For Every Child A Father

June 9, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Writing about Mother’s Day is a joy. But writing about Father’s Day is sadder and more difficult. Today more than half of U.S. children spend at least a part of their childhoods living apart from their fathers. How do we do justice to Father’s Day in an increasingly fatherless society?

I had a good father, and even though he was gone a lot because of pastoral duties, I knew he loved me. He also set firm boundaries and taught me to love and respect my mother. He was a leader and a role model. I believed he could do anything he set his mind to.

I’ve been married for 46 years. My eight children are all grown. I know I was not always a good father, even though I wanted to be one. But with 42 grandchildren, as well as the many other children I meet every day, I welcome the chance to make up for lost time!

The Fifth Commandment in the Bible tells us to honor both father and mother, and that when people heed this rule, things will turn out well. But how can a father expect to be honored – that is, to be loved and respected – if he does not live a life worthy of these things?

If a man is lazy, dishonest, impure or indecisive, we can expect no better in his children. On the other hand, a father who loves and respects his wife – and who leads his family with decision and dedication – is the greatest gift a child can have. A child’s emotional stability depends on his or her father’s example. Because the first five years of a child’s life are the most formative, this example should be present from early on.

From earliest times, men have been expected to lead their families, and we men should be proud of bearing this responsibility. Today, however, too many men do not lead, and often they are not even there at all.

We men need to be fathers, not only to our own children, but to all the children whose lives we touch. Even men without children of their own can embody the best attributes of fatherhood. In this sense, fatherhood is a duty that is entrusted to every male, and true men will be like fathers to all children. Over the years I have known many coaches and teachers in high schools and elementary schools who were the only father figures many of their students knew.

In a time when true fathers are so hard to find, we would do well to heed the Cuban writer José Martí, who said that “the greatest aim of our education should be to make true fathers out of the boys, and true mothers out of the girls. Everything else is secondary.”

There is deep wisdom is these words. Boys hunger for masculine role models, and suffer when they do not find them. Conversely, those who do find true fathers can one day become good fathers and leaders themselves, and leave behind a legacy that will change still more lives.

Daring and fearless, these men will enter into the battles of life as good soldiers, ready for challenges and combat. And like soldiers anywhere, they will remain alert and ready for duty 24 hours a day. They will not be afraid to lead, or to learn from their mistakes. In this way they will make a difference for their own children and for the world around them.

Men, let’s encourage one another to become true fathers again. In an age when fear dominates every relationship, we need real fathers more than ever – men who are beacons of light, and who provide companionship, love and hope in a world filled with loneliness, pain and despair.

Do you have such a father? If you do, you are truly fortunate. Take a moment on this Father’s Day to be grateful for him and to thank him.

 

The American Church – Causes of Decline

May 12, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Identifying ‘Cause’ is always challenging. There is seldom a single causal factor when dealing with an organism as complex as the church. The following are factors that have contributed significantly to the precipitous decline of the American Church.

 

Formal research has provided focus on this matter. The Pew Research Group, Hartford Seminary, and the Francis Schaeffer Leadership Institute have provided some very reliable data on this important question.

 

#1 – Leadership Incompetence. The number one cause of decline is Incompetent Leadership. This includes both pastors and ‘lay leaders’. This is not a popular perspective but it is absolutely true. Consider the following findings from the Schaeffer Institute on Pastoral Leadership. This data is from interviews conducted with over 1,000 pastors.

 

81% of the pastors said there was no regular discipleship program or effective effort of mentoring their people.

75% of the pastors surveyed felt they were unqualified and/or poorly trained by their seminaries to lead and manage the church or to counsel others.

 

Seminary teaches a man to study the Bible. It does not teach a man to lead or to develop other qualified leaders. It also does not teach him to effectively lead Organizational Change which occupies a large component of a pastor’s time and ministry endeavors after he completes his formal education.

 

#2 – Corrupt Doctrine. There are multiple commands in the New Testament concerning the importance of Sound Doctrine. Sound Doctrine is literally ‘healthy doctrine’. Corrupt doctrine results in dysfunctional ministry practices. A large compliment of the American Church has abandoned the Authority of Scripture and the church is impoverished by this loss.

 

#3 – Congregational Apathy – Apathy is knowledge without action. Some church members can answer all your questions, cross all the ‘T’s’ and dot the ‘I’s’. But, they do not engage what I refer to as Applied Theology. Their life style and failure to live in obedience to God’s word denies what they claim to believe. The Great Commission (Matt. 28:18-20) contains a single command – Make Disciples. Research has shown that a majority of professing believers NEVER share the gospel with anyone in an entire year. The church is not a mere preaching station. The church gathered is for preaching, teaching, equipping, and fellowship. The church scattered is to press the message of redemption from sin in the marketplace on a daily basis by all members. This leads to the next factor.

 

#4 – Biblical Literacy. People who do not know their Bible will not challenge an unbeliever. They know that if they are challenged to defend their faith they will fail so they remain silent. R.C. Sproul recently completed a comprehensive study of what those who claim to be Christians believe (The State of Theology). A review of this instrument reveals just how unorthodox and corrupt the theology of professed believers has become.

 

#5 – Unregenerate Members – A foundational aspect of church membership for centuries has been regenerate members. The validation of regeneration is transformation. When there is no transformation in a person’s life that is exhibit ‘A’ that they have not been truly saved, made alive in Christ. The requirements for church membership have been watered down. This has been exacerbated by the quest for numbers. The proper metric to evaluate ministry effectiveness is transformed lives not mere numbers.

 

#6 – Demographic Age – The average age of our nation is 36-38. The average age of the American Church is 60+. The average age of a healthy church is 38-43. The New Testament requires a robust inter-generational ministry. The elder are to teach the younger. This requires not only formal instruction but also modeling, living the life of an obedient disciple. The stunning loss of young people in the American Church validates this issue as a major cause of the church’s decline.

 

#7 – Absence of Purpose – If you ask 20 people in a given church to write a one paragraph description of the purpose of their church you may well get 25 different statements. The purpose of every church is to make disciples fully formed in the image of Christ in character and conduct. When the church returns to this noble purpose the decline will cease.

Pastoral Tenure

April 11, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Yesterday we began a review of pastoral tenures. We concluded based on research completed by a number of formal surveys that pastorates of 5-14 years are the most fruitful and beneficial for both the pastor and the church he serves.

The following are the six (6) observations that Thom Rainer made on this topic.

  1. Our research continues to show a strong correlation to pastoral tenure and church health. Of course, correlation is not the same as causation. Nevertheless, the evidence is strong, if not overwhelming, in favor of long tenure.

 

  1. The breakout years of pastoral tenure typically begin after years 5 to 7. In other words, the best years of a pastor’s tenure, both for the pastor and the church, do not begin until at least five years have passed. Unfortunately, the majority of pastors in America do not stay at a church for five or more years.

 

  1. Relationships take time, particularly in church leadership. Keep this perspective in mind. When pastors begin ministry in a church, they are the newest people at their respective churches. Relationships are already established among the members. That is why I’ve heard from many church members that a pastor did not seem like “their pastor” until about five years passed.

 

  1. Nearly nine out of ten churches in America are in need of turnaround leadership. Turnaround leadership is most often methodical and incremental. It can’t be accomplished in just a few years.

 

  1. Community relationships and impact take time as well. In most communities, pastors are not considered a part of the locality until they have been there at least five years. A church, to be effective, must have a positive presence in the community led by an accepted pastor.

 

  1. Pastors and churches will have had time to go through a crisis or conflict. The typical period for significant conflict is in years 2 to 4. The longer the pastorate, the greater the likelihood that the church and the pastor have gotten to the other side of the conflict.

 

There is an important principle associated with local church effectiveness. As the pastor goes, so goes the church. I relate this to the high ratio of Bi-Vocational pastors. Pastors are not ubiquitous. They cannot be engaged in community connection and person to person evangelism when they are occupied with other employment responsibilities.

Justification

March 22, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

The gospel brings justification. We have been focused on what the gospel does. The sin of Adam brought condemnation. The gospel brings justification.

Romans 4:23-25 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

What is justification? Justification is the forensic declaration of God that a sinner by virtue of the finished work of redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ is declared to have right standing in the very presence of God. It does not make the sinner righteous. That is sanctification. But the forgiven sinner is viewed by God the Father as having right standing in his presence. When the father looks upon a forgiven sinner he sees not the persons sin and guilt. HE sees the sinner standing in his presence wearing the robe of total and complete righteousness purchased by the redemptive work of Christ.

Romans 5:1Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Romans 10:10 For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.

I believe that Romans 3.21-26 stands as one of the most important passages in the entire Bible. Leon Morris calls this passage “possibly the single most important paragraph ever written.” Its shortness is hardly an indication of its value, any more than the brevity of the resurrection accounts in the Gospels truncate the importance of that truth!

In 1.18 through 3.20, Paul got us lost. He first showed that the gentiles were lost. Then he showed that the Jews were lost. “No one does good, not even one.” “No one seeks God, not even one.” All of us are dead because of sin. That is the devastating reality of our spiritual condition before God. Now Paul tells us the good news!

But before he can, he must wrestle with a dilemma: because we are utterly sinful and because God is utterly holy, how is it possible for us to get saved, for us to ever stand in God’s presence without being condemned? The answer to this question is the heart of Romans and is found in 3.21-26.

Thank God for justification by faith. Apart from this we all stand condemned.

 

Real Time Evaluation

February 26, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

This is an article from my M-F Radio Program. Apply this in your ministry and be blessed.

As we have repeatedly rehearsed on A Different Perspective, everything rises and falls on Leadership. The Pastor is key. He MUST exercise gracious, effective and persistent leadership. That leadership must focus on, and, be shaped by PURPOSE. That purpose is Make Disciples. This means guiding those already redeemed to an ongoing maturity in Christ. It means effectively connecting with the community in which the church is located and reaching lost people via the powerful declaration of the pure Gospel of Grace. If these two factors are not in place, not much else will matter. The church will simply engage in a ‘ministry of maintenance’.

How does the pastor accomplish this monumental task in a culture of indifference?

Jeff Immelt assumed the CEO responsibilities from Jack Welch at GE. He immediately introduced a practice that should be standard practice at every church in every ministry venue. He calls this practice Real Time Evaluation. Let me explain.

Many churches have what they label ‘An Annual Review’. This is typically comprised of people stating whether they ‘like’ what the pastor has been doing all year.

Question? When a married couple has a disagreement, what I like to refer to as a ‘Domestic Altercation, do they wait an entire year to resolve the difference they are facing? Not if they have a single brain cell between them. Eph. 4:32 provides excellent guidance here:

Ephesians 4:26 Be angry and do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger,

The wisdom in this passage is found in resolving conflict BEFORE it erupts into unresolved relational dysfunction. The same applies in ministry in the local church. It is simply foolish and unfruitful to only engage in honest assessment once a year. IN that mode if there is a problem it festers for an entire year. Not good.

Here is the problem. Most nearly all pastors are terrified of honest objective assessment. They resist any attempt to pull back the curtain on reality. The truth is when a dysfunction is identified early on it may be readily resolved with a minimum harm to the overall ministry.

So pastor, do yourself a favor and frequently do what Immelt calls Real Time Evaluation. You will be well served and your pastoral longevity will be greatly improved.

Lydia’s Heart

February 15, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

This is Tuesday February 14th. Happy Valentine’s Day. We love because God first loved us!!

 

This is Session #6 in our Theology of Evangelism. We are considering God’s work of redemption in the life of Lydia.

 

And a certain woman named Lydia, a seller of purple, of the city of Thyatira, which worshiped God, heard us: whose heart the Lord opened, that she attended unto the things which were spoken of Paul.” (Acts 16:14)  The NIV says: “The Lord opened her heart to respond to Paul’s message.

 

First of all we note that Lydia did indeed “attend” or listen to the words of Paul.  She gladly heard and willingly believed his message.  As we have already shown, she had to do this in order to benefit from the gospel and be saved.  Lydia’s attending,” or hearing and believing, illustrates points One, Two, and Three above, and refutes hyper-Calvinism, (which says the elect will be saved regardless of whether they hear and believe the gospel or not).  Lydia did choose to believe, and she herself did it only because she wholeheartedly wanted to.  She did not do it “unwillingly” nor did God hear and believe for her.  It was her own response and it was a most willing response.

 

Next, we notice exactly what God did.  We see here demonstrated what God must do before Lydia can be saved.

 

(1) He provided a salvation of “by grace through faith” that could be preached.  Obviously “the things spoken” by Paul were the gospel facts concerning the death, burial, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and surely this Lamb is God’s gracious provision.

 

(2) God also brought the message of His provision to Lydia.  He sent a preacher to tell her about this great plan of salvation. God went to a lot of trouble to provide such a gospel-He gave His only begotten Son up to death.  He went to great ends to provide such a preacher as Paul-read about it in Paul’s testimony in Acts 22.  It is at this point that Arminianism departs from the Bible and proceeds to apply human logic. They tragically fail to look at the rest of the Biblical text and see that God must do something else.

 

(3) God must open Lydia’s heart (or give her spiritual life) so she will be able to believe.  Her natural mind is blind, her natural heart is averse to God, and her will is in bondage to sin and spiritual death.

 

 

 

Local Church

January 20, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

The contemporary culture in the USA is populated with a host of perspectives on the church that are wrong and without a shred of biblical support. We have an entire collection of people under the label ‘Nones’. These are folks that claim to have a faith relationship with the God of the Ages. But, they want nothing to do with the church. You cannot say ‘I love Jesus’, but I don’t want anything to do with the church of which He is the Head.

Then we have folks who NEVER darken the door of the gathered body of Christ. They say things like – ‘I would rather be in the woods and thinking about Jesus than in church thinking about hunting in the woods.’ What? That is pure bunk!!!

There is no perfect church so stop looking for one. Further, if you go there it will no longer be perfect. The church is full of sinners. God did not send his Son to make bad people good. He sent his Son to make dead people alive.

When a person becomes a true believer through unconditional faith in Christ, they become participants in the New Covenant. There are several types of Covenants. There are Conditional Covenants; the Mosaic Covenant is an example of a conditional Covenant. There are Unconditional Covenants. The ‘New Covenant’ is an example of this type. If you are a member of the NT church you are a member of an unconditional covenant. You are a slave to righteousness & to Christ. Slaves honor all that their masters call upon them to do.

This includes obeying the One Another Commands of the NT.

This includes living life in community.

This includes actively representing Christ in the marketplace – making disciples as you share the gospel.

This includes willing submission to the Elder/Shepherds that God has placed in your assembly.

This includes participation in all that your local church agrees upon as God’s direction for that assembly.

Hebrews 10:22-24 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. . . . And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works

Your active role in your church ministers to others. Be there!!!

 

Are They Redeemed?

January 11, 2017 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Our focus is Evangelism; what does and what does not meet the NT criteria for effective evangelism.

 

Let me clarify. The problem I highlighted by using Bellevue Baptist in Memphis is not unique to that church. The issue is widespread and very pervasive. One of the causal reasons for this syndrome of greater membership than attendance is driven by a corrupt metric that has been embraced by nearly all of the SB churches. That metric is numbers. More is better and biggest is best. Healthy churches have a greater number of people attending than they have on the membership roles. Unhealthy churches the opposite.

 

This unrelenting pursuit of numbers has corrupted the glorious ministry of evangelism. Multiple substitute approaches emerged. In 1954 the tag line for SB was ‘A Million More in 54’. That highlights the problem I am presenting. Numbers mattered more than TRUTH. The membership of SB churches swelled but with scores of people who after a very brief time following their ‘profession of faith’ never darkened the door of the church again. Even more tragic is the fact that when confronted with this they steadfastly cling to their ‘profession’ from days gone by. Folks the irrefutable evidence of regeneration is transformation. When there is no transformation you can take it to the bank, there has been no regeneration.

 

Any and all approaches to evangelism that give higher priority to numbers than to genuine transformation and disciples who make other disciples are spurious. This does not demand immediate maturity. That is a matter of sanctification. But, it does demand progress in the life of the one professing Christ toward the likeness of Christ.

 

Biblical Literacy is a crucial dynamic in evangelism. A deficient level of Biblical Literacy produced a host of canned evangelistic ‘programs’. Canned programs produce ‘professors but not possessors’. These approaches to evangelism are driven more by immediate results than by presenting the whole counsel of God with integrity. Some examples of this would be the ‘ABC’ approach; Admit, Believe, Confess. Another is the Four Spiritual Laws or Evangelism Explosion. The people using these approaches do not comprehend the damage this approach has done to the church by filling the pews with people who profess to know Christ but in fact do not.

 

Jesus said – by their fruit you will know them. Their ‘fruit’ shows they are not redeemed.

Ezekiel & The Shepherds of Israel

December 27, 2016 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

Ezekiel 34 is a frightening chapter. It records the judgment of God upon those charged with caring for God’s people, his sheep. Those Shepherds failed miserably at this task. They engaged in selfish ‘me first’ narcissism. Read the words of God’s indictment against them:

 

Ezekiel 34:4 The weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the injured you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them.

 

The text of Scripture is very clear and precise concerning the role of Shepherds.

 

James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.

 

It has been my practice for 47 years to engage in self examination. Each week on Friday at noon I looked back over the week just completed and ahead to the week before me. I endeavored to honestly assess my leadership from God’s perspective. This was sometimes quite painful. There were failures that required repentance and God’s gracious forgiveness. There were triumphs to be celebrated. I sought to be well prepared for the challenges ahead. Ephesians 6 provides a detailed profile of how we must be clothed and equipped for the battles that are before us.

 

The New Year is a great opportunity to examine your effectiveness as a Shepherd of God’s people. Look at both what you did that was wrong and what you failed to do that you should have. Make the necessary modifications in your leadership.

 

Pastor we serve a God that is gracious and merciful beyond your wildest comprehension. Go to him. Confess. Repent. Then bask in his glorious mercy and enabling grace. He loves you and he loves his people. He blesses his people through you. What an amazing way to invest the life that he gives.

 

Help, LORD, to whom for help I fly,

And still my tempted soul to stand by

Throughout the evil day;

The sacred watchfulness impart,

And keep the issues of my heart,

And stir me up to pray

My soul with thy whole armor arm;

In each approach of sin alarm,

And show the danger near:

Surround, sustain, and strengthen me,

And fill with godly jealousy

And sanctifying fear.

(Charles Wesley)

 

 

Then & Now – Circus & Football

December 10, 2016 by  
Filed under A Monday AM BLOG

“Already long ago, from when we sold our vote to no man, the People have abdicated our duties; for the People who once upon a time handed out military command, high civil office, legions — everything, now restrains itself and anxiously hopes for just two things: Bread and Circuses.” – Juvenal – Satire (100 A.D.)

Juvenal’s satire indicted the Roman citizenry for a total corruption of cultural and civil priorities. They wanted ‘Bread & Circuses’ over sustainable civil order. Today in Alabama we need only replace ‘Bread & Circus’ with ‘Football’. There is far greater concern for the outcome of the National Championship and who wins the ‘Iron Bowl’ than for an accurate honest assessment of the moral fiber of our community. A prime example is the condition and direction of the local church.

What is the general condition of the church in America? Thom Rainer with Life Way Research in Nashville states that 94% of American churches are declining. Other denominational leaders confirm this trend.

“The SBC is rapidly dying, and resistance to change could kill over half of the denomination’s churches by 2030. Unless something is done to reverse the downward trend, SBC churches could number only 20,000 – - down from the current total of more than 44,000 – - in fewer than 22 years.” (Frank Page as quoted in the Assoc. Baptist Press, May 6, 2008).

The CFO of the United Methodist stated at their National Conference in June of 2015 that unless they implement immediate changes in the way they conduct ministry, by the year 2030 the United Methodist Denomination will be bankrupt, and, by 2050 they will no longer exist as a denomination.

What is the response of those that occupy a leadership role in these churches? DENIAL! It is no longer possible to deny the reality of decline. However, when presented with irrefutable data that validates this precipitous decline there is an overwhelming refusal to implement any ministry modifications that lead to effectiveness. The stadium in Tuscaloosa will be filled to capacity on Saturday but there is little or no interest in spiritual formation among the same people that fill church services each Sunday.

When Martin Luther led what resulted in The Reformation that changed not only Germany, Europe and ultimately the world, the German people became a driving force in that movement. The people in the American Church must do the same today. Decline is not only persistent, it is accelerating – rapidly.

Where are your priorities? Are you more concerned with Football, or, the stability and nobility of America as a ‘City on A Hill’, the beacon of Truth and Righteousness? The people in our churches must demand the modifications that evidence true spirituality as measured by Special Revelation. What are your priorities?

 

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