While these are numbered, they are only numbered for structure purposes. These six things are equally important. The things I address in this piece are things that as I have been in the ministry for the last decade, God has convicted me of in my life as well as the church I pastored. It is so easy to get caught up in the tradition of ministry instead of the purpose of ministry. I do not write these from a place to which I have arrived, rather I write this as goals that I want to attain to not only in my ministry, but also in my personal life. May the Holy Spirit speak as you read this, As a pastor reading this, you may feel as though you are missing the mark because all of these may not be fully implemented in your church at this time. Be of good courage!!! God has blessed what you have done and desires to do more!!! For those who are lay persons, Get behind the senior pastor and executive staff in your church that maybe trying to implement these things already in your church. They need your prayers, support, and help!!!
1. Clear And Concise Teaching Of The Word Of God
I can’t stress how important this is. I am convinced that people don’t need to be preached to as much as they need to be taught. In a time when biblical illiteracy is at an all time high, we as pastors, ministers leaders, teachers etc need to make sure we are being good stewards of the Word Of God and teaching the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:27). Most pastors have certain issues that they are very passionate about. But while that is a good thing it can cause your congregation to have an unbalanced diet, ultimately leading to an unhealthy church. The Body needs a complete and balanced diet! Some preachers spend most of their pastorate focused on signs, wonders, and miracles, while others spend lots of time on faith, others on social justice issues. All of these things are good to focus on, but focusing mainly on one and not the other can cause serious theological error. There are a lot of churches that see awesome manifestations of God in their services, but because the whole council of God is not taught, marriages are suffering, family finances are in ruin, and people are beginning to believe false prophets even though they are in church every Sunday morning. While all of the responsibility should not be put on the pastor and teachers, We must not neglect teaching the word in a complete and understandable way. This is why teaching sometimes in a chapter by chapter verse by verse manner can be so helpful. While that may not be your style, do what you can to get the same end result with your unique style of preaching. No style of preaching is an excuse for not teaching the whole word of God. God is not an one issue God, this is why we have a bible with 66 books that explains in detail or in principle everything we need to know about life and how to live it. An unbalanced focus is why some pastors can look back and see an issue that they have never preached on in their ministry that may span thirty years or more. I know of a church personally that not one message on marriage or family was taught in 10 years. That is unacceptable! Emphasizing faith healing, but not putting the same amount of emphasis on personal responsibility for health and exercise will lead to people doubting the power of God. Because if God chooses to heal them the illness returns because of them not being good stewards over their body. Now this person believes that God is playing some cruel joke when in all actuality their the product of unbalanced teaching. We must teach the whole counsel of God!
2. Vertical Worship
This is a passion issue for me since I have been a worship pastor for the last ten years or so and played in a church environment for the last 17 years. So bare with me as this is very near and dear to my heart. We live in a very “me” saturated culture. When it comes to worship, this is the most sickening attitude you can have. There are so many people who come to church with an attitude of “what’s in it for me”. As worship leaders, some of us have pushed that cause without even realizing it. There are so many songs out there that focus on what God is going to do for us, instead of what we are going to do for Him. So I’m confused. Who is it that we are worshiping again? Is it us or is it God? See, when we sing songs that focus more on what God can do for us, we miss the majesty of God completely. You should leave church in awe of God for who He is, not in awe of what he did or didn’t do. Vertical songs talk about the majesty and splendor of an awesome God. It talks about how we bow before him and surrender ourselves to Him. He is hands down the most Beautiful and Glorious Being in the entire universe. Worship Him for who He is, not just what He can do for you and watch your church services transform. There would be less people at the altars at the end of the service if people really entered into the true presence of God. You can not come into the presence of Our Magnificent God and not be changed. But instead we wait to hear our favorite song or wait until we “feel” something before we are willing to enter in. As worship leaders, we must not sing horizontal songs all the time of what Gods going to do for us, but sing songs that bring the greatest honor to Him. Songs like ‘ Revelation Song’ and ‘ To Him Who Sits On The Throne’ are great examples of vertical worship. We don’t have to work God up, He responds to true worship from His people and will respond in blessing. You don’t have to try to get blessings from Him, He willingly pours them out on a service or individual when He is worshiped in spirit and in truth. I so believe this that one time I had the entire congregation turn around and face the back wall in the worship service. I didn’t want them looking at the musicians and focusing on their talents and abilities. I wanted them to focus on God and Him alone. That was one of the most powerful services we ever had. It may sound crazy to some that I would do such a thing, but we have to stop worrying about our little programs and what people think and start worrying about what God thinks. Many in charismatic circles teach people to focus on what God will do in a worship service. This is a terrible mistake! This mentality of “God will do this if I do that” is frankly sickening. God is not a circus pony, He is the creator of the universe! We are to worship Him for who he is whether or not he does something for us or not. Why don’t we do what we were created to do and stop worrying about what we think God is suppose to do. He will always do his part. Are you doing yours with no strings attached? If you are soley focused on getting your miracle during a worship service, you haven’t even begun to worship. Worship focused on God’s hand and not His face is not worship at all. Again, this will cause an unhealthy unbalanced church because people will be consumers instead of world changers.
3. Real Authentic Leadership
At first glance it may seem as if I’m talking about leadership that is not hypocritical, that you should be the same person off stage as you are on, and that you should be, no doubt! But in this instance I want to take it to a much more vulnerable level. I know as pastors we have to be very careful about what we say, when we say it and how we say it when it comes to our personal lives. Lay persons as well need to be careful who they confide in as “that person” to whom they share their heart with. With that said, we live in a culture were people are looking for people who are REAL. They are looking for people that they can relate to. It is imperative as leaders in this culture that we are not afraid to share our struggles and trials. Every time I preach a message and insert a personal story I know that I am running the risk of being judged by the congregants. People are going to judge you no matter what you say or do. So instead of cowering back, lets share our stories of winning and losing so that the culture can see that God is with us through it all! It is through some of your darkest times that your greatest testimonies emerge. This also helps when dealing with new Christians and youth. Many times they already feel a sense that they are the only ones going through a particular issue. This is not the time to protect your little kingdom. This could be a divine appointment for you to share how God has brought you through the same or similar circumstances. People don’t want to be talked down to, they need someone to give them a hand up. Sometimes after we get delivered from certain issues in our own life, we forget how much we ourselves struggled before we were set free. The same thing that helped you will be the same thing that will help them, the mercy and grace of an almighty God. Even Jesus in Matt 26:39 in His humanity ask if it was possible to not have to endure the pain of the cross. But thank God He selflessly did! I love that the Bible does not try to hide the many failings and trials that men of God faced in those days, but put them on display so that we could be helped and grow by the things they went through. No matter how you think it looks on the outside everyone knows that you’re not perfect! Use wisdom, but be REAL!!!
This by far is the most important thing your local church will ever do! You can have the best musicians, most educated preacher, the best tithers in the church. The thing that will matter most is that your church went aggressively after the lost, the hurting, and the broken. Besides, this is what Jesus spent most of His earthly ministry doing. His passion was to bring hope to a world that was hopeless. It always baffles me the amount of sermons that are preached on Acts 1:8 only using the first half of the verse. This beautiful passage reads as follows: “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth.” Ask yourself when you think of that passage, what three words stick in your mind? Like most, it would be Holy, Spirit, and Power. The next thing that should stick is what you do with that power. The last part of that verse is just as important as the first part. You can’t have one without the other. See, some churches focus only on the “power”, which leads to a very unbalanced teaching of this verse. Teaching on this verse without bringing the weighty responsibility at the end of the verse is a grave mistake. Some who read this scripture make this synonymous with running the aisles, and shouting until their bobby pins fall out, because we stop preaching at: “you shall receive power”. Enjoying the presence of God is a beautiful thing, but if you think the main reason you have the Holy Spirit is to run the aisles, you have a very unhealthy view of the Holy Spirit. It is impossible for you to be effective in any kind of ministry without the Holy Spirit, especially evangelism. While many have focused on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, I encourage you and your church to be more focused on what the gifts are given for. It’s not for us to take all of our time and energy and expend it in the four walls of our church so we can go home and say we had a good time at our church. Rather you should take the power that God has given you and use it where it is most needed, a lost and dying world. Too many Pastors and parishioners are satisfied that the Spirit of God moves within the four walls of their church, when their hearts should be breaking for the people that are sometimes just a few hundred feet away from their doorstep hurting and looking for something greater than themselves. Worship Leader, when was the last time you took your worship service outside the four walls of your comfortable church to a lost and dying world? Pastor, when was the last time you told your congregation that instead of having “church” this Sunday in your comfortable familiar environment, you instead had reverse church, where you actually do what we’ve been called to do and go out and reach the lost instead of expecting them to come to us. Jesus didn’t tell them to come to us, he told us to go into the highway and the hedges and COMPELL them to come, Luke 14:23. Some churches pride themselves on the fact that the Spirit moves in their services, Great! I wouldn’t want to be where it wasn’t moving. The bible says; “where two or three are gathered in His name, He’s in the midst of them”. My question is what are you doing with all of that power, Superman? Though this may seem that I’m coming down too hard on the local church with this issue, my desire is that the local church would rise to its full potential. There are too many ministries that are fine with people falling out in The Spirit on Sunday morning in their churches and are perfectly fine with that being what they constitute as an awesome move of God. If souls are not being saved on a regular basis (not new members from other churches being added to your membership) but true conversions happening, You are missing the point of the Gospel. Our most important priorities must be souls and discipleship, everything else should be built around that. Church growth in large part should be new converts, not transplants. There are 2.9 billion unreached people in 6500 people groups in the world. I’ll ask you again. What are you doing with the Acts 1:8 Power? This starts with the leadership of the church. If all you drill into your people is that they should be seeking signs, wonders and miracles, they will be completely self absorbed waiting on their miracle or the next faith healer to come to town. What they need to know is their primary job is not to sit and wait for God to bless them, but that they would be a blessing to those who are lost. There is no greater miracle than someone coming to know the Creator of the universe!
But yet people are more focused on angel manifestations, healings and miracles more than peoples souls being saved. As you minister to others, God will minister to you! It is more blessed to give than to receive! I’m not interested in having my “best life now” unless I plan on going to Hell. I want to see people come to know the amazing love in the face of Jesus Christ.
As important as evangelism is, evangelism has no real lasting effect if there is no discipleship. One of the unfortunate things about crusades where thousands of people come to know Christ is that in a lot of cases there is not a real effective follow up and discipleship structure. God doesn’t want us to just “get people saved”, rather God wants us to go the distance with people and help them make sense of their life by applying the Word daily. I believe some of the strongest churches in America are churches that see the importance of making disciples. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus very plainly instructs His disciples to ” Go and make disciples of all nations”. We cannot do this by being one issue Pastors (as stated in the above paragraphs). Rather we are to first disciple our congregations so that they will be equipped to disciple others. So many come to faith and have no idea how the Bible is relevant to their unique situations. It is our job to show them that it is the most relevant book they will ever read about their lives. This is why community in a church is so important. Show me a church without good discipleship, I’ll show you a weak church. Even though they are excited in worship on Sunday mornings and the Pastor may preach an inspiring message, that is not enough for them to effectively live the life God has called them to. We need people who will be able to stand as Christian persecution gets worse. It won’t be those who ran the aisles the most that will stand when they are faced with persecution. It will be those who have dug down deep into the Word of God, realizing experiences are not enough but being an apprentice of scriptures and training others to be the same will last. Oh how I pray that churches in America will realize how important it is to make disciples not just converts. What a misconception people have about being a “disciple” of Jesus. If you watch Christian television you would think that becoming a disciple of Christ meant you will have a mansion, drive a Rolls Royce, never get sick and that you have the power to tell God what to do. God’s definition of being a disciple is to come and die. Die to yourself, your way of life and take up your cross,( not a diamond encrusted one) and follow Him.
To be a true disciple of Jesus, you will have to do as He did, speak what He says, love who He loves and duplicate Him in as many people as you can. Ready? Lets do it!
6. Take Care of Orphans and Widows
This is where everyone wants to shut their computers and iphones off. I’m sorry, He said take care of who? Don’t we have governmental agencies for that? It baffles me how many people in the local church are focused on themselves. Then I turn on Christian Television and I see why. We live in a generation of “ME”. The mind blowing thing is that you won’t find any such thing in the Bible. Yet this idea sells millions of books and fills many hours of Sunday sermons. Why? If its not in the Bible? I’ll tell you why. Even the church has bought into the “American Dream”. We have this idea that we are entitled to all of this “stuff” while neglecting the very “least of them”. Its pretty hard to know the plight in your community if you drive as fast as you can in your SUV to your country club church, complete with a starbucks. Let me introduce you to a scripture in the Bible that you probably haven’t heard in a while. James 1:27 states: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world”. Now if you come from a strict holiness background they likely focused on the later part of this verse to support their teaching of why you shouldn’t go to a ball game. What James is actually communicating here is that true worship is not just jumping when the LED’s are going or shouting because you think your miracle is coming, but rather he’s communicating what real worship should be. With a church on every corner in America, it is a shame how many orphans still roam our streets and are in shelters and foster homes in need of God’s amazing love. But we are constantly pumped with how much God wants to bless us and how we can be a better person. Others talk about how we should give and it shall be given to us “pressed down shaken together and running over”. Imagine if the church believed its own Bible and began to give to the community without expecting anything in return. It never has and never will be the government’s job to take care of our precious babies and widows. It is the Church’s job! The American dream says if I take on one more child I can’t buy that SUV I want, or I can’t go on that vacation. What’s a vacation compared to a child having a loving God fearing home to be a part of. You hear things like “Adoption is too expensive” but yet we waste money on houses and cars we can’t afford. Church it is time to get back to what the Bible actually says. If we do,the orphan rate would be wiped out in every city of our nation and our widows would not have to depend on the government. When will we learn as a church that this Prosperity Gospel movement is one of the deadliest cancers in the church today. We could sponsor a child through Compassion International for about as much as we spend on starbucks. The reason why we are given much is to be a blessing to others, not so we can brag on how God has blessed us to hold it back from people who really need it. This life is not about “YOU” it’s about the God who made you and what He wants to do with what He’s given you. If your local church is not involved in helping orphans and widows, urge them to do so. John 13:35 says, “by this will all men know that you are My disciples, if you love one another”. Love is an action word! It’s one thing to sit and write checks to a ministry and let them do all the work, it’s another thing to take ownership of the problems in your community. I urge pastors who think they are benefiting from preaching the self serving prosperity garbage and take a fresh look at the Word of God for yourself. Otherwise you will grow a consumer driven church that are all about themselves and what God can do for them, rather than people ready to lay their lives down for those less fortunate than themselves. Just think of all the hours that are put in to sound, lighting, eye popping graphics, video clips and the latest and greatest for that climatic hour on a Sunday morning. If we took just half of that time and devoted it to James 1:27 in action, we could wipe out the orphan epidemic! Imagine a youth group full of children who were all adopted by people in their congregation. Imagine what worth they would feel and how they would be empowered to change the world! You wouldn’t have to use all kinds of clever tricks to keep them in church, they would see the Word in action! The youth of today want something real, something that’s tangible. So lets give it to them. It’s sad when a church boasts of the presence of God in their midst, but yet the very attributes of God are glaringly missing by the lack of care for those who are hungry, poor and desolate. See, none of this is to issue condemnation on any church or persons, but rather it is to bring conviction to the Body of Christ. There was a time during my last pastorate that God really began to open my eyes as to how the church as a whole is falling way short of what He has actually called us to do. We think because we preached an inspiring message and a few people got their miracle, visited the sick, attended some strategy meetings we’ve done our duty. Wrong. Until every person is fed both spiritually and naturally and every every child has a family, we are not obeying the Word of God. I would much rather be the miracle in someone’s life, than spend my whole life chasing my own miracles. This is an area of my life where I truly want God to help this imperfect vessel to be His hands and feet and touch the world with not just my words but my life.