Friday, January 6, 2017

Bizarre Reasons People Have Left Their Church

I love the ministry and the people the Lord has called me to pastor. It is an honor to preach God's Word, exciting to see people trust in Christ for salvation, and amazing to witness their lives being transformed by the grace of God as they grow in their walk with the Lord. Nevertheless, there are heartbreaking challenges of the ministry. One such challenge is the revolving door that can be found in churches. As new people come into the church and the church starts to grow, there are others that happen to be leaving the church. Rather than church attendance being like a steady staircase of growth, it can be more like a rollercoaster of going up and down. Pastors are usually heartbroken when anyone leaves, but we’ve heard some reasons that really make you scratch your head. Some may even make you laugh. I asked some pastor friends to share with me some of the bizarre excuses they’ve personally heard. Here is a compilation of excuses us pastors have heard on why people have quit going to their local church.

  • Someone asked us about our salvation experience, and we thought that question was too personal.
  • The church service doesn’t end at noon every week like my friend’s church does, and that’ll make me late for lunch with them every Sunday.
  • The pastor is too young or he is too old.
  • My parents made me go to church, so now that I'm an adult I don't want to go anymore. (Did their parents make them take baths and brush their teeth?)
  • Church business meetings are held during the evening or midweek service instead of the Sunday morning service.
  • Pastor, don't look at the clock! Just keep on preaching till you're done! A couple months later...they're leaving because they think the pastor preaches too long.
  • The pastor doesn't get political enough in his messages, yet to another he is considered too political in his messages, hence they both leave.
  • There are not enough programs and activities to entertain the kids, they have to hear the pastor preach the word of God instead.
  • A couple complains that they can't hear the pastor's preaching very well and asks if he could speak up or adjust the volume some. A couple months later they leave the church saying the pastor is too loud for them.
  • Observing the Lord's Table two to four times a year is not enough, we might forget that Jesus died for us if we don't do it more often. (Do they celebrate Christmas every month so they don't forget that Jesus was born? Did the Jews forsake fellow Israelites because they only observed the Passover once a year?)
  • The pastor preaches the bible during Sunday School instead of teaching a Sunday school lesson. 
  • The church doesn't have as many deacons and/or trustees as I think there should be (although I wasn't willing to serve in that capacity when they asked me if I would)
  • A friend or family member didn't like something that the pastor preached, so I'm upset with the pastor too now and am leaving...even though I know what the pastor said was from the Bible.
  • I am stagnant and declining spiritually, and it's because of the pastor's preaching.
  • The pastor personally bought something for the church, but he never asked the church to vote on it first.
  • The church doesn’t have a potluck meal every week (although the next church they attend doesn't have it every week either)
  • The church replaced the long pews with cushioned chairs, and I think a church should have pews (although the next church we joined also uses chairs)
  • The pastor had the treasurer step down from his role due to him and his wife not being faithful attenders to church, not being transparent with the finances, and they have a gambling addiction.
  • The pastor announced they were having a special offering coming up in several weeks, and the pastor reminded the congregation about it the next week when he gave church announcements.
  • The pastor preached from Song of Solomon, Proverbs 5, and I Corinthians 7, and I don't think the parts of the bible that teach about marital intimacy should be taught in church.
  • The Lord's Table is not always on a Sunday morning. Sometimes it's done Sunday night or during a midweek service. (Jesus didn't even institute the Lord's Table on a Sunday, but rather in the middle of the week.)
  • The song leader sang a song that a member requested to be sung, but it was done as a special instead of as a congregational.
  • I left the church because me and my family are going through struggles: personal sins, having marriage issues, trouble with addictions, etc. (Isn't that part of the reason remaining part of a church family is important?)
  • The pastor is too passionate when he preaches, he actually jumped on a pew while he was preaching, and that's totally irreverent! This church should be solemn and monotone like the presbyterian church I used to go to.
  • The church has dress standards when people are serving in leadership and ministry roles: Sunday school teachers, choir members, ushers, etc. (translation: I am willing to wear a uniform for my job, or dress up for a wedding or funeral, but I'm not willing to abide by a dress code when serving at God's house)
  • A family tells the pastor that they prayed about joining the church and that God is leading them to do so. A couple of weeks later they are leaving the church because "God is leading them in another direction." (They apparently found out something about the church that God didn't already know)
  • I'm not telling the pastor why I'm leaving, I don't think it'll do any good. (Even though their concern was misperceived and had no factual basis)

These are reasons people gave for leaving a church, but it's really an issue of the heart and one's personal walk with the Lord. Sometimes the whole family doesn’t even know why they are really leaving. It can be something simple as a pastor privately and lovingly challenging a man to spend more time with his wife and children. Instead of considering the advice, the man gets angry and through criticizing the pastor repetitively to his family, it turns them against the pastor, who they once loved and appreciated. The ironic part was that the pastor was trying to help them gain more time as a family. Another reason a family may leave a church can be simply because a good man is afraid to lead his family with conviction and righteousness because his wife is a brawling complaining woman and doesn’t like another church member or the pastor, or because their children would rather go to an entertainment styled “church.” Sometimes a person leaves a church simply because they’re routine church hoppers, who are never satisfied (Proverbs 27:20). When they tell me that we are the fifth or sixth church they’ve visited in the past year, I know they’re not likely going to stay long. 

Regardless of how comical the reasons may be in the above list, the reality is that my pastor friends and I are almost always grieved when anyone leaves. The work of the ministry must go on, so there is no time to have a pity party, there are still souls to be saved and believers to be discipled in the word, and worldwide missions to support. Nevertheless, pastors miss those who have been a part of the flock before and the church family also misses them being a part of the church body. They are people that you’ve grown to love and invested in, and perhaps led one of their family members to the Lord. Some of them even were a support to you and the ministry of the church at one time. Oftentimes those who were the most excited and greatest support to a new pastor coming in, end up being the ones that leave the church and hurt you the most. I still love those that spent a lot of their time criticizing me while they were a part of our church. Moses was a great example to look up to who continued to love and pray for his fellow hebrews even when they sinned and murmured against him and the Lord continually (Deut 9:13-29). As my pastor regularly taught me, “When you love people, you will get hurt, but love anyways.” I never truly understood the weight of that until I was a pastor myself.

Now imagine this! Imagine if instead of finding petty reasons to leave their church, people got engaged in the work of their church! Instead of getting bitter when offended by something, we chose to forbear and forgive one another. Instead of being a habitual critic, we went out soul winning and saw people saved. Imagine if everyone decided to stay and be fitly joined together with a right spirit and personally helped make their church great again! The fruit to the glory of God could be tremendous!


Ephesians 2:19–22 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.

Colossians 3:12–17 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye. And above all these things put on charity, which is the bond of perfectness. And let the peace of God rule in your hearts, to the which also ye are called in one body; and be ye thankful. Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord. And whatsoever ye do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God and the Father by him.


Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Let us know in the comments any crazy bizarre reasons you’ve heard people say why they chose to quit their church.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

8 Thoughts on Fishing

Jesus often went fishing with his friends. It must have been one of those sports that he enjoyed. We also see in the scriptures that he loved having fish with his disciples for a nice meal. Jesus even used the idea of fishing as an illustration to reach others with the gospel. He told his disciples to follow him and that he would make them fishers of men.

Matthew 4:18–20 And Jesus, walking by the sea of Galilee, saw two brethren, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers. And he saith unto them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men. And they straightway left their nets, and followed him. 

Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost and commissioned his church to do the same. This causes me to consider a question. Would it be plausible that if we are not fishing for men, then we are not truly following Christ? As I thought about fishing, some parallels of fishing for fish and fishing for men came to mind. Here are eight thoughts that I hope will help encourage you to follow Christ in fishing for men.

Preparation


Wise fishermen make preparation before they actually go out fishing. They put appropriate attire on for the activity. They get their gear. They’ll often prepare several leaders for their line in advance so they’re not spending too much of their time making leaders when they’re supposed to actually be fishing. We will generally be more effective in sharing the gospel with others when we prepare our self through prayer, meditate upon the word of God, and are actively part of our local church. When we come together as a church to exhort one another, it helps prepare us to go out into the world and be fishers of men. 

It is important to bring a tackle box with you when you go fishing as it provides storage for you to have enough supplies to go fishing. I’ve gone fishing before and didn’t have the right bait. I’ve forgotten to bring weights with me. When I was without these needed supplies, the time fishing wasn’t very profitable and I went home rather quickly. It is important to memorize bible verses and references so you can have scriptures stored in your mind to readily give the gospel and answer questions people may ask. For starters, the “Romans Road” is a good selection of scriptures to memorize (Romans 3:23, 6:23, 5:8, 10:9-10, 10:13, 5:1). Underline them in your bible, make cross references to other scriptures, and store them in your memory and it will do you well as a tackle box does for a fisherman.

Patience


The first time I went fishing at a river I thought to myself, surely since I got here early in the morning and if I stay till dark then I’m bound to catch at least one fish. I didn’t catch anything after being out all day! Another fisherman told me that you can usually expect to catch a Steelhead every 500 casts or so. Then I read online that Steelhead is sometimes even called the “1,000 Cast Fish.” 

I learned to be a good fisherman requires patience. Some may give up fishing after trying only once or a few times. But real fishermen are patient and keep on trying. If a fisherman hasn’t caught any fish, or simply hasn’t caught his legal limit yet, he will often keep on trying. They don’t want to give up. They will tell themselves “just one more cast” over and over again. Fishing takes both patience and endurance. I’ve been told that when a relatively big fish takes the hook then it can take 1-3 hours to successfully reel the fish in. That can be exhausting. 

After going soul winning for so long and not leading anybody to Christ can sometimes be discouraging and make you think it’s useless spending your time that way. Yet we see the fisherman enduring with much patience till he catches something. And if he unfortunately doesn’t that day, he doesn’t just give up. He goes fishing again another day. The eternality of the soul in heaven or hell ought to be more of a concern to us than a steelhead or salmon. The more we go fishing for men, the more likely we’ll make a catch. We often will reap in proportion to how much we sow. The more patient and passionate the fisherman is, the more likely he will catch fish. The more passionate and determined we are as Christians to fish for men, the more likely we will catch some. Let’s gain the excitement to “just give out one more tract” over and over again.

Attraction


Fishermen use bait, lures, scents, etc, to attract fish so they can catch them. We also need to do our best to attract people to Jesus Christ, to persuade men to believe upon him for salvation (II Corinthians 5:11). I’m not talking about sugarcoating the gospel. The gospel must be given in its pure form, teaching repentance and faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, our life ought to reflect an attractive life in Christ. I’ve known Christians who if I was lost and saw their life, I would want no part of it. They were sour and mean spirited. We won’t successfully fish for men if we are not living a life that is spirit filled and following Christ. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven.

Where some people error is when people say their only method of evangelism is their life style. They say that they don’t want to impose their beliefs on others, so they will just live the best life they can and maybe people will want to believe the gospel. According to a study by the Barna Group, three out of four Christians in the United States (74%) will share their faith only through “lifestyle evangelism,” an approach void of direct, verbal witness to the lost around them. The oxymoron is that by not sharing their faith with others, they are not following Christ’s command to teach the gospel to every creature.

Suppose there was a man who lived by the lake and bought some fishing rods and reels. He also purchased bait, lures, and clothes for the occasion. He talked about how he loved fish. He even decorated his house with fishing gear and photographs of fish. Yet he never personally went fishing. He lived much of the life of a fisherman, but he could not rightfully be called a fisherman. His lifestyle alone does not catch fish. We ought to do our best to live for Christ, to have a testimony that is attractive to others when they see your love, the peace you have, and the joy that you possess. A lifestyle that is becoming of the gospel combined with a verbal witness of Christ will attract people to the good news of salvation from sin.

Nets


Using a net helps prevent losing fish that are on the line. We don’t just give up on catching a fish when it is close to the shore. Sometimes we use the assistance of others to draw a net. When one professes Christ as their Saviour, we ought to do our best to help them be grounded in their understanding of the word of God. This sometimes takes a team effort. Some plant, others water, and God gives the increase. One may have shared the gospel with someone, and yet it may be later when they hear the gospel again when they get saved. Then there may be a Sunday School teacher that helps them continue to grow in their walk with the Lord. Or it may be you teaching them one on one that they may continue to grow in grace. Just as fishermen use the help of others, we also can be more effective when we utilize help from others as well. Someone made the fishing rod, another provided the line, another made the hooks and lures, and another person made the bait. Then one catches the fish. We can be assisted in our evangelism through bringing a prayer partner with us when we go on organized church outreach events, help prepare for an event, design or order tracts, praying for others when you’re unable to physically go out. Having genuine hospitality towards others when they visit your local church can also help net them in.

Stink


When one catches fish, it doesn’t take long to learn that fish stink. Some don’t go fishing because they don’t like the smell. Fishermen can’t get around it. If they’re going to fish, there will be unpleasant smells. Everyone of us stinks with sin. We may all have different sins that we struggle with, but all of our sins stink. If you follow Christ and go fishing for men, you’re going to find sinners. We must be willing to go where it stinks, and be loving towards sinners whether they’re out in the world or visiting your church. It is Jesus Christ alone who can clean up their life, so point them to Jesus who washes away our sin.

Priority


Fishermen make fishing a priority. That is why they end up bringing fish home on a regular basis and feed their family. Christians ought to make fishing for men a priority. Many people are eager to launch a new business, career, hobby, or start a new relationship. Many see the spiritual need surrounding them. Yet few have the faith and courage to take action. Few are surrendered to launch out in response to Jesus’ command, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Will you begin making fishing for men a priority? Perhaps start out by committing yourself to give out at least one gospel tract a day. By the end of the year you would at least have given out 365 seeds of the gospel message. 

Multiplication


Besides enjoying spending time with my children, going fishing with them brings another advantage. We get more poles in the water and are likely to catch more fish. As a church, we will lead more people to Christ when more of us are fishing for men. I encourage you to be faithful to give the gospel message to those God puts in your path as well as get involved in your church’s scheduled outreach opportunities. The more people there are fishing for men, the more people you are likely to catch with the goodness of the gospel. After Jesus got Peter and Andrew to follow him, he didn’t stop there. He called after James and John as well, and many others.

Matthew 4:21–22 And going on from thence, he saw other two brethren, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in a ship with Zebedee their father, mending their nets; and he called them. And they immediately left the ship and their father, and followed him.

Challenging


Fishing can be challenging, but good fishermen are optimistic when they go fishing. They go with an attitude of hope that they’re going to catch fish. Recently a restaurant owner asked me how the church was doing and said “Your job must be more difficult than mine. People have to eat food. They may not always come here, but we’re likely to have a steady customer base as people need to eat and people love pizza. You on the other hand have two options to grow your church, and both are difficult."
  1. "You can try to get people from another church, but if they’re already at another church then they’re probably already content where they’re at."
  2. "Or you need to convince people that don’t believe in God, or hate church, to change their mind and all of a sudden desire to start coming to your church."
He was right. Fishing for men can be challenging. Our focus is not the first option, but rather the second. Jesus came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. If myself and two other men go fishing together, let’s say Daniel and Bruce for example. Suppose Daniel catches three fish and puts them in his ice chest. However, Bruce and I don’t have such luck. So Bruce takes two of the fish out of Daniel’s ice chest and puts them in his own. I see that and take one fish out of Bruce’s ice chest and put it in my own thinking its fair that we all have one fish. Have we caught any more fish than the original three that Daniel caught? No! There were still only three caught, they just changed hands. A church’s growth ought to be primary of reaching new people with the gospel, not simply swapping members from one church to another. Jesus called us to be fishers of men, not keepers of an aquarium.

Although this can be challenging, we are most likely to catch men if we are optimistic in our attitude and pray believing that the Holy Spirit will use us when we fish for men. Set aside pessimistic attitudes about soul winning. Fishing for men won’t work if you don’t work at it. You may have already toiled a lot by giving out many tracts, inviting people to church, telling them about Jesus, but seemingly having no results. Don’t give up. Keep on fishing for men. Cast your net out at Christ’s word and you’ll reap a harvest of fish.

Luke 5:4–8 Luke 5:4 Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught. And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net. And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.

Luke 5:10–11 …And Jesus said unto Simon, Fear not; from henceforth thou shalt catch men. And when they had brought their ships to land, they forsook all, and followed him.



Friday, March 6, 2015

Seven Components of Growth Found in a Healthy Christian

When people have the inspiration to become healthier they will follow various diet and exercise guides to help them stay on track. The food pyramid was the most popular plan when I was growing up. Sweets were the top of the pyramid and the tiniest portion we were supposed to partake in. Fruits, vegetables, meats, and dairy were in the middle of the pyramid diagram. Wheats and grains were on the bottom and were the largest portion we were to eat to have a healthy balanced diet. Now there are diets that have an emphasis on not eating wheats and grains at all. There are also dairy free and meatless diets that have a major following. Typically, one usually does grow healthier as they follow a guide, as they are being more conscientious of what they eat. However, the top recommended diets are constantly in a flux. They’re always changing. The same is true with exercise plans. As important as it is to eat healthy and to exercise, we should take heed that we don’t neglect growing in our spiritual health.

1 Timothy 4:8 For bodily exercise profiteth little: but godliness is profitable unto all things, having promise of the life that now is, and of that which is to come.

Here is a guide you can follow to help stay on track in growing spiritually. And this type of plan won’t change in a decade. They are components of growth found in a healthy Christian yesterday, today, and t.

Growing in Grace


2 Peter 3:18 But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

Without any regard to any of our works or our merit, it is the grace of God that saves us through faith in Christ. Yet as a born again Christian we ought to continue to “grow in grace.” Grace means “favor.” We grow in God’s grace, in his favor, when we are walking in the Spirit. 

It is due to the grace of God we are able to have our sins forgiven. The grace of God doesn’t give us a desire to continue to live in our sin either. Romans 6:1–2 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin, that grace may abound? God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein? While we will still struggle with the sinful nature while we are in this flesh, the grace of God continues to help us overcome sin. If we grow in grace it will reveal itself through us getting victory over sin.

Titus 2:11–14 For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.

Another aspect we are to grow in grace is by showing grace towards others. We are not deserving of the grace of God, yet God still revealed his grace to us. Therefore we ought to follow his example of showing grace to others. Others should be able to come to us and see hope. We should increase in our graciousness towards others; to show favor, to care for, and manifest goodwill. To grow in grace is to grow spiritually; it is to increase in God’s favor.


Growing in the Word 


II Peter 3:18 revealed to us the importance to “grow in grace,” and it also tells us of the need to grow in “the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” We grow in our knowledge of Christ by reading the word of God. The Apostle Peter said in his first letter, “As newborn babes, desire the sincere milk of the word, that ye may grow thereby” (I Peter 2:2). A newborn baby would die if it had no source of nutrition. This is the same with older children and adults. If we don’t eat for a long period of time, then we would die sooner rather than later. We need the milk of the word of God to grow spiritually. As we mature spiritually, as a baby does physically, then we are able to digest and understand more of the word of God (Hebrews 5:14). For growth we must make the word of God a priority to us as Job did. The Bible says that Job was a man that was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil. Job had this to say “Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food(Job 23:12).


Growing in Communion with God 


In order to grow closer to the presence of the Lord we should make our prayer life a focus. Most of us probably can increase the time we spend in prayer, all of us ought to improve the quality of our prayer. I’m not talking about making fancy and eloquent prayers. I’m speaking of making sure you are actually engaged when you’re praying. Take heed that when you pray that you’re not just mumbling off a few words without any thought to it. Don’t pray simply out of routine. Don’t pray without faith. Have confidence and believe that God is actually going to answer your prayers. Jesus said “What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them (Mark 11:24). The Apostle John wrote “And if we know that he hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of him" (I John 5:15). After all, God desires to show his children the miraculous. Jeremiah 33:3 Call unto me, and I will answer thee, and shew thee great and mighty things, which thou knowest not. 

Be truly connected to God in prayer and he will draw nigh in presence. Psalm 145:18 The Lord is nigh unto all them that call upon him, To all that call upon him in truth. Growing in our prayer life certainly brings us closer to God when we seek him with all of our heart. Jeremiah 29:12–13 Then shall ye call upon me, and ye shall go and pray unto me, and I will hearken unto you. And ye shall seek me, and find me, when ye shall search for me with all your heart.


Growing in Faith


Having mentioned the importance of prayer in a Christians life, let me reemphasize that prayer without faith is meaningless. It would simply be words thrown in the air. Our faith isn’t supposed to cease after we’ve trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation from our sin and the consequences of an everlasting lake of fire. We can’t even please God without having faith. Hebrews 11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.

We are to grow in our faith in our God. II Thessalonians 1:3 We are bound to thank God always for you, brethren, as it is meet, because that your faith groweth exceedingly, and the charity of every one of you all toward each other aboundeth;

It will do us well to learn to trust Him in our prayers, have faith that God will fulfill the promises he’s revealed in his word, and have faith in following the leading of the Holy Spirit. We are to be faithful in giving of our tithes in our local church while applying good financial stewardship overall, and have faith to trust him to provide for all of our needs. I believe one of the main reasons God even teaches us to give is to increase our faith. It is the only time I’m aware of where the Bible ever says to test him, to prove him (Malachi 3:10). How has your faith been lately? Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and he will provide for us all physical and spiritual needs.


Growing in Love


Ephesians 3:17–19 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love, May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.

If we’re going to be sincere followers of Jesus then love is going to be a staple of our life. To know the love of Christ results in us loving God and others. When we stop dwelling on the love of Christ, then our love cools off. Have you dwelt on the love of Christ lately? Let his love flow through you. Jesus said that all men would know who his disciples are by their love for one another (John 13:35). The two greatest commandments, the two that all the law and prophets hang on is based on love. Foremost to love God and secondarily to love others. There is no law against love. Let love be a trait you’re diligent to grow in. 1 Thessalonians 3:12 And the Lord make you to increase and abound in love one toward another, and toward all men, even as we do toward you.


Growing in Involvement at Church


For Christians to be healthy in their spiritual life they need to be involved in a local Bible believing church unless they’re providentially hindered. The local church is foundational in importance to a genuine follower of Christ. Hebrews 10:25 Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching. 

If you’re a Christian that is or is not currently part of a local church, ask God to help you grow in what Christ loves. Christ loves the church. He died for the church. Most of the New Testament was addressed specifically to local churches. It’s in the church that Christians are to be accountable to one another. It’s where Christians are to participate and get involved in serving God. It’s where we are to gather to worship the Lord together. It’s where we are commanded to care for one another’s needs, those of the household of faith (Galatians 6:10). We aren’t to treat church simply with a consumer mentality, but rather in the fashion of how can I personally get involved and be a viable member of the Lord’s church? 

I Corinthians 15:58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.


Growing in Sharing the Gospel


Healthy fruit trees bear fruit. Healthy Christians are also going to bear fruit. They will bear the fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22-23. They are also to bear fruit through sowing the seed of the word of God. Just before Jesus ascended to Heaven he told his disciples to preach the gospel to every creature. We ought to make his last command one of our first priorities. Jesus said that his Father was glorified when we bear much fruit. How has your evangelism been? Who was the last person you told about Jesus? Is it recent or has it been too long ago? Work on growing in this area in your walk with the Lord that he might be glorified. It will also bring you much joy when you introduce someone to Jesus Christ as their Saviour. 1 Corinthians 3:8 Now he that planteth and he that watereth are one: and every man shall receive his own reward according to his own labour. Those that lead many to Christ are going to be rewarded by the Lord for all of eternity. Daniel 12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.


Conclusion


These are seven components of growth found in a healthy Christian. May this be a guide you can use to track your own spiritual growth and walk with the Lord. Pursuing Christian maturity will also lead to doctrinal stability and prevent a Christian from easily being led astray. 

2 Peter 3:17–18 Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before, beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness. But grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. To him be glory both now and for ever. Amen.

  1. Growing in Grace
  2. Growing in the Word
  3. Growing in Communion with God
  4. Growing in Faith
  5. Growing in Love
  6. Growing in Involvement at Church
  7. Growing in Sharing the Gospel

Friday, October 10, 2014

Edifying & Thought Provoking Reads - 10/10/2014

Click on the headings to go to the articles

What to Do When You're Down
As a pastor and a friend, I will sometimes have people come to me who are discouraged or suffering to some degree a bout of depression. Sometimes they don't even know why they're feeling down. When we are feeling vibrant and things are going well for us, it can be easy to overlook those that are depressed. Be alert, perhaps God will use you to be an encouragement to someone. When we ourselves are down, there are things we can do and an attitude we can seek to have that will help our cheer. This is a great article about what to do when you're feeling discouraged.

The Scandal of the Semi-Churched
It is natural for the non-saved to not have a desire to wake up Sunday morning for church or to attend after work for the midweek service. That's to be expected. One thing that is alarming and doesn't really make sense is that many Christians now hold church to a lower esteem. If it's convenient and they're not busy doing something else then they might show up for church, as long as they're not already exhausted from their Saturday entertainment and activities. They like church, but other things commonly come before the Lord's church. They are the semi-churched. Why a born again believer wouldn't make coming to God's house a priority is mind boggling to me. Christians should be making church more of a priority today, not less.

Hebrews 10:24–25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

This trend of undervaluing the priority of church can be contagious. I've seen Christians lose their passion for the things of the Lord in part because their spouse first brushed aside the value and importance of being in church regularly. After all, it gets difficult coming to church by yourself when your family seems disinterested. So the whole family ends up becoming lethargic, lukewarm, and joyless Christians who are in desperate need of a strong dosage of revival. I recommend going to the link above on The Scandal of the Semi-Churched and giving it a read. Let's not become "as the manner of some is," let's not be "semi-churched." Let's grow in grace and be fully engaged in provoking others unto love, good works, and exhorting one another even more as we see the day of Christ's return draw closer.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

The Way of Champions

The Seattle Seahawks had a phenomenal year this past season winning the Super Bowl by the enormous margin of 43-8 against one of history’s best offenses the Denver Broncos. Now they have just freshly beat the Denver Broncos in a nail bitter of 26-20 in Over Time. An interesting statistic is that Russell Wilson is now 7-0 in winning against teams with the elite quarterbacks Peyton Manning (2-0), Aaron Rodgers (2-0), Drew Brees (2-0), and Tom Brady (1-0). There are many keys you can look to on what has helped make Seattle such a dominate team, but I would like to point out just a few keys specifically as it pertains to their quarterback Russell Wilson in leading the way of the Seahawks consistently being a championship team, as well as how these characteristics can be beneficial for you and your church.

The Legacy of a Father Goes a Long Way
Russell speaks much of his father. He is very fond of him and often speaks of lessons that his father taught him or encouraged him in. Speaking of his father he said, “He used to always tell me ‘Russ, why not you?’” With his dad’s encouragement he said that despite the potential disadvantage of being a short quarterback that he decided to play football to go against the odds. Russell has used his dad’s motivation to encourage his team to strive for excellence in the beginning of the season by incorporating his dad’s saying “Why not you Russ?” to “Why not us?” in regards to making it to the Super Bowl. 

His father always encouraged him to be the best he could be. Fathers play a crucial role in the development of their children. The legacy that they pass on can be positive or detrimental. Children need their fathers, they are their glory.

Proverbs 17:6 Children’s children are the crown of old men; And the glory of children are their fathers.


Fathers, make sure you are actively involved in your children’s lives. You can be the key to their success in life, their walk with God, as well as make an impact on them that will impact others. Russell’s father’s words impacted him so much that he helped inspire his team to a championship. Your harshness or simple absence can effect your children in ways that you regretfully did not intend.

Ephesians 6:4 And, ye fathers, provoke not your children to wrath: but bring them up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.


The Power of Encouragement
With the Seahawks you’ll often hear of the 12’s or the 12th Man. There are only 11 players per team on the field at any given time. To have any more would be a penalty call. So what do they mean when they refer to the 12th Man? They are referring to the fans. Now the fans don’t practice all week, rough it out in a game of football, or even make any money for being the 12th man. In fact, it costs them money to go to a game! So what is all the hurrah about? Even though they are not playing on the field with the 11 players, they do make an impact on the game! After this week 3 game of the 2014 season, Russell Wilson in his career is now 17-1 in winning games at home (CenturyLink Field of Seattle) during the regular season. While playing on the road his record is only 9-8. Still a winning record, but not nearly as dominating as when he has home field advantage. I expect his win/loss ratio on the road to continue to improve, but the stats clearly show that the 12th man, the fans of Seattle, do make a huge impact motivationally for the Seahawks to win games. They cheer them on enchantingly when they have possession of the ball. It helps the tempo and rhythm of the home team. It helps the players feel an extra boost of adrenaline to push to succeed at winning the game.

Can you imagine a NFL football game where there were no fans watching the game? The game would lose it’s impact. It is vital to a healthy church for people to show up and be there. It would be empty for a pastor to preach where no one showed up to church.  There have been times where right after an emphasis of outreach for a special day, we had many visiting guests but a significant amount of regulars would be absent. Obviously there are times when people are providentially unable to be there, but something I’ve noticed is that our impact as a church is often reduced in reaching out to visiting guests when our member’s attendance is lower than average. It is important to be in church when we are able, not only for ourselves, but also for others.

Hebrews 10:24–25 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

Not only is it crucial to faithfully attend a local bible preaching church, it is also important for people to be engaged and active in serving in the church. The work of the church is handicapped if it is solely left to the “professionals,” i.e. the pastor, deacons, etc. The truth is that every member is to be an active part of the work of the ministry. We all have various gifting abilities and different roles, but we should all be engaged in the local church that God has planted us at (1 Corinthians 12). Things are hindered when you’re not there and when you’re not involved in some aspect. We are not only supposed to assemble, we are to provoke one another unto love and to good works. The power of encouragement in the church body helps produce a vibrant and healthy church.

When the opponent team of the Seahawk’s has possession of the ball, the fans (12th Man) are extremely noisy to a science. They get as loud as they can to distract the opponent team’s concentration and to make it difficult for the team to hear the play calls. We can encourage the work of the Lord in the local church by aggressively resisting sin in our lives, not giving place to the devil, and loudly confronting those who would bring disunity to the church body through slander and gossip. The Bible says in Proverbs 25:23 “The north wind driveth away rain: So doth an angry countenance a backbiting tongue.” Discouraging others from speaking ill of one another, and by not giving an ear to those who seek to cause damage in the church, helps create an atmosphere of unity in the church which enables the church to be focused on the proclamation of the gospel to the lost and ministering to the saints. Any opponents ought to know who we are cheering for. 

Setting the Standard Higher for Yourself
Russell Wilson sets a high standard of excellence for himself. Some may think he goes overboard at times. But his standard of excellence is only going to help him, not hurt his reputation. The first time he did an interview at Wisconsin where he played college football, he asked to borrow a shirt with a collar from the equipment manager because he chooses to not do interviews in a T-shirt or shorts. This interview wasn’t even on camera I hear. Yet he set the standard higher for himself, even though it wasn’t necessary. Following an NFL game, he dresses in a suit and tie before giving any media sessions. Do all players do this? No. Is it necessary to? Not at all. Yet Russell Wilson, as a leader of the team of being the quarterback of the franchise, chooses to set the standard high for himself. The reputation of himself and his team matters to him.

In the Christian life, there are times where we may want to set the standard higher for ourselves to not bring reproach upon our name or the name of Christ, or simply to not cause a stumbling block to others. As a pastor, there are somethings that I choose not to participate in not because they are necessary sinful, but to be above reproach and avoid being a stumbling block to others. One example would be that I choose not to go to the Movie Theaters. Granted there is often a lot of filth, immorality, profanity, etc. on many of the movies. Those are things all Christians shouldn’t watch. However, there are occasions where the theater may be playing wholesome movies, yet I still don’t go. It’s not as if its a sin to watch a movie on a larger screen. I also wouldn’t expect other Christians to necessarily hold to the same standard I hold to. I don’t feel like having this standard is keeping me in any form of bondage, but a responsibility I freely hold to as a pastor. I could give a list of reasons why I don’t go, but one reason is simply to not be a stumbling block to others. To most it probably wouldn’t be a stumbling block. But I wouldn’t want to cause a situation in which a child asks their parents why they’re not allowed to go to the movies when their pastors goes. Though I may have liberty and not have to be held to another man’s conscience, as a pastor I am happy to strive to live blameless and give none occasion of stumbling. With leadership comes a greater responsibility. As a Christian we also want to make sure we’re looking out for one another.

1 Corinthians 8:8–13 But meat commendeth us not to God: for neither, if we eat, are we the better; neither, if we eat not, are we the worse. But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak. For if any man see thee which hast knowledge sit at meat in the idol’s temple, shall not the conscience of him which is weak be emboldened to eat those things which are offered to idols; And through thy knowledge shall the weak brother perish, for whom Christ died? But when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.
The Separation is in the Preparation
Russell Wilson is regularly heard saying there’s “No time to sleep.” Obviously he gets some sleep and the bible says in Ecclesiastes 5:12 “The sleep of a labouring man is sweet” but even a little too much sleep will hinder success. Proverbs 24:33–34 “Yet a little sleep, a little slumber, A little folding of the hands to sleep: So shall thy poverty come as one that travelleth; And thy want as an armed man.” Russell means to emphasize the importance of preparation to be successful. He wakes before the sun rises. According to a report I read he gets to work at 5:30 AM, which is quite a bit earlier than when practice actually starts. He even prepared his mind the year before they won the Super Bowl, by attending the previous Super Bowl to get familiar with the atmosphere, the media hype, and the pressure that would come during such a big game. He was preparing himself mentally, as he really believed they had a chance of making it to the Super Bowl the next year. One of his common cliches is “the separation is in the preparation.” Preparation is vital to success.

Proverbs 30:25 The ants are a people not strong, Yet they prepare their meat in the summer;

Proverbs 6:6–8 Go to the ant, thou sluggard; Consider her ways, and be wise: Which having no guide, overseer, or ruler, Provideth her meat in the summer, And gathereth her food in the harvest.

What has set Russell and the Seahawks apart is their intense preparation. Whatever ministry God has placed us in, may we work at preparation. What typically sets a great church conference from a poor one is preparation. What is often different from a good sermon from an ok message is the preparation. The separation is in the preparation. A great employer or employee is one that knows how to plan and prepare for the occasion. I am usually up late working, but I am challenged to go to bed a little earlier that I may arise earlier and prepare my day more efficiently.

Having Vision and Goals
Having a vision and goals is important for any NFL team. Last year Russell had some reminders of goals he had written in his locker. They were Consistent, Dominate, Clutch, Healthy. Consistent being number one. Russell struggled a little the latter fourth of the season of putting any elite statistics on the board. However one thing he was good at was having goals and being consistent. Even when he didn’t have his best offensive game, he was consistent at not making any costly mistakes. Seattle’s defense often picked up the slack when Russell wasn’t doing his best and they still won games because of a true teamwork environment and they had a vision to win. They had goals for themselves.

It is important for Christians to set goals for themselves. To set goals that help their spiritual growth and to have a vision with accommodating goals of how to grow the particular ministry the Lord has them involved in. Set goals for your family.

Philippians 3:14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.

Focused Intensity and Diligence
The Seahawk players put all their focus on the game they’re playing. Although the vision is to make it to the Super Bowl and win it, they are focused on the goal right in front of them: to win the next game. When others would talk about the playoffs prematurely, the players and coaches would often say “Our goal is simply to go 1 and 0.” Now every team basically says they have that mentality, but the Seahawks really successfully got this ingrained in all of the players. They had a focused intensity about them. They worked diligently at preparing for the game that was ahead of them, treating every game as a championship game. The following was written in another article online regarding Russell:

“How did Wilson arrive at Wisconsin in the middle of the summer, so far behind, then win the hearts of his new teammates so quickly that four weeks later he was named a team captain?” “He works harder than you," said Cole Hawthorne, one of his old receivers at Collegiate. "That's what got so many people following the bandwagon. It's almost like a challenge. You're trying to work harder than Russell."


We all could do well to have the same character to work diligently at whatever is before us. Ecclesiastes 9:10 Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.

Not Living in the Past
The Seahawks have enjoyed their Super Bowl celebrations, but you don’t see them consumed with it now. Their motto is “What’s Next?” They are not focused on back then, they’re looking at what’s next. The Super Bowl was back then, this is now. We also need to make sure we are not consumed with the past, whether they are victories or failures. Reflect on the past, but don’t live in it. Focus on the now, that which is before you.

Philippians 3:13 “Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before,”

Making a Difference
Another trait that Russell embodies well is compassion. He visits the Seattle Children’s Hospital just about every Tuesday, his day off. At the close of last year I heard him say that he met over 1,500 kids in hospitals from around the country and that 82 percent of them did not have a father or mother. That demonstrates a sad condition our country is in with regards to the family unit. Russell shows compassion on many who often facing terminal illnesses. May we all strive to manifest compassion towards one another.

Jude 22 And of some have compassion, making a difference:


The Making of a Champion
Here is an excellent video about the attitude and mindset of several of the Seahawk players and coaches regarding the making of a champion. Do watch. It is inspirational and something you don’t commonly see in professional athletes. May Jesus Christ be preeminent in our life! To God be the glory!