4 Ministries Of Healthy Churches

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In the Foreword to my book Shepherd Leadership: The Metrics That Really Matter, Dick Brogden observes, “God plucked David from the sheepfold. God chose a sheep to be a shepherd. And though we all are stupid sheep, when God plucks us out of obscurity to serve others, we can have the humble confidence for as long as we are asked to lead that God has chosen us. That confidence both faithfully drives us to our knees and fearlessly propels us against our giants. It is good to be a sheep; it is good to be an under-shepherd. Just remember you are stupid, chosen by the Wise One, and as long as you serve as a shepherd, you and your flock will be safe.” 

How true it is that all of us are sheep. The role of the shepherd is to care for the sheep and create a healthy environment for them. The role of healthy sheep is to reproduce more sheep. In this, both shepherds and sheep are ministers—we all minister to those God has placed around us. 

God calls all Christians to be ministers. The Church is the sheepfold that equips us, but then we must go out to minister in a way that will bring lost sheep to a personal relationship with Jesus. 

Our foundational truth statement about church ministry says: A divinely called and scripturally ordained ministry has been provided by our Lord for the fourfold purpose of leading the Church in evangelism, worship, sanctification, and compassion. 

(1) Evangelism. When we looked at the foundational belief about the Church, we noted that it’s not either-or—evangelism or discipleship—but it’s both-and. Christians are being the Church when they are intentionally living in a way that makes Jesus known (Matthew 10:1, 7-8; 28:18-20). 

(2) Worship. We shouldn’t have the mindset of, “Let’s go to church to meet with God.” Instead, we need to live in a way where we are always abiding in God’s omnipresence. This worship-centric lifestyle empowers our evangelism, changes our hearts, and fuels our compassion (John 4:23-24; Romans 12:1; Acts 2:46-47). 

(3) Sanctification. Remember that we are all in-process of becoming saints (I like to remember this by calling it saint-ification). We need each other to do this, which is why God gives gifts to bring out Christ-like maturity in us (Ephesians 4:1-7, 11-16). 

(4) Compassion. Compassion is feeling turned into action. This opens the door for evangelism, creates more opportunities for worship, and matures Christians (Mark 6:34-37; Luke 10:33; Acts 2:45).  

Notice that each of these ministries are interdependent with all the other ministries. 

In a blog post nearly 10 years ago, I questioned: “How do we know if our church is successful?  The apostle Paul uses two words to help answer these questions: Quality and Faithfulness (1 Corinthians 3:13, 4:2). 

So here are two important questions we need to ask ourselves: (1) Am I doing quality work? (2) Am I faithfully doing my work? 

To help answer those questions, I like this thought from Leonard Sweet’s book I Am A Follower: “The most important metrics we must rely on, the crucial ‘deliverables’ we can present, must focus on the newly formed lives of the disciples we are making, the followers who are following Christ into a place of serving Him by serving others. The most important measure of our faithfulness to Christ must be the extent of transformation into the living image of Christ Himself. … The quantifiable fruit of our church is not found in the number of people we can gather on a weekly basis. What counts is what is happening in the lives of those who have gathered. 

These are questions we should all ask the Holy Spirit to reveal to us: 

  • What is happening in my life? 
  • Am I telling others about Jesus? 
  • Am I worshipping God so consistently that everyone can see it? 
  • Am I maturating as a saint and am I helping other saints mature? 
  • Is my faith seen in my compassionate actions? 

Our individual answers to those questions will determine the success of our individual churches, which will ultimately determine the effectiveness of the global Church of Jesus Christ. I hope you will take some time to consider these questions for yourself. 

If you’ve missed any of the other messages in our series exploring our foundational beliefs, you can access the full list by clicking here.

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9 Quotes From “To The Work!”

D.L. Moody passionately and persuasively dismantles all of the hesitations Christians have to being active and outspoken about their relationship with Jesus. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“I have often said that if I had to convict men of sin I would have given up the work long ago. That is the work of the Holy Ghost. What we have to do is to scatter the good seed of the Word, and expect that God will bless it to the saving of men’s souls.” 

“One of the great obstacles in the way of God’s work today is this want of love among those who are the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. … To address men well they must be loved much.” 

“Those who have been greatly used of God in all ages have been men of courage. If we are full of faith we shall not be full of fear, distrusting God all the while. That is the trouble with the Church of Christ today—there are so many who are fearful, because they do not believe that God is going to use them. What we need is to have the courage that will compel us to move forward.” 

“If you cannot engage in any active work yourselves you can do a good deal by cheering on others.” 

“Let us not be discouraged, but let us use all these wonderful opportunities, and honor God by expecting great things. If we do we will not be disappointed. God is ready and willing to work, if we are ready and willing to let Him, and to be used by Him.” 

“A good many people are afraid of the word enthusiasm. Do you know what the word means? It means ‘In God.’ … People say that if we go on in that way many mistakes will be made. Probably there will. You never saw any boy learning a trade who did not make a good many mistakes. If you do not go to work because you are afraid of making mistakes, you will probably make one great mistake—the greatest mistake of your life—that of doing nothing. If we all do what we can, then a good deal will be accomplished.” 

“When God wanted to bring the children of Israel out of bondage, He did not send an army; He sent one solitary man. So in all ages God has used the weak things of the world to accomplish His purposes.” 

“If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents. … I do not believe, either, that all God’s work is going to be done by ministers, and other officers in the Churches. This lost world will never be reached and brought back to loyalty to God, until the children of God wake up to the fact that they have a mission in the world.” 

“Philip was called away from a great work in Samaria to go and speak to one man in the desert. Christ’s great sermon on Regeneration was addressed to one man; and that wonderful discourse by our Lord on the Water of Life was spoken to one poor sinful woman. I pity those Christians who are not willing to speak to one soul; they are not fit for God’s service. We shall not accomplish much for God in the world, if we are not willing to speak to the ones and twos. … The Lord expects us to do what we can. We can all do something.”

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Wonderful Works Of God

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Wonderful Works Of God

Now there were staying in Jerusalem God-fearing Jews from every nation under heaven. … Utterly amazed, they asked “Are not all these men who are speaking Galileans…declaring the wonders of God in our own tongues!” (Acts 2:5-11) 

     The Holy Spirit being thus at work, what was the most prominent subject that these full men begin to preach about with words of fire? Suppose that the Holy Spirit should work mightily in the church. What would our ministers preach about? We should have a revival, should we not, of the old discussions about predestination and free agency? I do not think so! These are happily ended, for they tend toward bitterness, and, for the most part, the disputants are not equal to the task. We should hear a great deal about the premillennial and the postmillennial advent, should we not? I do not think so! I never saw much of the Spirit of God in discussions or dreams upon times and seasons that are not clearly revealed. Should we not hear learned essays about advanced theology? No, sir. When the devil inspires the church, we have modern theology—but when the Spirit of God is among us, that rubbish is shot out with loathing! 

     What did these men preach about? Their hearers said, ‘We hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God’ (Acts 2:11). The subject was the wonderful works of God! Oh, that this might be, to my dying day, my sole and only topic: ‘the wonderful works of God.’

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

Whether we are pastors or parishioners, may our heart cry echo that of Charles Spurgeon: May all that comes from my lips be words that tell of the wonderful works of God! 

After the Church was born on that Pentecost Sunday, their message wasn’t one of doctrinal differences or the ills of society. No! These Spirit-baptized Christians went everywhere proclaiming how wonderful it was to be in a personal relationship with our Heavenly Father through the way opened to us by the death and resurrection of Jesus. 

May we emulate their example today: Empowered by the Holy Spirit to go everywhere and tell everyone how wonderful our God is!

 

 

 

To The Work! (book review)

Dwight Moody wasn’t a trained theologian nor a polished orator. He was a former shoe salesman-turned-preacher who spoke the common language of his parishioners. To The Work: Exhortations to Christians perfectly captures his voice and style. 

The definition of exhortation means to persuade, inspire, or encourage, but it usually carries the idea that those things are being delivered with some urgency. Perhaps the one being exhorted is moving too slowly, or too recklessly, or too immaturely. The exhortation is intended to get their attention and get them back on track. 

This book is a collection of addresses to folks in the church. Moody exhorts them to get to the work of telling others about Jesus. In address after address, he dismantles all the excuses folks have used through the years. Things like: I’m not skilled, I am afraid, I don’t know very many people, why would anyone listen to me, is my life even making a difference? Moody’s exhortation is consistent: You are empowered and commanded by Jesus to get to the work! 

This is an excellent book to use as a means of encouraging both yourself and fellow Christians to fully embrace the mandate that Jesus gave to all of us: Go into ALL the world and preach the Gospel! 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—Church On Fire

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Church On Fire

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3) 

     We are poor, empty things by nature, and useless while we remain so. We need to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Some people seem to believe in the Spirit of God giving utterance only, and they look upon instruction in divine things as of secondary importance. Dear, dear me! What trouble comes when we act upon that theory! How the empty vessels clatter, rattle, and sound! … Where the Spirit of God is truly at work, He first fills and then gives utterance—that is His way. …  

     Full! Then they were not cold, dead, and empty of life as we sometimes are. Full. Then there was no room for anything else in any one of them! They were too completely occupied by the heavenly power to have room for the desires of the flesh! Fear was banished; every minor motive was expelled! The Spirit of God, as it flooded their very beings, drove out of them everything that was extraneous. They had many faults and many infirmities before, but that day, when they were filled with the Spirit of God, faults and infirmities were no more perceptible! They became different men from what they had ever been before. Men full of God are the reverse of men full of self! …  

     The next Pentecostal symbol was utterance. … When the Spirit of God really comes upon a man, he does not wait till he has gathered an audience of the size that he desires, but he seizes the next opportunity! He speaks to one person. He speaks to two. He speaks to three—to anybody. …  

     When the Spirit of God fills a man, he speaks so as to be understood. … The crowd not only understood, they felt. There were lancets in this Pentecostal preaching, and the hearers ‘were pricked in their heart’ (Acts 2:37). … Those are the two effects of the Holy Spirit—a fullness of the Spirit in the ministry and the church, and next, a fire ministry and a church on fire, speaking so as to be felt and understood by those around!

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

Oh, how I want this today! 

Let’s seek the fullness and the utterance that can only come through the baptism in the Holy Spirit! Let’s be set on fire so that we can impact the world around us! 

Book Reviews From 2020

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Purpose Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Purpose Of The Baptism In The Holy Spirit

On the day of Pentecost all the believers were meeting together in one place. Suddenly, there was a sound from heaven like the roaring of a mighty windstorm, and it filled the house where they were sitting. Then, what looked like flames or tongues of fire appeared and settled on each of them. (Acts 2:1-3) 

     Ordinary winds blow from this or that quarter of the skies, but this descended from heaven itself. It was distinctly like a downdraft from above. This sets forth the fact that the true Spirit, the Spirit of God, comes from neither this place nor that, neither can His power be controlled or directed by human authority. His working is always from above, from God Himself! The work of the Holy Spirit is, so to speak, the breath of God, and His power is always, in a special sense, the immediate power of God. …  

     Tongues of flame sitting on each man’s head symbolized a personal visitation to the mind and heart of each one of the chosen company. The fires came not to consume them, for the flaming tongue injured no one. To men whom the Lord has prepared for His approach, there is no danger in His visitations. They see God and their lives are preserved. They feel His fires and are not consumed. This is the privilege of only those who have been prepared and purified for such fellowship with God. The intention of the symbol was to show them that the Holy Spirit would illuminate them as fire gives light. ‘He will guide you into all truth’ (John 16:13). … 

     But the fire does more than give light; it inflames, and the flames that sat upon each show them that they were to be ablaze with love, intense with zeal, burning with self-sacrifice, and that they were to go forth among men to speak not with the chill tone of deliberate logic, but with burning tongues of passionate pleading, persuading, and entreating men to come to Christ that they might live! The fire signified inspiration. God was about to make them speak under a divine influence, to speak as the Spirit of God should give them utterance. …  

     O You who are our God, answer us by fire, we pray! Answer us both by wind and fire and then we will see You to be God indeed. The kingdom comes not and the work is flagging. Oh, that You would send the wind and fire! You will do this when we are all of one accord: all believing, are expecting, and all prepared by prayer. Lord, bring us to this waiting state!

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

As I said earlier, Pentecost is not the culmination of God’s power, it is the initiation of His power that is necessary to empower us to be witnesses for Jesus. 

If Jesus said that we needed this power to live and testify for Him, why would we ever want anything but the full outpouring of this Holy Spirit power?! Jesus Himself relied on the power of the Holy Spirit during His earthly ministry, so how much more so do we need this baptism into the fire and wind of the Spirit!

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Initiation Of Power

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Initiation Of Power 

     Whatever the Holy Spirit was at the first, He is that now, for as God, He remains forever the same. … We would greatly grieve the Holy Spirit if we supposed that His might was less today than in the beginning. …  

     If at the commencement of the gospel we behold the Holy Spirit working great signs and wonders, may we not expect a continuance of and, if anything, increased displays of His power as the ages roll on? … 

     It ought not to be forgotten that Pentecost was the feast of firstfruits. It was the time when the first ears of ripe corn were offered to God. If, then, at the commencement of the gospel harvest we see so plainly the power of the Holy Spirit, may we not most properly expect infinitely more as the harvest advances and, most of all, when the most numerous sheaves will be gathered? May we not conclude that if the Pentecost was thus marvelous, the actual harvest will be still more wonderful?

From Pentecostal Wind And Fire

When Jesus was approaching the Cross, He gathered His disciples together to tell them what was coming. One of the assurances He gave His followers was this: “I assure you, most solemnly I tell you, if anyone steadfastly believes in Me, he will himself be able to do the things that I do; and he will do even greater things than these, because I go to the Father” (John 14:12). 

The empowering force for these “greater things” would be the Holy Spirit indwelling the Christian (Matthew 3:11; Luke 24:49; Acts 1:8, 2:1-4). 

Pentecost wasn’t the culmination, it was the initiation. 

Pentecost was the launching point for followers of Jesus to be filled with dunamis power that would enable them to go into all the world and preach the gospel, and to have signs and wonders follow to confirm the preaching of the Word. 

As Spurgeon said, we greatly grieve the Holy Spirit when we attempt to put Him in a box as to what He can or can’t do today, or if we try to limit Him to one era of long-past history. The Holy Spirit is as vital for a Christian today as He was on that Pentecost Sunday described in Acts 2! 

What Does The Bible Say About Church Leaders?

God’s plan has always been for His leaders to organize and oversee His ministry.

The important thing for us to distinguish is “His.” It’s not a man or woman saying, “I will be a leader,” or even a God-appointed leader saying, “I am going to build up my ministry.”

The New Testament gives us a fourfold purpose for the Body of Christ:

  1. Mobilizing for evangelism
  2. Organizing for more meaningful ministry
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Caring for one another

We see God’s leaders involved in all of these aspects—

Mobilizing for evangelism—Peter pointed out the need for an apostle to be appointed to replace Judas, thus returning their ranks to the 12 apostles just as Jesus had originally said (Acts 1:15-22).

Organizing for more meaningful ministry—Everywhere Paul founded a church, he also appointed leaders to oversee and shepherd that church.

Making disciple-makers—Paul tells us that God appointed five offices of leaders in the church who had the specific task of preparing church members to do the ministry of building maturity in the church (Ephesians 4:11-16).

Caring for one another—The First Church set the pace for providing care for all who were in need, including organizing leaders to oversee specific care ministries (Acts 6:1-5).

What about a church congregation’s responsibility to their leaders? I see five areas:

  1. Hold them accountable to the Word (Acts 17:11). The Bible has to be THE standard to which leaders are held.
  2. Give them your confidence and submission after they have shown accountability to their biblical mandate (Hebrews 13:17).
  3. Pray for them (Ephesians 6:19).
  4. Pay them (1 Timothy 5:17).
  5. Be very careful about accusing them (1 Timothy 5:19).

A church and its leaders following this biblical pattern is a church that can effectively fulfill the Great Commission which Jesus gave us.

What Is The Church Supposed To Be Doing?

Before ascending back to Heaven, Jesus commissioned His followers. He gave them a mission which Christians often refer to as The Great Commission.

Jesus said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always to the very end of the age.”

There are several pictures in the New Testament of how the Church could live out this Great Commission, but one of the pictures that I find the most helpful is that of a Body.

The human body is an amazing creation! Just to accomplish the simple task of picking up something between our thumb and forefinger is a miracle in itself. The structure of bones and ligaments and tendons, the interaction of nerves in the fingers coordinating with the optical nerve, not to mention the enzymes and blood vessels that are all doing their part.

Yet if any part is not functioning properly, that simple action becomes more difficult. Maybe it even becomes impossible.

The Church is the same way. Every part of the Church Body has to be functioning in healthy order for the whole Body to be effective.

Here are four aspects of a healthy Church Body that the Apostle Paul lists in Ephesians 4:

  1. Caring for one another
  2. Mobilizing for evangelism
  3. Making disciple-makers
  4. Helping organize for more meaningful ministry

If every part of the Body is doing its part, we’re Living out the Great Commission.

If some parts are missing or unhealthy, we’re Wallowing in the Great Omission.

It’s not about your church (small “c”) or my church. It’s about all Christian disciples being a part of one Church—one Body—going into all the world and making disciples of all peoples. That’s what the Church is supposed to be doing!

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