Preaching Through Mark

Oct 21

We are really excited to introduce you to our brand new ministry book available for Kindle, Paperback, or Download.

It is “Preaching through Mark” and contains 104 Sermon Starters to help you preach and/or teach your way through this wonderful Gospel.

                                
This dynamic resource contains 104 detailed sermon starters and is 220 pages long (paperback version). We are sure this will be a great help to you and your ministry.

We have made it available in 3 formats.
*For the Kindle Version, just go to THIS LINK if you are in the USA.
For other Countries, just click on your Country Code below:
*For the Download Version (in Word and PDF formats), just go to THIS LINK
(make sure and wait to be taken to the download page after you order.

*For the Paperback Version, just go to THIS LINK.

Thank you so much for being a part of The Pastor’s Helper.
In Christ,
Barry Davis
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Church Thermostat

Oct 14

28670

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How to Repair a Church in Mid-Flight

Oct 04

(Apology:  For the places where I have occasionally mixed my metaphors in this piece, readers may want to know that this is my spiritual gift . Thank you very much.)

Smiley Anders, humor columnist for the New Orleans Advocate, ran this story this week.

An automobile mechanic was removing the cylinder head from an engine when he spotted a well-known cardiologist in the customer area.  “Hey, doc,” he called. “Want to take a look at this?”

The eminent physician walked over. The mechanic said, “Look at this engine, Doc.  I opened its heart, removed the valves, repaired or replaced anything damaged, then put everything back in place. And when I finished, it worked like new.”

“So, how is it I make $64,000 a year and you make a million when we’re both doing the same work?”

The cardiologist said, “Try doing it with the engine running.”

Repairing a damaged church “with the engine running”–that is, in the midst of continuing operations–is much harder than starting afresh with a church plant and building it right and healthy from the ground up.  You’re making repairs “in flight,” so to speak.

By “repairing a damaged church,” we refer to any number of situations. Some we have encountered include these:

–The leadership is rotten to the core and needs to be replaced.  A small group of leaders have kept one another in office for decades, squelching all attempts at accountability, innovative ministry and outreach.  Major surgery needed.

–The church has no written guidelines (i.e., constitution and by-laws), leaving a vacuum which is filled by strong personalities determined to get their way.  A healthy written plan which sets up orderly procedures for selecting and replacing leaders can work wonders.

–The elected leaders are kind, well-intentioned people but without the courage to make tough decisions or the willingness to take a bold stand.  They need to be replaced as soon as the Lord raises up a stronger team.

–The Sunday School in that church is dead and needs to be replaced by an entirely new structure for teaching the Word and reaching people.

Fixing such churches would be easier if everything could grind to a halt and the church be “put on the rack.”  All the church members could retire to the waiting room and get a soft drink and read the paper. Meanwhile, in the service bay the ministers and other key leaders could open the engine, remove the defective components and replace them with parts straight from the factory with a full guarantee standing behind them.

Unfortunately, that’s not going to happen. Leaders will have to do surgery on this patient while the motor is still running and the car is tooling down the interstate.

It’s a great metaphor, and an apt one.

So, staying with the metaphor, the  Lord’s mechanic who would do heart surgery on a church “barreling down the interstate” will need skills in at least ten areas….

1) Leadership needs a clear vision on what needs to be done.

Unlike surgeons in the operating room, pastors cannot do exploratory surgery on their patient, the Lord’s congregation.  If a leader has no idea what’s wrong, he should bide his time and do his work and pay attention.  Do no surgery–i.e., make no large-scale changes–until the diagnosis is complete and He is certain of God’s leadership in this.

2) Likewise, the leader needs an equally clear appreciation for what not to tamper with, the areas which are keeping this engine running.

In a building, some walls are said to be load-bearing and some cosmetic.  Tear down a load-bearing wall and the entire structure is endangered. Likewise, with the church, some things should not be changed lest everything come loose.  Wait on the Lord, pastor.

Some entrenched leaders have been kept in place for decades because they are faithful and irreplacable. Remove no one just because they’ve held a position for ages. Young pastors in particular should respect the veteran workers who have kept the body of Christ functioning well through the years, and not be threatened by them.

3) Leaders will need good people skills.

In the medical field, they call this the “bedside manner.”  Any pastor intending to do major surgery on a church had better build a consensus among the people and earn the trust of his leadership.  The only way to do that is by faithfully serving them.  Given time, most will see whether the Lord’s servant is trustworthy.

4) The leader will need a support team.  No heart surgeon works alone.

This would involve professional staff as well as laypeople. A pastor needs to be constantly building his team, men and women who share his vision and the same commitment to Christ and this church which he possesses.

5) Leaders need courage. This is risky business and some patients die on the operating table.

Doctors often tell patients the risks of surgery as well as possible side effects so an informed decision can be made.  The risks may be expressed as, “If we do surgery, you have a (blank) percent chance of being well. If we don’t, you have a one-hundred percent chance of dying.”  In the same way, congregations need to know what they’re getting into when they vote to do the changes leaders suggest.

Both the patient (the church) and the surgeons (the ministers and other key leaders) should be equipped with Holy Spirit courage in attempting to revamp a church on life support.

6) Leaders need tenderness.

Sometimes leaders have to be very tender and gentle, and sometimes strong and plain-spoken.  If the leader is operating in the flesh (“Well, this is just the way I am; you knew that when you called me!”), many will be unnecessarily hurt and left wounded in the road as the others try to go forward.

7) Leaders need to give attention to detail.

Surgeons must be meticulous and have staffs just as devoted to getting the details right. In the operating room, a thousand small procedures protect the patient from infection and the team from error.

Among the church leadership team, someone should be checking to make sure proper procedures are being followed, that everyone has been informed, that resources are on hand, and eventualities planned for.

8) Leaders need patience.  Often the surgical team puts in long hours, and then stays close-by during the recovery.

Pastors trying to turn a diseased church into a healthy one need to remind themselves that this is often labor intensive and time-consuming.  They should not expect the changes to happen easily or overnight.  This is why the best and strongest churches tend to keep their pastors and staffs for decades. Churches with quick turnover in leadership almost never thrive.

9) Leaders require the full support of the patient.  

No cardiologist would attempt heart surgery without the agreement and participation of the patient.  Likewise, pastors cannot “fix” a church if the congregation is unwilling.

In counseling a young pastor who had taken a church of older members who assured him they want to change in order to become viable, I urged him to stay close to the membership and not assume that one show of hands a few years ago suffices for all time. Let them constantly be involved in decisions and periodically vote to go forward. Allowing them “ownership” will head off many problems.

10) Once leaders have learned to repair the vehicle “while the engine is running,” they should not assume this is a once-and-for-all operation.  As cars need constant tune-ups, churches are always needing maintenance and adjustments.

The exhausted leader will want to tie a ribbon on the patient as he/she/it is discharged from the hospital and take a vacation.  Bad idea.  Just as no patient can be pronounced as healthy forever, no congregation should be abandoned by its leaders who have written their constitution and bylaws, removed defective parts of the engine, and put good workers in their place.  Stay with this now.

We are not saying this is a one-man show and the pastor should do everything himself (and infrequently, herself).  Quite the opposite. And, just as firmly, we recommend that the pastor have close at hand staffers and other leaders who are constantly monitoring the congregation and can tell by the sound of that knock in the engine where the problem is.

Some are always knocking.  Pray for helpers with trained ears, pastor.

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“Good Sermon, Pastor!”

Sep 30

28797

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Eight Things Pastors Do When Their Churches Are in a Slump

Sep 22

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By Thom Rainer

The meaning of “slump” is more evident in sports. When a baseball player, for example, is in a slump, we surmise that he is not hitting as well as he was earlier in the season.

For churches, however, there is no clear definition. Indeed, some leaders wonder if it is even right to say that a church can get in a slump. Still, some pastors say they church is in a slump if they are not connecting as well with members as they once were. Others declare a slump if attendance or offering numbers are down. Still others have a more subjective sense of a slump that defies a clean or clear explanation.

But many pastors will tell you about times when their churches were in a slump. Some will admit that the slump is present tense. So I asked a number of pastors how they react when this reality hits them. What do they do to lead their churches out of this perceived slump?

The pastors shared with me eight consistent responses. I list them in the order of frequency that I have heard them.

  1. They sought the advice of a leader outside their specific church. Sometimes that person was the pastor of another church. On other occasions it was a denominational leader or a church consultant.
  2. They refocused on the vision of the church. A number of pastors indicated that the church had “lost its way.” So they spent time reminding the congregation of the vision of the church. Of course, this approach presumes the church has a clearly articulated vision.
  3. They led the church to more outwardly focused ministries. Some church slumps were the result of the congregation becoming too inwardly focused. One pastor led his church to “adopt” an elementary school in the area. The members became motivated and enthused as they did whatever the principal and other leaders of the school told them the school needed.
  4. They sought a trusted confidant to evaluate their leadership. This reaction is similar to number one. In this case, however, the problem was specifically perceived to be the leadership of the pastor.
  5. They spent more time in prayer. I suspect this and the next response were actually more frequent. Many pastors sought the face of God more intensely and more frequently for guidance out of the slump.
  6. They became more consistent in their time reading the Bible. Many pastors get into the trap of reading the Bible only to prepare sermons or lessons. I know. I’ve been there as a pastor. But pastors need the consistent nourishment of the Word of God beyond the time they spend studying it for sermons or lessons.
  7. They became more intentional about connecting with their members. One pastor made a commitment to hand write one letter a day to a church member, write two emails a day to a member, and make one phone call a day to a member. The purpose of each piece of communication was brief encouragement and gratitude. It took him less than 30 minutes to do all of them, and he was consistent in it four days a week. In one year’s time, he connected with 800 members.
  8. They set aside time on the calendar during the week to dream. Pastors are on call 24/7. Life can become hectic and frustrating. One pastor sets aside two hours a month to go to a private room to dream about the future of the church. The time is a fixture on his calendar. Sometimes he prays. Sometimes he reads about God’s work at other churches. And sometimes he writes ideas and thoughts. The process invigorates him, and he can thus lead the church with greater enthusiasm and clarity himself.

These responses to a slump could really apply to any Christian leader. In this case, I listened to pastors.

So . . . can you sense when your church is in a slump? What is it like? How do you respond?

This article was originally published at ThomRainer.com on September 15, 2014. 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.

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Pastor’s Poll

Sep 17

online poll by Opinion Stage
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Whatever it takes!

Sep 16

46149

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