4 Groups in EVERY Church

Through the years, I served as a pastor of a small mission church in an eastern Kentucky coal camp, a community church in the middle of the Hatfield-McCoy feud area, a county-seat church south of Cincinnati, and a regional church near Louisville. In all of these churches, the four groups identified by Dr. Gary L. McIntosh in his book There’s Hope for Your Church existed. All of these groups demand attention from the pastor, but a wise pastor will use his relational time strategically. A pastor only has a certain amount of time and energy to invest–often church revitalization hinges on which group gains his focus.

. . . church revitalization hinges on which group gains his focus!

4 GROUPS IN YOUR CHURCH

1. VIP’s – Very Important People:  Of course, everyone is important to the Lord, but this group is made up of church leaders who already share the vision of the pastor and will help bring about revitalization in the church ministry. If they are not already in key ministry positions in the church, the pastor seeking to bring about church renewal should work to place them in those positions as quickly as possible.

2. VTP’s – Very Trainable People:  Some people are not ready for leadership, but they show potential. They are the people the pastor should mentor each week and the people with whom he should share his vision.

3. VNP’s – Very Nice People:  The people in the third group are not current leaders in the church and will likely never be leaders in the future. They are loyal to the pastor and share the vision the Lord has given him for the church. They do not cause trouble and are generally supportive of all of the ministries of the church.

4. VDP’s – Very Draining People:  The last designation by McIntosh is a group of people who will be a barrier to church revitalization. They will often cause great pain to those who want to improve the vitality of the church.

If we desire to be a revitalization-minded pastor, we must decide where to invest our time. The natural tendency is to spend the majority of our time with the VDP’s because they want to be heard, but that is rarely productive. Instead, we should invest our time with the VIP’s and the VTP’s which will produce the most fruit towards church revitalization.

For more information about Church Revitalization, see the following posts:

Please contact me at the Kentucky Baptist Convention if we can help your church in any way.

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4 Marks of a PERFECT Church Member

The truth is–there is no perfect church member, so what is the target? How would we describe an ideal church member? Does the Bible give us any direction?

In the book of 2 Timothy, the Apostle Paul writes about a man named Onesiphorus. This man was a member of the church of Ephesus who made the long journey to minister to Paul when he was being held in the Mamertine prison in Rome. Paul shares several positive traits from the life of Onesiphorus that every church member should model.

4 Marks of An Ideal Church Member

1. He was a refresher. Paul said that Onesiphorus “often refreshed” him (2 Tim. 1:16). Every pastor and church could benefit from church members like that–men and women who are positive and encouraging. It’s very common to see the opposite, but this man refreshed Paul in Ephesus and in Rome.

2. He was loyal. We know from the Bible that many people deserted Paul when persecution accelerated. Among those were Phygelus, Hermogenes, Demas, and Alexander the metal worker. According to the Bible, Onesiphorus “was not ashamed” of Paul’s chains and the fact that he was in prison (2 Tim. 1:16). He stood with Paul in Ephesus when it was popular to do so and he stood with Paul in Rome when it was unpopular and dangerous to do so! Don’t you just love people like that? When the chips are down; they’re still around!

When the chips are down; they’re still around!

 3. He was diligent. It was difficult for Onesiphorus to locate Paul in the city of Rome since he was being held in a damp, dark cell. But, he “searched hard” for the Apostle until he located him (2 Tim. 1:17). He showed great diligence. Churches need members who are diligent to the task(s) to which God has called them.

4. He was a helper. Paul said to the Christians in Ephesus “You know very well in how many ways he (Onesiphorus) helped me in Ephesus” (2 Tim. 1:18). I’m not sure there could be a better title than “helper.” I would love someone to say about me, “you know how many ways that Steve Rice helped me.” May God give us more churches who are filled with “helpers.”

PRAYER: “Lord, help each of us to be ideal church members. Help us to be refreshers, help us to be loyal, help us to be diligent, and help us to be helpers. Lord, we ask this for the betterment of Your Church and for Your glory! Amen.”

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Old-Fashioned Church

Amish.2 A while back our  Church Consulting & Revitalization Team held a planning retreat in the Southern Indiana Amish country. Although I do not agree with much of the spiritual theology of the Amish, I have always respected them for their commitment to the “old-fashioned ways.” I believe that the modern church should strive to be old-fashioned in certain areas.

Don’t get me wrong, I love technology and would not want to give up my iPhone, iPod, iPad, GPS running watch, or any other smart device. I also love a lot of the new music being written for the church today. I prefer indoor plumbing over outhouses, air-conditioning over funeral home fans, and padded pews over pews that make your body go numb, but old-fashioned is still sometimes preferred.

An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts!

So, where should the modern church be old-fashioned and what is an old-fashioned church? An old-fashioned church is a church fashioned after the Book of Acts. It is a church with the same priorities of the early church. It is a church that, at it’s core, has the same purpose and focus of the church in the 2nd chapter of Acts.

Characteristics of an Old-Fashioned Church

   42  And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers. 43  Then fear came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were done through the apostles. 44  Now all who believed were together, and had all things in common, 45  and sold their possessions and goods, and divided them among all, as anyone had need. 46  So continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their food with gladness and simplicity of heart, 47  praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved. Acts 2:42-47 (NKJV)

1.  Doctrine. The church “continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine” (Vs. 42). Several translations choose the word “teaching” instead of the word “doctrine,” but they can be used interchangeably. The apostles taught the people the Word of God. An old-fashioned church focuses on teaching God’s Word accurately, consistently, and thoroughly. The apostles knew that it matters what you believe, so they led the people to believe God’s Word and sought to teach how Jesus the Messiah was revealed throughout the Old Testament.

2.  Fellowship. The word koinonia in the original language was used several times by the Apostle Paul, but Luke used it only once in Acts 2. The word is usually translated “fellowship” and it indicates that the early believers had an uniquely close relationship because of their connection through the Gospel. Their “fellowship” served as a witness to the world that something was different about them that greatly affected their relationships.

3.  Obedience. The early church continued in “the breaking of bread” (Vs. 42).  Many commentaries believe this included observing the Lord’s Supper together. Although the Passover meal was a long-standing Jewish tradition, connecting the symbols of the bread and juice to the body and blood of Jesus was new. Jesus told the apostles to continue the practice so they obeyed this new command.

I fear that many churches today do not possess these first three Biblical characteristics. Instead of teaching doctrine, they teach the opinions of man or woman. Instead of experiencing fellowship, they experience conflict and division. Instead of obeying all the applicable commands of the Word of God, they pick and choose the preferable commands that best fit their compromising lifestyle. Is it any wonder that many modern churches are not experiencing a mighty move of God’s Spirit like the churches in the Book of Acts? May God help us possess the characteristics of an old-fashioned church.

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Real Men Needed in the Church

“For from day to day men came to David to help him, until there was a great army, like an army of God.”  1 Chronicles 12:22 (ESV)

After King Saul was killed on Mt. Gilboa along with his sons, Jonathan, Abinadab, and Malchishua, the people of Israel gathered around David at Hebron.  There they anointed him king over Israel just like the prophet Samuel had done earlier in Bethlehem.  God began to send men to David to assist him in his new position of leadership.  These men were mighty men!  For example:

  • Jashobeam, a Hachmonite killed 300 men at one time with a spear.
  • Eleazer, the son of Dodo, single-handedly took a stand on a plot of ground in a barley field and killed every member of the Philistine army fighting in that battle.
  • Benaiah, the son of Jehoiada, went down into a pit on a snowy day and killed a lion.

This is kind of men God sent to David.  Real men!  Men with hair on their chest.  Men with backbone.  Men who could fight.  Men who had an instinct to protect.  Men who weren’t afraid to get down and dirty when the job demanded that they do so.

Real men! Men with hair on their chest.

When I think of the overwhelming need for revitalization in our churches in the Southern Baptist Convention, I can’t help but be convinced that the real solution is a simple spiritual solution.  I believe that our churches are THIRSTY for men!  Real men!  Men with a spiritual backbone.  Men who know God.  Men who pray.  Men who would die for Jesus and live for their family.  Men who fight spiritual battles with the same intensity that David’s men fought physical battles!

Men who would die for Jesus and live for their family.

PRAYER:  “Oh Lord, send men like this to Your church!  Real men who will battle the spiritual forces of evil to protect your Bride.  Hurry Lord….the need is desperate!”

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5 Questions for Churches that Are “Stuck in the Mud”

As a boy growing up in Eastern Kentucky, my brother and I rode bicycles and later motorcycles in the mountains a lot.  Occasionally we would get bogged down in a muddy area and get stuck.  Regardless of what we seemed to do, we weren’t going anywhere.  At that point, we had to try something different in order to get unstuck.  Sometimes a simple push would do the job, but one time we had to hook a rope to my motorcycle and pull it out with a truck.  The goal was always to get unstuck, so we could keep using the bicycles and motorcycles for their intended purpose–speeding along the trails.

Studies indicate that 75% of churches in Kentucky and 80-85% nationwide are “stuck” (plateaued) or “sinking” (declining).  Not surprisingly, 55,000 churches will close their doors between 2005-2020.

One of the things we are discovering as we visit churches across our state is that the churches that are “stuck in the mud” usually do not have a plan of ministry and those that have “traction” do have a ministry plan!  Here are some questions that will help as you think about a ministry plan.

5 Questions to Ask if Your Church is Stuck

1.  Does your church have a ministry plan?  You know the saying, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail!”  Also, “if you aim at nothing, you’re probably going to hit it.”  A ministry plan does not have to be elaborate or complicated, but a Biblical plan that can be understood and followed can be the KEY to moving a church forward.

2.  Does your plan have a leader?  The senior or lead pastor is the key person in developing and communicating the ministry plan.  He is not the only person who is important to the process, but he is vital for success.  John C. Maxwell says that anyone can steer the boat, but it takes a leader to chart the course.”

3.  Does the staff know the plan?  Many church staffs are working hard, but they’re not working together–not working in the same direction.  In order to move a church forward, the staff must be moving in the same direction.  The staff must plan the work and work the plan–the same plan!

4.  Do the members know the plan?  It is common for the ministry plan to be lost between the staff and the pew.  The plan must be communicated over and over, again and again.

5.  Does the plan shape our decisions and ministries?  Sometimes the most difficult question is not what do we do, it is what do we no longer do?  “Churches tend to function day-to-day, week-to-week, month-to-month, and year-to-year doing pretty much the same things.  They assume that existing ministries continue to be sufficient for today’s needs and tomorrow’s opportunities”  (Gary L. McIntosh).  Being busy is not enough!  We must not just do good things; we must do God’s things, i.e., the ministries to which God has called us!

Let me know if I or one of my consultants can help you in any way as you strive to get your church unstuck!  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3571 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.

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5 Ways to Follow-up

The KEY to all guest follow-up at church is to obtain the contact information of the guest, but what do we do with the information the following week? Here are a few suggestions that I have practiced during the years.

5 Ways to Follow-up with Guest Contact Information

1. Send a personalized email (Monday). Send an email on Monday just after lunch. Make sure to personalize the email as much as possible by using the name of the guest throughout and by mentioning something you talked about if you met in person at the service. Jot down a quick note after talking to a guest at the weekend service, so you can remember it in the Monday email.

2. Send a handwritten note with a gift (Wednesday). Write a brief note and mail it on Wednesday, so the guest will receive it on Thursday or Friday. Include a $5.00 gift card from your local ice cream shop as a special treat. There is something special about receiving a handwritten note since very few people write them in today’s fast-paced world.

3. Invite them to attend again. Make sure that you personally invite them to attend again the following weekend or a weekend in the near future. Do that in both the email and the personalized note. Say something like “John, again, I’m so glad you attended this past weekend and I want to personally invite you attend again real soon.”

4. Make a personal visit. Depending on the culture, a personal visit can be a good practice. Make it a doorstep visit and drop off a nice church information packet. As always, be sure to invite them to attend again real soon.

5. Remember their name next time they attend. This is hard work, but it can be accomplished with good organization. Make a list of the guests who shared their contact information along with the weekend they attended. Carry this on your phone or in your Bible. Look over the list often and memorize as many of the names as possible. Utilize the list when needed without letting the guest know that you are doing so.

For more posts on similar topics, also see:

Six Keys to Obtaining Guest Information

Churches and Car Dealerships

4 Things That Should Happen In the First 7 Minutes

7 Minutes and Counting

 

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5 Reasons to Disciple One-on-One

Many effective discipleship approaches exist, but one of the simplest, most rewarding methods is one-on-one discipleship. This method is also called life-on-life or mentoring. Since my college days, I have personally utilized this method as one of the ways to obey Matthew 28:19.

Disciple One-on-One

1. One-on-One discipleship develops lasting friendships. When two people work together towards spiritual maturity, the Holy Spirit connects their hearts in a way that is difficult to describe.

2. One-on-One discipleship is flexible in schedule. Since this method involves only two individuals, meeting places and times can be very flexible. Even when traveling, you can utilize your mobile phone and email with this approach.

3. One-on-One discipleship provides modeling. The good news with this method is that the person being discipled can see your life “up close and personal.” The bad news with this method is that the person being discipled can see your life “up close and personal.” As the disciple-maker, we cannot model perfection, but we can model a Godly, Christian life.

4. One-on-One discipleship has staying power. Because of the built-in relationship and accountability factors, this model is very effective over time.

5. Almost anyone can disciple one-on-one. Any Christian who is sincere about his walk with Christ can build into the life of another person.

You might also like these blog entries:

The Skinny on Spiritual Growth

Make A List

Grow Up

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