Category Archives: Christian Maturity

What Is “Organic Church”? Listen to the Sermon

Not long ago I posted the notes for this sermon. Now you can listen to the audio. 

I hope it’s a blessing and an encouragement. 

I also hope it helps encourage a more “organic” approach toward worship.

Click on the picture to listen.

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What Is “Organic” Church?

The following is copied directly from my notes for this Sunday morning’s sermon. I thought it would be worth sharing.

“Organic Church”

In thinking of ways to promote our little church, the word “organic” came to mind. But why? What does the word organic mean, anyway? I went to the Concise Oxford English Dictionary to find an answer. Here is the definition in four points:

Organic

adjective

1    relating to or derived from living matter.

▶   Chemistry relating to or denoting compounds containing carbon and chiefly or ultimately of biological origin. Compare with inorganic.

2    Physiology relating to a bodily organ or organs.

▶   Medicine (of a disease) affecting the structure of an organ.

3    (of food or farming) produced or involving production without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.

4    denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole.

▶   characterized by natural development.[1]

 

Thinking about the first part of this definition, what is church if not “relating to or derived from living matter”? What is the Church but the body of Christ in the earth, with Jesus as the Head (Ephesians 1:22-23)? Do we not derive our life from Him? Without a relation to a living Being, aren’t we nothing more than dead sepulchers?

Ephesians 1:22-23 – And hath put all [things] under his feet, and gave him [to be] the head over all [things] to the church, Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

Colossians 1:17-18 – And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all [things] he might have the preeminence.

I find it interesting to consider, too, that “organic” means something that is “ultimately of biological origin.” Even though the Church is a spiritual body, does it not find its origins in the actual living body of the risen Jesus Christ? YES! Jesus, God in flesh, the God-Man, is the Chief Compound from which the rest of us get our DNA.

1 Corinthians 15:14-17 – And if Christ be not risen, then [is] our preaching vain, and your faith [is] also vain. Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not. For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised: And if Christ be not raised, your faith [is] vain; ye are yet in your sins.

Thinking of the second part, it might be difficult at first to draw a connection. However, “relating to a bodily body of organs” is absolutely pertinent and applicable to whom we are. South Soddy Baptist is one organ in a body of organs; we are part of the Body as a whole. Even though we may have our own structure and unique characteristics, we are organically related to a larger organ, the Body of Christ.

Ephesians 4:16 – From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.

Paul made it abundantly clear that not all parts of the body are the same, nor do they all function in the same way. Some are more prone to honor, while others are humble and rarely thought of. Nevertheless, each one is important and useful and needed to help with the function of the whole. Even the smallest organ in the body, if it becomes infected, can spread sickness and death, affecting other parts of the Body in ways that might not be felt until long down the road. Therefore, even though a large church in an association may serve the function of a major organ, such as the heart or the lungs, the small church, like an infected tooth, or a torn tendon, can render the collection of organs ineffective, if not worse.

1 Corinthians 12:14-16, 20, 22 –  For the body is not one member, but many. If the foot shall say, Because I am not the hand, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? And if the ear shall say, Because I am not the eye, I am not of the body; is it therefore not of the body? … But now [are they] many members, yet but one body. … Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary:

The third part of the above definition has to do with food and farming, and that’s really where our modern society has become the most familiar with the word organic. Organic foods are sold for a premium because they are supposedly produced “without the use of chemical fertilizers or other artificial chemicals.” People want “naturally-grown” food, not the kind that needs engineered and artificial influences to produce what is assumed will appeal to the mass market.

What is organic church but the result of seed planted, rooted in doctrinally-rich soil, watered by the Spirit, and exposed to the radiance of the Son? Will it be a product that the mass market will desire? Not likely. It doesn’t usually conform to the manufactured standards and the whims of finicky consumers. Will it meet the desires of every taste? Not when the average palate has grown accustomed to added sweeteners and flavor enhancers, as opposed to the simple, wholesome sweetness of heavenly manna itself.

Numbers 11:5-6 NKJV – “We remember the fish which we ate freely in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; “but now our whole being [is] dried up; [there is] nothing at all except this manna [before] our eyes!

Psalm 19:9-10 NKJV – The fear of the LORD [is] clean, enduring forever; The judgments of the LORD [are] true [and] righteous altogether. More to be desired [are they] than gold, Yea, than much fine gold; Sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb.

The modern church, in so many cases, is nothing less than the result of market analysis and product enhancement. So often, instead of being simple, rough around the edges, oddly shaped, and maybe a little small – i.e., organic tomatoes – the many of the more well-attended churches are often dosed with unnatural additives meant to appeal to the increasingly desensitized taste buds of the average worshiper.

Psalm 119:140 – Thy word [is] very pure: therefore thy servant loveth it.

Then there is the fourth part of the above definition: “denoting a harmonious relationship between the elements of a whole,” and “characterized by natural development.” Let’s try to unpack that a little bit.

Something that is organic should have as a characteristic the tell-tale signs of everything having worked together as designed to produce a product that is typical of the original, natural design. It should also display signs of having naturally aged, matured, and ripened.

What healthy church is one that is at odds with, in contention with, or in competition with other elements within the whole? How can there be “harmonious relationship” when one branch fights with another branch of the same plant? How can a healthy church “maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” when it eats its own?

What healthy church is in conflict with the soil in which its roots take hold? What healthy church repels the water of the Spirit? What healthy church is in conflict with the light of the Son? What healthy church grows to great heights overnight? What healthy church – what organic church – produces food with empty calories that leaves the hungry fatter, yet more malnourished than when they first consumed it?

What are some additives we need to watch out for?

  • Elaborate facilities?
  • Mood enhancers, such as lighting, stage sets, pre-service promos, etc.?
  • Creative outlines and sermon series?
  • Committees on committees on committees?
  • Denominational teaching curriculum?
  • Worship times and schedules?
  • Titles and positions?
  • Social and cultural programs?
  • Celebrity status?

What does the unmodified, unaltered, heirloom-seed quality product look like?

Acts 2:42-47 – And they continued stedfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers. [43] And fear came upon every soul: and many wonders and signs were done by the apostles. [44] And all that believed were together, and had all things common; [45] And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all [men], as every man had need. [46] And they, continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, did eat their meat with gladness and singleness of heart, [47] Praising God, and having favour with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.

James 1:27 – Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, [and] to keep himself unspotted from the world.

Galatians 6:14 – But God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.

Hebrews 10:23-25 – Let us hold fast the profession of [our] faith without wavering; (for he [is] faithful that promised;) [24] And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [25] Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some [is]; but exhorting [one another]: and so much the more, as ye see the day approaching.

The only kind of foods that look exactly alike, like the ones in the bins at the supermarket produce section, are the ones that have been genetically modified, chemically enhanced, and very often forced to mature and ripen earlier than nature’s schedule. They are presented that way in order to appeal to the preconceived notions and tastes of the largest number of consumers.

Organic fruits and vegetables, on the other hand, will not always look alike; they may have little flaws here and there; and size will always vary. But one thing is for sure, they will be much better for you and your family; they will require a lot more care to keep fresh; and you’ll definitely pay a higher price to obtain them.

Let’s ask God to work in us, purify us, and make us into the organic church He wants us to be.

[1] Catherine Soanes and Angus Stevenson, eds., Concise Oxford English Dictionary (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004).

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Things to Do In 2019: More Mercy, Compassion, and Grace

I Broke the Law

Oh, I know what you’re probably thinking. Being that I am a Christian, a preacher, and “the recovering legalist,” by breaking the law you think I’m referring to something of a spiritual or biblical nature, like eating pork, or smoking a cigar.

No, I literally broke the law! Like as in a statute recorded in a City Hall – the kind for which a police officer can arrest someone.

What did I do?

Well, this morning I drove my daughter Katie to where she is student teaching in Dayton, Tennessee. She directed me off the main highway and through a part of the town where I rarely visited.

As I came to a 4-way intersection, I looked all over for a stop sign, then up for a traffic light, but I saw nothing (which I thought was odd), so I proceeded cautiously, looking to my left, then right.

That’s when I saw the bright red light. I had just run a red light! I’m a professional driver – I don’t do that kind of thing!

And when you’re in a little 2-horse town, that’s NOT a good thing to do, especially when there’s a budget crunch!

So, why didn’t I see the light? It wasn’t where I expected it to be – nowhere close. It was on the other side of the intersection, about 6-ft off the ground. I just didn’t see it until I crossed the intersection and there it was on my right, shining at me through the passenger-side window.

Breaking Our Laws

Thankfully, there was not a police car anywhere close. I can only hope there were no traffic cameras, or else I’m going to have to pay a fine, for I did, in fact, break a law, and ignorance is no excuse.

But how often do people break OUR laws? And by that I mean the kind of regulations and legalistic standards we all have; the kind that lead us to judge others’ spirituality based on how they dress, the tattoos on their face, or what’s in their glass at the restaurant.

Even when our standards of conduct and demeanor are biblically justified, what if the other person just missed the light at the intersection? What if they never read that verse?

When you have the time, I would encourage you to read or re-read the whole chapter of Romans 14.

If the truth be known, much of the time we find ourselves judging others based on OUR laws and regulations, not the ones the Lawgiver has written. So, in reality, who are we to hold them accountable? It’s not our job.

Who are you to pass judgment on the servant of another? It is before his own master that he stands or falls. And he will be upheld, for the Lord is able to make him stand. – Romans 14:4 ESV

This year I want to criticize less, be less judgmental, and show a little more mercy, compassion, and grace.

I know that’s what I would have wanted when I ran that red light.

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Things to Do In 2019: Avoid Whining and Complaining

I used to hear it said that the world hates a complainer. However, is the world not full of whiners and complainers these days?

The average SJW (social justice warrior) is nothing more than a pale-skinned, black-clothed, fit pitcher with unnaturally-colored hair and absolutely drunk on whine (see what I did there?).

Turn on practically any news station and all you will hear is complaining about something Trump did or didn’t do.

Say the wrong thing to the wrong people and off they’ll trot to the nearest complaint-filing station and whine and complain about how their feelings were hurt.

And, sadly, many Christians are no different; they live like the world in the world and then gripe and complain when the world around them treats them with contempt.

Aren’t we supposed to be different?

Do all things without murmurings and disputings: That ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; – Philippians 2:14–15 

How can we be “lights in the world” if all we do is gripe about the darkness?

You may have thought that when I said that I wanted to “avoid whining and complaining” that I meant the kind of whining and complaining that people do when they don’t get their way. If so, you are only partly correct.

Sure, I want to complain less about stuff and things, because, after all, living here in America makes me one of the richest people in the world! What have I got to complain about?

But what I’ve really got to watch out for is the type of whining and complaining that comes when one looks with disgust at a fallen, sinful world and yet does nothing to make a difference.

Dr. Tony Evans put it this way:

“You can’t blame things for being dark if the light bulbs aren’t working. So we’re complaining about the darkness when the bulbs aren’t working, and the Bible says that we are the light of the world.”

Jesus said that we are to let our “light so shine before men, that they may see [our] good works, and glorify [our] Father which is in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).

If all we do is complain about what’s wrong and never shine the light of the gospel into the darkness, the darkness will never flee, it will be ever-present and grow darker, and we will wind up the antithesis of Philippians 2:14… we will find ourselves guilty, harmful, not acting like “sons of God,” and rebuked by the very crooked and perverse nation we complain about.

Lord, help me to be a light-bearing changer instead of a dim whit complainer. 

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Qualifications for a Pastor (and a reminder for the rest of you)

There are places in the Bible where the Apostle Paul describes the qualifications necessary to be a pastor (1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1:5-9).

But there are some additional characteristics I think every pastor should have if he wishes to survive until the next Easter service or deacons’ meeting… and believe me, I speak from experience.

This photo was taken at a bi-vocational pastor and wives retreat. These men were gathering around a fellow pastor who’s son who was a drug addict and missing.

Among other things, a pastor should have a thick skin, a broken heart, a humble spirit, and a hope that rests in the fact that Grace is there to pick up the pieces.

As for you, the congregations they lead, be reminded that the only perfect Shepherd was Jesus; the rest are human.

Pray that the light of Jesus will shine through the cracked vessel which is your pastor.

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Things to Do In 2019: Avoid Anger

Start With Scripture

I know, you’re probably going to be tempted to skip over the verses below, but do yourself and me a favor by taking a few seconds to read them…

  • He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; and he that rules his spirit than he that takes a city. – Proverbs 16:32
  • Be not hasty in thy spirit to be angry: for anger rests in the bosom of fools. – Ecclesiastes 7:9
  • Let all bitterness, anger and wrath, shouting and slander be removed from you, along with all malice. – Ephesians 4:31 CSB
  • Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: – Ephesians 4:26 KJV
  • If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. – Romans 12:18 CSB

Notice that the Bible addresses getting angry. And from what I read in the above verses, it’s generally not a good thing.

But let’s be fair, anger is not a sin; it’s selfish and unrighteous anger that’s a problem. That’s the type of anger I want to avoid.

Why Be Angry?

Look, I make no claim to be an anger management expert, so I’m not going to pretend to know every reason people have for getting mad. However, if I look at my own experience, it’s pretty easy to determine that I get angry over things I either can’t control or hurt my entitled feelings.

Think about it, how often is it that we are legitimately wronged by others? Are not many of the times nothing more than inconveniences? Delays? Obstructions to our plans? But if our plans have been given to the Lord, and He is the One who “directs our paths,” are we not then being angry while God is at work?

Now, being honest, there are some things which deserve a righteous anger, such as dirty politics, sex trafficking, divorce, abortion, etc. Heck, I might even have a right to get angry when people at Hardee’s never give me jelly when I order a “jelly biscuit,” even though “jelly biscuit” is clearly an item on their menu. But even a righteous anger can do us damage if we hold on to it and become bitter.

Avoiding Anger

The key for me this year will be to give everything to God and let Him handle it. I mean, even when I’m done wrong, is He not the one who is being sinned against? He’s the One who wrote the Law, not me.

And, sure, anger may come looking for me and leave me no other options, but it will be up to me as to whether I hold on to it and play God, or just be like Elsa and “let it go.”

But I must admit, I don’t know why they always ask if I want jelly with a sausage biscuit and never give me jelly for a jelly biscuit!

Calm down, Anthony. Let it go*.

 

*Go ahead and start singing the song…I know you want to.

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Questions You Should Ask Before Making a Resolution

Dear friends,

Every once in a while I find myself challenged by my own words, even convicted. The sermon I’m attaching below is a good example.

Back in 2014 I preached a sermon having to do with making resolutions, and as I listened to it today, my heart was broken; I’ve not accomplished my goals.

This sermon was recorded, as many of them were at that time, with my iPhone 4 sitting on the pulpit. Funny thing, some people actually thought I was reading my sermons from an app!

But I’ve done what I could to better the audio quality, and I would love for you to listen. This message is one that needs to be heard and heeded, for if Jesus set His face toward Calvary, there are some things we should set our faces “like a flint” towards.

Click on the link below, then after you listen to it, tell me if it challenged you like it does me.

God bless!

Questions to Ask Before Making a Resolution

“Eight Questions To Ask Before Making a Resolution”

  1. Do I need to make any resolutions?

There is nothing so fatal to character as half-finished tasks.” – David Lloyd George

  1. What has God called me to do? (John 6:38)
  2. Where will I be at this time next year if nothing changes?
  3. What should I do that I know is right, but will cause others to mock me?
  4. Will I be willing to be held accountable?
  5. Will my determination be visible?
  6. Will I rely on my own strength?
  7. To Whom will the glory go when I succeed?

“And whatsoever ye do, do it heartily, as to the Lord, and not unto men.” – Col. 3:23

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