Book: Small, Strong Congregations (Creating Strengths and Health for Your Congregation) by Kennon L. Callahan

Many books suggest that the future of the Christian movement rests with the success of mega-congregations. These authors also conclude that small congregations are doomed.

But author Kennon L. Callahan, a noted church consultant, moves ahead of such thinking and envisions a very different future.

In this book, Callahan confirms that the twenty-first century will be the age of consciously small, strong congregations that are dedicated to advancing God’s mission.

Callahan suggests that small congregations should assess themselves by eight distinctive qualities afforded by their size:

  1. Mission and service
  2. Compassion and shepherding
  3. Community and belonging
  4. Self-reliance and self-sufficiency
  5. Worship and hope
  6. Leaders and team
  7. Just enough space and facilities
  8. Giving and generosity

Callahan doesn’t try to convince the small church leader to adopt a mega-church mentality. Rather, he challenges them to look within their respective communities and tap into the power and the resources that already reside there.

And, Callahan does challenge the small church to live a life of service to the community rather than retreat into a life of survival. Some are preoccupied with a lot of land, a powerful preacher, more members, and a beautiful building, but they are preoccupied with “us” and the church growth model rather than the mission of growth.

Small, Strong Congregations have a passion for mission not a mansion, and they focus on the family more than facility. It is about mission not membership.

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Book: Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome by R. Kent Hughes

How does one measure success in ministry? 8 out of 10 pastors will statistically never lead a church of more than 150 members, and every year thousands of God’s servants leave the ministry convinced they are failures. What are we to do? Years ago, in the midst of a crisis of faith, Kent Hughes almost became one of them.

This book describes their journey and their liberation from the “success syndrome” – the misguided belief that success in ministry means increased numbers. According to all the formulas, the church Ken Hughes planted should have been wildly successful. And in today’s world it is easy to be seduced by the secular thinking that places a number on everything.

Kent and Barbara first determined that the basic problem was their definition of “success”. After looking at the life of Moses in Numbers 20 where God told Moses to speak to the rock in order to give the people fresh drinking water instead we find Moses struck the rock twice. By all outward appearance Moses appeared to be successful as the people got the water that they wanted through a miracle, however God didn’t view the event same way as man did as God was looking for obedience to His word.

The authors of this book encourage readers that true success in ministry lies not in numbers but in several key areas: faithfulness, serving, loving, believing, prayer, holiness, and a Christlike attitude. Their thoughts will encourage readers who grapple with feelings of failure and lead them to a deeper, fuller understanding of success in Christian ministry.

Here is one resolution I would encourage you to consider making: regular prayer and encouragement for your pastor. Here is the conclusion of Kent and Barbara Hughes’s book, Liberating Ministry from the Success Syndrome, and thought it would be worth reprinting here:

Every pastor knows that the strength of the ministry rests on prayer, and that it is those faithful souls who pray regularly for him and the church who bring God’s special blessing upon the ministry. This fact invites a marvelous “what if” scenario. What if not just a few but the entire leadership and congregation prayed in detail every day for the pastor and their church? What would happen to his heart, to his preaching, to worship, to evangelism, to missions? Can there be any doubt that the minister and his people would know greater enablement than ever before in their lives?

Prayer is where the congregation must begin in this whole matter of encouragement. Will you make a personal commitment to encourage your pastor by daily prayer for him and his work? If so, we leave you with this suggestive outline, from which you can draw your own prayer list.

Pray that he will be a true success: that he will be faithful, true to God’s Word and hardworking; that he will be a servant, following the example of our foot-washing Lord; that he will love God with all his heart, soul, mind, and strength; that he will truly believe what he believes about Christ; that he will lead a holy life, and not succumb to the sensuality of our culture; that he will lead a life of deep prayer, following Jesus’ example; that he will have a positive attitude free from jealousy.

Pray for his ministry–for his preaching, for time to prepare, for understanding the Word, for application, for the power of the Holy Spirit in delivery, for Sunday’s services, for his leadership, for immediate problems he is facing.

Pray for his marriage–for time for each other, for communication, for a deepening love, for fidelity.

Pray for his children by name. Perhaps you might ask the pastor or his wife how they would like you to pray for their children.

Consider printing this out, placing it in your Bible, and putting this prayer into practice.

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Book: Boundaries (When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life) by Henry Cloud and John Townsend

In this book Boundaries, Dr. Henry Cloud and John Townsend use the Bible as the spiritual compass to guide us back to healthy boundaries that are Christ like. One of the main themes of this book is that our deepest need is to belong, to be in a relationship, to have a spiritual and emotional ‘home.’

In fact, the very nature of God is to be in a relationship: ‘God is love’ says 1 John 4:16. And this love is within a relationship – the caring, committed connection of one individual to another.

By reading this book you will learn what boundaries are, what they look like, how they are developed, and some common myths about setting and having boundaries. The authors cover a wide range of boundaries such as between you and your family, friends, spouse, children, work, your self, and God.

Learning how to say no can seem difficult at first but if you are ready to take control of your life and saw yes to a healthy, balanced lifestyle then this book is for you. Often, as Christians we focus so much on being loving and unselfish that we forget their own limits and limitations.

Boundaries impact all areas of our lives: Physical boundaries help us determine who may touch us and under what circumstances — Mental boundaries give us the freedom to have our own thoughts and opinions — Emotional boundaries help us to deal with our own emotions and disengage from the harmful, manipulative emotions of others — Spiritual boundaries help us to distinguish God’s will from our own and give us renewed awe for our Creator.

A boundary is a personal property line that marks those things for which we are responsible. In other words, boundaries define who we are and who we are not. Boundaries are a “litmus test” for the quality of our relationships, and learning to set limits has to do with telling the truth.

And God is more concerned with our hearts than He is with our outward compliance… when we are afraid to say no (to other people), then our yes is compromised. When we say no to people and activities that are hurtful to us, we are protecting God’s investment. We each have only so much time and energy we can give out and this book provides incredible insight into why we behave the way we do, where habits come from, and how to have healthy boundaries our life.

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Book: Calvinism, Arminianism, and the Word of God (A Calvary Chapel Perspective) by Chuck Smith

Calvinism and Arminianism . . . since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th Century, Christian churches and leaders have disagreed over such issues as depravity, God’s sovereignty, human responsibility, election, predestination, and eternal security, as well as the nature and the extent of the atonement of Jesus Christ.

In the midst of this tumultuous debate, it is easy to ignore the plain statements of the Bible and to believe we have the ability to fully understand God’s ways.

How tragic it is when we become more concerned with being “right” than being loving. Our desire at Calvary Chapel is to bring believers together in the love, truth, and unity of the Holy Spirit, focusing on our awesome God rather than on ourselves.

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