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February 11, 2016, 1:11 PM

Following God Even When You Don't Want To



When I was in High School, me and a buddy of mine used to say that if we would just put as much effort into doing our work as we did trying to get out of our work, then we would be top of our class. While top of the class may have been a bit of a stretch (I graduated with some very smart people), I certainly would have had a much higher GPA. 

My problem was that there were subjects that I really enjoyed and there were subjects that I did not.  I thought Math was fun. I found Science fascinating. Both of those were about learning and doing. I absolutely detested anything to do with History. I found English and anything to do with reading or writing burdensome. The subjects that I liked were the subjects that I was naturally good at. The subjects that I dreaded were subjects that I naturally struggled with. Like most immature teenage boys, I did my best to avoid that which required me to grow and learn the most. I tried as hard as I could to stay right in the center of my comfort zone. 

Spiritually, we are much the same way.  We often have certain areas of our life that we desire God to work in. We want to see Him move and bless in those areas. We look for ways to grow deeper in those areas. We long for Him to open doors for us to work and minister in those areas. 

Likewise, there are certain areas of our life that we want God to leave alone. In those areas, we like things the way they are. We do not want to be uncomfortable in certain areas of our life. We do not want God to call us to work in certain areas of ministry. There are certain areas of our life that we pull off the table in our relationship with God. Unfortunately, God often refuses to respect our personal boundaries that are drawn in spiritual immaturity.

This is exactly what we find in the life of Jonah. As we begin to study his life and ministry, I challenge you to let God have full access to your entire life. Will you follow God, even when you don't want to?




February 4, 2016, 1:03 PM

Our Sunday School Is Ready to Grow if YOU Will Lead the Way


The last part of our Sunday School Outreach Program is the most practical part of the whole plan. It is really so simple that it almost seems to simple to work. It is one of those ideas that once it is spelled out in front of you, you wonder how on earth it isn't already happening. The last aspect of our Sunday School Outreach Program is a Prospect List. 

A Prospect List is like a set of goals. It is simply a list of people who it is your goal to see in your Sunday School class in a certain time frame. Putting someone on your prospect list is simply stating to the whole class and to God that our goal is to get this person to be a part of our Sunday School Class. 

It is at this point that I anticipate you having two questions. Question 1: “Who are we supposed to put on our Prospect List?” Question 2: “How is a list of names going to help our Sunday School grow?”

Well the easiest way to answer both of these questions is that if everyone will reach one person, then our Sunday School will double in size. So, your one person is who we need you to put on the list. Then, we need the whole class to commit to achieving the goal of reaching that person. It really is as simple as everyone reaching one. But, how do we take something simple and make it practical?

Each Sunday School Outreach Leader will need to work with a group of class members no larger than 15 people. Every quarter the Outreach Leader and their Outreach Group will come up with 5 names to place on the class's Prospect List. The class and the group is making it their stated goal to reach those five people through the means of Prayer, Mailing Letters, Making Phone Calls, and Personal Visits. 

The first and third weeks of the month will be “Weeks of Prayer”. During those weeks, the Outreach leader will assign each person in their group someone to pray for that week. If the group has the full 15 people in it, then that means that each person on that Group's prospect list is being prayed for by three different people. That is a good thing. That person will be on the heart of 3 different people in your class. 

Next, the second and fourth weeks of the month will be action weeks. During those weeks, the Outreach Leader will assign each prospect to someone who will make a personal contact. The Outreach Leader will need to keep track of who is supposed to make the contact and whether or not it was done. That personal contact may be done through mailing a letter, making a phone call, or even going to visit. 

In addition to this, each class will need to set an official Class Visitation Day. It may be the 2nd Tuesday or the 3rd Friday of each month. But, each class needs to a dedicated day and time when they will meet together to pray, divide names, and visit those on their Prospect List. 

I want you to think about the cumulative effect of this Sunday School Outreach Plan. First, it doesn't require too much of any one person, but it does require some from all of us. Therefore, our church is working together to fulfill its purpose of reaching people. Two, the Prospect List will be a list of names of people that already have at least 1 relationship within your Sunday School class. Then, that person is specifically prayed for a total of six weeks by up to three people. They are also contacted in one way or another 6 times over that 3 month span. They are also visited 3 times in that span. 

So during a quarter, each prospect is receiving 18 weeks of prayer and 9 personal contacts. What began as a personal relationship with a single person has transformed into a relationship with an entire Sunday School class. Our hope is that it will lead to a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. 

 




January 28, 2016, 11:51 AM

Our Sunday School Needs Your Help to Grow


Last week I titled my article “Our Sunday School Needs to Grow”. While I think most pastors would always say that, I mean something different. What I mean to say is that I think our Sunday School is ready to grow this year, and it needs your help to do so. So, how can you help?

We have many people that faithfully attend church services, but for what ever reason have never really got involved in Sunday School. If that is you, the number one way you can help our Sunday School grow is to find a class that works for you. Being involved in a good Sunday School class is the best thing you can do for your spiritual growth. 

After plugging into a Sunday School class, the biggest thing that you can do to help our Sunday School grow is to buy in to your class. We need the whole class to buy in fully. Many times we can think of our class as belonging to the teacher. But, we need to remember that our Sunday School class belongs to all of us. When you realize that you are a part owner in your Sunday School class, you will want to do your part to see it grow. 

Next, your class will need to rally around the Outreach leader the same way your class rallies around the teacher. We have some really good teachers that our classes support really well. Your Outreach Leader will need the same support. They will need help making contacts with missing members. They will need people to help make visits. Fully buying in to your class will mean helping reach out to those that are missing. 

Another big way we can begin to see our Sunday School grow is adopting the Two Week MVP Rule

What is the Two Week MVP Rule? Everyone misses Sunday School from time to time. Vacations, family things, sickness, business, oversleeping, flu season, and out of town blue-grass trips are things that come up from time to time. Missing one week of class is not always a reason to be alarmed. But, missing two weeks in a row means that we need to make contact by either Mail, a Visit, or a Phone call. You've been sick for two weeks, can we help you? We know you are still out of town, we are thinking about you and hope you are having a good time. Life is really busy right now? We just want to provide some encouragement. Those contacts do two things. First, they show people how important they are to the class. Second, they remind people how important the class is to them. 

Lastly, one of the best ways your class can completely buy in is to make parties a priority. I know that life is busy and that it is hard to get everyone together. But, class parties provide an opportunity for classes to enjoy Christian fellowship. Christian Fellowship is very undervalued in our fast paced world. Fellowship creates bonds that connect us on a deeper and more personal level. It is those bonds that we rely on in the toughest moments of life. It is those bonds that we reach for when we celebrate the greatest moments of life. Because if this, I believe that class parties are as crucial a part of Sunday School as the lesson. If our purpose is to grow closer to God, together; then class parties provide an opportunity to strengthen the “together” aspect. I would like to see classes make it a point to do something together at least once a quarter. I know it is hard when we are all so busy, but I think it is important.

We always make time for those things that are most important. I believe that being fully plugged in to a Sunday School class is one of the most important things you can do for your spiritual life. 




January 23, 2016, 3:33 PM

Our Sunday School Needs to Grow


Some time back I wrote in the bulletin about my desire for a Sunday School Outreach Program. There was some interest, but also a lot of unknowns. My main focus was that we should intend to grow our church by growing our Sunday School. While I spent a lot of time talking about my reasons for believing in a Sunday School Outreach Program, I did not spend a lot of time going into how it might work. There are three main things that each class will need four our Sunday School Outreach Program to be successful. 

  1. Each class will need a Sunday School Outreach Leader.
  2. Each class will need to total buy in.
  3. Each class will need a list of prospects. 

This week I want to focus on what I believe it will take for you to be a good Sunday School Outreach Leader. 

Good Outreach Leaders will be people who first and foremost love Jesus. If you don't love Jesus, you shouldn't be a Sunday School Outreach Leader. If you do, then I think you should at least consider it. Second, good Outreach Leaders need to love their Sunday School class. If you don't love your class, you are not likely to invite people to it. So, if you love Jesus and love your Sunday School class, then you should begin to pray about being the Outreach Leader for your class. Even if you think that it sounds like a job for someone else, through prayer God will begin show you your role in growing the class that you love. 

Next, the Outreach leader needs to be someone who cares for the people in their class. A Sunday School class is not a meeting that is held in a certain room before the preaching hour. A Sunday School class is a group of people who desire to grow closer to God, together. Therefore, when people are missing, the class is falling behind on reaching its goal. Proverbs 27:17 says: Iron sharpens iron, So one man sharpens another. This is not simply a warning to surround yourself with Good people, but it is also a reminder that it takes others for you to be sharpened. There is an aspect of our spiritual growth that is dependent on our growing closer to God with other people. That is why a Sunday School class is a group of people who desire to grow closer to God, together. 

But, to be an Outreach Leader, you can't just care for the people in your class. You must also want more people to come and join your class. I think that for your to do that most effectively, you need to truly understand the value of having a Sunday School class to lean on. Many of you have stories of times in your life when your Sunday School class saw you through a tough time in life. These stories are what will make you a great Sunday School Outreach Leader. 

Churches are unique organizations. Very few, if any, other organizations have their priorities set the same as a church. A church is an organization that looks to benefit people who aren't members at the cost of those that are members. A Sunday School Outreach Leader needs to be the person in the class who is willing to remind the class of this vision on a weekly basis. As the class is working to grow closer to God, together; the Outreach Leader does the work of reminding everyone that there are other people who need to be on this journey with us.  

For this reason, the Sunday School Outreach Leader will need the whole class to buy in, but we will talk about that next week. This week, begin to pray about whether God would have you to be a Sunday School Outreach Leader. Your class teacher has a sign up list for those who feel lead. 

 

 




January 14, 2016, 12:21 PM

When Is It Okay To Covet?



Once again this week we find a possible Biblical exception to one of the commandments. In the King James Version, 1 Corinthians 12:31 says: “But covet earnestly the best gifts: and yet shew I unto you a more excellent way.”  Paul tells them to covet. So we must once again ask ourselves, does the Bible tell us to do something that it tells us not to do?

The first possible explanation would be that in this instance, Paul is telling them to covet something that is good. He is indeed telling them to covet the best spiritual gifts. But, the context in which this verse is found may mean that this is an incomplete answer. 

Immediately preceding this statement, Paul has been addressing the issue of what seems to be a jealous competition of spiritual gifts within the church at Corinth. The members seem to have ranked themselves and their spiritual gifts in order of importance. This has created divisions and competition within the church. Paul has just finished explaining how the church is to work together like the human body does. Each member has a place and a role that lets the whole church function and work properly.  This means that there is equal value for each member, regardless of someone's perceived value. With Paul's swift and course attitude toward the subject, it is hard to believe that there was no breaking of the 10th  Commandment going on with respect to spiritual gifts. 

So why does Paul decide to tell them to covet the best spiritual gifts if he is already getting on to them for coveting other people's spiritual gifts? The best answer is, maybe he didn't. We must always remember that when we read the scriptures, we are reading it in the wrong language. A wrong language that is very different than the language it was written in. 

 πλεονεξία (pleonexia) versus ζηλόω (zēloō)

If those words sound like Greek to you, that is because they are. In 1 Corinthians 12:31, Paul uses the word “zeloo”.  According to Thayer's Greek Definitions this is a word that has a positive sense for earnestly desiring something. In Ephesians 5:5, Paul condemns coveting but uses the word “pleonexia”.  Thayer's Greek Definitions describes “pleonexia” as a greedy desire to have more. 

While both words could be translated into coveting in English, Paul is obviously talking about two different things. The full answer has to be more than it is fine to covet good things. As we see from the problems in the church at Corinth, even coveting good things can be spiritually harmful. When we see even small things in scripture that do not make sense, we must examine and study further. 


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