Monday, February 6, 2012

Practical Steps to Lead Your Church in God’s Direction

Church planting comes with its share of challenges and hardships.  Sponsorship, facilities, volunteers; among other issues are weekly reminders of how difficult it is.  My hat is off to those that are called to this miraculous endeavor. It is a calling to launch out and begin a new work for the Kingdom.  At the same time, it is also a calling from God to be a pastor called to help an existing church reach its potential.  This could mean coming into a healthy church and guiding it along to a new reality. It could also mean raising the dead.   As it is with church planting, challenges await this pastor as well. This is where I'm called; to an existing church. How do I know this? I tried to help a new church plant. I could have titled this article “Things I learn since I found out I’m not a church planter.” That is an article for another day. Let’s look at a few things I have learned over the years that can serve both planter and pastor.   

This article is for those pastors and planters that are having a hard time getting a grip on the scope of their church.  Over the course of my ministry, I have found a few things that can help. For many of us the term “big picture” says it all; it’s what we are about.  Seeing where an organization or a church needs to be, comes easily to most of us. However, getting our ministry to that point is sometimes not so easy.  Gaining God’s desires for your particular church is the first step, but what’s next?  To quote John Maxwell, “Begin with the end in mind” is where you need to start. The challenge is connecting the dots between the “end”, God’s Vision, and where your ministry is currently?  Once you have heard from God, how do you translate His heart practically? There was a phrase one of my preaching professors used in seminary; “So what? Now what?” These are the two questions we should ask ourselves as we prepare sermons. Asking “So what” is the Bible saying and “Now what” do I do with it? The same is true in leading God’s Church; “So what” is God saying to your church? “Now what” will I take to make it a reality?  I believe the “now what” can be found in the process of “breakdown”.

A “break down” may be what some of us feel we’re close to as we think about the issues facing us in ministry but hopefully we can make it through.  This is one reason I am writing this article.  I understand that some of you are frustrated with ministry.  Some are on the edge and are slightly tipping forward. Hopefully theses insights will help; I pray they will. The “breakdown” I am referring to is taking the “telescopic view” (God’s vision for your church) and turning it into “microscopic view” (a close look at real reality of where you are). Real reality is an objective look at the strengths and weaknesses, successes and failures, and the good and bad of your ministry.  I think the best assessment can be obtained through looking at each ministry one at a time.  By taking each ministry one at a time or breaking it down, you can get a clearer picture of the real reality.  I know as a pastor it is sometimes difficult to observe each ministry, but it is possible. This will take some time to do; time to pray, time to think, and time to observe… This is a process of discipline, not a quick fix. I must pause to say that as you are taking the time to pray, think, and observe, go ahead and preach the vision. Preach what the church “should be” while you are taking time to uncover what “it is”.  Never underestimate the time you have in the pulpit.  You will never have another setting like it. It is the greatest tool for pastor’s in communicating God’s heart; use it to its full advantage.  Now, back to topic… let’s look at praying, thinking, and observing.

As you begin to pray, ask God for wisdom and for Him to help you see the true reality of the church.  Ask God to help you appreciate those that serve in ministry leadership.  If you have any hard feelings towards anyone, ask God to forgive you and to help you forgive them and to reconcile.  Ask God to give you the faith, hope, and love it will take to begin to turn the tide.  As you go through the process, you might find that a particular ministry is not working. Ask God to speak to the ministry leader and ask Him to give you wisdom in dealing with the situation. Never stop praying, this will keep you connected to God as you work through the process. The next step is to think.

First, let me say this about thinking. As a pastor or planter, your greatest gift to your congregation besides prayer, is to be a Thinker.  Taking time to think through issues will save you money and time. Thinking issues through will also keep you from losing the confidence of your congregation. When it comes to making decisions or working through issues, I use a peace of paper and a pen. On this paper I list the “pros” and “cons” of a particular decision. Once I determine the wisest thing to do, I then write out a course of action.  These are the steps I’ll take to make the decision a reality.  Take the time to think about what would help each ministry follow the vision.  Think through two or three things that will bring each ministry closer to alignment. Someone said “you can not measure ministry in miles, it can only be done in inches.” Two or three things will keep you busy enough, I promise. These improvements cannot be done apart from observation.

Taking time to look at each ministry your self is very valuable.  You cannot get accurate information about a ministry unless you see it for yourself.  Face it; if we, as pastors, can walk around in denial ourselves, what makes us think our ministry leaders can’t do the same. Besides, God has given us the vision for what His church should be. It’s our responsibility to observe if it is. Observing the leader is important. Are they operating in their giftedness and passions?  Also, view the setting. Is the room or the space a hindrance or a help? The curriculum is also important. Does it meet the people where they are and help make truth practical?  Effective communication should also be observed.   Is the leader informed about the topic and prepared to lead? All These observations will help in uncovering the next steps to align the ministry. Make sure in the observation stage that you make note of the things that are done well.  Use this information to encourage ministry leaders.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

“Assimilation”; A Big Word With A Huge Impact

          I want to write today about a subject that kind of gets swept under the rug at times.  The subject is “Assimilation” or connecting people to the local church.  Many churches are not engaged in this process and therefore they tend to suffer because of it.  In the past few years the cry of local church leaders has been for more discipleship.  As if to say that there has not been enough emphasis on it in the past.  I tend to agree; however, does that mean that the commitment to evangelism now has to suffer. Or perhaps the biggest question is “can we separate the two?” I personally believe that you cannot. But what does this have to do with assimilation? EVERYTHING! If there is no one getting connected to the church who will you disciple? What is the use in reaching people if they do not stick?

            I am all for right doctrine and having a passionate heart for evangelism.  But the fact of the matter is if there is no system in place to connect the disconnected they remain disconnected. You can preach faithfully to the text week after week (I hope you are) but still have many people fall through the cracks.  The problem is that there needs to be a balance in the local church between faithfully reaching and teaching and being faithful in caring for those God sends us. There will still be those that are over looked but the percentage will dramatically decrease if assimilation is at the forefront.

            To define assimilation we need to go to the sponge, yes I said “sponge”.  A great illustration of what assimilation means is when you drop a sponge into a bucket of water.  The water becomes apart of the sponge until you ring it out.  The water is assimilated into the sponge.  This is what the local church must improve if it wants a more effective ministry to people.  The bible calls the concept of assimilation “hospitality”. We find a text in Romans 12: 13 “Share with God’s people who are in need. Practice hospitality.” NIV.  This verse comes into context as Paul is describing what it means to love one another in the context of the Local church; I call it “One Anothering”.  As Paul turns practical in Romans 12 we find that among the definitions of expressing love he lists hospitality.  Hospitality was a benevolent act in the Biblical world and had varying forms.  It was used for foreign travelers in the event they needed lodging for the night (Job 31). It was also used in tithing food to the hungry (Deut. 24) among many.  Hotels and motels were not the norm so Paul urged the church to practice this gracious gift. There are other texts for hospitality, please do a study for yourself and look them up.

            Hospitality in our modern-day context looks somewhat different. And I guess this is really subjective because every church has their own idea about it.  I want to stretch those ideas for a moment and cause us to think about things we many not be thinking about. I will talk about one area now and will have return posts on other areas of assimilation later. The first area of concern is “First Impressions”.

            In order to get your mind around this concept you must stop thinking like a “Church Goer”.  You must begin to look at your buildings, parking, signage, and overall presentation of your campus as a “FIRST TIME GUEST”.  Let’s break it down;

If your parking fills up before your Worship Center than you will never grow past the capacity of what your parking area can handle. Also, you must make handicap and guest parking visible and accessible.  (Notice I used the word “guest”. Never use the word “visitor”. The reason is visitors stop buy but are not ready to be received. Guest on the other hand are expected.  You make arrangements for those you know will stop buy. The purpose of assimilation is to always be ready for the guest). Back to the parking… If you have the man power to pull it off, parking greeters are a great tool in showing people you are ready to serve them as they arrive.  The Parking Greeters simply smile, welcome, and point towards the right direction.  They know where all the programs and the age group ministries are held and they direct others in the right direction.  Also make sure the parking and lawn is trash free. A trashy parking lot says a lot about our commitment.

            You can be the best preacher on the planet but if a guest walks into a dirty bathroom they will not be back.  Make sure the facilities are clean and presentable to others.  Make sure the areas that need paint are painted and the areas that need cleaned are cleaned.  If there is an issue that arises, like an overflowing toilet, it should be addressed immediately. Have a plan in which to address issues and have a “go to” person responsible.
            Seating must be a priority.  Nelson Searcy says that once seating fills to 70% capacity it is time to act.  I f there is room in the Worship Center for additional chairs, add them. If you are out of room then beginning two services is a much more cost effective way of using God’s resources than building a new building.  You might need to build a larger Worship Center (only out of need and never out of pride) but make sure the funds and growth will support it. The last thing you want to do as a pastor is put your church in a substantial debt. If your worship Center can seat at least 300 I would encourage you to put off building until you are running 3 service and have taken advantage of the time to save money towards to new building.

            From the road to the pew, people need to know where to go.  The Church sign should be visible and easily read. Also where to park needs to be visible.  All venues should be clear on the signage such as Worship Center, Children, youth… Then once a guest is in the building bathroom, nursery, welcome station, Worship Center signs should be very visible.

            From the parking lot to the pew guest should be face to face with friendly, warm, and welcoming people ready to serve and make them feel as comfortable as possible. Greeters can be used to hand out church information packets and bulletins. Whatever you do put people in these positions that are friendly and helpful and most of all are happy to do so.  This is the first face to face meeting with the guest so you want people with great attitudes and great smiles in these positions.  

These suggestions are not a complete list, but they are helpful reminders that will increase your impact on the first time guest at your church. Tune in next time when I will address lighting, sound, announcements, connection cards, and projection.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Proud Father

I am a proud father. Why? The following:

1. All my children love Christ and follow Him

2. My oldest son uses his musical talents for the Lord and is making great strides with his band “Red Skies at Dawn”. They are playing there biggest show to date this weekend by opening for “Demon Hunter”

3. My Daughter is a very gifted softball player and has gone as far as the ASA World Series in the summer of 2005. She plays for the High School and for summer league rec.

4. My youngest is very creative and is always thinking of things to build or create. He spent a full year doing Karate and is a gifted “thinker”. (he takes after his mother)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Principles of Faith Hebrews Ch. 11

Summation of CH. 11 “Faith in God works”

In vv.1-3 we find a description of Faith. Faith is not a blind optimism that says “I hope so” Nor is it based on pure intelligence but it is a confident obedience to God’s word no matter how things may seem. The Hebrews writer uses a few words to help us understand; the first is “Sure” “Assurance” or “Substance” depending on translation. The word here in it’s original form simple means “To stand under; to support”. So faith is to a Christian what a foundation is to a house. It is the main support system. You can not have a house without a foundation and you can not have Christianity without faith (Eph. 2:8-9). Faith gives us the confidence to stand and assurance for support.

The second word is “Certain”, “Confidence”, “Conviction”, or “Evidence” depending on translation. This is simply and inward conviction that what God has said, He will do. So faith is knowing what God has said and believing that no matter what is or might be, God’s word is true and nothing can stop it. This faith produces something; a witness.

The third word or concept in verse 2 and in CH. 12:1 is “Witness”. True faith lived out in one persons life provides a witness to the fact that faith in God works. Not that God needs the witness but it is an encouragement to us now as we read the pages of Scripture to trust Him and His word.

Since faith is not built on “I hope so” but on God Himself, We need to understand a few of the Principle that work within faith as we experience it and are challenge by it. I’m sure this is not all the principles however, I am also sure that there are no less then these.

Principle 1: Faith Reasons: Count the cost. vv.3, 6, 17-19
     • When we hear God’s voice we must determine if we are willing to pay the price to follow.

Principle 2: Faith Finds Security: Let God have control. v.23
     • Once we reason out that we have heard God and we are willing to follow, then we must let God have   control of the journey.

Principle 3: Faith Risks: We must obey. v.8
     • This is where most of us have the most trouble. We must obey and get out of the boat of control and comfort and step into God's will.

Principle 4: Faith Experiences Trouble: world, flesh, and the devil. vv. 24-26
     • Faith is not easy; there are three enemies we must deal with in order to press through to what God has called us to. We must fight the good fight of faith.

Principle 5: Faith can see the Prize: Peace that comes from following God vv.9-10
     • Faith not only can see the prize of what God has asked us to do but it also sees the prize in the journey as well. The peace of knowing that God is in the journey of faith may be the most rewarding prize of all.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

“Hey, That’s My Church!”

This is a series of studies into the letters to the “Seven Churches” in the Book of Revelation. The series is entitled “Hey, That’s My Church!” because the letters are addressed to churches but the fact is that churches are made up of individuals. So, we can take this series as to say “Hey That’s Me!” First we will look at the Church at Ephesus.

“Active but Hollow” Rev. 2:1-7

In v. 1 Jesus tells where the letter is addressed to and by whom. Jesus tells John that he holds 7 stars (which are the pastors) and He walks among the lamp stands (which are the churches). So in essence Jesus is telling John to write this church and to tell them the letter is from the One that truly knows them and the real issues in their lives that need attention.

In vv. 2-3 Jesus praises them for their activity. They had good deeds; they worked hard, and did not give up when times got hard. They also could not stand wicked men and tested them to see if they were really what they claimed to be. These are qualities I would hope that every church would have.

In v.4 it begins to go down hill. If Jesus told you that He had something against you, would you listen? I think so. So, here is the problem. They had “forsaken their first love.” This does not mean that they left their first love or that their first love had left them. It simply means that they got off track with their priorities. They had put the activities of religion ahead of their love for Christ.

In v.5 it gets better. Jesus not only uncovers the problem but He also gives the solution. There is a three step process in getting their priorities back in order. 1. “Remember the heights from which they have fallen”. This simply means that they needed to remember what their relationship was like when things were in the right order; when they put God first and not religious practice. 2. “Repent”. This simply means to turn away from the things that do not please God and turn towards the things that do. It is a matter of focus. Give attention to Jesus and your walk with Him first. 3. “Do the things you did a first” Do not just turn towards those things but do them. What brought you close to Christ at first will do the same now. In regards to the Ephesian Church read Acts 19. This is the beginning of this church and helps with the context of what Jesus is saying to this specific church.

But for us, the things that bring us close to Christ are simple to state but difficult to do. Things like prayer, reading the Bible, a missional lifestyle, and walking by faith will make your walk with God real and rich.

In v. 7 Jesus gives a warning, “Those that have an ear, let them hear what the Spirit says…” Is God speaking to you? My prayer is that you submit to Him and that your relationship is not “Active and Hollow” but “Full and Faithful” to Christ

Monday, March 15, 2010


This May I will be graduating from the undergrad program at New Orleans Theological Seminary and I thought I would post some reflections.
First I could have never accomplished this without my family. Thanks to my wife Tammy and children Kalib, Morgan, and Cory. You four are a blessing and great encouragement to my life. You left everything to follow me and for that I am grateful.

To The Lord's Church for it's support and love through these years of training and learning; you are a great church.

Some lessons I have learned from this journey; 1. It feels great to finish something. This has not always been my best quality. 2. God is faithful. When we left Florida we had no idea of how we would make it but God has made a way. 3. I have learned discipline. If pastoring were easy everyone would be doing it. The fact is, this is a very hard calling but through discipline, focus, and God's leadership, It has been and (I hope will continue to be) a very rewarding experience.

Monday, February 8, 2010

"Trouble in the Hands of the King" Matthew 8:23-27

I had some technical difficulties with the message “The Expectation of the King” Matt 8 18-22. I will try and get it up on-line ASAP.

I hope you are encouraged by “Trouble in the Hands of the King” Matt. 8:23-27. Click HERE to access file.

I will be posting some things later this week that will help you help your pastor.