January 21, 2020 - Redefining Success (Part 1)
We are beginning a new year, and with it a new direction in Community Groups. Our pastor has asked that we focus on developing leaders during 2020. Our material will be drawn primarily from the book “Realign: God-Called Leaders and Their Purpose”, by Dr. Eugene Wilson. Dr. Wilson is an author and minister associated with the Pentecostals of Katy (Texas), so we will have the added advantage of relying on a Spirit-filled Oneness resource for our inspiration. This book is available on Amazon (Kindle [online] edition) for $9.95. Anyone who wants to purchase the book and use it as a study guide should feel free to do so. Excerpts from the book, edited for clarity and length, will be used as the basis for the lessons posted on the church website.
Christianity in North America is showing signs of trouble. Statistics suggest North America may be headed down the same slippery slope as Western Europe, where in most countries (Denmark, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland) people no longer find the church relevant and the majority of the population no longer believes in God. According to research the number of Americans who claim no religious affiliation has nearly doubled since 1990, rising from 8 to 15 percent. Meanwhile, the number of Americans who describe themselves as atheist or agnostic has quadrupled. Two-thirds of the public (68 percent) now say religion is “losing influence” in American society, while just 19 percent say religion’s influence is on the rise. Furthermore, the proportion of Americans who think religion “can answer all or most of today’s problems” is now at a historic low of 48 percent. Society’s negative view toward Christianity is reflected in the decline of church attendance across North America. Data from a General Social Survey reveals that from 1990 to 2008, the percentage of people who never attend religious services rose from 13 to 22 percent. If trends continue, only one of seven individuals will be attending church regularly in North America. Statistics reveal 3,500–4,000 churches annually cease to exist.
Statistics also indicate that ministerial pressure is increasing. Research reveals the following:
•Fifteen hundred pastors leave the ministry each month.
•50 percent of pastors’ marriages will end in divorce.
•80 percent of pastors and 84 percent of their spouses feel discouraged in their role as pastors.
•80 percent of pastors’ spouses feel their spouse is overworked.
•80 percent of Bible school graduates who enter the ministry will leave the ministry within the first five years.
•70 percent of pastors fight depression.
Please keep in mind that these figures are for churches and ministers in general, not just the United Pentecostal Church.
Clearly, things are moving in the wrong direction. Something needs to change.
We cannot afford to continue down the same path we have been on. Albert Einstein defined insanity as continuing to do something you’ve already been doing yet believing you will get different results. As church leaders, we need to pause long enough to look inward to see if we are contributing to the problem. We need to consider the possibility that we might be partially at fault for the current condition of the church. While it is certainly easier to blame external forces, it may not be nearly as advantageous or accurate. If we truly want things to change, if we truly want to make a difference in our world and in the lives of those to whom we minister, we must first examine ourselves.
The seven churches in the Book of Revelation existed in a challenging environment. However, the problem with the church of Ephesus was not from without; it was from within. She had left her first love. The church of Thyatira’s problem was that she had tolerated the spirit of Jezebel. The problem with the church of Laodicea was lukewarmness. The church of Sardis’ problem was that she had fallen asleep. The problem with the church of Pergamum was not that it faced immense external pressures and existed “where Satan’s throne is”; the problem was that some of its members held to the teaching of Balaam and others to the teaching of the Nicolaitans.
In spite of the challenges these churches faced externally, they ceased to exist because of their failure to deal with issues that existed within, not pressures they faced from without. We must stop blaming others for the current condition in which we find ourselves. Instead, we must initiate and engage in self-examination. Our problem is not secularism, consumerism, or postmodernism. Neither is our problem the devil. Jesus emphatically declared the gates of Hell would not prevail against the church.
Additionally, our problem is not the lack of resources. The New Testament church had fewer resources than we do; yet they turned their world upside down. Neither is our problem lack of ability, skill, or talent. We are talented. We are skilled. And we have much ability. So what is our problem? Our problem is our lack of understanding and aligning with our purpose. We do not know exactly what it is we are called to do. Because we lack clarity of purpose, we exert effort on things of little benefit to the kingdom of God. We are skilled at things that do not matter and are novices at things that do matter. We must right ourselves by realigning with our purpose. Through realignment we can lay hold of God’s blessings and favor on our ministries.
We Have Misunderstood Our Purpose
One day a gentleman from the city, who, while driving in the country, noticed a barn with targets painted on it and an arrow in the center of each target. Amazed at such expertise, he stopped to inquire about it. The marksman offered to showcase his talents. He got his bow. Randomly shot an arrow at the barn. Taking a bucket of paint and a paintbrush, he painted a target around the arrow. The marksman then said, “When I do it this way, I never miss.” Too many of us are like the marksman. We do not know what we should be aiming at. We lack clarity of purpose. Occasionally, we hit the target but not because we aimed for it; rather, we stumble upon it. This is not the way things should be. We should live our lives with purpose. We should function in our God-given call with clarity of purpose. We should be so focused on our purpose that trivial things are no longer able to detour us around what matters most. Asking the right questions enables us to aim at the right target. When we fail to ask the right questions we end up addressing the wrong problem.
Once a group of preachers discussed what to do about the dwindling crowds at church rallies—fellowship events in which several churches gather to worship together. The solution was to hold the services in smaller-sized church buildings so the crowd would no longer appear to be small. No one bothered to identify the reason for the dwindling crowds, consider the purpose of the rallies, or determine if the underlying purpose of the rallies was being fulfilled through other venues. The failure to ask the right questions resulted in a solution that did nothing to address the real issue at hand.
Taking aim at the right target is important. Failure to do so is a waste. Yet for some, the only thing that seems to matter is just doing something, as if doing something will somehow produce the right thing. Church leaders who approach ministry in such a manner run from program to program. They are constantly trying new things hoping something will work. Clarity of purpose as well as a proper understanding of principles behind the programs and models is needed. If there is no clear purpose or proper understanding of principles, a church leader will, in time, become frustrated and disillusioned.
Questions need to be asked:
Where are we now?
Where do we want to go?
How do we get there?
By asking these questions, we as leaders can discover the intent and purpose of the church as well as the fivefold ministry.
We have been given a preview of our pastor’s vision for the upcoming year and for the future of Austin First Church. How well we identify the leadership qualities that each of us possess, and how dedicated we each are to developing and using those qualities, will determine what role we each will play in the great plan that God has for us.
Source: “Realign: God-Called Leaders and Their Purpose”, by Dr. Eugene Wilson. All rights reserved.
January 7, 2020
Our Community Group meetings this week will focus on prayer for our Church and the work of God as we begin a new year. In the spirit of the message we received on Sunday ("All In") and the necessity of identifying and strengthening the "core" of the Church (much as a human body must have a strong CORE in order to be strong overall), it is suggested that after prayer and praise concludes, each member who feels led to do so spend a minute or two sharing with the group his/her plans for going "all in" during 2020. Many of us make "New Year's resolutions" each January, and some of us actually follow through on those resolutions. So, let us share our resolutions for giving our ALL for the work of God in 2020. LET'S DO THIS!!
Upcoming Home Locations:
July 23 - Hannah, Alves, Davies, Proctor
August 6 - Hannah, Cruz, Gilmore, Proctor
August 20 - Green, Alves, Smith (North), Proctor
When do we really get together and connect close to our community?
We could build tighter relationships through localized prayer and Bible study.
We could invite our local friends and family who do not understand the joy and peace we have found in Christ.
Our communities deserve to experience what we feel every service at AFC!
How it all works:
Every Tuesday evening from 7 pm to 8 pm
Prayer, a quick refreshing Bible study, and social connection!
We will start by offering three main areas to join a home -
South Cities Area - Cooney / Matthew Alves
North Cities Area - Davies / Gilmore
East Cities Area - Green / Hanna
Lockhart Area - Proctor
Homes will alternate each week unless otherwise noted above.
Want to use your home for a Community Group? Let us know.
First Time? ...... Sign-up!
(click the address for directions)
East Cities Area -
The Green's Home: 903-780-0658
The Hannah Home: 512-321-3031
The Vargas Home: 512-788-0549
North Cities Area -
The Davies Home: 512-826-6288
The Gilmore Home: 512-923-1177
The Smith Home: 512-468-6068
South Cities Area -
The Matthew Alves Home: 512-922-4749
The Cooney Home: 512-784-1180
The Cruz Home: 512-738- 1864
Lockhart Area -
The Proctor Home: 979-709-4999