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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Something we know about your church’s troublemakers

Where your treasure is, your heart will be also.  (Matthew 6:21).

Reading my journal from the 1990s, I am reminded of a lot of things–the grace of God and His sovereignty, the sweetness of many of God’s people, and also the sheer unabashed hypocrisy of a few.

Some months after I left one pastorate, the business manager of the church and I had lunch together one day.  This is from my notes written that night. I’m eliminating the names, because identifying these people would serve no purpose. Many of them have gone on to their (ahem) just rewards and what’s done is done.

What the business administrator said was stunning.

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Why our churches are not using vocational evangelists–and why they should reconsider

“And He gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers….” (Ephesians 4:11)

An evangelist proclaims the gospel of Jesus Christ to unbelievers.  While the commission for this was given to the whole church, and every Christian is charged with spreading the Word, some are called specifically for this purpose. Presumably, those called are specially gifted for the task.

For me personally, the names that come to mind include Angel Martinez, Eddie Martin, Homer Martinez, Vance Havner, J. Harold Smith, and E. J. Daniels.  Billy Graham and his colleagues Grady Wilson, George Beverly Shea, Cliff Barrows.  Mordecai Ham, Billy Sunday, Dwight L. Moody, R. A. Torrey, George Whitefield.  Roy Fish, Jim Ponder and Joe Atkinson, Bob Harrington, Gray Allison, and John R. Rice.  Billy Smith, Richard Hogue, Wayne Bristow.

I suppose there was a “golden age of evangelism,” at least in our Southern Baptist Convention, when most churches scheduled annual revivals or evangelistic meetings and brought in a well-known evangelist.  If so, the sun has set on that day.  In our denomination, fewer and fewer churches schedule these meetings and the typical full-time evangelist has a hard time filling his calendar with meetings and then has a difficult time making a living from the offerings these meetings bring in.

“Why are pastors not scheduling vocational evangelists for meetings in their churches?”  

I tossed out that question on Facebook.  Answers flooded in.  Many pastors were only too happy to say why they were not inviting these preachers into their churches.  (Forty-eight hours later, that question has received two hundred responses.)

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How to read well and fast, and hopefully smart

Or, if you don’t like the title above, try this one: How to read a 500 page book in 30 minutes! And retain 90 percent of what you read!

That’s the come-on which led some of us to pay for the Evelyn Wood speed-reading course some years back.  It was not money well spent in my judgement, although I did discover how a few people in this world manage to pull that off.  (If your experience with that course was better than mine, congratulations.)

A friend who is an editor for a Christian news service suggested that, since I’m a constant reader, I should write a blog on the subject of reading and how to do it faster and better.  As a trained editor, she tends to read critically and thus slower than she’d like.

That hit me like the time another editor asked me for an article on gluttony.  I had consumed three large meals that day.  But I thought, “Who better than me, who knows the subject so well?”  I wrote the article and it’s still circulating the globe in cyberspace.

So, I opened the laptop with that intention.  But first, I decided to put the question to my friends on Facebook.  How to read faster and more effectively.  The answers were many, some helpful and several silly.  For instance, the latter…

–Bob recommended the Jeff Foxworthy method of “reading more gooder fastly.”

–Ken suggested, “Rd onl fw ltrs, dnt dwl on evy wd.  Dnt gv u!”   Someone needs to buy Ken a vowel.

–Luther learned to cut his reading time in one-half, he says, by turning two pages at a time.

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The effective pastor: Have many friends and a few confidants

Sixth in the series.

And He sent them out two by two.

I am glad about the coming of Stephanas, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, for what was lacking on your part they supplied.  For they refreshed my spirit…. (I Corinthians 16:17-18).

Don’t try this alone.

If the Apostle Paul was the great role model for preachers–and he surely must be–then no minister of the gospel should ever go it alone.  Look at the friends he mentions in Romans 16 and I Corinthians 16.  The apostle was awash with friends.

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The Effective Pastor: Never skimp on the sermon

Fifth in a series on The Effective Pastor.

“It pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save those who believe.”

“We preach Christ.”

They call you “Preacher” for a reason.

This is your primary calling.

You counsel people who are dealing with problems, but no one calls you Counselor.

You visit people in their homes and you minister to them during times of crisis, but they don’t refer to you as The Visitor.

You administrate and cast the vision for the church, but no one calls you the Administrator or the Vision-Caster.

They call you Preacher because nothing you do is as important or as critical to the work of the church as your preaching.

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The Effective Pastor: You are the chief servant. (So serve!)

Fourth in a series on The Effective Pastor

“He who is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he who governs as he who serves…. I am among you as one who serves” (Luke 22:24-30).

When Bill and Carolyn Self wrote a book about hospitality in the church, they said the pastor and his wife should never eat at church dinners.  Instead, they should circulate among the diners with the tea pitchers, serving people, getting to know everyone, greeting each person in the room.

That is so smart.  And infinitely wise.

Such a minister and spouse can do as much personal ministry in one hour of pouring tea as they will do in a week.

Serving people. What a novel concept!

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The Effective Pastor will not say certain things.

Third in a series on The Effective Pastor.

Every parent, every teacher, and every pastor has things they believe strongly about, lines they will not cross.  Call them pet peeves or strong convictions, the leader will not go there.

As a pastor for over four decades and a minister for five-and-a-half, here are some statements you will never hear from me:

1. Will you lead us in a word of prayer?

The expression “a word of prayer” is a putdown.  It minimizes the value of prayer and the effectiveness of praying.  So, you will not hear me saying it.

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The effective pastor: Teach the congregation how to pray.

Second article in a series on The Effective Pastor. 

Now, it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, ‘Lord, teach us to pray as John also taught the disciples.’  (Luke 11:1)

The Lord’s people want to pray.

Most of the Lord’s people want to learn to pray.

You are the one to teach them effective praying, pastor.

You do know how, don’t you?

Granted, none of us do it very well. Even the great Apostle Paul said, “We do not know how to pray as we should” (Romans 8:26).  So, we are not saying any of us do it as well as we should, only that we know enough to be able to help others.

Here are some thoughts on the subject….

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The effective pastor: Be the host.

(This is the first of a series of article on “The Effective Pastor.” )

“…fulfill your ministry” (2 Timothy 4:5).

This morning as I had breakfast in the hotel dining room, a tall blonde lady entered the room and called out, “Good morning, everyone.”

I figured she had to be the manager.

She was.

Terri told me later–as I sketched her–she had been on the job just two weeks. “Before, I managed a hotel in Opelika,” a few miles down the interstate.  I complimented her on the way she greeted people. And I told her something.

I work with pastors. And I have to remind some that they are the manager of this enterprise. They are the chief greeter. The mood-setter.  The actual worship leader.

They are the hosts.

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