Monthly Archives: September 2013

A Pastor’s Ramble!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

I just want to take a break in this week’s Pastor’s Pen from the Vision and Focus writing I have been doing the last three weeks. This Tuesday, Shari will be flying out to Albuquerque, NM. She will visit a few days with friends and then we will pick her up Saturday to begin our Mission Work. Please pray for her safety and blessing as she serves the Lord.

Becky and I will be leaving early on Thursday morning to drive the almost 25 hours to Thoreau. We will be hauling the needed items for the mission trip. We will be spending nights on the road with goods and tools for ministry in the back of the truck. Please pray that God will watch over our travel and the items we need to use in ministry as we travel.

When we arrive we will meet for the first time the various members of our team. Please pray for us as we try to blend skills, personalities and needs to serve the Native American’s and other residence of Thoreau, NM. We will be involved in various ministries while there, so please pray for each of them. We will be witnessing to the people of Thoreau and the Navaho Reservation. We will be teaching Sunday School for the various ages of the church. I will be teaching a youth Sunday School class. We will be leading in worship from providing music, preaching and teaching. We will be leading a Women’s Conference there. This conference will last two days and have three sections. We will be cutting wood for five families. We will be conducting a Fall Festival Street Fair. And, we will be doing electrical, plumbing and furnace work for the church and a family in the community. This is a lot to pray about. How can you best pray for us?

Does this prayer sound familiar? “Lord, please bless the mission & missionaries. Be with them each day. Protect them and give them strength to do their work.”

Perhaps you’ve noticed that much of the intercession made for mission trips & missionaries is general or shallow. Yet prayer is the most important service that we can render in fulfillment of the Lord’s Great Commission. Every Christian should be involved in world evangelism through faithful, biblically based prayer.

But just what is it? How should we pray? Here are some suggestions:

Love for God – The most important commandment for all Christians, including those on a mission trip, is “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” We will be overworked. As a result, like Martha of Bethany, a missionary can become service-oriented rather than love-oriented. Pray that the supreme motivation for obedience to the call of Christ’s love for Him will be fulfilled in our lives.

Genuine Love for Others – The second great commandment is “Love your neighbor as yourself.” A major difficulty for many is getting along with the other missionaries with whom they serve. One mission board discovered that 80% of its missionaries who did not return to the mission field had problems with their co-workers. Pray that we have a Christ-like love for our team members and the people of Thoreau..

A Deeper Relationship with God – We will be working with schedules packed tighter than the equipment and our bodies can perform.  Pray we don’t skimp or skip on our work, safety and especially our personal time alone with the Lord. Pray for consistent devotional lives.

Spirit Controlled Lives – Pray that all we do is controlled by the Holy Spirit and not ourselves.

Fruit of the Spirit – Pray that we will manifest the fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Pray the very beauty of Jesus will be evident in our lives.

Wisdom and knowledge – Pray that we as a team are “…pure, peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

Pray for courage.

Receptive hearts – Pray for receptive hearts of those being ministered to.

Disciples – Pray that the ministry of the team will bring maturity of discipleship.

A Strong Faith – Pray that we will have great faith, able to ask great things of our great Lord.

Steadfastness – Discouragement is a favorite device of the devil. Pray that we as a team stand firm.

Protection – Like soldiers on the front lines, we are prime targets of the enemy. Pray for the Lord’s powerful protection for His servants. And that God will oversee the homes of those away serving.

Material Needs – Pray that God will supply all our financial and material needs and that we can understand the needs.

Health and Strength – Pray that the Lord will grant the measure of strength and health that will bring His greatest glory and the greatest good for the mission team and those we serve.

Guidance in how to present the Gospel.

Deliverance from the temptation to pride.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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I Have A Dream (A Vision)! Part 3 The Right Tool for the Job!

The Pastors Pen Logo smallDear Church Family,

Last week I introduced you to a saw I have in basement that “Just doesn’t work.” I have discovered it is not the only tool in my basement that does not work. I discovered an entire tool chest of wrenches and the like. I have noted that I have never seen them fixing a car. I pride myself on having them, but I do not use them, primarily, because I don’t know how, I am not a mechanic. But I could learn, I just have not been willing to pay the price to learn. It is easier to let someone else do the work and just pay them.

Many look at church work like this. It is easier to just pay someone else to do the work, or hope the “tools” will do the work because we have them and may even be proud have them in our repertoire. The problem, if we do not use the “tools” they will not work by themselves and we must learn to use them effectively and correctly to get the best out of our tools.

A couple of Wednesday Nights ago I introduced some important questions for us to consider. One of those questions, “Are we allocating resources as if Jesus is the hope of the world or are the squeaky wheels of church culture driving our budget decisions? If Sunday School and Discipleship programs are antiquated ministry tools, then we are wasting our time and money to continue to fund them. However, amazingly the fastest growing churches in or world today have Sunday School or some form of small group Bible Study program that meets in conjunction with their regular worship services. So why is it working for them and not all churches?

Part of the problem maybe that many churches have lost sight of what Sunday School and church programs like it are designed to do. Dr. Ken Hemphill in writing his book, Revitalizing the Sunday Morning Dinosaur, frames the purpose of these programs upon the Great Commission. He points out that growth is not the target of the Sunday School or Church. “Obedience to the Great Commission, not church growth is the appropriate goal for any church. Church growth results from obedience to the Great Commission.” So, Sunday School, Discipleship Training and church are relevant if done well and correctly focused. These may not be the only tools in the toolbox of church growth and development but they are effective tools. If I try to use the oil filter wrench to drive a nail, I will have a more difficult task than needs to be. If I use the hammer things will go much better. So knowing which tool to use and using for the purpose it is intended is key.

Furthermore, studies show that it doesn’t matter what you call it, it is what you do in it and with it. A class or church that is all about attendance of its members will not grow much beyond it’s current enrollment. But a church or class that is focused on reaching the lost will be outward focused, reaching new people, and will grow. It is a matter of focus and vision.

About 350 years ago a shipload of travelers landed on the northeast coast of America. The first year they established a town site. The next year they elected a town government. The third year the town government planned to build a road five miles westward into the wilderness.

In the fourth year the people tried to impeach their town government because they thought it was a waste of public funds to build a road five miles westward into a wilderness. Who needed to go there anyway?

Here were people who had the vision to see three thousand miles across an ocean and overcome great hardships to get here. But in just a few years they were not able to see even five miles out of town. They had lost their pioneering vision. With a clear vision of what we can become in Christ, no ocean of difficulty is too great. Without it, we rarely move beyond our current boundaries.

Many churches were founded and surrender to a vision for lost souls and leading God’s people in service to Him. In the midst of a committee meeting far, far away, that flame, that fire of vision for the Lord’s work begins to die out. Friends, if we fail as the leadership of the Lord’s churches and as churches if we fail to have a vision, not our own mind you, but God’s vision for us, we will be like the people in this illustration. We will lose our pioneering spirit. We will become grumblers. We will become ineffective.

FOCUSProverbs 29:18 (KJV) 18  Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

This past Wednesday evening we completed our first survey, focus on our vision for Henards Chapel Missionary Baptist Church. I had introduced the questions for this survey two week ago. If you would like to fill out one of the surveys, they are located on the communion table up front. Please take it, pray about the questions and then share your heart and turn it in. You can give it to me personally or drop it in the box outside my office door.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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I Have A Dream (A Vision)! Part 2 The Saw That Doesn’t Work!

Dear Church Family,The Pastors Pen Logo small

Let me tell you a story about this saw I have in my basement. I have had it for a long time. I bought it and invested good money in it thinking it would be a great work saw. Strangely, I have gone outside to see that saw work on many occasions, at least once a week for a long time, to watch it work. It has not produced any wood for fires, has not rimmed a single tree nor has it cut any lumber to build with. I have come to the conclusion, this saw doesn’t work. I even took this saw in my hand and took it outside a few times and still, nothing. This saw just doesn’t work.

I have heard people say things about our church, Sunday School, Discipleship Training and other programs of our church like, “This or that program just doesn’t work.” Or they say things like. “I sure wish we would keep some of those visitors who visit us.” Or maybe even, “I sure wish our church was growing more.” Ever wonder why these statements and others like them are made? I think I can shed some light. We may not be doing what it takes to make our church grow, to do effective Sunday School or Discipleship Training, we may not be using the tools we have, expecting the “tools” to do the work without us.

These programs do work! For example, “An effective Sunday School can have a dramatic effect on the evangelistic results of a church, and effective evangelism has the potential to impact the Sunday School in a positive way.” (Steve Parr, A Strategy for Connecting Congregations and Communities)  A recent survey of the fastest growing churches showed 85% of these fast growing churches provided training in the task of Sunday School and Discipleship, which their leaders were expected to attend. They also found the number one correlation for growth to be training in and practice of evangelism within the church and community. “So?” You ask.  Can you tell me why only 23% of churches offer required training in evangelism and Sunday School / Discipleship Training and then wonder why their church is not growing and keeping prospects? Why are we giving up on church programs like Sunday School, Outreach and Discipleship Training? The reasons in a nutshell include some of the following:

  1. Some leaders have never been a part of a healthy Sunday School, or Discipleship Training Experience.
  2. Some leaders have never been taught or taken advantage of the training offered them in the principles of Church growth on a regular basis. (I don’t know about you, but I have eaten three times a day for years, but I am not going to stop today and expect to stay healthy just because I have done it for years and I think I know how it is done.
  3. Some leaders believe the programs of the church do not work because some other leader told them, “they don’t work.” (When someone tells me that I realize what they are saying. They are saying they don’t work, which is right, it’s not the program, it’s the lack of work on the leader’s part.)
  4. Truth is, many leaders are not willing to pay the price to lead the church to grow and be healthy. They think it is the pastor’s job and it is, but it is not his alone. We must all be working together.

I will share with you a simple fact. Leading a Sunday School and a church to be healthy and to grow is hard work. It requires high maintenance strategies involving the majority of the congregation working together, training together and praying together. Hard work, yes! But oh the return can be great!

How can we know if our Sunday School, Discipleship Training and other programs of the church are working properly? Well, a healthy church program does the following three things:

  1. The lost will be reached. Sadley, many churches have programs that meet and give no consideration, time, or effort to reaching the lost.
  2. Lives will be changed. God’s Word is powerful and when taught it transforms those exposed to it.
  3. More Leaders will be developed and sent.

Do you begin to see the picture? The FOCUS is turned outward not inward, and WORK is done by US not just expecting the TOOLS to do it for us.

So, go out into your garage or down in your basement and see if you have a saw like mine, one that does not work. Do you have a saw in your garage? Go out to your garage and watch it work. It will not work if it is not in someone’s hand. It is only a tool. Take the saw and hold it. It still does not work, does it? You have to know what to do with it. You have to keep the blade sharp and use it in the way that it was designed. Sunday school and other church programs are tools. You cannot sit back and watch them work. You have to sharpen them and apply them in the way that they were intended. The problem is not that church programs will not work. The problem is that we have good-hearted leaders and teachers who have not been trained or are not willing to pay the price to work with the tool for health and growth.

This past Wednesday evening I present the first in a focus on our vision for Henards Chapel Missionary Baptist Church.  Here is a nutshell version of what I presented along with a viewing of the Master Plan for the church property.

Proverbs 29:18 (KJV) 18  Where there is no vision, the people perish: but he that keepeth the law, happy is he.

While it is good for leaders to communicate vision, Proverbs 29:18 is not talking about a leader’s vision.  Rather, “vision” here refers to special revelation and the principle is that apart from God’s Word, society quickly spins into moral chaos.

What is your vision of God’s Word and how do you see it being fleshed out in you and our church? I want to share 7 questions that are deeply telling about a church’s direction and impact. Will you take these and pray over them and then prayerfully answer them so that in the weeks ahead we as a church can focus on our understanding of fleshing out God’s Word in the church God has placed us?

  1. As a Church are we moving Kingdom priorities forward or are we simply meeting?
  2. Are we making a measurable difference in our local community or are we simply conducting services?
  3. Are we organized around a mission or are we organized around an antiquated ministry model inherited      from previous generations?
  4. Are we allocating resources as if Jesus is the hope of the world or are the squeaky wheels      of church culture driving our budget decisions?
  5. If we ceased to exist as a church, would the community miss us?
  6. What is my personal understanding of the vision and purpose of the future of Henards Chapel      Missionary Baptist Church?
  7. What am I personally doing to fulfill God’s plan for us?

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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I Have A Dream (A Vision)!

The Pastors Pen Logo small

Dear Church Family,

Greetings in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! I trust you have had a good week back at labor after Labor Day. It is hard sometimes to hit the ground running again after those brief breaks called holidays, especially the last hurrah of summer. But here we are continuing to carry on the work of our Lord.

The concept of Sunday School goes by many names in different churches. Even here at HCBC we now have branches, which are in fact part of our Sunday School and Discipleship Training. But most churchgoers still recognize the more common name of this open small group, Sunday School, that often meets each Sunday at churches across our land.

Some in recent months and years have begun to question the effectiveness of Sunday School as an evangelistic and assimilating arm of the church. You may even be one of those skeptics of Sunday School and Discipleship Training.

Maybe we should consider that research done by Mr. Sunday School, Steve R. Parr and The Rainer Research Institute indicates that church of our denomination and those not affiliated with any denomination, having looked at small, medium, and large churches found that the most effective evangelistic churches had a small group focus that they may have called something else but was the equivalent to Sunday School. It was these small groups, Sunday School if you will, that was the glue that held the people together.

So if it is not the “programs” of Discipleship Training and Sunday School that is failing, then maybe it is us in our understanding of how these programs should be done.

Might I say here, if you are not bringing your family to Sunday School or Discipleship Training, you are missing the greatest opportunity to mature your family members faith and insure the health, strength and future of Henards Chapel Baptist Church. As parents especially, we let our children dictate whether to come to SS or DT but would never think of letting them determine whether or not they are going to school. And we would not let whether they like the school, the teacher or the curriculum affect our decision. They are going to school because we know the importance of good education in life. By the way, good education is important, but it is last only for this lifetime, good spiritual education last throughout eternity, much more important!

Let me give you a brief overview of where I hope to go in the next few weeks with the Pastor’s Pen. I hope to discuss and share some information that if applied, WILL help or SS and DT here at Henards Chapel. I know change of any kind is hard. But again, “If we keep doing what we have always done, we will always have what we already got (or less).” And we say we want God to do more. Why not give these things a real try without complaint and negativity and just see what happens. So, here is an overview:

SS and DT that really WORKS

1. Wants to Grow!

2. Organizes to Grow!

3. Reaches Out to the Lost and Unchurched! (Does not just count the ones who show up)

4. Keeps All of the Members Connected!

5. Sharpens the Skills of the Leaders Continually!

2 Corinthians 9:6 (KJV) 6  But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

PERHAPS YOU ARE FAMILIAR WITH the ad the Staples office supply company. The marketing campaign urges the potential customer to imagine what life would be like if he or she possessed an “easy button.” Wouldn’t it be great if you could push the button whenever you encountered a difficulty and could summarize your success with the exclamation, “That was easy!” I would be the first person in line to purchase such an item if it existed. I would also be delighted if I could purchase an easy button for you and your ministry. You and I are well aware that no such device will ever be available in our ministries.

SS and DT that Really WORKS requires a lot of work! It is a high-investment strategy that provides a high return when implemented correctly. The most unlikely response that you will hear from a leader that invests time and energy into the Sunday school ministry will be, “That was easy.” Instead, the most likely response will be, “That was worth the effort.” A pastor cannot take a passive, hands-off approach to Sunday school and expect it to work. A Sunday school teacher cannot invest minimum amount of time and energy into his or her class and expect it to bear fruit. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they could not make small investments and expect large returns. Neither can we. We reap a harvest in direct proportion to the amount of seed that is sown. Leading SS and DT is not easy, but it is a worthy investment of time and energy. Let’s begin now to work arm in arm to pray, encourage and motivate one another as together we seek to apply the principles that enable SS and DT to work to its fullest potential.

In Christian Love and With Many Prayers,

Pastor Rick Signature

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