Here Today, Gone Tomorrow

John and Kari had visited several churches. One, in particular felt warm and friendly. The members seemed friendly. Several spoke to John and Kari each Sunday. A couple of ladies in the church even asked one Sunday for Kari and John to visit their Bible study class.

John and Kari enjoyed the music and the pastor’s messages. After a few weeks they joined the church. It wasn’t long afterward until the seat where John and his wife sat every Sunday were once again vacant. Some members questioned among themselves about the whereabouts of John and Kari. No one knew.

This scenario is played out week after week in churches around the United States and your church is not exempt. Sometimes we do a good job with “courting” visitors. While they are checking us out, trying to find a comfortable fit, we treat them like true guests. Yet, once they join we leave them to swim on their own. The difficulty is they are in uncharted waters – uncharted for them at least. It would be similar to taking a common man of the street who has never seen the inside of a cockpit and sitting him in the pilot seat of a space shuttle and expecting him to fly to the space station and back.

Other times, we go through the motions of telling people we care and we are glad they are here, but we never truly let them in. We do not always realize it. After speaking to guests we become so involved with our own friends and longtime church “buddies” that we forget what it is like to be new. Guests, visitors, and new members do not have the advantage of knowing all the ins and outs of your church. They do not know how to get plugged in, and we assist them in their fog by not helping them.

We recognize and even speak friendly to visitors, but we treat them like visitors, not guests. A guest is someone you are expecting and you desire them to stay. You have prepared for them ahead of time and you take care of them, waiting on them as a host or hostess. A visitor is someone who shows up on your doorstep and you are cordial to them. All the while you are wondering when they are going to leave.

They ride the bubble for a while and eventually they end up as John and Kari – gone – and no one knows where or why. Nor does anyone attempt to rescue the drowning new member.

Visitors and new members need to be needed. It is important that we open our circle of influence to include new members, allowing them to be all that God has called them to be. After all, by not allowing someone to be all God has created them to be, we are not being all that God has called us to be.

Every person God places in our lives, He places for us to in some way edify and that through him/her the Holy Spirit may in some way edify us. How do you personally go the extra mile to make those new people in your life feel welcome and needed? .


For more information on this topic contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.

Are You a Practicing Bellwether?

Every shepherd has a sheep that he calls the bellwether. And everywhere the shepherd goes he’s with him. The bellwether soon understands the heart of the shepherd, and the bond between them grows everyday. In every way.

And the bellwether walks with the lost sheep. Spends time with those who have roamed. And when he returns to the shepherd, one by one they follow him home.

God’s only Son left His throne to become our bellwether. His life He gave to seek and save the lost sheep. The perfect lamb who knew no sin said, “Here am I, send me”. I’ll lead the way so those who’ve strayed can follow. Follow me home.

Now He waits for me and you to take them the good news. There is a path that leads them home to safety. They’re hurting and scared, scattered everywhere. They need to know – with open arms He’s waiting.

And the bellwether walks with the lost sheep. Spends time with those who have roamed. And when he returns to the shepherd, one by one they follow him home.

These are the words to a song written by Eddie Carswell for the Christian music group NEWSONG from a few years ago. It is a beautiful song with beautiful words and music score.

After hearing this song, I purchased the CD, read the words, and began researching ‘bellwether’. The words of the song are true and what a powerful word picture for Christians. The bellwether becomes a leader, mentor and guide for the other sheep. He is the lead sheep for a shepherd, with a bell around his neck.

By spending time with the shepherd he learns the desires of the shepherd for his sheep. The bellwether follows the shepherd and his wishes. The other sheep in turn follow the bellwether. If any of the sheep go astray or roams away from the flock, the bellwether goes to them, spends time with them, and leads them back to the flock and to the shepherd.

The picture I get is the bellwether goes to the lost or stray sheep not in a rage or in anger but in gentleness and love of the shepherd. The bellwether does not rebuke in sheep talk, rather he lovingly leads the sheep back to the shepherd, not forcibly but quietly and sensitively.

What a great picture Eddie has so beautifully painted with the words to “Bellwether” for Christians today. Notice also, how the picture unfolds. First, he describes to us what a bellwether is. In the second verse, he illustrates how Jesus is our bellwether. Then,  in the third verse he explicates how we as Christians are to be the bellwether to our flock and our community.

Now He waits for me and you. To take them the good news.There is a path that leads them home to safety. They’re hurting and scared, scattered everywhere.They need to know – with open arms He’s waiting.  

And the bellwether walks with the lost sheep. Spends time with those who have roamed. And when he returns to the shepherd, one by one they follow him home.

Listen to the song at and I encourage you to purchase the CD! Thank you Eddie Carswell!

Why I Pray the Prayers of the Bible

One of the virtues of scripture is it is God’s Word to reveal to us what to pray and how to pray. I enjoy praying scripture, not only the prayers found in scripture as stated in the previous post on this blog. Praying the prayers of scripture affects my life on various levels and enhances my spiritual walk. There are many prayers in scripture that we can pray, applying them to our lives. One I pray quite frequently is the prayer of Jabez (1 Chronicles 4:10).

Here is a man otherwise obscure in all of scripture. However, his prayer is noteworthy enough to God that He, God, stops the roll call of the genealogy of the Hebrew people to list this single prayer. Right in the middle of 500 names is this prayer of this otherwise unknown man.

O Lord, bless me indeed, enlarge my territory, and keep your hand upon me. Keep me from evil that I might not cause shame.”  I Chronicles 4:10

When I pray the prayer of Jabez I am not praying for God to give me more wealth or material things. God provides all my needs and more. When I pray the first line of this prayer, I do not desire more material possessions. I count as my greatest blessings from God the opportunities to do something for Him. Every time I can serve God by working with Him, I am truly blessed and have a joy well up inside me that no amount of wealth or material possessions could compare.

As a young child my family would go to visit my grandparents just outside of Lewisburg, Kentucky. On Saturday afternoon my grandfather would take one or two of us kids and drive down to the local country store (Well’s). This was a highlight of the whole visit. And so, each visit, when I knew “Papaw” was getting ready for that afternoon trip, I would be following him around the house, hoping he would pick me to go with him. It was such a treasured time I still remember it today some fifty years later. When I pray that first line in the Jabez prayer, I am asking God please, let’s do it again. Only now I am no longer eight, I am fifty-eight and I want more. I want to go again and again. The more God takes me along, the more I want to go and do. The blessing is in getting chosen to go with God, and that is what leads to the next line of the prayer.

Enlarge my territory. Again, this line is not asking God for more land (although I wouldn’t mind having a few more acres). With this request I am asking God to allow me even more time with Him. Why? Because I am blessed when He allows me as revealed in the first line of this prayer. I am blessed so much that I not only want to go again and again, I want to go more. I want to do more with God. If blessings could be measured in gallon buckets and going with God on one venture equaled one gallon of blessing, then I am asking God, why not five gallons. Enlarge my territory.

To serve alongside God always brings blessings this world cannot measure. I do not know about you, but the greatest things in life bring pleasure and I always desire more of those pleasures. The same is true when serving alongside God. I want God to bring me into His service more, because I want more of the pleasure of His blessing.

Along with His blessings and an enlarged territory, I realize a need for caution. Jabez knew this as well. Hence the third line in his prayer.  “Keep your hand upon me.” Jabez knew that even in the midst of God’s presence and doing His work, it is easy to get sidetracked and self-reliant. If God brought me to it, I do not want to try to accomplish it in my power. I will surely mess it up. Instead, like Jabez, I ask God to keep his hand on me, so that I will not mess it up. The blessing comes in doing things God’s way. “Keep your hand upon me.”

The fourth and last line of Jabez’s prayer is precautionary. The third line was for God to keep His hand on me. The fourth line is ‘and don’t let me stray’. Whenever doing something good for and with God, someone will be upset. If not someone you see, certainly Satan, the devil himself will not like it. And He will attempt to keep you from serving God and accomplishing God’s assignment. Satan is very conniving. And he can be very convincing. He is the father of lies and will stop at nothing to cause you to stumble and fall when serving God.

I add to Jabez’s fourth line when I pray this prayer. My prayer is, “God, keep me from evil and keep evil from me that I will not bring shame.” I will even extend that line of thought to say, “I do not want to bring shame against you, your church, my church family, my family, my wife, or me.” I know that without God’s hand, His guidance, and protection, I am prone to fall. I want all God’s protection and defense against the flesh, worldly pleasures, and Satan himself.

O Lord, bless me indeed, enlarge my territory, and keep your hand upon me. Keep me from evil that I might not cause shame.”  I Chronicles 4:10

Enrich your life. Pray scripture. Pray the prayers found in scripture. Write to me and let me know how prayer affects your life.

For more on praying scripture contact George Yates and be sure to visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries on the web.


Enhance Your Life, Pray Scripture

Enhance Your Prayer Life, Pray Scripture

I enjoy praying scripture. Not only the prayers in the Bible, but praying other parts of scripture. Reading scripture can be very revealing and inspirational in my life. Praying scripture is even more inspirational in my life. It can be yours as well. I enjoy praying particular scripture passages for several reasons. Especially a scripture that speaks to me and a certain part of my life as I read it. Oftentimes a scripture passage will reveal something I need to change or correct in my life or something that is missing. Other times I am reminded how blessed I am to personally know the living God.

When a scripture passage speaks to me this way I will transform those words into a prayer for my own life, or the life of my church. Here is an example: Psalm 41:1“Blessed is the one who cares for the poor; the LORD will save him in a day of adversity.” After reading this verse my prayer might be, “Lord, I want to be counted among those who are blessed for caring for the poor. Help me to understand this and practice caring for all those you put around me, according to your word and will, regardless of their situation in life. I can’t help every poor person in my path. Show me those I can and how you would have me to invest in them.”

One Saturday night while reading through the book of Jeremiah, God revealed to me what scripture to read and pray in my pastor’s prayer time in the worship service the following morning. I was reading Jeremiah chapter 3. The Supreme Court had earlier in the week made a, in my opinion, very immoral ruling. Speaking to the nation of Israel Jeremiah states in verse one, “But You! You have played the prostitute with many partners – can you return to me? This is the Lord’s declaration.”

God troubled my heart with this scripture. As I continued reading this chapter God’s Spirit showed me other verses to include in my prayer the next morning.  I felt compelled to begin my prayer time with the congregation using that statement from verse 3, applying it to the condition of our nation today. Not to the nation as a whole, or the unbelieving people of our country. My prayer was concerning me and the church, God’s redeemed. What the Spirit had revealed to me that night was that it was us, believers, who had prostituted God’s work and His moral standards. My prayer began, “God forgive us, me, and your people, for we have prostituted your…”

While I have not untaken a study on the topic, and I am not sure if I could say that a majority of scripture could be used in our prayers for application in our own lives, I do know there is enough of scripture to pray that would keep us busy praying for a lifetime. Both the Old and New Testaments are filled with passage after passage that can reveal a need or a blessing in our lives. Every one of these and more can be prayed for your life and mine today.

In the New Testament, John chapter one beginning with verse one scripture says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” I am thankful for the understanding of this verse. My prayer today in reading this verse is, “Lord, thank you that The Word, Your Word was with You from the beginning. Not only was it with You, The Word is You. Help me to not only know this truth but to come to a deeper understanding of the meaning of this verse and also to live it and demonstrate it in front of others.

And near the end of John’s gospel in chapter 21, verse 22 Jesus says, “If I want him to remain until I come, what is that to you? As for you follow me” My prayer of this scripture has been, “Lord, if you want John and Missy to have this, what is that to me. Help me, O lord, to follow you.” Or perhaps I would pray,  “Lord, as you said this to Peter about John, let me take hold of it in my life. Help me not to be so concerned with another believer that it hinders my work for you. I have enough taking care of my own life and followship. Forgive me where I have failed you in this way.”

Scripture can speak to us in so many facets of our life. When you read scripture do you grasp it, take hold of it, let it speak to you, then pray that scripture for your own life? If not why not try it, start today.  If you want to enhance your prayer life, pray scripture. Pray earnestly as God reveals to you when you are reading His Word.

For more on praying scripture and related topics contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries on the internet.


Denial of Reality

In the book, “Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church” I identify five phases of decline a church can fall through. The third phase is Denial of Reality. A church moves into phase three when the evidence of decline becomes obvious to those inside as well as outside the church. In this phase church leaders often enter a stage of denial. It is hard to ignore when church attendance drops from 300 to 200 or from 125 to 84.

If Sears lost one third of its customer base, someone in leadership would take notice. In an organization such as Sears, action would be taken long before this size loss occurred. Yet in some churches the realization of the denial phase may not happen until the church has lost up to half their attendance on an average week.

Jim Collins states, “There is a tendency to discount or explain away negative data rather than presume that something is wrong with the company (organization).”[1] In the church this is all too common. Church leaders are busy. With weekly services, visiting the sick and grieved, ministry programs, committee meetings, and sermon and teaching preparation, there is so much going on in the ministry of the church that it is hard to accept the data declaring decline.

In the church one way we attempt to explain away the obvious data is to blame outside sources. “It is the economy,” or “since that big church moved in down the street,” It is much easier to pass the blame onto outside influences that we have no control over than it is to accept our role in the decline of the church. We need to accept responsibility for the ministry effort and the community to which God has called us. Great leaders shoulder the responsibility rather than pass the blame for decline in the church.

Though denial has actually been a characteristic of church leadership in phases one and two, in phase three denial becomes apparent as some church leaders become vocal in rejecting the obvious. Denial becomes a pattern. This is a point where first the leaders, then the members of the organization need to address the blunt reality and facts of the situation, what I refer to as having a vigorous face to face summit with reality ( see Reaching the Summit, chapter seven A Vigorous Face to Face Summit With Reality). Unfortunately, we often see denial of the truth of the church’s situation and a refusal to conduct an open and honest assessment of the ministry’s decline.

Regardless of how long your church has been in decline, even if it was ten years or more before your arrival, it is your watch now. You are directly responsible for what happens on your watch at your church. One of the first steps of becoming a successful leader is to accept responsibility (as Nehemiah did) for the present situation and then work to resolve and reverse the declining trends. Whether you are the pastor, paid or volunteer staff, or a layperson in your church, begin as Nehemiah did in chapter 1, verse 4 and then pray as he did in verses 5-9.

Nehemiah accepted responsibility for a mess that he had nothing to do with.  What steps will you take today to be like Nehemiah and accept responsibility to get the ball rolling in reversing or staving off declining trends in your church?

For more information on this and reversing declining trends contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries.


[1]               How The Mighty Fall, pg. 81

Being versus Doing

Most people affiliated with a New Testament, Bible believing church will agree that the people are the church. The church is not made of buildings and property, but of the people who attend and carry out the functions prescribed in scripture. A few years ago I began asking a question to church groups. In regards to church, what is the difference between being and doing? I do not go any farther in describing what I mean so as not to taint the discussion.  Some say being is more important with references as, “We must be the church before we can do church.” Others say, “We can’t be the church without doing what the church is supposed to do.”

Naturally, debates can go back and forth on this issue with these two lines of thinking and others. Which is right? I believe there must be a balance between the two. You can be First Community Church all day long without doing, and you can do all day long without being the true church of The New Testament.

On the one hand, churches fall into decline due to the busyness of doing, instead of being the church. This happens when programs, events, and bureaucracy (administration) overtake spiritual preparation and ministry to the community. Many of our churches across North America today have slipped into maintenance mode. In reality people of these churches do not even realize what is happening in their church. They have become program focused instead of ministry (Great Commission) focused. Some churches find themselves doing “things” in the name of ministry, when in actuality it is only business, something to make us feel good.

On the other hand churches can “be” the church all day long without ever “doing.” Your church can have Bible study and worship services every Sunday morning, again on Sunday evening and Wednesday, fulfilling all the traditions of the western world church and yet never fulfill the Great Commission.

How can any church be this blind or not able to see the trap of falling into either of these scenarios? Like the vacationer on a raft in the water at the beach who allows the water and breeze to lull him into a state somewhere between consciousness and sleep,  so the church has allowed ourselves to be lulled into a similar state. We believe we are a good church as everything seems to be okay. Yet, like the vacationer, we have drifted far away from our beginning point and where we think we are.

While the church is theoretically designed to be self-feeding for spiritual growth, it was also instituted by God to feed the spiritual needs of the community. Therefore, we could say the church is a two-fold feeding station. It is 1) to feed spiritually and grow the members and regular attendees and it is 2) to reach out to meet the needs of the community, guiding them in spiritual matters and decisions as well.

To achieve and maintain a proper balance of “being” and “doing” requires prayerful, strategic planning. When done properly as described in the book of Acts and The New Testament in general, a church will experience four areas of results. The first of these four every church  will experience spiritual growth. If as individuals and corporately as a church you are not experiencing spiritual growth, there is an issue. Without continual spiritual growth in a church, can we really expect to accomplish God’s purposes? What are you doing personally to experience spiritual growth in your life? What are you doing to lead your church in spiritual growth?

For more information on being vs. doing and how to move your church in the direction for a proper balance contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries. Reaching the Summit and Turnaround Journey are both excellent tools to assist you in achieving the balance needed for effective ministry.


Stolen Coin Collection and Your Value

In 2012, a 19-year-old man from Washington state named Dakoda Garren was charged with stealing a rare coin collection worth at least $100,000. After Garren had completed some part-time work for a woman living north of Portland, the woman reported that her family coin collection was missing. Her collection included a variety of rare and valuable coins, including Liberty Head quarters, Morgan dollars, and other coins dating back to the early 1800s.

Initially, Garren denied any involvement, claiming that the police didn’t have any evidence against him. But then he started spending the coins at face value, apparently unaware of the coins’ worth. He and his girlfriend paid for movie tickets using quarters worth between $5 and $68. Later on the same day, they bought some local pizza with rare coins, including a Liberty quarter that may be worth up to $18,500.

In the same way, we dishonor other people (such as our spouse, our friends, our children, even our enemies) when we treat them as cheap objects. They should be treated according to the value God has placed on them. God’s value on every human is placed higher than any other animal, plant or inanimate object on earth. He created man in His likeness – His image.

If you’ve ever heard the saying about a child, “He’s the spitting image of his father,” you know and understand that child looks and acts much like his father. God says this about you and every other man, woman, and child that has ever lived – in and outside of the womb. When we disrespect another person or treat them with disregard we are no different than the young man in the story above. Our actions are criminal in God’s eyes and according to His statutes and commands.

Likewise, when you treat yourself with less respect and value than God has conferred upon you, you are not only trivializing your worth, you are devaluing God’s Word and debasing His value of who you are. You are not a cheap object. You are His prize possession. God values you more than anything else in His creation.

You are not an everyday, run of the mill, twenty-five cent piece. You are worth many times more than that Liberty head quarter. In fact money cannot purchase your value. The people you come in contact with every day of your life hold the same value to God. You do not desire to be treated as a cheap object. Why should we go around treating others that way?

God is an awesome God. He knit you together in your mother’s womb to be a person of great value. So great a value that He created you in His own image. Do you know someone you can tell today that they are the spitting image of their father – their Heavenly Father?

I believe this about you, you must be of great value, because in you I see the image of your Father.


Focus on the urgent or the important?

Pastor Michael Codrington is in his 3rd church in ten years. Though he has been at his current church, New Haven Community Church for a little more than four years, the church isn’t growing. While the church has leveled out in attendance, Pastor Michael is concerned because the church is not growing, not adding people to its membership or to the number in attendance. As Michael would say, “We are in the fifth year of my three year plan.” He says it jokingly, but inside it seems to be a matter of concern for Michael on an almost continual basis.

Always on the lookout for some new idea or practice and his desire to stay up to date Michael has recently returned home from yet another innovative leadership conference. At this conference Michael heard some very good speakers and picked up a few ideas as happens at most of these conferences. While at the conference Michael did the usual networking with other pastors and ministry leaders; meeting up with old friends and meeting new ones. So when he returned home and his wife, Jill asked, “How was the conference?” Michael’s response was, “You know, same ole, same ole.”

Michael headed down the hallway of their home, then stopped, turned back to his wife and said, “But there was something – or someone actually. I met a pastor from Calvert City. I can’t put my finger on it, but there was something unusual about him, in a good way, I mean. He seems to have it all together, things are going right, and people loved being around him at the conference. I enjoyed being around him. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’d like to get to know him better.”

Did you get his number, or at least his e-mail address?” His wife pressed. “Yes, yes I did. In fact we exchanged cards.” Michael responded. Without hesitation Jill insisted, “Well then, you should call him and invite him to meet you for lunch. Maybe he’ll meet you halfway or you can go there. Calvert City is only a forty-five minute drive.” Michael cocked his head to the right and with an upward glance to the left – at nothing in particular and almost quizzically said, “Yeah, he said we could do lunch one day. He even mentioned meeting halfway.” “Good!” said Jill. “Then it’s a done deal. You should call him tomorrow.”

Jill understands the frustrations of being a pastor and not seeing your desired results in your ministry. She also knows her husband and his need to act instead of reacting. Her statement to call this new pastor acquaintance the next day was born out of experience. Jill knows if Michael does not make the call right away and set a lunch appointment, life will get in the way and the whirlwind of busyness will push the desire to do so farther and farther away. Within a couple of weeks Michael will forget altogether and lose his desire to learn from this other pastor. Not from a loss of passion to learn, but out of the day to day pressures and stresses of ministry. New challenges and ministry obligations come along each and every day. Ministry is not a full time job, it is an all-time job, a true calling to ministry is a life devoted to serving God through serving people and growing them in their spiritual walk.

The next morning while sharing breakfast before heading to their respective offices, Jill asks, “What’s on your agenda today?” Michael shares of his need to visit two people in different hospitals meetings with the finance chairman, Building and grounds personnel, and worship pastor, answering e-mails, writing his article for the newsletter. He then closes his recital saying, “And somewhere in there I need to work on my sermon for Sunday morning. I’d like to at least spend an hour on that. An hour would be a luxury today.”

Looking across the table to her husband Jill asks, “And what else?” Michael is puzzled. Jill can see his thought wheels turning. She fixes her gaze on him, waiting for a response. Michael is running through all options in his head. “Is it our anniversary? Am I supposed to pick up one of the kids? Do I have a doctor or dentist appointment?” So many thoughts going through his head yet he cannot settle on anything. Finally he confesses, “I don’t know. What am I forgetting?” Jill simply queries, “The pastor from Calvert City?”

It’s easy to get sidetracked isn’t it? Too often we allow the busyness of our schedule to crowd out the important. Jesus taught us by His actions, He was always more concerned about the important, not the seemingly urgent. In the story of Lazarus (John 11) Mary and Martha sent to Jesus with an urgent request. Our brother, your dear friend, Lazarus, is very sick. Come quickly and heal him before he dies. This sounds like a very urgent plea, does it not?

Jesus, on the other hand was about the important. He said, “This will not end in death.” He did not say Lazarus would not die, but that it would not end in death. Mary, Martha, and the disciples had all seen Jesus heal people from sickness. Not all of them had observed him raise someone from the dead, especially a person who had been dead four days. Jesus knew the more important issue here was to deepen the faith of Mary, Martha, and His disciples. This was accomplished through raising Lazarus from the dead.

What are you facing today? Are you racing toward the urgent or plotting for the most important?

Fishing for Results

Pete: I love being able to come here every week, don’t you?

John:  I sure do. I look forward to it all week.

Pete:  We have had some real good times fishing in this boat.

John:  We sure have, I can remember fishing right over there and do you remember the time we were out here fishing and…It seems as though we never had a dry week back then. We always were blessed with catching fish.

Pete:  Why, I remember when we had this place full of boats and God was blessing, giving us success and adding to the number of boats every week. Everybody was catching.

John:  Yes and we learned a lot about fishing then too.

Pete:  We did. I wonder what’s changed? (pause) Well, it’s time. We better head back and lock up the old boat. But I’ll see you out here next week – same time, same place.

John:  I’ll be here. We’ll do it again.

Did you recognize this conversation? It is repeated over and over in churches around the nation every week. Only it is not about fish and boats. The conversations are about people and effective ministries. And always about the past, how good it used to be. Pete’s last question was, “I wonder what’s changed?”

Since researchers tell us that eighty to ninety percent of our churches in North America are plateaued or declining today, I would venture to say the organizational health of the church is one of the main changes we see. Organizational health has close ties to and incorporates spiritual health as well. I spend much of my time these days talking with and assisting some of these churches.

I agree with Patrick Lencioni that most organizations, churches included, focus on intelligence rather than the overall health of the organization. Through a series of discussions, reading assignments, and assessments many of the churches that I work with arrive at the understanding that the organizational health of the church is in dire need of adjustment and change. Those who make the necessary adjustments find relief and begin to implement strategies to turn around the health – spiritual and organizational health – of the church.

The spiritual health of the church must take priority in each situation and throughout the turnaround journey. One mistake many churches make is misinterpreting spiritual intellect for spiritual health. Information, facts and figures does not equate to spiritual health any more than having grocery store ads in the pantry equals food on the table.

Information, facts, and figures may bring knowledge and intellect, but not until you apply that knowledge in an effective manner will you see productive results. Effectual strategic planning bathed in prayer is required to produce positive, lasting results leading to spiritual and organizational health. The key ingredient for improvement and success is not knowledge or resources. The key ingredient is the health of the organizational environment.

In reality the real deficiency of declining or plateaued churches is not intellect or knowledge, but the lack of organizational health.  A healthy organization has checks and balances, principles and values in place to assist in making healthy decisions. What are the true core values of your church? On which biblical principles do you operate as a church? Are those principles and values incorporated into all checks and balances in place? If so your church is a healthy, growing church. If your church is plateaued or declining then these three areas need serious consideration.

For more information on these three or on organizational health for your church contact George Yates and visit SonC.A.R.E. Ministries for information and to order your copy of Reaching the Summit: Avoiding and Reversing Decline in the Church.

1000 Marbles

Saturdays. How much do we enjoy Saturdays (or whatever day we take off from work). A day we long to kick back, relax, do what we want to do with no interruptions. We might get up before the family, fix ourselves some breakfast, coffee and then sit back and read the paper. Or maybe spend the day at the golf course. But does this day include the family, those close to us that possibly we have ignored during the week or just too tired to spend time with and hear about their needs?

I recently read a story about an older man that called into a Saturday morning talk show. He was talking about “a thousand marbles” to the show’s host by the name of Tom.  The host had been explaining to his audience how busy his weeks were and that he never had time for his family.  The caller said, “Well, Tom, it sure sounds like you’re really busy with your job. I’m sure they pay you well at the station but it’s a shame you have to be away from home and your family so much. Hard to believe a young fellow should have to work sixty or seventy hours a week to make ends meet.”

He continued, “Let me tell you something Tom, something that has helped me keep a perspective on my own priorities.” And that’s when the caller began to explain his theory of a “thousand marbles.

“You see, I sat down one day and did a little math. The average person lives about 75 years. I know, some live more and some live less, but on the average, people live about 75 years. Then, I multiplied 75 by 52 and I came up with 3,900 which represents the number of Saturdays that the average person has in their lifetime.”

He explained further by saying, “Stick with me Tom, I’m getting to the important part. It took me until I was 55 years old to think about all this in any detail and by that time I had lived through over 2,800 Saturdays. I got to thinking that if I lived to be 75, I only had about a thousand of them left to enjoy. So I went to the toy store and bought every single marble they had. I ended up visiting three toy stores until I was able to purchase 1,000 marbles. I took them home and put them inside of a large, clear plastic container right in my workshop. Every Saturday since then, I have taken one marble out and thrown it away.”

“I found that by watching the marbles diminish, I focused more on the really important things in life. There is nothing like watching your time here on this earth run out to help get your priorities straight.”

“Now let me tell you one last thing before I hang up and take my lovely wife out for breakfast. This morning, I took the very last marble out of the container. I figure if I make it until next Saturday, then God has blessed me with a little extra time to be with my loved ones.   It was nice to talk with you Tom. I hope you spend more time with your loved ones. Have a good morning!”

You could have heard a pin drop when he finished. Even Tom didn’t have anything to say for a few minutes. The caller had given everyone who was listening a lot to think about.

Do we get so wrapped up in our work or our personal pleasures that we ignore our very own family? Is the golf course more important to us than taking our wife to breakfast on Saturday or playing with our children or grandchildren?

Do you need to run out to the toy store and pick up some marbles?

Author unknown – This story comes from my archived files.