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Home Friendship Groups - Helping close the back door.
By: James Smith
“A brother offended is harder to be won than a strong city: and their contentions are like the bars of a castle.” Prov 18:19
Bob stopped me a while back to thank me. A trustee and board member in his church, he explained that he and his wife were greatly offended by a situation and people in the church. He told how one Sunday without knowing their situation, I encouraged them. I told them that “they were very important to the work of God there” and a “wonderful example to me”. I didn’t know they had already decided this was their last service in that church. He told me that had it not been for my encouraging them that day, they never would have gone back.
I wonder how many Bob’s leave the church without anybody noticing.
It is often said, “If we could just win back those who have already left, that would be a great revival. My question is, “how did we ever let them get away in the first place”?
In my years of pastoring and ministry, I’ve found that people usually leave the church because they were never truly assimilated into the family of God to begin with. Once a person is established into the church and have formed nurturing relationships, it’s less likely they would become offended and leave.
We think that we have to “get them into the choir right away” or “find them a position or job in the church” to keep new converts. This may help that person feel more attached, but it will never assimilate them into the church.
Why do people exit the church? Many times, a person leaves because they were never provided the proper relationships within the church.
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So many times we are told to step out of our past when it seems to hold us hostage with details of failure, mistakes, and setbacks. I have often had to challenge my past with various Truths and dismantle the Structure Of Defeat it had erected in my heart and mind. It is so easy to look back to whatever you see and feel, and build our future out of those things. Today, I want to do something much better with our past: Look deeply at it and Borrow Comfort And Help.
When David had to face the man Goliath, he had to reach into yesterday and vividly recall just how good God had been to him regarding a lion and bear. Knowing in himself it was not his ability alone that won the victory, but the Lord had been with him. The God who had worked in and for him would show Himself the very same now, showing us he had received comfort and strength from his past. Getting the good from our past, I think, requires a greater deal of effort than recalling bad things, for the negative just seems to show up, but good has to be reached for. Of course our enemy loves to flash our past errors on the screen of our soul, but the Holy Ghost delights to use our past to bring honor to God.
Samson also used the past to get some help from when he had killed a lion and, after awhile, Bees had used the animal to build a place for some fresh honey. By taking time to taste honey from a past victory, he, too, had been helped by his past. I just wonder how many dead lions and honey spots are all over our yesterdays just waiting for us to both visit and extract help from?[ read more...]
There are seven things sheep want from a shepherd:
- They expect shepherds to be concerned for their safety. People want the assurance that their organization is wise enough to survive in turbulent times and will provide for their futures. A protector who is concerned with the welfare of his flock won’t hesitate to communicate the possibilities and the perils looming on the horizon.
- They expect shepherds to know them by name. When a responsible shepherd enters the fold, his sheep respond to him because he calls them by name. We cannot underestimate the value of establishing a connection with every person on our team – even if that number is large. The bond is strengthened each time people hear us speak their names.
- They expect shepherds to be gentle and kind. When people you serve are less than cooperative, it’s not an excuse for retaliation. As Dwight D. Eisenhower said about his war experiences, “You do not lead by hitting people over the head – that’s assault, not leadership.” If you feel the urge to lash out at those around you, get tough on yourself. That’s where discipline yields the greatest harvest.
- They expect shepherds to rescue them. What is our response when one of our employees becomes distracted? Do we let him stay off course and struggle to find his way back, or do we stop what we’re doing and give him our attention? Jesus said a good shepherd would leave a flock of 99 to go after the lost sheep until he finds it. That’s true of leadership.
31 Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
32 And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
33 They answered him, We be Abraham's seed, and were never in bondage to any man: how sayest thou, Ye shall be made free?
34 Jesus answered them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin.
35 And the servant abideth not in the house for ever: but the Son abideth ever.
36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
Liberty, Liberation: Freedom from physical, political, and spiritual oppression.
- One of the dominant themes of the Old Testament is that Yahweh is the God who liberated the Israelites from their bondage in Egypt. (Passover)
- In the New Testament, God is the one who liberates people from bondage to sin through Jesus Christ. (Cross)
Freedom: The ability to be and do what one wants instead of being controlled by another.
- We are able to choose our actions and attitudes, our responses to others and to God.
- In another sense, we cannot be and do what we want because we are not independent of others or God.
- The Bible constantly affirms that the kind of freedom all persons have is the kind of freedom that slaves have.
Romans 1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,
Jude 1:1 Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called:
Colossians 4:12 Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God.
Deuteronomy 34:5 So Moses the servant of the LORD died there in the land of Moab, according to the word of the LORD.
(Moses = Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Kings, Chronicles, Psalms)
2 Timothy 2:24 And the servant of the Lord must not strive; but be gentle unto all men, apt to teach, patient,
2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a servant and an apostle of Jesus Christ, to them that have obtained like precious faith with us through the righteousness of God and our Saviour Jesus Christ:
James 1:1 James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, to the twelve tribes which are scattered abroad, greeting.
(Moses = Chronicles, Nehemiah, Daniel, Hebrews, Revelation)
Slaves on drugs
- Slaves on opiates are oblivious to their carnal situation.
- Karl Marx declared that religion is the opiate of the masses.
- I believe that Paul taught that opiates are the religion of the masses:
(Opiates = Ambitions, Hobbies, Obsessions)
Most pastors would sacrifice everything they have to know a sure way of winning people long term. The truth is, most of us have personally won very few people that are still with us to this day. I have looked around my church recently, and I could find only two men in our church that I have been personally involved in winning to the Lord.
Winning these men actually began about four years ago. When I say long term, I am talking about a period of time of at least two years, preferably more. During that time I have been a witness to many more people than these two. I have baptized many more than that. I have taught bible studies to dozens of people. Many have received the Holy Ghost. Yet there are only two that have stayed in the church long term. Why only two? Why not more? Is there something wrong with me and my approach? How can I improve in this area? They say that hindsight is 20/20. During this article I want to go back in time to see what it was that worked, and what it was that didn't work.
The first thing that I can say without a doubt is that you must have a passion and a love for people. If you don't, they are going to sense that within a very short amount of time, and they will be gone. We must understand that it can be a very lonely time when somebody comes into the church. They are often leaving behind most of everything that they know and love. The Bible says...
26 "Anyone who comes to me but refuses to let go of father, mother, spouse, children, brothers, sisters — yes, even one's own self! — can't be my disciple.
33 So likewise, whosoever he be of you that forsaketh not all that he hath, he cannot be my disciple.[ read more...]
In a world of constant distractions, learning to achieve and sustain a laser-like focus on your priorities gives you an enormous competitive advantage in the marketplace – as well as enormous benefits to your personal life. If keeping your focus has never been harder, the payoffs have never been better. How do you achieve laser-like concentration? I’m going to share with you seven principles of achieving and sustaining an intense, productive and energizing focus.
- Keep the Big Picture in Mind. To successfully sustain you focus, you must first have a big-picture view of your goals and priorities, and a clear vision of what you hope to accomplish. After all, achieving an intense and sustained focus is not an end in itself, but a powerful means of achieving your long-term goals. The clearer, and more specific and more vividly you visualize the big picture of what you hope to accomplish, the more successfully you can focus on the means of achieving it.
- Set Goals That Excite You. One characteristic shared by virtually every highly successful person is that they had big dreams and specific goals. The higher you aim, the higher you’ll go – even if you fail to hit your target. And if you shoot for the moon, even if you miss, you’ll still land among the stars.
- Be Mindful. By targeting your attention with laser-beam accuracy to the matter at hand, you are literally unable to entertain destructive thoughts. Concentrating on the present reality eliminates fear of future possibilities. In this way, being mindful not only increases your effectiveness, it enhances your peace of mind.
- Track Your Progress. When you see the advances you have made, it is easier to concentrate on covering the ground that remains. Tracking your past progress enables you to enter unfamiliar terrain with the confidence that comes from success and experience. Some strategies that will help enable you to monitor and accelerate your progress include setting deadlines, taking time for re-evaluation and allowing for adjustments.
Paradox - "A statement seemingly absurd or self- contradictory, but really founded in truth."
Being a Pastor or Christian leader is not easy. Whoever said it was, was lying. Being a Pastor or Minister is rewarding and satisfying, but it is not easy.
The part that is not easy for me is when I do good for someone and they turn against me. It knocks me back a step when someone who I have really bent over backwards to help, lies against me or without gratitude, throws "it" all in my face. If you've ministered for more than 1 year, I'm sure you will be able to relate. If you've ministered for 10 years, you could probably write a book on the subject.
One thing they never taught us in Bible College was how to take a direct hit in the chops and keep a smile. Don't you just love getting bawled out by someone in the office, 10 minutes before service. It's not easy getting up in front of your church to preach a positive message after an encounter like that. But we do it anyway! Why? Because that's who we are. That's what we do. We are Ministers. We do good when people hurt us. What a Paradox![ read more...]
L. I. D. S.
Learn - The very first thing that a pastor or spiritual leader should know is that they must learn from the people around them; whether it be staff members, the congregation, or others. We can learn valuable things from the children in the church all the way up to the assistant pastor. How well do you understand your people? Are you willing to learn from them? Successful leaders are constantly open to learning. As leaders, we should always do this before pursuing any goal. Otherwise, we will only be hindering progress. Always be a student. Paul commanded Timothy in:
2 Timothy 2:15
"Study to shew thyself approved unto God..."
Innovate - Creativity should be promoted and never ignored. In the Sunday School department, the youth department, church planning meetings, etc., we should encourage those department heads and staff members to be innovative. If their ideas are not what you would do, so what! Their idea may work better than yours. By using the ideas and the creativity of your entire leadership team, you will keep everyone involved and invested in your vision. Don't be afraid of change. Remember, one of the first things our God did was create.
"In the beginning God created…"
How important is it? Consider this. Early in Jesus’ ministry, he chose out 12 men who would become his disciples. His purpose in choosing these 12 men went beyond their need for salvation. His vision was that he might “…make them fishers of men”. Jesus understood immediately upon starting his early ministry that his role was to not only bring salvation to this world, but to also raise up others who would do the same after He was gone.
What would happen to the church or ministry the Lord has given to you should you be removed from the picture today? Is there someone you have been training to do your job? Have you mentored anyone to take your place? Or have you like most ministers been so busy doing your fathers business that you don’t have time to train other leaders.
Jesus understood that this was paramount to all he did in this world. He realized that unless he mentored these 12 men, all he accomplished in this world was in vain as there would be no one to continue it after he left.
Many ministers don’t see the need to raise up other leaders in the church. In fact, many ministers view this as threatening to their own position in the church. Can I suggest to you that this is “small thinking”. Whose kingdom are we working for anyway? If it is ours, we will lose it. If it is God’s, we will gain it. Small thinking hinders revival.
We all so often can find fault in our congregations regarding the lack of growth in the church. We point out all the ways they fail in outreach and preach them into a level of guilt that kills their joy stymies their efforts to share Jesus. Yet, we need to ask ourselves honestly, how many people do we pull aside on a weekly basis to mentor and raise up?
It is a fact that our church will only grow to the level that it’s leadership is able to minister to. A single man or woman will never effectively pastor a church of 200 or more people. It is impossible. A single person can only effectively pastor 70-80 people “if” he is full time. Someone one would say, “But I don’t have time to train other leaders in the church”. Can I say to you, “This should be the first thing you are doing.” You might say , “but I am too busy teaching, preaching, praying for the sick and ministering to the needs of others.” Can I ask you something? What would be so wrong with raising up 5-10 men in your church to do most of these things or even do much of the teaching and some of the preaching for you?
Jesus took his focus off of the multitude on occasions to focus on his 12. He sent them out to do what he had been doing all along. Did they do it exactly like he would have done it every time? Doubtful, but they did get the job done and in greater measure than He alone was able to do it. Jesus understood that 12 was more than one. Do we really understand that? Or do we think “I” am the only one who can do this job. “I” am the only one called to do this job. “I” am the only one anointed to do this job.[ read more...]
Identifying that next leader is not easy. You must often times select a few prospects and begin to work with them waiting for the cream to rise to the top. While you are mentoring and waiting for maturity, here are a few things to begin to look for.
Leadership in the past. The best predictor of the future is the past. Is this a person who has worked well on a team previously? Maybe, they needed a break and stepped aside for rest, but are now able to get back on board.
The capacity to create or catch vision. When I talk to people about the future, I want their eyes to light up. I want them to ask the right questions. When you are sharing your vision with people do they get excited along with you? Do they offer suggestions that spur your imagination further? When you find someone who is able to catch the same vision as you, you have found someone that you can entrust much of the responsibility with. They will have a similar passion for the work as you yourself would.
A constructive spirit of discontent. Some people would call this criticism, but there's a big difference in being constructively discontent and being critical. The unscratchable itch is always in the leader. These people are a bit hard to sift from the genuine critics, but when you do you may have found a diamond in the rough. Just because they are questioning a few things does not mean they are not on your side. Give them an opportunity to help make a needed change and you may have found a great friend
Practical Ideas. Not everybody with practical ideas is a leader, of course, but leaders seem to be able to identify which are and which aren't. A person's experience will often times lend practical ideas. When someone offers an idea that is helpful, it may be that they have been involved in a project much like what you are facing which will make them a helpful candidate for your ministry team.
A willingness to take responsibility. Leaders will bear work, for the feeling of contributing to other people is what leadership is all about. When you find a person who is willing to take responsibility for not only the ministry you have given them, but also the success of it, you have found pure gold. These are people to build upon. The ministry is dependent on individuals who are willing to take responsibility.
A completion factor. In the military, it is called "completed staff work." The half-cooked meal isn't what you want. Someone who competes what they have set out to do is invaluable. When looking for leadership that will help you move your church forward, look for people who finish what they start, no matter how small or trivial the task is.[ read more...]