Thursday, May 31, 2012

Faithful Teachers


The main function of a pastor is to teach because this is only gift that is identified in the list of qualifications for pastors.  The word is Didakikos – and is rendered “able to teach” in I Timothy 3:2.

A pastor must be a highly skilled teacher who works hard in his studies and proclamation.  He "labors" in the Word and doctrine according to I Timothy 5:17.  This is the single qualification that sets him apart from deacons.

Furthermore, we are to all teach the same truth.  We don’t have the option of developing our own theology, or to teach anything except the Word.  Developing our own stylized ministry and making ourselves the center of attention is not an option either because it’s not about us.  It’s about Jesus.

The more faithful a pastor is in teaching the more he will sound like other faithful pastors.  Faithful teachers all sound the same.  They are saying the same thing.  They are standing in the same line as previous faithful teachers.  They are content to be numbered among the faithful.  They don’t need a personalized, stylized ministry that features “them.”  Instead, they feature the Word of God because that’s all we have been given.

If you listen to someone who sounds like nobody else and says things you never hear anybody else say, go find another teacher because he is not faithful.  If you hear someone teach extra-Biblical revelations, go find someone else because he is not a faithful teacher.

“Preach the Word!........ For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine….. but will heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears, and they will turn away from the truth and be turned unto fables”  (2 Timothy 4:2-4)

That’s one of the problems we have in churches today – they are personality driven – instead of being scripturally driven.  It’s almost a celebrity culture.

Do everything you can to get “sound teaching” and “sound doctrine” embedded into your spirit.  In addition to sitting under faithful teachers, break out that old black book yourself and begin devouring its pages.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - May 27, 2012


Solid day.

After being out of town all week I felt a little rusty while preaching, but the message was still solid and edifying.

Bottom line of the message:  A disciple does not fear the world, but fears God instead.

After service we hosted a reception for all our graduates (from high school, college, etc).  It was a lot of a fun because we really appreciate the young people of PCC.  I was very pleased to hear that a few of the graduates are not moving away, but will attend college locally.

Attendance was off about 40 people I think, but still very good for Memorial Day weekend.

I had to fill in on bass guitar because our regular bassist had to work.  I enjoyed all the songs and got a lot of enjoyment playing.

This evening we had a house full of people, family and friends, over for dinner and homemade ice-cream.  It’s what summers are for.

Tomorrow I will be spending some time in the garden.  My tomato plants are under attack by pests.

Mind Dump is brief tonight because I am wore out.

Life is good.

Going to bed.

When Helping Hurts


Recently I skimmed this book – When Helping Hurts (How to Alleviate Poverty Without  Hurting the Poor or Yourself) – written by Dr. Brian Fikkert.  The basic premise is that when we try to help the poor without having a proper understanding of poverty we often do more harm than good, both to those we are trying to help and ourselves.  Dr. Fikkert cites an example of a church who handed out turkeys and toys in a poor neighborhood every year at Thanksgiving and Christmas.  After several year they discovered that the neighbors felt more poor and more shame, and the church people felt more self-righteous and more superior; each worse off than they were at the beginning.

About two years ago I read this book – The Hole in our Gospel – written by Richard Stearns, President of World Vision.  This particular book totally changed the way I viewed poverty and the gospel.  The premise of the book is the same as the book mentioned above – that is, our helping often does more hurt than it does good.  The author cites example after example of missionary efforts to Africa which only deepened poverty rather than alleviate it.  Don’t read this book unless you want to be challenged.  It radically changed my view on a lot of things.

I think there is a lesson we can learn regarding being a local church in our own community.  Do we really understand the needs that exist around us?  What are the root causes?  How can we help in a way to turn things around?  Are we handing out book bags and grocery cards to feel good about ourselves (or boost attendance)?  Is being “missional” just a code word for marketing?

Giving people a hand up is better than a hand out.

Maybe this Chinese proverb will shed some light:  Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.  Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Purple Hull... almost ready to pick


Will be picking this week.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Reflections...


It’s Friday evening.  Renae and I have been gone all week on a fishing trip to Lake Talquin near Tallahassee.  We left last Sunday after church and have had five days away.  It was a great trip.  We went with two other couples, renting a cabin together on the lake.  The cabin was on a high bluff about 40-50 ft high overlooking the water, with live oaks providing lots of shade.  It could not have been a nicer location.  I posted a few pictures earlier in the week that gives you an idea of how nice the place was.

More importantly, it was a much needed get-away for me and Renae.  We’ve been very stressed lately and this trip was timely. 

After four or five days I finally started “settling in” to the routine of a slower pace of living.  We would get up about 5:30 AM, eat breakfast, go fishing until mid-day, come in for an afternoon nap, then go back out in the evening to fish again until dark.

I could live in a van down by the river :-)

Between the six of us we caught more than 260 fish.  Very exciting.  Renae and I caught our fair share too.  Well worth the trip.

We took hundreds of pictures.  Mostly of wildlife or nature shots.  Lake Talquin is a very beautiful place.

On the trip home today we avoided the interstate and traveled along hwy 20 and hwy 90.  It was very scenic.  Along the way we stopped at a few hardware stores and antique shops to shop for unique items.  Renae ended up with twenty antique milk bottles that she intends to use for flower vases (or wine carafes (;-).

We had lunch in Mossy Head along hwy 90 at a place called “Something Good, Country Cookin.”  It was a local favorite and a very positive experience for us.  We interacted with the owners and had a pleasant visit.  During the exchange, the owners’ son gave us a couple of small containers of their homemade BBQ sauce.  As he gave it to me he said, “We are very proud of this sauce.  Dad worked on this for decades until he was finally satisfied with it.”  I said “thank you” and went out to the parking lot where Renae and I dipped our finger in for a taste.  It was so good we wanted more, so she went back in to ask if they sold it by the bottle.  They didn’t, but he did sell us a quart of the stuff in a jar!  It was a great experience.

When traveling we love to visit diners that appear to be local favorites.

After being away for the week I was concerned about our garden.  As soon as we got everything unloaded from the truck we went to the garden to check it out.  There was plenty to pick (the picture is what we harvested today) and I spent about an hour watering.  In the next week or so I will be picking purple hull peas (family heirloom). Yea!

LAST SUNDAY’S SERMON.  If you were in attendance you will recall I talked about the difference between the word “Christian” and “disciple.”  All I can say is “wow!”  The response has been enormous.  I think this message stimulated a lot of thought.  The text was Matthew 10:24-25.  This Sunday we will expound on v.26-31, and next Sunday we finish the chapter by expounding on verses 32-42).

This current series (Becoming a Disciple) has been a game-changer for a lot of people.  I intended it to last for 2-3 weeks, but we are now on week seven!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Friday, May 18, 2012

90 Pounds of Potatoes


I planted 7 lbs of potatoes and have harvested 90 lbs.  That's a very big increase.  The law of the harvest works!

Designer Pop Gospel verses Counting the Cost


For which of you, intending to build a tower, does not sit down first and count the cost, whether he has enough to finish it lest, after he has laid the foundation, and is not able to finish, all who see it begin to mock him, saying, ‘This man began to build and was not able to finish’? Luke 14:28-30 (KJV)

If you are considering coming to Jesus, you have to count the cost.  Have you?  Do you even understand there is a price to pay?  We know what the price is because the Bible tells us clearly and repeatedly:  self denial, taking up your cross, losing your life, loving Christ supremely above your families or even your own life, and forsaking all.  That’s how devoted we have to be.

Now comes the issue of easy believism and pop culture within Christianity.  People don’t buy into Christianity if it’s too hard.  If it doesn’t meet their needs, they won’t be interested.  If they want six fruit flavors and you offer only two, you’ve lost them.  They need a Christianity that tastes great and offers options.

The first rule of marketing is to give consumers what they want.  If they want bigger burgers, make them bigger.  Designer bottled water in six fruit flavors?  Done.  Minivans with ten cup holders?  Give them twenty.  You’ve got to keep the customer satisfied.  You’ve got to modify your product and your message to meet their needs if you want a market share.

This same consumer mentality has invaded the church.  Need more programs?  Done.  Need more options to choose from on the ministry menu?  Done.  Whatever you need, we’ll provide it for you!  And if the message is too confrontational, too hard, too exclusive, too scary, uncomfortable, we’ll adjust that too.  After all, the only goal is to keep you happy. 

This version of Christianity makes you a partner on the team, a design consultant on church life, and does away with old-fashioned authority, accountability, and moral absolutes.

It’s Christianity for consumers.  Christianity Lite.  And it misrepresents the Bible.  The true gospel is a call to self-denial.  It’s not a call to self-fulfillment.  Christianity has become a “get what you want” rather than a “give up everything” movement.  God’s glory has been replaced with the satisfaction of man as the main priority.

What happens when we offer a consumer version of the gospel?  People take the bait and think, “Hey, this Christianity thing is not hard at all.  Meet nice people, hear an inspiring message, some cool music, get to heaven.”  But at some point the truth comes out.  The hard words of Jesus thunder forth:  It’s not about you, it’s about Me and sacrificing yourself to follow Me!”

It’s absolutely true that almost nobody is going to want to become a Christian under those terms, unless the Spirit of God is working in his/her heart.  Unless the Holy Spirit is doing His work of conviction and drawing a person to Christ, nothing is going to happen, no matter what we do. 

Conversely, when a person is being drawn by the Spirit of God they will want to know the truth, undiluted.  They won’t need smoke bombs, flashing lights, nine different flavors, or a full menu of ministry options.  And then only the message of Jesus, connected to the work of the Spirit, will produce true salvation.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lessons Learned about Leadership Training


Twenty years or so ago Leadership Training became all the rage in churches. Suddenly if you weren’t training leaders you weren’t really accomplishing much. “Everyone is a leader” (according to John Maxwell) so “everyone must be trained as a leader”, we were told. We read all the leadership books, went to all the leadership seminars, and even worked the leadership mantra into our sermons: Everything rises and falls on leadership…. All leaders are readers… etc.

However, some serious challenges have popped up along the way:

1.  We have discovered that not EVERYONE is a leader.  It's obvious.  They may have their graduation certficiate, but there is no way on earth they can be trusted to lead anything. 

2.  The second, and bigger, discovery is that leadership classes do not produce leaders.  At the end of six weeks (or nine weeks or two years) students become graduates, not necessarily leaders. Classes and training programs look great on paper, but they don't always produce the kind of leaders needed in the field.

3.  Church leadership is a different life-form than secular leadership.  While it can be developed,(through classes, training, and OJT), it begins as a gift from God (Romans 12:6-8)

Leadership that DOES Work

Christ’s method of leadership training was discipleship.  He taught His students the message of the gospel, had them walk with Him in an apprentice model, and then released them to do the work.  Jesus found His leaders, not in the temple or synagogue, but in the market place.  His classroom was the size of the State of Rhode Island where they lived in the countryside.  In this classroom, He taught His disciples to rely on the Father for guidance in the ministry.

He never put out a sign-up sheet.  There wasn’t a Starbucks in Galilee where He and the twelve could sip frappuccinos.  But He poured His life into them as they lived together, and the eleven remaining men changed the world.  Here are my observations:

1.  Jesus spent time observing potential leaders at work, specifically secular work, before calling them.

2.  He chose the twelve after a night in prayer.

3.  Jesus handpicked His leaders.

4.  No one self-selected into His group.  Anyone could follow Him or be His disciple, but His team of twelve was by invitation only.

5.  Of the twelve, there was an inner circle of three – Peter, James, and John.

6.  Jesus taught principles of the kingdom along the way as they did life together.

7.  Jesus pressed His students into very difficult situations.

8.  He did not give His students a leadership template to follow or a program to propagate.  Instead, He gave them a mission.

9.  His final instructions to them were simple, “Go, make disciples.”  That was the entire game plan.  There was no Plan B.  He left the “how” up to them.

10.  Jesus taught in public, but He debriefed in private.

11.  His disciples learned as much from the debrief during Q & A as they did from the original content of His sermons and parables.

12.  He spent three years developing twelve men, which means He didn’t have a microwave leadership program for the masses.  Not only did His teaching method take three years with twelve students, but it was 24-7, 365.

HERE’S THE POINT:  If the Son of God poured every waking hour for three years into the hand-picked twelve and achieved a 92% success rate, it’s little wonder that we struggle at making leaders in an eight-week training class for the masses.

I'm Back


My home computer has been out of service, and since I do most of my blogging from home I haven't been very active the last two weeks.  However, I've got it fixed and will resume later today or tomorrow.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Garden Pictures - Saturday


Dragon Tongue Beans putting on




Tomatoes are very heavy on the vine




Today's picking:  red potatoes, green plum tomatoes, a few squash, and bananna pepper




Blueberries - they are as big as gumbo marbles.





Raddish (they didn't "bulb" very well because I left them too crowded.  I should have thinned them more).  I intend to replant soon because they mature very fast; in about six weeks, providing a quick reward.



Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Sunday Mind Dump - May 6 (Tuesday Edition)


What a weekend.  Friday was a full day.  Saturday was a full day.  And Sunday was a full day.  I was so fatigued on Monday that I didn’t have the mental strength to write.

At any rate, we had a great day Sunday.  Attendance was up.  Giving was solid.  Kidz Zone had about 80 kids.  The nursery was stacked.  You should’ve seen it.  The people who work in this area deserve a medal for the job they do each week.

Trust me, your labor of love does not go unnoticed.

Sunday’s message was from Luke 9:23-26.  It was very challenging.  But I was also very encouraged because a lot of people spoke to me afterwards telling me how meaningful it was.

Some of the content from last Friday’s blog (What is a Disciple?) was the introduction to the message.

Based on the feedback we are getting from so many people, I think the concept of “make disciples” is taking hold.

After church, Renae and I had lunch with an old friend of ours who we haven’t seen in 20 years or so.  He and his family attended service with us, and then invited us to their home.  They have a fabulous place in East Milton, about 40 acres of land that is loaded with pecan trees.  He and his wife were so gracious, and easy to talk to.  The meal was home run too – roast with all the trimmings, and most of the vegetables came out of their garden.  We have a lot in common – having the same ministry background – and had a lot of catching up to do.

As soon as lunch was over, Renae went straight back to the church (without even going home) to get ready for the evening service – Night of Worship.

The evening service was a huge success.  About 150 people attended the event.  The music was very good, with an intermission at the mid way point.  One of the most enjoyable aspects of the night were the two testimonies shared by Renee Jones and Mike Guy, as well as the message by Greg Gill.  The theme of each persons talk was on some aspect of worship.  Very effective. 

Today at the church we had a plumbing disaster.  I’ll spare you the details, but it was very gross.  Tomorrow morning we’re having a service call from Roto Rooter to fix the problem.  That should give you an idea.  PS – it happened in the admin hallway.  Did I say this was a disaster?

Although this is brief, take a look at the pictures.  They'll give you an idea.  I took about thirty pictures, but these came out the best. 

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Garden Update


Took this picture today.  Things are coming along pretty good.  We have already harvested a few potatoes (altough we're leaving most to mature), raddishes, and squash.  I'm getting a lot of enjoyment from this garden.  Can't wait for the beans, peas, and tomatoes to come in.


 

Roses


I rooted these rose bushes from a couple of cuttings.  They originated from the same bushes my mother has.  They are prolific bloomers and pleasing to look at.  I have enjoyed them so much that I rooted about twenty-five more two years ago (which are still containerized).  I hope to create an entire hedge row of these on our property. 

The rosemary in the front I also grew from a sprig.


Friday, May 4, 2012

What Is a Disciple?


The commonly held view today is that a person becomes a believer at salvation; then becomes a disciple later, when he moves past faith to obedience.  Consequently we see salvation as some kind of lower-level experience, and discipleship as being like extra credit for higher-level believers. 

While we do recognize that there are different levels of 'spiritual maturity' among true believers, Jesus and His apostles made no distinction between being saved and being a disciple.  They made no distinction between salvation and discipleship – it was a synonymous term.  The invitation to salvation is always a call to be a disciple.

The fact is, every true Christian IS a disciple of Jesus.  The word disciple is used consistently to describe believers in the book of Acts, and any distinction between the two words is purely artificial.

However, the problem is this:  Modern Christianity has separated the two terms, which has given birth to easy-believism that ignores (or disposes of) the hard demands of Jesus.  Ergo, not everyone who calls themselves a believer is a believer.  They merely profess Christ while their life bears no evidience of salvation.  This lack of fruit is then explained as being “only saved” but not yet a disciple.  This is false because Jesus clearly stated that one of the evidences of being a follower/believer/disciple (whatever term you want to use) was being fruitful (John 15:8).

When Jesus called followers, He always instructed them about the cost of following Him right up front.  His invitation to salvation was never easy-believism.  Halfhearted people who were not willing to make the commitment did not respond.  Thus He turned away anyone who was reluctant to pay the price or meet His terms.  Therefore, they were not Christians because they were not willing to be His disciples.

A Christian is not someone who merely gets “fire insurance” tacked-on to their life because they prayed some superstitious prayer.  A true believer is one whose faith expresses itself in a life of submission and obedience.

Jesus had great disdain for the short-term disciple.  i.e., The person who started but would not finish.  The half-built tower.  That’s why He made things so difficult for people right up front… to thin the ranks of people with insincere commitment.

The idea of daily self-denial does not jibe very well with today’s supposition that believing in Jesus is a momentary decision only.  The bumper-sticker sentiment of “Give Jesus a Try” is a mentality that is completely foreign to real discipleship and real Christianity.  Faith is not an experiment; it’s a lifelong commitment.

A true believer is one who signs up for life!  It calls for painful severing of ties with the world, burning your bridges, sealing the escape hatches, and ridding yourself of any kind of fall-back plan in case the journey gets too difficult.

True believers know they are going forward with JC until death.  Having put their hand to the plow, they do not look back.

 This is the stuff discipleship because it’s what a true Christian is.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Lack of Multiplication Leads to Division


If there is one thing I have learned in my limited gardening experience it is this: one seed can multiply itself hundreds and thousands of times over.  Plant one pear seed and it grows into a pear tree that produces more fruit than you can imagine, and each individual pear is filled with even more seeds!  The numbers are staggering.

That’s what discipleship is like.  Disciples make disciples…who make disciples... who make disciples.  It began with the eleven.  Jesus said to them, “make disciples.”  They did.  His eleven disciples made more disciples.  And those disciples repeated the process by making more disciples, who made more disciples.  This multiplication process has been happening for two thousand years.

But we’ve lost sight of this simple strategy today.  My guess is that we are better at addition – you know, counting on people coming through the front doors from other churches.  There's no kingdom advancement here.  No multiplication.  No real fruitfulness.  It's like reshuffling the deck.

It’s easy to settle for addition because it is safe.  Comfortable.  It graphs well on the year-end report.  However, addition is fragile.  It eventually leads to subtraction because “added” people typically move on, being added to another church.  The next thing you know the church is experiencing division.  People get divided over the stupidest stuff.  Paul said they bite and devour one another. 

So we have a choice in our churches:  addition, subtraction, division, or multiplication.

I’m choosing multiplication.

Like gardening, multiplying disciples is hard work.  You start with a person who is far from God.  You plant the seed, water the seed, nurture the plant, weed the garden, fertilize it, and eventually frutfulness.  Then you repeat the same process over again.

Bill Hull says, “If the church fails to make disciples, it fails to multiply.  If it fails to multiply, it fails.”

Everyone knows that division is failure.  But I would suggest so is subtraction and/or addition.  Multiplication is the thing that brings glory to God.  It is what we are commissioned to do.  If PCC is simply adding, subtracting, (or God forbid, dividing), we are falling short on the Great Commission.

I think I’m on to something.  Do you want to be part of this process?  I want the disciples in our church to go and make disciples… who make disciples.  After all, Jesus Himself said that proof of our discipleship is fruitfulness: 

This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples (John 15:8).


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Making Disciples God's Way


Every Easter I hear of another church doing something crazy to get people in the door of their building:
  • One church gave away a car
  • One church surprised attenders with a shopping spree
  • Scores of other churches dropped Easter eggs from a helicopter
What’s next?  John the Baptist offering people a free camel ride if they’ll get baptized?

Somehow I don’t think Oprah-like bribery to get people through the door is what Jesus had in mind when He told us to make disciples. Jesus has given the church a specific mission and He has also given us the strategy and means to accomplish that mission: (1)The Spirit of God, (2) The Word of God, and (3) The people of God.

The book of Acts is the explosive example of what happens when all three work in combination. 

If there is any doubt that God can use the members of PCC like He did in the book of Acts, just remember we are the Body of Christ.  Jesus has masterfully pulled together a group of people who are Spirit-empowered and Word-of-God-equipped to carry out that mission.

Why should we accept anything less than explosive, God-honoring, awe-inspiring transformation and growth?