[shoulders] SHOULDER TO SHOULDER #45 ---- 11/23/98

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Home   : November 1998 : Group Archive : Group : All Groups

From: lifeunlimited@...
Date: Sun, 22 Nov 1998 23:37:57 -0600
Standing Shoulder to Shoulder With You In The Trenches
As We Fight The Good Fight



TITLE:  "Patterns Of Purification" (Part Two)



My Dear Fellow Servant:

Greetings and rejoicing in the name of our Lord.  May you be blessed
beyond what you can absorb.  As we begin a new week together, let us both
draw deeply from the well of God's inexhaustible wealth.

What a week Jo Ann and I have just completed!  Last week I mentioned we
were conducting two meetings, both in small communities.  God was more
than faithful to bless and encourage both the believers and the pastors. 
In fact, the second meeting which ended Saturday night was one of the
most profound meetings in years.  Attendance grew nightly, and the Holy
Spirit was faithful to bring repentance, brokenness, restoration, hope,
and joyful praise to the people.  Thank you for praying for us.



TO THE MATTER AT HAND:

Last week I began a short series on "Patterns Of Purification ----
Pathway To Revival", a study of certain patterns in churches that can
lead either to conflict and dissention or to purification and revival.  I
discussed the fact that such trends often lead to the wrong thing because
pastor and/or people do not see God's hand at work in those
circumstances..  Therefore, pastors resign too soon, church members are
hurt, the body is bewildered or discouraged, members get angry or
discouraged and leave, and ---- revival never comes!

In last week's letter, I said . . . .

"Now ---- if a pastor, a member, or a church can recognize these 
patterns,can see the cause, and can anticipate the outcome from 
a Biblical standpoint, I believe it will create a greater sense of 
confidence, peace, and expectancy that God is actually doing 
a mighty work through which He fully intends to bring them all 
to victory.  

"We Must see what is happening ---- with Spiritual eyes, and not with the
eyes of the world.  We Must understand the dynamics from Biblical truth
and Divine revelation rather than human intellect and the world's
standards."

Then I tried to identify some basic truths from several passages of
scripture, summarized in the fact that it is in God's heart to bring
every church to purity, holiness, revival power, and effective ministry. 


In so doing, God seems to take most churches through a process of four
phases:  
1.  Honeymoon Adventure
2.  Stabilization and Plateau
3.  Re-grouping and Digging In
4.  Decision Toward Collapse or Commitment

Today I want to continue by describing the first two of those phases.  My
friend, I have no desire to simply provide intellectual information and
stimulation.  I want these thoughts to be things you can identify with in
such a way that any fears you may have will be alleviated, any
discouragements will dissolve in the face of courage, any hurts will be
soothed, and any wounds inflicted on you in the past will be totally
healed.

It is my prayer that, if you have been beaten and battered through past
church conflicts, these concepts will help you understand the cause, lead
you to thank the Lord for seeing you through, and put new confidence in
your heart ---- "strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow".

So, as you read, allow the Lord to bathe your heart with the soothing oil
of His restoring love.



I.  HONEYMOON ADVENTURE

Like a new marriage, the spouses (pastor and church) are thrilled and
excited.  It is evident everywhere.   And, it is a natural response to a
newly established relationship.  A similar feeling of euphoria is
experienced whenever a new church is begun.  There are some common
characteristics you can usually identify with ease.  For example, . . . 

1.  There is growth and excitement among many of the members.  That
excitement usually centers around an agreed upon agenda between the new
pastor and the church leaders ---- there is a new face, new ideas, new
goals, new opportunity.

2.  This growth and excitement is manifested with numeric increase ----
you know, nickels and noses.  Much of this growth comes from the return
of members who had dropped by the wayside during the waning years of the
previous pastorate.  They have returned to see if the new pastor is any
better than the past one.  

There will also be some slow and somewhat begrudging return of members
who dropped out when their favorite pastor resigned and the church seemed
to flounder in the eddy of "leaderlessness".

3.  Numerous public decisions are evident along with the increase of
attendance and offerings.

4.  The new pastor is also excited as he finds new and excited
constituents to hear his messages and applaud his efforts.  The members
respond with enthusiasm and renewed involvement.  Even the most boring
organization or program of the church seems to be enjoyable again.

5.  Hopes are high, expectations even higher.  (A great disappointment is
ahead, and will be followed by a slide into disillusionment.)

The time span for the Honeymoon Adventure varies, depending on many
circumstances (pastoral personality, leadership style, identification of
who is really in charge, etc).  Normally this phase of church life will
last from six to eighteen months, though it can be less (not too much
less!) or as much as a year or more longer.  

Some such stages have lasted for more than three years, though it is
extremely rare.  More often than not, when that has happened, the
transition between that stage and the next one was so smooth that it went
virtually unnoticed.



II.  STABILIZATION AND PLATEAU:

By this time in the "marriage" the newness has pretty well worn off, and
familiarity has set in.  As you may remember, "familiarity breeds
contempt".

The sensation of a new face, new styles, and new ideas has pretty well
worn off.

1.  Attendance has probably leveled off, has become a little erratic, and
has even dropped some before hitting a more permanent plateau.

2.  At this point, there often will be a slight to moderate polarization
---- choosing "sides" over issues, pastoral personalities, and personal
preferences.  It is often so slight that it goes unnoticed.   In fact,
many people think it is nothing more than "back sliding" or becoming
negligent in church attendance, service, and support.

This will not be the final polarization; there will probably be at least
two more.  This initial one will center primarily around issues such as
carnality vs spirituality, traditionalism vs innovation, and scattered
offenses.

As this pattern becomes more developed, you will find it usually affects
two groupings of people ---- carnal and spiritually shallow people, and
people who are easily swayed and discouraged.

3.  As this polarization grows, there will be an increase of criticism,
usually behind the scenes.

4.  There will develop a pattern of sporadic absence by the carnal, the
critical, or those hurt or discouraged by the critical.  It will begin
with the mid-week activities and Sunday evening activities, and then
Sunday school, and eventually Sunday morning worship services.

5.  If those people hold assigned responsibilities, they will begin to
neglect them.

6.  There will also be, though scattered and sporadic at first, the
pattern of withholding tithes and offerings as a statement of "lack of
confidence" toward the pastor or lay leadership.  Basically it is a way
of making a statement of disapproval over something they do not like.

7.  Isolated resignations from positions or responsibilities will
surface.  As the process continues,  there will be hints of "leaving the
church" by a few, usually those either needing to be "stroked" and
affirmed, or those trying to intimidate their way back into some form of
control.  

8.,  Some actually do leave the church.  In reality, this may be good for
the church.

9.  Many who remain, however, will become anxious, fearful, and confused
over the resignations and the departures.  They need to be informed as to
what is actually happening.  They need to understand that, as in all
relationships, there are some differences that have developed.  

In many cases, these differences are not about right and wrong, but
simply about preferences.  In fact, it is my personal observation that
most differences that result in conflict in churches have virtually
nothing whatsoever to do with doctrinal heresy, moral failure,
administrative mismanagement, or financial irresponsibility.

Most of the time, they have to do with ---- of all things, ---- Personal
Preferences!  Preferences for certain styles of worship, certain types of
music, length of services, preaching styles and content, placement of the
organ and piano, use of certain types of musical instruments or audio
visual equipment, etc.

Turning Point Number One:

This moment in time is a time of decision ---- the First Major Turning
Point!  And, it is at this time that many pastors take these attacks
personally and make an unwise decision to resign.

That is NOT what the church needs!  Especially those who are faithfully
staying by the stuff!

The Church Needs Assurances!  The members need to be told that the
leadership understands, cares, and is committed to see it through to
victory.

What they really need is to be shown the differences between "right and
wrong" issues and preferences.  They need to recognize that there are
indeed "different strokes for different folks", and that such reality
doesn't make one side right and the other wrong.  

They need to be encouraged to give each other space, and to not judge or
condemn, but rather, love one another, serve one another, and defer to
one another.

Now, sometimes, during this process, churches will try to climb out of
these pits by trying new ideas, new programs, new approaches ---- even
new pastors ---- to get the momentum back.  Ill advised building
programs, finance campaigns, new outreach plans, evangelism training,
attendance campaigns, "Hollywood" guest entertainers, spectacular events,
etc. are just some of the gimmicks pastors and churches will use.

In my opinion, these efforts are mistakes caused either because of a lack
of insight and judgement, or because of an insecure fear of facing and
addressing issues.

There are usually two inevitable consequences to these attempts.  First,
they simply mask over the real issue; and, second, they simply delay the
inevitable ---- that is, polarization will come, plateaus will develop,
criticism will surface, numeric losses will take place.

It's part of the package.

This sequence can last from one to two years, though it seldom lasts
longer ---- mainly because some member of the key players (the pastor,
the staff member, the members seeking to dominate and control) will leave
the scene within that time frame.

The best thing to do when these trends develop is to focus on personal
spiritual growth, set the example by being a servant leader, honestly and
kindly point out the real issues (WITHOUT inserting personalities into
the issues), and make these matters the focus of concentrated personal
and corporate prayer.



IN SUMMARY:

Next week I will conclude with the last two phases ---- 3)  Re-grouping
and Digging In, and 4) Decision Toward Collapse or Commitment.  In those
phases we will find look at the second major polarization, two more major
turning points, and examine three alternative results of dissatisfaction.

Most importantly, however, is that we will examine the wonderful process
of the church and its leadership moving through brokenness and repentance
into revival and ultimate Spirit anointed ministry and evangelism.

By the time we are finished, it is my prayer that you will embrace the
inevitable challenges to leadership, the conflicts for control, and the
purifying processes of the Holy Spirit.

It will be worth the struggle, my friend.  I wish I had known that in the
earlier days of my ministry.  I wish I had known to not take so many
things so personally.  I wish I had understood that some of the attacks I
endured were not against me personally but rather against the authority
my position represented, and against the expectations of the God I
served.

My heart cries out to God daily that He will raise up, protect, purify,
heal, restore, empower, and direct the men and women He calls to
ministry.  I have been saying for ten years that pastors are America's
current endangered species.  

Dear friend, know ---- know beyond doubt that God delights in you!  He
sings over you!  He thinks you are terrific!  He appreciates your
efforts!  He understands your sorrows and disappointments.  He is not
angry with you nor offended when you complain or cry.  He sees you as His
child ---- and He wants to comfort and restore you.

At the same time, He fully understands the value in and importance of the
refiner's fire ---- and He thinks you are so important to His cause that
He is willing to suffer His own pain of seeing you in yours, simply so
you will become all you were created to be, and so you can lead a people
more effectively into the fullness of His presence and the thrill of His
ministry.

At this moment I wish it were possible for me to sit across the table
from you as we shared a cup of coffee or hot tea and tell you this face
to face with my own voice.  Since that is not possible, please allow the
Holy Spirit to be my voice to the ears of your heart speaking to the
fears of your soul.



LISTEN TO PAUL'S HEART:

"For we do not preach ourselves, but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves
as your bond-servants for Jesus' sake.

"For God, who said, 'Light shall shine out of darkness,' is the One who
has shown in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory
of God in the face of Christ.

"But ---- we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the surpassing
greatness of the power may be of God ---- and not from ourselves.

"We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not
despairing;

"Persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed;

"Always carrying about in the body, the dying of Jesus ---- that the Life
of Jesus Also may be manifested in our body. . . .

"Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying,
yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.

"For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of
glory far beyond all comparison,"

II Corinthians 4:5-10, 16-17

Hang in there, my friend!  Be encouraged!  Look up! ---- your redemption
draweth nigh!"

In Christ's Bond,

Bob Tolliver -- (Rom 1:11-12)
Copyright November, 1998.  All rights reserved
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               Hang in there!  I'm with you!
    
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Life Unlimited Ministries
E-Mail: lifeunlimited@...
Ph: 417-275-4854
Fax: 417-275-4855

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