Changing Hurdle Jumpers

hurdleWe have been rapidly moving toward a post-Christian culture. That can be daunting to those, like myself, who are old enough to remember the Christian dominating culture and have lived through the transition. However, if we embrace one important dynamic, it does not have to be the hurdle we think it is.

In order for many of our neighbors in our culture to ‘come to church,’ they must jump many hurdles to get to our services. Some of those hurdles are:

  • Meeting times – do we worship a day or a person?
  • Dress codes – do ties and dress slacks make us more spiritual?
  • Meeting protocol – why 3 songs, an offering, a sermon and a prayer?
  • Bible linguistics – why heavy theological language which most don’t understand?
  • etc.

The average ‘posty’ (my term for a post-Christian person) must jump over these and many other hurdles in order to ‘fit into’ our puritanical and centralized pattern of church. Continue reading “Changing Hurdle Jumpers”

Emasculating Christian Men

ScarecrowOur culture hates absolute truth! It also hates and rejects men who are bold enough to proclaim it. That is why pastors should never seek to be popular or acceptable among the leaders of society. Jesus warned us to be concerned if “all men speak well of thee.” It is the sign of a false prophet. (Luke 6:26)

We are witnessing the constant disintegration of our society and it should not surprise us. However, we are also seeing the emasculating of Christian men in the church…even in the pulpit. This is alarming. God is looking for men who will not bow down to political correctness or social pluralism, and who are willing to proclaim the exclusive claims of Christ boldly, and call for all to repent and surrender to Jesus!

A gospel of love and encouragement is NOT the gospel of Christ if it excludes God’s judgment of sin and the call for repentance. The message becomes nothing more than pop-psychology with god words, and will only complement the further decay and Continue reading “Emasculating Christian Men”

Hiding Among the Trees

There are lots of things which can stand between man and God. It could be a job or hobby. It could be friends or family. Maybe even good works or religious devotion. Yes, church work can keep us from the rest of faith.

In our attempt to get busy for God and perform the Father’s work, we can lose our way of grace and become victims of our own efforts. It is easy to fall into this trap, or should we say, to hide behind this tree.

“…the man and his wife hid themselves from the presence of the Lord God among the trees…” (Gen. 3:8, ESV)

The very thing (the trees) God gave Adam and Even for food and nourishment (Gen. 1:29; 2:16) was now being used to hide them from God’s presence. Continue reading “Hiding Among the Trees”

You Are the Salt of the Earth

The beauty and insight of the teachings of Jesus is how He used the language of common people to illustrate the treasures of God’s wisdom. He taught using examples from farmers, carpenters, bakers, storms, weddings, relationships and many others. In the sermon on the mount He said we are the “salt of the earth.” (Matt. 5:13)

In this verse, Jesus is warning believers about losing their saltiness and making their life worthless for the Kingdom’s sake. Why does He call us ‘salt’ and how does it apply to our life as Christians?

The Good

Salt purifies – It brings purity to every situation and thereby offers healing. We bring heaven’s prospective instead of letting bitterness, hatred and strife control the situation. We will either be contributors to the damage of the situation or agents of God’s truth to offer healing.

Salt preserves – It protects and preserves from decay. We seek to restore, protect and preserve instead of seeking to destroy and cast out.

Salt flavors – It brings the fragrance and taste of heaven to difficult situations. The presence of God can make the most difficult situation endurable. The enemy loves to Continue reading “You Are the Salt of the Earth”

Restorative Church Discipline: Rescuing and Healing the Wounded

Hopefully one of my books will ready for print by the end of January ’13. Here is the Preface, which I just finished before sending the manuscript to editors. I feel it reveals my heart in writing it. Pray the Lord will use it to help and encourage young pastors and elders.

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If you are considering employing the steps of church discipline within your church—DON’T DO IT! That is, until you have taken the time to read and pray through this book. There are dangers, problems and pitfalls which await you if you do. The issue of church discipline is too serious to rush out and begin implementing without a thorough understanding and personal evaluation of our motives.

I knew an Elder who was young and full of zeal. He was elected to lead a church and extremely excited to do so. As the case with many young pastors, he soon began to see the lack of moral restraint and brokenness over sin in his congregation. Rampant immorality, gossip, slander, and backbiting were present and became known over the next couple of years.

Then one Sunday morning, after enduring all he thought he could, he addressed the church. He preached through the passage in the gospels (Matt. 18:15-17) about church discipline in one service. He closed the service saying, “From this day forward, this is how we are handling sin in this church.”

After the service, he retired to his house and enjoyed lunch with his wife, feeling he had delivered his heart and God’s heart to the church. As he finished his meal, he sat and reflected upon the service. Then suddenly he asked himself, “What have I done? How do I do this? Who are the witnesses? Which sins do I confront? How far do I take it? How do I restore someone? How do I handle them if they refuse to repent? Etc…”

Many questions overwhelmed his thoughts about the passage. He wondered how to carry out the words of Jesus faithfully. He had preached out of his frustration over the condition of the local church. His zeal, warning, and declaration to the church had gotten ahead of his understanding. The Holy Spirit arrested his heart and prompted him to slow down.

That young man was me, many years ago. If you feel frustrated with the condition of your local church and feel called to do something, I understand. I feel your pain and have felt your heart. As a fellow pastor and elder I have two basic words—slow down.

Before taking any steps, I plead with you to read and pray through this book. I cannot guarantee wisdom for all situations. However, I can offer some help in many of them. If you are a pastor or elder and feel the burden to see the local church walk in the power and purity of the Holy Spirit, I have written this book for you. It comes out of years of ministry experience, heartache, errors and a sharp learning curve.

I pray the words in this book will save you from some of my early errors, and that it will be a resource of help for understanding and employing restorative church discipline. If it helps one pastor, the years of writing and editing will be worth it. If it helps one congregation to be a loving group of believers who begin rescuing and healing their wounded, that is even better.

Nothing is as heart breaking as seeing the destructiveness of sin, especially when a believer refuses to repent. Equally so, nothing is a joyful as seeing a brother restored through repentance. There is hope for all—even you and me.

I have a dream. It is a dream that our local churches can be the shining light on the hill and the salt of the earth. It is a dream that she can be a chaste virgin with eyes only for Jesus. It is a dream that all of us who name the name of Christ would love other believers the way Jesus does. It is a dream that we would stop shooting our wounded, and instead reach out to rescue and heal them. They need us…and we need them!

Because of His Grace,
Terry

Don’t Dumb Down The Gospel

This past week I had the privilege to speak to a youth group at First Wesleyan Church in Kannapolis, North Carolina. The crowd was high school, college and a sprinkling of older adults as well. A great crowd of youth came with expectant hearts and lively minds. I was asked to share about the work in India with the orphans and church planting. Seeing their faces as I shared power point photos of some of the work was golden. I’m praying for the Lord to continue to burn a desire in the hearts of these young people for missions and church planting…not just overseas, but in their neighborhood.

After that, I shared a brief message, “What is Truth?” Prodding and probing the hearts of those in attendance with how each of us answer the postmodern challenges to the gospel. These youth took the message to heart and were filled with questions. We opened the floor for the Q & A session and the real ministry began. For over an hour in the ‘official’ service, and then for 3 more hours after that, questions were constantly asked and discussed. I barely had time to grab a slice of pizza. In fact, a friend had to bring it to me, as I could not tear away from the constant stream of questions.

These youth wanted to understand how to answer their friends who object to the gospel because of difficult questions. They wanted to know, from God, how to reach their lost Continue reading “Don’t Dumb Down The Gospel”

I Want to be a Dog!

Recently we lost our 14 year old toy poodle to congestive heart failure. (His name was “Jacque Pierre de Orlean,” but we usually called him “Boo” or “Orlean.”) We woke up Sunday morning, August 19, to find that he had passed away in his bed. Our hearts are broken, as he was as much a part of our family as we are. In fact, we often joked that this was his home and he just allowed us to stay with him. I’m sure other pet owners will understand this.

Throughout reflecting upon the joy he brought into our family and the loyalty of his disposition, I became more and more convinced that he was more like a Christian than most of us. There were certain traits to his character which I see described in Scriptures for you and me. It got me to thinking; I want to be a dog!

He was loyal – Regardless of the situation he only had eyes for his family

He was forgiving – Regardless how we may have done something wrong he always sought to love us.

He was committed – Regardless how he felt when he was sick he always sought to be near us.

He was protective – Regardless of the impending danger he was willing to risk it all to protect us. Continue reading “I Want to be a Dog!”

Church Planting and the Apostles’ Doctrine

Immediately after the birth of the New Testament Church on the Day of Pentecost, we read where the believers gathered together to form a community of fellowship, prayer and doctrinal instruction. (Acts 2:42) I’ve been thinking about this for a long time and pondering a few areas as it relates to church planting. My focus rests upon a simple question:

In the NT how much doctrinal instruction was expected before other church planters (apostles/missionaries) were sent out?

There would seem to be two extremes. First, there is the position that only those officially trained in Seminary are qualified to hold such a position. Second, there is the position that anyone with a burden should be sent out as soon as possible. The former turns the church planting into a slow and almost non-existent process and seems to violate the New Testament norm and would even disqualify the twelve apostles. (Acts 4:13) The later may multiply quickly, but it opens the door for all types of heresy and catastrophes caused by novice leaders. (1Tim. 3:6)

Couple this with the fact that the early Apostles did not have a written doctrinal statement to use for class room instruction, or even a completed New Testament text. Therefore, what did they demand for future leaders to understand before sending them Continue reading “Church Planting and the Apostles’ Doctrine”

He Is Not Here, But Has Risen

These famous words flow down through Church history with power, devotion and deep meaning to every believer. (Luke 24:6) The resurrection of Jesus Christ is the bedrock of our faith and the greatest event known to man. It was an  open declaration to all men that this lowly carpenter was who He said He was–the Son of God!

When the Angel spoke these words to the ladies who went to put spices on the body of Jesus, it was a shock to their cultural and religious understanding. As Hebrews, they believed in a resurrection, but it would not take place until the end of the age. They had no reference point to understand a resurrection before that time, and yet, this is what the Angel proclaimed.

With the desire of humanity to have a point of integration which defines the deepest meaning to life, it is easy to understand how the tomb of Jesus would become a shrine; a place of devotion to the miracle worker from Galilee. However, because of the resurrection, His body could not be worshipped and enshrined to satisfy this longing of mankind. We must meet Him by faith; it is the only way of fellowship with our resurrected King.

The tearful devotion of these women was interrupted by the angelic proclamation, “He is not here, but is risen.” God would not provide a natural or physical place of mediation between the natural and the spiritual world. He offered something greater! Continue reading “He Is Not Here, But Has Risen”

Tebow Is Not My Hero

I like Tim Tebow as an athlete. I appreciate his willingness and heart to work with children in the Philippines and to proclaim Jesus as His Lord and Savior on the public stage. However, he is not my hero…and I do not think he desires to be anyone’s hero; but, he would have to answer that part.

I came from a life of athletics and was certainly one who worshipped sports and athletes. Sports had my heart; football was my idol. The smell of a well manicured field, the thrill of collisions and the cheering of the crowd was an extremely addictive high. And, this seems to be true for pro athletes also, as we see their difficulty in adjusting to real life after sports.

But back to Tebow. While he’s certainly a different kind of athlete, and one which holds to a moral example in the midst of a very immoral sporting culture, he is still not my hero and wasn’t a person I lifted before my boys to be their hero. Why? Well, to be honest with you, I look higher up the spiritual ladder for heroes. I’ve never seen much spiritual depth in the hollywood celebrities and athletes who carry on about ‘Jesus.’ Their shallow use of religious phraseology never offered an example of walking ‘in the Spirit’ that I desired to set before my boys. My wife, Susanne, and I have always directed our three boys to look higher. (They are all grown now.) We wanted them to look above the lower limbs in the small trees and find a hero among the eagles perched in the top of the largest trees. So, where did we point them? Glad you asked! Continue reading “Tebow Is Not My Hero”

Restoring Prayer

There are many instances of prayer in the Bible, but many times we see them only as examples of devotion by those whom we consider saints. Prayer, after all, is little more than a crying out in times of desperation for most. However, there is one event in the life of Jesus which reveals the priority He placed upon prayer–when He cleansed the Temple.

The world and those who love it are continually attempting to fill our life with junk…. that is, unnecessary and unimportant stuff which robs our time alone with our resurrected King. The very joy, peace and strength we long for is replaced by stuff, stuff and more stuff. And we wonder why we get stressed out, fatigued, depressed and frustrated. We fall from the sustaining power of God’s Grace when we attempt to live the life of a believer apart from the abiding presence of Christ. And we forfeit the abiding presence of Christ when we place our own ‘doings’ ahead of getting alone with the Lord in prayer. We become spiritually defeated Christians. Continue reading “Restoring Prayer”

ReThinking Church, Part 8 – Church Planting is NOT the Mission

Now, before you have a stroke, let me explain. Of course church planting is part of the overall strategy of evangelism and the spread of the Gospel. However, if we count the establishing or planting of a church as the final goal, we miss the heart of Jesus and the example of the Apostle Paul in the book of Acts.

When church planting becomes the mission, several destructive issues arise.

  • Power Play – Fight over who’s boss (Can involve family ties, social clicks, racial profiling, etc…)
  • Satisfaction – We have arrived.
  • Pride – Look what we have accomplished.
  • Inertia – At ease in Zion.
  • Self Absorbed – Can we build a larger building to impress the community. (Of course, the building is always for the ‘Glory of God.’ …sarcasm intended.)
  • Old Testament Paradigm – Come and hear, as opposed to New Testament model of ‘go and tell.’

The above problems, and many others associated with them, is what we see in the majority of fellowships in America.  However, these all contrast the teachings of Jesus and the outworking of His teachings which are demonstrated through the early church, Continue reading “ReThinking Church, Part 8 – Church Planting is NOT the Mission”