Wednesday, December 13, 2017

IN GOD'S HANDS

“For…you have known my soul in adversities, and have not shut me up into the hand of the enemy.” Psalm 31: 7-8

The following paragraphs are intended to help us see that God’s hand is the undergirding “moving sidewalk” that is constantly carrying us forward in His purpose even when the enemy and circumstances try to point us in the opposite direction. Lawless hands may “grab” us, but God’s hand rules. We must see ourselves in God’s hands rather than victims of those who mistreat us.


Whose Prisoner?
“…I, Paul, the prisoner of Christ Jesus for you…” Ephesians 3: 1

“Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner….” 2 Timothy 1: 8

The apostle Paul did not take on the role of victim nor did he rail against those who placed him in chains. Focusing upon them would have depleted his spiritual life leaving him bitter and frustrated. He counted himself a "prisoner of the Lord" not of the Romans. And his enemies, without realizing it, sent him to the very city (Rome) to which Jesus had told him to go (Acts 23:11). His epistles from the Roman prison are in our Bible today and have been read by millions. Though he was bound, the word of God was not bound. His testimony is a poignant reminder that we are in the hands of God, not in the hands of those who afflict us.

Who Sent Joseph?
“But the patriarchs, being envious, sold Joseph into Egypt. But God was with him.” Acts 7:9

“He [God] sent a man ---Joseph--- before them, who was sold as a slave.” Psalm 105: 17


Joseph’s brothers sold him to traders who carried him off to Egypt in chains where he served as a slave and was unjustly accused and imprisoned. His “owners” and masters controlled all the decisions for his life. They “hurt him” and had no regard for his God, yet unwittingly sent him to the very position of which God had spoken in the prophetic dreams of Joseph's youth.

“God sent me.”
“But now, do not be grieved or angry with yourselves because you sold me here, for God sent me before you to preserve life.” Genesis 45: 5

Had Joseph focused on the cruel acts of his brothers and masters, he would have developed the victim mentality with all its self-centeredness, ungodly attitudes, and deficiencies of character. He would have been overwhelmed with bitterness and anger. He might have written a book with a sad ending about how he had been mistreated and sent to Egypt as a slave. He most likely would have committed adultery with Potiphar’s wife and wasted away in prison.

Joseph, however, did not focus on those who mistreated him. His business and call was higher. On the surface it appeared that his brothers in cruelty had sent him to Egypt, but the truth is that God sent him to save his family and a nation, and to settle his people in a place where they could grow and develop until God was ready for them to enter the promised land 400 years later. Lawless hands had “grabbed” him, but God’s hand ruled.

In Whose Hands?
“Him, being delivered over by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, and have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” Acts 2: 23-24

“Lawless hands” were at work with malevolent intent grabbing Jesus to crucify him upon a cross, and yet beneath it all was the hand of God delivering Jesus over to his determined purpose. Here is the mystery of God's sovereignty. The actions of wicked men against an innocent person were turned to the purpose of God and to the salvation of the world.

Oppressed people tend to see only the “lawless hands” that mistreat them. The result is loss of faith accompanied by harmful and ungodly attitudes. Jesus, however, kept his heart toward the Father's plan knowing that the redemptive hand of God was at work to fulfill the greater purpose of God. The enemy's plan backfired. Christ became the crucified lamb of God that takes away the sins of the world, and He was raised from the dead as our Lord and Savior.

We are in the hands of God.
The sovereign hand of God undergirds and holds us in spite of the “lawless hands” that work against us. His hand is the “moving sidewalk” on which we stand and which carries us forward even when it seems the enemy and life attempt to carry us backwards.

When we spend our emotional, mental, and spiritual energy on the "brothers" who "threw us into the pit" or the "Romans" who "threw us into prison," we make ourselves their victims and their prisoners. But when we engage the Lord, surrender to Him, and stand in faith with a right spirit, we experience the grace and power of God working all things together for our good and to His purpose.

We may not always be given the most comfortable route. The Apostle Paul might have preferred to go to Rome on a wonderful Mediterranean cruise ship with the bountiful buffet meals and lively entertainment. Joseph may have preferred to go to Egypt as part of a family vacation, a group tour of the Holy Land with all the first-class accommodations and helpful tour guides followed by a first class excursion to Cairo. But each man’s journey was painful and in chains. They took the way of the cross and drank the “cup” of suffering on their way to the joy set before them and to the fulfillment of a purpose which was greater than themselves and their comfort.

“When Joseph’s brothers saw that their father was dead, they said, ‘Perhaps Joseph will hate us, and may actually repay us for all the evil which we did to him.’ So they sent messengers to Joseph, saying '…I beg you, please forgive the trespass of your brothers and their sin; for they did evil to you. Now please, forgive the trespass of the servants of the God of your fathers.’ And Joseph wept when they spoke to him. Then his brothers also went and fell down before his face, and they said, ‘behold, we are your servants.’ Joseph said to them. ‘Do not be afraid.... But as for you, you meant it for evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive…and he comforted them and spoke kindly to them.” Genesis 50: 15-21

Sunday, December 10, 2017

KEYS TO SUCCESSFUL SPIRITUAL WARFARE

Below is a list of principles that will be helpful in your walk with the Lord and in facing the adversities and difficulties of life. Each of the items listed below is just the “tip of the iceberg” for the particular topic being given. There is more to say and many Bible verses that speak to the points given. If you have questions or would like more information or would like to know the Bible verses that accompany the principles written below, please contact me at broblong@gmail.com.   ----Billy Long

Keys to Successful Spiritual Warfare

 Realize we are on a battleship and not a cruise ship.
We must face “Og,” cross the Jordan, and deal with “giants” in the land we will possess.

Don’t be disillusioned by adversity, hardship, and struggles of battle.

Realize that in your walk with God, you have to deal with people. This complicates matters, and requires more faith on our part. When David played his harp, the evil spirit fled…but Saul did not. David had to walk in the Spirit, in faith, obedience, and perseverance in order to deal with Saul. We can cast out demons; we cannot cast out people. It takes faith and godliness to deal with people.

Be prepared for intensities, complexities, perplexities, and surprises.

Have a heart for God’s purpose rather than a self-centered focus. A self-centered focus will “sideline” you from the real battle. Self-centeredness causes you to be focused on yourself without actually seeing yourself. It will be a distraction from your ability to see reality, the heart of God, and the real needs and situations around you.

Trust in the Sovereign God who is able to procure, and secure, to uphold and defend.

Wait upon God to judge. We generally want to pass judgment and execute vengeance (cloaked with the desire for justice) upon our oppressors. We must trust that God is the Righteous Judge.

Engage the Lord. Press into the Lord in faith, prayer, and intercession. Maintain real and intimate fellowship with the Lord in all that you face in life.

Engage the Lord FIRST.  Wrestle with God, as Jacob did, before you wrestle with the devil or other people. The main characters on the stage of your life are you and God. The devil and other people are secondary. We must make sure the slate is clean in our relationship with the Lord, and make sure we hear what He is saying to us, before we “attack” others or the devil.

Sanctify the Lord. This means that in our daily life, we set the Lord apart from and above all else, so that our spiritual eyes are always on Him. No matter what people say or do, no matter what circumstances fall before us, we see the Lord. We respond to everything knowing He is watching and listening. So that in all things we try to please Him rather than reacting to people and circumstances.

Realize that you are in God’s hands…not in the hands of people or the devil. Paul did not see himself as prisoner of the Romans, but rather a “prisoner of the Lord.” Joseph was thrown into a pit, sold as a slave, and put in prison on his trip to Egypt. But the testimony was “God sent a man” to Egypt. Because he trusted in God and saw the Lord as in control of his life, God caused all things to work to Joseph’s good and God’s purpose. He became ruler of Egypt next to Pharaoh. 

Avoid the victim mentality. A victim’s mentality places your life into the hands of other people. If others are responsible for your condition, then you will depend on them to get you out of it. Therefore, you blame them, wait for them, and sit helpless, bitter, and angry. Accept responsibility for yourself. Acknowledge your own sin, bad decision, and wrong responses. Then seek the Lord and discover the way out. Don’t blame others. Look to the Lord in faith, and arise to your destiny. You may have actually been oppressed and treated badly. Joseph experienced that. But he still fulfilled God’s plan for his life. You can too. But you will not succeed if you are hamstrung with a victim’s mentality.

Walk in God’s ways to accomplish God’s will. It is not enough just to know what God wants in a situation, we must also know how He wants us to accomplish it. The devil tries to keep us from knowing God’s will. But when we discover it, the devil then offers suggestions on how to do it. We must walk in the Spirit and godliness. Often Christians think that because they are right in a particular matter, they can “throw a fit” and get “in the flesh” to get done what they think the Lord wants done. If the Lord told you that He wanted you to prosper, you would not then go out and rob a bank. You would then work and be diligent in life, you would not turn to crime. We must apply the same principle to how we behave in church in other matters.

Be sober. Sobriety means sound judgment rooted in a right spirit. When we maintain a godly attitude we are able to hear the voice of the Holy Spirit and have good discernment. A wrong spirit such as hatred, bitterness, resentment, and anger, will cloud our understanding and perception. Spiritual laziness and complacency will also fog our ability to discern and see clearly.

Maintain a humble and contrite spirit. The Lord will not despise a broken and a contrite heart. Arrogance and pride will cause God to resist you. Pride will bring contention. It will also make you susceptible to the suggestions of the devil.

Be strong and courageous. Fear not. Know that the Lord will not leave you nor forsake you.

Don’t be angry at God. Do not tempt the Lord by accusing Him of evil, injustice, and unfaithfulness. Ascribe greatness to the Lord. Praise Him for his great and abundant mercy and manifold grace. Praise the Lord for He is good and His stedfast love endures forever.

There is more to say and many Bible verses that speak to the points given above. If you have questions or would like more information or would like to know the Bible verses that accompany this message, please contact me at broblong@gmail.com.   ----Billy Long

Write to me at:
Billy Long
PO Box 147
Longs, SC 29568

Monday, November 27, 2017

DISILLUSIONMENT: MAKING JUDGMENTS BASED ON YOUR LIMITED "NOW" MOMENT


The Narrow Perspective
To have an accurate understanding of truth as God sees it, we must look beyond ourselves and our moment. We must see God’s purpose beyond our own comfort and pleasure. Disillusionment comes from a narrow and self-centered perspective, from making judgments based on ones limited "now" experience and current moment rather than faith in God and his power to fulfill His will and plan. Sometimes He gives us immediate victory and keeps us from harm and trouble, but other times He may allow us to suffer persecution, adversity, and hardship. Our circumstances may change, but God and His plan remain fixed and inexorably moving forward.

Mark Twain’s Mistake
Palestine, before the renewal of Jewish settlement during the late nineteenth-century, was virtually laid waste and its population in acute decline. Mark Twain visited the Holy Land during that period and seeing its desolation and the absence of the Jewish state, proclaimed, “See, this proves the Bible is just another book”. But had he lived until 1948 and beyond, he would have seen the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel and the reappearance of the “land of milk and honey” with the desert blooming. He would have realized what a tragic mistake he made by judging the bible based on his own limited and short moment in time.

We make the same mistake in our own lives. We become discouraged and disillusioned when we draw conclusions based on our own personal and immediate experience without considering God's overall long-term plan and His sovereign power to fulfill it. There are many periods in history when God’s people might have given up had they based their hope in what they saw and experienced at their given moment. We must never assume God has or will fail. Time and patience will always prove God to be true, faithful, and well able to accomplish His purpose.

Examples in Biblical History
As we survey the history of God's people in the Bible we have the advantage of having the whole story before us. But if we could set ourselves down anywhere into that history, we might experience any number of places where we would be tempted to be overwhelmed with despair and disillusionment. Here are a few examples.

The bondage in Egypt
You might have been disillusioned had you lived among the suffering Hebrew slaves in Egypt during the 400 years of bondage. You would have been tempted to think God had forgotten you and the whole nation. Living in what seems to be interminable grief and waiting can very easily produce a very negative and wrong theology unless the heart is fixed in God—no matter what.

Time of the Judges
You might have been disillusioned if you had lived in Israel during the time of the Judges. After having seen the glorious conquests, order, relative purity, and strength under Joshua, you would now have witnessed a nation of confusion, perversions, and subjugation that occurred on a regular basis throughout that period of Israel’s history. Were it not for the recurring emergence of Holy Spirit anointed judges, you might have been tempted to think God had forsaken the nation.

The Divided Kingdom after Solomon’s Glory
You might have been disillusioned had you lived through Solomon's glorious reign when Israel was at its height of peace, security, power, wealth, reputation, and prestige, and then later to see the kingdom divided into two third-rate nations fighting each other and harassed by their neighbors.

The Captivity
You might have been disillusioned had you lived during the revivals of Hezekiah and Josiah which tantalized hopes of strength and stability, only to see the nation at Josiah's death come briefly under Egyptian domination, then under Babylonian bondage, then on to captivity.

The Return
You might have been disillusioned had you been among those who witnessed Israel’s deliverance from captivity, expecting her to rise to power as God’s people, only to see her rise to a very disappointing stature compared to her former glory and then continue in subjugation to Greek and Roman domination during the 400 year period between the Old and New Testaments.

Jerusalem’s Fall
You might have been disillusioned had you known the bustle of Jerusalem and the grandeur of its temple when Jesus walked its streets, and yet within a couple generations witness its complete destruction. How disheartening it must have been that within a hundred years of Jesus’ first advent the Jews were not even allowed in the city except once a year.

Look at Church History.
The church’s history has often been as discouraging as Israel's history. Consider the dark ages with its corruption, ignorance, and cruelty. Look at our own contemporary examples. Consider the church splits, broken relationships, moral failures in leadership, foolish behavior, embarrassing antics, and other discouraging situations that have been on display to us and the world.

Our Response
The Bible makes it clear that in spite of Israel’s failures and Satan’s attempts to destroy them or cause them to stumble, God was able to preserve the nation of Israel and in the fullness of time bring forth Jesus Christ our Lord to bring redemption to mankind. Our Sovereign God has and is administrating history and the future to the fulfillment of His plan. His dominion is forever and His kingdom stands strong, inexorably moving toward the consummation of His eternal purpose. Israel’s “ups and downs” and “in and outs” never hindered the plan or kingdom of God. The same fact holds true for the church, for me, and for you.

If we stand faithful to God’s word and ways, and persevere with patient endurance in faith and hope, we will ultimately see the rewards that come in God’s time. Our experiences may seem inconsistent with what we expected and may vary from one end of the spectrum to the other, from wonderful to painful, from clear insight to the perplexity of looking through the glass dimly. But in all these we must stand in faith and know that God is God, that He loves us and has a plan for us and for the world, and that His kingdom purpose will be fulfilled. The land may be parched “today” as Mark Twain saw it, but “tomorrow” it will be a fruitful and fertile land of milk and honey overflowing with the bounty of God’s kingdom. And those who say “today” that God has failed will “tomorrow” look back and see how foolish they were to doubt the Almighty and Wonderful God our Heavenly Father.

“Why are you cast down, O my soul? Hope in God, for I shall yet praise Him for the help of His countenance.” Psalm 42: 5

Monday, November 6, 2017

Youtube video on Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Check out my Youtube video giving a brief teaching on the Baptism in the Holy Spirit.
Just click this link:
Baptism in the Holy Spirit

Billy Long

Sunday, October 29, 2017

SPIRITUAL POWER FOR EVERYDAY LIVING


Billy Long Ministries
SEE THE LINK BELOW TO ORDER YOUR COPY.
Spiritual Power for Everyday Living defines and explains spiritual gifts and the supernatural manifestations of the Holy Spirit. It gives the reader a clear understanding of the prophetic ministry as practiced in the lives of the first Christians. It also gives a clear teaching on praying in tongues and its role in aiding the believer in a deeper experience of intercessory prayer and praise. A careful reading of this book will bring clarity and remove misconceptions relating to the role of spiritual gifts, prophesying, and tongues in the New Testament Church.
This book will challenge new and mature Christians alike as it gives a clear exposition of the work of the Holy Spirit. The book is filled with testimonials of real life experiences given in the context of a balanced and practical application of the work of the Spirit. 

One reader stated, “I have thoroughly enjoyed your book, and have recommended it to friends.  It is the best book I have read about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and I love the way you teach about it.  This would be the perfect book for anyone who is the least bit hesitant or fearful about the baptism of the Holy Spirit. In fact, it would be a perfect book to use for a class wanting to learn about the gifts of the Spirit.”
Order your copy at this link:


Tax Deductible donations can also be made to the ministry at this link.

Billy Long

Friday, October 27, 2017

DON'T ARGUE WITH THE DONKEY!

Have you ever had to deal with relational conflict? Here are some Biblical principles that will help you come through the fire without becoming spiritually derailed and disabled. The principles discussed are basic to our success in all areas of our spiritual walk.
I am re-posting this for my newer readers who may have missed it the first time.   -Billy Long

DON'T ARGUE WITH THE DONKEY!

ENGAGE THE LORD FIRST
We encounter various trials in our Christian walk. Some we can't explain and some are indicative of the “roaring lion” seeking to devour the righteous. But there are also times when adversities are the result of our own foolishness, disobedience, or sin, times when our adversaries are instruments of God designed to get our attention, teach a lesson, interrupt our wrong path, or to discipline us.

God raised up adversaries against Solomon because of his idolatry (1 Kings 11). Balaam’s donkey balked and fell underneath him because his way was contrary to God (Numbers 22: 21-34). Moses, on the other hand, was a faithful man troubled by a stubborn crowd of disobedient people who were ready to stone him.
Moses’ first response was to cry out to God (Numbers 14: 1-5; 16: 1-4). By contrast, both Solomon and Balaam did not seriously approach the Lord before dealing with their adversaries. Balaam’s first response was to become angry and argue with his donkey. Solomon sought to kill his adversary and fight his enemies. Both should have dealt with God first rather than allowing their initial actions to be focused on the people or things they wrongly perceived as the root cause of their difficulties.

In blaming the “donkey” and the adversaries we act as if we have been placed into their hands. God does not leave us to the whims of circumstance. He does not abandon us to the erratic and unpredictable whims of others or to the destructive efforts of deliberate adversaries. That’s why we wrestle with God before wrestling with the enemy. Whether innocent or at fault, we should cry out to the Lord before arguing with “the donkey.”

THE TWO PRIMARY CHARACTERS ON THE STAGE
The two primary characters on the stage of my life are God and me. All others are secondary, including the devil. Though Satan is shown as the villain in the first two chapters of the book of Job, he is not mentioned again in the remaining forty chapters. Job’s resolution did not come through wrestling the devil. Neither did it come when he argued with his friends. He found resolution during his intimate encounter with God in the final chapters of the book. It is interesting to note that God’s focus was to declare His own greatness and to correct and strengthen Job. He did not discuss Job's friends, except for the correction they received in the final chapter. He did not discuss spiritual warfare or how to deal with Satan (though these are necessary). He interacted with Job and let Job experience the intimacy of His presence and all the wondrous things that proceed from that glorious place. Job saw the Lord and he saw himself (Job 42: 5-6). These are the first steps to coming through the fire successfully.

Jacob wrestled with the Angel of the Lord before facing a potential struggle with Esau (Genesis 32: 24-32). In that place of intercession he experienced a life-changing brokenness (humility and surrender) before God which led to his restoration with Esau. He came face to face with Him Whose name is Wonderful! He also came face to face with himself and experienced a name (character) change.

FULFILLING OUR OWN OBEDIENCE
The lesson is very clear. We meet with God before we deal with and react to others. We make sure our own accounts are clear before we busy ourselves correcting or accusing others. Even if we have been mistreated, there may still be a need, an error, or some disobedience in us that brought about the situation. I should fulfill my own obedience before I expect God to avenge the disobedience of others. I should do what God requires of me in the situation before I apply a high standard of right behavior to others who are troubling me (2 Corinthians 10: 6). If I am guilty, I repent and change. If I am innocent, I listen for what my Lord is requiring of me in the situation.

THE FIRE TESTS THE RIGHTEOUS AND THE WICKED.
Years ago there was a cartoon that revolved around conflict between a good guy named Dudley Do-right and an evil man named Snidely Whip-lash. Naturally each person in conflict thinks he is right and the other is wrong. This causes disobedience in both “Dudley” and “Snidely.” The one who is wrong fails to repent. The one who is right refuses to hear what God is saying to him in terms of lessons, attitude, and procedure. Because he is right, he thinks God is requiring nothing of him but to point out the other person’s error. When a person’s first response is to focus on the sins of others while "flattering himself" (Psalm 36:2), he will be busy in self-justification, self-defense, and self-righteousness. He will be unable to hear what God is saying to him.

The principle to keep in mind is that fire tests not only the wicked but also the righteous, and sometimes especially the righteous. Usually people tend to think that the fire is directed only toward the wicked or the person who is wrong. They fail to realize that God is often more interested in how the righteous will behave in the situation. Therefore, we mistakenly think that God is busy focusing on the other person’s sin and requiring him to change while we, being right and innocent, are free to misbehave. The fire, however, tests both "Dudley Do-right" and "Snidely Whip-lash," and God requires an obedient response from each.

It is possible to be right in position and wrong in disposition. A person who is right in his evaluation of a problem must also keep a right spirit and maintain godly conduct. The guilty who refuses to see himself and fails to break and repent will be burned by the fire. Moreover, the person who is "right" but whose heart is governed by carnality and who behaves in an ungodly manner will also be burned by the fire. In other words, "right" people who get in the flesh in their attitudes and behavior will fail the test before God. There are many people who were on the right side of an argument but ended up as “burnt stones” disillusioned and spiritually desolate because they did not please the Lord in how they conducted themselves.

IN CONCLUSION
If your “donkey” is giving you trouble, don’t argue with it (it may actually be saving your life- Numbers 22: 33). Look for the angel of the Lord who may be standing by to correct you.  If you have been thrown into the furnace, reach out to “the Fourth Man” who is standing there to bring you out refined  and in possession of a great testimony. Wrestle with God before you wrestle with people. Let your first impulse be to seek the Lord and engage Him. It is in the Lord’s presence that we find grace and strength for life. It is there that we find wisdom, anointing, and direction for dealing with all the other secondary characters that we will inevitably face on the stage of our life.

“The king…asked, ‘Did we not cast three men bound into the midst of the fire...? Look…I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire; and they are not hurt, and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.’ … Then Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego came from the midst of the fire. …these men on whose bodies the fire had no power; the hair of their head was not singed nor were their garments affected, and the smell of fire was not on them.” Daniel 3: 22-28

“But may the God of all grace, who called us to His eternal glory by Christ Jesus, after you have suffered a while, perfect, establish, strengthen, and settle you.” 1 Peter5: 10

“For you, O God, have tested us; You have refined us as silver is refined...We went through fire and water, but You brought us out into a wealthy place.” Psalm 66: 8-12


Wednesday, October 25, 2017

A LOVELY SONG OR A CHALLENGE TO GROW?

“You are to them as a lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice.”   ---Ezekiel 33:32

In our visit to Poland in 1988 Pastor Jim Sink and I traveled in a circle from Warsaw to Ludz, the Soviet border, to Krakow, to Katowice, and back to Warsaw. We were accompanied by Adam Kuczma who was head of the Methodist Church in Poland at the time. He is a great man of God and desired to share the power of the Holy Spirit with his people. We spoke in churches and shared many testimonies of miracles and the supernatural presence of Jesus as we traveled through the country. The people would listen with interest, and then tell us how much they enjoyed the messages. But they never asked, “What must I do?” They did not engage the message deeply enough to ask how they could experience the Presence of the Lord in the same way.  After the meetings they simply proceeded with the food and fellowship as if what they heard from us was commonplace…and then went on their way. I concluded that the church’s biggest problem was not communism but rather (like in America) the people themselves. What they needed most was spiritual aggressiveness, even more than encouragement in their struggle against communist oppression, food and commodity shortages, and economic hardship.

The same is true for us today. Christians and the church need…
… to free themselves from religious tradition, spiritual complacency, and routine.
…to deepen their spiritual hunger and to seek the Lord in prayer and intercession to break the covering of darkness from over the nation.
…to enlarge their vision of what God intends to do and will do.
…to take practical steps to get there. (commitment to discipleship, Baptism in the Holy Spirit, prayer, individual growth and church maturity.)
…a willingness to change, and the humility to recognize the necessity of it.
…to develop relationships and community rather than just meetings and programs. To  create a platform and atmosphere in which individuals can open up and share their hearts and needs as well as their gifts and strengths.

Leadership is the key. The body is starving for leaders who will show them the “next step” and lead them in it.  The church needs leaders…
…who recognize these issues.
…who are genuine leaders with substance, experience, and who really do equip the saints, feed the sheep, and strengthen the church rather than just preaching good sermons which people listen to and enjoy, but leave unchanged.
…who hear from God, discern the flock, and have prophetic revelation regarding “the next step” for each congregation, and who  can give  
practical instruction in how to proceed.
…who have the courage to lead, and who are willing to face the potential conflict and suffering.

Leaders need to recognize that true church growth is not just a bigger and “fatter” version of what they already have, but actual and real spiritual development. We need evangelism followed up with actual spiritual growth rather than a perpetual enlargement of the “nursery.” The New Testament says that spiritual leaders are to feed the sheep, equip the saints, and strengthen the church.
Leaders cannot accomplish this with preaching alone. So how do they do it? That’s the second question. The first question to ask is, “Do they want to?”
Too many pastors look to the latest trends in “church growth.” Too often this entails getting on the bandwagon of style and “non-offensive” messages rather than a platform that challenges Christians to their “next step” and which provides practical ways to take that next step. The “how to” requires leaders and churches to actually seek the Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to birth something. It requires sanctified flexibility and creative obedience. Hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit, recognizing when He is at work and allowing Him to move. I am not providing answers in this article. I am saying, “Seek the Lord, listen, be sensitive, and be willing to change.”

So the problem is that preachers are satisfied giving nice sermons and the people love to hear them…but neither seems to require action beyond simply “enjoying the activity.”
Leaders are to feed the sheep (John 21: 15-17), equip the saints unto maturity. (Ephesians 4: 12-15), and strengthen the church (Acts 14:22; 15:32; 18:23). This describes substantive impartation and growth, and not just listening to a message on Sunday.

“As for you, son of man, the children of your people are talking about you…and everyone saying…’Please come and hear what the word of the Lord is that comes from the Lord.’ So they come to you as people do, they sit before you as My people, and they hear your words, but they do not do them; for with their mouth they show much love, but their hearts pursue their own gain. Indeed you are to them as a lovely song of one who has a pleasant voice and can play well on an instrument; for they hear your words, but they do not do them.”    Ezekiel 33: 30-32