Increasing the Spiritual Conversations of Your Pastoral Staff

twoguysbibleI am amazed at how many pastoral staff members in local churches are woefully inactive at personally sharing their faith or even explaining the gospel.

How does one help their staff or volunteers to increase the number of spiritual conversations they get into in a normal week of ministry?

The place for a leader to start is prayer.  Pray specifically for your team members to be active in sharing their faith.  Paul prayed for Philemon when he wrote, “I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ” (Philemon 1:6).

The second place would be to raise the faith level of your team by raising the expectations. One of the aspects of being a great team leader it to raise the expectations of the team.  If you are as a leader are serious in increasing the spiritual conversations throughout your ministry then you are going to have to raise the expectations of your team.

What would happen if each of your team members engaged in at least two spiritual conversations a week? That would be over 100 spiritual conversations a year.

The third place would be to show them the opportunities right around them.  A pastor friend of my was leading a small group and after about six months he walked them through the Spiritual Journey Guide by asking everyone the simple question, “Where are you right now on your spiritual journey?”  To his amazement nearly half the group identified themselves as spiritual seekers and not followers of Jesus.  Assumptions kill evangelism!  Because a person attends church or is connected relationally to a community of faith unfortunately has little to do with that person’s understanding of the gospel.

When coaching pastors in evangelism I encourage them to first look at the fringe people of their church.  They are always amazed at the receptivity of these people who have attended their church in the last year or infrequently for years, to a phone call, personal visit or an invitation to a small group designed for them.  How many receptive people are there on the fringes of your ministry?

Jim Elliot said, “Work where God is working. Don’t hammer at unprepared soil when there is ready ground nearby.”

Three Take-Aways:

  • Start praying for your staff as Paul did you Philemon.
  • At every staff meeting ask the question: Who did you draw into a spiritual conversation this last week?
  • Start identifying and praying for those on the fringe of your ministry.

Additional Spiritual Conversation Resources

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Increasing the Spiritual Conversation in Your Church

TwoGuys

Ed Stetzer once said, “If you want your church to be evangelistic and you yourself are not evangelistic – you are on a fools errand.” 

If you are going to see the spiritual conversations in your church increase this year you must see them increase in your life as a leader.

So the first step is to: Own it as the leader.

Let’s face it, if reaching people far from Jesus is not on the front burner of your life it will not even be on the radar screen of your church.

Every time I get frustration with the lack of meaningful contact with people far from Jesus, I pray this simple prayer,

“Father, I’m sorry for my ineffectiveness and insensitivity to the people you are bringing into my life. Help me today to get into a meaningful spiritual conservation with someone you love and are drawing to yourself. In Jesus Name, Amen.”

Prayer is more about aligning our lives with God’s purposes than with meeting our own personal needs.

Not all of us as pastoral leaders are gifted in evangelism, but all of us are charged “to do the work of an evangelist” (2 Timothy 4:5).

No matter where your primary calling or giftedness lies, whether it is to be a shepherd, teacher, or a leader of God’s people, I believe Paul’s pastoral charge applies to us all.

If you are a shepherd then use your shepherding gift to guide your people into the work of evangelism.

If you are a teacher then use your teaching gift to inspire your people into the mission of God.

And if you are a leader then use your leadership gifts to lead your church into the great harvest that surrounds your church.

Two take aways:

  • Pray the prayer in this post everyday for the next 30 days. See how God will answer it!
  • Find a coach that will help you guide, inspire or lead your people into the work of evangelism.

Additional Spiritual Conversation Resources

 

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22 Quotes from George Whitefield

GeorgeWhitefield

Over 30 years ago I was given a profound gift of Arnold A. Dallimore’s classic work, George Whitefield, the Life and Times of the Great Evangelist of the Eighteenth-Century Revival.  George Whitefield was not a man of great physical stature but he was a powerful servant of God.  He experienced a deep and dramatic spiritual conversion. He was a man who loved the word of God, whose dependence on God was seen through his rigorous exercise of spiritual disciplines. He preached often, sometimes two to three times a day, offering powerful extemporaneous sermons. His belief in God’s sovereignty fuel his passion to share the message of Jesus and drove him to preach anywhere at any time, often drawing larger crowds estimated up to 30,000 people at a time. He labored tirelessly preaching over 18,000 times to an estimated 10 millions hearers on two continents.   He had big heart and started an orphanage in Georgia which he funded personally and carried its debts throughout his life time.  Whitefield’s preaching tours sparked a revival that resulted in the first Great Awakening in America. He was America’s first celebrity. About 80 percent of all American colonists heard him preach at least once.

Quotes

“The true believer can no more live without prayer, than without food day by day.”― George Whitefield

“What! Get to heaven on your own strength? Why, you might as well try to climb to the moon on a rope of sand!” ― George Whitefield

“No, the religion of Jesus is a social religion.” ― George Whitefield

“Be humble, talk little, think and pray much.” ― George Whitefield

“I would rather wear out than rust out.” ― George Whitefield

“Pray that I may be very little in my own eyes, and not rob my dear Master of any part of his glory.” ― George Whitefield

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19 Quotes from J. Hudson Taylor

HudsonTaylor

Over thirty years ago I saw my first Christian movie it was about the life of J. Hudson Taylor.  That movie and his books laid a spiritual foundation in my life on what it means to abide in Christ.  Here is short bio and some of his faith stretching thoughts.  May God inspire you through this man’s humble faith and precious insights in walking with Jesus.

James Hudson Taylor was a British Protestant Christian missionary to China, and founder of the China Inland Mission (CIM) (now OMF International). Taylor spent 51 years in China. The society that he began was responsible for bringing over 800 missionaries to the country who began 125 schools and directly resulted in 18,000 Christian conversions, as well as the establishment of more than 300 stations of work with more than 500 local helpers in all eighteen provinces.

Taylor was known for his sensitivity to Chinese culture and zeal for evangelism. He adopted wearing native Chinese clothing even though this was rare among missionaries of that time. Under his leadership, the CIM was singularly non-denominational in practice and accepted members from all Protestant groups, including individuals from the working class and single women as well as multinational recruits. Primarily because of the CIM’s campaign against the Opium trade, Taylor has been referred to as one of the most significant Europeans to visit China in the 19th Century.

Quotes

“I used to ask God to help me. Then I asked if I might help Him. I ended up by asking Him to do His work through me”― J. Hudson Taylor

“Do not work so hard for Christ that you have no strength to pray, for prayer requires strength.”― J. Hudson Taylor

“Depend on it. God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply. He is too wise a God to frustrate His purposes for lack of funds, and He can just as easily supply them ahead of time as afterwards, and He much prefers doing so.” ― J. Husdon Taylor

“I have found that there are 3 stages in every great work of God: 1. it is impossible, 2. it is difficult, 3. it is done.”― J. Hudson Taylor

“I am so weak that I cannot read my Bible…even pray, I can only lie still in God’s arms like a little child, and trust.”― J. Hudson Taylor

“The branch of the vine does not worry, and toil, and rush here to seek for sunshine, and there to find rain. No; it rests in union and communion with the vine; and at the right time, and in the right way, is the right fruit found on it. Let us so abide in the Lord Jesus.”― J. Hudson Taylor

“All our difficulties are only platforms for the manifestations of His grace, power and love.”― J. Hudson Taylor

“There are three indispensable requirements for a missionary: 1. Patience 2. Patience 3. Patience.”― J. Hudson Taylor

“Our joy in Him may be a fluctuating thing: His joy in us knows no change. “― J. Hudson Taylor

“God isn’t looking for people of great faith, but for individuals ready to follow Him.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“God uses men who are weak and feeble enough to lean on him.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“It does not matter how great the pressure is. What really matters is where the pressure lies — whether it comes between you and God, or whether it presses you nearer His heart.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“Let us never forget that what we are is more important than what we do.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“It is not so much the greatness of our troubles, as the littleness of our spirit, which makes us complain.” – J. Hudson Taylor

“Whatever is your best time in the day, give that to communion with God.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“Jesus is our strength, and what we cannot do or bear, He can both do and bear in us.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“The Great Commission is not an option to be considered; it is a command to be obeyed.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“All God’s giants have been weak men who did great things for God because they reckoned on God being with them.” ― J. Hudson Taylor

“You must go forward on your knees.”  ― J. Hudson Taylor

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5 Reasons People Are Not Giving To Your Church

Money_0It is a fairly common statistic that 80% of funding for your ministry comes from 20% of the people in your church. Though some experts are seeing the trend move to 90/10 ratio in giving. The startling statistic for me is that the rest of the funding comes from only 30% of the congregation.  Revealing that 50% of the people who call your church their home church and receive spiritual nurture and care don’t contribute anything to the ministry. Dave Ramsey reinforces this by asserting that 53% of Christians have not given to their church in the last month. HT

Why is this?

Here are a few reasons I have discovered:

1) People are in financial bondage.

The reality is that most of your congregation is up to their eyeballs in debt.  According to a recent study conducted by the BlackRock Investment Institute, the ratio of household debt to personal income in the United States is now 154 percent. Your people have no margin to give anything.  They can’t see beyond the bills, late notices and creditors. Incredibly, 43 percent of all American families spend more than they earn each year.

Larry Burkett wrote, “Over the last decade, giving overall in Christianity has increased about 20% — but recreational spending increased almost 125% and debt spending increased 550%.”  HT

How are you going to address the financial bondage people are facing in your church?

2) People don’t know how to invite God into their financial life.

The lack of understanding on why’s and how’s of financial management and generosity can be directly traced to the fact that two-thirds of churches have no written biblical generosity strategy.  In the latest research it was discovered that only 31% of churches said they had a written strategy for inspiring people in biblical generosity. A surprising 58% said they did not have a written philosophy for teaching people what the Bible says about money and possessions. The church needs to think though and document how they will educate and inspire their congregation through the pulpit, seminars, small groups, and one on one mentoring.

Who could help you in putting together a comprehensive plan to accelerate generosity in your ministry?

3) People don’t know why they are to give to the church.

Show me a church where there is no vision and I will show you an underfunded ministry.  Most churches think the vision is achieving the mission of God.  This is true but I think it is a secondary vision. The primary vision of the church is to promote love for God, worship of God and honoring God in our lives as followers of Jesus. Do we clearly present a vision that promotes our giving as a personal act of devotion?  Paul praised the Macedonian churches in that “they gave themselves first to the Lord and then by the will of God to us” (II Corinthians 8:5). They gave out of love first then mission second.  Developing disciples who understand that their dealings with money reflects their relationship with God.  As Billy Graham say it, “A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.”

How are you going to encourage your church to become worship givers?

4) People don’t see a big enough need.

If a congregation can’t see the needs in your community, country and world it reflects a small and ineffective vision. Is your vision big enough to inspire your people towards sacrificial giving?  Is your vision deep enough to grab peoples hearts?  Is it broad enough to expand their horizons? Doing a year-end giving campaign is a great place to start in casting a broader vision for your congregation.  If your church has done year-end giving campaigns well, it might be time to think about doing a 3 year capital campaign to expand your vision and release a spirit of generosity.

How do you determine if your vision is too small or too big?

5) People don’t think the church cares about their gifts.

Recognizing and affirming the giving of your people is critical to the health of your church. Two things pastors can do to show people they care.  Thank you notes and quarterly updates make a big impact.  I really believe that the best thing a pastor can do to increase the giving of their people is to write a personal thank you at least once a year to every giving family in the church.  I also believe that a vision letter accompanied with their quarterly giving report sent April, July and October as well as their year-end tax letter can make a huge difference showing people your care and concern for them.

What steps can you take this week to show people that their giving matters?

Finally: Remember Billy Graham’s insightful challenge, “A checkbook is a theological document; it will tell you who and what you worship.”

Additional Resources

Debt Slavery: 30 Facts About Debt in America That Will Blow Your Mind

American Household Credit Card Debt Statistics: 2014

Top 10 Financial Mistakes Churches Make

10 Things People Want Before They Will Give To Your Church

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5 Keys to Developing a Spiritual Growth Plan

PersonaldevelopmentWoody Allen once said, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.”  I find this both humorous and sad. Humorous in a pessimistic way but sad in a spiritually shallow way.

What would God’s reaction be towards the goals and plans we have set out for our lives?  Would he approve them, laugh at them or cry over them.

In order to develop a solid spiritual growth plan we must recognize the biblical ingredients for such a plan.  As I toured the wisdom literature of scripture I discovered some great truths for developing a solid biblical plan for spiritual growth.

Five Essentials for a Personal Growth Plan

1. Our plans must be God centered.

“Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and he will establish your plans.” Proverbs 16:3

Our plans come out of our relationship with God.  When God redeemed us it meant he bought us back at a great price – the death of His own Son, Jesus.  So our lives are not our own.  Doing our own thing leads to estrangement from God, but seeking God’s ways leads to great intimacy and awareness of God in all we do. Solomon wrote, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.” (Proverbs 9:10)  The key to living life skillfully and with perspective comes out of our relationship with God.

2. Our plans must be aligned with God’s purposes.

“Many are the plans in a person’s heart, but it is the LORD’s purpose that prevails.” Proverbs 19:21

What is God’s purpose?  Where do we find His marching orders for our lives?

Solomon concluded it this way, “Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the duty of all mankind.” Ecclesiastes 12:13

“The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’There is no commandment greater than these.” Mark 12:29-31

When we think of purpose we must take a close look at the Great Commission passages, Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15 ; Luke 24:46-49; John 20:21 and Acts 1:8.  It is here we discover the marching orders of Jesus.  He calls us to be a part of his great redemptive purpose. Recent surveys have revealed that 60-70% of those who call themselves followers of Jesus don’t think they need to be engaged in evangelistic activities.

We are called to love God and others within His mission.  This is why I love the missional language and why I have infused the concept of Living Missionally into my writings.

3.  An honest assessment must take place.

“For your ways are in full view of the LORD, and he examines all your paths.” Proverbs 5:21

“Give careful thought to the paths for your feet and be steadfast in all your ways.” Proverbs 4:26

“Let us examine our ways and test them, and let us return to the LORD.”  Lamentations 3:40

When I developed the Spiritual Journey Guide I wanted to provide a picture of what it meant to be a spiritually mature follower of Jesus. If leaders don’t define spiritual maturity in their churches the definition will always drift to “Who has the most bible knowledge?”  Now bible knowledge is important, we need to know the commands of Jesus in order to obey them, but bible knowledge without transformation will always lead to Pharisaical Christianity.

This is where the concept of living missionally was developed for me. I believe the goal of every follower of Jesus is to love God and to love others, all within the context of God’s redemptive mission.  I’ve narrowed down six areas of life that help us evaluate how well we are living within God’s mission.

  • Craves intimacy with God through spiritual disciplines – Devotional Life (Mark 12:29-31)
  • Shares their faith effectively with others – Evangelism (Philemon 6)
  • Mentoring others spiritually – Discipleship  (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Gives generously – Stewardship (II Corinthians 8:7)
  • Serves in their community – Servanthood & Compassion (Mark 10:45)
  • Understands the centrality of the gospel – Character Transformation  (Titus 2:11-14)

By assessing your spiritual life around these six areas you can easily develop a focused spiritual growth plan that seeks to fully or more fully work out these areas in your life and relationships.

4.  Wise mentors need to be secured.

“Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” Proverbs 15:22

“Plans are established by seeking advice…” Proverbs 20:18

The craze for personal coaching and mentoring really stems from the fact that we have moved from the Information Age to an Age of Implementation. We are so overwhelmed every day with the barrage of information that we struggle with applying it into our lives. This is where a mature wise mentor or experienced coach comes into play to provide accountability, encouragement, and insight while helping you grow in your spiritual your life.

5.  Work out your plan diligently but not hastily.

“The plans of the diligent lead to profit as surely as haste leads to poverty.” Proverbs 21:5

Have you ever responded emotionally to a situation and made a reckless commitment?  Solomon’s advice is that we don’t want to just jump into something but we want to thoughtfully develop a spiritual plan by seriously considering and reflecting on points 1-4.  I strongly encourage people to put their plan in writing because you need to think it, then ink it, if you are going to achieve it.

For instance, my January goals all have to do with recharging and expanding my devotional habits.  Last year I focused my goals around the discipline of fasting. I read two books on fasting which took my practice of fasting to a whole new level. I practiced several types of fasts throughout the year. I wrote a devotional guide on fasting and recruited over 100 people to join me for a 31-Day Daniel Fast.

This year my focus for January is on my prayer life.  Focusing on upgrading my daily prayer rhythms, expanding intercessory practices, reinstalling my monthly prayer retreats, finding a prayer partner for accountability and reading a devotional on prayer that will expand, inspire and challenge my prayer life. This month I am reading Prayer A Holy Occupation by Oswald Chambers.

You can use this monthly goal setting process to work through each of the six areas that will move you toward a more effective and fulfilling missional lifestyle.

  • Craves Intimacy with God through spiritual disciplines – Devotional Life (Mark 12:29-31)
  • Shares their faith effectively with others – Evangelism (Philemon 6)
  • Mentoring others spiritually – Discipleship  (Matthew 28:19-20)
  • Gives generously – Stewardship (II Corinthians 8:7)
  • Serves in their community – Servanthood (Mark 10:45)
  • Understands the centrality of the gospel – Character Transformation (Titus 2:11-14)

All of us need a plan because there is no arrival point as long as we are traveling in this world, there will always be areas of growth needed.

The Apostle Peter wrote,  “Therefore, dear friends, since you have been forewarned, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of the lawless and fall from your secure position. But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and forever! Amen.”  II Peter 3:17-18

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3 Benefits For Taking The Natural Church Development Survey

Church Health RotatorMay is “Church Health Month” around here at Converge MidAmerica.  It is a season in our calendar where we encourage churches to take a close look at both the quality and the quantity of their church’s ministry through taking the Natural Church Development Survey.  Here are a few quick reasons for you and your church to embrace this church health process.

1)    It is based on the most comprehensive church health research ever done.

Over 90,000 churches have completed NCD surveys around the world. Over 47,000 churches have completed NCD surveys in the USA. Dave Wetzler the USA Director of Natural Church Develop reports that when churches have completed 3 surveys and two full cycles of addressing the weak system they have discovered through the process that they see 85% of them improving in quality and quantity both globally and here in the USA.

They have also discovered that churches that plant daughter churches – they have an overall average score of 55 or higher. When a church has a score at 50 (average) or less they are still very inwardly focused on their church, their health, and their ministry programs. Once a church reaches a healthy average of 55 they become more outwardly focused in reaching other segments of the community or multiplying through church planting and mission efforts. Conversion growth increases and church planting increases.

Every time a church takes an NCD Survey it adds to the research and moves us from guessing to assessing.

2)    It separates fact from feelings.

So many decisions are based on feelings rather than facts.  The NCD survey takes all those feelings that are running through the minds and hearts of your people and quantifies them.

Church Health is measured through hard data as well as soft data.  The hard data is the key statistics you track as a church: attendance, offerings, new visitors, members, baptisms, small groups, and leaders.   So every church has its own dash board of stats that they are looking at frequently.

The soft data is the quality side of your services and ministries. It is people’s attitudes, feelings and perspectives towards the programs, process and the personnel of the church.

People’s real attitudes, feelings and perspectives are hard to determine at times especially in a church. So how do you get below the surface of what people are thinking and expecting in your community of faith?

The NCD Survey does this in a very positive and detailed way.  It gives you an overall morale number for your church and then drills down in revealing what your people feel are the strengths and weaknesses of your church at this time.

3)    It provides a focused pathway to strengthen your church.

Once the feelings and perspectives of your people have been quantified, now the church can with laser like precision focus in on the systems within the church that are weak and need some attention.

All too often church leaders are guessing rather than assessing. They are going on a hunch rather than accurate data.  This will always lead to a backlash against leadership initiatives and possibly leadership itself.

When you listen to your people’s feedback you honor them and create a deeper level of ownership in the ministry of the church.

Focusing on the feedback of your key leaders helps you develop an annual ministry plan. A plan with clear goals, deadlines and delegated assignments to improve the area your people identified as needing strengthening.

A little focus can make a lasting impact.  For example: Developing a 12 month ministry plan that focuses raising the temperature of evangelism throughout every level of the church helps shape the culture and raises the effectiveness of the church.

Get Your NCD Survey Today.

Additional Resources:

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