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I Was Interviewed – Or Was I?

Good Friday, everyone! I hope today will be the start of a great weekend for you.

Phoned In

I just wanted to share some thoughts with you guys, whoever might be interested, regarding some recent interviews I’ve had.

Let me be clear, I am perfectly happy to stay right where I am as pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. Now, don’t get me wrong, it would be great if this little church could grow, even by a few people. But I’m happy to stay here and work my tail off as long as this is where God wants me.

That being said, recently several churches have contacted me and asked if I’d be willing to be considered for the position of pastor. Again, I’m NOT looking to leave where I am, but I felt it would be wise to at least have a conversation with these different churches just to make sure I wasn’t missing God’s direction.

Because the churches that have contacted me have been out of town, each one has elected to do conference-style phone interviews, their pulpit search committees on one end of the line, me on the other.

However, what concerns me…which is what this post is going to be about…are the questions these pulpit committees are asking – or NOT asking.

Weak Questions

What I have been experiencing from these pulpit search committees are questions that are rather weak, vague, and easy to manipulate. By “manipulate” I mean that they are questions that by their very nature tell me what the answer should be.

For example, before I participated in any of these interviews I did my research on who these people were. That’s only smart. So, if I were to have been asked questions about worship style, what version of the Bible I use, or even denominational polity, all I would need to know is apparent on their websites and social media accounts. If I had wanted to, I could answer their questions just like they were expecting.

But beyond that, the typically weak and vague questions are ones that inquire about my family, how well I work with committees, how long my average sermon is, and am I willing to visit people in the hospital.

Should you be one of the committee members of one of the churches that have interviewed me, whether on the phone or in person, please understand that I’m not mocking or deriding you – I’m simply concerned.

Tougher Questions, Please!

Whether it’s me being interviewed or someone else, my advice to these churches – maybe even yours – is to ask tougher questions that demand answers grounded in solid theology and backed with Scripture.

In the last several interviews I’ve never – not once – been asked questions like the following:

  • Describe the time surrounding and leading up to, including the actual moment of your conversion.
  • What are your views on the divinity of Jesus Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity?
  • What is your belief regarding the sufficiency of Scripture?
  • How do you think you meet the requirements of a “bishop” as found in Paul’s letters to Timothy and Titus?
  • What do you think the Bible says about marriage?
  • Do you regularly view pornography, and if not, how do you avoid it?
  • Do you have a time you regularly spend with the Lord outside of sermon prep?
  • How is your marriage?
  • What books are you reading right now?
  • Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve, heaven, and hell?
  • Why do you even want to be a pastor in the first place?

Just to be clear, I pastor Baptist churches, and Baptist churches select their pastors differently than other denominations. Baptist churches are autonomous, therefore (except in rare exceptions), we do not have a standard prerequisite for how pulpit search committees select and vet their candidates.

However, all I’m asking is that at the very least … should I be contacted again … could you make the questions a little more challenging, please? I really do need the workout.

I promise it’ll be fun 😉

Thank You! 

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Filed under baptist, Church, ministry, Preaching

Why Some People Are Legalists

Every once in a while I think it is important for me to get back to the whole reason I started this blog: legalism within the Church. There are plenty of other people talking about Bruce Jenner, don’t you think?

In the following article I will attempt to:

  • define legalism, and then
  • give five possible reasons one might want to become, or remain, a legalist.

Defining Legalism

Before we look at why a person would want to be a legalist, let’s make sure we understand what legalism actually is. Below are a couple of good definitions.

The first one is from GotQuestions.org (which I recommend). I would advise reading the whole piece on their website. The following is an excerpt:

The word “legalism” does not occur in the Bible. It is a term Christians use to describe a doctrinal position emphasizing a system of rules and regulations for achieving both salvation and spiritual growth. Legalists believe in and demand a strict literal adherence to rules and regulations. Doctrinally, it is a position essentially opposed to grace. Those who hold a legalistic position often fail to see the real purpose for law, especially the purpose of the Old Testament law of Moses, which is to be our “schoolmaster” or “tutor” to bring us to Christ (Galatians 3:24).

The second definition can actually be found on Wikipedia. Believe it or not, it is a pretty in-depth article. Again, here is portion:

Legalism, in Christian theology, is a sometimes-pejorative term referring to an over-emphasis on discipline of conduct, or legal ideas, usually implying an allegation of misguided rigour, pride, superficiality, the neglect of mercy, and ignorance of the grace of God or emphasizing the letter of law over the spirit. Legalism is alleged against any view that obedience to law, not faith in God’s grace, is the pre-eminent principle of redemption…Legalism refers to any doctrine which states salvation comes strictly from adherence to the law. It can be thought of as a works-based religion. 

But to be fair, most people that I would label legalists do not believe salvation is earned by works of any kind (at least if they’re Baptists). No, the vast majority of legalists to which I refer (and to which I used to belong) use a system of rules and regulations to determine spirituality, spiritual growth, and favor with God and other believers.

Legalists believe, as a whole, in the redemptive work of the cross, but set a universal standard which defines holiness for all who claim Christ, regardless of cultural or societal considerations. To the legalist, anyone who behaves or believes differently than his perceived standards must not be “right with God.”

So, what would make a person want to be, or remain, a legalist? The following five reasons are ones which I have observed throughout the years.

5 Reasons for Being a Legalist

1) Some people don’t know any different.

When I was growing up, I did not know anything different than what I was exposed to in our small churches, missionary conferences, revivals, or Christian schools. Even though I believe that most of what I was taught was doctrinally sound, I was not allowed to examine different viewpoints, even those of other Baptists (specifically if they were anything other than “Independent, Fundamental,” etc.) Many are still in this situation. Tragically, they are content with their ignorance. They refuse to consider the fact that they may be wrong on a particular point.

Even when Scripture is plain and simple, because of the secluded nature of certain groups, legalists would rather stick their heads in the sand than risk being wrong. Being wrong might make someone else, even another denomination, right about something. Heaven forbid!

2) Some came from an unholy lifestyle and now seek to redeem themselves (or their consciences).

Some people are so ashamed of their past that they go overboard in trying to live a life of holiness. They see in their past a link between so-called “worldly activities” and their fall into depravity. In an effort to show they are no longer the person they used to be, and in order to avoid temptation, they strictly avoid certain activities deemed “worldly.” Sadly, even though they mean well, they project their own weaknesses onto others, therefore expecting others to abide by the same level of austere living or be seen as worldly. However, in many cases, appearances are not what they seem. The very ones who are so legalistic in some areas of life wind up being the ones with the biggest weakness in that area. Their overbearing attitudes, in many cases, may only be the big doors hiding skeletons in their closet.

3) Some desire to be controlled, to be told what to do.

As strange as it may sound, some people don’t like to think for themselves, nor do they like being responsible for their own choices. It is sort of like people whom I have seen that were once under a totalitarian government: when they no longer had a dictatorial system telling them what to do, they either lost all control or had no motivation to do any good.

Legalistic churches provide the lazy or immature Christian a list of “do’s and don’ts” so that he/she doesn’t have to search the Scripture for guidance. It is much easier this way. If the pastor says something is wrong and that God would not approve, then that’s it – end of discussion. Having a list is safe and doesn’t require much thought. Essentially, the legalist would rather be a marionette than mature.

4) Some may want to control others.

Freedom is dangerous. Freedom allows for movement and change. Freedom allows for the individual to be led by God in a specific direction that may or may not be God’s will for another. Freedom takes power away from those who would want to control others for their own edification or gratification. On the other hand, legalism keeps the sheep under strict control by encouraging tattling and fear of being ostracized.

There are pastors, well-intended men, who would rather their people live under a specific set of guidelines than question long-held, man-made traditions. These leaders are afraid to lose their congregations to the world, but also to other churches. They may even find comfort in controlling others due to their own inadequacies. Much like emperors and dictators, they manipulate weak Christians in order to maintain their little kingdoms. Rarely do they admit weakness and often micro-manage every aspect of ministry. Legalistic leaders have to be in control.

5) Some people are more afraid of God than in love with Him.

So many people that I have known (and used to be like) were more afraid of losing their relational standing with God than anything else. Legalism tends to give some the assurance that God is pleased with them.

I wonder how it really was for Enoch as he walked with God. Many modern preachers are quick to make the application of Enoch’s walk with God to the way we act in this world, but they make little of the relationship implied by the narrative (Genesis 5:24). In reality, very few lists would even be needed if one had an abiding relationship with Jesus Christ.

angry godTo the legalist, God is not a friend: He doesn’t laugh…He speaks in Old English…and He holds a grudge because of what it took to buy the sinner’s salvation. When one thinks of God as always looking for an opportunity to send judgment, then being legalistic is the safest way to go. No one wants to be hit with a lightning bolt, you understand.

So, are you a legalist? Why, or why not? Are there any reasons I missed?

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Endurance: What We ALL Need!

The following video was recorded Saturday morning last week at the Tennessee Baptist Bivocational Ministers and Wives Retreat in PIgeon Forge, TN.

(BTW, I recorded this on my iPad mini, and at one point I dropped it… sorry)

This final message of the retreat, delivered by Roc Collins, was meant for us pastors and ministry leaders, but it’s a message that all of us should hear – more than once.

If you are facing a discouraging time, or if you are at a point when you feel you can’t go any further, I beg you to watch this sermon. If you are not encouraged, I’ll give you a full refund 😉

Seriously, this was a fantastic, uplifting and challenging message from which all of us can benefit, especially in this time we live.

God bless! Endure!

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We Preach Jesus! (A Revival Sermon In Africa)

Revival

It has been two years since I went to Zimbabwe. I went there to preach in a series of revival services in two different Baptist churches, both of which were started along with several others by Chinhoyi Baptist in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. Of course, preaching wasn’t all I did; I went with different pastors into various villages, visiting and praying with Christians, evangelizing those who’d never heard the gospel.

The other reason I went to Zimbabwe was to get revived myself. I needed this trip! And, praise be to God, it was life-changing!

Here are some photos from different services.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member's front yard.

People starting to show up for church. River of Life met in a tent in a member’s front yard.

image

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Worshiping Sunday morning at Dolomite Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Lively and energetic African worship at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

Being introduced at Chinhoyi Baptist.

The Final Service

The final service in which I preached was at Chinhoyi Baptist Church. It was a celebratory farewell service where all of the churches which had hosted our team of three (Dr. Eddy Rushing, Marshall Kellett, and myself) came together as one. And man, was it a service!

The honor was mine to be selected to preach the final service, and what an honor it was. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett were responsible for personally leading scores of people to Christ during this trip, so who was I to be the one to preach? Nevertheless, they asked me, and I jumped at it!

The beginning of the service was full of extremely lively music and dancing – not something the average Baptist in America is used to 😉 When all of that was over, the music shifted to hymns. Dr. Rushing and Bro. Kellett both gave stirring testimonies before the final hymn “Higher Ground” (sung in the native language of Shona) set the tone for the sermon to follow.

Oh, Rev. Luckmann Chiasaru was my interpreter for this service, and man was he good! He even sang with me! Awesome!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They're well on their way!

Chinhoyi Baptist Church in Chinhoyi, Zimbabwe. This congregation hopes to plant a total of 50 new churches in 10 years. They’re well on their way!

The following was recorded on an iPhone 6s, then edited on Audacity. I wish it could have been a better recording, but it was all I had. I pray it is a blessing 🙂

CLICK HERE for link to the audio of “We Preach Jesus!”


I went to Zimbabwe to get revived – and I did. Now, if you’d let me, I’d love to come share a little of what God’s given me over the last 2 years with your congregation.

You can reach me at pastoracbaker@yahoo.com., or call 423-645-8884.

 

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I’d Like to Share What I Have

This will be quick.

If you or your church is in the planning stages or considering scheduling a series of “revival” meetings, I’d love for you to keep me in mind.

Don’t get me wrong, I love doing what I do as Pastor of South Soddy Baptist Church. However, I am also available to preach and share my passion for God and His Kingdom with you and your congregation. Silver and gold have I none, but what I do have I’d love to share…I have a story of hope, courage, faith, and the One who will make all the difference – Jesus!

Sometimes it helps to hear someone who is stirred up in order to get stirred up 🙂

You can email me at PastorACBaker@yahoo.com

God bless!

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Distinctions Worth Noting

This morning I came across a quote I posted to Facebook several years ago. Being Sunday morning, and being that I am a Baptist pastor, this is a great quote from a theologian with Chattanooga roots, Dr. Timothy George. And to think, we actually attended the same school 🙂

“The Baptist tradition finds a place within this narrative as a distinctive reform movement within the wider evangelical renewal, a reform within the reform, so to say. Baptists are indeed heirs of the Reformation, but they are not, nor have they ever been, mere clones of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Anabaptists, or anyone else. For Baptists, the great doctrines of the Reformation were refracted through the prism of persecution and dissent which informed their intense advocacy of religious freedom and, especially in the American setting, the separation of church and state (which does not equal the divorce of religion from public life). With all true Christians, Baptists profess loyalty to Jesus Christ the Lord, the eternal Son of the heavenly Father who “for us and our salvation” became man. He died for our sins on a cross, rose triumphantly over death, ascended to the Father, and one day will come again in power and glory. In the meantime, he still reigns, rules, and redeems through the Holy Spirit.” – Timothy George

The Body of Christ (the Church) has many members, each distinct in its own way. I just felt these distinctions were worth noting.

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What to Wear to Church?

Clothing

Recently, I was asked to be the guest speaker at a larger, more contemporary church. Out of respect for each other, the pastor of that church and I jokingly discussed what I should wear. You see, he never wears a suit, while sometimes I do. His congregation has become more “contemporary,” while my congregation remains more “traditional.” So, to make me comfortable, the pastor told me whatever I wanted to wear was fine.

Therefore, I wore shorts and flip-flops… Just kidding.

The way I dress to go to church may not be the way you dress. My style may not suit your tastes, nor yours mine. But the fact of the matter is that you do wear some kind of clothing to church, correct? Well, have you ever wondered if what you wear to church is appropriate?

Some people have asked that question.

Below are some of my thoughts on the subject.

Keep It Simple

If you are planning to attend a worship service where God is supposed to be the center of attention, don’t dress like a clown! Don’t dress like you are going to a movie premiere in Hollywood, either (that could get expensive in a hurry, not to mention scare the kids).

Some cultures believe people should come to church in clothing that could damage someone’s retina. Gettin’ “fancied up” is what’s expected. But it’s this type of clothing, in many cases, that draws attention to the congregant, not Christ. My advice is to stay away from neon suits and flashing bow ties. Church clothing should be a covering, not a calling card.

Show Respect

Some people think it is totally appropriate to wear enough jewelry and feathers to keep pawn shops in business and all geese naked. Others think it is completely acceptable to look like a drunk that slept in an alley all night (no offense to the drunk). Neither shows a sense of respect. The first steals glory from God, while the second implies the place where we gather to worship is no different than anywhere else.

Think about it this way, for example. Receive an invitation to tea from Queen Elizabeth and show up looking like you just got out of bed and never took a shower. Unless you’re a bonafide rock star, security personnel may escort you to a private room to “get acquainted.” Therefore, if dignitaries of earthly kingdoms demand respect, why shouldn’t we offer it to our Heavenly King?

Just a thought.

Beware of Legalistic Standards

However, whatever you wear, don’t be too quick to judge another person’s spiritual condition by what they wear. Only God knows the heart.

Who art thou that judgest another man’s servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand. – Rom 14:4 KJV

Sadly, I have been around many believers who consider one style of clothing a sign of spiritual maturity, while another style a sign of spiritual waywardness.  And you know what’s funny? It doesn’t matter which side of the spiritual tracks, there’s always somebody looking at another thinking, “They’re not right with God.”

Legalism cuts both ways, dear friend. For example, I have been to churches that ridiculed any woman who wears pants, or a man who never tucks in his shirt. On the other hand, I have been in congregations that blatantly condemned all dress and tie-wearers as right-wing, self-righteous, fundamentalist, nut jobs. In both cases, someone judged another’s spirituality based on outward appearances, alone. In both cases, one group’s set of standards were being used as a guide to what is mature spiritual behavior, and what is not.

That’s LEGALISM.

Context, Context, Context

Ultimately, how you dress should be determined by the context of your community. Small, rural congregations might not feel comfortable dressing for church in the same way a metropolitan First Baptist may. Similarly, churches in depressed economies may adopt different dress codes than upwardly mobile societies. The key is to be respectful, honorable, and considerate of the holy moment at hand. Whatever fits that bill is good enough.

Just keep this principle in mind:  Grace accepts, Maturity develops, and Love constrains.

Don’t make appearances the only thing about which you’re concerned. The Gospel of Jesus Christ is far too important a message to be drowned in petty arguments about whether it is appropriate to dress up for church, or go dress-casual. Many people in the world have to worship Christ underground – literally. Dress codes are the least of their worries. Additionally, the drug addict who needs hope and help may not have any clothes left that he hasn’t already sold to get high. The single mother of five that walks into your church may have barely enough energy to survive, much less do her hair.

Do all things to the glory of the Lord, but keep things in perspective, OK?

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism [or be legalistic]. Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in. If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my dear brothers: Has not God chosen those who are poor in the eyes of the world to be rich in faith and to inherit the kingdom he promised those who love him? – Jam 2:1-5 NIV

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Filed under baptist, Christian Living, Christian Maturity, Christian Unity, Culture Wars, Do not judge, Independent Baptist, legalism, Southern Baptist