Systems for Church Growth

Systems are the making of effective life. The Bible says, “Jotham prospered.” The Bible says, “Jotham ordered his ways.” (2 Chronicles 26:7 RV) Jotham’s prosperity and the ordering of his ways are connected. The two things are always connected. People who establish no order for their life will not prosper. I cannot think of one person in my life experience or any person in history who is an exception. Can you?

You see the value of order everywhere.

  • Nature follows a system.
  • Jesus had the crowd sit down in orderly rank before he multiplied the loaves and fish.
  • When Jesus abandoned the tomb, He folded the grave-clothes.

Whether with spiritual gifts or elsewhere in life, “Let things be done decently and in order.”                              (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Systems work for the ministry. Some of the value of this is addressed in last year’s book “The Details Matter”.

Essential Systems For a Church To Grow

  • Systematic Evangelism
  • Disciple-making Systems
  • A System for Involving People

There are other areas of ministry like pastoral care, study, counseling and preaching/teaching where order helps. These will be a later topic.

The systems you put in place depend on you, the congregation and the resources available. Resources, as used here are money, people, energy and available time.  Do not feel guilty for not being able to do something when the resources are not available. However, regardless of limits these three things evangelism, disciple-making, and involvement should be approached systematically.

Systems will help a church grow. Systems will help you be effective in ministry.

Systematic Evangelism

In the Apostolic Continuum, there is no impact without evangelism. Our local congregation is just a bit above average in size. Currently, our evangelism is not as systematic as it will be. There are some things we do right. Each guest gets a personal hand-written card. Where the guest if receptive, they get a text message.

When we get an email address the person begins receives a battery of emails about the church. At Calvary,   AWeber manages our email list. I don’t know that AWeber is the best. It was not the most expensive and came highly recommended. A caveat:  I also use AWeber for carltoncoonsr.com. If you are interested in information about Aweber for church or some other effort take a look here:   Aweber

The email letters we use in followup also follow a system. A copy of the letters is in my book “The How and Why of Follow Up Visitation.” Hint:  This week the e-book with all those letters is available for $2.99.  It is normally $9.99.

The second system for evangelism is a process to get newcomers in the door. Until a church has a consistent flow of guests resulting from lifestyle evangelism, “big events” are required. Last Veteran’s Day weekend we had a “big event.” Several newcomers attended. “Big events” include experiences like All Nations Sunday, Friend Day and Pentecost Sunday.

Big events are not my preferred approach to evangelism. In my opinion, it is better to have a steady flow of visitors. However, at times events are needed to increase the visitor flow.

What are you doing for systematic evangelism? I’d like to learn from your best practices.

Disciple-making Systems

The church is not called to make converts. The commission is to make disciples. How does a disciple-making system look?  Again, this will vary from one church to another. At the least, there should be some classes designed to orient newcomers to the church.

There should also be a time to officially welcome spiritual babies.  Below are some links to my YouTube Channel and some online teaching I’ve provided on the topic of disciple-making.

An overview of New Convert Care

Overcoming Sociological Issues for the sake of Disciple Making

Don’t Drop Your Spiritual Baby

There is more on the topic of Disciple-making at my YouTube channel. If you decide to visit, I’d appreciate an honest comment or two in the review section. (Hopefully positive, but I’ll take them all.)  While on the Youtube channel do not forget to hit the “Subscribe” button.

Retaining converts will depend on how strong and consistent your system is. A sporadic system will produce an inconsistent outcome. My little book “The How and Why of New Convert Care”  provides the skeleton of a system that can be established and sustained.  To get you headed in the right direction, with your own effort for Disciple making the job description for our church’s current Director of Disciple-making can be downloaded here. Discipleship Director

At Calvary we use the ten lessons of “Take Root” to give basic concepts about Christian life. This includes prayer and how to read the Bible. Then there are eleven lessons of “Bear Fruit” to develop concepts of Christian responsibility. Then the seven lessons of “Fitly Framed” help a person find a place of ministry in the church. In this process, we do our best to “Velcro” newcomers into the church.

What I’m describing reflects an ongoing system. Just as the sun will come up tomorrow, the things I’m talking about happening unceasingly. The consistency is what makes it a system. 

Involvement

A church seems to naturally grow if people are involved in meaningful roles of ministry. However, getting people involved requires a system.

I’ve done this the wrong way and I’ve done it the right way. The wrong way was for me to simply teach my series on motivational gifts. The seven lesson series is the aforementioned “Fitly Framed”. It is good stuff. It helps every person find their unique gifting.  Thousands of pastors have a copy of Fitly Framed.

The material is good. But, like most teaching Fitly Framed does not give the structured system to engage people in ministry. Thus, the wrong way was to just dump the information out before the audience hoping it would somehow bring them to engagement. My audience found it interesting, but it did not significantly change people’s involvement in ministry. I’d given information but had not established a system.

The Correct Approach to Getting People Involved

  1. Have ministry leaders think of ways to involve people in the ministry they lead.
  2. Ministry leaders draft a simple job description for those roles.
  3. The church has a “Personnel Director” in place. Initially, this will be the pastor.
  4. Fitly Framed or something similar is taught to the entire church. This same material then is taught as a third level of caring for converts. Going forward every convert or transfer into the church is taught Fitly Framed.
  5. During the class, people take a gift test and discover their various gifting.
  6. The “Personnel Director” works with the students and ministry leaders to connect each person with an opportunity for meaningful ministry. Some ministry opportunities do need the pastor to sign off on a person’s involvement.

Best Practice for Involving People

What I’ve described is the way to get started. But, an order is only sustained with constant effort. How did my best constant effort look?

  1. I”d annually teach/preach a series about Christian Service. This teaching involved at least three weeks of consistently aiming at the target of involving people.
  2. On the last Sunday of this series, the various ministries of the church set up booths presenting their ministry and asking for volunteers.

It works! The first time we did this, our system was overwhelmed. We had far more volunteers wanting to serve than places to put them to work. We learned and did not make that mistake again.

Notice, everything I’m describing happens systematically and repetitively. Neither evangelism, disciple-making nor involving people should be a “one-off.” These are things you should be doing over and over.

System! Remember Jotham prospered. Jotham ordered his ways. The two are connected.

I’m interested in your experience in establishing sustainable systems in these three areas of ministry. This week, my reading has reminded me of the importance of learning from people who are following what the business world would call “best practices.”

What have been your best practice for evangelism, disciple-making and involving people?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Daily Bible Study

A survey cited in a recent Ministry Currents asked, “What do Bible owners know about the book?” The results were frightening, to say the least of those who study daily.

82% say the idea that “God helps those who help themselves” is taken directly from the pages from the Bible.bible-1149924_960_720

66% say there is no absolute truth.

63% cannot name the four Gospels.

58% do not know Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount.

48% do not know the book of Thomas is not in the Bible.

39% do not know Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

30% do not know there were 12 apostles.

Church attendance does not translate into Bible knowledge. It is as if we lived in a land where the Bible was out-lawed. In truth, we are so blessed that we take the Bible for granted.

This is a questioning age. Our culture constantly challenges. Scientific boundaries have long since been stretched. We are an enquiring culture that is constantly seeking new revelation. Yet this questioning climate has seldom carried over to the desire to study God’s Word. It is not knowledge as long as it is limited to the black backed book gathering dust on the coffee table. Another addition to the daily habits of a successful Christian should be daily Bible study.

question-mark-2123967_960_720Why the lack of Bible knowledge?

  1. Sometimes we preach milk without meat. Sermons requiring no thought from the listener. Too often, I have served up irrelevant fluff that does not inspire a hunger for a more personal relationship with God’s word. Our ministry should create a desire in the listener to know more about the Bible. I have an informational list of topics in a previous blog,Identify the Destroyers, that I try to preach every year so that I can reach a variety of individuals. Relevant teaching will also encourage further study of the Word of God.
  2. Second, our generation is captivated by style over substance. To be entertained is more important than to have truth revealed. This has created a desire in leadership and laity for flair and flamboyance. Sometimes I feel like the preacher I heard about who had written a notation on the margin of a certain part of his sermon notes that said, “Weak point, holler loud!”
  3. Third, there is often little structured effort to teach. The role of pastor and teacher are basically the same. The pastor has a mission of teaching the people the principles of truth.

Bible Example of Daily Study

Acts chapter seventeen finds Paul and Silas in Berea, having fled Thessalonica under cover of darkness. In Thessalonica, they had left behind jealous Jews who had started rumors that troubled the entire city. The disciples’ experience among the Bereans would prove to be somewhat different. For in Berea, three noteworthy things would happen that would make the results in Berea unlike those in Thessalonica:

The Bereans openly listened and then compared what Paul taught to the scriptures. The Bereans wanted to know FOR THEMSELVES that what Paul said was the truth. They were not challenging him, but were serious about their salvation. When the Bereans’ daily study revealed no contradiction between the scripture and Paul’s teaching they believed Jesus to be the Christ and obeyed the teaching of the apostle.

Today many people do little examination of the scriptures. We go from hearing to emotion based commitment without study or examination. Thus our beliefs are weakened because they are based on what the pastor said rather than what the powerful Word of God says. The strength of daily Bible study is, it creates in a person’s mind the concrete knowledge of whom they are in Jesus Christ. Nothing else can accomplish what consistent study can.

The Importance of Bible Knowledge

Additionally, one challenge is grasping the possible usefulness of words written over 1900 years ago. Yet one cannot use principles he or she does not know. This knowledge only comes through consistent study. Look at the uses of Bible knowledge, and perhaps it will encourage study.

  • Answer Questions
  • Prepare for Evangelism
  • Receive Patience and Comfort from the Scriptures
  • Be Approved by God

Study is not an option. The imprisoned apostle asked for books even as he knew his death was imminent (II Timothy 4:13). His instruction to Timothy, his son in was that he give attendance to reading. Study was a priority. It has always been so for those who significantly affected the religious world.

Daily Bible Study is one of those essential things. If a saint of God will dedicate time to study during every day of their life, the long-term result will amaze. As I have found for myself, studying the Word of God will change circumstances, mindsets and people. Please share with us your positive stories of when bible study changed your life!

Lastly, I have further resources on “Daily Study” available in my book, Daily Things of Christian Living.

daily

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 Guilty of a Single Cell Mindset?

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

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

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

Choosing to Become a Member

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

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

Fearing the Newcomer

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

How do you change this “single cell” culture?

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

newcon1-600x461 (1)

What is working for you?

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

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

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

Resources for New Convert Care

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

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

 

 

Guest Post – Which Kid Will be a Leader?

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

To that end . . . Blog pic me

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

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

Carlton L. Coon Sr.

carltoncoonr.com

carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

__________________________________________

Young leaders need a good book

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

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

Actually, every leader needs a good book

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

I wish there had been an Uncle Vince years ago

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

Some leadership principles in Uncle Vince . . .

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

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

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

Don’t put it off

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

To your leadership success,

Bill L Jones

Email:  bjgray67@yahoo.com

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

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

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. 

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!