Number 3, March 1998
Welcome to The Shepherd's Storehouse No.3 ! It is double the size with even more sermon starters and outlines; some news on our new pastoral appointment; and some provoking ideas about church doors!
The sermon outlines follow the sermonic process of subject (the sermon in one word); theme (the sermon in one phrase); proposition (the sermon in one sentence). Each main point needs to be explained , illustrated, applied. The following outlines include a series from Luke on Family and Life Issues that I am currently preaching at Marion. There are a couple of outlines on prayer and some others. May your preaching be filled with the Word and filled with the Spirit.
[Zaccheus was a little man who made two big mistakes. He thought money equalled. success; and he thought he could hide from God]
[We grieve over death, but also divorce, unresolved conflicts, job loss, family members leaving home. Some claim the grief process involves 5 stages; denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance. This title could be "From Mourning to Morning" or "Good Grief"]
[This is the third in a series on The Unstoppable Church. See Storehouse No. 2]
What makes churches grow? Why do some churches grow faster than other churches? What can pastors do to encourage the kind of growth that sees new people not only attracted but added to the church? How can 1 make my pastoral ministry more effective? How can 1 do less but achieve more?
Sunday corporate worship services are the front door of churches. Usually, it is the Sunday celebrations that new people attend. People go to church for a variety of reasons, and these provide challenges to pastors about the attractiveness of their front door.
People come to church to participate in worship. There are few greater privileges or joys than corporate worship. It is powerful, it is attractive. Authentic corporate worship requires congregational participation and wise pastors objectively review their celebration services. They consider the choice,.. style and content of songs; the accessibility to the congregation of the words of the songs; the direction and purpose to the meeting; and the smooth flow of the program. Most importantly, they ask themselves, was opportunity given for everyone to meaningfully worship the Lord ? Wise pastors will continually review the effectiveness of their corporate worship.
People come to church to hear the Word of the Lord. Preaching on Sundays should never be by roster or for training up and coming preachers. We need to be reminded of the charge of Paul to a young pastor, "Preach the Word". Paul himself not only preached the Word, but preached Christ crucified. Preach the Word and preach Jesus. Seek to be a better preacher. Seek to excel in communicating God's Word. Endeavour to be a shorter preacher, because one of the keys to clear communication is using the fewest number of words to convey your message.
People come to church for fellowship. Attractive churches make visitors welcome. This can be done through welcome packs, or a 'new friend's lounge' for coffee after the meeting, or introducing them to church people and families who are from a similar background. Never make your welcome overbearing, or embarrass newcomers, they probably won't return. New people will ask themselves, "was 1 made to feel welcome", and "are these my kind of people". They will need to answer 'yes' to both these questions if they are to return.
Growing churches have attractive front doors. They lead people into the presence of God, they proclaim the Word of the Lord, and they care for people.
Churches grow not only when the front door is attractive, but when the back door is effectively closed. It is a tragedy that while we concentrate on the front door to attract people, all the time our back door is wide open and people leave. How do you close your back door ?
Pastors should be encouraged to keep a record for Sunday attendees. This should be done unobtrusively, as people may resent being 'checked on'. Mail one week absentees the church newsletter, with a brief note saying they were missed. Two week absentees need a pastoral visit. We are charged to care for the flock of God, and growing churches create systems to care for people. Accurate and current records are part of an effective back door. And you can use your attendance record as a pastoral prayer list. When a pastor speaks to God about His people, God will speak to the pastor about his people.
Part of closing the back door is your new Christian's program. Pastors must feed the flock and care for the lambs. The follow-up of new Christians is vital to the health of a church. The effectiveness of your care for new Christians can be measured by assessing your retention rate. This is the percentage of 'decisions' for Christ who are in active fellowship in the church six to twelve months after their decision. Healthy churches will have retention rates of 60% or higher. Less than 40% is a sure sign that the back door is open.
Never presume spirituality and commitment to Christ from new Christians or fringe people. Never presume that a power encounter at the altar will resolve all problems. The command of Jesus was "make disciples", and this demands teaching, pastoral care, one-on-one ministry. The pastor's job is not to do all the caring, but rather to train and oversee others in pastoral care. If you tend them, God will send them.
One of the keys to growing churches is they have created multiple entry points into the assembly. In other words, the 'Sunday' front door is not the only entry paint, but access is available through 'side-door' ministries. These include; youth, children's ministries, home fellowships, women's ministry, Bible college, common interest groups, seniors, craft, marriage seminars, drop-in centres, men's breakfasts, etc etc.
If you are in a smaller church, there are limits to the number of small groups. Select groups an the basis of both the perceived felt needs of the congregation and the strengths of your ministry gifting. Concentrate an doing what you are good at and what God has called you to do. If you need ideas, observe the programs of successful churches and adapt them to your location. The pastor does not have to conduct all these programs, but facilitates, trains, releases and oversees the ministry of others.
A church will grow no larger than the network of small cells that support the body. If you desire to grow the church you pastor, not only raise the standard of the celebration, multiply the small group network. This will open the side doors of the church, and increase the level of pastoral care as group leaders and members begin to care for one another..
Bernice and I have enjoyed a happy return to pastoral ministry at Marion City in Adelaide. We are glad to report the Lord has already added about 30 people with some converts and restorations. Our Sunday Might Live programs have larger attendance's than the morning! There were 118 people in fellowship when we commenced; we are believing for 200 in the family by mid-year and 300 by Christmas. My dad came with us and has already started an Evergreens program. We are blessed with a lovely home, give us a call on (08) 8370 4811.
We head for Sydney in early April for the wedding of our son John to Nicole Persal. John will be doing his practicum with us in July. Our other son David surprised us when he flew from Sydney to be here for our induction. God has answered prayers for our daughter Jo who needed part-time employment, she started last month in just the right job!
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