Paul wrote to the church in Thessaloniki about their motivation to do ministry. He said this in chapter 2, verse 3-6:
3 For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. 4 On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. 5 You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness.6 We were not looking for praise from people, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our authority.
Paul reminds the Thessalonians of his ministry among them. Having come out of a bad situation in Philippi where he was arrested, he remained bold in his proclamation of the gospel.
He proclaimed the gospel without error, impurity or deception. Integrity was high on Paul’s list of desired character traits. He taught the truth, for their good, not his, with no need to trick them into the kingdom. When you trust the power of the gospel you neither need nor want to resort to tricks or shortcuts.
Paul was seeking only God’s approval, not men. His employer was God. He was beholden only to Him. He had only Him to please. This gave him the freedom to speak truth without worry about the response.
Paul spoke without flattery or greed. Because he was dependent only on God the Father, he did not attempt to manipulate his audience. He didn’t need to win their approval to gain big offerings. He trust the Lord to meet his needs.
He was intent on sharing the gospel without seeking personal glory. Paul had no need for fame. He had already been famous and that had left him empty and without hope.
So now we must ask the question: Why are you doing this? What is your motive? What, if anything, are you hoping to get from this? Watch out for the ministry traps found in bad motivations:
- Seeking approval, compliments, “amen” from the crowd
- Manipulating emotions to gain influence
- Attempting to build your own kingdom in the church
- Jealousy of others, trying to be just as popular as someone else or some other ministry
- Shocking to be shocking
- Rebelling to draw the rebellious
The gospel is sufficient. God’s Word is powerful enough. The Holy Spirit convicts the heart. The Father is trustworthy.
In the winter edition of Bible Studies for Life, produced by Lifeway, each week is an examination of a tough question, challenging you to defend your Christian faith. In session 3 the question is: Does Absolute Truth Exist? The study comes from John 18; 1; and 8. Here are my thoughts on the passage followed by the notes as I wrote them.
The first Sunday in December means that those using Lifeway small group Bible study material are starting a new quarter. Since I’ve seen a pretty good response to my videos on the Bible Studies for Life series, I’ve decided to add a series on Explore the Bible. We’ll see how it goes, but here is the first week for each study.
Bible Studies for Life begins exploring some of the big questions of faith. This week Jude answers the question: Do we need to defend our faith? Here is my video on this passage followed by my notes as I wrote them.
Explore the Bible works through passages in Numbers and Deuteronomy in the Winter months of 2019-20. This week we look at Numbers 9. Here is my video along with the notes as I studied the passage.
There are many ways to measure church growth that have nothing or little to do with numbers. We want spiritual growth (how do you measure that). We want people to be more loving, more generous, and generally more Christlike (there is no yardstick to measure that one). Because of this outlook, some people protest any use of numbers in church life. I agree that there are many things that help us understand our effectiveness and these need to all be processed together when we look at what we are doing in the church. There is no doubt though that one of the the measures that must be included is a detailed accounting of the numbers. How many came? How much did they give? How many were saved?
You’ve probably heard the preacher story: Numbers are so important God made sure to name an entire book of the Bible after them. Numbers are important to those of us in the Christian community because every number represents a person – a child, a father, a wife, a grandparent, a soul for whom Jesus died. For this reason we count people, because people matter to God.
There are other reasons we count, and other things we count as well.
Numbers help us celebrate God’s work. By counting people we can see how many have come to worship, to hear the word of God preached and taught. We count how many are saved and celebrate God’s work of salvation. Numbers can give us some measure, not a full understanding certainly, of growth in discipleship. We count attendance and giving to get a feel for spiritual growth. We count how many are serving and going, how many are teaching and leading, and we get a better perspective on how many are growing in their faith. This is a celebration of God at work in our churches.
Numbers show us the need and the opportunity around us. We count how many are in the population around our church and we get a picture of the opportunities we have for growth. We count how many children are in the school and we see how many families need Jesus. In many ways, as we count the population, we understand the great need, and therefore the opportunities to grow.
Numbers can warn us of impending danger. When you make an accurate accounting of your church attendance, giving, serving, going, and more you can see trends that warn you of problems that need to be addressed within your church. Keeping good records allows you to accurately see trends without emotion or the bias of “rose colored glasses memory.” You can track whether your church is growing, plateaued, or declining.
- 1 year of plateau or declining attendance – Be aware of it but know that churches go through seasons of growth and seasons of strengthening
- 3 years of plateau or declining attendance – Take corrective action – Look inwardly and outwardly to gain an understanding of what is causing the decline and how to reverse the trend
- 5 years or more of plateau or declining attendance – Take significant action – Deep dive into the changes that need to be made to turn around the current trend
Numbers are important. For these reasons you should track them and review the information on at least a yearly basis. Here are some of the basic numbers you should keep each week for your church:
- Worship attendance
- Small group (Sunday School) attendance
- Public decisions made (salvation, church membership, recommitment, vocational surrender)
- First time visitors – or visitors who completed a guest info card
- Return visitors – may be harder to track in a larger church
Keeping a simple spreadsheet with this info will give you the ability to quickly calculate averages, create charts, and detect trends.
For help creating a record keeping system or diagnosing the accumulated information please contact our office or send Steve an email.
Leave a comment to let us know what other information you track to gauge the growth or health of your church.
I went on my first mission trip when I was 12. Our church youth choir went to South Dakota to help with a new church plant (though I don’t think we called it that then). I loved the trip. I loved riding in the bus, hanging out with my friends for 2 weeks, being away from home, and just being with our youth group. I was 12. I wasn’t in love with the idea of taking the gospel to the ends of the earth, but my church was.
That was the first of 6 youth mission trips I went on while I was growing up and it set the stage for my love of mission work. As a pastor I always said I wasn’t called to be a vocational missionary but I was called to pastor a mission minded and mission active church. That all began when I was 12.
Mission trips transformed my life and I believe they transform the church. There is no better experience as a believer than to be in an unfamiliar place, doing unfamiliar things, eating unfamiliar food and being generally uncomfortable with everything around you for the sake of the gospel. It is in those moments you learn to trust the Lord and you see Him move through your life.
If you have never been on a mission trip before then 2019 needs to be your year. Find out where you church is going or find another church going and join them, or join my ministry, Exposed to Christ (ETC) Ministries on on of our trips. Find out about them here.
Let me know in the comments how a mission trip affected your life.
My grandson Jackson got a little sick last week. His mom took him to the doctor who told us he had a touch of bronchitis. He prescribed some medicine and they came home. Jackson was telling someone about going to the doctor and he told them he had “wrong-chitis,” but he had taken some medicine and now he has “right-chitis!”
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could just take a pill and everything wrong in our lives would become right? Now that would be a magic pill.
The reality we know is that to turn something wrong into something right takes more than a little medicine, we need a lot of hard work and the power of the Holy Spirit to make it right. And even then opposition may be so strong that the right struggles to come out on top.
Spiritual work is hard work. Satan is more than happy to let us go about being good neighbors and nice people as long as we don’t introduce Jesus. Once we decide to go about doing real spiritual work Satan will work overtime to stop it. So we need to pray and we need to trust the Lord. Endure hard times, persevere through the difficulties. The kingdom is worth it. The gospel is worth it. Remember this Ralph Waldo Emerson quote, “God will not have His work made manifest by cowards.”
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