2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart
Paul had no bigger struggle than the church at Corinth. A church that had more potential to make a kingdom impact than any other he dealt with, yet they were a constant source of frustration for him. He writes his second letter to the church he spent the most time defending his calling and ministry to. As you read all that Paul went through with them it would be easy to understand if he did give up. Fortunately Paul didn’t and from that we can learn some valuable lessons. I want to show you three things from this verse that we can apply to our ministry.
Ministry is a Privilege: Paul says “having this ministry.” As he speaks this he is saying it with the attitude that it is a great honor to serve the role God has given him. He doesn’t take it lightly but you also get the sense that he is blown away that God would even choose him. If we lose this awe as a minister we start down a path that often leads to burnout or quitting. We can’t lose that sense of awe and humility that God chose us to do what we are doing. If we get a attitude of entitlement, like the church owes us something, we are in danger of ministering for the wrong reasons. Paul, after all he has been through, still considers ministry a great privilege.
It’s by God’s Mercy: Notice how Paul uses mercy here instead of grace. Not sure why but it is interesting because we usually say that Grace is getting what we don’t deserve and Mercy is not getting what we do deserve. Mercy can also mean undeserved favor. None of us deserve to be in ministry. We can’t take credit for our calling. God is the one who calls us and for that we should have a sense of awe. Paul says that his calling and ministry is by the Mercy of God. That means what we do is only by and through the power of the Holy Spirit. Paul recognizes this and we need to remember it. The fact that we get to stand in a pulpit and teach God’s word, or counsel people in need, or sit with someone who has just lost a loved one is all possible through God’s mercy. We need to be grateful and walk with an attitude of humility. For some reason God chose us and that alone should bring praise to our lips.
Don’t Give Up: Paul says “do not lose heart.” David Guzik says “The idea behind the ancient Greek word for “lose heart” is of the “faint-hearted coward.” The ancient Greek word has the connotation of not only a lack of courage but of bad behavior and evil conduct.” Maybe Paul is telling the Corinthians “I’m no coward!” or maybe he is goading us “Don’t be a coward by giving up when it gets hard.” There were a lot of super apostles in Corinth who were all about making life easy for themselves. They criticized Paul because of his struggles saying that God’s blessing wasn’t on him. Struggling and suffering are actually badges of perseverance in ministry.
I don’t know but if ministry is a privilege and we are chosen by God can we really truly quit? So many ministers give up before God can truly do something. Ministry is hard and will knock you down time and time again. Success often isn’t determined by how many times you get knocked down but by how many times you pick yourself up. Don’t give up.
So what do we do if we are in a place where we are worn out, feel totally defeated, and want to give up? Look only to the rest of the chapter for our advice. Verse two says to preach the truth and refute underhanded ways. Be forewarned if you do that it will open a whole bag of trouble. Verse 8 says “We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed.” It never gets easier in ministry. After twenty years of doing this full-time it only gets harder. Paul shows us the source of strength to make it through. First he messes with us a little bit by repeating “do not lose heart” in verse sixteen and then in verse seventeen he calls all of the struggles “light momentary affliction.” So basically he says don’t be a coward because all of this affliction is but a passing moment. That wasn’t true in his life but it is how he looked at it. Comparing our suffering to his or Jesus Christ’s should put it all in perspective.
Paul reveals how he was able to go on. Verse sixteen says “Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is renewed day by day.” Paul was renewed by Christ on a daily basis. What he needed he received from Him everyday. Yesterday’s renewal wasn’t enough for today’s tests. Last weeks encouragement doesn’t last for today’s troubles. Last years blessings won’t get you through today’s trials. We need a fresh filling everyday otherwise we are flailing away under our own power. It is in those moments where the thoughts of giving up and doing something else always creeps in. Get what you need from God today and fight the good fight. Don’t lose heart.
CCPN Session #2 “Vision” by Lance Ralston
The second session at the Calvary Church Planting Roundtable on March 12th was on Vision. Lance Ralston, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Oxnard, led this one. This isn’t a topic you hear addressed so specifically within Calvary Chapels so church planters often have to go outside of our tribe to find good resources. This session was one of the best I have heard in a long time on this topic. I wish they would’ve recorded both session because there was so much gold in each of them.
Some highlights from Lance’s talk included:
Leadership: Everything rises and falls on leadership. The quality of leadership within the organization is essential to its survival and its success. The pastor/planter is the key position within the church and it is his job to seek the Lord for the vision and then cast it to the church and leadership team.
Pastor’s Role: The Pastor has three primary tasks assigned to him. They are to lead, feed, and protect the flock. Anything outside these roles need to be either delegated or dropped. Of course that isn’t always a viable choice but we must be working towards getting to that point.
Vision: Leading means you are going somewhere which begs the question: “Where am I going?” Where you are going is called vision. It is the pastor/planters role to know what that is, clearly articulate it, and repeat it over and over. What is vision? It is a Spirit inspired picture of a preferred future. Spirit inspired means that it is given by God. Picture means something you can see. Better future means what needs to improve. The Pastor/Planter’s role is to get the vision from God and paint a picture of a better future for his church.
Goals: Harvard did a study of its students and only 13% of people have goals. Of that 13% only 3% wrote those goals down. Goals not written down tend to shift over time. The 3% who wrote their goals down accomplished 50-100% more than their peers over their lifetimes. If also means that the 87% of the people who didn’t have goals are looking for leadership.
Three Questions to end with:
Where are you going? (Vision)
How are you going to get there? (Mission)
What steps do you need to take to get there? (Strategic Plan)
On the CCPN website is a pdf on vision that accompanies this session. Look for it.
CCPN Roundtable Session #1
On Thursday March 12th I had the chance to take my team down to the CCPN roundtable at Calvary Nexus in Camarillo, Ca. Bruce Zachary did a great job hosting the event and there were about forty of us there. I really enjoyed meeting a bunch of new planters as well as seeing some old friends, especially excited to see what God has in store for Conor Berry who just got home from Bristol, England.
I thought it would be good to recap the the two sessions that were held because the information on both of them were so beneficial. What Bruce Zachary and Lance Ralston shared was essential if you are planning to either plant or send out planters.
In session one Bruce hit on three important topics. First he asked the question “Why Plant Churches?” Then he addressed some of the obstacles to planting churches. Finally he shared some resources that church planters need to use to help with their church plant.
Why should we plant churches? With eighty-five percent of churches in the USA either in decline or dying why would you start something new? Why don’t you just plug those people and pour those resources into those churches? Those are all good churches and the revitalization of churches is an issue that needs to be addressed and something that I believe that CCPN will have a key role in the future, but to be honest most of those churches are open to the ideas and changes that will reverse their fortunes. Hence the reason to plant new churches and the numbers back it up. Most churches are most effective in evangelism in their first few years. They have a heart to reach the lost because it is necessary. Planting churches also are an effective use of resources. A little money can go a long ways with a church plant.
What are some of the obstacles to planting churches? This was the most lively of the three areas Bruce touched on in his session. He hit on four myths that churches often believe when rejecting the idea of sending out a church plant. The first one was that church planting was too complex, The second one was that it is too time consuming, The third was that it was too expensive, and finally sending out a church plant will hurt the sending church. Bruce dispelled perfectly each of these myths. If a pastor will raise up a few men in his church by committing ninety minutes a week to train them it will actually benefit the church more than if he doesn’t. Not all these men become planters but in fact become leaders within the church. The fact is that we can make all kinds of excuses why not to plant churches but when we do we hinder what God can do through the people of our church.
Resources can be a life saver for church planters and for someone who planted a church eight years ago I wish the CCPN planter manual would’ve been around. It would’ve saved me a ton of time and headache. This resource is free on the CCPN website. It actually has been downloaded over twelve thousand times. If you are a pastor spend some time raising up men by using this manual. It covers almost every area needed.
Church planting is hard. Eighty-five percent of all church plants close their doors within two years. Some of the most well known pastors have a failed church plant in their past. There is no guarantee but if you do your homework and rely on the power of the Holy Spirit it will increase your odds of making it.
One of the questions I get asked all the time is “When should I go full time at the church?” My answer is always “Wait as long as you can.” There are several reasons for this that are not just financial. Going full time at a church is a dream for many people. Their dream job is either the be a pastor or work in an industry that truly changes lives. I get that but I have also seen the downside. Remember that working for a church is still a job and still brings with it all the challenges other jobs have. For church planters it is even more so because now you are in charge and all the decisions rest with you. So my advice is always wait as long as you can.
Let’s consider some other things too, like the size of the church. When I started with Calvary Chapel you had to have fifty adults before they would consider your affiliation application. They wanted to see critical mass that God was doing something before they blessed it. You don’t see that much anymore and I think that is a bad idea. I’ve seen some Calvary Chapels get their affiliation papers right off the bat and never get above a handful of adults. That is a great Bible study but not a church. There is something to be said about critical mass. You shouldn’t start your Sunday services without at least 50 adults. I know this flies in the face of a lot of current churches but that mass does several things. It provides credibility for the church. Walking into a rented space with only a handful of adults speaks volumes to visitors. Walking into a space that has over 50 adults provides comfort and energy for new visitors.
Why do I talk about church size before starting Sunday services? Because this will dictate when you start full time work. Every study I read says that a church should hire a full time position for every 100 people (adults & children) in the church. It is more likely the church can support you financially with that many people but it also means that you will be able to fill your forty hours a week with that many as well. Many churches staff at 85 people per full time position and that produces an inward focus on the church because now the staff person is expected to do everything. Keeping it at 100 people will continue to make it necessary for lay leadership and involvement.
I would also add some budgetary requirements before you go full time. First off strive to have three months of expenses, your salary included, in savings before you go full time. This will give you a bumper to allow for any low months but also give you some leverage if you need to take a leap of faith when it comes to a larger facility or costs for an outreach. Too many pastors have started out full time with a very low salary and it has handcuffed the church which prevented it from growing and taking steps of faith. This has left the pastor strapped and often resentful.
So when should you go full time? I would suggest only after your church passes the 100 people mark and has three months in savings. I know that sounds almost legalistic but a shocking figure I heard eight years ago when I planted The Village Chapel was that churches that didn’t reach 100 people by year four almost always stayed that way or closed its doors. On the other hand those churches which got past the 100 barrier by year four were most likely to be successful and last for a long time. Don’t truncate your church by going full time too early. Be wise stewards and make the sacrifices until you can do it.
With the New Year starting tomorrow many of you may be planning to start reading your Bible more. I think that is the best thing you can do. Nothing will fill you up or get you through life better than daily devotions. It has been so important for my daily life and for my relationship with the Lord. It always amazes me that God has me read scripture that speaks directly to my situation at that moment.
Let me give you some important tips to creating the habit of daily reading:
- Do it at the Same Time Everyday: Consistency is the key to daily reading and reading at the same time everyday will solidify that more than anything else. It doesn’t matter if you’re a morning person or a night owl set aside the same time everyday to read and you’ll be more likely to do it.
- Do it in the Same Place: Not is time important but the place is as well. That way you can have all of your reading materials there ready. Even if you do everything electronically and you carry it with you, having a familiar place to read that is quiet will make you more consistent. Next to chair I read in is a table with all my stuff ready to go.
- Stick to a Plan: Randomly reading the Bible will only get you so far. Reading plans give you something to read everyday. It doesn’t have to be a lot but it has to have you on pace to get all of God’s word in you. You Version on your phone or tablet has thousands of reading plans to get you on your way. One piece of advice though, make sure the plan actually has you reading the Bible and not just a devotional written by someone else. These are good but should only augment your Bible reading.
I hope you make your daily devotion a part of your life this year. It has been part of mine for twenty years now and I couldn’t imagine a day without it.
This is the second part of my learning from the annual Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference. You can read part 1 here.
6. Leadership is Risky but worth it. Skip Heitzig talked on leadership and it really struck a cord with me. Seven years after planting The Village Chapel there are a lot of pot holes of failed leadership in the rearview mirror. For one reason or another there have been failures with people we have raised up. It would be easy to arm chair quarterback the decisions and give reasons why they failed. Unfortunately you don’t have that luxury when leading and if you don’t take risks you will be doing things yourself forever. Leadership is risky and there will be people who fail. Look as long as you can at the heart of the person
7. Continually Bomb Your Runways. This was part of a great story that Alistair Begg shared about how to battle temptation in your life. It referred to what Margaret Thatcher did in the battle of the Falkland Islands against Argentina. This prevented the enemy from landing. We must continually bomb our runways to prevent sin from landing in our lives. At the end of this he mentioned Bob Coy which I thought was so important. When one of our major people fall it is important to use it as a teaching moment for the rest. Alistair did it perfectly and there was no question or doubt about it.
8. God is Shaking the Nations. Brian Brodersen shared this from his message. It was evident as well because there was a great representation of international missionaries at the conference. Maybe it was the venue or time of year but there seemed like a lot more missionaries at the conference. This was encouraging to me because it shows that all the years of planting churches all over the world is starting to take hold and make an impact.
9. Teach the Text. One suggestion that I would offer is that the speakers teach the text more. We always criticize those who do “springboard” preaching where they briefly mention the text and then jump of to something totally unrelated. There were a few sessions where I couldn’t tell you what we were talking about or what text was even being taught. There were a lot of stories (which are fine) but very little expositing of the text. I am not asking for verse by verse at theses events but I would at least like the text explained.
10. Alive and Kicking. Simple Minds have a great song called “Alive and Kicking.” That is what I would use to describe Calvary Chapel as a whole. All the prophecies of the demise of our movement were untrue. I saw a vibrant group of men who are totally committed to what we are called to. That was exciting and comforting. There were noticeably few heads of White Hair in the audience as in previous years. Nothing against those great saints but seeing a younger group of pastors what greatly encouraging. Not just a bunch of hipsters either. The breadth of ages was vast. God has Calvary Chapel in a good position and the future is bright.
Each year I head to the annual Calvary Chapel Senior Pastor’s conference. This year was my sixth time attending and let me say right off the bat it was by far my favorite. First of all it was in Costa Mesa instead of Murrieta and that made a huge difference. The campus and sanctuary fit the event so much better than the crammed conditions in past years. The Sanctuary was comfortable and conducive to what God wanted to do. Major props to Brian Brodersen and Greg Laurie, plus the staff at Costa Mesa for putting on a great conference
There were ten things I took away from this conference that I am still chewing on
- I need to seek fresh revelation from the Holy Spirit. Damien Kyle kicked off the conference by teaching out of Isaiah 6. To be honest I was most excited about this session. Hadn’t heard Damien teach in years and he exceeded my expectations. He taught about the need to get fresh vision and revelation from the Holy Spirit. I needed to hear this so badly. While we seek vision from so many places it only comes from the Lord. I need to reconnect to this and spend some directed time seeking it.
- Freedom was the True Theme. With Pastor Chuck passion last fall this conference was the first without him leading. You always worry about a vacuum of leadership but there wasn’t. Instead there was great freedom everywhere. I think in past years everyone was too afraid or too respectful to act in true freedom out of respect for Pastor Chuck and what they thought he liked or didn’t like. This year there was true freedom in the speakers, worship, fellowship, and operations. It created and atmosphere where the Holy Spirit could work and He did! My job as pastor is to allow the freedom of the Holy Spirit to work in my heart and church.
- Mistakes and Messiness Glorify God. When you change venues there are always going to be hiccups. There were a few sound issues and other things but they were redeemed for the Glory of God. It set the mood right off the bat that we could be ourselves and I think it set everyone at ease. No worrying about trying to impress just be yourself. That created some great fellowship outside of the sessions.I need to stop worrying about perfection and allow the mistakes and messiness of my life and the people of The Village Chapel glorify God. He can redeem it better than I can plan it.
- Dead Churches can look Alive. Greg Laurie contrasted dead versus living churches the first night and several things struck me. First is that dead churches can have the bodies, buildings, and budgets that look successful on the outside but be totally dead on the inside. He shared 5 traits of dying churches: 1. They worship the past, 2. They are inflexible and indifferent, 3. They have lazy leadership, 4. They neglect the youth, 5. They lack evangelistic zeal. So he exhorted us to wake up and strengthen what remains and be open to the Holy Spirit moving in our churches. I am going to post those five traits in my office as a constant reminder.
- Lack of Life is a Lack of Prayer. Levi Lusko implored us to ask God for something big. We often fall short because we can’t see the harvest in the seed. Be faithful and sow the seeds and then allow God to do the work. My main job as a pastor is to preach the word and pray. If I am not spending the time in prayer I will not see what God wants to do. My dry times in my walk with Christ are often a result of my prayerlessness.
This is part One. Part two will come sometime next week.