Focus on the Next Hurdle

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:hurdle-576058_960_720

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 did not 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.achievement-703442__340

1. Know the race is long.

2. Know the race has several obstacles.

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?  Paul’s “one thing!”

4.  Run each hurdle as though it were the last. Life can be lived always thinking about the future date when you will finally give it your best! One cannot emphasize every syllable but the current hurdle before you needs your attention.  Give this your best!  Give it your all!

5.  Clark did not say it, but you have to run your race!  A hurdler must focus on the hurdles before him rather than on the runner beside him. Each setting has a unique calling and a unique field in which to work. Harvest may come easy in some place and be a difficult struggle in another.  Keep your eyes on your lane and your hurdles!

Daily Evangelism

The apostles stayed busy evangelizing. They had been imprisoned, intimidated, physically beaten, and warned to stop, yet they returned daily to teach and preach. They practiced daily evangelism. A story is told of Jesus Christ returning to heaven after His resurrection. All the angels gathered for a gala celebration. During the festivities, as the story goes, the angels gathered around the Son of God to hear about His many experiences on earth. Christ told the angels of His many miracles. Then, He told them the story of His death on the cross and how he had risen from the dead on the third day. As Jesus finished His account, all heaven was silent. Suddenly one of the angels declared, “Lord, it’s our turn to participate. We will go to earth and tell the masses of all you’ve done for them.”

The Lord quietly shook His head and answered, “No, that will not be possible.” All the angels were puzzled and another asked, “How, then, are you going to send this message to everyone on earth?” In a confident tone the Master answered, “I have left this responsibility in the hands of eleven fishermen.” With a questioning look another angel quickly responded, “But, Lord, what if they fail?” Jesus answered, “I have no other plan.”

The story illustrates the magnitude of the responsibility to evangelize. The apostles understood the significance of evangelism. God’s only method is men, men devoted to the task of evangelism.white-male-1834099_960_720

Wrong Attitudes Toward Daily Evangelism

Unfortunately, evangelism has mistakenly become the labor of the “super-christian” and not a normal function of Christian living. Music, singing, and sermonizing do not fulfill the Christian’s mission.

Miscomprehension of the Task

Furthermore, let’s consider our attitude toward evangelism. Most Christians do not relish going door to door. Yet there are many other opportunities to evangelize. Christian giants are not needed to evangelize, Christian friends are. Our first error is misunderstanding who we are to evangelize. The mission field starts outside your door. Your co-workers and neighbors are the first candidates.

Wrong Focus

How do we feel about evangelism? We know we should evangelize, so why don’t we do more of it? The answer could be fear, laziness, lack of knowledge, or thinking we are too busy. Usually most of us would simply rather be doing something else. We have no ambition to share the good news.

Irrelevance

Additionally, we lack relevant compassion. Kindness and caring are in shortage. If we do not care, the church should close her doors. We must feel people’s pain. Jess Moody said, “A church, like a newspaper, can soon be out-of-date. When that happens, like the newspaper, it becomes good for nothing but wrapping fish that someone else has caught.”

Bible Instruction to Evangelismstudy-862994_960_720

Jesus distinctly commissioned evangelism:

Matthew, 28:19

There are three instructions given.

First (go, teach)

  • “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”

Second {convert}

  • “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Ghost.”

Third (teach, disciple)

  • “teaching them, observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”

It is the three-step process from sin to becoming a fruitful member of the body evangelism, conversion, and discipleship.

“But ye shalt receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

You shall receive power! What is the power for? To be witnesses! We can do all things through Christ which strengthens us. Power is given to evangelize.

While evangelizing and discipleship are not hard concepts, they can become complicated if the church does not have an open-door policy. If you find yourself in this position, please read my other blog on “Closed to New Disciples”.

Jesus’ Example of Evangelism

A very important principle of evangelizing is getting acquainted with people. Reaching out to people and involving them in your life, leads to bonding. Many Christians are isolationist, preserving their smiles and friendliness for other Christians. It is also important to keep in mind the way to which we speak to them. Our role is to convey the truth so that they can understand it. We must be bridge builders from our world to the world of the unsaved.

What are some ways that you have had success with evangelizing? What you have done may be exactly what someone else is looking for so please share your examples with us!

Additional resources are available on this topic from my book titled “Daily Things of Christian Living”, please visit carltoncoonsr.com.

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Daily Unity

On the day of Pentecost, 3120 were converted.  These converts lived a unique set of values. Daily they lived with one-accordance. I suggest that the disciples unity was more significant than where they went each day. 

And they continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart. (Acts 2:46)

Furthermore to complete Christ’s commission to the church, we must daily live with one accord. An unknown poet defined unity in a home-spun way easy to understand:

potatoes-1585075__340Potato Unity

During the time they are in the ground in little clumps, that is not unity. When they are put into a bucket, they are close, but that is not unity. They are peeled, (no skin, no façade) yet that is not unity. When they are sliced and diced, they are closer together, still that is not unity. After doing all the things above we put them together in a pot. We turn the heat on them for a while, and then. . .WE MASH THEM! Then there is unity! It was exactly such elements that produced unity in the early church. Perhaps we should begin by identifying some of the hindrances to the daily attitude of being in one accord.

Things that Limit Same Mindedness

  • Self-centeredness and jealousy restrict unity. Paul encouraged lowliness of mind.

(Philippians 2:3) Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each other esteem other better than themselves.

  • Inability to recognize that there are at least two sides to every story. Each valley has two mountains of perspective.
  • Self-appointed critics, who have nothing better to do than talk, limit unity. Such people constantly look to find someone doing something wrong.
  •  Lack of tolerance hinders togetherness. Paul’s love chapter says, 

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up. (I Corinthians 13:4).

  • Majoring in the minors sets aside same mindedness. We get caught up in trivialities, when we are part of a world lost without God.
  • Unforgiveness and failing to deal with unresolved differences causes disunity.

We are weak on Biblical confrontation because we have not been taught the principles. Instead, we talk about our conflicts with everyone but the other individual.

(Matthew 18:15) Moreover if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone: if he shall hear thee, thou hast gained thy brother.

Jesus taught the proper procedure for dealing with this destroyer of unity. If your brother offends you, you go to him alone; sit down with him and say, “Here is the problem.” If that doesn’t resolve it, then Jesus instructed the involving of other people. In addition, the final court of unresolved conflict was the church. The Bible said that if you can work out your differences, you have won your brother.

Perhaps you find yourself in a circumstance where there are those within your congregation who are dealing with the “My” church mentality. This is not beneficial to the unity of the church. For some additional helpful hints on how to handle these types of attitudes please see my other blog on “Church Terrorism Disciple-making and Church Terrorists – This is “MY” Church.” http://carltoncoonsr.com/discipleship-and-church-terrorism-this-church-is-my-church/

Results of Daily Being in One Accord

In conclusion, unity produces singleness of purpose. Singleness of purpose produces power. Acts records there were daily additions to the “one accord” church. Same is true for today. If we want our churches to grow, we too must have unity!

Do you have recollection of when unity played a key role in the growth of your church? Please share your stories with us!

Additional “Daily Unity” resources are available in my book “Daily Things of Christian Living” on my website at Carltoncoonsr.com.

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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/.

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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.

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.

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”

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.

 

 

 

 

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. 

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. 

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!

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