Generous Hearts

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
Top was smiling as he got off the phone with Laura. She had called to point out the need of a couple in the area. The husband had lost his job. The wife worked part time and her hours were being cut. They had two kids in grade school. The couple didn’t attend church yet were a nice family trying to raise their family. The family was in need. They hadn’t asked for help yet Laura, church member had become aware or their situation. She had helped them on her own and realized this was an opportunity for Little Oak church to put faith into action. Laura was rallying the folks of Little Oak to give time, money, and even canned goods to help the family.
Top was very humbled and amused by the response. A few years when he became the pastor of Little Oak the concept of getting involved and helping a family in need was a little foreign. People gave canned goods to the local food bank. They would give money to the Salvation Army. It was good to give the way they did yet there seemed to be a reluctance to touch the need in the area. The area around Little Oak was like many areas where folks weren’t rich, many worked hard, yet it was difficult to raise a family and make ends meet.
Top had been disappointed the first time he asked the folks to help a family and they refused. The family needed help winterizing their home and a few minor things they didn’t know how to do. Top thought it was the perfect mission project to go over and spend the time to help them. They would also spend under $100 dollars for the project. The response of the church was a sound NO! Top went home that night demoralized. He believed what James said in James 2: 18 But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.”[e] Show me your faith without works, and I will show you faith from my works. [f] Several verses prior to 18 James had pointed out the connection between faith and action. He contrasted the treatment of the rich and poor pointing out there should be no difference. James went on to say that a person’s faith came to life in the actions that they did. He spoke of those in need of food and clothing and people that professed to follow Christ refusing to help them. This was not faith but lip service to being a follower. Top had avoided the temptation to teach from James following the refusal of the church to help a family. He instead spent time calling on the Lord for wisdom and patience as to how to handle it. Hearts began to soften; attitudes began to change toward those in need. One evening after church at a fellowship a good discussion on helping sprang up and that was a turning point. Individual members of Little Oak began to help folks in need. At first it was usually the members of Little Oak. Then it began to branch out to families who had no connection to the church. Little Oak wasn’t affluent or large yet helped as much and as many as they could.
The Lord was at work in several ways. People of the church were praying for families not connected to the church. The Lord works on the believers heart as they pray then they go and touch the lives of those they have been praying for. The hands that serve following the prayers come in all sizes and ages. The oldest Sunday School class was making Shoe Boxes for Samaritans purse. It seemed severa other groups in the church were actively involved in the lives of a family who weren’t members or attenders of Little Oak. Top remembered reading in church history that many pagans came to know Christ because the believers cared for them. The church in Acts set the example for the church today. We must have an action oriented faith. A generous heart that pleased the Lord.

God and Money

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.
Pastor Top sat reviewing Little Oak’s budget statement for the past month. He also had the past years budget statements in front of him. The past month the church members had given a record amount. The church had grown and the offerings had grown proportionally, so had the expenses. While the church had been given more than they had spent this month some members were concerned the expenses were growing more rapidly than they liked. The new expenses were easily identified. Children’s ministry expense was booming which made the expenses boom. The church cared for the children in good ways by teaching the Bible, providing activities, and reaching the parents. Youth ministry was following the same path. Young families attending the church increased the expenses through multiplication. Other expenses that were seasonal had contributed to the increase in expenses such as VBS, building improvement, and insurance had contributed to the growing expense side of the budget. Top looked thoughtfully at the budget report.
Instead of number-dollars and cents he saw faces. Faces of new people at the church, faces of kids who came to Christ, and faces of hurting people the church was helping. Top also saw the face of God. He saw God sitting on his throne with all the riches of heaven around him. Top knew from Scripture and from life experience that God would faithfully supply all the needs of the church plus future needs. God is always faithful.

Unhelathy Relationships

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Pastor Top is bi-vocational pastor of Little Oak Baptist Church somewhere in a rural area.

It seemed to Top most folks were upset about something. At work the men seemed to bicker about everything. Top was accused of favoritism, sending people home from work, and not praying equally for all workers and their families. At least he wasn’t in trouble for praying. Society as a whole seemed to be set on an antagonistic mindset. The nation seemed divided politically and this is affecting every fiber of society.
The church didn’t seem to be doing much better. Folks in several churches seemed out of sorts, families were often struggling with their personal relationships bringing harsh feelings into the church. Folks were divided over the prior election and the movie the Shack. Top knew this isn’t what Jesus had in mind for his follower’s behavior. Jesus said In John 13:34 “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. 35 By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
Jesus tells us plainly how we love people is an indicator of our relationship with Christ. He went on to say everyone will know of our faith by how you love people. Top knew he must find a way to love people and communicate a depth of love that only Christ could give. Top knew his love demonstration had to begin at home and work. How do you love construction workers? Simple you show them you care. Coffee and doughnuts were not the answer. Caring for people meant caring for their family and learning what was going on in their families. Top was the pastor of the church yet he had to become the Pastor of the Job Site. Serving the church family Top would need to lead them to love each other by loving the folks more than ever. To really love people he would need to rise above the petty complaints and griping. He would need to challenge people to find ways to love those folks God put around them. Next he would set a positive example by living out Hebrews 3:13 But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called “Today,” so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness.
Encouragement was so easy it became hard for people. Generally speaking folks had fallen into a mindset that complaining was chosen over encouragement. Top knew the secret to overcoming complaining was found in Jesus teaching in John 13. Love as Jesus loved. Jesus put aside his life, feelings, time, and energy to show people how he loved them. Very rarely did he appear angry. He didn’t seem to complain yet he warned his followers not to become hateful, bitter, and look down on others. In fact Jesus warned all of us not to think more of ourselves than others. That could be at the root of complaining. Love one another as I have loved you were the words of Jesus. Love others sacrificially putting their feelings ahead of mine. Love others so they will see Jesus in me. Love those which use me for their own agenda. Love until it becomes a life habit.
Top was beginning to realize he too had fallen into the habit of criticism and complaining being his first response. He was challenged by Jesus to live out love.

Sharing Your Faith

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Pastor Top sat planning his sermon series for the next several weeks. He believed the Lord was leading him to lead the church to be focused on lost people. It all started with reading Matthew 4: 19 And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. It was as he read this verse that God impressed upon him that he and the church must become fishers of men. While they were concerned about the lost and hurting it never seemed to cross into the real God felt need. When Top read the scripture he got a glimpse of Jesus really caring about people. He cared when they hurt about sick kids. He cared when men and women had relationship problems. He cared when religious leaders pushed people away from God and looked down upon them. Top could sense the God revolution coming in his heart.
The strategy was beginning to form in his mind. The first few weeks would be focused on praying for the lost. He would begin this Sunday by encouraging people to list the names of unchurched and lost people they knew. Following that the members would sign up to pray for the lost each day. They would be asked to sign up to take an hour each day to pray for the lost. If they couldn’t pray for an hour just pray as long as they could. Each day that person would pray during the same hour. Call upon the Lord that people in their area would be saved. He would also have Wednesday night prayer meeting focus on praying for the lost. He had been reading a couple of books which talked about revitalizing Wednesday night prayer meeting. The revitalization would begin this Wednesday. This would upset some people but would be worth it.
The second part of his Evangelism Strategy would be teaching people how to share their faith. He would begin on Sunday night’s telling people how to share write and share their personal testimony. Not the usual Sunday night church but it was a time when many people gathered. Following the writing of the testimony sessions he would walk them through marking their Bible and use the video series Share Jesus Without Fear.
The next phase of his evangelism strategy would be leading up to Easter. Beginning three weeks before Easter the church members would go door to door in the large area around the rural church handing out invitations to be a part of Easter worship. The church had also agreed to pay half the cost of mailing to each home in the area a similar invitation. IBSA would be handling the rest of the cost. The follow up after Easter would be a key to touching the lives of people in the area. Folks had to sense that the church cared for them. The personal touch and direct mail invitation was a good start.
Top was excited about the future of Little Oak Baptist Church. The minor changes of the next few weeks would rock the boat at Little Oak. Yet Top believed that Little Oak had to begin to look outside the walls of the church. He could sense that the church while loving was more in touch with loving each other than those outside the walls. This was a common challenge to many pastors and churches. Yet God intended for the people to be fishers of men. That is what he called us to be. Top would continue to pray as he implemented his strategy. God was begging to move at Little Oak.

Ministerial Low Self Esteem

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Pastor Top was deep in thought when his teenage daughter, Charla, bounced into the room. She was bubbly as usual talking about the ballgame next Friday night. She wanted to go to the 5th quarter after the ballgame. A few churches were having a dodge ball night after the home basketball game. She was excited. Top was very willing for her to go. The churches were doing a great thing providing an activity for kids. Charla left the room and Top went back to deep thought.
Top’s real thoughts were about a pastor friend. His friend Glenn was feeling very down. Like Top he was a bi-vocational pastor. He worked a job, pastored his church, and was a dad and husband. He was reaching the point as a servant of the Lord that ……he felt he wasn’t a very good servant. It began when Sally was suffering with cancer. She was hurting and helpless. Glenn had been visiting and caring for the family. He loved them and they lover Glenn. Sally died and Glenn did her funeral. Glenn still visited her family, husband and adult children. Glenn was at a loss of what to say to them. He had no formal training; he was wondering if someone else would be a better pastor. Glenn also doubted his preaching ability. Recently some of the members had become enthralled with one of the TV preachers. They talked about him at church. He was smart, funny, and had a great show. Glenn was thinking his people were tired of him. His people wanted someone different. Glenn was beginning to have a large pity party. Top knew he was suffering from a bout of ministerial low self- esteem. Top had been through this himself.
Bi-vocational minsters often went through this. It may start with a ministry experience that was tough. It may also begin with being compared to another preacher. The preacher didn’t have to be a potential pastor; he could be a TV preacher. The bi-vocational minister then would start thinking about his lack of formal education. He was at a disadvantage in preaching and ministry compared to most full time ministers. His lack of training accentuated his feelings of low worth. These were all lies of the devil. Satan wanted to trip up the servants. Satan can disqualify a servant many ways. Moral failure, personality problems at church, challenges at home or work, or low ministerial esteem. Actually the before mentioned issues can affect both full time and bi-vocational ministers. Bi-Vo ministers were more apt to suffer from low ministerial esteem.
The antidote for ministerial low self-esteem is a bit different than for personality based esteem. Top had reviewed his call to ministry as a first step to regain his sense of God worth. He recalled how God had stirred his heart creating restlessness in his soul. Top had become the most active volunteer in the church finally coming to a meeting with the Lord understanding what God had wanted him to do. The Lord wanted Top to be a Pastor. Top also felt the Lord wanted him to serve bi-vocationally. As Top answered God’s call he knew his family and he would be pulled in many directions. They would also be fulfilling their role in the Kingdom of God. Another way to combat ministerial low self- esteem involved the church. Most churches have some folks which are encouraging, genuinely encouraging. These were the voices Top and other pastors could rely on to provide an honest point of reference for good work. Top like others needed to hear and retain the honest words of affirmation and encouragement. These words on down days could lift the spirits. A third remedy for battling esteem issues was that of self-improvement. It was ok and maybe natural to get down on oneself or maybe by honest assessment come to grips with the reality of self-assessment. Top had reached the conclusion he needed a better grasp of Biblical knowledge and facts. His Association offered Seminary Extension and he had found on line courses in Biblical studies. Top had chosen Seminary extension and the study of Hebrews. A fellow pastor taught the course. He treated all ministers as peers regardless of church size or background. Top learned allot about Hebrews but sitting with other pastors he learned they each had many of the same challenges regardless of church size and background. People were about the same in each church.
Top was meeting with Glenn later today. He would share his journey. Prayerfully he hoped that Glenn wouldn’t give up but be renewed.