Author: tmart2007

Blogger on RhetoricandHomiletics.org

Reminded Again That There Are Men Whose Actions Give Great Hope: Yaovi Kpogno – Togo, West Africa

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One Real Servant Who Is
ON FIRE
It Isn’t About Resources,
It’s About Drive!
Drive Finds
The Resource
&
The Resources!
A Togo Missionary: I came to know Yaovi at Hilldale Baptist Church – Tampa, Florida.  He is one of the finest missionaries in my opinion. He attended Bible college in America, did an internship at HBC, and then just over a year and a half ago, he left for returned to Togo, West Africa.
Yaovi is a
sacrificial and tireless
worker, preacher, and pastor!
What you see in the pictures, and more clearly by the video, is what he accomplished in that year and a half.  He accomplished it with the grace of our Lord, along with his monthly support, personal funds, the gift$ of others, AND a tireless drive to make a difference in the small part of the “kingdom front!”
Yaovi was a young man who was who he was before he came to HBC, and continues to be who he was when he returned — in love with his people and with the Gospel ministry!
Sad to say, he puts many others in ministry to shame with his work ethic, drive to reach into his community, love of his people, and commitment to preaching God’s Word.
That statement will upset some, but only those who know no such personal commitment and drive, which marks Yaovi, a man who chooses to seize every opportunity to reach and preach.
With all the resources, in a country like America, churches across America will be doing little-to-nothing these final few weeks of 2020.  Not because they can’t, but because they won’t.
I can assure you, the world will fill the void! 
They will figure it out!
Get Your Picture Taken With Santa — 2020
Behind plexiglass / With a face shield.
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Many local churches will not figure anything out!
There are some interesting ideas out there, but few are even interested.
It’s just another symptom of pastoral listlessness and lethargy
brought into greater focus and exposed by “2020!
♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦♦
Nevertheless, there is cause for great hope
with men in the Gospel ministry like Yaovi. 
Africa is the new and growing soil in which the Gospel ministry will flourish, as America moves into the shadows, as did England.  Not because we lack the resources, but American Christianity lacks the will.


Brief 3 minute Yaovi Video: Click Here For Video 

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Longest Grounding In Recent History

boeing-737-maxThe Boeing 737 MAX commenced service for commercial flights in May 2017.  Approximately 450 of these planes were built, at the cost of approximately $130 million each.

Approximately a year and a half later, the 737 MAX experienced its first fatal crash (October 2018), and then another one months later (March 2019). [1]

The 737 MAX was quickly grounded in March of 2019, over two and a half years ago!

  • For the air travel industry, that was the longest grounding of a jet airliner in United States History.
  • For the Boeing Corporation, it was the worst financial, public relations, and manufacturing, and grounding-storage crisis in their corporate history.
  • For marketing and sales, it was the worst bottom line disaster for the bestselling product line of all time.
  • AND for 346 people, it was the end of their lives.

“The Longest Grounding Of All Time” — might be a fitting headline to describe the local church midst the COVID-19 crisis.  There will be a lot remembered, written, and sorely appraised about the 2020 grounding of “Ministry & The Local Church In 2020”  when all the dust clears.  While the combination of effective treatments, a vaccine, and further successful research into the handling pathogens, in general, will help re-balance “living life,” I am not sure that the local church will rebound very well.

The local church has not fared very well throughout this crisis.  It has revealed many of its cracks, which were not so visible heretofore.  Two major cracks have come to light . . .

a disingenuous love and concern for God’s people, no less those outside of the church

a lack of perceptive and astute thinking as to how to navigate the storm. [2]

They are probably connected!

I have already addressed the first fracture, which is all too prevalent! — How unconnected “shepherds” have been over these months of congregational fragmentation. [3] I say “fragmentation” because some have felt comfortable returning to services, and others have not.  Even with those who have returned, some are cautious, and others are far less so — mask versus no mask, conversing versus leaving as soon as services are over, one service but not two, etc.

Nevertheless, “pastors” seem to have the idea that if their doors are open, then it is no longer their responsibility to reach out to those who have not returned because they can now return!  AND THEY SHOULD!

  • Get back to “assembling yourselves together!”
  • You should be in church!  (But let me remind you that everyone needs to be real careful.)
  • There is no longer any reason not to attend!
  • It probably wasn’t as real as they say anyway [4]
  • If you go out shopping, you can be here!

Regardless of legitimate and serious concerns — the church doors are now open!
So get back to your pew!  You hear me!
This is your “pastor” speaking!
Get back to “assembling yourselves together”.
NOW!

………………….

The second fracture is — a lack of perceptive and astute thinking as to how to navigate the storm — has also come to the surface.  The paltry and feeble response of many ministries and local churches is deafening!  The single best answer seems to be “live streaming” and/or “masked-social-distancing-brick-and-mortar-services.”

Understandably, “live-streaming” was the best answer when it seemed that “two-weeks to flatten the curve” was the plan. However, after months of realizing that the crisis was far deeper, there is still little critical, perspicuous, and creative thinking by the pastors and leadership of local churches!

“Resignation-thinking” seems to be response.
— “Oh well — not much we can do — I guess.” —

I saw “Andrew (and Winston) again this week. [5]  As I stated, Andrew is a pastor of a local church of a far different stripe.

“I did a funeral this week.  It was just me, a casket, and a 90 year old mother.”

One of your members?

“No, just a funeral home which was looking for a minister to do the funeral.”

What do Thanksgiving and Christmas look like this year for your church?

I meet today with the church committee on that, and I have several ideas as to  what we can do, which I want to share with them — brainstorm a little as to their thinking.

As we talked further — he was excited about some of the possibilities and options.  There was no “resignation-thinking, ” but it was “determination-thinking.”

It was . . . .

What can we do!

I was not — What can we excuse ourselves out of
because we really don’t want to do.

That is what is so shocking.  As we talk about ministry, he is focused on what can be done midst COVID during Thanksgiving and Christmas.

This year — will be the longest grounding in the recent history of local church ministry and outreach.  Not because nothing can be done, but because of resigned pastors and leaders who lack the drive, energy, and commitment to figure it out!

While Boeing’s agency’s administrator, Steve Dickson, said that he’d be “100 percent comfortable with my family flying on it,” not sure many local church members are going to be getting on board when the dust clears in the coming months.

Committed to the Great Commision?  In word — or in deed? [5]

For far too many this year — Matthew 16:18 is just a “ministry-quoted-bumper-sticker.”

They are still grounded.

The impact of the grounding will far exceed 2020.

Some just don’t know it yet!



1. The first crash was in October 2017, killing 157 people in Kenya, and then another one in March 2019, killing 189 people in Indonesia.

2. In many ways, Andy Stanley made have made the best decision.  To park the “737 MAX” and concentrate his energies on doing what can and needs to be done, rather than take-off down the runway week after week, not knowing how the flight will end.

post it note pastor preacher V2

3.  I have asked people over and over as to whether they received even one call from their pastor since around June.  I am no longer surprise with the answer.  Sad!

“We then that are strong
ought to bear the infirmities of the weak,
and not to please ourselves.”

……….

……

……

…….

4. Some find comfort in their admonitions by hinting that it was somewhat of a hoax or overblown conspiracy — I mean, only 250,000 people have died in America!

5.  I am the President of the “Ballantrae Morning Walk Evangelism Team.” I say that in jest. I am the only member, so I am the President. Actually, there is no such official organization.  It just defines one of my goals during my regular early morning walks.

I walk almost every morning, 2 – 4 miles. Outside of daily exercise, my goal is to get to know other individuals who cross my path week after week, and now for years.  – Rick / Mike / Nardell / David / Dennis / et al.

winstonOne of the friendships I have developed over several years has been with a protestant minister. I met him during my morning walks a good while ago. In fact, my wife and I have taken him out to dinner. His name is Andrew, he is British, and he speaks with a distinctly British accent. His dog’s name is “Winston.” (It has a “Churchill” connection)

6. I John 3:18

Potentially Perilous “Polity”

trouble ahead

Warren Cole Smith was the publisher of WORLD Magazine.  Presently, Warren Cole Smith is President of Ministry Watch, an organization that examines the conduct of a breadth of different ministries, and primarily local churches.  He just published “Faith Based Fraud.”

Recently, he has made some noteworthy, but not surprising comments concerning pastoral irresponsibility and accountability.  He stated that when it comes to local churches, he repeatedly observed that  . . . .”the bottom line is that there is very little accountability.”  That caused him to look for a common characteristic.  He states that his search . . .

“. . . opened my eyes to looking for that form of church government and church governance. So what the fancy word for that is church polity in other churches, and I found it, unfortunately, to be common in the evangelical world.”

Warren repeatedly realized that the factor was pastors and church leaders, “men who have very little accountability.”  The ministry or the church lacked the knowledgeable and necessary people within the ministry to address self-serving decisions.

In essence, the ministry was “staff run,” and what was happening was self-contained and managed by the pastor and/or his staff.

On the other side, the church members, and even lay officials, did not know what most of the staff knew.

There was no one “in the know” who would speak up, and the church members who would speak up, were not “in the know.”

Folks who are not really in a position to say, “Hey, dude, you need to do things differently here.”  Because the folks who are in a position to do that are usually people that are on the payroll of the church, and can be fired by that senior pastor. And of course, it makes them very reluctant to speak up.

The poisonous brew is the concentration of power.  A threatening staff environment ensues.  Those who should and could speak to the issues, don’t — and for good reason!  The church polity has sanctioned the inherent dangers which silence dissent.

When God’s people have little-to-no control over the election-nomination process, the hiring and firing decisions, or the operationally significant decision-making proceedings, things can go terribly wrong.

Number One — “Folks who are in a position to say — “Hey, dude, what are you doing.” — remain quiet.

Number Two — “The church,” which has the authority, has no awareness as to what has or is actually happening.

Warren is correct when he looks at church polity for where the most serious of problems are coming from in the local church setting.  Tell me how your church is organized, and you will find one of the first clues as to where the potential or actual problems are arising.

√ Elder-Rule
√ Deacon-Rule
√ Pastor-Rule
√ Long-time Member(s) Rule
√ CRINO – Congregational Rule In Name Only
√ Congregational-Rule

It IS Your Responsibility

last to arrive first to leave care

Approximately 25 years ago, my father-in-law was on track to only live another 12 months due to congestive heart failure. Mom and dad were Berean Baptist Church members in Grand Rapids, Michigan — a strong and good-sized church. I remember mom saying to me — “Pastor Margenson came by every week throughout the year to visit dad.”

That pastoral attitude and action are far too often “old-school.” I have seen, experienced, and continue to witness examples of “Pastoral-Care-Less-ness.”  There are those who never even take make the time to visit needy people on any regular basis, no less weekly.  Seen it!  — “Care less” attitudes by pastors, who are the ones given the great opportunity of ministering and strengthening their ministry, who are given the full-time advantage and the biblical responsibility.  COVID has created and demanded an even greater need for the Shepherd to “care deeply.”  Instead, it has too often confirmed the reputation of  “care-less.”

That “care less” danger was potentially present among pastors from the earliest days of the church.  That is why Paul challenges Timothy about the characteristics which must mark a man called to the local church ministry.  The various admonitions reflect the real possibility that there might be those who “care less” about the flock but see ministry as primarily about themselves.

  • not in it for the money — not greedy of filthy lucre
  • personally enjoys social opportunities — given to hospitality
  • a giver, not a taker, not covetous
  • not a self-important person — not a lover of preeminence
  • does not abuse his position or power — not lording his position over others
  • focused on service — minded to serve, not to be served

Paul lays out standards and qualities which mark a pastor.  They mark shepherds!  They are not a list of optional characteristics! Nor are the various pastoral qualifications open to  “pick and choose” — “I’m good at “apt to teach, and just not so much “given to hospitality.”  No, enjoying, loving, and caring about people characterizes a shepherd! AND appreciating, entertaining, and visiting people is connected to an effective pulpit ministry.

I have repeatedly tried to attend the funerals of others, whether I knew them extensively-personally or not.  If any people who should be present during these difficult days of others, of families we know personally or passingly, it is God’s people!  It is part of loving, bearing the burdens of others, and our godly influence in the lives of others.  If you as a local church pastor, find yourself embarrassed as to how so few church members attend a funeral, you might want to remember  — “You are the one who is there to teach them or has taught them about caring!”  It is the first and foremost responsibility of the pastor and the church leadership to testify to and teach about caring!

I know how it goes, how the cover stories are crafted. I’ve been in the ministry far too long to be flummoxed by the pastoral excuses and pretense!

  • I have asked the deacons to make sure that they are calling – visiting – attending.
  • The assistant/associate pastor has been visiting him/her.
  • I made repeated phone calls, but couldn’t get a hold of them.
  • There are too many people for me to personally address all the situations of need. [1]
  • I called, and they told me they are doing okay  and that a visit was not necessary. [2]
  • I prayed with and been in contact with them. [3]

Certain responsibilities cannot be passed off to other members of the church or the pastoral-administrative staff!  Pastors are pastors for a reason.  One of the expectations of a church pastor is that they be there.  Others — visiting, calling, attending, helping, assisting — might be appreciated, but the bottom line is — “the pastor!  You may want to lie to yourself by excusing yourself out of your personal responsibility as the shepherd of God’s flock. However, you are the one who is “prominently-desired.”   One of the first question which will be asked by family members, friends, and fellow believers will be — “Has the pastor been by!”  [4] Why?  Because you are the one who should have the heart which personally cares about people, and you are the first in line to personally minister to them.

While others may be doing what you are also doing, you are the one doing it “first and foremost!”  You as the pastor of the church, the shepherd of the flock.  You ought to be the one who is known to be the one who personally cares!  The pastor ought to stand out as the one who engages, talks with, entertains, is aware of, is attentive to, knows, [5] calls, “cards”, visits, shows up, and contacts God’s people. 

The word “pastor” and “preacher” are two different words which describe ministry activity!  What people hear, and whether preaching is heard, is attached to the pastoral ministry! 

There is no replacement for “the pastor!” 
There is a special and unique relationship
that inherently exists and is desired by God’s people.

There ought be no one else who cares more — and cares more sincerely — and in fact, is known to be the one who deeply cares the most!

“Show up, engage, and
care deeply about those in the” church.



1. Watch out for the duplicitous use of “all.” No one is saying “all” or “every.” There will always be situations and scenarios which make it difficult, or nigh to impossible, to address properly. That must be an allowable cover for doing what one should have done!

2. Every pastor knows that often God’s people will graciously excuse the pastor out of visiting. We also know that we need to visit and not allow ourselves to be excused out.

“No, Harry, I want to come over!  I want to share and pray with you! What would be a good time for me to show up at your house?”

Pastors know that we have a God-given responsibility to just be there and bear each other’s burdens! God’s people’s graciousness is no reason to not personally care for others during the most difficult times of life.

I have seen the “Care-less-ness of “Shepherds,” who almost never never visited people who were dealing with cancer and facing death, only visiting at the hospital during the final days of life!  

A pastor may falsely believe that he impacts and influences lives, while his words fall on deaf ears because of his own reputation of “care-less-ness.” 

3. Sadly, it often takes “20 questions” to find out the truth of what is being represented.  The contacts were “primarily business-oriented,” speaking to the spouse, making a phone call to him or her, the sending of a card, a text message, or an email.

4. Or — “Has your pastor been by”  — will be the question of those around that individual or family, because they know that this family is committed to a local church ministry.

5. “You’re good at names.”  No . . . . I merely understand how important AND BASIC it is to people, to know their name.  Therefore — I work at knowing names!

As stated . . . .

The “echo chamber” resounds among pastors. Too many repeat the same plaintive excuses, all which exonerate shepherds from a genuine awareness of the sheep. The Lord has already defined the word “pastor”, and it speaks of and demands awareness. If you leave out “awareness,” you will have to come up with your own word — suggestions include: church employee, hired hand, mercenary, day worker, hired gun . . . .

If you call yourself a “shepherd,”
then you have to sincerely, and deeply care about the flock.

Is Keith Getty Right?: Who’s Deciding On The Music You Use In Worship?

 

Keith-Kristyn-Getty-1Keith Getty resides in Ireland, but from September to June, he works in America. America was the most obvious strategic place to come, since he believed that so much of the church’s leadership around the world is still orchestrated in America. 

 

The Gettys started their unique American ministry in 2000. They indicate that they came to America to “write the hymns and be stewards of the hymns.”  

They believe that today’s worship music is decidedly directed by “Wall Street.” The deciding force in what music makes it into the local churches’ worship services across America, and beyond, are the companies listed on Wall Street, not main street.

Keith Getty is a clear and persuasive voice in the fog of the CCM debate, a debate that continues to take place among and in today’s church. If you would like to listen to him, make the argument, here is the link.

However, other substantial factors may play into the decision as to what worship looks like in the local church. I would suggest that at least two other factors have a prominent impact . . . .

√ ministry compartmentalization, and
√ theological education.

Ministry Compartmentalization:  There is a tendency for pastors to see themselves as the “one leg of the stool.”  Their job is to step up at the appropriate time to fulfill the preach-teaching role.  The “commercials”[1] & musical components are the task of others. 

The music leader (paid staff or lay song service conductor ) selects the congregational music, who and when others sing or perform, and the “genre” mix — or not. That is his or her lane. The pastor stays in his lane, indicating to the song leader what the thematic road is, and now and again, swerving a little into the other lane. The “informed or uninformed taste or opinion” of the music leader guides the selection. What that music leader values and enjoys is what shows up on Sunday morning with marginal pastoral input. Whether the music has serious pastoral endorsement, or ministers to the people, is not as important as what he/she values and enjoys.

The pastor is “happy to accommodate” with such an arrangement. There are far fewer decisions that have to be made by him and less mental distractions before he takes the stage.  However, without meaningful and genuine “like-mindedness,” the road can become fairly bumpy for both pastors and people.  The separate lanes can lead to a crash when members or pastors see the church moving in a different and unwanted direction.  It is usually the “music man’s car” which is most crumbled in a crash.

Theological Education:  The theological education of a good number of pastors is lacking or meaningfully absent. [2]  Whether it be mis-educated, inadequately educated, and even uneducated pastors, they become complicit.  Some — maybe far too many — pastors lack the theological background and/or have musically educated themselves by reading and/or listening to men like Keith Getty — and yes — those of other persuasions.

In 2020 ! — a seminary education is seemingly less valued as necessary than it was in the past. [2] There was a time when such an education was unavailable, or financially non-pursuable, and it was understandably acceptable. Today, when it is available and financially feasible, a weak or absent theological education is not rightfully deemed as unacceptable.  

What we see today is . . . . 

  • full online degrees
  • fewer classes / “semester hours”
  • shortened programs
  • credit for life-ministry experience
  • little personal exposure to some of the best and finest seminary professors
  • a loss of interaction with others going into ministry
  • the discipline of semester deadlines
  • fewer seminaries and decreasing enrollment
  • stranger seminaries
  • a business degree seen as qualifying for pastoral ministry
  • fast and easy ordination or ministerial licensing — or neither
  • churches with short and/or shallow statements of faith
  • less emphasis on holiness and sanctification
  • etc.

Why would we expect otherwise? 

Why would we or should we expect a discerning, discriminating, and/or judicious understanding of church music to be part and parcel of many ministries.  I say that not to argue for a position, though I have one.  But to make the point that leaders of local church ministries may disagree, but they should be able to learnedly and thoroughly “argue” their position — theologically and musically.  “It is a matter of taste or personal opinion” — does not qualify as that, nor is it persuasive!

Is Keith Getty Right?
Is it Wall Street, Not Main Street Who Is Making The Decisions?


Yes! . . . But! 
Not without the permission of many others in local church ministries!

 



1. The varied elements which keep God’s people informed as to what is happening in this-or-that ministry.  It includes the verbal announcements, the video clips, reports on what is happening in this-or-that ministry, birth/death/sickness items for prayer, etc. 

2. https://getreal.typepad.com/get_real_with_david_tarki/2017/11/you-are-called-to-pastor-do-you-really-need-seminary.html

Is Seminary Really Necessary?

https://www.christianpost.com/news/pastors-still-value-use-seminary-education.html

Pastors Who Walk The Factory Floor

Paterson silk city

My biological father died in his early 40’s from “Rheumatic Fever.”  He was the father of three children — a two-year-old son, and about three weeks prior to his death, the birth of twin boys.  I was one of those twins.  It was 1946 and what would have been much more medically addressable today was not then.

Much of what I know about him came from my mother.  She tells me that he was the “floor foreman” at one of the looming mills in Paterson, NJ.  At that period of time, Paterson was known as “silk city,”  a major fabric producing mill town in the northeast.  The job of the floor foreman was to make sure that everybody and everything was working properly.

“Walking the factory floor” may be a dated or scant term in our culture.  There are fewer factories in America today.   Nevertheless, “Walking The Factory Floor” is a good term because it speaks of activity, production, presence, and awareness.

In leading a ministry or the local church, all of these elements are consequential.

Activity – Walking: The Lord connects wickedness and laziness — “Thou wicked and slothful servant.”  Those in ministry are not accorded a life-style that God’s own people do not have.  The “floor foreman” is walking, not sitting!  “Sitting in an office” is not the logo that brands our calling.  Ministering to people in word and deed is our trademark. [1]

Production – Factory: There is something terribly wrong with a factory which has product, people, and money going in the front door, and nothing is happening at the back door.  There is something terribly wrong with a ministry that has been given the glorious Gospel, people, giftedness, a location, a building, an ample talented staff, freedom, opportunities, and money coming in the front door, while nothing — or little-to-nothing — is coming out on the other side!

Presence – Floor: The “pastoral study” is not a place where those in the ministry are able to hide out.  It is a place of sermonic preparation, not isolation.   “Floor foreman” meant that you were on the mill’s floor, out and about, among the workers and the machinery of the factory.

Preachers who . . . .

  • are “the last to arrive and the first to leave” – “care deeply
  • don’t know the names, nor the names of people or their children
  • avoid “getting their hands dirty”
  • don’t thoroughly enjoy people and therefore miserably fail at hospitality
  • think that they don’t have to give their time in the same ways as others do
  • exit as soon as it is socially acceptable to slip out / excuse not attending
  • only have time for a small circle of “important” church friends
  • don’t take the time value the time to physically work shoulder-to-shoulder

. . . . are “Ivory Tower Speakers,” who should not be given the responsibility and privilege of preaching to God’s people.

last to arrive first to leave care

Awareness – Foreman: I detect a tendency in ministry today to compartmentalize ministry — “I preach-teach.”   In “silk-city,” it was unthinkable and unacceptable that the “foreman” did not know what was happening on the “floor.”  His job was “to know!”  And he knew that it was his job “to know” the people and the operations taking place on the floor.

The “echo chamber” resounds among pastors. Too many repeat the same plaintive excuses, all which exonerate shepherds from a genuine awareness of the sheep. The Lord has already defined the word “pastor”, and it speaks of and demands awareness. If you leave out “awareness,” you will have to come up with your own word — suggestions include: church employee, hired hand, mercenary, day worker, hired gun . . . .

I would repeatedly say to the fellow pastors of Faith Baptist Church . . . .

If you are not at church early — to roam around, shake hands, and talk to God’s people before a service, you will lose a significant opportunity. During the week, God’s people are in the world, making a living! Don’t minimize or neglect this opportunity of contact with them. In fact, there will be those who arrive early because they know you will be there and want to interact and connect with you as a pastor!

Ministry leaders or pastors who are generally unaware of what is happening in the lives of God’s people and/or in the various ministries of the church should not be entrusted with a flock.

I knew that some may struggle with these words, so I brought a witness with me . . .

Acts 20:32-35And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified.

I have coveted no man’s silver, or gold, or apparel.

Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me.

I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.

1 Peter 5:2 – Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight [thereof], not by constraint, but willingly; not for filthy lucre, but of a ready mind;

Ezekiel 34:2-10 – Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe [be] to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks?

The word “pastor” has already been defined by the Lord,
and it speaks of and demands awareness.
If you leave out “awareness,”
you will have to come up with your own word.

John 10:2-15 – But he that entereth in by the door is the shepherd of the sheep.
To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.
And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.
Then said Jesus unto them again, Verily, verily, I say unto you, I am the door of the sheep.
All that ever came before me are thieves and robbers: but the sheep did not hear them.
I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth his life for the sheep.
But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep.
The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine.
As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep.


1. Those who teach adult and children’s Bible classes have the same demands of preparation, and work a “40-hour” week in the secular world.  Pastors have been given the freedom from secular work.  That means that you have 40 more hours than they have to prepare — just a perspective on the privilege you have been given by “the church.”

“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.”

“And he said unto them, What things? And they said unto him, Concerning Jesus of Nazareth, which was a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people:”

“For I will not dare to speak of any of those things which Christ hath not wrought by me, to make the Gentiles obedient, by word and deed”

“And whatsoever ye do in word or deeddo all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.”

“My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth.”

What Causes People To Go “Humm”

hummm 

Let me begin with an observation which I think most of us have experienced . . . .

When a salesman, business, or company offers me a better price after I refuse their offer, they are admitting that they were willing to have me pay more if they could have gotten me to accept it.

Has that happened when . . . .

  • You called to cancel a credit card because you no longer want to pay their annual charge, and they cancel the annual fee if you keep it.
  • You communicate in word or body movement that you are about to walk away from purchasing their car.
  • You call to cancel a magazine subscription, and they are willing to lower the annual subscription charge.  Or worse yet, you cancel it and they continue to send it to you (I imagine they want to bolster their subscription numbers?).

At times, you get the feeling that a business has been overcharging you, and its actions contribute to that suspicion.  It is only as you say in word or behavior that you are about to refuse the offer, that they begin to include more (include a free widget which wasn’t offered or even mentioned till now – humm), come up with a discount coupon (which was never mentioned before — humm), and/or lower the price (humm).

“Suddenly” — the business is willing to do more!  — and maybe even considerably more. 

Shoppers notice such shenanigans and often resent them.

The same can happen in a ministry! Whether it be a para-church ministry or the local church. When church or school attendance, finances, or general interest are in decline, “suddenly” the ministry or local church offers or does “more.” I understand the dynamics which operate and have found it easy to succumb to those currents if I was not careful and candid.

Our K-8 Christian school was maxed out! Multiple pre-school classes, double classes in K-5th, and a full 6, 7, 8th program — 414 students — with every room space taken! In fact, we had to move out the office personnel from their “classroom space” in order to accomodate. We set them up in the overflow space surrounding the auditorium! When that happens, when “customers” are knocking down our doors, the tendency is not to accommodate, to be less than we ought to be, to be less than we should be and would be — were we struggling.

A parent is . . . .

  • Not satisfied?
  • Unhappy?
  • Has a complaint?
  • Wants more?
  • Finds it too expensive?

Do you sense the potential hazards which accompany such a situation?

Now flip it!  When things are going “south” in a ministry, a Christian school, or a local church, there is the tendency to do more!  That “more” may well have been what should have been the case before things started going sideways.

And yes — the “shoppers” notice it!

That happens with para-church ministries, Christian schools, and local churches.  Suddenly, ministries show a level of interest not present before.  Now, free books, messages, Bible study helps, prayer lines, and/or lower priced items are suddenly available!

Strangely (and maybe suddenly) those in ministry are making calls, visiting people in the hospital, implementing ways for reaching out to those in the world who need Christ, offering more help and care, changing or softening the tone in the pulpit, spending more time with people before and after the service, making more phone calls, shaking more hands, or showing more pastoral concern.

“Suddenly” — the church is doing more!  — and maybe even considerably more. 

And yes — the “shoppers” may well notice the change!
(Humm???)

Did I just hear the phone ring?
It’s who? — (Humm???)

Covid-19
has been a “REAGENT!”

One Answer To Prevent Church Waste

burning through moneyMinistries simply waste money because of quick and easy decision making. Whether it be the quick and easy decisions born of procrastination or ineptness, both burn through the money that God’s people expect to be spent wisely.

Some of that waste is caused by . . . .

  • not looking ahead for sales on paper, supplies, food, Bibles, etc. [1]
  • failing to use money-saving or benefit providing credit cards [2]
  • paying expedited shipping cost because of waiting too long
  • paying “top dollar” because of indifference — not my money
  • receiving personal benefits which ought to accrue to the church’s advantage
  • ordering promotional materials far too close to the date of the actual event
  • failing to think through promotional materials because of ineptness / inability

Let me focus on the last one of the above list.
Churches waste thousands of dollars because they believe that sending out a large, colorful, and attractive “Vista Print” postcard that includes the — “What, When, Where,” coupled with a beautiful full four-color processed picture — is going to motivate people to respond /attend / enroll!

These kinds of cards show up in our mailbox and on our door knob throughout the years. We do what most people do — Look at the picture and then throw them away. In almost every case, there is nothing that draws me into seriously considering “buying” what they are “selling.” They are one of many, and all too much the same.  They were created by someone in the office or the business owner who knows little-to-nothing about marketing.

Now, if the word “marketing” rattles you a little when it comes to ministry, then why send out a card at all, no less a full-color card, no less a large card with a beautiful picture on it.  Just print out a bland black and white postcard with the “W-W-W” on it?  In fact, why advertise at all?

That being said, this does not mean that promotional materials presenting VBS, a special service, Christmas, Easter, enrollment for a Christian education should not be sent out or distributed.  The point is that they say little other than the “W-W-W.”  They leave out the “WHY!”  Why should I be interested in what they are offering?

copywritingSome ministries need to take a class on “Copywriting.” Not “copyrighting,” but “writing copy.”  Two of the best established and mind-jogging books on “copywriting” are by Alastair Crompton [a classic] or Joseph Sugarman [of “Blue Blocker” fame].

To spend large sums of money on promotional materials which do not even have the potential of accomplishing its purpose is wasteful — at best. [3]  The hundreds and thousands of cards will likely be dropped in the garbage cans of the neighborhoods around us with little-to-no hope of yielding any meaningful response.

Oh yes — I know the mantra — “If just one person reads it and decides to attend.  And then that one gets saved.”  No one would run a business with this twisted ministry mentality — only the church thinks that way.  How about an approach which speaks of effectiveness — yielding the most from the time and money spent.  Can we have both — that one and the hope of drawing in many others — because we took the time to write copy that was more than W-W-W?

Educate yourself and/or find someone in the ministry who understands marketing enough to design and create promotional materials that have the potential of being read and even given serious consideration. [4]


1. It was common for me to walk into a business which stocked items we used in ministry (i.e. speciality paper shops) and ask . . . . “What do you have in quantity which you want to get rid of?” I walked into a full-service paper shop which we dealt with over the years. One day I walked in and asked that question — “What reams of paper do you have stacked up on your storage shelves which you want to get rid of.” They brought me to the back room where pallet shelving was loaded with mixed reams of paper. “I’ll take it all for $1000.00” He asked the store manager to join us. He said — “That works — . . . Sold.” Van load after van load was stacked on our shelves — from fine linen stock, to 11X17 ivory laid, to plain 20 lb. reams, to.. to … to… We used that paper for years for flyers, notes, bulletins, special invitations, etc. We have done that with food stores, donut shops at the end of the evening, and party supply stores as well.

2. We sponsored mission trips around the world through credit card points! We paid for and/or significantly offset air flight ticket cost for church members who wanted to take mission trips, for missionaries flying in to our church, and for pastors who visited missionaries! Merely by paying repeating and standard church bills through credit cards, at times we accumulated more points than we could use.

3. Pastors, deacons, or church and school business managers need to understand that they are  stewards.  They should handle ministry money as if it were our own.  Making quick and easy decision in spending the ministry”s money is unprincipled!  If you wouldn’t pay that or buy this if it were your funds,  why would you do that with the money of others?

Over time, burning through money because of procrastination, laziness, ineptness will be seen and noticed.  There needs to be a growing confidence in a ministry’s handling of God’s money!   You will find yourself having to coax and to lean on people because of a leadership-created-resistance by God’s people to give.  Ignore building that financial confidence at your own peril.  As I have been heard to say, “Ride that horse, I say it’s a nag! It won’t cross the finish line.”

4. Links On Copywriting:

The 3 Laws of Copywriting

https://www.enchantingmarketing.com/copywriting-tips/

13 Peculiar Examples of Creative Copywriting in Advertising

Which Churches Will Make It?

bible

There will be no lack of thoughts, informed and/or uninformed opinions, and posts that seek to answering of that question.

This morning, as I was returning from my four-mile walk, I again had the opportunity to talk to my British “ministerial” friend, Andrew.  He was on the other side of the main boulevard, waived, then crossed the street to where I was walking . . . .

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winston

I haven’t been out walking in recent weeks with Winston (his dog) because . . . . 

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(I looked down at Winston, and a obvious large patch had been shaved and the stitches ran about 12-18inches)
Oh — wow — those are some big stitches — what happened!

Yes, he went through an operation and was barred from walking for several weeks until today.  Nothing life-threatening.  He gets the stitches removed today!

Well, that’s good!
How are things going at the church?

[Hesitating] Good —  The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons are upon us, and trying to figure out what that means during COVID is difficult.

The churches that figure out how to navigate these final months will be the advantaged!

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Andrew is a protestant minister. I well imagine that many of us would not consider his church within the definition of “Bible-believing.” Nevertheless, throughout our conversation, it was evident that he was focusing on ministry ideas during these final two months of 2020, during these nationally celebrated “holy days” throughout America.

We talked about some unique and interested ideas for making the Thanksgiving & Christmas season meaningful during Covid-19.  As he was leaving . . . .

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By the way, I’m stealing that idea.

It’s yours.
Enjoyed the interaction.
Hope all goes well with Winston.

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speeding boatChurches realize that 2020 has taken a real toll on attendance.  Most believe that there will be an end to this COVID-19 crisis, but will the wake of COVID-19 produce some long-lasting or irreversible damage? Some All church leaders are praying that the impact does not permanently bleed over into 2021.

Which churches will be advantaged?  We talked about some unique and workable ideas, but it is not the ideas we talked about [1], but a mentality that flowed through the conversation that will advantage a church.

#1 — Self-Motivated:  Isn’t it somewhat of a surprise (at least to me) that there are churches and pastors who we (as baptist) might well marginalize, but are thinking about — “How do we do Thanksgiving and Christmas as we finish off the final months of 2020?”  There isn’t anyone pushing Andrew.  He is self-motivated.

I have often repeated these words in different contexts in order to cast and recast the vision of what we were doing in respect to this-or-that ministry (a VBS example). . . . .

Churches all over the Trenton area will be promoting and conducting a VBS ministry throughout the summer. Ours will again be the two full weeks after July 4.  It is a lot of work — 6:30-8:30 every evening, Monday thru Friday.  Approximately 400+ children will be attending night after night.  Then on Friday we invite all the families to a cookout with their children during the two hours before VBS begins.

At the end of those two weeks, we will all leave exhausted.  In fact, after those two weeks our Sunday attendance will probably be the lowest of the summer because many will plan their family vacation!

Now imagine with me — driving by the local Jehovah Witnesses’ “Kingdom Hall” during this VBS season. As you drive by, you see 100’s of children attending their VBS program. Cars, parents, kids, leaders, pulling in and out of their parking lot. What are your thoughts?

Those children will be taught out of a Bible translated by their organization, designed to mislead people about the person of Christ. The Jehovah Witnesses will teach a false Gospel of works. Children — not just the children who may attend that ministry — but 100’s of children who have little to no church background will attend and listen to a false Gospel!

As you drive by — how are you feeling? What are you thinking?
Now listen — we have the opportunity to teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the truths of the Bible to 100’s of children! We may be the only source of Bible teaching some of those children and their family members hear this year — this summer. If not us, who?

The same reality is present this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  If not us, who?  The world is going to do something during these final months of the year — during the Thanksgiving and Christmas season.  Either it is the world, or we can provide an alternative.  If we are not ministering to our people, someone else will.  If we are not reaching out to the community, someone else will be.

The advantage will go to those who are self-motivated.  Without an aggressive mentality that thinks through options, midst COVID, little or nothing will happen.  Not only will the season pass, but so will the potential advantage in this 2020 moment.  I don’t know if this-or-that idea will work out for Andrew.  But I do know that the answer is not “do little-to-nothing,” or “do nothing!”

When I stand before our Lord, I may hear . . . .

That was a lousy idea. 
There were some really better options and ways to minister.

What I do not want to hear is . . . . .

You never even tried! 
Why didn’t you do something with what you had!

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And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin:
For I feared thee, because thou art an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow.
And he saith unto him, Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow:
Wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with usury?
And he said unto them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that hath ten pounds.
(And they said unto him, Lord, he hath ten pounds.)
For I say unto you, That unto every one which hath shall be given; and from him that hath not, even that he hath shall be taken away from him.
Luk 19:20-26
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#2 — Creativity Born Of Drive: As stated before, drive and creativity are “buddy-buddy.”

Drive & Creativity:  In the equation, neither one can be “zero,” or there will be no effective ministry during difficult times.

  • If drive is zero, brainstorming comes to a halt. There is no desire to come up with possible options. Without drive, the various options all speak of . . . .
    • too little money
    • too much energy
    • too much planning
    • too little resources
    • not enough time
    • too few calendar days
    • to few people
    • etc.

There will always be a reason an excuse “not to.”

  • If creativity of thought is zero, the result is a “mistaken perceived inability.” Without creativity, the drive ends because there seems to be no good way to reach the goal. If creativity is in the lower numbers, creative ideas are hackneyed and/or feeble. Rather than bringing in others who are highly effective in thinking outside the box, the goal slowly slips away.

The advantage goes to those who are driven to come up with creative options.  The lepers of II Kings 7:3-5 put many a ministry leader and/or pastor to shame.  A wild option? — Go the camp of the Syrians!  When driven, creativity never stops thinking about the options.

And there were four leprous men at the entering in of the gate: and they said one to another, Why sit we here until we die?
If we say, We will enter into the city, then the famine is in the city, and we shall die there: and if we sit still here, we die also. Now therefore come, and let us fall unto the host of the Syrians: if they save us alive, we shall live; and if they kill us, we shall but die.
And they rose up in the twilight, to go unto the camp of the Syrians: and when they were come to the uttermost part of the camp of Syria, behold, there was no man there.

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#3 — Understanding Connectivity: “Lost Connectivity” may be the greatest cause of the ministry damage of COVID-19– a lost of fellowship and/or pastoral concern!  Fellowship is part of what makes a church a church.  Preaching relies on the belief that the pastor truly cares about those who listen.  There is little influence by those who show little concern and connectivity!

May I suggest that if you do not have preaching and fellowship – – you do not have a church as the Lord designed the local church.

When Little-To-No Preaching, It Is Not A Church:  That is why you merely have a social club if the Word of God is not central on the Lord’s Day.  That is why a worship service, marked by more entertainment components than by the exposition of God’s Word, is a consumer event.

When Little-To-No Fellowship, It Is Not A Church: That is why “streaming church services” on the Lord’s Day, as a long-range approach to ministry, is unacceptable.  That reality has become obvious and clear to us during the COVID crisis in America.  That is why merely listening to various church services online (even before the COVID crisis showed us that) is not “church.” [2]

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As Andrew and I talked, the various suggestions revolved around getting people connected again — member to member AND with Andrew their pastor.  It was a connectivity idea which caused Andrew to close saying . . . .

By the way, I’m stealing that idea!

It resonated because he knew the loss of connectivity was the damage maker.  It resonated because he saw the need for and the road to creatively promoting connectivity!  He knew that the idea had the potential of connecting people during this COVID crisis.  At least it was worth a try!  Now, it was about thinking through the logistics — about making it work!

The advantage will accrue to those who rightly identify the damage-maker.   If you misjudge where the damage is coming from, you will only come up with solutions that never address the real problem.  The creative options will address the wrong problems!

The advantage goes to those who understand the nature of the challenge and then can turn squarely into the wake.

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1. I am not disregarding the importance of ideas.  The ideas do matter to the degree that they are doable ( we can pull that off with our resources), meaningful (address the problems which are accompanying the crisis of COVID), and innovative ( are more than a rehash of the same old same old).

2. Link to previous post on what makes a church a church

Why Some Ministries Will Die At The End Of 2020


dominoes

Some “church ministries” are going to disappear in 2021 because of 2020.  The reasons for the demise of some “church ministries” are several, and probably caused by more than these three triggers.

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√  Seemingly, its absence has shown it to be relatively unimportant.
√  Ministry has been a lot easier without it.
√  There is no longer any congregational interest in it.

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#1 — Seemingly Unimportant:  This-or-that ministry has been, and still is, out of operation for months, and none of the vital church metrics have changed.  That ministry has not been restarted as people have slowly filtered back to a “Brick &-Mortar” service.  Yet, it seems like Sunday attendance, support, new membership, and response to the Gospel remain steady.

#2 — Easier Ministry:  Not running VBS, AWANA, Visitation, Outreach, Sunday School, Multiple Sunday Morning Services, Evangelistic Outreach Programs, Church Fellowships, and/or Youth Events has really lightened the load — ” Let’s not restart that ministry, or at least not as “intensely” as we have in the past.”

#3 — Lost Interest:  The congregation interested in this-or-that ministry has seriously waned and withered over these past several months.  The church members are not asking about it.  Actually, they may indeed welcome its demise for good or poor reasons — It was ineffective, and they knew that, or their lives are easier without it (see point #2 — like pastors like people).

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Some Pushback:
#1 — Seemingly Unimportant: 
There will always be ministries that do not change the church metrics of attendance, support, new membership, and/or response to the Gospel. There might be other church ministries, which were they to die would not affect those metrics as well.

As you may be already thinking, no church ministries should be metric related or driven!  Obviously, that is not true.  “Effectiveness” is a metric decision — getting the best response out of the effort, time and money expended.

Yes, some ministries ought to be put out of their misery!  They are not effective and ought to die!  But not to die without a fresh attempt to birth a more effective ministry, reaching out to people within and without the church.

Nevertheless,  we do engage in some ministries because it is good and right to minister in this-or-that way, regardless of how it affects attendance, money, response to the Gospel, or new membership.  In fact, some ministries draw down some of those metrics, but we accept that reality because that church ministry matters!

Let me also add that some ministries feed into other ministries.  While they do not seemingly contribute to the effective outreach of a local church ministry directly, they provide part of the flow into the main currents of local church growth and outreach!

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#2 — Easier Ministry:  Fewer “church ministries” do make it easier! WOW — some ministries took an immense amount of time. A member once remarked that if a ministry takes more time to arrange and set up, than to run, we should drop it. I suggested that his wife stop cooking meals or serving a family Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner. [1]

hot dog cart corner“Church ministries” do take time, hard work, money, energy, apprehension, tension, etc.!  Nevertheless, as I have often stated, we in ministry ought not be less passionate than the owner of that stainless steel food wagon on the corner of New York City who is selling hotdogs and sausage.  Up early – no matter the weather — hoping to sell more today than yesterday — wrapping it all up in the evening — and going at it again tomorrow.

Some pastors should work on a NYC street corner for a few weeks and come to appreciate the call to Gospel ministry!  The ministry is far too rampant with lazy and self-serving pastors who care more about their ease than evangelism and/or strengthening the saints.

Everything Rises Or Falls On Leadership!
— Dr. Lee Roberson — 

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#3 — Lost Interest:  There is always the prospect of “lost interest” on the local church’s horizon.  How many times has a ministry begun with great interest and anticipation, only to dwindle down to a few sympathetic members who feel for the few others who will turn out?

Sometimes, the lost interest should be a red flag as to its effectiveness — or lack thereof.  God’s people may well recognize that there are more effective uses of money and time, and other avenues should be pursued — i.e. evening home visitation may have passed its effectiveness.

However, it is also the responsibility of a pastor to cast and recast, and recast, and recast a vision.  The “church ministry” is good and is needed, but God’s people need to hear and understand why it is important, how it fits into the overall approach to ministry, and to hear about its effectiveness as it has evolved and changed.

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Sadly — and it is sad — There are “church ministries” which have died in 2020, others which will die in the closing months of this year, and other which will be pronounced dead in 2021.

Some will die this Thanksgiving and/or Christmas season.  “Less” will mark the end of the 2020 “holiday season.”  Instead of creatively planning and designing some different and unique opportunities, innovation and new ideas will die on the bed of preferred comfort.  They will take too much planning, work, money, time, energy, effort to seriously consider.  “Maybe next year?”  Just thinking about doing ???  turns some away from doing much of anything!

Some “church ministries” will die, not because they should have died, or could not have been redesigned to be more effective [2], but because those in leadership are “the children of our age” — Luke 7:31-35; Matthew 11:15-19 —  “wisdom is justified of all her children.” They die because leaders make decisions that do not strengthen the church, but which contribute to the darkness of this world, and which transparently deepen the coldness of hearts.

While such leaders speak about the coldness of the saints and/or the Great Commission given to the church, the truth of the matter  — It is the failure of leadership that kills church ministries!  They don’t die without pastoral instigation and/or approval!

Proverbs 27:16 — The shameful truth is obvious because it smells so loudly!

The reality is, church leaders are responsible for the “church ministry mortality rate,” and the lack of creatively birthing new attempts to reach out to a lost world.  “Saul” can say it was the people, but God knows, it was the leadership.  The Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons will only substantiate that reality when yet other ministries disappear, and/or creative alternatives [3] are smothered by ease, disinterest, and/or laziness.

The death of some church ministries is due to . . . .

#1 — a shallow grasp of the need and value of that “church ministry.”
#2 — a dispassionate or lazy leadership.
#3 — an inability to keep the vision alive among God’s people.

It will be the leaders who grasp the opportunities during these closing two months of 2020 which will prove that they have the leadership mentality to thrive and grow as a local church after this all passes. [2]. They will grab the advantage of some really creative ideas in outreach — and there are some really good ones!

The men of this world work wiser
than the children of light!

Tampa Bay Concession TDM

Taken on the entrance of Tampa Bay, 2020, by Ted Martens.

Everything Rises Or Falls On Leadership!
— Dr. Lee Roberson — 

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1. The work involved in planning and setting up a “Harvest Hayride” for decades at Faith Baptist Church was at times exhausting!  Two weeks of 10-12 hour cold October days before, and a full week after to take it all down, as well as the actual Friday and Saturday evenings, alongside hundreds of other fellow co-workers, was hard physical work!  But seeing 2,500 people come out on those two Fall evenings always reminded us that we had tried again to reach out to our community.  I know what the answer to outreach is not — “Drop Ministry,” or Do Less,” or worse yet — “Do Nothing!”

2.  As a local church, what are you going to do in church ministry during the Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Year’s “holidays?”

  • People are going to do something over these next two months.  If the church has no plans, the world has.
  • What can you do?
    What would work?
    How can you still reach out to those families around you in a meaningful way?
    What would be some novel, unique, effective, creative ways to minister to those who need to hear a message of Thankfulness, about the birth of Christ, and/or the start of a new year?

3. Drive Determines Creativity:  When you are driven, creativity kicks in!  When you have little-to-no interest, your mind shows no interest in thinking about options.

4. “78% Of Church Leaders Are Moderately Or Significantly Concerned About Their Christmas Plans.’  — https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/?zx=cfgvawsigey6#inbox/FMfcgxwKjKnfsJrKsxwmTHdJDFGBltlW

I am only one,
but I am one.
I cannot do everything,
but I can do something.
And I will not let what I cannot do
interfere with what I can do.

I am only one,
But still I am one.
I cannot do everything,
But still I can do something;
And because I cannot do everything,
I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.

I am only one, but I am one.
I can’t do everything, but I can do something.
The something I ought to do, I can do.
And by the grace of God, I will.

— Edward Everett Hale