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5 STEPS TO KEEP YOUR CHURCH ON TRACK

TRACKS

     So, how do we keep our churches focused and not allow them to get off track?  One of the first conflicts in the early church that could have easily side-tracked them from keeping the mission of God as their primary focus is found in Acts 6. How would the early church take care of  those who were needing to be biblically cared for?  What principles can we glean from this passage that will enable our church to stay on track? At a recent Church Planting Leadership Fellowship in Nashville, TN Darrin Patrick offered these five observations from Acts 6:

     #1.  The early church distinguished the difference between growth and health! (v. 1)  The church had a problem and instead of sweeping it under the rug or ignoring it they dealt with it and faced it.  All too often, churches know there is an issue and refuse to deal with it biblically.  That does not mean scolding everyone from the pulpit because of a vocal minority.  It means following Matthew 18 and going to the individual or individuals and coming up with a way to resolve the conflict.  A good rule of thumb for handling conflict is to always deal with it on the lowest level possible.  Don’t use a bomb to handle a situation where a BB gun would do!

     #2.  The early church empowered the laity to do the work of the ministry! (v. 2)  They immediately began organizing the people according to their giftedness.  They realized that God had given gifts “differing according to the grace that is given to us.”  They realized the worth and importance of everyone’s gifts and that they needed a team effort.  Someone has said that committees are those who tell everybody else what they should be doing while teams are busy doing the work.  1 Pet 4:10 says, “As every man hath received the gift, even so minister the same one to another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.”  Every one is needed and has a responsibility to fulfill their role in the work of the Lord.  In a recent survey when church members said they didn’t participate more because no one had ever approached them individually and asked!

     #3.  The early church made care a priority! (v. 3)  The focus must be on serving.  The idea herheirs making a lot of dust as we run to take care of the needs of others.  In the minds of many, biblical care has been regulated to serving physical needs. However, the heart of this passage is getting two different ethnicities talking to each other.  Biblical care is making sure we are all living as Christ and are caring for one another in our spiritual walks.  Are we forgiving one another?  Are we fellowshipping with one another?  Are we all standing on level (equal) ground at the foot of the cross? I Corinthians 2:25 says, “That there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.”

     #4.  The early church gave their leaders space to be with God! (v. 4)  Pastors must make sure they properly handle the preaching and teaching of the word of God.  The reason the early church decided to involve others was so the apostles could have enough margin and time in their lives to allow them to devote themselves to prayer and study.  It seems that some live by the motto, “Lord, you keep the minister humble, and we will keep him busy!”  The biblical perspective is that the work of the ministry is everyone’s responsibility and everyone needs to pull their weight.  (Ephesians 4:11-12)  Many leaders are running on empty and are in danger of physical and spiritual burnout.  Ecclesiastes 4:9 says, “Two are better than one; because they have a good reward for their labour.”

     #5.  The early church had a huge impact on their culture! (v. 7)  When everyone was involved in serving one another then “the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied.”  Jesus said this in John 13:35, “By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another!”   Paul told the church in Galatia that “by love serve one another.”  The church today has become more interested in entitlement and their rights as members rather than enlistment into service by caring for one another and reaching out to those who do not know Christ.. Every church should have the core value that no one leads who does not first serve! (Mark 10:45).

     Healthy churches will focus on staying on track by following these 5 steps found in Acts 6!

7 STEPS FOR HANDLING CONFLICT

conflict reso;ution

          Every church will be faced with conflict at some point and time.  The early church in the book of Acts certainly had its fair share and it didn’t take long for conflict to arise.  Acts 6:1 says, “And in those days, when the number of the disciples was multiplied, there arose a murmuring of the Grecians against the Hebrews, because their widows were neglected in the daily ministration.”  The word murmuring there means grumbling, complaining, or to find fault.  The complaint department had already opened up for business in the church in Jerusalem.

     The reality is that every church has problems and conflicts will occur.  Some of the best advice I ever received years ago was to not judge a church by whether it had problems or not but to judge a church by how it handled its problems!  The early church did not sweep their problems under the rug or ignore them – they came up with a plan to address them and solve them.  The Bible gives us a lot of advice on how to handle matters of conflict in the church such as in Matt.18 and others.  Here are some simple thoughts that can keep things from escalating to that level:

     First, be kind to one another!  Simple, yes, but profound.  If we would all simply treat others the way we want to be treated it would keep conflict to a minimum.  A good rule of thumb is to always say at least two positive things to every negative we might mention.  It is so easy to go straight to what is wrong instead of encouraging what is being done right.

     Second, be a part of the solution and not a part of the problem!  Focus on what can be done to resolve the problem instead of only talking about what is wrong over and over again.  Find out how you can serve, help, and be a blessing to a situation.  What is it that you can do to help meet someone’s need?  You will be amazed what having a servant’s heart will do in helping to resolve conflict.

     Third, don’t be the authority on everything!  Everybody has an opinion on how things should be done but everyone cannot be right.  A big part of handling conflict is meeting one another half way when you can and usually you can!  There will times you will have to set aside your opinion for the greater good of the body of Christ. 

     Fourth, don’t place your preferences and traditions over the Bible!  Jesus is Lord of His church and no one should desire to have “their” way.  Looking back over the years it has amazed me what some have gotten upset over and left the church.  Here are some actual reasons I was given for leaving a church I pastored: changing from pews to chairs, holding the microphones when singing, replacing paneling that was forty years old, and for using a baptistery instead of baptizing in a river.

     Fifth, don’t use a bomb to handle what a BB gun can do!  Wow, things can get blown out of proportion so quickly and become larger than life itself.  If you are offended then talk to the person who offended you and resolve it biblically but don’t go around telling everyone how offended you are.  One core value at Oasis church in North Little Rock is, “We don’t talk about people; we talk to people.”  Always deal with conflict at the lowest level possible!

     Sixth, don’t wear your feelings on your sleeve!  I tell people all the time, “If you’re looking for someone to hurt your feelings you’re in the right place.  Why is that?   Because it is inevitable that someone will say the wrong thing or do the wrong thing when you are looking for it to happen.  We should all strive to be encouragers and be uplifting with our words but none of us are perfect and we are all capable of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time!

     Seventh, don’t take yourself too seriously and be able to laugh at yourself!  All of us need to remember that we do not have all the answers.  Allow others to speak into your life and be open to their instruction and admonitions.  We cannot see everything, do everything, and know everything.  We are all human and we make human mistakes!  None of us are spiritual “giants.” We are just trying to follow Jesus and be faithful to Him!

     A healthy church is not free of problems but it does strive to handle its problems biblically, wisely, compassionately, and by working together!