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Category Archives: Church

Handling Criticism – Lessons from Jesus

Last night, First Central Bible Church in Chicopee, MA, held a joint meeting of our elders, deacons, and deaconesses. We meet together 3-4 times a year to touch base on shepherding issues. Towards the end of the meeting, I distributed two handouts on the subject of handling criticism. I explained that as we touch base with people, we may hear criticism and/or complaints about an individual, ministry, or other concern. I wanted to guide the folks in how to respond biblically.

One handout was “Handling Criticism: Lessons from Nehemiah.” (It was posted on my blog on May 5, 2016.) Rather than read the entire handout, I said the short version was that sometimes Nehemiah responded to criticism and sometimes he ignored it. Not every need is a mandate. Sometimes a need or a criticism is a distraction to ignore. We need discernment to know which ones to address and which ones to ignore.

The second handout was “Handling Criticism: Lessons from Jesus.”

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Handling Criticism: Lessons from Jesus

When someone wants to complain to you about a person, ministry, etc., follow the guidelines Jesus gave in Matthew 18:15-20.

15 “If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. 16 But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. 17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. 18 Truly, I say to you, whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven. 19 Again I say to you, if two of you agree on earth about anything they ask, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. 20 For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.”

Ask the person, “Have you talked to _______ ?” (the person who offended them; the person in charge of the ministry they are concerned about, etc.)

If they say, “No,” then graciously stop the person and tell them to practice Mathew 18:15. Graciously tell them to stop gossiping, complaining, and/or venting to someone else.

If they say, “Yes, but the person didn’t listen,” then you can listen to their concern. Afterwards, go with the person to help them seek reconciliation and/or resolution, the second step in Matthew 18:16.

Remember that your role is not to serve as the complaint department or the problem solvers of the church.

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As leaders in the church, I wanted our team to understand that criticism comes with the territory. I shared that every time our church has started to move forward, we’ve been attacked. I’ve been criticized more in the past year than I have in many previous years. Part is due to my position and part to what we’ve been trying to do as a church. When criticism comes, and it will, I want us to respond in a biblical, godly manner.

 

Am I indispensable?

If I leave my church, will they miss me? If I leave my church, will they survive without me?

The first question reflects the opinion that I am not needed. The second question shows an attitude of feeling indispensable. The one says I feel like I don’t matter. The other says no one can replace me. The first one assumes that my contributions are so small that anyone could take my place. The second one assumes that the building and church ministries will collapse without me holding them up.

Which position is correct? Both? Neither?

Scripture is pretty clear that once we put our faith in Christ, we are part of the body of Christ. Whether great or small, each of us plays a vital role (1 Corinthians 12:12-26). The body builds itself up as each part does its work (Ephesians 4:16). If I don’t do my part, the church will remain in a state of perpetual adolescence. So, yes, I do matter and the church cannot survive without me.

Scripture is also clear that the church belongs to Christ, not to me. Jesus said, “I will build my church” (Matthew 16:18). He does not need my help. So, yes, I am not indispensable and the church can survive without me.

Over the years, I have experienced both attitudes personally. I left one church and was never missed. Someone else stepped into my position and took it further than I could have. I felt like I hadn’t accomplished anything and was not needed. I was extremely dispensable. Like stepping out of a river, the water filled in the hole where I was standing.

I left another church and heard from several that the church spent years trying to find someone else to do what I did. I had accomplished a great deal. I was indispensable and not easily replaced. I left too big a footprint.

I have also experienced both approaches in other people. Some who existed on the fringe left the church without saying goodbye and we didn’t realize they were gone until someone said, “I haven’t seen so-and-so in a while.” Others left and when we saw them later, they were surprised that we had not closed the doors and filed for bankruptcy in their absence.

Both of these attitudes reflect a wrong view of self. One describes a perception that is far too low while the other is far too high. In Romans 12:3–5, the apostle Paul writes,

For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned. For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.

As Christ followers, we need to have an accurate view of ourselves that is neither too high nor too low. We need to recognize that we are part of the body of Christ and have an important role to play. In the passage that follows, Paul goes on to explain that each one of us has a spiritual gift that we are to use in service (6-8). We also have a responsibility to “one another” (9-13).

I have a vital role to play and I am needed in the ministry of the church. But the church belongs to Christ and he will build his church.

 
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Posted by on April 19, 2017 in Church, Personal growth, Scripture

 

The pros & cons of using hymnals in church

Blogger Tim Challies has written two posts on the subject of using hymnals in church.

“What we lost when we lost our hymnals” describes the downside of using projected words instead of hymnals.

“What we gained when we lost the hymnal” describes the upside of using projected words instead of hymnals.

Neither article will convince you if you hold the opposite opinion. But Tim does a good job of being objective about the challenges inherent in the topic.

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2017 in Church, Music, Tim Challies, Worship

 

Be the pastor of your pew

“’Pastor, there is a man sitting in my pew,” she said. “Would you please tell him to move so I can sit down?’”

“’You know,’ Jerry said to her, ‘if I were a betting man, I would bet that this man sitting in your pew is a visitor and doesn’t know…Perhaps you could let him have your pew this Sunday and sit behind him and pray for him during the service. Perhaps you could engage him in a friendly conversation after the service…Perhaps you could even ask him what brought him

“What if each Sunday every Christian chose to be pastor of his or her pew? Every week people come to church looking for something to mend the brokenness they feel inside. Often they leave and no one has spoken a word to them the entire morning. Why?”

Jerry Root & Stan Guthrie, The Sacrament of Evangelism

Good reminder, especially considering the many guests that will be present this week for Good Friday and Easter services.

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2017 in Church, Evangelism, Quotes

 

Breathing new life into dying churches

Book Review: Revitalize: Biblical keys to helping your church come alive again, by Andrew M. Davis

The old way of measuring a church’s success was to look at the four B’s—buildings, budgets, bodies, and baptisms, and if you were real successful—books and broadcasts. While church health is more than just numbers, the lack of numbers is often a key symptom of a church in crisis. That is when a church needs to be revitalized, to have new life breathed into its body.

Author, pastor, and professor Andrew M. Davis has written Revitalize: Biblical keys to helping your church come alive again, with the goal of offering practical insight into how to do just that. What is different about his book is that it is not only strategic and practical, but it is solidly biblical.

Davis starts by presenting the case that the church belongs to Christ and that God is able to speak life into dying churches. He then addresses 14 key principles necessary to breathe life back into the church: Embrace Christ’s ownership of the church; Be holy; Rely on God, not on yourself; Rely on God’s Word, not on techniques; Saturate the church in prayer; Cast a clear vision; Be humble toward opponents; Be courageous; Be patient; Be discerning; Wage war against discouragement; Develop and establish men as leaders; Become supple on worship; amd Embrace the two journeys of disciple-making.

Following each chapter, the author includes a list of “practical advice” as to how to implement the principle in the church.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on April 4, 2017 in Books, Church

 

What got you here won’t get you there

Book Review: How to Break Growth Barriers: Revise your role, Release your people, and Capture overlooked opportunities for your church, by Carl F. George and Warren Bird

Does your church want to grow? Are you willing to change your style of leadership in order to facilitate growth? Are you willing to adjust your role in order to help the church grow? These are the three essential questions dealt with in How to Break Growth Barriers: Revise your role, Release your people, and Capture overlooked opportunities for your church, by Carl F. George and Warren Bird. The book was originally written in 1993 and is now revised and rereleased in 2017.

The authors divide the book into three parts which focus on their essential questions. Part one focuses on the subject of vision. Does your church want to grow? What kind of vision are you casting as a leader? How can you grow and expand your vision? Part two tackles the issue of redefining your role as a leader. As a church grows, a pastor must be willing to hand off some of his ministry responsibilities to others. The pastor must go from doing everything to training and equipping others to share in the ministry. Part three addresses the questions of how to break specific growth barriers—200, 400, 800, and care barriers.

The book assumes that a pastor and church want to grow. It doesn’t address the biblical basis of growth or stress the importance of evangelism and discipleship in order to fulfill the great commission. Rather than convince church leaders of the need to grow, the authors focus more on the pragmatic issues of how to produce growth and change.

Disclosure: I received this book free from Baker Books through the Baker Books Bloggers www.bakerbooks.com/bakerbooksbloggers program. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review.

 
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Posted by on April 3, 2017 in Books, Church

 

Commissioning of Elders, Deacons, & Deaconesses – 2017

During First Central Bible Church‘s annual meeting on January 29, 2017, the congregation affirmed those who would serve as elders, deacons, and deaconesses in the coming year. On Sunday, February 19, we commissioned these leaders. The following was an insert in the bulletin to guide each group and their response during the commissioning. The ceremony served a twofold purpose–(1) It affirmed and commissioned those who serve in these positions of leadership and service; and (2) It reminded the participants and the congregation as to the high calling and the task of each position.

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ELDERS

Doug Dolbow, Stan Kulig, Joe Martin, Doug McVeigh, Pastor Mark Wheeler

The elders serve as shepherds and overseers of the church. They work together to feed, lead, guard, care, and model Christlike character for the flock.

Pastor Elders
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for elders in 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1? We will.
Will you willingly shepherd the flock God has entrusted to your care? We will.
Will you teach biblical truth and sound doctrine? We will.
Will you help equip people for service? We will.
Will you lead the church as overseers, supervising and managing the church well, ensuring that all things are done with integrity? We will.
Will you guard the flock against false teachers? We will.
Will you pray for the sick? We will.
Will you serve as examples of Christlike character for the church? We will.
Will you serve together as a team, sharing responsibility for leadership and oversight? We will.
Will you work together to keep the church focused on achieving the purpose God has called us to? We will.
DEACONS

Dan Darcy, Sid Floyd, Dave Johnson (new), Cliff Moran, J Noyes, Joe Trevathan

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deacons have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deaconesses wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deacons
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deacons in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deaconesses to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
DEACONESSES

Lynn Anderson (new), Lois Darcy, Rose Eldridge, Janet Laroche, Karen Martin, Marion Moran, Connie Noyes, Carol Sumler

While the elders have a fixed job description, the deaconesses have a flexible one. They follow the direction of the elders and serve alongside the deacons wherever needed to help meet the practical needs of the church. This allows the elders to focus on the ministries of teaching and prayer.

Pastor Deaconesses
Will you strive to meet the character qualities specified for deaconesses in 1 Timothy 3? We will.
Will you follow the direction of the elders and assist them wherever needed? We will.
Will you help the elders in caring for the practical needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to help care for the needs of the congregation? We will.
Will you work with the deacons to manage the benevolence fund with integrity and compassion? We will.
CONGREGATION

The congregation is responsible to respect their leaders and submit to their authority. They are to honor those who serve well.

Pastor Congregation
Will you honor the deacons & deaconesses for their service and grant them good standing among you? We will.
Will you obey the elders and joyfully submit to their leadership? We will.
Will you treat the elders with honor and respect since they watch over your souls? We will.
Will you pray that God grants your elders, deacons, & deaconesses a sense of joy as they serve Christ? We will.