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.

daily

 

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. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Invigorate Your Vision

 Invigorate Your Vision

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

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

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

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

 

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

The Blue Light Isn’t So Special

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Review prior week’s lesson: Disciplined to Greatness

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

Things You Must Know

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

Issac D’Israeli, 1834

 

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

A.                 Excellence is a “God thing.”

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

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

II.                 Excellence is a “God thing.”

A.                 God does the things He does with excellence.

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

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

B.                  God desires excellence by His people:

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

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

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

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

2.                   The word means to “super abound.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

B.                  Examples:

1.                  Ashley – guitar

2.                  Michael – illusion

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

4.                  Carrie Cook – crochet

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

6.                  Sis. Coon – album

7.                  Karla Cook – seamstress work

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.              I’ve written nineteen books

15.              Excellent woodwork and carpentry – John Curtis along with others

16.              School teachers, managers, business people, musicians, singers who can hit a note and understand the different between tenor, alto and soprano

17.              Ladies who are exceptional mothers and house-wives; men who are extraordinary fathers and providers.

18.              Maestros of the kitchen – banana pudding, biscuits, etc. .

C.                  Fearfully and wonderfully made – distinct – not alike, but every single excellence can be of service to the community, the church and to the cause of Jesus Christ.

A poem captures the concept of being excellent in your distinction:

IT CAN BE DONE:

If you can’t be a pine on the top of the hill,

Be a scrub in the valley–but be

The best little scrub by the side of the rill;

Be a bush if you can’t be tree.

If you can’t be a bush, be a bit of the grass,

And some highway some happier make;

If you can’t be the muskie, then just be a bass-

But the liveliest bass in the lake!

If you can’t be a highway, then just be a trail;

If you can’t be the sun, be a star,

It isn’t by size that you win or you fail–

Be the best of whatever you are.

…Scrapbook

IV.             Excellence is not luck or being born with talent, though the latter certainly can be of benefit. Excellence is based on focus, learning and applying oneself to excel.

A.                The concepts that produce excellence are consistent whether one is bent toward electronics, academics, music or woodwork.

1.                  Ecclesiasties 9:10 Whatever your hand findeth to do – do it with all thy might. (might = vigor, ability)

2.                  Work is the true elixir of life. The busiest man is the happiest man. Excellence in any art or profession is attained only by hard and persistent work. (Sir Theodore Martin)

B.                In Jim Collins book Good to Great which is about how corporations become great he talks of what he calls:  The Hedgehog Concept. The term hedgehog comes from an ancient Greek parable with contrasts “the fox who knows many things,” with the hedgehog who “knows one thing.”  The hedgehox is focused on finding a bit of food, the fox bounds about – covering much ground.  Collins says “great companies” have a hedgehog approach.

1.                  What does that have to do with excellence for God: Everything! Those who attain excellence will be to a great degree:  hedgehogs. In essence, they will “know one thing.”

2.                  In being great for God, the following questions have to be asked:

1.                 What is a thing that I can be great at?

2.                 What is a thing that can produce a “return on investment” for the Lord’s work?  A “return on investment” is measured as –

(1)              Getting visitors to church
(2)              Seeing people converted
(3)              Assisting in the personal growth of others
(4)              Impacting service to the church and community
(5)               Disciples for Christ.

3.                   What do I have a passion to do and accomplish?

3.                  The answers to those three questions that are included in the student handout define what the “hedgehog” – one thing should be.

4.                  The Hedgehog Concept that leads to greatness is not a vision or strategy, but an understanding.  An understanding of what we can do, right now with what we possess, our talents and abilities.

C.                  A further point drawn from Good to Great  – excellence looks dramatic but it is actually organic and cumulative.  This is – “the teacup #12 concept.”

1.                  Teacup #12 at Silver Dollar City – has no governor to limit the speed.

1.                  You can get the teacup spinning at what is a dizzying speed.

2.                  Things get to moving so fast – and from the inside it feels dramatic, from the outside it looks fast.  It is fast!

3.                  But the speed is actually the cumulative effort of eight hands on the wheel in the middle – moving in the same direction, in concert – “over and over and over.” 

2.                  Excellence is not the result of a single defining action, there is no grand program, not a lucky break or miracle moment. Excellence is a result of doing the same thing over and over again – going in the same direction, all energy focused on the one thing!

 

 

 

Practical application:

    1.           Decide what it is that you wish to excel in. Don’t become unfocused. None of us do everything well. To discover what one is “not” to do is a high point of life.
    2. Associate with those who excel at something. Don’t be intimidated by excellence, but engage excellence.
    3. Assessment:
      1. Teachers – listen to yourself teach.
      2. Preachers – listen to yourself teach.
      3. Singers – listen to a recording of yourself singing; particularly when aiming to do as well as some other person.
    4. Practice – makes perfect . . . not true . . . Perfect practice prepares for perfect perfomance.
    5. Excellence:
      1. Unless it is an absolute necessity, don’t try to do a thing that is not a strength. Me cooking Sunday lunch.
      2. We won’t do what we are not capable of . . .
    6. Connect to people who excel – pick their brain, listen to them . . . they are reading books – they are watching TED, looking at Youtube videos on “how” to do a thing. Ask questions: (1) What are you reading now? (2) Can you show me or tell me how you do that? (3) Would you take this audio of me singing or speaking and critique it? Don’t tell me I’m good – tell me what might have improved on.

 

 

 

Toward Next Week:


 

 

Tools to begin your journey of excellence!

I am gifted at (list three things you and at least two other people have expressed you to be good at):

  • ____________________________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________________

 

Answer the hedgehog questions:

  • I can be great at: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

    1. ______________________________________________________________________________
  • I can produce a “return on investment” for the Lord’s work by: _______________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

    1. ______________________________________________________________________________
  • I have a passion to accomplish the following:   __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

From your answer to those three questions, what do you envision as a focus for “being great for God.”

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources that may help you seek to excel:

Overdrive is a free app available to anyone who lives in Greene County and has a library card.  Overdrive allows you to check out books, audiobooks and training videos for phone and tablets. Many of the recommended books are from the Greene County Library.

Tom Peters book (available on audio) – In Search of Excellence

Jim Collins book (available on audio) – Good to Great

James Kouzes and Barry Posner’s book (available on audio) – The Leadership Challenge

Chuck Swindoll book – Living Above the Level of Mediocrity

Florence Littauer book – It Takes So Little to Be Above Average

Carlton Coon book – If Everybody Here Were Just Like Me . . . What Kind of Church Would This Church Be?

The most important thing in life is to live your life for something more important than your life.

Philosopher William James

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Evangelistic Sermon – There’s More, Theo . . . There’s More! (Acts 1:1)

(Note:  Our Sunday schedule at Calvary is somewhat different.  It includes a short, no more than fifteen minute evangelistic message.  Audio can be heard at Springfieldcalvary.church. On January 3, 2016 I began a new adventure of preaching through the book of Acts.)

There’s More, Theo . . . There’s More!

190606_156538707732577_4194911_nActs 1:1 1 The former treatise (the former treatise refers to the book of Luke) have I made, O Theophilus, (the word – Theophilus means “lover of God.” Theophilus has a good name. In Luke 1:3 – Luke refers to him as “most excellent Theophilus.”  This was a term used to speak of someone in Roman government.  In the Bible, it is used to speak of one who was a governor.  Theophilus was a person of significance, a decision maker, a governmental leader. He would not have been an average citizen of his community.  Theophilus – this person of significance is interested in what Jesus did and continues to do.) of all that Jesus began both to do and teach,

  1. A detail to not overlook as one begins to read the book of Acts – The book of Acts has a specific recipient – Theophilus.
    1. Imagine being Theophilus receiving your the mail and in it there is this document we now know to be the book of the Acts of the Apostles.
    2. Picture reading these accounts and doctrinal statements for the very first time.
    3. What I’m describing would have been Theophilus experience. I’ve tried to read the book of Acts imagining myself to be Theophilus.
  2.  I don’t think Luke sent this to Theophilus by chance, nor was it an accident.
    1. Theophilus had already read what Jesus began to do and teach – I have an idea that Theophilus made such a “to do” over what he learned from Luke’s story of the life of Christ, that when Luke finished up this work – He knew just who he wanted to send this book too.
    2. Theophilus had learned . . . and Luke had an idea that Theophilus wanted to know more.
    3. So now Theophilus gets to read more . . . to know more about the continuation – to discover the story of Jesus does not end with the crucifixion and resurrection.
  3. I mentioned two things as we read the text:
    1. The name Theophilus means “lover of God.” Theophilus is a good name and let’s just say that the name fit the man. Theophilus was already a “lover of God,” before he got the gospel of Luke or the book of Acts.
      1. Do you know that you can be a lover of God and not even be saved. To love God – the idea of God – in abstract is what many people do.
      2. Jesus even addressed this a bit when He asked a group one day, “If you love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:5).
      3. Theophilus was a “lover of God.” A
    2. Based on the term “most excellent” Theophilus that Luke uses in beginning of Luke 1:3 it would seem Theophilus was a man holding an important position within the Roman Empire.
      1. Imagine, me sending a letter to the governor of the state of Missouri about happenings right here in Springfield and in our church.
      2. It was such a person that Luke was writing too. Theophilus was not an ordinary citizen. He would have been “somebody.” Do you know it’s ok for us to expect that there be some people who are “somebody” with an interest in what we preach and teach?
      3. The interest in Christianity, the events of the book of Acts and the overall Pentecostal experience is not relegated to the “have nots.”
  4. Luke had somebody interested . . . I mean really interested. No wonder, he would write “O Theophilus, I wrote . . . but I’m writing again . . . there is more to tell.”
    1. God seeks for those who are receptive to a new thing in the present moment, not restricted by prior experience with God. He was a “lover of God,” he had received and read the gospel of Jesus Christ written by Luke – Theophilus apparently wanted to connect with the continuation. A continuation that included:
      1. Further discovery of who Jesus is.
      2. Path to a way of salvation for the vilest of sinners.
      3. Power ministry where diseases were healed even when Jesus was no longer there in person to pray for them.
      4. Deliverance from the control of demonic spirits when Jesus was not there in person to cast out the unclean spirit.
    2. Theophilus – there is something big going on. I want to tell you about it. I’m telling you because I’d like you to experience it for yourself.
  5. Every Luke looks for a Theophilus. When they find such a one they connect and connect and connect some more.
    1. The absolute sponge, receptive, hungry to learn and experience more. Life is too short and there are too many receptive people to pour the water of the gospel on old hard heads that reflect rather than absorb.
    2. Theophilus did not represent what has commonly been called a “back-slider.”
    3. Theophilus represented the cutting edge of the future; possibilities abounded in Theophilus.
    4. He was not a retreaded Jew requiring an argument to convince him of who Jesus was.
      1. He came a dry sponge ready to receive.
      2. He had read a gospel – what Luke calls what Jesus “began” and now he is ready to take hold of the continuation.
  6. I’m looking for some like Theophilus – some who would say, “just call me Theo” . . . today
    1. Not those who are content to live in Luke or some other gospel without personal experience – no book of Acts – no Holy Ghost encounter.
  7. Sunday morning – book of Acts altar call.
      1. Dry sponges
      2. Those receptive to entering the story of the New Testament as participants rather than historians. There is a declaration in you – don’t just tell me the story; let me live it.
      3. “Lovers of God” – Theophilus who want to become “experiencers of God.”

 

 

Be Great for God – (Lesson 1) Disciplined for Greatness

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

 

Be Great for God – Lesson 1
Disciplined to Greatness

Must Know

Discipline is a non-negotiable for greatness for God.

None are born to greatness. History is filled with people who were born with a proverbial “silver spoon in their mouth,” but amount to nothing. It is not simply being a prodigy. Having exceptional aptitude may allow one to have more potential than others, but if that exceptional aptitude is not disciplined there will be no excellence.
I suggest that each person here can “Be Great for God” in some way and in some thing.
I. There is a perpetual essential discipline of the basics.
A. Someone came into the room where Pablo Casals, the famous musician, was practicing. His visitor was utterly astounded to see him practicing the scales on the cello. The scales are some of the most elementary concepts in music.
B. The visitor asked, “Why are you bothering to spend your time with something so simple as the scales?”
C. Casals answer: “The problem in playing the cello lies in getting from one note to the next. That is why I must always be practicing the scales!”
D. Casals was saying – you never get past the foundational principles and most elementary things of life.

II. Each thing in life has some basic unavoidable concepts.
A. These concepts are things one cannot avoid, nor can one go beyond. The person who excels in higher math – advanced calculus or trigonometry – does not advance to the point of no longer needing the basic principles of addition, subtraction, multiplication and division.
B. Teachable point: One builds on the basics; but can never avoid the basics or eliminate them.
C. What we discuss with this will be meaningful for the remainder of your life.

III. There are three broad aspects of basic spiritual discipline:
A. Denial of the flesh.
B. Serving God, His church and the community we are part of. Over the past few weeks I’ve dealt with this topic to some measure.
C. Intimate ongoing personal fellowship with God. This begins with spending time in His word and spending consistent devotional time in prayer. It also includes His word. The BREAD (Bible Reading Enriches Any Day) chart is a good way to start this.

IV. Be Great for God – discipline your spiritual life.
A. Catching the sense of this . . .
1. Reader Acts 1:12-13 – Pentecostals were daily in prayer.
2. Reader Acts 2:42
3. Reader Acts 3:1
4. Reader Acts 4:31
B. These four readings are a sampler that  gives the sense of what is in the book of Acts. Track through the book of Acts – it is as though there is almost a continuous prayer meeting going on.

C. A basic ingredient of being great for God – attainable by any person in this audience – is the discipline of prayer.

D. Regain Pentecost in your life by regaining spiritual discipline.

V. I’m challenging us to become a people of prayer. To become a book of Acts church with corporate prayer and individual prayer. This is the path to excellence.

A. Prayer – The when of prayer. This can be negotiated, but for me it seems to work best early in the day. 15-30 minutes each morning.
1. Read Romans 12:1 – bodies a living sacrifice. Notice that most of the postures of prayer are postures of submission. Kneeling, lying before the Lord in worship, or our hands up in surrender.
2. Presenting our bodies as living sacrifices early in the day makes us less accessible to worldliness and temptation from Satan throughout the day.

B. Prayer – the length of time – this is not something to specify. Each of us are different places in life – so the time in prayer differs. I will observe that the time given to focused prayer grows as one lets the discipline of prayer take root in their life.

C. Easily used models to discipline your life in prayer:

1. Prayer clock – one minute on each of those 12 segments – rich, full prayer – 12 minutes. A copy of the prayer clock is in the “tools you can use” section of your lesson. (Teacher – review these 12 things briefly.)
2. A.C.T.S. model of prayer. For me I do this in journaling, but at times find myself using the same model in praying aloud.
3. There are many other models – these two suffice to get you started. If you find something that works better for you – use it.
D. Disciplined to corporate prayer. Most of what we read about in Acts is corporate prayer. Corporate prayer does not replace individual intimate conversations with God; but corporate prayer builds our prayer life and faith life. Corporate prayer at Calvary:
1. Pre-service prayer – three times each week
2. Monday night prayer on the first Monday of each month – youth and adult prayer;
3. Prayer chain – one Sunday of each month.

E. Keeping your prayer from becoming vain repetition – each day have a different focus for your prayer time (the goal is to have “great saints” involved in daily prayer at least 5 of every 7 days). In all prayer be specific in your prayers and be envisioning the future as prayer is fulfilled.
1. Monday – Pray for your children. Spiritual, mental, emotional, career, marriage, health, etc.
2. Tuesday – Pray for Northwest Springfield, the community where Calvary is located. Key people, the alderman/alderwoman; the police who patrol here; for a spiritual hunger to come to people; for the school across the street (teachers, students and workers); those who play and walk in the park; and for this church on this corner to have a vibrant attraction to people who travel past, the alcoholic, the angry, the addicted.
3. Wednesday – Pray for your extended family – parents, grandchildren, siblings, etc. Health issues, marriages, etc.
4. Thursday – Missions work – my personal focus is Boston and Seattle. I’m adding Switzerland to my list because it is the country from which my ancestor immigrated to the United States in 1776.
5. Friday – Unsaved acquaintances. Keep a prayer list. Call their names and intercede for their salvation. Perhaps in this time God will also direct you to make contact with one or two of these. Be sensitive to God in prayer. Always be sensitive to hear the voice of God while you pray.
6. Saturday – Weekend services at Calvary. (1) Evangelism (2) Pastor’s teaching/preaching (3) Take Root class (4) Sunday School teachers
7. Sunday – join in corporate prayer and pray as the spirit leads.

VI. Calling for commitment:
Be Great for God Prayer Covenant:
Pastor, I want to be part of the group who are “great for God.” I commit myself to use the tools of prayer 5 out of each 7 days over the next month. I also commit myself to being in pre-service prayer before 2 of every 3 services. Finally, I commit myself to be in Family Prayer the first Monday of the next two months.
__________________
Name

Tools You Can Use!

A.C.T.S. (originally from one of Bill Hybels books) model encourages prayer journaling or writing out one’s prayer. A single paragraph is devoted to each of four things:
A = Adoration (a paragraph celebrating some single one of the many excellences of the Lord Jesus Christ. A great resource to create a mindfulness of the adorable attributes of Jesus are the five books on the names of God by Charles Rolls.)
C = Confession (this includes confession of sin as well as confession of need.)
T = Thanksgiving (Thanksgiving is part of each day’s prayer.)
S = Supplication (A supplicant comes seeking help from one who is able to supply a need. What do you need that only Jesus Christ can supply?)

Praying the Prayer Clock
A second simple approach to becoming great in being disciplined for God. If one spends five minutes on each of these, an hour will have been spent in prayer. As a starting point devote 1 or 2 minutes to each component.

Daily Prayer Focus Guide
Monday – Pray for your children. Spiritual, mental, emotional, career, marriage, health, etc.
Tuesday – Pray for Northwest Springfield, the community where Calvary is located. Key people, the alderman/alderwoman; the police who patrol here; for a spiritual hunger to come to people; for the school across the street (teachers, students and workers); those who play and walk in the park; and for this church on this corner to have a vibrant attraction to people who travel past, the alcoholic, the angry, the addicted, the abuser.
Wednesday – Pray for your extended family – parents, grandchildren, siblings, etc. Health issues, marriages, etc.
Thursday – Missions work – my personal focus is Boston and Seattle. I’m adding Switzerland to my list because it is the country from which my ancestor immigrated to the United States in 1776.
Friday – Unsaved acquaintances. Keep a prayer list. Call their names and intercede for their salvation. Perhaps in this time God will also direct you to make contact with one or two of these. Be sensitive to God in prayer. Always be sensitive to hear the voice of God while you pray.
Saturday – Weekend services at Calvary. (1) Evangelism (2) Pastor’s teaching/preaching (3) Take Root class (4) Sunday School teachers
Sunday – join in corporate prayer and pray as the spirit leads.
Resources that could help:
Book – Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster
Book – Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney
Book – Daily Things of Christian Living by Carlton L. Coon Sr.
Book – Too Busy Not to Pray by Bill Hybels

 

The Four Worst Things I Have Seen In Church (and MORE IMPORTANT How They Could Have Been Better)

Evangelist Myers opens one of his messages with the statement, “The best of things that ever happened to me happened to me in church; the worst things I’ve ever experienced happened to me in church.” Unfortunately, his observations likely fit many people. It caused me to think of what I’d personally observed, and consider how each could have been handled in a better way.

 #1 – We were in “revival” in the deep south. It was less a revival than a series of services. One midweek, I’d  preached and the pastor was dismissing the congregation. Suddenly, the pastor went off – i mean really went off – raised voice, red face and veins popping – on going to play softball with a church league while the church was in revival. Turns out – one man of the 100 had missed revival to play softball.softball picture
I’m in sympathy with the pastor on the softball player’s incorrect priorities but  I’m also not in favor of everybody else in the church participating in the guy’s dressing down.  (I didn’t know who the fellow was, but almost everybody else knew exactly who the pastor was talking too.) It was humiliating for the fellow who had made a mistake and the pastor came off like a domineering shepherd.
 Jesus taught a better model of discipline.  I, even as a pastor, should go one-one-one to the person who is in error; addressing the concern with Biblical clarity. If there is no resolution of the matter then there are other steps of discipline. Confronting a thing directly gains respect; when one confronts it in a group the confrontation comes off as bullying. Those who bully people cannot also grow people.
Bad Experience #2 – While we were evangelizing in California, a small church had constant motion as people went to the rest-room.  Finally, the fellow leading the service called a “time out” to allow everyone who was thirsty or needed a bathroom break to go settle the matter. That service disintegrated into chaos with us never getting anything close to order.
A better way:  Practical things like how a bathroom visit affects others need to be taught to people at a time when there are not lost people present. The late George Glass Sr. often preached a sermon titled “Satan Among the Saints.”  Included in his description were those who left their pew to go to the nursery or to get a drink of water. He said such interruption does nothing except cause sinner people to be distracted.  Don’t take a time out – take time to teach practical things that matter.
Bad Experience #3 – Chained to Platform and Pulpit – I’ve seen this often. An opportunity is given for the church family to welcome guests but the pastor and other ministers stay on the platform and don’t go shake hands with guests. Are we afraid of people?  What an opportunity to connect.
The solution here is simple:  if guests are the most important people in the building then act like it.  Practice your smile and how to shake hands.  Get off the platform, go introduce yourself to people. We shepherds and church leaders are not “King Tut.”
ostrichBad Experience #4 Saddest of all is the church that has no affinity for newcomers as people who would be discipled. Looked over, talked over – ignored . . . and endangered.  John Wesley spoke of the danger of putting live babies in the arms of a dead corpse of a mother. New babies get special care in any home they are borne into – spiritual newborns deserve the same. God asked Job if he was around when the ostrich was created. The Lord spoke of the outstanding attributes of the ostrich; stands tall, runs fast.  God also spoke of the ostrich not caring for her young, laying eggs in the dust and not worrying whether or not wild animakenya african safari animal destination and travel beautiful animal eggs fresh_ostrich_hatching_eggs dangerous animal attacks news animal pictures
ls eventually destroyed the new born.   This catastrophe actually prompted me to write a book You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama.
I sense the church is getting serious about reaching the world.  We are constantly learning from each other. What are the saddest things you have seen and what might you have done differently?

Thoughts from a New Pastorate

I find myself in an interesting place.  I’m a new pastor – the last time that happened was 23 years ago.  Two observations from these few months:

  • A lot has changed . . .

  • Not much has changed . . .

People are the same, but the world is different. People’s commitment to church attendance is not as it was – but I plan to experiment with marketing Sunday evening and midweek just as aggressively as Sunday morning.  I’ll keep you posted on how it works.

 I’m not comfortable with less church – not if one is going to grow people and the church.  The schedule of teaching/preaching 3-4 times every Sunday is more wearying than I remember. My own approach Sunday morning we do education and evangelism, Sunday afternoon is a disciple-making class; Sunday evening is for edification of the saints and mid-week is to equip saints to be effective.

It does seem Jesus has blessed me with some neat ideas that are actually working to take advantage of the changes that have happened.

 Updated Guest Cards

 As I developed Calvary’s guest cards (http://SpringfieldCalvary.church) it occurred to experiment with how open guestsguests would be to receiving a “text message from the pastor.”  Alongside the line for the guest’s phone number, the question is asked, “Can Calvary’s pastor contact you via text message? Y N”  The response has been amazing. Of the guest cards returned well over 1/2 of them are open to communication via text message.

 Text messaging is quick and effective. This past Sunday a family of three were back at Calvary for a second visit. They had received a text message and hand-written card during the prior week.  Sunday afternoon I sent a text to a fellow who had visited Sunday morning with his two kids. He responded to my text  – requesting a Bible Study and volunteering to do any electrical and plumbing work around the church. Maybe I’m on to something?

 Facebook Marketing is Cheap and Works

 facebQuite often Calvary does a two day “boosted” ad on Facebook. The most we spend is $10 per day, usually only $5. The ad is focused on my Sunday evangelistic message. (Side-note:  The most vital church growth concept is to preach to sinners every single week – whether there is one sinner in attendance or a dozen.) My marketing target is not church attendees (though some do get gathered into the mix), but non church members. In targeting my ads about the “Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost” I targeted words and phrases like:  Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, depression, loneliness, etc.

 When a user of Facebook responds with a “Like” we then try to transition that to a like of Calvary’s FB page.  It does not always work, but quite often it does.  This expands the part of the community who are connected with Calvary.

I also ask our church members to “share” the Facebook ads we post. The shares end up on that person’s Facebook page and reaches people the ad would not otherwise get too.

 Preaching to Those I Have Not Yet Seen

 The ability to post Calvary’s preaching/teaching on the church website using Soundcloud is an easy win.  I’m grateful for Ashley Townsend, one of Calvary’s teens who volunteers to clean up the sound, post the audio to Soundcloud and make the appropriate link on the website. One of the most important concepts of any pastorate is involving people in meaningful ministry.  What Ashley does means a lot to her and perhaps more to me.  She accomplishes things I simply could not accomplish.

I’m convinced that the gospel works; that doctrinal teaching/preaching works – if we can only gain a hearing. Posting online allows people to hear me without having to risk walking in the doors of the church. It is amazing the number of listens one gets. Eventually, Calvary may use video and even be live with the preaching/teaching; for this moment and our current setting this works and it works inexpensively.

 I’m enjoying the journey!  Oh, I have a new book out just now:  Healthy Church – Start Here!  addresses the 18 reasons churches are not healthy and do not grow.  Common sense and proven solutions to get the church on-track and growing.  Take a look at Healthy Church – Start Here! The book can also be purchased at Amazon or for your Kindle.

Five Things I Learned from Leland Briggs

Leland Briggs may not be a household name any place except Grant Parish, Louisiana.  I’ve mentioned him before in LelandBriggssome other writing.  Leland Briggs is the pastor I want to be when I grow up.

For almost six decades, Leland Briggs has pastored in the village of Bentley, Louisiana. Leland Briggs deserves note because he has served with distinction, raising up a church of hundreds in a decidedly rural setting fifteen miles outside Alexandria.  When Jesus talked about shepherds he certainly had someone like Leland Briggs in mind. Even today, Pastor Briggs preaches more funerals in Grant Parish than any preacher – he is truly the pastor of an entire region!

A few things I’ve observed in him and would like to apply.

 1. A kind word is always appropriate.  Bro. Briggs allowed me to preach for him from when I was 17.  He always found something good to say about what I’d preached. Today, when I run into Bro. Briggs he will say something gracious that he knows has meaning and indicates he is paying a bit of attention to my life.  It may be  a comment about a Director’s Communique I’d written or some service where I’d preached.  Kindness is always in vogue and “kind people” are always above average.

 2.  Hard work, thankless hard work pays dividends.  Leland Briggs was (and I imagine is) a hospital visiting machine.  He was there early and often. I don’t like hospitals or hospital work; I’ve an idea Bro. Briggs doesn’t either.  Still he is there – day after day.  Early in the day; and then often making the 20 minute drive from his home several times in a given day.  If a person will work hard in the ministry of caring it impacts people more than can ever be known.

 3.  Giving visible, meaningful and constant respect to people when you don’t have to is wise.  I don’t know that Leland Briggs has ever dis-respected any person. For decades, he walked the tight-rope of pastoring quite a number of retired pastors, my Grandfather among them. Preachers are a hard-headed bunch and retiring from being a pastor does not make one’s head any softer. Leland Briggs  managed to pastor all those fellows without conflict, controversy or jealousy among them.  He honored them equally and gave to respect to men and women in public and private for their long service to Jesus’ work. Leland Briggs doesn’t have to do the things he does to respect people – but to do so is wise!

 4.  Connecting the present with the past is not a bad thing.  On the occasion when I see him, he will comment, “Bro. Carlton, I was just thinking tonight, your Grandpa would be so proud of you.”  He knows that the legacy of my grandfather as a church planter and effective pastor means a lot to me. Not only is what Bro. Briggs says a kind word but it is a word that connects the present with a meaningful past.

 5.  He pastors everybody, even if they are still a long way from the flock of God. Grant Parish has some scoundrels. I’m kin to some of them; Leland Briggs pastors them all.  Wandering sheep are still sheep and sheep that have never been enfolded are always potential. The treatment of people in a way that seems to expect the best out of them quite often pays dividends. I’m sure Leland Briggs knows more about the nastiness of the lost people in Grant Parish than they realize, yet he cares for them.  All are not yet saved, but a wise pastor acts like each person he has contact with is on the way to being saved.

 As I think about it, perhaps I’ve got a long way to go to be like Leland Briggs.  I’ve work to do!  I salute Leland Briggs – a man of meaningful impact.

The Busy Pastor Making More Disciples!

My job is not to preach alone!  I love to preach and am probably better at being a preacher than about anything else.  It has occurred to me that to be somewhat eloquent or thrilled by own sermonizing is not a good determination of my effectiveness.  Some uncomfortable questions: 

  •  How many were born again in our church last year? Three years ago? Five years ago?baby birds 

  • How many of those are serving God today?

  • Were those spiritual babies given the same care a baby in the natural received? Does a baby bird have a better chance of survival than one of my spiritual new-born?

  • There may be a nursery for the saint’s kids; is there a spiritual nursery outfitted for the born again?

  • Is it possible for a baby to starve in the presence of good healthy food? Would you feed a two-week-old a steak? Do we feed a two-week-old spiritual baby a ninety-minute Bible study on the silver sockets in the tabernacle in the wilderness? Would the new convert understand it and be built up? Did the newcomer get any more spiritual nutrition from last week’s Bible study or sermon than the two-week-old would get from the steak? 

 If no newborns survive can the flock of God ever grow?  Birth is exciting but a species can become extinct if none of those born grow to maturity.

sheep

What Now?

 

What can you do about what you just diagnosed? Think of three practical steps you could take to care and build up the newest members of your church. Consider specific roles needed in the church to best care for newcomers.

 Are you willing to invest as much effort into discipleship as you put into converting them? Hospitals are expensive and the pain of delivery intense, but the greater cost of time, money, and (in most instances) parental effort, comes after birth rather than before. This is the normal. Conversion is five percent; following up the decision to repent, be baptized, and receive the Holy Ghost is ninety-five percent.  Disciple-making does not just happen!

 Making disciples is everyone’s job and takes the entire church. The pastor is certainly in charge of the hospital, but it takes a full staff in the delivery room and a caring family at home to raise a child. Every pastor needs help to make sure a new convert isn’t stranded after a “delivery room” conversion experience.

 Jack Cunningham’s missionary friend had it right: “You can’t grow Jesus kingdom or the local church if you do not close the back door!”

 It is time to think and to apply.  The busy pastor’s way of making more disciples is part of the tools provided at my “Not an Ostrich Packet.”  I guarantee the resource’s benefit or your money back . . . and you keep the resources!  Now . . . here is the deal – if you don’t follow my plan to make disciples find some system and use it.  Create your own . . . but don’t let Jesus spiritual babies die.

You can provide care for the newcomers to the church!

How Non Super-Preachers Get Hands to the Harvest

Pastor James Carney Columbia, Mississippi

Pastor James Carney
Columbia, Mississippi

James Carney pastors a thriving church in central Mississippi. He has served as a district superintendent and on the Executive Board of the United Pentecostal Church. Carney is a keeper!

Less well known is his father. James’ daddy was a preacher-developing factory.  He pastored in the tiny burg where the name of the church is Stateline.  I don’t know if the elder Carney ever preached a camp-meeting or that the Stateline church ever had more than 175 people.  From that church and that man’s ministry came fellows like:

  • Jerry Wayne Dillon

  • Larry Webb

  • Jerry Jones

  • James Carney

and more than a dozen others.  Tens of thousands of converts will have come from the efforts of one man at the Stateline church straddling the border of Louisiana and Mississippi.

How did it happen.  James Carney tells me:

1. “Dad took an interest in young men with potential and invested himself in what he thought they could become.”

2. Validating the significance of the man of God as something one should hold in high regard and if possible desire to become.

3. Have an expectation of these being developed leaving to be educated, go into ministry and having no expectation of their returning to sit on the pews or teach a Sunday School class at Stateline.

Our most fertile field for changing the shape of the future are the men and women who will be licensed to preach.   There are things you can do to make an impact.

1. Establish a minister’s training class. Years ago Louis Green introduced Stan Davidson (now the district superintendent of Alabama) and me to Strong’s Concordance, Greek language, the writings of Charles Spurgeon and The Pulpit Commentary. That affected and continues to affect our lives. Marrell Cornwell has training class each Monday night for young preachers and leaders. He is focusing on getting people ready for the field.

 2. Over thirty years ago, men who are mostly now dead:  David Gray, Arthur Hodges Jr. and several others in Southern California launched the “Christian Service Training Institute” to equip those who circumstances hindered from attending Bible College. Christian Service Training Institute continues to this day. As a result of their focus on equipping . . . churches have been planted in Southern California and elsewhere. At least one other group has used the curriculum of the “Christian Service Training Institute” to establish their own cooperative effort. Perhaps your section or district could do something similar. The focus . . . the field.

 3. The late veteran pastor and church planter Jack Yonts developed training material known as “Passing the Mantle” that is available on DVD. Bro. Yonts focus was always on the field – winning the lost and then developing the very best of those won to become preachers of the gospel!

Our efforts to evangelize our world needs tunnel vision. A focus on the field – the whole wide world – are guardrails that keep me from straying. Would it be possible for you to be a catalyst to raise up laborers from your church or area?

 

Sermon: (Mother’s Day) A Child’s Desire for Mom

A Child’s Desire for Mom

Mother’s Day – my approach to big days or holidays is a bit different. These are opportunities to add more “Velcro” to get newcomers more closely connected to the church. In essence, my approach in preaching is not adversarial or overly aggressive but to give people something to think about during the coming days.

Text: John 19:25-28 25 Now there stood by the cross of Jesus his mother, and his mother’s sister, Mary the wife of Cleophas, and Mary Magdalene. 26 When Jesus therefore saw his mother, and the disciple standing by, whom he loved, he saith unto his mother, Woman, behold thy son! 27 Then saith he to the disciple, Behold thy mother! And from that hour that disciple took her unto his own home. 28 After this, Jesus knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the scripture might be fulfilled, saith, I thirst.

Mary had quite an intimate knowledge of Jesus.

1. Before His birth Mary had spoken or sang the magnificent worship recorded in Matthew.

2. She had cared for Him – had wrapped him in swaddling clothes and held him close to her breast.

3. Mary along with Joseph were concerned at His absence from their traveling group and along with the theologians astounded at His wisdom and insight when He was only 12 years old!

4. Mary had pressed Him into service at the marriage supper in Cana. At her behest He had instructed the servants to bring water. He turned it into wine.

5. Now . . . the child is desiring the “best possible” for His mother.

Children are more often converted than adults. In the simplicity of their faith quite often a child will be the first in a family to be converted. The influence of a child’s experience and their love for Jesus and their church invites their mother to the “best possible” life.

I don’t think any child who attends our church does not want their mother to attend with them.

Similarly, Jesus wanted the best for his mother:

· In Consideration of His Mother

· Aware of His mother’s overwhelming sorrow as she watches her son be unjustly executed.

· Jesus was acutely aware of her being “alone.” Joseph was dead. Mary was a widow.

The child spoke up seeking the best thing for his mother. He would not leave her alone or without any consideration. His directive to John was to take her in as though Mary were his own.

Mothers often pray for their children. On this occasion, it was a son interceding for His mother.

That is what I want to get us to today. On occasion, the child like faith and the uncomplicated perspective of a child finds a course that those who are older cannot find. How often a child, a youngster senses the value and the significance of God.

Today, we end different. I want us to pray as families, but in this instance I want children to pray for their mother. Move about the building and get with your mom if she here. If she is not here adopt a mother to pray for. We have several whose children are elsewhere.

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Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Finding what God is blessing and doing it, is more effective than praying, “God bless what I’m doing.” To do meaningful things in the harvest of the Lord ask:

What’s the current crop . . .

growing here in this field . . .

at our specific season?

Be wrong about your response to any of the next three questions and you are making a mistake in evangelizing your city.

  1. What is the current crop? The current crop in a retirement village in Florida is different than the current crop in Toronto.
  2. What is the available harvest in this specific town, city, village or community? The available harvest is unique to every locale.
  3. What is ripe right now? Is is backsliders, an influx of African immigrants or an arriving group of college students. Harvest does not all come ripe at the same time.

Think about this: across North America two interesting phenomena are taking place.

· Our skins are getting darker as a result of Hispanic, Asian and African immigrant.

· America is getting older. Many churches have youth ministry but few have an intentional ministry to elders in the church or outside the church.

In ignoring current reality, we can be like the disciples who visited the Samaritan village of Sychar (John 4). Jesus most intimate followers did not see the residents of the village before them as an evangelistic opportunity. James, John, Simon Peter and the others bought groceries but impacted no person with what they knew about Jesus. Eventually Jesus encouraged them to lift their eyes in order to see the harvest.

Responses to your moment:

1. Ask questions. Expand your vision to include people who are not like you. It was what Jesus did with the woman at the Samaritan well. Immigrants love to talk about their home. We all do. When I’m asked about my home state of Louisiana I’m almost always ready to talk.

2. Launch a Spanish speaking service. Bill Harden in Little Rock, Arkansas could not speak Spanish but he could hire a translator. He did! Today, a thriving Spanish speaking congregation is in Little Rock resulting from a non-Spanish speaking man’s vision.

3. Reach out to elders. Churches with an eye for effective ministry are launching outreaches for those near retirement age. The Tennessee district of the UPCI has a “Senior Camp Meeting.” For several years, Pastor Rudy Thiessen in Hillsboro, Missouri has had a Wednesday morning service oriented to elders.

Keep your focus on your field – this field . . . now . . . this crop . . . at this moment in time!

Who Else Wants to Focus on the Field?

Who Else Wants to Keep the Focus on the Field?

No farmer ever assesses the value of property by the condition of the barn. Oh . . . he may notice, but what he gives more attention to is the blackness of the dirt. pasture.jpg

Does the soil look fertile?

How prevalent are weeds?

Is the corn growing tall in the rows?

The focus is “on the field.” The new paint job on the barn is irrelevant if fields lie unplanted or the harvest not gathered. Two things seem to impact a church leaders’s focus on the field.

Distractions

A farmer got up in the morning to go gather his corn. As he started to the barn to get a sack he remembered that the tractor needed to be fixed. So . . . the farmer went to get tools to fix his tractor. Then he saw that the wood needed to be chopped. As he headed toward the wood pile the farmer noticed the horses were out of the corral . . . so he ran to catch the horses. While rounding them up, he heard his wife yell that the stove was not working. He started the day with the field on his mind but got distracted.

One can get so busy with “other” things that there isn’t time to focus on the field. Crisis evolves into crisis and at the end of a day little of worth is done.

Life can be action without accomplishment.

Remedy: Step away from life’s hectic pace and consider what is important for truly impacting the field.

Sloth

Solomon said sloth the rationale for a property owner not planting in spring-time. There is no harvest in unplanted fields. Where did you plant the seed of God’s word today? It has been said, “God’s greatest problem with laborers in his vineyard is absenteeism.”Church Planter Jimmy Toney told a fellow who was expressing a call to preach, “God hasn’t called you to preach. You don’t hold a job while your wife works. You laze around all day playing video games. God hasn’t called you because you’d be the first lazy person He ever called.”

Remedy: Laziness can be repented of. If you are lazy or trying to develop someone who is lazy it may be time to talk straight to them. To change may require asking someone to keep you accountable and to challenge the way you live life. Nothing of significance has been accomplished by a lazy person.

My book – Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask is a resource to benefit all aspects of ministerial development including maintaining focus.

Sermon – Orphan to Adoption – Benefit of Holy Ghost Series – #1

The Holy Ghost is the . . .Spirit of Adoption

(Note:  I will experiment with the interest level toward posts of notes from Sunday evangelistic sermons preached at Calvary UPC – Springfield, Missouri. http://springfieldcalvary.church/  Comments and suggestions welcomed.  A quicker response will come if you write me at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com.  I’m working with a new blog post software – there are some formatting challenges that will get better as we go forward.)

Text: Romans 8:15, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

Galatians 4:4-7, “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father. Wherefore thou art no more a servant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ.”

To be an orphan is a tragic thing. Around the world today there are almost as many orphaned children as the population of the entire United States. That word “orphan” does not portray the ugliness of such a child’s existence.

I. It means the child is without parents . . . or at least without parents who are in a position to be responsible . . . without a close family member . . . without anyone to provide that level of care that is needed.

A. The child is: disconnected, unprotected and there is none to provide. Alone, at risk and perhaps scavenging for survival.

B. The reality of orphaned children has long been a difficult challenge. Society has made all kinds of efforts to fix the problem:

1. For over 70 years (1860-1930) “Orphan Trains” came from New York City to Kansas bringing thousands of orphaned kids out of the city . . . hoping to find a family out west that would take them in.

2. Some of Charles Dickens most memorable novels were about wrote of the difficulties of orphan life in Victorian England.

3. In our own era . . . we have responded with foster homes . . . and foster parents . . . at times with great success . . . other times . . . well . . . unfortunately there have been other times.

C. There are facilities that try to become “home” . . . providing a sense of “parenting” to an orphaned child.

D. None of the things I’ve mentioned have been perfect solutions to what is a difficult situation. The best chance of any such child – the unprotected, alone and un-provided for is to have a family take the child in and make that child their own.

II. Around the world there are an abundance of orphans. In what would be known as third world countries 13,000,000 orphans who have lost both parents. These children are orphans because their parents’ have died of AIDS and other diseases, starvation, and war.

A. Such a child recognizes that they are lacking something . . . the desire to become part of a family is consistent.

B. *Use this again at the end+++++ In the Ethembeni House, an orphanage run by the Salvation Army in Johannesburg, there are 38 children 5 or younger.

1. When a woman who is a stranger enters the room, the children turn expectant faces to her: “Mama, mama,” they cry.

2. It is their hope! That this one becomes “Mama!”

C. That is a portrayal of what life is like in the day of an orphan . . . in most of our world. Survival . . . making ones own way . . . totally self-dependent . . . no one to look to . . . no trusted helper . . . instead somebody who would take advantage . . . Orphaned . . . alone.

Spiritual Orphans – disconnected, unprotected and no provision

1.1 The scripture uses the term . . . “spirit of adoption” a number of times. It also uses a Greek word for “orphaned.” Sitting in this room are men and women who are spiritual orphans.

1.2 It is a fate worse than being a physical orphan . . .

1.3 David captured where you are in life . . . (Psa 142:4 KJV) I looked on my right hand, and beheld, but there was no man that would know me: refuge failed me; no man cared for my soul.

 

It is appropriate to speak of those who are spiritual orphans – groveling in the trash looking for a few bites to help them survive

Self-protection . . . because there is nobody else to protect them. Sickness and diseased by life. Taken advantage of by predators – physical, mental and emotional.

God’s response to the reality of spiritual orphans . . . Paul would write: (Rom 8:15 KJV) For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.

1. Notice the message: ye have received the Spirit of adoption. The Holy Ghost is the “Spirit” . . . in this instance it is the “spirit of adoption.”

2. You did not always have this experience – there was a time when you had not been adopted . . . but you have received the spirit of adoption.

3. You received something that let you know you were no longer an orphan . . .

4. since you are no longer an orphan you no longer have to live like one . . . foraging, rummaging about . . . barely getting by.

5. You have received “the spirit of adoption” . . . quit living like an orphan and start living like a son.

C. Paul’s contrast: Ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear . . . His portrayal . . . spiritual orphans have a spirit of bondage . . . spiritual orphans are fearful . . . but his message to these readers . . . “You have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption.

Because you are adopted . . . you have every right to cry, “Abba, father.” There is something rather fascinating about that Aramic word . . . “Abba.”

1. Pronounce it for yourself, Abba: do you notice that it needs no teeth to say it?

2. It is the spiritual infant’s first attempt at speech; and what is more appropriate than to lisp the Father’s name.

3. Baby declaring relationship. You can be that baby . . .

John 14 is part of Jesus talking to the disciples just before to Gethsemane . . . Jesus promises His disciples the Holy Ghost

A. (John 14:16‑18 KJV) And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; {17} Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you. {18} I will not leave you comfortless: (orphanos . . . orphaned) I will come to you.

I’m not going to leave you orphaned – disconnected, self-reliant and without a defender.

I will come to you – the comforter, the Holy Ghost.

Just like at the orphanage in downtown Johannesburg, there are those here today: who are turning an expectant face . . . wanting to be able to say Abba . . . and the church is the mother of us all. Might they be looking for a mother as well – a church to take them in arms – “Mama, Mama.” When a stranger enters the room, the children turn expectant faces to her: “Mama, mama,” they cry.

If you are interested in knowing more about the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ and how this can impact your life, please contact me through the website or by email at carltoncoonsr@gmail.com.

If you would like to know more about my own process for preaching to the lost take a look at the book Masterful Preaching. It is available at CarltonCoonSr.com.

Angry Leader Warning!

A dear friend preached his midweek message. On the way home his wife said, “Hon, all you did tonight was take your frustrations out on the people.” Folks that just won’t work. Angry leaders are a danger to themselves and others.angry picture

Perhaps you are familiar with the story of a leader who had become something of a worshipper of Jehovah. His commitment was incomplete; perhaps because he liked attention and was comfortable with a polytheism. In a moment  of self-interest the  leader decided to erect a monument to how he thought worship should be done.  By the way, those moments that begin with “self-interest” are dangerous in many ways.

When the work was done, the monument stood tall; and the leader instructed everyone to give allegiance to his way of doing things. No questions were permitted and as this leader did business using the age old pattern, “My way or the high way.”

Well, as often happens with a leader – there were people who had other ideas about how things should be done.  These people resisted the leader’s directive. As the story goes, they resisted without really manifesting a bad spirit about it all.  They were willing to take whatever discipline the leader felt was needed.  These resistors to the leader’s self-interest were doing what they felt to be the right thing.  Actually, they were doing the right thing!

Their behavior hit the leader’s button – you know the one all leaders have – the bright red “Now I’m MAD!” button.  His application of “church discipline” was swift and severe.  If they were going to behave in such a manner he would permanently remove them from the choir.  His anger was so hot that he threw caution to the wind.

The anger of a leader resulted in fall-out beyond the target of his “unholy mad.” Some of his followers who had always been able to handle the heat didn’t survive his being mad. Do you recognize the leader Nebuchadnezzar and his anger at three Hebrews? Nebuchadnezzar’s anger cost him followers!  Has your anger ever cost you followers?  You may have even been right in decision but wrong in spirit – either way costs.

Not only was there the cost of those who died, but can you imagine the emotions of the family and friends of those who died because of their leader’s irrational anger.  I wonder if others became less willing to commit to work on his behalf?  I’ve known leaders who were emotionally volatile – my response – to keep my distance.fiery furnace

Leadership and anger is rarely a good mix.  We all have our hot buttons; certain things stir our emotions. An effective leader chooses to respond based on something other than the heat of the moment.  Things leaders like Nebuchadnezzar should consider:

1. Be aware of your emotional self. Know when you are angry; determine what has you angry and do your best to step away from the heat of it.

2. Do not deal with volatile issues in the heat of emotion.  Let your emotions cool a bit; give yourself time to think and then respond appropriately.  Mike Williams of Apopka, Florida gave me wise counsel regarding my responding to a difficult situation, “Carlton, don’t add fuel to the fire.”

3. Outbursts of anger have peripheral costs.  Nebuchadnezzar lost people committed to him and his leadership because he reacted with such intensity.  Consider the family and children of the person who has made you so angry. Is your angry response worthy of the cost there will be to those people?

4. Deal with “anger provoking” things in a private and straight-forward manner.  Jesus taught us to talk to an individual rather than to a congregation.  I’ve watched leaders kill a good revival spirit by feeling the need to berate some person who had annoyed them.  Face-to-face confrontation is not always comfortable but it is healthy and much wiser than taking one’s frustrations out on an entire church.

Sometimes leaders need “anger management” classes for themselves.  If you do – for the sake of HIM, HIS WORK, HIS CHURCH & HIS PEPLE don’t be so proud as to not get help.  Don’t let heated emotion limit your ability to influence others.  Perhaps you have recommendations of material that would have helped Nebuchadnezzar to have better dealt with his anger.  Please pass them on with your comments.

You Can Be Better than Winston Churchill!

“If only somebody in this church were a soul-winner.”

“If God would just send someone to haul kids to church we’d start a bus ministry.”

Sound familiar? Maybe you’ve said something similar. Actually the Lord has, he sent YOU to be a soul-winner, to get kids to church, to care for the lost and to focus on evangelism.

Evangelism Starts With the Pastor

winston churchillA while back an older preacher was discussing the ministry with a young pastor. I was allowed the opportunity to listen in. The elder was blunt with the kid, “You have to personally be engaged in reaching lost people.” The elder was something of a veteran. His name was Paul and he was communicating with Timothy who pastored the Ephesus First Church. I doubt Paul would be impressed with a full pastoral counseling schedule. “The fire of revival is birthed in the activity of evangelism.”

Never too big to win Souls

At a training Seminar, veteran church planter Wayne Huntley talked of  brothers he just taught a Home Bible Study. The man pastors a significant congregation . . . including numerous daughter churches, still Wayne Huntley does the work of an evangelist. One never grows a church so large that they are not to evangelize; no elected position replaces evangelism. A pastor who does the work of an evangelist develops people who reach the lost. 

How to Be More Effective Connecting With People Bible

By nature I am introvert.  I’ve come to accept this isn’t likely to change. For those similar to me, there are learned behaviors to develop.

Connecting with people is not dominating them. It was said of Winston Churchill that he interpreted the word “conversation” to mean – he was always up to bat, and it was everybody else’s job to field. That won’t work. You can become a brilliant conversationalist. Brilliant conversationalists aren’t brilliant, instead:

  1. They know how much people love to talk about themselves, so they let them talk
  2. They ask lots of questions.

With that as your guide you can connect with every person who walks through the door of the church. You can, “minister with your ears.”

As an introvert, an acrostic that helps me sustain a conversation is F.O.R.M.  Each initial represents something people are likely to be willing to talk about:

F = Family

O = Occupation

R = Religious perspective (This can get interesting)

M = Moment (What’s happening in their life today)

Action Items to Be More Effective

  • For some principles on connecting with people you may benefit from the secular book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, an updated version includes social media.
  • Memorize the acrostic F.O.R.M. as a pattern to sustain a conversation. 
  • Get into the community . . . have people in your church introduce you to each member of their family, or visit a work-place.
  • When someone visits church . . . particularly when you are the only fellow doing the work of an evangelist . . . immediately schedule a time to get better acquainted.
  • Get off the platform during church.
  • Be accountable for the evangelistic work you do. Till evangelism is a habit of life, why not be accountable to someone – perhaps mutually accountable – account for new personal contacts, Home Bible Studies, your weekly contacts to your prospect list.

When the opportunity comes hug the un-huggable . . . especially the one who smells really bad or is wearing mismatched clothes.

Speak to the ignored.

       Value every person you come in contact with.

God has given you to that city . . . so do the work of an evangelist.

Since I’m an introvert I need all possible help to be more effective.  If you have a similar temperament and have learned something that helps you connect to people – better than Churchill – please pass it on in the comments below.

Five Mud-holes a Church Service Gets Stuck and How to Unstick It

  It is a delight when a service flows that moves toward the objective of worshipping Jesus and the fulfillment of the intent of the Holy Ghost. 

   Several places often gum up a church service(Coaching Tip:  Don’t throw a lot of change on people at one time. Leaders find a way for a new thing to be someone else’s idea – experiment with their idea, give them credit, and if it works keep using it.)

   r12_mudhole

  Mud-hole #1 –  “Whosoever will” testimony time.  Testimonies celebrating Jesus never detract; it is NOT edifying when one windily talks of life difficulties eventually expressing, “somehow I know Jesus is going to  bring me through.”  Multiply such testimonies a few times and the service is stuck.    How to fix it:

 

Select testifiers and know what you are getting.  When you become aware of something God has done in someone’s life make note. Prep the person that you are going to have them share the testimony. To make it even more effective during a service, interrupt singing to hear the testimony or perhaps use the testimony as part of your preaching. 

Videotape testimonies. With an IPad and simple editing software a good quick hitting testimony can be offered.  Art Hodges uses this with having new converts tell their story in about two minutes.  You never know what a new convert is going to say!  It’s better that it be said to a camera than to the entire audience.

Use a microphone to manage testimonies.  The strategy here is to keep the microphone in your hand for those you call on.  If one waxes on, and on, and on, find a high spot or create one (clap your hands . . . give praise, “Everybody join this brother in praising the Lord”) and move on.  If the microphone is in someone else’s hand you can’t ease out of the testimony.

 

Mud-hole #2 – Unplanned Offerings – Some people are gifted at receiving an offering.  It was not my strength so my response was to rush through the offering.  At best, I’d limit the time given to what was a disjointed experience.  Late in our last pastorate, I learned a bit more about making an offering a form of “praise.”  The solution here is to PLAN AHEAD and lead people to take time to think about what they are doing as they brought their offering.

 

Mud-hole #3 – Announcements – “On the third Friday in February, there will be a baby shower for Sis. Hazel’s granddaughter Susan.  It will be at . . . selections for the baby can be made at . . ..”  The announcement begins being made the third weekend of December and is repeated for the next 9 weeks. So much is said that nothing is heard! Options (the first two take a  bit of time to train people):

A weekly bulletin

Monthly calendar that lists events happening in the next two months. 

Screen it!   If you screen it, don’t say it.

Have someone other than a preacher do the announcements at the end of service. You can use a lady, we did.  Missionary,  this is a place to involve a newer person because announcements don’t have to  be made from a platform. I used a different person (more often than not a lady) each month.  People liked it and Susan’s baby shower didn’t get in the way of a move of God.

Mud-hole #4 – Talking before each song and singers not being in place.  A time ago, between Alaska and the Gulf of Mexico the praise leader felt it necessary to talk A LOT between each song. It was so bad I began timing how much we sang compared to how much the person talked.  He talked much more than we praised Jesus. If there was ever a flow of the spirit it didn’t last long.

Pastor this is where you “Coach” and tell the person, “Let me show you a way to do this a little better.  I want you to try it this way next service.  Don’t talk any, but addGreenbay packers cap two more songs.  We will have time for the songs.”  After that service tell the person how wonderful it was and to try it again the next service.  

Best general rule:  no talking between songs & no talking before singing a solo.  In neither case is the person there to talk, they are there to sing praises to our Lord.

Meet before every service and have a plan. A person must be in place BEFORE it is time to sing. A person coming from the back after being called on is disruptive.  My principle was, “if you were not in place we just went on to the next thing.” 

 

Mud-hole #5– Using too many different voices in a service, particularly too many preachers.  One church used 7 different preachers to take care of a part of the service.  Each gave a mini-sermon and none connected.  It was a muddy mess.

Don’t feel guilty for not putting people up front who do not edify.  You are responsible to the Lord Jesus for a service that flows. 

Coach those you do use, to do what they are on the schedule to do.  It is not time for their latest revelation about one of Ezekiel’s prophecies. 

 

By the way, if someone is called of God to preach, they need to be sent to preach. 

God has not called them to take the offering or lead in taking prayer requests. 

Get preachers preaching – a jail service, nursing home or better yet a preaching point 20 minutes away. 

Services will flow better and those called to preach will fulfill their call.

Before Christmas sale:  A super packet for one who has to teach the Bible and develop people – Five sets of lessons, three sets of student handouts – “INSTANT KNOWLEDGE”  http://truth-publications.com/?p=943

 

 

 

Six Options to Establish Christmas Traditions at Your Church

For years I “struggled” with the joyous season of Christmas.  My challenge:  from Thanksgiving until January 2 we seemed as “carnal as dirt.”  Christmas sales, banquets, parties, stuff!  Tfile0002091259722here seemed to be a notable decline in spiritual focus.  I’m confessing here . . .it was probably just me; maybe I was the one who became carnal.

After fifteen years of pastoring, and fretting through each Christmas I decided to embrace reality. If nothing else, the fact that it took fifteen years  for me to learn and adjust shows my stubbornness.  My adjustment was to try to relax and make something positive of the season. Creating repeated events that become part of the culture and tradition of the church is beneficial.

The following items are not all my own.  I’ll direct you to the people who carried them out.

1. “Christmas at Truth”  was an annual event.  Of course if your church’s name is “The Sanctuary” or whatever, the event would be “Christmas at the Sanctuary.”  Christmas music, decor, an evangelistic Christmas message, perhaps a sermon on  a character of Christmas (an ebook is in n development.  In a few days look for the book of sermons:   “Characters of Christmas”  at Truth-Publications.com).  ):

Christmas is a time to preach hope; reach to the lonely and to make point of touching those who experienced sorrow during the year.   Jesus is the hope bringer.  “Christmas at Truth” was the Sunday we received our Christmas for Christ (CFC) offering and commitments that would be used to help church planters.  If you are not familiar with CFC this year’s CFC videos can be seen at   http://namupci.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=39&Itemid=167

.  If you are not part of a United Pentecostal Church (63% of our UPCI churches give an offering to CFC, as your church does so please route your offering through your church) but would like to invest in helping plant churches, you can contribute by texting “Give to CFC” to 817.890.5984 and following the instructions that come to you.  You can give any amount.

2. Unwrapping Jesus’ gifts – In Moss Bluff, Louisiana (Pastor Tim Mahoney) the  longstanding tradition is for each family to bring a wrapped gift with their Christmas gift for Jesus.  These wrapped giftVarious from Ipad 240s are collected on the platform – creating quite a stack.  As part of the service the children are invited to the platform to open the packages.  Of course kids love tearing into the wrapping.  The paper flies and it is a good time. Lots of pictures are taken. This is a great tradition.  I can see this catching on!

3. Family/Pastor Time – Pastors Brent and Bill Coletharp have a night where each family comes forward bringing a gift for Jesus.  The pastor(s) meet the family in the aisle, speaks with, prays for and expresses appreciation specific to that family. Elder Coletharp says it’s the one time when he gets to speak with and pray for each family as a group. I’ve seen the tears and laughter of the people. Impacting and memorable!

4.  Christmas Cards for Christ – These are envelopes numbered from $1 to $100.  Each individual takes an envelope from the altar. The selection is based on their financial ability.  Envelopes from $1 to $20 are reserved for children and teens.  This offering totals $5,150! Present the envelopes during a mission focused night in late November/early December; then on a Sunday shortly before Christmas accept people’s gifts.  This works! If you’d like to do Christmas Cards for Christ your district North American Missions director will have them; or contact Shawna Hobson at North American Missions  – shobson@upci.org.

5. Pastor Jason Cox (Chicago) makes Christmas has each family come to the front with their offering, and a piece of a puzzle that covers North America.  He also has them light a candle representing an unchurched city. It denotes the fact that church planters “light the world.”  I’ve experienced the impact of this.

6.  Children’s Emphasis – More people visit church at Christmas than Easter. Add to the guest count by having some component of Children’s program. Kids programs are always a trip. My objective for these events is not a host of new converts but establishing new connections.

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Now back to the message.  Work the room during such events.  GET OFF THE PLATFORM and go meet people! As important as the tradition – follow-up, follow-up, follow-up!  By the way, the follow-up cannot wait till after January 1.

I know many of you have traditions that have served the church well.  Please pass these on via a comment below.

Running Today’s Race

Veteran evangelist Greg Godwin introduced me to the writing of Glenn Clark.  In Clark’s Fishers of Men he tells the story of a former track champion now involved in ministry. The fellow was being challenged by the long term matters and not seeing the way forward for the long haul.  Clark responded to the fellow’s concern:

I turned to the track captain-who, by the way, was the state champion in the low and high hurdles-and said, “Remember the secret that has helped you win many a hard-fought hurdle race in the past. As you left the marks, you didn’t look at the long row of hurdles ahead of you. If you had, you would have become discouraged before you had run ten yards; but you confined your attention to the one hurdle that was directly in front of you. And the only races you won were races where you ran each hurdle as though it were the last.

Early this week several thoughts come to mind: 

1. As you leave the blocks, know that the race of life is long.  Life is not a sprint; pace yourself. I’ve an acquaintance who has never had a single year that did not have significant drama. In truth, the drama of life is mostly self-imposed.  Regardless of the source of life’s “drama” it is still exhausting.  Live for the long haul and not the short term drama.

2. Know the race you are involved in has several obstacles. The obstacles may be human conflict, discouragement, bad choices you make for yourself and all the other things you live.  Just know the hurdles are there – you may not see them yet – but they are there.

3.  FOCUS on the next hurdle rather than all of the hurdles.  No more important word than “Focus.”  Today, what is the immediate hurdle before you?  That hurdle gets all the attention!  Now think about what matters could be confusing your focus on that next hurdle?  Take back your focus!  On one occasion Paul said, “This one thing Ifile000110469373 do.”  For those of us who are a bit “attention deficit disordered” and have days where it seems that our mind is the ball in the pinball machine the concept of “this one thing I do,” is vital. 

4.  Run the next hurdle as though it were the last. We can live always thinking about some future date when we will finally give it our best!  Give this week your very best!  Give it your all!  Get over this hurdle, do it now!

sw_LacrosseScore_cs2095565.  Clark did not say it, but you have to run YOUR race!  There are others running today as well, those can become distractions. To be effective, a hurdler must focus on what is before him rather than on the runner beside him. Important – each person in each setting has a unique calling and a unique field in which to work. For one pastor, harvest may come easy while another may struggle.  My lane of life must not become a distraction to what lies before you.

Final Note:  Right now Truth-Publications.com has a huge sale on three different gift packs of material.  Take a look – for a gift or perhaps for your own use – all of these are at 30% discount:

Preacher’s Gift Packet filled with material for a developing minister as well as a vetearn:  http://truth-publications.com/?p=942

“Not an Ostrich” Disciple-Maker’s Packet – everything you need to take care of spiritual newborns – http://truth-publications.com/?p=924

Teacher’s Resource Packet – young marrieds classes, Ephesians, and more http://truth-publications.com/?p=943

 

More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

October is pastoral appreciation month. Let me be self-serving for a moment.  Leaders are readers and right here at Truth-Publications.com are readable and practical resources your pastor would probably enjoy. Each book is full of proven tools that can be put to use.  A partial list is athttp://truth-publications.com/church-growth/  Thank you for supporting your pastor.

Nurture the pastor and family.  Don’t be one of those folks denoted as a  “grace builder,” (because the only way anybody can abide them is through increasing grace) but be a person who helps him grow in grace. You will become aware of weaknesses – help the pastor be a better person.
Offer to help. The list of things you can do to help your pastor is endless. If your church is young – volunteer to be responsible to setup the chairs before church; get involved in taking responsibility off his shoulders.  Use your imagination.  No person in the body of Christ doesn’t have a place to serve.

Pray for your pastor. Lift up his name to God daily. When Satan intended to sift Peter as wheat, Jesus said, “I’ve prayed for thee . . .” When your pastor is dealing with pressure situations – pray for him!

Quench not. Encourage him to grow and to lead the church to progress.  Don’t be one of the nay-sayers.

Rejoice in him and with him.  In whatever way he excels – celebrate that and honor him for it.

Surprise him – particularly this month. There are so many ways to do this!  All the books from Truth-Publications.com or a gift card for Applebee’s or maybe volunteering to wash the family car.

Trust him. Believe in him.

Understand him. Put yourself in his place.  What we are asking the pastor to do is not easy.  It never was.  These days it is more complicated than ever.

Vacation. He needs time away. Send the first couple for a special holiday, if not for a week or two, then how about a romantic weekend getaway?   For a pastor to have such benefits from their church somebody has to take the lead to make such things happen.  Are you that person?

Welcome him into your life. Don’t wait for the pastor to make the first move. Invite the first family to dinner, or just time to relax and enjoy your company. Don’t allow all your calls to your Pastor to be a call for help.

Yoke  up with him. Help him bear his yoke of responsibility in your church, you, your family, and your church with grace and dignity. Do your best not to embarrass him.

ZAP all gossip. Don’t participate; and don’t allow it! These days a pastor is not easy to come by.  Don’t let him be destroyed by gossip.  If you hear something negative, contact him about the situation.

More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

October is pastoral appreciation month. Let me be self-serving for a moment.  Leaders are readers and right here at Truth-Publications.com are readable and practical resources your pastor would probably enjoy. Each book is full of proven tools that can be put to use.  A partial list is at http://truth-publications.com/church-growth/  Thank you for supporting your pastor.

Nurture the pastor and family.  Don’t be one of those folks denoted as a  “grace builder,” (because the only way anybody can abide them is through increasing grace) file9521253072574but be a person who helps him grow in grace. You will become aware of weaknesses – help the pastor be a better person.

Offer to help. The list of things you can do to help your pastor is endless. If your church is young – volunteer to be responsible to setup the chairs before church; get involved in taking responsibility off his shoulders.  Use your imagination.  No person in the body of Christ doesn’t have a place to serve.

Pray for your pastor. Lift up his name to God daily. When Satan intended to sift Peter as wheat, Jesus said, “I’ve prayed for thee . . .” When your pastor is dealing with pressure situations – pray for him!

Quench not. Encourage him to grow and to lead the church to progress.  Don’t be one of the nay-sayers.

Rejoice in him and with him.  In whatever way he excels – celebrate that and honor him for it.

Surprise him – particularly this month. There are so many ways to do this!  All the books from Truth-Publications.com or a gift card for Applebee’s or maybe volunteering to wash the family car.

Trust him. Believe in him.

Understand him. Put yourself in his place.  What we are asking the pastor to do is not easy.  It never was.  These days it is more complicated than ever.

Vacation. He needs time away. Send the first couple for a special holiday, if not for a week or two, then how about a romantic weekend getaway?   For a pastor to have such benefits from their church somebody has to take the lead to make such things happen.  Are you that person?

Welcome him into your life. Don’t wait for the pastor to make the first move. Invite the first family to dinner, or just time to relax and enjoy your company. Don’t allow all your calls to your Pastor to be a call for help.

Yoke  up with him. Help him bear his yoke of responsibility in your church, you, your family, and your church with grace and dignity. Do your best not to embarrass him.

ZAP all gossip. Don’t participate; and don’t allow it! These days a pastor is not easy to come by.  Don’t let him be destroyed by gossip.  If you hear something negative, contact him about the situation. 

As One Plants Multiple Churches–Is There Room in the Church for Me? Guest Post–Scott Sistrunk

Is There Room in The UPCI for Me?

 

This is a post from a time back on Detroit Career Church Planter Scott Sistrunk’s blog.  It needs a repeated hearing. Have me failed to validate the gift of those who are more gifted to plant churches than to pastor them?  Think about this . . . perhaps God has gifted you as he has Bro. Sistrunk.  If so, I’ll speak for the fellowship I’m part of and say, “We desperately need you.”  I’d love to clone Scott Sistrunk about 100 times over.  Planter Sistrunk’s article is posted with his permission.  I’ll speak for him and actually ask you to pass it on to others.

 

Is there a place for me in United Pentecostal Church?

I am a church planter. I am called to evangelize North America. I have no choice really; it is my calling. If I was a church planter in Africa, I would be called a missionary. I am having difficulty communicating my calling to my ministerial brethren. You see, I really feel called to be a missionary to North America. Of course, most of my friends know what a foreign missionary is. Of 31,966 licensed ministers (worldwide) only 652 are missionaries. Yes, I know, home missionary is a term often used to describe a person who plants a new church in North America. In that sense, the home missionary refers to a minister (usually a novice) who plants a new church in a city in North America and remains there long term, or moves on to other ministerial opportunities eventually, and the home missions ‘phase’ of their ministry becomes part of their history. Even a “Metro Missionary” who is supported by partners much like foreign missionaries has only been supported for 4 years and has been responsible for planting a single church. No, that is not me. I am a home missionary permanently; a career church planter.

Is there room for me in North America?

It is hard to explain, but I can hear a city’s cry. I don’t know exactly when I started being so in tune with cities. I do remember the first time I heard a city cry out to me. I was a youth pastor and I was on a golf outing with friends. I never expected what hit me as I prayed before going to bed. It seemed to me as if I felt the anguish of every lost soul in that city all at once. I doubled over in pain and began to weep. I was embarrassed and didn’t want my roommate to think I was trying to be “super spiritual.” I buried my face in a pillow and lay between the wall and the bed and prayed until the burden lifted. Shortly thereafter, I began to feel a heavy burden for a city that I eventually started a church in. I was so consumed with the need of this city that the Lord rebuked me for neglecting my current duties and told me to spend more time praying for the young people I was responsible for and the time would come for me to give myself to prayer for that city. I can’t go through a town or village without wondering, “Do they have a church?” Many times the tears come so suddenly and unexpectedly that I am embarrassed. I know more than I should about the number of churches in every district and every metro area. I can’t help but gather information on North American cities. My friends look at me weirdly when I start spouting off population numbers and churches per capita of each metropolitan city. I can’t help it; I am driven by a vision and a burden. You see, I know very well that this kind of passion is not understood in our North American ministerial culture.

What do I do with this passion?

This passion feels like destiny. It is unstoppable, irresistible, strong, deep, powerful, controlling, and exhausting. I am not called to pastor long term. My passion burns relentlessly and it is white hot continually. It is a powerful thing when used in the context of founding a work in a city full of strongholds and no church. My calling makes me almost impervious to discouragement. I never lack motivation. I thrive on adversity and challenge. Once a church is firmly established, self-supporting, stable and growing I can feel the restlessness coming on. It is time to go to a new place. Saints cannot live in this heat long. They need someone who is not always looking for the next place. They need someone who burns with a passion for them… not others. They need a pastor long term, I am a missionary. I envy foreign missionaries who only pastor short term if at all and it is what is expected of them. They are expected to be too busy training leaders, gathering resources, opening new areas and building coalitions and networks of preachers to pastor one church. I feel the pressure of the North American culture to pastor long term. But it is not my calling. I long for a structure in North America similar to what exist for overseas missionaries that I can submit to in order to fulfill my calling. I hope there is room for this kind of ministry in North America. It is what God has called me to do. What else can I do?

Is there room in the United Pentecostal Church for me?

I want to live and minister like a foreign missionary, but in the United States. I want to have a set, known, controlled standard of living. I want be accountable to many. I know this is the price of my calling. I know that God has not called me to enjoy the fruits of long term labor in a particular vineyard. This reward is reserved for and earned by pastors. I am a missionary. My reward comes from knowing there is now a church where there was none before. It is the only reward I seek.

Does the United Pentecostal Church know that it needs me?

Why has our growth been so explosive in foreign countries? Missionaries. Why do we struggle to plant churches in North America? A lack of missionaries. We have asked those without the calling, anointing or grace to plant churches. They have answered the call because of the need. But they have struggled terribly. We have asked those who burn with a missionary’s passion to pastor and teach in one location for life. They have struggled terribly.

We, in North America, have left the work of missionaries to pastors and teachers and evangelists. I ask you; doesn’t New York deserve a Bruce Howell? Doesn’t Los Angeles deserve an E. L. Freeman? I ask the United Pentecostal Church to make room in North America for the passion and ministry of a missionary.