Bill Campbell

Thoughts of Life and Ministry

FROM ME TO YOU

I need to say “thank you” to a host of persons who have already sent me their congratulations on winning the Amy Foundation First Place Writing Award. Your well wishes mean more than you will ever know. The uplifting comments have all been most encouraging. In all honesty, I have been in shock since I first heard the announcement Tuesday, April twentieth.

Sue and I are currently making plans to fly to Michigan for the two day event. It will be a busy time in our lives. Unbelievably busy. Yet, since we’ve moved to Oklahoma our lives have been more involved than we would have ever realized. It’s an enjoyable time, but a most hectic time.

Writing is now a very big part of my life. But Church Health is important also. In short, offering my services to congregations in the area of church health, and continuing my writing ministry, are the two great passionate concerns I possess.

Persons go to their physician for health checkups. Congregations need to go through a health checkup as well. Why? Because the church is described in Scripture as a body. And a church body, over time, will undoubtedly wrestle with health issues.

Currently, I conduct what I refer to as a CHURCH HEALTH SUNDAY. This has four  parts to it. The first part is conducting a combined adult Sunday School class, in which I introduce the various components of having a healthy church. Part two involves me preaching in your service, or, services, and sharing the basic dynamics of a healthy church. A third part of the process is conducting a CHURCH HEALTH SURVEY with a  cross-section of the congregations membership. The fourth and final part of the process is to return on a future day to share, in a positive fashion, the results of the CHURCH HEALTH SURVEY. 

This will be a positive step for any congregation. A most encouraging step. For it will be a non-threatening way to identify the strengths and weaknesses of your church body. And it is an established fact, all congregations have both strengths and weaknesses. My contribution will be to help a church identify their weaknesses, and harness more strength in those weak areas.  

I stand ready as a church consultant and coach to assist your congregation in any number of ways. But you need to take the next step. You are urged to contact me and schedule a CHURCH HEALTH SUNDAY. Should there be an area, or areas, in which your church leadership needs coaching, I will be happy to arrange for that process also.

My telephone numbers, address and email information are available on my website, www.billcampbellministries.com. You are urged to contact me today and arrange for a CHURCH HEALTH SUNDAY, or, to schedule a coaching session with you and/or your leadership.

I will be happy to assist you and your congregation in any way or ways that I can. Let me hear from you.

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April 23, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

CONNECTING WITH THE COMMISSION

My major emphasis toward having a healthy church is, and always has been, to develop a congregation of disciplers. Persons who reproduce others to become like themselves. 

I often hear congregations talk about their desire to grow. To increase in numbers. Show numerical progress. But a congregation will never grow into a healthy and enlarged body until they first learn to engage in the practice of discipleship. 

Yet, discipleship is often lacking. I am surprised as I view numerous congregations that discipleship training has no place in their order of things. In contrast, Jesus was a discipler. Read the Gospel Accounts in the New Testament. Jesus drew around Himself a small band of followers, and He taught them to carry His mission into the world.

But note this: Discipleship wasn’t just the mission of Jesus during His earthly ministry. Nor was the mission intended only for the first century church. He intended that discipleship training would become the major emphasis of the church in all future days to build His Father’s kingdom.

The final words of Jesus before leaving earth were these: “Jesus … gave His charge: ‘God authorized and commanded me to commission you: Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near, in this way of life, marking them by baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then instruct them in the practice of all I have commanded you. I’ll be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of this age'” (Matthew 28:18-20 – The Message). 

There are several points to be gathered in this final commission of Jesus. The first point is the need to train persons in the way of life that Jesus taught. And each disciple is expected to be  one of the trainers. Persons who are brought into Jesus’ kingdom way of life are also to be immersed. This is the point of entrance into the new way of Jesus. Also, they are to be instructed in all the things that He taught. And the entry into the new life, it must be stressed, is not the end. Now the need is present to continue learning His will and way. As the church engages in discipleship training they have the promise from Jesus that He will always be with them.

Are you a disciple of Jesus? And are you one who now, in turn, disciples others? Does your church have a discipleship ministry? One of the reasons Bill Campbell Ministries exists is to train members of the church to become effective and trained disciplers. Mentors. For this is the way Jesus meant life to be lived by His followers. This is the way His kingdom was intended to grow.

Think about it: If each member of your church effectively discipled one person in 2010, your congregation would double its size in one year! Invite me to come to your church and introduce the discipleship mentoring process. It will transform your church into being a mighty force for God’s kingdom in your area.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

HOW GOD BLESSED ME

I write todays blog with a very special sense of gratitude and excitement. In an earlier blog I had indicated that I was chosen to receive a writing award. That award is now final and official. Yesterday by telephone the Amy Foundation, Lansing, Michigan, informed me that I had won their first prize winning article.

Sue and I are to be flown to Lansing in May to be recognized and receive this award at the Michigan Prayer Breakfast. The night before the actual award we will be with the Amy Foundation Advisory Committee and special friends. I have been invited to speak to them about my motivation for writing the winning article, and the impact faith has had on my life. I can hardly wait to share with them!  

When I received the call about the award, I set and wept for an hour or so. Why? Because the Amy Foundation is the premier organization for recognizing excellence in writing. And I had to let it sink in that I had actually won the award. That I was going to receive this award.  

Writing is my passion. What drives me. Excites me. Pushes me forward. And the Amy Foundation is a major source for recognizing the persuasive power of the pen to shape and form lives today. To effectively disciple persons in this generation.

Winning articles with the Amy Foundation must be articles that have been published in a mainstream, non-religious publication. They must speak to secular persons, and have a Christian message, with the inclusion of at least one verse of Scripture. My article was chosen out of some seven hundred articles considered by the Amy Foundation.

But I need to give credit where credit is due. My ability to write comes from God. He has placed and instilled this communicative gift in me. He has nonetheless endowed me with the passion to write those things that have impacted my life. So, I want HIM to receive ALL the glory. Yet, I want to represent HIM well as I produce written material. 

My work in the area of church health is about communication: communication through writing and speaking. As I assist congregations, I want to communicate to them as clearly as I can through indirect and direct means. And both must be present for clarity to be achieved.

I am grateful to the Amy Foundation. But I’m even more grateful to God who is the Major Source behind everything that is good today!

April 21, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | 6 Comments

ON DOING WHAT’S RIGHT

An interesting thing happened last Sunday at the Verizon Heritage Golf Tournament. Brian Davis was facing Jim Furyk in a playoff at Hilton Head, South Carolina. A win for Davis would give him his first-ever PGA Tour win. And Davis was in position to gain the victory. But on the first hole of the playoff Davis’ ball bounced off the green and into some weeds. As Davis tried to shoot his ball back onto the green he realized he had possibly committed a violation.

What was the violation? Brian thought he had grazed a stray weed on his backswing. This was not detected by the tournament officials. But Brian recognized the error. He confessed the violation, and had the officials check it on tv. Sure enough, he had committed the violation. In short, the violation involved hitting any items around the ball during your backswing. This violation brought an automatic two-stroke penalty. And in any playoff, this means that the game is over. 

Davis was the first to draw attention to his error, and conceded the golf contest to his opponent, Jim Furyk. Can you believe that? Such a marvelous example of honesty and sporsmanship. Brian lost a lot of money through his open admission. Furyk won the top prize of $1.03 million; whereas, Davis, took home the lesser prize of $615,000.00 for second place.

Davis taught that honesty was more important to him than victory. I asked myself, “Would I be that honest?” What about you? Would you have openly owned up to a mistake like that? In this day, that’s something to be lauded and applauded. Why? Because many would not have made the acknowledgment. They would have kept it hidden and hoped they would get away with it.

I know nothing about the religious convictions of Brian Davis. But I do know that his action is the manner in which a Christian should conduct himself or herself. For while the human eyes can miss many things, God’s eyes are never closed. He never misses a right or wrong. You can never fool God with anything.

The lesson to be learned? Always do the right thing, whatever the cost. Even if you have to face the loss of pride and money. God expects it. He honors it. Note these words from Solomon: “A God-loyal life keeps you on track; sin dumps the wicked in the ditch” (Proverbs 11:6 – The Message).

Learn this important lesson: Never fail doing that which is the right thing to do!!

April 20, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

THE TALE OF THE STICKY FLOOR

Today I’m going to let my hair down. Let you see the real me. My human side.  For I’m not perfect. Free of error.  Without flaw. Above the line. Not by any stretch of the imagination. But please be patient with me. Because I’m going to let you see my other side.

My mother was one day mopping the kitchen floor. She was repeatedly dipping her mop into the bucket of water to clean the floor. Half way through the chore she suddenly left the mop water to attend to something else in another part of our house.

I noted some Karo Syrup setting on the kitchen cabinet. Then I looked back again at the mop water. “What would happen,” I reasoned, “if I poured some of the syrup into the mop water?” I quickly took the bottle of syrup and poured a fair amount of it into the mop water. Why did I do it? I do not know. I can’t identify a reason up to this  day. But I did it! I’m guilty!

My mother finally returned to the mopping chore from the other room. She then began to mop the remainder of the floor. But as she mopped the floor it continued to be  sticky. So she mopped and mopped and mopped some more. Several times she tried her best to remove the stickiness from the floor. But to no avail.

I was watching. Finding personal delight in her plight with the mop. In fact, I was laughing big time deep down inside. But I was overly afraid to open up and tell her what I’d done. Why? Because I knew I’d be subject to the paddle she always kept in a secret place. So, like any smart kid, I kept my silence. Right?

She finally gave up. Ceased her mopping. Realized she was getting nowhere. And the sticky floor remained in that condition for a couple of days. I never told my mother that I had done that as a boy. I kept it inside. Allowed it to remain hidden. For my fear of punishment later grew into a sense of shame. “Why had I done such a terrible thing to my mother?”

It was not until adulthood that I was able to confess my sin. When I finally told her, we both set and laughed. My mother was happy about my confession, as that experience had troubled her for years. She could never explain it to herself, though she had laughed about it with her friends.

My little trick was fun then. Hilarious. But it became a thing of misery for me as the years passed. Sin is that way. Fun at first. But as its evil lingers it brings pain. Much pain. And one needs to get rid of the indwelling hurt. I did. And I was glad.

The church exists today in the arena of hurting people. A lot of them. They’ve made mistakes. A lot of mistakes. They’ve lived in pain. Agony. Anguish. The church needs to be a place where sin can be freely confessed, and forgiveness can be experienced. Why? Because all of us have sinned (see Romans 3:23). And healthy churches are able to help the sinful enter into the joy of forgiveness!

April 19, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

THE CHURCH: GOD’S LIGHTHOUSE

I love to see pictures of and read about lighthouses. They are interesting structures. In my book collection I have a large volume that tells about them. The pictures are beautiful. And the stories about lighthouses are even more wonderful to read. But get this: A church is meant to be a lighthouse. Several Christian songs portray the church with this symbolism.

But why is the church portrayed as a lighthouse? It is a lighthouse because it leads persons to a place of safety. During extreme storms and darkness lighthouses provide safe direction for the great ships at sea. Lighthouses were never meant to shine for themselves. Their mission was always for those on the outside and not for those on the inside. When lighthouses turn inward you can be sure they have forgotten the reason for their existence.

Life is often pictured as a vast sea. A turbulent sea. People find themselves situated on its uncertain waters. When its turbulence is greatest, and the darkness looms heaviest, people can lose their sense of direction and the ability to think clearly and find their way.

During these times of lifes greatest storms and darkness people need a lighthouse. A beacon of light to show them the way. To rescue them. To save them. To bring victims to a place of safety.

When the church is serving in this fashion it is serving as a life saving station. In this way, it is bringing glory to God. Because it is functioning in the manner that God intends.

When writing to Christians Jesus said the following: “You are the light of the world … Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your father in heaven” (Matthew 5:14 and 16). 

Do you get it? Our lives and witness performs the same role as the ancient lighthouse. Through our godly works we reveal the Father in heaven to other persons. And we may be the only Bible that some people will ever read.

I’ve helped rescue drowning people in lifes turbulent sea. And others I know have had this experience as well. Once you enter into the joy of helping save someone it will be a transforming experience. Why? Because God designed you to function in this fashion. And when you fulfill His design, your life will have the meaning God intended it to have.

Healthy Christians and churches are God’s lighthouse on life’s dark sea. They offer rescue and safety. Help and hope. Concern and empathy. Direction and purpose. And they reach out in place of remaining inside their safe havens. Are you and your church serving as God’s lighthouse?

April 17, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

THE CHALLENGE OF CHANGE

How do you handle change? Do you like it? Dislike it? Just put up with it? Whatever your response, change is happening daily. And we are faced with adapting to change, or, wringing our hands in utter dismay. 

Life has changed for me following several years of pastoral ministry leadership. I enjoyed those years. Enjoyed them immensely. But I’m now finding joy in a much different way. First and foremost, I’m a consultant with churches. I have time to convey the things that have impacted me over the years in leadership ministry. I nonetheless enjoy the opportunity of visiting and serving among a variety of congregations. For several years I was engaged in pastoral ministry leadership with a single church. Now, I have the privilege to visit and view different congregations, and offer them my wisdom through consulting and coaching, and even to preach and teach in their services. They love it and so do I. 

I’ve learned that change is good. Helpful. Refreshing. It even stretches me in important ways. I’m meeting new people. A lot of interesting people. Encountering new and  profound experiences. I’m also expanding my knowledge of church life. Endeavoring to help congregations become more effective in significant ways. College teaching experiences are also developing before my eyes.  

And would you believe, I’m writing in these rapid days of change. Writing a lot. Writing more than I ever have. And I’m finding special joy with writing as I tap away at my computer keyboard. Polishing my ideas and statements. And I just learned in the last few days that I’ve won a major writing award. Can you believe that? This about knocked my socks off, and jolted me out of my computer chair. But it has happened.

None of these experiences would have occurred though without the rolling ball of change going on in my life. Without making a new start. I would have continued to be locked in to sameness, lameness and tameness. I’ve discovered the special joy of spreading my wings and experiencing the freedom to truly be myself.

I’ve learned that many congregations dislike change. It frightens them. Overwhelms them. Causes their blood pressure to rise to an unbelievable level. I’ve encouraged them to courageously face change. Enter into it. Cease running from it. For if you continue to run toward an area of assumed safety, you are headed for more depression and ultimately, death. 

I informed one congregation that a few changes were absolutely necessary for them to go through. And my reasoning was as follows: If you keep doing  things the way you’ve always been doing them, you will be doomed to get the same results you’ve always gotten in the past. They willingly chose some of the new ways. And blessings from God are being experienced by them. 

But always remember the following about the winds of change: Our methods must always go through change. But the message of Scripture will never change. It will remain intact and unchanging at all times.

April 16, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

CHURCH HEALTH: WHAT IS IT?

My primary focus in all of my posts is on the matter of church health. But why emphasize church health? It is because congregations are all to often hindered today in their ministry by problems that pertain to church health.

Well known Saddleback pastor, Rick Warren, has even stated: “I believe the key issue for churches in the 21st century will be church health, not church growth.” Why would Warren make this statement? He makes the statement because he has observed and has known numerous congregations with illnesses. Furthermore, Warren knows that congregations will be unable to grow and progress when issues of ill health are present and remain unaddressed.

“But what is meant by health in regard to congregations today, Bill?” A most important question. Health is a state of wellness. Being free of those death threatening illnesses that can destroy a church. Being able to eliminate those diseases that stand in the way of a church being effective in these dark times. Just as humans are threatened by bodily disease, the spiritual body, the church, is also threatened by disease.

Disease is revealed when various issues are evident in a congregation. High on the list of issues that make for ill health in a congregation is when it loses its major reason for existence: MAKING DISCIPLES. Increasingly I am discovering that a working plan for making disciples is absent in a great number of congregations.

When disciple making is not in process in congregational life this opens the door to a plethora of problems. Among these problems are: a loss of direction in ministry; an absence of evangelism/outreach; aging congregations that lack younger members; excessive fighting among its members; a dwindling spiritual atmosphere; a dwindling of numbers in attendance and offerings; a confused leadership; discouragement; and an ever growing apathy within a congregation.

I will never forget holding a series of meetings in a small church. It was  largely an aging body of believers. There were very few young faces present in the services. During the week I was with this congregation I knew that, unless their health issues were seriously addressed, the congregation would soon die.

As I ate a meal with one of the families at the close of the meetings, I realized why they were facing death. They informed me, “we are the last of a dying breed of congregations!” Whatever that meant, they were clearly accepting the fact of their approaching death. Once the present members died, there would no longer be a church in this community.

I shuddered. Was hurting deeply inside. Finishing my meal was difficult. Tears were  welling up inside of me. It was difficult to believe that a church would openly admit it was soon going to die.

They were at least honest and open about their condition. But there are many congregations who are not acknowledging their present state of illness. And they too are headed for death unless they can be gotten back on track in the ministry of making Christian disciples.

Interested in seeing your church become a healthy congregation again? Have a plan in place for making Christian disciples? Contact me today!

April 15, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

FINDING YOUR SHELTER

Oklahoma is a state that is known for its tornados. Many refer to them as twisters. They are extremely dangerous. Destructive. Devastating. Complete towns have been destroyed by them. And many lives have been lost when a tornado touches down and performs it wreckage. 

One unforgettable experience was my grandparents cellar. This was an underground shelter that was always available to a family in lieu of a tornado threat. And many times we would get into my grandparents shelter when a tornado was thought to be imminent.

The church has a message that shelters persons who are caught in life’s storms. It provides safety in an otherwise unsafe world. Some refer to this message as the gospel. Others say it’s the good news. Still others label the message as God’s plan for saving humanity. In short, the gospel is the message proclaimed that Jesus died to remove our sins, and was raised to give us eternal salvation through His resurrection (see I Corinthian 15:1-4).

Congregations are fulfilling their mission today when they continually offer God’s shelter to persons. Not only is a congregation fulfilling its mission while preaching and teaching this message, it is a healthy fellowship, as it is doing what God has directed it to do in Scripture.

During the time of Noah God planned to bring destruction on the earth. Not a destruction that would come through a tornado. Rather, His destruction was going to be in the form of a vast flood of waters that would cover the earth. Noah was commanded by God to build an ark. Those who entered the ark would  enjoy shelter and protection. Those outside the ark, however, would be destroyed by the flood. 

The safety needed today is the shelter provided by Christ Jesus. And when one receives the good news of salvation offered “in Christ,” through obedient faith, he or she receives the Divine provision for eternal protection. Christ is our shelter in the time of storm. That is true now. And it will also be true when Christ comes the second time to destroy the present order and to usher in God’s new order of things.

Those who choose to give their lives to Christ are said to be, “in Christ.”  This is a phrase used numerous times in Scripture to describe our position of shelter and security that God offers. Paul puts it this way, “…the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 6:23). And, “There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1). 

Are you sheltered in the arms of Jesus? Are you “in Christ?” And is your church engaged in offering the security that is available “in Christ” to all persons? If not, many will find themselves caught in the vice grips of being unprotected in the storms that lie yet ahead. 

Healthy congregations are those places where persons can discover protection in this world, and also in the world yet to come.

April 14, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment

HOW IS THE HEALTH OF YOUR CHURCH?

How can you tell the difference between a church that is healthy and a church that is unhealthy? Are there observable signs to note? And my answer is, “yes, you can know the difference.” In my book, The Magnificent Church, I offer the following information.

Healthy churches possess vision, whereas unhealthy churches lack vision. I have discovered that healthy churches are looking toward the future with optimism. On the other hand, unhealthy churches are living in the past. In fact, unhealthy churches are dead set on reliving the past in the present time. Why? Because they lack vision.

A second sign of a healthy church is its practice of focusing on others. Ministry to people highlights their activities. Unhealthy churches, on the other hand, focus attention on themselves. Maintaining their existence as an institution is more important for an unhealthy church than focusing on ministering to others around them. 

Healthy congregations also engage in leadership. They see what needs to be and they seek to put into place what is needed. Unhealthy congregations are focused on management and control. They keep a thumb on everything and everyone in their church. The church to these persons is more of a business organization than it is a spiritual organism. Congregations that are managed by iron-fisted individuals are headed for death. I’ve witnessed this happen many times.

Unhealthy churches are not open to using new methods for doing ministry. They are closed to anything new and different. On the other hand, healthy churches are open to new and innovative methods. Healthy churches understand that the message never changes, but the methods used are always subject to change.

Healthy churches encourage everyone to become involved in ministry. They understand it is natural and healthy for this to happen in a church. Conversely, unhealthy congregations limit the involvement of others. You can be involved only if you are allowed to do so by the powers that be. Many congregations shoot themselves in the foot by the practice of having certain ones serve, while others merely observe the activities that are happening around them. These congregations will predictably have the ministerial staff and congregational leaders doing the bulk of ministry.

Another item I have noted in unhealthy congregations, in contrast to healthy congregations, is their inability to reach a broad spectrum of persons today having different ages and backgrounds. Rather, they want a certain kind of person or persons to be among their ranks. In short, they seek to reach their own kind. Other kinds of persons are rejected.

Finally, healthy congregations are composed of mixed ages. In fact, they are able to grow together in a healthy fashion as they contribute to the spiritual growth of one another. The unhealthy congregations I have observed today are those fellowships in which everyone is older and there are few younger faces among them. This must change to have a healthy church.

Is your church healthy or unhealthy? Making progress or going backwards? Making a difference or becoming part of the problem? You can be a healthy church. And I stand ready to help your church become a healthy fellowship.

April 13, 2010 Posted by | 1 | | Leave a comment