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Preparation Doesn’t Take Hours But It Does Take Commitment 28-2

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Prayer Partners – Keeping Their Promises

By Freddie Trammell

The concept of agreement in prayer has its origin in the Old Testament; however, Jesus reestablished the strength and the power of prayer partners in Matthew 18:19. Jesus said, “If any two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for hem of my Father which is in heaven.”

The word ‘touching’ holds specific significance in this scripture. Why did not Jesus simply say, “If any two of you agree on earth on anything that they shall ask…?” It is my belief that Jesus included ‘touching’ because this word bespeaks closeness, feeling, warmth, connection, and love. When two people agree to pray with love, heartfelt care and a common connection with the person or situation for which they are petitioning God, there is power and approval by Almighty God. Also, praying with agreement is obedience to His Word, which God honors above all other sacrifice.

In the Old Testament, a heathen King, Sennacherib of Assyria, came against the Children of God. We will call him “See” for short. When “See” commanded his emissaries to go into the camp of Israel and threaten them, King Hezekiah of Judah and the prophet Isaiah decided to become prayer partners. “Ole Sen” boasted that he had conquered many of his foes and their gods could not intervene for them; so, says “Sen,” “Why do you even entertain the thought–your God will save you from my attack?” The leader of government and God’s leader teamed up as prayer partners! “And for this cause Hezekiah the king, and the prophet Isaiah, the son of Amoz, prayed and cried to heaven. And the Lord sent an angel which cut off all the mighty men of valor, and the leaders and captains in the camp of the king of Assyria, so he returned with shame of face to his own land…” (D Chronicles 32:20, 21).

In the New Testament, Peter and John prayed together as prayer partners. They had a set hour of prayer at the temple, (Acts 3), and they saw the miraculous happen! Peter and John had been fishing buddies (friends) when Jesus called them from their boats and fishing nets to become “fishers of men.” They were acutely aware of the vital necessity of consistent prayer in the art of soul-winning (Luke 5:9, 10). In the book of the Acts of the Apostles, Peter and John are mentioned together seven times. Two friends became prayer partners.

“And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God; and the prisoners heard them. And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every ones bands were loosed” (Acts 16:25, 26). Two preachers prayed as partners. The results were: (1) People in bondage were aware these preachers were preying. (2) The very foundation of bondage was shaken (strongholds broken)’ (3) Doors were opened for them, (4) All the people were delivered from bondage.

Jesus chose seventy special disciples and sent them out “two and two.” He carefully instructed them concerning money, apparel, public relations, food, and presentation of the gospel of deliverance; but, his first command to these thirty-five sets of two was “Pray.” “Therefore, said he unto them, the harvest truly is great, but the labourers are few; pray…” (Luke 10:2). These were prayer partners called and ordained by the Lord.

Study the scriptures concerning Mary and Martha coming to Jesus on behalf of the* brother whom Jesus raised from the dead. Could this not be sisters as prayer partners?

Manoah and Mrs. Manoah, with great concern and sincerity, inquired of the Lord (an angel), concerning the rearing of the* promised child’ Priscilla and Aquila had church services in the* home. Surely they prayed together. Husband and wife prayer partners!

God is well pleased when we are obedient to His Word and become committed to prayer partners; agreeing together, believing, and rejoicing together as we witness the Lord God honoring His Word.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE LOUISIANA CHALLENGER, PAGE 6. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

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For Good Health, Go To Church

By Mark Hartwig, Ph.D.

What would happen if scientists found something that could lengthen people’s lives, speed their recovery from serious injuries, increase their sense of well-being, enhance their marital satisfaction and lower their risk of depression and suicide?

The media would celebrate the discovery. Congress would subsidize its development. Families would share the news with friends and neighbors. And businesses would compete for marketing rights.

Well, scientists have made such a discovery, but it isn’t getting much attention. You haven’t read about it in your daily newspaper. And Congress won’t allocate a dime for it.

What is this neglected breakthrough?

Scientific studies suggest that religious commitment offers some major health benefits.

Psychiatrist David Larson is a senior government researcher who worked nearly 10 years at the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH). One of his specialties is studying the effect of religion on physical and mental health. In reviewing his own research and that of others, Larson has found that religious commitment seems to have an
overwhelmingly positive effect on people’s lives.

Indeed, when he tallied up the findings, the results were remarkable.’ In the area of psychiatry, 92 percent of the findings showed that religious commitment produced some kind of beneficial effect. In the area of family medicine, 83 percent of the findings demonstrated a beneficial effect. And in the health literature, 81 percent of the findings were also positive.

“When I show this to people, they’re blown away,” said Larson. “They just don’t expect it to be so beneficial.”
Here are some of the benefits that religious commitment seems to confer.

Religion and mortality

Larson and several colleagues have systematically reviewed many studies dealing with religion and mortality. In nearly every study they reviewed, Larson and his colleagues found that, as a group, religious people lived longer than non-religious people.

“The religiously committed, the church attendees, live longer than the non-committed, even when you [take into account] other risk factors, such as weight, age and smoking,” said Larson.

In one classic study, Yale researchers studied a group of elderly people for two years. As part of their investigation, the researchers asked each person how religious they considered themselves to be, how often they attended religious services and how important their religion was as a source of comfort and strength.

At the end of the two years, the researchers found that people who were less religious had mortality levels that were twice as high as people who were more religious. This was true even when the researchers took into account such important factors as age, marital status, education, income, race, gender, health status and previous hospitalizations.

Other studies have shown that the risk of dying from arteriosclerosis, emphysema, cirrhosis of the liver, suicide and other common conditions was substantially lower for church attendees than non-attenders.

Religion and sickness

In addition to lengthening your life, religion can also help lower your chances of getting sick.

In 1987, researchers at the University of Texas carefully examined 27 studies on church attendance and health. The studies looked at a wide range of illnesses, from heart conditions to cancer. In all but seven studies, the researchers found that frequent church attendees were healthier as a group than less-frequent attenders. Four of the remaining studies were also positive, but not strong enough to rule out the effects of chance.

“It seems clear that frequent attendance is a protective factor against a wide range of illness outcomes,” the researchers said. In fact, the researchers suggested, “infrequent religious attendance should be regarded as a consistent risk factor for morbidity and mortality of various types.”

Other studies have found much the same thing. In a more recent review, Larson and his colleagues remarked that the “unanimity” of published research was “impressive.”

To bring this down to earth, let’s look at a particular example: high blood pressure. In a study titled The Impact of Religion on Men’s Blood Pressure, Larson and several colleagues found that even smokers benefited from religion. Smokers who rated religion as not very important were seven times more likely to have an abnormal diastolic
pressure than those who said it was important. Likewise, smokers who seldom attended church were four times more likely to have abnormal diastolic pressure than those who attended weekly or more.

Diastolic pressure is the pressure in your arteries when your heart relaxes between heartbeats. Because the diastolic pressure occurs during this “rest” phase, a high diastolic means that the pressure in your arteries is not going down as far as it should between contractions. This higher sustained pressure can damage your circulatory system-increasing your risk of heart attacks and strokes.

Non-smokers also reaped important benefits from religion, but the effect was most pronounced for smokers. In fact, smokers who attended church had the same blood pressure as non-smokers who did not.

Larson, one of the studies’ authors, says he likes to tell people, “If you’re going to smoke, make sure you go to church.”

This study is far from unique. When researchers reviewed the other studies that had been conducted, they concluded that “hypertension is a common and serious problem which appears to be mitigated by religion.”

There are also indications that religion can help you recover from serious injuries. In yet another study, Larson and some colleagues from Northwestern University investigated the affect of religion on how elderly women recovered from broken hips.

According to Larson, serious hip injuries can frighten and depress elderly patients which can affect their recovery.

“When it comes to the elderly, there are no Bo Jacksons,” said Larson. “These people are thin, not well-muscled, and their bones are demineralized. It’s scary and depressing because of the prospects for permanent disability. And depression, in a way, speaks to how well they’re going to do.”

When they analyzed their results, the investigators found that elderly women who were religiously committed were less depressed, had shorter hospital stays and could walk farther at the time of their discharge than those who were not.

Religion and suicide

Religiously committed people are much less likely than others to commit suicide.

In one study, George Comstock, a highly respected researcher and former editor of the prestigious American Journal of Epidemiology, found that people who did not attend church were four times more likely to commit suicide than frequent church attenders. Similarly, Steven Stack, a respected researcher from Wayne State University, found that as church attendance rates declined nationwide, suicide rates increased. Indeed, the investigator found that the rate of church non-attendance predicted suicide rates better than any other factor including unemployment.”

Other studies have shown that religious people seem to experience fewer suicidal impulses and, not surprisingly, view suicide as less acceptable than non-religious people.

Religion and well-being

Contrary to popular stereotypes, religious people seem to be better off psychologically than non-religious people.

For example, researchers from the University of Akron, in Ohio, showed that prayer seems to contribute to people’s enjoyment of life. People who spent more time absorbed in prayer reported a greater sense of well-being than people who did not pray or prayed very little.

The affect of religion, however, goes far beyond how people say they feel. Other studies suggest that religion helps people ward off the more serious psychological effects of stress.

A recent study, for instance, found that regular church attendees had fewer psychological disorders over time than non-attenders despite reporting similar levels of life stress. This was true even when the researchers took into account other important factors, such as age, education, marital status or race.

Religion and marital satisfaction

Religious commitment is also good for your marriage.

Several studies have demonstrated that regular church attendees have lower divorce rates than non-attenders. And that isn’t just because their religious convictions are keeping them mired in a bad marriage. To the contrary, attenders also report being happier with their marriage. This proved to be true even when investigators used special
techniques to detect whether people were faking their responses.”The thesis is that these religious people are really rigid, nasty and generally harmful to themselves and others,” said Larson. “How in the world can they have a good marriage? That’s the thesis. And so you have to say, ‘Well, were they faking their responses?’ No, they weren’t.”

Interestingly, the satisfaction extends to married couples’ sex lives, said Larson. That flies right in the face of the prevailing wisdom, which portrays religion as being negative toward sex.

Roadblocks to reality

In addition to the areas summarized above, researchers have also reported benefits in the areas of drug abuse, alcoholism and juvenile delinquency.

As positive as most of the research is, however, it’s really only a start. The studies give us good reason for optimism, but none of them really clinch the case that religion itself causes all the good effects. For example, why does church attendance seem to offer such remarkable benefits? Is it because of what happens at church? Or is it merely because you have to be somewhat healthy to attend church in the first place? Studies like the one with elderly hip-fracture
patients-where attendees and non-attenders were equally bad off at the start-hint that it’s more than just the latter.

What’s more, most of the studies didn’t consider the content of people’s beliefs-just the question of commitment versus non-commitment. So although these studies refute the secular myth that Christianity and other forms of religion are harmful, researchers still can’t say whether commitment to Christian beliefs is more beneficial than
commitment to other religious beliefs.

According to Larson, very little of that work is being done because many researchers have blinders that keep them from appreciating the positive aspects of religion. Academic psychologists and psychiatrists are one such group.

The mental health field has had an anti-religious bias since Freud,” said Larson. “Generally, they feel that religion is something for the immature or is at best neutral. It’s more for the weak of heart or mind, and people would be better off if they could get rid of their faith. That’s both implied and said.”

There’s also a suspicion that any researcher who wants to look for possible benefits has an axe to grind.

“In academia, there’s a sense that the person who is religiously committed is close-minded,” Larson said. “Academics forget the history of science and how some of the most open-minded people have really been very committed in their Christian faith. There’s the suspicion that you really couldn’t be open to the data, and that you would distort it and use it to your own ends.”

Still, the positive results are getting too tough to ignore.

“The field is starting to shift,” said Larson. “There are some people who are starting to say, ‘You know, we’ve made some mistakes. We’ve misunderstood and neglected religion.’ It’s just going to take time to deal with this tradition of anti-religious bias.”

This article is from: Focus on the Family Citizen, June 21, 1993. Christian Information Network. This material is copyrighted and may be used for research and study purposes only.

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In

In
(PENTECOST SUNDAY MESSAGE)
by R. L. WYSER

TEXT: Ephesians 1:1-5

INTRODUCTION: Many years ago, the prophet Zechariah asked, “For who hath despised the day of small things.” He was trying to encourage the nation as they were rebuilding their temple and having a difficult time. The budget was low, the morale even lower, and it looked like the job would never be finished. The people were discouraged because the whole project seemed small. It just wasn’t the temple that it used to be. They despised it because it seemed like a small thing. We had better be careful not to despise small things. This is a world of little things. The tallest mountain is only a gigantic mass of little things. The sky piercing office buildings are composed of millions of little things. Man’s activities in every field of endeavor are made up of trifles, little things that apparently count for little. If it had not rained the night before Waterloo, Napoleon would have won the battle. Rain was a little thing. It was a little thing that led to the discovery of America. Columbus was about to turn his ships and go back to Europe when a lookout saw seaweed floating near the ship. The lamp swinging in the cathedral furnished the idea of the pendulum and from that idea we have our clocks. Just a little thing. Mankind has grown great and strong, has subdued the earth, the water and the air by a succession of little victories. We are building our lives of little things. Habit is made of countless unnoticed actions and from these we weave our future. It can be truly said that the smallest trifles control our destinies, and I find two letter words to be among the most significant in the New Testament, though they are just little things. One of those words is “so.” For God so loved the world. How shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? But the other little two-letter word is used here by Paul. It is the little word “in.” Using this little word as a foundation I want to ask you three questions.

ARE YOU IN?

In John 3, Jesus told Nicodemus that he needed water and spirit birth to get into the kingdom. You must keep that in mind when you consider the Book of Acts, which was a history of the early church and a handbook on apostolic doctrine. Jesus promised the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost. In John 14:15-17, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments. And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you forever; even the spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”

In John 14:26, Jesus said “But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.”

In John 16:7 Jesus said, “it is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you.” And then in John 16:13, Jesus said, “Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come.” Jesus promised that the baptism or the birth of the spirit would bring them power.

In Luke 24:49 Jesus said, “And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high.”

In Acts 1:4,5 and 8 it is recorded, “And, being assembled together with them, commanded them that they should not depart from Jerusalem, but wait for the promise of the Father, which, saith he, ye have heard of me, For John truly baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost not many days hence. But ye shall receive power after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth.”

In obedience to the Lord’s command His disciples did tarry in the upper room at Jerusalem for ten days after His ascension until the Day of Pentecost. In Acts 1:12-14 it is recorded, “Then returned they unto Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is from Jerusalem a sabbath day’s journey. And when they were come in, they went up into an upper room, where abode both Peter, and James, and John, and Andrew, Philip, and Thomas, Bartholomew, and Matthew, James the son of Alphaeus, and Simon Zelotes, and Judas the brother of James. These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary, the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren.”

Exactly as the Lord had promised the disciples in the upper room one hundred and twenty in number according to Acts 1:15, were all filled with the Holy Ghost on the Day of Pentecost.

In Acts 2:1-4 it is recorded, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” God’s wisdom in providing the Holy Ghost and man’s stark necessity for receiving the Holy Ghost are well illustrated in the startling transformation it brought about in the lives of those disciples on the day of Pentecost. Before Pentecost, the disciples, even after three years in the Lord’s holy presence, were weak and afraid, unwilling and unable to witness for Him or to win anyone to Him. Fearing for their lives after Jesus had been executed, they huddled in a locked room, according to John 20:19, for fear of the Jews. A week later they were still in that room behind closed doors according to John 20:26 they were there for fear. In spite of Christ’s appearance to them on these two occasions, the disciples were still discouraged, defeated and afraid and they decided to go back to their fishing business. And even after Jesus came once more to feed and comfort them, their minds were full of questions, according to John 21:21. But immediately upon being filled with the Holy Ghost, Peter and the others stood up boldly to witness and testify, preaching to the Jews at Jerusalem and accusing them of crucifying Jesus Who was Christ, Acts 2:4-36. This sudden transformation brought fear and conviction of sin to the listeners according to Acts 2:37,43. It also brought immediate arrest and persecution to the disciples, Acts 4:1-21.

But instead of cowering in fear, these “unlearned and ignorant men,” according to Acts 4:13, boldly dared to fasten the crime of Jesus’ crucifixion on the high priest and the Sanhedrin court and to refuse to stop witnessing for the Lord, Acts 4:10-20, and from that day on they lived by the motto: “We must obey God rather men,” Acts 5:29. These Day of Pentecost Christians were a new thing to the earth. They actually fulfilled the Lord’s almost unbelievable promise that they, humans, with earthly fathers and mothers and sinful carnal natures would do the miracles that Jesus did and even greater, John 14:12. This amazing thing, seeing God manifest Himself within human beings put terror in the hearts of the observers and resulted in three thousand converts that day and five thousand more a few days later, Acts 2:41 and Acts 4:4.

To prove that the Holy Ghost was not just for the immediate disciples of Jesus or the Jews alone, God gave the same gift to the Samaritans at the hands of Peter and John according to Acts 8:14-17, and to the Gentiles at the preaching of Peter, according to Acts 10:44-46. And then to prove that it wasn’t just Peter that was to do the preaching, but he only opened the initial door with the key, we know that Saul received the Holy Ghost at the hands of Ananais, according to Acts 19:17-18. And that the Ephesians received the Holy Ghost on the laying on hands of Paul according to Acts 19:1-7. It was promised to us in Peter’s great sermon on the Day of Pentecost, “you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost for the promise is unto you and to your children and to all that afar off, even as many as the Lord our God shall call” Acts 2:38-39. Indeed, Jesus commanded His disciples to receive the Holy Ghost, John 20:22. And Paul urged it also, Ephesians 5:18. But some say, “Well, what about the tongues?” And I know this is a controversial thing. And that is an ever recurring question on the fearful lips of thousands who want more power with God but don’t want to speak in those awful tongues. What does the Word of God say about speaking in tongues? The writer of Acts very plainly states that on the Day of Pentecost “they were all filled with the Holy Ghost and began to speak with other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance.” But why was it necessary for them to speak with tongues? Well, who can all the all the whys of God’s mysterious wisdom and love; why be baptized; why lay hands on the sick for their recovery; why anoint with oil; why did the Lord have to die on the cross to save men? It’s not the Christians prerogative to ask God why. It is his duty and privilege to obey. God’s thoughts are above ours and His ways are past finding out. And maybe tongues are because the tongue is the hardest member to tame. Maybe it is because the Lord knew we needed indisputable proof of a personal infilling. Whatever the reason, tongues is a sign.

We notice in Peter’s epistle that he uses a word quite a bit. It is that wonderful, wonderful word “partaker.” We find it in I Peter 4:13, “But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s suffering.” We die with Him in repentance; we are buried with Him in baptism. He was baptized to identify with us as sinners, but we are baptized to identify with Him in His burial and as a sign of identification we take on His name in water baptism.

I Peter 5:1, “and also a partaker of glory.” We can be a partaker of His glory. Christ is the Lord of Glory. How glorious then shall believers one day be when they shall be like Him and partake of His glory in heaven. “Beloved, now we are the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that when he shall appear we will be like Him; and we shall see Him as he is” 1 John 3:2. Jesus says “The glory which thou gavest me I have given them” John 17:22. Though Christ’s essential glory is incommunicable, yet there is a glory which Christ communicate to His people. Having fellowship with Him in His suffering we shall have communion with Him in His glory. When He comes to judge the world, he will come to be glorified in His saints. When he appears then shall we also appear with Him in glory and then shall the poorest believer be more glorious than Solomon in all of His royalty. If we suffer we shall also reign with Him.

And in II Peter 1:4, Peter says “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature.” We are partakers of His nature. God is a spirit and when we receive His spirit we are receiving Him and we become partakers of His nature. God is holy by nature so when we receive His spirit we are led on and on into holiness. He took what was ours as though it were His; that is, flesh, and gave that which was His as though it were ours. That is, His nature. While He was not that He became, that is man, so that we might become what we were not. That is, like Him. And we are like Him because we are in Him. And what does it mean to be in Him? It means that you have position; that is salvation. It means you have possession; that is, the Holy Ghost. We have His name, we have His power. It means you have privileges. We are children of the king. It means you have protection, that nothing can harm you. And how do you know that you are in Him? You know you are in Him because you will desire His person. You know you are in Him because you will prefer Him. You’ll know that you are in Him because you will always want to please Him. You know that you are in Him because you will always want to praise Him. You know that you are in Him because you want to delight in His presence. You know that you are in Him because you want to follow Him. And so the first question you need to ask yourself is are you in?

HOW FAR ARE YOU IN?

In Numbers 32:1-7, Now the children of Reuben and the children of Gad had a very great multitude of cattle: and when they saw the land of Jazer, and the land of Gilead, that, behold, the place was a place for cattle; the children of Gad and the children of Reuben came and spake unto Moses, and to Eleazar the priest, and unto the princes of the congregation saying, Ataroth, and Dibon, and Jazer, and Nimrah, and Heshbon, and Elealeh, and Shebam, and Nebo, and Beon, even the country which the Lord smote before the congregation of Israel, is a land for cattle and thy servants have cattle: Wherefore, said they, If we have found grace in thy sight, let this land be given unto thy servants for a possession, and bring us not over Jordan. And Moses said unto the children of Gad and to the children of Reuben, Shall your brethren go to war, and shall ye sit here? And wherefore discourage ye the heart of the children of Israel from going over into the land which the Lord hath given them?

This is the story of Gad and Reuben asking to settle on the line in the Promised Land. In one regard you can’t blame the tribes of Gad and Reuben for asking to settle on the line of the Promised Land. Their journey had been one of conflict. They had seen the rise of Moses. They had seen the plagues. They had been involved in the exodus. They had seen the Red Sea depart. They had been to the bitter waters of Marah and seen them made sweet. They had been in the wilderness and wandered for forty years and now they had accumulated a few things and this land was already conquered and there was no conflict left and so they said, let we will just live on the line. And this is so often the prayer of the people of God. You know there is a sin. It is not spelled out one hundred percent in the Bible, but it is a great sin. It is the sin of discouraging. There is nothing on this earth as beautiful as a consistent life. A life entirely dedicated to the Lord, devoted to one great object and guided by one great principle. Consistency tells the world and the church that there is something to God after all. But on the other hand, one of the greatest hindrances is inconsistency. There was great inconsistency in the request of these two tribes. They ought to have valued God’s promises and have wished to settle within the borders of the Promised Land but the rich pastures of the territories already won were a great temptation to them and Moses saw at once the effect that this example would have upon the hearts of the brethren. It would discourage them. This is the way it is with those who ought to be living for the next world as if that were truly their home and yet they set their affections on things below. There is no very great measure of joy in a halfhearted Christian life. Many so-called Christians have just enough religion to make them miserable. They can no longer enjoy the world and they have not entered into the joy of the Lord and there they stand. Deprived of the leeks and the onions and the garlics of Egypt and without the milk and honey and the finest of the wheat of Canaan. That is a wretched place to be in. The way out is simple. Absolute surrender to God, and then your joy will be fulfilled. There is but one way to find that fullness of joy and that is a surrendered life. A will and a life completely surrendered to the God of love will bring joy under all circumstances and is an encouragement.

There is an interesting little book of satire entitled How to Become a Bishop Without Being Religious. The thesis of this book is that to get ahead in the ministry one doesn’t have to be really religious, he just has to look pious. Interestingly enough, this is old hat. Church people have been doing this for years. Any number of ways have been devised to indicate church members and church involvement without really being committed to the Lord Jesus Christ, the head of the church. Some do it with their presence. They make sure that they are at church for everything. But sometimes this very activism hides real confrontation with the Lord. They often are too busy for a devotional life. Some do it with their payments. Being generous in gifts to the church is considered by many to cover a multitude of sins. Some people have even been known to tithe, thinking that this excused them from any other obligation to the Lord or the church. Some do it with their pretense. The book referred to mentions the stained glass voice. We have learned certain facial expression, certain phrases, certain postures that seem to indicate real piousity. But often these are pretense. Underneath the person still has a heart untouched and a spirit unmoved. What the Lord demands of us is real commitment. Giving our lives to Him completely and unreservedly in faith.

Alton Trueblood says the church ought to be the company of the committed and until it truly is many people still want to know how to be a good church member without being committed. But God wants from us both confession and commitment.

These days we don’t have many like Jabeth saying, “Lord I’m not satisfied with my boundaries, widen my horizons and enlarge my coastline.” Too many comfortable saints today are expanding their physical waistline but not enlarging their spiritual coastline.

Not many Calebs are saying, “Lord I don’t want to retire on a pension, give me this mountain.”

Not many Pauls are saying, “I count not myself to have apprehended. I’m not driving my tent pegs down in these lowlands; my prayer, my aim is higher ground. Lord lift me up and let me stand on higher ground.”

The difference between Paderewski and just anybody pounding on a piano is more than genius. It is devotion and love for the art. It’s time and toil. The difference between a man who knows God and an ordinary Christian is just that, devotion and love and time and toil. It takes time to be holy. Yes, it takes more than that. More than most of us are willing to give. There is a cute story about a little boy who fell out of bed and his mother came running and said, “What happened, what happened? How did you fall out of bed?”

And he said, “Well. I guess I went to sleep too close to where I got in,” and I’m afraid that that happens to many in the church also. They go to sleep too close to where they got in.

I remember a wonderful little illustration that was told of a bishop in India who was approached by a missionary and she said, “Bishop I’ve sought a deeper experience with God all these years and I don’t have it. I’ve read books, I’ve read what to do and all the rules but I’m nowhere yet. Does God have favorites?”

And the old bishop said, “No, my dear, God does not have favorites, but God does have intimates.” Most men are strangers to God today. Some are acquainted with Him but only a few are intimates. Those who have made it their business to know Him. Forgetting the bad behind them they press through the good around them to reach to the best before them and for that they are predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ.

There was a young art student whose teacher put him to painting a sunset. He sat on the brow of a hill looking across trying to capture on canvas the glory that filled the west but he spent too much time working on one detail and the old teacher came along and said, “Look the sun is almost down and you’re spending your time putting a roof on a barn.”

The application is clear for all of us. The sun is going down fast to its close, ebbs out life’s little day. What a tragedy to shingle a barn and miss the sunset. To let the bad or even the good keep us from the best. There is nothing wrong with painting the barn but everything is wrong if it makes you miss painting the sunset. God save you from stopping at any lesser goal than to know Him and the power of His resurrection, the fellowship of His suffering, being made conformable to His death.

We can come, and it’s good to come to church and sing and give and all of that, but you can still do that, and be on the outskirts and miss the real picture. You can miss the sunset while you are spending your time shingling the barn. What you really really need to do is you need to get all the way in. Make sure you are way in. Not just a little bit in but all the way in. And that leads us to the third point.

ARE YOU GETTING OTHERS IN?

Jesus said in Acts 1:8, “You shall be my witnesses.”

A famous British lawyer of a former day, Reader Harris, once made the arresting remark, “When I have a poor case in the courts, I prepare an eloquent speech. When I have a good case I simply call the witnesses.” The church is on trial for it’s life today but there is a good case for it, so call the witnesses. What is there about a witness which makes his testimony so impressive?

A witness was there when it happened.
His evidence is more powerful and coercive than the most brilliant and persuasive speech from a barrister who did not witness the occurrence. Being there and seeing for yourself are the chief qualifications of a witness.

A witness is bound to tell the truth.
If he holds anything back he is committing perjury and that is a very serious crime.

A witness is out for a verdict.
Knowing the facts as he does he cannot help being emotionally involved in the trail and passionately concerned to influence the jury accordingly to make their fateful decision.
There were two candidates who were speaking at a political rally and when finished one could help noting the differences between the two speeches. One candidate had spoken brilliantly as an advocate. The second had spoken as a witness. You can note the difference in religion as well. You can be an advocate of Christianity without being a Christian, and you can be an advocate of things religious without experiencing them. You can present all the arguments and make it sound wonderful, but you may be standing outside the true experience of it the whole time. You may be talking about something which you do not really know first hand. Something you’ve never really experienced for yourself. You are an advocate, perhaps even a good advocate, but you were not really a witness. Through abuse and misuse, witnessing has become one of those religious terms on the endangered list. Most people run for cover when they hear it. And that’s really too bad, for it is a legitimate and necessary term used in the Bible. Especially in the New Testament where the word witness and it’s related words appear over two hundred times. Witness terms are used some thirty-nine times in Acts and about thirty-five times in the Pauline epistles. But the most frequent use is in the Gospel of John where witness terms appear about eighty three times. In the first eighteen verses of the first chapter of the Gospel of John we see the word several times where it speaks of John the Baptist as a witness, a witness to the light that was coming into the world.

John 1:7 said, He was not the light but he came to bear witness of the light. The New Testament Greek word for witness is “martus.” One can readily see the word “martyr” in that Greek word “martus.” The implication is that a true witness is something one is convinced enough of to die for. Jesus was a witness in this sense. So was Stephen, the first martyr. And it was Stephen’s witness, his martyrdom, that first attracted Paul to Christianity. Paul would probably never have been won over through an advocate, it took a witness. Not that witnessing can come only through the supreme sacrifice. There would be little witnessing if that were the case; the point is, that a true witness is backed by something in ones character. That something is total commitment which is the gold standard behind the witness. But we must witness. Dr. John McArthur has noted that some Christians are like the Artic River, frozen over at the mouth. They just don’t say anything.

A woman in a Midwestern town some years ago took an unusual method for testifying about her faith in the Lord. Her friends, for the most part, were lukewarm and indifferent, surface Christians one might call them. One day when she knew they would be passing by she stood before a wooden Indian in front of the cigar store and spoke to the Indian about the Lord. When her friends ridiculed her for creating such a scene, she gave this defense, “I would rather be a real Christian and talk religion to a wooden Indian than be a wooden Christian who never talked religion to anyone.”

Luigi Tarisio was found dead one morning with scarce a comfort in his home but with two hundred and forty six exquisite violins, which he had been collecting all of his life, crammed into an attic, and the best in the bottom drawer of an old rickety bureau. In his very devotion to the violin, he robbed the world of all that music all the time he treasured them. Others before him had done the same; so that when the greatest of his collection, the Stradivarius, was first played it had had 147 speechless years. Yet how many of the Lord’s people are like old Trisio. In our very love of the church we fail to give the glad tidings to the world in our real zeal for the truth we forget to publish it. When shall we all learn that the good news needs not just to be cherished but needs to be told? All people need to hear it.

At a meeting in the city of Nankin in China, a Chinaman arose and began to cry for mercy with groans and tears when at length he found utterance he prayed, “O God, forgive me, I have been a dummy Christian. When I was converted the devil came to me and said, there are preachers to do the preaching you need not bother about it. I listened to the devil’s lie and all of those years I have been a dummy Christian living in ease while souls have been lost.”

Suppose I said, “The other day I went by my friend’s house and it was on fire and I don’t think he knew it, even though he was inside it. And he must have been asleep and I thought about telling my friend his house was on fire, but I then I wondered what would he think. He might get embarrassed or what if I should get all sooty and what would my friends who don’t believe in fires think? Besides, isn’t that a fireman’s job?” Any similarity between what I’ve just said and witnessing for the Lord is absolutely intentional.

Someone said, “You lived next door to me for years; we shared our dreams, our joys, our tears. A friend to me you were indeed. A friend who helped me when in need. My faith in you was strong and sure. We had such trust that should endure. No spats between us ever rose. Our friends were alike. Also our foes. What sadness then my friend to find, that after all you weren’t so kind. The day my life on earth did end, I found you weren’t a faithful friend. For all those years we spent on earth, you never talked of second birth. You never spoke of my lost soul and of the Christ who’d make me whole. I plead today from hell’s cruel fire and tell you now my last desire. You cannot do a thing for me. No words today my bonds will free, but do not err my friend again, do all you can for souls of men. Plead with them now quite earnestly lest they be cast in hell with me.”

It is so true what we have sung for years and years, “Bring them in, bring them in, bring them in from the fields of sin.”

Some years ago there were two boats that glided past each other on the Mississippi and an aging black man was conversing with a white friend on the deck of one of the boats when suddenly he said with zest, “Look, yonder’s the captain.”

Asked the white friend, “Why are you so enthusiastic while you call my attention to the captain?”

And the grateful black man replied, “Well, sir, years ago as we were going along like this I fell overboard. I couldn’t swim and I began to sink, but the captain rescued me and since that day I just love to point him out.”

When we were still lost in sin the waves of sin all but overwhelmed us, but the captain of our salvation, the Lord Jesus Christ rescued us. Should we not joyously point Him out to others? Of course we should!

I want to include now the personal testimony of Danny Aber, a missionary. In his words, “In 1979 while stationed in Germany serving in the army, I was placed in a room with four other young men. During the next eight months I was successful in ruining these four men’s lives supplying them with drugs and just influencing them for the worst. After my discharge from the army on December 24, 1980, and my coming to the Lord and receiving His wonderful Spirit, I began to pray for these four young men. In June of 1981 I made contact with Phillip, one of the men I helped destroy. He had to see if what I had was real so he drove from South Carolina to Bay City, Texas to see if it was real. And Phillip is still living for God. Five months later, I made contact with Gary who was living in Stockton, California. I flew him to Texas and in his first service God miraculously filled him with His divine spirit and he is still living for God. In 1987, one week prior to leaving for Costa Rica I made contact with Rick who was living in Pacific Beach, California. I flew him to Texas for my last service in my home church and that night Rick also received the wonderful Spirit of the Lord. That was three of the four I asked God to lead me to, but for almost twelve years I was never able to find the fourth man. I knew that Ron was from California, I just didn’t know where. While in Texas mid-September 1991, preparing to make a swing through the Texaco, Arizona and Western Districts, I began to pray for God to lead me to him so I could make things right. Two weeks after I prayed that prayer while on my way to Tucson, Arizona my motor home broke down in Flagstaff, Arizona late at night. I didn’t get mad, I didn’t kick the tires or scream, ‘You sorry piece of junk.’ I simply said, ‘Thank you, devil, five souls.’ I walked into J B’s Restaurant, ordered a cup of coffee and witnessed to the man across the table. I think I ruined his breakfast so I decided to go find four more souls somewhere. I took two steps out the door when the Lord impressed me to look back in. I turned and looked through the window seeing the fourth man I had been looking for for almost twelve years. Walking back in I leaned over the table and asked him if he was Ron Orr. When he looked up tears filled his eyes. Crying he mumbled the words ‘Danny Aber. I was just sitting here thinking about the army and where you were and what you were doing,’ and his head fell to the table and he trembled and he cried and I told him I was a missionary. Ron and his wife, Denise, drove from Flagstaff, Arizona to Bay City, Texas to spend Christmas with us. January 1, 1992, Ron’s wife, Denise, came to the Lord and Ron is under conviction and needs prayer that God can have His way and change another life.”

The question comes, Are you getting others in?

The first question that I asked is, Are you in? You need to answer that. If you are not in you need to get in.

And the second is, How far are you in? You need to get all the way in.

And if you are in, you need to be sure that you are getting others in.

Bible Preaching Resource/Copyright 2000
By Richard L. Wyser. All rights reserved. This material may be used in preaching or teaching or in local church bulletins or hand-outs. No part of this material can be published or reproduced for any other reason. For information, address: Bible Preaching Resource, P. O. Box 846, Addison, IL 60101

This file may be copyrighted and may be used for study and research purposes only.

Posted in AIS File Library, IN - Inspirational Stories and Illustrations, INTE - Testimonies0 Comments

Problems In Recruitment

Problems In Recruitment
By Dennis F. Williams

Linda, Women’s Ministry has a need for someone to coordinate all the luncheons and refreshments for the weekly meetings. I know you are good at that sort of thing. Will you give it a try?”

“No; thanks, anyway. I don’t think I want to do any-thing this year. The children’s sports activities are going to keep me busy, and I’m going to work at the school one day a week as well.”

The recruiter walked away from this meeting deeply troubled by the response to her request. Not that Linda’s excuses weren’t legitimate. Her children were talented athletes, and they played on a number of local teams. In addition, the elementary school needed volunteers almost as much as the church. But the recruiter knew Linda well, knew that she was a highly energetic woman, a Christian unquestionably, but one who chose not to give her talents and time to the church. She also knew that Linda had at one time shown much greater interest.

After she filled the position with another volunteer, the recruiter went back to Linda to gain more insight. Linda’s response was enlightening.

“I really don’t feel needed by the church. I’m not a college graduate; I’m not rich; I’m just an ordinary per-son. On top of that, I’ve been divorced and feel like a lot of people in the church look down on me for that. I don’t know the Bible very well, but most of the time what they want is a Sunday school teacher.

“Yes, I was more involved in my church before we moved here. They didn’t seem to ask more of me than I could give and acted very glad to have me around. Very simply, I don’t feel loved and cared for. I stay because my children have friends here.”

A sad but wiser recruiter left the meeting, knowing that she had witnessed a two-way failure here, both Linda and the church failing to serve each other. If a problem well defined is half solved, we need to define the many struggles connected with the recruitment of volunteers for ministry. Though it may not be possible to solve all the problems we discuss, we can certainly understand them better.

Spiritual Problems

On the surface, it looks as though the majority of church members do not have a commitment to the work of the church. Often it has been said that the vast majority of the work of the church is done by a small percentage of the membership, while the rest merely attend services. Obviously, many laypersons remain uncommitted to church work, or at least that seems to be one logical conclusion.

Problems In Recruitment Lack Of Commitment
On a deeper level, it may not be quite that clear-cut. Many of the non-involved may themselves be the recipients of ministry. In one small church over a period of three years, three men were struck down with terminal illnesses, all in their prime years, leaving three widows and several fatherless children. The work of that church did seem to suffer during that time, but the ministry of the church moved forward powerfully. Many people prepared meals, cleaned houses, ran errands, took care of financial matters, helped with funeral arrangements, provided compassionate listening ears, and spent time with hurting children.

Furthermore, all church rolls contain lists of members who need to be out of active ministry for a while. Our Lord gave one day in seven for rest and provided for the land to rest one year in seven. So can volunteers use time away for refreshment and renewal. In addition, many church members may have volunteer commitments that are not connected with the local church but have great effect on the worldwide body of Christ.

Nonetheless, some need a greater challenge to take up active service in the church. To do this without incurring legalistic obligation, the pastoral staff would be well advised to think through their own leadership roles.

Lack of Leadership

Eugene Habecker speaks insightfully of the spiritual qualifications of a leader, suggesting that “a person’s walk with God is always seen as indispensable for a leadership assignment.”1 While Habecker notes that the Old Testament is filled with leaders chosen at God’s own discretion, certain qualifications do appear for leadership:

1. God looks for leaders who have hearts perfect toward Him.
2. God looks for leaders of great inner spiritual stature.
3. What God expects of leaders He also desires for all of us.

Habecker also notes three significant New Testament cautions aimed at leaders:

1. Don’t seek to be first.
2. Prefer others.
3. Don’t lord your leadership over others.

What is the primary goal of God-given leaders in the church? Ephesians states it clearly:

It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pas-tors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:11-13).

Paul Stevens has written this:

First, church leadership is called primarily to an equip-ping ministry. This is not a sideline to preaching or counseling, but the raison d’etre of the pastor-teacher. Second, equipping the saints does not mean harnessing the laity for the felt needs or institutional tasks of the church nor harnessing the laity to assist the pastor with certain delegated ministries. The saints are to be equipped for their own ministry. The pastor should not be trying to replicate his or her own ministry but to release theirs. In the process, the laity, as a separate category of ministry in the body of Christ, is abolished.

When we have a clear and working definition of New Testament leadership, and leaders committed to that definition, then we may move on to ask for a commitment of service from our church members. The following sums up New Testament leadership principles:

1. Leadership is ministry. The emphasis on service and the thrust of the gift of leadership in Romans 12:8 shows us that if New Testament leadership means anything, it means serving other people. With meekness church leaders involve themselves in concert with other believers to engage in ministry. The smog of selfishness and egoism lifts to make mutual ministry a biblical reality.

2. Leadership is modeling behavior. We can see it clearly in the Paul and Timothy relationship (1 Tim. 4:11-16; 2 Tim. 3:10-15). Lawrence 0. Richards says it well: “The spiritual leader who is a servant does not demand. He serves. In his service the spiritual leader sets an example for the body, an example that has compelling power to motivate heart change.”

3. Leadership is membership in the body. Obviously this does not refer to the placement of one’s name on the roll, but rather the identification of the leader with all other congregants. In Romans 12:4-5 Paul writes, “Just as each of us has one body with many members … so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” The issue of relating to other people is inseparable from an understanding of Christian leadership, the measure of which can only be shown when the leader serves the body in meekness and membership.

When people join a church, we may take the opportunity to teach them how they can be involved in service. As we present various opportunities and enlist these people in some form of ministry, we should care-fully follow the Spirit’s leading. People can be challenged to find just the right place of service in which they can both be fulfilled and contribute to the ministry of the church. When people choose not to serve, church leaders do well to seek an understanding of the reasons. Many have too many commitments in other areas, while some just show no interest in serving. Perhaps both need to be challenged from a spiritual perspective. Watching how people invest their time and resources helps us know what they feel is important. This is what motivates them. Then we may challenge these people to identify and adopt biblical priorities which will bring spiritual fulfillment and satisfaction.

Lack of Leaders’ Prayers

Even when church leaders devote themselves to a servant mentality and are careful to present challenges for service, they still may find themselves short of volunteers. Then is the time to focus on the need for prayer to under gird the volunteer ministry.

A seminary class topic one day centered on recruitment. Using brainstorming, the students suggested ways the church could recruit workers. They filled the chalkboard with ideas and suggestions. Suddenly someone from the back of the room raised his hand and suggested prayer. The class fell silent. Then they realized what they had done, or rather what they had not done. They had minimized the need for prayer by suggesting it last. The biblical pattern calls leaders to pray first, seeking God’s help in finding people to serve. One of the students, a children’s pastor, told of his desperate need for workers. The class spent special time in prayer for him and for his ministry. The next week he came to class and reported that several people had actually called him to volunteer.

We want to be sure this book does not extend the error of neglecting prayer. Readers should not overlook the importance of prayer and jump right into the many suggestions for getting people involved in ministry. Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit, which comes as a result of sincere prayer, our efforts in finding necessary workers will be limited to our own strength and ideas. It is the Lord’s church, and we serve him.

As we pray, remember that we are not merely seeking to fill positions; we want to equip people for mature service. At the beginning of the chapter, we told about Linda and her sense of feeling unneeded and unimportant to church leaders. The church failed Linda, not because she was not plugged into some appropriate service, but because she herself did not feel adequately cared for and so did not feel the freedom to care for others. Eugene Peterson expresses some unique observations on the nature of the type of pastoral ministry you need:

The Reformers recovered the biblical doctrine of justification by faith…. The vocational reformation of our own time (if it turns out to be that) is a rediscovery of the pastoral work of the cure of souls. The phrase sounds antique. It is antique. But it is not obsolete. It catches up and coordinates, better than any other expression I am aware of, the unending warfare against sin and sorrow and the diligent cultivation of grace and faith to which the best pastors have consecrated them-selves in every generation. . . . The cure of souls is a cultivated awareness that God has already seized the initiative. The traditional doctrine defining this truth is provenience: God everywhere and always seizing the initiative. He gets things going. He had and continues to have the first word. Provenience is the conviction that God has been working diligently, redemptively, and strategically before I appeared on the scene, before I was aware there was something here for me to do.

Some years ago a family visited the Williams house-hold for a weekend. When they were prepared to leave, their car would not start. Immediately they prayed, asking God to repair their car and make it start. After waiting for several hours, someone suggested that it might be a good idea to have a mechanic look at the car and repair it. Finally they agreed, and went on their way later that afternoon. Why didn’t God repair the car? Certainly he was able, but for reasons known only to him he chose not to. Furthermore, the availability of mechanical skill represents God’s common grace.
Some church leaders approach recruitment much like those friends dealt with car repair. When their churches need personnel in various educational pro-grams, they pray and wait for people who see the need to volunteer. As you can guess, few come forward. Eventually other workers resign because of overwork and lack of support or help from the staff. Do not over-look the importance of prayer; do not overlook the importance of what we can contribute to meet the need.

Administrative Problems

Some folks have difficulty using the word administration in a church setting. They feel that implementing “secular business techniques” in the church departs from the scriptural pattern. But notice that the word administer has the word minister in it. To minister means to serve, and Paul lists administration as a spiritual gift (1 Cor. 12:28). Administrative principles can be found in the Bible, in both Old and New Testaments. And the application of those principles can help solve some common problems.

Poor Planning

Planning means setting the course for action and includes elements such as objectives, programming, scheduling, and budgeting.

Without effective objectives, churches cannot focus on the most important ministries and have little basis for evaluating results. What programs should they use? When can they be scheduled? How much will they cost? If they can’t answer these questions, people get discouraged and do not want to be part of the ministry.

Years ago W. A. Criswell, former pastor of the First Baptist Church of Dallas, said to a group of pastors that his church could not do everything. At that time they had over twenty thousand members with multiple facilities and high-rise buildings for Sunday school. They conducted Christian schools, which included elementary through graduate study. They operated missions and ministries all over the area and around the world. They had a huge budget with a large staff. How could one church do more? Yet, Dr. Criswell repeatedly emphasized that they had to plan their priorities according to their resources, particularly personnel and finances.

Good planning motivates people to serve, because the priorities are set and they can see the direction the church is moving. Without good planning it will be difficult to get people excited and involved in ministry, or soon they will leave in frustration.

Poor Organization

Organization includes structure, delegation, and staff relationships. This function makes it possible for people to serve effectively.

Good structure helps people see how they fit into the overall ministry and how their roles relate to others. Problems arise when this is not clear. Individuals and groups go in different directions, and chaos replaces harmony.

The structure of a church grows out of its mission statement. Some churches may prefer loosely defined organization, others more carefully drawn organizational lines. Neither is necessarily wrong, but what-ever is decided on will have greater effectiveness if all those involved understand the direction.

We might compare the structure of a church organization to a preplanned housing community. People know generally what to expect as they walk into each house for general overall room arrangement, but individual owners may freely express themselves with decorating and furniture layout. Structure does not destroy initiative or creativity; it sets general boundaries within which people may minister freely. Because the church is a living organism as well as an organization, her structure changes as her membership itself changes. The key is to keep this overall picture in front of the congregation so individual members do not wonder if the church community has a place for them.

Leaders who try to do everything themselves or who do not trust others with ministry responsibilities usually are poor delegators and weak in helping others use their gifts. Perhaps they feel that jobs will not be done adequately and the work of the church will be placed at risk. Indeed, this may happen when tasks are not explained or supervised properly. People who do not delegate or who delegate poorly are usually limited to smaller church ministry opportunities they can personally control.

George Barna contributes to this discussion when he indicates that leaders of growing churches delegate responsibility without anxiety and use this as a way to empower other people to do ministry.

One church noticed a severe turnover of workers in the Sunday school class for two-year-olds. Workers would volunteer for a few weeks and then quit. Some even left the church. On investigation leaders discovered that the ratio of children to workers went as high as 25:1. Early childhood specialists recommend a ratio of 3:1 or at the most 5:1 for this age group. No wonder people quit. The lack of adequate workers placed them in an impossible situation with no help or encouragement from the leadership. Recognizing the problem was caused by too few workers in the class, the leader-ship quickly recruited and trained a sufficient number of workers. This stopped the high turnover of workers, but even more important, greatly improved the quality of education in the class.

Of course, some leaders over delegate and actually lose control of a situation. They give assignments but rarely check on progress. Leaders with this deficiency suffer from similar problems in developing effective ministry in those they supervise.
Poor organization causes people to wonder about the quality of the ministry and whether or not they want to be a part of it. They see symptoms of poor organization in last-minute teacher recruitment; in regular interruptions of classes to find emergency volunteers for children’s classes; in poor communication to both workers and participants; in frequent class announcements promoting all kinds of ministry and offering requests; in disruption of teaching schedules on a regular basis; in lack of proper resources, and poor equipment and facilities; in placement of unprepared workers in positions of responsibility.

Someone with administrative gifts should work to keep the organization of the church in good condition. We are not suggesting more committees or complicated procedures and bottlenecks created by too many rules and regulations. On the contrary, proper organization will help the church carry on its mission with minimal interference and difficulty. If too many things keep getting in the way, we need to evaluate our ministry procedures. Potential workers will be demotivated by chaos; such an environment tends to keep people from volunteering or responding to an invitation to serve.

Poor Evaluation

Probably the weakest area of church ministry is evaluation. Perhaps we feel we should not evaluate the work of the Holy Spirit and hesitate to check up on the quality of ministry. But remember, the purpose of evaluation is improvement, not punishment. We ask questions on how well we are doing so that we can find even better ways to do the work.

Evaluation requires the setting of standards prior to implementing the work. Then we measure people’s ministry according to the standards. From this evaluation we can determine ways to improve the work, helping us achieve the desired results. This will be expanded in chapter 7.

Recruitment Problems

Why do so many churches experience a shortage of workers? There is no simple answer to this question but we would like to offer several suggestions. Once a problem is well defined, work on the solution has begun.

Some Seem Indifferent to Their Responsibilities

Some church members apparently neglect or ignore God’s call to serve. Marlene Wilson calls these non-workers “pew-sitters.” Perhaps some Christians get so involved in their ministries that they do not want help from others. They may gain a sense of power and authority by doing the work themselves. If this is the case, then the pew-sitters do not sense the need to help.

This indifference certainly may be a spiritual problem, such as those discussed above. When people are not dedicated to the Lord’s service, and when they put other things higher on their priority list, the work of the Lord does not look as attractive to them. Nothing short of a re-dedication to Christ and a change in priorities can correct this. Leaders should recognize this and help people discover God’s purpose for their lives and regain a consistent relationship with the Lord.

Some Have Never Been Challenged to Become Involved in God’s Work

People can be believers and church members, but many have not been approached to roll up their sleeves and accept the challenge of ministry. This may be difficult to believe if you are responsible to find volunteers. Perhaps you have invited everyone to serve, with announcements from the pulpit and articles in the church newsletter or bulletin. But this is not the way to enlist workers. You can alert people to the general need for workers through public announcements, but you should enlist them through personal contact.

When we consider something really important, we give it our personal attention. During a marriage seminar, the leader asked how many people had proposed to their wives with a letter duplicated on a copy machine. Obviously, no one had done so, but that is exactly how we often seek helpers in the church. One church was so desperate to find elders that they sent out eighty letters inviting people to volunteer for this most important position. How much better to discuss the position face to face.

Some Lack Confidence in Their Abilities

Past failures, what unthinking people have told them about themselves, the fear of failure, and the large responsibility before them could be several reasons people lack confidence to volunteer. Confidence can only be developed by being well prepared for the task at hand and enjoying the full support and encouragement of a leader. Preparation can come through training, observation, in-service training, practice teaching, coaching, and many other ways. More will be said about this in the section on training.

Some Misunderstand the Task

Church recruiters need to be specific in what they ask and expect from potential workers. They should help people understand that accepting a position does not entail a “life sentence.” Potential volunteers see the awards given to teachers who have served for forty or fifty years and imagine they may be in line for a long tenure. They watch leaders place people in positions and never release them for other ministries. If leaders fail to provide further assistance for people to experience other opportunities of ministry, they may hamper their growth. Better to agree on a specific period of time, with the option to renew if agreeable to both parties.

Some Feel It Requires Much More Time and Effort Than They Can Contribute

Clear instructions with a job description will help solve this problem. Some positions do require greater amounts of time and effort, and these should be offered to people both qualified and able to perform the ministry. If people do not have the time necessary to fulfill a responsibility, help them select another ministry opportunity.

Some Have Been Improperly “Cataloged”

Church leaders often suffer from “hardening of the categories” when they look at potential workers. That is, they often think of people in only one place or conclude that certain people could never serve in any other significant way. They overlook them without doing a complete evaluation. Leaders need to break out of this procedure and look at people with a renewed optimism for service, to not overlook anyone, and to give everyone a chance to serve.

Some Are Too Busy

Statistics tell us that over 70 percent of the women in our country work outside the home. The traditional concept of the American family with a husband as the sole breadwinner, a wife who does not work outside the home, two children, a dog, and a cat represents less than 10 percent of the households. Yet it appears many churches continue to program for this arrangement. Add to this the increasing number of single-parent families, most headed by women, and you see that many in our population do not have the energy or time for heavy involvement in church ministry.

In the past the church has depended on women to carry on many of its ministries, especially in the area of education. With this resource limited, the volunteers are not readily available just because people work outside the home, how-ever, does not mean they cannot serve in some way. It does mean that their time commitment may be reduced because of these other responsibilities.

Some Must Cope with Dual-Career Households

A dual-career household poses special challenges to church leaders to help these busy families understand their need to minister and serve and the opportunities available to them. Some factors to consider:

1. Their opportunities for fellowship with other adult Christians may be severely limited. They may face the same problem finding good family time. A combination of service and fellowship activities is a possible solution. One family in this situation decided to do some occasional volunteer work at an inner-city congregation tied to their suburban church. As a family, they helped set up Christmas parties and deliver food baskets. Not only did they touch lives, but it gave special memories of time together to cherish.

2. Men and women with heavy career demands also often have talents badly needed by the church fellow-ship. Perhaps other members of the church family could take care of some household and maintenance tasks to free up otherwise occupied time. One gifted Bible study teacher found she could not carve out the necessary study time to prepare lessons when her work responsibilities expanded. Several women whom she had taught for years started cleaning her house periodically, giving her adequate time for study, a beautiful example of body life.

3. As with all members of the Christian community, these time-pressed families need to understand that life is not divided into sacred and secular divisions. Work and worship intertwine in a healthy Christian life, for “whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17). Teach them to look for opportunities to spread the light of God’s love at work. Friendship evangelism, lunchtime Bible studies, one-on-one listening sessions, high ethical standards, commitments to excellence, all have an effect on a dark world.

4. Because of this time problem, it will he necessary for a church to look at its ministries and try to break down some of the tasks into manageable units that can be assigned to different individuals. If it must settle for less time from more people, the task must be divided among faithful workers. Leaders need to assess ways more people will be able to contribute time and efforts to ministry.

One church that met in a school needed regular volunteers to set up the facilities for the services each week. Rather than make this a heavy weekly commitment for two people, they set up a schedule of three teams so that volunteers performed this task once every three weeks.

Some Make Different Choices in How They Use Their Free Time

Everyone, regardless of position or power, has the same 168 hours per week. The difference comes in how productive people make these hours and how they use them to serve the Lord through his church. There are certain responsibilities that all people fulfill: to families, to work, to recreation, and to serve God. Some place too much time in one of these areas and live their lives out of balance. Many people, especially men, put so much effort into their work that they neglect their families. Others spend too much time on recreation, leaving little or no time for God and ministry.

People need to determine how to balance their lives and include each of these areas. Far too often, service to God is left off the list. Church leaders must challenge God’s people to see this important aspect of their lives and accept the responsibility to serve God with-out neglecting other areas.

People are too busy and under too many pressures to continue to offer their free time to church activities that continually fail.10 When there is no fulfilling reward, or when people are discouraged with ineffective ministry results, they will find other ways to spend their limited free time.

You may look at this list of problems and feel like throwing in the towel. Can you achieve significant ministry in the 1990’s when you face so many reasons that keep people out of volunteer ministry? Yes! The work of the church will go forward, and you need to help more of the Lord’s people find some place of effective ministry.

Application Activities

1. To what extent does the preaching and teaching ministry of your church proclaim the importance of personal involvement in ministry?

2. Do you present the importance of a personal involvement in church ministry to new church members in the orientation program?

3. To what extent does the prayer ministry of the church address this need?

4. In addition to prayer, does the church have a strategy in place to identify and recruit leaders?

5. Has your church clearly identified the priorities of ministry with biblical objectives?

6. Does your church fit the pattern of 10 percent of the people doing most of the work?

7. To what extent is communication effective in your church? How do you do it? How can it be improved?

8. To what extent do you evaluate ministries and individuals? What do you do to improve ministries and individuals?

9. Develop a list of your own reasons of why churches face a shortage of workers. Compare the list with the reasons suggested in this chapter. After each, write one or two possible ways to overcome it.

This article “Problems in Recruitment” written by Dennis F. Williams is excerpted from Volunteers for Today’s Church.

Posted in AIS File Library, MM - Men's Ministry0 Comments

Who Are These People?

By J. Mark Jordan

Church Life in the New Millennium: The new generation of churchgoers presents challenges to pastors and leaders that differ significantly from the stereotypes of the past. The old assumptions no longer work. We need to take a fresh look at the way we handle the people who are caught up in the sweeping social and cultural revolution. The leadership of the Holy Spirit has become more necessary now than ever. Let’s look at the problem from the perspective of the church.

Returned Prodigals. Those who left the church many years ago and have just returned have unique needs and cannot be lumped together with everyone else. Do not assume that they “know the score.” Understand that they have had little or no spiritual growth for years. They resemble Rip Van Winkle, who woke up from a twenty-year nap. When they come back, therefore, they have highly idealized and naive expectations of themselves and others. If they left church as a child or a teenager, they still have a child’s or a teenager’s view of the church. Also, those who enjoyed a relatively high status before they left may never achieve the same level. The initial enthusiasm of their return may fade quickly when it dawns on them that they forfeited their previous esteem. First, make them aware that their salvation is more important than anything else. After a reasonable passage of time, they may once again be qualified for advancement. These things have to be decided on a case-by-case basis.

Spiritual Stepchildren. Not all move-ins are the same. Some have relocated to your city because of a job situation. Some are going to school, joining the military, or are adjusting to changing family circumstances. Others, however, are refugees from church fights or have suffered embarrassing problems that forced them to leave and go elsewhere. The protocols of the transfers are another story, but after they come, the immediate concern must focus on the welfare of the move-in. In their new church environment, they experience many of the same emotions that stepchildren have in real life. They do not respond to authoritarian leadership. They must be persuaded, affirmed, and won over.

The Plugged-In. The local church no longer serves as the only source of religious information for today’s members. The Internet has revolutionized communication and networking. People have access to multiple sources of church-world news, theological views, newsletters, special interest groups, chat rooms, Web sites, and forums that disseminate ideas from every doctrinal position imaginable. Maintaining control in the new millennium has become a far more difficult task than ever before. Church leaders must continue to educate themselves about the subjects that much of their congregation knows like the backs of their hands. Those who refer to hippies, discos, and other outdated terms of the past alienate their younger audience. We cannot ignore the fact that a ready-made argument against nearly everything we preach and teach exists in the minds of churchgoers. The more dated and out-of-touch church leaders seem, the less influence they wield.

The Resident Analysts. Our demand for high commitment and separation from the world meets with high resistance from a certain segment of people who continue to attend church but never fully comply with the teachings and standards. Due to their family ties or friendships, they remain a part of the social fabric of the church. They may give financial support, help with building projects, or perform certain services like driving a bus or mowing a lawn. This status gives them an informal voice in the congregation. They have deep, underlying issues, however, that surface from time to time through criticism or blatant nonconformity. They analyze much of the pulpit offerings through carnal or secular opinions. Use them where you can, but continue to appeal to their conscience. Offset their influence with a powerful and persuasive ministry.

The Spiritual Singles. People with unsaved spouses have long been a part of church life, going all the way back to New Testament times. Many of them are extremely sensitive to comments, sermons, or programs that emphasize family unity or spirituality. They battle with feelings of resentment, jealousy, and even depression. Address their concerns and needs without making them feel they are second-class citizens. They don’t necessarily expect church programs to be shaped to accommodate them, but they must know that the leadership recognizes their unique problems. Consider special classes, support groups, or other activities designed to make them feel included.

Fractured Families. My kids, your kids, our kids, my ex’s kids, your ex’s kids, and maybe someone else’s kids, all living under the same roof, can create severe strain on families that impacts church life. Custody rules force many kids to spend alternate weekends with the other parent, often causing great confusion in parenting rules and undermining authority. If we stereotype family structures as being predominantly nuclear, those caught in these anomalies either feel stigmatized or irrelevant. People with formerly atypical backgrounds are more and more becoming mainstream. But what if it seems as though we are losing our Apostolic culture when we so much as acknowledge that these problems exist? Granted, today’s behaviors mess up our tidy sandbox, but we cannot change the social landscape with a wave of the hand. Even as Jesus “must needs go through Samaria,” a cultural nightmare for orthodox Jews, we must make every effort to reach people where and how we find them.

Adult Adolescents. The average age of people leaving the confines of home has crept up in recent decades. Many men and women are in their middle or late twenties before they get out on their own. Are they still a part of the youth group? Should they be expected to behave responsibly and assume positions in the church? We cannot take for granted that they simply ought to grow up without speaking specifically to their status. They are somewhere in between ministering and needing to be ministered to. This group holds tremendous potential for the present and the future. Wise leaders, in an exercise of faith, will show them respect before it has been totally earned.

The Educated. As long as the people with an alphabet of letters after their names were on the outside, we could get away with lambasting the pointy-headed intellectuals. No more. Society’s emphasis on education has put many college graduates in our congregations. It changes the way our congregations perceive us, and it must change the way we communicate with them. We will continue to insult the educated at our own peril.

High Talent/Low Commitment. Talented people who populate our pews need more than just to be upbraided for their lack of commitment. The challenges we give them must be commensurate with their superior abilities. They may be more bored than backslidden. The modern milieu of complicated living has imposed higher demands on ministering to people than ever before, forcing us to understand the nuances of leadership. Church leaders need to become students of motivation. People don’t do things today just because. They will respond if they can be motivated. Don’t leave the high-tech tractor in the barn while you stubbornly continue plowing behind the old gray mare.

The Wealthy. Monied people can be either a great blessing to a church or the source of huge problems. The reason is that, in the minds of many, money equals power. The rich may think that their judgment is worth more than that of other’s leading them or expect preferential treatment. Much could be said about dealing with the wealthy, but it should be abundantly clear to all that no one can buy influence in the church. Be grateful for larger gifts and acknowledge those who give them, but reserve honor for spiritual attributes like faithfulness, participation, and spirituality.

The Special Interest Groups. The list is long: prophecy enthusiasts, doctrine gurus, theology junkies, worship extremists, music connoisseurs, neat-freaks, standard nitpickers, finance fanatics, political maniacs, liturgical perfectionists, caring-for-the-unfortunate devotees, church building zealots and a host of other offshoots of single-issue saints. They only care about their pet peeve or personal obsession. The problem is that they often succeed in redirecting the total church program into servicing their narrow area and letting everything else go. If you can, put them in charge of their special interest; it may help scratch their itch. If not, preach moderation and the big picture. Above all, remember that the mission of the church represents the broadest objective possible. We cannot afford any diversions that will effectively shut down that mission.

Full-time Pastors and Part-time Saints. People who may not fully utilize their own ministry gifts often consider the pastor to be at their beck and call. He is the servant of the church and therefore must be kept busy. They want him to pay so-and-so a personal visit, read a book that they think will help him, watch a video or DVD that just inspired them, start a new class for an elective series, serve as an on-call counselor who is available for big or little talks 24/7, and do a myriad of other minuscule tasks that they’ve thought of. They would like to do more for God, but they just don’t have time. They have full-time jobs. Part-time saints need to be reminded of the pastor’s overwhelming responsibility to direct the total church program. The spiritual myopia of many church members today ensnares too many pastors and church leaders. They constantly have to pare down their vision to squeeze it into the narrow scope of their followers.

In-House Divorcees. Unfortunately, it is becoming more common for couples in the church to get a divorce but continue to attend the same assembly. They often sit on opposite sides of the sanctuary and either glare at or frostily ignore each other. If they have children, it compounds the problem. Over time, the rest of the congregation can usually adjust to the situation. What makes the bad situation worse, however, is if they spread their bitter complaints to others and expect them to take sides. The pastor must play the role of pastor to both of them, but he must not allow their anger to destroy the unity of the church. It is vital for a truce to be enforced, especially on church grounds. Sometimes, only the wisdom of Solomon and the leadership of the Holy Ghost can get us through these situations.

Unwed Mothers. Despite the fact that society generally accepts them without the former stigma, unwed mothers still feel awkward in church circles. The point here is not to cover all the bases but to remind us the church remains the best refuge for these girls who now have enormous complications in their lives. We have a difficult balancing act in treating the girl with love yet not appearing to condone her wrong. Further, we must be extremely careful not to shun one girl for an unwanted pregnancy and then accept another because of her family connections or other circumstances that look like raw favoritism. If we are truly to validate our stand against abortion, we must be prepared to shoulder the alternative with love and forgiveness.

Societal Misfits. Felons, parolees, AIDS victims, social disease carriers, and sexual predators are becoming increasingly common in our society, but due to our emphasis on outreach to jails, prisons, and persons with addictions, we are seeing more of them in our churches. In addition, homosexuals, transvestites, and transgender persons may indeed be sitting on our pews, sometimes without the knowledge of church leaders. One of the major concerns pastors have is preserving the family atmosphere of the church and making parents feel secure in bringing their children. At the same time, we have a moral and scriptural obligation to minister to people who have gone to the depths of sin. We do have to guard against predators who come among us to exploit children and vulnerable persons. I personally think the pastor needs to inform a number of people in the congregation about a potential problem so they can help him keep an eye out for suspicious situations. If ever we needed the guidance of the Holy Spirit, we need it now.

This article “Who Are These People?” was excerpted from the book “The View from the Back of the Pulpit” written by J. Mark Jordan. It may be used for study and research purposes only.

Posted in AIS File Library, CM - Church Management, CMMC - Miscellaneous Business0 Comments

Hiring Church Staff

BY PAUL D. MOONEY

So you are getting ready to hire some one to help you in your church. That moment has come when you need to increase the staff and ease the Ministry load. Exciting? Yes. But there are important things you should know. And what you may not know about the person you are getting ready to add to your ministry team could turn out to be your biggest nightmare ever.

Because of my association with Indiana Bible College, I watch the hiring process of young students with a great deal of shock and dismay… Young talented students eager to get into the Ministry are searching for opportunities. Pastors and churches that need youth ministers, choir directors, outreach directors or children’s pastors are looking over the crop. What is shocking is the often careless manner that some pastors display as they approach this process. I hope some will read closely what I am going to write here, because it may save you a lot of heartache. Let me offer a few bottom line suggestions that will help make this whole thing a lot more pleasant and more ethical.

First, why would anyone want to hire someone that they know nothing about? To bring an outsider into your church for the purposes of ministry that you have not carefully screened is next to insanity. With today’s high rate of immorality (including homosexuality) one must take this thing seriously. I wish that these horrible sins did not touch our beautiful Holy Ghost young people, but they do. Further, some among us who claim to be filled with the Spirit have actually just been around a long while and they have adopted the manners and style of the church without really being in the church. Perhaps to spare themselves embarrassment, they have just blended in, never having received the baptism of the Holy Ghost. They are unwilling to admit this and so they live a lie. Never underestimate the power of peer pressure. Some even go into the ministry to please mom and dad or their egos, and there is no anointing or calling on their lives. Pastors, you have got to run references. You must inquire about their history and their character.

Neither should churches seeking new staff forget that young people have pastors. They have home churches. In the case of Indiana Bible College, we do not presume to replace the Pastors of our students. This is by written policy. We provide guidance, education, counsel, and training. We do this, however, only after the Pastor has signed the student’s application and thereby given his approval for our interaction with them. This is a sacred trust. Along the way, we keep the pastors informed, involve them in all major decisions, and heavily involve them in any disciplinary actions. I am amazed when some who seek to hire a staff person seem to think that involving the applicant’s Pastor is no big deal. It is a big deal. And I’m pretty sure that some who ignore this well accepted ethical standard would scream foul if the shoe were on the other foot and someone were soliciting one of their own.

May I stress here that hiring someone for a paid position is a professional matter. The employer should have a specific task or job in mind. This involves compensation and designated authority. Merely asking someone to come to your church to help you, in cases that do not involve a position or employment, is recruiting membership and not hiring staff. Big difference.

What questions should churches ask? No big secret here. Pastors or hiring committees should want to know about the prospect’s faithfulness, morals, commitment, attitude, relationship with home church, relationship with college, financial history, attitude, and so forth. It is my view that a prospective hire should be checked out, so to speak, before any contact is made. Calling the school and pastor before one even talks to the prospect the very first time is right and may save the potential employer embarrassment while also providing an easy out before anyone is hurt.

I am not dealing here with hiring seasoned ministers or ‘bringing on’ a person who is already a full-time evangelist, pastor, missionary and so forth. In those cases, open and free contact is fully expected and acceptable. Although I would interject that the outright solicitation of persons who are already employed by another church or ministry without the proper contact of their present employer is unethical. Even if first contacted by a person who is seeking employment, there are ethical guidelines that should be followed. Using third persons and loopholes, duplicities, double speak, and cute comments are not proper substitutions for the right ethical procedures. Anyway, what I am referring to here, for the most part, is the hiring of young students or young people who are not members of your church.

Aside from the employer’s need to know about a hire’s spiritual life and lifestyle, there is another aspect of this process which deserves at least a word. When someone who is hired to fill a job as youth leader, outreach minister, music director or so forth, and is rewarded that position against the backdrop of an inconsistent life, it sends a negative message. Jesus taught that stewards should be found faithful. This is a commandment not to be ignored. When we do ignore it, it not only sets the church up for trouble and heartache but it undermines faithfulness itself. The young persons that have lived a clean life, paid their bills, obeyed their parents, heeded the counsel of their pastors, listened to their advisors, prayed, fasted, studied, worked outreach programs, helped in all ways and in all things been ‘faithful’ have earned respect. They should be respected. When churches hire the unfaithful, the rebellious, and the undisciplined, they hurt the cause of faithfulness. Young people draw the conclusion that it does not matter. Talent or personality wins out over righteousness. This ought not to be. Respect the faithful. Hire the faithful and righteous. Send the unfaithful and inconsistent back to the prayer room by not hiring them until their talents are surrendered to the authority of holiness, purity and leadership.

In a word, it you are getting ready to hire, do it right. Be ethnical. Demand the best behavior not the most talent. Check references. Listen to what you hear. Respect home churches. Go show.
You don’t want to end up praying for discord. It can happen.

THE ABOVE MATERIAL WAS PUBLISHED BY THE INDIANA APOSTOLIC TRUMPET, MARCH 2002, PAGES 3, 6. THIS MATERIAL IS COPYRIGHTED AND MAY BE USED FOR STUDY & RESEARCH PURPOSES ONLY.

Posted in AIS File Library, CM - Church Management, CMCB - Church Business & LTBU Church Business Issues0 Comments

Strategies For Staying Saved

By Simeon Young

Getting saved is one of the most important things in life. But there is something just as important as being saved, and that is staying saved. Most of the New Testament is dedicated to instructing saved people on how to retain their salvation.

The “great salvation” that Paul wrote to the Hebrew Christians about was not designed to self-destruct when things get tough. God is able to save to the uttermost.

Following are the winning strategies of successful Christians – of men and women and young people who are overcoming Satan and living in victory and walking in obedience.

The first strategy for staying saved is to –

I. Be Serious About Being Saved. If you are prepared to make a commitment to living for God and going to heaven, you are well on your way. But if you cannot make a no-holds-bared commitment to living for God, then you probably are not serious enough about being saved. If you keep having second thoughts about your first-love for the Lord, then you are not serious about life’s most serious issue.

Why is it more difficult for some Christians to make a spiritual commitment than it is for a six-year-old boy to make a life-long commitment to a ball team? Is it because he is more serious about sports than sports than some Christians are about being saved?

No-commitment contracts on certain consumer goods may be available, but there is no such thing as a no-commitment faith or a no-commitment Christianity.

People who are serious about being saved have found contentment in godly living. Their fulfillment comes from their relationship with Jesus. All their needs are satisfied by their loving Lord.

If you’re serious about being saved, you are not looking over your shoulder for something better. Paul said, “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (I Timothy 6:6).

Furthermore, if you take your salvation seriously, you have learned the value of moderation. Some things, taken in any amount, are spiritually disastrous. But almost anything, taken to the extreme or in excess, is detrimental to your salvation. Certain pleasures, in moderation, can be relaxing and even healthy. But an immoderate does of pleasure is potentially poison.

The second spiritual strategy for staying saved is to –

II. Get Moving Spiritually. Consistent spiritual exercise is to a Christian what physical exercise is to an athlete. An athlete cannot survive without exercise and neither can a Christian survive without spiritual calisthenics. Paul wrote, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” He also said that since “bodily exercise profiteth little,” we should exercise ourselves unto godliness.

Successful Christians practice the presence of God… they practice godliness… they practice right living. A spiritually lazy Christian will never make it. He will become soft and flabby and his spiritual muscles will a trophy.

The Bible says that the Spirit of God came upon Samson “at times.” The key to Samson’s downfall is discovered in those two words – “at times.” Once in a while, he lived for God. Occasionally he did the right thing.

Do you occasionally feel surges of spirituality? Do you walk in the Spirit sometimes? I tell you, once-in-awhile surges in the Spirit won’t cut it. A daily relationship with the Lord is imperative.

The third spiritual strategy for staying saved for life is to –

III. Tackle Problems Head-On. The spiritual loose-ends of our lives will entangle us and cause us to stumble. Failing to deal with failure, we fail.

Paul wrote, “Don’t let the sun go down on your wrath neither give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:26,27). One translation reads, “Don’t let the devil get a foothold.”

A small spiritual problem unattended becomes a spiritual crisis that can do you in. The little foxes… spoil the vines” (Song of Solomon 2:15).

I am not prepared to tell you that one little mistake will send you to hell. But I can say with certainty that every unsettled infraction, every unresolved mistake, and every unconfessed sin allows the devil to get his foot in the door. But you can keep ahead of the devil by confronting and dealing with every problem honestly and forthrightly and quickly. Tackling problems head-on is a winning strategy.

The fourth strategy for staying saved for life is

IV. Don’t Think “Eternal Security.” In other words, get rid of the “once-saved-always-saved” mentality. It is possible to be saved for life, but it is not possible to be automatically saved for life.

It is assumed by millions of religious people that once you are saved, it is impossible to forfeit your salvation. I heard the late Dr. John R. Rice say that there would be holes in the roofs of saloons where drunken “Christians” are raptured off barstools. What a magic deception. What an abominable lie!

Peter wrote, “Give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall… ” (II Peter 1:10). We can safely infer from the word “if that the failure to do these things” will cause us to fall and block our entrance into heaven.

The sober warning in Scripture against backsliding, lukewarmness, and apostasy is the antithesis to the hyper-Calvinistic doctrine of unconditional eternal security. One of the easiest ways to lose your salvation is to think you cannot lose it. When you think you stand, be careful lest you fall.” If you can’t fall, why be careful about it? If you want to be saved for life, forget eternal security.

Zechariah’s prophecy foretold that Jesus would save us from our enemies so that we would be able to serve God without fear and in holiness and righteousness all the days of our lives (Luke 1:67-75).

That’s a promise of permanence… a promise of relationship that will not wear out… a promise of spiritual adventure that will never lose its thrill.

You can be saved for life if you will live saved all your life.

(The above material appeared in a November 1991 issue of Indiana Trumpet.) Christian Information Network

Posted in AIS File Library, BS - Bible Studies, BSVL - Victorious Living0 Comments


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