Tag Archives: healthy

Ten Phrases that Stunt Church Growth

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A healthy church is a church that is actively trying to reach out into their community and share the gospel with the world around them. Most churches say they want to grow, but are they really in the mindset to facilitate that growth?

Our words have huge implications on our actions for our words reflect the attitudes that inspire what we do. If we speak negatively it is because we are thinking negatively. Positive words come from a heart with positive motivations. A positive person is much more likely to succeed at any venture than a negative one.

As we seek to help the church grow we must remember that our words have bearing on our success. I’ve compiled a list of ten phrases that hurt a church’s ability to grow. These phrases can be said by the members, but they are especially harmful if the leadership begins to reflect these things.

#10 We don’t want to be like THEM
The head of the church should be Jesus. The guide for the church should be the scriptures. If we are scared to follow the scriptures because of it making us look like another group of Christians then that will keep us from following the truth. Worse yet, we have freedom in Christ. If we are unwilling to exercise our freedom out of fear of being associated with another denomination then that shows our lack of unity within the body of Christ. New people who see this are repelled at our lack of vision and lack of love for those who are our brothers and sisters.

Instead of allowing this phrase to control our thinking we need to follow the guidance of the Spirit. As we follow His lead, He will guide the church to follow the desires of Jesus. When that happens growth is inevitable for it is the will of Christ that everyone is reached for the sake of the gospel.

#9 Who are all these new people?
This phrase may seem counter-intuitive. I mean, if you’re having new people then aren’t you growing? Yes, a church that has new people is growing, but if the established membership isn’t taking the time to invest in relationships with these new people then they will soon be gone. People leave the church for a myriad of reasons, but one of the main reasons is that they don’t belong – there’s no way for them to get plugged in.

In our desire to grow we must close the proverbial back door. If our core group isn’t actively engaging our new members and visitors beyond just the superficial “Hey, my name is…” on Sunday morning then we are maintaining a clique.

Instead of asking who these new people are, why not go meet them? Invite them to lunch. Invite them to your house. Spend more than ten minutes visiting with them. Then see how they blossom as members.

#8 THEY tried this and it didn’t work out
It’s very common for churches to look at programming and ideas that other congregations or groups have tried. In the process of doing that we often see not just the success stories but the things that failed as well. This doesn’t mean that the program or idea won’t work with your church; it just means that it didn’t work for them. By the nature of the fact that you have different people than “they” do you will have a different outcome.

So much of our endeavors have to begin with faith. Do we believe that this is the direction God is leading us? If so, then He will help us succeed. If it is not then it will fail.

Failure doesn’t have to be a problem either. A church that is actively trying new things to reach out to the community is showing that they care for the community. If an idea fails it’s OK. The community still sees that the church is trying. What really matters is what we do with that failure. If we use it to make excuses to not try something new then we have truly failed. If we use it to start again by learning from our mistakes then the failure is actually a success.

#7 I wish SOMEONE would do ______
Fill in the blank. There are so many things to do. If you look around I’m sure you’ll see opportunities to serve, opportunities for outreach, and opportunities to help others grow. Each of these opportunities is a gift that has been given to you. God has created YOU with a vision for those needs.

When we look to someone else to fill the needs that God has shown us then we have effectively shut down God’s plan for that vision. If the people within a church are looking to the preacher or the leadership to do everything then they are crippling the potential for the church to be an active, living organism.

The apostle, Paul, wrote several times about the church being a body, and each part has a job to do. You have a purpose. There are things, needs, that only you will see. If you don’t do those things – if you don’t meet those needs – then they will probably be forgotten and never accomplished. Don’t pass the buck. Don’t procrastinate hoping someone else will do it. When the whole church is working together in a myriad of purposes and services then there is health as all the needs are being met. That is a church that will grow because everyone has a part to play. That church will grow numerically, but even more importantly, it will grow spiritually as it begins to look like the bride of the greatest servant who ever lived, Jesus.

#6 I’m not sure they’re dependable enough
As a church grows the new members will inevitably want to get involved. This is healthy and vital for the church to function as a church. It is important for those who have been around for a long time to get to know the new people. It is also important for those new people to be plugged in where they are needed and where their gifts are.

When a new person comes in it can be an awkward transitionary time within the church. The leadership wants to protect the flock and make sure it gets fed, and the new people want to get involved.

One of the greatest things anyone ever did for me was to go out on a limb and give me a responsibility that I had never taken on before. That responsibility took me out of the pew as a consumer and brought me into a ministry opportunity. I was in a sink or swim situation. The church that did that showed great faith in me. It was the beginning of my journey into ministry.

We need to be people of love, and love hopes for the best in other people. As we grow we must be willing to step out on that limb and give new people responsibility. We need to be empowering people to grow into leaders within the church. We need to have faith in the people around us.

I fail jesus daily, but he still calls me to be a minister of his gospel. I should treat others with that kind of faith in them. When I refuse to extend that faith in them I prove to them that I don’t truly love them, and that cripples a church.

#5 There’s no one to take our place
This phrase goes hand in hand with the last one and even the next one. If we don’t see the potential in others then we will not begin to shift the power and responsibility we’ve been given to the next generation of leaders. This cripples a church’s ability to move forward with fresh vision and relevant leadership.

If a leader at any level – teacher, maid, secretary, elder, deacon, preacher, volunteer, etc… – sees the potential for a vacuum if they were to quit, then they need to be actively training others to take their place. No one person needs to be irreplaceable in the church. It is not our job to make it so that the church couldn’t function without us. What we should all be doing is bringing people alongside us who see what we do and grow into being the next person to do our job. This is apprenticeship.

This requires us to have faith in others. It requires that invest into the lives of others. It requires us to not be thirsty for power or influence. Remember, you’re not the savior of your church, Jesus is.

#4 I’m tired…or…I’ve done my time
It you don’t have faith in other people, and you can’t see any potential for someone to take your place, then you probably feel tired. If you’ve taught Sunday school for twenty years you probably feel tired. But if the next generation is going to be trained to step in and give you relief then, first, you need to do one more thing – train.

We are all called to work hard as children of God to serve one another in love, but if you’re 29 or 99, and you still have breath and strength, you’re not finished with the work God has given you to do. This is why we look forward with great anticipation to the rest that God offers us in heaven. But we must not live as though we are already there. I’ve heard it said that some people are “so heavenly minded they’re no earthly good”.

If you’re tired, hang in there. As you train people to take your place you’ll have a lighter load. One day you may even get to take a break, but don’t make it permanent. The church needs your talents.

Oh, and if you’re complaining that you’re tired and someone offers to take your place then give it to them. Church is not about holding on to power and authority. It’s not about position and politics. God is constantly raising up new generations of people to carry the torch that those who have come before have done so well to carry.

#3 We’ve always done it this way
Ok, first of all, no you haven’t. Everything was new at some point in time. So let’s be honest with this statement.

Second of all it is OK to like what we are doing. When what we are doing is not effective in reaching the lost for Jesus then what we are doing is NOT OK.

As new people come in to a church they are going to be trying to figure out what the unspoken traditions are of that church. For many of these new people these traditions will make no sense whatsoever. We need to be honest enough to recognize that traditions are just that – traditions. They’re not scriptural mandates.

A tradition is only good as long as it is effective. Making you feel good is not the standard to which effectiveness is measured.

Are the people growing spiritually? Is the church growing numerically? Are people being pointed to Jesus? Do the people love one another? If the answers to these questions is “yes” then great, but if they’re “no” then something has to change. Please, do not hijack the growth of the church by requiring it to never change. As the culture changes so do the ways the church needs to function in order to be able to speak to that culture. The message has to stay the same – the gospel never changes – but the methods need to be constantly evaluated for a church to continue to grow.

#2 We’ve never done that before
This phrase is similar to the last one, but it doesn’t just call out change of current traditions, it calls out new additions to programming or ideas – new traditions.

Jesus calls us to have faith. He also sent us His Spirit to be our guide. The Spirit cannot be put in a box or controlled. He guides the church as He sees need. We must be willing to try new things as the Spirit leads.

We also must remember that trying new things leads to new successes and failures. If the failures are learned from then they are successes as well. As long as the new thing doesn’t take the church away from the headship of Christ and the authority of His word then there is freedom to try new things.

A church that never tries new things is a church that is slipping further and further away from its ability to connect to people in the world today. Change is inevitable. If we don’t embrace it then the change that will eventually happen is the closing of our church doors.

#1 I’m afraid…
I saved this one for last because it is the summation of pretty much every other phrase in this list. If you think about it every other phrase is said because there is a fear of the unknown.

Jesus said multiple times, “don’t be afraid; just believe.” “Oh you of little faith, why are you so afraid?” He seems to put faith and fear as opposites of one another.

We claim to believe that God works in our lives daily. Romans 8:28 says he is working to make all things good – even our mistakes and failures. Do we believe it? If we do then we don’t have to be afraid. If we believe it then we can move forward into an unknown future with confidence that God will guide us and help us when we fail. If we have faith in Him then we remember that it is His church and not ours.

If you are functioning in fear, and you recognize that, then you may not be the best person to be in a leadership position at this time. Being careful is good, but being afraid of what may come is bad. A negative person speaking out of fear can bring the momentum of the church to a screeching halt.

Maybe you’re in a leadership role, and you’re afraid of what might come. You must be super-careful with your words. Use that fear to be thorough, but don’t allow that fear to be verbalized. Your words might catch on like wildfire and create fear in others. Remember, fear and faith are opposites.

Conclusion
Having worked in many churches over the years I’ve heard these phrases many times. This is not an exhaustive explanation of why each of these is detrimental to the church. It is just a taste. Most of you, however, can see without much effort why each of these ways of thinking is harmful.

Sure, there are dangers in the future. I absolutely believe that not everyone is trustworthy, but I want to find out who is and who is not by trusting them and allowing them to prove or disprove themselves outside my assumptions. I know we can’t do everything, and I know that some things aren’t healthy for the church, but if a church functions with an inward-focused, fear-driven mindset then it will cripple itself before it even has a chance.

I’m glad to see the church where I serve growing. Many of you are in growing churches, but I want us to be ever-mindful of just how easy it is for our minds to slip into places that will cause us to stunt the growth of the church.

Maybe you’ve thought of other phrases that show a crippling mindset in the church. Feel free to share them in the comments below. Maybe you disagree. That’s alright by me. These are just phrases I’ve heard in many places that are said by people who are unintentionally hurting the potential for growth in those places.

May the church that belongs to Jesus grow as people learn to love Him and love one another. May the church grow as it seeks new ways to engage individuals and communities. May the church grow as the faith of its members increases. And may we all grow into the image of Jesus as the Holy Spirit transforms us from the inside out.

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Parents: Please Read This

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I just spent four days with 13 students fourth through tenth grades. The majority of these students were junior high. We camped in tents and hiked around Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and Pedernales Falls State Park. We also did some rappelling down the backside of Enchanted Rock.

After spending this time with these teens and preteens I have some observations about us as parents. As you reed this I want you to know that I am with you in this. My oldest is 13.

There was an era in our nation’s history, in fact probably several eras, where the children were raised with certain responsibilities. They grew up respecting the adults they came in contact with, and the adults respected them in turn. The fathers worked to provide for their families, but they didn’t work so far away that they couldn’t teach their sons how to become men. The mothers worked in the home, and they trained their daughters how to be women. Society was much healthier then.

Nowadays we have a grand upheaval of the ideal way of life. Parents are now slaves to their jobs, and they are so physically exhausted and mentally drained that they give their parenting rights over to a black box with moving pictures on it and often wires coming out the front that their children are attached to.

Gone are the days where the fathers teach their sons to become men. Gone are the days where the mothers teach their daughters to become women. Gone are the days where the children show respect to anyone…even themselves.

I say these days are gone because the vast majority of students today do not have this way of rearing as they grow. Sure, there are pockets of this, but the majority of kids I see today come from families where their mom and dad aren’t married to each other – maybe they never were. Now they are growing up with step parents or often single parents. Many of these single parents are living with their “partner” who is not their spouse. The more I visit with teens, the more I see this, and the trend doesn’t look like it is going to slow down any time soon.

This weekend I saw preteens deliberately disobey their parent, and the parent did nothing to discipline them. I saw parents who did discipline their children, but they did so out of control, and their anger got the best of them. I heard from several parents, just in the last few days, that were asking what to do about how to raise their son or daughter.

Let me tell you what else I saw from the kids. I heard teens tell me that they were afraid. I heard teens tell me they were angry. This wasn’t just one or two teens, this was the majority. I heard them say they didn’t want to be angry or afraid, and they weren’t really sure why they were either. I saw kids disrespect each other then get upset when someone disrespected them. They didn’t even understand the concept of respect.

I was not on a trip with a bunch of kids from some detention center or other ostracizing facility. I was on a trip with normal kids. But the norm these days isn’t pretty.

I am used to seeing fear, and I see anger a lot. What struck me the most this weekend happened on the way back. Our group was mostly boys, so I had a great selection of boy-type movies for us to watch on the bus. I gave three options for the teens to watch: “Mission: Impossible”, “The Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Gahoole”, and one of my teens brought a movie so I just threw it out there expecting no other hits – “Where the Red Fern Grows”.

I had seen the last movie when I was a boy, and it was old then. I think it came out when my parents were kids. Yet, when I asked for a vote on which movie they all wanted to watch, the “Red Fern” won decisively.

For two hours I watched my teens get engrossed in a wholesome movie where the main characters were above reproach. The father led his son into rites of passage. The boy was hard working and kept his integrity and his word. There wasn’t a foul word in the entire movie. Even the antagonists were clean-mouthed. The teens ate it up! When the movie was over there was this short silence as if to soak in what they had just seen.

This is what they desire. They are looking for men and women to show them how to be men and women. They aren’t looking for gangsta guys and bi-polar gals to show them how to be dysfunctional. They already have that. They deeply want to be taught respect. They want to be taught to be valuable members of the world around them. It’s such a strange concept to the world they live in, however, they can’t put that desire into words.

Dear parents, if your family is dysfunctional – you know deep down if it is or not – it’s time to bring some healing for your children’s sake. These kids are looking for and needing men and women who will take them in and show them by example how to be healthy adults. If you have friends who have healthy families, then draw close to them so that your children can be influenced by their presence. If you don’t, then get involved with a church where families are investing into the lives if children.

One of the greatest things I do as a youth minister is bring my children (3, and 5) along on trips like the one we went on last weekend. The teens get to see how I interact with my kids. They see when my five-year old is acting more mature or behaving better than they are. I don’t have to say it; they see it.

If you’ve read this, and your children are grown, then please get involved in helping the future generations of our society. If you are a parent whose kids are much like the ones I’ve described above, or your family is like the norm these days, then please get involved with others who can help you mentor your children into becoming mature, healthy adults. The biggest deficit in society today is dads who father their children. Get involved in a place where men are investing. Moms, you work hard and do the best you can. I thank God for you. It’s time you got some much deserved help.

If there’s anything I can do to help you get connected with others who would be willing to help, then please contact me at 245-1611 or at jddobbs@verizon.net. The Nichols St. church of Christ is dedicated to helping kids grow in all areas of life, and I am proud to be blessed to work there with the teens in our area. Let’s work together to help the future generations grow healthy and stop the decay of the family and society. God bless you all, and I am praying deeply for you.


The Bacteria in Our Water

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When I was a kid I loved going to my grandparents’ house in Northeast Arkansas for several reasons. I mean, what kid wouldn’t love to go to a place where he or she was doted upon and taught many life lessons through outdoors and apprenticeship?! I remember many details of my many trips to see them each year, but there is one detail that seems strange to me that I would remember: the taste of their tap water.

Their water was great. I grew up in North Louisiana where the water was a caramel color, and if you filled up your bathtub with it you wouldn’t be able to see the bottom of the tub. Comparatively, the sparkling clear water of Northeast Arkansas was amazing with just the right mixture of pure H2O and minerals.

Did you drink tap water growing up? 20 years ago that wouldn’t even be a question anyone would ask because who didn’t drink tap water? Today, however, we have an entirely different set of circumstances. When you ask people for some water chances are they’ll go to their refrigerator and look for some liquid in a plastic bottle or in a pitcher that had been filled through filtered means.

Every so often I get a report from our water treatment plant for our town. It makes me aware of the different levels of chemicals in the water. Wait…chemicals? Yes! Then it tells me that the water is ok to drink. It’s not necessarily healthy, but it’s ok. Our water even contains arsenic! No wonder people are buying bottled water as fast as they can produce it.

In our consumeristic culture we have changed to buying our water off the shelves in bottles or jugs or filtering it by some means even after it has come from our “water treatment” plant. We can’t seem to get “pure” water any more; we just make do with the water that we think is “more pure” or tastes better than other water.

I’ll admit that I do the same thing. I would rather drink water from a spring or well, but in town I have a Brita water filter pitcher at the house. When I buy water in a bottle I prefer Dasani. Don’t ask me why. I just think it tastes better. When I find Ethos water I buy that because some of the proceeds are supposed to be helping to dig wells in underdeveloped areas of the world.

We seem obsessed with water. And we pay for it accordingly.

Why is it that we are more concerned about the bacteria in our water than about the sin in our lives?

We don’t keep “pure” lives as the standard to which we strive. We settle for “more pure” than others. What if Jesus lived his life that way? If He had sinned even once he would not have been fit to take our place as the unblemished Lamb of sacrifice.

Then he tells us to “be perfect” (Matthew 5:48).

What? I can’t be perfect! No, but I can strive for perfection. There’s the difference between what God calls us to be and what many of us have settled to become. He wants us to try and not to quit. He wants us to hate sin. He wants us to abhor it. We should loathe it, but we settle for “good enough” or “better than others”. God is not comparing you to others at your job or school. He is comparing you to Jesus. Then, if you fall short of that (which you do), he offers you the sacrifice of Jesus to cover your imperfections.

When Jesus died He took your sins on the cross and gave you righteousness – a new clothing unstained by sin. In Galatians, Paul says that the clothing we receive when we are baptized into Christ is Christ Himself. Then we go through our lives staining up that righteous clothing with the deeds of selfishness.

You wouldn’t go out in the $100 outfit you bought yesterday and play in the mud in it today. But that’s exactly how we treat our righteousness. In Romans 6 we are reminded that when we died to sin we were called to not live in it any longer.

May you hate the sin in your life more than you hate the bacteria in your water. May that new mindset this year change you into a better, more whole and more holy man or woman of God. And may your circles of influence see Jesus (your new clothing) as you live and move and function inside that clothing.

Happy new year, and if there’s anything I can do for you, call me at 979-245-1611 or email me at jddobbs@verizon.net. God bless you!


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