Monday, March 27, 2017

WAKE UP CALL

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

Dr. Thom Rainer







Tuesday, March 21, 2017

A Small Observation

This is not a rant or meant in a 'mean spirited' way, it is simply an observation.

It was several years ago that I noticed some unusual changes in the way we speak to God.  In a service one night where a friend of mine (who happens to be much younger) was leading and praying, something sounded a little different in his voice.  I could not put my finger on it, but in my mind I knew something was different.  So, I opened my eyes to make sure all was well in the room.  Much to my surprise I discovered that my 'preacher-friend' was praying with his 'eyes-wide-open' and surveying the crowd as he voiced the pray and spoke to God.  Now I know that you don't HAVE to close your eyes to pray, but I was literally 'startled' because I had never observed a 'spiritual leader' who didn't.  It's amazing what you remember in moments like this.  

Coach Mangum was our elementary school principle and did double duty as he drove the to high school and taught us in 9th grade civics.  Also, he was our Sunday School Director at First Baptist.  I remember a discussion one day in 'one of his classes'.  (Yes, Supreme Court forbid, we spoke of spiritual things in school).  Coach was telling us about his praying and he said, "We should bow our heads in reverence to God and "I" close my eyes."  It was obvious that we didn't "have to" close our eyes, but he impressed on us (well, at least me) that in closing our eyes, we could close out the world and focus our thoughts on the one to whom we were talking, God.

In recent days I have thought much about the first experience of observing the 'eyes-open' prayer and have made it a point to see if this was a 'one time' event and person OR if this was 

and is a modern day movement from the younger sect.  Shockingly, well at least it is to me, I have observed many younger ministers leading in a worship service and talking to - hmmm - God, while staring at us.  In fairness and on balance, I did witness someone almost my my age (old codger age) doing the same thing.  This brings up another part of this observation.  

This part of my observation is that, for the first time in my life, I have some people in my life who cannot seem to look me in the eye when they talk to me.  Have you noticed this in your life?  Is this a growing phenomenon?  Some look over my head so that all I see in the bottom of their chin, which is a big unnerving.  Others will look at the door, out the window, or simply into space, instead of me.  Now they talk to me or at least seem to, but it doesn't 'feel' like it because without the 'eye-connection' it seems as if there is NO connection.  This brings me back to the 'EOP' (Eye-Opened Praying).

As I have already written, I know one can pray without closing their eyes.  That said, Coach Mangum's teaching still challenges me to close my eyes that I am not distracted and can focus on HIM.  Conversely, it would seem that IF I am going to do this EOP, that instead of surveying the crowd, I might want to do as King Solomon did, and raise my eyes toward HIM and look at the one to whom I am speaking.   It makes sense to me.

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