Church Involvement

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

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

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

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

423 920 3060

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

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