary, Dear Watson!”

    An average convert has limited knowledge about the Bible, Jesus Christ, and church. Would it be a waste to put a T-Bone Steak before a six-month-old? Is it a similar waste to ask converts to read 4-5 chapters each day? I think so. Slow down. Think of working with converts as Disciple-making Pre-School rather than Disciple-making Middle School. Converts need someone patient enough to allow them to use the Bible’s Table of Contents to find the passages. Disciple-making is closer to teaching the numerals, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, . . . than to teaching multiplication. Approaches to consider:  (1) Encourage converts to read one or two paragraphs of scripture. The person asks questions about the text, finds answers and considers how to apply the principles of the paragraphs to their life.  (2) Encourage converts to memorize the books of the Bible. An easy win that pays dividends down the road.

  • Unrealistic expectationscursor-1872305_1280

    There are a few hundred versions of what unrealistic expectations look like. Examples:  to expect converts to go from “0” church to 3 times each week – generally unrealistic. A convert does not always immediately throw away their contents of the liquor cabinet. The new lady hears the word “modesty” and applies it on her next visit to the beach. She wears a one piece bathing suit rather than a bikini. Lower your expectations and streeeetch your patience, as you work with converts. Approaches to consider:  Only one – don’t be shocked at anything you see or hear.

  • Assume at your own risk.

    The danger of assumption applies to almost everything. Assume a person believes the Bible to be THE word of God at your own risk. Assuming a couple to be married, or that the older gent with the young woman is her dad and not her boyfriend . . . Get the picture?  Assuming beliefs, commitments or anything else is risky.  Approaches to consider:  (1) Silence is golden! Greeting the new convert’s boyfriend with the words, “I’m excited to meet her father,” cannot be unsaid. (2) Teach elementary and basic concepts.

 

newcon1-600x461Haste makes waste. Not just the ruin of a good T-Bone you try to feed a six-month-old, but in the impairment of a convert.  If you will just slow down. You can get your own young Mephibosheths where they need to be. Do you have a person assigned as an “altar counselor” for those who are baptized or receive the Holy Ghost? A Job Description of what the altar counselor does as well as an elementary checklist can be found in my inexpensive but invaluable e-book The How and Why of New Convert Care. Altar counseling is a time for a responsible person to learn much about the newcomer. This gains at least some of the information being sought.

 

I know many of you have had experience with things not going right as you worked with converts. Share your story and share your approaches to being successful with disciple-making. 

Five Things I Learned from H.B. (Grandpa) Frazier

I hope you have had someone like Grandpa in your life. Stay with me through the setup. This may be worth your while.

Grandpa’s been gone for over 20 years. Still, there are days I miss my church planting, bi-vocational pastor – Grandpa. My brother, Rodney, said a while back, “Grandpa, affected my life more than anyone I ever knew.”

Getting Acquainted with Grandpa  

Let me introduce Grandpa. In varied situations, he was:

  • Herbert Ben Frazier
  • H.B.
  • Daddy – to Hartwell, Curtis, and my mom Faye
  • Mr. Ben
  • Ben – to Lona (Granny)
  • Brother Ben
  • Brother Frazier
  • For me, Rodney and our five lucky cousins, he was, “Grandpa.”

When I was a tyke, Grandpa sent me in Bentley’s Country Store/General Delivery post office for his mail. The woman attendant peered over and asked what I needed. My reply, “I’m here for Grandpa’s mail.” Though I had been in the post office with him several times, she didn’t know who “Grandpa” was. Surely everybody knew who Grandpa was!

I took several stubborn runs at getting “Grandpa’s mail.” It did not work. Finally, I had to go back outside to Grandpa’s old Rambler to ask him what his “name” was. For my readers who preach. How about a doctrinal sermon thought. “Grandpa” is an important relationship and title, but it was not his name! To do business at the post office, I needed to have Grandpa’s name, not his title.  Is there a message about baptism in the name of Jesus there?

Grandparent’s Hall of Fame

If such a thing existed, Granny and Grandpa would be in the “Grandparent’s Hall of Fame.” I’d spend several weeks at their home in Bentley each summer and to this day have never got my visit finished. Norma and I now have our own “holy children.” It is my term for Kaden, Wyatt and Elsie Adara. These three are holy or “set apart” as far as I’m concerned.

With these three added to Norma and me, Grandpa’s joy in me, Terry, Rodney, Susy, Kathy, Ben, and Diane is better understood. I don’t know if our three “grands” will have it as good as I and my cousins did. It won’t be for lack of enjoying them. Granny and Grandpa were exceptional grandparents. Actually, they were exceptional people. The memories make me misty-eyed. Lord, I miss them.

Bi-vocational Church Planting

Grandpa was a church planter. The defunct church at Hudson Creek, Louisiana was built by Grandpa. He used timber from his land to build the church building. The building still stands. Later, he started and grew a church in Tioga, Louisiana. Mom has told me of some of the struggles. Grandpa stayed with it. The church grew. During Grandpa’s years, he led several building projects. Auditorium and educational space built in those years is still in use.

Like 2/3 of all pastors – Grandpa was bi-vocational. When I came along, Grandpa was driving a school bus for the Grant Parish School Board. For almost 30 years, he and Granny pastored in Tioga. At least three times each week they would drive the 12
miles from Bentley to Tioga. Back then a twelve-mile trip could be a 25-minute drive.

Grandpa’s attentive care for those he led was much better than mine has ever been. The man worked at taking care of people. In this, Grandpa was an unforgettable force. I learned meaningful things from him.

Have you noticed how many of life’s lessons are short sentences that become big pieces of life?  This describes the things I gained from “Grandpa.”

Five things I learned.  I’ve not alway done well in applying them.

1. Invest in care on the front and things go better longer. 

One day, I sat in a rocking chair on Grandpa’s screened porch. He was in the matching rocker shining his dress shoes. To my consternation, Grandpa took a new pair of shoes out of a box and began to shine them. The shoes had that new shine! When I asked why he was shining new shoes, Grandpa responded, “I’ll tell you son, the life of a shoe is in the shine.”

I don’t do as well as Grandpa in taking care of my shoes (or much else). My shoes don’t last as long or look as good. It was only one of the ways he applied the principle. The lesson:  take care of little things on the front end and those same things will be with you later. “The life of a shoe is in its shine!”

2. Your church is the main thing.

Like Grandpa, I’ve spent a bit of my life as a bi-vocational pastor. In my first season of bi-vocational pastoring, I had a corporate management job. I was successful and effective. Moreover, I was making an excellent salary. It was challenging work and I enjoyed the complexities of a corporate setting. The job positioned me for election as president of Vidalia’s Chamber of Commerce and involvement with an academic accrediting agency.

I was also enjoying the success of it. My ministry life was at risk of being subjugated to other things. One day, as we sat on the same back porch, Grandpa said, “Son, you know what God called you to do. Don’t forget that the church in Vidalia is your main thing.”

3. A good pastor doesn’t tell the things he knows! 

My stays with Granny and Grandpa included the 12-mile drive to church. Part of Grandpa’s prayer time was in the car. Much of his prayer was silent. On occasion, Grandpa’s prayer would spill out. He would say something like, “God Bless poor old Sister Love.” Or it might be, “God help Brother Bynog with . . ..”

He never ended those prayerful sentences. I’m a curious sort. I’d ask, “Grandpa what is the matter with Sister Love?” He would never answer. I would ask again. It was always to no avail. In years of my listening, Grandpa never divulged anyone’s problem. Nor did Grandpa ever mention a disappointment he had with people or a neighboring pastor. I’ve followed his practice by keeping information I’m privy to locked within.

4. “Face to Face” works!

Jesus taught, “If you have a problem with someone, go to that person.” A friend told me of a time when a fellow minister was speaking negatively about Grandpa. Grandpa could have retaliated. He could have aimed innuendo or gossip at the other fellow. Grandpa could have tried to defend himself by telling his side of the story.

Instead, Grandpa went to see the man. He told the fellow he was there to work out the problem. When the fellow said, “There is no problem,” Grandpa told him the things being said. Grandpa –told the gentleman he was prepared to involve two or three others to resolve the matter. Grandpa was going to do it just as Jesus taught. In a matter of time, the fellow apologized for his misstatements. Proper Bible-based confrontation works!

5. Faithfulness is seldom easy. Be faithful anyway.

The most important life lesson is about faithfulness. Shortly after their retirement from pastoring, Granny was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. In the 1970s, there was little help for Parkinson’s. Granny’s battle was protracted. Her mind was sharp even as her body wasted from rotund “granny-ness” to almost nothing. By contrast, Grandpa was healthy as could be. He lived to be 90.

Eventually Granny needed a nursing home. This is where “faithful” shows up. Grandpa didn’t need a nursing home, but he went in as a resident for Granny’s sake. The life he lived for the next years was not easy. Grandpa was doggedly faithful to care for “Lona.”

While in the nursing home, Grandpa kept his blue Ford. He came and went from the nursing home as he pleased. With rare exception, Grandpa spent every night and ate meals at the nursing home in Pollock, Louisiana. He was not far from Granny for long.

Days after we buried Granny, Grandpa reclaimed independence. He moved back to his home. In caring for Granny as he did, Grandpa set a remarkable high watermark of faithfulness. He sacrificed his own ease. Choosing instead to live in a somewhat uncomfortable environment to care for Granny.

It was what being faithful meant to him. Faithfulness is not easy. As is my situation on the shining of my shoes, I’ve also not done well as well with this one as I’d like.
Now from your own life, who has my experiences with “Grandpa” brought to mind?  More important, what are the “things learned?”

Disciple-making: Don’t Drop the Baby!

Meaningful things take time. This includes turning converts into disciples. Remember Saul’s lame grandson, Mephibosheth, who David provided for? How Mephibosheth became lame is a parable on disciple-making.

(Mephibosheth) . . .  was five years old when the tidings came of Saul . . . and his nurse . . . fled . . . as she made haste to flee, that he fell, and became lame. And his name was Mephibosheth (2 Samuel 4:4).

Mephibosheth’s story gives four principles related to developing healthy disciples.

  • A caregiver’s haste left Mephibosheth lame.

  • Unfounded fear was the basis for the nurse’s hurry.

  • The youngster suffered, not the hasty nurse.

  • Mephibosheth’s childhood fall limited him for life.

The nurse actually had nothing to fear. Mephibosheth’s father was David’s closest friend. The nurse’s decision was a reaction. Her haste had no good reason. What she did forever harmed the child in her care.

Apply those four principles to caring for spiritual infants. Unfortunately, not all converts come out as well as Mephibosheth. Some die due to the haste of a caregiver.

Hurrying comes in many forms. Rush newcomers along with unrealistic expectations and you will harm them. Of course, there are different sets of expectations. People saved thirty years should be at a different level than someone saved thirty days. In posts over the next while, I will write about what our haste may look like. I’ll also share how we can overcome the tendency to hurry.   

Let’s be clear. The messy life of a spiritual baby does not communicate anyone’s position on right living. Just as a  baby’s dirty diaper does not say a new mother does not keep a clean house. Stop fearing what others think.

There is a better way. Your church can have a well-reasoned strategy for caring for newcomers. If you carry out such a plan, more spiritual babies will grow to healthy maturity. Few will die or be lame. Developing your plan will be the topic of a subsequent post. Carrying out the plan is another topic. 

Baby Disciple

The deliberate, focused and intentional teaching of God’s word works. Target a class for new converts. Teach to their level of understanding. I will help you become aware of resources for teaching. Of course, you can also develop your own resources.  

At the moment, more insight on the mistakes we make in hurrying the process of making converts is available. Watch my webinar on Disciple-making: Don’t Drop the Baby at Carlton L. Coon Sr. on Facebook, or on Youtube or here. I welcome questions and your own insight into disciple-making.

I authored two books specifically dealing with:

1. The philosophy of caring for those new to the church. The book is “You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama!”  The book is also available on Kindle.

2. “The How and Why of New Convert Care,” has tools, letters and explains why specific action should be taken. This book is currently only available as an ebook. Buy it and make copies for those who work with new converts.

Entrepreneur Needed – A Market Awaits!

Author’s note:  This blog post will end my digression into challenging more writing!

Note #2 – Next Tuesday at 7:30 CST on my Facebook page – Carlton L. Coon Sr. I will be doing a Facebook Live Webinar. My topic Disciple-making – Overcoming the Sociological Challenges of Newcomers!  The gist of the matter:  In some instances, existing church members act in ways that keep the circle closed. If that is not corrected and quickly – you won’t keep new converts. Join me to learn some solutions.

Concept: We need an expanded circle of influence for quality Apostolic writing. Such an expansion could first begin with sister organizations. Below, I offer some suggestions to accomplish this objective.

My library is between 5 and 10,000 books. It includes books from many authors. They come from many different organizations. My ordination and majority of ministry has been in United Pentecostal Church (UPCI). As a result, UPCI constituents buy the majority of my books. I’m grateful for each person who buys one of my books.

Current Reality – Buying and Selling

There is currently a great difficulty in cross-pollinating beyond my organization. Would leading  Apostolic authors be wise to band together to build marketing bridges?

The largest publishing entity in Apostolic ranks is the Pentecostal Publishing House (PPH). The largest book-selling entity in the Apostolic world is also PPH.

Looking at the untapped markets, the future of a self-publisher writing, marketing and selling a book is great.  Some realities do need to be considered:

  • A large publisher/seller is less likely to promote an author-published book. Promotion may happen but it is not assured. This is business sense. A publisher/seller makes more money from a book they publish. No self-published author can expect anything different from any publisher. If I were in management I’d handle it the same.
  • There is no place for self-published authors to market their book(s) from a single website. Pastor Bill Jones, (Bolivar, Missouri) has written an excellent book about leadership. His target audience is younger adolescents. Bill’s book gets positive reviews. Like most, Bill does not have a clearinghouse, other than Amazon, from which he can sell his book.
  • Books published get stuck in an organizational silo. The information and content in Bill’s book will tend to be limited to the organization he is part of. Would his book benefit people in other organizations? Of course, but to date, there is little opportunity for such cross-pollination.

Imagine Tomorrow

Could a capable entrepreneur develop a “Pentecostal Publishers Clearinghouse?” By design, it would market, sell and ship books written by self-published authors. The primary market would be constituents of the the over 200 Apostolic organizations in North America.

It could work something like this.
  1. An author (or artist, if music is included) pays an annual fee to be a member of the Clearinghouse. Base the annual fee on the number of items the author wishes to sell.
  2. The Clearinghouse would warehouse a small number of each book.
  3. The Clearinghouse would develop and maintain a website. Equal space would be provided for each member’s biography. Contact information and an author’s overview of each book would also be on the website.
  4. Sliding ads promoting an author’s book would be available at a specific cost to the author. Such ads would be on a first-come, first serve basis. A policy would make sure no single author commandeered all the ad space.
  5. The Clearinghouse would do online marketing. and sales, using purchased social media and google ads. Low-cost state of the art credit card and paypal processing would be offered. The Clearinghouse would have no credit option.
  6. The Clearinghouse would handle shipping in a cost effective manner.
  7. On a quarterly basis, the inventory updates. Each author receives 60 or 65% of the gross for books sold. As with Fulfillment by Amazon, any books damaged are a loss to the author, not the Clearinghouse.
  8. The Clearinghouse would email a weekly sales newsletter. An author could buy priority placement.
  9. A weekly Fabulous Friday “Twitter” and “Facebook”  sale. This opportunity would be available to no more than three authors. The author would pay for this marketing effort.
  10. The Clearinghouse would work with self-published authors to develop sales to move out “old inventory.”

Growing the Thing

  1. To build an email list that expands beyond any one organization. Where possible the Clearinghouse would have a representative attend national events.

  2. There would be three goals: (1) Look for additional self-published authors. (2) Grow an extensive email list. (3) Sell a limited array of books/materials. (4) If welcomed, offer seminars and resources on writing, self-publishing, and marketing.

What I’m suggesting is not perfect, nor would everything I’ve described work. With a bit of tweaking and experience I see something like this benefiting authors. It will also provide readers additional material.

The entrepreneur who tackles will need to have (1) A bit of seed money (2) Someone on the team who is a good webmaster. (3) The ability to do spreadsheets on various scenarios to show a way to make a profit. (4) Good communication skills (5) A sharp business mind. (6) Strong work ethic. (7) A determination to serve the Apostolic movement beyond a single organization.

Write It! Making Decisions about Publishing

I am writing to a growing group of capable authors who self-publish. If your book is being published by someone else, you may still enjoy these suggestions. If you read my blog casually, this one may not be for you.
Several factors weigh in on whether to self-publish.
  • Print on demand is inexpensive and requires keeping little inventory.
  • Any specific religious organization is to a degree self-limiting. There is a limited market size for any one who writes for a specific organization.
  • Publishing houses publish a limited number of books each year. Quite often, books are scheduled years in advance.

Considering the return on your investment of time and the limits any publisher had it may make more sense to self-publish.

Let’s look at some numbers. You have to consider that a large publisher edits, designs, prints and markets. These are worthy considerations, but the modern “Print on Demand” has reduced costs. Nor is the cost for quality editing and cover design exorbitant.
In our scenario, imagine your book selling 300 copies in the first year of publication. You may imagine such a sell number to be low. That number is low, compared to a book on the list of New York Times Best Sellers. But selling 300 books is realistic in the denominational market. It is actually above average. I’ve now written 22 books and for me selling 300 books in year one is a success.
If you have questions, go back and read my post about print on demand. A small market size and the challenges of marketing limit sales.

Paths to Increased Sales

Any of the following things may result in an increase in sales:
  • Move the selling of your book beyond a single organization.
  • Speak at some events each year.
  • Travel and speak in local churches.
  • Market your book using direct mail or social media.

Your Book Published by a National Publisher

Now back to the numbers. The scenario has an author selling 300, 150-page perfect-bound 6″ by 9″ books.
In scene #1, envision the book as published by a small national publisher. In such cases, an author receives royalties of 10% on books sold by the publisher and 50% of the value of digital sales. An author can buy copies of the book for 50% of the retail price. The publisher does all editing, printing, shipping and marketing of your book. As envisioned, your print book sells for $16 and a digital version sells for $10. In most cases, more books sell in the first year than through the rest of the book’s life. So the numbers:
Sales                                                Book Price                Royalty to Author
150 Print Copies                                    $16                              $240
100 Digital Copies                                   10                                500
Profit from 50 Copies you buy @ $8   16                                400
Money to Author                                                             $1140  
In this scenario, the $1140 is the money an author gained. You had better be writing for ministry! With the amount of work involved, $1140 does not pay an author minimum wage.

Your Book Self Published

Now in my second scenario, the author self-publishes the same book.
  • The author handles paying an editor. My average cost for this work has been $250. To be conservative with the scenario, let’s set this cost at $300.
  • Cover design cat cost $200 – $300. I will use the more expensive number.
  • Printing your book with a “Print on Demand” publisher at a print and shipping cost of $3.50 per book.
Now for sales. The following projections reflect two authors recent experiences.
50 books were sold to a national book seller in for a Conference. That publisher pays 55% of the cover price.                                                                                                                                                             Net – $440
10 books to a bookstore who pay 60% of the cover price.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                           Net –     96
50 digital copies for the Kindle. Currently, on a Kindle book priced at $9.99 or less the author receives 70% of the sale price. To gain this benefit, I price my Kindle books at $9.99.                           Net –   350
25 digital books as digital downloads either from your website or via social media sales. 100% of the revenue from these sales comes to you.                                                                                                   Net –   250
100 print copies of your book. Any shipping cost being covered by the purchaser.                                                                                                                                                                                                              Net –  1600
On sales of 235 copies of this book, mixed digital and print versions the cash generated to the author is a total of $2736. Costs of editing, design and printing is:
Editing                                                 $300
Design                                                    300
Print Cost (160 books x $3.50)        560
Total Cost                                         $1260
Selling 235 books the author has an increase of $1476. Still you are not making minimum wage for your work. Yet, in this case, self-publishing is a greater benefit to the author.
I do believe a self-published author can do as well with total sales as by going with a publisher. I’ve already written about various forms of marketing your book. My next, and final blog on this topic will envision an ideal future for Apostolic authors.

Write! Marketing Options

You wrote the book. The book is exceptional. Your masterpiece should be selling thousands, but it is not selling at all.What is wrong? Begin with:  what are you doing toward marketing your book? People won’t buy what they do not know exists.

Confession time:  the “nuts and bolts” of marketing are NOT my strength. I understand the essential place of marketing but I’m not good at it. There are at least two reasons I’m not good at marketing.

  • To excel at marketing a person needs some abilities with graphics.
  • It also helps to be focused on doing tasks at least a bit repetitive in nature.

I have someone help me with marketing. Of course, such help costs. For me, the cost is worth it.

How many billion times did marketers for Coca-Cola declare, “Coke is the real thing?” A creative marketer has the ability to repeat the marketing message from varied angles.

You will need to read someone else’s blog for “nuts and bolts” of marketing.  My view of marketing is from 30,000 feet.

Marketing Options for an author include the following. Of course, there are other options as well. 

Direct Mail

Marketing should not ignore the use of hard copy mail.  Yesterday our spring planting catalog arrived. Some would ask, “Why are they still sending such an archaic form of communication?” There are several reasons:

 

  • Print still works!  I bought five fruit trees from the catalog last year. I placed my order online but bought because I saw the trees in the catalog. The pictures of apples, pears, etc. caused me to feel I had to have those trees.
  • People of a certain age are less likely to use social media or the internet. I’ve had some bit of time attempting to influence preachers. Suffice it to say, “Some people don’t check their email even one time per month.”
  • Anything hard copy has the added value of being a “lay-about” piece. The value of this to North American Missions came through with the well received Director’s Communique. Like me, others put such material in a stack of stuff “to be read.” In time I will look through the stack of magazines and newsletters waiting “to be read.” By contrast, deleting someone’s email happens in an instant. The unopened email does not get even a glance. It may be my age, personality or learning style, but I don’t do well reading on-line newsletters or ads. By contrast, a hard copy item eventually gets at least a scan.

Don’t misunderstand, print cannot be your only approach. However, a nicely designed card announcing your new book and its benefits will generate sales. This is particularly the case if an opportunity is forthcoming for the recipient to make a buy. The opportunity can be at an upcoming conference. A card may also drive people to your website. I’ve not used direct mail or a simple catalog of all my books. I will again experiment with direct mail for an upcoming project.

Market to your e-mail List

These days a list with the email address of people interested in you and your material is like gold. How to grow your email list is a topic larger than this blog. But perpetually funneling people toward being part of your e-mail list is vital.

There are many options for partners that will host your email list. You can even do it yourself using a database. If your email list grows beyond a few dozen you will likely need some help.

At its best, an email partner helps you schedule, plan and carry out communication to your email list. The best such partners provide templates for newsletters and emails. Most will give you a way to “drip” your message to interested people. Everything costs, including having a quality email partner.

I did some research on my best option to handle my email list. Almost all such companies offer a “free” option for you to explore. Do take advantage of the “free” option to look around. The “free” option is usually for a limited time, or a low number of people on your email list.  We used a different list manager at World Evangelism Center. It was effective, but my choice for a list manager and marketing partner was Aweber.

Aweber has broad options for sending many different varieties of email to your list.

  • After a person signs up for a free ebook, they begin receiving emails. Each email introduces other material I’ve written.
  • I also am able to send blasts about special deals or upcoming training sessions to those on the email list.
  • Also, when this blog posted, a copy of the blog or a link to it goes to my email list.

Aweber has a huge array of resources. What I’ve described here does not touch the tip of the Aweber iceberg.

Magazine Advertising 

Advertising in Perspectives magazine developed by Paul Mooney, Tim Massengale, and Indiana Bible College (IBC) may help. IBC mails Perspectives for free to a readership broader than any single religious organization. While this can increase your sales, magazine advertising can be expensive. You should weigh the value of advertising in any magazine against potential sales.

Conference/Convention Video Marketing

Some conferences allow an author to buy a pre-service video ad. I’ve tried this a time or two. From an ego standpoint, it is kind of neat to see myself and the book I wrote standing 12 feet tall. But in my experience. it has not generated enough sales to pay for the ad. Such ads cost several hundred dollars.

Determine the value looks goes like this as you put sales and cost into perspective. A self-published author’s profit from selling 50 books at $16 is $440 (55% of $800). From the $440 an author must deduct the cost of editing, cover design, printing, and shipping. With everything factored in the “cheap” $200 – $400 video ad may not be worth the cost. The video ad may not have increased your sales at all. You make the decision on whether seeing a “12-foot video of you” is worth the money.

A better option than the video ad may be for you to be consistently present in the sales area explaining your book.

Event Displays

Attending an event that allows you to set up a sales display will increase sales. You also use such events to grow your email list. Aweber provides several easy ways to allow someone to sign up. At the event, you can motivate people to sign up for your email list by doing a giveaway. The more valuable the giveaway the more names added to your list.

While at an event, stay with your display. A static unmanned booth is ineffective. While I’m there meeting people I don’t do any “hard sell.” My goal is to be available to answer questions and sign a book if the purchaser so desires.

Sometimes you can attend such events at no cost. Be sure to follow the process to get permission to set up your display. Men’s and ladies conferences, camp meetings, and smaller church conferences are good for this purpose.

If you break outside any specific organization, the opportunity to increase your impact is huge. In the early stages of marketing a book, don’t ignore small events. Small events may be welcoming to an author, even giving time for you to make a 30-second sale’s pitch.

In time, I look forward to displaying my material at conferences beyond the organization I know. Those settings will be a great opportunity to make new friends and to learn what is working for other people.

If you are part of a group that would welcome my material in a display or would be interested in a “Not an Ostrich Church” Disciple-making workshop or one of my other seminars contact me. Under the right circumstances, Saturday seminars within a section or a group of even ten churches are available. My email is  carltoncoonsr@gmail.com.

Facebook Marketing

Social media is a great place to make people aware of your new book. When you market on Facebook be sure to give your Facebook friends a link to buy your book.

I’ve explored using Facebook Marketing. It has powerful potential. The potential lies in being able to target who sees your ad. The cost for such ads is quite low. I’m still learning how to use Facebook ads. I’m not sure these ads have generated a significant number of sales. By contrast, Facebook marketing has worked well for marketing events, teaching sessions and other things at SpringfieldCalvary.church.

To date, I’ve not figured out how to make Facebook ads work to grow the carltoncoonsr.com email list. I’m confident that those who help me with marketing will figure it out.

Remember, marketing will require repeating the message until people pay attention. You won’t forget, “Coke is the real thing!” To convey their message, how many thousands of times and ways did you hear and see that message? As an author marketing your book, you have to say it more than once. Your social media marketing should include a mix of subtle and directed marketing.

Facebook Live Video

My best benefit with marketing on Facebook has come by using Facebook Live for a live webinar with “q and a” at the end. After several days of marketing on social media, the webinars have always had a worthy audience. In every instance, the webinars have also generated sales. There is also a residual value. A video of the Facebook Live webinar stays on your Facebook page for you to refer people back to through the year. You could also use it as a video blog on your website and post it to Youtube.

There is a lot of information in this post, and it is not even my area of expertise. Don’t refer to me as an expert. What I’ve tried to share are my experience and observations. I’d like you to learn from my mistakes.

My Questions and Needs

So, this not being my area of expertise, I’m interested in input from you on several fronts:

  • What have you experienced with Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram marketing?  What specific behaviors have generated sales?
  • If you’ve figured out how to use social media to grow your email list please share. Have any specific behaviors grown your email list?
  • Maybe you can recommend a book, seminar, or any other resource to benefit me and the readers of this blog.
  • Because of the Times in Alexandria, Louisiana happens next week. A super sale of four of my books will be available in a relatively limited supply at the White Steeple Book Store. Books that normally sell for $64 will be on the White Steeple shelves for $40. I’m making the same deal available online.  This bundle would make an excellent gift for a friend, family member and for the developing preachers in your church.  The books are:
    • Daily Things of Christian Living – 7 things the New Testament teaches to do on a daily basis. Great teaching stuff here.  Pastors Stan Davidson and Galen Thompson are among many who have taught this material.
    • Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask – Practical, pragmatic issues of ministry are addressed. This includes:  How can you know if you are called? What to do when you “try out” for a church? How do you respond a person who wants to monopolize your time? How do I structure my pulpit effort in a way that helps me be effective?
    • If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me . . .  – what if everybody in the church understood what it means to be a great saint working together to make a great church?  The New Testament teaches several things about the measure of a great church. Example:  a great church is more like the church at Antioch than the church at Jerusalem. The Jerusalem church did not welcome the new convert, Saul. Antioch did. Saul would have been the equal of a member of the Hell’s Angels – and now he was part of their church. Again, this has been taught by several pastors. I taught this at camp meetings in Texas and Minnesota.
    • Masterful Preaching – Restoring the Place of Good News Preaching – This tackles the idea that we do not preach targeting reaching the lost with enough consistency.  I give you my own journey to this discovery.  It includes some of my study processes and several model evangelistic sermons. From this, you can learn to make every Sunday a focus on the lost.
  • Visit Carltoncoonsr.com for this super deal or to sign up for a free ebook.

 

 

Write It – Getting Prepared to Make Sales

Let me clarify something. Most of a self-published author’s books will NOT be sold by an organizational book-seller. The exception will be those authors who are published by a publishing house linked to the book-seller. Don’t misunderstand. Any book-seller wants to sell your book and is willing to do so if it fits their strategy. It is helpful to both you and the book-seller if 50,000 books sell through their efforts. But, the odds are against this happening.

Think – If It’s to Be, It’s Up to Me!

Consider the books sold to an organizational bookseller as icing on your cake. Self-published authors should see themselves as a book- marketer, book-seller, and author. Little marketing will come from elsewhere. The process of actually selling your book will rest on you.Marketing and sales are things I do not enjoy but these are a necessary part of getting people to read my books. In time, there are people who can help with some of this. I’ll talk more about such options in a later post.

Preparing for 21st Century Financial Transactions

Few people carry cash. For 11 years, I led North American Missions for the United Pentecostal us_one_dollar_bill_reverse_series_2009Church, International (UPCI). Often, I’d fly out of St. Louis on a missions trip with $5 in my pocket. Welcome to the new norm. Few people have any cash!

If you want to sell books, be ready for non-cash transactions. If the only way to do business with you is cash, you won’t do much business!

Also, few people carry or use checks. In our own personal life, there are months when Norma and
checkbook I write no more than three checks. Fifteen years ago my checkbook was always with me, today I’m not sure where the checkbook is. If your hope is for people to write a check, few are prepared to do so.Get your book-selling effort ready to take debit and credit cards when you are selling at an event. Square, Apple-Pay, and other such options are now available. Square is my preference. It is what I started out using. With any such tool:

  • There is setup time to get your bank information connected with the credit card company.
  • It involves a small learning curve.

Square has been good for me because it is easy to use and there is a low transaction cost. Some acquaintances are negative toward Square due to the length of time to resolve a dispute. It can also be hard to actually talk to a real live person at many such companies.Square uses a smartphone or tablet. with a data connection. The data connection can be the internet or via the data plan on your phone or tablet. Here is what the process will look like when you make a sale on Square:

  1. A customer selects items to buy and brings them to check-out.
  2. Square permits you to load your inventory into the application. So you touch the items this person has bought. An alternate course, that I follow is to add up the items that have been purchased. I do it this way because at times I’ll offer single day discounts. It is easier to not always be updating prices in the inventory.
  3. The sale is totaled.
  4. You inform the customer what the charge it. A few pay with cash or check, most hand you a credit or debit card.
  5. You will have attached a dongle device (like what is pictured) to your phone or tablet. Theuse-the-square-app-to-process-credit-card-transactions-on-your-iphone-or-ipad dongle plugs in where headphones would go.
  6. You slide the debit or credit card through the slot on the device. It immediately lets you know if the card was read,
  7. If it did not read, the card is “swiped” through the slot again.  On occasion, you will have to key in the numbers on the card.
  8. The Square app will ask for the customer’s zip code and the security numbers on the card.
  9. You input the requested numbers. Upon verification of these numbers, the transaction completes.
  10. The customer signs on the screen of the phone or tablet and an emailed receipt goes to the customer.
  11. Normally, within two days the funds for that transaction minus the fees will be in your account.

Some of you are doing more of this sort of selling than I am these days. If you have updated suggestions for other ways to do this, please provide them in the comments.I’d like to know what is working best for you. I’ve several upcoming conferences and events and would like to adjust my approach if there is something more convenient.

Selling Online

Now we move into what has become my “bread and butter.” Because I don’t travel as much these days, my market comes to me through on-line sales. I’ve two advantages over some authors:

  1. A tiny bit of name recognition. This exists in a relatively tiny slice of the North American population. But name recognition of this particular sort shrinks as quickly as last week’s birthday balloon.
  2. More important is my having written 22 books. It is worthwhile for me to have a website, use direct mail and consistently market. I’ve got more than one product to sell. This is important. I encourage those of you with a book or two out there:  keep writing!

To sell from your website, or through Facebook you must be able to accept digital payment. I’m sure there are ways to setup to accept credit cards at your site. I’ve opted to use Paypal. Paypal is simple. It allows people who don’t have a Paypal account to pay using their debit or credit card. Also, the transaction is instantaneous. You have your funds in hand, before the books ship. So far, Paypal has worked well for me.

If you sell online and have experience using other approaches please share what you know. What we are dealing with is the nuts and bolts of being able to sell books. The majority of the future market will be online.

Phone orders and pre-paid mail orders are rare. I receive two mail orders per year.

Websites and “apps” are regularly being updated. The technology changes. Such changes are frustrating, but your site has to stay current. If you don’t stay current, you may lose the ability to sell anything for several days. Going forward, there will likely need to be options besides Paypal for online sales.

Books sold on consignment

There are a few opportunities to sell books on consignment. Consignment sales need for you to trust those you are consigning your books to. An example of a consignment sale is working with a sister organization. A friend who leads a missions effort has taken my books to promote at their national and regional events. It was his idea as a way to help fund the organization’s missions vision. It has gone well and 40% of the sales price stays with him. Such a consignment tapped a market I did not have access to. I’d like to have more partnerships. Anyone interested in such a partnership should email me at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com.

A few church bookstores stock books on a consignment basis. In one instance, I keep their inventory at a consistent level. Each quarter, they inventory the remaining books and send me 60 percent of the retail price. This has been mutually beneficial.

Books sold to larger organizational publishers and booksellers

There was a time when organizational booksellers were the primary opportunity for selling books. This is no longer the case. The changing world of print on demand will likely bring into existence a new marketing paradigm. Even now, many self-published authors do not sell through an organizational book-seller. Since addressing the call to write several authors who had been unknown to me have made contact. Few of these authors sell ANY books through an organizational publisher.

Bear FruitWhen selling to such a book-seller, an average writer can expect to sell 50 or 100 copies of a new book. My disciple-making tools, Take Root or Bear Fruit are different. They generate repeat sales. Such books will be the exception to the numbers I’ve mentioned.

Such booksellers pay an author 55% of the retail price of the book. These are not consignment sales. Upon delivery and invoicing, a check is sent.

 

2017 is here.  Sunday I preached to CalvarySpringfield.church on closing accounts and budgeting forward. Where are we in the account of self, the account with other people and finally in our account with God? What do we want to reallocate as we go forward?  

As you lead a church, it is also time to think and to apply.  How many of last year’s converts are no longer present? We can do better.  Take a look at my  “Not an Ostrich Packet.”  I guarantee the resource’s benefit or your money back. You will get to keep the resources!  

But here is the thing – if you don’t follow my plan to make disciples find some system and use it.  Create your own . . . but don’t let Jesus spiritual babies die.You can provide care for the newcomers to the church!

 

 

Surviving Your Dark During Christmas

“Joy to the world, the Lord is come, let earth receive her king . . . “children-singing-christmas-song

 

“Tis the season to be jolly, fa-la-la-la-la-la-la-la”

 

Over the next few days, many will struggle to find “joy” or “jolly.” I’m thinking of dear friends who unexpectedly lost loved ones this year; a family shattered by a spouse’s infidelity in such a way that never again will the family sit together for a Christmas meal; my peer in ministry with crushing health issues; the “man or maid” alone on this holiday that seems to demand companionship; a wife who finally just had enough of her husband’s meanness and walked away, for the first time she faces a fractured Christmas; an elder who has managed to outlive her peers and her children; those parents whose son will not make a Skype call from Afghanistan this year, his death a few months back the result of an improvised explosive device; the resident of a local nursing home, surrounded by peers whose family have visited, but it seems she has been forgotten by her busy family.

Others with melancholy temperament, or having a physical disorder that results in a chemical imbalance known as depression may be “blue” in what is supposed to be these brightest of seasons.

 

My objective is not to cheer you, but to validate that what you feel is ok. Look to Matthew for validation. The ancient village of Bethlehem was the site of the birth of Jesus Christ, the grandest event in human history. In the same season of time when wise men brought gifts to baby Jesus, Bethlehem was also the site of atrocity worse than what happened in Berlin a few days ago.

 

16 Then Herod, . . . slew all the children that were in Bethlehem, and in all the coasts thereof, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had diligently enquired of the wise men. 17 Then was fulfilled that which was spoken by Jeremy the prophet, saying, 18 In Rama was there a voice heard, lamentation, and weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, and would not be comforted, because they are not. (Matthew 2:16-18) 

 

From the passage notice:

 

  1. The joy at Bethlehem’s stable did not eliminate or reduce the reality of “Rachel weeping for her children.” The birth of the king of the Jews, did not reduce the pain caused by the murder of a peasant child.  Matthew allows those who suffered depressing loss to own and mourn their loss. Neither the original prophet Jeremiah or Matthew criticize the residents of Bethlehem who lamented, wept and mourned – at the time of Christ’s birth. It is fine for there to be some tears at Christmas tables. You have permission to feel what you are feeling! Don’t apologize.
  2. The visit by the wise men; and Rachel’s weeping for her murdered children happened in close proximity. The lesson: sorrow and joy can co-exist. Loneliness and hope often use the same mailbox. Your sadness and depression should not define other people’s experience, nor should you expect it too. Children will laugh and enjoy their new toys; the ugly sweater contest will happen, even if you don’t participate; and MawMaw’s turkey and dressing will be as wonderful as ever. So . . . don’t pull your shroud of despair over everyone else.

 

Confession time:  on occasion I struggle with Christmas. I’m not sure why. There is no particular reason.  The “holy children” are a joy, Norma’s holiday meals merge the best of southern tradition with recipes gained from years of travel, days of holiday quiet are enjoyable but . . . still it is there. Perhaps my confession will at least help someone else feel themselves to have company in their strangeness.

Actually, there can be any of several reasons. My second most dominant personality trait is having a melancholy temperament. Further, at times, I’ve fought the dark battle of clinical depression. Also, I’m not particularly oriented to enjoy settings where I hear stories about “Aunt Lucille’s thyroid gland is acting up again.”

 

Some of the solutions:

 

  1. If any of this describes you, it is fine to feel what you and I share. Be comfortable in not being the “life of the party.” Be secure in your own skin.
  2. Don’t rain on other people’s holiday tradition or enjoyment of the season. God has not called any of us to be Scrooge. Your sorrow or melancholy and a son’s thrill at having bought himself a new drone for Christmas can coexist.
  3. Be present and visible for lunch, dinner and opening those presents, but at some point you may decide to take your Kindle reader, escape to a back room and read a book. You could even choose to get and read my book “Healthy Church, Start Here!”  from Amazon. Take some divinity, fudge, pecan pie and other assorted goodies and for a while enter your own little world. It will be fine. You have permission to do it.
  4. If the darkness, despair and your depression becomes overwhelming please call someone for help. The sadness of their season causes some to commit suicide. Please value yourself more than that. I do! Where you live, there is a suicide prevention hotline. There are people who will listen to your despair and may be able to light your path through the dark of your Christmas.

I’m interested in how you have worked your way through the challenges of this season. Please share your comments.

Some seasons of life the best you can do is survive, there is likely no way to thrive. Live the day; live the season; trust me, laughter will resonate again. Wise people around you likely know your pain and are willing to validate it as I am doing. The way you feel emotionally is not a reflection of how others feel about you.

If it seems there are none who will do so – find an elder who has lived 7 or 8 decades. Elders tend to intimately know the many faces of life.  They have lived the co-existence of life and death, light and dark, disappointment and hope. An elder’s hug and quiet conversation may well be exactly what you need this Christmas season.

 

My free e-book Where is God in My Dark Place is available again. Perhaps you have a friend who you know to be struggling with despair or depression this year. Would you send them a link to carltoncoonsr.com and suggest my free e-book to them

Write! It’s Written, I’m EXCITED! Now What?

Reviewing my past blogs:

  1. Your book has been drafted and rewritten multiple times.omnibus
  2. Your book’s contents have been edited by some other qualified individual(s). Someone like the excellent editor who does my work:  Pam Eddings (rjed4th@aol.com).
  3. A designer has been selected for your book’s cover.  I mentioned  JoLynn Mills at Savvydesign (savvydesignsolutions@gmail.com). She does good work. Regardless of who you have worked with, the cover is tentatively completed to your satisfaction. Reminder:  good editorial and design work is not inexpensive.
  4. Assuming you are self-publishing your book; you have submitted your edited book to Createspace.com or some other “print on demand” publisher for a proof to be developed and sent to you for final review.

When the prooelsie-holding-my-bookf arrives you hold what seems to be a living expression of all your hours of work. However, a “proof-in-hand” is a bit different than the birth of a baby or grandchild. With the kids, no corrections or changes are permitted. With your book, there is time to make any change you need. In your excitement don’t rush the final review. The book your printer sends you is stamped by the printer with the word “proof” for a reason.

This is the time to change your book’s cover or content. Edit your content by gathering the changes that need to be made. I don’t use the printer’s proof for developing my edits, instead I print out a hard copy version of the book on a desk top printer and do edits by hand. When the edits are collected on one hard-copy document, I return to the computer and do the required edits in MS Word.  This edited file is saved as both a MS Word file and as a pdf. When this process is completed, submit your updated content to CreateSpace.com or your printer. Making the changes is  easier than it sounds in this paragraph.

If the book’s cover has mistakes; perhaps the color does not look as good in print as it did on the computer screen; or a name or word is misspelled – have your designer make changes. If you are unhappy with everything about the cover design, offer to pay an additional fee for corrections or another cover design. Keep in mind, that you had already approved the design that has now been printed on your proof.

Print projects I’ve been involved with have had huge “mistakes.” These mistakes happened with several people taking another look.

  • Misspelling the name of a person who had written a blurb promoting the book.
  • Using a picture with vulgar graffiti cut in a pole in the picture’s background.
  • Instead of our church promo tag saying, “Where God is still exciting,” it actually read, “Where God is still exiting!”  There is a drastic difference between those two.
  • A table of contents with incorrect page numbers.
  • Putting a wrong name under the picture of a person who was recommending the author’s book.

It is best to not own a few hundred copies of anything with those kinds of mistake.

For most authors, when a book proof is in hand one of two things happens:

  1. You are so thrilled to have the “baby” in your hands that you cannot see any imperfections.
  2. The author may be tired of looking at the project and give a minimal review.

Each error I mentioned was over-looked by intelligent, educated and capable people. With such errors in mind, have someone other than you look carefully at the proof. Choose someone who is almost obsessive-compulsive in regard to printed details. Again, as a rule it is not wise for the author, or the author’s family members to be the only people to review the proof.

There will almost certainly be mistakes you and others overlook. Don’t sweat it! If you are using CreateSpace.com, even after your book is in print, you can correct the file and resubmit the contents. All future printings of your book will have the corrected version.perfectbound

An “almost Omnibus” of my writing is available at a great discount just now.  The entire package is
only $139.99.  This includes 18 books (three of them are ebook downloads).  The omnibus includes my two newest books:  Healthy Church – Start Here and Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper!  These two new books each sells for $16. You are getting everything in my Disciple-makers packet, the teacher’s packet and more! Our Omnibus sale ends December 31.

 

Write – Take Advantage of Print on Demand

The world of writing has changed since I first wrote Daily Things of Christian Living. Even ten daily-things-600x461years ago, a self-published author purchased several thousand books in order to get a decent price. Of course, in the somewhat small market of a particular organization – a book selling several hundred copies has done quite well. The exceptions to that number of sales would be the excellent books authored by David K. Bernard, Joy Haney, the late Nona Freeman and other select authors or titles.

It is not my intent to be negative, but at that point few authors actually made money from writing. Too many books had to be printed for the author to get a decent price, there was a small circle of purchasers and most authors did not circulate as evangelists or speaking in events or numerous local churches. At that point in time for most writers their writing was a ministry, without financial remuneration.

Print Requirements and Low Sales Volume = An Inventory Crunch

The challenge with buying several thousand books for a lower price point, is that those booburning-moneyks equal cash stacked in a warehouse. Not only did inventory over-stock happen to self-published authors, it happened to large publishers. For large publishers, the books were usually sold as “remainder” stock for pennies on the dollar. A self-published author did not have the option of selling the “remainder” and had to hold, give away or eventually destroy the inventory. Any of the three options is equal to holding, giving away or destroying cash! Burning money is not a palatable option.

What I’ve just described was then – let’s talk about now. Take heart! Have hope! Write! These days, things are different with both financial and ministry benefits for a self-published writer.

Print on Demand – My latest book Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper had virtually the same print cost whether I printed one book or 10,000. No inventory! No cash sitting on a shelf. There are other benefits:

  • A friend of my wife and I  wrote an excellent book on Judah – as praise. When Brenda Bryant  goes to speak at an event she has books shipped to that event direct from her printer. She does not need to haul the books in luggage or pack the books to ship ahead of her.
  • With my “print on demand” books, I’ll often have orders printed and mailed directly from the printer to the purchaser. The books never come into my hands.
  • Technological innovation has reduced the cost of printing down in a really shocking way.

I’m sure there are many print on demand companies to consider. My personal experience, and the create-spaceonly one I can speak to, has been with an Amazon owned subsidiary known as CreateSpace. Visit CreateSpace.com to get an overview of their services. It can be a concierge service where their staff will design and lay out your book for you, to the other extreme – a guided, easy to follow “do it yourself” approach. I’ve had no difficulty in operating the “do it yourself” approach. You won’t either. CreateSpace.com has been a cost effective way for me to self-publish.

Need some perspective:

On a per copy basis, printing Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper 

using CreateSpace.com is less than my earlier cost for printing 4,000 copies of 

Daily Things of Christian Living in 1996.

Actually – almost 50% less.

Also, CreateSpace.com being part of Amazon links you with that company’s expertise, marketing and world-wide impact. I encourage you to use the CreateSpace tutorial.  (At this point, CreateSpace.com is not paying me for promoting them but they should start.)

A caveat – after your book is initially printed and you have approved a proof, the printer will have it near the top of a print que. As time passes, your book will not be near the top of that same que. When this happens, it can take as many as two or three weeks for CreateSpace.com to print and ship your book. The friend mentioned earlier cannot wait until the week before a seminar to order books from CreateSpace.com.

In short, with CreateSpace.com you will eventually not have the option of ordering your book today, the book being printed and shipped to you tomorrow. Based on conversations I’ve had with representatives of a larger publisher, there are print on demand companies who consistently provide a quicker turn around from the date you order. If keeping no inventory on hand, and having a book printed and shipped almost immediately is important, look beyond CreateSpace. Our approach at carltoncoonsr.com is to keep a small stock of each CreateSpace printed book in inventory.

Perhaps you have had experience with some other print on demand company and want to offer suggestions, a  recommendation or even a warning. Please share with this reading audience in the comment section below. We  learn from each other.

 

E-books – The second change in publishing is the increase in the people who use an e-reader. Over half my books are available digitally from Amazon, the Pentecostal Publishing House or from carltoncoonsr.com. The purchaser reads my book as a PDF or on their e-reader.

E-books are a huge benefit to the author. Four benefits revolve around the word, “Nereadero.”

No printing

No inventory

No handling

No shipping

After purchase the book is emailed to the purchaser, or a link is sent. As you self-publish make your book available for the Kindle Reader and Kindle app. If you use CreateSpace.com, with your approval, they will turn your book into a Kindle Edition. You set the price for your e-book and receive the agreed upon profits either monthly or quarterly. These funds are direct-deposited into your checking account. There are e-book readers other than Kindle. To date, I’ve not taken advantage of those markets.

With e-books there are benefits beyond the four “no” words. An author can insert links into the book that take the reader to a Youtube video, TED Talk or to audio, video or documents of supplemental material.

Another caveat:  a challenge with linking to Youtube or TED Talk type information is the potential for the link changing or being deleted.

E-books can be offered as a benefit in a pre-sale of your printed book.  The purchaser who pre-orders a hard-copy of your book gets an immediate down-load of the e-book version at no additional cost. There is no cost, other than a few seconds of time for the self-published author but the motivation to purchase is the offer of “two for one.”

Audio Books – I listen to audio books while mowing, driving or on on the tractor. Marketing my material as audio books is a market area that I’ll explore and you should consider as well. At the outset, I’d use my own voice, but in time would want to have a professional reader. A book can be turned into a downloadable mp3 file. In the large world of publishing, several publishers now offer to sell you an ebook and audio book of the same title. The software keeps up with how far you have read or listened and allows you to seamlessly go from listening to the book while driving to the airport and then pick up reading the book at that exact same location when you are on your plane.

If you have done something with producing audio books please offer we novices some direction.

Now help me in another way!  I’m drowning in Daily Things of Christian Living and need you good people to buy them all.  Actually, I’m not drowning – 20 plus years after publishing that first book, 3,900 of them are sold. Fewer than 100 remain in inventory. They are on sale just now for $10, normally these are $16.

Also an omnibus of almost all my writing (one or two books are either out of print or not under my control) is available for a limited time at 50% off cover prices. Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other great options.  If you have not signed up to receive our current offer or blog posts please do so using the popup.

Books make great Christmas gifts!  Actually, books make great any-time gifts.

Write – Have a Good Cover Design

We are now getting into the last part of the marathon of writing a book for publication.

PIC BY HARRY WHITEHEAD / CATERS NEWS (PICTURED: BRIAN MILLS AT THE HEREFORD MARATHON - 2014 ) - Meet the marathon man who has run around the world- clocking up a staggering 26,000 MILES as the UKs only person to run over 1,000 MARATHONS. Carpenter Brian Mills, 58, from Leominster, Herefordshire has run a staggering 1,004 marathons in the past 27 years- just for fun. Keen runner Brian has already finished 57 marathons this year, and will regularly run at least one marathon every weekend - as a result he has made British marathon history and holds the title of the only person in the UK to complete 1,000 official marathons. SEE CATERS COPY.

Brian Mills, 58, of England has ran 1,000 marathons. 

How your book looks will help it sell or not! Several key factors here

Your Book’s Title Will Make a Difference – I don’t know that discussing the book title really fits in this blog, but I’ve not addressed it elsewhere. Before going to print, come up with a good, descriptive and quick-hitting title that will geostrich-bookt your potential reader’s attention. I’ve had books with great titles – You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama! (This is a book about disciple-making, based on Job 39 and a mother ostrich’s dereliction in her duties.) and some that are mediocre to poor. In my opinion, one of my best books is Healthy Church – Start Here! For some reason, the title has not resonated with the intended audience, so that particular book has not sold well.healthy-church-graphic

 

Take time to develop a good title. From a sales vantage point, the best title may not be something you even like yourself. To get some pre-publishing feedback, you can use social media to present several potential book titles. Doing something of this sort with social media, also serves to give some preliminary marketing for your forthcoming book. David Garfinkel’s book Advertising Headlines that Make You Rich is a worthy read that suggests ways to phrase concepts to gain attention. If possible gain access to this book through your local library. Garfinkel’s book is also a good source for sermon titles, and lines for marketing on Twitter and Facebook.

 

Cover design matters a great deal, particularly if you want your book to sell. Don’t go cheap or amateur on cover-design. Unless you are truly gifted with graphics, your cover is not a place for a “do it yourself” effort. The cover of your book will either entice people to pick it up for a look or to ignore or overlook it. I’m not graphic or capable with visual art at all, so I need total help with cover design. Hire someone who does cover professional graphics work design your book cover. Since you “hire” the person, you don’t have to accept their first suggestion or concept.

 

Selecting Your Cover Design Artist – I suggest choosing someone who has done cover design before. It is wise to have potential cover designers show you work they have done on other books. If your book will be the artist’s first cover design, your book cover should be free or relatively inexpensive. You are taking a risk with using an unproven person for cover design. I currently use JoLynn Mills with Savvy Design Solutions. (savvydesignsolutions@gmail.com) JoLynn does good work. She is proven and for a decade has done overall design of at least one magazine as well as church marketing projects.

 

What Will a Cover Design Cost? – This is quite varied, and may depend on the amount of work the artist is doing at the moment, or how elaborate your design will be. There is also what we called during my time with North American Missions, “East Coast/West Coast pricing.” If simply means that on either coast prices tend to be more expensive than in the middle of the continent. Regardless of where you live, with modern technology, your cover design person can be anywhere in the world. Inexpensive is not necessarily the best option! Of course, be sure you know what your cost will be and be prepared to pay the bill when it is due.

 

Things to Know BEFORE Selecting Someone for Cover Design  – What is your time-line for going to timelineprint? What is your book title? If you are not sure on the title, the design person may be able to offer some suggestions. What size will your book be? The most common size of perfect bound book is 6″ by 9″. How many pages will be in the book? The number of pages will determine how wide the spine of the book is going to be. What information do you want on the back cover of the book?

 

Working with a Cover Designer -You may have an idea of what the cover should look like. If so, share your idea with the artist. If you are open to suggestions, or simply don’t have any idea you can send JoLynn enough of your  your content for her to develop some cover concepts for your book. Designing the cover is give and take. You are working with professionals designers who want to make your project a success. If you don’t care for some of the early concepts keep working at it until you are content. Most graphic artists are able to make changes rather quickly. They understand how to make computer software do things that a novice will not know. Again – go professional!

In working with a graphic artist for cover design realize that your project is not the only project currently in their portfolio. Make sure the cover can be designed, with time for edits within your time frame. Even with that being said:   connect, reconnect and follow-up on the time-lines that you and the cover designer decide on.  The squeaking wheel really does get the grease.

 

Front Cover – This is widely varied but does need to be in colors that are currently in vogue. The cover needs to gain attention as well as reflect the content of the book. Encourage your artist to use colors that “pop.”  Since the first year will be the time when most of your sales happen it is not as important to use traditional colors with long shelf life, but a color that is attention getting at the moment of publication.

 

Back cover – The back cover is also important. A prospective customer has picked up your book. What does the person do? Almost immediately, they turn the book over to see what the back cover says. Your back cover must not be wasted space. It can give a short description of “why” a person should purchase this book, along with the author’s picture and a brief biography. The biography would be a few sentences that validate the person as an author. Finally, you can include one or two short recommendations from influential people who may cause others to purchase your book. When you ask for these recommendations, realize that the people who give you these statements will likely write a longer response than you can include. Have each person’s permission to edit their paragraph, letter or email down to a single pithy sentence.

 

 

Quality creative work costs money.

Quality creative work makes money.

Don’t be foolish and skimp on your cover design.

 Christmas sale available for only five more days!!!!  I’ve quite a number of books already in print  – an coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or son-in-law who is a developing minister. We need to get these in the mail soon. Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options.

ALSO, for a few more days, four of my earlier books are available for only $10 per title:

Daily Things of Christian Living

Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask

Masterful Preaching

If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me

My latest book Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper has been my best seller within the time frame it has been available.  This would also make a great Christmas gift!

Writing – Empower Your Editor

Good writers appreciate good editors! If you are a fledgling author – please, please, please empower an editor to help you!  Here is what an editor does for your work. An editor is a capable, book-shelves-full-of-booksqualified critical reader. An editor usually has a love of words. Your editor prepares your manuscript for publication by polishing, refining and enhancing it. An editor is not employed to tell you how wonderful you are.

This person directs the focus of the story or article along a particular course. The editor will recommend cutting out what doesn’t fit or what is not essential to the purpose of the story. As a result of editing, the major points of your effort are enhanced, drawing attention to places where your readers should focus.

If you write for a publishing company an editor is provided. The editor is usually “the buck stops here” power in how your book will come out. This editor’s changes will in almost all instances become the final draft of the book. With one of my books I did not see the edited text at all. After the manuscript was accepted by the publisher, I did not see the book until a finished copy was delivered to my address. The publisher has control of the project!

Self-published authors will need to hire a freelance editor. A freelance editor is hired by a writer pam-eddingsto ready his manuscript for publication. The freelance editors I have brought on my team have each been a “copy editor.” This person did the important work of carefully looking at my spelling, grammar and punctuation. The work includes checking my facts and confirming my use of words. Excellent copy editors are a wonderful thing to behold. My current, highly recommended editor is Pam Eddings. Pam selectively takes on an occasional new client. Her email address is rjed4th@aol.com. When you work with an editor learn up front what your costs will be.

This particular sort of editing is necessary. It is my observation that many potential writers, who have a good story to tell, would benefit from the help of an editor who can take this several steps further. The picture of sandpaper at work is an accurate portrayal of what is needed. An editor who can:

sanding

  1. Help the author develop the idea for meaning, flow and readability. Such an editor helps the writer make sense to the reader!
  2. Ensure the sections of the book, flow logically from one to another. The work means the material has consistency and a flow, and that the right amount of information is included.
  3. Affirm that the conclusions made by the author are accurate, based on the content presented.
  4. If the article or book is a biography, a true story or fiction this work by an editor may include moving chapters or paragraphs about for the sake of readability and interest. In some instances, the editor may be a ghost writer who takes the author’s information and turns it into a readable story.

An acquaintance had the task of providing a monthly article for a national magazine. The stories were to come from diverse sources. An individual involved in each story was called on to write the article. Without fail, before the story could go in the magazine it needed an editorial re-write. Don’t fall in love with your words, fall in love with your ideas – your ideas being read!

If you want to excel in writing – I encourage you to empower your editor to do ALL of the things mentioned above.

A Bit of History

My first book was Daily Things of Christian Living. At the prompting of an author who had already written one book, I sent my manuscript to seven highly educated acquaintances. The cover letter asked these “volunteer” editors:

  1. To read my manuscript with a red ink pen in hand.
  2. Told them that I was not looking for “kudos” but for ways to improve my book.
  3. The letter suggested a deadline.

Within weeks I had received a number of marked-up versions of my book. Then came the work of using these “volunteer” editors information to strengthen my book. This work was slow, since it involved looking at several copies of my printed manuscript one line at a time. When I glance over Daily Things of Christian Living, there are mistakes, but not anywhere as many as there would have been without this work.

It is possible that on your first project(s) you may be able to benefit from capable volunteers. My friend Evangelist Stan Thrift had a teacher in a former pastorate work through his upcoming manuscript. I now pastor several people with master’s degrees and have access to some who have doctoral degrees. Do be aware, such people tend to have over-loaded lives. You cannot go to these particular wells repeatedly.

When I had re-written Daily Things of Christian Living, I sent the book to several more people for a final review.

Questions to consider as you seek an editor for your book:

  1. What level of editing are you desiring?
  2. What background do you want your editor to have?
  3. Do you need to see some of the editor’s prior work?
  4. How much will the editor cost?  Costs may be per hour or per page in the manuscript.
  5. What is the time-line for the editor turning the material around for you? If you have a deadline, be sure to communicate this to your potential editor.
  6. How will your editor be paid? Paypal and similar pay options is a wonderful invention!
  7. Will your editor use MS Word using the “mark up” and editing resources, or will the editor do a “re-write.” Either is fine. I tend to trust my editor and almost always go with their suggestion.
  8. Is the editor empowered to make, or suggest making big changes? Big changes include moving material about for the sake of interest and readability.

If you are self-publishing, the book is your book. You can either not have an editor (or editorial team), or can ignore every recommendation of the editor. Remember – it is your book!

If you don’t empower an editor or ignore their input, what you are really saying is that you are o.k. with misspelled words, incorrect grammar, the potential for poor flow and an occasional paragraph that does not make sense to your future reader.

It is much better for you to realize that someone else can help polish your work. Empower your editor! If you do, you will write with much more excellence.

You Can Write Well – Re-write Using Daniel Koren and Hemingway’s strategies!

The last blog post caught much attention. It likely well captures the “grind it out” work required to sandingdo a good job. The finishing work to be done on your writing is like a craftsman sanding down his wood-work. Quality requires it!

A note is needed here. For many of my readers, this is no longer “Writing 101.”  Please, don’t decide you cannot write because the concepts discussed in this posting difficult. For quality writing, without you having to know or do all the “sanding down,” two possible work around options exist:

  • You can ask several highly qualified people – with the English and grammar background to review your work. Advise these people that you are wanting a lot of red-ink, rather than encouraging words. Ask them to tell you how to do the specific things addressed below.
  • There are also several online programs and apps where you can copy and paste your text for a review.

People tolerate sloppy grammar or regional terms with preaching. Those same people will not tolerate sloppy writing.

daniel-korenI shared a masters level college class with Pastor and author Daniel Koren. Daniel succinctly observed:  the strength of re-writing is a process where an author does five things.

  1.  Turn prepositions into adjectives. Prepositions are often phrases, meaning there is more than one word involved. Using an adjective requires less words. 
  2. Turn adjectives into nouns. A noun used as a subject or direct object is the key figure in your sentence. An adjective is a qualifier for the noun. As you rewrite imagine eliminating the adjective or turning the adjective into the subject or direct object in a totally separate sentence. Example:  westerns written by Zane Grey were incredibly descriptive. The descriptive adjectives detracted attention from the subject being described. Grey’s wrote in a time when the author had to thoroughly describe every thing. Think about it – video technology was limited, photography and films were black and white. Thirty years after Zane Grey died Louis L’Amour wrote to a similar interest group. He wrote different. L’Amour was not as descriptive but his writing was easy to follow.  Turning adjectives into nouns makes short and strong sentences. 
  3. Eliminate adverbs turning them into active verbs.  An adverb qualifies the action being taken. Make the qualifier an action itself. Again, sentences are short and clear. 
  4. Get rid “being” verbs. I’m still working on this one, actually I am working on all of these. There are several websites available to help eliminate this rather passive form of communication. 
  5. Eliminate passive verbs.  Passive verbs include:  “were” “are” “is” “had” or “will be.” A active-voice-vs-passive-voice-1-1sentence written in passive voice isn’t grammatically incorrect, but the sentences fails to live up to its potential. Even the simplest grammar check program catches passive verbs and encourages the author to rewrite the sentence. 

There are software programs and apps that can help you accomplish these five things. Please note, having a good editor for grammar is vital, but most editors for grammar will not do the work suggested by Daniel Koren. You will either have to specifically ask an editor to do these five things, do it yourself or put to use a software program to accomplish stronger writing. I would add to this list, the need to minimize the people we are describing with the use of personal pronouns, “he, she, they, we, us, our, etc.” likely need to be identified.

Perhaps you think I’m all wet. Some prospective authors have been so bold as to say, “This is what God gave me to write and not a word will be changed!” I imagine the Lord Jesus is more interested in getting His point across rather than the arrangement of the words. Don’t be stubborn and miss having your material read. If Jesus gave you an insight needing to be read then do the hard work to make it a book to be read by as many people as possible.

ernesthemingway

Earnest Hemingway’s four rules for effective writing should also be applied:

  1. Use short sentences. A minimalist approach to writing (and speaking) is much more effective than having meaningless, flowery prose. Cut out the drivel. Someone asked Hemingway to tell an entire story in only six words. Hemingway’s ability to communicate came through with his six words:  “For sale:  baby shoes, never worn.” You can communicate better by using short sentences. Amazing story, well told!
  2. Use short first paragraphs. A reader will decide within a few paragraphs whether you have something worth saying. The first paragraph needs to capture attention. A flash of light gets attention while the comparatively slow movement of the afternoon sun may not. Say something meaningful; say it quick!
  3. Use vigorous English. Do something and do it definitively. My writing easily lapses into a passive voice. The words are much stronger in active mode. This single part of re-writing takes up much of my time. You will also likely have some particular challenge that will take much of your re-write time.
  4. Write positively, not negatively. This is somewhat sobering, considering Hemingway eventually took his own life. However, don’t write from a defensive posture. The positive presentation of a godly life, the infilling of the Holy Spirit, the Godhead. the benefits of preaching to sinners or working to make disciples can be communicated in such a positive way that people want to consider the benefits.

Hemingway also said for every 91 pages he wrote, 90 of those pages were not worth keeping. He likely exaggerated a bit with that statement but effective writers are willing to cut, cull and eliminate for the sake of clarity and getting to the point.

Stay with me – this is hard work, but it is valuable and meaningful. I had to become aware of the process and then apply these principles. You may have never considered these factors in writing, but with this information your work will already be better.

Finally – Order now for a great Christmas gift!  An coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices.  Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options.

A second great gift option for only $10 each. Four of my books:

Daily Things of Christian Living,

If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me,

Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask and

Masterful Preaching are available for only $10 each. This is a limited time offer.

If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.

Re-Writes the Making of a Book!

This blog post may end the idea of writing for some. Over the next few blogs, we get to the “grind it out” work. Before you complete a book project, you are sick of your own “baby.” Re-writing is what makes or breaks written communication!

Take heart – some of what I’ll describe here is difficult on your first writing project, but becomes perspirationsecond nature. Writing really is work! However, it is work that more of you need to be doing!

Writing begins with getting words on a page screen.  You also now know this “first draft” is a long way from being a book. My books will go through multiple re-writes before the book is submitted to an editor for final work on the grammar. There are usually 12 re-writes.

Re-write makes or breaks the material. So what is the objective of all this re-writing. Here is what you are looking for in your re-write.

1. Eliminate unnecessary words in sentences. The use of unnecessary words is known as pleonasm. (Don’t you just love words!) Pleonasm is including words adding nothing to the message of the sentence. Words you should NEVER use in writing include:  really, very, that (experiment with the word “that” by eliminating “that” from the sentence. If the sentence makes sense without “that” leave it out), just, then (explore using “and” instead of then, or see if two sentences might flow better), totally, completely, absolutely, literally, definitely, certainly, probably, actually, basically, virtually (each of these words adds no new information), start, begin, began,  rather, quite, somewhat, somehow, said, replied, asked and other dialogue terms (when you have established the people who are speaking, let them speak without having to constantly identify the speaker.  I confess this is not my strong suit.), down, up (as in, “I lifted him up.”  “I lifted him” makes your point), wonder, ponder, think, thought, feel, felt, understand, (find a way to write this differently).  You will likely come up with additional words you don’t need to use.

  • Practical application:  During rewrite, use the “find and replace” feature to search for each word on the list above. You can “replace” with the same word highlighted. Go through the entire list of words you will potentially eliminate. Now, read the material. Consider eliminating the highlighted words. In some instances you will decide to restate the concept more clearly.

  • Dealing with eliminating words is not second nature to most writers; develop a list that becomes your “cheat” notes for doing the rewrite.

 2. Eliminate unnecessary sentences in paragraphs. Unnecessary sentences may not be as simple saw as discovering unnecessary words. After a time, unnecessary words jump off the page at you – whether it is your writing or that of someone else, sentences require more thought. Here is what an unnecessary sentence looks like:

  • Unnecessary sentences may “over explain” the point you are making. Preachers tend to do this and can get away with while in the pulpit. It won’t work with written material. Get rid of sentences that over-explain.

  • An unnecessary sentence may also be a deviation or digression inserting unneeded information. Recall the lessons from your early writing classes; each paragraph is to have a single point.

  • The unnecessary sentence may be the making of a second paragraph, or the unnecessary sentence may be so disconnected as needing to disappear forever.

    3. During the rewrites, you explore moving sentences, paragraphs and chapters around for the sake of capturing the reader’s attention, and for clarity or readability. An article in a national magazine may begin, “Our family arrived in xyz, MO on the 12th of July, 2004.” The sentence is correct. Most editors won’t suggest a change, but the opening sentence has no “pop.” For someone scanning the magazine looking for interesting articles – that article probably went in file 13.  Moving things around may help create tension, passion and a sense of purpose. A re-write takes good information, moves it around making the content more  interesting and readable.

 4. In rewriting seek to replace a firecracker word with a dynamite word. One word can change thetnt_a-500x500 impact of a sentence. Vocabulary is the currency of a writer. Work to increase your vocabulary of usable words. As a writer, you need words – many words, great words, strong expressive words. When you write a first draft, you present an idea; in the re-writes you sharpen the idea. On-line dictionaries can help find the exact word you need. On occasion, I still use an old book, The Synonym Finder in search of a better word.

In the next two blog posts I’ll share some re-write observations from Daniel Koren a neighboring pastor and author, then some editorial thoughts based on Earnest Hemingway’s strategy for writing with clarity.  

As always – any author enjoys people benefiting from their work. I’ve a number of books already in print  – an coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or daughter, or a son-in-law who is a developing minister. Not a bad option as a gift for yourself actually.

Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.

Last – if you will retweet, or share the Facebook or Twitter post that alerted you to my blog it may help others.

Write – Get Multiple Uses From Your Work

Those who seem to be prolific in their writing work hard, but they also work smart. Chuck bernardSwindoll has authored over 70 books. John Maxwell has written over 30 books. Dr. David Bernard has also written over 30 books.

These fellows are all busy, yet for each there is “time to write.” Actually, some of the books each man has authored is drawn from material originally developed for some other purpose. The book is thus a second use of material developed for some other purpose. Such people work hard AND SMART!

chuck-swindoll-fbshare

  • Swindoll’s Insight for Living radio program as well as his pastoral efforts all required fresh material. The material made its way into best selling books.

  • Dr. Bernard’s work as an assistant editor, toward higher education and in providing pastoral care has required much research. Some of the research first used in papers written for seminary later became a book.

  • John Maxwell’s material was first tried and proven in training the leadership team at Skyline Wesleyan Church in San Diego. Eventually, it became part of excellent books like, Developing the Leader Within.

Think of the authors who have many titles in print:  Andy Stanley, Michael Hyatt, Joyce Meyer – even my 20 books reflect getting multiple use from one research effort.

Let your mind roam broadly here. Some write for publication; others will never publish a book but could be writing blog-posts in support of a local church mission. Imagine the benefit:  material for blog-posts, twitter, Face Book or a publication can come from work you are already doing.

 Over half of my published material reflects this sort of multiplied use of resources.

My favorite class was a “Young Marrieds Class.” It was my experiment in adult Christian education. The group sat in a circle. Each class was interactive with much conversation. For years the lessons were filed away until someone mentioned needing the material. The lessons I’d developed were edited and became two books of 6-7 ready to teach lessons:  Beating the Marriage Busters and Biblical Parenting. They meet the need of a particular niche, without taking a great deal of time. You can do the same!

Use material you have already developed to blog, post on Face Book or for micro-blogging

I’m teaching a series on prayer. Rather than my verbal communication, (which can be heard at SpringfieldCalvary.church) being the end of the material, the same material is edited for use  on the pastor’s blog at the church website. Each blog post is publicized to those connected with the church Facebook page and Twitter account. Quotes from the teaching are placed on Twitter.

The benefit does not stop there. The same material on prayer will eventually be a free e-book available at the church’s website. It could eventually be a book. The lessons may become a series of lessons for someone else to teach. If these all happen, I’ll have got five uses out of the same material. My count does not include the Soundcloud listening audience who hear me teach and preach before they ever visit Calvary, nor does it include any possible use of this with video, or developing a set of cd or usb audios.  I could actually get as much as 9 uses from the same content.

In a recent comment, Glenn Donnellan, a fine church planters in Nova Scotia, shared how he has began posting comments on Face Book each week. Missionary Donnellan is using ideas and concepts drawn from his preaching and teaching. He is engaging his community. You can do the same with the material you are already developing.

Turning the spoken word into something written takes work. It has been said, “Writing makes one clear.” The spoken word allows flexibility, sarcasm and dry humor. Body language, tone of voice and facial expressions is all part of the communication process in preaching and teaching. Writers do not have access to several of those tools. Writing needs specificity. The work is to remove uncertainty and get a rifle shot toward your target.

The exception that allows you to retain uncertainty is  if you are writing books similar to a Miss Marple mystery. Mystery stories do need a mystery, otherwise remove the mystery.

Material to potentially reuse

  • What book of the Bible have you already taught or preached an expository series on? How many pages of notes do you have that could be edited, adapted and adjusted into something that can benefit others?

  • Have you preached a series of sermons leading into Christmas?  I so enjoyed and the church gained from a series I preached on the Characters of Christmas. Before Easter I’ve spent time with the Characters of the Passion Week. Both series are good (even if I am the one saying so) and are unpublished. I’ll get around to them some day.

  • Do you excel at wedding services and wedding messages? Put these in a book for the rest of us! I struggle with making weddings a meaningful time for communication. Attendees seem focused on “the kiss and the cake,” and not interested in what the officiating minister has to say. Your material can likely help me be better with this.

  • Baby dedications, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and funerals get much effort from me. One collection of my funeral sermons, Honey from a Strange Hive was printed by the Pentecostal Publishing House. “Honey . . . ” includes a CD with the funeral sermons in MS Word. This allows the minister to easily make the funeral sermon his own. (With a cd, there is potentially a tenth use of the material.)

What have you already worked on? Evangelist Stan Thrift developed small group lessons in an earlier pastorate. The lessons are “ready to use” resources for a pastor using small groups. A friend, Pastor Galen Thompson is qualified to develop corporate and educational training materials. As a pastor, he uses this ability to great advantage. Pastor Thompson’s approach makes the content memorable and tries to bring the audience to a point of application. His content, and material from others like him will help many. People I do not yet know who are part of the Pentecostal Assemblies of the World, the United Pentecostal Church, Assemblies of the Lord Jesus Christ, Church of Our Lord Jesus Christ, independent Apostolics and other organizations have already developed resources that can help others.

Consider sharing with me and this email list content you have developed that may be beneficial and publishable! Consider it a first step in marketing your idea. 

Then think more carefully about how you can get multiple uses from the work you will do this week.

I’ve a file labeled “You Are Terrific.” It contains hundreds of notes, letters, reviews, etc. from people who had something positive to say about some effort I’d made. My “Terrific” file has many notes from people about books I’ve written. I recommend that you start your own file. It is good reading material for those occasional difficult seasons of life. As always – any author enjoys people benefiting from their work. I’ve a number of books already in print  – an coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or daughter, or a son-in-law who is a developing minister. Not a bad option as a gift for yourself actually.

Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.

Last – if you will retweet, or share the Facebook or Twitter post that alerted you to my blog it may help others.

 

Write – First Drafts

 An idea exists, the need is there – now what?  

 First drafts can be fun, at least they are when you are writing about things you feel passionately
about. A first draft s the first material you put on paper or computer screen. In my case, a first draft is less fun, when I am writing something requiring a significant amount of footnoting. For the sake of scholarship and positioning ourselves to be better understood, we definitely need more writing that requires footnotes – because an array of source material indicates a level of research and scholarship that serves to help validate the authors efforts. So, some of you with Master and Doctoral degrees we need the sort of material you can produce.

Have an idea, now clearly define your objective – Public speakers are told, “If the idea of your speech cannot be condensed to a single sentence then you are not yet clear about what it is that you want to say.” This is a good practice for both preaching and writing.  It helps you clarify your objective.

Outline – If developing an outline sounds like middle school, it’s because it is like middle school. Outlining for a word_outline_7_levelswriter is like the basic significance of addition to math. An outline is the building block, the framework, the skeleton for your work. After I have an idea, and a clarifying sentence – I draft a rough preliminary outline that i think will move me toward my objective. When writing a book, my initial outline is chapter titles. Each chapter then has its own rough outline. My rough outline is a skeleton to eventually flesh out and put skin on.

Writing is messy and your ideas are movable – Notice, my italicizing for emphasis – rough outline. Draw attention, to “rough.”  At this stage of the writing process sometime the “ankle bone is not connected to the shin bone.” In the early rough outline, “the ankle bone may be connected to the cheek bone.” Later, the bones of the skeleton will get moved around.

Understand:  writing is messy! Don’t let a final manuscript fool you – each writing project beginsthe-purpose-of-the-first-draft-is-not-to-get-it-right rough. Some weeks back, a proof text of the autobiography of the actor James Earl Jones came into my hands. A proof text is a book in final stages sent out for review. In the case of Mr. Jones book – the proof text was still rather messy. I’ve completed 21 books and have several additional projects currently in the works. During the process of writing, my last book, Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper was just as messy as my first book Daily Things of Christian Living.

NOW Just Write –  Within each main outline point do a free flowing “Brain Dump” where you put thoughts on paper related to that particular point. You aren’t writing, you are “thinking on paper.” As my friend Larry Booker said, “Writing a book is first of all about getting something on paper.”  At this point, you are getting something, anything on paper. Your new project is several generations from a completed document, so let the words flow.

Now . . . no editing at this point. The reason – editing inhibits creativity. The editorial part of your brain is something of a critic. The early stages of creativity has no place for a critic. While you are doing a “brain dump,” put the editing part of your brain on the shelf. If you aspire to do quality work, your book will be rewritten so many times that it will look nothing like what is in front of you just now.  As a rule, for my 21 books, each of the bi-monthly North American Missions Director’s Communique and numerous articles for publication – there were at least 12 re-writes before the process was complete.

write-without-mercyDuring this rough draft part of the process, you are gathering a massive collection of information.

Take the work of writing a bite at a time!  – Last week, my ten year-old grandsons asked me, “How do you eat an elephant?” They laughed heartily at the idea of eating an elephant “one bite at a time.” Writing a book is like eating an elephant. An author cannot work on a book. At times the author cannot work on a chapter. Break the work down into bite size pieces. If a chapter has headings or subheading, you may want to eat that bite before considering any of the rest of the book. You may work on one page – one page per day for 120 days is a book of some significance.

To keep from getting bored with the process, or when inspiration is flowing for a particular area feel free to jump around inside the “brain dump” process. Actually, this applies to all of the work of writing, there are times when I’ll have one chapter at the back of the book, entirely completed, including all rewrites while a much earlier chapter is only outlined.

I do recommend getting on a writing project and finishing it. Each time I return to my project, The Bible as More Than Literature I have to review the work and almost restart. Learn from my mistakes.

Do what works for you – but write! An arriving generation and the one that follows them and then the one after that will need your voice.

 As always – any author enjoys selling their stuff. I’ve quite a number of books already in print  – an coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or daughter, or a son-in-law who is a developing minister. Not a bad option as a gift for yourself actually.

Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.

 

Write – In Response to Need!

 Every writer is different in how they approach writing. I can only share what has worked for me. If what I describe does not work for you, for goodness sake don’t quit – experiment with other approaches.  book-shelves-full-of-books

 Your premise for writing is vital – Perhaps it is a ‘no brainer,” but you must have a story to tell or a point to communicate. Develop your premise from these sorts of questions:

  • What issue will I address?

  • What question(s) will I  answer?

  • Whose story will I tell?

  • What argument will I make?

  • What practical instruction will be given?

  • What insight needs to be shared?

  • Is there a collection of humor that I have to share?

In essence, what are you going to write about? It may need to go further, from both the writer and a potential reader’s perspective, “Why does this need to be written?” It has been said of preaching, “On some occasions, you have something to say, while on other occasions you need to say something!” Every preacher worth his salt knows the difference. An author must have something to say.  She must see a void that what he or she writes can fill. Let me give you some examples of the voids I envision being filled:

  • Apologetics – You cannot effectively present Bible truth to someone who does not believe the Bible is God’sbible-as-literature word. Eighteen years back my sons had a high school class called, “The Bible as Literature.” If the Bible is deemed as simply literature, it loses all authority. Shortly after they had they class I began working on a series of lessons, The Bible as MORE THAN Literature.  I’ve never taught the material and it is unpublished – perhaps 60 percent complete toward publication. My lessons and writing are my response to what I see as a current and future need.

  • Life of Christ –  Sixteen years ago, it dawned on me that I knew quite a bit about the church as seen in Acts and the Epistles, but my comprehension of the public ministry of Christ was rather weak. If mine was weak, imagine where those I led might have been. At the moment, I’d taught 26 lessons on year one of Christ’s public ministry and over 30 lessons on the Sermon on the Mount. I’m not the least read or studied person about – if my “life of Christ” was weak. I imagine some others may be as well. I’ll finish mine – someday . . . maybe. In the meantime, someone go ahead and fill this void. Again, my lessons and eventual publication of the material will be my response to a perceived need.

  • Pastoral Care – Church life rises and falls on a shepherd leading, feeding, seeking and healing the flock of God. Too little has been written about the behaviors of an effective pastor. I’ve a book in the works on this but help is needed from several vantage points. My personality and ministerial journey is different than some. I will write in response to what I envision as a current void.

I hope this makes sense, through the years, everything I’ve written has been the result of a need or void that someone should fill. I don’t know that my words or work were the best to fill the void – but my effort was better than no effort.

Feel the same about your writing for a purpose. Don’t be insecure. Your grammar won’t be perfect. Occasionally my fingers type the word,  “their” when a “there” is called for. My ten fingers have been making that mistake since my remedial writing class at Louisiana College in Pineville. Your first draft will be reworked so many times that most (but seemingly never all) of your errors will be gone. 

Collect ideas – every sermon, blog post, book chapter require an idea. Those who write, preach and do any formopen-filing-cabinet-filled-with-files of public speaking tend to be “collectors of ideas.” I now use Scannable which scans documents into a pdf format and saves them in the essential app and software Evernote. Evernote helps you remember “everything.” At an entry level, evernote is free.  Until I started migrating to software, my “collection” of ideas had grown to 12 file drawers of somewhat organized content. Even now many of my  resources remain in those files.

Within Evernote, I maintain a constantly growing list of potential sermons, blog post ideas, book titles and chapter titles. These files are the well that an author eventually draws water from. Writers benefit from having access to many wells! There are times when I don’t feel like writing, studying or developing new material – there are times I won’t just not feel like it . . . I won’t do any of it but it won’t be that I’m lacking in ideas.

 Most authors write with the hope of someone else buying and reading their material. I’ve been fortunate in having many people purchase my books. Tens of thousands of my books are in print and in the hands of readers, students and even a few researchers.

Just now an coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or son-in-law who is a developing minister. Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.  If you’d like to compare the writing from my first book – Daily Things of Christian Living with my latest Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper you can purchase either or both just now. Only a few dozen Daily Things of Christian Living (first edition) remain available.  These also make great Christmas gifts or we can figure out how to sell you the last few cases at a discount!

What to Write? Ohh, What to Write?

Writing is diverse in both objective and approach. The word “writing” encompasses everything from a Louis L’amour western to Shakespeare’s plays. In short:  write about topics fshakespeare-bookletor which you have knowledge that will benefit other people.

Your interests become a fountain from which content flows. In school, I learned how difficult it was to write about things for which I had no interest. Write about things you enjoy or that interest you. I’ve followed a FaceBook group, primarily church planters, as they have communicated with each other their enjoyment/expertise with smoking meat and barbecue. Somewhere in the information shared is the making of a book that would reach beyond the “church world.” That book would need to be written by someone who is interested in barbecue.

On occasion I’ve asked book sellers what sort of interests garner the most attention. Topics that come up repeatedly as needing attention:

 Leadership/Church Growth – People are drawn to the idea of being able to be effective leaders andthe-leadership-challenge to grow people and a church. Leading people in a changing world is a perpetual challenge, yet the principles of leadership are as old as time. I value the work of Kouzes and Posner’s The Leadership Challenge, Jim Collins’ Good to Great and John Maxwell’s Discovering the Leader Within You. Many will never read those books though they communicate numerous Bible-based principles. You, writing similar concepts to what is in those books, that will be will be helpful. I’ve tried to address some of the issues with my books Healthy Church Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask– Start Here and Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask. (Questions . . .is currently available for only $10. It normally sells for $16.)  Anything that grows people is needed.

Theology – A well rounded perspective of Biblical truth regarding the Lord Jesus Christ, salvation and Christian living demands more books. Books by Dr. David K. Bernard, Dr. David Norris and others have defined truth in a positive way. Positive theology is important. Example:  the plan of salvation is not ugly – my little book Masterful Preaching – Restoring the Place of Good News Preaching  on preaching to the lost includes: “This Beautiful Plan of Salvation.”  Repentance, baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and the infilling of the Holy Spirit are not negative.

  • Repentance is a turn around. A person is on the road to hell, and they turn around and begin a journey toward heaven. How is that negative?

  • A person baptized in Jesus name a person has the stain of past sin washed out of their life. How is that negative?

  • The infilling of the Holy Ghost, is the spirit of Christ within. Again, how could that be an ugly thing?

(Masterful Preaching is also currently on sale for $10.)

As you write theologically, write in clear explanatory terms. Anticipate questions and answer those questions. We need more well researched theological material that ask and answers real-world questions.

 Bible Study – There is need for additional systematic content covering a book of the Bible. Where too little Biblical research material is available the preacher/teacher seems to get away facts-witherspoonrom the authority of the Biblical text. Each book of the Bible needs several people to research that book, and provide hermeneutics, exegesis, and exposition of the text. Some of you have taught wonderful series on the book of Jude, Daniel, Genesis, etc. Do a bit more work and provide what you have to others.

Christian Life and Living – Life is hard and complicated. My free e-book “Where is God in My Dark Place” dealing with surviving depression gained huge response. People dealing with real world issues need information. Depression, money management, mental health issues, balance in Christian life, time management, staying positive when one is melancholy by temperament, family relationships, unhealthy parents, retirement, pastoral transitions and positive perspectives on human sexuality are all topics for which little content has been provided.

As an example:  there has been a resurgence of interest in my first book, Daily Things of Christian Living. (Also currently on sale for $10.) Pastors and pastor’s wives from Louisiana to Minnesota have used “Daily Things” to teach a series. The interest in the practical concepts found in Daily Things of Christian Living have me drafting a second updated edition of the book for this “social media” world. Write well about any aspect of Christian living and you will have an audience.

Biography – These are intriguing stories that need to be told. Stories of conversion, mission work and family heritage. A good story involves tension, opposition, struggle and disappointment. Too often, Christian writing comes off a bit like a perfect “Pollyanna” story. We tell the successes and victories. People gain much from hearing of struggle and failure. Someone needs to write the story of David Gray, Jack Yonts, Harry Branding, Bishop Johnson, John and Nilah Mean, J.T. Pugh, Johnny James, T. F. and Thetus Tenney, W.C. Parkey, C. G. Weeks, Elton Bernard, Harry Scism, Bruce Howell and a myriad of others.

 A warning here:  some of the most impacting stories will best be written using a pen-name and changing the name of every person in the story. Human history is ugly! If you don’t believe me, go back and carefully read the stories of Abraham, Issac and Jacob. Notice the moral failings, dishonesty, manipulation, conniving and murder that Genesis drags into the open for all to see.

 Training content – Norma, Lane, Shelley and I  (wife, son and daughter-in-law respectively) are completing a membership training program based on my recent book Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper. In some ways it will be an experiment at something we have not done before. Using written material which will be available on-line,  a mix of audio and video we want to prepare Christian leaders for revival. You may have a similar interest. Content is needed for training ushers, hostesses and a hospitality team; creative church decor, building a church or home on a budget, teaching people to cook healthy meals, equipping youth workers; training Sunday School staff, or better equipping pastors to deal with the digital age. The world is so open to practical helpful instruction. Your material can help someone else.

What I’m constantly hearing from the arriving generation:  don’t inspire me, equip me!

As you consider what to write, don’t overlook the need for books for children of all ages, youth, young married couples, pre-marital counseling and a myriad of other topics. As you write, have fun. You are already writing – at least it is likely that you are:  sermons, Bible studies, your prayer journal, blog posts, etc. become the basis for the material you author.  My next post will deal with getting multiple uses out of the work you are already doing.

 As always – any author enjoys selling their stuff. I’ve quite a number of books already in print  – an coonsslide2omnibus of almost all my writing (18 books out of a total of 22 written, the others are either out of print or not under my control) is now available for a limited time at almost 50% off cover prices. This would be a great Christmas gift for your son, or son-in-law who is a developing minister. Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other options. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup. If you’d like to compare the writing from my first book – Daily Things of Christian Living with my latest Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper you can purchase either or both just now. Only a few dozen Daily Things of Christian Living (first edition) remain available.  These also make great Christmas gifts or we can figure out how to sell you the last few cases at a discount!

Calling on YOU to Write!

I am challenging us to write!  A sermon or Bible lesson is a powerful thing.

The challenges in spoken communication

* Spoken words have little staying power – we remember little of what we hear and take action on  less.

* Public speaking does not travel well – even with access to You-tube, Periscope and Face-book Live.

Lest you think I’m down on preaching, let me explain the challenge. The influence of an anointed preacher often lasts as long as he or she speaks. Few listeners take action within 72 hours. Even for the greatest speakers – men who captivated large audiences – what was said is left behind by loss of memory, technology and the changing voices of time.

Charles Spurgeon had several contemporaries who were as popular in the pulpit as him; today those men are relatively unknown. Their work, research and presentation is forgotten. Today, Spurgeon remains an influence because Spurgeon’s material is in print.

In my lifetime, great preachers and pastors have come and gone. The late George Glass Sr. was called “The Prince george-glass-srof Preachers.” He preached over 50 camp-meetings and was a communicator extraordinaire. I’ve over 100 cassettes of his sermons. Every message was masterful. Yet, for my son, a church planter in Atlanta also interested in effective preaching, George Glass’s influence is minimal. To my knowledge, fewer than a dozen of George Glass’s sermons are in print. What a loss of impact and beneficial influence.

Some suggest transferring such cassettes to digital sound. Transferring cassette to digital is challenged by:

* The quality of the original recordings,
* The age of the tape
* The time it takes to make the transfer.

g-a-mangun
As a result of these challenges and a lack of writing, much of the excellent research and preaching material of people like G. T. Haywood, Bishop J. Johnson, N.A. Urshan, J.T. Pugh, Paul Price, C. M. Becton, C. R. Free, Stanley Chambers, James Lumpkin Sr., O.C. Crabtree, Jesse Williams, G.A. Mangun, John and Nilah Mean and Jack Yonts is forever gone. A wealth of teaching and sermon material is not in print.c-m-becton

Consider this, it is rare for the influence of the spoken word to last ten years beyond the life of the speaker; the written word lasts much longer. Decades after the death of Ralph Reynolds, who I never met, his teaching material is used all over the world and I regularly recommend his book, If the Sheep Could Speak. J.T. Pugh wrote several books late in life. J.T. Pugh’s impact will linger much longer as a result of those books. E.L. and Nona Freeman’s missionary adventures live on because of her writing beginning with Beloved Wide Spot.

A final glaring example of the power of the pen is seen in the increased influence that flowed to Dr. David K. Bernard as a result of his writing and writing and writing. Today, he is General Superintendent of the United Pentecostal Church, at least in part, as a result of the influence gained from his capable and quality writing.

My conclusion – to my elders, contemporaries and the arriving generation – where you do not write – your impact will not remain. If you want your influence to extend beyond your local church or a few events at which you speak, or an office you hold –  write! Write now!

book-shelves-full-of-booksWarning!  If you do not write, what you have said and/or thought will die with you. By contrast, what you write has a life for decades and centuries to come. It will be sad if the impacting content from Michael Williams, the passion of Anthony Mangun and Wayne Huntley; the research of Clifford Readout and Rodney Shaw; the scholarship of Donald K. Bryant and Michael Gurley; the practical leadership lessons of Art Hodges, Roy Barnhill and Granville McKenzie; and the biographies of Murrel Cornwell, Alonzo Terry, Scott Sistrunk and Raul Orozco along with a myriad of others is also buried. Write brothers and sisters write!

Write for blog posts!

Write for publication!

Over the next while, I will come back to this topic with posts that will offer practical insight on writing, editing, book design, printing and marketing. It has never been easier to write, edit, publish and market your material. My posts will include the following.

1. Write – use content you develop in multiple ways!
2. Re-write – The making of the book.
3. What quality writing looks like.
4. Empower an editor.
5. Cover design.
6. Printing your material.
7. Proof.
8. Marketing your material.
9. Write another book, then another and another. Writing gets better and easier with practice.

Of course, an author also enjoys selling their stuff. I’ve quite a number of books already in print – an omnibus of almost all my writing (one or two books are either out of print or not under my control) is available for a limited time at 50% off cover prices. Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for this offer and for other great options.  If you have not signed up to receive our current offer or blog posts please do so using the popup.  If you’d like to compare the writing from my first book – Daily Things of Christian Living with my latest Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper you can purchase either or both just now. Only a few dozen Daily Things of Christian Living (first edition) remain available.  These make great Christmas gifts!

Relax and Refocus

Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper is not a matter of straining for some high mark. While we always pursue excellence – what is excellent for a baby church can look quite different than excellence for a more mature church.
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Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper does require consistency from leaders. On a constant basis, people come to church anticipating something meaningful, relevant and life impacting. The people then leave celebrating some positive outcome. In preparation of good church, our mind should be focused. It is not wise to do pre-service counseling or spend time on unnecessary things. Focus on church – good church. Athletes talk about getting in “the zone.” A similar thing needs to happen as we are getting ready to have good church. Getting in “the zone” actually helps a person be more relaxed. Perhaps it is that faith sense – everything is going to be ok.

Growth isn’t always viewable

In all churches, there will be winter seasons where the growth is root growth – below the surface. Those seasons are necessary. As a leader, regardless of the season, focus on the long-term objective, and keep progressing. A leader cannot come across as up today and down tomorrow. In addition to the church’s winter seasons, every leader will have seasons of personal stress and distress. Whatever is happening around you, a posture of doubt, uncertainty, or defeat cannot be taken to the pulpit. Mentally speak faith to yourself. The late T.W. Barnes told me there were times when he would say to himself, “Tom, stop thinking like that . . . and stop NOW!”
Inside you may be a boiling caldron of frustration, but publicly be a rock of consistency. Keep your focus!

Part of relax and refocus is doing as Steven Covey put it, “Keep the main thing the main thing.” Some of the things that help me relax and refocus are:

  1. Getting off the platform and out among the people.

    At times I sit on the second or third pew for most of a service. I don’t feel strongly about having to be on a platform. Whether on a platform or near the back, I am comfortable with the fact that I’m the pastor.

  2. Lighten up!

    (Those who know how tightly wound I am are falling out laughing at that statement right now). Pastor, it helps if you can laugh at yourself as well as at some of the crazy things that happen at church.

  3. Handle “situations” as quietly as possible.

    On one occasion, we had a fellow visit who tremendously enjoyed our music and liberated praise. This gentleman was dressed in an Elvis Presley sort of leisure suit straight out of the late 1960s. He chose to sit on the front pew and commenced to not only join in dancing before the Lord, but to also make quite a spectacle of it. He was spinning and whirling. I mean he was really rocking the place. Soon almost every eye was on him and if that dancing man was praising Jesus, he was the only one in the building. After watching for a bit, I did my own bit of dancing right over to where he was spinning and whirling – got in step with him and whispered in his ear, “You are making a bit of a spectacle of yourself; come on back over here to the front pew or I’ll have the ushers seat you somewhere else.” Together, he and I danced over to the front pew. He behaved the rest of the night.

    1. The music could have been shut down in order for me to handle the matter by telling him from the pulpit to sit down. To have done so would have deflated what was to that point, a rather interesting night. The problem was addressed and most people didn’t even know it had been taken care of.
  4. Don’t take your personal frustrations to the pulpit.

    A friend in South Louisiana said his wife rebuked him after one service by saying, “Ronnie, tonight you preached out of your ‘mad’ and not out of your anointing.” People tend to know when we are preaching out of our “mad.” Just don’t do it!

While no single thing in this is particularly problematic, being off a bit here and a bit there causes a church service to be less effective.

Surely, my story about the day our own “Elvis came to church,” puts you in mind of an experience you have seen similar to the day “Elvis came to church,” . . . was it handled well or . . . how might it have been handled better? Funny things happen in Apostolic churches – you’d as well laugh.
My latest book Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper is ready to ship – I am keeping the pre-order option open until Tuesday morning so you can gain access to the bonus material.  If you want access to my five videos doing further training on “Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper” and the digital version of the book – instantly in your hands order it today from here:  http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/pre-order-revival-plain-brown-wrapper/

Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper – Teach . . . Teach . . . Teach!

To some, the idea of “Bible Teaching” may almost seem absolutely contrary to how we define revival. To imagine this is to have an incorrect perception of revival. Revival is thought to be energetic, exciting and an outpouring of adrenaline – and it is.

Perhaps the imagining of teaching to be dry, dusty and insignificant in the equation of Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper is part of the challenge. No assessment could be more inaccurate.  Great churches, strong churches, and revival churches through all of history have all had a strong element of capable, relevant and intentionally focused Bible teaching.

The few paragraphs in this chapter can do no more than validate a concept and perhaps point the way to other resources. As a general rule, Pentecostals enjoy exciting church. There is nothing wrong with that unless it is over-done. Please don’t misunderstand my intent.  I do not like nor am I advocating boring, uninteresting church. Stay with me!

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Why Teaching will affect Your Revival?

Focused teaching gives people the Bible knowledge and wisdom of God found in the scriptures to correctly order their life. As a young pastor, I tended to preach a call to action without having taught the Biblical principles I wanted the people to respond to. Because I had not taught the Biblical principles, I also had not shown them “how” to actually do the specific behavior. If you are a pastor, or lead a significant ministry in a church, think back over your past three months of church. Have there been occasions when you asked for action without preparing the people to take the action? Our calls (or demands) for action seem so simple:

  • Win the lost.
  • Every saint should have a ministry.
  • Pray effectually and fervently each day.
  • Train your children in the way they should go.
  • Bring your tithes into the storehouse.

We assume people “get” these simple statements and that no instruction is needed. We not only imagine our audience “get it,” we assume they can then “do it.” Well . . . they don’t get it, nor can they do it based on those simple statements.  Actually, they won’t “get it” and in most instances won’t “do it” unless you slow down and teach them how.

It sounds odd to talk of teaching as an essential part of Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper. Yet, think of Jesus’ teaching regarding prayer, fasting, evangelism and lifestyle. Jesus’ teaching was one of the things that prepared the way for Pentecost and the book of Acts revival. We connect revival to exuberance, celebration, power evangelism, and ingathering; while in reality revival is founded on renewal, repentance, prayer meetings, and fasting – in essence commitment. People are brought to a high level of commitment through the teaching they absorb. Teaching obtains, retains, and sustains saints.

When I was being brought up in a rural church in central Louisiana, that church’s strength continued as a result of the teaching and pastoral ministry of the late A.L. Clanton. His teaching had developed people with such solidness and stability that decades later the church retained much of the strength A.L. Clanton had led them into. He left that church to spend the rest of his life as the Editor-in-Chief for all aspects of Pentecostal publishing in the United Pentecostal Church. The lasting impact of effective teaching cannot be overstated.

Every pastor in every setting needs to hear that revival churches are built on a solid foundation of teaching. We tend to hold in high regard the sort of preaching heard at a camp-meeting or conference and those sermons are valuable; but no camp-meeting evangelist feeds his local church a steady diet of that sort of preaching. Listen in on a pastor’s mid-week service or Sunday Adult Bible Class to see what makes a local church have sustained revival. You will hear something that is high quality, but in a different gear and with a different objective.

The examples of the significance of teaching are many. The New Testament has far more references to teaching than to preaching.  Jesus was a master teacher. His disciples did not ask him to preach about prayer, but to “teach us to pray.” Paul’s communication of the Gospel can be called “evangelistic teaching.”

Get close to the committed people of any thriving church and you will discover a church where the pastor unabashedly takes time to teach the Word of God and/or has developed a system where in small groups or other settings, people are effectively being taught the Word of God.

Now let’s talk . . .

  1. I’m interested in the Bible studies and Bible study teachers you remember?    Why was it memorable? How did you apply what you were taught?
  2. Does anybody recall Henry Ivie? He was an itinerant teacher. His typed notes are in the archives of the Louisiana district. I’d love to have them scanned and in my computer!  We have few such teachers these days. Arlo Mohlenpah comes to mind. Is there room or need for such a ministry.
  3. I’m also interested in your best doctrinal Bible studies. As God sends revival and revelation to the unique setting I’m in, such information will be needed and used.   You can post any of this as a comment, or better yet email them to me @ carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Get your copy of Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper here – Now available for pre-order at http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/pre-order-revival-plain-brown-wrapper/

Six filters for your time

Is everything you do of equal value?

During my time as the General Director of North American Missions for the United Pentecostal Church, I worked with an Executive Coach to balance the various realities of life. In spite of having been an executive in secular employment and even though I’d been a somewhat effective pastor. I needed this coaching. I discovered that the skill set I needed to be an effective pastor were unlike the skills needed to be an effective religious executive.

Jane Klieve, my coach, helped recalibrate me regarding my use of time. With her help, I began to apply a “priority filter” for the many opportunities that came. What Jane was trying to do was have me place value on my time and prioritize the way it was used.

The system we came up with is color-coded and denotes anywhere from a level 1-5 in value. I later added a 6th level. Today I use an adapted version of this process. The goal is to feel empowered to say, “No,” to certain opportunities because they do not fulfill my purpose in life.

filters

Here are six filters for your time.

  • Level 1 = non-negotiable

  • Level 2 = Optional opportunity with a high return on the time invested

  • Level 3 = Optional opportunity with mid-range return on the time invested

  • Level 4 = Optional opportunity with low-ranger return on the time invested

  • Level 5 – Good for my spirit

  • Level 6 = Sabbath

Now, let me show you how this worked for me.

Level 1

– colored purple on the calendar
– non-negotiable

These responsibilities are non-negotiable. Most often duties that are part of the job. We do not have a chance to negotiate about whether or not we do these things. On my calendar or on tasks these are denoted in purple. When my place of service was directing a missions program, this list of non-negotiables included General Board meetings, North American Missions Board Meetings, designated District Conferences, and such.

As a pastor, non-negotiables include preaching/teaching, funerals as they come, teaching Home Bible Studies, disciple-making and developing leaders.

Notice that the list of non-negotiable level 1 responsibilities is short.

It is really after considering level 1 responsibilities that a person makes decisions about what you will do with your life. For some years, while at North American Missions my schedule stayed overly full, but many of the things I was doing were trite. In essence, crazy busy but without meaningful accomplishment. This is where the filtering began to help me. I had to think about the return on the investment of time, energy and effort. None of us can do everything. We must decide where to say, “Thanks, but no thanks!”

Level 2

– colored green on the calendar
– High return optional opportunity

These are optional opportunities but offer a high return on the use of time. For coding these tasks and dates – we used the color green. In working with missions, optional opportunities included seminars or an invitation to teach or preach an event.

As a pastor, a hospital visit to someone connected with the church may be a level 2 opportunity, or being involved in a community effort where one will get acquainted with people in the church’s neighborhood.

Level 3

– Colored blue on the calendar
– Mid range return optional opportunity

Mid range return on the investment. For me, these were colored blue. An example of a mid range return would be: if I’d been to a particular event in this year, I’d likely not return though invited, unless there was strategic intent. There’s always benefit gained, but with my focus on all of North America, other events also needed an investment of my time.

As a pastor, level 3 use of time has included attending a Sunday School kid’s elementary school recital, particularly if this is a chance to connect to the kid’s parents and further extend my influence into that family’s life. Any opportunity to spend time with new converts has significant return on the investment. Weigh these carefully. Jesus did!

Note: I’m more likely to attend the recital of a bus kid than of the child of a deacon or trustee. Why? The child of the deacon or trustee already has people cheering him on, the child who rides the bus or has little parental involvement in life needs to know somebody believes in, and is interested in what he/she is doing. It’s about the eternal return on investment.

Level 4

– Colored red on the calendar
– Little/no return optional opportunities

Little or no return on the investment. These were of course marked in red. As an executive a “level 4” included, being a “famous face” at someone’s church dedication. Simply to be there, to be noted as somebody important and sit on the platform was not enough return on investment for me.

As a pastor, level 4 items include “appearances” at events like birthday parties, 8th wedding anniversary, and such. I just don’t do these! Pastor, here is the deal – if you do one such event, you just created a precedent and MUST then attend all such events! Of course, if you are in the early stages of planting a church use every opportunity to connect with people. I’m glad to attend 50th wedding anniversaries, or someone’s 80th birthday party – but even then I’ll not stay long. Time is too valuable to spend on beauty appearances.

Level 5

– Yellow on the calendar
– Good for my spirit opportunities

“Good for my spirit” opportunities. My color here is “yellow” meaning take caution to not schedule anything on top of this. “Good for my spirit” is anything that helps my mind and spirit. Grandchildren may have saved my sanity. Kaden, Wyatt and Elsie Adara get “Good for My spirit” calendar time. Of course, we let their parents tag along too!

Beyond that, a Murder Mystery is good for my spirit. Louis L’amour western – good for my spirit. TURNING OFF EVERY COMMUNICATION DEVICE THAT HAS AN ON/OFF SWITCH – really good for my spirit. Getting back attuned with nature, and my body and brain by riding my bike – good for my spirit. Norma and I taking a Friday to do a day trip looking for Amish pickles – good for both our spirits. Attending a seminar that stretches my brain – good for my spirit. Being with people I call “laughing friends” – good for my spirit.
The past twenty years, I did too little that was good for my spirit.

Level 6

-Sabbath

For me a Sabbath is doing things that don’t have to be done. For me a day fishing or hunting is not Sabbath. Unless it is an exceptional experience like being on a river in the Yukon territory or fishing for Halibut off Alaska.

A golf course might be Sabbath, or sitting in the swing with a good book might be Sabbath. Scanning in some interesting stories or quotes can also be Sabbath, if it is something I just decided I wanted to do it. When I don’t have to do it, but just decide . . . it is a Sabbath experience.

Take some time to think of what you need to do to focus as much time as possible on where there will be a return on the investment. To make such decisions requires critical thinking and not simply flowing along down the stream of life. Filtering out the “essential” and “beneficial” from the not important or impactful.

You may have tools you use to manage time and make decisions. Please share. You can help us all.

Managing your time is really managing your ministry. My book Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask covers a number of other similar practical matters in ministry. Buy it here.

My 20th book, Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper has been a best seller!  You can have revival where you are. 

How to Establish a Sustainable Prayer Program for a Church of any Size

Unfortunately, the repetitive sort of processes the “children of mammon” apply as norms to make money or be a successful student get little consideration in effectively leading revival. Non-growing churches tend to do things on a whim. If there is to be Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper this whimsical way of going about God’s work has to change! Prayer must be a priority. file0001114540485.jpg

• We want praying people, but do we have a system to develop praying people and sustain corporate prayer?
• Good stewards are needed, but do we have a system to develop people who tithe and give?
• We want each person to find a place to serve, but do we have a system to accomplish this?

Thoreau said, “It’s not enough to be busy, so are the ants.” The question is, “Are we busy accomplishing the things we really want to get done?

Let’s look at how to create a sustainable prayer systems for a church of any size for your revival in a plain brown wrapper.


The apostles made prayer a priority. Their adherence to the daily hour of prayer schedule at the Temple put them in the place for the miracle to happen to the lame man. Paul instructed Timothy, “…first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men;” (1 Timothy 2:1).  The apostles’ priority and Paul’s instruction do not just happen in any local church.

Systems for Prayer

An effective prayer program requires a system. Some suggestions that work for others.

For a Church planter – Emphasize one corporate prayer time each week. It can be pre-service prayer. This may be the first “church standard” you put in place. If a person, is not at corporate prayer the person does not sing or play a musical instrument. Such a standard is sustainable. It gives a missionary the chance to show the spiritual priorities.
For a Church of 50 – Every gathering includes pre-service prayer and an additional corporate prayer meeting is scheduled one time each month.
For a Church of 100 – Continue the same system as for 50 people, except move to having family prayer eachfile0001588162732.jpg week and add a quarterly 12-hour prayer chain. The prayer chain (generally done on a Saturday, the same Saturday of each month – perhaps the second Saturday) is done with different church members making a one-hour commitment. The goal is to eventually have several people praying each prayer shift. If the church has full-time use of a facility, schedule the prayer chain at that facility.
For a Church of 175 people – Continue the process for a church of 100, but move the 12-hour prayer chain to a monthly event on the calendar.
For a Church of 250 – Continue the above, except add a quarterly prayer chain that continues for 24 hours per day for 7 days. The prayer shifts are either 2 or 3 hours. If possible, have all participants pray at the church.

Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper Requires Prayer

My latest book Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper (which has been my best seller to date) puts the emphasis on prayer. In the coming year we will expand our prayer program to train children to pray and increase the number of people praying each shift of the monthly prayer chain from 3 people per hour to 5 per hour.

For any Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper church, if the question is, “Will there be prayer meeting this week?” the answer is always, “Yes.”prayer chain2
Great churches have leaders that preach and teach prayer, then those leaders systematize prayer, repeat prayer, sustain prayer, duplicate prayer and expand prayer!

 

Systematic prayer is the absolute foundation for sustained revival.

As always, I’m interested in your own strategy for maintaining and sustaining a ministry of prayer. What works today will need to be adjusted from time to time. As we have experienced, momentum depends on adaptation. Share with me and others what has worked for you to sustain prayer for the church.

Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper: What revival AIN’T!

I know that some of the English professors in my reading audience may have trouble with “ain’t” In this case, it just seemed to fit. We need to know what revival “ain’t!”  Perhaps it is my southern heritage, but that seems to carry more weight than, “what revival isn’t.”

revival is hereOne difficulty is a misconceptions of what revival looks like, who it comes to and how it comes. It’s time to think about the possible misconceptions and incorrect assumptions regarding this thing called revival.

Misconceptions like:

  1. Revival comes where there is a preacher who is a revivalist or a great orator.
  2. Revival comes where a leader has great charisma.
  3. To experience revival you must be a driven “Type A” personalities.
  4. Revival is a matter of luck or more accurately – lack of revival is because I don’t get the breaks.
  5. Revival is the same as church growth.
  6. Revival is the same as evangelism.
  7. Revival comes to leaders who have multiple talents and gifts.
  8. Revival thrusts the pastor/evangelist/church into the spotlight.

All 8 of those statements are dead wrong! Every positive thing mentioned can be a benefit – but equally as many who have one or more of the 8 have not accomplished anything meaningful.

What if local church revival were more correctly defined and clarified? Imagine it as something that is no longer some far-fetched unattainable accomplishment.  What if were actually defined as something that can happen where you are, to you, with the gifts and abilities you have!

Revival is in your reach!

plum treeMy Dad’s father, Grandpa Benny had a small orchard of plum trees behind their place. I can remember as a little boy wanting to pick plums. The plums were beyond my reach. All I could do was watch someone else pick fruit; that is until Grandpa Benny would pull one of the supple limbs of the plum tree down where I could reach the plums for myself.

Suddenly, what had been out of reach was accessible. I can have this . . . it is within my reach.

Some might have you think (that liar, the devil for sure)  the plums of revival are out of your reach! Since you don’t have the long arms of oratory, talent, charisma or heritage to put the “plum of revival” within your reach, you cannot have it.

I want to pull the limbs of revival down into your reach.  Part of putting revival within your reach  is introducing you to people you may have never heard of who have had and are having revival.  The idea here should be:  if this can happen to that person, who is a lot like me, then it can happen to me, through me and in me!  I’ll just give you a list of names, places and the barest item of celebration:

Doug Belgard in Centerpoint, Louisiana, perhaps 30 miles outside Alexandria. A country church that has grown to several hundred!

Steve Carnahan in Gillette, Wyoming. Wyoming is not the Bible belt. A church planter who has taken a church from nothing to almost 200. There are no “church transfers” in Gillette.

Daryl Hargrove near Dallas has quietly established a powerhouse multicultural church that now includes people from well over 25 countries.

Raul Orozco in Orange County, and Los Angeles actually now pastors the largest UPCI church in North America. They have grown so fast that the entire congregation gets together one time each year at a convention city in Orange County. The rest of the year, they have church in varied neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles.

In Milton, Florida Larry Webb has grown from 100+ to 500+. This has been a consistent journey of well over 30 years.

Garland Hanscom in Ottawa, Ontario started the church when the nearest fellowship was hundreds of miles away. Today, there are numerous churches close by . . . Bro. Hanscom and church planted them. He said, “We had to create our own fellowship.”

The list of people who are having revival is extensive and includes churches in non Bible belt places like New Jersey, Quebec, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Saskatchewan. For every one church and pastor I mentioned there are 10-20 such in the ALJC, PAW, Apostolic Assemblies, COOL-JC, WPF, independent Apostolics and UPCI.

The interesting thing about most of these is their humility and lack of a proclivity to be “self promoters.”  A few of these will have gained prominence and preached a conference, camp or other event – but what is now being celebrated at such events was happening before the person had such prominence. Revival is not:

  • Bells and whistles.
  • Gaining great recognition from organizational leadership.
  • Big buildings and extra money.
  • Invitations to preach great meetings.
  • Four color marketing.

Revival actually comes in a plain brown wrapper. It is so progressive and becomes such a systemic and  systematic expectation for a church that  many in a community or congregation don’t even realize the day of their visitation. Certainly, many in the organizational structure don’t know it is happening – until the evidence of growth is unavoidable.

So you can have it . . . do you want it?  How much do you want it?finney

You may have read some of the works of Charles Finney. If you haven’t, you should read things like Finney on Revival.  in the words of Finney, “If God should ask you this moment, by an audible voice from heaven, ‘Do you want revival?’ would you dare to say ‘Yes’? ‘Are you willing to make the sacrifices?’ would you answer ‘Yes’?’ If He asked, ‘When shall it begin?’ would you answer, ‘Let it begin tonight-let it begin here-let it begin in my heart now.’?”  If God were to ask, “What are you willing to change in order that there might be revival?” would you answer “Anything?”

Revival is by intent, with right behavior that is sustained for the long term. Finney said, “An old fashioned revival is no more a miracle than is a good crop of corn.”

I’m wrapping up preparation on THE BOOK – “Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper.”  I’ve benefited from varied perspectives of what revival looks like – some are actually on point, some are far afield. From Finney’s question:  What are you willing to change in order that there might be revival?  What is your answer . . .  – someone’s eternity depends on your answer.

My point of reference is a lifetime spent in the United Pentecostal Church and 12 years spent as a religious executive with our North American Missions effort.  I know a bit about revival with those ranks.  I’d love to hear about “plain brown wrapper revivals” in the PAW, ALJC, WPF, COOL- JC, Apostolic Assemblies and any of the over 100 other Apostolic organizations that dot our continent.  Talk to me . . . let’s learn together.

Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper: Don’t Have REVIVAL Without Lasting Impact!

What I ask in this blog post is a bothersome question, but perhaps you heard about things like:

  • The Houston revival where in eight months seven-hundred people were baptized?
  • Georgia revival continuing for four months . . . crowds grew from 70 to over 600?
  • California where one thousand were converted in a few weeks?

Well . . . none of those actually happened, but they are similar to things that did happen. The fiery revival of the  book of Acts continues.  Amazing and incredible as it seems. No superlative adequately describes what God is doing.revival fire

There is nothing like moving into a flow of something decidedly super-natural. A God-thing happening at our address. Church happening and things going on that simply cannot be explained other than the sovereignty of God.  Like the former pastor who walked in Calvary a few weeks ago:  He is a scholar and student who in his alone time came to a personal revelation of the “Oneness of God,” and the need to be baptized in Jesus name.

On occasion I’ve been in those flows.  At the same time, let’s be honest . . . there is an unhealthy cynicism we attach to such testimonials.  Why?

  • Perhaps we’ve not seen anything similar for ourselves.
  • We’ve observed that on occasion the church having so many converts does not actually increase in size. A year later the congregation is the same size or smaller.
  • Jealousy – the emotion that is crueler than the grave.
  • Dislike or mistrust of the evangelist, pastor or other leadership involved.
  • A simple lack of faith.
  • The results being a promotion of some preacher (evangelist or pastor) who was involved, rather than a celebration of God’s saving grace.
  • End Time revival is not part of our expectation.

Regardless of its basis, such cynicism is not healthy. God is at work in the land. A rising tide of spirituality is sweeping across North America.

Now that being said, do we miss the point if we put the emphasis on converts rather than disciples. A significant part of the great commission happens after the person’s conversion. Jsus said, “Go ye therefore teaching all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I’ve commanded.”  (Matthew 28:19-20).  Before any person is converted the believers were to “go” and teach.  Part of the conversion experience is the obedience of baptism. After one is converted these young Christ-followers are to again have someone “teach them to observe . . .”  There is more to this matter of revival than noise, commotion and clever self-promotion disguised in terminology that is supposed to sanctify our pride. We need more than revival and conversions.

Nothing is more troublesome to an attractive theory of interpretation than unwanted facts.

I concur that the distasteful behavior of self-promotion – both covert and overt is a hindrance. Many years ago we had an evangelist who had been mightily used in the gifts of the spirit. He’d became convinced of his own importance to the process. His favorite word became “I.” On one occasion a sinner lady who was visiting actually counted how many times he used the personal pronoun “I” during his preaching.  “I” prayed for . . . , “I” preached at a certain place. It took some time to get her past the fellow’s idolatry of self.

I’m aiming for something that needs to be hard-wired into our thinking. Follow the track here:  (1) There can be a revival right where you are. (2) The revival needs to be more than a racket and crafty promotion. It is not connected to your name, location or education. You can have a revival.  (3) Revival renews the saints and results in not only conversions but people becoming committed disciples of Jesus Christ.

With the possibility before you, the question the Ethiopian asked Philip is fitting, “What doth hinder . . .?”  Stop-Sign

  • What hinders you believing there can be revival right where you are?  Perhaps you have tried and tried. In that case, might it be that our idea of what revival looks like is actually incorrect?
  • What is your vital ability? What thing do you or the church you lead have the ability to do better than anyone else around?  How much time, effort, opportunity and energy is given to that vital ability? By contrast, how much time, effort, opportunity and energy is spent on things that you (and the church as it now exists) do not have the ability to excel at?  If most of your energy is being spent on things you are not good at – STOP! STOP! STOP!
  • Are you actually moving people toward mature commitment or are they perpetually dependent on you?  Real revival will mature people.

I’m interested in your thoughts on the church being an impact in its world. What are the things you see that we can do different?  What do you observe hindering the church from having the great revival that is possible?

HELP – I’m actually finishing up my newest book:  Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper. It will be available in a few weeks.  Your thoughts on what I’m discussing here will be of great help in rounding out my content.

Invigorate Your Vision

 Invigorate Your Vision

I’m sure Proctor and Gamble’s Chairman had a corporate vision for 1972; if that vision with its component parts still defined P&G in 2013 that company considered a “blue chip” high-performing organization would be struggling if it had even survived. Any vision gets dated and stale.

Any leader who do not periodically renew their vision will soon lose sight of the potential and try to draw water from dry wells. What is God’s “today vision?” Like your first vision, it is based on the starting point of where you are just now.

We used to hear the term, “burned-over field?” It meant a community had known revival to the point that all of those who were interested were already saved. Observation makes me wonder if the challenge was a “burned-over field” or a “burned-out leader.”

Today there are no burned over fields. Each succeeding generation is another group to be uniquely and specifically evangelized. Even those places where a community or region experienced great revival is now full of people who know nothing about Pentecost. Some thought-provoking questions may help invigorate your vision:

 

  • Is your local effort for youth ministry aimed at “teen-sitting” saint’s children or evangelizing kids with multi-hued hair? Youth ministry does best when it gets young people involved in ministering to others instead of being ministered too.
  • What are you doing to learn to communicate with a generation that lacks any significant Bible knowledge? Has any work been done to give people some ability in apologetics? In the future, the Bible will need to be validated, affirmed and defended.
  • How did your Sunday attendance reflect the demographics of your community? Any Hispanic folk? Could you not hire a college student to translate your preaching into Spanish? Give it a chance. Have you made a mission trip to Africa but don’t have any African-American families in your local church?When there is cultural diversity and awareness the church becomes more vibrant.
  • How many can you get in your building? How far does your influence realistically reach? Research shows that less than 10% of the faithful saints in most churches travel more than fifteen minutes to Sunday service. If you have a group of people who live twenty minutes away start a preaching point in that community. Those people have neighbors who are unlikely to make the twenty minute trip. Can you rent another site to start a preaching point or daughter church less expensively than you can build additional space?
  • At the church you pastor, what needs to be cleaned up, painted up and fixed up? Does a parking lot need paving? The late T.W. Bonnette seemed to constantly have the church either building, repairing or raising money to bubonnetteild the next thing. The Bonnette’s never failed to grow the churches they pastored.Renew your vision, write it out – make it plain and remember – vision accomplished is spelled WORK!

The Blue Light Isn’t So Special

Revival Still Comes In a Plain Brown Wrapper and the Blue Light Special Isn’t So Special!
 blue light
Those of a certain age can remember a time when K-Mart’s marketing ploy was to deeply discount particular items for a limited period of time; perhaps thirty minutes or an hour. The news of the ridiculously inexpensive, must-have item was broadcast to people already in K-mart, “Attention K-mart shoppers, Blue Light Special on Aisle Six, Jergen’s Six Pack Hand Lotion only $2.99. The special ends in 45 minutes.”
I don’t know that it worked for K-Mart. The “Blue Light Special” sure enough doesn’t work for a church.
In the matter I’m describing a church leader goes to, or watches video of an effective grand event or conference. He notices that the mood is well set by the blue light shining against the wall behind the choir, and in a moment revelation Blue light back wall of churchstrikes, “We need some blue lights to help us grow.” Like all the other specials that have been seen, bought, tried and discarded – this one won’t work either. (Note to reader – I’m not opposed to blue lights, green lights or yellow lights –
 I am opposed to our trying to find magic carpet ride approaches to the work God has called us to do. Further, I don’t know where the picture of the blue lights in the church are actually from. No shots are being taken!)
I’m being a bit simplistic to make a point. We look at the aberrations connected with success instead of the foundation on which to establish success.  Put another way, “We buy-in to other people’s public application instead of the philosophy that got them there.” We want to buy the blue light rather than establish a prayer chain. Unfortunately, after such events there are a lot of “blue lights” sold – a new choir song, new church management software, different follow-up visitation tools – the discount is on and we all seek something simple that will give a magic ride to effectiveness.
Perhaps we need to go past the blue light and the more current trend and see the foundational premises:
  • Every great church that sustains progress and growth from generation to generation had an aggressive prayer program. In the Apostolic church world, should any person be on a musical instrument or take a microphone in hand, if they have not been in the prayer room? We have standards of holiness. I’m challenging us to make the prayer room a non-negotiable standard of holiness.
  • You find a pastor who consistently leads people to God’s word. Disciplines or standards are not based on pastoral preference, or even a personal convictions but can consistently be explained as either Bible specifics or as  principles clearly found in the Bible.
  • New people are a priority in time, money and effort. Why should Jesus give me a second spiritual baby if I’ve not given my best effort to take care of the one He already gave me? Behind all the “blue light” commotion and promotion that happens on the platform, there is a consistent protracted effort to develop new people.
  • Bible teaching is generally not an after-thought, but is a priority. Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest says what God has given in Ephesians is not two separate gifts of:  pastor and teacher; but the gift of a pastor who is a teacher. When I think of the majority of often unheralded people who have grown significant churches all of them are a “pastor who is a teacher.” Few have been as effective at the local level (where it ultimately matters) as the following, and hundreds of others like them:
    • Ray Johnson in Denham Springs, Louisiana – he is a teacher.
    • Granville McKenzie in Toronto – he is a teacher
    • Art Hodges in San Diego – he is a teacher.
    • Cliff Readout in Connecticut – he is a teacher.
    • Donald Bryant in Slidell, Louisiana – check mark – teacher
    • David Bernard of Austin – General Superintendent of the UPCI – a teacher.
    • Paul Graham of Montreal – teacher
    • Darrel Johns in Atlanta West – teacher . . .
    • Roy Barnhill of Lumberton, North Carolina – he’s a teacher too
    • Ted Wagner of the Whitehorse, Yukon Territory – yep, another teacher
    • Dr. Lorin Bradbury – Bethel, Alaska – teacher
    • Alonzo Terry – Atlanta – teacher

I’d imagine there may be several names on that list who you have not heard of, (the exception being David Bernard) these have preached few conventions and are not self-promoters. Each of these fellows has led a church to growth, to the point that it is one of the largest churches of any sort in their community. Hundreds of additional names could be added to the list.

Come on folks – let’s go ahead and decide to be effective at this. Growing people is the way you grow a church and growing people takes time. The blue light special won’t do it.

Church growth isn’t plug and play; its grind it out plodding work. At the end of the day, the “blue light” isn’t so special. Figure out the foundation rather than the aberration. The aberrations change, the marketing changes – but the foundation remains the same.

 

Be Great for God – Lesson 2 (Seek to Excel)

BeGreatforGodFB final front(Note:  Be Great for God is part of a series being taught at Calvary United Pentecostal Church in Springfield, Missouri. Audio of this lesson and others in the four part series are at SpringfieldCalvary.church. This is the lesson as in my notes.  The original outlining does not make the cut and paste process. If you would like to have a copy of the teacher’s notes, student handout, etc. email me at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com. )

Review prior week’s lesson: Disciplined to Greatness

  1. Discipline is a non-negotiable for greatness for God.
  2. Greatness builds on the basics, and the basics can never be eliminated.
  3. “Be Great for God” will never exclude spiritual discipline. Tools provided to establish spiritual discipline: A.C.T.S. model of prayer, Prayer Clock, Prayer guide for a week, and “Covenant to be Disciplined for Greatness.

Things You Must Know

. . . it is a wretched waste to be gratified with mediocrity when the excellent lies before us.

Issac D’Israeli, 1834

 

I.                   Key observations regarding the idea of “Seek to Excel!” as we focus on “Be Great for God!”:

A.                 Excellence is a “God thing.”

B.                  The opportunity to excel is different for each person.

C.                  To excel seldom depends on natural talent, but is based on focus, learning about the area of focus and applying oneself to excel at a particular thing.

II.                 Excellence is a “God thing.”

A.                 God does the things He does with excellence.

1.                  At creation – repeatedly – it is good! (Genesis 1:7,11)

2.                  Water made “best wine” – John 2:9-11

B.                  God desires excellence by His people:

1.                  The word to a preacher – Study to show thyself approved a workman who needeth not to be ashamed (2 Timothy 2:15)

2.                  Spiritual gifts are to be used with excellence to build up the church (1 Corinthians 14:12)

3.                  2 Corinthians 8:6-8 is instruction in giving. Paul expresses his observation about the people in Corinth. You abound in faith, utterance (you speak well), knowledge, diligence – refers to their eagerness to serve, and love for Paul.

1.                   The phrase translated “abound in everything” is translated in the ESV as “excel.” 

2.                   The word means to “super abound.”

C.                  The builders of tabernacle and temple were denoted for the skill of their work.

D.                 God – does excellent work AND instructs that we not be mediocre, slouchy or sloppy. Excellence is not an option.

III.              The opportunity to excel is different for each person:

A.                 Consider how different we all look. We are equally different in our temperament and the way God bolted us together.  Each is different in what God puts into us.

1.                  Psalms 139:14 – Hebrew word “wonderfully” means “to distinguish”  We are made with distinction – in virtually every way.

2.                  Romans 12:6 – Having then gifts differing.

B.                  Examples:

1.                  Ashley – guitar

2.                  Michael – illusion

3.                  John and Carole – picture of cake(s)

4.                  Carrie Cook – crochet

5.                  Shelli Allen – author, teaches seminars on “working with special needs children.”

6.                  Sis. Coon – album

7.                  Karla Cook – seamstress work

8.                  Sam Kahre – likely one of the ten best diesel mechanics within 100 miles of here.

9.                  Mike Bennett can take a bomb of an antique radio or gramophone, rebuild it, refinish it and have it playing.

10.            Lana Kincaid – writes and does photography for “Nanny” magazine.

11.              Familiar with Mexican Villa and have eaten their hot sauce – for 34 yearsLee Denny managed the factory that made their tortillas and hot sauce.

12.              Pam Eddings author of 3 books, and edits the writing of multiple authors – including my own.

13.              Paul Maddox – slipped up and did not have a 4.0 GPA earning his Bachelor’s degree, 4.0 with Master’s and Doctorate.

14.              I’ve written nineteen books

15.              Excellent woodwork and carpentry – John Curtis along with others

16.              School teachers, managers, business people, musicians, singers who can hit a note and understand the different between tenor, alto and soprano

17.              Ladies who are exceptional mothers and house-wives; men who are extraordinary fathers and providers.

18.              Maestros of the kitchen – banana pudding, biscuits, etc. .

C.                  Fearfully and wonderfully made – distinct – not alike, but every single excellence can be of service to the community, the church and to the cause of Jesus Christ.

A poem captures the concept of being excellent in your distinction:

IT CAN BE DONE:

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,

Be a scrub in the valley–but be

The best little scrub by the side of the rill;

Be a bush if you can’t be tree.

If you can’t be a bush, be a bit of the grass,

And some highway some happier make;

If you can’t be the muskie, then just be a bass-

But the liveliest bass in the lake!

If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail;

If you can’t be the sun, be a star,

It isn’t by size that you win or you fail–

Be the best of whatever you are.

…Scrapbook

IV.             Excellence is not luck or being born with talent, though the latter certainly can be of benefit. Excellence is based on focus, learning and applying oneself to excel.

A.                The concepts that produce excellence are consistent whether one is bent toward electronics, academics, music or woodwork.

1.                  Ecclesiasties 9:10 Whatever your hand findeth to do – do it with all thy might. (might = vigor, ability)

2.                  Work is the true elixir of life. The busiest man is the happiest man. Excellence in any art or profession is attained only by hard and persistent work. (Sir Theodore Martin)

B.                In Jim Collins book Good to Great which is about how corporations become great he talks of what he calls:  The Hedgehog Concept. The term hedgehog comes from an ancient Greek parable with contrasts “the fox who knows many things,” with the hedgehog who “knows one thing.”  The hedgehox is focused on finding a bit of food, the fox bounds about – covering much ground.  Collins says “great companies” have a hedgehog approach.

1.                  What does that have to do with excellence for God: Everything! Those who attain excellence will be to a great degree:  hedgehogs. In essence, they will “know one thing.”

2.                  In being great for God, the following questions have to be asked:

1.                 What is a thing that I can be great at?

2.                 What is a thing that can produce a “return on investment” for the Lord’s work?  A “return on investment” is measured as –

(1)              Getting visitors to church
(2)              Seeing people converted
(3)              Assisting in the personal growth of others
(4)              Impacting service to the church and community
(5)               Disciples for Christ.

3.                   What do I have a passion to do and accomplish?

3.                  The answers to those three questions that are included in the student handout define what the “hedgehog” – one thing should be.

4.                  The Hedgehog Concept that leads to greatness is not a vision or strategy, but an understanding.  An understanding of what we can do, right now with what we possess, our talents and abilities.

C.                  A further point drawn from Good to Great  – excellence looks dramatic but it is actually organic and cumulative.  This is – “the teacup #12 concept.”

1.                  Teacup #12 at Silver Dollar City – has no governor to limit the speed.

1.                  You can get the teacup spinning at what is a dizzying speed.

2.                  Things get to moving so fast – and from the inside it feels dramatic, from the outside it looks fast.  It is fast!

3.                  But the speed is actually the cumulative effort of eight hands on the wheel in the middle – moving in the same direction, in concert – “over and over and over.” 

2.                  Excellence is not the result of a single defining action, there is no grand program, not a lucky break or miracle moment. Excellence is a result of doing the same thing over and over again – going in the same direction, all energy focused on the one thing!

 

 

 

Practical application:

    1.           Decide what it is that you wish to excel in. Don’t become unfocused. None of us do everything well. To discover what one is “not” to do is a high point of life.
    2. Associate with those who excel at something. Don’t be intimidated by excellence, but engage excellence.
    3. Assessment:
      1. Teachers – listen to yourself teach.
      2. Preachers – listen to yourself teach.
      3. Singers – listen to a recording of yourself singing; particularly when aiming to do as well as some other person.
    4. Practice – makes perfect . . . not true . . . Perfect practice prepares for perfect perfomance.
    5. Excellence:
      1. Unless it is an absolute necessity, don’t try to do a thing that is not a strength. Me cooking Sunday lunch.
      2. We won’t do what we are not capable of . . .
    6. Connect to people who excel – pick their brain, listen to them . . . they are reading books – they are watching TED, looking at Youtube videos on “how” to do a thing. Ask questions: (1) What are you reading now? (2) Can you show me or tell me how you do that? (3) Would you take this audio of me singing or speaking and critique it? Don’t tell me I’m good – tell me what might have improved on.

 

 

 

Toward Next Week:


 

 

Tools to begin your journey of excellence!

I am gifted at (list three things you and at least two other people have expressed you to be good at):

  • ____________________________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________________

 

Answer the hedgehog questions:

  • I can be great at: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

    1. ______________________________________________________________________________
  • I can produce a “return on investment” for the Lord’s work by: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

    1. ______________________________________________________________________________
  • I have a passion to accomplish the following:   __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

From your answer to those three questions, what do you envision as a focus for “being great for God.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources that may help you seek to excel:

Overdrive is a free app available to anyone who lives in Greene County and has a library card.  Overdrive allows you to check out books, audiobooks and training videos for phone and tablets. Many of the recommended books are from the Greene County Library.

Tom Peters book (available on audio) – In Search of Excellence

Jim Collins book (available on audio) – Good to Great

James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s book (available on audio) – The Leadership Challenge

Chuck Swindoll book – Living Above the Level of Mediocrity

Florence Littauer book – It Takes So Little to Be Above Average

Carlton Coon book – If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me . . . What Kind of Church Would This Church Be?

The most important thing in life is to live your life for something more important than your life.

Philosopher William James

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evangelistic Sermon – There’s More, Theo . . . There’s More! (Acts 1:1)

(Note:  Our Sunday schedule at Calvary is somewhat different.  It includes a short, no more than fifteen minute evangelistic message.  Audio can be heard at Springfieldcalvary.church. On January 3, 2016 I began a new adventure of preaching through the book of Acts.)

There’s More, Theo . . . There’s More!

190606_156538707732577_4194911_nActs 1:1 1 The former treatise (the former treatise refers to the book of Luke) have I made, O Theophilus, (the word – Theophilus means “lover of God.” Theophilus has a good name. In Luke 1:3 – Luke refers to him as “most excellent Theophilus.”  This was a term used to speak of someone in Roman government.  In the Bible, it is used to speak of one who was a governor.  Theophilus was a person of significance, a decision maker, a governmental leader. He would not have been an average citizen of his community.  Theophilus – this person of significance is interested in what Jesus did and continues to do.) of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

  1. A detail to not overlook as one begins to read the book of Acts – The book of Acts has a specific recipient – Theophilus.
    1. Imagine being Theophilus receiving your the mail and in it there is this document we now know to be the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
    2. Picture reading these accounts and doctrinal statements for the very first time.
    3. What I’m describing would have been Theophilus experience. I’ve tried to read the book of Acts imagining myself to be Theophilus.
  2.  I don’t think Luke sent this to Theophilus by chance, nor was it an accident.
    1. Theophilus had already read what Jesus began to do and teach – I have an idea that Theophilus made such a “to do” over what he learned from Luke’s story of the life of Christ, that when Luke finished up this work – He knew just who he wanted to send this book too.
    2. Theophilus had learned . . . and Luke had an idea that Theophilus wanted to know more.
    3. So now Theophilus gets to read more . . . to know more about the continuation – to discover the story of Jesus does not end with the crucifixion and resurrection.
  3. I mentioned two things as we read the text:
    1. The name Theophilus means “lover of God.” Theophilus is a good name and let’s just say that the name fit the man. Theophilus was already a “lover of God,” before he got the gospel of Luke or the book of Acts.
      1. Do you know that you can be a lover of God and not even be saved. To love God – the idea of God – in abstract is what many people do.
      2. Jesus even addressed this a bit when He asked a group one day, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:5).
      3. Theophilus was a “lover of God.” A
    2. Based on the term “most excellent” Theophilus that Luke uses in beginning of Luke 1:3 it would seem Theophilus was a man holding an important position within the Roman Empire.
      1. Imagine, me sending a letter to the governor of the state of Missouri about happenings right here in Springfield and in our church.
      2. It was such a person that Luke was writing too. Theophilus was not an ordinary citizen. He would have been “somebody.” Do you know it’s ok for us to expect that there be some people who are “somebody” with an interest in what we preach and teach?
      3. The interest in Christianity, the events of the book of Acts and the overall Pentecostal experience is not relegated to the “have nots.”
  4. Luke had somebody interested . . . I mean really interested. No wonder, he would write “O Theophilus, I wrote . . . but I’m writing again . . . there is more to tell.”
    1. God seeks for those who are receptive to a new thing in the present moment, not restricted by prior experience with God. He was a “lover of God,” he had received and read the gospel of Jesus Christ written by Luke – Theophilus apparently wanted to connect with the continuation. A continuation that included:
      1. Further discovery of who Jesus is.
      2. Path to a way of salvation for the vilest of sinners.
      3. Power ministry where diseases were healed even when Jesus was no longer there in person to pray for them.
      4. Deliverance from the control of demonic spirits when Jesus was not there in person to cast out the unclean spirit.
    2. Theophilus – there is something big going on. I want to tell you about it. I’m telling you because I’d like you to experience it for yourself.
  5. Every Luke looks for a Theophilus. When they find such a one they connect and connect and connect some more.
    1. The absolute sponge, receptive, hungry to learn and experience more. Life is too short and there are too many receptive people to pour the water of the gospel on old hard heads that reflect rather than absorb.
    2. Theophilus did not represent what has commonly been called a “back-slider.”
    3. Theophilus represented the cutting edge of the future; possibilities abounded in Theophilus.
    4. He was not a retreaded Jew requiring an argument to convince him of who Jesus was.
      1. He came a dry sponge ready to receive.
      2. He had read a gospel – what Luke calls what Jesus “began” and now he is ready to take hold of the continuation.
  6. I’m looking for some like Theophilus – some who would say, “just call me Theo” . . . today
    1. Not those who are content to live in Luke or some other gospel without personal experience – no book of Acts – no Holy Ghost encounter.
  7. Sunday morning – book of Acts altar call.
      1. Dry sponges
      2. Those receptive to entering the story of the New Testament as participants rather than historians. There is a declaration in you – don’t just tell me the story; let me live it.
      3. “Lovers of God” – Theophilus who want to become “experiencers of God.”

 

 

Be Great for God – (Lesson 1) Disciplined for Greatness

(Note from Carlton Coon:  Be Great for God is part of a series being taught at Calvary United Pentecostal Church in Springfield, Missouri)Audio of this lesson and others in the four part series will be at SpringfieldCalvary.church. This is the lesson as in my notes.  The original outlining does not make the cut and paste process. If you would like to have a copy of the teacher’s notes, student handout and the covenant I used to challenge the church email me at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com. )

 

Be Great for God – Lesson 1
Disciplined to Greatness

Must Know

Discipline is a non-negotiable for greatness for God.

None are born to greatness. History is filled with people who were born with a proverbial “silver spoon in their mouth,” but amount to nothing. It is not simply being a prodigy. Having exceptional aptitude may allow one to have more potential than others, but if that exceptional aptitude is not disciplined there will be no excellence.
I suggest that each person here can “Be Great for God” in some way and in some thing.
I. There is a perpetual essential discipline of the basics.
A. Someone came into the room where Pablo Casals, the famous musician, was practicing. His visitor was utterly astounded to see him practicing the scales on the cello. The scales are some of the most elementary concepts in music.
B. The visitor asked, “Why are you bothering to spend your time with something so simple as the scales?”
C. Casals answer: “The problem in playing the cello lies in getting from one note to the next. That is why I must always be practicing the scales!”
D. Casals was saying – you never get past the foundational principles and most elementary things of life.

II. Each thing in life has some basic unavoidable concepts.
A. These concepts are things one cannot avoid, nor can one go beyond. The person who excels in higher math – advanced calculus or trigonometry – does not advance to the point of no longer needing the basic principles of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
B. Teachable point: One builds on the basics; but can never avoid the basics or eliminate them.
C. What we discuss with this will be meaningful for the remainder of your life.

III. There are three broad aspects of basic spiritual discipline:
A. Denial of the flesh.
B. Serving God, His church and the community we are part of. Over the past few weeks I’ve dealt with this topic to some measure.
C. Intimate ongoing personal fellowship with God. This begins with spending time in His word and spending consistent devotional time in prayer. It also includes His word. The BREAD (Bible Reading Enriches Any Day) chart is a good way to start this.

IV. Be Great for God – discipline your spiritual life.
A. Catching the sense of this . . .
1. Reader Acts 1:12-13 – Pentecostals were daily in prayer.
2. Reader Acts 2:42
3. Reader Acts 3:1
4. Reader Acts 4:31
B. These four readings are a sampler that  gives the sense of what is in the book of Acts. Track through the book of Acts – it is as though there is almost a continuous prayer meeting going on.

C. A basic ingredient of being great for God – attainable by any person in this audience – is the discipline of prayer.

D. Regain Pentecost in your life by regaining spiritual discipline.

V. I’m challenging us to become a people of prayer. To become a book of Acts church with corporate prayer and individual prayer. This is the path to excellence.

A. Prayer – The when of prayer. This can be negotiated, but for me it seems to work best early in the day. 15-30 minutes each morning.
1. Read Romans 12:1 – bodies a living sacrifice. Notice that most of the postures of prayer are postures of submission. Kneeling, lying before the Lord in worship, or our hands up in surrender.
2. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices early in the day makes us less accessible to worldliness and temptation from Satan throughout the day.

B. Prayer – the length of time – this is not something to specify. Each of us are different places in life – so the time in prayer differs. I will observe that the time given to focused prayer grows as one lets the discipline of prayer take root in their life.

C. Easily used models to discipline your life in prayer:

1. Prayer clock – one minute on each of those 12 segments – rich, full prayer – 12 minutes. A copy of the prayer clock is in the “tools you can use” section of your lesson. (Teacher – review these 12 things briefly.)
2. A.C.T.S. model of prayer. For me I do this in journaling, but at times find myself using the same model in praying aloud.
3. There are many other models – these two suffice to get you started. If you find something that works better for you – use it.
D. Disciplined to corporate prayer. Most of what we read about in Acts is corporate prayer. Corporate prayer does not replace individual intimate conversations with God; but corporate prayer builds our prayer life and faith life. Corporate prayer at Calvary:
1. Pre-service prayer – three times each week
2. Monday night prayer on the first Monday of each month – youth and adult prayer;
3. Prayer chain – one Sunday of each month.

E. Keeping your prayer from becoming vain repetition – each day have a different focus for your prayer time (the goal is to have “great saints” involved in daily prayer at least 5 of every 7 days). In all prayer be specific in your prayers and be envisioning the future as prayer is fulfilled.
1. Monday – Pray for your children. Spiritual, mental, emotional, career, marriage, health, etc.
2. Tuesday – Pray for Northwest Springfield, the community where Calvary is located. Key people, the alderman/alderwoman; the police who patrol here; for a spiritual hunger to come to people; for the school across the street (teachers, students and workers); those who play and walk in the park; and for this church on this corner to have a vibrant attraction to people who travel past, the alcoholic, the angry, the addicted.
3. Wednesday – Pray for your extended family – parents, grandchildren, siblings, etc. Health issues, marriages, etc.
4. Thursday – Missions work – my personal focus is Boston and Seattle. I’m adding Switzerland to my list because it is the country from which my ancestor immigrated to the United States in 1776.
5. Friday – Unsaved acquaintances. Keep a prayer list. Call their names and intercede for their salvation. Perhaps in this time God will also direct you to make contact with one or two of these. Be sensitive to God in prayer. Always be sensitive to hear the voice of God while you pray.
6. Saturday – Weekend services at Calvary. (1) Evangelism (2) Pastor’s teaching/preaching (3) Take Root class (4) Sunday School teachers
7. Sunday – join in corporate prayer and pray as the spirit leads.

VI. Calling for commitment:
Be Great for God Prayer Covenant:
Pastor, I want to be part of the group who are “great for God.” I commit myself to use the tools of prayer 5 out of each 7 days over the next month. I also commit myself to being in pre-service prayer before 2 of every 3 services. Finally, I commit myself to be in Family Prayer the first Monday of the next two months.
__________________
Name

Tools You Can Use!

A.C.T.S. (originally from one of Bill Hybels books) model encourages prayer journaling or writing out one’s prayer. A single paragraph is devoted to each of four things:
A = Adoration (a paragraph celebrating some single one of the many excellences of the Lord Jesus Christ. A great resource to create a mindfulness of the adorable attributes of Jesus are the five books on the names of God by Charles Rolls.)
C = Confession (this includes confession of sin as well as confession of need.)
T = Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is part of each day’s prayer.)
S = Supplication (A supplicant comes seeking help from one who is able to supply a need. What do you need that only Jesus Christ can supply?)

Praying the Prayer Clock
A second simple approach to becoming great in being disciplined for God. If one spends five minutes on each of these, an hour will have been spent in prayer. As a starting point devote 1 or 2 minutes to each component.

Daily Prayer Focus Guide
Monday – Pray for your children. Spiritual, mental, emotional, career, marriage, health, etc.
Tuesday – Pray for Northwest Springfield, the community where Calvary is located. Key people, the alderman/alderwoman; the police who patrol here; for a spiritual hunger to come to people; for the school across the street (teachers, students and workers); those who play and walk in the park; and for this church on this corner to have a vibrant attraction to people who travel past, the alcoholic, the angry, the addicted, the abuser.
Wednesday – Pray for your extended family – parents, grandchildren, siblings, etc. Health issues, marriages, etc.
Thursday – Missions work – my personal focus is Boston and Seattle. I’m adding Switzerland to my list because it is the country from which my ancestor immigrated to the United States in 1776.
Friday – Unsaved acquaintances. Keep a prayer list. Call their names and intercede for their salvation. Perhaps in this time God will also direct you to make contact with one or two of these. Be sensitive to God in prayer. Always be sensitive to hear the voice of God while you pray.
Saturday – Weekend services at Calvary. (1) Evangelism (2) Pastor’s teaching/preaching (3) Take Root class (4) Sunday School teachers
Sunday – join in corporate prayer and pray as the spirit leads.
Resources that could help:
Book – Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Book – Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Book – Daily Things of Christian Living by Carlton L. Coon Sr.
Book – Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels

 

Write It – Who Is Your Market?

Happy New Year!  book-shelves-full-of-books

                 Will 2017 be the year you write? Make it so?

                           Will 2017 see you and me break into a larger reading market? I hope so.

Let’s talk a bit more about writing. Most of this will deal with marketing your books.

Few authors are “beauty press” authors. Most of us want someone to read what we write. Not only do we want someone to read, we’d like to actually sell a book or two. Before getting to thoughts on marketing your book. let me reiterate things already written.

Don’t Give Potential Purchasers a Reason NOT to Buy Your Book

In a general sense, if an author wants to sell books these things matter:

  • Readers won’t buy a book if the grammar is a mess. I’m not talking about an occasional error. Even the best publishers in the world have such mistakes. I’m referring to a writer not working with an editor.

  • If the first few paragraphs have no logic or flow they will put the book back on the shelf.

If you want someone other than your “Mom” to own your books use and empower an aggressive editor. That statement needs to be bold, highlighted and underlined. The statement applies to all, even those who have an element of higher education.

Some years ago, a friend sent me a book. The author of the book has a Master’s Degree in a field connected with education. The book was bad. The grammar was bad; if the book had a point, it was indiscernible. Even to my eye, almost every paragraph had glaring mistakes. My assignment was not to “red ink” the book, though I wanted to. No recommendation for the book could be given.

Even if you have an advanced education, use and empower an editor such as Pam Eddings. Contact Pam at rjed4th@aol.com.

Ok – let’s assume you have done the hard work to develop a good book. How will you get the word out to people who might buy your book?

Answer the Buy/Sell Questions

Think about the answer to two questions:

  1. Where and how do you buy books?

  2. What causes you to buy a particular book?

Those same places to buy and reasons for buying a book work for other people as well.

How are books sold?

For my readers, your books sold will sell at the following places:

  1. Bookstores.

  2. Conferences and conventions

  3. Through a church organization on-line bookstore

  4. Via Amazon.com or similar outlets

  5. At the author’s website or at a website in which the author has some sort of partnership.

  6. An event at which an author speaks or is present to promote the book.

  7. Direct mail or through a catalog.

  8. To acquaintances who become aware of your book.

What motivates people to buy a book?

  • The masterFULL-600x461purchaser has an interest in the topic presented. My book Masterful Preaching sells to preachers who want to learn how to preach to sinners. My Not an Ostrich” Packet attracts people developing a disciple-making strategy.

  • Being familiar with an author and expecting the content will be of benefit. Hundreds of people buy a new Joy Haney book sight unseen. Why? Those people have read her previous books and feel her latest book will be a benefit. A writer who has this situation has found the joy-haneysweet spot of writing and self-publishing. Sis. Haney has accomplished this by writing over fifty books.

  • The recommendation of a friend. I buy on the basis of what friends and acquaintances recommend. Currently, little else motivates me to buy a new book.

  • Some people known to be readers may offer general recommendations.  Ken Gurley, T. F. Tenney,  Roy Barnhill, Lane Coon and others like them influence my reading.

  • A book’s title, the look of its cover, the information on the back-page and the book’s table of contents. This is the reason to invest in a nice looking professional cover.

  • Good marketing that is fresh and creative causes some to buy. If you offer a “money back” guarantee for any who buy but do not benefit, the sale goes easier. I do this guarantee for all my material.

To determine your potential audience, and how to market ask the following questions.

  • targetWho is my target reader with this book? Who will enjoy and gain benefit from having read my book? In what specific ways will the reader benefit? You will waste time and money if you do not know your target. A burial plot salesman won’t do much business on a hospital’s maternity floor. Have realistic expectations. There are well-written books I don’t buy because the subject is of little interest to me. The lesson:  know what you have to offer and who will likely want it.

  • Do you have more than one book in print?  If so, those who bought your earlier books are more likely to buy the next book.

The objective is to not waste time or money going to events where your book won’t sell. Know your audience.

Visit CarltonCoonsr.com for my current book offers and to read my blog posts. If you have not signed up to receive my blog posts please do so using the popup.

Last – if you will retweet, or share the Facebook or Twitter post that alerted you to my blog it may help others.

The Four Worst Things I Have Seen In Church (and MORE IMPORTANT How They Could Have Been Better)

Evangelist Myers opens one of his messages with the statement, “The best of things that ever happened to me happened to me in church; the worst things I’ve ever experienced happened to me in church.” Unfortunately, his observations likely fit many people. It caused me to think of what I’d personally observed, and consider how each could have been handled in a better way.

 #1 – We were in “revival” in the deep south. It was less a revival than a series of services. One midweek, I’d  preached and the pastor was dismissing the congregation. Suddenly, the pastor went off – i mean really went off – raised voice, red face and veins popping – on going to play softball with a church league while the church was in revival. Turns out – one man of the 100 had missed revival to play softball.softball picture
I’m in sympathy with the pastor on the softball player’s incorrect priorities but  I’m also not in favor of everybody else in the church participating in the guy’s dressing down.  (I didn’t know who the fellow was, but almost everybody else knew exactly who the pastor was talking too.) It was humiliating for the fellow who had made a mistake and the pastor came off like a domineering shepherd.
 Jesus taught a better model of discipline.  I, even as a pastor, should go one-one-one to the person who is in error; addressing the concern with Biblical clarity. If there is no resolution of the matter then there are other steps of discipline. Confronting a thing directly gains respect; when one confronts it in a group the confrontation comes off as bullying. Those who bully people cannot also grow people.
Bad Experience #2 – While we were evangelizing in California, a small church had constant motion as people went to the rest-room.  Finally, the fellow leading the service called a “time out” to allow everyone who was thirsty or needed a bathroom break to go settle the matter. That service disintegrated into chaos with us never getting anything close to order.
A better way:  Practical things like how a bathroom visit affects others need to be taught to people at a time when there are not lost people present. The late George Glass Sr. often preached a sermon titled “Satan Among the Saints.”  Included in his description were those who left their pew to go to the nursery or to get a drink of water. He said such interruption does nothing except cause sinner people to be distracted.  Don’t take a time out – take time to teach practical things that matter.
Bad Experience #3 – Chained to Platform and Pulpit – I’ve seen this often. An opportunity is given for the church family to welcome guests but the pastor and other ministers stay on the platform and don’t go shake hands with guests. Are we afraid of people?  What an opportunity to connect.
The solution here is simple:  if guests are the most important people in the building then act like it.  Practice your smile and how to shake hands.  Get off the platform, go introduce yourself to people. We shepherds and church leaders are not “King Tut.”
ostrichBad Experience #4 Saddest of all is the church that has no affinity for newcomers as people who would be discipled. Looked over, talked over – ignored . . . and endangered.  John Wesley spoke of the danger of putting live babies in the arms of a dead corpse of a mother. New babies get special care in any home they are borne into – spiritual newborns deserve the same. God asked Job if he was around when the ostrich was created. The Lord spoke of the outstanding attributes of the ostrich; stands tall, runs fast.  God also spoke of the ostrich not caring for her young, laying eggs in the dust and not worrying whether or not wild animakenya african safari animal destination and travel beautiful animal eggs fresh_ostrich_hatching_eggs dangerous animal attacks news animal pictures
ls eventually destroyed the new born.   This catastrophe actually prompted me to write a book You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama.
I sense the church is getting serious about reaching the world.  We are constantly learning from each other. What are the saddest things you have seen and what might you have done differently?

(Sermon) An Attribute God Always Honors – Faithful

An Attribute God Always Honors – Faithful

(This particular sermon targets each person with the concept that they can be faithful to God and the service of others.  If you gain anything from this it will be in spite of the formatting rather than because.  This message is quite preachable and hits an oft-needed target.)

The true skill in life lies in faithfully handling the ordinary.

 Luke 16:10 He that is faithful (trust worthy – worthy of trust) in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

  1. This comes at a point where the book of Luke records several parables that cover a number of chapters. The over-arching theme of the collection of parables would be “about living life well.”

  2. Jesus brings into the conversation a word to explain how certain qualities should be valued: faithful. Faithful defines constancy and consistency.

  3. Anyone can be faithful. Faithful is not attached to wealth, talent or any other secondary criteria.

    1. Noah – faithful

    2. Moses –faithful

    3. Paul – faithful

    4. These are noble names . . . but there are millions of others who have no notoriety whose life had great value – as God sees it – because they were faithful.

  4. The fable has been told of the beginning of the building of a magnificent cathedral where an angel came and promised a large reward to the person who made the most important contribution to the finished building.

    1. As the building went up, people speculated about who would win the prize. The architect? The contractor? The woodcutter? The artisans skilled in gold, iron, brass, and grass?

    2. Maybe the carpenter assigned to the detailed grillwork near the altar?

    3. Because each workman did his best, the complete church was a masterpiece.

    4. But when the moment came to announce the winner of the reward, everyone was surprised. It was given to an old, poorly dressed peasant woman. What had she done? Every day she had faithfully carried hay to the ox that pulled the marble for stonecutter.

  5. Everybody say: I can do that!

I.                   God is such a realist. He never asks the impossible. Matthew 25:14 (Don’t read but refer to . . . until the highlighted verse: Matthew 25:14-27 (KJV) 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

A.                Notice something: The concept of faithfulness was not simply to be active or to hold on . . the idea of faithfulness – measured the effectiveness of the service rendered.

1.                Old rule: To endure, being constant is sufficient.

2.                Rule in evidence here: Effectiveness is expected.

a)                In every aspect of ministry we should on occasion step back to evaluate the significance of what is being done to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

b)                Activity is not adequate.

c)                 To maintain is not adequate.

B.                Faithful is portrayed as wisely using the talents God puts in one’s life – and using the talent in a way that brings gain to God’s cause.

1.                Multiplying the effect and benefit of those talent.

2.                Faithfulness was not to polish the talents and make them look good; it was not to keep those talents safe – instead faithfulness was to take one’s gifts and do the necessary thing to increase the value – on behalf of the owner who provided them.

a)                Education

b)                Reading – Leaders are readers

c)                 Faithful – ask meaningful questions and apply the answer.

C.                Am I being faithful?

II.                 Faithfulness is not an option. It is a requirement. 1 Corinthians 4:2 It is required of a steward that he be found faithful.

A.                During the Reagan Presidency terrorist bombed Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept.

B.               When Marine Corps Commandant Paul X Kelly, visited some of the survivors in a Frankfort, Germany, hospital one of the wounded was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton.

C.              Nashton was severely wounded and had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man.

D.              As the Commandant neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words — “Semper Fi” the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.”

E.               With those two simple words, written with such difficulty – Nashton spoke for the millions of Americans who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country — those who have remained faithful.

F.               A fitting story to be told at the outset of this week where we honor our Veterans.

III.              Faithfulness is rewarded Matthew 25:21 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

IV.             Faithfulness is our own individual responsibility. Personal. A man cannot do this for his wife or a child for a parent. God cannot and will not do this for us. The habit of FAITHFUL.

A.                Revelation 17:14 (KJV) These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. – notice three things – called, chosen and faithful

1.                God calls – Acts 2:39 Acts 2:38-39 (KJV) 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

2.                God chooses – John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

3.                But it is up to me to be faithful.

  1. R. G. Lee told the story (Whirlwinds of God) of the preacher who was called to a particular home because the man of the house had shot himself and was calling for the pastor. The preacher went to the little house that was so neglected. It was a family the preacher knew well. The man’s wife and children had been faithfully been part of the church he pastored. She had evidenced everything of faithfulness that I’ve talked about today.

Though the man of the house never came, never participated and had no interest in God. The little house the family lived in showed signs of neglect. Now, the man of the house has been on a drunken spree for two weeks. Recovering from the wild times, sick of himself and discouraged the man had taken his own pistol and shot himself.

The preacher said the man knows he is dying and begins to say his goodbyes to his wife – this faithful, God-fearing woman.

He said: “‘Molly,’ he said, ‘you have been a good wife. These sixteen years you did all the praying. You studied the Bible and taught it to our children. You went to church and lived a godly life. I have not helped you at all. For the sixteen years we have been married you have stood for me. Now, I am dying and I want to know if you are going to stand for me at the judgment bar of God.

The woman looked to her pastor for an answer. The pastor was blunt – trying to get the man to realize how desperately he needed God: The pastor said, “Friend, your faithful wife has done everything she could for you, your kids and family – but now you have to stand in your own shoes.’

Faithful – are you being faithful?  How about a commitment to be faithful beginning today?

Thoughts from a New Pastorate

I find myself in an interesting place.  I’m a new pastor – the last time that happened was 23 years ago.  Two observations from these few months:

  • A lot has changed . . .

  • Not much has changed . . .

People are the same, but the world is different. People’s commitment to church attendance is not as it was – but I plan to experiment with marketing Sunday evening and midweek just as aggressively as Sunday morning.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works.

 I’m not comfortable with less church – not if one is going to grow people and the church.  The schedule of teaching/preaching 3-4 times every Sunday is more wearying than I remember. My own approach Sunday morning we do education and evangelism, Sunday afternoon is a disciple-making class; Sunday evening is for edification of the saints and mid-week is to equip saints to be effective.

It does seem Jesus has blessed me with some neat ideas that are actually working to take advantage of the changes that have happened.

 Updated Guest Cards

 As I developed Calvary’s guest cards (http://SpringfieldCalvary.church) it occurred to experiment with how open guestsguests would be to receiving a “text message from the pastor.”  Alongside the line for the guest’s phone number, the question is asked, “Can Calvary’s pastor contact you via text message? Y N”  The response has been amazing. Of the guest cards returned well over 1/2 of them are open to communication via text message.

 Text messaging is quick and effective. This past Sunday a family of three were back at Calvary for a second visit. They had received a text message and hand-written card during the prior week.  Sunday afternoon I sent a text to a fellow who had visited Sunday morning with his two kids. He responded to my text  – requesting a Bible Study and volunteering to do any electrical and plumbing work around the church. Maybe I’m on to something?

 Facebook Marketing is Cheap and Works

 facebQuite often Calvary does a two day “boosted” ad on Facebook. The most we spend is $10 per day, usually only $5. The ad is focused on my Sunday evangelistic message. (Side-note:  The most vital church growth concept is to preach to sinners every single week – whether there is one sinner in attendance or a dozen.) My marketing target is not church attendees (though some do get gathered into the mix), but non church members. In targeting my ads about the “Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost” I targeted words and phrases like:  Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, depression, loneliness, etc.

 When a user of Facebook responds with a “Like” we then try to transition that to a like of Calvary’s FB page.  It does not always work, but quite often it does.  This expands the part of the community who are connected with Calvary.

I also ask our church members to “share” the Facebook ads we post. The shares end up on that person’s Facebook page and reaches people the ad would not otherwise get too.

 Preaching to Those I Have Not Yet Seen

 The ability to post Calvary’s preaching/teaching on the church website using Soundcloud is an easy win.  I’m grateful for Ashley Townsend, one of Calvary’s teens who volunteers to clean up the sound, post the audio to Soundcloud and make the appropriate link on the website. One of the most important concepts of any pastorate is involving people in meaningful ministry.  What Ashley does means a lot to her and perhaps more to me.  She accomplishes things I simply could not accomplish.

I’m convinced that the gospel works; that doctrinal teaching/preaching works – if we can only gain a hearing. Posting online allows people to hear me without having to risk walking in the doors of the church. It is amazing the number of listens one gets. Eventually, Calvary may use video and even be live with the preaching/teaching; for this moment and our current setting this works and it works inexpensively.

 I’m enjoying the journey!  Oh, I have a new book out just now:  Healthy Church – Start Here!  addresses the 18 reasons churches are not healthy and do not grow.  Common sense and proven solutions to get the church on-track and growing.  Take a look at Healthy Church – Start Here! The book can also be purchased at Amazon or for your Kindle.

Five Things I Learned from Leland Briggs

Leland Briggs may not be a household name any place except Grant Parish, Louisiana.  I’ve mentioned him before in LelandBriggssome other writing.  Leland Briggs is the pastor I want to be when I grow up.

For almost six decades, Leland Briggs has pastored in the village of Bentley, Louisiana. Leland Briggs deserves note because he has served with distinction, raising up a church of hundreds in a decidedly rural setting fifteen miles outside Alexandria.  When Jesus talked about shepherds he certainly had someone like Leland Briggs in mind. Even today, Pastor Briggs preaches more funerals in Grant Parish than any preacher – he is truly the pastor of an entire region!

A few things I’ve observed in him and would like to apply.

 1. A kind word is always appropriate.  Bro. Briggs allowed me to preach for him from when I was 17.  He always found something good to say about what I’d preached. Today, when I run into Bro. Briggs he will say something gracious that he knows has meaning and indicates he is paying a bit of attention to my life.  It may be  a comment about a Director’s Communique I’d written or some service where I’d preached.  Kindness is always in vogue and “kind people” are always above average.

 2.  Hard work, thankless hard work pays dividends.  Leland Briggs was (and I imagine is) a hospital visiting machine.  He was there early and often. I don’t like hospitals or hospital work; I’ve an idea Bro. Briggs doesn’t either.  Still he is there – day after day.  Early in the day; and then often making the 20 minute drive from his home several times in a given day.  If a person will work hard in the ministry of caring it impacts people more than can ever be known.

 3.  Giving visible, meaningful and constant respect to people when you don’t have to is wise.  I don’t know that Leland Briggs has ever dis-respected any person. For decades, he walked the tight-rope of pastoring quite a number of retired pastors, my Grandfather among them. Preachers are a hard-headed bunch and retiring from being a pastor does not make one’s head any softer. Leland Briggs  managed to pastor all those fellows without conflict, controversy or jealousy among them.  He honored them equally and gave to respect to men and women in public and private for their long service to Jesus’ work. Leland Briggs doesn’t have to do the things he does to respect people – but to do so is wise!

 4.  Connecting the present with the past is not a bad thing.  On the occasion when I see him, he will comment, “Bro. Carlton, I was just thinking tonight, your Grandpa would be so proud of you.”  He knows that the legacy of my grandfather as a church planter and effective pastor means a lot to me. Not only is what Bro. Briggs says a kind word but it is a word that connects the present with a meaningful past.

 5.  He pastors everybody, even if they are still a long way from the flock of God. Grant Parish has some scoundrels. I’m kin to some of them; Leland Briggs pastors them all.  Wandering sheep are still sheep and sheep that have never been enfolded are always potential. The treatment of people in a way that seems to expect the best out of them quite often pays dividends. I’m sure Leland Briggs knows more about the nastiness of the lost people in Grant Parish than they realize, yet he cares for them.  All are not yet saved, but a wise pastor acts like each person he has contact with is on the way to being saved.

 As I think about it, perhaps I’ve got a long way to go to be like Leland Briggs.  I’ve work to do!  I salute Leland Briggs – a man of meaningful impact.

The Busy Pastor Making More Disciples!

My job is not to preach alone!  I love to preach and am probably better at being a preacher than about anything else.  It has occurred to me that to be somewhat eloquent or thrilled by own sermonizing is not a good determination of my effectiveness.  Some uncomfortable questions: 

  •  How many were born again in our church last year? Three years ago? Five years ago?baby birds 

  • How many of those are serving God today?

  • Were those spiritual babies given the same care a baby in the natural received? Does a baby bird have a better chance of survival than one of my spiritual new-born?

  • There may be a nursery for the saint’s kids; is there a spiritual nursery outfitted for the born again?

  • Is it possible for a baby to starve in the presence of good healthy food? Would you feed a two-week-old a steak? Do we feed a two-week-old spiritual baby a ninety-minute Bible study on the silver sockets in the tabernacle in the wilderness? Would the new convert understand it and be built up? Did the newcomer get any more spiritual nutrition from last week’s Bible study or sermon than the two-week-old would get from the steak? 

 If no newborns survive can the flock of God ever grow?  Birth is exciting but a species can become extinct if none of those born grow to maturity.

sheep

What Now?

 

What can you do about what you just diagnosed? Think of three practical steps you could take to care and build up the newest members of your church. Consider specific roles needed in the church to best care for newcomers.

 Are you willing to invest as much effort into discipleship as you put into converting them? Hospitals are expensive and the pain of delivery intense, but the greater cost of time, money, and (in most instances) parental effort, comes after birth rather than before. This is the normal. Conversion is five percent; following up the decision to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost is ninety-five percent.  Disciple-making does not just happen!

 Making disciples is everyone’s job and takes the entire church. The pastor is certainly in charge of the hospital, but it takes a full staff in the delivery room and a caring family at home to raise a child. Every pastor needs help to make sure a new convert isn’t stranded after a “delivery room” conversion experience.

 Jack Cunningham’s missionary friend had it right: “You can’t grow Jesus kingdom or the local church if you do not close the back door!”

 It is time to think and to apply.  The busy pastor’s way of making more disciples is part of the tools provided at my “Not an Ostrich Packet.”  I guarantee the resource’s benefit or your money back . . . and you keep the resources!  Now . . . here is the deal – if you don’t follow my plan to make disciples find some system and use it.  Create your own . . . but don’t let Jesus spiritual babies die.

You can provide care for the newcomers to the church!

How Non Super-Preachers Get Hands to the Harvest

Pastor James Carney Columbia, Mississippi

Pastor James Carney
Columbia, Mississippi

James Carney pastors a thriving church in central Mississippi. He has served as a district superintendent and on the Executive Board of the United Pentecostal Church. Carney is a keeper!

Less well known is his father. James’ daddy was a preacher-developing factory.  He pastored in the tiny burg where the name of the church is Stateline.  I don’t know if the elder Carney ever preached a camp-meeting or that the Stateline church ever had more than 175 people.  From that church and that man’s ministry came fellows like:

  • Jerry Wayne Dillon

  • Larry Webb

  • Jerry Jones

  • James Carney

and more than a dozen others.  Tens of thousands of converts will have come from the efforts of one man at the Stateline church straddling the border of Louisiana and Mississippi.

How did it happen.  James Carney tells me:

1. “Dad took an interest in young men with potential and invested himself in what he thought they could become.”

2. Validating the significance of the man of God as something one should hold in high regard and if possible desire to become.

3. Have an expectation of these being developed leaving to be educated, go into ministry and having no expectation of their returning to sit on the pews or teach a Sunday School class at Stateline.

Our most fertile field for changing the shape of the future are the men and women who will be licensed to preach.   There are things you can do to make an impact.

1. Establish a minister’s training class. Years ago Louis Green introduced Stan Davidson (now the district superintendent of Alabama) and me to Strong’s Concordance, Greek language, the writings of Charles Spurgeon and The Pulpit Commentary. That affected and continues to affect our lives. Marrell Cornwell has training class each Monday night for young preachers and leaders. He is focusing on getting people ready for the field.

 2. Over thirty years ago, men who are mostly now dead:  David Gray, Arthur Hodges Jr. and several others in Southern California launched the “Christian Service Training Institute” to equip those who circumstances hindered from attending Bible College. Christian Service Training Institute continues to this day. As a result of their focus on equipping . . . churches have been planted in Southern California and elsewhere. At least one other group has used the curriculum of the “Christian Service Training Institute” to establish their own cooperative effort. Perhaps your section or district could do something similar. The focus . . . the field.

 3. The late veteran pastor and church planter Jack Yonts developed training material known as “Passing the Mantle” that is available on DVD. Bro. Yonts focus was always on the field – winning the lost and then developing the very best of those won to become preachers of the gospel!

Our efforts to evangelize our world needs tunnel vision. A focus on the field – the whole wide world – are guardrails that keep me from straying. Would it be possible for you to be a catalyst to raise up laborers from your church or area?

 

Sermon: (Mother’s Day) A Child’s Desire for Mom

A Child’s Desire for Mom

Mother’s Day – my approach to big days or holidays is a bit different. These are opportunities to add more “Velcro” to get newcomers more closely connected to the church. In essence, my approach in preaching is not adversarial or overly aggressive but to give people something to think about during the coming days.

Text: John 19:25-28 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

Mary had quite an intimate knowledge of Jesus.

1. Before His birth Mary had spoken or sang the magnificent worship recorded in Matthew.

2. She had cared for Him – had wrapped him in swaddling clothes and held him close to her breast.

3. Mary along with Joseph were concerned at His absence from their traveling group and along with the theologians astounded at His wisdom and insight when He was only 12 years old!

4. Mary had pressed Him into service at the marriage supper in Cana. At her behest He had instructed the servants to bring water. He turned it into wine.

5. Now . . . the child is desiring the “best possible” for His mother.

Children are more often converted than adults. In the simplicity of their faith quite often a child will be the first in a family to be converted. The influence of a child’s experience and their love for Jesus and their church invites their mother to the “best possible” life.

I don’t think any child who attends our church does not want their mother to attend with them.

Similarly, Jesus wanted the best for his mother:

· In Consideration of His Mother

· Aware of His mother’s overwhelming sorrow as she watches her son be unjustly executed.

· Jesus was acutely aware of her being “alone.” Joseph was dead. Mary was a widow.

The child spoke up seeking the best thing for his mother. He would not leave her alone or without any consideration. His directive to John was to take her in as though Mary were his own.

Mothers often pray for their children. On this occasion, it was a son interceding for His mother.

That is what I want to get us to today. On occasion, the child like faith and the uncomplicated perspective of a child finds a course that those who are older cannot find. How often a child, a youngster senses the value and the significance of God.

Today, we end different. I want us to pray as families, but in this instance I want children to pray for their mother. Move about the building and get with your mom if she here. If she is not here adopt a mother to pray for. We have several whose children are elsewhere.

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Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Finding what God is blessing and doing it, is more effective than praying, “God bless what I’m doing.” To do meaningful things in the harvest of the Lord ask:

What’s the current crop . . .

growing here in this field . . .

at our specific season?

Be wrong about your response to any of the next three questions and you are making a mistake in evangelizing your city.

  1. What is the current crop? The current crop in a retirement village in Florida is different than the current crop in Toronto.
  2. What is the available harvest in this specific town, city, village or community? The available harvest is unique to every locale.
  3. What is ripe right now? Is is backsliders, an influx of African immigrants or an arriving group of college students. Harvest does not all come ripe at the same time.

Think about this: across North America two interesting phenomena are taking place.

· Our skins are getting darker as a result of Hispanic, Asian and African immigrant.

· America is getting older. Many churches have youth ministry but few have an intentional ministry to elders in the church or outside the church.

In ignoring current reality, we can be like the disciples who visited the Samaritan village of Sychar (John 4). Jesus most intimate followers did not see the residents of the village before them as an evangelistic opportunity. James, John, Simon Peter and the others bought groceries but impacted no person with what they knew about Jesus. Eventually Jesus encouraged them to lift their eyes in order to see the harvest.

Responses to your moment:

1. Ask questions. Expand your vision to include people who are not like you. It was what Jesus did with the woman at the Samaritan well. Immigrants love to talk about their home. We all do. When I’m asked about my home state of Louisiana I’m almost always ready to talk.

2. Launch a Spanish speaking service. Bill Harden in Little Rock, Arkansas could not speak Spanish but he could hire a translator. He did! Today, a thriving Spanish speaking congregation is in Little Rock resulting from a non-Spanish speaking man’s vision.

3. Reach out to elders. Churches with an eye for effective ministry are launching outreaches for those near retirement age. The Tennessee district of the UPCI has a “Senior Camp Meeting.” For several years, Pastor Rudy Thiessen in Hillsboro, Missouri has had a Wednesday morning service oriented to elders.

Keep your focus on your field – this field . . . now . . . this crop . . . at this moment in time!

Who Else Wants to Focus on the Field?

Who Else Wants to Keep the Focus on the Field?

No farmer ever assesses the value of property by the condition of the barn. Oh . . . he may notice, but what he gives more attention to is the blackness of the dirt. pasture.jpg

Does the soil look fertile?

How prevalent are weeds?

Is the corn growing tall in the rows?

The focus is “on the field.” The new paint job on the barn is irrelevant if fields lie unplanted or the harvest not gathered. Two things seem to impact a church leaders’s focus on the field.

Distractions

A farmer got up in the morning to go gather his corn. As he started to the barn to get a sack he remembered that the tractor needed to be fixed. So . . . the farmer went to get tools to fix his tractor. Then he saw that the wood needed to be chopped. As he headed toward the wood pile the farmer noticed the horses were out of the corral . . . so he ran to catch the horses. While rounding them up, he heard his wife yell that the stove was not working. He started the day with the field on his mind but got distracted.

One can get so busy with “other” things that there isn’t time to focus on the field. Crisis evolves into crisis and at the end of a day little of worth is done.

Life can be action without accomplishment.

Remedy: Step away from life’s hectic pace and consider what is important for truly impacting the field.

Sloth

Solomon said sloth the rationale for a property owner not planting in spring-time. There is no harvest in unplanted fields. Where did you plant the seed of God’s word today? It has been said, “God’s greatest problem with laborers in his vineyard is absenteeism.”Church Planter Jimmy Toney told a fellow who was expressing a call to preach, “God hasn’t called you to preach. You don’t hold a job while your wife works. You laze around all day playing video games. God hasn’t called you because you’d be the first lazy person He ever called.”

Remedy: Laziness can be repented of. If you are lazy or trying to develop someone who is lazy it may be time to talk straight to them. To change may require asking someone to keep you accountable and to challenge the way you live life. Nothing of significance has been accomplished by a lazy person.

My book – Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask is a resource to benefit all aspects of ministerial development including maintaining focus.

The Secret to Never Being Alone Again (Blessings and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #3)

The Secret to Never Being Alone Again

Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #3

This evangelistic sermon is part of a continuing series regarding the benefit of having the Holy Ghost. I welcome suggestion for improvement, illustration or theological questions/observations.

Email: carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Website: http://Carltoncoonsr.com

Calvary’s website: http://SpringfieldCalvary.church

Facebook: Carlton Coon Sr.

Twitter: @CarltonLCoonSr

Springfield Calvary’s Facebook: Calvary UPC – Springfield

1. Loneliness is one of the common realities of the current human existence.

a. Loneliest group – elders; second loneliest according to researchers – college students.

b. Seems paradoxical – but loneliness is not eliminated by among people.

c. Some loneliness is not removed by having friends or being likeable.

2. There is the loneliness of being overwhelmed by life’s reality.

a. The loneliness of dealing with an issue that is not the norm. Few others can have empathy for what you are going through. The death of a child; the divorce . . . unexpected job loss.

b. Such loneliness can be paralyzing.

3. Today – “the Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost” – The Secret to Never Being Alone Again.

a. Since there are new listeners hear: The Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit is the spirit of God coming in you. The spirit of Christ is another Bible term for the Holy Ghost.

b. Throughout the book of Acts, those who wanted to have the Holy Ghost came to God with faith.

c. That faith led them to obedient action:

i. Repentance – an about face in thought and action.

ii. Baptized in Jesus Name.

d. Promised the gift of the Holy Ghost.

e. The Holy Ghost is something you can have.

4. Benefits preached in previous weeks:

a. Spirit of Adoption –

b. Power to live –

Particular setting of this text -Jesus is having a final “saint’s meeting with his disciples. His crucifixion is imminent and beyond that there will be other matters to address. Loneliness looms near!

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, (The Greek word is paraclete. It means One who comes alongside to help.“Comforter” is a good translation if rightly understood. It comes from the Latin and means “one who comes with strength.”) that he may abide with you for ever;

In essence: those who receive the Holy Ghost are given another “who comes alongside with strength to help.”

Now here are the things this one who “comes alongside with strength to help”will do!

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach (#1 teach) you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, (#2 – cause you to remember) whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, (#3 spirit of truth)which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me (#4 testifies of Jesus in ones life):

Four things the “one who comes alongside with strength to help will do: teach, cause remembrance, be a spirit of truth in you, testify of Jesus!

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient (good) for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

5. Opposite of having such a comforter.

a. Alone and depending on your own strength. “You got it by yourself.”

b. Needing help, but no help to be seen, had or found.

c. Like David when pursued by Saul: “No man cared for my soul.” (Psalms 142:4).

d. Even if a man cared there will be limitations, for what any MAN can do for you.

6. CLC – Don’t use Who it is that is writing – the only Bible writer to use that particular term. As Jesus talks John is paying attention to the concept of a comforter. The writer: John.

a. Only one who speaks regarding the Paraclete. He with Matthew would have been in that last supper. Matthew would have experienced much disdain and dislike. He was a tax collector. Perhaps the gentle things Jesus spoke of did not get through to Matthew. It was not in the context of Matthews need. He would have been toughened by the path he travelled.

b. John, lived in a harsh climate but even in maturity he was still a bit of a mama’s boy. Mama was speaking in his interest even now. Seeking the best place in Jesus’ organization for her two sons.

c. John lingered on this concept of the comforter.

7. Comforter – in you!

a. Paraclete – one who comes with strength to help – as a Greek strategy in war. Soldiers “back to back.” No blind spot. Never alone again, the Holy Ghost has got your back! The partner in seeing life – teaching, bring to truth,

b. Paraclete – one who comes alongside – included in this is the idea of one who comes beside. Christ in you, not near you – in you. Not encouraging or instructing from a distance but IN you.

c. Parcalete – comes alongside to help.

i. “To help” indicates having the ability to help.

ii. “To help” indicates having the willingness to help.

iii. Located at hand. “Holy Ghost” what should I do just now.

d. David’s observation.

i. Alone – nobody interested in me.

ii. Alone – I’m sinking and there is no ship on the horizon to save me.

iii. Alone – there is no special insight offerered.

iv. Alone in a fight – and the punches are coming from every direction.

8. Answer – You need the Holy Ghost!

9. Jesus knew His disciples would feel those things – He assures them – Comforter . . . in you . . . As a matter of fact, it is good for you that I go . . . you are getting a better deal with the Holy Ghost. I’ve been walking with you, but will soon be walking in you.

10. Two groups who the Holy Ghost wants to fill:

a. Those who have not known about what the Holy Ghost can be and do . . .. You don’t ever “have to be alone again.” The Holy Ghost will be in you.

b. Those who know exactly what the Holy Ghost can be and do. In past day you’ve been full of the Holy Ghost and have experienced the “alongside to help.”

i. Today you find yourself estranged from God . . .

ii. An altar awaits – a new infilling.

Sermon Empowered – Blessings and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #2

Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost –

#2 – Empowered

Writing and providing these helps keep me focused in my study.  If they do not seem to benefit the reading audience I’ll eventually narrow the sharing to a handful of close friends.  The goal is not to give you an instant sermon but to provide concepts, tools and approaches you can use in your own study.  C. Coon

Email:  carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Website: http://carltoncoonsr.com

Hear the message in the context of the local church:  http://springfieldcalvary.church/

I. Jesus has been with his disciples – taught, they have observed him in action. His post-resurrection instruction to them.

A. Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

1. Jesus was keenly aware that his disciples needed something more than “good teaching” or even having been in the very presence of God manifest in flesh.

2. The unempowered throughout the Bible-

a) Israel attempting to take the promised land after they had expressed their distrust;

b) Samson – mightily used of God and then a place in life where things brought a disconnect.

c) Those who tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus.

3. Unfortunately, there is an inclination today toward a powerless Christianity.

a) Christian life without Holy Ghost – church life, social, community,

b) To be able to posture oneself as a good “church going” person.

c) How is it that Christianity, church life is so reserved? Book: Why Men Don’t Like Church. Answer – tameness . . . there is no ball over the fence moment; no touchdown dance; no knockout punch; no thrill of putting deal together, of getting a raise . . .hanging the antlers on the wall.

d) How is there a certain degree of indistinctness about some who participate in Christian life? As vulgar in their talk . . . as unprincipled in finance . . . as un-neighborly in their community, rude, crude . . . arrogant, gossiping, obnoxious people.

.

B. Jesus knew something more was needed – tarry . . . until.

II. Jesus was not done prompting his disciples in this . . . even after spending all this time with Him they still had questions about the establishing of the nation of Israel. Jesus told them not to worry about that . . .

A. Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, (“dunamis” which is translated here as “power.” We get our English word “dynamite” from that same Greek word… it has to do more with power in the sense of “ability.”) after (repeat) that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be(these three words are the emphasis of the sentence. God was and is interested in what “ye shall be” and He has a plan and process to get you there.) witnesses (martyr – the meaning of the word has changed to identify someone who gives their life for a cause . .. Earlier the word meant . . . one convinced of truth, and then living that truth in life. In essence: persecution did not make martyrs, persecution revealed those who were convinced of truth and living that truth in life. So what Jesus is promising: You shall receive the Holy Ghost and it will give you the ability to be convinced, committed and live truth in life and will do so by the power of the Holy Ghost)unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (the reference to the uttermost is not just a reference to location but to time . . . until the end of the age. So it is in respect to time as well as place. Place includes here. )

B. God has ever realized that while one can be friendly, kind, nice and greet you, attempt to make a decent impression – in reality within my smile and handshake I don’t have one thing in any of that to set a person free from drug addiction, alcohol, homosexuality or any other sin – oh, but the power of the Holy Ghost.Ye shall receive power . . ..Now the issue is on the table as is the promise – the disciples return to Jerusalem and tarry:

Acts 2:4, And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (They were allf illed, as they were all told to wait.)

What happened: causes a multitude to gather – Simon Peter gives explanation: Only days before this same Simon Peter had been so uncommitted as to deny having been a follower of Jesus. Now this Simon Peter – a much better Simon Peter than the one only 50 days before . . .

Acts 2:14-18 (KJV) 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all yethat dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is butthe third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (goes on to talk about signs and wonders. If I could put it this way: these filled with the Holy Ghost are going to do things and be things that are not within themselves.)

C. The Holy Ghost would empower them to be what these listeners to be what they had not been . . . to do what they had not done . . . to be “stand-up” Christ followers as they could not otherwise have ever been.

III. Niagara Falls is quite an impressive sight. Millions of people visit to watch the water cascade hundreds of feet down the “in river” cliff. Quite a tourist industry has developed around Niagara Falls – The Maid of the Mist is a boat that takes people near the falls, there is a light show in the evenings as various colors of light are reflected from the falls.

 

A. But if you live in or anywhere near Niagara Falls, you quickly realize that in the long run what you appreciate most about the falls is all the power it generates.

 

B. One may take for granted the tourist attraction . . . but there is a daily participation with the power from the falls. It is the power people live by.

 

C. It is like you receiving the Holy Ghost – the tourist may come by to inquire about the initial evidence – speaking in tongues, but the focus is on the power it gives one to live life.

 

D. It is a vital need for each person in this room. You need the Holy Ghost.  When the electricity is not available – but in this instance – the power is available.  The source is there.!

 

IV. The Outpouring of the Holy Ghost:

A. To the unknowing –  Explanation:  “This is that,”  “The Promises is to You and Your Children.”

 

B. To those who know but have experienced some sense of laxness. A disconnect from God’s spirit. Are not now empowered.

Acts 4:31 (KJV) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

 

C. Like a lamp, unplugged – this morning the ability to be plugged back in. Not only is there the ability to be plugged back in, there is the invitation to be plugged back in to the power source.

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Sermon – Orphan to Adoption – Benefit of Holy Ghost Series – #1

The Holy Ghost is the . . .Spirit of Adoption

(Note:  I will experiment with the interest level toward posts of notes from Sunday evangelistic sermons preached at Calvary UPC – Springfield, Missouri. http://springfieldcalvary.church/  Comments and suggestions welcomed.  A quicker response will come if you write me at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com.  I’m working with a new blog post software – there are some formatting challenges that will get better as we go forward.)

Text: Romans 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

Galatians 4:4-7, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

To be an orphan is a tragic thing. Around the world today there are almost as many orphaned children as the population of the entire United States. That word “orphan” does not portray the ugliness of such a child’s existence.

I. It means the child is without parents . . . or at least without parents who are in a position to be responsible . . . without a close family member . . . without anyone to provide that level of care that is needed.

A. The child is: disconnected, unprotected and there is none to provide. Alone, at risk and perhaps scavenging for survival.

B. The reality of orphaned children has long been a difficult challenge. Society has made all kinds of efforts to fix the problem:

1. For over 70 years (1860-1930) “Orphan Trains” came from New York City to Kansas bringing thousands of orphaned kids out of the city . . . hoping to find a family out west that would take them in.

2. Some of Charles Dickens most memorable novels were about wrote of the difficulties of orphan life in Victorian England.

3. In our own era . . . we have responded with foster homes . . . and foster parents . . . at times with great success . . . other times . . . well . . . unfortunately there have been other times.

C. There are facilities that try to become “home” . . . providing a sense of “parenting” to an orphaned child.

D. None of the things I’ve mentioned have been perfect solutions to what is a difficult situation. The best chance of any such child – the unprotected, alone and un-provided for is to have a family take the child in and make that child their own.

II. Around the world there are an abundance of orphans. In what would be known as third world countries 13,000,000 orphans who have lost both parents. These children are orphans because their parents’ have died of AIDS and other diseases, starvation, and war.

A. Such a child recognizes that they are lacking something . . . the desire to become part of a family is consistent.

B. *Use this again at the end+++++ In the Ethembeni House, an orphanage run by the Salvation Army in Johannesburg, there are 38 children 5 or younger.

1. When a woman who is a stranger enters the room, the children turn expectant faces to her: “Mama, mama,” they cry.

2. It is their hope! That this one becomes “Mama!”

C. That is a portrayal of what life is like in the day of an orphan . . . in most of our world. Survival . . . making ones own way . . . totally self-dependent . . . no one to look to . . . no trusted helper . . . instead somebody who would take advantage . . . Orphaned . . . alone.

Spiritual Orphans – disconnected, unprotected and no provision

1.1 The scripture uses the term . . . “spirit of adoption” a number of times. It also uses a Greek word for “orphaned.” Sitting in this room are men and women who are spiritual orphans.

1.2 It is a fate worse than being a physical orphan . . .

1.3 David captured where you are in life . . . (Psa 142:4 KJV) I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

 

It is appropriate to speak of those who are spiritual orphans – groveling in the trash looking for a few bites to help them survive

Self-protection . . . because there is nobody else to protect them. Sickness and diseased by life. Taken advantage of by predators – physical, mental and emotional.

God’s response to the reality of spiritual orphans . . . Paul would write: (Rom 8:15 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

1. Notice the message: ye have received the Spirit of adoption. The Holy Ghost is the “Spirit” . . . in this instance it is the “spirit of adoption.”

2. You did not always have this experience – there was a time when you had not been adopted . . . but you have received the spirit of adoption.

3. You received something that let you know you were no longer an orphan . . .

4. since you are no longer an orphan you no longer have to live like one . . . foraging, rummaging about . . . barely getting by.

5. You have received “the spirit of adoption” . . . quit living like an orphan and start living like a son.

C. Paul’s contrast: Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear . . . His portrayal . . . spiritual orphans have a spirit of bondage . . . spiritual orphans are fearful . . . but his message to these readers . . . “You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption.

Because you are adopted . . . you have every right to cry, “Abba, father.” There is something rather fascinating about that Aramic word . . . “Abba.”

1. Pronounce it for yourself, Abba: do you notice that it needs no teeth to say it?

2. It is the spiritual infant’s first attempt at speech; and what is more appropriate than to lisp the Father’s name.

3. Baby declaring relationship. You can be that baby . . .

John 14 is part of Jesus talking to the disciples just before to Gethsemane . . . Jesus promises His disciples the Holy Ghost

A. (John 14:16‑18 KJV) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; {17} Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. {18} I will not leave you comfortless: (orphanos . . . orphaned) I will come to you.

I’m not going to leave you orphaned – disconnected, self-reliant and without a defender.

I will come to you – the comforter, the Holy Ghost.

Just like at the orphanage in downtown Johannesburg, there are those here today: who are turning an expectant face . . . wanting to be able to say Abba . . . and the church is the mother of us all. Might they be looking for a mother as well – a church to take them in arms – “Mama, Mama.” When a stranger enters the room, the children turn expectant faces to her: “Mama, mama,” they cry.

If you are interested in knowing more about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how this can impact your life, please contact me through the website or by email at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com.

If you would like to know more about my own process for preaching to the lost take a look at the book Masterful Preaching. It is available at CarltonCoonSr.com.

Five Steps to REVIVING ANY Dead Church

There is nothing as dead as a dead Pentecostal church. Several things describe a “dead” church.

  • Empty altars

    • Long dry baptistery.

      • Every attendee looks and acts as if they have been saved, sanctified & petrified for at least thirty years!

        • No operation of the gifts of the spirit & nobody even misses it!

      • No divine interruptions!

    • Praise is by rote.

  • Nobody under the age of 20 has experienced “worship”  – prostration at the presence of God.

    • There are no relatively new people in the process of development toward being a committed disciple of Christ.

What I’ve described is a mess. This sort of situation is hard to pastor.  If you lead a church described here it does not have to stay the way it is – but change will begin with you. Change will not come overnight – find the spiritual weapons God wants you to use and keep using them.

  1. Focus your teaching and preaching on principles like prayer, fasting and evangelism. Begin a regular prayer meeting.  At the prayer meeting, use resources like the late Judy Doughty’s book Spiritual Warfare Praying to lead people to pray.

    • Have one fast day per week for the entire church.  On a quarterly basis call a three day fast. Periodically call “Media and Technology Fasts” – no tv, newspaper, web news, Facebook, video games, twitter, etc. No  internet except for work.

    • Incorporate a Daniel Fast on an annual basis.  It can be 7, 21 or 30 days. As you work to turn this thing around,  make prayer and fasting the measure of progress. Who would disagree with the pastor about the need for prayer.

    • Establish a system that allows those non-negotiable principles to be sustained.  Our church standard at Calvary United Pentecostal Church in Springfield, Missouri requires anyone involved in a service to be in the prayer room before church. It is non-negotiable.  “No pray, no play!”

    • Lead by example – Be at every prayer meeting!  Don’t be in your office before church while others pray. Example is the greatest teacher.

  2. Speak your expectation for faith to work & the spiritual to happen.

    • Don’t get frustrated when this is not instantaneous.

    • Instead of testimonies sometime have someone speak “a word of faith.” This is a word about what they anticipate God doing.

    • Constantly make room for the Holy Ghost to work.  Spiritual things happen when we expect such and make room for it.

    • We can get so program oriented (regular readers know I believe in preparing and organizing a service) that the Holy Ghost has to wrestle its way in.

  3. Connect to people.  A button on the blender says, “On,” but the blender won’t work if it is not plugged in. Turning around a dead church is sure easier if you can get people flowing with you. Get them “turned on” to revival.

    • Talk with them about the church, ask about their vision for the church, “What would you like to see our church become?  How do you think we can get to what you envision.”

    • People will surprise you. When they get to talk about the vision it becomes a shared vision.

    • Connection times are when you have a meal with them, laugh with them, ask questions about their life, buy the sweatshirt for whatever sports team the locals support. Comfortable people; people who have been allowed to participate in preparing for the future are more easily led  .

  4. Aim almost every service (mid-week, weekend or small group) for the altar. We can mistakenly measure church by preaching, singing, people having been blessed. Do we have these but needy people leave still needing?

    • People are “altered at the altar.”  My goal is always found at the altar.

    • If we have “good” church but no effective altar time was it really good? Good altar time is not rushed.

    • When good things happen, stay near the altar and allow there to be time for an after-glow.  The after-glow is a season of deep worship.  In such settings God does things you can never imagine accomplishing.

Consistent theme – Get on point, stay on point, repeat the point, look for unique ways to communicate the point.  Don’t wander from the point.

    • As things happen that reinforce what you are trying to accomplish use those successes (though they may be small) to celebrate. Let a saint talk about the small victories as well.

    • “What gets honored gets repeated!”

    • People MUST hear things repeatedly for it to stick. Quotes from the late J.T. Pugh, G.A. Mangun and N.A. Urshan are things those people said many times Whatever your goal is bring the church to a place where they begin to quote you – even while you are saying it – yet again!

Many churches need a revival –some equate revival with noise and fury; and such does happen (Acts 2).  Acts 1 is where the revival starts. Revival begins in quiet things that few will notice.

Two business matters:

1. My book “Healthy Church – Start Here” discusses 18 things that cause a church to get stuck in a death spiral. More important than identifying these 18 matters, are the solutions provided to each issue. Buy it here.

2. My last book “Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper” gives more ideas about how you can experience constant, but not flashy revival in your city. This has been a best seller! Click here to make it yours.

As a pastor, perhaps you are struggling with a turnaround– our team is exploring doing some web-based training sessions with pastors/local church leaders.  If you’d be interested contact me at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

As always, I’m interested in the testimony of those who have participated in a “turn around” church experience.  How did it unfold?  What were the priorities that brought change?  What things were tried that were ineffective?  By the way – you can’t bring life to a dead church with a program – there has to be a move of the Holy Ghost!

Enhanced Credibility = Increased Influence

In 2010, I ran across an article in a flight magazine on Personal Excellence.  It was by Jean Kelley.  Her article gives the bones for this post.

Being an influencer is not self-declared or automatic. Much of the ability to influence others comes with the credibility you have with the particular person. There are people who I’m unable to influence because for whatever reason I’ve no credibility with that person.  Other people receive my suggestions or directives.  In the latter case, I’ve managed to be credible to that person.

In her article, Jean Kelley wrote, “Credibility is not something you automatically have, or something you bestow upon yourself – it is something others bestow upon you.”  With one person I am credible another has chosen not to bestow that label on me.  If you wish to influence people you must be credible to them.  There are no “self-crowned” influencers as there is no “self-crowned” credibility.

For others to view you as credible, you have to act your way into credibility.

Rex DeckardSome years ago, Rex Deckard (Des Moines, Iowa; coordinator of Church Planting U for the United Pentecostal Church) taught the North American Missions Board of Directors that research indicated, “action is more important than attitude.” Our actions are things we choose to do. This works into the idea of credibility. We can talk a good game and then not actually get the thing done.

Our decisions determine our credibility. Each of us makes multiple decisions each day

  • whether to visit a parishioner,
  • whether to do the work necessary to meet a particular deadline,
  • whether to return a phone call when you know it will be a difficult conversation,
  • whether to appropriately direct with others.

Influential people are evaluated by their behavior – not their communication or their intentions.

Now to borrow rather directly from Ms. Kelley’s cupboard.  As an influencers you can boost your credibility in any of several ways:

1. Don’t over-promise – do what you say you will do and choose what you will and will not do.  The latter part of this is important. Every influencer has far more opportunities than what they can do.  Prioritize what you take on.  Don’t be late with things you’ve promised to accomplish. Get ‘er done!

2. Be open about your motives behind a decision – you choose what you tell people.  If there is self-interest involved in a decision you make people are generally able to see through whatever garment you robe that decision in.

3. Fess up to mistakes early – leaders choose to cover things up or put them out in the open.  Crow is not tasty, but goes down quick. Richard Nixon did not lose the presidency over the burglary a few second rate aides had participated in; Nixon lost his credibility when he didn’t fess up tp having become aware of the Watergate break-in.  None have actually attained the inerrancy of the papacy. When you blow it, admit it!

4. Keep confidences – get permission before divulging sensitive information.  You have the choice as to whether or not to repeat information. My inclination is to NOT divulge any information to another person. Many secrets will go with me to my grave. Don’t use innuendo to communicate what should be a confidence.  Absorb what people tell you, pray about it and in most instances work with those people to come out of the mess they’ve made of their life.   (Perhaps someone out there would be willing to blog about, “The High Cost of a “Gossiping Preacher.”)  If you don’t keep confidences you will soon be str12_mudholeuck – nobody will trust you.

5. Treat others consistently and fairly – you choose your actions toward others.

6. Listen to others – you choose where you put your mental focus.  I listen better when I’m making notes regarding the other person’s conversation; instead of asking questions and interrupting what the person is saying noting what I’m wanting to ask later.  (If you do this be sure to let the other person know what you are doing; otherwise they imagine you to be making a grocery list.)

Credibility is not gained by a sermon or song. Credibility that lends to influence others is the result of walking down the same long road – headed in the right direction.

Perhaps you have  a story of someone who did not have credibility and tried to lead people.  Without divulging names share the outcome and what could have been done different.

Angry Leader Warning!

A dear friend preached his midweek message. On the way home his wife said, “Hon, all you did tonight was take your frustrations out on the people.” Folks that just won’t work. Angry leaders are a danger to themselves and others.angry picture

Perhaps you are familiar with the story of a leader who had become something of a worshipper of Jehovah. His commitment was incomplete; perhaps because he liked attention and was comfortable with a polytheism. In a moment  of self-interest the  leader decided to erect a monument to how he thought worship should be done.  By the way, those moments that begin with “self-interest” are dangerous in many ways.

When the work was done, the monument stood tall; and the leader instructed everyone to give allegiance to his way of doing things. No questions were permitted and as this leader did business using the age old pattern, “My way or the high way.”

Well, as often happens with a leader – there were people who had other ideas about how things should be done.  These people resisted the leader’s directive. As the story goes, they resisted without really manifesting a bad spirit about it all.  They were willing to take whatever discipline the leader felt was needed.  These resistors to the leader’s self-interest were doing what they felt to be the right thing.  Actually, they were doing the right thing!

Their behavior hit the leader’s button – you know the one all leaders have – the bright red “Now I’m MAD!” button.  His application of “church discipline” was swift and severe.  If they were going to behave in such a manner he would permanently remove them from the choir.  His anger was so hot that he threw caution to the wind.

The anger of a leader resulted in fall-out beyond the target of his “unholy mad.” Some of his followers who had always been able to handle the heat didn’t survive his being mad. Do you recognize the leader Nebuchadnezzar and his anger at three Hebrews? Nebuchadnezzar’s anger cost him followers!  Has your anger ever cost you followers?  You may have even been right in decision but wrong in spirit – either way costs.

Not only was there the cost of those who died, but can you imagine the emotions of the family and friends of those who died because of their leader’s irrational anger.  I wonder if others became less willing to commit to work on his behalf?  I’ve known leaders who were emotionally volatile – my response – to keep my distance.fiery furnace

Leadership and anger is rarely a good mix.  We all have our hot buttons; certain things stir our emotions. An effective leader chooses to respond based on something other than the heat of the moment.  Things leaders like Nebuchadnezzar should consider:

1. Be aware of your emotional self. Know when you are angry; determine what has you angry and do your best to step away from the heat of it.

2. Do not deal with volatile issues in the heat of emotion.  Let your emotions cool a bit; give yourself time to think and then respond appropriately.  Mike Williams of Apopka, Florida gave me wise counsel regarding my responding to a difficult situation, “Carlton, don’t add fuel to the fire.”

3. Outbursts of anger have peripheral costs.  Nebuchadnezzar lost people committed to him and his leadership because he reacted with such intensity.  Consider the family and children of the person who has made you so angry. Is your angry response worthy of the cost there will be to those people?

4. Deal with “anger provoking” things in a private and straight-forward manner.  Jesus taught us to talk to an individual rather than to a congregation.  I’ve watched leaders kill a good revival spirit by feeling the need to berate some person who had annoyed them.  Face-to-face confrontation is not always comfortable but it is healthy and much wiser than taking one’s frustrations out on an entire church.

Sometimes leaders need “anger management” classes for themselves.  If you do – for the sake of HIM, HIS WORK, HIS CHURCH & HIS PEPLE don’t be so proud as to not get help.  Don’t let heated emotion limit your ability to influence others.  Perhaps you have recommendations of material that would have helped Nebuchadnezzar to have better dealt with his anger.  Please pass them on with your comments.

You Can Be Better than Winston Churchill!

“If only somebody in this church were a soul-winner.”

“If God would just send someone to haul kids to church we’d start a bus ministry.”

Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve said something similar. Actually the Lord has, he sent YOU to be a soul-winner, to get kids to church, to care for the lost and to focus on evangelism.

Evangelism Starts With the Pastor

winston churchillA while back an older preacher was discussing the ministry with a young pastor. I was allowed the opportunity to listen in. The elder was blunt with the kid, “You have to personally be engaged in reaching lost people.” The elder was something of a veteran. His name was Paul and he was communicating with Timothy who pastored the Ephesus First Church. I doubt Paul would be impressed with a full pastoral counseling schedule. “The fire of revival is birthed in the activity of evangelism.”

Never too big to win Souls

At a training Seminar, veteran church planter Wayne Huntley talked of  brothers he just taught a Home Bible Study. The man pastors a significant congregation . . . including numerous daughter churches, still Wayne Huntley does the work of an evangelist. One never grows a church so large that they are not to evangelize; no elected position replaces evangelism. A pastor who does the work of an evangelist develops people who reach the lost. 

How to Be More Effective Connecting With People Bible

By nature I am introvert.  I’ve come to accept this isn’t likely to change. For those similar to me, there are learned behaviors to develop.

Connecting with people is not dominating them. It was said of Winston Churchill that he interpreted the word “conversation” to mean – he was always up to bat, and it was everybody else’s job to field. That won’t work. You can become a brilliant conversationalist. Brilliant conversationalists aren’t brilliant, instead:

  1. They know how much people love to talk about themselves, so they let them talk
  2. They ask lots of questions.

With that as your guide you can connect with every person who walks through the door of the church. You can, “minister with your ears.”

As an introvert, an acrostic that helps me sustain a conversation is F.O.R.M.  Each initial represents something people are likely to be willing to talk about:

F = Family

O = Occupation

R = Religious perspective (This can get interesting)

M = Moment (What’s happening in their life today)

Action Items to Be More Effective

  • For some principles on connecting with people you may benefit from the secular book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, an updated version includes social media.
  • Memorize the acrostic F.O.R.M. as a pattern to sustain a conversation. 
  • Get into the community . . . have people in your church introduce you to each member of their family, or visit a work-place.
  • When someone visits church . . . particularly when you are the only fellow doing the work of an evangelist . . . immediately schedule a time to get better acquainted.
  • Get off the platform during church.
  • Be accountable for the evangelistic work you do. Till evangelism is a habit of life, why not be accountable to someone – perhaps mutually accountable – account for new personal contacts, Home Bible Studies, your weekly contacts to your prospect list.

When the opportunity comes hug the un-huggable . . . especially the one who smells really bad or is wearing mismatched clothes.

Speak to the ignored.

       Value every person you come in contact with.

God has given you to that city . . . so do the work of an evangelist.

Since I’m an introvert I need all possible help to be more effective.  If you have a similar temperament and have learned something that helps you connect to people – better than Churchill – please pass it on in the comments below.

How to Build a Praise Service

Let’s talk about how to move people into the climate for a God-thing to happen. In ongoing conversation with my wife Norma, who served as a praise leader and then trained others to step into the role, several practical things came to light. Norma C

Transitioning people from street to His presence.

Gathering the people together.

       Instructing the lacking and leading them to participate.

              Focus and Flow toward the Lord.

Transition

Life is messy. Throughout the day the preacher may have been meditating on the Lord, but most people have not had that privilege. Think about the stuff they are dealing with.

· John just came from the hospital. His mother’s condition is terminal, but when he gets to church I want him to praise the Lord.

· Sue’s employer declared bankruptcy this week. She is unexpectedly unemployed, but I want her to shout to the Lord.

· The Smiths’ home has been foreclosed on, but I want them to clap.

I just described real-world ministry. People are weary and heavy-laden. One has to give consideration to where people are at in life. Know where people are coming from!

How do we move beyond reality? People have to be transitioned from life to Lord, work to Word, from a broken dish-washer to a fresh awareness of the God of the universe. It is your job to make sure there is a path on which that transition can occur.

This need to transition people is not new. Read Psalms 120-134. In the titles of the psalms, these are noted as songs of degrees. Other translations and historians called Mount Zionthem songs of ascent. These particular types of psalms were sung as people were on the way to the temple in Jerusalem.  Read them – the songs of ascent were songs of transition moving people from “woe” to “God’s house.”  In the transition produced by the songs, God’s place began to loom larger than whatever they had been dealing with.

You can rarely move people directly from the accounting office or truck straight to the holy place, much less the Holy of Holies. Leaders have to transition them toward the things of God.

These days, the transition will happen after people arrive at the church gathering. This need to transition is an added reason for a strong emphasis on pre-service prayer. The prayer helps prepare people for God’s presence. Even with that emphasis, those who lead praise must understand how distant people are likely to be from the things of God.  Get people past the mess of their life even as we recognize it as being there.

Transitioning:

1. Think about where people are coming from. You don’t have to like it but do understand it.

2. Diversity helps.  At times, begin church with Bible reading. Diverse voices reading a favorite verse moves people down this path. Get people thinking about something other than their stress.

3. Start low, go slow, and end high! Starting in over-drive is often a mistake. It does not allow people to make the journey from their life to God’s presence.

 Gather the People

Gathering diverse people into a symphony of praise is its own challenge. It requires moving each of them to something bigger than themselves. In the songs of ascent, the focus was on God, God’s house, and God’s permanence. Those joining the throng got their mind on something really big.

In “gathering” don’t ignore reality. Norma observed, “If we had just buried a saint, the first song in the next service was likely to be something having to do with heaven. Then we’d get around to a chorus that brought us back to the here and now.”

In December holiday activities at home, work, and church are foremost in people’s mind. Starting church with a Christmas hymn helps people realize you are aware of their busy pace. Then the worship leader can move on to something else. The season has been affirmed, the fact of Christmas being on people’s mind has been confirmed, and people are brought together. From that point of gathering we could move on to what was felt in the Spirit for that service.

Instruct

Effective churches will have new people. Become comfortable with coaching newcomers about praise. Your instructions don’t have to be different every service; mine were not. I repeated something like the following: 

“I note that to some of you the things happening around you are a bit different. Let me take a minute and increase your comfort. First, nobody is going to insist that you clap your hands or lift your hands. If you’d like to join us, you are welcome. Second, what you are seeing is all Biblical. If it is in the Bible, is must be ok. Let me validate this from the Bible.”

  • “The Bible says, ‘Clap your hands all ye people.’”
  • “The Bible says, ‘Shout to the Lord with a voice of triumph.’”
  • “On three occasions, the Bible speaks of, ’Lifting one’s hands . . . .’”
  • “The Bible even speaks of leaping for joy and praising Him with a dance.”

“These things are in the Bible. If it is in the Bible, it must be alright to do in church.“

A few weeks ago I was the evangelist in  a young church with several visitors who were uncomfortable with Pentecostal praise. There was almost a sense of relief when someone took time to explain what was happening. Instructing creates a comfort zone.

Focus and Flow

At times it seems we pinball our way through church. Does this kind of service truly have a focus or does it ever establish a flow?  If God is moving, move with Him—regardless of what the next song or item on the schedule calls for.

Focus on HIM! Make praise a real conversation about His excellence. It interests me how different David’s praise was to what we do. David’s praise was in complete sentences—our praise is more often phrases or a single word. The danger of “phrase-praise” is that it requires little thought—we can open our mouth and habitual words roll out. It takes time, but you can lead people to flow into praising God in complete sentences.

Putting It to Work

We all want a praising church, and churches can be led there.  Practical application: 

· Regularly meet those who help lead services or lead praise (quarterly at least) to share your vision and re-energize them. Whether it’s one keyboardist and you as the worship leader or a full team, emphasize the importance of every service and how necessary each person’s role is.

· Review your last three services. Do any of the service elements need to be re-ordered to help the service flow and to maintain a focused atmosphere of praise?  Look at the post – Where services get stuck and how to unstick them – http://truth-publications.com/?p=1051 

· Train your worship/music leader about starting service with songs of ascent to transition people.

· Make it a point to instruct people in praise at least once every service so they understand its value and Biblical basis.

· If your church meets in your living room, a hotel or some other rented space regularly remind the church God’s spirit is present. Lead the church in focused prayer that the space would become a temple of praise.

Consider new ways you can emphasize praise such as:

Ask a newly discipled and enthusiastic believer to read a passage of Scripture (you’ve pre-selected) to start a service.

Teach a series on praise and how to move beyond “phrase-praise.”

Revival happens in a church who knows how to touch God through prayer and praise.

Oh . . . the smaller font represents a whisper, since this is marketing.  It is not too late to order a Christmas gift for yourself or the developing preacher in your life.  The Preacher’s Resource pack  is 30% off at http://truth-publications.com/?p=942Take a look – satisfaction is always guaranteed.

The super-sale of “A COPY OF EVERYTHING IN THE WAREHOUSE” for 50% off was over on the Monday after Thanksgiving.  However . . . something similar is available on ebay at http://www.ebay.com/itm/190992584673?ssPageName=STRK:MESELX:IT&_trksid=p3984.m1555.l2649

Now . . . back to the topic.  I am interested in what you have found to work in constantly adding a flow to a service.  Please share comment.  It will benefit others.

Five Steps to Teaching Effectively–Guest Post Arlo Moehlenpah

About Arlo and Jane Moehlenpah – they authored a book Teaching with Variety and provide teacher training classes at a number of Bible Colleges and seminars. Bro. Moehlenpah is Mr. Creative! Arlo Moehlenpah He has created a number of Bible games and quizzes, some of which can be viewed on www.DoingGood.org.  The Moehlenpah’s are experts on addressing evolution issues.  They teach in churches beyond their own denomination and have been excellent ambassadors for the United Pentecostal Church. He feels called of God to teach!

 

1. The teacher must know that which he would teach. This is the first law of teaching according to John Milton Gregory. No other qualification is so fundamental. Someone has said “You can’t anymore teach what you don’t know then you can come back from where you ain’t been.” The teacher must study diligently to see how it fits in the overall picture and also be able to answer questions from students.

2. Before lesson preparation there must be heart preparation. Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach. Ezra 7:10. If the lesson has not helped you it probably will not help your students. Lesson preparation is hard work. In the teaching of every lesson someone will suffer. If the teacher suffers in preparation then the students won’t suffer in presentation. If the teacher doesn’t suffer in preparation then the students will suffer in presentation. It’s better for the teacher to suffer in preparation.

3. The teacher must write down what he wants the students to know, feel, do and become. It is impossible to hit a target if you don’t know what the target is. Even if you know the target you won’t hit it unless you aim. It is impossible to measure progress if you don’t know what the goals are. A teaching aim is a clear statement of what we hope to accomplish as a result of the lesson. Everything in the lesson should be planned to accomplish the aims. Omit activities or materials that do not help you accomplish your aim.

Man on Stairs4. The teacher must use different methods . People learn more if they can see and do than if they just hear. Jesus, the greatest of teachers, used a variety of teaching methods. He used objects like birds, lilies, and a door to visually teach truths. He told many stories to affect their emotions and asked and answered questions to engage his audience. He used a flat visual when he wrote on the sand. Visual methods, such as PowerPoint, are available to add variety to your lesson. Student Centered teaching methods, which involve the audience, are also available. However the greatest teaching method of all is teaching by example.

5. The teacher must determine the results of the lessons. How much did the students understand, what did they feel, what did they do with the knowledge and have they been changed? Oral questions are not adequate in that many do not participate. What they know can be determined by proper testing. You want to know what they actually know and not just what they guess. True-false and multiple choice questions allow students to score well by careful reading and by guessing. The best way to reduce guessing on factual quizzes is to use matching questions where there are more choices than questions, where one choice is “none of the above,” where choices can be used more that once or not at all and where some questions can have multiple answers. Although essay tests take time to read they are good to find out what the students can express. Another way to determine what students know is to observe them play Bible Games. The students will have fun while you discover what they know. To find out what they feel, do and become takes much time to listen and observe. However, in doing this you may also discover some aims and objectives for future lessons regarding speech and behavior.

 

CLC Note:  People are built through teaching. Churches grow as they are taught in a particular direction.  Use Bro. Mohlenpah’s observations to launch yourself further into being an effective teacher. 

 

Question:  What resources have you found to be effective in helping you be a more effective teacher of the Bible?  Who are some of the most outstanding teachers you have heard?

Five Mud-holes a Church Service Gets Stuck and How to Unstick It

  It is a delight when a service flows that moves toward the objective of worshipping Jesus and the fulfillment of the intent of the Holy Ghost. 

   Several places often gum up a church service(Coaching Tip:  Don’t throw a lot of change on people at one time. Leaders find a way for a new thing to be someone else’s idea – experiment with their idea, give them credit, and if it works keep using it.)

   r12_mudhole

  Mud-hole #1 –  “Whosoever will” testimony time.  Testimonies celebrating Jesus never detract; it is NOT edifying when one windily talks of life difficulties eventually expressing, “somehow I know Jesus is going to  bring me through.”  Multiply such testimonies a few times and the service is stuck.    How to fix it:

 

Select testifiers and know what you are getting.  When you become aware of something God has done in someone’s life make note. Prep the person that you are going to have them share the testimony. To make it even more effective during a service, interrupt singing to hear the testimony or perhaps use the testimony as part of your preaching. 

Videotape testimonies. With an IPad and simple editing software a good quick hitting testimony can be offered.  Art Hodges uses this with having new converts tell their story in about two minutes.  You never know what a new convert is going to say!  It’s better that it be said to a camera than to the entire audience.

Use a microphone to manage testimonies.  The strategy here is to keep the microphone in your hand for those you call on.  If one waxes on, and on, and on, find a high spot or create one (clap your hands . . . give praise, “Everybody join this brother in praising the Lord”) and move on.  If the microphone is in someone else’s hand you can’t ease out of the testimony.

 

Mud-hole #2 – Unplanned Offerings – Some people are gifted at receiving an offering.  It was not my strength so my response was to rush through the offering.  At best, I’d limit the time given to what was a disjointed experience.  Late in our last pastorate, I learned a bit more about making an offering a form of “praise.”  The solution here is to PLAN AHEAD and lead people to take time to think about what they are doing as they brought their offering.

 

Mud-hole #3 – Announcements – “On the third Friday in February, there will be a baby shower for Sis. Hazel’s granddaughter Susan.  It will be at . . . selections for the baby can be made at . . ..”  The announcement begins being made the third weekend of December and is repeated for the next 9 weeks. So much is said that nothing is heard! Options (the first two take a  bit of time to train people):

A weekly bulletin

Monthly calendar that lists events happening in the next two months. 

Screen it!   If you screen it, don’t say it.

Have someone other than a preacher do the announcements at the end of service. You can use a lady, we did.  Missionary,  this is a place to involve a newer person because announcements don’t have to  be made from a platform. I used a different person (more often than not a lady) each month.  People liked it and Susan’s baby shower didn’t get in the way of a move of God.

Mud-hole #4 – Talking before each song and singers not being in place.  A time ago, between Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico the praise leader felt it necessary to talk A LOT between each song. It was so bad I began timing how much we sang compared to how much the person talked.  He talked much more than we praised Jesus. If there was ever a flow of the spirit it didn’t last long.

Pastor this is where you “Coach” and tell the person, “Let me show you a way to do this a little better.  I want you to try it this way next service.  Don’t talk any, but addGreenbay packers cap two more songs.  We will have time for the songs.”  After that service tell the person how wonderful it was and to try it again the next service.  

Best general rule:  no talking between songs & no talking before singing a solo.  In neither case is the person there to talk, they are there to sing praises to our Lord.

Meet before every service and have a plan. A person must be in place BEFORE it is time to sing. A person coming from the back after being called on is disruptive.  My principle was, “if you were not in place we just went on to the next thing.” 

 

Mud-hole #5– Using too many different voices in a service, particularly too many preachers.  One church used 7 different preachers to take care of a part of the service.  Each gave a mini-sermon and none connected.  It was a muddy mess.

Don’t feel guilty for not putting people up front who do not edify.  You are responsible to the Lord Jesus for a service that flows. 

Coach those you do use, to do what they are on the schedule to do.  It is not time for their latest revelation about one of Ezekiel’s prophecies. 

 

By the way, if someone is called of God to preach, they need to be sent to preach. 

God has not called them to take the offering or lead in taking prayer requests. 

Get preachers preaching – a jail service, nursing home or better yet a preaching point 20 minutes away. 

Services will flow better and those called to preach will fulfill their call.

Before Christmas sale:  A super packet for one who has to teach the Bible and develop people – Five sets of lessons, three sets of student handouts – “INSTANT KNOWLEDGE”  http://truth-publications.com/?p=943

 

 

 

Six Options to Establish Christmas Traditions at Your Church

For years I “struggled” with the joyous season of Christmas.  My challenge:  from Thanksgiving until January 2 we seemed as “carnal as dirt.”  Christmas sales, banquets, parties, stuff!  Tfile0002091259722here seemed to be a notable decline in spiritual focus.  I’m confessing here . . .it was probably just me; maybe I was the one who became carnal.

After fifteen years of pastoring, and fretting through each Christmas I decided to embrace reality. If nothing else, the fact that it took fifteen years  for me to learn and adjust shows my stubbornness.  My adjustment was to try to relax and make something positive of the season. Creating repeated events that become part of the culture and tradition of the church is beneficial.

The following items are not all my own.  I’ll direct you to the people who carried them out.

1. “Christmas at Truth”  was an annual event.  Of course if your church’s name is “The Sanctuary” or whatever, the event would be “Christmas at the Sanctuary.”  Christmas music, decor, an evangelistic Christmas message, perhaps a sermon on  a character of Christmas (an ebook is in n development.  In a few days look for the book of sermons:   “Characters of Christmas”  at Truth-Publications.com).  ):

Christmas is a time to preach hope; reach to the lonely and to make point of touching those who experienced sorrow during the year.   Jesus is the hope bringer.  “Christmas at Truth” was the Sunday we received our Christmas for Christ (CFC) offering and commitments that would be used to help church planters.  If you are not familiar with CFC this year’s CFC videos can be seen at   http://namupci.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=39&Itemid=167

.  If you are not part of a United Pentecostal Church (63% of our UPCI churches give an offering to CFC, as your church does so please route your offering through your church) but would like to invest in helping plant churches, you can contribute by texting “Give to CFC” to 817.890.5984 and following the instructions that come to you.  You can give any amount.

2. Unwrapping Jesus’ gifts – In Moss Bluff, Louisiana (Pastor Tim Mahoney) the  longstanding tradition is for each family to bring a wrapped gift with their Christmas gift for Jesus.  These wrapped giftVarious from Ipad 240s are collected on the platform – creating quite a stack.  As part of the service the children are invited to the platform to open the packages.  Of course kids love tearing into the wrapping.  The paper flies and it is a good time. Lots of pictures are taken. This is a great tradition.  I can see this catching on!

3. Family/Pastor Time – Pastors Brent and Bill Coletharp have a night where each family comes forward bringing a gift for Jesus.  The pastor(s) meet the family in the aisle, speaks with, prays for and expresses appreciation specific to that family. Elder Coletharp says it’s the one time when he gets to speak with and pray for each family as a group. I’ve seen the tears and laughter of the people. Impacting and memorable!

4.  Christmas Cards for Christ – These are envelopes numbered from $1 to $100.  Each individual takes an envelope from the altar. The selection is based on their financial ability.  Envelopes from $1 to $20 are reserved for children and teens.  This offering totals $5,150! Present the envelopes during a mission focused night in late November/early December; then on a Sunday shortly before Christmas accept people’s gifts.  This works! If you’d like to do Christmas Cards for Christ your district North American Missions director will have them; or contact Shawna Hobson at North American Missions  – shobson@upci.org.

5. Pastor Jason Cox (Chicago) makes Christmas has each family come to the front with their offering, and a piece of a puzzle that covers North America.  He also has them light a candle representing an unchurched city. It denotes the fact that church planters “light the world.”  I’ve experienced the impact of this.

6.  Children’s Emphasis – More people visit church at Christmas than Easter. Add to the guest count by having some component of Children’s program. Kids programs are always a trip. My objective for these events is not a host of new converts but establishing new connections.

A short advertisement: for 50% off all my books in our warehouse for the next few days.  Click here:   http://truth-publications.com/?p=1031

Now back to the message.  Work the room during such events.  GET OFF THE PLATFORM and go meet people! As important as the tradition – follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!  By the way, the follow-up cannot wait till after January 1.

I know many of you have traditions that have served the church well.  Please pass these on via a comment below.

6 First Steps For One Called to Preach

This is one of the questions addressed in Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask published in 2006.  For more information  – or to purchase “Questions”  visit http://truth-publications.com/?p=64

Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask is also available on Kindle.

When I was seventeen years old, on April 8, 1974 the Monday night before Easter, I sat down with my pastors, E.W. and Billie Ruth Caughron, to let them know I felt called to preach.  Bro. Caughron responded, “Well, Carlton I saw that in Stan (referring to my friend Stan Davidson, who pastors in Gadsden, AL and is superintendent of the Alabama district) but did not see that in you.”  Then in spite of not being particularly enthralled with my potential and somewhat to my dismay he turned picked up the telephone and I heard him say, “Bro. Ross I’ve got a young fellow here who feels he may be called to preach.  Would you like to use him some time?  You know his folks.  He is L.C. Coon’s boy.”  Bro. Ross (Allen) wagrave of E.W. Caughrons willing to use me, as a matter of fact he asked if I could preach for them that Wednesday night.  How could I say, “No?” 

I graduated from high school a month later having already preached several times.  The question:

What process should I follow if I’m relatively certain I’ve been called into the ministry?
  1. Talk to your pastor about your feelings. He may do his best to dissuade you or challenge your calling. His long-term intent is not to be discouraging but to assist you in confirming the call. As a pastor, I usually advised the person to discuss their feelings with no one else, pray, do the things they think a preacher should do. This includes faithfulness in their conduct, personal devotion, prayer meetings, outreach efforts, etc. I have them come back to see me in six months.  Now, your pastor’s advice may be totally different than mine.  Obviously E.W. Caughron did not follow this specific process.
  2. Follow your pastor’s instructions implicitly.  Above all else be faithful in the small things. If during those six months the person has done the things I ask and they still feel the same way about God’s call,  I then start adding some servant responsibilities to their life. On the other hand, if the person resisted the six month time period it was a sure indication to me that they needed file000507447844some work. Developing a servant-ministry involves submission to authority and leadership. Anyone who won’t submit to a proving time is not likely to truly serve for the long haul.
How do I go about preparing myself for ministry?
  1. Effective ministry will be based on the influences you invite into your life.  Choose mentors, both near at hand and others you observe from afar. Don’t attach yourself to a mentor’s idiosyncrasies but to their commitment to God and approach to serving. Paul said, “Follow (imitate) me as I follow (imitate) Christ.”  Find Christians who deserve to be imitated in some way. At times you will have to ask yourself,  “What would __________________ do in this situation?”   I still ask that question when I’m in new territory. Answering that question provides sound advice
  2. Develop yourself through some component of education. This may be  secular college, Bible college, the on-line Christian Service Training Institute or self-education. Proper grammar, communication, leadership, and relationship skills enhance effectiveness. Listening to good communicators improves your communication. Here you will learn to be studious.
  3. Invest much time in the scripture. A preacher’s authority is not based on position, but on the Word of God. As a developing preacher – live in the word of God, write questions and dig out answers.  file0001123125139
  4. Involve yourself in some component of personal evangelism.  This can be “follow up visitation,” driving a van for Sunday School,  Home Bible Studies, nursing home or jail ministry.  I’ve done all of these and more!  Pulpiteers are a dime a dozen; preachers who can do personal evangelism are rare. As you spend time in personal evangelism you develop sensitivity to the fallen condition and how the Word and spirit respond to that condition. This awareness of just how lost people truly are gives you a dimension of compassion that isn’t found in book learning.
We need preachers, “How shall they hear without a preacher?”  I hope it is God stirring you with a call!  If He does don’t be content to be licensed, or to occasionally fill the pulpit when a pastor is sick – PREACH!  Preach in jails, preach in nursing homes and somebody please go preach in places where we have no church!  How shall they hear without a preacher?

 

It is a season of giving gifts. I’ve already bought several books as gifts. BOOKS Make a perfect gift. Your preacher friend, son, pastor might like the pastor’s gift pack – http://truth-publications.com/?p=942

Guest Post – How to Save Big on Hotels

I hate wasting money and love saving money and get to do a lot of hotel time.  What is here has save North American Missions quite a bit of money.  This particular guest post comes from a favorite person.  Our oldest son Lane, now needs only 23 more partners at $50 per more month and is then in ATLANTA.  Duluth, GA will be eventually have a strong church.  I’m “sanctified proud” of Lane, Shelley and Wyatt (one of our two “holy children.”)  Lane’s blog is http://www.lanecoon.com/

How To Save Big On Hotels

Lane Coon —  February 6, 2013 — 3 Comments

You can get great deals on hotel rooms consistently, you just have to know where to look. In this post I am going to outline a tool I use for getting the best possible deal on hotel rooms. Whether for one night or for several days at a conference.

Over the last six years our family have been blessed to travel a whole lot. Five years as evangelist and now 8 months as deputizing metro missionaries. For two of those years we owned a fifth wheel in which we lived permenantly on the road.  It was sort of like having a giant suitcase on wheels. Everything we needed was in it.

As time went on this was no longer an option for us. So we sold the fifth wheel, but continued to travel extensively. In the beginning of 2012 it became clear that our travels as fundraising metro missionaries would keep us away from home for long periods of time. We realized that we would have periods of time where it would be better for us to stay in hotels as opposed to traveling sixteen hours home for a few nights and retrace our route back to where we had been.

Hotels can get costly. Very costly, very quickly! But we were determined to not buy another fifth wheel for full time travel, and at the same time not go into debt over staying in decent hotel rooms. The average hotel cost in the U.S. comes in at $150.00 a night, and according to hotels.com in 2011 alone the average went up by 4.3%. We can reasonably expect them to continue to get more expensive.

My hope is that this post will be a help to you in saving money. Let me also add that while this works for me, you may have different results. Also I am not getting any kind of pay from the tool I mention on this post, I am merely writing as a user.

Here is my process for getting a great room on the cheap.  I am getting a room for Friday night Feb. 8th on the west side of Houston Tx.

  1. On a computer with an internet connection open a web browser to biddingtraveler.comScreen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.21.40 PM
  2. Input the city, and dates for your stay, then click the green just priceline bidding button.
  3. Then input your desired results. In this case, I need to be on the west side of Houston and I don’t want anything less than a 3 star rating.Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 5.58.47 PM
  4. At the bottom of the page there are two fields. One for the lowest bid, and another for the highest bid you are willing to pay. I went with a low bid of $30 and a high bid of $45.Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 5.59.23 PM
  5. There are two options for continuing. Automatic bidding on the left or manual bidding on the right. I choose manual bidding. Automatic bidding is a service in which you pay the website a fee for doing the bidding for you.
  6. The next screen that comes up after you input the required information and click continue with manual bidding is the priceline landing page. The bidding traveler page becomes a top page bar that acts as a guide instructing the bidder at each step of the process. Below are screen shots of different steps in the process.Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.04.31 PM

Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.05.33 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.07.31 PM Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.07.44 PM

Priceline works by giving you an opportunity to bid for available rooms, but limits you at one bid per star level, and zone. But with rebids (adding new zones or star levels) you can bid at incremental increases giving you a better chance at winning. My winning bid in which I reserved a room was for the price of $39. Well below retail for a hotel room. Screen Shot 2013-02-05 at 6.13.45 PM

Part of being successful is in doing a little research. For this research I jump over to some travel forums. A quick search on any search engine should deliver forums that cater to bidding travelers. One example is biddingfortravel.com

Try these tools out for getting your next hotel room. Let me know if you have some success or post a link to the tool you use for getting your best rate.

Hey . . . hey . . . before you go . . . if you would like to receive updates regarding my (Carlton L. Coon Sr) blog post sign for the free book – it is over to your right.

Also:  Right now Truth-Publications.com has a huge sale on three different gift packs of material.  Take a look – for a gift or perhaps for your own use – all of these are at 30% discount and free shipping!

Preacher’s Gift Packet filled with material for a developing minister as well as a vetearn:  http://truth-publications.com/?p=942

“Not an Ostrich” Disciple-Maker’s Packet – everything you need to take care of spiritual newborns – http://truth-publications.com/?p=924

Teacher’s Resource Packet – young marrieds classes, Ephesians, and more http://truth-publications.com/?p=943

Update

We stayed in the room that I won through bidding via biddingtraveler.com I snapped some pics with my phone of the room as soon as we checked in so you could see it. This room is pretty much par for the course of what I have been able to get.

Bed @ Four Seasons by Sheraton west of Houston TX

Bed @ Four Seasons by Sheraton west of Houston TX

Room @ Four Seasons by Sheraton west of Houston TX

Room @ Four Seasons by Sheraton west of Houston TX

Bathroom @ Four Seasons by Sheraton west of Houston

Bathroom @ Four Seasons by Sheraton west of Houston

5 Important Things I’ve Learned from Anthony Mangun

Anthony Mangun and I are not big buddies. I’m not sure either of us has time or temperament for many “big buddies.” Bro.A. is someone I admire, and from whom I have learned a lot. It has come via observation and paying attention to the principles he uses rather than duplicating his application. For those who wish to learn – much can be gained by watching, listening and thinking, “How can I apply that concept in my life.”

Before following his parents as pastor in Alexandria, Bro. Mangun had been an effective evangelist and pastor. Anthony Mangun created an identity distinct from his father and mother but which has been a continuation of their ministry.  It has always interested me that Bro. A. created a clear ministerial identity away from Alexandria before he returned to Alexandria to pastor.  The last observation may be insightful as we consider generational transitions in local church leadership.

Anthony Mangun for blog Since what I’ve learned from Bro. A. comes from observation.  I’ve seen only the broad strokes.

Be passionate – His message whether to the local church or to a conference is always about a topic that he can speak about with passion. There is a fire in his preaching and you sense the need to rush to the cause he communicates. His passion is not worked up; his passion is lived out!  A. Mangun passionately cares about the people he pastors and the lost in the city of Alexandria. His greatest preaching is done right there at the Pentecostals of Alexandria.

Be prepared – The man delivers a good meal every time he preaches or teaches. This is a result of reading, study, preparation and prayer. I’ve noted times when he was surreptitiously reading a book on his IPad while we were in a “dry place” of a General Board meeting. Prepared people never stop reading and  studying. Take advantage of every moment available to keep preparing yourself.

Do church right – One of the most compelling things I took away from Because of the Times was a session where Bro. A. and his wife showed us how to do church wrong.  The musicians and singers were all in a different key, the soloist was not on the platform when it was time to sing and the church service was just a mess.  I’ve never been to a service in Alexandria where church was not done right. I’m not talking about stilted or constrained, the Holy Ghost can interrupt and does, there is an exuberance of worship; but there is no dead time, no confusion . . . a flow.  When Bro. A. shared that I pastored no more than 60 people, but went home to start using the pattern they shared for planning a service and having everything in place for it to flow.  Plan every service as though 2x the usual crowd was going to be there.  Write out the plan and meet with those participating in the service. A simple service planning form can be found here.

Being systematic is not sinful – A major impact came at another conference when Bro. A. shared that he had 20 topics he tried to preach on 2 times each year.  Not only did he try but he had a grid on which he recorded when he preached on those topics.  I went home and using almost the same 20 topics he used developed my own grid. It kept me preaching/teaching a well-rounded diet to those I pastored. Preaching/teaching in series strengthens what you do and having specific targets forces one to preach outside their comfort zone.  My 20 topics are similar to Bro. A.  

Work ethic – The man works – works hard, works too hard. A church of 3k attendees will result in many counseling appointments. If you look behind the scenes, Bro. A., his wife, mother and other pastoral team members spend a lot of time preaching funerals, doing wedding ceremonies . . . but they still make at least one Christmas visit to the shut-ins and those in retirement homes. Some would imagine that having a church of 3k means an abundance of leisure time. It just isn’t so. From this guy I learned that I needed to keep regular office hours and to be consistent in availability. Work ethic – he does better returning phone calls than I do. If you are a full-time pastor give God and the people you lead at least 50 hours each week!  Work hard!

To read my observations on things I learned from the late G.A. Mangun you may want to visit here:  http://truth-publications.com/?p=460

I know some of you have had the privilege of working closer to Bro. Mangun.  I’m interested in your “take aways!”  Will you share them as a comment.

UPDATED 12/25/2016 ———————————————————–

Something else I learned from the Pentecostal of Alexandria was the value of an intentional effort for making disciples. It evolved into a consistent and concentrated effort. I don’t know that our church in Springfield will ever lead the nation in conversions; it is my goal to be effective in retaining those we convert.  Much of my experience with disciple-making is reflected in my “Not an Ostrich” Disciple-maker’s packet available at CarltonCoonSr.Com.

My “Not an Ostrich” Disciple-Maker’s Packet – will give you everything you need to take care of spiritual newborns – http://truth-publications.com/?p=924

 

Running Today’s Race

Veteran evangelist Greg Godwin introduced me to the writing of Glenn Clark.  In Clark’s Fishers of Men he tells the story of a former track champion now involved in ministry. The fellow was being challenged by the long term matters and not seeing the way forward for the long haul.  Clark responded to the fellow’s concern:

I turned to the track captain-who, by the way, was the state champion in the low and high hurdles-and said, “Remember the secret that has helped you win many a hard-fought hurdle race in the past. As you left the marks, you didn’t look at the long row of hurdles ahead of you. If you had, you would have become discouraged before you had run ten yards; but you confined your attention to the one hurdle that was directly in front of you. And the only races you won were races where you ran each hurdle as though it were the last.

Early this week several thoughts come to mind: 

1. As you leave the blocks, know that the race of life is long.  Life is not a sprint; pace yourself. I’ve an acquaintance who has never had a single year that did not have significant drama. In truth, the drama of life is mostly self-imposed.  Regardless of the source of life’s “drama” it is still exhausting.  Live for the long haul and not the short term drama.

2. Know the race you are involved in has several obstacles. The obstacles may be human conflict, discouragement, bad choices you make for yourself and all the other things you live.  Just know the hurdles are there – you may not see them yet – but they are there.

3.  FOCUS on the next hurdle rather than all of the hurdles.  No more important word than “Focus.”  Today, what is the immediate hurdle before you?  That hurdle gets all the attention!  Now think about what matters could be confusing your focus on that next hurdle?  Take back your focus!  On one occasion Paul said, “This one thing Ifile000110469373 do.”  For those of us who are a bit “attention deficit disordered” and have days where it seems that our mind is the ball in the pinball machine the concept of “this one thing I do,” is vital. 

4.  Run the next hurdle as though it were the last. We can live always thinking about some future date when we will finally give it our best!  Give this week your very best!  Give it your all!  Get over this hurdle, do it now!

sw_LacrosseScore_cs2095565.  Clark did not say it, but you have to run YOUR race!  There are others running today as well, those can become distractions. To be effective, a hurdler must focus on what is before him rather than on the runner beside him. Important – each person in each setting has a unique calling and a unique field in which to work. For one pastor, harvest may come easy while another may struggle.  My lane of life must not become a distraction to what lies before you.

Final Note:  Right now Truth-Publications.com has a huge sale on three different gift packs of material.  Take a look – for a gift or perhaps for your own use – all of these are at 30% discount:

Preacher’s Gift Packet filled with material for a developing minister as well as a vetearn:  http://truth-publications.com/?p=942

“Not an Ostrich” Disciple-Maker’s Packet – everything you need to take care of spiritual newborns – http://truth-publications.com/?p=924

Teacher’s Resource Packet – young marrieds classes, Ephesians, and more http://truth-publications.com/?p=943

 

Pre-Service Planning Form

(On a half page of paper so as to not be obtrusive.)
Pre-Service Plan

(Meet with EVERY participant before church – for prayer and communication.  If  a person cannot make the meeting I did not use them in the service.)

Date ________________________________

Potential Service Components:  Preaching, Praise, Praise and Worship, Offering, Prayer, Focused Testimonies, Special Songs/Music, etc.  Then list when these things are to be on the service plan.  A sample plan might look like this – often hand-written.  Every service was different. Don’t let a church get locked into a rut.)

Praise and Worship

Prayer

Welcome visitors

Praise and Worship

Offering

Prayer for Needs

Preaching

Altar

(The Holy Ghost is the director of our service and this schedule can change at any time.)

4 Simple Steps to Regularly Connect to Your People!

Pentecostals tend to understand purpose and in most instances serve Jesus with passion.  Passion and purpose are necessary to be effective.

So why are purposeful and passionate people not always effective.  Lack of  Process!  Without process – action is driven by emotion. There is no consistency. In ministry, try establishing as many consistent processes as possible. Perhaps I can help you develop a process for consistently connecting to your people.

Pre-work

On a hard-copy grid or you can use a spreadsheet list all who call you, “Pastor.”  Many more people will call you, “Pastor,” than actually follow you. Your grid is to Include them all.

The left column which is also the widest column is for the name. 

The other four columns will be a place for you to record phone calls, notes, formal letters and social media contacts. 

I guarantee this – this simple process will multiply your influence in linking to your people many times over.  Are you ready?

Making it Work                               file9611252854952

Each week use this grid to make varied contact with 20 families who call you pastor. 

1. Five days of each week make a phone call to a person listed.   (An industry secret:  Don’t tell anyone where you heard this, but there are actually phone apps that cause a call to go directly to the recipient’s voice mail. In many instances you will end up leaving a message.)  My calls go something like this.  “Good morning, . . . this is Pastor C. I had you on my mind this morning and wanted you to know how important you are to this church.  I also prayed for you. I’m so glad that you are part of our church and want you to know you are making a difference with all the hours you spend working in the nursery (or some ministry they help with. Make the phone message personal.) There is no need to phone me back. I just wanted you to know that Sister C. and I love you.” 

Now in the column for “phone” record the date you made that call beside that family. 

Caveat: If you have inter-connected families you should not go straight down your list.  One inter-connected family does not need to get all your communication during a particular week.

2.  Go to the next name and write a hand-written note to that person. The content of the hand-written note will be similar to the phone call. If the person receiving the note has done something unusual; has entered a new level of service or gone through a difficult time reference those specifics in the card.  (Another industry secret:  These days receiving an unexpected hand-written note is the most valuable currency of communication. If you want it to be remembered write it out in your own hand.)

In the column, “card” record this date.

3.  Go to the next person and using a template in which you can insert a personalized paragraph draft a formal letter that will go to that family on church letterhead.  (This is where we all can be thankful for computers.)  The inserted paragraph is to address some matter of specific importance.  Put a hand-written post-script at the bottom.  Always include the term, “I love you!’

Record the date.

4.  Send one email or positive direct message to a fourth person.  If you are complimenting the person on something they have done, “Being faithful to clean the church,” or “Always having a smile of welcome for newcomers to the church.” that could be a public post. (Personal preference:  don’t be overly gushy!)

Record the date.

Repeat every week. Each week you will make 20 contacts to a broad array of people.  If you cannot do the formal letter adjust your grid and use the other 3.  This process can be accomplished in no more than 10 minutes! 

Many of you have trade secrets you are keeping to yourself.  Your comments are welcomed. What are you doing to stay connected to the people who call you, “Pastor?”

More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

October is pastoral appreciation month. Let me be self-serving for a moment.  Leaders are readers and right here at Truth-Publications.com are readable and practical resources your pastor would probably enjoy. Each book is full of proven tools that can be put to use.  A partial list is athttp://truth-publications.com/church-growth/  Thank you for supporting your pastor.

Nurture the pastor and family.  Don’t be one of those folks denoted as a  “grace builder,” (because the only way anybody can abide them is through increasing grace) but be a person who helps him grow in grace. You will become aware of weaknesses – help the pastor be a better person.
Offer to help. The list of things you can do to help your pastor is endless. If your church is young – volunteer to be responsible to setup the chairs before church; get involved in taking responsibility off his shoulders.  Use your imagination.  No person in the body of Christ doesn’t have a place to serve.

Pray for your pastor. Lift up his name to God daily. When Satan intended to sift Peter as wheat, Jesus said, “I’ve prayed for thee . . .” When your pastor is dealing with pressure situations – pray for him!

Quench not. Encourage him to grow and to lead the church to progress.  Don’t be one of the nay-sayers.

Rejoice in him and with him.  In whatever way he excels – celebrate that and honor him for it.

Surprise him – particularly this month. There are so many ways to do this!  All the books from Truth-Publications.com or a gift card for Applebee’s or maybe volunteering to wash the family car.

Trust him. Believe in him.

Understand him. Put yourself in his place.  What we are asking the pastor to do is not easy.  It never was.  These days it is more complicated than ever.

Vacation. He needs time away. Send the first couple for a special holiday, if not for a week or two, then how about a romantic weekend getaway?   For a pastor to have such benefits from their church somebody has to take the lead to make such things happen.  Are you that person?

Welcome him into your life. Don’t wait for the pastor to make the first move. Invite the first family to dinner, or just time to relax and enjoy your company. Don’t allow all your calls to your Pastor to be a call for help.

Yoke  up with him. Help him bear his yoke of responsibility in your church, you, your family, and your church with grace and dignity. Do your best not to embarrass him.

ZAP all gossip. Don’t participate; and don’t allow it! These days a pastor is not easy to come by.  Don’t let him be destroyed by gossip.  If you hear something negative, contact him about the situation.

More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

October is pastoral appreciation month. Let me be self-serving for a moment.  Leaders are readers and right here at Truth-Publications.com are readable and practical resources your pastor would probably enjoy. Each book is full of proven tools that can be put to use.  A partial list is at http://truth-publications.com/church-growth/  Thank you for supporting your pastor.

Nurture the pastor and family.  Don’t be one of those folks denoted as a  “grace builder,” (because the only way anybody can abide them is through increasing grace) file9521253072574but be a person who helps him grow in grace. You will become aware of weaknesses – help the pastor be a better person.

Offer to help. The list of things you can do to help your pastor is endless. If your church is young – volunteer to be responsible to setup the chairs before church; get involved in taking responsibility off his shoulders.  Use your imagination.  No person in the body of Christ doesn’t have a place to serve.

Pray for your pastor. Lift up his name to God daily. When Satan intended to sift Peter as wheat, Jesus said, “I’ve prayed for thee . . .” When your pastor is dealing with pressure situations – pray for him!

Quench not. Encourage him to grow and to lead the church to progress.  Don’t be one of the nay-sayers.

Rejoice in him and with him.  In whatever way he excels – celebrate that and honor him for it.

Surprise him – particularly this month. There are so many ways to do this!  All the books from Truth-Publications.com or a gift card for Applebee’s or maybe volunteering to wash the family car.

Trust him. Believe in him.

Understand him. Put yourself in his place.  What we are asking the pastor to do is not easy.  It never was.  These days it is more complicated than ever.

Vacation. He needs time away. Send the first couple for a special holiday, if not for a week or two, then how about a romantic weekend getaway?   For a pastor to have such benefits from their church somebody has to take the lead to make such things happen.  Are you that person?

Welcome him into your life. Don’t wait for the pastor to make the first move. Invite the first family to dinner, or just time to relax and enjoy your company. Don’t allow all your calls to your Pastor to be a call for help.

Yoke  up with him. Help him bear his yoke of responsibility in your church, you, your family, and your church with grace and dignity. Do your best not to embarrass him.

ZAP all gossip. Don’t participate; and don’t allow it! These days a pastor is not easy to come by.  Don’t let him be destroyed by gossip.  If you hear something negative, contact him about the situation. 

As One Plants Multiple Churches–Is There Room in the Church for Me? Guest Post–Scott Sistrunk

Is There Room in The UPCI for Me?

 

This is a post from a time back on Detroit Career Church Planter Scott Sistrunk’s blog.  It needs a repeated hearing. Have me failed to validate the gift of those who are more gifted to plant churches than to pastor them?  Think about this . . . perhaps God has gifted you as he has Bro. Sistrunk.  If so, I’ll speak for the fellowship I’m part of and say, “We desperately need you.”  I’d love to clone Scott Sistrunk about 100 times over.  Planter Sistrunk’s article is posted with his permission.  I’ll speak for him and actually ask you to pass it on to others.

 

Is there a place for me in United Pentecostal Church?

I am a church planter. I am called to evangelize North America. I have no choice really; it is my calling. If I was a church planter in Africa, I would be called a missionary. I am having difficulty communicating my calling to my ministerial brethren. You see, I really feel called to be a missionary to North America. Of course, most of my friends know what a foreign missionary is. Of 31,966 licensed ministers (worldwide) only 652 are missionaries. Yes, I know, home missionary is a term often used to describe a person who plants a new church in North America. In that sense, the home missionary refers to a minister (usually a novice) who plants a new church in a city in North America and remains there long term, or moves on to other ministerial opportunities eventually, and the home missions ‘phase’ of their ministry becomes part of their history. Even a “Metro Missionary” who is supported by partners much like foreign missionaries has only been supported for 4 years and has been responsible for planting a single church. No, that is not me. I am a home missionary permanently; a career church planter.

Is there room for me in North America?

It is hard to explain, but I can hear a city’s cry. I don’t know exactly when I started being so in tune with cities. I do remember the first time I heard a city cry out to me. I was a youth pastor and I was on a golf outing with friends. I never expected what hit me as I prayed before going to bed. It seemed to me as if I felt the anguish of every lost soul in that city all at once. I doubled over in pain and began to weep. I was embarrassed and didn’t want my roommate to think I was trying to be “super spiritual.” I buried my face in a pillow and lay between the wall and the bed and prayed until the burden lifted. Shortly thereafter, I began to feel a heavy burden for a city that I eventually started a church in. I was so consumed with the need of this city that the Lord rebuked me for neglecting my current duties and told me to spend more time praying for the young people I was responsible for and the time would come for me to give myself to prayer for that city. I can’t go through a town or village without wondering, “Do they have a church?” Many times the tears come so suddenly and unexpectedly that I am embarrassed. I know more than I should about the number of churches in every district and every metro area. I can’t help but gather information on North American cities. My friends look at me weirdly when I start spouting off population numbers and churches per capita of each metropolitan city. I can’t help it; I am driven by a vision and a burden. You see, I know very well that this kind of passion is not understood in our North American ministerial culture.

What do I do with this passion?

This passion feels like destiny. It is unstoppable, irresistible, strong, deep, powerful, controlling, and exhausting. I am not called to pastor long term. My passion burns relentlessly and it is white hot continually. It is a powerful thing when used in the context of founding a work in a city full of strongholds and no church. My calling makes me almost impervious to discouragement. I never lack motivation. I thrive on adversity and challenge. Once a church is firmly established, self-supporting, stable and growing I can feel the restlessness coming on. It is time to go to a new place. Saints cannot live in this heat long. They need someone who is not always looking for the next place. They need someone who burns with a passion for them… not others. They need a pastor long term, I am a missionary. I envy foreign missionaries who only pastor short term if at all and it is what is expected of them. They are expected to be too busy training leaders, gathering resources, opening new areas and building coalitions and networks of preachers to pastor one church. I feel the pressure of the North American culture to pastor long term. But it is not my calling. I long for a structure in North America similar to what exist for overseas missionaries that I can submit to in order to fulfill my calling. I hope there is room for this kind of ministry in North America. It is what God has called me to do. What else can I do?

Is there room in the United Pentecostal Church for me?

I want to live and minister like a foreign missionary, but in the United States. I want to have a set, known, controlled standard of living. I want be accountable to many. I know this is the price of my calling. I know that God has not called me to enjoy the fruits of long term labor in a particular vineyard. This reward is reserved for and earned by pastors. I am a missionary. My reward comes from knowing there is now a church where there was none before. It is the only reward I seek.

Does the United Pentecostal Church know that it needs me?

Why has our growth been so explosive in foreign countries? Missionaries. Why do we struggle to plant churches in North America? A lack of missionaries. We have asked those without the calling, anointing or grace to plant churches. They have answered the call because of the need. But they have struggled terribly. We have asked those who burn with a missionary’s passion to pastor and teach in one location for life. They have struggled terribly.

We, in North America, have left the work of missionaries to pastors and teachers and evangelists. I ask you; doesn’t New York deserve a Bruce Howell? Doesn’t Los Angeles deserve an E. L. Freeman? I ask the United Pentecostal Church to make room in North America for the passion and ministry of a missionary.

How to Survive the Dark Place! Where is God In My Dark Place? (Part 3)

In equipping yourself to overcome depression, spend time reading about “dark places” in the Bible.  So many things happen in what seems to be a spiritual night.  Nothing is easy.  As I’ve noted in two earlier posts surviving and finding God in your dark place isn’t easy. There are no pat answers. Any who offer such answers don’t know what they are talking about. 

Read part one at:  http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place/

Part two is at:  http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place-part-2/

Guiding an Unwanted Journey

In seasons of depression, well-meaning people offer advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!”

At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been traveled to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned things that helped me survive my dark place . . .

(1) Praying the Psalms aloud.

(2) Doing what God called me to do.

(3) Involvement with people.

(4) Journaling

Additional observations

Become more aware of the presence of Christ’s spirit.

Jesus’ favorite descriptive word for His presence in us was paraclete – “one called alongside.” He has not left you, when you feel wOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA eary and overwhelmed. He is there, know it . . . believe it! This is faith at work. It does not take faith to endure when you can feel His presence. Engrave His words on your mind, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”  Recently, I’ve found myself muttering to myself, “I am not alone in this!”  Being mindful of His presence matters.

Find Help

Elders and advisors bring perspective. If there are spiritual issues in your life, meet with your pastor. In some instances he may suggest an approved counselor or a visit to your physician. Depression may actually be physical – the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mature people seek help when it is needed.

None of what I’ve offered makes the dark place easier; rather it is a lesson in survival. One gets to wondering where God is. I’ve done some inner shouting, “Where are you, God? It’s dark down here.”

That being said, I’ve discovered that dark places are the making of life. A potter does not see his clay take on rich shades of silver, or red, or yellow, until after the darkness and the burning of the furnace. A color is birthed in the dark heat of a gloomy kiln.

Think . . . even in the Dark Place

Oh, remember the 143rd Psalm, “. . . the enemy hath . . . smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, . . . Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me . . ..” These words are David’s personal response to his honest feelings, “I remember the days of old; I meditate (the word David used here means to murmur or to talk to oneself) on all thy works; I muse (ponder) on the work of thy hands. I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land.” (Psalms 143:5-6)

In his dark place, David saturated his thoughts and conversation with remembering and discussing God’s works. He also focused his desires; reaching out for God as a longing child and thirsting after him as a dry land seeking water. My practical observations about finding God in the dark place are a way to carry out what David describes in poem.

A final observation . . . a dark season does not indicate one is carnal, backslidden or unspiritual. Let the psalmist affirm this truth as well:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; . . .. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:8-12)

Come on now . . . survive and then thrive – God does not see you as failed; to God the darkness and light are both alike.

 

 

How to Survive the Dark Place. Where is God In My Dark Place? (Part 2)

Depression is a bear! I’ve endured the challenge. Countless other people have as well. If you are joining the conversation in mid-stride you may want to read the earlier blog post at http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place/

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Surviving and finding God in a dark place isn’t glitzy. I have no trite answers. Well-meaning people offer advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!” At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. Some things that helped me survive my dark place . . .

My earlier suggestion was to pray the Psalms aloud.  Speaking a thing aloud gives weight beyond silently reading. Some scholars say the Psalms were intended to be read aloud.

Further observations regarding what helped me

Doing what God called me to do.

Depression causes lack of delight in the things a person once relished. An avid fisherman or golfer no longer enjoy their pastime. As a servant of God, some things are non-negotiable even in the darkest hour. I love to preach and teach. It is what God called me to do. One’s golf clubs may get dusty, but there is no withdrawing from that to which God has called. I kept preaching. Of one era of his life, John Bunyan recalled, “I walked around in chains and spoke to people in chains, but in the pulpit, my chains fell off.” My experience was the same.

 

 

Involvement with people.

This is a challenge. Those dealing with depression want to withdraw. Dallas business executive, Fred Smith wrote that he had found a guarantee for depression’s continuation. That guarantee – inaction. By contrast, he saw the sure cure . . . as activity. In the dark season muster the energy to stay involved with people. Of my suggestions, this was personally the most challenging.

Journaling

In the dark, I found the treasure of written prayer. Writing words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving a, d supplication became a life-line. Writing gave my prayer dimension and forced me to think about what I really needed to communicate. As I wrote to Him, Jesus began to write fresh things into my mind and spirit.

In the dark, I found the treasure of written prayer. Writing words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication became a life-line. Writing gave my prayer dimension and forced me to think about what I really needed to communicate. As I wrote to Him, Jesus began to write fresh things into my mind and spirit.

Early next week I’ll add a final thought.  I’ve received more direct feedback about talking and writing about this life issue than any other.  Add your suggestions if you’d like.

Thirteen Ways to Honor Pastor in Pastor Appreciation Month

I’m a pastor by calling.  For eight years I’ve been involved in a somewhat different role of ministry, though I still get to do a bit of pastoral work. These days I can speak to the thought of pastoring from a different perspective and my comments not be seen as overly self-serving.

The Greek word for pastor is the same word translated “shepherd.”  According to a recent USA Today article, a keeper of sheep is one of the most under-paid laborers in North America. Unfortunately in today’s cultural climate to have the term “Pastor” attached to your life does not mean one is held in high regard by the community.  That lack of respect only changes with much hard work, showing integrity and being a person who deserves to be respected. 

Church members need to make it their personal responsibility to express appreciation.  file9521253072574This is a great time of the year for you to minister to your pastor.

  • Accept him as a person and not just as a parson.  Let him know you accept him as he is.
  • Build him up. Say "thank you” for some specific thing he or she has done. 
  • Communicate with him.
  • Do all you can to defend him when someone is trying to run him down. I’m not talking about defending the indefensible, but go directly to him to speak of any concern.  Tell others that it is a Biblical requirement for them to do the same.
  • Entertain him. He likes to enjoy life too. For me – banana pudding is a wonderful form of entertainment!  If the pastor is a golfer, buy some golf balls or green fees for him.  Do something similar if he is a hunter or fisherman.
  • See that he has a family life. If he is bi-vocational, he likely has no more than 10-15 hours of each week to devote to the ministry.  Respect his wife and children’s need for him.
  • Be genuine. Be honest with him. Be yourself around him.
  • Honor him. DO not put him on a pedestal, but respect him.   If you are a leader take responsibility for your pastor to be honored one Sunday this month. If you are not a leader, suggest it to someone who is.  Perhaps print this article and highlight relevant portions.
  • Provide him a decent income. Bring your tithes into the storehouse. Ten or fifteen tithe paying families can pay a pastor enough so that money is not  a major concern for him.
  • Don’t be overly judgmental.  The fellow has a stressful job, and won’t always make the right decisions.  Unfortunately, we expect him to never miss.  As a former (and likely future) pastor I’le tell you now that even the best pastor misses on occasion.  Give him grace!
  • Be kind to your pastor.  Kindness is expressed in how you treat all of his family.
  • Love like in 1 Corinthians 13.  The love depicted there is active.  Love is not simply emotion, but it is active. 
  • Maintain the pastor’s family in every way possible.  His family has the same needs as any other family in the Church, but of no other family is as much expected or demanded.

I don’t think we should put the ministry into an unrealistic position of being beyond question and always “up there” somewhere.  Paul spent and entire chapter talking about his accountability regarding money.  I’m not beyond question, nor should any of us be.  However, this person watches for my soul – respect and honor are important. 

How to Survive the Dark Place! Where is God In My Dark Place?

Some years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It happened to me – it has happened to others and far too many are ashamed that their prayer meetings and devotion to the Lord Jesus has failed to bring a remedy.  It is debilitating and painful , but with God’s help and some common sense one can survive.

My first segue into discussing this in a public way was in conversation with the church I pastored.  For all of us it was the first journey into the experience of having a pastor who was dealing with a negative situation of this sort, that would be talked about. The wonderful people at Springfield’s Truth Tabernacle, were so very much like Jesus and gave me hope and an opportunity to get better. In 2007, I wrote about it a bit in an article in the Pentecostal  Herald.  The resulting phone calls and continued contacts seemed to indicate a tremendous need for honest conversation and some healing help in the matter of surviving the “dark place.”

Have you ever felt like saying, “Wait a minute, I have some questions!  We need to ask those questions of some Bible heroes.” 

“Elijah . . . what in the world went wrong? I’m disappointed in you. Running from Jezebel? Praying to die? Sitting in anxious frustration under a juniper tree – and so soon after you’d prayed and God’s fire fell?”

“David, . . . hey you King David . . . don’t I remember reading about you being a man after God’s own heart? Were you backslidden when you wrote, ‘. . . the enemy hath . . . smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, . . . Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me . . .. ’” (Psalms 143:3-4).

I know . . . I’ve heard it . . . thought it – probably preached it . . . Christians do not have the feelings expressed in Psalm 143. Well . . . here goes nothing or maybe everything. I’ve actually survived dwelling in the darkness and my spirit being overwhelmed. My story is probably different than David’s, but for me my dark dwelling place was:

  • Unrelated to reality
  • Unimaginable
  • Exhausting
  • Humiliating

You see, it was medically diagnosed as clinical depression. Again . . . I know . . . I know, clinical depression does not happen to saints, and certainly not to preachers. Well it happened anyway . . . it was bad and it was real.

It’s tough to explain. Jack Dreyfus founded the successful Dreyfus Mutual Fund empire. He recalled trying to explain to others about his depression, “It is almost impossible to convey to a person who has not had depression what it’s like. It’s not obvious like a broken arm, or a fever . . . it’s beneath the surface. A depressed person suffers a type of anguish which in its own way can be as painful as anything that can happen to a human being. His brain permits him no rest. His mood is low, he has little energy, and can hardly remember what pleasure means.”[1]

One Sunday, C.H. Spurgeon shocked 5,000 listeners when he said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” Historians think Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther, and Winston Churchill had recurrent bouts with depression. Churchill called it the black dog. A recent book focused on what the author called Lincolns melancholy.

So what is depression like? Someone I can’t properly cite said it well.

Depression is

Debilitating, defeating,

Deepening gloom.

Trudging wearily through

The grocery store,

Unable to make a simple choice,

Or to count out correct change.

Work undone,

And not being able to lift a finger.

Doubting that God cares,

Doubting in my prayers,

Doubting He’s even there.

Sitting, staring wild-eyed into space,

Desperately wanting out of the human race.

Sounds a bit like David in Psalm 143. Actually, I think what is described is rather common – even among those who serve God. So my observations aren’t for the one who has not endured or will never endure the “darkness” David described. The validity of clinical depression as a diagnosis is not my topic. It is rather to say . . . you can survive, prevail and overcome! Your dark personal pain can be the springboard to another dimension in God.

Surviving and finding God in your dark place isn’t glitzy. I have no trite answers. Well-meaning people offered me advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!” At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. Several things helped me survive my dark place . . . (More of them later – today only 1.)

A vital remedy:  Praying the Psalms aloud. A depressed person does not feel like praying and almost certainly does not know how to pray. Pray anyway! How? Read Psalms – to yourself and to God; except read them out loud. It works. Actually, Author Eugene Peterson believes this is the way the Psalms were meant to be read. In the dark place, I borrowed from the nakedly honest feelings of the Psalmist and as I read aloud they became my own. Interestingly, every Psalm that begins by expressing dark thoughts closes with praise and worship.

Perhaps my observations about this are not real. Maybe, me, Jonah, David and Elijah are the lone candidates to have an interest in reading this sort of information, but perhaps not.  If you’ve dealt with the ‘dark place’ I’m interested in hearing from you.  What have been your solutions?  What remedies did not work?  What (if anything) precipitated your fall into this swamp? 

 


[1] P. 109 Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives – By: Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

Five MUST Buy NEW Books at 2012 General Conference,

The word “new” includes books published in 2011 and 2012.  I’ll explain why each book should be bought and give some strengths and weaknesses.  You then look them over and decide whether the book is for you.

Pull of the Future

  1. The Pull of the Future by J.T. Pugh – We discovered more of the late Bro. Pugh’s writing and also some audio materials.  Warning  – these chapters are compelling and in some ways indicting.  Bro. Pugh lived pursuing the future. He never quite settled down to normal.  This particular book is not filtered as much as The Battered Stake published in 2011.  You can hear his voice and track his wanderings as he flowed toward his destination.  Visit the PPH display at General Conference to buy the book.  It is also available on Kindle.
  2. Among the Reapers by various church planters – This material comes straight from the Church Planters UPCI Facebook group. It has seven chapters gathered according to topic and answers from a 2 hour online “Q & A” with Church Planter David Bernard. Contributors are Apostolic.  It includes material from Scott Phillips, Art Wilson, Lee Stephens, Rex Deckard and dozens more. This is challenging, and practical.  Recommended for current or future church planters and those who’d like a better understanding of the exciting things happening in the world of kingdom growth here in North America. Visit the PPH display.  Available on Kindle
  3. The How and Why Compilation on USB by Carlton L. Coon Sr.  I like a bargain and think you do.  I like practical application and think you do. So I’m free to encourage you to look at this less expensive approach to my three “How and Why” books. The How and Why of New Convert Care, . . . of Follow-up Visitation and .  . . of Hospitality are collected on a cutting edge credit card styled USB drive.  The cost for the USB is 1/3 less in cost than the three books and you have approval to print multiple copies to better train your church and team.  A bargain and a blessing! Available at PPH or Truth-Publications.com.  The books are also in print and available at both sites and will soon be on Kindle.  Recommended to anybody who is interested in church growth.
  4. The Battered Stake by J. T. Pugh – This was printed in 2011.  So far we’ve had three reprints. It has been a best-seller on Kindle.  J.T. Pugh had a unique perspective on the work of the Lord.  He believed and felt to take action for this message to be advanced to the four corners of the earth.  He was particularly focused on expanding the churches in North America.  This one needs to be in your library.  Available on Kindle and at PPH. 
  5. Ostrich for your mamaYou Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama by Carlton L. Coon Sr. – This is about maturing your spiritual young. The Lord spoke to Job about the inadequacies of the maternal instincts of an ostrich. She simply has no interest in caring for her young. This book includes thoughts about how a young man named Mephibosheth was permanently lamed by a nurse’s haste.  Is your church an ostrich church?  It doesn’t have to be!  What percentage of those you convert are around five years later?  How many of them are actively involved in ministry?  We need a “NO MORE OSTRICHES!”  campaign to make sure every church is ready to take care of those who are spiritually new born.  This and my book Master-Full Preaching – restoring the place of good news preaching respond to great needs in the modern church.  You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama is available at PPH Sales, on Kindle or at Truth-Publications.com

How to Be A Person of Significant Impact!

What gets pushed off your deck?  Little decisions and attitudes are definitive. What is it that you push as an ideal? What ideas get advanced?  What people get pressed?

  1. As a district leader, is dinner with the district superintendent more important than being with a young person or a newly licensed preacher?
  2. Is the present- “what is”  more important than what “shall be” the future?
  3. Is the program more important than the people?

file7471288042374Suppose you were the captain of a huge aircraft carrier out in the South China Sea. Your crewmen suddenly alert you that a small plane is approaching. The message tells you that it is South Vietnamese, and the plane is running out of fuel. The plane must land on your deck or be lost in the sea. The pilot says aboard are himself, his wife, and their five children. They are escaping from North Vietnam. There is one small problem. There is no room on the deck for the small plane and no time to relocate the other planes to some other place on the carrier.

What would you do?

More important, in the situations listed above what ARE you doing?  Big impact comes from situations that seem insignificant in the moment.  It depends on making room for other people to land!

In the South China Sea, the captain of the aircraft carrier pushed three multi-million-dollar aircraft into the water. He listened to his heart – people mattered more.  Few of us are faced with situations like the captain faced in the South China Sea, but we are faced with opportunities to choose to make an impact.  Some ideas:

  • Pay attention to children.  Listen to them, talk to them, shake hands with them, speak truth to them repetitively. In a few days they will be adults.
  • Invest in those who are starting.  Young people, students, young preachers – I know we who have been alive for over 50 years have most of the leadership slots, but in a few decades someone who is not 18 will be District Superintendent.  You have the opportunity to clear the deck of your life to make room for that person to land their plane.
  • Those who visit your church this weekend are looking for a place to land. Did you push some stuff out of the way to make room for them?  Some of them would love to go to Taco Bell to have lunch with you.
  • College students who are new to your town, and immigrants often love to have someone like you engage with their life.

Perhaps some sitting in an office in Washington criticized the pilot for listening to his heart.  If you do the things described you’ll be misunderstood and likely considered strange.  You are in good company.  Jesus had similar critics.

What are the things and the people who took time, pushing other things aside to influence you?  Who are you taking time and pushing less important things aside to invest in?

How to Pick YOUR Mentor

The best book I’ve read on the subject of Mentor/Protégé relationships is Mentoring by Bob Biehl.  If you are going to read only one book on the topic – this is the best!

 

Biehl defines mentoring as a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protege reach her or his God-given potential. bobbbiehl.com/index.html also deserves a visit.

Have you ever walked through an airport terminal and stepped onto a moving sidewalk? Suddenly you are whizzing along at two or three times your normal pace, even though you are keeping the same stride. It’s amazing. Others who choose not to use the moving sidewalk are putting equal energy into moving forward but you are getting there quicker.

 

I know each reader is an extra-ordinary person who doesn’t need much help but that “moving sidewalk” is the perfect analogy of why all can benefit from a mentor.  file000110208443

 

  • It helps pick up the pace of your personal development.
  • A mentor can save time and energy as you reach your goals.
  • Progress accelerates because the mentor knows things you don’t know.
  • A mentor reads and will recommend books and authors that are not familiar to you. 
  • He/she opens doors you could never budge.

Most important a mentor asks you questions and gives perspectives that you may have never considered.

You may be making progress already as you move through life, but when you partner with the mentor, your pace will quicken. Don’t go another day  without getting connected with those you can learn from.

How can this help?  An example of how one’s perspective can be expanded.  A time back I reviewed an article in which church planter/pastor Wayne Huntley was talking about this subject. Wayne Huntley is not a novice.  He has been around a bit.  In the article, he made an interesting observation concerning the changing ministerial realities saying, we need better listening skills. Just as the head of the body has to receive signals from the body . . . the Body of Christ sends signals to the pastor. As ministers we need to be trained to receive information from the congregation. A dictatorial style of pastoring is not going to succeed in the next millennium, because people of this age have been trained to think and to express their ideas. The word from a trusted and proven preacher is like what you’d gain from a mentor.

 

You need voices of that sort speaking into your life.  J. T. Pugh’s book The Pull of the Future has a section about Disciple Abuse, (available at PentecostalPublishingHouse.com and on Kindle) he spoke of those who attempt to make every person just like them.  This is not what your mentor needs to be.  

 

Who do you select to be your mentors:

  1. One who has a track record of being effective.
  2. The person is willing to be an influencer and you have some access and get a response by email or in some other way.  (The closer access the better.)
  3. Someone who can keep your confidences.
  4. A person of whom you can ask questions without that person being judgmental.
  5. One who you anticipate will press you back to the Bible for answers and principles to any question you have.
  6. Someone who is where you want to go.  Planting a church – find a proven church planter to be a mentor. A young preacher who wants to be a better communicator – should find a veteran preacher who communicates well (particularly who communicates well at the local church level), first pastorate – plug into a pastoral veteran, etc.

 

What are some other things you feel important for one who is selecting a mentor?

Now, get the dialogue started.  The scripture has much to say about learning from elders. One resource you may wish to consider to connect to an older preacher is Elder, Tell Me Your Memories.  It helps by giving some questions you can ask and getting the conversation started.

 

How Many Turtles Have You EVER Seen on a Fence Post?

 

Paul’s “imitate” me as I imitate Christ has helped me to be comfortable finding effective people and imitating productive aspects of their character and behavior.  It may be able to do the same for you.

Here is how real world mentor/protégé relationships worked for me:

Mentored to deal with people situations

One man I chose to “imitate” is a veteran pastor. When I was a young pastor and faced situations came for which I had little frame of reference, I would pray and examine scripture for the principles involved. From these, I’d develop a strategy for responding to this particular dilemma.

At that point, I’d call my elder – in this instance my uncle named Crawford Coon; lay out the situation and ask for his suggestion on how to respond. After he gave his insight we would talk about my planned response. At times my plan was workable; more often, he helped me see it from another perspective. After consulting with him I’d pray and take whatever action was needed.

As the years passed my own bank of experiences increased. I called Crawford less often. Yet, it has not been many years since I again found myself again calling on him for insight about a situation unlike any I’d faced.  The relationship did not eliminate the heavy lifting, but it did make sure I was working as smart as possible.

Mentored to have sustainable revival

Other people helped me focus on revival. Often it was more by observation than from being “bosom buddies.” I’ve been in the home of G.A. Mangun only a few times yet the Mangun family became models to imitate–models of revival living, work ethic, faith and personal growth. Their focus on prayer was applied. Evangelism took root. Much of what I learned was by observation from afar. I’ve already written about some of the things I learned from G. A. Mangun.

Mentored to lead

An effective district superintendent let me (and other younger men) look over his shoulder. What insight we gained from those glances into the experience of leadership. By observation, he taught me how to keep my mouth shut; that there were some battles to fight and some to ignore.

It was not natural or easy to “imitate” any of these men. As the years have passed . . . what was at one point imitation has now become part of my own approach to life and ministry. It could be that eventually someone even imitates me – now, that is something of a scary thought.

Reflfile0001777212593ections on Seeking Mentors

  • Don’t expect your mentor to be perfect or to even agree with your mentor on every topic.
  • Practicing what has been modeled is not natural or easy. It takes a determined and decided effort.  After a time, the material becomes your own.
  • You will need more than one mentor. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. Bring people into your life and learn from their strengths.
  • As time passes, the list of those who influence you will change. As growth comes one needs to find leaders who have traveled the path that now lies immediately ahead. This means reaching out for new voices with fresh perspective.  Some of the influencers of another era will be set aside by circumstances and various situations.  Some will disappoint you. Yet, you have gained from their input.

I’m so grateful for the men who have been part of my life. Men who have allowed me to “tag along” watching what they did. Someone said, “If you ever see a turtle on a fence post . . . you know he didn’t get there by himself.” I’ve never seen a turtle on a fence-post. I don’t know any who have, but I understand that few will rise to what we could be without bringing into life some men we choose to imitate. There are some people around you who know “how” . . . ask them and observe them. They will be your greatest help!file000807924215

 

Now who will you go too?  At some point, I’ve thought of hosting “A Pastor’s School.”  Do you suppose there would be interest in such a thing?

Flows of Influence–Up, Down and All Around

(This is a continuation of observations about the compelling need for life mentors. It began earlier here http://truth-publications.com/who-are-you-copying-off-of/ a bit earlier.  If nothing else, perhaps I can educate you about some of my own mistakes – as a protégé and as a mentor.)

Mentor was a man who made a long-term impact on Odyssius son Telemachus.  His effort lasted 20 years.  It was a long-term investment. Influence does not happen over a weekend or is the result of a single sermon.  There is investment and observation. Two questions to consider:

  • Who is influencing you?  Should they be in that role? Is their doctrine solid and clear – it not – don’t let that person’s doctrine affect you.  Because one’s doctrinal position on things is so important it might be wise to actually have that person’s influence diminish.  
  • Who are you influencing?  Timothy was only 28 years old when Paul instructed him to take what he’d been given and give it to other faithful men who’d pass it on to other faithful men.  Younger people are to be influencers!

Several things are challenging realities in all this: 

There are no perfect men for mentors Mourning

This pursuit of “mentors” has some challenges for us because we seek perfection. Even turning to the scripture to find real-world help is surprising. It is amazing how non-heroic the characters of scripture are. These guys are not models of virtue: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered; David committed adultery; Peter blasphemed. There is none good but one! There was only one who was perfect.

We must get beyond “I’m looking for perfection.” If perfection is the prerequisite for mentoring; none qualify. Mentors must be allowed to be recipients of grace.

  • Martin Luther, a powerful influencer of the first step in the reformation, had angry outbursts.
  • John Wesley influenced many men but suffered through an extremely difficult marriage.
  • Charles Spurgeon struggled with such deep depression he would go to a country home for months on end.

Don’t be so idealistic that you seek for mentors without weaknesses. All people have clay feet . . . allow it to be . . . expect it to be.  All have received God’s good grace.  Great strengths are often represented by glaring weaknesses.

Mentors ARE Needed

Someone wrote, “The fathers we choose are more important than the father we are born to.” I’m blessed by my biological heritage, however there were some things I needed to learn from men other than L.C. Coon. I chose some “fathers.” As the years pass – those relationships change. Let me offer some suggestions for selecting mentors – the people from whom we learn “how.”

It is important to ask ourselves:

  • Is what they are doing working to accomplish the Lord Jesus Christ’s purpose in the land?  How so? Can you point to some specific people who have been converted and discipled as a result of their effort?
  • Is what they are doing making a difference? Don’t waste your time with people who can tell you the best fly for a particular stream but the church they lead has no ongoing prayer program . . . or no outreach effort.
  • Do I want to become what that person is?  You become what you spend time with and tend to lean in the direction you look.

If it does not fit or is ineffective, why would I want to repeat someone else’s mistakes?

For me . . . consciously or sub-consciously I sought out men who had not “settled” for average.  Those men became advisors with whom I would consult in various situations.

Don’t try to go this alone.  There are too many people from whom you can learn.  Call, contact and connect – ask questions – apply, try out the deep things these people are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who are You Copying Off Of?

(My ramblings will bounce over to the compelling need for life mentors. If nothing else, perhaps I can educate you about some of my own mistakes – as a protégé and as a mentor.)Man on Stairs

In life and ministry, one can be overwhelmed by the “how” question.

  • We often passionately know “what” to do! An example – “win the lost.”  We know that is what we are to do.
  • We even know “why” we should do a thing! An example – “win the lost because it is the ministry of reconciliation” we are to accomplish.
  • We don’t know “how” to get it done. If we know what and why – how is it that we so often flounder about.

We just don’t know how!

Paul answers the “how” question in this way, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Paul’s word for follow is not to just walk behind; it means to “imitate.” Paul said, “Be ye imitators of me . . ..” Paul was encouraging the people in Corinth to . . . do thing like I do them.  Consider this: 

While imitation means that what one is doing is not natural to you – it is following a pattern that has proven effective for someone else.

file0001913743868Imitation is mimicking what has proven to be effective for another person. If I could swing a golf club like Phil Mickelson (and adhere to his work ethic) . . . might the same results be accomplished?

What about in ministry?  Some of the most effective men you will ever meet observed someone else’s effectiveness and decided to attempt to replicate those efforts.  Derald Weber is building a church in Lafayette, Louisiana. As a teenager, Derald Weber’s model was his pastor, the late G.A. Mangun. Derald will dislike me using his name in the same sentence with G.A. Mangun – but Derald observed “how” and applied “how” until the “how” became his own. Is it wise to be so much an individualist that I am unwilling to apply the wisdom & insight others have gained. 

There are huge implications of being an “imitator” in ministry. I’m aware my use of the words “copy,””mimic” and “imitate” are likely grating on our rugged North American individuality.  America’s national anthem should be changed to Frank Sinatra’s I Did it My Way.  We’d rather be a poor original than to mimic even the great apostle Paul. 

Actually, a word we may be more comfortable with is “mentor.” According to Greek literature, when Odyssius when to fight in the Trojan War, he left his young son, Telemachus, in the care of a guardian named Mentor. The siege of Troy lasted ten years, and then it took Odyssius another ten years to get home. When Odyssisus arrived back in Greece, he found that Telemachus had grow into a mature and productive man–thanks to Mentor’s wise training. Mentor had spent the twenty years of Odyssisus absence showing Telemachus “how” to deal with life’s realities. A mentor – someone from whom we learn “how.” So who functions as a father figure (in the best sense of the term) in your life?  Who is fundamentally influencing you? Whose paper are you copying off of?  Someone who has learned the answers. 

We do need mentors that we can mimic.  Who are the effective people from whom you have learned? Who will you add to the list of those you can learn from? 

 

(An aside – my first published books were on “How and Why.”  The How and Why of New Convert Care, The How and Why of Follow-Up Visitation and The How and Why of Hospitality.  All three have been reformatted and republished and are available here at Truth-Publications.com.  Also, all three books are available on a less expensive USB drive http://truth-publications.com/product/how-and-why-usb-compilation/)

 

How to Reduce Your Pastoral Counseling Load & Be More Effective

Counseling de-energizes me.  I realize there are times when counseling is necessary, but I didn’t seem to have a great return on the investment of time and energy.  Here are some discoveries I made.

1. Over the pew counseling.  When someone at church said, “I need to set an appointment to get your counsel.”  I’d point to a place away from others and say,  “Let’s sit down right over here and see if this is file0001305006092something we can talk about here.”  Many times the situation was minor and my help could be given in 5 minutes talking across a pew.  When a situation requires an appointment for a  counseling session in the pastor’s office, it being an appointment and in the pastor’s office indicates it is now quite serious – and must take quite a bit of time.

2. Don’t let somebody else’s long-term ongoing mess that suddenly becomes an  emergency mess up your dinner plans. On occasion, long-term problems boil out of control and seem to require immediate attention at the counseling E.R.  Most of these “emergencies” are not emergencies at all. You know the people you serve. Don’t change your plans to be accessible to respond to long-term situations that are not going to be fixed in a few minutes.

3.  Never counsel with anybody who has not gone to prayer about the issue at hand. I had counselees arrive at the church 30 minutes before our meeting.  They were given a simple counseling prayer work sheet with several questions where they were to write their answers during 30 minutes of prayer:

  • What is the issue or challenge that brings you here today.
  • What options do you see to respond to the issue or challenge?
  • After prayer, what do you feel the Bible and Jesus would have you do in response to the situation?
  • What do you plan to do as your next step of action to resolve this problem.

The worksheet then became the guide for our conversation. Often, the person got their answer while in prayer and cancelled their appointment.

If you would like a digital copy of the form I used it can be provided – signup for the Truth Publications mailing list over to the right and it will be sent to you.

4.  Teach practical Bible insight on life. Bible answers are the solution to life’s problems. To give people my insight is to give human wisdom; the Bible is full of the wisdom of God.  Which do you suppose is better?  Jay Adams books on pastoral care give insight on what he calls Nouthetic Counseling.  He observes that pastoral and Christian counseling should give Bible solutions.  For whatever counseling you will do – his approach has my recommendation.  An easy link to look over Jay Adams material on Amazon comes by clicking the picture below.

5.  A five minute rule at the end of church. Every church, no matter how young has someone, (usually several) who immediately stand in line saying, “Pastor, I need to see you for a minute.”  Those people need attention, but the moments right after church are when the pastor needs to be touching the people he wants to touch, instead of the needy few.  Institute a 5 minute rule, “For the first five minutes after church, talk to somebody you do not know, or do not know well.”  This gives you – the pastor – time to get out to the people you really want to connect with.  You will have to remind people of “The Five Minute Rule” almost every service.

I’m sure many of you enjoy the counseling setting.  If so, build ministry around it, others of you have found ways similar to what I’ve described above. I’d like to hear things you have put to work.

Things Learned from G.A. Mangun

The late G.A. Mangun was my pastor for only a few months. He was our presbyter for over 50 years.  I learned from him – by observation, which led to my poor efforts at duplication.

gamangun

I learned:  get on message and stay on message. At every sectional meeting, G.A. Mangun had a message, “Pray, fast & reach the lost.” This was the message at every meeting! I learned, “Repetition is the mother of learning.”  I later apply the principles of prayer-chains and focused prayer that I learned from him.

In the late 70’s, Sis. Mangun heard me preach a youth rally in Colfax, Louisiana. She suggested to Bro. Mangun that I preach a weekend at Alexandria. I didn’t add anything; but how much I learned that weekend. It was shortly after the Jim Jones debacle in Guyana. The weekend I was there a lady had written a letter to the newspaper likening Bro. Mangun to cult leader Jim Jones. If that were not enough, that week a high profile fellow in the church had abandoned his wife and children.

That Sunday you would not have known there was a letter in the newspaper, and you’d have thought every saint in Alexandria was doing well. No doubt both situations were hurtful, but you would have not known there was a thing wrong.  I learned – don’t let other people’s negative stuff affect your worship or leadership.

That same Sunday, after the evening service Bro. Mangun gave Norma and me to the care of someone in the church. He took a sinner couple who had visited to get a bite at Howard Johnson’s. Whoever hosted us took us to Howard Johnson’s as well. There was Bro. Mangun unabashedly spending his time on reaching for the lost. His behavior matched his message. I learned – that reaching to sinners is more important than any visiting preacher.

G.A. Mangun was never boring. From wildly decorated church buses to his radical focus on reaching people – he did things that pushed the envelope. I’m sure, some things didn’t work but G.A. Mangun did not focus on what did not work. He celebrated what had worked and was working. I learned – it is to have a personality, to try different things and to accept that everybody isn’t going to like it.

I learned that he expected people to be converted EVERY week. Bro. Mangun wasn’t waiting on a special event or evangelist to come to Alexandria. The lost would be preached to every week. It worked for him and later it worked for me. I practice that approach to this day. Masterful Preaching is my book that attempts to reclaim the concept of preaching to the lost. If you are interested in owning the book . . . click here.

We pastored a very young church In Vidalia, LA.  It was a church less than two years-old with a handful of people. Bro. and Sis. Mangun came as “pinch-hitters” for our ill district superintendent. There would have been more in the Youth Sunday School Class in Alexandria than were in that special service in Vidalia, but the Manguns rocked the place. That night we baptized Curtis Thornton’s dad in Jesus Name. Curtis had been our first convert in Vidalia. I learned – don’t let the size of a crowd affect how you minister; every soul counts.

I learned from G.A. Mangun that whatever else you are asked to do, the local church is the main thing. In later years, he and Sis. Mangun would say to me and others, “Don’t do this like we did it.” They didn’t miss Sundays in Alexandria to preach for anybody or do anything. Learning from them, for years our family vacation was Monday through Saturday. Sunday was the main thing, and it was time to be home.

Finally, at the memorial service for a man of huge impact, I noticed people from Central Louisiana walk by in everything from an expensive suits bought at Jerry Lee’s Menswear to their best pair of khakis or jeans.  One gentleman had on his best overalls. To G.A. Mangun – a soul, was a soul, was a soul; every soul was important.  He pastored them all. He loved them all.

I wish I’d pay more attention and that I’d had more time  – there is much more I could have learned. Things I did learn:

GA mangun 21. Get on message – stay on message!

2. Don’t let negative things affect worship or leadership.

3. Reaching sinners is more important than most other things.

4. God’s work doesn’t have to be vanilla.

5.  Plan to see people converted EVERY week. Preach in a way where they can!

6.  Don’t let the size of the audience affect how you minister.

7.  The local church you lead is the main thing.

8.  Love the saints . . . love the people.

Some of you will have learned stuff from G.A. Mangun that I did not have the privilege to learn. You spent more time closer to his fire. Please add to my poor array in the comment section below.

Added note from C. Coon.  I don’t have the insight, focus or sacrificial mindset G.A. Mangun possessed.  I do have a book (written tongue in cheek) that addresses Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask.

How to Be a Person AND a Parson

The synthetic pales in comparison to the genuine. Fake people take on the value of costume jewelry. A danger exists for those living on the mountain of ministry. It is the error of acting like one is an actor on a stage . . . publicly playing a role.  Some things to consider

In the book, Mastering Pastoral Care Doug Self observes (by the way – the entire “Mastering” series are a good read):

Confusing one’s personal identity with one’s professional role is a danger . . .. It is possible to “play” the pastoral role too thoroughly. If people in other professions did it, we’d laugh. Imagine the local fire chief shopping at the grocery store. He wears his heavy fireman’s coat and hat with visor, as he pushes his grocery cart around, he encounters neighbors, saying, “Hey George. Keeping that chimney clean?” or , “Hello, Mary, I thought I saw one of your boys playing with matches the other day. You need to keep a closer watch on them . . . don’t you think.”

We would all perceive that man as one-dimensional, always conscious of being the fire chief and focusing all his relationships accordingly. People would soon tire of him. I think they would soon start running when they say him coming.

Our conversations can be such that they never stray from the “churchy. Somehow my prophetic crescendo does not seem to impress my wife or the kids. You see, it is dangerous if I become convinced of the merit of what someone called, “my sanctified baloney.” Perceiving myself as somehow a cut above the rest of God’s humanity is a recipe for alienation.

 

The first rule of care giving is “take care of the care-giver.” Five things warrant consideration:

  1. Understand the nature of your role. Some people are beyond your help. Jesus had a Judas. Put ministry in perspective. You won’t keep them all. People will come . . . and some will go.
  2. Accept outside help for both your physical and emotional needs. Rest, relaxation, laughter and friends are key components to survival. Don’t destroy yourself with overload.
  3. Admit your feelings, including your frustrations. A mother told her crying daughter that God was near and she did not need to be afraid. To which the little girl whimpered out, “Right now, I need God with skin on.” There are times when all of us need “God with skin on.” Telling somebody about your disaster is not lack of faith. Go back and read the Psalms . . . expressing frustration was a major component in David’s writing. (Caveat: For obvious reasons, one needs to be careful about who they share their frustrations with.)
  4. Enjoy the good times and things that are part of what God has called you into. What fills your spirit? Rather than spending all of your time on aspects of ministry that drain . . . spend significant time on the parts of ministry you enjoy.
  5. Know your limits. There is a danger in constantly keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. Jesus invited his disciples to “come apart and to rest.” Vance Havner said, “We either come apart to rest or we just come apart.”

Doing what shepherds do: feeding, leading, seeking the wandering and healing the hurting can be draining. Finally, it has been beneficial to me . . . as both a parent and pastor to call on a wise person outside of my circumstances. The late Robert Trapani was a blessing as we struggled with certain aspects of parenting. He helped us put things in perspective. On other occasions, when the care-giving component of ministry had stretched us to the breaking point . . . it was good to have an elder to unload on.

None of us can afford to be less than real. From time to time to take off the proverbial priests robes . . . and the collar turned backwards. Be real . . . in laughter and in sorrow. Emotion is not above us, nor is it beneath us. Our church and culture cannot afford for us to be a parson and not also be a person.

Five Steps in a Preacher’s (Anybody’s) Quiet Time. Do Preacher’s Not Pray?

file0001123125139I’m not sure why – but nobody ever taught me to pray. I became a preacher without having much of a prayer life or even prayer understanding.  I heard people pray and my parents had family devotion where we’d gather for prayer.  Dad always started praying with the words, “Our most gracious heavenly father . . . “ So some of it did stick. Perhaps I was daydreaming the days they taught the Sunday School class on “how” to pray. Thankfully, this did change and while today I’d not define myself as a man of prayer, it is better.  Let me share some things that worked for me.

I’d add a caveat.  There is nothing new.  A book that helped me was Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray.  I suggest you pick it up.  Of course you can also order it from Amazon by clicking here somewhere.

Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be with God

What Hybels material really  helped me with was that writing or journaling my prayer was a better place to rather than verbalizing them.

1. Slow down and begin with yesterday –   Psalms often has the word, “Selah” meaning pause and consider this.  Our modern hectic culture allows very few “Selah” moments. To get things stopped in order to prepare to pray I write a single paragraph about yesterday’s events.  It forces some review and thinking about yesterday.  What is there to celebrate?  What came into my world that I need to talk to Jesus about.

2. Adoration – write a single paragraph of adoration to and about Jesus.  Now, this is not as easy as it seems it should be.  It is easy to get into the routine of offering adoration about the same things. To combat this narrow consideration of God and His greatness, I use some sort of devotional book that expresses wonder about who Jesus is.  It may require me reading several devotions before something resonates, but when it does I write a paragraph about this specific aspect of the nature of God.  My favorite books on the nature of God are five volumes by Charles J. Rolls.  These books are out of print, but on occasion can be found at Amazon or American Book Exchange.  I’m including the links for Amazon at the bottom of this post.

After I all Rolls’ stuff I started using G. Campbell Morgan’s Searchlight from the Word.  It takes a bit more daily reading to get to something that is adoration.  Still good stuff though.

3. Confession – no book is needed here. A single paragraph confessing my faults, failings and fears.

4. Thanksgiving – no book needed here either.  A paragraph of gratitude. Doing this each day helps me scratch beneath the surface and to be grateful for His MANY blessings to me.

5.  Supplication – My written petition – “God save our lost son . . . He needs you.  Save him now. Save my grandsons.” Then on to specific needs that I’m aware of.

A.C.T.S. – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication

My prayer grew from this foundation to  using Bible to pray God’s will for children.  Again, there are books available to help with this.

The last portion of my prayer time is with my hands lifted.  Paul said he wanted men everywhere to worship (prayer is included in the idea expressed by the Greek word) lifting holy hands without wrath and doubting.  Lifting one’s hands is an act of surrender.  You can’t be in charge and have your hands up at the same time. Paul also indicated this was to be prayer/surrender without wrath.

“Without wrath” – wrath has to do with what has already happened.  With hands lifted I can surrender any and all bad that I’m angry about.  I let go of my anger . . . surrendering it – hands lifted

“Without doubt” has reference to the future. We don’t doubt for yesterday, we doubt for tomorrow. Yesterday is a known, tomorrow is an unknown. With hands lifted I turn loose of the uncertainty of the future.  I’ll walk into it “without doubt.”

You talk about cleansing the spirit and mind – this last bit, built on the foundation of what has preceded – gets one ready to tackle about anything.

Final two components – listening for and to God.  What is the spirit saying to me?  What is the spirit saying to the church? Digging in for some time with the word of God.

Now . . . I’ve shared – how do you pray?  What has worked?  My prayer is relatively structured compared to many.  I’m interested to learn . . .

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002K7DIU0/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002K7DIU0&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>The name above every name, (His The names and titles of Jesus Christ) by Rolls</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B002K7DIU0″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

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<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008YKMFOC/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008YKMFOC&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>Rolls, Charles J.’s Time’s Noblest Name: L, M, N, O (Names and Titles of Jesus Christ) Revised edition by Rolls, Charles J. published by Loizeaux Brothers [Paperback] (1985)</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B008YKMFOC” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

 

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000K4UN58/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000K4UN58&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>The Name Above Evry Name: The names and Titles of Jesus Christ P, Q, R, S</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000K4UN58″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

How To Be an Effective Bi-Vocational Pastor

Over half of all pastors are “tent makers.” I’ve been there, done that – and have the t-shirt and sweat shirt from several seasons of bi-vocational ministry. If a full-time pastors thinks life a challenge . . . consider the juggling act of the bi-vocational pastor. Balancing God, family, ministry and the “other job” necessary to keep bills paid is not easy. man digging with shovel

Bi-vocational challenges are real . . .. Things like:

 

  • Feeling less significant than someone who is a full-time pastor.
  • Feeling “less accomplished” because of limited hours for ministry.
  • Not being able to attend sectional, district or national meetings. “Seasons of refreshing” are not readily available.
  • Time-management is a challenge. The public presentation is part of it  but what about the unseen: particularly the time needed to marinate one’s brain in God’s word.

Let me give you several observations.

  1. No stigma is EVER to be attached to being bi-vocational. Amos and Paul were bi-vocational. Many faithful men of God drive a truck or handle a nail-gun forty hours a week.
  2. Never discount “real” world living. Much I know about leadership and dealing with people was learned from a corporate setting. All work is “as unto the Lord.” Christianity is lived in the market place of life!
  3. Any who “rank” pastors based on whether they are “full time” need to read Jesus’ teaching regarding “true greatness” (Luke 9:46-48). For 38 years my late Grandfather was a pastor . . . at the same time driving a school bus. He is a hero. I’ll never be the shepherd H.B. Frazier was. In spite of being a working pastor, he served people well.

Two decades ago, Focus on the Family’s, The Parsonage had “Tips From Bi-Vocational Pastors.” These still work.

Prioritize — “Decide what are  high priority tasks.” Pastoring with limited time and energy means you must identify the greatest needs of the congregation and minister to them. Bi-vocational pastors should beware of trying to have a “full-service” ministry. You cannot do everything, so you must have a clear focus on what you will do.

parent playing with kidCalendar family time — Don’t just schedule it – calendar it.  If something is on the calendar it is less likely to get written out. Intentionally set aside time for your spouse and kids. Families can suffer when a pastor has two jobs.

Fellowship with other preachers — Many times, bi-vocational pastors are “out of the loop.” Full-time pastors, please be mindful of this. Pass on cds, dvds, book and other materials . . . and invite a bi-vocational pastor to lunch. 

 

Additional insight about bi-vocational ministry is from Pastor Donald Bryant (Slidell, Louisiana):

1. Guard your attitude. It can be hard for those “called into ministry” to accept the fact that they must work a “secular” job. It  can lead to bitterness; crippling one’s ministry.

2. Don’t neglect your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. Those who burn the candle at both ends are likely to run out of wick!

3. Develop a realistic plan. Unless you prefer (and some do) to be bi-vocational, you need a realistic plan for how you transition to full-time ministry. This includes minimize your debt and standard of living. If you spend all your cash flow you will never be able to leave the secular job.

 

Some thoughts from my own experience:

 

Use series for preaching and teaching. Any service where you know your direction is one less decision to mull over. Going through a book of the Bible expositionally served me well.

Stay full. CD, mp3, audio-books,  and archived online preaching are readily available. We all need to be preached too and to add additional resources. Don’t “spend” time – “use” time in the car or elsewhere to keep yourself fresh. Unfocused time is not productive.

If you are full-time working for Jesus – don’t just increase your “play” time.  Establish office hours, punch the clock literally or figuratively.  Plan to give Jesus’ 50 – 60 hours of each week. 

 

Final note from research funded by a Nazarene group: Churches pastored by bi-vocational pastors are neither more nor less likely to grow than those pastored by full time pastors.

Those who work to fulfill God’s call and at the same time work to provide for a family (and often a significant part of the church’s expense) deserve double honor. I commend you . . . keep fighting the good . . . and wise fight.  You are making a difference.

 

Many of you serve as bi-vocational pastors – what has been your greatest challenge?  What has been your solution?  Your sharing your challenge and solution will help others.

5 Steps to a Memorable Baby Dedication

Man on StairsReaching people is all about seizing opportunity. An easily overlooked opportunity is the occasion to dedicate babies. Baby dedications do not have to be a “blah” service. Give it some spice and a life beyond the event itself. I’m sure there are many good ideas I’ve never heard of. Please share your additional thoughts and give us as many practical ideas as you can. I’m a great proponent of Tom Peters concept, “Not Invented Here, but Stolen With Pride!” Any place there is a good idea that fits for me – I put the idea to work. Here are some things that worked for me.

1. As much as possible, proactively schedule the baby dedication on a Sunday that is good for getting additional people (grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc.) to attend. I tried to steer away from Easter, Mother’s Day , Father’s Day, Memorial and Labor Day. Those days either already had a focus or a significant travel weekend. Schedule the baby dedication at least three weeks in the future. These three weeks allows the parents time to invite their family members to attend. Announce the baby dedication early and often. Usually, there will be someone in the church, even the youngest of churches, who have a co-worker, neighbor or friend who is interested in “dedicating” their baby to the Lord. Cast a wide net. I did not worry about whether these parents are saved or lost – use the baby dedication as a chance to connect with the parents and to underline their parental responsibility toward their child. On an occasion or two we gave the parents cards to invite their family and friends. baby holding finger

2. Use the baby dedication to prepare to preach constructively and evangelistically to parents. Potential topics include – A. Impacting generations to come – Example: Abraham, Isaac, Jacob B. Faith Transition – Example: Timothy influenced by the unfeigned faith that was in those before him. C. Moments of decision – Example: the responsibility to parent is a hinge moment for a person to have faith, and obey the instruction to repent, be baptized in Jesus name and to be filled with the spirit.

3. Make the baby dedication personal – involve family members even if they are not part of the church. In dealing with new people, be ready for all sorts of attire, and all sorts of situations. Unwed moms, unwed dads, grandmothers who want their baby dedicated to Jesus. Remember what your goal is. It was my practice to make the baby dedication as individual as possible. I’d take the baby from parents, comment on his or her clothes, name, etc. Holding the baby I’d pray over him/her, then returning the child to parents – and would then lay hands on them. If the parents did not have their own family present I’d have someone from the church family come and stand alongside them. Make time for pictures.

4. Gifts – Norma would have a flower for Mom . . . and I’d have a “Baby’s first Bible” for Dad. A relatively inexpensive Bible we used for the gift was “Baby’s First Bible.” When I gave the fellow the Bible, I’d always instruct him to read the Bible stories to their children. I’d kid the fathers that I’d eventually be asking their kids if they’d read to them.   Try to have fun with the event.

Parents holding baby5. A personalized letter to the child, for the parents to give the child when he/she turns 16. The letter was always sealed in an envelope and on church letterhead. Parents would often ask what the letter said. My response: You’ll find out on their 16th birthday. The letters had the same basic premises, but always included a personalized paragraph or two and in some instances a hand-written note. These letters were a huge hit. A rough-up of the letter is at:  http://truth-publications.com/?p=956

If you’ve found this beneficial, or will at some point in the future pass it on to a friend. Now . . . what are you doing with baby dedications? Like you, I’m looking for new ideas to add to my tool box.

Something More than REVIVAL!

This is a recent review of something drafted 12 years ago as the opening chapter of Master-Full Preaching – Restoring the Place of Good News Preaching. It is a bit longer than my preferred communication on the blog. However , I’m committed to the idea, “As much as we need revival, we need to consistently preach to the lost! http://truth-publications.com/product/master-full-preaching/

Does it seem that we are sometime locked in a dance of two steps forward and two steps back. Motion, without progress.

North America certainly needs revival! Revival restores, returning things to the way they were, as resuscitation revives one who is without breath. A person is back where he started. Grateful to be alive . . . but any pre-existing condition . . . still exists! Diabetes remains . . . cancer is unrelieved. General health issues are unaffected by the “revival.” They are “revived” to their former condition.

Certainly that principle is applicable to the church. Sounds great, doesn’t it? Yet, revival alone is not the answer! Revival is like a sale at a department store. Customers line up before the doors open. There is an unusual level of advertising, but the main business profit is gained by year-round daily merchandising. Around church, too many people are, “waiting on the sale.” In the New Testament church, the day of Pentecost was great, but the steady growth came as the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

Special events make headlines, but when the last day tally is figured, it will be found that the main work was done by the faithful preaching of ordinary pastors on ordinary Sundays. It will be the lifestyle of ordinary Christians, and their ordinary soul‑winning that will have been the most effective.

Imagine being part of a church making daily impact. Not just on the occasion, but every month, every week and every day. One key to what you have imagined being a reality is found . . . in preaching! Although not just “preaching,” in the sense of a rousing sermon that cheers believers to another week of survival. It is “good news preaching.” Targeting a single soul sitting in the audience. How easy to overlook opportunity!

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Jack Hyles told about his father:

My father was an alcoholic. He died a drunkard’s death in 1950. My mother was a sweet Christian lady and I’m a product of the Sunday School. I never tasted beer, never smoked a cigarette, never said a curse word. I wanted my Dad saved and as a kid I talked to him about being saved. One night, my Dad said he would go to church. I called the pastor and said, “Would you preach on the second coming; my Dad’s coming to church?” (That was always what moved me and I thought it would move my Dad.) When we got to church, they had a choir cantata. I cried all the way through. Daddy wouldn’t come back. That was the only church service my Daddy ever attended.

The tragedy of missed opportunity.

“Pogo” is a comic strip about a delightful little creature living in a Florida swamp. Some time back Pogo was sitting with his back propped against a fallen log. An animal new to Pogo came along the trail and Pogo stopped him. He demanded the animal give his name and tell what kind of animal he was. As polite as could be, the traveler explained that he was a carrier pigeon.

Pogo was not acquainted with the species, so he asked his new acquaintance what he carried. The pigeon explained that he carried messages. Still somewhat skeptical, Pogo insisted on proof. Nothing would satisfy him but seeing a message. Confronted by Pogo’s demand, the pigeon hung his head. He explained, “I had a message, but I put it in my shoe. Done walked so long I wore a hole in my shoe, an’ lost the message through the hole.”

A messenger without a message. Is this not the plight of the preacher who proclaims no  message of hope for even a single hurting heart; a carrier pigeon who has lost his message. Revival needed, but the world “out there” needs more than revival. There needs to be a  shift from “event” and “special speaker” evangelism to the consistency of a man with a simple message.  Evangelistic preaching . . . consistent evangelistic preaching is vital.  If something of significance is to be accomplished, one cannot be as a carrier pigeon who has no message.

Exercise for application

1. Interview several pastors. Ask them about their training and preparation in studying the scripture. Find out if they think their preparation is adequate and what they would like to do to improve this aspect of their ministry.

2. Write out a paragraph expressing your ideas concerning the purpose and place of evangelistic preaching

http://truth-publications.com/product/master-full-preaching/

If It Were Up to Me, What Would Be?

large; background-color: #ffff00;”>This is an excerpt and expansion of a chapter in If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me available at http://truth-publications.com/product/if-everybody-here-were-just-like-me/. The original series of lessons were named “The Measure of a Great Church.”

We tend to like some things in abstract. Talk about “we”, but not about “me.” My response can be, “I’d like to be part of a great church – one where Jesus would mark us a ‘10’ on things that matter to Him.” So…what must the pastor, choir and Sunday School teachers do to make our church a good church?

What is just described won’t work.

  • Good Saints Make for a Good Church
  • Great Saints Make for a Great Church
  • Mediocre Saint Make for a Mediocre Church

A great local church does not happen without people being personally committed to the behavior which makes for a great church. You have heard it:

  • Some wonder what is going on.
  • Others watch what is going on.
  • Great churches are built by people who make it happen.

Committed and faithful people are the strong, solid foundation of a great church.

A great preacher does not necessarily make for a great church – there must be great saints.  A great music program does not necessarily make for a great church – there have to be some great saints in the church.  A remarkable church building does not necessarily make for a great church – there have to be some great saints in the church. Creativity does not make a great church – there have to be some great saints in the church.

Possessing the “cool” factor does not build a great church. There must be some great believers!

Now, think about this:

 

If everybody here, were just like me . . .

What kind of church, would this church be?

Would there be any prayer going on? 

Would any Home Bible Studies be being taught?

Would our church be known as a church of praise and worship?

What are you willing to do to make your church a great church?  This is an excerpt and expansion of a chapter in If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me available at http://truth-publications.com/product/if-everybody-here-were-just-like-me/.  The original series of lessons were named “The Measure of a Great Church.”

 

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Pastor Roy Barnhill Guest Blog – “Down But I Can’t Quit”

“Down But I Can’t Quit”

 The date and place is forever etched in my memory. It was June 1985 and I was sitting alone in our 72 seating capacity sanctuary. Alone and I felt the dark depths of loneliness. I had friends but I couldn’t let down my guard and open my heart to them. I was a struggling pastor desperately trying to grow a struggling church. My wife and I were both working to keep ourselves afloat. When my pastoral friends would call to ask how my weekend went, I would tell them that I just made the weekend church deposit at the first stop light on the way home from Sunday night service. I was down – way down, but something inside me wouldn’t let me quit.

One summer my wife’s parents and her Aunt and Uncle, who pastored good churches in Missouri, came to North Carolina to visit us. As the Sunday morning service progressed, they were weeping and worshipping. Later they told us they were not crying because they were feeling the presence of the Lord but they were crying because they felt sorry for us. Now that is real encouragement!!

As I sat all alone in the sanctuary, I said, “Lord, I have heard other preachers tell about going to a camp or conference and someone came to them with a word from you. Lord, I desperately need that to happen this week at Camp Meeting”. Monday my wife, 10 year old son and I loaded up and left for camp meeting. A hand shake and back slap was the normal greeting. When ask, “how’s things going in Lumberton”, my answer was what I had learned to say. “Great Bro. Things are going great”. The smile lasted until they would turn and move on to ask somebody else the same question. Have you ever wondered, “do those who ask those questions really care how it’s going”?

Camp meeting was explosive. Gordon Mallory was the evening evangelist and a tremendous anointing was on him for the entire week. I went to camp hoping – hoping this would be my time to receive a word from the Lord. As Bro. Mallory was preaching, the Lord spoke to me and said, “will you believe what Bro. Mallory is getting ready to tell you”? At first, I thought I was just overwhelmed with my own emotions and my mind was playing a game. Again, the Lord spoke to me and said, ” will you believe what Bro. Mallory is getting ready to tell you”. I said, “Lord if this is really you, I will believe anything”. What I am about to tell you is without exaggeration. It happened just as I tell it.

At that very moment, Bro. Mallory, about halfway through his message, closed his Bible and said, “I cannot go any further”. God just spoke to me for one pastor in this place tonight”. I must be honest, it was hard to wrap my mind around what I was hearing. He had everyone stand and asked for the ministry to come and stand at the altar area. There were about 65 preachers there that night. Sweat broke out all over me. My insides were like jello and then it happened. Out of 65 preachers Bro. Mallory walked directly to me and said, “Brother, I don’t know you and have never seen you, but GOD just gave me a word for you. Will you believe it? I said, “Bro. Mallory, I will believe God for anything right now”. The prophetic word that came forth was like a bolt of lightning that surged through me. I knew at that moment, God knew where I was, what I had been going through and He let me know I was not by myself. He was going to dispatch angels all around me and nothing by any means would hurt me. I didn’t shout, talk in tongues or run the isles. I just stood there, somewhat stunned that God really did have a word for me. I cannot tell you that in the next 30 days revival surged and we filled all 72 seats. I cannot tell you that money start coming in the mail and that our financial hard times came to a screeching halt. However, I can tell you that I walked out of that camp with my head high, my heart fixed and I never doubted who I was and what God had for me.

The breakthrough that was prophesied did not come until about 4 years later. When it broke it was like a tsunami. In one year our attendance doubled as entire families were coming to God. In less than a month, 5 families came into the church and 22 years later those 5 families are still in the church along with their children and grandchildren. The weekends were now nothing to dread and we couldn’t wait for the next weekend. People kept coming and 22 years later they are still coming. I no longer do the bank deposit at the first stop light but have a full time secretary to deposit the blessings. I know the question you are wanting to ask, so I will go ahead and answer it. Yes there have been some disappointing moments since that time, however, I had a sure word of prophecy, “Nothing by any means would hurt me”. Back then when I was down, I just wouldn’t quit. Now, when family visits, their tears are tears of rejoicing with us for the blessings of God. Winners don’t Whine and only Quitters Quit!!
Roy Barnhill lives and leads in North Carolina.  He is the Southeast Regional North American Missions Director and serves as liaison to our team of North American Missions Sectional Directors.

You can email him at revrbarnhill@aol.com

 

The Power of Imitation

To imitate another is viewed as a weakness of creativity. What an unfortunate thing that is. Paul said, “Follow me as I follow Christ,” actually Paul said, “Mimic (or imitate) me as I imitate Christ. Those who will be effective in the future find the effective and imitate their priorities, focus and traits.  My golf swing is rather a mess compared to that of professional golfers.  To improve, I’d need to imitate that golfers swing – even though it was not particularly comforatble to me – at least at first.

G.A. Mangun led his church to consistent prayer – I knew little about how to lead a church to prayer, so I just imitated G.A. Mangun.

Murrel Cornwell effectively taught Home Bible studies – I was not very good, so I imitated Murrel Cornwell.

Jerusalem’s children worshiped and praised Jesus because they had seen their parents lay coats before the colt on which he rode; they’d seen the palm branches wave – so the children imitated their parents in praise.

William Didway was a young man whose rocky life eventually brought him to our church. He told me how much he liked to get near me during our church prayer meetings. William said, “Pastor, listening to you, has given me to the words to say when I pray.”

Imitation . . . imitation – it is the way to “answer the how question.” Many Christians know what they should be doing and why they should be doing it – they simply don’t know “how.”

You can learn “how” to be hospitable and entertain strangers.
You can learn “how” to make sure new people are followed-up on in a memorable way.
You can learn “how” to preach to reach the lost.
You can learn “how” to make disciples out of some of the rawest converts imaginable.
This is serious. We need to ask and answer the “how” questions that deal with building effective churches. Who is someone you learned “how” from? What did you learn? Now – how will you pass it on to someone else?

Some Tough Questions about Church! What Makes a Great Church?

This excerpts the opening chapter to If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me!

The sub-title is “If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me . . . What Kind of Church Would This Church Be?”

http://truth-publications.com/product/if-everybody-here-were-just-like-me/

 

Do you wonder what Jesus thinks of the church?  I mean it is His church?  Does He like what we did with it today?  He must have been pleased with much of what happened through the book of Acts – everything was not perfect for sure, but there was little loss of intent or objective.  His measures of kingdom expansion seemed to remain with them . .  now to the earlier writing:

 

The sands of time are quickly passing through the hourglass. Even if Jesus does not come soon, our time is still short because this is a dying generation.

We must bend our shoulder to the wheel. It is not over-dramatizing the matter to say:

The world’s hope

Your community’s hope

That of your co-worker

Family member

Neighbor and friend…

 

…Is to be reconciled to God.  God has chosen you as a minister of reconciliation.  Jesus has called you to a service of reconciliation.

We are bit players or perhaps stagehands on the stage of time and eternity; but even a bit player “plays a bit.” The starring role is already filled and has been well-played. Jesus Christ, God manifest in flesh, paid supreme sacrifice to reclaim you, your co-worker, family member, neighbor and friend from eternity’s pawn shop.

The main part is taken – but wait – the play is not yet ended.  God’s plan involves a thing so familiar as to become sadly contemptuous to some – the church.      Ask a thousand people to define “church” and diverse definitions will unfold; even among those who attend a church regularly.

One person may point to an architectural masterpiece; ask another about church and one might say, “We have church at 10 A.M. on Sunday.”  Ask about church and the answer may be, “I was raised Southern Baptist.”  Chamber of Commerce personnel might respond, “We have 227 churches in our city.”

And answers keep coming – church:

Choir

Social involvement

Kids programs

Youth activity

Stuff about church! Sort of a rough start here isn’t it?  Let’s make it even more complicated.

What distinguishes one church from another, even in congregations holding the same doctrines on almost every meaningful matter?  What makes a church a “good” church? Why should people want to call the church you attend their church?  Why would someone who visits Sunday want to return?

Some would answer—because this is where people can be saved.  Nothing excuses a multitude of bad practices.

Many of the reasons why we call this “home” are based on preference.

A good church has a full schedule.

A good church sings worship choruses.

A good church sings hymns from the red song book.

Good church because it uses drama bits.

Good church because the pastor teaches.

Good church . . . In this regard, good church is what fits my personality and preference.

Good church—The Opinion That Matters

One opinion matters most.  What does Jesus consider an outstanding church?  If the Lord graded the church I am part of on a scale of 1-10 what would it score? How does Jesus evaluate a local church?

It gives me pause – what matters to God?  As the sands of time slip away, time given to “stuff” that Jesus has no passion for are a waste. Majoring in the minors may work for some wacky brand of music – but not in the ministry of reconciliation assigned to us.

Matthew 16:19, Acts 2, and a comparision of Jerusalem with Antioch gives clues to local church greatness.  I’ll post more – but if you are interested – If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me . . .  take a look at http://truth-publications.com/product/if-everybody-here-were-just-like-me/  As always satisfaction is guaranteeed.

Now – what do you think makes a great church?

How Can You Magnify The Significance of all Ministry

Respect is not claimed by inheritance, title or position; it is earned in the trenches of daily life. 

It is easy for a person in places of spiritual influence to do things that diminish the significance of their own servant-leadership and all who serve in similar roles.  It is wise to constantly magnify the ministry – to hold each other in high regard and behave in ways where we ourselves are above reproach.  How can we do it?

 

  • Respect its importance. No irreverent man dare preach the gospel. This is expressed in Paul’s question, “Who is sufficient for these things?” Doing God’s work as a preacher of the gospel is not just a career choice.

 

  • Be thankful you are allowed to be in ministry. Paul said, “I thank Christ Jesus my Lord for that He hath enabled me, putting me into this ministry.” Be thankful for those you lead. It concerns me when preachers besmirch the people they serve. Ministry is not simply about preaching . . . it is about people. Magnify the office by serving people.

 

  • Our office is magnified by study. Prepare yourself – constantly be preparing, studying, gathering materials, filing things away for a different day. We are to be diligent to show ourselves approved unto God, workmen that need not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. Paul was a student. He not only quoted the Old Testament but was conversant enough with Greek philosophers that he quoted them with accuracy. He magnified the ministry through study.

 

  • To magnify your office, wholly do it. That is ministry is not one thing among many things. Paul said, “This one thing I do.” No hobby, no secondary career, nothing should ever get in the way of magnifying the ministry. Sell your life out completely to His great commission.

 

  • Magnify the office by regarding what God has committed to you as being more important than any other position or role. It is a seductive thing to yield to selfishness in making decisions as to where one should preach and what he should preach. It is easy to preach for response and to cause people to say, “Wasn’t that great!” But that’s not the calling.  The one place the words “called” and “preach” are in close proximity in the Bible is when Paul said he was “called to preach the gospel” in Macedonia.  Called to declare the good news!  Be a herald of good news!

 

  • Magnify the office by continually renewing your consecration. Ministry and dealing with people is draining so constantly renew yourself  through prayer and study.

 

  • Magnify the ministry by lifting up other preachers. It has been said, “A rising tide lifts all ships.”  When one speaks well of another that creates a rising tide. Mutual honor increases the significance of the “office.” Elders you magnify the ministry as you invest yourself in the process of mentoring younger preachers.

What have you done today that will magnify the ministry?

If You Can’t Define It, You Probably Aren’t Doing It!

Define Our culture has minimized much that has to do with Christianity. These days, your call adds little credibility to how others perceive you. As you know some church people want a “preacher” but not a “pastor.”  There is a difference between the two.  We’re going to try to define it. I can be “clergy” as contrasted to being a “man of God.” I may want a clergy tag on the car, but not the “man of God” mantle on my life. Paul understood the need to validate his role as a God-called Christian leader. “When I speak to you Gentiles,” Paul wrote, “I magnify mine office if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh.”  (Romans 11:13-14) There are several facets to this particular matter of intentionally defining God’s call.

 Define The Office

Instill in your mind the fact that the work of the ministry is official. What we do is an office in every sense of the word. The definition of office is: “A special duty, trust, charge, or position, conferred by authority for a public purpose.”

Note the elements of an office: duty, trust, or a special charge. It is conferred by authority to benefit a larger public. The office to which Paul referred has a sacred trust and God Himself confers it. God used several terms to designate His called leaders. These terms not only indicate an office but suggest the duties.

  • Shepherd – A shepherd leads the flock; seeks the wandering; feeds the sheep; and heals the hurting.  Caring for the sheep consumes the shepherd’s life. As one writer put it, a shepherd has the smell of the sheep.
  • Bishop – This refers to an overseer. An overseer has special duties and authority. He directs the labors of others. However, lest we revel in a position of oversight be mindful that authority includes the weight of responsibility. Football coach Vince Lombardi observed that when his team won, “The team did it, but when we lose I take the blame. It’s my fault. I had a poor game plan and made poor decisions.” In a similar way, as a bishop, one has to accept responsibility.

Define Your Responsibility

There is a responsibility laid on a preacher that does not rest on any other member of His church.  Get clear on what you are to do .  . define it and do it.  Don’t worry about the things that don’t fit in the definition.  I encourage you to be who and what God called and equipped you to be.  The Science of Shepherding

What do you see as some incorrect expectations other have on you? . . . or perhaps we put them on ourselves.

You Wouldn’t Want An Ostrich for Your Mama

 

PLOWING – A Church Planter’s Prayer Ministry!

MinistrySomething . . . anything . . . something . . . anything.  No Christian of even the youngest faith can fret over a “call to prayer.”  I’ve said for years that new church plants had two ministries, “get ’em here” and “keep ’em here.”  I’ve added a third ministry – “pray it here!”  For those who are going to sing in a service, or serve as hostesses welcoming the new people – surely you can convey to them the importance of God’s help.  You can seek and find God’s help in prayer.  You can seal them on it. Of course, you have to be there too – this time, next time and every time.  If church starts at 10:00 make it simple – have these key people meet you for prayer at 9:30 – pray 15 minutes and then get them to speaking faith about their expectation of the service.

The Ministry: The Prayer Program Begins With You

Virginia Church Planter Travis Worthington recently said it was a great joy was seeing people in their baby church learn to pray.  The only way he is seeing them learn to pray is if they are seeing and hearing him pray; and the church planter is giving them instruction in prayer.  You can develop praying people – even out of brand new people. It is what you expose them too.  Do they hear you pray? Do they see you pray? “Preacher, no pray lot; people, no pray little!” Start working prayer times into your gatherings and make them simple but push people to join in praying for someone else.  You are equipping them. http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/questions-pentecostals-preachers-ask/

Pray With Purpose

Heaven waits on prayers – a little one with a vial full of the prayers of the saints holds heaven in abeyance to the point that at what would seem to be a busy time, the strongest angels in God’s arsenal were on hold.  Thirty minutes.  Pray with the purposeful sense that your prayer will affect things and will do so quickly.

Fire

Get your Church Plant Prayer Program started

  • You have to be there at any prayer meeting yourself, your spouse needs to be there.
  • Start with Conveience – pray 15 minutes before church starts.  Emphasize that service participants had to pray!  “No pray, no Play” – not the drums or keyboard.
  • As time goes forward the prayer will affect the service in a powerful way.  When that happens toss out the suggestion of expanding this prayer for fifteen minutes.
  • Start with sustainability.  If you cannot keep it going, then it will be a learning experience clothed in the garments of failure.
  • Enter the prayer program knowing you will need to vary the approach at times, whether it is you to sometimes direct it, other times the prayer time is quieter, on occasion very intense.  Emotion is not the objective – answered prayer is the objective.
  • Make prayer, real prayer time an expected part of each church service.

What are some things you have seen work to establish a sustainable prayer ministry in a church plant?

Carlton L. Coon Sr.

carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Daily Things of Christian Living