Church Involvement

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The Brethren: A Love-Frustration Relationship

The Brethren:  A Love-Frustration Relationship

This is a pretty weird title to a simple article.   However, in some of our eyes our relationships with our brothers and sisters in Christ, may at times, appear to be a loving and yet frustrating (at times) relationship.

First, the Lord wants us to love each other as He loves us.   That sounds nice and yet it is difficult especially when brethren disappoint or even hurt us in some way.

The brethren at times have been known to disappoint, disagree, disillusion, hurt us, break our hearts, break their word, be insensitive at times and appear to be uncaring.   Hey, I’ve known the brethren to lie and disregard Christian courtesy and rules.  What do we do when any of this happens?   We have choices.    We can focus on their negative behavior or we can focus on their positive behavior.    We can react and be angry or we can show mercy and forgive.  We should also seek to reconcile.   I offer these suggestions:

Expect your brothers and sisters to fail you.   They are human and weak; they will make mistakes and errors.   If you expect perfection, you will be greatly disappointed.   Yes, in some sense, they should know better but many times in spite of that, they do ‘unexpected’ things.

Remember you do similar things also.   You are human also.   You make the same or other types of errors as do the brethren and sometimes your motivations are just as questionable.   He who is without sin…applies here.

Communicate with them not about them.    Matt.18:15-17 tells us the procedure of dealing with brethren who disappoint.   Don’t talk about them, talk to them.  You may learn something if you talk to them.   They may also learn something about you.  Both are helpful.

Don’t allow Satan to destroy any of your relationships with the brethren.   Remember, Satan is the enemy, not the brethren.    Don’t allow Satan to control you in difficult situations.

Pray for patience.  Don’t walk away. Practice patience.   Love is patient and kind; pray for the patience that only the Holy Spirit can give you.    Also a prayer for self-control may be in order.   And yes, wisdom.

Ask the right questions and don’t accuse.   Listen and learn what the real issue is.  Everyone of us carries burdens and challenges and these things can cause us to take short cuts, deceive and even do poor work.   I’m not making excuses for the brethren, I’m suggesting that we have a merciful attitude towards the brethren.  Seek to understand versus be understood. You might offer assistance or help.

I’d rather have a disagreement or disappointment with a brother or sister in Christ than some non-believer who has little or no moral code on such matters.   Almost 100% of time, a brother or sister and I can work things out.   This is God’s way. 

In spite of all their faults and shortcomings, I treasure and adore all of my brothers and sisters in Christ—even the grouchy ones.   They are precious and I look forward to worship with them when we assemble and I look forward to one day being with them forever.   Trav

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:



6 Preparation Steps

Annual Congregational Focus

100% Participation

A Supportive Pulpit

Unity among the Leadership

Biblical Core Values

Biblical Mission & Vision Statements

Special Events


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.

Christian ministry is one of the many Christian spiritual disciplines that makes one a disciple of Christ.

Are Inventories Accurate?

Are the Spiritual Gift Inventories Accurate?

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.


Christ Has No Hands, But Our Hands

In the courtyard of a quaint little church in a French village was standing a beautiful marble statue of Jesus with his hands outstretched. One day during the war, a bomb struck close to the statue and severely damaged it. After the battle was over, the citizens of the village decided to find the pieces of their beloved statue and reconstruct it.
Patiently they gathered broken pieces and reassembled it. Even the scars on the body added to the beauty of the statue. But there was one problem. They were unable to find the hands of the statue. “A Christ without hands is no Christ at all,” someone lamented. “Hands with scars, yes. But what’s a Lord without hands? We need a new statue.”
Then someone else came up with another idea that appealed to the people. A brass plaque was attached at the base of the statue which read: “I HAVE NO HANDS BUT YOUR HANDS.” A few years later Annie Johnson Flint saw that inscription and wrote these famous words, which we sing from time to time in worship assemblies:
I have no hands but your hands to do my work today.
I have no feet but your feet to lead men on the way.
I have no tongue but your tongue to tell men how I died.
I have no help but your help to bring men to God’s side.
The church of Christ in Waverly, Tennessee has been using the words “Being the Hands of Jesus” as a theme (congregational focus) in 2021.   We have been working with the elders and ministers and church staff for several months getting ready to start an involvement campaign that we had hoped would start in early 2021. However, the pandemic has postponed this campaign until January, 2022.    Both the youth minister and pulpit minister having been presenting relevant lessons daily and weekly.    The deacons were first informed and then the congregation as a whole of the direction that the church will take in the new year. Some adjustments will be made as we approach 2022.
When working with a congregation, I encourage the eldership and staff to come up with the focus.  I have several that I can suggest, but I prefer that they make a personal decision on what would work best there and what they need.   The church secretary recently came up with a brilliant idea of portraying the hands of Jesus:  she has been taking pictures of all the members’ hands and she is presently working on creating a collage of these hands to hang in an obvious place so the members can see it as they enter to worship, study and fellowship.
This is my first such work with a church after retirement.    They and I decided to work together for a total of 13 weeks with me on site 3 days a week.   They are providing housing for my wife and myself.   So far, our sharing and learning together has been a great experience for us all.
If you are interested in a similar arrangement please contact me.   I can hold retreats (usually Friday evenings and Saturday mornings or just Saturday for a total of six hours), workshops (which are usually 8 to 9 hours), or a residence with you for one to thirteen weeks.   The goal:   to help church leaders in creating a customized plan to assist members in learning how God has designed them for His purpose and get every member involved in ministry.
Please contact me at
Travis Irwin, involvement coach
423 920 3060
2134 River Chase Drive
Murfreesboro, TN 37128

2 Books I Highly Recommend

2 Highly Recommended Books

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.


Do Life Skills Become More or Less Important with Time?

Do Life Skills Become More or Less Important?

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

Do You Wear a Bib or An Apron?

Do You Wear a Bib or an Apron?

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 You?

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.

Contact information:

Travis Irwin

423 920 3060 (text or call)

to receive our bi-weekly email please contact us with your email address

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.

Don’t Waste This Crisis

Don’t Waste this Crisis

The COVID-19 pandemic has limited our movement, emptied our stores, closed our schools, taken our jobs and prevented us from assembling.    Several articles have addressed the issue of “closings.”    Folks have responded with articles on what is still “open.”

We have a choice when it comes to responding to this pandemic.   One choice is to be angry and refuse to cooperate with authorities.     Another one is to be unhappy and be controlled by our circumstances.     However, there is an alternative:  we can use this time, as some have suggested, to spend more time together with family, spend more time reading the Bible, more time praying, etc.

I suggest that we should use this crisis as an opportunity to grow spiritually.  In the April 24, 2020 issue of “World” magazine, Audree Sue Peterson suggests that we should be setting and achieving spiritual goals as we shelter in place.

For example, if we don’t learn patience during this crisis, this time would have been wasted.   A crisis without opportunity is hopeless.   Our present crisis, however, presents many opportunities.

We should also be spending this time making plans for what is waiting for us when this pandemic is over (some are now saying that it may not be over for several years).     The pandemic has changed our assemblies, Bible classes and outreach already.    When it subsides or goes away, its affects will remain for years to come.   In some businesses future plans have been moved up to the present.   Some congregations had plans for the future, and this pandemic has  forced them to go ahead and implement the plans.     Medical professionals had future plans for telemedicine in two or three years.   Guess what?  They are doing it now.  Necessity demands the change===ahead of schedule.    Churches are faced with a similar phenomenon.   For example, as the church turns more and more gray, more opportunities/challenges will come to use virtual means to communicate with those older members who cannot get out.    However, we are being forced to do such right now.   Similar things are happening with church education.   Fewer and fewer are att3nding Bible classes.   Solution?   Virtual.  We’re doing that now; it can’t wait no longer.

While you are in the thick of this pandemic, I suggest you some spend time evaluating and assessing several things in your congregation.  You may object by saying that you are too busy just trying to adjust to this new norm/reality.  However, I suggest that you look at the following in this context because issues are fresh on your minds.   If you wait til everything returns to normal (which, it never will be same again), you will forget what you are learning ln a daily basis now.  Following are a few suggestions:

  1.   Assess your mission statement as a church.     Most congregations don’t even have a mission statement.   If you are one of those, I strongly suggest you get one or credit one.  The pandemic can show you where you are weak and where you need to make changes.   Your core values are coming to the top; possibly some changes need to be made.   For those who have a mission statement, the challenges of this pandemic may have provided church leaders ideas for revised and updated mission statements.  
  2.   Assess your assemblies.     We haven’t assembled for 12 weeks.   We have had virtual worship services all this time.    We don’t have all the elements in virtual services and we’ve added one more:  communication for an elder each week.  Sometimes our normal assemblies are stuck in a rut and need to be evaluated.  I am NOT promoting unscriptural worship; I AM promoting assemblies that truly worship the Lord, communicate to the church, edify the church and emphasize just how important being together is.    

You might want to ask this question, “Should we stop having Sunday evening services?”    Face two facts:  Sunday night attendance has been going down for years, and you haven’t been attending Sunday night services since the pandemic started.   Why start up something that was dying in the first place, and hasn’t been utilized for 12 weeks.   To me, Sunday night services are a thing of the past.    This is something to think about.  

  •   Assess your Bible classes.   If your congregation is like most, only 50% of your membership attends.    For the past 12 weeks 100% of your congregation may have not attended Bible classes.   I am not advocating doing away from Bible study.   However, this is an opportunity to do it differently when you get back together.    Some are advocating returning the responsibility of teaching children to their parents.    There is material available to help parents teach their children at home.   I would also strong urge leadership to know what their children and adults are being taught.   Some of it is heavily repeated and some areas are totally neglected.    And some printed material is weak and, in some cases has false doctrine.    Why not take some time to review everything.
  •   Assess small groups.   Some congregations already have small groups.  Those who do and those who have trained well, they work well.   While you were not assembling as a whole, several of your members met in smaller groups, many without your knowing.  Definitely families met together.  This crisis also affords you the opportunity to rethink why you have small groups.  You may revise your purposes, add others and delete some.
  •   Assess all of your ministries.   Some of your ministries will die.  Some should die.   New ministries will begin because of a new need.   New needs have surfaced during the crisis.  Assessment of ministries need to be done constantly.   Good stewardship and common-sense demand it.
  •   Assess your church budget.    Let’s face it, the church budget in most cases has been hit hard by this pandemic.   In most cases, members have done a pretty good with their giving the first month of the pandemic.   The second month was/is a disaster.    Some churches have closed their doors forever their giving tanked.   Some are having to make big adjustments.   One thing is for sure, you need to communicate to the congregation the need for them to continue to give during the crisis.   Salaries continue to be paid, bills continue to come in and emergency needs arise.    Members laid off need help.   Community needs offer opportunities to serve and many of these cost money.
  •   Assess your means of communication.    We use eight or nine means of communicating with our members.   A large number of means should be used all the time.    Budwiser and other vice-producing companies spend billions advertising to and communicating with us.  We can’t do less; we must do more.
  •   Assess your staff.    You may have to let someone go because of the money.  You may have to hire someone to do a ministry that now requires a full time staffer.   Someone on staff may have to submit to a new/different job description.   Some of this is obvious and some of it will not.

I’d like to hear from you.   Please share how you are using this crisis to make some needed changes.


Healthy Body Checklist

Healthy Body Checklist for Churches

  1.   Does 20% or less of your church’s membership do all the work in the church?
  2.   Do you have to beg for volunteers?   (e.g. Bible class teachers, men leading worship)?
  3.   Does a healthy percentage of your members serve others in your community?
  4.   Are your church ministries evaluated at least once a year?
  5.   Do all your congregation’s ministries have intentional purposes?
  6.   Does your congregation provide continual training for members who volunteer?
  7.   Does your congregation express appreciation for those who volunteer and serve?
  8.   The members who volunteer and serve, are they happy in their service?
  9.   Could your members tell someone what your congregation’s core values are?
  10.   Is individual spiritual growth admired, expected, and encouraged?

If you answered either of the first two questions with a “Yes” or any of the other questions with a “No,” the health of your congregation may be compromised.  Please contact me so we can work together to make the health of your church more certain.

What do you do as an involvement coach?

I assist church leaders who are concerned with congregational stagnation by planning and executing a customized plan to assess every member of their non-miraculous gifts, personalities, passions, life skills and life experiences for the purpose of getting them into ministries for which God has designed them.

Contact me and let’s talk on Zoom about a plan for your congregation.

Travis Irwin, involvement coach
423 920 3060

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