CLIMATE FOR GROWING CHURCH LEADERS

CLIMATE FOR GROWING CHURCH LEADERS
Some people claim they can predict a weather change by their body aches. There is no doubt climate and environmental conditions affect us physically and emotionally.

Organizations have climate and environment that directly influence the ability to build people and develop leaders. Applied to churches, we can say a healthy climate or environment provides nurture and empowers our activities, programming, strategic planning, and vision. The result is healthy people and quality leaders.
Here’s a checklist of five key components for evaluating your church’s climate.

Clearly define the objectives
Christians and Christian leaders grow best in a climate of clear objectives. Outline clear objectives for each activity. This will provide a sense of direction, optimism, progress, anticipation and motivation.
Without objectives, activities lead to frustration, burnout, and confusion. People never learn to be intentional and focused in life and ministry as Christ was. The uncertain church schedules more activities and is likely to develop fewer leaders.

Establish clearly defined objectives and you will find that direction, intentionality, and purpose lead to effective ministry.

Develop gift-focused ministry
The practice of seeking willing volunteers rather than competent servants is a mistake. Jesus didn’t ask for volunteers to be apostles. He appointed them based upon their heart, their gifts and His mission.

People serving in their area of giftedness tend to be more fulfilled, contented and effective in life and ministry. Helping people discover, develop and use their gifts in ministry has the greatest positive influence on both the person and the church. Quality and effectiveness of ministry increase.

Using assessments, discernment of leadership, experimentation, and confirmation of others, you can create a climate where people discover and develop their gifts.

Entrust people with significant ministry
Entrusting people with vital ministry, central to the church’s success and mission, creates a climate of high motivation and morale. People challenged by a task or cause bigger than they tend to rise to the challenge. They feel like owners, having responsibility and influence in the organizational mission.

This climate nurtures people willing to sacrifice for the good of the group. They desire to learn and grow. They work to increase their effectiveness and thus the effectiveness of the group.
A

uthor Jim Belasco tells the story of Dr. Cooley, a famous surgeon. One day, he followed Cooley on rounds and, en route to the operating room, saw the surgeon stop to talk to a man mopping the hallway. The surgeon and janitor conversed for nearly 10 minutes before Cooley dashed into the operating room.

Curiosity rose, Belasco commented, “That was a long conversation.” Then he asked, “What do you do in the hospital?” The janitor replied, “We save lives.” To this man, mopping was a significant task. He was part of the life-saving team.

Creating a climate for building people means linking each person with a task he perceives as significant to the group’s success. Each person discovers he is valued for who he is and willingly gives what he has to advance the group’s mission.

Give people authority and autonomy in ministry
Kennon Callahan says, “In any organization, the higher the delegation of authority, the higher the level of competencies and the more leaders the organization helps to nurture forward.”

Highly competent people must be given a higher degree of authority in the church or they will go where they feel valued and can contribute. A church can actually increase its leadership pool by giving people authority and autonomy in ministry.

Callahan continues, “People tend not to continue participating in organizations that stifle their own growth and development.” Leaders often fear what could happen if someone abuses authority. Consequently, they tend to delegate more responsibility than authority.

We must understand, leaders always risk being hurt whether they give authority or not. In granting authority along with responsibility, they cultivate an empowering climate in which people are more likely to serve actively and handle authority responsibly.

When we give them authority we tell people we trust them. Trust forms the basis for better relationships, greater openness, and increased people development. Taking the initiative and risk to trust another person despite uncertain consequences deepens the relationship and helps to build the organization.
Leaders who delegate, reward talent, and build powerful people, become more powerful leaders.

Give visibility and recognition
When leaders recognize a person’s contribution, the entire organization sees what is valued and learns from others. Through recognition, people gain the strength and courage to carry on in stressful and difficult times. They withstand hardship if they have experienced the joy and fulfillment of being recognized for past accomplishments.

Recognition communicates progress. It challenges and motivates people to achieve even greater things. It reinforces positive attitudes. In this climate, people come alive and interest grows in others who want to become part of the team.

What is your church’s climate? Is it conducive to building people and developing leaders? Most churches can do better. Determine that you will create a climate that grows believers into effective disciples and leaders.

The Theology of Training
Imagine you are attending a meeting of the Christian education board at an average church. As the board prepares to address the topic of training, the pastor asks how plans for next year’s efforts are coming along. These are the responses:

“Well, we haven’t given it much thought. Training isn’t one of our priorities.”
“It’s worship this church needs. We want the teachers to worship more instead of getting so bogged down in training.”

“You know, this church can’t tolerate one more program. Why don’t we just let training die for a while?”
“Teachers don’t need training. They just need to rely on the Holy Spirit. He will give them all the training they need!”

Does that scenario seem unrealistic? Actually, statements like these have dismantled training ministries in many churches. They not only reflect poor wisdom and logic but also a serious failure to understand the theological foundation of training.

Defining terms
In its strictest sense, theology means the study of God.
For this discussion, a better definition says that Christian theology has to do with the nature, history, validity, and application of the Christian faith. Theology includes four broad areas of study: (1) biblical studies, (2) systematic theology, (3) church history, and (4) practical theology or application.

Training in the church has relationship to every area of theology mentioned above and is necessary if those who serve in the church are to do their jobs well.
Training in the Bible

The Bible offers a comprehensive presentation of training.
We can divide the related Bible content into three areas: examples, instruction, and models.
Examples
Here are a few examples that reflect a continuing biblical pattern of training: Moses in Pharaoh’s court, Samuel in Eli’s house, Elisha’s in-service training with Elijah, and Paul’s training young Timothy and Titus.
No one valued training more than Jesus did. He took 12 unlikely men and invested His life in theirs for three years. He taught them in multiple ways with the goal of preparing them to carry on His work.

However, He did not limit His training to the disciples. He taught thousands of people wherever He went. In fact, the Gospel of Mark uses an interesting phrase to symbolize Jesus’ commitment to training: “As was his custom, he [Jesus] taught them” (Mark 10:1). Jesus trained the masses as well as those who would become trainers themselves.

Instruction
The Bible contains countless admonitions to train and teach. For example, the Old Testament instructs fathers to train their children as God intended (Deuteronomy 6:7; Proverbs 22:6). Kings and priests are admonished to teach the people to obey.

Proverbs 19:20 expresses a training theme: “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise.”

Second Timothy teaches Christians to study to gain divine approval, and the ability to train and teach is listed as a prerequisite for leadership in the church (2:15, 24, 25).

Jesus challenged His followers with what has come to be called the Great Commission: “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19,20).

The Bible does not encourage training without a practical purpose. We are training people to obey in the broadest sense; that is, not just keeping a set of rules but following Christ’s guiding principles which result in successful Christian living. In fact, the purpose of biblical training is not so much knowing as it is doing. Thus training has a discipling motive.

The Implications for the church
Based on this discussion, we can offer the following statements about training and its relationships to theology (the study of God):
1. God considers training vitally important in His kingdom.
2. Training is a spiritual, theological, biblically mandated endeavor.
3. God has assisted us in establishing our training program by gifting people to be trainers, providing models, and offering biblical information.
4. God’s people–the church of Jesus Christ–will function as they were intended only when attention is given to training.

Training not only provides skills instruction but also helps people serve Christ better. It not only has to do with what a Christian knows but also with what he feels and does. When the church neglects training, the quality of discipleship suffers, and the church’s impact in the world diminishes.

The original languages for this text uses the participial form for go. “Go ye therefore” is not actually an imperative statement, as many translations indicate. It is most accurately translated, “As you are going.”

What does that mean? Jesus assumed His followers would be going. It was not a matter of choice, as the imperative form allows. He assumed evangelism, incorporation into the church, teaching, and training would all be happening in the context of active ministry. He believed His followers would be learning in the context of doing. Their training would come as they acted.

Theologically, training is accomplished by precept and example. Its goal is to effect life changes, bringing Christians into conformity to God’s will. Another important passage is 2 Timothy 2:2, for it adds a necessary dimension to training: “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable men who will also be qualified to teach others.” Paul added the admonition to train in perpetuity–those things he taught were to be passed on from one generation to the next.

Models
In the Old Testament, the family formed the basic unit of society. Instruction and training were to begin there. Later in Jewish history, the synagogue became both a center of worship and training.

The Early Church adopted that model. The Book of Acts indicates that training was taking place wherever Christians were meeting–their homes, the temple courts, and so on (Acts 2:42-47). Later, as the church became more established, it became the focus for Christian training. In fact, the church became such an established center of training that for hundreds of years it was the only place formal education took place.

Who is responsible for training?
The Bible identifies those who bear ultimate responsibility for training. Within the family unit, the father is responsible. Within the church, responsibility lies with those who have been gifted by Christ for that purpose: “It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” (Ephesians 4:11, 12).

The church’s goal is to prepare God’s people for works of service. That is also the training goal. The church that does so will grow and be edified.

God has chosen to give certain people spiritual gifts that enable them to be trainers, and this includes training other trainers. If the church’s training program is weak, those leaders whom God has gifted must assume responsibility for improving it.

Training is a theological idea. It is not optional in the church; rather, it is a vital part of what it means to be truly the church. The church that ignores or depreciates training ministries does so at its own risk. The church offers training to be faithful and obedient to God.

The Law of Investment
The Law of Investment says: ‘A disciple-making church provides an intentional process that releases disciples to invest themselves in the global mission of Christ and the Church and to fulfill God’s purpose for their lives’. The passion of God’s heart is making and developing disciples who in turn make and develop disciples.

This law is the local church’s fourth commitment to help believers commit to mission. The church expresses its commitment to reproduce and fulfill the Great Commission through the development of disciples and the unleashing of their God-given gifts, resources, and energies. Fundamentally the law of investing is not just missions but helping people fulfill God’s highest purpose and mission for their lives.

A commitment to invest means empowering people and ministries, releasing them for ministry based upon their spiritual development. This is enhanced by three supporting principles:

1. Every believer is commissioned by God to make disciples (Mark 16:15,16);
2. Spirit baptism is a priority for Great Commission service (Acts 1:4,5);
3. An awareness of need is the primary motivation for Great Commission service (John 4:35–38).

The Law of Investment Modeled
Jesus called His disciples to a life of investment. They were to:
• Remain in Him and to “go and make disciples” (Matthew 28:19).
• Continue to develop in their character and relationship with Him.
• Invest themselves–time, energies, and talents–in His highest purpose: making disciples.
• Be released for leadership and ministry to reproduce in others what He had done in their lives.

Jesus invested himself in His 12 disciples. The ultimate act of commitment came as He invested the Church’s future to them. His influence will continue as we invest in and release people for ministry.

We are not true Disciples of Christ if we are not giving ourselves to His mission. Individual purposes are linked to His greater purpose. Success is defined by purpose and measured by obedience.

Four Habits of Disciple-Making Churches
Provide Cross-Cultural Experiences.
Cross-cultural ministry experiences have the power to open people’s hearts and eyes to the needs of the world. Lives and commitments are significantly changed by understanding people’s needs and experiencing God’s power working through them in ministry to those needs. A church can provide opportunities for cross-cultural experiences in their own country. Extend opportunities for ministry in the inner city or other less-privileged communities from several days to a few weeks. Some churches take groups to the inner city and become homeless for a night. These experiences prove life changing.

Provide Leadership Experiences.
Providing a healthy team environment where people feel included, valued, encouraged, and supported can develop the habit of providing leadership experiences.

1. Strive to create a climate promoting trust, openness, honesty, shared feelings, and mutual respect.
2. Develop a system of communication that provides for the sharing of relevant, helpful, timely information.
3. Encourage problem-solving and decision-making opportunities by those responsible for the ministry.
4. Give authority and responsibility in ministry roles based on knowledge and ability.
5. Work together as leaders and workers in the development of plans, creating a sense of ownership for the goals and results.
6. Encourage workers to participate in ministry-related problem solving and decision making, to develop self-direction and self-control.
7. Emphasize the necessity of conflict resolution, collaboration, and win-win approaches to disagreements.
8. Provide a reward system that recognizes both the ministry’s achievement of goals and the development of its members.

Provide Opportunities to Disciple Others.
Determine to invest people in discipling opportunities. Involve them in levels of ministry appropriate to their training and spiritual development. A discipling mentality can be developed with four steps.
1. Challenge people with the vision of the church, the opportunities for ministry, and the benefits to them and others.
2. Orient people to the ministry opportunities, focusing on their ministry choice.
3. Involve people in discipling opportunities such as crisis hot line, recovery/support groups, disability ministries, foster homes, new convert follow-up, altar workers, etc.
4. Coach people. As people minister through sharing their faith, nurturing a new believer, or counseling someone, they are motivated to learn by realizing what they need to know.

Provide Continued Leadership Training.
Leadership development is a lifetime process that occurs through interaction between one’s spiritual life, natural abilities, experiences, and opportunities. Several principles for ongoing leadership training are:

1. Give freedom to fail. Disciples learn by trial and error. We must not be afraid of failure, which can be mistakes or sins or both. Recognize a mistake quickly and correct the perceptions, conditions, and actions that led to it. If we sin, we repent quickly and apply 1 John 1:9 and James 5:16, not forgetting the role of restorative prayer.

2. Leadership development requires empowering. The goal of ministry leaders/trainers/mentors should be to equip the disciple to do the ministry and to supervise as it is done.

3. Releasing leaders in ministry encourages growth. Training must be hands-on. Because people learn by doing ministry, we shouldn’t make it too easy for them or rescue them from potential learning experiences. Help them understand the goal and then model or teach some possible methods, letting them work out their own methodology for achieving the goal.

Providing ongoing leadership training can be done through a variety of methods. The best approach is what is right for the person at the time.

1. Mentoring. Team members should understand their responsibility to be both apprentice and mentor; every person should be actively involved in two training relationships simultaneously.

2. Storytelling. An important role of the mentor is as teacher. Christ taught the crowds, but His parables were aimed at His listening disciples. He sought to link spiritual truths with real-life metaphors.

3. Modeling. Christ modeled appropriate behaviors before His disciples, took them aside and explained the significance, and exhorted them to do likewise.

4. Celebrating. Landmarks are victories and accomplishments that provide opportunities to evaluate progress and design the next phase of growth. A disciple graduates to a certain level after proving that he can do “task A” effectively on his own. As leaders we must celebrate and affirm that graduation.

Profile of Disciples Committed to Mission
What is the profile of people committed to mission?
• They demonstrate characteristics of a committed leader.
• They are empowered by the Holy Spirit in life and service and have been used of God to help those committed to maturity become committed to ministry (2 Timothy 2:2).
• They are uniting and leading workers in evangelizing the lost and establishing believers (Mark 1:38).
• They display faithfulness and integrity in their lives and ministry (2 Timothy 2:19–21).
The church’s commitment to invest in people, then releasing them to invest themselves in others, will be evident in people’s lives and ministry. If you recognize this profile in the people to whom you minister, you know your commitment to invest is being effective.

Four ways to Break out of that Tiresome Rut
“If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, LB)
It’s easy to get stuck in a rut in ministry – same place –same thing – same responsibility.
But settling into a rut is dangerous. As Will Rogers used to say, “Even if you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there!” What does it take to get you moving?

There are three common motivators:
PAIN: Often it’s not “seeing the light” that gets us going, but “feeling the heat.” You delay the dentist appointment until the pain is unbearable.

PRESSURE: When the doctor says “Lose 50 pounds or die,” or the boss says “Improve performance or be fired,” that pressure will motivate you to make a change. The problem with pressure as a motivator is that it doesn’t last. When the pressure subsides, so does your motivation. There is a better motivator.
PERSPECTIVE: When you see the big picture, or when you’re inspired by a challenging vision or purpose, you’ve found the best motivator of all – perspective. You realize that you’re wasting your potential.
The Bible says, “If you wait for perfect conditions, you’ll never get anything done.” (Ecclesiastes 11:4, LB)

FOUR STEPS FOR GETTING OUT OF THE RUT
1. ASSUME responsibility for your own life. Refuse to be either an excuser (rationalize failure) or an accuser (blame others). Instead, be a chooser, and choose to break out of the rut you’re in.

2. BELIEVE you can change! Stop saying “I can’t” and start saying “I can.”

3. CLARIFY what you really want. Write down specifically how you’d like to change.

4. DON’T WAIT for ideal circumstances. Stop saying “When things settle down ….” Do it now! “One of these days” is really none of these days.

PRAY THIS: “God help me to do something differently this week and to do it better. Give me your strength to change.”

Transform Your Ministry through this One Simple Skill
“My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry ….” (James 1:19, NIV)

One of the most common causes of frustration and friction in ministry is that we don’t really listen to each other. Too often we talk at each other rather than with each other.

Research shows that we spend about 40% of our waking hours listening, yet most of the time we’re only listening at 25% efficiency, and that creates many of our problems.

Fortunately, listening is a skill that can be developed.
The benefits of learning how to listen are enormous: fewer mistakes, better negotiating, greater wisdom, more friends, less arguments, and much, much more.

The Bible says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.” If you do the first two (be quick to listen and slow to speak), the third will be automatic.
Three things that hinder our hearing:

PRESUMPTION
• When we think we already know it all. “He who answers before listening – that is his folly and his shame.” (Pr. 18:13, NIV)

IMPATIENCE
• When you interrupt and jump to conclusions. “There is more hope for a fool than for someone who speaks without thinking.” (Pr. 29:20, NLT)

PRIDE
• When we are defensive and un-teachable. “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” (Pr. 12:15, NIV)
You can learn from anyone if you know the right questions to ask!

Let me suggest three HEARING AIDS:
1. Listen with your eyes – Approximately 80% of communication is non-verbal. Facial expressions and body language usually tell the real story. Look at people when you listen to them!
2. Listen with your heart – Be sympathetic. Tune in to the emotions behind the words.
3. Make time to listen to the people around you – Tom Peters calls it “Managing By Walking Around.”(MBWA)
Imagine how your ministry could be transformed if you focused on carefully listening to those around you. Give it a try this week!

Pastor, what’s on your mind?
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” (Romans 12:2)

What have you been thinking about this week, pastor? Are you worried? Depressed? Thinking lustful thoughts?
One of the great psychological discoveries of the past century is that your thoughts control your actions. If you want to change the way you act, you must first change how you think.
Actually, thousands of years ago, Solomon pointed this out when he wrote, “Be careful how you think; your life is shaped by your thoughts.” (Prov.4:23)

The Bible says our thoughts influence six areas of our lives:

MY INTERPRETATION INFLUENCES MY SITUATION
It’s not what happens to me that matters as much as how I choose to see it. The way I react will determine whether the circumstance makes me better or bitter. I can view everything as an obstacle or an opportunity for growth – a stumbling block or a stepping stone. “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.” (James 1:2-4, NIV)

MY IMPRESSIONS INFLUENCE MY DEPRESSIONS
In other words, my mind affects my moods, my thinking determines my feelings. If I’m feeling depressed, it’s because I’m choosing to think depressing thoughts – about my work, family, or anything else. While you cannot always control a feeling, you CAN choose what you think about – which will control how you feel. “Hear me and answer me. My thoughts trouble me and I am distraught…” (Psalm 55:2, NIV)

MY BELIEFS INFLUENCE MY BEHAVIOR
We always act according to our beliefs – even when those ideas are false. For instance, as a child, if you believed a shadow in your bedroom at night was a monster; your body reacted in fear (adrenaline, sweat, etc.) even though it wasn’t true. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you are operating on true information! Your convictions about yourself, about life, and about God influence your conduct. “If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.” (John 8:31, NIV)

MY SELF-TALK INFLUENCES MY SELF-ESTEEM
You are constantly talking to yourself unconsciously. When you walk into a room full of strangers, what do you tend to think about yourself? To develop more confidence you’re going to have to stop running yourself down! “As he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7, NKJV)

MY ATTITUDE INFLUENCES MY ABILITY
Winners expect to win. Your perception controls your performance. Mohammed Ali only lost two fights in his career. Before both of them, he said something that he hadn’t said before other fights: “If I should lose this fight ….” “All things are possible to him who believes.” (Mark 9:23, NKJV)

MY IMAGINATION INFLUENCES MY ASPIRATION
In other words, your dreams determine your destiny. To accomplish anything, you must first have a mission, a goal, a hope, a vision. “Without a vision the people perish.” (Proverbs 29:18)

A Revival of Simplicity
I’m lucky. I live within five miles of a shopping centre. It’s fun to go over there at night, walk around and see all the equipment that’s available for hunting, fishing, camping, and other outdoor activities. It can also be frustrating. There is so much stuff available now for most leisure activities that it’s sometimes overwhelming. You just don’t walk in and buy fish hooks anymore; instead you have all sorts of choices depending and what species you are after. The simplicity of just having fun and relaxing has long since past.

Sports are not the only place this has happened. The tendency to complicate has surfaced in nearly every arena–including our Sunday schools and Christian education efforts. I am thankful that we have begun to see the need to provide a greater degree of quality in our programs. However, some have mistaken complication for quality. There is a world of difference. This is not new. In Jesus’ day, the Pharisees had complicated God’s laws to the extent that they themselves, not to mention the common man, couldn’t live up to the standards they imposed. The crowds flocked to hear Jesus because He offered real solutions to real problems in the language of the masses. As administrators we need to be keenly aware of the natural tendency for things to go from being simple to complicate. We need to monitor our programs to be preventing this natural evolution.

Here are some areas that we should watch:
Structure
Nothing is more intriguing than a good flow chart. All the little boxes, squares, lines, dotted lines all look exciting but can get you lost in a hurry. A good rule of thumb is the only thing I remember from high school geometry–a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. Work to keep the flow as simple and direct as possible. Don’t add anything to the structure you do not need. When you add something new, see what you can remove. This insures structural simplicity.
Communication
Every book you read on writing stresses using the minimum number of words to communicate your message. Wordy documents are neither easily nor often read. Well written documents have short, to the point sentences. Billeted or number points that stand out from the rest of the text make important information or instructions standout. No need for fancy types or enhancements such as bold, italics, or underlining. A few of these things can go a long way.

Word choice is important, too. The right word is more effective than a big word. People have a tendency to pass over the big word, assigning a meaning that fits within the context. This often causes a misunderstanding of your intent. The right word is one that is specific, familiar, and easily understood. For example it is better to say, “Don’t talk down to the student when teaching” and is better understood than saying “Don’t pontificate while expounding to your enrollment.”

Winston Churchill once said, “Using a big word when a small one would do is utterly reprehensible.” Be a person of few but accurate words.

Meetings
Staff meetings are essential to the health and success of your program. But keep them short, meaningful, and simple.

Records
Good records are important. Forms are beneficial to help you follow-up, track guests, and evaluate your projects. However, don’t get your workers caught up in a sea of paper work. They don’t have time to do it, so they won’t. Look for every way to implement a paperwork reduction act in your church.

These are just a few things you can streamline. You may have many others as well. Remember, you deal with volunteers who are busy in other areas as well. Make things as simple as you can for them.
We all know about the KISS principle–keep it simple sir. You will find it works.

Another Look at Church Growth-1
Perhaps at no time in history has it been more important that the church authentically answer the call to identity with Christ. Our modern world will not reinforce Christian values. Our call is to live with integrity as Christians in a non-Christian culture. The confrontation of two opposing cultures acutely accentuates the distinctions. Unless we faithfully reflect the Redeemer, we cannot expect the world to notice or care.

The first epistle of Peter is a clarion call to self-identification with Christ, rejecting the notion that something is wrong with us because others ridicule and revile. The task of being a minority has never been easy. Church history reminds us that when everyone is a Christian, no one is a Christian.

The call to return to the lifestyles and faith of the early church has seldom been more needed, or more valid. Surrounded by much “bad” religion, our world has decided that only those who authentically reflect Christ deserve a hearing. If your life is wrong, your influence for Christ is gone, even if your message is right. The challenge of 1 Peter is to right living in a wrong living world. Will you heed the call?

Another Look at Church Growth–2
“Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them. And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers…praising God and having favor with all the people…and the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved…the number of men came to be about five thousand.” (Acts 2:41-42, 47; 4:4)

Dr. Paul Benjamin, Director of National Church Growth Research in Washington, D.C. has cited nine reasons why some “churches” grow and others do not.

Churches that grow are the ones that genuinely want to grow. Their members are not timid about telling others what they believe. They constantly, in one way or another, say to those in the community, “we want you to join us.” They teach to change lives. Bible facts are the foundation of the teaching from the pulpit and in their classes. They are conservative, biblically speaking. They are constantly starting new congregations. They have a definite doctrinal basis. They have a clear, distinctive message. Their members know there is something definite to be believed. They have what is termed the “equipping ministry” concept. The members do not think of the preacher as the one whose primary function is to minister to the members, but his role is to teach them how to minister to others. They consider evangelism as an all-important thrust.

I find it refreshing to note that the principles Dr. Benjamin identified as important for church growth are the same as those found in the New Testament, principles characteristic of the first century church. The principles for church growth have not changed. Methods may change, principles do not.

If in our search for church growth we depend too much on special promotions, new programs, innovative worship, dynamic preaching, constant youth activities, and positive thinking as the panaceas to foster growth, we are missing the boat. According to Dr. Benjamin and the example of the first century church, churches grow when they want to grow (Acts 2:42), when they want to tell others about Jesus (Acts 8:4), when they want to change lives (Acts 3:6), when they seek to be guided only by the word of God (Acts 4:19-20), when they have a definite doctrine (2 John 9-10), when they desire to help and encourage others (Acts 4:34-35), and when evangelism is their primary goal (Acts 5:42).

We may modernize the methods, but the principles are eternal.

Another Look at Church Growth–3
A recent survey of 10,000 churches of various denominations asked the question, “What factors influenced you to become a member of this church?” Note the answers.
Walk-ins, 6%
Programs, 3%
Preacher, 5%
Special needs, 3%
Sunday school, 3%
Revivals (gospel meetings), .001%
Visitation, 2%
Influence of friends or relatives, 75%+

As we continually seek to bring glory to God, nothing is more vital to the continued growth of this church than your influence for good. Visitation programs do much good. But the efforts of many Christians resolved to reach out to friends and relatives will reap the greater harvest for God. We can have the best programs possible, the best preacher available, a super-duper Bible school department, active visitation efforts, and real outreach to those with special needs, and according to the above statistics, we will reach only about 1/4 of our potential in this community.
The single most powerful force we have in this church for bringing others to Christ (3 times stronger than all others combined) is the care and concern we have for our own friends and relatives!

Automatic Church Growth
A familiar nursery rhyme asks, “Mary, Mary, quite contrary, how does your garden grow?” Jesus answers a similar question about how the kingdom grows in the parable of the sower in Mark 4. His response is, “The earth produces by itself.” If we were to say “automatically,” we would reflect the actual Greek work automate, translated as “by itself, of its own accord.”

Does the 21st century church really believe the kingdom grows “all by itself”? Do we believe that a healthy church cannot help but grow? Do we believe that the seed planted in good soil will automatically bear fruit and bring increase? The careful observer of the modern church would likely answer no. The observer of nature and the reader of Scripture could easily arrive at the opposite conclusion.

If we would believe Jesus, we must return to the biblical foundations of kingdom growth. We must reject mere pragmatism, trying this or that because it works in another location. Church growth is not manufactured. We must seek to be instruments in God’s hand, planting, watering, releasing God’s power, recognizing that God gives the increase. Church growth is divine. We must reject the temptation to ground our thinking outside Scripture. While Scripture must be applied in the contemporary world, the proper relationship always places Scripture in highest rank, providing the orientation and initial information. Church growth is spiritual. We must avoid the temptation to measure church growth quantitatively. Church growth quantity is serendipity of church quality. Church growth depends upon quality.

What are the quality characteristics that enable church growth? Many books provide lists of characteristics and churches model patterns for growth, often through a single dimensional focus on one aspect of quality church life. Is it possible to universalize the basic building blocks of quality church life? I think so. The characteristics of quality church life are principle-based. They provide the principle base from which values and behaviors naturally spring. They are universals that go to the lowest common denominator–principles. These are not behaviors to be imitated, nor values to be adopted. Behaviors and values may be culturally driven and vary from church to church. Principles are foundational. These are the basic building blocks of quality churches. Churches which incorporate all of these to a significant degree grow “automatically.” The results are serendipitous, occurring naturally.

1. A Sense of Mission, Informed by God’s Objectives
A quality church knows its mission–within the local body, in individual lives, in its community, in the world (cf. Ephesians). A church must be responsive to God if God is to give the increase (1 Cor. 3:8).

2. Strong Leadership Resources, Providing Structures Which Encourage and Enhance Corporate Ministry.
A quality church builds on a base of leadership which equips the entire church for ministry within and without the body (Eph. 4). Effective leadership provides a framework for the functioning of the body of Christ.

3. Individual Ministry Focused in a Gift-Oriented Empowered, Participative Approach.
A quality church honors individual abilities and spiritual gifts, empowering the members for service according to these talents and combining the members into a body that is fully participating in this world.

4. Healthy Relational Groups, Providing Support for an Integrated and Holistic Spiritual Life in the Context of Today’s World.

A quality church provides a variety of contexts in which a holistic spiritual life may be developed. Such groups honor and emphasize the broad parameters of the shared faith, define and support individual faith, and provide a context for continuous integration of the faithful individual and the faith community.

5. Meaningful Celebrative Worship, Centered on God and Developing Community.
A quality church has an atmosphere in worship of expectancy and anticipation, a sense that God is present as we look upward and seek divine connections and reconnections, and a sense of the worshiping community that looks around in sensitivity and awareness.

6. Spiritual Nurturing, Encouraging Progress on the Spiritual Journey.
A quality church provides a context in which individuals continue their spiritual journeys, without undue expectations and pressures, but with encouragement and support.

7. Needs-Meeting Outreach, Characterized as Others-Focused and Spiritually-Based
Quality churches touch the world of needs, focusing on others, seeking spiritual values, and are ready to meet the global needs around us, whether physical or spiritual, but never forgetting that the greatest need of our world is eternal.

Are these the basic principles at any healthy church you know in this country? What would you add to, take from, this list? Let’s identify the characteristics of a any “healthy” church we know, and commit to being that church!
Dealing with Difficult People

When asked what he considered the most valuable skill in employees, John D. Rockefeller once replied, “The ability to get along with people!”

One of the most important skills needed to succeed in ministry is; knowing how to handle troublemakers. If you learn how to deal with difficult people early on, then you’ll be able to pour more energy into ministry rather than needless conflicts.

Troublemakers come in all shapes:
• THE SHERMAN TANK – will run over you if you let him.
• THE MEGAPHONE – will talk your ear off.
• THE BUBBLE BUSTER – deflates everyone’s enthusiasm.
• THE VOLCANO – has a temper like Mt. St. Helens.
• THE CRY BABY – is a chronic complainer holds a pity party.
• THE NIT PICKER – is the unappeasable perfectionist.
• THE SPACE CADET – is on a different wavelength.

What should you do with these types?
Jesus had to deal with a lot of difficult people. Here are FOUR methods he modeled through his life:
1. Realize you can’t please everybody (John 5:30). Even God can’t do that! One wants rain while the other sunshine.
2. Refuse to play their game (Matthew 22:18). Learn to say no to unrealistic expectations. Confront them by “telling the truth in love.”
3. NEVER retaliate (Matthew 5:38-39). It only lowers you to their level.
4. Pray for them (Matthew 5:44). It will help both of you. Let God handle them.
Make this Bible verse your goal this week, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”
(Romans 12:18, NIV)

 

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