One Question You Must Never Ask in Ministry

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By Joe McKeever

“Sow your seed in the morning, and do not be idle in the evening, for you do not know whether morning or evening sowing will succeed, or whether both of them alike will be good” (Ecclesiastes 11:6).

Was it worth it?

You do not know which will succeed.  If both will.  Or neither.

Disciples of Jesus Christ must never try to calculate the cost/benefit of some act of ministry.

Our assignment is to obey. To be faithful.

We have no idea how God will use something we do, whether He will, or to what extent He will.  We do the act and leave the matter with Him as we move on to our next assignment.

Every pastor will identify with the following scenario….

Let’s say a family member of someone in your church is facing critical surgery in another city.  You get up at 3 am and drive the distance, and meet with the family just before the patient is wheeled into surgery.  You sit with the family and do whatever you can (prayer, conversation, witness, sharing Scripture–or none of these things, depending on the circumstances, on the prompting of the Spirit, etc).  Then, you drive home.  You have devoted most of the day to this one act of ministry.

Invariably, someone will ask the critical question.

“Was it worth it?”

Perhaps it was your spouse who asked.  Or a staff member.  Or just as likely, your own accusing heart raised the issue.

You answer, “God knows.”  As indeed He does.  And no one else, for the moment at least.

And He’s not telling.

What follows is my story.  You’ll have your own variation of it….

For all my adult years, I’ve been a sketch artist.  I draw people wherever I go.  When I preach in churches, the host will usually encourage the people to come early and/or stay late so I can draw them.  A typical drawing takes two minutes or less, and I can go three hours without a break.  Once in a while, I will drive long distances to draw only and not to preach.  Several times a year, I draw at wedding receptions. (The first weekend in January, I’ll be in East Texas sketching at the wedding reception of the daughter of a preacher friend.)

This weekend I’ll be at a local church here in the Jackson, MS area.  After preaching in the two morning worship services, I’ll be sketching people and speaking at a luncheon banquet.  Then, the following weekend, I will be sketching nonstop at a mega-church’s Christmas presentations (before and after each of the five events), from Friday night until late Sunday night.  The following week, I will do three Christmas banquets for pastors and spouses in Louisiana.  I’ll arrive early to sketch couples, draw right on through the dinner, get up and do my talk, and go right back to drawing.  It’s an exhausting evening.

But I love it.

What am I accomplishing with all this drawing and sketching?

Honestly, I don’t know.

A family member used to observe me dragging home late at night after a full evening of driving, sketching, and speaking.  Voiced or not, the question was always there: “So, why do you do this if it makes you so tired?”

I was too tired to answer. (smiley-face here)

But I can think of some reasons: I love doing drawing people, it seems to bless people, they pay me (often, not always), and when I stand to speak, the people I’ve sketched listen well. There’s something about the personal time we’ve had at the table while I drew them that seems to bond us enough for them to want to hear what I have to share.

I do high school programs on “lessons in self-esteem from drawing 100,000 people.”  I’ll sketch the kids before and after the program (teenagers love this), then draw the principal and coach during the session and deliver my 12 minute presentation.  Often, a few classes want me to come by and sketch them or give a talk to the art students on cartooning.  Finally, after several hours, the host pastor has to take me by the hand and lead me out of the building and toward a restaurant for nourishment, I am so drained.

And what did we accomplish?

There is no way to know.  And here’s the thing: I don’t need to know.

I do it because God has gifted me with this love for people, a talent for sketching them, and a delight in using the gift.  I walk up to strangers sometimes. “May I draw you?” (A woman with a floppy hat and earrings down to her shoulders, or a man wearing a cowboy hat and a handlebar mustache are just begging to be drawn!)

Friends think I use the sketching for a ministry of evangelism, that I’m winning a lot of people to Christ by drawing them.  I’m not doing much of that as they think or I’d like.  It’s hard to talk and sketch at the same time. And, when we have a line of people waiting, there’s little time for meaningful conversation.

So, what is accomplished?  I have no idea.  Perhaps it’s nothing more than to add a smile to someone’s day.  A little joy.  Or, to build a memory into their lives, when they find the sketch years from now.  And was that worth it?  Again, I do not know.

I do not need to know.

But I will keep on doing this as long as the invitations keep coming in, the fingers keep working, and the eyes and brain don’t give out.  The occasional bout with arthritis is a problem, but thankfully it’s rare and light.

None of us know

We preachers could ask the same questions about the sermons we preach and the ministry we give.  What was accomplished? Was it worth the many hours of study and prayer and work?  The many miles driven? God knows.

And we’re good with that.  Scripture commands: “Do your work heartily, as for the Lord rather than for men, knowing that from the Lord you will receive the reward of the inheritance.” (Colossians 3:23-24)

Whether we render a solo in church, serve a meal at the nursing home, preach a sermon in the jail, or sketch a few people in the mall, we do this “unto the Lord,” and leave the results with Him.

My friend Bertha bakes loaves of banana bread which she gives away throughout the year.  Jim, a deacon and a friend of 25 years, gives away chewing gum, thousands of pieces a year (the sugarless kind, he is quick to point out).  Stephanie takes her violin into nursing homes and hospital rooms and plays for people.

And when people ask, “Was it worth it?” or “Why did you do that?” we might just smile, but what we are thinking is something like “Ask the Lord who told me to do it. It was for Him.”

“When the Son of Man comes,” Jesus said, “will He find faith on earth?” (Luke 18:8)

Those who serve Him in ways large and small without knowing what He will do with their efforts know the answer.

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Used with permission by Joe McKeever. Joe is a Pastor, Preacher, Author, Professor, Cartoonist, Jesus Lover, Friend.

10 Reasons Why Many Churches Aren’t Evangelistic

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Eighteen months ago, I reported on a Twitter poll that asked why churches aren’t evangelistic. Since that time, I have followed up by asking the same question of church leaders in both evangelistic and non-evangelistic churches.

I could cite you a plethora of statistics that demonstrate the evangelistic apathy of most of our churches in North America. But I really don’t think you need much convincing.

Instead, based on my conversations, I will share with you those key reasons why we aren’t evangelistic. Here are ten of them:

  1. They don’t really believe people need Jesus. Unless church members and leaders really believe in the lostness of humanity without Christ, they will not be evangelistic. John 14:6 is a clear biblical statement on the exclusivity of Christ for salvation. Too many leaders and members only give lip service to it.
  2. Evangelism is spiritual warfare. In the most carnal sense, life is easier without being evangelistic. Spiritual warfare is tough. Sometimes it seems to be easier to go AWOL from the battle than to fight in the trenches.
  3. It’s hard work. From time to time someone will ask me, “What is the easiest way to get our church to do evangelism?” The answer is “none of the above.” Too many churches have become self-serving country clubs rather than obedient and sacrificial vessels of God.
  4. Evangelism requires intentionality. God did not say, “Share the gospel as you stay where you are.” He said, “Go” (Matthew 28:19). When you “go,” you have to know where you are going. That requires intentionality.
  5. Effective evangelism often requires we pray for the opportunities. Consider this challenge. Begin each day with a prayer that God will bring people in your path (or help you to see them) where you can be a gospel witness in word and deed. I have been amazed (though I shouldn’t be) how God has answered that prayer in my own life.
  6. Too many people have too many excuses. One church member told me the entire county where he lives was fully churched. In fact, he said there are too many churches. There are, he said, no gospel opportunities. I then showed him demographics that showed his county was 62% unchurched. His response? “I don’t believe that.”
  7. Too many churches are too busy to do evangelism. If your church has so many activities, meetings, and programs that your members never have time to develop relationships and share the gospel, your church is too busy. Some times Satan’s most powerful tool is to get us doing good things to the neglect of the best thing.
  8. Church leaders are not evangelistic. If the pastor, staff, elders, deacons, and teachers are not evangelistic, it is unlikely the church will be evangelistic. The church members will follow that disobedient example.
  9. Many church leaders and members don’t know their field or ministry area. Jesus said, “the harvest is abundant, but the workers are few” (Matthew 9:37). So where is the harvest field? Too many churches neglect their community because they are really ignorant of who is there and what their needs are.
  10. Evangelism is counter-cultural. If you want to be a people pleaser, don’t be evangelistic. Culture hates the gospel that says there is only one way of salvation. But if you want to be a God-pleaser, share the gospel. You may die doing it, but what an honor to pay such a price!

So what are most of our churches in North America communicating to the world with our self-centeredness and lack of evangelistic fervor? It’s simple.

We are telling the world to go to hell.

May God convict us of our evangelistic apathy.

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 5, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

SEVEN RELATIONAL SKILLS OF GREAT CHURCH LEADERS

SEVEN RELATIONAL SKILLS OF GREAT CHURCH LEADERS

They are the two most common causes of forced termination of pastors.

  1. Weak leadership skills.
  2. Poor relational skills.

Much has been written in the past decade on leadership skills. The body of literature on the topic is massive and growing. I certainly have little to add in a brief blog post.

It is for that reason I focus specifically on the relational skills of great church leaders. Admittedly, my approach is both anecdotal and subjective. But I have been in the ministry of working with church leaders for thirty years. I think my cursory overview would be supported by more thorough research.

Most pastors and church leaders have never received formal training in relational skills. Perhaps these seven observations of outstanding leaders will prove helpful to many of you.

  1. They have a vibrant prayer life. The more we are in conversation with God, the more we realize His mercy and grace. That realization leads to a greater humility, which is a key attribute of those with great relational skills.
  2. They ask about others. Listen to people with whom you have regular conversations. How many of them focus the conversation on you and others? A key sign of relational health is a desire to direct the conversation to concern and questions about others.
  3. They rarely speak about themselves. This trait is the corollary to the previous characteristic. Have you ever known someone who seems always to talk about himself or herself? They are usually boring or irritating. They are definitely self-absorbed.
  4. They are intentional about relationships. They don’t wait for others to take the initiative. They are so focused on others that they naturally seek to develop relationships.
  5. They have a healthy sense of humor. This trait is natural because the leaders are not thinking obsessively about themselves. Indeed, they are prone to laugh at themselves and their own perceived inadequacies.
  6. They are not usually defensive. Pastors and other church leaders deal with critics regularly. Sometimes a defense is right and necessary. Most of the time, the leaders with great relational skills will not take the criticism too personally.
  7. They constantly seek input. Their egos are not so tender that they are unwilling to receive constructive criticism. To the contrary, many of these leaders seek such input on a regular basis.

I speculate that over one-half of forced terminations have at their foundation poor leadership and/or relational skills of the leader. I hope this brief checklist will help you look in the mirror with greater clarity.

Let me hear from you about the issue of relational skills of church leaders.

 

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on May 16, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Five Reasons Church Announcements Cause Problems

5 Reasons

If your church has never experienced problems with church announcements, there is no need for you to read the rest of this post.

If your church is like the 95 percent of congregations that do struggle with announcements, please continue reading.

To be clear, I am speaking of verbal announcements made during a worship service. For this post, I am not concerned specifically about the digital announcements that appear on a church website, a screen before or after worship services, or a church newsletter. This issue is all about those times when someone stands up to speak to the entire congregation.

So what’s the big deal about church announcements? How could something so innocuous cause problems? Here are five reasons:

  1. Someone’s announcement is left out. On more than one occasion, announcements are left out either inadvertently or by design. A person feels slighted because his or her area of ministry or activity is particularly important to them.
  2. Someone’s announcement gets more emphasis than others. The reasons are the same as noted above. I actually heard one woman say she timed each individual announcement to prove the pastor showed favoritism. Sigh.
  3. The announcements take too long. More than one congregant has become frustrated due to the length of the announcements, especially if the issue in number four takes place.
  4. The announcements interrupt the flow of worship. Perhaps the worst time to have verbal announcements is after the worship service has begun. While singing, preaching, and the offertory definitely reflect acts of worship, it’s hard to see how the announcements fit in that category. If you have to make announcements, precede the worship service with them.
  5. Most people forget announcements. Try an experiment. Talk to someone you saw in the worship service one or two days later. See if he or she remembers the announcements. Probably not.

Some of these same issues play out in digital venues as well. People get angry or get their feelings hurt because of the placement or perceived priority of announcements on the church’s website or social media accounts.

The churches that seem to be handling the verbal announcements best are actually doing them on a very limited basis. The leaders make sure the announcements are important to the entire congregation, and that they reflect clearly a major issue for the church. Other announcements go to the newsletter or to the web site.

Unless there is an overriding reason, announcements that pertain to a small portion of the membership really should not be considered church announcements in any form. Usually there is no reason why the leader of that group cannot contact every person individually.

It is sad that announcements can be such sources of contention. It is a reflection of a self-centered “me attitude.”

But unfortunately the issue is very real in many churches.

Let me know what you think.

ThomRainer

 

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on April 11, 2016. Thom S. Rainer serves as president and CEO of LifeWay Christian Resources. Among his greatest joys are his family: his wife Nellie Jo; three sons, Sam, Art, and Jess; and seven grandchildren. Dr. Rainer can be found on Twitter @ThomRainer and at facebook.com/Thom.S.Rainer.

Pastor’s Poll

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