Saturday, July 25, 2009
While reading a sermon of Dwight Moody given in the spring of 1871 he personally stresses the urgency of making the decision for Christ now. He had preached to one of the biggest crowds he had ever preached to in Chicago. Instead of making an Altar Call he asked the crowd to think about it and return the following week. It was one of Moody’s greatest regrets. Moody points out the plight that Pilate faced in Matthew 27:11-26.
Pilate was faced with what to do about Jesus. When we experience that white-knuckle grip on the pew we too are faced with the same decision. Pilate knew who Jesus was. It was hard not too. He was governor and anything happening in Jerusalem the Roman governor would have been informed. Pilate knew whom he was dealing with. His wife had warned him in verse 19. Many speculate that Pilate’s wife’s dream may have been about him in front of the Seat of Judgment. That alone should strike fear into one’s heart. Whatever the dream it was serious enough for her to intervene. As a General in the Roman army Pilate had crushed many an opposing force. Pilate had executed many men before. Why should this one be any different unless he knew the truth about Jesus? Pilate even tried to do away with his responsibility for the death of Jesus in verse 24. In Matthew 27:3-4 Judas admits to betraying an innocent man. In the same chapter, verse 54 even the Roman officer declared Jesus as the Son of God. They all knew who Jesus really was!
So if they knew who Jesus was then why did they continue in what they did? The same reason we failed to release our grip on the pew during the Altar Call. The reason is PRIDE. We know the truth. Pilate allowed his pride to stop him. He wanted to please Rome and the Jewish authority over what he knew was right. We too worry what others might think. You might have been a Christian for years and suddenly the Holy Spirit takes you in its grip calling you forward yet we resist. What will others say? How might this look? What will others think of me? These are all words from the Devil and not of God.
Pilate was suddenly face to face with Jesus. The decision had to be made right then and there. We too face that same decision. As Dwight Lyman Moody said in that “The Fire Sermon” of 1871, “There never will be a time when we can do more for Christ than now.”
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Pastors receive enough pressure from associations, periodicals and other pastors on growing their congregations. Look at the back of a baseball card. We Americans are obsessed with numbers. When it comes to church and determining how well a pastor is doing we look at “the numbers.” You know what I am talking about. Numbers published on how many baptisms your church had last year. How many new church members, attendance records, Sunday School enrollments, and let’s not forget the most important one, MONEY. Money received. Money given. Money spent on church operations, buildings, maintenance and so on. Just where in the Bible does it state that is how we measure the success of a pastor? Where?
I am guilty too. Thinking my pastor has some obligation to me to listen to my whining. We expect our pastor to be on call 24/7 without any thought to their families and personal life. Don’t get me wrong. I agree that the Christian life and being a servant is a life of servitude and poverty. Look at the recipe for failure we as followers of Christ have created for pastors. We demand them to have an education that surpasses any CEO of a Fortune 500 company. They need to be great communicators with the ability to draw in the masses like a celebrity. They need to be the CFO so the money is better spent. A degree in counseling and we expect them to repair our marriages and relationships within minutes that took years to destroy. Did I forget to mention years of experience too? How can one man be expected to meet such expectations?
We measure the success of a pastor by the numbers. When the church is packed and the money is flowing in everything seems to be great. Do we dare say a blessing? Sounds like college football to me. One losing season and you are out. When did corporate America suddenly dictate how the church is to be conducted? Have we moved from church members to shareholders? Are we looking for serving Christ and saving the lost or just looking for a return on our investment? I cannot tell you how many church meetings I have attended that spent more time reviewing a balance sheet than focusing on missions or discipleship.
How do we measure the success of a pastor? The same way we should measure the success of a church.
- Is the pastor’s faith stronger with the Lord than when he first begun? Whatever the answer we as a congregation need to minister to our ministers.
- Is the congregations’ walk with the Lord stronger now than before? Ask the Sunday School teachers and they will tell you who is thirsting for God’s Word and who is there for the social meeting.
- Is the congregation participating in worship? Ask the choir members for they see first hand who is engaged in worship and who is there for the entertainment value.
- Are lay leaders being trained and actively involved in part of the overall ministry of the church?
- Is there an active new church member class being conducted each month?
- Is the church supporting the development and making opportunities for members to enter into the ministry?
- Is outreach a habit of the congregation rather than a chore?
- Is the church actively involved in new church planting or a cooperative program?
- Is the church part of the local neighborhood or part of the highway road show with signs rivaling those of an Indian Casino or Wal-mart?
- Do the sermons contain more text from God’s Word than jokes and illustrations?
Not one of these 10 measurements involves the American Corporate yardstick of what they call success. Just ask a cattle rancher. You might have more cows than the other ranch but that does not mean better beef. You need to decide if your goal is raising hamburger or steak.
If you agree or disagree with me have the guts to leave a comment. Just click the comments link below.
Saturday, July 4, 2009
This is a new book from Tony and Felicity Dale and George Barna. They introduce us to the growing wave of house church. It is much more than that and now being called simple church. Where I live when you mention house church you think foreign missions. Missionaries in a far off land teaching about the Kingdom of Heaven. Avoiding persecution by meeting within the homes of new believers in Christ Jesus. This is biblically correct as we see in Acts 2:46. Here in the United States is it any different? The authors show us that Simple Church is all around us. Not just the four walls of a person’s home. Church can be at work, in a restaurant, a coffee house, on the street or where ever people meet. See Matthew 18:20. You might be conducting a simple church now and not realize it. Is simple church a bible study group? Yes, and much more. Is simple church and outreach program? Yes, and much more. What is simple church not? Great question. It is the one I was thinking while reading through this book.
Simple church is not the legacy church we are all used too. There comes the title. The rabbit represents the simple church small quick and growing fast. The elephant represents the slow moving difficult to change legacy church. Bogged down by confusing rules, traditions, and committees. I remember a few years back we started a small bible study group at our home. It quickly grew from just a few adults to families and their kids. All of us were involved. No real hierarchy just Christians meeting and studying the bible. Lives where being changed through Christ. Then rumors began to fly throughout the church that we were creating our own church and so on. So we stopped and let God’s work in us die. There lies the real problem with legacy churches throughout America. It has become about control and not about Christ Jesus.
What is Simple Church? Tony and Felicity Dale tell us, “Since simple church is utterly dependent on the leading of the Holy Spirit and the participation of all of its members, it can never be reduced to a program.” “This is not a movement of superstars; their day has passed.” “These leaders are nobodies, unrecognized by the world and the church. They do not care about their own reputations, only that the glory goes to God.”
One of the best parts of this book is the testimonials' throughout its pages. That alone is worth the price of the book. Simple church is more of an outreach than a replacement for legacy church. It appeals to what the authors call the not-yet believers. The following would be a good example. After we go to church most of us will go out to lunch. At the restaurant there are many waiter and waitresses there to serve you. Cooks and staff busy working to make your experience pleasant. Ask yourself, when do these people get to experience church? They cannot because of their work schedule. Are we just to ignore them and deny them the love that Christ has shown us? You start to see the appeal and the real need for simple church.
The Rabbit and the Elephant is a great book that all Christians need to read. If you are in support of simple church or not you need to read this book. Simple church is here to stay. To quote the authors, “Rabbits are small, live underground, and multiply really fast. Even when attacked by predators or disease, they reproduce and make a comeback.” To sum it up I agree with Tony and Felicity Dale, it is time to give back God’s church to His people.