Thursday, May 28, 2009

Reaching the lost

As I said several months ago, the mission of our church is to "to make disciples of Jesus Christ who love God and love people, by reaching and teaching everyone."

I have already examined the overarching mission of the church (to make disciples) and have seen what a disciple should be (one who loves God and loves people). Now it's time to consider the process by which a disciple is made.

Matthew 28:19-20 breaks discipleship down into two stages. First, Jesus tells the apostles to preach and evangelize, which culminates in some hearers believing and new converts being "baptized." Second, the apostles were to train these new disciples through a life-long process of "teaching them to obey." This two-step process that Jesus outlined two thousand years ago still continues in His church today. At First Southern Baptist, we call these two steps "reaching and teaching."

For the sake of strategic planning in the church, I've found Peter Bolt's little book Mission Minded (available through Matthias Media) to be extremely helpful. He breaks down evangelism (reaching) and edification (teaching) into several sub categories. Let's look just at the "reaching" phase today.

Bolt observes that most non-Christians naturally progress through four phases in evangelism:
  • Raising Awareness. This is the very first an unbeliever hears about Jesus, the Bible, the gospel, or a particular church. At this point, there's no personal contact. A church may raise awareness in their community by having a church building, church sign, website, door hangers, an ad in the paper, sending out mailers, etc.
  • Initial Contact. For the first time, an unbeliever now meets a real person. He no longer associate Christianity merely with a church building, a book, media reports, or a local advertisement, but with a flesh-and-blood person he has actually met. Churches can facilitate contact by being friendly to their neighbors and co-workers, canvassing a neighborhood with surveys, hosting a booth at a local fair, doing service projects, joining local clubs and organizations, etc.
  • Pre-evangelism. The unbeliever is now getting to know his Christian friend better and a stronger relationship is forming. Deeper issues may start to be discussed like family problems, fears, hopes, dreams, and spiritual beliefs. The Christian may start to drop seeds and respond to some of the common objections or confusing aspects of Christianity. At this point, the Christian is trying to show the love of Christ and "earn the right" to share his faith in a spirit of love and trust.
  • Evangelism. The ultimate goal of steps 1-3 is to get us to the point where the unbeliever actually hears the good news. If this never happens, then the person has never truly been evangelized. All the good deeds and acts of social justice in the world are impotent to rescue a soul from hell. Only the gospel is the power of God unto salvation (Rom. 1:16-17). Evangelism may happen in one event, or over a series of conversations. But e need to know, explain, and biblically support the basic gospel outline: God is the loving and holy creator of the universe; man has rebelled against God and become separated from Him; Jesus, God's Son became a man to rescue us; He lived perfectly and then died in our place, rising again on the third day; He now calls us to turn from our sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. This is the only proper response, and the only way to eternal life.
Obviously, there's no "formula" to saving the lost. There are times when steps 1-3 happen almost instantaneously, or when steps 2-3 can be bypassed altogether. Most importantly, we recognize that while man plants and waters, only God can give the increase. And so our church humbly uses this ministry model, while praying and relying completely on God to do His miraculous work of changing hearts of stone into hearts of flesh.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Glorifying God in the Golden Years

Last Sunday, we studied the prayer of an old man in Psalm 71, and learned how we can "Glorify God in the Golden Years." There were three points to our outline:
  1. The Protection of the Elderly (Ps. 71:1-13). The psalmist senses that he is in danger as his enemies encircle and plot against him. Though his strength is diminishing, his faith remains strong as he runs to God for refuge. It may seem, at times, that God has forsaken us, but we know that those who have trusted Christ are secure. God already forsook His Son on the cross so that we would never have to be forsaken (Matt. 27:46).
  2. The Purpose of the Elderly (Ps. 71:14-18). The psalmist knows that his many years and life experiences are intended by God to be the source for unending hope and praise, while teaching the next generation about God's character and salvation. As long as God keeps us on the earth, He has an important mission for us to fulfill. Whatever faculties we have left should be used for God's glory.
  3. The Praise of the Elderly (Ps. 71:19-24). The psalmist concludes with an outburst of joy and praise to God. He can hardly contain himself as he remembers the righteousness of God and the great things He has done. He expects the Lord to revive Him once again so he can continue to praise God until His final breath, while he awaits God to humble the proud and put his enemies to shame.
Application questions for the young and middle aged:
  • What are my thoughts and feelings about old age?
  • What is the world's perspective of age? What, in contrast, do the following verses say about it? Lev. 19:32; Prov. 16:31; 20:29.
  • Do I treat the elderly with honor? How could I improve? What are the main barriers I face?
  • Do I keep a journal or some other way of recording the "great things" (Ps. 71:19) God has done in my life to help me recall them in the latter years?
  • Do I make myself available to seniors, listening to them and even seeking out their counsel and testimony of God's grace? (Ps. 71:18)
Application questions for seniors:
  • What are the threats and fears I face right now? What comfort can Psalm 71 bring?
  • If Psalm 71:8 were written about me, how would it read? "My mouth is filled with ___." Is my speech generally positive or negative? Is it self-centered or others/God-centered? Are my words full of cynicism, gossip, and complaining? Or joy, encouragement, and thanksgiving?
  • Do I view my life as still having purpose? If so what is it? How does this purpose match up with the glorious purpose described in Psalm 71:14-18?
  • Do I treat the younger generation with respect or see them as a threat? What are the main barriers I face? How am I willing to change or accommodate my own preferences in order to help reach the next generation?
  • Do I make myself available to young and middle aged people, talking with them, getting to know them, praying for them, sharing godly counsel, and testifying of God's grace? (Ps. 71:18) How could I improve?
  • Is my joy evident to others? Does my speech and body language suggest to others that I am genuinely happy? Do I give "shouts" of praise to God through singing and prayer? (Ps. 71:23) How can I be joyful even in difficult circumstances?
Related posts:

Friday, May 22, 2009

1 million stories of compassion

Compassion International in Colorado Springs made an exciting announcement on Wednesday:

Compassion International, a leading child development and sponsorship organization, reached a major milestone today as they celebrate the sponsorship of their 1 millionth child, an 8-year-old boy from the country of Togo in West Africa.

The newly sponsored child lives with his father outside Togo's capital city of Lomé. Togo, a country whose population is seriously affected by the devastation of AIDS, is the most recent country to join the growing list of nations where Compassion works.

The child's sponsor is from South Korea, the country in which Compassion began its mission 57 years earlier. The sponsor is most recently noted for a gold medal she won at last year's Beijing Olympics.

Each sponsorship typically includes education, spiritual instruction, a nourishing meal, and basic health care. This millionth sponsorship was specially timed to coincide with the one million mark. But while every sponsorship may not be quite so glamorous, every single one is still a heartwarming story of love and compassion in the name of Jesus Christ. May God bless Compassion International and enable them to reach another million children in the years to come.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Keller on ministry idolatry

Tim Keller was recently interviewed by Towers Online, the news service for Southern Seminary. I really appreciated his warning about the idolatry of success in ministry.
Question: What safeguards should 20-something pastors have in place to avoid the idolatry of ministry fame and the attitude of big numbers equals success?

Tim Keller: If you know it is a danger, that is a very important start. Additionally, when you find yourself unusually discouraged because things aren't growing or people aren't listening to you -- you have to catch yourself. You have to realize "This is an inordinate amount of discouragement, which reveals the idolatry of justification by ministry." Meaning, you say you believe in justification by grace, but you feel like and are acting like you believe in justification by ministry. You have to recognize you are making something of an idol out of ministry. When you do experience inordinate discouragement because things aren't going well, you need to say, "It's okay to be discouraged but not to be this discouraged. This is discouragement that leads to idolatry," and you repent.

Additionally, idols create a fantasy world. You may think that you are just thinking about ministry strategy, but it could be you're fantasizing about success. So be careful about doing too much daydreaming about success, what you would like to see happen. Because it's really a kind of pornography. You're actually thinking about a beautiful church and people acclaiming you: be careful about fantasizing too much about ministry success and dreaming about it and thinking about what it's going to look like.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Principles for Giving

Last Sunday's sermon came from 2 Corinthians 9. As we listened to Paul's appeal for the Corinthians to help the poor Christians in Jerusalem, we found three life-changing principles of "giving for the harvest":
  1. We are to give humbly (2 Cor. 9:10). All our money - indeed, everything in life - belongs to God. He is the One who gives us life, breath, time, strength, family, jobs, possessions, etc. Thus, when we give, we should have a heart of humility, thanking Him for the honor of giving back a portion of what is already His.
  2. We are to give generously (2 Cor. 9:5-6, 8, 10-11). God expects us to give bountifully and sacrificially. He makes us rich so we can in turn be generous toward others. But since few of us feel rich and able to give generously, we must learn to see giving as an act of faith, taking a step of obedience, even though we may not know how God will provide. If we wait to give until we have the money, we will never give.
  3. We are to give joyfully (2 Cor. 9:7). God does not want our giving to be with a heart of sorrow, or under pressure, but out of a cheerful (hilarious!) heart. Giving should not be a duty, but a delight, for several reasons: (A) It is an act of worship; a love offering. (B) It is an act of obedience, which brings joy. (C) It is a reminder of Christ's gift to us (2 Cor. 8:9). (D) It is seed planted for a spiritual harvest, caring for the poor, supporting gospel ministers, and reaching the lost with the gospel. (E) It is a guaranteed investment for eternal reward (Matt. 6:20-21).
Questions for thought and discussion (the first four questions come from an article entitled "Money Power," published in Discipleship Journal, Issue 12, 1982):
  • On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 is lowest and 5 is highest), rate yourself in the following areas: How much of a giving person am I? How wisely do I use my wealth? How willing am I to provide financial support to ministers of God? How willing am I to provide financial support to help the poor? How well do I plan my expenditures? How sacrificial am I willing to be in order to give to others? On a typical day, how grateful am I for what God has given me?
  • What are some ways I am using my money and possessions to help bring people to Christ and extend the kingdom of God?
  • Are there any ways in which I may not be using my money wisely in God's sight? What are they?
  • What changes could I make in order to be wiser and more generous in the way I handle my wealth?
  • Am I being a good steward of all the possible sources of income and "seed for the harvest" God has entrusted to me? (e.g. salary, investment returns, tax refunds, Social Security, alimony, gifts and inheritances, income from sale of assets, etc.).
  • Have I considered setting up a charitable trust and reserving a portion of my estate for God's work?
(Sunday’s sermon will be uploaded soon to our podcast site and will be available for free download or to listen online.)

May God help us apply His Word this week in our hearts, in our words, and in our actions.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Pastors: the key to a great commission resurgence

No doubt about it, there are some exciting things going on in our Southern Baptist Convention.

I'm very pleased with the recent Great Commission Resurgence document drafted by Johnny Hunt and certain leading members of the SBC. I read through it carefully and finally signed it this morning. I believe it gives a healthy wake-up call to our convention and lays a sound philosophy of ministry for the future of our convention beyond the doctrine articulated in the Baptist Faith & Message.

I appreciate that leaders recognize a true Great Commission Resurgence will not happen merely through a top-down approach from our seminaries, the executive office, or Lifeway, but through a grassroots movement among local churches, and particularly among local pastors.

Thus, the Annual Meeting will focus this year on pastors, local church, and denominational health rather than a reaction to national politics. In a recent interview with the Florida Baptist Witness, Johnny Hunt said:
...the annual meeting focus should be on how to turn around the denomination, which he said begins with the pulpits.

“There is no evangelistic church without an evangelistic pastor. There is no mission-minded church without a mission-minded pastor. There is no generous church without a generous pastor,” he said.

Although many pastors proclaim the right truths about evangelism, they are not emulating those truths.

“I really believe it’s more of a real work of God in the life of us pastors” that is most needed in SBC life, he said, rather than focusing on denominational entities and executives.

Speaking as a pastor, Hunt said the focus “is going to be on us.”

Related posts:

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Optical illusions

Check out these illusions that were voted the "best optical illusions of the world" for 2009. I especially like the curve ball and the colored dove.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Tabloid archaeology

Gordon Franz writes,
One day a friend sent me an invitation to a church meeting and asked me if I knew anything about the subject. On the flyer was a picture of a human skeleton with crooked teeth and a rock embedded in his forehead. The title above the skull read: “They’ve Found Goliath’s Skull!”
Has Goliath's skull really been discovered? To find out, you'll have to read rest of the story here.

This is a good example of what Franz calls "Tabloid Archaeology," and unfortunately, many Christians buy into this stuff hook, line, and sinker. If it sounds good and seems to give credibility to the Bible, then no matter its source (email, blog, tabloid, video) or level of scholarship, we assume it must be true and with great excitement pass it on to our friends.

To avoid future embarassment, we can all be grateful for a new website Franz has developed called Life and Land Seminars. It has a lot of material on Bible backgrounds, but some articles deal specifically with sensational theories and discoveries. The site is formatted like a blog, so navigation can be tricky. But if you use the search bar in the top right corner, you should be able to search and find any pertinent articles quickly. Think of it like a "Snopes" for biblical archaeology. Here's a few other debunking articles Franz has written:

Does “The Lost Shipwreck of Paul” Hold Water? – A critique of the theory of Robert Cornuke.

Mount Sinai is Not at Jebel Al-Lawz in Saudi Arabia (and parts 2 and 3) – A careful refutation of the theory of Ron Wyatt that has captivated many gullible Bible believers.

Did the BASE Institute Discover Noah’s Ark in Iran? – The historical and geographical problems with a recent theory promoted in Christian circles.

The So-Called Jesus Family Tomb “Rediscovered” in Jerusalem – A lengthy analysis of the Talpiyot tomb that recent movie producers have claimed belonged to Jesus of Nazareth.

HT: Todd Bolen

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

The High Calling of a Mother & Grandmother

In honor of Mother's Day last Sunday morning, we considered the "High Calling of a Mother & Grandmother." Here was my sermon outline:

  1. Four people in a family - 2 Timothy 1:5 and Acts 16:1-2 introduced us to a family of four: Lois, a believing grandma; Eunice, a believing mom; Timothy, a believing son; and Timothy's father, an unbelieving dad. We were encouraged to see how God used a mother's and grandmother's faith to be instrumental in saving young Timothy.
  2. Four areas of training children - From the description of Jesus' development in Luke 2:52, we saw four areas that every mother should train her child: mental, physical, spiritual, and social.
  3. Four kinds of people in our church - We concluded by considering how these truths would apply to four groups of people in our church: moms, grandmas, women without children, and men.
Thought & Discussion Questions:
  • Are there any similarities between Timothy's spiritually "mixed family" and mine? Are there people in my household who do not share my passion for God? What can I learn from Eunice' example?
  • Mothers, do you pray regularly for your children? How are you doing in training your children in these four areas of mental, physical, spiritual, and social? Where do your children naturally excel? Where do they struggle? What is one area you can begin to improve immediately?
  • Grandmothers, are you loving and serving your children as they now raise their kids, and supporting other younger moms in the church? Read Titus 2:3-5 and consider how you should apply this. Who is one young mom in the church that you can specifically pray for and encourage?
  • Women without children, do you feel disappointed that you do not have children of your own? What is your attitude toward mothers and grandmothers? Are you joyful and content in your present circumstances? Has God called you to consider adoption, or to help other moms who are raising kids?
  • Men, what is your mindset toward child-rearing? Do you consider it primarily a woman's duty, or are you providing spiritual leadership in the home and church? Are you serving and praying for your wife? Are you teaching your daughters to become future moms and women of God? Could you serve more faithfully in children's ministry so that moms can have their spiritual batteries recharged?
Sunday’s sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site and is now available for free download or to listen online.)

May God help us apply His Word this week in our hearts, in our words, and in our actions.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Praying for our leaders

Today is the National Day of Prayer, a special day set aside each year to gather publicly and intercede for our nation and leaders. Our local ministerial sponsored a community prayer service this morning at the local park to honor the occasion and lift up our praises and requests to God.

Not sure how to pray for the nation? Why not begin with 1 Timothy 2:2, which says to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity."

If God guides and blesses our leaders, it will result in peaceful life where the gospel can spread more freely. John MacArthur writes on this passage, "When it manifests love and goodness to all and prays passionately for the lost, including rulers, the church may experience a certain amount of religious freedom. Persecution should only be the result of righteous living, not civil disobedience" (MacArthur Study Bible, note on 1 Timothy 2:2)

Gary Bergel shares 30 ways to pray for people in authority:

1. That they be God fearing and recognize that they
are accountable to Him for each decision and act
(Prov. 9:10).
2. That they be granted wisdom, knowledge, and
understanding (Jas. 1:5).
3. That they be presented with the gospel and a loving
Christian witness (Ro. 10:14).
4. That, if unsaved, they be drawn to a saving encounter
with Christ; if born-again, they be strengthened and
encouraged in their faith (1 Tim. 2:4, Eph. 1:17-23).
5. That they recognize their own inadequacy and pray
and seek the will of God (Prov. 3:5-8, Lk. 11:9-13).
6. That they be convicted of sin, transgression, and
iniquity (Ps. 51:17, Jn. 8:9).
7. That they heed their conscience, confess their sins,
and repent (Prov. 28:13, Jas. 4:8).
8. That they read the Bible and attend prayer meetings
and Bible studies (Ps. 119:11, Col. 3:2).
9. That they value and regard the Ten Commandments
and the teachings of Christ (Ps. 19:7-11, Jn. 8:31-32).
10. That they respect and honor their own parents if
living (Eph. 6:2-3).
11. That they respect authority and practice
accountability (Ro. 13:1-7).
12. That they be given godly counsel and God-fearing
advisors (Prov. 24:6).
13. That they be honest and faithful to spouses and
children (Mal. 2:15-16).
14. That they be practicing members of local
congregations (Heb. 10:25).
15. That they desire purity and avoid debauchery,
pornography, perversion, and drunkenness
(1 Cor. 6:9-20, Titus 2:12).
16. That they be timely, reliable, and dependable
(Mt. 21:28-31).
17. That they be honest in financial, tax, and ethical
matters (1 Cor. 6:10, 1 Tim. 6:6-10).
18. That they seek pastoral care and counsel when
needed (Heb. 13:7).
19. That they seek out and nurture godly friendships
(Ps. 1:1-3).
20. That they have thankful and teachable spirits
(Ro. 1:21).
21. That they be generous and have compassionate hearts
for the poor and needy (Ps. 112:9, Lk. 10:33-37).
22. That they redeem their time and know priorities
(Eph. 5:15-17).
23. That they desire honesty, integrity, and loyalty
(Psalm 26, Prov. 11:3).
24. That they have courage to resist manipulation,
pressure, and the fear of man (Prov. 29:25, 2. Tim. 1:7).
25. That they be shielded from occultism, New Age cults,
false religions, and secret societies (Is. 1:29, 2:6).
26. That they be presented with biblical worldviews and
principles (Eph. 3:10).
27. That they endeavor to restore the sanctity of life,
families, divine order, and morality in our nation
(Eph. 5:22-6:4).
28. That they would work to reverse the trends of
humanism in our nation (1 Chron. 12:32, Is. 59:19).
29. That they desire humility and meekness and be
willing to serve and cooperate (Jn. 13:14, Titus 3:1-2).
30. That they be prepared to give account to Almighty
God (Heb. 9:27).

(You can order copies of this, and many other helpful prayer cards, through the Navpress website.)

Let's follow God's call to pray for our nation and leaders not only this day, but every day. He alone can bring repentance and true reform in the hearts of all who need Him.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Virgin lips

Here's something radically counter-cultural. A new movement is on the rise to encourage Christians to abstain from kissing until marriage.

It's obvious our culture has become hyper-sexualized in a very short time. Al Mohler writes,
In the space of little more than a single generation, we have seen the breaking down of virtually every social and cultural support for sexual abstinence. Arousal and intimacy come with the romantic longing that marks the deepening relationship between a man and a woman. Young couples no longer court on the porch swing with the girl's parents sitting inside and very close at hand. Now, most young couples face the temptation of romantic contexts in which intimacy--and this means sexual intimacy--is a likely outcome.

The Virgin Lips Movement represents a serious effort to push back against this expectation and to create boundaries that will protect virtue and honor marriage.

What do you think? Is the Virgin Lips Movement putting Matthew 5:29-30 into practice, i.e. taking radical steps to avoid sin? Or is it legalism? Should parents expect this of their children?

I don't think it would be legalistic at all to have such a standard for one's own relationship. After all, we all must set clear boundaries of purity and never violate our consciences. "He who doubts is condemned if he eats [or kisses], because his eating [or kissing] is not from faith; and whatever is not from faith is sin (Rom. 14:23). There could be great wisdom in establishing and avoiding this threshold of physical intimacy. However, I could see the VLM quickly becoming legalistic if couples begin to impose this vow on others, adding an extra-biblical standard by which all relationships are judged to be sinful or righteous.

The real issue is a matter of the heart - not merely outward behavior. Certain boundaries must exist to avoid fueling lust and temptation, but these boundaries will vary from person to person and from couple to couple.

Randy Alcorn, in his excellent book The Purity Principle, says,
For years I didn't go in a particular doorway to our local supermarket because of a magazine rack. Later, my mental discipline became strong enough that I could keep my eyes away. But until then I honored my boundary. It was inconvenient, but a small price to pay to guard my purity.

We have a television, but we don't have cable. Not because we believe it's wrong, but because we don't want more temptation in our home.

I'm not telling you what you have to do. Boundaries will vary from person to person. A boundary may be not standing in a checkout line where certain magazines are displayed. Or not driving in a certain part of town. Or never going on a business trip alone.

Boundaries keep temptation from getting a foothold. They are based on the premise that our sexual purity cannot be strengthened if we keep doing what we've always done! We must change our habits. We are sentries charged with protecting something immensely strategic... (p. 44)
The Virgin Lips Movement is a great reminder that all of us must stand guard, glorifying God in our bodies and remaining pure in every relationship.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Need for Church Unity

Last Sunday morning, we looked at John 17:20-26, the final part of Jesus’ High Priestly Prayer. In these verses, He prayed for “all who would believe,” including you and me! We saw Him pray for the church’s unity in two areas:
  1. Our present unity – Jesus prayed that our unity would reflect the unity within the Holy Trinity (v. 21). We can expect both unity and diversity in the Body of Christ. The basis of this unity is the very indwelling presence of God in us, His “glory.”
  2. Our future unity – Jesus is delighted as His closing request in the prayer to ask for us to be together with Him, forever and ever, and to see His glory (v. 24).
Thought & Discussion Questions:
  • Have I truly believed in Christ through the word of His apostles? (v. 20)
  • In what ways should a church show unity? Diversity?
  • How would I rate the unity in my home? (Excellent? Fair? Poor?)
  • How would I rate the unity in our church? (Excellent? Fair? Poor?)
  • Is our church’s unity providing a good witness to the community? Why or why not?
  • Am I growing in the keys to unity found in Ephesians 4:2, i.e. Humility? Gentleness? Patience? Tolerance in love?
  • With whom do I really struggle to show these fruits?
  • Do I need to confess a sin or reconcile with anyone in the Body? (Matt. 5:23-24)
  • Who is someone outside my “clique” or “comfort zone” I can reach out to this week to foster greater unity in our church?
(Sunday’s sermon has been uploaded to our podcast site and is now available for free download or to listen online.)

May God help us apply His Word this week in our hearts, in our words, and in our actions.

Monday, May 4, 2009

How to live in the world

Jonathan Dodson gives some great practical ideas on how we should be living "in the world, but not of the world" (John 17:15-18), aka living missionally, or engaging our culture:
  • Eat with non-Christians
  • Walk, don't drive
  • Be a regular
  • Hobby with non-Christians
  • Talk to your co-workers
  • Volunteer with non-profits
  • Participate in city events
  • Serve your neighbors
You can read the whole article here.

Some related posts I've written on this topic:

Friday, May 1, 2009

Swine flu and the church

We’ve been hearing a lot about swine flu lately and you may be wondering if the church is a safe place for you and your children to attend.

First of all, this is an opportunity to keep a sound mind and put our trust in God. “For God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). We never have reason to grow anxious or paranoid. “Do not be afraid of sudden fear, nor of the onslaught of the wicked when it comes; For the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” (Proverbs 3:25-26). God has already numbered our days and determined our health. Swine flu cannot thwart God’s sovereign schedule for our lives.

As far as local health risk, our county Department of Public Health issued an advisory on April 28 reporting that “No cases of this virus have been identified in San Bernardino County at this time.” They simply encourage people to take normal, common-sense precautions to minimize the spread of germs:
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hands cleaners are also effective.
  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick, stay home from work or school [or church, in our case] and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread that way.
  • It is not necessary to wear a mask unless you are in close contact with someone who has been confirmed to have Swine Influenza A virus infection.

We encourage everyone to attend church as usual on Sunday. It may be wise to have some extra liquid sanitizer bottles available in the restrooms and in the nursery area. But beyond this, there is no reason for concern or need for extra precautionary measures.

Interview, pt. 3

On Wednesday and Thursday, I shared parts one and two of a recent interview I had with a member of our church who was completing a school project on church leadership. Here's the conclusion to the interview...

5. Are you leading consistently and biblically?

a. Is your leadership based on biblical principals?

Yes, as much as possible, I try to base my leadership on biblical principles. I do not support an executive model, where a pastor rules from the top down, with an attitude of intimidation and condescension toward others. Nor do I support a marketing model, where a pastor is checking opinions, taking polls, and forming focus groups of current or potential churchgoers to see what is trendy. Nor do I not support a purely democratic model, where everyone has an equal voice in every decision.

God has given leadership to the church so all things can be done decently and in order (1 Cor. 14:40). Spiritual leadership is best pictured by a shepherd, who must lead from the front. I must be an example in both character and doctrine to my flock so they will trust and imitate me, as I seek to imitate Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).

b. Do you stand firm in your leadership role against those who try to go against you and the church?

When it is a biblical or philosophical issue, I must stand firm. I do not want to be a pleaser of men, but a pleaser of God (Gal. 1:10). I am called by God to fight the good fight, keep faith, and a good conscience (1 Tim. 1:18-19), and can expect criticism and hostility in the process (John 15:19). I am to do this in a way that is “kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition” (2 Tim. 3:24-25).

If it is merely a matter of preference, then I try to be very open and flexible, asking what others think and looking for some consensus. I want to always be open to new ideas, suggestions, concerns, criticisms, etc. Sometimes, change is very good, just to get us out of a rut. Some of the best ideas and changes this church has made since I arrived originated from other people. If I had not listened to them, it would have hindered our health and growth.

c. Are you bold and do you let God convict you instead of listening to others and their opinions?

I believe I am bold and led by God rather than timid and led by people. People’s opinions will shift from one minute to the next. You have to learn in ministry not to take yourself too seriously, nor the compliments and criticisms of others too seriously. If you live and minister for God, it is a wonderfully liberating thing, because He alone becomes the audience you are concerned about. To avoid discouragement or hypocrisy, I frequently have to remind myself I am here to please God, not men.

6. Are you leading by the strength of your character?

a. Do you have a genuine love for the people and for God?

I deeply love the Lord and His church. I count it a tremendous privilege every day to serve God in full-time ministry. There’s nothing I would rather do. It is such a blessing to shepherd the flock of God. The burdens of ministry are heavy at times, as you deal with people’s sin and feel pulled in so many directions, but the joy is incomparable. God always seems to give you a word of encouragement just at that moment when you need it most. And I look forward to the day when First Southern Baptist will be made perfect and will become my “hope and joy and crown of exultation in the presence of our Lord Jesus” (1 Thess. 2:19).

b. Do you lead by example so the congregation will listen to you as the Pastor and see Christ in you?

I can’t expect anything from the church that I’m not first doing myself. It is extremely destructive for a pastor to have a “do as I say, not as I do” mentality. Many people have fallen away from the faith and left the church completely because of this. I’m not excusing their rejection of God or His church, because they will still be held accountable, but I do know there will be a heavy judgment on any pastor who has caused even one little one to stumble (Matt. 18:6).

Every area of my life should be an example and above reproach (1 Tim. 3:2). I’m far from perfect (chief of sinners would be more accurate), but I am striving to become more like Christ. I’m right there in the trenches, with my people, fighting sin and temptation every day and seeking to put on the full armor of God. I do hope as they watch me, they will learn to love Christ and be all-satisfied in Him.

c. Are you afraid that people won’t follow if you make changes and take complete control as the leader of the church and truly listen to God’s will for the church?

I’ve never really thought about this fear. God blessed me with a great team of godly men who serve as deacons in our church. I know I can trust them and glean great wisdom from them. If they were not supportive of something, then it would be highly, highly unlikely I would ever sense it was “God’s will” to move forward with it anyway. If, on the other hand, I have consulted with my fellow leaders and we really agree we need to move in a new direction and have biblical precedent for it, then I do believe I would step forward and lead with confidence, even if it put my reputation or “popularity” at risk.

I’m uncomfortable with the statement “take complete control as the leader of the church and truly listen to God’s will.” It sounds like something a cult leader would say. I always want to encourage people to search the Scriptures for themselves and discern if I am right or wrong. If I’m wrong, I want to be told. If I’m right, I expect to be followed. I don’t want people to just take my word for it. There’s no authority in that. I want a church full of Bereans, who “received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so” (Ac. 17:11).

God has given the church both leaders and a congregation to provide a healthy check and balance. Even the apostles, when proposing the first deacon ministry, gave instructions which “found approval with the whole congregation” (Ac. 6:5). Now, I realize unanimous approval is not always possible, but there should be a general sense that both the leaders and congregation agree to move forward in a new direction. If the people are not with you, then you may need to take more time to teach on the issue and explain the biblical reasoning for it.

New Blog

Today I'm closing up shop and launching a new blog called Pinch of Clay. You can visit it by clicking here . Please stop by and...