Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church – 2018 Church Involvement Conference January 19 & 20

Category: Church Involvement (Page 2 of 5)

HELP!! I’m Trying to Find Involvement Ministers

HELP!!  I’m Trying to Find Involvement Ministers

For over three years I’ve been looking for involvement ministers (IM).   The reason is simple:  I want to build a network of IMs who can assist each other and help those entering that ministry.

I do not know of any schools of preaching or colleges/universities that offer classes on this ministry.

Also, I am hearing more and more of full time evangelists, missionaries and youth ministers who are transitioning into involvement and yet I don’t know how they go about getting their training.  I am also very much aware of the many different approaches to IM and different philosophies of IM.

My method:   I have attempted to find IMs in various ways. One is to look at websites of churches of Christ (www.churches-of-christ.org).   A more recent method is to call churches that have over 300 members (using the Directory of Churches of Christ in the United States).   Churches with fewer members probably can only afford one minister and he is probably a pulpit minister.  My focus has been primarily on the states that touch the State of Tennessee,  but I have also spoken to congregations in other states.   My focus has been on these states because the CIC (Church Involvement Conference) is here in Athens, TN and folks from surrounding states attend.   Presently, I have contacted churches in seven states including approximately 124 phone calls.   I have two states to go and about 96 more calls to make.   A report is copied and pasted below this article.

What I’ve Learned So Far:   I’ve talked with one female IM and a total of about nine IMs.   IMs go by different names:  IMs, Discipleship Minister, Family Life Minister, Spiritual Growth Minister, Connections Minister, etc.   Some of these folks have transitioned out of another ministry (usually youth) and have differing job descriptions.   An updated report follow this article.

What I ask:   I ask questions about their training, books they’ve recently read, if they would write articles for this website, how long they’ve been doing IM and a host of other questions.   Many of them have transitioned from a ministry to IM.

I make some offers:   I encourage them to check out my website, to attend CIC, to submit articles for my website, and offer coaching and consulting. Some of these folks have travelled to Athens and we’ve spent a day or more together. That offer is open to any congregation or transitioning ministers.

What YOU can do:     if you are reading this and you are an IM or know of any IMs, would you please contact me and introduce yourself or those you know who are IMs?   That would save me lots of time for sure.   My email is travisirwin@att.net

I will update this article from time to time so please keep an eye on it.   Trav

Results of a Personal Search for Involvement Ministers

by Travis Irwin, 2017

 

Alabama – 45 calls

VM’s – 4   SEC/Office – 6     IMs – 5     Deacons – 4   Elders – 3   Assoc – 1   Couple – 1

Arkansas – 30 calls

VM’s – 4     SEC/Office – 3    IMs – 5   Deacons – 2   Elder – 3  Minister – 1    Assoc. – 3

Georgia – 10 calls

IMs – 5     Deacons – 1     Woman with the elders – 1    VM – 1

Kentucky – 18

VM – 2   IM – 3

Mississippi – 15 calls

VM – 2     Need one – 1   Office – 2    IM’s – 4   Deacons – 1

North Carolina – 9 calls

VM – 1    1 vmbox full     No IMs in NC     Sent materials to the churches with over 300 members

South Carolina – 5 calls

Deacons – 1     Office – 1     (IM called) Connections – 1    Need one – 1

Virginia – 5 calls

New members – 1     Office – 1    Family Life – 1

Criteria:   congregations with over 300 members in states that physically touch Tennessee.  No Non Institutional or One Cupper congregations were contacted.

5 of the IMs are female and the rest are male.   I still have to do the stateof Tennessee (87 calls) which will bring the total to (when completed) 214 congregations.

Codes: VM is voicemail (left a voice seeking a return call), SEC is secretary (spoke only to the secretary), Deacon or Elder (he is the IM), Office (info sent to the church office to be distributed to the leaders), Assoc is associate minister who does the IM. In one situation, the eight elders do the IM.   “Need one” is where the secretary commented that their congregation needed an IM.   Today’s date is June 20, 2017.   I send information to these about the “Church Involvement Conference,”  this website, the retreats that I do for churches and a free booklet and this report.  It is an honor and joy to talk to IMs; they range from new ones to those transitioning from one ministry to IM.   They are all excited about their ministries.

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Is Attendance Service?

Does Church Attendance Constitute ‘Serving?’

Some very nice members of the church, I’ve  been told,  equate attending Bible classes and worship assemblies as their ‘service’ in the church.   Is Bible class and worship attendance the same or equal to ministry in the church?

If you want my opinion, I would say “No.”   Upon what basis? It is based upon what James says in James 1:22 that we are to be doers and not just hearers of the Word. Hearing the word is not service.   Doing is service and service is doing.

The answer may be “Yes” if members came to the worship assemblies with the purpose of edifying their fellow and sister Christians.  The edifying may be considered as ministering to the assembled saints.    Also most folks don’t participate in the singing of the assemblies, and most rush out of the worship assemblies to get to the local eatery (before other churches do) and thus do not greet or fellowship with other Christians.   There’s not much serving going on in such instances.  Those who remain to greet and encourage after services are using their gifts and are serving.

We usually say that we assemble to worship.   I’d say so.   But hopefully we also assemble to edify and encourage each other.  In my estimation, edification and encouragement may be considered as serving others.    Sitting and listening are not necessarily service.   Participation with the intent of glorifying God and edifying one another would be considered as service.

What about those who lead worship or those who teach our classes?   We speak of those who ‘serve’ at the Lord’s table and from that standpoint those who lead us in worship are serving.   Those who prepare and teach/preach Bible lessons, I believe are serving.   Such folks are using their gifts and are serving.

What’s my point?   If you are a Christian and you want to be a serving Christian—not just a Christian in name—you will want to use/exercise what God has given you in the area of service or ministry in your home, in your workplace, in your school, in your community and yes, in your church even in the assemblies.    For example, if you have the gift of pastoring, you will shepherd sheep.   If you have the gift of exhortation, you will exhort.   If you have the gift of giving, you will give liberally.   You need to discover what your gift is and use it (go to www.churchinvolvement.com for more information on The I Serve U Inventories).

I suggest to you, in my opinion, sitting in a pew and listening (and looking around) are not the same as service (and the same for attending a Bible class).   I remember a sign I saw years ago over the entrance into a church’s auditorium; it read:  “Enter to worship, leave to serve.”   Sounds reasonable to me.    What do you think?  I’d like to hear from you.

We need to teach and train our brethren that they need to attend Bible classes and worship assemblies to become more like Christ (to become serving disciples) and to honor the One who saves us.   We also need to teach them that service is doing something active versus something passive (sitting) and that service will go outside the four walls of a church edifice.

Trav

 

Are We “Accommodating” or “Assimilating?”

ARE WE ‘ACCOMMODATING’

            ‘ASSIMILATING?’

To accommodate someone is to do a favor for or help someone.   In the church, we use the word to describe how we adjust meeting times, offer child care, provide adequate parking, offer age (or need) sensitive classes, and generally provide for the creature comforts and spiritual needs of those attending our classes and assemblies.

On the other hand, there is that other word:   assimilate.   It means to make part of oneself or to accept or to incorporate.   This is best illustrated by a new member being welcomed by a church family, being introduced to the members, being invited to classes, being the recipients of Christian hospitality, becoming a part of a ministry, and becoming part of the whole congregation.

Too often we are do a pretty good job of accommodating our brothers and sisters in Christ (and even guests).   In some sense, we want to attract and keep members and this is often done with accommodation. On the other hand, we often fail in assimilating them into the whole body to a point where they feel accepted, valued, and needed.   Accommodating is a gracious gesture; assimilating is an act of true discipleship and fellowship.

Accommodating is generally amoral and it has its limits.   We cannot compromise God’s truth to accommodate others. Assimilation, on the other hand, is a necessity for the local church to experience its peak performance.   Assimilation creates an environment of spiritual and numerical growth. Assimilation requires full participation and cooperation of every member for all the benefit and for the church to grow.

While it could be argued that both are important, assimilation is the more important of the two.   It better matches the Lord’s design and purpose of His church.   The Lord is more interested in our growth than our personal comfort.

Among the many things that constantly challenge local church leaders, this is the most challenging: doing and providing things that promote constant church growth.   One of the many things that church leaders can do to assimilate their fellow and sister members is to help them discover and use their spiritual gifts and passions for the local church.

I have designed an inventory that assists church leaders and members in discovering six priceless pieces of information about each member, that when used wisely, will strengthen and promote member assimilation and cause the church to grow.   The inventory is called the I Serve U Inventories and they are designed to be comprehensive, easy to do and fun.   If I can help you in this assimilation process, please let me know.     Trav

Priceless Helpful Information About Your Members: Members’ Inventories

Other than their names, physical addresses and phone numbers, what information about your members would be most helpful to you?   If you are an elder, deacon, ministry leader or pulpit minister, what information about each member would you deem most helpful in growing the church?   What information about each member would create a culture of involvement in the local church?   What information would be most helpful to each member as each attempts to discover his/her uniqueness for ministry?

This is the purpose of membership inventories.   Good ones are designed to assist members and church leaders in discovering things about the members that promote Christian service and church growth (spiritually and numerically).

Before Inventories, there must be Biblical instruction.    The Pew Institute did a study of several religious groups and it was found that a hefty 47% of the membership of churches of Christ were involved in ministry.  But what about the other 53%?   In some congregations the percentage of non-involved members may be higher according to the well-known 80/20 rule.   How do you go about getting everyone involved?

All of God’s people must be taught that discipleship requires servanthood. God’s people must be taught that they are a priesthood of believers.   God’s children must be instructed that each Christian is uniquely designed for ministry.   God’s church must be taught that bearing fruit is required of each member.  God’s folks must be instructed that each member should contribute to the body of Christ in some positive way other than attending church assemblies and giving money.  Biblical instruction will educate the brethren in these matters.   When members learn that filling out a member inventory is related to God’s teaching on ministry and that the ultimate goal is spiritual growth, they will be more likely to cooperate fully.

Member Inventories are harmless and most helpful.   A member inventory is NOT a test. It is not designed to question one’s mental state.   It is not designed to expose a person’s sins.  A member inventory is designed to assist a member in discovering his/her (for examples) non-miraculous spiritual gifts, passions, etc.  It is designed to help a member see how God has uniquely designed him/her for service.  Members get excited when they make these discoveries about themselves and about others.   Having discovered this, the member is ready to pick ministries to serve in.

Using the information to the max.   A congregation can best reap the benefits of the members’ inventories by creating a database with this new found priceless information and making the database available to all the church leaders who can then pick and choose folks to serve in different areas of the church. It is also most helpful for a few members to become ‘coaches’ who assist members in finding ministry that is most ‘fitting’ for them (fitting refers to ministry for which a member is best suited according their giftedness, temperament, etc.).

More and more church leaders are looking for means and methods of getting those under their care involved in ministry in and out of the church.   If you are one of those church leaders, please allow me to strongly encourage you to do research in the area of member inventories.    My inventory is I Serve U Inventories and you can find information about it from this website or email me.

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Travis Irwin has served in youth ministry, pulpit ministry and in the involvement ministry over the past forty-seven years.   He is presently the involvement minister for the Athens church of Christ in Athens, TN and he has designed his own member inventory.  He can be contacted at travisirwin@att.net or 423 920 3060.

 

I Serve U Inventories Now Available.

I Serve U Inventories are now available.

What information about your members (of your church) would you find most helpful—-other than their names, physical addresses and phone numbers?

After eight years of study, Travis Irwin says that there are six pieces of information that church elders, deacons, ministry leaders, preachers,  involvement or connection ministers and members need.  Having and using this information will change the DNA for the good of the congregation until the Lord returns.

What pieces of information are the six?   Spiritual gifts?   Yes.   But this is not enough information to make a radical change for the good of your church.  You will need (and want) the other five pieces of information.

Q&A about I Serve U Inventories

Who is the author of the I Serve U Inventories?

     Travis Irwin is the author of the inventories.   He has over 40 years of ministry experience in the churches of Christ and most recently he is in his ninth year as involvement minister with Athens church of Christ in Athens, TN.   Over the years Travis Irwin has studied many inventories, but he has been unhappy with all of them. He decided to write his own and he created I Serve U Inventories.

What are the benefits of the I Serve U Inventories?

  • These inventories reap 6 priceless pieces of information that will greatly benefit church leaders, church members and the entire congregation.

 

  1. These inventories are well designed and they are original.
  2. These inventories are self-explanatory and easy to use.
  3. These inventories are less expensive and less complicated than others.

What are the costs of the I Serve U Inventories?

   Congregations choosing to use these inventories have several options:   (1) buy a license to print and use the inventories, (2) buy inventories that are already printed or (3) have Travis Irwin introduce the inventories to your church leaders in an appropriate setting. If Travis Irwin introduces the inventories to your church leaders, the church can use the inventories for free.

To contact Travis Irwin, go to www.churchinvolvement.com

Call or text: 423 920 3060 or email at travisirwin@att.net

I Serve U Inventories copyrighted, 2016.   These inventories are used exclusively in the

I Serve U Ministries.

The I Serve U Inventories will get that information for you and will help create a culture for involvement in ministry in your church.    Contact Travis Irwin at 423 920 3060 or email him at travisirwin@att.net

 

Enabling or Empowering? Which Are You Doing?

(it may appear this article is about drug addiction, but it is not)empowerment1

Anyone who has ministered to addicts knows the term “enabling.”   To enable an addict is to help (enable) him/her continue in his/her addictive behavior.   How?  By making excuses for his/her addiction, taking on his/her responsibilities, hiding his/her addiction, or denying that there is a problem.  Enabling prevents an addict from experiencing the full consequences of his/her addictive behavior.   One who enables (an enabler) contributes to the delinquency and inappropriate behavior of an addict.   However, an enabler may also contribute to, allow and even promote inappropriate behavior in others such as children, employees, spouses, friends, relatives—and, listen to this one:  brethren in the church.   Hold that thought; I will return to it.

On the other hand, those who work with addicts can also empower them so they can overcome their addictions.   What does this require?   First of all, it requires that an addict admit his/her addiction as a detrimental thing.   He/she must also admit that they have a problem over which they have no power; he/she cannot change things without some outside support (in Celebrate Recovery, this is Jesus Christ, in Alcoholics Anonymous, this would be a higher power).   An addict cannot be helped until these two admissions are made.   It is only then, that an addict can be empowered to deal with his/her problem.  He/she then turns to the One (Christ) who can transform him/her and thus empower him/her to new purposeful whole living (John 10:10).

What’s the point?   What does this have to do with church involvement?    Let’s get really honest for a moment.   Speaking from experience, at times I’ve seen enabling behavior in the church.   Yes, it is sometimes seen when we allow sin to go unchecked in the church.   However, there is another kind of enabling that I’ve seen:  instead of discipling members of the church (making them disciples), we’ve enabled them to sit in their pews and do little more.   Now, that’s not true of all members of the church or all churches.   However, it’s a rather large number that we’ve allowed by our silence and our lack of equipping them for service.    We’ve enabled them to remain inactive.

There is an alternative: empowerment.    When God designed His church, He designed her with empowerment in mind.    The Lord has gifted (empowered) us with spiritual gifts and other blessings that empower us (when recognized and exercised) to serve Him in great ways.   We are His workmanship (handiwork, creation) to do good works (Eph.2:10).

When we were delivered from the addiction of sin, He re-created us to do good works; He empowered us.   Who are we to stand in the way of God’s design (and purpose) [empowerment] by replacing it with enabling brethren to be something less?

As individual members of the bride of Christ, we can either be enabled or empowered. As church leaders, we can either enable the brethren to be much less than the Lord designed them to be or we can empower them by following what we sometimes call the Christian disciplines, one of which is ministry.    Ephesians 4:11 says that different ones in church leadership exist in the church to ‘equip’ the saints for ministry (among other things).  Equipping, in my mind, is (at least) a means of empowering church members.   Equipping is more than assembling for worship and sitting in a Bible class.   Much more.

Church leaders, are you enabling your members or are you empowering them?   My ministry exists to assist church leaders in learning how to empower those under their care for service.    I would love the opportunity to work with you in such an endeavor.

Following are examples of empowerment:

  1.  Assisting members in discovering, developing (training/equipping) and deploying (exercising) their gifts.
  2.  Giving permission to serve.  In the truest sense, none of us needs permission.   Some of us want permission and when we have it, we then proceed to serve with greater confidence.   In other cases, members need permission for ministry by those in leadership because of the special nature of a ministry.
  3.  Provide resources:  this could be money, it could be equipment, this could be other people to assist, this could be facilities, etc.
  4.  Words of affirmation and belief
  5.  Prayer!
  6.  Encouraging creativity.  Some churches discourage creativity and it shows.  When Christians are not allowed to exercise their gifts and passions fully, then God’s designed and purpose for that person is thwarted and I believe, the local church is adversely affected in some manner.
  7.  Words of appreciation
  8.  Biblical submission (cf. Eph.5:21); a recognition and appreciation of others’ gifts and an attitude of total cooperation with them in making the local church what the Lord wants her to be.
  9.  In some cases, ‘position’ such as an elder, deacon, etc.  Such positions grant to folks the authority (empowerment) to get things done.   However, every Christian holds the position of servant which empowers him/her to serve the Lord.   What greater position is there?
  10.   What would you suggest as means to empower someone in the church?

Travis Irwin, Athens, TN

423 920 3060

travisirwin@att.net

 

FAQs

Q1FAQ’s

What is the nature of your ministry and why do you have a website?   Most church leaders are interested in the spiritual and numerical growth of their congregations.   Some of those leaders are discovering that Christian service is a part of discipleship and spiritual growth, and those same leaders want the members under their care to be true disciples.   They are realizing that ‘spectator’ or ‘sitting’ members should be ‘serving members.’    This is a healthy trend in the church.    My ministry exists for such church leaders and churches.   From my experience as an involvement minister I have learned what works best in  getting members from the ‘sitting’ position to the ‘serving’ position and I want to share this experience and wisdom with church leaders.    My website exists to assist churches in involvement, but it also exists for church leaders to blog or communicate with me.   Bottom line:   I am interested in getting the word out about church involvement.

Why are you in the involvement ministry?

In 2003 I experienced burn out from full time preaching. By 2008 I had retrained myself in several areas of ministry—one was involvement.   I was offered my present job in late 2008 and have loved it ever since.   I am one of a very few full time involvement ministers.   If you spend five minutes communicating with me, you will hear the passion in my voice for this ministry.

What is the ideal size congregation for starting an involvement ministry?   Larger congregations need more organization and more folks in order to make an involvement ministry possible.   Larger churches may need a full time staffer as well.   Smaller congregations of 200 to 300 are ideal in the sense that they usually have a good number of folks who will make an involvement ministry work well without hiring extra full time staff.   The key is a supportive leadership which includes elders, deacons and ministry leaders.  Any size church can have a successful/fruitful involvement ministry using my tools.

How much does it cost to hire you as a consultant?     The most profitable thing I can for you is to ‘listen’ to you.   This is my first responsibility and I will listen to you without charge.  As I listen and learn about your congregation (and her leadership), I will know if you need my services or not.   The best thing I can do is coach and consult and share ideas (that work) with you.  The cost will differ from congregation to congregation because of size, the number of contacts and the scale of the project.   My consulting guarantees that the process is successful.  There is nothing more embarrassing and disheartening than failure.   My services pay for themselves.   What I am finding is that my brethren are very smart and they are very excited about what I do.   This simply means that they are motivated to take over the process once I help them get it started.

Do any of our Christian colleges provide training in involvement ministry?   None that I know of.   I am open to assist colleges in this area if they wish.   I am open to training anyone to become an involvement minister.

What are the obstacles in starting an involvement ministry?   I don’t like to use that word “obstacle.”   If church leadership does the work necessary, they will have a very fruitful/successful involvement ministry.    Church leadership must educate the brethren slowly and thoroughly first.   Experience tells me if we help the church understand the biblical basis of what we are attempting to do, there will be few if any problems.   The opposite is true:  don’t properly prepare the brethren and you are doomed for failure.   Romans 10:17 applies here.   The only possible obstacle could be close-mindedness.   When church leadership is open-minded, the Lord will work through us for His glory and for the edification of the church.

What books would you recommend for us to read as leaders as we prepare for starting an involvement ministry?   I have a list these on my website under “Books.”  I also think all the articles on this website are most helpful.  I am also rewriting two books that I will soon make available to churches; one on bearing fruit and one on developing one’s spiritual gifts.    The I Serve U Inventories will be released soon.

Why do you suggest getting more information from our members than just their spiritual gifts?   The I Serve U Inventories seek six pieces of priceless information about each member.  I am familiar with other involvement individuals and organizations who seek to only discover the members’ spiritual gifts; that alone does not give a complete picture of each Christian.  In fact, the other five pieces of information (that my inventories request) are just as important as the spiritual gifts. Every bit of this information makes for a comprehensive involvement ministry.

What lessons do our members need to hear in order to prepare the church to start an involvement ministry?   Any and everything that has to do with service, spiritual gifts, purpose and the priesthood of believers. I cannot begin to list all of them here.  However a solid preacher will do the necessary work.    This is NOT a quick fix thing; a good preacher will preach on this for at least a year (your congregation may decide to have a specific congregational focus for a year in preparation for kicking off an involvement ministry). I will counsel with your pulpit minister if you wish.    Also look at the “Books” list on this website.

Why should we work with you?   Most folks and organizations that (attempt to) do what I do (1)  are not as thorough as I am, (2)  are not members of the church and (3)  are very expensive.     My approach is to show you how God has designed your members and your congregation for local service in the local church and community.   God does not make mistakes.   We need to work together because I will train members to be actual coaches which in turn will perpetuate what we’ve started together.   I want your involvement ministry to grow and continue until the Lord returns.   I will also consult with you years into the future if you want me to.

What makes the I Serve U Inventories superior to other inventories?    They  seek to discover six priceless pieces of information about each member; there are no other inventories like them. None!   These six priceless pieces of information will be given to the church leadership, deacons and ministry leaders for their use in putting members into ministry for which they are best suited.   This information can be used for other purposes.  It becomes your information.   It is some of the most helpful information you will ever have of your members—even more valuable than their birthday dates and mailing addresses.

Discipleship & Involvement

BowlTowelWhat does discipleship have to do with involvement?   Everything!   You see, being a disciple of Jesus involves service (involvement).   Having washed His disciples’ feet, He said, “I have given you an example.”   If we follow that example, we will serve through involvement in the local church.   Jesus said, “I came not to be served, but to serve.”   Once again, if we follow His example, we will serve.   Service is what involvement is all about.   Service is a huge part of what being a disciple of Jesus is all about.

In the Lord’s church we have emphasized everything from church attendance to giving and, have, in my opinion missed the entire boat.   That boat is discipleship.

What is discipleship?  Discipleship is entirely different from (what we term) church membership.   We have tended to elevate church membership above discipleship.   In fact, many churches do not even mention the ‘D’ word.   However, Christians are called disciples in the Bible more often than they are called members.   Membership is a blessing of discipleship; it does not replace or supersede discipleship.

A disciple of Christ is an ever-learning student of Jesus, an imitator of His example in prayer, love for people, selflessness, self-denial, giving, service, obedience, faith in the Father, and suffering.     A disciple is also a follower and a follower follows Jesus.   This simply means we follow His lead and emulate His example.

Back to the original subject of this article.   If you, as leaders of the Lord’s church, want to make disciples (cf. Matt.28:19—as Jesus instructed), you will need to instruct and equip the members of your congregation in being serving disciples.     This is why some church members balk at serving; they did not ‘place membership’ to serve but to be served.   It appears that some of our congregations have a rather large number of members who are not using their God-given blessings to serve the local church and the community.   Why not?   Our failure to disciple them.

How do we change that?   First and foremost, we need to be preaching and teaching the truth about discipleship (and all that it involves) in our congregations. Second, we need to be educating the brethren on how God has designed and gifted them for service.   Third, we should be equipping the saints for service.   Fourth, we need to challenge the thinking of the local church by continual teaching and preaching that discipleship is what God expects and this what we as church leaders expect.   Our most pressing task is to make disciples.

This is why I am so impassioned about church involvement. It is not only a mark of discipleship, it is also a blessing to disciples, the local church and the community.

Dr. Carlus Gupton will be with us speaking on this very topic on January 20 & 21, 2017 at our first “Church Involvement Conference” at Athens church of Christ in Athens, TN.    Information about CIC is found elsewhere on this website giving details of this great event.

Please let me know how I may assist you in making disciples through involvement in your congregation.

Trav

travisirwin@att.net

 

A Biblical Alternative to “Success”

fruitpic1A Biblical Alternative to “Success”

When it comes to ministry outcome, many times we are most concerned with being “successful.”   We ask, “Was this event a success?”   May I suggest an alternative:  “fruitfulness.”  This appears, to me, to be more Biblical.     Take a moment and do refresher readings of John 15:1-11 and Galatians 5:22-26.   By the way, there are over 300 passages in the Bible on fruit bearing.

What are the obvious benefits to this way of thinking?

  1.  God gets the glory; this is the way it should always be.
  2.  We show our authenticity as His disciples to a lost and cynical world.
  3.  We honestly acknowledge that we can’t bear fruit without Jesus; this is both humbling and challenging.   We are totally dependent upon Him, not ourselves or our human resources and efforts.
  4.  We cannot fail.   If it is Jesus working in us and through us, failure is impossible. When we depend upon Him, the final result is always HIS, not ours.
  5.  The emphasis is not numbers or human effort, but Jesus. This is exciting because church members get to see how Jesus can work in and through them.   This creates deeper faith and more enthusiasm for doing His work.
  6.  It is my personal opinion that there will be less burnout and stress when we approach ministry in this manner.   Success, in its human definition, is impossible to achieve and as a result causes stress.   Bearing fruit comes easier because the Lord is in control and because He doesn’t expect the impossible from us. He simply expects us to do what we have been divinely designed to do.

What does fruit look like?   Changed attitudes: people no longer worry; they pray instead.   People no longer hold grudges; they forgive.   People are no longer bigoted; they are accepting and loving.   People no longer just sit in a pew; they sing, they participate, they get involved in the life of the church, they love the brethren and get to know them. Members no longer are dependent upon the professionals; they depend upon the Lord. Members no longer expect the church to grow; members contribute to the growth and welfare of the church. These are all (good) fruits (see Galatians 5:22-26),

The point is simple: our goal in ministry should always be fruitfulness.  We must first approach the Lord with our goals and ask His blessing and wisdom. We need to decide what fruit He wants for us to bear before we execute our plans, and as we make our plans.  And, then, after the ministry event, we need to evaluate by asking, “what good fruit was born?” “How did the Lord work through us?” “What did He want us to learn?”

We are less likely to burn out, be discouraged, dread the next project, and feel stressed with this emphasis.   This is a mindset (paradigm) issue. The church needs to get out of the “success” business and into the fruit-bearing business. The solution to our lack of involvement in the church is to raise up a generation of church members who are first and foremost disciples of Christ.   Jesus said one of the identifying marks of a disciple is bearing much good fruit.

Bearing fruit may not be as ‘colorful’ as being ‘successful.’   But it is God-pleasing and it brings Him the glory He rightfully deserves.   And, more than that, we never fail when we bear fruit.

Travis Irwin

Our 2014 “Down on the Farm” congregational focus emphasized the four ways we bear fruit for the Lord.  We had 100% participation.

I have a 13 lesson book entitled “God’s Field.” It is a study of fruit bearing in the Bible and how the Lord’s church is called to bear fruit.   I often tell church leaders: if we could get a whole generation thinking Biblically about this, we’d never ever have another problem with spiritual and numerical growth, and we’d always have enough folks involved in ministry.

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Untapped Resources

untapped1When younger I was always hearing about all the untapped resources we Americans had.   Even fifty years later the petroleum industry is still telling us of untapped oil in shale.   We are now learning more about new sources of energy which come (free) from the sun, the wind and yes, the waves.   We are beginning to tap into these resources and the potential is unlimited.

When I think of the Lord’s church, I think of the many untapped resources we have.   Why do they remain untapped?   There are several resources that are not fully utilized.   Why don’t we use them?   Which ones?   I can think of at least 3:

The Lord.    We often quote Philippians 4:13 and I think that is great.   But what about Ephesians 3:20-21?   Do we really believe those verses or do we like to just quote them because they sound good?  The Lord is our power source for doing the impossible.    Are we tapping into His power through prayer (cf. Eph.6:18).    Too often we talk about Him and then we don’t ‘tap’ into Him.

The Gospel.    Romans 1:16.   The gospel is God’s dynamic.   It transforms the worst of the worst.   It changes people, communities, churches and nations.     We need to draw on its power every day from morning to noon to evening and then again the next day.    We need to ‘tap’ into it by studying it, teaching it, preaching it, defending it and living it 24/7.

The People.    Romans 12:3 says that we ought not think too highly of ourselves.  Simply put, we need to look realistically at ourselves.   What is a realistic view of the people who make up the body of Christ? Briefly, the Bible says we were created in God’s image but we fell into sin.  However, we are saved sinners by the grace of God.   But there is more—much more.  We are indwelled by God’s Spirit.   Also, we are God’s workmanship to do good works and we are empowered to do such because we are gifted.   How so? We have non-miraculous gifts (Rom.12:4-8; 1 Pet.4:10; Eph.4:11), we are gifted with life experiences and skills and the grace of God.    And in most churches (with which I am familiar) these gifts, and the people who possess them, are not ‘tapped.’   Idle gifts are useless.  Untapped gifts are useless.   They are seldom used fully for the glory of God, the good of the church and the good of the community in which the church resides.

Is it laziness or ignorance that allows these great resources to go untapped?   Before I die I want to encourage every church to tap into the gift resources that are presently within them—and put them to work (exercise them).    Surely, the Lord has greater plans for His kingdom. Every member of the local church should be serving in some manner in the local church ‘tapping’ fully into the resources the Lord has provided him/her.

Travis Irwin,  Athens, TN

http://www.churchinvolvement.com/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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