5 Passions of a Healthy Church

Kenneth O. Gangel of Dallas Seminary mentions 5 balanced passions that indicate a healthy Great Commission Church.  These include:

1. Winning the Lost

2. Building the Believer

3. Equipping the Worker

4. Multiplying the Leader

5. Sending the Called Ones

We probably look at those as "no-brainers." But ask yourself this question: How I am helping my church and my own personal journey to be healthy.  We realize that numbers don't always indicate health.  Something that grows fast is not always something that is healthy.  Cancer grows rapidly, but none of us want to be told we have the C-word.

In the church, though, numbers can be good indicators - are we growing and are we reaching people?  It also challenges us to take a look at where we are spiritually.  Are we showing consistent growth in our walk with Christ and in participating the Great Commission work of our local church?  Healthy Churches have Healthy Christians who are demonstrating and fulfilling these 5 passions.

So how are you doing in your walk with Christ?  Is it solely you and you alone - or do you see a spiritual/numerical increase, in that, others are coming to Christ because of your witness and are being discipled?  Or is it the proverbial - us 4 and no more?  We have our group and it is staying the same - and I am staying the same.  We are not growing and I am not growing.

Take this challenge - how can you help participate in these Great Commission passions?  Remember this fact: Healthy Churches have Healthy Christians and Healthy Christians demonstrate Healthy Growth.


Four Do's and Don'ts in Church Revitalization

As with any undertaking, there are do’s and don’ts.  Jim Croce wrote:

                        You don't tug on Superman's cape

                       You don't spit into the wind

                        You don't pull the mask off that old Lone Ranger

                        And you don't mess around with Jim.

Queen’s College prepared a list of do’s and don’ts in the business world.  A few of these include:

                        Treat your superior with respect

                        Be friendly and cooperative

                        Don’t complain or be negative

                        Don’t be late for work.

In church revitalization, there are also several do’s and don’ts.  The list I will offer is by no means exhaustive, but I hope it these will be some good conversation starters.

1. First Don’t: Don’t Go In with Both Guns Ablazin’.

            When starting out in ministry, most of us are wide-eyed and extremely passionate.  One of the negatives of length in ministry is that pastors lose their zeal.  When a person goes through some of the trials, troubles, criticisms, and complaints of ministry, sometimes those burdens pour cold water on the fire of one’s calling. 

            On the other hand, one of the benefits of youth and even going to a new ministry is passion.  Passion is why new churches are more exciting than established churches.  Yet the negative of passion is that is can be expressed unbridled.  I call it both guns ‘blazin’.  What I mean by that phrase is that we allow our emotions to go unchecked in meetings, decision, or relationships.  This passion can be the interpreted as being impulsive, pushy, and sometimes even angry. 

            So the answer is: be passionate but keep your emotions in check.  Speak softly, don’t be impetuous, keep the passion alive, but go in with both guns ablazin’. When you do, sometimes the innocent get hit as well as the guilty.

2. Second Don’t: Don’t Tear Down the Bear’s Tower.

            After the 1982 season, Bear Bryant retired after an illustrious career coaching the Alabama Crimson Tide football team.  His replacement was Ray Perkins, a Bryant prodigy who had been coaching at Georgia Tech.  When Bryant was coach, one of the things for which he was known was coaching practice from a tower built on the sidelines of the practice field.  One of the first things that Perkins did upon being hired, in order to establish himself as coach and perhaps remove the influence of Bryant, was to tear down Bear’s tower.  That move was a fatal mistake.  Perkins only coached for 4 years and resigned amid great complaint and criticism from fans and boosters.

            One of the difficulties pastors face in church revitalization is following a long-tenured or beloved pastor.  The temptation, in order to diminish the former pastor’s influence, is to tear down his work, ministry, or character.  A new pastor never wins this battle.  Regardless of how good or how bad your predecessor was or is, don’t tear down the Bear’s tower.  You will rarely win and build up your significance or influence by the ones who preceded yAttour ministry.

3. Third Don’t: Don’t Attack Friends of the Family.

            In ministry and in the church, know your enemies.  According to Scripture, fellow believers are not our enemies.  Satan is our enemy (Eph 5:12).  Sometimes in the process of church revitalization and in trying to bring about change, we face opposition from members of the church.  The rudest awakening I think that I ever had in ministry was realizing that Satan sometimes uses God’s own people to do his bidding. 

            In spite of that fact, even those people are not our enemies.  Satan is still the enemy.  Therefore, don’t attack friend of the family.  Be careful in your preaching, especially when you have received that critical letter or remark.  Be careful in how your respond to criticism or negative comments in meetings or private conversations.  Keep your cool, even in the most difficult of situations.  Feed and lead the flock; don’t beat the sheep.

4. First Do: Know Which Hills are Worth Dying On.

            In other words, pick your battles carefully.  Another mistake with passion is that we fight about everything.  The fact is, the church should be doing the things about which we are excited and hold convictions.  Change is necessary, and in most revitalization situations, great change is necessary.  Not every change, however, is essential to the church’s immediate revitalization. 

            Therefore, know which hills are worth dying on.  The passionate pastor oftentimes finds himself dying on every hill.  The problem is, his nine lives eventually run out.  The pastor either fades out, burns out, or gets run out.  There are some battles worth fighting: the fundamentals of the faith, moral non-negotiables, or issues related to the survival of the church.  Know those invariables and stick to them.  Remember the words attributed to Augustine (most probably originating with 17th century Lutheran theological Rupertus Meldenius: In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity.

The task of church revitalization is an exciting undertaking.  If offers challenges that test pastors of every skill set.  To be successful, though, one needs to know the do’s and don’ts.  Make a list of these and stick to them.  To reach the world, we need to plant churches, but we also need to revitalize churches.    

The Pastor’s Preaching and Church Revitalization

            A great deal of discussion surrounds the role of preaching, preparation, and personal devotion when it comes to the pastor’s study habits.  Some pastors approach ministry from a more integrationist mode, believing that sermon preparation and a personal quiet time can be synonymous.  I want to give an alternate view.  My conclusions may be somewhat anecdotal, but I hope that they will be helpful nonetheless.

            One of the mistakes I believe that many pastors make is to assume that sermon preparation equals personal Bible study.  While it is true that a pastor gains greatly from a systematic and expositional study of Scripture in the preparation of a sermon, a great deal of difference exists between personal Bible study and sermon preparation.  Here are some of my conclusions:

·         Sermon Prep is a required task; Personal Study is a volunteer action

      Part of our duties in ministry is having a sermon (or several sermons) ready every Sunday.  Everyone expects that we will be ready to preach, but the only time that we are ever questioned about our devotional life is during the interview process.  Even staff evaluations rarely address the actual task of personal devotions.  Thus, to have a personal quiet time requires a greater sense of dedication.

·         Sermon Prep applies to the masses; Personal Study applies to the student

      We preach to our congregation, but we study for ourselves.  One of the mistakes in ministry that most of us make is that we are always giving and never receiving.  Therefore, because we are good at sermon prep, we can prepare good sermons.  The problem comes when we start preaching out of our own ability rather than through the unction of the Holy Spirit.

·         Sermon Prep results from the overflow; Personal Study creates the overflow

      When the pastor has spent time in the personal study, it results in a dynamic between himself and God.  It is a spiritual overflow.  That overflow then leads to a spirit-filled sermon.  Without the personal study, a good sermon can still be preached, but will it be preached with spiritual power and boldness that comes from spending time with God?

·         Sermon Prep originates primarily out of what others have said about Scripture; Personal Study begins from a personal encounter with Scripture

      When we prepare sermons, we usually depend upon commentaries, word studies, and sermon manuscripts to help with sermon prep.  Because of the crunch of the weekly sermon, we look for shortcuts in the preparation. Most personal Bible studies, however, begin with just the Scripture.  Time is not as much a factor, so outside sources are not as necessary.  They may be used, but only after time has been spent in the Word.  The two means of preparation are important, but the revitalization pastor needs time that he just spends with God in the Word.  We must first hear from God before we have a word for our people.  


·         Sermon Prep results in the applause of people; Personal Study results in the affirmation of God

      Let’s be honest.  When we preach a good sermon, people let us know.  The ego, though we try to control it, oftentimes guides us in sermon prep because of the applause of people.  To keep our egos in check, we need that time to spend alone with God, without any applause.  Yet, it is in that personal study that we please God and find His affirmation. 

            My encouragement, regardless of the conclusion one might make regarding these two disciplines, is to make sure that neither of these tasks is overlooked or relegated to a less important role in the life of the pastor.  This fact is especially true in church revitalization. 

            I am not saying that some crossover does not exist between the two disciplines.  Nor am I saying that sermon preparation serves as an unimportant or a menial duty, but what I know is that personal Bible study becomes essential both to the task of sermon preparation and to the success of church revitalization.  

Four Things Every Revitalization Pastor Can Do

Four Things Every Revitalization Pastor Can Do

One of the great difficulties of church revitalization is the fact that sometimes churches are not ready.  Either they have not come to the realization that revitalization is needed or they are not willing to pay the price to revitalize.  At that point, the revitalization pastor has two choices: leave or persevere.  It may be that we give up too quickly on churches that struggle with revitalization and especially with those that struggle with change.  We all resist change, and we all struggle with the admission that we need revival and revitalization – even in our own personal lives, much less the church.  So what can the pastor do as he patiently waits for God to move?  Let me suggest 4 things that every revitalization pastor needs to do, regardless of what stage the church finds itself in the revitalization process.

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