Many well-known authors and church experts have been telling us for the past year that church work will never look the same again after the pandemic. We’ve been fore-warned that we will have to face a new normal. We’ve also been told that change is inevitable because it has already occurred and more is on the way. In fact, I have said some of same things. And, moreover, some things need to change and we should not go back to whatever our original normal was; in many cases, it wasn’t what it should have been. In many cases, our original normal wasn’t causing growth. Some of us had gotten pretty comfortable with the way things were.
However, there is a sense in which NOTHING HAS CHANGED. I will add one more phrase to that for emphasis: IT WILL NEVER CHANGE UNTIL THE LORD COMES.
Of course, the Word of God will never change. Jesus said that heaven and earth would pass away, but His Word never would. The Hebrew writer assures us that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And we take great comfort in these facts.
But you and I need to understand that there are a host of things that will never change until the Lord returns:
The Mission of the church: Making disciples. If we weren’t busy making disciples before the pandemic, we need to start making them. If we were busy making them, we need to return to making disciples.
We still have gifts. We have team gifts that equip the church for service. We are to be busy discovering, developing and deploying these gifts.
We still have personalities. Our personality is given to us by the Lord and it is to be used and be developed to reach people with the gospel and to edify the church.
We still have passions. You have a fire in your bones; this is your passion. You have a passion for certain people and certain things. When you move from the sitting position to the serving position, those passions are your fuel to make the church and world a better place to live in.
We are still blessed with life experiences and skills. Daily your life is being prepared for new and different ministry. The pandemic is an example. Don’t be surprised that the Lord is always preparing you for new levels and avenues of service.
We are still God’s Masterpiece and we have work to do and the Lord has equipped us to do it. God does not qualify the called, He calls the qualified—and WE are the qualified because of His blessings.
I am saying this to church leaders (elders, deacons, ministry leaders, teachers, preachers, youth ministers, etc.). When the pandemic is over, all the masks are gone from our faces and we are all seated close together again in assemblies, we need to return to these things that have not changed. And, in some cases, some of us have never acknowledged that these things exist and that we are stewards of them. When the pandemic is over, we need to equip everyone in our congregations to serve.
If I can assist, please let me know.
For now, talk about it and pray about it. Above all, take this information seriously. The Lord certainly does.
Some congregations want a quick easy fix for something that requires great amounts of energy, time and devotion. When a congregation gets serious about involving all her members in serious intentional ministry, it will become a life-time goal. Following are a few of the things contribute to a life-changing and church-transforming involvement ministry:
A STRONG Desire
6 Preparation Steps
Annual Congregational Focus
A Supportive Pulpit
Unity among the Leadership
Biblical Core Values
Biblical Mission & Vision Statements
and several other things…
Does this sound like too much work? Yes, if ministry isn’t one of your core values. No, if you wish to disciple members. No, if you want the church to grow numerically and spiritually. Allow us to assist you in starting a vibrant involvement ministry. firstname.lastname@example.org
Christian ministry is one of the many Christian spiritual disciplines that makes one a disciple of Christ.
In one word, “Yes,” they are accurate. How do I know this? Simply because of how they are put together.
Inventories are based upon the definition of the terms/words used in the original Greek for each gift. Inventory questions/statements are then made based upon these definitions.
Inventory wording is based (in many cases) upon age group and simplicity so each statement/question is understood by those using the inventory. In other words, great care is taken to make sure those taking the inventory can clearly understand it and feel confident when they fill it out.
Inventories for spiritual gifts have been around for many years and have been improved over the years. This is not a new or untested science; it is a well-established means of assisting people in discovering their spiritual gifts. Some of these have a few questions/statements and others have many questions or statements. I personally believe you can have too few or too many questions/statements. Our inventory is a general one and yet serves the purpose we have in mind. Anyone who has any doubts can locate a more detailed inventory with more questions if they wish.
The best way to test an inventory is to take it and fill it out and then look at the results. Do the results describe you? Your gift? How you serve?
This is the ‘proof is in the pudding’ approach and this is difficult to argue against. As of this date, no one has disagreed with the inventory results when doing workshops and retreats. What we have experienced is that a few folks do not like their spiritual gift. They need to talk to God about that; He is the one who gave it to them.
The other inventory that is used often is the personality assessment inventory. It too, is based upon years of study and use. Some personal assessment inventories are better than others in that they are more detailed. The one we use is a general inventory and yet it performs well for what we are attempting to accomplish.
I wish to recommend the two following books and I will make comments about each. Neither of these is written by members of the church of Christ. Therefore, you need to read and use them with discretion. However, you will receive many blessings from both of these books.
The first of these recommended books is Spiritual Disciplines for the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney. Our brethren have generally been taught only two of these disciplines: study and prayer. And while these two are very important and I think non-optional, there are other disciplines that all Christians should practice. Whitney emphasizes over and over again that discipline is for godliness. The spiritual disciplines have a grand goal: godliness. And, what Christian doesn’t want to be more godly?
One of the disciplines discussed in the book is Christian service or as he words it “service.” I recommend this book for a class or a series of lessons so the brethren can see how service fits into the scheme of Christian growth and godliness.
The other book is by Drs. Townsend and Cloud, the authors of all the Boundaries books that have been and continue to be so popular. The book’s title is How People Grow What the Bible Reveals about Personal Growth. This book is about 360 pages. However, it has been rewritten in a shorter 182 page book entitled Growth Has No Boundaries the Christian’s Secret to a Deeper Spiritual Life. This book would make for a great class, book discussion group or series of sermons. I mention it here because there has been a general de-emphasis (intentional or unintentional) of studying personal spiritual growth as a topic (this is my opinion). Generally speaking, we do not tackle topics such as spiritual growth and we can see the consequences of such an avoidance. A word of caution: whoever leads a class or discussion group or preaches from these books, this person must be a seasoned teacher. We would not agree necessarily on their plan of salvation or how the Holy Spirit works. But everything else in the book is helpful for those who are interested in growing spiritually in Christ. There IS much helpful information in this book. I mention this book because only spiritually mature/growing Christians fully appreciate Christian service and gladly consistently find themselves involved in Christian service and service for godly reasons. As you assist members in growing spiritually, you will have more and more members interested in and involved in ministry.
What is a life skill? This could include a lot of things including hobbies, job skills, natural skills, education, life experiences and special training. Skills, generally speaking, are abilities that we accure and learn over time. Sometimes a formal education is involved but many times we learn skills from others. As we age, I believe that these become even more important.
When we have children at home and we are making a living, these things are very important in providing food, clothing, transportation and housing for us and our families. We use our life skills to make a living. As we age, we may become more attractive to employers who are looking for folks like us.
As it pertains to ministry in the church, these skills are more valued, desired and needed and are often sought after. Some Christians never use life skills in serving others, other than employers. We need to be using all of these at any age for the good of the kingdom of God; we shouldn’t wait until we are retired to use them for ministry. However, when retirement comes, which means we usually have more free time, these skills become priceless to the church and to the people we serve.
One of my favorite examples is the late Ken Smith. Kenny taught me most of what I know in home repair and remodeling. Kenny not only served me, he also served many in the church. He could build and repair anything to do with buildings and carpentry including electrical work and plumbing. He could also fix appliances. He helped many older members (especilly widows) and didn’t charge them a dime for his services.
Another favorite example of mine is my late father-in-law, Frank Sadler. “Pap” could do anything with his hands much like Ken. However, Pap could tear down an engine, find a problem, fix it and reassemble it and reinstall it. He would fix things for free and the price of the parts. This was his ministry in his retirement years. He helped many people and one man, Paul Allen became a Christian because of Pap.
People who have medical experience can go on medical missions, people with accounting experience can help folks with taxes and life planning, people who cook can help with Meals on Wheels, people who love children can teach and read to them, and mechanics can help repair cars for those who can’t afford it and the list goes on. The list is endless.
Do your life skills become more valuable? Yes. I hope that as a steward of all of God’s blessings, you will use your skills for the furtherance and growth of His kingdom. Trav
We wish for you and your family a most happy holiday season and a blessed new year. The year 2020 was filled with challenges for sure. Hopefully we grew through it all. May the new year bring other opportunities of personal growth and service.
Deb and I will officially be retired effective December 31, 2020, and we will be moving to Murfreesboro, TN on December 16. We will be living there starting January 1, 2021. Our new address is 2134 River Chase Drive, Murfreesboro, TN 37128. My phone will remain the same at 423 920 3060 and my email will remain the same at email@example.com
Presently I am working with the Waverly (TN) church of Christ on a monthly meeting basis via Zoom. In February we will be going to Waverly three days a week for 13 weeks to assist them in starting an involvement ministry. Note: as of 12/8, we are postponing our work with Waverly church of Christ until things get better with the pandemic. I think this is a wise move and will allow more attention to be given to our campaign and training with them.
Other churches are beginning to contact me for workshops and retreats. I would also like to locate for a limited time (one to thirteen weeks) with churches around the country to assist them. Weekend workshops and retreats are also still available. If I can be of service, please contact me.
My mission statement: I assist church leaders who are concerned about the spiritual and numerical growth of their congregation by helping members discover how God has designed them for His purpose and to get them involved in ministry in the local church and community.
When I think of a bib I think of an infant in a high chair being fed. The bib catches all the food that doesn’t find the mouth of the infant. The baby is happy that most of the food goes in.
On the other hand, I can also think of an apron. Years ago, many ladies wore aprons as they cooked a meal for their families. Some men wear them today when they grill outside.
The bib imagery is of a child being fed and the imagery of the apron is that of someone preparing a meal to feed others. Which imagery best describes you as a Christian? Do you wear a bib or an apron? Are you constantly waiting on others to serve you or are you busy finding ways of serving others?
We all are blessed time to time to be wearing a bib; others in the church lovingly serve us and we gladly receive the blessings. But hopefully we all, are the for the most part, wearing the apron of service.
Some of the Lord’s church believe that the church exists to serve them. The Bible paints an entirely different picture. Jesus said he came to serve, not to be served. He washed the disciples’ feet and said that he had left them an example of what they should do for each other. Paul said we are to have the mind of Christ. I believe that we are most like Jesus when we serve others.
If you are always waiting for other Christians to serve you, you will sooner or later be miserable. You will never be satisfied. To move beyond bib wearing, you must learn to see others and their needs clearly. You must look intently at others so you can really see them. When you do, you will see the need. Many of us can only see our needs. Martin Luther King, Jr. said anyone can be great because anyone can serve. Jesus said it this way: “the greatest among you will be your servant.”
I suggest that you think of someone you know that has a need and seek to fulfill it. Open your home to a member of the church you don’t know. Send a gift to Tennessee Children’s Home. Make a visit to a shut-in. Pray for a missionary or parents who are raising their children. Look around Athens and see all the needs and seek to fulfil one of them with your time and energy. Put on your apron and serve. Trav
Who Recommends Travis Irwin? Several people recommend my services: Jerrie Barber, my preacher Mark Littleton, my present elders and dozens of folks who have received my training (I can send a list of these if you wish). But most recently I got this one from a brother In Brazil who attended some of my webinars via Zoom:
Thank you brother! We will never know how much your work will influence the church in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, which in turn involves all of Brazil and the Portuguese speaking world. As an example, tonight our National Bible School has a webinar with our brothers Daniel and Carol Morgan from Garland, TX motivating our students and the churches all over Brazil to become involved in “Brazilian Harvest”, a mission of planting the Lord’s church in every capital city of Brazil. We now lack only 5. I realize you are “retiring”, but Christians don’t retire; we redirect! Would you be interested in coming to Belo Horizonte to teach a short course on “Church Growth” or “Church Involvement” in our National Bible School? Many brothers have come from around Brazil and around the USA to help us in this way. Keep up the good work! In Christ, Eddison Fowler
My 45 year full-time ministry career ends December 31, 2020. My wife and I will move to Murfreesboro, TN to be near family. I will enter a period where I will be available to work with congregations on a part-time basis and I am even willing to reside in their locale up to 13 weeks. I know that COVID 19 has postponed and changed many congregation’s plans in many areas of work including involvement. Please keep me in mind when all this chaos is over. One thing is for sure: things will never be the same again and I will be there to help you through this transition.
423 920 3060 (text or call)
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Mission statement: I work with church leadership who wish to prevent membership stagnation by assisting members in discovering how God has created/designed them for His purpose. I help church leaders move church members from the sitting position to the serving position.
What do I mean? I mean, will your congregation be around after COVID 19 is gone? Some churches are losing their income flow; their giving is down 50% or more. Many churches have an attendance that is down 60% or more even when they use technology. It has been predicted that some congregations will cease to exist because they did not have sufficient income (giving) to keep the doors opened or because members disappeared during the pandemic.
Yes, hopefully, all the members will return with their giving when this is all over. We should be optimistic and pray. However, we have to face reality every Sunday as consistent attendance figures slowly dwindle and giving remains low.
What May We Do About It Now?
First and foremost, don’t panic. Most elderships are solid and are known for moving slowly and methodically; this is good. Members in the pews are more likely to panic than leadership. Some church staff, especially full-time staff, may panic because their incomes/livelihoods are at stake. But then again, the Lord will take care of them in His own way. I have also found that Christian people do their very best to supply the needs of church staff. They follow Matthew 7:12.
Always remember that God is still in control and after all, the church is HIS church; He can do what He wishes with His church. He promised that the gates of hell would not prevail against her. He also promised that she is eternal. In all reality, the church has faced worse enemies and worse circumstances. But she remains! True, she may not look like she did before COVID 19, but she will still be here. And, the faithful (if they are still alive physically) will return in full force.
Mistakes to Avoid
Today I received a free 5 page booklet entitled 7 Mistakes Church Leaders MakeTrying to Stop the Decline of Their Church (from effectivechurchleadership.com).
I am thankful for this little booklet and I will mention some things I find helpful with my comments:
Don’t Make These Mistakes:
Updating your building to make it more modern. Nope. You don’t need to do this. Make sure it is clean, attractive and safe. “Building” programs aren’t really needed right now unless a hurricane recently destroyed your building.
Adding another program or ministry. You bet this one got my attention, and I agree. Here’s what I suggest:
Review and revise all of your ministries; make them relevant in real time or end them. In most cases, your ministries have slowed or stopped especially the maintenance ones.
Improve them when/where it is obviously necessary
Add new ministries that your present circumstances require; there are some things that churches are having to do now that they did not do six months ago. Thorough cleaning and disinfecting are two of those things. Adding technology is another.
Don’t overwhelm the brethren with new stuff. The brethren are already overwhelmed with the pandemic, civil unrest, children going back to school and the election. Soon they will be overwhelmed with the holidays and the regular flu season.
Don’t demand commitment; they are already committed to protecting and providing for their families. Never demand anything.
Being a copycat. I’m not too worried about this one. Most churches of Christ work hard to maintain what they’ve got and aren’t too concerned about copying a mega church in Texas or Tennessee or anywhere. Focus on your local and congregational needs and fulfill as many as you can.
Overlooking your community. Your community is YOUR mission field. Find out what the pressing needs are in your local community and start to serve in those areas. It may be difficult to get volunteers to assist in meeting these needs because of fear of exposure to C-19.
Ignoring the digital age. We can’t do this any longer. The pandemic just sped up the process of using technology. Improve your website (get one if you don’t have one), live stream your services and Bible classes, record your services, have elders, deacons, etc. meetings via zoom, etc. Hey, when COVID 19 is over, continue to do meetings this way. It will save tons of time.
Hiring new staff. What right thinking leaders would do this? Before the pandemic we were going to start looking for a youth minister this Fall. But that is on hold for an indefinite period of time and rightfully so. After the air is clear we might reconsider it. Right now, get through all the immediate challenges one by one and deal with pressing items.
Not letting your mission and vision rule. Sometimes in times of trial, we forget why we exist. We need to revisit our church’s (or the Lord’s) mission statement and vision statements. We need to be reminded why we exist and get back to doing it. We are being distracted by many things and as a result we forget our mission. We may be fulfilling those in a different manner, but we need to get back to those things now if we have neglected them. These statements were originally given to give leaders and members direction. Let’s be honest here: of all the times we need direction, it is now. And, there are few things more exciting than seeing mission and vision statements fulfilled.
One Suggestion for Leadership
As shepherds of the church, you need to be in constant communication with your sheep. I think it was the late Flavil Yeakley who said that members who stop attending church will reinvest their interest, time and money in something else within six weeks. How many weeks has it been since the pandemic began? More than six, right? 6 months!
In spite of all the use of technology many of your members are not engaged with the church in any way. You, as shepherds, must engage them. You need to divide the church directory up and all of you call all the members at least once a month to see how they are doing, to see if they have any needs, to show love and concern, pray with them, listen to them, minister to them, in some cases, you will want to help them with technology so they can attend services and Bible classes—or just simply pastor the sheep. Certain disconnected members are less likely to reinvest their time, money and energy in something else if you pastor them.
And, the ‘given’ in all of this is to PRAY, and to pray as never before.