The following is a list of projects that I am planning. I have already completed four of the twelve chapters in the book, “Hurdling the Barriers.” (See the preface below.)
- The Seven Filters – Helping believers discern their thoughts and ideas to ensure they conform to God’s will.
- The Team Success – A writing to help teams in churches prayerfully take a project from inception to successful implementation.
- Future Shock – The things I wish I knew about ministry before I got into this gig.
- Hurdling the Barriers – Helping churches overcome the 12 barriers to church health and growth. (Currently in the process of writing.)
Hurdling the Barriers – Preface
Many years ago, the Lord called me to the pastoral ministry. In the first endeavor, I became the church planter/pastor of a church on a college campus. We launched the church with two weeks’ notice and grew quickly to a congregation of about 50. Here we plateaued. I heard of a church planter’s conference going on in Birmingham Alabama. I naively thought that here I would discover some formula to continue our growth. However, what I experienced, I now have called, “The Parade of Champions.”
In the parade, they had one by one church planters stand on the platform who had experienced extraordinary growth. One saw 200 at his first service and 1000 or more by the end of the first year. After that they went to multiple services and then satellite campuses. The other speakers had similar stories. I left there feeling like, well, less than a second-class failure.
This prompted me to read more about church growth and work harder. I would try all the things written in the books. I took our little congregation through a schizophrenic journey of church philosophies. We tried everything and nothing we did would take us past the mark of 50. After a few years, our local convention policies caused us to move from the campus and ultimately after 5 years, I had the sad privilege of decommissioning the work.
Since that time, I have spoken to many pastors of small churches who have experienced the same thing. They state they have tried everything and nothing works. They are feeling defeated by the constant subliminal messages that since they have not grown, they are doing something wrong. I feel for these pastors and their congregations. I am primarily writing this for their encouragement, to give them hope.
The little campus church that closed its doors, had a blessed influence on my future ministry. After an interim pastorate, the Lord called me to a small struggling congregation in New Hampshire. I admit that here, I was frightened. Prior to accepting the call, the church leaders had called me on three occasions to tell me how desperate things were financially. Frankly, I was not worried about the Lord providing. Somehow by His grace I had peace about this. I was worried that I would be the pastor called to close another church. I prayed every day that the Lord would not let me go through the same experience.
What the Lord did there was miraculous. He answers prayer. The Lord added weekly to our numbers and within two years, the church ran a financial surplus. All this happened without doing anything different. Oh, we changed a few things in the church but nothing significant. Yet, then we hit another plateau. I worked with the church for years to try to break through this barrier. Through this work, the Lord revealed to me some principles or let’s say priorities that churches can often forget.
The emphasis on numbers, in many cases has caused churches to get the priorities of the heart misplaced. Such as the Church of Ephesus in the Book of Revelation did, that lost their first love (Revelation 2:4). What I hope is that all churches in reading this will get their priorities right. It is an issue of the heart of the church and not the things the church does. The heart of the church is more important than the size of the church.
This is an issue of church health. The numerical size of a church does not necessarily mean the church is a healthy church. Yet, it seems that healthy churches will under normal circumstances grow.
In this writing, I will be open with you about the things I have dome which improved the overall health of the church. Yet, I will also reveal to you the things that I have done that placed barriers to this. The hope is that others will learn from my successes and failures. I hope that small churches might seek to overcome the barriers to being healthy, and in that health be satisfied. I hope that the larger churches might also seek to be healthy churches and carry a bit more humility and appreciation for the smaller ones who are seeking to love the Lord.