Friday, April 25, 2008

A Willingness and Passion to Study and Know the Scriptures

“I have hidden Your word in my heart that I might not sin against You.” – Psalm 119:11

The heart’s cry of a healthy church should be that we might not sin against God. According to this passage in Psalms, the way to accomplish that goal is to have God’s word protecting our hearts and minds. The church must be passionate about learning and knowing God’s word.

This falls under the mantle of “Discipleship”, but it also requires more than talk. The word of God is living and active, according to Hebrews 4, and therefore must not be reacted to as a lifeless work of literature. The leaders of a healthy church must set the pace of passion for His word by drenching ourselves in His Word’s sanctifying power.

“Sanctify them by the truth; Your word is truth.” – John 17:17

The word “Sanctify” means to “Set apart for holy use by God.” God’s own words are what set us aside for His use. Jesus prayed this prayer for us in John 17, not just those disciples who were there.

When items were sanctified in the Old Testament, they went through a special cleansing ceremony by the priest. Since Jesus said that the word of God “sanctifies” us, He was saying that it “makes us clean for God’s use.” His word has a cleansing effect on us to wash away the dirt of the daily grind in the world. The leaders of the church should be firmly grounded in scripture themselves to lead the laity into a passionate love for the word of God.

How do leaders motivate the body to be passionate about knowing the scriptures?

1. Teach the Truth – Scripturally sound messages

2. Set the Example – Daily personal study by all leaders in the church

3. Be Accountable – Leaders asking each other about personal studies

4. Provide Study Helps – Both at church and for home study

5. Be Genuine In Lifestyle – Live out what we preach and teach

6. Live Out the Victory – Do not complain or argue among the body

7. Let God Prove Himself – Watch and Pray according to His will

When the church passionately pursues the truth in Scripture, God will reveal Himself as He is. Otherwise, we have false expectations and our foundation in like quicksand. In the story of the wise and foolish builders in Matthew 7, Jesus says the fool heard the word, but never acted on it. The wise builder heard the word and put it into practice. That foundation is indestructible! It is true for individual lives and for the church family.

Monday, April 21, 2008

A Definite Scriptural Context of Purpose

Every decision we make must be sound with scripture. The leadership of the church is responsible to set the standard in this area. We cannot depend on the majority all the time, nor can we choose to ignore the majority all the time. We must, however, carry out our God-given responsibilities as “men who must give an account to God for our actions and decisions.”

Therefore, we must be personally grounded in scripture as the leaders of the church. We do not need the best business minds of our church involved in the decision-making; we need the most scripturally sound minds of our church filling the gap. We are not to become a really effective business, as many churches have become, but we are supposed to accomplish the purposes laid out for us in the Bible as God empowers us to do so.

Each leader must keep the purposes of the church in mind when discussing ideas with the laity. Remember that these are God-designed purposes for His invention of the church. When we start trying to make something else out of this invention, we abuse God’s gift to us.

A layperson may say, “Why do we always have to sing standing up?”

A leader should respond something like this: “I don’t believe you have to stand at all. It is a suggestion, because worship is, ‘Sacrificing ourselves for the Glory of God.’ When you honor someone, you either stand or bow, so we stand, because it’s hard to sing when you are bowing.” This would show a scriptural understanding of why we do things the way we do, and hopefully put an end to any divisiveness that may have occurred otherwise.

You might also turn the layperson’s attention to John 4, when Jesus said true worshippers of God worship Him in spirit and in truth. This use of scripture to support our actions lovingly educates an obedient follower of Christ and returns an attitude of unity and peace to his heart. Additionally, scripture will foil the desires of a divisive person who thought he could disrupt the unity of the leadership.

Have you ever asked yourself, “Why does the church _________________ (You fill in the blank)?” Think about the activities of an average worship service…singing, offering, prayer, communion, sermons, etc. Do you know why we do these things in the context of a Worship Service? Do you think these things are a part of genuine worship? Do you see things in scripture that the church should be doing, but most don’t?

Monday, April 14, 2008

A United Heart of Passion to Carry Out Our Purpose

Once we have a plan of action, we must communicate the vision in such a way that people understand what we are doing, why we are doing it, and even how we came to the decision.

Communication is vital to making peaceful transitions in ministry. Most people will follow if they believe in the leaders’ decisions, but they can’t believe in a decision they don’t understand.

Announcing the changes first to all the people involved in the ministry is a must. If they feel they have been forced into a programming change they will automatically go on the defensive.

First, meet with the whole ministry team and share the problems you had to address. By helping them see the problem you were trying to solve, you are able to bring them along through the problem-solving process with you, rather then creating a confrontational situation.

Then, when you make them aware of the problem-solving process you went through, you will be able to direct their hearts toward the same conclusion you came to; that these changes are for the best in the ministry and for those who are carrying out the ministry.

Always keep the desire to bring a unified heart to the table, remembering we are all ultimately answering to God for our attitudes. When the body of Christ is unified, no weapon formed against us will prosper, and the devil knows that because he knows scripture. The enemy wants to divide and conquer – therefore, we must work all the harder to unite and overcome!

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

A Clear Plan of Action to Fulfill Our Purpose

We need, then, to develop a scripturally sound plan of action to accomplish our purposes. These plans must be the result of prayer, thoughtful contemplation, careful planning and clear communication of the plans. We must follow up on these plans and evaluate them, tweak them, and be willing to drop them when they are no longer effective.

I suggest that each leader review the ministries of the church they serve and evaluate them according to the purpose for each ministry to discover how healthy the church is.

The following are the questions a church should ask in evaluating its health:

  • What do we do to Evangelize, both at home and worldwide? Are we taking the gospel to the lost, or hoping they will come to us? Do lost people attend our church? What ministries are succeeding at this calling and what ministries need to change or be discontinued?
  • How is our Fellowship? Are new people staying? Are we family-like, or business-like? What ministry is effectively meeting this need? How do we build unity?
  • Where in our programming are we training people to be like Christ - Not just “telling,” but “training” them? Are we making Disciples effectively?
  • Are we offering enough Ministry and Service opportunities? Are people using their gifts in ministry, or are we filling round holes with square pegs? Do we run programs that meet our needs, or do we run programs because other churches do them?
  • Do we live out personal sacrifice for the sake of Christ? Do we truly worship God, or do we just sing about it?

Answering these questions will help determine the health of any church. At least they will know why they are here, and can plan to accomplish what they were made to accomplish.

After we have evaluated where we are, we need to address where we are going. Do we plan to maintain the status quo or do we have a vision for the future?

To look into the future, we need to understand current trends both in society and in ministry - not “fads”, but the practices of our people. What are schedules like? What is happening in the job market? Where is our economy headed? What seems to draw people in to try a new place out? What makes people keep coming back to any one location (Restaurants, department stores, etc.)?

We should also be willing to create and discontinue ministries based on needs and effectiveness. If any ministry seems to be waning, we need to ask ourselves some tough questions:

  1. Why did we start this ministry?
  2. Is it still a necessary ministry for our community?
  3. If so, why is it faltering?
  4. What do we need to do to correct the problems?
  5. How will these changes affect the people involved?
  6. What can we do to cause the greatest improvement with the least offense?
  7. Can we do this with the resources we have at our disposal?
  8. What is our plan of action and timeline for these changes?

This process will help us come up with a clear plan of action to fulfill our purpose for every aspect of the church’s ministry. Every step of the way, we must be covering our process with prayer, scripture and patience. We do not want to try to fix spiritual issues with human solutions. The only power to change lives is found in Jesus Christ, not smooth planning and programming.