|The Local Church
| THE BIRTH OF THE VISION
The local church is God’s idea. It’s a good idea. The local church is so very important to God’s plan for the earth, in fact it is vital in that it is the
literal manifestation of the Body of Christ on the earth. When most folks on the street are asked a question about the church, they more than
likely will respond in some way to their own local church or perhaps mention some recognizable church in their community. The reason for this is
that their thinking usually leans toward the local church. Few people (even in the Church) consider the universal Church as a single entity, and
fewer yet can wrap around the spiritual concept of the Body of Christ. So, the local church is what most of us think about when we see the word
church. For that reason we must get it right. The world is watching.
From the outset of this study on the local church it must be made perfectly clear that no one has the right to “start a church.” All of us would
agree that God has a plan for the earth. His specific plan narrows down to the various arenas of our globe, to the nations of the earth, and even
to the regions and to the cities within those regions. With that concept in mind, it is no stretch at all to see that God just might want to get
involved in the planning of what local churches there are, where they are to be located, and who it is that He calls to plant them. We might say it
like this: no one but God can choose to start a new church. A significant percentage of what we call “churches” is really nothing more than
Ishmaels birthed by people. They happen because a group from a church split goes down the street to launch “the pure church,” or some well-
meaning pastor takes it upon himself to “find a good place for a church” and commences to do that the initiative to plant a church. The bottom
line is this: God alone reserves the right to choose what, who, where, and when a local church is birthed.
So, here is the first question to be asked by the person or group considering a church plant: “Is this a good idea or is it a God idea?” All the
demographic information may point to the need for another church in this neighborhood of the city or in that part of the state; in fact the sin-
quotient may be absolutely off the charts revealing what must surely reveal the need for a church in that area. There may be money enough and
laborers enough to set up shop in a profound way and make a difference for Jesus, but if He has not directed the effort, it is doomed to become
just another religious shell posing as a church and further diluting the Church’s effort to fulfill the plan of God. In my estimation this is
unacceptable; therefore, let us be led by the Spirit and do only what He has called us to do – nothing more, nothing less.
Perhaps men of God who are more spiritual than I can bat a thousand, and always hear clearly what God is saying. If so, then this stage of the
process is not difficult. But for most of us, there is a season of seeking the face of God for clear marching orders. To run ahead of God at this
time is sheer folly. Let us remind ourselves that Jesus is the Head of the Church and it is He who is choreographing the growth of His Church.
May I suggest ample time in solitude, listening, praying in the Spirit, and meditating on those verses of Scripture that pertain to hearing the
voice of God and being led by the Spirit. In due time He will speak and make His plans plain for you.
Jesus will choose whom He desires to lead His church. But one thing is certain, He will send a fivefold minister into this new sphere through
which this new church will be birthed. There may be a group of saints who pray together and fellowship as a group out of which this new church
may arise. God may send an evangelist into the target area to harvest sinners who are destined to become the backbone of this new church. But
it will be through the apostolic anointing that the birth takes place. The apostle is what we might call the womb of the Church. Just as Paul
arrived in Corinth on a mission from God to birth a new work there, so it will be everywhere He desires for another church to be located. Once
the church has matured to a certain point, Jesus then raises up a pastor to replace Paul to lead this new church. So it may be in your new church
You have heard it said that timing is everything. This is especially true in church planting. One day too soon or one day too late may have
serious consequences. Things must be readied in the spiritual realm for your new church. There is so much more to it than just finding a place to
meet, appointing a door greeter, buying sound equipment, and selecting a Sunday School curriculum. God sets certain spiritual things in place
that are too deep for natural minds. These happen through prayer and fasting and spiritual warfare. As those appointed by God seek Him and His
perfect will, they know His divine timing for that new church – God’s appointed time.
We can liken it to the gestation period of a baby in its mother’s womb. There is an exact number of days needed for the baby to be fully formed
and prepared to face the world on its own. So it is with an infant church. The birth of a church is not unlike what Moses and Jesus faced as newly
born infants, which is genocide. The enemy of God, none other than Satan, knows that the best time to remove the enemy is at his birth. The
infant cannot fight back. The infant church must have help just as Moses and Jesus had if it is to survive the attack of the evil one. That help is
set in place by intercession and spiritual warfare. The heavens are prepared and the angels of God are assigned to this church, they are set
around it in full battle array and commissioned to defeat any weapon that is formed against it. This is the only way this new church can hope to
survive those first few difficult years of its life.
I will now give the same counsel I gave to an MIT Class (Ministers In Training) a few years ago, and that is make sure you understand that the
decisions you make today will linger far longer than you want them to! There may be no area in the local church that this truth is more
pronounced than in the area of church government.
Please allow me to tell a portion of my story at this point for emphasis. I had a traditional denominational background for most of the years prior
to my going full-time in the pastoral ministry. God called me to birth a church in Bethany, Oklahoma and we called it Harvest Church. The new
church was much like a fresh, new canvas facing the artist. The artist is free to do with that clean surface anything he fancies. So it was with
Harvest Church. We were given a fresh new church that was putty in my hands. I wish I could tell you I formed a wonderfully beautiful piece of
art that awed onlookers, but that was not the case.
My motives were pure in that I did not want to be perceived as a monarch or dictator, so I promptly began to discuss the idea of a Board of
Deacons. Having a Board of Deacons sounded good, at least according to traditional thinking. We would have a council of Spirit-led men who
would come alongside my wife and me to lead this church into greatness. Even though admittedly there were some good men available who
were ordained deacons of Harvest Church, there was a problem. The problem was that Jesus had not instructed me to form this Board of
Deacons and to delegate to them the powers they were given. It did not take too many months for me to realize my mistake. There was no peace
within me about the Board from day one, (the Holy Spirit was at work convicting me of my decision) and problems arose between the pastor and
the deacons about the direction of Harvest Church. They were not to blame, I was. They were carrying out their duties delegated to them by me!
None of those deacons lasted more than a couple of years. I believe God removed them to allow me another chance to develop the church’s
government as it should be.
This is not the place to defend my position on church government. I will simply say that to me the Scriptures are quite clear on the subject of
church government, and that is to have a multiplicity of Elders (fivefold ministers according to Ephesians 4:11) who are spiritual leaders of the
local congregation of saints. It is a simple structure. There is a set man (usually one who stands in the office of Pastor) who is the first among
equals at the local church level. He looks to the apostle through whom the church was birthed for his pastoral covering. There will be Deacons,
but it is understood they are not spiritual leaders in the church; they are commissioned by the Elders to handle the day-to-day physical affairs for
the church family. (Acts 6:1-7)
Your church should be built solidly on a good set of By Laws. Your By Laws clearly set out for you exactly what you believe, the vision and the
direction of the church, the government of the church, and defined levels and boundaries of authority. The By Laws become the track on which
the church runs. They are invaluable for solving differences of opinions and disputes. They help to maintain order and unity in the church. For
these reasons, great care should be given in the development of these By Laws. It is far easier and simpler to do it right at first than try to
amend these By Laws later on.
The first few years of a church’s life are critical. Mistakes are accented during this delicate season of development, for that reason great care
must be given to placing people in positions of authority. There is always the tendency to rush forward and develop some type of structure for
the sake of appearances. As a new pastor you don’t want your congregation to think you are dictatorial. You are not dictatorial, but you are
prudent. I suggest the formation of a Pastor’s Council who is appointed by you yet who has no decision-making power. They are there for your
benefit. They are counselors who have earned your trust and respect. If you do not have such people in the church yet, do not form this council.
Seek counsel from outside.
THE CHURCH IS A WORK IN PROGRESS
The newly developed church does not have to try to be all things to all who attend, in fact, it cannot. It’s OK to be just what you are right now. It’
s OK to not provide childcare. It’s OK to not have a Sunday School or Cell Groups at first. In fact, it’s OK if the music is not quite professional in
quality. Even though you should always strive for excellence in all areas, you must remember you have a baby on your hands and you know what
babies can do! God will bring people to you who see the vision with you and are willing to stay the course with you as your church develops.
They will be patient and understanding as you grow.
Burnout is a very real possibility to the new pastor. Beware! Burnout usually happens not because you are working hard but because what you
are working at is not what you are supposed to be doing. I remember the day I took a 4’ by 8’ marker board and filled it with the many programs
and ministries Harvest Church was doing. Buses were running, the food pantry was feeding the poor, pastoral counseling was setting the
captives free, Sunday morning worship, Sunday evening worship, Wednesday Study in the Word, hospital visitation, weddings, funerals,
dedication ceremonies, home cell meetings, special training seminars, planning meetings…. Whew, I get tired all over again just remembering
the busyness of those first three years!
We started with 8 people in our den and were now running in excess of 200 - within 7 months! All that we were doing was good; however, it was
not God. I had developed these church programs based upon what Pastor Tommy Barnett had taught us in a seminar on church growth. These
were good principles and he had used them successfully at Phoenix First Assembly with thousands of members. They were good but they were
not God - for Harvest Church. We needed to develop as a church. I needed to develop as a pastor. When I sat back and really looked at what was
behind all the ministries and programs listed on the marker board, I realized I was the driving force behind almost all of them! Tommy had many
people who were called to do those many ministries; in my small church I was attempting to do them alone. The body is many members…
I want to propose a course of action that you might want to take in developing your church’s ministries. First of all, please allow me to squelch
the idea of church programs. Church programs are those created things that need your constant oversight, your vigilant motivation, and
quintessential personnel management abilities in you. They are those good ideas you had that at the time seemed like the thing to do for the
children, the youth, the poor, or whomever. You carefully crafted this new creation and with great detail launched it with much gusto. You placed
Sister Jones as its head and she even seemed excited about it even though one of her comments was, “Pastor, you know Tom and I are really
busy with so many other things, but nonetheless, I will do this just because you asked me.” You were so excited about your new creation. You
spoke fondly of it in the pulpit that first Sunday, announcing, “God has done this wonderful new thing in our midst!” You even gave it a
permanent place in the bulletin and newsletter to give heightened visibility to it and to add to the excitement.
Now, two years later, your brain-child is a heavy weight around your neck! You have gone through four leaders, and the helpers they recruit are
short-termers and hardly committed to the excellence you preach and practice. You cannot count the number of meetings you have had just to
try to keep the program going. It is a drain on your church’s budget and the cause of many sleepless nights. The fruit it has produced is marginal
at best. What are you to do with thing you have created? Here is my suggestion: Kill it! God didn’t create it, so it deserves to die. Oh, you might
have to endure a bit of egg on your face, but you will live through it. Admit your mistake publicly when you announce its death. Apologize to all
the leaders and workers who attempted to fulfill your vision. Dig a big deep hole and cast every aspect of your folly into it and throw the dirt in
over it. Now you are ready to move on and do a God thing instead of a good thing!
Men birth programs; God births ministries. In the local church they may look very much alike. For example, a food pantry distributes food and
prays with the recipients whether it is called a program or a ministry. But the similarities stop there. The program needs constant nourishment by
its creator; whereas, the ministry is something God has placed on the heart of Sister Jones who now has a God-given passion for feeding the
hungry and for ministering the love of Jesus to them. You don’t need to wonder if she will show up at 2:00pm on Tuesday when the food pantry
opens because you can see the anointing on her and the excitement in her for what God has called her to do. I ask you, which is better, a
program or a ministry?
Once I realized I had birthed many Ishmaels, I killed them all and determined to wait until God moved on the heart of someone if we were going
to have a nursery, kids church, street evangelism, buses running, and even music in the worship services. The one thing I knew was that I was
commissioned to preach and teach the Word, so at that time that is all I committed to do. That is all we did for some time. One by one, God began
to raise up ministers to head up ministries. Most of these ministers were not fivefold ministers, they were usually lay people anointed by God to
carry out a certain part of His plan for Harvest Church. Someone came forward to head up one of the most significant feeding ministries in our
metropolitan area. Tons of food each week went out. Hundreds of people were fed. God was glorified because He birthed the food pantry, not by
What we are discussing now is one of the reasons why God has listed patience as a fruit of the Spirit. It takes much patience to grow a church.
You’re not going to have it all right now. You’re not going to get everything you need and want for your church right now. And sometimes you
will feel as though God has gone on vacation and all you can do it leave word on His heavenly voice mail and hope He will return the call at some
point in time. If you will persevere, your due season will come. (Galatians 6:9)
Your church is a work in progress. It is a never-ending journey of maturation and growth. It took great courage and faith to birth the church, but
it will take gargantuan strength, faith, endurance, and stick-to-it-iveness if you are to see the vision come true. Just remember, God birthed this
church, and it is up to Him to finish the work. He promises He will, but He must have your cooperation and that cooperation means patience. You
serve a Father that is faithful to His children, and in that you can rest as you are waiting on Him to bring that right worship leader or those much-
needed funds to complete the new wing on the building. It’s His church, and He is building it on His schedule.
KNOW YOUR MARKET
God has a plan for your church. In that plan is a group of people He has specifically called you to reach. No one but you can reach them
because God has assigned the task to you. With that thought in mind, the obvious question is, “Who are you sent to reach?”
Every pastor wants to believe his church can be everything to all people; however, the reality is that is not likely to happen. As I have studied
many, many churches, I found that churches seem to specialize in some way, and they seem to reach a certain type of person or a particular
group of people. I have not found a church that is all things to all people. That should be good news to you, Pastor. That should take some heat
off you and allow you to move out from under that heavy burden of trying to be all things to all people. You can’t; you weren’t intended to, so don’
t worry about it. Find who it is God has sent you to reach, and get after ‘em.
Recently I attended a worship service in one of the fastest growing churches in our metroplex. It is a church of several thousand. The service
was decidedly different than what I was accustomed to. The music thundered through a state-of-the-art sound system; there was a light show
that rivals almost any rock concert; the videos shown on the backdrop were masterfully engineered, the level of excitement was contagious. The
pastor was young. He was dressed casually and had no pulpit, but rather sat on a bar stool and chatted with us. His message was good and it
was masterfully geared to his market, which is the seeker friendly service. The seeker friendly format primarily appeals to non-believers in
search of God and to young believers in Christ Jesus. This pastor knows who he is after, and he has designed the church to draw them in. So it
must be with your church. Know who you’re after and design what you do accordingly.
There is much to be said for the homogeneous principle in the field of church growth. Birds of a feather flock together. Each of knows that the
Church is comprised of all born again believers; rich and poor, all colors, all nationalities, and all ages and social groups. This organism of
contrasts makes the Church a rich tapestry to the glory of God. But, the local church might not be quite as diverse as the Body of Christ in
general. There is a reason for this, and that reason is what I call the effective ministry factor.
The effective ministry factor became obvious to me as a pastor when its revelation came through our Youth Ministry. Our church was located
near “the hood” and a large number of our young people came from families challenged accordingly. There were also some suburban families in
our church whose lives and environments were totally different. Our own daughter came home wanting to know about incest and other sexual
things that a young man was talking about. This rocked her mother and me to the very bone! I remember crying out to God as to what I should
do! Do I simply allow the various socio-economic strata to co-exist, knowing that each comes from such a different environment? If not, how do I
separate the two? My dilemma in this matter rose from not only the pastoral prospective but the parental perspective as well. It was at that time I
began to understand that effective ministry happens much more easily when with specificity it can be adapted to a particular group with
particular characteristics and challenges. In the Youth Ministry we apparently needed to address issues that were delicate and taboo to society,
but to do so with the entire group seemed ill advised.
Another perspective on this matter arose as I noticed that a certain type of person seemed to be coming to our church. Here was the profile of
these attendees: they were from poorer homes, many were out-of-work, some lived in Section 8 housing, many relied upon food stamps, and
most homes had only a single parent present. These were good people and I loved them dearly. I was happy to minister to whomever it was that
God brought to Harvest Church. But the challenge my wife and I had was that these people and their lives were so different than us. Each of us
was brought up in Christian homes, we had middle-class families, conservative values, and our lives were filled with PTA, high school sports,
and discussions about college educations. How different we were from those we were called upon to love and care for!
Jerry came to Harvest Church early on. He came from a rough background of drugs, prison, violence, and crime. But Jerry was wonderfully
saved in our church and immediately began to evangelize. One by one he brought his friends and acquaintances and their families into the
church. We were delighted to have them. Then I understood that Jerry was the primary reason for a large number of families and people in our
church. But these were not the suburbanites who thought of 401(K)’s and perused the stock page in the daily newspaper, these were those
whose lives were diluted and contaminated by the powerful effects of sin and generational curses. And, here we were all lumped together in this
small church family, and I was struggling with how to cover all the ministry bases from such a diverse congregation. Actually, these economically
challenged folks needed someone to shepherd them who really understood them, not just someone like me whose heart went out to them in
compassion yet who could not identify with them and thus effectively serve them. Can you see the necessity for the effective ministry factor?
The effective ministry factor relies upon a simple truth, and that truth is that a pastor is best suited to minister to folks who are for the most part
like him. This does not exclude the fact that God can and does call men to go beyond their own environment and minister to everyone
regardless of any factor that may exist. This notwithstanding, it just makes good sense to discover yourself, and then you will probably have
discovered who it is that God will set in front of you to love and serve. You will know how they think, what their challenges are, and how to help
them foster good relationships. Your learning curve will be far less than mine was when cast into a foreign environment and faced with issues I
had never even heard of. The bottom line is this: let’s maximize our ministry productivity (fruitfulness) by operating at the optimum level and that
is in our own Jerusalem.
THE ROLE OF THE LOCAL CHURCH IN THE COMMUNITY
Soon, pastor, you will be called upon to fill a role that perhaps you did not know came with the territory of pastoring a local church. It is the role
of city elder. The local churches in your community comprise the spiritual presence of the Church there. They are like the wall that surrounded
an ancient city; it was important for defense against the enemies that might want to attack the city. God has the churches in your area linked
spiritually in the heavens. When joined together they make up the spiritual defense line against the forces of darkness that are assigned to your
community. Since God has installed you as the leader of one of those sections of the wall, so to speak, then it stands that you play a citywide role
as a general in the army of the Lord in the defense of your city.
It is important that you understand this role of city elder and that you operate within it. At first it may seem like it somehow conflicts with your
calling to pastor your church, but it does not. It is part of your pastoral calling. Indeed you will need to budget your time to accommodate this
added responsibility. Look at it like this, that when you make your city a better place in which to live, you are actually making your job as a pastor
easier. As sin is cast down over your city, its effects will be less and less in the lives of those Jesus has given you to shepherd. That is good
Do not be surprised that some (if not most) of your pastoral counterparts do not see the need to function as city elders. I find that a large
percentage of pastors and church leaders fail to grasp the one church idea from the Bible. They may give lip service to being a part of the
universal Body of Christ, but by their inactions in the city church they undermine this truth and actually work against the unity of the Church and
the power there from. Do not be moved what other pastors say or do in this regard. Do what is right. Network with other pastors, pray with them,
build relationships with them, and then good things will start to happen in your city. God will birth new citywide campaigns that will reach the
masses and the spiritual complexion of your city can be radically transformed to the glory of Jesus Christ! It is however very difficult for such
powerful large-scale moves of God to happen when the city church is segmented and weak. Do all you can to promote goodwill between
churches (regardless of denomination or doctrinal beliefs) for this pleases the Lord and His pleasure with you will serve your church well.
You may be a young man. That’s OK. Do not allow this to hinder you from taking action based upon your calling from God to be a city elder. Paul
admonished young Timothy not to be hindered by his youth. I encourage you in the same way if this applies to you. Be strong and confident in
the calling to which you are called. The office of Pastor is a powerful thing and one to be honored. You can walk humbly before the Lord without
being hesitant or wimpy before men. You are strong. You are anointed. Trust that anointing that came upon you at your ordination. You received
far more than a piece of paper that somehow qualifies you to be a reverend; God placed His powerful anointing upon by the Holy Spirit when
hands were laid upon you and His might and power was transferred into you for just a task as this. This is why you can walk in confidence even in
the presence of men older and wiser than you who are also pastors. It may even be that the young shall lead them!
Money is going to be something that is woven into almost every facet of your ministry. Like it or not, money is one of those constant
considerations that you the pastor will deal with daily. The better you are at money management and the more you are grounded in the Word of
God concerning money the better will go your ministry. The pitfalls and challenges of finances have rendered many a church weak and
ineffective and have even brought many a pastor down. This will not happen in your church with you. God has made available to you all that you
need concerning life and godliness, and for that reason you have nothing to fear even if you do not have a degree in business or many years of
experience running a business. You have a Guide who has promised you that He will never leave you and that He will lead you into all the truth.
You are guaranteed to win – as long as you do things His way.
One sad statistic is that preachers, generally speaking, do not have the best reputations in society for being good money managers. There are a
number of reasons for this problem, but it must be said that none of those reasons is sufficient for the servants of the Lord to be anything less
than excellent in every aspect of their lives. You are called to excellence, and this includes in how you run your home as well as your church.
That is why it is important that from the very start, you should employ sound business practices in leading your church as well as maintaining
integrity without fail. Draw the line in the sand right now and choose never to compromise, never to weaken, never to allow anything or anyone
to dilute your purity in this regard.
To illustrate this, please allow me yet another example from Harvest Church. During that first year of the church’s existence, we faced financial
challenges that at the time seemed gargantuan. I left a job that was in the six-figure range to pastor this church that paid me a whopping
$5400.00 the first year. My wife who had been a stay-at-home Mom now had to work outside the home. Our little congregation, for the most part,
were people who were not prosperous; therefore, tithes and offerings were often inadequate to pay the church’s bills and to provide for its
pastor’s family. In fact, it was not unusual to pay for a parishioner’s rent or food or medical bills rather than my own. It was in this financial
environment that a rich man and his family show up. They loved Harvest Church and attended regularly. His weekly offerings changed
everything. We felt so blessed for him being in our church family.
One day the rich man came to my office to discuss “something that concerns me about the church.” In effect, he said that he wanted our
Associate Pastor to be removed, that he did not care for him and simply knew that he was not the right man for the job. In an instant I was faced
with a dilemma that I was ill prepared to face. I recognized that by the tone of his voice his words were framed as an ultimatum. I must do as he
tells me or face the horrible fact that we could lose our largest giver. What was I to do? It took about 3 or 4 seconds for me to realize that not
only was the church’s integrity at stake, my own integrity was too. As kindly as I could, I simply told him that I was confident God has installed my
Associate Pastor in the position and that the choice to remove him was not mine to make; he would stay on staff. The look I received from my
wealthy parishioner was one I will not soon forget. It spoke to me of power, the power to withhold money and thereby to alter the course of this
church. We exchanged goodbyes and he left. We did not see him or his money again. Did we feel the effect of his departure? Yes we did. But I
can say honestly that that decision was perhaps one the most important ones of my many years of ministry. God showed his pleasure with me
through His faithfulness to me and to Harvest Church. You too may face something like this at some point in time. I exhort you to make the
choice right now to do what is right – before you have to make the decision.
Each week you will receive on God’s behalf the offerings from the saints. Understand that these offerings are holy unto the Lord. These are not
mere dollars, they represent spiritual sacrifices laid at the feet of Almighty God, and they are very important to Him. This is why you as the priest
of the Most High must handle these offerings with the greatest of care. You are God’s representative in your church and just as the saints laid
their gifts at the feet of the apostles, these saints will lay theirs at yours. What you do with those offerings and how you manage them will have a
major impact on how well your church goes. You will determine the level of God’s blessings upon your church by your stewardship. A good
steward receives rewards, a poor steward….well, you know.
Remove the very appearances of evil with regards to money in your church. You do this by taking certain steps in developing good practices
and checks and balances that insure honesty. Start by having two trusted ushers handle the function of counting the monies. When they each
sign off on the count, you and your church are assured that a correct amount of income into the church is known. This simple action is the
beginning of your good stewardship. No one can reasonably question the church’s revenues because of this. You have a good foundation laid
to track each and every dollar that enters your sphere of authority.
The initial stages of a church’s life are usually accompanied by only few workers. If this is the case, these steps will be developed over a period
of time. Now that someone other than you has actually counted the money, it is good that someone else either handle the bank deposit or the
general ledger accounting. In other words, by delegating the various functions of handling money to several people there is the appearance of
integrity and sound money management. This assures a track that can be retraced if any question ever arises.
Once this track is in place, I do not recommend that you delegate any further financial authority. God called you to lead this church and He looks
to you to hear His voice as to how those holy offerings are to be used. This is one of your duties as a church pastor. It is the commands of God
that dictate what bills are paid and when. He tells you when to buy, when to build, when to invest, when to give out of the resources of the holy
coffers to help the poor. Pastor, you cannot delegate these decisions to anyone else. These are holy functions and fall under the anointing that
was laid upon you at your ordination. You are anointed by the Holy Spirit to use the holy offerings to the glory of Jesus Christ.
Set up a good accounting system. Wise money management cannot be accomplished by running the show by the proverbial seat of your pants.
There are many good, inexpensive computer programs out there that can do the job for you. You do not have to be an accountant; you just have
to follow simple instructions. Make the accounting function a regular part of your weekly schedule. Handling the money is not somehow less
spiritual than pastoral counseling, preaching and teaching, or caring for the sheep. Stay on top of it. Know the financial condition of your church
every moment. This will go far in helping you develop a reputation for your church as one with integrity and always above reproach.
There is a place for a professional accountant in your church. You are not trained in such things as tax planning and therefore need the services
of a pro. Find a Spirit-filled C.P.A. He is well worth the fees he charges. He will help keep you on the up and up, and he will also assist you as a
self-employed minister to maximize the tax benefits available to you because of your status as a minister of the gospel. He is a good sounding
board as you make financial decisions and face major acquisitions and building programs. His expertise will come in handy in the preparation of
financial statements. Also, if you have not already filed for 501(c)(3) status with the Internal Revenue, he can assist in this complex matter. A
good accountant is a good addition to your ministry staff.
Let’s address a subject that is misunderstood by far too many pastors. I do not want it to be misunderstood by you. On any given Sunday morning
it is not unusual to hear from the pulpit teachings that instruct the people of God in their giving. At the core of such teachings is the doctrine of
tithing. Pastors see in Scripture the need for the individual believer to tithe and instruct him accordingly; however, it may escape his notice that
his church should also tithe. Tithing is God’s way of building the Kingdom and for opening the windows of heaven for those who tithe and
blessing them abundantly. This goes for organizations as much as it does for individual Christians.
Luke 6:38 simply states that when giving takes place, there is a reciprocal action of receiving that takes place in the future. I know of no church
that does not want to insure that God’s blessings through future offerings happen for them. It then stands to reason that the church that gives
(tithes) is a church that will experience the truth of this wonderful promise. Throughout the years our church was faithful to tithe at least 10%,
and because of that we experienced His continual blessings. I encourage you to make the decision right now that your church will always tithe.
The church that is structured properly under an apostle (the one who birthed the church or the one to whom the pastor submits) needs to tithe
to that apostle. That is how Jesus intends for the apostle to receive his living. This should be done with joy since God loves a cheerful giver.
One further thought about the tithe. Even under the Old Covenant we see that God instructed the priests to tithe to God by giving to the High
Priest, and he was even commanded to tithe to God. The truth is: those who receive tithe also give tithe. Pastor, do not fall into the trap of
thinking you are tithing when you tithe into your own church. You should plant where you will not reap. This again points to the apostle over you.
Pastor, the apostle over you receives your tithe. Remember: the tithe always retraces the line of authority. God is well pleased as you operate in
obedience to His prescribed system, and for that you will be blessed.
Money is the fuel for the gospel. See it as a tool to be used for the Kingdom, not as a treasure to be gained by you. Be about the Father’s
business and I promise He will be about yours. Never fall to the error of thinking that it is your responsibility to make a living. It is not. God
provides. Scripture is clear when it says that the one who ministers should receive his living from the gospel. The Apostle Paul chose to make
tents, it was not God’s best for him but it was his choice. Perhaps in that initial year(s) working a job outside the church is OK. But as time goes
on, you can make tents to supplement your family’s living, or you can operate in faith and do it God’s way. The choice is yours. I believe each way
will produce its own level of blessing.
Especially in the first years of a new church, the pastor and his family are linked so strongly to the church that it is difficult to know where one
ends and the other begins. There is, however, something that can create a financial problem for the pastor. As an illustration I will tell you about
a pastor of a small / new church who was experiencing some pretty severe challenges to his integrity by some of his parishioners. It was
reported that they saw him take cash from the bank bag after a Sunday morning worship service so he and his wife would go out to eat at a
If indeed he did this, he is wrong. I recommend that not even a nickel be removed from the bank bag before it is deposited. This is sound
business and wisdom, to say the least. The pastor may have accounted for those dollars the next day by a petty cash receipt. If so, as far as the
accounting system goes, all was well. However, this does nothing for the breakdown in trust that happens because his sheep saw him do
something they perceived as dishonest. It goes without saying that it is very hard to rebuild trust once it is damaged.
Pastor, do everything you do as if everyone is watching you. Be above reproach at all times. Take extra measures if needed to insure that what
you do is not misconstrued and your ministry diminished.
THE KINDRED SPIRIT FACTOR
Leading the local church is far more than just the work of a pastor. It is a team effort. That is the way God designed the church to operate. The
principle of multiple eldership is sound and good, and it can accomplish so much more with much less effort than the traditional single pastor
Elders are those whom God has called as full-time ministers who stand in the five ministry offices listed in Ephesians 4:11. Each ministry office is
very important to your church because each office carries a unique and powerful anointing by the Holy Spirit that only that office has. Think of it
like this. Your hand has five fingers and each finger has its own importance to your ability to use that hand. People with only four or three or no
fingers can function to a limited degree, it is true, but to have all five makes things go so much better. So it is with the Eldership of a local
church. When all five flavors are present, the taste is great!
This is not the place to fully develop the concept of the doctrine of the fivefold ministry, but suffice it to say, not every church must have all five
offices actually on staff. It may be that some ministry offices are attached to the church; they are brought in from time to time to impart their
particular anointing. When the local church is so structured, God is pleased and when God is pleased, things go well.
The Pastor is the head of the local church. He has been installed as the pastor through His Apostle who actually birthed the church, just as
Apollos was when Paul needed to move on from Corinth. There was an important ingredient in the relationship between Paul and Apollos that
you need between you and those with whom you serve. That ingredient is the kindred spirit. The kindred spirit is that hard-to-describe, invisible
connection between two people that draws them together in a mysterious way. It is what was that magic ingredient between David and Jonathon
that made them covenant brothers.
The kindred spirit is not something you will be able to fully understand, it will simply be there with some and it won’t be there with others. It has
nothing to do with who is more anointed, more gifted, better equipped, or better looking. It will just be there. I am confident it is a God thing. He
ordains for certain relationships to exist so He can further the Kingdom through them. Look for the kindred spirit as you select your fellow
Elders. This will go far in your ability to fulfill the plan God has for your church.
I look back over the years of pastoral ministry and I see where my seasons of greatest fruitfulness came. They always came when the right
people were in place to help lead the church - those Elders God raised up with whom I had that wonderful thing called the kindred spirit. That
caused me to feel stronger and more capable to carry out the vision of God for my church because I knew each was gifted in ways I was not.
They had strengths that were missing in me. I needed them. Our church needed them. And it all worked because we had the kindred spirit that
joined us and enabled us to function as one. That is God’s way.
You will know that one with whom there is the kindred spirit. You will not have to ask someone else for counsel in the matter. You will just know.
There will be ease in the way the two of you work together. You will seem to always be on the same page. You will even begin to think alike as
the vision of God that drives you both moves you in the same direction at the same pace. A special love will develop between you. This will not
be just a “work thing,” you will have a friend that sticks closer than a brother. What a wonderful thing it is!
If those special co-laborers are not already in place for you, ask God for them. It is His will for you to have them, and your faith-filled petition will
speed up the process of getting them.
Before we leave this subject of the kindred spirit, I feel the necessity to say that this same thing will be there between you as pastor and those
laymen whom God raises up to lead the various ministries within your church. Look for the kindred spirit as one of the most important qualities
needed in your workers. As a young, green pastor, had I known what I am teaching you, I may still have hair!
You are pastor. As pastor the leadership of the church falls squarely upon your shoulders. Yes, Jesus is the Head of the Church, but He appoints
people just like you to be His human extension through which He leads your local church. You are His leader. As noted in the previous section,
you perhaps will have several Elders onboard to help in the overall leadership of your church. They are assigned to lead the various areas of
ministry to which their particular ministry offices apply. But you stand as the single head of the Eldership of your local church in what is called
the first among equals.
The Pastor is not the most important Elder. He is not “more anointed” or “more” anything than the others. But to have more than one head of
anything is actually a monster. God called Moses to go to the mountaintop alone. David alone heard from God as king of Israel. Paul did not
consult with others as to the steps to take in spreading the gospel but he heard directly from God. This is God’s way. He calls a given man to
stand as head over a certain area of the Kingdom. The Pastor is the leader of the local church.
Over the years there have arisen strange ideas as to how churches should be organized and governed. It seems man is always trying to improve
on God’s system! Some of these ideas seem like good ideas, but the question always remains: Are they God-ideas? If they propose some kind of
joint leadership or co-pastorship, they are not from God. He simply does not create things that contradict Scriptural models intended for us to
follow. It is good to remind ourselves from time to time that God is not double-minded, and He has not changed His mind on the subject of
church leadership. He calls one man as leader and that is that.
The role as Pastor is a sacred honor and duty. It must be approached with great care and commitment to the Word of God. Since under God’s
system the “buck stops here,” the Pastor must work hard at avoiding the appearance of running the church as a dictator. The Pastor is the
decision-maker. The Pastor is the one who establishes the church’s direction and with whom God has entrusted the vision. The Pastor is the
pivot point around which the local church rotates. But the Pastor must not lord it over the saints.
Love is the key to successful pastoral leadership. When the Shepherd truly loves the sheep, they know it. They feel his love, even when what he
decides might not seem right to them or they just can’t seem to figure out why he might do such a thing. The strength of their love for him will
carry them through such times, and that is very important to you Pastor.
DON’T LOOK BACK!
On the day of my ordination I received some of the best counsel of my entire life. It came from my father-in law who had over fifty years in the
ministry under his belt, so I figure it was worth hearing. “Randy,” he said, “There will be days ahead that are going to be tough. So tough you will
consider leaving the ministry to return to the business world. Don’t do it. Stay the course. Right now, settle the issue once and forever and
declare ‘I am called by God to the ministry and I will not look back!’”
He was right. It took about two years for me to reach the point of quitting. Things got tough. Anything that could go wrong in the church seemed
to be going wrong. The church had plateau-ed and the saints seemed lethargic and contented with smallness. Offerings were marginal and my
family had needs that seemingly I was unable to provide for. The constant barrage of malcontents was beginning to take its toll on me and on my
wife as well. We were asking ourselves if it was time to throw in the towel!
We attended the Kenneth Hagin Summer Camp Meeting in Tulsa, Oklahoma in the summer of 1989. I can still hear those powerful words by Pastor
John Olsteen as he preached from the Psalm. He shouted, “You shall not die, but you shall live and declare the works of the Lord!” Those words
were for Kay and me. Maybe the other 10,000 people in attendance heard them, but God had spoken to us directly! Praise the Lord! Those words
kept us on the vision track of Harvest Church. I had forgotten the exhortation by my father-in-law. My mistake was in allowing my feelings, the
circumstances around me, and even the perceived needs in my family to speak loudly to me with a voice that was intended by the evil one to
dislodge me from my appointed goal.
Jesus addresses the notion of looking backwards, and what He has to say about it is not good. The one, He says, who looks back is not fit for the
Kingdom of heaven! This guy is not disqualified from grace, but he certainly has at least temporarily disqualified himself from Kingdom service.
This is the unfortunate situation of many ministers of the Gospel. They have only one eye on the prize; the other is on what used to be. In my
case, I remembered what it was like to have more than enough money and it even came every other week! Those meager beginnings of the
church had the Barnett’s eating out of the church food pantry and driving the church’s old brown 15-passenger van because we had no car of
our own. I spent far too much time comparing what used to be with what was, and the comparison did not come up good for us. I needed to keep
my eyes forward to what God had promised He would do rather than looking back at our past. I know that our time of lack would have been far
shorter had I done this. I exhort you to keep your eyes on the prize – the fulfillment of the vision God has given you for your church. To do
otherwise is not wise.
Hindsight, as we know, is 20/20. I look back on our first few years and I can see clearly how important those times of testing and growth were to
Kay and me. They were like those first 2 years God intended for the nation of Israel to spend in the wilderness after their release from Egyptian
bondage. The desert would teach them much. They would learn of the faithfulness of God there, and they would be established in covenant love
with their God. During those days they would discover they could depend on nothing other than Him, and that was sufficient.
So it was with us in Harvest Church. So it might be with you. That is why I exhort you not to despise your small beginnings. Trust God. He will see
you through. He is the faithful One.
The Bible tells you that the joy of the Lord is your strength. One of the first things to go is joy when you get caught in backward looking. That
profound sense of well-being God calls joy will fly the instant you cease to see Him as faithful and long instead for what used to be. The joy Kay
and I needed to stand strong was not there for us because we had chosen to take our eyes (and hearts) off of God. He did not move, we
however did. As a result, once the joy of the Lord departed, we could hardly sustain under the pressures of the ministry. Day by day we got drier
and drier. The life seemed gone and we were not having much fun any more. That is why throwing in the towel seemed like an option to us.
Strong people don’t quit; in fact they don’t even entertain the idea of quitting. We had grown weak because there was no joy. Don’t allow that to
happen to you.
Joy is a matter of choice. It does not happen because things around us go well. Joy may not be there even when the bank account is full and
everyone in town thinks your church is the greatest thing since sliced bread. Joy in you will be because you choose for it to be. Consider making
this simple declaration:
I choose right now to be joyful. The joy of the Lord is here for me and from it I am made strong. Joy is mine! By faith I receive the joy of the Lord
regardless of what is going on around me. I am not moved by circumstances, or how I feel, or what I think; I am moved only by the good Word of
God. Thank You Lord for the gift of joy!
Joy is one of those things that need constant maintenance. For me I must make the conscious choice daily to receive joy. I did not do that in
those early days and paid the consequences. Perhaps one of the most difficult things you will find is to allot time for you self- maintenance.
Please do not cut corners in this regard. You cannot afford it.
The Holy Spirit taught me to see (really see!) how beautiful God’s promises are to me. As I read the Bible each day in my personal quiet time, I am
diligent to take time to pause and rejoice every time God shows another promised blessing to me. Each time I stop to give praise and thanks to
Him for the promise I am looking at, joy in my heart goes up another measure. Before long, I sense joy is filling my innermost being and as a
result a new strength comes upon me and sustains me through yet another day of shepherding the sheep of God. Joy is choice. Choose joy.
YOU ARE CALLED
I was teaching a group of MIT’s one evening and it was clear after a few moments that the Holy Spirit wanted to drive a point home to them about
their callings. I found myself saying over and over again, “You are called by God to the ministry! Settle that issue right now!” It did not take long
before I knew why He was doing this. A young soon-to-be-pastor had collided with his own humanness that day and found himself to be less than
He told us that he had spent the last couple of hours before class trying to decide whether to attend the class or not. In fact, he was seriously
entertaining the notion he had missed it and that he was not really called to the ministry in the first place. He went on to say that after I had
declared “You are called by God to the ministry!” for about the fourth time, the power of those words sank deep into his heart, so much so that
they convinced his wondering mind that God’s hand was truly upon him and his calling was from Him.
You too must settle this issue right now. Once you are in the heat of the battle, it is not a good time to decide if you want to enlist in the army.
Once you have launched out into full-time ministry and God starts to bring His saints to you to lead, it is too late to know try to know for sure if He
has called you to this new venture.
There is the season of time when each man or woman who feels called to the ministry earnestly searches his/her soul and seeks the face of God
for certainty in this very serious matter. This is when the hard questions are asked. This is when the matter is up for discussion. Adequate time
must be given to this season of inquiry. It might be the 2nd or 3rd most important decision you will ever make. Stay on your face until you know.
Once you know, never look back and wonder. Settle this issue right then never to re-visit there again. You will know beyond any doubt by that
deep and powerful knowing that only comes through the inner witness of the Spirit of God within you. One pastor who had been in the ministry
for over 25 years jokingly declared that he quits his job (as pastor) every Monday! What he was really saying is that the pressures and challenges
of pastoring a local church never end, and that makes him challenge his own calling. The reason for this challenge comes when he begins to
believe the lie of the father of lies. He comes and simply convinces this pastor that if he were “really called, things would go right.” Remember:
your calling does not depend upon how things are going in your church. It’s a God-thing!
It is possible for someone to enter full-time ministry without a calling from God. Such a thing a clearly a product of flesh! It may have been a
“career move” or something a man does because his mother encourages him to follow his father’s profession. Vanity or some other selfish need
may have driven a man or woman to find the spotlight of a pulpit. This person should run as fast as he/she can from this grievous error! A self-
proclaimed “Reverend” must not occupy this holy station.
It may be that you find yourself in the situation in which you are functioning as an ordained minister, but now know you are wrongly placed. If that
is the case, make the right decision immediately and step down from the pulpit. Do not continue to deceive. Do not continue to displease the
Lord. Do what is right. As you do, God will bless you and true men of God will honor you for making the right choice. Your decision will not be an
embarrassment; it will be a victory!
YOU’RE NOT ONE OF THE GUYS
My wife and I had the privilege of visiting a church that was new to us. We thoroughly enjoyed the worship service and the people were very
friendly; the experience was a pleasant one indeed. Just before the service we were introduced to the pastor. Someone came up to him and
said, “Dale, we need another curriculum book in the Children’s Church.” Obviously the pastor’s name was Dale. Most folks would not think twice
about what took place. This is because they lack a basic understanding of God’s ways as they relate to those who lead and those who are led.
Dale is not just one of the boys in that church; Dale is pastor of that church. That makes him different than anyone else in the body. Allow me to
first of all clarify that I am not advocating some caste system of the “have’s” and “have not’s.” But I am advocating giving honor to where honor
is due. The apostle Paul gives us some insight into this truth in I Timothy 5:17
“Let the elders who rule well be counted worthy of double honor,
especially those who labor in the Word and doctrine.”
I ask the question: “Was Dale given double honor by the parishioner who called him by his first name?” I think not. It could be argued that this
well-meaning lady did indeed honor her pastor in her heart and respected him very much. If so, that is great. However, we humans are funny in
some ways, and one of those ways is in how familiar we are (or think we are) with others. In fact, familiarity often tends to undermine respect. To
call someone in spiritual authority over you by his first name does not at least on the surface speak of honoring that person. It is to some extent
a tool that brings that elder down to the level of the speaker. This probably is not the intent of the speaker, granted, but that is the effect it has.
The correct address by the lady would be: “Pastor, we need another curriculum book in the Children’s Church.”
Years ago after a Sunday morning worship service in our church I was greeting the saints in the foyer. Someone who was a first-time visitor
came up to me and asked this question: “What shall I call you, ‘Pastor’, ‘Reverend’, Randy, or what?” I humbly replied, “Anything is fine, I am not
hung up on titles.” A few minutes later in my office, the Holy Spirit took the opportunity to correct my thinking on this subject of honor to whom
honor is due. He notified me that it was His will that those within our church call me Pastor. This would be a constant reminder to me that they
were my responsibility to pray over and to watch over their souls, and it would be to them a reminder to pray for those in authority. It would give
honor where it is due according to Scripture.
Pastor, you are different than those you lead. As much so as the shepherd is a different critter than the sheep he watches over. There are
shepherds and there are sheep. It is God’s idea to refer to the pastor / parishioner relationship as that of a shepherd / sheep relationship. That
is not man’s invention; it is God’s. With that being said, how might that difference be played out in your local church? It is actually going to be
played out only in your mind. You must see yourself differently. That is not to say that you develop a high and mighty mentality, but it is to
recognize that you are their leader, not one of them. Your congregation must see you as accessible, touchable, and very real, not aloof seated
atop your high priestly throne. But they will not see you as their buddy. You are not someone to hang out with and shoot the breeze. That role is
for their good friends and acquaintances to fill, not you. This adjustment in thinking on your part will go far in helping you remain at the proper
distance with each one of your sheep – close, but not too close.
This is especially important as you interact with persons of the opposite sex. Far too many pastors’ ministries have fallen on the rocks of
destruction over female parishioners getting too close. Once she knows she can address you by your first name, another barrier has fallen that
keeps her at the proper distance from you. It is not likely a woman would see you as a sexual target as long as you remain “Pastor” to her. It is
when you are “just another man” that the problems start. You are not just another man, in fact, you are not a man at all to her. You are God’s
chosen one set apart as a holy thing unto Him and divinely appointed to care for her and to watch out for her spiritual well-being! You are her
spiritual covering, not accessible for any reason other than those clearly laid out according to Holy Scripture.
Familiarity with the saints in your church is a two-edged sword. You must know well the condition of your flock, which means you know each
individual sheep well. By knowing each sheep very well, you are better positioned to pray for her and to help her mature spiritually. However,
that closeness has limits. There are things that simply are not proper between the sheep and the shepherd, and the shepherd must never
assume personal liberties are available to him with God’s little ones. Pastor, combine godly wisdom with common sense and you will avoid the
snares many pastors have encountered. The wisdom to avoid the temptation is far better than the grace to endure it.
As a pastor one of the duties you will be called upon to handle is the correction of the sheep. This duty is a difficult one at best. It is never fun
nor is it easy to correct someone you love. This hard job becomes even harder when the one you must correct is your buddy. In truth, buddies
are not supposed to correct buddies because they are peers and no clear lines of authority should exist between them. But as pastor, this is not
the case. There is a clear line of authority between you and that one in need of correction. And is that spiritual authority is what enables and
empowers you to do what is necessary at the time. Can you see why familiarity works against you when you must bring correction?
Pastor, you must walk in a manner worthy of your calling. You are a shepherd that must function as a shepherd, think as a shepherd, and act as a
shepherd. The good news is you have a Guide who will show you how this is to be done day in and day out. You will encounter various bumps in
this road as you go, but He will be there for you to call upon for help. Be sure to ask for help often. You will need His help.
IT IS LONELY ON THE MOUNTAIN
Pastor, the majority of your ministry is not going to be spent in the pulpit. In fact, very little of your time is standing behind the sacred desk
preaching and teaching your congregation. Of the 50-60 hours each week of your work schedule, only 2-3 hours will be spent looking pastoral in
the corporate setting, the other will be spent alone with God. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU CAN DO!
I minister directly to many pastors. In the course of conversations with them one of the most frequent statements I hear is that they can hardly
find time to pray because of the busyness of running the church. The Day Timer runs their lives. They go from one meeting to the next
appointment to next luncheon to the next whatever. There is hardly time to go to the bathroom! I understand this problem because I too fought
this battle each and every day during those years of my pastoral ministry. Such busyness is not good and it must be changed.
The first thing that must be changed is how you see your priorities. For me I knew that I must make my personal relationship with God the highest
priority on my schedule and that meant I must allocate time to Him. It came to the point where I had to cordon myself off from all contact and make
time for Father God. I would go into the sanctuary and lock the doors behind me. My secretary was given instructions not to disturb me for
anything short of the rapture or an emergency. It wasn’t until I forced my schedule accordingly did I find time to pray and fellowship with God. So
it must be with you.
Practically there were several things I had to do. I developed my daily Things To Do list with prayer in mind. The word “prayer” was at the top of
each list. I transferred this to my schedule by lining out the time each day until 10am. That meant I did not see anyone no matter what until that
time. It was then I found success in prayer and fellowship with God. I might add too that this was the time for sermon development. Even though
many sermons and teachings came out of these special times with God, I did not go into any prayer session with that in mind; they were by-
products rather than the goal.
I will tell you up front that you will have to vie for this special time alone with the Lord. You can draw heavy black lines through those first couple
of hours on your daily appointment book and you can start off the day definitely planning on prayer and quiet time with God, but you will walk into
the doors of the church and you will collide with every imaginable challenge. Sister Jones has been taken to the hospital. Little Sally wants her
pastor to be at her piano recital this morning. Your wife is calling to remind you that the dog must be taken to the dog groomer as soon as
possible. The man you called about resurfacing the parking lot is on the phone and wants to come over right now to talk with you. And so on and
so on... Remember, Pastor, almost all things can wait another hour or two. Don’t allow the tyranny of the urgent to dictate your schedule and
certainly don’t let it rob you of those most important times alone with God on the mountaintop.
A major university did a poll of senior pastors and their findings were amazing. One of the things asked of these men of God was how much time
they personally spent in prayer each day. On the average it was less than 20 minutes! The men whom God has entrusted with His little ones,
spends only 20 minutes with Him to find out what He wants for them. God can do anything, I agree, but even though He can get a lot done in only
twenty minutes, I feel it is His will to hang out with you for more than twenty minutes each day. It is to your advantage to be alone with God, and it
is to your parishioners’ advantage as well. So just do it. Contend for those precious moments. You’ll be glad you did!
REACHING THE PEOPLE FROM THE PULPIT
Homiletics is a seminary course to learn how to preach effectively and properly. This brief chat is certainly not meant to be a substitute for a
quality homiletics course, but rather it is intended to give you an overview of what good pulpit ministry is all about.
Many years ago after a Wednesday evening Study In The Word, I was feeling pretty good about myself upon the completion of the teaching. I was
greeting the folks at the front door as they left; a precious lady pulled me aside to tell me how much she appreciated the depth of my teaching. I
felt so gratified. Then she went on to say that she hardly got anything out of the teaching because it was so deep. I was crushed. The subject was
on the Blood Covenant, which tends to be a rather deep subject. But the depth of the teaching that evening greatly increased and it was
because of the ignorance of the senior pastor. I made the mistake of teaching at the level of my knowledge rather than at the level of the saints
who were intended to feed upon it. I find this to be a problem that is common with pastors and teachers.
It is difficult to hold back when you are full of a fresh revelation from God. You are excited about it and you rejoice over the effect it has had on
you; and you want that for everyone else in your church. So, you blast forward emptying the entire can on them all at once. Whew! You feel good
about delivering the Word from God. There is a problem however. The problem is very few (if any) got anything much at all out of your 45-minute
oration. They shake your hand at the door and tell you how much they enjoyed your ministry and then leave taking little with them that will benefit
them in the cold and cruel world in which they live.
God commands you to know well the condition of your flock. In your pastoral knowing is the understanding of their level of maturity. It is kind of
like the puppy we brought home the other day. She is incapable of eating what a full-grown dog eats or functioning at the adult dog level;
therefore, we have to tone down our expectations of her and handle her according to her level of maturity. So it is with the saints in your church.
Pastor, remember that this is not about you feeling fulfilled about your pulpit ministry, in fact you will not usually feel fulfilled about your own
preaching since you are preaching at a level below where you yourself are. Your vessel is filled with the fresh revelation from God, but usually
you must overcome the temptation to try to feed all of it to the little ones all at one time. Give them a portion that is filling and intelligible. This
will be that bit they take out with them that will lift them up and keep them going through the tough times. The “take home value” is an important
measure of your pulpit ministry. If they take home something of value, a truth, a principle, a nugget, a warning that helps them and is usable, then
you will have succeeded in the pulpit that day. If not, you have failed.
While I was still in college I discovered that Benjamin Franklin set a daily goal for himself of mastering a new word each day. I was taken with that
and determined to do the same thing. I cannot say that every day since then I have mastered a new word, but I have greatly increased my
vocabulary over these many years. That expanded vocabulary has worked against me at times in my preaching. To explain the challenge I tell you
about the time when my Minister of Music approached me asking what the word “proverbial” meant. I had used it in the sermon. After I defined
the word and explained how to use it, he went on to tell me an interesting thing I had not considered before. He told me that from the point in my
sermon where I used the word he did not understand he could remember little about the sermon. His mind had been distracted and was trying to
figure out what the word proverbial meant. This 38-cent kept him from receiving all God had for him in that sermon. Do you see how using
difficult words can actually work against you? They be impressed with your vocabulary but the effectiveness of your work is hindered. Whether
the people are impressed or not, let’s give them something that works for them, something that bears much fruit in them. This will probably
mean that you have to work at using easily understood words when you know a word that is right for the sentence yet is more than likely too
difficult for the average listener.
There was a pastor and his wife who had begun to attend our church regularly since they closed the church they had pastored for a number of
years. I liked them. They were people of great faith. I liked having their strength in my church. So one day I asked him if he would receive the
Sunday morning offering for us, which also includes a brief word of instruction about tithing or giving or some pertinent biblical truth. It turned
into a full-blown sermon on seedtime and harvest! What he had to say was truth and quite biblically sound. In fact it was quite entertaining in that
he ran from side to side on the platform, jumping and screaming and laughing and praising God. This was hyper-preaching at its best! But, the
message was eclipsed by the delivery. Remember: The message is what must be delivered no matter what. Your delivery will either aid or hinder
it. This is why you must take a good hard look at your own delivery in the pulpit. I am assuming you are teaching truth, but how you are teaching
that truth will make or break your ministry.
If you are married, your wife may be the best critique you can have. Hopefully you have a relationship with her that enables her to speak honestly
into your life. Ask her about your delivery. Then don’t be offended if you discover from her comments there is some room for improvement. You
might also videotape your sermons. Then you yourself can take a look at how you appear to others. You might be surprised. Look for these
1) Your overall attitude: pleasant, stern, driven, relaxed, etc.
2) Your general posture.
3) Your hand gestures.
4) Your facial expressions.
5) The tonality and volume of your voice.
6) Your eye contact with the audience.
7) Little things that may hinder: pacing, screaming, dull or misplaced gestures, etc.
8) Your use of notes and the Bible.
9) Good grammar.
10) Your use of colorful illustrations and examples to maintain interest.