4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 4

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The following is the fourth and final part of a series dealing with “4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education.” These four areas are:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Personal Evangelism
  3. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture
  4. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance

An ongoing struggle for many church leaders is the struggle to maintain an appropriate balance between ministry tasks and obligations, and personal or family life. Three particular groups of church leaders often face this as THE paramount struggle in their ministry settings.

  1. Bi-vocational pastors must balance the demands and tasks of ministry with the demands and tasks of livelihood and working a ‘real’ job.
  2. Pastors with younger children must balance the demands and tasks of ministry with the demands and tasks of child rearing, especially in two-income households.
  3. High capacity volunteers who serve ably as teachers, task force leaders, ministry organizers, board members and in dozens of other necessary roles in the church also struggle to maintain balance in their endeavors.

While every ministry leader must wrestle with and solve this problem of balance, a few leading questions may point toward meaningful solutions.

1.  How much time is actually being used? A simple time log can assist the church leader to analyze how much time is being spent on what particular task. A time log should be maintained for 2-3 weeks to provide a broad enough overview for analysis. The time log should identify time usage by using easily understood labels and descriptions.

Analysis of time used should also lead to an evaluation of “How much time should be used for…?”

2.  Are time wasters built into your day? The ready availability of internet connections allows many well intended workers to drift into meaningless searches or time-consuming online chatter. E-mail alerts, text messages and social media posts have replaced the persistent ringing of the phone as one of the most intrusive time wasters.

Simple organization can easily reduce the time wasters that so easily interrupt the day. For example, by setting a time for returning phone calls or responding to e-mail I no longer have to be interrupted if I am in the middle of an important, tedious or get-this-done-the-deadline-is-approaching task. Returning calls and e-mails just before lunch and just before going home in the afternoon can give you a couple of significant time blocks for productive work.

3.  Do you have a plan for how your day will unfold? Writing down a to do list or a schedule of activity for the day/week/month can go a long way toward getting done what needs to get done and then moving on the next task or even going home on time. An intentional plan to say “Yes” to certain tasks means that I must say “No” to other tasks. Appropriate “Yes” and “No” is the key to work/life balance.

Everything cannot be done in a day but many pastors would do well to add a few more tasks to their days rather than to always be on call and thus to only have a schedule of time use that is controlled by others and by circumstances rather than by advance planning.

Maintaining regular and adequate office hours is an important feature for the vocational pastor. This means showing up on time but it also means going home on time. Advice given to a young pastor who lived next door to the church in a parsonage is still sound:

“Leave your house on time to drop the kids off at school. Circle back to the church and park outside the building so everyone will know you are in the office today. At the close of the day drive back home and park inside the garage. Close the garage door. You’re home now; act like it.”

When it comes to maintaining balance here are some strategic questions to explore.

  1. Do I have a regular day off? Do I use it as it should be used? Regular office hours are important because they not only define the time I spend at work they also define the time I do not spend at work.
  2. How do the hours I spend in ministry compare with the hours other professionals spend in their vocations? Many pastors would do well to compare schedules with a successful real estate agent or the managing partner in an accounting firm or a building principal in the local school system.
  3. Is my current busyness due to a season of ministry or is it chronic workaholism that is destructive? A friend who was setting up his medical practice intentionally scheduled his clinic to be open one evening each week and every Saturday morning. This schedule, however, lasted only for a year or so until he had gathered enough patients to fill his regular appointment schedule. Now, several years later, his office is closed two afternoons a week and he shares his on-call weekend responsibilities with others. There are seasons of ministry in the local church that are much busier than other seasons. The special programs of summer, the holiday frenzy of November-December and the period around Easter are sure to be busier-than-usual times that come but then go.
  1. Is my current schedule working for me, my family and my church? When it comes right down to it this answer really defines work/life balance.

4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 3

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The following is part three in a four part series dealing with “4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education.” These four areas are:

  1. Communication Skills
  2. Personal Evangelism
  3. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture
  4. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance

5 Suggestions for Making Christian Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture

A recently baptized believer visited the local bookstore. This large retail outlet boasted two floors of floor-to-ceiling shelves of books. Because it was part of a national chain the sales premise was “IF we don’t have it, we’ll get it!” The eager shopper flagged down a clerk for assistance, but the experienced clerk could not locate the requested title. In frustration the new believer explained later to a new friend at church, “I know the pastor asked us to read the book he referenced but the bookstore doesn’t have a copy of a book called Daniel.”

A guest at a rapidly growing church plant reported the experience was pleasant, the music was great and the sermon provided life application. He noted one puzzling feature. “They can’t tell time correctly. The pastor kept referencing different men but each of them seemed to have a different time that I had.”

“What do you mean?” his friend gently probed. “Well, the second time it happened I looked at my phone. It was 11:10 but the pastor said according to John that it was 3:16!”

The stories are real and they illustrate a telling point. The Christian Church is on the periphery of the larger culture and as a result the larger culture no longer teaches the basics of the Christian faith or of worship behavior.

This places the American Church back into a similar culture as that of the 1st century when the church was in its infancy. This is the Book of Acts but not the culture and environment of Acts 2. On that occasion of Pentecost a simple presentation of the gospel resulted in thousands of conversions and baptisms. In Acts 17 a similar presentation of the gospel to an environment and culture informed by a different world view resulted in only a few conversions.

A similar contrast of world views and culture can be illustrated in the book of Acts.

Acts 2                                                                    Acts 17

One God                                                             Many gods some as yet Undiscovered

Messiah is coming                                           Messiah?

A personal God who creates                          the mythic gods portrayed

and is in charge                                                in statuary

thousands believe and are baptized            a few men believed

How can we make Christian disciples in a non-Christian culture?

  1. Communicate clearly with language that can be understood by people in the culture. We all have to work on this-even the Apostle Paul made the mistake of speaking of Resurrection in terms that caused some of the Athenians to suppose he was talking about a newly discovered goddess.
  2. Let the Bible speak for itself. I believe we need to avoid many of the non-biblical systematic labels that are often used in our theological discussions. The same could be said for the artificial chapter and topic headings found in our English Bibles. Many times these headings disguise the context rather than present the context of a passage.
  3. Use elective studies that teach the essentials of a Christian world view and biblical backgrounds as well as Christian attitudes and responses to current events. Populate these classes with seekers, new believers and senior saints.
  4. Incorporate important how-to instructions as part of new member classes. For example Class 201 in the suggested discipleship classes for new members addresses such topics as:

The Habit of a Daily Time with God

The Habit of Reading God’s Word

The Habit of Prayer: Talking with God

The Habit of Tithing: Giving Back to God

The Habit of Fellowship: Enjoying God’s Family

How to Start and Maintain Good Habits

  1. Model Christian discipleship in both small group and one-on-one relationships. Discipleship is often caught rather than taught. When people around us see that we have been with Jesus some of them will want to join us on the journey.

5 Wrongs and 1 Right

By Franklin Dumond

Suppose a convoy of large, over-sized, over-weight transports arrived at a bridge with specifically posted and well known weight limits that made it dangerous to cross. Suppose the drivers of the transport vehicles conferred on the implications of the weight limits by investigating the history of the load limits, the placement of the weight limit sign, along with the stated intention of the drivers to deliver their over-sized, over-weight cargo.

bridge for blogSuppose the nine drivers take a formal poll to determine the course of action with the result that five of them announce their belief that the designers of the bridge never intended to restrict access, the use of the bridge should not be restricted based on the precedent of history and everyone should be able to move whatever cargo they choose to deliver across the bridge. Despite the fact that four of the drivers object, five of them determine to press ahead to deliver their over-sized, over-weight cargo despite the clearly posted, scientifically sound weight limits on the bridge.

The analogy is remarkably like the recent decision of the Supreme Court regarding marriage laws in the United States. Their decision that marriage is not to be understood only in traditional terms of union between one man and one woman now applies throughout the land despite the logic of history and the message of a Judeo-Christian worldview.

Several concerns have been raised by leaders and lay members in evangelical churches as they consider the implications of such a decision. In the current legal framework here are some facts that need to be considered.

  1. Can Baptist pastors be compelled to officiate same-sex marriages? NO! Baptist pastors are not agents of the state and thus they cannot be compelled to act for the state. Government officials may be compelled to act for the state as part of their statutory responsibility. Pastors have always been able to determine the conditions under which they will officiate a ceremony. Many pastors require a particular series of pre-marital counseling sessions, others refuse to officiate at second marriages if divorce has been involved while still others choose only to serve the members of their congregations. None of this is changed by the Supreme Court ruling.
  2. Can churches be compelled to allow the use of their facilities for same-sex marriage ceremonies? NO! A building use policy that is crafted to tie a General Baptist Church to the Social Principles adopted as policy statements by the General Association of General Baptists will prevent any claim of discrimination or any misunderstanding of the church’s biblical view of marriage. (For more information see the General Baptist Messenger, Winter 2013, pages 34-35 at www.GBMessenger.org)

A church that engages in the rental business, however, may be subject to the restrictions imposed by public accommodation laws. That is if a church’s building use policy offers rental of the facility for stated fees and other terms that make it appear that the church provides a public access service to the community then the church may find itself without important protections.

Similarly a harsh, restrictive facility use policy that defines what the church is against rather than what it is for muddies the water. For example, a building use policy that states “These facilities shall never be used for same sex ceremonies” is very different from a building use policy that states “These facilities shall never be used in a manner inconsistent with the biblical view of marriage stated in the Social Principles of General Baptists.” The General Baptist Social Principles Booklet is downloadable from www.GeneralBaptist.com by going to the Council of Associations page and scrolling down to the We Believe documents.

I noticed with sadness the release of the Supreme Court opinion. The day it was released the sun went down, but the day after the sun came up again.

The world has not come to an end because five people made a collective mistake. The court has made mistakes in the past, most notably the Dred Scott decision in 1857. The court will most likely make mistakes in the future-all humans do.

The larger implications of the recent ruling are that the church must be more effective in evangelism and more efficient in discipleship. Real change in a culture does not come from laws and court opinions but it comes when hearts of stone are replaced with new hearts of flesh that are in tune with and guided by the Lord himself.

Despite recent Supreme Court rulings General Baptist Ministries continues to affirm a view of marriage and sexuality as defined by the Scripture and as summarized in the Social Principles of General Baptists:

“We believe in the divine sanctity of the marriage covenant, which is the union between one man and one woman only. This is God’s plan for a continued moral civilization. We reject ‘marriage’ between two parties of the same sex and count such an act in violation of God’s ordained plan for human beings…Marriage is a partnership between husband and wife and accomplishes its full purpose through unity, loyalty, and love.” (page 10)

“We recognize that sexuality is a good gift of God which, in all instances, is to be disciplined in such a manner as to bring two persons to its true fulfillment. We are to be good stewards of this divine gift. We believe that society as a whole has fallen far below God’s standards of sexual morality. We believe the Bible teaches that sexual relations should be practiced only within the marriage bond.” (page 15)

Executive Director Clint Cook has stated, “Neither courts nor legislatures or a secular culture can alter eternal standards revealed by God himself. The recent Supreme Court rulings illustrate the mandate given to the Church to make disciples one at a time so that society at large may be changed. General Baptist Ministries will continue to pursue an aggressive plan for church planting to win more and more people to the faith. We will continue to coach and encourage local General Baptist churches to aggressively pursue evangelism and missions with the goal of life transformation that will in turn lead to social transformation. May God send us another Great Awakening to rescue our lost and dying culture.”

4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 2

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The world of the church and the world at large continues to change at an ever increasing rate. The 21st century provides greater challenges than ever to the church leader who would remain relevant and current. Four areas where church leaders need continuing education to meet these challenges.

  1. Communication Skills. Click here to read about why continuing to better communication skills is necessary for church leaders.
  2. Personal Evangelism. Too many churches report zero conversions in a year because too few church leaders engage in personal evangelism.

a) The Public Arena of Personal Evangelism.

Our changed and changing culture has made many of the traditional approaches to evangelism obsolete or less effective than they once were. Unfortunately many aspects of evangelism were public, general appeals. Their success was proportional to the advance work that had been done to prepare people to hear, understand and respond to the gospel.

The advance preparation, for the most part, came from a culture with a Judeo-Christian morality and a worldview that included acknowledgment of a benevolent creator. The advance preparation also included a cultural respect for the church and a general awareness that local churches were open to all who would choose to attend.

The practical reality also existed that the church provided the ‘best show in town’ with music and message that simply was not available except by attending in person.

This public appeal for a decision was an innovation of the 19th century that was widely accepted by the 1850s. In the aftermath of the great Camp Meetings the practice of local evangelistic meetings also spread with the geographic and religious frontier of the day.

Throughout much of the 20th century this public practice of evangelism continued with predictable success. The cultural reinforcements for the Christian gospel were in place but in the later years of the 20th century this began to change.

In my experience by 1990 spontaneous response to a general public appeal to become a Christian all but disappeared. The Sawdust Trail of the Camp Meeting and the great crusades was no longer a built-in part of the cultural or social expectations communicated to people.

The public efforts to win people to Christ, then, became less effective not because the gospel was ineffective but because of the lack of preparation provided by an increasingly secular culture.

The simple fact that evangelism requires background information to prepare people to make a decision for Christ has been known since the 1st century. It shows in the declaration by the Apostle Paul to describe the Corinthian process of evangelism: I planted, Apollos watered, God gave the increase.

The simple fact that public evangelistic efforts are more successful when people share a world view that is sympathetic to the gospel is illustrated in the contrast between Acts 2 and the thousands who were baptized on Pentecost and Acts 17 and the few who believed when the same message was presented. In Acts 2 the people were prepared. In Acts 17 the background information simply did not exist and without prior knowledge they could not come to a decision.

Does a shifting culture exclude a public appeal to become a Christian? Not at all!

The cultural deficiencies of a secular, hostile culture requires some added features to this public proclamation that were not necessary a generation ago. Four elements come to mind.

  1. I believe simple explanations of the gospel should be part of every pastor’s preaching calendar. Thus a few times each year (perhaps 3-4) the morning message is a simple recounting of the gospel.
  2. Public invitations must avoid the #1 fear of being pointed out in public. There is nothing about walking to the front of an auditorium that will in and of itself save anyone. Effective use of a communication card or spiritual survey can gain the attention of hearers who otherwise would never respond publically.

iii. A sample prayer is needed. Again because of the cultural deficiencies of our secular mindset we need to assist people in making those connections to God. On the gospel presentation days it is possible to lead the entire group to repeat this prayer!

iv. Focus evangelism on 2-3 Big Days as a means of making initial public connections that will result in on-going private conversations.

b) The Private Arena of Personal Evangelism

i. Relationship is the key and must be cultivated. Jesus used his relation building skills to connect with people. We can do the same. This takes time and often requires a compassionate heart and a patient spirit.

ii. Un-churched is different from De-churched. De-churched people have experience with the gospel and its impact on a local assembly. Often they suffer their own personal disappointments that require bridges of trust must be redeveloped. Often the de-churched have their own disappointments with life that impact and complicate their disappointment with the church.

Un-churched have no clue about church music, church etiquette or church finance. Patience is required to gently teach and train. We used to call it being user friendly. Non-threatening is another expression that could be used here.

iii. Important tools in the toolbox of personal evangelism include:

–personal integrity since they will not trust the message until they trust the messenger,

–personal understanding of the issues and context involved so that a customized response rather than a one-size-fits-all answer may be provided,

–patience.

  1. A three-fold witnessing plan is essential.

Many folks are well equipped to provide an Instructional Witness where they will offer answers to questions about the faith–apologetics. Still others will be able to provide an Informational Witness as they tell their story of personal faith. Many leaders find the first steps of personal witness come from encouraging an Invitational Witness whereby believers invite their unbelieving friends and family members to attend a Big Day.

  1. Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture requires that we cannot rely on the culture at large to teach basic Christian beliefs. For example, many folks in my generation learned the Lord’s Prayer at school along with the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t happen these days so church leaders must be more intentional and more comprehensive in their disciple making enterprises.
  2. Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance now that the 24/7 on-call world of ministry has expanded to the 24/7 digitally-connected world of ministry. Many church leaders manage to appear very busy without being very productive. Pilots are reminded as they prepare for solo flight “Don’t forget to fly the plane!” In their case it is tempting to focus so much on the dials and indicators that the essential task of flying becomes secondary.

Frantic, last minute preparations are sometimes necessary because of unexpected interruptions and emergency ministry needs. More often, however, they are the result of poor time usage early in the week that requires frantic effort at the end of the week because Sunday is about to arrive!

Even in the 24/7 world of connections pastors still need some regularity of schedule to accomplish the routine ministries of worship and witness and service.

 

 

Christian Population Shrinking?

By Franklin Dumond

WASHINGTON — The United States is a significantly less Christian country than it was seven years ago.

That’s the top finding — one that will ricochet through American faith, culture and politics — in the Pew Research Center’s newest report, “America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” released Tuesday [May 12, 2015].

This trend “is big, it’s broad and it’s everywhere,” said Alan Cooperman, Pew’s director of religion research.—USA Today, Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Reported on both the local and national news media the research reports that about 70% of Americans label themselves Christian while in 2007 about 78% chose the Christian label. At the same time 23% of Americans now classify themselves as have no religious affiliation up from 16% in 2007.

Several other features of the research report that evangelicals remain more stable in their percentage of the population while Catholics have lost both market share and real numbers. The study was based on 35,000 respondents.

Noted church researcher Ed Stetzer often remarks that facts are our friends. It appears to me that this is true of the current study despite the alarmist reaction in both local and national media. There is cause for alarm but there is also a basis for optimism.

Cause for Alarm: An 8% loss is serious. This accounts for about a 1% loss of market share every year since the last survey taken in 2007. Among evangelicals, however, the loss was much smaller with a decline from 21% of the adult population to 19% of the adult population.

Basis for Optimism: One important fact not included in the news coverage of the research study is that the overall number of believers in the United States has remained relatively stable for a generation or more. What has changed is the rate of growth of the Christian movement in the United States. Growing at a slower rate than the overall population means a loss of market share but no necessarily a loss of total numbers. Thus the imminent demise of the Christian church is not likely.

Cause for Alarm: The rise of the “Nones” is significant. Nearly one-fourth of the population surveyed indicated no religious preference. Cultural trends influence this response. In the middle of the 20th century going to church was an accepted, even expected, cultural trait. The Christian church in America enjoyed preferential treatment and competing activities were simply not allowed. For example sports leagues and extra-curricular activities were never scheduled on Sunday mornings and in many communities were not allowed on Wednesday evenings.

Basis for Optimism. The loss of cultural Christians leaves a ‘lean, mean, fighting machine’ of believers who have intentionally chosen their faith. It’s been a long time since I heard the stories of church leaders who served faithfully for 20-30-40 years finally coming to a personal faith after all those years of service.

Cause for Alarm. The downward trend in market share has resulted in a loss of preferential treatment for the Christian Church and has even tended toward a hostile environment of skepticism and distrust. In some cultures the current treatment of some Christians in America would be considered persecution. Can the church in America survive in a hostile environment?

Basis for Optimism. The loss of preferential treatment for the institutional church removes many of the automatic tools designed to propagate the faith that were available to earlier generations. Relationships, however, remain the key to winning people. Thus with a larger proportion of non-believers the fields remain white for harvest if believers take seriously their relationship to non-believers.

Cause for Alarm. It is harder to reach people these days by just having a physical presence on a busy street. A church planter who became a mentor to me in my younger days always advocated three key ingredients for church growth in the 1950s: “location, location, location”. He knew that in his day folks would come to church, if they knew where the church was located. Thus visibility was the key ingredient to church growth.

Basis for Optimism. The gospel still works! Ministry remains hard work but for those pastors and church leaders who will intentionally hold forth the Good News life change will still happen. The key ingredient these days is not location of facility. Nor is it style of worship. The key ingredient these days is gaining a hearing for the gospel so that the message of who Jesus is and what He does can begin to change people’s lives.

As I look at the research I find the cause for alarm moving me to a new sense of urgency. As I reflect on the implications of the research I find a new basis for optimism not in a blind, uninformed faith but in the rock solid conviction that the Lord is still at work in our world. Part of my optimism is based on the conviction expressed in the old gospel song:

“We’ll work! ‘Til Jesus comes we’ll work.

We’ll work ‘til Jesus comes and we’ll be gathered home.”

 

4 Areas Where Church Leaders Need Continuing Education Pt 1

By Franklin Dumond

The world of the church and the world at large continue to change at an ever increasing rate.  The 21st century provides greater challenges than ever to the church leader who desires to remain relevant and current.  There are four areas where church leaders need continuing education to meet these challenges.

1.  Communication Skills These come in a variety of packages including

a. grammar and usage. Doug Lawrence put it well in a recent blog:

“Check your grammar with people in whom you have great trust, and do it often! The first time you say, ‘She and me went to the meeting,’ you will lose a significant part of your audience. There are people who still care about proper use of language. Your sloppy English skills can undo whatever positive impact you are trying to have. It’s as though you are wearing a cloak of indifference when you don’t care about how you’re coming across in language use.”

Three especially destructive grammar errors are:stack of books

  • Improper use of I and me
  • Incorrect tense usage
  • Confusion when two similar sounding words are used incorrectly (further/farther and effect/affect) or when one word is used with two meanings in the same sentence or paragraph

b. social media savvy. Learn to keep private what should be private. Let social media connect broadly but never forget the power of one-on-one communication and face-to-face meetings.

c. people skills demonstrating genuine care rather than artificial friendliness need constant refinement.

2.  Personal Evangelism Too many churches report zero conversions in a year because too few church leaders engage in personal evangelism.

3.  Making Disciples in a Non-Christian Culture In order to accomplish this, we must realize that we cannot rely on the culture at large to teach basic Christian beliefs. For example, many folks in my generation learned the Lord’s Prayer at school along with the Pledge of Allegiance. This doesn’t happen these days, so church leaders must be more intentional and comprehensive in their disciple-making enterprises.

4.  Maintaining an appropriate work/life balance This is especially difficult now that the 24/7 on-call world of ministry has expanded to the 24/7 digitally-connected world of ministry. Many church leaders manage to appear very busy without being very productive. Pilots are reminded as they prepare for solo flight “Don’t forget to fly the plane!” In their case it is tempting to focus so much on the dials and indicators that the essential task of flying becomes secondary.  Frantic, last minute preparations are sometimes necessary because of unexpected interruptions and emergency ministry needs. More often, however, they are the result of poor time usage early in the week that produces frantic effort at the end of the week because Sunday is about to arrive!  Even in the 24/7 world of connections pastors still need some regularity of schedule to accomplish the routine ministries of worship, witness, and service.

Turning Point

By Steve Gill

We are excited to share with you that God has lead us to birth a new, life-giving church in Bonita Springs, Florida called, Turning Point Church. Our purpose is simple; ‘to help people experience a life changing relationship through Jesus Christ.’ We have a heart to point people to the life change that Jesus brings to all of us. That’s part of the reason our church is called, Turning Point. A turning point is a decision in a person’s life that changes things! It changes us, our circumstances, and even people around us. We believe that what we do with Jesus changes everything in our lives!   He is the ultimate turning point! p 9-10 Gill Family

For the past 23+ years, we have been involved in various roles of ministry, serving within the local church and overseas in Latin America. During that time, God has given us the opportunity to be a part of some great churches and to have some great leaders speak into our lives. Those experiences have honed the vision that we have for our community. We know three things very distinctly.

One, we have a heart for those far from God. Our desire is to see TPC become a church that connects with people who don’t know God. Certainly we want our church to be a place for people already following Jesus, but our mission is to care deeply about reaching those who have walked away from the church and those who don’t know God at all. Wouldn’t it be amazing to be a church where people far from God can serve side by side with those who know Him, and grow in faith together?

Secondly, we have a heart for families. We believe we live in a day and age where parenting is getting harder and harder. Being a kid and teenager is equally as tough. Think of the mixed messages that our culture is communicating. Think of the pressures that our kids are facing. We want to be a church that helps parents and grandparents raise their kids with intentionality. We want to help parents seize the everyday moments to lead their kids closer to knowing Jesus. Wouldn’t it be cool to have a church that is full of families; kids, teens, parents, and grandparents together?

Lastly, we desire to help bridge the gap that often exists between cultures and extends into the church. We’ve been told over and over that division exists in our community. We’ve even seen it! So, our hope and dream is to have a church that is diverse culturally, particularly where Anglo and Latino cultures come together to experience God and serve together. Wouldn’t it be amazing to see a church that is a small picture of what heaven looks like every day?

Recently, we had the opportunity to share that vision at our first public gathering. The amazing part was that God led 24 people to that first meeting! As we started the meeting you could feel a buzz in the room and an anticipation that God was up to something new in Bonita Springs. We walked away with a fresh excitement as several families committed to be a part of our launch team in March. The history of Turning Point Church has begun!

While we love this dream of building a Christ centered church, our biggest heart and priority is for our family. On more of a personal note, Keisa and I met back in college and have recently celebrated 24 years of marriage together. We are grateful for the experiences in our lives that have strengthened our marriage and ministry. God has also blessed the both of us with four amazing kids (Aaron-14, Ellie-11, Christian-11 and Karinna-8). We, like most parents, are actively involved in our kids lives through school and sports. That keeps us pretty engaged and moving most days at the Gill home! For fun, our clan likes to watch movies, play sports, and make some tasty desserts! We honestly just love spending time together.

We are looking forward to our new life in Bonita Springs, pouring into the lives of our kids and helping grow a church that honors God. Thank you in advance for your prayers and your generosity in helping Turning Point Church launch with strength!


Steve and Keisa Gill, along with their four children, are brand new to our General Baptist family. They will be launching Turning Point Church in Bonita Springs, Florida in the fall of this year as the very first Go Project plant. To follow their progress, visit www.tpclive.org or like Turning Point Church on Facebook.

Nickels, Noses, Numbers

By Dr. Franklin Dumond

The role of numbers and counting in the life of a church leader, though often criticized, remains important. The effective leader has a penchant for numbers, since most of those numbers represent people or indicate a measure of their discipleship.

Are numbers necessary?

A quick look at the Bible illustrates the historical importance of numbers. There is even an Old Testament book called Numbers! The New Testament records the numbers of people who had lunch with Jesus—4,000 on one occasion; 5,000 on another—and even how they sat in groups of 50 (Luke 10:14).

Necessary Numbers

A few numbers rank with such importance that every church leader should be abreast of them. Ranked by importance these would include:

  1. Average weekly worship attendancegraph
  2. Average weekly Small Group/Sunday School attendance
  3. Number of First Time Guests
  4. Conversions: Last year and year-to-date
  5. Baptisms: Last year and year-to-date
  6. Members Received: Last year and year-to-date
  7. Average Weekly Income: Last year and year-to-date

Most of these numbers should be maintained in a multi-year graph so trend lines can be easily identified.

Behind the Scenes Numbers

Some of the most important numbers only rarely make a ‘public’ appearance. That is, they are generally not communicated openly, despite their importance. The leader of a growing congregation will undoubtedly be aware of:

  1. The size of the crowd

“If everyone had been here…” is a statement often made to console us on low attendance days or to celebrate a full house that would have been beyond capacity if everyone had been present.

The crowd is composed of those folks who attend at least once in a while. One convenient measure of the crowd is to identify those folks who attend at least once every 6-8 weeks.

Why is it so important to know the size of and the identity of the crowd? The size of the crowd indicates the potential the church has to grow and impact people. The identity of those who make up the crowd indicates who it is that we are most likely to win to faith in Christ and faithfulness to His church.

  1. Total weekly participation

In the Family Based Church, everyone attends everything. These churches function like an extended family, and are generally smaller in size. It is not uncommon for activities to be cancelled if several cannot attend.

A Program Based Church will have a more developed and diverse program where no one attends everything but everyone attends something. For example, it is not uncommon for a Program Based Church to offer small groups for adults, youth groups for teens, and children’s ministries at times other than Sunday morning. Often folks who cannot attend on Sunday morning will nevertheless participate in one or more of the weekday or weeknight ministries of the church.

Total weekly participation, then, is a measure of who attended at least one ministry activity in a given week. It is determined by a cross reference of attendance reports so that everyone who attends at least once in the week is counted.

  1. Percentage of the congregation present for five years or less

“I’m on my third congregation!” reported the pastor of a middle sized church. Having been pastor there for nearly 20 years he had discovered first hand that church folks are mobile. They move away. They drop out. Others drop in. Every year there are funerals!

Other measures of tenure could be used. A very important one is the percentage of folks who have become part of the congregation since the current pastor arrived.

Each of these measures the likelihood of leading change and maintaining relevance. Change is most likely when enough newer folks with newer ideas come into leadership roles. The pastor is most likely to lead change when a large percentage of the congregation has come into the church since he began his ministry.

Numbers will not track themselves. Use of some church management software or the development of a spreadsheet will make the task easier. In the church of 200 or fewer a good notebook and clipboard will cover most of the bases. Volunteer office helpers can do much of the record keeping. Whatever system is used, however, must ring true to the old adage “We count people because people count!”

Age Appropriate Evangelism Part 2

By Franklin Dumond

This is the second and final installment of an article on approaching Children’s Ministry by Dr. Franklin Dumond. Read the first half HERE.

While even very young children can be placed in an environment that accelerates their learning, we now recognize that there can be significant drawbacks to Forced Teaching. A child can repeat from rote memory what has been presented without actually learning the concepts they were taught, making it appear that real learning has taken place.

Given this pattern of human development, it appears that the Lord has created us with the capability to respond most readily to the gospel somewhere about 8-10 years of age.

preschoolers in classroomFourth, successful evangelism of children will result from an alignment of process. When the same concepts are expressed in the pre-evangelism of young children and in the evangelism of children, teens, and adults, evangelistic work will be more successful. When similar visuals and words are used throughout the process, evangelistic activity will be more productive.

A visual demonstration of our lostness and the need for a Savior can be presented by a simple game that portrays the Bridge Illustration frequently used while sharing the gospel.

Use a few children from the group to play the roles. If the group is small or if this is a pre-evangelism activity for younger children, use everyone. Indicate a starting point for the children and stand near an ending point, 5-10 feet away. Help them imagine that they are on one side and God is on the other side.

Ask them to jump across the distance so they can reach God. Since they only get one jump some will make more progress than others, but none of them will make it all the way. Some of the boys will believe that if they can have a running start or if they can try one or two more times, they can surely make it. Let them try.

Help them imagine a cross that bridges the gap. For younger children, having an actual cross on the floor will be helpful. Ask them if they can walk across the bridge to God.

For older children, explain how we respond to the gospel and invite them to do so. Using a simple gospel handout can help those who read to see the related Bible verses and have something they can take home and reflect on. Build the entire presentation around the key verse of I Timothy 2:5:

For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,

Explain that God is on one side and all people are on the other side, and Christ Jesus, himself man, is between them to bring them together by giving his life for all mankind.

Basic Principles of Evangelism for Children:

1. FREQUENCY—It can be very helpful to view the church as having a three semester year in its programming. This means that repeated emphases can be scheduled for late fall, early spring, and summer since attendance patterns and programming often follows these patterns.

2. CONTEXT—Evangelism for children should occur within the context of existing children’s ministries so that it is a natural expression of what the church is and does. Specialized settings should be avoided so that the decisions being made are genuine and not the result of peer or environmental pressure.

3. AGE STRUCTURED—Evangelism for children should be targeted to those children who can appropriately respond. While pre-evangelism can be done in groups with a variety of ages, the opportunity to respond should not be extended to younger children. A separate meeting area may be needed so each group can be treated in an age appropriate manner.

Evangelism Night:

1. Advance prep/counselor certification ensures that those who assist are all on the same page.

2. Seating arrangements: for both control and response it is better if children are not crowded together. This allows them to focus on the material and to respond for themselves rather than to respond to the peer pressure imposed because others around them are responding.

3. Age structure means there will be different lesson plans for younger children who are in the pre-evangelism mode.

4. Preliminary worship is always helpful to set the stage.

5. The gospel presentation should be simple, clear, concise.

6. Plan for a response time, and discuss with all adult volunteers how they should respond to the children.

7. Use one-on-one follow up counseling as much as possible with open ended questions to confirm what the children have heard and how they are responding. This breaks the evening into a two part process of a presentation and a follow-up.

 

Navigating God’s Will

By Carl Nichols

Several weeks ago my wife received a phone call from a friend regarding a potential opportunity for our family. I will spare the details, but essentially it involves a widespread platform in which our family values will be on Carl Nichols discusses the new church planting initiative at the 2014 Summit.display. Because of the somewhat controversial nature of the topic, Julie and I had to really evaluate if it was right for our family or not. When opportunities present themselves in our lives, we always try to follow a simple process that helps us determine if this is right for us.  We ask a series of questions that help us navigate the process. I though I would take some time to share this approach with you.

Does this in any way conflict with our biblical worldview?

Ultimately, like many who will read this blog, our worldview centers around the scriptures. Many things are black and white in the scriptures and many are gray areas that are left to us to make the wisest decision. If the evidence points to this opportunity conflicting with the teachings of the scriptures, then clearly we let it lie. If in fact it is unclear, we ask ourselves this question, “In light of our past experiences and future hopes and dreams, is this the wisest thing for us to do?”

Does this put our family or our relationship at risk? If so, are the risks calculated and worth it?

We do not ask this question so we can run from risk, but rather help us understand the risk involved. If in fact our family values have to be compromised, then again we will not engage. More often than not there is some risk involved in every great opportunity. We must know what the risks are, and plan and protect our family accordingly.

Will others benefit from us doing this?

This is such a counter cultural question. When most would ask, “Will I benefit?” we try to heed the words of Paul in Philippians 2:3 by asking how this can be used to benefit others. This is not my nature-I want to be the point. I want to benefit. However, it cannot be about me or us or it will likely fail. There are, of course, business opportunities that we have been a part of that did not help anyone but ourselves. However, there are also things that we have done with no benefit to us, but exponential benefits for others. It’s a delicate balance.

Is this the right time?

Regarding this particular opportunity, we decided to pursue it. However, the same day of the final meeting, I sustained a serious injury that could effect the situation. I don’t know how it will turn out, but I am open to the fact that now may or may not be the right time. If the injury causes the other party to pull back, then that brings some clarity. If, however, we both chose to move forward, then this injury may be even more a part of the platform.

What are the consequences of not doing this?

Whose lives will be effected negatively? What gospel opportunity will be missed? What will my kids miss out on? These are just a few questions we carefully consider.

Will we regret letting the opportunity pass?

I will just sum this up with this statement: I would rather get to the end of my life and regret trying some things and failing, than not trying those things and regret the missed opportunity. I believe at the end of our lives we will regret the “sins of omission” much more that the “sins of commission.” That’s just a personal belief, but I challenge you to ponder it.