It’s Time to Grow!

It’s hard to believe 2015 is already here. The first month is nearly over already. I am looking forward with anticipation to what God has in store for us in this coming year. God says in Isaiah 43:19, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?” Can you imagine what we will experience in the days ahead? I believe that God will bless his faithful people beyond all measure. Grow

This year is going to be an incredibly special year at Second. Last year was The Year of Connect; 2015 is The Year of Grow! Growing as a Christ-follower means developing a spiritual depth in your relationship with God that affects what you believe and how you live. Because the Christian life is one of constant growth and development, we seek to provide biblical principles for living through our Life Groups and Disciple University, our weekly discipleship groups. Our goal is to provide every member of your family an opportunity to grow and mature in their relationships with God and others.

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Discover and Capitalize on the Growth Cycle

Did you know that your church has its own unique growth cycle? And while you wouldn’t get this from reading all the church growth books, believe it or not, most of the “growth charts” don’t look like this.

I know, I know. There are some magical success stories of certain pastors who have always seen their church grow. They’ve never had a down Sunday and every week is bigger than the week before.  How do they do it? (Please note the sarcasm.)

You need to remember, pastoring a church is not just about preaching, it’s also about planning.  As a pastor/shepherd I believe I’m not just called to feed the sheep, I’m also called to lead the sheep.

So, if every church has a unique growth cycle, it’s the job of the pastor to find out what it is and capitalize on it. Here are a few simple ways to do that:

1. Measure as much as you can. You’ve heard the old saying, “We count people because people count.” I know it may sound trite but I think it may be true. Now, some pastors use this saying to justify being overly obsessed with numbers and statistics. Don’t be that guy! For me, I look at the numbers because they provide a benchmark – something to measure against from year to year. This leads me to my second point…

2. Compare year to year, not week to week. If you have ever ridden the church attendance roller coaster you know it’s a ride that can make you sick. If you obsess over numbers and overanalyze them every week you will drive yourself crazy. Two Sundays ago was Easter. The week before that was Spring Break. The week after was our “Sunday-after-Easter slump.” Compare weeks this year that correspond to weeks last year. Develop a spreadsheet that serves as a dashboard and provides a snapshot of where you are this year versus last year- in terms of offerings, attendance, decisions, etc. Believe me, this will help keep you sane.

3. Know your culture and community. Every city is different. Every school system is different. Every church is different.  For instance, I pastored a church one time that was a fairly young congregation.  While in most established churches, Mothers Day is the second largest attendance of the year, this wasn’t the case at this church. Why? Because most of these young families would travel to see their mom on that day.  It’s okay, you just have to know it. Know your community and culture around you. Are you in a college town? Are you in a tourist town? Are you in a military town? Pay attention to your community. It affects your congregation.

4. Plan accordingly. This is really simple.  Just use common sense. Let me explain – don’t plan a big event during spring break when you know half of your church will be traveling. Capitalize on a community event that brings thousands of people to a specific place. Pay attention to your natural growth cycle that coincides with your community and school calendar. Look at the graphs and learn your most significant times of growth throughout the year and seek to maximize those times.

Please understand, in no way am I discounting the power and work of the Holy Spirit. But I also firmly believe that God desires you to use the brain He’s placed in your head.  Listen to the Spirit – yes! But lead with intelligence as well.

How about you? What have you found that has helped you discover and capitalize on your church’s growth cycle?

God Must Be First

Jesus said in Matthew 6:33, “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” If you notice, Jesus is speaking about priorities; about what matters most.  He tells His disciples not even to worry about the essentials of life, but to focus on one main priority—the eternal purpose of God.
Every generation of believers needs to hear this message.  Jesus was simply restating a truth that is seen throughout the entire Old  Testament.  And is seen clearly here in the Old Testament prophecy of Haggai as well. God must be first in your life!

The prophet condemns God’s people for paying attention to their affairs while ignoring the house of God.  Haggai 1:4-5 says, “Is it a time for you yourselves to dwell in paneled houses, while this house lies in ruins? Now, therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: Consider your ways.” 

Haggai’s message is certainly a message that the church of God needs to hear today. In many ways, the church today mirrors the situation of the people of God then.  They had great abundance, but they kept it for themselves, displaying great apathy for the things of God.  And they displayed a lack of passion for the things of God. 

Ask yourself, “Is my comfort more important to me than God’s work? Am I working hard to get ahead financially while finding earthly success empty? Do I focus more on my wants and wishes or God’s will for my life?”  If so, it’s time to rearrange your priorities.

Be honest with yourself and think about what your priorities have been.  Now, in light of Scripture, determine what they should be.  What are you going to do about it?

Christ is our Substitute

At the heart of Christianity is the Doctrine of Substitution. Substitution is the true meaning of Christ’s death because he sacrificed Himself in the place of condemned sinners to satisfy God’s holy wrath and righteous judgment against sin. This is also described as vicarious from the Latin word meaning “one in place of another.”

The death of Christ is “vicarious” in the sense that Christ is the Substitute who bears the punishment rightly due sinners, their guilt being imputed to Him in such a way that He representatively bore their punishment. He took my place on the cross; that’s a debt that I can never repay!

John Murray said, “Christ discharged the debt of sin.  He bore our sins and purged them.  He did not make a token payment which God accepts in place of the whole.  Our debts are not cancelled; they are liquidated.” 

Thank God that Jesus took my place on the cross.  

Waiting on God

We are a people that hate to wait and we are a nation that hates to wait. We love our fast food, fast cars, microwaves and interstates. But we must learn to wait patiently on the Lord. God is not obligated to operate according to our timetable. Waiting on the Lord is active, not passive. Someone once said, “Patience is not passive: on the contrary it is active; it is concentrated strength.”

We can wait eagerly on God’s promise because we know that it will come to pass. Part of worship is waiting on God’s promise and receiving God’s promise in His proper time. The prophet writes in Isaiah 40:31, “They who wait for the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.”

G. Campbell Morgan said, “Waiting for God is not laziness. Waiting for God is not going to sleep. Waiting for God is not the abandonment of effort. Waiting for God means, first, activity under command; second, readiness for any new command that may come; third, the ability to do nothing until the command is given.” Psalms 37:7 says, “Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for Him.”