Ministry

Here you will find articles and posts helpful to those in the ministry.

 

Seven Preaching Topics To Repeat Often (Repost)

“Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift that is in you….” (II Timothy 1:6)

“Of these things put them in remembrance….” (II Timothy 2:14).

Recently I spent the morning hours in a school in North Carolina giving my little presentation we call “Lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.” I sketch a lot of students, then segue into the talk which, among other things, urges the kids to stop comparing themselves with others, accept themselves as the persons God made them to be and to smile. Then it happened again.

Only five minutes after the talk, we invited the students to crowd around, and I would sketch as many as possible in the remaining time. “Look at me and smile,” I said to the first teenager. “I don’t smile,” he said. I stopped, looked at him sternly and said, “You didn’t hear a thing I said, did you?”

In truth, he had heard, but the lesson had not penetrated.

I said to the young teacher, “My telling the students these things once is not enough for them to get through. The only way to change their behavior is for you to say it over and over again. Eventually the lesson will ‘take’ with some of them.”

Some lessons have to be repeated ad infinitum.

“Let me remind you …” is a phrase that shows up a lot in the epistles of the Apostle Paul.

The most important spiritual truths need to be emphasized again and again if the hearers are to truly learn them and benefit from them.

Here are seven biblical truths we pastors need to keep telling our people in the hope that eventually most will “get it.” (The list is not meant to be exhaustive. You’ll think of other essential truths that need hammering home again and again.)

1. Jesus Christ Is The Savior Of The World And The Only Savior.

That is the theme of so much Scripture anyway, isn’t it? How could we not keep the focus on the Lord Jesus — His identity, His life and ministry, His teachings, His headship over the church and His place in our lives — if we are being true to the Word?

Pastor, keep telling them — over and over again, the theme never wears out — ”why we make so much of Jesus.” Recently, a man here in North Carolina (where I’m in revival) told of the state legislature voting to make a certain Baptist preacher their chaplain, then firing him when he refused to take “In Jesus’ name” out of his prayers. And they call this perversion “inclusiveness.” Go figure. (Note: Many a New Testament prayer did not use the actual words “in Jesus’ name,” and we should not feel ours must always, either. However, tell me that I must leave Jesus out of the prayer and I’m gone.)

Jesus Christ is Lord, for now and for eternity, and no one else is. Always stay focused on the Lord Jesus with your people.

2. The Church Is An Essential Part Of The Lord’s Plan, For Now And Forever.

And we are most definitely not referring just to your local congregation. As important as that is — this will come as a surprise to a lot of lonely myopic pastors—the Kingdom of God is more than your church.

When Jesus saved you, He knew something you were about to find out: “You cannot live this new life in isolation. You need the family of God.” They hold onto you; you hold onto them. They instruct and nurture you; you turn around and do the same. This symbiosis has been God’s plan from early on.

“I will build my church,” the Lord said in Matthew 16:18. It’s His and He builds it. The Christ-follower who claims to be able to live for Christ better without the church is insulting His Lord. The church-leader who would run the Lord’s church “for Him” is asking for big trouble fast.

3. Salvation Is All About The Cross.

Salvation is not by works of righteousness but humility, repentance and faith in Jesus Christ and what He did on Calvary.

The threat to turn salvation into a matter of works will never go away. It’s grounded in man’s way of thinking, his human (and thus self-centered) reasoning. To my knowledge, most of the religions of the world teach variations of “do this and you’re saved” or “do not do this and you are saved.” Only one, to my knowledge, proclaims that everything necessary has already been done and our task is to repent and receive it (“Him”).

When people tell me they believe their good works will get them to Heaven, I ask, “Then what was the point of the cross? If all God had to do was tell us ‘Y’all be good now, hear?’ then He sure went to a lot of trouble for nothing by sending Jesus into this world to die on a cross for our sins.” (They have no answer since they have never given these things the first thought. If you need further evidence of man’s sinful heart, there it is.)

Celebrate the grace of God, preacher, with your people. Keep them at the cross.

4. We Are Not Saved By Good Works, But Saved “Unto” God Works. (Ephesians 2:10)

Good works have a definite place in the plan of God for His people. But they are the results—the fruits, the evidence—of our salvation, not the means. One wishing to become a member of the military does not do so by wearing a uniform and saluting officers. But once he is officially inducted, he wears the uniform, obeys commands and salutes officers.

What good works does the Lord want to see in our lives? Scripture answers that again and again in places like Micah 6:8, Jeremiah 22:16 and of course, Matthew 25:35-36. I enjoy telling Harold Bales’ story of the time his church in uptown Charlotte, NC, was bringing in the homeless from the park across the street and feeding them breakfast before the morning worship service. A woman who had belonged to that church for generations and resented the presence of the unwashed in their services approached Pastor Harold one Sunday and said, “Pastor, why do we have to have those people in our church?” He said, “Because I don’t want to see anyone go to hell.” She said, “Well, I don’t want them to go to hell, either.” He said, “I’m not talking about them. I’m talking about you.”

5. If You Have Faith, You Will Pray.

In fact, nothing tells the story about your faith like your prayer life. Nothing.

Consider that you are praying to a Lord you have never seen and cannot prove. You say things to Him you would say to no one else and believe that He hears. Furthermore—and this is the clincher—90 percent of the requests you make, you’ll never know whether He answered them or not since He may choose to do so in subtle ways or at another time. But there you go, praying to Him day after day, as though He were occupying the chair next to you and everything you do today is dependent on His presence and guidance.

It is.

Pastors keep prayer before their people by encouraging them to pray at the altar during the services, by having a prayer room at the church and by encouraging prayer for specific people, needs, events and concerns.

Please find the rest of the post here.

Joe McKeever

Joe McKeever

Dr. Joe McKeever is a preacher, cartoonist and the retired Director of Missions for the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans. Currently he loves to serve as a speaker/pulpit fill for revivals, prayer conferences, deacon trainings, leadership banquets and other church events. Visit him and enjoy his insights on nearly 50 years of ministry atJoeMcKeever.com.

 

 



Leader or Reactor?

This one is for my pastor friends out there.  Both those that are aspiring pastors and those that may be more accomplished.

Preacher Stock Photo

Be a leader not a reactor.
Leaders chart the course, reactors just react to the course.  Jesus is our creator, leader. Let him lead you and be the main thing that you react to.  Let him give you the vision of your church and then put the plan in place to lead your people there.

This includes preaching schedule, preaching to guide and mold not preaching just to react to problems and personalities. This means ministry creation and implementation led by Jesus not by simply reacting to emotion. It means that we spend time with our living Savior and His Word. It means hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. It means that we stop being “just” a preacher.

Reaction means that we never get past ourselves, our hang ups, our desires… our everything. Leading means that we set the tone of Jesus and that we aren’t self-willed but we are God-willed. I also think that we should be careful here. I have seen men claim to be led by the Lord but that were obviously leading from their own hearts. I have been that man! To simply be a reactionary leader means that someone else besides Jesus may be leading the church. When we simply react to people they become the defacto leaders of the church. They become the guide. Our preaching takes on the tone of constant rebuke instead of rebuke mixed with instruction, and correction.

Pastor, lead. Lead under the direct authority of Christ. Anchor yourself in Him and His Word. Take your pleasure in Him and not in success. Love and lead like Jesus. Do we preach and teach to the needs of the body? YES, but be careful that this is not your sole influence.  Be careful that your influence is Jesus first and most.



Expectant vs. Reactionary Churches (repost from Tom Rainer)

By Chuck Lawless

Most churches that contact my church consulting firm do so after they’ve recognized a problem; that is, they are reacting by asking for outside help. I’m grateful to assist them, but their process itself often reveals a problem that inflicts most churches: they are reactionary rather than expectant congregations.

Is your church more expectant or reactionary? Review these characteristics to see where your church is.

Vision

Expectant churches have a clear Great Commission vision. They know that God is drawing to Himself a people from every tribe, tongue, and nation (Rev. 5:9-10), and they are humbled to play a role in that task. That vision is evident in their staffing, their programming, and even their conversations. What God has in store for them in the future really matters.

Reactionary churches, on the other hand, do not typically have a Great Commission vision. Instead, their goals are often just the opposite of a biblical church: guarding their tradition more than reaching the unchurched; surviving the world’s onslaught rather than being light in the world; protecting positions rather than offering life.

Leadership

Expectant churches have leaders who are “ignitors.” That is, they have a passion for igniting the fire in others. By faith, they see potential and promise in others. They invest in the next generation. Ignitors lead a church into the future, not worrying about personal recognition or reward in doing so.

Reactionary churches have leaders who are more “firemen” than ignitors. Firemen spend their time putting out troublesome fires. This task is not an insignificant one, but firemen seldom have time or energy left for casting vision. Their ministry quickly becomes reactionary rather than proactive.

Read the rest of the post at TomRainer.com



Managing Your Marriage

lifw_tight_ropeOuch! That’s a tough title to follow-up with!  However, having been married now for almost 23 years, I have found that without managing my marriage and all of the complexities involved it can become a very difficult place to be.

This morning I would like to focus primarily on one word. Self.  This is the natural default of the nature of the human race.  On one hand it can lead to a healthy care for yourself. Taking the time you need to be healthy spiritually and physically as well as emotionally.  However, our culture has once again taken a healthy attribute of self-care and driven it to the point of perversion, selfishness.

Take a look at Ephesians 5:28–29 (NKJV)
28 So husbands ought to love their own wives as their own bodies; he who loves his wife loves himself. 29 For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as the Lord does the church.  

In this verse we find that both self-care and selflessness are mentioned in the same breath.  The Lord is giving a context explaining that it is normal and natural to take care of yourself.  And then he drops the curtain and we see that caring for our wives, or by extension our husbands is the same as caring for ourselves.  Remember this, you are no longer two people but are ONE.  Care for each other.  Consider your spouse your inner voice.  Respect his or her thoughts and opinions.  Take care to take care of him or her. Your spouse is the most important person in your life hands down (I hate to even need to qualify that this does NOT mean to ACCEPT abuse from your spouse).  A healthy relationship requires that you care for your spouse as much as you do for yourself.

As a man, this concept can sometimes be foreign in a masculine church culture that expects the wife to wait hand and foot on her husband and often considers women to be below men in the pecking order or in intelligence or even spirituality.  This is not God’s plan nor is it God’s way.  I know that there are ministers that will read this and read into it things that I haven’t said, however, you may not verbalize the above statement but actions speak louder than words.  Gentlemen we need to break free from an unhealthy culture and recognize women as equal in the eyes of God (take a look at the epistles of Peter and just who was the last at the cross and first at the tomb and what gender was wise enough to anoint Christ for his burial while the men argued).  I understand that we each have different roles to play in the church and family, but that recognition needs to be reinforced with a healthy respect for one another!  This paragraph needed to be written because so much harm has been done in the name of religion and the Bible.  Our authority as men comes from Jesus and we ought to learn to act like it!  Read the verses again JUST AS THE LORD DOES THE CHURCH

As to managing your marriage, this is the point. It’s not all about you.  Personally, I can be very forgetful of this fact.  Even though when I was praying for a mate, I asked the Lord to give me someone who needed me, so that I could be there for her I still forget that it’s not all about me.

This selflessness goes for financial decisions, school and church and spiritual decisions, and sexual decisions as well.  Do you respect and seek to nourish your husband or wife in all of these areas?  I’m a stickler for beating the men up in this area, but the wife must also see that she reverence her husband, while the church culture today has often relegated women to the back of the bus so to speak the society has been doing the same to men.

If we would stop making everything about us, and recognize the value of one another, we might just find that managing our marriages would become more of a joy and less of a burden.  Men, include your wife.  I don’t mean burden her, but include her in you life, work and ministry.  She is a part of YOU. This may go against some of your training, and I don’t mean that you breach confidentiality, but she should be a part of what God is doing in your heart and soul.

Concerning work apart from ministry, remember,  your spouse may not enjoy the specifics of what you do, but he or she deserves to be included in your business in some manner.  Everyone is different, learn the rhythms of your husband or wife and what he or she can handle and how much he or she may want to be involved.

When you were married you declared before the enemy that you were becoming ONE… you shouted from the spiritual rooftops that you were doing a God-thing and the enemy took notice.  Don’t let him win.  Learn to lead and follow from the Lord.  He is amazing HE DID BOTH.  He was and is the authority in marriage and ministry and yet He also humbled himself to His Father and to the power of the Spirit while in this world doing ministry.  In Him we find both how to lead and how to follow.

God bless!

 



Autopsy of a Deceased Church (Repost from Thom Rainer)

deceased-church

Autopsy of a Deceased Church: 11 Things I Learned (Repost from Tom Rainer)

April 24, 2013 230 Comments
I was their church consultant in 2003. The church’s peak attendance was 750 in 1975. By the time I got there the attendance had fallen to an average of 83. The large sanctuary seemed to swallow the relatively small crowd on Sunday morning.

The reality was that most of the members did not want me there. They were not about to pay a consultant to tell them what was wrong with their church. Only when a benevolent member offered to foot my entire bill did the congregation grudgingly agree to retain me.

I worked with the church for three weeks. The problems were obvious; the solutions were difficult.

On my last day, the benefactor walked me to my rental car. “What do you think, Thom?” he asked. He could see the uncertainty in my expression, so he clarified. “How long can our church survive?” I paused for a moment, and then offered the bad news. “I believe the church will close its doors in five years.”

I was wrong. The church closed just a few weeks ago. Like many dying churches, it held on to life tenaciously. This church lasted ten years after my terminal diagnosis.

My friend from the church called to tell me the news. I took no pleasure in discovering that not only was my diagnosis correct, I had mostly gotten right all the signs of the impending death of the church. Together my friend and I reviewed the past ten years. I think we were able to piece together a fairly accurate autopsy. Here are eleven things I learned.

  1. The church refused to look like the community. The community began a transition toward a lower socioeconomic class thirty years ago, but the church members had no desire to reach the new residents. The congregation thus became an island of middle-class members in a sea of lower-class residents.
  2. The church had no community-focused ministries.  This part of the autopsy may seem to be stating the obvious, but I wanted to be certain. My friend affirmed my suspicions. There was no attempt to reach the community.
  3. Members became more focused on memorials. Do not hear my statement as a criticism of memorials. Indeed, I recently funded a memorial in memory of my late grandson. The memorials at the church were chairs, tables, rooms, and other places where a neat plaque could be placed. The point is that the memorials became an obsession at the church. More and more emphasis was placed on the past.
  4. The percentage of the budget for members’ needs kept increasing. At the church’s death, the percentage was over 98 percent.
  5. There were no evangelistic emphases. When a church loses its passion to reach the lost, the congregation begins to die.
  6. The members had more and more arguments about what they wanted. As the church continued to decline toward death, the inward focus of the members turned caustic. Arguments were more frequent; business meetings became more acrimonious.
  7. With few exceptions, pastoral tenure grew shorter and shorter. The church had seven pastors in its final ten years. The last three pastors were bi-vocational. All of the seven pastors left discouraged.
  8. The church rarely prayed together. In its last eight years, the only time of corporate prayer was a three-minute period in the Sunday worship service. Prayers were always limited to members, their friends and families…

Read the rest of this post here.

 



More of the Same?

I have been asked recently why I just keep beating the presumably dead horse called legalism. I do this simply because it is what so much of Paul the Apostles ministry became about. It amazes me how his defense of Grace is riddled throughout his letters to the church.  His attitude toward legalists at one point was so dramatic that he said that he wished they would castrate themselves! I write and preach and teach against legalism and for grace because even today on Facebook there was yet again another church condemning other churches simply because they had a different take on ministry than they did.  I saw this church pull out of context the same verses “remove not the ancient landmark”  and “ask for the old paths” that they seem to always use to support their legalistic “I’m always right all the time” remarks.

The sad reality is that there are so very many wounded Christians littering the landscape of our nation because once grace is gone, the broken will eventually follow.  I have seen firsthand what happens when a church abandons grace in favor of law.  Not even God’s Law, but extra-Biblical, or I should say unbiblical standards in place of the Holy Spirit and a vital relationship with Him.  I once spoke with a pastor that called himself Mr. Law, and he was proud of the fact!  How you can read Romans, Galatians, Ephesians and Colossians and come away with such an attitude is disturbing to say the least.

overflowing-glassWhat we need is grace.  An abundance of grace in our churches and in our culture.  We need to trumpet the goodness of God and the mercy that is new every morning.  We need to saturate ourselves with His goodness and fill our cups to overflowing with His amazing grace, so that all of the darkness and sin in our lives will be washed away and so that we will have something to share with the wounded around us.  We need to see Jesus as He is, transfigured and glorified, beautiful and wondrous and someone to be desired more than sin or pleasure or any other thing.

As pastors of churches, we need to trust that the Lord is IN His children.  We need to teach and preach to them the wonderful grace of Jesus that is more than a song, and more than salvation, but is actually a way of life.  May we grasp the power of grace itself in our lives, may we begin to understand the depth and height and width and length of the Love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.



CHANGE (repost from Charles Wood)

   Oops, just touched a “sacred cow.” How clumsy of me! It is, however, a big issue in many churches. Believe it or not, in my eightieth year and fifty-seventh year of ministry I am – for the very first time – working with Senior Citizens. It’s a learning experience for me, but far from being on a bumpy ride, I’m having a ball (probably due to the great group with which I am really privileged to work). With any group of our age, change is usually a big issue. I am a pre-millennialist to the core of my being, but there is one thing that could make me either a-mil or even post-mil. That would be if in any church everyone agreed on the temperature of the auditorium being “just right,” and if everyone also agreed on the style and volume of the music. But, again, we have created our own monster.
gold cow We (that’s you and me, friend) taught in the past that change was wrong. Yes, we taught that it was wrong to change doctrine, but we included in our “doctrine” a lot of stuff that the Bible doesn’t even comment on and deleted quite a few things that the Bible is very clear about. You might be tempted to say, “No we didn’t,” but I doubt if your disclaimer would hold water under close scrutiny. So now we have, in many places, an older generation that is convinced that any change whatever is wrong. Warren Wiersbe used to say, “How many fundamentalists does it take to change a light bulb? Change?????” I used to believe and teach that way, but the Lord forced me to re-examine my Biblical basis for what I believed and taught. In the process, I couldn’t find any support for quite a few things, and I also discovered that there were many genuine Biblical concepts absent from my “whole counsel of God.” So, I did the unthinkable (and unpardonable in some circles): I changed. Heretic, apostate, traitor, sold out to the world and a lot of other words became very familiar to me (I was making the changes about twenty years ago – I think one can make changes now without quite as much mud being slung, but I’ll check with Matt Olson before I firmly assert such).
This is getting too long (and I will have a bit more to say tomorrow), but I don’t want to finish without suggesting some logic. If we tailor our music, dress codes, style of worship, etc., to the preferences of people my age, we are going to lose a lot of young people. In another ten to fifteen years, we will be gone, and there will be about a fifteen year age gap in the church we leave behind. Defend the doctrine with all your might, but be sure it is doctrine you are defending. Quite honestly, I’m very comfortable with most of the changes, and I’ll live (quietly) with the few that I don’t appreciate. I’m much more concerned that future generations will find me faithful than I am with having it my way for whatever years I have left. “Find Us Faithful” is one of my favorite songs as it expresses one of the goals of my life.



Great post on how to spot a legalist (repost)

Great post on how to spot a legalist;-) http://ow.ly/jWkLu



Song Leader or Worship Pastor?

In my church, we have had a history of Song Directors.  I was the Song Director or Music Minister for about 9 years.  As many of you may know from reading my blog or attending the church that I have been privileged to pastor, I have been going through many paradigm shifts.

When I became a senior pastor I began to instruct the leadership concerning my ministry or leadership philosophy, which encapsulated, is unleash the leadership. This doesn’t mean that I let the leadership run in every direction without guidance and vision, but that as God calls and equips people I need to recognize that calling and gifting and give them room to roam.

This philosophy is something that has served me well over the nearly seven years that I have pastored.  This leads me to the next level, where you must not only tell the leadership that they are free to lead in their areas but you must convince them.  That said, when things need to change and you as the undershepherd see it, you need to persuade your leaders to that shift. Concerning the music and worship, guidance is necessary due to the volatile and important nature of such a personal ministry. Dictation only works so well for so long.  One of the changes that I have been trying to incorporate is a shift from Song Director to Worship Pastor.  A pastor teaches and preaches and cares.  In our worship we need these things to flow out of our “song director”.  We must choose someone that we can trust and let him lead.  We must encourage him to study worship and praise and then to guide the church to worship the God of the Universe.

Proverbs 9:10 “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: And the knowledge of the holy is understanding.”

Image

This mention of understanding is so critical, it cannot be dismissed.  In the past month I have reversed our order of service a few times to have our corporate worship at the ending rather than the beginning.  One week we opened up Isaiah 6 and Revelation and read and taught and preached on the holiness of God.  Then as we were closing the service, we sang together “Holy, Holy, Holy”, with a better appreciation for the holiness of God.  What a time of worship it was.  Now imagine a Worship Pastor unfettered and given the reigns of worship in the church; not preaching a 3 point sermon, rather instructing the people in the majesty of God, guiding their minds and hearts with instruction between songs and verses.  I was speaking with my friend Erik about just this thing and he hit the nail on the head, things that I have been trying to encourage in our leadership and worship, require a shift in paradigm, yes and a move away from a model that seemed to have served well in the past.  This may have to do with the fact that we have a nation of unchurched and underdeveloped believers today.  Our nation in the past seemed to have better understood God, and we have taken for granted that it still does.  We see it in our pulpits when we assume guests understand our language, we see it in our worship when we assume that everyone has set their hearts and minds on God.

So my challenge to pastors out there is to guide their Song Directors into becoming Worship Pastors, leading more than a group of people in song, rather leading them in true worship.



Context!

A quote out of context can be a terrible thing. Be careful that what you hear from someone is the whole truth. This is the problem with listening to stories from others and not hearing it yourself first hand.

There are false books that do this very thing to early New Testament Greek Scholars Wescott and Hort in order to support a faulty defensive strategy of an English Translation of the Bible.  When we must resort to ripping things out of context to support our positions, we might want to reconsider them.

However, this post is not about Bible translations.  It’s about integrity.  It’s about listening to the whole conversation, especially in preaching and in ministry.  Pastors are not perfect people no matter what denomination you may belong to and no matter what church you may attend.  They will slip up in their preaching from time to time and may or may not  notice it.  That said, their pulpit ministry should not be subject to sound bite gotcha’s.  Many labor hours over their messages, studying and spending time with the Lord and then spending time in the pulpit trying desperately to convey what the Word is saying to people that at times would rather not hear it.  They do this week in and week out and their messages are a tapestry that should be taken as a whole.  Yet some are determined to hear only what they think he will say.  They lay hold on one topic or line and miss the message.  They may even study the Bible like this focusing so much on the minute that they miss the message.  The Pharisee’s were this way.  Jesus said they strained at gnats and swallowed camels… that they thought they knew the Word of God and yet they missed what it was pointing to, namely to Jesus HIMSELF.

Observe the following quote from our December 30 am service…
“Debbie you ought to get your heart right, because you are a filthy rotten sinner and you are lazy, and good for nothing and a sinner.”

OUCH!  I cannot BELIEVE that a pastor would say that!

Sounds bad doesn’t it? However the full quote concerns the problem of being judgmental.

Observe the context…
“You don’t judge another servants work, we are not the masters of one another, you don’t look out over this congregation and say well Debbie isn’t doing as much work as Karen and so Debbie you ought to get your heart right, because you are a filthy rotten sinner and you are lazy, and good for nothing and a sinner. This church (Corinth) was so busy judging one another that they weren’t getting anything done!”

This trouble of taking things out of context often finds its start in the pulpit with the pastor himself.  As pastors we need to be sure that we model the right example to our flocks concerning this difficulty.  I am sure that over my 14 year ministry of preaching I have done this very thing.  Used a sound bite to characterize an individual instead just sticking to the Word.  Let’s leave these things and get back on track my friends, the time is short and we have work to do.