Introduction to this Church and Our Community

would you want to work with this church and live in this community?

The first task of the search committee isn’t to hire this great preacher. The main goal of the great preacher isn’t to try to be selected by this outstanding congregation. The great question is, “Do we fit?”. One step in answering the question is for both to provide as much about themselves as would be helpful.

One way each church where I’ve served as an interim did this was to prepare a document giving an introduction to the church and the community.

The first congregation did this in a 3-ring binder. Succeeding churches did it digitally on their website or a CD.

Some things included were:

Introduction to the Church

  • History.
  • Plans and vision of the future.
  • Leadership.
  • Ministries.
  • Statistics of attendance and contribution for several decades.
  • Results of self-study survey.

Introduction to the Community

  • History.
  • Recent census.
  • Schools for children and adults.
  • Local sports programs.
  • Medical facilities.
  • Transportation.
  • Recreation.
  • Other interesting things within driving distance of this community.

The best approach I observed in my ministry was from the Pleasant Ridge church in Arlington, Texas. I received a call one Monday morning. A gentleman said he would like to meet with me. He needed thirty minutes of my time. We agreed on 4:00 that afternoon.

At 4:00 p.m., two men arrived at my study in Dalton, Georgia. They identified themselves as elders of the Pleasant Ridge church. They had a package of information about the church and community. I informed them I wasn’t interested in moving to Texas. They told me, “We’re not asking you to move to Texas. Please consider this information and ask any questions you have. Think and pray about this and see if this is an opportunity you should consider. We’ll be in contact with you in a couple of weeks.” They had driven from Texas to Georgia to deliver the information. That began a three-month discussion. It was a memorable time of learning how to consider and be considered by a church.

They had a very detailed approach to let us patiently consider each other and whether we should work together.

Several years ago, a church selected a new preacher. He moved and had a great beginning. He helped the church by his preaching. He was serving in a great way. Everything seemed to be perfect.

But in a short time he was moving. Why? There wasn’t a Walmart nearby and his wife wasn’t happy without Walmart.

Those are things you can learn before you select a preacher and save confusion and moving expenses — coming and going.

The information-gathering of the search is important. In addition to the facts we share with each other, we’re telling each other the amount about us we’re willing to disclose, the excellence and details of the work we do, and how much of what Jesus said we believe:

And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free (John 8:32, NKJV).

Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 7:12).

What are some things you would like to know about a church and community you would consider?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Interim Ministry Workshop

September 21–23, 2017

What do you plan to do for the rest of your life? How will you use the wisdom you have gained by study and experience as a preacher? For ten years, Gail and I have enjoyed interim ministry in seven congregations. We have continued to learn and grow. We have been encouraged by brethren in all these places. Some of you have the ability to offer a great service. I would like to share what I am learning with you. We will meet in the beautiful new facilities of the Charlotte Heights Church of Christ, 6833 Old Charlotte Pike, Nashville, Tennessee 37209.

Three things to do to take advantage of this opportunity:

    1. Mark your calendar for September 21-23
    2. To answer any questions, contact Jerrie Barber:jerrie@barberclippings.com(615) 584-0512
    3. Reserve your place in this workshop: I want to participate in this workshop

Reserve my place in this workshop

Eddyville, Kentucky

The cost is $317.49 per person.

Hendersonville, Tennessee

There is a minimum and a maximum number of participants:
The minimum for the course to be conducted is — 1. If no one shows up, I won’t talk.
The maximum is 20 people, total. We will be doing group sessions. Twenty will be the limit.

Cookeville, Tennessee

The concepts we’ll discuss will be good training for any preacher and his wife. Gail and I had an introduction course in 1996. We went through Interim Ministry Network training in 1998-1999, seven years before I started interim ministry. I took a refresher course in March 2007, before starting interim ministry in May of that year. The training and what I learned helped during those last years of full-time ministry.

LaVergne, Tennessee

Preachers’ wives are encouraged but not required to attend this workshop. Gail and I went for training together.

Maury City, Tennessee

Schedule

Thursday, September 21, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Friday, September 22, 8:00 a.m.-5:00 p.m.; 7:00-9:00 p.m.

Saturday, September 23, 8:00 a.m.-noon

Jeffersonville, Indiana

Topics:

  • The story of our journey to interim ministry.
  • Family Systems, the framework of working with groups.
  • Is there any hope for this church?
  • The work of the interim preacher — to guide and coach a process.
  • Contracts, opportunity to clarify expectations — objections to written contracts.
  • Compensation for an interim.
  • Making contacts, getting the word out that you’re available for interim ministry.
  • Rules. (Differentiation)
  • Initial Family Meeting.
  • Projects.
  • Preaching during the interim.
  • The interim’s wife — discussion, Q & A with Gail.
  • The Search — training those who will be searching for the new preacher.
  • The Preacher.
  • When you don’t need an interim.
  • Conflict management.

Sikeston, Missouri

Three things to do to take advantage of this opportunity:

    1. Mark your calendar for September 21-23
    2. To answer any questions, contact Jerrie Barber: jerrie@barberclippings.com(615) 584-0512
    3. Reserve your place in this workshop: I want to participate in this workshop

Reserve my place in this workshop

Self-Study Survey

What kind of preacher do we want? Will that kind of preacher want us?

Most Christians have an idea of the characteristics of the preacher they’d like to have. If the last preacher was their good friend, they probably want another just like him. Those aren’t available. If they didn’t like the former preacher, someone who is exactly opposite him would be good. There’s none of those.

Most want a preacher who lives like Jesus, studies like Paul, loves like John (when he was older), and visits and ministers like the Good Samaritan. It’s good to know what you are seeking, or you won’t know when you find him.

Have you thought about what prospective preachers are looking for in a congregation? How do they know if they fit the opportunities and expectations of the church? Are you aware the church is “trying out” as well as the preacher?

One helpful tool is a Self-Study Survey. I helped congregations administer one of these in each church where I’ve served as an interim.

There are several parts:

  1. Demographics: age, how long with the congregation, travel time to and from services.
  2. Involvement: roles, attendance, increase or decrease in involvement and why.
  3. Evaluation of programs and services of the congregation.
  4. How the congregation is like or different in its makeup compared to the community.
  5. Possible tasks of the future preacher and which are most important.
  6. Evaluation of the worship of the congregation.
  7. Thoughts on what makes a good sermon.
  8. Convictions on certain issues.
  9. Three open-ended questions:
    1. What would you tell the next preacher at this church?
    2. What advice would you give the elders of this church as they proceed?
    3. Please make any other comments that would be helpful for the health of this congregation during this time of transition or in the future.

The survey is anonymous. We don’t ask for names or save IP numbers of computers used.

Most congregations where I served used SurveyMonkey, an online survey tool. Paper copies are available for those who prefer and those who want to think before starting on the computer.

Filling out the survey takes forty-five minutes to an hour. We wanted, and have obtained, a number of at least half the Sunday morning attendance to complete the self-study.

My observations after administering and reading every word of surveys in six congregations:

  • Not everyone thinks alike. Some people who have different understandings are sitting on the pew with me — or very close.
  • Christians are at different stages in their growth, understanding, and service.
  • People have different expectations of a preacher.
  • The results of the survey can help men who are considering and being considered as the next preacher.
  • Open-ended questions are powerful. People have an opportunity to say what they’ve wanted to say. I’ve seen a change in the way those were shared. In the first two congregations, answers to the open-ended questions were not shared with the congregation. In the third, a committee summarized and paraphrased the answers to share with the church and prospective preachers. In the last three, answers were shared with the church and prospective preachers. I prefer the latter. The work of the search committee or elders is not to make the church look perfect, but to let a preacher know the challenges and opportunities before he gets there. This is one way to do this. If this isn’t the group he would like to serve, now’s the time to learn that. The best time to get a divorce is before you get married.
  • From my perspective, the most helpful thing about the survey is the thinking going on in the person completing the survey. Many have never thought of how complex leading and preaching to a group of people can be. Not everyone will get everything they want.

One of the most spiritual things a person can do is to think. One of the differences in fill-in preaching between preachers and interim ministry is the interim minister leads in several planned activities to encourage members to think about themselves and their relationship to the Lord, the effectiveness of the congregation and how it is serving Jesus, their community, and the world, and the transition going on in this church and their lives.

What would you do to help people make the transition after a long ministry?

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Opening Family Meeting

introduction to transition and interim ministry for the church where I'm ministering

At the beginning of each interim, usually on the first Sunday night following evening services, I hold a Family Meeting to get the process started. In two larger congregations, 600 and 1,400 in Sunday morning attendance, I went to Bible classes for this discussion. This provided an opportunity for more people to participate in the discussion.

I begin with the Discussion Rules. I start each new group with negotiating the Discussion Rules: Sunday morning Bible Class, Wednesday night Bible class, Staff Meetings, Transition Monitoring Team. When I had gone over the Discussion Rules the second time in one congregation, a perplexed brother asked, “How many times am I going to have to listen to those rules?”.

My reply, “Every time we start a new group. And you haven’t heard anything yet. You’re on the Transition Monitoring Team. We’ll take an hour to negotiate the rules at the first meeting.” Read more about Discussion Rules .

During this first Family Meeting, an information session for the entire congregation, we are setting structure and expectations of the next year to year and a half of our work together.

  • In the first part of the meeting: 
  • Recruit people for specific transition tasks (I will discuss these in following posts):
    • Transition Monitoring Team: a group to tap into the grapevine of the church and communicate to the elders what people are thinking, feeling, asking, saying, fearing, and hoping.
    • Welcome to our congregation and community: a document or part of the website to introduce the prospective preachers to the congregation and the community.
    • Timeline of this congregation: a compilation of the history, attendance, and contribution of the congregation from the earliest records until the present.
    • Conducting a self-study: an extensive questionnaire to let members tell who they are, evaluate the strengths and needs of the congregation, and describe the type of preacher needed at this church now. This will be set up as an on-line survey with printed copies for those who prefer that to using an electronic tablet or computer.
  • Planned sermon series:
    • Carving Ears, Cutting Out, Calling Angels, or Crucifixion, requirements for a follower of Jesus. Luke 9:23
    • How to Survive the Storm and Enjoy the Sunshine, dealing with conflict in the church. Acts 6:1-7
    • I Want the Church to Grow, But I Don’t Want Any More People, overcoming my discomforts to reach out to people unlike me and people I don’t like.
    • What Do You Do When God Is Late?, setting my clock with God’s clock.
  • Workshop once a month on Sunday night, a longer lesson on a practical topic.
  • Leadership Training Classes. 
    • God’s Great Servants, conducted on Wednesday night for elders, deacons, other men and young men who desire to be leaders in the church, their family, business, and other areas. These classes are for the administrative part of leadership.
    • Learning to Love My Friend(s), classes in the homes of the participants. We learn to have a greater appreciation of Jesus as my Friend, become a better friend to others using Jesus as the example of a perfect friend, and encouraging telling others about our best Friend by word and example. The study is about the pastoral part of leadership.
  • Read my contract, including my salary and housing allowance — if the elders permit. Early in my ministry, I didn’t want people to know my financial arrangements. I’ve learned that full disclosure of all agreements helps people understand and eliminates many questions. They already have the answers. Interim contract…read more.
  • Questions and comments.

Please leave a comment by ...... clicking here.

Originality Rule

I make no claims to originality

When I started preaching at the age of 16, I’d never heard of exegesis or hermeneutics. I saw a book at the Gospel Advocate Bookstore on expository preaching and thought is was when you wanted to preach a sermon and expose someone for doing something wrong. I bought a sermon outline book, Simple Sermon Outlines, by J. C. Choate and used many of the outlines for my sermons during my last two years of high school. It never occurred to me I was plagiarizing. The book was printed to use for Bible study and presentation.

The issue becomes a problem when a preacher claims borrowed material is his. It becomes a problem when a preacher or teacher does little or no Bible study on his own but only copies someone else’s material and presents it as his own.

jerrie-baby-bjerrie-snow

I make no claims of originality. I was born ignorant. I didn’t know my A, B, Cs or how to count. Everything I know I learned from someone else.

Most of my sermons and classes came from others’ books, sermons, articles, and commentaries. One series of nine lessons I prepared from an idea in one sentence in one book I heard on cassette tapes. I don’t remember the book. I don’t remember the author.

I may preach one or two sermons from www.sermoncentral.com . I claim no originality.

There’ll be times when I’ll give the source. There’ll be times when I don’t remember the source. If you want to know where I got my information, I’ll tell you if I remember.

If I say I read it, I read it. I may not be able to prove it’s true.

When I say something happened to me, it happened to me.

When I use the phrase “less than fifty years ago, and less than five hundred miles from here” it means it’s something that happened, but I won’t disclose the people involved.

My commitment to you is I’ll continue to read, study, and listen to present sermons and classes I think will be helpful for us at the time. I learned from someone else. If you want to know my sources, ask. If I know, I’ll tell you.

How do you keep fresh and original and avoid plagiarism?
Please comment below:

Beginning at a New Church — My First Three Rules

clear expectations reduce conflict and disappointment.

I like to begin with rules — guidelines, expectations. Family rules are usually unconscious, unspoken, but understood. That means we rarely think about them, and neglect discussing them. But when someone violates a family (group) rule, he is in trouble! The group will discipline or shun a rule-breaker.

family-rules-leather-bookI think there’s a better way. Let’s discuss how we’re going to relate to each other. What do you expect of me? Let me tell you what I expect of you. Let’s negotiate. Then let’s hold each other accountable for what we agreed to do.

Some tell me they don’t like rules. But we still have them. There are things we like, things we don’t like, things we’ll tolerate, and things we won’t tolerate. It’s good to know them. The Golden Rule (Matthew 7:12) is a rule, a good rule.

My second Sunday in a new interim, I begin with my rules, expectations. I explain these same three guidelines in meetings and workshops.

#1: Try not to learn very much. This has been my aim since graduating from college and not having to take tests. When I read a book, attend a seminar or lecture, or listen to a podcast, I try not to learn much. I usually can’t recreate the outline. I probably missed several points.

Although I try not to learn very much, I want to get something helpful to make a difference in the way I think, act, and relate to God and others. I call it the “mustard seed” principle. Jesus told His apostles if they had faith of a grain of mustard seed, they could move a mountain (Matthew 17:20).

#2: You have permission to sleep. I don’t know how much sleep you’ve had. I don’t know what kind of medicine you’re taking. I don’t know how hard you’ve worked. Sometimes people nod and even take a nap when I’m speaking. I won’t be offended.

It used to bother me. I thought it was an insult to my preaching. But you can learn many things from the Bible. In Acts, chapter 20, a man was preaching. A young man went to sleep, fell out a window, and died. Who was the preacher? Paul. Good preacher or bad preacher? Good preacher. Someone going to sleep doesn’t necessarily mean the preaching is bad.

A guy flung all over the couchWe can gain wisdom from reflecting on our experiences. I started preaching when I was sixteen years old. One Sunday, in November 1962, I was preaching at the Wolf Creek Church of Christ, in Hickman County, Tennessee. I was about half way through the sermon. I said, “In Hebrews 10:24, 25, we read…” I fell to the floor. I went to sleep during my own sermon. Two doctors examined me and came to the same conclusion: I was exhausted. I’d played a basketball game Friday night. Both teams kept a full-court press going the whole game. My father was building a rock house. I hauled rocks all day Saturday. I went bowling Saturday night. I arose early Sunday morning to study.  About half way through the sermon, it was time for a nap, and I took one.

As I’ve thought about this, if I sleep when I preach, I shouldn’t be upset if other people sleep when I preach.

#3: Feel free to use the waste basket. We’ll have someone to empty it at the end of each session. I like to put a filter on the waste basket — the Bible. If God said it, don’t throw it away. And we’ll be reading much of God’s word. However, there’ll be times when I say, “I think; it’s my observation; this is the way I see it.”img_1306

I think it’s pretty good. But you may not think it’s worth taking home. Feel free to use the waste basket.

In announcing these three expectations, I’m recognizing what people are going to do anyway. What I’ve promised is I’m not going to get upset and angry.

  1. I won’t be giving tests. The Lord will do that. I’d rather a person get one concept that moves him closer to the example of Jesus than to be able to recite every point.
  2. People may nod or sleep. That’s their condition or choice. I won’t be monitoring the situation and making loud noises to keep them awake. Each person can be responsible for himself.
  3. A person may disagree with me. If he asks, I’ll explain. If he persists, my reply, “This sounds like this may be waste basket material to you.”

I’m working on defining myself and letting the church know what I expect and what responses I’ll give to different situations.

More rules to follow in the next post.
Please comment below:

“I Don’t Think We Need to Write It!”

objections to written job descriptions and contracts

We don’t need to write anything down. We’ll just trust each other like Christians, and I promise you we’ll take care of you and work out any problems that come up along the way.” And that’s been the beginning of disappointing “agreements” between leaders and their new preacher.

But what could go wrong when we’re all sincere, honest, and faithful brethren?

Let me suggest a few things I’ve learned from the University of Hard Knocks, whose colors are black and blue and the school yell is, “OUCH!”.

Some possible agreements:

  1. What do you expect of me?
  2. What are my responsibilities?
  3. How will I know if I am doing well, mediocre, or if I am in danger of being terminated?
  4. Will I know that in advance of termination or will I be informed on the way out?
  5. What spiritual support will I receive?
  6. How often and when will I meet with the shepherds?
  7. As your preacher, how many weeks do I get for vacation?
  8. Will these be with or without pay?
  9. How many weeks do I have for workshops and gospel meetings?
  10. Who arranges for speakers when I am gone and who pays them?
  11. Are there provisions for medical and life insurance, car mileage reimbursement, provisions for continuing education or lectureships or seminars, reimbursement for half of social security, retirement, or other benefits?
  12. When I decide to leave, or you decide for me to leave, will there be severance compensation until I relocate?
  13. How long will that be?
  14. Etc., etc., and etc.

If any, all, or some of those are discussed, how many in the group remember them fifteen minutes after we agreed on them?

In the last two posts, I wrote about the importance of specific written agreements. Not everyone agrees with that concept. Here are reasons people have for resisting.

  • “If we don’t trust each other any more than that, we have no business working together.” It isn’t a matter of trust, it’s a result of imperfect memory. After that, each will regard the other with suspicion and distrust. Each is sure he remembered correctly. A way to eliminate that is to write it, sign it, distribute it to all parties, scan it, save it on your computer, back it up to external hard drives (I use three in rotation), secure it in the cloud, and put the original in your safe-deposit box in the bank. Since I’ve done that, I’ve never had a disagreement on details of my agreements that wasn’t solved by reading the document.
  • “In my daddy’s day, people just shook hands and did what they said they were going to do.” If it worked for your daddy, I’m pleased. My experience is I forget. We had written agreements with our children when they were growing up. Every time I remember having a disagreement, I was wrong. I wasn’t trying to cheat my children. I forgot the details. When we checked the document, I had no trouble doing what I promised to do.
  • “I don’t think it’s spiritual for brethren to have to write every detail. It seems like Christians should be able just to agree and do what they said they’d do.” In His two big agreements, the Old Testament and the New Testament, He chose to have details and stories recorded in writing. Some of the big agreements, He wrote in stone — twice! When the first copy was deleted by breakage, He had another copy made and placed in a safe-deposit box (the Ark of the Covenant).

My conclusion: the only people who don’t need to write their agreements are those who’ll never forget and who’ll never die — and they need to work only with people who’ll never forget and never die. Otherwise, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, and damaged relationships are likely.

What are your thoughts and what’s been your experience in recording and keeping of agreements?
Please comment below:

Interim Minister Job Description-Contract

good relationships begin with clear understanding and mutual agreements

I didn’t know I was supposed to do that.” “You said you were going to do it.” “You agreed to pay me ninety days after we announced I was leaving.” “We don’t remember that.” “Check your notes.” “It’s not in our minutes.” “Some said they don’t like the length of your sermons; a lot of people are upset.” “Who are they?” “We can’t tell you. That information is confidential.”

How do you settle these disagreements?

You don’t. If no one made an effort and took the time to write agreements, make copies for all parties, and keep them safe for future reference, you won’t solve these disputes to everyone’s satisfaction.

The only person who doesn’t need written agreements is the person who’ll never die and who’ll never forget anything. If he isn’t writing his agreements, he needs to be dealing with people who’ll never die and will never forget anything.

It took me ten years and much pain to learn to make agreements of expectations and record those in a job description-contract.

Before writing a job description-contract, I like to have several hours of getting to know each other. I want to hear why the church wants an interim preacher. What are their expectations? What is their understanding of what I’ll do and how long I’ll be there? What is the difference in an interim minister and fill-in preaching? What is our understanding of transition? Who will be involved in it? How much does each person want to grow or do we just want to get everyone else straightened out? What are tasks and groups that need to be involved in the transition process? How much interaction will there be between the elders and interim preacher?

The contract-job description is an official statement of understandings we have reached during our discussions.

Items in Job Description-Contract

  1. Job description.
    * Preaching.
    * Teaching.
    * Staff meetings.
    * Organizing transition projects and people.
  2. Relationship with elders and staff.
    * Meetings.
    * Communication.
    * Evaluation.
    * Criticism guidelines.
  3. Contract.
    * Salary, other benefits.
    * Moving.
    * Time away from the congregation.
    * Study at home and building.
    * Length of work together.
    * 90-day notice of termination.
    * Clear no consideration of taking the position as the next full-time preacher.

Two critical agreements:

  • “Any criticism of Jerrie Barber will be directed to Jerrie Barber, and it will be welcomed. Jerrie Barber does not accept anonymous criticism.” A principle I’ll emphasize is delivering mail to the correct person. Matthew 18:15–17 applies to preachers as well as other Christians. I don’t respond to, “A lot of people are upset…some people said.” I look forward to visiting with each person individually. I appreciate criticism. It helps me grow. I don’t accept second-hand criticism.
  • “It is understood that under no circumstances will Jerrie W. Barber consider or be considered as the next full-time preacher for this congregation.” This is one thing distinguishing interim ministry from fill-in preaching. I’m not here to see if we like each other and to determine if I want to be the next preacher here. I’m not here to take brother Last Preacher’s place. I’m here to help the church make a good transition and to make it easier on the next preacher.

I plan to discuss compensation in the next post.

Here’s a copy of my present contract: interim minister contract .

How have you found written job descriptions-contracts helpful or unhelpful?
Please comment below:

It’s Not the Work of the Interim Preacher to Make a Good Transition

interim ministry isn’t fill-in preaching

Jerrie, our elders need fixing. Our deacons don’t deak. You need to get members who left to come back. People need to give more. I’m not giving because of what the elders did. What are you going to do to deal with all these problems?”

Not much.

Quite a bit — if what I teach and preach is true and practiced.

Edwin Friedman says one of the greatest mistakes of GOOD leaders is over-functioning.

The work of the interim minister is to help the congregation grow — navigate through a good transition during this time of change from one preacher to another.

Interim ministry is not fill-in preaching. Fill-in preaching is showing up at appointed times and speaking. And good preaching can do much good. But interim ministry calls for more. It’s an opportunity to help people think about what’s happened and learn from it. I do this from the pulpit, in smaller classes and groups, and in individual conversations.

Different circumstances may call for an interim:

  1. The preacher resigned.
  2. The preacher died.
  3. The preacher was fired.
  4. The preacher retired.
  5. The preacher stayed for a long time.
  6. The last several preachers stayed a short time and left unhappy.
  7. The church is in conflict.
  8. The church is at peace — so much peace for so long it’s about to die. There’s a lot of peace in a cemetery.
  9. The church is at peace. The last preacher stayed a long time, did a good job, left because he chose to go and believes he made a good decision. People miss him because he was a good preacher, a good servant, and a true friend. No one will ever be able to replace him.

The church needs to grieve his absence to get ready to consider who will be the next preacher.

And if you’re looking for the one you just buried, that person is in the cemetery.

All these call for a time to think and learn from what’s happening.

In my early ministry, the only method of conflict resolution I knew was to talk with people involved. I found if I talked to one first, I always talked with the one who was right. I knew he was because he told me he was right and the other was wrong.

My next step was to get the wrong one to come in to talk. The one who was right and I would get the wrong one to repent, and everyone would be happy. They would send me a thank you note and Christmas cards every year.

I’ve never received my first card from one of those peace conferences. I didn’t know and practice Proverbs 18:17:

The first one to plead his cause seems right,
Until his neighbor comes and examines him (NKJV).

My responsibilities and opportunities are to teach, coach, and encourage people in conflict to follow Jesus and His teaching. If I try to do the work for others, it probably won’t work. And if it did, the people failed to exercise their responsibility to follow the Lord’s way of repairing broken relationships. If I did their work, they didn’t grow from a lack of exercise.

I can’t grieve for another.

I can’t find the way out of lostness for another.

I can’t express and find relief from anger and despair for another.

I may be able to help someone find a better way through the wilderness between the Red Sea and the Promised Land.

My goal is to help, not replace, Christians who are finding their way to a new beginning.

In blog posts that follow, I’ll relate specifics about what I do as a guide on this adventure.

What have you found helpful when your stability and peace was disrupted?
Please comment below:

Is There Any Hope for this Church?

should we trash this one and start over?

People are afraid to talk to anyone. Some people they thought were their best friends have left and labeled those who have stayed as “liberal,” “radical conservatives,” or “without conviction to stand for the truth.” “We thought we could trust them. There may be some like those who haven’t left. Let’s go home. I don’t trust anyone. I thought we had the best church in the world.” When the congregation has a potluck, food often runs out. People are withholding their conversations, their love, and their green beans. They come late and leave early.

What does an interim preacher say to a church like this in transition? Here’s what I say, “This is the day the Lord has made; We will rejoice and be glad in it” (Psalm 118:24, NKJV).

I follow with several questions:

    • Do you believe God loves His church? We know He does because He gave the blood of His loving and cooperative Son to buy it (Acts 20:28). His church is valuable to Him. He has a lot invested in it.
    • Do you believe God loves this congregation? It isn’t too bad for Him to love. I enjoy studying 1 Corinthians with a troubled church. This congregation was divided and had arrogant, prideful people in it. A man in Corinth was living with his father’s wife, and the rest of the church liked it that way. Brethren were taking each other to court rather than using the principles Jesus taught to settle disputes. They had marriage problems. Idolatry was still a stumbling block with some members. Worship had become a time of separation rather than unity. Some were getting drunk during worship. Spiritual gifts provided the opportunity for believers to continue the apostles arguments of “who’s the greatest in the kingdom.” Corinth Church of Christ had severe doctrinal problems. There were some who denied a cardinal part of the gospel: resurrection.

      When I finish this study, I ask, “Had you rather be a member of this congregation in Anytown, U.S.A. or Corinth?” I haven’t had anyone choose Corinth yet.

      Notice how Paul addressed this church: “To the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, with all who in every place call on the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, both theirs and ours” (1 Corinthians 1:2).

      It seems the Holy Spirit if He had anything to do with writing this, (I think He did) and Paul have a high regard for what God and His word is able to do with and for sinful people. I’ve observed many cut and run three weeks, or three months, after the explosion. They think this congregation is hopeless. Paul thought Corinth still had good people and was worth loving and teaching.

    • Do you believe you can serve God in this congregation? Often people are still trying to decide if they can worship here. “I don’t know if I can worship with these elders, those members who gossip, because they let the last preacher go, or because they kept the last preacher too long.”

      Many choose to go to another congregation or start another church because of sin and shortcomings they see in “the others.”

Often people ask me about starting another church. My answer: “To have scriptural encouragement for planting another congregation for a reason other than evangelism, the church you’re leaving should be meaner than Corinth and deader than Sardis.” Corinth had committed nearly every sin available. Sardis was dead because Jesus said it was dead (Revelation 3:1).

I can’t read that anywhere in the book.

Jesus through John wrote to Christians in Sardis, “You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy” (Revelation 3:4). Neither Jesus nor John recommended the faithful few to leave Dead Sardis Church of Christ and start Lively Sardis Church of Christ. You and I can be live Christians in a dead church. How do I know? The Bible tells me so!

  • Do you believe God will give us wisdom? He promises He will. James, the Lord’s brother, told us to pray for wisdom when we need it (James 1:5). The wise man of the Old Testament instructed us to work for wisdom like we work for money and search for it as if we were searching for buried treasure (Proverbs 2:1-5).

What’s the big question —Who’s in charge of the universe?

If God is God, we have hope. If our faith is in people, I understand hopelessness. We can survive and thrive during this time of transition. I like the sentiment I read: “To love the ideal church is easy. To love the real church is difficult.” I’ve never worked with or heard of a church as bad as Corinth or some of the seven congregations in Asia (Revelation 1-3). God loved them enough to send messages of rebuke, correction, and hope.

We can learn from His messages to them and grow during trying times.

 

What has encouraged you during difficult times in the church?
Please comment below: