Sunday, May 21, 2006

Problem With Purpose Driven

There are times in my life when I do things simply to be able to respond in the "first person"about a particular item, action, or person. This past week was indeed one of those experiences.

Last week was spent in Southern California at Saddleback Church in the "Purpose Driven Church" conference led by Rick Warren. It was about 8 or 9 years ago that I first read the book "Purpose Driven Church (PDC)" and began at that time to personally employ some of those Biblical principles which were discovered in that reading. As an aside, God blessed this effort in a great way. Please understand this, regardless of the PDC critics or what the Rick Warren detractors may say, the PDC model is not about making every church a "mega church", but rather making every church a healthy church. As far as I can determine (both inside and outside of the pages of scripture), any living healthy organism naturally grows. A baby, a beanstalk, a bear, or anything else has the expectation of growth if it is healthy. I fear that in the Bible belt there are those among the believing community who, in the name of "conservative beliefs", have spent a lifetime finding ways to exclude those who are "not like us" rather than share the best news ever given to mankind and invite the lost, dark soul into the Kingdom of Light. Seems to me from my reading the words of Jesus--that inviting the lost to Christ is the "PURPOSE" for which Jesus came and for which HE has "sent us into this world." As such, the church should have a purpose (I.E. goal, mark, mission, vision, mandate, etc) that is more clearly stated, understood and followed than any other organization in this world.

Last week at Saddleback, I made some important discoveries. In this Southern California church, I found a membership committed to the "Great Command" and "Great Commission" of our Lord Christ. Those members gave an entire week in service to the Kingdom. With a cheerful smile, welcoming attitude, and exercising the spiritual gift of hospitality, they saw to it that the attendees at this conference had little or nothing to distract them from the Worship and Teaching time. From early in the morning till late at night they gave unselfishly.

Rick Warren, for the "wrap" he has taken, spoke with love, grace, and a sense of personal purpose and conviction which he derived from God's word. Sitting on the front row, literally, I could look in his eyes and hear his heart. Doctrinally; he spoke clear words about his (and their) belief in the authority of scripture. He spoke about the darkness of sin which began in Eden and continue today. He spoke of how mankind is lost in sin and have no hope except through the death, burial, and ressurection of our Lord Jesus Christ. He continued by exhorting his listeners, the leaders of the local church, to fulfill Ephesians 4 and Acts 2. Repeatedly, his exhortations to us were to lead our flocks in the 5 purposes of the church. Those being, worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, and fellowship. Admittedly, it is my personal belief that there are 6 functions of a Biblically healthy local church (the 6th one being "prayers), but gracious, there are so many one or two dimensional church that I cannot part company with him over this issue. There was not one word of his teaching which were outside the parameters of scripture. Not one word that anyone could have seen as "adding to" or "taking away" from the Bible. Additionally, there were a number of great insights which I gleaned even though I have read his PDC church many years ago. In my heart of hearts, I am grateful that this church body provided me the means so that I could attend this life impacting event.

"A Problem With Purpose Driven?" -- comes only from those who consider the average church of the 21st century to be "healthy." Personally, it is my belief that today's church is sick. My belief is reinforced by the fact that much of the "increased attendance" in many congregations come from "transfer growth" and not from "transformational growth". We tend to "swap sheep" or since Jesus was so fond of using the "fishing" parallel, maybe we are "stealing someone elses catch."

For the Rick Warren detractors and the Purpose Driven critics, please be reminded that neither Rick nor "any Biblical method" is our enemy. The adversary is still Satan, the King of darkness, deception, and division. It seems that he (Satan) has worked into the ranks of the believers and that the opposition to "reaching people for Christ" is simply the message of Jude coming to pass.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

God's way is always the best

In the past week, at HBC we have literally seen God's hand at work among His people in a mighty and wonderful way.

Last Wednesday evening the membership of HBC gathered for the expressed purpose of conducting the "Regular Quarterly Business Meeting." Now Baptist Business Meetings have the reputation of being as much fun as a "root canal" or "pneumonia", however this night would be nothing if not termed "SPECIAL". For you see, this meeting lasted almost 75 minutes as there was much business to conduct.

From the outset it was obvious to this pastor that God had ordained this time together to join His people in a common spirit and mind. For on this night we discussed the possibility (and plan) of constructing a new worship center. For to do so, it would cost about $1.5 million. (I know that's more than I have) After looking at the "sketch drawing" by the architect and answering as many questions as was asked, the congregation not only voted unanimously to proceed to the next step but then followed with a thunderous applause which I took to mean - "God is in the HOUSE"!!

But that was not the only thing on the agenda! Next, we were faced with the decision to move forward with about $70,000 worth of projects. Renovations, Upgrades, purchases, and more were are part of this project. Again, a unanimous vote and an applause of affirmation reminded this pastor of the sweet, sweet spirit with which God's people were doing His business.

In the final result I was once again reminded of that encouraging verse of scripture found in the Old Testament book of Jeremiah.

Jer 29:11
11 For I know the plans I have for you" — this is the LORD's declaration — "plans for your welfare, not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope. (from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers.)

We seem to recite this passage a great deal and then "by-pass" the next 2 verses. Read this and be reminded;

Jer 29:12-13
12 You will call to Me and come and pray to Me, and I will listen to you.
13 You will seek Me and find Me when you search for Me with all your heart
.(from Holman Christian Standard Bible® Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003 by Holman Bible Publishers.) Emphasis Mine.

As for this Pastor, I left this service being reminded that when God's people get "altogether" and "in on accord" HE SHOWS up and life is different than before.

My prayer today is this: "Lord, help us stay focused on your, centered in your will, with our hearts both pure and open." AMEN!

Monday, March 20, 2006

OTTAL

Last week was a great week. Bro. Troy, the chairman of deacons, and I spent three days together "on the road". The Alabama State convention planned a "tour" for Pastors and a "lay-leader". The concept was that we would visit 6 "healthy" churches, meet with their local staff, and glean some of the principles which were working in these churches. The "Opportunity To Take A Look" (OTTAL) tour carried us into the southeastern part of our state.

We saw church ministries which should not be growing (according to their population and location) but were "reaching people for Christ" almost daily and in contrast we observed ministries which "should be" reaching people in their immediate area and simply were not. This was an eye-opening and very revealing trip.

What did Bro. Troy and I have reaffirmed in our hearts? Here it is; For a "congregation" to be a "Church" (a healthy church)-- there must be not only be a ministry to which every member is committed, but it is required to be on the same "MISSION". As children of the Heavenly Father who have been both born and adopted into the family, there can be no excuse nor reason for losing sight of the "fields which are ripe".

Yes, it is true that we must Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, Ministry, and Prayer; but to consistently leave the "evangelism" out of the process is deadly. Biologically, it's like trying to remain alive in this "human body" and not "breathe". We don't breathe, we don't live. We don't evanglize, their is no life.

The result of this trip is absolutely a refocus on the priority of the HBC family. We begin with much prayer. We move to preparation. Then, we plan. Finally, we place into action; action that will lead to reaching people with the gospel Christ and allow them the opportunity to receive this wonderful gift of salvation through Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen!!!

Monday, March 13, 2006

"If It keeps Gettin' better and better"

Everyone today seems to be searching for one thing, HAPPINESS! First of all, it occurs to me that while we live in this fallen world I don't remember God or God incarnate (Jesus) ever giving the promise of "Happiness". Yet, we still search for it. Problem is, our culture is telling us to look for happiness in all the "wrong places". It's kind of like that old popular country song, "looking for love in all the wrong places, searching for love in too many faces..." (well you get the idea)...

Truth be told, we are taught that the "way" or "avenue" to finding this elusive yet desired state of being is found in "self-gratification". If I can just get "enough". Enough money, position, power, prestiege, or the like then I will be happy. Or maybe for some of the young people it's "if I can just get the right girlfriend/boyfriend or mate" then I'll truly be happy.

In an oversimplistic thought, it will serve us well to make note of two important truths; 1) There are not enough "things" in this world to make you happy. It was the millionaire Nelson Rockefellar who was asked, "How much money is enough" and responded, "just a little more". If we chase this dream, we'll waste our live in the "far country" like the Prodical Son. 2) There is no human being who can make you happy. If an individual is unhappy and gets married, that will be just more baggage which the couple will have to deal with. Candidly, I could write all night on these two thoughts....

I submit that instead of chasing happiness, God desires for us to "pursue Him" with the same passion which we pursue our selfish desires. And in case you, the reader, might think this is a bit much for God to expect, be reminded that God pursued us so diligently that His Son, Jesus, wound up on the cross, demonstrating the greatest display of love ever known to mankind.

Today, we can walk and live in the light of God's blessings. When we do, life is sweet. Oh yeah, we can discover happiness in His light, but watch....He's promised us peace, joy, love, security, and an eternal life. Guess what, eternal life on the other side of the grave and abundant life on earth. That is the measure of a life who is rightly related to God. It gets better and better and better and....(well you get the idea)

Bill Gaither put it in a song many years ago, "If it Keeps getting better and better O Lord, I don't know what I'm gonna do"..... Thank you, Jesus!!!!!

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Blessings, joys, and why?

This week has been an outstanding week of joy. Our daughter, Christy, gave birth to a "beautiful" (Okay, she was the MOST BEAUTIFUL) little girl ever. Piper Josephine was born Wednesday, March 1, at 5:41pm. She weighed 9lbs 11 oz and was 21 1/2 inches long. Her skin was a gorgeous shade of pink, her hair brown, and she is as healthy as a horse (ah...well...she is very healthy)....At any rate, the entire family is super excited about this precious addition to our family.

As I held my first grand-child in my arms, filled with love and wonder at the miracle of birth and the joys which it brings, I wondered; "Is this how the angels in heaven feel at the birth of a new soul into the kingdom?" Luke 15 tells us the "angels rejoice". The same passage seems to imply that God Himself "kills His fatted calf and throws a party". WOW!

So I wondered, "if this is the case, why are we not seeing to it that more "spiritual babes" are being born into the kingdom?" Pondering this particular question causes "self-evaluation" and "reflection". Have I done my part to bring people into the kingdom? Am I doing my part to help the 'babes in Christ' grow up into mature believers and disciples?

Just as surely as Piper needs the assistance of everyone in our family, so does the new believer need the assistance of His/Her "Kingdom Family". We should be so diligent in our living that the new, impressionable believer can follow our example and know what it is to "walk in the spirit", "walk in love", "walk in light", and "walk as children of light". Our speech should always be seasoned with "grace". Our interaction should reflect and reveal "the great commandment".

WOW! Being a grand-parent is the "THING"! I will submit (during this, my first week as a grand-parent) that it should be just as great to be "Spiritual Grand-parents" and I should get just as excited about those coming into the Kingdom of Heaven as I do those coming into the Kingdom of this world through my earthly family. After all, both families are indeed connected by "blood relationships".

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Patience

It's a famous saying. One that all of us have heard. Candidly, one that EVERYONE of have not only said, but said in "prayer." Here it is; "Lord, give me patience, and give it to me NOW!"

Have you ever considered the "why" of this statement, request, or demand (grin)? It is because we desire something to happen. This "something" is different everytime we make this statement or pray this prayer (come on, you've said this more than once). However, it is worth making note of the fact that whatever it is paints a picture of what is important to you right there, right at that time.

Our daughter, Christy, is expecting a baby. As of this writing she is 9+ months pregnant. She is ready to have our little grand-daughter whose name will be "Piper". Christy is ready for this little girl to be born. Christy's brother, Jonathon is ready for Piper to get here. Grandparents (that'd be Deboria and me), are ready for Piper's arrival. Great grandparents (both sets) are ready. Guess what, we are all getting impatient. ("Lord, I want patience, and I want it NOW!!")

To finish that thought, Piper will be born either when SHE decides it's time or the doctor decides it's time. For this baby, not to worry--she'll get here and we'll be excited when she does.

In considering this issue and situation, I believe the Holy Spirit has thrust my thoughts into a new realm of thinking; "Could it be that the "what" we become impatient about has much to say about the person we are?"

Being a preacher, I could write or talk all day about this question. But in the converse let me just give a couple of "thought-provoking" ideas;

1) Wonder why we are not as impatient about the eternal destination of those closest to us??
2) Wonder what it is that make us "truly" impatient? Is it selfish things? Or selfless things?
3) Why are we impatient for the "preacher to finish his 30-40 minute message and then are so patient to sit and watch a 3 hour ballgame? or show?

My challenge to you is to examine what it is which makes you impatient and be sure that it is worthy of your showing or being impatient. One of the "Fruits of the Spirit" is Patience. Think about it. Consider it. And then let's change our lives to reflect it.

Friday, February 17, 2006

What Will the "Lord's Day" Bring??!!

Since coming to Hueytown Baptist Church it seems that each Lord's Day brings an event in worship and Bible Study which is both uplifting and exciting. God has been and continues to be gracious to us everytime we gather.

This coming Sunday should prove to be no different. To hear the choir, soloists, and congregation lift God's praise in song brings more than just a little joy. The understanding that "God is good all the time" and "all the time God is good" seems to radiate throughout the house. Every week seems like a "buildup" to a "pentecost" experience.

From the most senior (ah, that would be the oldest) to the most junior (well, that would be the opposite), those in attendance seems to desire a fresh encounter with Jehovah God through the presence of His Holy Spirit.

There is no better place on earth than to be with God's people, in God's house, sensing God's presence, singing God's praises, reading God's word, and hearing God's message. That thought reminds us that "it's all about Him" and not about us.

His word tells us to "be anxious for nothing", but rather, "seek first God and His Kingdom" and then "all these things will be given to you." So, let's give up the thought of "what's in it for me?" and embrace the thought, "I Love you, Lord, with all my heart, soul, mind, and strength".

"Father, make it so"

Monday, February 13, 2006

You Never Know!!

Imagine my surprise as I passed through the "student area" of HBC's Sunday Morning Bible study when several students said to me, "Bro. Jerry, I read your blog." Now I guess that I knew the "younger generation" will be the one to make full use of technology, but it was a pleasant surprise to know that some of these great students took a moment to read what an "OLD PREACHER" had to write. (Thank you, girls and guys.) Even today, this truth has made me a little more thoughtful about the words which I write.

Words have a powerful influence. Whether spoken or written. When you think about it, you never know who reads or hears your words. Additionally, you REALLY don't know if what they "understood you to say" is exactly what you "meant to say".

This morning I write about this truth hoping to call us to be careful to say "good", "fun", "caring", and "uplifting" words. Let's do our best to be examples of Christ's love in both word and deed.

In the morning message yesterday I shared the Matthew 12 passage which says, "For the mouth speaks out of the overflow of the heart." As a general rule, what you say is birthed in your heart, your mind, your makeup.

My morning (mid-morning) encouragement to each of us is to have Christ ruling our heart that the thoughts birthed there will become words that will honor Him.
Lord, make it so.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Love and Faith

Preparing the message for the HBC evening service, I am studying 1 Thessalonians 3:6ff. The more I study God's word, the more it becomes apparent that God and His word is nothing if it is not consistent. I matters not where you jump in the message will be truthful, built on the same principles, and exude the same message.

When Timothy returned to Paul from Thessalonica he brought a report 'about their love and faith'. It was a glowing report about their "memories of the Apostle Paul and His team" and about how strong and firm they were in "faith and love".

This scripture causes me to wonder - "what if some one came to investigate me or this congregation? what kind of report would they return with?" Seems to me, this question is one which is the most apropo of all the questions we could ask.

Faith is seen in our actions and activities. It is seen in the way we live our lives. It is seen in the things to which we hold fast, the things we believe in.

Love is seen in our treatment of others. To demonstrate "agape" or God's unconditional love requires that we have "experienced" this love through a saving faith in Jesus Christ.

Thus the two are intertwined. Love and Faith. Faith and Love. Matters not which order - what matters is this: Are they seen in my life? Dear Lord, Please make it so.

Monday, February 06, 2006

A Day - Not My Best

It is always interesting to me that when God grants a tremendous blessing, old Satan sticks his ugly head up in an attempt to distract and downplay the blessings of God. After such a tremendous blessing of God yesterday as we "Celebrated Super Sunday"...It has seemed that everything I have attempted has fallen short today.

Today, I spoked to the "Minister's Conference" and somehow never sense God's spirit during the entire message. Trying to study today - I have had one mental distraction after another.

However, greater is He who is in me that he who is in the world. I may lose a battle every now and then - but the war is already won. Thank you Jesus, for the victory I find when I kneel at the cross. I remember those words from an old gospel song which I heard sung at a funeral many years ago. They assist me on days like today. Here they are (just the chorus);

"I find victory, real victory when I kneel at the cross,
Lost in the beauty of its holiness there.
Bond are broken, hearts mended,
Doubts driven, spirits lifted,
I find victory when I kneel at the cross."

"Thank you Lord for the daily victory that I find in you"

Sunday, February 05, 2006

A "Super Day"

Once again the "Lord's Day" has come and gone. It seems that "each Sunday" is more special than the last. Today was an absolute "Super Sunday".

In the Lord's house we shared in Bible Study that was exciting and where classrooms were full. Bro. Rick, the HBC Worship Minister did a "fantabulous" job of leading us to the very "Throne of Grace" in worship. The message for the day entitled "Bragging Rights" (from our 1 Thessalonians study entitled, "The Model Church") spoke directly to our hearts and then to top it off--Welcoming a new couple and a young boy into the fellowship was wonderfully refreshing.

When we thought it couldn't get any better, the Mark Trammell trio setup and more of heaven came down. After today, it is obvious what the Psalmist David meant when he wrote these words, "My cup runneth over" or to say it another way, "My cup overflows".

How about a prayer: "Lord, never let us take for granted the blessings which you send to us. May each blessing motivate us not only to love you more, but out of the "overflow of our hearts", share your gospel, grace, and love, with everyone we meet. Keep us focued on touching with your gospel those who need you. Thank you for your love.

Saturday, February 04, 2006

WHAT A DAY!!

For the past 24 hours my wife, Deb, and I were on a trip with the College and Career from the church. Talking about being reminded of how "OLD" I've gotten. It was "fun" with these guys and gals just listening to them talk and "hang out". Candidly, there is probably not a better group of young people than these - and we (as least "I") had a great time.

There is one overriding truth which I gleaned from this Alabama College/Career Evangelism Conference and that is: This young generation is truly developing a heart for the Lord, a passion for learning how to live out this faith, and a desire to discover HOW TO share it. Today, my prayer is that we, as the generation just ahead of them, can learn some of the truths which these students have embraced.

As the conference drew to a close, several hundred of these students made a public committment (in writing) to walk closer with Christ, to be more concerned about their lost friends and family, and to share Christ more effectively and efficiently.

My prayer is: "Father, please give these student the courage and the endurance to stay with the commitments which they have placed on the altar for you. And give us who are presently charting the course for the congregation a similar passion for those who need to know you. Help us see our world through the "BI-FOCAL" lens of "those who know you" and "those who need to know you". AMEN!

Friday, February 03, 2006

God is Good all the time

This past month has been an incredible month! God has been so good to us as we have opened a new chapter in the lives of the Watts family and Hueytown Baptist Church. Obviously, God has great plans for this people.

One of the most encouraging signs which I, as the Senior Pastor, see is the level of Spiritual sensitivity which is evident in the members of HBC. It is consistently heard in the hallways of these buildings that someone is "mentoring" a non-believer. Watching those mentors leads their friends down the road, step by step, to faith in Christ is exciting!!

On Wednesday night, to have Bro. Lee Thomas teach us about "prayer" and to see the huge number of people which came to learn (coupled with the fact that many or most had read the book at least once) is also a sign that God is "up to something" in our midst.

My prayer today is this; "Lord, help us get "in on" what you're "up to." AMEN.

Whisper a prayer for the VBS workers who are in Nashville and the College/Career Students who are in Montgomery this weekend.

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