Thursday, January 22, 2015

Leading to Death

The last piece I wrote was about a well-thought-out, courageous move for a pastor and his church in leading itself to great self-sacrifice for a greater kingdom work. Today, I write of self-centered cowards who slaughter the innocent for convenience with little thought to the gravity nor the consequences of such an action. I usually write about this a couple of times a year on this blog, and as little as I blog, you must think that half my posts are about this topic. You can see my last couple of posts pleading for your help in defending the defenseless here, Sanctity of Life MonthMake No Exceptions, and Preserving Life. However, as I have mentioned before, I work for the Pregnancy Care Center of Tiftarea, and so the topic comes up for me daily. And I realize that most people who don't work in a PRC/PCC may not think about it everyday, we all should think about it more. Churches should speak of it more. Pastors should speak of it more. We should be well-informed, and well-prepared to speak for those that have no voice.

Today is the day that the Supreme Court ruled to sign the death certificate for 57 million babies, and scar their mothers for life. Today I spoke for another Pregnancy Center in Douglas, GA at a program that they had for remembrance, repentance, and renewed determination to do all that we can do for the unborn and their mothers--for we defend them both. One of the other speakers wept before she even got to the microphone. She spoke of the friends in college who had abortion after abortion. She spoke of the stand she took, but she also spoke of the ministry that she had to them when they returned broken and bleeding (inside and sometimes outside). The worst thing that she spoke of, something that I had never thought about, were the dreams that these friends would have about their guilt and their longing for their children. She told of hearing them wake up screaming in the night...over and over. She told of the time that she spent with them as they cried all night, wailing over their baby. She said the abortion doctors didn't tell them. Powerful testimony, eye-opening, and my prayer was that we would all weep like that when we discuss it.

For those in South Georgia that would like to support us, this is the time of year that we begin preparing for our annual fundraising banquet. I'll give more information later, but you can come on your own, host a table (bring some friends), sponsor a table, give to underwrite, or volunteer. All the websites and pages aren't set up yet, but I will get them out soon.

Thanks for reading, pray for the children in the womb and their mothers, and those trying to help.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Leading To Die

Fifty-nine years ago Jim Elliot and his four missionary brethren were speared to death on the Curaray River in Ecuador. Great blog post was posted this morning about it. His courageous view on giving his very blood for the kingdom of Christ through the evangelism of a vicious people group was demonstrated there. He wrote about his willingness, and he courageously received it. Great example for us. And to follow his example was that of his wife courageously going back and reaching the same people that killed her husband. Life springs forth from death. Eternal life springs forth from temporary death.

Last week I saw a great example of a church that exhibited the same willingness to give its life and die for the future life of others. This church was in an area of our town that had transitioned from a middle class, Caucasian neighborhood to a predominately impoverished African American and Hispanic area. Rather that taking a typical "white flight" and moving to the suburbs, they truly desired to reach their neighborhood, and continued to evangelize and attempt to make disciples, but with little success. So after much loss and much prayer, they decided to die. They weren't giving up, quitting, or being forced out; they were choosing to relinquish their resources in view of a higher calling, greater purpose, and the leading of God.

They decided that God was leading them to disperse as their current gathering, and put all their assets and resources toward a new congregation that will be able to reach the neighborhood. With great foresight and kingdom commitment, they decided to pass the baton to another group that could continue baptizing and discipling in that location. They wanted to give a jumpstart to a group that could advance against the gates of hell and the darkness in that community.

So I sat in the service last week, and mourned with them as they thought about the last forty-two years, and how there would be no worship gathering that night. I rejoiced with them for the 135 people that had been baptized there in that amount of time, and the $250,000 given through their small congregation. I saw the tears in their eyes, and I saw the courage as well, as they wanted "thy will be done," and "make disciples of all peoples," to come to pass in their community. I saw a pastor courageously stepping out into unknown territory, and by the will and Spirit of God, leading his flock to die for a greater flock that would come and graze in that pasture. They were looking forward to a church more like the community, that could reach the community.

I was proud of them, and I trust that they will be proud when the new congregation is up and winning people to Christ.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Ferguson

I have not posted on the Ferguson, MO incident because I don't know what to say. I am the chaplain of the Sheriff's Office, and I am also working with black leaders in our community to plant a church in an black neighborhood. I have been building those relationships over the last couple of years, and cherish them. I have received considerable insight into that community from these godly men.

When I was a pastor, I was intolerant of racism to the point that a racist remark was made to me one day, and I was so taken aback that I didn't know what to say or do. At that point I felt like action had to be taken. So I found another older, wiser man from that same Sunday School class as the man who made the remark, and I asked him how I should handle it. And I will never forget what he said. He said, "Jason, you can do what you want, but know that we are all (every man) racist; it's only a matter of degree."

He was right. After all the responses to the Ferguson incident from August until now, all are tainted with a degree of bias. I read statistics this morning about percentages of men, women, blacks, whites, hispanics, Republicans, Democrats, Independents, different age brackets, and different months over the last six, and their perspectives on whether or not Islam influences its adherents to violence more than other religions. By the numbers it was clear, there was bias.

With that caveat, Ed Stezter's latest piece for Christianity today has links to about every response from thoughtful evangelical Christians. If you have time to read them, you will find opinions of how we (the church) should react from lots of perspectives, that draw many different, even opposite, conclusions. I have my bias, you have yours, and all of these writers have theirs, but in the multitude of counselors there is wisdom. Before you act (or react), listen, think, pray.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Making Disciples

Jesus made the final command for which we are responsible very simple: make disciples. At a conference I went to recently, there was a break out session on "Creating a Disciple-Making Culture in Rural Churches." I took a lot of notes because it was really good info. I hope that I can help my churches put it into practice.

Why? Well, as I mentioned, Jesus told us to and this is the mission of the church, the vehicle by which to make much of Jesus Christ among the nations. If we don't make disciples, we are disobedient, or best case, we are failing at getting it right. So the question that I have been entertaining in my mind is how you measure or determine with you are producing disciples? How do you qualify or quantify people following Jesus better and more?

We have always been good at counting Sunday School or worship attendance, but attendance to public worship is not necessarily a good indicator of spiritual growth. We've counting baptisms, and we hope that more people begin a walk of faith by obedience to baptism (which is also associated with the Great Commission), but we know that baptisms don't necessarily turn out good followers of Jesus. We can talk about who read their lesson or had their "quiet time" (which by the way, is never mentioned in scripture), and that is our opinion of a really spiritual Christian is, but is it? But subconsciously, and unintentionally, could it be a mechanical, legalistic, checklist of "things on my list of impress God and others" list? AND if we don't know if we are doing a good job at it, how do we plan better, assess it, and make changes (shhhhhh) to get it done?

We don't think about it much in these terms, but not necessarily program-wise, but just as a matter of life, we must if we are doing what Jesus said to do? Even pastors, as I guide the conversation to discipling, if they agree with our mission to make disciples ("yes" is always the reply), and then what's their plan to accomplish it, and how do they know if they are doing it? How do they know if Bill is walking more like Jesus today than one year ago? Studies show that 90% of believers think they are growing, and pastors think 20% of their congregations are growing. "Pastor, how do you plan to do it? How do you know when it's been done?"

I also learned at this conference that I shouldn't give all the answers you. So not that I have them all for this difficult matter, but I've been chewing on it for a while, and have some thoughts. But you need to figure out the answers. Are you making disciples? Are they being made at your local assembly?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Practicing what you preach

For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. - Heb 4:12

As a Director of Missions for an association of churches, I am constantly bouncing around from church to church. And there are weekends like this one that I preached to the congregation twice, which I don't normally do. I was reminded again about the importance of teaching/preaching the word of God to my own personal sanctification.

My belief that a preacher/teacher who is ministering to others by breaking the word before them, and he is doing it with proper motivation, will think about his applications of the truth found in the word to the immediate lives of those to whom he will be preaching, and he will ask the questions of himself, particularly: "am I doing these things?" The thing that Jesus was most critical of what hypocrisy, and the pinnacle of hypocrisy is to preach Christ, morality, love, grace, forgiveness, and their practical implications know that you are not practicing them.

Sanctification through the preaching of the word, glad I will be doing more in the next few months; lots of appts. Don't know how much good it will do for my hearers, but it will break me, and help me to know Him and be exposed to His holiness, which will ideally purify the gold from the dross.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Dealing with Sin in the Congregation

Some friends and I the other day were discussing the problem of mainline churches accepting the homosexual lifestyle of people, then allowing them to become members of their churches, or allowing them to maintain their leadership positions, sometimes even accepting their "partners." One of them made the comment that they know of churches in our area who do that now.

So how do they deal with that, was asked. Then I began to talk of the records at my former church of people who were disciplined and held accountable by the church for their sin. One of them said that their grandfather had been disciplined, and he came back and asked the church's forgiveness, then he was reinstated. Next question:

Why don't we do that now? Well, I shared with them that on more than one occasion, I have had pastors tell me that they wouldn't/couldn't because it would never work, cause too much of a stir, or cost them their jobs. Of course the alternative is worse--loss of God's blessing (in fact, inviting His judgment), loss of the congregation's testimony in the community, defamation of Christ's name, allowing sin to ravish and kill the life of another brother or sister, spreading the acceptance of sin in the congregation, and just disobedience to Christ's command. I told them about how that the churches that I had served had each done it once to its full extent. One turned out really great, and one turned out pretty bad.

Don't have time to go into all the specifics of the how's and when's of church discipline, but suffice it to say, it is all done out of love. See it more as a pleading with an individual to return to the flock, rather than a bunch of sheep biting the injured. I shared a little about the bad scenario, but I went into detail about the good.

After almost having persuaded the beloved believer not to pursue her course, we informed her that we must bring it before the church, so that they could attempt to plead with her, love on her, and beg her not to go down that path. She was at church that Sunday, and we compassionately informed the congregation of her sin and her need. They responded so beautifully. They began to go to her and cling to her neck, hugging her, and weeping together. They knew of the pain that she was in, and were sympathetic, but they also knew of the biblical teachings and their love for Jesus. It was bittersweet and heartfelt.

Over the days and weeks, she could not be convinced to turn away from the path she had determined to walk. She did exactly what the bible prohibited (not a minor violation), but willful rejection of the written word of God. Our duty was to warn, and that we did in love. However, in the end, she left. We were heartbroken. So why do I call this a good experience of church discipline? Well, it demonstrated to the church how it was supposed to work. It was done in so much love. And even though she knew it was coming, she still came to church to be with her church family that was attempting to hold her accountable. Several weeks later she (name changed) wrote to me this:

Pastor Jason 
I wanted to say thanks to you for ALL you did for me...I especially want to thank you for the way that you shared the WORD with me in such an understanding way...I know I still have some trouble in this area, but thank you...I am attending a Baptist church trying to deal with my sin...
Thank you again, and God bless, 
Monica,


Friday, August 1, 2014

Preserving Life

Since resigning my pastorate last year, I have taken on the task and job at the Pregnancy Care Center to advance it's ministry.  I am the Advancement Manager. Ha ha, the title sounds real important, but I am only one of four part-time staff, and there is no one there that I manage. I handle church relations, donor relations, volunteers, events, and expansion into areas that we don't have good exposure. Even as I write, the task seems daunting. However if you compare it to the plight of the unborn striving to live, or the persecuted believers in Nigeria, Syria, Iran, Iraq, Egypt, and China (just to name the ones in the news currently), my work is easy.

One thing that I didn't anticipate in going to work at the Pregnancy Care Center was the heart that I would gain for the unborn. It didn't take graphic photos of the horrors of abortion, all it took was the numbers on the praise board of the lives saved, the faces of women who have been helped, media, and the tirelessness of those here that would give their last breath to save a woman and a child. Together For Life is one of the best pro-life videos ever. It speaks about the historical perspective of Christianity, and its love for babies, women, and the unborn (and the guy has a cool accent, British I think). Below is another great one from another pregnancy care center. It's called Sanctity of Life 2014. Both of these are very encouraging, and bring about cause for rejoicing that believers are out there working to end  the atrocity of abortion.


Another thing that I gained was a realization of the apathy of most churches compared to the enormity and gravity, and urgency of the atrocity of abortion; especially in light of the history the Christian community has always had for children, born and unborn. I think part of the reason that we are that way is that we cannot fathom 55 million babies.  We can't fathom 55 million of anything. Once I heard a demonstration that helped me understand it, that crushed a lot of apathy for me. The Sound of Abortion is much more difficult and heart-wrenching to watch/hear. But take a minute and listen to it. Every believer should.

I enjoy working here at the PCC. It takes up precious time, but I believe that God will save many babies and mothers through this ministry. And of course, when God saves a baby and his/her mother, God is saving a generation, as that child would have produced children, who would have produced children, and so on. One abortion actually kills a life, maims another, and removes the potential for maybe hundreds more, if the Lord tarries His coming.

Find your closest PCC, and volunteer, give, and pray for it's success. Twenty-nine women who came here determined to abort so far in 2014 have chosen life! There will be women with fearful minds, facing one of the most difficult decisions in their lives, laying their heads down on pillows in your community, maybe in your neighborhood, awaiting decision day--tomorrow. How will you help them?