The Radical Change Christianity Should Make [Quote]

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Source: He Told It Like It Is (page 65)

The Most Overlooked Verse in Church Organization

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For a congregation to please the Lord, we must follow His plan. God has not left it up to our own thinking as to how a congregation of His people is to be organized. Philippians 1:1 makes it clear that there are “overseers and deacons” along with all the saints. First Timothy 3:1-13 and Titus 1:5-9 give us the qualifications for those men who would serve in the roles of elder and deacon.

There are no two ways about it: God has a pattern for the organization of His church.

That said, a congregation cannot just give men the right title and then claim to have it all figured out! Too often, there are congregations that have elders and deacons–thus, they are Scripturally organized–but the members are frustrated because they do not know what these leaders expect them to do.

That’s where one verse comes into play. It is a verse that needs to be studied and applied in far more congregations. If applied, it would make a world of difference in the desire to serve of the members.

In Ephesians 4, Paul has written about how there are different leaders (in the First Century church, there were apostles and prophets; in the church today, there are evangelists and shepherd-teachers). Then, however, he gives their role, and it is one of the most overlooked verses in church organization that I can think of:

“To equip the saints for the work of ministry” (Ephesians 4:12).

“Equip.” “Equipping.” “Perfecting.” All these are translations of the first part of that verse.

We need to avoid just telling people what to do; we need to equip them to do it!

What Does This Look Like?

How could this play out in the life of a congregation? Here are a few examples:

How many members know they are to be striving to win lost souls to Christ, but are frustrated? Week after week, they are told from the pulpit that they are to be evangelists, too. However, we need give them some method or training to help them do that task! We are not equipping the saints for the work of ministry.

Take your Bible school program. Some sweet Christian lady agrees to teach a class of 5- and 6-year-old students and wants to give her time to that task. So, we hand her a book and just let her go. Instead, there needs to be some training. What do the elders want to see accomplished in that class, and how can a more experienced teacher help a new teacher meet those expectations?

When we let a Christian man lead singing or read Scripture, do we just sign them up and let them go? Instead, there needs to be some training, not so they are professionals and not so they are just robots who all do everything the same way, but so that there is excellence in what we do. They should have every advantage of knowing how to do that task well before they ever step up in front of the congregation.

…and the examples could go on and on.

It Starts with Leadership

What I am suggesting is hard work, no doubt. But elders should take the time to evaluate every aspect of the work of a congregation and ask the honest question: are we equipping people to fill their roles of ministry, or are we just signing people up?

An honest answer might be sad for many elderships, but it is worth the effort to come up with ways to teach, train, and evaluate the work of the church. It helps build confidence in those who serve. It provides a very clear level of communication (which is never a bad thing!). And it helps people know if they are succeeding or not.

But They Can’t Do It All!

Where I work and worship, we have about 220 people on Sunday mornings for worship. Contrast that with the 6 elders and 2 preachers we have, and that’s a weighty ratio! How can 8 people equip all 220 folks (and hopefully, continually growing numbers)? We can’t.

However, the elders can come up with the methods and expectations, then equip a few key leaders in how those things need to be done. Deacons, seasoned Bible school teachers, and older Christians are perfect choices to be the first to get the training and to know and understand the expectations and methods the elders would like to see done.

Then, those key leaders simply pass along that training and teaching to others. Soon, the methods, systems, and expectations are just part of the life of the congregation, and elders are able to truly “oversee” the work without micromanaging.

One More Thing: Evaluate!

If elders will do the hard work of coming up with expectations at the beginning, they have a way to evaluate how the work is going. They can also evaluate themselves to see if they are continuing to provide the equipping that people need to do the work. Do they have the necessary time? Facilities? Financial resources? Leadership? Communication?

Conclusion

All this may sound tedious, or even very “corporate,” but it is all part of what makes the work of the church more enjoyable for members and more easily overseen by elders. When expectations are clearly stated and members feel they are properly equipped to do the work, peace will reign in the congregation.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

Thinking Caps

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You may remember your teacher saying something like this to you in school, “Okay, class, it is time for you to put your thinking caps on!” This might have meant you were about to receive a lesson, take a test, or consider something very important. Though it seems almost silly to state something so obvious, thinking is not overrated. It is essential to success in every aspect of life.

In the August 1981 issue of Reader’s Digest one story told of a time when Henry Ford hired an efficiency expert to evaluate his company. After a few weeks, the expert made his report, which was highly favorable except for one thing. “It’s that man down the hall,” said the expert. “Every time I go by his office he’s just sitting there with his feet on his desk. He’s wasting your money.” “That man,” replied Mr. Ford, “once had an idea that saved us millions of dollars. At the time, I believe his feet were planted right where they are now.

Imagine being paid just to think! Maybe if we were paid to do it we would do it more often! The fact is, we are rewarded with so much more than monetary blessings if we will let the mind of the Master be the master of our minds. Consider a few of the things that taking time to think will accomplish:

  • avoiding rash decisions
  • avoiding speaking when better to remain silent
  • better communication
  • real, sound, beneficial solutions to problems
  • avoiding temptations
  • knowledge, wisdom, and understanding
  • better choices

God’s advice to Joshua in leading Israel was to THINK – “This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate in it day and night, that you may observe to do according to all that is written in it. For then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success” (Joshua 1:8). It is not only important that we think, but it is just as important to choose the right subject. The only true help for those who are looking for it is going to be found in the Word of God.

The key to good thinking is found in the word “meditate.” Meditation is time spent in the action of thinking. It is dedication coupled with a willing mind for understanding. Meditation is not putting on your thinking cap, but rather, realizing that you are never supposed to take it off. We all need to be wearing our thinking caps all of the time! What a shame that anyone would ever have to encourage us to put it on!

“But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.”
~ Psalm 1:2
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Some Advice from a Student at the School of Hard Knocks

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Maybe some information about me would be appropriate to “set up” what is to follow. It might help in knowing where I’m coming from.

I entered my adult professional life as a high school teacher. The idea of preaching the gospel had, at that time, never entered my mind. When I started preaching, I did just that. I just started preaching. 

I started preaching without the benefit of having gone to a Christian university, a preacher training school, or even an older preacher to mentor me. About all I had was a supportive wife, a Bible, a few books, and a desire to preach. Along the way I did take some classes and bought more books, but I was never formally taught how to preach or how to be an effective minister.

Most of what I’ve learned in the past thirty-eight years has been the result of trial and error – with a heavy emphasis on error. I am hoping that these next few words will be viewed as helpful to those who choose to serve the Lord as a minister of the gospel. They might also be helpful for elders and others. At least that is my prayer.

What is prompting these words is an experience that is fresh on my mind. As I type this, I have just returned home from a visit I’ve made today. I just got back from a visit with a man who lost his wife of fifty-four years last evening. As he told me while we were talking, “These past four years have been rough.” That was due to her declining health and his constant “hands on” care for her. 

When I started preaching for the congregation I now serve over fifteen years ago, this man and his wife were not members. At least they were not faithful members. Over the years we developed a relationship. Also during those years, they both renewed their relationship with the Lord and with His people.

When I showed up at this man’s door a little while ago, I showed up as a friend and brother in Christ. Yes, it is supposed to be my “day off” (whatever that is for a preacher). Yes, I had other things I could have been doing and needed to be doing, but I went. I did not go because it is my job as a preacher (and elder). I went because I thought he would like to know I cared. Judging from the hug he insisted on giving me as I prepared to leave, I think I was right about that.

I’ve listened to a lot of sermons and lectures delivered by men I have never met. I have benefited a great deal from a lot of what I’ve heard them say.

I’ve benefited much more from those who have taken the time and made the effort to invest in me. They may not be a big name in the brotherhood, but they care about me. Those are the men to whom I would turn when I am grieving, and at other difficult times in my life.

So – I’ve written all of that to say what is really on my mind. I have some advice for my fellow preachers and elders (and others, for that matter). Again, you may or may not read this in some textbook on preaching or have it taught in a class on ministry. I just hope it will be accepted in the way it is intended. It is intended to help all of us to help others in their relationship with the Lord.

Here it is –

Please do not let your first visit to a person be when they have just lost a loved one. Let people know you truly care for them before that time. Do your best to not come across as a professional who is just there “doing his job.”

It is an old adage. I’ve even heard it ridiculed. I still believe it to be true that –

People do not care how much you know until they know how much you care.


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Episode 61 : 5 Foundational Financial Principles for Families (with Westley Hazel) [Podcast]

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Following up on our last podcast discussion about family finances, Adam is joined by Wes Hazel to discuss five foundational principles every family needs to keep constantly in mind in order to be pleasing to God and wise in this area of life.

LOFpodcast

The Five Foundational Principles

  1. God is the One Who gave what we have to us.
  2. We need to honor God in our giving.
  3. We need to be generous to others, and willing to share.
  4. Avoid debt (like the plague!).
  5. Live on less than you make.

Resources and Links

Beyond the Tithe [Amazon]

Forrest Park Church of Christ (Valdosta, GA)

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A Legacy of Faith at Polishing the Pulpit

 

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Today, Polishing the Pulpit begins in Sevierville, Tennessee. This annual event is one of the highlights of our year, as around 4000 Christians will gather to study God’s Word and grow closer together.

Throughout the week, several members of A Legacy of Faith will be speaking or leading singing. Below is a list of where we’ll be. If you’re going to PtP, make sure you say hello! We always love to meet new folks.

Saturday

9:00AM: Donna Faughn (“A Lesson on Finding Grace”; ladies only): Ballroom B

10:00AM: Jeremiah Tatum (“Digging Deeper: The Lord’s Supper”): Hotel Cade’s Cove

5:30PM: Adam Faughn (congregational singing; new songs): Exhibit Hall A

Sunday

9:30AM: Donna Faughn (“Purses with Holes and Other Fine Things: Lessons for Women from Haggai”; ladies only): Ballroom B

9:30AM: Jeremiah Tatum (“Cross Words: A Series of Communion Talks”): Ballroom D

10:30AM: Adam Faughn (congregational singing during morning worship): Exhibit Hall A

9:00PM: Jeremiah Tatum (“Running with God: Some Lessons about God I’ve Learned in My Running Shoes”): Meeting Room C-D

Monday

8:00AM: Adam Faughn (congregational singing): Ballroom D

10:30AM: Jim Faughn (“Preachers Serving as Elders”): Ballroom D

2:30PM: Donna Faughn (“Discipline Determines Destiny: Child-Rearing”; ladies only): Ballroom B

3:30PM: Adam Faughn (“A 5×5 Approach to Ministry”; part of 7 minutes of wisdom for preachers): Ballroom C

Tuesday

8:30AM: Jim Faughn (“My Friend Says, ‘I’ll Take My Chances without Being a Christian.’ What Should I Say?”; part of 7 minutes of wisdom for scholars): Ballroom A

9:30AM: Donna Faughn (“Nuts and Bolts for Elders’ Wives”; ladies only): Ballroom A

9:30AM: Jim Faughn (“God Wants Us Not Only to Know the Right Thing and to Do the Right Thing, but to Be the Right Thing”; part of 7 minutes of wisdom for families): Exhibit Hall A

10:30AM: Jim Faughn (“A Non-Program Program”; part of two minutes, tops! for elders and preachers): Ballroom C

6:30PM: Adam Faughn (congregational singing; some new songs): Exhibit Hall A

Wednesday

10:30AM: Jim Faughn (“The Word is Parents…Plural”; part of 7 minutes of wisdom for parents): Exhibit Hall A

1:30PM: Leah Faughn (“Verses to Encourage a Young Mother’s Heart”; ladies only): Hotel Deep Creek

3:30PM: Donna Faughn (“The Strong-Willed Wife: Opportunities and Challenges”; ladies only): Ballroom A

For more information about Polishing the Pulpit, visit their website.

To look at the full schedule, follow this link [pdf]

Why Our Whole Family is Looking Forward to Polishing the Pulpit 2016 [Video]

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Tomorrow, our little family of four will be headed to the Smokey Mountains for Polishing the Pulpit 2016, where we will be joined by about 4000 other Christians for a week of Bible study.

Polishing the Pulpit has something for everyone so, in this video, our whole family shares what we are looking forward to. We hope you enjoy, and we hope to see you there!

5 Things Members Need to Hear from Elders Regularly

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Last Wednesday, I posted a short list of 5 things that elders need to hear regularly. But this helpful communication cannot be a one-way street.

There are many congregations where members feel as if they do not hear from the elders, except when (1) there is a change in the staff, (2) an elder is being appointed or resigning, or (3) there is a great need for money. While that may not be completely true, without intentional effort by the pastors, it can certainly seem that way.

Further, if elders just say, “If you’d ever like to attend one of our meetings, feel free,” they are going to get virtually no response, and members will still feel frustrated at the lack of communication.

This week, then, I’d like to share five things that every member needs to hear from each of the elders on a regular basis.

  1. Hello, [Name]. People need to know that their shepherds know them, by name! The larger a congregation gets, the more challenging it is, but shepherds need to at least know the names of the sheep. The more personal information a pastor knows, the more people feel at ease around him, and the more conversation can flow freely.
  2. How Can I Pray for You? I know that elders pray for the congregation, including individual needs. Still, it is reassuring when an elder specifically asks how he can take my concerns and my victories before the throne of God. Further, it helps him be a better shepherd, as he sees what is truly on the heart of individual members.
  3. How Can I be a Better Shepherd to Your Family? There may be a less awkward way to ask this question, but families need to know that their shepherds are not just a cold board of directors. Is there a ballgame I can visit? Is there a problem I can help you with? Is there something in Bible class your children have been studying that I can help them learn? These types of questions shepherd the souls of families.
  4. Would You Like to Visit? Instead of calling people into some formal meeting, ask if people would like to come to your house for a visit, or go out to eat together. And these times do not have to be filled with questions about church work. It provides people a chance to just get to know you and see your love for them. Elders cannot just meet in board rooms. They need to greet people in living rooms and around dinner tables, but they need to step up and make the invitation.
  5. Your Soul is the Most Valuable Thing in the World. Too often, elders are perceived to be more concerned about budgets, building projects, and staffing than about the highest calling in the world: helping the souls of men and women. People in the church need to see that, while air conditioning units and parking lots have to be discussed, their souls are where your top priorities are. They need to hear that from you regularly, so they can keep their focus on the most important thing, too.

Solid and regular communication from elders is not only important, it is vital. Members do not just need to hear “dictates from on high.” They need to be personally and warmly greeted by their shepherds over and over again.

I firmly believe that, if an eldership would make it a point to say things like we have just listed above, a congregation’s attitude and work ethic would change, virtually overnight. Elders, it is worth the effort.


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AUTHOR: Adam Faughn

The Peacemaker

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Telemachus was a monk who lived in the 4th century. He went to Rome and found chaos in the streets. The commotion was over the gladiators. He was amazed that four centuries after Christ had come people were still killing each other for sport.
When he arrived at the Coliseum the gladiators were shouting, “Hail Caesar, we will die for Caesar.” He jumped over the railing and went out into the middle of the field, got between two gladiators, held up his hands and said, “In the name of Christ, forbear.”
The crowd protested and began to shout, “Run him through, Run him through.” A gladiator came over and hit him in the stomach with the back of his sword. It sent him sprawling in the sand. He got up and ran back and again said, “In the name of Christ, forbear.” The crowd continued to chant, “Run him through.”
One gladiator came over and plunged his sword through the little monk’s stomach and he fell into the sand, which began to turn crimson with his blood. One last time he gasped out, “In the name of Christ forbear.” A hush came over the 80,000 people in the coliseum. Soon a man stood and left, then another and more, and within minutes all 80,000 had emptied out of the arena. It was the last known gladiatorial contest in the history of Rome.

What does it take for there to be peace? It takes sacrifice. It takes humility. It takes someone who will do what is right regardless of the cost.

Consider all the sources of conflict in life: There are wars over land and property. There are divorces over “irreconcilable differences.” Sometimes relationships become strained by pride. And most of all, there is the conflict between God and ourselves because of our own foolishness and sin.

What motivates us to peace? A man standing in the middle of the conflict. A man who loves us so much that he will not allow us to continue in our sin and death. A man who himself is willing to give his life to save our own. A man who will help us to see what we are doing to ourselves and to others. A man who took a sword and cried, “Father, forgive!”

God has called us to peace. He has called us to peace through the death of His own Son. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Praise God for His love and compassion in the midst of our foolishness!

“Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God.” ~ Matthew 5:9
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Maintaining Balance

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Balance.

It’s one of those words we hear a lot in religious circles. Those of us who preach are encouraged to try to make sure that our preaching is balanced. Many times, our preaching is designed to encourage people to live a balanced life. 

I think I learned a technique that will help our balance when I was visiting with an elderly brother years ago. Somehow the subject of my fear of heights came into the discussion. My elderly brother informed me that he had no such fear. In fact, I think he thought it strange that I did.

Here was his logic. He asked me if I could walk on a board that was a foot wide if that board was on the ground. When I assured him that I could, he then wondered why I couldn’t walk on that same board if it was raised high in the air. 

The answer was pretty simple – at least to me. It had less to do with distance than support. I would much rather have the ground directly under me than to have the air as my “support.”

It seems to me that this has a spiritual application. A proper foundation makes maintaining balance a much easier task than would otherwise be the case if there is no foundation at all or a very poor foundation.

We sing the words that reflect this truth: “On Christ the solid rock I stand.” Are we singing the truth when we sing those words?

I need to make sure I am standing exactly where that song says that I am standing. If I do, I may be surprised at how easy it is for me to maintain my balance.


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