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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Winds of Change at Willow Creek

The winds of change are blowing at Willow Creek. A recent announcement by Willow Creek's elders state that Randy Frazee is leaving and moving to Texas where he will teach and lead in partnership with pastor and author, Max Lucado.

Gene Appel, the Lead Pastor for Willow Creek's South Barrington campus is also leaving for another pastorate.

Change happens. I don't necessarily like change, but recognize that it is necessary. God is always looking for us to trust Him and grow in faith to give Him glory. I pray that these two men seek after God's will for their lives and that they honor Him in all that they do. I pray that they lead Christ-centered churches void of marketing tactics and fad trends.

The only other thoughts that I had when I read the news was sonething that struck me as odd.

Here is an excerpt...

"On January 17, 2008 the Elders of Willow Creek and Bill Hybels agreed that Bill will assume the role of Lead Pastor-South Barrington in addition to his other senior pastor responsibilities, which include oversight of the Regional Campuses and the Willow Creek Association. "

Other senior pastor duties of overseeing the campuses and association?

As far as I know, pastors are supposed to feed the sheep (John 21:15-17) and protect the sheep (Acts 20:28-29).

2nd Timothy 4:2 says a lot right here, too... "Preach the Word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction."

Now I'm not saying that one does not need a sense of administration regarding a large congregation, it (the article) just struck me as kind of odd in laying out administration as prime examples of what a pastor does.

These two men, have a large "recognition factor". I pray that these two keep to their calling and not follow some of the things that Willow Creek did and that the Lord uses them mightily in their new ventures.

Because Truth matters,

Monday, January 21, 2008

Graced Again

"It is well to be poor, when the knowledge of our poverty serves but to unfold to us the exhaustless riches of divine grace. That grace can never suffer any one to go away empty. It can never tell anyone that he is too poor. I can meet the very deepest human need; and not only so, but it is glorified in meeting it. This holds good in every case. It is true of every individual sinner…Grace is the grand and only resource for us all. It is the basis of our salvation; the basis of a life of practical godliness; and the basis of those imperishable hopes which animate us amid the trials and conflicts of this sin-stricken world. May we cherish a deeper sense of grace, and more ardent desire for glory!

C H MacIntosh, 1860, Notes on Leviticus

Friday, January 18, 2008

Light In the Darkness

I'd like to start this post with a question... When is light needed?

Our youngest daughter HAS to have a light on in her hallway. If I forget and accidentally turn it off after saying prayers, she gentle (sometimes not) reminds me, "Daddy...", and I would turn the light on.

I can relate. As a child, nightlights gave me a sense of security. Somehow, just being able to see what was "out there" made me feel better.

When I get up in the middle of the night and have to stumble around the house, one of the first things that I look for is a light switch so I can see where I am and where I am going.

OK, so where am I going with this? Light is needed in places where darkness is. I would ague that this would include "in the world", but also in some churches. Please don't get me wrong. Please hear my heart, here. I am not knocking a person's heart with God. Only He know a man's heart. I will, however, say that we ARE called to bear witness to the light wherever darkness is... even in a church.

It saddens me to even have to say that and in some respects, it looks almost wrong when I read it, but we are called to rebuke whenever that is necessary.

When you get some time, you can read the story of Hymenaeus and Alexander in 1 Timothy and about the shipwreck that happened with their lives; and that was after years of faithful service. Such is the case when people turn from their faith. Now, I am not saying that the people or churches that I write about have turned from their faith, but they HAVE turned from being God-centered to man-centered.

"But", you say, "Who are YOU to judge?" "Can't we just leave them to what they are doing?"

No. Please read on...

In Galatians 2:11-21, we read where Peter was opposed by Paul.

But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, "If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? "We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. "But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! "For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. "For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. "I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me. "I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly."

Taking all of this into account, it would seem to be Biblical to take a close look at what is being preached to people under the guise of a Biblical lesson. In my searching and reading of various blogs, websites, etc., unless certain churches websites and sermons are misrepresenting what is going on at these churches, it sure looks like there is a lot of information that I and others could and should use to make informed decisions. Be a Berean. Check everything (even this site) against the Bible.

For example, consider the following...

On various websites and in one Indiana church that got sued, youth have activities where the kids licked peanut butter out of other kids armpits... or been dared to drink what someone has chewed up and spit out.

Less you think this is an isolated incident, churches from Saddleback to Granger, both locally and across the country bow at the alter of relevance.

Elvis impersonators?... check.

U2 "worship" music? ...check.

Movie-themed sermons ... check.

Sex talks... check.

Being a Berean?...! "Don't judge me! This works for us." comes the cry. Yet people who rally around this faux persecution are themselves judging those who are being Bereans and testing everything according to God's Word... hmmm...

Dr. John MacArthur wrote an interesting article on part of this subject called But Does It Work?

You see, when making a determination about churches and Christian programs, the ONLY standard that should be used is the Bible. Early Christians (yes, they called themselves that and proudly) didn't look to marketing, community surveys, etc. They came into town and went to preaching the Word of God. It doesn't matter what I, Rick Warren or Tony Morgan says. The only thing that matters is the Word of God.

Lest you think that I am unfairly categorizing people, let me give you an example. I've tried talking with Tony Morgan via email and on his blog. My emails have gone unanswered and my blog comments deleted. See my post here for that story.

When ministry is public, it becomes exposed to necessary public scrutiny. This is necessary to guard the Truth as well as guard the people sitting under the teaching.

Romans 12:2 tells us "do not be conformed to this world".

James 4:4 says: "You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God".

Colossians 2:8 tells us: "See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ".

See, the Bible, which is our standard is the mirror to which ALL things are held up to. Let me continue...
"As for those who persist in sin, rebuke them in the presence of all, so that the rest may stand in fear." - 1 Timothy 5:20

"All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness," - 2 Timothy 3:16

"...reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching." - 2 Timothy 4:2b

See? Reproof and rebuke are part of the package.

All of that being said, there are several things which need to be done. Here is the takehome.

  1. Man-centered approaches need to be rebuked. See the above Bible verses. (Notice again, that the Bible is the rule, not my opinion.
  2. The Bible has to be held up as the ultimate authority, not some marketing book of big ideas.
  3. These churches need to be prayed for. Pray for their staffs that they may lead a Christ-centered church with the heart of God. Pray for the people in attendance that their eyes are opened and that they lovingly approach their staff.
  4. Pray that the Holy Spirit leads, guides and directs these churches.
  5. We need to love these people. Even though they're not Biblically correct, a lot of these type of churches have a real heart for people. Unfortunately, this is evidenced in their man-centered theology.
Again, please hear my heart. My heart breaks when the church tries to take things upon itself instead of relying on God. It causes confusion amongst the sheep, confusion amongst the World and sets up a false dichotomy amongst the body of Christ. It divides when we really need unity.

What an incredible impact we (as the church) would have if we would focus our energies (and tremendous resources) at honoring God, not catering to man.

To God alone be the glory!

Because Truth matters,

Monday, January 14, 2008

Come and see!

"Come and see!" That was the call of our youngest daughter one night this past week. She came running in from outside and called out to me, "Come and see, Daddy! The sky is so pretty. It's beautiful!"

At the time, I was up to my elbows in chicken getting ready for dinner. I quickly washed my hands and ran to the back door. We opened the back door and there it was; a beautiful sky, just as I had been told.

She told me to take a picture, so I ran into thehouse, grabbed my camera and did just that.

How unaware I was at the beauty that was going on just outside our walls. Had it not been for Jules, I wouldv'e missed it. Sunsets seem to be gone in just a few minutes.

I wonder... Are there people that you are close to or see on a daily basis that need to see the light of Jesus? Are you excited about telling people about Him?

Who could you run to, grab there hand and lead them to "Come and see!" before it's too late?

Because Truth matters,

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Mc Churches - I'm NOT Lovin' it

Mc Churches... what???

I've been reading some blogs lately and it seems like an overarching theme is "experience". People need experiences. Worship programming promote experiences.

More and more lately, from what I've been seeing, music is designed for the experience of the "unchurched". Stages (without pulpits) are now elaborate sets designed for culturally relevant, messages trying to convey Truth veiled in worldy themes of secualr movies or television shows.

Bigger, louder, more comfortable, "bring your latte from our food court and socialize" services are "crafted" to make people (man-centered approach) comfortable. I mean, if you don't give people what they want, they won't come to church, right?

I would argue that they are not going to church anyway.

R.C. Sproul once said

"One of the most dangerous things you can do as
a Christian is to determine your theology by your experience"

How then did we as a culture (I'm beginning not to like that word) fall into this trap? I've heard it said over and over again from numerous seeker-sensitive and emergent pastors that we need to be like the world, read worldly magazines, listen to worldly music and talk like the world. Do people know the meaning of "mac daddy"? Google it and see what you find. It's not for the faint of heart.

Wait! Didn't Paul became all things to all men? Shouldn’t we adopt those forms of music and the accompanying behavior to get the Christian message to the lost, er... unchurched?

Ummm... no.

When Paul “became a Jew to the Jews and a Gentile to the Gentiles,” he didn't adopted cultural expressions that were in conflict with principles he himself insisted elsewhere that we follow as a course of life that is pleasing to God. Actually, he commands us not to adopt or continue in unbiblical practices of the pagans, who are in darkness (Ephesians 4:17-20), but to walk in a manner worthy of our high calling (Ephesians 4:1-2). When he commands us to “let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth” (Ephesians 4:29), he makes no exception for “cultural expression” or “contextualization.”

Here are the verses quoted from above...

Ephesians 4:17-20 says,

So this I say, and affirm together with the Lord, that you walk no longer just as the Gentiles also walk, in the futility of their mind, being darkened in their understanding, excluded from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the hardness of their heart; and they, having become callous, have given themselves over to sensuality for the practice of every kind of impurity with greediness. But you did not learn Christ in this way,

Ephesians 4:1-2 says,

Therefore I, the prisoner of the Lord, implore you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling with which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, showing tolerance for one anotherin love,

Ephesians 4:29 says,

Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.

Does your walk and ministry line up with the Bible? All of this leads up to the point that I wanted to make about "church methods". One of the hottest methods for growth is that churches try to clone themselves. Their argument is that people will buy into and trust what they are familiar with. While this may be true in the fast-food ecomony of marketing, it does not fly when you hold it up to the light of scripture which plainly tells us that it is the Lord who grows the church, not the "Director of something or another" at a church.

Yes, a church should be involved in church planting, but there is a difference in listening to the Holy Spirit grow a church from the community than in setting up a cookie-cutter representation of themselves (often with shared staff, worship bands, etc.) in a small form of a papacy with a busy pastor that doesn't know his flock at the top of the power pyramid.

Do we really need multiple "campuses"? with names like "The "[Insert name] Church of [Insert your favorite city here], [Insert another city here] Campus"

I think that sometimes people are well-intentioned and fall into the trap of trying to bring about God's will under their own power or for their own gain. Don't get me wrong, I fall into that trap on occasion. Whenever I go on a job interview, I pray for God's will, but admit that it's easy to fall into the trap of trying to will myself on God. "C'mon, God, this would be good..."

Anyway, it seems that we have become a results-only society. Do the ends justify the means? do numbers equate to God's blessing?

The Mormon's have a huge organization, with many seemingly "Christian" people. They live lives that most of us would be envious of (on the surface) yet unless they repent, they are on the fast track to hell.

Speaking of which, what we need is a more Biblical approach to "doing church". We don't need survey-based, market-driven, "our primary 'target' is people 35 and under", culturally relevant and worldy style churches.

I will say that I do like fast food once in a while, but I also know that I cannot have a steady diet of it, because once going down this route, stale reheated meals have a detrimental affect on the body. Likewise, stale reheated, prepackaged meals and experiences based upon personalities aren't good for the body of Christ, either.

There is enough corporate marketing and self-help mumbo-jumbo in the world that we don;t need it seeping into the church poluting what God wants to be Holy and Christ-honoring. We need an honest call to obedience, beginning with repentance for our man-centered ways, so gentlemen, put away your cigars and stop quoting culture, because I'm NOT loving it.

Because Truth matters,

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year!

While I was growing up, my family moved around a lot. No, seriously a lot! I attended 4 different elementary schools, 3 different middle schools and 2 different high schools, all in different states. I really disliked leaving my friends, but the one thing that I did like was that I could start over. Past mistakes (and nicknames) would not be known at this new school. I had a clean slate and could be and do anything that I wanted.

Because of this, I have always liked the start of a new year. Although one can start anything, projects, careers, etc. over at any time, the official start of the new year means (in my mind, at least) that I can officially start over. Mistakes, etc. from 2007, although learning experiences, feel like they are long gone. After all, that was "last year" even though "last year" was just a week ago. I think this is why people make New Year's resolutions.

Anyway, 2007 brought with it it's share of thrilling highs and agonizing lows. The statement that truth is stranger than fiction is true. Some of the events and situations that I have lived through would be hard for an author to think of... lol

I pray that this year, the Lord finds me a more humble and teachable servant and that this year turns out better than last, and why shouldn't it, it is a fresh start. It's time to take chances, make mistakes and get messy (sorry, with 4 kids, I have some TV shows like 'The Magic Schoolbus' ingrained in my memory).

Happy New Year! What are you going to do with it?

Because Truth matters,