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 Unity

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

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

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

potatoes-1585075__340Potato Unity

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

Things that Limit Same Mindedness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results of Daily Being in One Accord

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

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

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

daily

 


The Sheep Can Smell, What a Shepherd Cannot See

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

 

When the Sheep are Uneasy a Pastor/Shepherd Should Beware

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

The Benefit of Listening

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

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

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

Just a Sheep?

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

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

Responding to Nervous Sheep

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

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

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

When the Sheep are Sniffing – Move Slow

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

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

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

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

Wise shepherds don’t panic.

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

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

Strategies for the “Nervous” Times

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

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

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

Lead a season of focused prayer and fasting.

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

Preach the exaltation of Jesus and nothing else.

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

Take communion together.

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor/Shepherding is NOT Easy Work

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

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

 

The Challenges Beyond the Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming topics in The Science of Shepherding Series:

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

UPCOMING WEBINAR

“The What, How and Why of Convert Care”

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

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

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

Jihadists at Church

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

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

Motives for Church Terrorism

The real basis of all terrorism is fear.

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

Such behavior has to be eliminated

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

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

Actualized “My Church” Territorialism

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

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

Parallel to Israel

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

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

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

Addressing Territorialism and Terrorism 

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

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

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

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

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

Work at Overcoming Territorialism

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

How Will YOU Get it Done?

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

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

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

Church Terrorism is Not NEW!

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

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

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

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. 

Disciple-making: Don’t Drop the Baby!

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

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

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

  • A caregiver’s haste left Mephibosheth lame.

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

  • The youngster suffered, not the hasty nurse.

  • Mephibosheth’s childhood fall limited him for life.

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Disciple

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

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

I authored two books specifically dealing with:

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

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

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?

(Sermon) An Attribute God Always Honors – Faithful

An Attribute God Always Honors – Faithful

(This particular sermon targets each person with the concept that they can be faithful to God and the service of others.  If you gain anything from this it will be in spite of the formatting rather than because.  This message is quite preachable and hits an oft-needed target.)

The true skill in life lies in faithfully handling the ordinary.

 Luke 16:10 He that is faithful (trust worthy – worthy of trust) in that which is least is faithful also in much: and he that is unjust in the least is unjust also in much.

  1. This comes at a point where the book of Luke records several parables that cover a number of chapters. The over-arching theme of the collection of parables would be “about living life well.”

  2. Jesus brings into the conversation a word to explain how certain qualities should be valued: faithful. Faithful defines constancy and consistency.

  3. Anyone can be faithful. Faithful is not attached to wealth, talent or any other secondary criteria.

    1. Noah – faithful

    2. Moses –faithful

    3. Paul – faithful

    4. These are noble names . . . but there are millions of others who have no notoriety whose life had great value – as God sees it – because they were faithful.

  4. The fable has been told of the beginning of the building of a magnificent cathedral where an angel came and promised a large reward to the person who made the most important contribution to the finished building.

    1. As the building went up, people speculated about who would win the prize. The architect? The contractor? The woodcutter? The artisans skilled in gold, iron, brass, and grass?

    2. Maybe the carpenter assigned to the detailed grillwork near the altar?

    3. Because each workman did his best, the complete church was a masterpiece.

    4. But when the moment came to announce the winner of the reward, everyone was surprised. It was given to an old, poorly dressed peasant woman. What had she done? Every day she had faithfully carried hay to the ox that pulled the marble for stonecutter.

  5. Everybody say: I can do that!

I.                   God is such a realist. He never asks the impossible. Matthew 25:14 (Don’t read but refer to . . . until the highlighted verse: Matthew 25:14-27 (KJV) 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. 15 And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord’s money.19 After a long time the lord of those servants cometh, and reckoneth with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, thou deliveredst unto me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said unto him, Well done, good and faithful servant; thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew thee that thou art an hard man, reaping where thou hast not sown, and gathering where thou hast not strawed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid thy talent in the earth: lo, there thou hast that is thine. 26 His lord answered and said unto him, Thou wicked and slothful servant, thou knewest that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strawed: 27 Thou oughtest therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received mine own with usury.

A.                Notice something: The concept of faithfulness was not simply to be active or to hold on . . the idea of faithfulness – measured the effectiveness of the service rendered.

1.                Old rule: To endure, being constant is sufficient.

2.                Rule in evidence here: Effectiveness is expected.

a)                In every aspect of ministry we should on occasion step back to evaluate the significance of what is being done to make disciples for Jesus Christ.

b)                Activity is not adequate.

c)                 To maintain is not adequate.

B.                Faithful is portrayed as wisely using the talents God puts in one’s life – and using the talent in a way that brings gain to God’s cause.

1.                Multiplying the effect and benefit of those talent.

2.                Faithfulness was not to polish the talents and make them look good; it was not to keep those talents safe – instead faithfulness was to take one’s gifts and do the necessary thing to increase the value – on behalf of the owner who provided them.

a)                Education

b)                Reading – Leaders are readers

c)                 Faithful – ask meaningful questions and apply the answer.

C.                Am I being faithful?

II.                 Faithfulness is not an option. It is a requirement. 1 Corinthians 4:2 It is required of a steward that he be found faithful.

A.                During the Reagan Presidency terrorist bombed Marine barracks in Beirut, Lebanon. Hundreds of Americans were killed or wounded as they slept.

B.               When Marine Corps Commandant Paul X Kelly, visited some of the survivors in a Frankfort, Germany, hospital one of the wounded was Corporal Jeffrey Lee Nashton.

C.              Nashton was severely wounded and had so many tubes running in and out of his body that a witness said he looked more like a machine than a man.

D.              As the Commandant neared him, Nashton, struggling to move and racked with pain, motioned for a piece of paper and a pen. He wrote a brief note and passed it back to the Commandant. On the slip of paper were but two words — “Semper Fi” the Latin motto of the Marines meaning “forever faithful.”

E.               With those two simple words, written with such difficulty – Nashton spoke for the millions of Americans who have sacrificed body and limb and their lives for their country — those who have remained faithful.

F.               A fitting story to be told at the outset of this week where we honor our Veterans.

III.              Faithfulness is rewarded Matthew 25:21 21 His lord said unto him, Well done, thou good and faithful servant: thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things: enter thou into the joy of thy lord.

IV.             Faithfulness is our own individual responsibility. Personal. A man cannot do this for his wife or a child for a parent. God cannot and will not do this for us. The habit of FAITHFUL.

A.                Revelation 17:14 (KJV) These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful. – notice three things – called, chosen and faithful

1.                God calls – Acts 2:39 Acts 2:38-39 (KJV) 38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost. 39 For the promise is unto you, and to your children, and to all that are afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call.

2.                God chooses – John 15:16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

3.                But it is up to me to be faithful.

  1. R. G. Lee told the story (Whirlwinds of God) of the preacher who was called to a particular home because the man of the house had shot himself and was calling for the pastor. The preacher went to the little house that was so neglected. It was a family the preacher knew well. The man’s wife and children had been faithfully been part of the church he pastored. She had evidenced everything of faithfulness that I’ve talked about today.

Though the man of the house never came, never participated and had no interest in God. The little house the family lived in showed signs of neglect. Now, the man of the house has been on a drunken spree for two weeks. Recovering from the wild times, sick of himself and discouraged the man had taken his own pistol and shot himself.

The preacher said the man knows he is dying and begins to say his goodbyes to his wife – this faithful, God-fearing woman.

He said: “‘Molly,’ he said, ‘you have been a good wife. These sixteen years you did all the praying. You studied the Bible and taught it to our children. You went to church and lived a godly life. I have not helped you at all. For the sixteen years we have been married you have stood for me. Now, I am dying and I want to know if you are going to stand for me at the judgment bar of God.

The woman looked to her pastor for an answer. The pastor was blunt – trying to get the man to realize how desperately he needed God: The pastor said, “Friend, your faithful wife has done everything she could for you, your kids and family – but now you have to stand in your own shoes.’

Faithful – are you being faithful?  How about a commitment to be faithful beginning today?

Thoughts from a New Pastorate

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

  • A lot has changed . . .

  • Not much has changed . . .

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

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

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

 Updated Guest Cards

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

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

 Facebook Marketing is Cheap and Works

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

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

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

 Preaching to Those I Have Not Yet Seen

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

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

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

Five Things I Learned from Leland Briggs

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Busy Pastor Making More Disciples!

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

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

  • How many of those are serving God today?

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

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

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

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

sheep

What Now?

 

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

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

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

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

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

You can provide care for the newcomers to the church!

How Non Super-Preachers Get Hands to the Harvest

Pastor James Carney Columbia, Mississippi

Pastor James Carney
Columbia, Mississippi

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

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

  • Jerry Wayne Dillon

  • Larry Webb

  • Jerry Jones

  • James Carney

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

How did it happen.  James Carney tells me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

A Child’s Desire for Mom

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

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

Mary had quite an intimate knowledge of Jesus.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Similarly, Jesus wanted the best for his mother:

· In Consideration of His Mother

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

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

What’s the current crop . . .

growing here in this field . . .

at our specific season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responses to your moment:

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

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

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

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

Who Else Wants to Focus on the Field?

Who Else Wants to Keep the Focus on the Field?

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

Does the soil look fertile?

How prevalent are weeds?

Is the corn growing tall in the rows?

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

Distractions

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

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

Life can be action without accomplishment.

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

Sloth

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

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

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

The Secret to Never Being Alone Again (Blessings and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #3)

The Secret to Never Being Alone Again

Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #3

This evangelistic sermon is part of a continuing series regarding the benefit of having the Holy Ghost. I welcome suggestion for improvement, illustration or theological questions/observations.

Email: carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Website: http://Carltoncoonsr.com

Calvary’s website: http://SpringfieldCalvary.church

Facebook: Carlton Coon Sr.

Twitter: @CarltonLCoonSr

Springfield Calvary’s Facebook: Calvary UPC – Springfield

1. Loneliness is one of the common realities of the current human existence.

a. Loneliest group – elders; second loneliest according to researchers – college students.

b. Seems paradoxical – but loneliness is not eliminated by among people.

c. Some loneliness is not removed by having friends or being likeable.

2. There is the loneliness of being overwhelmed by life’s reality.

a. The loneliness of dealing with an issue that is not the norm. Few others can have empathy for what you are going through. The death of a child; the divorce . . . unexpected job loss.

b. Such loneliness can be paralyzing.

3. Today – “the Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost” – The Secret to Never Being Alone Again.

a. Since there are new listeners hear: The Holy Ghost/Holy Spirit is the spirit of God coming in you. The spirit of Christ is another Bible term for the Holy Ghost.

b. Throughout the book of Acts, those who wanted to have the Holy Ghost came to God with faith.

c. That faith led them to obedient action:

i. Repentance – an about face in thought and action.

ii. Baptized in Jesus Name.

d. Promised the gift of the Holy Ghost.

e. The Holy Ghost is something you can have.

4. Benefits preached in previous weeks:

a. Spirit of Adoption –

b. Power to live –

Particular setting of this text -Jesus is having a final “saint’s meeting with his disciples. His crucifixion is imminent and beyond that there will be other matters to address. Loneliness looms near!

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, (The Greek word is paraclete. It means One who comes alongside to help.“Comforter” is a good translation if rightly understood. It comes from the Latin and means “one who comes with strength.”) that he may abide with you for ever;

In essence: those who receive the Holy Ghost are given another “who comes alongside with strength to help.”

Now here are the things this one who “comes alongside with strength to help”will do!

John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach (#1 teach) you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, (#2 – cause you to remember) whatsoever I have said unto you.

John 15:26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, (#3 spirit of truth)which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me (#4 testifies of Jesus in ones life):

Four things the “one who comes alongside with strength to help will do: teach, cause remembrance, be a spirit of truth in you, testify of Jesus!

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient (good) for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.

5. Opposite of having such a comforter.

a. Alone and depending on your own strength. “You got it by yourself.”

b. Needing help, but no help to be seen, had or found.

c. Like David when pursued by Saul: “No man cared for my soul.” (Psalms 142:4).

d. Even if a man cared there will be limitations, for what any MAN can do for you.

6. CLC – Don’t use Who it is that is writing – the only Bible writer to use that particular term. As Jesus talks John is paying attention to the concept of a comforter. The writer: John.

a. Only one who speaks regarding the Paraclete. He with Matthew would have been in that last supper. Matthew would have experienced much disdain and dislike. He was a tax collector. Perhaps the gentle things Jesus spoke of did not get through to Matthew. It was not in the context of Matthews need. He would have been toughened by the path he travelled.

b. John, lived in a harsh climate but even in maturity he was still a bit of a mama’s boy. Mama was speaking in his interest even now. Seeking the best place in Jesus’ organization for her two sons.

c. John lingered on this concept of the comforter.

7. Comforter – in you!

a. Paraclete – one who comes with strength to help – as a Greek strategy in war. Soldiers “back to back.” No blind spot. Never alone again, the Holy Ghost has got your back! The partner in seeing life – teaching, bring to truth,

b. Paraclete – one who comes alongside – included in this is the idea of one who comes beside. Christ in you, not near you – in you. Not encouraging or instructing from a distance but IN you.

c. Parcalete – comes alongside to help.

i. “To help” indicates having the ability to help.

ii. “To help” indicates having the willingness to help.

iii. Located at hand. “Holy Ghost” what should I do just now.

d. David’s observation.

i. Alone – nobody interested in me.

ii. Alone – I’m sinking and there is no ship on the horizon to save me.

iii. Alone – there is no special insight offerered.

iv. Alone in a fight – and the punches are coming from every direction.

8. Answer – You need the Holy Ghost!

9. Jesus knew His disciples would feel those things – He assures them – Comforter . . . in you . . . As a matter of fact, it is good for you that I go . . . you are getting a better deal with the Holy Ghost. I’ve been walking with you, but will soon be walking in you.

10. Two groups who the Holy Ghost wants to fill:

a. Those who have not known about what the Holy Ghost can be and do . . .. You don’t ever “have to be alone again.” The Holy Ghost will be in you.

b. Those who know exactly what the Holy Ghost can be and do. In past day you’ve been full of the Holy Ghost and have experienced the “alongside to help.”

i. Today you find yourself estranged from God . . .

ii. An altar awaits – a new infilling.

Sermon Empowered – Blessings and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #2

Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost –

#2 – Empowered

Writing and providing these helps keep me focused in my study.  If they do not seem to benefit the reading audience I’ll eventually narrow the sharing to a handful of close friends.  The goal is not to give you an instant sermon but to provide concepts, tools and approaches you can use in your own study.  C. Coon

Email:  carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Website: http://carltoncoonsr.com

Hear the message in the context of the local church:  http://springfieldcalvary.church/

I. Jesus has been with his disciples – taught, they have observed him in action. His post-resurrection instruction to them.

A. Luke 24:49, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

1. Jesus was keenly aware that his disciples needed something more than “good teaching” or even having been in the very presence of God manifest in flesh.

2. The unempowered throughout the Bible-

a) Israel attempting to take the promised land after they had expressed their distrust;

b) Samson – mightily used of God and then a place in life where things brought a disconnect.

c) Those who tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus.

3. Unfortunately, there is an inclination today toward a powerless Christianity.

a) Christian life without Holy Ghost – church life, social, community,

b) To be able to posture oneself as a good “church going” person.

c) How is it that Christianity, church life is so reserved? Book: Why Men Don’t Like Church. Answer – tameness . . . there is no ball over the fence moment; no touchdown dance; no knockout punch; no thrill of putting deal together, of getting a raise . . .hanging the antlers on the wall.

d) How is there a certain degree of indistinctness about some who participate in Christian life? As vulgar in their talk . . . as unprincipled in finance . . . as un-neighborly in their community, rude, crude . . . arrogant, gossiping, obnoxious people.

.

B. Jesus knew something more was needed – tarry . . . until.

II. Jesus was not done prompting his disciples in this . . . even after spending all this time with Him they still had questions about the establishing of the nation of Israel. Jesus told them not to worry about that . . .

A. Acts 1:8, “But ye shall receive power, (“dunamis” which is translated here as “power.” We get our English word “dynamite” from that same Greek word… it has to do more with power in the sense of “ability.”) after (repeat) that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be(these three words are the emphasis of the sentence. God was and is interested in what “ye shall be” and He has a plan and process to get you there.) witnesses (martyr – the meaning of the word has changed to identify someone who gives their life for a cause . .. Earlier the word meant . . . one convinced of truth, and then living that truth in life. In essence: persecution did not make martyrs, persecution revealed those who were convinced of truth and living that truth in life. So what Jesus is promising: You shall receive the Holy Ghost and it will give you the ability to be convinced, committed and live truth in life and will do so by the power of the Holy Ghost)unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.” (the reference to the uttermost is not just a reference to location but to time . . . until the end of the age. So it is in respect to time as well as place. Place includes here. )

B. God has ever realized that while one can be friendly, kind, nice and greet you, attempt to make a decent impression – in reality within my smile and handshake I don’t have one thing in any of that to set a person free from drug addiction, alcohol, homosexuality or any other sin – oh, but the power of the Holy Ghost.Ye shall receive power . . ..Now the issue is on the table as is the promise – the disciples return to Jerusalem and tarry:

Acts 2:4, And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (They were allf illed, as they were all told to wait.)

What happened: causes a multitude to gather – Simon Peter gives explanation: Only days before this same Simon Peter had been so uncommitted as to deny having been a follower of Jesus. Now this Simon Peter – a much better Simon Peter than the one only 50 days before . . .

Acts 2:14-18 (KJV) 14 But Peter, standing up with the eleven, lifted up his voice, and said unto them, Ye men of Judaea, and all yethat dwell at Jerusalem, be this known unto you, and hearken to my words: 15 For these are not drunken, as ye suppose, seeing it is butthe third hour of the day. 16 But this is that which was spoken by the prophet Joel; 17 And it shall come to pass in the last days, saith God, I will pour out of my Spirit upon all flesh: and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams: 18 And on my servants and on my handmaidens I will pour out in those days of my Spirit; and they shall prophesy: (goes on to talk about signs and wonders. If I could put it this way: these filled with the Holy Ghost are going to do things and be things that are not within themselves.)

C. The Holy Ghost would empower them to be what these listeners to be what they had not been . . . to do what they had not done . . . to be “stand-up” Christ followers as they could not otherwise have ever been.

III. Niagara Falls is quite an impressive sight. Millions of people visit to watch the water cascade hundreds of feet down the “in river” cliff. Quite a tourist industry has developed around Niagara Falls – The Maid of the Mist is a boat that takes people near the falls, there is a light show in the evenings as various colors of light are reflected from the falls.

 

A. But if you live in or anywhere near Niagara Falls, you quickly realize that in the long run what you appreciate most about the falls is all the power it generates.

 

B. One may take for granted the tourist attraction . . . but there is a daily participation with the power from the falls. It is the power people live by.

 

C. It is like you receiving the Holy Ghost – the tourist may come by to inquire about the initial evidence – speaking in tongues, but the focus is on the power it gives one to live life.

 

D. It is a vital need for each person in this room. You need the Holy Ghost.  When the electricity is not available – but in this instance – the power is available.  The source is there.!

 

IV. The Outpouring of the Holy Ghost:

A. To the unknowing –  Explanation:  “This is that,”  “The Promises is to You and Your Children.”

 

B. To those who know but have experienced some sense of laxness. A disconnect from God’s spirit. Are not now empowered.

Acts 4:31 (KJV) And when they had prayed, the place was shaken where they were assembled together; and they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and they spake the word of God with boldness.

 

C. Like a lamp, unplugged – this morning the ability to be plugged back in. Not only is there the ability to be plugged back in, there is the invitation to be plugged back in to the power source.

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

The Holy Ghost is the . . .Spirit of Adoption

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Spiritual Orphans – disconnected, unprotected and no provision

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enhanced Credibility = Increased Influence

In 2010, I ran across an article in a flight magazine on Personal Excellence.  It was by Jean Kelley.  Her article gives the bones for this post.

Being an influencer is not self-declared or automatic. Much of the ability to influence others comes with the credibility you have with the particular person. There are people who I’m unable to influence because for whatever reason I’ve no credibility with that person.  Other people receive my suggestions or directives.  In the latter case, I’ve managed to be credible to that person.

In her article, Jean Kelley wrote, “Credibility is not something you automatically have, or something you bestow upon yourself – it is something others bestow upon you.”  With one person I am credible another has chosen not to bestow that label on me.  If you wish to influence people you must be credible to them.  There are no “self-crowned” influencers as there is no “self-crowned” credibility.

For others to view you as credible, you have to act your way into credibility.

Rex DeckardSome years ago, Rex Deckard (Des Moines, Iowa; coordinator of Church Planting U for the United Pentecostal Church) taught the North American Missions Board of Directors that research indicated, “action is more important than attitude.” Our actions are things we choose to do. This works into the idea of credibility. We can talk a good game and then not actually get the thing done.

Our decisions determine our credibility. Each of us makes multiple decisions each day

  • whether to visit a parishioner,
  • whether to do the work necessary to meet a particular deadline,
  • whether to return a phone call when you know it will be a difficult conversation,
  • whether to appropriately direct with others.

Influential people are evaluated by their behavior – not their communication or their intentions.

Now to borrow rather directly from Ms. Kelley’s cupboard.  As an influencers you can boost your credibility in any of several ways:

1. Don’t over-promise – do what you say you will do and choose what you will and will not do.  The latter part of this is important. Every influencer has far more opportunities than what they can do.  Prioritize what you take on.  Don’t be late with things you’ve promised to accomplish. Get ‘er done!

2. Be open about your motives behind a decision – you choose what you tell people.  If there is self-interest involved in a decision you make people are generally able to see through whatever garment you robe that decision in.

3. Fess up to mistakes early – leaders choose to cover things up or put them out in the open.  Crow is not tasty, but goes down quick. Richard Nixon did not lose the presidency over the burglary a few second rate aides had participated in; Nixon lost his credibility when he didn’t fess up tp having become aware of the Watergate break-in.  None have actually attained the inerrancy of the papacy. When you blow it, admit it!

4. Keep confidences – get permission before divulging sensitive information.  You have the choice as to whether or not to repeat information. My inclination is to NOT divulge any information to another person. Many secrets will go with me to my grave. Don’t use innuendo to communicate what should be a confidence.  Absorb what people tell you, pray about it and in most instances work with those people to come out of the mess they’ve made of their life.   (Perhaps someone out there would be willing to blog about, “The High Cost of a “Gossiping Preacher.”)  If you don’t keep confidences you will soon be str12_mudholeuck – nobody will trust you.

5. Treat others consistently and fairly – you choose your actions toward others.

6. Listen to others – you choose where you put your mental focus.  I listen better when I’m making notes regarding the other person’s conversation; instead of asking questions and interrupting what the person is saying noting what I’m wanting to ask later.  (If you do this be sure to let the other person know what you are doing; otherwise they imagine you to be making a grocery list.)

Credibility is not gained by a sermon or song. Credibility that lends to influence others is the result of walking down the same long road – headed in the right direction.

Perhaps you have  a story of someone who did not have credibility and tried to lead people.  Without divulging names share the outcome and what could have been done different.

Five Steps to Teaching Effectively–Guest Post Arlo Moehlenpah

About Arlo and Jane Moehlenpah – they authored a book Teaching with Variety and provide teacher training classes at a number of Bible Colleges and seminars. Bro. Moehlenpah is Mr. Creative! Arlo Moehlenpah He has created a number of Bible games and quizzes, some of which can be viewed on www.DoingGood.org.  The Moehlenpah’s are experts on addressing evolution issues.  They teach in churches beyond their own denomination and have been excellent ambassadors for the United Pentecostal Church. He feels called of God to teach!

 

1. The teacher must know that which he would teach. This is the first law of teaching according to John Milton Gregory. No other qualification is so fundamental. Someone has said “You can’t anymore teach what you don’t know then you can come back from where you ain’t been.” The teacher must study diligently to see how it fits in the overall picture and also be able to answer questions from students.

2. Before lesson preparation there must be heart preparation. Ezra prepared his heart to seek the law of the Lord, and to do it, and to teach. Ezra 7:10. If the lesson has not helped you it probably will not help your students. Lesson preparation is hard work. In the teaching of every lesson someone will suffer. If the teacher suffers in preparation then the students won’t suffer in presentation. If the teacher doesn’t suffer in preparation then the students will suffer in presentation. It’s better for the teacher to suffer in preparation.

3. The teacher must write down what he wants the students to know, feel, do and become. It is impossible to hit a target if you don’t know what the target is. Even if you know the target you won’t hit it unless you aim. It is impossible to measure progress if you don’t know what the goals are. A teaching aim is a clear statement of what we hope to accomplish as a result of the lesson. Everything in the lesson should be planned to accomplish the aims. Omit activities or materials that do not help you accomplish your aim.

Man on Stairs4. The teacher must use different methods . People learn more if they can see and do than if they just hear. Jesus, the greatest of teachers, used a variety of teaching methods. He used objects like birds, lilies, and a door to visually teach truths. He told many stories to affect their emotions and asked and answered questions to engage his audience. He used a flat visual when he wrote on the sand. Visual methods, such as PowerPoint, are available to add variety to your lesson. Student Centered teaching methods, which involve the audience, are also available. However the greatest teaching method of all is teaching by example.

5. The teacher must determine the results of the lessons. How much did the students understand, what did they feel, what did they do with the knowledge and have they been changed? Oral questions are not adequate in that many do not participate. What they know can be determined by proper testing. You want to know what they actually know and not just what they guess. True-false and multiple choice questions allow students to score well by careful reading and by guessing. The best way to reduce guessing on factual quizzes is to use matching questions where there are more choices than questions, where one choice is “none of the above,” where choices can be used more that once or not at all and where some questions can have multiple answers. Although essay tests take time to read they are good to find out what the students can express. Another way to determine what students know is to observe them play Bible Games. The students will have fun while you discover what they know. To find out what they feel, do and become takes much time to listen and observe. However, in doing this you may also discover some aims and objectives for future lessons regarding speech and behavior.

 

CLC Note:  People are built through teaching. Churches grow as they are taught in a particular direction.  Use Bro. Mohlenpah’s observations to launch yourself further into being an effective teacher. 

 

Question:  What resources have you found to be effective in helping you be a more effective teacher of the Bible?  Who are some of the most outstanding teachers you have heard?

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

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

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

   r12_mudhole

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

A weekly bulletin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Six Options to Establish Christmas Traditions at Your Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A short advertisement: for 50% off all my books in our warehouse for the next few days.  Click here:   http://truth-publications.com/?p=1031

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

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

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.

How to Survive the Dark Place! Where is God In My Dark Place? (Part 3)

In equipping yourself to overcome depression, spend time reading about “dark places” in the Bible.  So many things happen in what seems to be a spiritual night.  Nothing is easy.  As I’ve noted in two earlier posts surviving and finding God in your dark place isn’t easy. There are no pat answers. Any who offer such answers don’t know what they are talking about. 

Read part one at:  http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place/

Part two is at:  http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place-part-2/

Guiding an Unwanted Journey

In seasons of depression, well-meaning people offer advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!”

At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been traveled to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. In earlier posts, I’ve mentioned things that helped me survive my dark place . . .

(1) Praying the Psalms aloud.

(2) Doing what God called me to do.

(3) Involvement with people.

(4) Journaling

Additional observations

Become more aware of the presence of Christ’s spirit.

Jesus’ favorite descriptive word for His presence in us was paraclete – “one called alongside.” He has not left you, when you feel wOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA eary and overwhelmed. He is there, know it . . . believe it! This is faith at work. It does not take faith to endure when you can feel His presence. Engrave His words on your mind, “I will never leave thee nor forsake thee.”  Recently, I’ve found myself muttering to myself, “I am not alone in this!”  Being mindful of His presence matters.

Find Help

Elders and advisors bring perspective. If there are spiritual issues in your life, meet with your pastor. In some instances he may suggest an approved counselor or a visit to your physician. Depression may actually be physical – the result of a chemical imbalance in the brain. Mature people seek help when it is needed.

None of what I’ve offered makes the dark place easier; rather it is a lesson in survival. One gets to wondering where God is. I’ve done some inner shouting, “Where are you, God? It’s dark down here.”

That being said, I’ve discovered that dark places are the making of life. A potter does not see his clay take on rich shades of silver, or red, or yellow, until after the darkness and the burning of the furnace. A color is birthed in the dark heat of a gloomy kiln.

Think . . . even in the Dark Place

Oh, remember the 143rd Psalm, “. . . the enemy hath . . . smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, . . . Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me . . ..” These words are David’s personal response to his honest feelings, “I remember the days of old; I meditate (the word David used here means to murmur or to talk to oneself) on all thy works; I muse (ponder) on the work of thy hands. I stretch forth my hands unto thee: my soul thirsteth after thee, as a thirsty land.” (Psalms 143:5-6)

In his dark place, David saturated his thoughts and conversation with remembering and discussing God’s works. He also focused his desires; reaching out for God as a longing child and thirsting after him as a dry land seeking water. My practical observations about finding God in the dark place are a way to carry out what David describes in poem.

A final observation . . . a dark season does not indicate one is carnal, backslidden or unspiritual. Let the psalmist affirm this truth as well:

If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; . . .. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. Yea, the darkness hideth not from thee; but the night shineth as the day: the darkness and the light are both alike to thee. (Psalm 139:8-12)

Come on now . . . survive and then thrive – God does not see you as failed; to God the darkness and light are both alike.

 

 

How to Survive the Dark Place. Where is God In My Dark Place? (Part 2)

Depression is a bear! I’ve endured the challenge. Countless other people have as well. If you are joining the conversation in mid-stride you may want to read the earlier blog post at http://truth-publications.com/how-to-survive-the-dark-place-where-is-god-in-my-dark-place/

 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Surviving and finding God in a dark place isn’t glitzy. I have no trite answers. Well-meaning people offer advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!” At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. Some things that helped me survive my dark place . . .

My earlier suggestion was to pray the Psalms aloud.  Speaking a thing aloud gives weight beyond silently reading. Some scholars say the Psalms were intended to be read aloud.

Further observations regarding what helped me

Doing what God called me to do.

Depression causes lack of delight in the things a person once relished. An avid fisherman or golfer no longer enjoy their pastime. As a servant of God, some things are non-negotiable even in the darkest hour. I love to preach and teach. It is what God called me to do. One’s golf clubs may get dusty, but there is no withdrawing from that to which God has called. I kept preaching. Of one era of his life, John Bunyan recalled, “I walked around in chains and spoke to people in chains, but in the pulpit, my chains fell off.” My experience was the same.

 

 

Involvement with people.

This is a challenge. Those dealing with depression want to withdraw. Dallas business executive, Fred Smith wrote that he had found a guarantee for depression’s continuation. That guarantee – inaction. By contrast, he saw the sure cure . . . as activity. In the dark season muster the energy to stay involved with people. Of my suggestions, this was personally the most challenging.

Journaling

In the dark, I found the treasure of written prayer. Writing words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving a, d supplication became a life-line. Writing gave my prayer dimension and forced me to think about what I really needed to communicate. As I wrote to Him, Jesus began to write fresh things into my mind and spirit.

In the dark, I found the treasure of written prayer. Writing words of adoration, confession, thanksgiving and supplication became a life-line. Writing gave my prayer dimension and forced me to think about what I really needed to communicate. As I wrote to Him, Jesus began to write fresh things into my mind and spirit.

Early next week I’ll add a final thought.  I’ve received more direct feedback about talking and writing about this life issue than any other.  Add your suggestions if you’d like.

Thirteen Ways to Honor Pastor in Pastor Appreciation Month

I’m a pastor by calling.  For eight years I’ve been involved in a somewhat different role of ministry, though I still get to do a bit of pastoral work. These days I can speak to the thought of pastoring from a different perspective and my comments not be seen as overly self-serving.

The Greek word for pastor is the same word translated “shepherd.”  According to a recent USA Today article, a keeper of sheep is one of the most under-paid laborers in North America. Unfortunately in today’s cultural climate to have the term “Pastor” attached to your life does not mean one is held in high regard by the community.  That lack of respect only changes with much hard work, showing integrity and being a person who deserves to be respected. 

Church members need to make it their personal responsibility to express appreciation.  file9521253072574This is a great time of the year for you to minister to your pastor.

  • Accept him as a person and not just as a parson.  Let him know you accept him as he is.
  • Build him up. Say "thank you” for some specific thing he or she has done. 
  • Communicate with him.
  • Do all you can to defend him when someone is trying to run him down. I’m not talking about defending the indefensible, but go directly to him to speak of any concern.  Tell others that it is a Biblical requirement for them to do the same.
  • Entertain him. He likes to enjoy life too. For me – banana pudding is a wonderful form of entertainment!  If the pastor is a golfer, buy some golf balls or green fees for him.  Do something similar if he is a hunter or fisherman.
  • See that he has a family life. If he is bi-vocational, he likely has no more than 10-15 hours of each week to devote to the ministry.  Respect his wife and children’s need for him.
  • Be genuine. Be honest with him. Be yourself around him.
  • Honor him. DO not put him on a pedestal, but respect him.   If you are a leader take responsibility for your pastor to be honored one Sunday this month. If you are not a leader, suggest it to someone who is.  Perhaps print this article and highlight relevant portions.
  • Provide him a decent income. Bring your tithes into the storehouse. Ten or fifteen tithe paying families can pay a pastor enough so that money is not  a major concern for him.
  • Don’t be overly judgmental.  The fellow has a stressful job, and won’t always make the right decisions.  Unfortunately, we expect him to never miss.  As a former (and likely future) pastor I’le tell you now that even the best pastor misses on occasion.  Give him grace!
  • Be kind to your pastor.  Kindness is expressed in how you treat all of his family.
  • Love like in 1 Corinthians 13.  The love depicted there is active.  Love is not simply emotion, but it is active. 
  • Maintain the pastor’s family in every way possible.  His family has the same needs as any other family in the Church, but of no other family is as much expected or demanded.

I don’t think we should put the ministry into an unrealistic position of being beyond question and always “up there” somewhere.  Paul spent and entire chapter talking about his accountability regarding money.  I’m not beyond question, nor should any of us be.  However, this person watches for my soul – respect and honor are important. 

How to Survive the Dark Place! Where is God In My Dark Place?

Some years ago, I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It happened to me – it has happened to others and far too many are ashamed that their prayer meetings and devotion to the Lord Jesus has failed to bring a remedy.  It is debilitating and painful , but with God’s help and some common sense one can survive.

My first segue into discussing this in a public way was in conversation with the church I pastored.  For all of us it was the first journey into the experience of having a pastor who was dealing with a negative situation of this sort, that would be talked about. The wonderful people at Springfield’s Truth Tabernacle, were so very much like Jesus and gave me hope and an opportunity to get better. In 2007, I wrote about it a bit in an article in the Pentecostal  Herald.  The resulting phone calls and continued contacts seemed to indicate a tremendous need for honest conversation and some healing help in the matter of surviving the “dark place.”

Have you ever felt like saying, “Wait a minute, I have some questions!  We need to ask those questions of some Bible heroes.” 

“Elijah . . . what in the world went wrong? I’m disappointed in you. Running from Jezebel? Praying to die? Sitting in anxious frustration under a juniper tree – and so soon after you’d prayed and God’s fire fell?”

“David, . . . hey you King David . . . don’t I remember reading about you being a man after God’s own heart? Were you backslidden when you wrote, ‘. . . the enemy hath . . . smitten my life down to the ground; he hath made me to dwell in darkness, . . . Therefore is my spirit overwhelmed within me . . .. ’” (Psalms 143:3-4).

I know . . . I’ve heard it . . . thought it – probably preached it . . . Christians do not have the feelings expressed in Psalm 143. Well . . . here goes nothing or maybe everything. I’ve actually survived dwelling in the darkness and my spirit being overwhelmed. My story is probably different than David’s, but for me my dark dwelling place was:

  • Unrelated to reality
  • Unimaginable
  • Exhausting
  • Humiliating

You see, it was medically diagnosed as clinical depression. Again . . . I know . . . I know, clinical depression does not happen to saints, and certainly not to preachers. Well it happened anyway . . . it was bad and it was real.

It’s tough to explain. Jack Dreyfus founded the successful Dreyfus Mutual Fund empire. He recalled trying to explain to others about his depression, “It is almost impossible to convey to a person who has not had depression what it’s like. It’s not obvious like a broken arm, or a fever . . . it’s beneath the surface. A depressed person suffers a type of anguish which in its own way can be as painful as anything that can happen to a human being. His brain permits him no rest. His mood is low, he has little energy, and can hardly remember what pleasure means.”[1]

One Sunday, C.H. Spurgeon shocked 5,000 listeners when he said, “I am the subject of depressions of spirit so fearful that I hope none of you ever gets to such extremes of wretchedness as I go to.” Historians think Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, Martin Luther, and Winston Churchill had recurrent bouts with depression. Churchill called it the black dog. A recent book focused on what the author called Lincolns melancholy.

So what is depression like? Someone I can’t properly cite said it well.

Depression is

Debilitating, defeating,

Deepening gloom.

Trudging wearily through

The grocery store,

Unable to make a simple choice,

Or to count out correct change.

Work undone,

And not being able to lift a finger.

Doubting that God cares,

Doubting in my prayers,

Doubting He’s even there.

Sitting, staring wild-eyed into space,

Desperately wanting out of the human race.

Sounds a bit like David in Psalm 143. Actually, I think what is described is rather common – even among those who serve God. So my observations aren’t for the one who has not endured or will never endure the “darkness” David described. The validity of clinical depression as a diagnosis is not my topic. It is rather to say . . . you can survive, prevail and overcome! Your dark personal pain can be the springboard to another dimension in God.

Surviving and finding God in your dark place isn’t glitzy. I have no trite answers. Well-meaning people offered me advice like, “Pray your way through it,” or the more frustrating, “What is wrong with you? You have a wonderful life – give God praise!” At one time, I gave similar suggestions; a man presenting travel directions to a place I’d never been. Having been to the dark place, I can now provide a better travel guide. Several things helped me survive my dark place . . . (More of them later – today only 1.)

A vital remedy:  Praying the Psalms aloud. A depressed person does not feel like praying and almost certainly does not know how to pray. Pray anyway! How? Read Psalms – to yourself and to God; except read them out loud. It works. Actually, Author Eugene Peterson believes this is the way the Psalms were meant to be read. In the dark place, I borrowed from the nakedly honest feelings of the Psalmist and as I read aloud they became my own. Interestingly, every Psalm that begins by expressing dark thoughts closes with praise and worship.

Perhaps my observations about this are not real. Maybe, me, Jonah, David and Elijah are the lone candidates to have an interest in reading this sort of information, but perhaps not.  If you’ve dealt with the ‘dark place’ I’m interested in hearing from you.  What have been your solutions?  What remedies did not work?  What (if anything) precipitated your fall into this swamp? 

 


[1] P. 109 Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives – By: Richard A. Swenson, M.D.

Five MUST Buy NEW Books at 2012 General Conference,

The word “new” includes books published in 2011 and 2012.  I’ll explain why each book should be bought and give some strengths and weaknesses.  You then look them over and decide whether the book is for you.

Pull of the Future

  1. The Pull of the Future by J.T. Pugh – We discovered more of the late Bro. Pugh’s writing and also some audio materials.  Warning  – these chapters are compelling and in some ways indicting.  Bro. Pugh lived pursuing the future. He never quite settled down to normal.  This particular book is not filtered as much as The Battered Stake published in 2011.  You can hear his voice and track his wanderings as he flowed toward his destination.  Visit the PPH display at General Conference to buy the book.  It is also available on Kindle.
  2. Among the Reapers by various church planters – This material comes straight from the Church Planters UPCI Facebook group. It has seven chapters gathered according to topic and answers from a 2 hour online “Q & A” with Church Planter David Bernard. Contributors are Apostolic.  It includes material from Scott Phillips, Art Wilson, Lee Stephens, Rex Deckard and dozens more. This is challenging, and practical.  Recommended for current or future church planters and those who’d like a better understanding of the exciting things happening in the world of kingdom growth here in North America. Visit the PPH display.  Available on Kindle
  3. The How and Why Compilation on USB by Carlton L. Coon Sr.  I like a bargain and think you do.  I like practical application and think you do. So I’m free to encourage you to look at this less expensive approach to my three “How and Why” books. The How and Why of New Convert Care, . . . of Follow-up Visitation and .  . . of Hospitality are collected on a cutting edge credit card styled USB drive.  The cost for the USB is 1/3 less in cost than the three books and you have approval to print multiple copies to better train your church and team.  A bargain and a blessing! Available at PPH or Truth-Publications.com.  The books are also in print and available at both sites and will soon be on Kindle.  Recommended to anybody who is interested in church growth.
  4. The Battered Stake by J. T. Pugh – This was printed in 2011.  So far we’ve had three reprints. It has been a best-seller on Kindle.  J.T. Pugh had a unique perspective on the work of the Lord.  He believed and felt to take action for this message to be advanced to the four corners of the earth.  He was particularly focused on expanding the churches in North America.  This one needs to be in your library.  Available on Kindle and at PPH. 
  5. Ostrich for your mamaYou Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama by Carlton L. Coon Sr. – This is about maturing your spiritual young. The Lord spoke to Job about the inadequacies of the maternal instincts of an ostrich. She simply has no interest in caring for her young. This book includes thoughts about how a young man named Mephibosheth was permanently lamed by a nurse’s haste.  Is your church an ostrich church?  It doesn’t have to be!  What percentage of those you convert are around five years later?  How many of them are actively involved in ministry?  We need a “NO MORE OSTRICHES!”  campaign to make sure every church is ready to take care of those who are spiritually new born.  This and my book Master-Full Preaching – restoring the place of good news preaching respond to great needs in the modern church.  You Wouldn’t Want an Ostrich for Your Mama is available at PPH Sales, on Kindle or at Truth-Publications.com

How to Pick YOUR Mentor

The best book I’ve read on the subject of Mentor/Protégé relationships is Mentoring by Bob Biehl.  If you are going to read only one book on the topic – this is the best!

 

Biehl defines mentoring as a lifelong relationship, in which a mentor helps a protege reach her or his God-given potential. bobbbiehl.com/index.html also deserves a visit.

Have you ever walked through an airport terminal and stepped onto a moving sidewalk? Suddenly you are whizzing along at two or three times your normal pace, even though you are keeping the same stride. It’s amazing. Others who choose not to use the moving sidewalk are putting equal energy into moving forward but you are getting there quicker.

 

I know each reader is an extra-ordinary person who doesn’t need much help but that “moving sidewalk” is the perfect analogy of why all can benefit from a mentor.  file000110208443

 

  • It helps pick up the pace of your personal development.
  • A mentor can save time and energy as you reach your goals.
  • Progress accelerates because the mentor knows things you don’t know.
  • A mentor reads and will recommend books and authors that are not familiar to you. 
  • He/she opens doors you could never budge.

Most important a mentor asks you questions and gives perspectives that you may have never considered.

You may be making progress already as you move through life, but when you partner with the mentor, your pace will quicken. Don’t go another day  without getting connected with those you can learn from.

How can this help?  An example of how one’s perspective can be expanded.  A time back I reviewed an article in which church planter/pastor Wayne Huntley was talking about this subject. Wayne Huntley is not a novice.  He has been around a bit.  In the article, he made an interesting observation concerning the changing ministerial realities saying, we need better listening skills. Just as the head of the body has to receive signals from the body . . . the Body of Christ sends signals to the pastor. As ministers we need to be trained to receive information from the congregation. A dictatorial style of pastoring is not going to succeed in the next millennium, because people of this age have been trained to think and to express their ideas. The word from a trusted and proven preacher is like what you’d gain from a mentor.

 

You need voices of that sort speaking into your life.  J. T. Pugh’s book The Pull of the Future has a section about Disciple Abuse, (available at PentecostalPublishingHouse.com and on Kindle) he spoke of those who attempt to make every person just like them.  This is not what your mentor needs to be.  

 

Who do you select to be your mentors:

  1. One who has a track record of being effective.
  2. The person is willing to be an influencer and you have some access and get a response by email or in some other way.  (The closer access the better.)
  3. Someone who can keep your confidences.
  4. A person of whom you can ask questions without that person being judgmental.
  5. One who you anticipate will press you back to the Bible for answers and principles to any question you have.
  6. Someone who is where you want to go.  Planting a church – find a proven church planter to be a mentor. A young preacher who wants to be a better communicator – should find a veteran preacher who communicates well (particularly who communicates well at the local church level), first pastorate – plug into a pastoral veteran, etc.

 

What are some other things you feel important for one who is selecting a mentor?

Now, get the dialogue started.  The scripture has much to say about learning from elders. One resource you may wish to consider to connect to an older preacher is Elder, Tell Me Your Memories.  It helps by giving some questions you can ask and getting the conversation started.

 

Flows of Influence–Up, Down and All Around

(This is a continuation of observations about the compelling need for life mentors. It began earlier here http://truth-publications.com/who-are-you-copying-off-of/ a bit earlier.  If nothing else, perhaps I can educate you about some of my own mistakes – as a protégé and as a mentor.)

Mentor was a man who made a long-term impact on Odyssius son Telemachus.  His effort lasted 20 years.  It was a long-term investment. Influence does not happen over a weekend or is the result of a single sermon.  There is investment and observation. Two questions to consider:

  • Who is influencing you?  Should they be in that role? Is their doctrine solid and clear – it not – don’t let that person’s doctrine affect you.  Because one’s doctrinal position on things is so important it might be wise to actually have that person’s influence diminish.  
  • Who are you influencing?  Timothy was only 28 years old when Paul instructed him to take what he’d been given and give it to other faithful men who’d pass it on to other faithful men.  Younger people are to be influencers!

Several things are challenging realities in all this: 

There are no perfect men for mentors Mourning

This pursuit of “mentors” has some challenges for us because we seek perfection. Even turning to the scripture to find real-world help is surprising. It is amazing how non-heroic the characters of scripture are. These guys are not models of virtue: Abraham lied; Jacob cheated; Moses murdered; David committed adultery; Peter blasphemed. There is none good but one! There was only one who was perfect.

We must get beyond “I’m looking for perfection.” If perfection is the prerequisite for mentoring; none qualify. Mentors must be allowed to be recipients of grace.

  • Martin Luther, a powerful influencer of the first step in the reformation, had angry outbursts.
  • John Wesley influenced many men but suffered through an extremely difficult marriage.
  • Charles Spurgeon struggled with such deep depression he would go to a country home for months on end.

Don’t be so idealistic that you seek for mentors without weaknesses. All people have clay feet . . . allow it to be . . . expect it to be.  All have received God’s good grace.  Great strengths are often represented by glaring weaknesses.

Mentors ARE Needed

Someone wrote, “The fathers we choose are more important than the father we are born to.” I’m blessed by my biological heritage, however there were some things I needed to learn from men other than L.C. Coon. I chose some “fathers.” As the years pass – those relationships change. Let me offer some suggestions for selecting mentors – the people from whom we learn “how.”

It is important to ask ourselves:

  • Is what they are doing working to accomplish the Lord Jesus Christ’s purpose in the land?  How so? Can you point to some specific people who have been converted and discipled as a result of their effort?
  • Is what they are doing making a difference? Don’t waste your time with people who can tell you the best fly for a particular stream but the church they lead has no ongoing prayer program . . . or no outreach effort.
  • Do I want to become what that person is?  You become what you spend time with and tend to lean in the direction you look.

If it does not fit or is ineffective, why would I want to repeat someone else’s mistakes?

For me . . . consciously or sub-consciously I sought out men who had not “settled” for average.  Those men became advisors with whom I would consult in various situations.

Don’t try to go this alone.  There are too many people from whom you can learn.  Call, contact and connect – ask questions – apply, try out the deep things these people are doing.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who are You Copying Off Of?

(My ramblings will bounce over to the compelling need for life mentors. If nothing else, perhaps I can educate you about some of my own mistakes – as a protégé and as a mentor.)Man on Stairs

In life and ministry, one can be overwhelmed by the “how” question.

  • We often passionately know “what” to do! An example – “win the lost.”  We know that is what we are to do.
  • We even know “why” we should do a thing! An example – “win the lost because it is the ministry of reconciliation” we are to accomplish.
  • We don’t know “how” to get it done. If we know what and why – how is it that we so often flounder about.

We just don’t know how!

Paul answers the “how” question in this way, “Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.” (1 Corinthians 11:1) Paul’s word for follow is not to just walk behind; it means to “imitate.” Paul said, “Be ye imitators of me . . ..” Paul was encouraging the people in Corinth to . . . do thing like I do them.  Consider this: 

While imitation means that what one is doing is not natural to you – it is following a pattern that has proven effective for someone else.

file0001913743868Imitation is mimicking what has proven to be effective for another person. If I could swing a golf club like Phil Mickelson (and adhere to his work ethic) . . . might the same results be accomplished?

What about in ministry?  Some of the most effective men you will ever meet observed someone else’s effectiveness and decided to attempt to replicate those efforts.  Derald Weber is building a church in Lafayette, Louisiana. As a teenager, Derald Weber’s model was his pastor, the late G.A. Mangun. Derald will dislike me using his name in the same sentence with G.A. Mangun – but Derald observed “how” and applied “how” until the “how” became his own. Is it wise to be so much an individualist that I am unwilling to apply the wisdom & insight others have gained. 

There are huge implications of being an “imitator” in ministry. I’m aware my use of the words “copy,””mimic” and “imitate” are likely grating on our rugged North American individuality.  America’s national anthem should be changed to Frank Sinatra’s I Did it My Way.  We’d rather be a poor original than to mimic even the great apostle Paul. 

Actually, a word we may be more comfortable with is “mentor.” According to Greek literature, when Odyssius when to fight in the Trojan War, he left his young son, Telemachus, in the care of a guardian named Mentor. The siege of Troy lasted ten years, and then it took Odyssius another ten years to get home. When Odyssisus arrived back in Greece, he found that Telemachus had grow into a mature and productive man–thanks to Mentor’s wise training. Mentor had spent the twenty years of Odyssisus absence showing Telemachus “how” to deal with life’s realities. A mentor – someone from whom we learn “how.” So who functions as a father figure (in the best sense of the term) in your life?  Who is fundamentally influencing you? Whose paper are you copying off of?  Someone who has learned the answers. 

We do need mentors that we can mimic.  Who are the effective people from whom you have learned? Who will you add to the list of those you can learn from? 

 

(An aside – my first published books were on “How and Why.”  The How and Why of New Convert Care, The How and Why of Follow-Up Visitation and The How and Why of Hospitality.  All three have been reformatted and republished and are available here at Truth-Publications.com.  Also, all three books are available on a less expensive USB drive http://truth-publications.com/product/how-and-why-usb-compilation/)

 

How to Reduce Your Pastoral Counseling Load & Be More Effective

Counseling de-energizes me.  I realize there are times when counseling is necessary, but I didn’t seem to have a great return on the investment of time and energy.  Here are some discoveries I made.

1. Over the pew counseling.  When someone at church said, “I need to set an appointment to get your counsel.”  I’d point to a place away from others and say,  “Let’s sit down right over here and see if this is file0001305006092something we can talk about here.”  Many times the situation was minor and my help could be given in 5 minutes talking across a pew.  When a situation requires an appointment for a  counseling session in the pastor’s office, it being an appointment and in the pastor’s office indicates it is now quite serious – and must take quite a bit of time.

2. Don’t let somebody else’s long-term ongoing mess that suddenly becomes an  emergency mess up your dinner plans. On occasion, long-term problems boil out of control and seem to require immediate attention at the counseling E.R.  Most of these “emergencies” are not emergencies at all. You know the people you serve. Don’t change your plans to be accessible to respond to long-term situations that are not going to be fixed in a few minutes.

3.  Never counsel with anybody who has not gone to prayer about the issue at hand. I had counselees arrive at the church 30 minutes before our meeting.  They were given a simple counseling prayer work sheet with several questions where they were to write their answers during 30 minutes of prayer:

  • What is the issue or challenge that brings you here today.
  • What options do you see to respond to the issue or challenge?
  • After prayer, what do you feel the Bible and Jesus would have you do in response to the situation?
  • What do you plan to do as your next step of action to resolve this problem.

The worksheet then became the guide for our conversation. Often, the person got their answer while in prayer and cancelled their appointment.

If you would like a digital copy of the form I used it can be provided – signup for the Truth Publications mailing list over to the right and it will be sent to you.

4.  Teach practical Bible insight on life. Bible answers are the solution to life’s problems. To give people my insight is to give human wisdom; the Bible is full of the wisdom of God.  Which do you suppose is better?  Jay Adams books on pastoral care give insight on what he calls Nouthetic Counseling.  He observes that pastoral and Christian counseling should give Bible solutions.  For whatever counseling you will do – his approach has my recommendation.  An easy link to look over Jay Adams material on Amazon comes by clicking the picture below.

5.  A five minute rule at the end of church. Every church, no matter how young has someone, (usually several) who immediately stand in line saying, “Pastor, I need to see you for a minute.”  Those people need attention, but the moments right after church are when the pastor needs to be touching the people he wants to touch, instead of the needy few.  Institute a 5 minute rule, “For the first five minutes after church, talk to somebody you do not know, or do not know well.”  This gives you – the pastor – time to get out to the people you really want to connect with.  You will have to remind people of “The Five Minute Rule” almost every service.

I’m sure many of you enjoy the counseling setting.  If so, build ministry around it, others of you have found ways similar to what I’ve described above. I’d like to hear things you have put to work.

Things Learned from G.A. Mangun

The late G.A. Mangun was my pastor for only a few months. He was our presbyter for over 50 years.  I learned from him – by observation, which led to my poor efforts at duplication.

gamangun

I learned:  get on message and stay on message. At every sectional meeting, G.A. Mangun had a message, “Pray, fast & reach the lost.” This was the message at every meeting! I learned, “Repetition is the mother of learning.”  I later apply the principles of prayer-chains and focused prayer that I learned from him.

In the late 70’s, Sis. Mangun heard me preach a youth rally in Colfax, Louisiana. She suggested to Bro. Mangun that I preach a weekend at Alexandria. I didn’t add anything; but how much I learned that weekend. It was shortly after the Jim Jones debacle in Guyana. The weekend I was there a lady had written a letter to the newspaper likening Bro. Mangun to cult leader Jim Jones. If that were not enough, that week a high profile fellow in the church had abandoned his wife and children.

That Sunday you would not have known there was a letter in the newspaper, and you’d have thought every saint in Alexandria was doing well. No doubt both situations were hurtful, but you would have not known there was a thing wrong.  I learned – don’t let other people’s negative stuff affect your worship or leadership.

That same Sunday, after the evening service Bro. Mangun gave Norma and me to the care of someone in the church. He took a sinner couple who had visited to get a bite at Howard Johnson’s. Whoever hosted us took us to Howard Johnson’s as well. There was Bro. Mangun unabashedly spending his time on reaching for the lost. His behavior matched his message. I learned – that reaching to sinners is more important than any visiting preacher.

G.A. Mangun was never boring. From wildly decorated church buses to his radical focus on reaching people – he did things that pushed the envelope. I’m sure, some things didn’t work but G.A. Mangun did not focus on what did not work. He celebrated what had worked and was working. I learned – it is to have a personality, to try different things and to accept that everybody isn’t going to like it.

I learned that he expected people to be converted EVERY week. Bro. Mangun wasn’t waiting on a special event or evangelist to come to Alexandria. The lost would be preached to every week. It worked for him and later it worked for me. I practice that approach to this day. Masterful Preaching is my book that attempts to reclaim the concept of preaching to the lost. If you are interested in owning the book . . . click here.

We pastored a very young church In Vidalia, LA.  It was a church less than two years-old with a handful of people. Bro. and Sis. Mangun came as “pinch-hitters” for our ill district superintendent. There would have been more in the Youth Sunday School Class in Alexandria than were in that special service in Vidalia, but the Manguns rocked the place. That night we baptized Curtis Thornton’s dad in Jesus Name. Curtis had been our first convert in Vidalia. I learned – don’t let the size of a crowd affect how you minister; every soul counts.

I learned from G.A. Mangun that whatever else you are asked to do, the local church is the main thing. In later years, he and Sis. Mangun would say to me and others, “Don’t do this like we did it.” They didn’t miss Sundays in Alexandria to preach for anybody or do anything. Learning from them, for years our family vacation was Monday through Saturday. Sunday was the main thing, and it was time to be home.

Finally, at the memorial service for a man of huge impact, I noticed people from Central Louisiana walk by in everything from an expensive suits bought at Jerry Lee’s Menswear to their best pair of khakis or jeans.  One gentleman had on his best overalls. To G.A. Mangun – a soul, was a soul, was a soul; every soul was important.  He pastored them all. He loved them all.

I wish I’d pay more attention and that I’d had more time  – there is much more I could have learned. Things I did learn:

GA mangun 21. Get on message – stay on message!

2. Don’t let negative things affect worship or leadership.

3. Reaching sinners is more important than most other things.

4. God’s work doesn’t have to be vanilla.

5.  Plan to see people converted EVERY week. Preach in a way where they can!

6.  Don’t let the size of the audience affect how you minister.

7.  The local church you lead is the main thing.

8.  Love the saints . . . love the people.

Some of you will have learned stuff from G.A. Mangun that I did not have the privilege to learn. You spent more time closer to his fire. Please add to my poor array in the comment section below.

Added note from C. Coon.  I don’t have the insight, focus or sacrificial mindset G.A. Mangun possessed.  I do have a book (written tongue in cheek) that addresses Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask.

How to Be a Person AND a Parson

The synthetic pales in comparison to the genuine. Fake people take on the value of costume jewelry. A danger exists for those living on the mountain of ministry. It is the error of acting like one is an actor on a stage . . . publicly playing a role.  Some things to consider

In the book, Mastering Pastoral Care Doug Self observes (by the way – the entire “Mastering” series are a good read):

Confusing one’s personal identity with one’s professional role is a danger . . .. It is possible to “play” the pastoral role too thoroughly. If people in other professions did it, we’d laugh. Imagine the local fire chief shopping at the grocery store. He wears his heavy fireman’s coat and hat with visor, as he pushes his grocery cart around, he encounters neighbors, saying, “Hey George. Keeping that chimney clean?” or , “Hello, Mary, I thought I saw one of your boys playing with matches the other day. You need to keep a closer watch on them . . . don’t you think.”

We would all perceive that man as one-dimensional, always conscious of being the fire chief and focusing all his relationships accordingly. People would soon tire of him. I think they would soon start running when they say him coming.

Our conversations can be such that they never stray from the “churchy. Somehow my prophetic crescendo does not seem to impress my wife or the kids. You see, it is dangerous if I become convinced of the merit of what someone called, “my sanctified baloney.” Perceiving myself as somehow a cut above the rest of God’s humanity is a recipe for alienation.

 

The first rule of care giving is “take care of the care-giver.” Five things warrant consideration:

  1. Understand the nature of your role. Some people are beyond your help. Jesus had a Judas. Put ministry in perspective. You won’t keep them all. People will come . . . and some will go.
  2. Accept outside help for both your physical and emotional needs. Rest, relaxation, laughter and friends are key components to survival. Don’t destroy yourself with overload.
  3. Admit your feelings, including your frustrations. A mother told her crying daughter that God was near and she did not need to be afraid. To which the little girl whimpered out, “Right now, I need God with skin on.” There are times when all of us need “God with skin on.” Telling somebody about your disaster is not lack of faith. Go back and read the Psalms . . . expressing frustration was a major component in David’s writing. (Caveat: For obvious reasons, one needs to be careful about who they share their frustrations with.)
  4. Enjoy the good times and things that are part of what God has called you into. What fills your spirit? Rather than spending all of your time on aspects of ministry that drain . . . spend significant time on the parts of ministry you enjoy.
  5. Know your limits. There is a danger in constantly keeping one’s nose to the grindstone. Jesus invited his disciples to “come apart and to rest.” Vance Havner said, “We either come apart to rest or we just come apart.”

Doing what shepherds do: feeding, leading, seeking the wandering and healing the hurting can be draining. Finally, it has been beneficial to me . . . as both a parent and pastor to call on a wise person outside of my circumstances. The late Robert Trapani was a blessing as we struggled with certain aspects of parenting. He helped us put things in perspective. On other occasions, when the care-giving component of ministry had stretched us to the breaking point . . . it was good to have an elder to unload on.

None of us can afford to be less than real. From time to time to take off the proverbial priests robes . . . and the collar turned backwards. Be real . . . in laughter and in sorrow. Emotion is not above us, nor is it beneath us. Our church and culture cannot afford for us to be a parson and not also be a person.

Five Steps in a Preacher’s (Anybody’s) Quiet Time. Do Preacher’s Not Pray?

file0001123125139I’m not sure why – but nobody ever taught me to pray. I became a preacher without having much of a prayer life or even prayer understanding.  I heard people pray and my parents had family devotion where we’d gather for prayer.  Dad always started praying with the words, “Our most gracious heavenly father . . . “ So some of it did stick. Perhaps I was daydreaming the days they taught the Sunday School class on “how” to pray. Thankfully, this did change and while today I’d not define myself as a man of prayer, it is better.  Let me share some things that worked for me.

I’d add a caveat.  There is nothing new.  A book that helped me was Bill Hybels Too Busy Not to Pray.  I suggest you pick it up.  Of course you can also order it from Amazon by clicking here somewhere.

Too Busy Not to Pray: Slowing Down to Be with God

What Hybels material really  helped me with was that writing or journaling my prayer was a better place to rather than verbalizing them.

1. Slow down and begin with yesterday –   Psalms often has the word, “Selah” meaning pause and consider this.  Our modern hectic culture allows very few “Selah” moments. To get things stopped in order to prepare to pray I write a single paragraph about yesterday’s events.  It forces some review and thinking about yesterday.  What is there to celebrate?  What came into my world that I need to talk to Jesus about.

2. Adoration – write a single paragraph of adoration to and about Jesus.  Now, this is not as easy as it seems it should be.  It is easy to get into the routine of offering adoration about the same things. To combat this narrow consideration of God and His greatness, I use some sort of devotional book that expresses wonder about who Jesus is.  It may require me reading several devotions before something resonates, but when it does I write a paragraph about this specific aspect of the nature of God.  My favorite books on the nature of God are five volumes by Charles J. Rolls.  These books are out of print, but on occasion can be found at Amazon or American Book Exchange.  I’m including the links for Amazon at the bottom of this post.

After I all Rolls’ stuff I started using G. Campbell Morgan’s Searchlight from the Word.  It takes a bit more daily reading to get to something that is adoration.  Still good stuff though.

3. Confession – no book is needed here. A single paragraph confessing my faults, failings and fears.

4. Thanksgiving – no book needed here either.  A paragraph of gratitude. Doing this each day helps me scratch beneath the surface and to be grateful for His MANY blessings to me.

5.  Supplication – My written petition – “God save our lost son . . . He needs you.  Save him now. Save my grandsons.” Then on to specific needs that I’m aware of.

A.C.T.S. – Adoration, Confession, Thanksgiving, Supplication

My prayer grew from this foundation to  using Bible to pray God’s will for children.  Again, there are books available to help with this.

The last portion of my prayer time is with my hands lifted.  Paul said he wanted men everywhere to worship (prayer is included in the idea expressed by the Greek word) lifting holy hands without wrath and doubting.  Lifting one’s hands is an act of surrender.  You can’t be in charge and have your hands up at the same time. Paul also indicated this was to be prayer/surrender without wrath.

“Without wrath” – wrath has to do with what has already happened.  With hands lifted I can surrender any and all bad that I’m angry about.  I let go of my anger . . . surrendering it – hands lifted

“Without doubt” has reference to the future. We don’t doubt for yesterday, we doubt for tomorrow. Yesterday is a known, tomorrow is an unknown. With hands lifted I turn loose of the uncertainty of the future.  I’ll walk into it “without doubt.”

You talk about cleansing the spirit and mind – this last bit, built on the foundation of what has preceded – gets one ready to tackle about anything.

Final two components – listening for and to God.  What is the spirit saying to me?  What is the spirit saying to the church? Digging in for some time with the word of God.

Now . . . I’ve shared – how do you pray?  What has worked?  My prayer is relatively structured compared to many.  I’m interested to learn . . .

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002K7DIU0/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B002K7DIU0&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>The name above every name, (His The names and titles of Jesus Christ) by Rolls</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B002K7DIU0″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

IS2=1&lt1=_blank&m=amazon&lc1=0000FF&bc1=000000&bg1=FFFFFF&f=ifr’,’frameborder’:’0′,’marginwidth’:’0′,’scrolling’:’no’},’hspace’:null,’vspace’:null,’align’:null,’bgcolor’:null}” />

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B008YKMFOC/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B008YKMFOC&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>Rolls, Charles J.’s Time’s Noblest Name: L, M, N, O (Names and Titles of Jesus Christ) Revised edition by Rolls, Charles J. published by Loizeaux Brothers [Paperback] (1985)</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B008YKMFOC” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

 

<a href=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000K4UN58/ref=as_li_tf_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000K4UN58&linkCode=as2&tag=truthpublicat-20″>The Name Above Evry Name: The names and Titles of Jesus Christ P, Q, R, S</a><img src=”http://www.assoc-amazon.com/e/ir?t=truthpublicat-20&l=as2&o=1&a=B000K4UN58″ width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″ alt=”” style=”border:none !important; margin:0px !important;” />

How To Be an Effective Bi-Vocational Pastor

Over half of all pastors are “tent makers.” I’ve been there, done that – and have the t-shirt and sweat shirt from several seasons of bi-vocational ministry. If a full-time pastors thinks life a challenge . . . consider the juggling act of the bi-vocational pastor. Balancing God, family, ministry and the “other job” necessary to keep bills paid is not easy. man digging with shovel

Bi-vocational challenges are real . . .. Things like:

 

  • Feeling less significant than someone who is a full-time pastor.
  • Feeling “less accomplished” because of limited hours for ministry.
  • Not being able to attend sectional, district or national meetings. “Seasons of refreshing” are not readily available.
  • Time-management is a challenge. The public presentation is part of it  but what about the unseen: particularly the time needed to marinate one’s brain in God’s word.

Let me give you several observations.

  1. No stigma is EVER to be attached to being bi-vocational. Amos and Paul were bi-vocational. Many faithful men of God drive a truck or handle a nail-gun forty hours a week.
  2. Never discount “real” world living. Much I know about leadership and dealing with people was learned from a corporate setting. All work is “as unto the Lord.” Christianity is lived in the market place of life!
  3. Any who “rank” pastors based on whether they are “full time” need to read Jesus’ teaching regarding “true greatness” (Luke 9:46-48). For 38 years my late Grandfather was a pastor . . . at the same time driving a school bus. He is a hero. I’ll never be the shepherd H.B. Frazier was. In spite of being a working pastor, he served people well.

Two decades ago, Focus on the Family’s, The Parsonage had “Tips From Bi-Vocational Pastors.” These still work.

Prioritize — “Decide what are  high priority tasks.” Pastoring with limited time and energy means you must identify the greatest needs of the congregation and minister to them. Bi-vocational pastors should beware of trying to have a “full-service” ministry. You cannot do everything, so you must have a clear focus on what you will do.

parent playing with kidCalendar family time — Don’t just schedule it – calendar it.  If something is on the calendar it is less likely to get written out. Intentionally set aside time for your spouse and kids. Families can suffer when a pastor has two jobs.

Fellowship with other preachers — Many times, bi-vocational pastors are “out of the loop.” Full-time pastors, please be mindful of this. Pass on cds, dvds, book and other materials . . . and invite a bi-vocational pastor to lunch. 

 

Additional insight about bi-vocational ministry is from Pastor Donald Bryant (Slidell, Louisiana):

1. Guard your attitude. It can be hard for those “called into ministry” to accept the fact that they must work a “secular” job. It  can lead to bitterness; crippling one’s ministry.

2. Don’t neglect your physical, emotional, spiritual and mental health. Those who burn the candle at both ends are likely to run out of wick!

3. Develop a realistic plan. Unless you prefer (and some do) to be bi-vocational, you need a realistic plan for how you transition to full-time ministry. This includes minimize your debt and standard of living. If you spend all your cash flow you will never be able to leave the secular job.

 

Some thoughts from my own experience:

 

Use series for preaching and teaching. Any service where you know your direction is one less decision to mull over. Going through a book of the Bible expositionally served me well.

Stay full. CD, mp3, audio-books,  and archived online preaching are readily available. We all need to be preached too and to add additional resources. Don’t “spend” time – “use” time in the car or elsewhere to keep yourself fresh. Unfocused time is not productive.

If you are full-time working for Jesus – don’t just increase your “play” time.  Establish office hours, punch the clock literally or figuratively.  Plan to give Jesus’ 50 – 60 hours of each week. 

 

Final note from research funded by a Nazarene group: Churches pastored by bi-vocational pastors are neither more nor less likely to grow than those pastored by full time pastors.

Those who work to fulfill God’s call and at the same time work to provide for a family (and often a significant part of the church’s expense) deserve double honor. I commend you . . . keep fighting the good . . . and wise fight.  You are making a difference.

 

Many of you serve as bi-vocational pastors – what has been your greatest challenge?  What has been your solution?  Your sharing your challenge and solution will help others.

If You Can’t Define It, You Probably Aren’t Doing It!

Define Our culture has minimized much that has to do with Christianity. These days, your call adds little credibility to how others perceive you. As you know some church people want a “preacher” but not a “pastor.”  There is a difference between the two.  We’re going to try to define it. I can be “clergy” as contrasted to being a “man of God.” I may want a clergy tag on the car, but not the “man of God” mantle on my life. Paul understood the need to validate his role as a God-called Christian leader. “When I speak to you Gentiles,” Paul wrote, “I magnify mine office if by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh.”  (Romans 11:13-14) There are several facets to this particular matter of intentionally defining God’s call.

 Define The Office

Instill in your mind the fact that the work of the ministry is official. What we do is an office in every sense of the word. The definition of office is: “A special duty, trust, charge, or position, conferred by authority for a public purpose.”

Note the elements of an office: duty, trust, or a special charge. It is conferred by authority to benefit a larger public. The office to which Paul referred has a sacred trust and God Himself confers it. God used several terms to designate His called leaders. These terms not only indicate an office but suggest the duties.

  • Shepherd – A shepherd leads the flock; seeks the wandering; feeds the sheep; and heals the hurting.  Caring for the sheep consumes the shepherd’s life. As one writer put it, a shepherd has the smell of the sheep.
  • Bishop – This refers to an overseer. An overseer has special duties and authority. He directs the labors of others. However, lest we revel in a position of oversight be mindful that authority includes the weight of responsibility. Football coach Vince Lombardi observed that when his team won, “The team did it, but when we lose I take the blame. It’s my fault. I had a poor game plan and made poor decisions.” In a similar way, as a bishop, one has to accept responsibility.

Define Your Responsibility

There is a responsibility laid on a preacher that does not rest on any other member of His church.  Get clear on what you are to do .  . define it and do it.  Don’t worry about the things that don’t fit in the definition.  I encourage you to be who and what God called and equipped you to be.  The Science of Shepherding

What do you see as some incorrect expectations other have on you? . . . or perhaps we put them on ourselves.

You Wouldn’t Want An Ostrich for Your Mama

 

PLOWING – A Church Planter’s Prayer Ministry!

MinistrySomething . . . anything . . . something . . . anything.  No Christian of even the youngest faith can fret over a “call to prayer.”  I’ve said for years that new church plants had two ministries, “get ’em here” and “keep ’em here.”  I’ve added a third ministry – “pray it here!”  For those who are going to sing in a service, or serve as hostesses welcoming the new people – surely you can convey to them the importance of God’s help.  You can seek and find God’s help in prayer.  You can seal them on it. Of course, you have to be there too – this time, next time and every time.  If church starts at 10:00 make it simple – have these key people meet you for prayer at 9:30 – pray 15 minutes and then get them to speaking faith about their expectation of the service.

The Ministry: The Prayer Program Begins With You

Virginia Church Planter Travis Worthington recently said it was a great joy was seeing people in their baby church learn to pray.  The only way he is seeing them learn to pray is if they are seeing and hearing him pray; and the church planter is giving them instruction in prayer.  You can develop praying people – even out of brand new people. It is what you expose them too.  Do they hear you pray? Do they see you pray? “Preacher, no pray lot; people, no pray little!” Start working prayer times into your gatherings and make them simple but push people to join in praying for someone else.  You are equipping them. http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/questions-pentecostals-preachers-ask/

Pray With Purpose

Heaven waits on prayers – a little one with a vial full of the prayers of the saints holds heaven in abeyance to the point that at what would seem to be a busy time, the strongest angels in God’s arsenal were on hold.  Thirty minutes.  Pray with the purposeful sense that your prayer will affect things and will do so quickly.

Fire

Get your Church Plant Prayer Program started

  • You have to be there at any prayer meeting yourself, your spouse needs to be there.
  • Start with Conveience – pray 15 minutes before church starts.  Emphasize that service participants had to pray!  “No pray, no Play” – not the drums or keyboard.
  • As time goes forward the prayer will affect the service in a powerful way.  When that happens toss out the suggestion of expanding this prayer for fifteen minutes.
  • Start with sustainability.  If you cannot keep it going, then it will be a learning experience clothed in the garments of failure.
  • Enter the prayer program knowing you will need to vary the approach at times, whether it is you to sometimes direct it, other times the prayer time is quieter, on occasion very intense.  Emotion is not the objective – answered prayer is the objective.
  • Make prayer, real prayer time an expected part of each church service.

What are some things you have seen work to establish a sustainable prayer ministry in a church plant?

Carlton L. Coon Sr.

carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Daily Things of Christian Living