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Those wonderful complainers!
By: James Smith
Don't you love them? They add so much to a church or organization. Their destructive attitude is so encouraging. They build faith in all who fall prey to their vile contempt. They're such a blessing!
It is funny though, how some people hate to hear a complaint, but love to be the one complaining. I suppose there are many reasons why a person complains. However, I doubt anyone realizes the full impact of it's destructive ability.
Several years ago, I was working on a job with a fellow leader in the church. We were working the midnight shift in a factory. As the night went on, I found myself complaining to this brother about my situation. At the time I felt justified because it was late and I was tired. I was also hurting emotionally and felt that people in the church should be more sensitive to my families needs. I had a list of reasons why it was OK for me to complain.
It has been over 11 years since that night and I have regretted it ever since. I cannot tell you how many times I have asked God to forgive me for allowing that negative spirit to work through me that night.
The real reason I feel so bad about that particular night, is that in fact the church people had been absolutely wonderful to us. They treated us with respect. They often blessed us financially. They always encouraged us. They took us in when we had nothing to offer them in return and placed us in leadership. As I said they were wonderful to us!
I bare my soul today only to point out how simple it is at times to feel justified to complain. I believe it is true that the majority of people who complain, are complaining about people who they actually owe a great debt of gratitude to.
Some time ago we had a man in our church who was a graduate of the school of complaining. This guy had a Masters degree in it. At first, I thought he had a valid points. However, as the years went by and we all grew weary of his negative verbiage, we also began to see the real problem. In fact he was his own problem.
The people he complained about were actually wonderful people who he owed a great debt to. Even his boss who he often attacked, had to have been an angel to have kept this guy employed. The boss was actually trying to help the man by keeping him on. Yet all the time this guy did nothing but talk bad about him.
This man finally left our church. I am thankful for the strong folks in the church who would not listen to him destroy their Pastor. I am also thankful he is gone. I did not realize at the time how much of my energy was being spent trying to please a man who could never be pleased.
The day after he left, the sky was blue and the birds were again singing. In fact they were singing to me. They were singing me praises and telling me how good I am as a Pastor. They were singing these praises from the tops of the trees for all the world to hear. Opps...sorry about that...reality check! O.K. so it wasn't the birds, but it was one or two wonderful people who attended the church I Pastored. They saw what the man was trying to do and thwarted it with praises.
Praise someone today!
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Continuing this series on Guarding the Gates, which in concept really speaks of guarding the mind, we come to the third thing that can help you. In review, the first thing to do to guard the gates is to be given to study and the second thing is a minister has to be given to prayer. The third guard that you can put at the gate is a quest for personal holiness and godliness.
In the first message on this study, I mentioned the fact that when a man gives himself to disciplined and sanctified study, the stretching of the mind will directly affect the growth of the soul. Simply by nature of the study, the exposure to things in the Scriptures and the accompanying books the minister has available to him, we begin to understand how holy God is and how important it is for us to have acclimate it into our lives.
Holiness is important because of the nature of the work that a preacher must do. Never will I forget the story that was told in the very first class when I begin RN school in March 1985 that was told of Lewis Semmelweis. He was the guy who was laughed at because he outrageously claimed that dirty physicians’ hands were responsible for the death of the mothers who were dying from childbed fever. He was certain that the germs that were unseen were the culprits that were literally killing these young mothers.
I would be so bold as to assert that if my hands, heart, soul, and mind are not clean it will have some measure of impact on the congregation that I serve. In my mind, this ought to place a greater sense of responsibility on all men who bear the vessels of the Lord and they must be clean (Isaiah 52:11)! I also believe that for those who are quibbling about standards of holiness and are attempting to accuse those who are ardent adherents of a separated life of living in a condition of holiness that perhaps your vision has been clouded by the mists of worldliness that are so prevalent in our generation. We wouldn’t dare want a surgeon to operate on us if he had just come in from working in his garden and therefore a minister who has no real cleanliness of holiness about him shouldn’t be operating in the pulpit.
Jude uses strong words when he tells us that we will have to contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints. The faith is that dogma of doctrine that defines how to get into the church, who the church is and where it is to go. All of these components of the faith, while intricate, are very simply carried out by a man whose gates (mind) have been guarded by holiness. Jude when he spoke of the nature of this faith he also clearly stated that we have no right to modify it but the risk of it being altered escalated when there was a unholy alliance with “certain men” who managed to creep in “unawares.” Doctrinal purity and commitment to holiness will require vigilance on the part of clean men who have allowed personal holiness to be a guard at the gate.The question may come about as to how are we giving ourselves to personal holiness? There are some points to remember in this quest for holiness. First, a man has to understand that he is only fit to preach if he has a clean life. I am drawn over and over to the writings of Paul to his sons in the faith, Timothy and Titus, and routinely he uses words to describe the character of those qualified to minister. I am going to give you a list of words that is not all inclusive from the ESV that Paul used and these are from 1 Timothy (you can glean many other nuggets if you browse through the other two P.E.’s):
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How do you influence people? Do you influence them intentionally? Do you influence them in a positive way? Are you even a person of influence? Do people listen when you speak? John Maxwell lists influence as number two on his list of the twenty one laws of leadership. You must have influence with people if you desire to be a leader.
In life and in leadership you will be influenced and you will also influence others. The degree to which you can influence people is the key to success. Influencing people to become great will help you to succeed. There is also a flip side of influence; allowing great people to influence you will help you to influence others. Before you ever become a person of influence, first you must become influenced. Winston Churchill said, "Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must first yourself believe."
In 1832, at the age of twenty three, Abraham Lincoln wanted to serve his country in the war against Black Hawk and the Sac and Fox Indians of Northern Illinois. The government had called for volunteers to help drive these Indians back into their land beyond the Mississippi. In those days, the person who put together a group of volunteers often became its leader. So with no experience as a soldier, and no experience leading men into battle, Lincoln was given the rank of captain of this company.
Lincoln soon found himself in a very awkward position, he soon found that he did not have any influence with these men. Having never received influence from anybody as a soldier, he did not have the ability to influence his soldiers. He knew nothing of tactics. He knew nothing of procedure. He knew nothing of military jargon. So he couldn't even give the right commands to his men. On one occasion, he was trying to guide his men through a gate from one field to the next, but he couldn't manage to do it. Remembering the incident, Lincoln said, "I could not for the life of me remember the proper word of command for getting my company endwise. Finally, as we came near the gate I shouted: 'This company is dismissed for two minutes, when it will fall in again on the other side of the gate.'"
In the few weeks after this, Lincoln and his company of soldiers marched northward and westward all the way to the Mississippi. They never did any fighting, they were never even able to find any Indians. Other, more able companies, finally tracked these Indians down and defeated them at Bad Axe on the Mississippi River in July of that same year.
Lincoln's career as a Captain lasted only four weeks. Lincoln though was not done. He did not want to end his military career on such a negative note. He enlisted again to a company of mounted rangers. This time he became a private. He had learned the lesson that He needed to be influenced by a captain before he would ever be able to influence as a captain. We know the rest of the story. Lincoln overcame his inability to influence others and became a person of enormous influence as our nation's finest president.[ read more...]
C – collect & categorize
- Eccl. 12:9 (NLT) Because the Teacher was wise … He collected proverbs and classified them …
- Collect Bible verses, quotes, articles, books, sermon tapes, illustrations, etc. – even years in advance!
- Categorize them in a filing system – put something away each day
R – research & reflect
- Eccl. 12: 9 (NASB) The Preacher … pondered and searched out …
- Research is studying with my mind; reflection is listening with my heart (meditation).
A – apply & arrange
- Eccl. 12:11 (NLT) A wise teacher’s words spur students to action and emphasize important truths.
- Each sermon should answer three important questions:
o So what?
o Now what?
- Arrange your sermon in an outline:
- Keep it SIMPLE.
Haddon Robinson: “Television has destroyed linear thinking”
"In these days he went out to the mountain to pray; and all night he continued in prayer to God. And when it was day, he called his disciples, and chose from them twelve, whom he named apostles;" (Luke 6:12-13)
Whether the church you pastor is a big, thriving church or it is a growing church with twenty members it is very important to have a great team of leaders. You may only have one other person on your team or maybe you have a hundred. However many you may have, it's important to make sure you have the right people on board and that you are all going in the same direction. Here are a few ways to choose the right people for your leadership team. Remember when you start out to build your leadership team to build a team that is based on Biblical principles and characteristics.
Note: The night before Jesus chose His twelve disciples, he continued in prayer all night. When is the last time you prayed all night before you made a decision?
Choosing the right leadership team members.
You can accomplish anything in life, provided that you do not mind who gets the credit. -Harry S. Truman[ read more...]
Children’s activities books often have these little exercises. They will display one picture with many items and characters, and when you turn the page, you see a very similar picture which almost looks identical. To the casual glance you would think that nothing is different about the two pictures. However the small instructions at the top of the second picture has a question which let’s you know immediately that even though these two pictures may look the same, they are not. The instructions say, “What’s different about these two pictures?” You then are given opportunity to find and list the items that are missing from the second picture that are evident in the first one.
My younger brother is very successful in law enforcement. I am amazed at his ability to pay attention to the slightest details. He has the ability to walk into a situation and tell you not what is present, but what is not present. What’s missing is often the clue that leads to a case being solved. Myself, I would probably end up exhausting myself studying the clues and items that were left at the scene of a crime rather than understanding what is different or missing from the scene.
Here is the problem many churches in our present day have. There is something missing and we haven’t figured out what it is yet. We are studying what is in front of us, but we can’t figure out why we are not having the kind of revival we know our Lord wants us to have.
We see people’s lack of involvement. We see the lack of dedication to the House of God. We know that the growth of our congregations are not keeping up with the population growth of our communities. People come to church with an “Entertain Me” attitude that lacks the fundamental hunger that is needful in a revival church.
We want to identify with the biblical New Testament church but the picture that was the Original Church is in many ways very different than the picture that is the modern day church.[ read more...]
Every so often while reading the Bible, I get flashbacks to my years in Sunday School. Most of those flashbacks come from the 'memory verses' I had to memorize each week for Sunday School. It never ceases to amaze me that thirty years later those verses are still stored somewhere in my memory.
Recently, while reading the book of Jeremiah, I had one of those flashbacks and it led to a deeper study of this story.
You will probably recognize these words just as I did;
11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the Lord, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
12 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you.
13 And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.
What a powerful verse this has been to me and to many others over the years.
Imagine comforting and powerful this must have been for Judah to hear. Judah had been taken captive by Babylon. They had no future. Their land, their possessions and their children had been stripped from them. They thought God had abandoned them. They thought God was done with them. Then, the prophet Jeremiah brings this promise of hope and deliverance.
As comforting as this was to Judah, most of us overlook an important detail of this prophecy found in the previous verse;
10 For thus saith the Lord, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place.
The promise of deliverance was given, but it would take seventy years for deliverance to come. An entire lifetime for most. That meant almost every person who was taken captive would die in captivity. Imagine receiving a promise that your answer has come but then discovering you would have to wait seventy years to receive it. That is like receiving no answer at all.
During Jeremiah's time there were many prophets sharing many messages. In this particular story, there was another prophet named Hananiah. Hananiah shared what sounded like a similar message to Jeremiah's, except for one slight variation;
2 Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying, I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon.
3 Within two full years will I bring again into this place all the vessels of the Lord's house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon:
4 And I will bring again to this place Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, with all the captives of Judah, that went into Babylon, saith the Lord: for I will break the yoke of the king of Babylon.[ read more...]
God gives leaders gifts and talents that fit the mission to which they were called. What raises men above their fellows is the degree to which they developed those gifts through devotion and discipline.
Discipline - Without this essential quality, all other gifts remain as dwarfs; they cannot grow. Before we can conquer the world, we must first conquer self.
Vision - Those who have most powerfully and permanently influenced their generation have been "seers" - people who ha e seen more and father than others - persons of faith, for faith is vision.
Wisdom - If knowledge is the accumulation of facts, and intelligence the development of reason, wisdom is heavenly discernment. It is insight into the heart of things. Wisdom involves knowing God and the subtleties of the human heart. More than knowledge, it is the right application of knowledge in moral and spiritual matters, in handling dilemmas, in negotiating complex relationships.
Decision - When all the facts are in, swift and clear decision is the mark of a true leader. A visionary may see, but a leader must decide. An impulsive person may be quick to declare a preference; but a leader must weigh evidence and make his decision on sound premises.[ read more...]
Few people will deny the theory that a local church stops growing as the size of the church building reaches 80% capacity. The reason for this is purely human and not so spiritual. Most people simply will not tolerate feeling crowded in the pews. Using chairs instead of pews helps this problem somewhat, but eventually the congregants feel like their space is being invaded and soon become uncomfortable.
However, this is not the biggest reason for a church's lack of growth or the reaching of certain size and then growth stopping.
We use the analogy that a fish will only grow to a certain size in a small fish bowl but in a larger pond for instance, the fish can grow much larger. I’m not so sure however, that God’s church should so easily be compared to a fish. I suggest that the building however, is not necessarily the problem in most cases. In fact, we have all seen churches who were literally bursting out at the seams. In many parts of the world today, revival is happening at an unprecedented rate. Pews are packed and chairs are in the aisles. Some churches are utilizing 2-3 services per day to accommodate the crowds.
While it is true that most people don’t like to be in a crowded atmosphere, it is also true that people will come when they are being fed. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you love me Peter?” Peter responded in the affirmative and when he did, our Lord told him to “Feed my sheep.” He did not tell Peter to house them or get them plenty of exercise. He told him to “Feed Them."[ read more...]
Five Things you must do to get Unstuck!
Has your church replaced truth with tradition? Have you done the same things for so long that neither God nor man could change things at your church? Do committees and programs substitute for the moving of the Holy Ghost? Has your church become boring and predictable? If so, your church may be stuck in a rut and may be unable to see a way out.
In his book, Rut, Rot or Revival, A.W. Tozer states,
"The treacherous enemy facing the church of Jesus Christ today is the dictatorship of the routine, when the routine becomes "lord" in the life of the church. Programs are organized and the prevailing conditions are accepted as normal. Anyone can predict next Sunday's service and what will happen. This seems to be the most deadly threat in the church today. When we come to the place where everything can be predicted and nobody expects anything unusual from God, we are in a rut.
The routine dictates, and we can tell not only what will happen next Sunday, but what will occur next month and, if things do not improve, what will take place next year. Then we have reached the place where what has been, determines what is, and what is, determines what will be. That would be perfectly all right and proper for a cemetery. Nobody expects a cemetery to do anything but conform. The greatest conformists in the world today are those who sleep out in the community cemetery. They do not bother anyone. They just lie there, and it is perfectly all right for them to do so.
You can predict what everyone will do in a cemetery from the deceased right down to the people who attend a funeral there. Everyone and everything in a cemetery has accepted the routine. Nobody expects anything out of those buried in the cemetery. But the church is not a cemetery and we should expect much from it, because what has been should not be lord to tell us what is, and what is should not be ruler to tell us what will be. God's people are supposed to grow. As long as there is growth, there is an air of unpredictability. Certainly we cannot predict exactly, but in many churches you just about can. Everybody knows just what will happen, and this has become our deadliest enemy."[ read more...]