A Ten Step Program

Any time you go into a bookstore, you can find a multitude of self-help books that will help you to improve your way of life. Sometimes they offer a 10 step program for you to follow. Well, in todayís lesson I want to offer you a ten step program that will help you improve the church here at Lone Grove all by yourself. You might be thinking this is going to be too hard, but it is not.

 

In fact, each one of you can improve our congregation with just a small amount of effort on your part, and I am going to share with you these 10 simple steps that you can use starting today to improve this congregation or any on the congregation that you may attend in the future.

 

The fist step is that you must realize that you are not perfect, and that there is not a perfect church out there because it made up of humans. The sooner you learn this, the better off you will be.

 

Unfortunately, there a many that are always searching for the perfect congregation, but the problem is, they will never find it because every church has it strengths and weaknesses. Some Christians come up with all kinds of reasons they donít like a certain church. They might say:

 

  • The people here are too old or they are too young.
  • There are too many hypocrites in this church.
  • The people are too apathetic.
  • The preacher is too boring.
  • There isnít enough activities in this church or there are too many activities in this church.

 

This list can go on and on, but when you get right down to it these are just excuses that some Christians come up with so they can justify in their own minds to miss services or to go to different church. When someone does change churches, they need to realize that they are just exchanging one set of problems for another and moving around or staying away from a church is not going to be helpful. To illustrate this idea of how every church has its own problems consider the 7 churches in the book of Revelation. Each one of the churches had difficulties associated with them. We are given a brief review of their conditions.

 

First is the church at Ephesus. This was a very strong congregation who was working hard for the Lord, but there was a problem, they fell short in the area of love. This is why Jesus said,

 

Revelation 2:4 "Nevertheless I have this against you, that you have left your first love.5 "Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent and do the first works, or else I will come to you quickly and remove your lampstand from its place -- unless you repent.

 

Second is the church at Smyrna (smer-nuh). They were a poor church that were suffering from heavy persecutions and they were told that they were going to be suffering even more, and some of them would be thrown into prison.

 

Third is the church at Pergamos, which was located in bad place. Jesus said they were in the location of Satanís thrown. Some of them even died for the cause of Christ, but some of their members were involved in false teachings as Jesus said,

 

Revelation 2:14 "But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.15 "Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate.16 'Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.

 

Fourth was the church at Thyatira. They were know for their good works, but they had allowed a false woman teacher to serve in their church. Since they had not dealt with the problem, she had caused some of these Christians to engage in fornication, idolatry and false teachings.

 

Fifth was the church at Sardis. This church had been an active church in the past, but now they were considered being a dead church by Jesus. However, there were a few of its members that were still active and doing great things for the God, but the majority was doing nothing.

 

Sixth was the church of Philadelphia. This was a faithful church, but notice what Jesus says about them:

 

Revelation 3:8 "I know your works. See, I have set before you an open door, and no one can shut it; for you have a little strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name.

 

When Jesus said they had little strength, this could mean several things. It could mean that they didnít have very much influence in their community or it could mean that they were small in number. So, to be effective in their church, everyone would have to give everything they had to keep the faith and use the opportunities God had given them.

 

Finally, seventh was the church at Laodicia. This was a wealthy church, and they could buy whatever they needed, but their riches had caused them to become spiritual dead without them even knowing it.

 

Which one of these congregations would you want to be a member at? Some had more problems than others, but they all had their difficulties. So, this proves that there is not a perfect church, so instead of making excuses to stop coming to church or to go to a different church, you should try to become a solution to the problems and do what you can strengthen the church. In other words, instead of running away, roll up your sleeves and get busy for the Lord.

 

The second step is for you to focus on the good of your brothers and sister in Christ. If we have the wrong attitude, we are going find ourselves trying to find the bad in every situation and every person. When that becomes are primary goal, then we are going to be nit picking everyone to death, and it will cause us to have a negative attitude about others and about ourselves. Paul teaches us that we will find what we are looking for:

 

Titus 1:15 To the pure all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving nothing is pure; but even their mind and conscience are defiled.

 

This does not mean that we are going to see evil as good; it means we look for the pure I all thing. Paul also said,

 

1 Thessalonians 5:21 Test all things; hold fast what is good.22 Abstain from every form of evil.

So, we are to stay from evil, but we are to hold fast to what is good. However, sometimes we are guilty of staying away from good just because there is a little evil close by, and sometimes this evil is only our perception. Let me give you an example of what I mean.

 

Letís say that your brother in Christ lies to you once about something they didnít want you to know, and you found out they lied. Should you reject that Christian and avoid them because of that one lie? No you should not. That one lie should not cause you to reject all the other good things they have done. This does not mean that their lying is acceptable nor does it mean that you canít go to them and let them know what they did was wrong because they do need to be corrected, but they donít need to be rejected.

 

So, try your best to find the good in people and not the bad because you will find what you are looking for.

 

The third step in my program is if you are old, treat the young people how you wanted to be treated when you were young. If you are young treat the older people with the respect you want to be treated when you become old. This idea is taught by Jesus in,

 

Matthew 22:39 You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'

 

If we can learn to have this attitude, it will help us a long way in how we treat each other. Before we say something rude or yell at someone, we need to ask ourselves, would I want someone to treat me that way? When we donít think before we act, our life will usually be full of regret because we cannot take back what we have done. Yes, we can be forgiven, but the emotional scars will remain.

 

When we learn to treat each other the way we want to be treated, it will cause a church to be more productive because there will be less strife. There is a lot more harmony when the old and young work together.

Paul wanted to make sure that Timothy was going to be respected by the church at Corinth and wrote the following:

 

1 Corinthians 16:10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he may be with you without fear; for he does the work of the Lord, as I also do.11 Therefore let no one despise him. But send him on his journey in peace, that he may come to me; for I am waiting for him with the brethren.

 

He also told Timothy,

 

1 Timothy 4:12 Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity.

 

Sometimes older people donít have much respect for the young because they donít feel like they have lived long enough or have enough wisdom to be teaching them anything and so they will despise them for their youth. This should not be the case. Instead, the older people should encourage these younger people and share their wisdom with them so they can become wiser.

 

A person that is full of wisdom should not keep their wisdom to themselves because that is not wise. Instead, they should look for opportunities to share that wisdom so the church will be stronger and wiser.

 

Young people should not think that they know it all, and they should not be too proud to learn from the older people. The writer of proverbs says,

 

Proverbs 3:13 Happy is the man who finds wisdom, And the man who gains understanding;

 

Proverbs 8:11 For wisdom is better than rubies, And all the things one may desire cannot be compared with her.

 

Young people need to realize that the older people have already been through many situations just like yours and they have plenty of wisdom that you can tap into and use if you are wise enough to do that. All of us should respect the wisdom and leadership of the Elders. In fact, I would encourage you to read 1 Tim 5 because it teaches us how we are treat the young, the old, and our elders.

 

The fourth step in my program is when you are tempted to criticize others for what they are doing, pray for them first. It might not change them or make them better, but it will do wonders for your attitude.

 

It is easy for us to see the faults in others, but it more difficult for us to our own faults. When we can examine ourselves and see our faults, we wonít be so quick to criticize others. Jesus gave this advice:

 

Matthew 7:3 "And why do you look at the speck in your brother's eye, but do not consider the plank in your own eye?4 "Or how can you say to your brother, 'Let me remove the speck from your eye'; and look, a plank is in your own eye?5 "Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye.

 

Sometimes we are so blind to our own faults that we criticize others for doing the same things that we are guilty of. This is one area that our children can help us because they copy our behavior and make similar responses that we do. When we see how they act and react to others, our eyes can be opened to how we behave to others because we hear the same phrases and tones that we use coming out their mouths, we can see how we must sound to others.

 

Before we are critical of others, we need to take an inventory of ourselves and once we have ourselves in good shape then we are going to be more caring and well equipped to help someone else with their problems. This is what David did. Notice what he wrote in:

 

Psalm 51:9 Hide Your face from my sins, And blot out all my iniquities.10 Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.11 Do not cast me away from Your presence, And do not take Your Holy Spirit from me.12 Restore to me the joy of Your salvation, And uphold me by Your generous Spirit.13 Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, And sinners shall be converted to You.

 

Sometimes it is difficult for some of us not to be critical or judgmental, but we must learn to nip this in the bud. Even if we have someone that is treating us wrong and calling us names we must dig down deep and bigger person so they can learn from us. As Jesus said,

 

Matthew 5:43 " You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.'44 "But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you,45 "that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.

 

Also Peter said:

 

1 Peter 3:8- Finally, all of you be of one mind, having compassion for one another; love as brothers, be tenderhearted, be courteous;9 not returning evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary blessing, knowing that you were called to this, that you may inherit a blessing.10 For "He who would love life And see good days, Let him refrain his tongue from evil, And his lips from speaking deceit.11 Let him turn away from evil and do good; Let him seek peace and pursue it.12 For the eyes of the LORD are on the righteous, And His ears are open to their prayers; But the face of the LORD is against those who do evil."           

 

Again, if we can learn to do this it will improve any church.

The fifth step that you can do to improve the church is when you see that a work is being neglected or a work that needs to be done. Donít complain about it or wish that someone else would take care of it. Instead, do something about it. Either do the work yourself or offer to help someone to do the work. Complaining and wishing doesnít get the work done. A great example comes from Nehemiah, which we just finished study last week.

 

Nehemiah was a cup bearer for the King of Persia, which was honorable position. But when Nehemiah found out that Jerusalem was lying in ruins, he asked the king if he could go and help his fellow Jews rebuild the city and he let him go. When he got to Jerusalem the people had stopped working because they had allowed Sanballat and his companions railings to discourage them, but Nehemiah didnít criticize his people, instead he inspired them and he got them busy building on the wall again, They completed in 52 days. Nehemiah saw that a work needed be done and he did it and he got all the people involved.

 

When there is work to be done which are you? Are you a Nehemiah or Sanballat? If you more like Sanballat you need to realize that not only does complaining get nothing accomplished it can also cause others to be discouraged and make them not want to do any work either. However, if we develop the attitude of Nehemiah, think about what we can do when we all work together to accomplish a goal. As,

 

Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with your might; for there is no work or device or knowledge or wisdom in the grave where you are going.

 

As Christians we should want to give our best to God because He gave us His best. So, if you see something that needs to be done, do it. Well, that is the first 5 step in my program that you can do that will make this church or any other church better, and more productive for the Lord. Let me give you those first steps again.

 

  1. You need to realize you are not perfect, and there is not a perfect church.
  2. Focus on the good of your brothers and sister in Christ.
  3. Everyone should treat each other as they would like to be treated.
  4. When you are tempted to criticize others for what they are doing, pray for them first.
  5. Donít complain about what needs to be done and do the work yourself or help someone do it.

 

These first 5 steps are not that hard to do, and it is something we can all do that will make our church stronger and more productive for the Lord. We have 5 more steps to go, but you will have to come tonight to hear them and I hope that you will.

If you were not here this morning we began to look at a 10 step program that you can do that will help the church be better. We looked at the fist 5 steps the morning and they were:

 

  1. You need to realize you are not perfect, and there is not a perfect church.
  2. Focus on the good of your brothers and sister in Christ.
  3. Everyone should treat each other as they would like to be treated.
  4. When you are tempted to criticize others for what they are doing, pray for them first.
  5. Donít complain about what needs to be done and do the work yourself or help someone do it.

 

Let us begin with our sixth step, which is you should never ever blame your failures on someone else. When things go wrong for us and we can find someone to blame it on sometimes we will do it because we donít accept that we had anything to do with the failure. This is common response that humans have been guilty of through out their existence.

 

For instance Adam and Eve had eaten the forbidden fruit, but notice what they tell God,

 

Genesis 3:12 Then the man said, "The woman whom You gave to be with me, she gave me of the tree, and I ate."13 And the LORD God said to the woman, "What is this you have done?" The woman said, "The serpent deceived me, and I ate."

 

Adam pointed his finger at Eve and Eve pointed her finger at the serpent because neither one of them wanted to be at fault so they passed the buck.

 

Another great example comes from Sarah. When Sarah couldnít conceive a child she gave Hagar to Abraham so that he could have a child. As we know she did have a son, but this created strife between Hagar and Sarah. Notice what Hagar tells Abraham,

 

Genesis 16:5 Then Sarai said to Abram, "My wrong be upon you! I gave my maid into your embrace; and when she saw that she had conceived, I became despised in her eyes. The LORD judge between you and me."

 

Even though this was Sarah idea she was blaming Abraham for all of this mess.

 

We canít forget what Aaron did when Moses when upon the mountain to receive the Law. Remember how made a golden calf for the people to worship, but watch how he plays the blame game as we read,

 

Exodus 32:22 So Aaron said, "Do not let the anger of my lord become hot. You know the people, that they are set on evil.23 "For they said to me, 'Make us gods that shall go before us; as for this Moses, the man who brought us out of the land of Egypt, we do not know what has become of him.'24 "And I said to them, 'Whoever has any gold, let them break it off.' So they gave it to me, and I cast it into the fire, and this calf came out."

 

He didnít want to be blamed, so he blamed the people as if he had no choice in the matter.

 

We can see the same thing when Esau blamed his brother for losing his birthright Gen 25:29-34, 27:36, or how Saul blamed the people for not obeying Godís command in I Sam 15:20-21 and Pilate blamed the death of Jesus on the Jews even though he had the power to free him.

 

We see people doing this in the world and even in the church because some do not want to think that they are the reason the failure has occurred. As Christians we must stop playing the blame game and realize that we are responsible for our failures. The Word of God teaches this idea through out the Bible. I would recommend you read the entire chapter of Ezekiel 18 to see this idea. But for time sakes I want us to read part of that chapter,

 

Ezekiel 18:19 " Yet you say, 'Why should the son not bear the guilt of the father?' Because the son has done what is lawful and right, and has kept all My statutes and observed them, he shall surely live.20 "The soul who sins shall die. The son shall not bear the guilt of the father, nor the father bear the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.21 " But if a wicked man turns from all his sins which he has committed, keeps all My statutes, and does what is lawful and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die.

 

This teaches us that each of us is responsible for our own actions, and we cannot blame our parents or anyone else because of our failures because we have free will to do good or to bad. Also notice what,

 

Ezekiel 33:8 "When I say to the wicked, 'O wicked man, you shall surely die!' and you do not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood I will require at your hand.

 

Even if a person has not been warned about the wrath of God, they are still going to have to stand before God based on how they have lived their life, and even if they blame someone for not warning them it is not going to change their outcome.

 

We might as well stop playing the blame game now because on the day of judgment, we are going to be judged based on what we have done and not on what someone else has done. So, the quicker we start accepting our own faults and learning from them, the more prepared we will be for the day of judgment. So, stop blaming others for your failures.

 

The seventh step in my program is to remind yourself every day that the best way you can improve the world or the church is to begin with yourself. If you are not living your life for God, then what makes you think you are qualified to lead others to Christ. One of the hardest things for us to do as individual is to focus on our weaknesses because we donít like to think about that, but we need to it because it will help to grow stronger and it will cause us to become more aware of our weaknesses so that we can work on them. Paul said,

 

2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you? -- unless indeed you are disqualified.

 

We need to remember that Christ is in us and that we are living our life for Him. We want to be the best example we can be, so we should test ourselves daily since we are supposed to be an example of Christ. We cannot be pretend Christians, we must be committed to serving God. If we have never become a Christian or if we are living a life of sin, then we are separated from God and all the blessing that go along with it.

 

Some Jews found this out the hard way in,

 

Acts 19:13 Then some of the itinerant (i-tin-er-ent) Jewish exorcists took it upon themselves to call the name of the Lord Jesus over those who had evil spirits, saying, "We exorcise you by the Jesus whom Paul preaches."14 Also there were seven sons of Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, who did so.15 And the evil spirit answered and said, "Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are you?"16 Then the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, overpowered them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.17 This became known both to all Jews and Greeks dwelling in Ephesus; and fear fell on them all, and the name of the Lord Jesus was magnified.

 

These Jews thought they could have power of these evil spirits just by using the name of Jesus without being a Christian. They had good intentions because they were trying to help the possessed man out, but their good intentions didnít help them because they had not helped themselves first by having their sins removed. Again, this is why it is important that we make sure that we are right with God. When we are living our lives like we are supposed to this will help the church be stronger. So, donít forget to examine yourself every day as Paul did.

 

1 Corinthians 9:27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

 

The eighth step in my program is for you become a student of Godís Word. The more you know about Godís Word the more you will be able help our church grow, so we need to have the attitude of Job who said,

 

Job 23:12 I have treasured the words of His mouth More than my necessary food.

 

 

 

David had this same attitude as well.

 

Psalm 19:9 The fear of the LORD is clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD are true and righteous altogether. 10 More to be desired are they than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

 

As Christians we commanded to be students of Godís Word.

 

1 Peter 2:2 as newborn babes, desire the pure milk of the word, that you may grow thereby,

 

KJV 2 Timothy 2:15 Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

 

2 Peter 3:18 but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory both now and forever. Amen.

 

There are several reasons studying our Bibles will help make the church stronger.

 

  1. When we put Godís Word into our heart everyday we are going to find it easier to live by Godís Word which means that we will be faithful to God and will be a great example to others.
  2. The more we know Godís Word, the more confident we will become in sharing the Good News to others, which can increase the churches numbers.
  3. The more you know, the easier it will be to defend the truth and keep the false way out of the church.
  4. Once you become comfortable with Godís Word, you could teach a Bible class or help in a Bible class by sharing what you know, which will help the other members grow.

 

Sometimes we get into a habit of accepting whatever we hear the preacher or the Bible teacher say. While the preacher and the Bible teacher are doing their best to present the truth they are not perfect and they can mess up from time to time. So this is why its important that we donít just blindly believe everything we hear, instead we should take notes and study the topic out and see if it agrees with the Word of God. In other words we need to follow the example of the Bereans.

 

Acts 17:11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.

 

If you will make Godís Word part of your life on daily basis and you live by what you learn, you will most defiantly help the church to be better.

 

 

The ninth step in my program is I want you to try and increase your circle of friends in the church and then try to do something good for each of them. It easy for us to make a few friends and then stick with just those friends, but when we do this we are limiting our opportunities. The more friends you can make in the church the better off you will be. In order to reach out and make more friends you must learn to be friendly as,

 

Proverbs 18:24 A man who has friends must himself be friendly

 

Some get lazy in this area because they want have friends, but they donít want to have to work at it, so they just have one-sided friendships, which is not a real friendship at all. Once you start reaching out and getting to know more of your brothers and sisters in Christ the more lives you can touch and encourage.

 

After you start making new friends look for ways that you might be able serve them as,

 

Hebrews 6:10 For God is not unjust to forget your work and labor of love which you have shown toward His name, in that you have ministered to the saints, and do minister.11 And we desire that each one of you show the same diligence to the full assurance of hope until the end,12 that you do not become sluggish, but imitate those who through faith and patience inherit the promises.

 

When we serve others it is called a labor of love. Love should be our motivation for doing good for others and it makes God happy when we do this. When we have the attitude of serving, instead of being served, then we are following the example of Jesus because He said,

 

Matthew 20:28 the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.

 

When we show this kind of love to our brethren and increase our circle of friends it will benefit us and it will benefit the church. Paul gives us some great advice on the type of attitude we should have as we strive to make friends and serve others.

 

Philippians 2:1 Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy,2 fulfill my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.3 Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself.

 

If you can learn to do this it will help you to be humble, which is a necessary trait to receive the Grace of God as

 

James 4:6 ďGod resists the proud, But gives grace to the humble."

 

 

The last step in my program is to remember that every church has its problems but I want you to constantly ask yourself, ďAm I a part of the problem or a part of the solution?Ē

 

When we ask ourselves this question it will help us examine the problem at hand and help us to find a solution to the problem. We need to remember what James said,

 

James 4:17 Therefore, to him who knows to do good and does not do it, to him it is sin.

 

If we see something that needs to be done and we have the ability to do it then we can be solution to the problem. Think about how many problems we be solved if we would make ourselves a solution to the problem instead of making ourselves part of the problem. Again, this would help the church be stronger.

 

Well, there you have it, I have given you 10 steps that you can do that will make the church stronger and the 10 steps I have given you are not difficult do. You just have to be willing to do them. So, I hope you will start following these steps because it will make your life better and it will make our church or any other church more productive for the Lord. Before I close out the lesson I want to give you all the 10 steps once again.

 

  1. You need to realize you are not perfect, and there is not a perfect church.
  2. Focus on the good of your brothers and sister in Christ.
  3. Everyone should treat each other as they would like to be treated.
  4. When you are tempted to criticize others for what they are doing, pray for them first.
  5. Donít complain about what needs to be done and do the work yourself or help someone do it.
  6. You should never ever blame our failures on someone else.
  7. Remind yourself every day that the best way you can improve the world or the church is to begin with yourself.
  8. Become a student of Godís Word.
  9. Increase your circle of friends and do something good for each
  10. Every church has it problems so ask yourself are you part of the problem or part of the solution.