Tag Archives: preachers

Making Preachers Stronger — Mac Ballard

Of all the vocations I have had in my lifetime, none have been as worthwhile nor as fulfilling as preaching the Word of God.  I have been in “full time” work (which simply means you have no other means of earning a living) as well as “bi-vocational” work (which means you make your living some other way.  In either case, I considered myself a full-time preacher.

As fulfilling as it has been, it has not come without difficulties.  Paul once wrote about his own hardships:  “…in journeyings often, in perils of water, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren” (2 Co. 11:26).  While I will not put myself on the same level with Paul, I do believe young preachers and prospective preachers need to prepare themselves for the ill treatment they may receive.  I was reared in a large church that was at peace.  Our preachers did not receive harsh words, nor were they fired because somebody got angry with them.  I just naturally believed everything would be wonderful when I began to preach.  I would preach, everybody would shake my hand and tell me I did a wonderful job and they would all do just as the Scriptures I preached told them to do.  Well, things just did not go that way.

I do not intend to make this a pity party for me.  God has always been there for me and I have become stronger and I believe a better presenter over the years because of it all.  I do want to perhaps say a few words that will help some of you who are just starting out or are considering preaching.  It is a difficult field and you will need to love it to continue in it.  Some of this will be negative but I hope to present it in a way that will allow you to see how to avoid some common mistakes and will allow you to have many productive years in His service.

As the preacher, you will live in a fish bowl, or a glass house if you prefer.  Everything you do will be open for all to see and for all to criticize.  You will have your critics.  Your car may be no dirtier than any other member’s, but yours will be pointed out because you are the preacher.  You may preach a wonderful sermon that has everyone spellbound, and someone will point out that there was a wrinkle in your shirt.  You will preach too long, you will be too loud, you will use too many illustrations, you will put in so many scriptures that you lose people, or your hair will not be combed correctly.

My point is that you will need to know how to respond to all of this nonsense, which most of the time it will be.  The most advice you will get about how you should preach and what your job as a preacher is or should be will come from those who have never written or presented a sermon in their lives and have no intention of ever doing so…yet they are the experts.  You could decide you will not be pushed around and give it all back to them as they give it to you, but I suggest you buy shares of stock in U-Haul if you’re going to handle it this way because you will be moving a lot!

Rather, you must develop a thick skin if you do not already possess it.  It seems some Christians enjoy saying or doing things just to hurt the preacher.  You will prove yourself to be an unloving person who has no business in the pulpit if you talk to them the same way they talk to you.  “Well, Mac,” you may be asking, “just what are we to do exactly?”

First, consider the source.  When somebody is unfair to you, they may well be trying to compensate for some shortcoming in their life.  When I was an air conditioning technician, one fellow at our company seemed to feel that the only way he could move up was by tearing everybody else down.  You will find church members who are the same.  Some things you just have to learn to let roll off of you like water.  Many times it is in your best interest just to let it ride.  Eventually the truth will come to light.

Secondly, conduct yourself with dignity and professionalism.  By not getting down to someone else’s level, you will show people the best response to unfair criticism or ridiculous charges.  Mudslinging always gets you just as dirty as it does the other person.  Just do your job.  If you are doing what you should, the garbage they throw will not stick on you.  I am not saying you cannot and should not ever verbally defend yourself.  There may come times when that is necessary.  Just step back, evaluate the circumstances and do not charge in while you are angry.  Remember these words:  “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger” (Pr. 15:1).

Thirdly, and this is very important, realize that some will not conduct themselves in a Christ-like way just because they may call themselves a Christian.  Some may “talk the talk” but walk a totally different walk.  It has always escaped my capacity to understand what it is about being a church “boss” or “bully” that is so appealing.  What is just as much beyond my ability to comprehend is why the rest of the congregation will bow down to them.  You may very well find yourself in a situation where you are facing such a person and also find you have no support.  All the “friends” you have made may tell you they do not feel the way this person does but you will find their support is only in private.  After all, you can always move; they have to live there.  Never mind that you already moved your family miles away from their home and will have to uproot them again.  You will come to find out that some so-called Christians are selfish and will do what they think is best for them, which usually is not what the Bible says.

“Wow, Mac.  You have almost talked me out of preaching.”  That is not my purpose.  If, however, you are looking for an easy job with lots of money and benefits, I hope I do discourage you because you need to do something else.  Preaching is not nothing more than sitting behind a desk working on a computer, nor is it running around with other preachers all of the time and only working on Sundays and Wednesday nights.  I was told that a preacher who preceded me would not many other things not even related to his job during the week and on Saturday nights he would pull two sermons off of the Internet.  He will never grow like that.  Most importantly, he will never please God like that.

I have only scratched the surface of the potential problems which preachers may face.  You may be asking why anybody would want to preach with all of this going on.  Believe it or not, these are the very reasons we need men to preach.  Do you remember these words from Paul?  “I charge thee therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom: Preach the word; be instant in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine.  For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.  And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.  But watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, do the work of an evangelist, make full proof of thy ministry” (2 Ti. 4:1-5).

Paul was well aware of what Timothy would face (and by extension we as well), but he also knew the souls of man were at stake.  We must preach and stick with it because the world is dying without Christ.  Many churches are dying because they have turned from Christ and are following their own paths.  Somebody must tell them.

Young preacher — whether you be young in age, faith or time in the business — be prepared for many trials.  Satan will not pass you by because you are a preacher.  Temptations and trials will affect you just like they do everybody else.  Yet, you will find there is no greater work in the world you could be doing.

I don’t want to leave anybody with negative perspectives about preaching.  I believe it is the greatest thing a man can do.  You please God by doing so.  Consider more words from Paul:  “For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe” (1 Co. 1:21).  Souls cannot be saved without the message of the cross and will not hear the Word without a preacher.  “How then shall they call on him in whom they have no believed?  And how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?  And how shall they hear without a preacher?” (Ro. 10:14)

You also will meet many of the finest people in the world.  There are those who will stand with you as long as you preach the truth no matter what.  They will be there to catch you when you stumble and be a shoulder for you when things seem to be too hard to continue.  You will perform weddings for their children, visit them in the hospital and perform funeral sermons for their loved ones.  You will build friendships that will last for a lifetime.  I wouldn’t miss that for all of the money in the world.

Finally, you will grow spiritually.  If I were not preaching, I doubt I would be where I am as a Christian.  You grow because you teach others and go through trials with them and for them.  This puts you closer to Christ and better able to show the world that Satan will not win.

Don’t be discouraged by anything I wrote.  Expect the best and be prepared for the worst.  Always remember God is in control and we have already won.  We just need to hang on and help others to do the same that we may win the prize.  “But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Co. 15:57).

macballard@yahoo.com

Mac Ballard presently preaches for the Centertown Church of Christ in McMinnville, TN.  He is married to Diane Ballard and they have four children, eight grandchildren and one on the way.

 

The Weekly Challenge — Dale Jenkins

Sundays seem to come about every seven days.

Most of us who preach prefer to just pick up our Bible and preach. But if you preach for every long at all you have to begin to evaluate what is most needed by a specific local church at a specific time.  Is there a need for lessons on leadership, on modesty, on humility, on evangelism, on handling disaster and difficulties, on dealing with disappointment. Yes, yes and yes. But the skill of knowing what to preach when is a very real one. It is as it was with the sons of Issachar, “…men who had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do…” (1 Ch. 12:32).  One of the questions that most often comes to us at The Jenkins Institute is “How do we know what to preach each week?”

Beyond that the next challenge is what resources do we choose?  Yes, our best is always to let the Bible be its own best interpreter and its on best commentary but even the sharpest of Bible students gets stuck sometimes with understanding a text, expositing a text, and applying a text properly.  While the Internet has provided us with many more materials, this is not a case where more necessarily means better.  Yes, there are more useful tools…but there is also much more junk out there. Sometimes with design skills and marketing savvy a false teacher can get more connection and influence than one who loves truth (Ro. 16:17-18).  Has there even been more of a need for wise discernment (Pr. 15:21; He. 5:14)?

When David Shannon approached me about the need to emphasize certain important Bible words, the significance of preaching the meaning of those words and of solidifying their place in the church, I agreed. When he unveiled a team of guys to work on a project, it was exciting!  As he talked more, it was of the many preachers who work full-time in the marketplace and struggle to eek out time for research and preparation.

We have noticed that in the church today, our Christian “vocabulary” is often lacking; we often use terms and just assume everyone knows what we mean. Our target audience would be any Christian who wants to learn more about some key terms in the Bible (grace, redemption, etc.). We envisioned a tool that would NOT provide a shortcut or write sermons for preachers but that would help them with their research on these words. We developed a list of nearly 100 Bible words and then narrowed that list down to one for each week for a year of Bible study.

Then we began to dream of a separate tool that would continue the lesson preached or taught on Sunday.  We asked, “What if there was a resource that helped your congregation grow together for an entire year?” So we determined to lead in creating such a tool.  To do that we invited 53 preachers to each write 5 daily devotionals to compliment the word emphasized that week. For instance if the word of the week was “kingdom,” there would be two tools. One would be for the preacher/teacher to aid them in the development of their lesson and the other would be a daily devotional thought for Monday through Friday of that week, each on the word “kingdom.”

The preacher/teacher resource includes three sections: “Understanding the Word” where the writer gives the meaning of the word in the original languages, “Reading the Word” that includes five biblical texts that show how the word is used in the Old and New Testament, and “Preaching the Word” which includes four of the following seven sermon helps: Introduction ideas for approaching the word in the sermon; Illustrations; Quotes; Applications; Object Lessons; and Invitation Song Ideas. We wanted to avoid complete sermon outlines, but asked our writers to feel free to include brief suggestions that could help each preacher formulate a sermon. The lessons are arranged in a logical sequence but each preacher/teacher can have the freedom to change the order to their own best uses.

Our next desire was to get this material to as many people as possible.  What good is a useful resource if no one can see it. Each of the five of us committed to doing this for no personal pay or reimbursement.  The congregations we are blessed to serve (Mount Juliet, Graymere and Spring Meadows) each provided funds to help make this project come to fruition. We have been able to put together a first class, matte finish, professionally produced, roughly 300 page devotional book that we can make available for $3 per book.  It is our hope that a congregation will make these available for 2017 for each member or family in their congregation. Imagine a church of roughly 100 members being able to provide a book that unites the entire congregation in an important and faith-building study for an full year for $300.  The preacher/teacher tool will cost roughly $4 and will include both a book and a digital download of that material.  This will help the congregation in a much needed emphasis of great words from God’s Word.

You can read all about it and contact us or order resources at OneWordStudy.com.

dale@edge.net

Dale is the minister of the Spring Meadows Church of Christ in Spring Hill, TN.

 

Life As A Preacher’s Wife – Emily Hatfield

Recently, my husband did an amazing job delving into 1 Corinthians 7 and answering some tough questions about the passage. Throughout the sermon, he made observations about marriage and focus and the husband and wife relationship. As I sat there, I realized I was the only person in the audience who really knew if I should respect the words coming out of his mouth. No one else is married to the preacher. No one else really knows how he treats his wife. No one but me, the preacher’s wife.

There are a lot of women who seem to despise the role of preacher’s wife for one reason or another. Be it the glass house, higher (and sometimes unrealistic) expectations, seeing ‘behind the curtain’ into unfortunate conversations and attitudes…who knows. Some women just really seem to not enjoy being the preacher’s wife, or even being called the preacher’s wife. Me? I don’t really get it.

As I was listening intently to the man I love open the Word that I love, I felt an incredible sense of blessedness. As a preacher’s wife, I get to be married to a man constantly engaged in deep Bible study. Married to a man who will consistently try to better himself, who will freely say I’m sorry, who will forgive me as Christ does. I get to be involved in many people’s lives. Help them through struggles. Greet them with love and cheer when their world might otherwise be in chaos. I get to teach, love, and serve in unique ways because of my proximity to God’s messenger. As one who wasn’t given the opportunity to fulfill that role (1 Tim. 2:12), this is the next best thing, isn’t it?

However, I can sort of understand where some women are coming from. They don’t necessarily thrive on being in the spotlight. They don’t handle awkward or probing questions well. They don’t enjoy being held to a different standard than others, but here’s the thing: we’ve got to get past all of that.

The fact of the matter is, if your husband is a preacher, you are held to a different standard. Your husband proclaims the word of God to groups of people multiple times throughout the week. He will speak on subjects like marriage, holiness, purity of speech and dress, and proper attitudes. Nothing he says will be taken seriously if his wife isn’t living what he preaches. Just like people won’t listen if his own life isn’t in order, the same can be said of his family. How could my husband have gotten into the pulpit Sunday and spoken boldly and confidently about God’s instruction on marriage if his own marriage wasn’t as God intended? It would have been hypocritical. And so, there’s a part I play in his preaching. There’s a standard that has to be different for me. Now, every Christian women should be striving to live to that standard as well, but other people’s souls don’t necessarily depend on that. In our case – they do. Souls will not listen to a preacher whose wife is out of control or standoff-ish. Souls will not feel at ease with a preacher whose wife seems to despise her role, wants to not be involved in all of the ways he’s asking the congregation to be involved. People will tune him out if they see his wife not behaving in a submissive way, a respectful way, a pure and holy way. People will laugh when he preaches on modesty if his wife is known for her low-cut attire.

It may not seem fair, but that’s the way it is. And I, for one, absolutely love it. Maybe it’s the competitive spirit within me, but when I know people are watching, I want to be better. When I know people will be studying me and my family, I want to be sure I am doing things exactly as Christ would have me to do them, lest they be lead in the wrong direction.

So, if you find yourself struggling in your role or nervous to get married to a preacher or bitter because people expect so much of you— change the way you think about it. Realize that God is using you in a unique way, and use your position as the preacher’s wife to help spread the truth of God through your pure, holy, Christ-seeking spirit and influence.

emilyhat.com

The Do’s And Don’ts Of Preaching – Justin Hatton

Imagine that as you near the end of your life you wish to pass on final instructions to your close associate of many years, a young man who will carry on the work you began. That is the context of Paul’s second letter to Timothy. He is to soon be executed and he wishes to tell Timothy one last time the essentials for being a good Christian minister.

Especially relevant to the discussion is the passage found in 2 Tim. 2:23-26. Paul was an inspired apostle of God to the Gentiles.   Timothy, probably about 30 years old at this time, had grown up studying the scriptures (2 Tim. 3:14-15) and had been the personal assistant to Paul for probably 15 years. Imagine the knowledge he had concerning the gospel of Jesus Christ! That is why Paul instructs Timothy concerning this knowledge. As a good gospel minister with deep knowledge of God’s word, there is one thing that should not be done with that knowledge and one thing that should be done with that knowledge.

Paul first tells Timothy what not to do with his knowledge, namely, do not waste it on “foolish and ignorant questions” (2 Tim. 2:23). It must be readily admitted that there are many questions about the Christian faith which are legitimate. Yet it is also true and important to recognize that there are questions which we cannot answer or which we cannot satisfy everyone’s opinion. Unfortunately, by using mental effort and time in attempting to address these questions, we neglect answering the essential questions others may have concerning more relevant, answerable, and eternally consequential topics.

It is sad to see members of the Lord’s church debate over issues which matter only in their own minds and not in the greater scheme of eternity. They do not take the loving path of Paul who said he was at liberty to do as he pleased concerning the eating of meat but that if such offended a weaker brother, he would not eat meat (1 Cor. 8:13). Instead, on account of the debate over such issues, strife is created, the very thing which is warned against in 2 Tim. 2:23!

Paul next tells Timothy what to do with his knowledge, which was to teach it in a loving manner (2 Tim. 2:24-25). Notice the words that are used throughout the passage: “not strive”, “gentle”, “forbearing”, “in meekness.” It is not enough to teach others; the teaching must be done in love, just as all Christian works should be done (1 Cor. 13). When we teach in love, we will look at the one we are teaching as a lost soul and not someone to win to our side of the argument. We will not be striving to teach them that they are going to hell because of an incomplete understanding of scripture. Instead we will gently and meekly encourage them to reap the rewards of coming to a more accurate knowledge of that scripture.

Sadly, this is not how knowledge is gained in our world in spiritual or earthly matters. It seems that the ones who scream loudest in convincing others their way is right are the ones who get the attention. Such an environment makes it more difficult to teach the truth in a biblical manner.

There is one final thing Paul instructs Timothy concerning the scriptural knowledge obtained by the young man. He taught him that it is not the Christian’s place to forcibly make anyone believe anything. This is such a difficult fact to grasp. We may think it easy for someone to read the scriptures and clearly see that they teach this or that principle. But there are other factors that may influence the way another sees those same scriptures and thus the principles they believe it imparts to them. That’s why Paul writes that it is God who may give the repentance and that it is the opposing individual who delivers themselves from the snare of the devil (2 Tim. 2:25-26). The Christian minister may throw the “eternal life buoy” to a drowning sinner, but it is the decision of the sinner to cling to that buoy or not.

While we should always rejoice when we convert someone to a knowledge of the truth by taking a stand for the truth, we should still rejoice even when we don’t convert them. Did not the apostles defend the truth before the council in Acts 5:17-41? Yes. Did they convert any member of the council? No. Did they rejoice for their defense of the truth? Yes (Acts 5:41). So too should we rejoice even when we do not convert the other.

Let us all be encouraged to use the knowledge God has given us in those ways that glorify Him and do good for our fellow man. Anytime we use our knowledge simply to cause strife or turmoil, we do not please God…even if our knowledge is correct. By doing so, we ourselves may be “taken captive by him (the devil) to do his will” (2 Tim. 2:26).

jhatton06@gmail.com

“Preach the Word…Do The Work of an Evangelist” – Michael Grooms

To stand before a group of people and proclaim the glorious gospel of Christ is at the same time the greatest honor and the most humbling experience.  It is the greatest of honors because the message proclaimed is that from the very words of God.  The preacher is a messenger of God, insofar as the message preached is indeed the word of God.  It is the most humbling of experiences because no man is worthy of the task.  The preacher must first examine himself before he proclaims the word of God to others.  Such an examination may reveal inadequacies in his life.  Having thus examined himself in the light of God’s word, having prayed for God’s mercy, and having applied the message to his life, he may then be ready to preach the message to others.  Even the great apostle Paul realized this truth.  He stated, “But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified” (1 Cor. 9:27).  He referred to himself as a chief of sinners (1 Tim. 1:15) who was placed into the ministry not because he was worthy, but because he was a recipient of the mercy of Christ, who enabled him and counted him worthy (1 Tim. 1:12).  Every minister of the gospel would do well to echo these sentiments.

The preacher is first and foremost just that, a preacher.  It is very easy for a preacher of the gospel to become inundated with many tasks and responsibilities as he feels the pressure to meet the demands and expectations of others.  This can lead to a life that is very busy, but sorely lacking in proper study and preparation to preach the word of God.  If one gives his life to the preaching of God’s word, then he should guard that charge from distractions that would diminish his ability to do so effectively.  The preacher is to “minister to the saints” (Rom. 15:25); that is, he is to serve them in their spiritual needs.  This is not the task of the preacher alone, but that of every Christian (Heb. 6:10; 1 Pet. 4:10). When the preacher capitulates to the expectations to do the work which God expects of every church member, he not only robs them of the fulfillment of having done their duty, but may find his duty as a minister of the gospel hindered.  Elders do well who protect the preacher from unnecessary burdens that hinder his ability to focus on the study and proclamation of the word of God.  The apostles had the wisdom to understand this.  When approached with the complaint that the Hellenist (Greek speaking) widows were being neglected in their care, the apostles stated that it was not fitting for them to “leave the word of God and serve tables” (Acts 6:2, NKJV).  They charged the church with the task of finding those who they would appoint to that task so that they could devote themselves “to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4).  While preachers are not apostles, they are to be ministers of the word.  The wisdom of the apostles should guide elders, deacons, preachers, and all members in being certain that each fulfills their own duties and responsibilities.

What makes a good minister?  In 1 Timothy 4, Paul warns the preacher Timothy of the impending departure from the faith and his duty to preach concerning the truth of God’s word.  He then states, “If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed” (1 Tim. 4:6, emp. added).  He continues to admonish Timothy to avoid “profane and old wives fables,” to exercise toward godliness, and to be an example to the believers.  He reminds Timothy to give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine.  Timothy is instructed to meditate on these things, to give himself entirely to them, and to “take heed to yourself and to the doctrine” (1 Tim. 4:13). This is how the Holy Spirit inspired the apostle Paul to define a “good minister.” A good minister will not fail to “preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2).  He will not shun to proclaim the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27).  He will speak those things that are proper for sound doctrine (Tit. 2:1).  

Unfortunately, the “corporate” mindset of our society has affected the way people define roles in the church today.  While there are many elderships which view the role of the elder as a shepherd, too often elderships conduct themselves as a board of directors.  This mindset has also affected how elders and church members often view the role of a preacher.  The preacher is identified as an employee of the church.  He is hired to preach and visit.  Often, he is hired to do the work that others in the church should be doing.  The plea of the restoration movement is to “Speak where the Bible speaks, be silent where the Bible is silent. Do Bible things in Bible ways, and call Bible things by Bible names. In matters of faith, unity. In matters of opinion, liberty. In all matters, charity.”  If the church is to speak where the Bible speaks and call Bible things by Bible names, then should not this principle define the roles of those who serve in the church?  The employer/ employee relationship that so often defines the role of preachers in churches is nowhere to be found in the scriptures.  The two epistles of Paul to Timothy and his epistle to Titus define the role of the preacher.  In Ephesians 4:11, the scriptures teach that God gave the role of evangelist, just as he did that of apostles, prophets, and pastors (elders).  Each of these roles was intended by God to fulfill a purpose in the building up of the church, “for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:12).  The roles of apostles and prophets have been fulfilled and are no longer extant. The roles of evangelists (preachers) and pastors (elders) as well as that of deacons (1 Tim. 3:8-13) are all ordained by God and defined in scripture.  It is proper for churches to support one who preaches to them, not because he is an employee, but because God has thus ordained (1 Cor. 9:14; Mark 10:9-10; 1 Tim. 5:18; 2 Tim. 2:6; Gal. 6:6).  By so doing, the church enables the evangelist to devote himself to the ministry of the word (Acts 6:4).   In John 10:12, Jesus spoke of the hireling who flees because he does not care about the sheep.  The church needs fewer hirelings and more servants of God in its pulpits!

It is imperative that evangelists and elders foster good relationships!  The failure to nurture such relationships has hindered the work of many churches.  Those churches which are blessed by elders and preachers who love and respect each other are empowered by such.  Stephen Guy has served the Lord’s church as both a preacher and an elder, as well as helping to train many preachers as a college instructor.  The following are the words of brother Guy as spoken to this author:

“Young and older preachers alike look for a congregation to spend their life in ministry.  The relationship between a minister and congregation has been compared to a marriage.  At the center is the elder/ preacher relationship.  The elders do make the final decision on the hiring and firing of the minister, and the minister answers to his elders as every member.  The relationship between an eldership and minister should be one of mutual love and respect.  However, in a number of congregations a corporate mentality has crept into the elder/ minister relationship in which the elders act as CEOs and the ministers are treated or function as hirelings. The Bible says that elders are not to lord over the flock (1 Pet. 5:3).  This includes the sheep, known as the minister and his family. The shepherds are to treat every sheep in a godly manner. If the minister is not acting in a godly manner or being effective, they should be corrected in the same way as any other member, in love.  There are times when it is best for the minister and elders to part ways, however it should be done in love and be God honoring.  Elders and ministers who love the Lord, and one another, make for a great marriage.  Elders and ministers, if you are enjoying such a relationship, pray for and praise, publicly and privately, one another, and the congregation will follow your example.  One compliment from an elder can make a minister’s day, and one compliment from the minister will make an elder’s year.”

Michael serves as the pulpit minister for the Boiling Springs Church of Christ in Boiling Springs, SC.  He can be reached at gospelpreacher@charter.net.

Church Leadership Causes Growth – Jon Mitchell (Editor’s Page, November/December 2013 Issue)

Church growth.  Growing the church.  Causing both spiritual growth in the brethren through edification and numerical growth of the congregation via evangelism.  I’ve yet to meet any Christian, especially any preacher, elder, or deacon, who honestly denied wanting their congregation to grow in these ways.

To my knowledge, there is only one passage in the entire Bible that very specifically spells out what causes church growth.  Sure, there are many passages to which one may go which give principles and examples of church growth…but only one which directly says, “Do this, and the church grows.”  That would be Ephesians 4:16:  “from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love” (ESV, emp. added).  Contextually, Paul defines the body as the church (1:22-23; 5:23).  Therefore, God is basically saying that the church grows “when each part is working properly.”  The church grows when each member is working.

That’s where godly leadership comes in.  There’s a reason God refers to the church as a whole as “the flock” (Acts 20:28) and to elders as shepherds or pastors (Acts 20:17, 28; 1 Pet. 5:1-4).  In his wisdom, God knew that Christians, no matter how sincere, do not grow properly without proper leadership, just as sheep never get where they need to go without a shepherd to guide them.  That’s why just a few verses earlier in Ephesians 4 he mentioned the very reason he gave the church the New Testament writings of the apostles and prophets and the teaching and guidance of evangelists, shepherds, and teachers:  “to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ” (Eph. 4:11-12).  Proper church leaders will equip each and every saint in the flock to serve the Master and spiritually build up each and every soul under their care.  When that happens, the church grows.

This issue is dedicated to church leadership.  You’ll read an article about elders written by an elder, an article about deacons written by a deacon, and an article about preachers written by a preacher.  You’ll also read about how God wants us as Christians to treat the leaders of the church, something which many in the church need to know if the church is to grow.  After all, the people perish without vision from their leaders (Prov. 29:18), and leaders can’t develop a proper vision for the church when they’re continually distracted by the fires of ungodly backbiting, petty criticism, and unrighteous judgment.

Elders, deacons, preachers, teachers…read these articles with an open heart and an open Bible.  Study 1-2 Timothy and Titus to see what kind of men God wants preachers, elders, and deacons…and all Christians…to be.  Elders and deacons, study the example of Acts 6:1-6 and apply it to your relationship with each other.  Preachers, deacons, and members, study the commands of 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13 and Hebrews 13:17 and apply them to your relationship with your elders.   Shepherds, study John 10:1-5, Acts 20:17-32, 1 Thessalonians 5:14-15, and 1 Peter 5:1-4 to see what your job description is according to your Lord.

May we all strive to work harder to serve our Master in his kingdom!

jonandelizabethmitchell@hotmail.com

The Challenge To Grow A Church – Brock Shanks

In the first century, multitudes of people abandoned their lives of sin and wickedness and obeyed the New Testament pattern (Acts 2:36-42; 4:1-4; 5:12-16).  Today, the absolute necessity of teaching the same redeeming power of the gospel to every accountable person is just as urgent.  Are we preaching the same pure gospel that the apostles preached?  If we are abiding by Galatians 1:6-9, the answer would be yes.  The seed of the kingdom is still the Word of God, and the soil upon which the seed is sown is still the hearts of men (Luke 8:4-15).  Has the seed lost its potency?  Absolutely not (1 Pet. 1:22-25).  In order for results to occur we must, therefore, get the seed upon the soil and plant the Word of God in the hearts of men in the most effective way possible.  In view of the ongoing challenges facing the growth of the local church, our methods of evangelism must never grow stale or become ineffective.  If our methods are not effective, we must prayerfully and properly examine ourselves and find the most expedient manner of fulfilling our obligation to evangelize.

When considering all of the aspects and prospects of evangelism, no expedient method, person, or group of people can be excluded.  Effective evangelism must occur in places other than within the walls of our building.  More often than not, the majority of the families living in the houses surrounding our buildings are lost.  We need to visit them in their homes and encourage them to attend our services.  Door knocking is still an effective method of evangelism.  We must never doubt the battle-tested ways of former years (Jer. 6:16; Acts 5:42).  We might be pleasantly surprised at the effectiveness of a well-organized summer afternoon spent knocking on doors and setting up Bible studies in our local communities.  Different methods of evangelism can indeed help the small local church to grow.  However, we must always be diligent and prayerful in our endeavors.  We must be steadfast in asking our Father in Heaven to help us in our evangelistic efforts (James 4:2).  We must realize that faithful prayers alone cannot take the place of obedient action coupled with a spirit of humility (James 2:26; Luke 17:10).

With these thoughts in mind, let us consider the following four different methods of evangelism that should aid in the growth of small local congregations of the Lord’s people:

  1. Restoring our wayward brethren is one method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  The word “evangelize” simply means to announce the good news to another.  The good news to our erring brethren is that they no longer have to continue in their terrible state of rebellion.  There is hope if they repent and confess their error (Acts 8:22; 1 John 1:9).  Some wayward members of the church have been away so long they may not even remember why they stopped attending.  Others never forget past mistakes, nor allow anyone else to forget.  We need to take the time to patiently explore the matter and continue seeking the proper avenues of correction.  Was their departure due to a former preacher’s poorly worded sermon, or feelings of apparent neglect from the leadership, or possibly financial stress?  Perhaps there was no particular reason at all.  Regardless of the circumstances, these individuals are souls that are lost and need to abide in the doctrine of Christ in order to have fellowship with God (1 John 1:3; 2 John 9).  They have obeyed the first principles of the gospel and need to be restored to the fold (Gal. 6:1-2).  Therefore, we must evangelize our erring brethren.
  2. Equipping our faithful brethren with the whole armor of God is a second method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  Every aspect of the armor of God is in reference to understanding and implementing the gospel of Christ (Eph. 6:10-18).  The good news directed toward our faithful brethren is that, when properly equipped, they can accomplish greater things for the Lord in His kingdom than they ever thought possible.  Can we grasp the concept of an entire congregation of the Lord’s people in which every member is prepared to give an answer for the hope that is in them with meekness and fear (1 Pet. 3:15)?  Imagine the difference that would make in our workplaces.  Instead of being unprepared to answer the denominational and worldly quibbles, we would be ready to calmly and patiently discuss and refute any and every Bible topic without hesitation.  Great are the opportunities for evangelism in the workplaces of well taught members of the church.
  3. Advertising all upcoming events taking place at the building is a third method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  We generally send our gospel meeting flyers to the congregations in the (somewhat) surrounding area, and yet fail to place flyers in our local businesses.  Although we love for our brethren to attend our meetings, our hearts would rejoice to have just as many or even more visitors from our local communities.  We pray that the day and hour has not come in which we have gospel meetings only out of habit and not due to a sincere desire of seeing souls snatched out of the fire (Jude 22-23).  Adequate advertising in the local community can be a greater asset than we believe.  This is an excellent opportunity for some lost soul to see a welcome invitation to hear sound doctrine!  We never know who is searching for something better or who may be receiving the House to House/Heart to Heart publication and visit our services for no other reason than sheer curiosity.  Brethren, we must sow righteousness abundantly in order to reap righteousness abundantly (Gal. 6:7-9)!
  4. Perfecting our love toward one another is the fourth method of evangelism in which the small local church can grow.  You may not think this to be a method of evangelism, but it is an important one.  Imagine for just a moment that you are a visitor at the congregation where you regularly attend.  Is there a feeling of tension in the air?  Do you observe individuals who do not shake hands or even look each other in the eye?  If we can see it, our visitors can as well.  Visitors have a knack for being aware of tensions that are unnecessary in the assemblies of the saints.  Our manner of life must always be in harmony with the gospel of Christ (Phil. 1:27).  There is nothing more discouraging than for visitors from our communities to detect disharmony among the Lord’s people.  The disharmony amongst us will cripple our efforts of evangelism.  The Bible commands us to love one another (1 John 4:21).  What doth hinder us?

We must always strive to find the most effective way to accomplish the greatest good for the kingdom.  We must be convinced that the fields are white unto harvest (Matt. 9:36-38; John 4:31-38).  James says we must be “doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  When the love of evangelism gets into a faithful congregation of the Lord’s people, the results will be evident and everlasting.

Lexington, NC Church of Christ