Reflections

I subscribe to the blog of several people (I.E. Thom Rainer, Paul Powell, Chuck Lawless, Josh Hunt) the purpose of reminding me of the important things, instruction about things I’ve missed over a lifetime of ministry, and reflections of life.  Today I received the following from Josh Hunt.  Admittedly, Josh’s calling is to lead the way into Sunday School & Discipleship by using various methods.  Truly, I believe this is God’s ministry for Him.  He can take a written work of someone else and make it a truly teaching tool which leads the participants toward becoming a Disciple of our Lord Christ. 
What you will read below is a combinations of Josh and Francis Chan.  I still remember the first time I heard Francis speak.  He was giving his famous “Rope Illustration” and it was so impactful that I used the video in a message at the church I was serving.  I confess my wrong attitude about the book he released entitled “Erasing Hell” because I misunderstood the message of the book.  In fact, from that experience, I have learned that, as a general rule, my first impression needs to be measured until I gain a better view of the truth.  This is a lesson that many could and should learn.
I have NOT READ (yet) his latest book entitled, “Letters to the Church,” though I have just purchased it on my Kindle and will read it in short order.  What is written below is written by Francis and should serve as a cause for us to reflect on our inner attitudes.  He has been and continues to be a man with a heart on fire for God. 

I encourage to read his words and then (below the line) read what Josh has to offer.  It may be a life changing moment.

FRANCIS:
Imagine you find yourself stranded on a deserted island with nothing but a copy of the Bible. You have no experience with Christianity whatsoever, and all you know about the Church will come from your reading of the Bible. How would you imagine a church to function? Seriously. Close your eyes for two minutes and try to picture “Church” as you would know it.
Now think about your current church experience. Is it even close?
Can you live with that?

SOME BACKGROUND

Eight years have passed since I left Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley, California, yet people are still asking me the same question: Why?
Why did you leave a church that was doing great things? Why would you leave all those people you loved?
Why did you leave the country when you seemed to be gaining influence? Did your beliefs change? Do you still love the Church?
You built a megachurch, started a college, wrote bestselling books, had a huge podcast following, and then you suddenly walked away from it all and moved your family to Asia. It just doesn’t make sense!
While I am anxious to share what God has been teaching me recently, it’s probably helpful to share about how God led me in the past. I want to clear up any confusion and give some insight on why I am writing this book.
First let me say that my years in Simi Valley were so good. I am literally smiling as I type this. I spent over sixteen years as pastor of Cornerstone, so my mind is filled with both hilarious and meaningful memories. So many faces come to mind, deep friendships, spiritual moments, and periods of awe over the things God was doing. I believe I will be spending eternity with many people who fell in love with Jesus during those years. Nothing can ever take that away.

WHY I LEFT MY MEGACHURCH

In 1994, when I was twenty-six years old, I decided to plant a church. It wasn’t something I planned on doing. After all, I had been married for less than a month. Lisa and I were having a rough time at our church. The elders and the lead pastor had been fighting, which eventually led to the pastor’s removal. The members were also fighting as they were divided on who was more wrong: the elders or the pastor. Everyone was discouraged by all the division. Sundays were far from uplifting, and I couldn’t see how any of this could be pleasing to God. It was at that time I told my new bride I had a crazy idea: What if we started a church out of our house?
Even if there were only a dozen people in our living room, wouldn’t it be better than what we had been experiencing? Lisa agreed, and so began Cornerstone Church in Simi Valley.
I was determined to create something different from what I had experienced before. This was my chance to build exactly the kind of church I wanted to be part of. I basically had three goals in mind. First, I wanted all of us to sing directly to God. And I mean really sing. I’m not talking about going through the motions of singing out of routine or guilt. Have you ever been part of a group of people actually singing directly to God? Singing with reverence and emotion? Singing as though God is really listening to their voices? That is a powerful experience, and I wanted it to be central to our new church.
Second, I wanted all of us to really hear the Word of God. We weren’t going to be those people who gather together to listen to some self-help nonsense, nor were we going to ignore half the Bible. I wanted us to dig deeply into Scripture—even the passages that contradicted our logic and desires. I wanted the presentation of God’s truth to be powerful, and I wanted us to take it seriously. So I began to preach week after week, verse by verse through the Bible. We all set out to truly hear everything the Word of God was saying to us.
And finally, I wanted all of us to live holy lives. I had seen too many Christians packed into too many churches who seemed to have no interest in actually doing what the Bible said. I couldn’t get past the tragic irony of this. These people would come back week after week to hear from a Book that demands that they “be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22), but they never seemed to do anything. Not that I was perfect or expected anyone else to be, but I wanted our church to be a group of people who pushed one another toward action. It didn’t make sense to teach the Scriptures without expecting change. So from the very beginning, we challenged one another to action.
And that was basically it. If we could move toward these three goals, I would be happy.
Francis Chan, Letters to the Church (Colorado Springs, CO: David C. Cook, 2018).


JOSH:
I have just completed a nine-session Bible study based on Francis Chan’s new book, Letters to the Church. It is available on Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as part of my Good Questions Have Groups Talking Subscription plan. The idea is to invite each participant to purchase their own book. Sessions include:
Chapter 1: The Departure
Chapter 2: Sacred
Chapter 3: The Order
Chapter 4: The Gang
Chapter 5: Servants
Chapter 6: Good Shepherds
Chapter 7: Crucified
Chapter 8: Unleashed
Chapter 9: Church Again

via Blogger https://ift.tt/2Pybclm

Did you Read…

NOTE: This was published a month ago on another blog – which, by the way, is supposed to be sent HERE.  However, everybody on the internet thinks they’re game is better than everyone else’s – so more and more things are becoming ‘exclusive’ or as I like to say, “PROPRIETARY”.  For us low-information techies, that’s tough..  Still working through the process. Thanks for reading…

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Since the June 28, 2018, edition of the “Baptist Record”, I have received an unusually large number of questions, comments, and statements over the article written about Dr. Thom Rainer, President of LifeWay Resources.  Candidly, I read so many of Dr. Rainer’s blogs that I couldn’t actually remember which topic was in the article.  However, I found the copy on our counter and now understand the many questions and comments.  The title of the article obviously caught the attention of many.  It read:

“Rainer: SBC must change course to survive”

Questions and comments that have come my way have been many and varied. Things like; “Did you see” or “Did you read this article?” “What do you think of this article?” And even, “Do you believe this article?”  My immediate answer to all these questions is ‘Yes’.  Yes, I did see it.  Yes, I did receive it.  And Yes, I do believe it.  Anyone who looks at the SBC with any kind of open mind, in other words-without any prejudice or having defensive nature, must come to the same conclusion because all the signs (and even symptoms) are evident and visible. Furthermore, this is not a recent development, it has been coming for many years.

Most know the story of the “Frog in the Kettle.” In the early 1990’s, George Barna released a book by that name. It was the first book that I devoured when God called me to preach. My mentor, Dr. Ted Traylor, recommended it and I read it. The picture of the “Frog in the Kettle” vividly remains in my psyche until today. For anyone who may not know, here is the picture; If you place a frog in a pot of hot water, he will immediately jump out of the water because he senses the danger. However, if you place a frog in a pot of room temperature water and SLOWLY raise the temperature, he will sit there until he dies in boiling water. The reason he will do this is because his environment is changing so gradually that he is unaware of the change. It creeps up on him until it is too late to change.

For me, this perfectly describes the SBC. Having said this and knowing all that I will say, I should qualify myself for the uninformed. I am ‘Southern Baptists Born, Southern Baptist Bred, and one day when I die, I’ll be Southern Baptists Dead. If you cut me, I bleed the Cooperative Program.” Southern Baptists, as I have known them for over 45 years of ministry, view the Bible as being God’s Holy Inspired word. It is our source of authority (at least that is what we say) for life, eternity, hope, help, and even governance. We believe in Advancing the Gospel at all cost. Our clarion call has been “Cooperation,” because we have known (past tense) that we were stronger together than separate. The Cooperative Program (while not perfect) has been and is the greatest missions sending and serving process to have ever been developed and has been the centerpiece for the strongest mission and ministry support ever conceived.

This said, why do I join Thom Rainer in believing that SBC must ‘Change or Die’? This is neither simple, easy to hear, nor is it easy to fix, because there are many levels of ‘why’ and undoubtably, it will be impossible to fully expand on all the issues which face us, so let me offer just one.

FOCUS:

The average church spends about 80% of their resources (I.E. time, planning, events, money, etc) internally. In other words, we plan for ourselves, and most of the time our plans take place on “OUR CAMPUS.” Whoever we plan for and spend our energies for is likely who we will reach. Most plans are laid with the idea of ‘how many of our people will attend’ as opposed to the thought of ‘how many unchurched or unsaved people can we touch.’ Focus.

Next, comes the lack of focus and energy on Evangelism and Discipleship. In recent years (as Dr. Rainer) stated, we have “jettisoned a programmatic approach to evangelism and replaced it with nothing.” Candidly, of the 10%-30% of churches that are increasing in attendance, the majority are not baptizing new converts but rather are getting their new members from other churches. While some call this “Sheep-stealing” or “Swapping Sheep”, one thing is sure, “If a Christ-follower is growing in his/her faith within their church context, then they would not consider moving to another church family.” In this, we discover the void which is created in a church that has no systematic approach to Discipleship. By the way, a systematic approach discipleship has, of necessity, a call to evangelism within it. Many of the people my age and older have never been discipled ‘one on one’. We basically (through the strong evangelistic years), put them under the water, sent them to a Sunday School class, and called it good. While there is much more to be said about this, two things come to the forefront; We must change (or rediscover) our approach to Evangelism (Leading People To Christ) and Discipleship (teaching people out to follow Christ) if we are to survive. Focus.

Next, we must change our lack of focus, our attitude about, and our approach to Prayer. And this means both Corporate and Personal prayer. An entire book could be written about this topic because many books have been written about prayer. But until prayer becomes a central focus in our church-life, we will see little of significance change. Michal Catt says, “Let’s not be known as a church that prays, rather, let’s be known as a praying church.” By the way, for prayer to become the central focus of our church life, there must be a return to prayer for the individual. Prayer is the ‘powerline’ for the individual and the church. The words are simple, the effect is stark, & the Focus is everything.

Next, we must focus on worship. This is not about a style of music. As a professional musician for over 45 years, I am keenly aware that music is only a vehicle or tool – there is not one note of music written in scripture. Our focus on worship is about an attitude of the heart. Yes, I have my ‘musical preferences’ or what I ‘prefer’ and honestly what I prefer is generally not in line with others of my age. That’s okay, until… we made the decision that our preferences about music is the ONLY TRUE WAY. When this happens, we have missed the point of worship. Worship has less to do with the style of the song (I.E. new or old, familiar or unfamiliar, fast or slow, hymn or praise song) than it does with the status of our heart. For many, to enter a room (I.E. Sanctuary, Worship Center, Store Front, etc) where people are gathering to worship with an attitude which focuses on ‘self’ and what “I’m going to get” is not only counterproductive but will always short-circuit any true worship experience. Whoever or whatever we focus on is, in fact, our god!!! Which song we sing, what instruments are used, how many times we stand, whether we have a children’s sermon or not, or any of a hundred things which occupy our minds are only distractions. We must return to a Biblical focus of worship where we give HIM our attention, our heart, & our focus. Admittedly, the problem of focus doesn’t always originate in the pew. At times, it starts on the platform by well-meaning worship leaders who miss the mark of simply pointing people to Jesus and experiencing Him. Here is the killer: Music is not the only way to worship. Sometimes, we may need a little corporate silence to hear from God. The lessons which I have learned over the passed couple of years by attending many different churches have been many and invaluable in my heart. But it is about FOCUS.

Additionally (AND I HAVE LEARNED, MOST IMPORTANTLY), our focus has been on things of man, not things of God. While we may take exception to this, I challenge us to be honest; how many times do we enter our weekly worship time with the idea of meeting or catching a vision of our Heavenly Father. It is indeed a matter of focus. I pray that we can turn our focus back to HIM. Then perhaps, the church can experience an Isaiah 6 moment which will ultimately lead to an Acts 2 moment. But don’t miss this; before Isaiah saw the Lord, King Uzziah died! Sometimes before a new chapter with the Lord can begin, something has to die. For us as Southern Baptist, we may need to ‘get over’ the idea that we have it all ‘right.’ It could be that our concepts must die so we can ‘See the Lord’ again. Focus.

Dr. Rainer’s clarion call is “Change or Die.” In that light, consider two thoughts from the business world.

The first is from Peter Drucker, known as the Father of American business, he offers two questions which can sober us: (I’ll let them speak for themselves)

“What business are you in”

“How’s Business”

Finally – the following quote should convict us when we consider all of the available statistics which tell us that we, the SBC, are on a death spiral. Depending on who you read, without a change – we have 10-40 years of life left as the SBC. This is stark. I pray that my kids and grandkids know & find their place within this great association of churches. The following statement is one from business which, I believe, should be embraced for the “King’s Business” and motivate us to make the necessary course correction. May God bless us that we will have the clarity of thought to make the needed changes – today.

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Be Christian instead of being nice

Everybody blames their parents for all their adult struggles.  Have you heard these???—

  • The reason I’m broken is because dad spanked me when I was little.
  • The reason I’m self-conscious is because my mom loved me too much.
  • The reason I can’t play ball real well is because I didn’t get my parent’s support.
  • The reason – well, you get the idea.

And with the idea I am laying forth, I know that some who are reading this are already ‘steaming’ at the very idea that I would say this and in so doing, “belittle people who have real problems.”

First, my heart is clean because I have no desire or interest in belittling anyone, let along someone who has emotional issues.  But we should never lose sight of the fact that ALL of us are broken and all of us have issues – and it is not necessarily the fault of mom and dad.

However, I do blame my mom and and dad for one thing in my life and that is, “THE NEED TO BE NICE.”  My parents taught me to always be nice, no matter what someone said, be nice, no matter what someone did, be nice, and no MATTER WHAT, BE NICE!  While some people may say that I did not learn this very well, I can and will testify that for most of my 60+ years, the desire of my heart has been to please my parents and by that, please God, by being nice.  It is ingrained in me.

Now add to this that for the last 40+ years I have enjoyed the privilege of  being a staff person or pastor in a SBC church.  I remember how excited I was when I went to my first position in Florida.  At age 20, green as a gourd, my thinking was that this has to be a ‘dream job’ because inside the church everyone would be ‘nice’ and ‘kind’ to everyone else.  Well, I’m not going to tell you what my dream turned into rather quickly, because there was struggle (and yes, some of it was with me – but most was present when I arrived and was still present when I left.)  Through it all, the admonitions of my parents to ‘be nice’ controlled my thoughts and desires.  Whether I conveyed that or not, be assured, that was my desire.

After all these years, it occurs to me that being nice is more a southern tradition than it is a biblical principle.  Yes, we should ‘be kind to one another’ and ‘love one another’ because these are indeed principles mandates by scripture, but sometimes ‘being kind’ and ‘loving’ is not synonymous with being nice.  In fact, sometimes being nice is anything BUT Bible.

You and I both have watched churches who are held back, held hostage if you will, by one or two people who seem to have a strangle-hold on the church.  Yet, everyone tries to be nice.  Sometimes our ‘being nice’ to church bullies renders us incapable of being ‘salt and light’ to those who walk in darkness and need the very thing we profess to have, “Jesus, the Light of the World.”

While I have thought this for many years, I have not been able to put it down in words until now.  And now, only after I’ve read the article that I’ve linked, I’m convinced of how we have crippled the powerful church of the Living God by allowing people to run rough-shod over her.

Please take 3 or 4 minutes and read this insightful article by Bill. It may change your (our) perspective on our mission and ministry.  Be Nice???

Southern Baptists – A Missional Minded People

One of my great joys in life is to be known  as a Southern Baptist who is a follower of Jesus Christ. Southern Baptists, while not perfect, are an outstanding group of people who love the Lord Jesus, His gospel, and the people who desperately need His grace.

What makes this group of Christ followers so unique is our doctrine, our independence, and our unending focus on missions. We have cooperated in missions for so many years that some take for granted who we are, what we do, and what our focus is.

Our belief is that the Church, the Lord’s church, the Church Christ died for, is the absolute front line of reaching the lost world for Christ. Early in our history, we discovered or realized that we were much stronger working together than working separate. It seems that this realization exposed our need to cooperate so individual churches connected together in the spirit of cooperation and, over the years, this cooperation has matured into what some call the greatest mission sending denomination to ever exist. That’s pretty big stuff.

Missions among Southern Baptist begins with the Association. An association is a group of local churches who commit to one another for the purpose of fulfilling missions LOCALLY. Said another way, we join together to fulfill the Great Commandment and Great Commission as given by our Lord Christ. Each church makes a commitment of manpower, finances, and other resources to expand the reach of the gospel in a local setting. The Association is the oldest MISSION organization known to Southern Baptist. Over the years, the Association has facilitated the cooperation between churches in ministries, missions, logistics, training, resourcing and much more. The bond of the association through the churches speaks to the community about the unity in the body of Christ. This is an organization (an association) of churches, for churches, and by churches. Pastors, staffs, and church members, only have status in the association by their membership in member churches. The Association has long been considered by Southern Baptists as the ‘First Line of Mission Investment’ for the churches.

The next levels of missions among Southern Baptists are separate, yet tied together. This level is Missions Nationally and Internationally. Southern Baptists have a unique and yet effective way to accomplish this great work together, we call it “The Cooperative Program”. The name says it all. As Independent Churches, we “Cooperate” by giving an amount of money (normally a percentage of undesignated receipts) through the Cooperative Program. Through these gifts we are able to send missionaries to all parts of the world and are able to respond to the needs of people in underserved countries as well as those in pagan cultures. Our Cooperation makes it possible to send more Missionaries to more places, train them adequately (I.E. culture, language, etc.) and take care of them and their families better than we ever could individually.

We also support seminaries, schools, mission boards, as well as serve many other gospel causes. What could be said about the work of the Cooperative Program could not be contained without pages and pages of words and writing, but the point is made.

While over the past several years some among us seem to have made a decision that there is no more need for the Association or the Cooperative Program, it would seem the better plan might be to get on board with the MISSION PLAN that has worked well for years making sure we evaluate and update when the need arises because we really know that when we do it together we do it better.

It is true that some churches take mission trips and do missions in many other ways besides these two and that is OUTSTANDING. May their tribe increase. However, the church that gives to the Association and Cooperative Program has a reach beyond their imagination. God seems to have blessed this SBC endeavor.

In the final analysis, Southern Baptist are a missional people who have developed a way for even the newest mission or the rural church who has only 4 members to be involved in missions. And a GREAT MISSION it is.

Bemoaning The Wrong Things

 

 

A few years ago many were amused or irritated by teenager Ethan Couch’s legal defense of ‘affluenza’ in a deadly drunken car crash.  They were certainly not amused by the damage and death he cause, but by the seemingly preposterous defense he offered.  Affluenza, while laughed at by many, seems to be a modern day affliction that has, arguably, grown into an epidemic.

According the online dictionary known as Merriam-Webster (well that is familiar), one of the definitions for affluence is the “extreme materialism and consumerism associated with the pursuit of wealth and success and resulting in a life of chronic dissatisfaction, debt, overwork, stress, and impaired relationships.”  All of this brings me to my definition (according to “Watts” dictionary that I’ve written in my heart), “Being so accustomed to getting one’s own way that one feels they deserve all the best things in life to the exclusion of the interest of others.”  This definition is confirmed by the number of publicity ads which include the two words, “You Deserve”.  You can get the computer you deserve, the car you deserve, the spouse you deserve, and the money you deserve, if only you will do it OUR way.  Truthfully, this attitude plays to the basic instinct and desires of all human-kind so this should not be a surprise about how powerful this approach is to people at large.

The real surprise is how easily this attitude has made its way into the modern-day church.  For the life of me, I cannot imagine Paul, Peter, John, James, or any of the rest of those first-century believers taking a stand on ‘what I deserve’, because they were keenly aware that, without Jesus, they were deserving of a place designed for the devil and his demons.

When a people gets consumed by an ‘I deserve’ mentality and then ‘when they don’t get what they ‘think’ they deserve,’ a problem develops that, in the words of a really OLD children’s song, is both ‘deep and wide.’  Complaining, bemoaning, and (as David Ring loves to say) belly-aching follows.  For instance, we have long enjoyed the luxuries and amenities of the modern day church building such as heat, air, and padded pews.  So today, this generation has come to believe that we ‘deserve’ to have heating & air to be comfortable.  So, they church must provide that OR, the attitude is, “we will have to do something else.”  While you may think this is a somewhat trite illustration, it begins the downward fall.

For many years, Southern Baptist churches were generally ‘cookie cutter’ type of churches.  The programs and schedules were very similar, no matter where you lived (well – at least in the south – GRIN).  Sunday schedules went like this: 9:45 SS, 11am worship, 6pm – Discipleship Training (I.E. Training Union, Church Training, etc), 7pm – Evening Worship.  Renegade churches began to ‘dare’ to change their schedules 9 or 9:30am and the church world begin to come apart, more accurately, the ‘programmatic church’ began to unravel.  

I said all of that to say this:  Sunday School and the “Training” (no matter what it is named) are both really good ‘tools’ if they are used correctly.  However, the purpose or goal of God’s church or God’s people has never been to promote, maintain, or build a program or establish a tradition, but rather, it is to make disciples.  These words were the ‘marching orders’ of Jesus when He left Planet Earth.  It is not to make sure each church has a comfortable building (which most churches in America do), technology (which many, if not most, do), a Sunday night large group worship time (which fewer and fewer do), or even Sunday School (which – well you know).  Making disciples, ‘people who act like, live like, talk like, and care like’ Jesus, is our prime directive.  

Add to these truths the fact that most churches (we all know the numbers – 70% to 90% plateaued or declining) are struggling and in trouble.  Additionally, many of the church that are in trouble are unaware of just how vulnerable they are.  Yet, the things which are ‘bemoaned’ the most by many are NOT lack of disciples being made or people saved by the changing power of Christ.

The number one complaint or regret seems to be (and I quote), “Nobody is having “Discipleship Training” any more” or “No one is having Sunday evening service any longer.”  Now it is true that training disciples is exactly what Jesus commanded us to do when He left the earth, however, the regret has little to do with the abandoned process, rather, it is the loss of a program which they are bemoaning.  Additionally, while we should never “Forsake the assembling or the assembly”, the rub about Sunday night has little to do with authentically meeting God is a corporate time of worship as it is the loss of yet another programmed time.

Years ago, I heard a pastor say, “People aren’t afraid of change, they are afraid of loss.”  If God could and would bless anyone because of ‘programs’, it would have to be Southern Baptist because we have programs for everything.  Programs, in and of themselves, are not bad.  They make great tools (as long as they work, but a program makes a horrible god.  

Maintaining a program is hard work, making disciples is hard work, but one produces man walking with man while the other produces man walking with God.  I pray that we are not so far ‘down the road’ that our ship of motivation, perception, and commitment can’t be turned around.   

Let me illustrate what I am trying to say:  My wife and I seem to do more traveling (mostly for ministry) today than ever before.  Inevitably, we leave home and one of us forgets something.  It may be something we wanted to carry or something we wanted to do, but we forget it.  Candidly, it depends on how far we have made it on our trip as to whether or not we will, ‘turn around and go back.’  I see this as a picture of where we are in the church today.  Have we gone down the program road so far that to return to a process and lifestyle is beyond our thoughts or thinking?  Have we bought into the “Institutional church’ and given into the “gravity” or “pull” of the institutional church that to change the direction is seemingly impossible?  

Today I began writing another article entitled, “Let Stop doing the business of being a church”.  My fear that is we are so far down the road of making the local church and her ‘programs’ our focal point that to turn around and make the ‘manifest presence of God’ our priority, to see Him work powerfully, and to expect Him to do what only He can do, is beyond belief.  The work of God’s church, by God’s church, in God’s church, and through God’s church is not something that should one should be able to explain, but rather something that is only explained by God.  The only way someone can be saved is if God does the ‘heavy lifting.’  

Perhaps what we should be ‘bemoaning’ is that too much of what we do is easily explainable by man and not attributed enough to a divine, supernatural, and all-powerful God in heaven.  Perhaps we should be ‘bemoaning’ that we have little expectation of God showing up.  Perhaps we should be ‘bemoaning’ that the reason these things are true is because we are living in Mark 6.   Mark 6, to this preacher, is one of the saddest passages of the entire Bible.

Jesus went home to Nazareth to help those people who had helped Him when He was growing up.  Verse 5 and 6 intimates that, “Jesus could do NO MIGHTY WORK there….because of their unbelief.”  If that wasn’t bad enough, verse 6 follows with (the famous Watts translation) “so He went someplace else to do what He WANTED to do in His hometown.”  

My prayer is that we will relearn or rediscover what is important and what is not and reclaim the mission, ministry, and mandate to which our Lord has called us.

We Need To Learn

These past couple of days have been difficult.  Couple of days ago a friend missed an important meeting because of assisting with a church in crisis which, it was suggested, that we would hear about in the days to come and then today I did.  Then, the news broke about Coach Freeze.  I am heart-sick and I am heart-sick on so many levels that to put it into words is almost impossible.
For those who know me, I have been (and still am) proud to call the “Freeze family” personal friends.  They are a family of love, faith, and conviction and the Coach is no exception.  One of my godly pastors put it this way, “Most men, if not all people, are one dumb decision away from complete and total disaster. Some just have a bigger platform.”  Sadly, Hugh’s platform was huge, the fallout large, his enemies and fair weather friends are having a field day, and the entire saga is sad.  My love and prayers continue for this family.  
Please don’t get me wrong, I am not defending his actions (whatever they ALL were and no one outside a small circle really knows) and I know that stepping down and moving out of the spotlight was needed. We cannot condone what he did or dismiss the consequences that follow, but here’s my hope: that we learn a better way to handle the ‘fallen-ness’  of man as well as the ‘fallen man’.  We tend to throw the fallen man under the bus, berate, and forget him.  It seems that this culture gloats when a person of notoriety falls or fails, and yet it is made worse when the fallen person attempted to live life in a way that pointed people toward the Lord.  Coach Freeze impacted a large number of people in the right way.  Today he suffers, because of a bad decision, embarrassment and humiliation, the likes of which most of us will never know .  That said, my prayer is that he will not leave his spiritual foundation, repent before the Lord, give attention to self and his family (which I have little doubt – has already happened), and allow some of his believing friends to assist him in restoration. Galatians 6:1 expresses it something like this, “If anyone of you finds one who has fallen into sin, let you who are spiritual restore the fallen brother, keeping watch on yourself lest you are tempted.”  The following verse is sobering, “If anyone thinks he is something, he is nothing, deceiving himself.”  Christian friends should come to the rescue and assist one who is fallen.  
A friend of mind who lives less than an hour from me went through a difficult time many years ago.  In one of our conversations which followed this soul-wrenching time, he said to me, “When you get in the middle of a struggle, you quickly discover who your friends REALLY are.”  The principle of scripture is, ‘if you want a friend, be a friend’. A true friend walks in when everyone else walks out, he/she doesn’t ‘throw you under the bus’ when you mess up, but perhaps goes under the bus and drags you out.  
In the 1980’s a well know evangelist fell into sin and shame, ultimately going to jail.  I shall never forget the day of this announcement because another evangelist felt it ‘his duty’ to go on the night shows to condemn the fallen man.  Ironically, 6 months later the judge because the judged as the second evangelist fell in a sexual crisis..  
My prayer is this: Through this crisis in the life of one we have admired and marveled at these past years and now find ourselves saddened, disappointed, and even confused, I pray that we begin to ‘learn’ a new way to deal with the ‘fallen brother.’  I have already heard the sad statements about the Coach, but for me, if I can help I will.  I believe that helping the fallen brother is our call, while it may not be the popular thing, it is the right thing.

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WAKE UP CALL

First of all-a confession. For the last several years I have read Dr. Thom Rainer’s blog off and on for reasons that I don’t care to articulate…but his blog that I received today is SPOT ON!! In fact, this may need to be printed and distributed widely (since many won’t read a blog).   Before I point you toward it and offer a link to it, let me give some perspective.
Churches are closing at a rapid pace today.  churchleadership.org tells us that we plant 1000 churches each year and CLOSE 4000!!  With an exploding population, we are headed in the wrong direction.  Sadly, because of our ‘affluence’ (in other words, ‘money in the bank’) the average church does not recognize and has not come to grips with just how close they could be to closing. 
In the past few weeks I have spoken with several pastors who are scratching their heads about things like ‘finances and attendance.’  These are good and godly men who spend time with God everyday and are attempting to lead their churches to become God’s outpost for gospel witnessing, soul winning, and disciple making.  Yet, when one digs deep in those church fellowships, there exist a spiritual disconnect which is almost like a ‘bad business plan’ (okay, bad analogy – but it will have to do).  God nor His word never changes – ah, that would be never, ever, ever, etc!!  That said, we must speak the language of our culture to offer those wonderful words of life – “IF” we expect the people who make up this culture to respond.  This means the church MUST CHANGE THEIR PHILOSOPHY WITHOUT CHANGING THEIR PURPOSE (or if you like it better – their message).  Let me illustrate.
I live in an agricultural area. A couple of weeks ago I saw “SEVEN TRACTORS” in one large field. WOW!!  I was impressed!!!  SEVEN TRACTORS!! – and they needed every one of them because the field was so big.  The owners of this property made the outlay for these John Deer Tractors with one purpose in mind – TO BRING IN A BIGGER AND BETTER HARVEST!!  This has been the goal of every farmer who has ever broken a piece of ground!  However, the advent of the ‘tractor’ is a relatively new invention.  It’s one of those ‘new-fangled’ things. 
If we could step back in a time machine about 100 or 150 and take a look at how this same field would be broken up, laid by, and planted back then, you would likely see horses, mulls, plows, and the like.  Quite likely, that large acreage could not be handled in such a way.  Those ‘new-fangled’ things allow for more productivity and possibly a better harvest.  (By the way, if we don’t like the farming illustration – how many would like to ditch their washer, dryer, dish washer, ovens (self-cleaning), or how about ‘disposable diapers and return to the old ways?)
At least 2 things seem a little odds to me.  First, why is it that people my age and older are so reluctant to & resistance to this thing of ‘change’.  I heard one preacher say that “People aren’t afraid of change, but are afraid of loss.”  While I get this, I’m not sure I understand how our theology is harmed when we only adjust a philosophy.  Paul said, “I have become ALL THINGS TO ALL PEOPLE that I BY ALL MEANS might save some.”  Secondly, why does change work in every other phase of our lives BUT the church? 
NOW – To Bro. Thom.  Please hit this link and take 3 minutes to read his blog.  He writes it to the “URGENT CHURCH”….Never has there been a time that is more URGENT for the church than today.  We do this for our posterity, our children, our grand-children, and on and on…BUT we do it for the sake of the gospel and the Kingdom of our Lord.


Dr. Thom Rainer

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