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.

Continue reading

Everyone’s least favorite preacher-type: The cocky kind

“Be thou humble, preacher.”  (Stated and repeated and reinforced one way or the other in a hundred scriptures such as Isaiah 57:15, Micah 6:8, and I Peter 5:7.)

It’s a personality type, I suppose.  If Mr. Hotshot were not a preacher, but were a bus driver or school principal, a politician or insurance agent, he would still be full of himself and cocky.  But as unpleasant as that trait is in any profession, it’s ugliest and deadliest in one who claims to be a man of God.

You’re in churc listening to him preach. He’s not five minutes into the message before you realize Mr. Hotshot is on full display before you in the flesh.  His words and mannerisms give him away.  Listen to him:

— “I told my…I want my…My convictions are…I believe…I insist that my staff….”

All church employees are “my staff,”  the new program is “something God told me to do,” and this sermon is “My strong conviction.”

It’s all about him.

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Does your church have a gospel blimp?

The Gospel Blimp went through multiple printings and was turned into a movie to be shown in churches.

The blimp idea was born when a little cluster of friends from a conservative evangelical church enjoying a barbecue in George and Ethel’s back yard began discussing their next-door neighbors. Those folks clearly were unsaved since they were drinking beer and playing cards. Someone who knew them pointed out that they attend a liberal church, but only a few times a year. As a plane went by overhead, a fellow named Herm remarked that if that aircraft had been carrying a message such as “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved,” the lost neighbors would have received a witness since they also had glanced in its direction.

One thing led to another and the idea was birthed to buy a blimp and have it trail Scripture messages across the sky for citizens to read. They formed a non-profit, got themselves chartered, organized a board with officers, and made Herm, the fellow with the idea, its executive. Soon, Herm resigned his job and went full-time with International Gospel Blimps, Inc.

Continue reading

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…

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading

Why former pastors are loved so much

The church in the wilderness praised Abraham and persecuted Moses.  The church in Canaan praised Moses and persecuted the prophets.  The church in the First Century praised the prophets and persecuted Jesus.  The church today….

“Most churches are two pastors behind in their appreciation.”  –Ron Lewis

A cartoon shows a weary, embattled pastor standing beside a statue of a man on a horse.  The sign at the base reads, “Our former pastor.”  The preacher is saying, “Most popular guy in town.”

“They sure do love you here.”

The host pastor was talking to a former pastor who had become president of a theological seminary and was celebrated as a distinguished denominational leader.  He had been invited back for a homecoming.  Excitement was high and the attendance was good.

The distinguished guest looked at his host and said, “They love me here? Really?  Did they tell you that?”

The pastor said, “Uh, yeah.  They say they really do.”

Continue reading

The temptation of a pastor to misuse the Lord’s congregation

“Christ loved the church and gave Himself for her…. For we are members of His body, of His flesh and of His bones” (Ephesians 5:25,30).

It’s His church.

It’s important for pastors to keep reminding themselves there were good reasons why God did not give them ownership of the flocks which they are tending.

“…that He might present her to Himself a glorious church” is how Paul puts it (Ephesians 5:27).

“…that we might show forth the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” is how Peter put it (I Peter 2:9).

“…as firstfruits to God and to the Lamb” is how John put it (Revelation 14:4).

The congregation belongs to Christ. Not to its pastors.

The pastor must keep reminding himself. “They belong to the Lord.  Not to me.”

Continue reading

Eight questions a pastor should ask before taking a public stand

The pastor stands in the pulpit, clears his throat, and waits for the undivided attention of the congregation. His silence signals the membership that something big is up, that what the preacher is about to say will be long remembered.

He begins, “As most of you know, the local school board has decided that Gideons International will no longer be allowed to distribute New Testaments to the children in this district. This greatly concerns me. I will admit that I am angrier than I have been in a long time.”

Seated in his congregation are three of the six members of the local school board. As the preacher continues, they can feel all eyes turned in their direction. They become fidgety and wish the pastor would “just preach the Bible.”

In another community, the pastor announces his opposition to the United Way budget which devotes a portion of its income to Planned Parenthood. A few miles up the interstate, the pastor is wrestling with whether to speak out on corruption inside the police force.

Across town, a pastor wants to address the racial divide that is paralyzing this country.  He has deep convictions and something to say.  He’s been waiting for the Spirit’s leadership on when to preach on it and what to say.  The time, he feels, is now.

Sound familiar?

These are major decisions leaders of the Lord’s churches must make. The stakes are high, the issues are important, and the ramifications may be severe. Going public on controversial matters can make or break a pastor’s ministry in a church.

Let’s remind ourselves that nowhere in scripture are we commanded to address every evil, take a stand against every wrong, or be the moral authority on every sin.

The pastor who attempts this will have time or energy for nothing else. He has to be selective and discerning, wise as a serpent and harmless as a dove.

Here are questions pastors should ask before taking a public stand on issues dividing the community.

Continue reading

What to do after your moronic two minutes

Pastor, have you ever had a meltdown in the pulpit?

A few years back, two Atlanta radio jocks were fired for their on-air mocking of a New Orleans icon, former Saints football player Steve Gleason who has ALS (Lou Gehrig’s), lives in a wheelchair and speaks through a computer.

They made fun of him, parodied his situation, and someone role-played Steve speaking of his coming death and such.

It was the ultimate in offensive.

Later, one of the terminated idiots (I’m so objective in this story, as you can see) said, ‘What were we thinking?” The jocks apologized, and in a subsequent story, Gleason said he accepted their apology.

One of the men called it “a moronic two minutes.”

No argument.

I can sympathize.

Continue reading