The Real Thing

It has been a very busy week for me as Spring brings with it quite a number of tasks that need to be done to prepare for the Summer ahead. Back to mowing grass, weeding shrub beds, cleaning gutters, washing windows, and making the pool ready for the swimming season. It also seems my job has brought with it a whole different set of tasks that has required a great deal of my attention not only this past week but the week before. All of this has left little time to prepare this week’s post so, like last week, it will be short but it will be to the point.

This evening our quartet, Reassurance, had the honor of ministering to and worshiping with the group of fellow believers at Pleasant Ridge Baptist Church. It is a small church in the Petersville community with small numbers yet with a worldwide outreach. They presently have folks on the mission field in Honduras doing short term work. In spite of their small numbers they are playing a role in making the Great Commission a reality. And it is sad to say, but there are other much larger churches that don’t take serious the task at hand. I think a lesson could be learned here.

But what I really want to point out tonight is the character of these people and many others like them in small churches everywhere. As we minister in these places we find out how much these people love Jesus and are not afraid to voice it and show it. There is no facade or mask they hide behind.  They just live their life as if it is natural to serve Him because of what He did for them. It takes me back to a time when you could find this in just about every church and it really didn’t matter what the “denomination” was. I don’t know for sure what has happened but I would venture to guess that the church has become so much like the world that you can’t tell the two apart. I think that there are a whole lot more people “playing” church than we really want to admit. God help us!

I long to see those earlier times again. I want to be around those kind of people that we were with tonight. I love seeing the love of Christ in their faces and experiencing it in their actions. Thank you God for using this small group of believers to remind me what real Christianity looks and acts like. Make me more like them. 

Rising and Reigning

This evening’s post is relatively short as we prepare to celebrate Easter Sunday. I just wanted to remind all of us how important the resurrection is to our faith. So hear it is. 

Tomorrow is the greatest holiday celebrated in the world of Christianity because it was the final nail in the Devil’s casket. From the beginning, if there was one, Almighty God had a plan to reconcile man to Himself. Before He created man, He knew man would lose his innocence by giving in to his own pride. But He had prepared a way for us to return to His fold like sheep who have gone astray. It was a plan that included a perfect sacrifice, One that would become sin for us so that we could receive His righteousness. The man Jesus, God’s only Son, conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a virgin, living a sinless life, dying on a cruel cross, being buried in a borrowed tomb rose on the third day just like He said, just like God planned, defeating death and hell, ascended back to Heaven and sat down at the Father’s side awaiting the time to return for His bride and begin His reign forever and without end. What a glorious day was Resurrection Day!

With that said, I also want to pass on something I received from my pastor after last week’s post. He had read it in SBC Voices and I think it is a great addition to the series on satellite churches we just completed. I have included it in the following paragraphs. 

The Shepherd and the C.E.O

Below is a comparison between the Shepherd and C.E.O. I pray God moves in our hearts and we reflect the heart of The Good Shepherd.

  • E.O. Leaders use people for progress
    • Shepherd Leaders love and invest into people
  • E.O. Leaders see friendship and pastoral work as an obstacle to success.
    • Shepherd leaders see friendship and pastoral work as success.
  • E.O. leaders see accountability as a challenge to their authority.
    • Shepherd leaders see accountability as caring for their heart.
  • E.O. leaders know how to work the system and manipulate to get their way.
    • Shepherd leaders know how to work through things with others to get God’s way.
  • E.O.  leaders build a talented team to carry out their vision.
    • Shepherd leaders build a talented team to cultivate the church and each other.
  • E.O. leaders see other churches as competition.
    • Shepherd leaders see other churches as family.
  • E.O. Leaders use the Bible to reveal their vision
    • Shepherd leaders use the Bible to reveal Jesus

I believe that this speaks volumes and like I told my pastor, it is apparent to me that there are not enough Shepherds and way too many CEO’s. I also pray that God moves in our own hearts so that we can reflect the heart of The Good Shepherd, the very One we celebrate tomorrow.

Thank you Brother Mark for sharing this.  

One Church, One Lord!

We have spent the last three weeks discussing what I refer to as satellite churches in an attempt to determine if their presence have a real place in the evangelical church world of today. However, as I have previously pointed out, the real question is whether or not their existence is supported by scripture and then what are the real motives behind the start of one. As we close out this series tonight, I will be the first one to admit that I don’t have all the answers but I certainly have my opinions as everyone else does. But I endeavor to base my opinions on what the Word of God says because it is the authority.

In last week’s post I listed a few potential motives that could be involved in the rapid growth of these churches. And I use the term “church” rather loosely in this case because a believe it lacks several things that meet New Testament criteria. From the information I have gathered, there is no resident pastor for the local congregation and there are no serving deacons/elders that have been selected by the local congregation just to name a couple of concerns. It doesn’t appear that to me that there is an avenue for the believers to use their God-given spiritual gifts to edify the church body. I do not know how tithes and offerings are handled and who is accountable for the stewardship of them. I don’t know how systematic group bible study is conducted and how discipleship of new believers is undertaken. So I am rather skeptical about the bible based validity of these organizations and the motives for their being established.

I will certainly admit that I am very old-fashioned in my ideas and convictions regarding the  structure and purpose of the local church. I believe local evangelism is number one, outreach to the rest of the world with the gospel through missions is next, and the necessity and criticality of the spiritual growth of believers through fellowship and bible study is essential. I will also admit that the dramatic growth in communications technology has brought to the table some new ways to conduct business but I’m not sure it is all that useful in the church world for anything but sharing the gospel. And even then it will never take the place of face-to-face interaction and one-on-one witnessing. So, for me, I am so thankful that I have a wonderful church family that comes along beside me to bear my burdens but also hold me accountable for the way I live my life.

In closing, I would like to point out that as we look at God’s Word there are things that seem to lend themselves to a different interpretation and/or formation of differing opinions by folks but we need to be careful that we don’t take something that in the great scheme of things is nonessential and try to build a theology on it. We certainly need to stand firm on the essentials of correct theology and make no apologies for it. But sound theology is not based on opinion but on the authority of God’s Word.

Well, I warned you that this would be an interesting series and I think it has proved to be such. Most of the time, discussing something like this leads to more questions than answers. There is one thing is for sure; there is coming a day when everything will be revealed and answers to questions we have had will be available. However, I doubt we will care about many of those answers because we will be so caught up in the presence of Jesus that those questions won’t matter. Can I get an amen?  

A New Church???

This week we continue our discussion about satellite churches and how they appear to be growing in number and in participation. The main interest here is whether they are first of all, biblical, and then if they are a necessity in today’s church culture. Last week the following question was posed: Why would a church a number of miles away feel it necessary to rent a large meeting room, hold a meeting, televise it by closed circuit to the home church, and call it a church worship service, especially in an area where numerous local churches exist and many of them strong churches that are preaching and teaching correct biblical doctrine? This question then leads to the concern as to what are the real motives for establishing these satellite churches and this week the intent is to point out some potential motives that may be behind them. At this point the writer is not trying to arrive at a final answer to the question, just point out some possibilities to consider.

So let’s start first with what all of us hope would be the motive behind the movement. That is this. It is a sincere and honest effort to share the gospel with more people than just those in the area in which the main church resides. In other words, it is an attempt to follow the Great Commission that is outlined in Matthew and Acts, to evangelize the larger area and then ultimately the world. We all understand that this is not just a suggestion but a commandment from our Lord himself. From the recent past point of view this includes local missions, state missions, missions across our own country  and of course, missions in foreign countries. However, these mission efforts occur through a born again believer that God has called for that purpose and that missionary is supported by a local church or group of local churches. There are also other mission oriented organizations that do short-term excursions in foreign countries to provide, medical, dental, and other services to the people there in addition to sharing the good news of the gospel. Hopefully this finds an end in that area with a new church established that will be led by a local pastor. So if this is the real motive for organizing a new satellite church it could be a reasonable assumption that it is a good thing.

But now let’s take a look at some other possible motives. One of the most obvious ones that comes to mind is money. We’ve seen many television evangelistic programs that have brought quite an abundance of wealth to the promoters and the evangelist. But we have seen many of them fail because of pride, greed, and other sins that became obvious and made public. And on the other side of the coin, there are still quite a few around that are raking in the cash. The same thing could very well be going on with some of these satellite church organizations. The Bible talks about bringing all our tithes into the storehouse and how the gospel preacher is worthy of his hire. That is, tithes are to be used to support the pastor and to meet the needs of the church and people who are in need. So the question here is this. “If the participants of the satellite church are giving their tithes there, are they aware of how they are being used and know who is accountable for the stewardship of the tithes?” We need to be reminded that money is the root of all sorts of evils and that has never changed.

What about the motive of power and prestige? We all have known some church leaders that have devised all kinds of programs and pushed various ideas that on the surface appeared to be for the growth of the church just to later find out that it was a personal agenda for them to feed their ego and make themselves look good. That’s exactly what was going on with the scribes and Pharisees in New Testament Days and I’m sad to say that things haven’t changed and there are more leaders out there than we think that fit this category.

Another motive to consider is centered around efforts to slowly move the church towards a different theology than what has been espoused and accepted in the past. All we have to do is look at what is happening in many of our local churches and see how the theology has shifted towards something other than what we’ve known in the past. I’m not saying that the past is always right but we need to be very careful about what we are hearing today. These changes normally are coming from someone who is seminary educated and most of what they have learned has come from someone else and not from their own personal study of God’s Word. And folks I believe this is one of the main reasons why so many local churches are slowly dying. So many believers are listening to what some man (or woman) says instead of studying God’s Word on their own and letting the Holy Spirit enlighten them. This could be the number one motive for why we are seeing so many of these satellite churches springing up around us.

Well, we have covered some of the possible motives but there may be others that come to your mind. Again, I am looking for a good answer to the question of the biblical validity and the necessity of these organizations. Next week we will attempt to take everything we’ve discussed into consideration and come to a conclusion of the matter. I don’t know that there is a “right” answer but each of us have an opinion and we will share ours next week. But remember, in most cases opinions are worth about as much as they cost and most of the time that is nothing. Just more food for thought.