Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with a denominational leader in a different part of the country.
Over the last few years, he’s personally been involved in consulting engagements with about 60 declining churches within his denomination. That grabbed my attention. Honestly, I don’t have a lot of experience working with churches that are in decline.
With that in mind, I was curious to learn if there were any common themes. Within moments, he rattled off these five attributes of churches he’s worked with that are in decline:
“The LORD is my light and my salvation; I will fear no one. The LORD protects me from all danger; I will never be afraid.” (Ps. 27:1, GNT)
The fear of rejection is based on two things. First, we all need to be loved. That’s a fact. We all desperately need massive doses of love in our life to be healthy individuals. God says, “I want to love you.” God is love, and he knows you need to be loved.
But, second, we develop the false idea that our need to be loved is solely dependent upon one person or a group of people. When you expect someone else to meet 100 percent of your need for love, you’re asking for trouble. You’re setting yourself up for hurt and opening the door for the fear of rejection. When you look to any other person besides God to meet all your love needs, he or she can’t. There is no human being alive who can love you as completely and as fully as you need to be loved, and there never will be. Only God can do that.
Are you praying for insight about how your church can impact the unchurched? I remember thinking: If our church ever becomes popular among the unchurched, we'll sure be able to do lots of good. After all, there are lots of people needing redemption in our community.
Think about this: Do you remember who led you to faith in Christ? Numerous surveys say it was probably a relative, friend or co-worker. One survey even claims that 97 percent of people who come to Christ do so through an existing relationship.
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us as so we can help each other.” (1 Cor. 12:7, NLT)
God has a unique role for you to play in his family.
This is your ministry, and God has gifted you for this assignment: “A spiritual gift is given to each of us so we can help each other.” (1 Cor. 12:7, NLT).
Your local fellowship is the place God designed for you to discover, develop and use your gifts. You may also have a wider ministry, but that is in addition to your service in a local body. Jesus has not promised to build your ministry; he has promised to build his church.
“There he went into a cave and spent the night. And the word of the LORD came to him...” 1 Kings 19:9 (NIV)
These sobering words penetrated my soul one day in prayer. It was a typical Thursday morning at the office. I was performing my daily routine of checking messages, answering phone calls and sorting mail when I heard a faint, but distinct noise coming from an area near the sanctuary. Knowing that I was the lone person in the building, I went to check to see if someone was attempting to break in.
As I walked down the hallway, I felt compelled to enter the sanctuary and pray for a few moments. This decision would forever change my life. I made my way to the front of the sanctuary and knelt at the altar.
Patterns and keys to seeing more of the miraculous
Being in healing ministry, I have witnessed the miraculous regularly and seen thousands touched by God each year.
I remember two times when the Lord spoke something to me out of His Word, and it gave me an insight that brought an increase for healing. The first instance happened about two years ago, and the second about a year ago.
The first came out of 2 Corinthians 4:13, where Paul said, “It is written: ‘I believed; therefore I have spoken.’ Since we have that same spirit of faith we also believe and therefore speak” (NIV).
I’d seen this Scripture many times, but when God quickened it to me, all of a sudden it took on life. All of a sudden I made this connection: Faith needs to be spoken. You can say you believe something, but if you don’t have enough faith to declare it, to speak it, there’s something that’s not released.
“For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Rom. 8:38-39 NIV)
There is no place that you can go where God’s love isn’t. You’ll never be separated from God’s love.
Nothing—no circumstance, no situation—can separate you, because God’s love is everywhere: “Neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39 NIV).
Paul spoke about being “all things to all men” (see 1 Cor. 9:22). His missionary journeys proved his ability to understand different people groups and adapt his message to meet them where they lived.
On the other hand, Paul considered himself called to be an "apostle to the Gentiles” (see Rom. 11:13). Sounds slightly targeted doesn’t it? How do we reconcile these two pursuits: to reach all and yet focus on only a segment?
Paul understood his strengths and his calling. Every church has strengths at reaching a “type” of people in its community. Though that might strike some as unjust, its truth defines both our strengths and the areas we need to grow.
Whether you are a church that is known for young families, old money, the upper class, the working class or the struggling class—whether you are known for deep followers, surface seekers, empty nesters or down-and-outers—there are tendencies as to whom you draw.
The unsaved see believers as hypocritical, and no different than themselves. Here’s how to live an authentic faith that stands out from “normal” American Christianity.
I hesitated to accept the gospel in college because of the behavior of people who claimed they were Christians. They were not much different than me. Their language, actions and behaviors weren’t so special that I viewed what they had as a better life. Why would I want what they had? What was so special or different about it?
When it comes to our culture, it’s more of the same. The music industry feeds our youth with profanity and sex, but then those same musicians stand up and thank “the man upstairs” at awards ceremonies. Our sports heroes party, use performance-enhancing drugs and get into fights, but then they kneel down and thank God the moment they score a touchdown.
What is the world supposed to think of this? Would the real Christians please stand up?
Evangelist Reinhard Bonnke took his soul-saving mission to Vero Beach, Fla. this weekend during a two-day Gospel Fest.
An outdoor tent set up at the Vero Beach Airport drew at least 5,000 worshippers from across the country hungry to hear the simple gospel Bonnke preaches—and sit under the anointing of the evangelist who has invited multiplied millions of souls into the kingdom.
“Every time I take the microphone I have one burning desire in my soul …” Bonnke told the crowd on Saturday night. “To see hell empty and heaven full!”
Bonnke is best known for his crusades in Africa and for his cry, “All Africa shall be saved!” More than 55 million Africans came to Christ under his ministry from 2000 to 2009 alone. During the Saturday night Gospel Fest the evangelist was focused on lost souls in America. Bonnke declared, “All America shall be saved!”
“It is God himself who has made us what we are and given us new lives from Christ Jesus; and long ages ago he planned that we should spend these lives in helping others.” (Ephesians 2:10 LB)
God calls you to a service far beyond anything you could ever imagine. You were put on Earth to make a contribution.
You weren’t created just to consume resources—to eat, breathe, and take up space. God designed you to make a difference with your life. You were created to add to life on Earth, not just take from it. God wants you to give something back.
The Bible says, “In our union with Christ Jesus he has created us for a life of good deeds, which he has already prepared for us to do” (Ephesians 2:10b TEV). These “good deeds” are your service to the world. Whenever you serve others in any way, you are actually serving God and fulfilling one of your purposes (Colossians 3:23-24; Matthew 25:34-45; Ephesians 6:7).
This month, I’ve been looking at multiple tools for looking at how people experience your church. Hopefully, these tools are helpful to you as you consider how you interact with people.
However, I think it is important to end the month of church health with the ultimate check up:
Does God show up?
When I first came to pastoral ministries, I was unfamiliar with the weekly rehash of Sunday morning. The pastor would start the conversation: “How did Sunday go?” For me, the only real question was this:
We have a moral responsibility to engage the largest humanitarian crisis in history
The AIDS pandemic remains today as the largest humanitarian crisis in history, and the church has a moral responsibility to become engaged. Every church, whether large and affluent or small with little in the way of financial resources, can make a significant impact in its community. Here are five practical steps to launch an HIV/AIDS ministry, based on the acrostic START.
Seeksupport from the pastors, elders or deacons of your church. Church leadership must understand why it is important to begin this ministry. Without their support, the ministry probably won’t succeed. Inform the leadership team about the number of people infected and affected—locally and globally—and about the reasons the church is best positioned to care for people who are HIV-positive. Write a purpose statement that clearly explains the aim of this ministry and how it fits within the scope of the church’s overall vision.
Talk about scriptural foundations for this with the congregation. Human emotion is insufficient as a rationale for beginning an HIV/AIDS ministry. It must rest on a scriptural foundation.
Editor’s Note: This is the third and final in a series of articles by Assemblies of God Pastor Kim Martinez on church health. Part 1Part 2
Jeffrey squishes his car into a parking spot, grabs his bible and heads for the church.
He is on his Sunday-best behavior. He dropped his wife and kids off at the door before parking on the back 40 and slogging through the slush to get into the sanctuary. As he enters the church, his brain starts to switch off. He has walked into the presentation zone. Jeffrey wants to engage in church, and he works hard at it, but every Sunday, he fights a simple problem—his mind tries to turn off when he enters the building. He hasn’t figured out the cause, but perhaps with a bit of thought, we can change the environment so that he finds himself energized and focused instead.
What better time than a recession to pool your resources and minister to the needy?
It started with a bag of groceries to meet a serious need in our community. From there, our benevolence requests went from six a day to more than 40 a day, and 15 percent of our congregation were out of work. At the peak of the economic recession, our community was hurting and needed real assistance. In response, Saddleback Church launched a food pantry.
People came to our doors the first day we opened them. Today we have fed more than 80,000 people in south Orange County, Calif. Our Food Pantry provides fresh and nonperishable grocery items to families in the community. Pick-ups are available once every 30 days and walk-ins are welcome on select days and times every week.
Within two years, our pantry turned into The PEACE Center, where we also provide free legal aid, immigration help, tutoring clubs, ESL (English as a second language) classes, medical services and many more services.
And the most amazing part is that more than 1,600 people have given their lives to Jesus because of the work done through the center. People come not just with hungry stomachs but with hungry hearts as well.
God’s adoption plan provides the church with the perfect ministry model
At the heart of orphan care at Saddleback Church is the desire to end the orphan crisis. We believe every child deserves a loving, lasting, legal, lifelong family of their own—and we believe this is doable. If every church empowered their members to care for orphans in ways that helped and didn’t hurt, the orphan crisis could be over.
Unfortunately, though there are still more than 163 million orphans and vulnerable children in the world today, little has been done yet to help orphansstop being orphans. As a culture, we’ve spent years trying to put Band-Aids on the orphanage institution. But children need more than food, shelter, clothing and education. We don’t want children to just survive, but to thrive—and children thrive in family.
At Saddleback, we began asking ourselves, “How can we end the orphan crisis, and is there something every church can do?” Here are what we believe are the answers to those questions.
It is 5:30pm. Sam comes through the door, intent on surprising his wife Sarah. He finds her stirring spaghetti with one child wrapped around her leg, and the other hollering from the bathroom.
Knowing he only has seconds before she is off to help the bathroom child, he whips out his surprise:
“Look what I brought you!” He announces, as he displays a dozen roses.
Sarah glances his direction, while picking up the Klingon on her leg. “Hmmm. Thanks. Can you take out the garbage?”
Not exactly the scenario Sam was looking for.
Gary Chapman tells us how to fix this disconnect in the Five Love Languages. Sam can learn to speak Sarah’s love language in a short amount of time, and those momentary interactions will deepen their relationship instead of leaving them both wanting.
I do not believe we can live in victory unless we realize there is power in what we say.
As believers, we need to be trained to understand the soul, which is made up of the intellect, will and emotions. Since it is full of "self" and does not want to submit to the Holy Spirit, it must be purified (see 2 Tim. 2:2).
Because we are free moral agents our own minds tell us what we think, but our thoughts are not necessarily God's thoughts. Our wills dictate what we want, despite what He desires for us. And our emotions govern our feelings, but our hearts should instead be subject to Him.
“Since everything around us is going to melt away, what holy, godly lives you should be living!" (2 Peter 3:11 LB)
Your commitments can develop you, or they can destroy you, but either way, they will define you. Tell me what you’re committed to, and I’ll tell you what you’ll be in 20 years.
It is at this very point of commitment that most people miss God’s purpose for their lives. Many are afraid to commit to anything, so they just drift through life. Others make half-hearted commitments to competing values, and that leads to frustration and mediocrity. Others make a full commitment to worldly goals, such as becoming wealthy or famous, and they end up disappointed and bitter.