3 Ways to Respond to a Challenge

Did you know that only one miracle is mentioned in all four Gospels? Do you know which miracle it is? It is the miracle where Jesus fed a large group of people by exponentially multiplying the lunch of a small boy. I have often wondered why this miracle is so important that the Lord included it as many times as He did.

One day in preparing to preach from John’s account, it hit me that Jesus described how three different people responded to His challenging question, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (John 6:5).

3 Responses to Jesus’ Challenge

1.  The response of Philip. How did Philip respond? He took out his iPhone and fired up his food preparation app and did the math. The story tells us that 5,000 men were present, so the number was probably 10,000+ when the women and children were included. Philip answered, “Two hundred denarii (8 months wages) worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little” (John 6:7). Then notice what Philip did next. He dismissed the challenge immediately. He gave up without trying. And, he didn’t even consider God in the equation.

2. The response of Andrew. Andrew’s reaction was an improvement, but not much of an improvement. He inventoried available resources and said “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” (John 6:9). After that he dismissed the challenge and he seemed to also leave God out of the equation.

3. The response of the little boy. Interestingly, the little boy is almost invisible in the story. We know nothing about him or his family. We don’t even know his name. All we know is that he was willing to share what he had. I don’t believe for a minute that he was the only person there with food. You mean to tell me that no one had a PB & J? A can of Vienna Sausages or Beenie Weenies? A bologna sandwich? A granola bar? Or a Snickers? Surely others had food, but he is the only one in the story who shared it with the disciples. God took his small gift and used it in a marvelous, miraculous way to feed everyone who was present that day.

Are you facing a challenge? How about your church? If so, then you’re normal. We all face challenges on a regular basis. This is earth, not Heaven. We have not arrived yet. How will you and I respond to the challenge we currently face? Will we respond like Philip and dismiss the challenge immediately? Will we respond like Andrew and take an inventory of what we can do? Or will we respond like the little boy and give what we have to the Lord and trust Him for the results?

Prayer: “Lord, please help me to respond like the little boy in the story with the challenges I face!

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.

Revitalization Pastors – Part Two

Weights
In the post, Revitalization Pastors – Part One, we looked at the first 5 characteristics possessed by pastors who lead churches to experience significant revitalization and health.  In this post, we will look at 5 additional characteristics.  These 10 characteristics are listed in random order and all are equally important.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

6.  Revitalization pastors demonstrate dependence on God.  This should not surprise anyone!  The Scriptures clearly teach our need for the Holy Spirit’s power in our lives.  Revitalization pastors seem to understand this fully because they consistently spend time with God in Bible reading and prayer, they often cry out to God for His blessing on the ministries of the church, and they lead the church to give God the glory when they experience a spiritual “win” as a congregation.

7.  Revitalization pastors are Lifetime Learners.  You’ve heard the saying “leaders are learners.”  We would add the saying “revitalization pastors are readers.”  Even those who are not avid readers find other ways to learn.  They often listen to other pastor’s sermons, attend conferences, participate in state convention growth opportunities, and meet with other pastors to learn best practices.

8.  Revitalization pastors develop leaders and laborers in the church.  Revitalization pastors agree with the Apostle Paul that one of the main roles of a pastor is “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Ephesians 4:12, ESV).  As a result, they develop a leadership development strategy for the church, regularly delegate ministry responsibilities to trusted people, and personally mentor a group of men in the congregation.

9.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to celebrate wins.  They celebrate wins by showing appreciation to church volunteers who serve faithfully.  They sometimes ask for testimonies of where people recently saw God at work.  They regularly focus on positive things that happen in the life of the church.

10.  Revitalization pastors lead the church to implement change.  Revitalization pastors spent time thoroughly explaining the reason behind a needed change and invested extra time with people who were slow to accept a needed change.  They bathed proposed changes in significant prayer and resisted moving too quickly when making a major change.

We discovered that revitalization pastors come in all shapes and sizes, but they share these characteristics.  We also discovered that there is a desperate need for Godly leadership in the local church.  It is not enough for a pastor to develop a vision for revitalization, but he must LEAD the people to fulfill that vision.  In many cases, it takes years to see stagnant churches become vibrant and healthy, so revitalization pastors tend to have longer tenures.  Many studies show a relationship between pastoral tenure and church health.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor.

 

 

Revitalization Pastors – Part One

Drinking Water
The Executive Director of the Kentucky Baptist Convention, Dr. Paul Chitwood, developed a structure that allows us to place a strong emphasis on church revitalization by creating a team called the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team.  On our 21-member team there are six men who serve as Regional Consultants.   They live in the region assigned to them and work directly with pastors, churches, church workers, Directors of Missions, and local associations.

Over the last four years, they noticed that pastors who had successfully led their churches to experience revitalization possessed consistent characteristics. In the next two posts, I’m going to look at those characteristics.  The list only scratches the surface, but these ten characteristics stand out to our consultants.

10 CHARACTERISTICS OF A REVITALIZATION PASTOR

1.  Revitalization pastors lean into conflict.  Some pastors avoid conflict at all costs.  They may develop a brilliant, God-given vision for the future of the church, but they scrap it just as soon as one or two people are critical.  Revitalization pastors do not necessarily like conflict, but they are willing to face it in order to fulfill the God-given vision.

2.  Revitalization pastors are willing to take risks.  It’s risky to help a church understand that they are being ineffective.  It’s rarely pleasant to confront difficult people or to seek restoration of a broken relationship, but revitalization pastors do what’s right instead of merely doing what’s easy and convenient.

3.  Revitalization pastors work hard on church relationships.  As a child, most of us learned the little hand visual that accompanied the saying “here is the church, here is the steeple, open the door and here are the people.”  As adults, we know that the symbolism is lacking because the church is not a building; the church IS the people.  Revitalization pastors understand that building a church means building people.

4.  Revitalization pastors take the lead in evangelism.  A church cannot be revitalized without reaching new people with the Gospel.  A revitalization pastor places emphasis on evangelism and leads by example in this area.  Methods of evangelism vary from church to church and community to community, but churches experiencing revitalization are making new converts for Christ.

5.  Revitalization pastors lead with a vision.  Visions are sometimes written, sometimes spoken, and sometimes written and spoken!  Revitalization pastors have a God-given vision for the church’s future and they share it regularly with the church.

Here’s a survey that will help you determine how well you are doing as a Revitalization Pastor. For more information please contact me.

Here’s a link to Part Two.

Kentucky Baptist Convention Holy Land Trip


sea-of-galilee-620x230
Laura and I led our first trip to the Holy Land in November, 2011. The best way I can sum up the trip is that it changes you. I am not the same guy I was when I left. I will never read the Bible the same, I will never preach the same, and hopefully, I will never live the same!

Dr. Paul Chitwood and I have decided to lead a Kentucky Baptist Convention trip to the Holy Land on March 11-20, 2017. We are partnering with Jerusalem Tours out of Columbus, Ohio. David and Sara Chay, the owners, are a wonderful couple who know how to put together tours to their homeland. Our guide, Kobi Kimhy, has been voted the #1 tour guide in Israel a number of times. His knowledge, personality, and genuine love for Israel cannot be matched.

We are almost at full capacity, but we have a few spots left. We want to invite pastors, church staff, church members, Directors of Missions, along with any believers to join us as we walk in the footsteps of Jesus. We have negotiated a great price of $3,869 per person that includes flights from Louisville, hotels, touring, meals, tips, fuel charges, etc. We encourage churches to consider sending their pastor(s) and his wife on this trip of a lifetime.

If you are interested or if you have any questions, please email me at [email protected] or contact me at 502-489-3434. Reserve your spot before the trip fills up completely!

Churches & Car Dealerships

Car SalesmanIs there anything in life more frustrating than buying a car? Last week my wife and I attempted to replace one of our vehicles. It seems that every time I step on a car lot it tests my Christianity–that day was no exception. At one point during the “trial,” while the manager was making a dramatic last-ditch effort to make a sale, I wanted to ask “do I have the word stupid tattooed on my forehead or something?” I kept my cool, but I sent him back to his secret manager’s lair without a sale.

Don’t misunderstand, I realize dealerships are in the business to make money and salesmen are just trying to earn a living. I don’t fault them for that, but the truth is, buying a car is about as much fun as having your fingernails pulled out with a pair of needle-nosed plyers. Through the years, I have owned various brands: Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Mazda, but my experience was usually the same. I believe both car dealerships and churches might benefit from some of the things I wanted to say to the dealership that day:

  • I’m not the scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Believe it or not, I actually have a brain. I’ve done some reading and research in my life. I can think, evaluate, and make decisions. Don’t talk down to me.
  • Give me some space. Sometimes I like to window-shop a little before being bombarded with the “sales pitch.” I expect a “sales pitch” and I’m ok with that, but just give me some space first. Let me just “kick the tires” for a while. If I really like them, I will buy them from you and a car to go with them!
  • Be honest with me. We all know the stereotype that car salesmen are dishonest. In many cases, they probably earned that reputation. The church is sometimes viewed the same way, so honesty is paramount to me.
  • Don’t play games and don’t play me. There’s nothing I hate much more than “being played.” Almost everyone I know feels the same way. Car dealerships, churches, salesmen, and preachers should be transparent and genuine.
  • Give me the facts and give them to me fast. How long can it possibly take to calculate the value of my trade-in? I looked up the Kelly Blue Book price on the internet in 5 minutes before I left the house! Don’t go on and on–it won’t change the facts. Give me the facts and I’ll make a decision.
  • Sale, but don’t oversale. I came expecting a sale, but don’t go overboard or you will turn me off for sure.

Boy oh boy…..I feel so much better now that I got that off my chest. Thanks for allowing me to vent. Let me end with this question, “how often does an unchurched person want to make these same statements to us after he visits one of our churches?”

Transitional Interim Pastor Training

Untitled-1We are offering a Transitional Interim Pastor Training at the Kentucky Baptist Convention building on November 23-24, 2015 that will equip men of God to provide leadership for worship services, supply basic pastoral care, and guide a congregation through the inherent complexities, challenges, and opportunities during the interim time.

The workshop will help participants focus on:

  • The role and responsibilities of a transitional interim pastor
  • The transition process
  • Assessing the church’s history
  • Assessing the church’s current realities
  • Strategic preparation for the church’s future
  • Preaching and teaching during the interim
  • Conflict management and congregational healing
  • Supporting the search committee
  • Preparing the church for the next pastor
  • Leaving gracefully

Cost is $100 per person. For more information please contact me at [email protected] or at 502-489-5731.