5 Warning Signs Your Church Is In Trouble

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1.If folks in your congregation get more excited in a business meeting than they do in the worship service, YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE.

 

2. If the church budget increasingly focuses on priorites INSIDE the church instead of OUTSIDE, YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE.

 

3. If you can distinctly remember the last church squabble more clearly than the last soul who walked the aisle, YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE.

 

4. If money has become more important than ministry, YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE.

 

5. If your congregation’s affection for the past is greater than their excitement for the future, YOUR CHURCH IS IN TROUBLE.

It doesn’t matter!

It doesn't matter

 

If we are going to get serious about the business of church revitalization, I believe many in our churches are going to have stop believing a big lie that the devil has convinced them is truth:

The lie that “it doesn’t matter”.

Here are some forms that I have seen this lie take in our churches:

 

~ It doesn’t matter if our church’s exterior has a run down and dilapidated appearance, as long as something good is going on inside – after all, that’s what really counts.

~ It doesn’t matter if we don’t start our services on time, we’re just a little disorganized and naturally run things a little late and all of our regular church folks just accept that.

~ It doesn’t matter if we go into our church services with no earthly idea what’s going to happen, we’ll just let the Spirit lead and see where things go from there.

~ It doesn’t matter if the Sunday School teacher doesn’t show up from time to time or is ill-prepared to teach when they do get here. There’s usually only one or two kids in the class anyway. Good help is hard to find, and we’re just thankful someone is willing to do it at all!

~ It doesn’t matter if we have greeters at the door to shake folks hands and welcome them before service – we never have any visitors anyway, and we’re happy if our folks  get here for services at all, let alone get here a half hour early! That’s just asking too much.

~ It doesn’t matter if the singers aren’t prepared when they get up to minister – what counts is how sincere they are.

~ It doesn’t matter if the pastor didn’t study for his message this week – he can just open his mouth and “let the spirit fill it” when he gets up there.

~ It doesn’t matter if we don’t have an organized outreach program in our community – everybody knows we’re living in the last days, and folks just won’t come to church because  they are wicked and sinful heathens.

 

Yes, In many of our churches, we’ve convinced ourselves that “it just doesn’t matter.”

 

The problem with this thinking is, that it very much DOES matter.

It matters because God gave His very best for us, and He deserves no less than our best in return.

It matters because that lost person who may walk in your door next week’s eternal destiny may hang on how well you do your job.

It matters because that one child in your Sunday School class is just as important to Jesus as a crowd of hundreds.

It matters because if you don’t create a standard of excellence, you are going to be a mediocre church with mediocre ministry producing mediocre Christians, at a time when this world desperately needs to see Christians at their very best.

It matters because the Bible tells us that whatever we do, we are to do it “heartily, as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” (Colossians 3:23)

 

Yes, building a Bible believing church in this day and time is a difficult challenge.

Yes, the culture we live in is increasingly anti-God, and yes, it’s not going to get any easier.

But we make it much, much more difficult by believing the devils big lie.

Don’t be deceived.

It DOES matter.

3 Steps to revitalization that every church needs to take

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Late last year my wife Beth had partial replacement surgery done on both of her knees. This was a surgery that she had put off for quite some time, but we finally were able to schedule it at a time when I would be off the road and able to take care of her during her extended rehab and recovery.

The weeks and months after this procedure were certainly anything but fun. There was lots of pain, hours of rehab, and a few setbacks, all of which left my wife wondering on some days, “Why in the world did I have this done?”

Six months post-surgery however, my wife has recovered wonderfully. The mobility and agility that she has now is unbelievable compared to what she had before the surgery. Truly, at the end of the day, the “pain” she endured was well worth the “gain” she received.

The process of Church revitalization is much like my wife’s knee replacement procedure. While it is not enjoyable by any means, it is very much needed. The Church will not be able to function like it ought to unless painful and difficult changes are made.

Please notice that I did not put the word “simple” or “easy” in the title of this article. While I believe the principles that I am going to lay out here are sound and will lead to nothing but good things for our churches, they are by no means easy to implement. However, just like corrective surgery, I believe that the results will be worth the effort.

Let’s look at the steps to revitalization that every church needs to take:

We need to lift the Pastor UP – I am completely aware that we as a denomination have had our share of “bad apples” in some our pulpits – pastors who have been unreasonable, illogical, and even immoral.

However, I believe for every lazy, apathetic, and ineffective pastor, I can show you ten God called, dedicated, hard-working and sincere ones.

Furthermore, I believe that one of the biggest problems we face in our churches today, and certainly one of the biggest hindrances to growth, is church members who refuse to submit to the Spirit led leadership of the pastor.

The sad truth is, many church members think their pastor is great – until he does something they don’t agree with or preaches something that “steps on their toes.”

How many churches have run their pastor off, only to find that they got what they wanted – but they lost what they had!

Here’s a novel concept – let’s let the pastor be the pastor. Perhaps rather than picking apart his family, his preaching and his personality, let’s instead do a little more praying for, praising, and supporting him.

 

We need to get the trouble OUT – Recently in Switzerland, the Hadron Collider, a 17 mile superconducting machine designed to smash protons together at close to the speed of light, had a mechanical failure that caused it to be temporarily shut down.

When the cause of the failure was investigated, it was found that a small rodent – probably a weasel – had gnawed through some electrical wires. Incredibly, a tiny mammal had managed to shut down the world’s most powerful scientific instrument.

For too long, many of our churches have tolerated noisy troublemakers in their midst. Power hungry and rebellious, they put their own agenda ahead of God’s plan for the church with an “It’s my way or the highway” attitude. Usually, it’s not a huge number – but just one or two left unchecked can do immeasurable damage to the church and the cause of Christ.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I am not talking about Godly, well meaning Church members who have legitimate concerns and who handle them Biblically. I am talking about hateful and mean-spirited rabble rousers who thrive on controversy and confrontation.

Our churches will never be all that God intended them to be until such people are confronted and dealt with. And yes, sometimes a “back-door revival” is necessary.

It’s time we dealt with the weasels in the church.

We need to bring the lost IN – I walked in to the sanctuary this past Sunday morning at the Church I was starting revival in and sat down on the front row.

All of a sudden, folks headed towards me from every area of the auditorium with big smiles on their faces. Everyone in the choir turned in my direction and were grinning from ear to ear.

Just when I thought to myself, “this has to be the friendliest church I have ever attended”, all those folks that were headed my way went right on past me to a baby carrier in the next pew.

You see, a family in the church was bringing their newborn baby to church for the first time. Both sets of grandparents also attended the church, and it was the first grandchild for all of them. Needless to say, there was an excitement in the air as folks lined up down the aisles to take pictures, utter “ooh’s and aah’s”, and give  congratulations.

As I watched a crowd still gathered around this family even after the church service had come to an end, I had this thought: there’s nothing like a new baby to bring excitement to the church house!

Once a God called Pastor is serving in his proper place in the church, and once the church members are all on board with the vision of the church, then the atmosphere is right to bring some lost folks to church and see them won to Christ.

No plan can revitalize a church faster or more effectively than a soul winning plan!

Why? Because new life brings excitement to the house of God!

I believe if we follow these three steps, we can see real revival come to our churches.

Will it be easy? No. Will the process at times be  painful? Yes, no doubt.

But is it worth it? The answer is, emphatically, YES!

Just ask my wife.

Engage Leadership Network Interview

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I was thrilled recently to be a guest of Brandon Roysdon and the Engage Leadership Network for two interviews. In the first one we discussed church growth and revitalization. In the second interview, we discussed challenges and issues specifically related to the Free Will Baptist denomination.

These discussions are vitally important for us to have, and I salute Brandon and Engage Leadership Network for leading the way and facilitating the conversation.

You can access not only these interviews but a host of other great ones, at the website below:

ELN 008: Jim McComas

“What time do you have?’

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“And of the children of Issachar, which were men that had understanding of the times, to know what Israel ought to do……..”

I Chronicles 12:32a

With the busy travel schedule I keep, I find myself often alternating  between many different time zones. This can be quite confusing – on a trip out west last year, we flew from Nashville (Central Time Zone) to Atlanta (Eastern), then on to Arizona (Mountain). To make this even more interesting, when you travel to Arizona you have to keep in mind that they do not observe daylight savings time – unless you are staying in the Navajo nation community in the northern part of the state, which does. Whew!

Early on in my travels, I adopted a principle that I still observe to this day: Wherever I may travel to,  I never change the settings on my watch. For one thing, it’s very easy to forget whether I changed it or not, and then it’s even harder to remember to change it back when I arrive home.

No, I always keep my watch set to Central time, which is Nashville time.

Why?

First of all, that’s where  HEADQUARTERS is – my office and base of operations. Secondly, that’s where HOME is – where my wife will be waiting for me with the lights on and the door open when I get back from my travels.

You see, no matter how far the distance I journey or how long I stay gone, all those other destinations are only temporary.

Eventually, I will always head home.

You may be wondering at this point what this all has to do with Church growth and revitalization. My point is this: We are laboring in these last days to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dieing world and build HIS Church until He comes back.

In order to do this successfully, we strive to find ways to make the Gospel message relevant in the midst of an increasingly Godless and even pagan culture around us. To increase the attendance in our churches, the temptation is great to resort to gimmicks, gadgets, and fads, trying to keep up with the “happening church” with all the “bells and whistles” down the road.

Please don’t misunderstand me – I believe that we need to constantly strive to find fresh, new, innovative and creative ways to share Jesus with our community. But while we are doing this, let us never compromise or water down the message that we are delivering.

Here’s the reality: The Gospel of Jesus Christ, delivered humbly and graciously from a Pastor and church with a servants heart, will ALWAYS be relevant. The message will never go out of style. But while methods may change and many of us will “do church” differently, the message should never change. 

In 2016, let’s resolve to reach more people with the good news of Jesus than ever before. Let’s strive to do that with excellence, organization, and  innovation. But let’s not get so caught up in the world we live in that we forget that this is not our final destination. Heaven is our headquarters, and praise God, heaven will soon be home.

While we labor with love through this journey, let’s keep the clock of our spiritual convictions  set on “home time”.

4 Really good ways to show Pastor Appreciation – Year Round!

Pastorappreciation

PAY GENEROUSLY   – We’ve all heard the joke about the church that wanted a poor and humble pastor – they claimed it was God’s job to keep him humble and theirs to keep him poor! Sadly this is too often the reality in many churches.

If the truth be told, another reality in many churches is that some  on finance committees and church boards consider a reasonable salary package for their pastor anything less than what they make.

Finances and compensation are an uncomfortable subject for most pastors and their families. Imagine how you would feel if your families salary and benefits package was passed out for all to see and discuss. Ministry is made even more stressful when having to worry about simply surviving month to month.

Mark this truth down: A church will never, EVER go wrong by generously taking care of their shepherd, and cannot reasonably expect God’s blessings on them until they do so. (I Timothy 5:17-18)

PRAISE SPECIFICALLY – “Keep up the good work”, “You’re doing a great job”, or “Good sermon” are all nice compliments to receive. However, being specific is far better because it shows your pastor in a tangible way that what he is doing is really making a difference in lives.

The best compliments I received as Pastor were ones like “Thank you for going to visit my grandmother in the nursing home, she has talked about it all week and it really lifted her spirits” or “I was so inspired by your sermon last week on showing appreciation that I went home and called a Sunday School teacher from my childhood to thank them for investing in my life”.

Know this: There is nothing more rewarding to a pastor than to know their their ministry is affecting peoples lives in very specific and practical ways. Let them know that it is.

PROTECT VIGILANTLY – Protect your pastor from false gossip and petty criticism.

Protect their privacy and give them plenty of time to themselves for rest and recreation with their family.

Protect his family by not setting ridiculously high demands on them that they can never nor should ever have to meet.

Protect their sanity by not being “that church member” that is constantly stirring up drama and strife in the church.

Be a friend – not a foe – to your pastor. Protect their ministry.

PRAY DAILY – There are many preachers – but God called pastors are hard to find.

Hundreds of pastors leave the ministry every month. A majority of pastors constantly fight depression and discouragement. Your pastor is trying to minister to your family while keeping theirs together. They want to help you with your problems while trying to face their own.

They are engaged in spiritual warfare each and every day and are laboring in one of the most stressful occupations in the world.

Pray. Pray regularly. Pray passionately. Pray for your pastor.

In Defense of the Church

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As the Director of Church Revitalization for Free Will Baptist North American Ministries, it is my job to lend a helping hand to our struggling churches – to provide practical ideas to bring health and hope back to congregations who desperately need it.

Because of the task that I have been given, I do a lot of studying, analyzing, and dissecting of the methods and ministry of the local church. We spend a lot of time talking about the deficiencies of many of our congregations, trying to bring the needed change that will help them turn things around.

That is not the purpose of this article, however. Today,  I have no bullet points, no suggestions, no criticisms.

Today, I just want to rise and simply say, “I LOVE THE CHURCH!”

This past week, I was reminded of how much wonderful work the church in America does. I was reminded by watching my own home church here in Tennessee (New Hope Free Will Baptist in Joelton) reach out to a grieving family in a multitude of ways in their moment of greatest need. I was reminded as dozens of our churches provided “back to school” supplies for the needy students of their communities. I was reminded when I saw facebook posts the other evening from pastors of two of our churches in different states who were both challenging their congregations to provide home furnishings for families who were homeless and needed a fresh start.

The fact of the matter is, with all of their faults, Bible believing Churches in America are still one of the greatest forces of good  today. In their community, across the country, and around the world.

Does the church have problems, issues, and scandals from time to time? Yes, and they are well documented and advertised. But I guarantee you that for every one bad congregation or pastor, there is at least 100 who are quietly,  faithfully serving God without praise or plaudits.

I love the church. Christ died for the church.

The fondest memories I have, the best and most blessed times I’ve had in my life, have all happened in the church.

I met my wife in church, I raised my family in church, I receive life giving faith and fellowship in the church.

So to our pastors, their wives and families, and their loving congregations, I salute you for all the wonderful ministry you are doing. You are doing the most important work in the world. The Good news of the Gospel you preach, backed up by your Godly deeds, is literally the hope of of our country – not some politician from Washington.

And yes, I still believe this statement:

“The church at its worst is far better than the world at its best.”