Monday, February 23, 2015

Discipleship



We know that Jesus called us to go forth and make disciples. I don't know of anyone who would argue that. Clearly that is His mandate and it must be our mission. But honestly, how are we doing fulfilling the Great Commission our Lord left us. I fear, in the average Baptist church, it has become the Great Omission. We like to talk about our need to make disciples, and we even pray for opportunities to witness and influence others, but we are failing miserably. We must get about the business of being disciples of Christ and making disciples for Him.

Consider the thoughts of Bill Hull on this issue:

The reason disciple-making often fails is that we don’t expect it to reproduce. The next time you go to church, I can almost predict what will happen. You’ll see people sitting in the same places, talking to the same people, at about the same time before and after the service. The songs, message, testimonies, and so forth will be about the same each week. And all of you know an awful lot about Jesus! You’ve spent much of your lives meeting with other believers. You’ve learned Jesus’ words and his ways of doing ministry, and you’ve dedicated yourselves to imitate his character. Yet there you sit, very much the same this year as last, near the same empty seats in about the same places.” (Excerpt From: Hull, Bill. “The Complete Book of Discipleship.” Navpress, 2006. iBooks. This material may be protected by copyright.)

That is certainly sobering, but true. The question is: what do we plan to do about it? Are we going to continue to "do church" as usual, or are we going to follow the command of Jesus and make disciples?

Preacher Chris

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Church Growth

The new year always serves as a time for reflection on the past and a challenge for the future.  Our HOPE Ministry team met this week and the focus of our time together was church growth.  As we reflected on the past year, there was no doubt God had been good to us, but we also sensed the need for a greater outreach.  I am certainly thankful for all the Lord has done for us, but I am convinced He desires to do much more among us.


Church growth is a hot topic these days.  There is an abundance of books, literature, and articles on the subject.  Many seem to convey they have found the latest and greatest approach for church growth.  I will agree that much of what I have read and considered is thought provoking.  I truly believe the majority of writers are earnest in their desire for church growth and are genuinely sincere in their approach. The problem is, there seems to be no real consensus.  I know that churches are different, just like the communities in which they reside.  What works in some instances, may or may not work in others.  However, shouldn't there be an approach that would work across the board, regardless of where you are or the culture you are trying to reach? 


I am convinced there is, but it won't necessarily be found in the latest church growth book or article.  We know the church is not our buildings or facilities; it is the body of Christ, the believers.  Surely since our Lord built and ordained the church, He would have something beneficial to say concerning church outreach and growth.  He does in fact; we need not look any further than the book of Acts.  I am certain we need to consider the biblical model if we are to experience church growth.  


Consider Acts 2: 42 - And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.  This reveals the model for church growth.  It is not complicated, but it is biblical.  The early church's success was based on a four point model.  Let's break this down. First of all we notice: 


1. An Emphasis on the Word - They continued steadfastly in the apostle's doctrine.  Simply they taught and preached the Word.  This was the priority. They focused on the Word.  


It seems as if the Word is no longer the emphasis in many approaches today. If the Word is not emphasized, there will be no spiritual depth, and little lasting growth. Other means may appeal to the desires people have, but they will never create lasting, effective growth. 


2. Worship - They also continued steadfastly in breaking of bread.  This speaks of their observance of the Lord's Supper.  They remained close the cross and the empty tomb.  They worshiped the Lord for the sacrifice He made in order to secure salvation and rejoiced in the hope afforded believers by His resurrection.  


Genuine worship cannot be ignored if we are to experience church growth.  I know each church sets aside time every Sunday morning for the "worship service," but we must ensure our worship is genuine.  Worship must include a time when we are overwhelmed by the mercy and grace of our Lord.  We don't have to partake of the Lord's Supper every service, but we must come with a desire for and commitment to worship!  We must exalt the Lord and make much of Him rather than our focus being placed upon those who participate in the service, or the physical needs of others. 


3. Fellowship - They also continued steadfastly in fellowship.  They genuinely loved each other and enjoyed each other's company.  They looked forward to gathering with those of like faith on Sunday morning.  


Fellowship involves many aspects, but one of the greatest is a sense of belonging. Individuals connect with one another because of their shared position in Christ. There is a sense of gratitude and concern for one another. 


Fellowship isn't immediate, it must be worked on and worked at.  People may gather together each Sunday, but simply coming together doesn't necessarily create fellowship. It has the idea of "participation, literally to share in."  It allows people to feel connected. It allows them to feel as if they genuinely belong.  


Creating an atmosphere of fellowship is essential to church growth.  I read somewhere recently that folks who visit our churches will make up their minds within the first ten minutes of their arrival whether they will return or not. Church growth will never happen if folks never come back.  


Now, think about the initial ten minutes after arrival.  They haven't heard the choir sing.  They haven't heard the preacher preach.  They likely haven't even heard a prayer prayed.  They have had an opportunity to consider the facilities and whether they look appealing.  They have had an opportunity to be greeted and welcomed into the service or be completely ignored.  Creating an atmosphere of fellowship is essential for first time visitors especially. 


4. Prayers - This one should go without saying, but we need to be reminded. They continued steadfastly in prayers.  They prayed unto the Lord.  They knew the church was totally dependent on Him.  They couldn't imagine gathering without having taken time to pray prior to their arrival.  They were continually praying for the church and the work they were called to do. 


If we are to experience church growth, we must be committed to prayer.  A brief prayer on Saturday night or Sunday morning will not suffice.  We must live in an attitude of prayer daily!  If our churches are to grow, God will be the One to give the increase.  Let us seek Him in prayer for such an increase! 


The people had a simple plan for church growth, but it was very effective. Acts 2:46-47 - And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, [47]  Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.  God blessed their faithfulness.  This approach may not resemble many of the approaches being promoted today, but it is guaranteed success.  This biblical approach will work.  May we be faithful to the New Testament model for church growth! 


Preacher Chris

Monday, December 23, 2013

The Wonder of Christmas

Many refer to this season as the most wonderful time of the year.  It certainly is an exciting time.  We will celebrate Christmas in a few days.  For the Christian, our minds are filled with images of that faithful night when Christ was born.  We imagine Christ being lovingly wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.  We consider the angelic host appearing to the shepherds in the field and their obedient worship that followed.   We consider the wise men coming from afar, following the star that guided them precisely to the home of the young child, Jesus.  We celebrate the birth of Christ, keenly aware that as we celebrate His birth, we are the recipients of the gift.  


Christmas is indeed a wonderful time of year, but we must not leave Christ in the manger.  He did come as a humble babe, but He grew into a man.  The birth of Christ had purpose.  It was a miraculous event, but there was much more to come.  John the Baptist introduced Jesus as the Lamb of God who would take away the sins of the world.  We know that Jesus came to provide redemption for fallen man.  He came to offer Himself the sacrificial atonement for humanity.  


The crucifixion brings great emotion and praise from the hearts of believers.  We know it was there He fulfilled the redeeming work He came to accomplish.  However, we must not leave Jesus on the cross.  Had He just been born, although from a virgin womb, and merely died upon the cross, there would've been little difference from others who lived and died.  As we consider the wonder of Christmas, we must also consider the empty tomb.  Had there been no resurrection, our hope would be in vain.  In coming forth alive from the grave, Christ emerged victorious over sin, death,  and hell.  His resurrection sets Him apart from all others.  We will celebrate the birth of our Savior this week, and as we do, may we also celebrate the risen Lord.  


Preacher Chris

Friday, September 27, 2013

The Lord is Coming Again!

As of late I have been engaged in several conversations concerning the return of our Lord. The second coming of Christ is looked at from several viewpoints and has been the subject of much debate. We may not like to admit it, but there is much about His coming that remains a mystery to us. I have never talked with someone who felt as if they fully comprehended all that is involved with that glorious event. 

Most Baptist, including myself, believe the return of Christ will involve two separate and yet very distinct events. The first event will be the coming of Christ in the air to rapture His church, 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18; 1 Corinthians 15:51-58. At this time  the Lord will not return to the earth, but meet the church in the air. The second event will be the literal, bodily return of Christ to the earth to establish His earthly kingdom where He will rule and reign for a thousand years, often referred to as the Millennial Reign, Revelation 19-20. 

I hold the view that the church will be raptured prior to the Great Tribulation and the Millennial Reign will begin at the conclusion of the seven years of tribulation. This is where the debate typically centers. The evidence is clear in the Scriptures that each of these events will happen, but many can't agree in regard to the specific timing of each event.  

With these thoughts in mind, I read some interesting and stirring thoughts from Dr. Reg Dunlap, President -Bible Conference Speaker at Evangelism For Christ Association. Take a moment to consider his thoughts. 

Without being conceitedly dogmatic, ever realizing that all views regarding the Lord's coming have their problems of interpretation, nevertheless, it seems to me that the premillennial, pretribulational view most advantageously provides the book of Revelation with some chronological order of development. Not only that, but it completely fulfills the unconditional promise that God made to Abraham in which he and his descendants would rule in a world-wide Kingdom at which time Christ would reign upon the throne of David.

So I approach the Bible as a Premillennialist - Christ will come for His Church before the millennium - and a Pretribulationist - Christ will come for His Church before the Tribulation period. But whatever system you hold regarding the Lord's coming, remember this: The most important thing is not HOW Christ is coming but the FACT that He is coming. We are not looking for SOMETHING to happen, but for SOMEONE to come. So let us get our eyes OFF the SIGNS and put them ON the SON. (Dr. Reg Dunlap; Check out Sermonseeker.com for some dynamic expository sermons). 

I have to agree with Dr. Dunlap. Although there is much we don't understand, one thing is absolutely certain: The Lord IS coming again. Regardless of your personal view of when these events will unfold, we agree they will happen. I rejoice to know that I have been born again in Christ, placed into the family of God, and made a partaker of that glorious, eternal inheritance. Christ is coming again. If He were to come today, do you know for certain you are ready to meet Him?  

Preacher Chris

Monday, September 2, 2013

O LORD our Lord

Psalm 8:1-9
1 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth! who hast set thy glory above the heavens.
2 Out of the mouth of babes and sucklings hast thou ordained strength because of thine enemies, that thou mightest still the enemy and the avenger.
3 When I consider thy heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which thou hast ordained;
4 What is man, that thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that thou visitest him?
5 For thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honour.
6 Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of thy hands; thou hast put allthings under his feet:
7 All sheep and oxen, yea, and the beasts of the field;
8 The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.
9 O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!



This is certainly one of my favorite passages of Scripture. It is a Psalm of David. There is some debate as to whom this passage speaks. Was David thinking of himself and others as he was inspired of the Spirit to pen these words or was he speaking expressly of the Son of God who would come in the form of a man to redeem fallen humanity. Take a moment to consider the introductory thoughts of Matthew Poole, taken from his commentary.


It is a great question among interpreters, whether this Psalm speak of man in general, and of the honour which God put upon him in his creation; or only of the man Christ Jesus. Possibly both may be reconciled and put together, and the controversy, if rightly stated, may be ended. For the scope and business of this Psalm seems plainly to be this, to display and celebrate the great love and kindness of God to mankind, not only in his creation, but also and especially in his redemption by Jesus Christ; whom, as he was man, he advanced to the honour and dominion here mentioned, that he might carry on that great and glorious work. So Christ is the principal subject of this Psalm, of whom it is interpreted, both by Christ himself, Mt 21:16, and by his holy apostle, 1Co 15:27; Heb 2:6-7.


One cannot possibly separate the love of God for fallen humanity and the Savior who came to redeem from sin. There can be no greater blessing bestowed upon man than the offering of Christ upon the cross for our sins. As we consider the words of this powerful and magnificent Psalm, one has to wonder and even question: what is man that thou art mindful of him? Who are we that God would love enough to provide a means of salvation and reconciliation from sin? Who am I that the Son of God would willingly bear my sin and shame upon the cross as He endured the wrath and judgment of God for my sin. He was innocent; I was guilty! He was holy and pure; I was sinful and depraved!


These questions and thoughts have been on my mind as of late. We are unworthy of any blessing from God and yet He is faithful to continue sending blessing after blessing our way. I stand amazed at His presence among us as we gather for worship. I enjoy His peace and guidance each day that I live. I rejoice for the eternal hope and assurance I have in Christ my Savior. As I try to comprehend all these eternal truths, it is more than I can possibly discern. I will admit, I do not understand it all, but I rejoice in the many blessings I receive. It is impossible to think on these things and not declare as David: O LORD our Lord, how excellent is thy name in all the earth!


Preacher Chris

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Preach, Pray, Love and Stay!

I was reading a blog the other day with a post by Thabiti Anyabwile entitled: Everything I Know about Pastoral Ministry I Learned Riding with Pastors, that really spoke to me.  In the blog, he addresses pastoral wisdom gained over the years, with much of it coming from just listening to other pastors talk as he traveled with them in an automobile.   I suppose there is much to be said for actually listening to what others are saying once in a while rather than immediately contemplating how we will respond.  Anyway, I have been unable to get away from one particular bit of wisdom shared in the blog:


“Teach and pray. Love and stay.”

 That’s a short summary of pastoral ministry from Mark Dever. Teach the people
God’s word. Pray down heaven on the people. Love the people. And, if possible,
stay with the people over the long haul
.


Take just a moment and let that sink in.  There is an abundance of wisdom in that simple approach to ministry.  In fact, I would go so far as to say, every pastor ought to make this a priority in their own ministries.  Let's consider these four essential elements and the enormity of such thinking.


Teach - I will admit, something within me caused me to pause and think about that one for just a moment.  I was raised under the perception that a man hadn't preached unless he had ran the isles, sweated his shirt wet, and because of his tendency to "spit" while preaching, those who knew him would try not to sit on the front row.  I was raised around that type of preaching, and have no problem with it, if that is the way the preacher is wired.  However, it is beneficial to incorporate teaching into preaching.  I have heard some say certain individuals were more of a  "teacher" than they were a "preacher."  That is referring to style, not content.  Men we need to consistently, and passionately, feed our congregations a steady diet of the Word.  Take the time to study out a passage, or better yet, a complete book of the Bible, and teach that to your people.  They will thank you for it.  We have not been called to preach current events, or the latest social trends.  We have been called to preach the Bible.


Pray - This one seems to be a "no-brainer" but I fear we fail in regard to prayer many times.  I know the Lord has dealt with my heart concerning this responsibility as of late. We must be committed to pray if we are to honor the Lord and see fruit among our people.  We must be men of prayer, not just an hour or so before we preach, but every day.  We need to pray for our people, their needs, our services, those who serve alongside us within the church, and for those who do not know Christ as their Savior.  I am convinced the lack of power in our lives and services is directly related to our lack of prayer.  Make prayer a priority!


Love - It is imperative that we love people if we are to be effective in ministry.  I know that some are easier to love than others, but we have been commanded of our Lord to love others as we love ourselves.  I heard that a preacher once said, "Ministry wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the people."  Sadly, I fear many preachers have developed that mentality, even if they are unaware of it.  We must love our people, regardless of where they are in the journey.  We must love them in the good times and the bad, when they agree with us and when they don't.  Pastor, love your people in such a way they will know you love them.  How long has it been since you told your congregation you loved them?  I don't do it as often as I should, but I do tell Fellowship I love them from time to time.


Stay - I realize there are no perfect churches because they are all made up of imperfect people.  Every church has its problems.  You may be in the midst of trouble right now, but I can assure you, there will be problems at any church you pastor.  We must be sensitive to the leadership of the Lord.  When He reveals our ministry is finished in a particular place, we must follow wherever He leads.  However, we must not jump ship before the Lord is finished with us in a particular place.  I know men who are enjoying the best years of their ministry right now, but they were forced to endure some difficulties along the way to get to where they are.  We must be committed to staying where the Lord has placed us as long as it pleases Him!  If you know you are where God called you to serve, serve faithfully until He releases your burden.


These were just a few things that I have been dealing with this week and I hope they have been a help and challenge to you in the ministry you are currently serving.  Preach (teach) and pray. Love and stay!

Preacher Chris

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Embracing Change Requires Faith

I have been thinking lately about the changes we are forced to face in life.  Most people don't do well with major changes in life.  We tend to be creatures of habit and enjoy things remaining relatively the same in our lives.  Change requires us to step outside our comfort zone and embrace something new or different.

Although I had experienced changes along the way, my life had remained within the bounds of comfort, until a few years ago.  I had lived in the same area all my life and had attended the same church since I was saved as a young boy, until I went to pastor Pilgrim Baptist Church.  Pilgrim was a ten minute drive from our house, so even then, life was comfortable for me and my family.  Then the Lord called us to serve in Mount Airy, approximately 75 miles from where I was born and raised.  (I always try to keep things in context.  I am aware many have been called of God to relocate half-way around the world, and to them, 75 miles would be local.)  But, for us, it was a major change in our lives.  Three years have now passed and God has been faithful to us as we continue this new path in life.  It may seem difficult for some to understand, but I am as happy now as I have ever been.  I have learned that contentment is not obtained through physical locations, but being where God wants you to be.  When we respond to God, by following Him in faith, He will provide what we need, even in a new environment.

Change is once again looming on our horizon.  Makayla, our oldest daughter, graduated from Mount Airy High School last Saturday and she is planning to attend East Carolina University in the fall.  Greenville is a four hour drive from Mount Airy.  I am very proud of Makayla and the young woman she has become.  She wants to pursue a career in nursing and I am certain she will do well.  However, it will be difficult to adjust to her not being with us as before.  Once again we must walk by faith and trust the Lord.  I am confident His grace and guidance will be sufficient. 

I have no way of knowing what you are facing in life at this moment, but I am certain the Lord does.  He may be leading you in a path that is completely outside the bounds of comfort for you.  If so, embrace the changes that lie ahead and follow God by faith.  Change is inevitable in all our lives, but our Lord has promised to never leave nor forsake us.  As long as you are walking with the Lord, He will provide for you and supply the peace you need as you face an uncertain and sometimes uncomfortable future. 

PreacherChris