Church Involvement

Creating a Culture of Involvement in Every Church

Raising the Bar of Discipleship

Timothy Gunnells

A couple of years ago I was invited to moderate a panel discussion at the Church Involvement Conference in Athens, Tennessee. The panel related to Millennials and the practice of faith, or reaching them and keeping them. The primary message that stood out with universal agreement from the panelists is that Millennials (and younger generations) desire to be challenged and not coddled. The younger generations appear to have more in common with the Greatest Generation than the Generation Xers (my generation) and the Boomers. Yet, it is these last two generations that are in leadership in most churches, thus, the apparent disconnect.

Millennials and their younger counterparts, it seems, take Jesus admonition to “take up your cross daily” pretty seriously (Luke 9:23). They aren’t pushing to jettison all traditions or make wholesale changes to worship practices, but they do deeply desire a more profound and sincere approach to following Jesus. They take the Greatest Commands (Matthew 22:34-40) to heart, they want to see sincerity and genuineness, and they seek real community. That all sounds really good to me!

This all got me thinking back to a phrase I have heard throughout my life that I saw illustrated first-hand: “raising the bar”. What exactly does that mean, and what does it have to do with the Bible, church leadership, and reaching and keeping the younger generations for Christ?

My daughter worked with a pole vault coach while she was in high school who won an Olympic Gold Medal in the sport. His name is Tim Mack, and he won in the games in Athens, Greece. He was in his 30s when he won, and he had failed to make the team twice before. What he discovered and what I saw play out in his coaching sessions is this, you have to literally raise the bar higher if you ever expect to go higher. In my daughter’s case and in the case of her fellow athletes, he would raise the bar sometimes when they weren’t even hitting the current height he thought they could reach, and they would go much higher. What he relayed to me is that athletes will usually only try to hit the height of the bar where it is placed and not go much higher, in so doing, they will often fail to even hit the lower mark. Interesting, isn’t it?

The Hebrew writer, in Hebrews 12, upped the ante in his challenge and encouragement to his readers to stay true to Jesus and keep the faith. He moved on from Moses and the other heroes of the Faith and went to Jesus instead. He held Jesus up as the example of perseverance and success and suggested that they hadn’t even “resisted to the point of shedding blood” (Hebrews 12:1-4). Talk about raising the bar!

So, maybe we have failed the younger generations by not expecting enough from them when it comes to discipleship. Perhaps we have tried to fashion things like we think they would like for them to be, or just force them into a model of ministry that we like better, instead of truly embracing the truths of Scripture to deny our self and take up our cross.

I would encourage you, as an individual, to raise the level of expectation you have for yourself in following Jesus. I would encourage church leaders to raise the level of expectation and paint a genuine picture of discipleship in your churches. I would encourage Millennials and younger generations to help us see what we are missing that would do more to raise the bar of expectations for all of us.

“Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 3:12)

Timothy Gunnells, DMin.

Associate Professor of Bible, Leadership, and Ministry at Amridge University

I had the privilege to work with Tim when he was our full-time pulpit minister here in Athens.   Tim and his wife Kristin currently lead our youth group.  He and family are a great blessing to the church here.   Tim travels all over the country assisting churches in the area of leadership.   He is especially interested in helping church plants in this area.

Minister leads Widowhood Workshops

Dean Miller

Dean Miller knows firsthand how difficult life can be after the death of a spouse.

Dean Miller has preached the Gospel all his life. 

At 67, he shares a message of hope for widows and widowers. This ministry was born out of the loss of his wife and seeks to lift others and himself out of the depths of sadness and depression. 

Miller served churches in Tennessee and Ohio for over 45 years. For 33 of those years, he ministered to the Hartville Church of Christ in Ohio.

A 1976 graduate of Freed-Hardeman University in Henderson,Tenn., Miller married Ruth Ann, his high school girlfriend, at 19. After 33 years of marriage, Ruth Ann was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and suffered eight years of decline. She died Christmas Day 2013 after 41 years of marriage.

After struggling to find himself and his place in a new world of singlehood, Miller began speaking and teaching on widowhood.

In 2014, he launched Widowhood Workshop as a part-time ministry with his family’s help. This year, he transitioned to full-time widowhood ministry under the oversight of the LaVergne Church of Christ in Tennessee.

Dean has three daughters, Michelle Johnson, Melissa Cere (husband Tony) and  Deanna Johnson (husband Chris), and five grandchildren.

Given the extreme environment and isolation that many are experiencing during the COVID-19 crisis, what are some specific actions we can take to support the widowed? 

This crisis magnifies an already existing problem — social disconnect and isolation. The most effective ministry now may be in using the human voice. One widow shared with me, “It gets old just talking to the dog, because she doesn’t always answer me.” 

Call them or FaceTime them. Have a list of things to talk with them about. That conversation will likely reveal their needs. Inquire about their eating habits. Drop food off at their house. Have children tape a picture to their window. Do a version of caroling from their front yard or porch. Do not ask them what they need. Just do things that will let them know they have not been forgotten.

Besides understandable grief at one’s loss, what other emotions do widowed persons experience? 

Loneliness is almost always the first emotion discussed in my workshops because attendees commonly associate this with widowhood. The loneliness is unparalleled because marriage is the most precious and intimate of human relationships.

“Do not ask them what they need. Just do things that will let them know they have not been forgotten.”


Uncertainty is another feeling. That uncertainty can fester and turn into fear. Questions about the future can be so overwhelming that one begins to doubt their ability to cope.

Going out in public in a “coupled” world, when you are no longer part of a couple, creates social awkwardness. Anger is common and often targets medical professionals, the departed spouse, even God. Then there is a loss of one’s identity. Previously one was a wife or a husband, half of a whole. Now that whole no longer exists, so who are you? A wide range of emotions is often experienced.

What special needs do the widowed have? 

They need not to be forgotten. How many churches even know how many widowed members they have and who they are? Our long- term care leaves much to be desired. 

One brother observed that we are good at the three C’s: cards, condolences and casseroles. After that, everybody goes home, but only one goes to their home alone. Widowed people are often socially deprived.Widows need people who minister to them, long after the cemetery, by presence in their lives. 

People minister by the “laying on of ears.” There is nothing like the deafening silence in a widowed person’s house at night, especially in the long winter nights. Then, there are those special days when life after loss is more difficult: birthdays, anniversaries and holidays. Forgotten translates into feeling forsaken.

What about widowhood do we all need to be sensitive to? 

Please don’t ever tell a widowed person, “I know how you feel,” because we don’t. Life’s losses help us appreciate another’s struggle or even empathize, but to say, “I know how you feel” can almost be offensive. 

Also, respect the personal nature of the grief journey. They are going through something they have never experienced. Their behaviors may seem out of character. Healing may take much longer than anticipated. Don’t push. Just walk with them in their grief journey, no matter what, no matter how long.

Does widowhood challenge faith? 

It certainly can. The loss of a beloved mate can shake one to their spiritual core. Why did God do this? Or why did he permit this? We may question why we feel so awful, knowing our mate is at home with the Lord. Don’t I have enough faith?

“The loss of a beloved mate can shake one to their spiritual core.”


We can become internally conflicted like the father who brought his troubled son to Jesus: “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” (Mark 9:24). It’s not just the loss that can challenge our faith but the difficulty of living daily with the reality of the loss. 

Our “feeler” and our faith aren’t always on the same page. Sadly, we are sometimes inclined to give our feelings more credence than our faith. Loss is not a choice, but how we respond to it is. Loss can be what drives us to our knees. It can prompt us to more passionately seek the Lord than ever before. Faith tried can also grow and become stronger (1 Peter 1:6-7James 1:2-4).

How can churches serve the daily needs of the widowed? 

Educate families regarding their responsibility to be the first line of ministry (1 Timothy 5:3-16). However, to minister effectively, education has to be provided to those families about grief, especially the grief experienced in spousal loss. 

It pains me to see widowed people sitting alone in our assemblies. As strange as it may seem to the inexperienced, church can be a really hard place for the widowed to go. It’s a blunt reminder of loss. What sweet words: “May I sit with you today?” Help them find a ministry. Often, the person left behind was engaged in a ministry with their spouse. 

What is their place in the church now that they are involuntarily single? Launching active local widowhood ministries is so important. These ministries can provide the encouragement widows and widowers need. They help rebuild social networks and even provide that ministry “fit” so important after loss.

Did widowhood change your relationship with your children and grandchildren? 

Yes. It brought us closer together, even though we have always been separated geographically. 

One evidence of that is the Widowhood Workshop ministry. We call it our “family passion project.” All 11 of us are working together in this ministry doing different things, even the five grandchildren. 

They make door prizes for the workshops and serve attendees at our annual summer Widow/Widower Retreat in Middle Tennessee. We talk freely about “Nana” anytime we are together. We have chosen to have our loss bind us together even more closely. 


From The Christian Chronicle, June, 2020.    

Dean Miller was a key note speaker at the 4th Annual Church Involvement Conference.

How Will COVID-19 Affect Involvement in the Future?

For several weeks we have been seeing how COVID-19 is affecting the Lord’s church.  We have had to make major adjustments.  These adjustments, in some cases, will become permanent behavior in the church.  Unless you are comfortable with change, you may be very uncomfortable with what’s occurring.  We are beginning to believe that we can never totally go back to the previous ‘church’ normal.   Some of these changes may actually be for the ‘better’ of the church.  Bottom line:  it will be about another new normal.

I am seeing many congregations/leaderships doing a very good job of dealing with all the issues associated with the virus.   Many churches have virtual worship services and Bible classes.   Some churches have parking lot services.  Some are having several smaller services every Sunday.  I am reading that some churches will permanently go to the virtual worship services plus small groups for Bible study.   The Sunday morning and Wednesday evening Bible classes, as we once knew them, may no longer exist or may exist in a new form.   We may need fewer men to lead worship services.  Large church buildings may no longer be necessary. Fewer full-time staff may be needed.  Church leadership (elders) will always be needed; the way they operate may be quite different.  For example, our elders meet through ZOOM.  Deacons may serve a smaller group of members.   Some churches no longer have anything for Sunday evenings and others may forfeit Sunday evening assemblies totally.    However, Sunday evening services have been getting rarer before the virus.  Giving has been hit hard for many churches.    Some congregations will close their doors because the giving has dropped so dramatically.  On-line giving has not resolved many of our giving woes.  More needs to be done this area.

But how may all this affect involvement?    How are these changes going to affect members in ministry?    Remember that before the virus, most ministries were church-building centered and most ministries were internal (they served the needs of the local church).   That has changed radically in the past few weeks.   Most church ministries lay dormant at this moment.   What will happen?  What is happening?

Involvement may become more individualistic.  More members may be encouraged to use their individual gifts and passions to serve a specific group of people or other individuals.   We usually have several ministries made up of several people (in each) who serve.  For example, we have one ministry that is made up of 25 or more members that serves, in many instances, the entire congregation.  That would change to a few serving a few or individuals serving individuals.     If the church divides into smaller groups, the members of said groups may serve in a more individualistic manner—members of said group serving one another.   There will be opportunities to serve members in one’s personal small group.

Involvement may be more home-centered and less building-centered.   Many of our (before the virus) ministries are/were done within a church edifice/building (e.g. greeters, Lord’s Supper preparation, building preparation, parking valets, ushers, childcare, security, fellowship meals, A/V, etc.).   If the church met in small groups, ministries would be done in one’s home or in the homes of others.  This would open up new opportunities for service.  No doubt about it, new types of ministries will evolve and come into being.   Need always drives ministries.

If we continue to assemble together in church edifices, how greeters operate may change, how the Lord’s Supper is prepared and served will change, fellowship meals may be a thing of the past (at least for a while), Bible classes, nurseries and other people ministries may be permanently modified or changed.  All of these are ministries in your congregation and ministry will change.   Some new ministries will come about and some will end.

Involvement may be less about worship assemblies and church administration.   Think about this for a moment.   How many folks does it take to organize and lead a Sunday morning worship service?  In our case, it takes a minimum of 11 men.   If you were in a small Bible study group and/or if your worship was done virtually, you would need fewer men.  Social distancing and how communion are done will change for ‘normal’ or traditional assemblies. Giving has already been affected and how we continue to give will be greatly modified.  Ministries related to church buildings are many and require lots of administration, and in many cases, money.   This may all change.   There is some writing out there that says that less full-time staff would be necessary.   Elders would be ‘stretched’ to attend several smaller groups and pastor one or more of these.  Note: I was reading recently about one congregation having 10 (ten) worship assemblies one Sunday morning so they could social-distance and still get the church together.   Will that be an option for your church?

Involvement may be more evangelistic.   Most small groups are designed to bring people to Christ.   If a congregation goes to the small group method and the groups are intentionally designed to win people to Christ, more and more members will be involved in the process of bringing and discipling new members.   This may  be a welcomed improvement over what is presently done in your congregation.  BTW:  these groups would be limited to ten people—unless the rules change.

Are there some obstacles and challenges?     Absolutely.   You’ve already had some of these and when you (attempt to) go back to the way things were, you will encounter some difficulties and adjustments. Some members want to go back to the way things were before the virus.   Some will NOT want to go back.   All of this requires unity and a desire to grow numerically and spiritually.  Some of the new changes will bring blessings and advantages.    

I have shared my limited observations and opinions.  I now want to hear from you.  What do you think will happen to involvement?   What will it look like in the future?  Maybe we, together, can assist the church in her quest in membership ministry in the near and distant future.   I look forward to your replies.    Just “reply” and make your comments and send.    Thank you.


What May the Church Learn from the Gideons?

What May the Church Learn from the Gideons?

If you go to the County Fair you may be given one of their Bibles.   If you stay in a motel, you may see one of their Bibles.   If you go to a flea market or attend a book sale, you may have the opportunity to purchases dozens of their color New Testaments.

If I were to ask you, “What is the mission of the Gideons International?”, what would you say?

At the end of 2019, the Gideons stopped printing Bibles.   People were laid off and buildings that housed 170 printing companies and their presses were closed.   Gideons have been known for their Bibles.   They have distributed over 2 billion of them.   They are everywhere including hospitals, colleges, fairs, trains, prisons and military bases. 

But now, the 122-year-old ministry is changing.  Printing more Bibles is no longer needed due to overproduction in the past and now some motel chains will not accept them.

The Gideons are in a period of refocusing and rebalancing their ministry.  They have reminded themselves of their original purpose: to save souls.   Printing Bibles was a part of that mission.   But they now feel they need to return to their original mission of saving souls.    They printed the Bibles and gave them to traveling businessmen who would in turn attempt to convert others to Christ using those Bibles.  For the first 10 years of their existence they did not distribute Bibles.  But somehow their method got confused with their purpose.   They are seeing a resurgence in interest in what they do.   They are attempting to recruit new members and their emphasis upon soul winning is helping in that quest.

Please do not misunderstand me.   I am not against distributing Bibles.  EEM is a great example of Bible distribution that is paying great dividends in the way of souls for Christ.   However, I am concerned if we have lost our original mission.  Possibly we have gotten our method (ministry) confused with our mission.

Jesus said, “Go and make disciples….”   The church exists to “make God’s wisdom known.”   And, I am ALL for ministry.  Sometimes our ministry is the method that we have confused with the mission.   How far have we gotten from the Lord’s original mission for His church?

Maybe, we like the Gideons, need to take some time to reexamine what we are doing and why we are doing it.    If you are familiar with the Lord’s church and if you read such papers as the Christian Chronicle, you know the Lord’s church is doing a lot of good all over the world.  Yet how much of it is directly related to winning souls to Jesus Christ?

In the arena of church ministry, much of our ministry is internal and maintenance.  Both types of ministries are necessary because they contribute either directly or indirectly to the spiritual growth of Christians.   But how many of our ministries are directly aimed at winnings souls to the Lord?  How many of our ministries are intentionally designed to win lost folks to the Lord?

All I am encouraging us to do is to learn from the Gideons.   Let’s don’t get our methods mixed up with our God-given mission.   Let’s not be afraid to rethink how and why we do the things we do in the Lord’s church.

Possibly you see other lessons we can learn.   Please share those with me.  Above all, let us all be diligent in serving the Lord and pointing all men to Jesus.   Trav

What Do You Do When You Are Losing Momentum?

Remain in Me!

What do you do when the momentum is lost?

Millions of people are cooped up in their homes with their children.   They are playing games, watching movies, creating memories and getting to know each other better.   These days provide many opportunities that our normal busy schedules do not allow.

As these days go by, many church buildings remain empty.   We are not assembling and as a result, we are not being ‘built up’ and made stronger.  We aren’t being encouraged and we aren’t encouraging others.   We miss Bible study, fellowship, worship and communing.   Church leadership is concerned about the loss of funding and members who may not return.

The work of the church (ministry) is in limbo.  Many good ministries and church events have come to a grinding halt or have been totally cancelled.  Others are indefinitely postponed.

The question that many dedicated involved church members and leaders are asking is “what do you when the momentum is lost?”    In other words, what do we do while we are absent from one another?   How do we keep the spirit of the church alive?   How may we prevent discouragement during this period of time?

It is obvious that many churches are now using modern technology to bring people ‘together’ digitally and virtually.    This is a tremendous means of bringing us and keeping us together.    I commend and appreciate church leaders and members who are doing this.   As time goes along, such people are becoming more creative in making fellowship possible.   They contribute in a very meaningful way to the life and growth of the church.   Their attempts, are among many things, aiding the momentum of the local church.

But what does God say?   We must remember that God is THE source of all we have that is good and which enables us to live and grow.   His counsel is above all else.

If you read John 15:1-8 you will find several things there:

  1.   God owns and takes care of us – we are His vineyard.  He is the source of all good things related to the vineyard.
  2.   We are to bear much good fruit – there is no qualification on when or where on this.   God does not ‘close shop’ when things and circumstances are bad.  We are expected to bear fruit under all circmustances.
  3.   God prunes us – in fact, He may very well be pruning individual Christians and His Son’s church during these trying times – the goal of the pruning is a higher quality of fruit and more fruit.   We cannot bear such fruit without pruning and pruning many times is painful and challenging.
  4. But I what I really want you to see here is this:   Jesus says “abide” or “remain” in me.   And, then He says for ‘without me you can do nothing.’

The key to momentum or any type of growth, be it spiritual or numerical, is Jesus.   We must be connected to Him; HE is our power source.   Without Him there is no momentum and there is no fruit.

I am all for suggestions from my fellow Christian leaders and members during these difficult times.   I am all ears.    We are trying many new things here in Athens to stay connected to each other/the church.   Yet none are as important to living and church life as being connected (remaining, abiding in) to Jesus.

What is this word “remain” mean?   If you do a thorough study of these words, they carry with them the idea of a personal walk or relationship with the Lord.   It’s more than church attendance or even reading God’s Word.   It is walking with Him.   It is living in His presence.   It is living, serving, praying, suffering and communion with Jesus.

In some very real sense our fruit is different. However, it remains “fruit.” And the key once agian, no matter where we are, no matter what our circumstances are and who we are around, the key to momentum is reaming in Jesus.

After all of this COVID 19 virus fear and death are gone, we must continue to abide and remain in Jesus.    While there is a place for special events and using technology to keep us connected to each other, let us not forget to ‘remain’ in Him.   In Him is ‘lasting’ (eternal) fruit.


Athens, Tennessee

More on Maintenance

More on Maintenance

Many of you have read what I’ve written over the years about “maintenance” in church ministry.   Some may appreciate a review or overview, though.   Please understand that this presentation is not meant to be taken in a negative way.

  1.  Maintenance ministry is providing service for church members to make their Bible and worship opportunities more comfortable and accommodative.   Examples are childcare, communion preparation, A/V, a clean church building, greeters, ample parking, security, etc.
  2.  Maintenance ministries in most cases are internally focused; that is, they are designed to meet the needs of church members versus those outside the church.   However, when visitors visit church services, they, too enjoy the benefits of maintenance ministries.   Guests may require special ministries.
  3. Generally speaking, local church members don’t get too excited about maintenance ministries UNLESS such ministries (for some reason) no longer exist or they offer inferior quality.    When maintenance ministries function well, they are often taken for granted and members don’t get excited about them or hold them in high esteem.    This lack of appreciation sometimes may translate into indifference, entitlement and taking such for granted.  This also may adversely affect fund raising for such ministries.   Generally speaking, brethren will not make sacrifices to finance maintenance ministries.   There is an exception:  if their lack of support personally affects them, they will fully support such a ministry.   Brethren are more likely to dig deeper into their pockets and get excited over some special staff member like a youth and/or family minister.   They are also more likely to give more and get excited over an addition to the church building or an entirely new edifice.

Bottom line:   brethren get excited not over maintenance ministries per se.  They get excited (and usually will give more and be involved more) over a ministry that benefits them personally or benefits someone they love (a child, a friend).

What I would add to all of this is that we can make maintenance ministries more exciting by being and doing one thing:   being evangelistic.   When we gear up to win souls and when we actually start having weekly and daily baptisms and our church services are full of new people, then maintenance is no longer ‘maintenance.’    Such ministries become necessary vehicles to serve the lost and they take on greater significance.   They will no longer be taken for granted or be allowed to be considered as a second rate or less important ministry.    Intentionally opening our lives and church buildings and ministries to the lost will cause many such things to happen.    Trav

First 2020 SERVE Ministries Workshop, April 17 & 18 Has Been Postponed Indefinitely

Schedule for a SERVE Ministries Workshop is as follows:

Friday afternoon:    

8:30   Creating/Recreating a Mission Statement for Your Congregation


9:15 – Introducing Involvement Ministry


9:30 – Organizing for Involvement:  No Time, Part Time and Full Time

Break out session

10:30 – You are God’s Masterpiece:  Your Gift

Break out session


1:00 – Discovering the Real You:  Learning About Personalities

Break out session


2:00 – You Have Some Very Good Baggage that God Can Use:  Looking Closely at How the Lord has Blessed You with Education, Life Experiences & Skills

3:00  – What Drives You?   Looking at Your “People” and “Things”

              Passions:  Your passions are the fuel that drive you to serve

Break Out

4:00  –  How Your Past Affects Your Present:   Your Past Ministry

                   Experience and How They Relate to Your Service Today

5:00 Supper and evening break

Saturday morning –   

8:00 – U Are Ready

8:30 – Real Life Coaching:  What is It & Why is It So Important?

Break out and experimentation of Coaching


9:30 – Bearing Fruit:  How to Motivate the Brethren to Be Involved


10:30 –  Campaigns and Special Events

11:15 – Break out and dismissal 

Costs of Attending:

You will be responsible for your travel expenses and room and board.   We simply ask for a donation to the church to cover expenses for materials and use of the facilities.  This can be any amount small or larger.   Travis Irwin does not receive any compensation for his presentations and will not request or accept any. 

Contact information:

The church office can be contacted Monday through Thursday, 8 am to 4:30 pm. at 423 745 0554.

Travis Irwin can be contacted anytime at 423 920 3060 or email him at

Hotels within 4 miles of the church:

There are 4 high quality motels at Exit 49 on I-75 (I-75 runs between Knoxville and Chattanooga north and south). Those motels are:

The Comfort Inn   423 252 8030  (gives 10% discount; mention Athens church of Christ)

The Hampton Inn   423 745 2345

Holiday Inn   423 649 0003

Fairfield Inn (opened May, 2018)  423 507 0870

I would urge you to go ahead and make your reservations soon; these motels are usually full because we are part of a tourist area.

Following are some responses from our most recent workshop:

Very well done

Workshop made me want to become more involved in ministries…

Great information—encouraged me to be more active in God’s work

Very thorough!   Time flew by

Workshop so interesting and helpful for me to realize what my ministry can be and my passion

If as a church you are serious about every member being a minister and improving involvement in the church, this workshop is a good place to start

Recommend it to any congregation….

I think all in attendance can benefit from the material presented in this workshop.  It helped each of us focus on our own gifts as well as the strengths of others so we may all contribute more effectively and more enthusiastically

Great inspiration to become more goal-oriented in God’s work.

This was helpful in making us getting more involved

Why Is It Always the Same People?

Why Is It Always the Same People?

First of all, I want you to know that this is a church truism.  I’ve talked with church leaders all over the country and they have the same problem every congregation has:  the same people do all the work in the church.   In other words, preachers, deacons and elders are always asking for volunteers to do jobs in the church and the same people always volunteer and the same people don’t volunteer.  It’s a bit perplexing and a bit frustrating at times, too.    Let’s be honest here:  some tasks demand little in effort or time.   Then why don’t the church members, who are not assigned any task, volunteering for these tasks?

We can either get very critical or we can attempt to learn why people think the way they do.   By the way, everyone has a ‘reason’ or an ‘excuse.’   To them that is enough and we should accept it and not bother them anymore.  But please allow me to make a few suggestions and comments:

  1.   Everyone of us can contribute more to the church that our bodily presence and a monetary gift.    Each of us is gifted by God for service.   However, some of us think that our sitting in a pew and contributing our money is all that God expects and the brethren should be happy with those.  While both of those are important, they beg the question—why has the Lord blessed me so much?   The answer is simple:  to bless others.   To bear fruit in Jesus’ name.   In the Lord’s church we have propagated that faithfulness is going to church and giving.    While these may contribute in some way to faithfulness, they do not represent fruitfulness and faithfulness in their great scheme of things.  Discipleship is so much more.  However, we haven’t always done a very good job on teaching discipleship.  We’ve been satisfied with teaching attendance and giving.
  2.   Some of these non-involved folks need to be approached personally—by someone other than a paid professional staff member.    Some folks will not volunteer; they must be asked.  I suggest an elder, deacon or ministry leader ask an uninvolved member and not a paid professional staff member.   Those of us who are paid professionals get paid to ask people.   This doesn’t count.  It’s easy to say “No” to a paid professional but much more difficult to say “No” to someone who is more like you.   Bottom line:  some folks must be approached one on one with a request to be involved.   AND, when asked, they should not be allowed to say “No.”   Give them choices and allow them to come up with a ministry of their own design if they don’t like your suggestions. One of readers, Ronny Jones, suggested that some Christians want to serve but need a personal invitation to fulfill or do a specific task that is consistent with their talents, gifts or skills. . This is worthy of thought and trying. I think Ronny is correct. Thanks, Ronny.
  3.   The parable of the four soils does come into play here.   I am convinced this parable was given to elders, deacons and ministers so we wouldn’t be so hard on ourselves and not be too disappointed in people.    Some folks will never obey the gospel, some Christians will never mature and some will never bear fruit.    That’s just plain scary because Christ said he would cut off those who didn’t bear much good fruit.   We have little control in this.    Should we give up?   No, we must continue to teach and exhort. Let God handle it His own way and let us obey the Lord.
  4.   Some of us are too busy, period.    This ties into #3; some of our lives are too full of fluff.

  Recently the book The Elite came into print.  The author, a preacher and sports nut, suggests that organized sports have gone overboard to the point that Christians who are involved in sports don’t have time for fellowship, worship, Bible study, prayer, a personal relationship with God and family time.   Cory Ten Boom made the observation that if the devil can’t get you to do wrong, that all he has to do is just keep you too busy for God and His people.   It seems the devil is right about this.

5.  Some, in fact, do have many burdens to bear.   Some members are taking care of sick or shut-in loved ones.   Some are working two or more jobs.    Some are working extreme hours.   Some are discouraged, disappointed or disillusioned.    Some are overwhelmed.    Some have legit reasons.    However, I must add, I know many members that have these same things in common with others and yet they are involved in some form and in some way.

Will we ever have 100% involvement?   Yes.   But for how long?   In 2014 we had 100% ‘promised’ involvement.    100% involvement must be maintained and it is very difficult to maintain.   In an ideal world or church this is the way it should be.   However, we are all at different spiritual levels and we all grow at different paces.   Should we retreat or give up?  Nope.  We should encourage spiritual growth and seek to see folks show their spiritual maturity in many ways including service.   Trav

I suggest the following:

May I be blunt by saying that things are the way they are in the church (the same folks do all the work) because we’ve allowed it and promoted it. Jerrie Barber would probably say that we are happy or comfortable with it that way. However, when we finally get tired of things the way they are (the same folks doing everything) and start teaching for change, things will change for the better. Such an appraoch takes faith and courage. The old approach takes no faith and no courage.

Here are some other suggestions:

Making disciples versus making church members.   We are commanded to do one and Jesus does the other when we obey the gospel.

Preaching and teaching on being fruitful as well as being faithful.   This requires more than two sermons; this is a life time of teaching and preaching.

Bring attention to the fruit bearing of others   Honor to whom honor is due. Focus on the fruitful members and their work; you will be greatly encouraged.

Our 4th & Final CIC is History

Folks eating lunch together at CIC

Our 4th and final Church Involvement Conference is now history. Over 40 folks attended, listened, went to the break out groups, ate together and enjoyed the rich fellowship and content of the conference and the Widowhood Workshop.

Our goals were to promote involvement and to encourage churches to consider the Widowhood Workshop Ministry for their local congregation. Our (Athens) is in the process of starting it here. Five congregations showed great interest in WW.

If you wish to have all 12 lectures on CD, please contact the church office at 423 745 0554 or email me at The cost is only $10 including postage.

My retirement was announced this past Sunday. Deb and I will retire effective December 31, 2020.

Will I continue to do workshops and retreats? Yes! In fact, I’m available this year.

Will I continue to do emails? Yes! If you aren’t on my email list please contact me at

Will I continue to write articles for this website? Yes!

Our plans are to travel and be open to the Lord’s leading. We may work with smaller churches. But I would love to help churches get their members involved in ministry. Contact me if I can serve you in some way.

Travis Irwin

Athens, TN

Where Does Ministry Fit into the Scheme of Things in Your Congregation?

Where is Involvement in the Scheme of the Christian Life?

Church leadership is constantly challenged to meet the spiritual needs of the sheep of their congregation.    They take their positions seriously and want to be good stewards of those under their guidance.

On top of this is the knowledge that there is so much Christians need to know to grow spiritually.     Church leaders hear the same sermons the sheep do every week and they are like church members at times—they are overwhelmed.

First, I must say that the Lord neither gives us too much information nor does He expect too much.   His main concern is reconciliation and growth.   Peter as he closes his second letter says that we should continue to grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:18).   Having been born again, as babes we are to grow and the church is to equip us in this endeavor (Eph.4:11).

Where does involvement in church ministry fit into the scheme of things related to personal spiritual growth?    Simple put, the Lord has exemplified several areas of discipline wherein we grow more into His likeness and we also grow closer to Him.    Ministry is one of the many of these.   Others include things with which we are more familiar:  prayer, study, mediation, solitude, fasting, giving, teaching, suffering, fellowship, rest, imitating the Father, etc.    Ministry (serving others, bearing fruit, being involved in ministry) should be a part of any list of Christian disciplines.

The basis of this is that Jesus came to serve not to be served and He came in the form of a servant (Matt.20:28; Phil.2:4ff) and we are to imitate Him (1 Peter 2:21).   Jesus is forgiving, kind, gentle, patient.   He is Savior, Redeemer, the Anointed One of God, He is the Alpha and Omega, the King of kings and the Lord of lords.   He is the good shepherd, the vine, the light of the world and the resurrection and life.   But He is also a servant.   Without this He would not have died.

In answer to the original question, ministry is one of many ways of emulating Jesus and growing spiritually.   It is one of many ways of drawing us closer to the Lord.  It is one of many ways of showing love for the Father, for fellow/sister Christians and for our neighbors.

With this question answered, I will make two suggestions to church leaders:

  •  Consider hiring a spiritual growth minister who will guide the church to grow in all of these areas.    These are sometimes called “Discipling Ministers.”
  •  I can help you with the “ministering” or “serving” part of this and I would love that opportunity.   If I can assist, please contact me.   


Page 1 of 11

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén