How to grow a small church

“It doesn’t matter to the Lord whether He saves by the few or by the many” (I Samuel 14:6).

Depending on a number of factors, growing a small church may well be  one of the more do-able things pastors can achieve.

Those variable factors include…

–the health of the church (you don’t want a sick church to grow; it needs to get well first!).  I once told my congregation, “There’s a good reason no one is joining this church.  I wouldn’t join it either!” Believe it or not, those words were inspired and the people received them well, and repented.

–the attitude of the congregation (if the people are satisfied with the status quo,  newcomers will not be welcomed).  I’ve known Sunday School classes composed of a small cluster of best friends who felt imposed on by visitors and new members.  No one wants to go where they’re not wanted.

–and the location of the facility   A church situated five miles down an isolated road, at the end of the dead end trail, can almost certainly forget about growing.  Yes, it’s been done, but rarely.

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One thing people in ministry must never do

Moreover, it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.  First Corinthians 4:2

This position is not yours; you are only a steward.  A caretaker.  A manager.

Get that wrong and you have bought yourself a lot of grief.

The other day I saw where a well-known news anchor was complaining about being fired from her position a decade or more ago.  “I did nothing wrong,” she said.  As if the position was rightfully hers until she was found to be “doing something wrong.”

As though that has anything to do with anything.

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Non-leaders: How to spot one a mile off

“So Moses arose with Joshua his servant, and Moses went up to the mountain of God” (Exodus 24:13). 

Always referred to as the servant of Moses, Joshua was used to taking orders as opposed to giving them.

That’s why, when the day arrived for Moses to announce that his earthly work was finished and God was recalling him and that Joshua would have to carry on (“Get these people into the Promised Land!”), he, Joshua, must have panicked.

For four decades Joshua has been warming the bench; now, he’s being sent into the game as the clock ticks down and everything is on the line.

What would he do without a boss over him, someone telling him what to do and how to do it, someone to whom he could report, who would grade him and pat him on the head when he did good or chew him out when his work fell short?

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My candidate for hypocrite of the year

“Evil people and imposters will become worse (in the last days), deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).

Can we talk about imposters?

There are so many to choose from, but today I’m thinking of church-dropouts who say they love the Lord.

Nothing of what follows is intended to be mean-spirited. But I would like to speak plainly.

I’m not angry, just perturbed. I don’t want to banish anyone from heaven, from church, from “the island,” or even from this room.

I just want to say to certain ones, “C’mon, people. Get real.  You don’t mean that, so why do you keep saying it?”

Recently, we were having a lively Facebook discussion about church and whether divorced people–specifically those with a whole string of divorces–should be considered for the honored church office of deacon.

Most comments were sweet-spirited, godly, well-informed scripturally and solid doctrinally.  But some were angry for reasons I doubt if even they know.  They want to banish all divorced people from anything.  But these are not the hypocrites I had in mind, although I wouldn’t be surprised if they qualify. It’s another group.

“People like you are the reason I no longer go to church.”

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What I wish for the Lord’s church

“That He might present it to Himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing, but that it should be holy and without blemish” (Ephesians 5:27).

The Lord wants the best for His Bride. And so does every right-thinking child of His.

Here is my wish list for the church of the 21st century….

One. I wish the church were less of a business and more like a family.

Our Lord looked around at His disciples and followers and said, “Behold, my mother and my brothers! Whoever does God’s will is my brothers and sisters and my mother” (Mark 3:33-35).  The obedient are His family.

I’m so glad I’m a part of the family of God.  The local church should be a smaller expression of that larger, forever family.  I wish more of them were.

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Compromise: Only the strong can do it

“I implore Euodia and I implore Eyntyche to be of the same mind in the Lord” (Philippians 4:2).   You ladies, get together!

“Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another, even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13). 

Christians, we of all people should know how to love the unlovely and to be gentle and fair with those with whom we disagree.

The First Baptist Church of Kenner, Louisiana is bordered on one side by Williams Boulevard and on the other by Clay Street.  In between, intersecting the church property is the wonderfully named Compromise Street.  I have no idea why the city fathers gave it that name, but I love it.  I served that church from 1990 to 2004 and enjoyed calling the attention of the congregation to this asphalted reminder of how intelligent people are supposed to work together.

God’s people are expected to be of one mind, to live in harmony.  As we represent Christ in the world and do His work, by the very nature of who we are and what we are charged to do, we will often be required to compromise.

Don’t miss that…

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“I love you; give me money.” (The art and science of manipulating people)

“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you devour widows’ houses even while for a pretense you make long prayers….” (Matthew 23:14)

A stock cartoon situation that has set up punch lines for thousands of comics has someone climbing to the top of a mountain to consult a guru for his pearls of wisdom.  In the Hagar comic strip, our favorite Viking plunderer had scaled the mountain and said to the bearded seer: “O wise one, you are like a father to me.”

The old man answers, “I am honored. What is your question?”

Hagar says, “Lend me money.”

Thanks to the internet, those of us who write these articles frequently hear from the Lord’s people across the globe. That’s one of the great blessings of ministry in these days.  One day, a fellow in an African country telephoned me. That was unusual.

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Scripture’s description of your pastor

“This is a faithful saying: If a man desires the work of a bishop (literally ‘overseer,’ meaning the pastor or chief undershepherd of the church), he desires a good work.  A bishop (pastor/overseer) then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, temperate, sober-minded, of good behavior, hospitable, able to teach, not given to wine, not violent, not greedy for money, but gentle, not quarrelsome, not covetous, one who rules his own house well….”  (I Timothy 3:1-7 is the full text.)

Dr. Gary Fagan was pastoring a church in a suburb of Boston, Massachusetts.  It was Wednesday night and time for the monthly business meeting of the congregation, usually an uneventful period for hearing reports on finances and membership and voting on recommendations concerning programs.  For reasons long forgotten, a man in the church-–Dick was an engineer and a deacon–-chose to stand and berate the pastor.  When he finished, he sat down and there was silence.

He was not used to being contradicted and the regulars were not foolhardy enough to take him on.

It took a new believer to do the job.

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Anyone can love a crowd; loving individuals is another story

While a battle is raging one can see his enemy mowed down by the thousand, or the ten thousand, with great composure;  but after the battle, these scenes are distressing, and one is naturally disposed to do as much to alleviate the suffering of an enemy as a friend.  –Ulysses S. Grant, “Personal Memoirs”

“One death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic.”  –Joseph Stalin

“I love mankind. It’s people I can’t stand.”  –Lucy, in “Peanuts”

Pastors, young ones in particular, have to conquer this challenge or forever pay a huge price.  It’s one thing to love a crowd, but another entirely to love that quarrelsome family, the cranky old curmudgeon, the gossip in the congregation, the unwashed homeless guy who wandered into your service, and the deacon who is dead-set on making you unemployed.

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The noise of wolves in the night…and a few unhappy church members

I send you forth as sheep among the wolves… (Matthew 10:16)

After my departure, savage wolves will come…. (Acts 20:29) 

You’re getting scared.  Your enemies are making fierce noises.  There are so many of them. You  are shaking in your boots, your time may be up, the end may be near, and as pastor, you have nowhere to go.  Whatever will you do? This is so awful.

Or, maybe not.

In the mid-1840s, Ulysses S. Grant was a Second Lieutenant in the war between the U.S. and Mexico, with the prize being Texas.  Grant’s Memoirs make fascinating reading.  We’re told that Grant was the first former president to write his memoirs, and these are generally conceded to be the best of the lot.  (Note: Before reading Memoirs, I read Grant’s Final Victory, an account of the last year of his life when he penned his story to earn enough money to provide for his wife after his impending death.  Great story.  He was a far better man than he is often given credit for. )

At one point, Grant and some troopers were in west Texas, which was sparsely settled except by the Indians and varmints. One night, they heard “the most unearthly howling of wolves, directly in our front.”  The tall grass hid the wolves but they were definitely close by.  To my ear, it appeared that there must have been enough of them to devour our party, horses and all at a single meal.

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