Saturday, October 30, 2010

When Is It Time to Change Churches?

In my role as a church planting missionary for the state of Vermont, I get to help launch exciting new churches. These new churches often grow faster and have more energy and excitement about them than older more established churches. Part of this energy and growth comes from the freshness of something new. Part of it comes from not having all the “baggage” older churches tend to add to their load year after year. Part of it comes from the fact that most church plants are started by young, energetic innovators whose enthusiasm is contagious.

Though each new church is different, as a general rule, new churches have a higher percentage of younger families in them than more established churches. This reality inevitably leads some young families who are already attending an established church that has very few young people to leave the established church and go to the new church. The new church may actually have fewer programs and activities than an older established church, but the programs and activities that new churches do have are frequently aimed right at the needs of younger families.

Because of my position, I am often asked by young families how they know when it is time to change churches. This is always an awkward moment for me. I know that my response will impact not only that family, but two churches as well. I know that if I tell them to go to the new church, then the established church may be losing one of the only young families it has left. I know that if I tell them to stay in the established church, I may well be hindering their spiritual growth because the new church may indeed be exactly what they need to pull them out of a spiritual rut and take them to the next level.

I still don’t have a “smooth” answer worked out to that question. But I have been working through some processes that families can explore when they come to that place in their life where they are considering changing churches. Though my context is specifically about “new” churches and “established” churches, I would imagine that the process also would be similar for a family who is considering changing from one established church to a different established church.

Here are some wrong reasons to change churches:

1. We want a church that is more “fun.”
While church should be fun that is not its primary purpose. The primary purpose of the church is to proclaim the Gospel of Christ to a community that does not know Him. Will changing churches help either church more effectively accomplish their task of proclaiming the Gospel?

2. We want a worship service that has more “zip.”
While younger people tend to like more “zip” in their worship than older generations, what is more important is that worship honors Christ and helps the worshippers be more in tune with what the Spirit is speaking into their lives. Regardless of worship style or music preference, one must ask which church will help the individual person focus on God and be more connected to Him. Which service has more "zip" may not be the correct answer.

3. We are tired of having to teach all the classes and lead all the programs for young people. It will be much easier to go to a church where there are other people with children the same age as ours who can help share the burden.
News flash! Every church, regardless of its age or size has trouble recruiting youth and children’s workers. If we change churches just because we think it will be “easier” we will most likely be disappointed in a year when we find ourselves taking more than our share of turns in the nursery.

4. The pastor (or deacon, or Sunday School teacher, or youth group leader, etc.) made us mad.
We should never leave a church in anger. When we do, we simply take the anger with us to the next church. It may lay dormant for a few months, but eventually our anger will come out at the new church. This is not fair to the new church. If someone at our current church said something to us or our child that makes us upset, we should speak to the person directly and get the issue resolved. Running from an issue does not count as “resolving” it. Gossipping about the issue to others does not count as "resolving" it. Only by going directly to the individual involved can we resolve such issues.

Here are some valid reasons to change churches:

1. Our child does not want to go to church at all because nothing at the church relates to his or her life.
While every child goes through the occasional “I don’t feel like going to church” phase, when the “phase” becomes a clear pattern, our child’s spiritual well being is in trouble. It is time to find a church that will relate to our child for his or her own spiritual health.

2. Our child is faithful to attend church but there really is nothing for them to do at church but sit and listen.
If our church offers nothing at all for young people, even though they are faithfully there, then something is wrong with the church as a whole. While some churches offer more or less in the way of programming, every church ought to offer something. If there is a faithful group of young people coming to church and the church simply ignores then, it is definitely time to find a new church!

3. Our child would like to serve the Lord in some way, but the church has no avenue for them to do so.
While very young children may be limited in what they can do for the Lord, as children approach adulthood, they will want to do something to serve. Perhaps it might be to help collect the offering, or offer a prayer, or sing a song, or help in a class for younger children or pass out bulletins, etc. A church should be using their young people and training them to take over when the adults are gone. If a church is not willing to use the young people that God has already given them, those churches should not be surprised when the young people find a new place where they can serve the Lord. Youth are not the “church of tomorrow,” they are the church of today.

If we find that our family is considering changing churches, we should proceed slowly. We must pray through the situation thoroughly. We should think through the comments above objectively. We should discuss the subject with the entire family openly. If our family does decide to change churches, we owe it to our current pastor to sit down and have an open, honest, and loving discussion of why we are going elsewhere. If we have made commitments to help lead a program, we should remain in that position until our current term ends so that we don’t leave our current church hanging. When we leave, it should always be on good terms, who knows, we may find ourselves back one day!

This post is modified from one I wrote in September 2009 on the same subject. It has become the most read post on my entire blog. I thought I would update it and repost it since it was so popular.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

God Uses Little Things to Accomplish Something Big

I became a missionary when I was only 26 years old. I have invested most of my career in starting new churches and planning evangelism projects aimed at reaching the unchurched. It has been very fulfilling, and in my opinion, successful. But the scope of my ministry remains small because I serve in Vermont, which is a small place.

Recently the Lord reminded me that we should never underestimate how God might be using us in big ways even though we may feel small. God used some simple statistics to remind me of this. I started a blog in 2009, mostly to connect with young people, but also to have a on-line “file cabinet” of ideas I could point people to who needed something to make their ministry more effective. To my surprise, 22 months later almost 5600 different people have visited the site. That is a bit mind boggling to a pastor no one has ever heard of.

But what is even more surprising to me is where those people live. While the vast majority live in the United States, just over 100 people from Canada have visited the site. Maybe that should not be a surprise since I live only 2 hours from Canada. But over 80 people from the United Kingdom have also visited the site, as have 50 people from South Korea, 45 from Germany, 43 from India and 39 from Japan. Who would have thought that a few words typed into a computer to help some friends would find their way into the minds of so many people from so many places. God is doing big things, even in small places like Vermont. I am grateful to be a small part of His big plan.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Real Life Advantages of Bivocational Ministry

Pastors who work a second job in addition to their service to the church are often referred to as bivocational pastors because they have two vocations; the church and something else. Though few pastors would choose to be bivocational in a perfect world, the majority of pastors will spend at least a portion of their career in a bivocational situation. Therefore, all pastors should learn about bivocationalism so they can be prepared for it when they enter that phase of their ministry.

I serve as the Director of an organization of 37 churches that work together to start new churches and hold strategic evangelistic activities in Vermont and a portion of New Hampshire. Thirty of those churches lack the funds to fully support their pastor financially. This means that the vast majority of the pastors I work with are bivocational. In discussing the reality of how bivocational ministry impacts them, there were definitely many real life challenges they face regularly. If they were fully-funded, they could avoid many of those real life challenges.

However, the bivocational pastors I work with also shared some of the advantages they have over their fully-funded counterparts. Few people think about the advantages of bivocational ministry, so I thought I would list them below. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues.

Advantages bivocational pastors have over their fully-funded counterparts:

1. Bivocational pastors are not as dependent on the church for their financial support as fully-funded pastors. This relieves them of some of the stress of what might happen to their families if they were dismissed from the churches they serve.

2. Bivocational pastors often have increased personal resources because they have two sources of income instead of only one source like fully-funded pastors.

3. Bivocational pastors frequently feel they relate to the men in their congregations better than fully-funded pastors because they “work” just like the laymen do.

4. Bivocational pastors seldom live in a “pious bubble” that only church people inhabit. Their secular employment requires them to interact with and understand better the needs of non-Christians.

5. Bivocational pastors often find more opportunities to witness to the lost than fully-funded pastors because they spend more time with non-Christians through their secular employment.

6. Bivocational pastors often have more realistic sermon illustrations as a result of their increased interaction with the same temptations and difficulties that others in the church face routinely. These more realistic sermon illustrations give bivocational pastors greater credibility in the pulpit.

7. Bivocational pastors have the potential to have more friends and a greater number of relationships than fully-funded pastors because their social network is larger. Note: Not all bivocational pastors feel this way. Not quite half of the bivocational pastors I work with felt bivocational ministry was a determent to their social network.

8. Bivocational pastors gain a sense of appreciation for sacrifice.

9. Bivocational pastors have the ability to serve a larger number of churches because they can serve churches that cannot fully-fund pastors.

10. Bivocational pastors experience the joy of allowing churches to fund other needed ministries instead of so much of the churches’ funding going to support their own salaries.

11. Bivocational pastors feel they are better able to encourage the churches they serve to create a culture of the laity using their gifts and the laity devoting more time for ministry since there were no full-time pastors “paid” to do “everything” for congregations. Most bivocational pastors feel this creates healthy churches over the long term, though it sometimes creates more stress in the short term.

12. Bivocational pastors often feel it is easier to teach about financial stewardship and/or to solicit contributions from church members. Bivocational pastors say so little of the churches’ funds are spent on the pastors’ salaries that the pastors asking for money is not perceived as being “self-serving.”

13. Bivocational pastors frequently express that they feel more dependent on the Holy Spirit in their sermon preparation and less dependent on their formal theological training or on their elocution or research skills. This greater sense of dependence on the Spirit is perceived as a positive thing by bivocational pastors. It is interesting to note that the bivocational pastors who expressed this the most strongly had often previously served larger churches in which they had been fully-funded.

14. Bivocational pastors sometimes say that being bivocational gives them valid excuses not to attend denominational meetings that they perceived as irrelevant, uninteresting, and/or promoting things that are not helpful to their own ministry. This does not mean they never attend meetings, only that their bivocational status makes them feel more comfortable attending only the meetings that they perceive as being more applicable to their situation.

15. Bivocational pastors often express a sense a personal satisfaction that their combined income from the two jobs they work allows them to give more generously to the church. Many pastors indicated that at times their donations to their churches were greater than the salaries they received from the churches.

16. Bivocational pastors understand more fully what the church members are giving up when the members devote extra time to attend meetings at church, especially on Saturdays. Bivocational pastors tend to do their best to keep such meetings as short and as worthwhile as possible.

While bivocational ministry has many challenges, it also has many advantages. Learning what the advantages are can help bivocational pastors feel better about their ministry. When bivocational pastors feel more confident about their roles, they tend to be more effective in their ministries. Churches and denominational leaders need to look for ways to help bivocational pastors celebrate the advantages of bivocational ministries.

Dr. Terry Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks and available at CrossBooks, Amazon and 25,000 other online retailers.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Why I Write . . .

Each year there are 172,000 new books published in the United States.

93% of those books (160,000) will sell less than 1,000 copies.

Less than 2,500 of those books sell more than 5,000 copies.

Only 1,000 new books each year will sell more than 50,000 copies through normal retail channels.

These are sobering statistics for those of us who are aspiring authors. People who think they will make a lot of money as authors should probably look for different lines of work. Those who think writing will be the pathway to fame most likely will be disappointed as well.

Despite these challenging statistics, people, like me, who have a burning passion about something, see writing as one way to get our message out into the mainstream. Writing books and blogging regularly help people like me expand our sphere of influence significantly. After all, there are only so many conferences one person can speak at and only so many breakout sessions one person can lead. Time restraints limit the number of people that can mentored in person or through social media. If people want to expand their sphere of influence, they must learn to write well.

In my case, I have a passion to help small churches reach the next generation for Christ. After years of working with small churches I realized one hindrance was that so many pastors in small churches had work a second job and were too exhausted to do the extra work required to reach the next generation. So I wrote a book that helps pastors develop leadership teams in their churches so they can be more effective in ministry. As of October 16, 2010, that book has sold less than 500 copies, so I am a long way from being rich or famous as an author. But that is nearly 500 more people who I have been able to influence for the Lord than if I had not written the book.

I am now working on a second book, specifically aimed at helping small churches think through some very practical things they can do to reach the next generation and communicate to them the important truths of the Gospel. Some ideas for a third and forth book are already stirring in the back of my mind and if I could find the time, I would start writing them while the ideas are still floating around in my brain.

I do not know if any of my books will ever be in that top tier of books that go viral and sell tens of thousands of copies. But it is my prayer that the books I do write and the blog I maintain will impact the people who read them so that God is glorified through the expansion of His Kingdom. My goal is to do all that I can with the abilities and resources God has given me so that when my life is over, I will have made an eternal difference in the world I leave behind. May it be so, Lord, may it be so.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Real Life Challenges of Bivocational Ministry

Pastors who work a job in addition to their church are often referred to as bivocational pastors because they have two vocations; the church and something else. Though few pastors would choose to be bivocational in a perfect world, the majority of pastors will spend at least a portion of their career in a bivocational situation. Therefore, all pastors should learn about bivocationalism so they can be prepared for it when they enter that phase of their ministry.

I serve as the Director of an organization of 37 churches that work together to start new churches and hold strategic evangelistic activities in Vermont and a portion of New Hampshire. Thirty of those churches lack the funds to fully support their pastor financially. This means that the vast majority of the pastors I work with are bivocational. In discussing the reality of how bivocational ministry impacts them, I developed this list of challenges that bivocational ministers face. I look forward to hearing your thoughts on these issues.

Challenges bivocational pastors deal with regularly:

1. Bivocational pastors frequently discuss not having enough time to do as much ministry as they would like. They often feel like they are “not available” to the congregation because of their second job. This causes them to feel frustrated with and/or guilty about their perceived lack of accomplishments in ministry.

2. Bivocational pastors often find it difficult to spend as much time studying and preparing their sermons as they would like. This often makes them feel inadequate in the pulpit and robs them of the confidence they would like to have when they preach. Many bivocational pastors list this as their greatest challenge to ministry.

3. Bivocational pastors are often so busy they do not have adequate time to do the administrative duties incumbent on pastors. This often leaves them with a feeling of being overwhelmed.

4. Bivocational pastors seldom feel they have enough time for their own families. This results in them feeling an enormous sense of guilt, especially in regards to how much time they spent with their children.

5. Bivocational pastors often feel they do not have time for their own personal growth.

6. Bivocational pastors often feel they do not have the time to be involved in servant evangelism or to take part in volunteer work within the community.

7. Bivocational pastors often feel the need for “breaks” from ministry because of the constant stress but seldom have time to take such breaks.

8. Bivocational pastors frequently are unable to attend seminars, conferences, and denominational meetings because those meetings conflict with their other jobs.

9. Bivocational pastors often express a sense of being “out of balance” when trying to reconcile work, family, and ministry. They frequently mention the need for quiet moments in which they can think clearly about what they need to do next.

10. Bivocational pastors often find it difficult to keep up with simple chores around the house, such as making minor repairs or cutting the grass because of the time demands of their two jobs.

11. Bivocational pastors sometimes feel that their social lives have to revolve around church members and church activities. Those pastors who feel this way express that this gives them a smaller social network than they would like. These same pastors feel that they are not able to be as “deep” as they would like in such relationships because of the danger of becoming “too close” to church members. (Note: Not all bivocational pastors feel this way about their social lives; in tomorrow's post I will share how some bivocatioanl pastors actually see this point as an advantage instead of a challenge.)

Bivocational ministry has many challenges, but it can be done effectively. Churches need to look for ways to help bivocational pastors with these types of challenges so that their pastors can be healthier and so their churches can be more effective. If you are a lay leader in a church, discuss with other leaders how your church might address some of these issues for your pastor.

Dr. Terry Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks and available at CrossBooks, Amazon and 25,000 other online retailers.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Have We Wearied the Lord? - A Study from Malachi

A sermon developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett based on Malachi 2:10-17 and preached at Whiting Community Church in Whiting, Vermont and Faith Community Church in Barre, Vermont.

Verse 10 - Don't all of us have one Father? Didn't one God create us? Why then do we act treacherously against one another . . .

• The prophet Malachi boldly confronted the bad behaviors that were prevalent in his society.
• One of those bad behaviors was that people treated each other treacherously.
• The word treacherous came from the Hebrew word begad which referred to deceiving someone on purpose.
• The Israelites were purposely deceiving each other in a variety of ways and it was destroying the fabric of their society.
• Malachi reminded the people that each person was created by God in His image.
• That means that all people deserve to be treated with respect because the image of God is stamped on each person’s soul.
• We do not have to agree with all the choices other people make, but we do have to treat other people with respect because they are created in the image of God.
• That image may be marred by sin, but it is still the image of God and that should mean something to those who follow God.

Verse 11 - . . . Judah has profaned the LORD's sanctuary, which He loves, and has married the daughter of a foreign god.

• The word profane is from the Hebrew word chalal and refers to polluting something so that it no longer has value.
• This verse has both a literal and figurative interpretation.
• The men of Judah had literally married women who worshiped foreign gods. This was strictly forbidden in the Old Testament.
• The problem was not the ethnicity of the ladies. Malachi had just made the point that we are all created by God in His image and therefore all people are equal regardless of their ethnicity.
• The problem was that these ladies did not follow the true God of Heaven, but worshipped false idols.
• The people of Judah been swayed by the false religions that these marriages had exposed them too. Their faith in the true God had begun to waver as a result.
• How do we apply this ancient verse to our modern lives?
• We should only marry people who share our Christian faith. See 2 Corinthians 6:14.
• While there are marriages in which a non-Christian spouse will decide that they want to become Christian, it does not happen often.
• This puts tremendous pressure on a marriage because faith binds our hearts together. If we do not share the same faith, then we will be missing a key element in the bonding process.
• If we are unmarried, we should only date Christians.
• If we are already in a mixed faith marriage, we should earnestly pray that God will allow us to be one of those rare marriages where the non-believing partner will choose to believe.
• We can also apply this same concept to any area of life, not just marriage.
• Though it is fine to have non-Christian friends, we should be careful how they affect us.
• When we allow non-Christian ideas and concepts to begin to influence us more than our faith, then we have figuratively married a foreign god and it can only bring pain and hurt into our lives.
• The most miserable person in the world is the Christian who knows they are not living the way God wants them to live.

Verse 13 - And this is another thing you do: you cover the LORD's altar with tears, with weeping and groaning, because He no longer respects your offerings or receives them gladly from your hands.

• Malachi also confronts the people’s attempts to emotionally manipulate God.
• They would come to the altar and weep and groan over their problems, but they were not willing to actually change their bad behavior.
• Acting sad is not the same thing as actually repenting of our sin.
• Repentance is turning away from sin and turning toward God.
• When we really repent, we can expect God’s blessings on our lives.
• When we are just sad that we got caught, we should not be looking for a blessing.
• God no longer received their offerings or prayers because they wanted the benefits of faith with out the responsibilities of repentance that came with it.
• If our prayers do not seem to be working, we should examine our level of repentance.

Verse 14 - Yet you ask, "For what reason?" Because the LORD has been a witness between you and the wife of your youth. You have acted treacherously against her…

• Though there were many areas of the Israelites’ lives that did not please God, the one that most upset God was the way the men were treating their wives.
• In that time period, it was a male dominated culture.
• Women were completely dependent on men for their livelihood.
• When a man married a woman, he made a life-long commitment to provide for her.
• He if broke that commitment, the woman was in a mess because she had no other means of support.
• In Malachi’s day, men had made commitments to their wives when they were young, but as the women had gotten older, then men desired other women, presumably ones that were younger and prettier.
• God said He would not honor the prayers of a man who treated his wife this way.
• In our modern world, men and women are often considered equals.
• In our modern world, both men and women are guilty of lusting after someone whom they are not married to.
• Christians cannot expect to be blessed by God if they allow lust to control them in this way.

Verse 15 - Didn't the one God make us with a remnant of His life-breath? And what does the One seek? A godly offspring.

• Not only are we created in the image of God, but God breathed into us the breath of life. See Genesis 2:7.
• God’s breath is more than just oxygen. It refers to His spiritual nature which He breathed into human kind at creation.
• The primary difference between humans and animals is that mankind has a spiritual nature.
• What does God’s spiritual nature produce?
• People who also have a spiritual nature.
• What should our own spiritual nature produce?
• Other people who share our spiritual values.
• When we fail to produce spiritual fruit in our lives, we fail in the very essence of our faith.

Verse 17 - You have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet you ask, "How have we wearied Him?” When you say, "Everyone who does evil is good in the LORD's sight, and He is pleased with them,” or "Where is the God of justice?”

• Malachi tells his audience that they had wearied the Lord with all their talk which was not backed up by action.
• God had grown tired of their bad behavior.
• The people asked how they have wearied God.
• They had done two things that wearied God.
• First, they claimed that people who were doing evil were actually good.
• Our own society often calls good things bad and bad things good. Is God tired of this?
• Second, they accused God of not being just.
• Our own society often accuses God of not being just when He does not do things they way we wish He would. Is God tired of us thinking we are smarter than Him?
• God has great patience.
• God has shown us love that we do not deserve.
• God has withheld judgment that we did deserve.
• But at some point, God will decide that enough is enough.
• What do we think will happen when God decides that we have wearied Him enough?
• The Day of Judgment will happen!
• When the Day of Judgment finally happens, will we be on God’s side or still playing spiritual games?
• None of us know when that day will be, but it is much closer for us than it was for Malachi.


• If we are purposefully deceitful of others, we should not expect God to bless us.
• We should be careful not to let anything draw us away from God, even our marriages.
• When we realize we have done wrong, we must repent of the behavior and change it.
• If we are living right before God, we should be producing spiritual fruit in our own lives and in the lives of others.

This post is part of a larger study of Malachi found in the book, "Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity." 

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Formal Theological Education Is Helpful But Not Necessary

As a person who holds two advanced degrees from two different seminaries, I place a high value on theological education. But I have learned that while a formal theological education is helpful, it is not necessary for a person to accomplish effective ministry. I have met numerous pastors who were self-taught and were extremely effective in their ministries. I have also met a significant number of lay people who could discuss deep theological issues even though they had no formal theological education.

Not long ago I was involved in an effort to train lay people to help their pastors accomplish effective ministry in their churches. Over the course of two months nearly four dozen laymen from ten churches learned how to preach and make pastoral quality visits. Some church and/or denominational leaders may feel that teaching lay people to preach and giving them significant pastoral duties will weaken the church. My point of view is that if laymen are given adequate training, then there would be no reason to expect inadequate preaching and pastoral care from them.

While there may be some voices of concern regarding the quality of lay preachers, a rising chorus of voices is also calling for increased training for lay ministers so they can be as effective as possible. Steve Nerger writes in his book, Bivocational Church Planters: Uniquely Wired for Kingdom Growth, “God has a unique calling for pastors. We are not trying to diminish that. However, this calling is not just for seminary-trained men. That is a North American mistake created by the arrogance of humankind with the prestige of a human-made education.” Nerger recognizes the role of formal theological education in training ministry leaders; he just believes that people have gotten so focused on formal education that they may have missed the bigger implications of God’s calling on a person’s life to serve in ministry.

Formal education has great value. Men who want to minister should avail themselves of such education when possible. But people should not let their lack of formal theological training keep them from serving the Lord. The bottom line is that when God calls people to serve Him, God will help those people answer that calling regardless of the level of their formal theological education.

Dr. Terry Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks and available at CrossBooks, Amazon and 25,000 other online retailers.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Pastor Appreciation for the Long Term

October is Pastor Appreciation month. Congregations across North America will be expressing their care to their pastors. Some churches will take up love offerings to give to their pastors. Some churches will order their pastors study books they have always wanted. Some churches will give their pastors gift certificates to their favorite places to eat. Some churches will surprise their pastors with trips to the Holy Land. Some churches will give their pastors cards that everyone in the congregation has written notes on.

Such tokens of appreciation mean a lot to pastors who are often over-worked and under-compensated. These tangible expressions of love especially mean a lot to pastors who work other jobs in addition to serving their churches. Pastors who work two jobs are often referred to as bivocational pastors. They are often on the edge of burn-out and need all the encouragement they can get. But even pastors who do not have to work a second job often get weary of always being on call and never really having a day off. They need encouragement too. Pastor Appreciation month is a great time to show pastors how much they are loved.

As great as all these outward demonstrations of support are, what pastors really need in the long term is help in their ministries. In our increasingly busy world where commitment to the local church is often way down the list of things to do for many lay people, what would encourage pastors most is to see church members stepping up to the plate and helping provide real leadership for the church. Deacons who volunteer to make all the hospital visits one day a week so pastors can spend time with their wives would be a huge blessing. Elders who are willing to lead the mid-week Bible study or the home groups for a month so pastors can finally finish reading all those books they picked up at conferences they attended would be great. Trustees who would just fix the leaky pipes and change the burned-out light bulbs in the sanctuary without the pastors even knowing there was a problem would lift a huge burden off the shoulders of busy pastors.

Leadership is in great demand but short supply in churches across North America. If we want our churches to be as effective as possible, we need to develop more leaders. If we want our pastors to really know they are appreciated, then we should encourage people to become the leaders their pastors have always wanted. That will be the best pastor appreciation gift we could give to our pastors.

Dr. Terry Dorsett is a bivocational pastor and church planting missionary in Vermont. He is the author of Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by CrossBooks and available at CrossBooks, Amazon and 25,000 other online retailers.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

The Local Church Should Provide the Primary Training for Ministry

North America Christians have placed so great an emphasis on formal theological training that they have missed the role the church was designed to fill in training people for ministry. In the New Testament, the local church was the primary training experience for ministry. In order to build effective pastoral leadership teams, the church must once again become the preeminent place for ministry training. That is not to say that formal theological training has no value and should not be pursued. It simply means that when such training occurs in isolation from the local church, it has significantly less value than church-based training.

2 Timothy 2:1-2 speaks about this issue. In that passage Paul writes, “Timothy, my dear son, be strong through the grace that God gives you in Christ Jesus. You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others (NLT).” This passage specifically instructs Timothy to educate leaders so they can train others. This is not just preaching to the congregation; this is training new leaders who will teach the congregation. This training occurred in the context of the local church.

Current thinking about leadership training in churches often follows this scenario; people express a call to vocational ministry, they are encouraged to go away to various seminaries to learn how to fulfill their calling, they graduate from seminary, then churches hire them to serve as pastoral leaders. Though there is nothing inherently wrong this system, it is very different from how people were trained in the New Testament. Most of the leaders of the New Testament church were trained on the job as they served alongside other leaders. The local church was the primary training experience for ministry.

Churches need to regain their understanding of Titus 1:5-9, “The reason I left you in Crete was to set right what was left undone and, as I directed you, to appoint elders in every town: someone who is blameless, the husband of one wife, having faithful children not accused of wildness or rebellion. For an overseer, as God's manager, must be blameless, not arrogant, not quick tempered, not addicted to wine, not a bully, not greedy for money, but hospitable, loving what is good, sensible, righteous, holy, self-controlled, holding to the faithful message as taught, so that he will be able both to encourage with sound teaching and to refute those who contradict it (HCSV).”

This passage indicates that Paul left Titus on Crete to finish what was left undone, which was the appointment and training of leaders for the churches. Notice that Titus was not instructed to accomplish this by gathering the leaders together and sending them off to some formal seminary in a distant place. The indication is that he was to train them in place.

These leaders were not just secondary helpers charged with menial tasks that Titus did not want to do. They were to be overseers of the church with significant responsibilities. These leaders were given the charge to teach the scriptures to the congregations they led. They were also given the charge to refute those who were teaching false doctrine. It is one thing to be able to give a proper lesson to those who agree with you. It is quite another to rebuke a person who is teaching a false theology. The fact that the overseers were expected to do this speaks to the highly developed level of their training and abilities, all of which was formed in the context of the local church.

This is an excerpt from the book, Developing Leadership Teams in the Bivocational Church, published by and available at and 25,000 other online retails.

Monday, October 4, 2010

A Covenant of Life and Peace - A Study from Malachi

A sermon based on Malachi 2:1-9 developed by Dr. Terry W. Dorsett.

Verse 1 - Therefore, this decree is for you priests.

• In the Old Testament, people did not go to God directly. They went through a priest.
• The priests were supposed to be holy and set a right example for people to follow.
• Unfortunately, priests often failed to set the example they should.
• Malachi had a strong word of rebuke for those corrupt priests.
• In the New Testament we learn that all Christian believers are priests before God. See Hebrews 10:19, Ephesians 2:18, 1 Timothy 2:5, 1 Peter 2:4 and Romans 12:1.
• Christians no longer have to go through a human priest to get to God. Through faith in Christ we gain direct access to God the Father.
• This means that each Christian holds the responsibility of a priest to live right so that non-Christians can see Christ in our lives.

Verse 2 - If you don't listen, and if you don't take it to heart to honor My name," says the LORD of Hosts, "I will send a curse among you, and I will curse your blessings.

• In the Old Testament, if the priests did not listen to what God was saying and take God’s Word to heart, they would be cursed.
• The blessings they were supposed to give to others would become curses instead.
• Since all Christian believers are now priests before God, that means that we must listen to what God says and take it to heart.
• If we fail to do so, the blessing we mean to be in society will become a curse instead.
• Are we a blessing or a curse to those around us?

Verse 2 - . . . In fact, I have already begun to curse them because you are not taking it to heart.

• Malachi goes on to say that the conversion of blessings into curses had already begun to happen. It was not yet full blown, but the process had started.
• We have also started to see that happening in our own society.
• As the church has lost it’s vision and purpose, people have begun to despise the church.

Verse 3 - I am going to rebuke your descendants, and I will spread animal waste over your faces, the waste from your festival sacrifices, and you will be taken away with it.

• God said that not only would the priests themselves be cursed, but their descendants would also pay a price.
• Descendants means more than our children, but goes on to future generations.
• Have we ever considered how our choices today will effect our children, our grandchildren, our great grandchildren, etc?
• Children learn by our bad example and then repeat our mistakes, which are then repeated by the next generation.
• This cycle of pain will continue until someone determines to break the cycle and start living as God intended us to live.
• But there is also a spiritual element to all of this. Some people refer to it a generational curse.
• Though the concept of generational curses can be confusing, the basic premise is that if we let a negative spiritual force enter into our lives, that spiritual force will cling to us and continue to cause spiritual pain until we cast it off in the name of Christ (Exodus 20:5; 34:7; Numbers 14:18; Deuteronomy 5:9).
• Because those negative spiritual forces, which may also be referred to as demons, enjoy being attached to humans, they love to invade whole families and keep them in spiritual bondage.
• They jump from generation to generation in joyful glee at keeping families enslaved.
• When a generational curse attaches itself to our family, we often feel so bad about ourselves and our families that it seems as if we have animal dung smeared all over us.
• We feel useless and like a pile of trash that needs to be hauled away.
• The devil loves it when Christians feel like trash!
• If we are feeling like trash then we will be emotionally and spiritually paralyzed and be ineffective in our Christian walk with God.
• The good news is that Christ did not come so we would continue to feel like trash. He came to set us free and give us abundant life!
• It is important to understand that though Christians cannot be demon possessed, they can be demon oppressed. Being oppressed is a terrible experience.
• A word of caution: We should not think that every time we have a bad day we are being oppressed by a demon. The devil is not THAT strong. Sometimes, we are just having a bad day. To know if those negative feelings are actually spiritual warfare we must first eliminate all the “normal” things.
• Once we have eliminated all the normal things, if the negative feelings and bondage continue, then we may conclude that it is a spiritual attack.

Christians need to claim the freedom they have been given from generational curses.

• We should find a spiritual mentor to help us deal with the behavioral issues we are facing.
• Galatians 3:13 - Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.
• James 4:7 - Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
• 1 John 1:9 - If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.

Verse 5 - My covenant with him was one of life and peace, and I gave these to him; it called for reverence, and he revered Me and stood in awe of My name.

• God reminded the Old Testament priests that His original covenant with them was one of life and peace.
• Life means being connected to God and to other people in a healthy wonderful way.
• Peace means having a calm, happy life of purpose and meaning.
• God made this covenant of life and peace with the Old Testament priests, but to keep it they had to honor God and follow Him.
• When they failed to do that, they lost the benefits of the covenant.
• The same thing has happened to Christians today.
• Through Christ, God the Father has made a covenant of life and peace with us.
• To receive the benefits of the covenant, we must honor God and follow Him.
• When we fail to do that, we do not receive those benefits.
• There is no benefit without responsibility.

Verse 6 - True instruction was in his mouth, and nothing wrong was found on his lips. He walked with Me in peace and fairness and turned many from sin.

• The priest who honored the covenant spoke the truth and did not say things that were wrong. How are we doing in that area?
• The priest who honored the covenant treated people fairly. How are we doing in that area?
• The priest who honored the covenant turned many people away from sin. How are we doing that area?

Verse 7 - For the lips of a priest should guard knowledge, and people should seek instruction from his mouth, because he is the messenger of the LORD of Hosts.

• The priest who honored the covenant guarded the knowledge of God so that it did not get watered down through the generations. Are we doing that with our children and grandchildren?
• People came to good priests to ask for spiritual instructions. When was the last time someone asked us for spiritual guidance?

Verse 8 - You, on the other hand, have turned from the way. You have caused many to stumble by your instruction. You have violated the covenant . . .

• God rebukes the Old Testament priests harshly because they had done the exact opposite of what they were supposed to be doing.
• What about us? Have we caused people to stumble away from God? Have we violated God’s covenant? Have we started a curse that our children and grandchildren will bear?

Verse 9 - So I in turn have made you despised and humiliated before all the people because you are not keeping My ways . . .

• The punishment for not keeping the covenant of life and peace was to be despised and humiliated before others.
• It can be a terrible thing when people begin to find out what we are really like.
• Are we happy with what we have become?
• Do we need to repent and return to God?


• Recognize that God wants us to accept a covenant of life and peace with Him.
• To receive the benefits of that covenant we must honor God and live as He wants us to.
• When we fail to do that, our blessings becomes curses instead.
• We can pass those curses on to our families if we do not repent of them.
• When we repent of our sins and determine to break the cycle of sin that grips our families, we can renew the covenant of life and peace that God wants between us and Him.

This post is part of a larger study of Malachi found in the book, "Malachi: Finding Hope in the Midst of Adversity." 

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Benefits and Responsibility Go Together

I was chatting with a young man the other day. He wanted some money and was hoping that he could get some help from the state, from his relatives and from the church. He was a perfectly able bodied young man, quite capable of earning a living in a variety of ways. But he was not a morning person, so he did not want to have to get up early. He did not care for physical labor, so he did not want a job that required sweating. He had a whole list of reasons why he did not want to work at any jobs that were currently available in the area. After listening to him awhile, I politely declined his request for assistance.

We live in a world in which everyone wants all the benefits of a free modern prosperous society, but no one wants the responsibilities that go with it. Each spouse wants a happy marriage, but they both expect the other spouse to do most of the work. Parents want good kids, but expect the teacher at school to produce them. Everyone wants to have lots of money in their pocket, but they do not want to have to work too many hours to produce it. People want to have health care, but they do not want to pay for it. We have become a society that expects a lot but lacks the desire to put forth the effort to make those benefits happen.

This same sense of entitlement spills over into the church. People want a church that will meet all their needs, but they expect someone else to teach the Sunday School classes, watch the nursery, print the bulletin, clean the bathrooms, preach the sermons, give the money, lead the music, prepare the refreshments and lead all the weekday programs. But that is simply an unrealistic expectation. There is no such thing as benefits without responsibility.

As a society, we need to rediscover the value of working hard to achieve our goals. We need to stop expecting someone else to do all the hard work while we reap the rewards. This is not a new concept. The Apostle Paul talked about this in 2 Thessalonians 2:10, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” and in Galatians 6:5, “for each one should carry his own load.” It may be an age old concept, but a new generation needs to learn it or our society may not endure much longer.