Tag Archives: Small Church

Why I am hardcore about listing salvtions

For years I’ve struggled with churches who list salvations and “celebrate,” their victories.  As a pastor, I know that I already seem awful for writing this sentence.  Yet, it really isn’t my intention to take away joy.  My purpose is to question whether or not we, as pastors, are capturing the truth of the Bible.

Consider repentance.  Most agree that repentance is a requirement for salvation.  There are two different types of repentance in the Bible.  One type of repentance is worldly.  This repentance is illustrated by someone who is sorrowful about his or her situation.  This is much like Judas Iscariot who betrayed Christ.  He was sorry because he had betrayed an innocent man.  So to escape his situation he was sorry enough to hang himself.  We may assume that he likely did not receive salvation since he did not adequately repent; and since Jesus said it was going to be bad for the person who betrayed him.

In the Bible, the repentance that leads to eternal life is known by many to be Godly repentance.  This repentance occurs when someone is sorry for his or her sin.  In fact, they are sorry enough to change his or her life from living a life of disobedience to a life of obedience.  This is foundational for salvation.  Paul, also known as Saul before his conversion, is a great example of this type of repentance since his life was completely changed on the Damascus Road.

Many pastors and theologians are now questioning “The Sinner’s Prayer.”  The concern is that many are simply hanging their hats on simply believing in Jesus and that phrase itself as if there is nothing left to do.  While I continue to use this phrase, since it helps me to explain to someone what salvation looks like, I also realize that many pray this prayer and do not really commit to the Lord.  Herein lies the problem for listing, or counting, salvations for everyone to see.  If these people never bear fruit and have nothing more to do with church, then they cannot be counted.  They are still in their old lives and not new life in Christ.

Let’s look at confession now.  Yes, I said confession.  It is biblical and not solely Catholic (Roman), but it is catholic (universal).  In fact, in the Bible we are told to confess our sins to each other (James 5:16).  But, in today’s modern church, we simply ask people to raise their hands if they want to receive Christ as their Savior.  I see reports on Facebook sometimes where members of a church talk about people receiving Christ in services and use numbers anywhere from 10-3000!  This is great news!  Yet, when you investigate what this might have looked like, these salvations were seen by a show of hands.  What about confession?

Consider John the Baptist for a moment.  When he called on Israel to repent, he did not ask for a show of hands.  He asked them to come forward to be baptized.  What of confession?  Who did those who “received” Christ confess their sins too?  I guess we could say to Jesus, but what of “to each other?”  Who will hold them accountable so that it can be measurable, really, whether or not they were actually saved?

Consider the idea of believing.  Belief is a multi-use word in our society.  For example, I believe The Statue of Liberty exists; though I have not experienced it.  I have not shaped my life after it; but I do give it patriotic praise during wartime.  Again, I believe in air which has impacted my life because I can’t stay underwater long if I should choose and I know that I am sustained by it.  Yet, while on dry land I think nothing of it.  However, believing in Jesus goes beyond that of the demons since He does have my respect.  I now use the term believe to reveal that I have staked my entire being on Him and His ability to save me physically and spiritually.  When I use that term in that way it dwarfs when I use the word believe in the context of The Statue of Liberty.  Same word, but two different intentions and outcomes.

Do those who are counted as salvations really understand what it means to believe, and how it impacts your whole life with a simple hand-raise?  We haven’t talked about Vacation Bible School yet.

What about receiving?  Reception seems to look like transformation as the result of receiving.  I am amazed on a regular basis that fruit never seems to be measurable from those who raise their hands to be saved; except in attendance at church on Sundays.  Transformation often does not take place in such a way that fruit can be measured outside of a church setting.  I likely sound judgmental.  Yet, Paul and Jesus seemed to believe that we could see the results of someone’s salvation easily.

I write this so that we can get a discussion going about what real salvation looks like.  In fact, if my concerns are valid, then people need to reexamine whether or not they received Christ.  Further, this could mean that The Church in America is worse off than we realize since numbers may be skewed.  Again, I will say that if everyone, who we like to claim is really saved is really saved, then the impact of The Church in America would not have to resort to politics to change the country, but the country would be changed by transformed lives.

I feel more comfortable to say that my church had a certain amount of salvations when people are conquering evil in their lives.  I feel comfortable when these people are active in church, and out of church.  Often churches will record many salvations, yet their attendance numbers do not change.  My fear is that we are creating manipulative excitement in order to make our churches look wonderful.  And that we are competing church with church through these possibly skewed numbers.  This is why I’m hardcore about salvations listing.

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Filed under Church Attendance, Church Health, Discipleship, Salvation, Small Church

Knowing your small church

There are a lot of pastors who lead small churches.  Most of these pastors have great desire to have God use them to grow their churches.  What is common is that only a few are able to achieve their goals of seeing a church grow.  I have been an assistant pastor of one small church that was able to grow from 12 to 90-100 in AM worship attendance.  I am currently in my 3rd year of pastoring a church that has grown from 38-50 in AM attendance.  What I have observed is that all churches are different.  For example, music was not important at my first church, but it is very important at the church I am at now.  My first church was less structured for worship service, the church I am at now is structured during worship.  These are just 2 examples that help you to see that all churches are unique.

I am a pastor that observes personalities.  I believe that God creates people with purpose and, after salvation, the Holy Spirit bestows gifts upon their natural abilities that are meant to edify the Body of Christ.  This is why God brings people into fellowship(church) with each other.  We become the Body of Christ that is used to display the Image of God to those who do not know Jesus Christ.  We are Christ in the Flesh again when we are together.  One note worthy of mention, in my mind, spiritual gifts can be rejected.  Okay, don’t bombard me with a bunch of theology.  But natural abilities are hardwired.

So, let’s look at what it means to be hardwired by God for second.  In other words, we are coming back to personalities.  I know there are several ways to look at personalities.  Jung has the typology test and if you know me, you know that I am an ENFP.  Sometimes that is good, and other times that is bad.  🙂  But I want to keep this simple by looking at Hippocrates four classifications of people, Sanguine, Choleric, Melancholy, and Phlegmatic.  Yes, you guessed it, I am ENFP which means that I am a Sanguine primarily.  Sanguine people are those who are loud, like doing things the fun way, and enjoy being center of attention with a crowd around.  Choleric people want control.  They are organized, a little bossy, and powerful.  Melancholy people want to do things the right way.  They seek perfection.  While those who are Phlegmatic desire peace and calm.

Here is a better key to understanding these personalities.  Marita Littauer lists these traits in her book Wired That Way.

On page 16

Popular Sanguine

Basic Desire: Have fun.  Emotional Needs: Attention, Affection, Approval, Acceptance.  Control by: Charm.

Powerful Choleric

Basic Desire: Have Control.  Emotional Needs: Loyalty, Sense of Control, Appreciation, Credit for Work.  Controls by: Threat of Anger.

Peaceful Phlegmatic

Basic Desire: Have Peace.  Emotional Needs: Peace and Quiet, Feeling of Worth, Lack of Stress, Respect.  Controls by: Procrastination.

Perfect Melancholy

Basic Desire: Have Perfection.  Emotional Needs: Sensitivity, Support, Space, Silence.  Controls by: Threat of Moods.

Sanguine and Choleric lead, extroverted, optimistic, and outspoken.  Sanguine and Phlegmatic play, witty, easygoing, goal-oriented.  Choleric and Melancholy work, decisive, organized, goal-oriented.  Melancholy and Phlegmatic analyze, introverted, pessimistic, soft-spoken.

Now, if you are a pastor of a small church and you have a vision that does not match your people, then you need to consider understanding these personality types.  In the small church it is not too overwhelming to learn how God has hardwired your people.  For example, as a Sanguine pastor that enjoys loudness and people close by, and thinks that everyone else does too, I have learned that my Melancholy and Phlegmatic friends enjoy silence and space.  Now consider if you have a congregation that has mostly Melancholy and Phlegmatic people in it.  Yes, you guessed it, this might be why the church is small.  These people are naturally inclined to seek space and quiet because these are what is important.  So if you are inclined to start a high energy children ministry, then you might have trouble getting people on board to serve in that capacity.

If you are a Melancholy pastor, you might be inclined to have the perfect music ministry.  Doing things to perfection are important to you.  Yet, you might have a congregation full of Sanguine and Choleric people.  Guess what?  These people are not into perfection.  Sanguine people will simply fly be the seat of their pants.  Both personality types will get busy without analyzing what they intend to do.  Order might be important to the Melancholy pastor, but Sanguine and Choleric people are very outspoken and can overwhelm you.

If you are a Phlegmatic pastor, then you are always struggling to bring peace to everything.  Yet, you might have a congregation of that has mostly Choleric and Sanguine people who struggle to lead in all situations.  Chaos may be an ongoing issue.   Anger might abound.  You need to know that God has hardwired these people to be leaders and loud.  It will be important for you to find a way for them to lead and use their energies.

You might be Choleric pastor who wants loyalty and people to fulfill their responsibilities.  You will have to be careful that you don’t hurt anyone by demanding that they do what they are supposed to do.  So if you criticize someone who is Melancholy or Phlegmatic you will deeply hurt their feelings.  Or, if someone is Sanguine they will get angry back at you.  You will have to become an encourager to your people.

What do all of these examples mean?  No matter what type of shepherd you are, Sanguine, and etc.  You need to adjust your methods of leadership.  What might have worked in one situation will not work in another.  God has gifted you with certain skills that will help you lead.  But you must know your congregation.  Do not fall into the trap of thinking that people are against you.  They are not.  They have come hardwired by God.  You must find the ministry that comes natural to them.  If your people are doing ministry from the gifts that the Holy Spirit has bestowed upon them, but you know that they are working outside of how they are hardwired, then you must realize the amount of effort and energy that they expending.  Once you know this then you can shepherd them in the way to find rest and relaxation.  In other words, so that their batteries can be recharged again.

One last point.  Everyone of us is able to recieve the Fruits of the Spirit.  In these Fruits is one called self-control.  Each of these Fruits is a product of the Spirit at work in our lives.  As a result, these personalities are to all to submit to the Spirit.  Yet, most of the time, you find that many Christians really are not living in submission to the Holy Spirit.  This is why it is important to die daily to ourselves.  This information should help you to understand what is best for your church.  In this day of leadership oriented ministry, it is a good reminder to know that you are also supposed to be shepherd oriented in ministry too.  These were just some clues that you might want to examine so that you can better serve God’s flock.

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Filed under Church Health, Leadership, Small Church