Friday, February 12, 2016

Abortion in the Pews

We will have about 1.2 million abortions in our country this year. Half of those women will be regular church goers and self-identified Christians. One may argue that many of these women are casual or nominal Christians, and not genuinely saved. So just to be on the conservative side, let's say that 200,000 of the 600,000 are actually believers. An abortion costs about $500 on average. This means that in 2016 believers will contribute over $100,000,000; that's one-hundred million dollars for all of us who have trouble counting zeros. Therefore, if we could just stop Christians from have abortions, we would truly begin to defund Planned Parenthood without regard to a presidential veto.

After that lesson in math, here's one from statistics. A recently released study demonstrated that only 7% of women who were regular church attendees when they had an abortion ever sought counsel from someone in the church. When asked why, they responded in unison; the church was judgmental, condemning, and shameful. They felt like the church response would not be helpful, but terrible. They were probably right, and still are in most cases.

Having said those two things, I went to a seminar yesterday. It was put on by Care-Net which is a network of Pregnancy Centers seeking to care for women in unplanned pregnancies. The Pregnancy Care Center of Tiftarea, whom I work for, is an affiliated center. Our centers typically, not exclusively, see women who are unchurched. The seminar was addressing the problem of the other group of women that I mentioned before--those in the church that don't typically come to us.

They want to stop the money, the murder, and the mauling in the church. So what they are proposing is that the church be like the pregnancy centers within the church. They think that the church can and should non-judgmentally love and care for these women. Novel concept--love one another. Crazy, huh! Almost like Someone said that before John 15:12. Care-Net wants to offer training for churches, and ways for pcc's to come alongside the church (instead of the other way around) to help the churches help men, women, and families feel like the church is a place they can turn to in a time of fear, shame, and worry.

Training is good, but the perception of the people will take longer to change. The attitude of the church must change from condemnation to love. Our practice can be holiness and love simultaneously. We do not have to sacrifice our commitments to righteousness in order to look upon sinful people with compassion, and aid them in their suffering. When this is preached, taught, and lived out in the church for an extended time, perception may change. Hopefully church culture will change. Attitude will change. Only then will our effectiveness increase as we truly begin to rescue those who are regularly in our congregations, and those who would one day be in our congregations.

One-third of my generation is gone. Many from "Christian" mothers, afraid of "Christian" churches. Let's start changing the perception now.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Shopkeepers

American pastors are abandoning their posts, left and right, and at an alarming rate. They are not leaving their churches and getting other jobs. Congregations still pay their salaries. Their names remain on the church stationary and they continue to appear in pulpits on Sundays. But they are abandoning their posts, their calling. They have gone whoring after other gods. What they do with their time under the guise of pastoral ministry hasn’t the remotest connection with what the church’s pastors have done for most of twenty centuries.

A few of us are angry about it. We are angry because we have been deserted…. It is bitterly disappointing to enter a room full of people whom you have every reason to expect share the quest and commitments of pastoral work and find within ten minutes that they most definitely do not. They talk of images and statistics. They drop names. They discuss influence and status. Matters of God and the soul and Scripture are not grist for their mills.

The pastors of America have metamorphosed into a company of shopkeepers, and the shops they keep are churches. They are preoccupied with shopkeeper’s concerns–how to keep the customers happy, how to lure customers away from competitors down the street, how to package the goods so that the customers will lay out more money.

Some of them are very good shopkeepers. They attract a lot of customers, pull in great sums of money, develop splendid reputations. Yet it is still shopkeeping; religious shopkeeping, to be sure, but shopkeeping all the same. The marketing strategies of the fast-food franchise occupy the waking minds of these entrepreneurs; while asleep they dream of the kind of success that will get the attention of journalists.


The biblical fact is that there are no successful churches. There are, instead, communities of sinners, gathered before God week after week in towns and villages all over the world. The Holy Spirit gathers them and does his work in them. In these communities of sinners, one of the sinners is called pastor and given a designated responsibility in the community. The pastor’s responsibility is to keep the community attentive to God. It is this responsibility that is being abandoned in spades.

-Eugene Peterson in his intro to his book Working the Angles.

Friday, January 22, 2016

#WhyWeMarch

In my work with the Pregnancy Care Center of Tiftarea, we don't deal with politics much, for we are in the trenches dealing with the young women who find themselves in unplanned pregnancies. It's not that we don't want Roe v. Wade overturned, it's just that we have a laser beam focus to help women here and now, and pray for the former.

Today, the political side of me and the work of the PCC rose up as I watched the annual March for Life in Washington DC. Today was the 43rd anniversary of the terrible ruling that would lead to the murder of 58 million innocents, and who knows how many more to come. This year the snowstorm that was predicted to shatter records with more than two feet of snow on the city loomed. VA and MD governors had issued states of emergency. The mayor of Washington had warned residents to stay inside and prepare for days without power or water.

People wondered if the march would be cancelled or postponed for the safety of people. They wondered if people would cancel their plans. Would a poor turnout look bad? The news media as of 6:30 pm has pretty much ignored the several hundred thousand people in front of the Washington Monument and the US Supreme Court. Amid presidential candidates and this huge storm (both of which were participating in the march), I only found one mention of it among FOX, CBS, NBC, or MSNBC, and that was a photo of a few of the 65 pro-abortion people that were there, talking about Pelosi and Clinton, and Planned Parenthood being champions for women's rights.

They came in buses by the droves, they marched, they chanted and cheered. They carried signs and sang. They were joyous in the common cause of which they would not be thwarted by weather or politics or antagonists. I watched most of it on YouTube. It was great to see!

Of course, there was a bit of sadness in some eyes because of prior abortions. Many carried signs saying how they used to work for the industry but now were against it. Many wept over children they never knew, or of children that would never be tomorrow. One woman made a statement during an interview that stuck with me. She said, "we are here because one-third of our generation has be aborted." Remember that I speak on this all the time, even last week, but that was a powerful statement. Truly, America has killed off generations, because one abortion takes a life as well as every life that would have come from it.

My prayer is that Washington and many heartless, depraved, hardened, immoral, or scientifically ignorant people would just look at the science, and know that life happens 40 weeks before one takes their first breath. I watched the coolest and most convincing video I have seen yet of a surgery performed on 18-week twin girls in the womb. The camera was in the uterus, and it was truly amazing. You must see it here. Awesome, huh?! How can one say this is not a child??? I realize that overturning Roe v. Wade will not stop abortion completely, but laws against murder don't stop all murder either. I would love to see it, and so would the millions of children who will certainly perish if it's not...



Friday, January 8, 2016

Is Pastoral Turnover in the NT?

I have been a director of missions in my association for 2.5 years. During that time, I have seen or am seeing twelve pastoral changes. We have 26 churches in the association. A couple of those turnovers have been the same churches, so not quite half the churches have switched, but nearly. Can this be good for a church? Maybe; each situation is different. Pastors and churches are like a marriage, the relationship has to be based on commitment, not just love. Sometimes pastors aren't very lovable, sometimes churches aren't either. Also like marriage and divorce, it seems that pastoral turnover is increasing in its frequency, and I can't help but worry about the health of our churches, and the harm to our shepherds and their families.

To answer the question that I provocatively asked in the title: I don't know. The evidence is fairly inconclusive. Paul speaks about false teachers leaving the faith. Jude speaks of the false teachers creeping in unnoticed, and the implication is that the church should beware and remove them.

However, the apostles never changed. No evidence that the elders in Antioch ever changed. The elders in Acts 20 seemed to be the same ones that Paul left on his previous ministry after starting the church. Our healthy churches (for the most part) have longer pastorates. Always seemed like to me that Paul trained Timothy, and told him to train others in Ephesus.  He also told Titus how to set up the elders in Crete. Before seminaries, pastors were trained up within the congregations, as they are now in places devoid of seminaries. Home church people tend to have relationships already established, they are not going anywhere, and they know the church.

I realize that all those factors don't necessarily apply in the same fashion, but it just burdens my heart for the turnover rate that I see. And maybe I am the biggest hypocrite of them all, because before I was 37 years old, I had left two churches in 11 years. My plea is for church members and pastors to have mercy and patience, bearing one another's missteps, and offering much forgiveness. Let's turn the tide toward longer pastorates.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Sanctity of Life Month

January 21st marks 43 years since the Roe vs Wade decision that legalized abortion. Since then over 58 million babies have been put to death, making what should be the safest place in the world, the most dangerous. January is Sanctity of Life Month.

The Pregnancy Care Center of Tiftarea continues to work in the trenches to save these unborn children from the terrible choice that is offered to their mothers. This year when all the numbers are in, we will have seen over 70 mothers that were considering abortion choose life for their children. We do this through trained counselors, ultrasounds, medical personnel, medical testing, referral services, and others.

The way that we are able to do these things is with the generous donations of churches, individuals, businesses, as well as fundraisers. By the way, there are still a couple of days left for year-end donations to help us finish out our year-end campaign; we still need about $4000. In January many of our supporting churches join us in the Baby Bottle Boomerang. Thousands of dollars are raised for our center by simply collecting change. We take this fundraiser very seriously because it is super important to our budget. Over the upcoming days your church may receive a call from our center asking about the number of bottles you want to have for this year. Please aim for a higher goal than last year. Send them out with your children as they go home after church. Put one in each of the Sunday School classes. Leave them on foyer tables for people to take with them. However you do it, make sure and put your two cents in :-)

Another thing that Sanctity of Life month brings is opportunity for churches to take advantage of our staff and the season, and have a speaker come in to share. Our expert staff can help raise awareness, explain our ministry, equip your people, and offer Jesus Christ as the true solution for abortion and the cause for life. I hope you will consider an outreach in this way. If there is any way that we can help, please don't hesitate to call, email, or stop by. Click the link above to learn all about us.

Looking forward to more new lives coming into the world in 2016 that otherwise would not,

Monday, November 30, 2015

The End Does Not Justify the Means

Recently, the abortion issue has been destabilized with the shooting of a mass shooting at an abortion clinic. Unfortunately, the timing is so terrible. Just when the pro-life movement seemed to be gaining so much steam with the videos released detailing the abhorrent selling of aborted baby parts, this happens. This man has done the movement no favors. In fact, he has done it much harm.

Because I labor in the trenches of the pro-life movement, I want to echo the cry of many Christian leaders and pro-life supporters: there is no justification for these actions. Even though at least 3,000 babies are killed every day in our country, killing others who may be abetting in this atrocity is not the way. The image of God is upon every man, and even God forbade people from avenging the blood of Abel by the murder of Cain. The image of God makes every life sacred; that is the principle upon which we stand as biblical Christians. Exodus 9:6

In our minds, often many "good" things are justified, even though we might have to cut corners ethically to achieve those ends. We might tell a "little" lie to "protect" a loved one from the truth. We might break the speed limit, so that we can get to church on time. We might avoid another brother or sister in Christ in order to keep the peace, rather than dealing with the issue and forgiving. We might lose our temper and be harsh with another to get them back in line.

Listen: the ends do not justify the means. We must maintain a biblical standard. We must maintain our integrity. We must maintain our convictions. If we do not, we will be hypocrites, and seen as such. We will have stooped to the level of those that we oppose. Let us with one voice condemn these murders just as we do the genocide of millions of babies each year. May the Lord protect us from others like him, and glorify Himself through the reactions of His saints.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Trembling and Trusting (and Waiting)

In Luke 18:1-5, we are told about an unjust judge who answers the pleas for justice from a woman even though initially he will not hear. Jesus said this to those of us that grow weary in prayer and waiting on answers. In Matt 15:22-28, we are told about a Canaanite woman who asked for only the crumbs that fall from the Master's table have been rejected by Jesus as a Gentile dog. Jesus also says that we can move mountains in Mark 11:23, that is, if we do not doubt. In Acts 16:6-7, we are told that Paul and Silas were not permitted to go here and there. Surely they were seeking God in prayer, and He answered. God answers prayer.

These are nice answers, positive answers, happy endings, but that is not always the case. Time would fail to tell of the prayers unanswered in the fashion plead for; of martyrs who didn't seek death, but didn't escape it; and so on, seemingly endless. Sometimes it's the prayers that are unanswered that make the deepest marks upon us.

So, what are you to do if you keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking, but silence seems to be the answer you receive. We tend to then rely on human wisdom (ours or someone else's) to determine what might be the best way. We are warned against this in an oft quoted scripture - "Trust in the LORD with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding;" Proverbs 3:5. Some of us stagnate and wait without doing anything. Some of us look for the easiest route. Some of us keep on rolling, figuring that something is better than nothing. Sometimes we let our mind play tricks on us and overthink everything, trying to read God's signs into everything. Keep praying, don't lose heart!

I have been struggling with a huge burden, an answer that I need. It has consumed much of my prayer life for months now, and I still wait. I wish I had answers to give you who are in a similar position. God will complete the good work He has begun in me, Philippians 1:6. I know that He will order my steps, Proverbs 16:9. Proverbs 3:6 says to acknowledge Him in all your ways, and He will direct your paths. We are told to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure, Philippians 2:12-13. So we tremble and trust. We tremble with Isaiah's words from Isaiah 30:21 "Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, "This is the way, walk in it," Whenever you turn to the right hand or whenever you turn to the left." We trust because we know that God is working all things after the counsel of His will, Ephesians 1:11.

In short, I think that the bible does instruct on what to do, but guarantees nothing except that we are loved of God beyond what we can imagine; that He is good and wise and sovereign; and that nothing can separate us from Him if we are believers. We are supposed to keep praying; be specific, don't doubt. We are supposed to fast, to seek God more earnestly (not supposing that this obligates Him). Drown yourself in the Word, in preaching/teaching, and in godly books. Raise up a group of believers to pray with you and for you. We are to seek the counsel of the godly around us. Then we trust and tremble, knowing that our waiting on God is not wasted time.

Andrew Murray said:

If any are inclined to despond, because they do not have such patience, let them be of good courage. It is in the course of our feeble and very imperfect waiting that God Himself, by His hidden power, strengthens us and works out in us the patience of the great saints, the patience of Christ Himself.

I guess I just needed to preach to myself. Maybe it helped you as well. If you could pray for me, please do. Thanks for reading, thanks for praying!