Church Involvement

Now Available!!

You’ve been waiting all year for this book and now it is here at Amazon in ebook and paperback.

To purchase the ebook, go to this link (the paperback should be available Tuesday, October 19)

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=We+are+God%27s+Masterpiece+by+Travis+Irwin&ref=nb_sb_noss

127 pages of useful material and inventories for individuals and congregations.

What if every member of your congregation knew exactly how they were God’s masterpiece? According to Ephesians 2:10, we the church are God’s masterpiece, yet we don’t always know how we each fit into the larger picture. In this book, involvement minister Travis Irwin utilizes his experiences in church leadership to compile several inventories for individuals to complete in order to discover how they are intended to be used in the church. From spiritual gifts to personality types to passions, among others, God has made us each unique parts of the whole. This book will walk any individual through the steps of recognizing just how beautiful and necessary we each are to fulfilling His masterpiece.

Special pricing for bulk orders. Contact the author at involvementcoach@att.net

The New Book & My Health

Thanks for your many prayers and encouraging words.

Updates on Nunelly & Waverly, TN & How You May Help.

https://www.gofundme.com/…/pinewood-church-of-christ…

From Christian Chronicle this week: 

The Pinewood Church of Christ in Nunnelly, Tenn., had to rebuild after devastating floods swamped the Volunteer State in May 2010.

More than a decade later, a deluge again has ravaged the Hickman County congregation’s meeting place.


How to help: Find details at the end of this story


This time, the church — about 60 miles west of Nashville — has no insurance to cover the losses, member Drew Grimes told The Christian Chronicle. 

Coverage was impossible to find after the last flood, said Grimes, who snapped a viral photo Saturday of water up to the building’s rooftop.

“It’s just utter devastation,” Grimes, 26, said of the scene surrounding the church, which averages Sunday attendance of 60 to 70. 

But the father of two young children said he believes “God has a plan for everything.”

“Even in the darkest hours, you’re still pulled closer together,” said Grimes, indicating that the church’s elders and other leaders would meet soon to discuss what to do.

Travis here:  I learned this week that the brethren in Nunnelly are trying to either swap land with a neighbor (higher elevation land) or buy higher land.   Either way, a new building will be a great expense; if they decided to fix the flooded one, it would very expensive or maybe impossible.  BTW:  I know Andrew Grimes; he is a fine young man from Brushy where I preached 2005 to 2008.

The men from Brushy church of Christ are going to Nunnelly today to close in the annex behind the Nunnelly church building (see picture above, you can see the annex barely).   This will give them at best a temporary meeting place.    To help please do the following:

How to help

• Pinewood Church Of Christ, 6288 Pinewood Road, Nunnelly, TN 37137. Mark checks for “flood relief.”

One of the elders is Phillip Bates and his phone is 615 517 4683.

https://www.gofundme.com/…/pinewood-church-of-christ…

• Waverly Church of Christ, 438 West Main Street, Waverly TN 37185. Mark checks for “flood relief.” To donate electronically, text “Give” to (931) 288-4887.

• Fairfield Church of Christ, 1860 Hwy 100, Centerville, TN 37033. Mark checks for “flood relief.”

The flood in Waverly, TN via Christian Chronicle.

Notice from Dale Jenkins: We talked to the preacher at the Waverly Church of Christ. A very good man. Jeff Keele. They have a multiple purpose building. He said it is already run over with food, water (we have more water than they do out west), clothing, diapers, toiletry items, etc. He said when they release people to start coming in to clean up they may need more and may need man-power, but he will keep us posted. He said if someone wants to send money: “Please ask people to mail any donations to Waverly Church of Christ and put Flood Relief on the For line. Our address is 438 West Main Street, Waverly TN 37185.”   You can also text “Give” to 931 288 4887

Travis here:  I’ve communicated with the elders in Waverly and they need Prayers and Money.   10 of their members lost everything.  One teen member died.   The church is about 200 to 225 members.

Other related news from Jeff’s wife Becky:   date:  8/23/21

  • This is Becky, Jeff’s wife. I’m going to respond for him because he’s over working in the kitchen this morning preparing breakfast for the ones that are sheltered with us. We are safe, our home is fine and all of our family. We lived on the opposite side of Highway 70 on the hil

We are overwhelmed with supplies and food. Our sister congregation in McEwen has been established as the distribution center in that area and they are to receive their truck today. They have never done this before so I have spoken with their associate ministers wife to try to prepare her a little bit for what they’re fixing to walk into. 

Very little cleanup has begun because we are still in recovery and prayerfully rescue. The count as of yesterday afternoon we had lost 22 souls and still have 50 people missing. I have not heard an update on those numbers this morning.   As best we have heard, our brethren have not been affected in any other congregations with loss of life.

Within the next couple of days we hope to be organized and ready for those who do need to come for clothing and supplies. We have received our trucks from disaster relief and are prepared with cleaning supplies and other needed items. The reality is our greatest need for these folks is a place to live. Most homes will be uninhabitable if not already destroyed and our hardest hit area was our low income housing and we are uncertain that that will be able to be reopened.

Our elementary and junior high schools were both hit hard. The elementary school has possible structural damage so we are uncertain when our children are going to be able to get back into any form of classroom in the Waverly area. I have not had an update on the McEwen schools. I know that they have our reunification center set up in the McEwen high school where we are trying to connect families with their loved ones at this time.

Our cell phone service was not restored until yesterday so we have not had the opportunity to reach out to our own members to see their situations. We know of at least four of our families whose homes are a total loss. Other congregations such as new Johnsonville have members in the similar situation. Hopefully today and tomorrow we can start getting some phone trees set up and reach out and find out where we are.

Notice from Dale Jenkins: We talked to the preacher at the Waverly Church of Christ. A very good man. Jeff Keele. They have a multiple purpose building. He said it is already run over with food, water (we have more water than they do out west), clothing, diapers, toiletry items, etc. He said when they release people to start coming in to clean up they may need more and may need man-power, but he will keep us posted. He said if someone wants to send money: “Please ask people to mail any donations to Waverly Church of Christ and put Flood Relief on the For line. Our address is 438 West Main Street, Waverly TN 37185.”   You can also text “Give” to 931 288 4887

Travis here:  I’ve communicated with the elders in Waverly and they need Prayers and Money.   10 of their members lost everything.  One teen member died.   The church is about 200 to 225 members.

I am certain the brethren at either place would appreciate your prayers and any money support you can give them. Trav

Engage & Evangelize or Pay the Consequences

  • I am fortunate enough to receive information from Dan Williams at Harding University about a variety of topics plus I get free sermons and lessons and illustrations. Dan sent out this information today, July 26 and I think it is pertinent for the church that we take its implications seriously. Bottom line: we must engage the world around us or become irrelevant to those in our world. Christians must engage people at home, at work, at school, in the community, in the church and in our recreation. We must engage them with biblical Christianity or transformed lives. Much of what folks see and hear today are unsavory believers (their perspective of us). Please take the time to read this: you will come up with your own conclusions as to what we need to do from hereon. God bless. Trav
  • A new religious census of the American population has just been released, and its findings provide much food for thought. I have copied below the preliminary announcement of its findings, and the article contains a link to the full survey report. I have four takeaways for our churches:1.     Diversify or die.2.     Don’t become identified as a branch of the Republican Party (or ANY political party, for that matter).3. We must develop an evangelistic culture in our congregations because we are living in a mission field.      4. Intentionally work to evangelize younger Americans.I would be interested in hearing your comments on this material. Thanks to my friend David Smith (Baytown, Texas) for alerting me to this breaking news.Dan The Public Religion Research Institute (PRRI) today released the inaugural 2020 Census of American Religion, which provides unprecedented county-level data on religious identity and diversity in the United States. Based on interviews with more than 500,000 respondents between 2013 and 2020, the census report reveals the shifting dynamics of American religious affiliation across geography, race and ethnicity, age, and political affiliation over the last decade. It provides the most detailed estimates of American religious affiliation since the U.S. Census Bureau last collected religious data in 1957.
    The religious makeup of an area has a considerable impact on life experiences for Americans, and we are proud to release the 2020 Census of American Religion, which enables us to see that religious landscape all the way down to the county level,” noted Natalie Jackson, PRRI research director. “Using this tool, we are able to see how Americans’ religious context varies based on geography, as well as how religious identities are changing. We see some trends continuing, like the continued decline and aging of white evangelical Protestants. We are also seeing shifts in others, such as a leveling out in the religiously unaffiliated and a rebound among white mainline Protestants.” 
    Key Findings on Religious Diversity and Affiliation
    Based on analysis using a Religious Diversity Index, the census report shows that religious diversity continues to be highest in more urban counties. The most religiously diverse counties in the United States are Kings County, New York; Queens County, New York; Montgomery County, Maryland; and Navajo County, Arizona. Religious diversity is lowest in southern regions of the country and in rural areas, with the least religiously diverse counties concentrated in Mississippi and Alabama.
    Over the last few decades, the white Christian proportion of the U.S. population has declined by nearly one-third, hitting an all-time low in 2018 of 42%. That trend seems to have slowed, however. In 2019 and 2020, that proportion ticked upward slightly, to 44%, driven primarily by an increase in the proportion of white mainline Protestants and a stabilization in the proportion of white Catholics.
    White evangelical Protestants are the oldest religious group in the U.S., with a median age of 56 (compared to 47 in the general population), and they have also experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation over the past decade, shrinking from 23% in 2006 to 14% in 2020. White evangelical Protestants are most heavily concentrated in counties in the South and the southern Midwest. By comparison, white mainline Protestants, which comprise 16% of the U.S. population as of 2020, are spread more broadly around the country, with the heaviest concentrations in counties in the Midwest.
    The share of religiously unaffiliated Americans has also been on the rise over the past decade but has stabilized in the last three years around one-quarter of the population (25% in 2018, 24% in 2019, and 23% in 2020). Religiously unaffiliated Americans are most prevalent in counties located in the Northeast and the West.
    The Relationship Between Religious and Political Affiliation
    Christianity continues to play a significant role in American politics: Both major political parties are majority Christian, with 83% of Republicans and 69% of Democrats identifying as Christian. The biggest difference in the religious makeup of self-identified Republicans and Democrats is the proportion of white Christians compared to Christians of color. Nearly seven in ten Republicans (68%) identify as white and Christian, compared to less than four in ten Democrats (39%). Three in ten Democrats (32%) are Christians of color, compared to only half as many Republicans (14%). Additionally, nearly one in four Democrats (23%) are religiously unaffiliated, compared to 13% of Republicans.
    “Analysis of the religious identities of the two political parties reveals an increasingly homogeneous Republican Party, comprised overwhelmingly of white Christians, even as the country continues to become more diverse,” noted Robert P. Jones, CEO and founder of PRRI. “In terms of racial and religious diversity, self-identified Democrats look like 30-year-old America, whereas Republicans look like 70-year-old America.”
    Other notable findings from PRRI’s Census of American Religion include: Most religious groups are getting older, with the exception of white mainline Protestants and Jewish Americans. The median age of Black Protestants has increased most, from 45 in 2013 to 50 in 2020. In 2013, the median age of white mainline Protestants was 52, and in 2020 it was 50. Jewish Americans have decreased in median age, from 52 in 2013 to 48 in 2020.Americans ages 65 and older are the only group whose religious profile has changed significantly since 2013. Among Americans 65 and older, the proportion of white evangelical Protestants dropped from 26% in 2013 to 22% in 2020, and the proportion of white Catholics dropped from 18% in 2013 to 15% in 2020. Finally, connected to these trends, the proportion of religiously unaffiliated seniors increased from 11% in 2013 to 14% in 2020.Black Protestants, most heavily concentrated in the South and the Southeast, overwhelmingly identify with the Democratic Party. 65% of Black Protestants identify as Democrats, 7% identify as Republicans, and 26% identify as independents.Educational attainment varies considerably across religious groups. Majorities of Hindu (67%), Unitarian Universalist (59%), and Jewish (58%) Americans have four-year college degrees or higher. Comparatively, three in ten white evangelical Protestants (29%) and Black Protestants (29%) hold college degrees, while one in five or less Jehovah’s Witnesses (20%), Hispanic Protestants (17%), and Hispanic Catholics (15%) do.Census of American Religion County-Level Maps The 2020 Census of American Religion includes 13 county-level national maps showing the proportion of the population for the 13 different religious affiliation categories included in the report, including white evangelical Protestants, white mainline Protestants, Black Protestants, Jewish Americans, and more. A preview of selected maps included in the report is available here: Religious diversity: https://religioncensus.org/diversity-index All white Christians: https://religioncensus.org/white-christianWhite evangelical Protestants: https://religioncensus.org/white-evangelicalWhite mainline Protestants: https://religioncensus.org/white-mainline-protestantWhite Catholics: https://religioncensus.org/white-catholicLatter-Day Saints (Mormon): https://religioncensus.org/latter-day-saintBlack Protestants: https://religioncensus.org/black-protestantHispanic Protestants: https://religioncensus.org/hispanic-protestantHispanic Catholics: https://religioncensus.org/hispanic-catholicJewish Americans: https://religioncensus.org/jewishMuslim Americans: https://religioncensus.org/muslimBuddhist Americans: https://religioncensus.org/buddhistHindu Americans: https://religioncensus.org/hinduReligiously unaffiliated Americans: https://religioncensus.org/unaffiliatedThe full 2020 Census of American Religion is available on PRRI’s website. https://www.prri.org/research/2020-census-of-american-religion/ MethodologyThe county-level religion census estimates are based on PRRI American Values Atlas data from 2013 to 2019, which includes interviews with random samples of 459,822 U.S. adults (ages 18 and over). Interviews were conducted via telephone (both landline and cell phone) in both English and Spanish. A technique called small area estimation modeling generated county-level religion estimates in 3,142 counties in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, by combining the AVA data with county-level data from the 2014–2018 American Community Survey to increase the certainty of the estimates, particularly in counties with small populations. The estimates have varying measurement error based on the size of the county and the number of surveys completed in each county. Smaller counties have larger measurement error.
    Dan Williams, Ph.D.

    Please send your submissions for PreacherStuff directly to Dr. Dan Williams — DWilliams@Harding.edu

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How Do You Improve the 20% Figure?

Is it true that 20% of church members do 80% of the work? It appears that this is true with many congregations.   And, of course, there are exceptions.   I have personally worked and worshipped with congregations where 40% to 80% of the members were involved in some sort of ministry in the local church.   I have also been told by church leaders that only about 10% of their congregation were involved in ministry.
This generalization possibly needs to be reworded thusly:
20% of a church’s membership does 100% of the work.
I’m going to suggest that someone (the church secretary, an elder, the preacher) in every congregation take out the church directory and go page by page and determine which members are doing anything (in the way of ministry) for the local church other than attending and contributing money.   
You can get the percentage by dividing the number of involved members by the number of members you have.  For example, if you have 150 members and only 30 of them do anything in the way of ministry, you divide 30 by 150 and you will get .2 or 20%.
Having done the math, how do we increase the 20%?
If you have invested the time to discover not only the percentage of members involved in ministry in your congregation BUT also WHO IS NOT INVOLVED, you will probably experience a bit of shock and want to know how to INCREASE the percentage.   May I suggest the following 3 things: Decide to make the changes necessary to increase the percentage.  Start educating the brethren on what the Bible teaches about ministryUse the tools that equip and prepare the brethren to serve. 
It just so happens that I have tools, knowledge and experience to assist you in getting you started in this adventure.
There are 3 ways to approach your needs:
Retreats are one-day presentations (usually six hours) which are not only fun but will assist church leaders in determining if they wish to invest more in starting an effective involvement ministry.
Workshops are nine hours of intense training for church leaders, deacons and church staff.   Workshops are only for congregations that are serious about getting members involved in ministry.
Residencies are for congregations who have made the decision to move ahead and start an involvement ministry.   Residencies consist any time period from one to thirteen weeks of my residing and working with a congregation.   Residencies are optional.
 
Travis Irwin
2134 River Chase Drive
Murfreesboro, TN 37128
423 920 3060
involvementcoach@att.net
You you can find free videoes on facebook:
My facebook group:   Church Involvement Ministers
                   Church Involvement Dot Com

It’s Time to Re-Engage Your Members in Ministry

We’ve seen churches begin the process of returning to various types of normalcy.

Most returned first to a Sunday morning worship assembly with spaced seating followed by no spaced seating which was then followed by a Sunday morning assembly for the children for a study of a Bible story or Bible facts.   Others have gone back to Wednesday evening studies.   Many have totally given up returning to a Sunday evening assembly while others are still working on such an arrangement.   Some have returned to normal Sunday morning Bible study for all ages.  This is our new brave world or as many call it, our new normal.

Churches have pretty much returned or re-engaged worship and Bible study—and this is a very good thing.    Of recent date, one church announced re-engaging the local church in fellowship meals or events.   This is also commendable.

However, few have re-engaged its members in ministry.   Yes, several congregations never stopped ministry.    They changed whom they served and how they served: some congregations provided food for their neighbors.  

Many of us have simply allowed our ministries to lay dormant and we are having difficulty getting volunteers now to teach and carry on what we had going on sixteen months ago.  I am encouraging everyone to return or re-engage members to ministry.  It is time; it is beyond time.

This re-engagement can be activated by an involvement workshop or retreat.  Now is the perfect time to do one of these.

What is an involvement retreat?    A retreat is designed to help church staff, elders and deacons get revitalized and re-energized for ministry.   Members could also be encouraged to participate so they, too would be revitalized and re-energized.

How long does a retreat last?    Usually, a retreat is scheduled for a Saturday as follows:

Continental breakfast 8:00 am

Two lessons and break out groups 8:45 to Noon

Lunch at Noon

Two lessons and break out groups 12:45 to 3:00 pm.

Each participant is required to have our new workbook.

What is an involvement workshop?   A workshop is for more serious congregations and it goes deeper into involvement.   It is an excellent start for an involvement ministry in your church if you do not have one.   It can also be used to revitalize your present ministries.

How long does a workshop last?    Usually, a workshop starts on a Friday evening and continues on Saturday.    It’s for church leaders and staff.    Its schedule looks like the following:

Friday evening:  

Supper 6:00 to 6:45

Two classes with a break out:  6:45 to 8:45 pm.

Saturday:

Breakfast and devotional:  8:30

Two classes with break outs

Lunch at Noon

Two more classes with break outs

Closing 3 pm.

Note:  schedules are usually customized to individual congregational needs.

Residencies are available under certain circumstances and needs.

For more information, please contact me at:

Travis Irwin, involvement coach

423 920 3060 (text or call; leave a voice mail if I do not answer)

Email:    involvementcoach@att.net

See many articles on church involvement at www.churchinvolvement.com

How Do You Know Everything is Good in Your Church?

I love these old attendance charts.   They are found in most churches of Christ all over the world.   They are usually put on the wall up front of the auditorium so the church can plainly see them.    They usually come in two forms:  one depicts the church attendance and contribution figures and the other lists the songs that the church will be singing in the next worship assembly.

Are these the only valid ways of determining the health of a church?

Church leaders usually reason this way:   if the attendance and giving are good, then everything is good.    And, I think the church attendance and giving are good indicators of church health.   However, I think there are others that are just as, if not more, important.

Bible class attendance.    Some attendance boards do include these figures also but many do not.    What I have learned is that only 30% to 50% of a church’s adults and children attend Bible classes on Sunday morning and it’s even less on Wednesday evening.   Why is this figure important?   It is important because it indicates whether or not a member or church family is really concerned about their spiritual growth.    If every member and family who did not attend Bible class were at home, sometime during the week, studying the Bible on their own I wouldn’t be so concerned.   But the fact of the matter is that non-Bible class attenders (in general) are not involved in personal Bible study and devotionals in their homes.   Low Bible class figures indicate low interest in spiritual things.

What is your congregation doing to produce good teachers?   What are you doing to promote personal Bible at home and in the church?

Ministry involvement.   We are fruit bearers (John 15:7; Colossians 1:9-11).  Are all the members bearing much good fruit?   This may be more difficult to measure but this is a far better way of knowing if everything is good in your congregation.

Is every member of your congregation involved in some sort of ministry wherein they use their God-given spiritual gifts, personalities and life skills and life experiences in serving others?    And, are the ministries in your congregation not only for the membership but also for those outside the church?   The old adage that 20% of the church does all the work is generally true, but I promise you it is not biblical.   God expects all His children to produce fruit as a result of ministry.

What is your congregation doing to prepare members to serve?   What ministries do you have that meet the needs of people in the community?

Friendliness.    Every congregation thinks they are the friendliness church in town.  However, the fact of the matter is that the members are friendly to each other.  Every congregation is full of wonderful people that are either related to each other or they have been friends all their lives.   Outsiders come to worship to visit and many are ignored.   Is your church friendly to everyone including the strangers that some through your doors?   What promotes this kind of friendliness in your congregation?   

Baptisms of non-churched people.   Few things are as joyful as baptizing our children into Jesus Christ.   When our children obey the gospel, this is a time for great thanksgiving and praise.   Many congregations have done exceptionally well in making sure their own young people are taught well and are encouraged to follow Jesus.   However, how many people are baptized a year in your congregation who were not raised in the church?   How many people from the community have been brought to Christ?   What is your congregation doing to reach the lost in the community?

I just gave 4 other valid means of measuring the health of your congregation other than church attendance and giving figures, and there are others.

I can assist with any or all of these by training leaders and members to serve.

If I can help in any way please contact me.

Travis Irwin

involvementcoach@att.net

423 920 3060

Getting Involved Members to Help Fulfill Your Congregation’s Mission & Vision Statements

If you go on line and look at scores of church of Christ websites, you can quickly learn about each congregation.   Some are small and very traditional.   Some are a bit more progressive.   And, then, some are ‘over the top.’

My main concerns are their ministries and their mission statements.  I want to know if they are going anywhere; if they have any goals.   I have been pleasantly surprised that many have mission statements and congregational focuses.   However, I wonder how many of these mission statements are taken seriously by the membership of the church.   Churches need biblical mission statements and they need to train and equip the membership to fulfill those mission statements.

I suggest 3 things:

  1.  Create a congregational mission statement that causes numerical and spiritual growth.   We could debate if a church should have mission and vision statements.   I am going to strongly suggest that the church does in fact have a mission statement, and it’s found in Matthew 28:19-20.   This mission statement promotes numerical and spiritual growth—and that’s because Jesus wants both.   This biblical mission statement also promotes making disciples.   All your ministries SHOULD BE contributing to the fulfillment of this mission.     And, the way to accomplish this starts with something very simple.
  2. Get a list of all your congregation’s ministries.  Do any of them have their own mission statements?    In other words, do any of your church’s ministries have a statement telling why the ministries exist?   If the answer is “No,” all the involvement and money in the world could never help your church grow.   You are merely going through the motions of ministry because you have no goals for them.   Working in those ministries may even be pleasant and somewhat rewarding.  However, ministries should be contributing the numerical and spiritual growth of the local church.
  3.   Word or reword the mission statements of each of your ministries AND include words that will make the ministry fulfill your congregational mission statement of making disciples and causing numerical and spiritual growth.    Let me illustrate:   

The church’s mission statement:   To make and mature disciples of Christ.

A specific ministry’s mission statement:

          The ministry:   church education

          The church education ministry mission statement:   The education ministry exists to convert the lost and make mature fruitful disciples.

         The church education vision statement:   we will provide interesting relevant biblical classes suited for non-Christians and all Christians that will promote discipleship.   We will use strong growing teachers and excellent materials that promote such.  We will frequently consult with experts in the areas of numerical and spiritual growth and constantly evaluate our effectiveness.  

Note:  I know this sounds a bit lengthy.   However, when the church’s education ministry follows these mission and vision statements, the church will grow both numerically and spiritually.   All members involved in such ministries will more likely to be excited about their ministries.

My personal experience is that most churches do not have a mission statement for any of their ministries much less one for the church education ministry.

All of your ministries, according to the congregational mission statement above, should have ministry mission statements and vision statements that have them geared for numerical and spiritual growth and will promote such and cause such.

If this is still unclear to you, please contact me and I will be happy to go over this again with you.

Travis Irwin, involvement coach

423 920 3060

involvementcoach@att.net

Retreats, Workshops & Residencies are available

Disabling the Brethren

Are We Disabling the Brethren?

Oliver Sacks (The Man Who Mistook His Wife for a Hat) tells the story of a woman who for decades lived in a family that kept her stuck in a life of immaturity.

Madeleine arrived at St. Benedict’s Hospital in 1980; she was sixty at the time.   She had been born blind and with cerebral palsy.

She had lived a very sheltered life.  She was intently looked after, taken care of and babied by her family.   Dr. Sacks was her assigned physician.  What shocked him the most was her intelligence and ability to speak eloquently.  She was very bright.  However, she could do nothing with her hands.

Dr. Sacks observed that she was well read.  He said, “You’ve read a tremendous amount.”  He continued, “You must be really at home with Braille.”   “No, I’m not,” she responded.   “All my reading was done for me…I can’t read Braille, not a single word.”   And, then, she said, “I can’t do anything with my hands—they are completely useless.”

She held up her hands.   “Useless godforsaken lumps of dough—they don’t even feel part of me.”   Dr. Sacks was a bit startled.  He knew that the hands are usually not affected by cerebral palsy.  It appeared to him that Madeleine’s hands would have the potential of being perfectly good hands—and yet they are not.

Could it have been that they were useless because they had never been used?  Had everything been done for her in a matter that presented her from developing a normal pair of hands?

She had no memory of ever using her hands.  Dr. Sacks noted that she had never fed herself, used the toilet by herself or reached out to help herself, always leaving it to others to help her.   She had lived sixty years as a human being without hands.

Dr. Sacks tried an experiment where her lunch was put just out of reach from her.  He writes, “And one day it happened—what had never happened before:  impatient, hungry, instead of waiting passively and patiently, she reached out an arm, groped, found a bagel and took it to her mouth.   This was the first use of her hands, her first manual act, in sixty years.”

As he continues with her story, he says that she progressed rapidly.  She soon reached out to touch the world trying all kinds of foods, containers, and implements.  She asked for clay and made models and sculptures.  She began to explore human faces and figures.   She made have been blind but her mind became a creative artist.   Her was a woman whose world had been very small and who’s new world was large and offering new opportunities of personal growth and expression.

Madeleine’s artistry developed to the point that within a year, she became locally famous as the “Blind Sculptress of St. Benedict’s.”

Who would have imagined that a sculptress and artist were in the hands of this blind lady?   She had been born with some limitations.  However, she had been further disabled by those who thought they were caring for her.

Sometimes we as leaders think we are doing the brethren a favor by enabling them to go through the motions of being a Christian without ever training them to live and serve as a disciple of Christ.   Many Christians sit in our pews year after year never using their God-given spiritual gifts, personalities, passions and life experiences and skills in ministry.    In some instances, we have ‘babied’ those in our pews.

Some may object by saying, “But the brethren are busy.”    And, I would have to agree.   My limited experience is that many Christians are overcommitted to things that have little or no eternal or spiritual significance.   Some of their lives are full of fluff.

Let us NOT be guilty of disabling the brethren but enabling them to serve.   Let us not be guilty of babying them but equipping them for service.  Every member of the Lord’s church should be serving in some manner in and out of the church to win disciples for Jesus and to mature Christians.

If I can assist you in changing the culture of your congregation from one which possibly disables members to one that enables each member to serve, please let me know.

Travis Irwin, involvement coach

423 290 3060

involvementcoach@att.net

Disciple-Making & Involvement

You ask, “Is there a correlation between church members being involved in ministry and making disciples?”    The answer is an emphatic “Yes!”   How so?

Ephesians 4:8 is a quote from Psalm 68 with a Pauline twist:  God gave gifts to men.   This isn’t surprising because our God is always giving us something:  it may be rain, air breathe, and food to eat.   He has given us His very best gift in Jesus and His written will, the Bible and when we obey Him, we receive His Spirit indwelling, and the church (the family and fellowship in which we grow and develop) and a several other wonderful things, too.

We know that God has given a mission and His church is to fulfill that mission; that mission is making followers (disciples) of Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:19).   The church is the means by which a lost and dying world comes to a knowledge of the wisdom of God (Ephesians 3:9-11).   The church is also the means by which disciples are developed and matured in Christ (Ephesians 4:11-16).

HOWEVER, my Lord never ever leaves us unprepared to do His work.   The Lord also gives non-miraculous team/grace gifts to (1) make the church strong, (2) to unite the church and (3) make every Christian a minister or servant.   These gifts are listed in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 and one is mentioned in 1 Peter 4:10-11.    The only controversial gift is apostle (Ephesians 4:11) and many feel we no longer have apostles and I would agree.   Apostles were usually witnesses to the resurrected Christ and confirmed their teaching with miracles and signs. However, Barnabas was also called an apostle (Acts 14:14). We have folks that go to foreign lands to preach the gospel that are very similar; we call these missionaries or evangelists.  They are like the original twelve in one aspect; they are “sent out from.” The word apostle means one who has been sent out from….

Without arguing over the details, we find that the Lord equips, empowers and enables His children to fulfill the mission He has given them by these gifts.  If you do a thorough study of these gifts (in Romans 12 and Ephesians 4 and I Peter 4:10-11), you will discover that they are not the same as the “miraculous” ones in 1 Corinthians 12 (which confirmed the preaching and teaching of the apostles and church members at Corinth). More importantly, they are designed, I believe, to make and strengthen disciples.  You can take any of the ten gifts in question (evangelism, shepherding, teaching, giving, prophesy, serving, showing compassion, hospitality, exhortation, and leadership) and in a matter of a few minutes you can easily imagine how each of these actually contributes in a serious manner to the mission of the church.   My experience is very limited, yet I personally believe that many churches are struggling in the area of numerical and spiritual growth because they have not discovered, developed and deployed these gifts among the members in their congregations.   

Back to the original question:  is there a correlation between members being involved in ministry and making disciples?    Yes, or there should be.

Some may react by saying, “I’ve never seen this before.   This appears to be only a theory.”   It may be something new to many of us but I assure you it is not a theory; it is a teaching from the Word of God.

God has always given His people mission and purpose AND He has always equipped, empowered and enabled them to fulfill His assignments.

Many congregations wrestle with growth issues.    So do individual members.  To promote spiritual and numerical growth, let’s depend upon and exercise the gifts that the Lord has given us.

May I suggest 3 other gifts that God has given every child of His?

A personality, that when led by the Spirit of God will bear fruit that makes a person winsome and full of confidence and ready to tell others about Jesus Christ.  When we display love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, and self-control, the truth and the church are more attractive to a lost and dying world.   These fruit also provide an amazing atmosphere in which to grow spiritually and cause unity and growth in the church.

Passions.   Every person has passions:  some good and some evil.  I’m talking about good passions.    Some have a passion to help the lost, the poor, the incarcerated, the lonely, the old, etc.   Some have a passion to teach, to serve, to greet, to give, etc.  If we all work together, our passions can drive us to reach everyone that has a need and to share the gospel with them.   When every member of a local church is busy fulfilling their passions, the work of the church has more excitement and there isn’t time for any division in the local church.

Life skills and life experiences.     Many have blue collar and white-collar skills.  Some have professional skills and others have craft skills.  But all of us have some skill that is either a natural skill or a skill that comes as a result of training and experience.   We can use these skills to reach the lost and disciple the saved.   And then we each have life experiences that have taught us some invaluable lessons and have made us more dependent upon the Lord.   Our life experiences when used properly can assist us in reaching others with the gospel who have had other similar or the same experiences.    Some of the helpful life experiences include loss, incarceration, addiction recovered from, financial setbacks, cancer recovered from, raising children, marriage, joblessness, homelessness, raising special needs children, adoption, failure, etc.   The world is full of people who need Christians who have had similar experiences and have become victorious through the Lord Jesus Christ.  These Christians can help others who don’t know Christ to come to know Him and obey Him.

Simply put, we need to use our gifts and all of the ministries in the Lord’s church to reach the lost and mature the saved.    It’s a matter of thinking the way the Lord would have us think.   This is a large part of true discipleship.

If I can assist in some way, please let me know.   If you start using your ministries in the manners just discussed, please let me know the fruits of your labor so I can share them with others.

Travis Irwin

involvementcoach@att.net

423 920 3060

www.churchinvolvement.com

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