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Gone To the Dogs

by Rev. Rick Robinson

When someone speaks of something going to the dogs, it usually annotates a distinct turn for the worse. Have you ever felt like your life was going to the dogs? How did those lovable dogs get a bad rap for a saying like that anyway? Dogs were not always as popular as they are today. There was a time when calling someone a dog was a serious insult–in fact; the Bible is full of contemptuous references to dogs.

The book of Revelation places dogs on a list of outcast.

Revelation 22:14

Blessed are those who wash their robes, so that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter by the gates into the city. Outside are the dogs and the sorcerers and the immoral persons and the murderers and the idolaters, and everyone who loves and practices lying.

The psalmist compares his enemies to dogs. Keep in mind that the narrowness and the darkness of the streets at night, along with the odd corners, made the cities vulnerable to violence. Evil people could hide easily to wait on unsuspecting victims. Dogs roamed the area looking for food with howling and growling.

Psalm 59:14

They return at evening, they howl like a dog, And go around the city. They wander about for food and growl if they are not satisfied.

Many of the religious Jews would refer to Christians as dogs, and Paul dished it right back at them as he also mentions his list of achievements from their standards.

Philippians 3:2-7

Beware of the dogs, beware of the evil workers, beware of the false circumcision; for we are the true circumcision, who worship in the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh, although I myself might have confidence even in the flesh. If anyone else has a mind to put confidence in the flesh, I far more: circumcised the eighth day, of the nation of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; as to the Law, a Pharisee; as to zeal, a persecutor of the church; as to the righteousness which is in the Law, found blameless. But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ.

In volume 6 of his books of Antiquities, the famous ancient historian Josephus gives account of a conversation between David and Goliath.

Accordingly he laid by the armor, and taking his staff with him, and putting five stones out of the brook into a shepherd’s bag, and having a sling in his right hand, he went toward Goliath. But the adversary seeing him come in such a manner, disdained him, and jested upon him, as if he had not such weapons with him as are usual when one man fights against another, but such as are used in driving away and avoiding of dogs; and said, “Dost thou take me not for a man, but a dog?” To which he replied, “No, not for a dog, but for a creature worse than a dog.” This provoked Goliath to anger, who thereupon cursed him by the name of God, and threatened to give his flesh to the beasts of the earth, and to the fowls of the air, to be torn in pieces by them. To whom David answered, “Thou comest to me with a sword, and with a spear, and with a breastplate; but I have God for my armor in coming against thee, who will destroy thee and all thy army by my hands; for I will this day cut off thy head and cast the other parts of thy body to the dogs; and all men shall learn that God is the protector of the Hebrews, and that our armor and our strength is in his providence; and that without God’s assistance all other warlike preparations and power are useless.”  — Flavius Josephus

In the book of Kings we read that King Ahab wanted a piece of ground that was near his palace. He asked the owner to sell it to him, but he was not willing to sell because his father had given it to him before he died.  

1 Kings 21:1-3

Now it came about after these things that Naboth the Jezreelite had a vineyard which was in Jezreel beside the palace of Ahab king of Samaria. Ahab spoke to Naboth, saying, Give me your vineyard, that I may have it for a vegetable garden because it is close beside my house, and I will give you a better vineyard than it in its place; if you like, I will give you the price of it in money.” But Naboth said to Ahab, “The Lord forbid me that I should give you the inheritance of my fathers.”

Ahab was so upset about it that he would not even eat. The King’s wife, Jezebel, told him that he need not be troubled, for she could get the land for him. She cooked up a scheme to have Naboth killed by stoning. 

1 Kings 21:5-10

But Jezebel his wife came to him and said to him, “How is it that your spirit is so sullen that you are not eating food?” So he said to her, “Because I spoke to Naboth the Jezreelite and said to him, ‘Give me your vineyard for money; or else, if it pleases you, I will give you a vineyard in its place.’But he said, ‘I will not give you my vineyard.’ Jezebel his wife said to him, “Do you now reign over Israel? Arise, eat bread, and let your heart be joyful; I will give you the vineyard of Naboth the Jezreelite.” So she wrote letters in Ahab’s name and sealed them with his seal, and sent letters to the elders and to the nobles who were living with Naboth in his city. Now she wrote in the letters, saying, “Proclaim a fast and seat Naboth at the head of the people; and seat two worthless men before him, and let them testify against him, saying, ‘You cursed God and the king.’ Then take him out and stone him to death.” 

God was so displeased with the actions of this couple, he told Ahab the dogs would lick his blood from the very spot his victim died, and the dogs would eat Jezebel. This was understood in that day as the fate of the most despicable people. Dogs were often fed the remains of people who were executed and enemies of the King. The bodies were thrown outside the city for the dogs to eat. 

1 Kings 21:23

Of Jezebel also has the Lord spoken, saying, The dogs will eat Jezebel in the district of Jezreel. 

2 Kings 9:34-37

When he came in, he ate and drank; and he said, “See now to this cursed woman and bury her, for she is a king’s daughter.” They went to bury her, but they found nothing more of her than the skull and the feet and the palms of her hands. Therefore they returned and told him. And he said, “This is the word of the Lord, which He spoke by His servant Elijah the Tishbite, saying, ‘In the property of Jezreel the dogs shall eat the flesh of Jezebel;and the corpse of Jezebel will be as dung on the face of the field in the property of Jezreel, so they cannot say, “This is Jezebel.” 

Not all dogs were ruffians and misfits in that day. Many shepherd’s would lead sheep, fighting off any predators with the use of a sling and stones in front, while his dogs brought up the rear, ensuring that the sheep were not attacked by wild animals and keeping them in pace with the shepherd. Isaiah made reference to this double protection when he delivered his message from God. 

Isaiah 52:12

But you will not go out in haste, Nor will you go as fugitives; For the Lord will go before you, And the God of Israel will be your rear guard. 

Solomon writes a message of hope to those who feel life has gone to the dogs, placing a lion at the top of animals in nature (King of the jungle?) and a dog at the bottom of the animal kingdom. 

Ecclesiastes 9:4

For whoever is joined with all the living, there is hope; surely a live dog is better than a dead lion. 

So…do you feel like your life has gone to the dogs? Are your dreams wasting away? There is hope for you, no matter how bad you think your life is right now. Honor the Lord with your life and actions. Don’t let possessions control your actions as Ahab and Jezebel did. Possessions won’t bring you lasting peace or make you happy for long. Only a personal relationship with Jesus Christ can provide what you truly need. Place your trust in the God who will protect you from all sides and keep you on pace with Him. 

Copyright Church Growth Associates, Inc.

http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Making Visitation Work

By Rev. Rick Robinson


Mark 16:15
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation.

IS IT WORTH IT?

How effective is home visitation? Some say visitation is not effective in the modern church culture. Try explaining that to the cult members who are growing by proselytizing 70 to 80 percent of their membership out of our churches. Only 3 out of 10 Protestant churches have an organized visitation program and most of those have their sights on the church visitor. Churches with effective outreach should be touching the lives in five people groups. These include members, guest, the hospitalized, the homebound, and the unchurched. Each one of these people groups will require a different strategy, and you may have people with a passion for each one of those categories to help. If not, get organized, God will send them.

So how effective is home visitation? The most influential component of your church growth mix is the friendship factor. The effectiveness of visitation is cut in half when a paid staff member does it, because the perception is the staff is being paid to make visits. When ordinary members of the church make those visits, it is an act of wanting to be friends. When we look at the growth mix of your church, we use church growth ratios to determine the strengths and weaknesses you have. We can determine how your assimilation strategy is working by looking at the visitor retention ratios. Ratios from first time visitors are as follows:

  • Declining churches will see 12% or less of their first time guest join the church.
  • Slightly growing churches may see around 16% of first time guest join the church.
  • Growing, healthy churches will see 25% or more of their guest join the church.

If your strategy for growth includes only visitation, you have no strategy. Effective assimilation will require a detailed follow-up strategy, and until you are retaining at least one out of four first time visitors, it is not working. We can help you with assimilating your guest, but this lesson is going to help you get your visitation started, or organized first. You will see how it all comes together.

GETTING STARTED

Mark 7:6
Calling the Twelve to him, he sent them out two by two …

Let’s begin here with the visitation team itself. Some Christians prefer visiting alone. This can limit your opportunity for ministry and invite a potential uncomfortable situation under certain circumstances. Having a second person on the team has advantages. Each will have different gifts and perspectives that will make a successful team. This will also increase the safety of the visit. A husband and wife team would be ideal. I do not believe a man and woman should visit alone on the team when they are married, but not to each other. The next logical choice would be a third person team. As with the two-person ministry team, there will be more opportunity for witness and ministry with the variety of gifts, testimonies, and perspectives. There is not a right or wrong number of people to use on the team for basic visitation purposes. There is a common sense number, don’t storm the house with a bus load of people.

RECRUITING WOKERS

Luke 10:2
He told them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.

When we do the Thoughts & Perceptions surveys in a church, it always reveals there are people who are willing to be trained in outreach. Most churches already have people that are ready and willing to work in outreach ministry. Pray for God to guide you as you begin this ministry in your church. I would encourage you to start by building a leadership base that you personally recruit, one on one. These are the people you can trust, that love the church, and love you. Make sure outreach is kept in the forefront of the church. Utilize the free help that is available to you in our library at MyChurchGrowth.com as a guideline. As your ministry grows, God will continue to supply the workers you need.

WE DON’T HAVE ANY PROSPECTS

John 4:35
Do you not say, „Four months more and then the harvest‟? I tell you, open your eyes and look at the fields! They are ripe for harvest.

Unless you got this message out of a bottle that floated up on the deserted island you live on, you have plenty of prospects. Let’s take a look at where we can go visiting. Any evangelism or outreach ministry will be more effective with understanding the fields to be harvested. We must develop meaningful relationships through meeting needs both in the community and the church. So, what types of prospective new members are out there? The simple church growth principle of. No visitors, no growth, really comes into focus here. Our iCONSULTATION can help you with this part of your church growth mix, but here are some basic thoughts.

THE CHURCH GUEST

Matthew 22:9-10
Go to the street corners and invite to the banquet anyone you find.‟ So the servants went out into the streets and gathered all the people they could find, both good and bad, and the wedding hall was filled with guests.

The church guest is one of the best prospective members we have. Remember the contact should be made within 36 hours after their visit if possible. This is because 60% of first time visitors will return if the contact is made within 36 hours, while 15% will return if you wait until the end of the week.

INACTIVE MEMBERS

James 5:19-20
My brothers, if one of you should wander from the truth and someone should bring him back, remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.

Inactive Sunday School and church members are another resource for visitation. Don’t get discouraged when dealing with inactives. You should be aware that it is likely to require six to ten hours of visitation to move into ministry with the inactive. You can get detailed help with ministry to inactive church members in our library on our web site at MyChurchGrowth.com. Everything in the library is free.

FRAN’s

Mark 5:19-20
… “Go home to your family and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” So the man went away and began to tell in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him. And all the people were amazed.

Friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors are rich mission fields for ministry. I have gone to many churches that thought they had no prospects, and asked them to make a list of people they can think of that do not attend church. A small church with a handful of people can easily come up with hundreds of prospects. Try it! Make your list, start praying for the people, and ask God to present opportunity. God does not procrastinate like we do. He is more than willing to set up divine appointments for us.

HOSPITALS AND NURSING HOMES

Luke 8:41-42
Then a man named Jairus, a ruler of the synagogue, came and fell at Jesus‟ feet, pleading with him to come to his house because his only daughter, a girl of about twelve, was dying.

Hospitals and nursing homes are full of people waiting for someone to come by and spend some time talking and praying with them. If you do not have members in the hospital or nursing home, try going from room to room, asking if anyone would like prayer. I have also asked nurses on duty if there is a certain patient that may enjoy a visit from someone. You run the risk of being asked to leave, but unless it is a small hospital, there’s more than one floor and more than one shift of nurses. You may be surprised with the results.

GOING DOOR TO DOOR

Acts 5:42
Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ.

Sound a little scary? Being a little frightened is only Satan trying to stop you. Before I was saved, I visited as a Mormon with no fear. Satan did not want to stop me. After I met Jesus Christ began visiting with the true gospel, I found that spirit of fear trying to stop me. Remember that we must only be willing to do it, and God will bless our efforts.

When you consider where you may want to go door to door, something else to consider is the natural traffic pattern. When the church is between the prospects home and a destination the prospect travels to on a regular basis, such as work, it is in the natural traffic pattern. These prospects will be easier to reach since they are accustomed to traveling from home in the direction of the church. It will require approximately 5 visits to get someone to attend worship when the church is in this traffic pattern. It will require about 9 visits for those who live outside that pattern. The most important question is, which field does God want you to work in, and what will the strategies be? These questions will be answered through prayer, the most important, effective part of outreach. Be sure to read the Caring & Sharing article in our library for more help on this subject.

THE BASICS

Acts 19:17
Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Now we want to lay a foundation for knocking on the door and keeping a follow up strategy going. This article will assume first, that the prospect you are visiting has previously attended your church. Other articles in our library will support other types of visitation. Secondly, we will assume the reader knows little or nothing about visitation.

PRAYER

Romans 10:1
Brothers, my heart‟s desire and prayer to God … is that they may be saved.

Prayer is the most important part of the visit. Pray together before leaving the church, not in front of the prospects home. If your prospect looks out the window and sees people sitting in a car in front of their home, it can make for an uncomfortable situation. Praying inside the home silently as someone on your ministry team shares is always appropriate. I recall a visit I made a few years back with a new trainee. “All you have to do is pray as I share Christ with our prospect” I said. Well, as I began to share the gospel with our prospect, my trainee dropped to his knees and began praying loudly, “Oh God, save this wretched sinner!” I couldn’t believe this was happening. I continued as though I hadn’t noticed what my ministry partner was doing. Although our prospect received Christ that night, I explained to my new trainee that this is not be the best approach the next time.

THE APPROACH

Colossians 4:5
Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity.

Be sure not to park your vehicle on the grass or a flower bed, and try not to block in other vehicles. You don’t want to position your vehicle so it will have to be moved if someone in the home needs to leave. If there is a woman on your team, she should be the most visible person on the team at the door. This is much less intimidating for most people. Introduce yourself and the team members and state you are from the church immediately. If no one is home, be certain you leave a door hanger with church information, and a brief note to let them know you stopped by.

INSIDE THE HOME

Colossians 4:6
Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

Once inside the home, you can look for visible things to build a friendly conversation with. For example: Musical instruments, trophies, pictures, etc. Begin building a relationship with the prospect by talking about the things they like. Remember to retrieve any information that may be used for follow up and ministry. Do not take notes in front of the prospects. Stay focused on ministry to the individual. Listen for feelings, attitudes, perceptions and values as well as for facts. Pay attention and avoid interrupting. Never tune people out because you don’t like them, you disagree with them, or you find them dull. This time should not be rushed although you should not overstay your welcome either. Be Spirit led and use good judgment.

LEAVING THE HOME

Ephesians 5:15-16
Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, …

Do not end your visit with a reason you must leave. (i.e. We have a meeting to go to, we have more visits to make, I’ve got to get home, etc..) The prospect should feel special enough that you have designated this time just for them. Praying with the prospect is a good way to conclude the visit, but always ask permission to pray for them and never call on them to pray, some people will be very uncomfortable with that.

KEEP GOOD RECORDS FOR ASSIMILATION

Colossians 4:9
… They will tell you everything that is happening here.

In establishing a visitation ministry, report back and record keeping are very important ingredients. A report back session gives opportunity to share about our ministry time for purposes of follow-up ideas and prayer. You can serve refreshments and turn this into a special time of the outreach night. A report back time also brings the paper work or reports back to the church. How will you carry on the assimilation process without this information? It is vital the information retrieved will be useful. The biggest problem I have seen when it comes to visitation reports, is a name of the members who made the visit and “Good visit” written on the form. What strategy would you use to assimilate the prospect with the term “good visit” penciled in on a report? Strategic detailed information must be captured if we are to be effective in outreach ministry.
These are the simple basics of a visitation ministry to get you started. When I watch the weekly attendance records for the churches we work with I can tell when they are not doing the outreach, because The growth starts to level off. Visitation still works today, just as it did in the early church.

For other free articles on ministry to inactives and other evangelism and outreach training for your visitation ministry, visit our library at MyChurchGrowth.com/library.

From the library of MyChurchGrowth.com
copyright ©2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
Where the complexity of church growth intersects with the simplicity of the gospel

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Want To Lose The Wait?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Many people would like to lose weight, but many more may want to lose “wait”, although they may not think about it in those terms. Waiting on God can be a frustrating thing. Imagine with me for a moment of a world without waiting. No smells of the fine cooking coming from the kitchen as you wait in anticipation of the flavors dancing in your mouth. No waiting in anticipation as a child waiting to open the Christmas gifts. Perhaps no one wants to wait in line to buy the anticipated gifts anyway. Don’t bother enjoying that movie night, the ending is now instant. No waiting seems like such a loss of treasured memories. You have accepted the fact that next Tuesday cannot arrive until then. All of history would need be condensed into the now without this thing called waiting.

Would all the prophecies of the Bible be erased (since there was no waiting) and be updated by telling a historic perspective? The vision came immediately and you most certainly have heard about it by this time. The promise came without delay, and if there was such a thing as waiting–but there is not, I would then look forward to the anticipation of the next thing in line for me.

When it comes to waiting on God, we think we know best about the timing of it all. If we never had to wait on something from God, would it void this thing we know as faith? Faith is not a lonely thing you use to get what you want; it is an interactive thing that is rewarded by waiting on God’s perfect time to deliver His promise.

Habakkuk 2:3
For the vision is yet for the appointed time; It hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; For it will certainly come, it will not delay.

We should be able to be at peace with the wait, since it is God himself that is delivering us through the situation. The battles you face are won or lost in the wait time first, long before they become part of our physical world.

Isaiah 40:31
Yet those who wait for the LORD Will gain new strength; They will mount up with wings like eagles, They will run and not get tired, They will walk and not become weary.

When our expectations and desires are counted all lost, it is most often because we failed to manage the wait. Inspiration to wait on God is the spiritual truth that has not yet been experienced in the natural–nevertheless it is just as real. Do you really want to lose wait? Can you see what an impossible thing that is and how interactive waiting on God is meant to be? Enjoy the anticipation of what God will do next as you wait—knowing it will be in His time–the way you wait on the natural events in your life.

James 5:7
Therefore be patient, brethren, until the coming of the Lord. The farmer waits for the precious produce of the soil, being patient about it, until it gets the early and late rains. You too be patient; strengthen your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is near.

copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.

http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Do I Really Need An Education?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

We have become discontent with so many things in life. Preparing dinner took too long, so frozen TV dinners were introduced. When I was a kid in the 1960’s it was exciting news to hear the traditional family meal at the table would be replaced with a TV dinner for the evening. Yes, we ate them on TV trays, in the living room in front of the TV set. If we were lucky, we had something called a fizzy to drink with it. If you don’t know what a fizzy was, it can perhaps be best described as sweet flavored alka seltzer that fizzed when you dropped it into a glass of water, dispensing the purest of artificial flavors science could deliver.

The discontent we experience today can lead to such a troubled heart. The pressure sometimes seems like it is just too much. We are not only discontent with our situation; we are discontent with the time required to change our circumstances. When a person decides to place their trust in Jesus Christ for salvation, that re-birth takes place in an instant. Learning to trust in Christ for the future is moment by moment with a little here and a little more there. Don’t expect to become mature instantly, you must study.

Philippians 2:12-13
So then, my beloved, just as you have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure.

Working out your salvation should not be confused with working for your salvation. The word used for work as in “work out your salvation” is katergazomai, which means to perform. The word used for work as in “God who is at work” is energeo, which means put forth power. All your work can have the power of the Holy Spirit working according to His good pleasure. You are not alone; the power to help you through any situation is available to all that trust Christ.

Galatians 3:24-26
Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

The Greek word for tutor here, is paidagogos (pahee-dag-o-gos’). Among the Greeks and the Romans, a tutor was a guardian and guide of boys. They were trustworthy slaves with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The tutor would take the boys to school everyday. (School did not become mandatory for all boys until A.D.65) In this illustration, Paul is saying the law was the slave (tutor), and Christ is the teacher. God is able to teach us how to have a better life, but He will educate us only as much as we will allow. Bring all your cares to Him, and work out your salvation with His power.

2 Timothy 2:15
Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Tragedy or Treasure?

by Rev. Rick Robinson

I don’t minimize the loss of life in the September 11, 2001 attacks on America, and I suffered no personal loss, but can anything good come out of a tragedy? Immediately after the September 11 attacks, millions of Americans made changes in their spiritual priorities. Residents of the New York City market are more spiritually active today than they were before the attack with an increase in church attendance of about 15%. In fact, the percentage of residents in the New York area who are unchurched declined while the national average of unchurched adults increased.

Going to church is not the most important thing in life, a relationship with Jesus Christ is, but the tracking data includes all religions. The percentage of New York residents who say they will go to Heaven because they have accepted Christ and been forgiven of their sins has increased from 20% to 32% as compared to 40% of adults nationwide who can be classified as born again.

Although researchers say they cannot determine what caused this change for certain, there is no doubt that God can turn a tragedy into a treasure. Look at the attitude of Joseph, who was sold into slavery by his own brothers.

Genesis 50:20-21
“But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive. “Now therefore, do not be afraid; I will provide for you and your little ones.” And he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.

Tragedies seem to open and close windows of receptivity quickly for most people. You may have heard of the Holmes and Rahe stress scale, which places a number on the events in our lives and how they can affect our health. The death of a spouse is 100 on the scale; being fired from work a 47, and the foreclosure of a mortgage 30, for example. If your total score is over 300 you have a high risk of the stress making you ill, while the score below 150 has a low to moderate chance of becoming ill in the near future. I don’t know how reliable this test is, but I do know people with a higher stress number tend to be more receptive to the gospel when I go door to door.

I know it is not easy to face the trials that come our way. I have been guilty of whining when things don’t go my way. We can take hope that God is in the middle of the trouble with us, for He is faithful—even when we are not.

Romans 8:28
And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.

While we know we have placed our hope in Christ alone, it is important to remember those who have no such hope. They do not know the tragedy they face can turn into treasure. You must have that vision for them, before they can have that vision for themselves. In your quest to rescue those suffering by bringing the hope of Christ to them, you will also be storing up treasures in Heaven for yourself.

Luke 12:33-34
“Sell what you have and give alms; provide yourselves money bags which do not grow old, a treasure in the heavens that does not fail, where no thief approaches nor moth destroys. “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

It is a matter of where your heart is in the matter. Tragedy touches the rich and the poor—there is no economic safety net. When Peter began to compare himself to the rich man who would not give up his trust in riches to follow Christ, Jesus made it clear it was trust in Him alone that would bring true riches.

Mark 10:28-30
Then Peter began to say to Him, “See, we have left all and followed You.” So Jesus answered and said, “Assuredly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or lands, for My sake and the gospel’s, “who shall not receive a hundredfold now in this time—houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions—and in the age to come, eternal life.

Ask God to give you a vision for the lost around you, and store up for yourself treasures that can be enjoyed forever.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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Who Do You Trust?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Everybody lives by some form of faith. Many people have more faith in themselves, their job, or the government (other people) for example, than they do in God. The difference between the Christian and the unconverted individual is not if they have faith, but where is their faith. The subject of faith can be a difficult thing to understand. What hinders God from working in our life is not his lack of power or desire, but our lack of faith.

Matthew 13:58
And He did not do many miracles there because of their unbelief.

When people place their trust in anything other than God, that thing (or person) becomes an idol. The people of Israel did just that when they turned their back to God instead of their face.

Jeremiah 2:5
Thus says the Lord: “What injustice have your fathers found in Me, That they have gone far from Me, Have followed idols, And have become idolaters?

If you place your trust in other things, God may leave you alone to allow those things to meet your needs. That is a choice we all make for ourselves.

Jeremiah 2:28
But where are your gods that you have made for yourselves? Let them arise, If they can save you in the time of your trouble; For according to the number of your cities Are your gods, O Judah.

The state of America concerns me when our President states “America is not a Christian nation”. He may change his god, but he does not get an endorsement to change mine. Only I have the power to change where my trust is.

Jeremiah 2:11
Has a nation changed its gods, Which are not gods? But My people have changed their Glory For what does not profit.

What about you? Have you decided to change gods? How can you know you are living by faith? Let me give you a few basic guidelines to check your faith by.

First ask yourself if you are making the decision to glorify God or to please yourself. Those two answers may or may not match. If you are asking the Lord to do the impossible, it will bring much more glory to Him when it happens.

Matthew 19:26
But Jesus looked at them and said to them, “With men this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”

The next thing has to do with God’s timing. Am I rushing ahead  or am I willing to wait? If you can be honest with yourself and say you haven’t got the patients to wait, be cautious. This comes from the fear of being overcome by disappointment, and you make an emotional decision instead of a spiritual one.

Romans 10:11
The Scriptures say that no one who has faith will be disappointed,
CEV

Always ask yourself if you can defend what you are doing from the Word of God?
I see people make comments on social network places like Facebook that do not line up with God’s word, yet they claim He is involved. That is not possible since God will not violate His own word. (Don’t cut me off your social networks now!) Remember that true faith is always found in line with scripture.

Romans 10:17
So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.

After you come this far towards making a decision, consider if there is joy and peace within? Don’t skip to this one too fast, or you may be emotionally deceived, the other guidelines must line up first. When you have the heart of God on something, you will have peace available to you.

Romans 15:13
Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

There is hope for you in your situation because He is the God of hope. The peace and joy comes through faith by the power of the Holy Spirit and is not depending on anything else. You will also find giving praise and thanks to God is an important part of God’s peace. This is one of my favorite scriptures and has sustained me through many trials.

Philippians 4:4-7
Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice! Let your gentleness be known to all men. The Lord is at hand. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

I pray this will help you to see if you are living by faith or if you have changed your gods, and how you can obtain true peace while you wait on the Lord.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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Open Your Eyes

By Rev. Rick Robinson

When you are looking for God’s direction, do you prefer to see open doors? How certain is an open door when it comes to discerning God’s direction? While open doors can be a sign from God, they can also be a distraction from God’s best. I was recently thinking back in time about things God has done in my life and how God provided needs as well as direction for me.

Years ago I had a 1929 Pontiac, a 1941 Oldsmobile and a 1965 Chevy truck that I drove every day. We were struggling financially and we decided to sell my truck since we needed money more than I needed three antique vehicles. I took one of my wife Victoria’s lipsticks, wrote a price on the windshield and parked the truck on the street. Shortly, a man came by and offered to pay the price on the windshield for the truck. What seemed like an open door, I turned down because I did not have peace about the sale. You might ask if I was thinking straight or did I perhaps love the truck too much to part with it? Only a few days later another man came by and offered to purchase the truck. His offer had a condition I must agree to before he would buy the truck. He wanted to only use the truck on weekends, but did not want to leave the truck all week without being used. If I would drive the truck Monday through Friday, he would pick up the pick up on Friday night and bring it back on Sunday. It looked like I would be able to sell my truck, and drive it too. The first weekend, everything went fine except the man said he was too busy to transfer the title and we would do it later. The second week he called and said he was too busy to use the truck that weekend. The third weekend, he called to say he didn’t know what he was thinking buying an old truck. He told me to keep the truck and keep the money too. Open doors are not as useful as open eyes, to see things the way God does.

I am reminded of the story of Elisha, when his servant was frightened about the soldiers that had them surrounded. He was afraid, thinking he and Elisha were going to die. Elisha told him not to fear, and asked God to open his eyes that he may see what God sees. The servant saw angels that out numbered the soldiers encamped all around them.

2 Kings 6:15-17
And when the servant of the man of God arose early and went out, there was an army, surrounding the city with horses and chariots. And his servant said to him, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” So he answered, “Do not fear, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.” And Elisha prayed, and said, “Lord, I pray, open his eyes that he may see.” Then the Lord opened the eyes of the young man, and he saw. And behold, the mountain was full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha.

Are you going through a situation right now that seems hopeless? Are you frightened by what you see? Maybe it is time to relax and meditate on all the things God has done for you in the past. Perhaps it is time to ask God to open your eyes that you may see what He sees, because when it comes to faith, seeing is not believing–believing is seeing.

Hebrews 11:1
Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com
rick@mychurchgrowth.com

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How to figure your church growth rate

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Growth rates are an important part of the diagnostic tools we have in our church growth toolbox. Part of developing your church growth strategies will be understanding growth rates.

First let me clarify what numerical growth is. These numbers we count are much more than statistics. Each one has a name and God knows them, loves them, and desires to have a relationship with them. Trying to separate evangelism and discipleship is like trying to slice a quarter in half so you will have 50 cents. You do not. We must reach people for Jesus, but also assimilate them into a loving church and disciple them. These numbers are only a tool to keep us on track, as a physician would use a thermometer and his other instruments to diagnose a patient.

Each church is either growing, on a plateau, or declining. Eighty percent of the churches in America are not growing in fact eight churches a day close in the United States and Canada. When we do a consultation we look at the AGR (Annual Growth Rate) AAGR (Average Annual Growth Rate) and DGR (Decade Growth Rate).

Before I show you how to figure your growth rate, let me explain what we are looking for. In church growth terms, a church is not growing unless it increases by five percent a year. On the other side, a church is not in a decline unless it is losing five percent a year. Everything in that ten percent window (five percent plus–and five percent minus) is considered a plateau. Most of the churches that have partnered with us and have a membership to our associate services are growing at twenty percent. The smaller a church is, the easier it is for that number to be higher. It is not unusual for us to be able to double many of the churches that have 50 or less in worship in twelve months time. My home church, Idlewild Baptist Church, here in Tampa, has around 7500 in worship. Growing five percent is a lot more work. You get the idea, and have a few thoughts already about your own church.

Now let’s look at these church growth tools and get started on the path to new church growth ideas, with old church growth principles. The Annual Growth Rate (AGR) Not to insult your intelligence, is used to tell us how much numerical growth has occurred from one year to the next, and what the trend will most likely be, if no changes are made.

At Church growth Associates, we have weekly tracking and accountability for the churches we partner with, when it comes to worship attendance. We want to make adjustments as needed and not wait until the end of the year to figure out what went wrong (or right). In my examples I use attendance, so it can’t be said we have more members than there are people. Church membership is important, but attendance is a great measure of our effectiveness. You can use members for your calculations if you like, use any criterion you desire, just keep consistent with the formula from year to year.

1. Subtract the earlier year’s average attendance, from the later year’s average attendance.
2. Divide the answer you get by the earlier year.
3. Multiply the answer you get by 100 to change the decimal to percent.
4. The answer is your AGR.

Let’s give an illustration of this example. Gracious Church had an average attendance of 125 last year. This year Gracious Church had an average of 180 in attendance.

This year    180
Last year  – 125
Increase      55

An increase of 55 in worship, divided by the earlier year average (125) is .44 times 100 (to convert to percent). The AGR for Gracious Church is 44% this year.

Now go back for the last ten years, and get the AGR for each one. This will give you a look at the trend your church is on, and where it most likely will be in ten years if no changes are made.

If you don’t have Microsoft Office or PowerPoint, you will find a link to the open source alternative, Open Office in our library you can own at no charge. This will help you to see a graph of your progress.

You can use the same formula as above to find your DGR if you desire, but I recommend working with the numbers from the past ten years. We use older history only when there are more questions that need to be answered. Ten years is sufficient in most cases.

You are invited to check out the vast resources for church growth on our main website. Here are just a few.

Church Experience Project

The Un-churched by State

Adding Another Worship Service

Check out our Library

If you would like to see if Church Growth Associates could help you with your strategies for church growth, tell us your story, maybe we can help.

Rick Robinson

 

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
MyChurchGrowth.com

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How much space do I need?

By Rev. Rick Robinson

Church Growth and Sunday School Space may go together more than you think. One question often asked is how much space is needed when planning a Sunday School? The needs of a church will vary according to size, and age distribution. In an average church the babies and toddlers may amount to three percent, while your church may have a greater number or even none at all. The space needed for a Sunday School will vary, but here is guide you can use when planning your small groups. This guideline is a strategy for church growth, you can get by with less if you have too, but if you sacrifice these ratios you may effect attendance and future church growth.

Age Group    Square Feet / Person
Babies -Kindergarten    30-35
Primary – Middle School    25-30
High School    20-25
Adults    10-15

To maximize the utility you get from existing buildings, you may need to do some measuring. I have a digital tape measure I use for such a project. You can purchase one at Lowes; they are relatively inexpensive and can save a lot of time. I have seen rooms that have not been used for a while with things stacked up in them, and this tool will avoid your having to move things around or climb over them, since it just pings off the wall. You can also work alone if you have this tool, and many pastors don’t always have someone available to help.

Once you figure the square footage of the rooms you will have available; you can use the guidelines provided to see how many people can be accommodated in each room.

Determine the ministry God wants you to do, then adopt your resources to that mission. If you are a church that operates a school during the week in your facilities, I suggest you don’t force your members, and particularly your guest, to sit in your small groups using a school desk. Get creative; get some comfortable adult accommodating chairs in those rooms even if it means more set up and take down time.

Rarely if ever can any one factor be the cause for the growth or decline of a church. It requires a combination of factors to develop a growing church. This combination of factors is called the “growth mix”. Every church has a growth mix, be it a poor one that causes decline or a good one that causes growth. When our church growth consultants diagnose a church to discover the growth mix, we use church growth ratios and principles as a guideline. When it comes to small groups and church growth, keep the following church growth principles in mind.

Every small group, including Sunday School, will eventually close itself off. This is called saturation. Saturation can be caused by many variables, but the most powerful influence is time itself. For this reason, one of the most powerful strategies we have for growth of the Sunday School, or other small group, is creating new units, or classes on a regular basis. Twenty percent of your small groups should have been started in the last two years.

Reclaiming wasted space, freshening up rooms and the environment presented by the condition and cleanliness of the rooms and properly allocating space can be a boost for Sunday School and church growth. The bottom line will be better assimilation of people into a caring church fellowship.

Rick Robinson is a church growth consultant with Church Growth Associates.

If you would like help with strategies for church growth, click here. One of our church growth consultants will call you with no obligation to see if we can help you grow your church.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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The Power of One

By Rev. Rick Robinson

When everything is going your way it is easy to feel proud of yourself and have hope for the future. Our confidence in our ability to accomplish something can lead us to be proud of where we are going or how far we have come. Our pride can also cause us to put other people down, overlook our own faults, and lift us to a position that may not be a reality. This is caused by ignorance of the future as we arrogantly predict how life will turn out—good or bad, based on the power of one—that is ourselves.

On the other hand, doubting our ability to accomplish all that we hope for can lead us into the feeling of everything being against us. Maybe you feel you don’t have the talent, skills or the right contacts. You’re in good company; many godly people in the Bible felt that way. Who was Moses trusting in when he had this conversation with God.

Exodus 4:10-13

Moses said to the LORD, “O Lord, I have never been eloquent, neither in the past nor since you have spoken to your servant. I am slow of speech and tongue.” The LORD said to him, “Who gave man his mouth? Who makes him deaf or mute? Who gives him sight or makes him blind? Is it not I, the LORD? Now go; I will help you speak and will teach you what to say.” But Moses said, “O Lord, please send someone else to do it.”

Maybe you are one that feels God will do things for other people but not for you. What do you base that on? No matter what is taking place in your surroundings it may be time to re-asses priorities. When pride overlooks our failure, it may overlook many of our sins. It is easy to point out sins that are committed, but it is much easier to overlook the sins of omission, that is—the things we ought to do but yet do not. It is easier to detect wrong than the absence of right. For example, our plans should demonstrate our dependence on the Lord, not ourselves. When we do not trust in the Lord it is a sin of omission. Likewise, Christ calls every believer to be a witness for Him. When we do not share our faith, it is a sin of omission. When we avoid doing anything our Lord has asked us to do, it is just as much a sin as any sin committed.

James 4:13-17

Now listen, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to this or that city, spend a year there, carry on business and make money.” Why, you do not even know what will happen tomorrow. What is your life? You are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead, you ought to say, “If it is the Lord’s will, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast and brag. All such boasting is evil.  Anyone, then, who knows the good he ought to do and doesn’t do it, sins.

James not only tells us we must be watchful for the sin of omission, but we also see that a man who brags about future plans while ignoring God’s sovereignty is foolish. I am guilty of this more frequently than I like to admit, for my pride hides it well. God may determine that at the present time, tribulation is a greater need than attaining certain goals.

Romans 5:1-4

Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

When we consider the power of one, it is important to understand that it must be Jesus, not ourselves. If a relationship with Christ were automatic, we would not have been given the great commission to share our faith. If it could be done without God’s word, we would not need the Bible. If we could do it alone, we would not need prayer—or the church. Being a Christian is all about a relationship with Jesus Christ. It only happens when we transfer our trust in the power of one from ourselves—to Jesus Christ, regardless of our surroundings.

Copyright 2011 Church Growth Associates, Inc.
http://MyChurchGrowth.com

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