When Ministry Grows by Pastor Abidan Shah

WHEN MINISTRY GROWS by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church, Henderson

whenministrygrowsIntroduction: This is our second message in our new series – NO BENCHWARMERS and this one is called – “WHEN MINISTRY GROWS.”

Nehemiah 4   6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work. 7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, 8 and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion. 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night.

Bridge: How many of you would agree with the statement – “Anytime something good begins to happen, the Devil always shows up”? It is true in our personal lives, in our families, in our workplaces as a Christian, and even in our church.

Nehemiah - Gustave DoreContext: The Book of Nehemiah is a perfect example of this. The Jewish people led by Nehemiah were trying to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem. If you remember, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had destroyed the city of Jerusalem in 587 BC, destroyed the Temple, and the city walls. In 539 BC God had brought the people back into the land and commanded them to rebuild. They rebuilt the temple by 516 BC but the city walls lay in ruins. A city without walls is a city without security, stability, and identity. So God sent a man by the name of Nehemiah in 445 BC to bring the people of Jerusalem and Judah together to rebuild the city walls. If you do the math, that’s almost 100 years after they were back to the land! It’s easy to tear down a work but it’s very hard to rebuild one. By much prayer, Nehemiah rallied the people to begin the work but it wasn’t long before the opposition showed up. In today’s message, we’re going to see what happens when ministry grows and opposition shows up.

Question: Are you part of God’s rebuilding project at Clearview? Are you even aware of what God is doing here at Clearview? Can you see how God is rebuilding lives, homes, marriages, young people and our community? Have you asked Him where He wants you to be in His building project? Are you saved? Are you a citizen of the Heavenly City?

4 things we will learn about what to do when a ministry grows and opposition comes:

I. EXPECT OPPOSITION.

Nehemiah 4:1 But it so happened, when Sanballat heard that we were rebuilding the wall, that he was furious and very indignant, and mocked the Jews.

Sanballat the HoroniteBackground: Literally it means – this man named Sanballat was hot and irritated when he saw the Jewish people rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem and he began to mock and make fun of the people rebuilding the wall. Who was Sanballat? Archaeologists tell us that he was the governor of Samaria to the north of Jerusalem. He was Nehemiah’s chief enemy. The wall was a threat to him. So what does he do? He begins to ridicule the Jewish people. Ridicule or mockery is Satan’s choice weapon to discourage and dishearten God’s people. Shakespeare called ridicule “paper bullets of the brain.” Scottish Philosopher Thomas Carlyle once called ridicule “the language of the devil.”

Tobiah the AmmoniteWhat did Sanballat say? 2 And he spoke before his brethren and the army of Samaria, and said, “What are these feeble Jews doing? (He mocked them physically.) Will they fortify themselves? (He mocked their construction knowledge.) Will they offer sacrifices? (He mocked their faith) Will they complete it in a day? (He mocked their determination.) Will they revive the stones from the heaps of rubbish—stones that are burned?” (He mocked their resources) 3 Now Tobiah the Ammonite was beside him…” Who was Tobiah? He was the governor of Ammon to the east of Jerusalem. He came from a family of very powerful Jewish aristocrats. He wasn’t happy either because the wall was also a threat to him. “And he said, ‘Whatever they build, if even a fox goes up on it, he will break down their stone wall.’” Chuck Swindoll remarked – “Critics run with critics.”

Application: Have you ever had to deal with Satan’s mockery? I’ve had to. Sometimes he uses people who appear very close to you. You would think that it would be easy to brush it off but its not. Warren Wiersbe said, “Some people who can stand bravely when they are shot at will collapse when they are laughed at.” Have you abandoned some God-given dreams because someone ridiculed you? Let the Holy Spirit help you refocus and get back to the task God has called you to. As a church, we have to be aware of Satan’s opposition. Be aware of his ridicule through some Sanballat or some Tobiah.

II. REMEMBER TO PRAY.

4 “Hear, O our God, for we are despised…”

Background: Nehemiah could have become angry; he could have argued with Sanballat and Tobiah; he could have believed them and given up. Instead, he did what he did when the work first began. He turned towards God. Listen to his prayer: 4 Hear, O our God, for we are despised; turn their reproach on their own heads, and give them as plunder to a land of captivity! 5 Do not cover their iniquity, and do not let their sin be blotted out from before You; for they have provoked You to anger before the builders.

Nehemiah was a man of prayer. He prayed what is known as an imprecatory prayer, where he prayed for God’s judgment upon the enemy. That sounds awful, doesn’t it? Shouldn’t they have prayed like Jesus – “Father forgive them for they not know what they do”? Keep in mind that Nehemiah was not praying for personal vengeance. He was reminding God that the enemy had dishonored Him. They were provoking Him. Nehemiah knew that ultimately this was God’s work. And did prayer work? 6 So we built the wall, and the entire wall was joined together up to half its height, for the people had a mind to work.

Application: At Clearview we believe strongly in the power of prayer. Every Sunday morning we have the Sunday Morning Prayer Zone where men pray for the service. Every Tuesday morning the ladies come together for a time of prayer. Wednesday evening before Bible study we have a time of prayer. Then this weekend, Friday noon to Saturday noon we will be having our prayer vigil. If you haven’t signed up, go by the welcome room and sign up. Men – we need you to sign up for the night hour so the women can come in and pray during the day hour. The only way we as a church still have “a mind to work” is because God keeps giving us the strength to persevere in the face of opposition.

III. GUARD THE MISSION. 

Nehemiah's enemies7 Now it happened, when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites, and the Ashdodites heard that the walls of Jerusalem were being restored and the gaps were beginning to be closed, that they became very angry, Keep in mind that the Enemy never gives up. God is blessing Clearview. Lives are being transformed. Do you think the Enemy is happy? Absolutely not. Once he knows that we’re not going to respond to his ridicule, he will return with another weapon. 8 “and all of them conspired together to come and attack Jerusalem and create confusion.” Another of the Enemy’s choice weapons is confusion. He likes to come in and get the people all confused about their roles and the direction“I don’t know what I am doing…” “I don’t know where we are going…” What happens when people are confused about those two things? They turn on each other and before you know it the work is over.

What did Nehemiah and the Jewish people do? 9 Nevertheless we made our prayer to our God, and because of them we set a watch against them day and night. Meaning: They prayed and actively began to guard the work against any confusion from the enemy. They were clear about who they were and what they were doing.

Today we had our first annual praise team retreat. The one thing they discussed more than anything else was the mission of Clearview. Do you know the mission of Clearview? Our mission is to “lead all people into a life-changing and ever-growing relationship with Jesus Christ.” Our slogan is “Making Christ Visible.”

Application: Do you guard yourself against the Enemy? Do you reject his attempt to bring confusion into our church family? Do you know what is the mission of our church? Do you know what your role is in the body?

IV. DIVIDE THE WORK.

Nehemiah guards vision10 Then Judah said, “The strength of the laborers is failing, and there is so much rubbish that we are not able to build the wall.” Who is Judah? It is another designation for the Jewish people. It was a way of saying that all the Jewish people began to lose their momentum. The task seemed too big. Plus, verse 11 And our adversaries said, “They will neither know nor see anything, till we come into their midst and kill them and cause the work to cease.” The Enemy is relentless, especially when people are tired.

Can this happen at church? Oh yes! The 20% gets tired and wants to quit. They start hearing a negative comment here and an attitude there and they want to give up. What was Nehemiah’s reaction to all this? 13 Therefore I positioned men behind the lower parts of the wall, at the openings; and I set the people according to their families, with their swords, their spears, and their bows. Nehemiah is dividing up the work and every family is involved in doing their part. But, there’s something more – 14 And I looked, and arose and said to the nobles, to the leaders, and to the rest of the people, “Do not be afraid of them. Remember the Lord, great and awesome, and fight for your brethren, your sons, your daughters, your wives, and your houses.” Nehemiah does not tell them to build the wall. He tells them to see the big picture. Fight for your loved ones.

Application: How do you see your role at Clearview? Is it “I got to teach Sunday School. I have to keep nursery. I have practice tonight. Is it Kindle again this week?” Or do you look at what you do as fighting for your brothers, sisters, sons, daughters, wives, and husbands?

16 So it was, from that time on, that half of my servants worked at construction, while the other half held the spears, the shields, the bows, and wore armor; and the leaders were behind all the house of Judah. 17 Those who built on the wall, and those who carried burdens, loaded themselves so that with one hand they worked at construction, and with the other held a weapon. Nehemiah continues to divide the work and guard the vision.

Application: Have you been praying and asking God where He wants you to work? The title of the series is “No Benchwarmers.” Are you a benchwarmer?

Just so we don’t walk away thinking that Nehemiah was a very skillful project manager, listen to these verses – 19 Then I said to the nobles, the rulers, and the rest of the people, “The work is great and extensive, and we are separated far from one another on the wall. 20 Wherever you hear the sound of the trumpet, rally to us there. Our God will fight for us.”

In the end Nehemiah reminded them that God was going to give them victory. In the end God will work everything together for good at Clearview. Our best days are here and even better days are coming ahead.

Are you trusting God to fight for you? Do you know the Living and True God? Are you saved

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH (ARTICLE)

THE SECRET TO GROWING A CHURCH by Abidan Paul Shah

(Published in the newspaper Daily Dispatch, Henderson on March 28, 2015)

Secret to Growing a ChurchNow that I have your attention, let me confess – it is no secret. In fact, it’s been lying in plain sight for two thousand years! History shows that whenever men and women, boys and girls actually put it to use, churches were filled and the kingdom of God grew by leaps and bounds! But before I reveal it, let me clarify what IT IS NOT:

  1. It is not the Programs – Programs are wonderful but they all have a life cycle. Sooner or later they become dated and end up in the church storage room.
  2. It is not the Location – Although location helps, many churches are sitting empty at some of the best locations in their community!
  3. It is not Money – Some churches have empty pews but full bank accounts. Hudson Taylor said it best – “God’s work done in God’s way will never lack God’s supply.”
  4. It is not the Children and Young People – We need to reach the next generation. That’s the goal not the secret to reaching the goal.
  5. It is not Friendliness and Fellowship – Sometimes they only result in superficiality and cliques.
  6. It is not the Organizational Structure – Some people endlessly debate over deacon led versus elder rule, as if the missing link to the next Great Awakening is in how you run the business meeting!
  7. It is not Discipleship – It is essential to help people grow in spiritual maturity. Sadly, many just become well-adjusted people with a lot of bible trivia.

Let’s go a step further—

  1. It is not the Preaching – As much as I believe in the importance of expository preaching and life application, I know many guys who are doing it with no growth in their churches.
  2. It is not Prayer – Those you know me will testify to the fact that I believe in the power of prayer. But there are many praying saints of God in declining and dying churches.
  3. It is not the Pastor – God has ordained the pastor to lead the church but it’s foolish to think that the church rises and sets on any one man.
  4. It is not the Holy Spirit – It is vital to live a life surrendered to Him but I know many wonderful Spirit-filled Christians in empty churches.

And, oh yes—

  1. It is not even the Style of Music – Many sincere people actually believe that if they just went to contemporary worship, it will fill their church up. Don’t misunderstand – we definitely need an upgrade in our worship styles. I am shocked when people think that one musical style is more sacred over another. If you really want to try biblical music, how about giving your choir a shofar, a harp, a lyre and a sistrum this Sunday?!! Bottom line: Music matters but it’s not the answer.

So what is it? Jesus said it plainly in John 12:32, “And I, if I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all peoples to Myself.” Peter applied it on the Day of Pentecost when he preached, “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:36-37) Paul explained it best in 1 Corinthians 1:22-24 “For Jews request a sign, and Greeks seek after wisdom; but we preach Christ crucified, to the Jews a stumbling block and to the Greeks foolishness, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Isn’t it obvious that the cross of Jesus is God’s open secret to growing His church?!! It’s no secret that when the message of the cross is preached and shared in everything we do, the Holy Spirit uses it to draw people to salvation and the church grows. Every major revival and awakening in history can be traced to Calvary.

“O that old rugged cross, so despised by the world, has a wondrous attraction for me.”

CHANGE OR DIE: A HUMBLE PLEA TO FELLOW CHURCHES (Article)

CHANGE OR DIE: A HUMBLE PLEA TO FELLOW CHURCHES (Article) by Pastor Shah, Clearview Church

(Published in the Daily Dispatch, Henderson on January 18, 2014)

I’ve never been more conflicted about writing an article than this one. After much prayer and consultation with my lovely wife, I felt that I must write what God has laid on my heart.

Sometime back I did an online search of church buildings for sale. What I found was shocking! There were hundreds upon hundreds of church buildings – big and small, old and new – for sale all over the United States. The tragedy is no different even here. Not a day goes by that I don’t meet someone who laments – “People don’t come to church like they used to.” “If things don’t change, it’s a matter of time before we lock the doors for the last time.” Frankly, they’re right! The average church in America has fewer than 30 people on a given Sunday morning, most of them being senior adults. It won’t be long before they too will be on the real estate market.

When people ask me – “What can we do to get more young people in our church?” My answer to them is—“Change or Die.” Here are the 4 C’s that I suggest:

1. Convictions: Every church that wants to come alive must have solid convictions on key doctrines. If you don’t believe in the Trinity, then this article is not for you. If you have trouble with Jesus being the Only Way, Truth, and Life, then we’re not on the same page. If you think the Bible has errors, then there is no faith worth contending for. A church without convictions is like a ship without a rudder. It will float around until the supplies run out or the big storm hits.

2. Concern: Do you think the church is a hotel for saints or hospital for sinners? If you think the former, then you will care about your comfort and your pleasure. If you believe that the church is here to seek and to save that which was lost, then you will do whatever it takes to win every man, woman, boy, and girl to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. This does not mean that we shouldn’t care about the needs of those in the body. It simply means that our focus should be outward. No person should be too different, no music too sacred, and no clothing too spiritual. Here’s a test: Ask yourself – Are my children and my grandchildren in church with me? Are they glad they came to the house of God? If the answer is negative, its high time you do whatever it takes to get them. If they don’t live nearby, reach others and God will send someone to reach your family, wherever they are.

3. Think Differently: You noticed that I didn’t start with a C. Aren’t we all creatures of habit! We hate change. We like things to be predictable. Now, I’m not suggesting that we tear down every tradition. As Proverbs 22:28 reminds us, “Do not remove the ancient landmark which your fathers have set.” But we do need to set aside senseless traditions. Think about Jesus Christ – He honored His Holy Father and the Scriptures but He rejected the traditions of the scribes and the Pharisees. If you will allow the Holy Spirit the freedom to work in your church, He will open new opportunities and avenues for ministry that you never imagined! Rest assured that He will not bring confusion but always magnify Jesus Christ. It’s time you tip your hat to the past and roll up your sleeves to the future.

4. Commitment: Nothing happens overnight. Like that old saying – it takes 25 miles to turn a battleship around. But, if the pastor is committed to staying and the people are prayerfully willing to follow his leadership, then that church will rise from the ashes. There is incredible power in a church that loves one another and is united in vision. Oh, before I forget, let me warn you – Be prepared to be criticized, ostracized, and stigmatized. People will question your motives and doubt your ability but have faith. As Jesus promised, “On this rock I will build My church, and the gates of Hades shall not prevail against it.” Matthew 16:18

May all who come behind us find us faithful.

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