I watched in horror as the televised explosion of the space shuttle Challenger played again and again on the special news report. On that fateful day of Jan. 26, 1986, seven men and women were thrust into eternity in an instant. I could barely process what my eyes and ears were telling me.
Only moments after Challenger's apparently successful launch, something went terribly wrong. It started out as just a little problem, but the results of that problem mushroomed into the worst tragedy in the history of the United States' space program.
What went wrong? A simple O-ring gasket on the solid-fuel rocket booster failed. Fuel began to leak and suddenly ignited. The resulting explosion was so fierce, it hurled the cabin with its seven occupants toward the earth at speeds greater than 200 miles per hour.
In just two minutes, the disaster was complete. The astronauts struck the chilly Atlantic with unimaginable force. The last recorded words came from the captain, "Ought ... Oh!"
All of the expertise, planning, money and manpower that went into that mission came to less than nothing. Not only did the rocket fail, but seven people lost their lives as a result.
Unfortunately, some churches and ministries experience failure much like that Challenger mission. They take off like a powerful rocket—all systems go and on target—and then something goes wrong. Some little problem occurs, and the next thing anyone knows, a promising ministry has exploded and crashed in utter ruin. The wreckage is costly and severe.
As a young pastor, I wanted to lead a successful, growing church—not a failed church. But how could I be sure of success? I didn't want to overlook some little problem that could lead my ministry to ruin. I had never pastored a church before; I wondered what to do. How could I be certain that no "O-ring" would be neglected as my church began to lift off?
I heard advice from self-appointed, shoot-from-the-hip advisors who eagerly offered unsolicited opinions. I received phone calls from several ministers, offering "words of wisdom," whose own ministries were struggling to survive. From this I learned advice is cheap.
I wasn't interested in counsel from unqualified advisors. I was, however, interested in counsel from those experiencing success and those who were leading thriving churches and growing ministries. So, I sat about studying the most successful ministries I could find.
I began by taking 20 of the nation's greatest churches and ministries and studying them with reasonable concentration. I read their publications, sent for their media, attended their seminars, asked questions, conducted research, took notes and compiled data. My research revealed that every successful ministry shared 12 key points. Like common threads, these principles were woven into each one of the 20. Further research of over 120 other successful ministries showed that each successful ministry had these principles in force.
These 12 principles seemed like the rocket engines that lift a ministry off the launching pad and push it into successful orbit. I call them "the 12 rocket engines of successful ministry."
Picture your ministry as a rocket with 12 engines. The success of your rocket depends on igniting all 12 engines at once and checking to make sure they continue to operate efficiently. When all these principles are applied, you will find they have a synergistic effect on your success, and your ministry will abound more than you ever dreamed possible.
Briefly, here are the 12 rocket engines that will lead to ministry (or business) success:
Engine 1: Prayer
"Except the Lord build the house, those who build labor in vain; except the Lord guards the city, the watchman stays awake in vain" (Ps. 127:1). To grow, leaders must embrace the certainty that only Jesus Christ builds that which becomes fruitful and eternal. Without his involvement, failure is inevitable.
Prayer brings power, anointing and supernatural results. It is better to spend one hour laboring in prayer, thereby experiencing success than to spend ten hours laboring in the natural without success. Work is never a substitute for prayer!
A church member began working at a car dealership which I visited. I looked on the wall and saw that he was salesman of the month for the past seven months (and he had only worked there less than eight months). I was impressed and asked him if he read and listened to a great deal of motivational material?
"No," he responded, looking as if he were stunned I would ask that question. "I just get up every day and invest time praying that God will send me people to whom I can help provide a great car." That's it.
We offered prayer meetings at our church at a variety of times so that everyone could participate in a special prayer meeting each day of the week. I was amazed at the positive response and participation from members of my church to well-organized, purposeful prayer meetings.
This corporate emphasis on prayer has led to an authentic knowledge that Christ continually directs and guides us.
Engine 2: Attitude
A ministry, business or church that has a desire and attitude to grow will grow. A computer analysis of 50 churches found a clear relationship between growth and the members' attitudes toward growth. Attitude is the key.
As a pastor, I felt responsible for inspiring the congregation with a corporate desire for growth. I continually highlighted the benefits of a growing church. If a plant isn't growing, it's dying. If a church or business doesn't grow, it will die too. Solomon said, "The desire of the righteous shall be granted," (Prov. 10:24b). The effective ministries and kingdom businesses that are growing today have a united attitude and desire for growth.
Engine 3: Vision
Mountains will move aside for the leader who embraces a God-given vision. Conversely, a ministry or business without a vision will flounder like a car stuck in the mud. Though church members or employees may be expending vast quantities of energy pushing for growth, without a vision, they will just be spinning their wheels.
It is my conviction that the pastor of the church—or the leader of a ministry or business—has a vested duty to seek the Lord for his or her vision for that ministry and then to share that vision with the people. When I began to share the vision God gave me with the congregation, the effect was immediate and overwhelming. Our services started overflowing! The additional benefit of sharing God's vision allowed people to identify where they could fit into the big plan God had given.
Engine 4 | Atmosphere
A warm, exciting, non-judgmental atmosphere is indispensable to church and business growth. Friendly greeters should meet everyone as they come through the doors. Smiling staff with helpful attitudes should minister to the needs of the regular attendee and visitor alike, as well as customers and clients, if you operate in the marketplace.
There are so many ways to show people they are loved and welcomed. Attractive, well-landscaped grounds, clean bathrooms, clear direction signs and helpful workers are just a part of what it takes to provide a welcoming atmosphere. You want people to feel enveloped with love the moment they step into your facilities.
Engine 5: Teaching
Bible truths and principles must be expressed in fresh and practical ways, both in the church and in the marketplace. Clear, direct, easy-to-understand teaching and training is the best. The Bible says, "A wise teacher makes learning a joy," (Proverbs 15:2a TLB).
Engine 6: Delegation
Education should always focus on the desired result. The desired result of Christian education is to equip the saints "for the work of the ministry" (Eph. 4:12). Recognizing their own limitations, pastors of growing churches must educate and delegate qualified, reliable individuals to share in ministerial duties. Read Exodus 18:13–26 for God's solution for Moses when his ministry overwhelmed him. That same is true in business ventures.
Engine 7: Visibility
"Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel" (Matt. 5:15a KJV). When something special is happening, don't keep it a secret; let the community know. Newspapers, radio and television stations are happy to make public service announcements. Also, invest in quality advertising and make good use of the internet. Using all these methods to get the word out pays off in increased attendance.
I invited my friend, Craig Wieland, owner of a multi-million-dollar construction company, to address our marketplace leaders in a conference. I asked him to share his greatest failures and how he overcame them. Before Craig's success as one of the largest construction companies in America, one of his failed ventures was a barbecue restaurant. It had the best food anywhere in America. It failed, Craig told us, because, in an effort to save a little money, he located one block off Main Street. You can have the best, but if you're not visible, your success will be minimal.
Engine 8: Missions
There is a direct relationship between missions giving growth—both in numbers and in finances. When I was pastor, we tithed ten percent to missions on all money donated to the church, as well as matching every dollar directed as offerings to missions by the congregation. This practice resulted in phenomenal growth. Over the years, the church I pastored sent away over $43 million dollars into missions. As our missions giving grew, every aspect of the ministry grew as well. The goal was to expand our outreach at home and abroad. If you are a Christian businessperson, you can apply the same principle by supporting a certain charity or mission for which you have a passion.
Engine 9: Faith Goals
Without specific short-term and long-term goals, there is no way to measure progress. Setting goals is the way to bring God's vision for the church or your business to reality. Each department leader should be responsible for setting goals and deadlines within the framework of the senior leader's overall vision. Each month, progress should be evaluated and recorded. This provides a vital means for measuring progress and assuring you stay on target.
Engine 10: Evangelism
Whether you lead a church or are a Christian businessperson, you must be concerned about the things on God's heart first. Putting His heart first will ensure your enterprise will have His blessing. Pastors can practice evangelism in three ways. First, encourage every member to be a soul-winner through friendship evangelism. Second, during every service, offer an opportunity for people to respond to an invitation for salvation. Finally, reach out to your community with healing teams, sidewalk evangelism, tracts, giveaways, special productions and the myriad other ways that bring the good news of Jesus Christ to the people.
My wife and I recently ate at a famous hamburger restaurant chain in California. Scripture verses were printed on the paper cups, bags and wrappers. Alexander Kerr of canning-jar fame put tracts in every box of jars.
Engine 11: Priorities
When you are hunting for quail, don't shoot at rabbits. Making sure every aspect of your ministry or business is bringing about the desired result will lead to success. No matter how good an idea or program sounds, if it doesn't bear fruit, it should be ruthlessly eliminated. Don't substitute "busyness" for high-priority involvement.
Engine 12: Service
If people flock to a local church or business, it is because they are receiving service that meets their needs. Great churches, ministries, and businesses search for ways to better serve the Lord, the congregation, and the community.
What causes churches and businesses to grow and ministries to succeed? The answer is summed up in Jesus' Parable of the Sower: "But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience" (Luke 8:15). Big churches and enterprises don't get that way overnight. As you persevere in applying these 12 principles, you will find that step by step, little by little, your venture will grow and produce abundant fruit. Your rocket will be successfully launched and in orbit!
Dr. Dave Williams served for over 30 years as pastor of Mount Hope Church in Lansing, Michigan, with over 500 outreach ministries around the world. Dave led the church in giving over $40,000,000 to world and local missions. His leadership training course, The Art of Pacesetting Leadership, is credited with catapulting one church from 226 to over 4,000. Another church went from 8 to over 1,000. His all-time best-selling book, The New Life: The Start of Something Wonderful, is a practical, step by step guide to help new believers become established in their Christian walk and has sold over 2.5 million copies. His latest book, Hope in the Last Days, is published by Charisma House. Dave now focuses on helping young ministers whenever he has an opportunity.
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