Tag Archives: Church Growth

Barriers to Church Growth. #2

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss some of these barriers.

“Pastors are more concerned about self-interests than about God and His people (Philippians 2:21).”

 “For all seek their own, not the things which are Jesus Christ’s.” – Philippians 2:21

How sad is it to think that you can’t trust a man of God? Very! But, obviously, there are many men out there who care more about their own interests than for the church.

In the second chapter of Philippians, Paul was faced with this problem. According to the Apostle, Timothy was the only one he could trust with the care of this church, because all the others sought their own, “not the thing’s of Jesus Christ.” Imagine, there were others capable of doing the work, but only Timothy proved selfless.

What an indictment! What a troubling accusation to cast upon men of God! Shouldn’t the very fact that we are called and equipped for the task of shepherding sheep qualify us for the work? Not if the work is only a tool for self-gratification or gain.

Humility Needed

What kind of pastor was Paul looking for when he finally decided on Timothy? All one has to do is examine the previous verses and see that he was looking for a man with a heart and mind like that of the Savior. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who…made himself of no reputation, and took upon the form of a servant…humbled himself…unto death (2:5-8).”

Jesus was the highest example of a man who could have taken advantage of His position; yet, He was the one who washed others’ feet; wore the same clothes; never demanded special treatment; allowed Himself to be abused and mistreated; even went to a cross. How would modern pastors fare if asked to be more like Him?

The Man Paul Picked

Think about Timothy for a moment. When you do, what kind of mental picture comes to mind? Did he wear the nicest suit? Did he drive a new car? Did he publish a new book every week, or host 15 conferences listing his name on neon parchment?

Did Timothy get offended when not addressed by the correct title? Did Timothy have an “earned doctorate?” Would you have had to make an appointment to see him in his office? If you did, would you have felt intimidated by his presence and demeanor? I don’t get this picture when I think of Timothy, but I do about a lot of preachers.

Self-Examination

What kind of pastor am I? Am I a barrier to church growth? This is a question I have to ask myself, even though it may dig up some stuff of which I am ashamed.

You see, the church is more important than my ego. It is more important than what people think of me. The church was not put here for my benefit. I was sent to care for them. I was sent to feed and protect the sheep, not sell them off to make a profit. They don’t belong to me. They belong to Jesus Christ.

Do I look at every church as a stepping stone? Do I view people as objects, or worse, servants? Am I willing to sacrifice my pride, even my life, for the sake of those for whom Christ died? If not, then I don’t deserve this “good work” (1 Timothy 3:1). Unless I want to be like Christ, as modeled in the life of Paul and Timothy, then I desire the work for the wrong reasons, which would make me a “barrier to church growth.”

Dear friend in ministry, whatever your role, are you more concerned with self? Go back and read Philippians 2 and see how your intentions stack up. Like me, you may find some barriers that need to be torn down.

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Filed under book review, Christian Maturity, God, ministry, Preaching, self-worth, worship

Barriers to Church Growth. #1

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a few of this barriers.

“Churches aren’t concerned about God’s glory, believing the church is just for them (Isa. 42:8; 48:11).”

I [am] the LORD: that [is] my name: and my glory will I not give to another, neither my praise to graven images. – Isa. 42:8

For mine own sake, [even] for mine own sake, will I do [it]: for how should [my name] be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another. – Isa. 48:11

When we read the above verses it should be very clear to us that God is not interested in sharing His glory. Yet, too many times we rob God of the glory that is due Him by seeking it for ourselves. We do this in many ways, including the reason many of us go to church.

Lest we forget, “it’s not about us.” However, if you polled the majority of church-goers, I believe you’d find that the reasons for attending congregational worship are more selfish than we’d like to admit. To many believers, church is about what one can get, as opposed to what one can give.

The Tale of the Hymns

Have you ever stopped to listen to the words of those old-time hymns many of us grew up with? You may have sung them all your life, but stop and think about the following: “This world is not MY home, I’m only passing through. / My treasures are laid up somewhere beyond the blue…;” “I’ll Fly Away;” “I’ve got a mansion just over the hilltop;” “All I Need.” What is the common denominator of these lyrics and titles? “Me, me, me.”

If the Church Hymnal (© 1951,1979) was used as a tool to determine what we think of church, stop and think about this: there are 80 hymns with a title that starts with the words, I, I’m, I’d, I’ll, I’ve, or My. In contrast, less than 10 contain the word glory. Those that do include “Glory Hallelujah In My Soul” and “I’ll Live in Glory.

I think it is pretty obvious that many of us come to church to get from God, not to give to God. He deserves our worship and our praise. He deserves all the glory because His is God, and not man (Hosea 11:9). We deserve nothing, yet His grace and mercy bestow upon us all the treasures we enjoy. Why do we come expecting anything?

Surely our churches would grow if God was glorified. Imagine a congregation of people who came together to lift up praise and adoration to Jesus for His glorious love. Imagine a group of folks who set aside all their own desires and petty differences in order to lift up holy hands unto the King of Glory. What did Jesus say? “If I be lifted up…I will draw all men unto me.”

So, what do you think? How could we do better in giving the glory to the One who truly deserves it?

Related Post: Un-“Christian” Ministry?

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Filed under Christian Maturity, General Observations, God, Uncategorized, worship

Barriers to Church Growth. #5 (Honoring Self)

The following was published several years ago, but since my last post was a quote addressing the worship of Self, this is pretty applicable. 


A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

“People do works for their own honor and not the glory of God (Matthew 5:16).”

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.” – Matthew 5:16 KJV

Why do we do good works? Why do we feed the poor, shelter the homeless, tend to the elderly, etc. Do we do these things so that our Father will be glorified, or do we do them in order to get glory for ourselves?

To be Seen.

Some people do good works for the sole intention of being seen and considered especially spiritual. Jesus said that “Everything they do is for show” (Mt. 23:5 NLT). Jesus spoke of those who wanted to be seen as pious and holy by wearing boxes containing Scripture on their foreheads or arms. The bigger the box the better. All this was in an attempt to say, “I am keeping the law better than you!” (See Deuteronomy 6:5-9)

Then there are other people who do plenty of good deeds without even acknowledging God. For example,  go to any charity ball held by your local “high society” club. There you will find plenty of people who willingly give thousands to worthy causes, but smile as big as they can when the magazine photographers come around.

They may even be members of local churches and give large offerings to the building fund (as long as it’s named after them); buy the pastor a new car; or pay for a youth mission trip. “And they love to sit at the head table at banquets and in the seats of honor in the [congregation].” – Matthew 23:6 NLT

To be Accepted

Some people do good works in order to be accepted by God. They give away fortunes and spend their lives doing good deeds, but not to be seen of men. They want to be seen by God and thought of as worthy of His love. The only problem is that salvation is “not of works, lest any man should boast.” They work themselves to death in order prove their loyalty, thereby supposedly insuring a place in heaven. But the glory goes not to God, for attached to the works is an expectation of reward based on merit.

Soli Deo gloria

All glory should be to God alone. If our works are done in order to receive praise, then God is not getting the glory. If our works are meant to earn credit with God, then God is not getting the glory. If we work ourselves silly to meet the legalistic requirements placed on us by men, then God is not getting the glory. However, if out of a heart of love we do good works without expectation for reward, recognition, or acceptance, then God will receive the glory.

When all glory, honor, and praise is given to the Lord, He will draw all men unto Himself. Church growth will be unstoppable. Yet, if we expect credit for anything, then what should we expect but further decline? “For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? and I will not give my glory unto another.” – Isaiah 48:11 KJV

We want others to see our good works, but not for our own glory. May they “glorify [our] Father which is in heaven.”

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My Top Posts (A Stolen Idea)

Not an Original

I am an original work of art (some just call me a “piece of work“). This post, on the other hand, is not an original idea, but one I am stealing from a fellow blogger, Chris Jordan.

Several days ago Chris wrote The Top 10 Posts on New Life. I said to myself, “Self, you should do something like that.”

Top 10

Below are the top 10 most-viewed posts on The Recovering Legalist. You may be new to this blog, so take a moment and scan the titles. There may be something there worth sharing with everyone else in the world.

Make me famous and I’ll buy you a cookie.

  1. What to Wear to Church (People do wonder, you know)
  2. Appetite for Comfort (The post that made Freshly Pressed)
  3. Dinosaur Bones Found On the Moon (Some people still take this seriously)
  4. Recovering Legalist Meets Building 429 (I acted like the legalist I don’t want to be)
  5. Even a Trash Can (God can use anything)
  6. Prostitots? (My daughters are not)
  7. Does Divorce Disqualify? (My take on a serious issue)
  8. Why Be a Legalist? (Why, I ask you?)
  9. Was John R. Rice a Heretic? (A post about Bible translations)
  10. My Take on Chick-fil-A (Don’t be a hater; it’s just my opinion)

Honorable Mentions

None of my “Monday Monkey” videos made it into the Top Ten. That makes me sad. Therefore, let me recommend a few of my favorites.

I have also done several series on The Recovering Legalist. Here is a selection of a few favorites from the archives.

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Barriers to Church Growth #9

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

Traditional practices are done without a heart for God (Malachi 1:6ff).

A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name? – Malachi 1:6 NIV

In a reading of Malachi 1:6-14 it is obvious that God is greatly offended by priests who care little about the One to whom the sacrifices are being made. They offer “polluted” and “blind” offerings, and for what? To gain His approval?

In verse six God was saying, “Look, you give more honor and respect to men than Me. Am I not greater than mere men?” Of course He is, so what was their problem? Did they not care what God would think of inferior offerings?

Essentially, God views giving anything less than one’s best nothing more than an insult to Who He is. God deserves better than the best we would give as a present on Father’s Day. He deserves far, far better than we would give to an employer on Boss’s Day. He is God.  We should give Him our best. Period.

But how have we despised your name?

Maybe we should ask the same question. Are our churches not growing? It might be because we “despise His name” with our poorly executed traditions, our just-getting-by attempts at worship, or our whatever’s-in-my-pocket-besides-the-big-bill offerings.

Notice that Stetzer and Dodson are not putting down traditional practices, only those which are done “without a heart for God.” For many in the church, these practices are only a list to check off, not a means to express appreciation to our Father and LORD. And without true worship, traditional practices suffer the neglect associated with only doing what is necessary to get by. Our God deserves so much better.

Who gets the best effort?

Just take a moment and compare they way we do things on the job, or at school, as compared with worship. What if God gave a paycheck each Sunday based on the way we fulfill our worship duties? What if he gave a grade for how well we listened to and studied His word? Would we even care if poor performance would result in getting fired or expelled?

We say, “God is good – He wouldn’t do such a thing!” And that is one reason why many churches don’t grow. We do enough, we give enough, we sacrifice enough to get by; but without a real heart for God. We never stop to consider that He might be offended…angered…hurt.

What a shame. Why would He want us to multiply?

 

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Barriers to Church Growth #8 (Selfish Fasting)

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

“People think of fasting as being for themselves.”

Moreover when ye fast, be not, as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But thou, when thou fastest, anoint thine head, and wash thy face; That thou appear not unto men to fast, but unto thy Father which is in secret: and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 6:16-18

Wherefore have we fasted, say they, and thou seest not? wherefore have we afflicted our soul, and thou takest no knowledge? Behold, in the day of your fast ye find pleasure, and exact all your labours.” – Isaiah 58:3ff

One of the great tools of prayer is fasting. But before we go off too quickly and label it as a “tool” or a “key” to answered prayer and holiness, consider the motive behind it.

Why do people fast? Why do people abstain from food or drink when they pray. Honestly, many do it only to either be seen by men, or to be thought more highly of by God. Neither are proper motivations for fasting.

It’s all about me…

In today’s church culture there are many who promote various ways and means to health, wealth, and spiritual success. You know the type – they’re constantly begging for you to sow a “seed of faith” into their ministries (or should I say “scams” and “snake oil factories?”). There are even those who promote fasting as a way to becoming more holy (then offer a book in exchange for a gift of any amount above $20).

The real problem with all of that is the fact that it preys on the flesh, the sinful tendency to think of “self” more than the will of God. It may help a televangelist get rich when you sow a “seed,” but it won’t bring you closer to God if you are expecting a hundred-fold return on your “investment.” When it’s “all about me,” God is not glorified.

Not a means to an end…

Without getting into a long study of the topic of fasting, let’s just say that most fasting is done for the wrong reasons. Look at the rest of the verses in Isaiah 58, for example. It was not that the people were avoiding fasting; they were even abusing themselves. Yet, God was not pleased. He was not interested in their fastings. He wanted their hearts.

There are so many ways the church could benefit if we would seek the heart of God, not our own desires. If we sought after God with a pure heart, asking Him to burden us with a desire for the lost and broken, fasting would come naturally. Most examples of fasting in the Bible were not begun with intent, but were the result of brokenness. Most of the time the fast was the result of one’s lack of desire for anything other than hearing from God. How different is that from the modern Christian who gives up a meal or two and expects, in return for their great sacrifice of earthly pleasure, an answer to a selfish prayer?

Fasting should never be a means to an end. It should be the natural result of one who can find no pleasure, no solace, no comfort in anything other than a word from the Bread of Life. Anything else borders on an attempt to manipulate the King of Glory into feeling sorry for us. What’s worse, fasting as a means to an end for a request which is intended to be “consumed upon [our] lusts” is no different than self-mutilization or witchcraft.

God will not grow a church that seeks to glorify itself or seek its own desires, especially if it attempts to bribe God in the process.

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Barriers to Church Growth #7 (Self-honoring Giving)

A very revealing study was done, leading to a book detailing how 300 churches went from declining or dying, to growing. In Comeback Churches, written by Ed Stetzer and Mike Dodson, there is a list of 30 different barriers to church growth. Having received permission from the publisher (B&H Publishing Group), I would like to discuss a different barrier each week.

“People think of giving as being for their own honor.”

Therefore when thou doest thine alms, do not sound a trumpet before thee, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward. But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth: That thine alms may be in secret: and thy Father which seeth in secret himself shall reward thee openly.” – Matthew 6:2-4 KJV

I don’t have a problem with buildings, wings of buildings, rooms, sanctuaries, pews, or stained-glass windows being named in honor of people. It’s when those people give money in order have their names put on those things.

One of the most commonly used complaints against the church is, “They only want your money.” Just throw a rock into any crowd and the chances are high that you’ll hit a disgruntled, self-proclaimed atheist who thinks that way.

But even though most churches aren’t all about money (if they were, then why are so many struggling with tight budgets?), there are some folk within the church that like others to know how much money they have. These are the ones who pay the bills, and everybody knows it.

Jesus spoke of those who give just to be seen. I know people like that. They don’t give anonymously, heaven forbid. No, they hold a new conference and write an over-sized, four-foot-long check to the church, while posing for the camera.

These are the people who think they have more say-so in the congregation of believers. They think they have earned the right. Some even give in order to purchase titles, such as “prophet.” What’s worse, that very practice is applauded within a particular denomination. How sad.

What we need are more people who are willing to give because they love the Lord, not praise. I love the scene in Facing the Giants where a wealthy man gives the coach a new truck. Then he looks over at his son and says something like, “Don’t you say a word.” Now THAT’S what I’m talking about!

God gives to us so that we can give to Him. When it is money that we give, it is to be for His glory, not ours. So, if you want recognition, why not wait a little while for the kind that will come from your Heavenly Father?

The praise of men is worthless, if not simply envy in disguise. 

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