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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Best Bible Reading Plans

What is the most important spiritual discipline? What is the one thing that is paramount when it comes to maturing as a follower of Christ? I believe the Bible is the key. I’m not saying that it is the only thing that is important, but I am saying that it is most important!

Many Christians have followed Christ for decades, yet have never read the Bible in its entirety. There are several printed plans, web-based plans, and Bible apps that make it easier than ever.

4 Types of Bible Reading Plans

1. Printed plans. There are numerous ways to print off a Bible reading plan online. One of the best sites is the The Navigators. They utilize the Discipleship Journal Bible Reading plans which are some of my favorites.

2. One-Year-Bible. This Bible is designed for those who want to read through the Bible in a calendar year.

3. Online plans. Dozens (probably hundreds) of sites exist online that are dedicated to reading the Bible through in a year. Some will even email you each day with the assigned reading. Here are three good ones:  Christianity.com, BibleGateway.com, and BacktotheBible.org.

4. Bible apps. I utilize several great Bible apps for Bible reading and study. They all have Bible reading plans that are very helpful. My favorite Bible apps include: You Version, ESV, and Logos.

For more similar topics, you might also read:

Resolutions

Are You Spiritually Healthy?

Start with Good Ingredients

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5 Keys to Begin Making Disciples

Have you ever discipled someone one-on-one?  1-2-1 discipleship is arguably the most effective discipleship method.  If you are interested in this approach, here are 5 things to consider as you get started:

  1. Pray that God will lead you to the person He wants you to disciple.  I cannot overemphasize the importance of prayer in this whole process, so focus the process toward prayer from the very beginning.  God will match you with the person He wants you to disciple.
  2. Start by being a friend with that person (man to man, woman to woman).   By nature, this method works through relationships.  If God leads you to a person with whom you do not have an established relationship, take time to build a friendship before proceeding.  Don’t rush this step! For obvious reasons, this method works best man to man or woman to woman.
  3. Read a book together.  One great way to add structure to this approach is by reading a book together.  You can choose a book of the Bible or a good Christian book to read and discuss.
  4. Suggest classes at church.  When helpful discipleship classes are offered at church, encourage your friend to attend.  Better yet, attend a class or conference together and discuss the material during your 1-2-1 meetings.
  5. Model Christ to them in real life.  Involve your friend in your life and model Christ in your day-to-day living.

Prayer: “God, stir our hearts and help us to get real about your command to make disciples!  Lord, teach us that we cannot personally disciple everyone, but we can disciple someone.  Lead us to that person and give us the courage to get started for Your glory.”

For more posts on this topic, also see:

5 Reasons to Disciple One-On-One

The Skinny on Spiritual Growth

Grow Up

Make A List

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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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4 Keys to Leadership

During my reading over the last few years, I have read dozens of books on leadership. Allow me to summarize four leadership keys that stand out to me from those books.

1. Leaders are born AND made. Leadership is defined as “the ability to influence others.” Leaders can lead people for noble purposes or for evil purposes. The question often comes up, “Are you born a leader or do you learn to be a leader?” The answer to the question is “yes” and “yes.” Some people are born with natural leadership abilities, but leadership can be learned as well.

2. Jesus was a servant leader. People will follow leaders who do not ask their followers to do something that they would not do. By serving others as leaders, we earn the right to lead. People “vest” us with true authority as a result of our service to them.

“The greatest among you will be your servant.” Matthew 23:11

3. Integrity is imperative. The real test of leaders is in their private life. Image is what people think we are; integrity is what we really are! Leaders need to be people of integrity—honest, genuine, consistent, and transparent. They need to have strong spiritual disciplines in the areas of Bible study, prayer, and church attendance.

4. Leaders need to carefully guard their time. Elton Trueblood wrote, “A public man, though he is necessarily available at many times, must learn to hide. If he is always available, he is not worth enough when he is available.” Gordon MacDonald asked one of the most profound questions a leader must face, “Are we going to order our inner worlds so that they will create influence on the outer world? Or will we neglect our private worlds and thus permit the outer sphere to shape us?” This is the choice we have to make every day of our lives. That’s what Paul seemed to say in Romans 12:2.

“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this [outer] world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Romans 12:2 (NIV)

“Don’t let the world squeeze you into its mold.” Romans 12:2 (Phillips)

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You Can Learn A Lot From Hiking

Laura and I have recently become interested in hiking. We don’t plan to thru-hike the Appalachian or the Pacific Crest trail anytime soon–we mainly focus on day hiking. As a result, we enjoy the trail with very little planning and minimal cost. I’ve noticed that there are a lot of similarities between hiking and everyday life.

4 Hiking Lessons

  1. Good equipment helps. Good hiking shoes, trekking poles, and backpacks make hiking more enjoyable and hikers more proficient. Likewise equipping ourselves as pastors, disciples, church members, and/or parents makes all the difference. We don’t know what we don’t know, so it helps to be equipped with new knowledge and abilities.
  2. Sometimes you hike uphill. We love trails that have lots of climbing. We seek them out when we plan. It’s great exercise to make your way up a long, challenging climb. It’s so rewarding when you reach the top. Life often seems like a long, challenging climb. Christians are not exempt from difficulty. Those difficult life moments often shape us into better people and mold us into more dedicated Christians.
  3. Sometimes you hike downhill. Trails that go up eventually come down. Going downhill is easier, but not without challenge. You can easily lose your footing because you are moving faster and with little resistance. Going downhill can lead to a lack of concentration and focus which usually ends poorly. Life is a lot like going downhill. When things are going well and success seems easy we often make quick and uninformed decisions that cause us to fall. “Downhill” makes us feel invincible which leads to decisions laced with arrogance. Solomon warned us that “Pride comes before destruction and an arrogant spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18, HCSB).
  4. You can do more than you think. Now that we are hikers, we’ve climbed hills we never imagined that we could. Slowly, steadily, step after step–eventually we reach the top! I’ve watched several YouTube channels of men and women who thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail. When they finished the 2,181-mile trek, they were amazed they covered the entire distance on foot. One guy said, “It blows my mind to think that I just walked from Georgia to Maine!” We should dream big and shoot high in life and in Christ! Through Him and over time we can do more than we could ever imagine (Phil 4:13).
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