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7 Things Learned from Tom Fred Tenney

The afternoon before Tom Fred Tenney departed for glory I started this blog. T.F. Tenney was a unique and influential leader. His impact ranged across organizational boundaries. His “one-liners” are legendary.

(For the sake of brevity, in referring to Bro. Tenney I’ll occasionally use the initials TFT. No disrespect is intended. In personal notes and communication, he would on occasion use my initials. My responses or appeals for his input would often identify him as “TFT.”)

My friend Tim Mahoney has said several times, “If T.F. Tenney had not been called by God to preach he’d have been in the U.S. Senate or he would have become President.”  I’m glad God called him to preach. Bro. Tenney was a:

  • Student who perpetually worked to understand scripture. He studied the nuances of the Bible. During times when the General Board would take a 30-minute break, Bro. Tenney generally sat in “TFT’s Spot” yet again reading the Bible. His love of God’s word showed in his preaching.
  • Prolific reader. I would occasionally ask T.F. Tenney, “What are you reading?” He always had several titles to suggest. Most of his recommendations were not “fluff” reading. On occasion, he passed me a book he had recently read. Those books are treasures.
  • Prince of a preacher. He had something meaningful to say. From the early years with that shock of his dark hair flying as he preached, to the more sedate preaching of later years Tom Fred Tenney said something worth hearing. A closet in our home has a box with dozens if not hundreds of cassettes and compact discs of TFT’s preaching. If anyone wants to send me more via mp3, or as cassettes or compact discs I’ll gladly take them. Bro. Tenney’s preaching helped  me to think.
  • Author of meaningful books. From, “Pentecost, What’s That,” to “For Preachers and Other Saints,” his books had weight.
  • Voice that mattered in significant situations. An honorary member of the General Board of the United Pentecostal Church, International has a voice but not a vote. Bro. Tenney was such a member. In my eleven years on the General Board, T.F. Tenney did not often speak. When he did, what he said was thought-provoking. Also, it often clarified and gave historical perspective to a matter being discussed.
  • District Superintendent Extraordinaire. He quickly returned phone calls. He had time for Norma and me, even when we were no longer in Louisiana. As District Superintendent, he might preach a church anniversary for a congregation of twelve people on Sunday morning; and Sunday night preach to thousands. Whether 12 or 500, both congregations got his unique best. Not many people can do that! Bro. Tenney never resented going to smaller churches. I asked Sis. Tenney if her husband ever regretted going to any situation. She said, “No, Tom thinks he can help everybody. So he tries.”

T.F. Tenney is one of three men I took as a model or mentor. The late G. A. Mangun, Crawford Coon who is now quite ill and T. F. Tenney were men I watched closely. For the main part, my education came from observation rather than conversation.

T.F. Tenney influenced many. He directly influenced me in the following seven ways.

The Lasting Impact of Written Communication

Bro. Tenney authored several books. For me, something else was more important than his books.  In the decades of Bro. Tenney’s service to the Louisiana District each month Louisiana’s preachers received a Superintendent’s Communique. Bro. Tenney’s writing was targetted, practical, beneficial, relevant and thought-provoking. His Superintendent’s Communique was my favorite periodical.

My file of Bro. Tenney’s Communiques is thick. It was material worth saving. It wasn’t that Bro. Tenney had to say something every month, instead, he had something to say. There is a difference! The Superintendent’s Communique addressed the unique needs of preachers.

An example: TFT Do We Have Room For A Prophet  

When it was my lot to be a presbyter, I modeled a Sectional Doings newsletter after TFT’s Superintendent’s Communique. A bit later, my place in life changed and our team at North American Missions developed a bi-monthly Director’s Communique. We mailed it to every preacher. The main goal was to communicate about missions and missionaries. But, to get people to read that portion the Director’s Communique needed an article directly beneficial to a preacher’s ministry.

Our effort worked. T. F. Tenney gets credit for showing me the power of consistently and repetitively providing beneficial and targeted written material.

The Subtle Power of the word:  “So”

A while back, I needed Bishop Tenney’s advice on a difficult matter. Bro. Tenney listened to my story. When I finished, Bro. Tenney’s first words were, “Bro. Carlton, I’m so sorry that you and the others are going through this. I’m just so sorry for your pain. I wish I could make it easier for you, but I can’t.”

He then helped with perspective and direction. Before I left, as he always did, he prayed for me.

Before I walked out the door of his temporary office at the Pentecostals of Alexandria he again said, “Bro. Coon, I’m just so sorry.” The word, “so” stuck in my mind. In that context, the word “so” had value. To be “so sorry” somehow super-sized his regret at this unfortunate event.

In reality, Bro. Tenney could do nothing to fix the situation. He could advise me and he did.  But, he was “so sorry” this mess had happened.

From that day forward, in similar situations I use the phrase, “I’m so sorry.” When I’m unable to resolve a matter, whether illness, an unexpected death, a failure not easily repaired or the loss of employment I use TFT’s phrase “I’m so sorry.”

It is a necessary and helpful part of my pastoral vocabulary. Somehow the phrase “so sorry” in such situations adds weight to the regret.

A Leader says, “No” to Some Opportunities

In the late 1990s, Bro. Tenney and I were part of a pastoral anniversary in Kenner, Louisiana. After a service Pastor Walker took us to dinner.

It is a wonderful thing to ask questions and then listen to people who have accomplished meaningful things. Much better to listen than to talk. Through life, I have done a lot of listening. On that night Bro. Walker and I both did a lot of listening.

Sis. Tenney was also there. In a side conversation, I asked her how Bro. Tenney accomplished so much. Her response was educational. She said, “Tom knows what he is to do and that is what he does. He does not take on anything that he does not feel is on God’s agenda for him.”  Sis. Tenney continued, “Even when I say, ‘Tom, somebody needs to do something about _________.’ His response will be, ‘That’s right Thetus, somebody needs to do something about it but it isn’t going to be me.'”

I immediately stopped trying to do everything that came along. Some committee opportunities were declined and I resigned from some things. My goal is to focus on the “God things” of my life. An effective leader says “No” to many opportunities or needs. Those who try to do everything excel at nothing.

Bro. Tenney once advised me, “Carlton, you can’t accent every syllable of life. Something has to be your main thing.”

The Importance of Facilitating the Ministry of Others

Around 2000 I began preaching or teaching an occasional camp-meeting. One was in the Rocky Mountain District. One evening District Superintendent Russel said, “Bro. Coon, I’ve known about you a long time. When you were about 23 years old a letter came from T.F. Tenney telling me about you. He suggested that you were a good evangelist and that if we could ever use you in our district you would be a blessing to us.”

The fact of such a letter was news to me. I’d not asked Bro. Tenney to write a letter. He never told me about writing the letter. Unbeknownst to me, my District Superintendent had attempted to expand my opportunities.

Bro. Tenney wanted growth, progress and expanded influence for my ministry. Facilitating the ministry of others was part of  TFT’s identity. I try to apply that principle. One of my computer files is named:  People Getting the Job Done Who Not Enough People Know.  

Developing preachers need more opportunities than we currently provide. My goal learned from Bro. Tenney is to champion up and coming preachers and expand their opportunities. To this end, I find myself regularly inviting developing preachers in to fill our pulpit. 

Don’t Waste Words

T. F. Tenney did not have many casual conversations. He did not waste words. TFT did not use 15 words if six words would do the job. His use of words was one reason his preaching and teaching was so effective. He did not chase rabbits.

Words are the currency of communication. Bro. Tenney used that currency wisely.

Seldom did Bro. Tenney make a misstatement. If he used a particular word or words it was intentional. You’d better be listening, the words he used and the words he chose not to use both meant something.

Observing this in Bro. Tenney changed my preaching, speaking, counseling, and writing. My goal became to really communicate what I mean to say.

In communication, the difference between a good word and the perfect word is the difference between a firecracker and dynamite. TFT used dynamite! I want to do the same.  

Empower Rather Than Control

Bro. Tenney became Louisiana’s Superintendent in 1978. He followed C.G. Weeks, a strong leader in his own right. When Bro. Tenney became Superintendent, Louisiana had a district board and other leaders who were strong, capable people.

These were people who were aging but not particularly set to move aside from their various leadership roles. The majority of these leaders were older than their new District Superintendent. Part of “TFT’s” role was to transition the district into the future.

After a few years as superintendent, Bro. Tenney developed something called “All Church Training Series” (A.C.T.S.) events. A.C.T.S. brought training to every section. On a Saturday, a broad array of training would be provided. Youth workers, Sunday School teachers, and ministers all had access to targetted teaching. The caveat:  no trainer was to provide the training in his or her section.

The Genius of Developing Leaders

Now the TFT genius part. To provide the training for preachers, Bro. Tenney drew together a group of young men in their late 20s and early 30s. The group included men like Rick Marcelli, Donald Bryant, Ronnie Melancon and Ronnie LaCombe. Every person in the group was at least 20 years younger than the still relatively new District Superintendent.

Bro. Tenney sent the young men to various training events. They were commissioned to go and learn. From the events, the young men brought back material on leadership, stewardship, and ministry. These same young men then shared their newly gained insights at the Sectional “A.C.T.S.” events.

“How To” Develop Future Leaders

With the actions he took Bro. Tenney had:

  • Validated the arriving generation by drawing them near.
  • Given them an opportunity to be equipped.
  • Prepared them to be heard.
  • Empowered them to serve their fellowship, most of whom were older than they were.
  • Introduced these young men’s voices and capabilities to a broader array of their peers. 
  • Gave them a forum at which to be heard.

He did not control their message. In one year, Bro. Tenney had raised the profile of people who had the potential to be future leaders.

The majority of people involved in the A.C.T.S. endeavor became influential in Louisiana or beyond. Bro. Tenney did not dominate. He chose to influence and facilitate.

No leader can both control and empower. You do one or the other. Boards are the same way. Every board either controls or facilitates. From T.F. Tenney I learned the value of facilitating up and coming leaders. From him, I learned some specific steps toward facilitating others to be influential.

As a pastor, Director of a District Men’s Ministry, a presbyter and as leader of North American Missions it became part of my job to facilitate growth. I wanted to create an environment that encouraged future leaders to develop. I learned how from Tom Fred Tenney.

Get Out From Behind the Desk

As a young bi-vocational pastor I was struggling. My secular employment was enjoyably challenging. I was good at it. At the same time it seemed our church was stuck.

Quite confused I asked for an appointment with Bro. Tenney. With our schedules, it was several weeks before we could connect. When we finally met he surprised me. We didn’t stay in the executive office.

Instead, we moved into a reading and prayer room beside his office. Bro. Tenney sat in the rocking chair he used for prayer. I sat nearby. My frustration was dumped on Bro. Tenney. I said, “This gospel thing works for other people, but it isn’t working for me. I’m a failure at this. I don’t think God even called me to preach.” 

Bro. Tenney rocked, watched and listened. When I finished he quietly began, “Bro. Carlton, I know God called you. I’ve watched your ministry unfold. You have made an impact and will make more of an impact. Preachers go through seasons. The discouraging time is a difficult season for you. But every season ends. This season will end and a better season will come. Don’t you dare quit on what God has started in your life.” He then prayed for me and sent me on my way.

I left unconvinced but willing to struggle on, at least for a while. For several months, every second or third week my secretary at Louisiana Business College would ring my office, “Bro. Tenney is on the line for you.” I’d pick up and that unique voice would say, “Bro. Carlton, I had you on my mind today. I prayed for you. How are you doing? Is there anything I can help with?” The call lasted no more than 3 or 4 minutes (remember he didn’t waste words).

Finally, Bro. Tenney called one day. As the conversation was ending I said, “Bro. Tenney, I know your life is full. Thank you for caring about me. Thank you for praying for me. Thank you for calling. With your help and God’s grace, I’m going to make it. My crisis is over. You don’t have to call me quite so often.”

The thing that lingered was TFT intentionally leaving the executive desk to sit close as we talked. I immediately began getting out from behind my desk to converse with people. Later, I would read that a truly effective communicator removes barriers to communication. This includes moving from behind the desk.

In crisis times people don’t need a “desk” leader, they need a “rocking chair” leader. Actually, at all seasons of communication, the rocking chair is more effective than the barrier of an executive desk.

Sad but Oh So Blessed

I’m sad. Not for TFT. I’m sad for myself and so many others who will learn no more lessons from this master teacher.

Of late I’ve found myself wishing for the opportunity to again phone Jesse Williams, C.M. Becton, N.A. Urshan, James Kilgore, W.C. Parkey, J.T. Pugh, James Lumpkin, Stanley Chambers, Jack Yonts, Kenneth Haney, G.A. Mangun, Murrel Ewing, E.L. and Nona Freeman, or Tom Barnes.

I didn’t call any of them often, but I knew I could call. Like Bro. Tenney, they always made themselves available to me. Don’t misunderstand. I’m not talking about them responding when I held a certain position. They were available when I was a “nobody from nowheresville.” I hope to be just as accessible.

Not many of these voices remain. Some time back, my wife had a frightening conversation with another minister’s wife. Norma was mentioning the loss of pillars of the church. She specifically mentioned J.T. Pugh and Jack Yonts because they had served in the office where I was then serving. The sister with whom she spoke said, “Oh Sis. Coon, your husband and others like him are our generations J.T. Pugh.” My response:   No . . . no . . . no . . . no . . . no! I and others like me will do our best, but the shoes of these we cannot fill.

Now, yet another phone number I occasionally dialed will receive no answer. I’m sad for me. I still have some questions on my legal pad. Questions I hoped TFT could answer.

Yet, the lessons and memories remain. Thank you Tom Fred Tenney for taking an interest in me. Thank you for believing in me. You did this for so many of us. Often you believed in us when we didn’t believe in ourselves.

This is a blog I wish I’d completed six weeks ago. It was on my mind but life intruded. The night before Bro. Tenney died I sat at my temporary desk and listed the seven things I gained from the elder. It was stunning on the next afternoon to hear of his promotion to glory.

Readers, you will have had other experiences. Things that happened, practices and behavior you observed in T.F. Tenney that shaped your life or ministry. Please share your perspective in the comment section. 

  • What was it like to be on the Youth Committee when Bro. Tenney was the President of the Conquerors Division?
  • What were the experiences of missionaries who were on the field when he led Foreign Missions?
  • He pastored some of you in Monroe or Deridder – what of those memories?
  • District Board members who served with Bro. Tenney – what was it like?
  • Louisiana folks you got a lot of time with T. F. Tenney at every district event what did you gain?
  • Fellow General Board members your experiences were unique as well. Share please!

It will enrich me and many others if you will share your stories and what you gained.  It will mean a lot to me.

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Identifying Disrespect

The ability to identify and minimize connection with those who are patently disrespectful is important. Disrespect affects revival, destroys unity and limits a group’s ability to function effectively. This post is part of a semi-regular series of “Spotlight on the Scripture” writings posted directly to the Facebook page of  Calvary – Springfield, Missouri.  Springfieldcalvary 

Matthew 27:5 And he (Judas) cast down the pieces of silver in the temple . . . 

The late Billy Cole would often speak of the importance of respect. Respect validates others. Respect sets boundaries for our behavior. Those who respect, seek a way showcase other people in a positive light.

Recognizing Judas Disrespect

Because Judas may have supported a revolt against Rome, he has been called, “Judas the zealot.” He could also be labeled, “Judas the disrespectful.”

  • Judas disrespected Mary’s worship. He said her offering could have been used in a better way.
  • A kiss of betrayal disrespected Jesus. It also disrespected the significance of a kiss.

Did Judas respect anything or anyone? Probably not. When disrespect is a person’s norm, nothing is off limits.

Judas’ behavior at the temple was disrespectful. Every Jew was taught the sanctity of the temple. The temple had several sections. The Holy of Holies was where the High Priest entered on the Day of Atonement. Nobody else went there.

A second section was the Holy Place. It contained the table of shewbread, altar of incense and golden candlestick. The Holy Place was busier than the Holy of Holies. Priests were constantly serving in the Holy Place. Again, there were constraints. Nobody but a priest was to be in the Holy Place. Judas knew all of this.

The Source of Disrespect

When Judas returned the thirty pieces of silver, the English translation reads, “He cast down the pieces of silver in the temple.” The Greek word translated temple is naos. Naos referred to the “Holy Place.”  The area of the temple where a sign might have read, “Priests Only!”  Judas was not a priest. He was not even from the tribe of Levi.

What was Judas doing in the holy place?

  1. Perhaps Judas presumed that his business relationship with the priests allowed him access.
  2. Judas could no longer respect anything. Not only did Judas not respect Jesus, but Judas also did not respect the constraints of Judaism.

How to Know Those Who Disrespect

Mark those who disrespect and carefully watch for such behavior in yourself. Be careful of a “disrespector.” Several characteristics you will see in those who lack respect:

  • They never say a good thing about any other person.
  • When anyone comments on the positive qualities of someone else, a “disrespector” rolls their eyes or something similar. . .
  • The word “I” will be one the person uses often. Those who have a bold “I” in their vocabulary are never a team-player.
  • They say or do things at the most inappropriate times. An example:  confronting one of your failures or some area of conflict in front of other people. The intent is to bully and humiliate.
  • They have no sense of boundaries. You can hear Judas saying, “If I want to go in the Holy Place, bless God I’ll go to the Holy Place.”

In our age of social media dumping those who respect others will become people we prize. What about you?  Do you respect or disrespect?

My latest resource for evangelism – “What the Bible Says . . . “ a seven lesson topical Home Bible Study is available. It provides student handouts and worksheet for perpetual reuse. A pdf of the student handout material is made available to you.  The seven lessons in What the Bible Says . . . :

  • The Word of God
  • Salvation
  • Repentance
  • Baptism
  • The Holy Ghost
  • Speaking in Tongues
  • The Nature of God
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How Leaders Correctly Respond to Criticism

In modern ministry, experiencing criticism is a norm. Unfortunately, my peers tell me that such criticism is increasing. Perhaps there should be, but there is not a class at Bible College or seminary titled, “How to Respond to Criticism.” Few preachers are prepared to deal with it. Criticism is often mishandled.
Expect criticism! Some people are never criticized. It is the people who do nothing, make no changes and do not press for progress. Such people are non-entities in shaping the future. They will never be criticized!  
My readers are different. You are world changers.  Expect to be criticized!

Critical Realities

  1. Accept that criticism is part of the job description of ministry. No meaningful Bible character was not criticized. Roman numeral II of the pastor’s job description should read:  “You will be criticized. Sometimes the criticism is fair. Often it is not.”  Of course, the job description I refer to is imaginary.
  2. These days, criticism is over rather trivial things. A leader needs to keep that in mind. If you don’t keep it in perspective, you can turn something minor into a “big deal.” Rarely will doctrinal matters, or some grand philosophy of evangelism or disciple-making be challenged. Criticism will be about a perceived mistreatment or even something as inane as the color of the usher’s badges.
  3. Unanticipated criticism will come your way. A now retired heavy-weight boxer said, “It’s the shot you don’t see coming that knocks you out.” The unexpected criticism is what gets you. This will likely come from people you have treated with kindness.

More important is how to deal with criticism.

Explain but Don’t Defend

As a pastor, you cannot defend yourself. Adopt Jesus’ model. At Pilate’s hall, “He opened not his mouth.” A leader may attempt to rationally explain a decision. However, you cannot defend your decisions. The challenge is this:  some people don’t want to understand, they want to gripe. Logic and rational explanation will never satisfy such people.
It is tragic but true, much criticism is fueled by emotion. Any time a leader responds to criticism in an emotional way that leader begins to be sullied by the process. As a leader, leave the anger, hyperbole, over-statements and long-standing feud to others. Effective leaders rise above the criticism.

Add no fuel to the Fire

For some years, I led North American Missions for a major religious organization. Early in my administration, an email came criticizing a decision our board had made. I was angry. The email was filled with innuendo, inaccuracies and had the tone of intimidation. I was loading the cannons to fire back.
Before I did, thankfully, I reached out to Mike Williams, a friend who pastors in the Orlando area. Mike’s advice was simple, “Carlton, don’t escalate the problem. Don’t add fuel to that fire. Let the fire die.
Wisdom: if you don’t add fuel to a fire, it will die.
  • A pastor who addresses a parishioner’s complaint from the pulpit adds fuel to the fire. Actually, that pastor just poured gas on the fire!
  • Seeking support from others in the church body in hopes of getting them on “your side” does not work either. This creates division, unlikely to be healed.

In my experience, if a criticism has little merit and the leader has been gracious in dealing with people – others will become defenders. Mike had it right, “Don’t add fuel to the fire.”

Turn it Over to Jesus

Really! At least talk to Him about it. This is His church you know. Pray and surrender the criticism to the Lord. In many instances, you will have to give it to Him more than one time. Either the criticism will continue or the echoes of the criticism will resonate in your mind.
I’ve offered some suggestions on how a preacher can approach prayer in an earlier blog:  Five Steps in a Preacher’s Quiet Time

Lessons that Come from Criticism

The corporate world teaches leaders to look for a lesson in a customer’s complaint. It helps to be able to learn from criticism, even criticism that is intended to be destructive. To learn from criticism requires three things:
  • Step back from the heat of the moment. Look at the situation as though these events were happening to someone else. Are there things you could have done better?
  • Stop being defensive.
  • Get over the “papal” inspired idea that we preachers never make a mistake. We can and do make wrong decisions. When we get it wrong . . . learn and if necessary do everything possible to correct the mistake.

Leaders do not please everybody. While in an executive role and as a pastor, I knew decisions would come under close scrutiny. Decisions were made knowing that someone would be disappointed with the decision. Count the cost of the decisions you make. Three questions may help:

  1. Will the decision stand up under the weight of Biblical scrutiny?
  2. Is the decision the ethical thing to do?
  3. Does the decision make good business sense?

Consider the Source of Criticism and the Method of the Criticism

When criticism comes, consider the source of the criticism. One of my most vehement critics was a person who would not be considered a saint anywhere. My response was to basically ignore the person. That person was not going to help pay the church bills or grow the church. Why be concerned about the opinion of someone who is playing for the other team.
Second, if a mature person has come directly to you the person has handled the issue correctly. Hear them out. Such a person usually has your best interest in mind. Faithful are the wounds of a friend. (Proverbs 27:6) 
Daily Unity is the goal for the entire body. The friend who speaks to you, expressing wise and valid concerns is not seeking to divide. That person can often be your best help.
Will you ever get beyond being criticized?
Simple answer, “No!” The later James Kilgore told one of my peers, “As a pastor, no matter how long you have pastored, you must always sit easy in the saddle.” The elder was referring to a horseman never being complacent in the saddle. Even the best-trained horse can be startled by a snake or rabbit. A good horseman is alert. A pastor needs to be similarly alert.
No matter how long you have been in ministry or how long you have pastored in a particular location – don’t imagine yourself to be beyond criticism. You aren’t. You never will be!
So wrapping it up. Criticism – it is going to happen. It is happening, whether you hear it or not. Being forewarned that criticism will happen is the first step in preparation.
Decide now how you will handle the whispers, rumors and occasional character assassinations. As you do – keep an “old rugged cross” on the horizon to help guide your response. Some years ago, a mentor, directed me to Marshall Shelley’s book that further addresses these issues. It was helpful. I recommend it. His title is fitting:  Well Intentioned Dragons
What has been the most unfair criticism that has been sent your direction? How did you respond and how did it work out?
A final note of interest to some:  My book Questions Pentecostal Preachers Ask is available to you for free. You pay the shipping and handling.
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Six Ways to Keep Your Preaching Cupboard Full

You can stay powerful, relevant, eternal and interesting with your preaching. Bruce Mawhinney’s book Preaching With Freshness is recommended for anyone serious about being consistent in the pulpit.
This topic is important. A pastor, evangelist or anyone who fills the pulpit must offer quality in feeding Jesus’ flock. Having one “A+” sermon or Bible Study per month and everything else grading a “D” or “F” won’t do.

An Attitude for Consistency

How does a “man of God” have a consistent “word?”  Part of this comes with being mindful that another time to preach or teach is ahead of you. Even for someone who occasionally fills a pulpit, preparation does not start when you are asked to speak. This is, even more, the case when someone is in the role of a pastor or evangelist. Good preaching and teaching is the result of good work.
You are never not getting ready. It does not work out well if the preacher is always a last-minute chef. Having a “meal plan” is better.  Preaching or teaching in series will make your preparation easier. My observation is that at times, a pastor has the foundational concept of a 4 or 6-week series, but tries to get all of it into one message. This is often a misuse of resources. It also over-estimates the average person’s ability to receive.
Take the same material and use your outline to develop four sermon/lessons instead of a single forty minute discourse. Then spend some time each week reviewing the prior week’s material. People will respond. People will retain more of what you are sharing. Repetition is the mother of learning.  Beyond that, here are some things that work for me.

Be always gathering material.

Be like the ant rather than the sluggard. Never stop gathering resources. Every thing you might ever use, about any thing you may ever teach or preach about should be drawn into your net. This is not material you will use this week, or even this year. Today, I use material brought into my net 30 years ago. For years, this looked like 8-12 file drawers full of “stuff.” Today most of the “stuff” is digitized.
To be sure, some will never be used. However, you never know where life will take you. The resources you put in the cupboard today may well benefit you in situations you cannot currently imagine.

Read, read and read some more!

In addition, read! Leaders are readers.  I collect and read sermon books. I don’t read them for sermons. Such books help me provoke thought. I don’t think I’ve ever “cut and pasted” someone else’s sermon. However, the sermons I read are the source of seed thoughts and illustrations. Treasures can be found in sermons preached by C.E. McCartney, G. Campbell Morgan, Vance Havner, C. M. Ward and dozens of others.
Incredible nuggets are found in the old journals from events such as the Keswick Convention in England and Founder’s Week at Moody Bible Institute. My preference for both, are the journals more than 50 years old.
Books I read are well-used.  Where I see a thought that is preachable the initials “ST” for “Sermon Thought” are placed in the margin. Any quotation or illustration that resonates with me is put in parenthesis and a letter “Q” for “Quote” is put in the margin. These “ST” and “Q” items get copied or typed and saved. Use my pattern or create your own. Do something to retain access to these resources.

Listen, Listen, Listen Some More

Through the years, any inexpensive audio material available became part of my resource library. Cassettes by the thousands are stored away. I’ve listened to 99% of them. While driving, constantly listen to something enriching.
My listening is not limited to my own organization. The flow of communication from fellows like Jack Hayford, Warren Wiersbe and leadership resources from the corporate world have helped me. These days, podcasts including TED Talks help keep me thinking.

Systematic Study

Do some study “the book” for a sermon instead of in order to get to know the author of “the book?” Good preaching and teaching should flow from a constancy of study, rather than study being based on needing a sermon.
There are many ways to study. Read and apply Tim LaHaye’s book, How to Study the Bible for Yourself. The What the Bible Says Home Bible Study that I teach the unconverted is based on a topical study. Other forms of systematic study can include the study of a particular book of the Bible, the study of a person of the Bible, the study of a particular epoch of history – such as the life of Christ or the early church.
In my approach, the systematic study is usually moving toward teaching. But, it becomes the source of my evangelistic preaching. It has been said:  study yourself full, pray yourself anointed and preach yourself empty.
Anointing on an empty head is not as effective as an anointing on a head that is full of the good word of God.

Stay Focused

Furthermore, work with a limited number of topics in mind for your preaching and teaching. My Twenty Topics to Preach About Two Times Each Year keeps me focused on thinking about relevant truth.
It is easy to get lost studying and teaching the typology of the Old Testament and miss the fact that marriages are struggling because they don’t know how to budget their money. Irrelevant truth seldom benefits. Stay focused and simple. My twenty topics help keep me on point.

Take Notes

Take notes as you listen to other people preach or teach. I’ll never totally make the digital transition, so I’ll continue carrying my legal pad or journal to any meeting I attend. Pen and paper have a much better memory than I do.
When I listen to others preach or teach, good preaching ideas come to me. Often the ideas have little to do with that preacher’s topic. However, that idea won’t stay with me if I don’t write it down. If I want to keep it – I write it down.

Freeze and label your “stuff”

My parents had a garden. A benefit of the garden is the produce frozen to be used later. In preparing these things for future use my mom would label the freezer bags then freeze it. The garden produce was collected, identified and preserved.

A good preacher is almost always intent on collecting, preserving and labeling material for future use. From whatever source(s) you gain good material, the best way to “label it” and “freeze it” is a program or app called Evernote.
Evernote is a program that saves ANYTHING and EVERYTHING. Handwritten notes can be scanned or a picture taken. Audio files. Adobe PDF Files, Files imported from Word or Wordperfect, pictures, emails or through direct input.
Evernote allows “tags” the equal of the freezer bag labels. You can find your “stuff.” So get the material off your notepad into Evernote.
This can be done by something as simple as taking a picture of your handwritten note using an Evernote companion called Scannable. Evernote for the Preacher is a good resource to learn about how one church planter is using Evernote. With Evernote, you can tag what you save. It is also easy to search for the material you have saved. For most people, the free level of Evernote is adequate.
I’m sure some others have even better ideas for staying fresh. Please share them. If you have a question, please ask it as a comment. I may not be able to answer it. More than likely one of my readers will.
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Systems for Church Growth

Systems are the making of effective life. The Bible says, “Jotham prospered.” The Bible says, “Jotham ordered his ways.” (2 Chronicles 26:7 RV) Jotham’s prosperity and the ordering of his ways are connected. The two things are always connected. People who establish no order for their life will not prosper. I cannot think of one person in my life experience or any person in history who is an exception. Can you?

You see the value of order everywhere.

  • Nature follows a system.
  • Jesus had the crowd sit down in orderly rank before he multiplied the loaves and fish.
  • When Jesus abandoned the tomb, He folded the grave-clothes.

Whether with spiritual gifts or elsewhere in life, “Let things be done decently and in order.”                              (1 Corinthians 14:40)

Systems work for the ministry. Some of the value of this is addressed in last year’s book “The Details Matter”.

Essential Systems For a Church To Grow

  • Systematic Evangelism
  • Disciple-making Systems
  • A System for Involving People

There are other areas of ministry like pastoral care, study, counseling and preaching/teaching where order helps. These will be a later topic.

The systems you put in place depend on you, the congregation and the resources available. Resources, as used here are money, people, energy and available time.  Do not feel guilty for not being able to do something when the resources are not available. However, regardless of limits these three things evangelism, disciple-making, and involvement should be approached systematically.

Systems will help a church grow. Systems will help you be effective in ministry.

Systematic Evangelism

In the Apostolic Continuum, there is no impact without evangelism. Our local congregation is just a bit above average in size. Currently, our evangelism is not as systematic as it will be. There are some things we do right. Each guest gets a personal hand-written card. Where the guest if receptive, they get a text message.

When we get an email address the person begins receives a battery of emails about the church. At Calvary,   AWeber manages our email list. I don’t know that AWeber is the best. It was not the most expensive and came highly recommended. A caveat:  I also use AWeber for carltoncoonsr.com. If you are interested in information about Aweber for church or some other effort take a look here:   Aweber

The email letters we use in followup also follow a system. A copy of the letters is in my book “The How and Why of Follow Up Visitation.” Hint:  This week the e-book with all those letters is available for $2.99.  It is normally $9.99.

The second system for evangelism is a process to get newcomers in the door. Until a church has a consistent flow of guests resulting from lifestyle evangelism, “big events” are required. Last Veteran’s Day weekend we had a “big event.” Several newcomers attended. “Big events” include experiences like All Nations Sunday, Friend Day and Pentecost Sunday.

Big events are not my preferred approach to evangelism. In my opinion, it is better to have a steady flow of visitors. However, at times events are needed to increase the visitor flow.

What are you doing for systematic evangelism? I’d like to learn from your best practices.

Disciple-making Systems

The church is not called to make converts. The commission is to make disciples. How does a disciple-making system look?  Again, this will vary from one church to another. At the least, there should be some classes designed to orient newcomers to the church.

There should also be a time to officially welcome spiritual babies.  Below are some links to my YouTube Channel and some online teaching I’ve provided on the topic of disciple-making.

An overview of New Convert Care

Overcoming Sociological Issues for the sake of Disciple Making

Don’t Drop Your Spiritual Baby

There is more on the topic of Disciple-making at my YouTube channel. If you decide to visit, I’d appreciate an honest comment or two in the review section. (Hopefully positive, but I’ll take them all.)  While on the Youtube channel do not forget to hit the “Subscribe” button.

Retaining converts will depend on how strong and consistent your system is. A sporadic system will produce an inconsistent outcome. My little book “The How and Why of New Convert Care”  provides the skeleton of a system that can be established and sustained.  To get you headed in the right direction, with your own effort for Disciple making the job description for our church’s current Director of Disciple-making can be downloaded here. Discipleship Director

At Calvary we use the ten lessons of “Take Root” to give basic concepts about Christian life. This includes prayer and how to read the Bible. Then there are eleven lessons of “Bear Fruit” to develop concepts of Christian responsibility. Then the seven lessons of “Fitly Framed” help a person find a place of ministry in the church. In this process, we do our best to “Velcro” newcomers into the church.

What I’m describing reflects an ongoing system. Just as the sun will come up tomorrow, the things I’m talking about happening unceasingly. The consistency is what makes it a system. 

Involvement

A church seems to naturally grow if people are involved in meaningful roles of ministry. However, getting people involved requires a system.

I’ve done this the wrong way and I’ve done it the right way. The wrong way was for me to simply teach my series on motivational gifts. The seven lesson series is the aforementioned “Fitly Framed”. It is good stuff. It helps every person find their unique gifting.  Thousands of pastors have a copy of Fitly Framed.

The material is good. But, like most teaching Fitly Framed does not give the structured system to engage people in ministry. Thus, the wrong way was to just dump the information out before the audience hoping it would somehow bring them to engagement. My audience found it interesting, but it did not significantly change people’s involvement in ministry. I’d given information but had not established a system.

The Correct Approach to Getting People Involved

  1. Have ministry leaders think of ways to involve people in the ministry they lead.
  2. Ministry leaders draft a simple job description for those roles.
  3. The church has a “Personnel Director” in place. Initially, this will be the pastor.
  4. Fitly Framed or something similar is taught to the entire church. This same material then is taught as a third level of caring for converts. Going forward every convert or transfer into the church is taught Fitly Framed.
  5. During the class, people take a gift test and discover their various gifting.
  6. The “Personnel Director” works with the students and ministry leaders to connect each person with an opportunity for meaningful ministry. Some ministry opportunities do need the pastor to sign off on a person’s involvement.

Best Practice for Involving People

What I’ve described is the way to get started. But, an order is only sustained with constant effort. How did my best constant effort look?

  1. I”d annually teach/preach a series about Christian Service. This teaching involved at least three weeks of consistently aiming at the target of involving people.
  2. On the last Sunday of this series, the various ministries of the church set up booths presenting their ministry and asking for volunteers.

It works! The first time we did this, our system was overwhelmed. We had far more volunteers wanting to serve than places to put them to work. We learned and did not make that mistake again.

Notice, everything I’m describing happens systematically and repetitively. Neither evangelism, disciple-making nor involving people should be a “one-off.” These are things you should be doing over and over.

System! Remember Jotham prospered. Jotham ordered his ways. The two are connected.

I’m interested in your experience in establishing sustainable systems in these three areas of ministry. This week, my reading has reminded me of the importance of learning from people who are following what the business world would call “best practices.”

What have been your best practice for evangelism, disciple-making and involving people?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Daily Bible Study

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

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

66% say there is no absolute truth.

63% cannot name the four Gospels.

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

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

39% do not know Jesus was born in Bethlehem.

30% do not know there were 12 apostles.

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

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

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

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

Bible Example of Daily Study

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

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

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

The Importance of Bible Knowledge

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

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

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

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

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

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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!

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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.” https://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 Purpose

Luke 9:23

And he said to them all, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily, and follow me.

Daily purpose is one of the 7 things the New Testament speaks of being done “daily.” Our purpose is what helps us find who we are in the Lord.

A Decision To Followfollow me

The first decision we have to make is do I want to follow the Lord? If we so choose, there are three badges of discipleship.

  • Self-denial
  • Let him take up him cross
  • Follow me

Often times it can be a struggle for people to make this decision. If you find that this is the case far too often, I have some helpful hints in one of my other blogs on spotting the fatal flaws in disciple making. Can you spot the four fatal flaws in disciple-making?

head-2713346__340The Challenge called “SELF”

Self enjoys money, food, recognition, success, and pleasure. Self has its own agenda. Our “self” is expressed in many ways. It often acts jealous, angry, boastful, or envious. We are a very self-oriented society.

Self-will At Work

Self-will caused Eve to bite forbidden fruit. Cain’s offering was worship in self-will. Of the three enemies of our salvation, flesh is the most difficult to overcome.

Self, the Sinner

Sinful humanity says, “I’m going to live the way I want to live.” The four principal manifestations of self-assertion are:

  • Self-sufficiency, “I can do it.” It is the opposite of trust. It puts no confidence in God.
  • Self-will, “I don’t care what the Bible says, I’m going to live as I please.” Stubbornness is the opposite of submission.
  • Self-seeking, “I’m the greatest.” It’s this business of boasting and bragging. It is the opposite of honoring others.
  • Self-righteousness, “I’m good within myself.” It is the opposite of humility.

Daily Self-Denial

One biblical translation says, “If any man come after me let him ignore self, and ignore self’s desires.” Ignoring self’s desire is the bottom line of totally following Jesus Christ. Jesus said that He had to have his Father’s help. If he who did no sin could do nothing of himself, what makes me think that I can do this alone? I am spiritually impotent until I discover the need for God in my life, and begin denying my own capability. The only way to get there is through self-denial.

Living Self-Denial

Self-denial puts “self” on the back burner. Self has no voice or vote in any decision. God’s word and the guidance of the Holy Ghost will order the path of a man who is a denier of self.

Daily Purpose

Far too many are Christians without commitment. The majority do not know what God has called and equipped them to do. This makes for frustrated spectators sitting on the church sideline. Jesus instructed, “. . . take up your cross (purpose) daily and follow me.”

We want the crown without the cross. We long to experience success without bearing a cross of responsibility.

It’s all wrapped up in a cross. We should ask, “Do I have a purpose?”, and “What is my cross?” If you have the desire you reach down and pick up a cross, but God does not forcibly load it on your shoulder. The Bible says, “If any man will come after me let him deny himself and take up his cross daily. . . . .”

sheep-690198__340Follow Christ

Christ also said, “Follow Me.” The very term Christian means to be a follower in the footsteps of the anointed. Loren Yadon’s study of the twenty-third Psalm concluded the sheep following close behind the shepherd always eat the best and purest grass. People who follow closely after the Lord, always receive the greatest blessing.

Our “self” is often at odds with the Lord. Living self-denial and daily self-denial are all things that we have struggled with. What are some ways that you have overcome your “self”. Please share your stories with us!

I have book recommendations as well as other useful information in my book “Daily Things of Christian Living” available on my website at https://carltoncoonsr.com//product/daily-things-of-christian-living/.

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Video Blog: What, How and Why of Discipleship

Discipleship tools for every church!

Watch here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-_r7J_nLQUw&t=23s

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

Pastor/Shepherding is NOT Easy Work

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

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

 

The Challenges Beyond the Sheep

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

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

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

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

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

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

Upcoming topics in The Science of Shepherding Series:

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

UPCOMING WEBINAR

“The What, How and Why of Convert Care”

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Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper: What revival AIN’T!

I know that some of the English professors in my reading audience may have trouble with “ain’t” In this case, it just seemed to fit. We need to know what revival “ain’t!”  Perhaps it is my southern heritage, but that seems to carry more weight than, “what revival isn’t.”

revival is hereOne difficulty is a misconceptions of what revival looks like, who it comes to and how it comes. It’s time to think about the possible misconceptions and incorrect assumptions regarding this thing called revival.

Misconceptions like:

  1. Revival comes where there is a preacher who is a revivalist or a great orator.
  2. Revival comes where a leader has great charisma.
  3. To experience revival you must be a driven “Type A” personalities.
  4. Revival is a matter of luck or more accurately – lack of revival is because I don’t get the breaks.
  5. Revival is the same as church growth.
  6. Revival is the same as evangelism.
  7. Revival comes to leaders who have multiple talents and gifts.
  8. Revival thrusts the pastor/evangelist/church into the spotlight.

All 8 of those statements are dead wrong! Every positive thing mentioned can be a benefit – but equally as many who have one or more of the 8 have not accomplished anything meaningful.

What if local church revival were more correctly defined and clarified? Imagine it as something that is no longer some far-fetched unattainable accomplishment.  What if were actually defined as something that can happen where you are, to you, with the gifts and abilities you have!

Revival is in your reach!

plum treeMy Dad’s father, Grandpa Benny had a small orchard of plum trees behind their place. I can remember as a little boy wanting to pick plums. The plums were beyond my reach. All I could do was watch someone else pick fruit; that is until Grandpa Benny would pull one of the supple limbs of the plum tree down where I could reach the plums for myself.

Suddenly, what had been out of reach was accessible. I can have this . . . it is within my reach.

Some might have you think (that liar, the devil for sure)  the plums of revival are out of your reach! Since you don’t have the long arms of oratory, talent, charisma or heritage to put the “plum of revival” within your reach, you cannot have it.

I want to pull the limbs of revival down into your reach.  Part of putting revival within your reach  is introducing you to people you may have never heard of who have had and are having revival.  The idea here should be:  if this can happen to that person, who is a lot like me, then it can happen to me, through me and in me!  I’ll just give you a list of names, places and the barest item of celebration:

Doug Belgard in Centerpoint, Louisiana, perhaps 30 miles outside Alexandria. A country church that has grown to several hundred!

Steve Carnahan in Gillette, Wyoming. Wyoming is not the Bible belt. A church planter who has taken a church from nothing to almost 200. There are no “church transfers” in Gillette.

Daryl Hargrove near Dallas has quietly established a powerhouse multicultural church that now includes people from well over 25 countries.

Raul Orozco in Orange County, and Los Angeles actually now pastors the largest UPCI church in North America. They have grown so fast that the entire congregation gets together one time each year at a convention city in Orange County. The rest of the year, they have church in varied neighborhoods in and around Los Angeles.

In Milton, Florida Larry Webb has grown from 100+ to 500+. This has been a consistent journey of well over 30 years.

Garland Hanscom in Ottawa, Ontario started the church when the nearest fellowship was hundreds of miles away. Today, there are numerous churches close by . . . Bro. Hanscom and church planted them. He said, “We had to create our own fellowship.”

The list of people who are having revival is extensive and includes churches in non Bible belt places like New Jersey, Quebec, Washington, the District of Columbia, and Saskatchewan. For every one church and pastor I mentioned there are 10-20 such in the ALJC, PAW, Apostolic Assemblies, COOL-JC, WPF, independent Apostolics and UPCI.

The interesting thing about most of these is their humility and lack of a proclivity to be “self promoters.”  A few of these will have gained prominence and preached a conference, camp or other event – but what is now being celebrated at such events was happening before the person had such prominence. Revival is not:

  • Bells and whistles.
  • Gaining great recognition from organizational leadership.
  • Big buildings and extra money.
  • Invitations to preach great meetings.
  • Four color marketing.

Revival actually comes in a plain brown wrapper. It is so progressive and becomes such a systemic and  systematic expectation for a church that  many in a community or congregation don’t even realize the day of their visitation. Certainly, many in the organizational structure don’t know it is happening – until the evidence of growth is unavoidable.

So you can have it . . . do you want it?  How much do you want it?finney

You may have read some of the works of Charles Finney. If you haven’t, you should read things like Finney on Revival.  in the words of Finney, “If God should ask you this moment, by an audible voice from heaven, ‘Do you want revival?’ would you dare to say ‘Yes’? ‘Are you willing to make the sacrifices?’ would you answer ‘Yes’?’ If He asked, ‘When shall it begin?’ would you answer, ‘Let it begin tonight-let it begin here-let it begin in my heart now.’?”  If God were to ask, “What are you willing to change in order that there might be revival?” would you answer “Anything?”

Revival is by intent, with right behavior that is sustained for the long term. Finney said, “An old fashioned revival is no more a miracle than is a good crop of corn.”

I’m wrapping up preparation on THE BOOK – “Revival in a Plain Brown Wrapper.”  I’ve benefited from varied perspectives of what revival looks like – some are actually on point, some are far afield. From Finney’s question:  What are you willing to change in order that there might be revival?  What is your answer . . .  – someone’s eternity depends on your answer.

My point of reference is a lifetime spent in the United Pentecostal Church and 12 years spent as a religious executive with our North American Missions effort.  I know a bit about revival with those ranks.  I’d love to hear about “plain brown wrapper revivals” in the PAW, ALJC, WPF, COOL- JC, Apostolic Assemblies and any of the over 100 other Apostolic organizations that dot our continent.  Talk to me . . . let’s learn together.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Invigorate Your Vision

 Invigorate Your Vision

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

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

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

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

 

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