I Am A Church Member (Thom S. Rainer)

Church MemberThe last few months I have been serving as the interim pastor of one of our fine Kentucky Baptist Convention churches.  I celebrate that the church recently called a sharp, young pastor who will lead them well in the coming years.

My last four Sunday messages I am choosing to preach through the passages and main points that Dr. Thom S. Rainer makes in his helpful new book, I Am A Church Member.  In his book, Rainer revisits the Biblical responsibilities of those who are privileged to be members of a local church.  He encourages each church member to make the following five pledges:

  1. I will be a functioning church member.
  2. I will be a unifying church member.
  3. I will not let my church be about my preferences and desires.
  4. I will pray for my church leaders.
  5. I will lead my family to be healthy church members.
  6. I will treasure church membership as a gift.

Here’s a little sample from page 6 of Rainer’s book:

“God did not give us local churches to become country clubs where membership means we have privileges and perks.  He places us in churches to serve, to care for others, to pray for leaders, to learn, to teach, to give, and, in some cases, to die for the sake of the Gospel….Many churches are weak because we have members who have turned the meaning of membership upside down.  It’s time to get it right.  It’s time to become a church member as God intended.  It’s time to give instead of being entitled.”

Pick up a copy of this book today!  As a matter of fact, pick up several copies.  They can be purchased from your Lifeway Store for $5 each when purchased in multiples of 20.  May the Lord use this timely book to renew our understanding of and commitment to God’s local church!

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The Key to Keep Church Guests Coming Back

fallsemester_serve2Let’s continue to look at Nelson Searcy’s rockin’ assimilation book, Fusion: Turning First-Time Guests into Fully-Engaged Members of Your Church. Today, we will look at God’s assimilation plan discussed in chapter 2.

But before we get into our discussion, let me encourage you to check out his blog and the free stuff that he is providing to help churches in their work for the Lord. Here are some helpful links to his website:

. . . . Now, on with the discussion. In chapter 2, Searcy wrote,

God has not only given us the responsibility of being hospitable to His guests, but He has also given us the perfect example of how to go about it. Jesus came to the earth to serve, not to be served. Throughout the New Testament, we see His examples of selfless service for those He had the opportunity to influence. And we’ve been left with the challenge of doing even greater things. When we serve our guests well, we reflect Jesus’ attitude and mindset toward them.

Although Searcy provided a thorough definition of assimilation in chapter 1, he sums up assimilation here as follows:

Assimilation is simply well-planned biblical hospitality through service. The head of our organization is the greatest server of all time. Doesn’t it follow that we should be the ultimate example of such service to our guests? With the right system in place, we can serve in a way that will truly touch lives for God’s kingdom.

For more details about  improving assimilation in your church, see the following posts:

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3 Types of Planning Needed in the Church

PlanningIn my last post, When Your Church Is Stuck in the Mud, I began to talk about the importance of planning.  In a church, there are different kinds of planning, and all types are important. In his book, Here Today, There Tomorrow [1], Dr. Gary L. McIntosh provides a good overview of the 3 main types of planning in a church.

3 Types of Planning Needed in the Church

1.  Standing Plans.  Standing plans are sometimes referred to as policies.  Standing plans assist churches to handle issues that come up frequently, such as weddings, baptisms, and use of facilities.  They also provide direction in emergency situations, such as what to do in case of a fire or if someone is injured on the church campus.  Standing plans make allowance for unexpected situations such as when a decision must be made but those with authority to make decisions are not available.  I personally find that most churches have standing plans in place.  They may or may not be written, but they are understood.

2.  Routine Plans.  Routine plans are often referred to as schedules.  This type of plan predicts what will take place on a daily, a weekly, a monthly, or a yearly time frame.  Churches typically operate with master calendars for worship; adult, youth, and children’s activities; and a host of other ministry functions that take place in a routine manner.  Most churches have become too predictable in this area.  Improvements and changes are generally needed.

3.  New Plans.  This form of planning goes by several names–master planning, long-range planning, strategic-planning, or simply planning ahead.  This is the “engine” area of planning for churches that are STUCK or SINKING!  Years ago, long-range plans meant developing a 5-10 year plan, but in our fast changing world today, long-range is more like 2-3 years.  It is imperative that we make these types of plans, ESPECIALLY if we are a church in need of revitalization.

If you need help in this area, our Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention specializes in this area.  You can reach me by email or at (502) 489-3471 or toll-free at (866) 489-3571.

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[1] Gary L. McIntosh. Here Today, There Tomorrow (Indianapolis, IN: Wesleyan Publishing House, 2010), 37-38.

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Plow Horses & Dogs?

I agree with Dr. Gary L. McIntosh, that every church and every church leader needs to refocus from time to time! Every church needs to ask, “What sets us apart from other churches? What can our church offer to the community that is uniquely us?”

The truth is, that may be easier said than done. How can a church refocus? How can a church determine which ministries are unique to them? McIntosh says that it is helpful to categorize all the ministries of your church into one of four areas.

4 Ministry Categories

STARS: Stars refers to the most fruitful ministries–that is, the ministries that are responsible for bringing in the most new people or reaching the most people for Christ.

PUZZLES: This category includes the ministries that appear to be good but are not producing the results you think they should.

PLOW HORSES: The most popular ministries that do not result in many new people coming to Christ or to your church but which you must keep go in this category.

DOGS: The ministries that are draining your church of resources and produce almost no results go here. The church must deal with these ministries by retooling them, reinventing them, or by replacing them with stars.

McIntosh says that some churches find that they have zero stars. If that is the case, the church should focus on starting one new ministry each year for the next 5 years because new ministries tend to reach new people. Programs and ministries become less effective with age. New ministries are the most fruitful.

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

Please contact the Church Consulting & Revitalization Team at the Kentucky Baptist Convention if we can help your church in any way.

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The KEY to Revitalization

I am currently posting highlights from Dr. Gary L. McIntosh’s recently published book aimed at Church Revitalization called There’s Hope for Your Church.  In the last post, we looked at 3 Reasons There Is Hope for Your Church. In this post, we’re going to examine the irreplaceable role that pastoral leadership plays when it comes to church revitalization. I agree with Dr. McIntosh when he says….

“In order for a church to be revitalized, the pastor is the key!”

In chapter two, McIntosh discusses consultant Ken Priddy’s belief that two types of pastors exist: a revitalization pastor and a revitalization leader. A revitalization pastor sees the church as his client while the revitalization leader sees God as his client. A revitalization pastor views himself as an employee of the church while a revitalization leader sees himself as being called by God to lead the church where God wants it to go. Revitalization leaders expect to encounter resistance and are willing to lead without affirmation and often with pain.

“For churches to transition into a new era of ministry, courageous, godly leadership is paramount.”  Terry Walling

One of the reasons that most pastors are not successful in bringing about revitalization is that they simply don’t stay long enough. The average tenure of a senior or solo pastor in the United States in 3.8 years. McIntosh says that it takes 5-7 years to revitalize a church in the city and 10-12 years to revitalize a rural church. The bottom line is that revitalization leaders stay!

McIntosh warns that it is possible for a pastor to stay too long. In his experience, if the church has not experienced revitalization within 10-12 years of the pastor’s tenure, it is not going to happen. Although there are exceptions, the average pastor’s ministry tends to lose momentum after 10 years. After 10 years, the original vision the pastor had for the church has most likely been accomplished, and then the church flounders, searching for a new direction. Some pastors are able to re-envision their life and ministry for another 10 years in the same church, but some cannot and find it best to move to another ministry.

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There’s Hope for Your Church

Gary L. McIntosh recently published a helpful book aimed at Church Revitalization called There’s Hope for Your Church. In his usual style, Dr. McIntosh provides practical, realistic coaching advice for pastors who are embracing the difficult task of helping one of the 75% of American churches that are plateaued or declining. In the next few posts, I’m going to share some of the key teachings from the Dr. McIntosh’s book.

Chapter 1 – See the Potential

If you are currently serving as a pastor in one of the 75% of churches that is on a long-term plateau or declining, THERE IS HOPE! There is hope for renewal, hope for growth, hope for new life! Dr. McIntosh says that there are at least three key reasons for such hope.

3 Reasons There is Hope for Your Church

1.  God wants your church to grow. The first mention of the church in the Bible contains God’s promise that his church will grow: “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church; and the gates of Hades will not overpower it” (Matthew 16:18). Today there are approximately two billion Christians in the world. Compared to the small band of believers that met together in the upper room in Acts 1, the world-wide church makes it clear that Christ’s church has grown. God has kept his promise. God wants your church to be fruitful and multiply as well. Acts 12:24 reports that “the word of the Lord continued to grow and to be multiplied.” God wants his church to grow and multiply across the world as new believers accept the gospel of salvation in Jesus Christ.

2.  God revitalizes & restores churches. The New Testament records several beautiful pictures of restoration, such as the return of the prodigal son in Luke 15 and the call to the church in Revelation 2 & 3. The implication in Revelation is that God will restore churches that hear and repent.

3.  God is revitalizing churches right now. Dr. McIntosh points out that for the last three decades he has observed churches throughout the United States and Canada being renewed and revitalized. As a Kentucky Baptist pastor for over 23 years, I have been privileged to lead three churches to varying levels of revitalization. I have also been amazed to observe other pastors do so as well.

In a recent Western Recorder article, I read the amazing revitalization story of the Hillvue Heights Church in Bowling Green, Kentucky where Dr. Steve Ayers serves as Senior Pastor. When he came to the church, only a handful of people remained. Under his 21 years of leadership, the church has baptized over 7,000 new believers and grown to an average weekly attendance of 4,000. Although Hillvue’s story is not typical, it is a vivid testimony that THERE IS HOPE FOR YOUR CHURCH!

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