Category Archives: church

Is There Too Much Rocket Science in Church

Last Wednesday night I got back from England and I still find myself processing all that I did and learned while I was there. I am amazed how beneficial my time was in regards to me and my view of church. The picture to the right is of an old church building in Calais, France. Actually it was one of the very few that we saw there. The building is quite impressive and I remember that when I saw it I was amazed. I thought much about what had gone on in that church and found myself wondering what the circumstances were around the time it was built. What is it that makes it so impressive? What inspires the awe? As I ponder those questions I realize it is the complexity and size that inspires the awe. Can you imagine what all it took to build it, the skill and time that it took. Especially considering their lack of machinery that we have today. My mind is simply amazed. I know that it is nothing that I could duplicate or accomplish.

While in Bicester I spent time with a small church, a house church of sorts. The church is in its early stages of starting and growth. The leadership is committed to keeping the main thrust of the church small and in simple groups. Even though they currently have around 20 people a part of the church they are going to multiply into three smaller groups with a larger group get together every three weeks. I was blessed to spend one night of worship with them and during that time I was greatly encouraged and challenged in my walk with the Lord. The greatest thing about the church was its simplicity and with the simplicity the great amount of impact for the kingdom. To do what this small church is doing is not rocket science, anyone could do it.

When considering much of the churches I have been a part of I realize that they are like the picture of the church above. They are complex and awe inspiring because of there complexity and size. I realize that the average church goer is intimidated for one reason or another and think there is no way they could do it. They feel as though the work of the ministry must be left to the professional clergy. There is all the programs we run and the large budget that comes with the programs. Many end up in larger and larger buildings as they grow. The ability of the musicians and the amount of technology involved requires so much money and skill. The crazy thing is that as much significant work of the Spirit happens in the little church I got to go to as the large complex and expensive churches.

Coming away from my experience in England I realize that we make church way to complicated. In Acts 2 it says the early church met in the temple and daily in their homes sharing meals together. That is so simple and yet the models we have developed are so complicated that we read book upon book trying to figure it out. Please do not take that I think that what we do in America is totally wrong and we should jump from the building before it falls. What I am saying is please don’t think that the music, technology and other things we do are essential to being a church. Those are nice things we do but are not essential. Rather we are to come together to help one another grow in the faith and practice the ordinances together. Church is not rocket science it is fellow believers in community helping one another know Jesus more and live out the mission We have been called to.

So friends as we go to church be in awe concerning the work the Spirit did in your life that day through the Word and through other sojourners not because of the complexity and hugeness of the building or of the things that went on in the worship service.

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Could this be your Church?

A friend shared this with me today. Thought it was funny but reminded me that it is important that we teach people the correct view of what church is. Too many see church as a Sunday service instead of as the bride of Christ who is called to make disciples throughout the world.

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Sloth: Have you been indifferent about the love of God?

A friend of mine and family pastor at our church (Morningstar Baptist church) Andrew Hedges, preached this message on Sloth. I found it to be deeply convicting and helped me to see the depth of Sloth.

I would encourage you to take some time to listen and pray for conviction for any sloth that may be in your life.

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Gospel Lions

Last night I sat down and watched Robin Hoodand really enjoyed the movie. Honestly though I wasn’t surprised. Most movies that have action and adventure I enjoy, the kid in me comes to the surface. I especially like those kind of movies when I walk away inspired to live life better. Movies like Gladiator, The Patriot and the Lord of the Rings Trilogy are some other good ones that have at the same time entertained and inspired me. Those are the best movies.

While watching Robin Hood I could not help but be inspired by how the common folk came together to be a force to be reckoned with. Unfortunatly this didn’t work out to well for them in the movie and Robin ended up being outlawed but the idea moved me still. The quote from the movie that resonated with me as soon as I heard it was, “Rise and rise again, until lambs become lions!” Pastors are in the business of helping lambs become lions by the grace of God. Each week we need to rise up and pursue the raising up of disciples who are engaging their communities with the boldness of lions so that some might come to Christ. Without this passionate pursuit we can expect that the people in the pews will remain lambs who are comfortable with being a part of a club. While pondering this there were a couple of things that came to mind that must happen in order for the lambs to become lions.

1. Growth in the gospel- I know that we would say the people in the pews have said the sinner’s prayer and and trusted Christ as their savior. My response to this would be are they learning everyday what it means to live out the gospel? Are they growing in the knowledge of the holiness and greatness of God? As they know God more do they understand more how depraved they are? Then are they turning to Christ again everyday praising Him for the work He has done? This will result in men and women who are falling more deeply in love with Jesus everyday because they are growing in their understanding of the significance of the gospel. The gospel provides the motivation and the power to live for the glory of God. In 2 Peter 1:3-11 we learn that the gospel has given us everything we need to be fruitful as believers. If believers are going to move from being lambs to being lions they need to understand the implications of living the gospel and begin living it. This means if you are a leader in the church that every time you teach you must make sure that the gospel is central. This is why Martin Luther said to beat the gospel into their heads continually.

2. Love for People- At another point in Robin Hood, Robin is talking with the young boys who were essentially poachers and thieves and He told them that if they wanted to be more than theives that they needed to have a cause. Have the people in your church come to understand the great cause they have been called to? 2 Corinthians 5:18-19 teaches believers that they have been called to the ministry of reconciliation. God has given us a cause that is worth dying for. If you doubt that then simply ask yourself why is it that Jesus died? He believed the cause was worthy to die for. We are commissioned to go to the world with the message that they can be reconciled to God through Jesus Christ. Believers need to see and understand how broken the world around them is, if they don’t they will forget how desperately people need Jesus. Another thing we should be doing is praying often that the people in our churches would have an enlarged burden for their community. As they grow to love people more and understand their call to take the message of reconciliation to their hurting community they will begin to grow from lambs to lions.

You want to see the church work to have gospel change in your community, to move from being lambs to lions then work hard at helping them to grow in the gospel and to grow in their love for people. When these two things happen they will have the motivation and power needed to radically impact their community for the glory of God. You will have lions!

Yep all that from Robin Hood. I am thankful for the time to watch it last night.

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The Ordination

In about two and one half weeks I will be getting ordained. To be honest I have really mixed emotions and have had those emotions since I first thought about getting ordained. Truly the name of this blog, “Wrestlings” describes my thoughts on being ordained. If I didn’t have to be ordained in order to get my license to marry then then I wouldn’t be at the point of being ordained.

Throughout my time at seminary I never really planned on getting ordained. If you know me then you realize that I am not a big fan of formal occasions, which is why I didn’t go to my graduation from seminary. So the thought of being ordained was just another formal occasion to me. Secondly I always viewed ordination as getting the approval of man to support the calling of God on your life. My rebellious spirit said I didn’t need that, I was confident in God’s calling on my life and that was all I needed. For a few years I boldly proclaimed I had no need to be ordained. Dumb and arrogant on my part I know.

Then the change of heart came. The government in Ohio makes you be endorsed by a denomination in order to get a license to marry and with the Southern Baptist Convention the church is given the responsibility of ordination. This led to me approaching Mark Simpson, my pastor to see about getting ordained. As I worked with him on this, my stance towards ordination changed dramatically. This change I owe in large part to Mark’s hard work and the respect that he has towards the process.

The process that Mark put together helped me to see the value of being ordained. The first thing I realized was that ordination wasn’t so much about being approved by man but rather men encouraging you in the calling that God has placed on your life. When I think about the men who will be apart of the ordination council on November 13th I realized these are men who have watched me in ministry and have the ability to speak into my life in regards to the work they see God doing. They can encourage me by helping me see my strengths and by exhorting me to work on my weaknesses. I already found myself encouraged on the night that the church approved me being ordained as I heard a couple comments people made about their whole-hearted approval of the event.

The other part of the process is writing a doctrinal paper. This is a hard thing for me to do because there are other things I would like to be doing. I have told Amy a couple of times that although writing the paper is tough for me the process of writing it will be very valuable. I believe the reason it is so hard to be motivated doing the paper is because I don’t remember facts to well so my fear is that within a couple weeks of writing the paper I will forget much of what I wrote. That is simply how my mind works. I know that it is not a lack of valuing doctrine that makes the paper hard. I strongly believe in the value of doctrine and how believers need to make the effort to know what they believe and why (1 Peter 3:15). I thank God for this paper and how it is challenging me.

Now that my heart has changed and I am excited to be ordained. So what is it that continues to give me mixed emotions. Sitting in front of peers who I have ministered among is what makes me nervous. I know they are going to seek to encourage me but it still makes me nervous. I have a deep fear of failure and for me I see this as another opportunity to fail. I know that is quite pessimistic but that is me, love me or leave me! The other thing that gets me a little worked up is being the center of attention. Oh my the thought of a service that will be to honor what God has done in my life in regards to ministry makes me a little sick to my stomach. These are the times that my introvert tendencies come out.

Despite these mixed emotions overall I am really excited about being ordained. I know this sounds a little funny but this ordination is another step in growing up. The responsibility of the call will hit me between the eyes on that night for which I thank God. Please be praying for my family and I through this ordination and as we continue to seek God’s direction in our life. I may not know where I will be serving long term but I know that my life will be poured out in service to God. The ironic thing is it is only by His power that I will effectively minister for Him.

In the end I thank the Lord for how He has used the state of Ohio to get me to pursue ordination and I thank Him for Mark and his respect for the process of ordination.

In Acts 13 we read about Paul and Barnabas being sent out by the church at Antioch. The Holy Spirit led them to do this but they took the time to pray for Paul and Barnabas and in essence to honor what God was sending them to do. They understood the need that Paul and Barnabas had for the Holy Spirit to work through them. On November 13th when I am ordained it is a moment for me to declare that I am dependent on the work of the Spirit in my life to be fruitful in ministry.

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Your Role is Bigger than you Realize

This is an article that I wrote to the growth group leaders at our church MorningStar Baptist Church. I hope and pray that it can be helpful to others as well.

My wife and I have four children and one of the hardest things for them to understand is how much influence the older have over their younger siblings. I feel as though everyday I have a discussion with one of them explaining how much their younger siblings will follow their example. Our three year old often amazes me with how much she knows and the physical things that she is capable of doing. As much as I would be honored to have a prodigy I realize that she has learned quickly and is very confident because of the influence of her older two siblings. I must continually remind them of the influence they have and how important it is for them to honor God with that influence.

Lately I have come under conviction as a husband and father feeling the weight of responsibility that I have as I influence my family. The things that I value will be the things that my wife and kids value. If I like ice cream then probably they will end up liking ice cream. Today as I got dressed and put on jeans one of my little girls came out with jeans on and told me she was wearing jeans like I was. If they here me being critical of others then they become critical of others. If my kids see me loving my wife/their mom in a godly way then one day they will be in much better shape to have a strong marriage. On a more serious note if my relationship with God is a show and only matters on Sunday then they will begin to see me as a hypocrite and eventually reject the faith. I wield influence in their lives even when I don’t realize it.

In the Old Testament the nation of Israel was led by kings and in the life of those kings we learn about the power of influence. John Maxwell defines leadership as influence. The kings of Israel are a great example of the influence that leaders carry. Take time to read 2 Chronicles and take notice of the pattern that emerges. When a new king is introduced it records for us how many years that king reigned and then shares what kind of life the king lived. The writer describes how the king followed the Lord. Then as you read about the king’s reign we learn how that affected the nation. If the king sought after the Lord then the nation of Israel sought the Lord, and if the king rebelled against God then the nation rebelled against God. Take Manasseh for example in 2 Chronicles 33:
Manasseh was twelve years old when he began to reign, and he reigned fifty-five years in Jerusalem. 2 And he did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, according to the abom-inations of the nations whom the LORD drove out before the people of Israel.

Then if you read v. 9 we learn how the people responded:
Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the LORD destroyed before the people of Israel.

This is just one example of many throughout 2 Chronicles that reveals the influence that the kings had on the people. Maxwell makes a strong point in saying that leadership is influence.

When is the last time that you took the time to stop and think about your role as a growth group leader? Have you contemplated how valuable you are to the health of your church? Do you understand how the life you live as a disciple affects the influence you have on your group? In a lot of ways you are the king of a small nation and the way that you lead that nation and the way you live your life before them will have great influence on their spiritual health. In turn it will affect the health of the church.

As growth group leaders you hold extremely important positions in the life of your church. Your role isn’t important because you have the ability to make decisions that affect the whole church and it isn’t important because you control a large portion of the budget. Your role is so important because of the influence you have over the lives of the members in your group. The spiritual health of you as growth group leaders is essential to the health of the group. Your energy and the dedication given to connect group members to God and others cannot be underestimated. Your buy-in and support of the vision of the church is important to the whole body becoming aligned to focus on the mission God has called us to.

Your ability to recruit people who are not in groups will determine how successful we are at getting a high participation rate of members in growth groups. The more that individuals are connected to a growth group the less likely we are to lose them out the back door of the church. Leaders, you will influence your group, the question is what kind of influence are you being? Over the next few weeks you will receive a number of articles that address how you will influence your growth group. The goal is that as you come to understand the importance of your role you will then be able to become laser focused with how you lead your group to connect with God and to connect with others.

May you be challenged to take time this week and pray through the kind of influence that you are having on your group. Remember these are God’s children that you are providing oversight with in His group. Are you honoring Him and the work His Son did on the cross as you influence your group. Finally this is not about how capable you are but rather how dependent you are on God and His Spirit, allowing Him to work through you. The best thing you can do for your group is to walk humbly and intimately with Jesus.

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IV Lessons

I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. – John 15:5

Last night as I sat and listened to my pastor and friend Mark Simpson teach out of John 15 about Jesus being the vine I couldn’t help but think about something that happened a few years ago.

I believe it was when Alexa was just over a year old. She came down with a virus that led to her throwing up and as a result she stopped eating and drinking. No matter what we did she wouldn’t eat or drink. This didn’t go on very long when see became very lethargic and her body just started to shut down. We got in the car and headed to the ER because we weren’t sure what was going on and we were scared. At the hospital we learned that she was dehydrated and that things could have gotten much worse if we hadn’t gotten her to the hospital. They quickly got an IV in her and began pumping fluids. Before too long she was reenergized and ready to head home. Amy and I look back on this and are so thankful for God’s grace and protection in Alexa’s life.

Followers of Christ are to abide in Him so that we might receive His grace and His strength so that we might bear fruit and be sanctified. If we do not abide in Christ, remain connected to the vine we will stop bearing fruit and essentially shrivel up and die. At these times followers of Christ become vulnerable to bitterness and apathy that will draw them further away from the Lord.

As Alexa’s parents we could provide her food and nourishment but she rejected it because of the virus that was attacking her. She lost energy and eventually could have died. As her parents we didn’t let that happen instead we took her to the hospital where they inserted an IV that provided the nourishment that she needed. She got her energy back and was quickly back to full health.

God has called His children to live in community, to be connected to the body, His church. Alexa’s story in addition to Jesus being the vine helps us see why. At times as we are pruned by God or attack by the evil one we begin to want to run from God and the church. We lose connection to Christ and begin to spiritually shrivel. When we have the church in our life and they respond as they are called to respond then they will stick the IV in the child and help it receive the nourishment it needs. When we run the encouragement and prayers of the church can help us walk through the viruses that come into our lives. They will come and church is to help you walk through those times.

Friends abide in Christ and stay in fellowship with the church so that they may help you stay healthy in Christ. At times we all need a spiritual IV.

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