Saturday, December 2, 2006

Are We Doing Enough?

There are so many things that pastors and staff must be about in the church. Administration & office work, calendar planning, studying, visiting, the many miles of hospital runs(depending on where you are serving), funerals, the many folks who just want to drink coffee with us, and of course dealing with people’s personal desires, wants, and preferences. That adds up to a lot of stuff. And to be honest, there’s never a day where I don’t feel simply overwhelmed by all I didn’t get done during that day.
Each and every day brings me more on my plate than I can possibly accomplish. But I try! We all try! The work of the ministry never ends, does it?
As I think through all of the things I mentioned above(and more), I realize that most of that stuff isn’t what we are to be about anyway. Not ultimately.
What are we to be about? What are our top goals & priorities? Asked more plainly, what does God want us to be striving for; what should we be accomplishing(I’m talking here about all of God’s people – paid & volunteer)?

In Matthew 28 & the Great Commission, Jesus simply stated that we should be about making disciples & all that entails. Things like winning folks to Jesus, teaching, discipling new believers, guiding them in sacrifice & obedience, baptizing folks, and growing God’s people closer to Him. Now please don’t misunderstand me…there’s nothing wrong with softball, gospel concerts, 5th Sunday Singings, and potlucks. But there is a problem with those activities if that’s ALL we’re doing, especially if we allow ourselves to come to believe that those types of programs should be our top priorities.

For years, I have been struggling with the growing reality that we’re not doing enough with God’s people when we have them at church. What makes me say something like that? Well, it’s things like…

• Our Christian marriages are dropping like flies(with many teetering on the edge)
• Pornography is invading a high percentage of Christian homes
• Tithing is a dying practice...slipping away from our young families and young people
• We have to beg & plead for folks to serve and sacrifice these days
• Faith is a foreign word...there's no dreaming, no vision, we're not
shooting for anything.

I could mention many other things that you all could also think of. Our effort at church no longer seems to be making a difference in the lives of God's people like we hope to see and want to see. We have got to be doing more with God's people when we have them at the church house. We have got to get our people back to the place we're their relationship with God really makes a difference in their lives.

* A few things to think about...
Doing more with God's people is a must...and a tough job in 2006, with the attitudes of society and this world. And helping God's people make a difference doesn't have anything to do with doing MORE! There is a very real attitude which says that packing more and more onto our church calendars makes God's people more spiritual. The only thing I have to say about that is, "Who says so?" There's no truth to that in any kind of way. The church calendar rut & rat race has eaten many a preacher and church members' lunch. In fact, so often we preach about the family and spending time together, yet, it's the church and its activities that most often separate families from one another.

Like you, I'm coming to the place where I'm deciding that the LESS we do the better. Our churches are full of activities that not only don't win people to God, but don't grow the saved any closer to Jesus either. I mean...we all have had to endure activities & traditions that had ceased being effective years ago.

I'm currently reading the book, "The Simple Church." The book points out that the fastest growing and most evangelistic churches in America are churches that have adopted very simple processes for doing church and making disciples. These churches don't get bogged down with a bunch of useless activities that changes no one's heart. They're even simple down to the wording of their purpose statement. As I read this book, I get a thrill and excitement in my heart and spirit. I believe this is the direction we need to go in and get serious about. We live in such a busy society, we are busy people, and it's not going to get any better as time goes forward.

I'm an advocate of reexamining church membership. We don't need to be afraid to be very straight forward about the expectations of those that come to Christ & our Church. In scripture, Jesus is very plain about the COST and SACRIFICE required to follow Him. It seems these days...the only requirements for folks in our churches are that they must be able to cook, sing, and fix something. We need to require more of folks who call themselves Christian.
Let's do our best to start making the decisions and changes needed to really make disciples. Let's let go of all the things that don't matter. Making disciples is all that really matters anyway.

Let's get just praying for a change.

God bless each of you. Until then...

Bro. E

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Those Crazy Adjectives!

There's a new trend in Southern Baptist Life...ADJECTIVES, ADJECTIVES, ADJECTIVES!

It seems these days that there's quite a bit of pressure to tack the right adjectives on the front end when we speak of and describe God's Word. Most of you know what I'm talking about(and if you don't you should feel lucky!). Words like "inerrant" or "infallible" seem to have become rather crucial to others ideas, thoughts, and understanding concerning what they think I believe about God's Word.

When describing God's Word, you can no longer just simply say God's 'HOLY' Word. You can no longer just say 'INSPIRED' Word. That's no longer good enough now during the post-takeover era in the SBC. You have to use those two(2) words(inerrant, infallible) at all times when talking of and about God's Word. I can't say, "I love God's perfect Word." I have to say the exact words, "I love God's perfect, inerrant, infallible, Word of God." If I don't use those two words then I am automatically assumed to not believe the Bible, I'm black-listed in the state convention, and removed from elegibility to preach at the Annual Baptist Associational Meeting!!

I've made my mind up that I will never use the word 'inerrant' when describing God's Word. I'm not going to do it. No way, never! And I don't care what the consequence might be. Not because I don't agree with the definition of inerrant, but because the word has become a battle word. "Inerrant" is now a word of manipulation & division. Fundamentalists try and corner and trap those they believe do not believe that like they do or are not on their side or in their club. I'm against any attitude, action, word(ing), maneuvering, or anything else that divides people. And especially God's people. Oh, I know. They say we've got to weed out all those Christians that "don't believe God's Word." Jesus told us in Matthew 12:25+ that "Every kingdom divided against itself will be ruined, and every city or household divided against itself will not stand." Most "adjective" people ignore that particular 'inerrant' scripture! They probably also overlook Paul's words in Romans 16:17 when he says, "I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions..." But what most Christians forget is that you can use every positive adjective known to man to describe the Bible, but that doesn't necessarily mean that you will live God's Word & allow Jesus to translate out in your daily life.

I know there are many pastors that harp about the "inerrant" Word and then walk out of their church and hate black people. They preach about the "infallible" Word and then go home and cheat on their taxes. They throw around the "inerrant" Word in sermons while constantly treating their wives like second class citizens. And if they rant & rave about certain adjectives and then go out and live in those ways...then it's my belief that those folks don't believe God's "inerrant" Word near as much as they think they do!

So someone might ask the question, "Then what's the point to all of this?" My answer is that it's certainly not about adjectives!! And it's not whether everyone is in total agreement about the Word of God. The key is "INTERPRETATION." I sat at the Southern Baptist Convention this past June in Greensboro, NC and looked around that coliseum wondering if there were actually folks that traveled all that way to the SBC Convention that honestly did not believe God's Word. And I've got to honestly say that I dont' believe there were any. But I do think that there were probably many, many differences of interpretation among the Baptists present. That's really the key. It's not that some believe the Bible while others don't. But it is about there being different interpretations among Southern Baptists. Not everyone is going to believe and interpret the same thing in the same way. And if there are those that allow their beliefs & convictions to drift way outside the perimeters of SBC doctrine and theology...there's not much I can do about it. But God never said it was ok for me to get out of fellowship with my brothers and sisters in Christ! Especially over differences in adjectives that we use.

When I was pastoring in the Louisiana Baptist convention several years ago, every few weeks or so I would recieve the newsletter from the state's Baptist Inerrancy Group and I would throw it in the trashcan. It never failed though, a few days later I would always receive the state's Baptist Moderate newsletter. Do you know what I would do with that publication? That's right. I always threw it into 'file 13' also.

I wouldn't then, and I'm not going to start now...wasting my time, energy, and effort to read or support these group's publications who have nothing better to do then bash, bad-mouth, and rebash one another over what they say and think they believe about God's perfect Word. When you honestly believe and trust the "inerrant & infallible" Word of God, it changes all of your life...even how you treat other people who may not believe exactly like you do.

These days, "Inerrancy" is about men who want to climb the SBC social & political ladder so that they can raise themselves up above everyone else. So they can control how everyone else lives, believes, and thinks. But I'll just have to say "NO THANKS" to all that. I'll just keep letting the Lord Jesus control my life. That's good enough for me.

I believe the entire Word of God(oops I didn't use any adjectives!). I believe it from the front cover to the back cover. If I can't believe some of it, how can I believe all of it? Yet, I personally will not allow my personal beliefs to be brought under the control of others opinions of me based on certain adjectives. I simply do not trust the motivation & heart of those that can't simply trust my heart and words.

I was just thinking the other day that some things are worth fighting for and some things are not. And one thing that's NOT worth fighting for are certain ADJECTIVES! I was never that good in english anyway.

God bless each of you. Until then...