Daily Bible Study

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

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

66% say there is no absolute truth.

63% cannot name the four Gospels.

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

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

39% do not know Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

30% do not know there were 12 apostles.

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

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

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

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

Bible Example of Daily Study

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

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

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

The Importance of Bible Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

daily

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!

Green Screen Living

Surviving Depression–Look Behind the Green Screen

Depression

Hope and Despair

Mental or emotional depression is compared to many things. Let me add another. Depression is for the mind and emotions like the physical experience of walking through a swamp. My upbringing was in central Louisiana. On occasion, I duck-hunted in a swamp. At times, I’d walk several hundred yards through water mid-thigh, with mud sucking at every step. Wading through a swamp is muddy, messy, slow and exhausting. Similarly, depression is also muddy, messy, a slow trudge. It is also similarly exhausting.

To make matters worse, the swamp of depression seems perpetual. When a hunter is trudging back to higher land, he can see and know that dry ground is just ahead. Such is not the case with the swamp of depression. In every direction, there is the swamp extending as far as the eye can see.

It is a mental and emotional trip through the thigh-deep water with muck sucking at your boots each step.

The swamp goes forever. It seems that life does not exist beyond depression. Every sun-rise will find you in the same swamp. Walking through a swamp of depression is hard. When the swamp is the only thing, you can see it generates unspeakable despair.

The swamp of depression is real. It is exhausting and debilitating. Let me offer expanded perception.

Depression surrounds you with a “green screen”

“Green screen” is the technique of photographing or filming a person or object against a green monochrome backdrop. With the use of technology, a different image then replaces the monochrome backdrop. The person in the photo may not have traveled to the desert or mountain. Photographic or cinematic sleight-of-hand created what you see.

Understand, I’m not suggesting depression is fake. The defining characteristics of:

  • Sadness without reason
  • Lack of motivation
  • A sense of helplessness
  • Worthlessness
  • Hopelessness
  • Lack of focus
  • Less energy than usual
  • No pleasure in things you have always enjoyed.
  • It being a struggle to maintain normal social activities
  • Breathing taking all of your energy

All of these, along with several other symptoms are as real as this morning’s sunrise.

Depression’s Green Screen

But there is a falsehood in depression. It prompts my “green screen” analogy. Our mind can create its version of a “green screen.” Remember, a “green screen” allows an unreal image to become part of the picture being seen.

In depression, when you look ahead – you see the swamp. It extends as far as your eye can see. Look behind you, and it seems you have been in the swamp forever. All past success has little value while in the swamp of depression. On every side is the same – more swamp. The dark, muddy, and forbidding surrounds you. Every single step is an effort. Beyond that, the “green screen” says your current struggle will be there for every tomorrow. The sense that the depression will be perpetual is debilitating.

Does this not describe depression?

Depression’s green screen lie tells you that you are surrounded by a perpetual swamp of despair. The fable is that you have been here forever and that your life has no value. That part of depression is a “green screen.

Look Past the Green Screen

Surviving depression may become a bit easier, if you can know the lie for what it is. Depression, regardless of its source seldom lasts forever. Mine never has. High ground awaits. But, the false “green screen” would have you think different. Know better!

Use your past survival as a source of present encouragement

Many readers will have already walked through this swamp. In your previous journey through depression, didn’t it also seem as though the marsh would never end? You felt hopeless back then. Remember! You felt then, just like you feel now. Most people eventually come out of the depression. Your earlier depression may have lasted six months, a year or five years. You survived. Remember that survival – it will help you make it now.

Really Think about Tomorrow

For a moment limit your feeling and elevate your thinking. By the way, what we “think” and what we “feel”  are not the same thing. Emotions can be illogical. Look at your calendar. Before you walked into the swamp of depression what coming event would have brought you joy? Is a grandchild about to be born? Maybe, college graduation is just ahead? Perhaps, a conference you have always enjoyed awaits. Possibly, some of your “laughing friends” are coming to town. “Laughing friends” is my term for the small group of people with whom we can laugh with abandon. For most of us, such friends are a rare treasure.

I know what you are thinking, “Pastor, the idea of spending time with anybody or going to any event makes me feel exhausted.” Remember, in this exercise you are not feeling. You are “thinking.” When you think about it, there is great value in the time with those “laughing friends.” Somewhere ahead there is the likelihood of better times. There is a reason to slog on. The surrounding green screen says it is not so. Remember, it is a green screen. The green screen lies!

Really Think about the Past

For a second moment, limit your feelings and elevate your thinking. Open the pictures and videos on your phone or get the box of photos from a closet. Look at the pictures. Think about what you are seeing.  Some examples from my world:

  • Pictures of Lane and Chris as boys,
  • The picture of our two grandsons (holy children to me) at three years old having a whispered conversation on the drive leading to our home.
  • The pictures of our wedding
  • A framed copy of my first published book, Daily Things of Christian Living.
  • The video clip of 18-month-old Elsie, for the first time, discovering her shadow and head-butting it.

These help me peek around the green screen of despair. My life has not been so bad. Pictures of experiences shared with “laughing friends” like Stan and Melba, Tim and Joan, Jerry and Phyllis, Perry and Loretta, or Roy and Debbie help remind me. I have not always been walking through this swamp. As you look at your pictures – remember.

God IS – There!

Job had a similar experience. Job was depressed with good cause. He looked for God in front of him and behind him and on each side. (Job 23:8-9) In spite of Job’s search, God was not to be found. Job was seeing “green screens.” What Job felt was Job’s emotional reality. But, what Job saw was not the conclusion of this. Job said, “He knoweth the way that I take . . ..” (Job 23:10). Job’s based this final conclusion on faith, not feelings. While in his dark place, Job did not know where God was. By faith, Job understood that God knew right where he was.

In conclusion, take heart – this describes your situation as well.

Depression is real.

Depression being permanent – unlikely.

Your past life having no value – nonsense.

All of that is a “green screen.” Know the green screen surrounding your depression for what it is.

Daily Things of Christian Living

 

Destroyers

Identify the Destroyers Without–The Science of Shepherding

Destroyers come from without. It is common. People backslide. Unfortunately, in some cases, they are no longer even present at churches. Others backslide into comfortable carnality. Sadly, precious people are devoured. Through history, some of the finest of God’s flock became prey. Especially noteworthy, destruction comes in different forms. Most of these destroyers, a pastor/shepherd will need to repeatedly address as a part of the “Science of Shepherding”. The primary tools to deal with “destroyers”:

  • Strong, consistent, relevant Bible-based teaching and preaching.
  • An environment where the Holy Ghost minister, convict, direct and re-direct.

Feed the Flock with Protective Intent

It takes intentional behavior from the pastor/shepherd for the tools to work. Intentionality, means you are not always providing an exciting “that will preach” type sermon. Sadly, my “that will preach” sermons tend to be dessert rather than main course. While feeding with intent, this includes quite a few meals of spiritual oatmeal. Similarly, the flock needs some “fiber.” Feed with intent!

Further, studying and preaching about enjoyable topics is easy. My list of “enjoyed topics” is a bit narrow. The needs of the flock are broader than my preferences. For this reason, I have a list of 20 topics to preach or teach about two times each year. As a result, my “list of twenty” keeps me ignoring important topics.

Fortunately, relevant teaching and preaching will address the “destroyers.” Defending the flock begins in the pulpit. Therefore, a pastor/shepherd must patiently and repeatedly identify the predators. The world, flesh and devil are out to destroy people of the flock. My last blog post addresses identifying and dealing with those destroyers in the science of Shepherding series: http://carltoncoonsr.com/know-your-wolf-pastor/

Loose the Spirit

Make room for the Holy Ghost to work. When people are being confronted by a predator the spirit can warn and direct. It is the Holy Ghost who becomes the “teacher” about life. Firstly, let the Holy Ghost have a free channel in which to work.

Such moments often come during a praise and worship service, corporate prayer, and at the altar. The Holy Spirit can do more in seconds than my effort can do in years. So let God have access to the flock.

First of all, let’s consider the destroyers that attack from without.

Destroyers Wolf Lurking

Destroyers from Without

Those destroyers “out there” are identifiable. Responding to the predators without is easier than responding to things within. The late Billy Cole said, “Dealing with a demonic spirit is much easier than dealing with a human spirit.” Wolves can be seen as they flit about. In time, a pastor/shepherd identifies the predator.

So in the natural world, no sheep challenges a wolf. Consequently, a sheep who plays game with a wolf won’t survive. Unfortunately, we humans tend to enter into dalliances with our destroyers. People you pastor who interact with the wolf, imagining they can prevail, don’t survive. Some are so foolish as to imagine their ability to overcome what no human before them has overcome. Most of all, know the destroyers from without.

Bad influences

“Evil communication corrupts good manners!” (1 Corinthians 15:33) The word communication here does not refer to language. It instead refers to interaction with others. Good people spending time with others who are a bad influence, generally has a bad outcome. “Bad” influences result in people misbehaving. As a result, people find themselves acting in ways  they would have earlier found unimaginable.

Because one bad apple will spoil the whole bunch, Paul warned the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 5) of immoral behavior they were tolerating. And Paul’s concern with their tolerance was the fornication being like yeast in dough. Especially relevant, in the chapter, Paul spoke of the leaven of fornication, malice and wickedness. Do not be so deceived and misled! Evil companionships (communion, associations) corrupt and deprave good manners and morals and character (AMP 1 Corinthians 15:33)

Unfortunately, negative influence does not just come from individuals. A pervasive sense of unrighteousness surrounds your flock. It flows from academia, politics, sports, entertainment, media, etc. Christians are the frog in the kettle. And the heat is being turned up. Behavior held in disrepute a generation ago is now accepted. It is affecting those you lead. Consequently, you will find defending against individuals who are a bad influence is a challenge. Most often, it is less of a challenge than defending against the surrounding “evil communication.”

Protect the Flock from Bad Influences

  1. You cannot protect people who don’t want to be protected. It’s not in a pastor/shepherd’s job description to micromanage. Jesus respected people’s right to be wrong. Examples:  The rich young ruler and Judas Iscariot. As a pastor, you do the same. Respect people’s right to be wrong. When people make bad choices, they don’t become my enemy. This is important. If you keep on loving people, in time, some realize their error and return to the fold.
  2. Identify bad influences. Warn the people. Preach and teach about influences. Describe the sorts of people who are a bad influence. Prepare the flock to know predators. Idolatrous nations surrounded Israel. Unfortunately, God’s people often took on the identity of their neighbors. The Israelites made those choices. They didn’t make those decisions unwarned. You must sound a warning identifying bad influences.
  3. Emphasize spiritual disciplines. People don’t pray if the pastor/shepherd does not lead them to prayer. People do not pray effectively, if their pastor/shepherd does not equip them to pray. One of my earlier and most oft-read posts addressed, How to Establish a Prayer Program for a Church of any Size.
  4. When someone is under the sway of bad influences, express concern in a personal way. The Bible calls this “exhortation.” Keep it confidential. Don’t share your concern with ten other people, rather, talk to the person directly. You can express your concern, in moments of conversation. When the predator of bad influence is near don’t delay raising your concern. As part of the “exhortation”, always pray with them. Conversational prayer has been effective for me. The prayer should not be generic. Ask the Lord to open that person’s eyes and understanding and give them strength to rise above “evil communication.”
  5. Ask, a person coming under such attack, “How can I help you?”

False doctrine

First of all, false doctrine is a ravenous wolf. As a result of our “no doctrine” world people don’t “know doctrine.” In some churches, a person attending for decades will still not know what the church teaches. And this is particularly true of those who attend Sunday worship, because most evangelistic preaching gives little doctrinal depth.

Most noteworthy, over thirty times the New Testament references false teaching or doctrine. People whose parents/grandparents came in the church are susceptible to false doctrine. There is no such thing as “hand-me-down” knowledge. Knowledge has to be gained personally. This is true, whether we are speaking of the multiplication tables or the new birth.

The Remedy for False Doctrine

  1. Teach correct doctrine. A strong flock is built by teaching. Unfortunately, Bible-teaching has fallen from favor. The result:  Many get a steady diet of preaching. The sermon begins with a Bible text. After the text has been read, it is often never again referred to. Because we can do better, we must do better.
  2. To combat false doctrine, let the word of God be the authority. Topical teaching that uses verses within context helps. Expository teaching and preaching are also effective. In both instances, God’s word rules!
  3. Empower people to study for themselves. Each person you teach must assess what is being taught. It works well to encourage people to study for themselves. My approach is to say, “Don’t accept what I’ve taught without examination. Someone is a false prophet offering false teaching. Perhaps I am such a false prophet.”  Several times I’ve preached, “Am I a False Prophet?”  We do believe false prophets exist.  “What We Believe and Why”.

Hence, a caveat is needed. A pastor/shepherd can do everything possible to teach people. Unfortunately, those who need it the most may not be present to be taught. In such instances you cannot protect them from false doctrines. There are others who do not mentally apply themselves. Such people are like a child sleeping through the math class. Finally, they gain nothing.

Furthermore, is there a remedy for people who are unteachable? I’ve not come up with one. If you have please pass it on.

Worldliness

A final common devourer from without is worldliness. When people become worldly, they “love the world.” (1 John 2:15-17) The world referred to is not planet Earth. We see that the Greek word translated world is kosmos. The kosmos according to Kenneth Wuest is the “ordered system of things.” (Wuest Word Studies in the Greek New Testament are a great help to the majority of us who are not Greek scholars.) The world as Wuest describes it includes your career, financial transactions, education, entertainment, etc. In essence, the world is our society’s operating system. So we are all living in the world. The pastor/shepherd and his flock are part of the kosmos.

Consequently, worldliness comes when people love the kosmos. John described worldliness:

  • The lust (desire) of the flesh.
  • The lust (desire) of the eyes.
  • The pride of life.

These things that are not of the Father, become the things a person cares about. Unfortunately, the topic of worldliness is broad ranging and ever-growing.

  • Ambitions for success are good. Worldliness is when the ambition causes someone to regularly miss church for extra work.
  • Worldliness is a love for the NFL that keeps someone home from church to watch the Super Bowl.
  • Worldliness is the competition for possessions. Richard Foster called it, “the kingdom of thingdom.” We have to keeping pace with the Jones’ and Smiths.
  • Dressing in ways that while not immodest is extravagant and attention-getting is worldliness.
  • An enjoyment of video games to the point that the musician no longer practices to do their best – worldliness.
  • Loving fishing, golf or quilting can become worldliness. How great is the hold any of those thing have.

While worldliness came come in many guises, worldliness is often not a specific behavior, but rather it is the love of the behavior.

The Remedy for Worldliness

So you may have noticed that the remedies tend to be similar. Again, preach and teach about the world. You will have to define the “world” for your people. As a result, you will also have to give them examples of what “loving the world” looks like. If you don’t name the symptoms, people won’t know worldliness when they see it.

People who love the world do not do God’s will with their life. Similarly, the wolf of “worldliness” is always lurking. The world is the system that surrounds us. So everything people deal with is an opportunity to fall in love with the “ordered system of things.”

Pastor/shepherd, the predator of worldliness is one you won’t run off for long. Worldliness is always near. Finally, worldliness always returns with another effort to destroy the Lord’s lambs.

In conclusion, I’m interested to know the efforts that you have used to deal with the destroyers that have come against the flock. Perhaps the struggles you have been through are different from mine. Someone may well be dealing with a situation similar to something you have worked through in the past.

4 For the Minister Set

After You KNOW Your Wolf

A wolf will attack sheep. Predators destroy. A previous chapter talked about “The Sheep Can Smell What the Shepherd Cannot See!” http://carltoncoonsr.com/sheep-can-smell-shepherd-cannot-see/ Predators do not remain hidden. The lion, wolf or bear come from behind a bush or arise from a swell in the landscape. Their location is no longer secret.  It is important for the pastor/shepherd to:

  • Know WHAT you are dealing with.
  • Know WHERE the destroyer is at.

When You Have Seen the Wolf

In the natural, sheep have no defense against a predator. Their only choice is to flee. The problem: sheep are not good runners. This makes sheep relatively easy prey. It is not flattering to we humans that the Lord chose this particular word picture to describe us.

Throughout human history, the answer for defenseless sheep has been a shepherd. A shepherd defends the flock in its entirety. Not only that, the shepherd is the defender of individual sheep (Amos 3:12). A good shepherd tries to save all the sheep under his care.

Shepherds Feel Loss

A good shepherd feels a sense of loss when one of the flock does not survive. Jesus expressed dismay at not being able to keep Judas safe in the flock. A good shepherd never says, “Good riddance,” at any loss. Over 30 thirty years back, I heard Jerry Jones preach, “Please Take It Personal.” He spoke of Paul’s concern for those who made bad choices. He referenced Hymaneus and Demas. Hymaneus was devoured by doctrinal error. Demas lost out to worldliness. These were men who had abandoned Paul. Paul’s sense of personal loss is clear.

Paul did not feel their departure to be, “good riddance.” His prayer was for their recovery. At times I am moved to pray for two “sons in ministry” who have followed Demas’ path. Most days I find myself angry at their choices. Yet, I felt an acute sense of loss and grief at a sad story not yet completely written.

Strategically Defend

A pastor/shepherd is intentionally strategic in defending the flock against a predator. As discussed earlier, it is a mistake to hurry to “do something.” The sheep are restless and smell a predator. But, upon identifying a predator, timely, decisive and appropriate action is required. I chose the underlined words to specifically describe the sort of action needed for strategic defense.

Appropriate action

This is an action that matches a situation. Don’t use a cannon to deal with a mosquito. A pastor/shepherd can address most things with a quiet conversation sitting on a pew. This extends to spiritual predators. In my experience counseling appointments tend to validate a problem. The wolf begins to look bigger than he is. The late J.T. Pugh confirmed my approach as he talked about pastoral ministry. That conversation is found in a CD set that David Elms did with Bro. Pugh. The title is, “A Conversation with J.T. Pugh.” Every preacher should be required to listen to the series. The series is available at the Pentecostal Publishing House.

Timely action

This means the action is right on time. Not early and not late. Moses experienced a miracle as his rod became a serpent. When the Lord told Moses to pick up the serpent, Moses waited till he could grab the serpent by the tail. Moses picked his time! You do the same. At times you must wait until a predator gets positioned right before dealing with it. The “right time” may be during or after a mighty move of God’s spirit. Many times, the predator can be dealt with in almost a casual aside during a conversation over coffee. You won’t kill every predator. Most of them you will scare away. Like a wolf or bear, the destroyers will return.

Decisive action

The shepherd made a decision. There is no vacillating. No uncertainty about what will be done. I’m not describing a knee jerk reaction. Effective leaders seldom take decisive action on the basis of emotion alone. You determine the strategy through prayer, deliberate thought, and counsel.

When military leaders defend a city, their success is not found by, “do something.”  They take appropriate, timely and decisive action. Their action is intended to defend what they have been assigned to defend. Can those who protect the flock for the Lord Jesus be any less intentional?

As You Deal with Predators Find a Coach

This suggestion may not apply to you. If not, ignore it. Our first pastorate was a Home Missions setting in northeastern Louisiana. I’d not been equipped to be an effective pastor. Few people ask: Is there a course on “Effective Pastoral Ministry?”  If such existed, it might be a best-selling training program.

While I did not have experience, God had blessed me with enough gumption to realize when I was in over my head. When faced with a situation “new to me” I’d phone a mentor. Each man influenced me in specific areas of ministry. It never diminishes a person’s standing to seek advice. As I moved along in life, I continued to seek counsel from people more experience than me. Young pastors are wise to do the same.

Mentors and How They Helped

In my case the mentors and their role were:

  • Crawford Coon is my uncle. More important, he is an accomplished speaker and writer. He also had pastored in situations complex enough to have seen many different things. When I dealt with people challenges I’d call Crawford. I’d lay out the situation and share with him what my strategic response was going to be. Crawford would then coach me along to improve the outcome.
  • If my challenge had to do with leading the church through a difficult season, T.F. Tenney was my leadership coach. He was my district superintendent. Again, I’d explain the challenge, offer my plan of action, and get his perspective.
  • Finally, at times the church was out-of-sync. A revival was somewhere but not at the Vidalia Revival Center. My call would be to the late G.A. Mangun. I knew Bro. Mangun’s direction before I even asked. In the stubbornness of my youth, I needed to hear it anyway. The elder’s solution was always, “Get those people praying. Call a fast. Go on a fast yourself.” Things Learned From G.A. Mangun http://carltoncoonsr.com/things-learned-from-g-a-mangun/
Wise Elders Help You Strategize

Notice, there was more than one coach. Each man brought specific value to the table. I include this side journey for a reason. Talking with such men helped me develop an intentional strategy to respond to a predator. Now, I spend some amount of time coaching others dealing with attacking predators. As I write, a young pastor has asked about how to respond to a particular situation. A district leader has sought advice about a divisive matter of concern. Do not be afraid to get help as you develop your strategy. Through the years, meaningful men and women have always made time for my questions. They will do the same for your questions.

 

Elder, Tell Me Your Memories

 

The Sheep Can Smell, What a Shepherd Cannot See

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

 

When the Sheep are Uneasy a Pastor/Shepherd Should Beware

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

The Benefit of Listening

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

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

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

Just a Sheep?

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

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

Responding to Nervous Sheep

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

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

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

When the Sheep are Sniffing – Move Slow

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

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

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

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

Wise shepherds don’t panic.

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

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

Strategies for the “Nervous” Times

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

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

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

Lead a season of focused prayer and fasting.

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

Preach the exaltation of Jesus and nothing else.

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

Take communion together.

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

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

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

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

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


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Thinking Theologically – The Science of Shepherding

 Thinking Theologically about Pastor/shepherds

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

Indefensible Behaviors

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

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

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

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

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

BAD pastoral theology – in dealing with the sheep!

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

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

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

Bad Pastoral Theology Within the Pastor/Shepherd

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

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

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

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

Pastor/Shepherd a Better Way

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

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

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

New Book – Details Matter

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

UPCOMING WEBINAR

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor/Shepherding is NOT Easy Work

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

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

 

The Challenges Beyond the Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming topics in The Science of Shepherding Series:

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

UPCOMING WEBINAR

“The What, How and Why of Convert Care”

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.

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?

The Busy Pastor Making More Disciples!

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

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

  • How many of those are serving God today?

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

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

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

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

sheep

What Now?

 

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

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

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

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

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

You can provide care for the newcomers to the church!

How Non Super-Preachers Get Hands to the Harvest

Pastor James Carney Columbia, Mississippi

Pastor James Carney
Columbia, Mississippi

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

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

  • Jerry Wayne Dillon

  • Larry Webb

  • Jerry Jones

  • James Carney

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

How did it happen.  James Carney tells me:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

Do You Make These Mistakes in Evangelizing Your Community?

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

What’s the current crop . . .

growing here in this field . . .

at our specific season?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Responses to your moment:

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

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

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

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

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

The Secret to Never Being Alone Again

Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

b. Such loneliness can be paralyzing.

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

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

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

c. That faith led them to obedient action:

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

ii. Baptized in Jesus Name.

d. Promised the gift of the Holy Ghost.

e. The Holy Ghost is something you can have.

4. Benefits preached in previous weeks:

a. Spirit of Adoption –

b. Power to live –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Opposite of having such a comforter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

c. John lingered on this concept of the comforter.

7. Comforter – in you!

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

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

c. Parcalete – comes alongside to help.

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

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

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

d. David’s observation.

i. Alone – nobody interested in me.

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

iii. Alone – there is no special insight offerered.

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

8. Answer – You need the Holy Ghost!

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

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

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

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

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

ii. An altar awaits – a new infilling.

Angry Leader Warning!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You Can Be Better than Winston Churchill!

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

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

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

Evangelism Starts With the Pastor

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

Never too big to win Souls

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

How to Be More Effective Connecting With People Bible

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

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

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

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

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

F = Family

O = Occupation

R = Religious perspective (This can get interesting)

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

Action Items to Be More Effective

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

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

Speak to the ignored.

       Value every person you come in contact with.

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

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

Five Steps to Teaching Effectively–Guest Post Arlo Moehlenpah

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

   r12_mudhole

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

A weekly bulletin

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Six Options to Establish Christmas Traditions at Your Church

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Running Today’s Race

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

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

Early this week several thoughts come to mind: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust him. Believe in him.

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

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

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

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

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

More . . . How to Appreciate Your Pastor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trust him. Believe in him.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Is There Room in The UPCI for Me?

 

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

 

Is there a place for me in United Pentecostal Church?

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

Is there room for me in North America?

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

What do I do with this passion?

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

Is there room in the United Pentecostal Church for me?

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

Does the United Pentecostal Church know that it needs me?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Guiding an Unwanted Journey

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

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

(1) Praying the Psalms aloud.

(2) Doing what God called me to do.

(3) Involvement with people.

(4) Journaling

Additional observations

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

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

Find Help

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

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

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

Think . . . even in the Dark Place

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

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

 

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

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

Further observations regarding what helped me

Doing what God called me to do.

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

 

 

Involvement with people.

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

Journaling

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

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

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

Thirteen Ways to Honor Pastor in Pastor Appreciation Month

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • Unrelated to reality
  • Unimaginable
  • Exhausting
  • Humiliating

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

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

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

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

Depression is

Debilitating, defeating,

Deepening gloom.

Trudging wearily through

The grocery store,

Unable to make a simple choice,

Or to count out correct change.

Work undone,

And not being able to lift a finger.

Doubting that God cares,

Doubting in my prayers,

Doubting He’s even there.

Sitting, staring wild-eyed into space,

Desperately wanting out of the human race.

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

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

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

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

 


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

Five MUST Buy NEW Books at 2012 General Conference,

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

Pull of the Future

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

How to Pick YOUR Mentor

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

 

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

Who do you select to be your mentors:

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

 

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

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

 

How Many Turtles Have You EVER Seen on a Fence Post?

 

Paul’s “imitate” me as I imitate Christ has helped me to be comfortable finding effective people and imitating productive aspects of their character and behavior.  It may be able to do the same for you.

Here is how real world mentor/protégé relationships worked for me:

Mentored to deal with people situations

One man I chose to “imitate” is a veteran pastor. When I was a young pastor and faced situations came for which I had little frame of reference, I would pray and examine scripture for the principles involved. From these, I’d develop a strategy for responding to this particular dilemma.

At that point, I’d call my elder – in this instance my uncle named Crawford Coon; lay out the situation and ask for his suggestion on how to respond. After he gave his insight we would talk about my planned response. At times my plan was workable; more often, he helped me see it from another perspective. After consulting with him I’d pray and take whatever action was needed.

As the years passed my own bank of experiences increased. I called Crawford less often. Yet, it has not been many years since I again found myself again calling on him for insight about a situation unlike any I’d faced.  The relationship did not eliminate the heavy lifting, but it did make sure I was working as smart as possible.

Mentored to have sustainable revival

Other people helped me focus on revival. Often it was more by observation than from being “bosom buddies.” I’ve been in the home of G.A. Mangun only a few times yet the Mangun family became models to imitate–models of revival living, work ethic, faith and personal growth. Their focus on prayer was applied. Evangelism took root. Much of what I learned was by observation from afar. I’ve already written about some of the things I learned from G. A. Mangun.

Mentored to lead

An effective district superintendent let me (and other younger men) look over his shoulder. What insight we gained from those glances into the experience of leadership. By observation, he taught me how to keep my mouth shut; that there were some battles to fight and some to ignore.

It was not natural or easy to “imitate” any of these men. As the years have passed . . . what was at one point imitation has now become part of my own approach to life and ministry. It could be that eventually someone even imitates me – now, that is something of a scary thought.

Reflfile0001777212593ections on Seeking Mentors

  • Don’t expect your mentor to be perfect or to even agree with your mentor on every topic.
  • Practicing what has been modeled is not natural or easy. It takes a determined and decided effort.  After a time, the material becomes your own.
  • You will need more than one mentor. Every person has strengths and weaknesses. Bring people into your life and learn from their strengths.
  • As time passes, the list of those who influence you will change. As growth comes one needs to find leaders who have traveled the path that now lies immediately ahead. This means reaching out for new voices with fresh perspective.  Some of the influencers of another era will be set aside by circumstances and various situations.  Some will disappoint you. Yet, you have gained from their input.

I’m so grateful for the men who have been part of my life. Men who have allowed me to “tag along” watching what they did. Someone said, “If you ever see a turtle on a fence post . . . you know he didn’t get there by himself.” I’ve never seen a turtle on a fence-post. I don’t know any who have, but I understand that few will rise to what we could be without bringing into life some men we choose to imitate. There are some people around you who know “how” . . . ask them and observe them. They will be your greatest help!file000807924215

 

Now who will you go too?  At some point, I’ve thought of hosting “A Pastor’s School.”  Do you suppose there would be interest in such a thing?

Flows of Influence–Up, Down and All Around

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

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

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

Several things are challenging realities in all this: 

There are no perfect men for mentors Mourning

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

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

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

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

Mentors ARE Needed

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

It is important to ask ourselves:

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

Who are You Copying Off Of?

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

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

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

We just don’t know how!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

How to Reduce Your Pastoral Counseling Load & Be More Effective

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Things Learned from G.A. Mangun

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

gamangun

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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