Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Smaller Churches

Small Churches

One of the greatest blessings I enjoy is talking to church leaders from all over the country.  Everyone I talk to is deeply concerned about the future of their congregations.  Most of the folks I talk to are from smaller congregations of the Lord’s church.  I am told the average congregation of the church of Christ is between 50 and 70 members.   I am also told that every six days a church of Christ closes its doors forever.

I was recently in the state of Delaware and three of the churches from there met with me.   They all were small churches: the largest being 70 members.  I love to work with smaller churches because many of them of are really motivated.

There are several reasons why there are small churches:

  1.   Some churches are small because they are new churches.   You gotta start small unless you’re the first century church.    Every church plant starts small. When my dad was younger, he helped establish several congregations of the Lord’s church; they were all small at the beginning and it took years before there were several hundred members.
  2.   Some churches are small and they have no control over their smallness.  I preached at David Shannon’s home church in Brushy, TN for over three years.   Those Christians there did everything possible to reach the lost in their small community.   They built homes for those who lost them in a tornado.  They fed people.   They helped people with financial help.   The elders knew everyone in the community.   The church served and reached out. To this day they continue to do such things; these are wonderful dedicated saints. Few have come to the Lord because of their efforts.   Yes, sometimes the economy adversely affects a church and folks move away. Children grow up, leave for school and jobs.  These are things over which some churches have no control and thus they churches remain small.
  3.   Some churches are small because of neglect.   When a church aims at nothing (has no goals), it hits nothing with amazing accuracy.   If a church does not value souls and growth, it will die.   Its mission or purpose is being neglected.   Many good-hearted Christians love peace and comfort more.
  4.   Some churches are small because they want to remain small.   A few years back I was attending a preachers’ meeting in a large metroplex.   Several preachers had reached out to a smaller church in an up and growing suburb town.    The people (most of them related to each other in this church) had the opportunity to become a church over several hundred members.   They declined.   The did NOT want any other members, period.
  5.   Some churches are in a decline which leads to smallness.  I recently spoke to a sister in Christ out West who had been a member of a church of well over 200 members.   She married and moved away.    Having raised her family she had returned to her home town and her home church and they now have 60 members.   What happened?   The church had stopped growing and started to decline.  It is very difficult to reverse a decline in a church.

What’s my point? First, we shouldn’t be judgmental of smaller churches. Second, there is a place in this world for smaller churches. Third, I would say that most of the churches/congregations of the first century were smaller: they met in homes. Smaller churches, especially those which have goals, meet needs of her members and folks in the community around them. And then, we are told not to despise small things; in God’s eyes they have value and worth.

Whether your congregation is large or small, if you are faithfully serving the Lord, you are accomplishing what He established you for. God bless you.

In closing, I want to share the story of the church of Christ in Remmell, Arkansas.

A True Story About a Small Church That Is No Longer Small:

NEWPORT, Ark. — Finding a saint among the 170-plus souls who fill the rural Remmel Church of Christ on a typical Sunday can be difficult.
This congregation, in a northeastern Arkansas county where the sheriff estimated that 30 percent of adults use methamphetamines, overflows with sinners.
It’s been that way ever since the church, in a farming community seven miles east of the Jackson County seat of Newport, started reaching out to folks with drug addictions, marital problems and other personal hang-ups.
“One lady said, ‘Well, any old sinner can go to the Remmel church,’” said Lou Butterfield, the congregation’s pulpit minister and one of its seven elders. “And we’ve laughed about that ever since because that’s right.”
These days, a steady stream of cars and trucks — a modern-day wagon train — descends each Sunday on the yellow-brick church that sits next to an old cemetery.
Men, women and children, many dressed in jeans, drive 10 to 20 miles to where the pavement gives way to gravel — to worship at a congregation that stresses hugs and handshakes, love and acceptance, prayer and reliance on the Holy Spirit.
“The people are caring and go out of their way to help others,” said Brody Hubbard, who was baptized along with his wife and two children in February after attending a home Bible study group for about a year.
Everyone is welcome here, even elder Arvil Jones’ black Labrador, Drake, who walks two miles to services each week.
Since 2003, the Remmel church has baptized more than 85 adults and children. About three-fourths of those baptisms occurred as a direct result of evangelistic efforts, according to church records.
“Remmel is a great example of what a small rural church can do if it decides that it really wants to grow,” said Flavil Yeakley, director of the Harding Center for Church Growth in Searcy.
Fifteen years ago, this same congregation was dying.
Younger residents had abandoned the farming life and moved away. The community’s cotton gin and only store had closed. Sunday morning attendance had dipped to about 30, and many of the members who remained were less than on fire for the Lord.
“We had gotten so legalistic that it made everybody sick,” said Karen Jones, 43, an obstetrician/gynecologist who has attended the church since she was 2.
“If someone came in and announced that one of us had died, I don’t think we could have looked any more gloomy,” added Jones, a mother of three whose father, David Bowman, and grandfather, Morris Bowman, both have served as Remmel elders.
Butterfield, a communications professor at Harding University in Searcy, accepted the part-time preaching duties at the Remmel church 14 years ago. “Half of the time, I didn’t want to come,” he said. “It’s like, we were driving 40 miles to preach to 30 people, most of whom didn’t care.”
Butterfield decided he’d preach on serving others and see if the idea caught on. Growth came slowly at first, but attendance crept up to about 50 within five years, he said.
About that time, a handful of women in the congregation approached church leaders about offering a special Sunday night class for the community. The idea: to deal with topics of relevance — sex, marriage, drugs, debt management — in a non-threatening, non-judgmental manner that might lead folks to inquire about the organizers’ faith.
“Our friends were going to hell, and we were not doing anything about it,” said Jones, one of the women who pushed for the outreach effort. “We wanted to do something that was going to help with that.”
At first, Cokes and cookies were offered at the Sunday night classes. Prayers were not. Within a year, about 125 people were gathering each week at the Remmel Community Center, a one-time schoolhouse next door to the church.
One night, a guest asked if the class leaders would make an exception and pray for her sick mother. “From that night on, half the time we spent praying,” Butterfield said.
Many of the attendees found their way to the church on Sunday mornings. At the same time, the congregation hired a marriage and family therapist and offered free counseling. Many of those counseled were converted, too.
In the meantime, young people at the church started attending Camp Wyldewood, a Bible camp in Searcy. “They got absolutely convicted about Jesus,” said Jones, whose twin daughters, now 19, were among the campers. “They brought that home to us and just put us to shame about our pitiful little religion.”
Camp became a top priority of the church.
The congregation offered to send any child in Jackson County to Bible camp for free. Last summer, the congregation spent more than $24,000 to pay camp expenses for more than 100 young people, Butterfield said.
“We have baptized whole families because their kids went to camp,” he said. “If we quit doing everything we do, we’d send kids to camp. That’s our No. 1 evangelistic tool.”
In a similar way, the church found saving water for adults in the Buffalo River, about 100 miles north of here. Hoping to reach the husbands of wives converted to Christ, leaders organized family float trips on the Buffalo — and paid for them out of the church treasury.
“We have church services on the bank of the river on Sunday morning,” Butterfield said. “Nobody has to come. But … we’ve had people come who would never put their foot in the side door of the church.”
Shane Goings grew up in a Church of Christ, but drifted away as he became addicted to meth — a 20-year habit that twice landed him in prison. In 2005, he came to the Remmel church. Members helped him and his wife, Cheyenne, now the parents of 9-month-old twins, Aiden and Blake, financially and spiritually.
“Just through prayer and a miracle from God, I’m not behind those (prison) walls today,” said Goings, who now serves as the congregation’s addictions minister and recently helped convert seven county jail inmates.
“When you walk in the Remmel church, you know you’re welcome,” said Goings, who leads a Wednesday night addiction recovery group. “You just feel like a family. Man, I wouldn’t hesitate telling anybody in there anything I’ve got going on.”
Blue encouragement cards fill the back of the church pews. Members send hundreds of them to people all over the county and beyond. A few years ago, when John Walton’s son, Anthony, now 20, was dealing with a drug addiction, the congregation flooded the family with cards.
“We would also hear from many that we were on the famous Remmel prayer list,” said Walton, whose family knew many members outside the church but had never worshipped there. When members learned of the Waltons’ difficulty paying for Anthony’s drug rehabilitation, they collected $3,000 for the family, Butterfield said.
“We had already been so affected by their prayers and cards, but I will never forget the thing that David (Bowman) said: ‘We didn’t know of anything else to do, but we felt like this would help,’” said Walton, whose family soon started attending the Remmel church.
Sandra Hollenback first visited in early 2005 after a friend invited her daughter, Kaytlin, now 13. “It so happened that the service was a prayer service due to so many of the congregation facing serious illnesses,” Hollenback said. “I was moved to tears and weak in the knees when everyone was asked to gather around these individuals, place your hands on them or those around you and pray.”
Butterfield baptized the mother and daughter in the family’s pool about six months later. Her husband, Dennis, was immersed the following January, and son Sean, now 18, accepted Christ at camp that summer.
In the year after the baptisms, Sandra Hollenback said, “They taught our kids about the importance of purity, the struggles of addictions, took them to visit nursing homes, took them to New Orleans to assist in Katrina recovery … and the list seems endless.”
An airline pilot, farmers, bankers, college professors, homemakers, carpenters and even a funeral home owner make up this diverse congregation.
The common tie: a love of God and a belief that helping hurting people leads them to Christ.
“Remmel lifts up Christ,” Walton said. “People see Christ in the Remmel church, and they are drawn to him.”

What’s the secret?  There is no secret—when a church reaches out to people and meets real needs, the church grows spiritually and numerically.

What People Say About…

Positive & Negative Responses to

“Resolved to Involve” Retreats & Seminars, now…

Over the past two years, we have done several workshops to train congregations on how to start an involvement ministry.      We called these retreats/workshops “RtI” or “Resolved to Involve.”    We are now calling them SERVE Ministries Workshops.

Each retreat or workshop was evaluated by the participants.   Following are many of the responses of those participants including suggestions for improvements.    Please use these evaluations as possible recommendations for attending or for having a retreat or workshop.

The new retreats are about 3 to 6 hours and the new workshops are now a minimum of 13 hours. The workshops are only for those congregations that are serious about involvement and are willing to make a commitment to involvement. Having a retreat first may help them make the decision to have a workshop.  Retreats are fun and attenders enjoy them. Workshops are ‘work’ shops. You can see a workshop schedule on this website.

Following are many (not all) of individual evaluations.   Our retreats and workshops are designed to assist church leadership in designing a means to get all of their church members involved in ministry. 

There were 7 questions that I asked participants to answer in my evaluation (the new evaluation has only 6 questions).  I was pleasantly surprised by the answers.   The most negative thing that was shared was time related.   Some participants would have liked to have had the Power Point materials.  I am still thinking about that one.   A lot of material is made available for their use before, during and after the presentations. 

Following are the questions and some of the answers that came from dozens of participants:

  •  Was this weekend what you expected?   If not, what did you expect?

It was great.   It was better.   Yes, better.   The inter-active workshop was very good.   Many simply answered, “Yes.”  No, it was so much better than what I expected…It was very insightful.  I was pleasantly surprised by the presentation style…The handouts are great and allow/develop great insight.   More than what was expected.  It provided more information than I expected.  I was pleasantly surprised with topics as they related to discovering myself and others.   Yes, very helpful.    I found this information helpful for church involvement.    

  •  Was there material or information that you would have found helpful that was not presented?   If so, what information would you have included?

I did a three-hour presentation which really limited me and also limited much needed discussion; following are some of the responses from that event:   Needed break out sessions, role playing.  I can’t think of anything.  Need more information about implementation. 

My weekend retreats received completely different responses:  many said, “No,” there wasn’t anything else you could have presented.    One added that time constraints would not have allowed any other materials.  One person answered “Yes” but did not suggest anything to be added.

  •   Were the presentations too brief or too long?

For the three-hour event, 9 of the participants felt that the timing was just right.   One person thought things went too fast (and so did I).  Other answers ranged from “Perfect” to “Good” to “Just right.”  Several felt we had enough breaks and that the break-out sessions were helpful and very engaging.   One wanted more time and one said that the sessions showed great time management.  A more recent workshop participant suggested that more time was needed for break out sessions.   A few suggested more discussion and a shorter ‘first’ presentation.   I have taken these suggestions seriously and made changes.  I would say 90% liked the length of the presentations and some felt more discussion on personalities was desired.

  •   Were the presentations too deep or too shallow?

The most used answer was “Just right.”   Two folks said, “neither.”  And, it is not surprising that one said, “Things went too fast.”   Some other responses were, “well balanced,” “good depth,” “fine,” “good,” “very good,” and “perfect.”   One participant felt the material was a little shallow for those present, but it would work for a congregational presentation.  Other comments included:  well organized, enthusiastic and clear presentation.  Several liked the visual content.

  •   If you could list two ways to improve this retreat, what would they be?

Many left this question blank.  Several felt the need for more time.   One said, “Not sure” how to improve it.    I one added, “Great job!” One said, “it was a great approach….”  Some felt they needed more time for discussion.  There were also some who felt the seating wasn’t adequate and one thought the lighting for the projector wasn’t good.  And, then one, stated that more of the church leaders needed to be present.    The new workshops are 13 hours; this is on purpose to allow adequate break out time and time for breaks for refreshments, and potty trips.

  •    What did you like most about the presentations?

Very well presented.  Concise, clear, good interaction.  It was both fun and informative.  Made me think.  Seeing how personalities interact.  Practical, applicable, materials ready to use and informative.  Many liked talking about personality traits.   The material was presented in such a way that made it interesting.  Everything!   Personal accounts and humor.  It put it on the front of my mind as to a person’s gifts and passions.  I enjoyed the group discussions.   It was done in a way that all can understand.   The spiritual gift test, personality, greatest passions test.  The focus on understanding our differences and the strength that can be developed because of it.

Realizing your personalities, passions and interests and using them to edify the church, coming up with creative ways to utilize these.  It was relatable.  Your fun spirit and the practicality of the subject.  Breakdown of the personalities of different people.   Was challenging and visionary.   Great introduction practice “unknown facts.”   “Kept moving.”   It helps to understand why as well as how.  Thought provoking and simplistic.  What it showed about myself.   Practical, easy to understand and good visuals.   Survey to determine your spiritual gifts.    Many enjoyed discovering how God has designed them (with gifts, personalities, passions, etc.)

  •   What do you think you, as a church leadership, should do having spent this time and learned what was presented this weekend?

I will not list every answer here.  However, I will say that almost 100% of the respondents thought they should immediately move forward with assisting members in discovering how God had created them for good works and get all members involved in ministry.   To this day, I have not had one negative response under this question.

If you are interested in talking to the folks who invited me, please give me a call and I’ll give you their contact information.     Thanks for taking the time to read these.  I am taking reservations for workshops and retreats.    I hope to have two workshops here in Athens this year.   Our first one is May 24 and 25.    Trav

Introducing…

The goal of these ministries is to assist churches in transforming members into disciples of Jesus by preparing them for ministry.  
This is accomplished by showing members that they are God’s masterpiece created anew in Christ for good deeds and by showing them how God has designed them for HIS purpose.

Members are assisted in discovering how each of them has been created for God’s purpose. Members will be shown how they may determine what God’s specific purpose is for each of them. Congregations can also uncover God’s specific mission for them in their locale.

This is not another program that works for a short period of time.  It is not a fad.  It is not a thing that starts out BIG and then fizzles out.   This is a life-changing, church-changing ministry.    It will change the DNA of a church.  It does NOT change the gospel, it causes members to live lives of service. As we like to say it, “It moves members from sitting to serving.”

If you have any questions, you can contact us at 423 920 3060 or email Travis Irwin at travisirwin@att.net

A workshop schedule is below.

Schedule for SERVE Workshops

Friday afternoon:   1 to 5 –  You Are God’s Masterpiece

 Increasing the 20% – from sitting to serving – Introducing Involvement Ministry

Friday evening:    6 to 7:15 – You Are Gifted

7:15 to 8:00 – Break out, sharing and dismissal

Saturday:   8:30 to 9:30 – Discovering the Real You

9:30 to 10:30 – Breakout, sharing and break

10:30 to 11:15 – You Have Some Very Good Baggage that God Can Use

11:15 to Noon – Break out and share – dismissal for lunch

Noon to 1:00 – Lunch 

1:00 to 1:45 – What Drives You?

1:45 to 2:30 – Breakout, share and break

2:30 to 3:00 – How Your Past Affects Your Present

3:00 to 3:15 –   Your Processing Style

3:15 to 3:30 – U Are Ready

3:20 to 3:30 – Break

3:30 to 4:45 – Real Life Coaching  (assessing the inventories & doing interviews)                          



I’m Tired of “Involvement”

I’m Sick of the Word “Involvement”

In one of my recent RtI retreats one of the men said, “Some of our members are getting tired of hearing about involvement.”

I can understand that.   I can also understand if it’s the only word that is used to describe ministry in the church, it could be annoying.

Please allow me to make some suggestions:

Use other words that mean the same thing.   There are many other words that can be used in place of the word ‘involvement’ to let members know of its importance.    What are some of those words?     Ministry is a good one.  Service is another.   Work is a good four-letter word that can be used.     “Doing good” is a good combination of words.    “Helping” is a good word, too.  “Blessing others” is helpful.  The Lord spoke of “bearing fruit” as did Paul and Peter. There are many ways of saying the same thing. If you need other suggestions,just use a good thesaurus.  And, ask others for suggestions.

Don’t preach on ‘service’all the time.   Preaching the whole counsel of God is good.   Expository preaching prevents an over-treatment of any topic.    However, another method of avoiding the obvious is to use many Bible stories wherein people help others.    Some other topics may include spiritual gifts,personalities, passions, life skills and life experiences in the contexts of blessing others.   Burn out and depression are needed topics.   Unity,fellowship, leadership, exhortation and a host of other subjects come to mind that are inter-related.  Being light and salt would help also.

Be consistent and  systematic but take your time in indoctrinating the brethren.

I think this is good advice for any church any time on any congregational focus, theme or topic.    We took two years before our first campaign and another four years to do our second and finally, it will be six years before my last here.   Educate the brethren slowly and methodically.   Don’t feel like you need to teach them everything about ministry in one month, one quarter or even one year.

I would think following some of these guidelines would be helpful.  I know we are not to be ‘men pleasers’ but I also know we don’t want to ‘make’ people hate something that God really loves.

Trav

Making Your Gift PRIME

How would you go about bringing your spiritual gift to its prime effectiveness and usefulness?

PRACTICE THE GIFT.    You either use it or lose it.   You either use it or you will never use it well.    Nothing replaces experience which comes from exercising and using your gift.   Paul told Timothy not to neglect the gift in him.   There was a good reason he said this.    Use it and use it in a variety of ways; this may take some experimentation.   Every passage that lists a gift or gifts tells us to “exercise” it or “use” it.   I guess this means that exercising your gift is imperative. Practice, practice and then practice some more.

REPEAT THE GOOD RESULTS OF THE USE OF YOUR GIFT.    In the process of using your gift, you will have successes and failures.   You can learn from both.    You can continue to build on your successes and you can learn from your failures (what not to do or how not to do it).   When you are criticized or questioned, you can learn from others if you listen to them.   Wise people listen to criticism and learn.   Having a spiritual gift does not exempt you from making mistakes.    Mistakes, responded to properly, can promote growth.   And, repeat your successes.

INVESTIGATE HOW OTHERS USE IT.    You can learn from others especially those who have the same gift.   Watch them as they use their gift and ask questions.   Follow people of all ages, not just people of your own age.   Generally speaking, older members (by number of years and maturity in Christ) are good to spend time with and learn from.  You can find out who has your gift by using the database of a congregation that uses spiritual gift inventories and catalogues the results.    Do some ‘digging’ and learn from others.

MATURITY.    As you mature in Christ, you will also mature in the use of your gift.  You will become more effective and your opportunities to use the gift will increase.   Some of this maturity may come as a result of time, but time alone matures no one.  You will need to focus on becoming more and more like Christ.

EDUCATE YOURSELF WITH GOOD RESOURCES ABOUT THE GIFT.    Expose yourself to good books, lectureships, events, conferences, DVDs, materials and stories about the use of gifts.   Read, and read, then read some more.   Spend money, time and energy learning from others who have your exact gift.   You can also learn from folks that have gifts other than the one you have.   Observe them.   Ask them questions.   See their counsel.

I hope these have been helpful.   If you can think of others, please share them with me and I’ll pass them on to others.

Trav

Does My Life Purpose Ever Change?

The answer is:  Yes and No.    God’s general purposes for the lives of everyone stay the same.   We exist to love and serve Him, to please Him and to glorify Him.  We were created by Him and for Him.    Bottom line:  it’s all about Him, and thankfully, He is all about us.  When we speak of God’s general purpose for our lives, we would say “No,” that never changes.  It remains and it a constant.  Our specific purpose, however becomes a part of this general purpose.

As we age, God’s specific mission or purpose for our life, I believe, changes.  I can best illustrate this by using the stages of life suggested by Dr. Carl Jung.   Dr. Jung suggests four stages of life.    Depending upon whom else you may read, it could be three or more stages, but I like his four stages of life and I will use them here to illustrate the fact that our (specific) life’s purposes do change.

The first stage of life is “Athlete.”   This is when we are children and very young adults.   We are obsessed with our looks and the world pretty much (by our way of thinking) revolves around us.  I prefer to call these the “formation” years when a child is born, educated and trained in the home.

If there is any service or ministry involved in this stage, it is usually encouraged or taught by the parents or other adults.   God’s general purpose for our lives needs to be taught during these years also.

There appears to be the specific purposes of obeying and honoring one’s parents and learning about God during this stage.    This stage is also about learning and preparing for life.    This appears to be our purpose(s) at a young age: formation.    Children hopefully learn about life and some life skills during this period.    They receive an elemental education and begin to experience how real life operates.    A part of complete formation is teaching and emulating service depending if we know the importance of service ourselves.

The second state is “Warrior.”   This is when we are young adults and we are spending the majority of our time and energy in ‘making our way’ in this world.    We get jobs, we may marry, we may have children, we take on a mortgage and start independent living.   We are preoccupied with ‘getting’ better, ‘doing’ better, and ‘having’ better or having more, making more, wanting more.   We live life at a “neck-breaking” pace.  However, if we have been taught well, we know we need to be serving during this period of life.

Unless we are independently wealthy, our time, energy and money are limited.    Just about all of our time and energy are spent providing for our families and ourselves and some of our time is spent in rest, relaxation and recreation.  Hopefully, we see needs and respond to them in service in some manner—especially for those for whom we have a passion.   In many cases, we take on individual needs of other people or we seek to be involved in civic needs.   We get involved in other people’s lives.  Generally speaking, our service is family-centered and there isn’t much left over for others.

However, we may teach classes at church, we may baby sit children at church, we may usher, work in security, pass communion, work in security or lead in worship in some manner.   It appears that the main purposes during this time of life are related to raising Christian children who will one day be Christian adults and responsible citizens.    This is our primary specific purpose at this stage of life.

The third stage of life is called “Statement.”    This possibly is later mid-life when our children are leaving the nest and making lives of their own.   We become grandparents and start to have some physical issues that come with age.  This is a time when we begin to realize that life is not about possessions or jobs or houses or traveling or having a certain position of power.   We learn that life is about ‘others.’    If you are a mature adult at this stage of life, this is how you will begin to think.   Time and funds make it more likely to serve unless you are totally self-absorbed.   We begin to think about making a life-statement.    We think about what our (specific) life’s purpose is or why we are here.

In this stage, we want something more to show for our life other than a big house and a big retirement portfolio.    We want our life to count for something.  We want our life to ‘make a statement.’

This is when wise adults start to discover God’s specific purpose for their lives.  I guess the statement,  ‘better late than never’ applies here.  Most of us don’t know where to start but common sense helps a lot with this quest.  This is where you hopefully discover how God has designed you for His purpose and you start to make a ‘real’ mark for yourself.    In fact, I’ve had many folks discover in their latter years ‘why’ God made them.  It took that long for them to discover themselves as God saw them.  You can really start to make a difference, and in some cases, you will find satisfaction and contentment.

If we have wisely invested, we have money to help others during this period of life, and because our children have left home, we have more time to serve.

And the last stage is “Spirit.”     This is the time in life when we are almost physically spent.   We are not able to do the things that we once did.   We are possibly not only physically limited but you are also limited monetarily (you are probably on a fixed income).   We may have other limitations including your ability to move (mobility issues).   Our minds may not be as sharp as it once was.   This, however, does not mean we are useless.   Our purpose has changed again because of limitations over which we have no control.

We serve in new ways.  We compensate.  We pray, we send cards, we greet, we bring beans to the food pantry, we call folks, and we basically do things that don’t require lots of physical strain and stress.

Your intrinsic value never changes; you are always loved and valued by the Lord who made you.   Your extrinsic value changes and you learn to serve in different unique ways.    Solomon said that the old will bear fruit on their old age, and you fulfill that verse.

Other factors can affect our mission in life no matter what the stage of our life.  Health issues, losses, traumatic experiences, financial setbacks, incarceration, and such things can definitely affect or totally change our life’s mission along with our ‘people’ and ‘things’ passions.

Every stage of life offers its own opportunities to serve.   Every stage offers its unique purpose or mission for the individual.    It just takes some common sense, some time, some prayer, some thinking, possibly a good inventory and above all else, a good knowledge of God’s Word to discover God’s purpose for you in any stage of life.    Do a study of any biblical character whose whole life is laid open to us in the Bible and you will see this principle.   It is worth a person’s time and effort to discover how God made him/her.

For now, just revel in the fact that there is work for you to do for Him, and do it.    God will be honored, lives will be blessed and you will always know your place in His kingdom and in this world.   You will have an eternal purpose with eternal affect.  God bless.

Trav

Gifts in Action…

Seven Christians are sitting around a table at a church banquet to honor an elder and his wife for their long tenure of service to the church, when one of the dear older sisters, walking by the table with a plate of food, a dessert, and a glass of sweet tea, stumbles. As the woman falls to the ground, the tea and the food fly through the air onto the elder and his wife, and the woman bursts into tears before everyone

  • P – Immediately the prophet speaks the truth that she should not have been carrying two plates and the tea at the same time, and that someone should have helped her see this and helped her. (Motivation: to correct.)
  • M – The gifted mercy- shower drops to one knee, holds on to the hand of the woman, and says, “Are you hurt? Don’t worry about it. I knocked over a punch bowl once.” (Motivation: How can I relieve her pain and embarrassment?)
  • E – The person with the gift of exhortation says to the woman, ”Are you able to stand up? Let me help you.” (Motivation: to come alongside and encourage.)
  • L – The leader goes to the microphone and says, “Bob, would you get some towels? Barbara, would you please bring our dear sister another plate of food and some chocolate cream pie? And Jane, could we get a new tablecloth for this table as soon as possible? Thank you, Joe for helping her up. Folks, we’ll be ready to go in just a few minutes. Thank you everyone.” (Motivation: to lay out a reasonable plan and follow through with it for the good of the whole.)
  • S – The servant receives the towels from Bob, cleans up the couple and the floor, and helps put another tablecloth on the table. (Motivation: to fulfill a need.)
  • T – Sitting on the other side of the table is the teacher, who makes an absolute observation, “Actually this isn’t what it appears. Rather, the kind of heels our dear sister was wearing catches on the residential-grade carpet and causes stumbling to occur. We need industrial carpet. Do you all understand that?” (Motivation: to discover why it happened and make sure all know about it.)
  • G – The giver, seeing the tea stained jacket on the elder, says, “Brother, we still want you to say a few words, so here’s my jacket.” And hearing the reasoning of the teacher, says, “We’ve needed to replace this carpet for a while anyway; why don’t I just make sure the money is here to pay for it?” (Motivation: give to relieve a need.)
  • Original author:  Chip Ingram

Matt Thomas

Pickerington, OH

Matt Thomas has done a great deal of research in spiritual gifts and has spoken at the 2nd annual CIC and will be speaking again in 2019.

Responsible Gift Use

Responsible Gift Use

Every American is gifted with freedoms:  freedom of speech, freedom of expression, freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom of choice, etc.  However, not all Americans use their freedoms responsibly.   Take for example, freedom of speech.   It has been abused and perverted by irreverent irresponsible citizens who use filthy language and pornography and call such freedom of speech/expression.    Freedoms must be used responsibly.

The Corinthian Christians were irresponsible with their miraculous spiritual gifts.  It appears their gifts were “all about them” versus being “all about God.”   They (the Christians) became the center of attention and brought about confusion and jealousy instead of glorifying the Lord and producing faith.

When it comes to our non-miraculous spiritual gifts today, Christians must use them responsibly.   Please allow me to illustrate:

The one with the gift of mercy showing/compassion must use this gift responsibly.  Used incorrectly would be to use it to enable poor behavior in those we are attempting to help.   Responsible use does more than ‘help,’ it enables proper behavior, choices and growth.

The one with the gift of prophecy must use this gift not as a means to blow off steam or vent anger.   Used responsibly is to inform and warn people of impending negative consequences of poor behavior and to call people to repentance.   The intent is pure and holy.

The gift of teaching is used responsibly when the teacher studies well and presents lovingly.   This gift is not used to show one’s great knowledge but to point men, women and children to the Lord.   Lack of study and preparation are also examples of irresponsible use of this gift.

The gift of giving can be used irresponsibly when the giver doesn’t use discretion and wisdom, when he/she gives blindly to unworthy causes or gives to bring attention to him/herself.  Responsible giving is done to promote Christian evangelism and spiritual growth.

The gift of service is used irresponsibly when it is for show or to bring attention to oneself.  Responsible service promotes and enables the cause of Christ to progress smoothly.

The gift of leadership/administration is misused when leaders lord over people and use their position for advancing personal agendas and control.  Responsible use leads people to spiritual growth and welfare.

The gift of exhortation can be used irresponsibly by using weak means to encourage.  The best means of exhorting folks is God’s Word and spiritual counsel.

Used responsibly it puts courage back into people and supports the discouraged.

The gift of evangelism is used irresponsibly when the whole counsel of God is not taught and when false doctrine is propagated.   Responsible use is preaching the truth in love to a lost and dying world.   It is sharing the gospel with courage and without fear.

The gift of hospitality is used responsibly when we open our hearts and homes to the stranger.  We help folks feel comfortable and accepted and loved.   Irresponsible use would be when we do not use the gift or we use it partially, being hospitable only to those we know and like.

The gift of pastor/shepherding is used responsibly when those with the gift nurture, train, mentor, teach, guide, lead, protect, and shepherd the saved in the church.   It is abused when it is NOT used and when it is used partially and inconsistently.

We all may fail to use our gifts responsibly when we fail to use them, and when we do not develop them for more effective use and when our motives are not pure and holy.

May we all come to know what our spiritual gift is and use it responsibly and fully to His honor and glory and to the salvation of souls.

Trav

Wednesdays Without Walls (WWW)

A few years ago, we tried a method of ministry that worked well. We called it WWW for short but its real name is “Wednesday Without Walls.”
James says that we should be ‘doers” of the word versus only being “hearers.” Our congregation like most congregations spend a great deal of time in the study of God’s Word. We would all agree that this is time well spent and the benefits are great. However, there is a time when we need to ‘put to work’ what we have heard and learned in Bible classes and from the pulpit and we need to go outside the walls of the church building to serve.
WWW encourages that. The first year we did WWW, we used only one Wednesday evening for ministry projects during that year. The next two years we used 3 Wednesday evenings a year. A great number of “Wednesday evening” attenders actually did projects. We encouraged members to do their projects on Wednesday evening during the time we would have had Bible study on Wednesdays. Most did so. However, some of our older members preferred to do their projects during the day when they felt safer. These folks were members of a Wednesday morning Bible class at that time.
What kind of projects did people do? We had folks go to local nursing homes to visit, sing, do crafts and generally make the residents feel good. Some folks visited shut-in members. Some did home projects for church members who could not do the projects because of failing health. Some sent cards to members who had fallen away. A group of young couples did a “Fun Day” for the local YMCA. Some sent special gifts to missionaries. One team did some work for a local non-profit.  Another completed a deck and roof for a member.  I think you get the idea. We encouraged ‘creativity’ among the members. We encouraged members to work in teams, couples, singles, etc.
Yes, there is a downside to WWW. I think the biggest downside is that some folks will just sit at home and do nothing on the nights that WWW is scheduled. We ceased WWW after 3 years; it had run its course like most ideas do. Maybe your congregation can do WWW and keep it vibrant and useful. The whole idea is this: the church has left the building and the church is doing what she has been taught.
Feel free to share ideas on WWW or other ministries that you have found helpful.
Trav

Missions Fairs

What is a Missions Fair?
Depending upon the goals you have for it, it is a different, and in my opinion, a more attractive and interesting way of doing missionary reports. It also allows the located preacher to preach and not be constantly interrupted by visiting missionaries preaching and giving their reports. It allows the church’s members to actually visit with missionaries and see what they are doing. We usually have our fair during the Bible study hour on the third Sunday of each July.
Why have a Missions Fair?
Simply because it is the best use of a missionary’s time and resources and honestly, it is the best way of getting and giving mission reports either in person or via some visual medium. We have also learned that doing the old way is a turn off for many young people. Some of them will not attend if a missionary is visiting and going to preach. This sounds tragic but that is the way it is here. Mission fairs give special attention to missions and missionaries and present some very powerful visuals. Members and guests can meet and talk to missionaries.
What are the results of a Missions Fair?
We’ve done two now and the missionaries were very impressed, and the members enjoyed it thoroughly. I think a sincere interest in missions has been cultivated within the congregation. I think it is too early for us to tell, but if the interest is any indication, the results will continue to be positive.
What’s involved?
Displays in the vestibule with the missionaries and brief videos (4 to 5 minutes max) being shown in the auditorium. An after-worship lunch with ethnic foods and American foods is offered. Variety is good. There is color and activity and personal involvement using this method.
Missions Fairs present a positive view of Missions. Our younger people want to see people being served (doing) as well as people preaching and teaching. Our missionaries need to do some study in this area. Brief interesting videos take planning; they don’t happen by accident. They must move their viewers emotionally. In the past I have made videos for some of our missionaries. However, they are now learning to do make the videos themselves.
This idea of Missions Fairs was originally given to me by my brother in law Richard Youngblood. Richard, now retired, was the involvement minister at the University church of Christ in Murray, KY for many years. The church had a missions committee and the missions committee met with the missionaries every year with a rotation of all the missionaries over two or three years. Here in Athens, we alternate between a Ministry Fair and a Missions Fair every other year. Presently, our elders do not meet with the missionaries when they are in town for the Missions Fair. I believe the Missions Fair is primarily for the membership but a creative leadership can make it much more.
The goal is to elevate missions and missionaries to their rightful place and to move members to love the lost and those who unselfishly reach out to them. Without evangelism, the lost remain lost. Trav

for more details, please contact me at travisirwin@att.net

 

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