Focus on the Next Hurdle

Veteran evangelist Greg Godwin introduced me to the writing of Glenn Clark.  In Clark’s Fishers of Men he tells the story of a former track champion now involved in ministry. The fellow was being challenged by the long term matters and not seeing the way forward for the long haul.  Clark responded to the fellow’s concern:hurdle-576058_960_720

I turned to the track captain-who, by the way, was the state champion in the low and high hurdles-and said, “Remember the secret that has helped you win many a hard-fought hurdle race in the past. As you left the marks, you did not look at the long row of hurdles ahead of you. If you had, you would have become discouraged before you had run ten yards; but you confined your attention to the one hurdle that was directly in front of you. And the only races you won were races where you ran each hurdle as though it were the last.achievement-703442__340

1. Know the race is long.

2. Know the race has several obstacles.

3.  FOCUS on the next hurdle rather than all of the hurdles.  No more important word than “Focus.”  Today, what is the immediate hurdle before you?  That hurdle gets all the attention!  Now think about what matters could be confusing your focus on that next hurdle?  Paul’s “one thing!”

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

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

Daily Evangelism

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

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

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

Wrong Attitudes Toward Daily Evangelism

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

Miscomprehension of the Task

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

Wrong Focus

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

Irrelevance

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

Bible Instruction to Evangelismstudy-862994_960_720

Jesus distinctly commissioned evangelism:

Matthew, 28:19

There are three instructions given.

First (go, teach)

  • “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”

Second {convert}

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

Third (teach, disciple)

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Example of Evangelism

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

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

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

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Daily Unity

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

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

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

potatoes-1585075__340Potato Unity

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

Things that Limit Same Mindedness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results of Daily Being in One Accord

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

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

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

daily

 


Thinking Theologically – The Science of Shepherding

 Thinking Theologically about Pastor/shepherds

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

Indefensible Behaviors

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

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

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

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

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

BAD pastoral theology – in dealing with the sheep!

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

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

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

Bad Pastoral Theology Within the Pastor/Shepherd

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

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

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

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

Pastor/Shepherd a Better Way

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

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

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

New Book – Details Matter

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

UPCOMING WEBINAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor/Shepherding is NOT Easy Work

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

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

 

The Challenges Beyond the Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming topics in The Science of Shepherding Series:

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

UPCOMING WEBINAR

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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.

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.

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.

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