Friday, May 26, 2006

Well, Why do YOU travel so much?

I am going to do something here that I don't really intend to do again. I am going to respond to comments that were posted anonymously. When I first read these comments this morning, I was a little taken aback. I don't think the questions themselves bothered me. I love questions. But I don't think I was able to make out the the tone or spirit of the questions. And the fact that the questions were submitted anonymously made it all the more difficult for me to discern whether or not this is a person I should ignore. So in the future, I won't answer direct questions that are posted anonymously. You don't have a write out a bio. But you should at least give me your name. However, I can't resist these questions. So I will make an exception here.

Here are the comments: Why do pastors travel so much? Well, why do YOU travel so much?Is it a calling? popularity?Is it to subsidize a mediocre compensation package from their local church?Why?I know traveling and preaching at meetings USED TO be the "in thing" but why do pastors do 20 - 30 revivals a year with a growing membership at home?

Admittedly, I think it's kind of strange to defend the fact that I am a preacher who is passionate about preaching. I have been called to preach. It is what I do. I am in awe of God's grace toward me and count it a privelege that the Lord would use someone like me to do something as important as this. And I am still a young preacher, who is gratefully surprised that I am invited to preach as often as I am. And I still become rather eager about the opportunities I get to preach the word. I recognize that I am getting older and now have changing responsibilities. And I trust that in the days to come I will be wiser about the invitations I accept. However, I don't think it's appropriate for me to apoligize for preaching. It is pretty interesting that there are many preachers who have no reputations for actually preaching. Yet, they are celebrated as great "men of God." May God raise up many more men who are committed to faithfully proclaming the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ as every opportunity.

Back to the questions... Is it a calling? I am not sure I would that terminology. I know that I am called to preach. But I don't know if it would be accurate or appropriate to define my calling any more narrowly than that? Is it for popularity? All I would say to that is that you should go back a read some of my previous posts and answer that question for yourself. What I do is anything but glamorous. The toll my preaching schedule takes on me is more obvious than any of the rewards. But that is not just true for the traveling that I do. It also applies to my regular schedule of duties at MSMBC. As for compensation, I will say that I am not wealthy, but Mt. Sinai takes care of me and my family. And I don't have any needs. This frees me to travel to preach without concern for money. I have never taken a invitation based on potential compensation. I never know what I am going to get, if anything, when I go to preach. I have never checked-up on a pastor or church before taking an invitation, so see how well they will treat me. I have never asked for a certain amount. I have never complained to a pastor about how much he has or has not given me. I have never refused a return invitation on the basis of finances. I have never... well, you get the picture. It is not about the dollar for me. Period. And those who know me well can vouch for me on that.

I am not sure what the commentor means when he/she says that traveling to preach used to be the in-thing. I don't know what that means. Really. And, yes, I am a part of a growing and loving congregation. However, I do not believe the growth of MSMBC is directly related to how much I do or do not travel. There are growing churches where the pastor is not very accessable at all. And there are non-growing churches whose pastors never travel to preach. I am convinved at this point that the growth or lack of growth of a church is ultimately a matter of the sovereign providence of God. Indeed, there are human factors of faithfulness and fruitfulness that are involved. But the Lord Jesus Christ is the sole and sovereign head of the church. It's life, health, and growth are in his hands.

Now, let me make a confession. I think, at this point, that I preach too much. But I make this statement with much fear and trembling. In my posts, I often speak of how tired and homesick and whatever I am. But none of that compares to the great fulfillment I receive by seeing people feed on and grow from the word of God. I have had to repent many times for sitting in a service wondering why in the world I was there, only to later see the Lord use my feeble preaching to change people's lives. It's an amazing experience. In a recent conversation about my schedule, I made the comment that if I didn't go to a certain place, my sermon would not be missed. My friend rebuked me. And I am glad he did. It was a thoughtless, presumptuous, and sinful statement. I do not know what God is up to in these matters. But I do know that I want to be a part of it. May the Lord help me to do better at putting first what he tells me to put first when he tells me to put it first, so that he will be first in every area of my life. Sola Deo Gloria!

I Took The Day Off

There is electrical work being done on our church facilities. And the electricity was shut down today. So I couldn't go into the office. I call this providence! I desperately needed a day off. And the office being shut down became an excellent excuse... er... reason for me to rest. And that's exactly what I did today. I took my children to school. I had breakfast with Crystal. I took a nap. I had lunch with George. I came home and took another nap. I went to pick up the kids from school. Then we hung out all afternoon - and all evening, for that matter. That's it. That's my day. Praise the Lord!

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Home from Dayton

Tuesday night, I preached my final message at Phillips Temple CME in Dayton. And I did something I have only done two other times in all my pastoral ministry: I preached something away from MSMBC that I had not already preached to MSMBC. I had been working on my midweek message on Psalm 119:57-64 ("The Lord is My Portion"), and it was really in my system. So I took a shot at it Tuesday night, even though I didn't have much more than an extended outline. I mentioned the fact that it was an "unfinished sermon" before I started preaching. I have absolutely no idea why I did that! I was already very nervous; and my "confession" made it worse. Pastor Washington and his congregation were kind.

I never went to sleep Tuesday night (I still don't know what was up with my insomnia in Dayton). Wednesday morning, I had a more than one hour flight to Charlotte. Then I had a more than four hour flight from Charlotte to LAX. It felt like I was on a plane all Wednesday morning! My sinuses were really bothering me when I got off the plane. I took some medicine and, as usual, it knocked me out. I didn't wake up until after 2 PM. I pulled myself together and headed to Gramercy Place to get ready for our Midweek Worship Service. I got about three more hours in on my Psalm 119 message. It's still not finished. But when 7:00 hit, I was so ready to preach. It was so good to be home, standing in my own pulpit, preaching to my own congregation. I would have went on and preached another sermon when I finished "The Lord is My Portion," but that was all of the psalm I have studied so far.

I really love my congregation!!! And if they don't really love me back, they deserve an Academy Award for "Best Congregational Actors in a Pastoral Hoodwink." I know that they are concerned about how much I have been traveling lately. And I know they miss me, even though the guys always do a good job when I'm not present. I miss them, as well. And I look forward to this stretch being over ( have two more trips to go). I am grateful for the ways that the Lord uses me in the different places I travel. But there is no place like home. I feel like I am rambling about right now. But the bottom-line is that I am really glad to be home with Crystal, the kids, and Mt. Sinai. Last night, Johnny Gilmore, our new organist, was with us in worship for the first time. I look forward to him growing with us. There is electrical work being done on our building. Pray for Gilbert and his crew as they do their work. And pray for our staff as they do their work with all that is going on at the building.

Speaking of my staff, you can hear George's Sunday sermon on the Rich Young Ruler on our church website. It will be under Matthew in the sermons section. God bless.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reading Ephesians

On Sunday, June 4, I am scheduled to begin an verse-by-verse exposition of the New Testament Epistle of Paul to the Ephesians. I have asked the congregation of Mt. Sinai Church to read the six chapters of Ephesians, a chapter a day, between Monday through Saturday, leading up to the beginning of our study. Please join us as we familiarize ourselves with this wonderful letter of scripture.

"Blessed by the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places." - Ephesians 1:3

Sleepless in Dayton

It is just past 2 AM here in Dayton. I am tired, lonely, and homesick. And I cannot sleep. I flew all day Saturday to get here (It was morning when I left LAX; evening when I arrived in Dayton). I got something to eat and basically went straight to bed. My day started pretty early this morning. I had to preach twice at the Phillip's Temple CME Church, for their 9 and 11 AM worship services. Pastor James Washington is a kind and gracious host. In fact, his kindness to me has been somewhat embarrassing. He really goes out of his way to make sure that I am comfortable. The first service was okay. It all moved so fast, that it was kind of hard for me to catch up with the pace of the service. I am not sure whether or not it showed during in my delivery. In the second service, I was a little more relaxed. And I think my presentation of the word was better in that service. But God knows that I gave my best to him in both services.

After worship, I got something to eat (I had one of the best omelets I have had in a long time) and came back to my room. I napped briefly. But I have been up every since. I have watched some TV preachers. I have talked to my family. I have went for a walk. I have studied and prayed. I have talked to a friend who needed my ear at a critical time in the life of his ministry. I am exhausted now. But I am unable to get relax and get to sleep. It may be that, for all my traveling, I am very rarely away from home on a Sunday. I usually come home from trips on the weekend, rather than the other way around. Thankfully, I don't have much scheduled for Monday besides prayer and study. I trust I will be able to catch up on my rest.

From the initial reports I have received, the Lord richly blessed the day at MSMBC. George preached on the Rich Young Ruler (Matthew 19:16-22). I heard that he did a good job with the text and presented a strong message. Two people responded during the call to decision. I hear that the report from our Singles Conference, which took place this weekend, was rather moving. I really praise God for all that he has done at, in and through Mt. Sinai this Lord's Day. It saddens me that I was not able to be with my beloved congregation. But I am always encouraged to hear that the Lord's faithfulness continues without wavering, even when I am absent. I look forward to getting home to my family and congregation Wednesday. Pray for me.

Friday, May 19, 2006

From Greensboro to LA to Dayton

By the grace of God, I made it home safely this morning from Greensboro. My final night at the Garden of Prayer Church was uplifting and encouraging. I was really blessed by my time with Pastor Keelan Atkinson and the Garden of Prayer family. I had an early flight home this morning. And when I arrived, I received the news that my wife's father had been taken into the hospital. He is in stable condition, I later discovered. But he is not doing well. Next week, Crystal will go to Midland-Odesa, Texas, to check on him. I have tried to spend as much of my day with Crystal and the kids, even though I have been half sleep most of the day. In the morning, I have a flight to Dayton, Ohio. I have three messages I am scheduled to preach for Pastor James Washington and Phillip's Temple CME Church. This will be my first time in Dayton. That always makes me especially nervous. Likewise, I will be out of my pulpit on a Sunday morning, which is not something I like to do. I am scheduled to come back home Wednesday, to preach our Midweek Worship Service. Pray for me.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

My Da Vinci Confession

This weekend, the "The Da Vinci Code" will be released in theaters around the country. And as this much-hyped movie comes out, I feel the need to make a confession: I have not read the book. And barring some minor miracle, I will not see the movie, either. Some time ago, I learned not to get overly excited about the cultural attacks against Christianity. In fact, I have come to expect it, at this point. When Christmas and Easter comes, I started looking for the new "discovery" some supposed "expert" has made about "true" Christianity. Really, no religion is so freely attacked in America as Christianity. So the whole Da Vinci phenomenon shouldn't be a surprise.

Actually, the "Code" is more of an attack against Roman Catholicism, than Protestant Evangelicalism. So there is a part of me that says, "If Da Vinci hurts the Roman Catholic version of Christianity, oh well." But the problem with responding this way is that those who are so targeted in their attacks against Christianity are not as careful in representing what Christians actually teach and believe. So maybe we are all on the same boat when these attacks arise. But while these attacks may be good opportunities to clarify our biblical convictions, I still contend that we should not get too caught up in all of the hype. I think it is not wise to let the culture dictate the conversation of the church. If so, we will be chasing down one lie after another. It seems that the better way is to make our people so familiar with the authentic Christian faith that they will be able to readily spot counterfeits.

I am a part of a congregation that asks a lot of questions. I like that about Mt. Sinai. I enjoy being with people who are thinking about spiritual matters, wrestling with their questions, and seeking the truth. But, interestingly, I have not received one question about Da Vinci. In fact, I do not personally know one person who has actually read the book. Admittedly, this may be a statement about how small my world is. I read something yesterday that said 1 in 5 Americans have read Da Vinci. So I don't know what that says about me and my world that we haven't been "encoded." It may be a good thing (we are discerning), or a bad thing (we are disconnected from the larger culture). I don't know.

When it these attacks against our faith arise, I think that we should just continue in the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ, and let the world say and do what the world says and does. Do you know how many things have arisen that were supposed to "expose" the myth of Christianity. Yet, after 2,000 years, Christianity continues to bury the things that were supposed to kill it. By the way, have we forgotten that "The Da Vinci Code" is a novel. It's not theology. And it's not history. It's fiction. And it may be plagiarized fiction, at that. So maybe we should all take a deep breath, step back, and wait for this latest attack to pass away. See you at the "Da Vinci" funeral.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

My Opening Message at Garden of Prayer

Last night, I gave my first of four messages at the Garden of Prayer Church in Greensboro. It was a good meeting. In fact, it went much better than I expected. Keelan, the pastor of this congregation, is my friend. And it's hard for me to preach for my friends, for some reason. But I really did right at home last night. And, from the comments of members to me after the service, the message was a great encouragement to many. Praise God for that. I have three more messages to preach and then I'll be headed home. Pray for me.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Headed to Greensboro

I am in Cincinnati, awaiting my connecting flight to Greensboro, NC. I am scheduled to preach at the Garden of Prayer Sovereign Grace Baptist Church through Thursday. My friend, Keelan Atkinson is the pastor. Keelan has served there for about a year and a half. Keelan is also a blogger, sort of. He has a blog, I should say. But he hasn't published a post on it in almost a month. Pray that he will "repent" and get back to it. This will be my second time preaching at Garden of Prayer. I did their "Friends and Family Day" last year. I don't think I did a good enough job to have been invited back again. But that's what friends are for. I will probably have to go straight from the airport to the meeting to preach tonight. But that's okay. Im used to doing that. And I think I just want to go preach tonight and then get in the bed. I am still rather tired from a rather long weekend.

Speaking of the weekend...
We have a good day yesterday. In my Sunday School class, I taught a lesson entitled "Edify One Another." I was not able to finish the lesson during our hour together, so I will have to pick up the second part of it on the fourth Sunday, God willing. In our worship service, I preached on "Worship through Giving" from Malachi 3:8-12. I know, I know. It was Mother's Day. But it is also our Financial Stewardship Emphasis Month. And it is the one time a year that I an guaranteed to teach on money matters. So I went for it. I wanted the message to be both challenging and encouraging. And I think I pulled it off, even though I feel that both the message itself and the presentation of it could have been much better. But I pray that the Lord will honor the word and lead us to be more generous in our giving to God.

After worship, we went home and passed out. Then we went to the graduation ceremonies for George Hurtt. George, my friend and colleague at MSMBC, graduated from The Master's Seminary with his M.Div. degree. It was a special occasion. I know that his mother and the rest of his family must have been very proud of him. Dr. John MacArthur, the brought the message. It was a message from on of his books that I have read. But I still found it to be helpful and challenging to hear these principles again. After the ceremonies, we had a late dinner together and then home and kind of passed out again. I woke up this morning grateful to have another opportunity to go preach, but somewhat down about the fact that I have to leave home again. I am tired of being on the road. I have a little longer to go in this extended stretch of meetings, then I will be able to take a break from all of this travel. I really look forward to it. Pray that the Lord will help me to press on through this busy time and that the Lord's sustaining grace would enable me to do his will.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Heading Home from Grand Prairie

My last night in Grand Prairie was cool. I was quite nervous, as I sat in the service. Quite a few pastors and preachers were present to hear me preach - from one of my father's old friends to one of my new friends to a bunch a young pastors and preachers who had come to "scope me over." And I was preaching a message that I did not intend to preach. It was a bit unnerving. I have preached before a lot of of preachers before, so I really don't know why I was so nervous. Before the message, a young lady sung "I Don't Know About Tomorrow." This is one of the songs my mother taught me to sing when I was a little boy. I really didn't understand the song, when I was a boy. But as I have grown up, the song has meant much more to me, even though I have not actually sung it in years. Anyway, the deal lady ran me bad. And I had to try to catch my composure, so I could preach. The sermon seem to go okay. The crowd pushed me at points. And I started rushing at the end. But I believe it was a pretty clear presentation of the message.

I am presently at my gate in DFW Airport, awaiting my flight home. If the Lord allows me to get home safely, I plan to have a rather quiet day with my wife and kids. I am pretty much ready for tomorrow. And I look forward to being with my beloved congregation in worship and fellowship. Pray for me.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Last Day in Town - Grand Prairie

Tonight, I will preach my final message of this meeting at Morning Star Baptist Church in Grand Prairie. Pastor Christopher Taylor has been a very gracious host, as usual. And the Morning Star family has been a warm and encouraging place to preach, as usual. Likewise, there have been quite a few young ministers who have come to support the meeting, most of whom I am meeting for the first time. I really do appreciate these young men attending the services and showing such kindness to me. I feel a little out of my league, being around some of them who are so young, and yet have finished their formal theological training for ministry. But it is very encouraging to see these young men taking their preparation for ministry so seriously. I hope and pray that my personal conduct and ministry work will be an encouragement to these young men, and that the Lord would not allow me to join the number of the many bad examples of ministry that are everywhere around us.

In the morning I am scheduled to fly home. If the Lord blesses my study today, I will be pretty much ready to preach Sunday by the time I get home. That would be really cool. I would get to spend all of my time with my family, when I get home. We are in our Financial Stewardship Emphasis Month at MSMBC. This is the one time a year that the church knows I am going to preach on money matters. This Sunday, I am planning to preach an exposition of Malachi 3:8-12, called "Worship through Giving." It will be th first time I have preached on this tithing passage in a long time. I already have a completed manuscript, which I have preached several times. But I am trying to beef it up, adding additional insights and clearer arguments to my message. Even when I am preaching something old, it's hard for me to keep from messing with the manuscript. I am like David in that I do not want to offer to the Lord that which has costs me nothing (2 Sam. 24:24).

I look forward to getting home and being with my family and congregation this weekend. Sunday, my friend and colleague, George Hurtt, is scheduled to graduate from The Master's Seminary with his M.Div. degree. I am very excited for him. And I look forward to the ceremony this Sunday afternoon. I am planning on continuing my Sunday School series with a lesson on "Submitting to One Another." And I look forward to do something special with and for my wife, who is a loving and diligent mother to or two children. Pray that the Lord will bless my final night here in Grand prairie and get home safely this weekend.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Busy, but Blessed

This week is only two days old. But it has been a pretty busy one, nonetheless. I have a plane to catch in the morning to Grand Prarie. So I have been trying to get a lot done over the past day or so. God has been faithful. I have been pretty busy. But I am blessed. God is good. I am so grateful to God for all that he is doing in and through me during this season of my life. Even the challenges are blessing me to grow up spiritually. I praise the Lord for it all!

This past weekend was the beginning of our Financial Stewardship Emphasis Month, which is each May. Saturday was our financial stewardship seminar. It was not as well attended as we would have liked. But the material was quite helpful. We plan to do another in October, to give our members another opportunity to receive this practical help in money management. I preached a message on 1 Chronicles 29:10-19, entitled "A Godly Attitude toward Material Possessions." The message was disrupted by a dear but troubled lady who lives in our neighborhood. I tried to preach through it, but it was wrecked my message. There was a 20 minute stretch of sermon where I could not tell you what I said. I was saying whatever I memorized from my manuscript. But my mind was praying that this lady on the front row would not cause a major scene in the service. And I was praying that the church would stay focused. It was a wierd experience. But I hope that some part of the message got through. Overall, it was a great day. Sunday School was great. And our worship service was great. The Lord blessed me with wisdom and strength, even though I had a rather touch weekend.

In the morning, I will be flying to Dallas to preach in Grand Prarie for Pastor Christopher Taylor at the Morning Star Church in Grand Prarie. Christopher is a strong preacher. And Morning Star is a warm church. I have not been there in a few years. But I look forward to sharing with them again. I hope and pray that the church is still healthy and growing. Pray for my travels.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Keep Trusting God's Word When Trouble Comes

Last night, during our National Day of Prayer Service, I resumed my exposition of Psalm 119. I was scheduled to preach this message last Wednesday night, but both physical fatigue and mental distractions resulted in me going home to get in the bed hours before the service. Praise God I had another opportunity to present this message. And after having a week to let it "marinate," I didn't have some of the typical anxieties I have when I am preaching a new message. Likewise, this has been a really tough week for me. I am now going in the different direction that what is really on my heart to do. Honestly, I am tired of doing that. I am not even sure that it is the right thing to do. But it often seems the wise thing to do for the sake of maintaining unity. Well, with all of this going on within me, the one who preached last night probably needed the message much more than anyone and everyone in the room who heard it. Preaching that message last night has saved my ministry at a critical time of frustration, disappointment, and exasperation. Here is the sermon skeleton. I hope you will find it helpful as you read through Psalm 119.

Title: "Keep Trusting God's Word When Trouble Comes"

Text: Psalm 119:49-56

Theme: The sustaining power of God's word for troubled believers

Point: Keep trusting God's word even when trouble comes.


I. God's word produces true hope (v. 49).

II. God's word produces great comfort (vv. 50-52).

A. The source of our comfort (v. 50)

B. The depth of our comfort (v. 51)

C. The means to our comfort (v. 52)

III. God's word produces holy zeal (v. 53).

IV. God's word produces stubborn joy (v. 54).

V. God's word produces faithful obedience (vv. 55-56).

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Home Safely from San Diego

Praise God! The Lord blessed me to get home safely from San Diego this morning. The final service at Bayview Church was good. I shifted away from what I had been preaching on all week, to preach a message that was on my heart. I think it was a clear presentation, even though I was somewhat nervous about preaching it. As always, Pastor Winters was kind and generous to me. I appreciate the time he takes with me. In fact, I was so anxious to spend time with him that I followed him to eat different kinds of foods that what I normally eat (my personal diet of foods is very limited). Anyway, I made it home safely this morning. But my luggage did not. I am not sure where it is at this point. And neither does the airlines. Isn't it amazing that luggage can be lost between San Diego and Los Angeles? I am now at my study at the church, preparing for our National Day of Prayer Service tonight. I am to preach in the service tonight. May the Lord hold my mind, so that I may be able to concentrate on my assignment tonight.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Wrong vs. Right

One of the hardest things in the world to do is to say that you are wrong when you really believe in your heart that you are right.

Last Day in Town - San Diego

I have one more message to preach tonight at Bayview Baptist Church in San Diego. Then I will be on my way home. Yippee!!! I am so homesick; I don't know what to do. I woke up this morning and began packing my bags, even though I am not scheduled to leave until tomorrow morning. Usually, I pack an hour before it is time for be to leave. But I am really anxious to get home. Now, this is not a statement about Bayview Church in any way. I have had a good week here, ministering to this great congregation. And I have learned so much by spending time with Pastor Winters. He has been quite generous with me in sharing his godly wisdom and pastoral insights. I am not sure why Pastor Winters is so moved to show such kindness to me. But I am truly grateful for it. I am not sure, however, that my preaching has fulfilled his expectations this week. This is Bayview's "Next Level Celebration," which is a part of their capital campaign for the new building they are seeking to build. And I think that pastor wanted me to preach some messages around that theme. But I didn't know that until I was two messages in. And by then, I was headed in a certain direction and it has been hard for me to change courses. I hope this has not been to much of a disappointment to pastor. And I pray that the congregation has been ministered to through my messages.

I miss Crystal and the kids, desperately. I have been on the road quite a bit this past month. And I long for my family, my home, my bed, my study, and my congregation. For young pastors and preachers who think that traveling to preach is some glorious thing, think again. It can be quite lonely, frustrating, and taxing. I feel that way this week. And I look forward to getting home tomorrow, God willing. I am scheduled to preach tomorrow night for our National Day of Prayer Service. I intend to preach on Psalm 119:49-56. I am labeling the message with an exhortation, "Keep Trusting God When Trouble Comes." I was supposed to preach this message last Wednesday night, but I did not attend the service. I was really too tired and distracted to preach, which has rarely happened to me over the years of my pastorate. But thank God that I may get another shot at it this week. I miss preaching to my own congregation. It has been a week and a half since I last stood in my pulpit. But it seems like it is much longer than that. Also, some things have come up this week that I have had to deal with that I would rather not be having to deal with on the road. It has been kind of distracting from my preaching assignment. But the Lord has been faithful, as always. And I trust that he will bless me to faithfully preach my final message tonight and then get home to my family and congregation. Pray for me.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Godly Wisdom from a Faithful Shepherd

I have two more messages to preach at Bayview Church before I go home. I have preached three so far. Sunday was kind of tough. I really don't think I "connected" with the congregation in either of the morning services. But I was still blessed to be there. Pastor Winters is such a joy to be around. A for a young pastor to be able to sit with him and watch him lead his congregation is an enriching experience. Sunday evening, Crystal and the kids headed home so that the kids wouldn't miss school. That was difficult. I didn't want them to go. Or maybe I should say that I wanted to go home with them. Anyway, I rested a lot yesterday. And the Lord blessed the service last night. I felt a lot more relaxed. And the congregation seemed to be a little more receptive to the message (I mean this in terms of attentiveness.). After the service, Pastor Winters took me to get something to eat. And that hour or so at the table with him was worth the whole trip. Pastor Winters is a godly man, a faithful shepherd, and a humble servant-leader. And he has much wisdom to share. And his pastoral insights were very helpful. I appreciated all the advice he gave me and pray that I will be able to put it into practice. Praise God for Pastor Timothy Winters and the Bayview Baptist Church of San Diego!

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Church's Biggest Problems

Yesterday, a brother asked me, "What do you think are the biggest problems facing the church today?" For the record, I don't like these kinds of questions. And I really don't like being on the receiving end of one of them. It seems kind of presumptuous to me to try to answer for the spiritual condition of large sections of Christians in the world. I have a hard enough time monitoring my own heart, not to mention my own congregation. So it seems to that I should be pontificating about the larger body of Christ. Yet, we talk like this all the time. I trip out when I turn on one of the "religious talk shows" and here the host asks some high-profile religious personality, "What do you think the Lord is saying to the body of Christ today?" I'm waiting for someone to be humble enough to look the host in the eye and say, with all sincerity, "Huh?" Anyway, I've been thinking about that brother's question. And from my little corner of the world and my limited personal experience, I believe there are several problematic issues that are hindering the spiritual health and growth of many Christian believers and congregations. Here they are, in no particular order:

1. A lack of confidence in the sufficiency of Scripture

2. An unbiblical philosophy of ministry

3. An absence of theological reflection and doctrinal consideration

4. A preoccupation with worldly success

5. A failure to practice biblical discernment

6. A celebrity mentality toward spiritual leadership

7. A refusal to embrace the biblical order of gender roles

Now, I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. So this list is not "inspired," in any sense. These are just my peronal observations. I used broad terms so that my list would be no more than 7, rather than longer than 25. These are the things that I am personally concerned about as I read, travel, and observe Christian ministry in across America. And I pray that the Lord will help me to be faithful to him in these areas within my sphere of influence.

I'm curious to hear your comments. What do you think are the biggest problems facing the church today?