Saturday, May 10, 2014

I'm Tired

Okay….I’m going to confess and as the same time, I’ll try not to complain.  Candidly, I’m tired.  If I were Bill Cosby I would precede tired with sick, you know, “I’m sick and tired.”  (Okay, I know, that sure sounds like complaining)
The issue which has drawn my attention is the banter among us “BAPTISTS.”  It seems that the entire online “Christian” blogosphere, videos, blog videos, and all the rest seem to all have the same desire.  That desire is to set straight the theology of people who dare to speak, post, or act.  Also in the ‘bull’s-eye’ are the projects which attempt to point people and influence mankind to turn their backs on the world’s system and turn their faces toward Jesus.  From where I sit, one guy states an opinion in which his heart is, obviously, given to the Lord and he’s attempting to influence his readers toward Christ, the cross, repentance, and salvation.  Does he cross every theological “T” and dot every theological “I” (well the capital “I” has no dot, but you get the idea)?  Probably not – but the message of Jesus and the gospel has not been compromised, so?
Enter the theological police!  We have writers from at least two generations who have discerned the call of God on their lives to be the “Master Correctors”, the “Holders of the Theological Chalice”, and more importantly, the “Ones who have the market on God’s Word.”  Honestly (Here comes my complaining suggestion), “GIVE IT A REST.”  From the character of God as revealed in Holy Scripture, I would be surprised, if not shocked, if God was pleased with the pointless and needless verbiage which has become the norm of the day.  While the internet (and other mediums) are ablaze with “Christian Leaders” arguing about the finer point of scripture, our culture is disintegrating, churches are dying, authentic disciples are evaporating, and the world (the people who don’t know God through Christ) is racing toward a Christ-less eternity.
We (the church) carried a large segment of our congregation to see “God’s Not Dead” and the people who were in attendance were encouraged by the over-riding story-line, not necessarily by the details of theology.  Candidly, there were some things which bothered me greatly as a theologian, but this movie is not a theological school, rather the goal was simply to say to this culture that “God is, in fact, not dead.”  This truth is the single lesson from the movie (remember, it is a movie) and yet, one after another now writes in the blogosphere telling the planet how bad this movie really is.
Next the movie, “Heaven is for Real” came out and it’s the same song – second verse.  For me, this movie was a huge disappointment because the story, as written in the book, was not truly told.  It was changed, added to, taken away from, and for me, kind of hacked to pieces.  YET – the story was born in the heart, life, and experience of a 4-year old.  And now prominent preachers are taking their cue to belittle this movie because their understanding of heaven and eternity vary greatly from what this little boy experienced.  Once again, this is tiring.  I’m not made, but I’m really tired. 
Then in the theological realm among the churches, no – not among the churches but among the “Trained Leadership (that would be preachers)” in our denomination, we spent much time and energy or whether you are a Calvinist, a Traditionalist, an Armenian, or _______? (Well - you fill in the blank).  This would be humorous if it weren’t so sad.  Someone asks me, “Are you a Calvinist?”  My answer is always the same, “Obviously you are simply talking about soteriology (everything has to have a BIG WORD TODAY) and with “Calvinism” - I would agree on about 2 points (if you let me define the points), but no I’m not a Calvinist.”  Then you’re an Armenian?  No, I am not an Armenian either?  So here come the follow up question with big eyes and a puzzled look?  “So what are you then?”  My answer is this:  People have been trying to figure that out for years, but my answer is that I don’t need any other big word, big name, or fancy title than “Follower of Christ” or “Disciple.”  I will certainly not take the name of any belief system which is derived from any human except Jesus.  For most of my friends and colleagues, this means I am simple and just don’t understand.  Perhaps.
What interest me greatly is this; for most of the discussion, debate, and attempt at correction – many if not most – don’t really understand it all and are simply too afraid to admit it.  Their idea is that “WE MUST HAVE ALL THE ANSWERS, AFTER ALL, WE’RE REALLY SMART!!!”  It kind of reminds me of the 5th grade when we were too proud to admit when we didn’t know something, so our natural response was let’s ‘fight about it and settle the matter once and for all.’  Fighting with words or fist proved little back them and less today. 
Jesus’ words are, “Except you come as a little child.”  So this is our starting point.  From this stage we grow into Spiritual maturity (at least we’re supposed to).  This call is to be child-like, not childish.  Now, the argument develops.  Aren’t we to develop and defend what we know?  Agreed.  However, my simple minds reminds me daily that I will never know it all.  There are some things, which many believe they have figured out and God may not have intended for us know.
We still ‘See in a Glass Darkly,’ – OH, but one day -------- 

We will see Him as HE is and we’ll be like Him.  My heart is this: Until that day, let’s share Him with those who need Him, encourage those who follow Him, and love Him (so we can love them) with all our hearts.  Let’s get together and stop ‘flying apart.’  Then, REST can come.  After all, there is indeed only “One Spirit, One Lord, One Faith, and One Baptism.”  

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Sharing What I have Read

Over the last 40 years as a staff person and Senior Pastor, I have watched across 5 states as every Baptist church has their 'own set of expectations' for their Pastor and staff.  Candidly, when I was young in ministry and a staff person, more than one Senior Pastor expressed to me that most people do not understand the Biblical vocational calling of a pastor or staff person.  Not long ago in a private group conversation one of the things I shared was that the reason for this lack of understanding is no one but YOU is present when God places that call on your life.  Personally, I was content as a Worship Leader because that was where my talents seem to lay.  However, God's voice was much louder than audible that night He called me to preach.  In simple words, that was His call to me.  I can still clearly hear His words.
Many people (Clergy as well as Laity) have been heard to say things like, "All our preacher wants to do is preach."  And while generally, this is an overstatement the feelings are fueled by many other things.  Perhaps it was their preacher as a child, dad, or even a close friend who fashioned the concept of what a 'preacher/pastor' should be.  Land sakes, after over 20 years of preaching I am convinced that, in our Americanized church & culture, every preacher walks the fine line of wanting to connect with God and speak a fresh word for Him every time he stand before people and wanting to be a part of ministry to his people in time of need.  However for many, this is not enough.  They want more.
Recently I read this post which speaks to the heart of this issue.  Any post will have strong and weak thought, but this one will give a person much to consider.  Grace.

THE UNBIBLICAL CALLING OF THE PASTOR
by Jared Wellman on April 12, 2014

How would you respond if asked, “What does Dr. Pepper taste like?” It’s hard to answer, because Dr. Pepper’s taste is the result of a blend, a marvelous blend mind you, of 23 flavors. And while the blend of flavors for this “DP” is outright amazing, there is another “DP” whose blend of flavors is downright stressing. I’m talking about what I like to call the “Deacon-Pastor,” a completely fabricated term, but a totally realistic thing, although it shouldn’t be.

You’re probably asking, “What is a Deacon-Pastor?” A “Deacon-Pastor” is an unbiblical hybrid position that merges the biblical responsibilities of the deacon and the pastor. The result is an expectation for the pastor to perform the responsibilities of both the pastor and the deacon, but often results in him not being able to do either.

Unlike Dr. Pepper, this is a dangerous concoction of flavors.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE DEACON

The “deacon” is first found in Acts 6, when a complaint arose in the church over the neglect of widows in the daily serving of food. The twelve disciples called the church together and requested that they select seven men of good reputation, full of the Spirit and of wisdom, who could be put in charge of the task.

And thus the deacon was created, or at least the proto-type. In fact, the English phrase translated “serve tables” in Greek is diakonia, which is the same word used in 1 Timothy 3 for the English word translated “deacon.”

What’s interesting about the Acts 6 episode is that a strong distinction is made between the responsibilities of the twelve disciples and the seven men of good reputation. Of course the twelve disciples aren’t suggesting that they are better than the seven men of good reputation, only that they have a different responsibility, one that should not be jeopardized.

The responsibility is clearly laid out in their response to the complainers: “It is not desirable for us to neglect the word of God in order to serve tables.”

The word “desirable” implies that it wasn’t “proper” or “right” that they sacrifice their study time to serve tables. It’s almost as if the very thought of adding extra “flavors,” regardless of their importance, is morally wrong for the early church pastor. While it’s obvious that both studying God’s Word and serving tables are important, the response highlights the disciples’ calling to focus on God’s Word, and, for fear of diluting that, it wasn’t wise to to even consider doing both. So they delegated the responsibility to a newly formed role–the deacon. And if this isn’t clear enough, after implementing the deacon role, they said, “But we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (6:4).

In other words, the disciples emphasized their God-ordained responsibility both before and after their command to create deacons.

THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PASTOR

The disciples were essentially the pastors of the early church, and thus the modern day pastor’s primary responsibility is biblically outlined as “praying and studying God’s Word.” And, likewise, the deacon’s primary responsibility is outlined too, which is to serve the needs of the congregation, especially the widows.

One focuses on the spiritual and the other on the physical. Together, both needs are met, the latter delegated so that the pastor’s responsibilities aren’t threatened.

But somehow, somewhere, the church reverted back to pre-Acts 6 and started expecting its pastors to wear a myriad of ecumenical hats. On top of prayer and studying for sermons, (and note that “sermons” is plural), the pastor is expected to do things like visit hospitals, homes, nursing homes, cast visions, implement new ministries, develop missional strategies, and sometimes even water the flowers.

This isn’t to say, of course, that a pastor shouldn’t visit. And it’s certainly not to say that he is too good to water the flowers (I’ve been there). By all means, a pastor ought to do these things if necessary. It is to say, however, that the expectation of doing this on a daily and weekly basis is, for the pastor, biblically unwarranted. And perhaps even egregiously sinful. Yet, many churches expect their pastors to do just that. It might even be in their job descriptions.

Biblically, there are certain “flavors” that belong to things like the deacon ministry, not the pastoral ministry. This frees the pastor to seek the Lord through prayer and study, instead of tying him down to what might well be described as public relations. One focuses on meeting the spiritual needs of the church, while the other focuses on meeting the physical needs. Both are good, but the pastor is called to do the former over the latter. Demanding that he do both is like adding uncomplimentary flavors to God’s recipe for the pastor.

TOO MANY FLAVORS

The unbiblical “Deacon-Pastor” is, I believe, one of the greatest reasons for pastoral burnout.One source cites that 50% of pastors feel unable to meet the demands of their job, and that upwards of 1,500 pastors leave their ministries each month due to burnout.

Suffice it to say that many churches are decorated with the tread marks of burnt out pastors.

Pastors are often hired with the expectation of performing all of the ecumenical roles laid out in Scripture, although Scripture clearly details that even the twelve disciples–the guys that walked and talked with Jesus–were incapable of such a feat.

These guys could cast out demons and heal the lame, but they couldn’t serve tables alongside their prayer and Bible study.

Unfortunately, it’s not just the church that cultivates this mentality, it’s also sometimes, of all people, the pastor. Many pastors turn Acts 6 upside down by choosing to focus on everything else besides prayer and Bible study, such as chasing ambulances or honing leadership skills, both of which are good, but secondary things.

If the pastor says it’s okay to dilute prayer and study in exchange for serving tables, then we can’t blame the church when they expect the same.

As a pastor, I must confess that I find myself the most profitable whenever the church cultivates an environment for me to spend more time in prayer and in God’s Word. I’m less stressed, less overwhelmed, and, more importantly, I’m able to do precisely what I’ve been called to do, which is preach the word.

This is, as the old adage says, the epitome of quality over quantity, and it’s a far more refreshing beverage!
- See more at: http://sbcvoices.com/the-unbiblical-calling-of-the-pastor/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+SbcVoices+%28SBC+Voices%29#sthash.3KrUMoqq.dpuf

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

WOW! I Can't Believe I Read the WHOLE thing.

I am posting this because I can't believe this has actually been written. Too often the first thing considered is the age of a man - which may be the least important detail. Since I am now older that I want to be, I'm glad that I didn't write this, but I am sharing it in hopes that, as Southern Baptists, we reconsider putting age constraints on our list of considerations. It is nothing to see an ad for a "Senior Pastor" with age requirements of "30-50"...Take a read...

3 Problems With Choosing Youth Over Wisdom In Church Staffing

By Danny Watterson

A few years ago, I got the itch to try out for my neighborhood tennis league. In my first match, I was slotted to play an older gentlemen in his mid-to-upper sixties. In my arrogance, I felt sorry for him and figured I’d get a quick victory and make it home by dinner. However, it was apparent after the first few minutes that this “old guy” was clearly taking me to school. Every one of his shots was placed with pinpoint accuracy, and I don’t think I’ve ever run back and forth on a court as much as I did that day. Needless to say, the “old guy” won by a landslide.

Humbled and defeated, I learned a valuable lesson that night, “Never underestimate the game of an old guy.”

Oddly enough, this lesson was brought back into memory recently after seeing many churches quickly promote young, inexperienced leaders simply on the basis of appearance and personality. Churches all over the country are trying to reach a younger demographic and for good reason. However, if it’s not done with patience, a process, and it includes marginalizing seasoned staff members, it can lead to a slew of other issues.

Here are a few downfalls to trying to make your church staff "younger" overnight.

1. Lack of Proven Leadership

You’ve inevitably been there before...that moment when a sticky situation arises in a budget meeting or a counseling setting when all you need to hear is the voice of experience giving wisdom and direction. That only happens when you have leaders that have been down multiple roads and have seen the outcomes. They may not wear the current fashion, but they’ll navigate rough waters in a timely and effective manner. Job chapter 12 says, “Wisdom belongs to the aged and understanding to the old.”

2. Difficult to Foster a Culture of Mentorship

A process for mentorship is ultimately the fix for the entire dilemma. However, if you don't have an effective mentorship process, you’ll eventually reach a dead end. Who will your fresh new leaders mentor? How will they translate your culture? Having seasoned leaders in place brings stability and allows the next generation leaders to emerge when truly ready. However, if young and talented leaders are waiting in the wings too long without given an opportunity they might find another place that will take the risk. It’s a process that takes patience and training from both sides. Begin to foster a culture of mentorship with your tenured staff in order to raise up future leaders you can trust.

3. Creating Monsters

A large ego is bad, but is there anything worse than an unwarranted ego? When titles, stage time, and authority are given to budding leaders too quickly, monsters are born. Proverbs 29:23 says, “ Pride ends in humiliation, while humility brings honor.” Temper pride by giving them face time shared with a seasoned leader with whom your church is familiar. Release authority a little at a time and allow older staff to speak into the progress.

“Out with the old and in with the new” might work for your outdated church carpet, your 1980’s bookstore, or if your student ministry still uses an overhead projector, but when it comes to transitioning older, less trendy staff, remember what God said in 1 Samuel 16, “Don’t judge by his appearance or height, for I have rejected him. The Lord doesn’t see things the way you see them. People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”

Reaching a younger audience is both a valid and appropriate goal but not always at the expense of those that have laid the church foundation. There is still plenty to learn from those that have gone before us and their seat on the bus should be well positioned. Trust me, “Old guys still have game.”

MY NOTE: At the end of the day, our goal should be to find God's man to fulfill God's mission - and earthly years should not be a requirement or a dis-qualifier. God gives the call, the passion, the energy, the wisdom, and the desire to fulfill HIS mission. Youthfulness brings MUCH to the table for ministry, experience (okay, age) brings MUCH also...

Monday, March 31, 2014

Noah - Really

This past weekend, Deb and I went to see Noah.  Admid the controversy of this movie release I desired to see for myself so as to offer a ‘First Person’ response when asked.  So here are my ‘post-viewing’ thoughts.  By the way, there is nothing divine or ‘inspired’ about my thoughts, for they are simply that, my personal thoughts about this movie.
First as a movie, I would give it a C-.  While it wasn’t boring, the development of the plot seemed to be very slow and arduous.  The character generated animals were pretty good.  When the flood came, there was a sense of the power of nature over the power of man.  Probably the only real moment of beauty was when the trees and forest appeared.  While certainly not a part of the Biblical account (I’ll get to that), it was admittedly an “attention getting moment” for a movie that lack the ‘attention-getting’ characteristics.  One person suggested this was a "Save the Whales", "Save the Earth", and "hug an animal" type of movie.  While I'm not sure I would go that far, I will say that the producers might well have had that in mind.  
Next as a Biblical story.  Sadly, this was a great opportunity to present a great Bible Story which teaches divine truths that are seldom espoused today.  One statement which I have read is this: “Noah is an unbiblical account of a Bible story.”  In this statement lies all the truth one needs to know.  The first ‘screen’ of the movie begins with “In the beginning there was nothing” which is contrary to Genesis and John.  Genesis starts out with “In the beginning, God”, while John begins, “In the beginning was the Word.”  For any story or movie to be good, it must have a good premise or foundation – it is obvious that this movie, from its first word, has missed the point. 
The story of Noah, in scripture, is truly a short story yet, what is written in the Bible was not portrayed in the movie (maybe not read or maybe not considered).  The Bible says that “Noah found favor in the eyes of God because He was a righteous man.”  This is the Noah of the Bible.  The character of Noah in the movie possessed none of these traits.  There is no record of Noah preventing people from boarding the Ark, there is no record of a ‘stow-away’ on the Ark, there is no record of Noah getting his instructions in a dream, and there is no record of Noah grandfather (Methuselah) being a ‘witch doctor.’  Scripture is very clear about who was on the Ark, it was the animals, Noah & His wife, along with their three sons and their wives. 
In my final analysis, probably the only part of the movie which resembled the Biblical story was that Noah built an ark, the animals supernaturally boarded it, the flood came, everyone who was not in the ark was killed, and after the flood a new day began.
All through God’s word we read about His divine way of bringing good things out of bad situations.  Such can be the case with this movie.  As believers, this can be our time to engage non-believers who have seen this poor rendition of a Biblical story and help them know the true story.  Remember, God could have easily annihilated all of mankind, instead He found mankind worth redeeming, first, through an ark and next, through a cross.  After the Ark experience, all of mankind had a rebirth of life.  After coming to the cross of Jesus, a kind of ark where the wickedness of the past is obliterated, one has a rebirth of life.  Now THAT’S a GREAT STORY!! 

 

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