Focus on the Next Hurdle

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

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

1. Know the race is long.

2. Know the race has several obstacles.

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

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

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

Daily Evangelism

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

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

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

Wrong Attitudes Toward Daily Evangelism

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

Miscomprehension of the Task

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

Wrong Focus

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

Irrelevance

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

Bible Instruction to Evangelismstudy-862994_960_720

Jesus distinctly commissioned evangelism:

Matthew, 28:19

There are three instructions given.

First (go, teach)

  • “Go ye therefore and teach all nations.”

Second {convert}

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

Third (teach, disciple)

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

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

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

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

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

Jesus’ Example of Evangelism

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

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

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

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Daily Unity

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

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

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

potatoes-1585075__340Potato Unity

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

Things that Limit Same Mindedness

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Results of Daily Being in One Accord

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

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

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

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Daily Prayer for Daily Bread

Matthew 6:11

“Give us this day our daily bread.”

Jesus’ pattern of prayer includes the request, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Most Americans find His instruction irrelevant. We do not awaken to pray “Father, the shelves are bare, would you provide some bread?” There is no need because we have tremendous financial blessings. Further, we no longer live day to day. James the apostle advised against looking beyond today because we do not know what tomorrow holds.

James 4:14

“Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away.”

There are 7 things the New Testament speaks of being done “daily.” Doing these 7 things are the difference between strong Christianity and mediocrity. These make a great series of lessons to teach a local church.

A “Give us this day our daily bread” lifestyle is important for three reasons:                                                                                 bread-1643951_960_720-3

  • It testifies of a dependence on God.
  • It focuses on the bread things. Ancients called bread the staff of life. Bread things are the basic elements of live.
  • We need a regular (daily) feeding from God’s hand.

Daily Affirm Dependence

If your radio receives a clear signal, you might say, “It’s a powerful radio!” Flip a switch and lights illuminate the room. You could say, “Those are bright lights!” the fact is radios and light bulbs are frail. Neither is productive unless connected with a power source. Neither is the child of God unless he connects with God. Our strength is not in ourselves. We depend on Jesus Christ and must live each day seeking to be “plugged in” to Him.

socket-33137__340

Daily Bread-Basic Necessities

In Jesus’ day, bread was the staff of life. When I was a child our family had bread at every meal. Supper meant biscuits or cornbread.  I’ve never heard Dad say to my mother, “Faye would you bring the cream puffs and caviar?” However, I have often heard him ask her for the bread. Bread was basic stuff, nothing flamboyant about it. “Lord, give us daily bread.” True Christian living does not ignore the basics.

John 6:35

“And Jesus said unto them, I am the bread of life: he that cometh to me shall never hunger; and he that believeth on me shall never thirst. “ Jesus called himself the bread of life. Simply put, we need Jesus Christ every single day of our lives. Furthermore, we need to be content with HIM. Jesus’ instruction taught that we should focus on daily basics. Jesus told the Jews:

John 6:51

“I am the living bread which came down from Heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever and the bread that I give is my flesh which I will give for the life of the world.”

Christ is the basic element of life. We must get empty for Christ to be valuable to us. Vance Havner said, “The best preparation for the bread of life is a good hearty appetite.” Jesus Christ should be the basic experience of each day. Daily bread is important in any walk of life. If you are looking for ways to implement this into your congregation read my other blog post on “How to Develop a Sustainable Prayer Program for a church of any size”.

Daily (consistent, regular) Portions

people-2596890_960_720

What a strange diet many people follow in their Christianity! Sunday is the feeding day. A time to spiritually gorge. Monday starts a six-day fast during which nothing remotely spiritual enters the mind. The following Sunday is again the feeding day. Isn’t this living as though Jesus taught, “Give us on Sunday our weekly bread.”

When Israel lived on manna, they had to gather each day for themselves. They could not gather two days’ blessings except before the Sabbath. The same principle can be applied to the petition, “Give us this day our daily bread.” Yesterday’s nourishment does not give strength for today or tomorrow. Daily living Christians constantly reaffirm their dependence on God; accept that the bread of life is not an option, and realize that daily portions are absolutely necessary.

Verses that offer spiritual application:

  • Joshua 1:8

    He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

  • Psalms 119:15

    I will meditate in thy precepts, and have respect unto thy ways.

  • Philippians 4:8

    Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

I hope that you have found this information beneficial in your walk with God.  I am interested in how you petition Jesus for “daily” bread? Each person does this in a different way. Your approach will likely help others!

 

I have additional information available in this same series from my book titled “Daily Things of Christian Living”. Please visit my website at http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/daily-things-of-christian-living/.

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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….


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

“Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask” http://carltoncoonsr.com/product/questions-pentecostals-preachers-ask/ $7.99 SALE

 

No Favoritism–The Science of Shepherding

There are people a pastor/shepherd has a lot in common with. Other people are almost a mystery. The basis of common interest of enjoying someone’s company includes:

  • Personality
  • Temperament
  • Mindset
  • Interests
  • Hobbies
  • Education
  • Value-system
  • Approach to life

Some People Never Realize How Wonderful Their Pastor/Shepherd Is 

The previous observation is “tongue in cheek.” Admit it, some people don’t like you. Oh well, I’ll admit it for all os us – there are people I don’t particularly like. Welcome to pastor/shepherding. We don’t get to pick our flock. The Chief Shepherd does the assigning. He may send certain challenging people my way to help me be a better Christian. An elder called such people our “grace builders.”

I’ve effectively pastored people who did not particularly like me.

Being respected and trusted is more important than being liked.

If you pastor even a few dozen people and you will likely pastor people

who you love but do not like.

The Youtube Vido clip below may well describe how a pastor feels at times.

Understand the Human Dynamics

Is a pastor/shepherd likely to have people he spends more time with?  Sure! Jesus did. Does a pastor have people who seem to be nearer to him? Sure, Jesus did.  John even described himself as, “the disciple who Jesus loved.” How do such relationships occur?

By the bond of investment!

Those who have worked with livestock know certain animals tend to become better known. The pet may be a calf rejected by its mother. Bottle feeding a calf will create something of a connection. In a similar way, helping people through the early stages of their Christian development may create a bond. Standing alongside a person as they overcome addiction or a troubled past becomes a special glue.

Due to Common Interests

Pastor/shepherds will lead some people to whom they relate well. These are people with whom you are a bit more comfortable. It may be like my experience with Curtis Thornton. He was our first convert in Vidalia, Louisiana. Curtis and I were the same age. We both enjoyed sports. He was easy for me to be around. We had common interests. I performed he and Sherlene’s wedding ceremony. Taught his mom and some siblings a Home Bible Study. Dedicated their son Benton to the Lord. We had and even today have several common interests.

Dedication to a Shared Cause

Not only were there common interests, there was a shared cause. Leaving an old life of drugs, Curtis quickly bought into everything at the Vidalia Revival Center! He prayed, worshiped with exuberance, taught Home Bible Studies, influenced others, helped with fireworks stands and fund-raising barbecues. We worked together. Because we had much in common and a shared cause.

But . . . Favoritism Is Not Allowed

A teacher’s pet who does not have to do the homework is everybody’s enemy. Under no circumstances can a pastor/shepherd show favoritism. Having people with whom you have much in common is fine.  What is wrong is “favoritism.” Favoritism as described below causes people to lose confidence in a leader. On occasion, I’ve seen favoritism.

Don’t Play Favorites With Your Family Members

You love your family. To allow your love for family to cause you to abandon principles is wrong. Such behavior will impair your ability to lead.

Let me give an example.  The pastor requires that any person on the platform team be in pre-service prayer. The pastor’s son plays the drums. The young man’s habit has become to arrive at church minutes before church starts. His reason. He has been working late. His father, the pastor gives the son a pass. Not having the same requirement of the pastor’s son is a grave mistake. The pastor is doing for his son what he would not do for another. Such behavior is favoritism. Favoritism erodes trust. The pastor may justify the behavior by saying, “Well, I know my son. I trust him. I’m sure he prayed earlier.” Or possibly the pastor fears that if the son is not involved in music it will lessen the son’s commitment. Neither justification or the will override reality. Reality is the pastor is treating his son in a favored way. Don’t do it.

Where family favoritism happens

Some prime and unfortunately too common examples of family favoritism.

  • Grandchildren who do not adhere to the lifestyle disciplines of the church continue to sing on the praise team.
  • High profile platform opportunities like singing the solo almost always involve the pastor’s family.
  • A pastor’s adult son or daughter are as unstable as water. Yet after a trip to the altar, the pastor’s unstable progeny are quickly designated as the leader of a ministry. No other returning backslider would ever be elevated in such a way.
  • The pastor’s family get a pass on the grunt work like church cleaning, lawn care, working in the nursery or church work days.

These things seem minor. To the “Great Shepherd” and his flock, they aren’t. Ezekiel indicted failed shepherds. His indictment was primarily about shepherds being motivated by self-interest. Every person in the church has a similar feeling about their children and grand-children. If you give your offspring special treatment – in any way, the flock expects you to treat their offspring in the same way. In matters of principle and in leading a church to healthy growth – good pastor/shepherds do not favor family members.

In matters of principle and in leading a church to healthy growth – good pastor/shepherds do not favor family members.

Playing Favorites With People

I’m not particularly oriented toward “hanging out with people.” I mentioned earlier that Curtis and I played golf. Actually, we worked on church projects far more than we golfed. In a similar way, Jesus had a working group. There were the twelve disciples. Jesus also spent much time with an even smaller group. Jesus strategy seemed to work well. Peter, James and John became cornerstones of the New Testament church.

A good question to ask regarding Jesus behavior with His inner circle is, “What is the motive?” The significance of the work drove Jesus. He spent strategic time with people who were keys to the future. Jesus was not playing favorites. He was accomplishing what He came to do!

Sum it up this way. As a pastor/shepherd, there will be people you enjoy. A few people may make you almost go running for cover. For such to not be the case would defy human nature. Be wise! Even as you enjoy the company of particular people don’t play favorites.

 Four Suggestions for Not Playing Favorites

#1 – Never position an “inner circle” as “us against them.”

I’ve got an acquaintance who pastors this way. He pastors by pedigree. People of the right culture or background and those who have been supportive (almost to the point of subservience) are permitted in the small Pastor’s Golden Circle. In this particular situation, the group becomes ears collecting information for the pastor about any negative thing being said. Such behavior smacks of being a cult of personality. A “us” versus “them” mentality creates perpetual distrust within the flock. People are constantly looking over their shoulder.

#2 Don’t gossip

Sharing counseling information or any other private information with a “favorite” will eventually be a disaster. Telling a favorite about who tithes and who does not is not acceptable. Sharing the amount of money given creates a platform for jealousy or covetousness.

Keep confidences! Always!

I’ll take to my grave many unfortunate failings of precious people.

#3 Keep Your Own Confidence about Time Spent with various people

The Bible teaches, “Forsake the appearance of evil.” Wisdom decrees, “Forsake the appearance of spending a lot of time with a few select people.” Be careful to not flaunt or bring into conversation the time you spend with people you enjoy.A good approach is to spend time with favorites like I spent time with Curtis. Not many were jealous of Curtis being with me as we set up a fireworks stand on a hot June afternoon.

#4 Carry Burdens to the Lord and Not to an Inner Circle

Your favorites don’t need to hear about negative things that happen in the church. Even things directed toward you. At times people will dislike decisions you make. They may react. Those sparks of minor frustration can turn into a forest fire. To pour gas on a spark just tell someone in the “inner circle” about the difficulty. The “favorite” may well rise to your defense in ways that make matters worse.

Your goal is to be reconciled and at peace with any person who you currently have a problem with. Reconciliation becomes more difficult when other people get involved. If the “fire” spreads other people may decide to choose a side in what has now become a “church fight.”

If you deal with the difficulty alone, you may well accomplish complete reconciliation. However, if you share the problem with someone in your inner circle that person will tend to always harbor a grudge. The grudge remains, even though you and that person have long since reconciled. Your behavior will have added restlessness to the flock.

Pastor/Shepherds Who Show No Favoritism Lead Healthier Churches

Some of the concepts I’m addressing here are in my book Healthy Church – Start Here!  Those who have read it give a good review to Healthy Church – Start Here!  Each of 18 reasons church plants do not survive or churches do not grow are addressed in the book.  You can lead a healthy growing church.

I also recommend the late Ralph Reynolds book If the Sheep Could Speak! It is available at the Pentecostal Publishing House website.

Disciple-making: Don’t Drop the Baby!

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

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

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

  • A caregiver’s haste left Mephibosheth lame.

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

  • The youngster suffered, not the hasty nurse.

  • Mephibosheth’s childhood fall limited him for life.

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

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

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

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

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

Baby Disciple

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

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

I authored two books specifically dealing with:

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

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

The Blue Light Isn’t So Special

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

Review prior week’s lesson: Disciplined to Greatness

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

Things You Must Know

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

Issac D’Israeli, 1834

 

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

A.                 Excellence is a “God thing.”

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

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

II.                 Excellence is a “God thing.”

A.                 God does the things He does with excellence.

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

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

B.                  God desires excellence by His people:

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

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

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

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

2.                   The word means to “super abound.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

B.                  Examples:

1.                  Ashley – guitar

2.                  Michael – illusion

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

4.                  Carrie Cook – crochet

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

6.                  Sis. Coon – album

7.                  Karla Cook – seamstress work

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

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

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

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

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

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

14.              I’ve written nineteen books

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

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

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

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

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

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

IT CAN BE DONE:

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

Be a scrub in the valley–but be

The best little scrub by the side of the rill;

Be a bush if you can’t be tree.

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

And some highway some happier make;

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

But the liveliest bass in the lake!

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

If you can’t be the sun, be a star,

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

Be the best of whatever you are.

…Scrapbook

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

Practical application:

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

 

 

 

Toward Next Week:


 

 

Tools to begin your journey of excellence!

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

  • ____________________________________________________________________
  • ___________________________________________________________________
  • ____________________________________________________________________

 

Answer the hedgehog questions:

  • I can be great at: ______________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________

 

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

 

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

 

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

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

_____________________________________________________________________________________

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Resources that may help you seek to excel:

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

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

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

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

Chuck Swindoll book – Living Above the Level of Mediocrity

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

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

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

Philosopher William James

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

The Secret to Never Being Alone Again

Blessing and Benefit of the Holy Ghost #3

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

Email: carltoncoonsr@gmail.com

Website: http://Carltoncoonsr.com

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

Facebook: Carlton Coon Sr.

Twitter: @CarltonLCoonSr

Springfield Calvary’s Facebook: Calvary UPC – Springfield

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

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

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

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

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

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

b. Such loneliness can be paralyzing.

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

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

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

c. That faith led them to obedient action:

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

ii. Baptized in Jesus Name.

d. Promised the gift of the Holy Ghost.

e. The Holy Ghost is something you can have.

4. Benefits preached in previous weeks:

a. Spirit of Adoption –

b. Power to live –

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5. Opposite of having such a comforter.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

c. John lingered on this concept of the comforter.

7. Comforter – in you!

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

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

c. Parcalete – comes alongside to help.

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

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

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

d. David’s observation.

i. Alone – nobody interested in me.

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

iii. Alone – there is no special insight offerered.

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

8. Answer – You need the Holy Ghost!

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

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

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

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

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

ii. An altar awaits – a new infilling.

Enhanced Credibility = Increased Influence

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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.

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 Be A Person of Significant Impact!

What gets pushed off your deck?  Little decisions and attitudes are definitive. What is it that you push as an ideal? What ideas get advanced?  What people get pressed?

  1. As a district leader, is dinner with the district superintendent more important than being with a young person or a newly licensed preacher?
  2. Is the present- “what is”  more important than what “shall be” the future?
  3. Is the program more important than the people?

file7471288042374Suppose you were the captain of a huge aircraft carrier out in the South China Sea. Your crewmen suddenly alert you that a small plane is approaching. The message tells you that it is South Vietnamese, and the plane is running out of fuel. The plane must land on your deck or be lost in the sea. The pilot says aboard are himself, his wife, and their five children. They are escaping from North Vietnam. There is one small problem. There is no room on the deck for the small plane and no time to relocate the other planes to some other place on the carrier.

What would you do?

More important, in the situations listed above what ARE you doing?  Big impact comes from situations that seem insignificant in the moment.  It depends on making room for other people to land!

In the South China Sea, the captain of the aircraft carrier pushed three multi-million-dollar aircraft into the water. He listened to his heart – people mattered more.  Few of us are faced with situations like the captain faced in the South China Sea, but we are faced with opportunities to choose to make an impact.  Some ideas:

  • Pay attention to children.  Listen to them, talk to them, shake hands with them, speak truth to them repetitively. In a few days they will be adults.
  • Invest in those who are starting.  Young people, students, young preachers – I know we who have been alive for over 50 years have most of the leadership slots, but in a few decades someone who is not 18 will be District Superintendent.  You have the opportunity to clear the deck of your life to make room for that person to land their plane.
  • Those who visit your church this weekend are looking for a place to land. Did you push some stuff out of the way to make room for them?  Some of them would love to go to Taco Bell to have lunch with you.
  • College students who are new to your town, and immigrants often love to have someone like you engage with their life.

Perhaps some sitting in an office in Washington criticized the pilot for listening to his heart.  If you do the things described you’ll be misunderstood and likely considered strange.  You are in good company.  Jesus had similar critics.

What are the things and the people who took time, pushing other things aside to influence you?  Who are you taking time and pushing less important things aside to invest in?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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