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13. Grow Your Church, Part 1

Jim Howard

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Conference

Recorded

  • June 19, 2018
    9:00 AM
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So I'm going to talk to you a little bit about the reasoning behind some of what is up here which you know I think is important for you to understand when you're trying to implement something from a local church standpoint. If you look here at what is on the screen you'll be familiar probably with the idea of the agricultural process of making disciples that Jesus gave us preparing the soil of the heart how do you prepare the soil of the heart branches. Serve a community what have you building relationships OK And then this is planting the seed How might you do that OK let's hold on just for a little bit on that supper club would be here because unless you are a suburb of can be here but let me let me be clear about the difference when here and here see Jesus said the seed is. The Word of God So there are a lot of valuable things that we do that are building relationships that are not necessarily yet getting to the point of sharing Bible truth OK As a general rule that would be supper clubs though there may be some supper clubs where we're starting to move into some seed planting and that would be valid as well but that's the distinction that you would sometimes see this since it's including the Word of God would be like spiritual conversations you would have giving your personal testimony you're moving into spiritual things and then what we often emphasize is planting seeds there literature truth to literature and media and things like that so you're you're often testing the soil here so here you're preparing the soil here you're testing your planting and seeing if something begins to grow and if the interest begins to grow then you've got to cultivate that right you've got to water it you've gotta shyness on. We do it etc And that takes a while while it's growing and this is the process of ongoing Bible studies OK And then at some point you don't want to study the Bible forever you know on some point you want them to make decisions based on what they're learning so that's the harvest harvesting is that can happen in Bible studies it often happens through public evangelism anywhere where you're making appeals for people to make decisions for Christ and that can be decisions to follow certain elements of the truth or the you know that Gateway decision of baptism where they surrender all the to following Christ. Then after you've baptized someone of course you want to preserve the harvest and the way to preserve the harvest is to train people to work for Christ and so you're training them to be involved but you're also the same time deepening their faith in the Bible getting them developing spiritual habits of communion with God and walking with God personally nurturing them with you know integration into the local church and all that kind of thing so that's your whole process well as a general conference they have something called Total member involvement and when I went to interview I talked about told members all because I love it and elder Olson and Duane McKee they were spearheading the development of this initiative at the General Conference which is about getting every member involved and I went to the interview at the General Conference prepared because I went on to the T.M.I. website and I pulled down some of their resources and one of the resources was a brochure that said 100 ways to get involved and the 100 ways to get involved. Included things like letting someone over on the freeway holding the door open for someone you know all manner of nice kind things that you can do the challenge that I see with that is that if. You believe that you are involved in the church because you're being kind in the way that you're interacting with people then you will never feel that you have any need to be engaged in you know sharing the message or you know being actively trying to lead souls into the truth so you know I talked about and I actually took to it was a brochure and you can open up a brochure you've got like 60 of them were on one side and 40 of them were on the other side when I opened it all the way out and so I took the one side had like 60 and I highlighted any on there that were not. Preparing the soil. Jane anything that was not preparing the soil and on of that 60 on the front page there were 2 that were not carrying the soil. And so I showed him you know and then I got a story. That in essence what happens is total memory involvement as they 1st began I don't know if you remember they went to Rwanda some of you may have heard that report in fact when I was here I invited to a Maccie from the General Conference to come and he gave a little report during one of our meetings I think it was for Bob's that he offer we had a big kickoff and doing the key came and he did a 20 minute presentation on Rwanda and what they did we're told a member Volman as you may know in Rwanda through that event they baptized over 100000 souls which was the highest baptism count from any event that's ever been conducted in the 7th Avenue Church and so and by the way I've been to Rwanda and they are still going strong the very next year even without General Conference people going there they had over 50000 baptisms and when we talk to them about what they're doing with those baptisms and what their retention is it was very strong I mean very strong so you know why you might sometimes worry that those are all gone 6 months later that wasn't the case there variants of Rwanda doing very well beautiful country now which is good after all they went through in Rwanda. Now when T.M.I. started there and you had different people in the General Conference going and preaching meetings and what have you there were some who began to say T.M.I. is just about public evangelism it's not really told them all and it's about public Angeles I'm. So kind of the back and the response to that was to start creating things like this brochure that that made it kind of flipside of you can just hold the door open for somebody or do whatever and that's being involved to. I felt as I was speaking with them that they needed a clear way of expressing what is needed for a local church to be actually growing versus just being involved because you can be involved in on I and I'm I make the point on Sabbath morning I'll share it again that personal ministry department the whole purpose the person ministry department is to involve every member in list all members and children of the word in list. I mean that's pretty strong words going to sign you up in some form of personal outreach or missionary service so that's been a church many for a long time so the whole T.M.I. initiative and everything it's just a little secret for you the job of the personal ministry department always has been and so I always ask the question. If every member was involved with the church grow and of course you know as I sat there during Sabbath school I got that resoundingly yes and I gave then my response which is well that depends That depends because the process requires everything preparing the soil planting the word cultivating interest harvesting decision and then preserving and training. You know and and mention how all these. You can be strong or weak in every area and you need to be working on all areas but then what if you have this type of scenario where everybody was doing only one thing like preparing the soil by the way preparing the soil is kind of the the emphasis of some of our greatest organizations like add drama and advent of Community Services. All our health ministry while it has an element of planting it is primarily preparing the soil and White describes it that way she says it's an entering wedge preparing the way for or other true this to be received into the heart so this would not cause the church to grow even if everybody was doing it to me Venice is the bigger problem than total memory involvement is and that's I guess that is what I'm trying to get at underneath it all here in the North American division there's a great initiative compassion 10000 or something like that and then issue to visit all about trying to get 7th Day Adventist to recognize the need for compassionate service and I for one think it is a pretty spot on need like we have a problem with some of our the way we look at this type of service in the church in that we have like a particular department or like community service center and you know 3 ladies who have been working in the community service center for you know 65 years are still running the thing you know. If you have to ask the deacon do occasionally help them fix the leak on the roof or you know I'm saying you got these. Saints been working this but the younger generation is not feeling it and not just the younger generation but the entire church I mean it's not something that we have always looked at as a church wide thing but as long as the church is doing something then we feel we've got that phase covered this is part of the problem since we have so I don't have a problem with the emphasis on compassionate service but I do feel that it swallows up what I believe and I can speak only for myself here but what I believe is the central part of evangelism which is the message. You see this doesn't negate the importance of you know being having Christ like characters in our in our witness and and Matthew 25 and making sure that we are you know visiting the sick and making sure that we are caring for those who need care for all those things but in order for someone to be saved by the Gospel they have eventually have got to hear it OK that's what that is the part about the early church that made it grow when you look at the picture of the early church and what made it grow it was the message because your kindness is wonderful and you can attract people and you can and you can cause them to have confidence in you and everything else but you do not really want their final destination to be looking at you favorably. You understand to say ultimately that's for the purpose of then being able to share with them what has brought you to the point that you are which is Jesus Christ and so if you're trying to draw them to crisis the whole point of preparing the soil so we've got to get to this. Issue that you can't have a A one thing that you consider evangelism and then as long as everybody do is doing one thing then that's fine in fact I hear some people say I read. An article on a memory where it was I think is in the newsletter I had. It came to me here in the North American division and it was talking about this one pastor who was planting a church and in the planting of this church they. They said it was growing greatly they had some innovative methods and what have you and basically the article said the way we've grown the church is through intentional acts of kindness Now let me be really clear about something you cannot grow a church with intentional acts of kindness the only way you can grow a church with intentional acts of kindness is if you are baptizing people without them knowing what 7th Avenue is believe OK now you can grow attendance perhaps. Through intentional acts of kindness you could grow a tendon but even then that will be short lived unless there is a conviction of what we believe see the divine part of it the divine part of it is the word when you read in the book of Acts it's the word that cause them to grow I mean the word cause them to grow mightily and so unless the word is introduced you're not really having growth so what's happening is people are presenting things as evangelism innovative ideas about evangelism but they're actually only one phase of evangelism and they're they're putting that forward as if it is a replacement almost of what we've done in the past and it can't be a replacement of what we've done in the past so what the grow in issue to visit really doing is helping to make the point that you cannot replace truth sharing with compassion you also cannot be successful in truth sharing without compassion So what is trying to do is help people to understand that we unless we are balanced in this then we're off the rails another real big problem is this and this is one of the reasons that I. Really tried to emphasize it through this model when you look at repairing the soil OK Let me let me talk about these for a moment. Every phase of the disciple making process can be done in a one on one personal way this is how souls are one and if you want to know some ways you just get yourself a disciple Chapin book which all of you should have already on sale it can meeting for 999 of the sea and go to the last 5 chapters which talk about the different phases of evangelism and the 1st one is on sowing the seed in that last section I think it's Chapter 24 sowing the seed and at the end of the chapter it gives practical ways to sow the seed of true share something God has done in your life in the past or the present tell the story of how you came to know Christ and became a 7th Day Adventist offer to pray with someone share Bible promises when you know someone is facing a difficult situation distribute small sharing tracks etc by leaving them places handing them to strangers cetera I read sowing the seed but I meant to repairing the soil preparing the soil take time to build a friendship by striking up a conversation and being a good listener minister to a need prepare meal for someone who is sick or grieving babysit provide transportation etc give a gift that would be meaningful do an activity together of a particular interest to your friend go out to a restaurant together invite your friend home for a meal take time to help some with a project home repair gardening crap project car repair the sense of the periods of stress and crisis in your friend's life and go out of your way to offer support and pray for the Holy Spirit to open your friend's heart to spiritual things you'll notice that that whole list was things that you as a person as an individual can do to start preparing the soul of the heart of another individual every one of these then talks about that in the same way sowing the seed talks about sharing a piece of literature or sharing your testimony or whatever as I share cultivation talks about you know. Giving a Bible study inviting someone to evangelise 6 theories inviting them to watch a evangelist videos bringing them to Sabbath school or church or prayer meeting like this one invite someone to your local conference can't meeting you know that when my little brother when I was studying the Bible with my little brother. He was you know very deep in the world and because he had followed my path but anyway it was it was I knew going to be a bumpy road and there were certain things that I knew that I needed to try to call for decisions about but I could tell that I just didn't feel like he was going to respond favorably just yet so I kind of cruised a little bit and got him to camp meeting like Kant meeting was part of my soul winning process you know what I'm saying I utilized it to bring about a spiritual conviction and that sort of thing and sure enough he came he sat there's the messages and I would talk to him and he looked like a deer in the headlights I can't believe and I went home I didn't even have to make an appeal and he was already making the changes that I wanted him and knew that he needed to make and so I really believe that cultivating happens in many different ways while you're giving Bible studies you're also finding different ways different people to connect them with different messages for them to hear different literature for them to have you're trying to get them to that decision those decisions that you need to get them to. Anyway then of course that says how it talks about harvesting and how you can get somebody to make decisions for Christ and what have you and then preserving you can personally mentor someone so you have these this process is all it can be personal but in addition the local church does all of these things so you have them all on a personal level but you also have them all in the local church level on a personal level you prepare the soil by you know doing something kind for your neighbor that are centered on a local church level what do you do what is a local church to do a cooking class a suburb. You know a community service project right so the local church can do events and programs that prepare the soil I saw yes and in. Everything's in the design of Japan book what do you mean what it was specifically are you talking about when you read in the chapters on. On preparing the soil and what have you in here it's primarily aimed at the personal it gives all the ideas for personally preparing the soil OK because this is mentoring an individual who's reading it and how they you know you wouldn't tell them hold a cooking class you know but but they it's teaching them how to as a personal soul winner a disciple of Christ how they can lead someone to Christ yes yes absolutely. So. You're getting the idea and let me just skip ahead here how would the local church have harvesting they hold a public evangelist a campaign right and the local church how could they do. Discipleship a mid-sized ministry right you set up some mentors use something like this object handbook and you have a process and a ministry that you use if I'm not careful brother if I'm not careful I will start preaching about what I need to talk about tomorrow. And you are tempting me greatly right now but you're absolutely you're spot on and just in brief in brief I'll say that these all merge and I mean they're there illustrated as independent things because we need to be able to speak to what they are but there's there's clear merging that happens in fact when you talk about events there really probably isn't there aren't too many events that only do one thing like if you have a public evangelist does this mean you want that to reap decisions but you're also for many people the 1st time they've ever heard certain things that you're planting and cultivating many of them don't make decisions during the meeting and they don't make decisions till later you're also building relationships because the long term thing but what we do is we try to emphasize what is the purpose of the particular thing or what is the central focus of it but there's a lot of merging that happen but the truth is we talk about this as discipleship but that's a little bit of a misnomer because this is discipleship like the whole thing is making disciples plan a thought in your mind when you give someone a Bible study you are doing 2 things Number one you are cultivating their interest and leading them further in their understanding of the truth right but secondly you are teaching them that 7th Day Adventist church members give Bible study. When you give someone a piece of literature you're doing 2 things Number one you're helping them to learn truth that they had not heard before and number 2 you're telling them that genuine Disciples of Christ share their faith you see you're not only leading them in terms of of consuming but you are going through the process of leading them to think as a producer because ultimately when they get to this point that is the shift that has to happen the shift that has to happen is where they get from being a consumer to a producer when it and I'm already going there so I met her but the idea of closing the back door the idea of closing the back door I have come to believe is a bad idea you know and I said it's an awful idea who in the world once people to stay just because we lock them in leave that back door wide open I want them to stay because they're convicted to stay because they're producers I mean I tell you something not too long ago I went and did a thing over in wherever I went Taiwan undecidable ship and I do this this theory this 3 day thing on discipleship am on my way I'm thinking to myself on my way and I thought What has the church what is the church currently doing to retain me because of the title of thing was retention and reclamation I'm on a committee of the Delcam nurture and retention committee and I thought what is the church doing to retain me and you know when I came up with nothing you know what else I'm totally fine with it because you know why I'm not going anywhere. You know I'm not going anywhere because I've already wrestled with the truth I've I've I've wrestled with the Lord I have taught the truth I've led people into it I've I'm persuaded you understand what I'm saying. I'm invested and I am fully convinced what we need when we're talking about discipleship is not if we focus on retention like we need to retain then our focus is on holding their hand making sure we don't offend them making sure we multiply friends for them and affirm them and rub their shoulders but at the end of the day none of us is going to keep anyone in the church it's their conviction from their experience with God and from I'm not telling you because it's all in here you know make friends integrate Spiritual have all that it's all in here but at the end of the day it's when they change from being a consumer to being a producer that they are staying in and rather than sisters this whole process of making disciples is about that exact thing and if you look at the life of Jesus with the disciples that's exactly what was happening the disciples learnt to pray by watching Jesus pray they learn to teach by watching Jesus teach they learned everything they learned they learned from watching Jesus and you know what Jesus was doing all the time he was winning soul. What do you Jesus said that. That every disciple who is perfectly trained will be like his teacher So what was the teacher's job what was he doing all the time as they followed him around. He was sharing the truth he was mingling with people in order to to win their hearts and to share the Gospel and to win them to Christ and to reconcile them to God with the sole purpose and as disciples of Christ that is our purpose and this is where I'm a circle back here these 2 things become a challenge because whereas you do a lot of corporate things to prepare the soil cooking schools community service whatever corporate things to harvest public evangelist meetings or Bible seminars corporate things here you create a decisive ministry and what have you is not a lot of corporate that happens to share literature for instance I mean you can have the occasional outreach day or whatever but the basis of literature is to share literature like the leaves of autumn and how does that happen and where does that happen that happens by individual church members OK that's just how it happens and there's not a lot of corporate stuff that goes on to cultivate interest that's Bible studies you know if you can create a Bible study and I believe in what we used to talk about we talk about a quarter of these creating a Bible school like Bible study offer and having recruiting and training leaders and all that kind of thing but at the end of the day it's not done and in a group program it's done individually not even done in usually in a class so this is why these tend to be such a missing link in the church and people will get involved in the church as long as they're involved in corporate ministry you know a corporate ministry is easier because it has a start date and an end date. Like even when you get involved in public evangelism tell me the truth you get all these people who are signed up to be part of the team right you're the greeters you the registration you're the whatever and then it's a new C.E.O. everybody's getting a little weary and you get to the last night and we go OK and then the next week every like OK I mean we're going to baptize or whatever but there's not oftentimes I mean there's a sense in their mind that once that is over my job in that is over and their job may be over but the point is if that's all that they are doing it's very convenient you know it's easy to do it because it's part of a a little box a corporate box that we do the health things on oftentimes an event that we do and people get involved in it and there's a lot of crap there's a lot afterward I'm not minimizing it anyway but I'm just saying it's the corporate things that the church tends to lean more toward And what's missing in the church is personal ministries. But this idea of personal ministries being a problem let me tell you having a problem is like like to me and I may be biased but to me personal ministry is the heart of the church like when we talk about finishing the work it will not be finished by the ministry it will be finished by ministers and church officers joining with the vast body of church members being involved in sharing the truth that's how the work gets finished in fact if I wanted to wax eloquent I would talk to you about the whole purpose for bible studies in the 7th Avenue Church and how God showed Ellen White in vision that there would be hundreds and thousands of 7th Avenue is going in sharing the Bible and she thought in vision to be a great reformation right what does that look like you know what it looks like it looks like the early church because when you read in Acts Chapter 8 it says that right after the stoning of Stephen there was a great persecution and everybody was scattered except the Apostles the Apostles were still in Jerusalem so the church members were scattered you know what they did you just keep reading and it says they went everywhere preaching the word so effective were they that in Acts Chapter 11 it says that the church in Antioch was raised up by the lay people who were going in preaching the word I mean it's incredible and it were go back to Jerusalem they're like whoa we better go make sure these yahoos know what they're doing and they went and checked it out like wow this is fantastic keep doing what you're doing and Paul and Barnabas end up making Antioch their home base for their missionary tours like their church. Raised up by lay people not only that but Antioch was a place that we were 1st called Christians from the work of these lay people who went everywhere preaching the word I mean that's personal ministry and you understand that is coming a time where we're not going to be able to call together everyone for a cooking school that's coming at a time where we're not going to be able to have a big public of Angeles Dick meeting that avenue will no longer be available to us and when that comes what will be left personal ministry and you know how bad it is as a bad it is and I went as a person ministry director here in the mission conference to the North American division personal ministries meeting so it would be all the person ministry directors from the North American division there may have been 18 or so most conferences do not even have a personal ministry director anymore if you look in. Unions look in unions I don't know a single union that has a personal ministries director now you can look in unions and find education directors by all kinds of other departmental directors the personal Ministries is like you know that stepchild that does keep getting kicked around and it's so silly to me we're talking about we talk about total member involvement you talk RAF initialing the work you talk about the part of central it's personal ministry I mean it's the whole I mean look at this this is the work of the church I can't even fathom why we would not invest our resources in this. This is why I'm really glad for the mission conference invests in personal ministries. And Mark with a manual is now kind of connecting with the department as associate director and continue to lead with a manual so that there's more emphasis being placed on personal ministries and mission conference but I'm telling you in most places that is not that is not the trend it's like they don't know what is the purpose of this again you know why or why person ministry I mean it's it's crazy but I'm but I'm here to tell you that this is because of the trend that we have away from personal truth sharing labor we are focused on preparing the soil we are focused on compassionate ministry and in some cases in some places we're focused on public proclamation through man's list of meetings but the idea of mobilizing the laity to share the truth and give Bible studies which by the way. God gave us the Bible study method so that laypeople could get involved in sharing the truth that's the that's the whole reason Elway actually says the plan of giving Bible readings this is a quote and we would today call Bible readings Bible studies is essentially the same the plan of getting Bible readings with a heaven born idea. Wow a heaven born idea and the real reason for it was because we can get laypeople involved as soon as Stephen Haskell discovered it that God had shown Ellen White you know in this plan he went and started doing training events sort of similar to what we have here he did attend a Bible reading Institute and he called not ministers but anyone men and women old and young is that even if your head is sprinkled the gray hairs you are known to old to read the scriptures and to tell what God has done for you I mean that was the excitement of it in the church was that now we were no longer dependent upon the ministers to finish the work they were like we can finish the work we have always lay people and we have now a method that simple and we can get the message out through we were multiplying our effect of this and now the church is shrinking it again oh it is incredible we need a revival Delhi I saw in about 5 minutes ago absolutely and you know you make a good point when you have to do things that are that are difficult and in case you haven't learned yet soul winning is difficult. When you don't have do. You know it doesn't push you to wrestle with God in the same way that you do when you really are pushed All right let me have a short prayer and then we'll take a break Father we just want to pause here in the middle of our session to thank you for leading us to just an awareness and a realization of that need for personal truth sharing labor every one of us as disciples of Christ needs to feel that calling on ourselves and we need to be able to articulate that to our church and so bless us and give us help from heaven we pray in Jesus name. This media was brought to you by audio 1st a website dedicated to spreading God's word through free sermon audio and much more if you would like to know more about audio verse if you would like to listen to more sermons lead to visit W W W audio verse or.

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