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Archive for the ‘Gospel’ Category

Today was a bitter sweet day at our church. Today was the last Sunday for our pastor, Preaching Pastor (PP), to be in the pulpit at our church.  He is moving on to another ministry that God is calling him to and there are exciting days ahead for him and his family. I just want to take this opportunity to write down what PP and his family mean to me. I am sure there are many others who feel the same way but just have not expressed it to him.

I live in a city in the deep South in the United States. Our county has over 400 churches but, to be honest, it is really hard to find a good church here — in my estimation. When I mean good church, I mean a church that is committed to the gospel and submits everything it does to the authority of God’s Word. I also mean a pastor who preaches the whole counsel of God and does so unashamedly. A good church should have a pastor who submits his sermons to the words on the page of the Bible and the very points of his sermon are driven by the authors who penned (not literally) the words of Scripture. When I look for a church, I look for a church where the pastor is someone that I trust and I can willingly submit to as the leader of the local congregation.  Our pastor until today, PP, was such a person and here is why.

One of the first things I noticed about him was the points in his sermon came from the text that he was preaching. He did not impose his own ideas into Scripture but let the Bible determine what he was saying to us in his sermons. He was truly biblical in his sermons. He also tried to be biblical in all aspects of how he led the church. He knew that the ultimate authority in the church is God and that God revealed Himself to us in Scripture — so the only way to lead the church was to submit to God’s Word. He was this kind of man (and still is). I believe this is a principle that was a driving force behind all that he did at our church. I believe this will continue to be the case at his new place of ministry and the result will be that his congregation will be blessed, well-fed, and well-led.

Another great thing about PP is that he constantly was reminding the congregation of what was going on in the world; not just politically but also within the church. He was leading his church members to be World Christians; not worldly Christians, but World Christians. That is, he exposed them to the persecution that continues to persist around the world and the constant dangers our brothers and sisters in Christ face just to name the name of Christ or to meet for worship and Bible Study. He reminded us that the call to follow Christ comes with a cost and rejected the false claims of the property gospel. PP kept before our congregation the need to take the gospel to the uttermost parts of the earth where the name of Christ is not worshipped and where people have no access to God’s Word nor is there anyone there who is attempting to share the gospel with them. We call this world missions and PP was faithful to keep this need before the church. Our pastor, PP, did not focus on world missions to the neglect of the gospel needs in our own community. He was very much aware of the needs in our city and how we need to be Christians taking the gospel to our places of business and to our community.

I don’t really intend this to be a long post so I will not go into great detail but another great thing about PP is how he was willing to invest in me and my family. I knew that any time I had a need or my family was in crisis, I could call him and he would do whatever he could even if that was just to listen. He has ministered to me on numerous occasions and has helped our family in times of crisis. He has truly loved us with the hands and the love of Christ during the time we have been at this church.

Last but most certainly not the least, we all love PP’s family. His family reflects his godly leadership as the head of his family. His wife is a wonderful pastor’s wife who has a warm and welcoming spirit about her. She shows love to everyone who walks through the doors of the church. Also, their children are great kids who clearly are being raised to love the Lord. They are a wonderful family and they will be missed. Their next place of ministry is getting a great family. Their next church is being blessed with a great man of God as their pastor and he will bring with him an awesome family. Our loss will most definitely be their gain.

Having said all of this, I know that this is not good-bye. We will see them again. I am sure we will see them when they come back to visit our city. We may even go visit them in their new city. Either way, it will not be the last we see of them. We will worship God together for eternity at the feet of Christ. God continues to mold us and shape us as He finishes the work that he started in us. It is a lifelong journey and God uses fragile and cracked (or even broken) vessels to carry out his purposes. He uses us where we are to bring glory to his name and sometimes he sends us off to new places to minister to and build up the church. This is exactly what is happening with PP and his family as they move on to a new phase of ministry. I pray that God may use PP and his family mightily as they obediently follow God to their next place of ministry, and beyond.

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I have recently been having some conversations with some Christian teenagers and it is apparent that they understand the importance of sharing their testimony of how they came to know Christ with non-believers.  I agree that it is very important to share what Jesus Christ has done in our lives.  However, a distinction should be made between our testimony and the gospel. Our testimony is not the gospel but it testifies to what the God has done in our lives through the gospel and His grace.

The gospel is objective truth.  It is universal truth that is grounded objectively, not subjectively.  Our personal testimonies are subjective.  The are grounded in the subject; that is, us.  Testimonies can change from one person to another.  Testimonies do not prove anything but merely illustrate what the gospel has done in our lives.  For example, a Mormon could also have testimony but that does not make their beliefs true.  However, you cannot argue with their experience because it is subjective and grounded in their experience rather than in some objective truth.

The gospel is truth.  It is objective and is grounded in God’s Word and in the historically attested event that is the resurrection of Jesus Christ.  We defend this truth and we share this truth.  Our testimony testifies to this truth but the gospel is the good news and can lead the lost into abundance life which Christ came to give.  Our testimony cannot save anyone and it is only good news to us as the subject.

Let us share our testimony but let the sharing of our testimony point others to the main character of our testimony, God, not us.  May we use it as bridge to share the gospel with others and may truth of the gospel grounded in God’s Word lead to the expansion of God’s kingdom through the conversion of the lost.

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Whether you move to a new community or your church decides to shut its doors, you may find yourself looking for a new church home at some point.  When you are looking for a church, what do you consider the most important issues or reasons in selecting a particular church.  As I consider this, these are what I consider the most important issues in the selection process of a new church home.

1. Agree on primary theological issues. The first and most important characteristic needs to be that we agree on the primary theological issues. That is, they must have a biblical understanding of the gospel. This is a non-negotiable point. They must understand the penal substitutionary atonement of Christ’s work on the cross. They must agree that one’s salvation is by grace and grace alone. Salvation is a work completely of God and He doesn’t need our help. You must only repent. The church must agree with the inspiration, authority, and sufficiency of Scripture. We may not always agree on how to interpret Scripture but we must at least agree that the Bible alone is the rule for all that we do.

2. Credobaptism. Any church that I join must practice believer’s baptism. I will not join a church that does not practice baptism by immersion. Sprinkling is not baptism. Baptism is, by definition, dipping someone under water. Baptism must be reserved for believers who have demonstrated a credible evidence of regeneration and who want to join the church and become part of the community of believers. They cannot baptize infants. They must baptize only believers.

3. Ministry to all ages. I need the church to minister to all ages, at least the ages of the people in my family. Since I have youth aged children, I need it to be a place where my youth aged children can live in community with other youth. I need it to be a community of believers where adults speak truth into children’s lives and show them what it means to live as an intentional disciple of Christ. I need the church to be intentional about preparing the youth biblically for a world that is hostile to Christian ideas. I don’t need it to be about parties, concerts, and amusement parks. I need it to be intentional and gospel driven. I need to it to be a church that understands the parents’ role in the youth’s lives but will alongside the parents in discipleship.

4. Expository Preaching. I believe that a church needs a steady diet of expository preaching. It is okay to depart from it on occasion but in general, expository preaching needs to be the practice of the preacher. It helps in preaching the full counsel of God and not just focusing on the favorite texts of the pastor. It also allows the text to drive the message rather than using a Bible verse for a launching pad to say whatever they want.

5. Welcomes workers. I hope that my next church would be open to having new people serve and minister in the area of their gifting. There are areas in which we could contribute to the ministry of the church but I need the church to be open to having new people get involved. I don’t want to be a part of the church that always goes to the same people to step in and minister.

6. Missions. I would hope that the church would have a biblical understanding of missions. But, if they don’t, it needs to be a church where the pastor is leading them to give financially to support missions. It should be a significant part of the budget, prayer, and preaching.  It should be a climate conducive to the church growing in this area.

7. Love in spirit and practice. Does the church have a sense of unity in spirit? Do they love on one another? Are they welcoming to visitors?

The answer to these should be a resounding “yes!” These are really the minimum of what I think should characterize a church that I join. There are several other traits that I think are important but are not must-haves such as high expectations and accountable church membership.  However, if the church is getting a steady diet of expository preaching, these other issues will eventually fall into place.

What are your thoughts?  What do you look for in a church?

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I work as an engineer.  I think I am pretty good at what I do for a living but it is just that; what I do for a living.  It is not something that I am necessarily passionate about.  It is what I do in order to fulfill my biblical responsibility to work and provide for my family.  There are other things such as various ministries in which I am involved that are really my passion.  I can’t tell you how many times I have heard statements similar to the following from Christians.

“I am an accountant but my real passion is apologetics.”

“I work as a salesman in order to make money but what I really enjoy is the work I do at church.”

“I am an engineer by profession but my passion is preaching the Word.”

Have you heard this from many people?  I hear it frequently in the circles in which I am involved.  I am left with the question, “Are we supposed to enjoy our jobs or are we called to endure whatever it is we need to do in order to bring home a salary?”  Is it wrong to wish I was doing some other kind of work related to ministry?  I know the Bible tells us that we should be content in our situation.  Does this mean that it is wrong to desire to be doing something else more fulfilling or even some sort of full time ministry?  I have been thinking about this and do not have the answer quite yet but for now this is what I think.

1. Work is a blessing from the Lord.  It was something that was given to Adam and Even before the fall and is therefore a gift and a blessing.  We can do work to provide for our families while at the same time enjoying the work.  I believe that God even intends the work to benefit us and even society as a whole, especially if your job provides employment opportunities for others.

2. Work became less enjoyable after the fall.  I don’t think I need to cite verses about the curse on humanity after Adam and Eve sinned.  I believe that after the curse, work became less enjoyable and became hard.  By God’s grace some people can still do things they enjoy for the job but I don’t think that this is the norm to be expected.  For those of us who long to be involved in ministry on a full time basis we long for the new heaven and new earth but until then we are called to labor in secular work as well as in ministry.  The grass is not greener on the other side although we think it might be.  We are where God want us for now.

3. For those of us who want to be involved in full time ministry and are stuck in secular careers, we need to understand that there is not enough money to go around.  The economic times are tough.  God can use us as lay people in ministry while we keep our secular professions.  This allows us to have some income that is not dependent on the generous giving of other Christians.  It frees up money for the kingdom and it also allows us to not be beholden to those who give.  In other words, you can spend your ministry time and effort as you want and you are not accountable for what ministry you want to devote your energy to.  You also don’t have to worry about people withholding funds from you because of a controversial stand against something like homosexuality.  You have income and it is based on your work, not on what you teach.

This is where I am for now.  I am an engineer who loves to excogitate.  I would rather be out there teaching or reaching or defending the faith.  But wait, I am doing that.  I am just not doing it on a professional basis and I have an engineering job that pays my bills.

Just to add another comment.  By having a non-ministry job, we are able to come into contact with lost people and people who need to be confronted with the gospel on a daily basis.  If you were a ministry professional you would be in a Christian bubble and would only have limited access to lostness.  But as a member of the secular workforce we have ready-made relationships that are in place.  All we need to do is use those in order to share the message of hope we have within us.

What say you?

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