Archive Page 2

14
Jul
14

Your Preacher

A while ago, Adam Faughn asked me to write and article about preaching for his blog: Faughn Family of Four. As I was looking through some files I came across the article and updated it for today’s blog post.

About three years ago I posted a question on a Social Networking Q&A site. The question was, “What do you expect from your minister (preacher)? One answer stood out as the answerer simply described the preacher where she worships. I thought I would begin by sharing that answer with you:

First and foremost, he is someone who is dedicated to following Christ. He cares more about people than image, he is a servant rather than a celebrity. He is not power-hungry, but is willing to delegate tasks and trust people, even when they do things differently than he would have them done. He is willing at times to say “no” and make sacrifices so that he is able to meet the emotional needs of his family.

  • He is willing to admit when he’s made a mistake. And he is also quick to forgive those around him. As a member, it is easier for me to grow in Christ because I know that I am deeply, genuinely loved. That I am accepted as is, but encouraged to grow.

    The building where I Obeyed the Gospel

    The building where I Obeyed the Gospel

  • He has close, open friendships where he is able to be honest about anything in his life. He honors and respects his wife.
  • He is willing to laugh at himself, and by his example I have learned a little about how to laugh at myself too. In his sermons he passes on stories that lift people up–nice things his wife, children, and folks in the congregation have done…
  • He sees people for who they are. He is not a big talker, but he is an encourager and a good listener.
  • He tries to model his ministry after the image of Jesus washing His disciples feet. He makes it his goal to always be the lowest person in the room, to always be serving those around him, just as Christ served us and gave himself for us.
  • He prays. He prays a lot. And he devours the scripture.
  • He isn’t trying to share some sort of theoretical faith he’s learned about in his head. Rather, it’s a faith he is living–“join me in following Christ.”
  • He sees himself as equipping all members for ministry. He is not there to entertain us or to make us happy; he is there to help, teach, and encourage us, so that we can be the best ministers we can be to those around us in whatever role we find ourselves in.

The Apostle Paul was in many ways a “pulpit preacher.” He spent three years located and serving with the Church in Ephesus. He describes his time there to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20. By looking at his words, we can get an idea of what the pulpit is about: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the whole time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials that happened to me through the plots of the Jews; how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house, testifying both to Jews and to Greeks of repentance toward God and of faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. . . . for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:18-21, 27b – ESV).

Paul instructs a younger minister, his son in faith, Timothy, encouraging him in the following ways:

“ . . . For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth – 1 Tim 2:5-7.

. . . But as for you, O man of God, flee these things. Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness – 1 Tim 6:11.

. . . Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth – 2 Tim 2:15.

. . . Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may come to their senses and escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will – 2 Tim 2:23-36.

. . . preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry – 2 Tim 4:2-5.”

Here is what we learn from the Scriptures:

The Pulpit is not:

  • A venue for your soap box or personal point of view.
  • An avenue to vent anger or to speak to one individual’s struggle.
  • A place to push your political standings. There are times to take moral stands, but preach the morality issue and do not make it a political speech. Do not tell people how to vote, tell them what God says and let them decided what to do.
  • A way to make a living. You can make a living while filling a pulpit, but do not enter ministry just to make a living. My Bible College instructors were quick to tell us if we could make a living doing something else, then do it.

What the local congregation can (should) expect:

  1. Sound teaching: Make sure you are expounding the text and not reading into the text what you already believe.
  2. Studied material: A good sermon takes time to study, write, review, edit, and reflect before presentation.
  3. Significance: Sermons should have an impact on people lives. Messages need to have significance to the listener. This requires knowledge of peoples lives by being available to them.
  4. Simplicity: Theological babble sounds good and impresses other preachers at lectureships, but keep weekly sermons simple. The educational level in most congregation varies from children to well educated adults. Try to reach each group where they are.
  5. Servant mentality: A preacher is not the controlling officer of the congregation. He is a servant of the congregation where he worships and works. Look for opportunities and be ready to serve when called upon.

What the local congregation should return (pulpit can expect)

  1. Time to study: Those that fill the pulpit full-time receive support so that they can spend extra time in study. A number of years ago I stopped referring to the room I use at the building or the area of my home as my office, but as my study. When someone asks me if I have “office hours” I reply, “I am usually in my study at the building” during certain hours. Using the word study lets them know what I am doing while there, and keeps me from becoming a manager of church affairs.
  2. Taking lessons to heart and action: I love the story about a preacher who presented a lesson on Going the Second Mile in Love. One lady who always complained about others not treating her well, shook his hand saying, “that was a great lesson.” “Thank you,” he replied, “How are you going to put love in action this week?”
  3. Toleration: One person cannot be in more than one place at a time. “I called the building, but no one answered” and “That preacher never visits” are expectations that should not co-exist, but do.
  4. Togetherness in service: Every member is a servant “As each one has received a gift, use it to serve one another . . .” 1 Pet 4:10.

-Scott

11
Jul
14

Defining the church of Christ

While studying for a lesson on the church that I am giving next week, I came across this post from a few years ago. I made some slight alterations to the post and share it with  you anew.

What is the church of Christ? Admittedly, I feel completely inadequate to publish an answer.  The answer I will give is mine and not necessarily the answer of every one who holds membership in a congregation claiming to be the church of Christ

First, I share this quote from Frank S. Mead, Handbook of Denominations in the United States, 5th Ed, (Nashville:Abingdon Press), 1970. “There is a distinctive plea for unity at the heart of the Churches of Christ — a unity that is Bible based.  It is believed here that the Bible is the “beginning place” in and through which God-fearing people can achieve spiritual oneness” (p 85).  “They disclaim being a denomination, but claim to be nondenominational with no headquarters, no governing boards, and no clergy” (p 86). Mead lists numbers of colleges, universities, and lists a few publications in Texas and Tennessee then stresses, “Since all official status in these institutions is lacking, none of them being authorized to speak for the entire church, their conformity in ideas and teachings in all the more remarkable” (p 87).  Elsewhere in the article Mead mentions the concept of congregational autonomy with each congregation being governed by her own elders and deacons. (Mead lists, W.E. McClenney, B.W. Stone, and Earl I. West as sources for his information p 238.)

With this as background let me give MY answer to the title question: “What is the Church of Christ?”

Question MarkFirst while consisting of many congregations scattered around the world, the Church of Christ is universally one as she is: 1) the Body of Christ – Eph 1:22-23; 2) the Bride of Christ – Eph 5:21-33; Rev 21:2; 3) the Household of God – 1 Tim 3:15; and 4) the Kingdom of Christ – Col 1:13) among other descriptive terms.  Notice that each term is ultimately singular: body, bride, household, and kingdom; thus individual congregations made up of individual Christians are what comprise the universal singular Church of Christ.

I suppose the second point should answer who is a part of this universal Church of Christ?  Going back to God’s word we find that those who are in Christ by faith have put on Christ and become part of God’s family through the promised Seed of Abraham (Gal 3:26-29).  Here, I think is a particularly sticky issue.  In my past I have made too much of an argument about baptism and not enough about faith.  Let me be very precise in my wording; each individual that is a part of the house of God is saved by God’s grace through faith (Eph 2:8-10).  Without faith man cannot please God (Heb 11:6).  However, what is truly faith?  Faith is not mere mental acceptance of facts.  Faith is trusting obedience.  Faith that does not submit to God is not faith.  Those that put on Christ by faith in Gal 3:26 were those who were put in Him when by faith submitted to immersion to contact His blood.  Paul tells the Romans Christians he was glad they had obeyed from the heart the standard of teaching that saved them (Rom 6:17-18).  That standard of teaching that saved them was the same doctrine that Paul taught the Corinthians – (the Gospel – 1 Cor 15:1-5; Rom 1:16).  That good news that saved was the sacrifice and resurrection of Jesus as Christ.  Paul explains the Roman’s faithful obedience to that gospel in Rom 6:3-6.  ALL the individuals world-wide who are en christo (in Christ), and ALL the assemblies of those individuals, are the universal Church (Body, Bride, Kingdom, Household) of Christ.

Now as Mead observed, these congregations are autonomous (self-governed).  Basically, that means what we do at Central may differ in someways from how they do things at Northport, Cottondale, Westside, Northwood, Mercedes Drive, East Pointe, University, or Parrish where I recently worked.  We may see some things as acceptable that others do not.  Some of the things they accept may not be acceptable here.  Sometimes these differences are merely cultural.  Sometimes these differences are simple matters of opinion.  However, there may be times when we think a Biblical issue is at the center of our differences. When the issue is considered by one or both to be a matter of doctrinal importance, lines of communication should allow for civil discussion.  If we come to an impasse, we may choose to limit cooperative fellowship.  That should not mean that each think the other is “hell bound and determined.”  Such should simply mean we choose to work along side of those we feel are more like us.

Ultimately, God and Christ will judge each congregation (consider the Seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 & 3 – God judged each individually), and they will judge each individual.  Maybe that is partly what Paul had in mind when he wrote, ” . . . work our your OWN salvation with fear and trembling” (Phil 2:12, emphasis; SMc).  You and I as individuals will stand before God on our own.  We will face judgment as to whether we as an individual were in Christ and lived in sanctification and holiness (1 Thess 4:3-7).  Each eldership will give account for the congregation they serve (Heb 13:17).

I am a Restorationist.  I believe that we must all go back to God’s word for life and godliness.  I believe as many before me that we must set aside denominational nomenclature and return to purely Biblical ideas and principles.  I believe there is room for division in opinions or expediency. I believe mutual understanding of Biblical doctrines provides unity whereas disagreements in doctrine limit fellowship.  I believe that as long as humanity is involved there will be differences that seem insurmountable.  I believe we should teach the truth as we understand truth, allowing for folks to disagree, while continuing to hold fast to healthy spiritual teaching (sound doctrine). I believe in the end of time God will sort out who is and who is not His children.  I believe I must do my best to follow God and to teach others what I learn.  I cannot force them to agree with me, but I must share what I see is God’s plan.  To do less would be irresponsible on my part.

- Scott

10
Jul
14

Evaluating My Discipleship

Someone told you that necessity is the mother of invention. That may well be true. However, today, I want to suggest that, Evaluation is the Father of Improvement.

Think for a moment about the automobile industry. Constant evaluation of market, performance, safety, fuel efficiency gives us improved transportation. Similarly, great marriages have couples who evaluate themselves. If evaluation is good in: Industry, family, job, relationships, education, health, then evaluation is also important in our DISCIPLESHIP!2014-07-10 09-00-52.216

Paul says the same in 2 Corinthians 13:5, “Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!”

Self-evaluation is investigating where you have been, where you currently are, and what direction you are headed. Honestly evaluate yourself and make any necessary changes. Then ask someone to evaluate you and be ready for honesty.

Before we look at How Jesus evaluated His disciples, take a look at what Proverbs says about evaluation.

  • Proverbs 15:22-23, “Without counsel plans fail, but with many advisers they succeed. To make an apt answer is a joy to a man, and a word in season, how good it is!” I label this Timing.
  • Proverbs 18:17, “The one who states his case first seems right, until the other comes and examines him.” I label this Objectivity.
  • Proverbs 20:18, “Plans are established by counsel; by wise guidance wage war.” I label this Advice (counsel / guidance).
  • Proverbs 27:17-19, “Iron sharpens iron, and one man sharpens another. Whoever tends a fig tree will eat its fruit, and he who guards his master will be honored. As in water face reflects face, so the heart of man reflects the man.” I label this Personal Interest.

Evaluation is not flattery or compliments, not always pleasant. Evaluation is timely and objective appraisal given for guidance by someone who has a personal interest in your physical and spiritual well-being. There is a place for this in our lives. It takes someone we trust to point out to us who we really are. As disciples we can build relationships that allow us to do that for each other.

Think about Jesus and His Disciples:

  • Jesus Shared Insights that Challenged Their Thinking. In Mark 6:7-13, 30-32 He gives Situational Insight. In Mark 9:38-41 He offers Relational Insight. And in John 1:41-42 He supplies Personal Insight.
  • Jesus Showed His Disciples Their Blind Spots. In Luke 10:17-20. The disciples thought they had it easy over Satan. Jesus tells them not to let power go to their head. Satan is still cunning – don’t get puffed up.
  • Jesus even gave Rebuke when needed. Mark 8:31-33. He calls the stone (Peter) Satan. Sometimes we all need rebuke.

Here is the point. Jesus timely and objectively guided those He had a personal interest in.

So:

  • Choose timing well.
  • Maintain objectivity.
  • Guide and advise do not always criticize.
  • Speak the truth out of love and personal interest as you seek what is best for the other.

It is time for a check-up. How are your doing as a disciple?

- Scott

08
Jul
14

Impressed

Yesterday, For lunch I went to Moe’s Southwest a Grill in Tuscaloosa. I was impressed. Not by the cleanliness of the restaurant, although it was clean. Not but the quesadilla, although it was good. Not by the location, although it was convenient. I was impressed with the employees. I know that what happens is part of their process. I know that they treat everyone the same by policy, but they really made me feel welcome. In fact, they said the same when I walked into the door. No sooner had I stepped in than a duet rang out, “Welcome to Moe’s!”

20140708-075454-28494679.jpg

This morning, as I think about Moe’s while eating a bowl of cold cereal . . . A breakfast quesadilla sounds good right now . . . I am thinking about the times disciples, the Church assembles. Are we as welcoming as Moe’s? Do we communicate how glad we are to see each other and any guests? Similarly, do we echo the employees of Chic-Fil-A telling each other, ” My pleasure!”?

The point is that the employees of Moe’s and CFA represent their respective employers and stores well. They put them in a good light. Are we as disciples representing our Master and His Kingdom in a positive light? Will you say, “It is a pleasure to serve you, welcome to church?

07
Jul
14

Four Principles for Discipleship

The word disciple or disciples occurs 268 times in the New Covenant while the word Christian or Christians occurs only 3 times.  We can safely conclude that discipleship is a vital part of our life for God. I go as far as to say that you cannot be a Christian if you are not first a disciple. That is why the last few posts concerned discipleship and why we continue that theme today.

Discipleship is not something we simply study about. Discipleship is more than learning about Jesus and memorizing scripture. A disciple is one whom emulates the life of Jesus, making Christ’s goals his own goals. This morning I want to share four principles form 2 Timothy 2 that are important to discipleship.

You then, my child, be strengthened by the grace that is in Christ Jesus, and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. Share in suffering as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. ipad 015No soldier gets entangled in civilian pursuits, since his aim is to please the one who enlisted him. An athlete is not crowned unless he competes according to the rules. It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops. Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, the offspring of David, as preached in my gospel, for which I am suffering, bound with chains as a criminal. But the word of God is not bound! Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory. (2 Timothy 2:1-10)

 

  1. Be Strengthened by Grace. The phrase is in the present passive imperative case indicating the idea of “keep on being empowered” by grace.  Grace is the source of our empowerment. We are all sinners in need of the grace of God. When we remember that, we are more likely to focus our life of living for God and being gracious to others sinners who are also in need of the grace of God.
  2. Consistently Invest in the Lives of Others. “What you have heard from me . . . entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” To entrust is to make a secure deposit to invest. As I heard a college student and member of Tide4Christ recently say, “We are not containers of the Gospel, but a conduit through which God’s grace flows.” I learned from someone, I teach you, you learn from me and in turn teach others.
  3. Personalize Truths from God’s Word. “Think over what I say.” Some versions use the word, “consider.” The idea is to draw a mental picture in your mind. When I was playing basketball the coaches would tells us to envision the ball going through the rim and net before we took a free throw. Maybe the idea of thinking over or considering is to see yourself living for Christ and considering how you can live for Him 24 hours a day.
  4. Be Ready. Specifically, Paul is warning Timothy of the sufferings that he could face as a disciple. Sufferings similar to the ones Paul faced himself. Discipleship is not for the thin-skinned. Our patience will face testing. The road will not always be smooth. We must predetermine that we are completely committing our lives to Christ, no matter the trials to come.

The time is NOW to put these principles in action. Be like the enduring soldier, the athlete in training, and the hard working farmer. Invest in the cause of Christ. The greatest cause much larger than yourself. Invest in the well-being of others and faithfully follow the Lord.

- Scott

01
Jul
14

Disciples Reproducing Disciples

Being a disciple is not the end goal of discipleship.  Discipleship has a goal of its own: making more disciples. The Good News is not ours to keep or hoard. We are not simply containers of the Gospel, but a conduit through which God’s grace passes on to others. Consider 2 Timothy 2:2, “and what you have heard from me in the presence of many witnesses entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.”

In essence we have a ministry of spiritual reproduction.

In the first chapter of Genesis as God creates plants, fish, birds, and animals He creates them to reproduce after their own kind (Gen 1:11-12, 22). Then after creating man and woman, God gives them His first command, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the 100_1488earth and subdue it, and have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” (Genesis 1:28).

God’s first command to man is: Not to learn; Not about work; Not even about worship. God’s first command to creation is to reproduce.  As a disciples we are learners. As a disciple I am to work for my Master. As disciples we worship God in Christ. And as disciples we are to reproduce disciples. God wants a full SPIRITUAL NURSERY! Jesus last command to His disciples was to make disciples (Matt 28:19).

Take a moment to survey the first few chapters of Acts and you find disciples busy making disciples.

  • Acts 2:41 – 3,000 obey the gospel.
  • Acts 4:4 – the number of the disciples was 5,000.
  • Acts 5:14 – The number grew to the point we read not thousands, but multitudes.

Let’s take a step back for a moment and talk about biology and physical reproduction.  Not all animals can reproduce.  There are three hindrances to reproduction that have relevance to our discussion about disciples.  1) Immature plants and animals cannot reproduce. By immature I am referring to chronology. A young plant, a young animal, a small child is not physically able to reproduce. 2) No partner in reproduction.  It takes male and female to reproduce in the plant and animal world. A man cannot have a child on his own. 3) Disease hinders reproduction. There are diseases that damage reproductive organs.  There are emotional scars that can hinder reproduction as well.

These same hindrances affect Spiritual Reproduction.

  1. Immaturity - For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child. But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil. (Hebrews 5:12-14).
  2. Not partnered with ChristJesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
  3. Poor Spiritual healthThe sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. (Mark 4:14-19).

An unproductive spiritual life is an unfulfilled spiritual life. There is great joy in passing the Good News to others and seeing it bear fruit in their lives.

- Scott

30
Jun
14

Disciples and Our Example

I hear statements like that all the time. “It doesn’t matter what I say or do.” “What I am doing is my business, what others think is their problem.” “No one is watching me.” Really?  1 Corinthians 8:9, “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.

The truth is someone is watching you. What they see in you influences them in what they think as well  as what they do.  What we say and do as disciples matters! And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come, but woe to the one through whom they come! It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” (Luke 17:1-2). Ultimately, it is not enough to be right, others must think rightly about us. This is one reason setting a positive example is vital. We should to the best of our ability lives so that those around me have no need to call my motives into question. (cf. 1 Peter 2:12).

Here are three observations about examples:

  1. Examples are Powerful Agents of Change. Children learn behaviors and attitudes from the example their parents set. Teens often model their style after their peers. Paul tells Titus, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.” (Titus 2:7-8).
  2. Examples Motivate. We all get discouraged and wonder if we will survive. Yet, when we look at those around us who are living faithfully we see in them areas we can emulate. Paul tells the Thessalonians, “And you became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you received the word in much affliction, with the joy of the Holy Spirit, so that you became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.” (1 Thessalonians 1:6-7).
  3. Exemplary Lives Bring Credibility. Do other Christians respect me? Do they see my walk with God as a reality? Do they know I believe what I say by the way I live what I proclaim? Remember these words: “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. . . . Keep a close watch on yourself and on the teaching. Persist in this, for by so doing you will save both yourself and your hearers.” (1 Timothy 4:12, 16). Our actions preach what we practice, no matter what we proclaim with our lips.

The truth is simple. You are a role model to someone.  You do set an example.  The question is, what example do you set? Does your daily life lead people toward or away from Christ?

- Scott




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Unless otherwise indicated, all scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers, used by permission, all rights reserved.

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