The Pilgrims at the first Thanksgiving were likely a subset of Puritanism and possibly prayed a prayer like this one from The Valley of Vision:
O My God, Thou fairest, greatest, first of all objects, my heart admires, adores, loves thee, for my little vessel is as full as it can be, and I would pour out all that fullness before thee in ceaseless flow.
When I think upon and converse with thee ten thousand delightful thoughts spring up, ten thousand sources of pleasure are unsealed, ten thousand refreshing joys spread over my heart, crowding into every moment of happiness.
I bless thee for the soul thou hast created, for adorning it, for sanctifying it, though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou hast given me, for preserving its strength and vigour, for providing senses to enjoy delights, for the ease and freedom of my limbs, for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providing my daily support, for a full table and overflowing cup, for appetite, taste, sweetness, for social joys of relatives and friends, for ability to serve others, for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities, for a mind to care for my fellow-men, for opportunities of spreading happiness around, for loved ones in the joys of heaven, for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.
I love thee above the powers of language to express, for what thou art to thy creatures. Increase my love, O my God, through time and eternity.
I recently had an exchange with a Pastor, a friend of many years (1973). His perception of folks such as I who are Church Consultants (I prefer the ID ‘Pastoral Liaison’) is quite low. In one of our exchanges I posted the following. Let me know if I am a “Grumpy Old Man” – our children got me that Video for Christmas one year – our spot on accurate.
Having said that, 70% or more of the people in evangelical churches are simply unregenerate. I am hated for declaring this but the conduct and the absence of genuine fruitfulness – - Disciples fully formed in the image of Christ – is exhibit ‘A’ that supports my thesis. When I started IgniteUS in 2000 I used the figure of 3,000 church closings each year. This week Thom Rainer in a BLOG post said that figure is now 8,000 – 10,000.
This is true because Pastors lack both the wisdom, courage, skill and tenacity to identify that lostness, lovingly confront those lost people, and see GOD change their hearts which only HE can do. Pulpits pump out bland moralisms rather than flaming heart transforming Truth. Quite simply most gatherings that fly under the banner ‘church’ are nothing more than a building whose architectural capital feature is a steeple. They have no exegetical/theological definition of what a Disciples is and therefore no process to measure spiritual formation. There is no Elder/Shepherd accountability applied to the sheep for the growth in grace Peter commands (2Peter3:18). They tell me if they attempt that they will get fired. Who are you serving? 57% of evangelical Pastors would walk out the door today if they had a way to care for their families. The Scripture calls them hirelings. They have activity that will wear you out but on December 31st the vast majority of those who are present for every service are no more like Christ than they were on January 1st. If they attempt to apply such the NAKED TRUTH will be revealed so they continue ‘going through the motions’. My fear is that many/dare I say most will hear those frightful words – - Depart from ME, I never knew you!
What say you??
Solomon describes the aging process in Eccl. 12:5 by using the Almond Tree. When the blossoms come to full maturity they are grey in color. When an old man looks in the mirror his hair is grey (if he has any!)
This is the inevitable cycle of life. We are born. We race through the arrogance of our youth. All too soon we look in the mirror and we are grey! Yikes.
This cycle of aging is also true for churches, all organizations. They are born, they flourish. They age.
I am working with a church, once filled with 2,700 members. They now have 371 ‘on the role’. 47% of this number are age 70+. The actuarial table for a male in this state says the expected life span is 78 years of age. 38% of this number are already above age 75.
It is extremely difficult (as in nearly impossible) to affect transformation among such a demographic.
The Lesson - DO NOT squander the days of your youth local church. Constant unending relentless Reformation & Renewal from the day you are born is the best antidote to this Almond Blossom Syndrome.
What is the demographic age of the church where you serve? Better know this and sooner rather than later!!!
We are all profoundly influenced by people. Often the recognition of their influence comes long after they are gone. The “Small Men” I am writing about refers to their physical stature not their character or influence upon my pilgrimage. None were over 5′-7″ tall. They are virtual giants in their continuing influence on me as a man and as a Leader of Men.
#1 – My Paternal Grandfather – William Fillinger. In 1929 when the market crashed he purchased a farm. He had been an engineer and traveled the country establishing manufacturing plants for the U.S. Gypsum Co. His eye sight was compromised. He wore ‘coke bottle’ glasses. In this new occupation I was privileged to learn much from him. He was intelligent and creative. In those days the ‘sellers’ walked away with only the clothes on their backs. Everything else, house, barns, livestock, equipment all went to the buyer.
The desk in my study (cf. the photo) was in the house. It, like so many of life’s richest treasures, was covered in black gum varnish. When stripped and refinished it sparkles as a marvelous piece of furniture that graces my Study. This is a tribute to my memory of my grandfather.
My Grandfather had turn signals on his cars long before Detroit added this feature. The only exception – his only worked when you turned the wheel. There were two (2) bushel baskets under a work bench in the garage. As a boy of 9-10 I was absolutely convinced that anything in the universe that you might need was in one of those baskets. He could fix or repair almost anything. His quiet intelligent creativity continues to influence me to this day.
#2 – My Maternal Grandfather – Lester Short. Hard work – diligence and persistence. I remember working side by side with him. When we built something it was done properly, no compromises. I suppose he as well as I would be characterized as ‘driven men’. When we finished lunch he would say as the last fork full of food was consumed – ‘OK, let’s go!’ At the age of 4 when my mother sat down for a coffee break while cleaning house I said to her – - ‘Mother, isn’t this wasting time?’ (as recorded in my baby-book) WOW! Did he impact my life or what?
I remember sitting at the dinner table with him and the discussion centered on righteousness as expressed in the care of animals. He cited Proverbs 12 – Whoever is righteous has regard for the life of his beast . . . (Prov. 12:10). He took me duck hunting. He guided my trembling hands while hunkered down in a duck blind to down a green-winged teal on a cloudy October morning. That memory is as fresh as every morning sun rise.
#3 – Dr. George Lawlor – Koine’ Greek
I did not begin under graduate studies until age 27. My interest in High School was baseball not academics. So, when I began language study I was petrified to say the least. We began with 32 in the class – finished with 12. Dr. Lawlor insisted on precision in knowledge, especially in the language of the NT. I can hear him to this day beginning each class with the injunction – - ‘know those endings!’ I still have hanging in my study the ‘vocabulary ring’ I carried 24/7 in my endeavor to ‘know those endings’!
He was impeccably dressed. He could serve as a mannequin for Hart, Schaeffner & Marx. His passion for Truth as revealed in the Greek text of the NT matched his dashing but humble appearance. I had the joy of knowing him up close and personal through a series of service opportunities. He was a scholar, a theologian and a dedicated instructor of men who would become pastors. Machen’s Grammar mastered.
#4 – Dr. James Boyer – Gramcord
Humility personified. He organized and systematized the Greek NT. This became Gramcord, one of the first digital versions of the Greek NT. He was quiet and dedicated. He retired early to care for his wife in her latter days. This was simply the only thing he could do because that is who he was.
He helped me and countless others acquire proficiency in the study of the Greek NT.
We must each be who God made us. Part of His ‘making us’ is the people He uses to shape and mold us. I am forever thankful for these four (4) men and their contribution to my life and to my capacity to serve the kingdom of God. Thank you William, Lester, George and James. I pray that I have invested well those skills and competencies you graciously built into my life.
Recently read the Book of Titus in my Bible Reading routine. I noted in Titus 1:9 & 2:1 the meaning of the word translated ‘sound’.
The word is ‘ugiainousei. (cf. Arndt & Ginrich pp. 839-840)
The ministry of IgniteUS is dedicated to seeing the church become Healthy & Effective disciplemakers. The church is a theological entity. When and only then the church practices Sound Doctrine can she be healthy. We provide what we have labeled our 14 Effectiveness Criteria. These areas when embraced with integrity result in a healthy & effective NT church.
More to come in the 10/15 News Letter. Ask yourself this question – - If the church I lead is only as healthy as our adherence to sound doctrine, what is the health of that church?
A century ago Charles Haddon Spurgeon was a leading light in the evangelical world. His sermons were published each week. His influence was enormous. His battle for the preservation of orthodoxy among evangelicals soon found him standing pretty much alone. He took on the establishment and was pummeled for his stand. This has been true down through the annals of Christian History. The war is always raging in the struggle to maintain orthodoxy.
In March 1887, Charles Spurgeon published the first of two articles entitled “The Down Grade” in his monthly magazine, The Sword and the Trowel. The articles were published anonymously, but the author was Robert Shindler, Spurgeon’s close friend and fellow Baptist pastor. Shindler wrote the articles with input from Spurgeon, who footnoted the first article with a personal endorsement: “Earnest attention is requested for this paper. . . . We are going down hill at breakneck speed.” Tracing the state of evangelicalism from the Puritan age to his own era, Shindler noted that every revival of true evangelical faith had been followed within a generation or two by a drift away from sound doctrine, ultimately leading to wholesale apostasy. He likened this drifting from truth to a downhill slope, and thus labeled it “the down-grade.”
A cursory examination of the state of evangelicalism in the United States reflects vivid parallels with this ‘down-grade’. Only a blind man or a heretic will disavow this trend.
Doctrine is a seamless garment. Heresy in one area pollutes and corrupts the whole. To pretend that some aspects of foundational Truth are subject to varying interpretations and application is at best naieve and at worst consigning the church to a trajectory that leads to apostasy. History confirms this premise over and over and over.
Spurgeon sounded the alarm. He was largely ignored. History has confirmed the accuracy of his concern. The question before us is this – -”Will we engage in aimless dithering or will we take a gracious, irenic and compassionate stand for Truth? Joshua and Caleb understood the wretched end of following the ‘majority rules’ approach to doctrine and Truth.
Where do you stand?
Does the Scripture actually mean what it says in clear (theologians use the term perspicuous) language? I have invested 44 years of my life endeavoring to acquire the skills required to know with certainty what the Scripture is saying and what it means. Sounds simple enough, but wait. . .
I recently entered a post on a BLOG site. The issue was focused on the often quoted shibboleth that “God hates the sin but loves the sinner.” David Platt preached a message challenging this incomplete and therefore distortion of Truth. Please consider:
Psalm 5:5 The boastful shall not stand before your eyes; you hate all evildoers.
Psalm 11:5 The LORD tests the righteous, but his soul hates the wicked and the one who loves violence.
There were 60 responses on this BLOG. At least 50 of them disputed the fact that God hates the one working iniquity. Lots of word games. Lots of hermeneutical gymnastics but very little submission to what the text says.
The response were not from flaming ‘liberals’, people who deny Christ. These were men who claim to be bible-believing theist. But then, this should not surprise. Consider:
2 Timothy 4:1-4 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with
“Did I wake you up?” the caller said. It was 7:30 AM. We have been friends for 20 years. My response – ‘How long have you known me; I get up at 4:30 AM!’
‘I just need some one to listen to me’ was the opening line of our conversation.
I took this man to Africa with me. I showed him how to pack after ten (10) days on mission. You put the suit case on the bed. You open it. You grab all your belongings. You chuck them in the suit case. You close the lid. You are ready to fly. It takes not more than 60 seconds. His wife was mortified. He loved it. That brief anecdote is a snap shot in the Video of our years of friendship. Laughter, tears, prayers, anger, silence, frustration – - but always lunch on Tuesday.
In November 2012 we moved to AL from SC after ministry there for 20 years. The caller was another Pastor. We have been friends in the best sense of the word through those years. On one occasion I went to their home and told him “You WILL NOT QUIT!” His wife wept openly. They were ‘fried’ by the reality of pastoral ministry. He listened.
He told me “I lost my Pastor”. Those words are priceless. I set aside my agenda to draft this BLOG. Every Pastor should Pastor another Pastor.
Our conversation was 30 minutes of perspective. I was able to walk him through the issues he was deliberating. We reached a conclusion that makes sense from a biblical, practical and emotional point of view. That call was not on my “Agenda” but it may well be the most important thing I do today or this week.
He read me a poem his 5 year old grandson had written for him upon his departure after their most recent visit. That is the stuff of real friendship. Loyalty wrapped in TRUTH, Honesty and Integrity.
A question for every Pastor – - ‘Do you have another Pastor who regards you as his Pastor?’ You should. The joy of that role is abundant. I also find it much like the way the Good Shepherd meets with me in every circumstance. His promise to us “I am with you!” Who is your Pastor? Who are you Pastoring?
In the Book of Joshua we read of an altar being erected by the Tribes of Reuben, God and the half-tribe of Manasseh. This action brought much to the consternation of the other Tribes of Israel. They prepared to go to war over this incident.
War was not necessary. The motivation for building the altar was not to provide an alternative place to offer sacrifices. It was rather a sincere effort to preserve the identification of these 2 ½ Tribes with the majority of the nation. The concern was that future generations would be excluded and shunned. The text says on this action:
No, but we did it from fear that in time to come your children might say to our children, ‘What have you to do with the LORD, the God of Israel? For the LORD has made the Jordan a boundary between us and you, you people of Reuben and people of Gad. You have no portion in the LORD.’ So your children might make our children cease to worship the LORD. Therefore we said, ‘Let us now build an altar, not for burnt offering, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you, and between our generations after us, that we do perform the service of the LORD in his presence with our burnt offerings and sacrifices and peace offerings, so your children will not say to our children in time to come, “You have no portion in the LORD.”‘ And we thought, If this should be said to us or to our descendants in time to come, we should say, ‘Behold, the copy of the altar of the LORD, which our fathers made, not for burnt offerings, nor for sacrifice, but to be a witness between us and you.’ Far be it from us that we should rebel against the LORD and turn away this day from following the LORD by building an altar for burnt offering, grain offering, or sacrifice, other than the altar of the LORD our God that stands before his tabernacle!” (Joshua 22:24-29)
Perhaps the evangelical church in America needs to re-visit this principle. The younger generations are abandoning the faith in significant numbers.
The church needs Leaders with the conviction and integrity to embrace history and restore the remembrance of the ‘faith of our fathers’!
Complete the following exercise.
Think back over the past 30 days. Make a list of the instances in which people did not do what they told you they would do. This may occur in a multitude of disciplines and realms. However, it occurs frequently in Customer Service venues. If you fly, the airlines, all of them, provide an endless supply of such events.
By now you are asking, ‘What is the purpose of this exercise? Glad you asked.
James Kouzes and Barry Posner are the co-authors of The Leadership Challenge. This is an anthology published three times over a period of twenty-four years. They ask respondents from 85 cultures around the globe to rank order a list of important leadership characteristics. Mind you, that is a very significant and very diverse control group. The responses have Validity & Reliability. That is called The Truth as perceived by the respondents!
Each and every time this survey has been conducted the same issue surfaces as the #1 expectation on the part of people when they consider leaders – - DO WHAT YOU SAY YOU WILL DO!!
Now go back to that list you created. Compare your list to this principle. It is tragically rare in the American culture when people follow through. There are instances when the failure to deliver is not the culpability of the one who made the commitment. However, it remains their responsibility. The proper response is deliver or provide an honest and timely rationale for the failure and a revised target date for correcting the failure. Caution – don’t hold your breath while waiting for this to happen.
All people, mothers, fathers, vendors and most assuredly people in leadership roles MUST honor this principle. It is simple (not always easy but simple) and so vital.
The result? This is so rare that you will be regarded as one who delivers what you promise with excellence. You will be held in high esteem. Most importantly, you will honor the biblical principle of ‘let your yes be yes’ (James 5:12). That matters!