Archives For local church

Young-leopard-tries-to-eat-porcupine-3-570x257The conversation has often happened like this: “Hi pastor. I’ve enjoyed the worship at this church and benefitted from it. I like this and that. But, I just don’t think I can stay. You see, there are too many younger folks and just not enough people my age.” Sadly, it’s something that not a few pastors and church planters have heard.

Now, on the one hand, such conversations evidence something wonderful. Christ is, indeed, building his church from the next generation. In the church I get to serve, few things are more thrilling than the fleet of 20-somethings following Christ, loving his word, diving into sound theology, and pouring themselves out for the church. And the more I speak with church leaders across the country, the more I hear of the same.

But more to the point: I often run into situations where seasoned saints avoid a church due to an age gap. Granted, some might be necessarily hesitant to plug into churches because of the irreverent, unbiblical tone too-often inherent to us youth (cf. 1 Tim. 4:12). But even then, seasoned saints should rethink avoiding such churches. The younger generation needs the older to hurry them out of youth. That’s a fact innate to every sphere of life: the less experienced need the shaping of the more experienced. But for some reason, we often see a lack where, of all places, it should be most embraced; the church.

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Church advertisements can be interesting. I’ve seen things like, “Business healing services,” one that advertised a concealed weapons class, and “You have a friend request from Jesus: Accept? Ignore?” But one that confused me the first time I saw it was “Spirit-filled.” What does that mean? And are only some churches Spirit-filled? Or all of them? Or partially filled? What’s the difference between a Spirit-filled and non-Spirit-filled church?

Generally, the advertisement intends to mean that the Holy Spirit’s power and presence are observable in that local church. Praise God if that’s true. But, assuming accurate advertising, what ought we expect from such a church? What will that look like?

Here are 11 evidences of the Spirit’s power and presence in a local church:

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workingsheepdog.co.uk

Amusing sheep stories abound. Some of my moments of more rigorous chortling have been in response to real-life sheep tragi-comedies. One of the more recent involves what is called the “Draad Kruiper,” which I heard from my good friend, Pastor Anton Van Straaten. “Draad Kruiper” is Afrikaans for, “fence crawler.” The story goes like this: Continue Reading…

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Imagine the scene. A guy gets dropped off on a 140 by 30 mile island. With beautiful weather, rich agriculture, calm beaches, and mountainous landscape, it was, externally, a great place. However, as he spends time there, reality sets in. The island is inhabited by stiff-necked, unsaved religious people and liars, evil beasts, and lazy gluttons. There is no worse combination. The place is so debauched that even Greeks cringed at the thought of it. Later, he receives a letter which says, “I want a good church going in every town on the island.” And, at that time, it’s likely that there were about 100 towns.

This was the situation in which Titus found himself near A.D. 60 on the island of Crete, and for which Paul wrote the New Testament letter.

Though Crete prided itself on once having advanced societies such as the Minoans, history records it was so bad in Titus’ day, that to be called a “Cretan” was to be called something like a liar or drunk. Even so, and, perhaps, especially so, Paul and Titus did not see it as off-limits for evangelism and planting strong churches. The book of Titus was written, in part, to make this happen in Crete, and, places like Crete thereafter.

For this reason, I’ve found the book of Titus to be a helpful and strengthening study as a younger church plant. I suppose, also, it would be an equally helpful study for anyone in the throes of a church revitalization. In some sense, Titus is a God-breathed church planter’s and revitalizer’s manual. Why? Consider Titus’ task: among other things, he was to plant strong churches in the sense of gathering existing, unassimilated believers, into NT kind of churches in the midst of a godless, gluttonous, religious culture.

2013-04-14_12-45-42_11As I had the opportunity to stroll around the island of Crete a few springs ago, I was stunned and sobered at the daunting task facing Titus: “For this reason I left you in Crete, that you would set in order what remains and appoint elders in every city as I directed you” (Titus 1:5). Sadly, today on Crete, there seems to be little of the book of Titus happening. In downtown Heraklion, there sits one of the larger “churches” (which was closed on Sunday!). Outside was a tiny plaque which gloried in the claim to possess the skull of Titus. And, while chatting with a guy at the Greek yogurt shop, instead of telling me about the Apostle Paul or Titus, he told me about Zeus.

In Titus’ day, things were likely worse. And to equip him for setting in order what remained, Paul handed him the short, 46-verse letter.

This is not an attempt to say all that there is to say regarding church ministry from Titus. Rather, these are a few observations simply from Titus 1:5 pertaining to church planting, revitalizing, and local church ministry in general.

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Transforming-Homosexuality_with-borderIn 2005, same-sex marriage was illegal in all 50 of the United States. In ten short years all that changed. Two-thousand and fifteen might end up being known as the year of homosexual advancement. This past year witnessed the crashing of a moral wave that had been building for years when the United States Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the 14th Amendment requires all 50 states to issue marriage licenses for same-sex couples and recognize those marriages performed in other states.

Questions and confusion abound on the issue. How should biblically-thinking Christians respond? Can individuals change their sexual orientation? Should an individual change their sexual orientation? And for that matter, what is sexual orientation? Christ’s true church must take it upon themselves to become excellently equipped in the issue of homosexuality, homosexual orientation, and becoming instruments of change (Col. 4:5-6). In their recently-released book, Transforming Homosexuality: What the Bible Says about Sexual Orientation and Change, Denny Burk and Heath Lambert provide needed equipping by tackling these questions and more.

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It’s easy to be drained of joy these days. All you have to do is exist.

But for God’s people, there is joy that is to be regularly had. One of the preeminent places for that is in a biblical local church. None of us would dare say that any local church is thoroughly utopian. Even so, it is a place where joys are to be uniquely experienced.

Here are a few joys we get to experience by immersing ourselves in God’s kind of a local church:

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my-churches-5

markdroberts.com

I live in a revolving-door town and so interact regularly with people who are church shopping. It can be a difficult decision  because of things like the commitment needed, the change involved, and preferences we have. Add to that, the various church options in some locations, and it can get trickier. But, are all the options, options? And, are we approaching the search with the right criteria?

God’s word is clear that to not plug in is not an option. So, what are some things to keep in mind as we make the very important decision of choosing a local church?

First, a few preliminary marks.

  • The church is a gift from God to his people. Plugging into God’s kind of church is a privilege and joy for believers. Keeping this in mind will help us maintain a necessary humility as we search.
  • A little more, than less, time spent in a church can facilitate a good decision. It’s usually beneficial to attend a few corporate gatherings, home groups, and some kind of individual setting with a long-time member of the church.
  • Like many big decisions in life, choosing a church is something that should be done with the help of mature believers and/or church leadership.
  • Finally, God has not left essential church matters up to us. Choosing a church, then, is not an arbitrary process. The God of the church has laid out in the manual of the church (the Bible) the essential ingredients which need to be present in a church.

Using biblical criteria over personal preference is needed for the decision. For example, style of music, fancy-ness of the kid’s ministry, and average age of the congregation should not be the deciding factors since they are not God’s essentials for the local church.

With that in mind, here are some things we ought to look for as we choose a church:

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we'll seeOne of the more amazing things about God’s redemptive plan for the world is that he uses human beings to further it. Even more amazing is that he uses men. And still more amazing is that he often uses young men. Truly all the applause for redemptive history rises to God.

Young men are often raised up by God to take the baton in various ways to faithfully follow previous generations. One of those ways in the privileged and sacred task of feeding Christ’s flock through biblical preaching.

However, as you read Scripture and spend time ministering to God’s people, one thing becomes clear: it is not always easy for people to readily receive the ministry of a young man. A young preacher’s hearers sometimes need help.

Why? Like a young tree, it remains to be seen if we will endure the elements. We have yet to establish the bond of trust with the congregation which often takes years. We may not have the much-needed seasoning of sanctification. Our lives lack the testing and refining brought by the sovereignty of God over time. Younger preachers often have fewer years in the necessary school of suffering. Simply because we have not lived long, we have not been as sanctified, tested, and tamed through struggle. Our doctrinal beliefs, convictions, and philosophy of ministry have been tested by little more than red ink and like-minded friends. It’s easier when we’re green to march up to the pulpit and confidently proclaim our convictions. It’s quite another thing having done so through a measure of blood, sweat, and tears. We’ve yet to personally feel the pounding resistance of the world, the flesh, and the devil against long-held biblical convictions. For those reasons, and more, there can be an understandable hesitancy towards younger pastors. And we fledgling preachers need not resent that, but humbly do our part to assist in our audience’s receptivity and help our hearers.

By “help our hearers,” I mean doing what we can, as younger and less experienced preachers, to be as useful of an instrument as possible in Christ’s hands to bring his transforming power to the congregation.

Here are a few ways that younger preachers can help their hearers:

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letterIt was pretty early on in my ministry when this guy, John, arrived at our fledgling church. With the addition of one person, our church grew by about 5%. Needless to say, I was excited. But what John did when I first met him fascinated me. We met for coffee the following week. After some small talk and getting to know him a bit, he handed me a manila folder with a letter in it. “This is from my previous pastor,” he said. “He thought that the leadership here would want this.”

That week, I opened up the letter and read it. John’s immediate elder had written to our leadership team, describing him to us. He unpacked things like John’s ministry involvement, training and equipping classes he went through, and his overall character. As a leadership team, we still needed to get to know John, but it made transitioning him into our fellowship much smoother than if he had come without the letter.

I had heard of church transfer and recommendation letters before, but had not seen it in meaningful action. This was different. Though the letter itself does not guarantee all will be fine and dandy with the individual, if done meaningfully, it’s a huge blessing to both the individual and receiving church.

In light of that, here are a few reasons for local church leadership teams to keep the practice of meaningful recommendation letters alive and well:

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pg44-boredom-gettyLet’s face it. Church is not always as exciting as we would like. Sometimes it’s boring and disappointing. It’s possible that there are good reasons for that. But it’s possible that there are not.

Being bored is not the worst thing that can happen to us in our churches. In fact, it may be the best thing since it can present opportunity for personal change. Though not always, our personal boredom can often be symptomatic of a needed soul adjustment.

Consider a few shifts before submitting to disappointment’s demands:

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